How to transform a job fair to a job offer

 job fair sign  (3)Local and regional career and employment fairs can streamline your job hunt, let you practice interviewing skills, and easily allow you to  conduct research on career opportunities and companies.

Like many job-searching techniques when there are many candidates for a few jobs, job fairs often don’t turn directly into job offers. However, if you are smart you can learn to transform a job fair into an eventual job offer.

As you’ll see in Step 3, it’s what you do after the job after that can really make a difference in results.


Many job seekers visit a job fair “to see what’s out there.” Wrong. Prepare for a fair as if it is a personal interview. That means upfront research. Know what companies are there. Be ready to ask intelligent questions about the specific job, not the company because you should already know that from pre-show research.

Carry a portfolio with laser-printed, professionally-prepared resumes. Dress professionally and simply. Don’t bring bulky bags. Keep your right hand free to shake hands.


Watch from afar, and pick who you are going to speak with at the booth. Approach the company representative, offer your hand and introduce yourself. Tell them you are interested in working for them, and why. Ask about their hiring process. Ask how to get an interview. Ask the names of the decision maker or head of the department (very important). job fair  (8)

Get business cards from people you meet (very important). Don’t overstay your welcome, but communicate your qualifications and your interest level. Ask what would help you get the job.

Importantly, target companies and get information about them even if (especially if) they don’t have an advertised opening in your area of expertise.


Now you have names of HR managers, names of all the “decision makers”/department heads, and a good understanding of what the companies need.

Send resumes to department heads at each company, with a personalized letter summarizing qualifications for that specific job, your interest in it, and a willingness to meet. Copy the HR managers met. Do not expect them to contact you, so promise to follow up. And do it.

Follow the same tactic for companies that do not have advertised openings. You know they are hiring, which is a good economic benchmark. You have met someone who works there. By approaching the hiring manager of the department where you could contribute, you will have zero competition. It works!

Top 10 Things Not to Tell An Employer in an Interview

humor kid brain smartIt matters what you say in interviews. Here is a humorous look at what NOT to say in a job interview:

10. “How do I deal with difficult people?
Well, that depends on who would notice if they disappeared after a late night at the office…”

9. “My highest achievement in life is staying put in this office with your cologne.”

8. “Résumé? I prefer non-French words. How about ‘The Condensed Life & Times of An Extraordinary and Amazing Person Who You Will Bitterly Regret Passing By If You Foolishly Choose To Do So?'”

7. “Five years from now? You mean, assuming that I’m still on earth?”

6. “Um, I don’t know the current version of that program. But back in ’97, I did. The theory’s probably the same. It’s like riding a bike, you know?”humor used car salesman

5. “I’m a real people person. People are by far my favorite kind of persons. All kinds of people.”

4. “Look me in the eye, and tell me if I ain’t the most honest-lookin’ person you would trust to handle the company’s money.”

3. “Oh-my-Gosh, you need to give me this job because it’s, like, fate or something. I had a dream that I was running  through this exact office with a Nerf gun with a giant pig chasing after me.”

2.”Yeah, a moment where I demonstrated teamwork was when me and my girlfriends totally rocked it in the amateur beer chugging contest at Scuzzy’s and donated our winnings to charity. We totally trashed our competition.”

1. “How would I describe myself in three words or less? Loyal, handworking, and, uhhm, ah, um, Smart”?

Build a job search network before you need one


Diane just accepted a new job as a Regional Vice President after a 5-month job search. She was unexpectedly laid off after 15 years at her current company.

She starts her new job in 3 weeks. However before she starts she will keep her plans to complete 4 previously-scheduled networking and interview lunches and meetings.

Why bother when she already has a job offer she has accepted?

Diane learned the New Rule of Careers: Build a robust job search network before you need one. She got caught once unprepared, and she swears it won’t happen again! The new network she so laboriously built is going to stay intact and grow. While she is excited about her impending job, she is already thinking about what her next job might look like, and realizes by keeping the network intact, new opportunities can arise at any moment.

When Diane found herself out of a job, she realized that her networking and job search skills were rusty. Worse than rusty actually: she didn’t have a clue where to start or what to do. Sure she knew people, mostly professionals with direct ties to her company and her job.

1) Get live. Networking does not = computers. Networking = people. It means to communicate and have real, authentic relationships.

2) Look for opportunities to help others on a regular basis–volunteering, commending others on a job well-done, or a well-written article, or an event that ran well. Send a note, pick up the phone, make it personal and warm.

3) Consciously gather names, stories, and contact information. Start a file on people with more than contacts: remember things like birthdays, milestones, areas of interest and backgrounds.  For example, if someone’s alma mater wins a national championship, congratulate them!

4) Build credentials and  visibility within your field of expertise. This means joining and participating actively in your professional–through professional associations, trade shows, and continuing education. Not just paying annual dues to say that you are a member, but actively contributing. Build a reputation and get to know people through volunteering and working on projects and publications.

Building a professional network before you need one is a huge way to reduce the stress of a job search!

Slam dunk references!


Many people get these terms confused. “Employment verification” is when the potential employer contacts your previous places of employment to verify you worked there. This is different from a professional “reference,” where someone is willing to discuss your work and vouch for your ability to do a good job. Today we’ll focus on great references.


References can take many forms, from a written letter of reference that can be verified, to a series of emailed questions about you, t.o a personal phone conversation. In all cases, the topic is YOU.


Years ago, it was acceptable to provide both “personal” and “professional” references. Today the credibility and relevance of personal references has disappeared. Forget the long-time family friends. Forget the priest or rabbi.  Concentrate only on people who can attest to and give specific examples of your work, work ethic, and work style (of course if you have worked with people you also have professional relationships with they can be a professional reference).

You want to offer 3-4 references. Try for a mixture of:    orgchart stickies

  • people above you (bosses, project leaders and managers)
  • people next to you (peers, colleagues and co-workers)
  • people below you (employees, mentees, support staff)
  • and people outside (vendors and customers).

Each of these people will view your skills and contributions differently, and can offer refreshing insight to a new employer.  You simply don’t want to be one-dimensional.

Also strive to present a mixture of work projects, different jobs and community projects. These can showcase your many talents, problem-solving and teamwork skills.

Why Women Leave the “Fast Lane” in their careers

women workforceHarvard Business Review once featured an interesting article on what keeps talented women on the road to success in the working world. The differences between why men and women leave the “fast lane” in the workforce are fascinating. In a survey of highly qualified professionals, these statistics emerged:

Top 5 reasons women leave the fast lane: 
* Family time – 44% 
* Earn a degree, other training – 23% 
* Work not enjoyable/satisfying – 17% 
* Moved away – 17% 
* Change careers – 7%

Top 5 reasons men leave the fast lane: 
* Change careers – 29% 
* Earn a degree, other training – 25% 
* Work not enjoyable/satisfying – 24% 
* Not interested in field – 18% 
* Family time – 12%  

Though the average amount of time that women take off from their careers is surprisingly short (less than three years), the salary penalty for doing so is severe. Women who return to the workforce after time out earn significantly less than their peers who remained in their jobs.

Salary Implications for Time Out:  money wave tidal salary
* Salary of those who took no time out – 100% earning potential 
* Salary of those who took less than one year out – 89% (or an 11% reduction) 
* Salary of those who took three years or more out – 100% (or a 37% reduction)

It’s also interesting that the number one reason men leave is to change careers (29%) while it is the lowest reason for women at 7%. Does this mean women are better a picking careers they will be happier in so there is no reason to leave? Or are women more risk averse and hesitate to leave for a better financial offer?

5 More Resume Myths: Exposed!

different unique alone“Resumes should…” When sentences begin with rules about resumes, beware.  Many of these rules are outdated, not true, or simply could harm your chances of getting the job you want.

Be aware of the types of myths that are out there and make your own informed decision about how to craft and use this important marketing and job-hunting piece. We covered the first 5 Resume Myths: Exposed, here’s another 5 resume myths to ponder as you revise your document.

Myth #6: It is important to have your resume look like all other resumes. There is tremendous pressure to conform when it comes to resume writing. Imagine what employers go through at job fairs.  For 4-8 hours all they see is gray and black suits, white shirts, conservative ties. By the end of the day, individuals have blurred into a faceless mass. It’s the same with resumes. After seeing the 500th chronological resume in 10 point Times New Roman font that says “seeking an upwardly mobile position in a stable, growing company where my skills will be utilized,” a reader’s eyes begin to glaze over. Think back to why you’ve beaten others to win previous jobs.  Was it because you were the same as everyone else? No, it was because you were different somehow.  Give your resume the same chance. Be different (not crazy, different). Try a new font, a new layout, a new format, quotes from performance reviews, graphics or a border.

Myth #7: You must have a resume to get a job. Many job seekers have a tendency to depend too much on their resume. Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute, contends that you don’t need a resume to get a job. Instead, you should consider it a leave-behind document. If you plan to find a job via the mail, then you do need a resume.  However, if you are willing to find a job the old-fashioned way: via  your contacts, by getting out in the community, by building relationships and getting referrals to people who have the power to hire you, you will relinquish your dependence and focus on a resume.

Myth #8: A resume and a C.V. are the same thing. Many Americans use the term C.V. to make them sound more important.  However, used incorrectly, it often has the opposite effect!  A resume and a C.V. are different documents, and are used in different situations. C.V., curriculum vitae, means “the course of one’s life.” In the United States a C.V. is used in academic and scientific fields, never in business.  However, in European countries it is used in business instead of a resume.  This sometimes causes confusion, when someone with European connections refers to C.V. in a business sense. An academic C.V. usually list all the publications, articles, books, courses, and conferences authored by the job candidate.  They are usually straightforward and focused on the life’s work in one specific field.

Myth #9: An objective statement or summary is not necessary—just list the facts. If you do not clearly focus and define what you do for timer kitchen alarm bellthe employer, you are asking them to do “work” to interpret the resume. It’s not only rude, it is unwise. With only 8-15 seconds to read and make a decision on a resume, if there is any ambiguity, you lose. Resumes are often reviewed by a low-level person in the organization whose responsibility is to throw most of the resumes away and find just a few to forward on. Chances are, if your resume is not specific, the one right behind it might be. Also, without an opening objective statement, profile or summary the reader will assume that you want another job just like or one level above your last job.

Myth #10: Giving your resume to as many people as possible is an effective way to get a job. Right idea, wrong execution.  The best way to find a job is through other people.  However, your method needs to be slightly different. Realize that while others do want to help, sometimes their good intentions fall flat. In other words, your resume ends up in the drawer, or buried somewhere under their incomplete expense reports. In the job hunting game, you must always keep control and take the responsibility for where your resume needs to go. Enlist others to help you differently. Ask for specific help, “Do you know anyone who works in Public Relations?”  Once you have created a target, get names and contacts, and get permission to use your contact’s name.  Then draft a letter to the contact, explaining how you got their name, enclosing your resume and telling them you will follow up with a phone call. It’s more work, but is the only way to make sure it gets done.

One last myth: Write your resume yourself! Much like an accountant specializes in financial data, a certified professional resume writer is trained and experienced in the “language” of resume writing. From format, word choice, layout, positioning, strategy, to overcoming problems and challenges that each client presents, a resume writer applies their skills to your unique situation. Most workers are never trained or study “how” to write a resume; in fact, creating a marketing document may be something you’ve never learned. It becomes even tougher when the subject of the document is YOU and the marketing target is a new and better job. Matching these two components in a concise and impactful document is like walking along a tightrope between your past and your future. Look into getting assistance from a professional. It takes time to craft the resume. It takes trust and openness. It takes lots of questioning and clarification. It takes lots of rewriting and editing. Together we can present a proposal for that job and get you the interview you want!

Professional resume writer resources:

The National Resume Writer’s Association (NRWA) Professional Association of Resume Writers (PARW)

Five Things Never to Say at Work

award foot in mouth aWorkplace Coaching Advice: Five Things Never to Say at Work
Alan Axelrod, PhD, a learning and communications consultant, was interviewed by Bottom Line Magazine. Five thoughts NEVER to share at work, according to Dr. Axelrod, are:

1) Looks  like I’m working late again!
(Don’t be perceived as a complainer!)

2) I’ll get  to it when I can.
(Don’t question the priorities of your superiors!)

3) I can do  it better alone.
(Don’t be perceived as a poor team player!)

4) I did it. 
(Don’t boast that you did it alone when most successful efforts are team  efforts!)

5)The way I’ve always done it works just fine.
(Don’t be viewed as someone who resists  change!)

We often don’t realize that other people’s impressions of us, even if untrue or unfair or distorted, impact their working relationship with us. In a workplace, these impressions often travel quickly around the office and up the chain–especially if they are negative. These thoughts listed here, while they all could be quite accurate in how you feel, need to be reworded so they aren’t misunderstood and interpreted as they are shown below each one.

For example, “I’ll get to it when I can” conveys an air of being bothered by a request; that one is too busy to do this, and it is an imposition. Better variations might include, “Right now I am swamped, but I am putting it on my list as the very next thing.” Same outcome–you aren’t going to do it right away, but the requester will feel more respected. Another tactic would be to simply get more information about when the information is needed and why. Again, it many not change the outcome of when you do it, but shows that you have an interest and for the right reason may either find an alternative or make a change.

5 Resume Myths: Exposed!

b-happinessjpg18“Resumes should…” When sentences begin with rules about resumes, beware.  Many of these rules are outdated, not true, or simply could harm your chances of getting the job you want. 

Be aware of the types of myths that are out there and make your own informed decision about how to craft and use this important marketing and job-hunting piece.

Myth #1: Your resume must only be one page in length.

Resumes continue to evolve in style, content, layout and focus. Your father’s resume from the 70’s is not the resume you should be presenting today. When someone tells you that your resume must be one page, ask them “Why?” They will most likely reply that most employers won’t read more than one page. Well, it is true that employers don’t read resumes—they SKIM them. And they are skimming them looking for your accomplishments that match up with the needs of the open position.  By eliminating key accomplishments you can be certain they cannot match you with their needs. 

Additionally, the “one page only” rule began in the 60’s and 70’s when employees only needed one page. Think of all that has changed: people now change jobs 5-7 times, versus maybe once in a lifetime.  We’ve added email addresses, cell phones, graduate schooling, multiple continuing education, certification and training classes; volunteer and leadership positions in many volunteer, professional and civic organizations.  How could anyone cram all that into a meaningful one page?

Myth #2: If you do not know what you want, create a general resume so you can be open to lots of different types of jobs.

Would you hire a generalist as your hair stylist?  Someone who has had four different careers, one of which was a short stint in hair styling?  Or, would you rather hire someone who presents herself as a hair stylist, conveys her passion for her field and is very focused in her goals?  You would probably prefer to hire the professional rather than the dabbler.

A general resume is just that, “general”. It focuses on things you have done in your career that YOU think are important.  You’ve missed the point. Resumes answer the question of whether you have unique skills for a specific position.  By trying to do all things for all people, general resumes end up not showing expertise in anything. If you do not have a specific job and/or industry target, then you are not ready to write a resume.

Myth #3: You must use a reverse-chronological resume that lists your job history.

A reverse-chronological resume details your work history beginning with your most recent job and going backward to your first.  You might be told to use this format (especially by a recruiter or staffing agency) because it is “easier” for the reader. It is easier: it points out any gaps in your history, if you jump jobs a lot, if you have gotten promotions in your line of work, what kind of work you have the most experience in, and what industries you know. 

However, all of that may not benefit YOU if you have any of the resume issues, problems or challenges listed above.  Since a resume tells a story, the reader may assume that you have no focus or very little experience in the job you are seek.

For example, Susan had worked in marketing, as an administrative secretary, had taken time off to raise her daughter, and completed several volunteer leadership positions. She wanted a job in training.  A reverse-chronological resume will likely not get her the job she wants. 

Instead, she can go through her different experiences and pull out the ones that show she has experience in training: creating presentations, presentations, dealing with customers, public speaking, and scheduling and planning large meetings. These targeted experiences should be showcased in the beginning of the resume, in what is called a “Functional” format.

Myth #4: Employers actually read the resumes they receive.istockphoto

After all the hard work you put into your resume, you’d like to think that everyone gives your resume the same love and care you gave it.  However, the reality is quite different.

A study was done in H.R. offices where the incoming resumes were counted, and the reviewing time clocked. The result was that employers only give your resume between 8 and 15 seconds. They don’t read it, they SCAN it.  And so your resume should be formatted and written to tell them what they need to know. No more. No less.

Myth #5: My friend/cousin/neighbor/boss told me…

It is natural to look to others for advice. Be careful though. It is very easy to give advice to others on career issues—many people believe they are qualified to give this advice. Do they know your field intimately? Do they have top-notch business writing skills? Have they done any creative layout and publishing? Have they reviewed hundreds of resumes in a hiring capacity? Can they tell you which keywords are important for your field? 

If not, consider taking their advice, mulling it over, and making the final decision yourself.  For example, while your son may be a chess player, unless you are highly skilled in the game, your well-meaning advice might actually be harmful to his game!

Remember: the only point of the resume is really to showcase your unique skills and accomplishments to the employer whose needs match watch you offer. There really isn’t a Universal Law passed by Congress that specifies a resume format!

It’s a party! How many people does it take for a hiring decision?

party interviewing group funnyWho really makes the hiring decision?

Many career advice articles focus on “the hiring manager” as though it is a single person who makes the “hire or not” decision.  All you have to do is impress that one person and you’re hired!

However, in  a 480-person Careerbuilder survey of professionals responsible for or involved in the hiring process, the respondents verified that it takes a “small village” to make a single hiring decision.


  • Almost 1/3 of the survey respondents involving in the hiring process indicated that it required 4 or more people to make the hiring decision.
  • For 58% of hiring managers, 2-3 people were involving in making the decision to hire.
  • 9 out of 10 hiring managers felt that the right balance of education and experience was the most important criteria in evaluating candidates.
  • Fitting into a company’s culture is important to 84% of the respondents.
  • 78% of hiring managers indicated that they spend both time and effort in screening resumes sent to them by HR. Once screened, 55% felt the candidates provided by HR were well-qualified; however, 17% disagreed about the level of quality.

What’s the impact on job-seekers?

The good news is that if you don’t “connect” with one of the people who interview you, it’s O.K because se there are others involved in the decision. The bad news is that you have to positively interact, connect and make a strong impression on more than one person. How can you do that?

1) Pay attention to the “fitting into the culture” statistic above: 84% value a future employee who gels with the company culture. So watch for cues and clues. What actually IS the culture there? Recognize that “culture” will be defined differently by individuals in the organization. Watch what their offices look like, how people interact, what seems to get rewarded, and how directly people answer your questions. culture pieces puzzle king money

2) Treat everyone you meet with the same level of respect and warmth. Thank all those involved in the interview process personally, even if what they did to help you wasn’t very much at all.

3) Get the scoop on the interviewers and hiring professionals from those you meet along the way. People love to make observations and give you tips on their co-workers. Asking, “I’m interviewing with Bob next, what’s he like?”can reap a huge benefit for a strong first impression when you do meet Bob and have to answer his questions.

4) Bypass Human Resources and figure out how to get your resume directly into the hands of the hiring manager. If 17% of the hiring professionals aren’t happy with the candidates that HR selects for them, that is a huge opportunity for a qualified candidate to jump in there first. Since there is a time gap between when a department gets approval for an opening, and when the selected candidate resumes are presented, you could land in a hiring manager inbox and get considered before anyone else!