You don’t have to be perfect in you job search

PerfectPerfect is the enemy of good

I have heard this periodically throughout my life but unfortunately it is not usually taught by parents or schools but rather by life.  Some things in life you want to do perfectly but most times good is good enough. Take your resume for instance.  I recently had a client that wanted their resume to be perfect.  I am all for not sending one out with mistakes but they agonized over it.  They sent it to friends, colleagues and people in their network for advice.  Then they would rework it and start again.  All the while, never applying for a position.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

I may not guarantee one way to find your next job, but I can guarantee how not to get a job… don’t apply.  I am not saying you should send out your resume when it looks like crap but you do have to get to a point where good is good enough.  Yes there are some basics you want to pay attention to; no typos, consistent and correct punctuation, etc…  But I bet every time you or someone else reviews your resume you will want to change something.

The same thing happens in interviews.  People keep talking hoping that the more they say the better their chances of saying what is “right.”  WRONG!  In fact, one of the concerns we have in interviewing sales people is that some people talk too much.  Here is a hint… sales is more about listening.  I’m just saying.  More is not always better people.

Keep in mind this does not go for everything, parachute packing comes to mind, but for your job search process going after perfect can be wrong.  Or how about when you won’t reach out to people through LinkedIn because they don’t “know them?”  Or when don’t attend a great networking opportunity because you’re not ready.  You know what?  Get ready!  Of course I say this as I type this blog post all the while waiting for the infographics on to make themselves 🙂

It is OK to change as you go through the job search and your career.  If you don’t change you are not doing it right.  Don’t wait till you don’t want to change.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
Winston Churchill

Why you should apply online

I just read a article by J.T. O’Donnell from February titled The (Depressing) Truth About Applying To Jobs Online.”  J.T.’s post give a lot of great tips but there seems to be quite a bit of absolutism in advice these days.

Do this, Don’t do that

The truth is that most job search has merit but to shut-off any one area of your job search is to turn your back on those openings.  Let me stop and admit that I have skin in the game.  Not only do I hire people from the job postings but that is also how I came to work at Mspark.  It may be true that1% or less of online applicants end up getting the job but to that 1%, that is a big deal.

Let’s look at the dating analogy… How many times do online dating sites fail vs. succeed?  They fail a lot!  So should you stop using them?  Or how about first dates all together?  Most first dates fail if your goal is to find a life-long mate.  So, maybe you should stop going on first dates?  Sound ludicrous?  So does telling someone not to fill out an online application.

For some, online applications are a must

Did you know that if an employer is a government contractor you MUST be considered an “applicant” before that employer can consider you for a position?  That means to be considered for a position at most government contractors you must fill out an online application.  Don’t think this rule is a big deal?  Just ask someone in HR who has gone through an OFCCP audit… it’s a big deal with HUGE costs to the company if they don’t follow the rules.  Don’t think you want to work at a government contractor?  Think again, the government contractor list is HUGE and yes, Google is a government contractor.

One strategy is not enough

If you only use one channel in your job search you are severely limiting your options.  Let’s say you follow the advise of looking at companies you that sell products or services you respect and admire.  Granted, J.T.’s article does not say “only” look at those companies but I worry that many people would read it that way and could be ignoring a great number of employers.

Put together a marketing plan

By now you are asking, “What channels should I be using in my job search?”  Great question!  Here are some suggestions but the % you spend on each one is up to you and your job search criteria:

  • Online Job Boards – The numbers that show your odds of getting a job just by applying online are similar to the lottery are skewed by TONS of non-qualified applicants who clog up ATSs daily.  Keep in mind that some jobs are only posted for 24 – 72 hours.
  • Company websites – Some companies only post on their website.
  • LinkedIn – Job postings and networking all in one.
  • Twitter – Great networking tool and good for company research.
  • Social Media – FaceBook, Instagram, etc…  Recruiters are moving to social media.
  • Networking – It is often times true… who you know is more important than what you know.
  • Direct contact with employers – Reach out to the employer directly.  Many times if you call the main-line for a company and ask for HR you can talk to someone.
  • Employee referrals – If you know someone that works at the company where you want to work, be sure to let them know.  Ask if you can put them down as the referral source when you apply for a position.  Many companies pay $500 – $1000 to their employees for referring someone who is hired
  • Career Fairs – Similar to job boards the percentages may tell you the odds are slim but you rarely get the chance to talk one on one with someone from the company.
  • Agencies – While agencies do have competing loyalties, they still provide a useful service to employers and candidates.
  • Associations – Look for industry or profession specific associations.  They may have job boards.  They are also a great way to network and get information.
  • Alumni groups – Is there a local alumni chapter from your University?  Be sure to reach back out to your school.  They may have resources you can use.  Even some major employers have alumni groups.
  • Externships – Try job shadowing.  This is usually easier for students or recent grads.
  • Volunteer – If you are not currently working then volunteering is a great way to network.
  • Market yourself – Go on the offensive.  Some people have posted ads for themselves on FB and other online places.  Start tweeting or blogging about your industry or profession.  There have even been stories about people handing out resumes at subway stops.  Get creative and get out there!

In short, don’t restrict your job search.  Think of it this way… you are the product.  You need to identify your top customers and marketing channels.  Then spend your resources (time) effectively.

Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.
Coco Chanel

6 tips for listing your employment experience on your resume

Here are some basic tips for the experience section on your resume.  First and foremost, don’t lie.  Employers may not be able to dig into your past too much by calling your past employers but we can almost always get your dates of employment and what position you held there.

We’re out of the 1900s so keep it clean

You can use fonts and effects (bold, ALL CAPS, underline, italics, etc…) to draw attention to things but don’t let it take away from a clean looking resume.  Let Comic Sans die already.

What you did is more important than where you did it

I advise people to highlight their position more than the company where they worked.  Take a look at these two examples

Enterprise Holdings Inc.
Management Trainee

Management Trainee
Enterprise Holdings Inc.

For most recruiters and hiring managers they are first interested in what you did in your last positions THEN where you did it.  Put the more important of the two first and bring attention to it through formatting.

Employment dates matter

How you write your dates of employment matter.  Here is how a recruiter/hiring manager interprets different styles:

  • ’12 – ’13: You are trying to hide something… what and why?
  • 2012 – 2013: OK, maybe you worked from December 31st 2012 to January 1st 2013.
  • 2/1/2012 – 3/15/2013:  High attention to detail… maybe too high unless you are applying to be an actuarial or for a government job.
  • 2/2012 – 3/2013: You were there for a year and a month, simple enough.

A brief description may help

You do not want to write a dissertation under each job but a brief description may help.  I recruit a lot of sales people and I want to know what you have sold in the past.  Save me the time of having to look up what industry your company is in and what they do.  But keep it brief.

Bullet your KSAs under each position

I did my reading comprehension in school and I didn’t like it then.  Please do not write a narrative about what you did in each position.  Which do you think is easier to read in 5-10 seconds?

  • Exceeded sales goals by an average of 20% – 30%
  • Hunter mentality with cold calling experience
  • 82% retention rate year over year

As a sales executive I exceeded my sales goals by an average of 20% to 30%.  I have a hunter mentality and I enjoy the challenge of cold calling by phone, email and in person.  Retention of existing customers is also a focus of mine resulting in an 82% retention rate

What to leave OFF you resume

I do NOT need to know how old you are, if you are married, have kids or any other personal information.  Also, leave your picture on LinkedIn but these days it is generally not put on resumes.  If we want references we will ask you for them.

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.
Nikos Kazantzakis

5 things you must get right on your resume

How many times have you heard “First things first?”  But time and time again people mess things up from the beginning… their name.  You may ask “how can someone screw that up?”

Get your name right on your resume

For some reason people often times put their full name on their resume.  Put the name you usually go by on your resume.  No, not the nickname that you got as a pledge but the name you prefer people to call you.  There is no rule or law out there saying your resume must match your social security card.

This comes into play when someone from a company calls you.  If they ask for your proper name you may think it is a telemarketer.

Your resume should include your location

Many people are nervous about including their address on resumes but you at least want to put the city and state.  Many companies only want to hire local candidates.  If it is not evident that you are local they move on to the next candidate.

Be sure your phone number is working

I have had it happen on several occasions that I call a candidate only to hear that the number is no longer in service.  Or I hear that their voicemail is not set up.  To bad for them, I am calling the next resume.

Use a good email address

I shouldn’t have to mention it but I will… be sure your email address is professional.  You also want to be sure you don’t miss any emails.  I recommend starting a new email address for your job search.  That way your spam filter is less likely to grab an email from a company and it won’t get buried.

Social Media and your resume

You may want to include your LinkedIn and possibly your Twitter handle.  It is easy to create a custom LinkedIn url.  Most companies will check social media before hiring you so you might as well include it up front.  Hopefully you are using your social media to your advantage.

If you don’t get these things right, not much else matters.


Beware of the person who can’t be bothered by details.
William Feather

Speak Greek? Fraternities and Sororities on your resume

Greek LifeIn the spirit of full disclosure I was in a fraternity in college.   I cannot imagine my college years without being in the fraternity and I am not sure who I would be today without it.  But I also realize that a lot of negatives come out of fraternities so I realize that membership has its issues.  One of those come into play in your job search.  Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to put your Greek associations on your resume:

Did you hold an office?  If you were one of the leaders in your organization then it may benefit you to list it on your resume.  If you were just a dues paying member, maybe not.

Do you have other examples of leadership?  Resumes are all about relevancy and recency.  If you can show the same KSAs in other ways you may want to leave it off.

Has it been a few years?  I you are like me and you have lived more years after college than you did before college then all of your college organizations loose relevancy and they are not very recent, you probably want to leave it off.

Research who you will be interviewing with.  If they were in a Greek organization, especially if it was yours, list it.  It may not be right but there is a certain bond that lingers long after graduation, use it to your advantage.

Just remember that Fraternities and Sororities have gotten a bad reputation.  But so have bankers and I don’t see people leaving that off their resume.


It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.
Benjamin Franklin

Do you have access to your resume… Right now!

cloud storageNetworking should be an ongoing process.  Because of that you should keep your resume handy.  We are lucky.  Not that many years ago that would mean carrying around a hard copy with you.  Today you just need access to your Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, etc…  That is IF your resume is there AND it is up to date.

Keep it up to date.  Recently I have interviewed several candidates with outdated resumes.  I usually start off the phone interview going over their resume with them.  I even tell candidates my first two questions ahead of time!  It is not uncommon for the most recent part of their resume to be a little out of date.  I hear “Oh, I am no longer there” a lot.  I can handle that, although for many employers that is a BIG RED FLAG.  But, like I have said before, I am flexible.

What is less excusable is two weeks and two interviews later when we have our final interview, the exact same resume is provided with the same incorrect information.  I tell candidates to bring an updated version of their resume with them to the interview.  About 60% of the people who come to the final interview bring their resume with them.  Of those, about 50% of them have changed their resume.

Your resume should be a living thing.  You should update it regularly just as you do your LinkedIn profile.  You should also be able to access it and send it to someone when you need to.  Come to think of it, mine needs a little more work, if I can find it. 🙂


I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.  
Mohandas Gandhi

What’s in a name?

hello my name is dog“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” does not apply to your job search.  Unfortunately your name does matter.  I have said this before and I will say it again; do not lie on your resume.  That being said, you get to choose the name on your resume.  When I first graduated from college I put my FULL name on my resume.  Never mind that it in no way resembles the name I go by.

There have been studies done that show your name actually does matter when looking for a job.  This may be a conscious decision or an unconscious bias on the part of the recruiter but as a candidate you need to keep this in mind.

I encourage people to use the name they go by in everyday professional settings.  But if you go by “Dog” do not put that on your resume.  Yes, I have seen it. Remember, the resume is not some legal document.  So if your name is Elanor April Downing but you go by Eady (for the initials E.A.D.) then I would say put Eady Downing on your resume.  It is also less confusing when I call and get your voicemail when the outgoing message says “Eady” and I was calling Elanor.

This also goes for email addresses, Twitter handles, etc…  Fartboy420 might be funny when you are a freshman but when you apply to a company the laughing stops.  Up to 93% of recruiters use social media in their search for candidates and guess what, yep, it matters.  Companies are more conscious of their corporate brand than ever!  Just ask Carly McKinney, the people involved in the PyCon public shaming or Mike Bacsik.  All of them lost their jobs because of social media.  Sometimes it was just one Tweet!  That sucks!

All I am saying is that branding is VERY important and you need to worry about your personal brand, starting with your name.


A professional headshot in front of a bookshelf says you’re an intellectual. A professional headshot peeking though a bookshelf says you’re probably under a restraining order.
Ryan Lilly

Education on your resume

educationI see a lot of resumes.  I see very few that are nice to read and even fewer that are nice to read AND contain the information I want.  Part of the issue is that many people just apply for anything.  I have written about objectives before and how they are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.  If you do not get that joke then you need more help then I am willing to give:)  At best, resume objectives do nothing, at worst they are what we call a “gross negative qualifier.”  That is corporate speak for NOT passing Go and NOT getting $200.

I currently recruit sales people.  Of the applicants who still insist on using an objective on their resume I would say that 10% or less have an objective with the word “sales” in it.  That is usually a deal killer.  Why?  How about if you are a large, short person and someone walks up to you and says “Want to go out?  I love tall skinny people.”  You would be thinking what I do… you so idiot!

I see room for improvement in a similar area, your education.  Or as I say: “your edjumacation.”  Here are some rules that I suggest you follow when it comes to how you got learned:

GED: If this is your highest level of education and you do not have a significant amount of related experience.

High School: If that is your highest degree or if you applying with a recruiter/hiring manager that you KNOW also went to the same high school.

Certifications: If they are directly related to the position.

Training Classes: If they are directly related to the position.

2-year degree: If that is your highest degree or directly related to the position you are applying for.  For instance, you apply at a hospital and you have a 2-year medical related degree in addition to a higher degree.

4-year degree: If it is your highest degree.

Major: If it is related to the position, company,. profession or industry you are applying with.

Minor: If it is related to the position, company, profession or industry you are applying with.

Master’s: If it is related to the position, company, profession or industry you are applying with or you need to account for a time gap.

PhD: If it is related to the position, company, profession or industry you are applying with or you need to account for a time gap.

Be sure to list your education if it is a requirement in the job posting.  Yes, an advanced degree can be bad for your employment search.  If you apply for a management trainee position but I see that you recently received or you are pursuing a Master’s in music that brings up a lot of questions.  No, I do not think these are lies of omission.  Remember, you do not have to be little-kid honest 🙂

On a side-note, do not list that you are a minister unless it is related to the position, company, profession or industry you are applying with.


Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.
Robert Frost

Making a hit list for your job search

targetsAnother quote that rings true in your job search is from Jim Key: “You’ll only hit the targets at which you aim.”  If you are applying for EVERYTHING you will probably end up with NOTHING.  This is why a lot of people get frustrated in their job search.  They apply for hundreds of jobs and never hear anything or they get a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” email.

At the beginning of any job search you need to start a list of industries, companies and positions you are targeting.  You will add to this list as you go through your job search.  I recommend using a spreadsheet but it is up to you.  If you use a spreadsheet you can cut, paste, insert, sort and filter your data.  This can also turn into your tracking spreadsheet, which I will discuss in a later post.

Your first four columns should be Industry, Profession, Company and Position.

Job search spreadsheet

Now start listing them.  Each row does not have to have all three columns filled yet but you want to list out what you think are good matches for your background AND what you want to do.  You may find that somethings you CAN do you don’t WANT to do and some things you WANT to do you CAN’T, at least not yet.  To find more information on bridging the gap between what you want to do and what you can do look up Informational Interviews, they are awesome!

For instance, for me, my list would start like this:

Job search spreadsheet 1

If you want to look for more ideas on occupations check out O*NET Online.  You can look up occupations by name or look up occupations by abilities, interests, knowledge, skills and much more.  This step is important because what if you want to get into recruiting but you don’t look up “talent acquisition?”  You could miss a lot.

This step should not stop you from applying for positions or looking for work but it will assist you in focusing your efforts.  In my opinion there is only one thing you should do before applying for any job, have a good resume.  I did not say great or perfect, a good one will do to start.

As you go through your job search you will add to this list and I encourage you to change it into your tracking spread sheet.  Call it a very basic JSM (Job Search Management) tool.


Be sure you positively identify your target before you pull the trigger.
Tom Flynn