Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stuff I Enjoyed in 2011

With the end of the year a scant three days away, I find myself reading a lot of best-of and worst-of year-end lists.
If I really wanted to, I could probably cobble together a handful of top-ten lists, with best TV shows and favorite movies, but as I sit here typing, I’m realizing that my memory can be painfully short, and things I listened to, watched or read at the start of the year are mostly just blank holes in my memory. (For example, I had already figured out what my favorite TV show of the year was… until I realized it wasn’t).
So here, in no particular order, are my favorite things of the year. Always keeping in mind that I probably have other favorite things my mind has tossed into a dark hole, never to be seen again.
Favorite Book: The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss. After years and years of hype, I finally got around to reading The Name of the Wind, the first book of Rothfuss’ planned trilogy. I quite literally don’t know if the book could have been hyped any more than it was. Sci-fi authors I knew liked it. Cartoonists I knew liked it. People were frothing for a second book, and had to wait four years, and they were going mad with the waiting.
Over the same time frame people were going nuts for the first book, I had read some other series. I chewed through all the Dresden books, which start off okay and get great. (Until book 13, which I felt like 400 pages of prologue with 40 pages of “by the way, this is why this happened.”) I read all the Hunger Games books. (Good, but too much fashion and love triangle, and not enough action.) I read the Twilight books (a highly readable series in which nothing happens) and I got through the first few Percy Jackson books (super-fun, but pitched a little young for me), The Forest of Hands and Teeth (an amazing story world with about 150 pages too much boy talk per book) and the Sookie Stackhouse series (a bunch of really cool super-powered humans… who surround a character who can mostly only observe, because otherwise she’d be dead).
Granted, I enjoyed all of those books to one extent or another. But most of them fell short of the hype.
But not The Name of the Wind. Or, if it did, it managed to make it 99.999% of the way there. I was sad when it was over, but I was very happy that the next volume had a hard and fast release date. I wouldn’t have the painful four year wait my friends had, at least.
Of course, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Rothfuss had said that volume 2 would be done in a year, then two, and then it took four. Which meant there was a good chance he’d fiddled it into badness, or fiddled it into goodness.
And as it turns out – it was goodness.
Was it better or worse than the first book? I’d argue it was about the same. All I know is, even at a bazillion pages, I still managed to read my way through it in a little over two weeks. Even with a million things to distract me, that book flies.
Best TV Show: Spartacus: Gods of the Arena – If there’s an award for most improved show, this one deserves it. The first half of its first season was overburdened by style, but the back half took all the loose threads and turned them into a tapestry that was never less than riveting.
This prequel, originally created to give the lead actor time to recover from cancer, should have been a series of “of course this happened” stories, and yet… they found a way around that. It was awesome to behold, and just as fun and “no WAY did they just do that” as the first season.
Best Musical Discovery: Pentatonix. The winners of The Sing-Off can probably look forward to a life of obscurity. A five-person a-cappella group doesn’t interest anyone outside of music geeks, judging by the low ratings of the show they won. And the show itself was problematic. Given two hours every Monday night, they broadcast about 24 minutes of music, or less than a third of their air time, once commercials were removed.
But man, did they make their two minutes count every week. Creative, smart, and gifted, they made five people sound like a six-instrument band. After avoiding iTunes and Amazon MP3s for as long as they’ve been existence, I went and downloaded everything they did… including songs I kind of hated in their original incarnation.
Now, these guys are smart pop performers, but at the moment their life is covers. And that’s fine if you want to spend your life as a local opening act but… I want more from them. So here’s hoping they hook up with a really excellent producer, and some really great songwriters, and they don’t blow this chance they’ve got.
Best Musical Re-Discovery: Also from The Sing-Off, Ben Folds, who put out a 3 CD retrospective this year. Putting the discs in, one after the other, I found all the old songs I loved, discovered that I loved a few songs I barely remembered, and was reminded of just how many great songs Ben’s created over the course of 15+ years as an artist.
I’ve reached an age now where I don’t buy a lot of music. Much of what I hear on commercial radio doesn’t interest me, and I no longer feel the pull of searching every nook and cranny for the next great thing. But I’ll probably keep buying Ben Folds albums as long as he keeps putting them out.
Best Movie: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs/Tangled It’s odd. I have screenwriting credits, but being a dad and an author has seriously cramped my movie-watching time. Pre-kid, I’d watch a movie almost every night. Now, even getting through an hour of TV can be almost impossible.
So, yeah. Kid movies.
Cloudy is technically from last year, and honestly, it’s brilliant from one end to the other. Watch it, then watch it again, and see all the little ideas that appear in the movie come back. Everything is important.
Tangled, on the other hand, contains the single best action sequence I saw in a movie last year. Namely, a sword fight between a horse and a man. And all the things around it.
And that’s mass media 101 from me, folks. Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments, if you’re so inclined.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Well, the Christmas fire sale is over, at least as far as Amazon is concerned (they raised some of my prices).
There are still a few really great deals to be had.
To start with, “Blood Calling,” the first novel in the “Blood Calling Trilogy” – a story about vampires who eat people for all the right reasons - is only 99 cents:
Also 99 cents, the novella that ties into the story - and becomes a bigger part of the story in the second party of the trilogy – “Baby Teeth: A Blood Calling Novelette:”
Both of these books tie into the brand-new (less than a week old!) novel “Misfits: A Blood Calling Novel,” which is only $2.99.
Unrelated to my vampires I’m dropping the price of my book “How to Find a Job” to 99 cents. Over 100 pages of job-getting ideas for a little less than a dollar:
And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that “Fairy Godmother-In-Law,” my modern fantasy story is not only my best seller, but also 99 cents:
Buy one! Buy them all! For less than the cost of a paperback, you can laugh, cry, and find work.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Stuff I’m Selling Cheap (and Giving Away) This Christmas

All right, folks. It’s Christmas Eve day, and I’ve spent hours and hours running around, while trying to Tweet all the things that I’m doing this weekend that are Just For You, My Awesome Readers.

But folks… I’m going to be very, very busy over the next couple of days, and I don’t want anyone to miss anything. So I’m sticking this at the top of my blog, so I can point people here quickly and easily.

So, real quick, if you want something cheap or free for your Kindle (mostly), here you go:

First: “How to Find a Job” is currently free on the Kindle:

Grab it quick. It won’t be for long.

Second: “Mercy” is currently 80% off – 99 cents on the Kindle:

Grab it quick. I have no idea how long it will be 99 cents.

Third: “Blood Calling” is currently 99 cents on the Kindle, nook, and Smashwords:

Grab it quick, etc.

Why is it 99 cents? Because the sequel just came out!

“Misfits: A Blood Calling Novel” is now out on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords:

Grab it quick, for no other reason that I had four beta readers say it was better than the first – and another reader has already told me she sat up until 4 AM reading. What more can you ask for?

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to Find More Writing Time

Just because I’m the way I am, I need to start this post with a caveat:
All of these are ideas that work for me, or that I have heard work for other people. I’ll let you know which ones I endorse when I get to the actual essay.
Which leads me to my second caveat:
I am not a world-famous author. I am a mostly-well-reviewed slow-selling indie author. This could always change in the future, but I’m not going to come back here and revise this if my fortunes change. In other words, if I turn into the next Stephen King or Amanda Hocking, that doesn’t really prove that I’m a better or worse writer. Just that I’m a lucky one.
All I’m talking about here is how to carve out more time to write for yourself.
I’m mostly writing this for a couple of friends who’ve asked how I managed to release six ebooks between March and now (December 19, as I type this).
I should start by noting that the count should be eight by the end of the year, as I still intend to release one more novel (Misfits: A Blood Calling Novel) and another non-fiction book (How to Make a Movie) by the end of the month. The books are written, but have stalled in copyediting, which is fiddly and tiresome and no fun, but which is very necessary when it comes to releasing the best book you can.
So, here’s how I did it:
First, I had a pretty deep bench when I started the process. The first thing I released, “Fairy Godmother-In-Law,” was written a few years back for an anthology that didn’t happen. My novel, “Mercy,” was written a couple of years earlier, but never found an agent who wanted to read it. (I had exactly one person offer to read a portion of the manuscript before rejecting it. As I type this, it’s rated at 4 ½ stars on Amazon and over 4 stars on Goodreads).
I also had the first fifty or 100 pages of “Blood Calling,” which was called “The Kids” at the time. “The Werewolf Solution” was in a complete form, but in need of heavy editing, when I started. “How to Make a Movie” is perhaps half new material, and half articles and handouts that I wrote in the past.
The only books that went from 0 pages to complete this year were “Misfits,” “How to Find a Job,” and “Baby Teeth.”
That’s about 465 manuscript pages. Finishing off other partially-completed books adds another 275 pages, for a total of 740 fresh pages this year.
And all of my old manuscripts also got a polish, ranging from cosmetic changes (Fairy Godmother-In-Law) to serious “Why did I release this in this form?” overhauls (“The Werewolf Solution” which, among other problems, had a issues with shifting points of view.)
That’s a lot of throat-clearing before getting to the meat of this post, but I think it’s important throat-clearing. Writing isn’t just writing. It’s going back and making all those little fixes that need fixing, which can be pretty disheartening, when you feel like you’re this close to releasing a book, but part of it just isn’t any good.
So. Okay.
But let’s concentrate on the 740 pages for now.
How did I do it?
1. I never really stop writing. By which I mean, if I’m in the middle of creating something (novel, non-fiction book, screenplay, etc.) I spend my day thinking about it. I think about it when I get up. I think about it when I’m eating lunch. If I’m in the middle of doing something that requires my physical presence, but not my brain, I’ll keep mentally shaping and reshaping the scene, or section, or outline that I’m working on.
That way, when I sit down to do the actual typing, that’s pretty much all it is. There might be pauses while I try to remember something that’s key to the scene or character, but for the most part, I’m just putting down the bricks in the order the blueprints tell me to.
2. If I have an important thought, and don’t want to forget it, I’ll write it down on a scrap of paper and stick it in my pocket, or my wallet, or somewhere else that I won’t lose it. Then I take it home and put it on my desk, so I have my “notes” there with me when I’m writing.
There are writers who use notebooks for this, and that’s fine, but I’ve never really been the kind to carry a notebook.
3. A Page a Day: I don’t use this one, but I know people who do. A novel is, of course, generally around 300 pages (though this varies from manuscript to actual book length). So if you write one page her day, you’ll have 365 pages. That’s a novel.
4. Four Words a Day. I don’t use this either, but again, I know people who do. Anyone can, of course, write four words in one day. I don’t think the idea is to complete a novel using this system, since if you’re writing a 90,000 word novel, it’ll take you about 61 years to finish it in this manner. But as long as you’re sitting there, and you have your four words, you’ll probably have some concept of what’s next. So you’ll write a paragraph. Or a scene. Or even a handful of lines. Which is more than you had done when you started.
5. Set a timer for an hour, and don’t do anything else but write for that hour. That’s harder than you think. I’ve tried this, and it works, but it usually starts working during the last two minutes. So if you need to go to bed at that point, because you drive an 18 wheeler, this might not be the best idea.
6. Wait for daylight savings time to fall back, and start getting up an hour earlier than you used to. I can’t remember where I first read this idea, but it seems like a good one. After all, you’re already used to being up at that time, it’s just that everyone else has decided it’s a different time now.
7. Get yourself a laptop. Or a netbook. Or really anything you can carry with you and write wherever you are. When I traveled for work a lot, I bought a laptop and used it on the plane. And in my hotel. And pretty much anywhere I went. The opening of my first movie was written on a trip to New York.
8. Don’t get out of the habit. The reason I generally stop writing is because I stop writing. Which is to say, if I take a week off for whatever reason (holidays, etc.) it’s that much harder to get back to it. So avoid breaks, if you can.
9. That said, sometimes a break helps. I generally have a broad outline, but sometimes I just can’t figure out how the characters are supposed to get from point A to point B. I had that problem with my current novel, so I took a break and went to mind-writing, and tried to figure out where my plot was going wrong (or rather, not going at all). After a few days, I figured out the problem, and I just pounded my way through 3000 words.
10. Set goals, even ridiculous ones. When I was writing “Mercy,” I decided I was going to do 2000 words a day, no matter what. I had some nights I didn’t get much sleep, frankly, because I was at 1800 and just couldn’t go any further. But in the end, I wrote that book in about 50 days. And then rewrote it.
11. And that’s important too. Sometimes you get stuck, and you have to power through and write a bad version and come back and fix it later.
12. Have an outline. This is probably the best advice I can give. When I got stuck in “Mercy,” it was because I couldn’t figure out what happened next. So, before you sit down to write a whole lot of novel, put together a list of high points you want/need to hit, and that will allow you to take your characters from place to place to place.
And that’s a novel. Good luck.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Find a Job: Waiting and Following Up

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

After Sending a Resume
Back in the days of job hunting via the newspaper, the follow-up phone call was almost as important as sending someone your resume. At worst, you were able to verify that your resume had landed on the desk of the intended recipient. At best, maybe the hiring manager had a few spare moments to talk to you about the job in question.
Today, things are different.
Back in 1998, when I first started job hunting, I mailed or faxed all of my résumés, because that was what you did. It took time, and a stamp. And as I said in the introduction of this book, the economy was in a very different place.
Obviously, the internet has changed things.
With the economy in such a horrible state, lots of people are applying for jobs. Lots and lots and lots of jobs. And many of them are applying for things they don’t qualify for, simply to fulfill their job application quota for Unemployment Insurance.
In 1998, I might have been one of 50 résumés on the desk of my future employer. Today? I heard through the grapevine that I was one of 400 candidates for some of the jobs I applied for. And this was a common occurrence.
Even if an HR person spends a total of 2 minutes looking at 400 résumés, it will take them more than 13 hours to look at every single one, and stick them into a Yes, No, or Maybe pile. (Though with 400 possible candidates, the Maybe pile may as well be a No pile).
This, of course, presumes that all the HR person is doing all day is looking at résumés. But I’m quite sure they aren’t. They’re doing everything else an HR person does every day. And more than likely, they’ve lost one or two HR compatriots to the economy, which means they’re also doing the work of their former comrades.
If the HR person spends an additional 3 minutes after reading your resume, just pressing a reply button and replacing the “Dear Applicant” at the top of the email to “Dear Bob Smith,” that would pull another 20 hours out of the person’s work week. For one position.
What do all these numbers mean?
First, they serve as a reminder that your resume and cover letter need to be error free. Because if they aren’t, most HR people will rejoice that you saved them the trouble of reading the rest of your resume, and move right along to the next one.
Is that fair? Maybe. Maybe not. But if you blew the chance to put your best foot forward, that’s no one’s fault but your own.
Secondly, it means you need to give a lot more consideration not just when to call, but whether or not you should call in the first place.
Remember when I told you to write down (or otherwise store) all the contact information for every job you apply to? In a lot of cases, the original job ad will say that you are not supposed to call. That is not a deterrent for the easily cowed – it is the clearly-stated wish of the person posting the job.
So if they say don’t call, don’t call.
If a contact name and phone number was offered, feel free to use it after a week has passed. Tell the person you talk to that you wanted to make sure they received your resume. If they say yes, thank them, say goodbye, and hang up the phone. If they offer to talk to you (or let you speak to someone else about the position) go for it.
Much of the time, however, all you will be able to do is wait and see if your phone rings. After sending out something in the neighborhood of 250 résumés, I doubt I got more than 50 letters, emails, or calls telling me that I hadn’t gotten a job.
Once again, you can debate if this is right or fair, but it doesn’t matter either way – at this time, that’s how things are.
After a Phone Interview
So let’s be optimistic, and say that you got yourself a phone interview. Excellent. I’m sure you’ll do great.
But what do you do once it’s over?
In a word? Well, five: Send a thank you note.
Granted, this can be tricky. In one case, I was interviewed by a national company, and from what I could tell, the person doing the interview didn’t work at the location where I’d be working. In another case, the woman I spoke to worked out of her house.
But I sent notes to the companies anyway, addressed to the address that I had on file. Did the notes get to them? Honestly, I’ll never know. But I think it was worth the effort.
After an In-Person Interview
Following up after an in-person interview can take a lot of forms, but the one you need to start with is the thank you note.
And here’s the thing: It has to be a paper and pen, in the mail, using a stamp note. Email doesn’t count.
Why? Email is free, and that devalues it somewhat.
As I’ve said before, I don’t make the rules.
My personal hero on the thank you note front was a guy who kept his thank you notes in his portfolio bag. Quite literally in the parking lot of the place he was interviewing, he’d sit for ten minutes post-interview and write, address, and stamp a note to the person he just spoke to.
He would then drive to the nearest mailbox and send the note on its way.
I thought that was brilliant. Because all too often, it’s easy to put off writing a note. You figure you’ll send one when you get home. But you’re mentally exhausted from the interview. So you figure you’ll send it the next day. Only you have job searching to do, and networking meetings to attend, and then it’s a week later.
By then? Probably too late.
I speak from experience. I once had what I thought was a really great interview. It happened late on a Thursday. I was wiped out afterwards, so I took the afternoon off. Then I spent all day Friday job hunting, and forgot about the notes. I finally sent them on Monday.
On Tuesday, I got a letter that said I didn’t get the job.
Would the note have made a difference? It’s possible. Had I gotten it in the mail on Thursday, my interviewer might have gotten it Friday. That little touch of goodwill might have been enough to push me from not being a candidate to being a candidate.
At best, all I did by sending a late note was make the person who interviewed me feel vaguely guilty.
When I was doing a lot of networking, my fellow network-ees requested that I run a session talking about how to compose thank you notes, since I was the sole writer of the group.
I agreed to do it, then found work and had to drop out of the group before I got to run the session.
In the end, however, I can’t say that I have a ton of advice.
To start with, get a nice, appropriate thank you card. Nothing with cute designs, and nothing left over from a wedding or baby shower. You might be tempted, but don’t do it.
Also, hand write the note. Your handwriting might be terrible (mine is) but it will feel more personal.
Second, keep it short and simple, and address the person you talked to by name:
Dear John Smith,
(You can use a comma here, by the way.)
It truly enjoyed meeting with you about the Chicken Farming position. I was particularly excited to learn about the new feeding methods you’re experimenting with, as I have been following the research on chicken feeding and I feel these new techniques are the next big thing.
If you have any follow-up questions for me, please don’t hesitate to call me at 555-555-5555 or email me at
Frank Smith
To break that down, the note is:
It was (great, wonderful, a pleasure, etc.) speaking with you about the (name of position) position. Statement about portion of the interview that stood out to you in a positive light.
A line about mentions that the interviewer can contact you, and telling them how to do so.
Regards (Sincerely, Looking forward to hearing from you again),
Your Name
What does this note do for you? It reminds the person who performed the interview who you are. If they’re thinking about you, and they do have some kind of immediate question or comment, your contact information is in their hand, and there’s a (slim) chance they’ll contact you immediately to speak to you.
But mostly, it demonstrates that you’re really interested in the position, and everyone appreciates enthusiasm.
Other Uses for Thank You Notes
As I close off this chapter, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you need to send notes to anyone who helps you along the way when you’re searching for work.
If you go on an informational interview? Send a note.
If a friend sends you a lead, and it turns into an informational interview, or a regular interview, send a note to your friend. They might not require one, but it will encourage them to think of you when they think of other possible opportunities.
And one more thing: Even if you don’t get the job? Send a thank you note. Why? Because it’s a nice thing to do. Because another position might open up in the company, and getting that second note might help the interviewer to remember you, and consider giving you a call.
There is also a possibility that the person who takes the job won’t work out, and you were the second choice. That thank you note might be the thing that gets you a call back.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How to Find a Job: Interviewing

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

Although it may not seem like it some days, sooner or later you’re going to get an interview.
No, really. It’s true.
Before I talk about interview types and interview questions, I can probably give you two pieces of advice, and as long as you follow them you’ll be okay.
1. Be yourself.
I know that’s supposed to be obvious, and cliché, and a number of other things, but I talked to a surprising number of people who wanted to show off their very, very, very best self, even if it wasn’t really them at all.
Look. You are who you are. If you don’t love to work overtime, don’t act like you want to work overtime. Because then you’ll get a job, and they’ll ask you to work overtime, and you won’t want to do it, and then you’ll be looking for a new job again.
Things like this feed into my second bit of advice:
2. Be honest. With yourself, and with the person you’re interviewing with.
Don’t say you love working with people if you’re a lone wolf. Don’t say your biggest flaw is that you work too hard. Don’t say you know how to operate a forklift if you don’t know how to operate a forklift.
I understand that you’re desperate for work. I understand that you have bills to pay. I understand that you’re going crazy sitting around in your house alone all day long with the heat mostly turned off, to keep costs down.
Trust me. I spent two winters finding ways to keep moving around the house in order to keep warm, so I wouldn’t have to touch the thermostat. I get it.
But when it comes down to it, you’re either the right person for the job, or the wrong person for the job. And the person who gets to decide that isn’t you.
And ultimately, wouldn’t you rather know that once you get a job, you’ll get to be the actual person you are? Instead of spending eight or nine or ten hours a day being someone else?
Please. Be yourself. And tell the truth about your abilities. It will be better for everyone in the long run.
Phone Interviews
Not long ago, a friend of mine freaked out a little bit over the fact that he was going to have his first phone interview.
He wanted advice – what are they like? What should he do?
I gave him the same advice I listed above: Tell the truth, and be yourself.
A few other things I’d recommend:
Have your calendar available. A lot of the time, if the phone interview goes well they’ll try to schedule an in-person interview. If you have to scramble for a calendar, you’ll seem a little disorganized. Not a major problem, but better to appear in control.
Have a copy of your cover letter and resume with you. Chances are good you’ll get questions about it, and again, you don’t want to have to scramble.
Have fun, and be personable. This is the one piece of advice no one ever gave me, and I really wish they had. Granted, if you’re a stoic type person, and you don’t much care for chit-chat, then go ahead and be that person. But on every one of my phone interviews, I let my personality be my personality. And my personality trends towards fun. I always told the person on the other end of the line that I was super-excited to talk to them. Because I was. After all, they wanted to talk to me about a job I was interested in.
When they asked me how I was doing, I would ask how they were doing. I once got into a conversation about sci-fi novels I’d been reading with one of the folks who called me for an interview. With another, I found out that her job was to pre-screen people for interviews, and I got to talk to her about what she did for five minutes.
It was fun. I had a good time. And in every case, my 20-minute phone interview turned into a 40-minute phone interview. Interestingly, the one time I didn’t get an actual interview out of a phone interview was when the person on the other end of the line and I didn’t establish any kind of rapport. She asked questions, I answered them, and all my attempts to develop the interview into an actual conversation didn’t go anywhere.
Now, that could have been for any number of reasons. Maybe the person on the other end of the line didn’t like my personality. Maybe I didn’t have the requisite qualifications. Or maybe someone else was more qualified. I don’t know, and really, I’ll never know.
And that’s okay. If I wasn’t right for the job, I wasn’t right for the job.
Moving on. Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable when you take the phone interview. If you want to wear a suit and tie, because you think it will make you feel like a person with a job, then do that. Wear a tuxedo. Take the interview in your robe. Whatever it takes to make you feel ready.
Finally : Smile. Don’t force it, but smile. Remember that this interview is what you were hoping for when you sent a resume. Get pumped about that, and let your enthusiasm flow through the phone lines.
That’s the kind of person people want to work with.
In Person Interviews
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the next step, where you get to sit in a room with an actual human being and talk about how qualified you are.
If you get an interview, find a way to celebrate. Even if you go to the store and buy yourself a cupcake to mark the moment, the point is, celebrate BEFORE the interview. Getting one is an accomplishment. Enjoy that moment.
Now, what do you need to do at an interview?
First: Wear a suit. If you don’t have a suit, borrow one, or buy one. The point is, when you meet your future employer, you want to be wearing a suit.
Second, turn off your phone. You don’t want it to buzz, or worse, ring in the middle of your interview. You’re trying to demonstrate that you’re smart, competent, and prepared, not that you’re easily distracted.
Third, make sure you’re as neat as you can be. I actually read in a couple of places that beards can be a problem for people when you’re interviewing with them. I considered shaving mine off, but in the end I settled for making sure I trimmed it on a very regular basis.
I always brushed my teeth and usually washed my face before an interview. Did that make any kind of impression? I have no idea. But better to err on the side of looking too put together than not put together at all.
Always make sure to bring extra copies of your resume, and if you have a portfolio or a presentation, be sure to have those as well. As I said in an earlier chapter, I put all my important papers into a newly-purchased bag and kept them with me at all times. You should consider doing something similar.
Be early, but not too early. Again, this is advice I wish I had heard more often. When I went in for an interview at one business, I was there about five minutes early. The woman at the front desk told me that several people had gotten there 30-45 minutes before their scheduled appointment.
That seems like it might be a good thing, but really, it looks a little desperate. And if you go in and tell the person at the front desk you’re there for your appointment, it’s possible you’ll interrupt your interviewer, who now has to figure out how to handle the fact that you’re so early. The last thing you want to do is cause problems for your potential boss before you even start the interview process.
Bring a book with you. If you get to the business early, sit in the parking lot for a few minutes and read. Or go over interview questions for practice. Or check to make sure you’re lint free.
But don’t be any more than ten minutes early.
Make sure you’ve done some research on the company before you walk in the doors, and to have a few questions to ask. Knowing something about the company indicates that you’re interested in having THIS job, and not just A job.
Answer all the questions as best you can, and if you need a second to think, say so. If you need a moment, say, “That’s an excellent question. Give me a moment to address it thoroughly.” That’s better than charging blindly ahead with the first thing that pops into your brain.
Give complete answers, as opposed to just saying yes or no.
And bring a paper and pen with you, so you can take notes.
Finally, remember to enjoy yourself. I know I said this about the phone interview, but remember, your qualifications are already laid out on paper. They know what kind of experience you have. What they’re trying to do is figure out if you’re a good fit for the company. So remember to enjoy yourself, and to be yourself. That will help you and the person interviewing you.
Group Interviews
Groups interviews can take one of two forms.
You can either interview with more than one person – meaning there is one of you, and two or more of them.
Or you can interview with other candidates – meaning there are two or more of you, and one or more of them.
Both situations can be awkward, but neither should be difficult to manage.
If you’re interviewing with more than one person at a time, be sure to make eye contact with all the people, focusing mostly on the person who asked the question you’re addressing.
If it helps, take your paper and pen and write down the names of the people you’re talking to, and draw arrows pointing at the people, so you can keep their names straight.
Beyond that, the regular rules apply.
If you’re interviewing with other candidates? There’s really only one rule: Be polite. Your job is not to make everyone else look bad. It’s to make yourself look good. So do it. Be classy.
Interview Questions
The big buzz during my lack-of-job time was “Behavioral Interview Questions.” Stick around a networking group long enough, and you’ll hear someone ask about them.
An example of this kind of interview question: “Tell me about a time you did something wrong. How did you deal with it?”
At my networking groups, we used to sit around and practice these questions. And that’s valuable. It’s a good idea to think about what kind of interview questions you might get.
But allow me to add: I never once got a question like this.
Never once.
Granted, I didn’t get hundreds of interviews. Maybe I just got lucky.
But let’s back up a hair, and talk about how to handle interview questions in general.
The thing is, you can really be asked just about any question in an interview. There are questions that people are not SUPPOSED to ask (religious affiliation and age spring to mind) but that won’t prevent some people from doing so.
If a question makes you uncomfortable, well, you might want to think about why a person is asking it. And if they’re going to ask things you know they shouldn’t during an interview, what are they going to be like to work for?
As for other interview questions? Here’s the long and short of it: Since anyone can ask an infinite number of questions, giving you a list isn’t going to help you.
I can give you 100 questions to practice, and the person giving you the interview might ask all of them. Or none of them.
So like I said, be yourself and always be honest.
If it helps you to practice interviewing, then go ahead and Google “popular interview questions,” or “behavioral interview questions” and you’ll find hundreds, and possibly thousands. Read them. Write down your answers and practice answering them, if it helps.
Better yet, go to a networking group, or talk to your local Department of Workforce Development, and ask if you can set up some mock interview time. Because as often as you might practice questions in your head, it’s better to practice them with an actual person, out loud.
People worry about interviews, and they worry about interviews more when they’ve sent out 100 résumés and only had one interview.
But as I keep saying, there’s no reason to be nervous. You are either the right candidate, or you aren’t, and unless you do something downright offensive, if you really are the right person for the job, you’ll get it.
So be prepared. Study up on the company. Wear the suit. Tell the truth.
And you’ll be fine.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How to Find a Job: Books

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

When I started writing this book, my plan was to revisit all the books I read during the time I was job searching. Over the course of my unemployment, I read more than dozen books on things like marketing, and job hunting, and different aspects of the job search.
But here’s the thing: They were all pretty much the same.
So when people asked me for recommendations, I always fell back on the first one I read: “What Color is Your Parachute?”
The author updates it every year, in order to keep it somewhat current with the state of the job market. But the guts of it are pretty much the same year by year. It walks you through a lot of the things I’ve written about here in explicit detail. Thing like figuring out what you need, and knowing what you want to be when you grow up.
If you’re a reasonably fast reader, you can get through the text in a day. But all the self-evaluation will probably take you a week. Maybe two, if you take your time and do it as methodically as possible.
Are there other job books? Yes. But this was the one that made an impression, and I recommend it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How to Find a Job: Gurus

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

I’m going to put my general upbeat-ness on hold here for one moment, and confess to something:
I’m not a fan of job coaches.
I’m not saying they’re bad people. I don’t think that’s the case. As an unemployed person, I spoke with a handful of them, and I found them (mostly) to be smart, kind, folks who wanted to help unemployed people find jobs.
But the ones I met tended to fall into three categories:
First, there were the coaches who knew some industries really well, but couldn’t help you with anything that was even vaguely off of their particular beat.
I live in a fairly industrialized area. There are a lot of major corporations around, mostly dealing with manufacturing, and our local gurus know those industries. They know who you need to talk to, and can probably get you a meeting with someone in the companies in question.
Unless you’re me, and you come in saying you’re a writer. Then they sort of nod vaguely, and scratch their heads, and say, “Well, you could try this person. Maybe. Possibly.”
The thing of it is, for a long time I thought I had some other kind of problem, and the coaches were unable or unwilling to tell me. Then I asked my friend, the videographer and director how his search was going. He said, “Well, when I talked to this job coach, he implied it was time to look for a ‘real’ job.”
Me? I got, “You know, there’s your vocation, and then there’s your avocation.”
That’s an actual quote. It was not useful. And kind of hurtful besides.
The second group of people I encountered were best described as arrogant.
One went so far as to say that if you did exactly what he said, you would get a job. It was a brilliant scheme, because if you didn’t do exactly what he told you to do and you didn’t get a job, he got to blame your unemployment on you.
Even if you did do exactly what he said, and it didn’t work, he could claim that you did it wrong.
Stranger still, this particular coach developed a weird kind of cult following around him, who did everything short of claim he could walk on water, even while they wandered around unemployed. It made me feel somewhat uncomfortable to talk to his disciples after a while, as some of them would heap burning coals of blame upon their head for not finding a job, while unemployment skyrocketed to 15%.
Finally, there were gurus who spouted stuff straight out of the books I was reading. Had I been paying for the advice, it might have cost me hundreds of dollars.
One coach was incredibly kind, and really wanted to help. I could tell. He’d been in the business for decades. But when I noted that I had just finished reading “What Color is Your Parachute?” he informed me that he didn’t like the book, because he found it overly simplistic.
I observed that it seemed to mirror his system of job-finding almost exactly. I even went on to cite examples. And that was kind of the end of our conversation.
To conclude, I think a job guru, or career coach, or whatever you want to call someone in that position might help you. But I also know that they usually cost money, and quite a bit of it.
So save yourself some money, and try to exhaust all cheap or free options before pursuing a job coach.
Now, if your company is paying for it, by all means, check it out. It might even be useful to you, if you’ve worked at a more “conventional” type of job. But it costs. And it costs at a time when you don’t have that much money coming in.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How to Find a Job: Networking

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

The piece of advice people offered up from the moment I lost my job until the moment I found full-time work was “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.”
Of course, this is one of those cliché statements you get to hear all the time whether you’re looking for work or not. On the other hand, the reason it’s a cliché is because it’s true a significant percentage of the time.
The word “networking,” to me, always felt kind of painful and awkward. It doesn’t sound fun. It sounds like you’re going to be meeting a stranger (or a group of strangers) and you’re going to spend a painful 20 minutes or an hour or two hours sizing each other up.
It doesn’t sound enjoyable.
The thing of it is, networking does not have to be painful, and you can approach it in any number of different ways, depending on your comfort level.
For ease of use, let’s break these down by:
Large Networking Groups
Small Networking Groups
One-on-One/The Informational Interview
Large Networking Groups
I don’t know how common these were before the economy of the United States took a nose dive, but over the last three or four years more and more networking groups have sprouted up. At the Department of Workforce Development. At various churches. At universities and technical schools.
Really, pretty much anywhere a large group of people can be hosted.
And depending on who is running them, large networking meetings can be very useful. I attended a couple that brought in speakers on topics ranging from Unemployment Insurance to Résumé Tips to How to Handle Informational Interviews.
Additionally, when your world is sort of upside-down and you don’t have anywhere to be most days, networking meetings can be a huge boon. Much like a workplace, they give you somewhere to go that has familiar faces and people working towards a common goal. And as you get to know the people better, you’ll find yourself rooting for all your new friends to find work.
And they, in turn, will root for you. In fact, it’s kind of great when someone gets a job, just to see the spontaneous outpouring of emotion through cheers and clapping.
There are other opportunities in such meetings. People can practice interview questions. They can speed-network, which gives them a chance a practice their elevator speeches (more on that in a moment) and telling people what they do.
From what I can see, there are only two major drawbacks to networking groups.
First, there are rarely, if ever, people who can hire you there. You’re usually in there with ten or twenty or forty people who are in the exact same boat you are: Unemployed. And while the people there with you will hopefully remember you week by week, and maybe even find places you can apply, or people you can apply to, I saw few, if any, of these opportunities pan out for people.
I networked with two amazing groups of people. They were kind, generous, and seeing them every week was a great boon to me. But only a handful of them ever suggested job leads to me, and most of them were unfortunately not really in my scope of abilities.
The two or three jobs that would have been a good fit for me, I found on the same web sites they were hunting for work on.
By the same token, even after meeting with a lot of these people for months, my understanding of their abilities was also thin on the ground, and I’m about 99% sure that the job leads I passed on to my cohorts were things their either weren’t qualified for, or had already applied for.
The second problem I would occasionally see were people who were so focused on networking meetings that it was like they forgot they were supposed to be looking for work.
I almost fell into that trap once myself. I got a phone call about an interview, but it was going to fall directly in the path of my weekly networking meeting. I was just about to say that I would rather interview on a different day, when I realized that I was going to the networking meetings in hope of landing an interview, NOT the other way around.
I quickly cleared my throat and accepted the interview.
One woman took the networking thing to such a strange extreme that I started to suspect, and still suspect, that she had a major financial crisis that needed to be resolved. She told the entire group that she went to three networking meetings every week, was thinking about a fourth, and that she made it a goal to set up five informational interviews a week.
We were all blown away by this, until her story started to unravel. She was asked if she was meeting with people at different companies in the area. No, she was meeting with people who were already in her networking meetings, on a one-to-one basis.
To learn about an industry she was wanted to get into? No, she would meet with just about anybody, regardless of their industry. Of course, she was meeting with unemployed people, so, it wasn’t like they could hire her. Or, for the most part, recommend her for jobs within their company.
This was the same woman who eventually got a job, packed up her family, and moved them to another city two hours away. To take a job at a company that had, by her own admission, downsized 50% of its staff. Her job? To teach them how to do more with less.
I was not surprised when she was looking for work about a year later.
The point is, don’t let networking become your “job.” The pay is terrible, and the benefits are worse.
Small Networking Groups
I consider smaller networking groups to be an offshoot of larger networking groups, and I’ve only heard of them being used for one thing:
The fact of the matter is, it’s easy to get into a routine of not doing much, when you have no job. You get up a little later. Maybe look around on the internet for jobs, then get distracted and start watching YouTube instead.
Then it’s noon, so you make a sandwich and watch some TV. Then more TV. Then just one more episode. Then most of the day is shot, so you check the internet for job postings one last time and figure you’ll do some hardcore job searching the next day.
And so on.
While I rarely heard great things coming out of large networking groups, I did see a lot of good coming from small groups. Two different sets of four people broke out from a large networking group I was in and started meeting once a week.
Each week they set goals. How many phone calls to make? How many résumés to send? How many informational interviews to set up?
And if they didn’t do something, they had to admit it to someone.
Lo and behold, in the first group, all four of them found jobs within three months.
In the second group, I only learned the fate of one of the members – he had a job within four months.
Granted, it might have been a coincidence, or the economy might have been moving for the first time in about 18 months (One of the groups of four started with a different fourth member, who got a job about two weeks into their new group-hood). But saying you’re going to do something, and actually having to stick to it can be two different things.
So consider a small group.
The Informational Interview
While I adore the book “What Color is Your Parachute?” it did have one idea in it that always struck me as sort of bizarre, and a bit like magical thinking.
I’m going to paraphrase heavily what I read in the book, and I encourage you to read the book yourself and make up your own mind, but here’s how it came across to me.
Let’s say you want to get into chicken farming, but you don’t know anyone in the industry. You completely canvas the all your local chicken farms, and determine they don’t have any available positions.
So you use your contacts, and try to talk to one of the higher-ups about having an “Informational Interview.”
What’s that? Well, it’s a chance to have a 20-minute conversation about “the industry.”
And what is supposed to happen is this:
You’ve already done a bunch of research on chicken farming, so you come in (but only for 20 minutes, never for more or less time) and you ask pointed, serious questions.
The most important one is, “What are the challenges of your industry, and what do you think would fix them?”
This is key, because as the person in a hiring position starts talking about what’s wrong, and what it would take to fix it, you start providing answers.
And because you seem to have answers, the person across the desk hires you to fix said problems.
That’s right. You get a job that wasn’t there before because you have magically created a position that’s going to solve all the problems of this particular company. Even though you’ve only been in the building for about 20 minutes.
In all my time as a job seeker, I never once met anyone this tactic worked for.
I did have one friend who went to the president of the company where he already worked, and told the president that the company needed someone to do X, Y, and Z. The president, in turn, said, “Would you like to do this?” And then my friend had a new position.
But that’s the only time I’ve heard of something like that happening personally.
This is not to say that an informational meeting can’t be useful in and of itself. I knew a lot of people who were trying to figure out what they wanted to do next, and started meeting with people in an effort to learn about different industries in the area.
In some cases, I heard stories of résumés changing hands, and being walked to various offices, or brought to the top of a particular pile.
But beyond that? Nothing.
I suspect that an informational interview is works best if you recognize, up front, that information is all you’re going to get out of it.
To use a metaphor: In a lot of ways, an in interview is like a blind date. You know something about each other going in, you suspect you have similar interests, and you go in hoping that everything will be awesome and you’ll come out of the date with some kind of relationship.
You should not treat an informational interview the same way you treat an interview/date. Yes, there is a remote possibility you’ll come out the meeting with more than information, but going in with that hope will more than likely make the meeting awkward.
So don’t think of it as an informational interview. Think of it as an informational meeting.
Go in expecting to learn about an industry. Go in well-prepared. Ask questions you really want answers to. Take notes. Then, after 20 minutes it up, say thanks and leave. Then send a nice thank you note.
Could more come of it? Yes. But don’t get your hopes up. Be nice, be confident, and be well-informed.
But don’t expect a call.
The Elevator Speech
Another thing I heard constantly being emphasized during my networking gatherings was The Elevator Speech.
Here’s how it is supposed to work:
You get into an elevator with someone, and you have 30 seconds to tell them who you are, what you do, and what kind of job you’d like to have. This, in turn, allows the other person in the elevator to say, “Hey, I know a company that needs you!”
In reality, I rarely, if ever, used my elevator speech outside of networking meetings. This had to do with the general awkwardness of the speech itself. There’s no good way to launch into an explanation of what you do unless you warn the person you’re talking to that you’re ABOUT to tear into your elevator speech.
All that said, people liked my speech a great deal, so here it is. I’ll follow it with a breakdown of how to make your own, and the rules that go with making one.
“Hi, my name is Joshua Patterson, and I am a writer who enjoys using words to educate and entertain. In the course of my career, I’ve been a technical writer and a communications specialist, and I’ve done everything from journalism, to PR, to newsletter creation, to writing industrial videos, and I have worked as a professional blogger and social media expert. I also have written three independent films which have been in 29 film festival all over the world and won 13 awards. I’m looking for a position that will allow me to use both my writing and my creative abilities.”
Talking at a reasonable pace, if you read that out loud it comes out to roughly 28 seconds.
Talk fast and you can get it to just above twenty. Talk slowly to a large crowd, and it’s maybe 31 or 32.
All that said, I knew people who spent days (so they said) trying to get their elevator speech down to 30 seconds, and many of them struggled to get it under a minute.
I worked on mine for maybe an hour, and I never wrote the whole thing down until I typed it just now. Generally, if knew I was about to give the speech, I’d jot down a couple of “what I’ve done” notes that were dependant on who I was talking to.
When people asked me how I did it, here’s what I told them.
To begin, get your name and your job title into that first sentence. That’s what people will cling to. It helps if you sound enthusiastic.
In my case, I said: “Hi, my name is Joshua Patterson, and I am a writer who enjoys using words to educate and entertain.”
So if you used to sell cars, you could say: “Hi, my name is John Smith, and I enjoy helping people find the vehicle that suits them to a T.”
Or: “I enjoy helping people find the perfect vehicle at the right price.”
Or: “I love handing people the keys to their new car.”
If you’re up for a CEO position, you could say something like, “I love taking all the great things about a company and making them even better.”
Or, “I enjoy solving problems.”
The point is, your opening line may be all someone clings to, so make sure your name and what you do (or used to do, or want to do) are in it..
After that, list a few accomplishments, and a tiny sliver of what you’ve done. The thing that bogged almost everyone I met down was their inability to let the majority of their accomplishments and abilities go by the wayside in the interest of brevity. Some of them would talk for three or four minutes straight, detailing every accomplishment, major and minor, and the subtle nuances of their last three or four positions.
There’s no time. You have 30 seconds, so make it count.
To go back to the sales idea, “I spent the last four years selling XYZ cars, and the six years before that selling ZYX cars. I was the seller of the month on two different occasions, and almost half of my customers loved working with me so much they would request me as their salesman when it was time to trade their car in for a new model.”
The point is, you need to tell people what you do (quickly) and demonstrate that you’re good at it (quickly). If you’ve got 20 years of selling behind you, and you’ve been in a few different businesses, it could look like this. “I’ve been in the sales game for 20 years now, and I love learning about new products and how they can help my customers. I’ve sold chickens, chicken feed, cars, trucks, canned goods, dogs, and airplanes, and the thing I’ve learned about customers is all of them love a good product at a good price.”
Ultimately, what you say has to be positive, but also the truth. Too much hyperbole will sound fake (I love selling more than I love eating!) and will probably turn off your listener.
Finally, close with what kind of position you want. “In my next job, I hope to get up every morning with a great product to sell, so I can spend my days telling customers what a great company I work for.”
That’s probably too much. “I’m looking for a new sales challenge,” is good.
The point is, you want to get your speech down to 30 seconds, you want a good opener with your name and job title, and you want a good closer that tells people what you’re looking for.
At one of my networking meetings, the woman running things had a single line that might help as well: “I like to help who do what by how?”
In my case, it would be, “I like to help companies educate and entertain their customers using the power of words.”
Again, “the power of” is probably over the top. But if you’re trying to pump up the enthusiasm factor, it could work.
There’s one more component to the elevator speech that I don’t think I ever heard emphasized enough, and that is: Conviction.
So many people I saw giving their speech said it like they weren’t sure what kind of job they had, or wanted. Their sentences went “up” at the end, like they were asking questions.
Many of them read directly off a sheet of paper, and often they sounded like they were reading it for the first time.
That won’t work.
Ultimately, your elevator speech must be something you can rattle off at any moment. And it shouldn’t be hard. When you had a job, you told people what you did all the time. Now you just need to do the same thing, but add, “At my last position” in front of it, and “In the future, I’d love to do more of the same (or something different!).
That’s all there is to it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

How to Find a Job: The Care and Feeding of Business Cards

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

I’m not sure that business cards warrant their own chapter, but when I was networking, there were many, many, many conversations about them.
Much like résumés, everyone has their own take, and this is mine: I have never seen a business card help anyone to land a job.
When I lost my job, I was told that I needed a business card. So I went to an office supply store, and bought some of those print-and-separate cards, and then I was immediately stuck: Because what was I going to put on them?
My name? Yes. Address, phone number, email address? Yes.
Job title?
I didn’t have one, because I didn’t have a job. And if I put something too specific (Technical Writer, Communications Specialist) it would pigeonhole me, and I didn’t want that. Writing is a very broad skill that can be applied in many ways, and I can literally rattle off six or seven things I’ve done without giving it a second thoughts.
(Prove it? Sure! Journalism, PR, technical writing, professional blogger and social media writing, newsletters, award-winning independent films, novels. I didn’t even have to glance at my bio or résumé to list those off. But more on that later.)
In the end, I put on all my contact information, and the card read: Writer.
Over the course of two years, I gave away more than a hundred of those cars, to people I was networking with, to people interviewing me, to friends who requested a few to have on hand in case someone was looking for somebody with my kind of skills.
I cannot confirm that any of those cards were ever used to contact me.
I, in turn, accepted nearly a hundred business cards into my keeping. And I think I referenced exactly two of them, when trying to connect with networking friends on LinkedIn. After that, I never gave the cards a second thought.
Even as I write this book, those cards are sitting around, collecting dust.
However, I’m sure you remember the message of the essay that kicked off this book: Try Everything.
And it’s for that reason and that reason alone that I think you should have a business card.
The fact of the matter is, there is always a chance that someone will get their hands on your card, and hand it to the right guy at the right moment, and you’ll get a phone call.
And one phone call, even in this economy, can be all it takes to go from not working to working.
So let’s talk about business cards.
Should you print them yourself? Or get them made professionally?
During my years of my networking, I saw a myriad of business card types. One woman didn’t have any cards on hand when she was headed to her first networking meetings, so she printed them on paper and cut them up.
I wouldn’t recommend that.
One wanted a little more color on her cards, so after she printed them up in black and white she colored in the logo with a highlighter.
That’s also something I wouldn’t do.
Beyond that, I’d say that it’s up to you.
If you Google for a few minutes you can find a half-dozen places that will print and ship you professional business cards. The catch is, it’s like ordering checks: The fancier your cards get, the more expensive they are. On the flip side, the more you order, the cheaper they are.
I’ve even seen some places that offer you the first 50 cards or so for free, minus the cost of shipping.
That’s not a bad deal, though the templates are usually very limited (meaning your card won’t stand out from others printed for free) and it usually means you’re signing up for a mailing list. One company offered free cards, but then immediately set you up to auto-order more cards in the future, unless you turned that function off.
Watch out for scams like that.
As for making them yourself, I will say that people are going to be able to tell. Even though the cheapest printer you can find today prints at a very good quality, and the cards are made to separate, and do it well, people will know you made them at home.
If you think people you give them to are going to care, well, don’t make your own. My assumption was always that people knew I was looking for work and that I couldn’t necessarily afford to spend a lot of money on something as frivolous as a business card. And I’m not sure I’d want to work for someone who didn’t think someone was worth hiring if they didn’t have a “real” card.
But that’s just me.
(One caveat: If you decide to become a consultant? Print “real” business cards. Because then you’re not a job-seeker, you’re a small business owner.)
Other thoughts: I did see a few people take their old business cards from their last job, cross off their old phone number and email address, and write their current one in. To give to a friend? Sure. To give to someone who you’re hoping will hire you? No.
What do you put down as your job title? Good question. For some people (sales, HR) I would think it would be simple enough to list yourself as Blank Professional (Sales Professional, HR Professional). For a CEO? I have no idea. Then again, if you’re at a CEO level, chances are you won’t need a card, as standing out from a pack of 5 applicants is easier than standing out from a pack of 100 applicants.
Should you put other things on your business card? You can. I wouldn’t recommend your Facebook or Twitter accounts unless you use them strictly for business purposes. I would recommend that you include the link to your LinkedIn account, as it effectively turns your business card into a link to your résumé.
And if you do decide to make a business card, do yourself a favor and keep five or ten of them with you at all times. Keep them in your wallet, purse, or bag. Because they won’t be of any use to you in a pile in your house.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to Find a Job: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

Hooray for good old social media, which has so taken over the world. If you’re under 40.
The fact is, if you reject the idea of social media wholeheartedly, you will probably still be able to find a job. In fact, it’s possible to dive so far into social media that you can end up wasting time tweaking your social media sites and checking for new job postings every ten minutes on Twitter.
But as I said in my opening essay, the best way to get a job is to try everything. And while you might not be a big fan of social media, it can be a very quick way to let a lot of people know you’re looking for work.
When I was job-hunting, I teamed with a friend to offer a presentation on social media basics. I provided a handout, which I’ll include at the end of this chapter. It contained, among other things, links on setting up social media sites, including blogs.
When I started writing this chapter, I gave it a title starting with the most useful job-getting social media option, and concluding with the least useful option.
I put blogs last. Why?
Well, I don’t know how much a blog will really help your job search. It can be fun to write about your progress on one, if you enjoy the writing process. And it can also be a place you can go to write short postings/articles about your area of expertise. The friend I co-taught the social media class with was a hardcore Linux user, whose blog posts had been repurposed as articles on well-respected Linux web sites.
You can even link your blog on LinkedIn, allowing people who find your profile there to read your thoughts on matters that affect your particular industry.
But if you don’t enjoy writing, or aren’t a particularly good writer, creating an unused blog isn’t going to do anything but suck up your time.
As near as I can tell, Facebook is useful for only one thing when it comes to your job search: Letting everyone you’re friends with know that you need a job.
The day I found out I was getting close to being unemployed, I hit my Facebook page the moment I got home and announced I was looking for work.
Here’s what that led to: An outpouring of goodwill that lasted for over two years.
Though most of my friends didn’t know where I might find another position, many were encouraging and kind. Several of them promised to keep an eye out for jobs, and started sending me job postings they thought might work for me.
And when many of my friends starting losing jobs, I would contact them with job postings, suggested web sites, and other information I thought they could use.
And I do know a few friends who used Facebook to tell people they lost jobs, and shortly thereafter were given contact information for other jobs in their industry.
In the end, it can’t hurt to let people know you’re looking for work. But if you’re not a Facebook user, you don’t need to create a profile just to tell people you’re out of work.
Amongst the people I networked with, Twitter was far and away the toy almost no one knew how to play with.
Oddly, an essay about a recent video game gave me the words I could best use to describe Twitter.
Saying that you don’t know how to use Twitter is a bit like saying you have a big pile of Legos, but you don’t know what to do with it.
Legos can be used for quite literally any number of things. You can craft an infinite number of toys. You can make art. You can build furniture, if you’ve got a lot of free time and a whole bunch of little plastic blocks.
That’s Twitter.
Twitter is a place you can hang around and chat with your friends. Twitter is a place you can use to advertise your business by posting links to your products. Twitter is a place where you can write a novel and release it a line at a time. (Yes, really, people have done this.)
Or it’s a place where you can set up an account, follow a bunch of industries you’re interested in, and just check in periodically.
I remember very vividly the day I was sitting in a networking meeting and an older gentleman started rattling off the Twitter accounts he was following. All of them were accounts that linked to job postings all over the country. He had found dozens of accounts to follow, and was applying for jobs left, right, and center.
He had found his niche.
As for myself, when I applied for jobs, a lot of the time I could find a Twitter account associated with the business I was applying for. I’d follow it, and roll back through their recent Tweets, and if there was something worth thinking about, I’d jot it down so I could bring it up in my interview, if I ever got one.
So get on Twitter and play. Give it 30 minutes a day. Find your niche. And if you find it’s not for you, go ahead and shut down your account.
This the one social media site that I will insist you get on, because I know that it works.
If you’re not familiar with LinkedIn, it’s best described as a place you can store your résumé and your rolodex.
In fact, you should have your résumé available when you go to sign up for LinkedIn, as it will ask you for it. This will help you to fill in your profile with very little work.
Once you’ve got your profile up and visible, start connecting with friends on LinkedIn. For that matter, if you meet someone while networking, and they’re willing to link up, do so.
Because LinkedIn can give you access to information you might not have had before – and it makes it easier for people to find you.
When I was on the job hunt, I updated my LinkedIn profile and made it a point to connect with an many people as possible on LinkedIn. Friends. Acquaintances. People I met at networking meetings. Everyone was fair game.
And that helped get me work.
One day, a friend of a friend went looking for a writer. And when someone goes hunting for something on LinkedIn, the first people they find are friends. And then friends of friends. And then friends of friends of friends.
If I hadn’t connected to my friend on LinkedIn, I wouldn’t have showed up in her friend’s top listings of people who did what I do. I might have been there, but I would have been floating around a lot farther down the list.
Interestingly, this business later chose to contact me, not through LinkedIn, but through Facebook. And suddenly I had work.
Surprisingly, this happened to me twice. Someone was looking for the skills I had, and LinkedIn popped me to the top because I was a friend of a friend.
So if you do nothing else in social media, get your LinkedIn profile online. If someone is going to be searching job sites for people with a certain skill set, that’s the one they will search.
And you want them to find you.

Social Media – Where it is and How to Use It
1. LinkedIn –
LinkedIn: The Unnoficial Guide:
2. Facebook –
Newbies Guide to Facebook:
3. Twitter –
Job Sites:
Newbie’s guide to Twitter:
4. Blogging – (There are others, but this one is free and easy to use).
Starting to Blog – A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging with Blogger:
Idiot’s Guide to Blogging:
5. Industry specific social media- as an example.
Other options-
Yahoo and Google groups
6. Other Links:
Finding a Job Using Social Media – Created by Red Shoes PR:
7 Secrets to Getting Your Next Job Using Social Media:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to Find a Job: Web Sites

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

Perhaps fifteen years ago, everyone knew where to go to look for a job: The Newspaper.
It was a simple process. You needed a job, so you went to the local newspaper stand, or bookstore, and you bought a paper, and you looked at the want ads.
If you were being extra-frugal, you would wait until Sunday, when the classified section was full-to-bursting with people looking for people.
Obviously, things have changed. Everyone knows that today you have to look up job listings on the Internet.
The problem is, most people don’t know where to start.
So here you go:
Start and end at
Why there? Well, long story short, it’s a web site that goes to all the other web sites and looks for job posts with criteria that you select. So instead of going to fifteen web sites and punching in the information you want, you can go to one.
There are other advantages to this site as well. To start with, you can upload your résumé there.
I will say, however, that I feel uploading a résumé at almost any job site is next to worthless. In today’s economy, a simple post on a web site will get a 200 or 400 résumé response. People who have 400 résumés to sort through will not be hunting web sites looking for additional résumés. They’ll go straight to LinkedIn if they go anywhere at all. More on that later.
Other things you can do at Indeed include performing searches using key words. So go there and put in Chicken Farmer, or just Farmer, and see what you come up with.
You can restrict your hunt by zip code, which is nice, and you can also restrict the distance you’re willing to go for work. So if you’re okay with driving 50 miles, punch that in. But if you need to be near your day care, save yourself some time and narrow your field.
And here’s one tip I always gave to friends looking for work that I have never seen anywhere else: Try putting in your zip code without any other search terms and seeing what comes up.
At first, this can be somewhat awkward, as you’ll see a ton of jobs you aren’t qualified for or have no interest in.
But what I discovered from doing this over time was that there are a lot of jobs that might use my skills, but which didn’t come up on regular searches.
For example, a couple of local businesses were looking for people to give tours of their facilities. They wanted workers with an educational background, because the majority of the tours were meant for local schools and day cares.
I thought that sounded like a great way to spend my working day, so I applied. Didn’t get the job, but I applied.
I found one job with an odd title that was partly writing, partly helping university students, and partly basic office work. It never came up in any of my more pointed searches, it wasn’t a job I would have thought to look for, but it sounded like it could be fun and it came with some amazing benefits.
Of course, I didn’t get that job either.
The point is, searching only by zip code will increase the time you spend job hunting each day, but it’s time very well spent.
A few other thoughts on job hunting online:
If a job sounds too good to be true, it probably is. One particular job site ( kept offering up postings of low-end work (filing, for example) at 15 or 20 dollars an hour. If you find yourself at an unfamiliar job site, go to Google and put the name of the job site and the word scam into your search. More than likely, the site will come up on a listing somewhere.
For ease of use, when I performed my job search I didn’t just click on each posting and start reading it then and there. I right-clicked (I use a PC) on each job posting I thought would interest me and opened them in a new tab. Once I was done perusing the job headlines, I’d go from tab to tab and look at the jobs more closely.
Eventually, I learned that even job postings have a tier of sorts. If I was reading a posting and wasn’t sure if I was interested or not, I’d save it to my Favorites (I had folders in my web browser for “Applied” and “Job Possibilities”) and I’d come back to it later.
Once a week, I’d go through the Maybe pile and take another look. Sometimes, I realized that the job really wasn’t for me. Other times, I’d wonder why I hadn’t immediately applied.
But either way, it was worth having a pile of things to consider.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you to follow all the rules of paper-and-ink when it comes to applying for jobs online.
Because the Internet can be such a casual place, it’s easy to forget to put your most businesslike foot forward.
For example, some job sites will ask you if you WANT to include a cover letter. Unless the person posting the job tells you that they don’t want one, you need to create a cover letter and send it along. At worst, they won’t look at it. At best, they’ll be impressed you did so, when so many others didn’t. There is almost literally no way sending that letter can hurt you.
Along those same lines, read through the job posting very carefully and make sure you give them everything they’re asking for. If the posting says No Attachments, then copy and paste your résumé into your email. If they ask for references, send them.
And be sure to note if there is any special information on the job posting that might be useful, and either write it down or put it into some kind of computerized database. Useful information includes the address of the workplace, phone numbers, the name of the person you contacted, and whether or not you’re allowed to contact the job poster via phone.

What I’m Watching: Ah, Hiatus

I haven’t done one of these in months, and I’ve never done this kind of update on this particular blog. I used to do it all the time on a blog I wrote for the local newspaper, but… I haven’t really done it here.
What is “it?” It is listing all the shows I’m watching, and my thumbnail thoughts on them. Why do it? Because it’s my blog, and I can.
The Sing-Off
My wife got into American Idol last season when an acquaintance of hers auditioned. Dude didn’t even make it on the screen, but by then, my wife was into it and we kept going.
Same deal with The Sing-Off, wherein a group from our home state got the nod, and she got to speak to them for the local paper. She wanted to see how they did. Answer: They were out in episode 1.
But we persevered.
It’s hard to call the show good or bad, but I would say it’s overlong, with lots of bumpers and reviews of where the groups are at emotionally each week. That gets old, as after about two weeks, they all talk about how they’ve “come this far” and they “can’t go home.”
Of course, one of them goes home. Because that’s the show.
Over the weeks, I’ve grown into a fan of Pentatonix and Afro Blue, and for the most part I enjoy the weekly performances. But I have to say, I wish the show was an hour of dynamite performances, and that they would slice out the padding. It’d be a lot more fun.
Glee/The Glee Project
Last summer, my wife got a little obsessed with The Glee Project, which was basically American Idol, only you couldn’t vote, and all the contestants got to make music videos. It wasn’t a great show, but most of the people on it seemed nice and… I don’t even know, really. It was nice people trying to get on a TV show they all liked a lot. It was kind of huggable, as TV goes.
In the end, there could only be one winner... except they decided there should be two, because all the characters on Glee are about to graduate, which means they need to fill the bench with players. Plus, two non-winners also won the chance to be in a couple of episodes. That was unexpected, but had to drive all the people who didn’t even get ONE episode a little bonkers.
I’ve written elsewhere that Glee is essentially a sitcom (because after you yank out the songs, they have about a sitcom’s worth of time to tell an actual STORY) and that the show only works if you assume every one of the characters is an idiot whose personality changes from week to week.
At its best, the show can break your heart. At its worst, you’ll debate whether watching another episode, ever, is worth your time.
The thing that might have fixed the show came this year when they hired an actual writing staff, some of which I liked when they were working on other shows. In some ways, it helped, as the show suddenly seems compelled to address a bunch of forgotten storylines.
In other ways, not so much, as the characters frequently feel even more randomly motivated than they ever did before.
Could the show be fixed? I think so. It needs to drop Sue, because her character wore out her usefulness about two seasons back. They need to cut the number of storylines each week down by at least one, because they don’t have time for what they’re trying to accomplish.
And they need to take a much longer view of their character motivation, and actually let things build from week to week, instead of randomly remembering things long forgotten.
Modern Family
The first time I really fell in love with Modern Family, I was in the middle of episode five, and something happened that made me laugh so hard I stopped watching the show and started over from the first episode with my wife.
Over the last three years, the show has racked up a ton of Emmy awards and has continued to be funny, though not quite AS funny as that glorious first year. And I get that. The show isn’t as fresh now, the character relationships are more obviously defined, and the great trick of the show – getting all the stories to relate to one another – is just too hard to accomplish every week.
Still. Funny! And well worth watching week by week.
South Park
As I type this, South Park just got renewed through its 20th season, which means it will be on the air when I hit my forties. I am old.
As for the show, well, week by week it’s based on whatever is happening RIGHT NOW in the world, and that keeps it fresh, and mostly pretty funny. And that’s really all I have to say about that.
The Vampire Diaries
Second best show on TV. Fast-moving (in 2.5 seasons, they’ve covered the ground most shows cover in 5 or 6), funny, surprisingly touching, and did I mention fast-moving?
So much fun. Good vampires. Bad vampires. Werewolves. Horrible deaths of people who you don’t expect to die.
So. Much. Fun.
Watch it today! Until the CW folds, taking all its shows with it.
The Big Bang Theory
Ah… yet another painfully flawed show. A bunch of really quite good actors hamstrung by the fact that their dialogue is built out of series of punchlines.
But some of those punchlines, man… brilliant.
It’s funny, really. This was, for a while, my favorite show, but as I write this I’m realizing it’s sort of my favorite show because nothing else has vaulted over it.
And yet, I’m not in love with this season.
It’s tough to pinpoint why, but I suppose it’s because they’ve done just about every possible plotline now, and have gone from long-form storytelling to more of a monster of the week show. There are long-form plotlines, and when they come back into play, the show is just as outstanding as it ever was.
But, well, I always thought the weekly monster stories were the weakest part of the show, so I’m not hopping up and down to see them back.
I dunno. The show has hit its peak, I suppose. And we’ve had to sacrifice the great episodes in order to rid ourselves of the ‘sodes we’d rather forget. Here’s hoping for a strong season closer.
The Walking Dead
You know what this show needs? Plot coupons.
Plot coupons are those things where everyone has a goal, and has to get to it. They need to get to CITY X by DAY Y or bad things will happen.
And of course nothing bad will happen, because the show isn’t gutsy enough to try to pull that off. But at least, episode to episode, they’ll have a goal and accomplish it.
Instead, what happens now is, people walk around. And maybe they have a little goal, but a lot of the time, the cast wanders around not working on the little goal. And they don’t really have a plotline of their own, or they have a vague one that isn’t going anywhere.
On the bright side, even though the show takes a long time to get anywhere, every episode flies by. That’s a neat trick, and I’m not sure how they do it.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
Parks and Recreation
My wife really, really wanted to see this show, for reasons I still don’t quite understand. She wasn’t a fan of anyone on the show. She hadn’t heard much in the way of reviews.
And yet… she wanted to see it.
So we got the first season on DVD, and it was okay. And then, in season 2, it got good. Then really good. Then really, really good.
We were about halfway through catching up on season 3 when the new season started, and we suddenly had way, way, way too much to watch anyway. So we stopped trying to catch up. But the hiatus is here, so soon we shall delve into the show. I’m excited.
What makes it great? Character work, in the writing and in the acting. Every week, they grab a new situation, and fling these fascinating people at them, and they bounce off each other in hilarious ways. It’s brilliant. Watch it.
Though I do feel there’s one more thing I should mention, character-wise. I think the only show that has such a deep bench for characters is The Simpsons. Week in and week out, Parks and Rec brings back people you’ve seen before. Not as guest star cameos… more like characters who would show up every week if the show could afford to pay them.
I love that kind of thing. It makes me happy.
Degrassi: Season 10, part 1
I get mixed reactions to my unending love of Degrassi, and when I do, I feel compelled to bring up the fact that they’re up for an Emmy again this year.
Back in the 80s, the show was brilliantly issue-driven, with the various problems of teen-hood resolved or not resolved, but always with a long-lasting impact.
Today… they’ve run out of issues. They’ve recycled some, to different effect, often taking a different results path. And it mostly works.
But most of the time, it’s a teen soap opera. But it’s a well-acted, well-scripted one, that allows the kids to make mistakes that impact their fake lives, and that’s not nothing. Also, they still find issues to tackle, and many of those are brilliantly handled. (See: Up for an Emmy.)
I miss the old Degrassi, to be sure. But as long as the storylines continue to be fun to follow, I’ll stay with the show.
And that’s what I’m watching.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Find a Job: Some Thoughts on Cover Letters

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

One of the things that surprised me when I went to networking meetings was how controversial cover letters were.
A few people I encountered didn’t see the point in including them at all, since most of the jobs they applied for online didn’t specifically say that they wanted one, and a few didn’t include a place for you to upload one.
But guess what? You need a cover letter. Period. This may change in ten years, but for now, keep writing them and keep including them with your résumé.
On the opposite end of the spectrum were the tweakers – the guys who would spend hours perfecting each cover letter in a myriad of ways in hopes that the HR person who glanced at it would see all the key words they had included in the job ad, and immediately run to the hiring manager screaming, “This is the guy!”
As far as I know, that never happened to anyone either.
I had my own problems with cover letters.
When I was hunting for a job, I found the cover letter to be the most frustrating aspect of the search. After all, my résumé was generally set in stone. But each cover letter often required special alterations. The name of the job. The person I was sending it to.
Here’s what I do know:
About half the time, no one reads your cover letter. I once spent an hour perfecting a letter, only to discover that the computer system I was uploading it to didn’t have a spot for me to append a cover letter.
To get around this, some people put their cover letter in the body of their résumé, which would probably work very well. However, I’d recommend that you first save your résumé as a new file name so you don’t end up sending other jobs your résumé and an inappropriate cover letter.
In other words, if you’re going to add your cover letter to your résumé save the file as something like Your Full Name Résumé and Cover Letter Company Name.doc.
Another thing that surprised me was just how afraid so many people were of writing cover letters because they felt that they “weren’t writers.”
Now, granted, I am a writer, and I was a little lost as well. But I had a fancy-pants company helping me write my letter, so I had less to worry about.
In the end, however, I used a format I pulled up off the Internet. And it got me interviews, and both my job search company and the Department of Workforce Development gave me a thumbs-up on it.
So if you’re struggling with it, here’s the letter format than worked for me.
1. First, let’s talk salutation.
Your letter should always begin with the name of the person who posted the advertisement. It needs to read
Dear John Smith:
And because it’s business letter format, there should be a colon after Smith, and not a comma. Why? I don’t know. I learned the rule when I was in high school, and it appears whoever is in charge of these things says business = colon.
If the job posting doesn’t tell you who to contact, it might be worth your time to call the company and get the name of the person who will be vetting the job. At the very least, write:
Dear Hiring Manager:
But try to avoid that if at all possible.
2. Next, your first paragraph.
What you need here is to tell them what job you’re applying for.
I am writing to you in reference to the Chicken Farmer position.
I am sending you my résumé in reference to your search for a Chicken Farmer.
That’s it. That’s your opening paragraph.
3. Tell them a bunch of reasons you’d be great for the job.
I think this paragraph was the portion of the résumé that caused people to pull their hair out. Because most books, articles, and pros on the job search tell you that this is where you brag about your qualifications.
But, of course, you don’t want to brag too much.
And also, you want to make sure you’re using the same terminology that the job posting uses, because if they called it a Chicken Farmer, and you were a Chicken Worker, and they had the same job responsibilities but different titles, well, then they’ll probably throw away your résumé without even looking at it, even though you’re perfect for the job, right? Right?
Frankly, fear does funny things to people.
Remember, this paragraph isn’t going to be what gets you the job. All it has to do is get people to read your résumé. A single paragraph can’t take the place of a one or two page document. So don’t try.
What you want to do is hit a few highlights. So if you were a Chicken Farmer in the past, your paragraph should look something like this:
I have two years of experience as a Chicken Farmer. My duties included sorting chicks, interacting with customers both chicken and human, feed purchasing, and general chicken maintenance. In 2010 received the Poultry in Motion award on two separate occasions, for being chicken farmer of the month.
Now, if you haven’t ever been a Chicken Farmer, things get a little more tricky. What you need to do is convince the person reading your letter that you have work skills that are similar, or ones that would translate to the new job.
Let’s pretend you were an auto mechanic. You might try:
While I am new to the field of Chicken Farming, I feel my years as an auto mechanic will serve me well in the posted position. As a mechanic, I interacted a great deal with customers, and was frequently praised for providing explanations they could easily understand. I also have a strong memory for diagnostics – once I knew how to spot a problem with a model of car, I was able to recall it much more easily the second time. And I feel that chicken feed selection and purchasing will be very similar to the selection and purchasing of auto parts.
Now, I can’t say the above paragraph is perfect, but it does demonstrate that you’re a hard worker and that you have valuable skills that might be just what the chicken farm is looking for.
Finally, your letter needs a quick closer:
As requested, my résumé and three references are attached to this email. If you wish to contact me at this position, please call me at 555-555-5555 or email me at I look forward to hearing from you.
John Smith
1234 Fake Address Way
City, State Zip Code
Are there other tweaks you can make? There are probably hundreds.
Amongst the many people I’ve spoken with, I’ve seen letters that carefully bullet-pointed the things the job posting asked for, and make a list of ways they matched that list. So, for example, they’d write
You Want:
Four years of chicken farming experience. Excellent customer service skills.
I Have:
Six years chicken farming experience.
Two Poultry in Motion awards for customer service.
Did this work? Well, some of those people got jobs. So it must have worked on someone.
Beyond that, here are a few thoughts that might help.
First, always make sure you remember to tweak your cover letter for each individual job. You’ll get a lot of postings that look exactly alike on the surface, but they will almost certainly have one or two different requirements listed. Try to address those requirements as much as you can.
Keep things in a positive light. Your letter shouldn’t say “Though I have no experience in chicken farming.” It should say, “I have experience in this other thing, which is LIKE chicken farming.”
Get someone to read over your letters before you send them. I had my wife read all of my letters, which probably got boring for her over time. But I sent out over 250 cover letters without a typo.
Finally, save all your letters in an easy-to-access folder. And save the document with an easy-to-remember name as well. Don’t call it Cover Letter 3. Call it Big Farm Chicken Farmer Cover Letter. Why? So if you apply for other chicken farming jobs, you can copy and paste the text into a new letter and tweak it, instead of trying to recreate your letter from scratch, or spend hours hunting your email sent items trying to figure out when you sent the letter.
One final story:
In all the time I spent hunting for work, I encountered three sets of people who hadn’t even looked at my résumé when I went into the interview.
One was an emergency situation where a totally different person was given my résumé and asked to meet with me at the last minute.
One person met with me based on the recommendation of another person, and pulled out my résumé just as I was walking in the door.
And the last person? Brought me in based solely on my cover letter. He liked it because, well, it was short, to the point, told him that I had the skills he needed, and most importantly, it was typo-free.
If all you have to do to stand out from the pack is send out a letter with no errors in it, then it’s worth your time to do it right. So please, do it right.