Saturday, October 07, 2006

Your Resume is Read for 15 Seconds on Average

If I could give only one bit of advice for writing a resume, it would be that most employers read a resume for 15 seconds (or at least make a decision within 15 seconds). This is a resume's job--to advocate you as a strong candidate during those 15 seconds. It's not about how much information your resume has on it--it's about how well it conveys important information. It's often the case that the only time a resume is read in its entirety is before an interview by the interviewer. At this point you are going to engage with the employer face-to-face; the resume has done its job. You can expand on any point in your resume in person.

A good exercise is to list 10 things you definitely want someone to know about you within those 15 seconds. For example, this may include that you worked for company A, that you had leadership role B, that you stand out from other students because of C, and the like. It can be very effective to test the 15-second rule with co-workers, friends, and family. Hand someone your resume and then snatch it away from them after 15 seconds. Then ask them what they learned about you. If they don't mention the most important points you want to get across then you know what needs to be highlighted, bolded, reformatted and so forth. White space around text can also prove to be a useful way to emphasize a point.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Behavioral Interview Questions on Working with Teams

Although a subset of situational questions, group questions come up so often in behavioral interviews that they deserve special attention. Team questions probe your previous experiences working in groups. What the interviewer is specifically looking for varies from organization to organization. For example, they may be evaluating how you would fit in a “virtual team” environment or they be evaluating how you would fit in a team with older, more experienced, members.

A common mistake in answering team-related questions is only emphasizing leadership skills. Leading a team is not something many new hires do in entry-level positions. Emphasizing only leadership when a team question is asked may give the interviewer the impression that you are not very humble or are not willing to start at the bottom to learn.

Experiences that involve working with unskilled or unmotivated team members can often serve as the most impressive answers to team questions. Exceeding expectations while working individually is certainly respectable, but having the ability to influence others to drive results is far more valuable to an organization. Consider this example based on a true story:

Interviewer: Can you give me an example of previous work in a group?

Candidate: Yes. I was assigned to a group in a graduate database course. It was an interesting situation because the most senior member of our team seemed very unmotivated. It was clear from the start that he wanted to do the least amount of work possible.

Instead of assuming the rest of us would need to pick up the slack, I sat next to him during class and got to know him a little better. It soon became clear to me that the reason he wasn’t doing much work was a matter of pride. He was a Ph.D. student and didn’t want to admit that he didn’t know the first thing about the database system we were using.

After I realized this, I lent him one of my favorite books on the subject and highlighted the most important sections to get him up to speed. I also allowed him to make the ultimate decisions for his part of the project giving him ownership. I think this played well with his personality and allowed him to “save face.”

We were chosen to present our project in front of the class. Its success was far better than what would have resulted without his contributions. In fact, I don’t think anyone else in the group worked as hard as he did.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Average Salary Research Site

Have you ever wondered what other people are making for a particular profession or position? Sites such as and Vault provide some help, but there is a new startup out there called that takes compensation research to the next level. is an online community where professionals in the IT, advertising & marketing, and accounting & finance industries anonymously share their salaries. At professionals anonymously share everything from salary, percentage raise, number of weeks of vacation, average number of hours worked per week, stress level, etc.

People want to know the salaries of their coworkers, neighbors, friends, and family, but talking about salaries is taboo in our society. As their tagline states “It’s rude to ask, but you want to know!” Most salary services or websites provides salary statistics and corresponding nice graphs. shares the raw data. You have access to what other individuals are making and can obtain other details that assists with determining how their salaries compare with other professionals. members share useful information such as how many hours they work a week, how many stock options they were granted, how many weeks of vacation they can take, the industry they work in, and employment satisfaction, just to name a few. Members are willing to share private information because everything is done anonymously. does not ask for and does not share private information such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, etc.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Successful Cover Letter

I recently had an interesting discussion with Melanie who wrote:

Mr. Peterson,
Thank you for your informational blog. I have a question regarding security clearances. As a recent college graduate, I do not have a clearance in a field where practically every open position requires one. Many times I have heard, "thanks, but we need an employee with an active clearance." How do I politely say that I'm willing to do lesser jobs if they are willing to start the paperwork on a clearance?

My reply was as follows:

Thanks very much for your kind words Melanie. I'm glad you could find some small use for the site. This is an excellent reason to write a cover letter. A little-known advantage of using a cover letter is that you can explain unusual situations. For example, if the candidate is in an unusual degree program, they can explain why the degree can bring value to the organization and why it makes them unique.

My advice would be to suggest something like the following in your cover letter:

"Considering that I can bring your organization the most value with a security clearance, I'd like to propose an arrangement that can benefit your needs and as well as my career goals. I know a clearance is a great asset to a career and I am certain that my background is clearable. I'd be more than willing to volunteer my services for a position I am slightly overqualified for such as an assistant or technician while I go through the security clearance process."

After a few months, Melanie wrote again:

I know its been a while but I'd like to thank you again for sending me a copy of your book. I found the section on writing cover letters especially helpful as well as the chapter on interviewing. By implementing your advice and suggestions, I was given a interview and later job offer with the perfect company. I start my dream job on Monday! Thanks again--your book made it possible.

Ecstatic to hear about Melanie's success, I asked what things made the difference and how she got this great job:

Actually, security clearances (or lake thereof) should not be a problem. I'm working for a technology consulting firm in San Francisco, and while the projects I'll eventually be staffed to will be varied, I'll be able to work in areas I've studied and areas I've never seen before. Should I be assigned to a project requiring a security clearance, they will certainly find other projects for me to work on in the meantime.

However, from reading your book I learned I was making some major mistakes applying for jobs. One of the major ones, which seems obvious now, was not including a cover letter, or including a letter that was little more than "I'm applying for this position". Another mistake was not adequately preparing for phone or in-person interviews. Another mistake was not following up after an interview. A neat trick that I think helped my resume get noticed was the bit about including ascii characters in online resumes. I didn't have any contacts at this company and they didn't recruit at my campus, so it was probably a combination of a snazzy html resume and a good cover letter that got me considered.

Hope this helps. Like I said, I would not be where I am now had I not read your book.
Thanks again,

Monday, May 22, 2006

Why a Resume Gap Beats Flipping Burgers

The Wall Street Journal is running a story titled Why a Resume Gap Beats Flipping Burgers. The article essentially advises to leave off remedial work from your resume. This applies for college resumes as well. Students are often of the opinion that including their fantastic performance at a restaurant chain or department store may be that little something that gets them a bit ahead from the competition. It may seem like a logical point of view, but what looks better--two roses or two roses with a dandelion?

You may be surprised to find that a resume is read for 15 seconds on average. Your goal should be to maximize those 15 seconds by providing quality content that is easy to navigate, read, and retain. I often advocate that the best way to improve a resume is not to hand it to someone to correct at their convenience, but rather to hand it to them for 15 seconds and then ask them to repeat what they remember from it. If after 15 seconds the reader does not pickup the most vital information you want to convey--that you are very good at project management, that you have public speaking experience, that you know how to get things done, that you interned at Yahoo--then you know exactly what you need to clarify and needs to be summarized.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tips on Reducing Nervousness

Apologies for the big gap in posts.

Everyone gets a bit nervous before an important interview. Fortunately, there are some effective measures to take for what is a serious concern--many candidates are chosen simply because of what seems like natural confidence. If you are under the impression that thinking "Relax everything will work out if you try your best" is the only thing you can do to reduce the pressure, consider these tips gathered from some of the finest new-hires of the information age:

Become knowledgeable about the organization. Doing some research can give you an added edge of confidence over other candidates. Company research reduces the unknown which experts agree to be a fundamental cause of anxiety.

Practice. Practice until marketing yourself is second nature. It can only improve your confidence. Consider answering a list of behavioral questions or pitching your accomplishments outloud.

Tell your friends and relatives about interviews only after you have completed them. Shocked? Take a moment to think about who has the highest expectations for your success. If your loved ones often hold you to a high standard or incessantly gossip about your future, it can add a great deal of pressure while interviewing. Not worrying about how you will tell your parents if you don't get the job can take quite a load off your back. If you decide to use this approach, it will be a pleasant surprise to your loved ones when you do get offers.

Get safety offers. There is a big difference between looking for a job and looking for a better job. Having an offer in your pocket can add a sense of security that almost invariably makes a difference.

Do something active. The power of physical activity in reducing stress is very effective according to a wealth of studies. Take a few minutes the morning of the interview to stretch, go for a power walk, rollerblade, or whatever your favorite activity is. If you don't often exercise, more is not necessarily better; attending an interview tired and sore could reflect poorly upon you.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview

Thanks to Jordan for the great tip on an interesting forum discussion on what to ask at the end of an interivew:

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sales Job Interviews

The Wall Street Journal is running an article titled Six Tips for Acing the Sales-Job Interview. This is great advice for any customer-facing job interview.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Blog for a Job

A reader recently emailed me showcasing how successful a blog post has been for him in landing a job:

"I've had 15 really cool companies from all over North America contact me, almost 800 reads on the blog post and almost 300 reads on my resume; all in 3 days."

Quite impressive--take a look:

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Free Resume Examples

The following is a collection of the actual resumes that candidates used to land the job.

Melissa Lee--an MBA student at the University of Michigan--landed an internship with IBM Extreme Blue using this resume:

Blake Robertson--a Computer Engineering student at the University of Maryland--landed an internship with IBM Extreme Blue using this resume:

Ben Lewis--an MBA student at the University of Michigan--landed a Product Manager position at Google using this resume:

Gayle Laakmann--a Computer Science masters student at the University of Pennsylvania--landed a software development position at Google using this resume:

Jay Ayres--a Computer Science masters student at Stanford--landed a software development position at Oracle using this resume:

Szymon Swistun--a Computer Science student at Georgia Tech--landed a software development position at Electronic Arts using this resume:

Finally, here is the resume that landed someone the job as an IBM J2EE Consultant:

If you know of a strong resume that you'd like to add to the list, send me a note.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Going Back to Work After Children

I had a very interesting e-mail exchange recently regarding a return to work interview and absenteeism:


I have been following your blog for some time. I am returning to the work force after having taken time off to have children. Due to the extenuating circumstance of having followed my husband back and forth across the continental USA to further his career goals, I have been "unemployed" for almost 7 years. Now that we have made a commitment to settle down in the Chicago area, I have started in earnest to find a job. This is why your blog is so very attractive, and I am grateful for every bit of advice. As far as I am concerned, I am starting from the beginning.

Since my search began, I have interviewed with three companies. Two of these interviews were completely inappropriate. In addition, I have spoken to half a dozen recruiters. I have been asked questions such as:

"Why do you want to return to work now?" -- emphasis on the word "want"

"You said you took a break from work to have children. Are you okay with working a full time position, forty hours a week?"

These questions are very tough to answer in a way that remains professional but flatly states that my personal life is nothing they need to be concerned about. For example, I *want* to return to work for the same reason a man would: to earn enough money to send my children to college. I think that a better phrasing of this question would be, "Why are you returning to the IT field after 7 years' absence?"

Of course, I cannot control how another person phrases a question in an interview, though I have tried rephrasing their question and then answering that question, I always feel offended. No matter how hard I try to be gracious, the interview becomes awkward and seems unrecoverable. Things rapidly deteriorate, and the interview is basically over.

I have consulted many people on this issue and have gotten two answers: first that there is nothing wrong with it; second that it borders on discriminatory. Do you have any advice on how to deal with this situation?

Thank you,

You certainly have a tough one on your hands Erin. What is inappropriate and uncomfortable is your decision and your decision alone. If you feel that a hiring manager suggests something that you are uncomfortable with then I doubt you would enjoy working for him or her. However, I think the key to resolving this issue is keeping in mind that you don't have to decide on anything during the interview itself. My advice is to indeed be as positive as possible and then carefully decide in due time after the interview whether the interviewer has suggested something inappropriate.

Keep in mind that interviewing is often difficult for the interviewer as well. I would imagine that the hiring manager is looking for someone that can get the job done. Try not to concentrate so much on their poor wording--what they really want to know is that you are hard-working, diligent, professional, and most importantly that they can make a return on their investment for training you. So when an interviewer asks such questions emphasize any characteristics that show you can be relied upon in the workplace to get things done (even if it is getting your son to his soccer practice everyday on-time without fail).

Let's translate the real meaning behind the questions you were asked:

Question: "You said you took a break from work to have children. Are you okay with working a full-time position, fourty hours a week?"
Real Question: "Are you going to provide a return on our investment of hiring you?"

Question: "Why do you want to return to work now?"
Real Question: "Are you serious about the position? Can we be confident that you won't leave us in the coming months?"

Later--at your convenience--you can think about the interview as a whole and decide whether the interviewer was too forward in asking about your personal life. Remember that interviewing is a two-way activity; you are certainly evaluating them as well. Don't be afraid to ask at the end of the interview if they are a family-friendly employer. For instance, some employers reimburse a portion of daily child care.

Also, be sure to emphasize that many skills are unaffected or even enhanced during pregnancy/child bearing such as strong communication and interpersonal skills.

Best of luck Erin.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Best Internet Business Startups

I've been researching stats on internet startup companies lately in hopes to find some exciting opportunities for those who read Landing The Job. I've personally contacted executive-level leadership at the following startups which are looking for fresh talent. I was sure to include contact information (you can e-mail any of the representatives below by clicking on their names).

If you know of an interesting startup that is hiring please send me a note or post in the comments and I'll add it.

Innography, Ltd. Austin, TX
"My job is to work with clients and partners for enablement and set the direction for our product roadmap. Innography is a business research and analytics portal customized to a user. Using public information, machine learning, and proprietary algorithms, we help users search, research, explore, filter, and analyze data to make informed decisions about their business. This includes competitive intelligence, market intelligence, and IP intelligence. A simple blurb is Google on steriods for business researchers."--Tyron Stading, VP of Technology.

Alertus Technologies, LLC. College Park, Maryland
"Alertus Technologies has developed an innovative building occupant, all-hazards emergency alert system for campuses, institutions, and communities. Alertus' emergency warning system allows public safety leaders to disseminate localized, custom text alerts to wall-mounted AllertBeacons. Similar to a fire alarm, each AllertBeacon contains strobe lights and a siren, but also contains a text display. Alerts are broadcasted to the beacons using proven radio infrastructure which is very reliable. For approximately the cost of conventional siren towers, the Alertus solution offers audible and visual signaling coupled with text information which empowers people to respond in any emergency."--Blake Robertson, CTO.

Azaleos Corporation, Redmond, Washington
"Azaleos makes corporate e-mail easy. We sell the Azaleos OneServer, a high availability e-mail appliance which sits on customer premises that has a Microsoft Exchange cluster inside along with anti-virus and anti-spam solutions. We offer the Azaleos OneStop Service, remote 24x7 monitoring and patch management on a per mailbox monthly fee."--Roland S. Woan, Director of Development.

Allied Strategy, Lincoln, Nebraska
"Allied Strategy is a technology think tank comprised of University students and recent grads. Our newest development (release April 26, 2006) provides insurance agents the fastest and most accurate way to compare quotes from multiple insurance carriers. By removing the necessity to repeatedly re-key the same information, our software allows agents to improve their quality of service and eliminates the most mind-numbing and unnecessary part of their work day. Believe it or not, nobody does this well – we change that in April."--C. Colby Thomson, CEO.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Thank You Note After Last Job Interview

Career resources often state that thank you notes are important, but why are they important and what should you say in them?

Thank you notes are sent the day of or the day after an interview. They are important for the following reasons:

  1. Thank you notes reinforce that you want the job. Few candidates realize how hard it is to find good help with limited resources and time. Hiring managers often are afraid that a strong candidate has too many competing job opportunities and often pick a candidate that they know is interested because of time constraints or because they can only afford to bring in a few candidates for a site interview. One of the exceptional new hires I interviewed for the book blew away his interviewers at Citrix, but was turned down because he proudly told them he was also interviewing at Lockheed, IBM, and a few other companies. If he had emphasized that he really was interested in Citrix over the other employers, he may have been sent to the next round.
  2. They can serve as a form of damage control. It happens to the best of us--you blank when they ask about their flagship product or perhaps you misunderstand a question. A follow-up note can serve as an opportunity to explain in carefully chosen words.
  3. A note can remind a hiring manager or HR representative to take action on your behalf. Perhaps it is not what your note says, but the fact that you are sending it that is beneficial. This is especially the case in large organizations where hiring managers have to jump through hoops to get everything together to hire someone. Your note may remind them to call HR that day or to call a superior to request a headcount.
When writing a thank you note, try to be real. Talk about something that happened during the interview or try to give your honest opinion about some topic discussed. For instance, this is not a very good note:

Subject: ST321 Dev Position

Ms. Lynn:

Thank you very much for interviewing me today. With my prior work as a web developer at Raytheon and my security certifications, I think I would be a good fit.

Thanks again,

This note is very generic and almost condescending. Why should Lynn care about Jeff's stated credentials? How can this benefit her organization? This is a far better note:

Subject: Thanks very much


My thanks to you and the rest of the team for taking the time to talk with me. I found our conversation about how competitive analysis has changed in the information age to be thought provoking. In fact I wrote a blog post about it ( I'm very excited about this position and your team. I hope I have the chance to work with you.


Why didn't Jeff try to sell himself in this letter? Emphasizing why your credentials are a strong fit for the organization's needs is never a bad idea. However, at the end of the interviewing process this should be clear to the interviewers (or your cover letter, resume, and interviews didn't serve you well). My recommendation is to focus on the fact that you want the job.

Should you send it via email (as suggested by the subject lines above) or write a note via conventional mail? Time can be critical--hiring decisions are often made quickly. A hand-written note can better distinguish you, but only if you can ensure that it will be in the hiring manager's hands by the next day. For example, if you are still in town or the position is local, you may want to drop it off at the office lobby the next morning.

Another choice is simply to call and say thanks. The effectiveness of a call is highly dependent on how strong of a relationship you've built with the hiring manager and whether you are more comfortable saying thanks verbally. Also, there is no reason you can't do both.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Clean Up Your Digital Dirt

The Wall Street Journal Career Site is running an article title How to Clean Up Your Digital Dirt Before it Trashes Your Job Search. Here are some excerpts:

"Unflattering personal information drifting around the Internet, known by some as 'digital dirt,' can doom a job search before it even gets started. Job hunters should know that recruiters can, and often do, read much of what's posted about them on the Web."

"Search engines might not find your risqué profile on social-networking sites like, but that doesn't mean it's hidden from recruiters. Chris Hughes, a spokesman for Facebook, says he's heard that recruiters with alumni email addresses log in to look up job candidates who attended the same school."

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Try Quotes in your Resume

I'm often asked what is the "best resume format" to use? I'm afraid to say there is no such thing. There are few solid rules to writing a resume--it is important that you find a style that reflects you. The following recommendation is likely to be for those that are little bit bolder or creative when presenting themselves to employers.

It seems that one of the most under-appreciated additions to a resume is a quote from a previous boss or co-worker. When a hiring manager is short staffed and needs to hire in order to make a deadline, it is likely that he or she is looking for someone that can produce results and do the work effectively from the start. A good quote can really drive that point home even if it is at a subconscious level.

There is no better way to illustrate this than with some sample resumes. Consider the following fictitious example of a college graduate resume (click the icon to see the full image):

cover letter for emplyment free resume examples college graduate resume example internships
Rather than leave you with a pretty picture, let's go over a few formatting points of how the above resume was constructed. Microsoft Word was used with Palatino Linotype as the font for most of the text and Arial for the job descriptions and quotes. A custom color was used (Red: 164, Green: 162, Blue: 176) for the quote text. A lot of the alignment was done using invisible tables:

cover letter for emplyment free resume examples college graduate resume example internships
Finally, converting a document from Word to PDF is nearly always more visually appealing whether it will be viewed electronically or in print. If you don't have Adobe Acrobat which allows you to print to PDF, Fast PDF provides an excellent online service. You can also download and use pdf 995 free of charge. Also, if you use Linux (and Word 2000 under Wine) like me, you can just print to postscript (*.ps) and then use the ps2pdf script that comes with most distributions.

I hope to write a followup post titled Free Resume Examples in the coming weeks where you'll be able to download example of resumes written by people that have been recently hired by top companies.

Friday, January 20, 2006

New Book Edition (sort of)

Due to some small grammatical errors (12 to be exact) that readers have kindly pointed out, I've asked the publisher to revise the book. It will still have the same ISBN; thus, the bookstores won't know the difference. The publisher said the wait will be about 2-3 weeks before the revised edition is out. I'll post again when it is in case anyone wants to wait for it.

Update: The new edition is now available automatically through iUniverse and should cycle to Amazon any day now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What Tech Skills Are Hot for 2006?

ComputerWorld is running a story titled What Tech Skills Are Hot for 2006?

It's not all that insightful considering it suggests the top 3 skills needed are Development
, Security, and Management, but it is still an interesting read.

Why I Quit Entrepreneurship

I was browsing Jobazaar and came across a blog post titled Why I Quit Entrepreneurship and Got a Real Job. It's a very provocative and real essay. Here is an excerpt:

"Nobody cares that you are smart or knowledgeable (and you need to know if you really are) - Why not? Because everyone thinks they are smart and knowledgeable. Everyone is convinced they are good at business. Everyone thinks they can hire a talented team. Everyone thinks they can sell. Everyone thinks there is something special and different about them that will make them successful. But accruate self-evaluation skills are critical to entrepreneurial success. You have to know what you are good at, what you aren't good at but can learn, and what you will probably never be good at. I think this is a major reason businesses fail."

Monday, January 16, 2006

College Resume Websites

An electrical engineering student just sent me a note asking for tips on his professional website.

First of all, it looks excellent. You are already miles ahead of your competition considering that you put together a website in the first place. Here is what you did right that others often miss:

• The college resume is in HTML form. This is important because search engines can index its contents. It is also an excellent college graduate resume.
• You listed projects with links to the actual work.
• You have a good HTML title. Search engines often include the page title in the description when they index a site.
• The layout and artwork is elegant--impressive really.

Here are a few tips you may want to consider:

You may want to add a tagline on your banner that catches employers attention. For instance, it could be "Electrical engineer with fours years of internship experience seeking full-time position."

I encourage the use of photos in a portfolio. You may want to consider a portfolio section where you showcase your work visually (or perhaps you could showcase your projects visually). Circuit diagrams, things you have built, and tools you have used--such as digital design boards or micro-controllers--can all make great additions to your portfolio.

Use lots of links. Although it is excellent that your college resume is in HTML format, it contains no links. Search engines will treat your site much better if it has more links and employers may be interested in websites such as that for Xiphos or the conference center at McGill.

Use the meta description and keywords tags. Looking at the page source, the meta description and keyword tags are empty! These tags are very important for search engines, you should put 5-10 keywords in them such as your name, your degree, and college.

Finally, where is your story? Where are you from? How did you get involved in Electrical Engineering? Perhaps you can expand on you electrical engineering internship opportunities. What is your opinion on the information age? I think this should be the introduction an employer reads when they hit your home page.

I hope that gave you some ideas. Again, I must emphasis that you put together a great resume site--I hope you can go further and make it a world renowned resume site considering how hard you have worked as an electrical engineer.

If you have suggestions for
Naysawn, please comment.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Best City or Town to Work in the United States

cover letter for emplyment free resume examples college graduate resume example internships is running an excellent story titled "Best Places For Business And Careers." So where is the best place to work? San Fancisco perhaps? Surely New York is on the list? Try Boise, Idaho (#1) or Raleigh, North Carolina (#2).

Their criteria is primarily cost-of-living / job growth. I was pleasantly surprised to find Austin, TX as #3 on the list (where I'm based).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Geographically Distant Job

Steven wrote with the following question:

I am currently working for a company as a DBA, Web Developer, Network Administrator, System Administrator, and Help Desk. These are all jobs I can do, and do well, but I am not able to do any of them exceptionally well, since I change hats at least three times an hour. I took the position at the offered pay because it was the first opportunity I had to re-enter the field in almost 3 years.

Now, there is a position opening in the area that I would like to be and most importantly wearing a Programmer/DBA hat with only the side duties of Web Development. This is where I started, and the discipline I enjoy and have the most ability in. The added bonus to this position would be closer to friends and family, a monetary pay raise, and a non-monetary raise due to lower cost of living.

I have found that employers prefer to choose a local candidate, even if someone expresses a willingness to relocate. I don't have to worry about time lost to find housing as I have both friends and family where I want to return; I just have to pack up my things and go (which could be done in a weekend with me ready to start on a Monday morning). How can I make sure that I am seriously considered when I am not local geographically?

Steven raises a good point which is that employers often prefer local candidates because of the reduced cost in interviewing and the savings in relocation packages. My advice--especially in your situation--is to take the initiative to reduce those costs.

Consider proposing an interview date that coincides with a visit to your family. How do you write a cover letter for employment? How you close the letter is important for driving the situation in your favor. For instance, the last paragraph of your cover letter could read as follows:

I'm very excited about your organization; I think this opportunity is a strong fit both for your needs and my background. I'll be in San Francisco from February 7th-11th during which I'd like to schedule a session to discuss the position in person. I can be reached at (321) 234-7748.

Later during the interview process if relocation arises, be sure to emphasis that you are familiar with the area and will not require assistance with finding a new residence. Additionally, you can suggest that you are not that concerned with who finances relocation costs (if this is indeed the case).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Salary Questions in Interview

I want to thank Jake Carey-Rand, President of Innovative Visions, for emailing me today. He commented on my last post with the following:

"While I agree with most of the points you've made, there are a couple of other ways of going about this which will better control the outcome in your favor. I have been in IT recruiting and IT consulting for about 5 years now and this is what I've learned/been taught.

Instead of saying something like, "I don't have any set numbers" or "I'm afraid I haven't done any research on compensation yet" which can both show inexperience and/or weakness, I recommend to my clients and partners to say something like, "I trust 'ABC company' will make me an offer deserving of my qualifications and insight in this exciting opportunity." Just like any good salesperson, negotiate around price and instead discuss opportunity, challenge and growth.

Most importantly (and often overlooked) don't forget to ask for the job."

I completely agree with Jake's points and his suggested change is a good one to sound more professional. I would also like to emphasis that confidence and honesty are of paramount concern when you are interviewing. I found that the rising stars I interviewed for the book are very honest, likeable people that carry that personality into their interviews. Don't get caught up in how you will say something exactly--specific wording isn't as important as being honest and confident.

What I was hinting at with "I don't have any set numbers. I'm afraid I haven't done any research on compensation yet." is that you may indeed want to defer all compensation research until you have an offer letter. Then you are being perfectly honest by stating that you are more concerned about the people you meet, a typical day on the job, and the company's culture rather than compensation at that point in time.

As for the point about asking for the job--excellent advice. It is also appropriate to ask for the job and leave contact information at the end of a cover letter if you do not find it out of character.

Monday, January 09, 2006

How to Write Salary Expectations in a Cover Letter

It seems someone reviewed my book on slashdot which has increased the amount of mail I get by about 1000 fold :) Thanks very much everyone--I hope to answer your kind notes as soon as time allows.

Jeffrey wrote me with the following:

I am a 25 year old who is currently transitioning out of the United States Army. I am sure coming out of the military is just as frustrating as trying to find a job out of school, or even just transitioning to something new. The Army does a great job of helping to get a resume together. They give instruction (through a program called ACAP, the Army Career and Alumni Program) on things to look for while finding work in the business world, such as interview questions and how to present yourself, but I guess nothing really sinks in until you actually get out and try landing a job. I'm finding it toughest to answer questions about money/salary, because I really have nothing to base it against. Can you explain how to write salary expectations in a cover letter?

I dedicated a chapter to salary negotiation and HR questions in the book, but I'll give you the most important things to keep in mind here:

1. Do not discuss salary until you have an offer in-hand. This is the most important rule for compensation negotiation--the golden rule if you will. Sometimes this is straight-forward to do--for example by leaving salary fields blank on job applications--however, at times it can get challenging. Thus, the answer to Jeffrey's question "How to write salary expectations in a cover letter" is that a cover letter should not state salary expectations at all. When it comes to salary, here are good answers for interview questions:

Interviewer: What is your salary range?
Candidate: Honestly, I don't have a salary range. There are so many things to take into account such as what the people I would be working with are like, the type of work, the benefits, and so forth that it's not something I could estimate at this point.

Interviewer: If we offered you a base salary of $61,000 per year, what is your gut feeling? Would you take the job?
Candidate: I appreciate your honesty and frankness. I hope you will appreciate mine as well--salary is not something I am considering right now. I'm afraid I haven't conducted any research on compensation yet. I will have to get back to you.

Interviewer: What will it take money-wise for you to take a job with us?
Candidate: I don't have any set numbers--compensation is definitely negotiable.

While answering the above list of interview questions, you may be put in a situation where you absolutely must state some sort of salary expectations to the employer or the hiring process cannot continue. In such a situation it is recommended that you give a focus area, i.e. "well, my main concern is my base salary because I want to ensure that I have enough to support myself and am paid what I am worth for the skills I bring to the table" or "I am less worried about my base salary and more concerned with performance compensation and that my relocation is funded entirely, with no ongoing debt to myself. I do not want to start out my career with debt."

2. Average job salaries. Knowing that an accountant with 1 year's experience in Pittsburgh makes $46,000/year can be invaluable in salary negotiation. The best place to get this type of information is from a library (that's right people still use those rather than the internet!). Universities often have career libraries which often include figures collected from alumni indexed by major for average job salaries.

3. Factor in cost-of-living. This is often overlooked by job seekers and it can make a very significant difference. Cost-of-living is primarily affected by state taxes, commuting miles to work, and rental or mortgage costs. For example, the difference between New York City and Orlando, Florida is over 60 percent. Very few companies offer a cost-of-living adjustment to match such differences. You may be able to offset some of the costs by finding an exceptional deal on housing, but gas prices, state sales tax, and income tax are unavoidable. Here are some salary-related links:

Job Star Central
Sperling's Best Places

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Free RSS Feeds

With companies investing significantly in marketing via blogs and podcasts, I find it astonishing how poor their strategies for investment are. I looked over the job sites for Google, Microsoft, and IBM--none of which have RSS feeds available with job postings. These are technology companies are they not? I suppose that this is to be expected as few job sites even offer agents to send job postings via email.

If you are a hiring manager or recruiter I strongly suggest that your organization consider job post feeds. It makes a lot of sense and it is sure to be a competitive advantage for attracting candidates (especially for technical positions).

If anyone out there knows of a good service that provides feeds for job postings, please comment.

Followup: various readers have suggested Blog of 2005

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Jeff Hunter's Talentism Blog won's blog of the year award (sponsored by Jobster). I hadn't looked at it until now, but it seems quite interesting although it is primarily for the HR community.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Examples of Resume Bullet Statements

Did you know that most online text forms support bullets and underlines? It is commonly assumed that text resumes must use the ascii character set which essentially is what you see on your keyboard, but this is not the case. Nearly all online forms--for instance's submission form--support Unicode 2.0 text which includes many more characters.

As an example, let's create some text with bullets and underlines using Microsoft Notepad (I'm assuming that if you don't use Windows you can figure out the equivalent):

Open the Microsoft Character Map by selecting Start » All Programs » Accessories » System Tools » Character Map. From the "Font:" menu, select Lucidia Console. Scroll down to the bottom and Select the bullet icon [] that has a unicode of U+2022 in the bottom-left corner. Click Copy on the character map and then Edit » Paste in Notepad.

To underline text, you can use character U+00AF [¯] which is referred to as an overline.

Utilizing these extra characters in a college resume can make a significant difference. As an example, consider this college graduate resume which illustrates examples of resume bullet statements (select picture to enlarge):

cover letter for emplyment free resume examples college graduate resume example internships

Monday, January 02, 2006

How to Contact Me

I'd like to invite anyone to contact me regarding career mobility. You can reach me at or by phone at (512) 825-5309.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Google, Microsoft, Amazon Interview Profile

Something that is often overlooked about Landing the Internship or Full-Time Job During College is that each chapter ends with a profile. These profiles are quite impressive including new hires and interns from top employers such as EA Games, Intel, and Boeing. Below is the profile of Rhett Aultman who is deciding between employment at Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.

Rhett Aultman

cover letter for emplyment free resume examples college graduate resume example internshipsYou’re in a bit of a different situation than the others profiled in this book—is that correct?
Yes, I just finished a whirlwind tour of interviewing and am deciding among Amazon, Microsoft, and Google for a summer internship. They are all software development positions and are all, by coincidence, in Washington state—located in Seattle, Redmond, and Kirkland respectively.

What’s on your mind? How are you basing your decision?
Well, considering they are internships, I suspect the monetary compensation is comparable. So, what’s mainly on my mind is the opportunity the positions can give me in the future, how interested I am in the technology the positions involve, and whether the experience would fit well with my Ph.D. research. It’s not an easy decision, every company offered something a bit different:

In my opinion, Amazon has the most hands-on technical challenge of the bunch. They were very receptive to tailoring a position for me by providing a list of active projects and allowing me to choose the three of most interest. Amazon also hinted at the possibility of finding something that would fit well as a doctoral thesis topic.

The Microsoft interviews mainly regarded XML, SOAP, web services, enterprise interoperability and such. They also do some work with COM and COM+. It’s definitely interesting because those technologies are in mainstream tech news almost daily.

Google offers a bunch of intangibles such as my favorite location out of the three, a trendier name, and lots of free stuff. Originally, the position they offered me was a little weaker in comparison with the others as far as interesting technology. However, they were very flexible after I talked with them a bit about it. They changed the position to one involving Jabber which is a chat interface and work in founding a new Google Labs project.

How did you get all these interviews?
Microsoft and Amazon attended a college career fair at my university. Amazon was all about having a technical discussion right from the start. Even at the booth I had a discussion about the challenges of dealing with enormous databases in addition to where my interests lie. I applied at Google through their website. I also have a friend that works there which helped I think.

Did you research the companies?
Some companies definitely make it easier than others. For Microsoft, I did the standard review of their college website and looked at their latest research projects. Knowing about their technology on the fringe that hasn’t gotten a lot of press definitely helped me to be more enthusiastic than other candidates.

Amazon was a lot tougher. For example, I had to resort to the website of the real estate agency that handles their lease to find out what their buildings look like. Google was a bit easier because they provide information on their corporate life, current active projects, and technologies on Google Labs.

How do you approach interviewing?
What has been invaluable for me is just chatting with friends in my field. It can be so helpful to practice chatting with people who are competent in general, work in different areas of your field, and enjoy an open discussion. Whenever you have time and the environment encourages it, bounce around open ideas with your friends.

I also think it is important to speak your mind while interviewing even if you aren’t sure how to solve a problem. I don’t know how many times I have come up with an answer to a question that I knew to be less than perfect and said something like “I don’t have proof that I can’t do better, but I suspect the solution could be improved if I thought about it a little more.”

Have any memorable questions?
During an interview with Amazon, I was asked a technical question which I started to answer with a popular programming language. Halfway through, I thought I could use a functional language called ML which is rarely used in industry, but sometimes used in research or for teaching. I suspected that the interviewer would be familiar with it because he had mentioned a functional language previously called LISP.

Boy did his eyes light up. “Really!” he said. So, my hunch was correct that he preferred functional languages over the more popular languages of today and I scrambled to try and rewrite the problem. What’s interesting is I never got around to finishing the solution, but I think my little attempt and our discussion was the most favorable part of the interview.

Have any of your interviews been something other than office interviews?
Yes. I had some lunch interviews as well. They were more casual with engineering discussions and a few brain teasers here and there. My advice for a lunch interview would be to pick what you eat carefully. Try to pick food that won’t embarrass you! Also, avoid anything that will take unnecessary attention and can keep you from talking. You may want to pay attention to what your interviewer gets, because if he or she is vegetarian, a 20oz steak could affect their perception of you. Also, try to avoid carbohydrate shock; you’ll need to be alert for the rest of your interviews. One thing that works for me is a caffeine boost. In my case, a few glasses of iced tea make my mental capacities infinitely clearer.

What advice would you give someone who is about to have a big interview?
I like to get my mind going—I usually bring some related material to read. It’s very important to know the company’s products as well. If you are expecting technical interviews, be sure to brush up on the fundamentals of your field. I like to go over some basic computer algorithms before interviews.

Finally, the most important thing is to relax. The interviewers just want to know what you’re like. Think of it as a typical engineering discussion with a friend. Knock down the illusion that the people you will speak with are adversarial. You aren’t going to war here. They are just regular people who are looking for someone to help them with their projects.

What would you do different if you could do it all over again?
I think I would have been more selective in designing my resume. I now realize it is important to emphasize what you are most interested in rather than listing everything you can. It plays a big role when companies match a candidate to a team. After the interviews are done, you leave, but the resume stays.

I wish I had gone to grad school straight out of undergrad. I think if you are passionate about your field and plan to spend the rest of your life in it, there is no better place to be. I don’t regret my time working after undergrad which certainly made me a pretty penny, but things get so much more interesting with the knowledge of a quality graduate education. Now that I’m in grad school everyone takes me a lot more seriously, there are more interesting things to work on, and
opportunities present themselves which simply didn’t exist before.

Monday, December 19, 2005

2006 Job Outlook

According to the California Job Journal, the job outlook for 2006 looks rosy. Here are some excerpts:

"The biggest job gains are expected to come in the financial services, technology, healthcare, energy and international business sectors..."

"A return to a late 1990s-style hiring frenzy may be only a matter of time."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Free Info on What to Wear to an Interview

Consider the following advice while deciding what to wear for a job interview:

• Do not wear bright colors such as red
• Do not chew gum or smoke
• Make sure your pockets do not have bulges or coins
• Consider using a briefcase or portfolio (black or dark brown)
• Avoid strong cologne or perfume

Men, follow these rules:

• Do not wear jewelry other than a watch or wedding ring
• Make sure you have a clean shaved face or well-groomed facial hair
• Be certain to have clean nails that are trimmed
• Wear dark socks (long enough so legs never show)
• Wear a belt that matches your shoes

Appropriate Job Interview Dress for Women:

• Do not wear revealing clothing such as mini-skirts
• Dress to be professional rather than “glamorous”
• If you use nail polish, use a clear or conservative color
• If you wear hosiery, use a color which matches your skin
• Do not wear shoes with large heels
• Avoid using a purse (use a briefcase or portfolio instead)

How to Interview Dress for Success

Everyone questions themselves a little bit while deciding what to wear for an interview or job event.

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is “it depends.” What to wear greatly depends on the organization’s culture. The golden rule to follow is to be more formal than the general dress code for the organization. This way you match their culture, but still show that you want to impress them.

If jeans with a t-shirt is the norm, consider business casual attire. If an organization’s employees often wear business casual attire, pin-striped or solid color formal business wear is appropriate. If they sometimes wear a tie or a jacket, that is a sure sign that a suit is required.

When in doubt call or email someone. If you still are not certain, err on the side of caution and conservatism. It is worse to be under-dressed than overdressed. However, wearing a suit isn’t a universal safe choice. It is often the case that highly technical interviewers or research-oriented scientists do not take candidates in suits as seriously.

I hope to have a followup post to this on what is proper job interview etiquette in the coming weeks.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

IT Conversations

cover letter for emplyment free resume examples college graduate resume example internships

For those of you who are interested in technical-related careers, IT Conversations really is a hidden gem out there. They often have talks on IT trends such as offshoring, open source, and fascinating subjects in general such as Malcolm Galdwell's talk on Human Nature. IT Conversations rates their talks which I find to be very helpful (I filter out anything less than 3 stars). Additionally, you can have them downloaded straight to your iPod--also known as podcasting--which I often do since I like to listen to talks while I drive to work or while travelling.

I just heard a talk that Paul Graham gave recently who is famous for the millions he made off Yahoo's stock and for essays he publishes online on his website. Here is an excerpt from the description:

"Paul Graham, popular author and Lisp programmer, discusses what business can learn from open source. According to him, it's not about Linux or Firefox, but the forces that produced them. He delves into the reasons why open source is able to produce better software, why traditional workplaces are actually harmful to productivity and the reason why professionalism is overrated."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Phone Interviews

For my first real content post I think it's appropriate to start with something that isn't discussed specifically on career sites or at interviewing seminars--Phone Interviews. They are the most common type of interview and certainly deserve special attention.

Phone interviews can range from HR screening interviews to two hour long sessions (for example, Extreme Blue is famous for long phone interviews). Phone interviews are most popular for internships, because they lower hiring costs. Consider the following when preparing for a phone interview:

• You can cheat! Almost any imaginable resource can be available to you during a phone interview. If laying out a cheat sheet of every product the company produces or notes describing each of the keywords on your resume makes you feel more comfortable, then do it.

• Expect HR interview questions. It is likely that you will be asked about location preferences, salary, or group preferences during a screening interview.

• Use a headset. Headsets for phones are inexpensive and make a difference. This way your hands are free and you can avoid cramps from holding the phone for a prolonged period of time. If you purchase a new headset, be sure to test it with a friend before the interview to ensure it works and the volume is set correctly.

• You pick the environment. Find a quiet, familiar place to conduct the interview.

• Don’t ignore physical preparation. Conducting an interview in your pajamas before showering may sound appealing, but it can lead to an overly-relaxed mood and informal language.

• Pay attention to time zones. Make sure that you know the time zone that the interviewer is in. When the call is scheduled ask whether the given time is according to eastern standard time, pacific time, etc.

• Use a professional voicemail message. Interviewers may call back for an additional question or they may call at an unexpected time for a variety of reasons. “Leave a message for Princess Layla” may rub them the wrong way.

• Mark your calendar and notify anyone else who uses the phone. Even if it’s an interview for a safety offer do all you can to ensure your schedule is open.

• Be sure your cellphone is charged and has good reception at the location. Are you planning to conduct the interview between classes on your cellphone? Visit your planned spot and check the reception. Think about how you can make sure you fully charge your phone that day.

• Drink a glass of water before. Singers often drink nothing other than water before a performance. This can be beneficial as speaking clearly is a requirement.

• Smile during the conversation. Smiling has a positive effect on your voice which the interviewer will notice.

• Get out of your chair. Standing provides a natural energy and can help to project your voice more clearly.

Of course, it is important that you provide good answers to interview questions, but I think the above list gives some practical advice that can help you during any phone interview.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What Landing The Job Is About

I've finally finished Landing the Internship or Full-Time Job During College. The publisher just sent me the first ten copies. I have to admit it looks quite impressive even though I've read my own book at least a dozen times.

Now that the book is finalized, I've decided to start this blog to continue sharing news, experiences, and tips regarding career mobility. The reason I wrote the book was because I feel there is a tremendous gap in the literature covering the subject. Most career books are written by university deans, career counselors, or hiring managers which certainly are qualified to speak on the subject. However, there is virtually nothing out there written by the people that have actually landed the top jobs in recent years. That is the perspective I attempted to capture in the book. I have found researching this perspective to be one of the most amazing endeavors I've ever pursued (and hope to continue in the coming years). After interviewing the best new-hires from some of the finest employers of our time, I found that their attitudes are often bold, their interviewing techniques are often unconventional, and they have a natural passion for their field which can win over employers even when they are unqualified.

I hope to continue where the book has left off with this blog--providing the prospective of our generation as the information age forges ahead.