Education Career Services

November 12, 2009

Don’t Let Your “Hello” be an Employer’s “Goodbye!”

Submitted by Kimberly Sarmiento

Would I use the phrase “detail-orientated” to describe my clients when I write their resumes?

Is it still important to pay careful attention to detail in your career search?

A vital, yet often overlooked, aspect of a career search is the recorded greeting a potential employer receives when he or she phones for an interview and you are unable to answer.  Good news is, your cover letter captured his interest.  Your resume made him want to learn more about you.  Then he hears……

“Hey there! (pause) What was that? (pause) Hello? (pause) Got ya! Leave me a message and I’ll call you back.”

Do you think that employer is going to bother with the message? 
Probably not.

Humor in a recorded greeting is great for your friends and family.  It is not advisable in your career search. 

Neither are the following approaches:

“This is Amy and Ben, Mommy and Daddy can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave them a message they will call you back.”

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. How I wonder what you are…..Leave us a message!”

“Hi there! (sounds of dog barking) This is Spot and John.  Leave me a message and one of us will call you back. (more dog barking….).”

Trust me on this readers, even though your recorded voice messages are adorable, a hiring authority does not want to hear your children or pets when they call to speak to YOU!

Ok, so you follow my advice and create a recording that portrays your professionalism.  Does it sound something like, “Hello.  You have reached 123-555-9382.  Please leave a message at the beep and I will return your call as soon as possible.”?  You think that’s good right?  Well close, but no cigar.  Not yet.

See that example is missing one vital piece of the puzzle that was also lacking in all the previous examples.  None of these messages clearly identify the owner of the phone.  In a highly competitive job market, where the difference between getting hired and being overlooked is all about the details – don’t let your potential employer question if she has the right number!  Don’t give her any reason to hang that phone up without leaving you a message.

Ergo, state your name in your recording.  And preferably, not just your first name.  And most importantly, use the name your put on your resume.  In other words, if your name is Jonathan Daniel Webb and you go by Dan, please do not identify yourself as John D. Webb in your contact information then say, “Hi, this is Dan…” in your message.  There is a chance the hiring authority might still leave a message.  But there is also a chance they will go on to the next resume.

Putting all of this information together, let’s see what a good voice recording would include:

“Hello, this is Jane Smith.  I’m sorry I missed you, but will return your call shortly if you leave your name and number.  Have a great day.”

One final point: Check your messages often and return calls promptly!

Thank you Kimberly for this submission.  No doubt many potential interviews have been averted due to an improper voice message.  Sure your insight will be of great help!
Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
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August 18, 2009

Sorry Tony, Some Things do End

August 18During a recent annual doctor’s visit, I had the pleasure of hearing (how many times now?) I needed to lose 25 pounds.  Nothing new to me and perhaps this time I will actually do what it takes to become leaner.  Last night I had a vision about the economic atmosphere and began drawing parallels between my weight and our global employment crisis.  Wondering if such a correlation exists, I propose the following:

For the past ten years I did not worry about what I ate or the amount or what I ate.  Oh, those were the days of hot fudge, plenty of ice cream, lots of grease (who can resist onion rings?), and four meals a day.  Worries of larger sized britches and an increasingly uncomfortable lower back were placed on the back burner.  In reflection, it seemed as if my body could handle everything without consequence (okay, so a pound or two crept up as the months and years flew by).  Unfortunately, Tony Curtis’ song forgot things do end… 

           Those were the days, my friend
           We thought they’d never end
           We’d sing and dance forever and a day
           We’d live the life we’d choose
           We’d fight and never lose
           For we were young and sure to have our way

Sorry Tony I realize you just turned 84 (two months ago) but I am getting close to 50 years of age and it’s time to realize (and sacrifice) for the error of my dietary ways. 

Ten years ago the global economy and employment rate was going better than good.  Heck, we had it all, low unemployment, impressive industrial growth, and just about everyone was purchasing a home (or getting ready to).  Yep, those were the days of gluttony without worry of consequence.  Without doubt, those were the days…

So many were young not only in years but in experience; but ten years has a way of creeping on in a blink.  Over the past ten years we accrued a great deal of excessive fatty tissues from which to rake up credit card debt on the promise that tomorrow would exceed the profits of yesterday.  Where’s Tony when we need him now?

Yep, it was a good run and we ate, and ate, and then ordered dessert in a fight we thought we would never lose while the band played in the background!

Today, our economy, employment, and overall health are paying for the excesses of song and dance.  No longer are we experiencing the days of all you can eat buffets (metaphorically).  Rather, businesses, families, and just about everyone must go on a diet, some due to health reasons, some due to economic circumstance, and some due to a combination of both.  Will this be as fun a ride as we experienced in the not too distant past?  I’m not sure but I do realize there are positives and opportunities in all challenges; either way I can always watch reruns of Spartacus.

Last night I had the pleasure of dining out (just another way of contributing to economic growth via spending) and carried a new approach to the table.  Elaine and I shared a main entrée as the issue of excess (and the constant nagging from my doctor) flooded our minds.  After the meal, both of us were comfortable; neither stuffed to the gill (in my typical fashion) and neither feeling guilty about the evening. 

Being lean does not mean being without pleasures or being in jeopardy.  This morning I jumped on the scale and noticed two ounces missing…a good start.  Thinking about our economy and employment rate, perhaps chipping away two ounces at a time can be a lesson we all can share.  After all, have you noticed the sense of entitlement in every crack and cranny of our existence?  Perhaps it is time to get back in shape, to shed a few pounds, to share a main entrée, to help others in need, to become less self-centered, and to become MORE human. 

My doctor probably did not intend for her request for me to place my weight in check to become an economic philosophical model, but it has.  Can you lose the weight, the excess, the sense of entitlement?

And one more thing while on the subject, Mr. Curtis, you will always remain one of the best…

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP
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April 27, 2009

Body language speaks volumes during an interview

Over the past weekend I was asked to review elements regarding the interview process; the result of the april-27a1conversation will be displayed throughout the week in our blog (I always invite your input and stories).  Though common sense typically defines professional behavior and consequence, sometimes it’s good to have an outside source confirm your suspicions. 


The most important communication during the job interview is often what your body communicates as opposed to the mouth.  Without any doubt, body language (that thing called nonverbal communication) has a huge impact on the truth of how you are perceived by giving the interviewer an opportunity to tap into who you are without the benefit of filters.  One of the problems of subjective perception (as you must be aware) is that each individual brings his or her own background interpreting YOUR behavior.  In other words, what you do and how you act may seem normal (and without baggage) to one person, but to the next person, the “reality” may not be so kind.  Let’s take a quick look at one nonverbal act of communication (not too worry, we will go through several looks as the week progresses):


Fish or Fresh

Several individuals came to my office last week in response to a job posting.  To me, and to the two other interviewers in the room, the first impression by way of physical contact is an important moment.  In just about all interview settings, a handshake will be the first physical contact and with it, certain expectations should be considered.


For example, I don’t know many people who like or appreciate holding a limp fish… a handshake without confidence, without pressure, and without any response is like holding a wilted trawl.  Needless to say, not a good impression and one which will (more often than not) be a topic of conversation once the interview concludes. 


The initial interview handshake must:


  • Not be a fish, limp and iced down
  • Be responsive, firm, and fresh
  • Be confident and confirmed with direct eye contact
  • Last no more than a few seconds—over 2 seconds may become uncomfortable  

What is the impression you make with a handshake?  No matter if you are sure of the message being displayed, ask a peer or friend for an honest reaction to your handshake.  Sure, it may seem silly at first, but the consequence of asking your interviewer to handle a fish is not in your best interest. 


No matter the situation, you should never be intimidated (nor should you intimidate anyone with a superhero handshake), do not be afraid when approaching any hiring manager, and never be timid with your first contact impression.  


For today, everyone should become familiar with the manner in which they shake hands.  Tomorrow we’ll look at another nonverbal act of communication…


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

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April 3, 2009

Take the “Don’t tell” approach about your job search

Does your boss know you are back in the job market? I hope not…it can mean the april-03-2009difference between wanting to get a new job and having to get one.

Most corporations avoid keeping employees who don’t want to be there.  They certainly won’t tolerate employees who are not being productive in their current position while surfing  You may end up being eaten by that monster (i.e. your boss).

Keep your job hunting to yourself.  Even though statistics show that 25% of employees perform their job searches while at work, don’t do it.  Never sit at your desk and search job sites or scan the local newspaper’s want ads while on your lunch break with coworkers.  This is like having a neon sign above your head that reads, “Job seeker here.”

If you must make search-related phone calls during work hours, use your cell phone where no one can hear you.  Look for some isolated area, like a sound-proof room once used for interrogation of disloyal employees.  Do not use the phone at your desk or workstation.  Many employers do not approve of their staff using equipment for personal reasons. They might also monitor employee phone calls.  This is not the way you want them to discover you’re hoping to find a better position.

If you have an interview with another company, it is acceptable to ask the interviewer not to contact your current employer.  Most hiring professionals understand the necessity of discretion and will avoid any undo disclosure.

Your employment search is nobody’s business but your own.  Keep it private or prepare to be unemployed until you find your next job.  If you need any help in this endeavor, throw your questions my way.

 Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

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March 3, 2009

Recipe for Success: Attitude

How can two people with the same skills and abilities in the same situation have different outcomes?  I believe the difference maker is attitude. Many people will tell you if you can believe – you can achieve.  That is certainly important, but I know a lot of good people with great out-look who haven’t reached their goals yet.  Attitude isn’t everything, but it is the main thing that will make a difference.


It is THE DIFFERENCE MAKER, when you’re going for a job; meeting new people are simply doing chores around the house.  For example: two athletes with the same skills compete for the same position; but one is going to have a good team attitude and the other is not. Which one would the coach pick?  It really is the difference maker and with all things being equal, a good attitude will set you apart.


We all have a chosen attitude.  Our self-image, how we see ourselves, is going to greatly influence our tendency to be either negative of positive in our appearance and the way we convey our thoughts to others.  In the long run it is our choice and that choice does help determine the outcome of our efforts.


Now, attitude cannot replace competence and experience.  Great skills combined with experience are a hard combination to turn down.  However, when you mix their dynamics with a great attitude this is a recipe for excellence.


Competence in the work place and in living your life is the continuing ability to handle situations effectively, producing a positive outcome.  Experience, of course, is something you continuously gain as we work and enjoy our lives.  Those two things are facts that employees are looking for in a person.  Although attitude cannot replace competency or experience it will show your desire to learn and grow in your chosen career.  I believe a good positive attitude allows us to approach people and our responsibilities in such a mental way it gives all of us the best shot of walking in, taking off and succeeding.


The above was submitted by K. D. Byrne:  A former owner of multiple, successful businesses, has built start-up companies with diversified venues in the oil, food, and educational industries.


Let me know what you think,


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

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February 26, 2009

Career Trends

Several times each year, career survey results are reported.  With current unemployment rates and uncertainty looming in the air, securing a stable job must coincide with current trends.  Around this time, many feel a need to share survey results with their own twist.   As a blogger, I do the same but try to keep it as objective as possible (throwing in a pinch of personality now and then).  As a blogger dedicated to career management, certain survey results tickle my interest more than others.


When the Career Management Alliance posted the ten best and ten worst jobs (data collected from, I felt committed to share the news. 


To the hungry and ready to graduate student to the seasoned professional, knowing what’s available is a large chunk of the equation.  So, tell me if you agree with the list, by the way, this list was compiled and ranked based upon Stress, Work Environment, Physical Demands, Income, and Outlook.  The total number of different positions considered was 200.


Ten Best Jobs:

1.      Mathematician

2.      Actuary

3.      Statistician

4.      Biologist

5.      Software Engineer

6.      Computer Systems Analyst

7.      Historian

8.      Sociologist

9.      Industrial Designer

10.  Accountant


Ten Worst Jobs:

1.      Lumberjack

2.      Diary Farmer

3.      Taxi Driver

4.      Seaman

5.      Emergency Medical Technician

6.      Roofer

7.      Garbage Collector

8.      Welder

9.      Roustabout

10.  Ironworker


Take a minute and reflect at the two lists, do you see any common thread binding best versus worst together?  I am a bit surprised how mathematics and mathematic related jobs rule.


Then again, your career choice must be based upon YOUR desires, wants, and needs.  Under no situation should you discount the importance of any position or believe one position is inherently more beneficial; taking a gestalt approach, the whole is much greater than the sum of any part.


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

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February 24, 2009

GPA: Do I or Don’t I?


Recently I received a question from a student ready to graduate.  The following was presented in our career newsletter but will reprint for our blog.


Andrew Bott from ITT Technical Institute asks:


“I keep hearing different opinions and would like to know what is really right.  Do I or do I not put my GPA on my resume?


Dear Andrew,


Thank you for your inquiry.  When we start our career searches, we want to portray tactful information that will provide us with an advantage.  Unfortunately, a lot of people are never sure what is essential to communicate on paper when trying to make a good first impression.


According to the Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches, it is only advisable to include a GPA on résumés if the applicant is a recent graduate that has received a degree within the last six months.  Please remember, however, that a lower GPA can be detrimental to your search instead of advancing it.  Some postings for entry-level positions request a minimum GPA, in which case it is acceptable to include it.  Ultimately, including a GPA for a degree from 20 years ago will bring no actual value as experience supersedes it.


Students, faculty, staff, and professionals of all levels are encouraged to ask our experts your career management questions.


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

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February 17, 2009

LinkedIn or Out?

Struggling to match your career objective with reality, your resume and career summary may be hitting the mark but it takes more than paper and pen…you must get the word out: you are the right person for the job.  Not an easy task for anyone!  Being a professional resume writer, I know!


Getting THE message out takes time, effort, persistence, and often novel mediums.  Are you taking full advantage of all networking sources?  Most people, I count myself in this group of non-maximizers, do not spend adequate time with their career upkeep.  In particular, electronic networking is not something topping my list of to-do things after a long day at work.  Unfortunately, this lack of action is a disfavor to my career.  I rationalize by suggesting no one with a full-time job has time or energy, but that’s just an excuse to cover complacency.


Take, for instance, the effect LinkedIn has had over the past year.  I remember the world without this site.  I blinked twice and the world changed: according to Francois Dufour, LinkedIn’s senior director of Enterprise Marketing, they receive approximately one new member per second.  Can you imagine?


I sport a profile on LinkedIn but my professional network is not what I would call impressive.  As a business owner and professional career management and textbook writer, I simply do not have the time to work the room.  Being passive in this arena, if you are looking to increase your network by one, find me at LinkedIn, I’m always looking to expand my network—a simple invite and the rest will be history; that is, when I get around to it.


Good news for job seekers and networkers, electronic networking sites are rarely audience limited; most welcome students through senior-level executives.  It’s hard to believe, but LinkedIn has over 35 million members globally and the site has doubled membership over the past six months.  With the unemployment rate approaching 8% (some say it will be officially this level next month), your career survival may require electronic networking.


Besides LinkedIn there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of electronic networking spots such as FaceBook and MySpace—many others are in the form of specific associations.  For students looking for guidance, your career services department is always an excellent first stop shop in conjunction with personal industry specific networking.


According to NPR, job losses are going to explode this year with no sign of repair.  This means everyone must not only develop an effective career portfolio, everyone must take advantage of all networking opportunities, including electronic networking.


I invite you to share hints and stories for our readers as we are all barely chugging along in a boat requiring a new stimulus package, economic and employment.  Networking takes a great deal of time but survival requires we all make the investment.  As for me, I need to check my account; new peers may be sending invites…see you on LinkedIn.


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

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February 16, 2009

(UN)Employment and Your Career Portfolio

Employment rates are heading in the wrong direction.  For those new to my writing style, I have a habit of not coloring words while laying the news on the table for all to see and oftentimes taste.  If you are interested in sugar-coated data, know this, I am on a diet—no sugar coating here.


News is not good.  Numbers released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics is clear on one trend: unemployment figures for the month of December are up from the previous month in each of our 50 states.  With this news, how does the average person survive?


The first step is to accept the difficult situation we are all in.  Secondly, do not become overly frustrated, depressed, or stressed out…which is all but impossible not avoid.  Thirdly, represent to your advantage and stand out from sea of other job applicants.


On a brighter side, the lowest unemployment rates are found in Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, all with 4.0 percent or below.  On a dimmer note, states with a 9.0 percent or above rate of unemployment include California, Nevada, Oregon, and leading the pack was Michigan with 10.6 percent.  Combining the 50 states, the national rate for December was 7.2 percent.


Besides trying to keep a positive approach and an upbeat career marketing campaign, now is the time to make sure your job portfolio reflects your skills and accomplishments in a metric style.  Double check your career objective and career summary (refer to an earlier entry for additional insight).  If you are a student or alumni, contact your university career services department for possible information, including job postings.  For the seasoned professional, I recommend professional assistance from an accredited and reputable career management firm.  I review hundreds of resumes from executives and many from students on a monthly basis; take it from me, have someone review and evaluate—it is an investment with great ROI.


In other words, do not go solo, more than your career is at stake!


With the unemployment figures the way they are, it is hard to keep emotionally pumped; this is understandable as budget crunches affect everyone.  For today, we simply need to make sure we display the mot effective personal career marketing material available and that’s where double-checking and having assistance may be what it takes to lift you up.  Hold your head up and when you are called back for a job interview, nail each interview question perfectly.


Perhaps President Obama and the economic stimulus package will benefit the average person soon.  Though hopeful, I am not optimistic this will become reality.  If you have any specific questions or topics you would like covered, let me know…I will definitely tell you the way I see it—no sugar coating, just the facts.


Source: Career Management Alliance and


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

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February 13, 2009

Resume Relief Package

Given the nature of our economy and the upcoming economic stimulus package (from all accounts will be signed by President Obama this Monday), perhaps it’s time we all stimulate our resume?  With that said, how can we, on a micro scale, increase the chances of our resume being noticed, leading up to an interview and job offer?


No doubt about it, the world has changed in the past six months.  Have you revisited your resume and cover letter format?  According to the Professional Resume Writers Association, we should update/revise our career portfolio every six months.  Truth be known, I did update my resume last month but before that, it had been years…and this coming from a professional resume writer and career coach!  So, what does one do during a revisit?


I recommend keeping a weekly business journal to detail classes, seminars, performances, etc. throughout a designated time period and review your accomplishments for possible inclusion.  For example, if you are employed and received special recognition for refining (or creating) a process change which resulted in saving money or labor hours, detail specifics in your journal.


A successful way to organize and prioritize what you do is to use the STAR format:


Situation: what’s going on in the company or in your classes, what issues are causing problems?

Task: what contingencies are you facing, what is your plan on attacking the problems?

Action: what are you implementing to resolve the problems?

Result: using metrics when possible, what are the results?


Evaluate on-the-job performance or university courses often and incorporate relevant, quantifiable, and recent contributions.  Remember: it’s all about what YOU can do for the company, not what the company can do for you.  If you are not employed, concentrate on incorporating professional development classes and what you have done recently to add value, personally and professionally.  What employers do not want are candidates (or employees) satisfied with complacency…never stop growing, never stop learning, and never stop stimulating your resume and cover letter.


In a lean employment cycle, quantifiable value and immediate return is paramount to keeping your job and/or landing a new one.  If you are a college or university student, your career services department is a career marketing tool dedicated to helping you, take advantage of their expertise!


If you have specific questions or unsure about including information in your career management material, send your concerns my way and I will be glad to give you an objective and honest answer.


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

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