Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give Thanks - After the Interview

It's that time again. This week we'll gather with family and friends and give heartfelt thanks for the blessings and people in our lives. Expressing gratitude is important in all facets of our daily lives. But in some situations, knowing how and when to say "thank you" can be tricky. One of those instances is the "after-the-interview-thank-you-note-challenge".

Sending a thank-you note following the job interview is one of those things you know you should do, but many people find this seemingly simple task to be an extremely difficult task. Do you send a handwritten thank-you note or is it OK to send an email? If you were interviewed by a selection committee, do you send a separate, differently worded note to each of the interviewers? When do you send the note - immediately after the interview, or within one or two days? Can it wait a week? And when is it too late to send the thank-you?

Of course it's professional and good etiquette to send a thank-you note. But just as importantly, the after-interview "thank-you" is a great opportunity to reinforce your fit for the job. It's a chance to sell yourself one more time as the ideal candidate and to expand on how your qualifications match the requirements of the job. It's a way for you to make one more great impression, and emphasize the benefit you can bring to the company. It's a great chance to distinguish yourself from your competitors. Don't miss the opportunity to get your name in front of the right people one more time – it gives them another reason to remember you.

So where do you start? Always send the thank you within 24 hours of the interview. The discussion will be fresh in your mind, your notes from the interview will make more sense and you'll be able to zero in on specifics from the interview more easily. Any longer than 24 hours will make the hiring manager think it was an afterthought, and they may not remember you at all.

There's disagreement among career experts on whether the thank-you note should be snail-mailed or emailed. It really depends on the company and on how quickly they intend to make a hiring decision. Emailed thank-you notes are probably fine in most cases, especially if it's a company where email communication is the norm. If the culture of the company seems more traditional, you may also want to follow up with a hard-copy version of your thank-you note. If your handwriting is legible and neat, go ahead and hand-write the note. If not, type it up, print it out and put it in the mail.

How should the thank-you note be structured? Make it short. This is not the time to go into an epic discussion of your qualifications. Thank the interviewer for his or her time, and mention one thing you like about the company as a whole. It might be that the culture, management style, executive leadership team, or long-term corporate growth objectives are a good match for you. Pull out something specific from the interview that is a differentiator for you. Maybe there was discussion of a problem you can help solve, or experience in your background that aligns with an important company initiative. Restate your enthusiasm for the position and your interest in the job. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity. Close by asking for the job. Don't beat around the bush. It's perfectly acceptable to say that you'd love the chance to work for the company.

By making the effort to show your interest in the job, highlighting the contributions you're prepared to make and the value you're willing to bring to a company, hopefully next Thanksgiving you'll have even for which to give thanks.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Take Your Resume From Drab to Fab - Critical Steps to Make Your Resume Resonate

Your resume is probably pretty good. You've doubtless done a fair job of outlining your skills, your experience, and your contributions. You've labored over getting all the right key words in there; you've proofread your resume over and over again to make certain there are no typos, no grammatical errors, and no red flags that would cause a potential employer to eliminate you from the running. You've toiled long and hard to carefully craft your resume for one purpose and one purpose only - to get the job you want, right? Wrong. A pretty good resume is going to get you nowhere, especially in this job market. Your resume has to blow them away.

Your resume is a marketing piece. You're writing ad copy. You're making the most important sales pitch of your life, and you have to sell the product (you) better than anyone else. You have to be the product everyone wants to buy and you have to create excitement around your personal brand. I'm sure you've heard this all before. The question is, how do you present your story in an authentic, credible way and at the same time convince a potential employer to "buy" your product? How do you differentiate yourself in the market and make your resume the one that gets to the top of the stack? How do you influence the hiring manager's buying decision?

Here are a few things to think about for your sales pitch:

1) Its Not All About You. Zero in on what the potential employer wants to buy, and position yourself to be the product that employer must have. Read a few dozen job descriptions for your dream job. Target the qualifications, key phrases, and requirements, yes - but go further. Focus on the "sizzle" the employer may have put in the job description. Look for the kinds of personality traits and individual qualities they may be looking for in the person they want to fill that role within their organization.

2) Differentiate Yourself. Think about the professional competencies and skills you bring to the table, of course. But what exceptional talents, knowledge, and aptitudes make you stand out from your peers? What have managers said about you in performance evaluations? What have former employers seen in you that made you remarkable to them? What personality traits do you possess that have helped you succeed throughout your career?

3) Back Up Your Claims. Potential employers want to know that you understand the tangible value you've brought to organizations - and they want to know what you can do for them. Why should they "buy" you? Can you make them money? Can you save them money? Can you improve processes? Increase market share? Boost productivity? Find new markets? Bring fresh ideas to product development? Prove it! Don't say you increased revenue - knock them out with how much you improved sales. Don't say you reduced costs - wow them with the numbers.

4) The X-Factor. Don't forget to add awards and professional affiliations, but also mention any civic or community activities. Potential employers like to know the product they're buying will go a little further and do a little more than expected. They want to know the person they're hiring understands the value of giving back.

Employers are on a quest for the best - in this economy, they can't afford to make hiring mistakes. The competition for every job is unbelievably fierce. Don't let a pretty good resume blow your chances. Close the deal with a resume that makes the sale.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Now is the Perfect Time to Polish Your Resume

Believe it or not, we're beginning to see flickers of hope in the economy – tiny signs of life in hiring. We're beginning to see home sales pick up, and banks are slowly but surely starting to release their iron grip on those bail-out dollars.

And, there are ever-so-slight signs of movement in the job market. There are some indications that we're beginning to turn the corner and the economy is going to begin to improve. I'm not being a Pollyanna here – the job situation is still bad, and will probably continue to be difficult for many months to come, but some economists and labor experts are beginning to speak with cautious optimism about signs of economic recovery – not a rebound by any means, but at least some signs of life.

As the market begins to turn around, it’s important to make sure you're ready to meet new challenges in the job market head-on. If you've been hanging on to a job you hate because you're worried there may not be another one out there very easily, good for you – that's the smart thing to do. The good news is the coming months may be a great time to start testing the waters.

If you've been laid off, downsized, or let go because of the economy, and have not been able to find a job, the good news for you is that the pendulum may be starting to swing your way.

What do you need to do in order to make sure you're on the leading-edge as the job market improves? First and foremost – make sure your resume is top-notch. Make certain you've got a killer resume that is going to put you at the top of the heap.

If you don't feel 100% sure that you can create the kind of resume that gives you a distinct competitive edge, then hire a professional to help you. It's an investment you can't afford not to make in this job market. How much should it cost? Expect to pay 1% to 2% of your salary for a professionally done resume, cover letters, and assistance with putting together a job search strategy.

How do you know you're working with a reputable firm? Ask for references, and call them. Ask the references what response they've gotten with their resume, and what feedback they've received from recruiters and hiring managers. Ask to see some sample resumes. Check the writer's
LinkedIn profile and recommendations there.

Most resume writing companies will provide the resume and one or two cover letters. Very few offer to help you find resources, put together a search strategy and get you connected with recruiters, any of those that do, many charge extra to do that – try to work with a company like
The Resume Group that includes those services in the original price. When shopping for a professional resume-writing firm, make sure you compare apples with apples in terms of products and services.

Ask about the process. Are you going to fill out a questionnaire or answer emailed questions? Or is the writer going to spend time interviewing you on the phone? Are you going to get a resume that truly highlights your unique skill set, strengths and achievements, or does the company use phrase-generating technology, stock templates and one-size-fits-all cover letters?

The resume process should be about you, your skill set, your experience, your qualifications, and your accomplishments. It's about making you stand out – not fitting you into the fastest, easiest, most streamlined way to spit out resume after resume. Hiring managers can spot a cheap resume template a mile away. Don't squander the opportunities that are about to come your way as the economy improves.
The Resume Group is here to help if you decide that now is the time to polish your resume, develop a job search strategy, and find the resources to help you succeed in your search for a new job.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How To Write a Bad Resume

As a professional resume writer with more than 15 years of experience, I've seen thousands of resumes. Some are good, of course, but some are just downright horrific. We all know that a resume, no matter how great it is, isn't going to get you a job. Your resume only gives you a shot at getting an interview. A bad resume takes away the chance that you'll even get that far. So, I've decided to put together a list of just a few of the things that make for a really bad resume. By avoiding these pitfalls, you might improve your odds of getting in the door for an interview. Then it's up to you to seal the deal.

1) Focusing on responsibilities, not achievements. Your resume is a sales tool. It's your marketing piece. You're selling a product (you) to a buyer (employer). Get them to see the features and benefits you offer. Why should any prospective employer "buy" you as opposed to any of the other products (candidates) out there? By highlighting your achievements, in quantifiable ways, you give potential employers a reason to want to hire you.

Example: Resume #1 says, "Exceeded sales objectives"
Resume #2 says, "Delivered 137% of sales goal, outpacing 122 reps nationwide"

Which candidate do you want to interview?

2) Putting anything in your resume that you might have to back-peddle from in an interview. In other words, don't exaggerate, don't lie, and don't inflate your achievements.

Example: "Ranked in the Top 10 of all sales executives in the country". Great – now when the interviewer asks you how many sales executives there were, and you have to say "10", you look idiotic and there's zero chance you're getting that job.

3) Using acronyms like alphabet soup. Like everything else, there's a time and place for acronyms. Some have become a part of our business vernacular and it's OK to use them (i.e. HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). But be careful about tossing around acronyms. Some can have several meanings, so it's probably a good idea to spell out your use of the acronym once in the resume (i.e. ABC – it can mean Activity-Based Costing, Always Be Closing, or Anything But Chardonnay – make sure a potential employer knows which one you mean).

4) Using different fonts. I have seen resumes with at least 10 different fonts, in 6 different sizes, and a wild array of bold, italics, small caps, colors, and even flashing special effects. Don't do it. Use one font, and make it one that most Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) will recognize – Times New Roman, Arial, and Georgia are all good, standard fonts. Use Bold and Italics sparingly – and some ATS have a hard time with Italics - so only use them if you think they're absolutely necessary.

5) Listing your reason for leaving each job. Just one word. Don't. No matter why you left, whether it was a layoff, downsizing, restructuring, firing, or voluntary, it's going to be perceived as a negative. Better to leave this discussion for the interview.

6) Using your current company email address or phone number as your contact information. No employer wants to think that you would use company resources for your job search, so don't use your current employer's phone number or email address on your resume. It will doom your chances of getting an interview. Make sure the outgoing message on your cell phone or home phone sounds professional, and open a professional-sounding gmail or hotmail account for your job search.

Today's job market is more challenging than ever before. If your resume isn't better than everyone else's out there, you don't stand a chance of landing the job you want. Make sure you're giving yourself every opportunity to sell yourself in an interview.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Four Myths About Resumes

There are a lot of myths about resumes - here's four of the most common resume myths that should go away - now.

1) Everyone Should Write Their Own Resume. Of course you can write your own resume, but should you? No one knows your career, skills, accomplishments and experience better than you. But are you trained to know how to take that information and distill it into a succinct, well-articulated marketing tool? Will the resume you create differentiate you in the market and get you to the top of the must-interview list?

A professional resume writer can ask the right questions, bring out essential information, and create a powerful, compelling document that really zeroes in on your unique skills and achievements. A professional resume writer can develop a resume that positions you for the job you want - which is not necessarily the job you currently have. You're smart enough to hire a qualified specialist when you need a new roof or a tune-up on your car. Make sure your resume gets the same expert attention!

2) A Longer Resume is More Impressive. I don’t' know why this myth continues to perpetuate, but somehow it does. We are an instant-gratification society and nobody is going to wade through more than a page or two of information. So edit, edit again, and then edit some more.

In fact, in today's Blackberry, I-Phone, Twitter world, potential employers just might be looking at your resume on a screen no larger than a credit card. You may want to create a quick-to-read, introductory version of your resume that is no longer than a paragraph or two - yes, a Personal Branding Statement. Develop an "elevator pitch" of just a sentence or two that hits the highlights of your skill set and experience, as well as a key achievement or two. If your profile statement takes more than 30 seconds to read, it's probably too long. Have your longer, more detailed resume ready to send as a follow-up.

3) Include Every Job You've Ever Had. Once you've been out in the workforce for more than a year, you can safely eliminate high-school babysitting jobs and part-time summer stints at the local fast-food joint. Employers want to focus on your most recent jobs and accomplishments, so it's generally best to condense experience older than 10 or 15 years into just a line or two. As an added advantange, you'll create space in the document to strengthen the impact of your resume by expanding on your most recent experience.

4) I Don't Need a Resume - I'll Network to Get My Next Job. There's no question that networking is a key part of any successful job search strategy. In fact, up to 80% of jobs are never advertised, and most people leverage their network connections to get introduced to decision makers inside companies where they want to work. But then what? Sending an up-to-date resume is normally the next step in the process. If nothing else, having a great resume will help you clarify and crystallize your professional story in your own mind, and that translates into confident responses when a potential employer asks about your background.

Obviously, your resume won't get you a job. You're the one who has to sell yourself in an interview. The trick is actually getting the interview. Give yourself every advantage in the job search process. A professionally developed, concise, targeted resume is one of the most crucial tools in your search arsenal. A great resume can get the interview so you can get the job you deserve!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Six Big Resume Mistakes

Your Resume - it's a thing of beauty and a sight to behold. You've worked countless hours perfecting your resume. You've researched all the keywords that must be included. You've made sure your achievements are quantified, all the relevant details are there, and your resume is perfect. You've carefully proofread the resume, you've asked everyone you know to proofread it, and you've proofed it again. Your resume is perfect.

Or is it?

Every hiring manager is looking for reasons to EXCLUDE you from that gigantic file of resumes in their database. They're looking for the cream-of-the-crop, top-tier, best-of-the-best candidates to bring in for the interview. Knowing what NOT to include in your resume can be just as important as knowing what skills, talents and achievements to highlight.

Here are just a few things that should NEVER be included in your resume.

1) An Objective. It's lame and it serves no purpose. Employers aren't interested in what you want from them. Potential employers want to know what professional strengths and skills you bring to the table. They want to know how you can contribute to their success. Employers want to know who you are, what you can do, and they want you to prove it. An objective just takes up valuable real estate on a resume and hiring managers don’t' read them.

2) Jokes. Your resume is not the place to kid around. I recently got a resume that said "I only fell off the truck one time." The candidate said he was trying to be funny, and while it did catch my eye, levity is not a requirement for most jobs. Unless you're applying for a job with Saturday Night Live, leave the sarcasm and comedy off your resume.

3) Negative statements. Don't tell your potential employer the things you can't do, hate to do, or simply won't do. Your resume is your first impression - make sure you bring out the positive attributes you bring to the job. Back it up with achievements and contributions from past positions. Emphasize your skills and accomplishments. Sell yourself - don't sell yourself short.

4) References Available Upon Request. Really? Believe me; potential employers know that if they request references, you'll probably provide them. And if you can't, well …

5) Religious/Political Affiliations or Sexual Orientation. If your work on a political campaign, church committee, or for the GLBT Alliance is relevant to the job you're seeking, then include the details of the experience in general terms without specifics regarding your particular beliefs or sexual orientation.

6) Goofy E-mail Address. Open a hotmail, gmail or yahoo email account for free and use it just for your job search. Create a professional-sounding email identity (firstname.lastname@gmail.com). The advantages are that a) you won't accidentally miss email responses from potential employers and b) you can keep funkydrunkywildchild@hotmail.com between you and your closest friends.

Getting your resume right is tough, but if you do, you just might get the interview. Get it wrong, and you'll never get in the door.