Jim Grant's Blog

Help for Job Seekers – It's all about the process!

How to Apply for a Posted Job

I recently got involved in email conversations about how to apply for a job you found posted somewhere. While I have a couple other posts here in my blog that describe what to do / not to do, I thought I would add this additional post to tie it all together and lay it out in a step by step manner.


The essence of the process is to avoid applying for jobs through the HR Department.. Why? Because the surveys (you can find them on the Internet) indicate that you will get a face-to-face interview only 1 time in 20 when you apply through the HR Department. The poor HR people are overloaded with work and resumes. They commonly are only able to commit 10-30 seconds in review of your resume to make a decision to bring you in for an interview or not. And if you are not that 1 in 20, then the chance of you getting a “Dear John” letter / email is even smaller.


So, what’s a job seeker to do? Here is my recommended step-by-step approach. – – – Note. The sequence is important.


1. Read the job description very closely.

2. Pick out 4-6 key requirements of the job.

3. Create a T-Letter. (If you don’t know what a T-Letter is, then search for my other post in this blog named, “Use the Document that is More Important than Your Resume”.)

4. Enter (copy and paste usually is good enough) the 4-6 key requirements into the T-Letter.

5. Now, for each requirement, write 2-4 bullets about how you meet the requirement (qualify for the job).

6. Write the opening and closing paragraphs of the T-Letter.

7. Now, figure out (“identify”) who is the Hiring Manager. (I have another post in this blog on how to do that.)

8. Contact the Hiring Manager. (I have another post in this blog on how to do that.)

9. If that doesn’t work, contact an external recruiter you know and see if he/she can get your resume in front of the Hiring Manager.

10. If all else fails, then apply through the HR Department / fill out the employer’s on-line application.


This approach takes more effort by you. However, you will find that this approach increases the frequency that you will get a face-to-face interview.



July 2, 2013 Posted by | Pursue Posted Job | 2 Comments

How to Identify and Contact the Hiring Manager

Elsewhere in this blog, I point out that you’ve only got 1 chance in 20 to get an interview if you go through the HR Department. (Those folks are so overloaded with resumes, they are only able to spend 10-30 seconds on each one and rarely have time to send “Dear John” letters.)

So, what’s a job seeker to do? – – – Easy. – – – Identify and contact the Hiring Manager directly.
Here’s how to identify the Hiring Manager.
  • Go to the employer’s facility, wander around, and ask. (This is particularly easy to do if you are looking for a job in a hospital, university, and some government facilities.)
  • Call the employer’s Shipping / Receiving Department and ask. (I hear they love to give out names and phone numbers.)
  • Call the employer’s main switchboard and ask.
  • Call people who already work for the employer.
  • Network, network, and network. (Ask everyone you know/meet, “Who is the Hiring Manager for this job?”.)
  • Go to the library and look in the following:
    • Harris Info-Source Directory
    • D&B Million Dollar Database
  • Search at the Internet social networking sites (Linked-In, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) (Type in the employer name and functional area.)
  • Do a search on Google. (Type in the employer name and functional area.)
  • Call the employer’s customers or suppliers and ask for a referral.
  • Attend a job seeker support group meeting and ask other people.
Here’s how to contact the Hiring Manager (In order from most effective to least effective:)
  • Have someone you know who works with the Hiring Manager’s organization, contact the Hiring Manager on your behalf. Ask that person to say something nice about you, offer your resume to the Hiring Manager, tell the Hiring Manager that you will call in the next 2 days, and to please take your call. (That will turn your “cold” call into a “warm” call.)
  • Have someone you know (like one of your references), contact the Hiring Manager on your behalf. (“warm” call)
  • Have someone you don’t know, contact the Hiring Manager on your behalf. (“warm” call)
  • Walk in to see him/her.
  • Call him/her yourself (and ask to meet with him/her.)
  • Send him/her an email.
  • Send him/her paper (like your resume).
This technique of contacting the Hiring Manager won’t work every time, but it will work more often than applying through the HR Department.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Pursue Posted Job, Target Employers | 2 Comments

On-Line Job Applications – Avoid Them

On Sundays in the business section of my regional newspaper, they include a calendar of events. A sub-section covers events that are for job seekers. Since the start of the year, it seems that there have three or four weeks when there was seminar about “On-line Job Applications”. I’ve never attended one of these seminars. I don’t know what they are telling / teaching job seekers. However, let me give them the benefit of the doubt and think that the leaders / speakers are sharing some great ideas / tips on how to fill out employer’s on-line job applications.

My concern is that, just by holding such seminars, they are giving job seekers the impression that it is a good idea to be filling out job applications.
It is not.
Why do I say that? – – – It’s simple. The chance of a job seeker getting a face-to-face interview by filling out an employer’s online application is about 1 in 20.
How do I know that? – – – The surveys, both ones you can find on the Internet and ones I’ve taken on several occasions with a room full of job seekers, all say that.
What is better than filling out an employer’s on-line application? – – – The answer is easy. Identify and contact the Hiring Manager directly. It does take some extra effort, but you will get more interviews that way.
What’s better than you contacting the Hiring Manager? – – – Have someone else contact the Hiring Manager on your behalf. Who might that someone be? One of your references or someone who already works for the employer.
If those two approaches don’t work for you with some employer, then you can still fill out the employer’s on-line application. Just bear in mind that when you do, your chance of getting a face-to-face interview is quite low.

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Pursue Posted Job, Target Employers | Leave a comment

Evernote for Job Seekers

If you aren’t a note taker, I highly suggest that you get into the habit of taking notes during your job search. You’ve probably got the time to do so and you will find that it is more than worthwhile.

There are at least these 3 things that you should take notes about:
  • People
  • Employers
  • Jobs
If you don’t like computers (or they don’t like you), then I suggest you buy a package of those 3×5 index cards. Take off the plastic wrap and split it into 3 piles, one for each of the 3 topics above. Each card is one item. For example, each card in the pile of people cards is a person. Each card includes identification and contact information for that item. Other information, like how you were referred to / found out about that item should be included, too. Also, include cross references on each card to other items in the same and other piles.
I offer 2 computer programs to members of my Chagrin Valley Job Seekers group for free that help record and maintain this information. One is an Microsoft Excel file. The other is a Microsoft Access Database. They are able to keep track of people, employers, jobs, and a lot of other helpful job search related information.
However, a problem with these programs (and I suspect other programs that have been designed for the job search process) is they require that you enter the information, primarily by typing it in. That can take a non-trivial amount of time and the process is error-prone.
A few months ago, I came across an app by the name of Evernote. It’s great. I now use it as the repository for all the information that I use / need to manage my life. I highly recommend that you start using Evernote for your job search related activities. (Please note. I do not work for the Evernote Corporation or any of its affiliates. I do not receive any compensation from them. None of them have taken me out to dinner!)
Oh, Evernote is free! (My favorite price!)
Use Evernote as your repository for all 3 of the topics above as well as:
  • Your To Do List (Things done and things planned)
  • Your promotional material (resume, business card, marketing plan)
  • Your cover letters
  • Lists of job search related web sites
  • Pictures of companies’ products, facilitators, logos, etc.
  • Your references’ identification and contact information.
  • Just about anything you can think of
Why use Evernote? – – – Evernote does 3 things really well:
  • Capture information without you having to type it in
  • Find it after you captured it
  • Share it with other people
Here are ways you can capture information with Evernote without typing it in:
  • 1 click * will copy an email you receive into Evernote.
  • 1 click will clip anything you see on the Web / Internet into Evernote.
  • Drag and drop a file on your computer into Evernote.
  • Scan paper / objects into Evernote.
  • Make audio recordings inside Evernote.
  • Have your desktop/laptop take a picture with its Webcam.
Here are some examples of capturing job search related information with Evernote:
  • Go to Linked-In. Search for a person. When you find his profile, 1-click it into Evernote for future reference.
  • Go to Linked-In. Search for a company. 1-click the company description into Evernote.
  • Go to Monster.com. Search for jobs. When you find one you are interested in, 1-click the job description into Evernote.
  • Take pictures with Evernote on your smart phone when you go to places.
  • Receive a job offer by email? 1-click it into Evernote.
  • Talk to your iPhone (Android device?). It will translate your spoken words into text and add them to Evernote.
  • Take a picture of someone’s business card. Evernote will allow you to search for any information on the card.
  • Find a helpful article on the job search process on the Internet? 1-click it into Evernote.
Finding things already in Evernote is very easy. Evernote has effectively indexed every word in your Evernote database. So, merely search for a word (a person’s name, an employer’s name, a city, a document, whatever).
Here are the ways you can share information (without retyping it) already in Evernote with other people:
  • 1-click a note in Evernote and send it as an outgoing email.
  • Copy a note in Evernote and send it as an outgoing text message.
  • Paste information into any other application (MS Word, Excel, your calendar, your Gmail contacts list).
  • Post an Evernote note to Linked-In.
  • Post an Evernote note to Twitter
  • Post an Evernote note to Facebook
What kind of devices does Evernote run on? Many:
  • On your smart phone (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry)
  • On your tablet computer (iOS, Android)
  • On your desktop or laptop computer (Windows or Mac)
  • On the Internet (www.evernote.com)
You  can add, update, and delete information on any one of your devices and Evernote will then keep them all in sync, all with exactly the same information.
Here are some other key features of Evernote:
  • It converts words in pictures, images, and handwriting into searchable text.
  • You can associate a Note to a particular Topic, Person, Location (or any other relevant attribute).
  • You can associate a Note to any place in the world (geo-tagging).
How do you get started with Evernote?
I hope you find Evernote is a great tool for your job search activity and information.
* Sometimes, it takes a couple clicks.

June 1, 2013 Posted by | All | 2 Comments

Contact the Person Who Last Held the Job

A job seeker recently contacted me. She had an interview with an HR person. The interview went quite well – – – actually too well, too fast. It seems like they wanted to hire her very quickly. While the job sounded interesting, there were a couple aspects of the job duties/responsibilities that were deal-breakers, although possibly negotiable. Also, the person who previously held the job did so for a relatively short time. When the job seeker added this all up, plus a couple other things that popped up during the interview, she was second-guessing whether she wanted to accept the invitation to meet the Hiring Manager.

What would you do in this situation? – – – Here’s a tactic when things ‘smell’ a little strange.

Employers do background checks on candidates. They commonly contact a candidate’s prior employers. Well, turnabout should be fair play. Call up the HR person. Tell him/her you want to do a background check. Ask for the name and phone number of the person who previously held the position. If they won’t give it to you (or come up with a lame excuse why that can’t happen), then you know you don’t want to work for that Hiring Manager / employer.

You may conclude that this is a very risky tactic that will probably lead to losing the job opportunity.

However, you need to balance that risk off with the risk of accepting the job and finding out that the situation was worse than you feared. – – -Or, worse than that, you resigned a good, secure job to take this one that turns out badly.

A bad thing can happen whether you take action or even if you don’t take action. At least, evaluate the risks and the potential gains.

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Interviewing | Leave a comment

Sustain Your Job Search During the Holidays

I commonly hear job seekers express apprehension and a sense of futility about looking for a job from the latter half of November through the first week in January. They seem to think the lack of response from employers they experience during the rest of the year will only get worse during this time period at the end of the year. The truth of the matter is that for a variety of reasons, the year-end holiday period is a good time to sustain your job search.

Below are these lists:
* Reasons to “Rev Up” Your Job Search Over the Holidays
* Myths about Looking for a job over the Holidays. (Don’t buy into them.)
* Things that You can do that are More Effective during the Holidays:
* Pithy Quotes (that will hopefully add to your inspiration to keep at the job search)

I hope this helps you out.

Reasons to “Rev Up” Your Job Search Over the Holidays

* There is less competition, because many job seekers are pessimistic about the prospects over the holidays and fewer people are actively looking. Those who work the phones have an above-average chance of getting a face-to-face interview.

* Positions advertised over the holidays are ones that companies are very serious about filling.

* Secretaries and other gate keepers are more likely to be on vacation. That increases your chance of actually talking to a hiring manager.

* Executives who travel a lot throughout the year are often in, sorting through end-of-the-year paperwork or finishing business plans for the next year. This is another reason why your chance of talking to a hiring manager increases.

* Employed people who voluntarily leave typically do so at the end of the year. That creates openings for persistent job seekers.

* Holiday parties are good for networking and you, even as a job seeker, will get invited to more “get-togethers” at this time of the year than any other.

* Business volume increases for many employers at the end of the year due to the seasonal buying pattern of their customers. This creates more job opportunities.

* Employed people tend to want to tie up loose ends before the new year. Hiring managers, human-resource representatives and executive recruiters are like the rest of us who have that feeling of urgency as the year-end approaches. If there are unfilled positions on their staffs, hiring managers naturally want to fill them.

* Headhunters are more motivated to place candidates before the end of the year. “Contingency” recruiters are paid on commission. This commission is based on fees their company earns for placing professionals. The amount the individual recruiter receives can be up to 60% of the total fee or higher if the recruiter is a principal or owner of his firm.

Myths about Looking for a job over the Holidays. (Don’t buy into them.)

* No one does any hiring at this time of the year.

* No one has time for a meeting – with all their other concerns.

* There is no turnover in December.

* There are no budget dollars left to do anything else this year.

* Everyone is too busy with year-end projects.

* Everyone goes on vacation out of town.

* Anyone you haven’t talked with in a while will feel that you are “using” them if you contact them now when you need a job.

Things that You can do that are More Effective during the Holidays:

* Make a telephone “holiday” greeting call to the people in your network. The holidays give you another reason to remind them that you are looking for a job.

* Get involved in a year-end charitable event. This will create networking opportunities for you, in addition to doing something worthwhile.

* Send holiday greeting cards with your business card enclosed to hiring managers with whom you’ve recently interviewed.

* Consider a part-time job (even if it’s not your first job objective) with an employer who needs extra help over the holidays. It may turn into a more desirable job and, and at a minimum, it will generate some cash for the holidays. (About 40% of temp workers at Manpower Inc., a temporary-staffing firm based in Milwaukee, end up getting a permanent position.)


Pithy Quotes (that will hopefully add to your inspiration to keep at the job search)

“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is!” – Will Rogers.

“I am a great believer in luck and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it.” – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1865).

“Hope is the dream of those that wake.” – Matthew Prior.

“To have begun is half the job: be bold and be sensible.” – Horace, Roman Poet (65 – 8 BC).

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC)

“There is more credit and satisfaction in being a first-rate truck driver than a tenth-rate executive.” – B. C. Forbes.

November 15, 2011 Posted by | All | 1 Comment

Include Your Contact Info in Each Email You Send

One thing you can do to increase the number of responses you get from emails you send (which is a good thing) is to include your name and contact information in each email.

Why do it? You want to appear to the recipients of your emails that you are open, friendly, and easy to contact. You also want to make it easy for someone to copy your email address and add it to his/her address book.

Most email software / servers will automatically include such information as a “Signature” in each email you send.

Despite how easy it is to do, I’d guestimate that more than 70% of the emails I receive from job seekers do not have a “Signature.”. – – – Yes, it may be possible to figure out your name from your email address, but if that is your reaction you are missing the point.

I highly recommend that you figure out how to set up a “Signature” and have it automatically inserted into every email you send

What do you include in your “Signature?” The same things you should include on your job search business card, like:
* Your Name
* Title of the job you are seeking (or two)
* Key words that are used in your field / job
* Your phone number
* Your email address
* If your field is graphics design (or similar), include some graphics (but don’t over-do it.)

Here’s an example:
* Jim Grant
* Manager Financial Planning and Analysis
* Management, forecasting, margin-mix analysis, budgeting, strategic planning
* 440-248-6042
* JWGrant@AOL.com

I hope you feel this helps in your job search.


October 12, 2011 Posted by | Seeking | 1 Comment

Solutions to Your Job Search Challenges

Here are solutions to the challenges that many/most job seekers encounter, listed in the sequence in which they are typically encountered. The solution descriptions are gross simplifications, but, hopefully, you get the point.

  1. Are you finding enough job openings? No, then you need to spend a lot more time networking and a lot less time searching the Internet for jobs.
  2. Are you finding the jobs, but not getting enough interviews? Then it’s either (a) Your resume, or (b) You’ve got to start using a T-Letter every time you apply for a posted job, or (c) You’ve got to stop wasting your time applying for jobs through the HR Department.
  3. Are you getting the interviews, but not the offers? Then, you need to improve your interviewing skills.
  4. Are you getting the offers but they’re way too low? Then, either (a) You need to learn how to not answer “the salary question” or (b) You need to learn how to negotiate compensation.

I hope you feel these points and ideas head you in the right direction.

September 17, 2011 Posted by | Interviewing, Negotiating, Networking, Pursue Posted Job, Resumes | Leave a comment

The 4 Best Tips for Job Seekers

Below are the 4 best tips I’ve ever heard for job seekers. Where do they come from? I’ve met many other job seeker advisors, HR people, external recruiters, hiring managers, and job seekers. I’ve listened to what they say works best. I’ve read several books for job seekers. I’ve written one. I’ve had the opportunity to read through the 3-ring binders of material that three outplacement firms provide their client job seekers.

In short, if you adhere to these 4 tips, I would be highly confident that you will materially shorten the amount of time that you are unemployed.

  1. Stop wasting your time applying for jobs through the HR Department (and that includes filling out employers’ online applications).  There’s less than 1 chance in 20 that you will get an interview when you do.
  2. Always use a T-Letter when applying for a job you found posted somewhere.
  3. Network, network, and network some more.
  4. Learn how to not answer “the salary question” (at least not the first time someone asks).

If you do not know how to adhere to the above tips, don’t know what one of the terms means, or, in the case of #1, know what to do instead, then you need to find out. You can find out by reading some of my other posts in this blog, by reading a good book on the job search, by working with a person who is experienced in the job search process and counsels job seekers.

It’s all about the process. If you use the right process, the results will come.

In simple terms, you need to become as good at the job search process as you were in the last job you had – – – and it probably took you some training and some time to be good at that job.

July 15, 2011 Posted by | All, Negotiating, Networking, Pursue Posted Job | Leave a comment

Never Leave a Job Interview without Asking ………

When job seekers contact me and ask for advice, it is commonly about what to do after having had a job interview (either face-to-face or over the phone). While they provide me with a fair amount of background information, I usually have to ask where they stand in the mind of the employer. In other words, is the employer going to invite them back in for another round of interviews?

This is an important piece of information. It should be one of the major factors which should be taken into account by a job seeker to determine what to do next. Yet, most job seekers do not know the answer to the question.

Consequently, I highly recommend that you never leave a job interview (either with a Hiring Manager or an HR person, either face-to-face or over the phone) without asking some question(s) to determine where you stand in the employer’s mind.

Here are some example questions. They range from fearful / passive down to confident / aggressive.

  • What do you think?
  • Do you feel that I meet all the job requirements?
  • Am I on your short list of candidates?
  • Will you have me back in for additional interviews? (If speaking with a Hiring Manager.)
  • Will you recommend to the Hiring Manager that he/she invite me in for an interview? (If speaking with an HR person.)
  • When will we have another round of interviews?
  • Do you see any reason not to make me an offer (right now)?

Regardless of which question you may start with, you want to end up with a clear understanding as to whether the employer is going to bring you back in for more interviews (or make you an offer).

Employers commonly survey customers to determine whether the customer’s experience is going to lead to additional business. Extensive academic research has demonstrated that the question that is the best predictor of the prospects of additional business is “Would you recommend our products/services to someone else?” 

Hence, the best question you can ask an HR person is “Will you recommend to the Hiring Manager to bring me in for an interview?”

If the answer you get is “Yes”, then that’s great for you. Then respond slowly and briefly and perhaps only probe for “when.” 

If you do not get an answer right away (that is, the person hesitates and has to think about an answer), then is not likely you will be invited back in. The other person just hasn’t figured out how to let you down easily.

If this case, no matter what the response is (like “Well, we have other candidates to interview, yet.”), then you will need to ask some additional probing questions to find out where you stand. (For example, “Well, based on candidates you have already interview, where do I stand in your mind?”) 

If you get a “No” answer to your question about whether you will be invited back for additional interviews, this will be deflating and you will tend to clam up. However, this is a point in time when it is very important for you to get feedback on why not. A response / question like “Well, that is very disappointing. I am very interested this job. [pause] I do intend to pursue other job opportunities. Could you please give me some feedback about how I could better present myself and my capabilities to help me improve my chances in other situations?”

Your response to a “No” answer is also critical for another reason. That Hiring Manager or HR person may know of another opportunity with his/her company. If you come back with a negative / unprofessional, or worse yet, an angry, response to a “No” answer, you’ll never hear about that other opportunity. 

I hope you feel these ideas help you in your job search.

April 29, 2011 Posted by | Interviewing | 1 Comment

Give This to The Person Who Reviews Your Resume

I’ve reviewed the resume of lots of people. About 25% of the time, it’s 20-30 minutes into the process of reviewing the resume and asking the person some questions that I come to the realization that the person’s resume isn’t going to help the job seeker to land the job he/she wants.

As a consequence, I designed a form with a handful of questions that I ask a person to fill out and bring to the resume review session. This has proved to be effective. Not only does it help me suggest changes to the resume that will help lead the person to the right job, it gets the person to think through his/her job objective again and firm up what he/she wants to.

Below is a link to the form I designed. Copy the link, paste it into your browser, download the document, print it, fill it out, and take it with you when you meet with someone who is going to review your resume.

We offer the form to the members of the CVJS.

You may be thinking, “Doesn’t my resume explain the kind of job I am looking for?” Maybe, but you will find questions on my form asking for information that is rarely, if ever, found on a resume.

I hope this helps you out.

Let me know how it works for you.


March 13, 2011 Posted by | Resumes | Leave a comment

The Timidness of Job Seekers

A large majority of job seekers I come across have one thing in common. They are timid.

They are timid about asking an employer questions. They are timid about calling back after an interview. They are timid about negotiating for more compensation. And so on.

I frequently get questions from job seekers that start with, “Is it OK if I……….” – – – It is a rare situation in which I suggest “No.”

I realize that you may perceive that these are challenging times for job seekers. I realize that you may have been out of work for an extended period of time and that you may think you can’t take a chance and say/do something that will lose an opportunity for you – – – and for all of that you have my sympathy and empathy.

But, I have to say that too many job seekers I come across are too timid. It is as though they feel that they have to roll over and play dead when dealing with employers. They seem to feel that they have to play the game exactly according to the employers’ rules – – – If you play exactly by the employer’s rules, you will, no doubt, get ruled out. – – – The system is set-up to rule you out.

Besides, have you considered that maybe the employer is looking for someone who is proactive, perseverant, aggressive? – – – Not all bosses are looking for employees who sit around waiting for someone to tell them what to do.

There are different levels of freedom. Ranging from low to high, some examples are:
     * Wait until someone tells you what to do.
     * Ask someone what to do. (Ask for permission in advance.)
     * Do something without asking. (If need be, ask for forgiveness later.)

It is rare that I encounter a job seeker who lost his/her job because of his/her performance. The vast, vast majority of job seekers out there were laid off because of business problems that had nothing to do with the employee.

It is not your fault that you were out of work. There is nothing wrong with you. You are a capable and valuable employee.

Take care of yourself. Evaluate employers as much as they evaluate you. Be proactive. Get control of your job search. – – – Don’t be too timid.

Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. If you lose out on a job opportunity, do you want it to be because you did nothing or because you took action? – – – If you take action, you will likely learn from that for the next time.

March 11, 2011 Posted by | All | Leave a comment

Employer Asks for Confidential Info Before an Offer is Made

I just received an email from a job seeker who was looking for help in responding to a request from an employer for a copy of his last pay stub after only one interview and before an offer was made.

When an employer asks for confidential information (like pay stubs, social security numbers, birth dates) before an offer is made, one of several things can be happening:
   * It is a legitimate request. It is part of the employer’s standard procedures.
   * The information may be used to rule you out. (e.g. your pay is perceived as too high or you are perceived to be too old.)
   * The employer is doing market research on salary and has no intention of making you an offer.
   * It is an outright scam with the intention of stealing your identity or some other fraudulent act.
The problem is that you don’t know in advance.

I have not done a formal survey. However, I believe such requests from an employer before an offer is made, negotiated, and agreed to is very uncommon. It is rare that another job seeker tells me that it is happened to him/her. I also believe it is premature for an employer to ask for such information? Why? Because an employer can make an offer contingent upon any information discovered during a background check or subsequently provided by you, the job seeker. Also, it costs an employer to have a background check done. It is not a lot of money, but it seems to be reasonable to think that an employer would be interested in saving the time, effort, and money by waiting to do the background check after the offer is made for those few cases in which an offer is not acceptable.

When I do get asked how to deal with such a request before an offer is made, my suggestion is that you say “I will be glad to provide whatever information you need after an offer is made.”

Please note. The employer’s people may not accept that kind of response. You run the risk of losing the opportunity if you don’t provide the information when it is requested. If you are desperate for a job, have been experiencing extreme personal or financial stress, or this is your dream job for which you have been waiting for years, then you may want to use a response that is softer than what I proposed.

However, in that case, I would suggest that before you acquiesce and provide the requested information that you ask yourself “Do I really want/need to work for an employer who plays the game with such strong-arm tactics?”

October 13, 2010 Posted by | Interviewing | 7 Comments

Ask for the Job

I had a  job seeker send me an email a couple days ago. He said he only got the job because of some advice that we give at CVJS meetings.

I am not a sales person, but I have enough first hand experience with sales people to know that something they are taught somewhere during their career is to “Ask for the order.” Doing so increases the chance of getting the sale.

The same is true when you are interviewing for a job and you conclude you really want it. “Ask for the job.”

The job seeker I referred to above told me that a month after he had the job (and things were going smoothly), the hiring manager (now his boss) told him that at the time of interviewing candidates, she had 2-3 really good people to choose from. However, during the interview with the CVJS member, he “asked for the job”. She told him that right there on the spot, she decided she was going to hire him because he asked.

In the spirit of Dr. Wayne Dwyer, “The world is waiting to give you what you want. You just need to tell the world what it is.”

October 9, 2010 Posted by | Interviewing | Leave a comment

Seminar: “How to Network”, Monday, September 27

I will be giving a presentation on this subject at the Chagrin Valley Job Seekers meeting at 7:30 PM at the Pioneer Memorial Presbyterian Church, 35100 Solon Road, Solon, Ohio.

Here are the topics I will be covering:
   * Why Networking is So Important for Job Seekers
   * Objective / Goals of Networking
   * Who to Network With
   * When and Where to Network
   * How to Set Up a Networking Meeting
   * How to Conduct a Networking Meeting
   * How to Get People to Help You
   * How to Follow-Up
   * How to Build and Sustain a Network

I hope to see you there.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Working with External Recruiters

I had a job seeker contact me a few days ago and share an experience with an external recruiter. (By “external”, I mean a recruiter who will recruit people for many different employers.) The job seeker’s story went like this. The recruiter contacted him, indicated he had a job for the job seeker, and asked him to come in to talk about it. When the job seeker got there, he was asked to fill out some paperwork, some of which asked the job seeker to pay the recruiter’s fee, if he did not stay with the employer for x number of months. Fortunately, the job seeker did not sign the paper and walked out. He was, of course, disappointed since the recruiter had a job for which the recruiter thought the job seeker was a good fit.

That was the tip-off for me. The job seeker never got a chance to review the job description and determine for himself whether he might be interested.

I’m sorry to say I’ve heard this story too many times. A job seeker gets lured into an external recruiter’s office, fills out a bunch of paperwork, and, for some reason, never gets an interview. Sometimes, after arriving at the recruiter’s office, the job seeker finds out that the job has now been filled. (If you believe that one, I’ve got a house in Florida I want to sell you.)

There’s a very simple thing you can do to avoid wasting your time in these situations and filling out recruiter’s paperwork. That is, change the sequence of events. The first thing for you to do when an external recruiter calls you is to ask him for the job description. If a recruiter won’t review the job description over the phone, that’s a red flag. If you’re not interested, then you’re done with that external recruiter (at least for this job. If you’re interested, next ask the recruiter who the employer is. Assuming you are willing to work for that employer, you can tell the recruiter he can submit you to the employer. If he asks you to come in and fill out paperwork, that’s a red flag, but you may decide that’s the only way to avoid losing the opportunity. Regardless, never sign anything that obligates you to pay a fee.

By the way, on behalf of the recruiters, if a recruiter reveals who the employer is, I feel you have a moral and ethical obligation to work through the recruiter in pursuit of the subject job. This isn’t an opportunity to exploit a recruiter’s good will, run around him, and contact the employer yourself.

Please note. I do not have a vendetta against external recruiters. I know many who are high integrity people and have excellent business practices. However, there are others you need to be careful dealing with.

August 26, 2010 Posted by | Use External Recruiter | 3 Comments

What to Do When You Come in 2nd Place

There may not be something more discouraging than having three great rounds of interviews for a job that you really wanted and then finding out that you came in 2nd place. However, if that happens, you need to make sure that your discouragement doesn’t immobilize you. There are still some important things that you need to do in regard to that job. Here are some ideas for you.Ÿ        

  • Send a “Thank You for Not Hiring Me” letter to the Hiring Manager. While the title I’ve used for that letter has a facetious element to it, your letter needs to come off as very professional. Re-express your intense interest for the job, your disappointment that you didn’t get hired, that you understand that the Hiring Manager needs to hire the person he/she felt was best qualified, and express your appreciation for being given serious consideration.
  • Then, about 5-10 days later, get some feedback as to “why” you came in 2nd place. It is difficult to do because most Hiring Managers will think you want to still pester them about getting the job, but try every time, anyhow.  If you sent a letter with a professional tone (like what I suggested above) beforehand, you will increase the chance that the Hiring Manager will take your call and give you some candid feedback. An innocent question you can start off with is “I plan on pursuing other opportunities. Can you give me feedback as to how I conducted myself that will improve my chances with other employers?”
  • Then, ask the hiring manager if he/she knows of any other opportunities within his/her company or elsewhere that you might be interested in. Think of it now as a networking opportunity.
  • Call the person who was #1 and got hired. Congratulate him and ask what other job openings he knows about. They may be opportunities for you, now.
  • Call the Hiring Manager  again a couple weeks later. Ask if the person who accepted the job ever showed up? Or did he/she already leave the company? You would be amazed at the number of times that other job seekers get hired and never show up or aren’t with the employer for more than a few weeks.

Stick with it. You only fail when you give up trying.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | Acquiring | 3 Comments

Job Search Tip: Your Email Address for Your Job Search

First, I suggest that you create a separate email address for your job search. The primary benefit will be that it isolates those types of incoming emails. That will help you stay organized in your job search and reduce the chance that you miss an important incoming email that requires your prompt response.

Second, I suggest that you use a professional sounding email address. I can’t tell you the number of job seekers I’ve come across who have emails that are inappropriate. sexybabe@xxxxxxxxx.com, thejonesfamily@xxxxxxxxx.com, rockclimbingbill@xxxxxxxx.com, tomandbetty@xxxxxxxxx.com, and musclejoe@xxxxxxxxx.com just don’t cut it.

Third, use an email address that readily identifies you. When a person wants to send you an email, you want to make it easy for them to recall (or call up) your email address. A good choice for your email address is [YourFirstName][YourLastName]@xxxxxxxxx.com (or start with your last name). (Don’t include the brackets [ ] .) If your name is common, someone may already have that email address. Then, just add a digit (like 1) after your name.

Fourth, avoid using special characters (like #, -, _, and spaces) in your email address. You may know where they are on the keyboard, but there are still lots of people out there who don’t. If it isn’t apparent to most recipients where your first and last name begin and end, then use a period (.) to separate them.

If you do create a separate email for your job search, be sure to change it on your resume, business card, cover letter templates, and any other promotional material that you use.

April 24, 2010 Posted by | Preparing | Leave a comment

Overcoming Objections to Meeting with You

In the course of your job search, there will be many times in which you will contact someone (usually by phone) in the hopes that he/she will meet with you face-to-face. I’m not talking now about a job interview. I’m focused on a networking meeting.

When you call someone, it is more than likely that he/she will have an objection to meeting with you. If you hang up as soon as you hear the objection, then you’ve lost the opportunity for sure. If you haven’t noticed, yet, when two people have a disagreement about something, the last one to speak typically “wins.” (When my wife hears me say this, she always pipes in with “Yes, and in our house, I always get the last word.” – – – Unfortunately, that’s usually the case!) So, it is critical that you, as a job seeker, not give up when you get an objection to meeting with you and you have a rebuttal at-the-ready.

To help you get prepared for this, I’m going to name the 3 most likely objections you will hear to meeting with you and I will offer some rebuttals. Let me start with an opening script when you place the call and get the person on the phone. I’d suggest you start off with something like:

“Mr. Jones, my name is Jim Grant. I got your name from Tom Smith. I am looking for a job as a programmer/analyst. I know you don’t have a job for me. However, Tom indicated that you would be a great person for me to meet with. I’d like to share with you the kind of work I do and explain how you might be able to help me. Would you be available to meet with me for 20 minutes next Tuesday or Wednesday?

Objection #1 – “I don’t know you.”

While that’s true, the opening script I suggested above helps to overcome that objection. I referred to Tom Smith, someone Mr. Jones already knows. People tend to prefer to meet with someone who was referred to them by someone they already know. If you’re really good as this networking process, you will have asked Tom Smith to call Mr. Jones before you call, give a little background about you, tell him that you will be calling, and to please take your call.

Objection #2 – “I don’t have a job for you.”

Well again, the opening script helps. People commonly don’t want to meet with a job seeker who might badger them for a job, when they have none to offer. So you want to defuse this concern as soon as you can and overtly say during the call at some time that you know Mr. Jones doesn’t have a job for you.

Objection #3 – “I’m too busy.”

No doubt, Mr. Jones is busy, but he is more than likely just using this as an excuse not to meet with you. I’d suggest you respond with something like: “The last thing I would want to do is disrupt your work. I noticed there is a Starbucks right next to your office building. How about we meet there next Tuesday or Wednesday morning at 7:30 AM, before work?” (Be sure to offer more than one day/time. If you only offer one, Mr. Jones will be sure to be busy then!)

If you are unable to get Mr. Jones to agree to meet with you, express your appreciation for his time, but don’t hang up until you ask him if he could refer you to someone you might be able to meet with.

You will encounter other objections to meeting with you and, the first time you hear each one, you may not have an effective rebuttal at-the-ready. I suggest, though, that after the unsuccessful phone call that you write down the objection and develop a good rebuttal for it.

I found that when I made these types of calls, I was more effective if I reviewed my notes on the probable objections and my rebuttals before I placed the call.

I hope you feel this explanation makes you more effective at placing these types of calls in your job search and getting people to meet with you.

April 24, 2010 Posted by | Networking, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Documents to Take to an Interview

I’d have to believe that every job seeker knows he/she should take a copy of his/her resume, a list of references, and something to write with/on to an interview. However, I’d suggest that there are 6 other documents you should also take.

  1. Your Business Card – Offer one at either the start or end of the interview. Not only is it a professional thing to do, it is also an unobtrusive way to get the interviewer’s business card which likely has his/her phone number and email address for you to use for follow-up purposes. Besides, if one is not offered back to you, that can be a revealing non-act.
  2.  The Job Description – This confirms for the interviewer that you are focused on the interviewer’s job (not using a “shot-gun” approach to your job search). It also will refresh in your mind what the job is about. It is also a convenient place to write your questions about the job.
  3. A List of Your Questions – You need to ask questions, too. You need to make sure you understand the job (and your potential boss) and whether you really want it. Come with a list. Don’t ad lib. If you do, your hesitation when asked will give the impression that you are either not a well-prepared person and/or you are apathetic. 
  4. Your T-Letter – (This presumes you are interviewing for a job you found posted somewhere. If you don’t know what a T-Letter is, see my post on “The Document that is More Important than Your Resume.) The interview is primarily for the interviewer to determine if you are “qualified” for the job. Well, you already told them in your T-Letter when you originally sent in your resume. Bring your T-Letter to the interview to remind yourself why you are “qualified” and to help you verbalize why.
  5. Examples of Your Work – (Sometimes called a “Portfolio”. Even a prop is effective.) Being able to verbally communicate your capabilities, skills, and experience is important, but so is providing a “show and tell.” Additionally, it’s not uncommon for a job seeker to feel anxiety during an interview, merely talking about him/herself. One way to overcome that anxiety it is to talk about materials / objects. That way, you’re explaining your work, not explaining yourself and you’ll likely come across more confident and knowledgeable.
  6. Your Last Pay Statement – After an offer is extended, negotiated, and an agreement reached, it is common that the offer is contingent upon a background check, contacting references, and/or confirmation of your past compensation. If your past compensation is an issue, pull out your last pay statement to confirm it and get that contingency removed. (Do not pull it out, until after an offer has been made and an agreement has been reached on future compensation.)

I hope you find this list helpful.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Interviewing | 1 Comment

Job Search Readiness Questionnaire


– – – Background – – –

This questionnaire is intended to give you an idea as to how well you are prepared to conduct a job search.

Think back to your last job. Could you have performed that job on day 1 as well as you did 3-6 months later? Not likely. Most jobs require some education, training, preparation, practice, and experience before you can effectively perform them. 

The same is true of the job search. – – – I find that many/most job seekers need some education as to what the “process” is and time to prepare (both in developing promotional materials and developing skills, like networking, interviewing, and negotiating.) – – – In addition, many job seekers have not looked for a job for 10, 20, or maybe even 30 years. They don’t realize, yet, that what worked more than 10 years ago isn’t very effective in today’s job market. 

So, this raises the fundamental question, “How well prepared / how ready are you to undertake your job search?”

To help you answer that question, I’ve developed this “Job Search Readiness Questionnaire.” 

I recognize that you may have already started your job search. If so, consider the questionnaire as something that will give you some insight into whether you might need to take a step back and brush up on some of your knowledge and skills needed to conduct a search. If that is the case, consider reading other topics that I’ve posted here in my blog. Each addresses some topic in the questionnaire. 

Bottom Line: The more you are prepared, the shorter the time will be that you are unemployed.

Below are following sections:

  • The Procedure
  • The Questionnaire
  • The Guidelines
  • A Summary of other Job Seekers’ Scores

I hope you feel this helps you prepare for and achieve success in your job search, sooner than later.


– – – The Procedure – – –

Answer each question either “Yes” or “No”. If you answer “Yes”, you get the points for the question that are in parentheses ( ) after the question. If you answered “No”, you get 0 points. No partial credit or points should be taken. It’s all or none. If a question has two or more parts to it, you need to be able to answer “Yes” to all parts to get the points. (Yes, I could have offered partial points, but then, it’s a judgment call. For now, the “Guidelines” are based on this “all or nothing” method of scoring.)

After you have answered the last question, add up your points and compare your total against the “Guidelines” to obtain an assessment of your current level of readiness and a recommended course of action.

As a final step, please send me an email (JWGrant@AOL.com) that indicates (1) Your score, (2) What letter (A, B, C, D from the “Guidelines”) that represents your view of how well you are prepared to conduct a job search, (3) Any comments to improve the content or format of the questionnaire. This will help me ensure that the “Guidelines” are calibrated reasonably well. Your response will also help me when I work with other job seekers in the future. (I will not send you emails and I will not sell/give your email address to anyone else.) 


– – – The Questionnaire – – –

Phase I – Separating (from your last employer)

    1.   Did you get all the compensation and benefits you were entitled to? (5)

    2.   Did you get contact information from your prior colleagues, bosses, customers, suppliers for future networking opportunities? (5)

    3.   Do you understand how COBRA works and have you made a deliberate decision to use it or not? (5)

    4.   Have you applied for unemployment compensation? (5)

Phase II – Planning

    5.   Do you clearly know the kind of work you want to do and where? Can you write a 100 word description of it? (25)

    6.   Do you know the 18 steps in the entire job search process and understand them? (5)

    7.   Have 3-5 people reviewed your resume and have you incorporated their suggested changes, and is it less than a page and a half? (5)

    8.   Is your 30-second commercial / elevator speech refined and ready to go? (5)

    9.   Do you know you should not waste your time pursuing jobs through the HR Departments and what you should do instead? (10)

Phase III – Preparing

  10. Do you know what a “T-Letter” is and are you committed to use it for each posted job that you pursue? (15)

  11. Have you obtained an experienced job search mentor / advisor? (5)

  12. Have you established a paper or computer based system to record all the information about people, employers, and jobs you will encounter in your job search? (5)

  13. Have you done your salary research and know what the salary range is for the kind of job you are looking for in the geographic area you want to work? Do you know what you are worth? (10)

  14. Do you have a business card and does it indicate the kind of work you want to do? (5)

  15. Do you have answers prepared for all those crazy questions interviewers ask? (5)

  16. Do you have a list of at least 5 target employers you want work for even though you have no reason to believe they currently have a job for you? (10)

  17. Have you developed your Marketing Plan? (10)

Phase IV – Seeking

  18. Do you know how to network? Who to network with? (15)

  19. Do you know the 4 fundamental methods for searching for a job and do you now what portion of your time you should spend on each? (10)

  20. Do you know how to work with external recruiters? Do you know how to recognize the “good”, “bad”, and “ugly” ones? (5)

Phase V – Acquiring

  21. Do you have good interviewing skills? Have you practiced interviewing with another person? (15)

  22. Do you know the best question you can ask a hiring manager to “sell” yourself? (5)

  23. Do you know how to answer behavior interview questions? (5)

  24. Do you have 2 non-answers prepared for the dreaded “What are your salary requirements” question? (10)

  25. Do you have your list of questions to ask during an interview? (5)

  26. Do you know how to negotiate compensation? Have you decided which negotiating chips are really important to you? (15)

Total Points = 220.


– – – The Guidelines – – –

 Compare your total points to the 4 ranges below.

Ref ID = A
Your Points = Less than 100
Assessment = You are “Not Ready” to start a job search.
Recommended Course of Action = Immediately start working on those questions to which you answered “No.” If someone contacts you about a job opportunity, you would do well to postpone any meetings until you are better prepared. 

Ref ID = B
Your Points = 105 to 135
Assessment = Not well-prepared.
Recommended Course of Action = If someone contacts you about a job opportunity, go ahead and proceed, but keep working on the questions to which you answered “No” until any meeting occurs.

Ref ID = C
Your Points = 140 to 165
Assessment = Fairly well- prepared.
Recommended Course of Action = Start your job search. However, you would do well to simultaneously work on those questions to which you answered “No.”.

Ref ID = D
Your Points = More than 165
Assessment = Very well-prepared.
Recommended Course of Action = Start your job search immediately.

 Regardless of the Guidelines above, if you answered “No” to question #5, then you are not ready to start a job search, because you don’t yet know what kind of work to look for. At a minimum, you should obtain an experienced job search mentor who may be able to help you determine what you want to do. You also may need to go through a formal career planning program and then do “informational” interviews based on the results of the program.


– – – A Summary of Other Job Seekers Scores – – –

 Here is a summary of the scores from other job seekers.

A              9%
B            22%
C            25%
D           44%
Total    100%

March 2, 2010 Posted by | Planning | 2 Comments

My Mar 1 Speaking Engagement

When: Monday, March 1, 2010
             2 PM – 3:30 PM

What: Speech Title = How to Negotiate Compensation

Topics Covered:

  • Elements of compensation (negotiating chips).
  • How to assess the Demand / Supply situation.
  • The who, what, when, where, and how of negotiating.
  • Negotiating strategies.
  • What to do when the offer is “fantastic”, “just right”, or “too low”.
  • Elements of a written job offer.

Where: Geauga West Public Library
13455 Chillocothe Road (Route 306)
Chesterland, Ohio

Registration: Requested. Contact Denise Tomazic at Denise.Tomazic@cgifederal.com or 440-285-1223

Cost: Free

February 25, 2010 Posted by | All, Negotiating | Leave a comment

When Considering a Contract/Interim/Temp Position

It’s fairly common for job seekers to inquire as to whether it is a good idea to accept a contract/interim/temp position. The general, simple answer is “sure.” If may be somewhat more difficult to do so, but you can continue to search for a full time job while you take on a non-permanent position.

However, when considering / accepting a contract/interim/temp position, you shouldn’t become blasé about the terms and condition of the position. Below are some issues to address when considering a non-permanent position. (Please note. I am not an attorney and I certainly suggest that you consult one if any documents created are going to require signatures.)

First, in addition to the employer you will be working for, there likely will be a “temporary” agency or external recruiting firm involved. If that is the case, you want to be clear about the following:

  • How much will you be paid per unit of time (hour, day, week, etc.)?
  • What will be the process for recording the amount of time that you worked?
  • When will you get paid? How often? What is the lag time between working and getting paid?
  • What benefits will the agency / firm provide you? (for example: health care, vacation, etc.)
  • Will you be reimbursed for expenses (for example: commuting, parking, travel) you incur?
  • When do your services begin and end?

Don’t sign anything that obligates you to pay a fee. 

If there isn’t a “temporary” agency / firm involved, then you will need to address the above issues with the employer.

In addition, you need to address the following issues with the employer:

  • What will you be expected to do / accomplish?
  • By when?
  • What services / products / materials / equipment is the employer expecting you to provide?
  • What will the employer provide to help you perform the work? (for example: an office, desk, computer)
  • Is the employer going to ask you to sign a confidentiality or non-compete agreement?
  • Make sure you know who you will be taking orders from.
  • What are the criteria upon which it will determined whether the “temp” position turns into a “perm” position? Who makes the decision?
  • When will the “temp” position turn into a “perm” position?
  • When the job goes to “perm”, what will be your salary? (The time to discuss this issue is before you accept a “temp” position. If you wait until after the “temp” position is completed, you will likely be disappointed in the salary that is offered.)
  • When the job goes to “perm”, what benefits will you be eligible for?

Now, how do you achieve this detailed understanding with the other party(ies)? Well, there are generally 3 ways. Most people handle it verbally. At the other extreme is a written and signed contract. The third way is in between and less common. It is a document that lists items like the ones above. It’s just that it typically isn’t signed. It could be a letter from you stating your understanding and asking for confirmation or, a slightly more formal variation, is a document called a “Document of Understanding”.

Some criteria used to decide which method to use are your personal style and how well you know and have experience with the other party(ies).

I hope you find some of this to be helpful.

February 19, 2010 Posted by | All, Interviewing, Negotiating | Leave a comment

Stop Wasting Your Time Applying for Job Through the HR Department

I know the title of this post sounds like blasphemy or that I’m speaking out against motherhood or patriotism. I mean, applying through the HR Department, isn’t that what every job posting says to do? Isn’t that where it says to send your resume?

I’m being only a touch too dramatic. A more precise way to say it is for you to view applying for a job through the HR Department as your “Last Resort.” – – – And by the way, in this post when I say HR Department, I’m also talking about filling out employers’ on-line applications and job fairs.

OK, why is it that I suggest you stop doing that? Because if you’re like most job seekers, you’ve got 1 chance in 20 of getting an interview by applying through the HR Department. Where do those numbers come from? You can find various articles on the Internet in which other job search advisors and recruiters site their research. That has also been my experience. When I speak to various groups of job seekers, I commonly ask for a hand vote to find out what portion of the time they get an interview when they apply through the HR Department. About 90% of the people say they get an interview less than 5% of the time.

Why is that? What is causing such a low success rate of getting an interview? Well, here’s what typically happens when you apply for a job through the HR Department.

  • You see a job posted on the Internet or a newspaper/magazine.
  • You get a copy of your resume, maybe you develop/add a cover letter, and you email it to the HR Department.
  • The HR Department receives the resume. It is now in a stack (either a paper one or the employer’s computer database) with maybe as many as a couple of hundred other resumes. An HR person (possibly one who is less familiar with the job’s requirements than most candidates) begins to review the resumes.
  • The HR person spends 10-20 seconds reviewing each resume. (How do I know? I’ve talked with many of these people. That’s what they tell me.) Now imagine, you spent hours developing / changing your resume, you asked multiple people to review it, you made the changes they suggested, and now some HR person spends only 10-20 seconds on it.
  • If the HR person can’t confirm in 10-20 seconds that you meet all 6-10 requirements of the job (and that you walk on water!), then your resume goes into the “B” pile. (That’s a euphemism for “you are rejected.”)
  • If the HR person concludes that you meet all 6-10 requirements, your resume will go into the “A” pile. After going through the “A” pile of resumes, the HR person will start making a list of job seekers they will be calling for a phone interview, which still may not include you.
  • Back to the “B” pile. If after perhaps a week, you don’t get any response, you will send an email (or try to get a phone number), inquiring about your submission. Chances are you won’t be able to reach anyone, so you will leave a message.
  • 3-5 days go by without a response. You start to wonder whether you should send an email / call again. Finally, you decide to do so. Again, you aren’t able to reach anyone, so you leave another message.
  • Another 3-5 days go by. You start to wonder whether you should send an email / call again. Finally, you decide to do so. Again, you aren’t able to reach anyone, so you leave a message.
  • Your frustration grows and grows and eventually, you give up on that job.

Sound familiar?!?

Now, I’m going to tell you what to do instead, but let me first say, I know what’s going to happen. Despite me telling you to “Stop wasting your time applying for job through the HR Department,” what are you going to do tomorrow? You’re going to do it anyway. (It’s so easy!) Well, all I can do is remind you how Einstein defined insanity. He said it was “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.”

If you don’t apply through the HR Department, then what do you do?

Answer. Approach the Hiring Manager directly. (By Hiring Manager, I mean the person who is likely to be your boss (if you are hired), but is definitely the one making the decision who will be hired.

Now, there’s two parts to executing this tactic. One is “identifying” the Hiring Manager. The other is “contacting” him/her. I’ll explain how to do both.

Here’s a list of ideas as to how to “identify” the Hiring Manager.

  • Call the employer’s Shipping / Receiving Department and ask. For whatever reason, these people love to give out names and phone numbers.
  • Call the employer’s main switchboard and ask for the head of the department / group where the job probably resides.
  • Call people who already work for the employer and ask. (You would be amazed at how many helpful people there are out there. Some even get a cash bonus for referring a person for a job opening.)
  • Go to the employer’s facility, wander around, and ask. (This is not done much anymore because of locked doors for security reasons. However, there are two types of organizations where anyone can walk in and go about anywhere they want: hospitals and universities. Just make sure when you walk around that you avoid the HR Department!)
  • Go to your  library and look for the following reference resources (there are others) that include the top 5-10 people in each company, private or public: (1) Harris Info-Source Directory (two large, hardbound volumes), (2) D&B Million Dollar Database (an electronic file)
  • Search the Internet social networking sites (Linked-In, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) (Type in the employer name and functional area.)
  • Do a search on a search engine. (Type in the employer name and functional area.)
  • Call the employer’s customers or suppliers and ask.
  • Attend a job seeker support group meeting and ask other people.

Now you know who the Hiring Manager is. Here are ideas as to how to contact him/her:

  • Have someone you know who works with the Hiring Manager’s organization, contact the Hiring Manager on your behalf. (This is the best method.)
  • Have someone you know, contact the Hiring Manager on your behalf. (See my other post named “Use Your References Proactively.”)
  • Have someone you don’t know, contact the Hiring Manager on your behalf.
  • Walk in to see him/her.
  • Call him/her yourself.

That’s it. – – – When applying for a job, go after the Hiring Manager directly. Does it work every time? No, of course not. Will it get you an interview more often than the typical job seeker? Absolutely.

February 10, 2010 Posted by | All, Pursue Posted Job | 21 Comments

Use Your References Proactively

To fully appreciate the value of this tactic, I need to review how the vast majority of job seekers use their references. It goes like this (and it really doesn’t help you land a job).

You contact at least two, not more than four, people and ask them to be references for you in your job search. You put a piece of paper together that names these people, provides information as to how to contact them, and, perhaps, describes their relationship to you. You put this piece of paper among the pile of copies of your resume and you wait to be asked to produce it. Oh, maybe you will offer to provide it to an HR person or a Hiring Manager before it is requested, but if you do, the response will typically be “We don’t need it now,” or “Not now, maybe later.” When does an HR person or a Hiring Manager ask to see your list of references? Answer: Right before they are going to make you an offer. (Some may wait until after the offer is made and state that the offer is contingent upon you passing the background check.) Now what happens? Probably the HR person, but maybe the Hiring Manager, calls your references and asks a variety of, most likely, generic questions like: “The job seeker told us such-and-such. Is that true?” or questions that really only amount to “Is this job seeker a good and upstanding person?” Well, what portion of the time do you think a reference says anything negative about a job seeker? Like never. I mean, you, as the job seeker, picked your references. You didn’t pick anyone who would say anything negative about you, did you? So, do references really help you get the job in the typical situation? No, what they really do is keep you from losing it. At best, they are an “after-the-fact” confirmation for the employer that he/she isn’t making a mistake by hiring you. 

How can you use your references proactively? I mean, you’ve got two to four people who are willing to stand up on your behalf and help you get a job. What can they do to really help you? They can proactively contact the Hiring Manager on your behalf. There are two instances in which they can be really helpful: One time is when you first attempt to contact the Hiring Manager. The other time is after the first round of face-to-face interviews, after you’re convinced this job is for you and you are really excited about it.

Here’s how to you use your references proactively. Call them up. Tell him/her you just found a job (or that you just had an interview for a job) that you are very, very interested in. Briefly describe the job and the employer and why you want the job. Tell your reference you’d like his/her help in landing the job. You want him/her to contact the Hiring Manager and explain why you are a really good candidate. Tell him/her you would like to meet with him/her and compose a letter he/she would send to the Hiring Manager.

Now, go meet with your reference. Since a few days have passed since you called him/her, start by again describing the job, the employer, and why you want the job. Then, explain the job requirements. Next, the two of you need to make a list of reasons why you qualify for the job and how you fulfill the requirements. (See my other post titled “The document that is more important than your resume.” It explains the “T-Letter.” Using it is a good source of information about how you meet the job requirements. – You did use a T-Letter to get the interview, didn’t you?) In the course of this conversation, you and your reference should reflect on your prior work experience together. Think of those things you did / accomplished which remind the reference of first hand experience(s) which qualify you for the job. Make a list and be sure to leave a copy with the reference. Also, give your reference this information, preferably in writing:

  • The name of the hiring manager.
  • The hiring manager’s title.
  • The hiring manager’s mailing and/or email address.
  •  The job title.

Outline the contents of the letter for your reference. (Note. Sending an email is just as good as a letter. A telephone call is, of course, better.) Here are some things to consider:

  • An opening statement that names you and the relationship of the reference to you.
  • A statement that indicates you told your reference you have interviewed for the such-and-such job, you have met the Hiring Manager, and that you are extremely interested in the job.
  • A statement, based on your description of the job, indicating the reference thinks (1) you would be an excellent candidate for it and (2) requests that the Hiring Manager give you serious consideration for the position. (In the world of sales, that’s called “ask for the order.”)
  • The reference should then include a description of specific first-hand experiences (two to five should do it) that he/she has had with your work and, preferably, how those experiences and skills will help the Hiring Manager.
  • An offer from your reference to the Hiring Manager for him/her to call your reference if he/she has any questions.

While it is important that the letter be in your reference’s communication style and say what he/she believes, there is nothing wrong with you “taking the bull by the horns” and leading him/her through this, detail by detail. It may be inappropriate in a courtroom for an interrogating attorney to “lead the witness,” but this is one of those times for you to “lead your reference.” Unless you clearly see it is inappropriate with a specific reference, don’t be afraid to actually paraphrase, or even write, the script of parts of the letter.

The last thing for you to do is to ask your reference to let you know when the letter is in the mail.

In return, you have two things you must absolutely do for your reference. First, buy him/her a bottle of wine, tickets to a ball game, or whatever he/she likes. Just be sure to reciprocate in some manner. Do something for the reference which pays him/her back for this wonderful thing he/she just did for you. The second thing is to keep your reference apprised of how your pursuit of this job is going. In particular, if you get any feedback from the employer about the reference’s letter, be sure to pass that back.

There’s a final critical issue about this tactic. How often do you do this with your references? In simple terms, you can’t do it very often. If you do, you are likely to burn your references out. Worst case, they might question their wisdom in saying they will be a reference for you. So, use this tactic when you come across the job you’ve been waiting a long time for.

That’s it. Proactively use your references. I think you will find this will give you a leg up on the other candidates you are competing with on a specific job.

February 10, 2010 Posted by | All, Pursue Posted Job | | Leave a comment

How to Respond to Behavioral Interview Questions

The evolution and maturing of the recruiting process by internal  HR Departments has been making behavioral interviewing far more common. You are very likely to  encounter it when you are interviewing with larger employers and when you are interviewing with HR people. Hence, you need to recognize when you are in a behavioral interview and know how respond.

Behavioral interviews have a particular characteristic. You will get questions about how you handled things, particularly yourself. The questions almost always start with the phrase “Tell me about a time when you ……….” More times than not, it will be HR people who ask these kinds of questions. They are commonly trained in this form of interviewing, although the time will come when a hiring manager will ask you a behavioral type question. Behavioral interview type questions don’t require detailed knowledge about the specific job opening. These questions can apply to almost all jobs.

There is another common characteristic of behavioral interview questions. The good news is that there is a formula for what an appropriate response looks / sounds like. The HR people know what this is. They’re listening for it.  They have forms to fill in the elements of the answer to confirm that it was complete. Here’s the formula. Problem. Action. Result. In other words, in your answer, you need to describe the problem, the action that you took, and the result that occurred because of your action. To help you remember the formula, think PAR, for Problem, Action, Result.

There are many, many different behavioral interview questions, so they are difficult to anticipate and, hence, difficult to develop answers for in advance. About the only thing you can do is mentally review many of the events in your job experience, make them fresh in you mind, and use them in an answer to a behavioral interview question.

Nevertheless, you need to practice to get the hang of responding to a question with a PAR.

Below are examples of behavioral interview questions. Try a couple and formulate a response.

  • “Tell me about a time you solved a problem.”
  • “Tell me about a time you were innovative.”
  • “Tell me about a time you had to fire someone.”
  • “Tell me about a time you made a big mistake.”
  • “Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss.”
  • “Tell me about a time you recognized one of your employees for exemplary work.”
  • “Tell me about a time when you were confronted with a problem and had no idea how to proceed.”

February 8, 2010 Posted by | All, Interviewing | Leave a comment

Negotiating Chips

It is not uncommon these days for job seekers to get low-ball offers from employers. There are a lot of people unemployed these days and some employers have the pick of the litter and think it is in their best interest to pay as little as they can. When that happens, a job seeker needs to do his best to negotiate a higher salary. However, despite capable negotiating tactics, it can’t always be done.  So, what’s a job seeker supposed to do then?

There isn’t a good book on general negotiating out there that doesn’t talk about one of the approaches to reaching agreement with the other party being to bring other elements (chips) into the negotiating process. The concept is if you can’t get what you want on one element (chip), then perhaps you can get more on another element (chip) and, thus, offset what you feel you are coming up short on.

When it comes to negotiating a job offer, the focus is usually on salary. If this becomes the element (chip) where the hiring manager and you can’t reach agreement, then it’s time for you to bring in other elements (chips). What are these elements (chips)? I’ve provided a list below.

You should consider each of those elements (chips) as negotiable, until you find out otherwise.

Don’t wait until the interview in which the job offer comes before you start thinking about those other elements (chips). Review the list now, figure out which 2 or 3 items on the list are important to you, and describe pretty specifically (at least in your mind) what do you want in regard to that element (chip).

Two of the categories of the elements (chips) warrant some amplification. (1) Use “Time” as a means of getting what you want. If you can’t get it now, perhaps you can get it later. (2) The “job” may be negotiable. The way to get more money may be to offer to take on more responsibility. You may be surprised to find how many times a hiring manager modifies a job description in order to land the candidate that he/she wants.

Here is the list of potential compensation elements (chips). There may be others that are more important to you.


  • Base Salary
  • Commission Rates
  • Conditions and Levels of Bonuses
  • Stock Options
  • Signing Bonus
  • Amount of next salary Increase
  • Cost of Living Adjustment
  • Profit Sharing
  • Favorable Deductibles for Insurance Coverage
  • Deferred Salary


  • Vacation / Time Off
  • A formal, recurring Salary Review
  • Relocation expenses
  • Health care
  • Company matching savings / retirement / 401K plans
  • Company car, Computers, cell phones, etc.
  • Memberships (Country clubs / trade associations)
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Special office arrangements
  • Retirement Program
  • Retirement medical coverage

Timing of Events

  • Start Date
  • Date of first salary review (after starting)
  • When the scope of your responsibilities increases
  • When benefits become effective

The Job

  • Job description / function / responsibilities / scope
  • Title
  • Number of people reporting to you
  • Spending authority
  • Budget responsibility
  • Reporting relationships
  • An employment contract


  • Discounts on company products
  • A job for your spouse
  • Special child care arrangements
  • Link a future compensation increase to achievement of a particular goal/objective
  • A company contribution to a charity of your choosing
  • A loan
  • Free parking

February 8, 2010 Posted by | All, Negotiating | 2 Comments

The Job Search Process

Years ago when I first started reading books on the job search and talking with other job seeker advisors, HR recruiters, external recruiters, and job seekers, I found that there were lots of good ideas and thousands of tips out there. However, it struck me that there wasn’t any way for a job seeker to get his/her arms around all of it and put it into a context or framework that could be used as a guide for job search activity.

Certainly, there are job search steps/tasks that everyone is familiar with like writing resumes, interviewing, and negotiating. But are those all the steps/tasks? Is the sequence of steps/tasks clear?

I spent a large part of my working career with organizations that were really into “process.” They understood their “processes” extremely well and were continually working to improve them. While a lot of other organizations were largely just focused on “results,” process focused organizations realize that “if you get the process right, the results will come almost automatically.”

As a consequence of that background, it wasn’t too long after I got into this job seeker advisor role that I recognized the need for and established a “process” for the job search. “My Book” (see my page in this blog on it) is completely organized around this “process”. Page 19 of my book has a 1-page flow chart which lays out the entire “process” for a job seeker and offers an ongoing checklist mechanism for a job seeker to ensure that he/she is doing all the right things and in roughly the right order.

Here is a summary of my job search “process”. It has 6 “Phases” and 18 “steps/tasks.” While it is OK for a job seeker to perform “steps/tasks” within a phase in pretty much any order or simultaneously, you shouldn’t move on to the next
“phase” without completing the previous “phase.”

Phase I- Separating
     Step/Task 1 –  Deal with the Shock
     Step/Task 2 – Separate from Your Last Employer

Phase II- Planning
     Step/Task 3 –  Develop a Career Plan
     Step/Task 4 –  Hold Informational Interviews
     Step/Task 5 –  Define Your Desired Job
     Step/Task 6 –  Define Your Desired Compensation

Phase III- Preparing
     Step/Task 7 –  Develop Your Promotional Material
     Step/Task 8 –  Develop Your Job Search Skills
     Step/Task 9 –  Get Help
     Step/Task 10 – Develop a Method to Record Your Job Hunting Activity

  Phase IV – Seeking
     Step/Task 11 –  Pursue Posted Jobs
     Step/Task 12 –  Pursue Target Employers
     Step/Task 13 –  Networking, Networking, Networking
     Step/Task 14 – Use External Recruiters

Phase V – Acquiring
     Step/Task 15 –  Interviewing
     Step/Task 16 –  Negotiating

Phase VI – Wrapping Up
     Step/Task 17 –  Thank Everyone Who Helped You
     Step/Task 18 –  Maintain Your Network

February 5, 2010 Posted by | All | Leave a comment

Use the Document that is More Important than Your Resume

Yes, there really is a document you should be using in your job search that is more important than your resume.

How do I know? Job seekers frequently tell me that when they use this document, they get more interviews. Also, HR recruiters and external recruiters tell me this document is what they want to see. They say “It does my job for me.”

Before I tell you what this document is and how to use it, let me tell you what happens when you don’t use it.

You find a job posted somewhere (probably on the Internet). You think you’re a great fit. You get a copy of your resume and you send it (and maybe a cover letter) to the place named in the job description. Where is that place? The vast majority of the time it is either the HR Department or an external recruiting firm. Your resume is received (either on paper or in a computer database) and ends up in a pile, along with a couple hundred other resumes. (Don’t worry about how many resumes they receive. Most of the people who submitted a resume are not qualified for the job.) Now, someone, has to start going through the pile of resumes. He/she grabs one off the top of the pile. How much time do you think he/she spends on each one? The answer is 10-20 seconds. That’s what these people tell me. These poor folks are under so much pressure to find the “perfect” candidate and are confronted with so many resumes, they have no choice but to reduce the amount of time they spend on their first review. (You and I would do the same thing.) – – – Think about all that. You probably spent hours and hours writing your resume. You had 3-5 people review it and then you spend more hours changing your resume, per their suggestions. You think it’s great and the people reviewing it are only spending 10-20 seconds on your precious document.

So, what are those people trying to do in that 10-20 seconds? They’re trying to figure out if you’re qualified for the job. That’s absolutely the right thing for them to be doing. But, if that’s so important, why don’t you tell them? – – – Now, you probably say “I do.” It’s in my resume. Well, it may be, but it could take someone 5-10 minutes to read your entire resume and if your key qualifications for the job are on the second page of your resume, the reader is likely to give up long before he/she ever gets there.

So, what do you do, given this situation? You use the document that’s more important that your resume. It’s called a “T Letter”. It is nothing but a special cover letter. The opening paragraph or two and the closing paragraphs or two are what you typically think is in a cover letter. It’s what’s in the middle that makes all the difference.

Here’s how you use a “T-Letter” and what’s in the middle. When you first see the job description, read it real closely. Pick out the 4-6 key requirements of the job. Then, for each one of those requirements, write down your best 2-3 qualifications for the job. Now, assemble “Their Requirements” and “Your Qualifications” and place it in the middle of this special cover letter. Put it on top of your resume and submit that.

Use a “T-Letter” when you apply for a job that you found posted somewhere. Don’t rely on someone else to figure out whether you’re qualified for the job in 10-20 seconds.

You may hear some other job seeker advisor suggest that you customize your resume for each job you apply for. That’s fine, but it can take a fair amount of time. A side-benefit of using a “T-Letter” is that is virtually eliminates the need to customize your resume each time.

February 4, 2010 Posted by | All, Resumes, Seeking | | 2 Comments

Length of Your Resume

I frequently get the question “How long should my resume be?”

I think it’s the wrong question. A more important question is “Does your resume make a reader want to invite you in for a face-to-face interview?”

It strikes me that a large portion of a job seekers think the purpose of a resume is to lay out all your work history, capabilities, skills, etc. It is not!!! The purpose of the resume is to get you an interview.

You need to begin thinking of a resume as a “Sales Brochure” and you are the product.

You also need to understand that the people who review resumes are so overloaded with them that they only spend 10-20 seconds (that’s what they tell me) looking at each one before they decide to put it in either pile “A” or pile “B”.

So, the lesson here is that your best stuff has got to be in the first 4-5 inches down from the top of the first page of your resume. If it’s not there, you haven’t captured the reader’s interest by that time. It’s going into pile “B” and you’ll likely never hear from them.

February 4, 2010 Posted by | All, Resumes | Leave a comment

Job Fairs

I had a job seeker ask me a couple days ago what my opinion was of job fairs.

I would never tell a job seeker not to take some action in his/her job search and that includes job fairs. However, you have to go into a job fair with extremely low expectations, particularly during these difficult economic times.

It is not uncommon that several to many of the 10-50 companies who show up, don’t have openings on the day of the job fair. They may have when they committed to participate in the job fair a few months ago, but not now. Or, perhaps, the employer’s leaders feel that it is a civic duty to attend job fairs. Or, perhaps, they want to add to their file of resumes for the day when they get back into a hiring mode.

Think about this. Suppose an employer really does have job openings, maybe even a lot. In today’s job market, are they having trouble finding competent people? Hard to believe.

What I hear from job seekers, what I read in newspapers, and what I hear on TV indicates that employers are getting a couple hundred applicants for every job opening.

Also, the employer’s people who attend job fairs and typically very low ranking. You’re not likely to meet an HR Manager or an HR Director at one of these events and definitely not an VP of HR – – – And, more importantly, it will be rare that you find a Hiring Manager at a job fair.

As for the value of job fairs for senior or middle management job seekers, the higher ranking your desired job is, the less value a job fair will be. By the same token, the higher ranking a job seeker is, the more capable he/she should be in identifying Hiring Managers and contacting them directly.

If you can live with all of the above, then you ought to be going to every job fair that you find out about. (3)

February 4, 2010 Posted by | All, Target Employers | 1 Comment

My Feb 16 Speaking Engagement

When: Tuesday, February 16, 2010
             8:30 AM to 9:30 AM

What: Speech Title = How to Conduct an Effective Job Search

If you answer “No” to any of these questions, this session is for you:

* Are you still wasting your time applying for jobs through the HR Department? Do you know what works more effectively?

* Are you using the document in your job search that is more important than a resume?

* Do you know how to not answer the “What are your salary requirements?” question?

* Do you know “who” to network with? When? Where? and How? Do you know exactly what to “do” and what to “say”?

Where: ExecuNet
6450 Rocksidewood Blvd South, Suite #170
In the Amphitheatre, lower level
Independence, Ohio

Registration: Requested, but not required. Register online at execunet@rtcpi.com

Cost: Speech free. Non-ExecuNet members $15.

February 4, 2010 Posted by | Administation, All | Leave a comment

The 4 Fundamental Approaches to Searching for a Job

There are  4 approaches to searching for a job that require different tactics and process.  They are:

A. Pursue a job you found posted somewhere
B. Pursue a target employer (even though they don’t have a job for you now)
C. Use an external recruiter
D. Networking

A job seeker should be using all 4 approaches, basically simultaneously. A key question, though, is “How should a job seeker allocate his job search time across the 4 approaches?”

Before I propose an answer for you, I’d suggest you perform a simple exercise for your own benefit. Sit back and think about how you spent your job search time over the last 2-6 months, and make an estimate of what portion of time you spent on each of the approaches. Write the answer down. When you’re done, you should have a list that looks like this:

A xx%
B xx%
C xx%
D xx%
Total = 100%

Don’t look / scroll down, yet. No cheating.




I propose that you should be allocating your job search time like this:

A 10%-15%
B 20%-30%
C 5%-10%
D 65%-75%

So, where do these numbers come from? There have been a variety of surveys and research results published that asked job seekers the question “What approach led to the job you landed?” (or some variation, thereof). The numbers vary from survey to survey, so I included the rough ranges above.

So, if the above statistics indicate how succesful each approach is, why don’t you allocate your job search time, accordingly? – – – I hypothesize that the greater the difference between how you allocate your time and the statistics above, the longer you will be unemployed.

I have surveyed job seekers in my organization, the Chagrin Valley Job Seekers, and found that they’re spending too much time on approach A (pursuing job posted somewhere) and not enough time on approach D (networking). I suspect the same is true for most job seekers. (I think there are a variety of reason, which I plan to address with a later post.) – – – A good rule of thumb is that for each hour you spend searching the Internet for jobs (A), you ought to be spending 5-6 hours networking (B).

Play the odds. Don’t fight the tape. Spend more of your time  doing what works more often.

February 4, 2010 Posted by | All, Seeking | Leave a comment