Break Up Your Work Day (and Job Search!) to Get More Productive

Series of female office worker doing stretching exercises,When was the last time you stepped away from the computer today? Do you regularly eat lunch at your desk? Have you been concentrating on one task for more than an hour and a half?

How you answer these simple questions will give you insights into how productive you are.

A RECENT ARTICLE in the New York Times drove home the importance of taking breaks throughout the day. In “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive” writer Tony Schwartz summarizes research that’s definitely relevant for the job seekers I work with, advise, and blog for (that’s you!). Here are a few key excerpts from the article:

Although many of us can’t increase the working hours in the day, we can measurably increase our energy. Science supplies a useful way to understand the forces at play here. Physicists understand energy as the capacity to do work. Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable. Taking more time off is counterintuitive for most of us. The idea is also at odds with the prevailing work ethic in most companies, where downtime is typically viewed as time wasted. More than one-third of employees, for example, eat lunch at their desks on a regular basis. More than 50 percent assume they’ll work during their vacations.

As athletes understand especially well, the greater the performance demand, the greater the need for renewal. When we’re under pressure, however, most of us experience the opposite impulse: to push harder rather than rest. This may explain why a recent survey by Harris Interactive found that Americans left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012 — up from 6.2 days in 2011.

The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.

Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players.

In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day. Write that down and post it where you’ll see it!

Whether you are presently employed and looking for a better job in your precious spare time, or you’re unemployed and your job search is your full-time job, try taking short breaks every 90 minutes.

HERE ARE SOME suggested techniques for waking up your mind and body when you have extended hours of desk work to do.

Give your head a 1-minute mini-massage. Just tapping your skull and pulling on your earlobes gets the blood flowing.

Stand up and stretch. Not just once, but in all directions. Bend over, twist in place, do knee bends, raise your arms, and do push ups off the wall. Your back will love you if you do it gently.

Take a walk, preferably outside. Even if you walk in circles (large enough so you don’t get dizzy) by the back door, a little fresh air and movement does wonders.

Breath deeply. I mean really deeply. Inhale until your lungs can’t hold anymore, hold for one second, exhale, hold for one second, and repeat. Holding the breath on the exhale and inhale will prevent hyperventilating. Go slow. You’d be surprised how much air exchange can do to wake up your mind.

Do something different and relaxing. Particularly if you are problem-solving or breaking through creative barriers, clearing your mind by totally forgetting the task at hand and then returning to it gives you a new perspective. So, pick up your knitting, go for a run, pull some weeds, read something funny, small talk with a favorite co-worker, anything that puts your mind in a different place.

I’M ADDING small changes like these into my own work life. They’re easy and fun, and they really work. How about you? You in?

Want more details about this research? Read the full article here.

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The Truth About Job Recruiters


There are some major misconceptions floating around about recruiters. Let’s separate the facts from fiction.

Myth: You Should Work With Only One Recruiter At A Time
You can — and should — work with multiple recruiters, even two or three at a time. Recruiters often have a relationship with many but not all companies in one particular industry. So working with a few recruiters simultaneously can give you increased exposure. Just make sure you let your recruiters know who else you are working with and what companies they are submitting you to.

Myth: A Recruiter Will Help Me Find a Job
Recruiters technically don’t work for you. They work for the company that pays them for filling a position. When you work with a recruiter consider it just one ingredient in a well-rounded job-search recipe. You still need to network, make direct contact with employers, attend events, check job boards, stay current on LinkedIn, fine tune your resume, practice your interview skills, and use other methods that improve your chances of landing a job. Get a step-by-step job search plan in my 50-page eBook, packed with resources, industry secrets, and creative ideas.

Myth: Recruiters Can Help Me Change Careers
Recruiters are often searching for a specific type of candidate to match a company’s criteria. They don’t cast a wide net to include merely people interested in a particular field. The better your credentials meet the search assignment specifications, the more likely you’ll be considered as a candidate. Therefore, if you want to make a career change, working with a recruiter isn’t the way to go.

Myth: Working With a Recruiter Won’t Cost Me Anything
While the recruiter doesn’t charge you a fee for placing you in a position, you may still incur some expenses. For example, the recruiter may suggest you make changes to your resume, so you may need to work with your resume writer to create a new version of your resume. The recruiter may also recommend resources for you, such as interview training and coaching. Some recruiters will pay for these services or provide them to you directly. However, you can always refuse to spend money on services recommended by your recruiter.

Be aware that there are unscrupulous practitioners who promote themselves as recruiters but charge jobseekers large fees to help them access job opportunities. They are not legitimate recruiters, and often do not deliver on their promises. The tip off will be that they will ask for a substantial deposit, often $3,000 or more, in exchange for access to “hidden” jobs or “preferred” opportunities. Legitimate recruiters will never ask you to pay a fee, not before, during, or after placement. Be warned.

Other Things To Watch Out For

You may hear horror stories from jobseekers about working with recruiters. Because some recruiters get paid only when a placement is made, they may waste your time with positions that aren’t a good fit, or pressure you to take a job just so they can collect a fee.

Another common complaint is that some recruiters post jobs that don’t exist. A less-than-ethical recruiter will do this to build up his or her database, but it’s frustrating for jobseekers.

Some recruiting firms want “exclusivity” with your job search. Make sure you carefully read any paperwork you’re asked to sign. If you get hired for a company they’ve had contact with, even if they weren’t involved in that specific job search, they may file a claim with your new employer for a commission, using the contract you signed with them as proof of what they are due. Not a way for you to start a new job!

More often however, complaints about recruiters stem from differing communication styles. If you feel your recruiter calls too often, or doesn’t return your calls, or leaves garbled messages, you’ll be happier if you find a different recruiter, one whose communication style matches yours.

Keep your recruiter informed about other interviews you have, and other companies you are applying to. Be clear about what you want. If you are happy in your current job, you may not want your resume widely distributed. Be sure the recruiter agrees to check with you before submitting your resume anywhere. Be honest with your recruiter about your current compensation and what you want to make. Recruiters can be a good source of salary information and can usually tell you if you are underpaid or are making above-average compensation.

Recruiters certainly have an important place in the job search arena. It’s up to you to get savvy about how to use a recruiter to your advantage.

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Six Tips for Working with Job Recruiters


Job recruiters certainly have a place in the employment field. If you work with one of these job placement pros, knowing how to maximize the relationship will benefit both of you. Here’s some tips.

BE QUICK. Time is critical for job placement. Job recruiters value speed. If a recruiter is trying to reach you to discuss an opportunity, he wants to talk to you right away. If he can’t get to you, he’ll move on to the next name on his list.

However, you should also be aware that a job search through a recruiter can take longer to complete than a job search you make on your own directly with the company. That’s just the nature of the beast.

BE CONCISE. Remember that a job recruiter can be working on numerous searches simultaneously. Many recruiting firms require their recruiters to place a minimum number of applicants each month. So, show your business etiquette skills and respect the value of the recruiter’s time whenever you connect.

BE A FRIEND. It’s always smart to build a relationship with your recruiter. Always take a recruiter’s call, even if you are not looking for a new position.

A recruiter in your industry can give you valuable industry information, and you can be a good source of information for the recruiter as well. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities and candidates, and then share that information with the recruiter.

Referrals are always appreciated by recruiters. If you are not a fit for an opportunity you are contacted about, but you can recommend someone else, share that information.

DON’T DOUBLE-DIP. Don’t contact too many recruiters, especially at the same firm. Recruiters often have access to an internal candidate management system that allows them to see what contact you’ve had with other recruiters within the firm, and other positions you’ve applied for. You look over-anxious, and the redundancy is confusing.

BE HONEST. Let your recruiter know when you are working with another recruiter. If two contingency (“free-lance”) recruiters submit you as a candidate to the same firm, the company may not consider you at all, even if you are a great match. Companies don’t want to mediate an argument between two recruiters about who “owns” the candidate and would receive the commission.

THINK AHEAD. If you are working with a recruiter, don’t apply for the same positions you are applying to directly. You may disqualify yourself because an employer doesn’t want to risk a recruiter making a claim for a commission if you are hired directly.

If you see a position advertised and are contacted by a recruiter for the same opportunity, you can decide whether you want to apply directly, or be submitted as a candidate by the recruiter. If you have a networking contact at the company, you may decide to apply directly. Otherwise, a good recruiter can get you in front of a hiring manager more easily than you could get noticed yourself.

Follow these simple rules and you’ll make the most of your working relationship with a job recruiter.

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Where and How to Find a Good Recruiter

www.theglasshammer.comIf you’ve decided that you want to work with a recruiter, your next question will probably be, “How do I get my resume in front of a recruiter?”

Recruiters are looking for candidates that are a close match to what an employer has outlined as the hiring requirements for the position. In essence, they are looking for square pegs for square holes. If your work history and accomplishments meet their current or future needs, they may add you to their database. Recruiters may contact you if they have a position that fits your profile — or they may make contact to ask you to recommend other people who might be interested in an opening for which they are recruiting.

How to Find A Recruiter

There are many ways to connect with a recruiter. Sometimes, a recruiter will find you. This is particularly true if you have specialized, in-demand skills. If you post your resume to an online job board, you are likely to receive contact from recruiters. Others may identify you through a professional association you’re a member of, or through mentions of your work that appear online in, for example, blogs, articles, and publications.

LinkedIn is also one of the most common ways to be “found” by a recruiter. Recent surveys indicate that 93% of recruiters use LinkedIn to identify candidates. You are more likely to be found on LinkedIn if you have a complete profile that is optimized with specific keywords and accomplishments. Recruiters are always looking for good candidates to add to their database.

But you don’t need to wait to be found to work with a recruiter. Proactively making a connection with one or more recruiters can be a good strategy, even if you are not currently looking for a new position.

LinkedIn can be an effective way for you to make a connection with a recruiter. Use the “Advanced People Search” function on LinkedIn to find recruiters in your field or specialty.

When you are signed into your LinkedIn account, in the upper right hand corner, click on the “Advanced” link next to the People search box.


Search the “Keywords” or “Title” field for keywords and industries relevant for your field, like “engineering,” “manufacturing,” or “technology.” You can then narrow down the search by other criteria, like location.


You can continue refining the results until you come up with a few names to contact.

Google can also help you find recruiters. Search Google using a search such as “IT Recruiter Las Vegas” or “Engineering Recruiter San Antonio.” You can also search Google and job boards for jobs posted by recruiters. If you find postings for positions similar to the one you’re interested in, you can make contact with the recruiter and present yourself for other opportunities.

You can also use a resume distribution research firm to identify targeted recruiters to contact. For example, Resume Spidermatches you with companies that are looking for people with your skills, in your chosen locations and industries. Once matched, your resume will be emailed to these companies each month. Another company, Profile Research, can research and develop lists of recruiters that are looking for candidates with your qualifications and expertise. For a fee, they will identify the recruiters and distribute your resume and cover letter to these individuals (either via e-mail or offline).

You can use free and paid online directories and networks to find recruiters. Here are some options to consider:

Kennedy Career Services – This company maintains an online directory of recruiters. They also publish an annual print directory of recruitment firms (“The Directory of Executive and Professional Recruiters,” also known as the “Recruiter Red Book”).

SearchFirm – This free directory option is designed to help executive search firms connect with corporate clients, but jobseekers can also search the database by specialty, geography, and recruiter name.


NPA (The Worldwide Recruiting Network) – Jobseekers can search the online directory of The Worldwide Recruiting Network to find member firms.


The NPA website also has a job search tool for jobseekers to view listings posted by recruiters within their network. Search the NPA Job Board by job title, keywords, and/or specialties.


Your Personal Network – One of the best ways to find a recruiter is through a referral from someone you know. Talking with co-workers in your field to see who they have worked with is a great way to find a recruiter. If there’s a specific company you want to work for, you can also make a connection with someone in their human resources department and ask if there is a specific recruiter or recruiting firm they work with.

Research Your Recruiter

See if your recruiter has been involved in any high-profile searches in your industry (these are sometimes profiled in industry publications). Google your recruiter’s name and see what job postings he or she has listed online. You are trusting your personal information and reputation to your recruiter, so trusting him or her is essential.

Target Your Resume For Recruiters

Recruiters — especially contingency recruiters (read last week’s blog post to refresh your memory on contingency recruiters) — have different expectations for resumes than hiring managers. Some recruiting firms standardize the resumes of candidates they submit to a hiring manager at a company. If a recruiter asks you to make changes to your resume, you will generally want to make the changes, but only for use with that recruiter. Don’t change the resume you use in your own job search to conform to the requests of one recruiter.

Recruiters may review hundreds of resumes a day, so your recruiter-targeted resume will only get a brief look. It’s important to identify the highlights of what makes you unique (sometimes called your personal brand or personal positioning) in the top one-third page of the resume so that it is immediately clear who you are and what you do. (Earlier this month, I wrote a three-part series on personal branding; be sure to check that out.)

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll wrap up the topic of how to work with recruiters by blogging about how technology has changed recruiter relationships, recruiter etiquette, and myths about working with recruiters.

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Should You Use a Job Recruiter?

recruitment-processesWhen you’re looking for a job, sooner or later you may toy with the idea of working with a recruiting company. So, let’s get a handle on how the recruiting industry works.

If nothing else, you’ll look smart when you’re face to face with a recruiter!

Between 3% and 15% of U.S. jobs are filled by recruiters.

Recruiters work at search firms or placement agencies, and are often called executive recruiters or headhunters. Their job is to find candidates to fill permanent positions, and sometimes positions that begin as contract work and in time convert to permanent jobs.

These search firms differ from other staffing services because they concentrate on filling executive level positions. There are two other levels of staffing services.

One level is temporary agencies. Temp agencies concentrate on finding temporary help in all fields, but primarily in manufacturing, service industries, and the skilled and unskilled labor market. They place candidates for specified time periods, often to meet peak demand or to substitute for absent permanent employees.

The second level is professional employer organizations, or PEOs. They are also called employee leasing agencies. Employers work with them to find workers for specific functions. The worker actually is employed by the PEO but is leased to the client company. The PEO pays the employee’s wages, handles taxes, and ensures compliance with state and federal laws. PEOs can often provide employees with access to benefits like retirement, and health and dental insurance, perks that small employers can’t deliver on their own.

Today we’re talking about the third level, the search firms. It’s an industry that encompasses approximately 7,500 companies with combined annual revenue in excess of $7 billion, according to Hoover’s business research. That’s a lot of recruiters and a lot of money.

Who Recruits the Recruiter?

Companies use recruiters to help zero in on a few select job candidates. These recruiters fill an important role. They save employers money spent on advertising a position, and time spent screening candidates for the position.

One way you can benefit from working with a recruiter is that the recruiter can sometimes provide additional insight and guidance to help you land a particular job. Your recruiter has an inside track to the people doing the hiring. He knows exactly what they want.

Your recruiter may also identify weaknesses you have, traits that make you look like a less-than-perfect fit for the job. He can suggest ways for you to strengthen those areas. For example, if you are not a strong interviewer, a recruiter may be able to help prepare you for interviews, including conducting mock job interviews.

Not all recruiters will provide this service, however. Some recruiters may point you towards outside resources to help you work on these weaknesses. Don’t expect your recruiter to be your career coach.

The more you know about a company and its policies, the better position you’ll be in to interview and negotiate. A recruiter can help here. He can provide insights about the company, the hiring person, salary range, job history, and specific preferences, things that a job posting didn’t spell out.

Some companies advertise positions themselves but are also open to hiring candidates submitted by recruiters. However, this is rare, as the major reason to use a recruiter is to conserve the company’s resources and focus on hiring the right candidate.

How Recruiters Work

There are two types of recruiters: contingency and retained.

Contingency Recruiters

Approximately two-thirds of recruiters are contingency recruiters. Contingency recruiters usually look for mid-level roles up to executive positions.

A contingency recruiter tends to work fast because because he is competing with other recruiters to find good candidates. He gets paid only if his candidate is hired. Your resume will probably be one of many he submits for any given job.

Retained Recruiters

Retained recruiters are hired by a client company for an assignment and are paid regardless of the results of a search. Usually, a company will retain just one recruiter. Retained recruiters look for people to fill positions that pay $100,000 or more, and positions requiring a high degree of confidentiality, such as a new athletic director at a high profile university.

A retained recruiter assembles a short list of candidates, usually about three to ten names. Therefore, if a retained recruiter considers you for a position, you will probably be part of a small group of candidates.

What Does the Recruiter Do?

The recruiter has three responsibilities: to gather the job specs, to locate people who meet those specs, and to pass along the resumes to whoever is doing the hiring. To accomplish those three tasks, a recruiter may review several hundred résumés and make dozens of phone calls.

It’s up to the hiring manager to decide if he’ll interview some, or all, or none of the candidates. He might bounce the ball back to the recruiter to further refine the criteria for the assignment and request additional candidates. The process continues until a hire is made.

Who Pays the Recruiter?

An important point to understand is that the employer is the recruiter’s client, and that means the employer pays for the service, not you. A recruiter gets paid once he finds someone who is hired and stays employed for a pre-determined amount of time. His fee is based on the salary paid to the new employee, anywhere from 10 to 35 per cent of the first year’s compensation. If he is a retained recruiter, he also is paid a retainer fee on a regular basis.

The placement fee does not come out of your salary. If you are being paid $50,000 a year, and the placement fee is 20%, the hiring company pays you your full salary and the recruiting firm is also paid $10,000.

Whether you call them headhunters, staffers, or extensions of a human resources department, recruiters fill a real need in the employment industry. Now that you know more about them, you’re better equipped to know if you would benefit from working with one.

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Yes, You Can Write Your Own Tagline and Positioning Statement

I’m letting you in on a secret today. I’m explaining how to position yourself in the job market. This is what I do for paying clients. I’m sharing my tried-and-true process so you can arm yourself with two of the most powerful tools in your job search toolkit:

  • Your tagline
  • Your full positioning statement

The tagline is a condensed phrase that defines you. The full positioning statement expands on the tagline by focusing on three to five main points. Because the positioning statement will be used in your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and your interviewing process, it’s important.

The first step is to complete a brainstorming exercise. It’s fun. Make a list of possible attributes, values, and differentiators based on the exercises you completed in part 1 and part 2 of this blog series and your research.

Collecting Snippets

When you brainstorm don’t judge or evaluate. Just write anything and everything that pops into your mind when you ask yourself: If I were creating my ideal career, I would ____________.

woman-whispering-a-secretLook through the words and phrases you’ve identified, and see what stands out. You may be many things, but pick one to emphasize. If it’s difficult to narrow your phrases down, keep brainstorming and you may find words that fit you perfectly.

Brian Kurth, author of “Test Drive Your Dream Job,” suggests creating a collage of your interests. You would collect quotes, photos, words, and inspiration from magazines, newspapers, and materials you find online. You can even create a Pinterest board for this. Pinterest allows you to make up to three private boards, so don’t think that all the world has to see your online collage. Then, mine that board to find the theme to your personal positioning.

Here’s More Help

The tagline is one sentence, at least five words, but no more than 10 words. It needs to be easy to understand and easy to remember.

Use this formula to create your tagline:

job title  > differentiator

Don’t worry about pronouns. For example:

  • big four accountant with operations experience in Fortune 500 companies
  • security guard with anti-terrorist training and ability to identify hidden patterns
  • hazmat manager with mechanical engineering degree from University of Virginia

Your full positioning statement is that tagline, but backed up by qualifications, accomplishments, and evidence. Your statement might be just a single sentence, or it might be three to five sentences, but whatever your claims are, you’ll need to add supporting details.

Both the tagline and the statement should be clear and concise and written in present tense. They should highlight your expertise and unique abilities. You can “name drop” by including well-known companies, schools, and credentials in your positioning.

To round out your statement, ask yourself:

  • Who is my target employer? (industry, size of company, public/private/non-profit)
  • What problem or issue are they wanting to hire people to solve?
  • What results can the employer expect by hiring me? What solution do I provide?
  • What proof do I have that I can deliver results?
  • What sets me apart from other candidates? What makes me different or memorable?

Another Formula

Now you’re going to take your tagline, and add some details, personal pronouns, and verbs to turn it into a few sentences. Here is my formula to make it easier.

job title > target audience/what I do > industry or field > achievements or results

So, a statement might look like this:

I am a (job title/profession) who (works with target audience or who does XYZ) in the (industry or field) to (accomplishments or results).

Filled out more completely, it looks like this:

I am a public relations specialist who provides media relations and race promotion services to the cycling community to help races attract more participants, media attention, and sponsor support.

But don’t try to stuff too much information into the statement. How can you tell overstuffed from just right? It’s overstuffed if you have more than one conjunction such as “and” per sentence, or more than two punctuation marks such as commas or semicolons per sentence.

More Secrets

Here are more tips to success.:

  • Don’t use big words in an attempt to impress. You want everything you write to be easily read.
  • When possible, incorporate keywords, all the nouns or phrases that you know from your online job searches. These words are used in applicant tracking systems, so employers can find you easier if you use them.
  • Make sure your positioning reflects your personality. Be personal but businesslike.
  • Be specific about your personal values, qualifications, and attributes, especially if they are an important ingredient for the job you want.
  • Be concise. This is not the place to tell your life story. Get to the point quickly.
  • Choose words that are lively and descriptive, not boring. You need to get the reader’s attention!

Effective positioning is a win/win deal. Recruiters and hiring managers respond better when they can see clearly what kind of position you’re focused on.

And, it’s much easier for you to find that job you will love if you know while you’re searching exactly what kind of job you really want.

Why Wait? Do Your Homework Now

Don’t think that you should wait to work on your personal positioning until you are looking for a new job. The interesting thing is that personal positioning can help you be more effective and visible in your current job. Here’s how:

  • You offer to do a presentation showing your (or your group’s) accomplishments for the quarter. By so doing, you build a case for a raise or promotion. Often upper management isn’t aware of all that goes on in a company. You’ve called attention to yourself in a good way.
  • You contact your company’s communications department to see if they are interested in doing an article for the company newsletter on a recent project. You position yourself as an initiator, something employers like.
  • You keep building your “Accomplishments Journal” and document your current career successes. Not only will it help you when you work with me on your resume, but you’ll interview better. Ongoing documentation helps keep you on track with your goals and is an on-the-job motivator.

There are few job opportunities for average performers. But there are tremendous opportunities for stars. Positioning helps you define yourself as a star performer. It builds your case by spotlighting whatever documentation you have that supports your claim to stardom. This is no time for modesty. Remember, superstars stand out!

Free Tools to Research Your Ideal Job. Yes, Free!

When my client Melanie came to me she’d been unemployed and actively job hunting for 10 months. Since she was having no luck finding something in her field of local government, she decided it might be time for a career shift. I suggested that she research some online sites to find a fit.

Together we developed a resume that shoehorned her old skills into her revamped expectations, and  — happy ending —  she landed a job in public relations for her town’s television station. She emailed me recently, “It’s a  job I look forward to every day!”

Did you know that there are websites just quietly waiting for you to take advantage of their career help? I’m talking Free. I’m talking No Strings Attached.

Most of these sites are governmental agencies. They’re much more helpful than looking at ordinary job postings. They’ll help you search at a deeper level. Curious about the salary range in a different field? What skills you need? How much pressure there is? Who you’d be working with? Typical tasks? It’s all there, and much more.

Not only can you get educated about a new field, but you can get up to speed in your own field. Are you at the top of your earning potential? How does your present company’s policies match rival company’s? This kind of homework can be fascinating.

I’m recommending the following sites. Did I mention they are Free?

O*NET Online (

This website was created for the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration by the National Center for O*NET Development. The O*NET program is “the nation’s primary source of occupational information,” according to the site. It contains information on hundreds of occupations.

The occupational descriptions, which include descriptions of day-to-day work, along with qualifications and interests of the typical worker, allow you to hone in on what the hiring people want. With that kind of knowledge, you can help me fine tune your resume so it fits.

One cool tool is the O*NET® Interest Profiler that helps you zero in on your occupational interests.  It then offers personalized career suggestions based on your interests and level of work experience.

Access the tool here:

My Next Move (

An O*Net affiliated site is — and I love this title — My Next Move. It’s an interactive tool for jobseekers to learn more about different career options. It includes descriptions, skills, and salary information for more than 900 professions.

Here, you can identify careers through keyword search, by browsing industry classification, or through the O*NET Interest Profiler. My Next Move is maintained by the National Center for O*NET Development under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration. Why not let your taxes work for you?

When you identify a profession, you can assess everything you want to know about that field.  You’re bound to learn things in the “Personality” and “Technology” section that will help you define your goals and improve your job search.

I especially like the “On the Job, You Would” information. Look to see if these are areas where you excel because this can be a point of differentiation, setting you ahead of the curve. Sometimes you’re better than you think!

Be sure to check out the “Also Called” information under the occupation for related job titles. You’ll discover keywords and phrases you can use in your searches and in your personal positioning tagline for LinedIn and elsewhere.

America’s Career InfoNet (

This website is another one affiliated with the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop program. Your taxes at work.

This website includes occupation and industry information like salary data, career videos, education resources, self-assessment tools, and career exploration assistance. It’s a boost to anyone considering for a career change.

Occupational Outlook Handbook (

The Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) will give your the scoop on what workers do, what the working conditions are, what qualifications are required for success in the position, how the pay is, what the job outlook is, and what occupations are similar. You’ll find info on more than 300 occupations.

To find an occupation, browse the occupational group of interest on the left-hand side of the website, or use the “A-Z Index” if you know the specific occupation. You can also enter a job title into the “Search Handbook” box at the top of the site. Want to search for jobs by pay range, education level, training, projected number of new jobs, and projected job growth rate? It’s all there. Just access the  “Occupation Finder” or occupation selector drop-down menus on the home page.

If you can’t find an occupation you are interested in, check the alphabetical index, using similar occupational titles to search for an occupation. I’m guessing you’ll unearth some occupations you never knew existed. Fascinating stuff.

Glassdoor (

Did you know you can research your prospective employer to get the skinny on what he values most? Knowing these things will help you effectively position yourself to work at that  company. Glassdoor is an excellent way to pinpoint how you might fit in, and even if you want to fit in.

Remember that there is plenty of assistance  in the world when you are looking for a job. I love the help that comes free. And I love helping people find jobs that they look forward to every day.  I’m looking at you.

Do You Know Your Personal Brand?

Every brand need updating.Branding. It’s a buzzword, but one worth understanding. Getting a grip on what branding is and how you can make it work for you will bring you closer to the job you crave and deserve.

The definition of branding is “to make an indelible mark or impression on somebody or something.” It’s all about marketing or positioning yourself. Done effectively it attracts connections, opportunities, and job offers. Who doesn’t want that?

It could be that you have already branded yourself  and don’t realize it because you haven’t articulated it yet.  Maybe you’re known as “the sales manager who makes quota, no matter what’s going on in the economy,” or “the engineer who speaks the customer’s language.” That’s your brand.

Or it could be you’ve branded yourself and that brand just ain’t workin’ for you. People change, times change. Even Smokey the Bear, Betty Crocker and Mr. Peanut get a new look to stay current. Maybe you’ve changed careers, industries, or goals. Maybe you’ve  upped your qualifications. If so,  it’s time for a new definition of you.  A re-branding.

The job field is a crowded one. So, you need to stand out. No matter what position a company is trying to fill, it hires because of its needs.  Ask yourself what problem the company is trying to solve, and then position yourself as The Solution.  The problem could be wasted time, a bloated sales force, product shrinkage, poor customer service, tarnished public image, slow delivery time, or poorly motivated staff. Just like people, most companies have multiple problems!

Once you know what a company needs, you can effectively craft your brand to satisfy that need. The most difficult part about creating your personal brand is making it original. So, be as specific as you can about what distinguishes you, especially when that’s exactly what a company defines as the answer to its problem.

Let’s be clear: Your brand is not your job title. And, if your brand looks like almost anyone else’s who has the same job title, yours needs work. Let’s talk.

Benefits of Positioning

I can’t stress enough the value of branding’s role as a valuable strategy. To get why I’m so keen on this topic, scan this list of branding’s benefits.

  • Helps you stand out from other job applicants by making you memorable. It can give you the edge and help you outcompete other candidates.
  • Hands you a ready-to-use LinkedIn headline, a resume positioning statement, and a Twitter tagline. Cool!
  • Gives you a strong and consistent phrase to use as the subject line in an email or cover letter to a prospective employer, hiring manager, or recruiter.
  • Makes interviewing and networking easier. It provides a convenient answer to the question, “What do you do?” or “Tell me about yourself.”

How to Develop Your Brand

Here’s my list of  resources to help you identify what makes you stand out, sources you can go to if you need a mind-jog to define what makes you special and valuable.

  • Performance evaluations
  • Customer appreciation letters
  • Your emails to see what good things people have said about you and your work
  • LinkedIn recommendations
  • Letters and memos of commendation from colleagues and supervisors
  • People you know and people you work with.  Ask for feedback. How do they see you?

Understanding  your brand and communicating what makes you unique and exceptional will help you reach your career goals. I’ll be sharing more about branding in my next post, including five online resources for researching the job you want.


How to Help Your References Help You

Last week, I talked about selecting and contacting your references. Today I want to give you some helpful tips on nurturing those relationships that give you references.  I’ll also run down what you can do about any negative references you get.

What to Tell Your Reference People

When someone is good enough to agree to be a reference for you, make it easy for them to help you. Prepare a references page that you can email or hand over to a prospective employer. Make the style match the format and font style of your resume. I provide reference sheets for my clients for a very small fee.

Here’s the format I suggest:

Name of person to contact
Job title
Current employer
City, state, zip
Phone number
Email address
How long you’ve known the person
In what capacity you’ve known the person

Here’s an example of this format:

Jan Jones
ABC Company
25 Whitehall Lane
New York, NY 10010
(310) 555-0932
Former Supervisor at XYZ Company for three years (2007-2010).

The reason a physical address is helpful is that it can help the person checking the reference to know where they are telephoning (East Coast? West Coast? Europe?).

When you list a reference’s phone number, you could also mention what times of day to reach them, for example, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Include how you know the person so that the person checking the reference has some context as to who this person is to you and what information they can supply.

In addition to your list of references and contact information, you can also provide a printed page that includes excerpts from or reprints of your LinkedIn Recommendations. You can include LinkedIn recommendations and excerpts from letters of recommendation with your resume. Sometimes I put them in an Endorsements section.

When should you give your references to an employer? The easiest answer is: When you’re asked. Sometimes you’ll be asked on the initial application. Other times, you’ll be asked in the job interview itself. If you’re not asked, it’s fine to offer them at the job interview.

Never submit your references with the resume and cover letter. Don’t put “References available upon request” on your resume either. Prospective employers know you’ll provide your references when they ask for them! Use that space on your resume for something more useful.

How to Better Your Odds

When you have an interview scheduled, give your references a heads up. It’s helpful to forward a copy of the job posting. If it’s been a while since they agreed to be your reference, ask if it’s still okay to list them.

Give them the company name, position title you’re seeking, and the name of  the person who may be calling. Let them know some of the job’s responsibilities so they can discuss specific skills, experience, and achievements from their work with you.

Stay in touch with your references. Update them on your job search. Contact them soon after any interview to let them know how it went. Ask them if they were contacted and what questions they were asked. Be sure to thank them for their support, and maybe write a handwritten thank you note.

If your job search continues for a long period of time, your references will probably have been called a number of times. It’s smart to check in with them periodically, just to show your appreciation and to make sure you can still count on them.

What Are References Typically Asked?

According to the 2010 SHRM survey, most companies ask:

  • Names of your former employers, your job titles, dates of employment, and salary
  • Your degrees, school attendance, and academic accomplishments
  • The responsibilities you had in previous positions

Companies might also want to verify licenses and certifications, check for professional disciplinary action, authenticate military discharge information, and double-check public speaking engagements, special projects, or articles published.

Prospective employers are generally trying to evaluate your specific qualifications. But hiring people also want to get a handle on the  “intangibles” — those  qualities that tell them if you are a good cultural fit for the company. To that end, they may ask about your communication style, your planning and decision-making skills, and your leadership capabilities.

There are two red flags that are  likely to derail a job offer. One is discrepancies in dates of previous employment. And the other is discrepancies in education degrees. These facts are two of the easiest items to check,  because they can both be  verified with an institution directly, not necessarily with a specific individual.

Legal Implications and Common Myths

A company should ask your permission before it contacts your references. But  because you’ve provided the names and contact info, you’ve pretty much given permission.  Some companies will require you to sign a release form. Read it carefully. It may authorize the company to contact unnamed references as well, in other words, people not on your “preferred” reference list.

The release form could also authorize the company to conduct a background check to see if you have any criminal or civil legal issues, such as misdemeanor or felony convictions. And the form may permit them to do a credit check to examine your financial background.

One myth about reference checking is that your former employer can provide only your dates of employment, position titles, and salary history. This is not true. Legally, an employer can provide as much information as they want about your tenure there.

Technically, the information provided  in reference checks must be factual. But this doesn’t mean that the person providing the reference can’t give their personal opinion of you — even if that opinion is negative.

Remember too, that one of the purposes of references is to help a prospective employer have the confidence to hire you. If you know that one of your  employers has a  policy to limit what it reports, you need to provide references outside of that employer, someone who can deliver that additional dimension. Let the prospective employer know about the tight-lipped policy so they won’t think that the company has negative input it is withholding.

What to Do About Negative References

Sometimes, you may suspect that a reference is keeping you from getting offers. In this situation, you can hire a company to contact your references and inquire about you. The most well-known of these firms is Allison & Taylor ( You will pay $79-$99 per reference, and will receive a written report.

The company says that approximately 50 percent of all reference checks they conduct uncover negative input from the reference. Once you know what is being said, you can take action, including talking to the reference or even working with an employment attorney to write a cease-and-desist order. It sounds drastic, but negative references can keep you from getting a job offer.

References: Next Steps

After you are hired for a new job, send your references a thank you letter for their role. Maintaining your network should be an ongoing process. Look for opportunities to return the favor. And keep in touch with your references, sharing good news, information, and resources. Don’t wait to communicate with them until you need them for your next job search.

Continue to build the list of recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. In the future, more employment screening will be done by searching online, using Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. By keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date now, and building a bank of recommendations, you’ll improve your chances of landing any job offer in the future.

The Jobseeker’s Guide to References

The Human Resources folks like to check job applicants’ references. Of American companies, 76% will contact the people on your list of references.

They do it because checking references is one way prospective employers can add to what they learn from your resume, LinkedIn profile, and interviews. These reference checks are just part of a comprehensive screening process, which might even include inquiries into immigration status, credit reports, drug screening, and criminal background checks.

What people who know you say about you can be the piece of the puzzle that paves the way to a job offer, or throws up a detour sign.  Let’s see how you can put your best foot forward.

Who’s Most Likely to Check References?

Not every company will bother to make those calls to people you list as references. But it’s best to be prepared and get your references list together.

If you apply for a position where you’ll have access to confidential information — like info on other employees or on the company’s clients – it’s probable that you’ll be subject to reference checks. If the job you want is in finance, information technology, or customer-facing positions, you can expect to have references checked.

The best time to start thinking about your references is when you’re putting together your resume, not when you’re submitting applications. Why wait until you’re getting called in for an interview to prepare something that can be a deal maker or deal breaker?

Select Your References

The advantage of preparing your references is that you can take the upper hand and identify your best reference people. Although there’s no guarantee human resources will contact references in the order you’d like to have them contacted (best first) you can still list them as though they were prizes – first place at the top of the list. Hiring people have the option to contact people who aren’t even on your list, but you don’t have much control over that.

You will want to select three to seven individuals to be your top tier references. These individuals may be current or former managers or supervisors, co-workers, peers, or team members, current or former customers of the company, vendors or suppliers, and people you have supervised.

Most employers will want at least two of your references to be former employers. If you don’t have recent work experience, you can list members of committees you volunteer with, or pro bono clients. If you have recent educational experience, you can also list professors, faculty members, and advisors.

The important thing is to select people who know your work well, who have seen you in action. It’s better to have people who can speak about your particular skills and accomplishments than it is to list a “big name” as a reference. If someone seems hesitant to serve as your reference, ask someone else.

Hiring managers also like to see some personal references, people who will vouch for you being dependable, honest, and have good judgment. A personal reference should know you well, and have known you for at least five years, but not be a relative. Good choices are a business acquaintance, teacher, coach, doctor, religious leader, neighbor, or a landlord.

Well-chosen personal references can go a long way towards tilting the decision to hire you in your favor because they give an added dimension to your personality and worth.

Make sure all your references are people who are relatively easy to contact.

Reach Out to Your References Early

It can take some time to track down and communicate with all your references. You’ll want to update them with what’s new in your career, and verify their contact information. You don’t want to try to do all that while you’re researching and preparing for a job interview.

If you’re also asking your references to give you LinkedIn recommendations, try to schedule them so all of your recommendations aren’t coming in on or around the same date. That looks a bit hokey – just one more reason why starting early pays off.

Ask Permission from Your References

Once you’ve decided who you would like to be your top tier references, contact them and ask if they are willing. It’s best to call each one directly instead of emailing. If possible, arrange for an in-person meeting. Make it convenient for them and offer to buy lunch or coffee. They are doing you a favor!

Keep in mind: Not everyone you’ve worked for — or worked with — will be a good reference for you. You want a reference that can be as enthusiastic about you as you are about getting the job. Not all potential references will be able to provide this kind of stellar recommendation. But some of your references may be hesitant to say no to you directly if you ask.

You can give them a way to let themselves off the hook, without turning you down directly. Instead of asking, “Will you be a reference for me?” Ask them, “Do you feel you know me well enough to serve as a reference for me?” Or ask, “Will you be a great reference for me?” If the answer is anything less than enthusiastic, you can collect their information, but not list them on your preferred reference list. It’s perfectly fine to ask a reference to support you, but then not include his name on your list.

The in-person meeting is a good time to ask someone for a LinkedIn recommendation. Check first to see if he is on LinkedIn, since he will need a LinkedIn account to recommend you.

Remember to update your contact with what you’ve been up to, especially if they knew you at a previous job. Let them know what you’re looking for in your next job. Filling them in makes it easy for them to be specific and betters your chance of a positive reference.

Once you’ve received the go-ahead, send a letter or email thanking each person for agreeing to be a reference. Send each a current copy of your resume, or promise to send them a copy if it’s not finalized. I offer fast turnaround on my resume service, so I won’t keep you or your references waiting.

You can help a hiring manager get a fuller picture of you by quickly and professionally providing good, reliable, positive references. Make his job easy and you look good. When you look good, you’re one giant step closer to that job offer.