You have 10 Seconds – Go!

I attended a symposium recently focused on ending homelessness among veterans. One segment was a panel of larger local employers giving advice to agencies who work with Vets, and two of the speakers gave very similar advice.

The first said “When I look at resumes I spend about 5 seconds on each one. If I can’t find something in 5 seconds that tells me I need to learn more about this candidate, then I move on to the next one.” The second panelist looked at the first with a quizzical expression and said, “Wow, you’re harsh. I take at least 10 seconds per resume,” and laughed. There you have it. You have – at best – 10 seconds to impress a recruiter with your resume.

Are you familiar with the old newspaper adage “above the fold”? Back in the day, when newspapers were still printed on paper and everyone read them, reporters would fight to get their stories on the front page. But the really great real estate is on the upper-half of the front page – up above the fold. That was where the most important news went.

Your resume needs to be treated the same way. You need enough content on the top-half of the first page to make the recruiter keep reading. Then if there’s a second page, the rest of the first page needs to make them want to turn the page. That is one reason that newspapers start lots of stories on page one, but rarely end stories on page one. They want you to open the paper so you’ll see the ads and read other stories.

The other resume advice I heard at this event was one I’ve said here before. Every time you send out a resume to a company it should be tailored to that job and that organization. Emphasize the parts of your background based on the job you’re applying for.

So when you’re getting ready for to send out that next resume, push that pertinent stuff, be it education, experience, accomplishments, what-have-you, up above the fold on page one. Make sure that in 5 to 10 seconds the reader will be hooked that you might be the one. If you do that you’re chances of success will skyrocket.

Join the Club

Join the club – a phrase with many meetings. When you first lost your job and met a fellow unemployed person the conversation might have been “I just lost my job,” followed by “Join the club.” The phrase means – me too, or you’re not alone. But join the club has a different connotation for job seekers. Maybe you need to join the “job search” club.

Across America you’ll find thousands of job clubs. These are groups of people that gather, usually weekly, to network, share job leads and just support each other. Job clubs are an excellent way to give your search a boost.

Job Clubs are often run by churches or other community groups. Frequently they are hosted by an area HR professional. Those that I’ve attended work a little like I imagine an AA group to work. There is strength in being able to admit to a group of peers, “Hi, my name is Bob and I’m unemployed.”

The practice of regularly attending a job club gives your search structure. Much like going to work you have a place to be and a time to be there, you have to prepare (so you have something to contribute), you get to contribute, and if you’re lucky enough to be at the right club, you may also get some refreshments.

Some job clubs work like book clubs, and they’ll agree to read and talk about a book on job search (maybe soon they’ll be talking about I’m Fired??!). Some involve going around the room and reporting on your progress. Most celebrate their graduations when a member finds a job.

Job clubs are full of people, just like you, who are looking for work and could use a little help. Check out the job clubs in your neighborhood and start attending. Then, when someone tells you “I just lost my job” you can say “join the club” and mean it.

BTW – on this Memorial Day Weekend, take a short break from your job search, spend time with family and remember those who have gone before, and made possible our lives and our freedom.



Body Language

Last week I posted about self-confidence and first impressions. I thought it was pretty good – had some hard science in it – very helpful stuff. Then about 4 days later my daughter sends me a link that just blew me away. To a degree it reinforced what I was saying, but then amped it up about 10 times.

In this Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard University talks about not only how your body language influences others (what I was talking about) but more importantly how it influences you. If you are a job seeker you MUST watch this. I won’t steal her thunder, but she says through some very simple techniques you can dramatically influence the outcome of your interviews.

Her talk is about how your body language influences your mind and your powerfulness (or powerless-ness). She explains how her research proves that by simply changing your posture for two minutes before an interview, you will not only appear more confident, but you will actually change your brain chemistry and feel more powerful and confident.

Here is the link. WATCH THIS VIDEO and then come back here next week and find out how to continue to make your search more effective.

First Impressions

I will bet that when you were very young your mother told you more than once, “You only have one chance to make a first impression – don’t blow it.” She was right, but she probably didn’t know how right she was.

Some fairly recent neuroscience has confirmed that we make first impressions within milliseconds and those impressions are hard to change. Think about it. As our ancestors were living in caves and struggling for survival every day, they didn’t have time to interview every new person they met to decide if they should fight or flee. They developed the mental processes to immediately assess if this was a person they liked or disliked so they could react and keep their family safe. We have come a long way since then, but we still have much of that caveman brain.

When you meet a new person, the way that they perceive you in the first few seconds will have a huge impact on their impressions of you. It is even true on the telephone. Scientists have found that just by how you say hello tells the caller a lot about you including your trustworthiness.

Now get ready – this is going to sound like your mother again. When you go for an interview make sure you are neat, clean, well groomed and appropriately dressed. Stand up straight, put your shoulders back and a smile on your face, look them in the eye, say hello in a clear, confident voice and offer them a firm handshake. If you can do those things, the rest of the interview will go well. If you are rumpled, smell bad, look at the ground, mumble a greeting and offer a limp handshake, then pack up your resume and head for the door.

Sound harsh? Maybe – but its life. Self-confidence gets jobs. Lack of confidence gets unemployment. You must believe in yourself. You need to know what you can do and be ready, willing and able to tell others about it. That takes preparation and practice. Get yourself ready. Write out answers to questions and practice saying them out loud. Work on your elevator speech until it rolls off your tongue. Have close friends help you examine your look, your wardrobe, your handshake. Practice your diction and learn to speak clearly. Go to networking events just to practice meeting people and making a first impression. Practice until it is who you are – because it is who you are, you’ve just been hiding behind a lack of confidence.

Regardless of your circumstances, skills, formal training, what-have-you, you can be confident that you are unique. You are a person of value and a child of God. You have worth, you can contribute, you can learn and you can be a positive force for good in your community. You may or may not be ready to be the next CEO, but you can be successful in whatever job you are applying for. If you believe it, they will too.

Strengths and Weaknesses

I’m not a psychic but I predict that at least one time in your job search some interviewer will ask you “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” While I don’t particularly like these questions (more on that later) you do need to be prepared to answer them. Usually the strengths are easier for people. Odds are you can say that you are honest, hardworking, dependable, loyal (remind you of the Boy Scout oath?). If you can, this is a chance to work in your previous related experience – you know the industry, know the job, etc. You understand the drill. You tell them whatever you think they need for this job is what you have – in spades. (More on that later too.)

Where people often struggle are with the weaknesses. Who wants to tell someone they just met what is wrong with them? Nobody! You were going for a good first impression. You don’t want to tell them that you’re a bear in the morning before your coffee or that you can get really cranky if you’re forced to work with people who are not as smart as you are. That just sounds like a bad idea – and to a large degree it is.

You know what issues you have, so try to find a “weakness” or two that you can put to the company’s advantage. For instance, can you turn impatience into a sense of urgency? How about perfectionism in to attention to detail? Can you turn conflict avoidance into being a good mediator, or disorganization into free thinking? The idea here is to be honest, but to also be clear that a) you do recognize that you have this “weakness” and b) you can use or compensate for that weakness in a productive way. A good friend once pointed out the difference between disabled and differently-abled. Just because you have a weakness, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be great for this job – so tell them about it.

Now back to the second aside – “tell them what you think they want to hear”. I am not suggesting that you should be dishonest. You should pick the strengths that you have that are required for this job and sell those. For instance, you might be an incredible typist and speller but those may not be skills required of a manager or a machine operator. Focus on the job you’re applying for. Above all, be honest. With both strengths and weaknesses there is no expectation to reveal everything, but whatever you say you can do well – or you need to work on – needs to be true. Be honest with yourself and others all the time.

As for first aside, if you are an interviewer, these are lousy questions to ask because you will get the answers they think you want to hear. Instead, work those ideas inside of behaviorally based questions like “tell me about a time when you used your greatest work-related strength to help solve a critical problem” or “tell me a time about when one of your personal weaknesses caused you an issue at work.” These questions require that the strength or weakness be given some context and color. I can again make a prediction – you’ll get more useful information.

According to Wikipedia, no fewer than sixteen ancient Greek sages have been credited with the phrase “Know thyself” and it is still applicable today. As you dive into your job search, spend some time reflecting on what you do well and what you need to work on. Write down instances where you’ve done both, and think about how you can use your weaknesses to your future employers advantage.