Job Seeker

“But I have a job and I’m happy.” 

My dad always said, “Son, the best time to look for a job is when you got a job”. He always called me son when he was saying something that I should be taking to heart. Kind of like when he used to say “Son, if your tadpole butt could keep up with your alligator mouth, you’d be one heck of a guy!” I still use that one today. But the point of the message was very clear: Don’t wait until you need something to start looking.

 Status Quo

I call candidates who are currently employed all day long. What is painfully apparent from my call is that candidates often don’t see their value when they are at the top of their game. They are heads down being good at doing what they do. They don’t feel they have time to look. Personally, I get calls from other companies and other agencies trying to recruit me all the time. Of course, I listen. Why wouldn’t I? I am good at what I do and seen as someone who can add value to an existing team. This is EXACTLY when I should be listening to opportunities. That does not mean that I am taking days off work to interview though. When I am at work, I am 100% devoted to my job as everyone should be. If you are not, stop wasting your employer’s time.

When I engage a potential candidate the common response is “I am happy where I am and not looking”. When you follow up and ask for referrals to others, the response I get 99 % of the time is my all time favorite, “I don’t know anyone.” What exactly does that mean? Can someone explain it? Of course you know people. So am I doing something wrong? The more accurate answer is, “You, Mr. Recruiter, have not demonstrated to me why anyone in my very valuable network would benefit from being put in contact with you.” That is what they are really thinking.

In being close-minded from the start, it is not possible for you to make a fair judgment as to how my opportunity may potentially benefit you. Perhaps taking five minutes of your day to speak could be beneficial – if not now—potentially in the future. This is a great way to build a relationship with your recruiter and keep you top of mind. And honestly, you could not possibly make the call that everyone you know is truly happy in their job or would not explore a better opportunity. If that were the case no one would ever switch jobs. In fact, the people who are employed and happy in their job is EXACTLY who I want to speak with. They tend to be the candidates that are desirable to many employers.

 Paradigm Shift

I would offer up perhaps a more open-minded response. When you are approached by an employer about an opportunity, it means they see the value in what you can potentially offer. They see you bringing something to the table that may not exist on their team currently or that they are looking to augment with some additional fresh talent. Do you realize how much power that gives you? Anytime someone comes to you to discuss an opportunity, you are in the driver’s seat. That does not mean you abuse the opportunity or the person calling. That means you should keep an open mind and at least listen.

If you are currently employed, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You do not have to act out of desperation because you have been laid off and you need an income to keep the family fed. The opportunity presented has the potential to be better than what you currently have. I don’t know too many people who would not want to improve their current situation. Of course, the position may turn out not to be right for you, but who knows? The best candidates are always looking to improve themselves personally and professionally. Top talent are continuously evaluating themselves, their job, profession, life, personal relationships and asking, “How can I make this better?”
Let me leave you with perhaps a more open minded response. “I am currently employed and happily so. I would be open to at least hearing about your opportunity and together determining if this opportunity would be better than my current position. I am at work currently, but would be happy to spend ten minutes with you after work to explore it. If at the end of our discussion I do not feel it would benefit me, collectively let’s determine who in my network would benefit from exploring the opportunity.” This response will at a minimum position you as a forward thinking person that is open to improving your situation if the opportunity is right. If it turns out not to be a “better opportunity” — as you define better (not the person reaching out to you) — then at a minimum, you have taken this time to give your thoughts on what would be attractive to you – leaving the door open for the future. My caveat to this post is to make sure you know how your recruiter is compensated and be wary of recruiters who “sell” to you rather than explore with you. There is a VERY big difference there. A high-quality professional recruiter will want the opportunity to be win-win-win (candidate-employer-recruiter).

 

Building Your LinkedIn Brand

 So you need to do some hiring.  You want to do it quickly, but at the same time you need full confidence that you are bringing the very best talent into your organization.  Recruiting should be viewed as a business strategy, not just an operational task.   I recommend taking a step back from the constant need to “put out the fires” and examine the engine you have in place for recruitment at your organization. 

Increasingly, companies are turning towards a unique solution, particularly in these times of uncertainty.  Working as an extension of your company, an outsourced recruiting partner is quite valuable.  Whether you fully outsource or augment what you already have in place, they will get to know your culture, take the time to understand your business goals and help you to streamline your process to ensure optimal hiring. 

A properly managed outsourced recruitment solution offers many benefits that can improve your business. 

 Decrease Time to Hire

Due to the efficiencies that are brought into the mix with an outsourced provider, you will save time.   You will avoid the need for hiring, training and retaining an internal team.  While streamlining your recruitment process, you will also see the development of best practices which will cut out time in the process, leading to less lost candidates and the ability to bring the most desired talent on board more quickly. 

 Increased Candidate Quality

Because contingency fees are not involved when working in this capacity, it automatically sets up a more pleasing scenario for a candidate.  Candidates often say they feel like they are just a dollar sign and being bullied into jobs that just don’t feel right.  Not only isn’t this the case, but because of the approach of many outsourced partners, you will be able to receive honest and open feedback through this unbiased intermediary. 

Reduce Cost

Outsourced recruitment decreases not only your direct recruiting costs, but also can save on recruitment search tools and advertising.  Additionally, you will be able to cut back or even completely eliminate those skyrocketing third party agency fees. 

 Flexibility and Customization

Often, outsourced recruitment programs can be customized and offer flexibility.  As your needs evolve, many programs can usually be adjusted to coincide with changes.  A solid recruiting partner will not be static.  They will provide continuity of the team and at the same time be able to bring on professionals with varied subject matter expertise as needed.

Whether you are an emerging company, a mid-sized firm or a Fortune 500 organization, you have options!  I encourage you to take a look at your current situation and don’t be afraid to get creative on your approach to strategic and effective hiring.

 6 Steps to a Winning Resume

Your resume is a first impression.  Plain and simple. Your celebrated personality may win over a hiring manager at an interview, but you will never even get to that stage if that one piece of paper doesn’t make a statement.  Invest time in writing your resume.  Draft it, edit it, and most importantly have others look at it and make suggestions. 

 Know What You Want and Frame Your Resume Accordingly

Before you even start to draft your resume, it is imperative you have some idea of your goal when setting out to look for a new opportunity.  You do not need to list an objective on your resume, but you do need to know what you are looking for.  Is it career advancement to the next level?  A change of industry?  More money?  Whatever the case, decide on some goals.  As for your resume– maybe you are not sure what it is you want to do and have a few things in mind.  If so, you will need tailored versions of your resume.  This extra effort will go a long way.    

 Silver Bullets

Although you pore over perfecting your resume, a hiring manager will most likely spend about 30 seconds skimming it.  If your resume is difficult to read, you’re toast.  Past accomplishments and responsibilities should be written in bullet form using the least amount of words possible.  Some like to put all their accomplishments in bullets and just list the places they worked.  Not a good idea.  People like to be able to follow a clear employment history.  Highlight accomplishments under each position listed.  One more note on format – use simple fonts in a 10, 11 or 12 pt. type.  Don’t get fancy.

 Focus on Accomplishments:  Be Specific and Quantitative

Generalities can be red flags to a hiring manager.  They may judge a candidate as not having a lot of substance if there are no specifics.  Often the case, one thinks about what they do all day from a task perspective, rather than what they have accomplished and where successes have come.  The key here is to include relevant statistics that highlight the results of your work.  If you are in sales, emphasize quotas and how you matched up against them if successful.  Identify how you ranked among your sales team if you were highly productive.  Perhaps you are in a tech role, finished a project early and saved the company money — point that out.  If you were responsible for marketing efforts that helped drive revenue, write about it.  If you manage others, include the number of employees for which you are responsible.  Just be sure you are prepared to be asked more detail about your statistics in an interview.  Be sure you can back it up. 

 And…Action!

Presumably you are trying to convince a hiring manager that you are a hefty contributor to an organization.  Strong action verbs help to create the take-charge impression you need to make to show your ability to be proactive.  You don’t want to just look like a participant.  Hiring managers like leaders.  For example, rather than writing “Helped with marketing efforts” you should be more specific and exemplify how you were an essential player in the department.  Try, “Executed details of newly developed webinar which resulted in 1000 new sales leads.”   

Blah, Blah, Blah

Irrelevant information should not be included.  Some may be of the opinion that listing hobbies and activities adds personality.  We all have pastimes that we love to talk about, and sometimes those may even come up in an interview.  However, a resume is not the place to tell a future employer that you love hiking with your dog.  Don’t waste valuable resume space on facts that don’t matter. And please, please, please do not say “References will be furnished upon request.”  Have you ever seen a resume that says, “I refuse to provide references if you need them”?  Of course not. At the appropriate stage, it is a given that references will be requested by a potential employer. 

 Keep It Short

Remember that high school English teacher who was always reminding you that sometimes less is more when writing papers?  Well, that notion is equally important when writing a resume.  There is no reason for your resume to be longer than two pages.  If you feel that is that is impossible, evaluate what work experience will be most relevant to the position for which you are applying, as well as consider just listing the name of your company and your title for older positions.

 The evolution of the job seeker from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to WALL-E

Remember when you used to type up your resume on a manual typewriter? Oh, the correction tape we burned through….sorry if I am dating myself. Some of you may even be saying, “What is a manual typewriter?” Then came the IBM Selectric. What an advance that was for people like me who can’t type. I know what you’re thinking, if I have been typing that long, I should know how by now….nope, not happening. You would take that resume, tri-fold it, put it in a nice envelope and mail it. Three weeks later, you would get a letter from the prospective employer acknowledging receipt of the resume. Two weeks after that you may get a call from an HR person to screen you or got the dreaded “Thank you for your interest” letter. Oh, you were applying to more than one company, then repeat the entire process. Ever look back and wonder how we got jobs back then?

Then came the fax. It was like the stuff from Star Trek. You could beam your resume to an HR person within minutes. Wait a week and get a letter acknowledging receipt of your resume. Two or three days later you get a call asking you to set up a screen or the still dreaded “Thank you for your interest”letter.

Then we enter the 1990’s the decade of some of my all time favorites Mars Attacks, Men In Black, and Independence Day. Things sure were moving fast then, remember. You could email a resume to HR and get an auto response in minutes. We would wait a day or two and either get a call looking to set up a screen or, the still dreaded, “Thank you for your interest” email this time.

Welcome to 2009 and beyond. The age of social networking, personal branding, and Job Seeking 3.0. If you are still using job boards you are not going to find a job with a forward thinking, entrepreneurial company. Those companies are using the techniques we are teaching them on how to reach the most desirable candidates and “A” list players who do not post a resume. Just as there are “Employers of Choice”, there are “Desirable Candidates” that companies actively court. Would you like to be someone that a company calls to ask if they would be interested in working for them? Check back and I will tell how. People we are working with, both happily employed and actively looking, are branding themselves as “Desirable Candidates”.

 Interviewing for Success! Part One: “8 Steps to Prep”

All too often people spend a great deal of time and effort researching companies and blasting out resumes without thoroughly planning out the entire process.  Ok, your resume has gotten you in the door – now what is your plan to get the job?  Some candidates feel if “I can just get the interview, I am sure to get the job”.  Stop right there.  You could be setting yourself up for failure.  To ensure you are able to attain that dream job, get your process down!  Follow these simple tips to ensure this opportunity to make a first impression that will blow them out of the water!

Create an Agenda
As your interview is being scheduled, ask who you will be meeting with, including their titles, as well as any information each of them plan to cover.  Most organized companies have a well-defined talent evaluation process by which each person focuses on a particular aspect of the candidate.  (i.e., one person may handle behaviors, motivation, commitment; another may handle prior employers and reasons for leaving each; and one interviewer may cover compensation, future expectations, and skills relative to the job.) Knowing what each person will cover will allow you to prepare and focus your answers to the specific areas each interviewer will cover.  They may not give it to you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Educate Yourself
Review press releases from the company’s website and Google recent news about the firm.  Research some of the company’s biggest competitors.  Be able to relate recent activity within the company to your interviewers, demonstrating that you are truly interested in the company for more than just a job. Not only will this exemplify that you are truly committed to understanding your potential employer, but will also exhibit your ability to gain market information and potentially use competitor information to further your company.

Research Your Interviewers
If you are able to obtain the names of the interviewers in advance, do your homework on each person.  Linkedin is a great resource for reviewing professional backgrounds.  Look for commonality that can be used as conversation starters.  People like to hire people just like them.  You can effectively use common ground to help a hiring manager see you as something other than just another candidate.

Put Your Recruiter To Work
If you have been introduced to a company through a recruiter, ask them to get you as much detail as possible about each interviewer.  Ask about the culture and try to identify what issues and/or challenges the hiring manager is currently facing.  If you can get some information in advance, you may be able to weave your applicable skills and qualities into the conversation.

Memorize the Job Description
Well, you don’t actually have to memorize it, but make sure you have read it numerous times and are able to communicate it back to your interviewer reasonably well.  Nothing is worse than a candidate that is not familiar with a job description that has been provided in advance.  Keep a copy of the description with you. Know it inside and out.  Prepare for your interview by drawing parallels between your experience and this new opportunity.  Be able to justify why you are the best one for the job.

Prepare Your Plan
If appropriate for the position, prepare a sample plan of things you would do in the first 30/60/90 days.  This can demonstrate that you are organized and know how to present a business plan. Walk though it with the hiring manager and explain how you came up with each item and how you would execute the plan.  It may not be exactly on target, but it will help you stand out from your competition.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Practice interviewing in front of a mirror.  Do you look relaxed?  How do you see yourself?  What gestures could you make to appear more engaging or dynamic? Conducting a mock interview with a business professional is a good way to do a dry run of your interview.  Have them give you their honest opinion of things you could improve upon.  Remember — it is better to practice prior and not in front of your future employer! If you have a video camera at your disposal, record your mock interview.  Look at it honestly and critically judge how you present yourself. Listen to how you answered questions and determine if there are ways to communicate more thoughtfully or thoroughly.

What Do I Wear?
These days, business casual (or even shorts and flip flops) are commonplace in many industries and companies.  That’s OK once you’re in the door, but it doesn’t usually fly for making a first impression.  Be sure to dress professionally.  Doesn’t matter where you are going — no one will ever fault you for dressing to impress.  Over the years we have seen inappropriate attire blow the interview before it even starts.

So there you have the initial steps of interview preparation.  If you think taking five minutes to do a quick Google search on a company is enough, you are mistaken.  Your competition for the job already has you beat!  In the wise words of Ben Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Check back with us on Monday March 2, 2009 for more great tips in Interviewing for Success! Part Two

 Interview for Success! Part Two: Be on Top of Your Game

In Part One, we covered what you needed to do to prepare for your interview in advance.  Who knew there are so many things to focus on while you are actually on-site interviewing!  Follow the tips below for continued success in your interview process.

Early Bird Gets the Worm!

Account for unexpected delays.  If you arrive late, you have already made a first impression that you may be someone who does not properly plan for the worst. In advance, be sure you are clear as to where you should park. Ask if there are any specific restrictions you should know about accessing the building.  Remember to bring your ID in case it is needed by building security.

 

Be Nice to the Receptionist

When I interview someone – sometimes even before the interview – I stop by my receptionist’s desk to ask what she thought of the candidate.  Were they cordial and respectful?  If the answer is “no”, so is my decision to hire.  Everyone should be treated with respect. Moral of the story: you may not realize that there are people who are part of the interview process even though they are not asking you questions. Think of it as a secret shopper.

Know What You Want and Why

Clearly articulate the reason you are looking to leave your current employer.  Shy away from vague statements such as “looking for a more challenging opportunity”, “want to make a bigger impact on an organization” or “want to grow”.  Give clear, specific and tangible reasons why you are leaving and what you are looking for in your next position.  Always avoid disparaging comments about past employers — one of the quickest ways not to get the job.  If you cannot find a way to express your concerns without bashing an employer, future employers may see you as less than articulate or a potential bad apple.

Know Your ValueDo your research on regional salary information.  There are numerous sources that publish salary guides, including free ones like salary.com. Be able to substantiate the reason you would be looking for a particular salary. An example may be: “I am looking for $62,000.  My research indicates that salary for someone with my level of experience and skill is reasonable.  That equates to a “X”% increase over my current salary. I am flexible if I could telecommute one day per week.”

Ask Questions

Have two or three questions prepared for each interviewer.  These can be general questions like, “What made you join the organization? What keeps you coming back? How will you know when you have identified the right person for the position?” Or you can be very detailed relative to a particular technology/practice/methodology that they may use.  Every interviewer expects at least a couple of questions.

 Smile — It Gives Your Face Something To Do!

Virtually every position has some aspect that requires you to interact with others. People like to work with upbeat and friendly people.  Smiling encourages open communication.

 The Close

Make sure you thank each interviewer for the time each has taken from his or her day to speak with you about the position.  Point out any specific highlights about the company they shared with you that you may not have known — it shows you were listening. Ask the interviewer if you successfully answered all of their questions and if there is anything you should elaborate upon or clarify for them. Ask if there is any particular documentation or prior work samples or portfolio work that  you could provide that would be helpful for them to measure your capabilities (do not send proprietary documents). If you feel the position is something you would like, ask for the job. Ask what next steps are and when you can expect those next steps to be decided.

 

Follow Up: The Lost Art of the Interview

 

You would be amazed at how often candidates DO NOT do this.  Get business cards from everyone you meet.  Send a thank you message to each including a particular piece of the interview you found went well. Address something you may have learned about the company that you did not know.  This may also be an opportunity to expand on a topic you may have felt you did not answer as thoroughly as you would have liked to.  If there is an appropriate sample of work you want to share, send it.  If you failed to obtain a business card, a quick call back to the receptionist or recruiter should get you the information you need.  A thank you note, whether by email or snail mail, is an easy way to stand out from the rest!

So – that’s it — a simple formula for landing the job of your dreams.  On one final note — keep in mind that not only do you want the potential employer to like you, but you need to be impressed by them as well.  Take notice and take notes.  Be sure you take the time to get a feel for the culture while you are there, pay attention to the commute, and make sure the job “feels right”.  Good Luck!

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