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Get Help Focusing on the Right Targets During Your Job Search

As you know, nowadays most of the electronic submissions to which you upload your resume are first scanned by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).  Your LinkedIn profile is also scanned by HR organizations and recruiters looking for specific types of talent.
One of the ways they capture the skills and experience they are looking for is by first establishing a set of criteria the candidate needs to have (such as M&A experience, P&L management, Project Management, Lean Six Sigma, etc.).  These Keywords or Key Phrases allow the hiring entities to match requirements to candidates on a broad scale when they are dealing with hundreds of resumes.
When they match their keywords against what is found in your resume, you are given a percentage match, like 27% or 80%.   Ones that pass their threshold limit will then potentially be passed on to a human in HR, those that don’t may not be seen by a person at all.
Some organizations, such as, provide a tool that allows you to ensure that you have the keywords you need for a specific type of role.
So, when you find a you would like to apply to, copy and paste the job description into Jobscan. Then do the same for the text in your resume.  At that point you can click “scan” and it will do what the ATS systems do — it will give you a list of keywords, numerically ranked it order of how many times they appear in both documents.
This is a great tactical tool to use for just tuning up your resume with exactly the same words that the hiring company is looking for. It is also a strategic tool, because as you aggregate the results of multiple scans, it will help you see if you are looking for the roles that you are best qualified.  It can help you research and evaluate a number of related job titles and see where you match the best with your skills and experience.


Do you believe leadership is one of your strong points?

Leadership is something that is often defined and alluded to but is, in fact, difficult to ascertain.

To over simplify; good leaders are usually highly empathetic in the sense of understanding the views and feelings of people working for them.  At the same time they are relatively low in terms of charity (true altruism) because as a leader they need to persuade people to achieve his/her objectives.

So, if you tell someone in an interview that you are a highly effective leader, always follow the statement with a clear example of how your leadership either directly changed things or how your leadership actions enabled a specific success.  This should be in terms of a short “soundbite” type of story.  For example: This was the situation, this is how I led people to the right decision/conclusion/action and this was the result.

Why Do I Seem to Come in Second Place So Often?

How often has this happened to you? Whether you came in second, third or fourth, you did not get the offer!

But why? You were a great fit. Everyone (including the recruiter) told you that you were the favorite. Yet it did not happen.

You rewind the tape to try to find the reason(s).

There are many reasons that may contribute to not being selected.  Qualifications, money or an answer to a specific question are generally not the reasons, especially late in the cycle. Politics can play a role if you are going head to head with an inside candidate. That is tough one to overcome but not insurmountable.

But the biggest reason you did not get the offer is that you failed to take it over the goal line.  This means you were not able to convince the hiring team that your “total package” was of greater value than the other candidate. Value is best defined by what you can do for the organization, the team, your new boss….to help them achieve THEIR goals.

By understanding those goals you can then focus on the value to them. So do your research. Their goals may include revenue maximization, cost controls, shareholder value, market share, ROI or more.

Once you know that — know your value, and sell your value!

Build Your Board Knowledge

As you advance in your career, there are a number of organizations that you should become aware of, aimed at improving board skills and corporate governance. These include the Director’s Network, the Board Institute, ISS/Risk Metrics, and particularly National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) which has chapters in most major regions of the United States.

As soon as you begin interacting with a board, pay more attention to these groups and, if you can, wangle an invitation to attend meetings as a guest. There are 22 chapters nationwide and NACD is a member of the Global Network of Directors Institutes.

When you meet the membership criteria, join, particularly if you can get the company to pay for membership. NACD offers full membership for directors and executives of a company or not-for-profit. Individuals can join if they are active directors of public, private or not-for-profit organizations. (Thanks to Peter Gleason, Managing Director and CFO of NACD for this information.) They also offer a Boardroom Executive Affiliate program which offers limited benefits including access to NACD Directors Daily, “Directorship” Magazine and a mobile app, the NACD webinar series and inclusion in the Director’s Registry of board candidates.

Networking With the Unemployed

We often hear that Networking Meetings are useless because they are full of people that are also looking for a job.

Just because people are in transition, does it mean they do not know people?

Look at it this way; you never know who people know!

Meeting new people and establishing rapport is good for you own mental state as well as expanding your network.  When talking to another individual in transition it is up to you to manage the conversation.  If the two of you sit around and compare notes on how tough it is, you are right; it is a waste of time.

On the other hand, if you spend the time to understand what the other person is looking for, and also explain your own direction, it can be mutually beneficial.

Take charge of the conversation and steer it towards discussions revolving around how each can help the other. This leads to networking success!

Why Reading Comprehension is Important to Your Job Search

How many times have you had an email exchange similar the following:

Your email:  “We will be meeting at the ABC Café at 11:30am on Monday the 12th to discuss the marketing proposal attached.  See you then!”

The emails you get back:  “Where are we meeting?”, “What time should I be there?”, “What is the purpose of this meeting?”, “I don’t have a copy of the proposal, can you send it to me?”

Does it frustrate you?  Make you laugh?  Do you silently judge the person who replied?  Well guess what?  You probably do the same thing all the time, and it’s costing you more than you think.

Researchers noticed as far back as the 1970s that Americans have a reading comprehension problem, and our productivity as a nation is suffering from it.  While some people may shrug off the scenario above, it is indicative of a deeper problem, one which may leave you at the bottom of a list of potential candidates for employment.  This is because the problem extends far beyond seemingly harmless email exchanges.

What do you think happens when you fail to follow the guidelines set out to apply for a certain position at a company you’d love to work with?  Your application will be dismissed, and you will lose the opportunity.  Or, what do you think happens when you show up for your second round of interviews, and you’ve failed to bring something that was clearly requested of you in your exchanges with the hiring authority?  You guessed it; you’ve just tarnished your image as a candidate for that position.

And while you may not think of it as any big concern (after all, you can send what was requested as soon as you leave, right?), in actuality, it is a concern.  From the point of view of a hiring authority, if you hold a Master’s Degree, but are unable to follow through on simple directions such as following application guidelines or bringing particular materials that have been requested of you, then where else will you fail in the course of the position for which you’re interviewing?

Sometimes, something which seems like a small, overlooked detail can end up costing a company millions, as in the recent case with Oakhurst Dairy of Maine. They lost a $13M dollar lawsuit because of a missing comma, which led to a reading comprehension debacle that resulted in their drivers going to court to sue for overtime pay.

Don’t be the one who loses your company $13M because you misread something important.  Read everything thoroughly, and be sure to respond appropriately.  Trust me; everyone will be glad you did.

Does Networking Work in this Economy?

National unemployment is slightly down at 4.4% (from the Bureau of Labor statistics) and certain areas of the country are seeing an even rosier picture — in Boston mayor Marty Walsh states that the unemployment rate is 2.3%.

So we are trending in the right direction! A consequence of this positive activity is that many professionals are encouraged to seek better jobs and to develop better upside potential for themselves. Some estimates state that between 50% and 75% of the American working populace are currently in the job market.  Unfortunately for them, the vast majority of these job seekers are only utilizing recruiters, job boards and company web sites to search for opportunities. This works less than 15% of the time. Most job seekers find their next opportunity through networking.

MDL Partners estimates that between 80% and 90% of all new jobs in the US are obtained through personal contacts and introductions from influential people. Organizations would much rather hire someone who has been referred to them from a credible source, so it is incumbent upon job seekers to commit most of their job search effort to networking.

You should aim to meet individually with 3-5 new contacts per week, the objective being to develop a critical mass of good network connections. And follow-up is crucial! As things change in the marketplace, it’s vital to ensure that you are at “top of mind” with your connections. A “networking on steroids” mindset leads to the best chance of success in career transition.

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

A simple question that causes too many people to talk too much!

It doesn’t matter that your boss had a classic case of paranoid schizophrenia or that no one in the company had a clue of what revenues were.  In an interview or networking situation, you do NOT go there in any answer.

Your response should be formatted as a simple, straight forward statement. If you keep it simple and state yourself in a matter of fact manner, people are satisfied.

Consider a response such as:

“The company lost a major contract, had to downsize and my role was eliminated.”

“The CEO and I had a difference in view on direction of the company.”

Don’t volunteer further information; you will find that in 99% of the time your simple, straight forward answer will be accepted and you will move on in the discussion.

Put Yourself in the Other Chair for a More Effective Interview

Imagine yourself at a social function. The person you just met is speaking in depth about their knowledge of the logistical intricacies of managing global supply chains. While interesting, if you have little interest in that subject you will likely not be totally focused on that person’s soliloquy and will start letting your eye wander the room to see who else is there. Then another person you meet starts with a question or two about what you do. They start speaking about a topic they think may be of potentially mutual interest, based on your response, and start an interactive dialog with you. Which of these two encounters will you likely value?

It is very much the same with interviewing. Think of times in your own career when you were interviewing candidates. You will surely remember one or two examples where someone came in so pumped up and ready to tell you stories of their accomplishments that they never stopped to ask what you were interested in hearing about.

We encourage people to be prepared and to have interesting stories to tell that highlight their key strengths and successes. However, sometimes in the adrenaline rush of an important interview, people will unintentionally launch into their well-prepared stories and rush through them to ensure that every key point is made.

A more effective approach is put as much time and effort into researching your interviewer as you do preparing your core content.

First, check out the company.  Read the CEO’s letter in their Annual Report; what is the top strategy that they outline, key issues or opportunities for growth in their industry?  Look for news articles on the company; have they done a recent acquisition, invested in a new market or technology?

All this information can then be used to map your skills/successes.  As much as is practical, tune your stories to include the terms, markets, technologies, etc. that are currently relevant to that company.

Then, check out the person(s).  Research those with whom you’ll be speaking. What are their backgrounds; what do they say in their LinkedIn summary regarding their roles and what they focus on? What school did they go to; do they play golf or run marathons?

This can help you build rapport quickly in an interview before you dive into any heavy dialog.  Maybe you worked at the same company long ago, or your daughter is now attending their alma mater, or you also run marathons, etc. You want to ensure that, as much as possible, you have made a human connection that is focused on their needs and interests before jumping into your content.

Together these techniques can create a dramatically different scenario where you are in a conversation with someone on a mutual topic of interest instead of a one sided monologue.

The resume: an exquisite device with which NOT to get in the door

It is around 10:30 on Saturday morning.  The sun is shining and you have your favorite decaf mocha latte in your hand. You sit down, open your screen, and click on to one of the hundreds of job boards and sites that populate the internet. You locate a posting for a position “that was written for you;” in fact, if you didn’t know better, you would think that it IS you.  You then spend a considerable amount of time providing all of the requested information, including the “required or don’t submit” salary history and salary requirements (thereby “spilling your beans” to a person you have never met or a server program chock full of algorithms designed to screen out candidates).  Nevertheless, you are an optimistic soul. You attach your resume and click “submit.”

You get up, take a break, and see what happens.

Most of the time, nothing happens  – not even a reply saying “we received your resume.”

What’s going on?

Hint:  Many of the most popular boards and sites contain well over 100 MILLION resumes!  That’s 100,000,000 resumes.  What do you think are the chances that just one or more of all those resumes has all of your qualifications and experience, PLUS some other attribute or factor that makes that person seem just slightly more attractive to an employer than you? The chances are, of course, overwhelming.

It is not you, it is the enormous magnitude of your competition.

The good news: resumes ARE very useful in networking settings and interviews, once you have gotten in the door. But it’s getting in the door that is the difficult part. You’ll get there — through dedicated and targeted Networking. But probably not through blindly applying to job posts.


Who Are You?

When you are in job search or networking mode, you hear a lot about your “elevator speech” and what you should say in the conventional two minute time frame. This sound byte is the message that tells people who you are professionally, so it is vitally important that you map out what you are going to say.

There are at least three major uses for an “elevator speech:”

  1. You are on the elevator with the CEO and you want let him/her know who you are, and who you are professionally (a weekly occurrence, right!).
  2. You are in a group networking meeting and have a chance to present yourself to the group.
  3. You are in an interview and you get some form of the ancient question: “Tell me about yourself.”

The third situation is probably the most challenging and when you need to be the most focused. Some quick guidance that will help you triumph rather than flop:

First, start your thought process by writing down the five top words you would use to describe yourself professionally. Try to use words that convey actions or skills; avoid “hardworking”, “professional”, “thoughtful”, etc.  These do not really sell you as an executive.

Secondly, don’t speak in terms of your number of years of experience – speak in terms of what you do to help an organization.

Thirdly, the core of the speech should be shorter than two minutes so you can add some situational emphasis based upon the group (when you use it in a networking event) or the company in an interview.

Lastly, write it down to fix it in your mind.

Getting Feedback After An Interview

You thought the interview went well but you don’t get the job. What now? How can you learn from the situation?

“Getting feedback after an interview isn’t easy,” explains Doug Lemmonds, SVP of MDL Partners. “People struggle with this all the time. There isn’t one approach that necessarily works better than others – in fact getting feedback at all is quite rare. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying.”

Asking for constructive criticism is not something you should do after only a first round of interviews. Only do so if you’ve made it far in the process and have been able to really establish a rapport with your interviewer.

Even then, approach the subject with caution. Choose your timing carefully – people are often not receptive to this kind of request so you should be concise and don’t put anyone on the spot. Email is usually best.

Strike the right tone. Be polite, and understand that there is a likelihood that you will not hear back. People often feel uncomfortable with these situations and avoid them. They also worry about legal risks.

Remember that a hiring manager is not obligated to follow up with you, but you may have more success if you have gone through a recruiter. Keeping lines of communication open with a recruiter is a good practice in general. However, you also can try talking directly to the hiring manager sometime down the road. The focus of your inquiry should be more on how you can improve your interviewing technique and skill set than specifics to the particular position you did not win.

Although some companies are hesitant about offering feedback, remember this: it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Most importantly, ask yourself post-interview questions to help narrow down the issues. Honest self-reflection is key:

  • Were you really suited for this job? Are you interviewing for the right jobs in general; ones that match your particular transferable skill-set?
  • Were you as prepared as you should have been?
  • What questions did you handle particularly well?
  • What questions did you struggle with?

In the end, remember to be thoughtful, non-argumentative and thankful if someone takes the time to offer feedback.

Getting Past Resume Robots

When you apply for a position at some larger companies, often a human doesn’t even get a chance to look at your resume. That’s because many HR departments use application tracking software (ATS) to sift through hundreds of applications before turning the narrowed-down batch over to HR. While this saves them time, it means that promising applicants might get tossed out just because their resume don’t have the right keywords.

If HR departments are utilizing technology to make the “perfect match,” you may want to consider trying it too.

Once you have been through the MDL Process and come out the other side with a fantastic resume to get you actively networking, consider that you will still be using it at times to apply for jobs online. And then into the black hole of cyberspace it goes.

There are more than 300 applicant tracking software systems available. How can you hope to optimize a resume that considers them all?

There are a number of websites that can help you, and we’ve had success with Jobscan says it is able to identify keywords used by 90 percent of employers.

In a simple two-step process, you paste your resume’s content into one box and the job description into another. Press a green button and magically you are presented with a match rate and analysis that includes both hard and soft skills matches, keyword matches, a nifty graph that details where your resume and the job description align, and more.

Jobscan currently monetizes through a subscription plan. Users get five free scans per month, but the startup gives 50 free scans to people who have been unemployed for a year or longer.

Try it and let us know what you think!

Using Your LinkedIn Contacts Effectively

There a few things that you need to know on how to effectively network and really utilize your connections. Don’t make connections and just let them sit there! Get organized, get in touch, and NETWORK.

Our first tip: Filter, Track and Tag

Open up your LinkedIn profile page. At the top of your contacts list are two drop-downs. With the first one you can sort by last name, first name or most recent conversation. The drop-down labeled “Filter” pulls data from your contacts so you can easily select subsets. You can filter by company, tag (more on that later), location, title and whether they’re a LinkedIn contact or an import from email.

Also, when you select a specific contact, LinkedIn will load their profile with two tabs under the profile image. The “Contact Info” tab stores the basic contact information the person has provided to LinkedIn. You can edit this info if you have better methods of contact.

The “Relationship” tab has a great deal of useful functionality. LinkedIn automatically stores a brief history of your interactions with the contact. In the “Note” field you can write any pertinent information you’d like to remember about the connection. Use the “Reminder” field to schedule reminders, so you can plan your future interactions. In the “How You Met” field, you can remind yourself whether you made this connection at a conference or a karaoke bar (or anything in between). Any information you store in your contacts is private, so don’t worry that your connection will see what you’ve written.

Tags are a versatile and powerful tool for creating categories within your contacts. You can use up to 200 tags, and your contacts won’t see what tags you’ve created. You can assign multiple tags to contacts as well. For example, say you attended a professional seminar called Expo2016 and made a large number of new connections there. You can tag those connections with “Expo2016.” If a few of them are also decision makers in their companies, you can tag that subset with your “decision maker” tag as well.

Here’s a quick set of instructions from LinkedIn to get you started tagging contacts —

Stay tuned…..more tips to come!

Overcoming Age Bias In Your Job Search

After 20, 30, 40+ years in the workforce, it should be easier rather than harder to find a new job. But unfortunately that isn’t always the case.

“Sometimes people find that certain employers think age is more important than the years of experience someone might bring to a new job,” explains Doug Lemmonds of MDL Partners. “And despite federal laws barring age discrimination, this experience is hardly unique.”

Age discrimination is alive and well in the U.S., but there are strategies mature job seekers can employ to improve their chances of overcoming it.

There is ageism in the world, particularly in corporations. However, job seekers can still find ways to market the experience that comes with age, which potential employers should see as an advantage, not a liability.

“You offer experience,” Lemmonds says. “Tell an employer that you know how to take responsibility, and go with it immediately without any hand-holding. You can hit the ground running.”

Here are some top tips to overcome age bias during your job search:

  • Highlight your experience
  • Focus on your network
  • Concentrate on the present
  • Highlight how your skills can help the employer now and in the future
  • Know technology
  • Stay current with skills

MDL Partners works with clients to stand out from the crowd, achieve their career goals and to broaden and deepen their network. There are plenty of times in your career that you will use MDL Partner’s services – and once you are a client, you are a client throughout your entire career. MDL Partners works with clients on their immediate needs today, with an eye towards the future.