Looking for a Job? Some things to consider
You probably should not be using your work email address as you search for a new opportunity, and if you have a personal email address, is it too personal? We recently had a candidate who provided an email address that shared with all his love for his two small dogs; we have had candidates with email addresses that announce their nicknames—like Pooh Bear or their love of everything Hello Kitty. If you need to, create a new email account for your job search that is straightforward, connects to your name if possible and can be used effectively in a professional capacity.
If you provide your cell phone number as the main point of contact, listen again to your voice mail—in case you set it up a few years back and it is only really suited for your close buddies to hear. If it is not professional and to the point, change it for the duration of the search.
Someone recently emailed us looking for some career and job hunting advice. I took the time to offer a number of concrete suggestions, replying to the email only to be met with an automated “I am trying to cut down on my spam, please jump through these five hoops so I can receive your email.” Nope. Not going to do it, and most likely, neither will potential employers. None of us like spam, but take that spam guard off when you are hunting for a job.
Who decided it was a good idea to have a “Personal” section on a resume? I have never seen anyone get interviewed or hired because of something he shared in that section. Honestly, it is the easiest place to find fault or to question or to wonder/laugh about. A resume should be a place to present your work and educational experiences: the facts that you love to climb tall mountains, describe yourself as a foodie or practice Feng Shui is not information to be shared on a resume—you have a letter of interest or personal statement to paint the picture of yourself. Moreover, I’m not sure your resume is the place to tell about your family and from where your spouse or children graduated.
Have you ever hired or participated in reading through stacks of resumes for an open position? If so, you know that people make quick judgments while scanning, sorting into Yes, No and Maybe piles. The No’s are dead very quickly, probably relegated there by a 15 second glance. The Maybe’s will maybe get read again—but only if the Yes pile is small and doesn’t yield viable candidates. Make sure your resume is readable—good size font, lots of white space and use bullets—not paragraphs and prose because people will not invest the time to read initially—they scan. Scan your resume; can you quickly see the relevant points? Want to make sure the reader turns to page 2 (if you are onto a page 2)? If you’ve gained enough professional experience, put your Education section after your Professional Experience section, because all school people will check out where you went to school.
Is your resume simply a chronological listing of your responsibilities? Consider an Accomplishment focused resume that fairly presents initiatives that you have led or helped to make happen. If you are applying from a school job to a school job, don’t attempt to describe dorm parenting or advising with color commentary as school people know what those role entail and the descriptions don’t usually help the cause.
Take the extra time to compose a cover letter/letter of interest that does not simply appear to be a generic letter you have sent to 100 schools. Make sure you are sharing something concrete about your specific interest in the school and the position—not just popping the school name in not-so-strategically. Don’t repeat your resume—it is fine to highlight one or two accomplishments in your letter but your resume will do its job so let the letter do a different job—offer a sense of you as a person and why you are interested in exploring an opportunity at the particular school. Have you explored the school’s website? Have you read its mission? Are there programs that attract you? Is there a recent news item posted on the school’s site you can reference effectively? A lazy letter will present a lazy professional. (And please, spell check, spell check, grammar check…..)
Read your paper materials with as much emotional detachment as possible and ask yourself, “Would I like to meet this person?” Your resume, letter and personal statement/educational philosophy are your personal marketing materials that will either compel someone to say, “I’d like to meet this person/learn more about this person” or relegate you to the No pile. In today’s competitive job market, it is not enough to rest on the laurels of having attended a name school or having worked at that prep school everyone has heard of. Spend the time to thoughtfully present yourself through your paper as a professional and as a “do-er” who will contribute additional accomplishments to her next school.
Conduct yourself at all times as a professional. Address your email inquiries professionally—not like you’re writing to your buddy—so use proper capitalization and punctuation. When you make a phone call to the school, introduce yourself before you ask for the person you are calling. When you reach your intended audience, ask first “Have I caught you at a good moment?” before launching into your message or question. It is amazing how many people call the Independent Thinking office and are less than professional or honestly rude when I answer the phone—thinking I must just be the hired help—not a stellar first impression. Treat everyone you speak with by phone or meet at the school with grace and courtesy as when you lack those, it will get back to those doing the hiring.
Say thank you—and yes, emailed thank you notes are absolutely appropriate in today’s world