Welcome to whatever is on my mind!

Some people use the term "nonsense" but I prefer to use the phrase "uncommonly sensed" because it's more reflective of creative types.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Interviewing Advice

Research has shown that people who present themselves well during an interview are more likely to be hired.  If convincing others exactly how they should think about you isn’t your primary skill (it certainly isn’t mine), don’t panic.  You don’t have to be able to manipulate others in order to get hired.  I’ve put together a few tips to help you get through the interview process.  
Dress professionally.  When in doubt, dress more conservatively. Don’t gamble that the office is a casual dress environment if you aren’t positive.  Even when you know that dress is casual, remember that some hiring managers and HR representatives prefer to see well dressed candidates because they feel like those candidates are serious about getting the job.  You always want to convey that you’re interested in that job in that company.
Be polite to everyone.  More and more offices are letting coworkers weigh in on hiring decisions.  The theory behind this approach is that it leads to a more cohesive team after the person is hired.  So take the time to learn everyone’s name - write down the names in your notes to help you remember, if needed.  Treat everyone with respect and take the time to ask them questions.  If you can get the others to talk about themselves they are more likely to form a favorable opinion of you.
Smile occasionally.  I know this is difficult to do when you’re nervous, but if you can find a way to get yourself to smile it can help the interviewers to form a better opinion of you than if you never smile.  In addition, smiling can create a more positive environment to help both you and the interviewer to relax more. 
Honesty is always the best policy. You may be lacking in an area of experience or you may have just finished working for the boss from hell and are worried about how this could make you look during the interview.  Remember that HR representatives are good with people - most of them know how to engage and they relate well to other people.  Sometimes they do this a little too well (they can come off as organizational cheerleaders).  Because HR professionals tend to have this in their personalities, they’re also pretty good at telling when someone is uncomfortable or trying to avoid an answer.  When they see that you’re uncomfortable they may not be able to tell whether you’re lying or why you might be doing so.  That’s why your best option most of the time is to be honest and come clean.  You have a better chance of making it to the next round of interviews if you’re honest than if the HR professionals see behavior that indicates you’re hiding something.
Never speak poorly about a former employer or manager.  At one time or another we’ve all worked for incompetent monsters or worse.  I’ve been in too many companies and I know the odds are in your favor that you’ve had a bad experience with a boss.  Keep in mind my previous point (honesty is the best policy), but don’t let your emotional experience of the situation dictate your words.  When asked about these experiences, it’s best to explain that you had a difference of opinion and mention any constructive ways that you worked on the situation.  This approach is more likely to make you look like a problem solver than a  resentful person.
Finally, remember that finding a job is process and it’s always about moving forward.  Due to the nature of how the process works, you’re always going to be rejected more times than you’re offered a position.  Don’t take the rejection personally and don’t let it stop you from moving on to the next opportunity. You will only get there if you keep moving towards it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Resume Advice 3: Help the Recruiter

Recruiters are looking at a lot of resumes when they attempt to fill a job position.  You stand a better chance of getting an interview if you do a few things to help them out when you send in your resume.  The best thing you can do to help them is to make it easy for them to find the information for which they’re looking.  What they’re looking for are specific things that are important to being successful on the job they’re trying to fill. 

The most important thing you can do is to make it easy to find any experience of yours that is directly relevant to the job.  Even if you have all the skills and experience required to do the job, you won’t make it to an interview if that information is buried somewhere on page three.  
Other things you can do to help the recruiter:
Make it obvious that you’re right for the job.  This means that you should, first of all, organize the contents of your resume neatly and logically.  Providing a bulleted list of your strongest job relevant skills right after your headline and before detailing any experience can help gain the attention of the reviewer.  The key is to make sure that the bulleted list contains the qualifications for the job.
Make it relevant.  Or conversely, don’t include irrelevant information.  This clutters up your resume and makes it difficult for the reviewer to find what the person needs to know about you.  You may have other great experience, but if it’s not pertinent to the job for which you’re applying, it can keep you from getting an interview.  So what information is relevant?  Anything in your experience that is also listed in the job posting and where you got your key words (see my earlier posting on key words to learn more about these).  
Avoid being vague.  While you don’t want clutter on your resume, you do want enough description of the right things.  HR professionals can’t find information if you leave it off or if you don’t describe your experience well.  Provide enough detail to let them know that you have what it takes to do the job.
Let’s suppose that you were a fourth grade teacher.  “Taught classes in an elementary school” is a vague statement that doesn't convey exactly what you did in order to cram knowledge into those kids’ brains.  What did it take to teach those classes?  Here are a few examples of how to detail this experience:
Developed curriculum and wrote detailed lesson plans.
Lectured to groups of students.
Created group oriented learning activities to help students build social and team oriented skills.
Wrote multiple choice and essay tests.
Provided developmental feedback to students and created corrective action plans when necessary.
Communicated regularly with parents.
Choose which tasks and responsibilities to emphasize based on the job for which you are applying.  In addition, it’s a good idea to keep a master list of all your experience for each job in your history and then choose which tasks to include when applying for specific jobs.  This will keep your resume from being too cluttered and make it easier for the recruiter to find information.  I know this is extra work on your part, but if you want an interview it’s in your best interest to help the recruiter to see that you have the right experience. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Resume Advice Part 2: Using a Headline to Get Ahead

The current trend is to have a “headline” on your resume rather than an objective.  What’s the difference between these two things?  An objective is self focused and tells where you want to go and what you want to do.  A headline briefly states your capabilities and accomplishments. 
An objective looks like this: “To become part of a world class sales team and build strong customer relationships that result in financial growth for the organization.”
A headline looks like this: “Team oriented business development professional with excellent sales record and strong customer relationship skills.”
Going along with the current trend, my advice is not to include an objective.  It sounds cold, but most HR professionals are overworked and don’t really care what you want to accomplish.  They only care if you have a realistic chance of being successful in the job they’re trying to fill at this moment.  So help them see that you have what it takes to do this job.  
The goal is for you to make it easy for the HR person to find the information that is relevant to the job posting so that they understand that you are qualified and deserve a phone interview.  A good headline can help you to do this.  Match your headline to the job posting to emphasize the aspects of your career or skills that are listed in the job qualifications. 

More resume advice to come next week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Resume Advice: Key Words May be the Key to Your Future

Since I often get asked for resume advice, I thought this would be a great topic to write about.  After all, I do know a lot about HR and selection systems.  However, if I put all my resume tips into one posting it would get extremely long, so I’m going to break this into separate posts to make it easier to read.
I’ll begin this series of posts with the most critical issue to getting your resume through the initial screening process and into the hands of a live human being so that you can be considered for a job.  When I say “live human being” I’m not inferring that HR departments are staffed by zombies (even if they seem that way at times).  The truth is that many HR departments have moved over to using an electronic screening process.  This means that in order for your resume to be reviewed by a human it will first be previewed by a machine.  
While this process might sound a little crazy to people outside of HR, this has become a standard practice by many HR departments due to the large volume of submitted resumes.  In many instances it would be impossible for the HR staff to review the thousands of resumes they receive.  Having a machine scan for specific key words is a fair way to make sure that every resume get equal attention and is reviewed using the same yardstick during that initial screening process.
Important: Your resume needs to contain the right key words in order for your application to make it into the next phase of the selection process.
So what are the key words?  These vary from job to job and are based on the job requirements.  These may be licensure, education, experience, or specific knowledge.  Whatever these requirements are will be listed in the job posting and are often blatantly labeled in a list called “job requirements” or “qualifications.”  This is why it is critical to customize your resume for each job to which you apply.  Make sure that you list all the requirements in the job description for which you have experience.  Only the key words need to be present, not the entire phrase.
Below is an example of job experience/ requirements from a job posting on the Internet:
Strong proficiency in Microsoft Office, Excel and PowerPoint.  Self-starter with high energy and initiative to take projects through to completion.  Strong ability to multi-task and work in deadline-driven environment.  Demonstrate initiative to identify areas for improvement and take the lead to implement changes.  Must maintain confidentiality in daily operations and conduct business in a professional manner.”
And here are the key words for which a computer may be scanning: Office, Excel, PowerPoint, Multi-task, meet deadlines, initiative, change implementation.  Note that the computer may also scan for variations of these terms.
Don’t panic if you don’t have all the requirements listed in the job posting as part of your experience. The purpose of using the key words is to help identify candidates who meet certain minimum requirements, and not necessarily all the job requirements. Just because  a list is provided doesn’t mean that they are using all of the key terms or using them all the same way.  For example, not all the key words may be equally weighted, so listing as many as possible doesn’t always get your resume at the top of the list.  Some job requirements are considered critical and if you don’t have that particular skill or knowledge your resume will be dropped from the process and never make it to the next stage.  For example, many jobs require certification or licensure.  For example, if a job posting for a nurse states that R.N. certification is required or essential, then anyone who does not specifically mention that they have this certification will not be considered in the application process.
Finally, don’t ever lie or stretch the truth, because this electronic age makes it easier for HR departments to flag your record for dishonesty if they find an exaggeration on your application.  This could prevent you from being considered for the job for which you are applying as well as future positions with that company.  
The purpose of using key words is to help quickly identify those applicants who should be looked at more closely.  Having these in your resume doesn't guarantee that you’ll get the job, but it can increase your chances of getting an interview. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Reluctant Blogger

For several years I've been encouraged to start a blog, but I've resisted.  The reasons are numerous and I'm very capable of making up new ones at any moment.  My logic was as follows:
1. There appear to be more blogs than people to read them and blogs have become the flotsam of cyberspace.  
2. I have two audiences: one that reads my business writing/ research and the other that reads my fiction.  Creating a blog could easily confuse and possibly scare either of these audiences when they see the other half of my personality.
3. I don't have a lot of free time.
So why am I here?  Due to the persuasiveness of a few people I have decided to give this a try.  So for that handful of people I've finally given in.  After all, they deserve something for being loyal enough to buy my books.  
So here’s how I've rationalized the above issues:

1. I realize that there are a lot of other blogs out there and that not everyone will be interested in what have to say.  I'm here for the people who actually want to hear from me.

2. I'll be writing on different topics and hopefully I can explain myself well enough to keep people from getting confused.  That also means that some groups of people may like certain posts more than others.  I'm okay with that and you should be, too.  Just because someone is an author doesn't mean that every word the person writes is worth reading.  The content has to be relevant to you at that stage of your life.  I don't expect everyone to be hanging on my every word all the time.

3. I will not be making daily posts.  My goal is to post once a week to keep this within my means.

With all that said, welcome to my contribution to the pollution of cyberspace!