Spelling 101

The importance of spell check cannot be overstated.  Weather you are preparing your resume, an email, a presentation, or another form of business communication you cannot skip this step.  It should go without saying but it is often overlooked.  ALWAY, ALWAYS, ALWAYS hit spell check.

I was once preparing a job-search email, hit spell check and realized I had misspelled the recipient’s name.  Had I not caught the error, my job-search query would have been over before it even began.  In my career I have seen countless resumes and cover letters with typos.  Those are the ones that do not make it to the top of the stack.  A major and consistent complaint from job applicants is that they never hear back from employers after applying for a position.  Many candidates would do well to go back and double and triple check there documentation.  Their “hit” rate might increase if they do.

Once you have gone through the spell-check suggestions be sure to re-read your whole document slowly to ensure you have used the correct words (or have not omitted a word).  You many have spelled “there” correctly so it will not flag as an error.  But do you need to use “their” instead?  Or “whether” instead of “weather”?  Spell check won’t let you know that’s wrong.

Did you notice when you spotted the errors in this post how it distracted you from the message?  That’s what those types of errors do…take away from the message you are trying to convey.

Happy hunting!

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Simplify

A very good friend of mine shared this list with me years ago.  It’s an important list and I thought you would appreciate it as well.  It hits the mark and helps you keep first things first.

Walden Pond

Walden Pond (Photo credit: qwrrty)

The angels say “Never borrow from the future.  If you worry about what may happen tomorrow and it doesn’t happen, you have worried in vain.  Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice.”

Rules to live by –

1)      Pray

2)     Go to bed on time

3)     Get up on time so you can start the day unrushed

4)     Say no to projects that won’t fit into your time schedule or that will compromise your medical health

5)     Delegate tasks to capable others

6)     Simplify and unclutter your life

7)     Less is more (Although one is often not enough, two are often too many)

8)     Allow extra time to do things and to get to places

9)     Pace yourself.  Spread out big changes and difficult projects over time; don’t lump the hard things all together

10)   Take one day at a time

11)    Separate your worries from concerns.  If a situation is a concern, find out what God would have you do and let go of the anxiety.  If you can’t do anything about a situation, forget it

12)   Live within your budget; don’t use credit cards for ordinary purchases

13)   Have backups – an extra car key in your wallet, an extra house key buried in the garden, extra stamps

14)   K.M.S. (Keep Mouth Shut).  This single piece of advice can prevent an enormous amount of trouble

15)   Do something for the kid in you every day

16)   Carry a spiritually enlightening book with you to read while waiting in line

17)   Get enough rest

18)   Eat right

19)   Get organized so everything has its place

20) Listen to a tape while driving that can help improve your quality of life

21)  Write down thoughts and inspirations

22) Every day find time to be alone

23) Having problems? Talk to God on the spot. Try to nip small problems in the bud. Don’t wait until it’s time to go to bed to try to pray

24) Make friends with Godly people

25) Keep a folder of favorite scriptures  on hand

26) Remember that the shortest bridge between despair and hope is often a good “Thank you God.”

27) Laugh

28) Laugh some more

29) Take your work seriously, but not yourself at all

30) Develop a forgiving attitude (most people are doing the best they can)

Leaving a message

Have you ever had the experience of having to listen to a long-winded message and in your mind you’re thinking “I sure wish they would hurry up and get to the point and give me their phone number?”  And when they finally do give their number – at the very end of a 3 minute message – they say it so fast you either couldn’t hear it clearly or write it down fast enough?  Me too.  There’s really nothing that annoys me more.

To me it’s a sign of respect.  The caller ultimately wants something from you.  They are not respecting your time because they are leaving long-winded messages and then speeding through the most important part.  That means you must now consider listening to that whole message again.  There is a cure for that.

And it all starts with you.  When you are on the job hunt it is critically important that you leave brief, concise and clear messages.  Do not ramble.  But most important of all, leave your name and phone number twice in your message; once at the beginning, and again at the end.

Example:

“Hi John.  This is Chris Gustafson at 972.555.5555 following up on the next steps from the interview we had last week.  You mentioned I would be meeting with Sally next.  I wanted to let you know my availability has changed a bit.  I can be available anytime next Monday or next Tuesday afternoon starting after 12:00 noon.  John, again, this is Chris at 972.555.5555.  I look forward to speaking with you soon to get that interview set up.”

That’s all there is to it.  Get in.  Get out.  Be professional.  We will go into the anatomy of that call in later posts.

“Outside of dog, a book is man’s best friend. Of course, inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

Magic of Thinking Big Cover

Magic of Thinking Big Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the course of my career one of my all-time favorite questions to ask a candidate is “What is the last book you read?”  The obvious follow-up is “What book are you currently reading?”  The responses (and reactions) have fallen from one end of the spectrum to the other.  They also reveal a great deal about the candidate.  Many candidates do a bit of dancing around the subject and then list all the articles and web sites they read to stay current.  But that was not the question.

I will always remember one candidate in particular.  It was 2003 and I was interviewing a candidates for a sales position.  Near the end of the interview I asked my favorite question.  He was taken off guard and unprepared for it.  After finally admitting he hadn’t finished a book since college, and now clearly defensive,  he thought he would turn the tables and asked me to name the last book I read.  I did him one better.

I told him I finished my last book just the week before and it was The Magic of Thinking of Big.  And I also listed out the three books I read before that.  I then told him what I was currently reading and the next two I had lined up after that.

We are able to get information from many sources thanks to advances in technology.  But where do we gain knowledge?  Nothing can replace a book.  The ideas shared in books ranging from history, personal finance, biographies, business, motivational and inspirational and so many others, can not be duplicated.

Diving into a book can replenish our mind in a way reading an article can not.  Books make us think, they make us wrestle our in-grained beliefs with new ideas.  They help us draw new conclusions and create paradigm shifts.  If we are open to it, they can help us see the world in a new way.

I don’t know if you are familiar with Andy Andrews or Og Mandino.  Both are great writers and can weave great stories.  If you don’t know them, I highly recommend their work.  Some of my other favorite books include:

  • As A Man Thinketh by James Allen
  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  • How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Thinking For a Change and Failing Forward both by John Maxwell
  • Destination Success by Dwight Bain
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason

These titles revolve around business and self-improvement.  But I will include additional titles from other areas including literature in subsequent posts.  But I would like to know who some of your favorite authors might be.  Feel free to list some of them.  You might point someone in a direction they have never been.

Want a resume that writes itself?

Moment of truth…does anybody enjoy updating their resume?  That’s what I thought.  I think it’s safe to say most people don’t.

Your resume is one of the most difficult documents you will ever have to write.  That’s because there is usually so much at stake to getting it right.  And even if you happen to get everything right that doesn’t mean it will ensure a quick transition or that you’ll get called every time you submit it.   If you are updating your resume there is a really good chance you are experiencing some major changes.  I believe that writing a resume is a very stressful exercise.

Add to the mix the fact that it’s tough to remember all the details of all the great things you accomplished over the years.  That all adds up to a lot of pressure.  Over time memory fades.  The details become blurred.  What’s the best way to overcome all that?  I have found it to be a resume that writes itself.

The best resumes are full of specific details.  Those details include almost anything you can substantiate by numbers including but not limited to:

  • Money saved
  • Specific percentage increases in good things such as revenue, sales, quota, productivity, growth, etc.
  • Specific percentage decreases in bad things such as turnover, cost over-runs, expenses, etc.

You might be saying “Well that’s great Chris but how do I manage to pull all of that from the deep, dark recesses of my memory and get it on paper?”  If you use this very simple system, you will not have to remember any of it.  It has proven itself time and again over the years.

Every time you start a new position take a file folder (yes, an actual manila file folder to keep in your drawer) and label it RESUME.  If you feel uncomfortable with that particular label, you can certainly use anything you like.  I like keeping an actual file folder in my desk drawer for a few reasons.  First, it’s easy to reach over and grab.  Secondly,  it’s not a file in your email system on your work computer.  Storing things on your work computer can be a gamble.  Third, on your last day, you can grab the folder, throw it in your bag and take it with you.  Your computer stays behind.

On a post-it note, write the month, day and year you started your new job as well as the complete address and phone number.  You think you will never forget your work number or the zip code at the office but it never fails, you will.  We all have so many other things to remember that are more important.  That information will be needed when it comes time to completing applications for your next job.  It’s a sad fact that these days, the average job lasts a mere three years.

Now, every time you accomplish something at work like smashing a company record or completing a project early and/or under budget, write the specific details on another post-it note and slap it in your file.  I like using post-its because they won’t fall out of the file folder.  You can use index cards or a regular sheet of paper if you like but I am used to post-its.  They are always sitting on your desk and they’re quick to grab.  Jot the details of the accomplishment along with the date and off to the file it goes.

What are the specific details to include?  The ones you can substantiate with numbers; the amount the project came in under budget, the amount of time the project was completed early, the amount of money the company will save.  If you write the details down as they happen, you won’t have to remember them later.  This system is fast, easy and painless.  No more wracking your brain for details years down the road.  By the time you need to update your resume again, pull out your folder and see that you have already written it.  All you need to do now is make it look presentable.

No matter what your line of work, you’re in sales.

After recruiting sales people almost exclusively for the past 13 years, I have come to view the job-search process as a sales process. Here’s why I think you should too.

If you are looking for a new job, you will be required to sell yourself, your skills, experience and training. Like it or not, you are now officially in sales. It makes no difference what your background may be. If you make the connection and see the similarities between the sales process and the job-search process, it will be much easier to navigate through it.

Some people have a difficult time tooting their own horn. Others find it difficult to even list the successes they have had in their career on their resume. They become uneasy in their own skin when circumstances require them to do so. If it has been awhile since you have had to create a resume I understand how difficult it can be. And by ‘awhile’ I mean 10 years or more. Things have changed dramatically since the last time you had to dust off your resume. I’ll address crafting a resume in subsequent posts.

At its most basic, the sales process consists of only a few steps:

  • Prospecting – What companies or people do you want to seek out? This also includes networking and getting referrals.
  • Setting appointments – How many interviews are you scheduling?
  • Making your presentation – Performing well in the interview.
  • Handling objections – Address their questions about your background and sell your skill and experience as the solution to their needs.
  • Closing the sale – Ask for the job!

Let’s start with prospecting:

You have lost your job and now you’re looking for another. Tell everyone you know. Your first thought might be to keep the information to yourself and I understand that. However, you need to overcome that initial instinct so you can prepare for what’s to come.

Telling your story often you will find you can never know where the next lead or opportunity will come from. They can literally appear from out of nowhere. Until you opened your mouth, you had no idea your neighbor of 15 years is a good friend with the hiring authority for that choice position you are after. Or, the high school or college buddy you haven’t seen or talked to in the past 20 years reaches out unexpectedly. You talk and find out he or she is well-connected in the industry you are trying to get into.

In these situations, you will need your connections to refer you to the people you need to get to. Likewise, the more people you talk to, the more referrals they are likely to provide. They can provide job leads you were unaware of, they can give you names and contact info of people at your target companies and they can uncover additional sources of leads. All of those activities can be considered prospecting. And you thought you weren’t good at sales.

Next is setting appointments:

On this step there is no direct correlation between the sales process and the job search. In sales, one can call prospect after prospect until they have the necessary number of appointments set to meet their goal. When looking for a job, unfortunately you cannot call every company you would like to work for and set interviews with the hiring managers. It would be nice if it worked that way but I’m quite certain those hiring authorities will have something to say about that. Instead, be ready when your phone does ring and a recruiter wants to schedule an interview. The goal is to have so many opportunities working at one time that you can have multiple interviews in any given week.

There is a good chance that your first interview will be a phone interview. If you successfully pass that test they will be scheduling the follow-up face-to-face (F2F) interview. And like the professional sales person you are, you want to schedule that next interview before you are off the phone. It may not always happen. But at the very least you want to ask the question: “Let’s go ahead and set that interview now. Is Thursday at 2:00 or Friday at 11:00 better for the hiring manager?”

Phrasing it that way is called the alternate advance. Give them an option to choose from. If neither of them works for the hiring manager they have to say so and will more than likely come back with yet another alternative.

Making your presentation:

This is the F2F interview. You are prepared, your resume is letter-perfect and you are exhibiting confidence and energy. Thinking like a professional sales person, what are they really good at doing? Asking questions. A professional sales person likes to get the other person talking. They listen more than they talk. Your job in the interview is to ask questions as well. What are the potential employer’s pain points? What are their biggest problems? If you were to start tomorrow what needs addressing right away? Find out by asking.

Handling objections:

By uncovering their issues you can craft your responses specifically to their needs; all based on your skills and experience. It is important to keep in mind that nothing about this process is about you. It is all about them and their needs. Solve their problems and you will be certain to stand out above all the other candidates.

Closing the sale:

After you have made your presentation and overcome their objections it is time to review a few things before closing the sale. You should review the process with them and ask about next steps. Some good questions to ask are:

  • Is there anyone else I need to speak with as a part of process? (Companies these days are notorious for not wanting to make a hiring decision. To support this behavior, many of them will throw in additional interviews at that final stage for additional reinforcement of their decision to hire or not hire.)
  • What is the rest of the process? (Do they know or does it sound like they are making things up as they go?)
  • When do you intend to make a decision? (Listen carefully to their answer. You will be holding them accountable to this if it drags on.)
  • How many other candidates am I competing against? (You want to know as much about your competition as possible.)
  • When can I expect an offer? (You know what their offer would look like because the salary has already been discussed. More on this in subsequent posts.)

If they dance around any of the questions pin them down. You can do that in a professional manner. Do not leave the interview not knowing the next steps and timeline. Sure, things can change but that just gives you permission to continue following up.

If you can envision yourself working there be sure to ask for the job. Tell them you can see yourself working there and would like the opportunity to do so. Keep in mind there are professional sales people who have difficulty doing this and it is their career. Feeling a little nervous is ok. But it is important to overcome that fear.

The salesperson that never asks for the business will never feed their family. It’s the same way in looking for a new position. When interviewing, you can never expect an offer if you do not ask for it. You would be surprised how many candidates never ask for the position at any point in the process.