Ask Donna: How can I keep my job search alive during the holidays?

Dear Donna,

I’ve noticed that the amount of jobs posted online seems to dry up around the holiday season – I know I saw a definite drop in relevant jobs for me over Thanksgiving week. I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep my job search alive during the pending holidays. How can I make the most of this slow time of the year?

– Not a Happy Elf

 

Dear Elf:

First of all, the job boards and employment sites like Indeed should not be the number one focus of your job search no matter what time of year it is. While these are helpful for generating leads, they are just one piece of your entire job search strategy. It is true that many employers hold off on posting jobs until January, however, this doesn’t mean that your job search needs to go dormant. Instead, you should be focusing on the other, more valuable aspects of your job search.

Here’s a great checklist to make sure you don’t lose traction for the rest of December…

  1. Update your resume, LinkedIn, and cover letters

Now is the perfect time to update your materials. Styles and tactics change over time, so if you are still using an old resume, be sure to look at it with fresh eyes. Look at more than just the format and appearance. You want to make sure you are pulling the top key words for your profession, based on current job postings.

Did you know that 90% of employers are looking at your LinkedIn profile? Yep. [Source: LinkedIn, 2016.] For this reason alone, make sure you are following the current best practices to optimize your profile and drive more recruiters to it.

When was the last time you reviewed your cover letters? While only 50% of HR departments value the cover letter itself [source: Mile High SHRM survey from Personal Touch Career Services, 2017], it is still a valuable component to your job search. Make sure it is well written and appropriate for your target jobs.

  1. Get involved on LinkedIn

Now that you updated your profile, so what? If nobody knows who you are, they have no reason to reach out to you. You need to build your reputation within your industry.

This can be done two ways: sharing or writing quality content and getting involved in the Groups.

First, if you are a great writer, start publishing articles or blogs on LinkedIn. If you aren’t, you can simply share other relevant articles that you find. Don’t worry – it’s not copyright infringement, as the links always go back to the original article. These can be shared both in your newsfeed and in your Groups.

Speaking of the Groups, when was the last time you got involved in the discussions in your top Groups? This is another way to build your reputation and become associated with helpful opinions on relevant topics for your industry.

  1. Take classes to fill in your knowledge gaps

Are you wondering how to do those steps for your LinkedIn account? Are you missing a vital skill for your target jobs? Now is the perfect time to take a quick class to fill in those gaps and make you a more valuable employee.

I highly recommend checking out www.Udemy.com or other online learning sites. These websites feature literally hundreds of thousands of courses that are self-paced, video-intensive, and subject-specific. To give you an idea of what you can learn, check out my LinkedIn class, “Using LinkedIn to Get a Job Without Going Crazy” https://www.udemy.com/using-linkedin-to-get-a-job/?couponCode=FLYER75

Explore the additional classes offered – everything from Microsoft Word to learning Italian – and focus on those courses that boost your value to the employers.

  1. Get in touch with your current network

The holidays are an ideal time to tap your network on the shoulder and let them know two critical things: one, that you appreciate them; and two, that you are still looking for a position. Notice that the gratitude piece must come first. No one wants to be pumped for job leads in a Christmas card, but taking the time to share a heartfelt note about how you value them can breed more goodwill.

  1. Start researching potential employers in the hidden job market

Believe it or not, jobs posted online on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn only make up a fraction of the available positions. Many are only listed on the company’s website. Not only that, some aren’t listed at all, at least not until the company already has a candidate in mind. Collectively, this is known as the hidden job market.

The secret to landing a hidden job is first and foremost paying attention to what is going on in your industry and local market. Start by picking out some companies that have caught your interest, whether they have a job opening or not. Then conduct systematic research to identify their needs, challenges, key decision makers, and standings in the market. Track them with Google Alerts to see the latest news – often times, a relevant news article can be turned into an excuse to reach out to managers and offer your services as a potential employee.

  1. Implement structured networking

Chances are that you have heard the rumor: up to 80% of jobs are found by networking. This is true to some extent, as networking includes everything from contacting a hiring manager for a posted job to Aunt Martha saw a job on Indeed and forwarded it to you.

Structured networking is similar to researching potential employers in the hidden job market, but instead of hunting companies, you want to identify people. Don’t look at just the key managers. Look for potential co-workers or contractors that can tell you more about the company and their culture. Thanks to such tools as LinkedIn, conducting structured networking is easier than ever before, once you learn the tricks.

  1. Spread some joy

Most of all, take some time for yourself this holiday season. Enjoy time with your family and friends. Eat that cookie and drink some egg nog. Along the way, reflect on all the positive things that happened this year and be grateful, no matter how small. After all, a light heart is very attractive – especially to employers.

And have a cool Yule!

Donna Shannon

 

Got a question for Donna? Just email your question to april@personaltouchcareerservices.com

Want a see how your resume and LinkedIn profile stacks up to the competition? Visit my website to schedule a free resume review: https://personaltouchcareerservices.com/contact

 

HR responds: Are cover letters obsolete?

 

It’s no secret that hiring standards change over time. One of the latest trends is the attitude that HR has towards cover letters. What used to be a requirement is often not even requested anymore.

Recently, the Personal Touch Career Services surveyed the members of the Mile High SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) to see what HR really thinks of cover letters.

The answers were very insightful…

Split Responses

Interesting enough, the survey respondents were split 50/50 on the cover letter issue. 50% felt that a well-written cover letter can improve a candidate’s chances with their company. However, the other 50% didn’t even ask for them or only looked at it as screening criteria… basically, those who didn’t send in a letter were screened out, but HR didn’t care about the content.

The rise of the LinkedIn profile

While HR recruiters may not actually care about your cover letter, many require that candidates send in the letter just to show their level of professionalism. Instead, many companies are migrating to using LinkedIn over the traditional cover letter. This is why 90% of employers are looking at your profile.

One of the purposes of a cover letter is to customize it to the specific job, capturing more relevant key words and highlight your top achievements. Yet more employers are defaulting to reviewing the LinkedIn profile for this additional information. In our same survey, corporate recruiters are checking the completeness of the profile, followed by the number of Skills and Endorsements:

 

Not only that, but your number of Recommendations and the consistency between your resume and the LinkedIn profile are paramount. While the LinkedIn profile doesn’t need to be a word-for-word recreation of the resume, it does need the facts to be consistent, such as job titles, employers, dates, and education.

So, why are they looking at Skills and Recommendations? To compare your expertise to their needs while seeing what others have to say about you.

Cover letters are not dead…yet

While it is tempting to cast aside the traditional cover letter in favor of a comprehensive LinkedIn profile, keep in mind that 50% of the employers still find them valuable. The kicker is that a stale, boring repetition of your resume is not going to do the trick. HR – and hiring managers – want to see a well-written cover letter that highlights your strengths while explaining what you can do to help them. After all, if you can prove that you can help the company make money, save money or solve problems, your chances for an interview increase exponentially.

Did you enjoy this article? Please join my newsletter to receive all the latest news, views, and job searching tips: http://eepurl.com/bgVrJr.

 

Want a see how your cover letter and LinkedIn profile stack up to the competition? Visit my website to schedule a free consultation:  

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Ask Donna: Does LinkedIn really matter for my job search?

Dear Donna:

I’ve been looking for a job for several months and haven’t gotten much traction. A friend suggested that maybe I need to improve my LinkedIn profile. Right now, I have my work history on it but that is about it. I have never gotten any response to my LinkedIn profile before. It just seems like another thing to manage when I’m busy enough already just applying to jobs.

Does LinkedIn really matter that much for my job search?

Thanks,

Way Too Busy

 

Dear Busy:

I hate to tell you this, but your friend is right. LinkedIn is the new standard that many employers rely on when sourcing new candidates. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

  • There are over 500 million users on LinkedIn.
  • It is estimated that one in every four professionals on the planet are on LinkedIn.
  • Over 89% of recruiters are looking for candidates on LinkedIn.
  • Even if the company didn’t post the ad on LinkedIn, 90% of employers will look at the candidate’s LinkedIn profile before calling them for an interview.
  • Only 35% of job seekers are fully engaged on LinkedIn. (NOTE: while many job seekers are present on LinkedIn, that doesn’t mean they are using all of the tools available.)

Take into consideration that there are literally millions of publicly-posted AND privately-posted jobs on LinkedIn, it only makes sense for anyone seeking a professional-level job should be on the site. In fact, many employers are now allowing candidates to apply with their LinkedIn profile from their company’s application system, or ATS.

However, there’s a lot more to it than just being an online resume. If all that you have is your work history, it’s no wonder that you are not getting any quality contacts from the site.

Here’s what you are missing:

  1. Attracting recruiters

The best LinkedIn profiles will be fully complete and key word rich. This means that you need a compelling headline, a strong summary, concise but powerful work experience descriptions, and a complete skills section that reflects terms for your target job. When recruiters search for candidates on LinkedIn, they find them because of the amount of key words in their LinkedIn profile. If you didn’t bother to fill out your profile, the recruiters won’t bother with contacting you.

But that’s not all: LinkedIn will also favor users who are more active on the site AND those that have more connections, either personal 1st Degree connections or active Group connections.

  1. Giving employers the rest of the picture

When employers check out candidates who applied to their jobs, they are looking for some very important things. Most notably, they want to see Recommendations (which is NOT the same as the Endorsements on your Skills) and community involvement, such as volunteer work, professional organizations, projects, outside courses and so on. They may check out which Groups you belong to and what Companies you are following.

The most important thing they look for is consistency: does your work history coincide with your resume? While I do not suggest copying your resume word-for-word into your LinkedIn profile, the facts must be the same: company names, dates, locations, titles, and so on. Plus, the descriptions within the LinkedIn profile must be consistent. It drives them crazy when they see a highly detailed work history for every single job except the most current one. It looks lazy and sloppy.

  1. Connecting directly with hiring managers, potential colleagues, and industry influencers

Believe it or not, with a little strategic thinking and understanding of how the site works, it is possible to track down and connect with decision makers on LinkedIn. Even if you don’t find the direct hiring manager, connecting with current or past employees of your target companies can give you great insight into their culture and hiring procedures.

  1. Building your reputation

Whether you are posting your own articles or sharing content from other sources, one of the best way to build your brand is to share quality information on a consistent basis. Plus, when people look at your profile, they can all see your past activity, which includes these articles and posts.

  1. This IS a social network

The best thing about LinkedIn are the Groups. In these, you can connect with other professionals that can help your career. Note I said CAREER, not JOB SEARCH. Building a network is a long game, not just the short-term goal of getting a job. I know that some of my favorite people I’ve met in the past few years only know me online. Plus, you can use the Groups for professional development, learning about the trends in your industry. Nothing improves a candidate’s chances like staying on top of the latest developments.

Good luck with your networking. Remember, the old adage that 80% of jobs are found through networking is still very true. It’s just that much of the old school networking has morphed into the digital age through such sites as LinkedIn.

 

Donna Shannon

 

Got a question for Donna? Just email your question to april@personaltouchcareerservices.com

About the author: Donna Shannon is not the feel-good career coach you might expect.  For over eight years, she worked as the grumpy recruiter who never let your resume get through to the hiring manager. Since 2004, she has been teaching effective job search strategies to bypass the corporate guard dogs just like her.  Her book, “How to Get a Job Without Going Crazy” is in its 2nd edition. Through her consulting business, The Personal Touch Career Services, Donna offers top quality resumes, coaching, and specialized training for job seekers across the country.

Ask Donna: Are job fairs worth the effort?

career fair cattle call

Are job fairs just a cattle call?

Dear Donna:

Every now and then, I see a career fair coming to my area. While they all promote the fact that there will be “decision makers” present from top companies, I am not certain that these job fairs are worth the effort. It seems to me that they are a cattle call where I have to compete with tons of other job seekers, or that the employers tend to be the lures for “starting your own business” as a financial advisor or insurance agent. Even when I do get to talk to one of my target companies, it feels like their recruiter just tells me to “apply on the website.”

So, are these job fairs really worth the effort?

  • Time Crunched in Lakewood

 

Hi Time Crunched:

I feel your pain! Having sat on both sides of the conference booth table – as the recruiter and the job seeker – some of your observations are true, but that is not the whole story. In fact, career fairs can be beneficial, depending on your circumstances and the type of job fair it is.

  1. Types of career fairs

Fact: not all job fairs are created equal. To determine if this particular career fair fits with your job search, it is helpful to understand what you are considering.

University Sponsored: held at the college, these career fairs are set up by the institution’s career services department for their students and graduates. Because of the relationships developed by career services, these often lead to valuable conversations with the recruiters about both jobs and internships.

Industry-Specific Fairs: some niche industries, such as IT, luxury private service, aerospace, or other technical fields, have career fairs that are organized by outside entities that then sell the booth space to the different employers. Because the employers know that the fair is designed to attract top talent in their space, it is more likely for the candidates to make a quality connection with the recruiters. One such organization is Expo Experts: http://www.expoexpertsllc.com/.

Sometimes you will also see these fairs as part of the annual convention for the niche industry, just like the Domestic Estate Management Association (DEMA) organizes every year: http://demaconvention.com/index.php/annual-convention/career-day-job-fair

General Job Fairs: these tend to be the “cattle call” that most frustrated job seekers thing of when considering a career fair. These could be organized from any multitude of sources, such as the local business magazine, the county workforce centers, or even third parties. Sometimes these job fairs may be specifically targeting those who are coming out of the military. These also tend to have the greatest variety of employers, including the 100% commission sales jobs, the military branches, and the “be your own boss” opportunities.

  1. When to go

Job fairs can be time consuming. When considering a specific fair, take a look at the participating employers; this is usually listed on the fair’s website. If you are seeing companies and recruiters that you really want to meet face-to-face, make the effort to suit up and show up. If you only see one or two on your list, you might want to consider a more beneficial networking effort, such as contacting those same recruiters and managers through LinkedIn.

  1. What the recruiters are doing

I agree that one of the worst practices that has emerged in the modern career fair is recruiters telling job seekers to “go apply on the website.” Some companies won’t even take your resume anymore! So why did the employer bother to show up?

Recruiters do value meeting the job seeker. If someone comes across as a top candidate, they will make a note of his or her name and credentials. However, this is also true for screening out candidates.  I have been to many job fairs over the years where the recruiters will be nice to someone’s face, and then the moment the candidate walks away, mark the resume as a big “no.” Therefore it is extremely important to put your best foot forward when attending the fair.

  1. Making the right impression

To avoid that big “no,” pay attention to these job fair best practices. First of all, if this is an industry-specific job fair, try to reach out to the recruiters BEFORE the fair itself. Then when you meet the recruiter face-to-face you will be familiar to them. Next, dress the part. A career fair is really a JOB INTERVIEW. Even if they don’t sit down with you individually, that initial 60-second introduction is the same as a screening interview. Be sure that you are wearing proper business attire for your industry. Be sure to bring multiple copies of your resume and business card. Even if they don’t take the paper copy, you need to look prepared.

Finally, follow up. If you don’t bother to send an email or LinkedIn invitation to the people you contacted – which includes other job fair attendees, not just the recruiters or company representatives – then you really did just waste your time.

Good Luck!

Donna Shannon

 

Got a question for Donna? Just email your question to april@personaltouchcareerservices.com

About the author: Donna Shannon is not the feel-good career coach you might expect.  For over eight years, she worked as the grumpy recruiter who never let your resume get through to the hiring manager. Since 2004, she has been teaching effective job search strategies to bypass the corporate guard dogs just like her.  Her book, “How to Get a Job Without Going Crazy” is in its 2nd edition. Through her consulting business, The Personal Touch Career Services, Donna offers top quality resumes, coaching, and specialized training for job seekers across the country. 

Ask Donna: Why won’t the recruiters call me back?

Hey Donna-

I’m a job seeker who has been trying to work with various different recruiters that specialize in my industry. While they don’t work for the company directly, their websites often feature jobs that are a great fit for my experience and skills. Sometimes they even reach out to me on LinkedIn before I even applied!

However, once I apply or do a phone call with them, they go silent. I can’t get them to return my calls or answer my emails. Why are they so rude, especially when they thought I was a great candidate before?

  • Frustrated in Denver

Dear Frustrated:

First and foremost, you need to understand the nature of these recruitment agencies, also known as headhunters or search firms. As talent brokers, they often act like a fine dining steakhouse, sourcing the best raw ingredients to give an exceptional experience to their clientele. With that in mind, realize these facts when it comes to dealing with a recruiter…

  1. You are meat.

I know that sounds harsh, but the sooner you understand that you are the meat – the actual product that a recruiter is selling – the less frustrating your relationship with them will be. You are not their client: the employers are. As such, the employers will always be on the top of their contact list, while candidates may not have the same status.

  1. You might not be on the menu.

Recruiters usually focus on the jobs they are trying to fill right now, even though they will collect resumes and applications for candidates even if they don’t have an immediate opening that fits your skills and experience. If you don’t fit that instant need, you will just be put in the freezer to be stored for later. Of course, anyone in the meat locker usually gets a slower response time.

When a job order is hot and in-demand, recruiters become much more aggressive and consistent about their communication with the candidate. This all relates to the employers’ needs once again. Just because the recruiter pursued you endlessly for one job it doesn’t mean that they will be as diligent with the next job posting.

  1. You can’t tell if the employer has “food sensitivities.”

One reason why an employer chooses to use a recruiter is that they are seeking something very specific, possibly in terms of culture, experience, skills, industry, or achievements. The recruiter knows far more details about the job than the candidates ever will, including the hidden deal breakers (or “allergies”) that they won’t disclose to the job seeker. Just because the job looks perfect to you on paper it doesn’t mean that you are actually the best match for the job. Rather than disclose this confidential information, the recruiter just goes silent.

  1. Become “Grade A Free-Range Organic Beef.”

Ultimately, it is your responsibility to follow up with the recruiter. Don’t just wait for them to call you. Once you are registered with an agency, feel free to call and touch base a couple of times a month, especially if you see a job opening that matches your experience.

Recruiters are often inundated with candidates, especially if they are small, boutique firm that offers employers a personalized experience. This means that they have less staff members to manage candidates than they do for managing client relationships. By becoming responsive on your own communications, including providing any extra information as soon as they need it, it elevates your status as a candidate.

  1. Don’t develop “mad cow disease.”

Just because you want to stay in touch, don’t go completely overboard and turn into a pest that borders on harassment. Don’t call, text, or email every day if they aren’t reaching out to you first. Believe me, they are getting your messages and noting your files, even if they aren’t calling you back right away. Remember, they are dealing with today’s specials and you may not be on the menu. Overloading a recruitment firm can quickly turn into a black mark. Be sure to track your own progress with them, such as the jobs you applied to, who you spoke with, and when. Nothing annoys a recruiter more than a candidate that applies to every single job they posted without showing any forethought or customization to fit the specific job.

  1. Some agencies use wranglers.

Fortunately, some recruiters do believe in building ongoing relationships with their candidates. They may even have dedicated staff members that are devoted to staying in touch with their stable of talent. Over the years, I have seen some recruiters repeated place their top candidates in different jobs. If you are lucky enough to fall in with a recruiter that values their talent as much as the employers, keep up your communication to stay top-of-mind for the next job.

Good Luck!

Donna Shannon

 

Got a question for Donna? Just email your question to april@personaltouchcareerservices.com

The Passion Statement: Keystone of your job search

Happy Valentine’s Day! In this season of love, a very important question comes to mind:

Do you love your job?

It’s a very valid question, no matter what the economic conditions or how tough the job market is. In fact, workers who love their jobs are more productive, have fewer sick days and produce higher quality work.

When contacting a potential employer, don’t be afraid to show your passion for your profession…

The Passion Statement

An excerpt from “Get a Job Without Going Crazy (2nd Ed)” available on Amazon.com

Smart managers want to hire someone who is passionate about what they do.  There are a number of reasons for this.  Passionate employees are more engaged, tend to work harder, have less absenteeism and stay in the job longer.  When all things are equal between candidates – skills, experience and education – the hiring manager will take the person who is excited to do the job.  They have even been known to choose the passionate candidate over the more qualified ones.

So why not tell the hiring managers your passion in your resume and cover letter?

It’s a bold move, which makes some people uncomfortable.  It’s easy to write the standard “results-oriented professional with 10 years of experience in creating highly effective teams.”  It’s safe.  It’s comfortable.

And it also won’t impress anybody.

In this crowded job market, you need to go beyond safe and comfortable to make a good impression.  A resume that sounds just like everybody else is not unique.

This is why the Passion Statement is so important.  A Passion Statement is a three-sentence summary of what you love about your job, expressed in key words and phrases that HR and managers will recognize.  That’s the real trick: it’s not enough to say your zeal; it also has to be in key words.

Finding your passion

The first step for any Passion Statement is to figure out what you really do love about your job. Take a moment and consider your favorite job.  Why did you like this job?  What made you excited to go to work every day? These can be specific duties, projects or responsibilities.  Maybe it was being a leader, or the people you worked with.  Maybe it was getting to use unique skills or learning new things.  Brainstorm as many different things about the job that you can.

Sample Passion Statement:

For over 12 years, I have exceeded both my personal and my professional sales goals.  I live to find the clients, discover their needs, build the relationship and close the deal.  Once committed to a project, there is nothing that can stand in the way of my success.

Let’s take a closer look at our sample Passion Statement for the experienced salesperson.

The first sentence, “for over 12 years, I have exceeded both my personal and my professional sales goals.”  We always start with the years of experience because that is one of HR’s major screening criteria.  Next is the core screening criteria; in sales, reaching and exceeding goals is what all hiring managers want.

Sentence two: “I live to find the clients, discover their needs, build the relationship and close the deal.”  Each one of these steps came straight from the Key Element Detector™.  But even more important than that, these are the aspects of the job that this candidate loved the most.  When speaking with her in an interview, the passion comes out naturally.  Including it in her Passion Statement lets managers know she understands exactly what is important about this job.

Final sentence: “once committed to a project, there is nothing that can stand in the way of my success.”  The closing sentence is all about a key personality trait.  Personality matters on resumes, not just facts.  By demonstrating a relevant personality feature, it ties together all of the elements in the Passion Statement.

Using Passion Statements beyond the resume

A well-crafted Passion Statement can be used anywhere.  It can be the basis of your networking introduction.  You can use it in your LinkedIn profile or other social media platforms.  You can even use pieces of it in your cover letters.

Passion Statements are the one piece of your resume that is all about you – and that makes it a valuable tool throughout your job search process.

Did you enjoy this article? Please join my newsletter to receive all the latest news, views, and job searching tips: http://eepurl.com/bgVrJr.

 

Want a see how your cover letter and LinkedIn profile stack up to the competition? Visit my website to schedule a free consultation:  https://personaltouchcareerservices.com/contact