Archive for the ‘Getting Interviews’ Category
Every so often I hear the comment that “nobody reads cover letters.” That’s because most of the letters jobseekers send are just too hard to get through! Follow these rules and not only will your letter be read, but you’ll greatly improve the odds of getting the result you want.
Rule #1: Make your letter easily “scannable”
These days, work is too fast-paced to allow for reading through a long, dense letter. DON’T take a page out of your English Literature 101 class. Instead, make your letter a quick, easy read by:
- Using short paragraphs– no more than seven lines in any one paragraph (assuming an 8.5×11 Word document). Less than seven lines is better.
- Using bullet points (e.g. like this).
- Using bold-face and/or underlining of key phrases to bring them out. Make sure you use this technique sparingly– if too much is in bold or underlined, it will defeat the purpose and look terrible.
- Considering the use of sub-headings. This blog post, with it’s use of the “rules” subheadings, is an example.
- Minimizing repetition. You don’t need to mention your extensive marketing background three times– once is enough.
bbbbSo make sure you minimize repetition.
Rule #2: Default to using email
Start with the presumption that you are going to write your letter of introduction, cover letter, or interview/meeting followup as an email, then “convince yourself” why using postal mail would be better. The reasons you want to default to email: first, it works (as I see every day with clients), and second, sending an email is so much faster. You can skip finding/buying stamps, getting the envelope to print properly, and remembering to mail the letter (it usually takes me about three days!). The table below summarizes the pros and cons of sending an email vs. mailing a letter.
Email vs. Postal Mail in a Job Search: Pros vs. Cons
Your job search time is valuable. Perhaps you’ve heard of the expression “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” There’s so much that you need to do in a job search, so go for “good” or even “great” in your search and let go of “perfect.”
That said, there are several situations where sending a letter by mail will get you a better result.
- If you’ve had an informational or networking meeting and someone really helped you, a handwritten note of appreciation is a very nice touch!
- If you feel the person to whom you are reaching out is more “old school,” e.g. from an older generation, more conservative, etc. then a letter may be more appropriate.
- A letter will stand out more than an email will, improving the odds of it being read. To help a letter stand out even more, consider sending it by “Priority Mail.” If you have the time, you could send an email and, if no response, then a letter.
Rule #3: Always include the “letter” in the body of the email, as people don’t like to open attachments. Enough said.
Rule #4: Engage them with the Email Subject Line
If you do use email, the subject line is key to your message being read. Don’t make it too salesy or pushy. Mention something that they are interested in so that your email gets opened! Examples include:
- “Your article about Supply Chain in…”
- “Referred by Susan Smith, re:…”
- “Open to discussing Fundraising at Ivy University?”
- “Our three mutual connections and shared group on LinkedIn”
- “Hello, and question…” <if you know them>
Rule #5: Make sure your email address is professional
firstname.lastname@example.org won’t cut it. email@example.com will make a better impression and make you more likely to get past the spam filters.
Rule #6: Focus on them
I get so many drafts that are all about “me me me” when the tone/language should be “here’s how I can help you…” , “I believe this meeting would be mutually beneficial because…” or “Your company’s Vision resonates…” If you want them to help you, show appreciation, as in “I would greatly appreciate…” A simple “thank you” can of course go a long way. Sounds easy and obvious but too many clients forget these basic rules of relationships.
Rule #7: Include your pitch (if you haven’t in a prior letter)
Inform the people to whom you are writing of your background and link it to how you can help them. Summarize your background in one or two sentences, and then share some relevant background highlights by including three to six “bulleted” accomplishments. Don’t assume that even your best, closest work colleague knows how you want to position yourself, or remembers the great things you’ve done. Also, strangers will, naturally,want to know from whom they are hearing. A powerful pitch in your email can really help to illustrate how you can help an organization, engage the reader, and spur the action you want.
Rule #8: End with a clear call to action
Say “Would you have 20 minutes available on your calendar to meet?” (it’s so easy for them to hit reply on an email and say yes.) And/or, say “I’ll contact your office to see if I can get on your calendar in a few days, assuming I don’t hear from you first.”
I’ll be posting more in the near future about how to write great email content that gets you the meetings you want, as well has how to follow up with a phone call.
Even if your resume, pitch, skill set, and emails are all stellar, at the end of the day your job search is still a numbers game. To improve your odds of landing a position quickly, you’ve got to actively go for a large number of potential positions. That is, don’t just passively wait for the search firm to call or the ad to show up (and then compete with potentially thousands of other applicants). Instead, take the active approach: 1) create a plan that casts a wide enough net to include enough suitable positions (open or currently filled), and 2) implement the plan via networking and contacting people you don’t know directly in these organizations.
Maybe you’ve heard of the “hidden job market.” Well, this “active” approach gives you access; A key to its success is to focus on #1 above: create a plan that contains enough “positions that exist” (even if filled now) so you know there’s enough potential to land a job quickly.
Here’s an example. A client came to me for help after a year of job-search frustration. His theories about what was wrong included 1) “I’m too old” and 2) “there are no jobs.” A quick conversation, however, revealed a different issue. In his job search he was targeting a niche industry, in a narrow geographic area— in which there were only 13 companies. Each company had only one position that would be suitable for his skill set; all 13 positions were currently filled.
When we did this analysis, it suddenly became clear to him why things were taking so long. First he would have to wait for one of those 13 positions to become vacant, and then he would have to compete with hundreds (or thousands) of other applicants!
To move beyond targeting just 13 positions, he created a plan that 1) expanded his search geographically to include more companies, and 2) added additional industries and job descriptions to his search. In the end, his new plan identified roughly 200 positions (a rule of thumb that Five O’Clock Club coaches use), up from the original 13. He quickly started reaching out (directly and through networking) to his new target organizations, landing meetings, interviews, and ultimately job offers.
By the way, don’t worry about precisely identifying the exact number of positions available at a given company—this is just a back-of-the-envelop calculation. “roughly 10” , “roughly 50” etc. will do fine. The idea here is to create awareness of the potential in your job search. This way you won’t accidentally kid yourself about how small the potential really is, and how long your search will take you.
Whether your goal is to sell, inform, or land a job offer, telling engaging, relevant stories can turn even a so-so presentation into a great one. Illustrating your points with the right stories will have a far stronger impact than many other things you can do, including slide design, body language, eye contact, and so forth.
Telling stories is so effective because people more easily remember the images that make up a story, as opposed to “facts.” They remember the problems, the struggles, the triumphs, the places and the names. And by the way, emphasizing these elements is exactly how you tell a compelling story. Keep it simple, and aim for the emotion, the drama. Don’t bury the listener in jargon or product/service features.
In my webinar I recommend the following storytelling framework to help you organize your delivery: Situation (or problem)/Action/Result — that is, SAR. Describe the situation or problem that you/your department/client/etc. faced, the action you took to improve the situation, and lastly the result of your efforts. And, make sure you tie the story directly to the point you are making with your audience! Rehearse the stories ahead of time, until you’ve got the telling down to a smooth, natural delivery.
Note, if you are demonstrating a product or service, which is essentially a real-time story, you can follow the exact same “SAR” format. (I use this format all the time when demonstrating LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media to clients and audiences.)
The three case studies below (“stories” if you will) illustrate how story-telling works.
A job interview
The interviewer asked one of my clients, Susan, a typical question– “What is your greatest strength?” Susan might have simply said “My analytic skills” and stopped there, leaving an opportunity on the table to make a strong positive impression.
Instead, she said “My analytic skills– let me give you an example so you can see what I mean. Last year we were seeing a retention problem in our division— accounts were closing in droves. No one was sure why or what to do about it, and the revenue loss was threatening layoffs! So I took the initiative to analyze the data, looking at x, y, and z. It became clear to me that the people were leaving as a result of a change in a product’s service terms. I presented my findings to management, and suggested they combine a marketing initiative with another revision to the service terms. They adopted my recommendation and over the next six months our retention problem reversed itself.”
In telling her story to illustrate the point about her analytic-skills, Susan followed the SAR format:
- Situation– people leaving in droves.
- Action– took initiative to analyze x, y and z.
- Result– problem reversed itself in six months.
Susan used this format to turn a dry subject into an emotional, engaging one, making her point about her analytic strength memorable and real for the interviewer. Notice– no jargon, no mention about the specific service terms that were changed, the product features, etc. (she could have easily drilled down into these discussions if asked). She kept it simple, engaging and interesting. And yes, she got the offer.
An Information Technology Director’s recommendation
A client was presenting to his I.T. leadership team. In the presentation he included a proposal that his Chief Technology Officer push for a new technology platform. What helped win over the CTO? According to my client, it wasn’t a description of the features and benefits of the new platform vs. the current one (although that helped). Rather, it was the story he had rehearsed and shared about the difficulties a business unit end-user faced with the current platform, how it ended up costing the company a substantial expense, and how the new platform would have changed the outcome.
Influencing an audience to purchase a service
I went to a presentation several weeks ago delivered by someone who was pitching a service. His physical delivery was almost designed to turn the audience off; He spoke in a flat affect, used dense wordy slides, and appeared somewhat disheveled. Yet the two powerful, emotional stories he shared with us about how his service solved clients’ difficult problems are still with me. In fact, they are the only thing I (and my colleagues at the presentation with whom I’ve discussed this) remember! Those stories are probably the main reason we are looking to re-engage him, since it enabled us to both “experience” and remember how his service could help solve client problems.
I’ll have a lot more to share with you regarding how to Deliver Powerful Presentations that Get RESULTS in my September 6th 12-1pm EST webinar.
You can create an effective LinkedIn profile by following many of the same principles that I would recommend for your resume. For example, focus on accomplishments, have a summary section, use keywords that resonate with your audience, etc. etc. (see this blog post and this one for other guidelines). Three key differences in the way that resumes and profiles are shared, however, could have a big impact on how you choose to modify your resume for your profile.
1. Only one LinkedIn Profile, so you need to choose
It is impractical and confusing to spread your network across multiple profiles (unlike your resume, where you can and should have a different resume for each job target). Having only one profile means that you will have to decide whether to go more general, to encompass multiple job targets, or to focus your profile on your primary job target only.
Your decision will depend on your specific situation. By focusing on one job-target, you maximize the likelihood that someone from your target audience reading your profile will quickly grasp how you can help them. I recommend that you try writing your profile for your primary job target, IF the “cost” doesn’t out way the benefit. By cost I mean missed opportunities or puzzled looks from your boss or colleagues who wonder why your profile says something very different from what you are currently doing!
Warning: In case you accidentally open up more than one profile (search under your name if you are unsure), close one down to avoid major confusion in building and updating your network (Note: You cannot transfer connections from one profile to another).
2. Your LinkedIn Profile has a broader viewing audience
It is sometimes not a good idea to list certain specific accomplishments on your profile that you would have no problem listing on your resume, because of the profile’s broader viewing audience. You will need to be the judge of when that’s the case.
3. Having a LinkedIn Profile doesn’t mean you’re looking for a job
While your resume equals “job search,” the same is not true for your LinkedIn Profile. If you are actively looking, you may want to indicate that somewhere on your LinkedIn profile (assuming you don’t have a current employer who will care). This way, potential employers may be more likely to contact you.
I say “may” because there is a case to be made that a potential employer will be more interested in you if you appear to be fully and happily employed. And, if you are going out and getting what you want in a job search rather than waiting for the recruiter to call, as I recommend, indicating on your profile that you are looking becomes less important.
Nevertheless, some clients have gotten responses by indicating an openness to new opportunities on their profiles, which is why I suggest that you consider it. If you feel that in your case it makes sense to let people know that you are looking, do one or more of the following:
- Edit “Contact Preferences” (bottom of your profile) to include career and job opportunities. In my opinion, you should do this even if you are currently “happily” employed. Since so many employed people check these boxes, it will likely not be looked at askance by your current employer.
- Since the Contact Preferences section is buried at the bottom of your profile, you may want to enter near the top of your Profile Summary section “Looking for my next great challenge,” “Open to new opportunities,” or something similar. NEVER put “unemployed” or “looking for a job” on your profile—these phrases have negative connotations and will turn off a potential employer.
- Alternatively, if you are not working, you could enter one of the phrases in the bullet above as your current job title.
Some advocate that you put these phrases in the “headline” at the top of your profile, under your name—so it’s the first thing a potential employer sees. I do not advocate this approach. Since your headline can only be 120 characters, it is better to use this limited space as an opportunity to share a “mini-pitch,” that is, a concise statement about how you can help a potential employer.
What have your experiences been with indicating that you are looking for a job in your profile?
In Part 1, I covered the top two mistakes that I see clients make on their resumes. In this post you’ll learn how to avoid six more resume pitfalls. Topping off this list:
Your resume places too much focus on responsibilities, not enough on accomplishments
Which phrase do you think is more powerful?
- Responsible for running monthly financial reports.
- Redesigned monthly financial reporting process, cutting production time from one month to five days.
We both know that #2 has a greater impact. Phrase one was taken from a client’s “before” resume, while phrase two was taken from her “after” resume, re-written to be more accomplishment-oriented (and then used to successfully accomplish a career change).
Always strive to go beyond responsibilities and include accomplishments (i.e. the “so what’s”). Showing the impact of what you’ve done separates you from your competition. If you can’t use numbers to quantify impact, try “substantially improved”, “well-received” or something similar.
You can also use well known names of things, organizations or places to create memorable images. For example, one client wanted to demonstrate his entrepreneurial ability as it was part of a sales position’s requirements. He could have written “Bring an entrepreneurial approach to sales” (which was what he had originally). Instead, we changed this bullet point to the more effective “Featured in Entrepreneur Magazine as a dynamic sales entrepreneur.”
Your resume is too hard to read
I often get resumes that are intimidating “walls of text.” They are written in tiny fonts, or with non-existent margins, in service of a notion that their resume just has to be on one page (or is it two pages?).
In terms of importance, the number of pages is way down on the list. Far more important— your “how I can help you” message needs to jump off the page in 10-30 seconds. And readability (not length) is key to getting your message across quickly. Make your resume easily scan-able, so an employer can quickly pick out the information you want them to see. This means:
- No big paragraphs—people don’t want to read them! In fact, paragraphs of more than three lines should be banned from your resume.
- Use bullets, and bolding and/or underlining of key phrases to make your accomplishments stand out.
- Use plenty of white space to make the resume easier to read. Let the resume be as long as it needs to be to tell the “here’s how I can help you” story. I and other Club coach-colleagues have had countless successes with more senior clients using 3-4 page resumes to land interviews! On the other hand, sometimes one-page is just the right length (especially if you have less experience).
- Use readable fonts: Times New Roman 12-point or Arial 11-point are roughly comparable in size, and both work well. Some people have trouble reading smaller fonts on printed resumes.
Don’t forget the “Golden Rule” of resume writing: Your “how I can help you” message needs to jump off the page in the 10-30 seconds a potential employer is looking at your resume. Everything you do on your resume should serve this #1 rule.
Your resume uses a non-chronological format
Some jobseekers try different formats to hide a lack of conventional experience or gaps in work history. This doesn’t work because the reader is expecting a chronological format with the most recent dates first; they either don’t take the time to figure out your format, or think you’re hiding something. Either way, you lose. At the end of the day, an employer wants your resume to quickly tell them both what you did and when.
If you feel you have problems with your experience, e.g. gaps in time, different industries, over/under-qualified, etc. the summary section discussed in Part 1 will solve most of these problems. And as we discussed in Part 1 as well, pick and choose what you want to include in the chronological portion that follows the summary section.
Your resume contains too many meaningless phrases
I get many resumes filled with phrases like “results-oriented problem solver” or “references available upon request.” It wastes valuable resume real estate, and the reader’s time, to have these obvious, meaningless phrases on the resume. So leave them out!
Your resume starts off with an “Objective”
Every potential employer wants to know “how can you help me.” The objective statement by definition focuses instead on how they can help you! Keep your focus on them—don’t use an objective statement. Instead, have a summary section which shows the title on top representing your job target.
You pay too much attention to resume “rules” that violate the #1 Rule
So-called rules like “leave out anything older than 10 years,” your resume has to be on one page (or two pages, depending on the telling), the company needs to come first, and then the job title, etc. etc. all have one thing in common; implementing them should depend on the situation– that is, whether or not each of these items serves the aforementioned “Golden Rule.” For example, in some cases your job title may resonate more with a potential employer than the company name, while in other cases the reverse may be true. Change the relative emphasis accordingly. Check out this post for an additional case study.
To summarize the common mistakes from both parts 1 and 2 of this blog post, here’s a list of Resume do’s and don’ts:
- Have a summary section
- Make sure your summary matches your pitch
- Make sure your resume positions you for the particular job
- Be selective about what you include and choose to emphasize
- Make your resume accomplishment-oriented
- Use the jargon of the job you’re going for, not your last job
- Use boldface and/or underlines for emphasis
- Use bullets, single sentences, or very short paragraphs
- Use action verbs- “Created”, “Led”
- Use white space for easier reading
- Make sure everything you do on your resume supports the “Golden Rule”
- Be too literal with your work history– instead emphasize the relevant experience
- Use dense paragraphs
- Have an “objective”
- Write superfluous things like “References Available…”
- Use a non-chronological format
- Throw in ‘no kidding’ phrases, e.g. “results oriented problem solver”
- Be overly concerned about resume length
- Follow “rules” that violate the Golden Rule
(Update: Part 2 is here) When a potential employer reviews your resume, s/he thinks: a) Can this person help me to do my job? and b) I have about10-30 seconds to scan this resume. Hence, the Golden Rule of resume writing: Your “how I can help you” message needs to jump off the page in the 10-30 seconds it’s being reviewed. You’ll hear many rules (like this one) tossed around by experts. My suggestion from experience and training is to forget all those other rules, and just follow this one rule. Anything that serves this Golden Rule is good, anything that doesn’t is bad– which brings us to the top two resume mistakes:
Mistake #1: Too much focus on your current or last job, not enough on the job you want
Taking the extra time to portray your experience in a way that’s relevant to a potential employer is always key, and is even more imperative when you’re seeking to change industries or responsibilities. Your resume should tell a story about how your background can be useful to a hiring manager. Emphasize the things that will help the employer, and de-emphasize, or leave out, the things that are not relevant. In other words, don’t waste their time and hurt your chances for the sake of being literal or complete.
A summary section goes a long way toward creating a resume that resonates. Think of it as your “elevator speech” or “pitch” right at the top of your resume– the first thing a reader sees. In a summary section, the most relevant, impactful accomplishments are at the top of the first page where they will be seen, not buried somewhere on page 2 (you can repeat the accomplishments again further down in the resume, under the appropriate job).
Case Study: Lori came to me for help after getting nowhere with her job search. I quickly spotted the problem when she showed me her resume. She was going for a Business Development Director position but her resume led off with her most recent job as a social worker in private practice. No wonder hiring managers were sending her resumes to the “round file”!
So, in Lori’s case, we placed a title at the top of her resume, in large font, that reflected her job target–“Director of Business Development.” The rest of the summary section contained keywords and phrases that resonated with her target audience (e.g. “marketing,” “publicity,” “staff leadership,” etc.) and separated her from the competition. Also, crucially, the summary section contained her “greatest hits” – bullets about her business development successes that were pulled from throughout her resume.
Mistake #2: The resume is a literal list of everything you have done
If you keep in mind the aforementioned rule, you’ll pick and choose what you want to include in the resume. Taking this targeted approach to your resume means often leaving out significant accomplishments and responsibilities because they distract from showing how you can help an employer in your target profession or industry.
For example, in Lori’s resume, we left out an impressive accomplishment– that she received countless thank you notes from her therapy clients about how she helped them overcome their psychological challenges– because it would distract from her business development pitch. Instead, we included how she attracted new clients to her private practice by delivering presentations– a point that is very relevant for her business development job target!
To further this same example, in the “non-summary” section of her resume, we chose the wording carefully for Lori’s most recent position. We could have left her job title as “Therapist,” the way she first showed it to me. Instead, we chose “President” of her private practice. While both ways of phrasing her job title are true, the latter is far more relevant for her business development job target.
By the way, after making all these changes, Lori started getting the interviews she wanted! In Part 2 of this post, I’ll cover additional common resume mistakes and how you can avoid them.
LinkedIn’s “Advanced People Search” feature is a fantastic tool for finding people in your extended network or shared groups who can help you to reach your career goals. Including boolean logic in your search terms such as AND, OR, NOT, parenthesis and quotes around phrases can greatly expand its power. To demonstrate, here’s an example of a client who was interested in obtaining a marketing manager or director position at Pfizer. My client began her people search as follows:
- On the upper right of her screen, she clicked on “Advanced,” to the right of the “people” search box.
- Under “Location,” she selected “In or Near” her zip code, “within 50 miles.”
- She kept “Sort by Relevance” (experiment with these sort options to vary the results).
- Under “Company,” she entered “Pfizer,” and just below that she selected “Current,” meaning the results will show only people who currently work there.
- She then clicked on “Search” at the bottom.
Her result: Thousands of entries came up. Within the first couple of pages she saw many 2nd degree connections (people to whom she could be introduced by her first degree contacts) working at Pfizer. But she realized she was not getting enough senior marketing people in her results– that is, people in a position to hire her. So she refined her search by adding the following criteria:
- For “Title” she entered: Marketing AND (Senior OR VP OR SVP OR Executive OR Chief OR “Vice President”) AND NOT “Senior Manager” and selected “current” just below to ensure these keywords were in their current job title.
Notice that entire phrases such as “Vice President” can be searched for (or in the case of “Senior Manager” excluded) by enclosing them in quotes, and that the boolean logical connectors (AND, OR, NOT) must be capitalized.
The result—my client found the potential hiring managers at Pfizer that she was looking for, including a Senior Vice President- Marketing, Senior Director/Group Leader- Consumer Marketing, and a VP – Head of Global Marketing & Brand Strategy. The first two of these were second degree connections. She shared a group with the third one, meaning she could reach out to this contact by messaging him directly through their shared LinkedIn group.
I’ll have lots more to share about leveraging LinkedIn for your career in my ‘LinkedIn Intensive’ webinar on June 6, 7-8:30pm EST.
I’ve been sharing LinkedIn’s new Skills section with clients; they’ve found it very helpful for a range of activities including composing a resume or LinkedIn profile, evaluating a career change, deciding on companies to target, identifying contacts for meetings, and staying current in their present job. Once you input a skill you possess or want to learn more about, you get a “skills analysis” that shows you:
a list of people in your network with the same skill in their profile. This list is great for suggesting people you may want to try and meet with.
companies that hire for the skill you’ve selected. Use this list of companies for your job-search marketing plan.
a list of additional related skills (i.e. other skills that people have on their profiles along with the skill you entered). Use this list as source material for “skill” keywords to add to your LinkedIn profile or resume.
LinkedIn Groups to join that are related to the skill you’ve selected.
A listing of job openings that use this skill.
A definition of the skill (e.g. from Wikipedia, etc.) that can be useful in exploring new career options.
To start using this feature, go to “More” on the top menu of LinkedIn, and in the dropdown, select “Skills.” Then type in the skill you want to analyze or add to your profile. As you type, LinkedIn will suggest the word you’re looking for. For example, if I start to type “financial advisor” LinkedIn prompts me to select “financial advisory” from among a list of related skills. Try to select one of the skills it suggests for you that matches most closely. To add to the “Skills” section of your profile (increasing its appeal to recruiters sourcing candidates on LinkedIn), click on the “Add” button on the analysis page.
UPCOMING CAREER WEBINARS
I’ll be covering this new feature, and far more, in the webinars I’m running in December that are open for registration, including Finding YOUR Right Career (Dec 6), Resume and “Pitch” Intensive (Dec 13), and Getting Interviews (Dec 20). Feel free to check out my seminars page for more information on these and other webinars.
This blog entry was originally posted in the Glasshammer’s website.
Some clients who first come to me for help after a long and frustrating search attribute their difficulties to something they can’t control, such as age, experience (i.e. over- or under-qualified), weight, ethnic background, gender or, less often, some other physical feature. Yes, these biases do surface at times in the job search. But, once these clients start describing their search in more detail, nine times out of ten, I see that the problem is actually in their job-search strategy or execution!
So, if you have that “out of control” feeling, here’s a checklist of 10 things to make sure you are doing, to help you get back into the driver’s seat and on the road to the job you want.
1. Are you “positioning” yourself correctly? That is, are you focusing on how you can help your target audience? This means dropping the jargon that is only relevant to your current or last job, and using the language of your next.
2. Are you too general, or trying to be all things to all people? This strategy can be tempting because this way you don’t rule anything out. The problem with the too general approach, however, is that people are not going to take the time to figure out how you can help them. Or, they will put you in a place you don’t want to be! Having a specific resume and pitch for each job target is the way to go.
3. Are you too scattered, trying to go for many different job targets at once? It really helps to focus on one thing at a time, with some overlap. You want to be perceived as an “insider” in the industry or profession you are targeting, and to do that you need to focus and build your network within your target. Become known, have conversations with lots of people!
4. Are you going out and getting what you want, or just waiting for the ad to show up or the headhunter to call? The way people find most jobs these days is via leveraging their network and contacting people directly who they don’t know. LinkedIn can be a great help with these latter two approaches.
5. Are you being proactive at all stages of your job search? That means, you need to be following up, and keeping in touch, with people in your network or people you have met with. Don’t let these contacts disappear into a black hole! A client once followed up with 23 phone calls (not messages– just leave 1 or 2!) before he got to speak to the person he was trying to reach– and then they thanked him for being so persistent and gave him an interview!
6. How are you communicating? Is your “message” getting lost because of poor delivery? Get feedback from someone on how you come across in all your communications channels – resumes, emails, phone-calls, cover letters, and interviews.
7. Are you meeting with both the right people, and enough of the right people? At the Five O’Clock Club, we say that you must have six to 10 “things” (i.e. conversations) in the works with people who are in a position to hire you at any one time, because five of those six things will fall away through no fault of your own. Don’t just hang all your hopes on that one position you are interviewing for! Building up enough volume is key– if you are doing everything else right, it’s still a numbers game.
8. Are you targeting enough positions? If you have only 10 companies that you are going for, each with two positions that would be suitable for you (whether the position is open or not), that means only 20 positions you are targeting. It will thus take you forever to get a job because you have to wait for one of the 20 people to leave (or for a new job to be created)! The Five O’Clock Club recommends as a rule of thumb that you target 200 positions. Again, it’s a numbers game.
9. Are you spending at least 35 hours a week on your search if you are unemployed, and 15-plus if you are employed? I tell clients to treat their job search like a full time job. Get to your desk at 9am and leave at 5pm! Don’t kid yourself that you are in a serious job search if you spend only one or two hours a day on it!
10. Are you having fun? Take breaks from this search and go do what you enjoy doing! If you’re not taking care of yourself, it will come through in your interactions with potential employers! Spend at least a couple of hours a day doing something you enjoy.
Job-search clients often ask me whether they should mail or email their cover or followup letter. I tell them to default to email unless there is a compelling special case for sending a traditional letter. The reasons I recommend email:
- It works—I see the positive results all the time with my clients.
- It’s much easier on you, the jobseeker, to send an email then to start fiddling with the printer, stamps, etc.— which is important both from a time management perspective and psychologically.
- It’s easy for the recipient to just hit reply.
- Email is the language of business these days—everyone reads email.
- You may appear too old-fashioned if sending a letter.
That said, you will need a compelling subject line to get people to open the email, so it doesn’t go into spam (e.g. “referred by…”, “saw your article…”, “Our meeting last week…”, etc.). You also need an email address that has your name in it, both so that the email will be less likely to go into spam, and to take advantage of this opportunity to market your name. That is, firstname.lastname@example.org works well, while email@example.com — not so good. Include the letter in the body of the email, not as an attachment– make it as easy and likely as possible for your message to be read.
Letters do have the advantage that they can stand out given the deluge of emails (if the postal mail is read in a timely way—not always the case these days), they show care and effort, and may appeal to “old school” hiring managers, so don’t rule them out completely. Also, if someone did you a favor, sending a handwritten thank you note is always appreciated.