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Before You Start Sending Out Resumes: 3 Things You Should Do First

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If you want or really need to find a new job the temptation often is too jump right in, get a resume together as fast as you can, start responding to job postings, and send it to potential employers. While that works for some people, for many it won’t. (To work, you’ve got to be one of those very talented people that know what they have to offer, can summarize it almost first blush, and are lucky enough to link up with someone looking exactly for your skill set at that moment).

It would be great if we all were that lucky, and finding jobs was that easy, but for most of us, it’s not. And your search may go on for quite awhile depending on the number of jobs available that need someone with your skill set, and the number of other people looking for the same type of work. So instead of jumping head long into your search, consider taking the time to do these 3 preliminary steps that will help you plan and focus your search.

1. Take Stock of the Situation

This is the time to ask yourself some deep questions so you can set realistic expectations and goals for your search.  Questions to ask your self include:

  • What Kind of Job Do You Want?  For example, if you just lost your job do you want the same kind of job that you just had, or do you want to try a new career in something else?

  • How soon do you need something? 

  • Does it need to be full time?

  • Could it be contract through an employment agency if full-time jobs aren’t available or you’re having trouble landing one?

  • Where does it need to be?  Do you want to or can you relocate?  How far are you willing to commute?  Do you want to or can you work from home?

  • What does it need to pay?

– Best Case Scenario

– Under “good enough” circumstances.

– To allow you to survive if jobs with the level of income you’re looking for aren’t turning up.

 

2. Make a Back-up Plan

Especially in today’s tight job market you need to have a plan if something doesn’t turn up.  While it’s difficult to deal with the prospect of your job search taking longer than you want, you need to consider what to do if it’s not working, so you can start laying the groundwork for those efforts as well.  Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What resources can you tap into, if any?
  • What assistance is available?
  • Who can you seek help from?
  • How much help will you need in the worst case?
  • When do you need to start getting them on board?

3.  Set Some Goals for Your Search

Your answers to these questions depend on your own unique circumstances.  They can vary from, “If I find something great, but since I have a job, I can keep looking until I find what’s right” to “I have to get something within the next few weeks or I’m in real trouble”.

The important thing is that the answer will help you set realistic goals for your search and construct a plan based on those goals.  And now that you’ve set some goals you need to write them down and keep them handy.  You might consider a format like:

My Job Search – Goals


What I’m looking For:

Where I want to or can work:

Desired Level of Pay and Benefits:

Acceptable Level of Pay and Benefits:

When I Need to Have Something:

My Back-up Plan if Something Doesn’t Turn Up:

Other Goals You Identify:

 

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Interview Ready Resumes

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One of the first things an Interviewer will do to get ready to interview you is to review your resume.  So, even before you walk in the door, your interview has actually started.  That’s why it’s critical to have your resume interview ready.

The  Connection Between Your Resume’s Format and Interview Questions

One of the most common interview techniques used by good interviewers is Behavior Based Interviewing.  Behavior Based Interviews are based on the assumption that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  Put simply, this means the interviewer wants to ask questions that help them understand how you’ve used the knowledge, skills and behaviors needed to be successful in the job your’re interviewing for in the past.

These type of questions, known as SOAR for short, usually ask you to describe a situation you’ve faced using a required job component, any obstacles you had to overcome, the actions you took, and the results you achieved.

Consequently, to make it easy for the interviewer, your resume should be in that same type of format, and have a voice that highlights how you’ve used the skills the job requires, the challenges you’ve overcome, and the results you achieved.

How to Put Your Resume in SOAR format

The first step to getting your resume in SOAR format is to identify those situations in each of your jobs where you’ve demonstrated the types of knowledge, skills and behaviors needed for the type of position you’re looking for. (A good place to collect this type of information is on your Resume Questionnaire).

Then for each situation, you should write a short description of it in the following type of format:

  • What was the situation or task you faced? 
  • What challenges or obstacles did you face?
  • What actions did you take in response to these challenges?
  • What was the result?

Next, take the  results that best highlight what you accomplished and summarize them as the bullets under you job responsibilities.  Start the statement with a verb that describes the action you took, followed by the situation/task you faced. 

Next, put the accomplishments/results under significant results. 

Sample Statement for a Sales Representative

Here’s how a Sales Representative for a specialty foods company might write a SOAR statement highlighting their ability to identify and attract new customers. (For purposes of this example, assume you’re the Sales Rep.)

The Situation:

The Company had a new line of lunch foods that are targeted for coffee shops, bagel shops, food service boutiques in grocery and large retail stores, malls, etc.

Obstacle/Challenge 

They didn’t have a presence in those markets.  Your job was to locate new potential customers, introduce them to the new product, and get them to start buying it.  The company had a goal of reaching 20 new customers in the next year.

Action 

You identified potential customers in the area, developed a introductory pitch on the product’s features and benefits, and initiated sales calls with them.

Result

You got 30 new customers with a sales volume 30% above the initial goal .

Sample Statement on Resume
Under Job Responsibilities
  • Developed and led sales initiative to introduce and successfully sell company’s specialty food line to coffee shops, bagel shops and boutique restaurants in Mid-Atlantic territory.  Identified potential customers, developed introductory sales pitch on products’ features and benefits, and initiated introductory and appropriate follow-up sales calls.

Under Significant Results

  • Exceeded new specialty food customer goals by 40%, and sales volume goals by 50%.

Where to Go From Here

As mentioned previously, a great way to gather the information you need to identify how you’ve used key skills and knowledge and behaviors in each of the jobs you’ve had is to use a resume questionnaire.  If you want to use a questionnaire already developed , you can purchase KAW Consulting’s Resume Questionnaire” online. Priced at $5.95, it’s very easy to afford. To find out more and instructions on how to purchase,  click here.

Note: Available to U.S. purchasers only.

Why You Need a Resume Questionnaire

Great Resumes  literally shout, “Look at Me!!I’m What You Want! I can really make a difference to your company or organization because I have the skills and abilities that you need for this job!”

And if done correctly, great resumes are also linked to your ability to sell yourself effectively during interviews.

But great resumes don’t just happen.  They need to be the result of the first process you need to go through when looking for work — identifying what you have to offer, how someone can use it, and who might need it.

The process of identifying what you have to offer usually starts with developing a list of what you’ve done in your various jobs, the accomplishments you’ve achieved, and the skills you’ve used.  A great tool for doing so is to use a questionnaire that allows you to collect information on:

  • Your employment history including tasks, responsibilities, accomplishments, skills and personality strengths used in each of the jobs you’ve held.
  • Information on how to contact you.
  • Education
  • Military Service
  • Language Fluency
  • Licenses and Certifications
  • Memberships, Awards, Publications

Once complete, your resume questionnaire is going to serve both as the:

  • Reservoir for the information you need to put in your resume and cover letters.
  • Reference point for developing answers to potential interview questions.

If possible you should develop or use a questionnaire that you can store on your computer, laptop, tablet or phone so you can have it handy to refer to.  Even if you initially develop something on paper, you’ll probably want to store it electronically so you can get to it easily.

Where to Go From Here

If you want to develop a questionnaire yourself you can reference books on developing resumes that contain guidance on how to develop a questionnaire.

If you want to use a questionnaire already developed , you can purchase KAW Consulting’s “Resume Questionnaire”online, that provides a great way to gather the basic information discussed above that  you need for your resume and skill inventory.

Priced at $5.95, it’s very easy to afford. To find out more and instructions on how to purchase,  click here.

Note: Available to U.S. purchasers only.

The 5 Stages of a Successful Job Search

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In my previous entry (“Why Successful Job Searches Are Like Successful Marketing Campaigns”)  I discussed how a successful job search campaign is like a successful marketing campaign.  In each success depends on:

  • Offering the customer (the potential employer in the case of your job search) something of value (your expertise and experience).
  • Marketing materials (your resume, cover letter and portfolio) that create interest in what you have to offer.
  •  Identifying who needs your expertise.
  • Making successful contact with potential employers.
  • Making the sale through successful interviews.

A successful job search that contains these elements usually is going to have 5 main stages.  These are:

  • Stage 1: Taking Stock of What You Have to Offer and Setting Goals for Your Search
  • Stage 2: Finding Opportunities
  • Stage 3: Handling Inquiries
  • Stage 4: Selling Yourself through Successful Interviews
  • Stage 5: Follow-up

The first 2 stages are mostly what you would think of as marketing—creating an offering and generating interest from potential employers.

 The last 3 stages are selling.  The potential employer is interested and contacts you.  Now you have to convince them to buy (hire you).

So, let’s look briefly at what’s included in each stage of the process.

Stage 1: Taking Stock of What You Have to Offer and Setting Goals for Your Search.

This is where you do some deep thinking and analysis about what you want to end up with as a result of your job search, and what you have to offer potential employers in terms of your expertise.

Principal Activities include:

  • Setting Goals for Your Search.   Questions to consider include:

– What Kind of Job Do You Want?  For example, if you just lost your job do you want the same kind of job that you just had, or do you want to try a new career in something else?

– How soon do you need something?

– Does it need to be full time?  Could it be contract through an employment agency?

– Where does it need to be?  Do you want to relocate?  How far are you willing to commute?  Do you want to work from home?

  • Analyzing each of your previous jobs to identify what you were responsible for, the accomplishments you achieved and the type of expertise you used.
  • Developing a one or two sentence summary of the type of job you’re looking for, your expertise and how someone can use it.
  • Preparing your resume, cover letter and samples of your work you can show potential employers.
  • Requesting people to act as your references and getting letters of reference from them.

What many job searchers don’t realize—especially if you’re new to the process—is how critical this stage is, and why it’s so important to take the time to do it thoroughly.  The reason is simple—it builds the foundation for the next several stages.  The opportunities you’re going to look for in Stage 2 stem from how you answered the questions in this stage.  The answers you give in stages 3 and 4 when an employer contacts or interviews you are going to be greatly influenced by what you thought about when you analyzed what you had to offer potential employers in terms of your expertise.

Stage 2:   Finding Opportunities

During this stage you’re identifying potential employers to contact by doing things such as:

  • Researching on line career sites and replying to applicable job postings.
  • Making a list of employers where you’d like to work that could use your type of expertise.
  • Contacting Employment Agencies Directly to let them know of your availability.
  • Checking job ads in newspapers, magazines, trade journals, etc.
  • Researching individual company career pages on their web site.
  • Developing a network of people to let them know what you’re looking for and to have them help you get in contact with people who might want to hire you.
  • Attending job/career fairs.
  • Participating in a job search club.

Stage 3:   Handling Inquiries

This is when you get a response from an interested employer.  Often it will catch you off guard in the form or an unexpected phone call.  Usually it consists of preliminary screening questions from the recruiter aimed at determining if you seem to fit what they’re looking for at first blush.  Factors they’ll ask about are:

  • How much money do you expect if you accept the job?
  • Have you used the skills and talents they’re looking for in your previous jobs or experiences, and can you tell them briefly how?
  • Questions aimed at determining if you sound like you’re a good candidate for a more in-depth interview with the hiring manager.

Stage 4:   Selling Yourself through Successful Interviews

This is when your hard selling begins.  The employer is trying to determine how well you fit the picture in their mind of the ideal person they have for the job. If someone left the job, you’re competing against them as well in the employer’s mind.  If the person did well, the employer is trying to find someone like them.  If not, the employer is hoping to avoid the last mistake they made in hiring for the position.

Depending on the company, you may have several interviews.  The first usually is aimed at determining how well you seem to fit the criteria of the ideal candidate for the job.  Subsequent interviews may be somewhat of a repeat of the first round but with more senior level people, or with additional members of the team to get their feel of how well you fit in. 

Interviews often occur in various phases.  First you’ll often get an opening question to get conversation started such as “Tell Me About Yourself”.  

Other questions may follow to understand your work history and how you approach situations important to the interviewer.  Samples of these types of questions from various experts include:

  • Why do you want to change jobs?
  • What are your qualifications for this position?
  • How do you plan for new projects?
  • What makes you successful?
  • What makes a good team player?
  • What are you greatest strengths?
  • What are your development needs?

 

Many interviews are also based on the assumption that the best way to predict how well a person is going to be able to do the job is based on how they’ve demonstrated using the needed skills and abilities in the past.  Sample questions of this type might include:

  • Tell me about a difficult problem in your last job and how you solved it.
  • What was your biggest accomplishment in your last job?
  • Describe a time when you used XXXX skill.

As much as possible you want to frame your answer to these questions in the following format:

  • The situation you faced
  • The actions you took.
  • The results you achieved.

Getting Ready

 You can find numerous sites on the internet and books that offer advice on how to handle all of these types of questions.  Sites you might try include:

  • Monster.com (Go to Advice Section)
  • Net-temps.com (See Career Tools-Career Advice Section)
  • jobsearch.about.com/cs/interviews/a/behavioral.htm

 For books, either visit your local bookstore, or try an online search on Amazon.com.  Try using “interview questions and answers” as your search criteria.

To get ready for these types of questions, try making a list of the questions, the expert’s advice on how to answer them, and an answer that fits your experience.  Consider keeping this list and your responses in a word processing document that you can refer to easily.

In addition to developing responses to potential questions, you should:

  • Research the Company to learn about its products/services, customer/client base, market challenges, etc.
  • Talk with anyone you know at the Company/Organization that can fill you in on the type of interview process the Company uses, what they look for during interviews, etc.
  • Think of questions to ask the interviewer that will demonstrate you’ve done your homework and are really interested in the job.   Questions like:

– What are the major challenges your department is facing and how does this job impact the ability to meet them?

– What in your mind does it take to be successful in this job?

– What projects would I be working on if I take this job?

– Now that we’ve discussed the skills I have, how do you think you could best use them?

Stage 5: Follow-up.

After each interview you should make sure to send a note to the hiring manager and/or the Human Resource contact who interviewed you thanking them for the interview.  Make sure that you let them know that you’re interested in the job and that you look forward to working with them in the future if hired.

Why Successful Job Searches Are Like Successful Marketing Campaigns

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Do you hate the prospect of looking for work, or feel frustrated in your current search?   For many of us, it can be one of the most challenging and at times demoralizing processes we go through.  Most of us would rather do almost anything else.  But yet, having a job or better yet a career you love depends on your ability to find and land the job you want.

So why is it such an unpleasant task for most of us?

The reason is really quite simple.  Conducting a successful job search is very similar to conducting a marketing and sales campaign for a major product or service.   And it requires most if not all of the same skills.  And quite simply, these are skills that not many of us naturally have. 

 Consider this.  A good marketing campaign has to:

  • Develop a product of service offering that contains features and benefits potential customers want or need.
  • Create the appropriate marketing materials.
  • Locate potential customers who have those wants and needs.
  • Create awareness of and interest in the product or service with those target customers.
  • Conduct sales calls with customers who express an interest and convince them to buy.

Similarly, a successful job search consists of:

  • Developing what you have to offer potential employers based on your expertise and experience.
  • Creating your job search marketing materials – your resume, cover letter and portfolio.
  • Locating employers that can use what you have to offer.
  • Contacting potential employers through various methods (replying to job ads, networking, referrals, letters, etc.)
  • Conducting a successful interview or interviews.

Seen in this light, it’s no wonder it’s such a hard process to look for work.  After all, an organization with a successful marketing campaign usually spends a lot of money on it, and taps the talents of several different people:

  • The Product Development team develops the product or service.
  • Graphic Artists and Copy writers develop the marketing materials.
  • Marketers develop profiles and lists of potential customers.
  • Sales people skilled in conducting effective sales presentations call on the customer.

So what does all this mean for you in your search?

First, you need to not blame yourself if your job search is proving to be difficult.  After all, think of the difficulty companies have in conducting a successful marketing campaign, and they’re usually experts at it. 

Second, you need to analyze your approach to looking for work and see if it has all the needed elements.  For example:

  • Have you done the in-depth analysis  to identify what expertise you have to offer an employer and how they can benefit from it?
  • Do your resume, cover letter and other marketing items make this abundantly clear?
  • Have you identified who can best benefit from your type of expertise and where they’re located?
  • Do you know who typically makes the hiring decision for potential employers and how to reach them?
  • Can you tell someone how they can benefit from hiring you?  Do you have readily available stories at your fingertips that you can relate that demonstrate how you’ve successfully used your expertise in the past?

Third, you need to look at the whole process and decide what you can do yourself, and what you need help with.   (Remember, a successful marketing campaign is a team effort, and if possible so should a job search). For example, if you haven’t done the analysis of what expertise you have to offer, who can help you develop it?  If you’re not a super writer, who can help with your resume?  If you’re not the best at making convincing answers to interview questions, how can you find out suggestions on how to answer them, and who might be able to give you some coaching on the process? 

Once you’ve completed this analysis you can start developing an action plan that covers each of the stages of the job search process, including getting the help you need in each stage.  This type of plan can serve as an invaluable focal point to help you plan what to concentrate on each day during your search.

Want Your Resume to Shout “Look At Me !” ? Start Here.

Learn the first step to creating a resume that shouts “Look At Me!-I’m What You Want!”

[tweetmeme source=”KAWConsulting” http://www.bit.ly/cuojZQ%5DWhat Makes a Great Resume? One that shouts, “Look at Me!!I’m What You Want!  I can really make a difference to your company or organization because I have the skills and abilities that you need for this job!” 

And since your resume is a reflection of you, you need to spend time collecting and organizing the information to put in it that makes you stand out from the crowd.  

This is a crucial first step, whether you’re writing your resume yourself, or having someone else help you write it.  As anyone who has gone through this process can tell you, this can be quite a task.   You need both a good memory jogger to help you remember what you want to highlight about each of your work/educational experiences, and an easy to use place to record it. 

KAW Consulting’s  “Resume Questionnaire”,   that you can purchase online, provides a great way to gather the basic information you need for your resume.  Written in Microsoft Word, it provides space for entering data on:

  • Contact Information
  • Employment History
  • Military Service
  • Language Fluency
  • Licenses and Certifications
  • Memberships, Awards, Publications
  • Personality characteristics and competency strengths

You can save it to your computer, and make as many changes as you need.  It’s a great way to organize the information for a resume to make you stand out from the crowd.

What’s more, priced at $5.95, it’s very easy to afford.

Note: Available only to U.S. buyers.

To find out more and instructions on how to purchase, click  here.