Sunday, October 1, 2017

People keep asking: How long should a resume be?

The answer is the shortest length that will win an interview. 

Resumes that focus on the fewest words presented in an orderly, easy-to-read manner, win interviews.

People who read resumes search for key pieces of information, things that motivate them to want to interview. It follows that content and presentation are key to winning an invitation to interview. Length is a variable outcome.

Know your audience.

Those who review resumes to fill positions like professor or research scientist, and certain government positions, etc., often want volumes of detail and are very willing to read it carefully. They may need detailed pedigree data like publications, dissertations, presentations or information that can be used to assist vetting for various levels of secret clearances.

However, those reviewing resumes for people in the majority of disciplines are not looking for that level of detail. They simply want to quickly discover information that motivates them to want to interview. They are not interested in voluminous information and typically budget mere seconds to scan the many resumes they receive. They don't read, they glance at resumes. In these situations the emphasis should be on making it possible for the reader  to find key information quickly.

One length does not fit all.

When a resume is first read, what the candidate wants is not important to the reader. What's important is information that responds to the hiring manager's needs. Excessive length usually means rejection, often without even reading the resume. If one page will get an interview, fine. The ideal is probably two. Beyond two one risks rejection unless applying for positions like those described above that require extensive information.

From a logical perspective, readers may interpret excessive length as simply an indication that the candidate is unable to express thoughts crisply and succinctly or is desperate, using a "hard sell" approach to cover up something.

The takeaway is this: Resume content and how content is presented always trumps length. Understanding the audience of readers is necessary for drawing the right balance between content and length.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ever wonder why you were rejected? These are 5 key reasons.

ATS is often the cause. While some ATS software is better than others, there is a lot of information about the causes of ATS rejection of job applicants. Some of it is correct and some of it is conjecture passed on with good intentions, but without an understanding of the real causes. The following are the key reasons for rejection or non-response when the ATS does not or cannot properly extract information from a resume.

Qualification. Some applicants simply don't meet the qualifications. Sometimes they don't care and waste precious job search time by applying anyway. 

Key words. Some people ignore using key words exactly as written in job descriptions or fail to use them in context. Key words are the first level filter in all ATS and recruiting searches.

Graphics. ATS parsers cannot extract text located inside graphics. Text inside a graphic is interpreted as just part of the graphic. Frequently resumes are created using word processing shortcuts that use graphics into which the text is written. For instance, if a name and/or contact information is written inside a header, ATS will never know who the person is or how to contact them.

Columns. Some people use text columns to format a resume. ATS parsing software reads data across the full page, one line at a time. This jumbles columnar information into sentences that make no sense.

PDF files. Most ATS software cannot read PDF files. PDF files are graphical representations of text files. Although some ATS providers claim they can read PDF files, what they fail to say is "converted PDF files". There are two types of PDF files, Native and Scanned, plus many variants. How is one to know which variant the file is? And how is one to know if their resume will be scrutinized by an ATS that is capable of reading PDF files?

These are only 5 of over 40 possible issues that can contribute to ATS rejection.

The bottom line. Make sure you are qualified before you apply. For the best online application success, use keywords exactly as written in job descriptions, do not use word processing creation tools, and don't apply online with a PDF file. Apply using txt or doc files.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Rule #1 for Resume Writing

Actually there is only one rule. All others are guidelines to be interpreted by the writer.

Rule #1: A winning resume is about the hiring managers needs, not the candidates' wants. A winning resume describes a candidate in terms of what the hiring manager needs.

Some facts about resumes that generate interviews:

Fact: They create interest quickly. Numbers help.  Hiring managers and the recruiters who support them don't read resumes, they glance at them; their eyes quickly scan them. Well-written resumes generate interest quickly. If people are not excited about what they see within 5 seconds or so, the resume is toast.

Fact: They are crisply and concisely written, making them easy to read quickly. Resumes are not biographies, they are advertisements. Readers   want to get the message quickly, succinctly, and concisely. They are prone to trashing massive, densely packaged resumes.

Fact: They contain keywords that are relevant to the hiring managers' needs. Resume fluff is a turnoff. Fluff is space filling information that does not add to critical content. It makes reading difficult. Fluff includes self-assessing adjectives and common clich├ęs used by many people.

Fact: They contain a strongly stated personal brand statement with a great marketing 'hook' that  excites people to read further.

Fact: Results statements generate the most interviews. The most effective ones are quantified whenever possible.  

Fact: They have a professional appearance. They are neatly organized, with like things neatly aligned and have decent borders, font and font size. Fanciness does not help, particularly when excessive.

Fact: Poor spelling and incorrect grammar is an indicator of carelessness at best and ignorance at worst. It stands out like a sore thumb.

Fact: ATS may gag on over 40 possible resume attribute mistakes. ATS is not kind to candidates or writers. Writers must understand what generates each of the attributes that cause data extraction issues for the ATS so as to avoid building problems into the resume.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tips for winning interviews plus some interview closes

Now that you are searching for a new position, how are your selling skills? Armed with the best resume ever written, you still have to sell the benefits of hiring you to a hiring manager. Selling skills are ‘must have’ or ‘must develop’ for getting a job offer.
Good salespeople know how to prospect, make contact, establish rapport, discover needs, present solutions, listen, overcome objections, negotiate, and close. That's a lot to ask of job seekers that are not trained salespeople.  But these sales skills are incredibly important in job searching. Most people can do a reasonable job of discovering opportunities, but then fail to get the interview and be hired. Frequently, the problem they have is developing the skills and confidence necessary to close the deal.
These tips can help:
1 - Get sales training from a competent job search coach. Good salespeople will tell you unless you are dealing with the decision-maker, you are wasting your time; Make direct voice contact with the hiring manager to generate interest. Create and practice scripts for navigating through gatekeepers and for making a good introduction. Avoid mentioning you are job searching.
2 - Learn how to prospect. Learn how and where to identify hiring managers. One great way is to network with current employees and get referred.
3 - Establish rapport by focusing on the other person. Ask questions about them. This applies when you are networking, having an informal meeting or discussion, or interviewing. Practice good listening skills. Avoid monopolizing conversations. Watch out for your body language, even on the phone. Bad habits carry over into interviews.
4 - Overcome objections. Objections are opportunities to sell. If an objection is not responded to it becomes the final disqualifier. Don’t lose the opportunity to respond. Be quick on your feet and ask a clarifying question to get at the heart of the matter to respond to.
5 - Learn closing skills. If you wait for the hiring manager to close you, it may not happen.
The most useful closes for job seekers to master are these:
Ask For The Job!! At the last interview with the hiring decision maker, if you have decided you want the job, lean forward, look the hiring manager directly in the eye and ask for the job. Never let the hiring manager wonder if you are sincerely interested in taking the job!
Set Expectations! At the end of conversations get into the habit of establishing who is going to do what and when, including the fact that you will follow up at a certain time. This avoids the problem of wondering if you should call after a week goes by. When you make the follow up call and the gatekeeper asks if your call is expected, the answer is one word, "Yes".
The Trial Close – This is a close that should be used frequently. It tests the hiring managers' readiness to make a decision to hire. Use it after you have made a strong selling point or when you have answered an objection.
The Trial Close may use other closing techniques such as the Assumptive and the Yes-Set closes. Questions are asked to see if the hiring manager is ready to hire you. When you have asked the Trial Close question, as with most other closes, be quiet, watch body language, and listen carefully to the response:
"Can you see how my ability to achieve [some result or accomplishment] can benefit your need for [some need that was discussed]?"
"Can you see how my background in [ ] would benefit your need for [ ]?"
The conditional close: The Conditional Close builds on social agreement. It states "If I do this will you do that?" Thist pushes the dialogue towards the final close and is very effective in salary negotiations. For instance, “If I accept that offer will you add more vacation time".
The conditional close should always be phrased in the form of "If I, will you'', not the other way around. It works because our brains work very quickly. Starting with 'If I' causes psychological closure on what you are offering. It draws the other person closer to the final close whereas starting with 'will you' causes the other person to begin thinking immediately about objections which drives the conversation away from closure.
The Rational Close: This close uses logic and reason to persuade. For example, "We've gone through all your needs and the benefits I bring to help you resolve your needs, correct? [pause] Is there anything else that would stop you from wanting to offer me the position? [Pause]  No? Good! When should I expect to receive the offer?"
The Assumptive Close: The Assumptive Close works on the assumption principle where acting confidently as if something is true makes it difficult for the other person to deny it. In this close one acts as if the hiring manager has already made the decision to make an offer. For instance, if at the end of the last interview you’ve established there will be no further interviews, the most important thing to say is “I like what I’ve heard and I want the job. When can I start?” This achieves two things, it lets the decision-maker know you want an offer and the question forces a response.
The Take-Away close: This powerful close is very effective in salary negotiations or when you are very certain the hiring manager is strongly interested but is undecided. You could say, "It appears that you don't want to hire me. Perhaps we should stop discussing the position." It is a bluff, so stop talking and listen. If you're correct, the hiring manager will worry, thinking he or she has lost the opportunity to hire you.
The Yes-Set close: This close gets the buyer saying 'yes' to a series of questions. It also ferrets out further objections to respond to. A series of questions are asked that are easily answered with "Yes" leading toward the Final Close:
"Does that answer your question adequately?"
"Do you feel positive about my answer?"
"Does that address the problem for you?"
"Can you see how well I fit in your organization?"
"Are you feeling positive about hiring me?"
The Future Close - close on a future date. Sometimes a hiring decision is simply not going to happen today. If this is the situation, ask how much time is needed. Ask if there is they intend to make you an offer then. After thinking about this, they may be ready to close now. The Future Close works by getting them to think in the present about the future, hence bringing the future to now so they can 'compress time' and possibly close now.
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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Want a new job? Don't apply online!

If you enjoy being frustrated, spend all your time searching for a job online. Apply to every job you are remotely qualified for.

If on the other hand you want to get hired, do what successful job seekers do.

Realize that getting a new job today is different than years ago. The web makes it simple to apply online, so everyone's doing it, often without considering the requirements for the positions they are applying to. That floods the job market causing the supply of applicants to exceed the demand for them. If you fit this behavior model, try another approach.

Getting a job by doing what everyone else is doing, AKA following the herd, is rarely effective. In fact there is less than one chance in a thousand of getting a job by applying online. The most successful job seekers I know practice a different, more productive search method.

They speak to hiring managers before they apply!

They reach out to hiring managers informally. They talk with them, establish rapport, ask questions about what their problems are, and they generate interest by describing how they have resolved similar problems. They casually probe for the hiring manager's hiring criteria. Usually they find the real needs are not adequately described in job descriptions. They finesse conversations toward setting up a formal interview.

After their conversation they are then able to edit their resume and cover letter to focus on the needs they discovered and send their resume directly to the hiring manager, avoiding the dreaded ATS filter.

Really successful job seekers learn how to discover the hiring manager's name, get introductions, and maneuver their way through gatekeepers. They reach out and expand their network by seeking every opportunity to schmooze with anyone who may know hiring managers. They often find that taking advantage of Employee Referral Programs (ERP's) and connecting with employees in their target companies is a very effective way of getting referred to the hiring manager.

The takeaway is this: Applying online is not effective. Those who feel like they are making progress by camping on job boards simply become just another "one of the herd". Use the web and job boards to study and target companies. Use time to identify hiring managers. Use it to learn how to write and internalize scripts that will get past the hiring managers' gatekeepers. Use it to practice how to approach hiring managers when first speaking with them. It's not necessary to be a well-versed salesperson, but your job right now is selling. Spend your valuable time practicing techniques that win jobs.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Your resume is not just about you!

Just like the young lad trying on his dad's boots, you may not fit the job you are applying for. Before you fix in your mind that your resume is just about you, think again. Your resume may not fit the hiring managers' needs.
When hiring managers first look at your resume, they want to see if you might be able to help resolve their specific needs. What you want out of life and a job is irrelevant to them at this point. Your resume needs to focus on how you can fix their problems at hand.
Hiring managers want to interview you only if they think you might fit their specific needs. If you don't understand what the needs are, you can't possibly respond to them. Since job descriptions rarely describe the real pain of the hiring manager, a better alternative to job descriptions is necessary. The best approach is to speak directly with the hiring manager before you edit and submit your resume.
While it's not always possible, there are many ways of identifying who the manager is. The most effective way is to identify employees of the company of interest who may know the hiring manager or lead you to the name. You might even be able to get an introduction via an Employee Referral Program (ERP). ERP's are often a preferred way of identifying candidates. Bonuses are usually offered to the referring employee. LinkedIn is the ideal source for identifying employees and connecting with them.
An alternative is to simply call the company and use well documented sales tactics to drill through the layers of gatekeepers to speak to the hiring manager.
Another method is to use the web. Use a Boolean search of the company name and likely title of the manager on Google. Or try the websites used by investors to identify senior officers.  A top down approach is often very effective.
Whatever approach is taken, understand your resume is not just about you. Be proactive in determining why a position is open so you can respond effectively.
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Monday, June 19, 2017

3 Resume Tips That Win More Interviews

You can write your own resume..... if you know how. Whether you are a professional resume writer or a DIYer there are some essential things to understand before writing.

A resume is an advertisement all about the job seeker, but it must also respond to the hiring managers' key reasons for hiring, his or her pain. Resumes that can be read easily and very quickly, that have an interesting marketing 'hook' presented early, and have compelling work results statements that are easily found, will generate far more interviews than resumes that lack interest.

Generate interest within 5 seconds. Most people who read resumes, including hiring managers, really don't read them. At best they will spend 5 seconds or so quickly scanning the top third of the first page to see if anything of interest jumps out of them. If not, most often people won't pursue reading further. They are done with the resume. It's a very permanent binary decision; There are no second chances. Therefore writing a resume that quickly generates a lot of interest in an easy to read manner, is one key to resume writing. People who read beyond the first 5 seconds rarely spend more than a half a minute total scanning a resume and only if further information of interest 'pops' out at them quickly.

Densely packaged resumes are forbidding to read. Cramming information into a multi-page resume, using the wrong choice of font and font size and setting narrow margins is likely to cause people to toss a resume without attempting to read it.

White space makes scanning easy: Reduce word count to those relevant few words that respond to the hiring managers' pain. Save the rest for interviews. Culling words enables using an ideal font size such as Arial 12pt with 1 inch side margins making it easy to read. And it focuses the resume on the critical few things that win interviews.

Create work results bullets that generate interviews. The bullets should demonstrate achievements that relate to the hiring managers' key needs to hire. These needs are rarely adequately described  in a job description. It is usually necessary to find out who the hiring manager is and make direct voice contact. There are resources for learning the necessary skills and techniques to do so. For instance among others.

Most people write extensively about their responsibilities and activities. It is true that responsibilities are important, but not nearly as much as the results of one's work. Properly written results statements is another key resume writing skill.

ATS may reject qualified job candidates. Compounding resume writing is Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software used by over 60% of U.S. companies and many other countries. One of the many functions of ATS is extracting resume information it has been told to search for and scoring candidates on a scale of 1 to 10. In most hiring processes ATS 'reads' resumes before a human ever sees them. It forwards only the top scoring candidates to HR where a human will then decide which candidates should be sent to the hiring manager.

There are over 40 attributes that can be unwittingly built into a resume that will cause ATS issues that result in either non-response or outright rejection, regardless of the actual qualifications of the candidate. Since it happens without human intervention, understanding what the 40 attributes are and how to work around them is a necessary skill for anyone who writes a resume.

The takeaway is this: To generate more interviews, write a resume that creates initial interest quickly, write work results bullets that are responsive to hiring managers' real needs, and learn how to avoid ATS rejection.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cover Letter Writing Tips

Why don't people read cover letters?

The answer is simple. Most cover letters are a waste of time to read. They are boring, mundane, self-focused, and don't deliver the right message.

Many people seem unable to write a letter that attracts attention. But that doesn't mean a cover letter that differentiates you from your competition can't be written. Try these guidelines:

Start by making it a business letter.
Give it a header. Using the header of your resume is a great way to tie the two together.
Date it.
Focus it on the hiring manager's pain, not your wants.
Keep it short. Make your message brief, crisp and concise. Capture attention by showing you can get to the point succinctly and concisely.
Be respectful.
Say thank you.

Direct it to the hiring manager by name and title.
There are many ways to get that information. Never address it to "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir/Madam" or some other equally impersonal way or you might as well say "Dear Trashcan". As a last resort address it to the manager of HR, not some other HR person, and only after trying hard to find the hiring manager's name.

Focus the letter on the hiring manager's most pressing needs.
Job descriptions do not always prioritize or accurately describe the hiring manager's pain. Make direct voice contact with the hiring manager to learn what the hot buttons are so you can address them in the letter (and resume). Only after trying hard to make voice contact should you try making direct voice contact with the ranking HR manager.

As a last resort use email, but don't be surprised if you don't get a response. Everyone has a delete button. It's far better to spend time prospecting for names, learning how to prepare scripts for making voice contact, and practicing them.

Create an attention-getting opening sentence.
This is where most cover letters fall flat. People tend to write about what they want, their objective, in the first sentence. Simply put, the objective is the job they are applying for, so why be redundant. The hiring manager needs to know why he or she should respond to the letter, and that's not because you want a job. It's because you have described what you can do to help solve his or her key problems (the ones you learned about by talking to him or her).

Don't beg for an interview.
Send a logical reason why the two of you should talk. Don't ask for an interview. Say so in a polite but commanding way like "We need to talk". Don't send a "Please call me, I'm desperate" message.

Be confident.
Don't say things like "I believe I meet the requirements of this job". Saying you "believe" sounds like you are uncertain, not confident in what you say. Show that you "know" you fit by describing how.

Write generalized statements that support your resume. Don't just copy and paste them from your resume. If you waste the reader's time by repeating things verbatim you are likely to annoy them.

Establish rapport.
Align yourself with the company. Show them you've researched them, you understand them and have something in common with them. Show them you and they are alike.

Finish by using a sales 'close'.
Sales may not be your profession, but as a job seeker you are now a salesperson. Set their expectations that you will follow up within a specific time, and then do it.

Say thank you.

Whatever you do don't forget to be polite and respectful of their time.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

How to Navigate the New Look of LinkedIn Simplified

Simplified may be an overstatement but don't get frustrated. Anything new requires use to master; there's a learning curve. This document will help you find your way around the new profile look. The intent is to help you learn "how to" use it. It's not intended as an opinion of whether the new version is better than the old.

The following are the basics of navigation as viewed on a computer. Navigating LinkedIn on a mobile device is not covered.

To view your profile, first open LinkedIn and locate your picture on the upper right hand part of the task bar. Click on your picture or the drop down arrow and select "View profile".

The page you open is divided into two side-by-side areas. The left hand area is the Profile. The right hand side contains the Tools (that's my term for it) which are used to create new sections and perform other useful functions. 

When you first join LinkedIn, you are asked a series of questions that begin to fill out sections of your profile. Any questions you skip don't fill sections, so incompletely filled sections appear in Tools so that you can edit them later if you wish. Whatever you enter in Tools will populate your profile. Once a section is listed in the profile, further editing can be accomplished by clicking with the pencil icon on that section of your Profile.

About The Tools area:
Information that can be accessed in Tools appears differently depending upon whether the page is being viewed by you or by a visitor. It is also different if the visitor is a 1st degree connection or a 2nd or 3rd degree connection. When viewing your own LinkedIn home page you have the option to edit your profile using the Tools side of the page.

On the other hand, when a visitor views your page the editing tools are replaced by very limited details about you. For instance, when viewed by a 1st degree connection visitor, your contact information is visible. But if the visitor is not a 1st degree connection, the contact information is hidden. 

Editing information in Tools is accomplished by clicking on down arrows or small question marks. There are many primary and secondary options for editing sections of the profile so you should click on all of them.
The Tools are organized as follows: "Change your picture" is first
"Add a new profile" follows. Clicking the down arrow exposes 3 sub-options: "Background", "Skills", and "Experience".
*       Clicking the Background or Skills down arrows exposes further sub-options: "Work experience", "Education", and "Volunteer experience".  Clicking the plus signs exposes forms to fill out for each.
*       Under Skills you have the ability to add skills you would like to be recommended for.
*       Clicking on Experience exposes:  "Publications", "Certifications", "Courses", "Projects", "Honors and Awards", "Patents", "Test Scores", "Languages", and "Organizations". Visit each section.

Below the "Add a new profile" section you will find two useful options "Edit your public profile" and "Add profile in another language". It is advisable to click on "Edit your public profile" to view your profile as visitors see it. If you wish to enable reading your profile in another language you can do so in "Add profile in another language".

Next, those proverbial advertisements. That's not different from the old version. But don't stop navigating at the advertisement. After it you will find "See connections" and "Contact and Personal Info". Be sure to visit the latter and make certain it is correct. If you want to be found and receive calls or email, this information is essential.

About the Profile side of the page:
Your profile begins with your picture as before although now it is circular and centered at the top. To the right of your picture are a pencil icon and 3 dots. 

When you click on the pencil icon of any section you can make changes. Depending upon how you set up your privacy settings your changes will be broadcast to your connections or not. Privacy and other settings are accessible from the dropdown icon under your picture on the home page.

The three dots:
On your own profile clicking the three dots gives you options to "Share profile" or "Save to PDF". It's wise to save to PDF whenever you update your profile. If anything goes awry you will have a copy to make recovery easier.

The following table indicates what options are available when you view your own profile or the profiles of others:
Your Profile
1st Degree Connection
2nd or 3rd
Share Profile
Save to PDF
Remove Connection

Request  a recommendation

The populated sections of your profile will appear in the following order:
  • Header with your picture, tag line and summary
  • Who's viewed your profile
  • Strengthen your profile
  • Your articles and activity
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Featured Skills and Endorsements
  • Recommendations
  • Following (Influencers, Companies, Groups, Schools)

How to work around old LinkedIn features that no longer available:

Professional Interests: There is no section to enter Professional Interests into. The work around is to go to "Add volunteer experience" in the tools area. You do not actually have to be a volunteer to fill out the form.

Advanced Search: The Advanced search button is gone. However, you can still conduct searches and filtering is extensive. Simply type in key words into the "Search" space at the top left area of your Profile. Boolean algebra can be used as well. You can search for People, Jobs, Companies, Groups, and Posts. Once you enter some keywords a screen will open with further filtering options: Top, People, Jobs, Posts, Companies, Groups, and Schools.

For example, enter [plant manager] without the brackets. You are brought to a page listing plant managers. If you select  People, Jobs, or Posts, you will be presented with a large list of filters on the right hand side of the page which can be applied to refine the search. At the bottom you can create a search alert.

How to join a LinkedIn group: Just to the right of your small picture on the main screen Groups is a 3x3 dot icon with the word "Work" under it.  Clicking on the down arrow opens a "view more" list of options. Click on "Groups", then click on "Discover". Alternatively you can use the search space at the top left area of your Profile.

Posting on Group Discussions:
To post an article to a group:
Sign in to LinkedIn if you are not already signed in.
Click on the "Me" down arrow under your picture.
Click on "View profile".
Scroll down your profile until you reach the "Following" section (the last section of your profile).
Click on any group.
Click on the Gear located in the reddish-brown area next to "Search" and select the group you wish to post to.

There are probably many more 'tricks' that can be used to navigate. If you know of any please post them here.

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