Friday, January 15, 2010

New Year, New Decade, New Job Search

New job search has got to be right up there with new diet and more exercise for lot of folks.
Is there a new way to search for that job in the new decade?

In the 15 days I've been recruiting this year, there is a sense that retro no longer applies only to fashion and furniture.
Picking up the phone is back!
It may be a different type of phone, it may be attached directly to your ear, or hanging on your car visor, or even include
Skype-type talking pictures, but the phone is back.

I currently have a few GREAT positions I'm working on filling for an Emeryville, CA based travel services start-up/restart. I will do anything I can NOT to post them on internet boards. Why? I can't handle the response. I don't need 200 - 400 resumes, I need one stellar hire. So how will I fill most of these positions? Email is actually the the #1 resource I'll be using. But, the phone will also be involved - more than it has been in years.

The other thing that's rather retro about the current market - is the use of referrals. When I started in recruiting in the 90's, you picked up the phone and asked people "who's the best (__job title__) you know?" Recruiting 101. Now, I spend much of my search time on Linkedin, checking out who people I respect recommend. Even better, I can see recommendations (or lack thereof) of people I don't know at all.

So, here we go again. I'm so glad!! I've read 1000's of resumes. I'm so happy to get back to conversations.
Will pricey lunches and golf outings follow? A recruiter can dream.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cover Letters

My opinion on what a cover letter should be is "a professional note that adds information to what is contained within the resume". I was going to say "cordial" note, but then I'd have to look up cordial to make sure it's right. But, you get the idea. I only want to see details that either make the candidate more attractive or answer any question that the resume reader will have.

If the job is in SF and the candidate lives is NYC, good information is "I will be in San Francisco from October 1 - 4 and would love to meet with you or a representative of your company at that time", or "I am hoping to move to San Francisco, and will schedule a trip out for interviews once I have a strong potential for employment", or "Is the position open to a remote employee?" Each sentence gives me solid information to work with.

Your special skills, as they relate to MY job, that are not adequately expressed in the formatted resume.

If the candidate has been unemployed for some time, good information is "I was part of a layoff at XXXX in December. I have developed contract work for myself in the interim, but I am looking for a full-time, benefited position." Ok.

The best way to contact. There's probably an email and two phone numbers on the resume, which on is best? It's an easy thing to add to the "cover letter required" note.

Why you're looking. I read someone's resume recently and it was so good that my question as a recruiter was "why are you looking for a new job?" Thoughts that crossed my mind were that his sales had dropped, he was was going to be let go, or he wasn't getting along with his management. He needed to TELL the reader why he was looking (i.e. relocation, division soon to be sold) or what he was looking for (i.e. specific new challenge, desire to return to the XX field).

What NOT to put in a cover letter:
"NB: I am williing to work for free the first month for you to personal experience my technical know-how of the job."
I just read this on a cover letter. First, what is NB? Second, typo. Third, desperate. I have a job to fill! Why would I want you to work for free? Maybe if my company did not have a job opening this might be a tactic to try . . . but not when applying for a job.

A rehash of the resume - which translates to "blah, blah, blah" and wastes the readers time.

You can tell me you're the best candidate, but I won't believe it. Tell me WHY you would be the best, as they relate to MY job, and I'll consider it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

the current job market

I posted a job on craigslist yesterday. It is for a small company in Pleasanton, CA. Pleasanton is a suburb about 50 miles from San Francisco & 30 miles from San Jose. The job is a mid-level position - a Network Administrator - with very specific technical requirements. It's the only position currently open at the company.

It is exactly 24 hours since I posted the position. There are 57 applicants. I could probably close the posting right now, because it's likely that there are at least 5 quality candidates in that stack. In this economy, that's plenty because there's only a small chance that they have other opportunities. I'll leave it open until I get through this first batch of applicants. The chances it will be open for a whole month (the time until it expires) are slim.

Off to start screening. I'll be back with some stats. I think this may be a simple, clear case study of the current market.

If you know of anyone that's a network administrator in the Pleasanton, CA, please send them to the posting at Soon :D

&&&&&& ok, I'm in. it's a long process. to open each one. I'm interested in the first few, then they all look the same after about 4 of them. so - back to basics. I search for "perl" and "apache" terms that are requirements of the job. It's going MUCH faster. If I don't find what I'm looking for, I can review these again for transferable skills. I hope it doesn't come to that - and likely won't since I expect the resume count to double within the week.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"We didn't follow up"

That's the response I got one MONTH after submitting resumes for a position. As a contract recruiter I was tasked with screening the resumes in the mailbox, screening those that might be qualified, and presenting the top candidates for interviews. I had two candidates presented for the open position. My assignment was over just as I submitted the resumes. I had let the candidates know that I considered them qualified and was presenting them to the hiring manager.

It was like a punch in the gut one month later when I checked in to see how things had progressed. A simple "oh, I don't think we followed up on those". What??? But I told them . . . but they were expecting . . . wasn't that the plan?? All silent.

Me: Ah, did you hire someone else?
Employer: We had an intern from last year call us with availability, so we hired him for the summer.
Me: So no one reached out to them?? ( Calmly, but I'm quite mortified at this point).
E: No, I'd say no one did, but I'll check that too.
Me: Ok. How about this. If no one did, I'll just reach out to them to close things up with them. A little PR for your company . . .

later - email. Need filled, please close out candidates.

Me to candidates - from company email box "Thank you for your interest, however the position has been filled by a returning employee".

Wanted to write - "SO SORRY!! I know that stinks when you tell everyone that you have a good job lead, then hear NOTHING. They just dropped the ball." Can't. Not appropriate, and not helpful.

It pains me to think of all the useless thoughts of "why haven't I heard" and "I'm not good enough" that may have gone through the candidates' minds. It wasn't that at all. Just business - filled the position quickly, easily and with a known performer. Good business, not personal.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I'm back in action.

Back from where? Not a vacation. I checked the dictionary at for the right word. Not a sabbatical (a time of rest), not AWOL or a Leave Of Absence as I didn't need permission. Ah, here it is -

2 a: an interruption in time or continuity : break ; especially : a period when something (as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted.

I'm back from my blog hiatus. Wow. Clearly I need to write far more often so I can avoid sentences that awkward in the future.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What is a Resume, circa 2009?

It is business tool. An electronic document to communicate – and advertise - one’s skills and capabilities to a potential employer. That’s is.

(Well, an exercise in formatting frustration is also a good definition for most folks. )

What a resume is NOT: a personal story, a biography, an application form, a list of employers, the great American novel.

The resume of 2009 is scanned by humans and by computer systems called Applicant Tracking Systems. (ATS). Once it is chosen it will be read, but the primary function of an electronically submitted resume is to pass the scan.

Human scanning: Take a look at your resume. Don’t read it, just look at it. If you had a stack of 100 resumes in front of you to read today, would you get past the first 3 lines? Really? Because it’s optional after about 30 seconds. The first look is a scan. I’ve scanned thousands and thousands of resumes in the last decade. Whether I’m scanning them on paper or on the computer (far more likely these days), I’m often looking for very specific skills. It must be very clear.

ATS scanning: Most companies have some sort of ATS at this point in time. People are afraid of these systems are the “black hole”. Yes and no. The trick is to work with it. Take the time to upload your resume, cut and paste it too if that’s a given option, fill in all the blanks and assure contact information is correct. Use an uncomplicated, traditional format. Fancy formatting can put info in the wrong box and therefore it will not be found in a simple search/scan.

Job Board scanning: (,, hotjobs, craigslist, association websites, etc.) For a resume to be effective on job boards, it needs to include applicable keywords. Keywords are simply words that are used to search for resumes. They are typically used to describe a specific job. Think Google. It’s a similar search technology used when a recruiter searches resumes on the job boards. (for a recruiter, I might enter recruit, candidate, experienced hire)

There are definitely rules to follow. Here’s my opinion on the rules.

1) It should be done in Microsoft Word. I can see why people might think to make it a PDF, but that doesn’t work. Most ATS programs can’t search on a PDF, so that does make the system a black hole.

2) One or two pages. (I could write a whole post here). Bottom line – it is an advertisement, not a biography. When the resume is too full during the scanning phase it becomes 3 words – blah, blah, blah.

3) Follow standard formatting guidelines. Is it easy to read? Print it and hand it to someone else. If they don’t say “looks good” in 10 seconds, reformat/ refine it to become clearer. It should be easy to see whom it belongs to and the focus of the resume. The focus can be skills, results or job titles. Using standard formatting also increases the success of the ATS getting the information in the right place.

4) List accomplishments, not just assigned tasks. It’s a common error to list “responsible for increasing sales/ other” what I want to know – right now – is DID YOU?? “Increased sales by 10%” or “reduced customer issues” is MUCH more powerful.

I know people are tempted make their resume look “different” so it stands out in the crowd. Resist this temptation. Make it stand out using the contents – not the format.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Time or Money

It's been my experience that I either have time OR money at any given time. I may have neither, but I've yet to have both.

So, I'm off on vacation. I theoretically should be developing my business or looking for another full-time job, but . . . I have time. Maybe even more importantly, I used my time to earn frequent flyer miles. I accepted one of those crazy, 50,000 miles credit card deals where you had to spend $xx in two months. Trick was the credit limit was surprisingly low, so I had to spend, pay, spend, pay, spend and pay within about 45 days. But, I had the time to focus on that. Now, thank you American Express, I'm going to go see my family. I always get a little homesick around St. Patrick's Day. This year I have time.

I also once went to a spa while I "had time". (certifying my position as the crazy one in the family). I had been unemployed for about 4 months. Since I had time, I was watching Oprah one day. She mentioned she went to this amazing spa and I decided I wanted to go there. So I did, to the tune of about $3000 for 5 days. (Pocket change for Oprah, unprecedented luxury for me :D) Regrets, none. A month later I was employed, well paid and busy.

I think there are two important things here for me. One is to appreciate my time as much as my money. These days, sleeping in and not rushing my toddler out the door every morning are better then any spa treatment. This too shall pass. The second is the empowering effect of trusting myself. Booking the spa trip was a vote for myself.

What will you be glad you did? What will you be sorry you didn't do?