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The Hire Solution’s Temp of the Month: Karyn Miller

employee month 3

Temp 0f the Month Karyn Miller with Vince Clemente, owner of E.R.C. Delivery Services  where Karyn works as Clemente’s assistant.

Congratulations to The Hire Solution’s

August Temp of the Month, Karyn Miller.

The hot days of August may slow down some employees, but not Karyn! She brings her energy-producing smile and sunny disposition into the E.R.C. Delivery Services office every day. Her awesome work ethic, attention to detail and absolute delight when asked to roll up her sleeves and tackle a new challenge, makes her our hands-down choice for our Temp of the Month.

Thanks, Karyn, and keep up the great work!

TIP TUESDAY: Axe These 7 Words from Your Cover Letter

Tedious, yet mandatory: writing a cover letter to pitch your qualifications and your personality in only a few paragraphs is usually the most difficult part of applying for a job.

The worst part: as a general rule of thumb, a cover letter can make or break your likelihood to get called in for an interview.

“Cover letters give you a way to make a first impression and to directly address the key requirements of the position, helping to get you past the initial screening and encouraging the HR officer to read a little deeper,” explains business psychologist and executive career coach Kate Sullivan. “The best cover letters present you as a unique person with valuable skills, telling a story about your background and experience that lets the recruiter immediately envision you fitting into the company culture. It should always be customized to the position and its requirements and should hook your reader in like a great novel.”

The one firm rule for a cover letter is to keep it short: No more than two or three short paragraphs. And don’t revisit every single big job you’ve had, because they can see that on your resume. The cover letter exists purely to distill your achievements and put them in a new light.

Take the following advice of career experts and coaches who shed light on the type of words you should probably CTRL+F and ‘Delete’ out of your cover letter ASAP.

Never say ‘never’ – literally

While a wildly different endeavor, consider the last time you went on a bad first date. Was the person negative? Or difficult to get to know? Since your cover letter is the first introduction into who you are and what you offer, using an absolute word like ‘never’ isn’t recommended by career coach Cheryl Palmer.

She explains that some entry-level applicants or those who have recently switched direction may be tempted to over-explain their lack of experience. Instead, she says to make lemonade out of those lemons.

“Remember, if you are a new graduate or someone transitioning into a new field, it is understandable that you don’t have experience in that area yet,” she notes. “Instead talk about internships you may have had or experience that may not be directly in the field but is still relevant.”

Always avoid ‘always’

Another absolute word, that while positive, can be misleading in your cover letter. Why? The person reading it doesn’t know you, so his or her first assumption could be that you are exaggerating.

Instead, replace the ‘always’ statement with a few examples that demonstrate why you would be the ideal hire. These should include accomplishments you’ve had in other jobs, noting measurable proof that you can speak more to them when you’re called in for a face-to-face chat. This will prove your credibility and how ‘always’ on top of your game you really are.

To ‘whom’ it may concern is no one

Sullivan notes that ‘to whom it may concern’ is an outdated way to approach job applications, especially when you have the Internet. Because you can search for the names of whomever might be your future manager or the director of HR at the company you’re trying to land a gig at, addressing them anonymously appears lazy and shows you have little interest in the company.

If you can’t find the right person to address your letter to, simply ignore the opening salutation and launch straight into your letter.

Even though it’s easy to say ‘even though’ – don’t

Much like the compliment sandwiches that your mama taught you to practice when arguing with your roommate in college, setting up a sentence with ‘even though’ in your cover letter can send a Debbie Downer message to your potential employer. “I have seen cover letters where job seekers say something like, ‘Even though I have not worked with XYZ software before….’ This type of statement automatically points the reader’s attention to a deficit,” Palmer explains. Place the emphasis on what you have done, instead of what you haven’t.” For example, talk about software that you have used that serves the same purpose and/or is very similar to the software that the company is asking that job seekers have experience in.”

Really, really don’t say ‘really’

Ever have someone really, really like you, but you don’t quite really, really like them? It can be a turn-off, and the same goes for applying for a gig. Using ‘really’ may make you come across as over-eager or like you’re trying too hard. It also usually doesn’t add anything to a sentence: saying “I’m really good at Photoshop” is less effective than, “I have more than five years of experience using Photoshop daily.” Be specific instead of using generic adjectives to be sure you sound as suited for the position as you are.

Forget how you ‘feel’

True statement: you probably do feel like you’ve stumbled upon the most amazing, perfect job that you could ever, ever apply for. Also a true statement: your employer doesn’t need to know that, quite yet. In fact, having “feel” in your cover letter can make you seem less mature, secure or qualified for the opportunity; craft your cover letter in a way that makes the person reading it feel like you’re the surefire hire.

“State your qualifications as fact, and do the same with your assertion that you’ll make a good addition to the company,” Sullivan says. “Project confidence through your assertions, rather than hedging your bets by saying you feel that way, which makes it into an opinion – and opinions can easily be disregarded.”

The words “believe” and “think” can also make you sound uncertain about your abilities.

Honestly, ‘honestly’ is a big mistake

When you’re hired for a new gig, your first task is usually attending some sort of training where you learn about the ethics the company abides by. Even if you’re not saving lives or fighting fire, being honorable and trustworthy is considered a given in every workplace. So when you say ‘honestly’ – it might make you come across as insincere.

“The last thing you want is to have a recruiter questioning whether you’re telling the truth about anything on your resume or in your background,” says Sullivan. “Even in an innocuous sentence like ‘Honestly, I love accounting and can’t wait to put my skills to use for your company,’ it’s not appropriate and could backfire by sounding like you’re trying too hard to assure the recruiter of your feelings. Delete it!”

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow_White_1937_posterOn August 9, 1984, Walt Disney presented his animation team with an outline of the first-ever feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Before its screen debut 3-1/2 years later, animators had drawn 250,000 separate pictures, or cells, the original budget of $250,000 (the equivalent of more than $4.5 million today) had swelled to more than a million dollars ($18.2 million today) largely due to Disney’s perfectionism. In fact, the project had acquired the nickname “Disney’s folly” – it was widely believed that no one would sit through a 1-1/2-hour cartoon. But sometimes prophesies don’t come true…. the movie grossed $8.5 million on the first of several releases in December 1937.

Walt and his brother Roy used some of the profits to build a state-of-the-art animation facility in Burbank, California; Walt called it “the house that Snow White built.” Out of that facility have come countless Disney animation classics, including Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942), Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), and The Rescuers (1977). The animation for The Black Cauldron (1985) was the last to be completed at the site.

WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: The Basic Facts of Work

At 20 I wanted to save the world. Now I’d be satisfied just to save part of my salary.
– H. G. Hutcheson

When you were growing up, did anyone ever tell you the facts about work? Things like why we all have to work and why it takes most people 40+ years to be able to retire? Or were you left to discover them on your own?

The facts below will help you start looking beyond the next payday and maybe find a few good reasons to take a good, hard look at how much you love what you do for a living.

1 – The reality is that most people have to work.

Unless you inherited a trust fund or recently won the lottery — you need a way to earn money to buy the necessities and luxuries of life.

2 – If no one goes to work, the world stops.

If farmers don’t work, no one eats. If teachers don’t work, no one learns. If nurses and doctors don’t work, no one is cured. For our modern world to work, someone still has to fix the phone lines, stock the grocery shelves and refill the ATMs. So even if everyone won the lottery tomorrow, most of us would still need to show up for work.

3 – You will spend at least 60% of your life working.

That includes the time you spend at work, as well as all the time you spend preparing for it, looking for it, commuting to it and recovering from it on the weekend.

4. Even with a well-paying job, you will probably still have to work for a majority of your life.

Most people live at the highest level their income will allow. (Simply put, they spend everything that they make.) And since most people also want to live at the same level after they retire, it takes roughly 40 years to save enough to comfortably retire.

5 – You cannot earn a high income just by showing up on time and doing an average job.

People who do average jobs get paid average wages. Doing a good job earns you a good salary. But to get paid a high income, you need to offer your employer or clients work they value highly. Exactly what that is (and what you really get paid for) is not always listed in your job description.

See next week’s Workfact Wednesday for five more basic facts about work from the blog, Manifest Your Potential.com.

TIP TUESDAY: Take on an Investigator’s Mindset When Interviewing Applicants

by Tadd Downs for SHRM online

As a career criminal investigator, my job for the past 25 years has been to put bad guys in jail. Yes, I know this has nothing to do with human resources, and I am sure you are asking, “Why is a criminal investigator writing an article for an HR publication?” It’s simple: An investigator and an HR professional have more in common than you may think.

The more I speak to HR folks, the more I am convinced they could benefit from what I call an “investigator’s mindset.”

In essence, both sets of professionals conduct investigations. The law enforcement investigator does so to solve crimes, while the HR professional investigates applicants and candidates before hiring them. This can be challenging and frustrating. If the HR investigation is done right, a qualified employee is hired. If it’s done wrong, the employer ends up with a problem employee. However, avoiding a bad hire is easier said than done.

During a candidate interview, the HR professional ideally tries to have an open and honest conversation with the applicant so that the former can make an informed business decision. However, scientific studies show that applicants often lie in interviews to obtain a job. In addition, applicants may go to great lengths to try to impress the interviewer.

In my research, I’ve found that interviewers are often poorly prepared to detect a job seeker’s misleading statements. Here is where using the investigator’s mindset can help the HR professional.

Criminal investigators are experts at what I call creating a “psychologically safe” environment. When an HR professional uses an investigator’s mindset for hiring, he or she needs to:

  • Become a student of nonverbal communication.
  • Recognize the seven universal emotions.
  • Properly prepare.
  • Lower the cognitive load.
  • Listen aggressively.

Become a Student of Nonverbal Communication

Investigators know that they can’t rely on “gut instinct” but on facts. One way to do this is by becoming a student of nonverbal communication. By becoming a student of nonverbal communication, the HR professional can look beyond any impression an applicant tries to make. An excellent and easy-to-observe example of this is when an applicant answers a question verbally with “no,” but their nonverbal display—nodding their head—indicates “yes.”

Understand the Seven Universal Emotions

There are seven universal emotions shared by cultures throughout the world, according to a series of experiments by Dr. Paul Ekman, a professor emeritus in psychology at the University of California.

These emotions are anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Recognizing these emotions can allow the interviewer to determine whether what a candidate says coincides with what he or she is feeling. For example, an interviewer can ask, “How well did you get along with your previous supervisor?” If the applicant displays emotions such as contempt, disgust or anger, yet indicates they had a “great relationship,” the applicant’s emotions do not support his or her words. However, if the interviewer sees happiness during the applicant’s answer to the same question, the emotions and the verbal response are congruent.

Properly Prepare for the Interview

Interviewing takes preparation and practice. Setting aside time to prepare allows the interviewer to:

  • Avoid confirmation bias, which is a tendency to look for information that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses about a candidate, while neglecting information that might contradict that bias.
  • Avoid truth bias, which is the tendency for interviewers to want to believe others, despite evidence to the contrary.
  • Avoid overconfidence bias, which is the tendency for an interviewer to believe that his or her ability to interview is better than it actually is.

Lower Your Cognitive Load

Cognitive load refers to the amount of mental effort being used in one’s working memory. When your cognitive load is great, it impairs your ability to assess what it is you’re seeing and hearing. In layman’s terms, if too much is going on in your mind, you’re not able to conduct a successful interview. Your cognitive load will place a “road block” in the way of adequately interviewing your applicants.

The primary way an interviewer can reduce cognitive load is by recording the interview. This will replace the need to take notes.

Aggressive Listening

The late Stephen Covey said it best in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (Free Press, 1989). “Most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.” Thumb-twiddling, rubbing of the legs or hands, and self-hand-holding are a few examples. Maintaining eye contact is one way to listen aggressively to an applicant. Eye contact shows interest in what the candidate is saying, and scientific studies have shown that by maintaining eye contact, you are better able to recall what has been communicated.

The Power of Silence

Lastly, use the power of silence—your silence. After all, if you are talking, you are not listening.

Tadd Downs has over 25 years experience conducting interviews and investigations with the Virginia State Police, then 21 years as a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service. He is the author of Using the Investigator’s Mindset: How HR Professionals Can Interview Like an Investigator to Avoid Bad Hires, (self-published, 2017) in which he takes an in-depth look at the applicant interviewing process.