Mind Your Manners: 6 Tips for Writing Thank You Notes

If your parents are anything like mine, you’ve learned to say “thank you” when people give you things. Whether it be a gift, a ride, or a compliment most of us would offer a hearty “thanks” in return for someone else’s generosity. The interview process is no different. As someone who interviews for a living, I’m surprised at how seldom I receive a “thank you” note from a candidate.

When writing thank yous, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Ask everyone with whom you interview for their card or contact information (their e-mail is enough). You need this information to send them a note! Getting their card is best because it will ensure you have the correct spelling of their name.
  2. Send a thank you to everyone with whom you’ve met. Don’t leave anyone out! Everyone who interviewed you will most likely get together to talk about the candidates. You don’t want to offend someone by making them think you forgot about them.
  3. E-mail is fine. In today’s day and age, sending a thank you e-mail is perfectly fine. It’s direct, it’s fast, and it can be replied to. Sending a nice card is perfectly fine – and a nice touch – but do so quickly.
  4. Keep your “A” game going.  Don’t slack off on your thank you notes – mind your grammar, spelling, etc.  If you’re using e-mail – keep it professional and address the e-mail appropriately: “Dear Soandso,” with a formal signature.
  5. Remind them how great you are. Use this as an opportunity to highlight why you think you’re a great fit for the position. Try to refer back to what seemed most important to them in terms of their ideal candidate.
  6. Don’t send the same note to everyone. Take good notes during your interviews so that you can refer back to the specific conversations you had with each individual. Some people don’t realize that their thank you note is often forwarded on to the group of interviewers – meaning that it will quickly become obvious that you sent everyone the same note!

Writing a thank you note is another component of the job search process and just like a cover letter, while it may sometimes seem optional, it is always best to always send one!  A well-written thank you might be the “cherry on top” giving you an edge in being selected for the position.

 

This post originally appeared on Personal Branding Blog.

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What’s Up with the One Page Resume Rule?

There’s a bit of conventional wisdom out there about how long a resume should be.  Many career advisers, resume writing books and websites, and even some blogs suggest that people should keep their resume to one single page.  Job seekers shrink their font sizes, decrease their margins, and use other tricks to try and force their resume to meet this rule. In my humble, yet professional, opinion – it is okay to have a two or three page resume.  It’s what you do with that resume that really counts.

Picture graciously borrowed from talknerdy2me.org

 

There is a real benefit to a one-page resume.  You see, when we post a job opening, chances are we will get dozens and dozens of resumes – big companies in metro areas may get hundreds and hundreds!  This leaves those of us screening resumes very little time to invest in deeply reading each applicant’s resume. When we screen resumes, we do what comes natural – start at the top and work our way down.  Now, if we get half way through page one and find nothing of interest – we’ll probably stop looking at that particular resume and will move on to the next one.  The more concise your resume is, the more likely the aspects of your resume that you want to stand out will.

So, is it okay to have a two or three page resume?  Yes, but make sure on page one, and early on page one for that matter, you highlight the most pertinent information for the job for which you are applying.  One way to do this is to include a “summary of qualifications” or a “summary of achievements” as one of the first sections of your resume.  If all the good stuff is buried on page two, I can assure you it will never get read if there is nothing to excite the person reviewing your resume on page one.

 

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog (www.personalbrandingblog.com)

Looking for a Job? Leave No Stone Unturned

We are creatures of habit – we get comfortable with certain TV channels, websites, and magazines, and we tend to stick with them.  When it comes to looking for a job, we tend to take the same approach, and most of us go with what we know and stick to it.  You can increase your chances of finding a great job if you expand your horizons and use more and different tools.

General Job Boards

We’re all familiar with the big ones – Monster and Careerbuilder, and you should check these often but there are other general job boards out there that are worth checking.  Indeed.com is the largest job search site that aggregates jobs from all over the web, displaying jobs from both Monster and Careerbuilder, but also niche sites and corporate careers pages.  SimplyHired is another job search aggregator and good resource to check out.  Craigslist is popular for all sorts of classifieds, and jobs are no different.  It’s cheap or free for employers to post.  America’s Job Exchange replaced the Department of Labor’s America’s Job Bank a few years back and has become a popular site for non executive positions.  Snagajob.com specializes in hourly jobs.  There are also many regional/geographical job boards – many can be found through your local newspaper’s website or through Jobing.com.

Social Media

LinkedIn’s focus on one’s professional network made it a natural place to start a job board – and LinkedIn did just that several years ago.  It was on LinkedIn that I found my current job!  Even better – you can usually see who posted the job and check to see if you have any connections in common.  Twitter has also become a popular way to look for jobs.  You can use hashtags like #hiring #jobs, etc to find open jobs.  Many companies are tweeting out there jobs!

Niche Sites

Chances are you may be looking for a job in a particular field.  Dice.com specializes in IT and tech jobs. FINS.com specializes in finance and is owned by the Wall Street Journal.  Idealist.org focuses on jobs in not-for-profit organizations. Ecoemploy.com looks like a hokey website – but is a great resource for environmental jobs. Biospace lists jobs in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and life sciences fields.  If you’re in a niche – chances are there is a job board out there that specifically focuses on you!

Professional Associations

Many professional associations also have a job board component to their website.  If there is a leading organization within your field – you should definitely be checking out their job board.  The American Marketing Association posts jobs on their Marketing Power website. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has a job board, and so does the New England HR Association (NEHRA) both chock full of HR jobs right up my alley!  Don’t just look at national association websites – but also regional, state, and local!

Diversity

Many companies are working to make their work force more diverse and are doing so through targeted job posting using websites that are marketed towards specific groups.  Latpro.com and HispanicDiversity.com target Latino/a job seekers. AMightyRiver.com and BlackPerspective.com focus on helping African Americans find work.  LGBTCareerLink.com is Out & Equal’s job board for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered job seekers.

Recruiters have just as many choices as job seekers do. Some companies have large budgets with the ability to plaster their openings all over the place.  Other companies may have very limited budgets and will only post on websites that they hope will bring the highest number of viable candidates possible.  The tough thing is that you never know where you will find your perfect job – so it’s important that you look everywhere you can and leave no stone unturned.

 

This post original appeared on the Personal Branding Blog (www.personalbrandingblog.com)

Should You Show Your Stripes? Politics & Your Personal Brand

In this highly contentious election year, politics are everywhere. Surf the web, flip the channels, or tune your radio and right before your very eyes or ears talking heads everywhere are dissecting and opining on politics in the U.S. and the 2012 Presidential Election.

According to the Pew Research Center, the political climate in the U.S. is the most polarized it has been in 25 years.  To get at this, Pew has been conducting and tracking surveys since 1987 measuring 48 political values among US voters.  The results?  The gap in values between Democrats and Republicans has doubled and for the first time ever is greater than any other demographic – gender, race, class, etc.1

So what does all this mean for your personal brand and your job search?

We all fall somewhere on the political spectrum; some of us are passionate about our beliefs, which often translate in to action: from desktop politicking by promoting candidates and positions through social media tools to campaign volunteering and activism.

You may feel compelled to list your blogging with the Obama campaign, or your phone banking with the Romney campaign on your resume.  And why not?  You gained valuable real world experience doing these things that can easily transfer to the working world; but with the country being so polarized, there is a high likelihood that you will encounter people in your job search who think differently than you when it comes to politics. Being so open about your leanings can leave you open to discrimination.

You need to be cautious as to how, or if, you demonstrate your political allegiances.  

If you are compelled to politic – play nice – don’t get personal, hit below-the-belt, or call names.  Make educated arguments to support your points, and always stay professional.  Be extra careful about how you communicate any views which may be considered to be extreme by some.

Personally, the path I have chosen is to almost completely limit my politicking to my personal social circles (Facebook), and to minimize reference to my political beliefs on my public social networks (Twitter, LinkedIn) allowing little insight into my political persuasions to potential employers.

Ultimately, the choice is yours.  What is the right ratio for you between freedom of expression and the personal brand you want to portray to the professional community?

1 – Pew Research Center, Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years, June 4, 2012 http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2277/republicans-democrats-partisanship-partisan-divide-polarization-social-safety-net-environmental-protection-government-regulation-independents

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog (www.personalbrandingblog.com)

7 Things Confidential Job Postings Say About Your Company

I always snicker and shake my head when I see a job posting listed as “Company Confidential“.  “Don’t these people get it?” I say to myself.

A job posting is one of the most frequent forms of advertising your company – and perhaps the number one way to represent your employment brand – you know -the image you project as to whether your company is a good place to work or not?  By publishing your job postings confidentially, you not only miss the opportunity to spread your employment brand, but you actually hurt it!  Plus, you’ll just delay the time it takes you to fill with your really bad version of grown up Hide and Seek.  Here’s what posting your open jobs confidentially  says about you:

  1. You don’t get talent! Candidates are leery about applying for confidential postings.  You’ll potentially miss out on the one by hiding who you are.
  2. You’re sneaky!  Do you already have someone in this role and you want to try and back fill them before they are out the door?  Would you post my job without talking to me someday? Are you conducting interviews in dark alleys?
  3. You’re ashamed! What are you hiding?  Shouldn’t the name of your company draw in applicants?
  4. You’re cowardly! Are you trying to avoid internal applications and the difficult conversations associated with having to let someone down?
  5. You’re old school! You think people should be lucky to work for you and have no other options.
  6. You’re not resourceful! You’re missing out on referrals from your employees and network.
  7. You’re lazy! You don’t want to “waste your time” wading through so many resumes so why not limit the amount you receive?

Sure, we can think of benefits to posting jobs confidentially…I’m talking to you staffing agencies who can’t hunt us down and blow up our phones…but the benefits nowhere near outweigh the detriment to your employment brand and your talent acquisition strategy in the global fight for talent.  Post confidentially, and you’ll enjoy less resumes, less talent,  and longer time to fill.  Enjoy!

You Pretend to Know Me – This is Why You Are Unemployed

Earlier this month, I received an unsolicited e-mail from a job seeker about an hour after posting for a specific job in New York City.  No problem – right?  I mean I’m trying to fill the job…so what’s wrong with that.  Nothing, generally…except for the fact that this job seeker pretended to personally know me!

Here’s the e-mail!

Hi Mike
Im not sure if you remember me, but I just wanted to say keep up the
phenomenal work. We should reconnect if time allows. I started grad
school, studying Psychology at Brooklyn College in my 2nd semester.
Im still in Philadelphia though, I commute to NY the nights I have
class, Its terrible driving 2 hours each way, but I decided not to
move without having a job in NY first. So Im in NY every Tuesday
Thursday, Lets get together soon if you are available and in the area.
email me here or my mobile XXX-XXX-XXXX Keep me in mind should you have
any HR related openings.

(- Hope the photo helps put a face with the email)

First – thanks for recognizing that my work is phenomenal!  Second – let me introduce you to the apostrophe! And ok – so the poor thing is doing a crazy commute to NYC from Philly for school.  I guess there are no schools in Philadelphia.  That’s gotta be tough.  It’s the last line in the paragraph when she really gets to the point.  “Keep me in mind should you have any HR related openings.”  And notice the last line – she posted a photo of herself to make it seem even more like she really knew me.  Here’s the picture with the head removed to protect her privacy!

I don't know you.

One of my weird skills is that I remember everyone.  Always name, usually face.  When I first got her e-mail I knew that I did not know her name – plus it is a somewhat unique name.  When I popped open the picture – I was absolutely sure of the fact that I had never met this woman.

So I wrote her back:

Dear XXXXX:

 Thank you for reaching out.  I apologize, but I do not recognize your name or photo – how do we know each other?

Best regards,

Mike

She wrote back claiming to have been an intern at a place I used to work about 8 years ago in Boston.   I asked her for her resume, and she sent it and of course the “internship” was on there.  But so was her high school, and dates of attendance of high school (2001 – 2005).  She graduated from high school in Philadelphia in 2005 and wants me to believe she commuted to Boston for an internship at a small no-name non-profit in Boston when she was a sophomore?  You have got to be kidding me.

Needless to say, that was my last bit of correspondence with this one.  To be honest, it kind of freaked me out and made me wonder if all this “sharing” through social media (LinkedIn, etc.) is a good thing – I mean – essentially, she was able to look at my LinkedIn profile (which she did) and completely make up a story about how we “knew” each other.

This is why you are unemployed!

The Unassumed Power of the Receptionist

People tend to undervalue and underappreciate the role a Receptionist plays in an organization. For some reason, some people treat the Receptionist differently than they might a manager or an executive in the company. But when you come in for an interview – the Receptionist has a lot more power than you might think they do. Conventional wisdom tells us how important it is to make a good first impression – and the Receptionist is the first person at the company with which a candidate interacts.

As a hiring manager, I ALWAYS ask our Receptionist what she thinks about a candidate she has met. Did they come in demanding coffee, speaking to her in a curt or rude manner that demonstrated an air of superiority? Or did they treat her with respect, asking her how her day is going and making pleasant small talk with her? The way someone interacts with her tells me a lot about the candidate and whether or not they would fit in with our culture.

BUSTED! Don’t Be an Interview Liar!

A job interview can be an anxiety causing situation – you want to make a good impression, you want (or need) the job.  So something happens inside you – you’re not the same person – you start to exaggerate your experience – and then – BAM – you’ve gone too far! 

Bad idea, mon frère!  We HR folks are pretty crafty – and it’s our job to smoke out the liars.   Recently, I conducted an interview with a candidate and asked them a question to see how they would describe a very technical concept to a non-technical person.  To be fair to them, I first asked if they knew the difference between Concept A and Concept B – to which they quickly said “Yes, I do”.  I then asked them to explain the difference to me as if I did not understand the technical jargon.  This caught them off guard and the person struggled to explain something that they clearly did not understand.  Ultimately, as the candidate stumbled through their answer, they finally came clean and said they did not know the difference.  They also said they weren’t expecting to be asked technical questions in an interview with an HR person.  Oh no you didn’t just underestimate me! 

The truth is – I wasn’t asking the question to see if they knew the difference between the two concepts – I was asking them to see how they would explain something technical in an easy-to-understand way.  The problem was not that they didn’t know.  The problem then became that they LIED about their knowledge, assuming I wouldn’t ask a deeper follow-up question.

It amazes me how many people don’t recognize that a good interviewer is going to ask follow-up questions.  When asking about computer skills, I start off asking the person to rate their skills for various Office programs on a 1 – 10 scale.  When a person rates themselves high – like a 9 or a 10, I probe further, asking for them to tell me about the most complicated spreadsheet they ever created, or to tell me about the advanced features they know.  Surely, if they are a 9 or a 10, they must know some advanced features, right?

One more example, I interviewed a candidate for a position that would have required the person to work with Spanish-speaking workers.  The person claimed as a strength their ability to speak and understand Spanish.  Being an intermediate Spanish-speaker myself, I asked him to tell me something in Spanish.  He couldn’t do it.

While this type of questioning does give insight into the candidate’s knowledge-base, the main purpose is to see how honest and how willing to admit their mistakes they are.

Recruiters – what liars have you BUSTED in your interviews? Did you hire them?

Job seekers – what lies have you told to get the job?  Did you ever get BUSTED?

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