Tuesday, December 29, 2009

College Grads, Chew On This...

For the new and soon-to-be college graduates out there, I'd like to alert you to a simple fact. As cold as it sounds, once you graduate it's no longer about you. Roles reverse. Circumstances change.

Think of the relationship of students and colleges in a basic way. Students are the buyers. They are the paying customer to the college who is in the role of the seller. In any sales setting it's necessary to make the needs and wants of the buyer the primary focus. Advisers and admissions counselors ask what you want out of life, what you hope to gain from your college experience, and then use that information to show how the college's offerings contribute to those goals and dreams. They outline how your investment in a degree from that college gives you knowledge, experience, resources and a competitive edge.

As a graduate seeking a job, the tables turn. No longer the buyer, the graduate becomes the seller. Corporate America becomes the paying customer prepared to give the graduate money in exchange for him providing knowledge, experience, resources and a competitive edge. Interaction with decision makers has to be less about what you want out of a career and more about what the company is hoping to accomplish and how you can contribute to that goal. Put yourself in the role of figuring out where the company, your potential customer, hopes to go and showing that customer how investing in you sets them on the right path.

Discussing what you want in terms of a career isn't a bad thing. It just can't dominate the conversation the way it may have when discussing course options as a student. The goal should always be to tie points about your career plans back to the interests of the company, the buyer, in some way.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Showing My Teeth

No, this isn't about me being viscous. I had a photo session earlier this week, which is tantamount to torture. Cameras and I do not get along. My fragile grasp on confidence gives way and insecurity creeps in. Insecurity isn't something I like to pay much attention to normally, but humanity makes it impossible to ignore at times.

During the shoot, the photographer was assisted by Susan, a woman I know from professional circles. As the photographer was trying to get me to loosen up and show a genuine smile, the kind with teeth, I began peppering him with concerns over double chins, fat angles and gray hair. Susan kept shaking her head at me and laughing. After a bit she commented on how surprised she was to hear me speak of myself this way when I always seem so confident speaking in front of people. Seem is the operative word.

Really, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone when another shows insecurity. I truly believe all humans have insecurity. Some are better at keeping it check than others is all. There are things in life important enough to me that I'm not going to let fear over what others may say, think or feel about me keep me on the sidelines. If something doesn't reach that level of importance, like having my picture taken, then insecurity has the advantage and gets a chance to show itself.

To those of you looking for jobs who are struggling with insecurity, do yourself the favor of acknowledging everyone worries about how they come off to others. Your feelings aren't a defect. Those who are doing the things you're talking yourself out of to secure employment aren't free of the burden of insecurity. They are simply not letting that insecurity play a powerful role in crucial situations. It's one thing when insecurity has you dodging photographs and smiling with firmly shut lips. It's quite another when insecurity checks you out of the job search effort while your bank account drains and opportunities pass you by. Show your teeth from time to time. I did and it didn't kill me. Of course, I haven't seen the pictures yet!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Critical Five

I've mentioned before companies are more inclined to hire by the balance sheet versus by the heart. What does this mean for job seekers? It's critical to focus on how your experience and talents can have a positive influence on an organization's profit margin. Candidates who are able to give a company a clear picture of how hiring them will improve the company's bottom line are going to have the advantage. Although it's a nice plus to be able to emphasize your professionalism, passion for the field, work ethic and credentials, if you aren't tying it in to how the company will benefit you are missing the boat.

So, what should you be focusing on when pitching your skills and abilities to a company? I recommend what I call "The Critical Five."

1. The ability to add business/revenue.
2. The ability to prevent loss of business and/or recapture business.
3. The ability to streamline processes/workloads and reduce expenses for cost savings.
4. The ability to solve a problem that is costing the company money.
5. The ability to add a skill to their environment they may be lacking or light on.

No matter your profession, if you are open minded enough, you can find a way to show how your experience can benefit a company in one or more of these areas. Mentally go through your list of skills and try to come up with a way those skills each translate to helping the bottom line of a potential employer.

For the sake of getting you started, let me throw out a few examples of how to enhance the way you promote yourself keeping "The Critical Five" in mind.

"I'm certified in all Microsoft Office products."

"I'm certified in all Microsoft Office products, which benefits you because I can efficiently navigate the software, format them in the correct way so others can use my work without complication, produce professional looking documents your customers will appreciate and be a free resource to other staff members who may be struggling on the applications."

Do you see how adding a value statement that speaks to the bottom line of the company aids you in the selling process? Let's try another example.

"I have excellent customer service skills."

"My customer service skills are such I am able to build an effective rapport, clarify the true need/expectation, communicate solutions, overcome problems/obstacles, identify additional business potential, secure customer loyalty and inspire referrals to the business."

Speaking to the bottom line of a company accomplishes a few things. For one, it peaks the interest of the decision maker. Secondly, it reaffirms your value in your mind as well as the company's. Finally, it shows that decision maker you truly understand what matters to a company. You get what things businesses need to focus on to succeed in the present and in the future.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I've Never Had To Look Before

So many talented and skilled individuals are struggling in this current job market. Why? Because they've never had to look for a job before and aren't certain how to navigate this tricky economy. They frequently tell me how, in the past, jobs always came to them. Now they are having to hunt for jobs and it's unfamiliar territory.

My answer to that problem is to make it familiar territory! When you consider the reason most never had to "look" before, it's because they were connected to people in the know who had the power to link them up with opportunities. The proof is in the pudding that finding jobs through connections is much easier than trolling the internet and joining the masses vying for a posted position.

So why is the chain broken now? For some, they've moved and don't have an established network of contacts to work through. For others, they have a network, but those they know currently are out of the loop as a result of the shifts in politics, industry and the economy. In both cases, the solution is the same. The priority is to build a rapport with new people who are more likely to be traveling in circles where opportunity lurks. This doesn't happen by spending countless hours hidden away in your home sitting in front of a computer. It requires a strategic effort and time dedicated to getting out in front of people. News from the business community needs to be followed to identify the industries, professions and individuals with momentum on their side and to find out where they hang out.

There is another reason why someone may not be sought after like they once were. Above, I mentioned how a person's current network may be out of the loop now. What if that's not the case though? It is possible individuals you've known for ages are plugged into opportunities you don't know about. Why wouldn't they be sharing them with you? Perhaps they've known you so long in "XYZ" capacity, their mind isn't allowing them to see you in other roles. It's human nature to file people we know in neat categories. Adding to your current network is always a good thing, but also make the effort to ensure those you've known for ages are aware of how your skills fit the here and now. Few of us are one trick ponies.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Urgent! Must Act Now!

Advertisements and emails tell me everyday to act immediately in order to get in on some amazing opportunity. Of course, the opportunities usually aren't all that amazing. The products or services offered rarely even hit the "I might need this once in a blue moon" spectrum. As much as these messages annoy me, worse are the times I catch myself actually considering something I don't need simply because of the established sense of urgency and importance.

Wouldn't life be perfect if the things truly crucial to our health, happiness, success and well being were promoted in such a fashion? Job seekers stuck waiting for opportunity to come their way would benefit from a call to action. Imagine an email along the lines of "contact Alice today and let her know you are looking for a job because the company she works for will have an opening next Wednesday and you are the perfect fit!" How fantastic would that be?

Interestingly, I find many job seekers already have a sense of urgency in their gut telling them they must do more and do it right away or they'll miss out. They know they need to reach out to as many people as possible, get out and circulate, plug into business news and upgrade skills to increase their odds of success. Their gut telling them to get moving often isn't enough, however. Why? Have all of the external prompts for the meaningless opportunity in our lives left job seekers dependent on them? Are they in limbo waiting for someone else to tell them when and how to do something?

Ignoring that inner voice heightens anxiety during a search. The stress of not having a job is magnified by the knowledge crucial actions needed in order to secure employment quickly aren't happening. It leads to that toxic situation where you're mad at your circumstances and mad at yourself for not doing more to change them.

For those of you reading who have been tuning out your gut and not allowing it to drive you to action, your challenge is to embrace that inner energy. Unlike all of those emails and advertisements attempting to motivate you to do something out of urgency, your gut is more likely to be pointing you in the right direction. Don't fear embracing the things that statistically are more likely to benefit than harm.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tis the Season for Negative Comments

Family gatherings are such a joy for those out of work. There's nothing like the a room full of friends and family members to bring out tons of inquiries on your job search efforts (usually in the form of "got a job yet?"), comments on how bad the economy is, suggestions on what you should be doing differently, and remarks about how you should or shouldn't be spending your money this season. Ahhhhh, comfort food for the soul.

Before you give into the temptation to pour eggnog over the heads of some, keep in mind the intentions of those involved. Most of these people love and care about you. So why are they saying things that beat you down? It could be a few things. For one, they may naturally want to help you and you haven't given them a way to do so. You haven't specifically shared with them connections or ideas they may have access to that would enhance your efforts. If they have any knowledge you are under stress, there is naturally going to be a desire to want to help physically or mentally. If what they are offering in terms of help is off the mark, tell them so in a nice way and suggest alternatives.

Some might say avoiding the topic completely would be best. To accomplish that, you have to first ask yourself what signals have you been giving your friends and family members over the course of time. Has your job search and lack of employment dominated your world to the point it's the only part of yourself you've shared with others freely? Are you so entrenched in the negative people are giving it back to you as a reflex? Often times what people say to us is in response, in some way, to what we've said to them first. People often mirror the actions, demeanor and words of others subconsciously. Before you judge those around you for not letting it go or for continually reminding you how awful things are, replay some of your own words and actions and consider if you've invited this on yourself.

For those who want a more positive experience over the holidays, I have two suggestions. One, come up with strategic ways your friends and family members can help in your job search and use the time with them to plant seeds. If that doesn't interest you, come up with succinct and kind conversation redirects.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Unemployed Have Advantages Too

I promise I'm not nuts when I tell you the unemployed have advantages in the job search process. Yes, employed individuals have the appearance of being in demand and are less likely to receive offers below their true value, but being unemployed has its perks. Let's talk about some of them so those of you clinging to obstacles can refocus a bit.

First and foremost, the employed often have the burden of keeping their job search confidential. That means there are limits to who they can invite into their effort to secure employment. The unemployed aren't bound by the need to be discreet. Many jobs are landed through word of mouth and networking. If you're not working, shout it from the mountain tops. Make sure those you've connected with in the past, personally and professionally, are aware of your search. It could be professional contacts such as former supervisors, co-workers, subordinates, board members, vendors, clients and instructors. Personally, you could reach out to your banker, insurance agent, barber/hair stylist, neighbor, extended family and the like. There are people who know you who are aware of job openings or who could get you connected with those in the know.

Another advantage is availability. There is no need to pick and choose what interviews to pursue. Last minute scheduling isn't an issue. Should the company benefit from an immediate start, it's an option without any concern of burning bridges.

Next, is the ability to dedicate 40+ hours a week to job search. The employed have the responsibilities of their jobs to address in addition to their search. That's no simple task. If the unemployed make their search a full-time commitment and use their time in a strategic and productive way, the advantage is clear. Sitting in front of a computer trolling websites doesn't count, by the way. Too often, this advantage is squandered.

The final example I'll share is the advantage of forced self-reflection. Losing a job is often the catalyst people need to take a hard look at their true interests and abilities. Most of us stay in our professions because it made sense to keep building on a path we chose, or fell into, at a young age. With all of the time in the world to devote to a job search, time can be found to explore dreams and passions in addition to options inline with past experience. Why not go for it and see where you end up?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why Buy The Cow?

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? We've heard that before. Usually it's tied to romantic relationships and the quest for commitment. These days some job seekers need to come to terms with the concept professionally.

At a recent round table for job seekers the topic of unpaid internships came up. Heavily experienced individuals were hearing stories about people working for free just to get their foot in the door of companies and wondered if they should consider that option. Check me for a rash. I can feel one coming on.

Unpaid internships are for people with little to no experience who are looking to break into the business world or into a new field. They are mutually beneficial. The intern gains experience and the business has free labor as a payback for them helping them learn the ropes. When a business brings an experienced person on in an unpaid internship, that's not showing someone the ropes. That's exploitation!

An individual with the qualifications to jump right in and do a job for a company should never pimp himself out for free as an intern. Perhaps you could volunteer for something, but allowing it to take on the tone of the company doing some grand favor for you, when you are the one giving, is poor judgment. I suspect it's the job seekers themselves suggesting the arrangement with the hope of standing out.

Those explaining why others were making this decision kept coming back to "the economy." When I hear "the economy" worked into rationale, I want to bang my head against a wall. Yes, we know. The economy is less than grand right now. And yes, there are other job seekers who are making extreme choices in an effort to find work. Perhaps they have to. That doesn't mean everyone is in the same boat. One could choose to follow their lead and cross their fingers, of course. I'd much rather identify those who are finding the paying jobs in their field and emulate their choices.

At the end of the day job seekers have to ask themselves what would they really be getting out of the time they donated to a company? Would using the same time to focus on their job search produce better results? How would it feel if after donating their time in the form of a pseudo internship the company said thanks, goodbye and good luck? I reckon I wouldn't be the only one with a rash at that point.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

5 Little Monkeys

My kids love the song, "Five Little Monkeys." Even if you don't have kids, you've likely heard it at some point in your life. It's a counting song. You start with five little monkeys jumping on the bed. One falls off and bumps his head. Mama calls the doctor and the doctor says, "no more monkeys jumping on the bed." The song then moves on to four little monkeys jumping on the bed. The inevitable happens, one falls off, is injured and mom has to call the doctor again. The doctor repeats his advice that the monkeys no longer be allowed to jump on the bed. The mom, who must take in advice with cotton filled ears, makes no changes to her kids' form of entertainment. The song repeats itself until all of her five children have been injured by her inability to follow the doctor's sound advice.

It makes me wonder why she bothered to keep picking up the phone and calling the doctor. She knew what he was going to say. She knew the root of the problem. Reaching out to an authority on children's health wasn't going to change a thing since the real issue lay in her commitment to take advice, change course and put an end to this vicious cycle.

I have to confess, there are times when I'm giving advice to job seekers I feel like that doctor on the phone repeating, to the point of blue lips, how an action someone is taking is damaging, counterproductive, futile or what have you. The job seeker thinks enough of my knowledge to solicit recommendations from me, but not enough to implement them. It's not that the individual disagrees with my take. Quite the opposite. I'm often told how much sense my recommendations make. What stops people short is the fear of stepping out of their comfort zone. It can be a painful process. The thing is, it's worth it in the end. When you weigh how painful remaining in one's comfort zone can be against trying something new that stands a chance of giving better results, it's a no brainer to me.

The monkeys' mom was used to letting her kids jump on the bed. No matter the carnage, that was the norm so that's what she stuck with. Listening to the doctor and coming up with another plan may have taken work and required an adjustment to her day, but it would have spared her little monkeys bumps and bruises.

Job seekers, don't be the monkeys' mama. There is no need to stick to your routine and endure the pain that goes along with doing so. When you reach out to experts with the knowledge and contacts to help you, grab on to what they have to offer and take that leap. Listen the first time and spare yourself the consequences of putting off much needed adjustments to your job search.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Stop Looking For What You Lost

There are several documentaries running right now showcasing individuals struggling to find work in this economic mess. It doesn't go unnoticed many are in the 50+ crowd. To their credit, they are shown at various networking functions and support groups. Getting out of the house is a big step.

Still, I find myself frustrated and practically shouting at the television screen at times. Footage runs of individuals standing up in front of various groups or talking one-on-with others and relaying what types of opportunities they are looking for. Yay for being brave and getting the word out, but almost every time the person is talking about what they've done in the past and how they are hoping to find something similar. Guess what, something similar might not exist anymore! Using the time you have in front of others to ask for help finding something like what you had isn't a good strategy.

Older candidates have a wealth of experience under their belts that is valuable and transferable to all sorts of situations. The key is to stop living in the past and look to the future. Examine what you have to bring to the table in general terms, weigh it against current business, social and political happenings and figure out where you fit. Where are your skills and abilities most likely to be relevant? How can you help a company or organization survive and grow through the next few years?

Now more than ever job seekers have to be part of the idea process. They have to be the ones showing a paralyzed business community how making a hire right now, namely them, is necessary and will benefit everyone in the end. The mood at the moment is more that businesses need to start hiring so people won't lose their homes and so people can feel useful again. Businesses aren't charities though. They can't hire from the heart, they have to hire from the balance sheet. Job seekers who have taken a time to truly consider how they can positively affect a company's balance sheet, regardless if that company is advertising for openings or not, have an edge.

Forget about what you've done in the past. Stop looking for what you lost. Instead, focus on the experience you've gained along the way and dissect it to the point you are able to pull from it evidence you have what it takes to help a company's cash position. I can't think of a business owner who wouldn't be willing to give an ear, and possibly a job, to someone with a clear plan on how to make a company more successful.

Friday, October 30, 2009


This week I heard a lot of good news. Several friends and clients are basking in interview requests and job offers. Care to know what all of them happen to have in common? All of them have connections to someone associated with the companies involved. They have an extra edge because they know someone, or know someone who knows someone, on the inside.

These individuals aren't lucky or special. With effort and a little bit of courage, almost everyone has the potential to create their own good fortune through networking. We all know people who know people. There is no need to endure a cold and solitary job search. I've never understood how a job seeker could find it more scary to ask for help than to go it alone. All of the worries and stress that come from an extended and fruitless job search are definitely tougher on the ego than reaching out to others and braving a conversation or two.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What Computer?

When I first got into the world of recruiting, the computer wasn't a big part of the job. I had a computer for access to our company database, but I wasn't trolling the internet and emailing all day long. In order to build relationships with candidates and corporate leaders and be in the know of key happenings in the business community, I had to get out as much as possible and stay visible. Rubbing elbows in professional circles was a must. My choices of where to spend my time had to be strategic. The phone was also key. I'd talk to dozens of people a day. Every conversation was intentional, with a planned discussion point and objective to accomplish. I am incredibly lucky to have learned the business during a time when computers had yet to take over the rituals and processes.

As great as the internet is, it would do many a world of good to pretend it doesn't exist at times. Job seekers tend to use the computer as a crutch and fail to participate in the flesh and blood world of networking and relationship cultivation. That's not to say the computer isn't a valuable tool when on the hunt for a job. Conducting a job search without a computer would be tricky. Still, those who are able to step away from their cyber buddy and mingle with humanity have a definite advantage.

I use the computer in many ways, but most of the leads I get for jobs come from circulating with other professionals, asking good questions, placing strategic phone calls, dishing out help when I'm able and participating in community events. I hear about several jobs a week when I'm networking and mingling. To top it off, the opportunities I discover this way are less likely to be known to the masses. I'll take the odds of going up against the select few who are aware of a lesser known opening than going up against the masses chasing the online job posting.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's Like The 'F' Word

My husband says the 'F' word. A lot. He doesn't realize how often that little monster of a word works its way into his conversations. He is desensitized to the word from years of working around military personnel with a flair for colorful metaphors. If you asked my husband, he'd tell you he is good at self-censoring. He believes he is careful only to say such things in appropriate circles. Wrong. Whatever the appropriate circles might be, I can assure you he has F-bombed in situations that wouldn't have qualified.

Just like the 'F' word, people often become desensitized to negativity. I often find myself on the receiving end of job seekers who "just need to vent." So they do. They vent and vent and vent and vent and vent. When the venting is done, and both of us are exhausted, I cautiously throw out the suggestion the negative baggage they are carrying around may be contributing to their lack of success with their job searches. "Oh no, I'm just venting to you. I'd never be negative like this in front of an employer or anything." Wanna bet?

I've encountered job seekers as someone doing interviewing and as someone trying to be a helpful resource. I have been on the receiving end of vents in both circumstances. When you allow yourself to become comfortable with things like venting, gossiping, and F-bombing, you just never know when such habits might sneak through your filters.

Venting is usually counterproductive behavior. It may feel good to point out how everyone else is wrong or how impossible things are, but it does little for convincing people you are a solutions-oriented, problem solver with an attitude capable of overcoming professional and personal obstacles. Add to that, most people who end up on the receiving end of a vent have no business being there. Friends, co-workers, coaches and the like could all contribute to you finding your next job. Their impression of you counts too. It's great to want to make a good impression with prospective employers by not venting, but consider the importance of coming off in a positive way with those who aren't employers. They are valuable too. Their impression of you could make things easier or harder.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


While grocery shopping today, I had an interesting encounter with a cashier. She was wearing a frown as she scanned my groceries. People attempting to line up behind me were quickly told of other available lanes with no waiting. Though that could count as good customer service, her suggesting they consider other cashiers had nothing to do with customer convenience. She was frustrated, as she comfortably confided in me, that her lane was always busy while other lanes weren't. "By the end of the day I'm mad," she offered. Trying to be understanding,I commented she must be tired from having more customers to attend to. "That's not it," she admitted. "I don't think it's fair that I constantly have people in my lane and others get to stand around and do nothing."

Before going further, I have to admit "that's not fair" arguments make me twitch and spasm a bit. The expectation anything in life can be completely fair at all times is unreasonable. There are times when we have it easier than others and times when we have it harder. It's part of the human experience. Interestingly, we rarely complain about how unfair life is when the sun is shining on us. Our sense of justice tends to swing one way.

Back to the angry cashier. By stewing over what she views as an imbalance, she is missing the bigger picture. When she proclaimed her situation unfair, my immediate opinion was "absolutely!" Not in the way she would suspect, however. In my view, she has the better deal. She's busy enough the day passes quickly. She has more interaction with customers, so she builds more experience and establishes more relationships that could benefit her in the future. She is more valuable to the organization. Whether it's their fault or not, the cashiers standing around with nothing to do stick out more as not pulling their weight. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes if management had to make decisions about who to lay off. Yes, things are unfair. Lucky her.

Another possibility to consider is that people choose her lane because they like her. I know I do. She's efficient and usually friendly. Sometimes being busier than your co-workers is a testament to how customers and management view you. How is that something to be upset about? So today she waved people off to other lanes, mumbled and muttered. Such a shame.

There are many times when our situations can't change readily. Our perspective can though. Perspective can keep us sane, positive and reasonable. Perspective can save us from sabotaging the good things we have going for us in life. Imagine if this cashier were to seek out other employment opportunities in retaliation for things not being fair where she works. Having interviewed hundreds of angry people in my career, I'd be willing to bet she'd openly share her frustration over having to work more than her co-workers. Not quite the foundation for a superstar impression. "I want to leave because I was busy all day at work." Lovely.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Time Changes Things

Remember that company you approached 3,6, 9 or even 12 months ago that said it had no openings? Is that still true? There is no way to know if you haven't kept in touch with the contacts you made there. Many job seekers make the mistake of turning a company's account of its current situation into a permanent truth. Just because a company didn't have much in the way of opportunity in the past doesn't mean the same is true now. Things change. Those in the recruiting business understand the value of finding a strategic way to stay in touch with decision makers in key companies so they will be there when the time is right. Assuming a company will never have a need again is just about as bad as believing the company will remember you after only one contact months later when a job does come available.The process of finding a job needs to be about forming relationships and tending to them regularly.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Networking For Jobs While Employed

Networking for a job while employed is tough. This is especially true for those in sales and marketing roles who may already be heavily involved in networking on behalf of their current employer.

So, how do you handle networking for the benefit of self-promotion while also representing a specific employer? Discretion and good judgment are key. In your networking circle, cherry pick a select few who you feel comfortable can be in the know of your job search efforts. It's important these individuals not be closely tied to your existing employer. There is no need to put someone in the position of feeling they are betraying a relationship they have with your boss or company.

For those who you invite into your search efforts, give them a basic idea of what you are looking to do and the contacts and information they may be able to help provide that would help you pull off your goal. Stay positive. There is no need to go into any negative aspects of your current situation when sharing your desire to move on. It's a waste of time and creates the potential for you to appear unprofessional, bitter or unable to filter.

Once you've decided who you can include in your search, you then have to figure out what to do with everyone else. The worst thing you can do is to stop participating in networking circles until you've made your move. One of my clients felt awkward striking up conversations with people and building relationships knowing full well the clock was ticking on how much longer she'd be in her current job. Networking isn't necessarily just about you as an employee of a particular company though. It's about building relationships with people who can be resources to you, and you to them, now and in the future. Talking up your current employer and the services offered might not make a lot of sense. Make the conversation more about them instead. Use the time to find out more about their needs and goals. Work to establish and even better rapport since there is no temptation for you to accidentally slip into salesman mode. Also consider the information individuals may be able to provide to you without ever having to know you are actually on a job hunt. Through the course of regular conversations you can gain a lot of intelligence on who is hiring, what industries are busy and what business events are setting the tone in the community at large.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Is This A Good Time?

When a recruiter or hiring manager calls you and asks if this is a good time to talk, be honest. If it's not, it's much better to reschedule the call for a more ideal time than to attempt to have a conversation with chaos going on in the background. Yes, potential employers want to feel like they are high on the priority list for a job candidate. More importantly, they want to know the person has good judgment. Putting the person first by taking the call while there is a baby screaming or dog barking in the background is not going to give you the edge. Neither is filling their ears with profanities because a cop is closing in on your car and you haven't been paying attention to your speed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Doors NOT Corners

Just for the sake of discussion, advancing your education is supposed to open doors for you. Too often I find individuals turning the tables on that notion and allowing the knowledge they've gained to push them into a corner.

What do I mean? It's the belief once you have a degree in 'XYZ' it becomes your sole focus and option. In a world with job descriptions beyond your wildest imagination, people are convinced they are now only suited for a tiny sliver of the overall pie. It's simply not true.

Gaining knowledge in a particular subject area does help show your relevance in that specific field. Do not negate the universal qualities of the education experience, however. Don't discount the benefits of having refined, through the education process, your ability to write, read, interpret, memorize, conclude, problem solve, theorize, achieve goals and the like. These are all necessary skills in many areas of the working world. Never mind there are likely pieces of the actual subject matter that translate nicely to other fields too.

The point of this post is to push those of you who are finding yourself in a corner to realize it is your own mind putting you there. The limitations you encounter in this world are most often self-created. Look at your skills and abilities. Seek out the doors they lead you to and walk through them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Take Me, For Example

It's been over a week since my last blog. Naughty, naughty, naughty on my part. In the blog world that kind of absence can dramatically affect your following. I could have mind blowing blogs, but by neglecting to stay in front of my readers with fresh content, I am at risk of losing their interest and following. It wouldn't take long to become a blogger they enjoyed at one time, but no longer think much about. It's not that I did anything to turn them off, I just didn't do anything to keep them turned on.

The same thing happens with job seekers. They make a great impression with a decision maker or networking contact and then fail to keep themselves in front of that person. Months go by with no contact. In short order it has been a year. There is some thought that if the impression you made was good enough that person will come looking for you and do their part to keep things warm. Not so. We all are busy and prone to going with the options readily available versus putting the effort into remembering those who wowed us and tracking them down.

Make time in the coming days to reconnect with those who you hit it off with in the past. Don't allow more time to pass. Once you've done so, put a plan in place to make sure you do not repeat neglecting them. Don't let those valuable relationships fade. You need those people to get you where you hope to go.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bart Simpson University

At the risk of sounding like a Bart Simpson groupie, I have to tell you about my favorite episode of "The Simpsons." Of course, I've only seen three or four. Here goes.

The show begins with Bart's sister Lisa trying to come up with a science project for a school report. She decides on a test to determine who is smarter, Bart or a mouse. The test involves a treat rigged with an electrical current to shock whomever touches it. For the mouse, it's a block of cheese. For Bart, it's a cookie jar. Lisa allows the mouse and Bart access to their respective treats and then counts how many times each is shocked before realizing the problem and giving up. For the mouse, it only takes one or two shocks before he hangs up his gloves. Bart is another matter, however. A good chunk of the episode is devoted to watching Bart getting shocked over and over again. He's so focused on getting a cookie, he's unable to see how pointless his efforts are. Instead of applying his energy towards getting a different snack, he keeps at the cookie, never learning or adjusting. The closing shot of the episode shows Bart with his shaking hand hovering over the cookie jar and getting ready to give it another try.

That episode stuck with me because it reminded me of what I see all too often with job seekers. They allow themselves to be beaten and battered over and over with strategies that aren't effective and don't generate results. The focus on the prize is so intense, little attention is paid to the means of winning it. Many swear they've tried everything with their job searches. When I quiz them, more often than not I find they too are hovering over an electrified cookie jar and reaching in over and over again. I don't see them foraging through the cupboards looking for other options. And they wonder why they hate looking for a job so much?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

She's Got Instant Like!

A colleague of mine was talking up a woman he was hoping I could help with her job search. He didn't know much about her work history and skills, but he was able to offer up "she's got instant like!" He said it with a smile and a wink. He wasn't discounting the value of a person's expertise, he clearly understood the advantage people have in a job search when others like them on the spot. Lucky ducks.

Are they lucky though? Luck implies a chance outcome. Most people I know who have "instant like" have a three main things in common. One, they smile a lot. Two, they listen well and give others a chance to share the limelight. Three, they are more positive than negative so it's not a strain to be around them.

When you think about the qualities I listed above, it's easy to see why many job seekers struggle with getting their "instant like" working for them. It's hard to smile and be positive when hunting for work. If you parted ways with your last employer under less than ideal conditions or are struggling financially and emotionally as a result of your search, being Susie Sunshine is a chore. Listening to others and seeing to their needs is also tough. While looking for a job, we tend to slip into "me, me, me" mode and aren't even aware of what others need or when we haven't given them their turn as the point of focus.

Thinking back through the years, those who managed to go about their search with enthusiasm, a smile, a positive attitude and the ability to think beyond themselves have clearly done better. They were the people corporate clients would get into bidding wars over. They were the ones whose skill deficiencies were cast off as no big deal.

I can hear people now, "but that's not fair!" Prepare to be annoyed. "It is what it is." It used to drive me nuts when people in my life would use that line of reasoning. That said, what's so wrong about asking people to make a genuine effort to be pleasant? In the end, a likable person with the right skills is going to beat out the person who is likable, but doesn't bring as much to the table.

I know a lot of people are working on beefing up their credentials right now in the hopes of standing out and gaining the advantage in the current market. That's all well and good, but it's also important to take stock of how likable you are at the moment. Hiring managers are much more likely to move on candidates they like.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Resume File Names

Are you sending your resume to potential employers via email? If so, please pay attention to the document name you are using for your resume. You certainly don't want a hiring manager's chuckle for the day to come at your expense.

When we save documents on our computer, we give them names that will help us know what the document is without always thinking how it might look to others. I've received all sorts of attachments through the years that have raised an eyebrow or inspired a giggle. Some have been bad enough the document hasn't even made it through my spam filter.

When naming a document you will be sending as an email attachment, consider the following suggestions.

1. Don't use any funky abbreviations. Be particularly careful with abbreviating assistant and associate. "Executive Ass Resume" doesn't exactly give you the foot in the door you are striving for.

2. Be careful not to include company names from past opportunities you've applied for. "Nike Resume" doesn't come off so good when you are applying to New Balance.

3. Make sure your document title doesn't draw attention to a skill you don't wish to emphasize. For example, if you are looking to get away from sales, "John Doe Sales Resume" isn't a good title.

4. You should have several versions of your resume, but you need not tip an employer off to that fact. You can come off like a serial job applicant. "Jane Doe Version 263" isn't the best idea.

5. If you've used another person's resume as the foundation for yours, take care not to use that individual's original file name. Tiffany Jones shouldn't be sending a resume titled "M Smith HR Resume."

6. Avoid using the document title as a chance to make a statement. The risk of coming off weird is too great. "Number1Candidate", "The_1_2_Hire", "PickMe" and the like are just wrong, wrong, wrong.

The best plan is to keep it simple. You need a system for keeping track of the versions of resumes you send employers. How you name them must help you distinguish what was sent while also allowing you to present professionally to the company.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mulligan Stew Job Descriptions

There's been an increase of what I like to call Mulligan Stew job descriptions. If you aren't familiar with Mulligan Stew, it's essentially a meal made from all sorts of things thrown together. In cooking, the outcome can be delicious. When it comes to job descriptions, mixing a whole bunch of random responsibilities together can be a catastrophe.

My client, we'll call him Pete, found one of these positions just last week. 75% of the job suits him perfectly. The position requires someone with the sales, networking, marketing and presentation abilities Pete has to offer. The remaining 25% of the job, which the posting states the candidate must have experience with, includes preparing financial statements, budget reporting and technology functions. There's even more to the position than I've referenced. 14 bullet points of various qualifications, to be exact. You get the point.

What's likely happening is the organization is in the position to add someone to its staff, has several functions suffering at the moment and is trying to solve all of its issues with one key hire. Perhaps they'll get lucky and find that perfect candidate. More than likely, they won't. Even Pete recognized the problem. His words, "they are looking for the impossible."

When companies are looking for the impossible, it's a great time to toss your name in the hat. Reach out to the organization. Make it clear what you can deliver on and what you can not. Wish them luck, in a sincere way, in finding the person capable of all outlined functions. Couple that with the suggestion they consider your abilities and what you could immediately offer the organization in terms of bottom line contributions should the position prove difficult to fill. In the end, it's all about profitability. If you can show hiring you, even though you don't have the expertise in all requested areas, is better for their bottom line than their current plan, it's a winning outcome.

For the job that Pete found, the company is likely going to think they have to make a decision of where to take a hit. They'll believe they are either going to have to hire someone with the talents to bring in connections and sales while crossing their fingers the person can figure out the books or they'll have to hire someone who is up on maintaining and preparing financial statements with the hope they will find the time and the social means to work networking circles and pound the phone. If Pete can help them see profitability in another option, hiring him and outsourcing/reassigning the bookkeeping/technology functions, he may just be able to be the one to lead the way to an outcome where everybody wins.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Getting Past Receptionists

Receptionists deserve an apology. They get blamed by the masses for not putting calls through to key personnel. They are the supposed obstacle to job seekers being able to effectively follow up on opportunities and make valuable connections with decision makers.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no receptionist boot camp where those screening phone calls are taught to make your efforts futile. The reason receptionists stick callers in voice mail or throw job seekers to human resources is because the caller hasn't taken the time to make the call important. You can't get to an important person if you don't have something important or valuable to say.

The most common mistake job seekers make when calling a company is telling whomever answers the phone too much information. There is this knee jerk reaction to explain how you're looking for a job, don't want to be a bother, are hoping to talk with someone and, if the person missed it the first time, you're looking for a job. Blah, blah, blah. That type of lead in is all about you. Never mind that person likely has other lines to answer while your babbling on.

Anytime a job seeker calls a company, the approach needs to be the same as any other business call. It is a business conversation, after all. It's not a plea for a charitable contribution. Success relies on knowing who you wish to reach (this means doing some homework), what you can say to make your call important to them and getting to the point as soon as possible.

When the receptionist answers start with a simple, "John Smith, please."

You'd be surprised how many times you get passed through with no explanation. It's not always the case though. You might get hit with "who may I say is calling?" No big deal. Tell the receptionist your name and leave it at that unless prompted for more information. If you sound confident, your call will have an air of importance and won't be as likely to be screened.

Let's say it's not your lucky day and the receptionist decides to ask more questions. Answer any questions honestly without turning it into a mini autobiography. Stay on point and share information that would make the call valuable to the person you are hoping to reach.

Of course, the best way to get through to someone in a hurry is to have been recommended to call that individual by another. Referrals gained through the networking process are gold. To be able to say something like "Jane Doe gave me his number and told me to call," takes a lot of stress out of the situation.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Take 5

Just a quick note to let you know I'm stepping away from the blogosphere for 5 days. New York City, here I come. Don't forget about me while I'm gone.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Companies Having a Hard Time Hiring

Many companies are having a hard time hiring qualified individuals to fill their open positions. Yep, I'm writing this post in August of 2009. I'm fully aware of the economy and high unemployment numbers. Living in Michigan, it's impossible not to be.

Care to hazard a guess why some companies can't seem to find the right person for their needs? One reason is somewhat obvious. What companies need their employees to know is evolving. Some are caught waiting for the workforce to catch up in terms of training and education.

A less obvious reason for a shortage of qualified applicants is the fact many individuals who are gainfully employed aren't looking for other opportunities. They believe things are bad enough it is best to hunker down with a job they hate, ride this economy out and wait for things to improve before attempting to find another job. "I should be thankful I even have a job," is something I hear a lot.

When those who are currently employed sit the job hunting process out, it leaves employers in the position of having to choose mostly from the unemployed. Before anyone gets out of joint, I'm not taking a dig at those who are out of work. I know many are great people with valuable skills. As I said before, however, many of those who are currently unemployed come from select industries and skill sets. Industries that are thriving and haven't been touched by layoffs or closures don't have a lot of people in the unemployment pool with backgrounds directly matching their hiring needs. It's an adjustment to be looking at candidates in terms of "who can we train" versus "who has the background most in line with what we do who will hit the ground running?" This is especially true because hiring managers hear the same unemployment statistics as the rest of us and assume high percentages translate into an abundance of options for their open positions.

For those of you who feel stuck in jobs you hate or don't find fulfilling, now might not be as bad of a time to look as you've assumed. It may seem like you are competing against the masses based on the sheer numbers of people applying for jobs. In reality, there may be fewer individuals who match your credentials vying for a position than what you would experience in a boom economy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

When Others Speak For You

This post could get me into trouble. I have a love/hate relationship with recruiting experts. Though the intentions to educate and inspire creative thought are clear to me, I worry their readers are missing the boat on what is really happening at times. So much advice comes off as "do this" and "say that" directives. I fully believe the goal is usually to help job seekers understand the reason certain questions are asked and what employers are hoping to learn about potential hires. When it reads more like telling people exactly what to say in situations or in response to specific interview questions, it gets dicey. It turns me off, honestly. There are individuals who will take suggestions, word for word, and spit them back to interviewers. How is that a good thing?

I see a few problems with the concept of providing stock answers to questions. First, what if the canned answers don't ring true for the individual? Winning a job because of great answers could be setting the person up to fail if he wasn't truly cut out for the culture and expectations. Sometimes not getting a job is the best outcome. Secondly, spoon feeding shuts the brain down. When the focus is more on helping individuals think through the situation at hand, they'll be able to consistently provide valuable answers to questions in interviews. They won't have to rely on the employer asking them the questions they've been able to prep for. It's the old "teach a man to fish" analogy. Third, just as candidates are reading the articles and blogs built around how to answer interview questions, so are employers. Hiring managers frequently complain about candidates being too practiced in the interview process. They are doing their own research in order to get a handle on what candidates are being taught to do to get the upper hand. It's hard to tell what's genuine and what's show. If an employer suspects candidates are giving them stock answers, it makes it hard to trust that individual's account of his interests and abilities.

The point I'm attempting to make is that anyone reading an expert's advice should be paying more attention to the thought process behind a recommendation versus focusing exclusively on what they believe the expert is saying to do to the letter. Once you understand why an expert believes certain responses or actions are ideal, it's easier to determine how the advice suits you and what alterations you may need to make on your end.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Timing...Everything or Nothing

It's been said timing is everything. For me, that's bunk. Waiting around for the right time often results in nothing. What do I mean? Those putting off making contact with key individuals and companies with the thought of waiting for a more perfect time, often end up with nothing to show for their careful planning. I've witnessed far too many job seekers and sales professionals missing out on valuable connections playing the "it's too soon" or "it's too late to call" mind game. Once you give yourself the task of finding the perfect moment you realize how rare they actually are.

Timing isn't everything. Making now the right time is more valuable. My success in building professional relationships rests in my ability to create the perfect moment in the present versus waiting for some future time when everything is aligned just so. It's all about relevance. Finding a way to make what you have to offer or are looking to do relevant to the person you wish to reach out to is all it takes. It doesn't have to be anything monumental, simply valuable.

For those using "it's not the perfect time" as an excuse for not taking action that could propel your job search or sales efforts, you're making things harder than they need to be.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Show You're In Demand!

Imagine with me, if you will, a hiring manager reading a resume of an individual who interests him. He calls the person, they talk, and he decides he wants to bring the person in for an interview. "When are you available?", he asks. "Anytime that is convenient for you. I'm wide open," the accommodating candidate offers.

To many candidates, the above response to a potential employer's request for their time seems ideal. In a way, it shows you are going to make the interview with that person a priority. Trouble is, it also gives the impression you have nothing going on. Why is that? Is no one else interviewing you? Are you not getting out and networking in important places? Are you simply sitting at home catching up on all the syndicated shows you were missing while working?

When I was training new hires for the sales positions I supervised, I always impressed upon them the importance answering questions like "when can I call you" or "when can you meet" with specific suggestions of days and times. Responses like "you name it," "whatever works for you" and "anytime" were off limits. Even if their calendars were more bare than Pamela Anderson, they were taught not to give that secret away to a client.

The best answer to this type of question is to provide two or three day/time suggestions. If none of those times work for the person looking to meet with you, ask him to give a few options that work well for his schedule. When you hear one that works for your schedule, claim that option. By handling the function of scheduling an interview the same way business professionals would handle any other meeting, you've helped the other person see you more as a business contact and less like a person sitting at home on the couch waiting for someone to want him.

I'll add one more benefit to being specific. When it comes to the question of when is the best time to call you, if you answer anytime you are left in a constant state of wondering when and if the person will call. It's easy to turn off the rest of your life so you are ready and waiting for the call that could come whenever. That's not good for your psyche or your efforts to stay active and visible during a job search. By giving someone options, such as time brackets on certain days, you are reducing the time spent in limbo and giving the impression of being in demand.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Don't Get Mad, Get Promoted!

Feeling frustration when coworkers aren't pulling their weight is understandable. Those who show up and give 150% of themselves often find their efforts enabling others to only give 50%. What's a person to do? Give less? Lash out at coworkers for loafing or supervisors for failing to take action? Nah. Doing so might feel good, but it rarely does anything positive for those set on making a good impression and seeking a higher level of job satisfaction.

Risking coming off as a complainer or lowering your own performance standards damages your professional image. How is that teaching the loafer anything? I learned early on the best way to get my work environment running the way I felt it should be was to buckle down, work my tail off and get promoted. Once I was the one holding the reins, I had the ability to address the work habits of others that drove me crazy. I also had the opportunity to gain a little perspective on why supervisors made the decision to rely more on some employees while allowing others to come up short. At the end of the day, when you have deadlines and goals to meet, sometimes it's just easier to deal with what you've got and make it work versus getting distracted with the time it takes to motivate others to do their part.

That's not to say that offering constructive feedback to supervisors and coworkers is never to be done. If you can craft a way to deliver your message in a way that you feel will generate results and not create friction, more power to you. Too often the argument tends to be about what is or is not fair and what the supervisor should and should not be doing. On those issues, you are wasting your breath. Much in life isn't fair and supervisors have more to worry about in their roles than making sure all is balanced appropriately. If you have a really good supervisor, they are likely on the stick enough for you to have not needed the conversation to begin with.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is to keep a reasonable view of what your current situation is and the best path to a solution. Lashing out and complaining rarely works. Walking out of environments because someone else isn't doing their job does more damage to you than the loafer. You'll just have to explain to future employers how you left a job because something wasn't fair. Not exactly a bragging point for interviews. Bite your lip, keep doing the things that set you apart from the others, earn those promotions and use your new found responsibilities to make the changes other supervisors weren't willing or able to tackle. Allow those who frustrate you in your environment to motivate you to move higher versus giving them the power to litter your career history with temper tantrums and premature departures.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

As Hard As You Make It...

Lucy knows this is coming. I warned her fair and square she'd be getting a blog in her honor. Of course, her name isn't really Lucy, but she'll know it's her just the same.

Lucy thinks she has a big problem. Despite her brains, down right likability, dedication and the fact she's been consistently employed since the age of pimples and Friday night trips to the mall with girlfriends, she thinks one job she left a decade ago is an obstacle for her in her current job search.

"What happened," you ask? Prepare yourself for a horrid tale of deceit, greed and cataclysmic failure. Lucy took on too much in her professional and personal life and resigned from her job so she could get things back into balance. Disappointed the story wasn't juicier? Yeah, I was too. By the way Lucy gasped for breath and her pulse visibly thumped in her neck before telling me the awful truth of the matter, I was sure I was in for a Jerry Springer moment. It wasn't to be. That's good news for Lucy.

Lucy does have an obstacle in her job search, alright. Like many other job seekers, it's the self-made mountain she has to climb over every time she needs to explain why she left a job. The reason it has to be explained from time to time is that Lucy's career shifted as a result of that age old decision. The job she took next led her down an entirely different path than she had planned for her career. She left a job in line with her degree and ended up with something in an entirely different field. I'm sure that hasn't happened to anyone else, right? Her most recent position was a bridge back to her chosen field. Now she's hoping to land a job that builds on the experience she gained from the job she left all of those years ago.

So why did I call it a self-made mountain? The mountain isn't the fact she resigned from a job. Hardly. Most people have made the decision to leave jobs through the course of their careers. In fact, having the good sense to walk away from something when you aren't able to give it your all ranks as a plus in my book. It's the fact she insists on making it a bigger deal than it needs to be.

I learned early on in sales customers usually follow your lead when it comes to deciding how upset to be about something. If you think you've got bad news or something that should preclude you from consideration, the person you are sharing your story with is likely to believe to the same. How could they not? The best way to ensure something that is no big deal remains that way, is to believe it yourself. Keeping explanations honest and simple while not throwing emotion, drama and perspiration into the process is the best way to go.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Not What I Would Have Done

A recent college graduate is suing the school she attended because she has yet to find a job since graduating in April. The basis of the complaint is that the school hasn't done enough to provide leads to her and give her career advice. Because she hasn't managed to find a job, all of her education is worthless and not relevant to employers? I can't help but wonder if the reason she hasn't found a job has more to do with her expecting someone else to deliver a job to her on a silver platter. The first priority of colleges is to provide an education so you may qualify to do more in life. It's great when they can offer assistance to grads and help make connections for them, but that is more the icing on the cake than it is part of the batter.

I understand the frustration new grads feel. Many go after degrees with the expectation employers will be lining up for them at graduation. It did work that way for a while. Now it takes a little more work. The reason colleges can't be as helpful as they once were is so much of finding a job revolves around the job seeker networking and getting plugged into the business community. The effort is much more personal. There is no way for colleges to do that for their grads. There are jobs out there that this woman's degree prepared her to do. Many companies are feeling the pain of the shortage in technically qualified individuals for the new American workforce. They just aren't as likely to be posted in highly public areas because employers know doing so will result in a flood of resumes. More are relying on word of mouth to fill their positions and the companies hiring aren't necessarily the big names we've all come to know well.

What may surprise grads is that I often tell them not to put too much reliance on their college's career services. That's not a snub to colleges. They often do an excellent job assisting their graduates. It's not that tapping into the resources and chasing leads offered through your school is a bad thing. Definitely toss your hat into the ring. Keep in mind, however, the opportunities your school sources are being chased by your fellow graduates too. Depending on the size of your class, you can do the math on your competition. Putting more emphasis on finding your own leads to chase, versus relying entirely on your college to source them for you, is the way to go if you want a shot at being considered for a job without hundreds of applicants.

So, what is suing her school going to mean for this woman in the end? She is spending time and money that could have been devoted to her career search on lawyers and court fees. She has $70,000 worth of knowledge and she's not putting it to use in a productive and positive way. She's managed to find herself in the spotlight for her choice to pursue her college legally. Unlike celebrities, there is such thing as bad publicity for the average Joe's and Jane's. How many companies who stumble across her name in the body of this lawsuit are going to be interested in her as their next employee? Companies get a bit itchy over those who file lawsuits without good cause. Never mind she's essentially proclaimed her knowledge useless. Otherwise she wouldn't be suing, right? Nice.

My advice to this woman would be to forget about the law suit. Use the time and money instead to invest in her job search. Hire a career coach. Connect with a recruiter. Network with fellow job seekers. Attend business functions. Study the news for hints of what industries/businesses are most likely to be doing well. Read the obituaries, yeah I said that, and see what dearly departed members of our society may have left an employer unprepared. Demonstrate sound problem solving skills, which I imagine are required for the career she's chosen, and find your way to the end result you want. Wasting time assigning fault for life's challenges is counterproductive.

Friday, July 31, 2009

No Smoking Policy

Do you have a no smoking policy with friends, family members, colleagues and mentors? This has nothing to do with nicotine sticks. The no smoking policy I'm referring to is an agreement no smoke will be blown when giving you constructive feedback. When looking for a job, you need the people in your life's circle giving you their honest take on how you are presenting yourself to others. Whether or not you decide to act on their feedback is up to you, but you definitely want a free exchange of information so you have a basic sense of where you may be missing the mark on the impression you make.

Many job seekers assume people who know them well will give them an honest assessment. Not so. On the scale of straight forwardness (is that a word?), I'd say I rank a 9.5 out of a possible 10. Still, I struggle at times with delivering much needed constructive feedback. I doubt I'm the only one. Most of us are wired to want to make people feel good about themselves. This is especially the case if we know someone is a bit down or going through a tough time. To avoid hurting feelings or awkward situations, we tend to let those we want to provide positive support to walk around with funky breath, scraggly beards, unflattering clothes, negative attitudes, sloppy work and the like. That's hardly a favor when you consider how essential it is for job seekers to make a good impression. It's a huge piece of the how to get a job pie.

Friends and family knowing how beneficial constructive feedback could be for you isn't enough to get them to open up. As a job seeker, you need to offer a sip of liquid truth serum to those in your life in the form of a direct conversation. Make it clear any and all feedback is wanted and will be received without consequence to the relationship. Share your no smoking policy with sincerity and the acknowledgment you are putting them in the position of having to tell you difficult things. Demand these individuals challenge your disposition and remarks if they feel you've gone back on your agreement to receive their opinions in a positive and open minded way.

Before I close, I'd like to suggest taking a moment to think back on those in your life who may have already tried to tell you the things you need to hear. How did you handle what they had to say? Did you lash out? Are they regretting their honesty? If so, call them and apologize. Let them know you recognize the value of candid commentary and will do a better job of hearing what they have to say in the future. Do what you can to see how they were being more helpful than those who simply told you everything is great. That's not discounting the value of surrounding yourself with positive people. It's simply saying avoiding the opportunity to help someone grow and improve for the sake of being positive, has negative consequences.

Now to close, if you can institute a no smoking policy and live up to your end of the bargain by taking the feedback in the spirit it was intended, you'll stand a better chance of landing a new job. Send your ego on a mini-vacation and give it a try.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Those Darn Cover Letters

Ah, cover letters. I'm not sure who has the shorter end of the stick, candidates who have to write them or prospective employers who have to read them. They can be painful to both parties. I read too many cover letters that beat hiring managers over the head with personal circumstances, irrelevant qualifications and desperate pleas for opportunity. Writing and reading that stuff is toxic to the soul. Toxic, I tell you!

Cover letters don't have to be excruciating. Staying true to their purpose helps a great deal. What is a cover letter though? Just like a cover to a book, your cover letter is the outer layer of your resume. Book covers don't rehash everything in the book. They highlight key points and passages in an effort to make the reader want more. You'll notice the author of a book never uses the cover to go into the difficulties he is having in his life or why he needs you to buy the book. It's all about captivating the reader. Your cover letter needs to achieve the same result. Once a hiring manager reads it, he should want to dig deeper into your resume. After reading your resume, he should want to take the next step of an interview. Succinctly highlighting elements in your background that make you a candidate the hiring manager needs to interview and exuding confidence your abilities and experience are worthy of consideration are the way to go. Waffling language, such as "I hope to hear from you," and "if it's not too much trouble" is not a good idea. It plants the seed of desperation and suggests you are don't expect to hear from them, may be used to not having any response and may not be in demand. Not to mention, it's not the employer's role to care about your hopes. Your hopes really don't have anything to do with what they need in a business sense.

Incorporating stronger messages will demonstrate confidence. Consider the following suggestion. "You will learn from my resume and interviews I am a knowledgeable professional with much to offer your organization." After a statement like this, follow with some bullet points of bottom line contributions you feel you would make for said company. Then close with confidence, "I look forward to meeting with you and discussing how my background compliments your current needs." The suggestion you qualify for an interview is conveyed without coming of pushy or rude. It's all about balance.

While we're on the subject of rude, it's a good time to point out if you are writing a letter to someone, it is best to do all you can to find out their true name. In my 37 years, I have yet to meet anyone named Recruiter, Sir, Madam or To Whom it May Concern. Although, at the rate celebrities are going, I suppose it's an eventual possibility. In this cyber age, it is much easier to research the names of people in companies. Google, LinkedIn and the company's actual website are easy sources. If you don't find what you need there, the telephone is always an option. Simply call the receptionist, briefly state you are sending a letter to XYZ Manager and ask what name to address the letter to. Don't go into a long story. People answering the phones usually don't have a lot of time to chit-chat. There is no need to identify yourself as a job seeker. You are making a business call to get a name so you can direct business correspondence to the appropriate person in a polite way. If the person asks who you are, of course give your name. If the person asks what the nature of the correspondence is, be prepared with a brief response. Just as I said with cover letter content, when making these calls you must choose your language carefully. Waffling is problematic. When you start throwing in "if it would be okay," "if you don't mind," "are you able to tell me" or anything that suggests what you are asking for is out of line or a bother, you are more likely to fail at your objective. Your concern you may be imposing creates the perception you are. Approach it as one business person would another, job seekers approaching companies is indeed business, and you'll achieve better results. Are there times when no matter what you do you won't be able to come up with a name to address your cover letter to, yes. Just don't write a situation off as hopeless without really making an effort to get a name.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why The Hesitation?

Last week I had an interesting conversation with a man we'll call Tim. Tim is on the young side, but mature well beyond his years. He understands more about bringing value to the table and not wasting people's time, or any time for that matter, than many people twice his age.

Tim's struggle is that he is a bit on the shy side. He finds himself avoiding making key connections in his job search. There is a hesitation when it comes to approaching individuals he views to be important in the networking process. He knows he's sharp and is good at his craft. Still, the reservations are there when it comes to putting himself in a better position to be noticed by those in pivotal roles.

The hesitation Tim feels doesn't stem from him being insecure of his abilities. To the contrary, he's confident he is able to live up to the expectations an employer would have of him. Tim's problem is more basic and, fortunately for him, easier to solve. What keeps Tim from tapping on that person's shoulder is an innate awareness he has no idea of how to offer value to that person in exchange for what he would like to ask of them. Hallelujah! Boy, how I wish more people could hear that inner voice warning them against jumping head first into Lake Me Me Me. Tim wants to establish relationships with people who would benefit him, but is hesitant to make the attempt without an idea of how to be sure the exchange of value isn't one sided.

So how do you solve something like this? Logically there are some people in life we want to reach out to who have much more to give us than we could ever give in return. Does that make them off limits? Nope, not at all. Tim's mistake is feeling he needs to be able to bring value to the person instantly in order to make that connection. That's not always possible. Being aware of wanting the relationship to be beneficial for the other party goes a long way though. That awareness will help Tim continue to look for ways to reciprocate. Reciprocity doesn't mean Tim has to be able to give back exactly what was given to him either. Tim needs connections for a job. What does the other person need? The best way to find out is to ask questions. What are they trying to accomplish at the moment? Where are they hoping to get the word out about their services? What groups would they appreciate introductions to?

If job seekers are making a conscious effort to ask others how they may be able to help them in return, it's going to add value to that relationship even if the other individual doesn't particularly need anything at the moment. Having the thought to ask, taking the care to show you realize you are taking and would like to give back, is something often overlooked in the networking process. Bare minimum what you can give that other person is a thank you. Time and good questions will tell what more you can do. In the meantime, don't postpone building relationships in order to avoid coming off needy. Simply do what you can to make good use of the help you are given and work hard to look for ways to pay it back or pay it forward.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Soliticing Feedback from Interviewers

Wouldn't it be handy if job seekers knew exactly why they were passed over for positions? So much is left to guessing and assumptions. It's not always possible to get solid feedback as to why, but if you make a habit of posing well-timed and value added questions to those you interview with, you may have a better idea of where you missed the mark.

Before we dig into strategies for soliciting feedback, I feel the need rattle off the most common reasons I heard as a recruiter for my candidates not getting positions with my corporate clients. Keep in mind, because I knew the expectations and requirements for the positions I was sending my candidates to interview for, it was rare the client found the actual skill set to be lacking. Most often the reasoning fell in two different categories. They either didn't feel they meshed with the candidate's personality and attitude or they were uncertain how much the opportunity they had was really going to suit the candidate long term. When you consider how sticky it can be to talk about attitudes, personality and an individual's long term goals, it's clear why some employers might button up a bit when it comes to giving feedback. It's easy to say, "your Excel skills weren't where we needed them to be." Telling someone, "well, you talk too much for our needs and seem all over the place with what it is you want to do," is not so easy.

To give hiring managers a bit of a break, it's also important to consider sometimes they really don't have a specific reason for not offering you the position. It's not so much about what you don't have is it is about was someone else does. They may not even be able to put their finger on it. Perhaps it's as simple as saying chemistry? There are times I've offered positions to people because they just had that "something" that made me want to pull the trigger on the deal. Asking an employer why they didn't hire you can be as difficult a question to answer as explaining to a significant other why you just aren't feeling it with them anymore. Sometimes the best answer out there is just because. It's part of the human condition. It may also be something as simple as someone else did a better job of staying in front of that decision maker so the chemistry was cultivated. Hard to say.

For the times when there is something an employer can specifically point to as the reason you didn't get a job, you want to be asking well-timed questions designed to let the employer's guard down so you can tap into that feedback. The employer must be able to sense your request for constructive feedback is sincere and won't come at the price of a meltdown in their office or months of hate emails after the fact. Which begs the point, be sure you really can handle the feedback if you are sticking yourself out there and asking the why's.

So, what kinds of questions can you ask to assess what you are and are not doing right in your search? I like to insert questions along the way versus saving them all for after you've received the rejection letter. By that time you don't have much chance of salvaging your shot at the opportunity. Questions like "based on what we've discussed today, what in my background might need more enrichment for me to be exactly what you need for this position?" That shows interest in wanting to be the right fit for the job and essentially sets them up to give you an answer of some sort. When they give you an answer, don't attack it or argue their take. Accept the feedback and propose an idea for how you may be able to quickly gain the skill they need. If you feel you already have the skill, but you simply didn't convey it well enough, then this would be a good time to expand on what you may have failed to communicate. You may also want to revisit it in your thank you letter for the interview and reiterate some more how you are prepared to overcome the noted concern.

A handy question to add to your interviews is "what are some of the reasons other individuals haven't been successful in this role or with your company in the past?" This is a gem of a question because often times employers are thinking about what they don't want to hire versus what they do. If a problem occurred in the past, they are in avoidance mode and tend to look for anything similar to those who didn't work out versus what might be different in you. Once you hear the reasons why people didn't work out in the past you are able to do some quick soul searching to consider if you might be giving any clues the employer could have similar problems with you. If that is the case, you have time to get it in gear as well as offer references or supportive evidence of why they wouldn't have to worry about those problems if they offered you the job.

To stand any chance of getting valuable feedback from an employer, you can't go in with a yes or no question. Doing so is likely to give you little information. For example, "is there anything you can think of I might need to work on?" Do you see the difference between asking "is there anything I might need to work on" versus "what in my background might need enrichment?" Salespeople will readily tell you the value of open ended questions. Giving the person a chance to simply answer "yes" or "no" is the kiss of death in sales. Once they someone says "no" it's even harder to make progress.

Another kiss of death in getting valuable information out of someone is when you answer the questions you pose for them. I can't stress enough how often this happens. "What in my background do you think might need enrichment? Do I need to get more Excel? Is my hesitation to speak in front of groups an issue? Do you think I cost too much money?" I'm not sure what makes humans do this. Sometimes it feels like we are so afraid of the negative things other people might say that we want to be the ones to get them out first. There have been times when I didn't think I was having any reservations until the person rattled off reasons why maybe I should. If you are going to pose the question and truly want the other person's answer, then do everything in your power to zip it once you reach the initial question mark. Those who can't learn how to do this are at risk of coming off as insecure and lacking the confidence needed to get the job done.

I've given some examples on how to word questions, now I'd like to talk a bit more about the spirit in which the questions should be asked. Just like all aspects of your job search, conversations with hiring managers should always feel like a business discussion versus personal chit chat. It's easier to critique someone in a business sense then it is to make comments about them that seem personal or are likely to be taken personally. It's all in how you set the table. Leading up to the question with a plea for how you need to know feedback because you need a job and are about to have your electric cut off so you'd truly value honest constructive criticism is NOT the way to go. Cutting interviewers off in the middle of their answer to disagree with them is NOT the way to go. Inserting any commentary during the interview that you feel your age, race, religion, gender, sexuality, health or family status might be causing you to be turned down for jobs is NOT the way to go. It makes people afraid to engage in a conversation with you at all. You want employers to feel like they can give you honest feedback without you falling to pieces, biting their heads off or going to you lawyer with any word they utter no matter how damning it is or isn't.

Hopefully I've given you some things to think about in terms of soliciting feedback from hiring managers and the mindset you need to approach the process with. If you go into it with good questions while conveying an open mind, you'll have a better chance of getting the information you are looking for.

In closing, I have one more thing to keep in mind. If the reason you aren't getting a job is tied to anything awkward, your chances of hearing the why are slim to none. This is where the job seeker has to take an honest assessment of himself to make progress. Are you polite through the process? How is your hygiene? Is there something unflattering from your past experiences that may be surfacing? Do you respond to feedback positively? Are you talking too much? Are you talking too little? Is your cell phone ringing while your in interviews? Are you sharing too much personal business? It's not impossible what's standing in the way between you and a job is something people don't feel they can really talk with you about.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pay Attention to Bad Press

I shared this nugget in another forum and thought it would be wise to post it here as well. Please indulge me if you've read it before.

There is no doubt the media loves to focus on negative news. A company who finds itself in the spotlight for not so positive reasons tends to become the company with a big X over its name. Job seekers and sales professionals fawn over those getting good press for doing well and sometimes make the mistake of steering clear of those who are on the receiving end of bad press.

When I was in sales as a recruiter/headhunter, I loved to call on companies who were up to their ears in a mess of some sort. From media reports I had a reasonable idea of what was broken internally and could offer solutions to help them deal with the problems. I knew exactly how I could have a positive influence on the company's bottom line. That's every salesperson's ideal, yes? Remember, job seekers are salespeople too. Their product is them. I built wonderful relationships with corporate clients by simply being there, when others were keeping them at arms length, and treating them with respect. You build a special bond with a client when you can help lift them out of a low. This is a time when many companies are having those lows. What an amazing opportunity to stretch our minds, explore our capabilities to instigate change and help be part of the process of generating solutions for those companies.

I challenge everyone here to embrace the bad press around us and ask "what can I do for these individuals and companies that will make a positive difference?" There is opportunity in it for you. I promise. Make yourself part of the solution, deliver on that solution and enjoy doing so with fewer people to compete against.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No Today, Yes Tomorrow

Rejection is part of the human experience. Even those exuding confidence wrestle with concerns of not being wanted. They're human too, right? Their ability to risk hearing a no, and move past the no's they've received along the way, is what sets them apart from the crowd.

As a recruiter I encountered rejection on a regular basis. My experience was two-fold. There was the rejection dealt to my team and to me as salesmen and there was the rejection my candidates had to face when corporate clients chose other options. Had I been the type to allow my fear of no's to overwhelm my desire to find the yes's in life, I would have had a very short career.

For myself, overcoming the urge to hide from the potential of rejection had a lot to do with keeping it in perspective. No's didn't mean I was being written off forever. They weren't evidence I had no value. They simply meant what I was offering at that immediate moment was not a fit for the other person's current needs. Forcing my mind to steer clear of self-doubt, I concentrated on finding ways to make myself what that person needed in the future. Many of my long term business relationships began with no's and eventually grew into a yes once we were able to better understand what each of us needed and had to offer. For the times when the understanding was there, yet the yes wasn't, the passage of time brought about the changes necessary to make what I was offering relevant. The opportunities I would have missed out on had I taken that initial no as a permanent verdict are too numerous to list.

My challenge to job seekers is to do your best to not let fear of rejection cloud your judgment and dim your motivation to get out there. Look at the no's you receive as a learning opportunity. What do you need to convey better in the future? What don't you have that you may want to gain to be more marketable? What changes in the economy, community and environment might result in the no becoming a yes down the line.

Sometimes the yes can follow a no even sooner than expected if you are willing to hold your chin up and continue to cultivate relationships with those who have rejected you. For example, it's not uncommon for a company's new hire to be struggling 3 to 6 months into a job. Typically, that's the time frame most employers use to gauge if they've made a good hire. That's the reason recruiters make a point to call companies a few months after they've hired someone. We want first dibs on helping them fill their position if a replacement is needed. You might be thinking, why would they work with a recruiter instead of simply calling the number 2 option they had for the job. If the number 2 option hasn't kept in touch with the company, made it clear hearing from them in the future would be welcome and reiterated they were going to continue to enrich themselves in the areas the hiring manager felt they were lacking, the likelihood of a company going that route is slim. Think about it. What hiring manager wouldn't feel like a heel calling a candidate and saying "even though you weren't our first choice, the person we hired didn't work out so we'd like to offer the job to you now?" It's been my experience they would rather start the process all over again, relying on the confidentiality of a recruiter, than expose themselves to a potentially awkward situation. Don't let it come to that with a company you would eventually like to hear a yes from.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Bridges You've Burned

So many people find themselves playing dodge ball with mistakes of the past. They've burned bridges with people and end up in a never ending game of having to find alternative routes to their destination. So often this isn't necessary. Just as we fix the broken bridges in our lives we use for driving and walking, the bridges we have with other individuals can usually be repaired with a sincere apology and evidence of change.

In a recent conversation with a job seeker, we'll call him Joe, Joe mentioned an employer he was leaving off of his resume that would be helpful to him to have featured. Joe was fired from this company, you see, and he doesn't want others to know about it since the owner of that company is well connected. There was a time when Joe was considered a great employee and had even been promoted. In an immature moment, he became frustrated with another employee and threw an object at the wall. The company terminated him immediately. All of his past accomplishments and contributions couldn't save him from the chopping block. It was a stupid thing for him to do. Joe was a young guy and made a mistake. In the years since that moment, Joe hasn't thrown more than a baseball. The fact he was fired for lashing out likely set him on a better path professionally. It was definitely a learning experience. The Joe of today has grown a great deal from that young man with an overactive right arm. The time has come to right the wrongs of his past so he can move on without fear of that mistake resurfacing. He needs to repair the bridge he damaged and show his former supervisor he has grown as a person and regrets his past actions.

Joe is ready to face the music and do what it takes to repair a damaged bridge. The recruiter in me wishes more job seekers would take the same leap. No one is perfect. Mistakes are a part of the human condition. Success in life doesn't come from how well we hide from those mistakes, but how well we address them. So many people hide. Those who are able to look another in the eye and admit they came up short are rare. When someone has expressed genuine regret to me, I've always appreciated the acknowledgment. When I've expressed genuine regret to others, I've always felt more connected to them than before. Oddly enough, the personal and professional relationships I have that have weathered some sort of storm are the ones with the deepest loyalty at the end of the day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Google is a blabber mouth!

If Google knows any of your personal business, he's going to blab it to anyone who asks the right questions. Every detail you provide to a company during your job search could be used on search engines to reveal more information about you than you ever intended to share. It is important for every job seeker to safeguard themselves from unintentionally giving a potential employer access to personal things that aren't really any of their business.

There are a few things a candidate should assume are going to be plugged into a search engine. Your name is an obvious guess. Isn't it logical someone wanting to know more about you might run a search on your name to see what's there? They may simply use your name or they may add in other key words such as cities you've lived in or the names of past employers. Run simple searches on your name and see what's there. Unless the information that comes up is pulling from a site you have some degree of control over, you probably aren't going to be able to make any of the information that is there go away. Still, being aware of what an employer might stumble across with a basic search gives you a chance to prepare for any backlash.

Other searches candidates should run on themselves include the phone numbers, street addresses and email addresses they are sharing on resumes or applications. Those are the types of details people occasionally share on message boards, forums, letters to the editor, church bulletins, etc., that can be picked up by search engines. The things that pop up may be flattering, boring and a non-issue, or they may reveal a bit more about yourself and your personal habits than you'd care for an employer to know about. A candidate I worked with a few years ago posted his email address on a message board for divorced fathers who were having custody issues. He input the address so fellow members could respond with advice for a problem he had. He said less than kind things about his ex-wife and shared intensely personal information about his situation. I discovered this information while doing my own searches on his background and was able to point it out to him so he could either edit the post or provide a different email address to employers in the future.

It's hard to know if an employer knowing something like that would have a negative effect on a candidate's chances for a job. It's best not to risk it and do what you can to reduce the chance of it becoming known. Many job seekers are wisely opting to create new email addresses or sign up for cell phone numbers they use exclusively for the purpose of their search. They are careful not to post those addresses or numbers in any public forum. That doesn't mean candidates need not bother to search on those addresses and numbers, however. If you weren't the first one to have that cell number, there is no way to know how it was used in the past. Checking those numbers is an especially good idea for those who attract bad luck.

Now, go Google.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Employers Are Intimidated By Me."

"Employers are intimidated by me." I often hear this from older or executive level candidates. When I hear it, I find myself chewing on my lip. It's not that I don't think it is possible for decision makers to pass over candidates who may threaten their professional advancements or who may feel the individual's qualifications are such it would be awkward to offer something with less responsibility. More often than not, however, the hesitations an employer has comes more from the messages sent by the candidate than from insecurity or intimidation.

Because the next things I'm about to write may sound harsh, I'd like to take a moment to remind readers about my intentions with this blog. My words are not meant to poke fun at or criticize others, but to share candid observations I feel will help save people from unintentionally shooting themselves in the foot while looking for a job. If what I write stings or bruises, I apologize. Try to hang with me though and see if there is a useful nugget in it all.

Back to the harsh part. Of all the job seekers who have told me employers are intimidated by them, I've yet to meet one who didn't present with other problems that were obvious to me. To be blunt, these individuals usually had one of three issues. They either talked too much about themselves, were unintentionally disrespectful at times or presented with a skill set issue. I think it's important to talk about all three scenarios.

Talking Too Much - I'm listing this one first on purpose. By far, this is the problem I encounter the most. Many candidates who feel their backgrounds are intimidating have the bad habit of pointing out, in great detail, all that is intimidating about them. Beating a potential employer over the head with all of the things you've done that go above and beyond what is necessary for the job you are interviewing for keeps any issue of being overqualified front and center. How is an interviewer supposed to let it go if the applicant won't let them? In addition, contributing an abundance of information that isn't relevant to the job or discussion gives the impression the candidate lacks focus and the ability to stay on point. When candidates have gone overboard with details and irrelevant information with me, I've often had the sense they were struggling with their own value, were not yet over what had happened in their previous positions or were too use to being in settings where that type of information was needed and were failing to adjust their message to their audience. I always made an attempt to redirect the conversation or give cues it was time to move on to another topic. Cues and redirection rarely worked. With those I felt I knew well, or who gave the impression they were open to constructive feedback, I shared my take on why they weren't getting job offers. There wasn't much I could do for the others, but offer a silent prayer of good luck.

Seeming Disrespectful - Let me clear, I am not talking about candidates intending to be disrespectful. Most applicants with a solid career history behind them have the good sense not to be intentionally rude. That doesn't mean body language, behavior and comments don't occasionally give the interviewer pause. Those who are accustomed to being the one in control, making decisions and critiquing aren't always able to give the interviewer his rightful place as the one running the show. That's not to say candidates should be passive doormats. Showing assertiveness and the ability to lead is often necessary for landing a job in line with past experience. It's a balancing act to be able to demonstrate confidence and control in a way where the prospective employer doesn't end up feeling like a subordinate. A few examples that come to mind of things that tend to go wrong are talking over the interviewer, inserting judging commentary as corporate objectives/philosophy are shared, offering up "mmmmm, interesting" responses that don't ring sincere, redirecting the interview or sidestepping questions with comments beginning with language like "more importantly", addressing the individual in any way that implies the person is younger or less experienced, posturing so the interviewer is being looked down upon, asking for coffee while requesting a specific ratio of cream & sugar, critiquing the company's hiring process and checking the time while the interviewer speaks. Those are probably plenty of examples to make my point.

Skill Set Issues - Individuals who have been with the same employer for years and years, no matter how high up the ladder they climbed, are likely to have some sort of skill gap. It's not that they've done anything wrong. In basic terms, they've only had the ability to acquire knowledge of what was used in their environment. The likelihood they are proficient on software, techniques and protocol not used by their long term employer is slim. Yes, they were in key roles in their organization. Yes, they have valuable skills and knowledge to take with them to their next opportunity. That's not to say the things they don't know can't be learned. Most times it indeed can. The issue is when these individuals are either unaware of what they don't know or poo-poo what they don't know as no big deal. Employers don't want to be treated as though their concern of a candidate's lack of familiarity with something is dumb. Too many employers have had to endure errors, low productivity and frustration as a result of employees not knowing what they need to do the job. What they want to see and hear is evidence of a pro-active person who recognizes the gap, is willing to fill it (if they aren't already doing so) and supporting information of the individual's ability to learn other things in the past. It really is a big deal to many employers. A candidate need not think or act as though not having something leaves them less than qualified. It is important to sell around what is missing and reassure the employer as much as possible any gaps are short term. That reassurance is hard to achieve when the candidate's best approach is to shrug off concerns while proclaiming them no big deal.

So that is my take in a nutshell. Though it is possible some employers may indeed be intimidated, anything is possible after all, that wouldn't be my first guess and it shouldn't be yours. Take a good look at the messages you are sending and ask yourself if there is a chance you might be committing any of the missteps outlined above.