Effectively tracking your resume …

radar-icon-e1332548295450   Here is my suggestion. Whether you are an Excel, Google docs, etc. fan, make the following columns at a minimum but apply the KISS principal so you actually utilize it. The beauty of doing this is that you can sort on any column which is great when you need to arrange things alphabetically or chronologically.

  • Submission Date
  • Company Name
  • submission Method (e.g. direct, via job board, via recruiter, via a friend that works at a target employer, etc.)
  • Comments

For a more comprehensive worksheet list the following:

  • Submission Date
  • Submission Method
  • Company Name
  • Contact person (when/if applicable)
  • Date of last Action (which can work as a sort of to-do list)
  • Comments

Regardless, those who are organized about their job search seem to manage their resume logistics well and, as a result, tend to be more effective in their job search. It is my professional observation that those who tend to not have much control of their resume tend to repeatedly submit resumes to the same place (which can make you look disorganized, desperate, etc.) miss important follow up inquiries (hence possibly missing opportunities to interview) and there is simply no advantage of a haphazard approach.

In regard to working with a recruiter

There is nothing more frustrating for a recruiter than finding out after the fact that a candidate has already submitted a resume to a company that the recruiter is representing. That is, a good recruiter will do everything they can to determine whether or not a candidate has already submitted a resume to a specific client, but all too often the candidate just isn’t sure if they sent a resume to a specific company or might even think there is any harm in trying again. Here’s the problem.

This puts the recruiter (and client company) in an awkward position if it turns out that the resume has already been submitted in the past. Why? Because normally the recruiter is not compensated if the candidate has already submitted a resume prior to the recruiter submission. This is simply one of the fastest ways to destroy that relationship so make sure that you are as accurate and honest with any claim that you make on this topic. Taking this situation one step further, many clients upon discovering the double submission don’t want to move forward to avoid a conflict with the staffing agency. In the end it’s just sloppy and benefits nobody.

TIP – It’s critical that you make sure you know where your resume is going if you are working with a staffing specialist. In my opinion, you should initially disclose to any recruiters that you expect to give your permission first for ANY resume submissions they may make so you are never submitted to XYZ company without your knowledge. See Controlling resume distribution – and hence your brand for more on this very important best practice. One exception might be if you are looking for temporary work but I suggest you still apply this rule when looking for ‘consulting work’. In the end the recruiter-candidate relationship has to be completely built upon trust, honor and established protocol so make sure you hold one another accountable at all times.

TAKE AWAY – Be sure to implement resume tracking and control from the moment you consider putting yourself out there. Even if you take the recruiter out of the equation, it will keep you on top of the follow up actions needed for any effective opportunity search.

Before accepting an offer…

Blog Art 2   With the continual rise in health care costs,  it’s imperative that you ask about benefits in detail before accepting any final offer. It’s really not enough to simply inquire if health benefits are part of the employment compensation package because there are so many factors that need to be evaluated in your quest to compare offers appropriately. I suggest you specifically ask the following two questions (at a minimum) at some point during the interview process which is most likely when you meet with the Human Resources representative or at time of offer. Health benefits alone could make a huge difference between one or more offers or even if you should leave your current situation.

When exactly do the benefits kick in?
Some companies start benefits right away, others start benefits on the first day of the following month while some wait 90 days or more. The key is to know exactly when they start so you can compare to any other offers. Also, if they do not start on day one, you’ll need some sort of bridge coverage until your new benefits start. However, If you just left another company, you might be covered for 30 days or be eligible for COBRA (or both) but don’t underestimate the very high cost of COBRA (a cost you need to get as well from the plan administrator).

Specifically how much will the health benefit premium cost me per month?
It’s very important to get a specific quote on cost and make sure you don’t get an estimate as it’s very easy for a company to give you a very specific premium. Also, do the benefits include vision and/or dental or are they a separate element of the overall monthly premium ? Don’t ever assume vision and/or dental are included. The key is to get clarification/specifics/facts.

Taking this concept one step further, it’s also important to drill down on all benefits offered beyond your base salary or hourly wage. For example, if they offer a 401K plan (or any other flavor of deferred savings), find out when you’re eligible to start participating, what are the details on matching (if any) and what is the vesting period. Also, if bonuses of any sort are offered, how are they calculated, when are they paid out and what has been the historical payout percentage of target over the last 2-3 years. If you are a sales professional compensated with any sort of commission plan, make sure you completely understand the plan and have it in writing. Finally, make sure you understand the vacation model and what holidays the company observes, PTO versus more traditional plans, etc. In the end, ask specifically for a benefits package or overview summary so you have the information in writing. It may also be available via the companies website but be sure to ask for something in writing before accepting an offer.

TAKE AWAY – Getting your arms around health insurance costs is key when evaluating the complete offer. Benefits today can often be a significant factor in terms of the overall compensation. The other elements mentioned above are important as well, but health insurance costs are an ongoing financial bite (e.g. every other week, twice a month, once a month, etc.) and they are not to be underestimated. I suggest you craft a checklist of questions so you don’t end up winging this. I’m often amazed at how many folks get an offer and accept that offer without ever asking about any of this. My goal is to make sure you are not one of them.

Employee Retention 101 …

Blog Art 1   Recruiters essentially ask potential candidates basic, yet structured questions and then listen very carefully to their answers. If part of that conversation reveals that somebody is not jazzed about what they are currently doing or they disclose that they don’t care for who they are working with/for, presenting an alternate opportunity might be enough to get them to seriously consider a move. Admittedly, my style is to ask them directly if they’ve tried to work things out where they are and much of the time I successfully get them to remedy things on their own. I would rather somebody stay where they are if they can work it out and find enjoyment, but I am not sure why I’m the one encouraging them to take this step. Why this is not part of the culture where they are the amazes me.

With approximately 20 years of technical recruiting under my belt, I’ve come to the conclusion that employee retention practices are likely part of some seminar handout gathering dust versus part of a company’s active employee advocacy/retention program, culture or corporate vision. Regardless, this blog entry is not intended to be a swipe at HR or management – but if you think about it, a recruiter’s perspective on the topic should be of interest to them because we are often the only ones talking to their employees in this way. Being an ex-hiring manager myself, I would have loved a recruiter’s perspective on the topic when retention was my responsibility. 

In reality, the vast majority of technical professionals I end up placing are already employed, and for a number of reasons (often having nothing to do with compensation) they are open to something else because ultimately there is something they are not content with or some concern they have is not being addressed by their boss and/or HR – so they’re open to finding satisfaction someplace else. In the end you may not be able to completely satisfy any given employee, or even know that they are not satisfied, but the solution to retention is not rocket science at all.

TIP – Prior to even pulling the trigger on a new hire, I’m encouraging that the person in charge of the hiring/interviewing process assure that all interviewers involved cover the question of “why are you specifically interested in our company?” If candidates are currently employed ask them “specifically why are you currently evaluating other opportunities if you already have a job?” As a matter of fact, the latter is the first question I ask any currently employed person that I’m courting. The key is to compare notes in your post interview debrief and look for consistency (or inconsistencies) in their responses with the other interviewers who met the same candidate. Additionally, if a generic answer is provided, be bold and drill down until you reach something concrete. My advice is to continually unpeel that onion by asking them to expand. This is absolutely the time to probe for intent so it doesn’t bite you after you hire them.

TAKE AWAY – My suggestion is very simple  and is based on what I personally do after making a placement. To make sure that each and every candidate that I place in a new position is happy, content and likely to stay put I ask them how things are going on a regular basis and act to remedy if I discover that they are not thrilled. Here is what I do post- placement for the first 180 days of employment … and suggest you do the same.

  • At the end of day 1 one: I chime in with “how did everything go today at your new home?”
  • At the end of week one:  “How did your first week go and do you have any concerns or do you need anything?”
  • 30 days / 60 / 90 /120 / 180: Ditto

This may not seem like rocket science, but I’ll bet it’s something that most employers are not executing in a structured and organized fashion and it’s crazy as it does not cost a dime.

Resume within e-Reach …

This may seem like a no- brainer, but often folks are caught off guard with no access to their current resume when they need it in a pinch. In the age of smartphones, the cloud, etc., this should never be an issue. However, since I’m constantly requesting resumes it’s amazing how many times folks just don’t have a solution so it’s still worth sharing some thoughts with you on the topic.

Also, see Resume Fitness Plan for additional thoughts on Resumes.

My suggestion is to have your resume available in electronic format in one or more of the following ways so you can either show it to somebody in real time and/or access it so you can immediately email it to whomever is asking for it. Like the old saying goes “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression”.

  • For best results, think centralization (e.g. via offsite file storage). If you currently do not have a Dropbox.com account or utilize something like iCloud, etc. you should seriously consider it.
  • On a Flash Drive – perhaps on your key chain.
  • Attached to an email that you’ve sent to yourself so it’s in your personal “browser-based” email account (Hotmail / Live.com, Gmail, Ymail, etc.).
  • Any other electronic format that you can access at a moments notice.

Also, it never hurts to have physical copies in your car for those times when you are not electronically connected, but admittedly it is highly unlikely that anybody would even want to cart your resume around … but you never know! Just be sure it’s your latest version for good measure.

TAKE AWAY – Never put yourself in a situation where you miss out on a great opportunity or making a great first impression over sheer logistics and lack of a plan. Figure out some sort of solution now so you never have to look back and shake your head thinking ‘why didn’t I have access to my most recent resume on the spot’.

San Diego is a small town …

SD Image   San Diego is a small town – especially the high tech community … so behave ;o)

In general I’m an optimistic person; a glass-is-half-full kind of guy. Really!! But I see a systemic societal problem now manifesting itself into corporate America. That is, common courtesy doesn’t seem to be, well, all that common these days and it’s diabolically creeping its way into the interview process – a trend I’d like to see wane as soon as possible.

In an effort to keep things simple, I feel that there are essentially two types of people. Those who make a reservation at a restaurant, end up needing to cancel and actually call the restaurant out of common courtesy and respect … and then there are those that simply never make that call. This example may seem a bit critical of what many might think of as a benign act (especially to those of you that don’t call) but therein lies the problem. It’s all about respecting others!

So, based on this philosophical construct of mine, here are some basics (in my humble opinion) that both parties should exercise during the interview courtship/process:

Those being interviewed:

• If you’re running late/lost for an interview, you call before – not after – the interview start time to let them know what’s up.
• If you’ve taken another job, you call every company that has you in the interview loop… immediately!
• If you never show up for an interview, just keep in mind that it’s a very small town.

Those doing the interviewing:

• If you have any sort of actual direct contact with a potential candidate (beyond an unsolicited email, receipt of a submitted resume, etc.) you absolutely owe them some sort of closure as a professional courtesy in a timely fashion – this is key. Being courteous sends a message to the community that your company cares and is professional. Because San Diego is a small town, doing the opposite simply advertises that you are not respectful so out of pure practicality, it pays to be courteous to applicants. Once again, this simply applies to those applicants that have had some direct contact with an existing employee beyond the receptionist.

• 48 hour rule – If you have a candidate that is actually in the process of interviewing (e.g. has done an initial phone interview, an in person interview, is waiting on a final decision or perhaps an offer letter, etc.) you need to let them know where they stand throughout the process. The key to relationships is that people just want to know what they stand. So be it good news, bad news, no news at all since last time you connected, you never leave somebody hanging for more than 48 hours unless you have specifically set the expectation for a specific future timeframe. For example, if you say you will let an applicant know by the end of the day, or the end of the week, what the status is, you need to reconnect by that promised deadline – even if nothing has changed or a final decision not reached. Often that call is difficult but you’d be surprise how many applicants will say “I realize this process might take some time but I really appreciate the update”.

TAKE AWAY – Simply put yourself in the shoes of the other party and you’ll likely project the common courtesy that such circumstances warrant. Also, try calling that restuarant next time you need to cancel and experience the appreciation at the other end.

Resume Fitness Plan …

What is this lunatic talking about? All right.. I’ll admit it. Cholesterol and push-ups are not something that your resume has to worry about. However, most folks just don’t keep their resumes in top condition on a regular basis and often have to scramble to put something together last minute and it just doesn’t have to be this way.

Also, see Always have a Current Resume within e-Reach for additional thoughts on resumes.

Actually, most people wait to update their resumes when they find themselves in the situation where they need to quickly find a job – and this is not the best resume fitness plan to have. Instead, look at your resume as a valuable asset that needs to be updated regularly as you take on new tasks at work, get a promotion, finish a training course, etc.

The secret is to update your resume on a regular basis – but most folks are not that disciplined so here is my advice. Go to your electronic calendar (or appointment book) and set a recurring reminder to take a quick look at your resume to make sure it reflects what you are doing these days. I suggest every 3 months (6 months max). In a perfect world, however, update it any time something significant happens.

In the end only you can decide what warrants an update, but your resume will always be more effective if you update it in a timely fashion when things are fresh in your mind – hence more accurate and definitely less stressful.

TAKE AWAY – Just invest some time to create whatever system works for you to keep your resume up to date. If nothing else, a monthly or quarterly reminder to review/tweak/update your resume.

Spell check just isn’t enough …

The old saying ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’ could not be more apropos in resume writing.

So, before you post your resume or email it off to somebody you have to do more than run a spell check. More specifically, spell checking is a great idea for sure but it simply will not catch the wrong word that is correctly spelled. That is, since to, two and too are all spelled correctly, it makes a big difference which one you include in your resume. Even spell checkers with a grammar check feature often don’t catch these mistakes, so user beware.

Now this may seem like resume writing 101, but it blows me away how often I come across this mistake when reviewing resumes … especially on those resumes written by folks that claim to be ‘detail oriented’. Go figure!

TAKE AWAY – The key is to proof read the resume all the way through yourself, then spell/grammar check.. and then if at all possible, get somebody else to read it with a fresh pair of eyes before releasing it.

All I had to do was ask?

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why didn’t I just talk to somebody about this first?”

Without getting into the formal execution of an informational interview, it’s more important that you simply familiarize yourself with the concept so you can make more informed career decisions moving forward. The great news is that many people are more than happy to share information and give free advice so it’s a lot easier than you may think to make this happen (especially with the advent of LinkedIn) so don’t be shy. Also, it’s not usually going to cost you anything, but even treating somebody to a latte at Starbucks is a worthwhile investment.

If you already know what this technique is (and perhaps you’re already utilizing platforms like LI groups, or Quora.com, etc.) perhaps it’s time to rethink its ‘universal’ application in both formal and informal circumstances. More specifically, you can effectively apply this approach to almost every aspect of your life; career related or not.  With that said, my goal here is to lead you to water, but ultimately you must take the first sip.

OK. Just imagine the power and benefit of asking direct questions to those that have firsthand knowledge and experience with something that interests you professionally. Whether it’s about a specific occupation, a specific employer, a different department or even a specific domain you might have you’re eye on, somebody with firsthand knowledge or related experience is likely to have valuable information to share with you … all you have to do is ask! An yes… it’s that simple.!

Admittedly I have found over the years that many folks see the ‘Information Interview’ process as formal or they just find it uncomfortable to ask for advice. My suggestion is that you simply approach this in a more informal fashion and keep in mind that people generally like to help others. Whether you’re asking for 10 minutes over coffee,  five minutes on the phone, an inquiry via LinkedIn, etc. the key is to just make it happen and don’t assume you have to go through some formal channel or rigid process to ask questions. Just ask and you are very likely to receive!

For example, I applaud those that have called me out of the blue because somebody within my network suggested they ask me questions about the recruiting industry. That way, before making a career move into my domain, they can get a feel for what the staffing industry is like, what skills/training they may need, what it takes to perform successfully as a staffing specialist, the pros/cons of being in the industry, etc.. As long as you respect the time of others and don’t end run them and ask for a job (often a big turn off for sure), it’s not that difficult to make an informational interview happen.

TIP – When requesting time from others, disclose up front how much time you anticipate you’ll need in an effort to respect their time and give them a chance to modify that window. If calling somebody and you get them live, introduce yourself, disclose the reason for your call and ask if this is a good time to talk or would another time be more convenient. I suggest you initially ask for 5-10 minutes if you’ll be talking on the phone and 10-15 if you’re going to meet somebody in person but it’s something you’ll simply need to feel out. The key is to be mindful of their time above all else. Of course many conversations will naturally and organically last longer, but make sure the feeling appears to be mutual.

I personally connect people all the time with other professionals within my own personal and professional networks because I have always seen the ROI in this approach. In the IT world, I connect technologists up with each other as many times somebody has an interest in a slightly different role and it just makes sense for them to connect with somebody already doing that specific job so they can ask probing questions. Let’s say a Network Administrator is interested in Database Administration. I simply look at my network and connect them with a database person so that they can exchange thoughts. Although you should always carry yourself professionally, my suggestion is to keep things somewhat informal so that both parties enjoy the process. An added bonus to all of this is that Informational interviewing also helps you build your own network for the long run.

TAKE AWAY – By proactively approaching individuals who have firsthand experience with something that interests you is incredibly powerful and something that ‘anybody’ can do. When you think about it, the application of this technique is essentially limitless. The key is not to be shy about tapping into your network or somebody else’s. You’d be surprised how many folks would welcome an unsolicited inquiry from somebody that simply wants to tap into ‘their’ expertise and advice. Just be bold and I’m confident that you’ll be rewarded well for your efforts.

Five reference mistakes …

When searching for work, professional references are a very special asset to any job seeker – so best to utilize them prudently, responsibly and respectfully.

Here are five common mistakes to avoid:

  • All references should be professional in nature (versus personal references) unless specifically requested.
  • Make sure that reference contact information is completely accurate. There is nothing more unprofessional than providing an invalid email address and/or phone number in your references. Also, if you are going to provide an email and/or phone number, make sure you ask your reference which number/email they prefer you list.
  • Always make sure that those on your reference list actually know that they are on your list and have expressed interest and approval so they are never caught off guard. Also, it’s best to always check in with them from time-to-time to make sure they are still open and willing to take calls because you don’t want to burden them with numerous inquiries.
  • Do your best to give your references a heads-up when you are confident that an employer is likely to contact them. Also, I suggest you do your best to hold off on providing the actual reference contact info until you know that a perspective employee is serious about your candidacy. On the other hand it’s all a balancing act so don’t be too difficult when they make the request. Personally I’d try to hold off providing references until it’s clear that an offer is contingent on favorable references, but that is a personal judgement call that you’ll have to make.
  • Do NOT include your references on your resume – especially when posted on any of the electronic job/resume boards because it’s just not right to advertise reference contact info in this fashion. I see this quite often as I search for resumes and it just makes me cringe.

TAKE AWAY – References are something to hold in high regard so do your best to handle them with care and respect.

Cell phones + interview …

Admittedly this advice is mostly based on common sense, but as they say, common sense is not necessarily all that common.

In-person interviews

This one is simple – leave it in your car! At least turn it off if you must have it with you b/c some critical event is happening in your life that you have to know about when it occurs, don’t kid yourself about the vibrate mode as it’s just as intrusive during an interview.

Phone interviews

Perhaps you’ve joined the masses that no longer have a land line or maybe you need to do a phone interview while on the run, driving or at work (e.g. lunch time) and your only option is to take/make that call on your cell phone. Whatever the case may be, here are some simple guidelines for those times when you will be doing a phone interview on your cell phone.

• Choose your physical environment carefully. There is nothing more distracting than lots of background noise.

• Consider disclosing up front that you are on a cell phone. If not disclosing this up front, don’t be shy about mentioning it if you suspect that one or both parties are having a hard time with the connection. It’s really important that both parties are able to clearly hear one another and often a simple disclosure helps. For example, you might say “Before we get started, I just wanted to let you know that I’m on a cell phone so please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any problems hearing me and I’ll do the same at my end.” This way, you’ve left yourself the option for a certain level of comfort if you have to ask the interviewer to repeat something and vice versa.

• Make sure your battery is charged up as much as possible before hand. This way you don’t have to worry about it when you should be focusing on the call. However, if during the phone interview your battery is starting to run critically low, just disclose it so you are not distracted or stressed out. Everybody today can relate to a low battery.

TAKE AWAY – What actually prompted this topic is that too many times I’ll have a post-interview debrief conversation with a candidate who tells me that they had a hard time understanding some of the questions because the cell connection was lousy at times and they never said anything to the interviewer. Often the client has the same post call observation so I encourage those that are doing the interviewing let candidates know if the connection is not good. Getting the topic on the table at the beginning (from both ends) can often salvage an interview that was simply going south due to telecommunications challenges and that is simply not a good reason to not make it to the next interview step.