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

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

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.