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On The Job Hunt? Never Be Afraid to Tell Your Story

Tell Stories_Get Hired_DaisyWright

Today’s career musings is not only based on a quote by actress Angie Dickinson, but also contains elements from the Foreword of my new book, Tell Stories Get Hired. Credit for the Foreword goes to Sharon Graham, one of Canada’s foremost Career Strategists.

While Dickinson’s quote may relate to life in general, this post is written from a job search context and targets mid-career professionals, managers and executives. It is also relevant to job seekers, people in career transition, and even those who are happy at work!

When it comes to job search, we cannot underestimate the importance of storytelling. Your job search story literally starts with “Once upon a time…”. If you can articulate your value effectively, you can succeed in your job search. Career storytelling can help you build credibility, but its benefits don’t end there. It can also help you to identify your dreams, strengthen your values, find your true assets, and build your self-confidence.

Never be afraid to tell your story. Storytelling is an integral part of your job search. It’s a technique you must use to communicate why you are the best person for the job. It’s a strategy you should employ when networking to demonstrate your industry expertise. You cannot afford to be seen as ‘a shrinking violet’, “someone who is shy or modest and does not like to attract attention.”  Don’t be afraid!

Your story should be interesting. When writing your resume, when networking, or during an interview, create a vivid and interesting picture of what role you played in the story. Were you the lead actor, or did you play a supporting role? In fact, take them on a ride in your CAR, and explain the Challenges you encountered, the Actions you took, and the Results.

Your story is unique. Even if your story is similar to someone else’s, it’s not the same. Find ways to showcase your uniqueness. Brand your story in a package that stands out. According to Sharon, “Our current job search environment is very competitive and the only way to differentiate yourself is to tell “unique signature stories.”

Your story is worth sharing. If you don’t toot your horn, no one will know you are coming. Don’t expect the interviewer to read your mind to determine how great you are. One of my clients lost out on a promotion to project manager because he assumed his boss knew what he had done. He failed to share his success stories.

It’s your story. If you accomplished it, it’s yours, so claim it. If you don’t, others will autograph your work with their name on it. Too many people complain that their bosses or coworkers have taken credit for their work. Don’t let that be you…tell your story!

Every career has many interesting twists and turns, but few people are naturally confident storytellers. Most people find the thought of having to “sell” themselves to recruiters, hiring managers, and other potential company representatives daunting. You may know what you want to share, but are not certain of how best to do that. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Want to learn more about storytelling for the job search? Listen to this podcast, or visit Tell Stories Get Hired to grab your copy of the book.

5 Job Search Mistakes You Should Avoid

Oops_Mistake

From time to time job seekers, prospective clients and clients discuss with me the difficulties they face in finding a job, or getting interviews. Sometimes, these conversations come from unexpected sources: mid-career professionals, managers, and executives.

Most times I empathize with these individuals because the job search process can take a toll on anyone; people get into panic mode, and all rational thinking goes through the window. Sometimes, though, I have to be direct and tell them to hit the delete button on negative thinking. Professionals at these levels should be focusing on who they are and the value they have to offer, rather than how difficult the job search process is. It is said that whatever one focuses on, expands. Focus on negative thinking and it breeds more negatives.

Over the past few days, I have had some email and face-to-face exchanges with several job candidates and identified several job search mistakes they were making. This prompted me to write this post on five job search mistakes you should avoid:

  1. I am overqualified. How do I handle this in the interview? Do not spend your time focusing on being overqualified. Think about what you have to offer. Prepare to explain that you may be overqualified, but only if the company is looking to remain where it is. But, if they want to benefit from your years of experience delivering results; if they want to surpass their competitors, then you are the right person for the job. Of course, back that up with concrete examples that demonstrate your point.
  2. The company indicated only those selected for an interview will be contacted. Follow their rules. Don’t contact them directly, but no one said you couldn’t contact them indirectly. Find employees willing to talk with you about the company, and the position. Ask them for specifics: contact details for the person responsible for hiring, major problems the company is facing, workplace culture and fit. Check out the company’s blog and online presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook). What’s being discussed? Who are the influencers? Also, search for former employees who will be able to give you the inside scoop on the company. All this investigative work could pay off, and place you and your resume ahead of others competing for the same job. Some companies offer incentives for internal referrals, and this extra research might just helped you to find one.
  3. I don’t have any interviews lined up, so I am going to wait until I get a date before I seek help. This the most crucial part of the job search. Don’t wait for the last minute on something as important as an interview. Review some interview questions that you are sure they are going to ask, such as ‘Tell me about yourself’, or ‘Why should we hire you?’ Practice with a friend, family member or a career or interview coach. Be prepared! “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” Whitney Young
  4. My friend in HR reviewed the resume you did, and said it does not have an Objective. This is ‘old school’ thinking, in my opinion. But, on a more serious note, keep in mind that if you show your resume to ten different people, you will get ten different opinions. So, while I respect your friend’s opinion, current resume practice, especially for mid-career professionals, managers, and executives, is to substitute an Objective for accomplishment or value-based statements that speak directly to the position. If the statement focuses on the company’s pain points, and grabs attention, you have just made the hiring manager’s job easier.
  5. I have a LinkedIn Profile, but don’t want to upload a photograph. This is a huge mistake. Without a photo on your LinkedIn Profile, you are considered invisible by hiring managers and recruiters. Go ahead and upload a photo, and when you do, make sure it is professional, and does not include other people. As of today’s writing, I have 27 LinkedIn invitations waiting to be accepted, but they fall into the categories of: no photo, a group photo, or a sketchy profile. I am sure they are great people, but they are hiding. As a job candidate, if you want to grow your network on LinkedIn, or get connected to other people, stop making these mistakes.

Are you making any of those mistakes? Are there others you could add to this post? You are welcome to comment below.

6 Tell-tale Signs Your Interview Went Terribly Wrong

Job seekers, there is a huge difference between arrogance and confidence; watch your body language, and beware of your cell phone etiquette. After all, you are in an interview!

It might be astonishing for some job seekers to find out that the interview in which they thought they did so well, actually went terribly wrong. And, many of the mistakes they made would’ve prevented them from moving to the next step. In late 2013, CareerBuilder surveyed 406 hiring managers and human resource professionals across Canada. Their major findings are shown below:

Infographic_Interview_Final_DW

While this infographic may add a touch of humour to a serious topic, it is a fact that many job seekers turn up at interviews unprepared and unprofessional. Many do not research the company before they get to the interview. Some do not understand cell phone etiquette; others do not provide specific examples that would convince the hiring manager they would be a good fit for the position, and many fail to make proper eye contact with the interviewer.

To say most job candidates get the jitters when they have an interview, is an understatement. But, there are no excuses for inadequate preparation for this important part of the job search process. When unpreparedness meets opportunity, it results in many of the interview mistakes outlined above.

Just in case you were one of the candidates who committed these interview faux pas, here is an armchair’s critique of your performance:

  1. You were arrogant. There is a thin line between being confident and acting arrogant. Learn the difference.
  2. You were not interested in the position. Your body language gave the wrong message. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
  3. You were uninformed about the company. It showed that you were clueless about the company and the role for which you were being interviewed. In-depth research of the company, as well as a request for a detailed job description, would have set you apart.
  4. You were texting or taking calls on your cell phone. Unfortunately, you couldn’t take your hands off your cell phone. Neither did you turn it off before the start of the interview. Well, there are no excuses for this one because you should’ve known better.
  5. You were inappropriately dressed. If there ever was an opportunity to ‘dress up’, it was this one, and in a professional manner. You could’ve called to ask about the company’s dress code, or visited the location prior to the interview to observe what employees were wearing.
  6. You were burning bridges. While it may have boosted your confidence to badmouth your employers, it was not a good idea. Negative portrayals of employers and coworkers are never acceptable.

The survey addresses other mistakes that employers found. The survey details can be found at CareerBuilder. Pay close attention to the most common blunders, as well as the role that body language or non-verbal communication plays in interviews.

What additional advice would you have for a job candidate who committed such blunders? Add your comments below.

 

Workplace Lessons from a Pot of Veggies

Diversity in all its SplendourWhile cooking vegetables over slow heat recently, the rich diversity of colours really jumped out at me. I quickly grabbed my cell phone, took a picture and sent it off to my family Whatsapp group made up mostly of my sisters and nieces, although two brothers are in on it as well. Long before Whatsapp was acquired by Facebook, it had been our means of making daily ‘touch base’ contacts with family. One of the things we frequently do is to show off pictures of our meals, and this time it was my turn.

As I looked at the beauty and blends of vegetables in the pot, I thought how boring would the workplace be without diversity – diverse skills, cultures, races, languages, and names? Discussions of diversity are not always comfortable, yet discussions have to take place. Consider a recent ‘uncomfortable’ article in the Toronto Star, The Curse of a Foreign Name, written by an acquaintance, Priya Ramsingh. She addressed the issue of how some people were being rejected for job opportunities because of their ethnic names.

This is a reality. I work with clients from all over the world, most with English-sounding names like Barb Bill, John and Jane, but a good mix of names such as Smita, Giusseppina, Chun, Carlos, Bassam, Ismail and Guylaine. All these individuals, regardless of their names, are accomplished in their fields with PhDs, MBAs and BAs. They have much value to offer employers. But, some with non-English sounding names have wondered out loudly if their names have been or could be a barrier to job search success. One young lady of Chinese descent, asked me recently if she should use her English name when applying for jobs. How narrow minded of the recruiter in Priya’s article, to make assumptions that the candidates didn’t speak English or would be too difficult to understand”, and reject them on that basis?

The topic of ‘names’ hits close to home as my children do not have English-sounding names either. My daughter, whose name is Damali Shimona, used to wonder if her name (pronounced ‘Damalee’), would be, or has been a deterrent to her job search. I haven’t seen evidence of that yet, but one never knows. Regardless, it is a legitimate concern, considering Priya’s article. The good news is that, although these biases still exist, I believe most recruiters and hiring managers are not so elementary in their thinking. They have realized that ‘sameness’ isn’t a good strategy, and are largely helping employers to enhance the range of skills in their workforce thereby making the most of the wealth that diversity brings.

As I reflect on the rich diversity of the vegetables in my pot, I am reminded of an excerpt from a book by British Economist, Journalist and former advisor to the World Trade Organization, Philippe Legrain, where he said “Most innovations nowadays come not from individuals, but from groups of talented people sparking off each other – and foreigners with different ideas, perspectives and experiences add something extra to the mix. If there are 10 people sitting around a table trying to come up with a solution to a problem and they all think alike, then they are no better than one. But if they all think differently and bounce new ideas and reactions off one another, they can solve problems better and faster, as a growing volume of research shows.”

That’s the splendour of diversity! So, whether we have different names, speak different languages, or have different skin tones, when we embrace diversity together, we make the workplace that much richer. My meal wouldn’t have tasted that great if all it had was broccoli or red peppers. As Albus Dumbledore of Harry Potter fame said, “Though we may come from different countries and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.”

What are your thoughts on diversity, or on my vegetable analogy?

101 Surprising Tips for Your Holiday Job Search

Many job seekers believe that they should give their job search a break during the holiday season, and on the surface it looks like a great idea. After all, most businesses slow down their operations during the holidays, and some people get caught up into festivities that hiring new staff might be the farthest thing from their minds. But, even if these have merits, there are many reasons why job seekers should not ease up on the job search pedal during the holidays.

To demystify this holiday myth, 25 career coaches and recruiters from career site Job-Hunt.org contributed to an e-book titled New Year, New Job! 101 Top Tips from the Job-Hunt Experts for Your Holiday Job Search. As the Canadian Job Search Expert for Job-Hunt, I was asked to be one of the contributors. This book is full of tips that will revolutionize the way one looks at holidays and job search. The book will be FREE on Amazon from Thanksgiving Day until midnight on Monday, Nov. 26. Otherwise, it will cost ninety-nine cents per copy making it an ideal stocking stuffer for the job seeker on anyone’s list. Find it at Amazon.com. Here are some tips from a few of the experts:

Ask for holiday gifts to help you job hunt 

What do you want for the holidays? Consider making this a practical (and inspirational) holiday and ask for gifts that will take you closer to your new job. Your friends and family are wondering how to help you. Help them, and yourself, by asking for what you need. Here are ideas to jumpstart your thinking:

  • Help from a career professional for some career direction, job search strategy, refreshing your resume or LinkedIn profile, or interview practice.
  • A session with a photographer for a professional headshot for your LinkedIn and other profiles.
  • To be their guest at a networking event. – Phyllis Mufson, Job-Hunt’s Boomer Job Search Expert

Use holiday vacation time to learn about job search 

Before you dive into planning and executing your job search strategy, the holidays may afford you the free time to do some research about how to job search. If it’s been more than a few years since you last looked for a job, you may not know how much things have changed. Go through the Online Job Search Tutorial on Job-Hunt.org, and Google various phrases pertaining to each aspect of job search to find information and learn the latest and best ways to land a good-fit job in today’s competitive job search landscape. – Meg Guiseppi, Job-Hunt’s Personal Branding Expert

Volunteering creates access to employers

Most job seekers tend to take the holidays off but hiring managers don’t. The hiring managers you want to meet go to holiday charity events, Chamber of Commerce meetings and other public holiday events. The best way for you to meet them without large financial investment is to volunteer. Volunteering provides access. If you believe volunteering at a holiday charity event is not worth your time, look at the list of the corporate sponsors of the previous year’s event. You may reconsider your stance. – Stephen Hinton, Job-Hunt’s Green Industry Jobs Expert

Turn up your posting frequency over the holidays

As far as I can tell, hiring volume doesn’t go down during the holiday (overall). But I know many job seekers stop trying, for whatever misinformed reason. Therefore, you can increase your exposure by amping up your social media postings. By filling the vacuum of activity on Twitter and LinkedIn, recruiters scouring those media looking for candidates will be more likely to bump into your messages. – Joshua Waldman, Job-Hunt’s Social Media & Job Search Expert

Connect with new recruiters during the holidays

If you don’t have relationships with any recruiters, you need to network to one through your contacts. This is a good time of year to ask your friends to introduce you to their favorite recruiter (who works in your industry). If they have a good relationship, they can use the same ideas above and mention they have a colleague who’d be someone good for them to know.  – Jeff Lipschultz, Job-Hunt’s Working With Recruiters Expert

Volunteer to provide holiday coverage 

Contact one of your target companies and offer to cover for staff absences during the holiday period. This must be in an area in which you have expertise, or an assignment that’s not difficult to learn. Be aware that for confidentiality reasons, you might not be allowed to work in certain departments. This would be like a temp assignment, only you are doing it on a volunteer basis. It gets your foot in the door and a couple of people to add to your network. – Daisy Wright, Job-Hunt’s Canadian Job Search Expert

After going through all the tips it will be easy to see why taking a break during the holiday season could limit one’s job search success. Make sure to grab your free copy prior to November 26, 2012 at Amazon.com. After that, it will cost a mere ninety-nine cents.

 

How to Write the Right Resume – Job Search News

See on Scoop.itFreelance Writing On Careers & Resumes

An excellent article from one of my colleagues, Susan Joyce of Job-Hunt.Org. She has been

writing a book, and as part of her homework on what recruiters want, she has been interviewing them.

Job seekers, career coaches and professional resume writers need to keep current on what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for in resumes, and this article sets out some specifics.
Read the full article on www.job-hunt.org

10 Resume Tips to Beat Online Applicant Tracking Systems

Career Coach Daisy Wright

Are you a job seeker who is frustrated with online applicant tracking systems (ATS)? Do you often wonder if your resume has disappeared into a blackhole because the only response you have had from the company is a generic, computer-generated acknowledgement? Well, you have a legitimate reason to be frustrated. After all, only 1% of total applicants get an interview. It’s also likely that your resume may have fallen into the 75% (approximately) of resumes that are discarded for using the wrong words. [Source: Preptel].

To help you understand the ATS process, and to find out how you can boost the chances that your resume will get through this ubiquitous system, I contacted two experts: Chip Cohan, VP of Business Development at PrepTel, and Sylvia Dahlby, of Advanced Personnel Systems, Inc., the company that develops the SmartSearch® applicant tracking system.

SmartSearch® helps companies find resumes fast in a searchable database, and because employers can store thousands of resumes in databases, the system helps them identify qualified candidates among previous as well as new applicants.

PrepTel, on the other hand, is a job seeker’s ally. They are the developers of ResumeterTM, a tool that uses the same technology hiring companies use to help identify deficiencies and show where a résumé may be improved, so it rises to the top of the applicant pool during the screening process. According to Chip, the tool “…enables individuals to quickly and easily customize a résumé for each job opening increasing the success the résumé will be reviewed and considered for an interview”.  This Candidate Optimization service is purported to “…improve a candidate’s chances of getting an interview, securing an offer, and maximizing their compensation package.”

Below are some tips that you should consider when using applicant tracking systems:

  1. Don’t limit the length of your resume. Job seekers are often told to limit their resumes to two pages. That’s still OK if you are sending it as an attachment or delivering it in person, but if you are using the ATS, you can send in a longer version.
  2. Use a generic heading like ‘Work Experience’. Fancy headings like Career Summary, Career Progression, and Notable Accomplishments, are passed over by the system because it is not designed to recognize such headings.
  3. Begin the work experience section with the name of your employer. It is customary to start this section with the employment dates, but the system looks for the name(s) of employers first. Therefore, start with employer’s name, your title, and the dates you held these titles, and place them on separate lines.
  4. Keep formatting simple and omit tables and graphics. The system cannot read graphics, and misreads PDF files and tables.
  5. Include a blend of keywords and phrases. Keywords are important, but the system is programmed to conduct semantic searches where it looks for strings of words identified in the job posting.
  6. Do not ‘sand-bag’ the system. Mirror the job posting as much as possible, but do not manipulate the system with needless repetitions of words and phrases. Recruiters frown on candidates who try to game the system.
  7. Research the company’s corporate culture. Before you submit your resume, visit the company’s website to get a sense of its corporate culture. Look at the words they use to describe their value, then incorporate those words in your resume and/or cover letter.
  8. Make the Resume Easy and Fast to Read. Even though the machinery is searching for keywords, candidates are well advised to have a nice, clean looking document with plenty of white space that’s easy to read on a computer screen and in print.
  9. Use Bullet Points. To avoid long sentences and huge blocks as paragraphs, it is advisable to use bullets, preferably asterisks.
  10. Add a Cover Letter. The cover letter is the perfect place to show interest and fit for the company culture.

Dahlby also offered some additional suggestions:  Job seekers should rewrite their resumes for each position to make sure they mirror the job description. She also advised against ‘sandbagging’ the process. Sandbagging is when candidates include needless repetitions of words and phrases, or when they try to ‘game’ the system by using a lot of keywords and hiding them with white fonts.

With the above information, you should now be equipped to optimize your resume to make sure it ranks high enough where a human will, at the very least, read it, and your frustration level should be reduced a notch.

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10 Resume Pet Peeves Cited by Hiring Managers & Recruiters

Job seeker, sometimes it’s just a small blunder or gaffe that stands between your resume being selected for further consideration, or being tossed. Since recruiters and hiring managers play a significant role in your job search success, the onus is on you to know how to avoid these resume faux pas that irk them. Based on a survey conducted in late 2010 about Resume and Job Search Trends, the following were identified as the top resume pet peeves for recruiters and hiring managers:

  • “Generic  Objectives” that scream ‘me-me-me’. “It rarely helps, often hurts, and always takes up valuable real estate that could be better used to showcase your accomplishments”, said one respondent.
  • Massive email blasts where the resume is not tailored to the position for which they are applying.
  • Beginning each point, regardless of experience, with the standard “responsible for” with few, if any, real accomplishments.
  • A resume that contains “references available upon request”.
  • Lack of professionalism in the layout and composition.
  • Lack of detail on duties and accomplishments.
  • Dull job descriptive statements.
  • Content that is unrelated to the role.
  • Chronological history of events dating back to high school (especially when the applicant has been out of high school for 3 or more years).
  • Resumes with more than three pages, poor formatting, and spelling and grammar errors.

Some recruiters indicated that they prefer a longer resume as it enables them to see the breadth of the person’s experience and are better able to identify the skills relevant to the position they are trying to fill. However, these same recruiters say that clients/employers prefer a 2- or 3-page resume, and they would modify them to suit the client’s needs.

“As we are placing the candidates to our clients we prefer the longer version for details but we don’t like to send that to the client, unless specifically requested.”

While you might not agree with all of the above, some are glaringly obvious and should be avoided. Have your say.

3 Basic Tips to Boost Your LinkedIn IQ

Are you just getting started on LinkedIn? Are you someone with a LinkedIn account but an incomplete profile? Set aside some time today to work on your LinkedIn profile. “Why?”, you ask. LinkedIn has been described as your “Résumé on Steroids”. This means your profile is available online 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. In addition, more than 85 percent of hiring managers use it to find candidates. With the potential for so much exposure, you should familiarize yourself with some LinkedIn basics.

  • First, replace the blank avatar in your profile with a professional headshot. People are more inclined to accept an invitation when they can see a face. If, for some reason, you don’t want to use a photograph, use an image that is closely aligned with your profession or your personality.
  • Second, customize your LinkedIn invitation. Do not use the generic, “I’d like to add you to my professional network” invitation that LinkedIn offers. Create a short personal message such as “I was reviewing my professional network on LinkedIn and realize you are not yet on my list. Please accept my invitation to connect.”
  • Third, create a Personal LinkedIn URL. When you first created your profile, LinkedIn automatically assigned you a profile URL that included letters and numbers. Change this URL to include your name. For e.g., my LinkedIn URL is www.linkedin.com/in/daisywright.

According to LinkedIn, members with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive career opportunities. Put yourself in a position for new career opportunities. Begin working on your LinkedIn profile, and have a great Monday.

Monday Morning Rx: What Can You Do for Your Job Search Today?

What is the one thing that you could do TODAY that would bring you closer to your career or job search goal?

  • Do you want to reach out to someone for help?
  • Should you research companies you would really want to work with instead of spending more time on job boards?
  • Have you completed your LinkedIn Profile to make it more attractive and easier for hiring managers and recruiters to find you?
  • Is your resume ready for your next opportunity, or are you waiting on the next opportunity before getting your resume ready?

Whatever it is, it only takes one small step, and you can start right now. Confucius says, “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”

Now get working on it, and have a great Monday!