Match Your Resume and Cover Letter to the Job You Want

November 25th, 2011

In the world of resumes and cover letters, one size definitely does not fit all. It’s a common error. Many job-seekers submit the same resume for every open position they find, no matter what the business or job title.

But these days companies employ tracking systems that mine data from resumes by searching for relevant phrases or keywords. If your resume stays the same from one place to another, chances are the tracking system won’t find the keywords it’s looking for and your resume will get tossed in the “rejected” pile. So it’s vitally important to take the time and effort to customize your resume for each specific job opening.

The good news is, this doesn’t mean starting from scratch each time. Instead, follow a few simple steps to help increase the odds that your resume will get reviewed.

  1. Look closely at the job description. Highlight the skills and experience the company is looking for. Focus on keywords included in the posting.
  2. Now write down any experiences from your background–past jobs, internships, part-time positions, etc.–that match up with the job description.
  3. Take out your resume. What’s already there that matches up with elements in the job posting? Circle any matches so you can review and expand as necessary when the time comes to tweak your resume.
  4. What’s not on your resume that should be to fit this specific job description? Probably there are tasks, activities and responsibilities that you didn’t previously include that may be relevant here. If needed, you can include volunteer work or extracurricular activities that align with the roles described in the job posting.
  5. Now it’s time to revise your resume. Add and/or edit what’s there to more closely match the job description.  Make sure the resume includes keywords that correspond with the posting. The more keywords, the better. (You can also take this opportunity to delete extraneous or irrelevant points in your resume.)
  6. Proofread what you’re written, put the resume aside for an hour or more, then come back and proof it again. You can’t have any typos or errors in  punctuation!

Things not to include: personal photographs, your date of birth or Social Security number, hobbies or high school attendance records. No one but your mother cares about that stuff.

OK–you now have a tailored resume that fits the specific job you’re interested in. But you’re not done yet. There’s still the targeted cover letter to add. Here are tips for doing this right:

  • Address the letter to the person doing the hiring. If a name isn’t included in the job posting, try researching online (LinkedIn is a good place to start) or just call the business and ask for the name of the person in charge of hiring.
  • Mention specific information that you believe singles you out for the open position. Include several key statements if possible (bullet points are OK).
  • If you have some knowledge of this particular business (either from experience or doing some research), include a brief comment about industry trends that may relate to the position you’re interested in.
  • Finally, close your cover letter by repeating your interest in the position, include all of your contact information and note that you’ll follow up in a few days to make sure the application was received.

A resume can be up to two pages, but no longer. A cover letter should never be longer than one page.

Learn more about how Meador Staffing’s career advisors can help assess your skills, craft your resume and determine which opportunities are best matched to your skills and goals.

Make the Hiring Process Easier On Your Business

November 18th, 2011

It’s no secret – most businesses regard the hiring process as costly, time-consuming and frequently unproductive. In many cases, certain mistakes get made time and again, leading to inadequate new hires and even more time and money wasted by having to start all over again.

The good news is, changing a few standard practices can generate a more effective and streamlined hiring process. Once these practices are in place, future hiring should go a lot easier on everyone involved.

Here are areas where you can make significant improvements:

Job description. Many businesses rely on “boilerplate” job descriptions they’ve picked up online or retained from long in the past. If a job isn’t properly defined, it should be no surprise that finding the right person is highly unlikely.

How many of the job descriptions you use include requirements for minimum education, skills and qualities like “team player” and “must have good communication skills”? But do any of these accurately address the job itself? Of course, a qualified applicant must meet certain baseline requirements, but you’ll get better results by defining “success” in the open position (as measured by objective goals and objectives). Now tailor your interview process to uncover the individual who best articulates how he or she will achieve that success. Chances are, the right person will meet all the other baseline requirements as well.

Specific skills needed. In an economy where employees are called upon to take responsibility for many different positions, you may find yourself meeting with people who have a little experience and skills in a lot of areas, rather than high marks in the specific role you’re looking for.

There’s no such thing as the “perfect” candidate. When you craft the open position announcement, try to omit all the secondary requirements that would be nice to have, but aren’t truly necessary. Prioritize the skills and abilities that are indispensable to the position. A job-seeker who meets these criteria will more likely emerge from the candidate pool.

Prescreen. Some businesses avoid prescreening on the assumption it adds significant time and expense to the hiring process. But going to the effort to determine an applicant’s skill levels over the phone ends up saving hours and money in the long run. It’s helpful as well in determining ahead of time if a candidate’s salary expectations align with what you have to offer. If phone prescreening isn’t an option, try attaching a brief questionnaire to the application form that will help eliminate job-seekers who aren’t right for the position.

Meador Staffing has the resources to help you find the right person for your job. Our temporary staffing, temp-to-hire and direct hire options offer customized staffing solutions that work for businesses in Houston, Austin and beyond.

Job Advice for the New Grad

November 11th, 2011

If you’re a recent college graduate, you don’t need anyone telling you it’s a tough job market out there. Positions are limited, many companies aren’t hiring as much as they used, others are being far more selective than they were in the past. That’s the bad news. The good news is, there’s plenty you can do to make yourself appealing to employers and now, diploma in hand, there’s no better time to start.

What’s your profile? It’s time to cast aside the jokes and silly messages on Facebook and Twitter–you know, the ones with photos of you at a wild party or wearing an outfit from the Twilight Saga for Halloween. These days, employers routinely check out job candidates’ online profiles. They want to know what you’re up to, how you conduct yourself in public, whether you’re serious about your career objectives or not. Take down any photos or status updates that present you in a less-than-favorable light.

Polish your resume. This is your calling card, so make it work for you. Keep it short and simple, but don’t leave out the essentials (education, work experience). At the same time, this is no place to be modest. Talk about the skills and achievements that set you apart from others, in and out of the classroom.

Stay busy. It may take time finding a full-time job, so think about what else you can be doing. Look for internships in fields you’re interested in. Volunteer with local civic groups or non-profit organizations. Not only does this demonstrate to potential employers that you’re not the “sit at home and stare at the walls” type, but it’s a great way to pick up additional skills.

Always be networking. Now is the time to graduate from playing with social media to making it work for you. LinkedIn, Facebook and other sites are ideal places to build a community of contacts, including people beyond the circle of individuals you know. If you’re interested in a particular company, check out its website (especially the “About Us” page) to see if you know anyone there. Or take a chance and reach out to someone on the team. In the non-virtual world, ask anyone you know about possible job openings. This includes friends, family, your college alumni, the guy you talk to at the gym. You never know where a referral might come from.

Look good, feel good, make a good impression. No matter how smart and qualified you think you are, if you come across as poorly dressed and ill-mannered, you won’t get hired. Grooming is vitally important, as are such simple things as the way you speak. Don’t use words like “like” or “you know.” Eliminate all “uh’s” from your vocabulary. Be friendly. Make yourself interesting. That’s the only way to make good on that all-important first impression.

Set goals. For a daily activity, set target goals of either sending out a specific number of resumes or filling out a set number of job applications. If you’ve set your sights only on the big companies, think about smaller businesses where there might be more opportunities. Don’t look for the “perfect job” because, chances are, it’s not out there. And give some thought to doing temp work, a great way to earn money while building new skills and acquiring new contacts.

The expert career advisors at Meador Staffing can help you take the step from college grad to new hire, in Houston, Austin and throughout Texas.

Your Social Media Presence Can Attract The Ideal Candidate

November 4th, 2011

As social media continues its path toward world domination, it’s becoming a leading recruitment tool for forward-thinking companies.

How do candidates leverage social media sites in their job-seeking efforts?  How can you make your business more appealing to them? Let’s start with the basics:

  • Create an employer page on social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. (There are many others but these two are absolute musts.)  Content should include clear and compelling information of interest to job-seekers.
  • Start a company blog with regular posts about what’s happening within the organization. Link your company profiles to the blog and invite your staff to do so, too.
  • What’s the hot topic in your business/industry right now? Go on Twitter and start a conversation (not the same as advertising!). Get people tweeting about your business.
  • Create brief, informative and entertaining videos about some part of your business and post them on YouTube. Include links to your videos on these other social media platforms.

Savvy job-seekers spend time on social media sites collecting valuable details on both job recruiters and in-house hiring managers. They can also connect with current and ex-employees through different sites. In fact, you can assume that information on most aspects of the job recruitment process — open positions, types of interviews, profiles on HR staff — are available online. There are also plenty of job search experts offering advice, tips, leads and best practices to aid the candidate’s search.

This cuts both ways, of course. By friending and following others on social media sites, you can gain unique insights into what drives qualified job-seekers (their interests, preferences, turn-offs) and tailor your recruitment processes accordingly.  This includes posting content that fuels candidates’ interest and makes your business more appealing to them.

If advertising and promotions are part of your “recruitment arsenal,” look at ways to post them on social media sites and encourage followers to link to and tweet about them. It should be obvious that standard ads won’t cut it. Your message must reflect the world as those using social media as part of their daily lives can best appreciate it. This is all part of the social media strategy you want to adopt in order to get things right.

For example, you can share the blog you’re reading right now on your Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Buzz and Yahoo! Pulse. The same goes for your own company blog and other  messaging tailored to social media.

Meador Staffing’s social media presence is one of many tools we have to deliver flexible and customized staffing solutions for employers across Texas and beyond.