Download your visual guide right now!

Simply click on the image or the link below to download your visual guide The Effective Job Search.

It was designed (with a whole lotta love!) to make sure you’re on the right track and that you’re spending your time wisely. You’re more than welcome to share it with your friends!

6 LinkedIn Hacks for 2016

At the beginning of 2016, LinkedIn has 400 million users. And about half of them are using the site regularly. Among all mainstream social media sites, LinkedIn is where professionals hang out. And it’s where the average user has the highest income. If you want a new job, a better network or to position yourself as an expert, LinkedIn is the place to be. Our LinkedIn hacks for 2016 will cover three tips to improve your profile and three more to help you network more efficiently.

1. Showcase your portfolio

Graphic artists, interior designers and video producers have been using portfolios for years. People don’t care how long you’ve been doing something when they see how good (or how ordinary!) you are.  

LinkedIn is a great place to present your expertise. Even if you work with numbers. Even if you handle complex notions. Even if your job is boring.

At least try to come up with something. You could include a PowerPoint presentation which had a major impact on your team, a document you’ve written which was very clear and appreciated by decision makers, or a video of one of your talks or trainings. Do you have a video of yourself about your professional life? “Show me, don’t tell me” is a core principle of communication. Your portfolio is about “showing” what you can do or what you’ve achieved. It gives a very concrete touch to your profile. And it’s a great opportunity to stand out.

Business analysts, social workers or network administrators could all have something to showcase. And it seems to be getting easier to do, year after year.

Where would you put that? Under “Summary” or “Experience”, you will see the “Add media” option. It’s pretty simple to upload your stuff.

linkedin_hacks_add_media

Now, be careful with copyright or confidentiality issues. If you want to showcase a PowerPoint, it might be smart to convert it to SlideShare. Viewers can see the slides right on the page, instead of having to download a file. And, for your information, LinkedIn owns SlideShare.

2. Use a clean LinkedIn address

Your LinkedIn profile has a unique URL (web address). But if you’ve never modified it, it looks like a droid name from Star Wars, since it was automatically generated. If you want to show your LinkedIn URL on a business card or on your resume, there’s a way to customize it. It will to remove the “fw90726” type of garbage in there.

Here’s mine: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/poulinrichard.

I’ve changed it by editing my Public profile settings. To get there, you can click on the cog wheel, next to the URL (below your picture).

Then, at the top right, you’ll see “Your public profile URL”. Click on the pencil.

You can then edit the last bit of the URL. Some people call that your “vanity URL”. Try to include your name in there, and keep it as simple as possible.

3. Optimizing to rank better in search results

To understand how you can show up in search results, you have to know how the LinkedIn algorithm proceeds. However, that’s not public information. Just like Google’s search engine algorithm, it’s a secret recipe. LinkedIn talks about it in veiled terms to guide you as a user, buy they won’t help you game the system!

Here’s a bit of what LinkedIn says about that (from this page):
“Unlike the standard search engines, we generate relevance scores uniquely for each member. Even though a query will return the same results for everyone, the order is determined in part by the profile, activity, and connections of the person searching.”
“Relevance is a proprietary algorithm that we are constantly improving. […] Our goal is to optimize search results for the searcher…”

The first thing you can do, obviously, is to hit all the popular keywords in your field. Because when a potential client or recruiter is looking for something, they will type a query in the search box. And that’s where everything begins. So look at a few colleagues or competitors who rank really well, and check out the keywords they’re using.

Also, LinkedIn shows 1st and 2nd degree connections (explained below) above other search results. Which means that having a large network will naturally make you climb search results rankings (since you’re more likely to be part of the 1st or 2nd degree connections of the searcher).

Beyond that, unfortunately, no one knows how to seduce LinkedIn’s algorithms. I have yet to come across serious data analysis which would help us prioritize “having more recommendations” over “being involved in LinkedIn groups”, for example. If you listen to experts, you’ll read about the whole spectrum of LinkedIn activities as elements that could improve your rank in search results. But they can’t say how each one can impact search results.

Frequent status updates, liking and sharing stuff, being involved in groups, having endorsements and recommendations… All these things seem to matter. Having a complete profile (“All-star”) is also important.

So in summary, you just need to be active on LinkedIn. (Not exactly mind-blowing advice, right?) Here’s a few ideas on what you can do.

And do it with a target in mind. Focus on a few keywords, and have your LinkedIn presence revolve around them. Share articles about these keywords. Get involved in group discussions where these keywords are relevant. Write about these topics on Pulse. This will help position you higher in the search results. I can’t tell you which part will work better, but some of it will. (It’s a bit like the old marketing saying:  “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”)

4. Snoop around unseen

When you’re looking for people to reach out to, you might want to do it incognito. There are two ways to go about that. You can either use Google to search for LinkedIn profiles, or you can change your privacy settings.

Method 1: Searching LinkedIn privately with Google

First of all, go to www.linkedin.com and sign out of your account. Then go to Google, and type “site:linkedin.com” before typing the name of the person you’re looking for. With this search query, Google will look for that name but only on LinkedIn. Most people’s profiles are fairly easy to find with this method. However, a few of them might be private (but viewable if you were logged into LinkedIn).

Method 2: Adjusting LinkedIn privacy settings

You can also do it through LinkedIn, by adjusting your privacy settings. Hover above your tiny picture at the very top right of the screen. 1. Choose “Privacy & Settings”. 2. Click on “select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile”.

After that, you’ll have to choose either semi-private or completely private browsing. This will allow you to navigate LinkedIn without leaving traces. However, there is a drawback: it disables your profile stats (i.e. number of profile views, who’s viewed your profile, etc.). If you don’t want to lose track of those stats, you can browse privately for a while and then revert back to non-private mode when you’re done.

5. The Bridge person

Your connections on LinkedIn are called “1st degree” connections. All the people they are connected to become your 2nd degree connections. Your 1st and 2nd degree connections can easily include 10,000 people, many of whom live in your city or region. A “bridge person” is simply a 1st degree connection who can introduce you to a 2nd degree connection you need to talk to.

Which means that every time you want to reach out to a stranger, you should look on LinkedIn to see if they’re a 2nd degree connection. Because this means you could get introduced!

Or maybe there’s a local job posting or a business opportunity you have in mind. If all you have to work with is a company name, you can search LinkedIn for the organization (by using the basic LinkedIn search, at the very top). The results might show you relevant 1st or 2nd degree connections, which could turn a cold call into a warm call.

So how do you call upon these “bridge persons”?

LinkedIn used to have a system for you to get introduced to 2nd degree connections, but they’ve been tweaking it and it doesn’t respond like the Help center says (as of January 2016). But it hardly matters because phone calls are more efficient at this stage.

Go to the profile of the 2nd degree connection you want to reach. You’ll see all your first degree connections who could help you get introduced (as in the image below).

With a few phone calls or over coffee, your resume could make its way to the top of the pile! Or you could be talking to a serious potential investor.

A bridge person is a great resource to get much closer to decision makers.

6. Join plenty of groups, but only use a handful

While you can’t really participate in 20 or 30 groups, being part of lots of groups broadens your networking opportunities. To leverage that, you need to understand how you can send messages with LinkedIn.

It’s fairly simple, actually. You can send as many messages as you want, for free, to your 1st degree connections. That’s just called “messages” in LinkedIn parlance. But if you want to reach people outside your network, you’d have to use “InMail”. To do so, you’d need a (paying) premium account.

However, LinkedIn allows you to send 15 messages per month to people who are in the same groups as you. So even if you’re engaging in only 3 or 4 groups, a cool hack is to still be part of many others, just to expand the list of the 15 targeted people you can connect with per month. The limit of 15 per month has been set in 2015 and is part of an effort by LinkedIn to get spamming under control.

Of course, use that opportunity wisely. Make sure to be courteous and concise when reaching out to people who don’t know you.

* * *

In 2016, LinkedIn is still misunderstood. But it’s a critical part of many professionals’ arsenal. Obviously, it can be very beneficial to your job search. But it’s also quite powerful for building relationships in the B2B space. If you use it regularly and learn to apply a few of these hacks, it will help you meet your objectives.

How to Sell Yourself in Job Interviews

A great way to structure your accomplishments, especially during job interviews, is to think of the acronym CAR: Challenge – Action – Results. It can also guide you when you write accomplishments down on your resume. However, the telegraphic style of the resume often requires that we play with words and phrasing to keep statements crisp and focused. In other words, on your resume, you’ll usually give just enough information for the reader to understand the “results” part (which is the critical bit — “what they gained” is more important than “what you did”!).

During the interview, when you’re asked to tell a story about your strengths, or simply to “explain why we should hire you”, accomplishments are the most important tools at your disposal. Because they demonstrate you’ve got critical skills. And “show, don’t tell” is a good way to approach interviews. The CAR structure helps you tell great stories to sell yourself.

So here are a few accomplishments from my Resume Hacking books, and a write out of how someone might tell each story, during an interview.

IT Manager accomplishment

On the resume:
Directed relocation of data center from managed service provider to [redacted] co-location facility in San Diego, along with a technology refresh, resulting in 60% ($65,000/month) cost savings.

During the interview:

  • Challenge: We had a new place in San Diego where we wanted to relocate our data center. (It was previously handled by a managed service provider.)
  • Action: I planned and supervised everything related to the relocation, which included [complex technology X and logistical problem Y]. It wasn’t straight forward because of [series of unfortunate events]. The timing was perfect for a technology refresh, so I got approval from [some important people], and had to take care of that also.
  • Result: That refresh was done smoothly, and the relocation allowed us to reduce by more than half ($65,000 per month!) the data center costs. And it’s running very smoothly to this day!

Finance accomplishment

On the resume:
Raised $3 million in working capital for a $14 million fiber optics company (prepared offering book, developed financial structure and closed at favorable rates).

During the interview:

  • Challenge: This fiber optics company needed more cash to finally get their “big product” to the market. The previous financing round had gone OK, but they were a bit behind schedule, so it was a bit of a hard sell.
  • Action: I really made sure that the offering book was lean and mean, and well balanced. As well, I had to insist to get the Board to agree to a financial structure that made sense for investors. I knew enough people in that space to get great feedback, which specifically helped us with [this specific aspect of the financial structure].
  • Result: We ended up raising $3 million, which was half a million more than what they needed. (And we closed at favorable rates, which was a nice plus!)

Nutritionist accomplishment

On the resume:
Grocery store tour at end of six-week course brought great comments from participants who often said it “opened their eyes.”

During the interview:

  • Challenge: The hospital where I worked created this program with a community center, but details weren’t perfectly ironed out, and my intervention as a nutritionist was sort of grafted on at the last minute. I had to train 15 patients to make big changes to their eating habits (that was fine, I love doing that, it’s a great challenge). The main issue for me, however, was that some of my hospital patients were sharp professionals recently diagnosed with diabetes, while the community center patients were mainly lower class people with obesity issues. And my job was to prepare classes and workshops for that very diverse group.
  • Action: I decided to create adapted teaching material, so the diabetes patients wouldn’t get advice on losing weight, and vice versa. But what I’m most proud of with this training is the grocery tour. After the six-week class, I brought everyone grocery shopping together.
  • Results: It was quite something to see the frozen pizza lovers spending 10 long minutes in the fruits and vegetables section. This lady, I’ll always remember this, just stood there. She turned to me and said that what we had seen in class was now hitting her. And she realized how much she would often bypass this section, even though she loves bananas and apples! She said it opened her eyes. And that’s how I knew my teaching got through.

* * *

Ok… I might have been pushing it with this last story. (Didn’t it feel like an Oprah moment, by the end?) But there are different speaking styles, and that’s what I wanted to illustrate. You have to use words that sound authentic in your mouth. And make a real story out of it. That’s what the CAR structure is about. It’s just a way to make things clear in your head, to avoid jumping in with your actions, and then going back in time to explain the challenge, to finally get back to the results, which now feel loosely connected to the whole thing.

You have to put on paper some key points for your top 3 to 5 accomplishments and rehearse telling these stories over and over, until the words come naturally. But do not memorize a script! (You’ll be boring!) Just focus on the CAR structure and your key points. And then, just talk about it. They will see your skills and that will make you stand out.

Top 5 Questions to Prepare for Job Interviews

Some books give you 100 real-life job interview questions, and proven answers! But this is too much work, if you ask me! In this article, I’m breaking it down for you and focusing on the essentials. It’ll give you the “big picture”.

Let’s take a look at the mindset of a recruiter. A very interesting stat is that 40% of recruiters do not believe that candidates are typically well prepared for interviews.

(This stat comes from the CareerBuilder 2013 Recruiter Behavior Study, which isn’t readily available online anymore. Here’s a link to its sister report, the 2015 Candidate Behavior Study).    

There are five things that a hiring manager will want to know about you. If you’re ready to give a good answer to each of these five questions, you’re quite ready for a great interview.

The top 5 interview questions

1. Why do you want this job, at this company? 2. What’s your personality like? Will you fit in? 3. What value can you bring us? 4. How are you different from the other interviewees? What makes you stand out?

5. How much do you want?

Now, you might not hear the questions stated like that, word for word. But every question you’re being asked aims to get a clearer answer to one of these 5 questions. So let’s see what’s driving each one.

1. Why do you want this job, at this company?

They’re about to hire someone, giving them a lot of money each week for showing up and working. But they will need to train them, while hoping they’ll stick around for a while. Because if they leave, it will cost them a lot of money! And then the process starts all over again.

Which means employers want to feel like you’ll like it there. So express what you like about that job and that company. Even if it’s not mind-blowing.

If you’re a bit jaded by the job search process, you might think this question is baloney, because you just want a job to pay the bills. I understand. But don’t say anything along those lines!

Think of it this way. Let’s say you’re in the early stages of a relationship. If the other person asks you why you like being with them, it’s not the brightest idea to say “I don’t enjoy being alone.” You have to think of positive attributes of that person, even if they’re not your dream date.

The same goes for that job. Maybe it’s bigger/smaller than where you used to work, or you really like the industry (retail/big pharma/transportation…). Or it could just be well located or you’ve heard good things about it. You don’t have to pretend it’s amazing. But enthusiasm scores higher than apathy.

2. What’s your personality like? Will you fit in?

Are you easy to work with? Easy to lead? Adaptable or more comfortable in a routine environment? Results-oriented or detail-oriented? They want to know if you’re the kind of person who will thrive in this job, and with the rest of the team. Because they’re hoping you’ll stay there for a while and get along well with your co-workers. Look at the job ad for guidance on how to answer this.

When they ask something like “Give us an example of a tough situation with your most recent manager, and how you handled it”, they’re trying to evaluate your people skills.

A big word of caution here: don’t try too hard to look like somebody you’re not. It’s normal to show your best side, but don’t go out of your way to give the answers they’re looking for. If you enjoy a regular routine and they insist on the need for a flexible and adaptable person, you might just hate that job.

(Don’t take this as a license to “be yourself”. In a job interview, you should be more enthusiastic than usual and in a “giving” state of mind. Maybe that’s not “being yourself,” but it’s part of the dance.)

The interview is a great opportunity for YOU to see if you’d enjoy yourself there. You should also have some criteria of the sort of team you’d like to work with and the sort of person they’re looking for. In other words, you should also be looking for the right fit. Here’s a few questions that you should ask them (probably later on, in the interview).

3. What value can you bring us?

What skills do you have for the job you’re applying for? For our company? For our challenges? Or more precisely, what value did you bring to previous employers? It’s not about what you did, but rather about the benefits of your actions and ideas for your employers. The employer is wondering: “Can you deal with my problems?”

There’s one major tool here: accomplishments.

Accomplishments are stories about money that you’ve saved or problems that you’ve solved. They can also be about teams you’ve led, initiatives you’ve taken, or anything you’ve done to make work better or simpler.

Before you go to an interview, think of your 3 or 4 best accomplishments (they should already be on your resume, obviously). Practice telling them like a two-minute story, with the following structure: CAR — the Challenge – your Action – the Result.

THIS IS WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS. THIS IS WHERE YOU WIN THE RACE!

There is nothing more critical to your job hunt: your accomplishments are the key to your success. You can learn more about accomplishments here. And if you’d like a list of accomplishments just for your profession, the Resume Hacking books are what you’re looking for.

4. How are you different from the other interviewees? What makes you stand out?

That’s similar to the previous question, but they want to get a feel for where you stand among your peers.

Your accomplishments already cover a good chunk of this question. But other things about you can give potential employers a sense of your unique expertise. Maybe you’re an engineer who is now turning to sales. Or you’re from the publishing industry and you’re applying to a big pharma job. Or maybe you’re very good with computers, when compared to other creative writers. Or you have tremendous public presentation skills for an accountant.

These elements spice up your profile and can help you get ahead. More and more, organizations are looking for more than a “vanilla” candidate. Your transferrable skills could tip the odds in your favor.

5. How much do you want?

This is fairly obvious. Can they afford you?

To help you figure out your answer, visit glassdoor.com or salary.com and search for salaries of your future job (or something similar). One trick here is to avoid giving a single figure. Instead, you want to talk about a range. And your range should be a bit higher than theirs, but not excessively. That’s why you need to do some research before compensation is discussed.

Also, you have to figure out if you’re comfortable disclosing how much you made at your last job. But if they’re somewhat resourceful, they might have a very good idea anyway.

Early on in the negotiation phase, phrase your responses in a way that leaves some gray areas. “I’m looking for a salary between X and Y, but it should reflect workload, responsibilities and expectations.” By phrasing it this way, you’re not locking yourself in a corner.

Final thoughts

In the 2013 CareerBuilder study mentioned above, recruiters were asked “When interviewing a job candidate, which of the following is the most likely to knock them out of the process if they are not a good match?” Here are the answers: Lack of necessary skills: 53%, Culture fit: 23%, Compensation expectations: 18%, Not enough years of experience: 6%.

The answers reflect the questions we’ve covered. Yes, skills and experience are at the top of the list, but poor fit and unreasonable salary expectations can also knock you out. That’s why you have to be prepared to cover everything the recruiter wants to know, and not simply “can you do this job?”

The top 5 questions are only guidelines; job interviews can go in many directions. You’ll receive tons of questions, and they won’t be worded like what I’ve covered here. However, once you understand what’s motivating them (one of the 5 guidelines above), you’ll be able to give a smarter answer!

* * *

If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it on LinkedIn or Facebook.

What Questions Should You Ask in an Interview?

The job search process wears people down. This comes with an unfortunate consequence: many people are so excited to get an interview, they forget how much value THEY are bringing to the table. As if only the company really had something good to offer.

That attitude has to disappear. Both parties are doing each other a favor by participating in the meeting. And the goal is to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement.  

So when they actually ask you if you have questions, saying no will hurt you twice. First, because it creates the impression that you’ll take whatever they propose, since you’re so desperate for a job. (Being desperate is never a good negotiating stance.) Second, there could be major turn-offs about this job, which you could uncover by getting them to talk.

Here’s an obvious one: Can you tell me about my potential supervisor and team?

Notice that it’s a neutral question. But pay attention to the answer; it’s open-ended enough to go in any direction. Would you like to work in a team of 20 year olds? Maybe, maybe not. Or how about having a boss known for being demanding?

Try to read between the lines.

Questions to ask at the interview

  1. Can you tell me about my potential supervisor and team?
  2. What’s a typical day or week in this role?
  3. Is there room for growth?
  4. I like to learn and develop new skills… Can I expect on-the-job coaching? Training opportunities?
  5. At my last job, we did X… What do you guys do here? (Think about tools, approaches, practices or principles related to this specific job.)
  6. What does success look like in this role? (Or ask about what your priorities would be for the first few months.)
  7. What are the biggest challenges for this job?
  8. How’s the company culture?
  9. Is this a new role? (If not: The lady who was doing this a couple of weeks ago, why did she leave?)
  10. What’s the worst part of this job?
  11. What do you like and dislike the most about working here?

Some of these questions might seem a bit intrusive. However, you were probably just asked what’s your biggest weakness, right? If you sense that there could be something wrong with this position (let’s say, a bad boss), you might learn about it by asking tougher questions. But there are layers of political correctness and loyalty that will cloud the topic. Which means you should expect some clues, but no straight answers.

What are YOUR questions?

Use this part of the interview to focus on what’s critical to you. This could be related to work environment, pressure, deadlines, team dynamics, etc. I’m not in your shoes; I don’t know what irks you. Use the interview to ask about it. But accept that they may give you a vague answer. 

If you want to investigate further, wait until you get home. You could look on LinkedIn for people in your network who have worked there. Reach out to them. Or head over to glassdoor.com to read some reviews.

When the tables are turned, it’s your chance to make sure that your expectations are met. This will help you avoid nasty surprises.

And it will let them know that you’re a valuable asset, and you know it.

Beat the Job Boards (and automated resume screening)

Sending your resume through online channels is a proven way to get interviews! Click on the image below to see the full infographic. You’ll discover how to optimize your resume, especially to deal with Applicant Tracking Systems (or “ATS”, the resume screening machines that often reject good candidates).

If the infographic isn’t enough, check out this companion article.

beat_automated_resume_screening_a-1

Why Am I Getting Interviews but No Job Offers?

While most job seekers struggle to get job interviews, some have trouble converting interviews into job offers. They prepare, get all dressed up, do some polite conversation, answer all the questions, once, twice or more (per company). And get disappointed. Again. Since interviews create a glimmer of hope, that cycle of interviewing over and over feels like a wild rollercoaster that forgets to stop. (Yay!… Oh no… Maybe this time?… No… Almost there… Nope!)

Recently, I came across a communications professional with a master’s degree who had been interviewing at least twice a month, over 6 months. He was applying to about one opening per day, and needed to send out a dozen of tailored applications to get an interview. These are strong numbers. If you’re getting one or two interviews per month, you’re doing it right. Don’t change your application recipe.

(However, if your numbers are much lower, you can usually tweak things to get more interviews (tailoring your resume/cover letter, improving your networking game and getting serious with LinkedIn are basic solutions). While figures vary wildly depending on your field and seniority, there are many internet stories about people applying on 100 openings who barely get one interview. In that situation, you should really focus on having a strong resume and application process.)

Now, let’s look at how the serial interviewer can turn his situation around.

Why aren’t you getting job offers?

First off, consider that most employers will have around 5 interviewees for a position. So, very generally, an average target should be 1 job offer for 5 interviews. But if you’re 0 in 10 (or worse), you really need to focus on your interviewing skills AND attitude.

1. You can’t (or won’t) sell yourself

Many job seekers don’t like selling themselves. They’ve been raised not to brag. Or they think they sound like Dave, their friend who’s always pushing these multi-level marketing gimmicks (“It totally changed my life!”).

If you’re not a good salesperson, you should try to see a job interview as a first date. You need to show your best side and some enthusiasm. In job search language, your “best side” means your accomplishments. When they ask the “Why should we hire you?” question (among my top 5 interview questions), tell them about your skills, as substantiated by your strongest accomplishments. A good way to tell these “war stories” about your accomplishments is to follow the CAR structure: Challenge – Action – Results.

Challenge Action Results
My team was in trouble because…     I decided to…    We met the deadline, within budget.
The company wanted us to…     I talked to my boss and we…    We improved X by 30%…
It had been 6 months since…    Nobody wanted to deal with this, but I…  It’s now much easier to…

Practice telling 3 stories like this, until the words come very naturally. Then, practice them with a touch of enthusiasm. That’s it. You’ve just made a big step towards selling yourself better. By working on your storytelling.

2. Your answers or attitude are a bit off

During job interviews, you’ll be talking a lot. Without saying that everything you say is a potential landmine, be aware that a peculiar sense of humor or a snarky comment about your last boss can disqualify you very quickly. It could also be that you’re poorly handling legitimate questions about your work history (gaps in your resume) or that you don’t seem to care enough (for instance, by having some questions for them). Or maybe you get really nervous and that’s why you can’t maintain good eye contact or you do some other weird things that make it awkward.

Obviously, the first thing to do is to read about job interviews, etiquette as well as typical questions and answers. And try to find articles about what you think is hurting you. But if you have no clue, there are professionals who can help you with interviews (namely, career coaches and resume writers).

3. Your people skills are lacking

Interviews are a bit of a popularity contest. Most people who reach the interview stage have already been selected because they met most criteria (experience, education, etc.). And people want to hire individuals that they trust. Which usually means they go for confident, passionate and friendly people who are similar to them. Of course, there’s a lot of icing, to make it a “consistent”, “structured” and “objective” process. Which is partly true. But we’re also humans, with strong feelings, subconscious judgments and the pressure of a daily schedule. So you have to play the game. Again, it’s not about being yourself. It’s about showing your better self.

I’m not glad that things are this way. The job search is a dysfunctional process in many regards. But I’m a practical guy. You have to understand the situation you’re in. So try to assess how well you portray confidence, passion and friendliness/relatability.

If you have a friend or two who love to speak their minds, ask them how they think you fare in job interviews, with these 3 elements in mind. Their answer will help you evaluate your people skills. (Maybe you’re lacking confidence or passion, but you could also come across, on the other end, as a know-it-all or simply annoying. In that case, you’d have to tone things down…)

For those of you who lack confidence, check out this cool interview hack.

If you have a big weakness here, getting professional coaching could really be a smart investment. And I know that this can feel like I’m trying to sell too hard, but have you ever thought how much job interviews are worth? In my articles, when you can do something on your own, I usually encourage you to do so. But the job search is a peculiar process where good coaching at the right moment will save you time and money.

4. You’re facing discrimination

Maybe you look very good on paper… but there’s something about you that doesn’t sit right with some interviewers. The color of your skin or your age are the usual suspects. But it could be an illness or your appearance, for example.

My best advice here is to keep your head high. If you start going to interviews doubting they’ll take you seriously, you’re creating an even bigger hurdle for yourself. You need to get in there with a positive attitude and assure everyone that you’re a hard-working, highly skilled professional that will be a pleasure to work with. But don’t be a victim! Be a fighter. Persevere. Some people will see beyond your difference.

Yes, it’s unfair. And again, it’s part of a dysfunctional process where the best candidate doesn’t necessarily get the job. If you want to do something about it, that’s great! But find another soapbox than your job interviews.

5. Your references like you less than you think

Are your references giving positive testimonies about you?

If you did have issues with a previous boss, you don’t want him receiving a call to vet you. You could try to make potential employers call someone else, by bringing a list of references to your next interviews (which everyone should do, really). But it has to be someone senior and with whom you’ve worked. If it looks fishy, you might push them to dig some more… It’s a really tricky situation.

You might not be quite sure what people are saying. In that case, maybe a kind-hearted HR advisor who’s interviewed you in the past would be willing to give you some insight. If you present your case politely, and explain that you’ve had 15 interviews with no success and it’s driving you crazy, maybe they’ll open up. While most will refuse, it’s worth a few phone calls.

* * *

You now have 5 options to explore how you can score higher with your next interviews. Keep doing what you’re doing as far as networking and applications are concerned. If you’re being asked to interview so regularly, it means that you’re clearly a valuable candidate. That’s what the market is telling you already! While it’s certainly not a fun position to be in, some people spend months at a time with zero feedback on their applications.

So hang in there. Make the changes you need to make and give it your all every time. You’re almost there…

100 Years of Resume History

How early were computers used to match resumes with job openings? Or how far back did someone realize that job interviews weren’t such a great tool, and tried to do something about it?

The last 100 years of job search and resume history are full of surprises…

* * *
If you google “History of resumes“, the relevant results are all pretty similar to this article. It’s clear that someone has done some original research, and most other links are just rehashing the same material. I wanted more, so I decided to dig deeper.

The resume is a tool created for educated people in an urban context. As we’ll see, it really took off in the 1960s. So what have we learned over this time period? The internet is filled with “resume tips for 2016”, but what about tried and true advice? What about things that have been proven to work for decades? Wouldn’t that provide us with more strategic advice?

Not only did I want to come up with a more detailed history of resumes, but I was indeed looking for something we could draw actual lessons from.

I started by looking for old resume books
sony-dsc

These are the oldest job search books I could put my hands on. They’re both from 1976, which you can probably tell by the design and colors. But that only brought me 40 years in the past. I wanted to go back 100 years. That’s why I subscribed to the New York Times archive. Which is (quite brilliantly) called the Times Machine.
 

times_machine_screenshot

The Times Machine allowed me to travel to the early 20th century, in a world where looking for work was not so standardized. Back then, it had that human, face-to-face, handshake vibe. A stark contrast with today’s distant, systematic and sometimes overwhelming process, with its keywords and job boards and many gatekeepers.

While the way people connected was very different, employers were still looking for the best potential candidates. And many principles from generations ago are still widely used today. Some job search practices actually go back much further than we imagine.

(I couldn’t cover here every meaningful result from my research. In another article, I will focus on how things have evolved.)

* * *

Our journey begins in 1921, with a book review: The Science of Getting or Changing a Job
(New York Times, August 14, 1921)  

Among other things, we learn that, in those days, $2,500 per year was a hefty salary. In this book review, we read: “The author ranks unsolicited letters of application so high… [he] considers them the best of all means of approaching a prospective employer…” There is a story about a man who sent 25 unsolicited letters to get, only three days later, 23 requests to call.

“The jobs had been there all the time. The trouble had been that he had waited for the jobs to come to him; he hadn’t gone after the jobs.”  

A lot of networking advice today encourages job seekers to be proactive and not wait for job postings. It’s been true for a long time, it seems!

(That being said, don’t trust what they say about the hidden job market nowadays.)  

Let’s now turn to 1939.

(Job Seeker Tested by Clinic Experts, New York Times, December 6, 1939)

In an article, we find eleven cardinal principles for the young lad looking for employment. Here are a few: 1- Use a fast, attention getting opening in letters 4- Dig deep for your hidden assets 7- Appeal to the self-interest of your prospective employer

10- Anticipate your interview and prepare thoroughly for it

These caught my attention because I use and teach a lot of these principles today, and they’re widely used in many areas of sales and marketing. For example, opening with a hook (point 1), or focusing on “what’s in it for them”, i.e. the benefits (point 7).

And my favorite piece of resume advice, which is the foundation of the 3 Laws of Resume Writing, is illustrated in point 4, and more precisely in the example provided of Mr. Burt’s letter. His “letter of application was criticized for being too general… and leaving out specific examples of what he has accomplished.”

To be honest, I was fairly surprised to come across the idea of accomplishments at such an early date. But I’m not really sure why. It probably has to do with the fact that, in my view, it’s a marketing principle applied to resumes… so I didn’t think it would pre-date the Mad Men era…

Accomplishments are really the backbone of any resume. Your resume will never have too many accomplishments, as they are what differentiates you the most from your peers.

Are job interviews accurate?

Now we’re moving forward to 1948 (only one year after Jackie Robinson became the first colored athlete to play professional baseball).
(New Method Developed at Bloomingdale’s For Scientific Examination of Job Seekers, New York Times, June 27, 1948)

It struck me how, in the 1940’s, they were already bothered by the limits of job interviews in predicting skills and proper fit.

The article is about Bloomingdale. “… the store is well on the way toward developing a standardized objective method of determining fitness of applicants for sales positions….” The objective is “… supplementing and strengthening interviewers’ judgment rather than eliminating it.”

How do you go about that? With a test, of course! It covered “clerical aptitude, interests, personaity and mental abilities of the applicants.” And they did it with a “great deal of help from psychologists and statisticians from … N.Y.U.”

Mr. Mitchell, vice president in charge of personnel and industrial relations, claimed that their test was working. And while he agreed that it wasn’t perfect, he remained happy to have “scientifically separated most of the wheat from the chaff.”

One key word still missing

Interestingly, up to that point, one important word still hasn’t been seen: resume. When does the word “resume” first appear in the New York Times, in the context of job search? 1960.
(Job Seeker Gets A Proper Start With a Resume, New York Times, October 27, 1960)

“The career-seeking woman must realize that her résumé may be as crucial to her success as her small talk may be in acquiring a husband.”

(Don’t you like that touch of paternalism?)

Before the resume became central to the process, job seekers were pretty much knocking on doors and sending letters of application. But now, with a more educated population and companies getting bigger and more organized, the process had to improve. It needed streamlining, and resumes were the right tool for the job. Let’s cut the wishy-washy you-know-my-uncle crap. Show me what you know and what you did, without wasting my time!

Too old for this?

In 1967, an article echoes something we still hear about regularly: a mismatch between openings and applicants.
(Paradox in Jobs: Age Holds a Key — Worker Oversupply Is Noted Despite Many Openings, New York Times, March 12, 1967)

Today, when we read about this “paradox”, it’s usually connected to skillsets (the many unemployed don’t have the skills to fill the many openings)­. According to Gartner: “By 2020, the US will see 1.4 million computer specialist job openings, but more than 70% of those will remain unfilled because our universities aren’t currently teaching the required skills.”

But in the 60’s, the reality was different: “Companies want youth… while the workers seeking jobs have greater responsibilities, in general, and therefore require a larger salary than the newcomers. […] President Johnson… called attention to discrimination in hiring on account of age and urged that employers avoid this pitfall.”

Interesting to note that age has always been tricky. It can still be hard to get a job today if you have too much gray hair. Or if you’re just out of school.

In 1967, there was “sharp demand for scientists, engineers and computer programers.”

“On a dark, desert highway…” (1976)

Moving on to 1976, when Hotel California was a hip new song, and one year before Apple was incorporated. We’re now turning to two books that address the job search and resumes. At that point in time, the resume was well on its way to becoming the main job search document, taking the place of the application (soon-to-be “cover”) letter.

Again, we’ll be looking at excerpts which demonstrate that our job search wisdom isn’t all that new.

How to Get the Job You Want: A guide to résumés, interviews, and job-hunting strategy
(M. Donaho, J. Meyer, 1976)

The authors note that very few “thank you” letters are sent. Which is still quite true today. Thanking people who have interviewed you is a great way to stay top of mind, but very few job seekers take the time to do it. And a recent survey has shown that recruiters are fine with an email (no need for a handwritten note).

“An employer advertising in the Wall Street Journal can anticipate over 600 responses for any significant position.” Heavy competition is nothing new! Today, Google can get 50,000 resumes on a busy week. And Procter & Gamble regularly gets 500 resumes per opening.

“In [1976] the work force is highly mobile, with numerous managers and professionals moving freely from one state to another.” Some of us think this is a 21st century thing. Workforce mobility was already true 40 years ago!

Same goes for the idea of tailoring your applications: “… do not mass produce your letter of application… Duplicated letters show little initiative.” It’s critical today to tailor your cover letter, and your resume must reflect keywords from the job ad.

Résumé Writing: A Comprehensive How-To-Do-It Guide
(B. Bostwick, 1976)

“The average resume must make its impression in 20 to 30 seconds.” While we sometimes hear that it’s as short as 6 or 10 seconds in the 21st century, the idea remains: your resume will be scanned first, which means that your key messages must be very easy to spot. (Which is why I love the resume summary.)

“Successful resumes have been as short as one page and as long as six pages. It is conciseness, relevance and interest that matter.” Again, numbers might be a bit off (6 pages!), but the principle is timeless: say everything that’s relevant in as little words as possible.

“The description of responsibilities should always be followed by a statement of accomplishments.” In the world of resume writing, nothing tops accomplishments as the best tool you have to stand out among your peers.

In the final pages of this book (Appendix B), we find “Useful Words and Phrases”   “About you: dynamic, imaginative, talented, motivated, responsible, strategist…” “About your skills: analyze, communicate, develop, lead, plan, train…”

To be frank, I’m not a big fan of “useful words and phrases” in general. But if you’re going to focus on words, strong verbs are much more important than strong adjectives. In other words, zoom in on your skills and what you’ve achieved, not your traits (which are harder to substantiate). But really, it’s about the house, not the bricks. Employers want to see the value which you brought to previous employers (the benefits). Show them by talking about your accomplishments.

So take the time to write well, but don’t waste too much time on phrasing.

Calling upon technology

1967_graduates_match_computers

Ok. I saved a bit of trivia for last. Here’s something about using computers to match resumes with job openings… The early days, if you will, of resume screening (which has become so prevalent). Try to guess when this article was written.

“… résumés were recorded with thousands of others on magnetic storage disks at the council’s data center […] Computers scan the résumés at a rate of hundreds a minute, acting on specifications sent in by employers in many types of industry.”

Any thoughts at this point? What’s coming might help you out a bit:

“The employers dial the computer and make their needs known over a teletypewriter.”

The words “dialing the computer” and “teletypewriter” obviously don’t belong to the Facebook era and might tip you off to how dated this is. So, when were computers used to help companies find the right candidates? As early as 1967.

Yup. We’ve been working on this for 50 years, and there’s still LOTS of room for improvement!

* * *

5 important lessons from 100 years of job search

The job search is far from a perfect process. Both resumes and interviews have their flaws. The human factor also makes things more complex. However, if we’re still doing things a certain way after 40, 50 or 60 years, it certainly means that it’s working. So here’s a recap of these time-tested solutions:

  1. Look for work proactively (unsolicited, targeted emails is a sound networking tactic).
  2. Focus on accomplishments and benefits (i.e. not just roles and responsibilities).
  3. Make an impact in 20 seconds.

On the flip side of the coin, there are things we might dislike about the job search that are not going anywhere, mainly because of habit, logistics and financial pressure. There really seems to be strong trends behind the following two elements, so we have to learn to live with them.

  • Job interviews are lacking in many respects, but they have their strengths and they’re still the most common “hiring decision” tool.

While nothing here is trendy advice for 2016, it’s been successfully applied for decades. The 5 lessons above really get to the root of strategic resume advice. They’re a very reliable foundation to build on. 

If you like this article, let your friends know: share it on LinkedIn or Facebook!

* * *

If you like job search articles that take a long time to write, you might be interested in:

Gain Confidence for Job Interviews, with Power Posing – Interview Hack

Here’s one of my favorite interview hacks. It taps into the intricacies of your brains to help you gain confidence and reduce your stress for a job interview.

What’s this hack? It’s called power posing.

The idea is to spend two minutes, shortly before your interview, in a powerful stance. Arms in the air, as if you’d just won a big race. Or closed fists on your hips, like a superhero that takes himself very seriously. (Obviously, don’t stand like that in front of the receptionist. The privacy of a bathroom might be your best option.)

This job interview hack is based on science!

I know it sounds goofy, but will you argue with science? More specifically, it comes from researchers studying body language. They’ve discovered that holding these power poses for two minutes actually “tricks” your body into releasing more testosterone (the dominance hormone) and less cortisol (the stress hormone).

Isn’t that a great combo for job interviews?

When you get in front of potential hirers, you want to be assertive and appear confident. And you don’t want to look stressed out.

If you’re skeptical, as I first was, go watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. She’s a social psychologist from Harvard Business School who studies links between body language and body chemistry. The discussion on power posing starts around the 8:40 mark (the full speech is 20 minutes).

It’s a very simple tip that anyone can apply. As long as you can strategically weasel your way to the bathroom a few minutes before the interview!

Now, you might be wondering: did you do it, Richard?  Yes, I have. Many times, actually. (I even like to push the envelope and imagine a stadium crowd cheering at me.) It works.

And you don’t look weird when no one’s watching.

When Should You Hire a Resume Writer?

The challenge with resume writing is to stand out among your peers. Among people who generally studied the same things, had the same jobs and developed the same skills. That’s why it’s so tricky: most candidates have a lot in common. And that’s really where you benefit most from a resume writer: to differentiate yourself from your peers. A good resume writer will help you unearth all your professional accomplishments. Because that’s how you deal with the 3 Laws of Resume Writing. It’s the best way to be distinctive. That’s not the only reason to get professional resume help, but it’s certainly the most valuable. Accomplishments are your best punches, but they’re hard to write. Like any other sort of marketing material, the theory isn’t too complex, but it’s hard to master. There’s also a lot of confusion around the job search, resumes, interviews and networking. A resume writer will steer you in the right direction to make sure your time is well spent and you avoid costly mistakes. For example, if you’re moving, leaving the military or looking for a job while employed, a resume writer can give you some tips and good practices. That being said, these tips are provided over and over on websites like www.resumehacking.com, and if you’re good with search engines, the answers are there.  So I’m not going to pretend that all resume writing skills are arcane or out of reach. Usually, most of what we do is fairly logical, once you understand how a resume travels, following either a formal job application or a referral. (Some obstacles are removed with referrals, that’s why networking is so valuable.) In short, many elements aren’t too hard to figure out on your own. But as far as accomplishments are concerned (your big punches!), most resumes suck. And they’re quite significant throughout your job search (critical for your resume, for your networking efforts and during job interviews). If you forget to mention a few vital accomplishments, every other effort will fall short. 

  • You hate writing. You’d rather spend money than do all that research and writing. It’s just not your thing. 
  • You’re not getting interviews. Ok, here, it can mean a few things. Maybe your resume is actually fine, but you’re not networking enough. (Don’t rely too much on the job boards!) Or maybe the economy is tanking and you’ll simply have to wait longer to find a job (2011 to 2014 were especially bad years). But if that doesn’t explain it, your resume is probably the main culprit. 
  • You have the opportunity of your dreams. Sometimes, the perfect company is looking for someone like you. And you want to do everything you can to be noticed. A great resume is a must. There’s even a few crazier options. They cost money, but the amount you invest often reflects the potential reward. And they’re a lot of fun!
  • You need “some help” with your job search. A resume writer can help you for most aspects of the job search (interviewing, networking, etc.), after starting things off with a great resume. However, if you want in-depth support throughout the job search, you’ll have to pay more to get the services of a career coach. 
  • You haven’t looked for work for a long time. Did you write your last resume 12 years ago? Is your LinkedIn profile almost empty? If you feel like there’s a mountain ahead of you for such reasons, getting help from a resume writer will give you a nice boost.

In my mind, a good resume writer is more of a “marketer” than a “writer”. The “writing” basics aren’t too hard. Make the foundation of your bullet points an active verb, not a noun. Avoid truckloads of traits (analytical, resourceful, dynamic, self-motivated…). And don’t try to push stylistic boundaries. Your reader needs to be able to scan your resume quickly; make her job easy. There is, however, a subtle art to infusing a resume with the right amount of personality. To making it a cohesive whole that doesn’t feel heavy, despite its many constraints. Now, is that critical? Probably not. But it still has an impact. Which is also part of the value you get from a good resume writer.  In a similar vein, good design can create a compelling first impression. But I don’t think that most resume writers can do that. (I sure can, and if you like my site’s design, you’ll love the look and feel of my resumes.) When I work on a resume, I feel that my clients get their money’s worth with the 3 to 5 new accomplishments that weren’t on paper before. That alone is probably worth 1 or 2 weeks of salary (interviews are worth a lot of money!). Because that’s how you get the attention of hiring managers. Big punches. Finally, you’re not alone in this race. When you have a hard time differentiating yourself from the competition, a small detail can become the deciding factor. And resume writers make sure you get everything right.