Buying signals hidden in computer code

Sell Yourself With the Lost Art of Long Copy

 

Before television, long copy was everywhere. Magazines and newspapers ran full page ads with paragraphs of text that told stories without using a single picture, and direct response marketers mastered the technique of persuading people to purchase products using nothing more than a mailed letter.


What is long copy?

Long copy is any advertisement that relies on a lot of text to sell a product or service. It is the opposite of short copy, which uses images, shorter headlines and less text.


Advances in technology have convinced many people that we no longer have the imagination or attention span for this kind of approach, but is that really true?

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5 insider secrets to beating Taleo

Another very interesting article on applicant tracking systems, otherwise known as Taleo (and other terrible sounding software apps). Highlights include what an HR rep actually sees when you submit a resume through Taleo, and 5 tips on making sure your application isn’t rejected by the software.

Job seekers can increase their resumes’ chances of getting through an applicant tracking system by heeding the following do’s and dont’s:

1. Never send your resume as a PDF: Because applicant tracking systems lack a standard way to structure PDF documents, they’re easily misread, says Ciampi.

2. Don’t include tables or graphics: Applicant tracking systems can’t read graphics, and they misread tables. Instead of reading tables left to right, as a person would, applicant tracking systems read them up and down, says Ciampi.

3. Feel free to submit a longer resume: The length of your resume doesn’t matter to an applicant tracking system, says Ciampi. It will scan your resume regardless of whether it’s two pages or four. Submitting a longer (say three or four page) resume that allows you to pack in more relevant experience and keywords and phrases could increase your chances of ranking higher in the system.

4. Call your work experience, “Work Experience”: Sometimes job seekers refer to their work experience on their resume as their “Professional Experience” or “Career Achievements” (or some other variation on that theme). “People get very creative on their resume because they think it will help them stand out, but in fact it hurts them,” says Ciampi. “Often the computer will completely skip over your work experience because you didn’t label it as such.”

5. Don’t start your work experience with dates: To ensure applicant tracking systems read and import your work experience properly, always start it with your employer’s name, followed by your title, followed by the dates you held that title. (Each can run on its own line). Applicant tracking systems look for company names first, says Ciampi. Never start your work experience with the dates you held certain positions.

The whole article is worth reading, and can be found here.

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Refreshing job search advice

I came across 683 Way to Fail to Get a Job Offer, written by Mark Manson, and thought it was a refreshing change from the usual drab magazine job search advice that’s become ubiquitous in the past couple of years. The article details the selection and hiring process after the author posted a job ad for his company.

The best applications did the following:

  • They attached or linked to copies of their previous work for me to look at even though I didn’t ask for it.
  • They custom designed their application materials to match the design of my website and even used the same font on their resume.
  • They built entire WordPress sites to act as their application, with separate pages for their cover letter, resume, favorite books and so on.
  • They included lists of errors they had already found within my articles and suggested corrections.
  • They came up with design and illustration ideas to accompany my current articles without me asking.

If you’re creative, proactive, and a problem solver, then prove it. Send something I would want but didn’t ask for. Suggest improvements I never thought of. Write something that surprises me.

Read the full article here.

 

 

 

Send fewer resumes, get more interviews

Conventional job search wisdom tells us that we need to apply for as many jobs as possible in order to increase our chances of getting an interview. The job market is flooded with people looking for work, companies can afford to choose only the most highly qualified candidates, and job seekers need to pump out as many applications as possible to stay afloat in the murky waters of competition.

What if I had evidence that this conventional job wisdom was wrong? What if I told you that it’s possible to send out fewer resumes, and get more interviews? It may sound like a paradox, but fortunately I have some data from my own job search to back this up. This blog post will discuss the golden ratio of job applications (it exists, trust me…), and suggests an optimized job search methodology that will get you hired faster.

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What I’ve learned from 30 days of job hacking

I started this blog just over a month ago today. Since then, I’ve really pushed myself to use all of the methods I’ve shared to improve my own job search in the hopes of starting the new year with lots of employment leads and interviews. So far, I’d have to say it’s been a success. Lets review the main ideas of job hacking, and see what I’ve learned from each:

1. Creating an online portfolio to showcase your work – I’ve had a portfolio for a while, but writing this blog encouraged me to kick things up a notch and go the extra mile with SEO optimization and tweaking my HTML and CSS code to make the site look and feel smooth and professional. Since my website is one page, I also added a Google Analytics event tracker that reports every time someone clicks a work sample on my portfolio. This was to offset the high bounce rate (% of people who leave page immediately) I was getting for all visitors, which is a common problem with one page websites or blogs. Most web analytics services rely on internal link clicks to track time on page, and since there are no internal links on a one page website when visitors exit the page the platform has no way of knowing how long the visit lasted. I’ll talk more about common issues with web analytics reporting and metrics in the future, but for now just know that a high bounce rate isn’t always indicative of visitors leaving your site immediately (a very bad thing indeed).

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Behold, the guts of my portfolio

2. Using UTM codes to track employer interest in your resume – This has been the most helpful and rewarding thing I’ve done, since I can now see exactly who is visiting my website. While not all visits result in an interview request, just knowing that my work is being considered is a huge psychological boost. Sending out applications and never hearing a thing back is one of the most frustrating things to deal with, and often leads to people feeling helpless and trapped. If you have any kind of online presence, start doing this already!

3. Segmenting your data to uncover job search insights – This has been the second most helpful technique I’ve learned, and has resulted in a greater understanding an appreciation of my Google Analytics dashboard and custom reporting. I’ve uncovered all kinds of weird tidbits of data, like the fact that I have a very dedicated fan in one of the international offices of a company that I applied to (but no call as of yet – don’t be shy anonymous fan!), or that most of my search traffic comes from the phrase “Ian Barnard design”, who is actually another dude in the UK who does amazing typography work. If I were selling a product, knowing the keywords that people were using to search for my website (even those that were sending bad traffic) would be a huge advantage. Sadly, the only product I’m only selling here is my skills…

4. Using A/B testing to perfect your resume and cover letter – The most difficult by far, mainly due to incomplete data. I can rig my applications to the hilt with UTM trackers, but it won’t stop someone who is reading my resume from just typing my URL directly into their browser, which will be logged as a direct visit. I have no way of knowing how many visitors are doing this, and it results in an incomplete data set which makes getting a sample size large enough to be statistically significant difficult. I still really like this idea though, and will work on ways to improve this – if anyone has any suggestions or tips, I’m all ears!


All in all, I’m very pleased with the results. I’m happy to report I’ve had interest and received calls from some great employers, and that these methods have proven to be a great way of showcasing my skills. Wish me luck for the coming weeks, and if you have any questions or want to chat about how these methods can help you in your job search, leave a comment or use the contact info on my portfolio.

I’d also like a give a quick thank-you to all the visitors and WordPress followers who’ve come to the blog in the past month! As of today (January 9, 2014) Job Hacking has had just under 150 visitors and 240 views, which is amazing. I’ve got some cool ideas to share in the near future, and I hope you continue to find the articles interesting and useful!

Creating an online portfolio: the essential tools and resources

Newcomers to the Job Hacking blog will quickly realize that the central theme of what we focus on revolves around using an online portfolio to showcase your talents and skills, and integrating modern web analytics techniques to track and analyze data that helps us optimize our job applications. So far we’ve discussed the analytics side of things in some detail, including using UTM trackers to capture visits to your portfolio, how to segment that data, and using A/B tests to uncover the insights you need. This blog post will wind back the clock and start at step one by looking at the most common ways to create an online portfolio if you don’t already have one, or are looking to improve what you’re currently using.

Whatever type of work you’re looking for, an online portfolio is a great way to share your projects and talents with prospective employers. My immediate reaction to the word ‘portfolio’ involves images of starved art students dragging spattered canvases across a freezing city (it’s always winter at art school) and trying to trade their oil paints for cheap rolling tobacco and rusty cans of Chef Boyardee. However, those more enlightened than me have pointed out that a portfolio is really just a showcase of someone’s work, whether that be an engineering grad project, a custom designed database, an article that you published, or your collection of Calder inspired wireframe figures made from discarded coat hangars that represent man’s fragility in the face of an uncaring corporate enterprise. In short, any piece of work that you produce that showcases your talents can and should be considered as viable material for sharing.

Not all of us (including me) are professional computer programmers or web savvy enough to create an online portfolio, but the good news is that there are many options out there, ranging from easy to more challenging, for anyone who wants to learn how! Based on the old saying “Good, fast, cheap: pick two”, here are your options:

1. The easy and quick way of creating an online portfolio

Pay someone to do it for you. If time is of the essence and you don’t have any interest in learning how to code, there are plenty of paid services that will make the process quick and painless. The one I like best is Format, partly because their team is based in Toronto and I like to support local businesses, but mainly because all of their portfolios are dynamic (will display equally well on mobiles, tablets and desktops), fully customizable, and most importantly has Google Analytics and Webmaster tools support for all your data gathering needs.

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There’s no shame in this, if you can afford it.

If you want to shop around, 10 seconds of Googling “online portfolio builder” will give you hundreds of other options. Just make sure that whatever service you choose has analytics support built in, preferably Google Analytics, otherwise you won’t be able to practice any of the Job Hacking tips and leverage insights and exciting data.

2. The easy and cheap way of creating an online portfolio

For minimal effort, WordPress is the best way of creating a portfolio. WordPress.com will give you free hosting and a bunch of templates that you can access and easily customize without knowing a single line of code. This blog is built on WordPress and is currently running on the Sorbet theme, but there are plenty of responsive portfolio themed templates available for free that will let you upload and showcase your work effectively without it looking like a blog. WordPress also has built in analytics dashboards, and can also be integrated with Google Analytics with a bit of tweaking. If you are in any kind of communications, public relations or marketing field, WordPress has also become the de facto website/blogging service for many companies and organizations, so knowing how to use the platform would be a great skill to add to your resume.

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Example of a portfolio built on WordPress

A word of warning: the customization options for the free version of WordPress are limited, and if you are picky about changing your template to have a certain look or functionality you may have to pay for their Premium package in order to make your portfolio look exactly how you want. Do your research before moving ahead, and take a good look at their plans in order to get the best choice for you.

3. The slow, cheap (and best) way of creating an online portfolio

Build one from scratch. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, even if you’ve never coded in your life! If you’re a complete newb like I was, I can’t recommend Treehouse Learning highly enough. They offer a Web Design course that teaches you absolutely everything you need to know about HTML and CSS programming, and by the end of the course you have built an online portfolio (from scratch!) that can be uploaded to the web immediately. They do charge a monthly subscription fee, but offer a free two-week trial which is long enough to complete the web design course if you’re serious about finishing it. It took me 10 days to get my first portfolio finished, but I was so happy with their courses that I decided to become a paying customer once the 14 day free trial expired.

For those who have some basic HTML skills and are just looking for a quick refresher, Codecademy is a free service that offers interactive coding lessons designed for beginners and experts alike. With the release of HTML5 and CSS3 there have been a lot of changes in web design technology and best practices, and Codecademy is a great way to quickly get up to speed with the latest updates.

Time permitting, this is the method I recommend to most people and the one I used myself in creating my portfolio. Apart from the benefit of having complete control over how your site looks and feels, basic programming is a great skill to have in almost every field out there. With more of our socializing, buying habits and entertainment sources shifting online, knowing the basics of how a web page is built and functions will give you a huge advantage in the job market. If you’re not sure whether coding is for you, sign up for a free account with Codecademy and start their HTML/CSS track. Once you feel things are going well, switching to Treehouse will ensure that you not only know how to code, but have all the tools for getting your website online.

Just remember to stick the Google Analytics tracking code into the <head> of all of your pages, otherwise you’ll miss out on a lot of juicy data.

What types of online portfolios do you like? Share examples of cool portfolios you’ve come across (or built yourself!) in the comments below for inspiration.


Note: I’m in no way affiliated with any of the products or services mentioned here, or anywhere else on the Job Hacking blog. I like to share resources that I have personally found helpful or feel are good value, but always do your own research before paying for any kind of service on the internet.

What is Job Hacking?

You won’t find it in the dictionary, which is a relief because I was looking for a catchy title for this blog. The name is derived from the term growth hacking, which Wikipedia helpfully defines as;

“a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.

First, some back story…

Back in September 2014 I was laid off from my job at an organization in Toronto. After the initial shock had worn off, I quickly set about applying to as many similar positions I could find, only to run into the same problem that everyone else under the age of 35 (and even some who are older) is having: our hyper-competitive job market post-2008.

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The traditional job hunt: throwing resumes into the sea

After many dozens of carefully tailored resumes and cover letters disappeared into the void of HR email addresses and Taleo URLs, it quickly became clear that the traditional method of sending applications to job postings wasn’t going to cut it. At the same time, I’d been using my suddenly decongested schedule to jump head first into the deep end of web design, data analytics and marketing techniques like growth hacking.

It’s still an on-going process, but the more I read the more it made sense to use the techniques that many online marketing teams are creating to get their content seen on the internet to… you know, actually find a job.

So with that in mind, lets kick-start this blog project with the first, formalized and semi-official definition of the term “job hacking” (Merriam-Webster, eat your heart out):


Job Hacking

noun

1. a job search technique influenced by the practices of technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to showcase an individual’s talents and gain exposure.

2. a career mindset and methodology for the digital age.

verb

1. the process of creating, sharing or analyzing original content in order to showcase talent or expertise


Age-old advice, wrapped in a nice <div> with some meta tags and tweets with embedded URL trackers for conversion data.

For various reasons, we may be in one of the worst job markets for young people since the Second World War. The well meaning advice from older generations is largely obsolete, as evidenced by high youth unemployment, a sagging economy, and technological advances that have changed our society for better and for worse.

A new economy calls for a new approach to finding a job. I propose that job hacking is the best way to develop your career and showcase yours skills that companies value. I could be wrong, but I’m willing to find out…

Learn the first job hacking trick I used to track employer interest in my job applications.