Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Over/Under Qualified Candidates has a good post about what to do with overqualified candidates who apply for positions. This is a fairly unique phenomenon to recessionary periods. The article is written from the perspective of the corporate recruiter and hiring manager, but it got me thinking about it from the candidate's perspectives for both over and under-qualified candidates.

When you are unemployed and actively looking for a job, there is a strong inclination to apply to any job that is close to being a fit, no matter what a stretch it is (in either direction). The thinking goes, "I have nothing to lose!" That is absolutely true in one sense, but needs to be considered in the appropriate context.

Generally, if you are over or under-qualified for a job in this economic climate, you are not going to get it. I hate to say it, but with so many people available, companies can choose to be picky. Blasting your resume to everything hoping that something will stick is not going to do you any favors. Obviously, this is pretty common advice, but if you read through the archives, my advice holds true especially in this circumstance.

If you are on either end of the qualification spectrum rather than being a perfect fit, prefacing your resume with a call is vitally important. The old adage that HR spends no more than 30-60 seconds on a resume will doom you if you aren't a perfect fit.* What you are hoping for in applying for positions that are not a perfect fit is either 1) Somebody will see my resume and think of me for another, unadvertised position, or 2) Somebody will see my resume and think "You know, this person isn't quite what we were looking for, but they might be better for the position anyway."

*I'm stealing a "Pozterisk" here from Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite baseball bloggers. Remember that for HR and sometimes hiring manager, a perfect fit means that you are currently or most recently in the same role as the one to which you are applying as well as meeting the education and experience requirements. If you are applying to a Cost Accountant position, but your last job was "G/L Accountant," you may very well be able to do a cost accountant position, but you are not a perfect fit. You MUST explain this.

First, you need to make it entirely clear to the prospective employer that you understand that you are either over or under-qualified for the position at hand. You have to decide whether you are taking tack 1 or 2 from above. Finally, call the hiring manager and introduce yourself with something along the lines of:
"Hello, my name is Jane Smith. I saw you were looking to hire a Jr. Software Engineer. I have 10 years of Embedded C development in aerospace which probably doesn't make me the right fit for that opening, but I wanted to introduce myself to you anyway to see if you had any current or upcoming needs for somebody at my experience level."
If you are taking tack 2, your script might be something like:
"Hello, my name is Jane Smith. I saw you were looking to hire a Jr. Software Engineer. I have 10 years of Embedded C development in aerospace. I realize that this is more experience than you call for in your job description, so I wanted to introduce myself to you and get a better idea of your needs and we can see if my experience might still be a good fit."
As in the previous post about not sending a resume, your goal is first and foremost to give your resume the highest chance of being reviewed at all. Since you know that you are either over or under-qualified for the position (for the sake of this discussion), taking this approach will also give your resume a better chance of being reviewed in the right context. So the resume reviewer won't say "why did this person send a resume, they are clearly over-qualified," but rather "Oh, this person said they were over-qualified, let's just have a look because they left such a nice voicemail." Obviously we prefer to get people on the phone, but a voicemail followed by an e-mail often has the same effect as far as your resume is concerned.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Rejection Letters

I think almost everybody has gone through an interview process and received the dreaded rejection letter. More and more, however, it seems that people are going through an interview process and not hearing anything. Recruiters are very busy people. We always have many things to accomplish, and those of us on the agency side, are always encouraged to "work closest to the dollar."

Large companies generally have automated systems for generating rejection letters when a job is closed through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS), however smaller companies and almost all agency recruiters have no such mechanism. To compound that, when a company is working through a recruiter, they typically assume that the recruiter will let the candidate know while the recruiter sometimes assumes that the candidate will be included in the blanket rejection letter.

I know that I personally have left people hanging longer than I would like to be left hanging myself. I generally tell candidates "If you don't hear from me by X, call me and I will tell you everything I know." But really, leaving it all up to the candidate is not responsible recruiting either as it relates to simple human courtesy, or as it relates to maintaining your candidate database. I think that recruiters in general would be wise to make sure they have or build an automated mechanism to ensure that every candidate whose resume gets sent to a client (at the very least) gets a final disposition.

This can be easy to do if you use good recruiting software, but difficult if you use something less sophisticated. Either way, candidates appreciate it because contrary to popular belief, having bad news is better in many cases than having no news.

For candidates, what do you do if you don't hear anything? When do you follow-up? Kathryn Lee Bazan says seven days from last contact for most professions. She encourages (as do I) asking about the hiring process in the interview so you have a better idea. If they say they are interviewing for two weeks, than wait two weeks to follow up. Following up will rarely make a difference in the hiring process (it won't make it any more or less likely that you get the job unless you are either unusually annoying or unusually persuasive), but it may speed up your access to the information. It's also good practice calling hiring managers and HR people which is something everybody needs to be able to do before the process begins.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Using RSS Feeds for Ad Chase

I just realized I posted about this back in January, but this is a much more detailed discussion.

I manage all of my repetitive on-line activity through the use of RSS feeds. My choice is Google Reader, but there are other options depending on your preferences (Bloglines, SharpReader, Newsgator, etc.). Your reader will pull new content from any site you designate and place it into one, easy-to-read source so rather than flipping from site to site, you can just go to your reader and have everything laid out in front of you. You could look at it as a newspaper that is updated constantly and only includes content you are interested in.

I think there are three (3) main advantages to using a Reader to manage your content. First, it is much more time-effective. With everything on one page, you don’t have to wait for pages to load, try to remember website addresses, etc. You can also easily skip content that you are not interested in and only click through to read the specific articles/jobs/etc. that you want. It is also updated in real-time, so if a job is posted in the middle of the day, you don’t have to wait until your morning e-mail to find out about it.

Second, it ensures that you don’t miss anything. We all get very busy. If you don’t check your ads for a couple of days, it can be very easy to miss them. The reader will highlight unread content and helps me make sure that I review everything I need to.

Most importantly, it is searchable. If you rely on Indeed’s website for your ad chase (as you should!), you cannot find ads once they are more than 30 days or so old. If they are being pulled into your reader, at least the abbreviated version of the jobs are available for all time. Previous firms I have worked for have hired administrative assistants to input ads to make a searchable database (for skill marketing, MPC calls, etc.). An RSS reader will do all of that work for you for free.

The How-To
First, go to and create an account. After you verify your information, you will get a screen that looks something like this:

I’m going to assume that we’re using Indeed for our job ads, so open another window and go to Indeed and conduct one of your normal, periodic searches.

I usually filter by “Employer” to weed out the obvious recruiter-posted ads, but if you like to look at other recruiter ads, you can skip this step. To filter, of course, just click on “Employer” on the left side of the screen.
If you scroll down the screen, on the right-hand side you will see a link that says “RSS Job Feed”
Click on this link and you will get a page that looks like this:
If you are using one of the readers they highlight in the yellow box, all you have to do is click on the link and it will add it automatically. Since I’m using Google Reader, I need to copy the URL from the address bar. Return to your Google Reader and click on the “Add a Subscription” box. You will paste the URL in its entirety in the box and click “Add.”
Your new job feed will automatically be added under Subscriptions. Now you can scroll through the jobs. It will only initially pull the last 10-20 jobs posted that meet the criteria, but as soon as a new job that meets the criteria is posted, it will appear in your reader in bold so you know you have a new job to review.
Repeat this process with as many search strings as you like. Personally, I make them pretty specific. Since the different searches will just be listed as individual subscriptions, I will know that if “Software Engineer” comes up in bold, that there are new Software Engineering jobs, and if I ever want to just browse, I have a place to go. However, you can use very general searches too, it just is more likely that you will have to weed through garbage (i.e. if one of your searches was “Engineer”).

You will not be able to reap the search benefits of this for a few months. However, as an example, if I do a search in my personal reader for “Software Engineer” I get over 500 results from just the last 6 months. (To do a search, type a search string into the box at the very top of the page).

I have identical RSS feeds for both Indeed and SimplyHired since both aggregators pull from a slightly different pool, and the process is basically the same for both.

Happy Ad Chasing!

Monday, September 14, 2009

X-Ray Searching LinkedIn

Most recruiters by now know the value of LinkedIn. What many recruiters (and non-recruiters) DON'T know is that it is actually quite easy to find the names of each and every contact in LinkedIn whether or not they are connected to you.

A primer:

Normally, you go in and do an advanced search on X,Y, or Z, and if the person is a 1st (directly connected), 2nd (connected to one of your connections) or 3rd (connected to one of your 2nd level connections) their full profiles will be displayed for your review. They will also be displayed if they are a member of the same group as you.

If they are not connected to you, their name will be kept confidential and you will get limited information about their background.

Since LinkedIn has some 40 Million users, there is a good chance that there are many many people to whom you are not connected. The old answer to this was to connect to as many people as you could. I still do this as an Open Networker (LION), I have nearly 2,000 direct connections, mostly to people I don't know.

LinkedIn, however, in an apparent effort to improve their standing in search results, makes a public profile available to the Google Bots. Finding them is easy! First, cut and paste a long string of text that you can see from the profile, usually I use their title and company (i.e. "Software Engineer at Digital River, Inc."). Then go to Google and type the following search string:

site:linkedin "Software Engineer at Digital River, Inc."

Make sure you enclose it in quotation marks, and every LinkedIn profile with that string will come up. If it is more than a handful, you can add other strings until you find the public profile (name included) that matches your private profile (name excluded) that you didn't previously have access to.

It won't have full information on it, but as recruiters, we only need names and employers to find candidates and hiring managers.

Happy hunting!

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