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.


Do Unto Others: Don’t Drop the Ball


One of the most common complaints that job seekers have is the silence that frequently follows resume submissions and interviews.  I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard one of these statements.

Ÿ “I sent in my resume 2 weeks ago but haven’t heard anything in response.”

Ÿ “The recruiter reached out to me to see if I might be interested in a specific position.  After a brief conversation, she said she’d talk to the hiring manager and get back to me.  That was 3 weeks ago and I haven’t heard from her since.”

Ÿ “Last month I interviewed with the hiring manager and it seemed to go well.  I was told that I would be contacted in a couple of days to schedule follow-on meetings with his staff, but it’s been radio silence since.  I even called the recruiter and she hasn’t responded.  I just wish someone would tell me something one way or the other.”

I find it incredible that the recruiters involved in these situations fail to communicate to the candidates.  The common wisdom is that if you don’t hear anything, they’re not interested.  So what?   If this is the case, the recruiter should have the common decency to contact the candidate to let him know that he will not be considered further, preferably by phone but at the very least by email, including an indication of the reason for rejection.  This show of respect will allow him to move on to other opportunities and perhaps adjust his search strategy, grateful for the feedback.

But to the ever hopeful job seeker, silence doesn’t always equate to rejection.  Many things could be happening.  The hiring manager could be on vacation, traveling for business, caught up in an office emergency.  Any number of issues may have occurred to slow the process down.  Communicate this to the candidate, providing status updates with a revised timeframe for continuing the process if applicable.  Even if you don’t have any substantive information yourself, notify him of that.  He would much prefer to know even if the news is negative.  Avoiding contact, not responding to emails and phone calls, is not acceptable procedure.

Sure, we’re all busy and time can easily slip away from us, but this communication doesn’t need to take long.  I think we may have become too complacent and fail to realize just how important these common courtesies are, both in terms of etiquette and the effect they have on your personal and corporate brands.  Perhaps it would be more obvious if you think of yourself as an employee working on the other end of the business, in marketing or sales, and consider each of these applicants as a customer who will carry away an impression of what it is like to work with you and your company.  Behave as if you expect to see yourself reviewed on Yelp or Glassdoor…and as you would like if you were in their place.

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 and have been invited to speak at HR West 2013 in April. 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.”

The 3 Question Cover Letter

Cover Letter Image I will start by saying that the vast majority of cover letters are never read. Yes, that’s right. With recruiters and hiring managers sifting through hundreds of resumes, in the interest of time, most of them go straight to the resume. This is even true when the job posting specifically requests one. That said, you should write your cover letter as if it will be read because you have no way of knowing whether or not the person reviewing your application will be one of the few who do.  And many decision makers will go back to read the cover letter if they like the resume.

Even those who will read your cover letter do not have the time or inclination to read a page-long essay, so keep it succinct, not more than half a page, and three, possibly four, paragraphs. Each paragraph should answer one of these three questions, in this order.

Why you?
Where ‘you’ is the company. Introduce yourself and in two or three sentences, convey your interest in the company, the specific position, and even the hiring manager if appropriate, with enthusiasm. Your explanation should include information that shows you have done your research. Some hiring managers who do read resumes tell me that they have more than once rejected an applicant whose cover letter is so generic that it could have been sent for any job at any company. They want to see at the beginning that you’ve taken the time to distinguish them from the rest of the pack, to see why you think they are special. Keep in mind that this will be their first impression of you, and you know what they say about first impressions. At the same time, be careful not to be overly solicitous.

Why me?
Where ‘we’ is you. In this section, tell the reader why you should be considered for the position, why you are special. Choose two or three of the company’s highest priority requirements and write a sentence or two that describe your achievements that will illustrate to the hiring manager that you possess the required qualifications. Don’t just tell them you have the experience. Show them by describing key accomplishments, your actions and the results. To keep your resume easily readable, your paragraphs should only be five or six lines long. Therefore, you may need to use two paragraphs for this segment, thus extending your letter to four paragraphs, but still only half a page in total.

What next?
This last paragraph will be the shortest and simplest, refers to the next step in the process, and may be the one area that is generic. It generally tells the reader that you want a chance to discuss your qualifications and indicates the next step to be an interview.

Most cover letters these days are actually the body of an email message with your resume as the only attachment. However, if a cover letter is specifically requested or you are delivering a hard copy, create a separate document and use the formal business format including your return address, the name and address of the person to whom you are writing, a salutation or greeting, followed by the body of your message.

At the end you want to include a complimentary close, “Thank you for your consideration,” and your first and last name.

For the salutation, it is polite to write “Dear Mr (or Ms) Brown,” rather than use their first name. If you do not know the name of the person who will be receiving your letter, exclude the salutation completely. Don’t use phrases such as “To whom it may concern,” “Dear sir or madam,” or “Dear hiring manager.” Similarly, don’t use the first name and the last, as in “Dear Mr John Brown.”  Believe me, I’ve seen it all.