Stacks of resumes, CC-licensed image by woodley wonderworks, via Flickr

As I’ve posted below, I’ve left my position as IT Specialist/Web Developer at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers to start my new gig with the American Bar Association Journal.

I made it clear to my outgoing employers that I wanted to do everything I could to make the transition to the next person as seamless and pain-free as possible.  Since they needed to hire a replacement, and I’m the only one with lots of knowledge about technical work, and insight into the brain of techs, I was charged with sifting through the résumés and determining who might be a good fit, and who we didn’t need to bother talking with.

So I’ve been looking at a lot of résumés, and I’ve been assisting in the interview process, and I’ve learned a few things about job hunting.  Most of these are common knowledge, but some might be non-obvious, so take it for what it’s worth to you.

Your résumé is important.  Don’t skimp on the time you spend on it. A no-brainer, right?  But you’d be surprised about how many résumés don’t seem to have had even one proofreading.  Your résumé is the first and most important document the person doing the hiring is going to be looking for.  At least, it was for me.  Make sure your current address and phone number are there, at the top.  Are you applying for a web job?  Include a URL for your personal site, and your facebook/twitter if you use them.  If I’m interested in you, I’m going to google you and find that stuff anyhow.  Don’t have a personal web site?  Then you have no business applying for a web job.  Seriously.

Don’t use one of the built-in templates in Microsoft Word to make your résumé. They don’t look good, and everyone else uses them.  It says, “Hey, I know how to use wizards, but I don’t care enough about this to really spend the time to make it myself, so I’ll be content to look like everyone else.”

On cover letters: Really, shouldn’t we be calling them “cover emails” these days?  Does anyone send a resume in by mail anymore?  First rule: Don’t copy and paste the same cover letter for every job you apply for. Second rule:  CHECK YOUR SPELLING AND GRAMMAR.  Third rule: A bad cover letter won’t keep me from calling you if your résumé is good, but a really good cover letter might get you an interview, even if your résumé isn’t so good.

Guess what?  I don’t need to know every model of Cisco switch you’ve ever worked with.  Familiarity with Cisco hardware is sufficient.

If your educational background includes a school which advertises during re-runs of Judge Judy, and your current job is working at a deli counter at a supermarket, I’m probably not going to believe you have the technical skills I’m looking for.

During the interview, I know you’re nervous, and you’re trying to make a good impression. But if you’re relaxed and conversational, I’m going to like you more. Check out the company’s website before you go in.  Learn a little bit about them.  Have a couple of questions to ask.  Be personable. Let’s have a conversation, not an interrogation. And, while it’s not really necessary, if you send a follow-up email after the interview, it’s going to make me think you care enough to put in a little extra effort.

You’ve had six jobs in the last two years?  Thanks, but no thanks.  Next.

And finally, headhunters are useless. Seriously.  I’ve tried going through headhunters while seeking employment, and it always turns out to be a waste of my time.  Now, I’ve been on the other side of the equation, and I can say that they’re pretty useless for finding good help as well.  They cost too much, they do too little.  Avoid them.

As you can tell by looking at the dates on my recent posts, I haven’t been making too many updates lately.  Alas, how is the rabid Ian Monroe fan supposed to know what I’m up to?

Well, I’ll tell you.  I began my job hunt back in November with this post offering a bounty for tips that would lead to my next full-time job. After five months of job hunting, and lots and lots of tips from the bounty offer, I’m finally gainfully employed once again.

I started working for Leslie Hindman Auctioneers on March 1, 2010.  I’m now their IT specialist and web developer.  Leslie Hindman Auctioneers is the largest auction house in the midwest, and they (we) specialize in fine art, furniture, books and manuscripts, Asian art, vintage couture, and other, rather high-brow subjects.

I got the job through answering a craigslist ad, so nobody won the bounty.

However, I did learn some interesting things in my job hunt.

The bounty idea was extremely useful, as it netted me some freelance jobs that kept me in my home for the duration of my job search.  However, tips on full-time gigs were fewer and farther between.  I think this may have been a function of the economy in general; after all, a 10% unemployment rate means full time jobs were in high demand.

In terms of responses, it broke down something like this:

  • 1 response/interview request for every 60-80 inquiries on Careerbuilder.com
  • 1 response/interview request for every 25-35 inquiries on Mediabistro.com
  • 1 response/interview request for every 3 inquiries on Craigslist

Ultimately, Craigslist proved to be the most effective channel for soliciting work.  Didn’t expect that result, but there you go.

On Wednesday, Louis Uchitelle, economic reporter for the New York Times, told an audience of nearly 90 faculty and students from the University of Illinois at Chicago that layoffs had gotten out of hand in the United States, and that the consequences of mass layoffs extended far beyond the corporate bottom line.

Beyond the immediate financial impact to laid-off workers, psychological consequences can linger long after a laid-off worker has found a new job, according to Uchitelle.  “Layoffs in themselves are a truly damaging situation,”  Uchitelle said.  “In America, they’ve gone far beyond what’s necessary.”

Uchitelle said he was drawn to explore the psychological impact of layoffs as he researched his book, “The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences”.  “I consulted psychiatrists,” he said, “and they said, yes, layoffs are traumatic experiences.”

That impact can be seen in workers who give up on finding new employment or settle for any job at all, often undermining the benefits of advanced education and experience.

Uchitelle said for every three people laid off, two years later one of them had dropped out of the job market, one had a job that earned 20 percent less that the job from which they were laid off, and one had a new job making as much as their previous job.  According to Uchitelle, 19 percent of laid off workers take jobs for which they are overqualified after being laid off.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks layoff events involving more than 50 employees.  According to seasonally-adjusted BLS statistics, there were 2,227 layoff events in January, involving nearly 238,000 employees.  That represents a 50 percent increase in layoff events, compared to the previous year.

However, Uchitelle said those numbers don’t take into account buyouts and early retirement, often proposed as alternatives to layoffs.  Uchitelle said that if those numbers were included in the calculations, it might be that 7 to 8 percent of all adult full-time employees suffer from the effects of layoffs every year.

Uchitelle said that it’s important to recognize the people laid off that aren’t getting jobs, and to think about the damage that causes, including the psychological as well as the financial ramifications.

“Skill is part of your sense of self,” Uchitelle said.  He said layoffs tell employees that “your skill doesn’t have value.”  Workers who have been laid off sometimes drop out of the job market completely.  “People felt so burned, they didn’t want to get back into the job market,” he said.  Uchitelle said that workers that had committed themselves to a career were more vulnerable to the psychological impact of layoffs than younger workers just entering the job market.

Uchitelle also criticized President Barack Obama’s address to Congress on Tuesday, and said that the only solution presented by the President was to replace jobs lost to layoffs with newly created jobs, a solution he said was an extension of the policies of prior administrations, and an inadequate solution.  He said that newly-created jobs aren’t equivalent to skilled positions that have been lost.

He said that he was worried that, “when we really start spending money [on economic stimulus projects] we won’t have the skilled labor to do it.”

Possible solutions that Uchitelle said should be considered included encouraging employers to cut wages across the board as a substitute for layoffs, tax credits to companies that avoid layoffs, and government wage subsidies for companies that agree to forgo layoffs.

“That debate isn’t on the horizon,” Uchitelle said.