The Seven Deadly Sins of Job Searching, Part 3

This is the third post in a series of posts about the most common and damaging mistakes jobseekers make. Read the full series here.

3rd deadly sin: Resume Blunders

Regardless of what job you are looking for, you now need a resume. No big deal you think, there are plenty of templates available on the internet and if those don’t work out I’ll hire a resume writer. Let’s see what could go wrong:

1st blunderone resume fits all. No, it usually doesn’t. Ideally you want to adjust your resume to each job you are applying for. Most times, it just needs little tweaks and not major rewrites.  If you are applying through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), each resume needs to contain as many of the keywords in the job description as possible to make it through the ATS. Those keywords will differ from job to job.

2nd blunder – an unfocused resume. You have done a lot of good work in your life and you want every potential employer to see all you can do. That’s understandable, but you don’t want to drown the reader in irrelevant information. Be strategic about what you include in your resume. You want to stress those parts of your experience that are most relevant to the job you are applying for and minimize the experience that is not relevant. You also don’t want to go back too far in time. Normally going back about 15 years is customary. Resume space is at a premium; use it wisely. The reader will only spend a few seconds skimming it. Those few seconds need to be enough to convey that you have what they are looking for.

3rd blunder – no accomplishments. Everybody has accomplishments! Many job searchers don’t recognize their accomplishments and see it as “well, that’s just part of my job”. Don’t sell yourself short! Talk to colleagues and friends (or resume writers and career coaches) and let them help you identify what you do well. Then include those accomplishments in your resume.

4th blunder – not proofreading your resume. You have created a top notch resume, focused and filled with relevant accomplishments and keywords. You have read it a thousand times, so it must be okay, right? Too often it’s not. After working on a document for a while, you are not able to recognize the little typos and mistakes. Give your resume to a friend to proofread!!! Grammatical mistakes and typos will usually get you screened out right away. Recruiters will interpret it as carelessness.

5th blunder – not vetting a professional resume writer. Resume writing is hard, so you decide to hire a professional resume writer. There are a lot of excellent resume writers out there. There are even more poor ones! We have seen our share of poorly written resumes that job seekers have paid good money for! Anybody can call themselves a resume writer, so do your research. As with most things, word of mouth is best. Ask friends if they have been successful with a resume written by a specific resume writer. Also, check the resume-writer’s credentials. There are a number of certifications that resume writers can attain. Some of the best are:

  • MRW – Master Resume Writer: only very experienced resume writers get this credential.
  • ACRW – Academy Certified Resume Writer: this credential is given after a comprehensive certification class, exam and document submission for review.
  • CPRW – Certified Professional Resume Writer: resume writers have to pass a test and submit a resume for review.

Resume writing includes substantial communication between the writer and the job seeker. If your resume writer does not ask you many questions, or only asks you to complete a standard written form and then doesn’t talk to you again, beware.

You can learn more details about resumes in our previous blog posts on the topic. If you need assistance in creating a resume, call the Career Center at 225-231-3733, and we can help (we actually have two Certified Professional Resume Writers on staff). More information on resumes and a number of templates can be found here.

Stay tuned for the next deadly sin of job search.

Written by Anne Nowak

The Seven Deadly Sins of Job Searching, Part 2

This is the second post in a series of posts about the most common and damaging mistakes jobseekers make. Read the entire series here.

2nd deadly sin: An unfocused search: “I just want a job, any job”

You’ve been job searching unsuccessfully for a while and are getting desperate. When talking to your contacts, you tell them you just need a job, any job, because any income is better than no income. Great, your friend Joe tells you about a lead he has for you. His friend Jane owns a janitorial company and they need an evening supervisor. Joe tells Jane about you and facilitates a meeting. Perfect! But wait –  you don’t want to work in janitorial services, that is not your field, and you don’t want to work nights. You have no interest in this job, which is what you tell Joe. What just happened? Joe lost face with Jane and you burned a bridge with Joe. Both are unlikely to help you in your search again. After all, you told Joe “any job” would be fine.

Most people are happy to help. But you want to make it easy for them to help you effectively. When you talk to people about looking for a new job, let them know what kind of position you are looking for and what you can contribute to your future employer. It could sound something like this: “I’m an experienced HR Generalist with special expertise in employee relations and recruiting. I help companies avoid legal proceedings by proactively addressing possible legal compliance issues. I also enjoy recruiting and sourcing the best possible candidates for my company. Ideally I would like to work in an industrial setting here in the area, like a chemical plant or industrial construction company. I have experience recruiting skilled craft professionals and could make an immediate contribution”. Now Joe would know not to ask Jane for a job for you. Instead he would concentrate on his contacts in the chemical and industrial construction industries, as well as in Human Resources, and facilitate meetings with them.

Therefore, before you start your job search, you need to be clear about:

  • Your skills, strengths, and values
  • What kind of position you are looking for
  • How you will help a future employer and what you will contribute
  • What kind of work environment you would enjoy most

Now that you are clear about all of the above, you can start a targeted job search, identify the sources that are most likely to yield the best leads, and strategically contact your network.

If you need help assessing your skills and values, or devising an efficient job search or networking strategy, call the Career Center at 225-231-3733, and we can help. More information on networking and informational interviewing can be found at The Muse.

Stay tuned for the next deadly sin of job search.

Written by Anne Nowak

The Seven Deadly Sins of Job Searching, Part 1

This is the first post in a series of posts about the most common and damaging mistakes jobseekers make. Read the full series here.

1st deadly sin: Your job search strategy consists of only searching online and newspaper ads

You find yourself out of a job and turn to what has worked for you in the past. After all, the last time you looked for a job, you grabbed the Sunday paper, found an ad in your field, sent a resume, went on the interview, and got the job. The problem is, that strategy stopped being efficient years ago. While you still find job ads in the Sunday newspaper, they have mostly migrated online. The online version of your local paper will still have job ads. Add to that a large number of online job boards, such as Indeed, Ziprecruiter, and Craigslist, plus local and niche job boards. That should give you plenty of jobs to choose from…..so you think.

While you will find plenty of positions advertised on the internet, what’s your actual chance of landing a job this way? Many sources say: around 5%.

Here are some of the reasons why your chances of success applying for jobs online are so low:

  • Only around 20% of all open positions are advertised online. The other 80% of open positions are filled through referrals and networking! So, if your entire job search consists of applying online, you are competing for only 20% of available jobs.
  • For non-technical positions it is not at all unusual for 200 or 300 people to apply. That’s a lot of competition.
  • Your application is received by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), the software the company uses to manage their recruiting function. The software often screens your resume and application before a human eye will see it. It uses keyword matches. If your resume does not contain the right keywords, you’re sorted out and your application will never be seen by a human.
  • If a human recruiter screens your resume, they will look at it for only a few seconds due to the large number of applicants. They will not read your documents word for word!
  • Due to the keyword-matching mechanism, the only applicants who will make it through are those who have the exact experience and skills described in the ad. If you are a career changer or want to change industries, you are very unlikely to make it through.

It is still possible to find a job through online ads. Just use it as one of several approaches to job search, not your only one! Devote much more time to networking and informational interviewing in order to open up the 80% of open positions that constitute the hidden job market and are never advertised.

If you need help devising an efficient job search or networking strategy, call the Career Center at 225-231-3733; we can help. More information on networking and informational interviewing can be found here.

Stay tuned for the next deadly sin of job search.

Written by Anne Nowak

 

New Career Center Books

If you’re itching to become your own boss, you are in luck! This month, the Career Center has several new books about starting your own business. Additionally, we have a great seminar next week for would-be entrepreneurs:  How to Buy or Expand into a Franchise.

The Franchising Handbook: How to Choose, Start, and Run a Successful Franchise
by Carl Reader
Franchising can be a great choice for aspiring entrepreneurs who don’t want the risk/hassle of starting a brand new business. But franchising has its own set of rules. This detailed guide aims to tell you everything you’ll need to know in order to buy and grow a successful franchise, including finding and shortlisting franchises, creating a business plan, managing funding, and checking for red flags.

The Ultimate Freelancer’s Guidebook
by Yuwanda Black
With the advances of modern technology, the decrease in full-time 9-5 jobs, and the prevalence of the “gig economy,” more and more people are moving towards becoming professional freelancers. Author Yuwanda Black draws on her years of freelance experience as a writer and editor to create this guide for would-be freelancers. It covers such topics as determining prices, creating a budget, marketing, structuring your workday, and building long-term client relationships.

The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting and Running a Business
by Steve Mariotti
Author Steve Mariotti is the founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit dedicated to helping at-risk youth create small businesses. In this extensive how-to guide, Mr. Mariotti provides a step-by-step pathway for starting your own business, including finding investors, navigating legal requirements, and handling financial statements. The book is written in an easy-to-follow, approachable style, and interspersed with inspirational stories of reeal successful entrepreneurs.

Venture Mom: From Idea to Income in Just 12 Weeks
by Holly Hurd
Entrepreneurship can be a godsend for some new parents – allowing them the freedom and flexibility to stay at home raising a family, while also providing income and professional fulfillment. This book contains a twelve-step plan for starting a new business, as well as inspirational stories from mothers who’ve become successful entrepreneurs.

If any of these books catch your eye, you may place a hold on them through the East Baton Rouge Parish Library website.

Written by Lynnette Lee

Job Search Tips for Ex-Offenders, Part 2: The Interview

The Career Center recently presented a pair of job search seminars at a local correctional facility, focusing on the resume and the job interview for ex-offenders. Here are some of the greatest takeaways from those seminars. Read the first post in this series here.

Should I talk about having a criminal record in the interview?

  • It is crucial that you talk about your criminal record in the interview, even if they don’t bring it up. Why? Because they will run a background check and discover your criminal record, and if you haven’t prepared them for that, it will come as a nasty shock. Much better for you to talk about it in the interview, where you can explain the circumstances and reassure them that you’ve changed.
  • One hiring manager we spoke with explained, “If they tell me about the conviction in the interview, I can work with that. I can ask follow-up questions to figure out the details of their situation. I can give them the benefit of the doubt. But if they never tell me, and I find out from the background check, I feel like they were dishonest with me. I don’t appreciate that.”

Dos and don’ts of discussing your incarceration

  • DO: Bring up the incarceration early in the interview, maybe as part of your answer to the very first question, “Tell me about yourself.” Take responsibility for your mistakes. Tell a redemption story about your path to rehabilitation. Focus on the valuable skills and experience you gained while incarcerated. Emphasize your commitment to becoming a contributing member of society again.
  • DON’T: Spend too much time talking about the details of why you went to jail. Blame other people for your situation. Appear hostile or negative. Seem unrepentant for your crimes. Beg or seem desperate for any job. Neglect to convince them of your skills and qualifications for this job.

winning examples of interview answers

  • Tell me about yourself. As you can see from my resume, I’ve got several years of industrial experience. I spent a year as a warehouse technician, which involved operating a forklift and pallet jack, and another six months as a laborer on several different construction projects. After that, my career got derailed a little bit. I made a series of stupid mistakes and wound up in jail. While I was in jail, I realized what a mess I had made out of my life, and I felt ashamed. I decided to turn my life around. I wanted to make sure that I would never go to jail again, so I decided to learn new skills that would help me in the real world. I signed up for vocational training classes to learn new skills. I also worked as a mechanic at the prison for 3 years, which gave me a lot of experience working with my hands and with tools. I’m not afraid to work hard and get my hands dirty, and I think that all of these skills would be useful to your company.
  • Tell me about your criminal record. I was incarcerated for possession of narcotics. I was addicted to heroin, and was too stubborn and stupid to get help for my addiction. I feel like the conviction was justified. I didn’t think this at the time, but now I almost see it as a blessing in disguise. Because I hit rock bottom in jail. The first time my daughter saw me behind bars, I finally realized what I was doing to her. So I made a promise to myself that from then on, I was going to be someone she could be proud of. I enrolled in the prison’s drug rehab program and got clean. I started attending classes and vocational training, so I could be a valuable employee once I got out. I turned around my life and got paroled. Now that I’ve been released, I’m staying on the straight and narrow path. I’ve been drug-free for two years, I’m a deacon at my church, and my daughter is proud of me. If you hire me, I will put my skills and training, as well as my ambition to be a successful employee, to good use for your company.
  • Why should we hire a convicted felon? I can understand why you’d be hesitant to hire someone with my background. I know you’re probably worried that I’ll disappoint. But I’m not going to go back to my old, bad ways. I was young, foolish, and made a terrible mistake. But I decided to turn my life and attitude around. I took advantage of every educational, vocational training, and work opportunity available to me in prison. I now have clear goals, which including being a model employee for a successful company like this one. I have character references from my parole officer and pastor, both of whom would tell you that I am a changed man. If you have any doubts about me still, please hire me on a probationary status until I can prove to you that I am the best man for the job. Frankly, I plan to become your best employee within my first three months.

helpful resources

  • 70millionjobs.com, a job search website devoted entirely to companies willing to hire people with criminal records.
  • Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, which has an ex-offender re-entry program offering free training and employment services.
  • The Capital Area Re-Entry Coalition
  • Any book by author Ronald Krannich, including The Ex-Offender’s Re-Entry Assistance Directory, The Ex-Offender’s Quick Job Hunting Guide, Best Resumes and Letters for Ex-Offenders, and The Ex-Offender’s Job Interview Guide. All of these books may be checked out from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.
  • The Career Center (inside the Main Library at Goodwood, 7711 Goodwood Boulevard) can offer personalized assistance with job search strategies, online applications, resumes, and interviews.

Written by Lynnette Lee