The LinkedIn Cardinal Sins: Pride

In the first article of this series, we explored how Sloth and its children of laziness and procrastination can damn your LinkedIn efforts. However, while the effects of half measures are obvious, Pride can be a confusing “sin” on LinkedIn. After all, aren’t we here to promote ourselves?

Unfortunately, that underlying attitude is the exact PROBLEM with LinkedIn. Regardless of your agenda on LinkedIn – to generate business or find a job – being overly self-absorbed will be a detriment to your efforts. And that is the essence of Pride as a LinkedIn cardinal sin.

Sin of Pride – Preoccupation with Self and Excessive Belief in One’s Abilities

The sin of pride is a preoccupation with self. But how can we tell if we are preoccupied with self? It comes down to motives. It doesn’t take very long to see when someone is trying to use you on LinkedIn. Chances are, you’ve seen it yourself: you accept an invitation to connect from someone you don’t really know, only to be hit up with a request to take his resume to your boss. Obviously, the person didn’t care about you at all, only his own motives of getting a job.

The other half of this sin is the excessive belief in one’s abilities. Obviously, some people like to pack their profile. But if the skills, achievements, or even jobs aren’t in line with reality (or your resume), this leads to a quick and nasty fall.

Let’s look at the ways that Pride can poison our genuine networking efforts:

1.       Is your Profile self-absorbed?

This is the hardest test on LinkedIn. After all, we DO want to promote our best qualities, skills, achievements, and experience. However, the problem lies in WHO are you writing FOR. In other words, all of your great qualities need to relate to your purpose on LinkedIn.

I tell my clients all the time that their resumes are not actually about them; they are all about the EMPLOYERS and their needs. LinkedIn Profiles are the same. Think of what kind of problems you solve for your intended audience (clients or employers) and then write your Profile from their perspective. Do these awards or achievements help them understand how you can assist them? Does your experience reflect facts that are relevant?

2.       Are your achievements, skills, and experience honest?

More and more companies are accepting LinkedIn as the avenue to apply for a job. As such, ALL of your Profile must be an accurate portrayal of your abilities. After all, more companies are also doing skills and personality testing prior to hire, and if you don’t meet the expectations of that boastful Profile, it will not go well for you.

3.       Are you willing to listen to other people’s point of view?

One of the reasons why I join Groups on LinkedIn is to not only share my knowledge but to gain input from others. In fact, some of the Groups I enjoy the most are ones related to my own profession, where I read articles and discussions to continue my own professional development. I may have interesting ideas, but they aren’t the only ones out there.

When I get involved in any conversation online, I like to read the points being made before passing judgment. Sometimes I don’t agree with the stance that other resume writers take, and I will point out my reasons in the discussion. However, I don’t just beat people into submission with all my grand “over 10 years of experience in leading job seekers to fabulous jobs!” That’s a very prideful statement and doesn’t lead to intelligent discourse.

4.       Are you only doing self-promotion?

In social media, most people are turned off by the intense sales pitch of yesteryear. One of my personal pet peeves are the “articles” that are thinly veiled heavy-handed advertisements. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with telling people what you sell. It’s the tone and messaging that needs to be adjusted for social selling over advertising.

Personally, I prefer a program of attraction over blatant promotion. My own strategy is to share quality content instead of pushing my agenda. I’d rather build a relationship with a new contact and then see how I can help her. Even when posting articles, I keep to the strategy of quality content that offers real insight. This ensures that my content won’t get shuffled off to spam because of archaic marketing techniques.

Overcoming Pride:

First and foremost, keeping your intended purpose and audience on LinkedIn will help break the self-absorption cycle. Two other key factors can help as well-

a.       What do others say about you?

While tooting your own horn is great, gathering Recommendations is a solid way to prove those achievements and traits. These aren’t the simple “clicks” on your skills, but actual written recommendations from your Connections. Let them state the glowing praise for a more genuine display of how great you are.

use LinkedIn recommendations to prove your worth

b.       Do you have something to offer others?

One possible way to overcome pride is through service. When I approach people with the attitude of “what can I do to help you?” I get better results. As a job seeker, this is solving problems for the potential employer. For a businessperson seeking sales, this is the solutions their service or product offers. Even if neither of these fit your situation, sharing quality content within your Groups that is within the Group’s area of interest will naturally build your reputation.

What do you have to give?

The LinkedIn Cardinal Sins: Sloth

Chances are, you probably have heard of the Seven Deadly Sins: indulging in too much Sloth, Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Wrath, or Gluttony is supposedly a sure-fire, one-way ticket to the Abyss. However, now we have a whole new horde of cardinal sins that can send your social media networking efforts straight to Hell: The LinkedIn Cardinal Sins. Worse, there are far more than just seven that people are perpetrating every day, from minor offenses of laziness to major mistakes that can actually get you banned.

Over the next few articles, I will dive into some of these pitfalls that are tripping up LinkedIn users every day. Let’s start with one of my favorites: Sloth.

Sloth does not refer to the slow-moving cute animal with a permanent grin. Instead, sloth is just basic laziness or dialing it in when we need to be stepping up our game. Look out for:

  1. Clicking on buttons without thinking about itsloth-likes-instead-of-message

From Endorsing people’s Skills to hitting the “Like” button on someone’s status update, LinkedIn tries to make it simple and easy to operate their website. It constantly suggests clicks for articles, Group discussions, Skills, or birthdays and work anniversaries. However, if you aren’t thinking about what you are doing, it’s not a strategic use of the site. Basically, mouse clicks are never as valuable as actual words. If you want people to remember you, you need to have written responses, whether in a message to a person or in a reply to a Group discussion.

2. Not writing custom invitations to potential connections

sloth-connect-lazyProbably the worst example of clicking on the mouse without thought is when you invite someone to connect with you, or the dreaded big blue “Connect” button. 95-99% of the invitations I receive on LinkedIn are the standard, boring generic greeting: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” If you want people to connect with you, you need to tell them why.
It does take a little extra effort, but here’s the secret: don’t click the “Connect” button unless you are looking at the person’s profile. This takes you to a separate screen where you can change that greeting. If you aren’t sure about what to say, mention a Group or connection that you share in common. sloth-connect-goodCommenting on a recent article or post they did also helps break the ice.

 

3. Not completing your profile

This is easily the worst example of sloth for LinkedIn. Your profile is your window to the world, where you build your reputation, try to attract recruiters, and give employers insight that goes beyond the simple resume. If the profile is incomplete, you are missing out on the opportunity to sell yourself to future recruiters and hiring managers.

Up to 90% of recruiters and HR departments use LinkedIn, either to source candidates directly or to compare their profile with the resume before contacting the applicant for an interview (source: LinkedIn, 2016). Ever had a recruiter or target company look at you and then NOT contact you further? Something didn’t align between the resume and profile, so they moved on to someone else.

Go complete your profile. Today. Before more opportunity passes you by.

4. Not customizing your headline

If you didn’t create a custom headline for your profile, the default is the title and company for your current employer. However, that is leaving valuable key word real estate wasted.

When people find you in a search, they are limited to the name, headline, location, and quick overview of the work history. A plain or “facts only” approach to the headline is not going to entice more views. Instead, use descriptive, key word rich branding statements. For example, an original headline may read:

Director of Sales for ABC Medical

A branded headline would be:

Director of Sales | VP of Sales | Helping physicians improve patient outcomes with innovative medical devices

Keep in mind your target audience to guide what message you want to convey.

5. Not putting relevant key words in your Skills section

People ask me all the time if the Skills and Endorsements are valuable. This is a mixed bag.  They do provide a neat visual representation on the profile, but most people know that they are easily obtained – it takes no thought than one of your 1st Degree Connections clicking a box to endorse you.  On the other hand, the Skills are valuable key words that LinkedIn will use in searches and recruiters utilize when candidates apply to jobs posted on LinkedIn.

Sometimes when you look at your Profile, new skills are shown at the very top of the screen, above your picture.  These are Endorsements from your connections for Skills that are not on your Profile yet.  You can choose to add these or not; they don’t automatically get added.  One thing you will see is that sometimes these Skills don’t make sense or don’t reflect what you actually did in the past.  This is the problem with these quick-add Skills.  Your connections mean well, but LinkedIn showed them these options by random, which can in some cases include skills typical for your profession.  For example, I have never done Conflict Resolution.  But this is a common skill for HR professionals, which is a match for one of my past jobs. LinkedIn is trying to do me a “favor” by suggesting that skill to my connections, even though it doesn’t relate to my current work history.

Don’t blindly accept new Skills – only choose key words that are relevant for your target job, not just the jobs you did in the past.

6. Not joining Groups

To make an impact on LinkedIn, you must get involved in the Groups.  Groups are formed by individual LinkedIn members and can be based on almost any premise.  There are professional groups, associations, location-based, special interest, college alumni, and even fans of major sports teams. The whole point is for people to get together around a common theme and share their experience, thoughts, articles and blogs as online discussions. Plus, when you are connected through a Group, you usually can send a direct message to fellow group members, even if you just have a free account.

No matter what your networking goals or comfort level, you should always join at least two types of Groups:

  1. Large, local Groups
  2. Groups specific to your industry

You may choose others, based on your interests:

  1. Job hunting Groups
  2. Association Groups
  3. Technical user Groups for Drupal, WordPress, Oracle, etc.
  4. Special interest, such as a non-profit, cause, or political Group
  5. Just-for-fun: sports teams’ fans, Dr. Who (there are 40 Star Wars fan groups, by the way…)

In large, local Groups, you may not even be involved in the Discussions or daily activity.  However, you want to join these Groups to have an instant connection with the thousands of current Group members.  You specifically want local Groups to build a network that could translate into face-to-face meetings, which are more valuable than just a social networking presence.

For the Groups within your industry, these are valuable for a number of reasons.  This is where you want to connect with others to expand your own knowledge or expertise.  I like to read the incoming articles and posts to make sure that I am staying on top of the latest techniques, trends and technology for my niche.

Ending Sloth

Once the work of perfecting the profile and getting involved in Groups is completed, it is possible to streamline your activity on LinkedIn. It’s not necessary to spend 10-20 hours on LinkedIn to achieve great results. Many of the tasks are automated through email or app messages – just make it a habit to read those messages, pop into the site and take care of business.

 

 

7 Brand new mistakes that job seekers are making

With the latest revolutions of modern recruitment, many job seekers are making a brand new set of mistakes. Most savvy job hunters are familiar with the age-old traps, such as making sure to use the right key words for their resume or avoiding grammar or spelling errors on the resume. However, many of the new mistakes are so insidious, you may never realize that you did them.

Are you making these fatal errors?

  1. Not sending a resume

Okay, this probably sounds crazy. How can you apply to a job without sending a resume? This is, in fact, more common than you may believe. In particular, the biggest offender is the “Apply with LinkedIn” button that appears not only on LinkedIn, but other sites like Indeed.com as well.

The LinkedIn Challenge:

If you are applying through LinkedIn on their website, you must take the initiative to attached your resume. However, it only allows you to attach one document. If you want to include a cover letter, you need to paste it as another page in the Word document resume, save it as a new file on your computer, and then attach it.

 

Applying directly through LinkedIn

The Indeed Challenge:

If you upload your resume to Indeed.com, it will automatically convert that pretty Word or PDF document into their own version, referred to as your “Indeed Resume.” It will only use your actual resume to populate its own fields, rather than saving the original document with its own formatting. When you apply to a job on the Indeed site, be aware that this is happening when it says “your full Indeed Resume will be submitted.”

Applying through Indeed

  1. “Optional” does not mean optional

Similar to not sending a resume, anytime that the application process lets you do an “optional” feature, you should do it. Most often, this is attaching a cover letter, however, on LinkedIn, this is actually attaching the resume itself.

If all you do is the bare minimum, you are selling yourself short. HR tends to look more favorably on people who submit a full application, which includes the optional information. When they are considering hundreds of candidates, it’s very easy to cut those who don’t put forth more effort.

  1. Not completing the application

This is sneakier than it sounds. Of course, HR used to consider an incomplete application as a one-way trip to the circular file (that’s the trash for you younger readers.)  Sites like Indeed, CareerBuilder, and Monster often give you the impression that you completed all of the requirements, however, be sure to visit the company’s actual page to #1) verify the job is real and #2) make sure they didn’t have an additional requirement for applying.

  1. Traps of app-based job searching

Apps are great, right? It allows us to get so much more done on our mobile devices. Unfortunately, it also opens a brand new world of mistakes. Most commonly, these are:

  1. Spelling errors on the “quick fields” during the application process
  2. Incorrect punctuation, especially on capitalization
  3. Forgetting to attach files, such as the resume and cover letter
  4. Not customizing the cover letter to the company

It reminds me of a discussion in one of my LinkedIn Groups from a few years ago. A lady posted a new discussion, asking for some feedback on possible reasons why she couldn’t break into an Executive Assistant job after being and Administrative Assistant for years. Within her posting, there were several spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and incorrect capitalizations. This continued through her public responses as well as the original question. I contacted her privately and let her know that she should pay closer attention to these details, especially in a public forum. To which she replied, “well, it’s because I’m typing fast.” Moral of the story: Executive Assistants need to be fast and accurate!

Which brings us to…

  1. Irresponsible social media activity

Everything can be found. Everything. I’m not talking about the drunken Facebook pictures or even political rants on Snapchat. The new traps relate to how you treat your past company. Complaining about your boss, ripping on a negative culture, leaving a bad review- all of this can be traced back to you, if someone really wanted it.

And of course, make sure your writing is of high quality, using proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation, especially on professional sites like LinkedIn.

  1. Not researching the company

Previously, researching a company was as simple as reading their website and tailoring your resume to fit their needs, or at the very least, addressing their services or products. Today, there is WAAAAAAY more information available to the job seeker. Even if this intel is not used during the application process, it is very helpful to search them on Google, Glassdoor.com, and other review sites. Many businesses even appear on Yelp – just a search of “Company Name + Reputation” or “+ Reviews” will give real insight.

In a world where company culture is more important than ever, there is no excuse in at least trying to find out the good, the bad, and the ugly on any potential employer.

  1. Not reaching out to current or past employees and managers

Just like we can find out a lot about companies themselves, show some initiative to reach out to not only the managers, but employees as well. Remember, HR has been known to cut qualified applicants based on faulty applications, poor key word selection, and just plain old poor formatting. By networking into the company, you increase your chances of actually landing an interview.

job search strategies

6 Job searching tips to prepare for back to school – uh, work!

The summer is starting to wind down, and stores everywhere are filling up with school supplies. Interestingly enough, August also heralds the return of the year’s second hiring season. Take these 6 simple steps to make the most of the pending autumn hiring surge.

1. Review your resume

Now is a great time to make sure that your resume is in line with your target job. Do you have key words that relate to the actual job postings? Is the format clean and easy to read? Is it free of spelling or grammar errors? Have you captured important metrics or achievements? And, most importantly, does it accurately convey your story?

2. Review your LinkedIn profile

Now more than ever, employers are looking at your LinkedIn profile. According to a recent survey by LinkedIn, up to 89% of recruiters are using the social media site to source and / or screen candidates. So what are they looking for?

 

In particular, LinkedIn should be consistent with the resume, while adding additional information, such as the personalized summary, volunteer interests, or an extensive list of relevant skills.

3. Get involved in LinkedIn Groups

It’s not enough to have a pretty profile on LinkedIn. You need to be involved in your top Groups, especially the ones that relate to your industry. Share content, comment on discussions, and reach out to fellow Group members to build your reputation. Plus, LinkedIn favors people who are more active on the site. The more you contribute, the more often you will appear in searches.

4. Review your profiles on Indeed, CareerBuilder, and other job searching sites

Did you know that when you apply through these sites, employers usually receive your profile or summary in addition to your resume? Check your account and make sure you aren’t sending out old information, such as previous salary requirements.

5. Plan some strategic networking

Many professional associations, alumni groups, and other networking groups don’t plan regular meetings during the summer months. Check their schedules to make sure you are getting face-to-face with people who can help your job search.

6. Get in touch with your references

Speaking of getting in touch with people, when was the last time you spoke to your references? Give them a quick call not only to make sure they are still willing to speak on your behalf, but also to point out that you are currently looking for a job. This can actually turn into viable job leads.

businessman scared of networking

7 Networking tips for introverts

You have probably heard the statistics – many sources such as LinkedIn, Forbes, and the Harvard Business Review claim that 60 – 80% of jobs are found or secured through some form of networking (sources: Career Playbook, http://www.careerplaybook.com/guide/networking.asp). For people who are shy or naturally more introverted, this sounds like the kiss of death. However, it doesn’t need to be.

 

1.       Realize what networking is and is not

 

First of all, most job search experts and formal studies indicate that “some form of networking” is beneficial for the job search. This is encouraging because it includes one-on-one contacts, social media, tapping existing connections, and reaching out to past employers and co-workers. Networking is more than just reaching out to strangers and pressuring them to do favors for you, such as walking your resume down to the hiring manager. In fact, that rarely works.

 

Networking is far more expansive than most people realize. Even Aunt Martha telling you about a job opening she heard about from a friend at church is technically finding a job through networking. So don’t be intimidated by the 80% or more figure. It’s a lot easier to reach that many contacts then you think.

2.       Find the networking channels that work for you

 

Not all networking channels or strategies are going to be effective, especially if the entire idea of one technique strikes fear in your heart. A classic example of this are large networking groups.

 

While I’m not an introvert, I personally hate large networking groups. When I started my business, I dreaded going to large business after-hours events, but felt obligated to do it as I heard it was a “good idea.” What I found was a room filled with 300 people, all just shuffling business cards at each other. Of course, I never gained any valuable connections through this method, primarily because I never felt comfortable in the environment. I found myself constantly checking my watch to determine how soon I could leave.

 

For your own networking strategies, think about what you are most likely to do on a regular basis. Is it messaging your existing contacts? Is it attending classes? How about researching key managers at target companies and approaching them through email? Don’t forget about getting involved in Groups on LinkedIn. Write down at least 3-4 different tactics that you are most likely to actually do and then incorporate them into your weekly job search activities.

3.       Check out small groups for different interests

 

If the cattle call environment doesn’t work for you, focus on small networking groups. www.Meetup.com  is a great source for finding places where people are meeting face-to-face. Even better, these don’t have to be specifically related to job searching. Common interests, hobbies, and fun activities can be a great way to get used to meeting new people in a low-pressure environment.

 

By the way, there are small, supportive groups for job seekers, such as my own in the Denver metro area: http://www.meetup.com/Brown-Bag-Job-Search-Group/  By staying under 20 people, this creates a genuine atmosphere that isn’t overwhelming to the introverted job seeker.

4.       Reach out to individuals before attending a large event

 

At times, attending a large event is extremely helpful for your job search. To ease into it, reach out to individuals that you know will be there and make a plan to meet them.

 

For example, one of my professional associations, the Domestic Estate Management Association (DEMA), will be having their annual conference in Arizona in August 2016. (http://demaconvention.com/  ) Drawing over 200 private service professionals from all over the country, it can be intimidating for a newcomer. However, several have already reached out to me personally, planning to grab lunch or coffee at the event. This way, they know for a fact they will have some one-on-one time with someone, not just walking into an event filled with strangers.

 

5.       Practice your personal introduction

 

By now, you’ve probably heard of the “elevator speech” – a prepared and practiced personal introduction to break the ice with someone you just met. Most people consider this a commercial or pitch to convey who you are, what you can do for someone, and what you have to offer.

 

Be sure to write out and practice your introduction before you meet with anyone. Listen for the way it sounds: is it genuine, sincere, and honest? An elevator speech that is a true reflection of who you are and not just a gimmick will be easier to remember and will make a better first impression.

 

6.       Listen more than you speak

 

This is where the introvert’s strength really works in their favor. Introverts are masters of observation, quietly taking in the details and paying attention to what’s going on.  In networking situations, this comes across as someone who listens well. In general, people like to talk about themselves, especially to someone who is paying attention. With just a few prompting questions, you can get the other person to lead the conversation and leave a great impression at the same time.

 

7.       Follow up

 

The real value in any networking tactic is following up. Whether it’s writing a personal message to a new social media contact or emailing a person after an event, following up is the key to solidify the relationship and build positive results. After all, you don’t want to go through all of the uncomfortableness of unfamiliar networking just to let your efforts fall flat.

how to negotiate a better salary

5 Ways to negotiate a better salary

For most people, one of the most intimidating aspect of landing a new job is negotiating for the salary that they really want and deserve. Many are concerned that the opportunity will disappear if they ask for more money. Others aren’t comfortable with discussing money in a forthright manner. Still others are intimidated about asking for fair market rates, especially if they were underpaid in their last position. Whatever the case, try utilizing some of these strategies to gain more of those elusive dollars in your next role…

  1. Know your worth

Even before you apply for a job, you need to do your research into what are the current market rates for your target job. Thanks to websites like Glassdoor.com and Salary.com, it is easier than ever to figure out comparable salaries, both within a specific employer and a targeted geographic area. Additional resources are the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) and state-specific employment data, such as the Colorado Labor Market Indicator Gateway (https://www.colmigateway.com). Armed with solid figures about the current state of the market is critical in gaining a fair salary.

2.  Find out their salary range before you state any numbers

The old interviewing rules stated that you never wanted to talk about salary during the interview process. However, that’s not how the game works anymore. This changed because HR now uses salary requirements as a screening factor. For example, it is now a common practice for HR to gain a candidate’s salary requirements during the phone interview. Look out – it’s a trap! Don’t ever give out your salary requirement without discovering their salary range first.

So how does find out the company’s salary range? During the phone interview or early interviews with the HR department, ask them. This can play out two different ways….

If HR asks for your requirements, state “well, I’d like to know a bit more about the job first. Can you tell me what your salary range is?” This gives you the option to either confirm that your requirements fall within that range or to walk away before wasting too much time on an undesirable position.

If HR doesn’t ask for your salary requirements, you can still ask them what their range is. As long as you are speaking in terms of range early in the process, it’s not a damning maneuver.

One unfortunate exception to these tactics is the dreaded salary requirement on the application itself, especially if it doesn’t allow you to enter a range. In that case, select a number in the middle of your acceptable salary range.

3. Avoid sending your salary history if possible

Sometimes HR wants you to send your salary history. This is another trap! If you give your salary history, you just gave away your negotiation strength.  Companies look at salary history to determine a salary offer.  HR knows that many people change jobs to increase their salary by as little as 5-7%.  If the employer knows the details of your past earnings, they may offer less based on your salary history. The only exception to the salary history rule is a professional salesperson, especially in commissioned positions.  In that case, salary history is a reflection of success.

If you are in a situation or application that won’t let you move forward without entering this information, be sure to state your salary range within your cover letter to let an employer know what your expectations are.

4.  Understand the company’s negotiation tactics

The truth is that HR and hiring managers almost always has a second offer in their back pocket. They know that a certain amount of leeway is reasonable, and even expected.  But they also know that most job seekers won’t make a counter-offer, which translates to a win for their overall budgets.

When getting a job offer, ask for that extra 5 – 15% on the salary.  Pressing for more than this can be seen as unreasonable, and those are the offers that will be pulled.  I know than nothing annoyed me more as an HR person than the salesman who suddenly counter-offered a 30% – or more – jump on the base salary.  That just wasted everyone’s time.

5.  Back up your reasoning for a higher salary with solid evidence

When you are moving into a new position, sometimes you may need to justify why you are worth all of that extra money. This could be a number of reasons, such as the current market rate. If you have added to your skills, this is another reason. Gaining a new degree, certification, or professional development courses also add to your worth. Don’t forget your progressive experience and specific projects or results that you achieved for your past employer as well.

However, one of the best reasons for asking for a higher salary is based on what you can do for the company. If you can prove during the course of the interview process that you can help them save money, make money, or solve problems, this allows them to find more dollars in their budget.

But what if they say “No?”

Even if the company doesn’t accept your counter-offer, the world didn’t end. Most reasonable employers will be forthright about not being able to increase the offer. Then you can still accept the original terms.

On the other hand, if the company completely rescinds the offer, you probably just avoided a bullet. After all, any company that will yank an offer off of the table just because you tried to negotiate tends to be a pretty negative culture that tries to take advantage of their employees.

old fashioned job search strategies

5 Old fashioned job search techniques that are still relevant today

Once upon a time, job seekers were taught a certain code of conduct. Although most modern job seekers today have abandoned these practices, the strategies are more important than ever. However, the REASONS behind the importance have changed.

  1. Submitting a cover letter

Depending on who you ask, a cover letter is either essential or a waste of time. If it’s done correctly, a cover letter can actually help win the interview.

The Old Reason: not only was this traditional, it was also considered a writing sample from the candidate. If a job seeker couldn’t draft a properly formatted and written business letter, they often did not progress in the screening process.

The New Reason: cover letters are still a writing sample, but the focus has changed into what you can actually do for the company. Since fewer candidates are bothering to send in cover letters, taking the extra effort can elevate your position in the screening stack. Plus, going to extra mile to research the company and concentrate on their specific market, challenges, or successes can do a lot to persuade a jaded audience.

  1. Bringing a copy of your resume to the interview

This used to seem like a redundant activity, because the company should have your resume from your application.

The Old Reason: providing additional resume copies printed on formal resume paper to demonstrate that you are serious about the job. Plus, it gave you a chance to review your own resume while waiting in the lobby.

The New Reason: because of app-based recruiting like Indeed.com and LinkedIn.com, companies may not be receiving your resume automatically. In fact, both of those sites want to send their default formats (Indeed sends their own online application and LinkedIn sends your profile). It actually takes an extra step to send your Word or PDF resume through either one of those websites. Those different applications won’t look anything like your resume, so bringing a physical copy to hand to the interviewer may actually be new information for them – or at least a prettier format.

Similarly, applying through the company’s website is no guarantee that they will receive your resume exactly the way it looks to you. Many employers’ applicant tracking systems (ATS) or online applications will deconstruct your resume to fit the information into their forms. When it spits out a candidate, the format may be destroyed. While this problem has improved over the past 10 years, it is still a possibility.

  1. Bringing samples of your work

With the rise of online profiles and personal websites, many job seekers have abandoned bringing samples of their work or even letters of recommendation to the interview.

The Old Reason: job seekers used to bring a “brag book” filled with their samples, awards, and recommendations to prove their effectiveness.

The New Reason: believe it or not, a hiring manager may not have had the time to fully review your online portfolio before meeting with you. It’s best to bring a few extra materials to show the manager to act as proof of your expertise. It’s not necessary to bring every single thing you’ve ever done. Even if you do have an online portfolio or additional recommendations on LinkedIn, bring physical copies of 2-3 of your best examples to highlight your expertise.

  1. Leaving a list of references

While some job seekers think that references are only necessary if requested on the application, this document can actually be a powerful branding statement.

The Old Reason: offering the hiring manager a list of your references at the end of the interview let him or her know that you were a serious candidate with a verifiable work history.

The New Reason: reference pages can offer a lot more insight than just names, phone numbers, and email addresses. First, consider the quality of your references. People are judged by their associates, so if your list includes top leaders from your past employers or within your industry, it reflects positively on you. Including a link to their LinkedIn profile can help establish the quality of your next work as well.  When formatting the actual references page, use the same style as your resume to reinforce your personal brand. Next, add extra information for each reference, such as how they know you and how long your professional relationship has lasted. Finally, leaving a professional references page shows that you are fully prepared for every step of the job search process.

  1. Send a thank you note

Only 10% of job seekers bother to send a thank you note after an interview, so this simple courtesy will automatically help you stand out from the crowd.

The Old Reason: to show interest in the position and indicate your gratitude while practicing traditional business etiquette.

The New Reason: pitch yourself for the job. A solid thank you note should include one to two reminders of high points from your interview to reiterate why you are a great candidate. Another bonus is that the notes can be staggered. Send a thank you via email immediately after the interview to express gratitude, then follow-up with a physical card as well. That way, when the hiring manager is making decisions, he or she will receive the card 2 – 3 days after your interview. It will remind them not only of your strengths but about your entire presentation as a candidate.

6 Ways to optimize your LinkedIn profile

It’s no secret. Recruiters and HR professionals are looking at your profile. Sometimes they do this just to verify that the information on your resume coincides with your LinkedIn profile, at least the basics of the work history. Sometimes they are looking for the rest of your story. Whatever the case, there is a lot you can do to enhance the quality of your online presence and drive more traffic to your profile.

  1. Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics

This is one of the key differences between your resume and your LinkedIn profile. On your resume, key words screen you in, and they only have to be used once. For example, if HR sees “Microsoft Office” in your skill set, you don’t need to repeat that term within every one of your positions in the work history to get past the screening procedures.

However, your LinkedIn profile is in fact a website. As a result, we want to repeat the high value key words and their derivatives in a natural manner. (Note that this is for high value key words – you still don’t need to repeat “Microsoft Office” 10 times.) For example, I am trying to attract job seekers who might hire me to write their resume. My summary includes terms like “effective resumes, resume writing, resumes and cover letters, and resume writer” sprinkled throughout the different paragraphs and sentences. This means that I will show up in more searches because of both the frequency and the variation of the key words.

  1. Write a descriptive, key word optimized headline

When someone searches on LinkedIn, the results won’t show your full profile – it starts with a list first, which highlights your name, headline, and work history basics. That headline is a powerful branding statement. Lead with something that entices the searcher to click on your profile.

Selfish or desperate headlines like “Seeking a new opportunity in Denver” rarely work, especially if you are trying to proactively reach out to managers through LinkedIn. In those cases, it may even drive them away. Instead, think of what you can do for others. Is it building a powerful team? How about increasing revenue? Or solving persistent problems? Whatever it is, never forget to write a value proposition that matters to your audience, be it recruiters, managers, or customers.

  1. Add supporting content

LinkedIn is a great resource to show off your work. It could be an article you wrote, a PowerPoint presentation, an introductory video, or even your full resume. In fact, you can watch a 3 minute video on how to do this from my own LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/donnashannon

Additional content can be added to your summary or work experience. Just remember that it may be publicly available, so remove your street address if you are uploading your resume.

  1. Use your Skills and Endorsements strategically

People ask me all the time if the Skills and Endorsements are valuable or not. The answer is “yes.” We know that they aren’t as valuable as Recommendations because Endorsements are only mouse clicks from your connections, usually generated somewhat randomly. The reason why they matter comes back to the SEO factor for your profile. Every single one of those Skills is a key word. You want to make sure to only keep high value key words in this area and delete anything that doesn’t fit with your target jobs.

  1. Make use of the Additional Sections

People come to your LinkedIn profile to learn more about you. This is where filling in your Causes That You Support, Volunteer Experience, Publications, Awards, and so on can really benefit you. Resumes are getting more streamlined all the time, but the extras on your LinkedIn profile can overcome this problem.

Even if you describe an award within your work history, take the extra time to fill out the optional Award section on your profile. It creates cross-links within your profile and draws more attention to the achievement.

  1. Bulk out your Interests and load up on SEO

On most resumes, it’s not appropriate to list your interests or hobbies anymore, unless they directly relate to the job. However, this is a great section to complete on LinkedIn to give the company insight into who you are and how you would fit within the corporate culture.

There is also another trick you can use in your Interests. One way to increase your SEO with lower value key words is to create a key word blast and then place it in the Interest. A key word blast is any and all variations of some of your key words. For example, here is my Interests:

“Science Fiction, Horror, Karate, hockey, baseball, Private service, domestic staff, luxury lifestyle management, employment assistance, corporate job search, recruitment, resume writer, job search advisement, consulting, writing services, interview coaching, career coach, author, teacher, professional speaker, resumes, job hunting, job search tips, career consultant, job search skills…”

The first few interests are real. When you get to “private service,” you find variations of the same term, such as “domestic staff” and “luxury lifestyle management.” These are niche markets that I serve. I want to show up in these searches, but I don’t want to give up valuable real estate in my summary with these lower value key word variations.

In conclusion, your resume may be your core document, but your LinkedIn profile gives the rest of the picture. Keep in mind that this is not a static document but its own webpage and, as such, it needs the same strategies to attract and drive traffic to it.

7 Deadly Modern Interview Questions

Throughout the history of job interviews, some have earned a reputation for being difficult questions to answer. However, many of these such as “What is your greatest weakness” or “Where do you see yourself in five years” have been so overused that most people have a canned response to them.

The latest trends in interviewing are hatching a new breed of interview questions. Instead of approaching the interview like a fencing match, companies are trying to determine a candidate’s personality as well as their abilities. With the modern emphasis on workplace culture, it’s no surprise that they need to figure out what makes these applicants tick.

How well have you prepared for these new takes on the standard questions?

  1. “What do you know about our company already?”

Considering the breadth of information available about companies and the individuals that work for them, there is no excuse in not having an answer for this. In fact, this question is a test. Have you bothered to do your research? How well do you really understand their products or services? What about the company’s history, mission statement, branding statement, or social media messaging? While it was good enough in the past to just read their website, modern interviewers expect you to really go in depth on your research.

  1. “What did you like most about your last job? How about the least?”

This question is an attempt to see how well you match the job description and company culture. For example, in a recent interview I asked this question to a potential administrative assistant. On her least favorite part of the previous job, she didn’t like being alone or having limited personal contact with others. In this role, I needed someone to man the office solo while I was out for meetings and business development activities. While a great candidate overall, this answer cost her the job because it wasn’t the right environment for her.

Consider your answer carefully. Don’t just try to give the interviewer what they want to hear. By being honest about a less desired employment condition, you could be avoiding a bad culture match down the road.

HOWEVER, look out for negativity trains. If your least part of the job was a screaming control freak boss and co-workers who threw you under the bus at every turn, don’t go off on a tangent about it. Just state that there were “communication issues with the team that made collaboration difficult.” ‘Nuff said!

  1. “What is something that you would improve about yourself?”

This is the latest version of “What is your greatest weakness?” Because of the phrasing, candidates tend to give a more honest answer because they were caught off-guard. I do believe in giving a valid answer, however, don’t choose a fatal flaw for the position. A fatal flaw is any weakness that would disqualify you for the job, like an administrative assistant who struggled with details or a sales representative who didn’t like meeting with people.

The most important thing about this answer is a strategy on how you will overcome this issue, especially if you are already taking steps to do so. For example, one of my coaching clients had a fear of public speaking. To deal with it, she joined Toastmasters.

  1. “What is your biggest pet peeve in the office?”

Any question along these lines are all about the company culture. Again, we want an honest answer but not a fatal flaw. In fact, your pet peeve can even be a positive for the job. For example, an administrative assistant who is bothered by disorganization and messy paperwork makes perfect sense.

Of course, be sure to avoid the most negative situations, even if we can all relate to it. For example, backstabbing, control freaks, rude customers, disruptive phone calls, endless boring meetings, and overbearing management may all be things that drive you crazy. But if you go into a long tirade about these negatives, it damages your own reputation.

  1. “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a conflict at work…”

This question is all about personal interactions. The employer needs to hear about a real situation to determine how well you play with others. While forming your answer, remember to keep the story straight and clear. Describe the situation, talk about the action you took and end with the clear result. Of course, it should have a happy ending, but if it doesn’t, tell the interviewer what you learned from the situation. After all, the real world can be a messy place and the person who shows that they deal with it in honest ways will earn positive marks.

  1. “Describe your worst boss…”

This is definitely dangerous territory. Most people know that you should never speak negatively about anyone in an interview. However, you can take this question to be more general than calling out a specific person.

For example, you might answer: “I’ve been pretty fortunate to work with some excellent supervisors, but I would say that I might struggle in working with someone who doesn’t communicate their expectations.”

Other possible traits to use could be shifting expectations, changing priorities, favoritism, or nepotism. After all, most people can relate to these being an issue in the workplace and can relate to those struggles.

  1. “Do you have any questions for me?”

This is a classic, but it does bear repeating. Bring intelligent questions to the interview – in fact, write them down and pull out your list when it’s your turn to ask. These questions should reflect some of the research you’ve done on the company, the interviewer, or the specific job opening. Good options include: “what’s your greatest challenge right now? If I were hired, what is the first problem or responsibility you would want me to master? What is your management style? What are the next steps in the interview process?”

In conclusion, modern interviewing is definitely becoming more challenging. Interviewers are better trained and the stakes are higher than ever before. Between the lines of honesty, self-promotion, and probing the company both you and the employers can determine if the job is a good fit for all parties involved.

Watch out for mistakes

5 Insidious Mistakes That Are Destroying Your Job Search

Recently, I posted a new job with my company. During the course of reviewing the candidates, I noticed certain disturbing trends that were seriously effecting these candidate’s job search. Some of them are new variations on the old mistakes and some are new problems that arise from the prevalence of app-based job searching. Hopefully you won’t fall for these insidious mistakes and ruin your chances of getting more interviews…

  1. New problems with punctuation and grammar

Everyone knows to check their resume for punctuation and grammar, right? Apparently not. In most cases, the obvious errors are caught with spellcheck and online grammar programs like www.Grammarly.com. However, modern social media has made us blind to a new problem: capitalization consistency.

For example, your name. The first letter of both the first and last name needs to be capitalized, which is true for both your resume and your LinkedIn profile. In cases where you are consciously choosing to leave everything on the resume lower case for a style choice, make sure that EVERYTHING in the resume is in lower case. Nothing stands out like a glaring error than a lower case name and capitalized job titles.

Similarly, be consistent with job titles. If your immediate job is listed as “Office manager,” don’t list the following job as “Staff Accountant.” Being inconsistent is one of the easiest ways for HR to spot a mistake and disqualify a candidate in 10 seconds.

  1. Words that slip by spellcheck

So not only does spelling matter, but usage does as well. The sentence “managed front office and supported there CEO” is technically spelled correctly, however, it is the wrong “there.” It should read “supported THEIR CEO,” as in possessive to the company.

  1. Not following directions

This was my favorite trick when I established recruiting procedures for one of my past employers – in 2000! The trick is simple: HR will place specific steps to follow or documents to submit to be considered for the position, usually the resume and a cover letter. It may further define how to apply for a job, such as using LinkedIn, their own website, or emailing to a specific address. Anyone who doesn’t follow the steps gets disqualified because they did not follow clear, written instructions.

What’s sad is that with the rise of app-based recruiting on sites like LinkedIn.com and Indeed.com, the application process has been sped up to a matter of simple clicks. In some cases, it takes an extra step on the applicant’s part to attach the resume, not to mention the cover letter. Even when applying to a job from LinkedIn’s website, there is only space to upload one document. Job seekers must show initiative and create a new document that includes both the cover letter and the resume. Unfortunately, many job seekers don’t take this extra step.

And “optional” documents or uploads? Those aren’t really optional. Just think about it: if 30 out of 100 candidates take the time to upload their resume and cover letter as well as their LinkedIn profile, they will gain more serious consideration because they have gone beyond just doing the minimal requirements.

  1. Not fine tuning the application

Practically every employment website like Indeed.com, Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and the industry-specific sites allow candidates to upload their resume. The problem lies in that it will not always parse, or auto-populate, the application fields cleanly. When dealing with employers’ individual sites, the problem becomes more prevalent.

Anytime you have to upload your resume, double-check the actual application fields. Make sure everything was parsed correctly. If not, make the corrections. However, don’t replace your Word or PDF resume with the application. Send both. And by the way, even professionally-written resume will need to have the application reviewed. I personally applied to my own job with multiple different formats to test our templates. Fine tuning the application was a bit tedious, but considering that this is the first impression a recruiter will have, it is a wise time investment.

  1. So what’s your point?

One problem with using cookie-cutter resumes or cover letters is that the company has no idea why you applied to their position. Worse, you may be using an objective statement, summary or cover letter that is actually contrary to the position. I have seen resumes stating they want a Medical Assistant job (we’re not a doctor’s office), they only want full time (the job is part time,) or that they want some other criteria that isn’t even close to our job description or what our company does.

If the recruiter can’t even figure out why you applied for the job, there is no way that you can land the interview.

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