Saturday, November 5, 2011

22 Secrets...Part 2...and my pic for THE GAME

Last week I gave you the list of 22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting A Job.
This week we’ll take a look closer at the first 8 secrets.

HR Secret Number 1:

“Once you’re unemployed more than six months, you’re considered pretty much unemployable. We assume that other people have already passed you over, so we don’t want anything to do with you.”

Unfortunately, this is often the way HR looks at unemployed candidates. It’s sad and has resulted in many candidates “fudging” on their resumes. Increasingly we see resumes reflecting dates that would make one think the candidate is still employed. Or people are just using the year employment ended rather than month and year. Anything to hide the fact that they have been out of work for several months. With managers and executives who may have received a severance package of some sort, they sometimes show employment through the severance period. Some of the “fudging” is recommended by outplacement firms or headhunters. I say don’t do it. Tell it like it is.

If you’ve been unemployed for more than six months, be prepared to tell your story IF you get an interview. There’s not much you can do if the company “policy” is not to consider unemployed or long-term unemployed candidates. But in many cases you will get a shot and you will be asked something like “why do you think it’s taken so long for you find a job”. How will you answer that one? I’m not going to cover the entire subject here, but there are certain responses you should avoid. For example, if you’ve been holding out for pay equal or above what you were making, don’t say that. Avoid saying anything that makes you appear inflexible, unreasonable or picky…even if you are. Another no-no, is saying that you’ve had dozens of interviews, but no offers. That just confirms the HR person’s opinion that you are probably unemployable. (If you’ve actually had dozens of interviews but no offers, you do need to figure out what’s going on.)

HR Secret Number 2:

“When it comes to getting a job, who you know really does matter. No matter how nice your résumé is or how great your experience may be, it’s all about connections.”

This is true. All things being equal the person with connections will get the job over the person without connections. The message here is network, network, network BEFORE you need a network. And, of course, network with a few select and highly competent headhunters…wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

Seriously, don’t underestimate the value of the headhunter’s network. If a headhunter knows that you are a high quality candidate who can bring value to one of his clients, he may be able to get you in the door, even if you’re unemployed or have had some recent job hops (through no fault of your own, of course).

HR Secret Number 3:

“If you’re trying to get a job at a specific company, often the best thing to do is to avoid HR entirely. Find someone at the company you know, or go straight to the hiring manager.”

I agree, but with the caveat that there is the potential that you could shoot yourself in the foot if HR is freaky about control. You’re generally ok if you know someone in the company. They can tell you whether you should go through HR and the best way to do it. But going straight to the hiring authority can be dicey. It’s actually less risky if you’re not responding to an specific job posting that has clear instructions about the application process. If you want to work for a certain company, contacting the hiring authority who is most likely to need someone like you is not a bad move.

HR Secret Number 4:

“People assume someone’s reading their cover letter. I haven’t read one in 11 years.”

I’ll challenge this one. Very few cover letters get read BEFORE the resume gets read. But if the resume gets my attention, then I will glance at the cover letter. If the cover is just form letter BS, then I ignore it. But if it actually adds something to the resume and has an “executive bio” quality to it, then it is a positive. So if you have something valuable to say in a cover letter, use it. If not, don’t.

HR Secret Number 5:

“We will judge you based on your e-mail address. Especially if it’s something inappropriate like or”

If this is a secret to you, then you may well be among the “unemployed for more than 6 months” crowd. C’mon man…common sense. Use a professional email address in your job search. And if you have a really bad one like “johnnylikestodrink”…get rid of it…that’s not even right for personal emails.

HR Secret Number 6:

“If you’re in your 50s or 60s, don’t put the year you graduated on your résumé.”

Good advice, but don’t go overboard trying to hide your age. I see resumes where someone only shows the last 10 or 15 years of experience. The positions one has held are usually an indicator of where one is in their career. So it’s fairly easy to figure out if a person is leaving off a big chunk of career history. If you are in your 50s or 60s, it’s ok to only list positions over the past 15 years or so, but I always recommend that the candidate include a comment to reflect something like “held prior (sales, management, operations, etc) positions in the such and such industry.”

The other option is to go way back but not all the way back. If you’ve got 35 years of industry experience, go back 25 years. Especially if the first 10 years of your work history isn’t really relevant to your current career path and the past 25 show steady progress. But the 35 year veteran who only shows the last 15 years and no indication of prior work experience just ends up looking foolish.

HR Secrets Number 7 & 8 are closely related:

“There’s a myth out there that a résumé has to be one page. So people send their résumé in a two-point font. Nobody is going to read that.”

“I always read résumés from the bottom up. And I have no problem with a two-page résumé, but three pages is pushing it.”

I agree with 7 and slightly disagree with 8. If you are well-established in your career, your resume will be at least two pages and running over to page three is acceptable. For me, a four page resume is pushing it. It also depends on the quality of information included on the resume. Long “career objective” statements or introductory lists of skills and accomplishments apart from specific positions are a waste of space in my opinion.

Next week, we’ll pick it up with HR Secret Number 9.

(As for the college football game of the year, I’m rooting for LSU because an LSU win over Alabama is potentially better for Arkansas….but if I were a betting man, it’s Alabama 27 – LSU 20.)

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