[Dietmar Tietz]  

Dietmar Tietz

The Career Transformation Guide for Professionals and Executives

Career transition advice in a nutshell: key strategies and initiatives to find a better job faster and to have more success in the next job. With pointers to helpful online resources and books for further study. You are encouraged to bookmark this page and check back for updates. This copyrighted content may be distributed with the citation of author and URL source. Webmasters may post a link to this webpage.

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Career transition strategy

The onset of a career transformation is painful and emotionally challenging. You are agonizing about why this has to happen to you and what you might have done wrong or could have done better. The answer could be simple: You completed your tasks. Quite likely you have done it well. However, your services were no longer needed and it made financial sense to let you go. Career transition is not a unique situation as many stay in a company job for only 2 - 3 years.

Not to burn bridges is important, as future employers will call the last employer for a reference. Do not sign legal departure documents when you are distressed and haven't consulted with someone knowledgeable. If severance is an option, check the Web for severance negotiation advice and try to include outplacement services. Get the best career coaching available for the longest period financially possible. Job-hunting has become increasingly challenging, as is highlighted in Paul Krugman's column in The New York Times and Letters to the Editor On Feeling the Distress of the Unemployed.

While it is critical to settle your situation and get adjusted, it works best to quickly turn frustration into positive energy so that you will accomplish the next transition steps. Follow the advice of the late iconic South African leader, Nelson Mandela: Even though he spent 27 years in prison, he made peace with the situation and did not hold any grudges. Instead, he used lessons learned to move on in his life to become South Africa's legendary president who used his power to make a positive difference in so many lives.

Some advice to consider for your job search:

  1. It may be tempting to start out with a relaxing vacation. Instead, I'd recommend beginning with a vigorous job-hunting campaign on Day One, even if a severance package gives you a feeling of security. Why? Because of The Jobless Trap: More people are inclined to help you at the time you lose your job than months later into your job search. Particularly, your friends at the ending job. The lack of support you could encounter at a later stage in your search is also highlighted in Paul Krugman's article Writing Off the Unemployed. Hitting the ground prepared and running and exhibiting a sense of urgency can help you land the next job faster. You may reward yourself with a brief getaway once the search campaign is in full swing and activities can be remotely monitored. As described later, you may also want to consider consulting so that your search is not impeded by the 'unemployed' label.

  2. Successful job hunting requires a focused full-time effort and systematic approach. You will realize the need to generate lots of of networking activities in addition to sending high-quality applications, kind of being on a roll, before anything good can happen. You want to be able to choose the right job, not just take the only one available. Today's job hunt requires passion to get a leg up "in extremely tough competitions unlike those in the past," says career coach Alex Freund. Goal setting is crucial: Prepare a daily activity plan and stay well organized. Track efforts in an MS Word table, an Excel spreadsheet, or a database program.

  3. Is consulting or creating your own business a viable option? Read below the chapter on Consulting and becoming your own boss. If an option, don't waste time and start investigating right away. Consulting allows you to stay in touch with your profession, which makes you more attractive for hiring. Consulting can also be part of an alternative plan B that you can pursue during downtime.

  4. Many successful people have benefitted from mentoring.

  5. Read Alex Freund's blog about How to deal with your stress while in transition. Rev. William J. Byron's book Finding Work Without Losing Heart can be downloaded free of charge.

  6. Check with your local government agency if you are eligible for unemployment benefits or other assistance for your job search (training, etc.). If you have been job hunting for some time, read Alison Doyle's article Where To Get Help When Your Unemployment Checks Run Out.

  7. Job hunting expenses could be tax deductible. Check with a tax professional.

  8. Rules are not set in stone. I am presenting guidelines that have the maximum likelihood for creating a positive transition experience. As you may know, there are always a few people who do things differently and have impressive achievements to show for it. Sometimes you could have more success by not following all the rules, as described further below.

To get into a positive and productive mind frame and to receive stimulating suggestions, you may want to listen to the Your Career Is Calling archived radio broadcasts with anchors Frank Kovacs and Wanda Ellett; programs that are underwritten in part by the Office of Career Services at Rider University.

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Action plan -- How do people find a job?

This is how people transition into a new job:

* Traditional networking is most effective with long-time professional friends and their friends. In 2007 an executive recruiter informed me about a previous survey conducted by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC). That study's conclusion was that 89% of professionals looking for new work, could trace back their new position with a contact out of their own personal Rolodex. These days, professional networking involves more and more the use of tweets and blogs and social online media such as LinkedIn.

Action items

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Résumés that lead to interviews

In addition to bios and profiles posted online, the résumé is one of the tools to get an interview, but it is only the job interview that will get you a job!

It's a good idea to start your career development with preparing an effective professional résumé, as it gives you a chance to inventory your experience and skills.

There are many ways to write an effective résumé. However, all effective presentations follow these recommendations: Good résumés are well organized, informative, concise, and easy to read. They inform the reader why you are qualified and the right candidate for the job to be filled. The presentation of the career path makes sense and unnecessary information is not included. Résumés for job applications are written in the impersonal format.

An effective résumé is not so much about you, but about how your experience can help solve an employer's problems, as they are highlighted in a job description's responsibilities and requirements. A résumé should be forward-looking and written more like a proposal for hiring your services. The presentation has to be focused on your achievements and the steps you took to achieve success.

For establishing a profile on LinkedIn you may use the first person and the word "I" to make it more appealing for the reader.

The résumé format depends on the position you want to apply for, your professional experience, and your education. What format works best for you? A good approach is to obtain a recent résumé from someone who has similar experience and successfully applied for a position you are looking for. Please keep in mind that a résumé style that worked years ago may not be effective in today's job market. If applying for a job outside the USA, you may have to use an entirely different résumé format.

Most résumés are now submitted electronically and should be prepared to be compatible with electronic evaluation (see below).

Should you generate a hardcopy, use high quality paper (white is preferred) and a good laser printer (black ink). Avoid spelling mistakes. Structure your résumé and leave sufficient white space for easy scanning. Test your résumé with friends and see whether they can get the message really fast. Personnel administrators will not spend more than 10 to 15 seconds to check your résumé. This first impression they get from scanning your career summary, the ensuing position headlines, and the education & certifications paragraph will determine whether they read on and study details.


General résumé structure with focus on applications in the USA

Résumé header:
Print your name, address, phone number, and professional email address (e.g., andreas.j.smith@gmail.com; not something casual like cutie@sunnyday.com or andy4711@gmail.com). Google gmail accounts are free, and gmail messages do not contain advertisements. If you have an academic title and/or certification credentials, you may append this information to your name (e.g., Andreas J. Smith, M.S., PMP), should you apply for a job that specifies such educational requirements.

Career objective and summary:
Objectives describing what you would like to do, are not used anymore, as employers strongly prefer to learn about what you can do for them. You should use a simple headline that describes your target job, such as "Program or Project Manager" or "Sales Director or Manager" or "Senior Management Executive" or "Software Developer." When applying for a job, this headline is the title of the job you are applying for. You could have a sub-headline with your branding statement. Next follows a paragraph with a concise summary, preferably in a format with bullets. You should describe career highlights with major focus on relevant recent achievements. The summary should strongly suggest that you can make a significant contribution for the new employer. Ensuing this summary is a short section with the headline Core Competencies. It contains keywords most frequently used in descriptions of jobs you are looking for. Keywords are best organized in three columns, each having 3 - 4 rows.

The résumé header and career summary should not fill more than 1/2 to 2/3 of the first page. This section has to be stand alone and describes the essentials of your relevant experience and education in reference to your target job. This process is called frontloading the résumé. Keep in mind that most recruiters will not read further unless you made your point in the résumé's top portion.

Résumé body:
This section should start with the header "Work Experience" or "Professional Experience," as résumé evaluation software parses text for these key words. In most cases it is appropriate to use a reverse chronological presentation of your jobs. The functional approach, which is far less preferred by recruiters, may be the best choice for those with a less than perfect work history. In the chronological layout, each job, starting with the most recent one, should be listed indicating years, job function, company/organization name, location, followed by a very short introduction to the performed job and a more detailed list of your achievements. Don't present your accomplishments in abstract terms, rather show facts and numbers. Use PSR statements: problem-solution-result. Financial and Operational Executive Marty Latman said it should actually be PARSV, problem-action-result-solution-value. Alex Freund suggests SARB, situation-action-result-benefit. Other approaches use STARs, situation-task-action-results, or CAR, challenge-action-result. No matter what acronym is used, it is about stating a requirement for action, what action was taken, what the outcome was, and what improvements were achieved. Use an optimistic, truthful presentation rather than understatement. Don't exaggerate, though, and stay away from a self-flattering evaluation of your personality. Let your accomplishments do the talking! And let a third person state your success, e.g., say: according to the CFO's statistics, operational efficiency was improved by 50%.

Certain job situations may require different résumé styles. E.g., a résumé with a Skills list followed by a reverse chronological Employment History (dates, position title, company name and address) can be the format of choice, if you applied exactly the same technical skills in all your job assignments, as it may happen, e.g., in the dental industry. Résumés for computer jobs may benefit from a reverse chronological job presentation with an added section describing technical and non-technical skills. In the computer field, people are used to think in terms of short, abstract code. Your résumé presentation should take this into account and follow a very concise style with short statements. It is best to add a Skills section and to present your skills as a long list of acronyms related to computer programs, languages and techniques that you applied in your jobs.

Different formats may also be required, if you apply for government or academic jobs (see below).

What if your career path does not make sense and seems to have gone downhill? If there are too many jobs and longer gaps between jobs? In this situation, a highly experienced résumé writer can often help to arrive at a truthful and convincing résumé presentation. For example: You transitioned from a Director to a Manager position. At first sight, it looks as if you peaked years ago. However, the transition actually represented a career advance. You were Director of a small group at a small company in a declining industry. The ensuing Manager position was at a large, thriving company and included managing a large team. Even if there wasn't a career advance, a transition may appear plausible if a branch location was closed or a program was discontinued. Gaps could, e.g., be caused by taking maternity leave or taking a sabbatical to further your education.

Education:
List your education after the jobs at the end. Mention all your degrees and certifications.

Photo & video:
Elsewhere, e.g., in some European countries, it is not uncommon that applicants attach a portrait-style passport photo. In the USA, it is almost always not appropriate to show a photo of yourself, unless you apply for a gig in a modeling profession. To mention an exception: In the book "What color is your parachute?" Dick Bolles described that an antique car salesman got a U.S. job with a résumé that showed atop a postcard-sized photo of the applicant next to an antique car.

I saw a recommendation that applicants with great presentation skills could download to YouTube a short video of a professional lecture or their tell-me-about-yourself story. A reference to this video could then be included in the application process. TV personalities will definitely have to submit a professional reel when applying for a broadcast job. See below hints in the paragraph about video interviews.

Age:
Opinions vary about including information that could reveal your age. In the U.S., employers are prohibited by law to ask for your age. Should you volunteer age-revealing information, it might be used to screen you out. In some other countries, e.g., in Europe, it may be required to list a date of birth.

Professional affiliations:
List all professional memberships that are pertinent to your job search.

Social security number and references:
Do not submit a social security number (SSN) with your application. A SSN should never be submitted by unencrypted email or a non-secure Internet connection. You may be asked for a SSN and for references when interviewing on-site and filling out an employment application. Often, the SSN information does not have to be filled in. Typically, references are checked just before the final stage of the hiring process. At that time, they may also need your SSN to obtain a credit report and to e-verify your employment eligibility. When applying for federal government jobs on USAJOBS.gov, references have to be submitted with the resume and a SSN has to be provided during the subsequent online application process with secure Internet connection.

Be prepared for electronic résumé evaluation:
You may want to read books or online information about how machine-guided résumé evaluation works and how to prepare your résumé for electronic processing.

What is this automated evaluation all about?

It can be compared to using a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo to find information on the Web. In most cases, the wanted information appears right on the first results page. All the highly-ranked webpages contain the search terms in multiple text locations. Web professionals have tuned those pages to be search engine friendly and have marketed the pages so that many other external websites link to these pages. There are many more tricks to improve webpage ranking. It is noteworthy that there were possibly other great webpages that you would have liked to see, but they were not included in the search results or they appeared on one of the last unseen results pages. Low-ranked webpages did not meet the standards of the search engine's algorithm. Computers are excellent in performing repetitive tasks very fast and following strict rules, but they operate in a dumb fashion and without any creativity or intuition.

Similar to our daily use of search engines to find something on the Web, many recruiters now use specifically-designed search software, which is part of the applicant tracking system (ATS), to evaluate the hundreds or thousands of incoming job applications. As output they receive a list of highly ranked résumés. Only the top-ranked ones will likely be reviewed by a human. Computer-generated candidate choices are often reasonable, and the commonplace use of ATS programs at companies is not surprising, as recruiters may have no other option to cope with so many applications. If a résumé is not optimized for electronic evaluation, human resources (HR) personnel may never see it, even though it was submitted by the best-qualified candidate. Don't let this be you!
In summary, it is very important that the submitted résumé structure is harmonized with the needs of computerized evaluation. E.g., do not use fancy formatting. Be sure to include all the important buzzwords and key phrases that you find in descriptions for the job you are looking for. It is not sufficient to just mention your experience and skills only in the summary, such information has to be repeated in as many job descriptions as possible. The title of the job you are applying for has to be listed as the résumé's title and all the descriptions of recent jobs. E.g., if you apply for a Program Manager position and a recent job title was Director, you could mention that you had program manager functions (if true).

Word or Text files are often the preferred formats. PDF files are good for preserving the document format on different platforms; however, when text is extracted from PDF, blank spaces between words are not always maintained, rendering electronic document evaluation inaccurate. Companies use professionals to help improve webpage ranking. Similarly, your résumé could score higher with assistance from experts.
To give you an example for how résumé evaluation software may process and qualify your online-submitted application:
  1. All formatting including line breaks may be stripped from your submitted Word file. Information in tables may become garbled. Information from Word file headers and footers as well as other fancy formatting features could get inserted somewhere in the text and could cause the automated evaluation procedure to crash, which will terminate your candidacy.
  2. To see what might happen to your submitted résumé during evaluation, save your Word file as "text only" and then open the saved text file. Next, replace all "^p" (line breaks) with a blank space (without the quotes). If your résumé can be successfully converted, you will see a continuous flow of text. It is important that the text flow for each of your job descriptions remains intact and that "Work Experience" appears before your job descriptions, "Profile" or "Summary" before the summary, etc. I think you get the idea that you should help the computer with orientation. For us humans this continuously flowing text is extremely difficult to read, however, the computer does not care about human preferences.
  3. Let's take a look at how the job description may influence the computer's evaluation strategy. E.g., the job description calls for "10 years of project management experience with scientific background." Your keyword score may be highest if exactly this sentence can be detected. Your score may be lower if they find only "project management" and "scientific" in different text locations. Sophisticated evaluation software analyzes contextualization, i.e., in what context keywords are mentioned, as is further explained in Fourteen Tips for Avoiding the Online Application Black Hole by Frances Chaves.
  4. The ATS may then check how many years of project management experience you actually have. If project management is only in the summary, you might get one year of credit only. If project management is also mentioned for job A (2010 - 2013) and job B (2008 - 2010), you may get additional credit for a total of 6 years. Still you will fall short of the 10-year requirement, even though a human examiner could easily detect several more years of experience that is hidden in another job.
  5. If the software cannot detect the duration of a job, there could only be a 1-year experience credit for each job.
  6. If project management is only mentioned in job E (1985 - 1997), such experience could be treated as outdated, if there has not been additional recent experience.
  7. The ATS may scan for prestigious university names as well as names of certain companies that are considered valued competitors. Researching a company's website, networking, and a Web search may give you such clues as well as other intelligence. A LinkedIn search may give you information about where current company employees have worked and studied before they joined your target company. If you had any job involvement with preferred companies, you should include this information for relevant jobs in your résumé. E.g., you could say that clients were X, Y, and Z companies (if true). Or you could do some volunteer work for a famous university or contribute to their newsletters, activities that could then be mentioned in your résumé. As an example for job hunting intelligence you could find, please see the Dice blog about How to Land a Job at CSC.
  8. The computer program may parse content for keywords that are not in the job description based on the assumption that someone with the right experience would have these words in the résumé. E.g., they could search for words of the company's mission statement or press releases. The ATS often scans for nouns and not action verbs; e.g., it may detect director, manager, and designer -- not directed, managed, and designed. "Director of the R&D Department" may result in a credit for a department director-level position in R&D, whereas "directed R&D" may only result in a score for R&D.
  9. Refrain from just aggregating keywords. You may get penalized for a dense keyword listing without the right context. An exception occurs when software programmers use an acronym-style list for the software and programming languages they have used. I know a very senior software architect who repeats such listings for every assignment he had. Submitting a 15-page résumé, he has been very successful in securing highly paid contracts. Computers may enforce file size limits (often 300 KB), not page limits.
  10. Time gaps between positions can derail your consideration. Listing only the years of employment can be advantageous. Larger gaps need to be explained. E.g., you could say that you took a sabbatical to complete your MBA degree (if true) and list the years for start and end.
  11. The names of top-ranked candidates are then googled by recruiters. You should also google your name. No online presence or the wrong kind of online presence could eliminate you. You can always create Web presence by creating a good LinkedIn profile with a number of connections and obtaining at least 3 endorsements for your quality of work. If your submitted résumé and your LinkedIn profile are not in agreement, this could also be problematic. To avoid this, it is recommended to not publish a detailed résumé on LinkedIn. Instead, post a high-level so-called "teaser" résumé that is harmonized with all résumé types you plan to submit for job announcements.
Résumés sent as email attachments could get lost or cannot be handled. You may want to send an additional ASCII Text version in the body of your email (not attached). A good cover letter can be important; however, it could be discarded in the evaluation process. Therefore, the résumé should be a stand-alone document.

When applying online, you sometimes get an opportunity to see the information that was extracted from your résumé. Review this very carefully and make corrections. Many errors indicate problems with evaluating your résumé. In fact, you could use those sites to test résumé adjustments and make your application more computer friendly, as the online application process may not always give you a 2nd chance.


One résumé fits all?

The advice used to be to craft a résumé for every job category. However, creating multiple résumé personalities is counterproductive in today's job market. Nowadays, recruiters are highly networked and will see your different résumés, which may diminish your credibility and could lead to your elimination. It is highly recommended that you create one very long master résumé with ALL your experience and skills. This résumé is then tailored for a particular job by eliminating non-relevant statements, cutting the résumé down to two pages. The résumé's top summary section and the job titles always stay the same.
What if you were wearing several different hats in your last job and you are well qualified for jobs in different categories? State for your last job the official job title. If you can present evidence for it, you could state in the next line something like "As a result of downsizing, performed job functions of a project manager, project analyst, and quality manager." This would allow you to apply for all three position types, using the above-described approach of tailoring a master résumé.

What if you got laid off from a company in a dead-end industry? I saw a résumé for this particular job situation. It used the most-accepted reverse chronological format but did not mention a word about the industry or this small company's products. Instead, it listed impressive achievements and transferable skills in the field of product marketing. They said that the person was hired for a better marketing position at a thriving company. Nobody ever asked her about what she had marketed in her previous job. If asked, she could have truthfully used a very generic description of products and services.


Is shorter better than long?

It depends on the occasion, your experience, and what you are looking for. A 1-page résumé may be sufficient after you have finished school. As your job experience grows, it may require 2 pages and later even 3, where the 3rd page will contain an Addendum with additional experience. Even longer résumés are required for federal job applications, as a very detailed listing of experience may give you a higher ranking. For visual résumé inspections a concise résumé works best. Read also this article about brevity in a résumé: Nine Keys to Unlocking an Outstanding Résumé -- ASQ.

In summary, I would recommend to have a


Shoot them with the facts?

A bulleted résumé presentation is quite popular and should be used in short résumés. For long résumés, you may consider using a combination of bullets and very concise narrative text. Don't present a series of short bullets, giving the impression of cheap advertising. Always add some explanation (see PARSV above). Too much job diversity in a résumé can work against you. If you have a diverse job experience, concise narrative text will allow you to better explain career transitions or activities in a number of different fields, as the reader may look for a red thread that links the jobs you have had. A presentation of diverse experience in bullets can easily create the impression of a career jumble. However, bullets are effective for presenting a series of similar accomplishments.


CVs and other résumé formats...

Are required for certain university and government positions. Do not use the standard 2-page résumé that is used to apply for company positions.

For academic university positions, a curriculum vitae (CV) is much longer than 4 pages and structured differently. E.g., a CV starts with your education. In addition to jobs held, it mentions awards, grants, fellowships, honors, memberships, and lists of (i) oral and poster presentations at meetings, (ii) patents, and (iii) publications (peer-reviewed papers, conference proceedings, abstracts, etc.). Sometimes letters of recommendation have to be included. Requirements vary. Contact the university to find out. They may provide you with several pages of instruction materials.

Résumés or CVs for government positions are usually 3 - 5+ pages long. The submission process has been simplified in recent years but submitting an application still requires a considerable commitment of time and careful preparation. It is a good idea to get a sample application from someone who successfully applied for a similar position. If you don't follow application instructions exactly, you may not be considered. U.S. citizenship is almost always required. Some positions are only open to government employees (merit promotions).

About 15 federal agencies do not list their jobs on USAJobs. However, for most government positions you can now apply online at USAJobs.gov. There is the option to attach a résumé or CV file or build one online. The government website encourages using the provided Résumébuilder so that all required information is furnished in the correct order and format. Some position announcements may only permit the Résumébuilder option. At the time you submit the application online, you will be asked to answer additional questions, which can be previewed. When answering the questions and self-rating yourself, it is recommended that you compare yourself to a person with average experience. If you cannot honestly give yourself a high rating for every question, the advice is to not apply for the position, as only applications with the highest self-assessment scores will be evaluated. Make sure that the résumé address all job requirements so that your application is classified as best-qualified. A higher ranking may be given to applicants with veteran status and/or a military spouse. There may be a preference for current and eligible former federal government employees. As always, provided information will be verified and must be true. I strongly recommend hiring a certified federal résumé writer or attending a federal résumé writing class, e.g., see Federal Job Results. Federal résumés are very long and detailed (5+ pages) and their structure and content are very different from the standard 2-page résumé. While a standard résumé focuses on achievements, the federal résumé is skill/task-oriented and it is necessary to describe the steps you took to achieve success in addition to mentioning accomplishments.

Submissions for government positions are still evaluated by humans. Nevertheless, the application is still scanned for keywords mentioned in job requirements (e.g., KSAs), duties, and in the assessment questions. A link for preview of the questions is always provided on USAJobs.gov. Also, a small job gap of less than 1 year is not a concern on a government résumé, as the focus is on listing relevant jobs. Be sure to read these articles: How to Escape the USAJOBS Resume "Black Hole", Stop Using Your Private Industry Resume to Apply for Government Jobs on USAJobs.gov, and Federal Resume Format: Outline Format.

The evaluation of applications will begin after the closing date. USAJobs.gov allows for tracking the application status. In most cases, you will see contact information in the job announcement. This contact cannot be used to submit an application. But such information can be used to receive answers for your questions and to follow up after the closure date, if you cannot obtain status information online.

If you studied in a foreign country, some U.S. jobs may require that your foreign academic degrees be evaluated for equivalency by an independent organization. Such required evaluation MUST be submitted at the time of application. The U.S. Department of Education and USNEI do not endorse any particular service, but recommend two associations for locating an international credential evaluation service:


Can professional résumé writers help you?

I used to say that your résumé has to reflect your personality and that you should write it yourself. Unfortunately, personality in a résumé does not matter so much any more, as résumés are mostly evaluated by computers and an applicant tracking system (ATS). Therefore, I strongly recommend these days that you use a résumé writer to give you a better chance to get a job interview. Such writing services are offered on job sites. Also freelance résumé writers are available. I suggest that you ask for a referral from your job-hunting network. Preferably, you should select a writer who has a proven track record of providing documents that secure interviews. According to career coach Alex Freund, only an excellent résumé will help you in today's job market; very good is not cutting it. Ask the writer to give you a nicely formatted Word file for printing as well as a version that is optimized for online submission and ATS evaluation. You should also ask for a 1-page résumé for networking at career events.

Whenever possible, a cover letter should be included with the résumé as part of the job application (read about the T cover letter). Résumé writers can help you with a generic cover letter. It has to be customized for each position; in fact, experts suggest to not use a stale canned version and to write the letter almost from scratch so that you can genuinely express why you are extremely interested in the position and what special experience and skills (only) you can bring to the job (see about branding). Network to possibly obtain names of the hiring manager or relevant HR person so that you don't have to use an impersonal "Dear Recruiter:" salutation, which could reduce your odds of consideration. Read about How to find and contact a hiring manager. When applying on USAJobs.gov, it is appropriate to use a "To whom it may concern:" salutation in the cover letter.


Quantity or Quality?

Quality AND quantity. BOTH matter a lot. Even though it is important to launch numerous applications, such efforts should never sacrifice high quality for the sake of quantity. Frank Kovacs talked on his radio show Your Career Is Calling about an experiment that tested the effectiveness of application mass mailing: A cookie-cutter-style résumé, well-designed to match a wide range of situations, was sent to 3,000 employers with the result of little useful feedback. By contrast, I heard from someone with excellent writing and editing skills that he had received up to 15% positive feedback when he spent a day or two for preparing each application and selecting jobs that were a good fit.

When starting a vigorous application campaign, you should consider advice from the article Blacklisting in Contemporary Job Search by Todd Folstad. Based on information I received from a recruiter, the ATS does not automatically blacklist anyone. However, recruiters may decide to exclude candidates from future consideration, if they act unprofessionally. According to this recruiter source, it is OK for the multi-talented candidate to apply for different positions at the same company, if your qualifications are a very good job match. You should customize each submitted résumé, but not to a degree that entirely different résumés are submitted. E.g., you should never ever adjust job titles and otherwise alter the facts only to achieve a good match. Or submit a résumé that clashes with your LinkedIn or other online profiles. Or submit so many résumés that you appear desperate.


Résumé submission: Being proactive and retroactive

Use your network or social media like LinkedIn to try networking into a company. E.g., you may use LinkedIn InMail to reach out or you could ask one of your 1st-degree connections to forward your request and include a recommendation. It is best to network into an organization before submitting a job application. Some companies do not allow their employees to forward a résumé. Other companies have an employee referral program. Such referral may considerably improve an applicant's chances of consideration. Nelson Schwartz discussed employee referral programs in The New York Times: In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed.

Networking into a company after résumé submission may be less effective, particularly if an organization or company follows strict hiring processes. It is important that the candidate first passes the Human Resource's screening process and is ranked as highly qualified. Only then can an endorsement further improve an applicant's chances. As always, there are exceptions. It does happen that a hiring manager may ask Human Resources to forward a particular application (name calling), but it's rare and risky for the hiring manager to consider candidates without HR approval. More common is that the hiring manager simply asks for forwarding more résumés. If your application still does not appear in the extended applicant pool you may be out of luck.

Whenever an Internet position ad discloses the employer and online application is mandatory, make an effort to apply at the employer's website, not from within a job board, as such 3rd party submission could diminish your chances.

For networking before and after résumé submission it is critical to hit the right tone, as it is important for any kind of networking. I recommend reading The New York Times article How to Say ‘Look at Me!’ to an Online Recruiter. Author Phyllis Korkki writes: "Baldly asking someone at a company for help in landing a job is never a good idea, on LinkedIn or anywhere else. Share links and advice with people in your LinkedIn network before asking for a favor like an introduction to a hiring manager or a written recommendation that would appear on the site. If you are seeking a particular position, Ms. Doyle* said, you might say something like: 'I am interested in this job. Do you have any information that you can share with me?'" You could also say that you are interested in this kind of position at the company and ask whether your experience and background could be a good fit. By all means you need to avoid the perception that you are a networking jerk.

Whenever you are networking, it is important to consider the culture of a company or organization. While some employers prefer hiring endorsed candidates, others may follow strict guidelines and may consider endorsements as unethical favoritism.

Frank Kovacs and Wanda Ellett pointed out on the Your Career Is Calling radio broadcast that an applicant endorsement can be particularly helpful when you are in the final interviewing stages. However, such initiatives should never bypass your points of contact for a job, i.e., the submitting headhunter or an HR person. They should be asked if any endorsements of a candidate would be appropriate, and if so, whether such recommendations should be directed to the point of contact or to the hiring manager or higher-level executive.

I agree that this targeted networking advice seems complicated or even confusing. It all depends on the situation and circumstances and making sense of it. As career coach Alex Freund said: there is no logic in the job landing process.

So how do you find out about the best way of landing a job in your target companies? By way of having informational conversations with employees at those companies. Does the organization have plans to hire? If so, do they hire from within or are external candidates preferred? Do external hires have to have a work history at preferred companies? If applicable, are minority/older employees welcome? Does HR have an employee referral system in place or are employees not permitted to suggest candidates? Are hiring managers open to suggestions from trusted sources or are endorsements considered unethical? These are all good questions to ask and it's up to you to judge if your conversation partner is open to such direct questions or if its better to ask in a more indirect fashion such as: What is the typical way of landing a job in this company? Could the company benefit from hiring someone with my skills in…?

* Alison Doyle is a job search specialist for About.com

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Where can you network with professionals?

Friendly colleagues at your ending job could be your best networking resource for finding another job quickly. They have come to appreciate your work, may feel empathy for you, and may want to help. Obtain private contact information so that you can stay in touch outside the business environment. Even if you are still on the job, yet unfortunate job developments seem around the corner, start proactive networking. Also, don't forget the contractors and vendors you have been interacting with. They likely know where else your experience and skills could be needed.

The next step is to join one or more job hunting groups; a few resources are mentioned in the Appendix and in the paragraph below about membership career websites. Such support groups are good for networking with peers and exchanging job hunting intelligence (lateral networking). There you can find a shoulder to lean on in difficult times. This is also the place, I stress THE ONLY place, where you can vent frustration about the job-hunting and hiring processes.

You may ask why you should network with someone who could be looking for a similar job? Because a job lead that is not right for a competitor could be a great one for you, and vice versa. This spirit of camaraderie and helping each other is so critical to uncover hidden jobs. Join groups with a meeting organizer who provides extensive career-networking training. Otherwise, you will encounter guarded participants who will be reluctant to share information.

So-called vertical networking is required to get a more direct exposure to the hiring for hidden jobs. Few hiring managers will participate in job-hunting events but they may attend professional meetings that typically require a registration fee of $30 to $100+. Such events may be organized by professional associations or a chamber of commerce. You get the best exposure if you volunteer as an officer for an organization or you are a featured speaker at an event. Vertical networking is difficult, as you cannot ask directly for job leads. Paying-it-forward is the best approach. It is important to first create an atmosphere of trust and professional friendship and to practice the art of giving before receiving.

Let your networking at professional events benefit from hints you can get from observing how seasoned, highly-paid propagandists or anchors pitch a product. First, they never give a monologue. They engage the audience and usually have a sidekick companion who admires whatever they do. Plus they have celebrity endorsements, and in the background you can hear phones ringing off the hook. Applying this to your own performance show, you should make sure that the meeting organizer has all the right cues for your introduction. Busy phones could translate to mentioning all the meeting engagements you have. It's up to you to decide if and when name-dropping is appropriate. The sidekick companion could be your friend in the audience who asks all the right questions and mentions some of your key achievements. Once your friend presents, you could return the favor. Suggested reading: Eyeing an Industry Conference? Here’s How to Tackle It by Adam Toren.

Here are a few ice-breaker questions to get a conversation going at networking events after you briefly introduced yourself: Have you been at the last event? What brought you to this event? What do you hope to get out of this event? How do you like the presentations?

You should not forget networking opportunities that exist in churches, libraries or clubs. Always be prepared that you (i) could meet your future boss when least expected and (ii) you should never leave home without it -- business cards and/or a smartphone for contact exchange. Of course, social media like LinkedIn are good for professional networking. More and more people use Twitter.

Finally, I'd like to talk briefly about volunteering. It can be an effective way of networking and gives you an opportunity to give back to the community. An altruistic contribution can make you feel good, which helps improving your mental health during stressful career transition. Whenever you volunteer on a regular basis, it should be a typical volunteer function, for which nobody else gets paid. While job hunting, your volunteer contribution should be related to your target job and give you exposure to good job networking resources. E.g., if you are a business development manager, you could help marketing the services of a volunteer non-profit organization.

Volunteering can be instrumental for instigating a career change. Nobody may pay you for on-the-job learning, however, you could get that up-to-date experience by way of volunteering and making the necessary contacts for landing the next job. Similarly, you could also gain required experience to advance in your current job.

Volunteering can offer great opportunities to help others and help yourself. It should be a balanced give and take. When in transition, the focus should be on strategic volunteering to help you achieve your next professional goal. Read this article in The New York Times: Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead? by Susan Dominus.

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Informational networking to tap the hidden job market

Most of us have practiced networking in everyday life, e.g., when we ask for a recommendation for a good family physician, car mechanic or plumber. Similarly, we can benefit from networking during career transition, as career coach Alex Freund pointed out in the discussion Networking Is Art and Science Combined. Networking is particularly crucial if you have an unusual career path. In a LinkedIn discussion group, headhunter Lou Adler pointed out that "...recruiters aren't great for helping anyone if you're 'out of the ordinary.' In this case you need someone to recommend you to the department head or hiring manager. This is why networking, networking, networking is so important."

Something to consider is that executives and professionals who could help you the most, are currently employed in nice, secure positions. As they have not searched for a job lately, they have no idea of what a job hunter can be up against in today's economy and how impersonal and mechanical the hiring process has become. What you have not experienced yourself is hard to believe. You may not get much empathy, when raising the topic of your extended and difficult career transition. Neither will it help you, if you express the expectation that they owe you a job or must help you to find the next job because you received unfair treatment. Following are a few suggestions to get your networking started without 'alienating' friends and potential mentors, supporters, and/or sponsors.
  1. Activate your professional contacts: Your former bosses and colleagues; alumni from the time you went to school, college, and university; and acquaintances from professional societies and associations. Rather than pressing someone for job leads, it is preferable to ask your professional connections whether you could mention them as a reference. If asked you could tell them that you have decided to move on and are currently engaged in consulting or freelancing. However, you are open to selectively considering new opportunities for full-time employment. Do not ask for favors up front. Stay upbeat about your situation, as a negative attitude turns away help. Only positive energy will get you the results you want.

  2. Tell also your friends that you have decided to move on in your profession. You could be a little more open. However, also your friends may not want to feel pressed for job leads and favors and will appreciate your positive attitude and that you are taking charge of your situation, e.g., by getting into interim consulting. Every few weeks, you should keep your friends appraised of all the progress you have made in your transition, as explained below for informational networking. Why? Since you last spoke with them, they could have learned of new pointers for your transition. Make sure your friends enjoy receiving your update call or email and you share information that could be useful for them.

    Nancy Collamer writes in her article The No. 1 Way to Get Hired Today that "the people who land positions these days increasingly get them through personal referrals from friends who work for employers with job openings. A 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of New York study found that referred candidates were twice as likely to get interviews and 40 % more likely to be hired than other candidates."

    As a job seeker, you should talk about unemployment. Associating yourself with this status, won't help your career transformation to a new and better job. Why? Because of this general perception: A successful executive or professional can be out of a job, but never out of work. They use transition time to better their professional skills, take on paid temporary gigs, or engage in volunteer work related to their profession.

    People will love to recommend you to a friend for a vacant position, if they can be sure that this referral will generate favorable feedback from the hiring manager or his boss.


  3. Talk to people who have a lot of contacts.

  4. Informational interviewing for entry- and mid-career level: Avoid the term 'interview' and ask instead for an 'informational conversation.' Speak with professionals in the field you want to be and explore what career options they would recommend for you.

    Important rule #1: Keep in mind that your host may receive many requests for advice and that he or she is not obliged to help you. Be polite and NEVER EVER take more than 15 - 20 minutes of someone's time unless THEY want to talk longer. Be prepared to accept the way of communication they choose. Don't force a visit; a phone conversation or even email advice can also yield valuable information.

    Important rule #2: Don't ask them for a job, as it could be a showstopper. Anyway, they will realize that you are job hunting.

    Important rule #3: Be prepared to talk about yourself. "Would you like me to talk about myself?" is also a good way to get an interview started, should your conversation partner not talk at all. Concentrate on your achievements and future plans, do not mention failures. Avoid self-pity. Your self-presentation should be brief. At the end you may ask: "Do you want me to elaborate on certain aspects?" This phrase is also great to break a period of silence (called the 'silent treatment').

    Important rule #4: Your interview partner should do most of the talking, since YOU are the one who wants information. Ask him about his profession, what he likes or doesn't, whether he could recommend this career to a newcomer and what the prospects are.

    Important rule #5: Don't make the interview a one-sided act of Samaritan support. Try to give back. E.g., you may offer information of interest to your host. Perhaps you have an idea for solving a problem mentioned during the interview.

    Important rule #6: The purpose of your conversation is to create a friendly professional relationship, not "to extract favors, concessions, names, jobs, and career assistance," as Marc Cenedella from The Ladders pointed out in one of his Monday newsletters. This is particularly true "for people you have only met over the phone." It "is not only useless, it can be counterproductive to your aims by antagonizing your broader network." If an in-person conversation goes really well, you should ask for advice regarding the next steps you should take. Exchange business cards at the end. Be grateful if they suggest other professionals for networking. But don't press anyone for names so that you can grow your network.

    Important rule #7: Write a thank-you letter the same day. Something may come to their mind later, and in such a case they may remember you. You may also ask for permission to stay in touch. If they agree, you could email them every 2 - 3 weeks information that is likely of interest to them. On average, it takes at least six contacts to establish a lasting relationship.

    Important rule #8: Do not abuse the kindness of an interview partner by mentioning anything unfavorable about him or his organization to other contacts. A brief conversation does not justify that you mention a former host as your very good friend in later interviews.

    Important rule #9: The goal is to create your personal support network with members who...
    1. Will keep you updated with anything that could help your transition; and
    2. Have agreed that you can contact them every 2 - 3 weeks -- preferably by sending information that could be useful for them. Read Communication While in Transition (Alex Freund).
    Important to consider:

    1. It takes about 6 contacts to build a lasting relationship.

    2. If you don't know what you want to do in your next job, nobody else can help you find a job. Your network MUST know what your professional brand is.

    3. Your brand should be a catchy phrase, not a wish list.
    It could be that you spend a lot of time with informational conversations without getting a foot in the door for a real job interview. If you followed my recommendations and did not push for job leads, the likely reason could be that your professional experience and background are not mainstream and perhaps only 1 in 1000 people may be able to give helpful advice. Even if you go to a meeting with thousands of attendees, you could easily miss those few helpful contacts, unless you ask the meeting organizer to introduce you to participants you should talk to. Sometimes, as a registered attendee, you may have access to a participants list and can arrange meeting with people in your profession. -- When networking, be positive, personable, and dynamic, not pushy. Networking is all about relationship building and giving before receiving (according to master networker Marty Latman). If you are not a natural extravert, google "networking for introverts" and read about developing networking skills. One thing to remember: No matter how many networking initiatives were declined, it takes only ONE successful effort to get you on track to the job you want. As Dick Bolles explained in his book: You may have had a very long series of NOs, but the final YES is all that matters. And since networking is so closely related to self-marketing: marketing experts know that every NO brings them closer to a YES.

    Informational interviewing is a great way for people with no connections to eventually have good connections.


  5. Informational interviewing at the senior career level, being a candidate-in-waiting (Frank Kovacs): In principal, the same rules apply as described above. However, as a senior professional or seasoned executive it won't help to give the impression of not knowing what to do next. It will be more appropriate to start out with a brief tell-me-about-yourself presentation with a strong focus on what you enjoy doing, do best, and want to do in the future. Explore how your expert skills and comprehensive experience could be best applied in the current economy. Ask about career path options in the hiring manager's company. If the conversation goes well, tell the manager that you don't expect that he or she is aware of any leads or that the company may have a position for you at this time. And then you may ask whether they would like to keep your résumé on file, should the right position become available. Also ask whether it would be OK to follow up every 3 - 4 weeks and what the best way of communication would be. Without following up at least every month you will be forgotten.

A general rule of job hunting is to seek the personal contact. In the famous job-hunting guide "What color is your parachute?" Dick Bolles gives the following advice: "Paper is an insulator. Never let it get between you and a future job opportunity." This means that you should not exclusively rely on leaving a paper or email trail.

For more targeted networking techniques, you should read the paragraph at the end of the Résumé section about proactive and retroactive networking in the context of submitting a job application; and the sections about Job Fairs and Headhunters.

There is much more to successful job hunting. If you live in the USA, you may want to join 40Plus, a nationwide non-profit career center for executives and professionals. As of 2012, there are local chapters at five locations: New York; Washington, DC; California; Ohio; and Wisconsin. I am a former president and alumni member of the 40Plus of Greater Washington, DC chapter (http://www.40plus-dc.org/). Norman Vincent Peale and IBM executives started this organization more than 70 years ago in New York. Forty Plus gives you an effective initial training (two weeks 9 to 5) on writing résumés, interviewing, networking, finding job leads, and much more. Many companies send job openings to 40Plus. Important is that you will have weekday access to an office environment and can mingle and network with fellow job hunters. The only "catch" is an initial membership fee and the payment of monthly dues (all very reasonable, usually less than 10% of what a for-profit agency would charge). One day of weekly volunteer work may be required to run this organization.

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Headhunters, outplacement, etc...

John Lucht in his above-mentioned book covers very well how headhunters operate. If your job search involves headhunters, this book is a must-have item.

Briefly, there are contingency and retainer executive recruiters. Both are paid by the employer. Naturally, they have their client's and their firm's interest in mind, not necessarily your career advance - this is something to always keep in mind. This does not rule out that there are outstanding individuals in this trade who will try to help you, but don't count or rely on it.


Contingency firms are paid by the employer a certain percentage of a hired employee's salary after the placed candidate is hired. Based on this payment model, recruiters have an interest in submitting prospects for numerous vacancies. They are invested in their submitted candidates getting the job, receiving an adequate compensation, and staying with the employer for a while. Contingency recruiters can be very helpful for entry- and mid-career job seekers, since they can provide the job hunter with several openings at a time. The applicant receives company insider information and a recruiter endorsement, all of which could help unlock opportunities that the candidate could not have explored on his own. The recruiter may also help with job offer negotiations and might share information about compensation and benefits packages. On the other hand, there is the disadvantage that the applicant will become more expensive to hire, which could be an obstacle for a budget-minded company. It is recommended to instruct the recruiter to get your permission each time she or he would like to submit your résumé. Otherwise, it is not impossible that your résumé could be floated to several companies.

Shouldn't you be pleased that the recruiter floats your résumé?

It depends. If this activity gets you a job you like and did not know about, it's fine. But imagine, you conduct your own search and mail your materials. One of the CEOs or VPs likes your application. He contacts human resources to follow up, since you appear to be a good fit for an upcoming opening. Your letter arrived at the right place exactly at the right time. But in HR, unfortunately, they find out that a headhunter submitted you six weeks ago and they have your résumé already on file. HR has worked a lot with this contingency headhunter to fill previous vacancies. HR reports upstairs that you will be 30% more expensive, since a fee has to be paid, although it was not that headhunter who got you a foot in the door, it was your own effort. The company might have considered paying the fee, but it turns out that HR has received a number of unsolicited letters from other candidates with similar credentials and that there are no fees attached to them. Although you may appear slightly better qualified, the company cannot justify to pay more money; you will only receive a polite thank-you letter, if at all.

Contingency recruiters usually focus on the market below $120,000 annual income, but may also handle few cases of senior executives.


Retainer firms have company consultant functions and get paid in advance for a search assignment. Nobody else will have a contract to fill the same job. Retained headhunters focus predominantly on more senior executives. If you are placed by a retainer, it does not make you more expensive. Retainer work on a relatively small number of assignments. They are allowed to present you ONE vacancy at a time (for competitive reasons), perhaps a total of three positions per year. Once they have worked for a company, they cannot assist in hiring that company's employees for somebody else. Retainer recruiters usually don't float résumés; nevertheless, you should advise them to obtain your permission before submitting your papers, as some retainers accept contingency assignments. Once you decide to enlist retainers, you should contact several firms to receive a reasonable number of job leads.


In addition, there are outplacement firms, career coaches, and career counselors in the job market. They have to be paid by you or your former employer as part of a severance agreement. Fees can be quite substantial. Often, they do not have the connections they claim to have. Some firms may trick you into believing that they are a headhunter and have positions to offer. It is true though that the better agencies could help a great number of people (e.g., Lee Hecht Harrison and Right Management).

Good outplacement firms offer an initial 1- or 2-week all-day job-hunting preparation program in a class environment. This will get you up to speed much faster than if you attend weekly or monthly sessions at career transition events. Right out of the gate, you will have a support group of fellow transition students who got to know you well and understand the networking process.

As your marketing materials and interviewing skills cannot be perfect after only 1 - 2 weeks of training, you can then achieve further improvement by working individually with an outplacement firm counselor or by engaging a career coach and participating in career transition support groups. You should rely on a referral of a counselor or coach from someone you trust. A career coach I can recommend whole-heartedly is Alex Freund (http://www.landingexpert.com). He provides very helpful pay-as-you-go consultations without any up-front deposit. From him you can learn how to ace the job interview. For top-executive coaching, Tony Mayo (http://mayogenuine.com/blog/about/) has been recommended by many.


Membership career websites or online communities such as BlueSteps, ExecuNet, Netshare, RiteSite or TheLadders represent another facet in the career transition segment. These sites require modest monthly or annual payments for full access to all essential website features. In exchange, they offer career transition advice, access to executive headhunters and networking events, pre-screened job listings, and much more. Some of these sites work with affiliated outplacement firms or career coaches who will charge for their services. Is it worth paying for membership? If it is important for you to network with headhunters and to have access to executive networking and top executive jobs, membership can be highly beneficial.

If you can only have one paid job site membership subscription, I'd recommend a job seeker subscription to LinkedIn. Many recruiters consider LinkedIn as one of the premium resources for finding good candidates. While many LinkedIn features can be used for free, a job seeker subscription will give you access to more efficient search and networking features. Read Kathy Bernard's article How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Headline to improve your chances to be found by a headhunter. Another advantage of LinkedIn is that you can list your profile without giving the impression of looking for another job. That's important when you are currently employed. Free job and résumé boards such as CareerBuilder or Monster offer the option to list your résumé anonymously.

On sites like CareerBuilder and Monster you will only be found by recruiters if you update your posted résumé frequently. Even more so, LinkedIn favors members who are active. Only those will be top-listed in searches recruiters may conduct. Activities that will improve your activity status include participating in group discussions, liking contributions, posting updates, and adding connections. Your profile has to be complete, effective, and of high quality.

While attending career networking events permits networking in person, career websites and job and résumé boards offer the opportunity to network in cyberspace and have your résumé discovered by headhunters and employers. You can reach a much larger community than at any physical event.

Keep in mind that if a recruiter finds you, she or he is much more interested in your candidacy than if you initiate the contact and you are one of hundreds of people trying to compete for attention.


Whenever a job recruiter contacts you, find out whether the recruiter is paid by a company, and if so, whether it is on a contingency or retainer basis. This way you make sure you don't have to pay unwanted fees and you will also know how this recruiter operates (see above). Make sure she has a REAL job listing assigned to her, double-check and discuss job details that are usually not advertised. Then decide whether you'd like to authorize that headhunter to submit your papers for a particular position. If you are interested and did not know about the position before, it is ethical to use the recruiter. A bypassed contingency recruiter will not consider you in the future, a retainer may get your directly mailed application anyway, since the company could decide to forward all résumés for further evaluation.

As a rule of thumb, you should practice due diligence. Google recruiters, position titles, and recruiting firms to become aware of any issues. Recently, I saw a report on the Ripoff Report website: A contractor had advertised non-existent attractive positions to solicit job applications. Applicants were asked to provide their social security numbers and professional references. Such information was then used for more than questionable business practices. Read about the Top 10 Internet Job Scam Warning Signs by Alison Doyle. Also check out reviews of companies on Glassdoor.com, Careerbliss.com, and Indeed.com with information provided by current and former employees.

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Job fairs

Job fairs are high-speed in-person networking events. Except for speciality fairs tailored, e.g., toward scientists or security-cleared personnel, recruiters will focus mostly on junior candidates who recently completed computer school, college or university education. The dress code is business formal or business casual.

At the fair, try to contact as many people as you possibly can. While standing in long lines, display a friendly demeanor and take a chance of networking with peers next to you. Bring plenty of résumés and have prepared an effective 30-second elevator speech to make a great first impression. Smile! If a handshake is offered, it should be firm but not too firm. Introduce yourself and clearly and slowly pronounce your name. Pause briefly. Then state headline-style what you have done recently and how you can help a future employer.

Recruiters will quickly scan your résumé. If you are a match for featured positions, they will give you a quick on-site interview. In some instances, they will collect your résumé. More often, they direct you to applying on the company's website. In the latter case, ask them to whom your cover letter should be addressed and who you should mention as the referring person. If possible, get a business card. With this additional information, your online application will have a better chance of success.

Keep in mind: There is a 2nd chance networking opportunity if a career fair is part of a larger exhibition. Smaller companies' booths are staffed at times with their executives who could be open to career networking. Sales people are very well connected and some can be a good networking resource.

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How to ace job interviews

After a period of networking and applying for jobs, you may eventually be interviewed. First over the phone, then in person if all goes well. Whoever interviews, can expect surprises. While the interview is very important for you, it is only one of 25 or so items on the interviewer's to-do list. It can happen that they overlook the interview appointment or you are interviewed for the wrong job or the job requirements have changed significantly. This can be particularly annoying if you traveled long distance. It is important to reconfirm the interview with the interviewer's office and also with the submitting headhunter (if applicable) on the day before the interview.

To better get your mind set on interviewing, I'd recommend watching this YouTube video about Interview Questions and Answers.

Phone interviews used to have the function of a short initial screen. These days, however, phone interviews have also replaced the first- and second-stage face-to-face interviews. For all types of phone interviews it is important to study the website of the company or organization. Careful preparation and a good interviewing strategy are required, as described below in more detail for the in-person interview. Similar to a face-to-face conversation, you should first ask about job details before providing information about yourself. Also read Mastering the Phone Interview by Michael Pietrack.

The phone screen interview: It typically lasts for 30 minutes and is usually conducted in a mechanical fashion. Your interviewer may follow an interview script and is looking for very specific answers (called box-checking, according to Lou Adler). Unless you provide the expected answers, you may not pass. If you hear constant keyboard noise, it's likely that your interviewer has to type your answers into an interview form. Confirm that this is true and then adjust your answers to the interviewer's typing speed. In this situation it is a good idea to provide newspaper-style summary statements. Screening phone interviews are often outsourced. Therefore, the interviewer may not be able to provide too much information about the position. However, the information she or he provides may give you some clues about how to best answer the questions. If you help the phone screener with documenting the interview, you in turn may receive helpful hints.

One or more comprehensive phone interviews may follow in the next step. Calls may last an hour or longer and could be conducted as phone panel interviews in the format of conference calls. These days, as many companies have geographically distributed staff, such calls substitute for first- or second-round interviews that used to be conducted onsite a company. You, the interviewee, are in charge of getting your message across: Make sure you receive the call in a quiet location, have a stable and high-quality phone connection, and you are not disturbed by other events. Ask all participating parties if they can clearly understand you. If your voice comes across as muffled or there is line interference, you will likely not be perceived as the winning candidate. It is better to redial or ask them to please redial. Even though you are invisible, it is recommended that you also dress professionally for the phone interview to help remind you to project a professional attitude. It may be beneficial to stand while talking to make your voice sound more impressive. Read information about good breathing techniques. Air-filled lungs provide better resonance and a strong air flow for good voice formation. Speak clearly. Don't rush it, but also don't speak too slowly.

Remember Albert Mehrabian's 7-38-55 rule: 7% of your conversation is what you say (words), 38% is how you say it (sound of your voice), and 55% of communication is body language. Keep in mind that more than half of your communication is lost in a phone interview. Be aware that the phone interviewer will not know that your body language may express interest and excitement. You may also not know that the phone interviewer is possibly bored by what you say or is distracted by having a texting side-conversation. Your interviewer may be talking to you on a cell phone while driving. On your part, the tone of your voice and carefully chosen words have to substitute for the missing visual component. Ask questions to confirm that you provided the information they were looking for and that everything was clearly understood. If the interview is conducted as a video call via Skype or other conferencing tool, then take hints from the advice for video robot calls.
It is not uncommon that the first interview is a video session conducted by a robot over the Internet. You are required to sit in front of a PC equipped with a webcam and fast Internet connection. This could be at your home or a recording place they specify. The interviewing software will display prerecorded questions and you are given 2 - 3 minutes for recording an answer. You may or may not have the option to re-record a response. Not everyone feels comfortable speaking into a camera. It may cause you to give a tense and stiff impression. Career coach Alex Freund gave the advice to not act like a speaking sculpture. Movements should be sideways, avoid moving to and from the camera.
In general, even if you feel tense, try to look friendly and look straight into the camera, which is positioned at your eye level so that you see eye to eye with the interviewer. When using a laptop or iPad, use a box or other device to adjust the camera's height. It is best to sit straight and lean in slightly so that your head and not your body dominate the monitor screen. Watch the correct posture of TV anchors on stations like CNN or Univision, particularly, when you see moderators in side view, as shown in the picture of this online article. Don't get so close to the camera that your facial features become distorted (fishbowl effect). Avoid wearing clothes that can cause a moiré effect. This happens when a grid pattern of your wardrobe causes interference with the orderly grid pattern of photosensors in the recording device, resulting in annoying false rainbow colors and jittering effects in parts of the recorded image. Also important is to sit in front of a non-distracting background. Good lighting is key for any photography. The often bluish light reflection from the monitor could make your face look pale and sick. Add additional diffuse warm-tone light sources. If wearing glasses, make sure they do not slide down your nose, which may cause the upper rim to cover your pupils. You may tilt your glasses down a bit to reduce reflections from the monitor. It takes talent and a lot of practice to project a winning personality on screen. And TV personalities benefit from the touch-up of a good makeup artist and the advice of an image consultant for color-coordinated apparel and accessories.
The interviewing software usually offers a training session, which is a critical exercise to get used to the procedure and make final adjustments to look and sound your best. You may have to move the microphone closer to your mouth to minimize bad room acoustics (reverberation, etc.) and to reduce humming computer noise; but not so close that your breathing is recorded.

As many companies have had to cut down on business travel, they are now conducting business with their satellite locations by way of teleconferences. A video interview could very well be a test of your video conference presentation skills.


At the end, only very few candidates are invited to interview in person with the hiring manager, his/her boss, and the human resources person in charge. As friendly and helpful as HR personnel may be, their priority has to be representing the employer, not to help you get the job and a good employment package. A good HR administrator will know, however, that a positive and lasting employer-employee relationship should be based on a win-win situation.

In the past, it was recommended that the interviewee wears formal business attire following the slogan to dress for success. This is still good advice for the majority of interview situations, particularly, when interviewing for senior positions. There are, though, more and more companies that have a relaxed dress code. If in doubt and/or interviewing on casual Friday, you could ask your HR contact person about their dress code for interview situations. Casual usually translates as business casual for the interviewee. Read Dave Kerpen: How to Dress for Success Today.

Even before the on-site interview begins, the receptionist or other personnel may already observe your attitude and behavior. E.g., while you are in the waiting area: Do you greet everyone passing by? Do you study the company brochures or products on display? Later on, questions may be asked about what was showcased.

According to Tim's Strategy, your interviewer is looking for these qualities

  1. You will fit the organization's culture (100%);
  2. You are passionate and excited about getting the job (83%);
  3. You are a good match for the job description, details of your experience are relevant, and you are confident (each 43 to 41%);
  4. You have the ability to make an immediate impact (37%);
  5. You exhibit a lot of engagement and ask good questions (32%); and
  6. You provide best answers to questions, exhibit physical energy, and tell great stories (all less than 17%).

Interview and landing expert Alex Freund recommends to not offer any opinions in response to interview questions. Opinions are always subjective, can be questioned, and may be rejected. Instead, strictly adhere to facts, which, e.g., can be gathered from your employer's company statistics, your annual performance reviews, and statements of your previous bosses.

Almost always you will get questions that contain superlatives such as greatest, worst, best, etc. Reflect on it for a moment. Then, it may be best to start answering with a disclaimer. You could say that you don't know whether this was your best or worst, but the following experience comes to your mind. Your response should relate to situations that are helpful for your interview presentations. Explain how you resolved problems and what you have learned since then to prevent issues from ever reoccurring. Alex Freund suggests to end with a crescendo: E.g., you could state how you have used this new knowledge to master a difficult situation in brilliant fashion. You never want to give the impression that you are responding with a prepared answer.

"Good answers to frequently asked interview questions" can be googled on the Web. See also 64 Interview Questions: General Guidelines from TheBreakfastClubNJ, 64 Interview Answers You Should Know (Positive Zeal), and Trader's Psychology 50 Common Interview Questions and Answers. Read a Business Insider article about <interview brain teaser questions, which are not uncommon at IT sector institutions.

Where do you want to be in 5 years? Most definitely, you don't want your hiring manager's job. Again, you don't want to give an opinion. Alex Freund suggests that you state the truth: You cannot predict the future. Based on your past work performance and receiving promotions or awards in previous jobs, you also expect to perform well in the new job and to grow in the company.

It takes practice to project an advantageous image during an interview situation. Try job interviews with a career coach or somebody who is in a hiring position and, therefore, knows the "business." In some ways you are an actor in the job interview. Accentuate the positive traits of your own personality and don't play somebody else's role -- it won't succeed unless you are an excellent actress or actor. Do not hide your personality completely. Somebody appearing like a "gray mouse" with no other interest than work, will get a "gray" or dull job. Show enthusiasm and well-dosed tasteful humor at times whenever appropriate. Establishing chemistry is particularly important when speaking with the hiring manager. Perhaps there is a hobby that you and your potential boss share and feel passionate about. Read Your choice: be fascinating or forgotten!

Here are some general rules to master the face-to-face interview:

Rule #1: Arrive early in the vicinity of the interview location. In the parking lot, you could follow the practice of Olympic athletes before a competition: After warming up, they execute a mental exercise to visualize all the steps of their upcoming performance. In your next preparation step, mentally switch sides and imagine how the interviewers will try to picture you in the job to fill. Do you look, act, and speak like an executive or professional who can succeed in the job? Think about world-famous circus artists who can make an extremely ambitious stunt appear like something almost everyone could do. Can you make your interview presentation look easy, as difficult as it may be? Prejudice certainly exists, but one reason for giving preference to an employed person is that they exude more confidence. It's easier for them because they can act in the interview like they did hours ago in their current job. Remember the above-mentioned 7-38-55 rule. As body language is important, maintain a good posture: Sit straight (but not tense) and pull your shoulders back. Even if out of a job, you can be confident too by practicing and practicing interviewing and staying in touch with your profession by way of consulting. It empowers you to say truthfully that you currently perform duties of the job under discussion so that you may circumvent The Jobless Trap, a phenomenon highlighted by Paul Krugman, The New York Times. Should unemployment become an issue in the forthcoming interview, you can follow Lou Adler's advice and talk "about all your measurable initiatives to better yourself professionally since you have been out of work." In addition to consulting, this could be training for relevant professional certifications, presentations at meetings, presentation training at Toastmasters, or volunteer work related to your profession.

Before heading out to the interview, remind yourself that your task during the upcoming interview is to create in the interviewer's mind a lasting image of you as a candidate who is perfectly qualified for the vacancy to fill (Alex Freund). Then practice a nice contagious smile in the rear view mirror. Appear for the interview 5 - 10 minutes ahead of time or even earlier, if you have not had a chance to complete paperwork ahead of time. Never mention all the problems you might have had finding the place. You are fine and delighted to meet everyone. Thank them for the invitation. If you really got lost, call them and reschedule the interview and find a good excuse.

Rule #2: Arrive very well prepared and have your "Tell me about yourself" 2-minute story ready. Alexander Freund, interview preparation expert, gives the interview tip that the interviewee should resist the temptation to immediately start selling achievements. He suggests "to hold off the selling and instead, start easy talk." Establish a relationship with the other party, and work on strengthening that relationship until the interviewer stops it when it’s time to move on with the interview. At that point, the interviewer will ask a guided, open-ended questions..." E.g., you may be asked why you have applied for the job or to tell the audience about yourself. As much as you may have practiced your response, it should not sound rehearsed. Talk about achievements that suggest that your experience could be highly beneficial for the company, organization, etc. Don't say anything about what they can do for you or you would like to do in the new job. Don't waste their time with irrelevant experience. Definitely leave out your failures and disappointments. You may conclude your talk with a question about the most important initial task of the job. This opens the conversation and gives you a hint about what you should talk in the ensuing interview conversation.
 
Following is my own slightly edited career story. This presentation was for a position with a long list of quite diverse requirements. The setting was an interview panel that included that organization's interim CEO and some of the department heads.

Dietmar Tietz's tell-me-about-yourself (TMAY):

Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to your organization. It am delighted to tell you more about my comprehensive experience and background in science, research, and technology management.

As accomplishments that are very relevant for this entrepreneurial career opportunity, I would like to mention pioneering achievements such as establishing a grant-based new research program at a major university and leading the development of the first computer-assisted technique for vaccine quality and effectiveness analysis. We published this innovative technique that could provide results within days, instead of months.

In an assignment at an NIH Institute, I was hired by the Division Director to lead a major, highly visible program from start to finish. The goal was to redesign the Institute’s public website and improve usability, implement new software technology, and to provide enhanced biomedical and health information for physicians, research scientists, and the general public. I was a member of the Executive Steering Committee and chaired the Redesign Committee, which received the Institute Director’s Award for outstanding contributions after the successful launch of the new website.

The primary benefit I brought to the organization was my ability to build consensus and coordinate efforts with senior executive management, 50 program directors, and 10 senior IT staff with the objective to start new projects, set stalled initiatives in motion, streamline processes, and improve performance, as I did in previous jobs.

I have also been a successful senior manager in the private sector. At the #1 publishing services company, I spearheaded day-to-day technical product development at a branch location. I was in charge of evaluating emerging technologies and leading the implementation of state-of-the-art IT solutions for major scientific and medical associations and publishing companies. By implementing best practices and creating a positive and productive working environment, operational efficiency could be increased by 150% based on the CFO's statistics. Customer satisfaction was improved significantly. Personnel turnover was minimal.

Based on this history of achievements, I expect to make significant contributions to your organization. I am extremely interested in this position and would like to know more about what your immediate needs are and what initiatives the hired candidate would have to address right away.


You likely have noticed that I did not start with "I was born and raised in...," the standard beginning of such presentations years ago. Nowadays, interviewers expect that you start out with relevant experience that is most beneficial for the job to be filled. You have to grab the interviewer's attention right away. Your body language, your voice, and what you say need to express excitement about the position and the organization or company you would like to join. Your TMAY story could be shorter and more focused for a job with fewer requirements. And, unlike this generic TMAY version, you would be more specific about your achievements and mention names of companies and organizations you worked for. Be sure not to say anything confidential about your previous employers.

Most important is: To stand out as a better prepared candidate who is not wasting anyone's time.

A job interview is similar to presenting at a stakeholder's meeting and securing future funding. Your interviewers may wing it, but you can't. Depending on the position level and the involved complexity, it may take hours, days, even weeks of preparation.

Study the employer's website carefully. Once you enter a website as a job seeker, a cookie may be set on your PC, resulting in a filtered website view with limited access to certain company information. Delete all cookies or rather use a different Web browser or someone else's computer and reenter via the 'investor' or 'news media' or 'customer' links. During the preceding phone interviews you could have asked HR whether the organization has other websites, e.g., sites that are more oriented toward their products and services and tailored to support customers, clients, or membership. An association could maintain websites that support panels of affiliated experts tasked to set the association's future direction. Such specific information, which could be most beneficial to answer questions and showcase your expertise and attention to detail, is sometimes available to the public, at least in part, but may be accessible only by those who know where and what to look for.

If they ask you right at the beginning of the interview to present your experience, you may want to consider replying: "I very much like to talk about my professional experience, but could you please tell me first about the position(s) you want to fill?" Once you have the job details, you are in a much better position to give them a customized TMAY. Even if you already have a job description, you cannot be sure it is up to date. Job situations can change quickly. It could be that the job you came in for, was filled a few hours ago. But they may have another, even better position with more responsibility. Imagine you tell them about how good a fit you are to work for team leader XZ. Would this be helpful to compete for an also vacant manager position? After listening to you, they will think: "Too bad, the position he came in for is filled, and he doesn't have the qualification to take on the duties of manager YW who decided to resign yesterday."

Be prepared that sometimes they won't tell you anything about the job. Or they present a highly generic job description without specifics. Perhaps they don't even have a job. Then you should give your one-fits-all presentation. Please read also my advice in the next section about handing out free samples in reference to solving an employer's problems. Another possible situation could be that you were invited by an undercover outplacement firm (see above) and the job was a bait to get you hooked on subscribing to costly services.

The TMAY presentation you give, very much depends on the country you live in. In the USA, a truthful, slightly optimistic presentation is most appropriate. Stay away from British understatement. However, stick to the facts since lies will haunt you at the moment when information you provided is verified.

Rule #3: Have prepared the above-mentioned PSR or PARSV achievement statements; about 10 - 20 for any recent job. They not only look good on your résumé, they also come in handy during the interview. E.g., when you are asked why someone should hire you.

Rule #4: If they offer you sitting on a shaky chair or a sink-in couch, or let you look directly into the sun, it could be either incidental or a check for an inferiority complex. Ask politely and in a confident manner for a better chair or for lowering the sunshades.

Rule #5: Take a handy notepad and pen to the interview. Taking notes you will project a very alert state of mind. Also, this solves the question what to do with your hands. Just avoid playing with your pen and projecting nervousness (it's easier said than done). Also, don't get so busy with taking notes that you lose eye contact.

Rule #6: Your interviewer's desk is his personal territory. Never invade it, i.e., touch it or put a coffee cup on it.

Rule #7: Avoid talking about salary and benefits. Remember, this is the LAST step before signing a contract, not a subject for starting an interview. Nevertheless, before any interview you should do some research and know the typical salary for the position under discussion, considering the industry and geographical location.

Should they ask you about salary requirements right away, then your reaction depends on the situation. If a headhunter interviews you, you must provide a salary range for their orientation so that they can better assist you. Is this a job interview with a senior executive and a result of your networking efforts? Then you also have to specify a salary range. Did you respond to a job ad and do you expect a stiff competition for the job? Then you likely encounter an attempt to screen you out before you had any chance to score points. A salesman won't tell you the price of a Mercedes before accentuating all its beauties and convincing you of a test drive. Therefore, if an HR recruiter asks you right away about your salary needs, tell them compensation is negotiable and you will answer that question after you know more about this position and its responsibilities. Eventually, you will have to suggest a REASONABLE salary figure. Be vague and specify a wide range. Both too cheap and too expensive will terminate the interview (you will be considered unrealistic). In Government, salaries are usually fixed within one compensation level (e.g., GS scale in U.S. federal government). Within a compensation level one can still negotiate receiving salary at a higher step. Be prepared that past income could be verified later. Recruiters and potential employers often contact credit report agencies. Read about Salary Negotiations: Playing Poker With Your Financial Future by Dawn Rasmussen.

Rule #8: No matter what happens, stay cool, calm, and corrected. Never take nasty remarks personal. Sometimes, the employers will conduct stress interviews to see how you will perform in difficult situations.

Even if the interviewer acts confrontational, the interviewee will not win by responding in an arguing manner and coming across as a fighting person. The ensuing approach may help to overcome perceived liabilities:

These are the steps underlying the preceding dialogue based on a suggestion from Alex Freund: 1) Show agreement. 2) Clarify; making this comment, do you mean that …? 3) Knowing the true reason for the objection, ask for permission to explain how you can diffuse his/her objection. 4) If permission is granted, start diffusing the objection. Otherwise, don't argue, just say that you respectfully disagree with an assessment and then move on. Any further debate will not change your interviewer's opinion. You may find more information by googling "how to overcome objection in an interview."

Rule #9: A successful strategy to gain business is handing out small free samples, not the entire product. If you provide a workable detailed solution, there is no reason to hire you. It could be that you were invited to volunteer solutions for their specific problems. In this situation, you could say that you have encountered similar problems in previous jobs and provided an effective solution and could do so again when hired. Describe the problems you solved and what the positive outcomes were. Explain your approach of finding solutions to problems. If there is interest in your experience but hiring you represents too much of a risk for the employer, you could also suggest to work first on a consulting basis as described below. Definitely avoid badmouthing a previous employer by revealing too much detail about a particular company situation, in which you solved problems.

Rule #10: If they are more seriously interested in you, they may continue interviewing you in a restaurant. This interviewing situation is tricky, as your social and table manners will be under scrutiny. In the USA (not necessarily in Europe), refuse alcoholic beverages, unless you visit a brewery or vineyard and your job is beverage sampling. No matter how many tall beers others order and what jokes they make, you are still in an interview situation. It's all about walking a fine line between displaying professional behavior and a good sense of humor, bonding and establishing chemistry, and avoiding trip wires and pitfalls. While a restaurant environment can help with becoming better acquainted, it can also put you so much at ease that you could volunteer information you otherwise wouldn't. If they push the bill to your side, ignore it and don't pay!

Rule #11: Keep track of all your interview partners. Quite often, names are purposely mumbled or not mentioned at all. Take the initiative and even ask for the spelling, if it is a difficult one. At the end, they may conduct a memory test and HR could ask you for details of all the conversations you had.

Rule #12: Be careful with choosing professional references. There may be some contacts that appreciate your achievements a lot, however, they may not be able to convey an advantageous image of your qualities. It is a good idea to ask a friend to test-interview your references.

Rule #13: At the end of the interview, don't expect a Yes or No. You should also not make a decision right away.

If the interview went well and you like the job, you can sort of wrap up the interview by asking them: "Do you think I am a good fit for this position?" It's your opportunity to get feedback about their impressions and gives you a last chance to address their concerns. E.g., they might say something like: "Well, we have still 6 more candidates to interview and it's too early to say." This could mean that your interviewers were not impressed. In that case you could ask if there is any information you could provide to help with the decision-making process.

Or they could say: "We really enjoyed talking to you and certainly you have a lot of highly beneficial experience for the job, but we are not really sure that you can lead a group of five people..." Well, now you can start talking about your people skills, the projects you managed, that you got elected as president of this volunteer club, organization, etc. Without your question, you would not have known that you did not address this leadership issue sufficiently.

Finally, don't forget to express your very strong interest in the position. Many applicants don't get the job due to lackluster interest. Another way to fail the interview is to not have prepared any questions to ask. Read 4 Essential Questions to Ask at the End of a Job Interview -- Forbes. Marc Cenedella from The Ladders points out that, due to the nature of the interview process, the interviewee can easily come across as too self-centered. To help improve this image and to gain additional insights about the organization, he advises to ask the hiring manager about what the hired candidate could do to help the boss achieve his or her her goals. And to ask interviewers who will report to you, about how you could help them next year to succeed with their performance review.

At the time of departure, you thank them for the interesting conversation (if true). As Frank Kovacs from The Breakfast Club NJ pointed outthat you should take charge of the interview follow-up process. Ask for the next steps and who and when you should call to inquire about the status of your candidacy. Should you get a quite vague response like that they are going to interview many other candidates and they really don't know... then this could be an indication of not much interest.

Rule #13: If you are really interested in the job, send thank-you notes within 24 h to every person you talked to; e.g., see What to Say in a Thank-You Card Besides 'Thank You'.

If you had a panel interview, you could send a note that is addressed to all panel members. These days, email is the accepted and preferred medium to express gratitude in time before decisions are made. Such email note offers the additional benefit to briefly summarize your relevant qualifications, explain why you are a good fit, and restate your strong interest. You can mention important facts you wished you would have said in the interview, but didn't. For very senior positions, you may also send an additional hand-written business-style thank-you card. If the hiring manager or the HR contact have agreed to accept phone calls (see above), then the best way to follow up is a friendly phone call on the day they suggested for a followup.

There are situations, in which interviewers don't give you their card and prefer not to be contacted directly. In that case, you send your note to your HR contact, thank that recruiter, and ask this person to please expresses your gratitude to all interviewers who you should mention by name. If you do not hear from them within 7 - 10 days and you liked the job, start a polite follow-up campaign.

In very rare instances you may receive a thank-you email from a hiring manager faster than you could write a thank-you note. In one such case I know, the applicant received a job offer soon after.

Rule #14: If you are invited for a second or even third interview, you should definitely be prepared for salary negotiations. They and not you have to start this subject. Good negotiating skills may get you an additional $10K or more in salary and/or benefits. Read a good book on salary negotiation. They may not grant you the salary you want, but a more impressive professional title, a better furnished (corner) office, a good health and life insurance package, a company car, a membership in the golf club, or reimbursement of parking fees.There used to be a signing bonus. Can they help with moving expenses? You may not get more days of vacation, but few more days of personal time. It is related to how benefits are reflected in a company's statistics. What you can negotiate depends on whether the company is 'in a rural area and highly competitive' or 'in a metropolitan location and a leader in the branch.' Remember: "In business, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate," as stated by Chester L. Karrass. Read the article The Exact Words to Use When Negotiating Salary by Rebecca Thorman.

Rule #15: Make sure your phone is answered in a professional manner and you have a phone answering service to not miss any calls. Respond quickly to any employer or recruiter request. Check your email frequently. Don't miss incoming messages that were redirected to Spam. If they don't hear from you in less than 24 hours, you could be categorized as not interested and the case is closed.

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After the interview...

After the interview you may relax and analyze the events and your performance. As a rule of thumb: If your boss to be (not the personnel officer) treated you like a human being, exhibited at least some humor, and had a comfortably furnished office, she/he is probably nice and relatively easy going. Do the offices, cubicles or open workspace offer ergonomic working conditions? If the office environment looks Spartan or highly disorganized, or the interviewing procedure was not conducted in a professional manner, trouble and tough times could be around the corner. If you are introduced to the CEO or some other high-level executive, watch his/her attitude carefully, as his/her behavior may reflect a company's or organization's culture. Stay objective and refrain from overanalyzing and interpreting too much into a situation. Always remember: If there aren't any problems to solve, you won't be hired.

It could be that soon after the interview you receive a contingent job offer, and you are asked to submit a document of acceptance or of intent to accept. This happens when a company is bidding for a contract, usually in the government sector. With their proposal, the company has to submit a list of potential employees and proof that such candidates have an interest. Keep in mind that other companies will bid for the same contract. It could take several months before the winning bid is selected. Companies losing the bid can file a complaint and can contest decisions in court. Should the job-offering company not win, your contingent job offer is invalid. The better companies will inform you that there is an understanding that you will continue your job search, as chances for getting the job could be slim. Should you find another job in the meantime, it is good practice to inform the company that you are not interested any more -- but only after you are settled in the new job.

Sometimes, the interview process is very disappointing; no matter how well you are prepared. Even your best performance may not make a difference. It could all be related to circumstances beyond your reach, e.g.: The successful candidate was preselected, however, company policy mandated in-person interviews. Perhaps, the chemistry and cultural fit were not right. Maybe, the interviewer saw your résumé for the first time and disliked some of your experience and background. These days, a candidate often has to be a 100 % job match without any on-the-job training. An applicant is expected to have the multifaceted experience of a team. In fact, the hired person would have to wear many hats and take on several of a team's functions as a result of previous downsizing and bare-bones operations. Read The New York Times article Jobs to Fill, Employers Wait for Perfection by Catherine Rampell.

Positions with seemingly unrealistic requirements are re-advertised again and again with the expectation that the perfect candidate can eventually be located, even if this may take a year or longer. It also happens that a complex search is abandoned to hire a well-recommended candidate.

Getting a job is a numbers game. One can beat the odds by starting many initiatives simultaneously and proceeding in a competent and professional manner. I recall someone stating that, on average, the successful job hunters had to pass 6 - 8 in-person interviews to get a job. For those of you who are mathematically inclined, I'd like to present a scientific test for this job-landing hypothesis:

Assumptions: As employers conduct very comprehensive phone interviews these days, typically only 4 job applicants are invited for a face-to-face interview. Everyone is given an equal opportunity (at least in this calculation), however, the successful interviewee has an edge because of experience and skills. Hence, the chance to advance to the next step is not 25% but more like 40% [probability p1 = 0.4].  Usually, only 2 candidates are invited for the second and often final interview [p2 = 0.5].  If you had 5 first [n1 = 5] and 2 second [n2 = 2 ] in-person interviews, based on fair play, you would have this probability [P] to get at least one job after a total of 7 on-site interviews:

P = 1 - (1 - p1)n1(1 - p2)n2 = 1 - (1 - 0.4)5(1 - 0.5)2 = 0.98 (equivalent to 98 %)

A probability of 95 % would be statistically significant, one of 99 % highly significant, where 'significant' has the meaning of probably true. With a probability of 98 %, our job-landing hypothesis seems to be a significant observation for a total of 7 on-site interviews, if the assumptions made were correct and realistic.


The calculation uses these rationales: (i) the combined probability is computed as the product of singular probabilities, (ii) (1 - p1) and (1 - p2) are the chances of no success for singular events, and (iii) the combined probability of no success is then subtracted from 1 to get the overall combined chance [P] of landing at least one job. Wy don't we simply multiply all the chances of success in each interview? Because this would compute the slim probability of landing a job after every interview, the chance of landing seven jobs after seven interviews in this example. Computing the combined chance of no success (0 jobs) and subtracting it from 1, provides the sum of all remaining probabilities for landing 1, 2, 3, ... 7 jobs.

Probably 10 - 15 applicants get a chance for first and perhaps second phone interviews. It is the top 1 - 10 percentile of apparently best-qualified applicants with a perfect résumé, particularly those candidates who are brought to the special attention of the hiring manager.

You might ask what your chances are at the point of sending out an application. About 70 million people were in the U.S. job market in January 2013: 12.3 million unemployed (7.9 %) *, 8 million * underemployed, and an estimate of 50 million employed who dislike their job (40 - 50 % of the employed). These job seekers are likely to send out an average of 15 applications/ month (many may send 100+). As a result of this, roughly 1 billion applications could be in circulation every month. The total number of U.S. job openings in November 2012 was 3.7 million **. Accordingly, there are on average 1000/3.7 = 270 applications for each posted job. Also, quite a few advertised jobs are filled internally or not filled at all due to lack of funding. On the other hand, there could be millions of never-advertised (hidden) jobs.

* U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics February 1, 2013
** U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics January 10, 2013

Advice for troubleshooting your job-hunting initiatives:

In order to get a job, several lucky circumstances have to happen: You have to be at the right place at the right time with the right skills and meet the right people. Years ago, at a Lee Hecht Harrison's office, I found this note posted: Luck strikes the mind that is prepared. It is likely a modification of what Louis Pasteur said: Chance favors only the prepared mind. In the context of job hunting, this translates to all the right pieces falling into place, however, the jigsaw won't be complete without this extra piece: The ability to recognize the opportunity, provide the winning presentation, and negotiate the right terms.

One thing to keep in mind: Not necessarily the best candidate, but the best-presented candidate gets the job.

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Not following all the rules

Sometimes you could have more success by not following all the rules. Read How to Play the Job-hunting Game to Win by Lou Adler or watch Job Search Advice: Break the Rules by Jeff Altman. Rules may apply to a range of 60 - 99 % of cases. Almost always there are exceptions or there is a possibility for a legal workaround; exercising these options requires good judgement. Here are a few examples for what may or may not work:
The take away for elevator pitches and tell-me-about-yourself presentations:

Read more about this in Stories That Move Mountains: Storytelling and Visual Design for Persuasive Presentations by Martin Sykes, Nick Malik, and Mark D. West. Learn from good and effective TV commercials: How do professional advertisers get their message across in as little as 30 seconds? At the end, there will almost always be the request to buy and to hurry because time is running out. You may want to consider joining a local chapter of Toastmasters to practice effective presentations.

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About jobbing while job hunting

The average job hunt for full-time employment, if conducted as a 30 to 40 h/week energetic and focused search, may last 1 - 2 months for every $10K of earnings in the target job. What is the best way to balance job-hunting and financial needs? Following are opinions from three different sources:
The best direction will depend on your individual circumstances. Fetch a sheet of paper and list the pros and cons of any option you have. At the end, you might choose a compromise somewhat similar to this one:
Something else to consider:

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How to juggle multiple job opportunities

During job hunting there can be weeks and weeks with not much happening. Then, suddenly, you may find yourself in the situation that you are interviewing for multiple interesting jobs and you could receive a job offer while other good or even better opportunities are still pending. This is a desirable 'trouble,' as you want to have choices when selecting the job that is best for you.

In the decision-making process you want to safeguard yourself as much as possible against these negative outcomes:
Here are a few suggestions for handling multiple opportunities:

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Being happily employed

After landing the right target job, it is understandable that you may want to forget the job-hunting trauma as soon as possible and don't want to be reminded of this past difficult time. The wrong step would be to disengage from all your job-hunting support groups and to call off still pending initiatives. The best way of healing is to give back to all those who supported you and to become a helpful resource for those still seeking employment. Also, you don't want to withdraw immediately from still pending applications because another job opportunity could mature just in time, should your new job not work out. Keep in mind that a job offer can be rescinded due to budget cuts.

You cannot consider yourself employed until you are actually working at the new job and have signed papers. Some say you are not hired for sure until your first paycheck arrives and clears the bank. In fact, you should not withdraw from any pending job opportunities until you have successfully passed the probation period.

At the beginning it's natural that you face a cultural shock -- perhaps a stronger one than when you got your previous job years ago. You may feel disconcerted because many employers have implemented a so-called lean working environment that requires you to wear many hats and do the work of two or three employees. Also, the modern working environment now is ruled by processes and spreadsheets with little focus on human needs, as computers dictate the workflow. You could easily feel overwhelmed by the onslaught of duties and the requirement to work well beyond regular hours. You may be classified exempt and won't receive any overtime pay. As the new job has to grow on you and this may take a few months or even longer, don't make the mistake to quit right away unless a better opportunity presents.

Read about how to Ace Your First 100 Days in a New Job by Anne Fisher and One Thing Successful New Hires Never Do! by Beth Kubel. Selected helpful books and other resources are:

Try to make yourself indispensable. Don't immerse yourself so much in work that you forget about politicking for success. By all means avoid making enemies. Headhunter John Lucht stated as the #1 reason for not promoting from within to a higher-level position: peers would not accept any of the company's employees. The #2 reason: there is nobody who could take on the functions of the promoted employee. Keep your professional network intact and growing. Should the time arrive to move on to another job either within or outside your organization, then your network can assist you with making the next transition. Regarding your network, it's not how many people you know, but how many people know you and might owe you a favor.

Success in life very much depends on finding the right destiny. Take a little time to explore what you really want, and go for it! Informational interviewing and Dick Bolles' job-search guide "What Color Is Your Parachute?" will help you (see http://www.jobhuntersbible.com/). Also, there is another nice book around with the title "Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow." The author is Marsha Sinetar. This book's title statement is true for as long as you provide products or services that many find useful.

Job hunting is a never-ending process, even after you have been hired. Most companies do not offer their employees a career path. The only way to professionally advance might be to change the job after some years. Being employed, it is a lot easier to find other job opportunities. But don't become a job hopper who uses every period of frustration to change the job! On the long run, failure to hold on to a job for at least some years will work against you, particularly, if the following job does not represent a career improvement.

The next important step after landing a job is to organize your financial matters. You may have to seek professional help. Suze Orman's excellent book "The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom" will tell you what you need to know and will give you very valuable advice about getting out of debt.

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Consulting and becoming your own boss

It could be that the full-time job you would like is not available for you. Then you may want to consider consulting for an agency. Temporary jobs are often a great way to get a foot in the door. You could also work as a freelance consultant. This is a particularly promising approach for all those who in their previous jobs have established a great professional network and can use those contacts for landing contract jobs. It also helps to have acquired an array of portable skills.

For executives, an approach might work that John Lucht called "Crandall's Way" of consulting. It is described in detail in the above-mentioned "Rites of Passage..." and on RiteSite.com. Briefly described, you may have, e.g., a conversation with a CEO at a smaller company. It's obvious that the CEO believes that the company could benefit from your experience and skills, however, he or she cannot take the risk of hiring you full time right away. Instead of submitting a free proposal that might take you nowhere, you could agree to work on-site for a modest flat-rate consulting fee on a month-by-month basis. If you can prove that your contribution is highly beneficial, you may either get hired or could continue consulting for more hours and a higher fee. If not satisfactory, both parties may end the consulting engagement. Why does this approach work? Because it is a low-risk win-win situation for both parties, and consulting can be initiated without an involved bureaucratic process. The ingredients for success are: (i) a high-level influential boss and (ii) a consultant with sufficient responsibility to have a chance to impress. In all other circumstances, conventional consulting is the better way to go.

Taking consulting or freelancing a step further, you could start your own business. Entrepreneurship requires working long hours even on weekends, at least at the beginning. There may not be a net income for the first two years. It is important to develop a good business model and to not overextend yourself financially. Some entrepreneurs have taken the safer approach of building their business slowly but steadily while holding on to a paid job. If business creation is pursued full-time, there is a chance of about 20% to be still in business after two years. The risk may be lower when buying into a franchise. John Lucht gave the advice to never get involved with a franchise that you would not consider if you had a well-paying job.

    
Expressed views and opinions are my own. Comments and suggestions are always welcome!

With very best wishes for a successful career,

Dietmar Tietz

Former President & Chair Marketing of 40Plus of Greater Washington, DC
... a non-profit volunteer organization that helps executives and professionals
       with career transitions

Program Manager IT in the U.S. Federal Government

... Former Science & Technology Management Consultant in commercial, governmental, and non-profit sectors
       Author of Tips for Stagnant Projects and Improving Efficiency/Profitability -- PMI Baltimore

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dietmartietz/
djt at his dot com

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Appendix: Job-hunting resources on the World-Wide Web

Indeed.com (http://www.indeed.com/)

SimplyHired.com (http://www.simplyhired.com/)

Monster.com (http://www.monster.com/)

CareerBuilder.com (http://www.careerbuilder.com/)

For IT jobs, Dice.com (http://www.dice.com/)

U.S. Government Jobs, USAJOBS.gov (http://www.usajobs.gov/)

Association Careers, CEOUpdate.com (http://www.ceoupdate.com/)

Career Website for Senior Executives, six figure jobs (http://www.6figurejobs.com/)

Washington, DC metro area Power Jobs (http://www.powerjobs.com/)

Professional Networking, LinkedIn.com (http://www.linkedin.com/)

The Landing Expert Networking List -- Alex Freund (http://www.landingexpert.com/ec/210/NetworkingEvents.pdf). Alex provides outstanding career coaching services on a pay-as-you-go basis without huge upfront frees.

Federal Job Results -- Corliss Jackson (http://www.federaljobresults.com/). Résumés and coaching for federal government jobs. Federal résumés are very different from the 2-page standard résumés used for job applications at companies. Corliss and her team know "how to crack the federal code."

Executive Résumé Writing and Job Search Services -- Lisa Rangel (http://chameleonresumes.com/)

Absolutely Abby -- Abby Kohut (http://absolutelyabby.com/)

TheHUB: In Trasition Roundtable for Job Seekers -- Ardell Taylor Fleeson. Events page: http://www.thehubconnects.org/upcoming-events. Career networking meetings are conducted on the 2nd Tuesday of each Month in McLean, VA near Washington, DC. Non-members can attend for a very small fee.

The Breakfast Club NJ -- Frank Kovacs (http://www.thebreakfastclubnj.com). Naturally, their focus is on New Jersey and adjacent states. Even if living elsewhere, you may want to consider joining, if an existing member knows you well enough to sponsor you. They have thousands of members and have a very active listserver and LinkedIn member site with many job leads and really excellent job-hunting and career-changing advice.

The Technical Executives Networking Group (TENG) -- Edward J. Pospesil (http://www.theteng.org). Over 4,500 technical executive members nationwide. Membership requires sponsorship. Job leads, technical advice, and career transition discussions. Referrals for preparing executive résumés.

Consider attending events of a local chapter of the Project Management Institute (http://www.pmi.org/Get-Involved/Chapters-PMI-Chapters.aspx). Membership is not required for many of their meetings that offer continued professional education and great networking opportunities.

The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired -- Lou Adler, Amazon Kindle Books 2013. It gives you the recruiter's perspective and provides valuable tips for passing the job interview and getting the job you deserve.

The Riley Guide -- Employment Opportunities and Job Resources on the Internet -- Margaret F. Dikel (http://www.rileyguide.com/). The Web's premier gateway for job search, career exploration and school information. Links to over 1600 high-quality resources.

Washington Network Group (http://www.washingtonnetworkgroup.com/)

7 Things You Need to Know to Win the Digital Job Hunt (http://www.onlinecollegecourses.com/7-things-to-win-the-digital-job-hunt)

Internet Resource for Jobs in Higher Education (http://www.academic360.com)

LatPro -- The #1 Job Board for Hispanic and Bilingual Professionals (https://www.latpro.com/)

Dick Bolles' "What Color Is Your Parachute: Job Hunting Online" (http://www.jobhuntersbible.com/)

Washington Post Job Site (http://www.washingtonpost.com/jobs/)

JobApplicationsOnline -- Step-by-step guidance for navigating the online application process at some popular retail employers' websites. (http://www.jobapplicationsonline.com/)

Learn How to Become: Find Your Dream Career -- Doug Jones and Wes Ricketts. (http://wwww.learnhowtobecome.org/)

A strong or moderate foreign accent or other speech impediment could jeopardize your career progress. You may want to consider accent reduction training or speech therapy. A recommended accent coach: Confident Voice -- Susan Ryan (http://www.confidentvoice.com/)

Some recent postings from The Breakfast Club NJ and other sources

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Copyright © Dietmar Tietz 1998-2015, all rights reserved worldwide
This article may be distributed with the citation of author and URL source.
Last updated: March 7, 2015

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Every effort has been made to provide current and correct content. Nevertheless, inaccuracies may occur. Certain recommendations may not work in your particular circumstances. For example, there could be special application requirements for jobs in your profession or for jobs outside the USA. The provided information is not intended to substitute for expert career counseling or coaching. Opinions and views expressed are my own. The author assumes no liability for content on this page and on hyperlinked external webpages. This article is solely for informational purposes.

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