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.

If you like this post, please share it in your feed and follow me on LinkedIn. It helps the article to be seen by more people in need of this kind of career help. Also visit my website at Thanks! 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Speaking of PDF resumes ...

PDF is the acronym for Portable Document Format. PDF files are graphical images of documents. They are not a pure text file. When Applicant Tracking System software (ATS) performs operations like searching or extracting, it often runs into problems with PDF files. Not all PDFs are alike. Different types of PDFs require different computer operations.

ATS extraction software reads and extracts resume information that is in text form. Graphics, including text information located within graphics, for example Headers, Tables, and other tools, are the source of extractions issues. This is important because tools provided in word processing software makes it easy to use by letting the writer place text inside graphics. In the majority of job application processes today, a resume will be processed by ATS before a human ever sees it. Thus if information cannot be extracted properly from a resume it may never reach a human who can read it.

Microsoft Word or plain text files are universally acceptable file formats for ATS because words are recorded in compliance with the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) standard. However, people writing resumes need to be aware of the issues with word processing tools.

Avoiding the use of word processing tools can be difficult because any graphic associated with the tools can only be seen when the tool is open. When a tool is opened, a graphic box appears in which information is entered. The box disappears as soon as the tool is closed and only the text is appears on the viewing screen. There are always alternatives to using the tools. The alternatives are more time consuming, but far safer for files that are used to apply for jobs electronically.

Plain text documents are excellent for ATS because all formatting, including those lines and boxes that disappear, are removed from plain text files. Lacking formatting, the resulting file is not attractive to the eye, but ATS is blind and loves them because only text remains.

PDF files are excellent to use in situations where one can be sure the document will go directly to a human, not ATS. The advantage they have over Word and text files is that a PDF displays the exact same content and layout that was created no matter which operating system, device or software application it is viewed on. Time taken to make the document very attractive to humans is preserved faithfully by PDF. This makes PDFs ideal when one wants to impress a human reader.

Summarizing, a PDF file is a graphical image of a document. It is a combination of vector graphics, text, and bitmap graphics. The basic types of content in a PDF are text stored as 'content streams' (specifically not ASCII text), vector graphics for illustrations and designs that consist of shapes and lines, raster graphics for photographs and other types of image, multimedia objects in the document.

·        PDF files are a problem for ATS because they are a graphical image of a document, not a pure text document. ATS has difficulty extracting information located inside a graphic.

·        Microsoft Word or Plain Text files are universally compatible with all ATS software and are the preferred file types to use for applying online.

·        A PDF file displays the exact same content and layout no matter which operating system, device or software application it is viewed on, an advantage when viewed by a human without ATS intervention.

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