Getting Past the Gate-Keeper

One new method for finding a job is to pick up the phone and call the hiring managers and/or executives directly, however, very few people are successful at using this technique for a variety of reasons. Having been a Recruiter for almost 7 years, getting past gate-keepers was always one of my specialties. Being a Recruiter requires you to be able to get past gate-keepers to the hiring managers in much the same way that a job seeker would try to bypass a gate-keeper. After many years of exploring what works and what does not, I have found a few specific things that you can do the next time you are calling into a company that will assist you in getting past the gate-keeper. Below are some of my suggestions:

1) Have a Linkedin profile. Having a Linkedin profile is a great way to gather the names of the people you want to contact, and also to find out information about the person that can help you to break the ice. In addition, you can use Linkedin groups to connect with people you might otherwise have no connections with. In a later article I will explain how Linkedin will benefit you when communicating with the executive once you have him or her on the phone.

2) When you call into a particular company, it is important not to use the full name of the person you are calling or address to address that person by Mr. or Mrs. For example, if you are trying to reach Bob Jones, the CEO of ABC corporation, and you say to the receptionist “Is Mr. Jones available?” this is an immediate red flag. There are a few reasons that calling the person by Mr./Mrs. or their full name can be a red flag.
-If you call them Mr. or Mrs., this likely means you are not someone who ranks high on the list of people whose calls should be put through. Close acquaintances or business associates usually call each other by their first names. Also, if Bob had a more unique last name such as Remeinzski, and you mispronounced it, it would be rather obvious that you do not know Bob.

3) Do not launch into a story about who you are and why you are calling. Business associates, family members, and friends are short and to the point and expect to be put through rather than rattling on about why they are calling. You want to create a sense that you already know Bob. An example of how to do this would be to say something to the effect of “Is Bob around?” Nothing complicated, just short and to the point. If they ask what it is regarding you could say “I am just calling him back” or “I was just following up regarding an email…” Less is more. There is no need to make a long drawn out complicated story.

Generally these few tips will help you to get past the gate-keeper if executed properly. Stay tuned for my next article on how to talk to the executive once you have him or her on the phone, and how Linkedin can help facilitate that conversation…

The Buddy-System

    Have you been looking for a job for more than 6 months? More than a year? If you have been looking for a job for an extended period of time, and have not seen the results you are looking for, then I have a suggestion I would like you to try on. I call it “The Buddy-System.” This is a pretty straightforward job hunting method with a new spin on it. Studies have shown that 80% of job seekers find jobs through casual acquaintances. Many people have heard this statistic before, but how many job seekers have maximized its potential?

    People often look for jobs within their circle of friends or connections. The only problem with this is that those people likely know the same people that you know, and so they may not be the best resource for you in your job search. I suggest, broadening your network by finding yourself a “buddy” who is not part of your normal networking group, and who is also looking for a job. Networking events are great, but eventually your circle of connections winds up overlapping because you attend many of the same events with the same people.

    The buddy-system is based on the principle that your goal is to get your buddy a job via introductions to appropriate parties, assisting them with landing interviews, and any other methods you can think of. In turn, your buddy should do the same for you. If each person commits to doing this for their buddy, the results will be astounding. It is like having your own personal PR agent promoting you and connecting you with people 24/7.

    In order for you and your buddy to be a resource for one another, I have a few suggestions I would like to make:

    *Find a buddy outside of your normal circle of connections by using Social Media sites such as Linkedin and/or Twitter. Look for people     with common interests and goals who live in your area. Try not to connect with people you already have a direct connection with, as     your circles will likely already overlap.

    *Once you have found this buddy and proposed your new symbiotic relationship to your buddy, offer to meet with your them so that you     can get to know one another better. When you take the time to get to know your buddy better it will help you both to become a better     resource for each other.

    *Do not choose a buddy completely out of your field, otherwise they might not be able to represent you as effectively as possible if they     do not understand your business and where you are coming from. For example if you are in Engineering, you might not want to choose     someone in Human Resources for your buddy (unless they worked in HR at an engineering related company) as they may not fully     understand the scope of the work that you do.

    *Check in with your buddy daily. You want to stay fresh in each other’s minds, and communicate daily on the progress you are making.     This will help you both to stay focused on your respective job searches and will give you a sense of accountability towards one another.     You can also treat each other as confidants regarding what is happening with your job search. This can give you the sense of being     part of a team, which can help to build confidence and alleviate stress.

    *Finally, think of the buddy-system as a game. Expectations are pre-made resentments. If you EXPECT your buddy to find you a job,     and stop doing the work yourself, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you see the buddy-system as a fun and effective way to     broaden your circle of connections, and if you use it as such, it can be a powerful tool in helping you to land your next job!

         

Capturing the Moment

I would like to share a story with you from a world famous photographer who I just interviewed for my book. His name is Chase Jarvis, and his story is one you will not soon forget…

Chase grew up as an only child, and he knew from a very early age that he wanted to express his creativity in the world in some way. Like many of us, Chase stifled his creativity in exchange from promises of financial security and stability. Chase was offered a soccer scholarship to one of the best schools in the country, and thought that being a professional soccer player would offer him what was missing from his life. He was an extremely talented soccer player, and continued to play through some of his college years, however, he quickly began to realize that being a professional athlete was not his dream. 
He instead thought he wanted riches and a career that he could count on. He began to pursue his medical degree, studying the sciences and focusing his energy on becoming a doctor. Yet, something was still missing. Being a doctor did not make sense either. He finally decided on majoring in Philosophy and when he graduated from college he began pursuing a PhD in the subject. All the while, his parents supported him in whatever choices he made. They continued to support their son despite his various endeavors in a variety of fields. Shortly after he began pursuing his PhD, he had an epiphany. After a 5 month trip backpacking through Europe, and much introspection and self evaluation, he realized that he was meant to be an artist, specifically a photographer. Chase knew it would be a long and arduous journey ahead if he decided to forgo his prior education and pursue an entirely new field, but this did not stop him. He pushed ahead into unknown territories.
He committed himself entirely to becoming successful in his chosen field of photography. He worked tirelessly, learning everything he needed to know about photography by experience rather than education. He pushed himself to new limits, sometimes working upwards of 80-100 hours a week when necessary.  He knew he was destined to be a great photographer and would stop it nothing to achieve his dream. From the very beginning he was confronted with his own demons, as well as the peer pressure from society and his friends to do something more traditional. He knew full well that being an independent artist he would have to work exceptionally hard to make the same kind of money that he could have made had he become a doctor.
Despite the lack of any formal education in his chosen field, and the thousands of “No’s” he initially received, he persevered. He pushed himself to new limits, and never stopped believing that he could achieve his dream. Only a few years into his career he became wildly successful. The same people who had once told him “No” were now lining up to hire him as a professional photographer. Chase never let himself get sidetracked by fear or doubt, and he attributes much of his success to his positive mental  attitude. He explained that being a “Creative” you are confronted with a lot more negativity compared with many other professions. 
He saw the down economy as a perfect chance to grow his business because he knew in his core that what he was doing was right. In September of 2009 he launched an IPhone app”Best Camera” that has now been rated one of the top 20 apps (there are close to 130k IPhone apps) by magazines such as NY Magazine and Wired. From the beginning he was a pioneer in his field who was never afraid to be transparent and to push the boundaries of what was acceptable in the world of photography. He was one of the first photographers to ever take his audience behind the scenes on a photo shoot, and he now has the largest following of any independent photographer in the world (He has approximately 2,000,000 followers on his blog which can be found at: http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/).
When asked what piece of advice he would give to someone who aspired to the level of success that he has achieved he shared: “Follow your passion. Do not think for a second that your passion cannot get you 6 figures or even 7 figures. If you are passionate about crocheting, then crochet. Start a crochet blog. It has never been easier to make a career out of something you are passionate about.”

I think Chase’s story is something we can all learn from. Many of us sell out for money or comfortability, but at the end of the day, you have to love what you do otherwise you will live your life wondering what could have been if you had followed your dreams.

Taking it One Day at a Time

It is easy to get distracted from your job search by everyday things. Your family, your friends, and a variety of other commitments are just waiting to pull you away from your job search. When you are looking for a job it is important to stay focused and to not lose sight of what you are committed to, ie. finding a job. The longer you have been looking for a job, the more challenges and distractions you may find you are faced with. Below I have offered a few tips for staying motivated and focused in your job search.
-The most important thing that you can do to stay focused in your job search is to set yourself up with a schedule, just like you would have if you were in the office, and stick to it! Granted, there will be times where you will need to adjust the schedule, but overall, having a set schedule will help you have some sense of normalcy.
-Wake up every morning and give yourself at least 5 minutes to focus on what you want to accomplish that day before you do anything else. If you spend each morning thinking about what you want to accomplish it will help you to focus your day on what needs to get done and will help you to plan more effectively.
-Check your email first thing in the morning. It is important not to miss out on any important job interviews that may have come up. It is also important to check your email first thing in the morning because many websites such as www.indeed.com and www.jobshouts.com offer features that will send you an updated email with any new positions that have come up in the last 24 hours (this email is typically sent out first thing in the morning). It is important to jump on these opportunities when they are fresh so that you are at the top of the pile of those who are being considered.
-Apply to jobs in the morning. Do not put off sending in your resume until the end of the day. Remember, the early bird gets the worm and you do not want to miss out on your dream job because you put off applying to a particular position until it was too late! Recruiters and hiring managers are often inundated with resumes, and may find what they are looking for in the first 100 resumes that are submitted. Resumes that are sent later in the day can often be lost in the shuffle.
-Only spend an hour a day using Social Media and use that hour of time intentionally. Once you have found the jobs you are interested in and have sent your resume out to those jobs, it is now time to use Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to help facilitate your job search. Use this time wisely! Tweet about relevant articles in your industry, use Linkedin to start discussions related to your field, and finally, connect with Facebook friends to see who they might know that could be a resource for you. Try to avoid going onto these websites more then once a day. Social Media can be a wonderful tool to use in your job search, but it can also be a distraction if not used properly. To find out more about effectively using Social Media in your job search please go to: http://jhccs.com/Social_Media_Training.html
-Save the networking for evenings or later in the day. Networking can be a lot of fun and a great resource for finding a new job, but it can also take a lot of work and can require a lot of energy. It is better to get your other work done first before you sap all of your energy by attending a networking event.
If you follow these steps and create a schedule that works for you, you will quickly find yourself with more free time and more of the results you want: Interviews!

5 Things to Avoid on your Resume

1) Generic statements. Using a generic statement, such as “customer oriented,” without backing that statement up with a result can hurt your resume. Anyone can say they are “customer oriented,” but unless they can back that statement up with evidence to support it, those are just words. Instead of using a generic statement such as “customer oriented”, use a specific example that illustrates how customer oriented you are, ie. “Achieved 100% customer satisfaction over 6 month period by listening to and understanding customer’s needs…”

2) Objectives. Objectives are rarely used anymore, and are becoming obsolete in many resume situations. Instead of using an objective, try replacing your objective with a “Summary of Qualifications” or “Achievements” section. If a resume is done well, it should already be clear to the employer what your objective is without having to state your objective outright.

3) Extraneous white space. One of the most common errors I see on a resume is the inefficient use of page space. Think of the page space on your resume as valuable real estate. Every space on your resume should be used to make a case for why an employer should hire you, and should not be wasted. Be especially careful of having too wide of margins. Having wide margins can  leave that valuable space unused!

4) Lengthy paragraphs. Employers do not take the time to read your resume, rather they skim. The same is true of lengthy paragraphs. In order to avoid an employer missing something important on your resume, use bullet points to highlight significant information, and to break apart your resume more clearly.

5) Choppy alignment. EVERYTHING on your resume should be properly aligned, especially your dates and employers. I often come across resumes where nothing is aligned or some of the resume is aligned and then the rest is all over the place. This does not work! You need to make your resume visually appealing and easy to read. Setting proper alignment can help do this. When you do not properly align your dates and/or other important information on your resume, it can cause your resume to look sloppy. Take the time to set the necessary tabs to make everything line up appropriately and come across more clearly.



Is Ageism an Issue?

Before I get started on this blog, I would first like to thank William Flower, as well as my other connections on Linkedin who offered me several great blogging ideas today. On occasion, not that often, I do run out of ideas on what to blog on. Today was one of those days. That is why it is so valuable to have a network of connections to offer support when needed. I am very grateful for the many ideas that were sent to me today on topics people would like to see blogs on, one such idea was offered by William Flower: Ageism. William wrote:

Here’s an idea.. as you notice, a lot of our unemployed people in PSM (Pink Slip Mixer) meets are middle-aged. Let’s talk about age discrimination. Although illegal, it’s common yet quite unprovable. What strategies can we adopt in our job search?

Thanks again for opening up a discussion on such an important topic William.

Even though it is illegal, you are right, ageism does exist. There are a number of companies that will and do discriminate against people because of their age, however, ageism is not quite as prevalent as you might think. After having been a recruiter for over 6 years, I can say that ageism does occur on occasion, but there are ways to mitigate its effects.

The first thing to note about ageism is that if a company is going to discriminate against you, they will.

Strategy #1: Do not worry about posting a picture on Social Networking sites (as long as it is a professional picture that is). 
-I have had a lot of job seekers ask me if they should post their picture on websites such as Linkedin, and my answer is always YES. A company is just as likely to discriminate against you based on a picture (even though it is illegal) as they will in person. Personally, I would not want to work for any company that would discriminate against me to begin with, so I would rather have them not call me in for an interview in the first place and waste my time. That is up to you. If you are concerned that your picture will knock you out of the running because you are “too old” that is at your discretion.

Strategy #2: Only go back 10 years on your resume, and do not bother listing your graduation dates. 
    -You only need to go back 10 years on your resume. This is completely unrelated to protecting your age, Only going back 10 years  is just proper protocol agreed upon by most resume writers, recruiters and career coaches.

Something to note: If you worked at a particular company for 30 years, I would suggest listing all 30 years of your experience with that company. Some people may disagree with me on this, but my thoughts are that having strong stability on your resume is still a good thing. I have had others suggest that it can hurt you to list 1980-2010, but I have found that good companies will still appreciate someone who is loyal and shows strong stability.There are certain companies that might discriminate based on this fact, but again, I would recommend avoiding these companies in the first place.

    -It is unnecessary for you to list when you graduated college, and thus you should not feel obligated to add your graduation dates unless you choose to. Putting a graduation date on a resume is a little more tricky then listing 30 years of experience or putting a picture up. If you put that you graduated in 1972, most people will automatically assume that means you are approximately 60 years old give or take a few years based on the average age people graduate college. The same calculation might not necessarily be made based on a simple picture or work history. My recommendation is not to list graduation dates as they are not as relevant to your overall resume.

Strategy #3: If you get to the interview stage, DON’T MAKE YOUR AGE AN ISSUE!
-If age IS NOT already an issue for the company you are interviewing with, DO NOT make it one! I once had a job seeker I was working with who was about to turn 60 years old. I had never once considered her age, and sent her out to my clients the way I would any other candidate because she was just as qualified as anyone else. Unfortunately, she did not feel the same way. After her initial interview with a particular company I sent her out to, I received a call back from a Recruiting Manager who said they were passing on her. The Recruiting Manager went on to explain that the job seeker had expressed concern several times during the interview about how old she was and whether the executives would like her. This Recruiting Manager thought she was well qualified for the position, however, after hearing the candidate’s insecurities about her age, the Recruiting Manager was reticent to pass her resume along in the interview process. After getting this feedback I called the job seeker to softly coach her on the subject, and then next interview she went in for, she got the job!

Just remember, ageism is out there, but there are only a small percentage of companies that will discriminate based on your age. If you do not make your age an issue, most companies will not either! Look at your age as an asset, and so will the next company you interview with.