Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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

Do you wonder why your job search is not getting results? There are many possible answers and sometimes it's a combination of things. Let's talk about the resume you submitted. That is completely within your control.

Your resume is an advertisement and should be written like one.

Sure, it's about you, but it's also about what the buyer needs. In this case there's only one buyer, the specific hiring manager of the job you are applying for. So make sure you understand his or her pain, the problems that need to be solved.

Studies show that resumes that win interviews are focused on the hiring manager's needs, not the candidate's. That's just logical isn't it? In your advertisement, write about the results of your work that are relevant to the hiring managers' needs by focusing on the results of your work, preferably quantified. Write about how the things you did helped the company you worked for.

Since the key is the hiring manager, not some company recruiter who is not the decision-maker, why not turn the hiring process around? Find out who the hiring manager is and speak directly to him or her before submitting your resume. This gives you the opportunity to edit your resume to be responsive to the specific hiring managers' needs. In other words, edit your resume for each position you apply to. Yes, that's a lot of work, but if you don't do it, your competition will.

My most successful clients follow this process. Does it always work? No. But it beats applying first and hoping for results. There are several reasons why it works:

It establishes a rapport with the hiring manager.
It demonstrates initiative and action.
It enables editing the resume to properly focus on the needs of the job.
It makes enables focusing a cover letter on the conversation with the hiring manager.
It achieves competitive advantage.

The savvy job seeker will try to reach out to the real hiring manager before applying for the job.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

The best way to listen is with your mouth shut.

Monopolizing the conversation can put people to sleep.

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who talked so much you couldn't get a word into the conversation? Of course you have. People who monopolize tend to talk fast, often not too coherently, take quick gasps for air so they can keep talking and get all their points across, tend to repeat themselves, and take what seems like forever to get to the point. They seem to fear they will forget to tell you something important.

It's no fun listening, is it? Unfortunately, sometimes it's a good friend or family member that does it and you don't want to offend them by telling them. Well maybe that's a mistake, particularly if they are going to face an interview for a job. It's probably far better to have an honest conversation with them about the problem. It could make the difference between getting the job or not.

Conversation is an exchange of information, a discussion, and a dialogue. It's a two-way event.

Monopolizing is the process of taking control, dominating, shutting out, and not sharing. Not only is it boring, it is rude and disrespectful. Monopolizing is DEADLY in an interview situation. If the candidate does it there's not likely to be an additional interview. It connotes desperation. It conveys an inability to summarize things in a crisp, concise manner. It describes disorganization of thought.

If an interviewer does it, particularly a hiring manager, they will learn nothing about the candidate and have no ability to decide if the candidate can do the job. They will come across as desperate to find someone for the job. And the candidate will not be left with positive feelings. Plain and simply it's poor interviewing technique.

Listening is an important part of conversation. Monopolizing defeats the exchange of thoughts and ideas. Share this thought with those you know who tend to monopolize conversations.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Approaching 40? It's time for a reality check.

Recently I was talking with a near-forty year old who lamented why it was difficult for him to attract interest as a worthy candidate for new jobs. He had many credentials and expertise, plenty of experience and excellent work results, but was told by recruiters that he was 'too expensive'. Why was this happening? Why wasn't his experience worth it to other companies? Why was he being treated like a 60 year old? Why were companies hiring new grads that would leave them in a year and not maintain a cadre of older, experienced people to provide stability to their company?

As I listened I thought to myself how many times I hear this. I said, "Welcome to the real world. Your questions are valid and are asked by many. Age discrimination is not a new phenomenon. It's been around forever. In fact, listen to your own comment comparing yourself to "60 year olds". That was probably an unconscious remark, but it is discriminatory. The reality is "too old, too young, too expensive" age discrimination applies to all age groups and it is just sinking in that it applies to you."

And I cautioned him that his "60 year old" comment was just half of the problem. It reflects negative perception of the value of older people, a perception that is shared by many people regarding those 40 years old and older. The other half of the problem is the real cost of doing business, the fact that keeping cost down is essential to profitability. Certainly it is short-sighted to preferentially hire new grads if it's necessary to replace and train their replacements a year later, but the pressure of near-term costs often sways logical thinking. And not all young people view job hopping as the way to success, so it is discriminatory to view them that way. The fact is it is prudent to employ both young and old.

So what do you do when you approach 40 and beyond? The answer is don't focus on what seems (and is) unfair to you.

Accept reality and focus on the benefits you offer to an employer!

Realize your resume is only an advertisement used to get interviews. It should be written to reflect the benefits of hiring you in a compelling way. It will compel a response only if it triggers interest, specifically that what you have accomplished, the results of your work, are directly relevant to whatever problem the hiring manager needs to resolve.

Extraneous, irrelevant information is of little interest to the hiring manager so leave it out. Focus the resume on the specific needs of the hiring manager. This means ensuring you know what the real needs are so you can edit your resume to be responsive to the needs of each position you apply for. Needs are not always accurately described in a job description. Often job descriptions are boiler plate copies of past positions.

Speak to the actual hiring manager directly to find out what his or her key pain is.

Then edit your resume and submit it. That's a lot of work, but if you don't do it, you can be assured one of your competitors will establish the competitive advantage of having spoken to the hiring manager before submitting a resume.

Don't advertise your age.

Avoid making it easy for people to guess your approximate age when writing your resume. Eliminate dates and positions that go back more than 10 to 15 years. Your older work is far less relevant than your recent work. With time, technology changes, processes change, approaches change.

The fact that you earned a degree in 1962 is not what's important. Leave the date off! The fact that you demonstrated the intelligence and perseverance to get the degree is.

Your age will become apparent when you are in a face-to-face interview, but you need to get to the interview table as your first priority. Once someone brings you in they have decided to invest the time to talk to you. You may not get the job, but you have no chance if you can't get to the table.

"And there's more!" he said.

Here's some more about reality and it is not intended as an advertisement, but as sound advice. Job searching is difficult enough without learning how to deal with technologies that have changed hiring processes such as ATS. You cannot be expected to stay current with the changes when you are not involved with them day-to-day. Resume writers are involved and deal with people of all ages. An investment in their services is worthwhile, particularly as you reach the point of needing to deal with age discrimination.

Make a decision to focus on the things that will get you to the interview table, not on the things you cannot control!

Karl Liechty is a published resume writer and job search skills coach and an authority on writing resumes that are compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems. If you like this post, please share it so others may see it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What is NOT said is often more important than what is.

Rowan Atkinson made a career in comedy out of body language. He seldom spoke - didn't have to. His facial expressions and body language said it all.

There's much more to interviewing than talking. Try shaking your head 'yes' while saying 'no'. You have to think about it while you're doing it. Thinking about what your body is saying is extremely important when you are interviewing.

There are times when you can use body language quite effectively, such as when you are negotiating salary. And there are times when it can betray you. Your body language can speak volumes about you or your real thoughts. It's often an unconscious knee-jerk reaction that can affect the outcome of the interview.

For instance, good eye contact is essential in any face to face communication. It expresses interest in what the other person is saying, being attentive, and being open.

Facial expressions, a smile, grimace, frown, raised eyebrow, or an eye shrug all express many different thoughts, reactions, and characteristics of you, while an expressionless face cannot be easily 'read', as in poker. It leaves the other person unsure of how to 'read' you. Lack of expression coupled with complete silence is often used to gain advantage in negotiations.

An eyebrow flash, quickly raising and lowering both eyebrows, can be a signal of positive interest.

Mirroring the other person's expressions body language helps foster feelings of trust and empathy, or feelings of affirmation.

Forming the fingers into a pointed roof shape, often signals elevated thinking or arrogance.

Positioning the head (and nose) slightly upward conveys superiority or arrogance.

Slightly lowering the head and stance suggests inferiority or submissiveness.

Fidgeting indicates nervousness.

While seated, leaning forward indicates positive interest, leaning back indicates confidence or over-confidence, while slouching indicates disinterest or lack of attention.

Folding arms or adjusting clothing can form a defense or pose a barrier between people.

These are just a few elements of body language worthwhile studying and practicing before interviews. There are many others. A very comprehensive compilation can be found in a good article found on "Psychology Today" here.

Do you have some other examples? Please share them. 

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Only 0.1% of people Who Job Search Online Get the Job

Network is the answer!

80 percent of positions are filled without any advertising. Yet most people spend 70 to 80 percent of their time surfing the net versus talking to employers, without realizing that the majority of hiring is done through networking, finding and speaking with hiring managers.

The following data is several years old. It may be a bit stale but it demonstrates the point because not much has changed since it was generated. 

One survey says major job boards each receive about 427,000 resumes posted every week.

Major companies typically receive about six times as many applications as there are employees in the company. That means for a 30,000 employee company, they might get 180,000 applications a year.

Another survey says the average company receives 250 resumes for each job opening.

1,000 people look at any given job post.

200 begin the tedious, time consuming application process.

100  complete the application.

The first resume is received in less than 4 minutes of the post going live.

75 of the 100 resumes will be screened out, mostly by ATS.

Leaving 25 resumes that will be reviewed by a human.

The hiring manager will invite 4 to 6  for an interview.

1 to 3 of them will be invited for a final interview.

80 percent of those receiving an offer will accept.

Assuming the data is true today, only 1 out of 1000 job seekers that spend time surfing for a job online and actually completing the application process will be offered the job!

Talking to the hiring manager before applying is the key to gaining a competitive advantage and is a more effective use of time.

There are several better search strategies to choose from. Common to each is eliminating the lengthy application process, networking extensively to determine who the hiring manager is, and learning the skills necessary to reach out directly to that person before applying.

Strategies that work are:
1. Be referred. Search the web with appropriate filters for companies that are hiring your job objective, network to find current employees who can refer you, make direct voice contact with the hiring manager, and then apply.
2. Network to identify the hiring manager and introduce yourself. Target specific companies of interest and make direct voice contact with the hiring manager. Apply after speaking to the hiring manager.
3. Gain access to the 'hidden' job market. Target specific companies and ignore whether they have an opening that fits, call to find out who the most logical person is the hiring manager, and make direct voice contact. Apply after speaking to the hiring manager. 

Skillful networking is the answer!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Suggestions for those uncomfortable meeting new people

If you are not very outgoing, networking meetings can be nerve-racking. On the other hand, if you are naturally outgoing and find it easy to engage anyone in conversation you are likely to have some great ideas to share with others in the comments section of this post.

For those who feel fear and nervousness, this is how to change those feelings and become a pro:

#1 - Smile. Always be smiling, like Martha Stewart. That's just being friendly and approachable.

#2 - Ask questions. There are only two types you need to ask, ice-breakers and the ones that are critical to you. 

#3 - Find your 'target' person. Look for someone in the room that is not already talking with another person. You really don't want to walk up to people who are conversing and break up their conversation, or stand around like a third wheel, just listening and looking foolish. (However if you find yourself in that situation and there's an opportunity to add something of value, politely ask a question.)

#4 - Walk up to your 'target', smiling and offer a handshake. For greater impact place your left hand on top of the handshake. This has the effect of demonstrating you are truly interested in meeting the other person with respect and warmness. And that you are approachable. Bill Clinton is an example to learn from. 

#5 - In your case you will introduce yourself and ask an ice-breaker question. "Hi, my name is Karl. How's your day going?" Ice breaker questions are innocuous and open-ended. Listen carefully to the response and build on it by asking why and how regarding the answer. Once started, the conversation continues easily and you will forget your anxiety. Keep practicing and you will quickly become an expert.

Some ice-breakers that might work for you involve searching for some common ground. You could smile and say:
How's your day going?
What brought you here?
Where are you from?
Tell me about ___?
What do you think about ___?
What do you do when you're not doing this?
What do you think of this place?
Have you been here before?

As the conversation progresses watch out for things to avoid doing. Avoid monopolizing the conversation. Don't call people sweetie, honey, doll, handsome, etc. Avoid discussing politics, ethnicity, religion, and biases. Refrain from off-color comments or  jokes. Avoid swearing. Don't take the chance of offending people you may want help from.

Take note of your body language. Folding your arms is a stand-offish position. Don't frown or use a negative tone of voice. People like to be around positive people. 

For your critical questions make good eye contact, continue to smile, and look for opportunities to ask the questions that are important to you, particularly getting names or finding out about the companies you are interested in. These are the "Who do you know" or "Tell me about ABC company" questions. 

Practice your approach out loud in front of a mirror or video record yourself, even better with someone you can role play with. 

Practice when you go shopping, when you visit someone, or even when you meet someone casually or informally. You will improve.

Karl Liechty is a published resume writer and job search skills coach and an authority on writing resumes that are compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems. If you like the post, please share it so others may see it.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Applying for a job online sucks - These 6 things can make it better

I regularly advise people NOT to apply online. No amount of trickery will get you past the cumbersome process of answering long questionnaires or interpreting poorly written job descriptions and application instructions. But if you insist on doing it, there are some things you can do to improve your luck and there's no trickery to it.

The key is you need to make it through ATS unscathed.

1. Don't submit a fancy resume. Keep it simple, no graphics, no fancy fonts, no fancy formatting, no fancy anything. ATS systems do not have eyes. They cannot see what humans see and will not appreciate your creativity. You can create a fancy version of your resume to hand out to humans at interviews or when networking but don't use it to apply online.

2. Focus your resume on your accomplishments, the results of your work, particularly those things that are relevant to what the hiring manager needs. Quantify your results as often as possible. Numbers attract attention.

3. Save your resume as a Word (doc) file. Also save it as a plain text file (txt). Yes, txt files are butt-ugly, but again, computers are blind. They only read digital information. Submit your resume online as either a doc or txt file. All ATS systems can read these two. Actually ATS prefers a text file because all formatting is removed.

Some people will tell you to submit PDF files, arguing that they can protect the file from editing, by a recruiter for instance. The fact is every PDF file can be edited, protected or not. One just needs to know how. They will also tell you ATS can read PDF files, but don't count on it. Most ATS software cannot read PDF's because they are graphical representations of documents. ATS does not like graphics.

4. Watch out for spelling and grammar errors. Most ATS will check spelling at the very least. You will probably not find all of your own errors. Get capable help proofreading.

5. Don't use document creation shortcut tools provided in word processing software. In variably these tools will introduce graphic attributes that will cause information extraction issues for ATS. This can lead to outright rejection or non-response to your application. The tools include those that create headers, tables, text boxes, etc. Find a work-around for simplification tools, for example use tabs instead of tables. Using tabs and getting everything lined up like a nice table is more difficult than the tools that create tables, which is why word processors provide you with the tools.

6. Organize your resume the way ATS wants to see it. ATS will be looking for sections of information it wants to see, for instance Summary, Skills, Experience, and Education. It's advisable not to use variations of these titles. Also, if you held more than one position with a company, ATS prefers to see the company name restated for each position and the dates for that position.

If you insist on applying online, these suggestions will help you become the 1 in 250 that land a job. The best alternative to applying online is making voice contact with the hiring manager first, before applying. Eventually you will probably have to apply online, but you will already have established rapport with the hiring manager.

Help getting the word out. Share this with others.

Karl Liechty is a published resume writer and job search skills coach with careers in business management, engineering and executive recruiting. He is an authority on writing ATS compatible resumes.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Never update your resume when you have a job!

If you buy that I have a bridge to sell to you. The reason to update your resume is no different than the reason to buy auto insurance. Think about it.
Are you happy? Feeling secure? Change is inevitable. If you like the way things are going, it will change!
Unhappy, but haven't yet taken steps to make a change?  Same comment: Change is inevitable. If you don't like the way things are going, it will change ... for better or worse! Update your resume while you are employed.
Many people are so busy they are complacent. Or lazy. Or are simply procrastinating.
Or they are cocky. They don't realize that they're replaceable. Hey, put your fist in a bucket of water. Pull it out fast. The hole that is left is the amount you will be missed.
Make a New Year Resolution to get help before you become one of the nation's unemployed statistic.
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Monday, December 19, 2016

Who are the hiring managers you need to know?

"It's who you know that gets you the job". How many times have you heard that? That's great if you already know them. But how can you get to meet them?

Networking is the starting point. It's a process of making friends ... and sometimes enemies. If you do it right people will like you. If you don't people will avoid you. For as long as people have sought new jobs networking has been a key search technique. But why do many people hate face-to-face networking events, even avoid them? Do they have difficulty meeting new people? Do they just get nervous? Do they do it poorly, thinking they are doing great?

Successful networkers make connections by using small talk to establish rapport. They ask questions and take a real interest in the people they are talking with. They don't introduce themselves by giving a "I'm glad you met me" signal. Their style is "I'm glad that I met you"! They ask questions about the other persons commute, how their day is going, where they're from, what their favorite vacation spot is, etc., rather than opening by asking for help.

For example, one time when I was on a particularly tiring two-week business trip I arrived at my hotel in Boston. I was exhausted and just wanted to relax for a while so I went down to the bar. There was a weathered-looking man sitting by himself nearby. Very soon a couple walked in and sat down next to him. The husband said to the man, "Hi, I'm Joe. Tell me, is this your favorite bar?" And his wife immediately said, "Oh boy, here we go." That got my attention.

Joe started asking questions. In the next hour, I learned the weathered man was the first mate on a cargo ship, was due on board the ship at 11 PM to set sail a bit later. He had been sea-faring for 30 years, told several harrowing stories about having been escorted by the Coast Guard in several trans-Atlantic crossings during WWII in which many ships in the convoy had been sunk by German U-boats, described several hurricanes onboard ships he was sailing on, and told many humorous stories about his sea-faring life. Joe's questions kept coming and time passed quickly. After more than an hour the first mate realized he was late for his 11 PM report for duty. I don't know if he got on board ok, but I sure witnessed a lot about how to network effectively.

Joe is an example of someone with excellent networking skills. The questions he asked a complete stranger established rapport and opened up a long conversation. Had he been a job searcher at a networking event I'll bet his questions would have resulted in the other person asking Joe about himself. It almost always happens.

Some people avoid networking meetings. They think it's about bragging and they don't like to do that. That's fine, don't brag about yourself. It's a turn off. But when asked, it's not bragging to tell people what you like to do vs. how great you are doing it.

If you are shy or have difficulty starting a conversation the answer is to relax and ask questions about the other person. It's an easy way to remove the pressure to perform. Of course sometimes you come upon someone who loves to brag obnoxiously at networking events. What a turnoff. That's the time to have a separation attack. Saying "Hey, I'd like to hear more but I really need a humanity break" usually works.

Making friends and getting help is more successful by talking face-to-face rather than doing it remotely such  as making LinkedIn requests to connect or simply emailing people. That's easier to do but is much less effective because it is so impersonal. There's no face to see, smile to see, no body language, no live human interaction. It's too easy for the recipient to simply hit the 'Delete' button.

When face-to-face, ask questions to establish rapport. Discover needs and offer help. People will be more receptive to returning the favor later. You never know when the person you are meeting is just the connection you really need to know. 

An out-take: If you want to witness how good networking is done, go shopping with my wife. You will wonder if you are ever going to get out of a store. By the way, that's a good way to practice networking. Do it when you go shopping. And who knows, that stranger you are talking to may be a person you need to know.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

3 questions a hiring manager needs answers to ... and how to prepare for them.

When managers are searching for people there is a problem they need help with or they would resolve it an easier way. While there are many questions to ask each candidate, three core questions are fundamental in making a hiring decision.

Do I like you? If I don't we will probably not get along very well.
Do I think you can do the job? If you can't I haven't solved my problem.
Do I think you will fit in with the people you will need to work with? If you don't I will be spending time trying to fix that instead of working on business problems.

"Yes" answers will determine the top few candidates. "Maybe" answers move a candidate down the list. A "no" answer to any will simply create a new problem. No manager wants that!
Taking them one at a time,

Do I like you? Liking a candidate is critical to interpersonal interactions required on the job and is dependent upon the managers' various senses. First impressions begin when a candidate walks in the front door or is first greeted by each interviewer. This question continues throughout all interviews. Preparedness is key. Timeliness, attitude, what is said, how it is said, body language, how one appears, even how one smells are among the important factors. So is demeanor. Successful people surround themselves with positive people and avoid people who tend to be negative.

Do I think you can do the job? Obviously this question is dependent upon the candidate's answers to the interviewers' questions. Listening skills are critical; misinterpreting a question leads to answering it incorrectly. Answering questions clearly, crisply and succinctly creates a sense of competence. Building a long background to the answer of a question or monopolizing the conversation is likely to cause the interviewer to find a way to end the interview.

Do I think you will fit in with the people you will need to work with? Most managers will have coworkers and people from other parts of the company that the job interacts with involved in the interview process and will spend time probing the detail of their feedback, including that of receptionists. Poor interpersonal skills show up quickly in interviews. Everyone who meets a candidate will spot them immediately.


If there is one thing that will help a candidate prepare for the interview process it is to understand the hiring managers' pain beforehand. In fact understanding pain is the key to winning the interview in the first place. Resumes that respond to pain result in interviews, knowing the pain enables editing a resume to be responsive. Job descriptions rarely adequately describe specific pain. The best way to be sure one is on point is to speak directly with the hiring manager before applying for a job.

How do you find out who the manager is?

There are many ways:

Get an introduction from someone who works at the company. In fact this is the most successful way to get a job. Many companies have an Employee Referral Program (ERP) that pays a bonus to an employee who refers a candidate that gets hired. Managers respect the opinions of people who already work there. Plus even a $1000 ERP bonus is far less than a recruiters' fee.

Search LinkedIn and Google for Company Name and Manager Title. Use variations of the title to cover the possibilities until one works.

Search financial sites as if you are investing in the company. Senior officer's names often appear. Often they are more helpful in directing you to the right person than lower level people are. They are the enablers of the company, not the doers. Generally it is their nature to be helpful. Besides, this will provide you with valuable information about the company.

Visit the company website. Look at the 'About Us' page or PR articles for names to connect with who could refer you.

Read trade journals and other publications for articles written by people who can link you up with the hiring manager.

Look at industry conference announcements. Often they will list the names of key players or attendees. Attend them and set up informal conversations during breaks.

Once the hiring manager is identified, make the necessary calls. Write and internalize scripts that will get you past gatekeepers and properly introduce you to the hiring managers.

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