job search tools

Posted: October 28, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Every career expert claims to have the magic answer to writing a thank you note.  As I’ve written before, I don’t claim to have all the answers.  My strategy for writing a thank you note follows these principles: 

  1. Keep it short
  2. Keep it positive
  3. Focus on what the interviewer cared most about during the interview
  4. End by saying you want the job

I’d recommend no more than 6-7 sentences for a thank you letter.  First, thank the company and mention the position.  Second, speak to the interviewer’s concern.  Three, ask to move forward and say you want the job.

What about format?  Handwritten or email?  I think email works if you take the time to craft a good letter.  Some people that I greatly respect insist that handwritten is the only way to go.  If you want to take the time and make the effort to send a handwritten note, be sure you do so the same day you interview. 

Here’s a good trick for learning what matters most to an interviewer.  Most interviewers will let you ask questions.  Your last question should be:  “What is the most important quality you are looking for in a [sales manager]?”  If the interviewer says someone who can build a team, briefly affirm why you are a team builder.  If she says somebody who hits the number, talk about how you meet/exceed goals.  Next, when you’re writing your thank you letter, come back to this point and again affirm that you can deliver the most important quality.

Don’t send generic thank you letters.  They only say I don’t care.  Speak to the person who interviewed you and show that you care about her biggest concern. That will be the best way to make an impression.

Posted: October 23, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Careerbuilder’s blog, The Work Buzz, has a feature on who’s hiring this week.  It lists the top ten companies hiring in the U.S.  Depending on what you do and where you live, this list might be a helpful tool.  Check it out.

Posted: May 14, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Chicago Tribune reports on a technical training program that is middle class professionals like teachers and bankers.  Chicago Career Tech is a public-private partnership for people who have earned between $25,000 and $75,000 per year.

To read the article, click here.

To learn more about the program, follow this link.

Posted: May 8, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

The Work Buzz, Careerbuilder’s excellent blog, advises job seekers to think carefully about how they present themselves online.  Nearly 80% of employers uses search engines to evaluate potential employees.  Over 60% check social networking sites.  This article offers advice about how to protect and manage your online reputation.  It is worth your time.

Posted: April 10, 2010
By: Clay Cerny


Huffington Post has added a job search section that included a job board.  Follow this link to check it out.

Posted: December 12, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

The great Seth Godin, author of The Dip, recommends a “to do list” website called Teuxdeux.  It’s free and offers several options for list keeping.  This website would be a great resource for job seekers who need to track what they are doing and need to do.  Check it out, and when you’re done there, check out Seth’s Blog.  It’s a great source for information and inspiration

Posted: December 3, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

In a tight job market, it’s important to take any advantage you can.  Be sure you give yourself an advantage by sending a thank you letter to every company that interviews you.  Very few people send thank letters (as few as 15%), so a thank you letter is one more way to impress potential employers.

Consider these points when drafting a cover letter.

1.  Keep it brief: A concise, specific letter will be more likely to influence a hiring manager. My recommendation is that the letter be no longer than 5-6 sentences.

2.  Keep it positive: Focus on what is most important to the person who interviewed you.  How will you know what that person values?  Ask.  The last question you should ask at every interview is: “What is the most important quality you are looking for in filling this position?”  Listen carefully to the answer, affirm during the interview that you can deliver that quality, and then re-affirm that fact in your thank you letter.

Some career experts recommend using thank you letters to address topics in the interview that did not go well.  I followed that model for a while.  However, my feeling now is that it is more important to emphasize your strong (selling) points, your ability to deliver what the employer needs. 

3.  Keep it specific: Use the name of the person interviewing you.  Talk about the specific skills that the employer is looking for and provide the names of any companies or technologies that support your candidacy.  If appropriate, give the number of years you’ve worked in a profession or industry. 

4.  Send it out quickly: Send a thank you letter out the same day you are interviewed or no later than the next day.  You can use email or a traditional letter, but send it soon enough that the person who interviewed you will remember who you are.

Here is a sample thank you letter:

Dear Ms. Jones,

Thank you for interviewing me yesterday.  I am very interested in the position of Account Representative with Acme Industries.

You can be confident that I will add new accounts while increasing business with existing accounts.  Over the last 15 years, I have built a strong record in your industry and have serviced many of your key accounts, including Wiley Products. 

I will follow up with you in a few days to discuss my candidacy and how I can contribute to your company’s success.

Again, I appreciate your time and attention.


Jane Smith

Posted: November 16, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Chicago Sun-Times “Money Maker” section carried a brief article on temporary openings with the U.S. Census Bureau.  The position will only last a few months (Dec. 2009 - June 2010), but if you are stuck in your current job search, this could be an opportunity to consider. 

What if you find a full time job while you’re in the middle of your “commitment” to the USCB?  Quit.  We have seen every industry, including government on all levels have no shame or sorrow or qualm in laying off workers or, worse still, strong-arming them to take furlough days.  It is time that we as workers take the same attitude toward employers.  Lay off your employer – fire them – when a better opportunity comes your way. (Ideally, leave in a way that burns no bridges.)

To learn more about positions at the Census Bureau, you can call 866-861-2010 or go online at

Posted: October 23, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

People who are out of work or contemplating a new career often feel overwhelmed.  They don’t know how or where to look for work.  Rather than going directly to one of the big job boards like Monster or Career Builder, try a different path.  Consider the kind of jobs that are available and how they fit your interests, experience, and skill.

O*Net Online is a service provided by the Department of Labor.  It offers three search tools to explore different occupations.  Once you’ve select an area, you will see projections of future job growth. 

It takes a little time to figure out how to use O*Net.  The payoff is worth the effort, especially if you are thinking about how you can market your experience and skills to a new employer.

Posted: September 18, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

Every job requires a range of skills.  Classified ads and job descriptions list qualifications that the employer is seeking.  Before you begin to look for a job or even write a resume, it is important to step back for a minute and evaluate your skills and how they can be presented to potential employers.

The first step is to determine what kind of job (or jobs) you will be pursuing.  Make a list of the skills you have that employers are seeking.  What if you don’t know what employers are looking for?  Do some research.  Print out 5-10 job postings for jobs that you would apply for.  Again, make a list of skills.

The next step is to mark those areas that match your experience.  Assess each skill by giving it a rating from 1 (beginner) to 5 (expert).  Know your strengths and be ready to sell them in your resume and interviews.  If there is an area in which you are not strong, it might be time to find a training course. For example, if you rated your skills in using spreadsheets (Excel) a 2 and the job posting asks for moderate knowledge, you might need training.  If the posting asks for a higher level, you will definitely need more training. 

Just as every good business manages its inventory, all of us should know what skills we have and our level of expertise.  We need this knowledge not only to market ourselves to employers, but also to make choices about where we will work and how much we should be paid.  Knowing your skills and how to market them is the key to good career management.

If you want a worksheet to evaluate your skills, contact me at