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STAND OUT with compelling marketing tools for careers and small business, including professional resume writing service, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and professional biographies. Complete professional resume writing service includes coaching for job search best practices and ongoing consultation as needed.

Articles

Stay, Move or Convert: Job Change and Your Retirement Plan

Mary Jo King

If you are changing employers, you’ll eventually need to consider the retirement account that resides with your former company. Since the consequences of your decision can have a significant impact on your tax situation and retirement planning, you may want to consult a professional. Generally, you have five options:

  1. Rollover direct to an IRA account - This option gives you greater control and more choices.

  2. Move to your new employer’s plan - If your new plan accepts retirement assets from previous plan(s), you may be able to rollover your existing retirement.

  3. Keep your money in your former employer’s plan - When leaving your job you may be given the option of leaving your money in the company plan if your retirement balance is greater than $5,000. This may be the easiest course of action to take, but you will not be able to make any additional contributions.

  4. Receive a cash distribution - For many individuals leaving a job the thought of receiving a lump-sum distribution from their employer-sponsored retirement plan may be very appealing. However, receiving a cash distribution can have adverse tax consequences.

  5. Convert to a Roth IRA - The final option is to convert your assets directly into a Roth IRA. Whereas distributions from a Traditional or Rollover IRA are taxable when distributed, a Roth IRA will allow you to take qualified distributions tax free. For a Roth IRA distribution to be qualified, you have to be age 59½ or older, and the assets must be in the account for a minimum of five tax years.

Note, this is just a quick overview of your choices, and no individual advice is intended here. If you want more information, I recommend you to the attached article written by a trusted business network partner.

Best Practices for an Effective Job Search

Mary Jo King

75% of résumés do not survive online applicant tracking systems (ATS). More than 60% of job opportunities never get advertised anywhere. 96% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find qualified candidates. Chances are about 40% that your next job will come from networking.

These statistics are fluid, but remarkably consistent. Rather than discourage you, they should indicate that best practices can be applied for a successful job search. Here’s an outline of the coaching I provide to my clients. 

Job Posts – Make sure your qualifications are a good match before applying. If a degree is required and you do not have one, for instance, move on or try a back door approach. You will not rank high enough to get an interview.

Networking and Cold Calling – Use LinkedIn and industry contacts to expand your job search. Attend job fairs and networking events. Make a “hit list” of companies that interest you, make contact inside, and get your résumé into their hands. Stay in touch regularly to achieve TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness).

Résumé – Keyword rich and ATS friendly, your résumé should be error free, feature perfect spelling and grammar, and focus on the metrics of your career success. This is a marketing tool, and should have strategic content that highlights qualifications and minimizes “red flag” information. Use Word documents for uploading, and PDFs for emailing.

Cover Letters – 50% of hiring managers regard cover letters as essential, and view applicants who do not write them as lazy and disorganized. Your cover letter is the beginning of the sales channel. It should be brief and targeted. Direct your letter to a specific person whenever possible.  

Applications - When asked to complete an application, fill it out completely. Never write “see résumé” in any blank space. Make sure your employment information agrees with your résumé, and remember that this is a legal document. Do not provide false information of any kind.

Social Media – Pay attention to your public image! Do a Google search of your name. Your next employer is likely to do this, and you need to know what they will find. Eliminate questionable posts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media, and maximize your privacy settings everywhere you can (except LinkedIn--once your profile is in good condition).

LinkedIn – This time-tested social media has more than 277 million users. The free service is usually sufficient. Develop a strong profile with a branded headshot, keyword rich content, and 100+ contacts. Develop the skills keywords to the maximum 50. This section was created especially to help hiring managers find you. Get and give written recommendations (as differentiated from endorsements). Join groups and follow companies. Making improvements and status updates on a weekly basis helps to improve visibility.

Research – Learn about each company and its industry before the interview. Read the company website, check for news articles, and understand industry trends. Knowing your subject matter will help you perform at your best.

Interviews – Your interview begins in the parking lot with an early arrival, a clean car, and a smile for everyone you meet. It succeeds with good listening skills, concise answers, and thoughtful questions. Be ready to tell short stories about your successes. Be honest, objective, and accountable. Prepare for a telephone interview with the same careful detail as an in-person interview. Always ask for the job, or at a minimum, to move forward in the process.

Follow Up – Keep a log of all your job search activity, so you can follow up at the appropriate time. Send out thank you letters via snail mail on the same day, or next day at the latest. Your letter should be short and direct. Express your thanks, emphasize your suitability for the position, and reiterate your interest in moving forward to the next step.

Other Stuff That Matters

All your documents should feature the same branded letterhead. 

Prepare a list of references in advance. Usually three professional references are sufficient, and be sure to include titles and all contact information. 

Bring copies of recommendation letters to the interview, and consider quoting the best remarks on your résumé.

If asked about salary requirements, begin with quoting a range. Here again, research is important. You can find out a lot about current standards on websites like Salary.com and Glassdoor.com--even that of specific companies and positions within them. 

Recruiters and employment agencies can be helpful. Understand the differences. Do not expect them to be great communicators; the good ones are very busy. 

Stay relevant with continuing education, seminars, and independent study. Websites like Lynda.com offer online training in a wide variety of topics.

Get out there! Circulate, go to relevant events, and consider volunteer work – especially if you are unemployed. Volunteerism is good networking, it can lead to paid work, and it gives you something current to put in your documents.

What You Must Know About ATS

Mary Jo King

Like it or not, applicant tracking systems (ATS) are here to stay. ATS is software used by human resource professionals to manage applicant databases. These programs scan, score, and rank your résumé when you upload it on job boards and company websites. Your challenge is to score well enough to rank an interview. Ironically, it is not enough to be qualified. Your score--indeed, whether your document survives to be scored – depends upon using a dynamic set of best practices for formatting and keyword content. This short course will improve your odds.

1. Study the job description.

The job post has the information you need to understand whether you are qualified for this position, and provides clues about the keywords that must be woven into your résumé.

a. The unqualified need not apply.

If you don't have the MBA and 10+ years of experience listed in the job requirements, then your chances of success via the online application are marginal. According to the ATS, you are not qualified. Successfully pursuing such opportunities will likely require a more personal effort.

b. Find the keyword clues.

Keywords are words or phrases in the job description that inform about knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the role (see #2). Failing to include these words can keep you from interviews you should legitimately have. 

2. Keywords are critical.

Your résumé should feature keyword-rich content that is both implicit to your field and industry, and explicit in the job post content. Customize your documents on a case-by-case basis to correspond directly with the keywords you find in each job post.

3. Go long AND short.

Some ATS have trouble with acronyms and abbreviations. The job description will provide clues about how these terms are being used by the recruiter.  When in doubt, include both the long form and the acronym or abbreviation.

4. Answer all screening questions.

Fill in all the information fields for requested information during the online application process, even if they are not required, and even if the information is also in your résumé. These fields may be used to filter candidates.

5. Upload rather than paste. 

When you have the option, upload your résumé instead of pasting it into the form. The uploading feature often parses your information better and allows it to be saved in the optimal format, which will produce the most readable result.

6. Keep it simple.

ATS will likely NOT read headers, footers, tables, charts, so leave the graphics, images, logos and fancy backgrounds for your presentation format. Section headings should be simple and clear. Use a plain, sans serif font like Arial or Calibri. Use consistent formatting for dates, company names, and job titles. 

7. Watch for a reply.

Keep an eye on your email for an automated response. This email may also include follow up instructions which require immediate action. Stay on top of your SPAM folders.

Some final thoughts.

Do not upload a PDF unless specifically advised to do so. When afforded a choice, choose a Word document. Word formats generally parse best into the range of ATS currently in use.

Always include a well-written cover letter. Some human resource professionals read them; some do not. Either way, you can't know which is which, and it is ultimately an important part of your applicant package.

Do not combine your cover letter and résumé into a single document. Newer ATS weight the keyword content of the first page, and most covers won't score well enough to get you the attention you deserve.

Know that that networking your way to an interview does not necessarily spare you from the vagaries of ATS. Many HR departments use ATS after the fact to justify their hiring decisions.

One thing is certain: If you are not prepared for the required diligence of online employment applications, you will be disappointed with the result. Five well-prepared applications will be more productive than twenty-five haphazard ones.

 

 

Find Unpublished Job Openings

Mary Jo King

If you're a client of mine, you've had the speech: Don't wait to find your next position on a job board. Develop your own hit list, and get on file with the companies that interest you.

Some experts estimate that up to 75% of available jobs are never advertised anywhere. Most employers fill openings with people who have already applied--one way or another. Whether the talent solution arrives via a networking connection, or through individuals who have demonstrated the initiative to submit their résumé directly, employers like to hire people this way. It's easy for them, and it often results in a great match. 

Finding opportunities this way is easier than you may realize. First, decide whether your search will involve a specific geographic region, industry, or job function. Use Internet keyword searches to develop a list of the companies that fit your criteria. Don't concern yourself with looking for current job openings; that is a different project for another day. Your goal is to find organizations that are a good fit for your skill set and career path. Begin with a manageable number--say, fifteen or twenty companies.

Next, identify the individual inside the organization who will receive your résumé and cover letter. This would logically be the human resource manager or a department head, but you can target the owners of smaller companies. Comb social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to find people who already work at the companies you're targeting.

Using information garnered during your research, write a compelling cover letter, addressed to the individual you've identified. Promise to follow up in a few days, and do so--with a telephone call directly to that individual. If you are told there are no current job openings, ask that your documents be kept on file for future reference. Their situation could change tomorrow.

Continue to grow your list, and follow up regularly on everything you have out there.  Calling once a month to check in is not unreasonable, and you'll develop name recognition.

Keep your skills sharp and your knowledge current while you're looking. Join industry-related organizations, read periodicals and blogs. Take a class. Volunteer. You'll expand your horizons automatically, and learn about opportunities before they get advertised.

 

 

Your Interview Strategy

Mary Jo King

Okay, you've snagged the interview.  Now make the most of your mojo by planning for success.

1. Worth repeating: Do your research. Learn about the company and its industry before the interview. Knowing your subject matter will help you perform at your best.

2. Prepare for a telephone or video interview as you would for a personal meeting – including your choice of clothing. Keep your research and résumé package at your fingertips for easy reference.

3. Arrive early; you'll feel more relaxed. Bring copies of your résumé, reference list, and letters of recommendation, preferably organized into an attractive binder.

4. Be a good listener. Your responses and questions will occur naturally when you’re paying attention.

5. Relax and keep your hands quiet. Sit upright and lean forward slightly.  Match the interviewer’s speed of speech.

6. When a question surprises you, take a moment to consider your response. This is a perfectly acceptable technique, and you will be happier with the result.

7. Give some advance thought to potential problem areas on your résumé and be ready to deal with difficult topics. Be honest, objective and accountable.

8. Ask thoughtful, well-researched questions of your own. A discussion about company culture, for instance, can be very enlightening.

9. Point out the achievements noted on your résumé, and relate the ways your talents might be similarly applied in your new position.

10. The first interview is not the time to ask about salary and benefits, but be prepared to receive the question. If you are forced to discuss salary, quote a range rather than a firm number. (You have, of course, researched the salary range on websites like Salary.com and Glassdoor.com.)

11. If your interviewer asks an illegal question, redirect the conversation. Most such questions are errors of ignorance when the interviewer is trying to be friendly.

12. Always ask for the job. You would be surprised how many people never do this. Even if you are fairly certain you don’t want the job, you want the job offer.

13. Collect a business card on the way out. You’ll need it for follow-up.

Follow-Up

Send a thank-you letter within 24 hours of the job interview. Make sure you have the correct spelling of the interviewer’s name and the correct job title. Use the stationery and header from your résumé, and a formal style (unless invited to use a first name). If there was more than one interviewer, send a letter to each person.

Your letter should be short and direct. Express your thanks, emphasize your suitability for the position, and reiterate your interest in moving forward to the next step.

Use email for follow-up only if there is established precedent for this form of communication.

Final Thoughts

Practice interviewing with a friend, preferably one with hiring experience.

Don’t wear casual clothing, even for a “jean job”. Slacks or Dockers are more appropriate.

Don’t be late.  If the unexpected occurs, phone ahead.

Turn your cell phone off. Never, EVER look at your phone during an interview!

Smile, make good eye contact, and provide a firm handshake.

Never speak negatively about a previous employer.

Don’t take over the interview by talking too much, even when interviewer is inept.