Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Resume writing tips that win Interviews.

The key to writing a resume that wins interviews is to respond to the problems the hiring manager needs to resolve. While the resume is about you, it also needs to be exactly responsive to the hiring managers' needs.

Nail your keywords:
  • Use the exact keywords found in job descriptions.
  • Better yet, talk to the hiring manager before you apply to find out what specific problems need to be solved so you can edit your resume!
  • Keywords are used in searches by people looking for your talent.
  • When you apply, the ATS will look for keywords exactly as the company describes them.
  • Use the keywords in context throughout the resume too.
  • To find keywords commonly used in your industry, search many job descriptions of interest to you regardless of location.  
  • Try inserting job descriptions into Wordle, TagCrowd, or similar apps to identify the most frequently used words.

Make it easy to read your resume quickly.
  • Resumes are glanced at, not read thoroughly, when they are first looked at.
  • There are only 5 seconds or so to create interest.
  • Focus your resume on the results of your work that are relevant to the hiring managers' needs.
  • Prioritize information the way ATS and readers want to see it: name, contact information, personal brand, skills, experience, education, certifications, awards, etc.
  • Provide plenty of space, 1 inch side margins, and use an easy to read font like Arial 12pt
  • Avoid using "old school" items, e.g., references or objectives. References will be asked for when wanted. Your objective is the job you are applying for; it's considered "old school" to write an objective.

Value the space in the top one-third of the first page:
  • Put your name on the top line by itself. Don't add degrees or professional certifications with your name; place them elsewhere.
  • Include your city, state, and ZIP code, not a street address, and never a PO Box number.
  • Write a brief, concise personal brand statement and include a 'marketing hook' to keep human readers reading.
  • Include a neatly organized list of your skills.
  • Describe the results of your work, the outcomes of things you did. Results win interviews. Responsibilities, not so much.
  • State your results briefly, crisply and succinctly.
  • Use short sentences, not paragraphs, to describe your work.
  • Prominently place critical results and outcomes of your work, preferably quantified.
  • Be careful to use the fewest possible words to deliver your message. Cull out embellishment and save it for interviews. Focus on getting to the interview table first.
  • Talk to the hiring manager before you apply! Find out his or her critical needs, and why he or she is hiring. Then can edit your resume and cover letter to respond before you apply formally.

Make sure you appease the preferences of ATS.
  • For each job you held, state the company name, your job title, and dates of the job.
  • Write your resume using text the ATS can and will read. Not all fonts work well. Choose your font wisely. Use a common Sans Serif font in 12 pt size, 11 pt minimum. Arial 12 pt is the ideal.
  • Don’t use any graphics in your resume, just text.
  • Word processing shortcut tools usually include hidden graphics for entering text. Don't use word processing shortcuts to create your resume.
  • Don't nest multiple jobs under one company. Repeat the company name for each sequential job you held at the company.
  • Submit resumes in plain text format (*.txt, not *.rtf) or Word (*.doc), but never PDFs. Some ATS providers claim they can read PDF's, but not all can. There are over 200 ATS software products. The company you apply to may not be using one that can read PDF's.
  • Don’t attempt to game the system by hiding lots of keywords by making them colorless. ATS can reads all text, colorless or not, and may be set up to reject you if you game the system.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

How to Sell Yourself for a New Job (Plus some Closes you can use)

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 a ‘must have’ or ‘must develop’ part of landing a new job. And you do not have to use heavy-handed pressure to accomplish the task.

Good salespeople know how to prospect, make contact, establish rapport, discover need, present, 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 are the tips:

1 - Get sales training from a competent job search coach if you need help. Effective salespeople will tell you that unless you are dealing with the decision-maker, you are wasting your time. The hiring manager is the decision-maker so prospect for hiring managers. Make informal, direct voice contact with the hiring manager to generate interest. Voice contact requires practicing scripts for navigating through gatekeepers and for making a good introduction. Tip: Avoid saying anything about 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. And there are many more ways.

3 - Establish rapport by focusing on the other person. Whether you are networking or interviewing, practice good listening skills. Avoid monopolizing conversations. Watch out for your body language, even on the phone (habits carry over to interviews).

4 - Overcome objections. Objections are opportunities to sell. If an objection is not responded to it becomes the final disqualifier. Don’t lose  opportunities to respond. Be quick on your feet and ask a clarifying question to get at the heart of the matter.

5 - Learn closing skills that lead to an offer. 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:

Set Expectations!  At the end of any conversation 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 so that your follow up is expected. This avoids leaving you wondering what to do after some period of time passes. And when you make the follow up call and the gatekeeper asks if your call is expected, the answer is simply one word, "Yes".

The conditional close: The Conditional Close builds on social agreement. It states "If I do this will you do that?" It 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 'Will you, if I". 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. But 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 decide you want the job, the most important thing to say is “I like what I’ve heard and I want the job. When do I start?” This does two things, it lets the decision-maker know you want an offer and the question assumes the result, causing a response.

The Yes-Set close: This close gets the buyer saying 'yes' to a series of questions. It gives you a sense of how well you are interviewing and it draws out further objections if there are any. A series of questions are asked that are easily answered with "Yes" leading toward the Final Close (don't overdo it though):
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 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. Taking away the opportunity to hire you usually causes the hiring manager to worry and react positively.

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. 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 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 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.

The final close: Ask for the job!  At the last interview with the hiring decision maker and if you have decided you want the job, lean forward, look the hiring manager directly in the eye and ask for the job. This is the final close. Often the assumptive close is used: ( I like what I’ve heard about this position and the company. I want the job. When do I start?”).  

Closing does not always result in the desired outcome. Sometimes closing results in rejection. That is still a positive outcome because it gives you closure. You are able to refocus immediately on other opportunities. You can also come back and try again at a later date. The bottom line is this: Never leave a final interview with the hiring manager wondering if you are sincerely interested in taking the job!

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Sunday, February 4, 2018

10 reasons to make informal voice contact with the hiring manager before applying for a job.

Without question this job search tactic requires learning new skills for many people including how to identify who the decision maker is, how to get past the gate keepers to make direct voice contact, and what to say when you get through. Because of this it is one of the Chattahoochee Resumes coaching topics.

·        DIFFERENTIATION: Most important! By speaking directly with the decision maker before sending your resume you differentiate yourself from your competition! 

·        NEEDS DISCOVERY: You learn what the hiring manager's most important need is and can show how you are the answer to the problem.

·        COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: You place yourself way ahead of the 'herd' by establishing rapport with the decision maker.

·        RESUME EDITING: Knowing the hiring manager’s hot buttons enables editing your resume to focus on specific achievements that are responsive to the critical needs before you submit.

·        COVER LETTER EDITING: Showing the hiring manager how you are the solution to his or her problems greatly simplifies cover letter writing.  

·        OMBUDSMAN: By speaking directly to the hiring manager you have the most important person in the hiring process looking out for you.

·        MOTIVATION / INITIATIVE: Making the call demonstrates that you take the initiative in managing your search. You are action-oriented.

·        HIDDEN JOBS: Very often a hiring manager reveals unadvertised jobs. 

·        NETWORKING FOR FUTURE JOBS: A decision maker is a valuable member of your personal network.

·        CONTROL, THE BOTTOM LINE: Speaking with the hiring manager gives you the greatest control over your destiny. You don't have to rely on HR.

The skills required are common salesmanship skills practiced by effective salespeople. With proper coaching and practice you do not need to be a salesperson to learn them well enough to help you find the job you want. It doesn't always work, but those who practice the skills have the greatest success getting formal interviews.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The 1st Rule of Resume Writing

Actually there is only one rule. All others are guidelines to be interpreted by the writer.
Rule #1: A winning resume describes a candidate in terms of what the hiring manager needs. A winning resume is focused on the hiring managers needs, as opposed to the candidates' wants. When a resume is first read by a hiring manager, he or she is looking for words that suggest the candidate might be able to help resolve the hiring mangers' key problem. The candidates wishes and wants are unimportant at this point.
Resumes that generate interviews exhibit these best characteristics:
They show how the candidate can help resolve the hiring manager's needs.
They create interest quickly. Hiring managers and the recruiters who support them don't read resumes, they glance at them; their eyes quickly scan the resume. Well-written resumes generate interest quickly. If readers are not excited about what they see within 5 seconds or so, the resume is toast.
They are written in a crisp and concise style. Brief statements help make resumes easy to read quickly. Resumes are advertisements, not biographies. Readers want to get the message quickly and easily. They are likely to trash massive, densely packaged resumes.
They contain keywords that are relevant to the hiring managers' needs. People and ATS software search resumes for keywords that describe the hiring managers' needs. Extraneous information, like fluff is a turnoff. Fluff is space filling information that does not add to critical needs content. Fluff makes reading more difficult. It includes self-assessing adjectives and common clich├ęs used by many people.
They contain a brief, clearly stated personal brand statement with a marketing 'hook' that excites people to read further. The candidates' objective is the job being responded to; therefore it is redundant to have an objective statement. The hiring manager wants to know what the candidate does, so create a personal brand statement instead of an objective.
They describe the candidates experience in terms of the results of the candidates work. Responsibilities are important but it is the results of one's work that generates interviews. The most effective results are quantified whenever possible. Numbers or percentages grab the reader's attention. 
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.
They are written using proper spelling and grammar. Poor spelling or grammar is an indicator of carelessness at best and ignorance at worst. It stands out like a sore thumb.
They are compatible with Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software used by companies on the front end of their hiring process. ATS may gag on over 40 possible resume attributes. Writers must understand what generates each of the attributes that cause data extraction issues for the ATS so as to avoid building ATS problems into the resume. ATS may reject qualified candidates because it cannot properly extract their information from the resume.
The takeaway is this:
Writing good resumes is not a trivial matter. A compromised resume can extend a job search by many months. A good resume writer will save a candidate many months of lost income by paying attention to differentiating the candidate from his or her competition with a superior resume.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Skip the job ad, what does the hiring manager REALLY need done?

Recently I was asked how to increase the odds that a resume will result in a formal interview with the hiring manager. The answer is easy. Find out what the hiring manager's pain is and sell your solution. Making it happen takes some work.

The important thing to remember is that while a resume is about the candidate, it is also about responding to the hiring manager's needs. Good resumes demonstrate how the candidate can help resolve specific things the hiring manager needs done by clearly stating the candidates relevant achievements. It really comes down to taking the initiative to find out what the needs are and respond to them.

Unfortunately job descriptions rarely portray the needs accurately or completely. Very often they are boiler plate descriptions that lack a truly accurate description of a hiring managers' pain, the real problem to be solved. Normally the hiring manager is the only one who really understands his or her pain, not an outside recruiter, the company recruiter, or whoever writes the job description. The best these people can do is to find candidates, screen them, and recommend them to the hiring manager to review. Why not turn the hiring process around? Speak directly to the hiring manager before submitting your resume. Impossible you say? Not if you learn how.

There is no question that having an informal conversation with the hiring manager before formally applying is the most direct approach to landing the job. It enables the resume to be edited to be sure it addresses why the candidate is best suited to help fix the hiring managers key needs. Does reaching out to the hiring manager always work? No! But it beats applying first and hoping to get a call. There are several reasons why it works.
·        It establishes a rapport with the hiring manager.
·        It demonstrates taking initiative and action rather than passively waiting and wondering.
·        It eliminates doubt about how to respond to need.
·        It enables one to edit the resume and prioritize keywords and accomplishments that are relevant to the need.
·        It gives those who do it a significant competitive advantage over those who don't by differentiating you from the 'herd'.
·        It also makes writing a cover letter a much easier task by allowing one to reiterate key points the hiring manager liked from the conversation.
There is not a better way to achieve competitive advantage and win the interview.

If you're not getting the results you expected from your search approach, consider the following:

·        Find out what the hiring manager needs directly from the source. Make direct voice contact.
·        Don't think only about your own needs when you write your resume. Think about accomplishments you have achieved that will help the manager solve his or her problems.
·        Focus on your achievements and the results of your work. How did the things you have done keep business going smoothly or improve something?
·        Keep in mind a resume is an advertisement, not a biography. Avoid excessive description of your responsibilities and history. Responsibilities, positions and even job titles may not be as important as you think if you have not described the results of your work.
·        Format for skimming, not reading. People glance at resumes. They don't read them. They skim, quickly glancing for key words, numbers, and phrases that interest them. Make it easy for them to find the reasons to interview you. Position the things they are looking for where they will jump out at the reader.
·        Keep your resume relevant to the hiring managers needs. Avoid writing paragraphs. Remove words and sentences that are not relevant to the needs.
·        Spelling and grammar are important. So is neat, orderly formatting. Avoid appearing ignorant or careless.
·        Make sure your resume is compatible with Applicant Tracking System (ATS) screening software.

The takeaway is this: The best way to increase the odds of getting an interview is to speak directly to the hiring manager, informally, to understand his or her needs before applying for the job. Then, by following good resume and cover letter writing skills and by responding to key needs, you will be a prime candidate and win an interview. 

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

How many hats does a job seeker have to wear?

Kate Middleton loves hats and wears some fascinating ones. Job seekers don't necessarily want to wear many hats but are forced to in order to find the right new job.

My view is this: People whose career depends upon finding a new position need to master many skills. They have to market, advertise, and sell their services to hiring managers who use recruiters, themselves, and software to scrutinize and disqualify candidates. For those who survive the scrutiny, great, they've done a good job of exercising many job search skills. For those who don't survive, it's time to get help.

It's one thing to understand yourself, the skills you have to offer, what you do and how you do it. But it's quite another to know how to package them in a manner that gets interviews and job offers. Many questions need to be answered.

How do you plan to approach the job market? Will you use a shotgun or rifle approach?

Are you able to apply sound advertising principles in preparing your collateral materials, the resumes and cover letters you will need to sell? Do you understand how to avoid rejection by Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software?

How can you find out what problems the hiring manager of a specific opening has to solve? How do you find out who the hiring manager is? How do you get past gatekeepers and make direct voice contact to be able to tell how you can help?

Are you able to interview effectively? Do you know how to respond to objections? Do you understand how to close interviews?

Do you know how to turn interviews into job offers? Do you know how to negotiate your compensation when offered a job?

It's a lot to ask of you when such things are not part of your everyday job. Many job seekers understand at least basic principles of marketing, advertising, and sales, intuitively if not from formal education. But even professionals in each of these specialties find it a lot harder to market and sell themselves than it is to sell the products or services of companies they've worked for.

Prospecting to identify potential hiring managers, getting past their gatekeepers, making initial direct voice contact with them to identify needs, presenting ones ability to mitigate the needs, managing objections, and closing are all skills to be learned and mastered, not to mention creating collateral materials.

Getting professional help is often required to learn the necessary skills.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Want a new job? Just throw your resume over the wall.

Maybe you'll get the job in the next century.
Having difficulty getting interviews? Getting interviews but always coming in second?  Still doing the same old things? Applying to everything that looks remotely possible? If it isn't working, try this:

Differentiate you from your competition!
Sounds logical but incredibly many people don't realize how to do it. Here are some thoughts:
Target current openings that you fit. Read job descriptions carefully. Assess your core competencies honestly. Make sure you meet the key job requirements. Applying will be a waste of your time (and theirs) if you don't meet the majority of the key mandatory requirements.
Job descriptions rarely identify exactly why a hiring manager needs to hire. Why is the position open? What is the problem that needs to be done? Find out by talking directly to hiring managers informally before you apply. 

Establish rapport with the decision-maker, find out what key business problems must be resolved, and take the opportunity to talk about how you can help. After the call edit your resume and cover letter to respond properly to the needs. That's a lot better than just replying to whatever was written in the job description. 

Finding Hiring Managers names and learning the correct ways to reach out to them before applying is not rocket science. Sometimes good training and coaching is required and it is available. And truthfully sometimes it just doesn't work. But it's a given that failing to try is guaranteed not to work.
Pay attention to how you market yourself. Make sure your resume is written in contemporary form. Make sure it grabs the readers' attention in the first five seconds someone looks at it. Make people want to read more by including a marketing 'hook' in the opening paragraph. Make it easy to read quickly by providing the results of your work in brief bullets. Make sure it has a professional appearance. Check and recheck it for spelling or grammar errors that make you look careless. And make sure it will pass through the scrutiny of ATS software smoothly.
Address your cover letter to the hiring manager by name and title. Provide summary reasons why it is important for the hiring manager to interview you. Avoid repeating the mundane things your competition says in cover letters so you don't become just one of the 'herd'. Align yourself with the company's missions and achievements. Show them how you fit.
Competition is enormous. There are internal, known candidates. There are hundreds of outside unknown candidates. Differentiating "you" from the 'herd' is the key to competition for jobs.  
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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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