Yes, I am talking to you.
The purpose of my evening editorial is to make all of you better at managing your careers, and in particular to educate you on what I believe are the key issues in appearing more professional and technology savvy in the digital world we all live in.
Let me start as I always do with outgoing signatures. The purpose of an outgoing signature is primarily to enable others to reach back out to you with a minimum of effort. This means that your phone numbers should appear in the order you would like them called. And, if you have more than one, list it. (Three might be a little over the top.) If you believe everyone knows how to reach you, think again.
If you aren’t sleeping in a car, may I suggest you include a physical address? Sure, very few people are going to come to visit you, (or send you gifts) but many folks would like to know what time zone you live in, and with portable phone numbers these days, area codes aren’t as helpful as they once were. If you think leaving off your city/state will make you more likely to be considered for positions where you are not a local candidate, think again. Local candidates always (or almost always) provide a local address. If you leave it off, you probably aren’t local.
If you are using Outlook or some other email program with appropriate capabilities, you might want to make sure your name in the “From” box is properly displayed. Names all in lower case look silly. The same thing is true if you don’t include your first and last name. It also looks silly if you are sharing an email address with your spouse. (Let me appeal to your inner accountant: Email addresses are generally speaking free.) You might also want to create one that is your name and doesn’t have any numbers in it. Bill123@aol.com in Arial is error prone especially if your last name begins with an L. Could it be 3 L’s in a row? firstname.lastname@example.org my all time favorite. The name is Goldwater. (I’ll let you think about that one.)
If you are at all into being a member of The FENG, you know we have a field called “Greeting to use.” Go ahead, make me guess. Is it Robert, Rob or Bob? Is it Richard, Dick or Rich? (I could go on and on, but I think you see what I mean.) Unless you want to start our conversation by correcting me on your proper name, let me know what you like to be called. And please don’t tell me I can call you Michael or Mike. It’s YOUR name. What do you prefer?
Have you called your home, office or cell recently? May I suggest you do? “Generic system greetings” make you look silly AND don’t provide me with assurance that I dialed your number correctly. (I’m an old man, and I make mistakes. As you know, the phone pad is the reverse of the 10 key pad.) If you have a personalized greeting, do you announce your name? Again, I would like to know I actually reached you.
For your office number, is an extension required to reach you? I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have searched a company’s telephone directory. Some want you to enter the person’s first name. Some want you to enter the person’s last name. And, at the end of running the high hurdles, only a small number of these system directories provide you with the extension number so you don’t have to do it again the next time you call. Go figure.
Let me assume your success in reaching folks on the first try is about the same as mine. (Close to zero.) If you would actually like someone to call you back, you might try leaving a cheery message. (Hi, this is Matt. I’m having a really bad day. I’m down in the dumps. Could you call me back so I can ruin your day?) What do you think the odds are I will call you back? Hint. It’s the same as reaching someone on the first try.
One of the things I have learned is that people with common names are unaware of it. If you have one, no offense, but you might want to be clear which John Smith you are. I have also learned that people with names that are difficult to pronounce or hard to spell are also unaware of it. When leaving a message, you might want to make it easy for me to look you up by spelling your name.
If I am to have any hope of figuring out who you are and why you have called me, you might want to consider lighting the way. (Actually, my database allows me to search on phone numbers. This is the only reason I sound intelligent from time to time when returning calls.)
The next subject is resumes and cover letters.
I could write an entire editorial on either, and I have, so I will just hit the high points. Again, leaving off your home address isn’t going to fool anyone. If it is a privacy issue, try typing your name into Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Switchboard.com, or anyone of several other places and you will find out everyone knows where you live. (And yet, no one is sending you any gifts. Go figure.)
With respect to email cover letters, have I mentioned outgoing signatures? Be sure your email address is part of it.
Leaving off dates on your resume is a bad idea. Companies that don’t hire old people, don’t hire old people. Should I also mention that only people who are old leave off their dates? Duh!
Very few people are so good at hiding their age that someone who reads resumes for a living can’t figure it out in less than 1 second. What are the odds you were Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer right out of college? That whole “Previous positions” section with a list of companies longer than your arm frequently has me doubled over in laughter on the floor.
I’m older than dirt, and I wouldn’t be able to list as many companies. Are you in your 80’s or 90’s? Go ahead. Let my imagination run wild. Will you need an oxygen tent at work? A full time nurse? (Submitting your resume on parchment or on stone tablets, by the way, is a dead giveaway that you are old.)
Should I mention 6 point type? Call me Mr. Magoo. I don’t see so good. (No, it’s not actually your fault.) Consider that a resume gets at best 5-10 seconds. Is it a smudge or a paragraph filled with essential facts about your credentials? If you ACTUALLY want me to read it, you might want to consider putting it in 12 point type.
So, am I talkin to you? You might want to consider the possibility that I am.