Melrose job-hunting professional offers tips for the unemployed
Melrose resident Arnie Fertig helps a job hunter over the phone at the Sunset Road home office of his business, jobhuntercoach.com. Fertig, who is also the rabbi at Temple Beth Shalom in Melrose, coaches people seeking employment with everything from resume preparation to navigating the popular business networking site LinkedIn.com.
Fertig so believes in the analogy that he named his current business jobhuntercoach.com.
“I like to say ‘job hunting’ instead of job searching,” he told the Free Press during a recent interview. “Naming it job hunter was very deliberate. You need to be that hunter with bows, arrows and quivers and you need to have a lot of arrows to be successful — using social media is one arrow, networking is another arrow, responding to job ads is yet another arrow.”
Many Melrosians might know Fertig best as the rabbi at Temple Beth Shalom on East Foster Street in Melrose. However, he said he keeps his job-hunting business very separate from his rabbinical role in the community.
For many years, Fertig worked as a corporate headhunter, placing senior management professionals in roles at a variety of companies and organizations. In 2000, he went out on his own and opened Centre Street Associates Inc., where he recruited professionals in pharmaceutical and health-care-related work, as well as software development, IT, general management, and more.
Then the recession hit.
“When the market crashed, I was in the midst of several searches for about eight different companies,” Fertig remembered, explaining that those and other searches were swiftly suspended by companies. “It became very clear that companies were stopping all job search functions, and we began to see so many people becoming unemployed; these were fine, good people, but their unemployment was part of something so massive that it couldn’t be held against them.”
Unfortunately, many of these people suddenly found themselves looking for a job in a vastly different world.
“Many of these people [had been] so comfortable in their positions, they weren’t prepared to put together a resume or handle a job interview,” Fertig said.
That’s when Fertig created jobhuntercoach.com, which he set up as a division of Centre Street Associates Inc.
“Since the recession began,” he explained, “I have used [my corporate] recruiting knowledge helping job hunters navigate.”
In addition to mastering new tools in their job searches, today’s job hunters must present themselves correctly; with so many out of work, employers have the upper hand. And to that end, Fertig doesn’t mince words.
“Today, employers don’t have the luxury of taking a chance on new hires,” Fertig said. “That’s not to say that [people] in today’s world can’t make a transition with their skills into a different environment. But the odds of that are significantly lower in a recession.”
As dismal as the employment picture appears, Fertig’ experience on the other side of the desk — finding, recruiting, and placing people in the right jobs for them — tells a different story: With the right tools, job hunting can be less daunting and more effective.
One of those tools, or arrows, as Fertig would say, is LinkedIn, the business-networking site that has become a de facto standard for people creating an all important online business profile.
LinkedIn, which began in 2004 in Palo Alto, Calif., allows users to list their current and previous positions, as well as myriad other business-related, professional tidbits, including everything from favorites reading lists at Amazon.com — “to show that [through reading] you’re keeping up on the latest changes in your field” — or even a PowerPoint presentation “that has to do with your expertise.”
A network is established when one person invites others to join his or her LinkedIn “network;” once approved, the invitee’s network of contacts becomes accessible to the inviter as well.
There are different “levels” of contacts; Fertig, who says he jumped aboard LinkedIn when it first hit the web, has “1,000 first-degree contacts, which is [ultimately] 12.5 million [people].”
Effectively navigating LinkedIn is part of a presentation Fertig often delivers when he speaks to groups about job-hunting. Months ago, Fertig did a presentation on LinkedIn at a Melrose Rotary Club function, and even LinkedIn-savvy attendees told the Free Press that they learned more about the job hunting power of the site. (See sidebar for Fertig’s specific tips on using LinkedIn.)
‘Brag on yourself’
In addition to using social media, Fertig helps clients prepare effective resumes — and prepare themselves to come across as professionally as possible. Helping clients understand how they are perceived is valuable learning experience for many.
“Often times, people project themselves in such a way that they don’t understand how they’re being seen on the other side of the table,” Fertig said. “I help people understand the whole hiring process and where they fit in and how they can make it go better for themselves and the company they [want to] work with.”
Done appropriately, this segues into Fertig’s rule that a job hunter should “brag on yourself.”
“I see two kinds of people very often,” Fertig explained. “One is very haughty — ‘I’m the best, I have all the background you need, just hire me.’ They rob employers of reaching that conclusion on their own.
“Others,” he continued, “have a hard time to get over humility and humbleness and speak up, and say something positive about themselves. I encourage people to speak factually: ‘In my last role, we had this problem and I came up with this solution and we increased sales by such-and-such or increased productivity by such-and-such.’ Make [accomplishments] as quantifiable as possible. On the other hand, you can also talk about improvements you helped make or made in the workplace, such as improvements in customer service, etc., what we call ‘soft’ accomplishments.”
Seeking jobs online
Some clients seeking Fertig’s help have been spinning their wheels by responding to job after job posted on the Internet, despite the fact that they believe they’ve been effectively and actively job-hunting. Specifically, Fertig warns job-hunters that new technology employed today by many companies advertising positions online can work against the unemployed if it is unknowingly misused.
“Many people think they’re doing a job search by staying up late at night and applying for everything they see on Monster.com, even applying for the same job multiple times,” Fertig said. However, he cautioned, “I’ve been on the other side of that and those things get picked up pretty quickly. Most companies today use ATS — applicant tracking systems — and resumes are fed through these systems and tracked in any number of ways. So it’ll be seen how many times you’ve applied for the same — or different — jobs at the same company. This is especially true when people apply at one company for a higher-level position as well as a lower level position.”
Another mistake job hunters made is applying for jobs they “could do” versus a job they want.
“Lots of people say, ‘That would be a fascinating job; I think I’d like to do that,’” Fertig said. “But today, with over 9 percent unemployment, job creators virtually have their pick of whomever they want to fill any given job whether they’re in the for-profit sector or non-profit sector. They’re looking for what is called today the ‘best fit candidate.’”
Fertig further explained that online job ads do not work in the job hunter’s favor.
“Ads online are always statistically factoring the employer or the recruiter looking to fill the ad,” he said. “That ad will have 500 to 1,500 responses within the first week. [At minimum] you’ve got a one in 500 shot at getting that job or whatever the number is of you versus the people competing against you for that one position.
“That’s not to say that people don’t get jobs based on online ads,” Fertig laughed. “If that were the case, then Monster.com and the others would be out of business!”
Beyond resume prep; it’s networking, stupid
Preparing a thorough yet concise resume may be Job Hunting 101, but it’s an area that stymies many.
“People are perceived by the message they present,” Fertig explained. “When people are writing resumes they know what they’re talking about, but they don’t communicate exactly what that means. For example, they’ll write ‘responsible for this,’ which is simply a recitation of their job description, not a result of what they’ve actually done.”
That said, Fertig gently reminds job hunters that even the most professionally prepared resume doesn’t guarantee a job.
“Even with the very best possible resume there’s an unrealistic expectation [among job hunters] that the person reading it will give [it] the same amount of attention as [they] took in preparing [it].”
And that’s where the importance of networking comes in.
“Aren’t you going to pay more attention to someone [a colleague you know and trust] walking into your office,” Fertig asked rhetorically, “and saying ‘You might be interested in this guy,’ versus spending an afternoon reading résumés?”
On jobhuntercoach,com, Fertig lists a basic tenet about the significance of networking: “The simple fact of the matter was, is, and likely will remain, that your odds of getting hired are always better if you can network your way into a position.”
Tough times for young and older job seekers alike
Fertig said today he sees many people in their late 40s to early 60s who’ve been out of work for 1-2 years, “and they’re having a tremendously difficult time getting looked at.” Conversely, Fertig said “last year’s college graduates are also having a very hard time; people in their early-to-mid-20s are often returning home to live with their parents and taking jobs they didn’t plan on.”
Many of Fertig’s tips can be found at the blog he runs concurrently with his jobhuntercoach.com site. The blog address is tinyurl.com/jobhunterblog.
Fertig’s rates depend on what his clients are looking for, but are based on an hourly rate with a minimum of three hours. He works out of his home office, but often works with clients by phone or via Skype.
Most important of all, Fertig said is the old adage: Job hunters who are currently employed should not up and quit unless their current job situation is untenable.
“I would never encourage someone to leave a job before they have another one in hand,” he said. “It looks bad to potential employers, and I think it’s a very risky proposition today.”