Albert Einstein's genius extended in many directions, including how to write. Einstein gave this advice: "If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to to the tailor."
In my writing, I try to use language that is plain and direct. Too often, I read resumes that are cluttered with details that are not relevant to hiring managers. In many cases, clients use jargon that will only be understood by their current employer, the job they want to leave. How can you avoid this problem? Read what you write through the eyes of you intended audience. For resumes, that means recruiters and hiring managers. Use language that speaks to what they need and understand. Simple and clear wins the day.
I was working with a very accomplished client today. He’s held roles in senior management in several industries. When he describes himself, he presents his versatility as an asset. The problem is that few employers would need his full range of skills.
His challenge is to learn what the employer needs and present himself as the solution to that company’s problem. How can he do this? Listen carefully, and ask questions. I urge clients that I coach for interview preparation to ask these two questions
- What are the top three challenges I’ll face in this position?
- Describe someone who has been successful in this role?
These questions will let you understand what an employer needs and present your skills and experience in a way that fits what the company is looking for. Put the employer first, and it will be more likely that you’ll receive good job offers.
A client called today to tell me she'll be leaving a job after less than six months. She was very anxious about how this would look on her resume. For some employers, a short term job will be a very large red flag. I told her to be prepared to talk about her reasons for leaving a job after less than a year. I also recommended that she always remind potential employers that she had been at her previous position for more than ten years with a strong record of achievement. If an employer has a closed mind, no explanation will be sufficient. Most employers, I think, will be more open minded. If my client can focus on her strengths and what she will bring to the new employer, a short term job will not be deal breaker.
If you are looking for a new job, you might want to consider how a company is rated by its current employers. Last month, The Chicago Tribune published its annual list of best places to work in metro Chicago. This list offers great information on small, medium, and large employers. I recommend that you follow these companies and jobs they have available. Salary is always an important factor, but it’s just as important to be at a place where workers are happy. Check out the Tribune’s list, and you might find an employer who will make your new year very happy.
A client recently told me that he was checking several major job boards for openings. He asked what else he could do. I asked about networking, which he was doing. Then I asked if he was checking the websites of companies he wanted to work for. He wasn’t doing this. Can you assume that the company you want to work for is posting on job boards? Are you looking at the job boards where they are posting?
Checking company websites is also a good way to learn more about your industry. The more you know about your employment market, the easier it is to network and target the best employers. There is no magic trick that will let you find a good job. What work in your most recent job search probably won’t work in the next one. Try to find different ways to look for work. Better still, build the kind of knowledge about your industry that will let you manage a career.
I recently read an article that listed 10 words employers don't want to see on a resume. After each word, the article listed a percentage of employers that did not like a given word. None of the words had more than 20% rating, which means that most respondents didn't care about a given word. Worse still, many of the words listed in the article are often featured in job posts. My take away from this article is that we should worry much more about showing why we are qualified to do a job than worry about one word a hiring manager or HR manager might not like. Anyone who rejects a resume based on one word must have a great pool of talent. My advice is to find words that show your strengths and qualifications. That is what employers want to see.
I recently came across some advice for job interview strategy that could do more harm than good. An expert recommends: “You should talk half the time, and the employer should talk half the time.”
My problem with this advice is that it sets up a false expectation. In some interviews the exchange between an interviewer and job seeker might be pretty equal. In most cases, however, the job seeker will talk more because she is the person being interviewed. Think about any situation when you ask a question that involves an explanation. The answer is longer than the question, which means that in most interviews the job seeker will be talking more. I think what the expert wants to say is that job seekers should engage interviewers in dialogue whenever possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. But that’s not the most important thing a job seeker needs to do.
Good interviews start with focused listening. If you’re listening well, you can usually make your agenda fit the interviewer’s. You will also build a relationship with the interviewer. Let your strengths show through the conversation. That’s what the employer wants to know.
On Sunday, April 13, The Chicago Tribune published a long article about a new trend that is taking money out of working people’s pockets, especially those who can least afford it. Rather than print paychecks, companies are issuing their employees payroll bank cards. Employers do this to save the cost of printing, which sounds like efficiency. The problem is that the employee now is paying fees that range from $1.00 to $13.00. Too often, the people holding these bad cards are low wage workers. If the employee lets his balance run below $20, she has to wait to access funds because ATM machines only dispense $20 bills. Another employee noted that the card only has his employer’s name on it, so it cannot be used as a debit card. Does this sound like a convenience for the employee? No. But it sounds like a great deal for the employer. What else should we expect in the Second Gilded Age?
I ran into a neighbor today and made a joke about the weather. He didn't laugh, telling me that Chicago will be hit by about 6 more inches of snow before we face two days of below zero temperatures. This winter sucks, and there's another month left to go.
What does this have to do with job search and career management? A lot. Whenever we dial back on looking for work or put career management on the back burner, we lose opportunities. Employers need to hire, and they will make an offer to the best available candidate. If you're so traumatized by the snow and cold that your not networking and responding to job posts, another person is getting a job that could be yours.
Here's a good reason to look even harder during this kind of weather: Less competition. If bad weather is keeping people from applying for the jobs you want, that means your chance of landing that job is better. Take advantage of a bad situation, and make it work for you. Don't get stuck singing the Cold Weather Blues.
I often help clients prepare for job interviews. Almost all start by talking about what they don’t have. They are afraid that the interviewer will immediately detect their weakness and dismiss them as potential employees. Nothing could be further from the truth. Smart employers will, of course, address potential red flags like gaps in work history or a lack of experience. However, they are more interested in what an applicant has rather than what she lacks.
Instead of worrying about what you don’t have, start by focusing on your strengths. I tell clients to prepare for interviews by answering this question: “I will be a good fit for this position because (reason).” If you can convince employers that you have the knowledge, experience, and skill needed to do a job, they will be more likely to overlook what you lack or they will be more willing to train you in that area.
Before every interview, look carefully at the job post and company’s website. List ways you will be an asset to the firm. Practice talking about how your previous work experience is similar to what you will do for the new employer. Demonstrate that you will be able to do the job and that you want to do it. Every employer wants skill. What will set you apart is your ability to show motivation and interest in the company.
After you define your strengths and how they will benefit your prospective employer, it is important to practice how you would address any weak points. Keep these answers short and clear. Whenever possible, demonstrate how you are working on overcoming any problems. But remember that this exercise should not take even half the time you practice different ways to present positive reasons why you should be hired. Employers want the best person available. You are more likely to be that person if you know how to sell your strengths.
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