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Job Search Articles

Stay ahead of the curve with insights from our CTL Associates.

  • 08 Aug 2011 11:47 AM | Anonymous

    By Mark Bartz

    A few years ago, a group of 80 health care/medical industry employers were polled to find out how they find talent for their companies (source: Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey, May-June, 2011). The poll revealed interesting insight and trends that have a very real impact on your job search success. The poll also revealed just how fiercely competitive the job search market place is. So, let’s start with our problem (high competition) before moving onto specific solutions. To make this report interactive I assembled my own questions based on the results of the poll. Think of this as your job search IQ test. Answers follow each question.


    1) When asked “How do you expect hiring competition to change over the next 12 months?” what percentage reported “somewhat more” or “significantly more competitive”?   (77%)

    2) What percentage of these employers compensates their employees for referrals? (69.1%)

    3) When asked “How do you use the online profiles of candidates?” what percentage reported “Always Search” or Occasionally Search?”  (74.1%)

    4) What percentage of these employers uses LinkedIn?  (86.6%)


    5) What percentage of these employers have hired via LinkedIn? (94.5%)

    The employers were asked specifics about nine tools they use to acquire new talent. These tools are: Social Medial, Referrals, Corporate Web Site, Direct Sourcing, Job Boards, Search Engine Optimization, Campus Recruiting, Internal Transfers, and 3rd Party Recruiters. When asked to rank these tools for “quality” of candidates, the employers assigned a numeric grade based on “10.”  Based on their answers, how do you answer the following?

    6) What has greater perceived value – internal transfers or referrals? (Referrals)

    7) What has greater perceived value – direct sourcing or referrals? (Referrals)

    8) What are the top 3 tools in perceived value? (Referrals, 8.6; Internal Transfers, 8.2; Direct Sourcing, 7.9)

    Some conclusions. You need a great LinkedIn profile and referrals to be super competitive. With 94.5% of employers having hired through LinkedIn, realize your profile has become nearly as important as your resume. Since referrals are so critical, it merits asking, “Why?” The answer? 69.8% of employers said referrals resulted in a better “fit” with the company culture and values and 66.8% of employers said referrals resulted in shorter recruitment process.

  • 14 Mar 2011 7:24 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    It seems to me that random thoughts float in the air, ready to be absorbed by random people. Such was the case one week when I had two clients, both of whom had completed their degrees and then continued to tend bar! Furthermore, both hung onto bar tending with the same rationale: to pay down a school loan. Even though both had chosen a similar strategy to deal with debt, that’s where the similarity ended. One bar tended, worked for his dad and then eventually got into B2B sales; the other bar tended and took care of her grandmother who later passed away. Both are now intent on returning in some fashion to their chosen interests: the fellow to an interest in the medical field and the young lady to event planning. Both have a similar interview quandary: How to respond to the inevitable interview question about their career path’s divergence from university studies? Truthfully of course! What other option is there?

    The one, who has been working for about a decade since completing his post-secondary education, can honestly say that he found the school-related debt load to be psychologically difficult, and so he elected to continue earning in an established area of success to pay it off. He can then mitigate any potential obstacles that might cause by continuing to share how that led him into sales, a field in which he has had great success (and share a few successes, chosen for maximum impact and impression), and which has led him to return to his specialty and enter the field of medical devices sales. The other can honestly share that she found her educational debt load to cause her such trepidation that she continued with her bar tending, and at the same time she stepped up to the plate to help her family with their beloved Nona’s illness and passing. Two years later, debt paid and no family responsibilities, she is eager to resume her original intent and launch her career in event planning. To overcome any lingering questions, she should share how she is now volunteering with a major local event committee, as a positive step towards her goal.

    Some interviewers won’t like the situations and that’s fine; there’s precious little you can do to sway these. Others will appreciate the honesty, find the refocused energy appealing, and admire the personalities. It’s best to work for a company that supports your values, and best to let those others go.  Avoid using words that are wimpy and apologetic, such as “just,” “only,” “not much,” or “limited.” Find ways to share your story with words such as “exceeding,” “considerable,” “extensive,” and “resilient.” Be proud of your chosen path and don’t let anyone undermine your focus, pride and confidence!

  • 14 Mar 2011 7:22 PM | Anonymous

    By Gerry Corbett

    In a job market, both the job seeker and the employer have equal rights to find each other unfit or unqualified. Even if job offers are hard to come by, jumping at the first job that comes along might well be fool hardy at best or a disaster of major proportions at worst. So what is the litmus test to ascertain if an employer is unfit to have you grace its presence? Here are some flags to ponder.

    1. Learn the history, assuming the position is one that lights your fire and about which you have much passion and interest. What is the background of the position you are filling? Who was in the job and did the person leave voluntarily? For that matter, has the role been a revolving door? Have you spoken with your predecessor, and how many folks have held the position? Unless your predecessor was promoted up the ladder or went on to greener pastures, you may want to take a pass. These are warning signs that there is danger looming ahead.

    2. Examine management stability. Look at the top as well. Has the CEO been at the company for some time? If not, how long has that person been on the job? And what is the history of the CEO slot? If the company has had a string of leaders, chances are the company is operating without a rudder. Let that ship sail without you.

    3. Study the company’s vision and values. If they are not in sync with your own goals and objectives, don’t be blindsided by the offer. It may not be a good fit. Make certain there is resonance with your own thinking, chemistry and personality. Do not compromise your own integrity. 

    4. Is your potential employer really an “unemployer?” Do your Google or Bing research. Does the company have a record of layoffs, restructurings or strategy shifts? These are an indication of poor management. If uncertainty is not your cup of tea, run and do not look back.

    5. Consider profitability. Unless the company is a startup and in the formation mode, the company ought to be making money. If not, make haste and forget that loser.

    6. Pay attention to the office environment. Do the people look happy. or is everyone running around shoulders slumped and eyes to the ground? Unless you encounter enthusiastic smiles and energetic movement, you may want to think twice about a gig where the atmosphere is likely gloomy and grey. 

    7. Your salary negotiations are a marathon. Are you spending a lot of time debating your salary and or justifying your desired level compensation package? Are you being nickel and dimed to death in benefits? Is a contract an issue? Look, if you are the right fit and you have the skills the company needs, there should be no need for lengthy negotiations. Take a walk; it is not worth the aggravation.

    8. The customers have gripes. Before you take the final step, talk to some customers. Find out if they are pleased with the product as well as the service. Let’s face it, the “customer is always right.” So if you encounter complaints of any sort, where there is smoke there is fire. Just walk on by that frying pan. 

    9. ( is a web site that takes an inside look at jobs and companies from anonymous sources. What you may find is a broad spectrum of opinion from disgruntled former employees or delightfully happy current employees. Consider the source, but stay the course. Read all of the reviews and judge for yourself. If you find two or more red flags you may have a lemon on your hands. Forewarned is forearmed.

  • 11 Mar 2011 4:01 PM | Anonymous

    By Laurie Smith

    With all of the talk about networking's importance in a job search, it seems that many people tend to focus on the mechanics and quantification of the process. They'll tally how many connections they are able to accumulate on LinkedIn, the number who follow them on Twitter, and business cards they collect at brick-and-mortar networking events. There is a tendency to forget that, just as is the case in our social lives, it is the quality of our relationships that matters more than sheer quantity. So, how do you develop quality networking relationships and make the most of them?

    Make It Personal. When we make friends and social acquaintances in our private lives, the spark, the connection, is created when we show we are genuinely interested in that person. We demonstrate that by listening attentively and, when we meet them again, by showing that we recall specifics about them--their interests, likes/dislikes, and miscellaneous details of their lives. It is the same with professional networking relationships. If you have a memory like I do, it makes sense to keep track of information about networking connections in your contact manager, just as professional salesmen routinely do regarding their prospects. Make a note of information such as the number and ages of children they have and what they are doing (starting college, star player on the soccer team, etc.), major home or professional projects they are working on, vacations they are about to take, etc. Then when you send that email or pick up that phone, you'll be able to make that person feel special and know that you value the relationship. Above all, be sure to use your contact's name often. People love to hear their own names, and will inevitably pay more attention when they do. 

    Be Prepared. When you call or e-mail one of your networking contacts, know in advance exactly what you intend to say. Make it specific, short, and to the point. State your name, remind them of how they know you, make a comment or ask a quick question regarding something they told you last time you spoke. Then give them the specific reason why you are contacting them now and what you want to happen next (e.g., set up a personal meeting, solicit their advice, ask for another referral, call you back at a specific time, etc.). 

    Convey Your Message Quickly and Succinctly. Don't ramble. Be succinct. Just as is the case with your resume, you have only a few seconds to capture their attention, so make them count. A good way to ensure you do this is to practice leaving your message by calling your own number. Listen to see how you really sound. Do you come across as low energy or vibrant? Do you quickly get your point across or ramble? Plan what you are going to say carefully to make maximum impact in the shortest possible period of time.

    Be a Giver, Not a Taker. Develop your networking relationships with a giving and open heart, ready to share with and help others without expectation of return. What you give today will inevitably come back to you at some point down the road. As is said in a great Christian prayer: "It is in giving that we receive."

  • 09 Dec 2010 5:30 PM | Anonymous

    By Charlotte Weeks

    Most people in associations (actually, most people at ANY type of company) are frequently met with resistance when trying to do something new. Often, if you ask someone WHY they are performing a specific duty, you’ll hear, “That’s how we’ve always done it.” Obviously, there must have been a good reason at the time, and it’s very possible the task at hand is being done the best possible way. However, if you don’t stop and analyze once in a while, how will you know?

    A lot of people fall into this trap during their job search, especially if it’s been years since they’ve had to look. Traditional methods such as applying to open jobs and using recruiters should still be included (if they never worked, they wouldn’t exist!). However, your time will be better spent if you cultivate “warm leads” at the organizations you want to work for. Networking is the key, but this can be accomplished in a variety of ways such as reconnecting with former co-workers or volunteering within a professional association. Becoming recognized as a subject-matter expert will make you the “hunted” versus the “hunter.” Posting articles, writing a blog, and speaking at industry events are all ways to stay visible. While not networking, you’ll build credibility, which will also turn countless people into “warm leads” for you. Whatever you do, regularly take time to analyze the results you’ve been getting. When you get a hit on your resume, call from a recruiter, or invitation to interview, take note. See what has been most effective, and spend more of your time and energy on those approaches.

  • 23 Nov 2010 8:38 PM | Anonymous

    By Kathleen Sullivan

    Beware that traditional job search methods are ineffective for job seekers over 40: If you are a job seeker over 40, the traditional approach of looking for advertised openings, sending your resume, and then waiting for a response can be a long, frustrating, and demoralizing experience.  Job openings that are advertised are restrictive.  You need to meet specific criteria in terms of experience, responsibilities, and skills. You must be a square peg to fill a square hole.  However, the experience, responsibilities, and skills acquired by someone over 40 often deviate from, or exceed that, of a position description.  Because you respond to an advertisement by submitting an application or resume, you are not able to explain how your experience could be used very effectively for that position.  Therefore, your application goes into a void and you are confused why you never heard back from them. Using these traditional job search strategies, you are up against fierce competition, bureaucratic hiring practices, and the anonymity of selling yourself to a company recruiter or hiring manager using a resume. 

    Rather than waiting for a call that may never come, take a proactive approach to your job search.  You will save time, energy, and your self-respect. One of the most effective methods to conduct a proactive job search is to leverage what is called the "the hidden job market".  Almost 80% of all job openings are never advertised using company web sites, job boards, or newspapers.  Companies use employee referrals or social networking sites to save the costs, time, and manpower associated with advertising.  Often overwhelmed by other duties, hiring managers circumvent advertising to avoid complicated recruitment processes, the stampede of applicants, and fruitless reviews of generic resumes.  Instead, they use referrals, social networking, and professional associations to find potential candidates.  This is the “hidden job market,” and the best opportunities are found in this market.

    Change your approach and leverage the hidden job market: When you use a traditional job search approach, you become a passive participant in the process.  To leverage the opportunities in the hidden job market, you must take control of your job search.  You no longer wait for an opportunity to be advertised.  Instead, you target employers, uncover opportunities, and actively engage in selling yourself for that position. 

    Methods for developing an active job search include: Focus your job search by conducting market research and identifying companies that would need your experience and skills. Create a list of target employers. Use your professional network to make contact with decision makers at these employers. Request informational meetings to discuss their needs and to introduce yourself to them. If you continue to have an interest in this employer and believe that there are potential opportunities for you, design a customized marketing campaign to promote yourself for this opportunity. Build and maintain a pipeline of potential employers and opportunities and market yourself until you land a new position.  Initially, this proactive approach to your job search may seem strange, uncomfortable, and labor intensive.  However, rather than wasting your energy, time, and emotions on a waiting game for advertised jobs, you will be focused, engaged in meaningful conversations with decision makers, and moving towards your desired career goals.

    Reap the benefits of the hidden job market if you are over 40: Leveraging the hidden job market with a proactive approach is advantageous to job seekers over 40. You have worked for more than one employer and often have experience in more than one industry.  Consequently, your target job market is much richer than that of more junior job seekers. You can create multiple career options and look for several types of positions simultaneously. You have built a stronger professional network including former managers and colleagues, customers, vendors, and consultants who can assist you with making connections in the hidden job market. You have better project management skills to plan and execute your job search. You have had more experience with senior management which facilitates your conversations with hiring managers. You have solved a range of problems and can sell solutions to potential employers. You know who you are and what you want professionally, which will enable you to make a good decision about accepting a new position.

    In the hidden job market, your age and experience are assets.  Make leveraging the hidden job market your competitive advantage.

  • 11 Nov 2010 10:32 PM | Anonymous

    By Charlotte Weeks

    You’ve found your dream job – an association with a mission you’re passionate about, a great salary, AND it’s a promotion. Time to sign the offer letter! Not so fast – to make sure you’ve covered all your bases, take some time to research the organization’s culture. During interviews, people often forget it’s a two-way street, and don’t always think about if the company is a good fit for them.

    How can you find out what your potential employer is REALLY like? Consider the following methods:

    1)  Online research: This is the biggie. Do a simple Google search, and skip past the first few pages. Farther back, you’re more likely to get opinions that are not put out by the association. enables employees to anonymously post about their organization.

    2)  Twitter: Put the organization’s name into the search box, and see what people are saying. Go back a few pages to get an even broader picture.

    3) Talk to people who have been there: If you’ve been networking within your industry, it’s likely you can find someone who has worked with the association you’re interested in. If at all possible, schedule a 10 minute call or send a brief email to ask a few questions. A few possibilities: “What did you like about ABC Association?” “What did you dislike?” “Is there anything I should be aware of, off the record?”  

    4) Observe: This may be all you need to know if a place is right for you. Do the employees seem happy? Were the interviewers professional? What does your gut tell you?

    Though these methods can be very helpful when assessing an organization’s culture, some of the information you find may need to be taken with a grain of salt. One negative online post could be from a disgruntled employee and shouldn’t be a deal breaker. However, if you start to see the same red flags over and over again, it may be time to rethink signing that offer letter.

  • 04 Nov 2010 10:39 PM | Anonymous

    By Heather Krasna

    There are two types of government job postings–those that are considered “Open Until Filled” and those that have an official deadline.  What most people don’t realize is that speed is often of the essence, even for jobs with a deadline.

    JOBS WITH DEADLINE.  While it’s true that many government employers will only start reviewing applications for a job once the deadline has passed, many will also start looking at them as they are submitted. Of course, the first five resumes will usually get a lot more attention than the last five. So, applying early can help you even if a job has an official deadline. There have even been cases (in my own experience in managing the posting of thousands of jobs in which there was an official deadline) when the employer decided to pull the job listing before the deadline takes place because they received what they consider “enough” resumes. Not fair, you protest! Well, you’re right, it’s not fair. But maybe the employer is really interested only in people who don’t procrastinate. A scary thought when you know that about half of all applicants for anything with a deadline will apply right on the deadline date. Another reason not to wait to apply is that it’s easier to make fatal mistakes.  Recently a great federal fellowship program had its deadline pass. At least one person who applied on the last day failed to click the submit button and therefore is out of the running.

    OPEN UNTIL FILLED.  What most people also don’t realize is that when a job is “open until filled,” there may be a deadline date listed, or a last day to apply, but this date is not the same as a deadline if the job is open until filled. When a job is open until filled, the employer is reading the resumes or applications as they come in. When they get a good one, they might call that person in for an interview. If they like that person, they will simply stop reading resumes and make a job offer. This means that a job that is open until filled might be open for a month or two, or a day or two. Therefore, when you see positions listed as open until filled, it behooves you to apply right then and there. Yes, you need a decent cover letter. But instead of waiting until the weekend to work on it, put aside whatever you are doing, stay up late, and get the application out the door. I recently spoke with a colleague who posted a job; she had two finalist candidates, both recent grads who were equally top-notch candidates and both of whom came with recommendations. One had applied early, and one applied late. My colleague was actually annoyed at the late applicant–because she was ready to make an offer to the early applicant, and the late applicant made her have to slow down her hiring process and consider one more good person! Just having applied late put the second applicant at enough of a disadvantage that it was hard to recover.

    The moral of this story is–applying for jobs is like voting. Do it early and often!

  • 16 Sep 2010 5:33 PM | Anonymous

    By Charlotte Weeks

    From what I’ve seen, there are typically two categories that job seekers fall into when it comes to the methods they use:  active and passive.  Those that are passive go after jobs that are presented to them, whether by a contact or a job advertisement. They often end conversations with, “Let me know if you hear of any openings.” Those that are active apply to companies whether they have an advertised opening or not. They continuously seek out new networking contacts. They begin conversations with the question, “Who should I talk to at XYZ company?”

    Judging by the above statements, you would assume that the “active” job searchers are using the best way, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, if you have to choose one method, the active style will statistically lead to greater success. However, one of the biggest reasons for this is because the vast majority of people exclusively conduct passive searches. With so many applying to all those open positions, the active job hunters will have much less competition when proactively searching. So, why do I say “no?” Job boards exist for a reason because they work (approximately 10% of the time).

    Your best bet would be to combine the best of both passive and active job search strategies. To maximize your time, association leaders looking for a new opportunity can use the below “recipe” as a start:

    1) Attend two networking events per month that focus on your industry or associations in general (such as ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership or the Association Forum of Chicagoland). (ACTIVE)
    2) Spend one hour every other day searching for open jobs through an aggregator like (PASSIVE)
    3) Identify associations you would like to work for and see if they have openings on their site. (ACTIVE AND PASSIVE)
    4) Create a list of associations you would like to work for and send a highly-targeted cover letter and resume by mail–whether they have advertised openings or not. (ACTIVE)
    5) Use a reputable recruiter distribution service and have your resume sent to those that source for associations and non-profits. (ACTIVE AND PASSIVE).

    This brief list is just to get you started. It can be revised for what works best for you.

  • 15 Sep 2010 5:37 PM | Anonymous

    By Kathleen Sullivan

    If you are over 40 and looking for a job, one response from hiring managers that can stop you in your tracks is:  "You're overqualified."  If you are willing to take the job, why would the hiring manager have reservations?  Hiring managers have valid concerns. Hiring managers face many challenges in making a new hire: hurdles in having a job requisition approved, limited budgets for salaries and benefits, and pressure from senior management to hire the right person who can be a productive member of the organization immediately.  Many hiring managers have learned that job seekers over 40, especially those who have been in management positions, want the same title, compensation, and prestige they held in prior positions.  If these criteria are not met, the candidate who is over 40 may take the job, but then quickly become unhappy and ask for a better title or pay, or continue to look for a job outside the organization.  Consequently, the hiring manager has made a bad decision, which can have repercussions for his own career. 

    How to overcome the hiring manager's objections and land a job:

    Adapt to the current work environment: Over the past 10 years, many companies have become leaner and flatter by downsizing or outsourcing part or all of their workforces.  There is less demand for new hires, particularly for managers.  Employers want a just-in-time workforce, organized by project based roles, that has a contingent relationship with the employer.  They also want the most value for their money.  Job seekers over 40 who are looking for a specific title and high salary do not fit in with this new model.

    To be successful, you must become savvy about the current world of work:  learn about growing industries and new business trends.  Target those industries and companies and research their current products and services, how they are delivered, and how their organizations and workforces are structured.  Then, position yourself as someone who can contribute to their business initiatives and who can adapt to their organizational structure, rather than someone who is locked into a title or salary.

    Set new career goals that reflect the realities of the workplace: If you are over 40 and looking for a job, re-assess your career goals.  Open yourself to the possibilities of building a new relationship with an employer and defining your role and compensation differently.  Speak with hiring managers and learn about the knowledge and experience that is valuable to them.  Sell yourself to the hiring manager based on their needs, not on the title and salary you want. 

    Quantify what you can do for them:  make or save money, meet project deadlines and goals, train and motivate staff, and increase customer satisfaction.  Once you can prove the value that you would bring to a hiring manager, you will become a qualified candidate rather than disqualified. Often, when you demonstrate your value, the role and compensation you are offered may be more in line with what you are seeking.

    What trade-offs can you accept in the next step in your career?  Is the opportunity to work on a dynamic team on a cutting edge project worth forfeiting a title or part of a paycheck?  Your ability to adapt and redefine your career based on new realities is critical.  Rewards in professional growth and job satisfaction can be your new measure of success.

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