Job Searching

3 key questions the hiring manager is thinking

How can a job seeker best prepare a job search? The best answer is to focus on what the hiring manager needs are. Prepare by focusing everything you do on answering the key question on every hiring manager's mind.

Can you solve my problem?

The #1 question is "What can you do for me? How can you help resolve my problem?"
The next 2 questions are important details of the first question.  "What have you accomplished that is relevant to the problem I need solved"? "What are your key skills and competencies"? 
In many situations there are other important qualifications as well, like what your relevant certifications are, what your education is, etc. Often having the right current certification is more important than education.

Does my resume respond to the hiring managers' specific need?

In preparing a resume remember this: People do not read resumes, they skim them, they search for things they need. And they spend only a few seconds searching. To avoid rejection, the answers to the hiring managers' key questions should be in the first half of the first page of the resume.

Human nature being what it is we tend to focus on ourselves and lose sight of the purpose of a resume. Often we focus our resume only on our titles, scope of work, responsibilities, etc. And why not? Because while those things are important, they will be ignored if the hiring manger can't find answers to their fundamental questions. Too often we introduce extraneous information, space wasting fluff that has little bearing on the task described in a job description.

The most important information we can provide to hiring managers is the accomplishments and results of our work, preferably quantified, and in particular, only those things that are relevant to the needs. These are the items that should receive the highest position under each job held. 

The takeaway is this: Focus your resume and your entire search preparation on the hiring manager's needs, not just your own. Find out what the hiring manager's needs are and feed them.

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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. Making it happen takes some initiative.

A resume certainly is about the candidate. It is also about telling the hiring manager how one can help resolve his or her key problems. Resumes that win interviews are focused on the hiring manager's needs, not the candidate's. Good resumes demonstrate how the candidate can help resolve specific things the hiring manager needs done by clearly stating the candidates relevant achievements.

So the key is the hiring manager, not the company recruiter. The best a recruiter can do is find a candidate, interview and recommend that the hiring manager interview a candidate. Why not turn the process around? Find and speak to the hiring manager, and then apply through the company protocols.

One can increase the probability of getting a formal interview by first having an informal conversation with the hiring manager to find out what the real issues are that need to be fixed. Then a resume can be edited to be sure it addresses why the candidate is best suited to help fix the hiring managers key needs.

My most successful clients call the hiring manager before editing their resume and applying for the job. Does it always work? No. But it beats applying first and hoping. There are several reasons why it works.
·         It establishes a rapport with the hiring manager and demonstrates admirable qualities like taking initiative and action rather than passively waiting and wondering.
·         It eliminates doubt. When reading an advertised job description one has to wonder "Is this a real job? Is it a description for an old job that is being reused for this one? Does it reflect what  the hiring manager REALLY needs done?"
·         It enables one to edit the resume and prioritize keywords and accomplishments that are relevant to the need.
·         And it makes writing a cover letter a much easier task by allowing one to reiterate key points the hiring manager liked from the conversation.

And there is not a better way to achieve competitive advantage then to speak to the hiring manager before applying!

What about editing the resume? Here are some thoughts.

·         Don't think only about your own needs. Think about accomplishments you have achieved that will help the manager of this job.

·         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 skim through resumes, quickly glancing for key words, numbers, and phrases that interest them. Make it easy for them to find them without bolding, italicizing, or adding color. Position them where they will almost jump out at the reader.

·         Keep your resume relevant to the described job. Avoid writing paragraphs. Paragraphs are not as easily skimmed by eye as crisp bullet statements. Remove words and sentences that are not relevant to the position you are applying for.

·         Spelling and grammar are important. So is neat, orderly formatting. Avoid appearing ignorant or careless.

The takeaway is this: The best odds for getting an interview is talking to the hiring manager informally before applying for the job. Then the resume and cover letter can be edited to make them most attractive to the hiring manager. A significant bonus is the competitive advantage this approach achieves.

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A little creativity can go a long way in a job hunt.

 “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” 

OK, I agree, job hunting sucks! So why not get creative and begin having fun with it.

Occasionally I have found that one of my clients did something truly original, exciting, and demonstratively unique to land a new job and they didn't start out by just pounding the job boards and applying to everything that piqued their interest. On the contrary, I found that these clients listened intently to my skills development advice and then took their learning to the next level. These are the stories of three such people.

One client, I'll call him Phil, asked many questions about job searching skills and he learned the techniques I teach very well. Equipped with a resume we had worked on together, Phil interviewed and landed a job very quickly. But after starting the job some troubling things became apparent. It wasn't really the way things had been described to him in interviews. The answers to some questions Phil asked in interviews turned out to be less than truthful. Sometimes that happens during the interviewing "courtship" process. Despite trying to work his way through the work issues, Phil reached the point where he simply had to resign and start over.

In his renewed search, Phil spoke to the hiring manager before applying for the position, just as I had coached him, and took it one creative step further. Once Phil understood what the hiring manager's critical problem was, he edited his resume and cover letter to focus on past accomplishments that could address the issues, just as we had discussed and he was invited to interview. At his first interview, instead of asking what his priorities should be in the first 90 days, Phil already knew what the hiring manager's key problem was, so he presented a detailed proposal, a "first 90 day plan",  about how he would address the problem. The CEO was very impressed and told Phil he likes people to text or email additional questions or thoughts after interviewing. So at each of next three interviews, Phil offered something of value to them, rather than just asking for info that would benefit him.  And after each interview he submitted additional thoughts and information instead of just asking the usual "how is the search going" questions. Using this unique approach Phil was able to assess reactions enabling him to feel more confident the job would go well if he accepted an offer. Phil won the new job.

In another example of creative job hunting, Suzanne, another client, was seeking a new marketing job in her industry. Knowing who all of her company's competitors were, Suzanne signed up for an upcoming industry conference. The conference website listed the names of all the prominent attendees, some 125 CEO's that would be attending. Suzanne emailed each of them, asking to meet with each over coffee while at the conference.  Ten CEO's accepted and met with her. Within the 3 days of the conference Suzanne learn a great deal about their needs. She casually mentioned some accomplishments that addressed similar needs whenever she could and before the conference ended, Suzanne was offered jobs at two of the companies. She went well beyond my job search coaching to find new opportunities she had known nothing about, and did so in record time.

A third client, we'll call him Gus, was a great salesman.  Gus landed a job with a company he was targeting in a totally unique manner. Gus researched the company's products and potential customers thoroughly, learning minute details about the company's premier product. He developed a sales 'pitch' about its benefits and how it could resolve customer problems. He then picked one of the company's potential customers and presented the product to them without indicating he was really not an employee of his target company.

The end result was the customer agreed to buy the product and called the hiring manager at the target company, telling the sales manager that despite not buying the product in the past, he was going to buy it now. He told Gus's prospective employer the reason he was buying was because of Gus, and he wanted Gus to be the sales rep for all future products he might buy. 

The hiring manager called Gus and offered him the job, explaining the call he had received from the customer. Despite the fact that Gus was not an employee, a fact he could not admit to the customer, he was so impressed with Gus's unique approach, he wanted to hire him because his staff had not been able to sell to this important customer for years. He was elated to have the order and Gus was hired immediately.

The takeaway is this. Like baby birds taking their first leap, these clients used their creativity and guts to accomplish the end goal. They made things happen rather than waiting for something to happen. Many people are very creative on the job. There is no reason not to extend that creativity into a job search. 

Why you should not apply for jobs online

Many people tell me they can't seem to get traction in their job search. They just can't seem to win interviews. When I ask them to describe how they search, most tell me they spend a lot of time searching job boards. When they ask me for help, I always start by reviewing their resume so I can get an understanding of their background and see if the resume itself may be causing problems. Then we talk about search tactics, mostly about the "who you know" principle and a lot about how to meet the right "who you don't know" people.

The most successful job seekers today realize that getting a new job today is far different than years ago. There are many people seeking fewer openings. The web makes it simple to apply online so everyone is doing it, sometimes without considering the requirements for the positions they are applying for. That floods the job market causing the supply of applicants to be far more than the demand for them. If you fit this behavior model perhaps it's time to try a new approach.

Applying Online is Rarely Effective – For most professionals, I find that applying for jobs online is only slightly more effective than applying for jobs advertised in newspapers! Far less than 2% of jobs are found on job boards. The most successful job seekers I know practice a more productive search method.

They speak to hiring managers for jobs they are interested in,before they apply, to determine what problem needs to be resolved and to find out what critical skills the successful candidate must have.

In the conversation they are able to generate the hiring manager's interest by describing how they have resolved similar problems. Once they understand the hiring manager's pain they are able to edit their resume and cover letter to focus on needs that may not be adequately described in the job description.

The most successful people reach out and expand their network by seeking every opportunity to schmooze with anyone who may know hiring managers. For instance, they find that connecting with employees in their target companies is a very effective way of getting an interview. Companies often have an employee referral program that can earn the employee a cash award if the candidate is hired.

There are other reasons why applying online is not effective:

* Applying online doesn’t Differentiate a person from their competition. Differentiation is essential for successful marketing and is impossible if job seekers cast their resumes in concrete by posting it online job boards.

To differentiate, use Job Boards and Company Websites for identifying opportunities and vetting companies, not for applying online.

Differentiation is achieved by doing things others are not doing. Those who feel like they are making forward progress by camping on job boards are not marketing themselves well. They are simply becoming just another "one of the herd".

* Posting a resume online doesn’t allow you edit it for the requirements of specific jobs.
People who may be looking for you have specific needs and requirements. Resumes that attempt to be "one size fits all" don't work in today's job market.

Editing a resume for the needs of each opportunity is essential for success.

There are many more useful ways to spend your time than posting a resume on job boards. People become good at job seeking by practicing their interviewing skills, learning effective salary negotiation skills, and getting their base resume and cover letter into shape so that it is easy to edit them once they learn about a specific manager's 'pain'.

The takeaway is this: Use job boards judiciously. Avoid 'camping out'. Don't immediately apply to jobs you see. Learn about alternatives. Plan and budget your time on all activities you decide to employ in your search. 

What do you want to do when you grow up?

If you find yourself out of work or fed up with your job and you have worked in many different industries doing many different jobs, you may be totally perplexed about how to conduct a job search. You may truly not understand what you would like to focus your work life on. That's a tough place to be. But there is a process that may help you. Try this.

Make a list of all of your skills. After you're done, for each skill, ask yourself what  you like the most and least about using that skill. After you've finished, go back and rank them.

Next make a list of all the jobs you have held. For each position, what were the pros and cons and which jobs were you happiest and least happy with. Then rank the jobs.

When you have completed this process one or two distinct career paths should emerge. Now you can focus your search on the highest priority. Do the jobs you've identified require training or education? Is that realistically within your reach? Research is your next step.

Start your research using your favorite search engine. Find out what companies have open positions in your path. Read the job descriptions carefully, looking for responsibilities that fit your likes and requirements the companies want to see.

Don't allow your attention to be diverted, stay focused on one path. Find all companies with openings that match your job search to understand the general requirements you meet. With requirements defined resume writing can begin, not before.

The takeaway is this. You cannot be helped if you do not know what you want to do and what the requirements are, so help yourself and others who might help you by organizing your thought process so as to make some decisions first.

Searching for a new Job? Know your Customers!

That's right, know your customers, the hiring managers. Who are they and what are their needs?

If you don't know who the hiring managers are you can't talk to them to find out their needs.

If you don't understand their needs, you may not be able to properly sell yourself to them.

All job seekers are salespeople. Their customers are decision-makers, the hiring managers, period. No one else can decide who to make a job offer to.

It follows that all job seekers need to learn the art of selling.

To make a sale you need to sell to the customer's needs. This requires learning techniques for finding out who the customer is and learning skills for making direct contact to ask questions.

Once needs are understood you can hone your resume and practice your selling skills.

If selling isn't your gig, it would be wise to consider  engaging professional help for this important part of your search.

I can't hear you

Have you ever applied for a job and not received any response, or had a great interview that you thought went real well and not heard back?

Maybe you made at least one of several mistakes you can only blame yourself for. 

If you are not getting response to your job applications, just maybe:
You applied for a job you are not qualified for.
You failed to write a resume that described how your accomplishments can help solve the needs of the hiring manager.
Your resume is not compatible with ATS.

If you haven't heard back after you had a great interview, just maybe:
You failed to sell your skills and achievements very well.
You did not ask for feedback at the end of each conversation they had with each interviewer.
You failed to set expectations with the key people (preferably the hiring manager/decision maker) about what the next steps would be before you left the interview.

Knowing how to get feedback is a skill developed by good salespeople. And of course you know job candidates are salespeople by default. You have to learn how to sell yourself.

Searching for a job is usually not easy. Making these kinds of mistakes only complicates it.

Using Resume Templates is a Bad Idea

Templates are great for some things, but be cautious when considering using templates for a DIY job search, particularly those that have been embellished with features designed to make them look fantastic to the human eye.

Most resume and cover letter templates cause ATS parsing issues.

Computers cannot 'see' what humans can see.  We see words and graphics. While  we can see the word "and" on our computer  screen and printed copy, computers see only it in binary code. "And" looks like "010000010110111001100100" to the computer.

What's important is ATS parsing software only reads binary coded text. It cannot read graphics and may stop reading as soon as it runs into a graphic. Graphics are stored on your hard drive in one of several different methods, none of which can be read by text parsers. Most templates contain graphics or other attributes that will confound ATS parsers. Many well qualified candidates are rejected every day because of non-text attributes embedded into their resumes that have nothing to do with their qualifications.

Complicating matters, word processing techniques designed to make document creation easier introduce graphics into which you enter your text, such as headers, footers, tables, and text boxes. You may be rejected or not receive a response because of using these "tools", not necessarily because of what you wrote. In addition, there are over 40 document creation rules to follow to make ATS happy.

If you insist on using a template, make sure you save it in plain text format, *.txt, and apply on line with that file. After you save it, open it up and look at it. It may require a lot of editing to make any sense out of it.

If you want a beautiful document for handing out directly to a human, create a second "For Handout Only" document with whatever graphics, color, etc., you want. Just don't use it to apply with.

How to Write a Script for Calling a Hiring Manager

Calling the hiring manager BEFORE you send your resume is the most successful approach for getting a job. It is best to have a practiced script for the first things you say to the hiring manager.

The 4 objectives of the call to hiring manager are:
  • To introduce yourself and establish rapport and find common ground
  • To gather information about the hiring managers needs for the position
  • To engage the hiring manager in a telephone interview (TI) that leads to a face-face (FF) interview
  • To set expectations for what is to happen next, by whom, and when before the end of the call

The script should include:
  • A request for permission to talk; ask if the person has a few moments
  • A very brief introduction about who you are and what you do
  • A statement that establishes rapport: Engage in conversation before indicating you are looking for a job; Ask about key challenges/hot buttons & describe your success in resolving challenges
  • A request to send your resume: Get the hiring manager's email address
  • Set expectations before ending the call (what - who - when) for the hiring manager

Some Do's and Don'ts:
  • Don't end the call without setting expectations or you will be left wondering what to do if you don't hear back after some period.
  • Don't open with "I'm seeking a job" - That sets up automatic defenses. Let it come out from the nature of the questions and answers in the conversation after establishing rapport.
  • Do research before the call. Learn all you can about the company, its history, what's new, what's happening, etc. And, if possible, learn about the hiring manager, background, likes, personality, managing style.
  • Do align yourself with the company/hiring manager as you establish rapport. Tell them how you are like them.

The #1 way to get hired

Most people pound the job boards to find an opening and apply directly online.  Sometimes that works, but it is far less than 2% effective. It's what everyone else does. And it drops them directly into the automated "system", ATS, where they are most likely to be rejected without a response.

The solution is to make direct contact with the hiring manager before applying. That's the most effective way to get hired. Use job boards to research jobs, then apply offline through the hiring manager. Don't lull yourself into thinking you are making progress on job boards.

But what if you don't know who the hiring manager is? Fortunately there are options for finding them:

The most effective approach is to be referred by a current employee. Often companies have  an Employee Referral Program (ERP) in which employees who refer candidates receive a cash bonus if the candidate is hired.

If you know someone at the company, ask them to refer you. If you don't know someone, use LinkedIn to search for all employees at the company and try to connect with them. Sometimes your search will uncover the hiring manager.

Try doing a Google search. Enter the company name, department name (guess at several or use a functional name like Sales), and the word "manage" or director or vice president or other title. Try different combinations.

Start at the top. Identify a senior manager and work your way down to the hiring manager. If the company is public you can find senior managers by searching online via the SEC for K-1 reports, which give lots names plus other information you should learn about the company anyway.

Network formally and informally for names.

Cold-call into the company. This sales technique can work for you too. It does require you to learn cold-calling technique skills if you don't already know them.

Working through the hiring manager is second to none when it comes to getting a job. Finding the right name sometimes requires some ingenuity.

Things you can do to get responses to job applications

Have you ever applied to a job that you knew you were "a perfect fit for" and never even got a response?

Sometimes it's not your fault. But there are things you can do to minimize non-response and things you can do to avoid encountering it altogether.
Some Causes:
  • The ATS gave you a low score. Your resume may be lacking the right key words. Your  name and contact info may be inaccessible to ATS. You may not meet the requirements ATS is looking for.
  • ATS is not programmed to send responses.
  • The job was filled by the time you applied.
  • The job has been put on hold.
  • The company is not interested in you. 
  • Some companies just don't behave responsibly or they lack the resources to respond.
  • Occasionally the job was cancelled and the posting wasn't updated promptly.
  • Sometimes the company recruiter does not follow through.
  • Often there is simply no excuse.

You can deal with the problem by doing these things:
  • Make sure your resume has key words used in the job description, used in context.
  • Make sure your resume is compatible with ATS - Get help if you don't know how.
  • Make sure you don't let job postings get "stale". Usually there is a "posted on" date. Get into the queue as quickly as is reasonably possible (be careful, sometimes haste makes waste).
  • Avoid ATS by finding out who the hiring manager is and making direct voice contact with that person instead of immediately applying. Send your resume to the hiring manager after your conversation.
  • Find hiring managers by searching on LinkedIn, Google and other media. Or make contact with people who work for the company and get referred by them.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete, up to date, and has all the search words companies will be looking for so that you get "found".

Got a gap in your employment history?

You're not alone. Many people do. The question is how to deal with them. What do you say on your resume? What do you say in interviews?

The answer is fairly simple for short gaps like 3 to 4 months or so. In those cases you can simply say nothing on your resume because gaps of that length are commonplace. If asked you can simply answer "Job searching".

However, long gaps are a red flag. The reader of a resume is wondering what was going on during that period. That's not a good mindset to establish. It is far better to make a one-line statement that answers the question. An answer before the reader dwells on it gives you a chance to refocus the reader's attention to the rest of your resume. And at interviews you have already answered the question so there is no need to dwell on it.

Keep the one-liner brief and honest. For example, if you were care-taking, say so. If you were raising a family, say so. (Interesting information regarding women who want to re-enter the workforce can be found at If you were pursuing education or a certification, say so. If you were recovering from an illness or accident, say so carefully, including why you are able to work now. If you were incarcerated you have no choice but to be say so.

Admittedly, sometimes an answer will not help. Some readers are close-minded to reasons for gaps. They just don't believe them. You are not able to change their minds if you cannot talk with them, but in an interview situation if you run into an interviewer who is negative about your gap, at least you have a chance to impact his or her mindset.

In extremely long gaps there may be no recovery. These are unfortunate situations that require rethinking what kind of employment, often large steps down, are possible. Since these are the most difficult cases, professional career counseling may be the only solution. 

6 things to do to win a job

Job searching is all about marketing yourself. The key is to show how you are the best person for the job, how you are different from your competition.

There are some things your competition will probably not do. If you do them you will differentiate yourself.

Resume - Create a personal brand that says this is what I do and what things I am great at. Include a marketing "hook" that entices people to read further. The reader will give you about 5 seconds to accomplish this.

Cover Letter - Write one, even if it never gets read. Direct it to the hiring manager by name and title, not "To whom it may concern." Say why it is important for you to meet instead of asking (= begging) for an interview. Establish rapport by aligning yourself with the company and manager.

Networking - It's not about me, me, me. Ask questions about the other person to draw them out. This will get them to like you and want to help you

Interviewing - Answer questions crisply and concisely. Don't monopolize the conversation. Always be positive. Make sure to establish what the next steps are at the end of the interview so you are not left wondering what to do if you don't hear back within a particular time frame. At the final interview, ask for the job!

Search Tactics - Call the hiring manager before you send your resume. Make voice contact a priority. Find out what the hiring manager's hot buttons are and tell how you can help fix them. Don't just camp out on job boards like the rest of the 'herd'.

LinkedIn Profile - Take full advantage of this free inbound marketing tool. Enable people to find you by completing all categories of the profile. There is no search key word for lack of detail. Include a smiling or laughing head shot picture. That helps make people feel you are fun to be with, to like you. No picture usually results in no interest.

Marketing is about differentiation. Do what most others will not do.

Why you didn't get the job

Many people feel they can "go it alone" when it comes to a job search. Take the case of Sam. Like most people searching for a new position, Sam does not understand why he is failing.

Sam assumed writing his resume was a no-brainer. He's done it before. Of course that was when jobs were plentiful and companies had to compete for the few available good people. And besides he has a friend who is a good writer who will help him.

Sam has heard of ATS but really has no idea of what it is, how it works, or why it will continue to disqualify him for jobs he is a 'perfect' candidate for. After all, his friend wrote his resume for him.
But Sam's resume is not compatible with ATS parsing software.
And Sam does not edit his resume for each job he applies to so that it is responsive to what the hiring manager needs.
Furthermore Sam makes no effort to find out who the hiring manager is or what his real needs are. He assumes the job description says it accurately.
And Sam fails to realize his competition is doing all the things he is not doing!

Sam does not know how to differentiate himself from the 'herd' of applicants applying to the jobs he is applying to.

Sam is not alone. Few people understand hiring processes today. Few realize that of the hundreds of resumes received, conservatively over 75% are immediately rejected by ATS. And of the remaining 10 to 20 applicants that are passed on to humans for review, half will not pass preliminary screening, 6 or fewer will get face-to-face interviews, of which 3 will become finalists. The one chosen will be 1 out of hundreds that apply! What kind of odds is that?

It has become virtually essential for job seekers to have an 'agent' on their side, someone who is close to new hiring process technology, contemporary resume writing, and who can teach skills that make new search techniques successful.

To do otherwise is wasteful and pretty much guarantees an extended search.

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