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Social Media: The New Job Search Frontier

Recently I did some presentations and a webinar on social media for my clients and a couple of community organizations, including the Kiwanis Club of Brampton.  These presentations offered simple strategies to build a LinkedIn Profile, how job seekers can use social media to market themselves to employers, and how professionals and entrepreneurs can benefit from having an online presence.

Many people are nervous at the mere mention of social media. They are afraid people might misuse their information; they want to guard their privacy, or they are just plain overwhelmed with so many of these tools from which to choose. One webinar participant wrote me to say, “I am scared of a free service that takes my data to make money and promises not to share my information.” She then asked if I thought she was paranoid. Privacy is a legitimate concern, of course, especially since we know, or have heard of many online horror stories, but one does not have to become paranoid.

At one point, I was hesitant to use Facebook, for example. Although I have had an account since 2008, I did not start actively using it until 2010, when I began to see additional benefits other than getting updates from my nieces and nephews. So, social media is scary, and it might look like a time-waster sometimes, but is that enough not to test the waters? From a job seeker’s perspective, is it worth missing out on potential job opportunities, or connecting with a couple of influential decision makers? Wouldn’t it be nice to address someone by name at one of your target companies instead of “Dear Sir/Madam”?

There are many advantages to using social media. During a LinkedIn conference in Toronto last week, the keynoter said, “If you have hired more than 10 people through LinkedIn, stand.” Over 600 HR professionals and recruiters stood up. In other sessions, presenters spoke about how companies can build their employer brands on LinkedIn by reaching out and engaging potential employees through Career Hub Pages and Groups. The overall message from my perspective as a career coach is that job seekers need a LinkedIn presence, for starters.

I also learned that Canada is the 5th largest country on LinkedIn, and that IBM is one of the most active companies on LinkedIn, with over 280,000 employees and 650,000 followers. Want to join IBM? There are lots of people with whom you could connect!

Here’s a summary of some major social media tools:

  • LinkedIn – known as the number one social media tool for business, it has over 150 million members. Not only can profiles be created, but resumes can be uploaded, and by following Company Pages, one is able to keep track of new hires, promotions and the overall health of specific companies.
  • Twitter – a free micro-blogging platform that sends short messages using 140 characters. Recruiters, employers and HR professionals are quite active on Twitter and quite often use it to announce  job vacancies.
  • Facebook – permits businesses to establish a presence and allows people to “Like” and follow those businesses.
  • Pinterest – a content sharing service that allows members to “pin” images, videos and other objects to pinboards. At first glance, one may wonder how effective this is as a job search tool, and the jury is still out on this. However, if you are the creative/artistic type, you can certainly market yourself or your business with it, so, join Pinterest and ‘get ‘Pinspired’!
  •  Google+ – another content sharing service, with an added feature called ‘Hangouts’. It’s a new video service where one can hold meetings, arrange study sessions, family meetings, or social gatherings with up to 10 people. Some companies have already started to conduct interviews with Hangouts.
  • About.me – serves like a parking garage for your online presence. It is a personal page that points people to everything you do around the web. It can be useful as a link in an email instead of uploading your resume and your other documents.

I believe the new job search or business frontier is through social media, and job seekers and entrepreneurs need to leverage its use. None of us can afford to be left out, especially as online interactions are becoming as meaningful as in real life. Does this mean social media is the ‘be all’ of your job search or business? No! What it does is help you build relationships, engage in conversations, and demonstrate your expertise. This will (over time), lead to opportunities, value and profitability.

Still scared? It’s time to jump on the social media bandwagon. Experiment and see which ones resonate with you, because these tools have become major players in how we conduct a job search, how and where we do business, what we purchase, and who we connect with.

Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

Robo Reference Checking is a Reality

From time to time we hear of robo calls when politicians send out mass messages to their constituents to get their attention, but these activities are not limited to politics. Don’t be surprised if one day you find yourself having to make a robo call to a robo cop to check if robo reference checking is legal. Well, am injecting a bit of humour here, but automatic reference checking is a reality, and might just be coming to a job search near you.

Automatic reference checking tools allow companies to obtain more and better feedback from references. One such tool is Pre-Hire 360, which according to a white paper from the developer, SkillsSurvey Inc., it “moves beyond unimaginative, close-ended questions that many candidates have prepared for, and it moves beyond simplistic verification (yes/no) of prior employment”.

How does it work? A job seeker’s references are asked to complete an online survey rating the person’s skills, anonymously. This survey consists of 25 questions. It takes approximately 10 minutes and can be done at any time. Once all references have responded, the tool aggregates their ratings into a report.

The tool delves into the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses as identified by their managers and co-workers and accelerates one’s ability to uncover the true nature of a candidate’s performance at work. It operates on the premise that “candidates are likely to embellish their past accomplishments, and are not likely to tell you about situations at work that did not turn out so well for them.”

At surface level, this sounds like a great idea. It would work quite well for references who are at a distance and easier to reach by email. And, as some users have indicated, it gets a 360-degree view of candidates from their peers and customers and strengthens a company’s talent pool; it increases the calibre of hires, and offers less staff turnover. However, when some users make statements like “…references tend to be brutally frank about their colleagues …and they don’t have to worry about information getting back to the candidate” or “Sometimes the candidates don’t even realize that their references are ruling them out”, then it starts to look sinister, in my opinion. So, while it might be ideal from a company’s perspective, job seekers should be concerned, or at least, be aware.

Another part of the process is that candidates who pass a telephone interview must immediately provide a minimum of five references before the next stage of the interview. Two of these references must be past or present managers. What if this candidate is conducting a confidential job search,and what happens if they do not have five names to offer as references?

For legal reasons, companies usually provide dates of employment and job titles, but the anonymity built into the tool allows references to provide more than the customary confirmation. A candidate without any character flaws wouldn’t have to worry about someone digging deeper, but what if a candidate has a minor flaw, or what if he or she had some issues with a manager, and this manager decides to be spiteful? These are ‘what ifs’ scenarios, but they can happen. Although the process is anonymous, employers could be opening up themselves to some legal push backs.

What can job seekers do to prepare themselves?

  • Become  aware of this trend, and make sure to choose references wisely – individuals who are eager to vouch for their character, skills and work ethic.
  • Inform references that a confirmation request could come through email in the form of a short survey instead of the standard referencing process.
  • Confirm with the individuals that they are comfortable acting as references, and if there are any issues that could surface, have a frank discussion ahead of time.
  • Prior to the interview, advise references which company or companies they might expect to hear from so they are not surprised.
  • Send references an updated resume, and highlight areas of your skills and accomplishments that they should address during the reference checking process

I think such a tool works well for companies as it cuts down on telephone tags and reduces costs, but it has drawbacks. Confidentiality and anonymity are two of them. Share your thoughts.

*Image courtesy of clipartillustration.com

 

What Does Cell Phone Use and Cancer Have to Do with Your Job Search?

Probably not much, and this post is not about scaring anyone. However, as most of us have given up or reduced our use of landlines, relying more on cell phones to communicate, conduct our job searches, find directions, search the Internet, and send and respond to emails, studies have shown that we are more exposed to higher levels of radiation by our constant use of these gadgets.

Now, whether there’s a connection between cell phone use and cancer, especially since studies have found contradictory evidence about it, noted health advisor, Dr. Andrew Weil, commented in his recent newsletter that “it seems prudent to me to take commonsense precautions. Brain tumors can take 30 to 40 years to develop, so it could be a long time before we know for sure whether cell phone use is safe or, if not, how great the risks may be.” He recommends the following:

  1. Use earpieces, headsets or speakerphones.
  2. Save long conversations for conventional phones.
  3. In your car, using a cell phone that has a Bluetooth connection. Many new dash-mounted GPS units have a Bluetooth mode, so that your phone works through the GPS unit’s microphone and speaker. This has the added advantage of keeping your hands free for safer driving.
  4. Limit the time children spend on cell phones – they may be more vulnerable than adults to adverse effects.
  5. Find out how much radio frequency energy your cell phone emits.

In addition, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit health and environmental organization also offers the following:

  1. Buy a low radiation phone
  2. Listen more and talk less as our phone emits radiation when you talk or text, but not when you’re receiving messages.
  3. Hold the phone away from your body when you’re talking, not against your ear, in a pocket, or on your belt where soft body tissues absorb radiation.
  4. Stay off the phone if there are fewer signal bars as it emits more radiation to get the signal to the tower.
  5. Limit children’s use of cell phones as, it is said, children’s brains absorb twice the cell phone radiation as adults.

So, as the debate continues, there may or may not be a correlation between the use of cell phones and cancer, and by extension, the job search, but it might be worth it to take a break from the job search to check on the radiation ranking of your phone.

The SAR limit (Specific Absorption Rate) for radio frequency energy is similar in Canada and the United states: 1.6 watts per kilogram. For more information, visit Industry Canada’s website at (www.ic.gc.ca) and the Federal Communications Commission website for (www.fcc.gov).

This is not only about health, but also about safety. And, by the way, landlines are still alive and safe!

 

Sources:

Dr. Andrew Weil

Environmental Working Group

Image courtesy of soundfeelings.com

 

 

 

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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Modern Ways to Job Search

 

Social media is enabling job seekers to market themselves creatively to employers, and the image above highlights some of the tools they are using. Of course, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook take centre stage. With so many tools, one is left to wonder if the days of the paper resume are really numbered, or as it’s often touted, if “the resume is dead!”  As seen on the image, one-third of human resources managers predict that traditional resumes will be replaced with social/business networking sites.

With respect to networking, although the term generally conjures up images of forced smiles and awkward conversations, it is well-known that more than 80% of job opportunities are found in this manner. Therefore, the onus is on job seekers to learn effective networking skills to improve their chances of job search success.

A blog is a non-intrusive way to get employers interested in your brand without even applying for a job”, says one statement in the image.  This is a message I constantly sell to job seekers, including a group of communications, advertising and marketing professionals I spoke with recently. Use a bit of creativity, start your own blog or contribute to other blogs to stand out from the crowd and grab the attention of potential employers.

While job seekers should embrace these modern job search tools, they also need to be cautious. Using these tools to bash one’s boss or to post inappropriate comments or images online is a breach of social media etiquette.

 

Own Your Name. Build Your Personal Brand. Up Your Job Search Game

Do you own your name? “Of course, I do”, you say! Last week I hosted a free teleconference for job seekers and professionals to gauge their career plans for 2012, and see if I could help them achieve their goals. I offered some options on how they could up their job search game in the new year, and differentiate themselves from their competitors. A few days later, I had coffee with someone who had missed the call, but who wanted to bring me up-to-date on her next career move. She told me about her plans for the year and about her new website. While discussing the website, I suggested that she claimed her name on the web by registering it as a domain. Her eyes opened widely as in “What do you mean?”

These days whether you are a job seeker or an entrepreneur, one of the first steps to building your personal brand is to claim your name – register your name as a website. I learned this early. You see, actor Jude Law’s former nanny has my name, and I wasn’t aware of it until I heard of the scandal surrounding their alleged affair. Soon after that, I claimed and registered www.daisywright.com and www.daisywright.ca, as domain names through Hostmonster (Affiliate Link). I have since given up the .CA domain.

Why is it important to own your name? The hiring process has changed for job seekers, and personal branding has become very important.  Recruiters and employers don’t rely solely on traditional methods to learn about or evaluate potential employees. They are swamped with résumés, phone calls and emails. It is, therefore, your responsibility to change the way you market your stories and your skills to employers, and raise your visibility because your résumé and cover letter are no longer enough. The same is true for entrepreneurs.

To begin your brand-building process, your first step is to register your name as a domain, if it’s still available.  Use it as a one-stop haven for your social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube (if you’re venturing into videos). When employers and recruiters begin searching for you, or when you need to connect with someone of influence, it’s easy to send them a link to your own website which houses your other profiles.

In a recent Fast Company article, the writer tells a story of how a 16-year old high school student emailed her out of the blue, and asked to join her as a guest on her TV show. He did not send a résumé, but instead included links to his website, Twitter account, Facebook page, and three relevant YouTube clips. This is a 16-year old! He has already learned how to use the web to his advantage–building a strong and positive personal brand before he even reaches his adult years. Twelve months into his brand-building exercise, he is already a well-known regular tech TV expert and blogger–and he’s not even out of high school yet.

What about you? Are you ready to step forward and do something as daring as ‘Mr. 16-year old’? Do you own your name on the web? Are your profiles up-to-date and housed in one place? Have you scoured your Facebook profile to make sure that everything is professional? Do you have blog? If not, are you contributing your expertise to industry blogs? If a recruiter or employer begins searching for someone with your stories and skills, will you stand out from the herd, or will you stay hidden in the crowd?

CEOs, HR Executives and recruiters encourage job seekers to use social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs to improve their chances of getting a job. One CEO stated in a Boston Globe article that, “We often find hires because of their activity in social media and, especially, the blogosphere.”

A recruiter said, “We like to see candidates who have filled in their LinkedIn profile completely. Upload your resume, and if you are a blogger (and it is relevant to your career), post the link to your blog. With respect toTwitter, she said,”We use Twitter directory tools to find candidates whose bios match our hiring needs.”

The field is too competitive these days for you to continue doing what you have always done and expecting different results. You’ve got to be willing to go the extra mile in bringing visibility to your story. It’s time to up your game, begin building your personal brand and let the job vacancies find you.

Sources:

Five Steps to a Better Brand

Social Media Advice for Job Seekers

 

A Picture Says a Thousand Words!

Who says a blog post has to be an article?

While reviewing my Google+ status yesterday I saw where several people had added me to their circles. Among them was +Prabh Singh from Vancouver, Canada. As I read his posts, I came upon a link he used to create a Word Cloud, and since I tend to be an early adapter, I jumped on the bandwagon, experimented with it, and created a cloud from my blog. The above image is the result of this experiment.

Is this a tool that a job seeker would find useful? Why or why not?

Here’s the link courtesy of the developer @Timdream:  HTML5 Word Cloud

 

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.

How to Clue into a Company’s Corporate Culture

While companies put on their best face and say all the right words when trying to lure talented candidates, candidates need to be their own detectives and conduct due diligence to find out if the culture or the face of the company aligns with their values.  Fast Company gives some advice on how to clue in to a Company’s Corporate Culture and save yourself from headaches.

  • Go beyond the company’s website in your research, and perform a Google search. Also look for them or their employees on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Instead of focusing on the job title, the salary and that corner office you hope to occupy, take a step back and pay attention to the small things.
  • Arrive 20 minutes early for the interview so you can see the happenings. Listen carefully to what employees are saying to each other; pay attention to their mode of dress and how they treat each other.
  • Take a mental snapshot of your new boss’s office to see what’s important to him or her. Too many pictures of politicians when you are not the least bit interested in politics could be a sign.
  • If you need specific answers to a burning question, ask your prospective boss to tell you a story, much like a behaviour-based interview. “Tell me a time when…. “. This could be quite revealing.
  • After leaving an interview, sit down and make a list of everything you learned, and flag anything that is of concern to you. If something is bugging you, seek clarification before you accept the job.
  • If you are close to accepting the job offer, but still have questions, arrange an informal meeting with the new boss over coffee or lunch. Size up how he or she interacts with others. That will give you a good clue as to what to expect.

What are your thoughts? Add your own comment below.

Source: Fast Company

Image courtesy of Jaunehibisbus

 

Client Lands Job Posted on Twitter

Her recent email read “Remember that job posting you sent me about a Bilingual Marketing Manager where they asked me to translate my résumé to French? I want to let you know that I got an offer and I accepted it. I am very excited since there will be a lot of interesting challenges and I am getting everything I want – salary, vacation and benefits. Thank you for all your help and I will keep in touch.”

This message was from a client with whom I had been working for several months. She was having a tough time finding a marketing manager’s position and thought that nine months was unbelievably too long to be looking for work. At times in our conversations I could sense her frustration, but I reminded her gently that job searching could be a slow and tedious process, but if she kept her head up and continued doing the right things she would eventually land the job she wanted. I also told her that giving up was not an option. She hung in there and got the job.

How did this happen? As part of the job search strategy, I encourage my clients to invest time in social media. I do, and it’s not not for social reasons, although that happens. On Twitter, for example, I follow hiring managers, recruiters and job boards, and participate in Twitter Chats with HR professionals, recruiters and leadership coaches to keep abreast of industry trends. Through these channels, I sometimes become aware of job opportunities and if I find that someone in my network seem to be a match for some of these opportunities (whether they are clients or not), I forward the information to them.

This Bilingual Marketing Manager’s job is a great example. It was posted on Twitter by Monster Canada (@Monsterca). When I read the requirements, it sounded perfect for my client so I forwarded it to her. She translated her résumé to French as the company requested, and after a couple of interviews and several weeks of waiting (because of the summer holidays), she landed the job with “everything she wanted…” as noted above.

Looking for a job is a full-time job, as it’s often said, but it requires various strategies to achieve success. The other point is that you may have a great résumé, but if you continue to use ineffective job search methods or rely on one particular strategy, it will not help you land the job of your dreams. Therefore, plan to incorporate social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ into your job search toolkit because that’s where employers and recruiters hang out these days. Job boards are still around, but the companies behind these boards are extending their reach via social media. If you are an early adopter ready to jump on the social media band wagon, you will be way ahead of your competitors and achieve your job search goal.

And, don’t buy in to the concept that there are no jobs! Jobs are out there, but you need to assess your skills, employ a variety of tools, be deliberate with your search and visualize yourself sitting at the desk as an employee at one of your target companies!  Remember, “Whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve.”

I hope you have gained some value from this post. Share your comments below, or connect with me if you need to discuss how you can move your career forward. I will be pleased to have a chat with you!