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It’s the age-old question: “How do I find a job?” The job search process can be daunting, so we sat down with Inuvo’s HR manager, Melanie Clayton, to break it down step-by-step. Melanie’s been in the recruiting field for 20+ years, and like us at Earn Spend Live, she has a lot of opinions on everything—from the importance of going to job fairs to why cover letters are a waste of time.
How to Find a Job
How important is it to go to a job fair in college?
I think it’s very important to go to a job fair when you’re in college, even when you’re a freshman. You’re beginning to build a network — you’re finding what companies are in your area, and what they’re looking for skill-wise. It’s important no matter what year you are, so don’t wait until your senior year.
It’s also great for interview practice, just to go and shake hands with each person you walk up to. I meet students all the time at these job fairs when they’re young and they’re very meek and then I see them when they’re a senior and it’s amazing to see the change in confidence. You can tell they’ve gone to these things and they know who your company is.
But it’s also good to go for yourself — what company you want to work for as a freshmen may change by the time you’re a senior. At that job fair you may see a company sitting behind a table not making eye contact with you — is that a place you want to go work for? Is this company energetic about me? I think those are things you need to test the waters with.
How many people do you think you’ve hired from job fairs in the past?
Oh, it’s too many to count, for sure. But I can say that I met some of my favorite co-workers at a job fair. Some students I hire for internships, and years later I see that they’re a leader somewhere. It’s great because you can really tell who the ambitious ones are at those job fairs.
Where do you post job listings, and do you think there’s a certain platform that attracts the best candidates?
I think so. Typically, I’ll post them on our Inuvo website and we’ve got it set up to where it will automatically go out to all the free job boards. One very good free job board is Indeed.com, and I think a lot of people use that one. They post a lot of jobs out there.
There are some websites that you can pay to post jobs; it really depends on how hard of a time you are having finding the right candidate. LinkedIn is a great one if you’re going to pay for it. It is expensive but again, it’s going out to a really large network.
It also depends on what kind of skillset you have. If you’re a software developer then websites like Stack Overflow are great because that’s where developers are communicating with other developers. For the most part, most employers use those free job boards. Social media is another great one; we use sites like Facebook and Twitter, too.
From the perspective of someone who is looking for a job: Where is it that people are posting and where should I go?
I think if I was looking for a job, I would definitely look at LinkedIn. Number one, LinkedIn targets jobs based on your profession; they kind of throw them at you. I’m probably on LinkedIn more than most people because I spend time growing my network and making sure I know what’s going on out there. People I’ve worked with in the past — where are they now? What companies are they working for that we can help each other out? It’s nice to have a good network there, especially for people in the HR field.
Do you ever recruit on LinkedIn? Will you see people and seek them out?
Absolutely, I will hunt you down on LinkedIn.
So you should keep your profile up-to-date?
Yes. I have lots of friends who will reach out to me and say, “Hey, I’m looking for a job, what do I do first?” The very first thing is: update your resume and then update your LinkedIn account — then utilize it! Using that network, you can search for jobs on LinkedIn. I hate to sound like a commercial for LinkedIn, because there are other ways to do it, but those are the first two things I would do if I was on a job hunt.
How to Represent Yourself on Social Media
In regards to social media, how should a recruiter be able to find you?
If I’m searching for someone with a specific skillset, I can search by skill, so make sure you have the right “buzzwords” on your resume. If I’m looking for someone who knows Google Adwords, I will actually search for that and find resumes that way. You can search by city and state also, so keep those updated.
Also, make sure you have a picture on your LinkedIn. Some people don’t put a picture on there and I don’t trust that a little bit. I’ve had friends say they don’t want to put a picture on there and I’m like “Look, I’m not going to know you’re a real person unless I see a picture on there.” That’s the only time I’m ever going to say put a professional picture on a profile. It’s important to know you’re an actual person.
Do you judge people by their pictures?
Absolutely not. Everyone makes fun of me because I have a rule of thumb when I’m recruiting; when I have resumes coming in, I don’t want to know what they look like. I don’t need to know that. Their resume should speak for them and their skillset. I can’t stand when people put a picture on their resume. But on a LinkedIn account, I don’t spend much time on the picture; I just notice if it’s absent.
What if someone uploaded a selfie instead of a professional picture? Is that going to affect your idea of them?
A professional picture should be used. A selfie in your car where you can see the seatbelt, yeah let’s not do that.
How to Create Your Resume
What absolutely HAS to be on your resume?
Number one: contact information. You would be surprised how many resumes I receive where it’s just a name! No email, no address, no phone number. Make sure you’re not putting your current email associated with your employer on there, either — make sure it’s your personal email.
I want to see the places that you’ve worked for and what you did for those places, and then a snapshot of your skillset. If it’s specific software skills then say that — that’s what I was talking about with buzzwords. A lot of companies, especially larger companies, get hundreds of resumes a day so they do word searches — so make sure you have the right words.
But really, I want to see employment history, I want to see skills, and contact information. I really don’t need to see your picture — it allows companies to be discriminatory — and I really don’t care if you ride horses on the side or about your hobbies. I don’t care about that, it’s very unnecessary.
Are you more likely to read a resume that has bullet points or paragraph form, explaining what you did for the company?
I don’t think I have a preference. I don’t like it when they talk in first person. I think bullet points are straight to the point but don’t cut yourself short, don’t not put something on there because you’re trying to keep it short, you know? But don’t talk in first person.
I’ve done this a long time, and if you look at as many resumes as I look at, you like them cut and dry. Exactly what they’ve done, their experience, and what they know, and their education of course. But hobbies? They can leave that off!
What should you leave off? Pictures, hobbies, anything else?
To be honest, you don’t even need your home address. Put the best contact method to find you, maybe your phone number. You don’t necessarily even need your home address on there, you can leave it off.
And yes, leave the hobbies off. Resumes have been around for a long time and I think there used to be a way of doing things. Just like pictures are becoming popular now, I think hobbies used to be. But just think about it, like with your home address, you’re sending this out to anybody — what personal information do you want just floating around out there?
Would you put your high school information on there, or at what point do you need to leave that off?
Don’t put the year you graduated high school because that allows the company to be discriminatory about your age. I don’t think it’s important to put your high school on there, because if you have obviously gone to a prestigious college or have a masters or PhD, I know you went to high school.
Most HR managers know that if they’re a younger professional, then what you did in high school is still important to show — especially if you were valedictorian or have some high achievement or awards, I would show that. If you’ve only been out of college a few years and still want to show that, that’s fine. Now if someone like me is putting high school things on there, it’s probably not as fitting.
I would rather see more of what you have done professionally working than all the activities you were in during high school or college. Employment history is probably the most important to me. But, that would also depend on what I’m hiring for. If I’m hiring a writer for instance, and they were on the journalism club, or a photographer who took all the pictures in the yearbook — that’s different. So it just depends on what is the most relevant for the position.
How personalized can resumes be? You can use a straightforward template or you can make it really fancy and snazzy. Do you pay attention to that?
I do pay attention to that, especially if I’m recruiting for a creative person, like for our creative team here at Inuvo. So if I’m looking for a graphic designer and they have a fancy resume, that’s perfectly fitting. But if I’m looking for a developer or a writer, a straightforward template is just fine. I don’t want to look all over the place to find something. But that also goes back to me and the amount of resumes I look at. I think if you’re applying to a small company that probably doesn’t have as many resumes pouring in, you can get a little more personal.
But that’s also what the interview is for — the resume is to show your skillset and why you are qualified for this job, that’s it. That should land you the interview, not what you look like or how fancy your resume is. Then once you’re interviewing, that’s where you sell yourself. That’s where they should find out a little bit of who you are, where you come from, and your work ethic. But if your resume doesn’t clearly define why you’re qualified for that job then you’re not going to get that interview. Don’t feel like you have to put it all out there on the page.
How long should your resume be? I’ve heard keep it a page maximum but if there’s more information should you go ahead and use the second page?
I don’t care how long they are. As long as it’s fully explaining what you have done. I think back a decade ago, or even longer, they wanted them to be a page because you printed them out to hand to somebody or mail them, but these days you email them. It’s not like you need to print someone’s five page resume; you are looking at them on your computer screen, so it doesn’t matter how long they are anymore. But don’t go on and on about a position to beef it up. As long as it clearly explains what you are doing, I don’t care how long it is.
P.S. If you’re overwhelmed by all the information about resumes right now and don’t know where to start, we created two resume templates that have been approved by Melanie and they are up to her standards.
How to Format Your Cover Letter
First of all, cover letter or no?
Again, I think a cover letter is going to depend. I look at a lot of resumes but I don’t always read a cover letter, I only will if you need to explain something. Like if all your work history is in Texas but our company is in Arkansas, I’m wondering is this person living here? A cover letter can explain those things by saying, “I am from Arkansas and relocating there.” So I would only go to a cover letter if I had a questions about the resume, to be honest. I don’t require a cover letter.
But if you are going to put a cover letter out there, be very specific for that company, don’t make a generic one just because you feel like you need to have one; we can see through that. For smaller companies or family-owned companies, I would definitely put a cover letter on there; it’s kind of an introduction.
Can you tell if it’s copied and pasted? Do you care if it’s tailored to your company?
Yeah, I can tell if it’s copied and pasted. If you’re going to write a cover letter, make it tailored — otherwise what’s the point? So definitely tailor it. Don’t get too personal on those either, we don’t need to know everything.
Remember that your resume needs to sell you professionally. The interview is for talking and getting to know you. If you’re going to do a cover letter, keep it short and sweet.
How to Negotiate Your Salary
When is the appropriate time to ask about your salary? Or should you wait for the employer to ask you?
You need to understand what the salary range is before you get further into the interview process. As a rule of thumb for me, before I bring someone in to interview with our leaders, I ask them what their range is and what we would need to stay in. It needs to be clear before everyone wastes some time. If you’ve interviewed a few times and the company still hasn’t brought it up, I think you definitely need to bring it up.
I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing it up until they offered me the job, but is that too late?
No, as far as wondering what the salary is for the position, I would ask the question: “What is the range you are paying for this position?” There is nothing wrong with asking that question. I do appreciate an employee who knows what they want and knows their worth. If they bring it up to you, be honest. If they say, “We’re looking to pay this range,” and it’s much lower than you expected, you need to tell them. Say, “My range is a little higher than that. If you feel you can go higher I would be glad to interview,” or “I would be glad to continue with the interviewing process.” I wouldn’t make it sound like you were done unless it’s really low.
Here’s the deal: if they give you the salary, you can ask for more! All they’re going to say is no. Do it professionally, know what that position pays for your area, and don’t be unrealistic. If you just moved here from New York and you’re interviewing for a position and you think you’re going to get the same salary — you’re not. You need to understand what the right range is for your location. There is a professional way to say, “Is there room to go higher?” They will ask, “What is your expectation? Where is your head at?” Then you begin that conversation, but be professional about it.
There’s nothing worse than accepting a position at a lower salary than you have been making. Or you may be happy to get that new job, but six months in when you’re not able to pay your bills, you are going to start not being happy at that company anymore. When we hire people, I want to hire them excited! I want them to feel like this is a move up and a move forward for them. You don’t want to lowball an employee and then have an unhappy employee later. It’s not good sense at all.
If the question is open-ended to the person being interviewed, like “What kind of salary are you looking for?” without any context, how do you phrase that answer? I’ve been asked that and I thought “I have no idea!”
Absolutely be prepared for that question. Sometimes they may say, “This is what we’re going to offer,” and it’s cut and dry. There are some positions where I know exactly what the range is. Most companies do a lot of benchmarking to understand what the salary ranges are for their employees. I know I spend a lot of time doing that; we want to be very fair.
There are some times we can’t see eye to eye, and that’s okay. If that candidate is expecting so much more and I know that’s unrealistic, I just say, “No, I’m sorry this is what our range is going to be.” Then no one’s time is wasted — we didn’t bring them in for an interview and go through all that, just to get to the end and say, “Here’s what we’re paying,” and they say no. So we should get a good understanding of that in the beginning.
With that said, don’t email your resume to a company and say, “What are you paying for this?” You can ease into that in very early conversations. You’ll usually talk about the role a little bit before you even come in. If you have those conversations, I would just say, “What do you guys have in mind for the salary for this?” Just ask, and then go from there. Don’t be afraid to! Do your research, get online. Know what your going rate is.
I think it’s one of those things women typically shy away from. We feel uncomfortable talking about money for some reason. We expect it all to be fair; we expect to be offered what we are worth, and to be recognized when we are doing good work. So it’s hard us to be our own advocate.
You have to get confident to have those conversations and you’re selling yourself short if you don’t. I think you’re right, a lot of women haven’t done that. I think when I was younger I was the same way. I remember thinking, “Well if I’m doing a good job, my boss will give me a bonus or a raise.” Or she’ll give me a raise because she tells me all the time I’m doing great so she’ll give it to me eventually, but I learned they don’t.
Once you’ve done it a few times and you’ve had a bad answer and a good answer, you’ll get used to doing it. Practice! Just do it with friends. It’s good to have a mentor at work too, so you can say “I need some advice. I would like to do this, can you give me some tips on how to have this conversation?”
Is it appropriate to discuss your current or previous salary with them? And if they ask, do you have to answer? Should you bring up what you were paid at your last job and if you want more than that or at least that?
Most companies aren’t asking you what your last company paid you or what you’re making now, but sometimes they do. I typically ask, “What range do I need to stay in for you to leave where you are now?” Sometimes people offer up, “Well I’m at this now,” and that’s fine; it’s good to have an understanding of where they are now. But I think it’s what you chose to say and what you feel comfortable doing. Most the time when people leave a company they feel they’re being underpaid. So you don’t necessarily need to say what you’re getting paid now.
You can definitely tell when people are uncomfortable having that conversation — they come out and tell you all kinds of stuff. But like I said: do your homework, know what that position pays for, and know what your range is. Also, if you’ve been at your company now and haven’t had a raise in five years, then you know you deserve more. It’s okay to ask for more than that. I do not ask, “What are you currently making?” I don’t ask that question. But, if you want to be clear on the front end then go ahead, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just don’t sell yourself short and don’t be unrealistic.
If you have any more questions, feel free to comment below, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet us using the hashtag #JustEvesdropping and we’ll get the answer from Melanie. We’re definitely going to have more interviews with her in the future, so stay tuned!