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Embarrassing Moments at Work: Offer Letter Sent to the Wrong Candidate

OfficeTeam recently conducted a survey asking executives to recount their most embarrassing moments. One fell asleep while interviewing a candidate, another sent the offer letter to the wrong candidate, and yet another answered the phone using the wrong company name. One even went to work with two different shoes on. I can relate to that as it happened to me years ago one dark winter morning.

These moments can happen to just about anyone, and while the executive may be forgiven, as a candidate vying for that coveted position, you might not be so fortunate. That embarrassing mistake could cost you the job of your dreams.

Here are four tips from OfficeTeam to help you rebound from embarrassing mishaps:

1. Remain calm. It’s easy to lose your nerves after a slipup, but try to keep your composure. Take a deep breath and collect yourself.

2. Own up. Acknowledging a blunder before someone else does can alleviate any awkward tension that may arise. If appropriate, address the situation in a humorous way to make everyone feel more at ease.

3. Make amends. If your accident affected another person, immediately apologize and take steps to ensure a similar mistake does not happen again.

4. Move on. Rather than dwell on a misstep, focus on getting back on track. The faster you recover, the less memorable the incident will be.

What has been an embarrassing moment for you? Share it here.

*Post courtesy of OfficeTeam

6 Job Search Tips from Ted Williams – “The Homeless Man with a Golden Voice”

Have you heard of Ted Williams? He is the homeless man whose Youtube video has captured the hearts of millions of people around the world, thanks to a Columbus Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III.

Williams is an ex-radio announcer who fell on hard times, but two years ago he changed his lifestyle and began looking for help and for work. Since the Youtube video went viral, he has received so many job offers that he is still trying to determine which offer to take.

As a job seeker, what can you learn from Ted?

1.       Know yourself and what you are good at. Although homeless, Williams knew he had (and still has) a “God-given gift of voice”.

2.       Craft a clear, concise and compelling branded message that’s unique to you. Williams’ crisp cardboard message read, “I have a God given gift of voice. I’m an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please! Any help will be gratefully appreciated. Thank you and God bless. Happy holidays.”

3.       Look for opportunities to demonstrate your value proposition. Williams didn’t just hang out his cardboard sign, but he demonstrated his rich, radio-announcer delivery whenever he got a chance, and he caught Mr. Chenoweth’s attention.

4.       Follow Williams’ example and revamp your resume to make sure it has the right message that will grab attention. Notice he didn’t have a long laundry list of job descriptive statements, but a short and compelling message.

5.       Brush up on your interview skills to be ready to articulate the value you can bring to your next employer. During his subsequent TV appearances, Williams articulately demonstrated his value when asked to do impromptu voice-overs. He was ready!

6.       Never give up, even when the going gets rough. There’s light at the end of your job search tunnel.

Have you hit rock bottom in your job search? Reflect on the Ted Williams’ story, realize your circumstances are not as bad, then pick yourself up and try again!

Sharpen Your Negotiation Skills and Get the Salary You Deserve

Salary Negotiation

Salary negotiation is not an easy task for many people, but it’s even harder when you are a newcomer to a country. The case study below shows how a little bit of research and some coaching strategies led to job search success for one client.

My client and his family arrived in Canada two months ago – July 2010. We began working together months before he left Asia, and by the time he arrived, he had had his professional resume, cover letter and other related resources ready to begin his job search.

His first interview was in response to a job posting for a temporary position as Senior Research Advisor with a major Canadian institution. The position required a Masters Degree or a PhD, and he has the latter. After his second interview he was sent an email with a preliminary offer, but there was one glitch; the hourly rate was not quite what he was expecting. He asked me to help him prepare a negotiation strategy as he wanted to accept the offer, but at a higher pay rate.

I asked him to consider questions such as: What’s the minimum he would be willing to accept? What was most important to him – the money or the experience? How important would the experience be for him as he moves his career forward? What would he do if they stuck to, or withdrew the offer? I advised him to research the pay rate for similar positions so he would know where to start his negotiations. I also advised him to have a Plan B just in case they said they couldn’t raise the offer. He was also concerned about hours of work and benefits, considering it was a six-month temporary position. We brainstormed on how he would handle those issues if and when they came up. At the moment, the money was the sticky issue.

With all bases covered, I helped him to craft the following response:

Dear Mr. ________:

Thank you very much for your email indicating that you would like to offer me the temporary position of Senior Research Advisor. While it would be a privilege for me to work for ___________, and contribute my knowledge and experience to the position, I find the hourly rate of $24, lower than I had expected. Having met with me twice, I am sure you have recognized the value I would bring to __________. Would you consider raising the rate to $28? If you could do that, I would accept your offer.

Not only did they consider his request, but they offered him $30 per hour – $2 more per hour than he had asked for, and $6 more than their original offer.

Careful research, understanding his value, and a little bit of coaching helped him to ink the deal. He could easily have accepted the first offer on the basis that he was new to Canada and should take what was offered, but he did a few things right. First, he researched the salary range for similar positions. Second, he sought help, as this was a new arena for him, and third, he presented a counter-offer, knowing that his offer could be rejected.  He took a risk and his efforts paid off, and he will start his new job in two weeks.

What do you think of this approach? What additional advice would you have given him? Please add your comments below.

6+ Phrases to Avoid in your Cover Letter

In the daily discourse on career matters, a lot of time is spent discussing how to create resumes that are  tight and focused on  the employer’s needs. This attempt to be brief becomes even more relevant in this 140-character Twitter era, when ‘less means more’. If we are going to aim for brevity in our writings, let’s forget the resume for a bit and take a look at the cover letter.

It is widely said that half of hiring managers don’t read cover letters, so it’s safe to assume that  the other half does. For those who do, we wouldn’t want them to throw the cover letter in ‘File 13’ (the garbage bin), because it contains too many clichés or over-used phrases.  Here are some popular phrases to avoid in your cover letter if you want to capture and keep the attention of the hiring manager:

1.     “Please be advised…”. Unless you are in the role of an advisor, eliminate this phrase. Simply state what you have done. “I have sent a copy to Human Resources”.

2.     “Enclosed please find” or “Attached herewith.” If it is enclosed or attached, the reader will find it. Use “Enclosed (or Attached) is…”.

3.     “Yours very truly”, “Very truly yours”, and “Respectfully”. These archaic phrases disappeared many moons ago. Using the word ‘yours’ gives the impression you belong to the reader. Use “Sincerely,” instead.

4.     “Feel free to contact me”, or “Please do not hesitate to contact me”. These clichés have outlived their times. It’s better to say “Please contact me.”

5.      “Above-referenced”. Don’t ask the reader to take his or her eyes back to the reference line. Instead, re-state whatever you are referring to – the subject, title or position.

6.     “I have forwarded…”. Say “I sent” instead. Short and to the point.

Is there a phrase or two you would like to add? Go ahead and comment below.

Seven Job Search Mistakes to Avoid

How many times have you heard that “first impression counts”? Many job seekers believe that a professional resume package is all that’s required for a successful job search. They don’t realize that an email address, the message on an answering machine, or the inappropriate use of cell phones could severely derail their job search.

The seven mistakes outlined below are real situations culled from unsolicited information that either arrived in my Inbox or was mentioned in conversations with an individual or two. None of the individuals are clients, so the element of confidentiality does not apply.

1. Email Address. Cute email addresses should be used only with your cute family and friends. They will not be considered cute by potential employers. All correspondence that pertains to your job search should have your real name or something that demonstrates professionalism. Consider the young woman whose email address was lazygirl@xxxxx.com. (The domain name has been changed to protect her identity). This young lady was looking for a job in a restaurant where they required someone to work in a fast-paced environment. Why would an employer hire someone who is announcing that she is a ‘lazy girl’?

2. Voicemail. Your voicemail should convey your professionalism. In your absence, it becomes another tool to market yourself. Give yourself a call and listen to your message. Is it short, clear and businesslike? Don’t be like this other young woman I met at a job fair who wanted to know what she was doing wrong why she couldn’t find a job. When I called her home to follow-up, part of her voicemail message said “If you got this message, you may be someone I don’t want to talk to, and if you are someone I don’t want to talk to, you know what to do”. Why would a hiring manager give her a second call after such a message?

3. Résumé. Don’t be a part of the ‘cheating culture’ by submitting someone else’s résumé as if it’s your own. That is never acceptable, particularly when you didn’t take the time to remove the other person’s name. A man sent me an email asking me to hire him. The name on his email address was different from the one he had as his signature, and the name on the résumé was also different. Three aliases! When I wrote back suggesting that he decides who he really is, his reply was “do u think i am dumb?”

4. Cover Letter. Take the time to write a proper, professional cover letter to accompany your résumé whether you are applying by email or sending it by snail mail. Your cover letter is another opportunity to market yourself to the employer; an opportunity to draw attention to your special skills or to explain something that was not covered in your résumé. The majority of hiring managers still want to see a cover letter whether or not the job posting asks to “fax a résumé”. The man referred to above (the one who wanted me to hire him) had as his subject line “looking 4 work”, and his one-line cover note said “I am looking for permanent work. Please hire me”.

5. Interview. Your résumé and cover letter brought you to this important stage. It is now time for you to shine; to tell the interviewer why you are the best candidate for the job. It’s inevitable that you are going to hear the question, ”Do you have questions?” You should be prepared with a few good ones. Do not be like the candidate who answered “No” to the question, then went home and sent an email with a long list of questions to the interviewer.

6. Job Offer. If you have reached the stage where you have been offered the job, it means the company really wants you. While it is normal, and sometimes expected, that a certain amount of negotiation will take place, don’t blow your chances by asking for the impossible. One young man, fresh out of graduate school, thought he should push the envelope by informing the interviewer that the other company was offering him much more money. He lost out on an opportunity as this company could not match the offer, and the other company didn’t exist.

7. Cell Phone. Watch your cell phone manners. One of the last things you do before going into an interview is to turn off your cell phone. Do not put it on vibrate, but turn it off. Not only will it be embarrassing to you if it rings during the interview, but it could spell disaster to your job search. A salesman was at an interview when his boss called. In the midst of the interview he told the boss that he “was meeting with a client”, and could he call back.

Your job search is much more than a resume and cover letter. It entails honesty and professionalism starting with your first contact with the company. Overlooking proper job search etiquette could be detrimental to your career success, so beware.

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Daisy Wright is Chief Career Strategist at The Wright Career Solution and author of No Canadian Experience, Eh? A Career Survival Guide for New Immigrants. Email: careercoach@thewrightcareer.com.

Radio Interview with Canadian Business Consultant & Venture Capital Expert

Do you have a great business idea and would like to find out how to raise capital to fund the business? Are you an aspiring entrepreneur under 30? Would you like to hear from someone who decided to create a job for herself rather than work for somebody else?

If so, join me on my radio show, The Career Achiever, on Wednesday March 25, 2009 at 3:30 pm, when I will be interviewing the Founder and Principal of Lemonade Capital, Prerna Chandak, a young woman who took a giant leap to move her career forward and start a venture capital and business consulting firm working with SMEs and young entrepreneurs across Canada. Prerna was honoured as one of Chatelaine Magazine’s 80 Amazing Women to Watch in Canada and in 2007, was a recipient of the National Top 20 Under 20 award by Youth In Motion.

Stay tuned for additional shows on career and job search topics.

Daisy Wright’s Interview with CHUM 104.5 FM

Interviewed this morning by Sara Konings of CHUM 104.5 FM for a new job search series about how to survive job layoffs. I will post the date the series will be aired as soon as I am advised. In the meantime, listen to an earlier interview at http://www.chumfm.com/podcast/MP3s/Interviews/Career%20Coach.mp3

Speak Well with Composure

Second in the series: Presidential Poise

This segment talks about being ‘well prepared and well practiced’ in order to deliver an effective speech.

“Not all of us need or have the opportunity to make a public speech. If we did we could certainly learn many lessons form Obama. Most importantly to be well prepared and well practiced. I’m certain he didn’t write a few notes on the back of his hand and just “wing it”. In fact he has been learning the craft of public speaking for many years and so can you. Even if you just speak up in meetings or conference calls being at ease in these situations is the sign of control and confidence.

Having a powerful, persuasive voice helps. Again this trait can be developed through being aware of what your voice sounds like, eliminating the ums and ahhs, you knows and perhaps getting some voice coaching.”

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As an aside, Toastmasters is a great organization to help you eliminate the ums and ahhs and deliver an effective speech. Visit www.Toastmasters.com and find a club near you.

The next post will be Being Well Mannered.

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Sue Currie, the director of Shine Communications Consultancy and author of Apprentice to Business Ace – your inside-out guide to personal branding, is a business educator and speaker on personal branding through image and media. To learn more about how you can achieve recognition, enhance your image and shine, sign up for free monthly tips at http://www.shinecomms.com.au