Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cover Letters for Jobs in Agricultre

It’s a relatively simple process, yet so many people just totally miss their mark! Rather than go on about everything that you should do, it may be easier for me to list the common errors as things to avoid. Don’t expect to get a call from a recruiter or perspective employer if you have any of these errors in your letter. The time you out into your cover letter can really pay off - just stay away from these common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Use the cover letter to reiterate your resume. Why bother with a cover letter if it’s just a repeat of the next page? Your cover letter needs to introduce you and list the key details that make you a great candidate for the position. It’s OK to list an item or two that may be on your resume – but no more than that!

Mistake #2: Typing and grammar errors will kill your interview potential every time. A cover letter is no different than a resume. Even though you scour your resume for errors, make sure you put the same effort into your cover letter. Make sure you have everything correct before you send it in.

Mistake #3: Using a mass-produced cover letter. Believe me, when you see as many cover letters as I do, it becomes very obvious when a cover letter was “mass produced”. By Mass produced, I mean that the candidate is sending the same cover letter to every potential employer. DON’T DO THIS. You want your letter to be personalized and directly tied to your abilities and why they fit this specific job. The more specifics you can list about the job, the better. It shows you care enough about the opportunity to have done additional reasearch .

Mistake #4: Make your cover letter waaaaaaaaay toooooooo looooooong. All you need for a good introduction is two-three paragraphs on a page. That’s it. Keep in mind that the interviewer could have a hundred resumes to go through they aren’t going to read any more than that.

Mistake #5: Use a format that’s difficult to read. A letter with no bullet points, long paragraphs, small fonts, etc. make it easy to set your resume off to the side. Use a common font for business writing, such as Times New Roman 12 and think about using bullet points to break up a paragraph to get your key points across clearly and concisely.

Mistake #6: Forget to list the position you are applying for and why you are applying. This is a very common mistke and can often be tied to a mass produced cover letter. This letter is your introduction. Don’t forget to explain why you are being introduced! If you’re applying to a large company and you don’t include the simple facts, they may not know which of the 20 open positions you are applying for. We don’t want any reason for that person to do the dreaded “Set You To The Side For Later Review” move!

Start your application process with good cover letter that has all the right pieces in all the right places. Once you’ve done that, your cover letter will get you in front of an interviewer who has read your resume and wants to truly find out if you are the right person for the job.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Get The Most Of Your Ag Job Search - Just Remember What You DON’T Want

Everyone calls me up to tell me what they want. “I want a seed job here,” or “I want an agronomy manager position there.” Unfortunately, most people think they know exactly what they are looking for in a job, and end up never finding it. However, if you are willing to enter a job search by focusing on what you DON’T want, you will have more opportunities to consider. Just flip your thought process around and decide what you dislike. What you have is a list of things to avoid at any cost, and you’ll end up with a rough road map of where you need to go.

The key is to make sure your list contains the things that you absolutely, positively don’t want to do ever, ever again. These are the “deal breakers.”

There are 5 key areas that will help you define your search. Each of these sections are probably the top 5 reasons people leave their jobs. Look at the list and think about what you have done, and would never, ever, do again.

Location. When looking at a great position, people rarely consider the long term effects of commutes or the location of their home in a sales territory. Think about the commitment you are making with this position. Will your time away from home be more, equal or less that your current position? Will the territory grow or decrease in size over time with your success? Is your commute going to be farther, but faster? Could it be shorter, but more frustrating? What are your limits?

Hours of operation. My dad worked in the trucking/shipping industry and worked odd hours until the day he retired. He worked nights, holidays, and strange mid-day shifts. It seemed like when he was home, he was always asleep. When I started my career in retail agronomy, like my father, it never bothered me to work extended hours, weekends or holidays. I guess it wasn’t a big deal to me because odd hours and days seemed normal to me. However, I can assure you that it bothered a lot of other people in my life and plenty of my co-workers too. If the hours or time commitment of a job doesn’t mesh with what you consider “having a life,” then don’t consider it. You’ll be miserable, and there’s no point trying to take a job when you know that you will eventually resent the hours.

Flexibility. There are two types of workplaces these days: Those that say they provide flexibility – and do – and those that say they provide flexibility – and don’t. If flexibility is really important to you, then you first need to define what flexibility is? Is it time off for kids events? The ability to work from home to stay with a sick family member? The ability to take 2 weeks off in a row? Do your homework and find out if flexibility is just lip service. See if you can get the real story on the company culture and what really happens.

Benefits. When you start your career, benefits just don’t seem like that big of a deal. I know they weren’t that important for me as I probably got a cold once or twice a year. Nothing major. Then things change. You get married, have kids, and they start bringing the “virus of the week” home from school. While I know that everyone would like a job with health benefits, it’s probably more critical for parents – especially single parents. If this is one of the reasons you hate your job, then don’t bother seeking positions that won’t offer you the level of health insurance you need.

Travel. You either love it or you hate it. I visit with as many people who love to travel nearly 20 nights per month as I do people that never want to be away from home. I’ve also known plenty of people who hated their jobs because of the travel. They thought being away from home a few nights each month wouldn’t be so bad, but they ended up hating it. It added stress to their families and their job performance. If you hate your job because of the travel, then steer clear of a job that requires it.

We make choices every day. When it comes to your career, those choices can become stressful, confusing, and intimidating. The easiest step may be to simply decide what you don’t want. By avoiding those things you don’t want, you just opened your career to everything you do want. By making this list ahead of time, the typically stressful decision of whether or not to accept an offer just got easier.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Seed Sales Jobs In The Midwest

Increasing corn acres, the ongoing shift to producer focused sales efforts, and the addition of new genetics, are certain to provide more opportunities in seed sales. While many of the "larger" brands focus sales efforts through retail or dealer channels, an increasing number of seed companies are implementing a more producer direct approach. Since one person can only service so many customers, this strategy requires smaller territories and an increased number of sales people. This strategy has proven to be very successful for these organizations, and they continue to see market share increases as a result.

At Ag 1 Source, we still have many seed sales positions available. Our current openings include:
Minnesota - 3 territories
North Dakota - 2 territories
South Dakota - 2 territories
Wisconsin - 2 territories
Iowa - 5 territories
Illinois - 14 territories
Missouri - 2 territories
Indiana - 6 territories
Michigan - 2 territories
Ohio - 3 territories

There is no better time to look at a career in the seed industry. Give me a call or send me an email if you have any questions about these positions. I'd be happy to visit with you about how you can establish yourself in the fastest growing and most exciting sector in Agriculture!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back Up Your Claims To Get That Ag Sales Job

The competition for good sales positions in Ag is getting more and more intense. Each night on the news we hear about company consolidations, collapsing markets, bankruptcies, and corporate downsizing. Great sales people that have been displaced in other industries are seeing Ag as a great opportunity. These people may have been previously in Ag, or possibly grew up in a rural setting and want to return. At any rate, with the increased flow of new job seekers into the Ag market, your competition for winning a great sales position is increasing as well.

One of the best ways to separate yourself from the pack in an interview is to back up your successful career with a “Brag book”. A brag book is a folder or binder that you use during an interview to assist you in explaining your skills, showing your past success, and how these experiences make you a leading candidate for this Agronomy Sales or Seed Sales position.

This folder should include any notes or letters from others that comment on how you did a great job, annual review information, examples of presentations you’ve given, newsletter articles or sales letters that you have written, certifications you’ve attained, and awards that you have earned. This is an ongoing project that will change and expand as you move through your career. The key thing is to keep it current!

I encourage you to bring a Brag Book to your next Ag Sales interview. This compilation of work and success will undoubtedly show that you have initiative, professionalism, organization, and a passion for success. It may be all the difference you need to place yourself above the rest.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ag Recruiters - Friend or Foe

Let’s say you have a successful career in Agricultural Sales where you are breaking sales records, earning great bonuses, and have the quality of life you have always been looking for. You love your job, and your employer loves you.

Then one day your phone rings. You’re expecting it to be a client but it turns out to be Mr. Johnson from ABC Company. You’ve never heard of this person or his company, but quickly find out it’s a recruiting organization. In the next 30 seconds you find out that Mr Johnson has been enlisted by a major Ag supplier (which happens to be one of your major competitors) to hire someone that does exactly what you do. You have a decision – take the call or not.

Most people are naturally leery of taking calls from recruiters. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll be overheard. Maybe you’re so happy you can’t imagine being anywhere else. Or maybe you’re just too brutally busy to bother with the call. Before you say "no thanks", consider this:

  1. Headhunters are paid by the company that wants to hire you, so nothing comes out of your pocket if you end up taking the position.
  2. Headhunters (at least the good ones) aren’t cold callers. Odds are they received your name after a detailed search for qualified candidates by asking their contacts in your industry for referrals of good people. Quite often, the hiring company themselves may have specifically targeted you as one of the people they want!
  3. Even if you recognize that this particular position isn’t a fit for you, by taking the call and being respectful, you’ll have developed a relationship with the headhunter who might call you again with another opportunity. And that one might be the perfect fit!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Have You Jepardized Your Job Search?

Career Builder recently completed a survey of over 31,000 employers regarding the use of online tools and social media in hiring. This survey found that more than one in five employers search social networking sites to screen job candidates Of the hiring managers who use social networks, one-third said they found information on such sites that caused them to toss the candidate out of consideration for a job.

The study found that the number of hiring managers that are turning to social networks like MySpace and Facebook to delve into candidates' online behavior is increasing quickly. Roughly 22% of employers said they already review social networks to screen candidates, while an additional 9% said they are planning to do so. This is a big jump from the 11% of managers that used the technology in 2006.

What are they looking for?
Employers don’t usually search with the hopes of finding something negative about you. In fact, the opposite is true- they’re looking to confirm the information on your resume and hoping to find more proof that you’re a good candidate who really can help their company. However, employers can’t predict how their search will end. Employers in the survey listed these items as reasons they have chosen NOT to pursue the candidate:
· Information about alcohol or drug use (41% of managers said this was a top concern)
· Inappropriate photos or information posted on a candidate’s page (40%)
· Poor communication skills (29%)
· Bad-mouthing of former employers or fellow employees (28%)
· Inaccurate qualifications (27%)
· Unprofessional screen names (22%)
· Notes showing links to criminal behavior (21%)
· Confidential information about past employers (19%)

Take Preventative Action
Google yourself and see what comes up. Do you find things that support your resume? Are there things that your friends would find amusing but an employer would not? It's no longer enough to have a great resume and a good interview. Employers are able to check for themselves just by typing your name into a search engine. Even a series of great references can't mask you from the power of a Google search. Here are some things to consider.

The internet is public domain. If you post something on the internet, it’s no longer a private thought or comment. Everything on the Internet can be found if someone is really determined to find it. Google caches (keeps copies of) websites for months and the Internet Archive keeps copies of web pages for years.
People can’t find what isn’t there. Keep the above list of employer concerns in mind whenever you comment, blog, post a video, upload pictures of yourself or contribute to the Internet in any other way.
Google yourself before you send in a resume. See what employers will discover about you before deciding whether or not to give you a call. Search for you name on Google, Yahoo, and any social networks that are popular for you and your friends.
A little cleanup goes a long way. Once you know which results employers will see, clean up any sites that will leave a negative impression and improve the sites that will leave a positive one. For example, clean up your profiles on the social networks that you use or have used in the past. The order these sites appear in the search results is the way to determine priorities.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Double The Impact of Your Interviewing Success

There is probably only one bit of advice I can give you that comes with a GUARANTEE. My guarantee is that a Thank You note following an interview will increase the odds of your success.

Even the most quick and simple Thank You note will accomplish accomplishes 3 specific things:

1) It will increase your odds of making a psychological connection to the interviewer. The person who interviewed you is no different than the rest of us. They appreciate being valued for their time and are more likely to select a candidate they feel a connection with.

2) Unless you are interviewing for an actual writing position, odds are you didn’t even discuss your writing abilities during the discussion. A Thank You note provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your level of professionalism and writing ability. This is opportunity that others who interviewed missed out on, and can only make you look better for the position.

3) You only get one chance to make a first impression in an interview. HOWEVER, a Thank You note gives you a second opportunity to make an impression. By writing a Thank You, you get a second chance to remind your interviewer of your qualifications and desire to work for the company. If this person just interviewed 15 people, a thank you will automatically help them remember YOU and why they need to hire YOU

Wiring a thank you letters is no different than any other form of business writing. Just remember a few of the golden rules: less is more, or “KISS” (Keep It Simple Stupid)

Here is an example of a good letter. It’s simple, quick to read, and accomplishes each of the key factors I listed above. By taking a few minutes to write a Thank You,I will Guarantee your odds of getting a great position will improve.

August 11, 2008
Robert Smith
Regional Sales Manager
Seed Corn Inc
1234 1st Ave
Anywhere, IL 54321

Dear Robert,

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with you today. The position we discussed is a great opportunity. After reviewing your comments about the position, I’m convinced that I could make an immediate contribution to the success of your organization. Since you are planning to make a decision quickly I would like to mention several things that I feel qualify me for the position.
· Proven seed sales ability with a growth of 4,000 bags in the last 2 years
· Dealer development experience with the recruiting and development of 10 new dealers in my district
· Strong technical background with 6 years of retail sales and crop consulting experience
· CCA Certified since 2004

I am self motivated and a quick learner with an intense desire to do a great job in everything I do.

Thank you for the time you took to visit with me, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Mark Waschek

Friday, August 1, 2008

If you want a job in agriculture - provide the best contact info

Today's job seekers never cease to amaze me. They want to pursue a new career, yet list numbers for phones they are rarely near, and email addresses for accounts they rarely check. If you're serious about looking for a new position, leaving active contact info is critical to your job search success.

Hiring managers are going to close off the search and start the interview process at some point. If your resume arrives at the end of that window, they may only have a day to reach you. With no response, they will most likely pass on you.

Do your job search a big favor and list your cell phone number, along with your home phone number. If you have a company cell phone and would rather not have these calls come in, it might be worth the small investment in a phone to ensure you can be reached for these opportunities.

The same goes for email. I would highly encourage you NOT to use the email account provided by your current employer. Not only is it a questionable practice to use company resources to look for a job with another employer, it's also possible that your employer may have tracking software that can use these activities against you. If you don't have a personal account, there are many free options with Hotmail, Yahoo, and Google. Just remember, it's very important to check it regularly!