Unemployment Spiral

Four Things to do During Unemployment

In one of my previous articles, I wrote about the bad habit of not hiring people with long stints of unemployment.  Since it is 2014, there is a very good chance that most of you reading this have had at least one long gap of unemployment.  Regardless of the reason for your gap, it is something you will probably need to address in an interview.  One way to address it is by simply being honest.  “I left my previous job because of a family member’s health issues.”  “The right opportunity in the right field hasn’t come along yet.” Another way to address the gap is to talk about how you have kept busy during your unemployment.  I am going to focus on four relevant things you should do during an extended period of unemployment.

Volunteer

There is something to be said about donating your time to help the community or a cause, especially when you are unemployed.  I think it’s a safe assumption that not many of us can really afford to be unemployed for a long period of time, and volunteer work may disrupt the time spent job hunting.  However, volunteering is a great way to build skills, and if the right opportunities exist in your area, you may gain transferable experience.

Volunteering can also help you stay positive and motivated through long periods of unemployment. As Staci Pierce, CEO of Ultimate Lifestyle Enterprises, said, “Unemployment can wear on your self-esteem.  Volunteering helps you maintain a sense of value and purpose, and helping others is an instantaneous mood booster.”

Acquire a Part-Time Job

Part-time jobs are a great source of income when you are unemployed.  Even though it might not be immediately apparent, the skills and experiences gained from part-time jobs can prove to be invaluable if you illustrate them properly on your resume.  They can also help you transition careers if you are trying to move from one field to another.

Start Your Own Business

Lack some of the basic experience required to get into your dream job?  Start your own business, and acquire that experience.  Do freelance work, or become a consultant if you have an expert-level understanding of your field.  Not only is this a fantastic way to get those skills and experiences onto your resume, it’s a great way to keep them sharp so that you can hit the ground running on day one of your new job.

Take Classes

The world is advancing at an alarmingly fast pace.  It doesn’t matter if you graduated 25 years ago or eight months ago, there is always something new to learn.  From community colleges to virtual universities, numerous classes and certification courses are offered that will help you stand out to a prospective hiring manager.  Do your research, and pick and choose relevant classes that will get you the skills you want for your career.

I know that unemployment is no fun, and the longer it drags on the more demoralizing it can become.  I hope that if you are in the unfortunate position of needing a job that these tips help you minimize your gap.  Thanks for reading!  Tweet me @Tom_Castronova.

Video Interview

Video Interviews on the Rise

Have you ever experienced an event so daunting that it makes your palms sweat and knots form in your stomach? This event could be anything. For me, it’s the job interview. Before I started my career here at Sutherland Global Services, I was sent through the gauntlet.  I was interviewing for many positions at different companies across the country. If you haven’t interviewed recently, you may not have realized that video interviewing is starting to replace face-to-face interviewing. Video interviews are chosen 63% of the time, according to HR managers. With this growing market I’d like to offer some first-hand tips, as well as capitalize on some tips listed in this article.

  1. Make sure your equipment works.

Nowadays, this tip may seem a bit irrelevant.  With the prevalence of tablets, computers, and smart phones, it seems everyone has video capability. However, connection issues can arise. Maybe your wireless internet has kicked out or the connection strength isn’t quite as strong in the back of the house. Perhaps you have run out of Skype credits. Keeping these points in check before they become issues is your best course of action.

  1. Pick the right area.

Be aware of your surroundings, and things that may pose as a distraction. Simulate an office setting. Pick somewhere well lit, but not so bright that it puts you out of focus. Make sure there is nothing behind you that can pull the interviewer’s attention elsewhere. Also, make sure there aren’t any family members or pets around to bother or distract you. Not only will it look unprofessional, but it can strain your relationship.

  1. Dress for success.

I once made the mistake of “half-dressing” for success. I went with the shirt and tie on top, and shorts on the bottom. Before I knew it I was being asked to stand up and do a demonstration. Cue the Homer Simpson D’oh! No matter the situation, type of job, or time of year – always dress professionally. It is better to overdress than underdress.

  1. Smile, you are NOT on candid camera!

For some reason, people still don’t understand technology. It is important to remember that when you are on camera people can see EVERYTHING in the camera’s view. Smiling and looking at the camera is vital to your appearance and attitude. In face-to-face interviews they say eye contact is key. It is also key in video interviews. Don’t let those eyes stray! If you are watching yourself on the screen, you are not making “eye contact” with your interviewer. Make sure you are looking into the camera!

  1. Your momma always said, practice makes perfect!

Practicing for speeches, interviews, and public speaking events is normal. Why would an interview be any different? Practice old-school methods in a new-school way. Turn the camera on, pretending it is a mirror. Record the video and watch it, looking for flaws. Have a friend mock interview you. The only way to be an expert in something is to practice it constantly.

These tips, along with some company research, can put you in prime position to obtain your desired career. A video interview should be fun and less stressful – you and your interviewer aren’t even in the same room! Relax, take a deep breath, and let technology do what it was intended to do – make things easier.

5 Common Resume Myths

Five Common Resume Myths and How to Combat Them

Now that you have created that killer cover letter, it’s time to debunk some of those common resume myths that are currently out there.  Here are five common resume myths, and some info on their lack of validity.

1.    Myth: Gaps in Employment are bad

False.  While this may have been true 25 years ago, since the “Great Recession” gaps in employment are more or less the norm, especially in younger candidates.  Do not let these gaps deter you from applying for a position that is right for you.

2.    Myth: GPA is Important

False.  A GPA does not tell much of a story.  Sometimes a 4.0 can be attained by cramming in a bunch of easy classes, while a 2.5 can be a result of a few challenging, non-major related courses.  Listing your GPA on your resume is meaningless without a transcript.

3.    Myth: My Resume Should Only Be One Page

False.  Most people have too much information for one page, and it looks ridiculous if you try to squeeze it all in by using .001” margins and 5.5 font size.  Conversely, your resume shouldn’t be five pages either.  Only list work experience that is relevant to the job you are applying to, unless the previous company you worked/interned for is eye-catching.  If you happen to be light on work experience never stretch your content just for the sake of filling a second page.

4.    Myth: One Resume Fits All

False.  You need a customized resume for each job you apply to.  It is likely that each resume will overlap in skills and job duties; however, no two jobs are exactly the same.  Aim to have your qualifications and experiences spotlight these subtle differences.

5.    Myth: Keep Your Achievements Separate

False.  By separating your achievements from your work experience, you run the risk of a recruiter missing them altogether.  Achievements should be organically woven into your work experience to strengthen and showcase your skills.

These are just a few of the many resume myths that are out there.  If you have any questions regarding other myths, resume related or not, let me know in the comments or on Twitter @Tom_Castronova.

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Six Tips on Crafting a Killer Cover Letter

In our recent blog posts, we have been featuring a lot of tips regarding perfecting your resume, developing your career or becoming a more effective speaker. One area we have failed to address to this point is a cover letter. You know, that thing that goes along with your resume and sums up who you are and how well you right write. This can be a very daunting task because it is a first impression that can make or break the next step of the hiring process. I came across this article which pretty much laid out how to be successful in creating one. I will point out some of the best practices that are quick and easy and you can apply them right now to your current letter.

1)      Always attach a cover letter. You may never know if the hiring manager is planning on looking at it, but assume yes. Like the ol’ Boy Scout motto, “Always be prepared”.

2)      Address the cover letter to the proper person involved in hiring for the position. Spend time searching the company website, or asking questions when they call you in for an interview. Most postings will include the name of the person to whom you can address your cover letter, but if not, do some digging. Being too general can get you shuffled in the pile. You need to stand out as much as possible.

3)      State the company’s full name and the reason why you want to work here. Sell yourself by showcasing what you can do to help the company, customer, etc. but not what makes you the best candidate. It’s a very fine line to teeter between bragging and making sure you get your point across of what you can do to help them.

4)      Keep the meat of your content to about three paragraphs. Start by introducing yourself, followed by listing your value to the company and concluding with a call to action to get the process moving.

5)      Spelling and grammar must be perfect. Re-read your cover letter. Then re-read it again. Now have someone else read it. And then re-read it. Then have someone else read it…get the picture yet? Having multiple eyes read your content can only help catch mistakes. It can offer up some issues of having different “voices” interpret your writing skills, but this is something that can adjusted very easily.

6)      Make sure u don’t use abbr. or emoticons or txt msg riting wen u r creating a CV. All these phrases show that you were either a) too lazy to actually type out full words or b) not understanding how to create full, complete sentences and not a fit for this position. Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage over this.

These “rules” are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cover letter creation. The way social media is today and how you have to stand out makes it difficult to justify one surefire way. New digital cover letters, videos and other forms of media have become popular in place of the traditional word document. My advice to this is know the industry you are entering and the common standards used.

Making Your Resume Stand Out

Making Your Resume Stand Out

The biggest question when you are looking for a new career is, “How can my resume stand out from the rest?”  If you haven’t asked yourself this question, then it is about time you did! These days, you are one in a hundred, if not a thousand, applicants vying for the position you just applied for.  Here are 5 tips to make your resume stand out from the rest:

  1. Add Pizzazz

The person who receives your resume has already seen more resumes than he or she can count and all of them have the same things in common. For instance, the main section heading is usually some variation of “Work History”, “Experience”, or the like.  Where did this practice start?  It’s time to break the mold and be creative.  If you are looking to move up in the Customer Service industry, try, “Customer Satisfaction Achievements.” If you are in the midst of a career change, go with something like, “Relevant Sales Roles.”  The real effect of doing this comes when you are trying to draw attention to a specific set of experiences or skills, especially when you are trying to change careers.

  1. Make It Achievement-Based

One of the biggest mistakes you can make on your resume is listing experience under a previous (or current) position, and not celebrating the achievement of that experience.  This is your chance to show your future employer what you can do for their company.  Which looks better?

  • Exceeded sales quota for 8 consecutive months

Or

  • Exceeded sales quota by 125% for 8 consecutive months, which resulted in a revenue increase of 11%

It’s great that you exceeded your sales goals for 8 consecutive months, but it doesn’t tell us much.  You may have surpassed your goal by a single sale, or by 200.  Did you have to promise the moon to your clients to get them to buy, or are you just that good?  Your future employer needs to know this!

  1. Customize

I know what you are already going to say: “But Tom, I don’t have time to customize every single resume I send out every day!”  Job searching is not really a numbers game.  There is no magic ratio that will result in a new job.  The name of the game is to work smarter.  Take the time to read through the job description carefully, and take note of keywords, skills, specific experience, etc.  Be sure that you highlight these elements in your jazzed-up work experience section.

This tip won’t immediately jump off the page like the first two, but once you have captured the hiring manager’s or recruiter’s attention, having a customized resume for that specific job WILL stand out.

  1. Try Keyword Stuffing

Like my last tip, this one does take some research to see what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for.  Keyword Stuffing is especially effective if you are posting your resume to a job board or to LinkedIn.  Adding targeted keywords to your resume will increase the likelihood of it being found.  Be careful not to use keywords for the sake of using them. Keywords need to fit into the story you are telling in your resume.  They need to feel organic and not forced.  Whatever you do, don’t just list keywords in a word bank somewhere on your resume either!

For more on using keywords, Patrick Murphy has compiled a list of 20 Powerful Keywords to Charge Your Resume.

  1. Use Great Formatting

Even if you are in desperate need of a new job, there is no reason not to take the time to format your resume properly.  You would not believe how many resumes I see each day where the name and contact information are in the header, the work experience is listed with 5-6 bullets that contain no more than one line each, and then there is nothing else on the page.  Whitespace is a good thing – it helps keep things uncluttered – but too much whitespace looks bad and can strain the eyes.

Speaking of resume length, your resume should be two pages – not one, not two and a half, TWO.  This is where customizing your resume comes into play, especially if the list of all of your experience and skills would take over two pages to showcase.  Get out the red pen and start eliminating what is not relevant to the particular position to which you are applying at that time.

Get creative: if you have design experience, then let it show!  Be tastefully colorful and accentuate your experience and skills.  Use some of the fancy bullet points to stand out, but don’t be obnoxious.  A resume that’s too flashy could have a negative impact on the reader.

Once you have mastered these tips, your next hurdle to getting your new career is to practice your interviewing skills.  Now if only I had some tips on interviewing

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Four Ways to Observe your Way into a Great Job

Most, if not all, candidates walk into an interview with a focus on what they can offer an employer. Many times that focus is on the candidate’s own skill-set, but a savvy interviewee should know how to recognize and understand problems that the company may be having.

Here are four tips to observe your way through to a great interview.

  1. Look for problems online that you can solve – Check out the company’s website and social media sites to identify possible issues and help explain what you can improve while at the company. See something you like? Mention it to the interviewer so they know you’ve researched them.
  2. Check the lobby – Companies often display their achievements publicly in lobbies and conference rooms. Check to see if they have any awards or accomplishments around the area. Chat with the receptionist about any goings-on in the company that she may be able to share.
  3. The interviewer’s office – People tend to display things they are proud of in their office. Take a discreet look around and see if any talking points arise. You might have the opportunity to comment on a family photo or sports memorabilia, which will help build rapport with your interviewer.
  4. Look for problems on site that you can solve – Does your interview include a tour of the office? Take a look around and comment on the things you see. Question and compliment a possible co-worker on their project, or offer your expertise on a half finished assignment.

The best job hunters understand that interviewers are looking for problem solvers. Be observant before, during, and after the interview, and then communicate how you can make a difference.

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20 Powerful Keywords to Charge your Resume

20 Powerful Keywords
You’ve heard it over and over again: use keywords to make your resume stand out to a recruiter. However, choosing the right keywords, and using them to effectively demonstrate your skill set, can be harder than it seems.
Here are 20 powerful keywords to enhance your resume:

1. Conceptualized
2. Trained
3. Built
4. Introduced
5. Strengthened
6. Directed
7. Persuaded
8. Forecasted
9. Projected
10. Assessed
11. Set Goals
12. Promoted
13. Oversaw
14. Improved
15. Adapted
16. Solved
17. Initiated
18. Planned
19. Managed
20. Increased

It’s important to note that none of these potent action verbs should be used too often. Make sure each use is followed up by a detailed example of a notable achievement.

Interview

Five Ways to Recover from a Bad Job Interview

Have you ever left a job interview feeling like it didn’t go so well?  Waiting for a call-back that isn’t coming?  Here are five ways to learn and recover from a bad interview:

  1. Write it Down – As soon as the interview is over, while it is still fresh in your mind, write down what may have gone wrong. Look back at your notes in the lead up to your next interview.
  2. Ask for Feedback – Conduct mock interviews and make sure you get specific feedback on what needs improving. Never pass up the opportunity to become a better interviewee.
  3. Identify Strengths – Think about your strengths. Reflect on which parts of the interview you are most comfortable with; focus your approach on these areas.
  4. Set up a Routine – Develop a routine which you follow before each interview. Routines ease the mind, and can help get you into the flow of the interview.
  5. Contact the Interviewer – Something that few people do, yet it can be very effective at getting your job search back online, is get back in touch with the interviewer. If the interview went well, this can help you set up the next interview. If it went poorly, the interviewer may be able to provide feedback to contemplate.

Don’t let a bad interview experience get you down. By following these tips you can bounce back and ace it the next time!

Resume Mistakes

3 Resume Mistakes That Will Land You in the Rejected Pile

Most hiring managers and recruiters spend a large amount of their day leafing through piles of resumes.  Given the amount of time spent on this task, it is no surprise to hear that resume mistakes which occur over and over again can become tiresome and aggravating, even leading to a qualified applicant being overlooked. Want to stay out of the rejection pile? Avoid these three simple, but common, resume mistakes:

  1. Typos – Such a simple mistake, yet often one of the most frequent errors on resumes. Hiring managers have been known to decline skilled candidates for having too many typos. The fix? Go the extra step to ensure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes. Read your resume out loud several times, and have as many people as possible do the same. Many eyes will help you reduce these blunders.
  2. Too Many Details – Hiring managers often read the same generic statements over and over again. Read through your resume and delete anything that sounds redundant, nonspecific, and unimpressive. Make sure when your resume is read, your achievements stand out as defining features.
  3. Not enough Tailoring – Each company you apply to will be looking for something unique, and hiring managers will know if your resume has been targeted toward them specifically. Research the company, and include details that fit the company’s wants and needs.
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How the Right Keywords can get your Resume in Front of a Recruiter

In today’s job market, applicants are faced with many obstacles when trying to get their resumes in front of a recruiter. Both Recruiters and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) often screen out resumes based on keywords alone, meaning qualified candidates may never even be seen by a human eye!

A great resume must be packed with relevant keywords, related to the position and the industry you wish to be in. Here are a few tips to ensure your resume is not only found, but stands out when reviewed by a recruiter.

  1. Expertise: Make sure to use plenty of practical action keywords when describing your performance. Recruiters look for very specific needs for a particular job, and you’ll want to ensure your accomplishments and duties stand out instantly.
  2. Acronyms: Make sure to include the correct acronyms when listing things like degrees, professional certifications, and industry terminology. Recruiters may search for either the acronym or the full name, and you want to show up in both searches.
  3. Avoid overused buzzwords: A recruiter looks at hundreds of resumes a day. Keep your resume from becoming generic by avoiding overused buzzwords.  A “creative, analytical, problem solver” won’t even register to a recruiter, but a candidate that has “directed programs”, “initiated ideas”, and “forecasted results” will stand out in a crowd.

Be sure you have your resume reviewed (preferably by someone in the industry you are seeking to join) before you submit that application to a job board or company career site!