Classic and modern job searching tips

ORIGINAL POST: 2010-10-04
UPDATES: New links at the bottom

I recently started as Senior Financial Analyst at CDI Corporation, ending my 3 month, 23 day job search. My job is to do financial analysis for corporate reporting as well as provide information that can support business decisions for individual business units -- so I get to report to no less than 5 C-Level executives ("report to" in the sense that I will write reports that they read). The job is in "one of those buildings downtown" that I can walk to and see from my house.

If you have talked to me in the past 3 months, you'd already know this because I've been telling everyone exactly what position I am going to get since I left my last job. AND YOU CAN TOO. Here's some advice I picked up along the way.

Stop Reading the News
Really. The big picture out there isn't great right now. There are some idiots/politicians/propagandists out there saying otherwise, but it would be best to just tune that whole situation out of your head. For me, that means: no TV, no radio, no Mish Shedlock, no, and tell Mom to STFU when she says "it's OK, the average time to find a new job nowadays is XXX".

This advice direct from Jim Knocke, my great-uncle and 1987 winner of the Jefferson Award for Public Service (only 5 are awarded nationally per year, delivered by the President).

Fix Your Silly-Ass Resume
For a sample two-page resume, see mine attached from, I much prefer the one-page format and that is the one that actually landed me this position.

If you have trouble choosing what to put in/leave out and getting everything into a good format, do this: open Notepad and just type stories describing things you have accomplished. Then get your friends to help you choose what sounds the best and turn it into headlines. This is the only important part of the process.

Write a What-Can-I-Do-For-You Format Cover Letter
Nobody cares if you are looking for a position that allows you to use and further develop your skills in XXX (except for you and your mom). This sentence is pure BS, and it shouldn't resemble any part of your cover letter. Here is a cover letter, verbatim quoted in Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends & Influence People first published in 1937:
Dear Sir,

My ten years of bank experience should be of interest to a rapidly growing bank like yours.

In various capacities in bank operations with the Bankers Trust Company in New York, leading to my current assignment as Branch Manager I have acquired skills in all phases of banking including depositor relations, credits, loans and administration.

I will be relocating to Phoenix in May and I am sure I can contribute to your growth and profit. I will be in Phoenix the week of April 3 and would appreciate the opportunity to show you how I can help your bank meet its goals.

Barbara L. Anderson
I know... you don't have 10 years bank experience leading to your current assignment as Branch Manager, your career is probably much more boring. But if you can't headline with something in the template "My XXX experience should be of interest to a XXX like yours." then you should just stop looking for a job, hope for another extension for unemployment benefits, and vote Democrat. Side note, everyone should buy and read How to Win Friends & Influence People.

Put a Quarter in Your Shoe During Interviews
Whenever it catches your attention, that is your reminder to smile and realize how much you appreciate having that interview. Also from Uncle Jim.

Use the Right Resume Posting Site
Engineers use Monster, Business People use CareerBuilder, IT people use Dice. Get your resume on the correct site and set up daily emails. Make sure the title of your posting is catchy and that you have the appropriate keywords inside it. Repost your resume with changes every 2-3 weeks. This advice is based on HR resume searching habits.

If you do it right, it should look like this after a few weeks:

Take Unfair Advantages (a Will bonus section)
Every time you post for a job, check on LinkedIn if you have a connection at that company. Get them as an employee reference. 

To get my current job I went through an interview round with the company CFO that included such questions as "what options does the Fed have to inflate the economy?", "why is the current situation in the US similar to the lost decade in Japan?" and "would you rather invest in gold or treasury inflation-protected securities?" The other round focused my basic experience, and how well I can use Excel. This was a pretty honest transaction, and I would be happy to not get picked if there's another candidate out there who also has 10 years Excel experience, can work with numbers efficiently, and can answer those three questions and more like I did.

Not all interviews are honest like the one I had. Sometimes HR is too lazy to read the resumes that come in, so they put completely ridiculous requirements into the job description. Also, putting impossible requirements in the job description limits the candidates' ability to sue for discrimination or other issues if they are not selected. Here's some requirements of one position I recently interviewed for at Comcast:
  • Minimum of 9 years broad based recruiting experience with at least 4 years spent in a talent acquisition operations role at a complex firm known for innovative and effective recruitment practices
  • Experience or certification in a process discipline, e.g. Six Sigma, Lean, etc
  • Extensive knowledge of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and Enterprise Resource Programs (ERP) including technology deployment, process optimization, workflows and recruiter roles
My background includes none of that, but they called me! It turns out what they actually wanted is someone who can learn new things quickly, talk to people, and understand business processes.

I got lucky there, but maybe you wont. If you think you can do whatever it is that Comcast needs with that posting and you have to lie your way into that position, do it! I don't judge people. And I definitely don't judge my friends and dear blog readers. The HR process has changed, there's too much BS. But at the end of the day, if the most able person gets the job, that's OK by me.

Keyword Stuffing (a Will bonus section)
As an experiment, I tried stuffing my resume with keywords that recruiters might search for: all the certifications available in the Accounting and Finance fields, a list of all verbs and verb phrases used in other resumes, and a list of all American companies with $4+ billion in revenue. That list is posted here for your convenience.
*** Finance *** NASD Series 6 NASD Series 7 NASD Series 63 NASD Series 65 *** Computer *** CSC CFA ACE ACTP ACSE ACSS ACSP CQE CQA CRE CQT CMI CSQE CQIA SCS RCDD CEC CCSA CCSE CCNA CCNP CCIE CCIE CCDA CCDP CCA CCEA CCI ASE ACT CDIA+ CTT+ HTI+ CUE CUA CTE DSDM CEH CNDA CSAD ECSP ECSA CHFI CEA CEP LPT NSA ESE FCP CFST CHDD CHDM CHDP CLU CISA ACP CCP CMII CFPS CISSP CAP SSCP ISCET CWP CCW CWD LPIC1 LPIC2 LPIC3 CLP CLS CLEI CLI CPS CPI MCP MCSA MCSD MCDBA MCAD MCT MOUS CMDBA CMDEV NACSE NNCDS NNCSS NNCAS NNCFS NNCSE NNCDE NNCNA CLE9 CLP CLE CNA CNE MCNE CNI OCP OCP DBO OCP OCP CSD CSSD CWNA CWNI CWNE CWNT CSQA CSTE RHCE RHCX LCP LCA LCE MLCE GIAC CSA ACE SCAD SCSE CPD EDPP ChFC CLU CFA® CPA *** Accounting & Finance *** BPAC 49TR A+ ADRN ARRT ASCP CAP CDFM CEH CEU CFC CISA CISM CISS CLE CLP CPA CSIH DACT DAUD DBCE DBFM DFE DICP DIT DLCL DPM DPUR DSE DSTM DTE FA FORK GCIA GCIH GCUX GISF GSE GSEC GSLC GSNA HAZM IACE ISSA ISSE ISSM MCA MCDB MCIP MCM MCSA MCTS MPCC NET+ PGCE PM RCRA REMT RHCA RHCE RHCT SBE SCNA SCNP SEC+ SMCE SNWA SSCP USPT SENG CPSY CVHL DR DRAS DRIV FGSE JDBS LAW LCSW MRT PCOU PHAR RN RNPR SRGN WWO WWS 6SBB AACC ACPS ACSA ACSP ACSW ACTC AFCP AFE ATAC BCAP BCCP BSSP *** Action Words *** accelerated, acclimated, accompanied, accomplished, achieved, acquired, acted, activated, actuated, adapted, added, addressed, adhered, adjusted, administered, admitted, adopted, advanced, advertised, advised, advocated, aided, aired, affected, allocated, altered, amended, amplified, analyzed, answered, anticipated, appointed, appraised, approached, approved, arbitrated, arranged, ascertained, asked, assembled, assigned, assumed, assessed, assisted, attained, attracted, audited, augmented, authored, authorized, automated, awarded, avail balanced, bargained, borrowed, bought, broadened, budgeted, built calculated, canvassed, capitalized, captured, carried, out, cast, cataloged, centralized, challenged, chaired, changed, channeled, charted, checked, chose, circulated, clarified, classified, cleared, closed, co-authored, cold, called, collaborated, collected, combined, commissioned, committed, communicated, compared, compiled, complied, completed, composed, computed, conceived, conceptualized, concluded, condensed, conducted, conferred, consolidated, constructed, consulted, contracted, contrasted, contributed, contrived, controlled, converted, convinced, coordinated, corrected, corresponded, counseled, counted, created, critiqued, cultivated debugged, decided, decentralized, decreased, deferred, defined, delegated, delivered, demonstrated, depreciated, described, designated, designed, determined, developed, devised, devoted, diagrammed, directed, disclosed, discounted, discovered, dispatched, displayed, dissembled, distinguished, distributed, diversified, divested, documented, doubled, drafted earned, eased, edited, effected, elected, eliminated, employed, enabled, encouraged, endorsed, enforced, engaged, engineered, enhanced, enlarged, enriched, entered, entertained, established, estimated, evaluated, examined, exceeded, exchanged, executed, exempted, exercised, expanded, expedited, explained, exposed, extended, extracted, extrapolated facilitated, familiarized, fashioned, fielded, figured, financed, fit, focused, forecasted, formalized, formed, formulated, fortified, found, founded, framed, fulfilled, functioned, furnished,  gained, gathered, gauged, gave, generated, governed, graded, granted, greeted, grouped, guided  handled, headed, hired, hosted identified, illustrated, illuminated, implemented, improved, improvised, inaugurated, indoctrinated, increased, incurred, induced, influenced, informed, initiated, innovated, inquired, inspected, inspired, installed, instigated, instilled, instituted, instructed, insured, interfaced, interpreted, interviewed, introduced, invented, inventoried, invested, investigated, invited, involved, isolated, issued joined, judged,  launched, lectured, led, lightened, liquidated, litigated, lobbied, localized, located maintained, managed, mapped, marketed, maximized, measured, mediated, merchandised, merged, met, minimized, modeled, moderated, modernized, modified, monitored, motivated, moved, multiplied named, narrated, negotiated, noticed, nurtured observed, obtained, offered, offset, opened, operated, orchestrated, ordered, organized, oriented, originated, overhauled, oversaw paid, participated, passed, patterned, penalized, perceived, performed, permitted, persuaded, phased, out, pinpointed, pioneered, placed, planned, polled, prepared, presented, preserved, presided, prevented, priced, printed, prioritized, probed, processed, procured, produced, profiled, programmed, projected, promoted, prompted, proposed, proved, provided, publicized, published, purchased, pursued quantified, quoted raised, ranked, rated, reacted, read, received, recommended, reconciled, recorded, recovered, recruited, rectified, redesigned, reduced, referred, refined, regained, regulated, rehabilitated, reinforced, reinstated, rejected, related, remedied, remodeled, renegotiated, reorganized, replaced, repaired, reported, represented, requested, researched, resolved, responded, restored, restructured, resulted, retained, retrieved, revamped, revealed, reversed, reviewed, revised, revitalized, rewarded, routed safeguarded, salvaged, saved, scheduled, screened, secured, segmented, selected, sent, separated, served, serviced, settled, shaped, shortened, showed, shrank, signed, simplified, sold, solved, spearheaded, specified, speculated, spoke, spread, stabilized, staffed, staged, standardized, steered, stimulated, strategized, streamlined, strengthened, stressed, structured, studied, submitted, substantiated, substituted, suggested, summarized, superseded, supervised, supplied, supported, surpassed, surveyed, synchronized, synthesized, systematized tabulated, tailored, targeted, taught, terminated, tested, testified, tightened, took, traced, traded, trained, transacted, transferred, transformed, translated, transported, traveled, treated, tripled uncovered, undertook, unified, united, updated, upgraded, used, utilized validated, valued, verified, viewed, visited  weighed, welcomed, widened, witnessed, won, worked, wrote *** Fortune 500 Companies *** Wal-Mart Stores Exxon Mobil Chevron General Electric Bank of America Corp. ConocoPhillips AT&T Ford Motor J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Hewlett-Packard Berkshire Hathaway Citigroup Verizon Communications McKesson General Motors American International Group Cardinal Health CVS Caremark Wells Fargo International Business Machines UnitedHealth Group Procter & Gamble Kroger AmerisourceBergen Costco Wholesale Valero Energy Archer Daniels Midland Boeing Home Depot Target WellPoint Walgreen Johnson & Johnson State Farm Insurance Cos. Medco Health Solutions Microsoft United Technologies Dell Goldman Sachs Group Pfizer Marathon Oil Lowe's United Parcel Service Lockheed Martin Best Buy Dow Chemical Supervalu Sears Holdings International Assets Holding PepsiCo MetLife Safeway Kraft Foods Freddie Mac Sysco Apple Walt Disney Cisco Systems Comcast FedEx Northrop Grumman Intel Aetna New York Life Insurance Prudential Financial Caterpillar Sprint Nextel Allstate General Dynamics Morgan Stanley Liberty Mutual Insurance Group Coca-Cola Humana Honeywell International Abbott Laboratories News Corp. HCA Sunoco Hess Ingram Micro Fannie Mae Time Warner Johnson Controls Delta Air Lines Merck DuPont Tyson Foods American Express Rite Aid TIAA-CREF CHS Enterprise GP Holdings Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Philip Morris International Raytheon Express Scripts Hartford Financial Services Travelers Cos. Publix Super Markets Staples Google Macy's International Paper Oracle 3M Deere McDonald's Tech Data Motorola Fluor Eli Lilly Coca-Cola Enterprises Bristol-Myers Squibb Northwestern Mutual DirecTV Group Emerson Electric Nationwide TJX AMR U.S. Bancorp GMAC PNC Financial Services Group Nike Murphy Oil Kimberly-Clark Alcoa Plains All American Pipeline Cigna AFLAC Time Warner Cable United Services Automobile Association J.C. Penney Exelon Kohl's Whirlpool Altria Group Computer Sciences Tesoro UAL Goodyear Tire & Rubber Avnet Manpower Capital One Financial Southern Health Net FPL Group L-3 Communications Constellation Energy Occidental Petroleum Colgate-Palmolive Xerox Dominion Resources Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold General Mills AES Arrow Electronics Halliburton Amgen Medtronic Progressive Gap Smithfield Foods Union Pacific Loews EMC Burlington Northern Santa Fe Coventry Health Care Illinois Tool Works Viacom Toys "R" Us American Electric Power PG&E Corp. Pepsi Bottling Consolidated Edison Chubb CBS ConAgra Foods FirstEnergy Sara Lee Duke Energy National Oilwell Varco Continental Airlines Kellogg Baxter International Public Service Enterprise Group Edison International Qwest Communications Aramark PPG Industries Community Health Systems Office Depot KBR Eaton Dollar General Waste Management Monsanto Omnicom Group Jabil Circuit DISH Network TRW Automotive Holdings Navistar International Jacobs Engineering Group Sun Microsystems World Fuel Services Nucor Danaher Dean Foods Oneok Liberty Global United States Steel AutoNation Marriott International ITT SAIC Yum Brands BB&T Corp. Cummins Entergy Textron Marsh & McLennan US Airways Group Texas Instruments SunTrust Banks Qualcomm Land O'Lakes Liberty Media Avon Products Southwest Airlines Parker Hannifin Mosaic BJ's Wholesale Club H.J. Heinz Thermo Fisher Scientific Unum Group Genuine Parts Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America Peter Kiewit Sons' Progress Energy R.R. Donnelley & Sons Starbucks Lear Baker Hughes Xcel Energy Penske Automotive Group Energy Future Holdings Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Fifth Third Bancorp State Street Corp. First Data Pepco Holdings URS Tenet Healthcare Regions Financial GameStop Lincoln National Genworth Financial XTO Energy CSX Anadarko Petroleum Devon Energy Praxair NRG Energy Harrah's Entertainment Automatic Data Processing Principal Financial eBay Assurant Limited Brands Nordstrom Apache Reynolds American Air Products & Chemicals Bank of New York Mellon Corp. CenterPoint Energy Williams Smith International Republic Services Boston Scientific Ashland Sempra Energy Paccar Owens & Minor Whole Foods Market DTE Energy Discover Financial Services Norfolk Southern Ameriprise Financial Crown Holdings Icahn Enterprises Masco Cablevision Systems Huntsman Synnex Newmont Mining Chesapeake Energy Eastman Kodak Aon Campbell Soup PPL C.H. Robinson Worldwide Integrys Energy Group Quest Diagnostics Western Digital Family Dollar Stores Winn-Dixie Stores Ball Est√©e Lauder Shaw Group VF Darden Restaurants Becton Dickinson OfficeMax Bed Bath & Beyond Kinder Morgan Ross Stores Pilgrim's Pride Hertz Global Holdings Sherwin-Williams Ameren Reinsurance Group of America Owens-Illinois CarMax Gilead Sciences Precision Castparts Visa Commercial Metals WellCare Health Plans AutoZone Western Refining Dole Food Charter Communications Stryker Goodrich Visteon NiSource AGCO Calpine Henry Schein Hormel Foods Affiliated Computer Services Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Yahoo American Family Insurance Group Sonic Automotive Peabody Energy Omnicare Dillard's W.W. Grainger CMS Energy Fortune Brands AECOM Technology Symantec SLM DaVita KeyCorp MeadWestvaco Interpublic Group Virgin Media MGM Mirage First American Corp. Avery Dennison McGraw-Hill Enbridge Energy Partners Ecolab Fidelity National Financial Dover Global Partners UGI Gannett Harris Barnes & Noble Newell Rubbermaid Smurfit-Stone Container Pitney Bowes CC Media Holdings Emcor Group Dr Pepper Snapple Group Weyerhaeuser SunGard Data Systems CH2M Hill Pantry Domtar Clorox Northeast Utilities Oshkosh Mattel Energy Transfer Equity Advance Auto Parts Advanced Micro Devices Corning Mohawk Industries PetSmart Reliance Steel & Aluminum Hershey YRC Worldwide Dollar Tree Dana Holding Cameron International Nash-Finch Pacific Life Terex Universal Health Services Amerigroup Sanmina-SCI Jarden Tutor Perini Mutual of Omaha Insurance Avis Budget Group Autoliv MasterCard Mylan Western Union Celanese Eastman Chemical Telephone & Data Systems Polo Ralph Lauren Auto-Owners Insurance Core-Mark Holding Western & Southern Financial Group Applied Materials Anixter International CenturyTel Atmos Energy Universal American Ryder System SPX Foot Locker O'Reilly Automotive Harley-Davidson Holly Micron Technology Owens Corning EOG Resources Black & Decker Big Lots Spectra Energy Starwood Hotels & Resorts United Stationers TravelCenters of America BlackRock Laboratory Corp. of America Health Management Associates NYSE Euronext St. Jude Medical Tenneco El Paso Wesco International Consol Energy ArvinMeritor NCR Unisys Lubrizol Alliant Techsystems Washington Post Las Vegas Sands Group 1 Automotive Genzyme Allergan Broadcom Agilent Technologies Rockwell Collins W.R. Berkley PepsiAmericas Charles Schwab Dick's Sporting Goods FMC Technologies NII Holdings General Cable Graybar Electric Biogen Idec AbitibiBowater Flowserve Airgas Conseco Rockwell Automation Kindred Healthcare American Financial Group Kelly Services Spectrum Group International RadioShack Con-way Erie Insurance Group Casey's General Stores Centene Sealed Air Frontier Oil Scana Live Nation Entertainment Fiserv Host Hotels & Resorts H&R Block Electronic Arts Franklin Resources Wisconsin Energy Northern Trust Corp. MDU Resources Group CB Richard Ellis Group Blockbuster
Using that significantly increased the number of phone calls and emails I got (3+ calls per day, 10+ interview requests per day) and 1000+ hits on CareerBuilder. But most of them sucked. You probably don't want to do this. However, you should be cognizant of word choice in your resume, and include phrases and lingo that is appropriate to your field.

Update 2012-02-15, thanks to Grandmom who made her world debut with Grandmom bakes virus bread:
        How To Ace A Job Interview On The Phone (

Update 2014-02-26, for resume tips, find one or target jobs you would like to apply for, send me $30 Paypal to and I will get you comparable resumes in your neighborhood that will give you a GREAT idea of how to present yourself!


Two people asked, and yes I did tell my Mom to STFU when she said "it's OK, the average time to find a new job nowadays is XXX". But we're cool now.
Micheal said…
This isn't guaranteed, but I found avoiding passive voice greater improves you writing style and people pay attention to your writing more even though they may not know why. Adding certainty also helps out. For example in the sample cover letter:

My ten years of bank experience IS OF interest to a rapidly growing bank like yours.

I AM relocating to Phoenix in May and KNOW I can contribute to your growth and profit. I AM arriving in Phoenix the week of April 3 and would appreciate the opportunity to show you how I can help you bank meet its goals.
Anonymous said…
Micheal you're so funny! The original is not in the passive voice, it's the periphrastic future tense. Seriously, you don't even know what the passive is. Thanks for your clueless grammar advice, hopefully nobody reads the comments. Hilarious.
Note to self: be wary of posting blog links to Slashdot, especially posts written in English.
Anonymous said…
Will, I know your Mom and she is VERY nice. You should never talk to your Mom like that (no this is not her). I'm glad you listened to Uncle Jim. Smart man.

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