Career & Coffee

Resume Writing, Job Search, Industry News and Erin’s weekly musings on all things career.

Searching the Hidden Job Market May 27, 2009

Filed under: Career & Workplace,Interviewing,Job Search,Networking — erinkennedy @ 12:00 am
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In a climate like the one we are in, it’s easy to feel like we will never find the job we want, or that ‘no one is hiring‘. However, you can increase your chances of landing multiple interviews if you can tap into the “hidden” job market, or, the one that hasn’t been advertising. Contacting the companies/contacts directly makes a much more powerful impact then random online resume posting to (some useless) job sites.

How do you do this? Have a plan! This may take a little longer, but it’s the best way to control your job search, land quality interviews and increase your pay scale.

1)  Get your online presence together. Chances are, if you are going to be Google-ing companies, they will Google you. Create a Google profile or a LinkedIn profile and put your brand out there for the employer to see. Show your stuff.

2)  Make a list of your target information– industry choice, job position, company listings, etc.

3) Do a Google search on your industry and job titles. There may be quite a few, but you can weed through what you like and don’t like. You can also do a local business search with the same requirements and see what you come up with.

4) Send your resume directly to the hiring person. This is usually the person who is 2-4 levels above where you see yourself within the company. Make sure your cover letter is short and concise.

If this method makes you squirm a little, remember that you will see significantly higher results than you would normally. It’s also good to move beyond your comfort zone. Clients who’ve used it report more interviews, quicker interview cycles and less competition. It is more effective than blindly submitting your resume to lots of job search engines AND it reduces your anxiety of not knowing if the person who you want to see it really saw it or not.

In the end, it will give you greater job search confidence and renewed excitement about the process. Try it and see. Then let me know how it went.


Interview with a Recruiter May 15, 2009

Interview with a Recruiter

Recently, I had the pleasure of having a conversation with a smart, straight-talking recruiter, Peggy McKee.

Peggy McKee is the owner of PHC Consulting. Her firm specializes in matching medical and laboratory sales reps/candidates with companies, and does so with great success. Despite the economic downturn, Peggy’s company has flourished and she’s had to hire additional staff to meet the placement demands. With her strong understanding of the medical sales industry, interviewing and hiring, she’s helped develop teams of top sales talent for laboratory service companies.

Having my clients in mind, I asked Peggy several questions about her recruiting process, what is important to her regarding hiring the right candidates, her thoughts on résumés, and more. I’ve wanted to “officially” interview a recruiter for a while because of the number of questions I get from my clients about what recruiters look for.

Our conversation went something like this:

EK: “Peggy, where do you find your candidates? Do they come looking for you? Do you recruit them? How does it work?”

PM:     “40-50% of candidates come straight to my website ( The other half is split between referrals, direct soliciting and social networking. “

EK: “Are candidates are expected to pay you?”

PM: “Absolutely not. Candidates should never pay a recruiter. Companies pay the recruiter for the placement. That’s how it works.”

EK: “It seems like I remember way back when some candidates had to pay the recruiter a percentage or a fee for the placement. I’m glad to know it’s not like that anymore… at least not with all recruiters.”

EK: “So you use some of the professional and social network sites to find talent?”

PM: “Definitely. I use LinkedIn and Twitter to find candidates by typing in keywords, names, titles, searches, groups, etc.”

EK: “And you’ve had good luck going that route? I’ve heard LinkedIn is really a great platform to find top talent. I tell my clients about it all the time.”

PM: “Yes, I use it all the time and love it.”

EK: “OK, let’s talk résumés. Do you have any pet peeves? What are your likes and dislikes? What do you like to see or not see?”

PM: “Well, I want to see 3 things:  how can you make me money?… how can you save me money?.. and how can you save me time? This is what the client wants to know, so this is what I look for.  I don’t like to read long paragraphs. I prefer bullets. I like to see experiences and accomplishments. Love to see numbers, rankings, percentages, etc.”

EK: “Just bullets? Ugh. Boring. I tend to stay away from just bullets. It looks like a grocery list. Numbers are great. Especially in sales résumés… definitely a must.”

PM: “No, I like the bullets. Paragraphs are too long. And yes, numbers are great and show me what they are capable of doing. “

EK: “OK. What about cover letters?”

PM: “I don’t like them, but I have to add that if you are going to write one BE BOLD! Don’t worry about “expectations”. Write something interesting!

EK: “I agree. Nothing worse than a canned cover letter. Make it as authentically YOU as possible.”

EK: “Any last thoughts about the résumé or cover letter?”

PM: “Have your references ready. Bring them to the interview. Have a clear and focused objective on your résumé so we don’t have to guess.  Be ready to answer “tough” questions at the interview. Don’t shy away from them. Be honest.”


Peggy was so fun and enlightening to talk to that I look forward to continuing this conversation and bringing you more insight.

In the meantime, if you want to get in touch with Peggy McKee and help her celebrate her 10th year in business, you can go to her website or visit at


Gen Y — getting a bad rap? April 18, 2009

Filed under: Career & Workplace,Erin's Musings,Interviewing — erinkennedy @ 12:44 am
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I’ve had this post tabled in my “draft” box for a while because  it just wasn’t finished. Then today I read Penelope Trunk’s blog, “4 Frequent questions about Gen Y answered” and my brain kicked in.


I am wondering if Gen Y is getting a bad rap.


For a couple of years now, all I’ve heard about is how the Gen Y generation don’t want to work. They think nothing of quitting a job after a year. Coddled by their parents to the point of complete lack of understanding of the pressures facing them in “the real world”. You have to talk to them gently. They can text, type, talk and listen… all at the same time.

They think it’s OK to come in to work at noon in Berkenstocks and toting an iPod.  And still be the company President in a year.


Some employers say it’s frustrating. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place because boatloads of baby boomers are retiring and Gen Y is moving in. They are more technically savvy and can do the work in half the time as their older peers. Their older counterparts are going to have to learn to work with them, if they want to work collaboratively at all.


I am seeing it in a different way. I have 4 nieces and nephews (ages 18-22) in college and they are all incredibly hard working (and I’m not just saying that because I adore them). They all held jobs through high school and still in college, while juggling sports, chores, friends, etc. They have turned out to be very respectful young adults and they don’t expect to be given anything. Now perhaps they are in the minority, but judging by their roommates and friends who are doing the same thing, they seem to be in the average.


True, Gen Y professionals don’t have the mindset, “stay at your company until retirement”, and rarely will they stay long enough to leave an impact, but in this economy is that such a bad thing? When I was in my teens and early 20’s, my parents kind of gave me the “Oh well, deal with it” shrug if I complained about a job. They also gave me the “You’re not living here if you don’t have a job and are going to college” look/talk. Needless to say I moved out at 21, went to school full time, and worked full time while paying for my own education.  ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

I am so glad I did. What a sense of accomplishment. The kids today are told they can come back to stay. 65% of kids move back home after college and they are OK with it, whereas I would have been mortally embarrassed to face friends AND family if I moved back to Mom and Dad’s. Times are different today. Parents parent differently today and kids expect things from their folks (imagine that!) but that is a whole other story!


So, what’s the conclusion to the story? Perhaps we judge too harshly EVERYONE in the Gen Y generation. There are still good, hard working young professionals out there, wanting to find a good job and stay there for many, many years. Not ALL people in their 20’s are “slackers” and reside in the “what’s in it for me?” mentality. Maybe they will help transform the workplace into a more flexible and friendly place to be– while still getting their work done and rescheduling their yoga times to evenings. Who’s to say? Anything is possible.


For further reading on Gen Y and what is available in the workforce, go to: Dan Schwabel’s Gen Y blog or


Background Checks June 19, 2008

Filed under: Interviewing,Job Search — erinkennedy @ 4:13 am
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Background Checks and Candidate Research– Hype or a Reality?

For the last few years we’ve been hearing more and more about celebrities or high-powered executives being publicly cast as liars after being caught lying on a resume. Why did these people do it? Didn’t they know they would get caught? Well, probably hoping they wouldn’t be discovered, and “back then” we didn’t have the internet and other public information at our fingertips.

This leads me to another related topic…. being aware of our actions. For example: a picture of you marching down a main street protesting a political party, or posting a picture of yourself for your friends to see of you chug-a-lugging it at a football game, might seem okay or fun to you, but casts a shadow of doubt to the hiring person. They want to know, are you the candidate for them? I’ve had to tell a few clients to use a different email address because, on a hunch, I did a search on the email address and pulled up 2-3 pages of links to a few different blogs and message boards all containing controversial topics not at all suitable for an employer to read in a potential candidate.

Most checks are for criminal records or education verification, driving records, credential verification, sex offender registry, reference checks, Patriot Act search and credit reports. Some employers use several different kind of checks while most use one kind and look for extremely bad reports.

While it may seem like a scary inconvenience for the employees trying to get a job, they might want to keep in mind that a search on potential employees might just benefit not only the company itself but also the current employees in the long run.

Food for thought…

Erin Kennedy, CPRW


Informational Interviews August 5, 2007

Filed under: Interviewing — erinkennedy @ 2:57 am

Informational Interviews get a bad rap from job seekers

–This is a great article for high school or college students wondering about their career choices, as well as for job seekers— Erin Kennedy, CPRW

For many job seekers, information interviewing seems too much like groveling. “Who am I kidding?” says one unemployed chief financial officer. “Everyone knows that I’m looking for a job. It’s bogus to pretend that all I really want is information.”
Informational interviewing gets short shrift from candidates for this very reason — they feel that calling contacts and asking for appointments to gain information is a sham because what they actually want is a job.
What job hunters fail to realize is that this type of networking is not exclusively the domain of the unemployed. Exploratory interviews are a critical part of networking, while in transition and while working. In other words, everyone does it and knowing your ultimate goal is a job doesn’t offend employers.
Pamela Peterson, an employed executive in Chicago, conducts information interviews whether she’s working or jobless to ensure that she keeps building her network of contacts and her career focus on track. Then, when she does decide to look for work, she has a network in place to help her uncover leads and refer her to potential employers.
“Never, never, never ask for a job,” says Ms. Peterson, currently director of business development for IPSA International, a risk-management consulting firm. “This is the cardinal rule of information interviewing; you are there only to gather new knowledge and validate your focus. Eighty percent of the time people are delighted and willing to meet and to help, primarily because they recognize the value of networking as well the satisfaction that comes from being able to help someone.”
Lose the ‘Begging Bowl’ Mentality
Informational interviewing is a focused form of networking that revolves around learning new things and relationship-building. To use this particular job-hunting strategy effectively, it’s absolutely crucial to lose the “begging bowl” mentality. No employer is going to hire you because you desperately need a job. Employers hire people because they add value by helping to solve problems and address challenges.
Some job hunters think exploratory interviews put them in the awkward position of appearing to ask for favors, but they’re discounting the value of these meetings. Just because an employer doesn’t need you now doesn’t mean it won’t in the near future. It also doesn’t mean that the company can’t or won’t create a new position after meeting with you.
Although job offers should not be the goal of informational interviewing, they can become an unexpected benefit when the timing and chemistry are right. When he was between jobs, an executive who had headed several global midsize companies as president and chief executive officer met to have lunch and network with a former subordinate and her husband. When the husband heard the exec was seeking another senior-management role, he arranged for him to have breakfast with a board member of his employer, a capital-equipment company in Chicago. The board member, in turn, introduced the former president to the company’s CEO.
The executive, who asked that his name not be used, and the CEO hit it off right away. Knowing the executive could help him solve several pressing business problems, the CEO called him the following day and asked him to work as an interim vice president of sales and marketing, a position that didn’t exist before they met. The former president took the job and stayed on for nearly a year, helping the company until it merged with a European competitor.
“It’s always better to make an in-person impression versus a paper or phone impression,” he says. “No matter how good a resume or profile is, it’s difficult to convey a person on paper. It’s the whole package, not just the accomplishments.”
This is particularly true, he says, for senior-management assignments, where personality and “cultural fit” will be deciding factors in hiring. An additional motivation in seeking these meetings is to counter his resume, which says “over 50.”
“When I can get in front of people and demonstrate high energy level, enthusiasm, ‘youth,’ I find a much better chance of being remembered positively,” he says.
Scheduling Meetings
Edward G. Maier, CEO of Maier Consulting Group LLC, an executive-coaching and leadership-training firm, believes there’s an art to setting up informational meetings. “Often, the people you want to interview are very busy, and it’s hard to get their attention or on their schedule,” says Mr. Maier, a former senior partner at Arthur Andersen in Chicago. “Clearly, a referral from a mutual acquaintance is great.”
Coach referrals to present you in ways that make decision-makers want to meet you, he suggests. “If you’re going to ask someone for a referral to an executive to establish an informational interview, get your referrer to mention some specific aspects of your skill set that could pique the interest of the executive you want to meet.”
Before she begins exploratory interviewing, Ms. Peterson lists 10 to 20 companies where she wants to develop contacts. Next, she makes sure she has the skills and experiences these employers value. When calling contacts, she uses a “30-second goals-and-objective statement” to say why she’s phoning and the kind of information she’s seeking. She asks for a face-to-face meeting because they allow her to create rapport and demonstrate her fit.
In closing, she always asks about the professional organizations the person belongs to and for names of others she can speak with. Along with writing a sincere thank-you note, she keeps contacts apprised of the outcome of her meetings with their referrals and occasionally calls to report her progress. This strategy allows her to remain in touch and build relationships.
The View From the Other Side
To understand the value of information interviewing, it may help to see how a hiring manager uses the technique. Bill Colaianni, a former vice president and general manager for Coca-Cola Co. and Monsanto, uses informational or exploratory interviews to find potential rising stars. During his tenures at Coke and Monsanto, he frequently conducted exploratory interviews to get to know talented people and define or refine solutions. Then, when new positions developed, he had candidates he liked “waiting in the wings” to work for him.
“This was particularly useful when I was managing new or rapidly growing businesses, and when we had well-established ones that needed fresh thinking. [Often] I didn’t have an immediate need when I first met with these people, but felt they were worth knowing [for] when the need arose. Then I wouldn’t have to scramble,” he says.
Since leaving Coca-Cola in 2002, Mr. Colaianni has discovered the value of informational interviewing from a job seeker’s perspective as well. A face-to-face meeting helps him to create a unique impression of what he can do for employers now rather than what he has done in the past for other companies.
“It enables me to learn more about prospective employers, understand their needs, and build good professional relationships. At this point in my career, it’s important to find the right fit. Exploratory interviews are a great way to test out whether there’s a good match,” says the executive, who is now president of a consulting firm that provides executive leadership to private companies.
Not every employed executive is open to informational meetings, but rather than butting heads with those who don’t value this kind of networking, focus your attention and energy on identifying and building relationships with people who share your perspective.
“People who are resistant to informational interviewing are also resistant to networking,” says Ms. Peterson. “They don’t appreciate the value of building relationships.”
For her, informational interviews are never a waste of time. They help her to understand the business marketplace, expand her referral base, and build good will.
If you’re currently job hunting, exploratory interviews are ideal ways to stay connected and energized while quite possibly opening the door to viable job offers. They also can boost your self-confidence by reminding you of who you are, who you know and what you have to offer.

–From Career Journal