Don’t forget this step when applying for a job

step-740In a new article on the Seattle Times website, Lisa Quast stresses the importance of thoroughly reading job descriptions.

Once, while conducting interviews for an open position in my department, it became obvious that a candidate hadn’t bothered to read the entire job description that was posted online. That told me he wasn’t very interested in the position. It also gave me some insight into what his work habits might be.

For example, I imagined he was probably the type of person who waited until the last minute to get things done, who didn’t complete adequate research or analysis for projects, who didn’t anticipate questions that might be asked when presenting in front of groups. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.

Well said. She also gives six tips for job seekers to help them avoid unnecessarily creating the impression that they are not well informed.

Penelope Trunk: Make a connection with one person at a time

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While reading Penelope Trunk’s guide to “making a genuine connection to anyone” today, it occurred to me that I’d like to point people to this who are preparing for an interview (especially a group interview).

She writes:

[In giving a speech,] you have to connect with a single person in the audience. Talk to that one person until you know you have made a deep connection. And then move to another person. Do not scan the audience trying to connect with everyone. If you try to connect with everyone, you connect with no one. If you connect deeply with one person, the whole audience can feel that connection and they actually feel connected to you.

Really. This works. It’s super hard to do because our intuition is to ditch someone before we make a connection because it’s so scary in a speech to try so hard, in front of everyone.

I can’t wait for my next opportunity to give a talk so I can try out this suggestion. Makes sense to me, maybe it will make sense to you.

Use social media carefully in your job search

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Social media communications and blogging may be the resumes of the future, but if you’re in a sensitive occupation you need to be careful about what you’re saying online. Recently the US Army has launched a social media handbook, providing guidance for soldiers on the acceptable use of Facebook, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 tools. According to a recent article on Mashable:

The new social media handbook now provides additional tips and best practices, along with information on operations security tips, branding information, checklists, regulations and frequently asked questions.

A list of security tips, provided in the handbook, includes points such as:

– Setting privacy setting options to “friends only.”
– Not revealing schedule information and event locations.
– Considering turning off the GPS function of smartphones to avoid geotagging.
– Reviewing photos and videos before they’re posted online to make sure they don’t give away “sensitive” information.
– Making sure family members understand what type of information can and cannot be posted on social networks.

Whether you are in the military or another occupation which places a premium on privacy, be sure not to go overboard in your use of social media throughout your job search. Be sure your future employers understand that you’ll respect their legitimate needs for keeping important information confidential.

Seven tips for a perfect Letter of Recommendation

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If you’re a manager in a job transition, you may be leaving behind co-workers who could benefit from having your letter of recommendation. Don’t wait for them to ask. Volunteer to write them a professional letter that can show them that you are concerned for their career development.

Here are seven of my top tips for writing a well-constructed letter of reference for a past employee.

  1. Be sure to explain the nature of your relationship to the subject, how long you have known them, the contexts of the relationship, and why you are qualified to recommend them. You will probably need to describe your own qualifications if it’s not clear from the context.
  2. Get as specific as possible about the subject and try to keep platitudes and cliches to a minimum. Instead of saying that the subject is “dedicated,” tell the reader how their nearly perfect attendence record has been coupled with a can-do attitude and willingness to work overtime when requested. Provide measurable, concrete details that demonstrate the subject’s distinctive qualifications.
  3. Explain why you are providing the reference letter. If you are leaving the job or they are, or if they have asked for the letter for a specific application, you can mention that.
  4. Ask the subject for their resume and a copy of any other materials that will help you to identify if their experience is a good match for their application. Target the reference letter as specific as you possibly can.
  5. Readers will be weighing your words carefully, so be sure to say that you “give your highest recommendation” to the subject, “recommend without reservation,” or something like that. If your words are too bland or generic, your lack of enthusiasm will be noted.
  6. If you find yourself at a loss for words, ask the subject what they want to see in the letter. They may help to jog your memory about particular stories or qualities that would be helpful to communicate.
  7. While there is no length requirement for a letter of recommendation, it is generally a good idea to keep the letter brief, pertinent, and concise (no more than one page).

Finally, if you are looking for help in getting started, there are sample templates and books available on the Internet. For a more personalized approach, contact a professional career marketing editorial services firm like Writing Wolf.

Should you risk making yourself a pest?

pestWhether it’s a company that won’t respond to your resume or a hiring manager not returning your phone call after an interview, finding yourself dealing with an unresponsive employer is a common scenario.

In this article, the Career Doctor explores whether it’s a good idea to keep up with regular follow-up. He notes that many companies have extended the hiring process beyond the comfort of job seekers. But if a company drags its feet, he concludes:

By all means, contact the VP (or the VP’s assistant) — by whatever means you are most comfortable. There are so many possible scenarios, ranging from the staff person never getting the message to his email going into your junk folder by mistake. So, pick up the phone or send an email and politely inquire whether the staff person has tried to contact you. As with any follow-up, be certain to again express your interest in the company and how you can make a contribution.

It’s normal to worry about coming across as a pest, but remember that if you keep such contacts brief and to-the-point you are likely to come across as persistent and enthusiastic.

Are there some phrases to avoid in your job search?

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Lewis Levin advises job seekers to avoid hackneyed phrases when speaking to potential employers. Consider these:

  • ‘next generation’
  • ‘flexible’
  • ‘robust’
  • ‘world class’
  • ‘scalable’
  • ‘easy to use’
  • ‘cutting edge’
  • ‘well positioned’
  • ‘mission critical’
  • ‘market leading’
Lewis says that researchers have found that these were the six most commonly used phrases in press releases.
Whenever possible, replace cliched marketing phrases with specific examples. Instead of saying that you worked on a “mission critical” project, explain what it was specifically that made your work so valuable. For example, you can say, “By working as effectively and hard as I did, I allowed the company to complete a release of its product by the quarter-end deadline, allowing it to realize revenues from a client sale at a time when the company was under severe pressure to demonstrate that it was translating ideas into cash.”

If you can’t come up with a more specific phrasing, it’s possible you can do without the phrase altogether. I wouldn’t sweat it though, if you’re using these phrases. There are good reasons that marketing departments use the phrases so commonly: when they are backed by credible claims they help you to convey the significance of the value you add.