Tell me a story

Cover letters written to prospective employers can be frustrating.  figure_swearing_150_clr_9614What do I say?  How do I differentiate myself from all the other applicants?

First, know yourself and the skills you bring to the employer.  Then, tell them a story.  They know you are writing to them to get an interview for the job, the internship, etc.  Don’t waste your time or theirs by telling them that in your cover letter.  Instead, tell them a story about you that incorporates skills and values they are looking for.  Don’t fall into the trap that the cover letter OR the resume is about you.  It’s really about your reader and how you connect with them.

Nevada Public Radio (NPR) did a great job of explaining this concept in their recent article about the cover letters they want to see when searching for interns.  Thanks to Steve Drummond and Elissa Nadworny, here is Hey, Students: 5 Things That Are Wrong With Your Cover Letter.

(Chuckle – you just thought I retired.)




Resumes – Three Raves and a Rant

The RAVEjob_opportunity_door_open_400_clr_10042

I’m raving about resumes that address the audience for whom they are intended – the prospective employer.  Did you think your resume was about you?  Not really.  We don’t write a resume to impress ourselves.

A resume is intended to impress future employers and to announce that YOU have the skills to address their problems.

Consider that if the employer didn’t have a problem, they wouldn’t need to hire anyone.  (Applause to Liz Ryan for her article, What Every Job-Seeker Needs to Know About Selling in which Liz eloquently addresses “the Pain Hypothesis”.)


Now, dear reader, if you know me well, you know there has to be a Rant here somewhere. Here it is: Although some application software systems, professions, and professional communities require (dare I say “mandate”?) a more standardized resume style – the old-fashioned kind that lists each position you have had with full description of every task, role, and supervisor. This is becoming less and less the case as the economy picks up and employers have to look more broadly at candidate pools. Thus it is important to:

Know your audience!

In my work as faculty, trainer, and business consultant I am privileged to meet and work with many human resource professionals.  Most of these decision makers inform me that applicants must get their attention by addressing their pain if they ever want to move beyond the HR in-box.  They care secondarily about where you worked and what you did in those positions.


RAVE #2:  If you have opted for a less conservative resume style, consider what (if anything) goes in the top area traditionally reserved for applicant goals.  Realize, PLEASE, that HR professionals often chuckle at how applicants use this most expense piece of resume real estate.  Of course you want a job – if you didn’t you wouldn’t be sending them a resume, so to re-state the obvious (typically something like: “To obtain a career in a fast growing . . .  and use my skills . . . “ is a waste of your resume real estate and the HR manager’s time.

There are no right or wrong answers in writing a resume – there is only the perception that the HR manager has of you when they read it.

Once that decision has been made, move on to skills that will resolve their pain.  Yes, that means that you will often customize a resume for a single or at least a category of job.

RAVE #3: For many job seekers, addressing the skills they possess that will resolve the “pain” of a prospective employer, are not reflected in their employment history.  The skills may instead be reflected in their volunteer experience.  In these cases, consider that the majority of your resume may be a section titled (as an example), “Relevant Experience”.  This is your chance to spotlight projects you have done (paid or unpaid).  Keep the items short – this is not the time for complete sentences.  Use action verbs. What have you done that will address my (the employer’s) pain?  In more than 30 years of hiring professionals, I can assure you that applicants who answered my question:

Why do I need you and how do you differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicants on my desk?

are the ones that got the interview and often, received a job offer.  Was I just different or weird?  I used to ask myself that until I began working with HR professionals and now I know I wasn’t weird.  OK, I’ll admit to being a little outspoken but at the end of the day, it turns out that every HR manager wants two things primarily:

  1. Recruit less
  2. Hire the right person for the job and the corporate culture.

Below the “Relevant Experience” section of your non-traditional resume is a good spot to place a simple “Employment History” section.  Since you’ve already expressed your relevant experience, this segment can simply include “Date-Date; Employer; Job Title”.

Want to know more?  Applicants and HR professionals, please connect with me on LinkedIn to share your RAVES and RANTS about resumes.  Let’s keep this conversation going!

Is the job market hiding, or are you?

For some individuals, the answer is yes to both of these questions. If you’re still looking for your new position in a listing such as newspaper or Internet, realize that only a very small percentage of recruitment notices ever make it to those listings and of those that do, about 50% of them are included solely to satisfy legal or corporate policy requirements.

The real job market is in the network.

The term network; a.k.a. networking used to mean who you knew. It followed that the individual who knew more people would likely be hired first. That’s no longer the case. In today’s ultra-competitive world, the “winner” is the individual about whom more people know. Networking success today is measured in the number of individuals who know about you, your talents, and your skills. There are a myriad of methods to accomplish this and a healthy balance of each of the methods should be sought. These include: joining and attending events in your industry, honing your social media presence, especially on LinkedIn, becoming involved on committees within organizations that support your industry of choice, and more. The purest form of networking, however, is informational interviewing.

Informational interviewing is an opportunity to meet with an industry professional to learn more about the industry, what it’s like to work in a particular company, the career path that professional followed to get to their current position, what skills are most valued within the profession, and how success is measured. This is your chance to gather information in a setting far less stressful than a job interview.

About 15 minutes is ample time for an informational interview. Keep your questions succinct and look for chances to convey your career goals and knowledge in a conversational setting. REMEMBER, this NOT a job interview. It is instead, pure networking. For every informational interview you conduct, you expand the network of professionals that know about you far more than you realize. Assuming you made a good impression, the individual you met with can now refer to having met you when they learn from a counterpart that there is a job opening within the industry. People talk. Take advantage of that to open doors for your next career move.

Want to know more about the subtle nuances that will enhance your information interviewing success? Or perhaps you want to learn more about how to build your personal brand. (YES, you ARE a brand!) I’ll be on-hand to answer questions on these topics as part of a LinkedIn Workshop that will be hosted in January by the DCTC-MPI Student Club.

Together we can make 2015 YOUR YEAR. Watch this blog and the MPI online newsletter ( for more information. Meet me on LinkedIn!

The Impacts of Social Networking on Getting a Job

the_web_wants_you tooCan we fully enjoy the social networking technologies available to us without concern of how far our virtual image will leak into the real world and impact us getting (or keeping) a job?  No!  The web does want YOU.  It wants all of us.  It wants us to create and own our brand.  And whether we realize it or not, we append to our brand each time we communicate online. The old adage of “who you know” is still relative to success, but it has been extended to “who you know” online.

As we have learned to enjoy social networking tools, so have employers and recruiters.  From sourcing prospective employees to vetting them for the job, human resource professionals use social networking tools as a primary resource.  That means accountability for all of us, especially in our social networking communications.

Recruitment:  See and Be Seen

Network, network, network.  That word has become the mantra for job seekers.  In-person networking is, of course, here to stay.  In today’s technological culture, however, virtual networking is equally powerful.  Your virtual image can make or break the likelihood you will get the interview you’re hoping for or even be noticed by recruiters.  Recent research indicates that it’s your interests that employers primarily data-mine in the recruitment process.  In a video interview on BBC News England, (Lawrence, 2012) Lynsey Sweales, social media expert, and Tamara Lewis, recruiter for a global public relations firm, addressed how and why to see and be seen online. Sweales advised individuals to keep future employers in mind when forming a social media profile.  She stated that, “It’s absolutely fine having personality.”, but also encouraged individuals to talk about the industry that interests them on social networks.  Lewis explained how important an online presence has become. “I would say my first port of call to identify new talent is LinkedIn and it has changed the way I recruit,” she said.

When communicating on social network platforms, some obvious and common sense guidelines should still be adhered to.  Sweales confirmed, “If you are looking for a job or using social media as a business you obviously need to think how it is going to look from an employer’s or another businesses’ point of view.”  She warned, “But if you’re not prepared to say something to someone’s face, don’t say it. “

In Jobvite’s 2011 survey of human resource and recruiting professionals, (Social Recruiting Survey Results, 2011) 89% of respondents confirmed they recruited or planned to recruit using online social networks.  Of the respondents, 87% stated they use LinkedIn in their recruitment efforts; Facebook ranked 2nd at 56.3% and Twitter a close 3rd at 46.6%.    Jobvite, a recruiting platform for the social web, has been tracking the use of social networks in recruiting for the past four years.  They report that the 2011 survey indicates employer time spent recruiting on social networks grew to 1 out of every 6 minutes from 1 out of every 12 minutes four years ago.  It is therefore not surprising that survey respondents cited referrals, direct sourcing and social networks as their top external sources to find quality candidates.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) released a white paper that provides aggregate results of their 2011 employer poll. (Social Networking Websites for Identifying and Staffing Potential Job Candidates Survey Findings, 2011)  SHRM’s results mimicked Jobvite’s, showing a marked increase from their 2008 poll in use of social network sites for recruiting.  The majority of their respondents (56%) indicated the use of social networking sites in recruitment and within that group, 95% use LinkedIn, 58% Facebook, and 42% Twitter.

It is time for individuals who have not participated in social networking platforms to reconsider their position.  Their social network presence and brand may make the difference in getting a job.

Advice from the Pros

In a Computer Weekly article (l’Anson, 2012) titled, “How to make effective use of social media in your job search”, Jeremy l’Anson, professional career coach and author of the book, You’re Hired! Total Job Search 2013, scheduled to be published in November, 2012, advises his clients to increase the likelihood they will be visible in keyword searches by creating a keyword-rich LinkedIn profile.  As an example, he provides: “Richard Jones, middleware specialist” and also suggests that they join industry-related LinkedIn groups, as well as connect with individuals in their area of expertise.  l’Anson recommends that a Twitter bio should also be keyword-rich and instructs his clients to tweet about their area of expertise.  l’Anson proposes that clients tie their Twitter and LinkedIn efforts together by incorporating a tiny URL that connects each tweet back to LinkedIn. He instructs about the use of hashtags (#) to connect with recruiters.  Simple hashtags such as “#Minneapolisjobs” and “#marketing” (if marketing is your profession) can make the connection with the right recruiter at the opportune time.  Twitter’s search engine works in reverse, so an individual looking for a job can make great use of Twitters advanced search tools.  Finally, l’Anson confirms that recruiters want to view only positive and professional information online about their hires, and that Facebook accounts should remain private.

Rob Pickell, senior Vice President of Customer Solutions at HireRight, recently shared his views with Susan Heathfield from Guide. (Heathfield, 2012) He likened LinkedIn as the web version of professional networking and brought to light that LinkedIn “. . . can help employers leverage their own networks (and those of their employees) to find potential candidates. . . “He also endorsed Facebook and Twitter as valid recruiting platforms.

Jon Gelberg, Chief Content Officer of Blue Fountain Media recently shared his tips in an interview with Alison Doyle from Guide. (Doyle, 2012)  In the interview, Gelberg gives job seekers the following points.

Post relevant content – your intelligence, passion, creativity, talents

Content presentation – check grammar, spelling, etc.

Consistency – make sure that the information on your social media sites is consistent

Photos – check to be certain that embarrassing and unprofessional photos are not present

Your opinions – be sure that any opinions you express online are professional and conservative

Regarding the use of Linked In, Gelberg suggests the following pointers.

Check to see if your resume matches up with your profile

Strengths, interests and experiences should be visible

Ask for recommendations

Use keywords you believe future employers will be searching on

LinkHumans, a London social recruiting consultancy released an e-book for job seekers. (Sundberg J. , How to Recruit on LinkedIn: 15 Tips for Your Profile, Networking and Branding, 2012) The book, written by Jorden Sundberg sophisticates online social networking for job seekers in ways most individuals have not considered.  Sundberg advises how to increase your own search rankings using SEO (search engine optimization) techniques.  He discusses the ability to upload PowerPoint presentations and video presentations into a LinkedIn profile by using the online tool, Slide Share. Sundberg explores the benefits of creating an Amazon reading list and warns his readers to be sure they have read the books on their list since prospective employers are apt to review the list.  Traveling job seekers will want to know more about TripIt, a tool that keeps track of where you are traveling and when. The information can be integrated into your LinkedIn account.  Adding a blog link to LinkedIn opens many new ideas for enhanced visibility.  Twitter can now be integrated into a LinkedIn profile.  These tips are just the beginning of a 16-page ebook that is well worth the read.

Building Your Personal Brand Online

Comprehensive information about SEO for LinkedIn profiles is further provided in Sundberg’s blog article, “How to Make Google Love Your LinkedIn Profile” (Sundberg J. , Jorgen Sundberg Blog, 2012)  In this article, Sundberg adds new tips, including one that is a great first step to building your personal brand.  That is, to use the LinkedIn option and set a vanity URL for your LinkedIn page. offers great tips to build your personal brand in a series of articles.   While most of the tips in their “How to Build Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn (21 Useful Tips)” (Sundberg J. , The Undercover Recruiter, 2012) have been previously discussed herein, a few new tips deserve mention. Combining in-person and virtual networking is at the core of the suggestion to use the Events section of LinkedIn by searching on events that are in your industry to see who is attending.  Similarly, when you list an event, your entire network gets notified.  And, when someone clicks “attending” or “interested”, their networks get notified as well.  Implementing this advice makes it possible to attend events that your prospective employer is at and to spread the word about an event you will be attending; all great ways to distribute your brand and network both virtually and in person at the same time.  In the same article, also advises that more LinkedIn recommendations is not more . . . it’s actually less.  Instead, focus on getting 5 – 10 quality recommendations in total (double if you are in the U.S.).

At the heart of all personal brands, of course, is a personal brand statement and provides excellent information in their articles, “How to Craft Your Personal Brand Statement” (Sundberg J. , 2012) and “The 7 Rules of Effective Personal Brand Statements” (Sundberg J. , The 7 Rules of Effective Personal Brand Statements, 2012).  Highlights of the advice are included here.

The length of your personal brand statement should be the length of one out-breath (after taking a deep breath).

Make your statement unique; be sure it includes what you are best at, who you serve and how you do it uniquely.  You may also consider this your slogan or tag-line.

Simplify – write it so an 8-year-old understands it.

Make it catchy, memorable and repeatable.

Finally, always deliver it with confidence.

Can your social network information harm employment possibilities?

The short answer to this question is, “yes”.  As the competition for jobs increases, it’s obvious that anything other than positive and professional information will do (see Sweales and l’Anson comments above). But just how invasive are employers getting in the use of social networks to screen and perform background checks?  In his interview with Guide, referenced above, Pickell addressed the risks that employers open themselves to when they switch from recruiting via social network sites to using them for background checks.  He cited that when information gleaned from social media sites is used to vet prospective employees, employers risk liability for discrimination and regulation non-compliance.  For example, information contrary to non-discriminatory practices such as marital status, religion, etc. are typically available on social network sites.  And, having viewed that information, a discrimination claim is quite possible.  In addition, he suggests that employers consider the risk of a negligent hiring or negligent retention lawsuit through the use of social network information.  He goes on to state that it’s possible a workplace violence incident might take place with an employee and if the propensity for this behavior had been on the employees social media site, then viewing that information would heighten the employer’s responsibility for the violence.

There are, of course, methods to mitigate these potential risks and pending legislation, employers are applying creativity whenever possible.  In their online article, (Basing Hiring Decisions on Information Obtained from Social Media) Winmark Business Solutions shared key information from ADP’s webinar report, “Rising Above the Risks of Social Media”.  The report suggested that “someone who is not a decision maker at the company conduct the search in order to filter out protected information.  This person can then provide the ‘scrubbed’ information in document form to a decision maker for review.”

And then there is always the possibility that although your Facebook account is secured, you forget that you “friended” your boss.  Maybe he/she wasn’t your boss when you “friended” them, but the results would be the same if you spoke ill of him/her or the firm on Facebook.  (Pacusso, 2012)  Visit the posts, “Attention Seeking Facebook Status – Can they harm your career?” for a great example of why what you “say” online shouldn’t be said if you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face.  There’s that advise from Lynsey Sweales (above) again.


Social network platforms give each of us an opportunity to reach beyond ourselves, our geography and our culture.  We live a global community that is entirely networked.  Individuals who have not yet embraced social networking may soon find themselves at a distinct disadvantage

Rosealee Lee, CMM, CAE, CM is a faculty member in the Business and Management Department of Dakota County Technical College. Rosealee also serves as CEO of StrategicYOU; providing training and consultation that incorporates strategic behavior and the change it offers to provide timely solutions to real people about real issues of today.     You can reach Rosealee at or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Works Cited

Basing Hiring Decisions on Information Obtained from Social Media. (n.d.). Retrieved October 3, 2012, from Winmark Business Solutions:

Doyle, A. (2012). Social Networking Tips for Grads: How to Use Social Media to Boost Your Job Hunt. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from Guide:

Heathfield, S. M. (2012). Use Social Media for Recruiting, Screening, and Background Checks? How to Consider and Make Use of Infomratoin Available on Social Network Sites. Retrieved September 28, 2012, from Guide: 9/28/12

l’Anson, J. (2012). How to make effective use of social media in your job search. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from Computer Weekly:

Lawrence, N. (2012). Social media profiles can affect job prospects. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from BBC News England:

Pascusso, J. (2012). Retrieved October 1, 2012, from Think Big Online:

Social Networking Websites for Identifying and Staffing Potential Job Candidates Survey Findings. (2011). Retrieved September 18, 2012, from SocialNetworkingWebsitesforIdentifyingandStaffingPotentialJobCandidates.aspx

Social Recruiting Survey Results. (2011). Retrieved September 16, 2012, from

Sundberg, J. (2012). Retrieved September 29, 2012, from The Undercover Recruiter:

Sundberg, J. (2012). Retrieved September 30, 2012, from Jorgen Sundberg Blog:

Sundberg, J. (2012). How to Craft Your Personal Brand Statement. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from The Undercover Recruiter:

Sundberg, J. (2012). How to Recruit on LinkedIn: 15 Tips for Your Profile, Networking and Branding. Retrieved September 28, 2012, from

Sundberg, J. (2012). The 7 Rules of Effective Personal Brand Statements. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from The Undercover Recruiter:

Photo courtesy of

Retrieved 10/6/12