No Interviews? Redo Your Approach!

Posted on: June 30th, 2015 by
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Why would a company want to interview you if your resume isn’t compelling? Assuming there are 100 applicants, only the top 10 will get a screening interview by phone and 2 to 3 face-to-face interviews. Here’s how to diagnose and fix your resume to at least get a telephone screen.

When you don’t hear back from a company it means your not meeting the minimal requirements of the job. You may be shooting too high and falling short. Reexamine your target, industry, level or compensation. Something is off. If you send out resumes and get a 2% response rate, that’s the same as junk mail. A 10% response rate means you’re minimally penetrating the market. At 50% you’re “hot”. The different between 2% and 50% is the ability to target your experiences to the open position.

Make sure that your network is large enough and active. If your contacts aren’t productive, expand the network and follow-up to find out why. It’s always helpful to meet with contacts and ask them what’s going on in their industry, where’s the growth, who is hiring and who is shrinking their workforce. Explain to your contacts, “I’m testing the marketplace”.

You may be getting a screening call (that’s good) but no face-to-face interviews (that’s bad). When you get a telephone screening interview, be sure to do four things:
Ask “Out of curiosity, what was it about my resume that was of special interest to you?” The answer will tell you what they are looking for, why, and give you invaluable information
Make sure you emphasize the top 5 items described on the position description
Respond to the questions in a short but direct way. Don’t ramble about subjects not asked.
You should focus on three responses to each question: The issue you were to solve, the actions you took, and the measureable results you achieved, all in about 30 seconds
Listen to follow-up questions. Any time an interviewer asks you a follow-up question for more detail, it gives you valuable insight into the issues where they need help.

Here are some reasons why you’re not getting more action and what to do about it :
Your resume isn’t results-oriented. You may have listed responsibilities, activities or skills, but not outcomes. Match your results to the key items on the position description.
Use an Executive Summary at the top of your resume: Focus on your career achievements. When hiring managers scan resumes, you only have about 15 seconds to make your case
Don’t use a narrative form to give your life’s story. The reader will never wade through it all.
Ask yourself how you can differentiate yourself from all others. Show your unique experiences that parallel the job to be done, both for today and tomorrow.
Put the most important things first. Use power words, not passive words. Use metrics.
Figure out what they want, not what you want. Get rid of peripheral non-essentials.

If you can’t put together a compelling resume, you’ll not get an interview. It’s that simple.

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Stalling Your Career?

Posted on: June 23rd, 2015 by
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Do people intentionally stall their careers? I don’t think so. But I have met many who don’t pay attention or lack information about their careers. Here may be some answers:

1. First and most importantly, find support. The best step is to have a mentor: Someone who takes an interest in your work and career and gives you guidance. Help can also be in the form of a co-worker, manager or an experienced career coach.

2. Take advantage of opportunities to expand your skills and experiences. Push out your normal comfort zone with new exposures to projects. Volunteer for teams looking for cost reductions, new product, new markets or better performance. Get noticed.

3. Build bridges to establish new skills, people and opportunities. Network with new groups, especially those outside your core experiences. Join trade or professional organizations: That’s where hiring organizations go to size up the available talent.

4. Look at the long term through progressive short-term steps. Since the ultimate career goal may be 10, 20 or more years out, you can achieve that goal only through a series of smaller steps. Understand what those steps are, then plan for each one.

5. While you shouldn’t jump from job to job, neither should you spend too much time in only one job. A rule of thumb is to take the time to thoroughly master the job you have, establish a highly credible, measurable track record and then start testing the market.

6. Keep relevant and contemporary in your knowledge of what’s going on in your field, while keeping your skill set in technology at the highest. If you fall behind the technology you’ll be out of the running. Why should anyone train you for skills that other candidates have?

7. Use both your analytical mind and your intuitive gut when thinking about your career. Using only one or the other may end with an error of judgment. Changing industries may be your best answer, but overthinking or jumping at an offer is not good decision.

8. Focus on the important elements to your success and career. You only have a certain number of hours to devote to your work, so work hard but smart. Identify the elements of your job that will get the greatest reward when successful. That’s a career spark.

9. Reinforce your winning strategies. They are the confidence builders you’ll need over time. Everything is based on the results you achieve along the way to your ultimate career. If you don’t get results, the next step will be elusive.

10. Never, ever give up. Much of life’s success for most people is just showing up and doing a satisfactory job. Those that move ahead do more than what’s necessary. And people who become leaders in their field have a plan, exceed their goals and get great results.

Your career isn’t anyone’s responsibility except your own. So manage it!

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Interview to Win…

Posted on: June 16th, 2015 by

First off, you may not realize it but you know at least 95% of the questions in a typical hour interview. Why? Because the only information the hiring organization has about you is written on your resume. That means that you can prepare answers to the questions you know are going to be asked. What are those questions? How should you answer them? Read on.

THE QUESTIONS: The interviewer will likely work down each line item of your resume and ask:
What did you do?
How did you do it?
What was the result?
THE ANSWERS: Keep answers specific to the question. Answer in 30 seconds (a mini-pitch):
This was the issue we had
This is the action I took
This was the outcome we achieved

EXAMPLE: Q – What did you do in the summer after graduation? Instead of saying, “I spent the summer as the head lifeguard at the country club”, say instead, “As the head lifeguard, I hired the staff, supervised and managed the pool operations resulting in no critical incidences during the entire summer”.

EXAMPLE: When interviewing for an accounting position, instead of saying, “I installed a new accounting system for my current company”, say instead, “Due to our growth, we changed from a manual accounting system to an electronic application. My job was to install the new system while paralleling the manual one. We had no errors and, in fact, reduced our overhead by 15.7% and increased performance by 12.5%”.

EXAMPLE: When interviewing for a marketing position, instead of saying, “I ran the digital marketing segment of the marketing division for 3 years”, say instead, “The Company had no digital marketing experience. I was brought in to design and install a new growth segment for the business. We increased our revenue by 12% in the first year along with expanding our customer base by 18% to a younger age group. Currently it’s 25% of our business.”

The way you respond to the questions that you know are going to be asked elevates your candidacy. However, you need to prepare yourself beforehand:
Write down your answers to each question. Once you see it in print you can sharpen your responses to best fit.
Practice your responses out loud until you feel comfortable. Your responses should be spontaneous, not scripted
Be ready to give a story with a positive tilt for your contribution
Listen for the important “second” question. If the interviewer asks a follow-up question, it gives you insightful as to the critical issues of the hiring organization… it’s what they are looking for in a new hire!!

Become a successful candidate by understanding the needs of the hiring organization. Develop the answers beforehand to the questions you know will be asked!

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A Tragic Waste of Talent

Posted on: June 9th, 2015 by

Three numbers from a recent survey are stunning:
• 8.5 million Americans have given up looking for work, which is 40% of the unemployed
• 45.7 million Americans are on food stamps, which cost $74 billion in 2014
• The longer you’re out of work, the more likely you stop looking for work

On the other hand, there is a strong upsurge in available positions. What’s the disconnect between these two facts? I see three forces at work:
1. The difference between the skills that employers need versus what applicants have to offer
2. The standards of performance keep moving faster than our ability to catch up
3. The education to deliver available talent is lagging the marketplace’s demand

So what can an individual do to counteract these forces?

No matter where you are in your career, continually add to your experience base: Use the education policy if your company has one, seek advanced courses, attend seminars and conferences, obtain certifications or advanced degrees and volunteer at a non-profit. For every added feature, you are advancing your potential contribution to a hiring organization.

For the younger person in high school or college: Stay in school, take the hardest courses in your field of interest, select a major that is growing and changing with the times, and broaden your base of knowledge with a minor course of studies that has practical value.

For the person starting out in a career within the first few years, they should either seek to become an expert in a field that the organization needs, or seek a broadening experience base that you can apply to multiple functions.

For the person beginning their mid-career at about age 35, figure out if you are going to reach your career goal within the next 10 or 20 years. Are you on a growth track to meet your career objective, ahead of schedule or behind the curve? Develop a Career Map that tells you where you need to be over the next 10 years. Adjust your plan every few years.

For the person who is beyond mid-career at age 50 or more, look out in time and ask yourself what level you want to achieve when you retire. Assess whether your goal is realistic or not. Do you want to reach higher levels in the hierarchy, keep contributing at your current level, or become a mentor to others? Each strategy takes a different approach, effort, and has unique skill sets.

When do you decide to either give up on your dream or continue to press forward? Choose the statement that best applies to you:
• The faster I run, the more behind I get
• When I start to get tired, I run harder

The answer will tell you a lot about your future!

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Your Cover Letter Must…

Posted on: June 2nd, 2015 by

I get many questions about cover letters: Do I need one? How long should it be? What should I say? Is it important? Here are some guidelines for decisions about cover letters. Think about the cover letter as an appetizer to a delicious meal: It shouldn’t fill you up, nor duplicate the entre, but it should engage the reader to say, “I’m really looking forward to seeing the resume”.

Be very selective in your wording and use “word-pictures” so the hiring manager can visualize the results you can provide. Nothing sells your ability like results. Describe your uniqueness, like: “Of special interest is my expertise in opening new markets and introducing new products resulting in expanded revenue. My results are a 15% and 22% increase in sales on two different occasions.”

Do your research before sending a resume or cover letter. Research the issues as defined in the position description. Who are you sending your resume to? Get the name and title of the key people. Google them. Learn about potential connection points with you.

Tailor the cover letter to parallel the position description. Identify the job for which you are applying: “Your open position, Supervisor of Accounting, is of great interest to me”. When reading a position description, usually the first 3 to 5 listed responsibilities are the primary ones. Make sure that you show your results in the body of the cover letter.

Make the body of the cover letter short and powerful. Take the top 3 to 5 responsibilities of the position description and describe results you’ve achieved in each one. Example:
Supervised a staff of 3 in accounting for a $5 million business
15.7% cost reduction by installing new computer applications versus part-time staff
12% performance improvement through value analysis and process improvements

Your objective is to get an interview, either on the telephone or in person. Always request the next step in a way that the hiring manager becomes very interested in talking with you. Example: “I’d like to discuss how my skills and experiences can support your objectives and contribute to your results”.

Your cover letter and resume must be written in a way that the hiring manager says, “This is someone I really want to talk to”. The reason they’ll want to talk to you is three-fold:
To find out how you achieved the results you defined in your cover letter and resume
To see if those results are transferable to their organization
To see if you would be a good, comfortable fit in the organization.

You want the hiring manager to want you! Start with your cover letter.

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