It's Still Who You Know Print E-mail
Networking has traditionally been the most effective method of job hunting, coming in ahead of mailing/emailing resumes in response to job advertisements or postings. Most people think of networking from the job seeker’s point of view — talking to people you know to find open positions. Something you may not realize — networking works better for the employer, too, essentially for the same reason. Locating candidates by word of mouth is proving more effective.

With unemployment in double digits, employers are swamped with applicants the instant they post a single job on the Internet. Whether it is an advertisement on a job board or a position posted on their own company website, resumes start pouring in to the resume database or email boxes.

Recently, a senior facilities maintenance position was posted for a large research organization in the Southeast. Within 1 hour, the HR department had over 300 applicants for this position, some suitable but many not even remotely qualified. Anyone and everyone seemed to be applying in hopes of getting an interview and possibly a job with this prestigious and well-paying organization. The applicant pool grew and grew until it was simply too large to handle by the hiring manager. The tsunami of job seekers flooded the HR department!

At that point, the HR manager decided to fill the position solely by word-of-mouth, because publicly advertising the position nearly crashed the servers. The position was withdrawn from the website and posted on the company’s internal website. Postings were put up in break rooms around the facility. Instead of thousands of applicants who might or might not be qualified, the HR manager received 46 applicants who were referred by current employees. Those 46 applicants were all fairly well qualified, and she was able to narrow the field quickly to ten prime candidates to interview. The original attempt at filling the position through advertisement was much less efficient, more costly, and too time consuming so she filled the position more by “asking around” instead.

Technology was originally applied to job search during the 1990’s to make hiring easier. In some situations, however, it’s made it more difficult. HR managers spend a great deal of time learning to use technology more efficiently rather than spending time on the hiring itself. Technology opens positions to applicants globally rather than just locally or regionally; therefore, the potential applicant pool is automatically larger in scope. Add in a tough economy and that pool grows even larger and more aggressive. Some hiring managers are dropping back to word-of-mouth sourcing for really good open positions.

The moral of this story for the job seeker is to pay attention to who you know. Your network is your most precious asset. Make sure you nurture it at all times, even when you are happily employed. Use social media and technology to connect on a regular basis, but don’t neglect face time with people to keep your network in prime condition. People hire people. Networking works both ways when hiring managers and candidates are looking to maximize the effectiveness of the hiring process.

Responsible for... Print E-mail

One of the most common problems we see in resumes is concentration on job duties rather than performance. Phrases such as “responsible for”, “duties included”, “assisted with” or “served as” are not powerful, descriptive or persuasive in a resume. They always make me think of an observation I made while on a trip to Eastern Europe several years ago…

While traveling in the former Soviet Union states, I had occasion to visit several public restrooms in restaurants, train stations, museums, etc. Older ladies – “babushkas” – always sat at tables near restroom doors collecting money from ladies on their way out. The door babushka wasn’t doing anything except sitting there; she wasn’t handing out towels or toiletries as we see with powder room attendants in swanky hotels or restaurants here in the US. At the time, I guessed you had to pay to use the restroom so I watched to see how much the lady in front of me gave her and then paid the same amount.

Finally, I asked one of my travel companions, a native Ukrainian, about the “bathroom babushka” and he explained her role to me. Supposedly, the bathroom babushka’s job originally was to maintain the restroom and as a reward, the venue would allow her to collect money from patrons for her efforts. At some point through the years, the “work” part of the equation disappeared and it became simply a matter of sitting at the door collecting money for, well, sitting at the door. Bathroom babushkas figured out they didn’t actually have to do anything yet they still got paid.

“Responsible for maintenance, upkeep, and cleanliness of ladies’ restroom in busy, metropolitan restaurant. Assure adequate supply of tissue, soap and towels. Provide customer service to enhance patrons’ experience. Respond to questions regarding local points of interest.”

Yes, they were responsible for maintenance, etc. but they didn’t PERFORM it. An “adequate” supply of necessities meant a sliver of bar soap and that was it. You were out of luck on paper needs. Customer service consisted of growling at you as you came in and not even saying “thank you” when you dropped coins in the bucket on the way out. And responding to questions? That was generally a sharp, sarcastic retort. Technically, the job description is accurate in the section above but the picture of performance quality is totally missing.

Contrast those bathroom babushkas with the restroom attendant I recently encountered in the Atlanta airport. She saw me coming and with a sweet voice cried out “Oh honey, I have a room all ready for you! Right this way!” She then proceeded to open a stall door, activate the auto-flush thing, wipe down the seat with an antibacterial wipe and place a fresh seat cover on the toilet – all while I stood there with eyebrows raised and my jaw dropped. She stood back with a smile, held the door for me and then made sure I could latch it before moving to the next incoming “customer”. After I finished, I went to wash my hands and she had a fresh paper towel all ready for me so I didn’t have to touch the dispenser; she turned off the tap for me; and even gave me a little squirt of hand sanitizer to top it off.  I was completely astounded. What customer service!

Keep in mind, she was NOT a bathroom attendant. She was the custodian lady who pushed the mop cart around! She was the one emptying trash cans. She had just decided to take what most would think of as a mundane, minimum-wage job to another level entirely. And her initiative was paying off! I gave her a $5 tip and I saw several other ladies handing her money! If I were to write HER job description, it might sound like this:

“Exceeded all customer expectations in maintenance of public restroom facility in one of nation’s busiest airports. Maintained exceptional cleanliness of over 20 individual stalls and corresponding hand basins. Assured plentiful availability of supplies and necessities, achieving 100% stall readiness throughout entire shift. Delivered outstanding customer service and one-on-one attention, assisting with whatever needs presented ranging from airsickness to assistance with Diaper Deck manipulation. Greeted passengers with a smile and helpful attitude, always ready to answer questions or provide information.”

Do you see the difference? The “job description” of both these women – the bathroom babushka and the Atlanta attendant – was the same. The difference was PERFORMANCE. It is performance that makes a resume stand out. Performance makes one candidate better than another in the hiring process. Unfortunately, most job seekers forget about performance while trying to capture duties! Are you a bathroom babushka on paper? Your resume should reflect your outstanding performance, not just what you were “responsible for”.



Warm Up Your Network Print E-mail

Is your job search iced over? When there is two feet of snow outside, finding the motivation to get out to networking opportunities can be difficult. It is much more tempting to stay at home by the fireplace. The Northern Hemisphere is in the middle of one of the coldest winters in years. Snow blankets from New York to Beijing with flakes appearing in central Florida for the first time in decades. Many job seekers are dealing with power issues and travel problems during this period. Mother Nature is making front page news along with unemployment figures.

Does the weather affect hiring? It’s possible to some degree. If a hiring manager is stuck at home, it will be hard to interview candidates in person. However, remote computing allows many snow-bound workers to connect to the office from home and continue to conduct business. Productivity is maintained and often gained from remote work. Since most first interviews are conducted via telephone, lack of mobility is not a hurdle. While many bemoan the passage of the “face to face” first interview, technology may actually help overcome obstacles that might delay hiring such as weather, illness, or travel.

Savvy use of technology as a tool can be very helpful to job search. Know how to use social media properly and implement the basics of mobile computing and communications. Leverage the power of communication at warp-speed to maximize the effectiveness of your networking and communication. The more connections you can achieve, the better your chances of finding new opportunities. The Internet, LinkedIn, Facebook, and email in general make keeping your network warm easy – no matter what the weather outside!

Holiday Job Search Leads to Employment in the New Year Print E-mail

Snowed in by the unseasonably cold weather? Find yourself invited to about a million functions for the holidays? Both can be advantageous to your holiday job search efforts. Being snowed in can allow you to devote more attention to your online job search efforts, while parties and dinners provide opportunity for networking. Make sure you do both, doubling your job search efforts during this month and you will move into January with a head start over other job seekers.

Think the end of the year is a bad time to job search? Think again. Let me give you an analogy: ask any mom what is the worst day to shop for groceries and she will say “Saturday”. The store is packed with people, the clerks are busy, the shelves are a mess, and the checkout lines run back to the meat counter. Saturday for grocery shopping is like January for job searching – it’s a zoo. In January, everyone jumps into the market and job seekers are elbowing each other for position. Waiting until January to put your efforts into your job search is like parachuting into the middle of a buffalo stampede!

On the flip side, what is the best day for grocery shopping? Usually Tuesdays are best; the trucks with fresh items have arrived, the clerks have time to assist you, and you can get in and out much faster. In job search, December is a “Tuesday”. Hiring managers and gatekeepers are in good moods and more likely to spend some time reviewing your resume or speaking with you on the phone. Getting in the door via events or network connections can be easier. And the other job seekers are at home thinking negative thoughts! December is a great time to work your job search!

Many charitable organizations are extremely active in both fundraising and events in December. Volunteer your help with some local organizations and you achieve several things. First, you accomplish something worthwhile, but you also bring yourself into contact with lots of other people, many of whom are working on behalf of their employers as part of a corporate sponsorship. Instant contacts! And what a great way to make a good first impression!

Make December count. Don’t stop now but rather redouble your efforts at meeting people, talking about companies, getting leads, and getting your resume and cover letter out. It’s job hunting season!


Too Much Time on Hand Print E-mail

One of the most common questions we receive from job seekers is “How much time do I show on my resume?” While like everything else in job search, there is no hard and fast rule, there is a rule of thumb. When determining how much time to show on your resume, consider your audience. What is going to be relevant to the employer? Will your time in the Boy Scouts in high school matter to a prospective employer now that you are a senior manager? Probably not.

The “rule of thumb” for time span on a resume is go back to college graduation or back 12-15 years – whichever comes first. Employers are primarily interested in your most recent work experience because it relates to their current needs and the needs of the market today. You may have a 25 year career but it is the most recent decade or so that will matter most, especially considering how rapidly the world changes in terms of skills, technology, and processes.

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