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.

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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.

 

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.”

Get Organized!!

Get organizedMy 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)

You may add a date if you’d like but it’s much less important.

  • Schwartz, Mauri – Resume (2013)
  • Schwartz, Mauri – Cover (2013-0718)

Finally, you should create an Excel spreadsheet to track your job search progress and include the following information.

  • 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

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 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. I recently 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.”

Job Search Etiquette

Interview Recently, a recruiter friend of mine told me that her client was preparing to extend a job offer to one of her candidates after a round of successful interviews.  As news of the offer was being communicated to my friend to forward to the candidate, the client received an email from the candidate thanking her for the opportunity to interview.

Proper etiquette, right?  However, in the candidate’s message, she came across as arrogant, rude, and careless as her message included misspellings and grammatical errors, and related in detail all the processes that she would change in her first few weeks on the job. Naturally, the hiring manager was offended, changed his mind and rescinded the offer. This story caused me to think that it would be good to talk more about job search etiquette.

Here are four key areas of interaction to consider when conducting a job search, or any time for that matter.

1)      Networking

  • Offer to help; focus on the ‘give’ side of a 2-way ‘give and take’ exchange.  When you make new contacts at networking events or when you reach out to your existing contacts, think first about how you can help them in their endeavors, whether they be career related or not. Keep in mind that supporting someone in an endeavor automatically makes that person want to return the favor. I call this Networking Karma.
  • Be respectful of your contact’s time and make it comfortable for that person to say yes. Don’t ask for a job; ask for advice. Everyone has advice and is happy to give it. Furthermore, you are paying her a compliment by implying that she is an expert.
  • Everywhere I look, career experts are advising job seekers to ask for informational interviews. I agree with the concept but disagree with the wording of the request. An informational interview conjures up a 30-60 minute meeting which resembles an interview but for which there is no open position that can be offered to you. This can make your contacts feel somewhat uncomfortable, first about committing so much time and then for feeling that you expect more than they can give.
  • I’m not saying this is actually what you expect, but it is the thought process that often occurs. So I say ask for a chat, which is defined as an ‘informal conversation or talk conducted in an easy familiar manner’ and implies a much shorter amount of time, for which it will be easier to get a contact to commit.

2)      Face to Face

  • Everyone knows that you should be on time for a meeting; do not keep your contact waiting. If you are meeting that person in her office, you should also beware of arriving too early. Since you are a guest in her space, she may feel responsible for meeting with you earlier than planned and uncomfortable if she can’t. If you’re sitting in the reception area for a long time, you also make other people in the office uncomfortable, and you will end up feeling awkward as well. Arrive only about 5 minutes before your designated meeting time.
  • Be prepared, know what you want to discuss and be clear about what you would like for this person to do for you. Don’t make them figure it out. Don’t shove your resume in front of her and expect her to figure out what type of job you should seek.
  • Listen and be patient, pay attention to what the person is telling you and show your appreciation for her insight without countering every suggestion with an excuse.  I really don’t have to say that your cell phone should be off and out of sight, do I?

3)      On the Phone – Pretend this is a face-to-face meeting and follow all my recommendations above. If you are leaving a voice message, make it short and to the point. Follow it up with an email if you have a lot to say. I have a colleague who not only shows up early for all our meetings but calls a couple of minutes in advance of our scheduled phone appointments. This drives me crazy, and I recommend that you call one or two minutes after your scheduled time to give the other person a chance to be ready for you.

4)      In Writing – There will be numerous occasions to send thank you messages. Always do so immediately after meeting with someone, whether it is for an interview or networking. When you’ve landed your new position and your job search is over, don’t forget to go back again and thank all those people who have helped you in any way. Whatever type of message you are sending – thank you notes, cover letters, or other correspondence, be polite and make sure that you thoroughly check for spelling and grammatical errors. Do not use text-like abbreviations such as BTW, FYI, etc. And don’t use texting or twitter to convey any of these messages. Texting is okay when the other person has used texting to contact you, but still beware of using texting abbreviations.

Here’s an extra tip:  When using a formal salutation that includes Ms or Mr, follow it only with the person’s last name. I am continually surprised by the number of people who will begin a letter with Dear Ms Mauri Schwartz when the correct way is Dear Ms Schwartz.

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. I recently 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.”

Honesty is the best policy

???????Recently a client contacted me with the following question:

I recently interviewed with an agency recruiter who said that I should put that I have an MA degree on my resume because I have completed all the coursework but haven’t written my dissertation. He also recommended that I exaggerate the work I did at one of my jobs. What do you think?

I hold strong to the belief that George Washington was right when he said “I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree.”  Above all, your integrity is the most essential asset you bring to the table. Don’t sacrifice it for a slim chance of getting a job interview. If you misrepresent yourself on your resume, what ‘little white lie” while you tell in an interview, or on the job? We naturally get upset when we learn that some politician lied when their campaign materials state that he is a Viet Nam War veteran when actually he sat out the war because he had flat feet, potentially two lies in this one.

While I caution against lying and exaggerating achievements, I do encourage clients to represent themselves in the best light possible.  I will assume that your graduate work is directly related to the job you seek.  Otherwise, there is no need to include it at all.  If you are still pursuing your MA, working on your dissertation, then you should list your education as “MA in progress, anticipated December 2013” or just “MA anticipated December 2013.” If you gave up on it years ago, you may use “MA Coursework completed.” By including the qualifying phrases immediately beside the degree, you make it clear that you haven’t quite made it.

Regarding exaggerating your work, it is difficult for me to tell without specifics.  Here again, I encourage marketing yourself positively but fall clearly short of untruths or misrepresentations. There are certain keywords that you can use to play up your accomplishments, but be careful not to overstate them. For example, let’s say that you are not a manager but you have coordinated the work of several people in order to complete a project. It was your responsibility to define the project scope, to delegate tasks among your colleagues, and to track quality and progress in order to keep the project on schedule. You should not say, “Managed team of five analysts in completing such-and-such project on time.” However, you may put it this way, “Project managed team of five analysts to deliver such-and-such project on time, defining project scope, delegating tasks, and tracking quality and progress.”

Project management is a very common skill that employers are seeking these days as they are less interested in people management skills. Having this phrase in your resume will help you when applicant tracking systems are searching for specific keywords. Additionally, listing the specifics will tell the hiring manager which phases of project management you have performed. If, in fact, you were also responsible for keeping the project on budget and you did so, add that in as well.

So, you can see that there are ways to highlight your achievements without misstating them.

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. I recently 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.”

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.

One Size Does Not Fit All

I can’t stress enough how important it is to tailor your resume to each specific position.  It must immediately capture the attention of the hiring manager as he/she will only give it a 15-20 second glance to decide whether to reject it or to continue reading.  Your cover letter should be well written, short and to the point, directly addressing your relevant qualifications in a way that will compel the hiring manager to take a look at your resume.  However, it’s not enough to customize your cover letter, because the vast majority of them are never read, even often when one is expressly requested.  With only a short amount of time to sift through hundreds of applications, most hiring managers and even HR will go straight to the resume, and it must be able to stand alone.

In the initial 15-20 second scan of your resume, the reader will most likely focus on the top 1/3 of the first page.  Anything they need to know about you regarding your fit for their job should somehow be expressed in this space.  That is why I recommend using a summary of qualifications section at the top to outline these key points in bullet form.  I also advise that for each of your jobs, you include only relevant experience so as not to cloud the picture and make it difficult for the reader to see pertinent achievements.  A resume is a marketing brochure, not a historical document.

I believe in using what I call the People Magazine philosophy of resume writing, as compared to The New Yorker or Vanity Fair whose articles go on and on for days.  In People as in the USA Today newspaper, for each article there is a headline, a sub-headline, and a few sentences. It is easy to grasp the key points without making a huge commitment of time.  Keep in mind that the purpose of a resume is not to get you a job; it is to convince the hiring manager to invite you to interview.

Regarding LinkedIn, it is true that while you may have several versions of your resume, you only have one LinkedIn profile.  My rule in this case is to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is not inconsistent with any of your resumes.  That will most likely mean that it will contain fewer details about your experience.  This may not be ideal, but it’s much better than causing confusion with mismatched bios.

Carefully proofread all your documents – resumes, cover letter, thank you notes, and emails.  Nothing is worse than saying you have excellent communication skills when you have grammatical or spelling errors.