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Adolescent Diary Weblogs and the Unseen Audience

Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis "from the Bottom Up". Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-38) Best Paper Nominee.

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The Performativity of Naming: Adolescent Weblog Names as Metaphor

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Last Updated November 22, 2005.

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New books are added but reading status is rarely accurate.

October 28, 2005

Job searching is basically job searching no matter what the industry

The Chronical of Higher Education has, in today's feeds, an article - Common Job-Hunting Blunders - I Can't let slide by without comment. You see after 16 years in Human Resources I can hire anyone from a groundskeeper to a Ph.D. level Optical Scientist, or a CEO and I have done all of them, many many times. And I have always been amused by the commentary I hear on how "academia is different" than going through the hiring process for a public or private employer, because from my perspective it isn't enough different to even talk about.

Below are paragraphs from the article interspersed with my commentary.

Do not send a CV when an employer requests a résumé. Do not refer to your résumé as a CV. Turning a CV into a résumé is a painful but inescapable process for anyone who wants to work in a nonacademic job. Seek advice from your university career center and from people already working outside academe to make sure that your résumé is not a thinly disguised CV. Keep your résumé to two pages at most. Do not attach letters of reference, writing samples, or other supporting material unless the ad requests such documents.

Writing a resume is always painful. In truth lots of resumes received in response to announcements of job openings don't conform to the "rules for resumes." That said it is imperative that resumes come close to the mark. I've applied with companies that were ridiculously strict on this, to the point that one headhunter made me redo the document from the bottom up dictating font styles and paragraph lengths along the way. In truth by the time I was done with the rewrite I knew I didn't want to work for that company...Anyone that restrictive would definitely not like my style. My personal pre-grad school resume is three-pages long partially because some of the organization I have worked for have rediculously long names and addresses, and partly because I have lengthy experience.

Do create different versions of your résumé for different kinds of jobs. Your résumé should read as an argument for why you are right for this particular job. If a job requires strong writing skills, for example, you'll want to highlight your writing experience and leave out less relevant information. Try creating a master résumé listing every possible way of describing your experience and then mercilessly delete items one by one to create a teaching-focused version, a research-focused version, a management-focused, and so on.

I used to have a master resume that had skills statements for everything I could think anyone might want to know about me, that way I could simply cut-and-paste them into the new documents. This worked very well. Every once in a while I would have to write a new one targeted at a requirement that I hadn't thought of, and it was dutifully inserted into the master document as well.

Do not call or e-mail to ask if the employer has received your application. Even if an employer had time to respond to such queries, talking to a candidate that the employer has no intention of interviewing would be awkward and possibly misleading.

DO NOT CALL OR E-MAIL the employer, I know every book on the market say to do so but they are wrong. There are three reasons why they are wrong -

  1. Most hiring processes are people neutral. Nowhere I ever worked did we track resumes by name, we tracked them by number...that way we were in compliance with federal discrimination laws. Guess what I simply don't want to know YOU applied for the job, I want to know if your skill set matches my requirements that is all I want to know at the early stages of recruitment.
  2. These folks are busy...Far busier then you might imagine. I worked far more hours a week in HR than I do as a academic. I can usually, when I don't have to many deadlines, keep academics to between 50 and 60 hours per week. As an HR manager I routinely worked 70 hours per week and was on-call 24/7, it happened more than once that after working a very long day meeting my neverending set of deadlines I would be called out of my bed because there had been an accident at the plant. Then I would be off to spend the rest of the night at the hospital making sure the employee was ok.
  3. Plus do the math, there is one opening, they get hundreds of applications - sometimes - and each one of those people calls weekly to find out the status of the job. Oh my god and people wonder why HR folks get nasty.

Do feel free to send a hard copy of your résumé. Send it by overnight mail as well as by e-mail. Delivery confirmation through an express-mail service is the best way to ensure that your application materials were received. In addition, an employer is unlikely to throw away an express-mail envelope unopened, thus giving your résumé a second chance to be seen.

Absolutely, you'd be crazy not to do this.

Do not send a generic cover letter. One-size-fits-all cover letters that speak broadly about skills that everyone claims to have (multitasking, analytical ability, teamwork) and could be applied to any job are a waste of an opportunity. Don't just say you have those skills, use your background experience to prove it. Conversely, do not be excessively personal in your letter: Employers do not need to hear about your frustration with the academic job market.

Do address the particulars of the ad in your cover letter. Instead of saying that you have "many of the skills requested in the ad," repeat the qualities mentioned and supply specific examples from your experience. For instance, you might say, "Your ad requested project-management experience: I have three years of experience in developing quarterly special reports from conception to final publication on the topic of children's health."

I often used a two column section on my resume that matched up the job announcements requirements with my own experience. Column one would repeat their request, and column two gave my experience that met or exceeded their requirement. My part was always in full sentences, though theirs often was not. This section was the customized part of my resume. Most of the rest of it was boiler plated, though I made editorial changes as necessary. One biggy on this is make sure you change the address block and salutation, you would not believe how often I got cover letters addressed to someone else inside...Even sent one out once when I had the flu. I won't say I never interviewed any of the people who did this but they definitely were at a disadvantage.

The most important advice I can offer about job hunting outside of academe is that you focus on how your experience is relevant to the employer's needs. Be as specific and concise as possible. That approach is a dramatic change from the perspective of the academic job seeker, who must produce a lifelong teaching philosophy and a research plan that will define at least his or her next seven years. But since the academic job search is (ideally) focused on filling a tenure-track position, it makes sense that a hiring committee would consider those long-term questions.

Ultimately, it's a question of emphasis: Companies still care about whether you have long-term potential. And academic-hiring committees are still interested in finding someone who fills their immediate needs. The balance is simply different, and therefore the job-hunting process is different. Taking time to show that you understand the small differences between academe and the outside world can go far in showing that you understand the big differences as well.

The essence of most of these comments in the article boil down to "know the rules of the industry in which you are seeking employment." Oh and "fit" is an important part of every job search. Yes there are laws to say no one should discriminate, and those are very important. But if one of the candidates shows up wearing a suit with the dry cleaning tags attached so that everyone knows he "is clean." (Yes this really happened.) Then it's a good bet he's probably not going to "fit" into the organization.

I ran into the "fit" issue often as a management job-seeker. I have pretty high ethical standards, you probably know that already, and headhunters would tell me that there were companies where they knew they couldn't send me even if I was the best qualified candidate in their pool. The company wouldn't like me and I sure wouldn't have liked them. So remember that fit cuts both ways. You really don't want to be somewhere where you can't fit in...It's no fun at all - been there, done that, got a t-shirt.

So no matter where you are looking for a job put your best foot forward. Job hunting is a process so understand how it works and what you part is in it. Breaking a few rules is ok, but don't break the important ones because that can be the end of your employment chances with that company.

Posted by prolurkr at October 28, 2005 09:03 AM

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