Tag Archives: writing

Getting laid off? Do this before anything else.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard from a number of recent grads whose positions have been eliminated in the last month or so.  While there are some signs that the economy is recovering, and here’s a particularly promising article about the increase in rail and truck shipping, reality still presents an ugly job market for lots of Millennials. Continue reading


A Hand-Written Cover Letter!

We received a hand-written cover letter from a candidate today.  It’s the first one I’ve ever seen, so I’m pretty excited.  (We do not require hand-written cover letters.)  It sure is an easy way to stand out.

So I got to thinking–what does it mean?  What goes through a candidate’s head when choosing to write a cover letter by hand?  So I searched online for advice on the topic one way or the other.  It turns out the only real advice I found is to never write a cover letter by hand.

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Skills Missing from New Grads

I took a 5 minute survey this morning about new grads and their skills.  The first question was, “What skill gaps do you find in new grads?”  Here’s my response:

It’s hard to say if these are “gaps,” per se, because they aren’t necessarily taught in college.  But skills that would help new hires achieve results faster include:
1) Professional communication.  This includes getting to the point, cutting out filler words, inductive communication, and a component of internal marketing.
2) Ability to put things in perspective.  New hires can suffer from myopia on the job.  While it’s our job to give them the broader view, it’s also their job to ask for it and actively work to fill in any blanks.

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Tweet Your Resume

A couple of interesting, thought-provoking events hit me today.  Individually, they would have gone unnoticed.  Together, they were more powerful.

  1. I read an article about the death of email.
  2. I asked a job candidate to give me his resume in 160 characters.

First, the death of email.  Everyone must have read thirty articles on this topic already, and I don’t feel like beating a dead horse today.  But the shortened, usual argument goes like this: Though we use “technology” to send/receive email, long-form written communication is an antiquated notion required only in fewer and fewer situations.  Email took type-written memos, put them on your screen, and let you send them back and forth to one or many users.

Further, due to a variety of reasons including our (collective) increasingly short attention span, commonly accepted web copy guidelines, and the volume of messages we all have to read these days, nobody really reads entire emails any more.  Certainly not if they’re longer than a paragraph.

This will become increasingly obvious once generations Y and Z start impacting serious change.  The Pew Research Center found that email was 11th on the list of activities done on teenagers’ phones.  Some activities performed more often:

  • Taking pictures
  • Recording video
  • Playing games
  • Playing music

This doesn’t surprise me too much.  But remember — this group only uses phones for communication.  They don’t sit at their desk all night emailing their friends.  Email was a dramatic shift in what we use to communicate, but not how we communicate.  But what comes next?  Will we communicate in 160 character thoughts?

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A Lovely Thank You Note

I don’t often get snail mail at work anymore.  Most people don’t, I suppose.  But that’s one reason why it’s nice to send a hand-written thank you note after a meeting or interview.

I received a particularly nice note today that addressed me personally.  Candidates usually talk about the job or the company.  That’s fine, and expected.  But establishing a connection with the person who interviewed you is maybe even more important.  To paraphrase my favorite part of the note:

I really enjoyed learning about your company and the job.  I’m excited at the thought of working with and learning more from you in the future — your excitement is contagious!

Even compliments from college seniors feel good.

How I Read Resumes

In the past year, I’ve reviewed around 1,500 resumes as people apply to work for my company.  It might be helpful to know how I read a resume.  I’m not going to tell you how to write a resume–just how I read them.  Here are my observations.

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Write Like Your Boss’s Boss

A common fashion tip in the business world is to dress for the job you want, rather than the one you have.  Let’s turn that on its ear.

Write like someone in the job you want, rather than someone in the job you have.

Most of the people who meet you professionally will meet you via email first.  Intended or otherwise.  The importance of projecting a polished, professional image over email cannot be overstated.

Contrary to conventional belief, “professional communication” is not the same as “big words and lengthy run-on sentences.”  Next time you attend professional training, a seminar or lecture, listen to the presenter (assuming they’re good).  Or read the web copy posted on your company’s website.  The majority of polished, professional communication is clear and concise.  In contrast, communication (written and oral) from many entry-level employees tends to be too quick, poorly thought-out, and very rough.  Do you want to stand out?  Improve your written communication.

Consider Madison Avenue’s average depiction of a teenager on the phone.  They’re yapping a mile a minute without really saying anything.  In contrast, listen to one of the many good presentations from Steve Jobs.  Or read an all-department email from your Senior VP.  It’s not that successful professionals can’t talk fast.  They choose not to.

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