What to Wear to Job Interviews: 10 Rules

It’s no exaggeration to say that what you wear to a job interview can change your life.  Don’t believe me? Think about these facts:

  1. Clothing covers 95% of your body.
  2. Interviewers make a judgment of candidates within the first 30 seconds of meeting them for the first time. Most of what they have for visual clues is … clothing!
  3. Clinical tests prove that first impressions always last. Really last. Even when contradictory evidence is introduced, people stick to their first impressions.
  4. Where you live, whom you marry, and what job you go to every day are three of life’s major decisions, the decisions that affect the rest of your life.

Whenever I talk to groups of jobseekers, I always stress that a résumé will get you the interview, but the interview lands the job. That’s why it’s crucial to look good for all your interviews.

Exactly how you dress will depend on the job description, the area of the country where you live, your industry, business or profession, and even your age and gender.

With so many variables, it’s no wonder that most people need advice about dressing for an interview. Are you trying to decipher a company’s dress code? Wondering what the difference is between business casual and business formal? Can’t decide what kind of shoes? Don’t know if dress slacks or a skirt is a better choice? Or whether dark jeans are acceptable? What about colors, jewelry, briefcase, tie? My favorite links that make sense of dress codes are About.com’s article on Interview Attire and the Houston Chronicle’s article on the difference between business casual and business attire.

Here are my own 10 basic rules to help you dress for success.

Dress Professionally

Dress for the interview, not necessarily for the job. Interviewers will look for a polished, professional look, so dress to impress them. Dress with authority. Dress to show you take the job and the interview seriously. If you apply for a dental hygienist position, you don’t wear scrubs and clogs. If you apply for a construction manager’s position, you don’t wear work boots. Details like combed hair, polished shoes, and an outfit that shows you didn’t just walk in off the street (or just get out of bed!) demonstrates to the interviewer that you care, that you value the time and attention he is giving you.

Boost Your Confidence

Wear an outfit that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Knowing you’re putting your best (scuff-free) foot forward helps you smile and stand tall.  A positive, relaxed, and confident attitude is something interviewers look for in a candidate, so get out your power suit!

Dress Upward

Choose clothing that’s at least as formal as the person interviewing you. Sound crazy? Don’t worry. You’re more likely to be treated with respect. People like to do business with people who look like them.

Do Homework

Know what the company dress code specifies. If you don’t know it, you can observe how people are dressed as they exit and enter the building. Don’t do this on Fridays, however, in case there is a casual Friday policy. You could also call their human resources person and simply ask what’s appropriate attire for an interview there.  Wear what others wear, only a bit more polished.

Play Safe

When in doubt, err on the side of conservative. Unless you are applying for work in fashion, the arts, or the entertainment field, flamboyancy is better left for your off-duty hours. Unless you are a recent grad, an intern, or someone switching careers, you probably have an understanding of what the unspoken dress code for your field is already. Stay within those lines.

Look Ahead

Anticipate what will happen during the interview. If you are applying for a position in academia, expect a campus tour and multiple interviews over the course of the day. If you are interviewing at a manufacturing or research facility, you may be touring the entire operation, a lab, a warehouse, or a processing plant. In an urban setting, you may be walking a few blocks for lunch with the interviewer. You can always call ahead and ask.

Avoid Red Flags

Be aware of the taboos. Different fields have different tolerances. What’s expected at a small start-up company will be a deal-breaker at an investment firm. It’s safe to say that for women the interview taboos are low necklines and high skirts, statement jewelry, dramatic makeup or flashy manicure, and open toe shoes. For men, it would be a mistake to wear tennis shoes, a shirt without a collar, or a distracting necktie. Neither gender should wear fragrances, headphones, sunglasses, a hat, or out-of-date clothes. Cover any tattoos, turn your phone off, and don’t chew gum.

Add a Jacket

Whether you are a man or a woman, you can’t go wrong with a jacket. No matter what else you wear, what the season, location or type of business, a jacket gives your outfit a finished look. It conveys authority. Men can wear a sport jacket unless the code calls for a suit. Women can wear a blazer, a suit jacket, a Chanel-style jacket or a trapeze jacket. You can always remove a jacket if it’s too warm. Trust me on this one: a tailored jacket rocks any look.

Check the Fit

How your clothing fits is more important than how much it cost. If you don’t want to invest in an expensive interview wardrobe, that’s understandable. Classic pieces are best, but they must fit your body correctly. Older job seekers especially need to be careful their clothes look up-to-date, and fit is what matters when it comes to looking up-to-date.

Clean Up

Finally, grooming is just as important as wardrobe. Have a breath mint just before the interview. Check your teeth for lipstick. Check your hairdo and makeup. Are your fingernails clean? Shoes shined? Clothing wrinkle-free?

Like it or not, when you interview you’ll be judged by that 95% of the visible you. Dress as though the quality of your life going forward depends on it. It does.


photos: Brooks Brothers; Creativenglishlearning.

Your One-Year Plan for a Better Career

It’s January, a time when many of us are setting new goals for the year ahead. In my dealings with people and in my own experience, I’ve found that when we successfully reach goals in one area of our lives – social, physical, or spiritual, for example — we’re empowered to do the same in other areas – areas like relationships, wealth, or career.

We’ve all seen how a friend or colleague who loses excess weight decides to earn an extra degree, or someone who learns a new skill expands her social circle.

May I suggest that career goals are a great place to start.

Whether you want to change jobs, change careers, or simply get more out of your current job, the first step is defining the goals. You need a plan.

Step One: Take Stock

To figure out where you’re going, first look at where you’ve been. The exercise I’m suggesting can take as little 20 minutes.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • What am I most proud of this past year, both personally and professionally?
  • What went right for me this year?
  • Did I receive any awards or recognition this year?
  • Did I take on any additional responsibility this year? If so, what?
  • How did I take initiative in my job this year?
  • Have I learned any new skills?
  • Did I earn any certifications or licenses?

Record this information in a success journal. You choose the style. It can be a Microsoft Word file on your computer, a note in Evernote, a series of emails you send to yourself (be sure to use email tags so you’re able to find the emails again), or a simple paper journal.

The idea is to gain perspective on the past year, but also to create an easy way to assess the coming year as it progresses. You can enter answers to the same questions in the coming year, making notes of your accomplishments. Why wait until the end of the year? These revisits will serve as reminders of what’s important for your particular career advancement.

Step Two: Articulate Your Goals

Decide what you want. Describe your ideal job. Add to your success journal answers to the following questions. Think about the person that you want to be, and imagine the possibilities.

  • Who is my ideal employer? Specify the size, industry, culture, location, and structure.
  • How much does my dream job pay? Be realistic here, based on your own research about your industry or profession.
  • What are the most important benefits, other than salary, that would prompt me to go to work for a new company?
  • What does my ideal job look like? What is my job title and what are my responsibilities? Who would report me, and to whom would I report? Would it involve travel? Do I want to work independently, as part of a team, or both? Do I like short-term projects or long-term projects?
  • What do I want my next job to do for me that my last job didn’t do? Is there anything that I do in my current job that I don’t want to do in my next job?

Step Three: Make a Plan

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Author Lewis Carroll, in Alice in Wonderland

Next, identify two or three goals you want to tackle. Use the S.M.A.R.T. goal system to articulate your goals. This system demands that goals should be “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.”

You’ll need to prepare a game plan for how you will reach these goals. But don’t use planning as an excuse to procrastinate. You want to get to Step Four as quickly as possible, because actions create momentum.

Take each of your two or three goals and write down the steps under each of them that you need to take to reach that goal. The more individual steps you can map out, the easier it will be for you to reach your goals. The steps should be practical tasks necessary for you to succeed.

Sometimes it helps to start at the goal and work backwards. If you can define what would have to happen for you to step up to the final goal, you can then define what has to happen before that.

Here are some steps that are typical for career advancement.

  • Research job postings for entry-level jobs when changing careers to determine what skills, education, and experience are required.
  • Join an association for your chosen profession or trade, and attend a virtual event, such as a webinar, or a traditional convention or conference.
  • Enroll in an online course that focuses on the skills where you need improvement or updating.
  • Identify a volunteer opportunity to put new skills into practice, either in your current job or with a community organization.
  • Decide what skills are transferable from previous positions or interests or education.
  • Work with a professional résumé writer to create a résumé targeted to your field.
  • Join some industry-related groups on LinkedIn, and follow successful companies in your field that have company profiles on LinkedIn.
  • Look for people in your network who can act as references for you.
  • Using LinkedIn, connect with two or three contacts at desirable companies in your area.
  • Identify possible employers and submit your résumé to each.

Step Four: Take Action

One common mistake people make when setting goals is to ignore milestones. If you don’t give yourself wayposts along the path to measure your progress, you won’t know when you’re on the right track. So, be specific when writing milestones.

These wayposts need to spell out dates and scenarios. Instead of writing, “Ask for a raise before the end of the year,” write, “In July, ask for a raise that brings me up to current industry standards.” Or, instead of writing, “Beef up my LinkedIn profile,” you could write, “In March, hire a professional to give my LinkedIn profile a makeover.”

Once you have listed your goals, the steps to achieving them, and your milestones, you have a nifty game plan for action. You may need to add or modify the steps, but you have a helpful checklist to guide you.

Over the months ahead, as you work your way through the checklist, consider the actions you are taking. If you’re taking the right actions, you should be seeing results.

If you’re not getting the results you want, change the plan, not the goal. Re-examine your tasks to see what could be off target, not specific enough, or too big a step.

If you aren’t reaching the milestones you set, you might want to get feedback. I’ve always found it helpful to have an accountability partner when I’m trying to stretch my skill set or achieve a new goal. Your accountability person could be a friend, family member, coach, résumé writer, or therapist. It should be someone you trust who can add some perspective on how you’re doing. Just knowing that someone will be asking about your progress, pushes you to stay on track.

Step Five: Measure Your Progress

Whenever you’re on a self-improvement journey, it’s crucial to periodically check all your mirrors and the road ahead to make sure you’re heading in the right direction at the right speed.

So, it’s a good idea to schedule a monthly check-up or a quarterly review, when you can re-examine your plan and make any necessary adjustments. Check to see if you are meeting milestones, and if your goals still look realistic and desirable.

The adjustments you make might be eliminating some steps, combining them with other plans, changing the timeline, drafting more specific goals, or even doing a major overhaul of your plan!

If you don’t take charge of your future, you may find your career wandering off onto detours, or stuck in a dead end. Instead, you can create the career you want for yourself. What it takes is seeing the big map, knowing what your destination is, and then making a plan to get there step by step. The important thing is to start. Now.

The Interview: Set Your Sails for a Happy Landing

A résumé can get you an interview, but it’s the interview that gets you the job.

So, the smart ones (that’s you!) prepare for that interview. Here’s what to do.

Study the Navigation Charts

Research the company interviewing you.

Doing a little homework to learn about the particular business will give you confidence, let you tailor your résumé and cover letter for the job, help you identify the real hiring honcho(s), and increase the chances that you’ll have the right answers — and the right questions — during the interview.

At a minimum, you should:

Check out their website. Go to the “About Us” page. If it’s a publicly traded company, look at the information for investors. You’ll gain insights on their people, performance, and plans.

Google the company. Do a regular Google search as well as a search on Google News. The Google News search will identify any recent news articles featuring the company. You can also set up a Google Alert for the company, so that you will be notified via email when there is something new about the company online. You want them to know you are up-to-the-minute, and interested in them.

Snoop around their social media. Scan their Facebook business page, their company page on LinkedIn, and their Twitter account. They may also have a company Google+ page, Instagram account, or Pinterest boards. Taking the time to look at what the company posts on its social media accounts will help you get an idea of the company culture, how they brand themselves, what their mission is, how the employees dress, and what kind of community involvement they support.

Log on to Glassdoor. At Glassdoor.com you can get the inside scoop from people who work there and folks who have interviewed at the company. There is no charge to join the site, but the site uses “crowdsourcing” to collect data, so you will be asked to provide information on previous or current employers to add (anonymously) to the Glassdoor database.

Know the Home Port

Learn about your interviewer.

Job searching is a competition. Whatever you can do to gain an advantage over other applicants (and still play a fair game) is just savvy maneuvering. If you know the name of the person who will interview you, that’s one advantage.

You’ll be comfortable using the person’s name when introduced, and more likely to remember it when departing. You can also do some more detective work.

So, once you have been contacted for an interview, ask for the name of the person who will be interviewing you (if it’s not the person who contacted you). An easy way to do this is to ask, “Who will be conducting the interview?” You can also ask, “Will anyone else be participating in the interview?”

Make sure you get the correct spelling of the interviewer’s name. Conduct a Google search on this person, and look them up on LinkedIn. If you are going to be interviewed by a committee or group, ask for the names of all participants, if possible. On LinkedIn, you may discover that your networks overlap. Name dropping is permitted.

Work with the Tides and Weather

Choose the best interview time.

This is a tactic not everyone knows about.

Surveys reveal that when a hiring manager has to interview lots of candidates in a short period of time, he suffers what’s called interview fatigue. By the end of the day, he’s tired, and the interviews all start to run together.

You’re just another résumé with a face. It’s hard to stand out.

You’ll have a better chance of making a positive, memorable impression if you interview early in the process.

When you are contacted to schedule the interview, you may be offered a choice of times. Ask the interviewer how interviews are being scheduled. If all interviews are being conducted in a single day, or on consecutive days, choose the earliest slot you are offered.

However, if the interview dates are separated over several days (for example, on a Friday and then the following Monday), your best bet is to choose the earliest slot available on the last interviewing day.

Also, ask how much time you should allow for the interview. If the interview goes exceptionally well, and the interviewer offers to show you around (or introduce you to the people who would be your co-workers), you don’t want to have to beg off because you need to go back to work or go to another appointment. Make sure you schedule enough time for the interview and anything that goes along with it, like completing paperwork, taking tests, or getting a friendly tour.

While we’re on the subject of timing, be sure to arrive early for your interview. Ten minutes is normal. My grandfather prided himself on never being late. He told me, “Always plan on having to wait at a railroad crossing when you’re on your way somewhere.” I like to give myself a buffer for emergencies like that.

But don’t show up an hour early either. If you get to the company more than 30 minutes early, wait outside in your car or take a walk around the block. You’ll have a chance to clear your head while you practice deep breathing.

Wear the Right Gear

Finally, dress for success.

The usual advice for choosing interview attire is to “dress appropriately.”

But what that means isn’t exactly clear.

Depending on the kind of business, the size of the company, the level of the job you’re applying for, the part of the country where you live, the season of the year, your age, and even the day of the week…there are variables.

You’ll have to do more homework. Find out if there is a dress code at the business. If you have to stalk the parking lot or the elevator to get a handle on what employees wear, do it. When that interviewer shakes your hand, he’ll be making eye contact, but his peripheral vision will take in your whole body, and 90% of what he sees is clothing.

You want to demonstrate that you understand company culture and can be a team player. You want to present yourself as an individual who is already successful, has self-esteem, and possesses enough social intelligence to take care of things like grooming and yes, even fashion.

Going into an interview even slightly sloppy is an affront to the person interviewing you. You might as well stay home. Be clean. Be professional.

The key is to over-dress rather than under-dress. The old adage that you should dress for the position one rung up the ladder is still valid.

It’s usually recommended that men wear dress slacks, a sport jacket, and tie. If you choose a suit, blue or dark gray is preferred over black. A shirt should be white or a light color, and long-sleeved. A tie should be conservative in both pattern and color. Shoes should be brown or black dress shoes, comfortable, in good condition and polished.

In traditional office settings, women are usually advised to wear either dress slacks or a skirt with a classically styled top, nothing flashy or sexy. A dress is another option unless it is too short or form-fitting. A jacket always looks professional and makes you feel put together. You can choose a colorful blouse or one bold piece of jewelry, but understated is usually better. Go easy on cosmetics and fragrance. Choose conventional shoes, ones that are comfortable, in good condition, perhaps with a small heel. Peep toes need not apply.

For both genders, a briefcase is the finishing touch that spells professionalism.

However, if you are a man interviewing at a start up company where everyone who works there wears dark wash jeans or khakis, that’s what you should wear. With a really good shirt. If you’re applying for art director at fashion ezine, you won’t wear a dark suit. You’ll wear something totally trendy. Maybe a bright shirt or a statement tie.

And if you are a woman interviewing for a non-traditional kind of job – in the creative or entertainment field, for example — all bets are off! Unless you are changing professions, you probably know what standard dress is in your chosen field.

I’ll craft your résumé to get you in the door, but the rest is up to you. With these tips, I have confidence that you’ll sail through those interviews. Don’t forget the breath mint!

Let’s Play the ATS Software Game

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System, which is exactly what it sounds like – software that filters and analyses the job applications.

As a jobseeker, you’ll benefit by learning how to play the ATS game. I can help.

It’s understandable why people who hire want to use the ATS systems. Like any electronic management tool, they simplify the process, letting a computer tackle the job of narrowing the pool of applicants.

But what if you are in that pool? And you want to make the cut, get that interview? Once you understand how ATS works, chances are much better that your resume will score points instead of getting tossed in the recycle bin.

Here’s Why Companies Love the System

Instead of sorting through what could be hundreds of applications for one particular position, a recruiter or hiring manager working with an ATS has access to a search system like the one that exists online with Google or Bing or Yahoo. He can type in what he wants and a list of ideal candidates pops up.

It’s all based on résumés. (What else is new?)

Different software companies have developed different tracking systems but they all offer the same benefits for employers. They:

  • Automatically screen out applicants who lack the required skills, education or experience for the job.
  • Make it easy for companies to comply with federal employment laws that forbid discrimination based on age, gender, and ethnicity.
  • Streamline the process of reporting to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by collecting data from candidates who apply for work.
  • Let everyone within the company who is hooked into the system share applicant résumés and notes, making internal communications smoother.
  • Understanding the Tracking System

    If a résumé isn’t structured in a way that fits the applicant tracking system, it can enter a black hole. That means that even if you are a perfect fit for the job, if your résumé isn’t structured to talk nice to the ATS, the recruiter or hiring manager won’t even know about you. You’ll be just a benchwarmer.

    One advantage for jobseekers applying through an applicant tracking system is that some systems automatically notify a candidate whose résumé doesn’t fit the job. When you submit a résumé manually for a position that’s in demand, employers generally don’t have time to send you a reject notification.

    But when you get an ATS-automated notification that your application has been rejected, you can look for other approaches to be considered for the job, like using your network contacts. You can also tweak the résumé, or simply move on to other opportunities. There will be other teams happy to have you join them.

    An ATS will pull out certain information from your résumé and place it in specific fields within the its database. These fields include contact info, work experience, education, and skills. Then the system analyzes the extracted info to see if it matches the criteria that the position demands.

    It will look for the number of years you register with any particular job category. It will read how long you’ve worked with a certain skill. Then, it assigns your résumé a score, ranking you compared to other applicants.

    The way the ATS manages this ranking is by searching keywords. It will look to see if certain keywords appear and the number of times they appear.

    It will look for how keywords fit into your work history or your education, or how recently you used a certain skill. If you were on the track team in high school, it won’t rate you as high as competing in the latest triathlon.

    It will check to determine the relevance of keywords in context. In other words, does the keyword or phrase appear with other keywords you would expect?

    The higher your résumé ranks, the more likely it will end up being reviewed by a human reader. You’ve made it through the goalie!

    ATS — It’s Not a Deal Breaker!

    Applicant tracking systems see some keywords and phrases as more valuable than others. A system can let a hiring manager fine tune his search by assigning greater significance to certain terms or qualifications.

    He can also apply filters to narrow his search. A geographic filter might screen out candidates unwilling to relocate. An education filter might boot candidates without certain certificates. He can also specify keywords as either “desired” or “required.”  All these factors affect how a résumé scores.

    Brad Pitt could have used an ATS in the baseball movie Moneyball to help him calculate those important on-base and slugging percentages, and then zero in on his best drafts.

    Companies that create applicant tracking systems continue to refine their processes and algorithms. Their systems are becoming less expensive as more providers enter the market.

    There are no clear statistics about the number of companies using applicant tracking systems, but it’s clear that those numbers will continue to grow as the software’s cost comes down. The systems are currently being used primarily in midsize and larger companies. Almost all Fortune 500 companies use ATS software.

    Any time new technology is introduced to the hiring process, it’s a little threatening for jobseekers. Don’t let the new ATS technology scare you. There are a number of excellent ways we can find all the right keywords that are going to help you rank high. I will help you structure your résumé so it makes its way through the system to win the game and land you that interview.

    Photo: www.good-infos.com

    How and Why to Write a Good LinkedIn Recommendation

    A LinkedIn connection asks you for a recommendation. What to say? How to say it? He can’t tell you what to write, but there are ways to approach the challenge that will make it easy for you and effective for him.

    Whether you’re returning a favor for a friend, boosting your own reputation as a savvy rec writer, helping a colleague whose recommendation you’d welcome, or just genuinely endorsing someone you know and admire, rec writing skills are handy. They grease the wheels of your LinkedIn network.

    First Steps to Take

    Read the person’s LinkedIn profile. This way, you’ll know how he’s positioning himself, and the qualities and skills he wants to spotlight.

    Then, check out his other recommendations. You want yours to reinforce what others are saying, but be unique.

    Next, to make your task easier, and possibly even more fun, ask yourself:

    • What is he good at?
    • What does he do better than those around him?
    • How did he make my life easier or better?
    • What makes him stand out?
    • Is there a specific result or product he’s produced?
    • What surprised me most about him?

    Choose Keywords

    Now it’s time to list some skills and qualities the candidate owns. Put on your employer or investor hat. Think the way these people think. They are the ones your connection wants to impress.
    Here are the keywords that signal your guy has what it takes to warm the hearts of employers:

    • Honesty
    • Integrity
    • Dedication
    • Loyalty
    • Motivation
    • Adaptability and flexibility
    • Strong work ethic
    • Analytical skills
    • Computer skills
    • Time management skills
    • Other technical skills (be specific)
    • Social and interpersonal skills
    • Organizational skills
    • Communication skills, both written and verbal
    • Budgetary and financial skills

    The Nitty Gritty

    The smartest recommendations start with an explanation of how you know the person. Then, they move on to give some details about working with or going to school with or whatever with the person. Finally, they end with an clear endorsement and even a call to action.

    In all three of these sections, your writing needs to be:

    • concise
    • honest
    • specific
    • memorable

    When you write about knowing the person, be as brief as possible while still giving pertinent facts. Keep the entire recommendation under 200 words. Don’t inflate or falsify anything. An example of a good intro would be, “I’ve known Amy for 10 years, ever since I joined XYZ Company. She was my lead project manager when I was an analyst, and I was always impressed with how quickly and thoroughly she prepared her reports, an important aspect of her demanding role within the company. Her time management and analytical skills set a new standard for the entire company.”

    Often writing about how you know the person and giving some facts about working together can be combined, as above. Remember you get extra credit for being concise. Also, notice we didn’t say Amy was “fabulous” or “incredible” or use any other puffy and meaningless words.

    Get the Right Tone

    You want your voice to be personal without being too casual, and often the best way to do this is to describe a specific event. It could be a special project Amy was responsible for, or a singular effect she had on the company’s bottom line. “When Harvey told me he was determined to increase net income by 20 per cent each year, I was skeptical, but he exceeded that goal year after year.”

    Make the telling of facts read like a story and you’re more likely to engage the reader, that HR person who’s bored by reading LinkedIn profiles. Ideally, you’ll come up with an anecdote that only you could tell, but not the one about how Harvey and you drank too much at the office Christmas party.

    Anecdotes are one way you can make the recommendation memorable. The other way is by using specifics, and I cannot stress the importance of this technique enough. Instead of saying that Greg “went above and beyond the requirements of his job description,” explain — briefly — how he worked weekends to meet the printer’s deadlines when he put the finishing touches on the catalog that netted the company the Bla-Bla-Bla Award for Excellence.

    Don’t be afraid to use statistics like percentages and dollars to make your point. Quantifying stats add credibility to your claims. Keep your details limited to the important facts to make it more readable and more convincing. “Jill lowered the spoilage rate in the deli department by 18 per cent by introducing daily inventory checks, meanwhile slashing payroll by 5 per cent.”

    Make It Accurate and Interesting

    As with all electronic submissions, it’s wise to carefully review what you’ve written before hitting submit. Read through it for verbs. Are they action verbs? Are they descriptive, interesting, even unusual? Instead of saying Harvey increased customer satisfaction, you might replace “increased” with “upped,” or that customer satisfaction “spiked” to a 5-star rank on Epinions because of the employee training program he designed. Specifics!

    Do the same exercise with adjectives — those words that describe nouns. Are they interesting enough, memorable enough, and still accurate? Sprinkle in some colorful words. “Caroline’s reworking of the phone system was stellar. She converted a mangled system into a dynamic one that reduced downtime by a remarkable 33 per cent.” Don’t gush or over-enthuse, but look for words that capture the imagination. The thesaurus is your friend here.

    While you’re performing surgery on your writing, cut away all superfluous words that are just silly fillers — words like “very,” “totally,” ” basically,” “quite,” and “rather.” It will help strengthen the endorsement and add a more professional tone.

    If you’re still stumped about what to write, you can enter in keywords or job titles on LinkedIn to find profiles related to the type of recommendation you are writing. Browse the listings that come up as matches, then review what qualities are appreciated most in these fields. If you’re out of your field, you might learn some legitimate buzz words and industry jargon.

    Wind Up and Pitch

    You want to end the recommendation with a statement like “I recommend Johann because I know he will contribute both passion and profit to any organization he is part of.” Or, “I know I can endorse Jason with confidence because I have seen him exercise only the highest standards all his adult life.”

    After you have sent your recommendation on to LinkedIn, Johann or Jason will receive a notice that you have. If you follow up in a week, you can ask him if he is okay with what you sent. You can edit and withdraw your submission any time. Connecting with people you recommend on LinkedIn gently suggests to them that they can return the favor. The better the recommendations you write for your people, the better results you’ll get from them in return.

    Thanks to Lisa B. Marshall who was the first person to suggest there was a right and wrong way to write a LinkedIn recommendation. Be sure to visit her website, https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/public-speaker, where she offers extensive information on topics like how to improve your public speaking skills, become a better conversationalist, use visualizations to get ahead, be a better listener, give a press conference, and a host of other oh-so-helpful paths to professional success.

    How to Showcase Your Professional Accomplishments

    gold_starI’ve learned that when you ask people what they do well, they’re not always sure how to answer. But getting to the heart of your accomplishments and talents is essential if you want to score that dream job.

    In my last post, I talked about starting an accomplishments folder. Here are all the questions you need to ask yourself if you want to nail down those accomplishments. These are also the questions that will jump-start your resume-writing process if you’re feeling stumped in that department.

    • What is unique about how you do your job?
    • What does your current boss praise you for?
    • Do you have quotas or goals in your current position? Are you able to meet or exceed them?
    • Were you hired to meet a particular challenge for the company?
    • Were you rewarded with any additional responsibility?
    • Have you done anything to improve customer relationships with the company?
    • Have you done anything to improve communications, either internally or externally?
    • What teams have you been part of?
    • What are you most proud of?
    • What would your co-workers say about you?
    • What do you enjoy the most?
    • How did you take initiative in your position?
    • What special projects have you worked on?
    • How did you set yourself apart?
    • How did you go above and beyond what was required?
    • What have you done to increase your responsibilities in your current job?
    • Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
    • Were you promoted in recognition of your work performance?
    • Did you increase sales or profits?
    • Did you recruit new customers for the business?
    • Did you save the company money?
    • Did you institute any new processes or procedures?

    Educational Accomplishments:

    • What workshops have you attended?
    • Have you attended any conferences?
    • What seminars have you attended?
    • Have you taken any courses?
    • Have you achieved any new certifications?
    • Do you have any new skills? (These might be things like computer software, social media, blogging, etc.)

    “Soft Skill” Accomplishments:

    • How have you demonstrated planning skills?
    • What have you done to demonstrate conflict management abilities?
    • How have you demonstrated time management skills?
    • What have you accomplished in terms of digital proficiency?
    • How have you demonstrated team coordination abilities?
    • How have you shown leadership skills?
    • Do you have achievements in terms of your language specialization (foreign languages)?

    Recognition Accomplishments:

    • Did you receive any honors this year? (awards, recognition)
    • Did you earn any certifications or licenses?
    • Which of your contributions received the most recognition?
    • Have you received any notes, emails, or kudos from customers? From your boss?

    Communication Accomplishments:

    • Have you done any public speaking or made any presentations? (Who did you speak to? On what topic? How many people were in attendance?)
    • Have you written any articles, whitepapers, or other documents?

    Leadership Accomplishments:

    • Have you taken on any leadership roles — either within your job or in your volunteer work?
    • Have you led any significant projects?

    Using Accomplishments For Reflection

    Now that you’ve collected your achievements, it’s the perfect time to set some goals for yourself. Another key part of accomplishments is using them to take a “big picture” approach to your life. Take some time to reflect. Finish these sentences:

    • I learned:
    • I made progress in:
    • I’m able to:
    • I now know how to:
    • I discovered:
    • Next, I want to:
    • In the future, I want to:Answering these questions will help you take giant steps towards a better resume. I can help you with that![photo source: www.babyfoodforcreatives.com]

    Brag about It! How to Build Your Professional Accomplishments Folder

    keep-calm-and-brag-about-itAny advertising copywriter worth his hefty salary will tell you that an effective ad is a specific ad. He won’t write that a car is “fast.” He’ll write that a car goes from zero to 60 in three seconds. It’s details that sell a product.

    And it’s details that make your list of professional accomplishments effective.

    But our memories for details are short. That’s why you need to keep an ongoing record of your accomplishments.

    Accomplishments demonstrate your skills and experience. It’s one thing to claim you can do something. It’s another to prove you’ve done it. Details are what substantiate your claims.

    I’m going to make it easy for you to document and detail your accomplishments.

    When Should I Collect My Accomplishments?

    It’s not just when you’re putting together your first résumé or updating your current résumé that you need that list of accomplishments. It’s important at these times as well —

    • When you’re due for your performance evaluations or an annual review
    • When you’re setting personal and professional goals for the next year
    • When you need to track the progress of projects you’re working on
    • When you want to support your qualifications in a job interview
    • When you’re ready to make your case for a raise or a promotion
    • When you need reminders of progress you’ve made to lift yourself out of a funk or a stall
    • When you apply for any recognition, like awards or scholarships

    So, you can see from this list how important it is to build your own folder of personal and professional accomplishments. If you don’t “toot your own horn,” who will?

    Where Do I Start?

    • Online.You can create a Microsoft Word file to document your achievements. You can create an email folder for accomplishments, and then just send yourself emails to store there. You can also use an app like Evernote.
    • Offline. You can use something as simple as a file folder or large envelope to track your achievements, filling it with any pertinent letters, printouts, clippings, cards, notes, and memos. You could also use an ordinary handwritten logbook or diary.

    When you receive a “kudos” email, forward a copy to your personal email account, and tag it with a specific subject line (like “Kudos”).

    If you receive notes of appreciation from customers, coworkers, or your company, save those. Make a copy and keep it in hard copy form, or take a screen shot and keep a digital copy.

    You should also print out and/or take a screenshot of any LinkedIn Recommendations you have on your profile.

    Other ways to document accomplishments:

    • Take photos. This is an especially effective record if your work is visual or your physical appearance is an important part of your work.
    • Collect news clippings. The digital equivalent is setting up a Google Alert for your own name.
    • Create a brag book or a portfolio. This can be a simple booklet or something very elaborate, depending on the nature of your accomplishments.

    How often you should update your accomplishments varies. If you’re working on a series of projects or business is very brisk, you may need weekly updates. In other situations a quarterly assessment will be sufficient. The most important thing is do it, and do it regularly! Put an alarm or task reminder on your calendar if that’s what it takes.

    How Should I Write My Accomplishments?

    As I stressed at the start of this post, details are what make your list of accomplishments believable and convincing. Quantify the scale of the achievement by incorporating percentages, numbers, dollars, dates, and even names of people.

    Be specific. Specifics make your list powerful.

    Start each accomplishment with an action verb. Do a quick online search for “resume action verbs” and select those that fit your industry or profession.

    You want to cast a wide net when collecting data for your list. To brainstorm more of your accomplishments:

    • Take a look at your past performance reviews
    • Think about any awards or recognition you’ve received
    • Answer the questions at the end of this guide

    Now comes the important part, when you put your accomplishment in a context. Here’s where details enter. There are several different formats to make the job easy. The three common formats are called STAR, CAR, and PAR.

    STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Results. Here’s an example of a STAR statement:

    Recruited to revitalize an underperforming sales territory characterized by significant account attrition. (Situation) Tasked with reacquiring accounts that had left the company within the last six months. (Task) Developed contact list for lapsed accounts and initiated contact with decision-makers at each company. (Action) Reacquired 22% of former customers, resulting in $872,000 in revenue.

    CAR: Challenge, Action, Result. Here’s an example of a CAR statement:

    Manufacturing plant recently had its third accident, leading to a line shutdown. (Challenge) Updated internal safety plan and instituted new training program for production employees to reduce accidents and injuries. (Action) Plant has been accident-free for the past nine months — the longest it has been without accidents in plant history. (Result)

    PAR: Problem, Action, Result. Here’s an example of a PAR statement:

    Nursing home employee morale was at an all-time low, and long-time employees were leaving in droves. (Problem) Identified that new scheduling system was not well received by either new hires or long-time employees, resulting in significant dissatisfaction with employee schedules. Instituted new “employee choice” schedule system that increased employee cooperation in determining ideal staffing schedule and improved employee satisfaction as a result. (Action) Reduced turnover by 15%, saving more than $12,500 in hiring and training costs in the first three months after implementing new system. (Result)

    Here’s another tip. If you can quantify your accomplishments by using any of these superlatives, you’ll be ahead of the game:

    • Only
    • First/Last
    • Best/Worst
    • Most/Least
    • Largest/Smallest
    • Longest/Shortest
    • Highest/Lowest
    • Busiest

    Another way to jog your memory of what you’ve accomplished in the past is to think about what you’ve achieved in these different situations:

    • Your current job or most recent position
    • Your previous work experience
    • Any summer jobs or work-study positions
    • Your volunteer activities of any kind
    • Any temporary work you’ve done at any time
    • Your educational experiences, including internships, class projects, group projects, study-abroad programs)
    • The professional and industry organizations you belong to now or in the past
    • Any involvement in sports or other extracurricular activities
    • Any consulting or freelance projects you’ve done
    • Your social networking accomplishments and connections, including honorary societies and charities
    • Any events or conferences you’ve been part of

    When collecting accomplishments for a job search, consider which areas indicate the kind of competency required for the position you’re seeking. What are the key components of your present job? What does the job call for in order to be done well?

    This may include accomplishments related to:

    • Budgets/Finances
    • Promotions
    • Employee Development
    • Employee Recruitment
    • Employee Retention
    • Processes and Procedures
    • Deadlines
    • Revenue/Sales
    • New Clients
    • Information Technology
    • Cost Containment
    • Publications
    • Team Leadership
    • Product Launch
    • Presentations

    I hope this blog post motivates you to start collecting and detailing those all-important professional accomplishments. My tips should make it almost effortless, so start today.

    Then, when it comes time to update your resume, ask for a raise, lobby for a promotion, or just give yourself a pat on the back, your accomplishments folder will be right at your fingertips!

    [photo source: www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk]

    Leverage Your Network When You Change Jobs

    E-mailOne of the best pieces of advice I pass along to clients is, “Don’t burn bridges.” When you change jobs, you have an opportunity to build bridges. I’m talking about staying connected to former contacts, colleagues, clients, and employers.

    One way to initiate the bridge-building is to send a thank you letter to the people you are leaving behind. Because you really DON’T want to leave them behind.

    Here is a sample thank you letter to these people. It will do the job for you. Tweak it. Use it. Email it or snail mail it, depending on the nature of your relationship and the style of your industry.

    From: [That’s You!]
    Date: [Do it soon after your departure]
    Subject: My appreciation

    Dear [Make it personal]

    I just wanted to take a minute to thank you and let you know how much I value our relationship. I have enjoyed my [number of] years as part of the [company name] team and I’m truly grateful for everything we have accomplished together through all these years. My success has been largely due to your success.

    Now I feel it is time for a new challenge. I am excited to let you know that on [date], I will embark on a new journey in my professional career. It has been a privilege to have worked with you over the years. I will always be a friend to you.

    Let’s keep in touch. Please connect with me at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/

    I hope to see you again soon. [Depending on the nature of your relationship, you might get specific, such as, “I’ll be seeing you at the next XYZ Industry Convention,” or “Why don’t we meet for lunch next Friday?”]

    To your success,
    [Your name, be informal here]

    My new phone: 123-456-7890 | my email: namewithheld@gmail.com

    [photo source: geeksdreamgirl.com]