June 29, 2009

Secrets to a Successful Job Hunt in ANY Economy

Do you ever wake up in the morning with a pit in your stomach only to have to face another day of endless job hunting? Is your financial situation causing you endless worry or shame? Are you feeling desperate and frustrated, because you aren’t getting phone calls or job offers from employers? Well, it’s time to turn that around.

If you are located in the Los Angeles area, we invite you to Secrets to a Successful Job Hunt in ANY Economy—a FREE Job Clinic. This is a 2 hour event where you'll get the inside scoop on incredibly effective job seeking tips. Your hosts will be your truly, Rosemary Laack of Supernova Coaching Enterprises, and Shawna Lubs of Remarkable Résumés.

If you are unemployed or know someone who is, please let them know about this FREE event to help get employed quickly. Here are the particulars:

Secrets to a Successful Job Hunt in ANY Economy -
A FREE Job Clinic
June 30, 2009
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Valley Economic Development Center (VEDC)
5121 Van Nuys Blvd., 3rd Floor
Van Nuys, CA

You can also click here for more information and driving directions. We look forward to seeing you there!

What to Wear to Your Interview


I often get asked what is considered appropriate attire for the job interview. The confusion comes from the fact that these days many companies employ a "business casual" or even casual policy in the workplace. The fear is that hiring managers and recruiters will think the candidate "too stuffy" or "not a fit" due to their dress. Nothing can be further from the truth.

In the CNN article "What Not to Wear to Work," Marianne Hancock from the PR firm Golin Harris says:

"Our office is pretty casual and is a creative setting, but an interviewee wouldn't know that coming in. I expect business attire, preferably a suit. I want the interviewee to look like they mean business and are mature enough to handle a fast-paced workplace."

So what are you to do if you don't know the company culture or the hiring manager's expectation? Here's an easy tip. Come dressed up in a full suit. For men this would include the tie. For women this could be a skirt or pants with a button up shirt and blazer or a tailored suit. Then, arrive 20-30 minutes early to the interview, but don't go in yet. Just watch what the employees wear from a safe vantage point. I would recommend the following:

  • If you notice employees are wearing mostly professional or "business casual" dress, (i.e. you are not seeing jeans) then, go in with the full suit.
  • If you see jeans, but worn in a polished, professional way as in jeans with blazers, nice vests, etc., then, men might opt to skip the tie for a more business casual look. I would still recommend that women go in with the full suit, but opt for more casual accessories like flats instead of heels, etc. You could also roll up your blazer's sleeves to your elbow or swap the blazer for a cardigan for a stylish, more laid back look.
  • If you see jeans, graphic t-shirts, sneakers, and any other extremely casual attire, then, both men and women can skip the blazers altogether. Men, you may decide to keep the tie unless you feel it will still be too "stuffy" looking. Women can add fun accessories to their pants/skirts and button-up shirts like scarfs, funky jewelry or shoes.
Keep in mind that dark colored suits or separates are more conservative than light colors. Bottom line: You will need to plan ahead and have some "quick swap" items in your bag or car, so that you can better match the company's culture. In the end, it really doesn't hurt to be overdressed. However, it can really hurt you if you underdress, so I leave you with the following thought from Ms. Hancock.

"If [you] don't wear the best business attire to an interview, it makes me wonder if [you] really want the job. It is hard to take someone seriously wearing flip flops, a butterfly sweater set and a white puffy skirt."

I couldn't agree more.

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If you are located in the Los Angeles area, we invite you to Secrets to a Successful Job Hunt in ANY Economy—a FREE Job Clinic. This is a 2 hour event where you'll get the inside scoop on incredibly effective job seeking tips. It will be hosted by myself, Rosemary Laack, and Shawna Lubs of Remarkable Résumés. You can learn more here or stay tuned for more information right at this blog.

June 25, 2009

Cover Letters...To Do or Not to Do? That is the Question.


Ah, the controversial cover letter. I have had many heated discussions with recruiters and hiring managers on the various virtues and superfluities of this job search fundamental. It doesn't take long for a debate to arise as to whether a cover letter is needed or not.

My experience is that cover letters were more likely to see the circular file than to be read by a potential manager. One of the problems is that you have stacks and stacks of résumés to sort through, and not much time. Therefore, the cover letter is tossed aside in order to get to the real "meat and potatoes" of the candidate via the résumé.

Another issue is that cover letters are often "form letters." In other words, many of the letters I did read sounded too formulaic like the candidate simply cut and pasted the new address onto the same letter. David Silverman from Harvard Business Publishing humorously categorizes cover letters into three groups:

The recap: The résumé in prose form. It's redundant, harder to read than the résumé, and provides no additional insight.

The form letter: This says, essentially, "Dear Sir or Madam: I saw your ad in the paper and thought you might like me." And it's clearly a form letter where maybe they got my name and company right. If they're lucky, I will still take the time to read their résumé after being insulted with a form letter.

The "I'm crazy": This one's rare, and it expands on the résumé of experience with some personal insights. Examples range from the merely batty ("I find batik as an art form has taught me to become both a better person and project manager.") to the truly terrifying ("I cast a pentagram hex and the central line pointed towards your job listing. I know you will find this as comforting as I do.")

So, I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I do not advocate writing formal cover letters (even via e-mail). As a guideline, however, I agree with Mr. Silverman that there are three instances when a cover letter would be prudent:
  1. When you know the name of the person hiring.
  2. When you know something specific about the job requirement (i.e. certifications, contacts, specific software, etc., for which you are qualified).
  3. When you have been personally referred.
Other than these three instances, you should keep your introductory letters extremely short and sweet. To read the full article from David Silverman and to see his recommended cover letter sample, click here.

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If you are located in the Los Angeles area, we invite you to Secrets to a Successful Job Hunt in ANY Economy—a FREE Job Clinic. This is a 2 hour event where you'll get the inside scoop on incredibly effective job seeking tips. It will be hosted by myself, Rosemary Laack, and Shawna Lubs of Remarkable Résumés. You can learn more here or stay tuned for more information right at this blog.

June 24, 2009

Recruiters Biggest Pet Peeves About Job Seekers


Last week was an interesting one in the news. Rumors of an economic turnaround and news of fewer layoffs sent everyone jumping off the walls of joviality. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that even though there may be "signs" of a turnaround, we still need to get people employed again. After all, we are still at an alarming rate nationally of almost 10% (9.4%). My own state of California is at 11.5% unemployment. Only when we can help the unemployed find jobs and improve their financial situations will a true recovery happen.

That being said, here is a good article from Yahoo! Jobs on the biggest pet peeves that recruiters have about job hunters. To summarize, here are the top five as cited in the article:

  1. Candidates who see themselves as perfect.
  2. Clueless or uninformed candidates.
  3. Poorly written cover letters, which they refer to as "short-cut introductions."
  4. Failure to link experience to the job.
  5. Job seekers who do mass distribution or general résumés.
To see the full article, click here.

Having hired and recruited potential employees myself, I can definitely underscore the importance of these items. Here's another way to look at this. Numbers 3 and 5 will help your résumé from being screened out before you can even get in the door, while numbers 1, 2, and 4 are imperative for nailing the interview. We hope these tips help you improve your job searches and get a job faster.

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If you are located in the Los Angeles area, we invite you to Secrets to a Successful Job Hunt in ANY Economy. This is a 2 hour job clinic where you'll get the inside scoop on incredibly effective job seeking tips. It will be hosted by myself, Rosemary Laack, and Shawna Lubs of Remarkable Résumés. You can learn more here or stay tuned for more information right at this blog.

June 23, 2009

Recession Turns Many Laid Off Workers into Entrepreneurs


This is a really inspiring story about a stay-at-home mom and how she turned her expertise into a thriving six-figure salary business. Read the full article here.

There are a few great lessons to gather from this story:

1.) Take what you know well and start talking to your network. You never know how you can monetize your hobbies, interests and knowledge into something lucrative until you start brainstorming and "getting out there."

2.) It doesn't have to be perfect, big or fancy. This stay-at-home mom was doing what many start-ups do. She was working from a home with no frills and eventually her work garnered the attention of some high profile companies.

As a career coach, some of my clients have dreams of going into business for themselves. However, they feel as if they don't have the fancy letterhead, business cards, etc. that make them look important. The truth is that many entrepreneurs didn't have this either. They just "faked it until they made it" on their know-how. So, take a gander at this inspiring story and if you are unemployed, perhaps this will give you some other ideas to take your future in your own hands.