End-of-the-School-Year Resource Roundup

Yes, indeed, the end of another school year has arrived, and I am already thinking ahead to the next academic year. In planning ahead, I’ve also reflected on the past year and realized I have gathered a LOT of online resources related to business communication. I’m guessing many of you are like me in that you never really leave the classroom and are always thinking about the next semester, class, or lesson.

The articles below appeared in the news feed generated by my Zite app, and I then saved them to Pocket. (Zite and Pocket, by the way, are probably my two favorite apps.) You can also find more resources by following me on Twitter (@pjglentz) or viewing my teaching board on Pinterest. If you have any “must have” resources you’d like to share with us, please do!

Corporate Culture

Design & Typography

Email

Employment

Grammar

Interviews

Leadership & Teamwork

Persuasion

Presentations & Oral Communication

Research

 Rhetoric

 Technology & Communication

 

Submitting Résumés and Cover Letters by Email

A couple of weeks ago, our Business Communication Advisory Board met to discuss various workplace communication topics. We enjoy hearing from these professionals, who represent a variety of business fields—accounting, human resource management, education, local government, health care administration, and many more.

One of the main topics we discussed is what employers really want when they tell applicants to send their materials electronically. Does this mean they want the cover letter and résumé in the body of an email? Should applicants attach Word documents (a cover letter and a résumé) to an email? Should applicants attach PDF files or Word files? Is the email the cover letter, or should a separate cover letter be attached to the email?

Essentially, our board members said that how applicants submit their documents is not as important as the stories they tell within those documents. However, they shared the following thoughts regarding their experiences.

  • PDF files work better as attachments than Word documents, as the PDF file will likely always open and preserve a document’s format.
  • Fewer attachments are better. If both the cover letter and résumé are attached to an email, they should be in one PDF document.
  • Generally, a concise, well-written email will work for a cover letter.
  • Whether a cover letter is sent as an email or as an attachment, it needs to be short and concise and must tell the applicant’s story well—and honestly.
  • Applicants who send a cover letter as an email must be sure to keep the same level of formality that they would in an attached cover letter or printed cover letter. One board member says that applicants who send cover letters via email tend to use a tone and style that are too informal.
  • Applicants should keep in mind that employers use the quality of the writing in application materials—regardless of how they are submitted—as a measure an applicant’s communication skills and overall competence.
  • Applicants should send thank-you notes immediately after the interview and follow up if they have not heard from an employer within two weeks. Interestingly, while board members say email thank-you messages are fine, they prefer a handwritten note. After emails are read, they are likely deleted or lost in the volume of inbox messages. A handwritten thank-you note will likely sit on the interviewer’s desk and continually remind him or her of the applicant. Email messages, they say, work well if the employer has indicated that a hiring decision will be made within a day or two.
  • Board members say it is also fine with them if they receive both the handwritten and email thank-you note. Regardless, the message should thank the interviewer, address a high point or major qualification that was discussed in an interview (not recap the entire interview), and end with a confident expression of interest in the position.

Does all of this advice sound familiar? Sure. We have been sharing a lot of this advice with our students for years. However, it’s nice to tell our students that we know the advice will work because professionals in their (the students’) anticipated careers have told us this is what they look for.

It’s pretty easy to put together a lesson on the dos and don’ts of interviewing for a job: Say this, don’t say that, dress appropriately, research the company…the list goes on. If you’re looking for stories, statistics, or trivia to enliven your class discussion of the job interview, here are a few articles, courtesy of my Zite app and Twitter feed, that you may find interesting.

On another note…Are any of you going to the Association for Business Communication conference in New Orleans this week? If so, look us up. We would enjoy seeing you.

Follow-up: Facebook Password Requests

Our March 21 post addressed the issue of employers asking job candidates for their Facebook passwords (see Classroom Talking Point: “Job Seekers Getting Asked for Facebook Passwords”).

The folks at Mashable.com provide some great tips for handling requests for Facebook passwords: “What to Do When a Potential Employer Asks for Your Facebook Password.”

Perhaps you’ve discussed this topic with your classes. If so, please share your tips and advice.

(NOTE: Many thanks to Marie Flatley for sending us this link so that we could share it with you.)

Classroom Talking Point: “Job Seekers Getting Asked for Facebook Passwords”

I saw the link to the Associated Press article “Job Seekers Getting Asked for Facebook Passwords” in my Facebook news feed from a local television station.

My first thoughts were 1) Who would think that it’s acceptable to ask for someone’s password? and 2) Who would give up his/her password? Then I thought about my students—vulnerable 20-somethings in a job interview, clearly in no position of authority and just wanting to land some gainful employment.

We already know students need to be careful in many ways when it comes to their social networking practices. This is just one more topic to add to the list. My students and I will be talking about this article in class on Monday, and I thought you might be interested in having the same discussion with your students. Is this ethical? What should students do if they are asked to surrender their passwords? We definitely live in some interesting times.

Introspection and the Job Search

While some students come to our classrooms knowing (or thinking they know) exactly what they want to pursue for a career, many others do not. Students who do not know what they want to do my have so many interests that they find it difficult to narrow their options. Others have just never given it any thought. Still others will say they know only that they majored in a business field because it seemed a more secure  path to employment than, say, majoring in philosophy; but now that they’re looking at “real” employment, they don’t know what they are interested in or what to pursue.

Not knowing exactly what one wants to do for a living can be terrifying. I don’t think this is such a bad thing—especially at this point in a student’s life  If students go through college thinking they know exactly what they want to do, they may close themselves off to other worthwhile possibilities.

At some point, though, students do have to begin the process deciding what they want to do beyond college. To help students refine their interests and expectations for career or internship employment, they could be required to do a bit of self assessment as part of a résumé and cover letter assignment.  A school’s career services office may offer some more thorough inventories, but if you want just a quick inventory, here are a few sites you may find useful:

(For what it’s worth, when I took these tests, the results indicated that I should be a writer or a teacher.)

Including introspection in the job search process may reassure, delight, surprise, or alarm our students, but as a result, they may think more carefully about and plan more carefully for life after college.

Internship Mania in more ways than one

February in our College of Business is most noted for Internship Mania, the day businesses from all over the region come to the university to recruit students for various internships.

“Mania” may be a bit of an understatement, as what used to be a simple review of students’ printed résumés  in preparation for the event has become a complex discussion of what résumés they need in their “résumé arsenal” to be prepared in today’s market.

I tell my students to have their résumé in four formats: Microsoft® Word, .pdf, HTML, and plain text. When we have this discussion in class, many students worry that  they lack the technology (other than Word) to get their résumés in these formats. The technology, however, is readily available and easy to use.

Of course, formatting a résumé in Word or as a .pdf file is useful when sending a résumé as an email attachment. Many students already know that to save a file as a .pdf, they need to use Word’s (2007)  “Save As” feature. For those without the ability to save files as .pdf, downloading CutePDF is a free and convenient way to convert documents to .pdf format.

More puzzling to students is why they need plain-text or HTML résumés and how they create them.

Plain Text Résumés

Plain text résumés are useful for posting to an online job database. They may also be required by employers who electronically scan the information to screen applicants or to get the information into a database for later use.

To create a plain-text file, students need to open their formatted résumés in Word, go to the  “Save As” feature, and choose the plain text format. Once the résumé is in this format,  students should re-format the text as follows:

  • Create a “KEYWORDS” section at the beginning. The keywords should be nouns that capture the student’s best characteristics related to the job. A quick online search for scannable résumés provides many examples.
  • Use nouns from the job ad in the keywords section (assuming, of course, that the noun is an accurate representation of the student’s skills or qualities).
  • Create a lot of white space so that scanners don’t become “confused” by a lack of space between letters and words. My preference is to use a sans serif font such as Arial to further increase the white space between letters.
  • Use minimal text formatting. Scanners will usually read capital letters or bold text but become confused by italics. Many creators of plain-text résumés will use asterisks (*) rather than bullets to set off a list. Avoid tables, tabs, centering, and graphics.

HTML Résumés

Not knowing HTML code need not be a stumbling block for creating a Web-based, HTML resume. Many free sites exist for helping students create their résumés as Web pages. Among these sites are

These resources enable students to create résumés and have them stored at that site so students do not have to worry about finding a host for their pages. Students can then share their resumes electronically with anyone as they wish. Students may also consider using LinkedIn to create a profile that serves as their résumé.

The possibilities are many. Though plain-text résumés and HTML résumés have been around for a while, they are no longer a luxury or the privilege of those who are tech savvy enough to create them; they are a necessity for today’s job seekers.