In September, I had the pleasure of attending (and speaking at) the National Resume Writer’s Association’s annual professional development conference in Fort Worth, Texas. There were several really good sessions that gave me new tools to bring back to my clients and one of the “biggies” that I am sharing with you was the 2 hour panel discussion featuring hiring managers from four major industries.
In this article, you will get their reactions to some of the often-asked questions of job seekers and career professionals. The overall take-a-way from the session was that job seekers really need to try to connect with the potential employer…and that seemed to prove an elusive concept to most of the applicants they saw every day!
Let’s dive in with a quick intro of the panelists…
- Shelia Hupp represented the City of Irving – an area with a $169.5M annual budget.
- Ann Dunkin runs a division of Attorney Resource, a recruiting and staffing agency serving Texas.
- Bob Weiss is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Meadows Foundation, a private philanthropic institution established in 1948.
- Stuart Schwartz represented eWomenNetwork and brings 30+ years’ experience in finance and business to the panel.
Topic: Cover Letters
Reaction from Panel: The consensus was that cover letters are absolutely useless…well, unless they “hit home” for the employer that is. The panelists generally said they ignore cover letters unless the letter actually says something meaningful that connects the applicant to the position in a valuable way. This is just what I have been teaching my clients for years. To be taken seriously, your cover letter cannot be a template – it must demonstrate your unique value to that employer and it must be used to convey information that might not be covered on your resume. For example, if you have a particular reason for wanting to work for the company or if you are seeking to transition from one field to another, it can be strategic to use the cover letter to explain these things that are not otherwise obvious.
Topic: “Testing” the Applicant
Reaction from Panel: One of the panelists used to use SurveyMonkey in his recruiting process. All the job ads he posted would direct applicants to a survey where they would answer a number of questions that helped the hiring manager flesh out who was qualified for a position and who landed within the desired salary levels. From there, he would conduct a phone screen. Finally, after those two steps he would invite those he was interested in to submit their resumes. This interesting process proved successful time and again in making sure he hired professionals that aligned with corporate needs and missions. Tactics like this are not unheard of. Some employers request you put a certain phrase in the subject line of the email or require that you reference the job you are applying to by using a specific code. Pay attention to these tactics. They are a test of your attention to detail and your propensity to follow instructions.
Reaction from Panel: Connections are important – and I don’t mean LinkedIn (that is next topic) – make parallels between your work and the employer’s needs or their corporate personality. Each panelist expressed how important it was to hire people that understand and buy in to the organization’s goals and mission. Ask yourself these questions: How does the company market itself? How do they position themselves against competitors? Who do they hire (look at LinkedIn for this one)? And, as one of the panelists said, be a real person during the application and interviewing process. This means presenting yourself authentically and making sure you try to demonstrate how you align with who the employer is, not just what the position entails.
Topic: Social Media
Reaction from Panel: Yes, each of the panelists confirmed they really do online searches and look at social media sites to screen applicants. Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn have definitely become part of an employer’s background check. One panelist recounted the time they ended the interview process with someone when pictures of the person drinking and partying surfaced on Facebook. Seeing candidates that post appropriate content online was very important to each panelist. They also like to see your personality – one panelist likes to see what books her applicants are reading and seeing who they are connected to online. And, if you have a portfolio online that showcases your work, each panelist expressed interest in seeing it. Just as they ask that you find out who they are, they also want to get to know who you are!
Topic: Multiple Generations in Workplace
Reaction from Panel: This is a topic that is gaining a lot of traction in the workplace and there is definitely plenty to read about it in the media. One panelist that has been working for 30+ years expressed that s/he tries not to “parent” the younger employees and sometimes actually avoids hiring younger workers just to evade different working styles altogether! Another panelist was much more proactive – their organization is trying to create an appealing image that will attract those newer to the workforce, especially since they are in what is traditionally considered a boring industry. What does this mean for you? Portray yourself as someone that is savvy in business and aware of business etiquette and “the way things are done” in a corporate setting. Also, be professional and do not dismiss someone from another generation, especially since your new boss might be years younger than you!”
The bottom line here is that while there may never be hard and fast rules that job seekers can follow – there are guidelines and best practices that emerge through years of experience and from insights offered by hiring mangers like the panelists featured in this presentation. Paying attention to what hiring managers say can help you advance in career; keeping tabs on hiring norms and emerging trends will help you be the most desired candidate no matter what your level of experience.
Do you want more info on any of these topics? Contact Kimberly now! 917.584.3022