Get organized: Why you need a simple system to track your job search

Folder Organization Image

My advice is always to customize your resume for each job opportunity, but how can you keep track of everything?  Create a document folder for each position that you submit a resume for. In this folder include the resume version you submitted for that job plus a copy of the job description, cover letter, and any other related documentation or correspondence. Be sure to save a copy of the full job description rather than just the url to the online posting as the posting may be removed from the company’s web site at any time.

Name your documents in such a way that they can be clearly identified – by the company’s recruiter and/or hiring manager as well as by you. For the recruiter/hiring manager, document tiles should include your name and the type of document; ie resume or cover letter. Don’t overlook the fact that this simple title is a mini writing sample, and so you should make sure that there are no spelling errors. Even if you’re careful to keep the right resume version in the proper folder, you may want to add something that identifies the company and/or position. Here are some examples:

  • Schwartz, Mauri – Resume (Google)
  • Schwartz, Mauri – Cover (Google-VP, Finance)
  • JD – Google VP, Finance [JD=job description]

You may add a date if you’d like but it’s much less important since you can always check the date the document was created and most recently modified using the Properties feature.

  • Schwartz, Mauri – Resume (2015)
  • Schwartz, Mauri – Cover (2015-0418)

Finally, you should create an Excel spreadsheet to track your job search progress and include the following information.  You can find a sample of what this may look like on the Career Insiders web site.

  • Company Name
  • Job Title
  • Person Contacted/Person to Contact
  • Contact Info
  • Action Taken
  • Date Action Taken
  • Next Action to Take
  • Date of Next Action to Take
  • Notes/Comments

Sort the list according to Date of Next Action to Take.  It’s important to keep your tracking spreadsheet up to date. I’ve found that clients who do this make more progress in their search if only because they have a written plan which specifies what they need to do next and when. In this way, they keep themselves accountable.

Here’s a lagniappe: If you use Word’s Tracking feature to show changes you’ve made or those made by someone else whom you’ve asked to proofread your resume, don’t forget to turn tracking off before sending it out! (A lagniappe is a word use chiefly in Louisiana which means “a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; a bonus.”)

 

Mauri Schwartz Head Shot 1 B&W v2 - 2014-0806

Mauri Schwartz, President and CEO of Career Insiders, is a leading figure in the San Francisco Bay Area career and talent management community. Career Insiders consults with companies and nonprofit organizations regarding executive recruitment as well as outplacement for all employee levels, and job seeker services for individual clients. In addition to her outstanding success rate in helping clients achieve their career goals, Mauri is a frequent speaker at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. She has served as Adjunct Advisor of Career Services at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley where she received her MBA and delivered seminars at other universities (Tulane, Mills, San Francisco State, others), nonprofits, and businesses.  Mauri’s motivational style uses techniques that combine old fashioned interpersonal relationship building skills with the latest technological tools.  Career Insiders has been certified by the City and County of San Francisco as a woman-owned business.

What can you do about ageism in hiring?

It is quite often that a mid- to late-career client asks me how far back in their work experience should they go in writing their resume.  The person will say they have heard to put only the most recent 10 years, some say 15.  My most common answer to clients’ questions regarding resumes, interviews, etc. is “It depends.”  ED001406

I don’t believe there is one right number.  I think those who advise a set number of years, such as 10 or 15, do so because it is simpler to recommend a one-size-fits-all than to advise on an individual basis.  There are many guidelines that are common to nearly all job seekers, but everyone has something that calls for special attention.  In addition to these particulars, other variables include how much experience is deemed appropriate for a specific industry, company, function, or job level.

Unfortunately, age discrimination does exist, primarily against older workers, but often it is against younger employees.  If it is age discrimination, which we all know is illegal, it is usually nearly impossible to prove.  For older workers, I have found that in most cases, the issue is not tied to an age number.  It may be the expectation that a more senior candidate will require a higher compensation than someone earlier in their career.  Or, there is a concern that an older candidate may be approaching retirement, and so will only stay employed for a few years.  However, the average job tenure among employees of all ages is less than five years (last recorded in 2012 by the US Department of Labor), and just over three years for those younger than forty.

I think the primary reason may be that the employer assumes that someone who is older has tired, stale ideas and ways of performing the job and has less energy and enthusiasm. These are factors that you can and should eliminate with your actual behavior, body language and voice during an interview, even when it is on the phone.

But, you must first get the interview which means that you do not want to give them any reason for discarding your resume on first glance.

For those who have been out of college at the undergraduate level for 12-20 years or more, I would omit graduation dates.  In general, 12-18 years of experience is the time span I recommend, depending on the variables mentioned above (industry, company, function, job level) as well as how pertinent the particular experience is to the position you seek.  My advice is to include only achievements that are relevant to your targeted role, even in your more recent experience.

 

Mauri SchwartzHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. I have been invited to speak at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”

How you recruit is a reflection of your brand

InterviewMost of my posts are directed at arming job seekers with the ammunition needed to conduct a successful search. This time, I set aim at the other side of the table. I hear the same complaints repeatedly from clients about how they were treated during the recruitment process.  So, to those in charge of recruiting for your organizations, here are some recommendations.

Branding

According to Dr. B Lynn Ware, President/CEO at Integral Talent Systems, organizations should do more to develop and hone their employment brands and then ensure that every touch point with targeted candidates consistently reflects that brand. Much attention is focused on the marketing of programs and services while employment branding and its execution are an afterthought. As a result, candidates may have misperceptions about what it is like to work there.

Evaluating

Read the entire resume.  You asked for it, so read it carefully.  With so many resumes to review, most recruiters are looking for a way to make that pile smaller and use the average 6-second scan to find a reason to reject. You could be eliminating some of the best candidates. The extra time up front is much shorter and less expensive than making a mistake.

In screening a resume, recruiters should focus on identifying the candidate’s achievements, whether for work or a side project, and should learn to read between the lines, watching for these factors.

Overselling:  In reading through her job descriptions, the candidate may look like she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.  However, practically speaking, could all of the stated achievements been made in the specified timeframe?

Ambiguity:  Because only so much information can fit onto a resume, oftentimes responsibilities are described very generally. Recruiters should make sure they can ascertain the activities executed by this candidate specifically. It’s rare that an organization will be hiring the entire team at once.

Depth of Experience:  How long has the applicant been engaged in the pertinent experience?  How much a part of her role was it?  She may be able to truthfully say she has the knowledge, but is it strong enough?  Look for length and level of her participation.

Having said this, candidates need to be able to convey their achievements on “paper” articulately, based on educating themselves as to how their resume will be reviewed.

Annoying recruiting procedures

Lengthy application forms have got to go. Some go on for pages, and each must be completed before continuing to the next. There is no way to look ahead to see what more will be required. Who wants to fill them out? No one. Who wants to read them? No one. Fortunately, some smaller organizations are opting for a much simpler route with a simple upload of a resume or social media profile. Why insist on entering every job’s details when they’re already on the resume? There’s no reason to ask for all the candidate’s personal information unless and until she’s seriously being considered.

Make your entire process comfortable for candidates and as streamlined as possible. Treat them like guests in your home when they come in to interview, and provide clear feedback and status quickly. Lack of clear and timely communication is probably the #1 complaint of candidates.
Hi I’m Mauri, President/CEO of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels.  Recently Career Insiders has increased its Talent Acquisition line of business and has successfully placed a VP Marketing at a rapidly growing company, and have another one on the way. Our recruiting focus is on executives in sales/marketing, finance, corporate legal, and HR.

 

Are you qualified?

Despite the fact that the recession has been declared over, many job seekers are still havinMauri + Client Reviewing Resumeg trouble landing a new job. As a result of their frustration…and espousing the numbers game, many are applying for jobs for which they are only partially qualified, “There’s always something in the job description that doesn’t match with my experience, but that I know I can do if given the chance. How do I convince an employer to hire me in this situation?”

When applying for a job, it’s essential to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. If you feel qualified for the position, you need to make it clear in every communication to her, including your cover letter, resume, emails, and interviews. With the hundreds of resumes a hiring manager receives, don’t expect her to figure it out.

First, assess the 4 or 5 key priorities of this position from the hiring manager’s side. If you don’t have demonstrable achievements in those specific priorities, don’t waste your time. If you were the hiring manager, what would you think of someone sending you a resume with a similar lack of qualifications? There will be plenty of candidates who are qualified, and adding your resume to the pile just makes the process move more slowly and doesn’t help you at all.

When you do feel that you possess the required skills but still aren’t making progress, what can you do to improve your odds? In my experience, most job seekers use the same resume for every job application, or at most will tweak it only slightly. They understand the need for customization but think it can be accomplished with the cover letter. This is a huge mistake. I’ve been coaching clients for many years, and continue to survey hiring managers. The vast majority of cover letters are never read. And most of those which are read are done so after the hiring manager has reviewed your resume, likes it, and reads the cover letter as additional information. The resume must stand alone! However, the cover letter must be written as if it will be read.

Write your resume so that it spells out what you’ve previously accomplished that solved the same or similar problems as outlined in the job posting. List your achievements and qualifications in order of the hiring manager’s priority, not yours. If you don’t have experience with a specific requirement in a paid position, but were successful doing it in a significant volunteer role, include it, but be sure to note that it was in an unpaid position.

In your resume, cover letter, and interview, present your case by drawing a parallel with each of the job’s stated requirements. You may have accomplishments of which you are proud, but if they aren’t directly relevant to the specific job, don’t share them. Don’t confuse the interviewer with extraneous information that muddies the picture you want to present.

And don’t waste time telling them how their job will round out your professional experience. To rephrase President John F. Kennedy’s quote in his 1961 inaugural address, it’s not what the employer can do for you; it’s what you can do for her!

Mauri SchwartzHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. I have been invited to speak at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”

Ace the Phone Interview

Interview - comks12851 - $50

Congratulations on getting that interview!  These days it takes hard work to get even that far in the search process.  That is unless you have expertise in some esoteric programming stream processing framework like Storm, S4 or Samza.  Huh?

Anyway, back to the issue at hand.  First, consider a phone interview pretty much like a face-to-face meeting. Prepare in detail just as you would normally.  Dress the same too.  Create a private space without noise or distraction to take the call, one where you know you will get the best phone reception.  Be ready a few minutes ahead of time and operating on all cylinders – be at your best.

The nice thing about phone interviews (that are not Skyped) is that you can have some notes in front of you, but be very careful not to have too much. You don’t want to be in the position of making noise by shuffling papers or taking too much time to answer because you’re searching through your notes to find it.

Use your computer to help you, one with a big enough screen to be useful.  Not your phone; it’s not big enough. I highly recommend that you bring up the person’s LinkedIn profile so that you can talk to the person directly. It’s not ideal in that the facial expression is fixed and you won’t be able to read body language, but I believe you can still tell a great deal just from a photograph.

And don’t forget to prepare ahead.  You can download a free copy of my proven Interview Prep Guide from the Resources page of my web site.  Good luck!

Watch Your Language, Young Man!

Resume Image LinkedIn recently announced its 2013 Top 10 Overused Buzzwords in member profiles. One of them is “responsible.” Why is this not a good word to use? What are good words to use in a resume or profile instead of “responsible,” and what are some good words to use to make your resume stand out?

I agree wholeheartedly with LinkedIn on this issue and have always advised against using the word “responsible” as in “Responsible for conducting surveys, updating spreadsheets, and producing reports.” First, it is unclear as to whether or not you actually performed these tasks or if you managed one or more employees who did. If you did perform these activities, then you should just say so. Use this opportunity to describe your actions and their results as in the example below. Your resume shouldn’t be just a list of your job duties.Client Resume Review

◾ Conducted surveys of all new employees, approximately 500, for the first quarter of 2013, completing this task in half the usual time by implementing an online survey application.
◾ Input respondent data into spreadsheet offering an immediate comparison with surveys from Q1 2012.
◾ Formatted, printed and compiled survey details and summary data into executive reports and delivered to senior management.

If on the other hand, you managed a team of one or more people who performed these duties, you could describe it this way:

◾ Managed execution and reporting of quarterly survey of new employees, averaging 500/quarter.
◾ Obtained Vice President’s approval to implement SurveyMonkey as our first web-based survey solution, completing the entire survey process in half the usual time.

You will want to use vocabulary that presents your achievements in the best light, ones that indicate that you accomplished something that someone else in your position may not have been able to do, that you made a difference. Describe the results of your actions as compared to previous results or compared to other companies in your industry, but only if the comparisons are positive for you. Include situations when you introduced a process that improved the way work was getting done.

Mauri in Orange BlouseHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. Earlier this year I was invited to participate on a panel discussion at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”