Thinking about Holiday Cards

Hand written holiday cards help job seekersToday I started compiling my list of Holiday Card recipients – seems really early, doesn’t it?  But not from a business perspective.  Just a preliminary look identified a list of 100+ business contacts, clients, and professional friends.

Businesses have known for a long time that Holiday Cards are a form of marketing – a way of saying “thanks” to all of their contacts in addition to being a festive tradition. It is a way to stay on the customers’ minds during the holidays, keeping the business name familiar in anticipation of January business.

For job seekers, the Holiday Card can serve the same purpose.

So who among your contacts should be getting a Holiday Card?

  • Friends and Family (of course!)
  • Your staffing / placement agencies – both the owners and the recruiters
  • Your contacts at your top target employers
  • Mentors, helpers and cheerleaders
  • Fellow job seekers in your industry
  • Key members at your professional associations
  • Teachers or fellow students from current or recent education (including workshops)

In addition to sending the card, include a little piece that you are still available.  Don’t turn it into one of the pages-long annual summary that some families send – just make a quick note, along with highlights of your top attributes.

Worried about cost?  There is nothing wrong with getting the bargain cards at Walgreens or other retail shops.  Besides, the hand-written signature looks more personal than the printed corporate Holiday Cards.

A moment for gratitude

balance in all things

Take a moment to balance your spirit with gratitude

Often times when we’re in a job search, it is easy to forget to be grateful.  After all, being stuck in your house, staring at that accusing computer screen is not a pleasant place to be.

Just for today, take one moment to be grateful for something.  It can be large – like a supportive family – or something small – like enjoying a favorite dinner at home.  Whatever it is, hold it in your mind for a moment.  Let your feelings enjoy every bit of it.  Explore why this is special to you.  Savor the experience while you breathe deep, eyes closed, and just live it for a moment.

Now open your eyes.  Don’t you feel better?  Try starting everyday with a moment of gratitude.  You’ll be amazed how this one positive act can breed positive energy for the rest of your day.

Some people just don’t get it…

nanny and child

One thing’s for sure: many corporate job search consultants don’t understand private service.

I was meeting with a client the other day, and I couldn’t believe the nasty resume review she got from someone else.  You see, she is a professional nanny with 16 years of experience in this demanding industry.  She just started looking for a job and decided to try one of the employment networking groups in the area.  However, like many of these groups, it was comprised mainly of corporate job seekers.

The leader of the group agreed to look at her resume.  With a strong HR background, this gentleman has been doing resume reviews for quite some time.  Unfortunately, he has zero experience with the private service industry.

Rather than giving constructive criticism, he attacked her career choice – “A nanny?  That can’t be a real job.  I’ve always thought that nannies are less-than-intelligent and only do this job because they can’t get a real job.”

Shocked, my nanny friend replied: “well, you just tore down everything your wife did for your family.”

Since he didn’t have a response for that, he attacked her resume – in his opinion, putting details about her personality, outlook on life and passion for child care didn’t belong on a professional resume.  He thought that no one would care about that, and it was unprofessional to include such details.

Fortunately, rather than following the advice from someone who had no idea of the private service industry, she came to me for a second opinion.

It is very true that the domestic staffing world is very different from the corporate environment.  It is crucial to let employers know what you love about your job.  All of your skills are relevant, not just what a corporate environment would consider important.  Above all, families and private employers want to get a sense for who you are as a person before they even call for the interview.

If you are considering using a resume service, be sure to get one that understands your passion for supporting others, especially in private service.

5 Steps to make the most of November’s hiring scene

glass chess set

It’s no secret – after Thanksgiving, the hiring world gets pretty quiet.  But until then, you still need to work your job search hard.  Here’s some keys to keep your job search moving.


1. Check out jobs on LinkedIn

Have you done any searching through the LinkedIn Jobs yet?  If so, are you only looking at the jobs posted on the paid portion of the website?

Most Groups have a Jobs section, and within that, recruiters can post their jobs for free – under the “Jobs Discussion” heading.  Even if you don’t find a job you like there, you can see the profile of who posted the job.  There’s nothing stopping you from connecting with those recruiters to get on their list of potential candidates for the next job they post.


2. Review your resume

You should look at your resume every 4 to 6 months just to make sure that it is conveying the right message.  Perhaps the language can use some sprucing up, or the format could be more polished.  At the very least, reading it again will remind you of what is on it – very helpful for when you are writing your next cover letter.


3. Review your Social Media settings and profiles

While we’re at it, when was the last time you gave your profile a good look?  If your Summary reads something like “Results-oriented professional with 10 years experience of increasing efficiency in team environments,” it is time for something new.

Your profile – and especially your summary – need to be personable and written in a friendly tone.  We connect with humans in social media, not resumes.  Keep yours focused on that fact, while still showing off your best talents and attributes.

While you’re at it, make sure that any social media profile that is just for personal use has the right privacy settings on it.  Sure, beer pong on Halloween while dressed as a Playboy bunny might have been fun, but you don’t want a recruiter to find that profile by accident.  Especially if you’re a guy…


4. Review your voice mail greeting

When was the last time you listened to what you say on your voice mail?  Recruiters have been known to bail on leaving messages that are less-than-professional.


5. Pick and research target companies

Picking a target employer is crucial at any time, but right now is when you want to pull out all the stops and create a comprehensive list.  Who would you like to work for?  Don’t worry if they are hiring right now or not, this list will turn into possible employers for a “hidden job market” employment search.  Create a long list – just brainstorm freely.  Even include the silly ones that come to mind.

Next, rank them in order of importance.  Which ones top the list?  The ones that you desire the most should be the ones to research first.  Set a goal to research at least 5 potential employers every week.  Learn as much as you can, not just where the “careers” page is, or what agencies they use.  Think about current news, product lines, key executives or names for private employers.

As time progresses, keep working on the companies on your list.  Every week you should be learning something new, exploring a new potential employer and eliminating the undesirables off the list.  Getting rid of the bad choice is just as important as finding the lead.

If you’ve done a good job of creating a comprehensive list, this will keep your job search rolling through the long weeks of December when job postings are scarce – and give you a jump when things do appear.

6 Scary facts about the modern job search

Mean pumpkinHalloween is a great time for scares, but for many, the job search is the real horror.  Here’s some ghouls to keep in mind while you look for a new job…

1.  Those dang HR witches

In almost every company, the lowest level HR people do the majority of the screening – or worse, they rely on computer screening programs to eliminate up to 50% of the candidates. Because of this, if you aren’t using the right key words, your resume will not make it far enough in the process to reach a decision-maker.

2. Every HR department uses simple tricks – not treats –  to cut candidates

Ever wonder why a company would use a complex set of instructions to just apply to the job?  They are using those instructions to screen people out.  If you can’t follow the written instructions, they deem that you are not worthy of an interview.  Unfortunately, this tactic often cuts qualified candidates – pay attention to the rules in any job posting to survive this cut.

3. Competition is vicious – just like a zombie hoard

It’s no secret that unemployment is high.  To give you perspective, your competition for any job out there is around 300-500 for any posted job.  Yipes!  Trying to break away from the hoard can be tough… and all the more reason why you want to get your resume to the hiring manager, not just the HR department.  They are getting overrun from people trying to pick their braaaiiinnnssss…

4. Ghosts of your past can haunt future chances

If you have been laid off or fired in the past, be prepared to answer these questions in the interview. It doesn’t mean that it is impossible to get another job – it means that you must reconcile your own personal feelings about the event in order to talk about it in a constructive manner.  Let those emotions of bitterness, resentment, sorrow and shock “walk into the light.”

5. Employment websites are a “Monster”

While CareerBuilder does have more jobs posted in general, any of the major employment websites are not the be-all, end-all for job leads.  In fact, this is where the competition is fiercest.  Consider looking in creative places for job postings.  For example, in most LinkedIn Groups, there is a tab for “Jobs.”  Look for the “Job Discussions” not just the posted jobs – this is where recruiters are posting their jobs for free!  Not only that, but because you are reaching them through a new media, they are more likely to take a closer look at your resume – after all, they are trying to judge the effectiveness of posting jobs this way.

6. Don’t suck your network dry

Like a vampire latching on to the neck of its victim, you can ask too much from your network.  Networking is important, but you must build a relationship before asking for favors.  One common scenario is making a connection with someone on LinkedIn, just to ask them to forward your resume to a hiring manager.  No new acquaintance is going to do this!  Instead, ask them about their job and their opinions about the company.

Another draining activity is spamming your network with too many messages.  It’s ok to send a reminder every month that you are still looking; it is not acceptable to send a message every 3-5 days.  I recently dropped a connection and marked all of her messages as “spam” for exactly this reason.  Don’t be spam – build genuine relationships, be helpful to others, share meaningful information and be a friend before asking favors.

How to stop those so-called “job offers” that nobody wants

warning against spam job offersAre you sick of getting spammed with “job offers” from insurance companies, sales opportunities and other crummy jobs?  Wondering just how do these companies get your information anyway?  There is an easy way to stop the flood… and protect your identity at the same time.

Almost everyone who has a resume posted on a major employment website such as Monster or CareerBuilder has received emails about jobs they don’t want.  These opportunities range from commission-only sales jobs to management training programs, usually in fields unrelated to the job seekers desired positions.

Stopping these solicitations is quite easy.  No matter what employment website a candidate uses, there is the option to post a resume one of three ways: Public, Confidential or Private.  The difference is how recruiters can find and use the posted information.

How they got your information

Recruiters can pay the website to search through the candidate data base to find possible employees.  This practice is commonly known as data mining.  The more money they spend, the larger the pool of candidates they can pull.  The problem is that searching the data base is more expensive than simply posting a job ad.  As such, most companies will not use the data mining to find their candidates; it is more cost effective for them to run a single ad and then evaluate the candidates who do apply.

Most of the companies that rely on data mining to find candidates tend to be high turnover positions, such as commission-only sales.  This is not to say that all active recruiters are trying to fill undesirable positions.  Industries with a large need, such as nursing, often use this technique as well.

So how does one avoid being swept up in a data mining effort?

Stopping the flood

Change the setting on the posted resume to Private.  A private resume cannot be searched by outside recruiters.  The only way for an employer to see a private resume is when the candidate actively applies to their job.

Don’t confuse a Private posting with a Confidential setting.  If posted Confidential, the resume is still available to data mining.  Only the applicant’s name, contact information and current employer are hidden. Recruiters can still contact the applicant by email through the job search website.

If the resume is posted Public, all of the candidate’s information is visible, including the contact information, profile, skills and work history.  But again, only recruiters who pay to search the data base will find this information.

When posting a resume, candidates should always look for the option to post Private, Confidential or Private.  The option is not always easy to find, but well worth it.  Plus, the setting can easily be changed.  Look for the “Resumes” section within a personal account, and the privacy settings can be changed with a few quick mouse clicks.

Does premium listing work?

Don’t bother paying for “front of the line” option either – this works only for recruiters who are conducting data mining searches.  If you choose this option, you just paid money to be the top of the spam list.

Video: Cover letters that crack the hidden job market

How to crack the hidden job market

The much-rumored hidden job market actually does exist – it is any job that is not explicitly advertised.  To get traction for this kind of job lead, you need a lot of research and a strong cover letter.

Video recorded on Sept. 14, 2011 at the Brown Bag Job Search Group.  For more information on this free networking group in the Denver area, please visit
Interested in more cover letter tips?  Check out our book, “Get a Job Without Going Crazy.”

Don’t be spam: how to get the hiring manager to actually read your email

Don't be spam with your resumeIn the immortal words of Monty Python, “Spam! Wonderful spam! Spam! Wonderful spam! Spam, spam, spam, spam…”

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what many job seekers emails to key decision makers looks like. The world is flooded with spam, to the point that legitimate emails – like yours – are getting caught in trash folders or screened out entirely.

So how does one make sure that his important resume doesn’t end up in the spam pile?

Use an Engaging Subject Line

No manager is going to open an email with a subject line of “My Resume.” This is a huge flag, and it is more likely to get forwarded to HR or just deleted without being opened. Instead, use an engaging subject line, customized to your specific target.

A couple of things that managers care about are themselves and their company.  If you’re paying attention to current news through such local sources as the Denver Business Journal, ask them something about the recent events. Another source is their LinkedIn profile.  Ask them something about their career or their company.

Correct: Your recent merger; Question about your LinkedIn profile;

Avoid like the plague: My resume; Letter of Introduction; Job opening at XYZ Company


It’s all About the Name

When sending an email to a manager of one of your target companies, make sure you use their correct name.  This is in addition to the correct email address.  If you start off the body of the email personally addressed to them, it is more likely that they will open the attached resume:

Correct: Dear Mr. Smith: or Dear Bob:

Avoid like the plague: Dear Sir, To Whom It May Concern, no greeting at all


Send to Only One Person at a Time

Spam filters look for mass emails, even the ones where the other email addresses are in the “BCC” (blind carbon copy) fields.  If you go out and get a list of 100 CEO’s email addresses and blast a generic email out to all of them, all you are doing is creating spam.

To be effective, send your email to only one specific person at a time. For each of your target companies, it is likely that you will send your resume to all of the top managers.  However, each and every one of those emails needs to be personalized in order to gain any attention.


Follow up on the Phone

I know it sounds scary, but job searching rewards the bold.  Wait a few hours after sending your email, and then call the manager to see if she got it.  You may not actually get to speak to your target, but leaving a professional voice mail can encourage them to check their inbox – and trash – for your email.

Answers to 5 Common Frustrations with HR

Frustrated with your job search?

HR can be frustrating to even the most patient job seeker

Looking for a job is not easy, and unchecked frustrations only add to the anxiety levels.  By now, you have already developed some of your own pet peeves about the hiring process.  Do any of these sound familiar?


  1. Why won’t they send a rejection letter?  I just want to know either way…

It’s cheap to be rude.  HR is swamped with hundreds of resumes.  Rejection letters are the very bottom of their priority list.  Even an automated reply requires updating the data base.  To help get around this time-consuming tasks, many companies now use an automated response when you apply to the job, which includes statements like “We will contact you if your skills and experience is appropriate for the position.” If you don’t hear back from a company within 4-6 weeks, it’s safe to assume you didn’t make the cut.


  1. If a job closes in two weeks, why do they leave the ad on an employment site for two months?

There could be two reasons for this.  First, HR departments get so busy moving forward with the screening process that they forget to take the job down.

Second, they want to keep the field open.  If the top candidates fall through, it costs money to re-list the job opening.  However, keeping the same posting up costs no extra cash.


  1. I interviewed but didn’t get the job.  When I asked for feedback as to why, I only got vague and generalized answers.  Why?

Legal reasons.  No company will open this can of worms. Hiring decisions are confidential to thwart any possible appearance that discrimination occur – note that is the appearance, not the actual presence of discrimintation.  In our lawsuit happy society, it is HR’s duty to protect the company from any real or imagined threat.

If you are working with an outside recruiter, you might get better feedback; however, even this answer will be guarded.  This is another reason why it is helpful to work with a job search counselor to gain professional advice and critiques.


  1. How can I research blind ads to get directly to the hiring manager?

First of all, a blind ad is any job posting that does not list the company name or any direct contact information.  This is very frustrating to job seekers who want to research the company before submitting a resume.
HR departments run blind ads specifically to block job seekers from knowing who they are, or who the hiring managers may be.  However, if you are in touch with your industry and staying on top of the business news, you might be able to make an educated guess.
If you can’t deduce the company, submit your best cover letter and resume for the situation.  While you can’t discuss their specific business, use some tricks from this book to stand out from the crowd.


  1. I got strong feedback from the interviewers that I had the job, but the company decided to not hire anyone.  Why go through the motions?

Their priorities changed, which probably had nothing to do with you.  However, if you can convince the potential employer that you will either save the company money or make money (or both), the hiring manager or HR person is more likely to champion your cause.

7 Critical Indicators to Evaluate Your Job Search

Feedback is very minimal in job hunting.  How can you tell if your tactics are effective?  Professional recruiters know the indicators regarding a search and use them to gauge the effectiveness of their own strategies.  To see how your efforts compare, look at these common factors:

1. How long does a job search take?

  • For every $10,000 of salary, add one month to your search.

A $40,000 job takes 4 months to land, but a six-figure salary can take up to 10 months.  Maximum for most top executives hovers around one year.  However, learning more about the hiring process can significantly minimize this time.  Taking a job search class or using a consultant can add new tools to your arsenal.

 2. How many resumes do I have to send before I get an interview?

  • 10 to 20 if you carefully research most of the jobs.
  • 20 to 50 in a cool market.
  • 100+ if you are not doing any research.

If you have sent over 30 resumes without a single phone interview, you need to re-evaluate your resume and/or your tactics.  This is the best way to tell if your resume is effective or not, since HR departments will not give you any response if you ask for feedback on why you weren’t selected for a job.

3. How long does it take to get a response about a job?

  • Most job postings are open for 1 to 2 weeks.  It takes another 1-2 weeks for HR to make their recommendations.  Phone interviews are scheduled 3-4 weeks after a job posts.
  • Highly technical, executive level or niche market openings have a longer hiring cycle.  Expect phone interviews within 45-60 days.
  • Government jobs may take up to 3 months to schedule interviews.

Since HR departments can have a long screening process, it is essential to send a resume directly to the hiring manager as well as following HR’s procedures.

4. How many jobs should I apply to each week?

  • 5 – 10 if you research every position.
  • 10-30 if you send out stock cover letters/ resumes or applying to blind ads through an employment website.

It is better to apply to a few, well-researched positions than to rely on submitting to several blind ads you saw posted on the major employment sites.  However, you do not want to overlook any opportunity.

 5. How much money should I spend on my job search?

  • 1% to 3% of your target salary.

I frequently hear people say that they cannot afford to spend anything on their job search.  However, just like anything, you need to invest in your job search to see a return.

Expenses can include professional resume services, books, classes, professional pictures, clothing, employment website fees, parking and so on.  Depending on your industry and experience level, expect to pay between $200 to $700 for a professionally written resume.

However, be wary of “retained search” recruiters who ask for a large fee from you – I’ve seen fees as much as $5,000.  You do not have to pay a recruiter a placement fee, which ranges between 10-30% of your annual salary.  Employers should pay placement fees.

 6. How much time does it take to write a good resume?

  • A professional can create a comprehensive resume in 4-5 hours.
  • If you are writing your own resume, wait a day before sending it out.  Use this time to get other people to review it.
  • Online and interactive resumes will take longer, depending on the additional elements added.
  • A targeted cover letter can take up to an hour or more to draft.

Slamming a resume out quickly just to get it done will not be effective.  Take the time to research the universal criteria for your desired job, not just what you think is important.  Same with cover letters: consider the employers’ needs, and write about how you can answer it.

7. How many hours a week should I spend on my job search?

  • 20-40  hours a week.

Once your tools are in place – online profiles built, resumes written, cover letters drafted – devote more time to networking and research.  The majority of your job search should focus on social media, finding contact information, reaching out to hiring managers and researching your desired industry.  More than ever, employers want someone who understands their needs – do your research to find out those needs.

 Final Words

Job searching is a tough business.  Accept the fact that it will take some time, effort, patience and money.  While the silence may be maddening, keep track of the amount of resumes you send and compare it with your results.  You may uncover problems with your tactics.  In sales, it is well known that only 5-10% of your initial contacts will lead to an opportunity.  Keep in mind that every “no” gets you closer to the “yes.”

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