JOB APPLICATIONS: PREPARATION NOW, RELAXATION LATER
This is it; you’re ready to apply to some jobs! The excitement of finding an interesting job prospect, and your drive to get out there and show everyone what you have to offer, may tempt you to jump right in and send emails and applications immediately. Your determination and ambition have lead you to where you are right now, but don’t move to this next phase of the process before completing some necessary groundwork.
Preparation can ensure that employers see a professional, polished employee during your communication leading up to an interview. Small changes can make a big difference when you’re making a first impression to employers and recruiters. So, what needs to be updated?
Your email is arguably the most important communication tool in the job search. It is essentially the way that you make a first impression, so you want to make sure it’s a good one. Applicant emails can be forwarded on to HR representatives, Managers, even Vice Presidents, and even one typo, error, or unprofessional component can take you out of the running for a current opportunity and can even affect your opportunities for future openings. To prepare your email for professional, efficient communication, consider the following changes:
Email Address: Let’s start at the very beginning….a very good place to start! Is your email address a professional reflection of you? Say good-bye to “moomoo1965” or “parteegal78” and create an email address that some variation of your first and last name. Creating this new account can assist with your organization as well. Checking one specific account during the time committed to the job search can help you to remain focused, and will eliminate distractions from personal communications
Sender Information: With your email address, the recipient of your emails also receives a notification of the “sender” of your message. This is assigned as you create your email address, and if you’re not careful, it can end up being your email address, or just your first name, or worse yet, a nickname. While these are all fine for your personal email, no one likes getting a resume from “email@example.com” or “jane” or even “j.” Emails with senders indicated like this often get sent to a Junk Mail folder. Be sure that when someone receives an email from you, the see that the email was sent by “Jane Smith, CPC.” Clear, concise, and reflective of your credentials.
Signature: Keep it short, and sweet! First name, Last name, Credentials should be the first line. The second and third lines can be your phone number and email, if you’d like. Save anything else, such as bible verses, inspiring quotes, or pictures, for your personal email account. You want people to remember you, and your skills, not a quote that you referenced. Don’t distract from the most important thing: you!
VOICEMAIL and PHONE ETIQUETTE
If your email is the most important and first line of communication, your phone, and most importantly your voicemail is the second. During the job search, answering the phone, talking on the phone, and even your voicemail all play a part in your presentation to employers. You don’t want to become a story that employers tell: There was a baby shrieking in my ear! They were doing the dishes while she was talking to me! A dog was barking, and they took the time to scold the dog, and then pet the dog, talking to it in baby-talk! The wind was blowing so hard that I couldn’t hear them! They were in the middle of lunch and I could hear them chewing! (All of these stories come from personal experience, and I still smile/roll my eyes when I think of each one)
To avoid any issues or embarrassment, take the time to polish your telephone etiquette, and update your voicemail:
First, do not screen calls. If you don’t recognize a number, and you do not want to answer the phone, simply let the call go to voicemail. However, checking the message and then immediately calling the party back is insulting; it’s a clear indication that you were screening your calls. As common as the practice is, it’s impolite, and immediately returning a call says to the caller “I didn’t think you were important enough at first, but now I know you are!”
Allowing a call to go to voicemail, however, is often a necessary practice. Never answer the phone unless you in a quiet and un-disturbed area. Do not answer the phone to tell the caller that you’ll have to call them back. It is okay to allow the call to go to voicemail, and return the call when you’ve secured a quiet place to talk. Waiting for a return call is much better than having to move past a situation similar to one listed above!
With all the possibilities of a call going to voicemail, your voicemail should simply be your voice confirming that the caller has reached you, and that you’re unable to answer the phone. The clear, concise theme continues here; a short message promising a return call is sufficient. If you happen to have a “ringback” tone on your phone; delete it during your job search. The caller should hear a regular ring when calling your number.
As mentioned above, only answer a call if you’re able to, and prepared to speak with the caller. Calls will come in early in the day; if you’re not fully awake and responsive, do not answer the phone! Calls will come during the work day. If you are at your current job but are able to slip away to a quiet place to chat, answer the call and ask the caller if they have a moment for you to move to a meeting room. Employers understand that you may be working and need a moment to relocate.
As always, manners play a role as well. When asked “May I please speak to Jane?” do not respond with “Who’s this?” If you have calls that you are trying to avoid, you’ll have to take the chance when you answer the phone, or wait for the caller to leave a voicemail, and follow the protocol in our previous discussion to return the call.
If a caller identifies themselves, don’t ask “Wait, which job is this for?” Your work from previous sections will prepare you for an organized job search and application process, so you should be able to keep a good handle on your applications, or quickly reference a list or calendar, so you can intelligently speak about the position.
ONLINE JOB SITES
Sites like LinkedIn, Indeed.com, Monster, are all incredible resources for those looking for jobs, as well as those hiring. It’s almost guaranteed that a hiring manager will utilize one of these sites when researching you, your skills, and your work history. This is a great chance to make an impression before you even speak to anyone! Update your LinkedIn profile, upload your perfected resume (we’ll talk about how to make the perfect resume later), and list keywords that describe your skills and talents. Be sure to include keywords and phrases that you would use in your job search: Coding, CMS, Medical Records, etc. They are searching for you just like you are searching for jobs, so make it as easy for them as possible to find you.
We all use them, they’re fun, and they keep us connected—social media sites! Unfortunately, what we use to share our personal life and views, can sometimes affect the opportunities offered to us. How you present yourself on social media may not be how your conduct yourself in a place of business, but companies, nonetheless, can decide that your posts are inappropriate and that can remove you from consideration for positions. Knowing all this, can we use social media to our benefit in the job search? Posting in public coding groups, and encouraging other coders and applicants is always a good idea, as is following and “friending” coding organizations, such as the AAPC.
To focus on your own image, however, prepare your accounts to ensure that you are viewed in a positive light should employers take a look at your social media posts. If your social media sites are “public,” during the time of your job searching, set them to “private.” The minor change during the job search can save you a lot of anxiety and trouble. As a general rule before, during, and after the job search process, keep your work out of your social media posts. We work in a sensitive industry, and it only takes one mistake to violate HIPAA policies, or to cross a line when complaining during a bad day at work. Keep your work life out of your social media; you’ll be happy that you did!