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Company Research is Key to Success 
By Tom R. Arterburn
 
Leading the competition—that’s what it takes to succeed in a capitalistic society, as well as competitive marine, maritime, overseas and railroad job markets.
 

People in business do it through marketing research.  High-tech industrialists (and politicians) go as far as corporate espionage to stay one step ahead of the competition.  Unfortunately, many graduating students and entry-level job-seekers call it quits when it comes to preparing for employment interviews with maritime and railroad companies.

 

What’s more, according to overseas contract recruiters, some candidates not only quit, they never even reach the competitive stage.

 

In order to be a strong career opportunity competitor, start by focusing on the position you’re sincerely interested in, and the organizations that are offering them.

 

In order to prove to the interviewer that you are the right person for the job (the right fit), you have to know what the job is. Many people make the mistake of waiting until the interview (if they get that far at all) to start thinking about the job, and whether they can really do it or not.  This makes them totally unprepared to expound on their capabilities, feelings, questions, achievements, etc. related to the position and organization.

 

It’s important to realize why many times the first question an interviewer will ask a candidate is either:  “Why did you choose our organization?” or “What type of position are you interested in?”  They do this to get a handle on how serious you are about maritime work, railroad employment, overseas jobs, as well as  the company.  If you recognize that an answer such as “I don’t know… the ad looked good in the paper,” or worse, is telling the interviewer nothing, you’re only half right.

 

To a skilled and sophisticated interviewer, an inappropriate or insincere response can mean a lot:  “She’s only interested in the money.”  “He’ll leave us in a moment’s notice, if another offer comes along,” etc.

 

Researching maritime employment, an overseas position or a railroad company can be fairly easy work.  However, the more effort you put into your work, the more recognition you are apt to receive from the interviewer.

 

There should be a variety of books regarding careers in the library, and these should give you a basic description of the position you are interested in.  But again, to get ahead of the competition, take the research process as far as you can. For example, to gain inside information about specific jobs, as the librarian for the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media.  This cross-reference directory (usually available to librarians only) will contain entries for almost every magazine and trade journal published in the United States and Canada.  Once you have found several periodicals dealing with your field, ask the librarian if they are on hand.  If they are not, don’t be discouraged—be excited—this means the possibility of competitors accessing the same publications will be slight.  Some hints on how to acquire the trade journals would be to call or write the publisher (the address and phone number) will be listed in the Gale Directory).

 

Another source for maritime jobs or railroad industry information are business directories (found in most libraries).

 

When you know who you want to contact, then it’s time to learn how your specific qualifications and capabilities meet their needs.  These questions can be answered by reading the company’s annual report.

 

The annual report is an excellent research source for those interested in working in the maritime, railroad or overseas contract fields.  It will usually include information about the philosophy of the company, all the products and services that they provide, as well as financial data.  The reports can be acquired at many campus and public libraries, or by writing to the company and requesting one.

 

Because most of the information is statistical, and targeted towards stock holders, it won’t be an easy read, but interviewers don’t expect you to be a statistical guru, just a dedicated and resourceful employee.  Most of the information you will need should be included in the firs few pages of the annual report in a section titled “Letter to Shareholders.” This letter, usually written by the company’s CEO will concisely describe many of the most current highlights of the company, such as new products, innovative programs, future goals, etc.

 

If you sincere goal is gaining employment with a reputable corporation, use your research in order to:

1.      Know your field and your capabilities related to it.

2.      Be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge of the company.

3.      Ask specific and meaningful questions about the available position, as well as the company.

4.      Make the research process fun and innovative.  Try to come up with a piece of information related to your field.

 

You may think company research is demanding, time consuming and takes a lot of effort.  If you do, you’re right.  And that’s why employers usually hire the hard-working candidates willing to do it.

 

Tom R. Arterburn is an award-winning job-search journalist and professional resume writer located in St. Louis, Mo. 


NAVIGATING THE RESUMAZE

by Tom R. Arterburn

At one time, turning to a secretarial service, or local print shop for assistance in preparing an effective maritime résumé was an innovative approach to getting a leg up on the job-search competition.

But today, high quality print technology can be found in many households, personal computers are abundant, desktop publishing has become a household word and computer software can do everything but seal the envelopes for a job-seeker wishing to conduct their own direct-mail campaign from the kitchen table. In order to stack up on top, a candidate's maritime résumé must reflect originality, professionalism, capability, intuition and above all sincerity.

Although desktop publishing systems, word processors, professional résumé writers and even some secretarial services should be able to assist in preparing a professional-looking document, only candidates, themselves, can demonstrate sincerity.

Whether you choose to write your own maritime résumé or hire a professional, the following myths and misconceptions along with the facts about maritime résumés will help you make more informed decisions regarding how best to present your qualifications and abilities to a potential employer.

Fiction: Plagiarizing the content of a successful colleagues maritime résumé, or a sample from a résumé guide is a convenient, economical and productive technique.

Fact: Job-seeking is a demanding competition not a leisurely activity. In today's ultra-competitive job market, in which hundreds of candidates vie for a single position, job-seekers who strive to be "as good as" anyone else, will surely be defeated by the “competitor” who can prove they are the best.

Myth: maritime résumé content should be generic so that it appeals to a variety of employment markets.

Fact: The relationship between a résumé reader and a résumé writer is much like that of a couple planning a future together. Who would you consider as a partner? The person interested in you or anyone else? Or the person specifically and sincerely interested in you?

"Of the résumés we receive, a high percentage are generic. If you leave it to my imagination as to what position you're applying for or where you best fit in our organization, it's not going to get the consideration as if you applied for a specific position," says Beth Marguardt, staff personnel manager at Southland Corporation inDallasTexas.

Another corporate personnel manager, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke candidly about her take.

"When I give people advice, I tell them not to send a generic résumé to 'personnel' ," the manager says. "I tell them to send a specific résumé to the manager of the position that they would like to have.[Department] managers don't get 10,000 résumés per year, in response to 100 positions that are available." She added that at her company, less than 5 percent of all jobs are filled by way of unsolicited résumé submissions.

A corporate staffing manager with Honeywell, Inc. in Minneapolis,Minn., views résumés differently, however. The paper, how it's folded, how it's printed, even the formatting and language makes very little difference to him. "What matters to me most is that I can get to the meat of the content quickly, and make a decision on it."

If you pay a high price to have your maritime résumé prepared, make certain that cost includes disk storage, and updating, which will allow you to tailor your résumé to specific companies and their specific needs, or at least a particular field.

Beware of printing and secretarial firms, as well as professional résumé writing services which try to sell you hundreds of copies of your résumé' If you get a job after sending out one résumé, you will have wasted your money on 99 copies.

Hype: If the résumé gets you the job it's worth the high price tag.

Hypothesis: With more and more articles about guarding against false information on résumés turning up in human resource and personnel journals, it's obvious no candidate will ever be hired on the sole basis of their résumé. "It's only the initial screening tool," says Ms. Marquardt.

'There are a lot of other factors that enter into the hiring process;personal interviews, other candidates..."

Antiquated Advice: Maritime résumés should consist of no more than one page of information.

Contemporary Conclusion: Robert Schramm and R. Neil Dortch of the University of Wisconsin in WhitewaterWis. polled 142 corporate recruiters for a research paper published in The Bulletin for the Association of Business Communication and found that two thirds preferred a maximum résumé length of two pages while 60 percent thought they should only accept one page of information.

Before you switch your typewriter or word processor from "pica" to "elite" type in order to get all your information on one page, remember like Scheulen and Aron Heirnbnrg - every individual has their own biases.

"Most of the research on résumé appearance has been conducted using questionnaire or survey research asking personnel managers about their opinions," says Mr. Bird. "From a psychological standpoint, what people believe is affecting their decisions and what they are actually reacting to is not always the same thing.

What this means is that you can read every résumé survey, study every guide, send a handwritten, three-page résumé to a person who hasn't read the same material as you and still get called for an interview.

Conjecture: You need a professional résumé writer to make you sound good on paper.

Rebuttal: Like political speech writers and corporate communications specialists, a good résumé writer might be able to spin your qualifications into an irresistible job query, but like most good journalists, corporate interviewers are relentless pursuers of honesty.

"A lot of people today choose professional résumé writers and that's all well and good, but the information has to be truthful." says Stephanie sancino of IBM in ArmonkNy.

"I've received résumés that will knock your socks off, and after calling the person in, realized they had a professional write their résumé, because they couldn't back up the verbiage in the interview." If you're worried about translating your "PR man's" magic into tangible and demonstrated capabilities, remember: there are no teleprompters in job interviews.

Concoction: A good résumé is all it takes to get a good job.

Truth: Again, job hunting is a competition. The best résumé in the world will barely get you out of the starting block, while those who've prepared themselves with self-evaluations, strong interviewing skills, targeted cover letters and extensive corporate research wilt easily lead the pack to the finish

line.

Delusion: Sending résumés is a good way to test the job rnarket... "to see what's out there for you."

Weak,! says von Heimburg.

"And our department is one of 20 staffing areas for Honeywell."

With the "outplaced" pool growing more and more each day, very few employers are offering jobs; they are merely auctioning them to the best bidder. If a position exists, with a little research, along with a specific résumé of qualifications related to the criteria of the position you are applying for, you

should easily be able to outbid your competitors. And with assertive follow-up and a sincere interest in the position as a career, you should be an unbeatable candidate.

Tom R. Arterburn is Executive Director of The Resume Institute.

SCAMMING THE RESUME SCANNER: Developing a Scanner-Friendly Resume

by Tom R. Arterburn

Having difficulty navigating the "resumaze"? Pulling your hair out trying to figure out what kinds of information to include, how to format the document, what type of paper to print it on, and how to send it to employers? Well, if your favorite places file is bulging with bookmarks on railroad resume preparation, you better check the dates on the material, because the rules have changed.

Now, more and more companies are turning to resume scanning equipment and software to weed through their stacks of resumes, and if you thought impressing finicky personnel people was difficult, wait till your resume passes under the eye of their computer counterparts. These cold, calculating cartons of automated components pick through your carefully prepared qualifications like computerized cats, sifting out all the garbage, and going right to the "meat." So beating this system requires some cunning and quite a bit of in-depth research to match a hiring manager's specific criteria for an available job.

After hearing about this latest high-tech threat to humanity, some are already scheming ways to "beat the system." "Andy," a communications specialist with the government, who wishes to remain anonymous, divulged his comical, yet surprisingly practical technique for scamming the scanner. "It searches for key words and phrases in the document, right?" he said with a giggle. "Why not just list:"

EDUCATION

"Plan to pursue doctoral degree at Harvard University."

EXPERIENCE

"Never promoted to higher level positions."

"Too stupid to master programming in C language."

"Rarely receive awards or honors for outstanding work performance."

Andy's cynical strategy is obviously absurd given the fact that the human element will certainly enter into the hiring process at some point. Consequently his creative prank may get a few laughs around the HR water cooler, but it certainly won't get him any phone calls from serious hiring managers who busted the departmental bank investing in optical character recognition technology. However, his strategy does have some merit.

Because the scanning process is based on key words or phrases that the user asks the software to scan for, employment candidates can hypothesize as to the hiring criteria for the job they are interested in, and then "pad" their resume with those terms. If the job-seeker's actual experience lacks relevant skills, they can rely on the "spin doctoring" approach used by politicians who are adept at being all things to all people. For instance, using a resume subhead such as "ABILITIES" will allow you to list not only those things you have done, but also those things you are confident you can do based on education or other life experiences. Use this strategy with caution, though. You'll obviously be expected to backup your claims in a personal interview, where too much embellishment might have you sweatin' like a con at a parole board hearing. They can't slap you in jail for resume fraud before you're hired, but be warned, outright resume lies can come back to haunt you.

A savvy candidate ready to go toe to toe with an electronic screener will also want to consider document aesthetics. In their book, Electronic Resume Revolution, J.L. Kennedy and T.J. Morrow, offer the following Tips for Writing a Scannable" Resume:

- Use simple fonts, such as Helvetica, Universe and Optima at point sizes of between 10 and 14.

- Avoid italics, script, and underlining of words.

- Use bold face type sparingly.

- Use an ink jet or laser printer for optimal printing quality.

- Avoid abbreviations.

- Always use white paper.

- Do not fold your resume in order to send it. Use a 9 x 12 envelope.

If you have a Kaczynskiesque philosophy, however, and the thought of catering to a box of high tech bells and whistles unnerves you, take heed. You have sympathizers in the hiring world. "I resent any program that pinpoints phrases not the overall person, says Harriet Cohen, a human resources consultant and President of Cohen Training Solutions in Agoura HillsCalif. "[Scanning] is easier than actually reading the resume, but there are a lot of issues to consider when hiring: resumes only tell a minor part of the picture. They tell what the person has done and how well they can match the advertisement or scanning criteria, but what they don't tell is the person's capabilities. I have worked with head hunters in my own job-search who would say 'you were perfect for a job, but you didn't get past round one because you were missing the magic phrase.'Unfortunately, no one would tell me what it was."

Whether it's a grinning personnel manager or a stoic computer system suggesting you don't measure up, rejection can be hell. But fight fire with fire, and keep shooting those sincere, focused resumes to carefully targeted companies, and you'll eventually find someone or "something" that will recognize your ability and worth. Remember:developing employment leads is a lot like cultivating personal relationships. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before your marry a prince or princess. In employment, I guess it's stroke a lot of Pentiums before you press flesh with the personnel manager.

Tom R. Arterburn is an award-winning job-search journalist and director of The Resume Institute, which specializes in railroad, maritime and overseas resumes.

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Answering Machines: A Hang-up For Employers

By Tom R. Arterburn, Executive Director, The Resume Institute

 

(Melody)  Old McDonald had a farm, EIEIO.  And on that farm he had some chicks…

 “Hello – this is Jack McDonald – I had some chicks alright, but that was before my wife got the Corvette in our divorce settlement.  If you’re not an attorney or a bill collector, leave a message.”

 This voice mail message was a real hit with Jack’s friends.  It even ticked off his ex-wife when she called.

The trouble was Jack forgot about the fact that at the same time he was going through a divorce, he was also going through a career transition.  And naturally, staffing managers responding to Jack’s employment queries, shared the sentiment of his wife.

First and lasting impressions of employment candidates are usually formed after the first two minutes of contact.  If your voice mail message provides anything more than a professional greeting and a brief, business like message, your first impression could be your last.

The same holds true for spouses or children who might answer the phone in your absence.  Children who try to converse while loud music blasts in the background, leaves a negative impression with employers.  Even family members who think they are being helpful, can really blow it for you if they’re not careful.

For instance, there’s the story of the helpful grandfather who thought he was doing his granddaughter a favor when he answered her ringing cell phone and explained to a hiring manager on the other end, how ill-treated he thought she was at her current place of employment.  What the ol’-timer failed to recognize, is that in today’s highly competitive and ultra-analytical world of hiring, the slightest negative inference can be translated by a personnel manager as dissension or antagonism.

To avoid this misinterpretation, make sure everyone in arm’s length of your celly in on their brightest and best behavior.

Smart responses during employer call-backs can be the difference between gaining new opportunities or being stuck on the farm.

Tom R. Arterburn is an award-winning job-search journalist and Executive Director of The Resume Institute.  

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