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Preparing to have "Game"

, 20 Feb 2007
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Job Searching -- for the rest of us.

Introduction

About 80 percent of the job market is "hidden" and about 90 percent of job seekers obtain jobs through the Internet job boards according to Dennis Thompson, a personal career coach. While this sounds good at first, what I see is a whole lot of people competing for a handful of jobs while other positions remain unfilled.

What does it take?

Like anything else, if you don't know where you are going – you most likely will not get there, and the irony is you will be happy about it. The first step to finding a job is knowing what you want. Set a goal. Barbra McLean, CSU Career Counsellor, believes that it is important to "Be clear about the job you are looking for - give it a job title." I feel much stronger about this point; I would argue imagination is key to success. The best way to use imagination is to write. So write a journal entry by imagining you are writing a letter to your mother (or wife) about what has made the first year of your dream job "darn tooting".

Once you can see the vision; commitment is the next step! If you were in the "real world" a forty hour week is generally expected; however, I believe that this much Job searching is too painful for the ego. Dan Rink, Personal Career Coach, feels thirty or thirty-five Hours is about right, and Barbra recommends "at least 20 hours/week (more, really) for a serious job search." In general, jobs will not find you, learning the searching process will be extremely valuable.

All that being said, how should we allocate a week's worth of time during the Job hunting cycle?

The answer to this is going to vary depending on your career experience. A CEO will not spend most of his time looking through web postings. Because the scarcer a job becomes, the more quickly it tends to be filled with a "friend of a friend." Assuming your resume is complete and you are between 0-5 years experience I would suggest a weekly break down like so:

  • 1% of your time should be used to focus your documents for the particular job in question
  • 19% of your time should be using networking tools. (Plaxo, Linkedin)
  • 30% of your time networking with other professionals. Having eye-to-eye conversation (including: Hiring managers, recruiters, fellow classmates, and friends of friends)
  • 20% of your time should be allocated to using web posting (Hot jobs, Monster, Dice, etc.)

  • 20% should be unplanned time to handle last minute opportunities
  • 9% should be spent campaigning on your target companies
  • 1% should be spent hand writing thank-you notes and cards for your conversations

Job Boards

Although Job Boards are a great resource (90% of job seekers successfully use job boards) look at the number of applicants applying for your "dream job." I was talking to a hiring manager who posted a technical position on Dice.com; he received a thousand resumes within the first three hours of posting the position. Imagine you find your dream job posted on Hot Jobs, or Dice.com. What would distinguish you from the other applicants?

Christine, a personal acquaintance, found her most recent position with Craig's list. However, my personal favorite Job Board is www.indeed.com – it searches all of the other job boards at once. I believe it to be the most efficient. Recall, no more than twenty percent of your time should be allocated to this style of Job searching.

Job Boards also offer deeper company knowledge. As more industries advertise their jobs digitally, systems like indeed and other metasearch engines record announcements from specific companies. Consequently, if a company is hiring a large number of professionals, Accountants, Programmers, Managers, etc., one could conclude that company is implementing a larger plan and take advantage of that knowledge.

Resume and Documents

If you just received a thousand resumes, how long will you look at each one? Hiring managers tend to look at a resume for about ten seconds, while a recruiter will look at it for about a minute. That is not very much time to grab someone's attention.

The very first step, in my opinion, is to build the tools necessary for getting your next job: the resume, the addendum, a marketing profile, and a few good interviewing "stories".

We all know the resume is required in the job search – how does yours stand out from a crowd? Many Job boards only accept plain-text resumes, therefore content is the only difference! Spelling counts, grammar counts, everything counts. Barbra's secret is to prepare a knock-out resume specifically targeting the desired job. Similarly, Dan Rink discussed many of his techniques – at the core there are two: formatting and content. A resume must be simple to read and clearly contain the information of interest for the hiring manager. In either case, different positions require different approaches, in the words of Barbra "don't use a generic - "one size fits all" resume and then expect the employer to figure out your skills."

Most hiring managers want to see a chronological resume. Although it may seem obvious, give them what they want! The jobs that you should be targeting should be a match with your skills with a little room for growth; therefore, the hiring manager is going to understand your work history may be light because you are fresh out of college. Another option is adding a project section to the resume which details some of the projects that you completed during school. If you need help with your resume, go to a career counsellor. If you don't know how to get started some of the more advanced job boards, such as monster.com, have starter templates.

It is important, however, to remember resumes don't get jobs! At most resumes generate interviews, generally, resumes generate interesting calls. Having the best resume in the market will only get you to interviews. People get Jobs!

After talking with a co-worker about his career path, he felt it was important to view every project as bullet item on your future resume. We are in charge of own careers; therefore, we need to volunteer for the projects that interact with our skills the best! With this in mind, you may wish to consider a short internship during the last few months of school or soon thereafter to develop your resume content.

The second most critical document is the resume addendum, a two column grid. On the left there are industry drivers and issues; on the right are your thoughts, approaches, experience, and insight. This document is to assist in conversation. If used strategically, this document will guide the hiring manager during the interview process.

Although the marketing profile is not a substitute for a resume, it is a cutting-edge document. Not only does this document contain an image of you, its content has no dates, and only discusses reasons why someone would like to purchase you. This document is not a resume, and should not be given to hiring managers or recruiters, as most HR folk do not like pictures of candidates. This document is a networking document; it should be given to your friends or people that you meet in your industry at a trade show.

Counsellors and Mentors

Find a mentor. Nothing is a substitute for experience, but having a mentor, to tell you what pitfalls to avoid, is almost as important. A mentor should be someone a few years further along in their career than you. Preferably, he may already be performing your dream job.

Career Counselors are employed for the sole purpose of helping you succeed in your career – in the words of Barbra Mclean "See a career counsellor - see a career counsellor - see a career counsellor." Moreover, Counselors can help you before you know what you want.

Success Teams

Success teams are crucial to the Job Search process. Some individuals need more assistance than others! I would assume that most individuals are capable of reaching the third stage of "Success team development" if they were aware that it existed! Most teams require between four and seven individuals to become effective.

Stage one teams are identified by the need for team members to complain about their job search and discuss the negative points of the job search. These types of teams could be damaging to the individuals involved; Job searching is difficult anyway – one does not need to wallow in the rejections. Each member of these teams discusses their search and generally avoids setting personal goals for the following meeting.

A stage two group is what most people normally develop. These groups are composed of many individuals that are concerned about the accountability of the other members. If Alice says that she will call Chevron this week, at the next meeting the other members will ask about the outcome of the conversation. It should be noted that in this kind of a team all team members are essentially equal. Everyone is accountable to all of the other members, and during the discussion each member will speak an equal amount of time. Although these teams are beneficial – there is another option.

Stage three is the most effective team because they are all working for the success of a single person, and they have a similar amount of professional experience. A Stage three group will not form if some of the members are recent graduates and others are experienced CEOs, there is too great a difference in thinking. In these teams each individual of the group is looking for ways to assist the leader. It is similar to have a board of directors for your own personal company. Each board member could offer personal contacts or help to refine your "elevator speech" Unlike Stage two, each member of these teams will need their own group, their own moment to be the leader. As a virtual community, it is in our best interest to see you succeed; therefore, if I can assist you with your goal; I want to.

Networking

The goal to networking is discovering the 80% of jobs that are never advertised, and it is quite possibly the most challenging job searching skill. Barbra recommends "conducting a thorough networking campaign targeting everyone you know and finding people you don't know who are in your chosen industry."

People are amusing; they tend to be more helpful if they believe you can help them. Join a local or virtual community of individuals which are in your chosen industry, and volunteer time to that community. The more people see your involvement, the more helpful they will be with your career search.

Become familiar with networking tools – no one will hire you if they don't know you exist! www.linkedin.com is a great website. It will tell you who you know, who knows someone, who knows a person at your target company.

If you are wondering how to connect with Financial, Managerial, or other career oriented people, our community is a great place to start making these connections.

How to answer the "What do you do?" question

Have you ever asked anyone "what do you do?" and found the response, at best, dry? Many career coaches recommend polishing the "elevator speech". It is important to "develop a 'One Minute Commercial' to introduce yourself and let people know what kind of job you are looking for." However, the personal infomercial is a tool to be used at the appropriate time. Personally, watching the elevator speech being misused is one of the most entertaining job-searching sins a candidate can commit.

People react best to honest and open communication; do you like talking to people who are so busy talking they forget to listen to the second half of the conversation? People are more interested in what you have to say, once they feel understood; this is one of Stephen Covey's habits of effective people - listening.

Therefore the key to this technique is to place your commercial into the conversation naturally, and to make those sixty seconds interesting. When you ask the question "what do you do?" what answer are you looking for? Job task, Job Title, or Industry. The key is to connect with your listener, what is interesting to them? If industry is interesting to them, they will continue to listen. Similarly, if title is interesting to them they will continue to listen. People don't listen to boring people! In the age of the MTV and short attention spans, it is imperative to have a catchy tag line; it is important to brand yourself.
Kermit is an onsite Computer Repair Tech. He is the guy who fixes your computer when it is beyond repair. I asked the dreaded "W" question and he answered.

"I am technical aspirin – I solve your problems."

That answer was interesting enough that I wanted to have a deeper conversation about his profession, so that I could understand what he was implying by "technical aspirin". That is the power of your elevator speech, a way to develop a memorable conversation, and establish a foundation with this individual.

Hiring Manager

Once you get the name of a hiring manager, set up a time to talk; schedule an informational interview. The secret to this kind of discussion is to be informal. In fact it would be inappropriate to tell this person that you are looking for a position. Have a goal in mind. Before the discussion occurs you are going to need an answer to this question: What do you want to discuss with this guy, other than the obvious he-has-a-job conversation? Industry pressures, recent proceedings, etc. Ethics is a hot finance topic as is Sarbanes Oxley. The computer sector hot topics are bridging the technical communication gap, and communicating complexity to management.

The goal of this communication is just to network, you are not trying to squeeze a job out of this hiring manager. However, if the conversation went very well, you may want to throw in a sentence like the following "do you know anyone, who knows anyone that can assist me, in my search for a better opportunity?" By adding two levels of indirection to your statement – the individual feels less pressure of your unemployment needs.

Recall, people like to help, and many people don't like to be the bearer of bad news (such as I don't have a Job). So there is a strong social pressure around the hiring manager, if you ask him for a job! Be careful.

Interview

The interview process is a strange interaction because neither the candidate nor the hiring manager is generally very skilled at interviewing techniques. As a candidate, your goal in the interview is to sell your skills to the hiring manager by positioning yourself in a way that alleviates the challenges or pain of the hiring manager. You are the solution. As an interview candidate you can assume the hiring manager has already determined that you possess the minimal skill level to perform the tasks he believes the job requires. In general, the interview is a way for the hiring manger to evaluate the soft skills of the candidate and the candidate's fit into the existing social context. Can you deal with the difficult people in the environment; can they deal with you? Will you and your new manager develop into a functional team?

You may already have an experience like the following, but if not, don't feel left out; you will acquire it soon enough. There is always at least one job in your past that was a terrible fit but you choose to accept it anyway. The first interviewing technique, and the most important, is to be honest!

Many of us live paycheck to paycheck; therefore, when faced with unemployment there is a huge pressure to find a new source of income - quickly. This pressure can make us say things in the interview that may not be entirely true; we are not lying, just stretching reality – a lot. Or we may succumb to the pressure of that missing paycheck, and accept a position that we know we really don't want!

The second skill is respectfulness. Would anyone like to talk to the self-absorbed candidate who feels they can solve every problem in the world? Of course not, but how do you convey your skills at the same time. The answer is to use stories. Before the interview, prepare your stories. A good story should demonstrate that you have a particular skill and are personable in some way.

"While we were testing the western regional benefits system which when completed saved 18% of the Human Resources budget" states Miss Piggy, "we encountered a few challenges, the first being that we had a concurrency issue with the website, and the second was a load of two hundred people that could bring the system to its knees. To solve the first, we altered the design and brought the system back to a functional state within six hours. Next we communicated the load issue to management, they decided that two hundred people would be about four times the peak load; therefore, management accepted that system limitation as a constraint."

This story uses evidence to demonstrate skills. We can see this project saved 18% of the HR budget, and that it was not a smooth process. However, Miss Piggy was willing to talk to management about the issues and fix them in a timely manner.

If this story seemed wordy to you, then you are more direct than Miss Piggy. I would recommend using the familiar Problem, Solutions, Resolution (aka PSR) pattern to organize your stories. Discuss the problem; the possible solutions; and the chosen resolution. Many hiring managers are also direct people and like to get to the point quickly, so this style seems appropriate.

The third skill is almost common sense; be enthusiastic about your new potential job. In conversations with other candidates, I have found this to be a very important skill! Some listen to music just before the interview, while others pray, meditate, or use positive self-talk. A natural question that could enter the hiring manger's mind during the interview process could be "If you are not enjoying the interview why would you enjoy the position?" Therefore be excited and smile during the process. It should also be noted, that smiling releases endorphins, which make it easier to smile.

Taking this to the extreme, there is negotiation skill called "mirroring," a tactic used by candidates to create acceptable body language by duplicating the manager's. Although it may be effective in some situations, many experienced mangers have been exposed to this technique, and it does not work. The whole reason for this skill is to convince the hiring manager that he likes you. Don't do this! Hiring managers are going to see a handful of candidates and choose the one they like the best. If you alter your personality for the interview process the rest of the professional relationship could be strained because you are not living up to your first impression. Be honest, and be excited; don't be misleading.

Fourth, be prepared! Walk into the interview, with a general knowledge of the company and of the manager. Bring between three and five more resumes than you think you will need. Have intelligent questions prepared, and have your stories ready. You should expect to talk for about half of the process, of course that may not be the case, but have enough information to allow the conversation to flow naturally for that amount of time.

Many interviews are based on a question answer format. Therefore, you may have a moment, possibly a long moment, of silence, as you are gathering your thoughts. Although you may perceive this as uncomfortable, it has been proven that confident people tend to "under sell" themselves! In other words, allowing silence to occur may actually improve the manger's perception of you! Uncomfortable silence is not a bad thing; moreover, don't be afraid to ask for a moment to formulate a response. Chances are you may have to think about the questions being asked. It is not outrageous to suggest that you take a moment and think, again not being in a hurry communicates a form of confidence.

The interview should be a two-way conversation, in a good interview, conversation moves between parties; however, this is not always the case. There are many different personality styles in the workforce and some get so involved with themselves they forget to listen to the other person. Candidates should be aware of this. At the start of the interviewing process you should make it clear you would like to ask a few questions. Therefore, if you encounter a hiring manger with these traits, about halfway through the interview, gracefully interrupt the manger and ask "if you and he are bound by the original time restrictions" gently reminding him that you would like to also address your questions.

The final skill is to stand out. The whole goal during the interview process is be the candidate all the others are compared against! It is your challenge to make that difficult for the other candidates. Therefore, turn off your cell phone or leave it behind. Of course if your cell phone rings during an interview, you will not be eliminated; however, recall the goal, to stand out. If there are a lot of little things: there are wrinkles in your shirt; your cell phone was going crazy; you fumbled with your folder to get an extra resume; you kept looking at your watch, although the manger may not realize these things individually, he gets an overall impression of "unprofessional". In contrast, if you walk in an assertive fashion; have a clean pressed shirt, and skillfully get an extra copy of the resume, the manager, possibly unaware, could form an impression of "professionalism." Stating the obvious, being professional is always better than being not.

Although everyone says to do it, nobody does. Send a hand written thank-you card! Very few candidates do this, and what an easy way to stand out. You may be wondering why email is not sufficient. Sure, it is faster, but less personal. The hiring manager will receive it just like every other piece of email – It may even be deleted by a zealous spam filter. Moreover, if you drove to your interview within a few hours, it is likely the post office can do that too! Just send the card. Fifteen minutes and a trip to the closest post office box takes care of it.

The only time that an email thank you is appropriate would be after a very positive interview, and the hiring manager has asked for you to follow up with some additional information, like a portfolio. Sometimes during technical interviews the hiring manger asks very challenging questions, and you may not have all of the answers, email is an appropriate way to resolve these questions. Note: both of these cases are less of a thank you and more of a business task. My advice: write your email in a business tone without thanks; then send the card.

Where to go from here

Prepare the documents, start the job board search, connect with some quality recruiters, start networking, begin practicing your stories, and start the interviews! As a group, we exist to assist each other. Personally, I hope to see our community filled with questions and discussions of unique situations. Good luck in your search.

Revision History

  • 02-09-07: Initial Release

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About the Author

Jason McBurney

United States United States
Berkeley Grad (B.A. Computer Science) With MBA

Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralIndusty Drivers [modified] PinmemberJason McBurney6-Feb-07 10:39 
GeneralRe: Industy Drivers Pinmembernorm .net20-Feb-07 8:57 
GeneralRe: Industy Drivers PinmemberJason McBurney20-Feb-07 13:00 
GeneralRe: Industy Drivers Pinmembernorm .net20-Feb-07 20:49 
GeneralRe: Industy Drivers [modified] PinmemberJason McBurney21-Feb-07 12:24 
GeneralRe: Industy Drivers PinmemberJohn Crocker20-Feb-07 22:41 
GeneralRe: Industy Drivers PinmemberJason McBurney21-Feb-07 12:38 
GeneralBerkeley PinmemberTom Clement6-Feb-07 8:28 
GeneralRe: Berkeley PinmemberJason McBurney6-Feb-07 9:47 

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