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It’s Not You, It’s Me: Why You’re Not Getting Hired or Promoted

[As Published on Recruiter.com]

 

Whether it’s not hearing back about the job for which you applied, being politely turned down after an interview, or being passed over for promotion, rejection hurts.

It would be understandable to get angry, depressed, and/or apathetic about it. Eventually, you’ll move on.

Or, you could reflect on the situation to analyze why you were rejected. This is the harder path, but it is much more therapeutic and increases your odds of success for the next time.

Let’s say you applied for a job. You were one of five candidates out of 200 applications to get to the interview stage. All five of you are qualified to do the job, or you wouldn’t have made the cut. What variable separated the winner from the rest of you? It was probably soft skills.

According to a study from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center, well-developed soft skills account for 85 percent of job success. Hard skills account for the remaining 15 percent. Broadly defined as “interpersonal skills such as the ability to communicate well with other people and to work on a team,” soft skills were first formalized by John P. Fry and Paul G. Whitmore in a 1974 report on leadership research in the U.S. Army.

What counts as a soft skill varies depending on whom you ask, but a list published in 2012 by researcher Marcel M. Robles does a good job of summarizing some of the most valuable ones:

  1. Communication: speaking, writing, presentation, and listening skills
  2. Courtesy: manners, (business) etiquette, graciousness
  3. Flexibility: adaptability, willingness to change, teachability, adjustability
  4. Integrity: honesty, morality, doing what’s “right”
  5. Interpersonal skills: sociability, a sense of humor, friendliness, empathy, patience
  6. Positive attitude: optimism, enthusiasm, confidence
  7. Professionalism: poise, business-appropriate appearance and behavior
  8. Responsibility: accountability, reliability, resourcefulness, self-discipline, common sense
  9. Team work: cooperativeness, supportiveness, collaboration,
  10. Work ethic: loyalty, working hard, taking initiative, self-motivation, showing up on time.

Some of these qualities are quite subjective, such as being “businesslike” or “adaptable.” Others are more objective, such as “taking the initiative” and “showing up on time.” Can you perfect all of them? No. Nobody’s perfect. If you think you are, then let’s add “humility” to this list.

How can you improve your soft skills? It’s the same as getting to Carnegie Hall – practice! Volunteering, interning, running a blog, tutoring, mentoring, and joining a professional association are all good ways to practice these soft skills, especially those that relate directly to interpersonal communication. For the balance: follow the “Golden Rule”, be well groomed, dress well, manage your time, keep a calendar, and, the easiest of all, set your alarm clock!

It’s hard to see ourselves as others see us, so consider asking trusted friends, colleagues, family members, and bosses for feedback on where your soft skills are strong and where they need improvement. People like to help each other out, and they’ll likely be flattered you asked.

Your education and experiences will get you noticed, but your soft skills will get you hired.

Employers know what they want. They hold all the cards. They’re in the driver’s seat. You can’t fight city hall. Enough metaphors? The truth is that you must fit into their expectations.

Be accountable and realize that when it comes to soft skills, it’s you, not them. Fix what needs fixing.

Ferris Kaplan is founder of Best of You Resumes.

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employment, job hunting, job interviews, job search, resumes, Uncategorized

Your Future Is In The (Business) Cards

[As published on Recruiter.com]

 

According to a Microsoft study, a goldfish now has a longer attention span than you do.

Hey, over here — there’s more!

Microsoft found that the average human’s attention span is now eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. The goldfish clocks in at nine seconds.

Why does Microsoft care, and why should you? Because shorter attention spans affect concentration, comprehension, reading, advertising, and interpersonal interactions.

Given how short the average person’s attention span is — and that includes hiring managers and recruiters — how can you become a memorable candidate?

It’s actually quite easy: Leave behind a business card.

The practice of exchanging business cards seems to have originated in China in the 15th century, according to some sources. The practice has evolved since then, but there’s a reason it’s still with us all these centuries later. Having a card to present while networking accomplishes several things:

  1. It shows that you’re prepared. You’re not fumbling around for a pen and scrap of paper on which to scrawl your contact info.
  2. It presents the important information you want a person to know, such as how to contact you and how to find out more about you.
  3. It demonstrates respect for the tradition of reciprocating the exchange of cards. Avoid that uncomfortable moment when someone gives you a gift and you don’t have one for them!

It’s not enough to simply have a business card; you want something that presents the best of you. A few guidelines on what makes a great card:

  1. Provide only necessary information so the card is not cluttered and doesn’t confuse the reader. Name, one phone number, one email address, maybe a mailing address, maybe a LinkedIn URL (not Facebook!), and a personal website, if you have one.
  2. Select a simple theme/colors/font combination that reflects your personality but looks professional. Your business card should be easy to read, and card scanners should be able to parse it. A fancy script and/or tiny typeface are red flags about your judgment.
  3. Give yourself a title, like “Sales Consultant,” “Customer Service Specialist,” “Digital Marketer” — something memorable and realistic. Unless you’re in a really creative field, don’t get cutesy. No one likes a “Chief Thinking Officer,” “Creative Guru,” or “Rainmaker Extraordinaire.”
  4. Utilize the back of the card for a few lines about your accomplishments or qualifications, such as “Master’s degree in education,” “Certified in C++,” or “Proficient in Google Analytics.” Leave at least the top half of the card’s back empty so the person has space to write notes.

Remember: Receiving another person’s card is an invitation to follow up with them. Duck into another room and make notes of everything you can remember about your conversation on the back of the card. This may include information like a spouse’s name, a reminder to send an article of interest, inside information about their company, projects they’re working on, or next steps for following up.

You are an outsider trying to get inside. That’s what networking is all about. The goal is for the recipient to remember you weeks and months later. You want them to think of you when they have a vacancy or hear about one before it’s posted.

You are continuing a 400-year tradition of introductions and etiquette, so carry the cards in a decent case. Resist the temptation to use a binder clip or rubber band.

You may make a good first impression, but a business card leaves a lasting impression. That’s how you become memorable.

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com.

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employment, job hunting, job interviews, job search, resumes, Uncategorized

Are You Ready For Your Close-Up?

If you were a company hiring people, would you think it efficient and cost effective to scour the country and fly in, house, and feed candidates to interview?  That’s what we used to do.

Would you save money by filtering through resumes and then conduct phone interviews of the best applicants?  That’s what we used to do.

Now, companies are asking candidates to produce a video of themselves answering provided questions or just introducing themselves. I’m not sure why it took so long, since we’ve had video conferencing capabilities at Kinko’s since 1994, Skype since 2003, and FaceTime since 2010.

This is a paradigm shift—having a webcam, but not necessarily a resume?

An initiative called, “World Hiring Day,” was September 14, and 200 companies accepted videos from job hunters. (Wall Street Journal, 9/14/16, Page B5).

Companies have applicants download an app or link that explains their procedure and expectations. HireVue Inc., a firm that provides video interviewing software, said that it hosted nearly three million such videos last year, up from 13,000 five years ago. (Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2016, Page B6).

Do you still need a resume?  Absolutely.  Even, if not for them, you need it for you. It’s a chronology of titles, places, dates, and skills to quantify accomplishments, and stay organized when speaking.

Now, that companies can hear AND see you, you need your elevator speech to be confident, and your answers on-point without sounding rehearsed. Neatness counts, so you also need decent production values which means considering your location, lighting, background, ambient noise, attire (at least from the waist up), and proficiency to shoot and edit (if possible) your video.

Scanning videos for facial and other non-verbal cues adds more scrutiny to who you are. Reciting selections from your resume demonstrates what you’ve done and what you can do.

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com.

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employment, job hunting, job search, resumes, Uncategorized

Reading Between the Lines of a Job Ad

When you read a house-for-sale ad, with practice, you can decode that “easy-care-yard” means small or already full of stones and cactus. “Great starter house,” means you should expect to spend a lot fixing it. We read the ad with skepticism.

When we see a job ad, we read it with eagerness. We want it to fit and be the perfect next gig. Blinded by the opportunity, we quickly scan the title, location, qualifications, requirements, and next steps.

An article by Hannah Morgan in U.S. News & World Report, details what to look for, and I agree with them.

I would add:

1) Read the ad with optimism, the FIRST TIME. If convinced that this could be something positive, then READ IT AGAIN as “The Devil’s Advocate.” Dissect every line to decode what they really want, and if you really have it.

2) Try this trick…copy & paste the entire job description into a Word Cloud to see what the most important keywords are TO THEM. Then, copy & paste your entire resume into a Word Cloud to see what YOUR KEYWORDS are. If similarly prominent, great. If not, you can change your resume to reflect what they’re looking for, or recognize this as a red flag and move on to the next ad.

It’s easy to be overly optimistic and mail or email out letters and resumes applying for everything. Yes, it’s a “numbers game,” and you’ve got to send out more to get more responses, but your time is valuable, so be selective. You must craft each letter and each resume to each specific job, or you are wasting your time.

Companies have vacancies to fill. They have the power to hire, but THEY NEED YOU more than you need them.

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com .

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Approach A Job Search With A Laser, Not a Flashlight

I frequently hear from students, friends, and clients, that they are starting or are in process of looking for a new job.

When I ask the obvious question, “What are you looking for?” the response is almost always ambiguous, not identifying the industry, company or even city of what they seek.

There’s a good article in Marketing News, January 25, 2015, by Debra Wheatman. In her “Seven Tips for Conducting a Targeted Career Campaign,” Wheatman offers these tasks and I’ll add my own comments.

1) Conduct a personal assessment

Know what, who, and where you want to be. Know why you’ve made these choices. Things change and life happens but you need to start with a road map for your journey.

2) Do your research

With the Internet, you have access to investigate industries, companies, locations, executives, corporate mission statements, salaries, reviews by employees, and a lot more. No excuses for not knowing!

3) Define your goal

Keep narrowing your search. Like a funnel, all the possibilities go in the top, so that the “answers” come out the bottom. Just like you can have more than one resume, you can have more than one funnel/search. Keep them on separate tracks.

4) Identify avenues for professional development

Never stop learning about your field and how you can innovate to be successful in it. Take classes, watch webcasts, listen to podcasts, view TED Talks, and join industry organizations.

5) Improve your personal brand

YOU are the product that you’re marketing so find ways to stand out from the competition. Hone your resume, complete your profile on Linked-In, perfect your elevator pitch; and get business cards to pass out.

6) Network with industry leaders

Take those business cards to associations’ meetings. Go to conferences, listen to speeches, follow-up with “nice to have met you” emails. You’re not asking for a job…you’re introducing yourself…then see how things play out.

7) Branch out

Use professional associations, Linked-In, Twitter, create your own website, and let family & friends know of your targeted campaign. They may not be able to help but they’ll likely know someone who knows someone who can.

A flashlight approach is broad, scattered, and a waste of your time. By knowing what you want [and what you don’t want], a laser approach is precise and more likely to hit the target.

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com .

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More Than Better Luck Next Time

 

We have goals, confidence and good intentions, but, sometimes, things don’t work out. We apply for jobs and go on interviews with the expectation (or at least the hope) of getting the job, but we don’t always get it.

The NonProfit Times ran a recent article, “8 Dos And Don’ts After a Job Rejection.” This got my attention because we rarely think about what to do—other than sulk; brush ourselves off, take a deep breath, and start all over again. (insert Nat King Cole tune here).

The author advises that you:

DO:

Give yourself enough time to get over the rejection, especially if it’s a new experience for you.

Ask for help from friends, family, or your job search counselor. See if any of these people can give you advice on how to position yourself for the most success in the job market.

Come up with a written schedule detailing the next steps in your job search.

Give your efforts the proper time before changing things. Filling out job applications for a week without any success is not necessarily a sign that you need to adjust your job search process.

DON’T:

Spend a lot of time on conversations that focus only on the negatives. This will only make you feel worse.

Hang around people who have given up on the job search.

Spend too much time watching the news. The economy is not exactly in the best shape right now, and hearing reports about it could demoralize you.

Assume you know everything. Searching for a job is an unpredictable process, and things can (and often will) happen that will take you by surprise.

These are all good and I’d add a few more…

 DO:

Send a short, handwritten note to the decision maker, thanking them for their time and the opportunity to meet them and interview. Express gratitude and drop in your greatest strength/accomplishment as a reminder of who you are. Ask for future consideration should another opening occur.

You may never know about why they decided as they did, but you can analyze how to improve your performance. Do make notes to yourself of the questions they asked and your answers. How could you respond better, more concisely?

DON’T:

Bad mouth the company to friends or on social media. After all, this was a company for which you wanted to work—you just didn’t like their recent decision to not hire you. No need to burn bridges, since things change and you may be back there.

And finally, don’t give up!

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com

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How Will You Use the 8 Habits?

Hopefully, by now, you’ve thought about how Stephen Covey‘s “8 Habits of Highly Effective People,” can impact your career, as well as personal life. Maybe, they can improve how you approach situations and manage those circumstances, for better outcomes.

The “habits” that he uncovered were from 25 years ago. I can’t imagine that much has changed since then. Certainly, the speed of technology in this information age has improved a lot, but human behavior in the workplace…not so much.

Covey’s “Habits” were the common traits he found from interviewing CEOs at many of the nation’s largest companies. His research and findings are important to us as leaders, marketers, and job seekers.

#1 BE PROACTIVE
#2 BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
#3 PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
#4 THINK WIN/WIN
#5 SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
#6 SYNERGIZE
#7 SHARPEN THE SAW
#8 FIND YOUR VOICE AND HELP OTHERS TO FIND THEIRS

When looking at the list, what keywords or concepts do you take away?   For me: Anticipate, Plan, Strategize, Cooperate, Contemplate, Deliberate, Collaborate, Educate, Share.
How about for you?

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com

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