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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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.

Thanks,

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.

Thanks,

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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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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Why Simply Applying Online Isn’t Getting You Anywhere

February 18th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

I have been doing a lot of job searching online, but feel like emailing my resume is ineffective. I’ve been considering physically going to the company and handing in my resume in person. What are your thoughts on this?

You’ve certainly got the right sentiment regarding your job search but I doubt that most building security desks would let you into their tenant’s offices without an appointment. What your question really looks at is how we can be more proactive (a recurring theme of Holla) when seeking opportunities during our search.

Applying for jobs online has simplified the process for candidates in almost a detrimental manner. When the baseline effort required to submit a resume is easy as signing up for an account at TheLadders.com or Monster, one can apply for a hundred jobs in 15 minutes plus a few seconds per posting. The inevitable result is a recruiter on the other end of a job board pipeline that flows endlessly with unqualified candidates. The small percentage of legitimate candidates for the position can be easily passed over as the pipeline continues to flood. Just the time required to review so many resumes occupies time that could be better served speaking to more in first round phone screens than is actually possible. With so many individuals all vying for small slices of a recruiter’s time, being proactive, creative and aggressive with how you contact a potential employer can provide a significant competitive advantage.

Submitting via a job board is not really emailing a resume.

The question from today’s job seeker indicates that “emailing” his resume has produced little in the way of positive results. It is safe to assume that by “emailing,” he really means “submitting via a job board.” There is a very real difference between the two. Resumes submitted through a job board all arrive in the same format: consistent subject lines with the title and candidate’s name, a table of information in the body and a resume attached. Glossing over these similar emails in one’s inbox is just one reason why job boards are ineffective. The difference between really emailing a resume and just submitting via a posting will put your details into an inbox where they’ll stand out – not some Outlook sub-folder that’s combed through once every few days. A little extra effort to ensure your resume gets to the eyes of a hiring manager can significantly increase response rate during a job search.

Begin by scouring the description you have available for clues as to who the hiring manager might be. Often these posted specs include a phrase like, “Working for the Vice President, Financial Reporting, you will be responsible for…”  that will tell you exactly the name of the individual you should source to present your resume to. Researching the individual’s actual name is easily the most difficult part of your research. Using tools like LinkedIn and Spoke to uncover names and titles can be very effective but isn’t perfect or complete. You’ll locate some people but not others so set your expectations appropriately.

With the hiring manager’s name at hand, determine their email address. Visit the firm’s website and write down their URL domain. It’s likely that email addresses are “something@comanydomain.com” and the only other detective work required is determining the formatting of the “something” before the @ symbol. Using the wildcard symbol when searching Google can help you uncover this information. Search for “*@companydomain.com“. The results should boldface email addresses for various company employees that appear on the web. Skip through “info@domain.com” and “sales@domain.com” as these won’t help you reach individuals. It’s finding several addresses listed publicly that follow a “firstname_lastname” or “f.lastname” format that will allow you to contact directly the hiring manager you seek.

When you can’t locate the title of the manager, use an educated guess to drive your research or if all else fails, the same resources should allow you to locate with greater ease the proper HR contact for the position. While an email to a hiring manager would be more likely to increase your chances for success, taking the time to send directly to HR will also make your application more visible amongst the crowd.

Don’t squander the opportunity you’ve just created for yourself.

Assume that the result of this hard work and creative effort is that someone in a position of power takes time from their day to carefully read your cover letter and resume. Since you’ve taken the time to present yourself directly, make absolutely sure that the presentation you’re putting forth is the best one possible. Your cover letter should be carefully crafted, specific to the job you’re applying for, and contained both in the body of the email and as a separate Word or PDF attachment. Your resume should be properly formatted and have a legible filename that includes your full name and the position you’re applying for.

Since the candidates sourced from job boards are, on the whole, very sub-par, the expectation a hiring manager has for an individual who seeks them out directly is significantly higher. Make sure that you beat that expectation with a well-targeted application for the firm’s opening.

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Top Of The Class and Without a Job to Show For It

February 13th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

This question comes from a recent graduate that expected to receive his degree on top of the world. The realities of today’s competitive landscape in New York job market were a shock to him and tell a disappointingly common tale.

I graduated in December at the top of my class (Summa Cum Laude) with a bachelor’s degree in finance from a respectable state school. I now live in the NYC area, and am having absolutely no luck with my job search. I must have applied for about 100 jobs by now, and I’ve only received 2 call backs. Can you offer me any advice? I’m starting to become discouraged (although this may be a bit of an understatement at this point).

As a recent grad, it can be difficult to understand why, despite impressive accomplishments, the market for you seems limited. Entry-level hires will always be a cost to an organization – coming in with only your education, most practical skills for the job will have to be developed at the employer’s cost and time. With both being limited resources in a down economy, the number of roles appropriate for college graduates is far fewer than the top candidates coming out of the nation’s best schools.

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