What to ask for when networking

Ask for advice, not a job!

Networking can be a complex process for many people! There are different aspects to it and all of them require thought. Starting with a clear objective is important – knowing exactly why you are doing it and what you want to get out of it provides direction and motivation. Knowing who to connect with or meet is also important – otherwise you could end up with hundreds of contacts who can’t help you with your objectives. Knowing how to get connected to or meet the people who can help you in your job search is another important part of networking. These aspects of networking have been dealt with in previous articles on this website.

The question of what to say to people or ask of them once connected is frequently asked. This question typically arises when new networkers hear that the golden rule of networking is not to ask for a job. Asking people you have just met or been connected to for a job can create awkwardness, especially if they don’t have a job for you. Asking for a job directly scares people off and can create a ‘cul de sac’ or dead-end for you. So what do you ask of them instead?

Assuming your objective was to connect with people who are in a position to offer you the type of job you are seeking (or at least to connect with people who know these people and could connect you or introduce you to them), then what you ask for is advice or information. Asking someone for advice is non-threatening – it doesn’t create awkwardness – and frequently strokes the person’s ego as it shows respect and admiration. People ask advice from people whose opinions they believe matter, and when asked for advice, it’s natural for the person asked to assume that the person asking admires or respects them. They therefore are likely to agree to help!

The advice to ask for is about your career or about your job search. Tell the person that they have taken the career path you wish to pursue and that you wish to discuss with them the best way forward for you in your pursuit. You are merely asking for career advice.

Or you might again say something flattering about their position or career to-date, and on that basis you are seeking information or advice on the best way to achieve your career goal (i.e. get that job!). As long as you are not asking them directly for a job, they are likely to agree to meet you or get involved in an e-mail exchange. Meeting face-to-face is the most effective way of doing this, and asking for just fifteen to twenty minutes of their time shouldn’t be too much. Always end such discussions by asking them who else might be able to help you.

Even without asking for a job there is much to be gained from such an encounter. You meet them, discuss your career and job search, and they might actually have a vacancy for you! If they don’t, you will have gained valuable knowledge about your career or job search, and they may refer you to someone else who might have a job vacancy or who can introduce you to someone else who might. No matter what the outcome, it’s a positive one for you.

To back up your position that you are not there to ask for a job, do not bring a copy of your resume with you! If asked, tell them that you are there for advice and information so didn’t bring a resume with you, but that you will send it to them shortly afterwards.

This type of meeting (it’s called informational interviewing) is not difficult to conduct, and consistently produces positive outcomes.

Set Career Goals for a Brighter Future

Create your future by setting career goals

The New Year is a time many people make resolutions and set goals for various parts of their life, but few people set or revisit goals for their career. Rather than having specific and clear goals, many people almost drift though their career – they have an idea that they want to be promoted or attain a higher salary, but they don’t actually have a clear goal of where they want to be in ten years’ time or what is the next step or milestone on getting there.

People who plan their career achieve more and are more successful. They tend to be the people that others are envious of and wonder what they are doing to get promoted faster than their peers. People who plan their career are usually more content, satisfied and fulfilled in their work. People who plan their career are more likely to get where they want to go because they have a ‘career roadmap’.

So, as it is the New Year, now is a good time for you to plan your career, and below describes how you can go about doing it.

The starting point for career planning is a question: Where do you want to be career-wise in seven to ten years’ time?

Seven to ten years is considered long-term in career planning, but it is also useful to consider what job you want to retire from at the end of your career – depending on your age, this may be considerably longer-term than your seven to ten year career goal. However, an ‘end-of-career’ goal can provide overall direction to your career and how you think about it. Your ‘end-of-career’ goal may change over time as you gain experience and/or develop new interests, so it is not completely fixed or ‘set in stone’ – but it is an important beacon providing guidance to your career direction.

To develop your career plan, it is useful to identify both your ‘end-of-career’ goal and your seven to ten year career goal. Indeed, your seven to ten year career goal will be a major milestone on the way to your ‘end-of-career’ goal. Even if you are unsure or unclear about your ‘end-of-career’ goal, you can still develop a valuable and constructive long-term plan by focusing on a seven to ten year period. The process of determining both is the same, just that one is a longer duration than the other and will have more milestones. Here, for simplicity, we will focus on developing a seven to ten year career plan.

Having answered the question of where you want to be in your career in seven to ten years’ time, write that down at the top of a sheet of paper – this is your end point. Also write down at the bottom of the page where you are now – the job you are currently in – this is your starting point. This is the framework for your career ‘roadmap’.

Now you need to consider what milestones are in between your starting and end points. Let’s begin at your end point: What type of job do you need to be in to be considered eligible to get the long-term job that you want? What experience and skills are required for this job? This is the final milestone on the way to your career goal.

And for that job – the final milestone job – what job would you need to be in to be considered eligible to get promoted to this job? This is your second-last milestone. And so on until you are back at your current job and have identified milestones all the way to your end job.

Now you have a career roadmap that has identified your long-term career goal (the end point) and each type of job you need to get along the way as milestones. You can see a clear direction your career needs to take. When job opportunities present themselves, you now have guidance on whether such jobs will help you get where you want to be – are they in keeping with your career roadmap? Will such a job help you get the next job that is a milestone on your career roadmap or the one after that? If so, you should take it – if not, it is a distraction on your way to your end goal.

A following article will show you how to create a career development plan that will identify the skills, qualifications, knowledge and experience necessary to secure the jobs on your career roadmap.

How to Identify Your Skills and Strengths

Identify Your Skills and Strengths

To properly prepare for a job interview or to craft a more impactful résumé, at some point you need to identify your skills and strengths. As in previous articles, a ‘strength’ is a skill that you are both good at and enjoy doing. Everybody has skills they are good at but don’t really like doing, so it is better to focus on those that you do enjoy – work using your strengths leads to job satisfaction, fulfilment, and happiness at work.

So, how should you go about compiling your skills and strengths? Firstly, look at your current job – what skills do you use everyday, regularly, and infrequently? Open a file on your computer and start listing these skills. You need to reflect on your job – on what you actually do to meet your objectives. As you list your skills, make a separate list of those you are good at and those you enjoy doing – i.e. your strengths.

Then examine what you did in your previous job and list the skills you used for that. There is no need to repeat any skills you have already listed. You will probably find that there is a large overlap between the skills you use in your current position and those you used in your last job, but make sure to identify those that you no longer use.

Move on to the next job, and then the next, and so on until you have listed all the skills you have used in every position you have held to-date. Depending on your age and experience, identifying and listing your skills can be a tedious task, so perhaps do it over a few days. Doing it this way will not only prevent becoming overwhelmed by the task, but will also result in a more complete list of your skills as your subconscious mind will still be working on identifying your skills even when you are not consciously doing so!

When you have listed all of the skills you have used in your work, both current and past, write a list of all the achievements you are proud of in your life. These achievements will be from both your work life and non-work life, and may include events such as getting a degree, getting married, becoming captain of a sports team, etc. When you have listed the achievements you are proud of, ask yourself what these say about you. For example, getting a degree might say you are studious and disciplined, while passing your driving test at the sixth attempt might say you are determined, motivated and resilient. Then identify the skills you used in these achievements. Since you are proud of these achievements, you most likely used skills you are both good at and enjoy doing – i.e. strengths.

The next step is to identify skills you use outside of work – these are important too. For each of your leisure activities and hobbies, list the skills you use in each. If you are in a leadership position related to any of these, note the skills associated with that role. Some people realise that they have finance ‘strengths’ they use as treasurer of a club, or organising skills they use as secretary of a group. Others identify counselling related skills from voluntary work they do with their faith group or from their involvement in a local youth club or elderly befriending group. List all these skills as some will be strengths and many may well be transferrable skills that an employer might be interested in.

This exercise of identifying your skills and strengths may be a tedious task, but it is also very revealing about yourself. Most people are not aware of all the skills they possess, nor of their strengths, and the process of identifying them is great for their self-esteem. One of the rewards of completing this task is that you will feel better about yourself afterwards. You will also have a realistic list of your skills for updating your résumé, and won’t have to think too hard when you are asked to discuss your strengths at an interview.

Singapore Jobs Forecast for 2018

Better outlook for job seekers

2018 looks better for job seekers

2018 brings a new year with better prospects for job hunters in Singapore. The economy is improving and confidence in it by employers will lead to greater hiring demands. According to a survey conducted by ManpowerGroup Singapore, 16% of employers said that they are planning on increasing their staffing levels in 2018. However, 5% stated that they expect to decrease the number of staff, and 74% stated that they expect no change in staffing levels. This, according to the survey report, gives an 11% growth in the net employment outlook, even when adjusted for seasonal variations. This is good news for job seekers and is the strongest outlook in 2 years, up from 7% for the same period last year.

So where will the job increases be?

The strongest expected staffing level increases will be in the public sector and education with a 22% growth. In the services industry, IT is again looking at strong growth with increasing demand for cyber security specialists, digital applications, data mining and analytics, software applications and software development. Anything to do with helping businesses increase their online presence and market or sell through smart devices will be in strong demand. The government’s focus on Singapore as a Smart Nation is also driving demand for specialist labour in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), especially for software engineers, data scientists, and IoT (Internet of Things) specialists.

The transport and utilities industries are also said to expand in 2018.

Other than in FinTech (finance focused technologies) related jobs, the financial industry is only expected to have a moderate increase in staffing levels. Here, as well as real estate and the wholesale and retail trade sectors, employers seem to be adopting a ‘wait and see’ policy in relation to the economy – if the economy expands more than expected, then they will be hiring. If not, they are not expecting any changes in hiring.

Retrenchments are slowing

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower’s Labour Market Report for the third quarter of 2017 shows that retrenchments are slowing. There were 3400 retrenchments in Q3 2017, down 6.6% from 3640 in Q2 2017, and down 19.4% from a year ago when retrenchments were 4220 in Q3 2016. The slowdown is mainly attributed to the services and manufacturing sectors.

But PMETs hit hard again

Unfortunately, around 70% of retrenchments hit PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians), with most retrenchments being in the services industry (always very vulnerable to shifts in confidence in the economy). Fortunately the government has placed great emphasis on helping retrenched PMETs find new jobs with financial incentives for employers to employ them, and many up-skilling and re-skilling initiatives.

More good news for those retrenched

The good news from the Ministry of Manpower’s Labour Market Report for Q3 for those retrenched is that the six-month re-entry rate is up 1.9 percentage points to 66.4% over Q2, and up 2 percentage points over Q1. This can be attributed to the improving economy and the government’s initiatives.

Overall, job seekers can expect an improvement in hiring in 2018.

How our values affect our work and choice of career

Values determine our happiness at work

What are ‘values’?

Values are what are important to us in a particular context. In the context of our career or work for example, values are what is important to us about that and may include such things as ‘challenge’, ‘teamwork’, ‘autonomy’, or ‘recognition’. Values are what we want in a particular context.

Money is a value

Money or salary is usually a work value as well, because we all need money to live and pay the bills. For some people, just having enough to live on, look after their dependents (children and/or parents), pay the bills and have a little holiday is sufficient. For others, they want lots and lots of money. The difference between the two is another value which is about what money can do for them – for the person wanting lots of money, money can buy material goods which shows other people how successful they are. The other value here may be a self-esteem related one such as wanting others to look up to them.

Values mean different things to different people

A person who has work values such as ‘autonomy’ and ‘recognition’ will only be happy in work if their boss allows them to ‘get on with it’ – that they are allowed decide how the work is done or the desired outcome reached without being micromanaged by the boss. They also need to be given recognition for the work they do. However, recognition means different things to different people. For some, recognition may have to be in the form of a financial bonus or a pay increment. For others, they may just want the boss to acknowledge that they did a good job or get a ‘thank you’ for doing it. Again, some people want public recognition – i.e. it is also important to them that others know that the boss has recognised their effort – while for others a private word of thanks is sufficient.

Core values transcend contexts

While many of our values are only valid in a particular context such as our work or in our relationships, we also have ‘core values’ which are valid across all or most contexts. Some examples of such core values are honesty, truthfulness, or integrity. These are values that might be important to a person in their work or career, but would be equally important to them in their relationships, or in their buying decisions (where a company would need to have an ethical reputation for them to buy from).

Job satisfaction comes from our values being met

Most of the time we are not aware of our values – they operate in the back of our minds. If a person has work values of ‘teamwork’, ‘collaboration’, ‘challenge’ and ‘autonomy’, they will be happy in work as long as these values are being met. This would require a work environment where people worked together (on projects for example), but where each individual had their own part to play and, once they know what that is, are allowed to decide the best way to achieve their work goal. The work would also need to be challenging in some way – this might be that there is something new to learn or a new kind of problem to be solved. When these values are being met in work, the individual will feel contentment, job satisfaction, fulfilment, and be happy in work.

When our values are violated

But then a new boss takes over the team! This boss is very ‘hands on’ and likes to micromanage his subordinates. He decides the best way the job is to be done and tells people they just need to follow his instructions and do what they are told – no need to work with others. This would also take the challenge out of the job as the boss was deciding how everything is to be done. The person who has work values of ‘teamwork’, ‘collaboration’, ‘challenge’ and ‘autonomy’ will no longer be happy in work – they won’t have job satisfaction or a sense of fulfilment. They will feel that there is something wrong in their life, especially at work, but they probably won’t be able to articulate what or why. It’s simply that their values have been violated. They probably feel a lack of ‘fit’ with their job or the company, and start looking for a new job or even a new career. When our values are violated, we feel disrespected, and know ‘deep down’ that we need to take action.

Using values in career direction finding

When people are looking to find career direction for themselves – whether starting out in their working life or looking to change career – values play an important part. We have already seen the positive and negative impact our values can have in work, so determining whether our values will be met or not in the careers or jobs we are considering, and to what extent, is important if we are to find a career or job we will be happy and content in. Our work values can be our evaluation criteria.

People sometimes take a job that offers them a good salary or makes them look good in some way – it meets these values which can be important to some younger people. Their other values, such as challenge, meaning, or recognition, may not be met in that job, but because their more important value is being met, they work on, sometimes for years. But eventually the allure of the money and ‘looking good’ to others wears off and they feel that they just can’t go on in that type of job – they need ‘something’ more, they just don’t know what it is exactly – they need their values to be met.

Get to know your values for a more fulfilling life

So values are important in all areas of our life, and as this is a career advisory site, we emphasise their importance in work. Get to know your values – have a competent person elicit them for you – and ensure they are being met in your job. If some values are not being met, talk to your boss about it so a way to include them in your work can be found. Doing so has enormous benefits for you, your boss and the company.

A Strengths-Based Approach to Career Direction Finding

Your ‘strengths’ are those skills you are good at and enjoy doing

Finding Career Direction

When trying to determine career direction, it is best to use multiple perspectives including psychometric inventories (such as the Myer Briggs Type Inventory better known as the MBTI, and the Strong Interests Inventory) and a values-based one. Another approach that augments the output of the other perspectives is a strengths-based one. Essentially this is a full identification of your skills – your work skills and other skills developed through your involvement in hobbies, leisure pursuits or sports – and these skills are then categorised.

Skills that you are good at

Everybody has skills, some of which you are good at and others not so good. It makes sense when looking at possible future careers or jobs to focus on those skills you are good at – if your work involves skills you are good at, you are going to do well in that job and progress. However, for those skills that you are good at or strong in, there are always some that you don’t particularly like doing. A job centred on skills that you don’t like doing is one that will eventually cause you stress and unhappiness.

Skills that you enjoy doing

Then there are skills that you are both good at or strong in and enjoy doing – these we call your ‘strengths’. A career or job that utilises your strengths is one that you will do well in because you are working to your strengths – those areas that you are good at. Obviously doing things that you are mostly good at will get you noticed in work, will lead to increased responsibilities, quicker promotion, and continual salary increases. Furthermore, when your work involves doing things that you enjoy doing – whether that is working with people either as colleagues or as customers, uncovering facts and figures through detailed research, using your hands to help make something, etc – your work will bring you contentment, gratification, and joy. Working to your strengths brings fulfilment, job satisfaction and happiness.

Using strengths in career direction finding

There are two ways your strengths can be used in the career direction finding process. Firstly, when you look at your strengths as a group, ask yourself do these suggest a career or job – or what career or job would facilitate you in using most of these strengths? You may have to do some research for this. Talk to family and friends about it. Discuss your strengths with a trusted mentor or teacher. Look at an occupational database such as www.onetonline.org which will allow you search jobs with various keywords. The effort involved is well worth the outcome – finding a career or job that will bring fulfilment and job satisfaction.

The other way you can use your strengths in the career direction finding process is using them as criteria to evaluate whether various jobs will be suitable for you. If you have a shortlist of jobs, ask yourself which of them will facilitate you in using your strengths? And which of them will allow you use your strengths most? If such a job has already being judged suitable to your personality type and core interests, wouldn’t that be your dream job?

Make Networking an Integral Part of Your Job Search

Be ‘strategic’ when networking

Using Job Boards

Some people rely only on job boards when searching for a new job, but using job boards has a low success rate. They also involve the greatest competition – there are thousands of others using the same job boards and many of them are looking for a job similar to the one you are searching for.

Using Employment Agencies and Recruiters

Others use employment agencies where recruiters try to match suitable candidates to a job that a company asked them to fill to – the recruiter gets paid by the hiring company when the position is filled. So the recruiter searches their own database for suitable candidates – this database is of people who have contacted that employment agency in search of a job. If that doesn’t produce a few candidates, the recruiter will look for more by advertising the position on job boards (where the competition for jobs is severe), and also by searching relevant LinkedIn profiles.

Of course, many job hunters use both approaches, and that increases their chances of success. However, in job searching, many jobs are actually filled through word-of-mouth where a hiring manager asks their contacts if they know of a suitable candidate. If they don’t know of someone, they will ask their own contacts, and so on. This is called networking.

Many Jobs Are Filled Through Networking

Networking is how many jobs in Singapore are filled. It also happens online, especially through LinkedIn, where a hiring manager asks their ‘contacts’ (i.e. all those they have connected with on LinkedIn or Twitter or other social media sites) if they know of someone who might be suitable for a vacant position they have. The process also works in the opposite direction where job seekers ask their contacts for help in their job search.

However, many people don’t know how to network – they merely connect with a wide range of people and end up with lots of ‘connections’ that they either don’t follow through with or are of no use to them in their job search. Knowing many people who are interested in flying drones won’t link you up with a hiring manager who is looking for a marketing executive – except by coincidence of course!

Network ‘Strategically’

To use networking productively, whether it be face-to-face or online networking, it must be done strategically – in other words, it requires a specific purpose and a plan to achieve it. Obviously the ‘purpose’ is to find a suitable job, and the plan should involve identifying all those people who are in a position to offer you the kind of job you are looking for. That is the starting point – identifying people who might have the type of job you are looking for. Then you need to identify where these people ‘hang out’ – what forums are they members of or what association meetings do they attend? These are the places a job hunter needs to ‘hang out’ also.

This can be brought a stage further by identifying the people who know or are connected to the people who can hire you for your targeted job. Where do they ‘hang out’? This is where the job hunter needs to spend their time networking. There is no point in meeting lots of nice or interesting people when networking if they are not in a position to help you in your job search. The time to meet interesting people is when you have a job, but when you are in job search mode, you must be ‘strategic’ in your networking – look for and connect with those who can help you.

Getting the Most out of Working with Recruiters (2)

Help recruiters to help you

We saw in part 1 of this article that recruiters are very busy people trying to match candidates to vacant positions and that they are paid by the hiring companies to do so – this means that they work for those companies and not for you the job hunter. Because recruiters are busy, job hunters should prepare properly before contacting them, including creating an ‘elevator pitch’ to use with them. We also saw how viewing recruiters as your partners in your job search makes the relationship more productive.

In this second part of the article, we look at some more tips for working with recruiters.

Be clear about your job priorities

Knowing exactly what is important to you in a job is essential so that you have criteria for evaluating an offered position. This includes establishing a salary range that identifies that figure below which you will not consider accepting a job no matter what the other favourable conditions might be, as well as the desired actual salary. You also need to be clear about your other expectations of a job such as location, travel, career advancement, career development opportunities, medical and other benefits, etc. Your job priorities should be a written list that you can refer to, and when dealing with a recruiter, that you have clearly and honestly communicated these so that they use them in matching you to a vacant position. This will make the process easier for both of you.

Be flexible with those priorities

Some of your job priorities will be ‘concrete’ in that they are “must have’s” – for example, if travel in your work is very important for you, you will not be happy in a job that doesn’t encompass this, so that’s a “must”. Other priorities may be less set in stone and you should be flexible with these. For instance, a job offer may be on the lower end of your salary expectations but it might have excellent health coverage which can add more than $400 into the overall package. Similarly, reimbursed tuition fees, increased leave or excellent opportunities for advancement may also make-up for the lower salary. So when discussing priorities with a recruiter, especially when a job offer is being made, be flexible where you can, but remain rigid with your “must have’s”.

Listen to what the recruiter suggests

Recruiters will make suggestions as to what to include (or not include) in your resume when applying to specific companies, or what to say to a particular hiring manager during interview, etc. One of recruiters’ main irritations is when candidates argue with them over such suggestions and insist on doing it “their way’ – the recruiter knows their client and is making the suggestions so that the candidate will more easily ‘fit’ with what the hiring manager is looking for. So listen and heed what they say!

Work with multiple recruiters

There are dozens and dozens of employment agencies operating in Singapore, some good, some bad, many in-between. Job searchers should do some research on which agencies deal with the industry they are targeting jobs in and through further research, find out if the agencies they are considering have a reasonable reputation. Then the job searcher should work with a number of different recruiters to increase their exposure to the job market – different recruiters and employment agencies will have different companies as clients, and not all recruiters will have access to all available positions or hiring managers. So it makes sense to work with a number of different recruiters in order to have access to as wide a pool of vacancies as possible.

Skills Needed for the Future in Singapore

Creativity and people related skills will be in demand in the future

The Changing Economy and its Effect on Jobs

Singapore’s economy and its structure are changing and this is having a major effect on the labour market. Already we see banks and other financial institutions moving jobs to cheaper labour markets such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and China, while other jobs in the financial industry are being replaced by technology. Similar movements are taking place in other historically core industries such as shipping, oil, energy and engineering. So called “traditional” jobs are being lost and mid-career and above PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) are the majority losers – an estimated 60% to 70% of retrenchments are mid-career and above professionals.

Fortunately the government has taken strong measures to protect and support mid-career PMETs, and there are many initiatives in place to facilitate the retraining and upskilling of such workers. But what skills will be in demand in Singapore the future?

A New Industrial Revolution

There is much talk about the world having entered the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – but this is perhaps misnamed as it is a technological revolution rather than an industrial one – and researchers and other analysts are looking at the impact this transformation is having and will continue to have on the world of work.

The changing face of industry in Singapore is seeing advances and expansion in research and development, e-commerce, and other digital businesses. This is evidenced by the number of companies that have their R&D centres here and the growing number of e-marketplaces such as Lazada and Amazon building their regional hubs in Singapore. Another strong focus now is to take advantage of new technologies such as IoT (the Internet of Things), AI (artificial intelligence), quantum computing, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, and renewable energy.

Examples of these developments that we already see in use are the advances in medicine and medical technologies such as ‘nanocarriers’ of chemotherapy drugs that affect only the targeted cells; absorbable heart stents; ‘nanoagriculture’ increasing the production of crops and livestock; self-driving cars; and the growth of data analytics.

Skills for the Future

So with all these changes in technology and the world of work, what skills are not in danger of being replaced by robots or other technologies? What skills are needed in Singapore for 2020 and beyond?

The skills needed for the future can be categorised as creativity related skills and people related skills.

Creativity related skills include creative problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity and innovative thinking. Creative problem-solving seeks to look at situations from different perspectives to build a fuller understanding of it before looking for novel solutions. Only humans can create ideas out of nothing – technology cannot. Creativity skills are and will always be needed and in demand. Education systems globally result in people using only logical analysis in the search for solutions to complex problems and most people therefore have underutilised intuitive and creative potential – training can help remedy this.

Technology / robots will increasingly be able to analyse complex data but still only from a logical perspective – there is no indication that technology will replace intuition which is a purely human function. Similarly, technology and robots will increasingly develop even more complex mathematical skills but will not be able to master the human intuitive side of making connections and seeing relationships between seemingly random events, nor will they make insightful interpretations of them.

People related skills include the ability to manage people, empathise with them, lead them, build teams, communicate across teams and the ability to coordinate and collaborate with people. Technology and robots cannot do these. Neither can technology provide a customer service orientation to business. These human, people focused skills will always be in demand.

To safeguard your future in work, make sure that you develop creativity and people related skills.

Getting the Most out of Working with Recruiters (1)

Know how to work with recruiters

The recruiter is not working for you

Recruiters are busy people – they get paid on results, and those results are the successful placement of a person into a vacant job. They are paid only when they fill the position and it is the hiring company that pays them. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are working on your behalf – they aren’t! They are working for the company that pays them.

When you as a job hunter deal with an employment agency, bear in mind that the recruiters are busy trying to match candidates to vacant positions. They receive hundreds of applications and speculative resumes for every position on their books and they simply do not have enough time to read all those resumes in detail – they spend less than 30 seconds skimming through them. So you must help them in this process by having a focused resume and clearly showing how you match the key requirements of the job you are applying for.

They are very busy people – so prepare before you call them

Job hunters frequently complain that recruiters are abrupt and don’t spend much time talking to them – as stated above, they are very busy people and simply don’t have the time to talk to people who aren’t a good ‘fit’ for a position they are dealing with. So understand their situation, and when you talk to them, be as brief and concise as possible. If the recruiter phones you, it means there seems to be a ‘fit’ between you and a job, so again remember they are busy and be focused on demonstrating how you meet the requirements of the vacant job. If you talk about irrelevancies, then they will be abrupt in bringing you back to talking about the essentials. For them, time is money!

When responding to a job advertisement, find out the name of the particular recruiter dealing with that position. Sometimes it is stated in the job ad, but if it’s not, call the employment agency and ask who is the recruiter involved. Then use their name in the cover letter / cover e-mail – this slightly more personal touch will always work in your favour. Again, your attached resume must be focused and show how you meet the requirements of the job. If it isn’t thus focused, it goes into the garbage bin.

If you ‘cold call’ a recruitment agency, prepare properly before the phone call – write down what you need to say and ask. Prepare an “elevator pitch” (the 30 second statement of who you are, what you do, what type of position you are looking for, and something unique about yourself) and have it in writing in front of you. The main tactic when talking to a recruiter is being brief, concise and relevantly focused.

View recruiters as partners in your job search

Recruiters may be busy people, but you can still look on them as partners in your job search. To do so, you must be completely honest with them and not try to hide any gaps in employment, or the fact that you were job hopping at a certain stage, or fired from a previous position, etc. They will be able to advise you on how such situations should be presented in your resume and at interview – they will also make sure not to refer you to an employer that they know might have a problem with your particular issue.

If a recruiter phones you but you were unavailable, be respectful and return their call as soon as possible. This is particularly important if you are involved in a job offer negotiation, as there are numerous stories of people who have had job offers withdrawn because they were slow in getting back to the recruiter. Unless your experience and skill-set are very unique, there will always be another candidate to offer the job to! And when a recruiter sends you to a hiring manager for an interview, make sure to promptly provide them with feedback on how things went.

A further posting will continue discussing how to get the most out of dealing with recruiters.

What to Write in a Cover Letter

A cover letter or cover e-mail should entice the recipient to read the attached resume

A commonly asked question of career coaches and counsellors is what to write in a cover letter or cover e-mail. [For simplicity, I’ll just use the phrase ‘cover letter’ to refer to both the written letter form and a cover e-mail.] Some people struggle about what to write and reduce the impact of their resume by sending it with a poor cover letter.

First, let us look at the purpose of a cover letter. It is intended to get the recipient to read the enclosed or attached resume – as such it is the first step in attaining a job in the job search process (the purpose of a resume is to get an interview, and the purpose of the interview is for you to show how you match the requirements for the job and thus secure it). Given its purpose then, a cover letter should entice the reader to pay great attention to the attached resume.

The following format is one you can use to persuade the recipient to just that:

Firstly, the cover letter should be addressed to a specific person in the company, preferably the appropriate hiring manager, but if you can’t find out who that is, then the HR manager in charge of recruitment. This is more personal than a “Dear Sir / Madam” and is more likely to be favourably read. If also makes it easier to follow up later. Of course, this involves a little research and sometimes a little detective work to find the name of the appropriate person, but doing so is well worth the effort.

The letter or e-mail should start by stating the specific position you are applying for and mention where you saw the job advertised. If a particular person told you about the vacancy and especially if that person works in the company, mention who ‘recommended’ that you apply. Similarly, even if the person who told you is from outside of the company but it might still be valuable or worthwhile to mention their name and/or position, make sure to do so.

The next paragraph should briefly indicate how you meet the requirements for the job applied for, and this should be done in such a way that the reader will want to see more and will therefore read the resume as well. This is the most important part of the cover letter and you must spend some time on getting the balance right between showing that you are the person for the job and becoming too long-winded! Being concise is what is required here.

You can either continue in the same paragraph or start a new one if the previous one was in any way long, by highlighting some key or relevant positions you have held. For the positions mentioned, you should select one or two very relevant responsibilities and achievements – very relevant here means that they are specifically related to one or more of the key requirements for the job. Again, you need to be very brief and concise.

To finalise, you should tell the reader how to best contact you and when.

The cover letter (or e-mail) should be no longer than one page in length – if it is longer, you need to edit it. An overly long letter or e-mail won’t be read.

The Reality about Resume Length

A resume needs to cater for the personality type of all hiring managers

The Debate

There is a forever ongoing debate about whether a resume should be just one page or as many pages as it takes to demonstrate a person’s candidacy for a position. The reality is that both opinions are correct – the truth is in the eye of the beholder!

It is the preference of individual hiring managers that matters, and if you ask a group of them, some will say they prefer a one page resume while others will say they want to see a lot more detail. This is down to their ‘personality type’ and in particular, how they prefer to take in or perceive information.

The Theory

You probably have heard of Jung’s theory of personality that is the basis for the Myer Briggs Type Indicator (the MBTI). According to the theory, some people like to take in information through their senses – they like facts, figures and details. They are practical and realistic, and need the detail of a situation before they can see the ‘big picture’. These are called “Sensing” types. In the MBTI four letter designation, these are an “S”.

The opposite preference to Sensing types are people who take in information through “Intuition” or an almost “sixth sense”. In the MBTI four letter designation, these are an “N”. They are future-focused and see possibilities, and prefer to see the ‘big picture’ first, before being able to focus on the detail and facts of a situation.

The Implications

It is safe to assume that approximately half of all hiring managers will be an MBTI “Sensing” preference, and the other half will have an “Intuition” preference. So what are the implications of this information and how should resumes be constructed to meet the preferences of both types of hiring managers? The Sensing types will want to see the details, so they will be interesting in the list of positions you’ve held, the responsibilities involved, and what you achieved in each position. The Intuitive types will want a ‘snapshot’ of where you’ve been, what you have done, and what you can probably do for them. Once the Intuitive has grasped the ‘big picture’ about you, and if interested in what they see, then and only then will they want to see the detail.

Now you can see why the debate about a one page resume or a multiple page detailed one is a forever ongoing one, because both positions are correct depending on the personality type of those discussing the matter. So a resume needs to provide a brief, concise snapshot, followed by the detail. Hence the importance of the first half of the first page of a resume – this should provide the overview of your career and what your strengths are, but focused on a particular job so that the hiring manager reading it can quickly determine if you are what they are looking for. This satisfies the preference of the Intuitive types.

To satisfy the preference of the Sensing type of hiring manager, your resume then needs to provide the detail of what was briefly mentioned in the ‘snapshot’ – the responsibilities and associated achievements of each position held. Again though, these need to be focused on the requirements of a particular job.