Effective Job Search Campaigns

Jump To:
 Mining the "Hidden Job Market"
 Building a Network of Contacts
 Cold Calling: What It Is and Why You Need to Cold Call Employers
 How to Write Employment Proposals & Motivate Employers To Hire You When They Have No Plans to Hire Anyone
 Applying for Work in Person
 Understanding the Job Search Challenge and the Importance of Generating Leads
 Information Interview / Job Interview Preparation
 Finding Jobs with Information Technology Employers

Don't Wait for Employers to Post Jobs or Find Your Résumé!

Instead find them! Targeting employers puts you in full control of your job search.

Finding work in today's increasingly competitive job market can be challenging, and so job seekers as a result must learn and effectively use proven job search methods to find better employment and minimize time spent "between jobs". Not surprisingly, you can find better jobs faster if you act on the knowledge of what it takes to lead a successful job search campaign. The following job search tips are designed to be accurate and sufficiently complete to enable you to find better work faster, and so that you won't have to read anything more before starting your new job.

Job search results prove that people who draw on the lessons of other successful job seekers experience a heightened ability to efficiently find better employment in less time than would be required using conventional job search ideologies and methods.

These results prove that job seekers able to stand head and shoulders above the competition by applying the following effective job search strategies that are relatively unknown to the majority of job hunters will benefit to the tune of thousands of additional dollars in their bank accounts as they find work faster while avoiding possible loss of self-esteem and unemployment-related depression and anxiety.

That said, it may sometimes be overly optimistic to believe that you can beat the competition through hard work and clever tactics. In some cases, it may be necessary to change objectives to find work and recognize that your job finding problems are rooted in a tough job market in order to avoid feeling that you must be doing something wrong when employers are not calling you for interviews.

 Top of page

Understanding What Works and What Does Not

The collective experience of job seekers proves that posting your résumé at hundreds of job sites or "blasting" it to hundreds of recruiters and employers is a self-defeating strategy. This approach won't let you customize it for a specific employer or job opportunity, and so you likely will not be called. You also won't be able to follow up by calling or e-mailing the large number of employers who receive your résumé and will miss opportunities to establish contact and move your application forward in the hiring process.

In fact, sending a résumé in response to an ad is one of the least effective methods of finding a job, according to J. Michael Farr, author of "Getting the Job You Really Want" (JIST Works Inc., 2002). This is because hundreds of other candidates are responding to ads, causing a deluge of résumés in human resource departments.

As part of your proactive job search campaign, you will find it more effective to (when possible) send résumés only to named individuals having the power to hire you. Try to avoid office managers, the Human Resources department where it exists, and other "gatekeepers" whose duty is to keep you from communicating with people having the authority to hire you.

As an alternative to mass mailing form letters, you can take important steps toward meeting employer contacts by sending individual, targeted messages to these named individuals as part of building your network. 

The key word here is 'contacts,'
because, as part of implementing the proactive job search campaign targeting employers advocated here, you will be creating a network of employer contacts who know you as someone intelligent, trustworthy, interesting and easy to work with, in addition to being skilled and experienced [if you are]. Once you're clear on the steps taken by employers to recruit new hires [explained later], the value of being in this position will become even more evident.

To develop and strengthen your network of contacts, you will need to research employers to learn about their needs and also to find the names and contact information for people working for them who have the power to hire you. These are the people you need to include in your network, and to meet, so that they can get to know you.

The feedback you receive while researching and getting to know employers and employer contacts can provide you with the motivation you need to take action to advance your job search. Having quick access to company and contact information as you go about this task will enable you to maintain your job search momentum and avoid getting bogged down in the time-consuming task of manually searching for the information you need to effectively target employers.

Your employer research will help you identify their needs, and your main challenge knowing their needs will be to find a way to communicate your ability to meet them using your cover letter and résumé, and by talking to them on the phone and in person. Contacting employers and making your talents known to them is easier than you think, especially when you use the following proven job search ideas and methods.

These job search ideas and methods are on topics ranging from What Networking Is to Tapping Into the Hidden Job Market, to Effective Résumés and Cover Letters, and are here to assist you in making an informed choice on how to most effectively find your next job, future jobs, and continue building your career.

The JobPro Directory For Job Seekers in British Columbia

The JobPro BC Employers Directory offers job seekers company and contact information you need to find, research and target local employers as part of your proactive job search campaign. If you would like to use this resource for free, ask your local job search resource centre to investigate purchasing JobPro, or contact us to purchase your own copy.

 Top of page

Mining the Hidden Job Market To Create Your New Career

Running a Proactive Job Search Campaign Targeting Employers

Job searching and networking are really about getting yourself noticed. You must do this in an organized and formal process so that you maintain control. You will be creating lists of companies to approach, lists of people currently working at your target companies, maintaining records of interviews, records of conversations and their results, and next steps you must perform per company.

Networking is the process of making acquaintances and getting to know many other people. You need to let them find out who you are, what you have to offer, and what kind of job you are looking for. Networking is considered the most effective way of finding a job, and it demands time and motivation. The more people know you, the better your chances of finding the right job. 

When first conceived, new jobs are like precious gems: They're hidden until you find them. It makes sense, then, to be a job 'miner' instead of a job seeker. Job miners combine their skills, experience and connections to strike at the entire lode of possibilities. Miners are active, not passive, and they focus on the future, not the past, to create opportunities.

Lily Jiang, an internationally trained professional with an engineering background, used the mining approach after being terminated from her position as a market research director for a Vancouver area biotechnology company. Following the firing, Ms. Jiang moved back to a job she previously held with a BC government agency while she looked for more challenging work. She began networking, and, based on the information she gathered, developed a job proposal that led to a new position as Director of Engineering Services being created for her at another government agency.

For Ms. Jiang, mining for connections and support taught her how to learn from every experience during her search, no matter how difficult, and to apply that knowledge to her quest of finding a new position.

In contrast, a former senior marketing manager for a telecommunications company in Richmond, BC, remains a job seeker. He's been looking for a new position since last year, when he was reassigned to a project that's clearly not going to advance his career, and which will soon end and result in him being laid off. His method of looking for work has been passive: reading company bulletins and trade journals for advertisements.

"Perhaps something will come up before this position ends. For now, I'm applying for everything I see advertised that's remotely appropriate", he says.

 Top of page

Untapped and Unpublished

Job mining makes sense for many reasons. Consider that only about 20% to 30% of all available positions are advertised, but since most people focus 80% to 90% of their search effort on these jobs, the competition for them is greatest. That means the smallest probable returns for your effort.

In contrast, about two-thirds of all jobs are on managers' wish lists, still unofficial or being circulated on networks in the form of, "I'd like to find someone who could..." These comprise the hidden job market. Once advertised, the window of opportunity closes on getting hired quickly. Besides more competition, there are structured hiring protocols (job descriptions, hiring committees, résumé screening) and established compensation ranges to contend with.

The mining process is focused less on past titles and more on accomplishments, flexibility and transferable experience. You may need to prove your ability to react quickly, apply your experience in new ways or get things done without title-power. Here's where miners find chances to strike it rich.

Barbara Dawid, Marketing & Resource Advisor, Job Placement & Resource Centre@Training Institute, Immigrant Services Society of BC says: "Job miners take action to translate their areas of strength into new situations, tune in to opportunities beyond those described by someone else and change their focus from what 'is' to what 'could be' ".

Become a Miner

Job mining involves shifting at least half of your search energy and strategies into finding ways to become the solution to an organizational challenge. It may mean using short-term or "disposable" employment to gain experience and exposure. This might include taking on project work, portfolio jobs or volunteering in a community setting or professional association to make new contacts or broaden your skills. Here are the steps to take to become a miner:

1. Determine what interests you

What is it that you want to do? Marketing professionals begin by defining the product and the audience. Who will be interested in you? Whom do you want to interest? What do you offer them?

Do some self-assessment. What engages and challenges you? Internet resources, published career guides and career coaches can help you develop this self-awareness quickly if need help.

Be clear on how your skills and experience translates into results. Don't expect employers to make the leap. Be ready to say how your skills can be applied to different functions or industries. Also know how to discuss your failures. Self-knowledge means being able to say what you learned from difficult situations.

 Top of page

2. Market yourself

You must shake the tree for opportunities. This means focusing on the future, researching new growth areas and making connections. Whenever possible, choose people over paper. Try to meet with contacts instead of mailing résumés, says Rosemary Barnhart, a career consultant in Olympia, Wash.

A monthly networking group she started that meets at 6:45 a.m. for breakfast now includes more than 75 attendees from various businesses and industries. They focus on forming business collaborations and learning about new opportunities. They mine all year long.

Create opportunities to talk to new people, especially those in different segments of your industry, other industries, positions of leadership or other roles that allow them to know about future growth plans. Most miners find jobs through a wider circle of contacts than the four or five people they know well. To meet more people, attend conferences, volunteer for committee work or make presentations.

Job titles can be limiting. To create new possibilities, discard labels you've worn. Have personal business cards printed without your title. Use them to introduce yourself. Create a personal commercial - a brief, positive self-introduction to describe yourself in a way that helps others feel they've connected with you.

Examine your self-marketing documents such as biographies, résumés and portfolios. These are your personal representatives. Does the information in your résumé reflect what you want to do in the future? Is it presented in a way that will hook a prospective employer? Do your cover letters address solutions employers are buying? Consider sending personal letters to hiring managers instead of typical cover letters and résumés. Determine if your personal appearance and presentation skills are adequate. If not, seek help in both areas from career professionals.

3. Remove obstacles

Mining involves seeing the possibilities that lie below the surface and being ready to seize them. If hiring is slow in your industry or geographic area, do research to determine areas of greatest opportunity and explore them.

This may mean making difficult decisions in advance about relocating. Few things can be more damaging to a family or personal relationship than having to decide whether to stay or move after an opportunity becomes available. The process is doubly difficult if you are part of a dual-career couple.

Decide on your job-search criteria before you start mining. What are the relative weights of each? How long will you look locally before branching out? Write down your specifications. Invent a point system for evaluating opportunities and rating your progress.

 Top of page

4. Stay energized and positive

If you have let things slide, now is the time to accelerate your efforts. Build mental muscle by talking about your desires and goals. Just as your body's muscles become stronger with repetition, your mental picture of your desired outcome will become more real every time you repeat it.

To stay positive, use the rubber-band trick. Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it when you think a negative thought. Ask a friend to hold you accountable for thinking positively. Talking positively about your mining activity will help you stay focused on the future.

If you're unemployed, resist the temptation to isolate yourself. Don't spend your days sending e-mails and résumés. This can make you feel productive, but the lack of response from employers can lead to self-criticism and depression.

Change your schedule so your days are spent calling contacts, arranging meetings and attending events that allow you to meet more people. Save evenings for Internet follow-up activities. Set goals and track your accomplishments. Keep a success calendar and post your big and small achievements in it each day.

Turn to Cold Calling When Networking Fails

    In your job search, you've talked to your ex-boss, five former co-workers, your in-laws and their in-laws. You've e-mailed your sister, your first cousins and even your second and third cousins. You've probed for leads from your best friends, your uncle John and your niece Sue. You've handed out more business cards than you can count at chamber of commerce lunches. You've even left four voice mails for that guy who moved to Toronto. He hasn't called back.

    If you continue in this manner, you're bound to find someone who knows someone, but it isn't likely to be soon. The guy from Toronto has given up on the corporate world and is on an extended vacation in Mexico. Your relatives would love to help, but don't know anyone influential in your industry. And members of the chamber of commerce simply aren't hiring.

     Top of page

    What's the Alternative?

    Networking is usually defined as seeking referrals through others. The emphasis is on securing an introduction to a hiring manager before you make the call. Almost everyone who has ever studied job hunting will tell you that it's the surest method of finding a job, yet you've networked your network to the bone and the results are skimpy or non-existent. Don't fret. Research shows that there's another method of landing interviews that's even better than networking.

    It's called cold calling or direct contact, and it means just that: making cold calls to people who might be able to hire you, and telling them about your availability and interest in working for them. Research shows that it's surprisingly effective.

    A recent survey of professionals, managers and executives by the Five O'Clock Network, a career-counseling network based in New York City, shows that direct contact is a more effective use of your time when seeking meetings with hiring managers.

    Their results showed that job seekers who called association members, professionals identified through newspaper articles or Internet research, and other contacts in a position to hire were more effective in their job search.

    They also found that job hunters spent 24% of their time making these kinds of cold calls, which yielded 27% of their meetings. In contrast, they spent 45% of their time networking, yet this job-search technique produced only 35% of their meetings, the Five O'Clock Network reports.

    While these results may not seem too startling, they reveal that cold calling/direct contact is the most time-efficient method for getting meetings because you can take action yourself. Networking takes more time and is more cumbersome than using direct contact, because if you're networking, you have to use a third party. Then you may have to get yet another name before you reach the hiring authority.

    The survey also showed that direct contact was effective for even job hunters looking for work as senior executives. Although they secured most of their meetings through networking, direct contact accounted for almost 30%.

     Top of page

    Because of the high level of success many job seekers have in cold calling, career counselors often recommend that you spend at least 80% of your time on the phone contacting hiring managers directly. In making your cold calls as a job seeker targeting employers, keep in mind that two-thirds of all job openings are with small businesses having fewer than twenty-five employees.

    It's also super important that you understand that most of your "cold calls" can be made warmer and more effective if you take the time to research employers to determine their needs and how you may be able to help them before calling them. Doing this employer research prior to contacting them can not only make employers more receptive to your calls, but will also enable you to create better customized résumés and attention-getting cover letters which give you a stronger competitive edge, and through them, more interviews and job offers.

    Why Direct Contact Works

    Why is direct contact so effective? The approach emphasizes looking for new positions in the marketplace before they're known to the general public via newspapers and other advertising.

    Using direct contact circumvents the many time-consuming steps required by traditional methods of job searching. You don't have to find someone who can refer you to a hiring manager.

    If you're applying to a large corporation, you must get through a series of screening techniques...filling out an application, getting your résumé entered into a database, getting through the human-resources department, and passing a phone interview before you even see the face of a decision maker. Picking up the phone and talking to somebody almost always works better.

    Everyone makes the mistake of placing too much importance on published openings. The alternative? Contact organizations that don't publicize openings now, and stay in touch with them. This increases the chance they'll hire you, rather than post the job, when they need help.

    Four Simple Steps

    Most job seekers can use this technique if they apply some time-tested tactics. It involves just a few simple steps.

    1. Adjust your attitude

    Adopt the posture of a busy CEO running your own business. When you approach executives and hiring managers at businesses you'd like to work for, think of yourself as an equal. Act as if you're a busy professional making a business proposal, rather than a job hunter seeking a position. Think of your résumé as a powerful business proposal outlining a contribution you'd like to make to that company, not as a document describing past accomplishments.

    2. Do your homework on employers

    Select the companies you'd like to work for regardless of whether they advertise an opening. You can choose companies you know about, peruse the Yellow Pages for businesses in your area, and use Internet databases. Choose search criteria including industry, location and company size to limit search results to a manageable number so you can target these employers in a quality way. Find a job search resource offering useful company information including a company synopsis, location, names of decision makers and other related material.

    Your local library will also have some helpful business databases. If you're unemployed, you will most likely qualify to use a local government-sponsored job search resource center like YWCA Employment Programs & Centres, or a host of other Service Canada-funded organizations paid to assist you in your job search.

    Unfortunately, many people make employment decisions solely on the information they glean from job interviews and perhaps what they read on a prospective employer's web site. In short, they're making long-term career decisions using only information over which the employers have a great deal of control.

    Such blind faith can be especially dangerous for technology workers, who often find themselves choosing between a company that has a clear information-technology vision and one that's about to be left in the technological dust. The result: Within months or weeks you may find yourself in a difficult work environment after letting a better opportunity slip away.

    You should also care about the company's work culture and how satisfied its employees are to work there. You can do this using both the internet and in person as part of your employer research.

    Once you're done researching an employer, it's time to visit them. If you're arriving for an interview, get there early. Try hanging out in the parking lot to pick up clues about a company. Act like a sponge collecting information. Notice how employees dress - you'll get a sense of how formal or informal the work environment is to help you gauge how you might fit in.

    At the same time, seeing how people interact - do they greet each other or walk to the door with their heads hanging - reveals a lot about how enjoyable the place is. If possible, go both early and late in the day to try to determine the time commitments the company places on its employees. Try informally chatting with anyone from landscapers to receptionists to gauge their degree of satisfaction and long-term interest in the company.

    Try to catch someone standing in the lobby or walking out the door to see if they'd accept a phone call after business hours. People don't know you and many may not cooperate. But others will, and from them you'll learn a lot about whether this is a great place to work or whether the managers are tyrants who will keep you there every night until 10.

     Top of page

    3. Research the decision makers

    Once you've targeted the companies you'd like to work for, identify the person with the power to hire you. Most likely, this is the boss of the person who would be your manager if you worked at that company. Introduce yourself, by phone, with a "pitch" that includes your name, level of experience and a key accomplishment. If he or she is receptive, give them a bit of background information on, say, your experience or education, and request an interview.

    4. Follow up

    Offer answers to the contact's objections. If he or she says, "We don't have any openings right now," your response should be: "That's fine. What I'm really interested in is finding a company that's a good match for my skills for the long term. I'd like to meet with you to discuss potential future opportunities. When would this be convenient?"

    After you've agreed on an appointment time, send a thank-you note citing your appreciation for the manager's time on the phone and confirming the meeting.

    Picking Up the Phone

    It's true that most people don't want to pick up the phone and "pitch" their skills to a complete stranger. But many job seekers have had success with this approach.

    Michael Guevara, an unemployed director of engineering in North Vancouver, BC, was laid off last summer. Initially, he balked at the idea of cold calling. "I'm not a salesman," he protested. "I'm an engineer!" But since he'd been jobless for seven months and was running out of funds, he decided to give it a try.

    Mr. Guevara didn't hit pay dirt on his first, second even tenth call. It took 15 tries before he finally set up an appointment. He secured a meeting with an engineering executive at a large media conglomerate. The interview was a success. Six weeks ago, he was promised a senior engineering manager position in the next three months, when the job is vacated due to retirement. He's continuing to search in the interim as he knows the hiring climate at employers can shift at any time.

    As a sales and marketing executive in Richmond, BC, Toni Goldberg was an old hand at cold calling. After being laid off from International Business Machines Corp. in 2009, she made this method her chief job-search tool. Ms. Goldberg was either lucky, or all those years of cold calling as a young sales manager paid off. She made appointments for four face-to-face meetings in less than an hour. She had her pick of new positions. Within three weeks, she had accepted an offer that came with an 18% pay increase.

    Given the scarcity of openings in this tight job market, relying on published advertisements isn't the best way to learn about available positions. And when networking isn't working, direct contact is an effective route to a new job.

    It doesn't take a special personality to use this strategy. Even shy people can make it work. Be prepared to persist. The majority of your calls won't result in a meeting. When one finally does, you'll be booking an interview before your competition gets a chance to press send them their resume.

 Top of page

Write a Persuasive Cover Letter

    For many people, cover letters are an annoyance they'd be quite happy to avoid. People frequently ask themselves "Do I have to send a cover letter with my résumé?" - nearly always in the hope they'll hear that in their particular case a cover letter is unnecessary ... that they'll do just as well sending only their résumé to prospective employers.

    Perhaps the reason this question is so common is because so many cover letters are indeed a waste of paper. It's perfectly reasonable to wonder if you have to include a letter when you're going to say little more than "here's my résumé; hope to hear from you soon."

    Even the term "cover letter" suggests a mere formality - just a cover for the real material you're sending.

    But you can do much better than that. A cover letter is an opportunity to tap into an individual employer's aspirations and anxieties. Your résumé is about you, but employers don't really care about you. They care about what you can do for them - the problems you can help them solve and the opportunities you can help them take advantage of.

    Your cover letter is your opportunity to go beyond the résumé and its focus on your past and future to talk about what the reader cares most about - themselves. It is a sales letter, and all good sales letters are written with the reader's interests foremost in mind.

    If you're mailing your résumé to an employer, you should always include a cover letter. Always.

    Customize your Cover Letter
    You should customize this letter to meet the needs of the particular employer you're contacting. This means you will usually avoid generic cover letters - letters that you could send to any employer you have an interest in. Instead, you'll make the effort to write a letter that addresses the specific concerns of each individual employer.

    Use a Cover Letter Template
    Some parts of your letter should usually be common to each customized cover letter, particularly when you're approaching very similar businesses, but you will want to customize it whenever doing this is to your advantage / will give you a competive edge.

    Customizing requires thinking about the company, their customers, and the work you see yourself doing. It means imagining yourself in the position and the situations you'd be facing, and figuring out the abilities and traits you possess that are important for success.

    For any position, there are two types of skills: core skills that any serious applicant will be expected to have, and a much broader range of skills that would be useful to the employer but go beyond the basic requirements. You have to spend some time thinking about both types. Having the first kind gets you in the game; the second will make you stand out from the competition.

    Your letter should be as close to a business proposal as you can get - not a plea for an interview. What do you offer that's of value? What objectives can you help them achieve? Try to focus on their needs - what they want to buy rather than what you'd like to sell.

     Top of page

    Writing your cover letter
    Someone is going to read your letter. It will land on their desk or in their email Inbox, and they will take time away from the work they were doing to read it.

    What action do you want the reader to take at this point? What is it you want them to do with your letter? Why are you writing? Your letter needs to tell them this.

    One way or the other, the next step you want to get to is usually a telephone conversation of some kind - preferably initiated by the employer, but far more likely initiated by you. What you want the reader to do at this point is either to call you, or to accept your call. From there, you'll usually try to move on to a face-to-face meeting.

    You're going to try to get to that next step by answering the fundamental worksearch question: What value do you have to offer? How will the employer be better off with you than they are now? Your résumé should provide the evidence to make your claims credible.

    Appeal to their self-interest. Whenever possible, take advantage of their hopes and worries - and greed. The hiring process is as much emotional as logical. In all effective sales letters, the reader comes first. This is a lot easier to say than do. You have to imagine them, empathize with them and do your best to give them the motivation to do what you want them to do.

    Keep paragraphs short. No more than seven lines, and preferably five or fewer. Vary the sentence length. None of the sentences should be very long, but you don't want a staccato stream of very short sentences. Try using the occasional sentence fragment. Like this. Or begin with conjunctions - and, but, or.

    Use a one-sentence paragraph to emphasize a statement.

    And you can use boldface type and italics to draw attention to specific parts of your letter. You have to be careful with underlining because the line is often printed too close to the word, reducing its readability.

    These devices should be used sparingly to make the highlights stand out when the reader gives your letter a quick skim (which may be all it ever gets if they don't see anything to make them want to read on).

    Write in a friendly, conversational tone, and avoid stiff businessese like "enclosed please find my résumé for your perusal" or "I am sending my résumé in regards to the above mentioned position." Forget all about what you think a business letter "should" sound like. Don't use a thesaurus to replace good simple words with ornate and awkward language.

    Be a real person, not an automaton churning it out by rote. Show some personality and enthusiasm.

    Avoid vague statements - specifics sell. A letter that could be sent to any employer merely by replacing the name of the company - called a "broadcast" letter - can probably be improved with more specifics. If you're planning on a mass mailing, the broadcast format may be your best choice, but you should be aware that there are trade-offs between high volume and customization. It's much harder to create reader involvement with a letter that could have been sent to anyone (and probably has).

    Think twice before using any adjectives or adverbs. A common mistake is what I call the Roget Style of writing where a truck load of adjectives is dumped all over the letter. The writer of one letter I've got in front of me claims to be "competent," "reliable," "committed," and "outstanding" - all in one paragraph! Another says she's "motivated and dedicated."

    Says you! Unsubstantiated puffery adds nothing. The reader isn't going to think of you as one scintilla more competent just because you describe yourself that way.

    "Effectively" and "efficiently" are particularly weak - and some people sprinkle them in their letters like confetti. What was so efficient or effective about what you did? How do you know? If you can answer those questions, then put that down instead. And if you can't answer them, you're probably better off saying nothing.

    If you start describing yourself as "well organized, proactive, and dedicated; a team player with excellent oral and written communication skills" or any other clichés, you'll be laughed at more than admired.

    What can you do for this organization? Try converting "I haves" into "you wants" - or "you don't wants" if you can play on a fear the employer may have and show how hiring you would eliminate it.

     Top of page

    Open quickly ... with a difference
    Every cover letter guide talks about the importance of an opening that "grabs attention" or "generates interest." Then they turn around and give sample letters with standard openers like:

    "Please accept this letter as application for the Process Engineer position currently available with your company."

    "I am very interested in obtaining a position with your organization. Enclosed please find my résumé for your review."

    "In response to your ad in the [paper] I wish to apply for the position of [whatever]."

    Give these lines full marks for getting to the point, but they could have been written by a machine. Instead of generating interest, these openers have the employer thinking "here's another one!" They've read the same line dozens of times before.

    For advertised openings, probably 90 percent of the responses begin by mentioning the ad. Which means this is something you might want to avoid.

    Brian Hauk, a career coach in Vancouver, BC developed this opening which, while not particularly gripping, lets you get to the point quickly and sound like a human being:

    Several things you mention in your ad for a [position advertised] make me think you may be looking for someone with my experience. Let me briefly explain.

    There are many ways to open your letter. Whatever opening you use, get to the point quickly - or the reader will move on to something else. Here are some ways to begin:

    Personal Referral: "John Hughes from [wherever] suggested I contact you about ..." If you have a name to drop, the beginning of your letter is usually the best place to do it. A good way to get your letter past anyone screening the mail of the person you're writing to.

    Question or Headline: I'm not a fan of this approach. As much as techniques from direct mail selling may be effective, this approach may scream "advertising!" (or, even worse, "junk mail!") and hinder the personal connection you're trying to make.

    News You've Read: Usually about the company or their industry: This can be done very well or very poorly - it comes down to how strongly you connect this tidbit to something that will make the reader interested in you. No one really cares about what you've read, but if you quickly segue into discussing how this news made you think you can contribute to the organization, then you've got a strong opening.

    Quotation/Saying: Certainly different, but it should be directly related to a good reason for the employer to meet with you (see sample letter #2).

    Your Job Objective: You haven't done anything yet to make the reader care what you're looking for. It's better to talk about what the reader wants - how you can help them achieve their objectives.

    No matter how you begin, get right to discussing the value you think you'd bring to their organization. In fact, I've found one of the best openers is to say something like "Here's what I will bring to/offer your organization," and start describing the benefits they'd receive in hiring you. It tells them right away why you're writing, and brings you immediately to communicating the value you offer.

    There are many other offbeat ways to open your letter so it won't sound like it's been copied out of a dull cover letter book or from the same old boilerplate material that many job seekers use.

     Top of page

    Finish with a call to action
    Despite your best efforts, when the employer comes to the end of your letter it's unlikely they'll be left with an irrepressible urge to call you immediately, even if they are interested in your qualifications or employment proposal. They have many other things to do, and they aren't going to put everything else on hold and jump for the phone just because you decided to mail them a letter - even if they were interested in your offer.

    That's why you will usually have to initiate the follow-up communication yourself by picking up the phone and making a call. You should do this within three days of the letter's arrival, and let the employer know in your letter that you will be following up. This may just be enough to get them to hold on to your letter and maybe give it a more thorough reading.

    John Lucht, author of 'Rites of Passage' doesn't agree. He calls job seeker's promises to follow-up and proactiveness the "Mafia approach" - a threat that they'd better call, or else you will. He counsels his clients to just mail résumés and letters and hope some calls come in. But before you sigh in relief and decide to follow Lucht's advice, you should also know that he has his clients mail out at least 1,000 résumés and tells them to expect only one or two offers from this. And all of his clients are senior executives with proven track records.

    Lucht agrees, however, that the biggest drawback of this approach is that it encourages people to "hide behind the post office" and not make contact. And what a drawback that is! The only thing that can hurt your work search more is to do nothing.

    End your letter with a call to action, and take responsibility for initiating the next step yourself. By saying you'll call in your letter, you're more likely to overcome the "call reluctance" that almost all sales people sometimes experience and avoid procrastinating when the time to call comes around.

    If you're responding to an advertised opening, you may have to be satisfied with a more passive approach. Organizations advertising an available position will receive hundreds of résumés and dozens of calls. You won't stand out from the competition by phoning, and because of the volume of calls they'll receive, you may be perceived as an annoyance.

    The very final sentence? I like to end all my letters with "thank you." It's not necessary, but it puts a positive and clear end to the letter.

    Some strategies for responding to advertised positions
    First of all ... good luck! You'll need it. By responding to advertised positions, you just about guarantee that your résumé and letter will end up in a pile with hundreds of others. From this, the employer will select maybe five people for interviews ... and all they have to go on to make this decision is your résumé and cover letter.

    When an employer receives this many résumés, you can bet there will be a ruthless screening process. Eighty percent or more of the résumés and letters may even be weeded out before any are passed along to the hiring manager or team.

    Often, your letter and résumé will be scanned by a clerk with little knowledge of the intricacies of the advertised position. They may have a checklist put together by someone in Human Resources of the specific experience someone decided is "essential" for the job. Score poorly on their list, and no one else will ever see your résumé. But you say you have something equivalent or better? Too bad it's not on their list. You're out.

    Yes, it's a tough sell. But not hopeless. Every job my wife has ever had she got by responding to an ad in the newspaper. I don't think she believes me when I say this isn't the most efficient way to look for work.

    First, you have to think about who's going to respond to the ad. You'll be selling against competition and you have to think about who that competition is likely to include. There will probably be résumés sent in by people with nearly identical jobs at other, maybe smaller, companies. In other words, there's almost certain to be applicants who "fit" better on paper. People with more checks on the checklist.

    So what do you do? You can pretend you're a perfect fit and show how you fulfill all of their requirements - no matter how feebly. Or you can try to show how you'll bring something else to the position and the company - maybe something they hadn't thought of or expected.

    The strategy in selling against competition is: 1) differentiate yourself, and 2) help the employer feel the value he or she will gain from those differences. Everyone who gets selected for an interview will probably have the core requirements, so it's often easier to stand out from the competition by showing the employer the full bundle of valuable abilities you can offer.

    This may not make any impression on the clerk with the checklist, but unless you're perfect for the position as the employer has imagined it - and can prove it - it's probably your best chance at getting an interview.

     Top of page

    Salary expectations
    What if you're asked about salary expectations? It's never a fair question. You won't learn enough from a description in an ad to know exactly what's involved. If the employer was really concerned about wasting their time interviewing people with unrealistic expectations they could have printed the salary range they have in mind right in the ad.

    You're more likely to be eliminated for saying the "wrong" number than for saying nothing. At this point, they're only trying to screen you out. Yes, occasionally, not quoting a number may remove you from consideration, but it's probably a risk worth taking. If you feel you have to say something, give a broad range or say "negotiable."

    Format, paper, and other basics
    The content and organization are the most important elements of your letter, but presentation has an effect too. No one's going to interview you because your letter looks nice, but engaging and persuasive content combined with a professional appearance is a powerful combination.

    Here are some suggestions for improving the appearance of your letter:

    Paper/ink: Black ink on white paper is easy to easy to print and easy to read. I like white 8½" by 11" paper with a laid finish. Heavier paper has a nicer feel - 24-pound paper with a rag content of 25% or more should be easy to find. But if all you have is standard 20-pound photocopy paper, go ahead and use it. Don't let this delay you.

    I don't think a week goes by where I'm not asked about colored paper. It seems to be a concern for many people, so here's my opinion:

    It doesn't make any difference.

    No one's going to interview you because you used ivory paper. No one's going to refuse to interview you because you used light blue paper. White paper is just as "professional" as any other color. Yes, colored paper might stand out in a pile to a small degree, but so what? Standing out is no achievement in itself. Your objective is to stand out in a way that will improve your chances for an interview, and you don't do that with something as superficial as colored paper.

    If you want to use colored paper, that's fine. If it gives you a better feeling about the materials you're sending out, that's terrific. But give your reader a little more credit than to think they're so easily manipulated by shallow gimmicks.

    Margins: Never less than an inch - 1¼" or even 1½" is better. Don't shorten the margins to squeeze your letter on to a single page. Either edit some material out or lengthen the margins and the space between paragraphs and go on to a second page.

    Typeface: There are thousands available, but stick to a simple serif font like Times Roman. You'll probably want 11 or 12 point size.

    Your name, address, and phone number with area code go at the top (see samples). The date comes next, followed a few lines below by the name of the person you're sending the letter to. Give their name, title, company, address, city, province/state, and postal/zip code.

    Usually, you'll want to address the letter to a person by name, and not just to the company or to a title. If you don't have a name, you can usually get one by just picking up the phone and asking: "Hello, I'm sending a package to your sales manager/controller/office manager/whatever. Could you tell me their name please?" It doesn't always work, but it takes 30 seconds to try. And check the spelling of the name when you get it.

    You will typically address them as "Mr." or "Ms." Don't guess gender! If you can't find out, just use their full name - Dear Kelly Smith. If you can't get a name, address your letter to a specific title or a general description of the intended reader's responsibilities - Information Systems Manager, Office Manager, Plant Manager, for example.

    After the body of your letter, close with "Sincerely," or something similar, followed by 4-5 blank lines and then your name. Your signature goes in between. I rarely bother with "Enclosure" or a secretarial designation at the bottom, but if you know what these are and like to use them, go ahead. If not, don't worry about it.

     Top of page

    Sample letter #1 - Chris McKarthy

    Chris McKarthy is applying for a position as manager of a mid-size airport. The position was advertised nationally and will likely attract applicants who have managed smaller airports throughout Canada.

    Chris never managed an airport. He did look after an air-strip for a few years, but that amounted to little more than keeping a big field mowed. He'll just look silly if he tries to play up that experience.

    He may not have much of a chance anyway, but with this letter he tries to take the employer's focus away from the areas where he's sure to come up second (or 100th) best, and put it on the strengths he would bring to the position. Now it's up to the employer to decide whether this is enough to make up for his lack of experience as an airport manager.

    Also notice how Robert doesn't go into detail about his aviation experience. It's all on his résumé, but any serious applicant will also have a strong aviation background. So he moves the focus of his letter to where he expects he'll have a competitive advantage.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Robert McCarthy
    13 Park Street, Richmond, Ontario N0J 4X7

    March 21, 2010

    Danny Fishman, Chief Operating Officer
    District of North Vancouver
    55 Charles Street
    North Vancouver BC V5B 0A1

    Dear Mr. Fishman:

    There are many others who have spent more time than I maintaining airport facilities. Although I've been a pilot for nearly 20 years, have been an aviation safety officer, and have operated a specialty air carrier in this area for the past eight years, I expect that every serious candidate for this position will also have a strong background in aviation.

    But I think I have a lot more to offer.

    I know this region, and understand the important role the airport will play in our economic development. I know the airport, and many of its clients. I also have a vision for the future of the airport. One specific idea I'd like pursue is convincing the cargo & courier carrier industry to move their operations to Hillside. An aggressive marketing of the benefits Hillside offers to business would increase profitability without costly expansion. I have the experience and skills to take on this responsibility.

    As my résumé details, I have 10 years' experience in senior management, with hands-on responsibility for everything from customer service and sales & marketing to financial planning and personnel management.

    The creativity and innovation I have used to develop and grow my own business, my entrepreneurial approach and my proven sales & marketing skills are some of the unique attributes I can bring to the management of the airport, along with the necessary aviation experience. I look forward to the opportunity of presenting some of my ideas to the selection committee. You can reach me at 604 777-1212 any time. Thank you.


    Chris McKarthy

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     Top of page

    Sample letter #2 - Samantha Gainer

    Samantha is responding to an ad from a pharmaceutical company looking for sales reps. Her formal sales experience is minimal, and pharmaceutical sales positions usually attract a heavy response from experienced reps.

    If Samantha tries to focus on her sales background she's doomed. There's no way she can compete on those terms with someone who has five years' experience working a sales territory making cold calls and presentations. And the ad will get dozens of responses from people with that kind of experience.

    So she takes the focus away from sales experience and describes her belief in the product, her involvement in the health field, and the relationships she's already developed with potential strategic partners and customers for the company's products.

    This letter is filled with I's, me's, and my's, but I still give it a thumbs up. Every paragraph addresses a skill or experience that the employer will want to see in their reps.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Samantha Gainer
    13 Park Street
    Richmond, BC V5B 0A1
    778 451-1212

    January 13, 2010

    Vista Vitamins
    5000 Maple Leaf Road
    Hamilton, ON L0N 1N1

    Re: Sales Representative position

    There's an adage in the insurance industry that you can tell how successful a salesperson will be by the amount of insurance he or she personally carries. If you accept that line of thinking, you'll understand why I believe I would be an effective representative for your company. Let me briefly explain.

    As a registered massage therapist, I have a strong interest in the health field and in promoting healthy living. For years, I have been taking daily vitamin, mineral, and food supplements - including Vista products. I not only use these products myself, I recommend them to my clients. I know first-hand that they are effective, beneficial, and without the detrimental side effects of drugs and other therapies.

    The health food store environment is one I am very comfortable in. I make it a habit to drop in on the health food stores in the areas I visit and stay informed of any new products. I have personal contact with all of the stores in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and my practice also brings me into contact with naturopaths, holistic healers, and others who promote innovative approaches to health care.

    I have worked as a commissioned sales rep before and know how to find prospects and build relationships with them. I am no stranger to cold calling and making sales presentations. For the last six years, I've run my own practice and my success has been completely dependent on my abilities to develop a customer base.

    May I have the opportunity to further discuss how I might contribute to your organization during a personal interview? I can be reached at 519/555-1212 any time. Thank you.


    Carol Gainer

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     Top of page

    Sample letter #3 - Lesley Waite

    I love this letter. You may find the style too brash and pompous (my wife did), but I see it as an employer-focused breath of fresh air. And, in the real world, this letter did its job and got the interview.

    Lesley puts a powerful spotlight on the value he can deliver to the employer. And he sells the interview by promising "specific examples" and thorough references. The opening is attention grabbing, he focuses on the benefits he will deliver, and he gives just a bit of evidence to justify his claims (it's the résumé's role to provide the evidence in detail).

    This really does everything I think a cover letter should do.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Lesley Waite
    13 Park Street, Waterloo, Ontario N2J 4X7

    July 8, 2010

    Human Resources Manager
    The Zilcos Agency
    1313 Alta Vista Drive
    Waterloo, Ontario N2J 2V1

    Re: Sales Manager opportunity

    There's no shortage of people who can "talk the talk."

    Now that you've scanned through a stack of résumés, you know that all too well. Profit gains, sales increases, winning key accounts - all these achievements are described on my résumé, but you've been reading over those kind of claims for the last hour. Everyone seems to be able to find statistics which make them look like the real deal.

    So let's get down to business. You're looking for aggressive strategic growth. I can help you achieve your goals. Here's some of what I've done for others and will do for Zilcos:

    Seizing opportunities, making contact, cultivating relationships, and getting results - usually over fierce competition.
    Planning sales targets & strategies, and implementing account management processes that focus on customer satisfaction & commitment ... with bottom-line accountability.

    Holding my own with a client or prospect's CEO and senior executives in face-to-face meetings and presentations. And coaching others to do the same.
    Building and focusing a skilled and motivated sales team.
    Currently, I develop new business for one of Canada's most respected marketing agencies. In the last year alone, I've brought in over a dozen strategically targeted new accounts. I've proven throughout my career that I create new business, develop existing accounts, and cultivate client loyalty. I can do it for you.

    I'm very good at what I do. You'd expect me to say that, but when we meet I can provide specific examples to support this conclusion - and you can get references from senior managers at any company I've worked with to confirm the value I've consistently created.

    A few minutes of your time will go a long way in convincing you that I have something to offer. Together, we will achieve breakthrough sales results. Please call me any time at 519/123-9876 and we can arrange a time to meet. Thank you.


    Lesley Waite

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Final word
    The problem with all guides to résumés and cover letters is that they may make you believe there are absolute rules which must be followed. When your own efforts fall short of what's described in the books, it's easy to become paralyzed because you're convinced that what you've done isn't good enough.

    I've never seen a perfect résumé or cover letter. I've never written one, and you probably won't either. But perfection isn't the goal. Strive for excellence - but remember that while you're sitting around tinkering with your letter, other people are out getting work with letters and résumés that are far weaker than what you had to begin with.

    Keep these tips in mind, then go with whatever you come up with. Be persistent and make contact!

 Top of page

Write an Attention-Getting Résumé

If you realize that a great résumé can be your ticket to getting the exact position you want, you will be able to muster some genuine enthusiasm for creating a real masterpiece.

Your résumé is a tool with one specific purpose: to win an interview. Like a response to a Request for Proposal (RFP), a résumé is intended to show that you have successfully performed and produced results in the capacity required and that you are qualified for a face-to-face interview.

Again like an RFP response, the selection committee will quickly and without bias, make a decision whether or not they will take the next step and meet with you to hear your presentation. The reader wants to see a compelling reason to take the time to meet with you.

The most successful résumés are those focused on key and quantifiable accomplishments. Accomplishments and achievements differentiate the average performer from the one that truly delivers results. At best, a reader will only skim through your document. Résumé skimmers get distracted by unnecessary detail, wordiness, generic statements and information that is too high-level. The reader is looking for performance statements.

Avoid "job description" filler or low value content and focus on personal accomplishments. Job descriptions are the reason a person is paid a base salary. Accomplishment statements will describe how a sales person earned their commissions or what outstanding results a manager contributed to earn their bonus.

In today's job market a résumé built on simply a job description is not competitive. Job descriptions provide the reader with a list of functions and no results. A potential employer is not interested in what was expected from you - they want to know how well you performed against those expectations.

Example: 'Managed six direct reports' is a job description. 'Increased sales by 14% in twelve months by leading a team of six inside and outside people to exceed sales forecasts' is an accomplishment statement.

Many employers are only interested in viewing résumés written in reverse chronological order, listing your most recent employment first, and working backwards. A functional résumé, one that groups skills and abilities can frustrate the reader because they do not know when or where you performed the results.

Résumé Checklist

Make sure to include:

OBJECTIVE - one sentence explaining what kind of work you wish to do.

PROFILE - A brief three to four sentence overview / summary of who you are and what you offer the potential employer.

EMPLOYMENT HISTORY - reverse chronological order. If you have held more than one position at a company, list them separately with dates. Include all awards, recognition and accolades. If you have several, list them in a separate section entitled AWARDS & RECOGNITION following your employment history section.

EDUCATION - is always listed AFTER your work history. Recent graduates/students list their education before their work history. Make sure you include dates. Post graduate degree is listed above all of your "continuing education", training, seminars, courses, etc.

LENGTH OF résumé - if you have less than ten years experience, two pages is advised. With more than ten years experience you never exceed three pages. If your résumé is very long it will not be read. Edit it to include only the information that is relevant to the position for which you are applying.
Bullet points get read - paragraphs do not.

DO NOT use first person pronouns - I, my, mine, we, us, our, etc.
Use a consistent verb tense to begin each of your accomplishment statements - preferably past tense - Exceeded, Increased, Oversaw, Won, Achieved, Led, Acted, etc.

On another note, one of the most common mistakes we see in résumés at the managerial and executive level is the omission of context in professional experiences.

 Top of page

Why is context important in your résumé?

1. Whenever you make a résumé reader work hard to figure out your potential value and fit, you are likely not going to benefit.

2. Résumés are selling documents and context at the company, role, and career path levels can be additional arrows in your quiver.

3. Fit is a subtle but important thing. You are helping highlight where you do indeed fit through context.

When you leave the reader of your résumé guessing who your employer was (industry/sector, ownership (public, private, family business, etc.) size, market position), the chances are that they won't guess. They will just move on to the next résumé.

If you have worked with recognizable names, market leaders, etc. use that to your advantage. If you haven't, make sure that you sell your past employers. If the person hiring doesn't know and therefore doesn't value where you worked, then you have a big problem.

You also want to place your role in the context of the company you worked for. A Marketing Manager, for example, might have reported to a Sr. Marketing Manager, a Director of Marketing, a VP, or even the President. That same marketing manager might be one of several marketing managers or the only marketing person in the company. It is vital that you place your role in context.

The best résumés describe a theme, or thread through the candidate's career path. The various experiences and education should show someone who knows where they are going and a story explaining why the candidate made certain choices, and more importantly, why they are being interviewed for this opportunity.

Interview Pointers

Although you may spend an hour or more in an interview, in fact the interview is really over in five minutes. If you have not convinced the interviewer within the first five minutes that you are the right person for the job (or at least a contender who should be taken to the next level), it can be next to impossible to recover. Recoveries do happen, but they are very rare.

In that first five minutes of the interview, expect the interviewer to have noted your appearance, your grooming, your handshake, your personal presence, your eye contact, your articulation and most importantly, your personality. It is the "soft factors" that will take you to the next level. Conventional wisdom holds that being late for a job interview is an automatic black mark against a candidate, as is showing up on time with only a very sketchy knowledge of the company's business.

The next level starts with your ability to “sell" your experience, background and value proposition. Your job is to ensure that the interviewer hears where you bring value to the business, in both the short and long-term as well as how quickly will you “ramp up" and provide results. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of hiring managers say they would pass over inarticulate candidates or those candidates that are vague about their previous experience. If an candidate is a vague communicator in an interview, chances are that he or she will not communicate well on the job either.

It is important to be prepared so that you can verbally articulate your “value add". If you have done your interview homework and have fully researched the company and where you “fit", the words will flow smoothly. If not, it will show. This is where a positive attitude and demonstrated confidence will establish the tone for the interview. This is also where you have the opportunity to make your personal connection with the interviewer. The clearer and more specific you can be, the more likely an interviewer is to be impressed.

 Top of page

There are many kinds of questions asked in interviews. Two key styles include:

Behavioral questions
This type of question includes "Can you give me a specific example of how you did that?" or "What were the steps you followed to accomplish that task?" Its purpose is to anticipate predictable future behaviors based upon past responses.

Competency questions
This type of question includes "Can you give me a specific example of your leadership skills?" or "Explain a way in which you sought a creative solution to a problem." Its purpose is to align your past behaviors with specific competencies which are required for the position.

Behavioral and competency interviewing is gaining greater acceptance by trained interviewers because past performance is the most reliable indicator of future results, especially when it is tied to the specific competencies for the position. Always provide examples and stories. That makes you a real person with real experiences. Real experience benefits a future employer.

The following is the list of the top ten critical success factors that nearly every employer is seeking:

1)   Positive attitude toward work
2)   Proficiency in field of study
3)   Communication skills (oral and written)
4)   Interpersonal skills
5)   Confidence
6)   Critical thinking and problem solving skills
7)   Flexibility
8)   Self-motivation
9)   Leadership
10) Teamwork

Show your competence in as many of the above critical success factors as possible and you will rise above the competition.

One of the worst "sins" an interviewee can commit is to speak in generalities rather than specifics. It is not enough to say, "I'm a very goal-oriented person." You have to back it up with specifics.

For example: "I'm a very goal oriented person. In fact, I regularly update a list of personal and business goals with specific time frames. Since I started keeping this goal list three years ago, I've successfully reached or surpassed over 95% of these goals. I'm confident that the other 5% are also within reach in the coming year."

 Top of page

Uncovering an Employer's Corporate Culture is a Critical Task for Job-Seekers

Why should job-seekers care about a potential employer's corporate culture?
Aren't there more important factors to consider, such as the job itself, salary and bonuses, and fringe benefits? These factors are indeed important, but increasingly career experts are talking about the importance of employee-employer fit in terms of culture, with the idea that how well the employee "fits" the culture can make the difference between job-search success and failure.

What is corporate culture? At its most basic, it's described as the personality of an organization, or simply as "how things are done around here". It guides how employees think, act, and feel. Corporate culture is a broad term used to define the unique personality or character of a particular company or organization, and includes such elements as core values and beliefs, corporate ethics, and rules of behavior. Corporate culture can be expressed in the company's mission statement and other communications, in the architectural style or interior décor of offices, by what people wear to work, by how people address each other, and in the titles given to various employees.

How does a company's culture affect you?
In many, many ways. For instance:

 * The hours you work per day, per week, including options such as flextime and telecommuting.
 * The work environment, including how employees interact, the degree of competition, and whether it's a fun or hostile environment - or something in between.
 * The dress code, including the accepted styles of attire and things such as casual days.
 * The office space you get, including things such as cubicles, window offices, and rules regarding display of personal items.
 * The training and skills development you receive, which you need both on the job and to keep yourself marketable for future jobs and employers.
 * Onsite perks, such as break rooms, gyms and play rooms, daycare facilities, and more.
 * The amount of time outside the office you're expected to spend with co-workers.
 * Interaction with other employees, including managers and top management.

How do you uncover the corporate culture of a potential employer?
The truth is that you will never really know the corporate culture until you have worked at the company for a number of months, but you can get close to it through research and observation. Understanding culture is a two-step process, starting with research before the interview and ending with observation at the interview.

Before the Interview
Before you've even been invited for an interview, you might consider doing an informational interview with the company. Informational interviewing is a great research and networking tool.

Once you've been invited for an interview, while you are researching the company for the interview, spend some time searching for clues about the company's culture. Review the company's annual report, web site, and other materials. Some companies even discuss their corporate culture on their web site.

 Top of page

At the Interview
Experts suggest arriving early to the interview - unannounced if possible - and spend the time observing how current employees interact with each other, how they are dressed, and their level of courtesy and professionalism.

During the interview, you should consider asking one or more of these questions to get a feel for the corporate culture - as well as gain key information you'll need to make a decision if a job offer is made to you:

 * How are decisions made - and how are those decisions communicated to the staff?
 * What role does the person who gets this position play in decision-making?
 * Does the organization emphasize working in teams?
 * What are the organization's priorities for the next few years?
 * Are there established career paths for employees in this position?

If you get a chance to meet with other employees (or make your own chances by finding out where they hang out), you can ask one or more of these questions to try and get a handle on an organization's corporate culture:

 * What 10 words would you use to describe your company?
 * What's it really like to work here? Do you like it here?
 * How are employees valued around here?
 * What skills and characteristics does the company value?
 * Do you feel as though you know what is expected of you?
 * How do people from different departments interact?
 * Are there opportunities for further training and education?
 * How do people get promoted around here?
 * Around here what behaviors get rewarded?
 * Do you feel as though you know what's going on?
 * How effectively does the company communicate to its employees?

Concluding Thoughts
The bottom line is that you are going to spend a lot of time in the work environment - and to be happy, successful, and productive, you'll want to be in a place where you fit the culture. A place where you can have a voice, be respected, and have opportunities for growth.

 Top of page

Cover and Broadcast Letters

A Cover or Broadcast letter accompanies your résumé to introduce you to a prospective employer as a knowledgeable and capable applicant. You may wish to send your application package by overnight delivery to show the urgency and importance you place on being of service to the company.

Cover letters are used when applying to a specific, advertised position. Remember, a maximum of 20% of the positions available at any one time are advertised ("visible" job market), so do not limit yourself to these jobs. The position you want may not be advertised for a long time, if ever. You will have many competitors who are also trying to obtain an interview. In fact, 90% of all job seekers are applying to the 20% of advertised jobs!

Broadcast letters are used to uncover opportunities in organizations. Jobs in the "hidden" job market can be found most easily by speaking with people (for more information regarding the "hidden" job market, review the Networking section of this paper). Through your contacts, you should be able to get the names and addresses of people who hire for the work you would like to do. Targeted employer directories like the JobPro Directory and company and industry association web sites are also good resources to use to discover which organization might hire.

The quality of your letter will determine the employer's first impression of you. Do your research so that you can clearly articulate your competitive advantage. This letter should summarize only job relevant information, particularly your work experience (paid and volunteer), education, accomplishments, and job skills. The letter highlights the most important information while your résumé is more comprehensive.

Write down ideas as you think of them. Then analyze the material, organize it into themes, and write in complete sentences incorporating those themes into paragraphs. Stress the contributions you can make to the employer. Highlight achievements and how they are transferable to the job you are applying for.

From your research or the advertisement, note words such as "required, must have, very desirable, proficient in", and pay special attention to pointing out your strengths in these areas. Use action verbs, but do not repeat verbatim what is in your résumé. Avoid using negative words or mentioning negative ideas. Stress the qualifications you have for the job rather than mention those you do not have. Avoid words such as "although" and "however" because you will set up a negative statement.

In a broadcast letter, choose the phrasing of your job objective carefully. If you are too narrow, you may not be considered for some positions, but if you are too broad, you may be perceived as being unfocused or indecisive, just wanting any job. When sending letters into the hidden job market, don't send hundreds because you will not be able to do the necessary research.

The response rate does not justify the time and cost. Concentrate initially on 15-20. Then expand to the next group of 15-20. More organizations are using equipment to scan résumés into their database. You can therefore increase the number of company contacts you are targeting, but only to the quantity of quality applications you can produce.

 Top of page

Details That Matter
Use high quality 8-1/2" x 11" paper (same stock as your résumé)

Ensure a neat, uncluttered and well-organized appearance

Edit your draft for clarity, tone, accuracy, proper spelling, punctuation and grammar

Send your letter and résumé unfolded in a large envelope

Similarities Between Cover and Broadcast Letters
Cover and broadcast letters are similar, and you should include the following elements in both:

Focus on your strengths; highlight them in such a way that the employer can clearly see a connection with their organization

Give proof, using examples with specifics such as dollars or numbers, to show that your assessment of your capabilities is accurate

Differences Between Cover and Broadcast Letters
Address and send to the person or office specified in the advertisement

If no name is included in the advertisement, do try your very best to obtain the name of the person receiving applications so that you can address your letter to a person rather than to an office

In your first paragraph, state the job title from the advertisement and mention the benefits you bring to the organization or position

After you think the employer has received your application, telephone to restate your interest in an interview and to inquire about the interview process and dates

Address and send to the head of the department you want to work in

If the organization is small, send to the President, Executive Director, or whomever is in one of the top positions

In your first paragraph, based upon your research, mention the job title or area you are interested in, what you can offer that they need, and what it is about that organization that appeals to you

Include the name of the person(s) (with their permission) who gave you the information

Advise that you will initiate, stating how and when; do not leave the responsibility for arranging follow-up to the employer.

 Top of page

Quick Résumé and Self-Marketing Tips

What Message are You Trying to Communicate?

The main message you need to communicate to an employer can be simplified to just two points:
  • Claims - "Here's what I can do for you. Here's the value I can deliver to your organization."
  • Credibility - "Here's why you should believe me."

You cover letter will usually focus on claims. Your résumé's role is to restate the substance of your claims and to provide the credibility needed to support them.

Most job search coaches will tell you to focus on the employer when writing your résumé, even though you're writing about yourself. Knowing that this is what you're supposed to do is the easy part. The challenge is to do it convincingly.

Begin by thinking about the employer's needs, desires, and expectations, and follow a path back to yourself. In writing your résumé and cover letter, keep the following in mind:

1) What do they want to achieve?

2) How will the work you see yourself doing help them achieve these objectives? To reach their goal, what will they need that you can provide?

3) How will their customers benefit? (Preferably the organization's customers, but possibly "internal" customers as well.)

4) What would someone who could do these things look like on paper?

5) What else might they want that you could do that they may not be expecting?

You don't get hired by describing your past. You get hired by painting a picture of the employer's future and making them believe that you can help them achieve it.

 Top of page

Focus on the Future in Your Résumé

Your résumé is organized in a way that makes it seem like it's about your past. To the casual reader, it's a list of what you've done. But this is an illusion. You take your source material from your past, but the focus is on the future - the employer's desired future. Your résumé shows the skills and experience that you have to offer to help your next employer achieve their objectives.

Once the reader has some understanding of how you propose to benefit their organization - once your "claims" are stated, they can begin to interpret your credibility.

You create credibility by probing all aspects of your experience, abilities, traits, and beliefs for information that will support that claim. Credibility is established with specific details, provided in context so the reader can get a mental image of you.

You can also foster credibility through fresh, vivid expressions of beliefs and traits that will be perceived as more genuine than tired words taken out of a book. This is always "says you" material, but how you say it can make a big difference in whether it's believed. 

Don't Try to Tell the Whole Story

Don't try to tell the whole story in your résumé. Say just enough to whet the appetite of the right person. This will encourage contact. Needed details can be provided during an interview.

Examine your self-marketing documents such as biographies, résumés and portfolios. These are your personal representatives. Does the information in your résumé reflect what you want to do in the future? Is it presented in a way that will hook a prospective employer? Do your cover letters address solutions employers need?

Consider sending personal letters to hiring managers instead of typical cover letters and résumés.  Be clear about what you want for yourself in terms of building your career, and also in terms of what you can do for employers. With this in mind, personalize your résumé and cover letters, and send them only to named individuals who are directly involved in the hiring decision. Remember to avoid company gatekeepers so that you can make your talents and interest in their company known to decision makers.

Stay Energized and Positive

If you have let things slide, now is the time to accelerate your efforts. Build mental muscle by talking about your desires and goals. Just as your body's muscles become stronger with repetition, your mental picture of your desired outcome will become more real every time you repeat it.

If you're unemployed, resist the temptation to isolate yourself. Don't spend your days sending e-mails and résumés. This can make you feel productive, but the lack of response from employers can lead to self-criticism and depression. Change your schedule so your days are spent calling contacts, arranging meetings and attending events that allow you to meet more people. Save evenings for Internet follow-up activities. Set goals and track your accomplishments. Keep a success calendar and post your big and small achievements in it each day.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

 Top of page

Aggressive Job Search Strategies

Assess your progress and measure your results to avoid the trap of being busy but unproductive.

Looking for a new job can be extraordinarily taxing - scouring classifieds, searching the web and mass-mailing your résumé will usually produce unsatisfactory results, despite the intense time and personal effort.

The issue may not be the amount of work you put into your job hunt, but the type of work. Now, there isn't an easy way to find a job - you are still going to have to work hard at it. But the following principles of an aggressive job search can lead you to bypass the classifieds and HR departments and get in front of employers.

Don't waste time mass mailing résumés and spending hundreds of hours searching job sites. Instead, do some company research and begin targeting employers. Then, knowing something about the company and how you can help them, call the person who hires people with your talent. Do this because cold-calling works to find you job openings and to get you interviews and jobs.

You should expect better-than-average cold-calling results when your "cold-calls" are warmer than most, after you have taken the time to learn about the employer's needs and thought how you can apply your talent and experience toward solving their problems.

As part of leading an aggressive job search/career-building campaign targeting employers to find jobs in the "hidden job market," consider the following job search tips:

1. Measure your job search progress and use proven methods to find work

Are you regularly getting called for interviews?
Unless you are known to and liked by people (often called bosses) having the power to hire you, you need interviews to find employment. If employers are not calling you for interviews, then you need to find what part of your job search needs changing, and quickly change it. Either your cover letter or résumé, or job search methods, or amount of time and effort you put into your job search, or a combination of these needs to be strengthened.

The idea is to be aware of and use proven job search methods to avoid the trap of being busy but unproductive. However, if you are getting interviews but no job offers, you need to improve your interviewing skills. Interviewing is perhaps the only job search topic not addressed by this paper.

2. Be in control

Aggressive career building works on the basis that you are in control. The idea is to be primarily targeting employers instead of passively applying only to companies advertising job openings. This aggressive, proactive approach to your job search will help you find better paying, more interesting jobs which build your career. Keep in mind that career building takes time, and that you may need to occasionally apply for and work "filler" jobs to be able to pay your bills during your search for better quality, more rewarding employment. 

Before you can begin targeting employers as part of an aggressive job search, you need to select your targets. Start by actively researching prospective employers and put together an initial list. You might create your list based on several factors, including how interested you are in the company's projects, current job openings, company size, location, reputation, rate of pay, whether it's union or non-union, and whether you know people there who can help you get hired. Your research results will help you include and rule out companies.

Focus on targeting a manageable number of companies to avoid being overwhelmed and becoming bogged down by "information overload." If done thoroughly, the work of selecting about twenty-five companies for your initial list should keep you busy for several days. You likely will need to refine your list over the course of your job search based on what you learn, as some employers that at first appeared important will likely end up being removed, while other employers get added.

Then, once you have a list of employers you are targeting, you need to consider which job search methods are most likely to result in interviews.

As mentioned later in this paper, successful job seekers recommend using a number of methods to keep your job search active and increasingly effective. Proven job search methods include:

  • sending résumés both by email and by regular mail
    cold calling to make initial contact and to arrange interviews
    making your talents known to employers before they advertise a position through "information interviews" - stay tuned for more on information interviews later in this paper

    dropping off your résumé in person while trying to meet people having the power to hire you
    using follow-up phone calls, emails and printed letters including 'thank you' notes

You need to know which of these techniques are most effective in your job search, because experts warn that you can only employ no more than about five of them simultaneously without "casting your net too wide" and reducing the quality of your job search campaign.

Targeting employers also means reading the business press and industry journals specific to those companies. Their web sites and those of related industry associations may also provide you with a "heads up" about possible job opportunities. Try to find out what expansion plans the company has. Is management refocusing its target market? What companies is it partnering with?

The challenge then will be to ferret out the potential jobs and learn who can get you in the door. Remember to not take on more work than you can do in a quality way, because the idea behind waging an aggressive, planned, high quality job search is to make you stand head and shoulders above other job applicants. The key to your job search success rests much more on your perceived quality than on the quantity of résumés you send out, or the number of positions you apply for when your focus isn't on demonstrating how hiring you translates into investing in their business.

 Top of page

3. Know the people and companies

News articles, corporate web sites, press releases and personal contacts can lead you to the people you really want to talk to at your target company. Also, talking with vendors, customers and employees of your target company will - directly or indirectly - lead you to upcoming jobs and opportunities. Your aim is to gain insight into how you may be able to help them and also to find out who are that company's decision makers having the power to hire you.

4. Make your move

Call the decision maker(s) at each company you are targeting. Explain who you are, who referred you, and what you know about the company. Ask for an informational interview or a short meeting in which you will demonstrate your ability to contribute to their bottom line. If you are prepared to offer ideas and solutions they need, you will be far ahead of other job seekers who only send their résumés. When you meet them, listen carefully, so that you can fully respond to their questions and concerns. Remember to be respectful of their time.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

 Top of page

Change Your Job Search Strategy

    What if 80% of what you're doing every day in your job search is a total waste of time? Well, it's true, according to the Pareto Principle.

    Here's the explanation:

    Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian economist who found that 20% of the Italian people owned 80% of that country's wealth. But what's fascinating about his discovery, also called the 80/20 Rule, is that its implications go far beyond economics.

    Examples: 20% of your carpeting gets 80% of the foot traffic ... 20% of any sales force produces 80% of sales ... 20% of your customers cause 80% of your problems, etc.

    In other words, a small number of causes produce a large percentage of effects, in a ratio of about 20:80.

    What does this mean for your job search?

    About 20% of what you do accounts for 80% of your results. Conversely, 80% of what you're doing to find a new job is producing only 20% of your results - it's largely a waste of time.

    So, to get hired faster, you must focus like a laser on the 20% of your actions that produce 80% of your employment leads. It's that simple.

    Here are three ways to do just that ...

    1) It's the Network
    The observations of many career development practitioners/employment counselors point to up to 80% of job leads coming from networking.

    Bottom line: if you're not spending up to 80% of your time expanding your network, talking daily to friends, colleagues, family and new contacts about the job you seek and the value you can deliver ... you're screwing up.

    Turn it around. Change your priorities. Make time to network every day - starting today.

    2) Begin Your Résumé Forcefully
    Recognize that the opening lines of your résumé must grab readers by the lapels and force them to keep going. Typically, that has to happen within the first 15-30 seconds. Otherwise, you'll lose out to more compelling candidates. Every time.

    So, in the top 20% of page one, clearly tell employers what you can do for them and why you're the one to do it. Back your claims with specific facts and figures that are easy for busy readers to grasp - no puffy language or empty assertions, please.

    When you do this, and fire off your big guns early, you'll be 80% of the way toward getting employers to read your entire résumé ... and call you for an interview.

    3) Make the Best First Impression at Every Interview
    Where do 80% of your results in the job interview come from? You guessed it - the impression you make in the first 1-2 minutes - the opening 20%.
    Here's good news: the first 20% of every interview is largely under your control. You decide what clothes to wear, how to groom yourself, when to leave so that you arrive on time, how to smile and shake hands, what opening words to say, questions to ask, etc.

    So prepare thoroughly and treat the opening 20% of your job interview like the golden opportunity it truly is.

    OK. You understand the Pareto Principle and its effect on your job hunt. Now, here's your homework assignment. Sit down and add up how you've spent your time over the past 5-10 days. What 20% of your activities have produced 80% of your employment leads? Do more of them. What 80% of your efforts have been unproductive? Stop doing them, or delegate them.

     Top of page

Focus Three Times to Get that Job!

Focus and repetition are two key part of every successful advertising campaign. It's how billions of dollars in cars, coffee, cookware - you name it - are sold.

Why not borrow this strategy for your job search?

In your case, create an attractive, focused theme for yourself, then repeat it three times - in your résumé, your job interview and the thank-you letter(s) you send.

Focus in your résumé:
Employers only want to solve problems and grow profits

About 90% of all résumés and cover letters are doomed to produce only a fraction of the results they could.

Why? Because they're centered solely on the desires of the job seeker. The underlying message of the typical résumé and cover letter is this: "Give me a job where I can get promoted and make more money." When in reality, your résumé and cover letter must say this: "Dear Mr. or Ms. Employer, I understand your problems. Here's how I can help you solve them and increase your profits."

Everything you say in every document you send out that's connected with your job search must be centered on the needs of the employer. Because no employer wants to hire you. Employers only want to solve problems and grow profits. If you can help them do that and tell them so in your résumé, cover letter and job interview, you will enjoy massive success in your job search and in your career!

When writing your résumé, remember to tell employers exactly what you can do. Don't force them to figure it out for themselves.

The best way to do this is to start your résumé with a clear objective. It shows that you know exactly what job the employer is trying to fill. Example:

Restaurant Manager where more than 10 years of experience in food service and management will add value to operations.

If you don't know the job title, focus on the 2-3 skills you want to use, which gives you the flexibility to apply for different positions. Example:

Position where more than 12 years of sales, management and operations experience will add to profitability.

Focus in your job interview

Use the job interview to reinforce the theme you developed in your résumé. Be sure you are able to elaborate on every point in that résumé.

If you focused on the skills of sales, management and operations, for example, have additional facts, figures and/or letters of recommendation that you can share with interviewers to prove you have those skills.

Focus in your thank-you letter

Follow the same logic in your post-interview thank-you letter. Get the correctly spelled name of everyone you met in the interview, either from business cards or the receptionist.

For best results, write your letters in the lobby before leaving and drop them in the nearest mailbox. That way, they'll arrive the next day.

In your thank-you letters, reinforce the skills and character traits you've already talked about in your résumé and job interview. This is a final opportunity for you to hammer home the advantages of hiring you!

Every successful advertiser knows that focus and repetition produce results. If you focus on 2-3 attractive skills/traits and reinforce them in your résumé, job interview and thank-you letters, you'll see results in your job search.

It is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL that you send a thank-you letter after every job interview, addressed to every person you met at the company - including the receptionist.

Get a business card from every person you encounter, so you spell their names correctly. Write and mail your thank-you letters the same day you interview, so that they arrive the next day.

If you skip this EASY step, which will set you apart from 75-90% of other job seekers, you are limiting your job search to only 10-25% of its potential, assuming other job seekers' résumés, cover letters and interviews are as good as yours.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

 Top of page

Job Application Follow-up Recommendations and Résumé Follow-up Methods

The following résumé follow-up methods are more aggressive than what any company's Human Resources department or other "gatekeepers" will suggest, and should be employed as part of an effective job search campaign aimed at effectively targeting employers.

Try this:

1) Print and send a stationery version of your cover letter and résumé by "snail mail" to the hiring authority, along with copies to other company contacts. Make sure to address each copy using their correctly-spelled name and title. Your cover letter is especially important in making your application stand out, and following the cover letter and résumé guidelines included in this document will go far toward getting them to phone you to arrange an interview.

2) One day after you expect the employer to receive your résumé, e-mail them a quick note to ask that they confirm that they received it. Also ask if you can assist them in assessing your qualifications by supplying them with additional information such as your portfolio, or by answering any questions they may have. Doing this increases the chance that they will call you for an interview.

3) One week after sending your first email, ask for a convenient time to contact them for a brief phone interview.
Whatever method you use, your goal in following up aggressively is to sell your abilities and experience. Gently push for the face-to-face interview as soon as possible to get that job!

The reason for pushing for a face-to-face meeting at this point is because employers like to hire someone they know, like and trust. Unfortunately, there's no way they can know you in a meaningful way if they haven't met you in person. You may have the best résumé and cover letter they've seen, and sound great on the phone, but they still likely need convincing you're the best person for the job.


What to do if you do not get the job? / Dealing with Rejection

Rats! You've received the dreaded "thank-you-for-your-interest-but..." letter, and you really thought you were going to get that job. Maybe you were the number 2 or number 3 candidate. Close, but no cigar.

What now? Move on to the next opportunity, right? Of course. But first...

Send a nice thank you note to the hiring manager, the recruiter, and everyone else who was in the interview process.

 A thank you note? For rejecting you? Yes!

They've already offered the job to someone and gotten an acceptance, but the person may change their mind and never start the job. Or the person may take the job but prove to be unsatisfactory. It happens more often than you think.

So, what does the employer do when they face this situation? They groan, roll their eyes, and take another look at the applicants who almost got the job. Why? Because they really don't want to start from scratch, post the job, review the résumés, etc. Filling a job takes an employer a lot of time and energy. Staff time for interviews plus the cost of posting the job, etc. is expensive for most employers.

This is where your thank you note comes in handy. It reminds them of you (nicely) because you included the following elements in your note:

  • thanks for letting you know the outcome of the search, even though they didn't choose you
    thanks for the time, courtesy, and consideration shown you during the interview process
    expression of disappointment in not getting the job
    expression of appreciation for the opportunity to learn about the organization and meet the people working there
    reiteration of your continued interest in working in their organization
    a request that they get in touch with you if the situation (hiring someone else) changes or another job is opened.

Thank you notes are so rare that they are very effective. And, a thank you note after a rejection will really stand out. The probability that it will pay off may be less than 10%, but that probability may show a higher return on the investment of your time than any other job search action you take that day.

How can other people help me get a job?

The most effective way to get a job in Canada is through the “network" of people you know. Your network includes family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, class mates, teachers… even people you meet on the bus or at the store. The more people you talk to, the bigger your network gets, and the more chances you have to
get a job in your field.

For example, your dentist might ask what kind of job you have. You tell her, and she says her brother works in the same field, and may need a new employee. She gives you her brother's phone number and tells you to call him and mention her name. When you do that, you're using your network, or “networking."

Why do I need to network?
In Canada, only 20 to 30% of jobs are advertised. Most are part of what is called the “hidden" job market. You hear about them through the network of people you know.

Why does it work this way?
When jobs are advertised, employers have to take the time to review sometimes hundreds of applications, interview candidates and then hire a stranger. In most cases, they would rather hire someone who comes to them through a contact they trust.

This can make it difficult to find out about jobs - especially for new immigrants who don't have local networks. This is true for people who move or change professions, too. You need to have a network where you live, connected to your professional field.

Should I only use networking to get a job?
No. Networking is important, but it's not the only way to get a job. You should apply for advertised positions, too, and use other methods listed here. The more different things you try, the better your chances of finding a job.

Does networking work for professional jobs?
Yes. The more skills and responsibilities involved in a job, the more an employer relies on networking to fill the position.

 Top of page

Building A Network of Contacts To Find Better Employment Faster

Networking to build your career is about getting to know and become known by people. One of the fundamental rules of career development is to never stop networking, and never stop growing and expanding your network of contacts. Many people think that networking is only for when you're actively (or about to be actively) job hunting, but the truth is that you should never stop networking. As you talk with people in your network, you're not asking for a job. The point of networking is to share useful information WITH THE AIM OF HELPING OTHERS. That's right. AIM TO HELP OTHERS build their careers, and you may be surprised by what they do to help you build yours.

As part of networking, you can build your brand within your network - and use your network to communicate that brand to others. Besides keeping in regular touch with your network, you should also be looking for ways to build your network, such as by attending trade shows or conferences and mingling. You can also build your network through online social (think Facebook.com) and professional (think LinkedIn) networking sites. Doing this takes time, so start as soon as you can - ideally before you move to British Columbia.

Networking by association
A good place to start is with your professional association. Check out their website and contact them directly to find out what kinds of services they offer. Some associations have programs and services specifically for internationally-trained professionals. Some do not.

But all professional associations have information that can help.  For example, some have job postings or work experience programs. Some associations also have events where you can meet other people in your field.

Networking tips
Get yourself some contact cards. These are like business cards and list your name and contact information. Most print shops will make cards for you for a small fee.
Give your contact cards to people every chance you get. Ask for their business cards, too.
Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. Tell them what you do and what skills you have. If you don't tell them, they can't help you.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

 Top of page

Do What Works for Others

One great shortcut to success in your job search (or anything else in life) is to simply do what's working for others.

The best way to sell yourself may be to talk less and listen more. Employers will often tell you exactly what they're looking for during an interview.

Start by doing four simple things:

1) Network with everyone you know: friends, family, former co-workers, college counselors.

2) Do not put all your eggs into one basket. Keep looking regardless of your successes and failures.
3) Treat your job search as a full-time job.

4) Focusing during job interviews on how you can solve an employer's problems. When you think about it, that's the only reason jobs are created - to solve problems. If you can demonstrate that you're a problem solver who can help them, you can get hired, in any economy.

Top Three Tips to Help You Get Hired Faster

1) Networking works
The most important advice is this: the vast majority of jobs are found and secured via word-of-mouth referrals - networking.

In other words, tell everyone you know about your job search. And know this: there's no shame in being between jobs. People want to help you. But they can't help if you keep your job search a secret!

You never know who might have a lead on a job opening, or might know someone who is hiring. And, when you're networking, don't overlook your past professional associates.

That means you should go through your Rolodex, your email address book, the desk drawer where you keep business cards, etc. Write down the name of everyone you've done business with in the last 10-15 years.

You should have no trouble coming up with 200-300 contacts this way.

The biggest error people make is not keeping business cards. One of the first things you should do is call up past or current vendors, sales reps who've called on you, competitors and associates from past jobs. This information is a gold mine.

But how do you approach people to ask for job leads? What should you say?

You could say "Hi, this is Joe. It's been about 9 months since we last spoke and I hope you're well. I'm calling today because I need your help. I'm looking for a position in IT management and I thought of you right away."

If the person you call can't provide any job leads, ask the magic question:
"Who else do you know that I should be talking to?" Then call that new person right away.

Everyone loves to help . but you have to ask. Far too many folks are ashamed to be out of work. Don't be - you have lots of company! Millions of people just like you are searching for a new job today.

2) You MUST meet people having the power to hire you
Here's another dose of the obvious: computers don't hire people. People do.

Chances are, unless you get face to face with the hiring manager, you will not get the job. After creating a top-notch résumé and cover letter, your next major goal should be to meet hiring managers at companies you want to work for.

If you're searching for a job locally, a powerful way to increase your odds of meeting a hiring manager is to pick up the phone and call.

 Top of page

Call Them!
Never just send your résumé and leave it at that. Call and speak to your targeted contact. If he or she answers, explain why you are calling. Tell them why you are perfect for the job and ask for a meeting. Typically they will ask you to just send your résumé.

But don't let that stop you.

An excellent response is this: "I could send you my résumé, but I'm going to be about five minutes from your office tomorrow around noon. If you don't mind, I'd like to stop by and drop it off. When I do, I'll ask for you. If you're available, I can introduce myself and personally give you my résumé. If you're not available, I'll just leave it with the receptionist. Would that be OK?"

This strategy will produce more face-to-face meetings with hiring managers, and can dramatically reduce your time looking for work.

3) Finding a job is a full time job
If you're like most out-of-work people, you're probably frittering away your time on activities that will never get you hired. That's the most common mistake I see.

Think about it.

The last time you were employed, you worked 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. If you continue to work the same number of hours searching for a better job - and I would argue that you should work even harder - you would have spent 160 hours last month in your job search.

Did you? Probably not.

So treat your job search like the full-time job it is. Devote at least 40 hours a week and 160 hours a month to your job search. Nothing less.

It used to be that most of us only looked for work a few times in our life, and so before it was less necessary to know how to best go about your job search, and also finding work was easier for most workers. However, in today's job market, it really pays off to take time to educate yourself about what goes into an effective job search, and learn job search skills like how to write a killer résumé and cover letters, the importance of networking and how to do it, and how to meet hiring managers.

To recap,
1) Networking works. Don't overlook the contacts you've amassed in your current and past jobs, and tell EVERYONE about your job search

2) You can't get hired if you don't meet with hiring managers, so make it a priority to get your foot in the door and get "face time" with people who can hire you.

3) Finding a job is a full-time job

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

 Top of page

Cold Calling: What It Is and Why You Need to Cold Call Employers

Study after study has proven that, hands down, cold calling employers is superior to all other methods. Just remember to make your cold calls a little warmer by researching targeted employers. This should shorten your job search and allow you to find better employment than if you simply apply only to jobs that are advertised.

An example of how cold calling helps you get hired sooner
The firm JIST Works, in Philadelphia, trained 1,000 job seekers in cold calling during the last recession, in 1990. These 1,000 people were trained to devote 25 hours per week to their job search and cold call employers to ask for a face-to-face meeting. As a result, 66% of them were employed within 2.3 weeks and 90% of the rest were employed within 90 days.

In another study, from 1992 to 1998, over 700 disabled job seekers were trained to spend at least 17.5 hours per week cold calling employers. 90% found jobs within 90 days.

Cold calling is simply a good way of making direct contact to set up an interview. It works for anyone, from entry-level job seekers to CEOs.

To succeed, you must stop seeing yourself as a job seeker and think of yourself instead as  someone making a business proposal. Instead of thinking: 'Please give me a job,' think: 'Here are all the important things I can do for you.' Just as in your résumé and cover letter, be sure to answer the question: Why should I hire you?

Try to connect with a decision maker above your future boss. This is important, as the person directly above you may, and often is, threatened by such a call. They may figure, "If this person is so assertive NOW, they may be after MY job in the future". Regardless of which level of management you decide to contact, aim to talk to someone having the power to hire you to avoid being referred to Human Resources.

Try the following example script to get started. Begin by asking their permission to briefly tell them about yourself. This is necessary because there's no sense in explaining what you can do for them if they are unable to take your call, or not interested in talking to a potential new employee. If they agree to talk with you, show your respect for them by being careful not to take more of their time than they agreed to spend talking to you.

"Hello, my name is _________.  May I have a few minutes of your time to tell you about what I can do for (company name)?

I have _______ years' experience as a ____________, specializing in _____________ and ____________.  I have a (certificate, B.A., M.S., X years experience) in _______________ and recently completed (name a recent successful project with a measurable result).  Would you be interested in meeting with me to discuss what I can do for (company name)?"

As explained in the next section, the idea behind cold calling them is for you to get to know decision makers working for companies you are targeting, and for these decisions makers to get to know you, so that even if there are currently no job openings, your talent will become known to them, increasing the likeliness of them hiring you later.

At the same time you get to know them, they get to know you, and, if everything goes well, they will also begin to like and trust you.  This is important, because, as you know, employers are most interested in hiring someone they know, like and trust.  Cold calling as the initial stage of networking is important, as employers can not get to know you well enough to be comfortable hiring you simply by reading your résumé and cover letter.

The words in the above telephone script are so simple that you may feel foolish saying them at first. "At first I didn't feel comfortable using the script. It seemed wooden, without spontaneity," says a computer hardware engineer. "Then I discovered it doesn't really matter how you say it - rote, friendly or funny - the words just seem to work. I got four interviews in 20 minutes."

Cold calling works. It just takes courage and practice to implement it into your overall strategy. Make sure to practice your script out loud a few times before calling employers.

Cold calling has about 1 in 20 success ratio, in general. Of course, 19 'Nos' on the phone may hurt more than 1,000 rejection letters, but you'll hear it less often. Just make those calls until you connect! Making 20 phone calls to get one job interview with a company you want to work for is much more effective than spending months sending résumés and getting no response.

More about the Importance of Cold Calling

Taking the Initiative
When you research an organization and take the initiative to contact them, you are demonstrating initiative. It demonstrates you can take charge, are independent, and a creative thinker. You're not just following the pack and doing the standard job search, you are taking it one step further. (And yes, you may still be checking ads, but they don't need to know that.) It's important to do your homework and make sure you really understand what they do, and why they do it--and then communicate that to them in your initial contact.

Build Relationships
Building your career and finding employment or better employment is about building relationships. When you make that cold call, and then ideally find yourself face to face with someone in the organization, you are creating a relationship that can lead to either something there, or elsewhere. More often than not, people are genuinely receptive when you approach them about their work.

Proactively contacting organizations can result in what may appear as serendipitous timing. You never know when the person on the other end may say, "Funny you should call now. We were just talking about our need for a new communications specialist." Or, "We are about to launch a new project and actually have not posted the job yet it." If you can get in before the onslaught of respondents to an ad, you have all the more advantage. You also have the edge of having chosen them based on their work, rather than anonymously responding to an ad.

Get in the driver's seat.
And finally, being proactive can help you feel more in control over your own life. Gazing at job listings, and competing with hundreds of other applicants can be very demoralizing. But more importantly, you can lose sight of your real gifts and offerings when you are just one of many applicants. Psychologically, playing the job listing game is taxing on self-esteem and morale. Deciding what organizations you would love to work for, investigating who would be best to contact, and presenting yourself, can do wonders to remind you of what you want to be doing.

Some things to consider with proactive job hunting:

  • Conduct preliminary research on what organizations are in your field of interest. Compile a list, and begin your research.
  • Note which ones capture your attention, stir your imagination. Which have the kind of personality and verve that grab you?
  • Begin informal research, and ask anyone you know if they know someone who works there. This kind of networking is invaluable in terms of getting a specific name and contact, and ideally, a referral from someone they know. It makes you one degree less anonymous.
  • Strategize on how you see yourself fitting in, and what you have to offer the organization. Review their organizational mission and projects, and articulate this fit in specific terms, using their language and terminology if necessary.
  • Consider proposing something new, if you perceive a need that is not being addressed in your research. For example, if you notice their website is not being harnessed as effectively as it could be, you can tactfully suggest your skills in relation to their need. Note: It is a very fine line between offering suggestions and criticizing their work!  Asking questions about their work, i.e. "I am curious to know how you perceive your current website" is a way to avoid coming off as critical or arrogant.
  • Find the right person to make the contact with. Just be honest, and let him or her know you are interested in the organization, and would like to set up an informational meeting.
  • Follow through after the meeting. More often than not, they are going out of their way to talk with you, and it's important to acknowledge that. Send a real letter (not an email) to convey your sincere interest and appreciation. 

 Top of page

More About Why You Need to Cold Call Businesses and How to Do It

You read all about it: networking, referrals, information interviews and other job search techniques. These methods require time, energy and determination. More powerful than any one of these methods to get your foot in the career door of your choice is cold calling - the art of uninvited job-hunting.

Hiring is expensive. By cold calling, you're saving the company time, money and resources by placing yourself on a platter for them to consider even before any advertisement has been launched. By cold calling, you are doing them a favour.

And even if there are no immediate vacancies available, you gain by getting a vital contact name and inside company information, such as how exactly the company recruits.

Cold calling or calling employers directly can be difficult for most people unless you're born with a sales talent and a "thick skin". Cold calling means making contact with people whom you have not had any previous contact and selling yourself in such a way that you set up an interview for yourself or convince them to keep you at the top of their minds should a position become available.

Some people say it's like a radio ad: Concise, to the point, focused at meeting the employer's needs, charismatic and informative about yourself. The key to cold calling is to be prepared for anything. At any point in the process, you could find yourself dealing directly with the person responsible for hiring. You must always be ready to sell yourself and your skills.

Where Do I Start?
There are several parts of the cold-calling process. Each part has some similarities to what professional telemarketers do when preparing to market their product:

1. Craft yourself a list of choice employers
The first step in this process is compiling at list of all companies that you are interested in working for. You can source for this list via your personal network, the yellow pages, corporate web sites, business listings from industry publications and even your local Chamber of Commerce directory. A business directory with company and contact information is what you need.

You could create this list of companies by focusing on a specific location, particular industry, etc. Do some research into the career opportunities in your field with each company as far as possible before progressing further. This ensures that you don't waste your time with organizations that won't be able to match your career goals.

Once they pass this test, narrow your search to an address, contact name and number/email of the hiring manager or supervisor in the department of your choice. If these are not indicated in directories or websites, try to find contact information for someone in the company other than the gatekeepers in Human Resources who is willing to provide you with the name and contact information of the person responsible for hiring. Doing this is important, as in many cases, both the receptionist and the Human Resources staff will have orders to keep you from talking to people having the power to hire you.

2. Practice selling yourself / pitching your talent
Your pitch is your personal introduction. To ensure you're not tongue-tied at the crucial point of a telephone conversation, prepare a short script to guide you on your self-introduction to the prospective employer. A simple outline includes an introduction, an explanation of your purpose, summarizing three top skills you possess pertinent to the type of job you are inquiring about, finding about immediate or potential vacancies, asking if you might send them a copy of your résumé or arrange an interview date.

A pitch allows you to relax and focus on what you need to say and how to say it prior to calling an employer. Be sure to relate your previous professional experience with what this new company needs. You may have more than one pitch that you refer to depending on the type of job that you are applying for.

3. Practice makes perfect
Telephone etiquette is extremely important in cold calling as this is your first point of contact with the prospective employer. So don't get sloppy! Here are some tips to help you get it right:

Practice your script either with a friend or another job seeker, making him/her work through different scenarios as the secretary or employer.
Tape record yourself to ensure you come off as calm, clear and confident.
Identify yourself. Don't assume the person you are calling will recognize your voice or that the secretary has passed on your name. If you were referred by someone else, mention their name.

Talk to the right person (the hiring authority) at the right time. Be aware that businesses have busy or inconvenient times when they would not appreciate a phone call: for example, 12:00 noon just before lunch or at the end of the month for accounting firms.

Keep control of the conversation. If the person you want is not in, never leave a number and passively wait for your call to be returned. Inquire about another time to call and promise to call again later.

Put on your good phone voice. Don't mumble or shout. Talk at a moderate pace. Be friendly and precise.
Get down to business. People don't have time for small talk, so get to the point briefly.

In your passion to be heard, don't forget to listen - it's a two-way thing. Remember, you need to motivate your listener to pave the way for you, so listen when they are speaking. Take notes if that will help you! If you can't provide answers to questions asked spontaneously, tell them you'll get the answers and call them back when you say you will.

Ask for a meeting (interview) at a definite time, yet do it as "lightly" as possible. Give them alternative options, for example: "Would Wednesday morning or Thursday afternoon be more suitable for you, Mr. _______?" If the employer informs you that there are no positions available, ask for an informational meeting to find out more about the company. That will help you get to know more people within the company and make connections for future use.

Get it down on paper. Write brief notes while on the phone to record what was discussed and agreed upon between you and the contact and when it took place. Memory is a fleeting thing. Don't rely solely on your memory. Transfer this to your job tracking sheet so that you are always on the right page should a contact call back.

4. Prep your cold call toolkit
Before you pick up the telephone, make sure you have the following in hand: your pitch, company research notes, a copy of your relevant résumé, a calendar, pen and paper, your "contact tracking" sheet formatted for notes on the date, time, person, company, address, telephone, reason for calling, follow-up date, interview date/time, and comments.

5. Practice getting past gatekeepers
One of the hardest parts of the process is reaching the person who does the hiring. Secretaries or operators are there to screen calls for busy individuals. So, a few methods are beneficial in bypassing these gatekeepers. One of them is to take advantage of automated "dial the extension of the person you want" features.

If you do not know what it is, connect at random and courteously ask if they can connect you to the person you're after. It may take several calls before you compile enough information to find the right person. Remember, this won't work unless you're pleasant and nice to the other person, who may be busy too. So use this technique carefully.

6. How to break the ice
Be genuine. Try to avoid reading a script like most telemarketing people do, and open the conversation with intelligent points. Knowledge of company projects underway and intended areas of expansion and development is crucial to breaking the ice with an employer.

For example: "I remember reading recently that the company was bringing out a new product to the market. I must say, after reading the specifications on this product (try naming the product if you know what it's called) I am really looking forward to its launch. I've worked in the field of marketing in this industry and I know the potential of this product. I want to be a part of the team to work on this product and I know that I can contribute a great deal of expertise towards the marketing campaign. Is your company looking at expanding its Product Marketing team for this upcoming launch?"

7. When the going gets tough... Answering tough questions
“Why should we hire you?" "How will your experience help my team?" "What proof can you give me that you can generate revenue for this company?" Reading off a résumé won't help you answer these tough questions. You have to anticipate them and know how to respond in a relevant manner.

8. Don't let it get you down or take negative responses personally
Be prepared for negative responses but don't let "No" be the end of your conversation if you believe that you have a future with this company. Never argue. Practice sidestepping objections by presenting alternative ways to fill a need with your skills. By preparing for common objections, you stand a better chance of swaying negative attitudes to place your candidacy in a better light. Should the end of the discussion be a dead end despite your efforts, use this experience to prepare for your next cold call.

9. When to move on to another targeted employer
Be true to your mission - an appointment for an interview or application details - and don't hang up until you've either achieved the goal or exhausted all possibilities.

10. Wind down by following up
If ever there was a time to be true to your word, this is it. Make sure you follow up with that fax, or call, email that response, send in those documents or call back at a better time. This is a representation of your respect for the company and contact, and a measure of your professionalism.

Regardless if on any particular day your cold calling efforts result in interviews, or a new job, you can only win: new inside contacts or valuable information on company culture, the hiring process, hiring cycles or practices.

Cold Calling Summary
To sum up, cold calling can dramatically shorten your job search by putting you in direct contact with employers who can hire you. You'll have much less competition, because almost all job seekers would rather answer classified ads than be assertive and proactive.

 Top of page

Three Job Hunting Tactics for Hard Times

1) Don't take every help-want ad at face value, as some employment ads are written to prevent all but the most gung-ho job seekers from applying.

Reason? To prevent a flood of résumés that would take days to read, some employers purposely place ads that ask for unrealistic qualifications.

For example, there was a help-wanted ad for a shipping clerk that read like a shopping list. They wanted someone with a college degree (master's preferred), able to lift 300 lbs., type 50+ words a minute - it went on and on.

So, how do you overcome such an obstacle?

You might take the direct approach and go to the company and say, 'Here I am!' and that God herself couldn't meet all their qualifications, but if they wanted a top-notch shipping clerk, I was their woman."

2) You may be more qualified than you think; don't underestimate yourself.

3) Rejection letters can be a good thing
Your response to a letter of rejection may, incredibly, get you the job.

Because, when a hiring panel interviews several applicants but still can't decide on one candidate, they may send out rejection letters to test the mettle of those job seekers.

Most people will tear up the letter and go on to other things.

However, a more productive approach would be to thank the company for their time and reaffirming your strong desire to work for them.

You can do great things in your career if you exercise persistence, politeness and a little street smarts.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory


How to Write Prospecting Career Letters

Here's a question I hear regularly, especially in this economy - "There's a company I want to work for that's not advertising any job openings. What kind of cover letter can I write and send to them?"

The good news is, you don't have to wait for a company to advertise openings before applying to them. In fact, simply identifying a target company puts you ahead of most job seekers, who only know that they want a job ... and not much else.

Use this to your advantage.

Start by defining what you want to do for your desired company. What department do you want to work in? Sales? Information Systems? Customer Service?

Next, find out the name of the person you'd be working for. You can look through the company's Web site for organizational charts, often found under "About Us" or a similar link. Or, just pick up the phone and call to get that manager's name.

Once you have the name of your potential boss, it's time to write your cover letter.

The more customized and specific your letter is, the better. Be sure to research the firm and learn as much as possible about THEIR problems, which are YOUR opportunities. This will help you propose solutions that make employers sit up and take notice.

Here's an example prospecting letter for the position of Customer Service Manager, sent unsolicited to a targeted employer.


Dear Mr. Jenkins,

How often have breakdowns in your customer service resulted in lost business and costly headaches?

I can help you.

I've been following your firm, Best Electronics, for some time. As you will see from my enclosed résumé, I know how to manage teams of customer service reps for maximum productivity.

My experience has shown me how to train and motivate staff to identify and meet the needs of even the most demanding customers. This will greatly increase loyalty among your RU-233 customers in particular, given the fact that your competitor, Spiffy Systems, has recently introduced a lower-priced, similar product.

Because you will undoubtedly need expertise of this kind, I hope you will be able to take my call next Tuesday at 10:00 to discuss your needs and how I might benefit Best Electronics.


Janice Chow

 Top of page

How to Write Employment Proposals & Motivate Employers To Hire You When They Have No Plans to Hire Anyone

Create job openings by using employment proposals to introduce yourself as:

  • A solution to an organization's problem(s) or
    An opportunity for an organization to be more effective or profitable.

Employment proposals:

  • Are submitted to specific people at specific organizations
    Are based on information gathered about an organization or industry that identifies a problem or need for an organization
    Are usually a one to two page letter that outlines your understanding of the business's problem and how you with your unique skills and abilities can solve the problem.

The Proposal Process - Five Important Steps

Determine Your Specialty by Recognizing Your Value
Look at your interests, experience and abilities. What is the valuable or unique skill or expertise you can offer employers? Call this your 'specialty.'

Build a List of Prospective Employers
After you have determined your specialty, use your knowledge of the industries and specific companies and non-profit organizations within them to create an initial list of employers most likely to need you. There are many ways to find them, including by scanning the pages of trade journals and newspapers, through online searches, using business lists, asking people, etc. If you are new to your field, you may find it useful to get ideas from industry insiders and even the librarian at your local library on which organizations to include in your list.

Need even more help building your list and live in British Columbia's Lower Mainland? Then contact one or more of the province's many job search assistance organizations for help with this task. Joining a job club can also help you focus on building your career while working with others to identify job openings.

Job seekers/career builders in British Columbia can also use the JobPro BC Employers Directory (JobPro) to create a list of potential employers. JobPro is designed to help you find employers valuing your specialty while limiting your search results to a manageable number, so you can focus on targeting only the most interesting employers within any specified industry by city, postal code/partial postal code, and even street.

Talk to Your Prospects and Build Your Network as Part of Researching Employers
This is your chance to do face-to-face research - a "reality check" to confirm that the career advancing opportunities you think exist based on your initial employer research actually exist. As part of confirming your findings, ask several prospective employers about the challenges they face in their organizations. Their answers will help you learn more about what is happening in their industries and confirm their needs and interest in you as a solution provider.

JobPro has the employer contact names, titles and direct contact information you need to contact them to arrange these "information interviews," and enables you to do employer research to find the company and industry information you need to convince company decision makers that it's to their advantage to meet with you.

Can you identify these employers' 'special needs' - both today and in the near future? Answering this question should help you identify realistic job opportunities with your short-listed employers, and one way of motivating decision makers you're targeting to meet with you is by asking them if they are interested in taking 20 minutes of their time to explore the idea of you doing a project for them which will solve one or more of their problems and make them money.

Decide On A Project For Each Prospect
For each prospective employer you target, decide on a project making use of your skills and expertise which will directly benefit the employer and address their needs. The project must be definable and achievable. Start small by considering projects which can be accomplished quickly to give you an opportunity to demonstrate the quality of your work while minimizing risk to the employer.

For example, if you have strong word processing skills and a computer at home, you might offer to provide word processing assistance from home. As an extra service, and perhaps to make your proposal unique, you could even offer to pick up and deliver all work for the company on a daily or weekly basis, whatever seems most appropriate for the particular situation.

Maybe you are a "jack-of-all-trades" and have the ability to fix almost anything. You could propose an ongoing contract with a senior's apartment complex, for example, where you could be called upon for anything from changing light bulbs to doing plumbing repairs.

You could use your web development and SEO skills to provide them with a more usable and search visible company web site which gives them a stronger competitive edge. Or, if you have strong graphic design skills, you could offer to professionalize the look of all company marketing material - from their web site and email campaigns, to business cards, stationary and the sign out front and on company vehicles.

Perhaps you have strong writing skills and enjoy composing and organizing written materials. You might offer to write and produce a monthly newsletter to assist an organization with its internal communications. Or you could suggest helping the marketing department with designing and writing marketing and promotional materials.

Writing A Winning Employment Proposal
Now that you have all the background information, it's time to write down your great ideas. Remember, the purpose of an employment or work proposal is to sell yourself as a solution to specific business problems or challenges.

A proposal is best written after you have a clear understanding of the employer's situation and needs. You must also know exactly what you are going to propose, and make certain that it is a commitment you can live up to.

Most importantly, be certain that the proposal clearly states the benefit to the prospective employer, so that when he or she asks "So what's in it for me or for my company?", the answer is obvious.


3 Ways to Prove You're The One to Hire

What's the best way to get hired in this economy? Prove you're the best one for the position. A great way to do this is to start working, even before you're hired.

Three mini-case studies that won jobs illustrate the importance of this job seeker's tactic.

1) Start work BEFORE the interview
"Six candidates were interviewing for a sales position in Atlanta with an exclusive company that had just received about $83 million in funding," says Ron Koon, a former recruiter and Executive VP of Staffers.com.

"Five candidates were "top gun" sales people who all came from industry leaders, and then there was Tony. He was young, with about five years of experience. But Tony was highly motivated and willing to go the extra mile."

"In his job interview, Tony not only mapped his accomplishments out on a PowerPoint presentation, he also demonstrated that he had already started working for the company. He did this by researching, assembling, and bringing with him a list of sales leads and contacts. His presentation consisted of the past, present AND future. The other candidates did nothing like this."

Did it work?

"Tony was hired over five more experienced candidates," says Koon.

2) Start work BEFORE the interview - Part 2
This example is near and dear to my heart - it's how I landed a job with a marketing communications firm back in the 1990s, when I worked for other people.

After mailing in my résumé, I was called by a receptionist to schedule an interview. During our conversation, I asked if she could send me back issues of their corporate publications. I explained that I wanted to research the writing styles of the magazines and newsletters I would be editing if I got the job.

She immediately agreed, and had a nice package of materials couriered to me the same day.

It turned out to be a gold mine.

I found three typos in one back issue of a magazine I would be proofreading in the position I was interviewing for. Here was proof I could do the job.

Two days later at the interview, the subject of proofreading skills came up. I pulled out the magazine (with post-it notes marking the typos) and said: "I've been researching your publications and found these three errors. I can improve your image by preventing this kind of thing from happening again."

They hired me.

3) Start work AFTER the interview
This lesson in perseverance is a variation on the first story, about the candidate who brought a list of sales leads to his job interview.

"Robin, a woman from Los Angeles, had been interviewing with the same company for three months. She felt she was perfect for the position, but the hiring manager was not responsive - he wouldn't tell her yes or no about a decision to hire her," says Ron Koon.

So Robin called Koon to discuss her dilemma. His advice?

"I suggested that she REALLY demonstrate her skills to the hiring manager. I encouraged her to call 100 potential customers and ask them, 'Would you be interested in looking at a technology that would solve your problem and save you XX dollars?'" says Koon.

The next day, Robin walked into the manager's office, put her contact list on his desk and said, "I've already started working for you. In fact, I have 100 customers who are interested in your technology."

What happened next?

"Robin was hired on the spot," says Koon.

Your lesson: these three examples illustrate a common point.

Do whatever you can to research your target company and "start working" for them before you're hired. It's one thing to claim you can do the job. It's quite another - and much more powerful - to prove it.  JobPro helps you research employers to understand their needs and how to meet them faster and better.

BC Employers Directory Helping Proactive Job Seekers Find Better Employment FasterTry JobPro today for free

 Top of page

Cover Letters

10-Second Cover Letters
Attention spans are shorter today than ever before and you have just a few short moments to make an impact with your cover letter and résumé.

Since the cover letter is what most hiring managers and HR people read first, yours should make the most impact in the shortest time.

You have less than 10 seconds in which to make your reader want to put down your cover letter, pick up the phone and call you for a job interview.

Here are four ways to do just that.

1. Limit yourself to five or six paragraphs.
The cover letters I write every day for clients are rarely longer than five paragraphs. That's an introductory paragraph, three bullet points to prove your skills and elicit curiosity, and a strong closing paragraph.

A cover letter with this concise format is easy to scan and shows respect for the reader's limited time. If you need more room fine, but never exceed one page.

2. Start smoothly.
Your first sentence is most important. Use it to give the reader context for the rest of your letter. For example, it can be very effective to simply say: "I'm applying for the position of Sales Rep, as advertised in the Wall St. Journal."

If you heard about the opening from a friend, drop his name in that first sentence: "Jack Smith suggested I contact you about the position of Design Engineer."

3. Drop crumbs.
I like to include a "teaser" paragraph in every cover letter that says, more or less, "Here's why you'd be crazy not to call me." Try something like this:

"I've developed methods, which I can share with you, that have produced a 15% gain in market share for my current employer over the past 11 months, producing $2.3 million in new revenue."

What's special about you? What can you do? Everyone is unique and valuable in some way. Make sure this comes through in your cover letter!

When your cover letter opens with an attention-grabbing sentence, is error-free and tailored to the needs of the company that's hiring, you'll greatly increase the results you get in your job search!

4. Finish strong.
Finish your cover letter with emphasis on how you can help your prospective employer. And, if possible, include a time when you'll call to discuss their needs. Here's an example closing paragraph:

"Now I would like to bring these skills to work for you. I look forward to speaking with you soon about the results you can expect from me, and will call your office next Tuesday to see if you would like to discuss this further."

Your Cover Letter - So, What?

Does your cover letter grab readers by the lapels and leave them no choice but to call you for a job interview?

Well, you're not alone. But you have work to do.

Because, in this job market, every sentence in your cover letter must prove - in compelling detail - that you are the perfect person for the job.

How do you do this?

Take the "So, what?" test. It can actually force you to write better cover letters than ever before. And it's easier than you think.

Read through your next cover letter and after every sentence ask yourself: "So, what?" Is that last sentence compelling, or fluff? Necessary? TRUE? If not, rewrite or remove it. Then ask yourself "So, what?" again. Revise until every sentence shines.

Here are some "before" and "after" cover letter examples.

"I am currently employed with Kirchoff Systems in the Production Logistic Division as a Technical Support Manager. (SO, WHAT?) I am willing to take up any engineering post." (SO, WHAT?)

"I am applying for a position where my eight years of engineering and end-user training experience will add value to logistical operations for your clients."

In the AFTER example, the writer clearly states the type of job he seeks, while promising to make life easier for the employer's clients. This gives that employer an incentive to read on and learn more.

"The message you are now reading is not a typical cover letter with an attached résumé. Please, do not be afraid to continue reading because this evolving communiqué describes what I can do for Aces Creations, if I am chosen as its new Marketing Manager." (SO WHAT?)

Stop, stop, STOP!

Don't take forever to warm up. You must quickly appeal to an employer's self interest. Often, you can find a good opening paragraph halfway down the page, as I did in this AFTER example:

"I am energized by the opportunity to achieve significant things for your firm. Here's what I can give to Ace Novelty:

* Five years of product development and marketing experience for Fortune 500 clients, resulting in repeat business, 210% revenue growth and three industry awards."

This AFTER example came from the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the cover letter, but works much better as an opening.

If every sentence passes the "So, what?" test, your cover letters will be concise, hard-hitting and irresistible to employers. Now, more than ever, that's a must!

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

Tell Me About Yourself

One of the most dreaded job interview questions has to be "So, tell me about yourself ..."

How in the heck do you prepare for an open-ended question like that?

Your response to "Tell me about yourself," will set the tone for the entire interview. You cannot afford to wing this answer!

Here are five ways you can prepare.

1) Focus
List five strengths you have that are pertinent to this job - experience, traits, skills, etc. What do you want the interviewer to remember about you most?

2) Script
Prepare a script that includes the information you want to convey. Talk about past experiences and proven success. Example:

"I have been in the customer service industry for five years. My most recent experience has been handling incoming calls in the high tech industry. One reason I really enjoy this business, and the challenges that go along with it, is the opportunity to connect with people. In my last job, I formed some significant customer relationships resulting in a 30 percent increase in sales in 6 months."

3) Mention your strengths and abilities:
"My real strength is my attention to detail. I pride myself on my reputation for following through and meeting deadlines. When I commit to doing something, I make sure it gets done, and on time."

4) Conclude with a statement about your current situation:
"What I am looking for now is a company that values customer relations, where I can join a strong team and have a positive impact on customer retention and sales."

5) Practice
Practice with your script until you feel confident about what you want to emphasize. Your script should help you stay on track, but you shouldn't memorize it - you don't want to sound stiff and rehearsed. It should sound natural and conversational.

Even if you are not asked this type of question in an interview, this preparation will help you focus on what you have to offer.

You will also find that you can use the information in this exercise to assist you in answering other questions. The more you can talk about your product - you - the better chance you will have at selling it!

Dancing with the Interviewer to Get the Job

You need to dance with your interviewer to get the job. "Let the interviewer lead. Your job is to follow with practiced intent."

An interview, like a dance, brings two people together for a common purpose. And you both have to be fully engaged and know your respective roles for magic to happen.

The music playing in the background of this dance is, "Getting to know you, getting to know more about you."

Interviewers dance to learn about you and your suitability for the job, your skills, personality and attitude, your interest in the position, the organization.

(Expect questions about your personal and work history, educational choices, salary history and current requirements. You'll also hear questions about your personal circumstances, sometimes in oblique ways.)

You dance to learn more about the job and the employer and to discover whether this opportunity will help further your own career goals.

(Prepare to ask questions like: What are the immediate and medium-term demands of the job? To whom does it report? What are her expectations? What is his management style? How does the position fit within the department? How does the department fit within the organization? Who are the organization's clients? What are its products, history, growth patterns, problems and potential?)

Keep in mind, as you whirl around the conversational dance floor, that a third party is there, in the space between the two of you. That third party is the job, the position for which you are applying. In the best interviews, this job is the conduit through which all conversation flows.

Here are some questions that come up time and again:

Tell me about yourself.
Some job-seekers hate this question. It's too open-ended, too vague, they say. Still, it's often the opening gambit in many interviews.
What the interviewer is really saying is, "Tell me about yourself in relation to this job." The question provides an opportunity to begin your sales pitch.

Tip: Keep your answer brief and targeted. Prepare a two-minute response about your work history, training, goals and personal interests. Before each interview, customize it to the position in question.

What are your strengths?
Again, target your response to the needs of the job being discussed. If you note strengths that aren't relevant to the job, you miss an opportunity to address the employer's actual needs. If you know it's a high-pressure job and you've got nerves of steel, say so.

If the position needs a strong communicator, talk about your ability to express yourself and draw people out. Give examples from your past work, school or volunteer history.

Tip: Answering this question directly isn't bragging, it's salesmanship.

What are your weaknesses?
Some see this as a trick question; others say it's a stupid one. But it comes up often in interviews and requires a sincere response.

Because most of the interview focuses on what you are and what you're capable of, this question is designed to provide some insight into what you aren't. Interviewers are looking for personal objectivity.

Interviewers ask about weaknesses to see how objective you are about yourself and your own limitations, to see if you recognize your flaws and use initiative to overcome them.

With planning you can answer this question without fear of repercussions. You will have to acknowledge your weaknesses, but we all have them, even the interviewers asking about yours.

Take your nature, abilities and circumstances into account and list a few weaknesses or limitations. Before an interview, review the requirements of the job against this list and identify a shortcoming that you feel comfortable discussing.

You might look for a weakness that doesn't disqualify you for the job. ("Chocolate," a woman once responded when asked for her greatest weakness.)

You could also discuss a shortcoming that you're working to overcome. ("My biggest weakness is that English is my second language. But I'm enrolled in classes and studying hard and my language skills improve with each passing day.")

Then again, you could discuss a weakness that is also a strength. ("I am very determined to complete whatever I start and sometimes I can become stubborn. But I'm aware of the fine line between the two and take care not to cross it.")

Why did you leave your last employer?
If you left your last job seeking greater challenge and responsibility and on good terms, you will probably have little trouble with this question. But if you were let go, or nudged out in some way, this could be a touchy issue.

Work diligently to develop a philosophical view of the circumstances. Something like: "Leaving wasn't my idea, but it became necessary because . . . . Still, I learned a great deal in that job. Now, I'm very keen to apply that knowledge to another position, like this one, that better suits my abilities."

Tip: Never bad-mouth a previous employer, no matter how sympathetic the interviewer may seem.

Why should we hire you?
This question is generally asked toward the end of the interview and may be worded in softer language, such as: "Are you interested in this job?"

It gives you an opening to indicate your strong interest in the position and the organization. Here's you can summarize what you've learned about the position and re-emphasize your skills, abilities and experience as they relate to this position.

Tip: This is often your final chance to sell yourself.

At the end of every interview, critique your skills (and your dancing partner's, as well).

Did you both learn what you need to know? Did you answer questions fully and yet succinctly? Did you ask questions intelligently? Did you keep the job you applied for top of mind? Would you like to work for this organization? Did you convince your interviewer that you were a suitable candidate?

Ongoing assessment of this kind can help build your interview skills. Like dancing skills, they improve with practice.

Does "No Calls" Mean No Calls?

You've seen want ads that end with "No calls please," but you REALLY want that job and you know it makes good sense to follow up after sending your résumé to employers.

Should you pick up the phone?

If you call the HR department simply to ask if they got your résumé, that won't help your case.

One HR manager in Minneapolis, Steve, says: "If you call to ask about the résumé you've sent, it puts me in an awkward position, because I probably won't recognize you. I simply read too many résumés to remember them all."

With that in mind, it can be productive to avoid HR and other gatekeepers by instead calling the manager you'd actually work for. Especially if the job requires persistence and determination, a well placed phone call can help. But do it right!

"Cold calling me out of the blue won't improve your chances," says Terry, an insurance company manager based in Vancouver, BC. "However, if a candidate has made contact with me before or comes referred from someone I know, then I don't mind a call. If I see a good match, I can pass their name on to HR with a recommendation."

Moral? Dig your well before you're thirsty! Start expanding your network of contacts at potential employers NOW, so you can make more phone calls later to decision makers who know you.

Think of it like this: everybody at every company knows somebody. Call or write everybody in your network now and ask: "Do you know anyone - personally or professionally - who works at ABC Company?" Eventually, you'll make a connection. Then make the call.

Meanwhile, if you REALLY want to call about a job posting that says, "No calls," make sure you bypass HR and talk to a decision maker directly. You can sometimes get their names, phone numbers and job tiles from the company web site or a business directory, or by phoning the main office.

When you call, be brief, professional and informed. Offer to email or fax your résumé for review and give reasons why you'd be valuable to the hiring manager. Then, send a short note to thank them for their time.

A Job Created Just for You

In good times and bad, there are jobs to be had.

But if you follow the crowds and apply only for positions advertised in the classifieds or on Internet job sites, you're doing what everybody else is doing.

And just about everybody is finding this job market tougher than a $3.00 steak.

There's another way.

You can effectively create your own private job market - and have jobs created just for you - if you do one simple thing:   Send an "employment proposal" to employers and ask to meet with them.

Here's how you can write a simple letter to employers - and get job offers.

1) What's the process? How's it done?
In a nutshell, you write a concise "approach letter" to the person you want to work for, sell them on your skills, and ask to meet.

Jobs get created on the spot for people who make a strong case for hiring them.

One of the biggest problems in running any company is getting the right people, so a good leader is often looking for new star employees.

Since star employees are usually action-oriented, the act of writing a letter to ask for a meeting shows initiative. Which can earmark you as the kind of go-getter that employers want on their team.

2) What do you say in your letter?
Surprise! You're not sending a résumé or cover letter.

Instead, write a concise employment proposal to the appropriate decision maker of the division or company you want to work for. Your aim? To sell them on the idea of meeting you.

Letters should say, in effect, "Here's what attracts me to your organization, here are the skills and abilities I can contribute, and what I've done to make money/save money and find solutions to problems similar or identical to those facing your organization. Would you be open to discussing this?"

To write an effective employment proposal, research and learn the needs of your target company. You can talk to people who work there or at the competition. And your experience can provide valuable insights, too, if you're in the same industry.

Be sure to hand-deliver or mail an actual paper proposal. Since it's tangible, it can't be deleted in two seconds, like an email.

3) How well can this work?

You may or may not experience a high number of calls for interviews, but if the phone isn't ringing now, what have you got to lose?

4) Can this work in a slow job market?
What about the current economic doldrums? Are employers hiring?

The need for good employees is even greater when times are tough.

With more job hunters chasing a shrinking number of advertised positions, you should have less competition by approaching employers directly. So, a rotten job market may actually favor you.

5) Final analysis
While some may dismiss this "approach letter" tactic as too simple or not right for their industry, it's important to remember this: you'll never be hired for any job without meeting with someone first. Why not initiate that meeting on your own terms?

It's amazing how many people treat the job search as a non-human process, when, in fact, the decision-making is all done by humans.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

Answering Questions of Salary

You want a higher salary in your next job, right?
Yet, you're worried about discussing salary, right?

If you're like most people, you answered, "yes" to both questions.

Let's face it, discussing salary is a touchy subject in any job interview - what if you ask for too much or not enough?

Here's how you can navigate the salary question and position yourself to make more money, before and during the job interview.

First, when replying to classified ads that ask for salary requirements or a salary history, I advise you NOT to answer directly. Because, in my view, any answer will hurt your chances.

Remember that a typical classified ad can produce hundreds of résumés. And a fast way to make that pile smaller is to weed out applicants who are either too expensive (over-qualified) or too cheap (under-qualified).

So, in your cover letter, I would simply say: "My salary requirements are negotiable." This shows you've read the ad, but are choosing to dodge the issue. Most HR professionals and hiring managers I've talked to won't take offense. On the contrary, it gives them one LESS reason NOT to call you.

What about salary questions in the interview? These require advance planning.

You can say: "Well, I'd like to make as much as other employees with my qualifications." (Here you can repeat 2-3 of your most valuable skills or achievements, just to remind them how qualified you are.) Then add: "And what is a typical salary for this position?"

Another strategy is to avoid a specific salary ... and name a pay range instead. Say: "I was thinking of a salary in the $30,000 to $45,000 range," (with $30,000 being the lowest amount you'd accept). That way, you can name a higher figure, if they try to pin you down, yet still be able to retreat to a point that satisfies you.

Finally, information is power here. If you can back your salary request with a list of average salaries you've obtained from the Internet or from phone calls, you'll enjoy greater leverage in your negotiations.

Layoff Worries? Here Are 5 Things You Can Do Today

In this economy, you hear more and more about layoffs. What if your job is axed? What can you do to find a new one as quickly and painlessly as possible?

Here are five suggestions.

1) Tighten your financial belt.
If you're laid off now or about to be, cut back on your expenses by at least 15-25%.

Reason? You don't want to feel pressured to take the first job that comes along if your savings dry up after 10 days. Because the only thing worse than having no job is having the wrong job.

2) Recognize that you have value.
Avoid the mindset of many job seekers, who think: "Why won't someone give me a job?" Instead, think: "Other companies need the solutions I provided for my last employer. I'm now wiser and better. Which employers are worth my time?"

This paradigm shift will produce a tremendous amount of self-confidence within you. And, all things being equal, employers are more likely to hire a confident candidate than a desperate one who's practically begging for a job. Try it and see!

3) Recognize the value of your personal and professional network.
Remember: networking is how most jobs are filled. Sure, the Internet is an easy way to apply for 248 openings in 10 minutes, but you'll have FAR LESS competition if you apply for a handful of jobs through people you know. Never forget this!

4) Write a résumé that's heavy on achievements.
I recommend a mix of 80% specific achievements and 20% duties. This will immediately set you apart from most job seekers, who do the opposite.

5) Realize that your job search is a job in itself.
It requires nothing less than 40 or more hours a week, every week. Don't fall for the "e-fallacy" of posting your résumé to 10 Web sites, applying by email to 7 job postings ... and then calling it a day.

You must commit to getting on the phone with decision makers who can hire you. Start with your network and go from there, always asking for referrals along the way. Set hourly, daily and weekly goals for networking calls, in-person visits and résumés sent out. Then, get going!

Are You Prepared to Succeed?

Finding a job can be like painting your bathroom. If you prepare thoroughly, the actual task will go smoothly. But if you fail to prepare, you could be preparing to fail.

Here are three ways you can prepare - and succeed - in your next job search ... in any economy.

1) Prepare a results-driven résumé
Write a résumé that's focused on a particular job or industry, outlines your most marketable skills, and proves you have those skills by including plenty of specific achievements.

Remember, every employer reading your résumé wants an answer to this question: "What's in it for me?" If your résumé is all about you and your needs, revise it until focuses on the employer's problems and how you can solve them.

2) Prepare your network
The most valuable (and overlooked) weapon in your job search arsenal is your network. Everyone you know personally and professionally can be a source of job leads. But you have to tell them EXACTLY what you're looking for, or they won't be able to help.

Don't ask people: "Do you know where I can find a job?" Instead, ask: "Who do you know who needs a graphic designer, with five years of award-winning experience creating marketing collateral for Fortune 1000 clients?"

See the difference? If you paint a clear picture of what you want and what you can offer, you'll get it faster.

Also, be sure to expand your network by asking everyone you know this magic question: "Do you know anyone else I should be talking to?" Try it!

3) Prepare your interview skills
Your first interview should never be for your ideal job - too much can go wrong. Make your mistakes early by interviewing with less-desirable companies (or your reflection in a mirror!) until your answers are polished and smooth.

Don't be like the computer programmer I know whose first interview out of college was with the employer of her dreams. She made several rookie mistakes ... and was not called back.

The more prepared you are with an updated résumé, expanding network and sharp interview skills, the more opportunities you will uncover. And the shorter your job search will be.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

How to Write Letters of Resignation and Acceptance

First and last impressions are important in your career. And you never get a second chance to make either!

If you resign gracefully from your current job, it can smooth the transition to your next one. Why burn bridges? If you leave on positive terms, you can maintain a network of ex-coworkers and managers to call on later for help at your next company.

Likewise, a well-written acceptance letter can help set a positive tone for your first day on the new job.

First, let's say goodbye.

In your resignation letter, emphasize the best parts of your employment. Include one or two achievements you were especially proud of. This will reinforce the value you created and help create a lasting, positive impression of you.

Language like this may help get you started quitting:

"Dear Steve,

This will confirm that I will leave ABC Company on October 1, 2010 to accept a position at XYZ Inc. It's been a pleasure working with you on such projects as the Widget Deluxe roll-out and the Web site upgrade. I will be more than happy to assist you and my replacement in making this transition over the next two weeks and thereafter, so please feel free to contact me at XYZ should you have any questions."

Writing your acceptance letter can often be easier ... and more fun.

Here, your task is to reinforce the skills or expertise that made your employer want to hire you in the first place. You might follow this format:

"Dear Cindy,

I'm delighted to accept your offer for the position of Assistant Manager. I look forward to starting on the programs you and I discussed in our last interview, particularly your online marketing initiative, which will allow me to use the professional contacts and research skills I've developed over the last four years. I look forward to seeing you Monday morning, July 1."

The exact words aren't important. Just try to stay upbeat and positive in your letters. Do this and you'll enjoy a smooth transition from one successful job to the next, and the next, and the next ...

Your Elevator Speech: Answering "Why should I hire you?"

That's about the shortest - and toughest - question you might ever be asked in a job interview.

So ... what's your answer? Why should an employer hire you instead of someone else with similar skills and experience?

The more convincing your answer, the shorter your next job search is likely to be.

Here's a trick that will force you to develop a short, convincing 30-second commercial for yourself. It's called the Elevator Speech; your "unique selling proposition."

Here's the scenario.

On the way to a job interview with ABC Company, you step on the elevator with ABC's owner. You introduce yourself and she recognizes you, asking: "Why should I hire you?" You have until the elevator reaches her floor to convince her. Try to answer in 30 seconds or less (about 150 words).

Avoid trite claims that anyone could make, such as: "I'm honest, hard-working and trustworthy." This makes you sound like a Boy Scout.

Instead, focus on YOUR unique combination of specific skills, knowledge and experience. Ideally, they'll all have something to do with the job you're after.

Example Elevator Speech: "During my five years of helpdesk experience, I've encountered and solved just about every problem imaginable, supporting more than 225 users on the same operating system your company uses - Windows XP. I also saved $23,000 by using pre-owned hardware for our latest upgrade. Before that, I completed officer's training as an ROTC student while earning my MIS degree. This gives me a broader range of technical, leadership and problem-solving skills than typical applicants."

According to marketing expert Larry Chase, (and what is a job search, after all, but a marketing campaign?): "I find people appreciate it when you respond in less time than they anticipated. It telegraphs that you are clearly focused and waste no time getting to the point".

So, get to the point in your next job interview. In 30 seconds, if you can. And you can if you develop a short, sharp elevator speech.

More on Cover Letters

Most of all, you want your cover letter to reflect a clear understanding of the prospective employer's needs. Creating a document that addresses issues of irrelevance is the fastest way to get your résumé tossed into the "NO" pile.

One word of caution: don't make the cover letter about YOU. It's kind of an oxymoron because you're writing the company to tell them why they should hire you. But, you have to take a different tact and turn the tables, so that you are focusing on THEIR needs and not on yours. Sure, you need them to hire you, but your need to have an income won't motivate them to do that. To get hired, you need to know their needs and convince them that they need you to help them meet their goals and become more profitable.

Be Specific in Your Cover Letter

Cover Letter Success is All About Specifics

by Katharine Hansen

You've heard the adage in real estate and retailing that success centers on three things: location, location, location. With cover letters, success is also tied to three things: specifics, specifics, specifics.

In our roles as résumé and cover letter writers, we often get requests from customers that go something like this: "Just give me a general cover letter that I can use for any kind of job." Sorry. No can do. Well, we can do it, but we certainly don't recommend it.

A cover letter needs to be specific in every way. Otherwise, it's a fairly pointless document. Some experts say even a résumé should be specifically tailored for each job. While we feel that a degree of résumé tailoring is sometimes desirable, extensive tailoring is unnecessary if you're specific with your cover letter.

Among the many ways you should make each cover letter quite specific are:

Specific Recipient: A cover letter must be addressed to the specific name of the recipient. It's not always easy to find the name of the specific hiring manager, but try to do so if at all possible. Usually, you can just call the company and ask who the hiring manager is for a given position. The worst-case scenario is that your letter will begin "Dear Hiring Manager for [name of position]:" Your letter should not begin: "Dear Sir or Madam" or, worst of all, "To Whom It May Concern." That lazy approach shows the employer that you were not concerned enough to find out whom your letter does concern.

Specific Position: An effective cover letter must target a specific position, which should be mentioned in the first paragraph. If you're answering an ad, it's easy to target your letter to a specific job. But if you're making cold contacts to employers, you'll have to do some research to find out what positions that the company offers fit your qualifications. Don't list several possible positions or say that you're willing to consider any position. If you do, the employer will see you as unfocused or even desperate.

Specific Skills/Qualifications: It's perfectly okay if some parts of your letter are the same from cover letter to cover letter. But you need to be very specific when describing your skills and qualifications. Determine the skills and experiences that specifically qualify you for the job you're applying for, and describe those in your letter. Following are example paragraphs from a photographer looking to transition into a sales career. Both letters are for account-executive positions, but the letter writer stresses slightly different skills in each letter based on the qualifications listed in the ads to which she is responding:

Example 1:
The exceptional organizational abilities and detail orientation I deployed to set up photo shoots are directly applicable to the skills needed to plan and coordinate events. With great profitability, I can prospect new business opportunities, strategize communication initiatives, successfully manage client relationships, give presentations, and much more.

Example 2:
My experience in the client-service end of the photography business has ingrained in me the importance of establishing solid relationships built on excellent service. With great profitability, I can prospect new accounts, provide the required excellent level of service, successfully build an account base, close deals, retain customers, and much more.

Specific Examples: Whenever possible, don't just offer unsubstantiated value judgments about yourself; use concrete examples to demonstrate your claims about yourself. Example:

I demonstrated my strategic ability when I successfully developed a direct corporate sales program and a corporate affinity program for ToyVillage.com.
Specific company knowledge: Demonstrating knowledge of the employer to which you are writing is not a mandatory part of a cover letter, but it's a great touch that will often win favor in the eye of the employer. On one level, you can write something that sounds specific to the company you're writing to but that really can be said to any employer:

I am intensely interested in contributing my skills and experience to your firm because of your company's reputation for quality.
On a higher level, however, you can do your homework and write something that truly is specific to the company you're writing to:

Over the last two years I have followed the unfolding events at Guffman Enterprises with great interest as the firm moved into financial and broadband services.

Specific tailoring to a want ad: If you're answering an ad, the specifics of your cover letter should be tied as closely as possible to the actual wording of the ad you're responding to. I've had students express concern that it's plagiarism to use the words of an ad in one's cover letter, but here's a case where using someone else's words is a plus rather than a minus.

In his book, Don't Send a résumé, Jeffrey Fox calls the best letters written in response to want ads "Boomerang letters" because they "fly the want ad words - the copy - back to the writer of the ad." In employing what Fox calls "a compelling sales technique," he advises letter writers to: "Flatter the person who wrote the ad with your response letter. Echo the author's words and intent. Your letter should be a mirror of the ad." Fox notes that when the recipient reads such a letter, the thought process will be: "This person seems to fit the description. This person gets it."

A particularly effective way to deploy the specifics of a want ad to your advantage is to use a two-column format in which you quote in the left-hand column specific qualifications that come right from the employer's want ad and in the right-hand column, your attributes that meet those qualifications.

The two-column format is extremely effective when you possess all the qualifications for a job, but it can even sell you when you are lacking one or more qualification. The format so clearly demonstrates that you are qualified in so many areas that the employer may be willing to overlook the areas in which you lack the exact qualifications. See a sample letter in a two-column format.

Specific benefit to employer: Jeffrey Gunhus writes in his new book, No Parachute Required, "The purpose of a cover letter is to explain how you (the candidate) will benefit me (the company)." Your letter should should tell very specifically how you will meet the employer's needs, solve the employer's problems, or otherwise benefit the hiring company. For example:

When I interviewed Ms. Kirkwood six months ago to obtain information about a career in real estate, she mentioned that the agency would like to establish a Web presence. I'd like to combine my interest in real estate with my knowledge of Web page design and HTML programming to help you create a Webmaster position in your office. I've even sketched out some preliminary ideas on what your Web page might look like, and I'd love to get together and show them to you.

Specific request for action and specific description of your planned follow-up action: Don't be vague about your desire to be interviewed. Come right out and ask for an interview. Then, take your specific action a step farther and tell the recipient that you will contact him or her in a specified period of time to arrange an interview appointment.

Obviously, if you say you will follow up, you have to do so. If you take this proactive approach and follow up, you will be much more likely to get interviews than if you did not follow up. This follow-up aspect is another good reason to obtain the specific name of the hiring manager. Here's a sample closing paragraph requesting specific action and describing the writer's planned follow-up.

I would like to be considered for a sales position in which someone of my background could make a contribution. I will contact you soon to arrange for an interview. Should you require any additional information, I can be contacted at the phone numbers listed above.

Gaining a Competitive Edge and Standing Out From Your Competition: Two Instructive Case Studies

Here's helpful information you can use today in your job search ... below are two case studies with takeaway tips you can use immediately.

Case Study #1 - Talk to the Hiring Manager

Eugene, a developer, saw a posting online for a job he really wanted. He first thought he would e-mail his résumé and wait.

But that approach hadn't produced any callbacks for three months, so he decided to try something different. Eugene picked up the phone, got the phone number of the contact person listed in the job posting from the company switchboard, and called her. He asked if he could hand-deliver his résumé. She told him no, but he struck up a conversation and learned enough about the position to write a targeted cover letter, which he e-mailed with his résumé.

After that, Eugene made three follow-up calls, one week apart, to politely ask if a decision had been made. Since he had already built a rapport with the hiring manager during his first call, she didn't see this as an intrusion. Between his second and third follow-up calls, Eugene employed a tactic that set him apart from every other candidate: He offered to deliver a portfolio of additional material. The hiring manager agreed.

So Eugene put together a collection of awards and descriptions of projects he had worked on. As he was dropping off this "brag book" with the receptionist, he met several employees in the lobby. He asked about the four biggest problems they were facing on the job, took notes, and then went home to think up solutions.

Finally, after four weeks, three follow-up phone calls, and one hand-delivered portfolio, Eugene was called for an interview. He aced it, as well as the interview that followed, and got the job. After talking to employees and researching the company's products and customers on its web site, he was able to talk intelligently and make helpful suggestions, and he impressed the interviewers.

Your Takeaway - Persistence and creativity will set you apart from the hordes of passive job seekers. Find out who the decision maker is, then email or call that person every 7-10 days to follow up. Politely ask if a hiring decision has been made AND try to offer additional information or insights about the job you seek. In Eugene's case, he offered to hand-deliver a portfolio of material to further prove he was the right person for the job. What extra material, competitive research, or work samples could you provide? No matter how you cut it, if a job is worth having, it's worth following up on.

Case Study #2 - Focus on Results

Frank, a network administrator, had an interview in the midst of a raging recession, and was offered a position advertised on Monster.com - if you can believe that. Employers get hundreds, if not thousands, of responses to those ads. Frank's résumé stuck out - he was one of only two applicants interviewed.

He had no experience on any of the systems the prospective employer was running, but his résumé showed a willingness to learn and past success at learning unfamiliar technologies quickly. The company offered him $53,000 the next day, a $15,000 increase over his current salary.

These are sample bullet points from Frank's résumé:

  • More than 10 years of hardware/software experience includes programming, configuration, troubleshooting, and support. Strong in Oracle, Access, SQL Server, and wireless networks.

  • Helped retain $20 million contract with top client after working 16-hour days for four months to clean up Access database and repair reporting problem using Excel and Crystal Reports.

  • Retained during a 75 percent reduction in headcount.

Your Takeaway - Write a résumé that focuses on specific results rather than dry lists of duties and responsibilities. This will make the phone ring with job offers. To force yourself to focus on results, tack this phrase onto the end of the duties in your résumé - "As a result."  

When you do that, you can transform a section like this:

  • Maintained data backup and restoration. Interfaced with programmers to test and build monitoring applications. Wrote documentation and training guidelines.

... into one like this, which gets you noticed:

  • Streamlined data backup and restoration procedures. Worked with programmers to test and build monitoring application. Wrote documentation and training guidelines. As a result, cut monitoring times by 25%, while reducing average support calls from over 10 per month to one (90% drop).

To stand out from a stack of cover letters, yours must focus less on you and more on the results you can deliver.

If you do nothing else, try replacing the words "I", "me" and "my" with "you" wherever possible. This will put the emphasis back where it belongs - on the employer and his/her problems.

Here's a before-and-after example of an actual cover letter. Note the number of times "I" and "my" appear:

"I am enclosing my résumé for your review because I am very interested in obtaining a full-time position as an Investment Banking Analyst at Ace Financial.

"I am well qualified for this position. In addition to the strong quantitative and analytical skills I have developed as an undergraduate economics major and in my work experience, I have a proven ability to stay focused for long hours under pressure."

There are five instances of "I" and two of "my."

Now, here's that same cover letter, revised to focus more on the reader:

"I am applying for the position of Investment Banking Analyst where my combination of economics training and high-tech experience will add value to your operations. Please consider the following:

"You will gain from my strong financial background, which includes a recent bachelor's degree in economics, coupled with experience researching and trading securities as a successful investor (resulting in returns of 200%)."

Just one "I" and two "mys" - a 57% reduction. With "you" and "your" thrown in twice for good measure.

Replacing "I" with "you" is an old advertising trick that's worked for decades. (Read any good advertisement and you'll always find "you" and "your" sprinkled liberally throughout.) And what's your cover letter? Essentially, it's an advertisement for your résumé...which is an advertisement for you.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory


Join a Job Hunting Support Group, or Create One of Your Own

Members of these groups provide moral support and assistance to each other as well an extension of that critical personal network. Need a contact inside a specific company? Ask the members of your group if they know anyone there. Need another set of eyes to look at your résumé? Ask the members of your group for help. Of course, you can also demonstrate your intelligence, professionalism, ethics, experience, etc. by helping members of the group in return.

It probably goes without saying, but don't be a "user." Look for ways you can help other members, and the help will come back to you. Support groups can be a win/win situation, and, sometimes, the critical link between you and the perfect job in the Hidden Job Market.


Don't spend all your job search time with your job search support group! Sometimes they can become an unproductive pity party. Have agendas, action items, and a focus on positive action to find a job.

Teach a class

If there is community-based adult education provided somewhere in your area, see if you can teach something for them. Get a copy of their course catalog, and see what they are offering. Is there a subject you could teach that they don't offer but might want to offer? You may be able to offer a one- or two-session "workshop" or "seminar" if you have a topic that is interesting. Just be sure that it is a topic you know very well and one that demonstrates your knowledge and professionalism.

A local college or university may need an "adjunct" instructor for specific subjects, and may be open to someone "outside" the faculty providing the instruction. Don't expect to support yourself and your family on the money made from teaching these classes, but do expect to be paid something for your time and effort.

Focus on teaching a subject that demonstrates your professional knowledge and skill, and presents you in the best light as a valuable addition to a potential employer's staff.


Get and keep copies of the course catalog with your course and, hopefully, your name in it. Let class members know that you are "between assignments" and interested in finding a new job.

Collect feedback from class members so that you can improve your material and presentation, and get some contact names (use with permission only!)
Add the class to the accomplishments on your résumé.

Write an article => you become an author => you become an authority!

Not comfortable talking in front of a group? You can also establish your command of a topic by writing an article that appears in a publication read by your target employer (or employer group). Most professional and industry associations have newsletters and/or web sites that need content, even some businesses (isn't there a small newsletter-type publication included with your phone bill?). Contact the editor or web master to find out what they need.

An article doesn't need to be long. Just be sure that it is accurate, spelled correctly, and uses good grammar before you submit it. Best - have someone with good writing and spelling skills look at your article to be sure it makes sense before you submit it.

Focus on writing about a subject that demonstrates your professional knowledge and skill, and presents you in the best light as a valuable addition to a potential employer's staff.

More Tips

Writing an article provides you with a terrific excuse to call people for interviews ("Hi, my name is Shirley Yang, and I'm writing an article on the current housing market, may I speak with your president?")
Be sure that you retain the copyright to your article and get a "byline" (as in "by You").

Get a few copies of the article or the right to make copies (some publications will give or sell you reprints of your article as it appeared in their publication, but not give you the right to make copies) to attach to your résumé when you send a paper version to an employer.
Add the article's title (with the publication's name and date of publication) to the list of accomplishments on your résumé. If the article is published on a web site, include the URL on your résumé. Be sure to check the link frequently to make sure that it is still a "live" one.

If you are spending more than 2 or 3 hours a day online, spend less time online

Heresy? No! You'll get hired by someone who likes you, and the best way to present your charming self is in person. You've noticed that it's not always the most qualified person who gets the job - it's the person the hiring manager knows. So, get known! Shut down your computer (after you finish reading this article), and go out to make those personal connections that will get you your next job.

Web sites and e-mail can lay the groundwork for you, but it's the person-to-person contact the brings the job offers.

Bottom Line

If you are doing the same things over and over again, but not getting what you want, change your methods because they aren't working.

Maybe you are tired of the whole thing so you are not as effective as you could be, or maybe a few improvements are needed. Find a career coach in your area (or online). Look for a job search support group and get feedback from them on your résumé or get contact names for your target company, etc.

Start making phone calls to people who can help you

For many of us, this is the hardest thing to do - to ask for help. Don't be whiny or downbeat (not the time for a long "poor abused me" monolog). After the preliminary pleasantries, state your purpose in calling and your job objective. Then, ask for advice and/or for the name of someone who could help you find that job.

Many people really enjoy the opportunity to help because they've been through it themselves. And, next time, you may be the right contact for the people who are helping you now. It's that scary word, "networking " but, with a little practice, you can do it. And, bottom line, you must network to that new job.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

Moving Your Job Search Forward

Sometimes moving a job search forward feels like trying to run through waist-deep water - extremely difficult! How do you continue to make progress on your job search?

Particularly if you've been unemployed for an extended period of time, it's easy to be discouraged from continuing your career-building work, and do anything else that gives you a greater sense of accomplishment. But, you can get that same feeling of accomplishment and move your job search forward at the same time by following these 6 simple steps:

Have a job search goal / focus to your career-building efforts
Having a goal gives focus to your job search/career-building efforts, and makes it easier for you to develop a plan to find the type of job you want and need. Your goal could be as simple as "to make money" or as specific as "become manager of a local branch of TD/Canada Trust." Believe it or not, the simpler goal may be the toughest to achieve because your options for action are endless. Your résumé and cover letters will be unfocused, too, and few people having the power to hire you have the time (or the intuition) to figure out what you could be doing for their company. A more specific goal, if it is realistic for you, brings focus and should result in a more effective résumé and a smarter job search.

Develop your job search plan
A goal is usually achieved by taking several steps - accomplishing several things. You can't get a new job without taking some action. First, you must figure out what you want to do, then pull together and polish a résumé, then develop a list of potential employers, etc. Sit down and list those major accomplishments, in rough chronological order of their need to be accomplished. For example, you can't (usually) apply for a job without a résumé, so developing your résumé is an important part of your plan.

Make a to-do list
Break your plan down into the tasks or action items you need to accomplish to reach your goal. And, many tasks contain sub-tasks For example, to write your résumé, you may want to buy or borrow a good book on writing résumés, dig out your old résumé (if you have one), add your latest job to your résumé, list the accomplishments associated with that job, line up people to act as references, etc.). Your list won't be perfect - new tasks will be needed, and other tasks will prove unnecessary. Don't worry about perfection in this part of your job search.

Organize your to-do list
Obviously, you must accomplish some things before others, and you can often be working on several tasks simultaneously. Shuffle around the items on your to-do list until they are in the order in which they must be accomplished.

Give yourself deadlines
Assign deadlines to chunks of tasks (do the first draft of your résumé by this Friday; get feedback from someone who knows how to create an effective résumé by next Wednesday; finalize it by next Friday). Be as realistic as you can. Weekly deadlines work best for me, but you may want daily deadlines or monthly ones - whatever works for you. Make a deliberate and unbreakable promise to yourself that you will meet each deadline you set

Each day, pick one job search "alpha task"
Before you begin your day's work, look at your to-do list and decide which task is THE ONE TASK which MUST be accomplished that day to keep your job search moving forward, even if nothing else gets done. That task is your "alpha task."

Do your day's alpha task as early in the day as possible. Then, do the next most important, etc. If you're like me, you'll discover the sense of accomplishment from getting the alpha task done carries over into a more productive day. And even if you don't get any other tasks accomplished that day, you will have completed the most critical one, and moved your job search forward.

That's progress in your job search, one alpha task at a time.

More on Networking: What It Is, and Is Not

Although the technique of networking remains a highly effective job-search and self-marketing tool, the word "networking" repels many people. It's trite, shopworn, overused, frequently abused, and may be crawling toward oblivion.

Nowadays, people often prefer the term "schmoozing" to networking. Others preach "connectivity". A few still use "informational interviewing". The label for the process of developing and building informal personal relationships probably shouldn't much matter - a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, right? Wrong. As Mr. Roper's reaction suggests, your choice of words may affect the reception you receive from contacts.

But you don't have to take the word seriously to take the technique seriously. While I use the word networking, I often poke fun at it: "Hey, Alf, any chance we might have one of these, ah, 'networking' meetings?" (accompanied by a double-handed finger-squiggle to indicate quotation marks around the "N" word).

We may rename the process periodically, but it's still age-old and incredibly powerful. In the job-search sense, it's using systematic gossip to build informal, low-stakes relationships that improve one's market visibility, provide the straight scoop about what's happening and identify still more potential contacts. The key words here are systematic, informal, low-stakes and relationships. When networking is done hit-or-miss, it's bound to miss something. If it's stilted and formal, contacts fear they've fallen into a high-stakes interaction - an interview, even - and get defensive. If the interaction isn't beneficial for both parties, a contact is likely to feel used or manipulated.

Humans always can be counted on to help other humans unless their efforts are demeaned or unreciprocated. Most people are remarkably generous with their time and attention. It's the people who package networking into a canned, impersonal and manipulative shtick who poison the well for those using the technique appropriately and constructively.

Basic Rules for Building Rapport

Most networking abuses arise because people don't know how to create relationships. Good networking is about empathy, individualizing the process and understanding basic rules of human interaction. Here are some guidelines:

A networking meeting is not a sales transaction; it's about exchanging information, building trust, being seen, gathering anecdotal information and creating a positive foundation for future interaction.

When you ask for a networking meeting, you're asking for a favor. You want someone to share his or her knowledge and expertise with you. That means you must balance listening with talking. Talk too much, and your expert gets bummed. Maintain too much respectful silence, and you lose your chance to show your flag.

Individuals you meet in a networking context need to feel they're respected, heard and getting, as well as giving, value.

The stakes and risks must be kept low and the "fun factor," high. Lighten up; this isn't a world peace discussion.

It's only dishonest if you setup an networking meeting/information interview and then ask for a job at the interview. You must respect the fact that the purpose of this meeting is to:

  • Build a network of contacts
  • Gain information about the hidden job market
  • Learn more about what how to take advantage of career building opportunities with this employer
  • Lean about this employer's work culture and what they look for in prospective new recruits. What does this employer consider a "good fit" in terms of culture, attitude, experience, and skills?
  • Identify your strengths
  • Help define your career path
  • Open your eyes to career paths that you might not have considered
  • Get referrals to other job opportunities

Blowing It Big Time

The most serious networking sin is to misrepresent your reason for making the contact. The networker in the opening example later created permanent damage by pulling the "Great Agenda Switch" on Mr. Roper. He asked for a low-stakes chat, but when the meeting started, threw a full-court press on Mr. Roper, badgering him for a job. Mr. Roper threw him out and vowed never to "network" again.

Skilled networkers know the importance of a credible "decompression" statement - words that set the stage and take the heat off: Norma, I hope I made it clear when I called that I wasn't expecting you to have an opening or know someone who does. I really want your judgment and opinions on the barriers to entry I might face if I try to move from being a senior HR manager to taking on responsibility for a regional operating group. What I need most is the perspective of experts who know the lay of the land.

It isn't immoral to ask if an opening exists at a certain company, but it's not networking. That's "direct contact" - a legitimate but a relatively high-stakes job-search gambit: If the person says "yes" or even "maybe," machinery whirs into motion. The process becomes formal. An interview and a networking meeting are two entirely distinct animals.

You may wonder, "Isn't it dishonest to 'decompress' when I know there may be an opening?" You bet - but you can cover both alleys without deceit: Ralph, the word is out that you folks may be looking for a director of quality for your new division. If that's true, I'd really like to throw my hat in the ring. If I'm misinformed and there isn't an opportunity, I'd still welcome the chance to sit down with you informally and get your thoughts about how to focus my efforts on landing a senior quality-management position. You simply must make your intentions clear.

Troubles With Technique / The Importance of Clearly Stating Your Intentions

Beware, too, of providing "mush" agendas. That is, many contacts are asked to give up precious time without understanding what's involved or expected of them. In your initial call or letter, you must provide a frame of reference or agenda telling your contact what she needs to know::

Who are you?
Why are you calling me?
Who gave you my name - and why?
What kind of knowledge or information do you want from me?
What do I need to know about your situation to provide appropriate advice?
What are you asking me for? What are the stakes? Are there any risks?

Too many networking meetings commence without the "expert" knowing what she's supposed to be expert in...or what level of help to provide. The job seeker hasn't taken time to learn if the referral's level of expertise or sophistication is adequate. Instead, the networker merely invokes the name of a referral source ("Your friend Verona said you'd be great to talk to") without providing an agenda. The contact meets the networker as a favor to Verona but has nothing to offer. He or she is forced to say, "I don't know" or "I've never heard of that," which is demeaning or humiliating, then is understandably surly and more likely to take it out on the networker than on Verona.

Good networkers respect a contact's intelligence and wisdom and make an effort to allow the contact to display it. They don't talk down to them or use jargon that the contact doesn't understand.

This Isn't a Sales Call

Communication and self-presentation issues also can dynamite a meeting. We may unintentionally signal that the interaction isn't genuine or spontaneous. This is the death knell of trust and rapport; the contact worries that he or she is being manipulated. Things cool off fast.

Contacts should never feel they're on the receiving end of a sales pitch. Tricks and gambits salespeople use to "close the sale" are inappropriate during a friendly, low-key conversation. Sales techniques for "overcoming objections" usually are easily recognizable. They tell contacts, "This isn't a real relationship; it's a manipulation."

It's wise to prepare for networking meetings, and evidence that you've done your homework is flattering. However, there's a distinction between preparing and rehearsing. Anything in your self-presentation that sounds canned or mechanical is a turn-off. Contacts expect to be seen and treated as unique individuals, and if you convey that this meeting is a stock song-and-dance, they'll resent and perhaps punish you..

During the networking meeting...slow...down. Slow your thinking, assumptions, responses and rate of speech. Give yourself time to think, or the contact time to interject. Good networkers practice active listening: They resist interrupting, and paraphrase what the other person says to test their understanding. They appear interested in the contact and reflect on the contact's comments, asking for elaboration or examples. They interact instead of presenting.

Poor networkers speak in ways that makes them sound nervous or pushy - babbling or talking breathlessly. The contact thinks, "I wonder why she's nervous? Maybe she has something to be nervous about." They may talk too loudly, interrupt or try to trump their contact's examples ("You think that's amazing, I remember one time I..."). They take and hold on to the microphone, creating the impression that they're control freaks, arrogant or opinionated.

Respect Their Time

A frequent networking gaffe is lack of respect for the contact's time. The rule is: Don't use too much; don't ask for too little. Keep your eye on your watch. Not offering sincere thanks for referrals is another. Remember, a person has used up a favor to help you. Act promptly on contacts' suggestions. Speak warmly of them to others. Sadly, breaches of confidentiality are surprisingly common. You may assume what you're hearing is common knowledge, when the contact actually has trusted you with inside information. Assume any information provided is confidential unless you know otherwise. To be absolutely sure, ask.

But the most problematic networking lapse is lack of follow-up. Most networkers assume that the technique will pay off right now, in real time ("Gee, ABC has an opening..."). Usually it doesn't. The best thing you can hope for is that your networking contact becomes a sensitive, positively motivated antenna tuned to your frequency, listening for information that might help you.

But, while they may hear something juicy, don't expect them to call you. You have to follow up periodically. Stay in their line of sight. Send articles of interest. Let them know how your search is going. Be sure to send an updated résumé. And remember True Life Axiom No. 1: "What goes around, comes around. You don't know when it will come around, but if you don't go around, nothing comes around."

Thoughtful, respectful and considerate networking goes beyond getting job-search help. It can spawn friendships that span years and pay diverse dividends. It's relationship building, which must stay anchored in the human dimension. Before every networking, informational, connectivity, or schmooze meeting, imagine the interaction from the contact's viewpoint. Will it be respectful, informative, relaxed, enjoyable and authentic? It's your job to deliver. If you deliver, networking will deliver.

Maintain That Network!

Maintain that network you have built! Don't let it die just because you have a job and don't think that you need it any more. You need it, forever! It's your doorway to the Hidden Job Market and building your career.

The beauty of the network that you've now established is that, as you advance in your career, so will many of the other members of your network. The idea is that you will move up the career ladder together, helping each other along.

Even in a relatively strong job market, building your career is always done amid competition from other job seekers. Being able to successfully compete for jobs today often means being aware of, having access to, and using proven job search techniques and tools including computers, job search software (when available), email and the internet. The ideas presented in this paper help illustrate the most important components of - and ideas behind - effective, successful job search campaigns that enable you to take advantage of opportunities to continue building your career.

Tapping the "Hidden Job Market"

The majority of available job opportunities are not advertised. Researchers have found that between 70 to 80 percent of available jobs are found in what is referred to as a ''hidden job market". The following explains the hidden job market concept and offers ideas on how to strengthen your job search.

The hidden job market includes all positions that have not yet been communicated through visible channels, such as newspapers. These positions are filled by - or created for - candidates who come to the employer's attention through employee recommendations, referrals from trusted associates, recruiters, or direct contact from the candidate.

Successful job seekers who tap into the hidden job market are able to connect with the employer's network. Networking - using your contacts to connect with the employer's contact - is the key to tapping into the hidden job market.

Understanding the hidden job market is at the heart of the job-hunting process. Not being able to access it often results in an unsuccessful job search, with either no job or a non-targeted position being found.

These unadvertised jobs are mostly found through word-of-mouth and networking. They exist because many employers prefer to hire someone referred to them by someone they know, like a trusted employee or business associate. Some positions are created because an ideal job candidate just happens to appear at the right time.

Developing your network

By beginning with a few people and building a base of contacts, you can work to develop and expand your list of contacts. Start by talking to friends or close business associates, generally people with whom you feel comfortable.

Don't worry if they are not employed in the field in which you are interested; they may know someone who is, or at least someone who can connect you with the right person. Let them know that you are looking for a job, what type of job you are looking for and your skills. State that you would welcome advice, suggestions and ideas.

Expanding your network

Once you have talked to people close to you, you will become more confident and better prepared, and be ready to contact people you know less well.

Examples of contacts:

Colleagues, previous employers;
University / college classmates, faculty;
Community members in clubs ;
Family members, neighbors and friends;
Members of University / college clubs, organizations, associations; and
Members of clubs, teammates on sports teams.

You cannot predict who will be able to help you; so talk to as many people as you can. The more people you contact, the better your chances of finding a job lead. With each contact, focus your request by letting him/her know what you want - a job lead, a lead to a key contact in the industry or specific company, or a lead to anyone they think might be able to help you in your job search.
Start your networking by asking people if they have heard of any job openings. List 10 people you can start with today. Continually add to this list as you develop your network.

As you build your list, keep a record of who helped you and how they helped. Try to send them a thank-you note or call them to let them know their lead paid off.

Whether it's for the purpose of expanding your contacts through conducting "information interviews" with people having the power to hire you, or for the purpose of directly applying for jobs, the most effective ways to arrange a meeting or interview with prospective employers are:

  • Using your contacts
    Applying directly to the company by going there in person

    Using a combination of methods:
    making an appointment by phone

    sending a marketing letter and résumé followed by phone calls

    using information from networking and employer research, and

    having a systematic approach to your job search  

Your preparation pays off now. Use the valuable information you have assembled - your top skills, the employers' needs, contacts, and your company research to set up a meeting. Above all, be politely persistent, and follow through diligently.

Instead of advertising, which takes time and money, an employer can find employees referred to them who are well suited to their operation, without the bother of a formal recruitment process. In other words, you make life easier for employers by being proactive in your job search.

The Many Advantages of the Hidden Job Market

One of the advantages of tapping into the hidden job market is there will be less competition for you than if you apply to a position that is being advertised. Also, you may find work that better suits your skills and abilities because you are going after the company you want to work for.

There are many facets to learning how to succeed in the hidden job market. If you feel uncertain, then seek the help of others. Take a job-finding course offered in your community. Human Resources Development Canada offer free three-week workshops for the unemployed.

By joining a workshop you will immediately increase your network, gain confidence and learn more about the community in which you live. 

Build a Network

Networking is a huge part of finding unadvertised vacancies and is the number one way to find a good job.  For these reasons every job seeker needs to learn how to build a network as part of targeting employers. Do this by starting with the people you know or those you meet each day. Make sure everyone you know is aware that you are looking for work, and be as specific as you can in letting them know your talents.

Remember that networking is about developing professional relationships, and is a life skill that can help guide your career. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal in networking as part of your job search is to get interviews with people who have the authority to hire you. Ask your contacts face-to-face or on the telephone for their help because letters do not work as well. Networking is about building relationships. Your contacts must trust you in order for them to refer you personally.

For example, "I am seeking a software development job in the  Vancouver area, preferably using Microsoft development technologies." You need to have a clear occupational goal before you start building your network.

If your contacts have no suggestions to offer, ask them if they know anyone you could talk to about your software development (for example) interest. Treat each networking contact as a mentor or advisor. Do not ask your contacts for a job, because if they know of a job working for their employer, they will volunteer that information if they think you are qualified.

Gradually, you will start to build a larger network of people who may connect you to an opportunity. See Networking Basics, below.

Using the Art of Cold-Calling to Meet Decision Makers and Extend Your Network

As part of network-building, you will need to learn to do cold calls to employers who are not advertising. This can be hard work, especially for individuals who believe they can not market themselves.

Here's how cold-calling works: You call the targeted company and ask to speak to a targeted contact - someone having the power to hire you. If you have the name of a referral, always use it as soon as possible. When you get that decision maker on the line, give them your 30-second commercial and then ask for a meeting. Follow a script and use information about their company to show that you are knowledgeable about their business. It is very important to write your script the way you talk, to make it sound natural. After writing it out and practicing, jot down the main points you want to make so you will speak naturally.

Cold-Calling Tips

Leave a message for a specific person. Anyone can call and say they're simply calling about a job or possible opening. If you do a little research to find out who you should speak to, it will only pay off. It will show that you have a sincere interest in the job and you're not afraid to go the extra mile to get what you want.

Always know your employer. Find out about the company you're applying for so you can communicate to them how compatible you are as a candidate.

Practice what you're going to say. You don't want to sound like you're reading a script, but the more prepared you are, the more confident you will sound. Not to mention, if you're prepared to leave a message and you get a person instead, your delivery will be that much better.

Try this script, and then develop one of your own

Hello ___. My name is ___ and I was referred to you by ___. I am a ___ and my skills include (and/or accomplishments) include ___ and ___ and ___. I would like to meet with you to learn more about your company. When would be a good time for you?

If you have trouble getting through to the decision-maker, try these methods:

  • Mention the name of your referral
    Call before or after business hours or during lunch
    Get referred from a higher office such as the president's personal assistant
    Mail a letter and résumé stating you will call at a specific time and date. Then your call will be expected.
    Ask what time they will be available, and call back.
    Call with confidence, asking for the person by their first name, as if you were a personal friend
    Ask the secretary or assistant for help.

    If nothing else works, leave a message on voice mail using your 30-second commercial.
    Be persistent, even if it means calling every day for ten days.
    If they are not in a position to hire you, then ask if they know someone who might. If they refer you to someone, then ask if you can use their name and send them a thank you letter and networking card.

Even though it is easier to stay home and check the newspapers and job web sites daily or to wait until a company phones after you have submitted a résumé, this method of job search is far less effective. Your success as a job seeker/career builder is tightly tied to how much work you put into directly finding job openings and what you  do to take advantage of them in a timely manner.

 Top of page

Applying for Work in Person

Applying for work in person works well with small companies regardless of position. When you arrive, ask for your contact by name after having found this information as part of your employer research. If he or she will not see you then, then make an appointment. Use your 30-second commercial to explain the reason. You want an appointment regardless of whether there are openings. If all else fails, then fill out an application, or leave your résumé, and make a follow-up phone call the next day, and the next day...

It takes a degree of confidence to walk into a store or company and drop off a résumé and ask to speak to a manager about job opportunities. Many people find it even more difficult to call back later to see if anything has materialized. It is difficult if you feel that you are being rejected over and over again. Tell yourself "so what," and keep going!

If you are rejected, either  the company is a poor match with your talents, or they just missed an important recruitment opportunity, or they are not hiring, or you need to strengthen some skills, or the manager just hired his niece, or ... you may never know!

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

 Top of page


Understanding the Job Search Challenge and the Importance of Generating Leads

1. Introduction

Suppose you meet a job seeker whose frustration is nearly a month old. You ask the cause of his consternation, and he responds with a familiar lament: "My job search is going nowhere."

From the looks of the guy, he has been diligent in his pursuit of employment, so you ask incredulously, "You mean you haven't found a single job opening you would consider applying for?"

The guy stares at you, as though he was trying to read something on your face. You've clearly asked the wrong thing, but he answers anyway.

"The truth is, I've got a notebook at home that's full of promising-and open-positions." He pauses, before emphatically continuing: "And I've applied for most of them. Sent in my résumé, which I spent $250 on, and even called to confirm that they had received it. I've been following up ever since, just to see how everything is going. I get the same thing every time, 'We'll get back to you when we make our decision.'"

You say nothing because you simply don't know what it's like to have your career off the hook indefinitely.

As if to break the uncomfortable silence, he says, "I haven't gotten a single offer yet. I mean, I've only been at it for three-and-a-half-weeks, but come on! I know I'm qualified to fill these positions. My job search isn't leading anywhere, like it's in a holding pattern. I don't know what I'm doing wrong."

What do you say?

This guy isn't getting what he wants out of his job search because he isn't getting what he needs from it. He needs interviews to obtain job offers. Here's your advice: If your job search is coming up "empty," it's because you aren't getting interviews. You need to try different search methods until you find one that works for you. You'll know it when you start landing interview opportunities.

Does this mean that the job search is hit-or-miss? Is your best strategy just to try different strategies until you find one that works? Should "luck" be how you find a job?

 Top of page

2. The Numbers Game

The job search is a numbers game:

More Leads =

More Opportunities to Receive Job Offers =

No search method is a sure thing. It could generate many leads, but no interviews. Or, it could produce one lead, which gets you the "winning" interview and a job offer. You just never know. Luck can be a major factor in determining the outcome of your job search. But it doesn't have to be the only factor. That's because not all jobs leads are as productive as others. And, if your leads aren't productive, having more of them does not translate into more employment opportunities. To illustrate this point, take a look at the following statistics:

Of the people who have gotten jobs in the last fifteen years,

35% heard about an opening from someone
30% contacted their present employer directly
14% answered a want ad
   6% were referred by private employment agencies
   5% were referred by state employment agencies
   2% took civil service tests
   8% used other methods (e.g., placing ads in career
   journals, attending career fairs, and mass mailing

There's no doubt job seekers can find a lot of leads by reading the want ads, using placement services and/or advertising their availability to employers. Such are the tried-and-true methods of the traditional job search. People have been doing it this way for a long time, and the reason is leads. These methods turn up leads, often in staggering quantities. Think about it: How many leads could you get right now from people you know that you couldn't find in the want ads? Add that to the number of employers you're on a first-name basis with and ...well, enough said. You'd probably find twice as many leads in the Sunday paper.

But would you find the lead-that-got-the-interview-that-got-you-the-job? Maybe. If you polled 100 recently employed people, on average, 35 would have found that lead through traditional search methods. That leaves 65 who wouldn't have. They did better with fewer leads.

More people get jobs with fewer leads, and fewer people get jobs with more leads.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

 Top of page

3. Quality Vs. Quantity

Are 65% of job seekers luckier than their peers? No. They just have better leads, meaning ones with better-than-average chances of leading to interviews. Most leads - those found through traditional search methods - don't yield many interviews. Why? Because they are passive approaches to the job hunt. Answering want ads, using placement agencies and mass-mailing résumés are essentially passive exercises because, once you correspond with HR departments and recruiters, you must wait for them to contact you. And, the odds aren't very good that they will respond with an interview opportunity.

  • Ads in newspapers elicit hundreds of responses, so the numbers dictate that less than one-thirtieth of those respondents will ever get an interview-let alone a job! 

  • Recruiters usually specialize in certain fields or industries, which means that you must match up before you are even considered for placement. Furthermore, out of every 100 job seekers who use this method, only between 5 and 24 will find a job thereby. That leaves 76-95 people who won't find jobs through recruiters.

  • Just sending out résumés can be a waste of time. If your résumé ever makes it anywhere other than the back logs of an electronic database, your chances of getting a job are approximately 7%. 

Why are these numbers so low despite the leads being so plentiful? Competition: These jobs openings are advertised to the general public so everyone-and-his-mother can apply for the position. The numbers simply aren't in your favor. Employers can conduct only so many interviews, which means that the first thing they must do is weed-out 90% of the applicants. Having more leads does increase your chances of being the one person in ten who actually gets an interview. But, how many times will you be lucky enough to be that person? Maybe twice, three times...

Most openings are with smaller organizations. The most recent data suggests that about 70% of all non-governmental workers now work for small employers. These are employers with 250 or fewer employees. It follows, moreover, that most of the new jobs are with  small organizations, and this has been true for some time now.

These facts have a number of consequences for your job search. Smaller employers tend not to have personnel offices, so asking to fill out an application or send in a résumé to the personnel department just doesn't make much sense with them. And, because there are many more small employers than large ones, they are often harder to find or even to know about. 

This is just one of many reasons why you will find using the Job Search software mentioned on this web site very cost and time effective, as most of the over 8,100 Vancouver and area employers included in its database are small companies. JobPro makes your "cold calls" warmer, easier to do, and more effective because employers appreciate the fact that you know their needs having researched their organization.

Even larger corporations have begun to decentralize, and are delegating hiring decisions to smaller, local branches not having Human Resources departments. The Result: Larger organizations act more like small ones in the way they hire people. Hence, the traditional job search approaches - namely, the passive ones - are less effective than ever.

Question: How do you locate these jobs and/or get interviews with these companies?

Answer: By utilizing your network of contacts to make your availability and qualifications known to people who have the power to hire you.

That is, by Networking...

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

 Top of page

4. Networking Basics

A network is an informal group of people who have something in common. As a job seeker, your network is made up of all the people who can help you, as well as the people they know who can help you. Networking is the process you use to identify and contact these people, letting them know of your availability and qualifications for a particular job.

Building a personal network is a vital part of your career  development. Each planned contact can lead to unexpected ones, if you ask the right questions and explore the possibilities. You can learn how to make your contacts work to your advantage by providing you with advice, information and referrals. As you can see, networking is a deliberate process, the goal of which is to get a face-to-face interview with someone who has the power to hire you. The underlying principle of networking is this: You are more likely to get an appointment to see people you don't know personally if someone they know refers you to them. Through a sequence of referrals, you will get your qualifications in front of dozens of people very quickly - any one of whom could lead you to an interview with a potential employer.

There are two routes you can take to reach that person:

  • You can develop a list of "target" companies you want to work for, and then identify the people who could hire you there. As you speak with your contacts, you would seek referrals to the people on your list. You might be surprised to find out how many people you know that know someone, who knows someone, who knows the very person with whom you want to interview.

  • The other route is less direct: You can simply follow the network wherever it leads, and trust that it will lead to someone who will hire you. Whenever a job lead turns up, you'll want to pursue it immediately and vigorously.

 Top of page

5. Developing Your Network: Honing in on Your Targets

Apart from targeting certain people and companies, where can you start your networking? While you never know in advance exactly who will help you and who will not, don't overlook anyone or decide in advance that he or she won't assist you. Keep in mind that you probably have more (and better) contacts than you might think; they are simply a few steps down the networking chart. What follows is a list of potential sources for personal contacts. Consider each sphere of "relations" carefully; you never know who might be able to help in your job search.

  • Former coworkers including managers
    Former employers (if this interests you and is an option)
    Recent and not-so-recent customers, suppliers and service providers

    Networking groups you belong to including:
       Your Linked-In network contacts
       Your Meetup group contacts
       Your Facebook contacts

    Directories including the JobPro BC Employers Directory!
    Social acquaintances: softball team, golf buddies, etc.
    Classmates from any level of school or training course
    Teachers/instructors, including your children's teachers
    Trade groups: meetings, conventions
    Alumni organizations: directories or placement operations
    Volunteer organizations
    Family, friends and neighbors
    Parents of your children's friends
    Your parents' friends
    Health club members and staff
    Lawyer, accountant, real estate agent
    Doctor, dentist, optician
    Anyone you know who knows people and is approachable
    Politicians and other influential people in the community

 Top of page

6. How to Make and Keep A Contact

Networking is not begging. You should not be asking for a job; you should be seeking information that may lead to a job. Contrary to popular conceptions of it, the purpose of networking is not to get a job. It's to get introductions to companies that may have job openings and to people who may know about certain open positions within a particular field. Ask for help and you'll probably receive it. Ask for a job and you'll be directed to Human Resources.

Here are six rules for effective networking:

Rule #1: Get Started - Set Up a Meeting

The basic criterion for a person to be in your network is that he or she is willing to talk to you. This should include just about everyone, so select those who seem most likely to know lots of other people. The objective of your first interaction is to obtain an appointment with that person/contact. Hence, some short explanatory conversation is in order, one that explains the purpose of your meeting - namely, to exchange information. ...Keep in Mind: Pushing too hard for an appointment or for information will surely backfire on you: You could offend the very person you want to impress.  Remember to respect their time.

Rule #2: Present Yourself Well

It is essential that each contact in your network ends up thinking well of you. To increase the chances that they will, it helps to be friendly, well organized, polite and interested in what they have to say. No one has to see you, so be on your best behavior, as though you were meeting with a perfect stranger, even if you know the person well.

Rule #3: Learn Something

Be open to learn from your contacts, even if they don't know very much about the type of job you are seeking. Do try, however, to keep things centered on your goal, which is to make more contacts and to get more job leads. Of course, in situations where the contact does know about the type of job you want, there will be much to learn from them. They can tell you about what is going on in the field and other details that will be helpful for you to know.

Rule #4: Get Two Referrals

Getting referrals is essential to developing a network, so don't give up until you have at least two names of other people who might help you in your job search. You can get referrals from virtually anyone, but only if you are persistent in asking for them. Here are three questions that will generally get you one or more referrals, but often only after you ask the second or third questions:

Do you know of anyone who might have an opening for a person with my skills? If no, then,

Do you know of anyone else who might know of someone who would? If still no, then,

Do you know someone who knows a lot of people (in this or that field)?

Get used to asking each of the three questions until you get what you want - either a lead for a possible job opening, or the names of two people who might be of assistance to you in your search. When you receive a "yes" to any of these questions, make sure to get the details of the person to contact, including the correct spelling of his or her name and how to contact him or her. 

Rule #5: Follow Up on Referrals

When you get the name of a new contact, you should follow up immediately. In most cases, you are better off to make the contact yourself, rather than to wait for your existing contact to make the call for you. This approach allows you to make sure that there is no delay in making the contact and assures that you maintain control of the contact and networking processes.

As you make more contacts, you will quickly begin to be referred to people you don't know. The nature of the process encourages each person to refer you to someone who knows even more about the job you want than he or she does. As you get referred along, you will begin to meet some very knowledgeable people who will tell you things you need to know. The more of them you see, the more you learn, and the better prepared you are for future contacts and for interviews. With each level of referral, you are also more likely to meet people who have the ability to hire you or who know others who do.

You have thus entered the "hidden job market." Most of the people you meet through networking in this way do not have jobs open or are unlikely to hire someone like you. However, they do know other people and are often willing to refer them to you - or tell someone else about you who, in turn, has an opening.  In short, you are now in a position to be considered for future job openings. You have come to be known to them in the early stages of a job opening. While others are waiting for jobs to be advertised in the want ads, you are getting there before it is. You have a chance to get the job before it is ever advertised.

Here are some questions that you might ask during a referral or informational interview:

  • How did you get into the field?
    How does your organization differ from others in the field?
    How is it similar to others in the field?
    What trends do you see in this career field? How can I take advantage of them?
    Do you have any ideas how a person with my background and skills might find a job in this field?
    From your point of view, what problems are most important to overcome in this career area?

Recent graduates or those new to the field should also consider asking questions like: 

  • What are the things you like best (or least) about your work?
    Can you describe a typical day or week in your office?
    What was your career path? Is it typical?
    What is the job market currently like in this field?
    What are some of the positive and negative aspects of this field?
    What are the important skills I should have to be successful in this field?

Rule #6: Send Thank-You Notes

Sending someone a thank-you note is a simple gesture of appreciation. These people have spent some of their valuable time helping to further your job search, so it is more than good manners to follow-up with a brief message expressing your gratitude to them. Thank-you notes also have practical benefits since the person who receives it is more likely to remember you and perceive you as being thoughtful and well organized. Impressions matter, and thank-you notes help to create positive ones.

Find better employment faster using the JobPro Directory

 Top of page

7. Networking Over the Phone

The phone is an important tool to use in your job search, particularly when it comes to securing informational interviews with people to whom your contacts refer you. In this type of situation, it is necessary to know what to say in the short conversation that will serve as the prelude to - and rationale for - your face-to-face meeting. You should be able to complete your conversation within five minutes. Thus, it is necessary to develop a script for your conversation. Be sure to go through each of these steps:

Identify yourself.  
Establish connectivity. Mention the name of the person you both know and whom you have spoken to recently.
Tell why you're calling. Fore example, you might say: "It's time for me to make a move. I was just laid off along with a thousand others, and I'm looking for advice about and guidance on my job search."

Do not say you are "...looking for a job..." or anything similar, for you run the risk of being interrupted with a "no."
Ask specifically for a 15-20 minute appointment, either in person or over the phone.
During the appointment, you should discuss the industry, the areas of opportunity and the people worthwhile to contact.

8. Networking in a Formal Setting

Sometimes, you will have the occasion to network at gatherings, such as cocktail parties and conventions. Here are some strategies for breaking the ice while not seeming too aggressive:

Don't worry about having something clever to say. Successful networkers do not waste their time trying to think of the "perfect" opening line. Instead, they approach potential contacts by making a simple comment to establish common ground. They use small talk to pave the way to more important topics.

...Handling Crowds: If you want to approach someone talking with a group of people, but not seem like you're barging in on the conversation, consider saying something like: "May I join you, or is this a private conversation?" Most likely, you will be welcomed into the group.
Help people to remember your name. Studies show that people usually forget names within thirty seconds of hearing them for the first time. Always introduce yourself by name as soon as you meet someone, but assume he or she won't remember your name. After you've talked for a few minutes, remind the person of your name. This saves him or her the embarrassment of asking for your name again. It also increases the chances that he or she will remember it.
Spend at least five minutes with everyone you meet. This is usually enough time to establish connectivity without seeming too rushed. If the other person starts glancing around the room or fidgeting, you should take this as your cue to move on.
Spend 80% of the time listening. The best way to show new acquaintances you're interested in what they have to say is to pay close attention to them. 
Keep your business cards in a pocket. That way, you won't have to waste valuable time looking for your cards when you only have a few minutes to chat with someone.
Depart gracefully. In most situations, it is acceptable to ask if the person will excuse you because you see someone you need to speak to. However, if you're speaking to someone with higher seniority at a business event, use an exit line complementary to his or her status. For example, "I don't want to monopolize your time. I know there are a lot of people here who want to speak with you."

 Top of page

9. Networking Online

Advantages: E-networking allows you to create a virtual network of contacts, who can provide critical information on job leads, industry trends and unadvertised position openings. These are all contacts that you would never have made using traditional networking methods.

Furthermore, online interactions do not involve phone calls or face-to-face meetings, so this eliminates any first-encounter "jitters" you may experience in real world settings. Perhaps the two most important benefits of e-networking relate to its immediacy:

Networking online does not require an introduction from a primary contact on your networking list.
You get immediate responses from people. Email eliminates the possibility of having to play phone tag. This increases the productivity of your networking endeavors.

To maximize your networking efforts, consider the following strategies for effective online contact making:

Initiate contacts widely, but continue selectively. Because you don't have personal introductions to pave the way when networking on the web, it is important to make every effort to put yourself in front of as many people as possible. You will probably go through many more responses than you will find useful networking partners. Thus, it is important to cast a wide net in the early stages of e-networking.
Identify yourself. Because you are using these dialogues for business purposes only (i.e., to enhance your job search efforts), there is no reason to use an alias or any other pretense that would make someone uncomfortable and therefore reticent to network with you. People who are also networking for business and/or career reasons will recognize that, and they will respond accordingly.
Follow standard business courtesy. Make your communications friendly but also respectful. You take your job search seriously, so you should take networking seriously, even if it takes place by email. Do not use acronyms or abbreviations (e.g. BTW, FYI, IMHO, etc.) in any of your business communications.
Develop an email template for your job search. When you identify an e-networking prospect, begin corresponding with him or her using an email template that displays the following information:

How you located or identified that person as a potential contact (e.g., both members of the same networking site, both went to the same university, etc.)

The nature of your connectivity (e.g., both worked for the same company, both worked in the same field/industry, both have similar goals, etc.)

A request for further information about a particular industry, about open positions, etc.

 Top of page

Information Interview / Job Interview Preparation

You can't just walk into an employer's office and say "so, what is this job you are interviewing me for and how do I fit into your scheme?" Employers expect you to know who they are, what they do, what the job entails, and how you fit into the company structure and culture before you meet with them.

Think of your job interview as the sales call where you get to sell your product. You've already sent your marketing brochure (your résumé and cover letter), and they're interested. The interview is your chance to make the final pitch to sell yourself to the hiring manager. Like any good sales professional, you have to know what they are buying in order to make the right pitch.

Start you employer research at the employer's website.
Consider this to be a book about the employer by the employer! Read it "cover to cover" and print pages which interest you or which have information you want to double-check.

  • Look at anything that says News or What's New. This will give you the latest information on what is happening and possible clues on new areas or projects you might fit into.

  • Read any mission statements or description of services to see how this organization describes itself. Use this to customize your cover letter to their interests.

  • Look for an annual report or strategic plan and read it carefully.

  • Check out the career opportunities, jobs, and/or human resource area. Realize that there be many job openings that are not posted online, but read over the instructions on applying. Use this as a guide to their application procedures, and look for information on their benefits.

  • Look over the whole site. What does the design of these pages say to you about this organization? Are they conservative or funky, are they well-organized or difficult to follow?

Don't be afraid to refer to the website when you are in your interview. It will reinforce your knowledge and skills on the Internet. Many employers don't know what their pages say or haven't seen them before. You might want to bring some copies of certain pages with you, (but don't point out their spelling errors!)

Then, check business directories and other employer information sources for outside profiles of the employers.

Finally, turn to the Search Engines, and look for more information anywhere you can find it. Why? Well, as one job seeker put it,

"The employer's website told me what they wanted me to know, but I found what I wanted to know by doing more searching online."

 Top of page

Finding Jobs with Information Technology Employers

Like in many industries, there are thousands of IT workers looking for better paying, more interesting work, and many of them are more experienced than you. Is it time to give up and cook burgers? Not yet, because companies very often hire on the basis of whether they think an individual will fit in.

Most programming and other IT work does not require brilliance, it requires a decent understanding, and the ability to work well with other people in a stressful environment.

While brilliance is great in areas where you have really tough problems, these employers are most often interested in finding team oriented people, with good communication skills - someone who 'feels' like they can follow the mode of operation that company employs.

Being technically competent is about 1/3 of what it takes to succeed in getting and holding on to employment. People and communication skills (also known as soft skills) are equally important: the ability to speak clearly, write comprehensible memos, document and design, present your ideas cogently, attend meetings and hold your own at them without being brow-beaten, get along with others on your team, etc., account for another 1/3.

Trust relationships are critical. You need to develop trusted relationships in the programming community. Employers will go with someone recommended to them by someone they trust, rather than choosing someone who looks brilliant on paper but who is otherwise unknown to them. 

According to job search experts, 80 to 90 percent of open IT positions are found in the tech departments of non-IT companies. Think of what this means in terms of your time and energy spent applying to IT vs. non-IT employers, attending networking events, etc.

Does your Résumé Get Past the Company Firewall?

Many people know that internet service providers like Telus and Shaw Cable use firewalls which interact with our email, deleting some messages, and marking others as "SPAM". What you may be less aware of are internal company "intranet" firewalls which scrutinize email to keep out spam and a spate of damaging computer viruses. They unintentionally also may block all sorts of legitimate e-mail, including email containing job seekers' résumés. In fact, while few companies are talking about it, recruiting-technology advisors say that résumés are among the files commonly deleted.

Since many employers advise applicants to send résumés via e-mail rather than the post office, the issue of disappearing résumés can cause problems for both job seekers and employers.

When emailing your résumé is a requirement, one step you can take to know that it arrived at its destination is to send registered email. Another way to know they received it is to ask for confirmation that it was received, but you often can't expect to receive a personalized acknowledgement when your résumé is one of hundreds submitted, and for this reason sending your résumé by registered email may be your best option.

Also, the notification you receive when they open your registered email lets you know that your résumé made it past spam filters, and that you may soon follow up with a phone call to its recipient. This saves you time and needless worrying, and increases your chance of getting hired.

However, when emailing is not a requirement, and when you highly value getting a particular employer's attention, printing your résumé and cover letter and (ideally) hand-delivering them to the employer is the best approach. This way no spam filter or delete button, or human resources department, office manager or other "gate keeper" is likely to prevent them from arriving on the desk of the person who based on your employer research is most likely to hire you or recommend hiring you.

To maximize the effectiveness of this approach, you need to provide this key, named company contact with a quality, personalized cover letter capable of getting their attention and motivating them to read your résumé. Your résumé, in turn, will be customized for this employer and contact, and clearly demonstrate how you can make them money or save them money and solve some of their problems. Do this well and expect to be interviewed, assuming the company believes that they have or can create a position for you.

The JobPro Directory enables you to send registered, easily modified template-based, personalized registered email cover letters and your résumé at the click of a button. These cover letter templates also open in Microsoft Word in one mouse click for when you will be hand-delivering your résumé or employment proposal to targeted employers.


 Top of page

Copyright © 2018   JobPro Directory  All rights reserved.