Humor: A Great Way To Break The Ice, Just Don’t Add It To Your Cover Letter

Thursday, 7. June 2012


They say laughter is the best medicine, and I know when I am feeling down or a bit stressed at work, a little bit of humor can go a long way to help break the tension. Furthermore it is a great way to break the ice when interacting with people for the first time, whether they are mutual friends in your social circle, strangers on an elevator, or even new co-workers.

According to a recent workplace and hiring trends research report released by Robert Half International, one of the world’s largest specialized staffing firms, 79% of all hiring managers say that an prospective employee’s sense of humor is an important personality trait taken into consideration when deciding if the applicant will fit well into the company’s corporate culture.

While your sense of humor is taken into consideration, this is by no means an open invention to let loose with raunchy one-liners during the interview. You will still need to remain professional even while showing that you posses a sense of humor.

Remaining professional is especially important when it comes to your professionally written resume and cover letter. Many times attempts at being witty do not translate that well on paper.

Here are a few samples of attempts at humorous cover letters that failed:

#1 – Roanald

You may have already heard about Roanald and is epic cover letter that he sent to Aviary.com. He’s the s#@t in case you didn’t know. Although the Aviary blog says his was successfully hired, don’t believe the hype, Roanald’s attempt at using a humorous cover letter to successfully land a job failed.

#2 – David

David responded to Open Source Staffing’s job listing for a contract-to-hire API engineer. Since he’s awesome and is trained in MMA he didn’t feel the need to be professional. In the end, although good for a laugh, David’s attempt at a humorous cover letter was a fail.

#3 – Name Removed To Protect The Foolish

Unfortunately, sometimes the humor is unintentional, as can be seen by one New York University applicant’s cover letter. Although the applicant may have thought of his cover letter as a serious approach to landing a coveted summer analyst position, the unintentional humor failed at getting him an interview. It did however give quite a few Wall Street brokers a good laugh.

44% Of Employees “Unsatisfied”

Wednesday, 30. May 2012


According to a recent article at Forbes.com, 44% of employees are unsatisfied with their current jobs. As Susan Adams writes in her article, “New Survey: Majority of Employees Dissatisfied”, even while unhappy, many employees feel stuck, afraid to make a career change, due largely to the current job economy.

Most articles you will read about professionally written resumes will focus on how to get a potential employer’s attention. Very few give tips on making sure the right employer pays attention…and the wrong ones don’t.

For instance, many people say that I am a team player. But really, that is just a code word for loyalty. Not everyone plays well in a team and not every workplace is good for team players. Some people work better on their own, and some workplaces leave employees to work on their own. Some individual bosses like to micromanage, while others like to give direction and kick you out of the nest.

In order to find a work environment that will make you happy you need to be upfront, honest, and specific about your preferred working style. Many new hires have the tendency to try to be the type of worker that they think the employer is looking for, even if they know it will not make them happy in the long run.

Catering your perceived working style and preferences to a new employer will not help you to attract the right kind of employers, the ones you would actually enjoy working for.

By not being upfront about your work environment preferences you will likely become one of the 44% – dissatisfied with the one thing you spend the most waking hours doing, your job.

Billboard Cover Letter: When A Resume Is Just Not Enough

Wednesday, 9. May 2012


Let’s face it, with the ever-present recession and slowed economy, finding a job is tough. So how do you stand out from the crowd? A professionally written resume is a good start, but what happens when a resume is just not enough? Well it’s time to get a little creative.

Take these job seekers for example. Tifani and David have gone above and beyond to get noticed with their billboard, which was placed off of Hwy 80 in Sacramento, CA:

Tifani Goldsmith, a Sacramento native, states that the billboard idea originally came from David, when they both agreed that the investment to market themselves was priceless.

A billboard can be a very creative way to get the word out that you are looking for work when a resume is not enough. Think of it as a unique, if not very expensive, cover letter. But as Tifani pointed out, it can be well worth the investment, especially if it only takes a month instead of four months to land a job.

Since both Tifani and David’s websites are no longer active we can only hope that their investment paid off.

Pasha Stocking was also ‘unemployed and seeking employment’:

After being unemployed for over 10 months, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She created a website and rented a 14×48 foot billboard that was located on Interstate 95 in Fairfield County, CT. Although the campaign was a media success, Pasha was unable to gain ‘suitable employment’ and decided to venture out on her own. She now runs her own Public Relations and Marketing firm called PR Bar.

Although we are unsure if Tifani and David’s investment actually paid off, Pasha’s billboard did not seem to attract the type of work that she was looking for. So what was wrong with these billboards? The features, benefits, and the unique selling propositions are all “I am unemployed”. You wouldn’t focus your cover letter or resume on your status as being unemployed. Why not put a more effective message, like “Hire Me – results driven sales manager between assignments” or “Hire Me – full-time accountant available immediately”.

Here is an example of billboard that sends the right message:

Mark Heuer rented his billboard in, what he describes as a time of “desperation as he was seeking his next career opportunity”. The beginning of the economic downturn in 2008 was hard on everyone, but instead of letting it overtake him Mark came up with a creative way to change careers with his 16×60 foot billboard that was located in Milwaukee, WI, and with the right message, he successfully made that change.

How To Display The 4 C’s To A Hiring Manager

Thursday, 5. April 2012


In a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review, Douglas R. Conant discussed the importance of effective team building.

Conant, the former President and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, recommends that the “time to think about building a highly effective team is when you recruit people into the organization in the first place”.

According to Conant, when interviewing prospective employees, he suggests to look for the 4 C’s: competence, character, courage, and collaboration.

Many hiring mangers are already incorporating these ideals into their interview style. Therefore, today it is no longer just about showing that you possess the skills and knowledge that are required to do the job, both on your professionally written resume and at the interview, but you also have to prove that you are a good fit for the company.

Meaning that you will need to show that you will be an integral part of the team.

If you are preparing for an interview in the near future, the following tips will help you to display the 4 C’s to a hiring manager:

#1 – Competence

When it comes to competency-based questions, a hiring manager is looking to find out about your character, your soft skills and your personal attributes. They will ask questions to see how you acted in real life situations, similar to the scenario type interview questions post we did last year.

To prepare for this type of interview you should:

1. Write down a list of your attributes and characteristics, such as, creative problem-solver, or logical thinker.
2. Next, for each attribute think of two real life situations where you used your creative problem-solving abilities, or logical thinking skills to solve a problem.
3. Don’t try to answer what you think the hiring manager is looking for; rather it is better to be honest about the attributes you possess.

#2 – Character

Along with the competence-based questions, hiring managers are also trying to determine your character. They will ask character-discerning questions, which are also similar to the ones above, during the interview process in order to weed out those applicants that may have the proper skill set, but are not the right fit for the team. As in the first C, preparation is key. You may also want to take the following into consideration:

1. If you have not actually experienced the situation the hiring manager has posed to you, don’t make it up; they will know when you are lying. It is better to explain that you have never experienced that type of situation before and describe what you would do if you had.
2. If your only example puts you in a negative light, you will have to make a decision either to use the example from above, or spin the story to a positive by demonstrating that you have learned from your previous mistakes.

#3 – Courage

Hiring managers employ courage-based questions during the interview process in order to determine which applicants possess leadership skills and leadership potential. These type of questions are typically posed in the scenario/situation type format. Some examples include:

1. How would your co-workers describe your leadership style?
2. What are the most important values and ethics that a leader should demonstrate?

You want to be able to display your courage and leadership abilities to the hiring manager; so again, preparation is definitely the key to answering these types of questions.

#4 – Collaboration

Not only are hiring managers assessing your courage with your ability to lead, they are also looking at your ability to collaborate and be part of a team as well. Collaboration-based questions will come in the form of specific examples, usually with some form of problem and resolution tied into it, such as:

Give an example when you were part of a team. How did it go? Did you face any difficulties and disagreements? If so, what was the resolution?

In a perfect world everyone would get along together, in reality, this rarely happens. Unless your only example as being part of a team would make utopians jealous, then give it, but include the ‘This is what I would have done if there were problems’.

If your experience of working in part of a team was the norm, i.e. rife with difficulties and disagreements, then be honest. Focus on how you helped to resolve the conflicts within the group and were able to bring the team project back on track.

Just remember, preparation is key with any interview, especially if your goal during the interview process is to display that you possess the 4 C’s to a hiring manager.

When Facebook Privacy Settings Just Aren’t Good Enough

Wednesday, 28. March 2012



Robert Siegel, host of the award-winning NPR program All Things Considered, recently interviewed Robert Collins, a now previous employee of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. During a routine return-to-work interview, Collins was asked to submit his Facebook username and password as part of the application process.

It may sound shocking, but this is something that has become common practice, so much so that states such as Illinois and Maryland are now putting through legislation that would ban the practice.

Just when you thought setting your privacy settings was enough to dissuade potential employers from creepin’ out your Facebook profile, in order to now land that job, you may have to actually hand over full control of your Facebook account.

Since setting your privacy settings to limited will no longer be sufficient, the only recourse is a complete overhaul of your Facebook profile. Here are some areas to pay particular attention to:

Profile Picture
This should go without saying, but if you are looking for a job, your profile picture should reflect the mature, educated and responsible person you are trying to portray. A picture of you half naked, or doing a keg stand, (or both), probably won’t help your cause.

Photo Albums
It may be kind of fun to share pictures of you getting wasted at a tropical resort with your friends, but if your potential employer now has full access to your account, these types of albums may be safer on your home computer, where only you have access to them.

Tagged Photos / Places
Isn’t it great that Facebook basically allows anyone to tag you in a photo or sign you into a place? Your friends might think it is funny to see pictures of you passed out or know that you just went into the local strip bar, but I’m sure your hiring manager won’t. Before you begin your job search remove any tagged photos that can be incriminating and turn off the ability for others to sign you into places.

Info Page
This is one spot that typically gets overlooked. When you first opened your Facebook account you may have put a whole slew of interests, quotes and other nonsensical garbage on your info page. Remember to clean up the page as well, and just because it is a quote from a movie, it doesn’t mean your boss will know it, understand it, or not be offended by it.

The Wall
Finally, we’ve reached hit dreaded Wall. When it comes to Facebook, it’s not only your own actions that you have to worry about, but also those that leave comments on your profile. Delete any unsavory comments made by friends, and don’t forget to clean up your own status updates as well. If they are anything like the samples below, they can be just as bad, if not worse:



If you are not a big fan of self-censorship, you have two final options:

1) Create a second Facebook profile used solely for business interactions
2) Delete your Facebook account altogether

You can read the full transcript of Robert Siegel’s interview with Robert Collins here.