New Year’s Resolutions: Pitfalls to Avoid for Job Seekers – And Employers!

Kelly shares a few “process improvement” New Year's wishes for job seekers, as well as pointers for local HR departments who are posting jobs.

For the last 10 years, I’ve been watching NE Ohio’s employer career pages and working with local marketing and media job seekers in my goofy hobby as the Job Bank House Mother.  There are a few “process improvement” stocking stuffers I would offer job seekers, as well as pointers for the HR departments who are posting jobs.  Chances are, no matter what side of the employment transaction you are on, you’re doing great in these areas . . . but you probably know a few folks out there who could use a gentle nudge, or a few companies who are missing out on great talent because their career page is less than customer friendly.  Here are my New Year’s Wishes for both.

For HR Professionals and Hiring Managers:
I’ve been on your career page, along with those of 200 other local employers, every two weeks for about a decade, which gives me a unique 30,000-foot overview of your company’s talent attraction experience and how you stack up to other competing employers in our community.   Most NE Ohio companies have maximized the user ease of their career pages, but a few HR teams need to wake up and smell the coffee, figure out the gaps that are turning off top talent, and walk down the hall to IT to make some not-so-difficult improvements.  Here are my Pet Peeves that make me skip over your job postings, and promote other employer’s offerings, when I share opportunities with my subscribers.

Date your job postings.  How hard is this?  I’ve been on global HR teams at three Fortune 500 companies – other than being minimally easier for you (one less piece of data to upload/update), how is this helping you attract talent?  The #1 rule of job seekers is:  they want fresh jobs they haven’t applied to before, and new postings deliver the maximum ROI of their time and effort.  Your old job that I’ve seen on your site since June (which usually says “currently we are hiring for”) isn’t telling a compelling story about a hot new opportunity to job seekers.   Isn’t this one of the most important, most visited pages on your site?   Doesn’t it deserve more care and feeding? 

I pass over your jobs every month, because I’m tired of same dusty list of openings each time I visit your page – and I bet great talent in town feels the same way.  It takes just minutes to update a posting date, if you originally listed a job in September and you are still actively recruiting for it. Please re-think your approach if your HR and IT teams do what’s easiest for them, versus what’s keeping you competitive with the hundreds of employers in town who have figured out how to list posting dates.  How about even just a Job ID number, which can help a job seeker figure out the new postings.  This isn’t rocket science!

“We may not be hiring, but here are job descriptions anyway.”  If you have openings, post them.  If you don’t, then stop doing this.  You’re heading towards a lukewarm to zero response when you do have a fresh posting, because you’ve conditioned your viewers to never expect actual live opportunities on your website – so your traffic is heading down, not up.  One local employer lists 84 jobs on its careers page (I suppose a list of every job title in their shop), with a checkbox if you want to search for “only the open postings.”  Guess what – the same 84 jobs show up, and have been there since April.  You’ve made it impossible for anyone to determine your new postings, which deserve a lot of traffic. 

And my New Year’s Resolutions for Job Seekers:

Be Eager, but not Desperate.  Stop being crushed when you feel you “are perfect for this job” but aren’t called back or get the offer.  Desperate daters don’t land a mate (“I’m perfect for her!  Why can’t she see that!”) and desperate job seekers waste their efforts and energy pining over a job that might not materialize.   The best advice, whether looking for Mr. or Ms. right or your next fabulous job, is this:  Keep Going.  

Move on, stop agonizing that this is “the one” and make sure you have lots of irons in the fire, so that one job doesn’t feel like your last and only shot.  You may get hints about next steps (we’re calling second round interviews back next week; the hiring manager will be talking with people in a few days), and if the interview went exceptionally well but you haven’t heard anything,  make one call or send one e-mail to indicate interest and show you were paying attention – but don’t call three times a week, don’t send demanding and repeated e-mails, and don’t come off as a half-hinged stalker girlfriend who is overreacting to a “I’ll call you some time” casual comment.  Keep Going! 

You are great for many companies out there, and don’t obsess over one potential (but pokey) opportunity.  Read my article on “Why Haven’t I Heard Back” for some perspective on what might be going on in the HR department at an employer.

Know how to write, spell and punctuate.  This is also called the Drive for Show, Putt for Dough rule.  I run into nightmare resumes (why so often with sales professionals?) that earn a Fast Fail because of the atrocious lack of punctuation, capitalization and formatting abilities.  I am floored at folks who think this dreck could stand up to the spotless resumes with which they’re competing. 

These otherwise talented and dedicated professionals are fooling themselves to think a lack of fundamental grammar, word usage and document layout skills will be “overlooked” because they bring strong revenue numbers to the table.  If you can’t create a perfect document all on your own, grasp capitalization rules, get religious about grammar and spelling, avoid six types of wacky, randomly-tabbed bullets, and know how to make a clean, shiny Word document, trust me:  your competition can, and that means YOU are the only person preventing your phone from ringing for an interview.

The dynamic personality of a great salesperson falls flat on the floor when HR realizes you couldn’t create a perfect document for the CEO, or for a customer pitch, if your life depended on it.  Take free courses at the library, brush up with online tutorials, get some pocket guide books or phone apps to carry around, but for heaven’s sake get better at looking like a professional on paper who will be a sophisticated (and not embarrassing) representative of a company to the outside world.

Get Out of the House!  If I had a nickel every time I heard from a job seeker that they never go to networking events, industry luncheons, breakfast seminars, the City Club or job clubs, well there is not a shred of mystery why you aren’t generating more activity within your search.  Being outgoing and able to chat up a room is important in nearly every profession, and even if it’s not your nature, isn’t finding a job worth moving a tiny bit out of your comfort zone? 

You can do this - grab another job seeker, find a co-worker, go with a friend and take advantage of these outstanding opportunities to make a great impression on others who can be an advocate for you in your search.  The Crain’s Cleveland Business event calendar is a great place to find networking events, and definitely check out your professional trade association's local calendar.

Here’s to even more job openings in 2013 (With posting dates!  Yes!) and a bigger local economy on the horizon for the talented job seekers in NE Ohio.  Good luck out there – and wishing you a prosperous and healthy New Year.

Kelly Blazek shares job search and career success tips in her blog, http://kellyblazek.wordpress.com and is a frequent speaker at jobseeker groups on creating more powerful resumes and LinkedIn profiles.  A Six Sigma Green Belt, she is available for one-on-one resume reviews and is also a manufacturing communications consultant.  Contact her at kblazek@gembacomms.com

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