Category Archives: Job Searching

Qualify the Jobs to Which You Apply

There are basically four ways to find a job:

  1. Respond to a job advertisement.
  2. Apply unsolicited.
  3. Work through a professional recruiter.
  4. Network to a hiring need.

Although networking is, far and away, the most effective method to find a job, most job seekers waste the bulk of their job-searching time responding to job ads.  This is because networking takes courage and is therefore hard, while responding to job ads is easy.

When I coach job seekers, I don’t want to discourage applying to job ads completely.  Instead I recommend applying to one (1) job per day, and spending no more than one (1) hour preparing an effective application.  Spend whatever additional job-search hours you have available: networking.

If you give yourself only 1 hour to prepare an effective application and submit it, you don’t want to waste time by selecting a job that is a long shot.  “[O]ver 75% of resumes sent by candidates are NOT qualified for the role.”  These unqualified candidates are people who are constantly wasting their time taking ridiculous long shot after ridiculous long shot.  So, instead of quick-click applications, I coach job seekers to select the one job ad that they are MOST qualified for, and spend no more than an hour tailoring their application materials before submitting.

  The linked article (here, above, and in the quotation) gives some great advice on qualifying the jobs to which a candidate should apply. Ask yourself:

a.) Do my responsibilities today or in the past align directly to those listed in the job description (or are they highly relevant)?

b.) Do I have the required skills, educational, and industry qualifications noted in the job description?
If you can’t clearly answer “yes” to both questions, it’s a long shot, so continue to look for a job for which you are better qualified.
There is other useful information in the linked article, so I recommend taking a few minutes to read it.

Beware the Bait-and-Switch Job Search Alert

I have coached 100’s of people in job searching over the last decade. I am located in, and many of those people are either located in, or seeking to relocate to, Charlotte. Job search alerts which allow specification of location can be a great time-saver for job seekers. I often use them myself as a tool to assist the people I coach.  I have recommended various job-search sites that offer this feature as a great resource over the years.

Job Search Alert Emails ONLY jobs in Charlotte

Job Search Alert Emails ONLY jobs in Charlotte


However, job search alerts can become SPAM when criteria established by the job-seeker are ignored. One of my pet peeves is the practice of baiting job seekers with a job in a desirable location when in fact the job is in another, less desirable, location. I guess the theory is that ‘if I can just get them to read my job description, they will overlook that it requires relocating.’


Job Ad from Clicking on 3rd job in Email Above - Note Location: Charlotte

Job Ad from Clicking on 3rd job in Email Above – Note Location: Charlotte

In some cases it may be a simple quality control shortcoming. Because Charlotte is such a desirable location we see these bait and switch job ads all the time here. If this is intentional, then it is unethical, and job search sites that condone it are complicit. If it is unintentional, then it shows poor commitment to quality on the part of both the employer and the job search site. A quality job search site would provide a button to report job ad problems, such as mis-location, in a drop down menu, and they would have someone assigned to follow-up and correct user-identified problems. A general feedback page is good, but not many people are going to bother to find it to identify a mis-location, bait-and-switch problem like the one exposed in these images.

Company Website indicates Chicago is actual location

Company Website indicates Chicago is actual location

I encourage job-seekers who encounter this type of problem to find the feedback pages on the sites involved, and take the time to identify the problem, even if the result is unrewarding.

Feedback Response

Feedback Response

Golden Ticket

The Importance of Identifying Job Vacancies

The ‘Golden Ticket’ of job searching is having a pre-existing relationship with the hiring manager. This means that you know the hiring manager before the hiring manager is hiring. In fact, he or she may have you, or someone like you, in mind before they even sit down with HR to describe the position they want to fill. If they really want someone like you, they may have asked you for a resume before working with HR to review or write the job description. This is the situation that people mean when they say “most jobs aren’t advertised.” Eventually this job will actually be advertised, but the front-runner will be known. If that front-runner is you, then that’s a ‘Golden Ticket.’

The power of having a large network of relationships (not just connections on LinkedIn, but real pre-existing relationships) is that you have more ‘Golden Ticket’ opportunities.

Now let’s talk about the ‘Paper Ticket:’ A job at ABC company has been advertised for a couple weeks and someone I don’t have much relationship with contacts me and says “do you know anybody at ABC company? They are advertising a perfect job for me!” I can connect them with someone I know there, but the reality is, this is way late in the process. I give them the “Paper Ticket,” but it will be quickly torn in half, and they will be directed to queue up with all the other unknown applicants.

Paper Ticket

There is something in between – not as good as a ‘Golden Ticket,’ but not as flimsy as the ‘Paper Ticket.’ Let’s call it a ‘Silver Ticket.’ That’s when you learn of a vacancy before the job has been advertised, and hopefully before the job description has been reviewed. You don’t have a pre-existing relationship with the hiring manager, and if someone else does, then their Golden Ticket is going to trump your Silver Ticket. But if the hiring manager doesn’t have someone in mind, connecting with them at this critical juncture may allow your resume to influence their thought process in reviewing the job description.  Certainly, in the back of their mind, you could become the standard against which they evaluate other candidates who respond to the ad.

Silver Ticket

So how do you find out about these vacancies before the job ad to fill them is shared with the market.  LinkedIn is a great source of this type information.  First, LinkedIn will inform you when your connections update their profiles with a new position (unless they have changed the default setting). If they have a new position, that usually means they left an old position, and there is a vacancy. Sometimes the change is a promotion in title, and there is no vacancy; sometimes the “new job” is a part-time activity in addition to their job, which they still have.  In some cases they have updated their profile so tardily that the job was probably filled months ago.  You need to review their profile closely to better understand the situation, and then it may be worth reaching out to them to fully understand.

There are also times when your connections will update their profile, but because they’ve changed the default settings, the change won’t show up on your notification feed. It’s always a good idea as you network and job search to take note of anyone’s profile who appears to have recently changed positions.

Finally, if you are a member of the Opt for Change group on LinkedIn, you may see that I post from time to time “New Job Vacancy?” when I see someone in my network has left a position.  In all of these cases, it’s important to remember that just because someone left, doesn’t mean there is a vacancy.  The position may have been eliminated, or there may have been an internal succession candidate who was moved into the role (which may create a lower level opportunity).

Seeking New Opportunities


Today I’m rebutting the assertion in this (and many similar) article headlines:

Why ‘seeking new opportunities’ should never be your LinkedIn professional headline!

Your LinkedIn headline should sell a more accurate version of yourself than the article above’s headline sells of itself. If you read this headline you quite probably got the impression that you shouldn’t use the work “Seeking” in your headline. The article is really about writing a good, strong headline, with which I agree. Because it has valid points, I’ve selected it for you to read (the video is a little tedious). But what I disagree with (and why I didn’t bother including other articles that support it) is the headline discouraging the word “Seeking.”  If you are unemployed, I encourage using it. Even if you are employed and job-searching, I would encourage working the word into your headline subtly or even coyly, as in “In-house Compliance Counsel seeking to help my client comply with HIPPA.”

First, the guy wiring the article linked above is from the UK, and I’m from America, and although we have many similarities, hiring processes can be surprisingly different. Be careful applying any foreign job-search advice in the US, and vice versa.

Second, the author touts his 10+ years of experience as a professional recruiter. By ‘professional recruiter’ he means someone who was paid a contingency fee if a candidate he provided was hired by his client. That fee was likely some percentage of the candidate’s annual starting salary. My experience with recruiting, has been, and continues to be, as an in-house recruiter, although from time to time we engage contingency recruiters. Again surprisingly, the experience can be different, and as a candidate you should understand the biases.

Both in-house and contingency recruiters are aligned in looking for qualified candidates. However, their second-tier drivers start to diverge. Contingency recruiters want to place the highest salary candidates they can, because that increases their contingency fee amount. In-house recruiters, while they want to minimize costs of the hiring process (which often comes out of their budget), are more neutral on salary (which comes out of the hiring manager’s budget), but if anything, they want to minimize it. A metric that is more important for in-house recruiters than candidate salaries is “speed to hire.”

If you are unemployed, this distinction is critical in the difference between how your profile will be vetted by an in-house recruiter versus a contingency fee recruiter. As an in-house recruiter I frequently use the words “seeking,” “available,” “opportunity,” and even “ISO” (in search of) as part of my candidate profile search terms. Why? Because unemployed candidates are much, much faster hires.

  1. If I message an unemployed candidate on LinkedIn, he or she usually responds the same day, often within minutes. It’s because unemployed candidates are always checking their LinkedIn, and have the messages coming to their primary email. Employed candidates usually take a few days to respond; some employed candidates never respond because they haven’t updated their profile since the last time they were looking for a job, and LinkedIn still directs messages to their old work email. On average, this is about a 2 day advantage to the unemployed candidate.
  2. Then if I want to schedule a phone or Skype screening interview, unemployed candidates are available this afternoon, any time that’s convenient for me. Employed candidates have to schedule in the evening, after they commute home, if they’re not working late, and they don’t have to take their kids to practice. On average, add another day of delay.
  3. When I schedule them for an in-person interview, unemployed candidates can be here tomorrow, even if I have to fly them in. Employed candidates have to get their supervisor’s permission to take a PTO day, and they want to get in and out the same day, so they only have to take one day of PTO. They are also time constrained when they are interviewing, so I have to change company meetings around so key people can meet them. Unemployed candidates can meet at our pace, at our convenience, and they can spend the night at a nearby hotel, so we can have dinner with them and see them in social contexts. Add an average of 3 days delay to the employed candidate, not too mention more opportunity for social interaction.
  4. Scheduling the second interview, even just a quick meeting with the CEO, can be difficult with employed candidates who don’t want to go back to their supervisor to request another day off on the heels of the first interview.  Add a another 7 days of delay.
  5. Compensation negotiation can be difficult and time consuming with an employed candidate, especially if a recruiter who wants to maximize the offer is involved.  The truth is, the unemployed candidate has little or no bargaining power, so negotiations are minimal.  Add 5 days off delay.
  6. Most companies do drug screen/background checks on their proposed hires.  Employed candidates, very reasonably, don’t want to give notice to their current employer until they have passed all the screening.  Unemployed candidates have nothing to lose, so employers can start them immediately, with continued employment contingent on passing the screens.  Add 10 days to employed candidates.
  7. Employed candidates have to give 2 week’s notice.  Their former employers often ask for more.  Add an average of 12 days.
  8. Employed candidates receive counter-offers. It’s rare that a candidate takes a counter-offer, but they can result in matching the higher offer, and possibly further negotiation delays.  If the employed candidate accepts the counter-offer, if often means the candidate was playing the market to coax his current employer into a raise.  For the in-house recruiter it means starting over.  Unemployed candidates almost never get simultaneous offers.

So even if you are an employed candidate, if you are looking for a new position, recognize that speed-to-hire focused in-house recruiters will be using the term “seeking” in their search terms to locate candidates.  If you want to improve your chances of being in that selected pool, work the word ‘seeking’ subtly into your headline.


LinkedIn: Open for Opportunities Setting

It is really important, if you are job searching, that you switch your LinkedIn profile status to “Open” for opportunities.  Do this by (1) going to your little picture in the top right of your LinkedIn Home page and (2) clicking on the drop down arrow next to “Me.”  In the drop down menu under “ACCOUNT” (3) click on ” Settings & Privacy.”  In the new page that opens, locate “Privacy” with a shield in the center and (4) click on that word.  Now in the menu on the left, (5) locate and click on “Job seeking.”  (6) Click on “Let recruiters know you are open to opportunities.”  This should bring you to a page that looks like the one below:

On for 90 More Days

(7) Make sure the button is switched to “Yes.”  Also, note where the green arrow above is pointing.  When you switch to “Yes,” LinkedIn only gives you 90 days before it switches back to “No.”  You should make sure you are checking this frequently to make sure it doesn’t turn to “No.”  In fact, I recommend jumping into this page regularly, and switching it to “No” and then back to “Yes” to reset the 90-day clock.

Reference List

Most employers won’t call your references unless you are the final candidate for the job.  Therefore, I don’t recommend listing or offering references prior to being asked.  You can let the employer know you have references, and you should be prepared to provide them quickly, but I wouldn’t offer them unsolicited.  I usually recommend your references appear on one sheet.  I usually recommend that this information be included for each reference, and that at least three references be provided:

  1. Reference’s name
  2. Reference’s current Job title
  3. Reference’s current employer
  4. Reference’s current employer’s City and State
  5. Company or other venue where you worked together (their company may have been your client or vice versa)
  6. Reference’s Phone and/or cell number
  7. Reference’s E-mail address
  8. Reference’s Relationship to you, the applicant (again, explain the link – for example, if you were both subcontractors to the same contractor)

Although no more than three references are typically required, there are some instances where this is not the case.  For sensitive government or government contractor positions, more extensive references may be required.  Additionally, new reference assessment tools, like Checkster are becoming more common and these will require a minimum of 8 references.

Some candidates have trouble selecting the three best references for a particular position.  It’s acceptable to ask the HR representative who requested the reference what kind of references they would like, but this can be create problems if you can’t meet their expectation.  For example, if they say “we would strongly prefer all three references be from former supervisors” and you’ve only had 3 jobs – you don’t want to offer your current boss for obvious reasons, and one of your prior bosses you didn’t get along with well – you might have a problem that didn’t exist before you asked.

If you don’t want to create problems for yourself, it is generally a good idea to diversify your references, but stay as relevant to the position as possible.  At least one of the three should be a former supervisor, and it’s good if one is currently, or was previously, employed in the same industry as the prospective employer.  Finally, it is a good idea to have one that currently, or previously, performed the same function as the job you are seeking.  It is perfectly acceptable to use a reference of someone who is no longer employed by the company where you both worked together. The most important factor in a strong reference is that they can vouch for your character and job performance.

Whenever you expect that your references may be contacted, it’s important to reconnect with each reference as soon as possible and let them know that they will receive a call from a human resources recruiter, or a hiring manager. Give your references the information they need to be a good reference for you:

  • The name of the company
  • The title of the position
  • The expectations the company has for the position
  • Your primary qualifications for the position
  • Key statements you would like your references to offer

Be sure to send a thank you letter to your references after they have provided the reference.

Reference List

Reference List

Professional Networking for Introverts

Back in 2008 I instructed a continuing education course through the University of North Carolina at Charlotte called “Professional Networking for Introverts.”  Although I’d already been a member of LinkedIn for over 4 four years, it was still a relatively obscure social media platform, but I thought it was a particularly good professional networking tool for introverts.  It’s gone through lots of changes since 2008, but LinkedIn remains one of the best tools to help introverts network effectively.

Professional Networking for Introverts

Professional Networking for Introverts

In 2014 Dorie Clark published a short article in the Harvard Business Review called Networking for Introverts that I think offers some good suggestions for introverts to use in advancing the effectiveness of their job-search networking. She recognizes that most introverts prefer “minimally stimulating environments.”

So one of her first suggestions is to create your own events.  These can be smaller events, focused on subject matter of your interest, and you get to control the size and make-up of the audience.  In my experience, if you are willing to do the leg work, others really appreciate the opportunity to attend these types of small events.  I’ve used this technique myself for networking, though not job-search networking.  I created a Power Podium to bring speakers in to speak on energy topics of interest to the ~25 person office in which I work. In addition, I invite about 5 to 10 other power industry professionals with whom I (and I assume others in my office) would like to network.  We don’t regularly schedule the Power Podiums; in fact some are very opportunistic, like when a speaker happens to be in Charlotte from out of town.  But it provides a forum where I can offer some continuity of speakers.  I got the idea for the Power Podium from when I was invited to speak to the Ministry of Environment in Ontario at their Green Podium.  I was an opportunistic invite who happened to be in Toronto to speak at another conference.

Although not one of Ms. Clark’s recommendations, I often suggest that job-seekers consider creating a group on LinkedIn, or some other social media platform, tailored to a subject area and/or geographic region they know well.  Sharing articles with these groups can be an effective way to both get to know an existing network better, as well as expand your network as colleagues of colleagues are invited or request to join the group.

The article goes on to suggest that introverts

  • Understand when you’re at your best
  • Rate the likelihood of connecting, and
  • Calibrate your schedule

To me these can all be summed up by playing to your strengths.  Go to events where you are likely to be successful, at times when you are likely to be successful.  At large events, think about events within the event, which are going to be fruitful.  When I go to trade shows coupled with technical meetings, I find the trade show floor to be much more accommodating when most of the people are at technical presentations.  So I always pick a presentation time to skip on purpose and go to the trade show floor to meet vendors when they aren’t overwhelmed.  I also find a conference breakfast to be an easier time to meet people than lunch or dinner, so I always try to arrive early and sit with someone I don’t know.  These may or may not be good approaches for you.  The point is figure out the times and places that you can be successful, usually through experimentation.


Always Job Search During the Holidays

It’s the best time of the year!
1. Neighbors, friends, former vendors, former suppliers and potential employers are all sponsoring networking events they call “parties”
2. People want to be helpful this time of year
3. Budgets start January 1, and good managers want to have the ball rolling on new hires before then
4. The competition thinks it’s a bad time to job hunt, so they’re watching TV
5. People who are in the office between Christmas and New year’s have time to meet you for coffee or lunch – try to schedule 15 meetings that week.

Infographic: Job searching during the holidays

Holiday Job Search

Emotional Intelligence and “Fit”

If you get through the phone screen, or even the interview stage, but no further, you may have ask for honest feedback and received the statement that you weren’t the right “fit,” or you weren’t a good “fit.”  Liz Ryan says that “companies use it to say “no thanks” in a multitude of different situations” including (1) poor company performance resulting in elimination of the opening, (2) your salary expectations are too high, or (3) your personality is different from the organization culture and they fear it won’t mesh well.  Careerigniter describes “fit” as being push out for “arbitrary reasons.” Ian Welsh has suggested that hiring based on fit “makes little sense.”

In my opinion, most companies are pretty willing to make Liz’s first two statements openly, if not in writing, at least verbally.  I’ve been told twice that I was the last candidate to make it through but for purely financial reasons, companies have elected not to fill the position at this time.  Both times the US promptly went into a recession, so I can’t say it was a poor decision on their part.  I’ve also been told “this is top salary for the position – is that something you can accept?”  It wasn’t, and we saved ourselves a lot of time and effort by getting that info out early.

Unlike some of the other comments above, most career coaches agree with me that fit is real, although companies may describe it differently. They also see it as the interface between company culture and a candidate’s personality.  See Frederick County Workforce Services (“what they mean is that their personality doesn’t match the company, or possibly the supervisor the person would report to”); Dummies (“fit essentially refers to how an individual fits into a company’s culture”); Jaime Petkanics (“they want to assess how you will go about doing the job”).

Kyriaki Raouna says: “When employers tell you that you are not a good fit for the job, it has nothing to do with your qualifications and skills or how good you are for the job. It is simply used to explain how employers perceive you and what they think about your personality and cultural fit. So judging from the answers that you give in the job interview or – even what you post on social media, employers can get a pretty good idea of who you are, what you want, how long you are going to stay in the job and how happy you are going to be in it.”

While many of these coaches will also say that being rejected for fit is for the best, and you really shouldn’t try to change yourself to be a better fit, I tend to disagree.  We should all be alert to feedback that offers insight into ways we can improve ourselves.  If it wasn’t a fit, there is a reason it wasn’t a fit.  You may want to remain genuine to yourself, so if the reason it wasn’t a fit is you are a party animal and when they Googled you they saw that there’s drink named after you at a local bar, and you remain proud of that, just accept that their culture won’t work for you.

On the other hand, if you gave off a very negative vibe and seemed very cynical in the interview, and that’s not what you wanted to project, then you may have an opportunity to improve your emotional intelligence.  The article below talks about 12 competencies of emotional intelligence, at least one of which we can all improve.  When you get the “fit” response to feedback, don’t ignore it.  Look through these 12 and pick one to work on.

Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements. Which Do You Need to Work On?

Emotional Intelligence Domains and Competencies

Some Truth About Recruiters

Recruiters come in many different styles. The first distinction is that some are in-house, and some are consultants. The consultants breakdown into retained search (guaranteed fee up front – maybe with a bonus on placement), and contingency search (paid when/if their candidate is hired, usually a percentage of the starting salary). But in all of those cases, the candidate is the product; the candidate is not the client, not the customer, not the decision-maker. Understand that fact.

The recruiter may help you, or coach you, or polish you up because they like you, because they are nice, or because it helps them sell you, preferably at a higher price. But they don’t do it because they have any obligation to you. It is either a gift, or it is a collateral benefit you receive because of something else they are doing. And don’t see yourself as the only product.

The recruiter who authored the article below points out bluntly:
“YOUR idea of “A” candidate and my idea of “A” candidate may be vastly different. I only represent the best of the best, the top 2%, and they aren’t out applying to your online job postings. They are gainfully employed at “A” companies with outstanding pedigrees that other “A” companies salivate over.”
Note that this author/recruiter makes no value judgments about why “A” candidates are “gainfully employed” and why “B” candidates are not. ‘Why’ doesn’t matter to him. Consider two identical i-Phones except one is a rarer color more in demand than the other. The more common one functions just as well. But that doesn’t matter to the reseller on Amazon. The rarer, more popular one brings the higher price. And so it gets sold for a higher price. Why one set of internal parts on the same assembly line got clad with a different color casement doesn’t matter to the reseller. He is not going to sell the more typical i-Phone at the same higher price as he will sell the rarer, more in demand one.

Likewise, why you are not currently gainfully employed really doesn’t matter to the recruiter. It’s your color, and it sets your price. And the reseller will always want to sell the higher priced products most; and will always take more time and effort to advertise them, to get them better portrayed in pictures, etc.

Should you beat your head against this brick wall of a system? You might be surprised to hear me say “Yes.” Yes, but with some caveats. The first caveat is ‘perhaps not today.’ If you are unemployed, under-employed, uncomfortably employed, or unhappily employed, you need to be self-centered for a while and get your employment situation corrected before focusing on changing this system.

For the second caveat I would offer that instead of beating your head against the brick wall, you should use your head against the brick wall. I remember a Bob Dylan quote “you say t’ meet bricks with bricks; i say t’ meet bricks with chalk.” I interpret this to mean instead of meeting hostility with hostility, meet hostility with reason (write on the brick wall – don’t throw more bricks).

I wouldn’t go so far as to call the system hostile, but I would characterize it as callous. So I say, let’s meet that callousness with reason. You’ve probably seen other posts I’ve made about the advantages of hiring the unemployed. For some recruiters, some organizations, that’s the “A” candidate, not the presumption that the current hiring system is built around. We need a more adaptive, less rigid system, that connects more candidates with openings that they can fill effectively.

As a candidate, if you are unemployed, your most likely point of success is not with consulting recruiters, but rather with in-house recruiters who actually don’t want the highest priced qualified candidate, they want the qualified candidate that is quickest to hire.  Be that candidate and sell that attribute.

It is NOT an Honor and Privilege to Work Here!