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Articles

Negotiate with Confidence

Mary Jo King

I hate to leave money on the table. My consultative communication style usually makes negotiations a breeze, but I have, on occasion, settled for less than what I wanted. Sometimes I settled because I wanted the deal more than the money. In other situations, it happened because I could have been more assertive. Diligent preparation ensures that, if you do decide to sacrifice a criteria or rate, you do it on your own terms. 

Do your research. The Internet makes it easy to gather information. In the case of salary packages, websites like Salary.com, Payscale.com, and Glassdoor.com are goldmines of data about salary range for your market, specific company practices, and the industry or position in general. Information is power.

Know your priorities and your limits. Contracts and salary packages have many negotiable points. Perhaps you can live with less vacation time if you have a flexible work schedule. Maybe you can accept a lower product or service price if you have more time to deliver.

Be willing to walk away. Your resolve will often motivate the other party to rethink their offer.

Remember that both parties have an interest in closing the deal. Be assertive about asking for what you want, and be prepared to reinforce your unique selling proposition (USP). Establish your value by solving their problem.

Don't accept statements at face value. Question everything, and then listen--really listen--to the answers. Listening is an under-practiced skill, but it is key to understanding the other party's position. You can't solve a problem until you understand it.

When you make a sacrifice, get something in return. "I can do this if you can do that." Failure to get quid pro quo invites a request for more concessions.

Expect to succeed. Sellers should ask for more than they expect to receive, and buyers should offer less than they are prepared to pay. Those who aim higher do better.

Get the results of your negotiation in writing. It prevents misunderstanding and protects your position in the event of a shift.

I am often reminded of a quote from renowned orator and debater, Samuel Clemens. When asked why he did so well in debates, he replied, "I spend ten percent of my time thinking about what I'm going to say, and ninety percent of my time thinking about they're going to say."

Make Your LinkedIn Profile Sing!

Mary Jo King

Most social media profiles have a lot in common.  Get one in good shape, and your content can be adapted to other sites. LinkedIn is a great place to begin because it has become such a large business community. It offers a wealth of information, it is rich with job posts, and frequented by more than 95% of recruiters. A well-developed LinkedIn profile will fare well in search engines and make it easier for employers and customers to find you. 

The basics: 

Make your profile 100% complete. The more vigorous your profile, the higher you will rank in searches. 

Display your personal photo. Use the same professional photo you use everywhere else.

Brand your headline! That space beneath your name is your Profile Headline. It will appear in search results next to your name, and follow where you lead on LinkedIn.

Write appealing status updates. This is the “What are you working on?” box. Use it to advance your brand. Bonus: Making weekly adjustments to your profile improves your visibility.

Write a profile summary packed with keywords. This is your chance to tell the world who you are and what you can do.

Use keywords extensively throughout your profile. LinkedIn remains one of the only sites that still reflects the density of profile keywords in ranking search results.

Complete the Skills section. This section was created especially for recruiters, so it contributes heavily to search results. Fill all 50 skill fields with keywords and keyword phrases.

Fill in those job descriptions. They are a perfect place to add keywords. List companies where you worked, and schools you attended. If you are only listing your current company and/or not displaying your college, many people will not find you. 

Get and give recommendations. When you sign up for LinkedIn and first fill out your profile, LinkedIn recommends that you write three LinkedIn recommendations. You need to do this in order to get your profile to 100%. The other benefits of peer recommendations are obvious, yes?

Get connected with others. Adding connections has an exponential effect in search results. Any fewer than 100 connections looks as if you're not serious.

LinkedIn allows you to list three websites on your profile. Use them all, linking to other social media profiles, your own website, or other relevant sites. Bonus: you will be adding to the SEO of your own websites just by the fact that you list them here.

Do not block incoming emails. Make it easy to contact you.

Claim Your Personal URL. When you sign up to LinkedIn you are provided a public URL, which you can then include on your email signature and other profiles. You can customize this when you edit your account settings. Claiming your name here is one of the first things you should do, and be sure to do it before someone else does!

A LinkedIn profile is more than just a résumé. This is your opportunity to communicate more about who you are and the value you bring. You can paste in content like presentations and videos, or link to your website, blog, or Twitter stream. Use your status updates to let the world know what you’re working on right now.

 

 

Will Your Résumé Make the Cut?

Mary Jo King

Your challenge is to make the first cut:  those initial seconds when the hiring authority is blasting through a stack of résumés as high as her coffee cup. This is your moment to impress, and you have fewer than 15 seconds to do it. Understanding that humans are scanning rather than reading--at least for the first go-round--will help you highlight important content.

Even more daunting is the widespread use of applicant tracking systems (ATS), which represent a whole new set of challenges for the job hunter's résumé. Outdated or over-complicated formats and careless content can get you bounced before a human ever sees your application.

A résumé is a marketing tool, not a job application. It  should sell your brand with achievement-oriented content in a clean design that is easy to navigate. Any job application--online or otherwise--that does not promote your strengths via a meticulously crafted résumé will always be less than outstanding.

Beyond the failure to highlight success stories, the most common problem with self-authored résumés is a lack of keywords. Without them, you will not survive the ATS gauntlet. Our testing has revealed that a few critical words can mean the difference between an interview and the dog pile. Only the top scoring candidates get interviews.

With proper care and deliberation, you can win your dream job. Twenty carefully prepared application packages will produce better results than a hundred haphazard ones. Think quality, not quantity.

 

 

Uncommonly Good Job Search Tips

Mary Jo King

Looking for work is a full-time job . . . conducting research, upgrading your résumé, networking, and writing letters.  It can be tedious, but the devil is often in the details.

1. Pay attention to your public image.  Is your email address professional?  How about your voicemail message, your social network pages? What will a prospect find during an Internet search of your name?

2. Don’t wait to see a Help Wanted post. More than 50% of available positions are never advertised anywhere. Develop your own “hit list” of employers that interest you – and make contact!

3. Apply in person whenever possible. Dress for an interview, and be prepared with a cover letter and résumé to leave with the “gatekeeper”. Remember, employees are often asked to provide feedback about job applicants. Your interview begins with the first company contact.

4. Keep and include recommendations. The best one(s) can be quoted in your résumé for extra oomph.  Store all letters in the portfolio you take to interviews.

5. Snail-mail your résumé package, even after online submissions. Use a full-sized envelope (9x12) so your résumé arrives in pristine condition. Large envelopes receive priority attention!

6. Email documents as PDF files. They will retain design integrity and cannot be easily altered.

7. Upload documents in Word format. Use the older version of Word (.doc); it parses better in older applicant tracking systems (ATS) than the newer versions (.docx).

8. ATS software can bite you at the beginning or the end of the process. Even if you land an interview through networking, the hiring authority may have to justify the hiring decision by scoring your résumé through the ATS. Make sure important keywords are represented.

9.  Don’t underestimate the value of networking. Studies have shown that a significant percentage of seekers find work this way.

10. Develop a robust LinkedIn profile. Employers visit your profile to learn more about you. Recruiters troll LinkedIn looking for qualified candidates.

11. Create a list of references to take to the interview. Use three to five professional associates who have agreed to be on your list. These individuals should be reliable and ready.

Crafting an Effective Cover Letter

Mary Jo King

If you are dropping off, mailing, emailing, or uploading your résumé, you must include a cover letter. For 50% of hiring managers, the absence of a cover letter makes you look lazy and disorganized. Your letter should quickly drive the reader to your résumé, so keep it brief* and make every word count.

Three short paragraphs are all you need.

1. Identify the position you seek and the source of the job post, e.g., LinkedIn, Indeed.com, etc. If referred by someone, this is the place to name the individual.

2. Summarize your qualifications in a few sentences, focusing on achievements and relating your background to the requirements of the position.

3. Ask for an interview.

Getting It Right

The cover letter is usually an employer’s first impression of you, so invest yourself in the effort. While it is true that one well-written letter can be adapted for many employment opportunities, do not underestimate the value of a thoughtful, targeted document. 

Use the header from your résumé, and match your résumé stationery. These are marketing tools, and continuity is not only professional, but part of your personal brand.

Begin with the date, the contact name, contact title, company name and complete address. Add a formal salutation, using Mr. or Ms. and the last name.  “Dear Bob” is inappropriate unless you are already on a first-name basis. Make a phone call to the receptionist to verify spelling, job title and mailing address.

Read the job post carefully. Take time to research the company, including website and news items. You will often find important clues to its status, challenges and strategies. This information is not only useful for the cover letter, but for the interview, as well.

When replying to blind ads, do the best you can with research. You won’t always be able to pinpoint employers, but you can almost always learn more about the company or its industry by following clues from the advertisement.

Determine which of your qualifications and accomplishments are most appropriate, and design the content of your second paragraph accordingly. Construct a few sentences and edit them down to their leanest potential. Be honest and enthusiastic.

Conduct a spell check and careful proofread. Proofread again.

When submitting via email, it is acceptable to use the body of your email for a shorter version of your cover letter. Attach documents as PDF files unless instructed otherwise.

* For certain career fields, such as academia, longer cover letters are acceptable.