Job Posting 102: The Sequel

Based upon several questions from Job Posting 101, the following essay was born. For those readers feeling lost, check out the original essay and if three minutes flat, you will be driving steady.

How long should a cover letter typically be?

According to the National Resume Writers Association and the Professional Resume Writers Association, a cover letter should be in the four to five paragraph range.

The opening paragraph should be an introduction, including what you are applying for and a brief summary as to why you are a good candidate.

Second and third paragraph must support your claim to be the right candidate—in other words, explain by giving detailed accomplishments which can be directly tied to the posting. Without any doubt, now is the time to personalize the cover letter by paralleling your skills and contributions to the company. This means a little research on your part but well worth the effort.

Finally, the last paragraph is the call to action. Summarize why you are the right candidate and encourage the next move, an interview. In total, your cover letter should not be over a page and will typically take ¾ of the page.

I never include a cover letter as I don’t feel I am a strong writer, and fear that it would hurt me rather than help me.

Cover letters must be included. Though you may not feel as you are a strong writer, nothing shows the reader interest like a cover letter which utilizes key words from the job posting and company research. Definitely have another proof your work; don’t rely on the spell checker. According to career management associations, over 35% of hiring managers will NOT review applications without an accompanying cover letter. The key is to highlight the value you bring as well as a positive attitude (yes, attitude is portrayed in cover letters by choice of words).

Think about the reader for a moment when writing your cover letter and resume. If you were looking for a qualified applicant, what would you look for? Once you have that, all you have to do is fill in the puzzle.

I am currently looking for a job and have been since November. My resume includes jobs that I have had for the past 10 years (about 5 to 6 jobs). I think they are all pertinent and keep them there because I want employers to ask me questions about them so that I can explain strong points and such.

You picked a difficult time to seek employment but nowadays, there are no easy times to be unemployed. Though many find a job within months or even weeks, the average time between jobs is roughly nine months. In other words, do not become discouraged with the delay. I know it is easy to lose confidence but I have a feeling the right position is just around the corner.

According the associations, dates of employment need not go beyond ten years (unless directly related to the position and is not open to age discrimination—in other words, do not go back to the 1960’s). There are formats one can use to highlight your knowledge, skills, and abilities without fear of age discrimination. A popular format, semi-functional, may be worth checking into. If you are not familiar with this format or need guidance, please let me know and will do my best to get you where you need to be.

Going through 5 or 6 jobs in a decade is not as bad as it used to be. In today’s volatile employment market, it is not uncommon. There are ways to incorporate accomplishments without highlighting each position. Let me know and we’ll learn a few techniques. Anyway, do not feel intimidated by having several positions over these years. Without knowing your specific situation, I am unable to offer a clear way to turn this into a positive… and there are ways.  

One of these jobs is a Disney job. I recently was told that I should remove it because it’s not only the oldest listing, but employers have been known not to hire people because they work at Disney. Have you heard this?

Disney is on the blacklist? Geepers, this is the first I heard of this. Then again, if you were the Tigger character who was accused of fondling patrons, you may want to omit such information. Then again, working at Disney can be a great experience too. Think about the customers going through the gates each day. Even without trying your client and problem resolution skills will have improved. All employers want employees who know how to handle client disputes, who know how to engage in corporate branding, and know how to remain positive even under the most extreme situations. In other words, work the Disney deal by highlighting the many core and transferable skills developed. As for Tigger, he total cool so I would hire him (or her?) on the spot… so if you know him personally and if he is looking for a writing gig, let me know.

I hope the response helped. I do encourage you to ask a few specific questions and will be glad to expand on a topic or format.

With this, I will call it a day and wish you the very best in your journey.

Dhuffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Author, publisher
Education Career Services, LLC

Advertisements

Responding to a Job Posting 101

A few weeks ago I placed a job posting for an editor/writer/researcher with the UCF Knight listing. Though UCF carries a solid academic program, the response to my job posting was a tad concerning. As a result, I spoke to several university career directors from across the United States and it appears to be an epidemic. No doubt you are wondering what has gone viral. 

Over the past few weeks I received close to 45 responses to a very specific posting. The next few minutes of reading is simply meant to be a learning experience and not intended to hurt any feelings.

1. Five candidates submitted a cover letter though the posting made it clear that a cover letter was required. For those sending resumes out, ALWAYS provide a cover letter. Those who do so, begin with an advantage. As a matter of record, according to the Professional Resume Writers Association, over 35% of hiring managers will disqualify a candidate if a cover letter is not submitted.

2. Keywords missing in action. I can count with one finger how many applicants actually took the time to incorporate keywords from the job posting into their cover letter and/or resume. Think about this for a moment and envision what a hiring manager would feel if the applicants do NOT use keywords from the posting or company web site. Nothing says lazy like lazy… are you feeling it?

3. Diluted job objective/summary. Most of the applicants did not have a summary letting me know why I should even consider them for the position. In other words, the vast majority of responses used the gun-shot approach. For those looking to impress a reader, showcase the immediate value you bring in the top section of the resume and support it through your cover letter.

4. Grammer. Ooops, I meant grammar. No matter what you do, always proofread before hitting send. Simply running a spell check sponsored by Word does not do the trick (another testament to laziness). Over half of the resumes were filled with grammar issues, misspelled words, constant use of first person (don’t get me started on that topic), and spacing concerns.

Needless to say, I did send positive replies to five potential candidates, requesting a 300 word sample of their writing skills. Naturally I gave them the topic. As of this evening, not one of the five have returned their writing sample. Once again, I am not impressed. Consequently, I am still looking for a writer/editor/researcher.

Though the above does not go beyond a surface conversation, the message is quite clear. For those responding to job listings, always engage in due diligence, research the company, examine the job posting, incorporate keywords from all sources, and produce a polished product designed specifically for the posting. I know it means a bit more work on your side, but it does offer great rewards.

If you have any questions or would like specific insight on a career-related topic, please let us know.

dhuffman
Author/Publisher
Education Career Services

Help or no help

Last week I received a call from an employed lady on the verge of being replaced by a mechanical employee. She is a trained medical code and her duties were being mechanized. Needless to say, she found my name and wanted professional career guidance.

Oddly enough, the first question asked was my charge. Okay, I’m sensitive to the fact that everyone is seeking a bargain, be it in product or service. My typical response: “I am too busy to do the work for you but will be glad to offer suggestions and walk you along as this journey unfolds.” My professional philosophy is straightforward, why pay me a bucket full of bucks if I can guide and develop the process so you can do the work? This kind of reminds me of the teaching a man (or woman) how to fish instead of simply serving a fish on the plate… perhaps you are familiar with the story?

Needless to say, my next step is to have the person on the other end of the phone send me a pdf of their material so we can discuss a strategy. Sounds like a good plan thus far? I thought so… but if this were the case, why do so few take that next step and send their material electronically? Could it be that when it comes to career management and the development of materials, very few people want to take part in their own marketing? Or perhaps could it be that the vast majority of employed (and unemployed) individuals out there are lazy?

I am tending to believe people are lazy. The medical coder referenced above was obviously displeased when I explained how I would be glad to help her along the path but would not do all the work. As a career coach and writer, I want the people I work with (and for) to take ownership and possess pride in the product. By playing an active role in the process, I believe this can be achieved.

By the end of the conversation with my medical coder, I was pushed to give her a price and told her my range varies between $250 to $2,000 (depending upon the complexity of the client and work involved). After her hesitation, I knew I would never hear from her again which disappoints me as I informed her I would not charge her for my time. Guess she wanted more than my time?

When it comes to career management, what are your beliefs? Trust me when I say very few people are gifted writers, in any genre. If you find yourself needing help with your career management materials or if you have interview questions, where do you find research or who do you call? How about a few tips?

DO NOT:

● rely on the Internet for resume samples
● use a template to create your resume or cover letter
● allow anyone else to take full control of the process

DO:

● ask for (and accept) guidance, three of my favorite spots to locate qualified writers and/or career coaches are the Career Management Alliance, the National Resume Writers Association, and the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches
● take an active role
● get help

Career Management is about taking control of your life and destiny. For those lazy ones out there, you can always give me a call and for the right price, no doubt we could work something out.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Education Career Services, LLC
dhuffman@educationcareerservices.com

Jon Stewart, President Obama, and had ENOUGH

Where do you get your news? I will be the first to admit it, my news source comes from only a few places; NPR, Jon Stewart, and a few career management associations. Odd sources one may say but one may say lots of things.

With this said, it would not be a surprise to know I watched President Obama last night on comedy central. Unfortunately, nothing new came out of this news… when is the right time to say ENOUGH of the rhetoric and the twisting of the facts.

During last night’s broadcast, the audience was informed about how the job market has been improving and how the economy has made positive stands over the past year. Come to think of it, the only message I heard last night was how the past 18 months have been good, not great, but good enough… here is the word enough once again.

If the economy and employment situation is improving, why are we in such pain? Maybe it’s time our politicians get out of the election mode and get into the reality mode… just a thought. With this in mind, I did a bit of reading and crossed upon an article entitled the Outplacement Report.

If anyone is wondering about the word “Outplacement,” that’s a nice way to say terminated. According to the AIRS Outplacement Report, Sept. 27, 2010, things may not be as promising as the president you elected claims. Let’s take a stroll down a road called tomorrow’s terminated:

Sara Lee Corporation is scaling back its ancillary business units to focus on its core food and beverage business. The company, which as part of the plan is exiting its household and body care businesses, will eliminate 390 redundant jobs in Europe over the next several years.

University of California, Berkeley will eliminate approximately 200 jobs early next year to reduce expenses. The job cuts will be achieved through a combination of attrition, retirements, voluntary separations, and layoffs. UC Berkeley has already eliminated 600 jobs since last year.

Cessna Aircraft Company will cut another 700 jobs. The company seeks to restructure its processes and reduce costs in order to remain competitive.

Boston Medical Center is facing losses projected to reach $117 million, and will eliminate 119 positions. The layoffs include 44 nurses and 30 management staff.

Abbott Laboratories will cut approximately 3,000 jobs as it completes its acquisition of Solvay SA’s pharmaceutical unit. Most of the job cuts will take place in Europe and affect manufacturing, research and development, staff functions, and commercial operations.

FedEx will combine freight and less than-truckload operations starting in January. In the process, the company will eliminate 1,700 jobs and close approximately 100 facilities. FedEx is responding to quarterly earnings, which fell short of analysts’ estimates.

On this note, gonna call it a day as it’s time for another dose of news and Jon Stewart is about to begin… besides, I’ve had enough of the political ads promising change (does anyone out there really believe the talk?).

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Education Career Services, LLC
dhuffman@educationcareerservices.com
blog: http://www.careerbreakout.wordpress.com

Politicians and Career Numbers Do NOT Mix

With so much going on these days, it’s hard to define what is really going on… if you know what I mean?

Elections are around the corner as the foundation of each candidate’s platform seems to be employment, or, should I say, the lack of employment for so many. This got me to thinking (not always a good thing) about what are the real numbers these politicians are referring to and can a local politician really do anything to improve our dire employment situation? I think the second part of the questions is straightforward.

I am under the impression that our local politicians can do lots of rhetorical talking but cannot do the walking… just whistling my own tune here. 

Bringing us to the first part of the question, what is really going on with the numbers? As an active member with the Professional Resume Writers Association (PRWA), I receive (unbiased) data which oftentimes hits the mark. With this extended Segway, let’s highlight what a PRWA article, written by Diane Hudson Burns, CPRW, CEIP, CPCC, CCMC, entitled “Takeaways” has to tell us:

     * 45% of 14.6 million jobless Americans have been unemployed for six months or more
     * Unemployment in August 2009 was 9.7%; in 2010 it was 9.6%
     * Due to such high volume inbound receipt of résumés, and candidates applying for multiple jobs at the same company, many companies never even look at all the incoming résumés, thus the creation of the “black hole”
     * Some big companies receive more than one-million résumés annually
     * 64% of all statistics are made up on the spot
     * 85% of people on LinkedIn are using it is as a social “database” as opposed to a social network
     * Employers who hire disabled veterans receive a $4,500 tax credit, and employers who hire any veteran who left service in the past 5 years receive a $2,400 tax credit

Diane and the Professional Resume Writers Association provides a wealth of information on a monthly basis. As a professional resume writer and career coach, I know the importance of understanding what is really going on. 

With elections coming up in a few weeks, how many of our politicians really know what the numbers are. One thing I don’t wonder… local politicians talk about what they will do to improve the numbers but NONE will actually do anything to improve the situation. Heck, just look at what our country leader has succeeded in doing? Need I say more?

On this note, gonna call it a day,

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Education Career Services, LLC
dhuffman@educationcareerservices.com
blog: http://www.careerbreakout.wordpress.com

Federal Job Access

Hard to believe how so much can change in only a few months. Needless to say, the summer months are just about a memory and now it is time to get back into the swing of career management. Hope you did not miss me too much (but a little is fine).

A few weeks ago I spent two days in a career management workshop with the career professionals from Central Florida Workforce. Their knowledge and passion to assist all individuals seeking career advice, guidance, and support is most impressive. With so much change in the Central Florida employment landscape, keeping up to date on methods, practices, and applications benefits everyone. With that said, I appreciate being allowed the opportunity to work with such a dedicated crew.
While on the subject of change, there are huge changes on the way regarding government hiring. According to a recent article from the Career Management Alliance, there will be between 300,000 to 400,000 new federal hires in the next few years. Much of the increase is because President Obama is pressing to hire less contract workers and more permanent employees (a direct shift from former President G. W. Bush). What does this mean to you? A heck of a lot!

Not only will the federal government be seeking a huge employee base, the application process is also getting much more user-friendly. We’ll talk about these details in the next few weeks but here’s a quick nibble:

  • Dramatic recruiting practice changes
  • Federal Resume just got simplified
  • KSA essay style application questions on the way out
  • Rule of three being eliminated
  • Decision-making on the fast track
  • Keeping applicants in the know

Yes, there are many changes making the federal job application process much easier. There are good points to this and some not so good. For example, with simpler access comes more job applicants. As opposed to under 50 applicants per job posting, expect to see this number multiplied. Additionally, without a set template resume format, hiring managers will have to relearn how to read applicant resumes. This can be a good thing for you if you create a skills-based resume.

For the vast majority, most resumes are NOT skills-based and follow a one-size fits all format. If this is your career management strategy, keep it turned into this channel and you will soon be on your way to learning how to turn your template-looking resume and cover letter into an aggressive (and effective) career marketing tool.

For those interested in learning more about the federal job market, I encourage you to visit www.usajobs.opm.gov. In the weeks to come, we will navigate this site and delve deeper into the federal job market… so don’t fret if you get a tad confused; we will work it out.

On this note, gonna call it a day,

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Education Career Services, LLC
dhuffman@educationcareerservices.com

Empowering, educating, and employing the justice-involved