Your Electronic Resume: 15 Minutes to Maintain Professionalism

May 8th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

All effective recruiters will view hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes during the course of each and every day. Only a few and hopefully only those worth serious consideration are ever moved from electronic form to paper. Resumes are submitted via websites, applicant tracking systems, job boards and email – rarely on paper. As a job seeker, you must be aware of how these electronic copies of your resume are displayed not on the page, but on the screen.

These few and simple resume tips will allow you to control the presentation of your background and ensure that it remains professional, uncluttered and as you envisioned it.

Always first attempt to submit your resume as a PDF file. Once an obscure, closed file format, PDFs can now be exported directly from any application on a Mac and all major office suites on a PC. Unless specifically requested, send a PDF copy of your resume and password protect it from changes and editing. Review that PDF after exporting to make sure the process completed successfully and to give one final read for errors. This can be your read-only, fixed electronic copy for all submissions. Not all, but many job boards and recruiters specifically request a Word document in place of a PDF. If this is the case, follow the next few suggestions as well to have a clean word copy.

Once you’ve proofread and edited your resume for grammar and spelling, remove the colored squiggles. After, and only after, you are 100% sure the grammar and spelling on your resume are impeccable, it’s important to clean these false positive errors from your document. Proper nouns like school names, certain softwares and even specific technical terms won’t be in Word’s default dictionary. To remove the green and red lines under suspected spelling and grammatical errors, right click on any of them and select “Spelling” or “Grammar.” In the next dialog box, select “Options” at bottom left. The last two items in this preferences pane will be “Hide spelling/grammar errors in this document only.” Tick these two boxes and click OK – watch the ugly lines disappear.

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Making Every Contact With a Hiring Manager Count

February 13th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

As a follow-up to our last comments about Thank You notes, today’s question comes from a jobseeker looking to both express gratitude to an interviewer and schedule a follow-up appointment. John completed two rounds of interviews for an Analyst position at a fund and was asked by hiring manager to schedule a return visit. Here’s his draft of the email:

Mr. Hiring Manager,

Thank you very much for the invitation to come in for a third round interview regarding the Analyst opportunity at ABC Investments. I appreciate the opportunity and I will gladly make myself at your convenience. I look forward to speaking with all of you again and hope I can cement why I would be a great addition to your already successful global securities platform. Again, I remain extremely excited about the possibility of contributing to your team and the ABC global platform in the near future.

John Analyst

This response isn’t awful but it does sound canned, formulaic and generic. There are a lot of words but little content. It contains much lauding but nothing about who John is or why he’s interested. When writing an email, a cover letter, a thank you note or any communication with a hiring manager, you’ve asked for a short window of their time. Ensure you’ve wisely chosen your phrasing so that at the end of those 15 seconds, the recipient has a more positive outlook on the applicant then before they opened the email. » Read the rest of this entry «

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The Unfortunate Art of the “Thank You” Note

January 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

In many situations today, a “thank you note” may be extraneous given the circumstances of a particular interview process. If you’re meeting the same individual for a second or third time, a firm handshake and “it was nice to see you again” will certainly suffice. Hiring managers, recruiters and HR reps are all deluged with hundreds of emails a day. Choosing to send that email should be an all-in commitment to quality. Too many job seekers asking for another few moments of their interviewer’s time via email only to squander an opportunity to make another good impression. The unintended consequence could very well be a change to the last positive opinion an interviewer had formed about the candidate. A weak and poorly written thank you can (and has in too many situations) cost an otherwise strong candidate a job offer.

Let’s examine a thank you note that a candidate recently provided to Holla for their review and edit, before sending it to a hiring manager:

Mr. Hiring Manager,

It was great meeting you yesterday.  Thank you so much for taking time to speak with me about the Investor Relations position.  I really appreciate the clarity you provided around the expectations of the role and the ideal candidate.  I am extremely excited about the role and I would love the opportunity to be a member of your team. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Jill Candidate

Jill actually had done quite well on her interview. The hiring manager and his team found her knowledgeable and engaging and was impressed with the research she had done on his firm prior to the meeting. The above note shows none of the research or effort Jill put into her interview; it quite literally could have been in response to any job. When the firm’s last impression of Jill was as a bright young woman with the ability to match her experience with the opportunity, a note like this will call to question all of those qualities with under a hundred words.

A thank you note must be concise but also targeted. It should bring to the interviewer’s mind positive qualities uncovered during the interview, be they similar sector coverages or experience with oddly structured leveraged buyouts. It should contain substance but lack fluff. The candidate should seek to remind the interviewer of why they had initially agreed to see the applicant and what they had hoped to see in  him or her.

Jill sought to be engaged and responsive. Instead, she appeared generic, careless and thoughtless in her final touch with the decision maker.

Here is Holla’s rewrite:

Mr. Hiring Manager,

I wanted to thank you for meeting with me yesterday regarding the Investor Relations Position. ABC Firm is involved in exciting work within the LBO space and I am confident my analysis and deal support at XYZ Capital qualifies me technically for the role. The opportunity to focus on Oil and Gas is rare and I look forward to leveraging my prior M&A exposure in these sectors. I remain extremely interested in this opportunity am available via the contact details below to discuss the next steps in this process.


Jill Candidate

With 22 additional words (89 total, for those counting), Jill’s thank you note from a resume-writing manual became a targeted and exciting closing statement – a summary of skills and experience plus their relation to the job, an expression of interest in the role and a defense of her unique qualities and experiences.

Holla’s re-write also varies sentence structure. Jill’s original note begins most sentences with “I” and (sorry for being harsh here, Jill) reads like it was written by someone of far less intelligence than she really possesses.

It’s far better to send no “thank you” at all than to present yourself as someone who views it as a boring formality worthy of a canned response and no more. If a “thank you” is necessary, prepare for and execute it as you would an interview – a compelling sales pitch from a researched and accomplished professional well qualified for the role.

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Interviewing Like a Salesman (or Woman)

January 16th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve recently completed my first and second round of interviews with a SaaS company I’m really interested in working for. The interviews have gone well and they’ve asked me to return and meet with members of their Sales team. I’m interviewing for a technical role and have never sold anything – how should I prepare for this?

Virtually every company relies on a sales organization to drive revenue and as “rainmakers,” the salesmen and women can influence any hiring decision that impacts the product they market.

When preparing for an interview with a sales team, understand that they’re not judging your ability to sell the product – they’re looking for ways which you’ll assist in building their relationships. Their job is to generate business and yours is to deliver on the promise of that business through excellent support and continuing service.

Prepare examples of how you have worked directly with clients and how you impacted the way your current employer maintained relationships with the firms that paid their bills. The most impactful anecdotes can come from the most difficult client scenarios. Bad data feeds, incorrect system specifications and other technical issues won’t be resolved by the sales team – today’s author will have to be our hero. A speedy resolution to a nagging issue (regardless of whether the client is at fault) can save a relationship, retain the revenue and assuage a restless salesperson.

Sales and client service are synonymous and no sale ends when the contract is signed. Technical staff will provide the next crucial step in any sales relationship and the key to success on this type of interview is demonstrating you can think commercially to those that do it for a living.

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First Contacts: Small Change, Big Impact

January 15th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Holla received an email this morning from a prospective candidate. A connection made through LinkedIn, the jobseeker took the time to construct a personalized email to the recipient, complete with salutation and a brief summary of their skills. While the effort was notable and even commendable in the click-and-apply job search environment we live in, the overall impression left the reader feeling as though their time had been wasted.

Let’s examine:

Subject: Hello

Hello Holla,

My name is Joe Jobseeker and I am currently looking into new job opportunities. I currently do fixed income product marketing for a large broker/dealer and have acquired my Series 7 and 66 financial licenses.

Thank you for your time,


The subject line of an email or LinkedIn message is the first, instant and impactful impression you project to the recipient. While a sentence is inappropriate, a mere “hello” is just plain lazy. Be succinct but eye catching. Job seeking is a matter of separating yourself from a crowd – imagine your inbox with 50 unread messages. 30 have a subject of “Hello” and the other 20 are specific to their content. Which would you read?

A personalized salutation and strong intro sentence are required and this note contains both and we’ll applaud him on taking away the appearance of a mass email.

Unfortunately, Joe’s summary of his skills and experience suffer from grammatical errors that make the reader question his overall ability to write effectively. While harsh, understand that these are the first two sentences that Joe chose to present to the reader and when judged against a high volume of qualified applicants, he’ll quickly be weeded out.

Most disappointing is that Joe’s email contains no thesis. He hasn’t told the hiring manager specifically what he’s looking for or what he’d be qualified to do. One additional sentence in a one paragraph note can be the difference between a response to an inquiry and another failed attempt.

Let’s rewrite this crucial “first touch” communication in a more effective manner:

Subject: Fixed Income Marketer with 7/63 Seeking Opportunities

Hello Holla,

My name is Joe Jobseeker and I’m contacting you in hopes you can assist with my search for a new opportunity. I’m currently responsible for producing all fixed income sales materials for the institutional client division of a large broker/dealer and hold my Series 7 and 63 licences. I’m seeking a move to a marketing role at a smaller firm where I would be exposed to a larger array of fixed income products.

You can view my resume here (link) and I would appreciate the chance to speak with you regarding any appropriate roles you might be engaged on.


A few more words, some small changes, a big impact. We applaud Joe for his efforts to hunt down and make an appropriate contact with someone who could potentially help him but without the right message, he may find the repeated delivery attempts fruitless.

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Why do I want this job?

May 15th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Why, as job seekers, are we so hesitant to ask some of the simplest questions? Holla’s received hundreds of emails from job seekers in the past year and a good number of those questions are fairly specific – “in this situation, what should I do?” or “how do I discuss this particular job on my resume?” In 14 months of writing, we’ve never once been asked one fairly simple question – “why do I want this job?”

Well, Mr. or Ms. Jobseeker, why indeed? Why were you looking for a job in the first place? What enticed you to come back for a second or third round of interviews? Who impressed you during the interview process? What’s unique about the hiring company’s business model or market presence? What opportunities will you have to advance there and how will the company judge your performance? No matter what we earn, a yuppie-noble yet serious answer to these kinds of questions should quickly come to your mind before you consider accepting any offer.

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How to Not Be Seen as a Career McDonald’s Worker

May 10th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

I am a semi-recent grad and I just moved to the city. I have been
actively looking for a job for a month now. I took the first job I
could get (fast food) while I look for a job. Do you think listing the
fast food experience hurts my chances? Fast food is where I am, not
where I’m going to be. I’m just very insecure that fast food is a
turnoff in my industry.

This is a great question that, unfortunately, accurately reflects the tough situations a lot of today’s job seekers face. Taking a retail or a foodservice job shouldn’t be an indicator of the quality of person you are but rather your desire to be a productive member of society while a difficult market squeezes so many people out.

Holla firmly believes that showing any real work experience on a resume is a better reflection on the candidate than appearing unemployed. Also, if you’ve drawn a paycheck from a legitimate payroll service while in a “transition job,” chances are it will also show up on a pre-hire background check your future employer may conduct. Since you’ll inevitably be disclosing this job at some point, it’s best to control the story and exhibit the mature confidence in your resume and cover letter that you hope the HR rep or hiring manager wants to see in you.

Let’s use the McDonalds example. You’re a cashier and wrapping delicious McDoubles on a daily basis for their customers. It’s assumed that your duties include operating the register, boxing fries and Big Macs, and greeting customers. Millions of teenagers perform the same function every day. How were you different than the ones that turn over weekly? Hopefully since you come from or aspire to the corporate world, you know the importance of showing up on time and being prepared.

Try out some bullet points like:

- Maintained perfect work attendance, arriving timely and completing all assigned shifts
- Served as “on-call” staff member providing as-needed coverage for Store Manager

If you spent a little time at a McDonald’s and are the fast-learning, disciplined team member, you might have had the opportunity to train people. McDonald’s operates on a strictly defined process, shouldn’t it be commendable (at least in the context of fast food) that you can master it and help others learn it too?

- Promoted to Staff Trainer within three months of date of hire
- Attended Regional training and development classes produced by McDonald’s corporate

Even though the work itself is menial and doesn’t involve a lot of thought, there are ways to show you at least put yourself in the top percentile of McDonald’s workers through reliability and consistent performance. Don’t resign yourself to the fact that you have to work a restaurant job to pay your bills, simply aim to demonstrate that you strived to be the best burger-flipper that McDonald’s could find and why they’re going to be disappointed when they lose you to the regular job market.

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On-Campus Recruiting and Its Many Failures

October 26th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Today’s question brings up a number of recurring themes here on Holla.

I’m an MBA student, and one of our projects has been tasked with trying to figure out what is wrong with college career boards. How do you think we could make on-campus job boards better?

What we find most interesting about this question is its narrow scope. Your professor is seeking to identify problems with MBA “job boards” when the real deficiencies in campus and post-graduate recruitment are spread across all contact points and phases of the process. There are failures on the parts of all parties involved – the universities and those that represent their career services, the companies seeking to recruit graduates and, perhaps most disappointingly, the students who more than ever need to put forth a herculean effort to secure their first career opportunity.

As the cornerstone of an on-campus recruiting process, a university’s career center must attract top employers by properly preparing and marketing their own graduates. Missing from many undergraduate business and MBA educations are mandatory credit hours educating students on how to prepare themselves for the step that pre-dates the job itself – the job search. Colleges need to proactively sell their student body to top companies in a bid to have them spend resources and money on recruiting trips. As HR and hiring budgets tighten, the number of trips these firms make decrease year over year. Any on-campus recruiting trip, whether the first or tenth, can quickly become the last when a school’s students make a poor showing. Delegates of the career center are much like recruiters – they prepare and sell both their product and their client who is buying. Far too many of these “services” lack the proactivity needed to bring top employers to campus during the toughest economy of the last several decades.

Also sharing in the blame are the companies who lead unstructured on-campus recruitment processes, often conducted by their least impressive representatives. Campus recruiters are typically recent college graduates themselves; holders of HR-related degrees but without practical work experience. They will set up a table in a school’s dining hall, student union or career fair and wait for students to approach them. While one would hope that students would proactively seek out employers, career services rarely reaches the entire student body to inform them of campus recruiting events. Corporations, banks, accounting firms and any of the typical entry-level hiring companies should make the most of their campus visits by understanding the school’s course offerings, relating those areas of study to job openings they are seeking to fill, and directly reaching out to those students by speaking to the class or the professor. This kind of more direct contact fosters a stronger relationship between students and the companies looking to attract them and will produce more successful hires out of a larger population to recruit from.

Finally, and perhaps most concerning, the failure of campus job boards and graduate recruiting rests on the shoulders of those seeking the jobs. As we’ve written here in the past, online career sites have severely diluted the importance of effort put in on an application. It’s easy to log on to your college’s online job board, fire off a resume to each position posted and sit back hoping responses will come in. Usually, no attempt is made to develop a custom cover letter, linking a student’s school studies and internship experience to the role, nor is any effort to follow-up put forth. The ease with which students can “apply” for career opportunities belies the difficult struggle that is today’s corporate world – success is not as easy as clicking a button to “apply now” or “achieve a promotion” – students and employees alike must aggressively work towards their ultimate career goals.

Fifty years ago, finding a job meant scouring the New York Times, copying addresses and telephone numbers down, then making a personal connection with a firm seeking to make a hire. “Hitting the pavement” or “job hunting with shoe leather” was a self-made process and the Internet has removed a great deal of the need to motivate one’s self during their career search. This mentality – the ability to “fall back” onto technology – combined with laziness and complacency on all parts has set on-campus recruiting years back, perhaps to a point even before the internet was the world’s primary job searching tool.

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Making the Most of The Relationship with Your Recruiter

October 20th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Agency recruiters can be a valuable resource to any job seeker. In a competitive market flooded with resumes from online submissions, aligning with a third party that has the ear of a hiring manager or key HR contact can be crucial in landing you the best opportunity. An agency recruiter has spent their career developing and maintaining these connections and much of their value comes simply from who they know. Beyond making the introduction, you should count on an experienced recruiter to provide you with background on the role, the company and the individuals hiring for it to improve your chances of a successful interview with a positive outcome. Unfortunately, a more recent proliferation of dishonest and ineffective recruiters has hurt the industry as a whole at a time when it is most valuable – a difficult economy where human capital is a highly prized commodity.

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Be Prepared to Discuss Salary Openly When Seeking a New Opportunity

October 19th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Today’s question comes from a job seeker who’d prefer not to divulge compensation information during the interview process.
Why does every recruiter ask my current salary and/or salary history? I’m very private about this, and frankly, it’s no one’s business but between my current employer, the IRS & my Financial Advisor.
Let’s be very clear about this – any job seeker who is currently interviewing for new opportunities should be prepared to provide current and, in most cases, past salary history to an HR recruiter, agency recruiter or both. Sometimes this occurs as a conversation, but more often in the form of hard evidence – providing a paystub, W-2 form, offer letter or other supporting documentation that can tell a company that doesn’t know you the value placed on your work by a company that does. In addition to providing this information during the interview process, the great majority of employers conduct pre-employment screening that can include wage verification along with a drug screen and background check.

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