April 24, 2008

Ask the Recruiter: Dealing with gaps in employment

Dear bloggingforjobs,

I'm a single mom who is re-entering the workforce after taking 9 months off to care for my sick mother. My last job before that only lasted 6 months. How do I answer the question about my gaps in employment in an interview?

Thank you,

Cindy S.


Dear Cindy,

It is fairly common for most people to have gaps in employment especially in this day and age with working families often serving as caregivers to their young children and older parents at the same time. I recommend that you be honest. Tell them that you took off work to take care of your sick mother and let the prospective employer know that everything is taken care of and you are eager to begin working again. Don't dwell on the subject and your prospective employer will likely do the same.

Secondly, being a parent, let alone a single mother is a full-time job in itself. As a parent, you have to juggle multiple schedules and use time management as well as motivating and influencing others daily. I'm sure that during your time off, you might have organized a fundraising drive for your son/daughter's local scout troop or served as a camp counselor or leader in your church or other organization. These are all great skills and experiences that employers need to hear about. Shout these out the rooftops!

Best of luck in your search,


April 23, 2008

It's a Digital World

Note to Job Seekers: It's a Digital World

Noticed recently the decline in good jobs listed in the newspaper. Ever wondered what happened?

Newspapers are expensive. Small ads in the Dallas paper for a Sunday run $2,000 with no guarantee that any candidates will apply for a position. I ran a blind ad last year in the Dallas paper and received 1 resume over a period of 3 Sundays.

Newspapers use a method of advertising to job seekers I call "Spray and Pray." I place an ad, spray it to thousands of loyal readers and pray that someone will apply. Myself and other recruiters like to take a more aggressive approach. The digital world is a great way in which to do this.

The digital and internet world can be more directed to the passive job seeker. Job Board sites have millions of site clicks and visits a day. For under $300, I can post one 30 day online ad on Careerbuilder or Monster will positive results. For even a couple hundred dollars more, I can resume mine and view potential candidates resumes online. On social networking sites, I can post jobs and contact millions of candidates directly via email all at no charge!

The digital world 2.0 has created millions of new possibilities for the candidate and recruiter. Candidates now submit video resumes. Recruiters contact candidates by text message, cell phone, and email using social networking sites like Linkedin, Myspace, Twitter, Jigsaw, and job boards like Monster and Dice. And if you don't know what the heck I'm talking about---it's time to enter the Digital World.

Many candidates are often reluctant to post resumes on job boards or create profiles on social networking sites. To this I say, if your phone number is listed, anyone can find you. Why not control the content recruiters and nosey internet surfers can see. Use the digital world to your marketing advantage. If you google search me--Jessica Miller-Merrell, I'm the only one in the entire internet universe. Try it!!

Sites like Linkedin have opened up a new world for the passive job seeker and eager networker. For example three months ago, I sent a potential candidate a message on Linkedin. We exchanged several emails back and forth. I came to the realization that the candidate, was grossly overqualified for my open position. Still, I built a rapport and we exchanged information. A month ago, Sue contacted me via email again. An organization that she was a member of was in need of a guest speaker at their regional meeting, and she recommended me for the opening.
I gave my presentation at the regional meeting, exchanged business cards with about 15-20 professionals and these new relationships resulted in three more viable candidates to fill more open positions. Plus, the possibility of future business and professional relationships with each individual. This is what the digital world is all about.

What Not to Wear. . . for an interview

Ever watch that show, What Not to Wear? Generally, the same holds true in an interview with conservative being best when it comes to making an impression and not becoming the office joke. See below for some general do's and don'ts when it comes to dressing appropriately for the interview.

General Rules and Recommendations:

  • Select apparel, fragrances, jewelry, hairstyle, etc. that do not detract from your professional image. The interviewer's attention should be focused on what you say and your qualifications.
  • Make sure your hair is clean, neat and professionally styled. Avoid styles that covers over more than your forehead or one that you have to brush back.
  • Remove facial and body piercings other than single ear jewelry for interviews. Visible tattoos should be covered to avoid distraction.
  • Apparel should be clean and neatly pressed.
  • Apparel should fit well and remain in place while sitting and/or walking.
  • Keep your look simple especially since you are not yet familiar with company dress code.

Choose professional apparel that you like for which you receive positive feedback from people who are knowledgeable about the industry standard or specific company policy.
Less is more.

Common Interview Questions

Ever been stumped with a question while on an interview? See some common questions below in preparation to ace that interview!

  • Tell me about yourself. First off, let me say that I absolutely loath this question. It's so generic. Keep your answer professional and between 1-3 minutes. Highlight your education, job qualifications, and job history based on the qualifications and requirements of the job you are interviewing for.
  • Why should we hire you? Once again, I hate this question!! Keep your answer professional and highlight your qualifications specific to the position you are applying for. Most often this question is asked to see how you handle the pressure. Be prepared to sell yourself.
  • What are your weaknesses? This question is tricky and the fact that you work too hard is not a good answer. I recommend using the STAR method here (see previous posts on this topic). Outline the situation, describe the action you took to improve your weakness, and the result. Hiring manager's like to hear measurable actions like you increased your team's productivity by 35% by attending a 8 week class on leading and inspiring others using the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? Be very careful. You don't want to appear to be overly ambitious and say something like, "Well, Bob. I'd like to have your job." I recommend talking about expanding your knowledge and experience in a new product line or the fact that you will have finished your MBA by then. You want to be a team player and show that you are a great long term investment for company x.
  • What's your salary expectation? Tread carefully my friend. On one hand you don't want to overshoot and bet out of the running because you want too much money. On the other hand, you want to be paid a fair salary. I recommend doing your research for the industry and position in your geographic area. Salaries can vary widely even in the same city as do the benefits and perks that companies offer their employees. Give them a range and ask if falls within their requirements. I am always upfront with candidates but not every recruiter or hiring manager is.
  • Do you have any questions for me? YES! YES!! Be ready with questions, I mean really good questions. Use the company website or your network to learn about the prospective company and the industry. Ask some questions about the number of employees you would be supervising or challenges one might face in the position. I recommend asking, "what do you feel is the most important skill or qualification for someone in the Public Relations Director position to be successful?" This allows the hiring manager to tell you what they want from their new employee giving you some insight. This way you can touch on your skills and qualifications one more time.

April 22, 2008

Handshake How to:

The Fine Art of the Handshake by: Michael Dalton Johnson

Your handshake says a lot about you. It can convey confidence, warmth, and honesty, or it can signal weakness, uncertainty, and disinterest. Either way, it sends a subtle yet powerful message about who you are, that is not lost on prospective buyers. Use these pointers to ensure your handshake sends the right signals and creates a good impression with prospects and customers:

• Avoid the power grip. A handshake should be firm, but not overly forceful. Beware of the unconscious tendency to pull the other person toward you as you shake. This can be interpreted as aggressive, and the prospect's resistance to you may go up a notch or two.

• Nothing wimpy. It may seem painfully obvious, but it's amazing how many salespeople offer weak, perfunctory handshakes. This is a major turnoff to many customers. Firm and friendly always wins.

• Look 'em in the eye. As you extend your hand, establish eye contact and smile. Show some teeth! A warm and sincere greeting can make you an instant friend—and all things being equal, people prefer to buy from friends.

• Get a grip. Never grasp just the other person's fingers. Take their entire hand completely in yours, and gently pump it two or three times.

• Turn on the charm. You've been talking with a customer on the phone for several months, and meet them in person for the first time at a trade show. To express your pleasure at finally meeting face to face, you may want to cover his extended hand with your left hand briefly during the handshake. This increases the familiarity and warmth of the handshake. Do not attempt this with someone you don't know. However, it is often a pleasant gesture when you are shaking hands with someone you've met previously. It simply says, "I'm very glad to see you again."

• What to say? No handshake is complete without a spoken greeting. You can't go wrong with, "It's a pleasure to meet you." When meeting someone of high rank, such as the chairman of the board or founder of a company, you may want to up the ante with, "It's a great pleasure to meet you." After the initial greeting, your conversation should begin while you are still shaking hands, for example, "John tells me you've made some significant additions to your product line." Your hand should be slowly and somewhat reluctantly withdrawn as the person begins to speak. This slow withdrawal indicates your keen interest in the person and what he is saying.

• What's your body language saying? Posture is important, so stand erect, about three feet (one pace) away from the client, with your hands out of your pockets. Face the client squarely; never approach from an angle, or when the subject is engaged in conversation or otherwise distracted. Wait until you have his full attention before extending your hand.

• Saying goodbye. When the meeting is over, it's time to shake hands again. You now have the opportunity to leave a lasting impression. If you've established rapport with the buyer, it's a good idea to gently grasp his right forearm with your left hand during the handshake, and restate any promises you may have made during the meeting, for example, "I'll put the report you requested in the mail to you today, and give you a call next Wednesday. I enjoyed meeting you." This two-handed shake signals your interest and commitment to your customer.

• Practice makes perfect. Much like dancing, the fine art of the handshake takes practice. Stand before a mirror and extend your hand. Check to see if you're projecting an image of confidence, warmth, and enthusiasm. Remember, your handshake is a powerful business asset that can help you close more sales, and build lasting and profitable relationships. The time you spend working on it will be time well spent.

This article is excerpted from Top Dog Sales Secrets, a bestselling book of winning sales advice from 50 top experts. You will get instant access to $3,000 worth of BONUS SALES TOOLS including Jeffrey's indispensable Little E-Book of Closing when you buy today.

April 15, 2008

Easy Does It: Resume Design

*****Reposted from the Employment Digest*******

Your Resume’s Design - How Important Is It?

The thought of writing a resume can be intimidating to say the least. There is so much to consider that the process can easily leave you too exhausted to continue - even before you start.

What’s worse is if you have no idea how to create the design - or even how important the design actually is to the resume. The design can have a lot of influence on how successful your resume is in procuring you interviews. There are some simple tips that will help improve your resume significantly. Let’s dive right in…

Make it Easy to Read

The first idea you should keep in mind when designing your resume is choosing the right font style, size and color. Most people find success with the more professional fonts like Times New Roman or Arial, rather than Comic Sans, which makes the resume look more like a party invitation than a professional document. As for sizes, you want to avoid those that are too large or small. Again, you aren’t trying to place your resume on prospective employers’ windshields so getting their attention won’t take much more than a 12-point font for Times New Roman and 11 for Arial. And when choosing the color, remember one word: black.

Nothing Fancy

Another design error that many make when creating their resumes is adding decorations. This is definitely a risky move to take because while one employer might absolutely love your cute form of expression another might feel sick to his stomach. So instead of using flower borders in your design, think about making your name a little larger (and using a different typeface) than the rest of the content to add a little character to your resume.

Stick with the Default Setting

When deciding on the layout for your resume, you definitely want to stick with vertical rather than landscape. Think about it; if you were a manager who had to sort through a stack of papers, you would probably be pretty annoyed if you had to rotate the stack 90 degrees because someone wanted to add a little spice to the design. So to avoid irritating an employer, stick with the default set up for your word processing program. You’ll be glad you did.

The Paper on Which It’s Printed

Over the years, many people have come to rely on fancy resume paper because they have been advised by their career centers or professors that this is the best way to stand out among other applicants. However, with times changing so much and the electronic age prevailing over all else, most companies prefer that their applicants submit materials via the company’s website or job portal, which pretty much kicks a hole in the pretty paper theory. You can buy white paper with a plain smooth finish and be okay. If the company allows for both online and offline applications, then you can always choose to do both.

You’ll find that the effort you put forth on your resume and its design will pay off in the end. Stick with the basics and keep it simple. After all, this is the easy part of writing your resume.

April 11, 2008

Interview Styles

See the short video below to learn more about different types of interviewers. It's important to be prepared for all types, determining the interviewer's style, and adjusting your own interview to meet their needs and desires to make a better impression.

April 9, 2008

Resume Don'ts

25 Things You Should Never Include on a Resume

By HR World Editors on December 18, 2007

Applying for a new job comes with its fair share of rejections, setbacks, frustrations and perhaps even lonely periods of unemployment. If you've been turned down for position after position, you could be getting desperate and may want to shake things up a bit so that your résumé will stand out from the piles of others stacked quietly in HR. Before you decide to get too creative, there are some rules to résumé etiquette that you should follow. Read below for the 25 things that you should never include on a professional résumé.

1. What You Hated About Your Last Job: If you turn your résumé into a ranting session, you're starting off on the wrong foot. During an interview, the hiring manager will most likely ask you why you left your last job, but you can use this challenge to remain positive. Explain that you wanted to work with a company that promoted more mobility within the business or that you felt your strengths weren't adequately utilized at your last job.

2. What You Hated About Your Last Boss or Co-Workers: Even if your last boss really acted like a tyrant or no one in the office could stand that jerk next to the water cooler, complaining about the past only makes you look like the bad guy. Showing that you are able to work with all kinds of people will take you far in the business world.

3. Irrelevant Job Experience: Job experience that is unrelated to the position you're applying for only clutters your resume and irritates the HR department. Did your lawn-mowing gig or high-school job as a checker at the grocery store really prepare you to be a PR professional? There are other ways to prove your people skills, so stick with the jobs and internships that are most relevant.

4. Sexual Preference: Your sexual preference has no relevance on how well you can perform the job. Leave it out when writing up your résumé, because according to Emurse.com, "discrimination still exists in the hiring process, and [including this information] may lead to a premature and completely unwarranted disposal of your resume."

5. Religion: Discussing religion in the workplace is another big no-no for Americans. Including your religion, or lack thereof, on a résumé is too controversial and is irrelevant to the job. So unless you're applying for a job at a religious institution, exclude this information.

To read more visit:

Visit me at OKC CCNG as a guest presenter!!!

One of the reasons I created this blog is to provide job seekers inside information about the full cycle recruiting process from start to finish from the eyes of a hiring manager, recruiter, or business owner. Next Tuesday, I will be conducting a presentation about Call Center Business and Effective Recruiting Strategies for the Oklahoma City area Call Center Networking Group (CCNG) on April 15th. Send me an email (jmiller-merrell@sbcglobal.net) if you are interested in attending as a professional member of this group. Not only are the topics information packed but the networking opportunities are outstanding! Bring plenty of business cards and purell.

Look for a full update about my presentation and other interesting view points later next week. If the stars align, I hope to post my powerpoint online for your own viewing pleasure and education. Education is power and by understanding the recruiting processes and strategies, it will better prepare you for success in the job hunt.

Happy Hunting!


April 8, 2008

ASK the Recruiter--Job Search While Pregnant

Dear Bloggingforjobs:

I love your blog! I have been actively searching for a couple months for a new position in public relations. Several weeks ago, I discovered I am pregnant. When should I tell the employer I'm expecting? I'm afraid that if I tell them now, they won't hire me, but I'm also afraid that if I don't tell them, they'll fire me. Help!!!

Reader X

Dear Reader X,


According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, pregnancy should be treated the same as any other short term disability. The EEOC website advices employers to treat pregnant applicants and employees the same as everyone else. A candidate cannot be discriminated against and not promoted or selected for a position because she is pregnant. However, the act of discrimination in relation to being pregnant is often hard to prove. I would recommend holding off spilling the beans to your new employer until absolutely necessary. While I trust most companies, there are those that do make hiring decisions based on only your qualifications. I recommend doing your best to keep the prospective company from giving you any reason to disqualifying you for the position.

Secondly, a company is not allowed to terminate your employment because you are pregnant. Depending upon if you qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA, your job would be protected while you are on Leave of Absence and maternity leave. Since you will be starting a new job and will not have worked at the new company the required 12 months and 1,250 hours in a rolling year period, you won't qualify for FMLA. However, most companies are flexible if given the appropriate amount of notice. I recommend speaking with your manager and human resources a month before the due date approaches or sooner. Use your best judgement.

To learn more about FMLA, and the specific rules and guidelines visit the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/. To learn more about the EEOC visit http://www.eeoc.gov/.

Kind Regards,


***I will kindly mention that I am not an employment law attorney. If you have a specific question or situation, I recommend contacting the EEOC or an employment law attorney.

April 2, 2008

Quick Resume Tips

In these turbulent times, it's always important to have your resume updated. You never know what opportunity will arise so be prepared. You want to make sure you highlight all your great qualifications and make a lasting impression. Consider the following tips:

  1. Bullet point your skills and qualifications. Use some key words here that describe your qualifications. This is the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition. I often call this your Billboard Resume. It's your one chance to catch the interest of the hiring manager and make an impression.
  2. Have a professional email. This is so important! You can get your free email address from sites like gmail, hotmail, or yahoo. Avoid using your birth year in your email that can be used as filters.
  3. Remove education dates. These can also be used to filter candidates. Don't draw attention to the fact that you're young--22 or that you are close to retirement--67.
  4. Use Action Verbs. Instead of "Experienced in Verbal Communication and Presentations" use "Proven Communicator". Other common action verbs include Assisted, Converted, Customized, Established, and Facilitated.
  5. Keep it simple. Less is more. Purge your resume of run-on sentences and long explanations. Recruiters spend 15-20 seconds looking at your resume.

Your resume should be a paper representative of your professional self. A little work can go a long way.

***For more action verb examples visit http://www.quintcareers.com/action_verbs.html