Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technologies.
Q: I am a mid-level manager with an unusual problem. I am being bullied. From the swearing, the comments about what part of my anatomy I step on, to the taunting about Ethernet cable color, there is no mistaking it. The corporate culture where I am enables the behavior. I've decided to move on, and will do so with great references. My problem, is answering "Why are you looking?" How do I convey what's going on without sounding like a complainer?
A: I am sorry you are being harassed at work. Unfortunately, your problem is not that unusual. Many times employees will move on because bullying and harassment take a toll on a person's energy, spirit and self-esteem. What is most concerning to me is that it seems that the culture supports this negative style. If this were a situation where one individual was behaving inappropriately, then I would ask you to consider addressing the behavior. If it is an entire workplace which promotes this behavior, that is more worrisome. It is hard to determine based on what you have shared, but some or all of this behavior could cross over into what is illegal behavior in the workplace. Of course, it is easy for me to ask you to consider confronting this behavior since I am not working in this type of toxic environment.
There is a way to address the "Why are you looking?" question without appearing like a malcontent. First explain that you really enjoy your current role. Give examples of some responsibilities or tasks which are particular strengths. Also describe that your relationships with colleagues and/or vendors are positive. After emphasizing some of the positives, mention that the corporate culture is a bit rougher than other cultures where you have thrived. If you are asked for an example, you can offer that the excessive swearing or the less than professional treatment of employees. Try to end with a positive during your response to this question, like: "I really enjoy my role and my colleagues quite a bit." I would avoid using the terms like bullying, harassment, etc. because sometimes an interviewer will perceive you as a complainer. Or the interviewer could also assume that you have taken legal action against your employer, which many interviewers would get nervous about, although they may not admit it.
Lastly, pay attention to your tone and energy when describing other roles within your career. You want any interviewer to understand that your current concerns about your company's culture are an outlier and that your norm is not to complain about culture, but instead to be part of a more positive environment.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: My girlfriend, who is 50 years old, has a crazy old-school work ethic but can't get hired! She's been in the IT field for years. Her last job paid her 60,000+ but she left because of management! She really tried her best to stay. How do you put great work ethic on a resume?
A: A strong work ethic is often an important attribute in a successful professional career. However, you have pointed out that it is difficult to convey this attribute to prospective employers.
Let's back up a few steps before I address your specific concern. If your girlfriend is getting interviews, her resume is likely quite strong. However, if landing interviews is a challenge, then her resume probably needs some work. If your girlfriend is landing interviews, but not getting job offers, then it may be her interviewing skills, her skill set or the competition.
Recommend that she includes her work ethic in her elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a 1-2 minute summary about her work history, personal attributes (like work ethic) and what type of role she would consider for the next step in her career. This pitch needs to be practiced and refined.
The other way she can tout her work ethic is on her LinkedIn profile. She should mention her work ethic in her summary at the top of her profile. Also, if there are recommendations on her profile, this attribute (along with others) can be highlighted.
Lastly, her professional network should know that her work ethic is a differentiator. It is an attribute that could set her apart from her competition. When a colleague within her network describes her (especially to an employer or someone who could be a source of job leads), then this contact should immediately describe her tireless approach to work and her willingness to do what it takes.
Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners in Boston, has over 20 years experience in career consulting, executive development and coaching. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: I am quite sure that my company will be laying off a group of employees this summer. Our company is not doing well financially. I expect to receive some type of financial package when and if they terminate me. I do expect to be laid off because I am in a marketing role which could easily absorbed by another person. I also have earned the reputation as a complainer because I voice my opinion. I don't think I am a complainer but several others have labeled me as a complainer. I think they are just weak and won't raise concerns. Should I wait for the financial package or start looking for a job now?
A: Let me share a few thoughts before I answer your question. First, being perceived as a "complainer" is almost never a sought-after characteristic. While most of us could find flaws within our jobs, co-workers, workplaces or companies, raising concerns in a positive and productive way is definitely preferred (vs. complaining and offering no suggested alternatives). Shedding this perception might be a beneficial step for your career.
When an employee is terminated or laid off from a company, a severance package is rarely required. Unless you have a written commitment (most likely within an employment agreement), I would not assume that you will automatically receive a severance package. Some companies offer severance packages to exiting employees but I would not rely upon receiving one.
I think it would be wise to begin searching for a new role now. Update your resume. Begin more actively connecting with others in your field and geographic area. Attend any workshops, seminars or webinars that could help build your knowledge (and contacts) within marketing. If you begin the early stages of your search now, you will be further along if you are laid off this summer.
If you attended college, become more active in alumni activities, particularly those with networking opportunities. Become more active on social media, especially Linkedin. Make sure that your Linkedin profile includes a photo and is complete.
Lastly, when you start your next job, think about the "complainer" perception that developed in your last company. When you raise a concern, do it in a thoughtful and positive way. Offer solutions that might work, rather than just focusing on the concern alone. Employees who are able to identify concerns and solve problems are almost always valuable to any type of organization.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: I need some advice! After working in the United States Senate for two very prominent Senators for over six years I moved back to my home state of Massachusetts. I graduated from college in 2006, I graduated from graduate school in 2013 and have been unemployed for over eight months...with extensive health care policy experience, I can't find a job! I am told I have too much experience, I don't have enough private sector experience, or that I lack management qualifications.
A: Welcome back to Massachusetts! It's time to connect and re-connect with friends, family, colleagues, former colleagues and all the contacts those two prominent senators can muster!
Like most job seekers, you need to build a strong and robust professional network. This is the best way to develop contacts. Contacts very often are a good source of job leads.
Become active on Linkedin. Join groups related to your career interests. Join groups affiliated with both your undergraduate college and your graduate school. Use the career services offices of both schools. Attend a few meet-up groups.
Contact those senators! Those senators should have truckloads of connections for you in both the public and private sectors.
Network within healthcare, public policy and political circles. Have business cards printed with your contact info displayed in a professional way. Attend as many networking events as you can handle.
Check your email daily, even on weekends! Job seekers that don't respond to emails for a few days send a message of "my search isn't important." Job seekers who don't respond to emails and phone calls within 24 hours drive me batty!
Follow-up on any introductions, whether you think they are relevant or not. Adding to your network helps you build a strong network, for now and for future job searches. When you meet a contact, you are not just connecting with them. If you network effectively, you will now have access to that individual's network also.
Always be gracious and polite. Be respectful of that contact's time. Thank them. If they meet with you, you buy the coffee!
Q: I am planning on interning next fall. I hope to be paid. My uncle says there is a new requirement to pay interns. What do you know about this?
A: Your uncle is a wise man! Interns, both paid and unpaid, have been widely used for years within the US. There are no new laws regarding how interns are to be compensated. However, the issue has been a hot topic recently. I consulted Jeffrey Dretler, an employment attorney at Fisher & Phillips LLP to ask why the topic has come under scrutiny recently. Dretler offers: "In the past few years, lawsuits were filed by unpaid interns against several high profile employers arguing that unpaid interns were really employees who should have received minimum wage and overtime pay. In June 2013, a federal judge in New York ruled that interns who worked on Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc.’s production of the film Black Swan did not qualify as unpaid 'trainees,' but were employees entitled to the protection of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The media has reported that, to avoid liability, some employers have considered eliminating their internship programs entirely or reducing the number of interns while making sure to pay them at least the minimum wage. (See Melissa Schorr, The Revolt of the Unpaid Intern, January 11, 2014, Boston Globe Magazine.)"
The core issue is whether the intern is an employee or truly an intern. Dretler explains that the U.S. Department of Labor has issued guidelines identifying six criteria to be applied when analyzing an internship relationship in the “for-profit” private sector: (1) the internship, even though it includes actual operations of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment; (2) the internship experience is for the benefit of the intern; (3) the intern does not displace regular employees; (4) the employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and, in some cases, the employer’s operations may even be impeded; (5) the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and (6) the employer and intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages. Dretler further offers, "In most instances, when an intern is performing services for an employer and earning credits as part of a degree or certificate granting educational program, payment is not required, but the answer depends very much on the facts of the particular situation. If the intern is simply doing administrative tasks without receiving much actual training and the employer seems to be taking advantage of the 'free labor,' the intern may be entitled to wages." Unpaid internships for non-profits are generally acceptable.
Finally, you should ask, during the interview process, if the internship is paid or unpaid. It is best to know in advance.
Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners in Boston, has over 20 years experience in career consulting, executive development and coaching. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: My daughter has the chance to play on the varsity tennis team at her college. She is a sophomore. There are very few sophomores (ever) who have made the team. I am wondering if we should even let her since her studies are quite demanding. I have heard that employers really don't care about extracurricular activities for recent grads. I was thinking that she should get a part-time job instead. What are your thoughts?
A. I am no parenting expert. My kids would be delighted to confirm that fact. However, I do have an opinion. For some students, there isn't a choice. The job would be required because college is so expensive and every dime counts. If there is a choice, however, then I would encourage your daughter to play tennis. The next few years may be the only years she has the opportunity to play a competitive sport. She has her whole life to work!
Playing a sport teaches participants valuable life skills, which can be applied to a professional role in the workplace. Resiliency is incredibly important. Every career has disappointments. Learning to cope with frustration is important. No journey is perfect and no career is perfect.
Being part of a team is also an important life experience. Encouraging teammates in their success and supporting teammates when they have been defeated is a critical experience. Enjoying a win is a wonderful experience, particularly when a win can be shared with teammates. However, learning to be humble and gracious after a win is also a trait that will serve your daughter well.
Your daughter's time management skills will be tested. Playing a varsity sport while balancing academic responsibilities will be a challenge.
Lastly, scheduled physical activity is smart for all of us. Physical health and mental health are so intertwined.
I think prospective employers would be impressed by your daughter's talents, especially if she enjoys success in the classroom and on the tennis court.
Q: My daughter has the chance to play on the varsity tennis team at her college. She is a sophomore. There are very few sophomores (ever) who have made the team. I am wondering if we should even let her since her studies are quite demanding. I have heard that employers really don't care about extracurricular activities for recent grads. I was thinking that she should get a part-time job instead. What are your thoughts?
A. I am no parenting expert. My kids would be delighted to confirm that fact. However, I do have an opinion. For some students, there isn't a choice. The job would be required because college is so expensive and every dime counts. If there is a choice, however, then I would encourage your daughter to play tennis. The next few years may be the only years she has the opportunity to play a competitive sport. She has her whole life to work!
Playing a sport teaches participants valuable life skills, which can be applied to a professional role in the workplace. Resiliency is incredibly important. Every career has disappointments. Learning to cope with frustration is important. No journey is perfect and no career is perfect.
Being part of a team is also an important life experience. Encouraging teammates in their success and supporting teammates when they have been defeated is a critical experience. Enjoying a win is a wonderful experience, particularly when a win can be shared with teammates. However, learning to be humble and gracious after a win is also a trait that will serve your daughter well.
Your daughter's time management skills will be tested. Playing a varsity sport while balancing academic responsibilities will be a challenge.
Lastly, scheduled physical activity is smart for all of us. Physical health and mental health are so intertwined.
I think prospective employers would impressed by your daughter's talents, especially if she enjoys success in the classroom and on the tennis court.
Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners in Boston, has over 20 years experience in career consulting, executive development and coaching. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: I am currently a technical professional in search of full-time job opportunities. I have been working with start-ups and non-profit organizations. While I have garnered some level of experience, I feel confined and overlooked in the labor market. I am looking more seriously at opportunities within a company that respect their employees. I am curious how can I pursue a job search without using a professional staffing agency.
A: Since we are in first quarter of 2014, you are in a desirable situation. I often see an increase in hiring in first quarter of every year. Although you don't mention what type of technical expertise you have, however, technical professionals, for the most part, are in demand.
Not all professionals land new roles through staffing organizations. Many professionals land role because of their professional and personal network.
A few tips:
- Get on LinkedIn and join groups related to your profession. Also join groups affiliated with any colleges or universities which you have attended. There may even be geographic groups that make sense. There may be professional groups within your town or in Boston that may be of interest.
- Dust off your resume and make sure it is current and easy to read. Ensure that your LI address is on your resume and it is free of typos.
- Begin networking with people in your target industry. If you are exploring biotech, start connecting (both on LinkedIn and in person) with those in biotech.
- Attend networking events and industry events in your fields of interest.
- Make sure that you are prepared with a 1-2 minute elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch should include a bit about your professional background and also your ideal next step in your career.
- If you are concerned about how an employer respects their employees, you should ask questions about the culture. Some suggested questions include:
1. Can you tell me how employees would describe ABC, Inc. as a place to work?
2. What are the positives about your work culture? And what about the negatives?
3. What is your employee turnover?
Good luck in your search. In my opinion, a strong professional network is the best insurance against unemployment.
Q: My new employer offers a tuition reimbursement program. I started working here in January, 2013. I was under the impression that this program will start immediately. Now, two weeks in, I discovered that the program has a six-month waiting period. I have just enrolled in classes expecting to be reimbursed for these classes. Do you know if this is typical?
A: Congratulations on furthering your education. Usually employers have some type of waiting period for tuition reimbursement programs. Six months is not unusual.
Employers often have other requirements for this type of benefit. Some employers limit this benefit to full-time employees. It is also common for employers to have a passing grade requirement for reimbursement. Other employers reimburse based on the grade received; 100% for an A, 90% for a B, 80% for a C and so forth. Then there are some employers who will reimburse a percentage of the tuition paid regardless of the grade earned (although it must be a passing grade). There are a few employers who will pay for the courses up-front and directly to the school. Maintaining a certain grade point average (GPA) in order to participate in the tuition reimbursement program may also be a requirement. Many employers will not reimburse an employee for the cost of books, lab fees or other fees. Some employers require that the courses must be job-related. Most employers who offer such a plan will permit reimbursement for certificate programs and courses for either an undergraduate or graduate program.
One other piece of related information to share: employers can provide up to $5250 per year to each employee on a tax-free basis for tuition benefits. Any additional tuition aid dollars reimbursed will be taxed. This is often the reason why many employers will have an annual cap on their tuition assistance program.
I am sorry that you misunderstood the tuition reimbursement program offered by your new employer. Consider yourself lucky though. Not all employers include such a program as part of their employee benefits program.
Q: It seems to me that employers are incredibly picky and selective when hiring new employees. No company seems willing to train anymore. No company has the patience for a new employee to learn a skill. Do you agree? Or is this just my personal experience?
A: For the most part, I agree with you. I think quite a few larger companies have the resources and headcount to train for skills. Larger organizations often have a formalized training and development function which can train a new employee in a specific skill. Or the training and development function may be able to quickly locate an external vendor who is able to provide more highly specialized training in a required skill. However, training costs money and most companies would prefer to hire new employees who already have the required skills for a role.
In general, smaller companies don't have an internal training and development function. They often have more limited budgets and thus are most selective regarding required skills. Much of their training is a bit more casual and would be considered "on the job" training.
Most roles within US workplaces have greater technical demands that they did even 15-20 years ago. A corporate recruiter is a good example. In the 80s, candidates mailed (via US postal service) resumes and a recruiter's inbox would have a pile of resumes, cover letters and even letters of reference in their inbox on the corner of their desk. Now, most resumes are received via email or via an online employment application system. It is rare to receive a hard copy of a resume today. Resume tracking systems and Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) now require some technical proficiency so the recruiter can effectively find candidates in the system. Larger organizations will often have an HRIS expert in-house who can train new employees while smaller organizations may not have the resources in-house to train employees. Of course, with either a large or small company, a candidate having this knowledge may have an advantage because it is likely a required skill. Some may argue that it is a skill which can be learned but many companies, large and small, have a sense of urgency and want a new hire to "hit the ground running" as soon as possible.
Many candidates have taken a proactive approach to working with these selective employers. When possible, candidates will often train themselves prior to applying for highly technical jobs, either through a seminar or a certificate program.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technologies.
Q: I was a victim of a fraudulent recruiter who hired 11 people for the same job. I packed up my house, wife, son, and dogs and moved from CA to MA, just to find out that the dream job of IT Global Pricing Manager did not exist. My family was excited by the move, but trying to break into a new job market is daunting. How do you recommend getting hired somewhat quickly, rather than going round and round on interviews for jobs that may hire in the next month or two. I need a job now.
A: I am sorry that you had such a horrific experience with an unethical recruiter. I am unclear on all the details of your situation but it sounds devastating.
The silver lining is that you are in Massachusetts now and it is easier to land a job if you are in the geographic region you are targeting for your job search. If I was in your shoes, I would take several actions:
1. Get active on LinkedIn, especially groups within your field and which are geographically-focused on Massachusetts or Boston. Make sure that your profile is complete and includes a professional photo.
2. Use Twitter. Research Meetup groups within Massachusetts.
3. Begin actively networking. Find professional associations in the area. Explain that you are unemployed and very often they will permit the unemployed to attend events at a reduced costs (some will even offer breakfast and/or networking meetings for free).
4. Stay close to contacts in your field. Let them know you have relocated to Massachusetts.
5. Be open to contract or short-term roles. These roles often lead to longer term roles.
6. Within your network, ask your contacts for referrals to reputable placement firms.
7. Find out if your college or university has an alumni association in the area. Become active in that group.
8. There are several networking groups in the Boston area which are great groups and worthy of consideration. Visit www.actonnetworkers.com.
9. Be careful with your time. You should be searching for a job as your full-time job, the equivalent of 40 hours in a work week. Do not get distracted by other tasks like searching for a house, etc. Approximately 75% of your time should be networking at an event or with a colleague. Don't let the computer gobble up a full workweek.
10. Never say no to an introduction. Every contact is valuable. You are not just meeting that contact, but if you make a strong impression, you are meeting all of their contacts as well.
First quarter traditionally represents a surge of recruitment activity. Take advantage of it.
Q. I am starting a technology staffing company. We are small right now, under 10 employees. However, one of my new managers wants to hire a new employee on an OPT. What is an OPT? Can you explain what my obligations are? I have been told it is a special type of visa.
A: You are on the right track! An OPT (Optional Practical Training) is one type of work authorization. An OPT is granted to foreign students upon completion of their degree. I consulted immigration attorney, Roy Watson, Jr. to explain: "This status is typically valid for 12 months but may be extended for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematical) positions. Companies can extend the time of employment for up to 29 months for STEM positions, but only if the company has enrolled in the E-Verify program. E-verify is a free, web-based system which allows employers to verify a new employee's ability to work in the US. This person will have to leave the US after that time period, unless the employer agrees to file for an H-1B visa that will allow them to work for up to six (6) years."
Watson also further discussed a hurdle with these types of visas in that there is a numerical cap each year on the number of visas granted by the federal government. In a growing economy, there is concern that the visa cap will be reached for US employers and US employers will have to wait until the following calendar year to file for additional visas. Watson further advises, "The first filing date for an H-1B visa is April 1st.. Employers are strongly advised to file on that date, because frequently the demand for these visas is so great that the government often runs out of visas during the first week." Prior to filing a visa, Watson suggests building in about three weeks worth of time to complete the required registration process steps and forms.
Employers should carefully record the OPT information when they complete their Form I-9 (within the first three days of hiring). There is no special liability for employing someone on OPT.
A useful website to visit is the federal government's website for US Citizenship and Immigration Services at http://www.uscis.gov.
Judy Shen-Filerman is founding principal of Dreambridge Partners in Arlington, a cross-cultural leadership development and communications coaching firm. Judy coaches professionals and executives across industries on career advancement as well as lectures at leading business schools across the US. She contributes regularly to boston.com's Job Doc.
Q: I have an interview with a company next week. It is in a different industry than the one I am currently working in. I am unsure of how to dress. Does a man wear a suit, a tie or jeans to an interview today? Dress codes are all over the place now. How do I make sure I am appropriately dressed?
A: You have made an accurate observation. Over the past several years, many workplaces have become more casual with respect to dress. Suits and ties are no longer the norm in many offices. However, there are still industries in which the suit is still the norm. Many who work in law firms or financial services are still wearing suits, except for maybe on casual Fridays. However, I think a suit in a start-up technology firm would be unusual.
Remember you are not an employee (yet). It is better to be over dressed than under dressed. I would avoid wearing jeans for most professional work environments. I would recommend wearing dress pants, a button-down shirt and a blazer for most interviews within a professional workplace.
Try to do a little bit of research before your interview. Go online and see if you can find any information about dress. Some companies will have photos of employees or even have their dress code described on their company website. Even if the photos may be "stock" photos, you can get a sense of the company's expectations about dress by the photos selected.
If you are working with a recruiter, ask the recruiter in advance. Take it one step further, use Linkedin. Often Linkedin profiles will have pictures of the person within their profile. Are they wearing suits or are they dressed a bit more casually in their Linkedin photographs? If you discover you have a contact on Linkedin who is working at this company, try to connect with that contact via telephone. This employee (or former employee) may be able to share valuable intelligence with you that you would not find elsewhere, including information about dress, culture and the company's financial health.
Tracy Cutone, a partner in WinterWyman's HR Contract Staffing division, has over 15 years experience in recruiting, HR and training and development. She currently partners with clients on strategic hiring needs and contract labor solutions.
Q: In May of 2013, I applied for a job and was a finalist. I was disappointed that I did not receive an offer but I kept searching and accepted a new role in September of 2013. I am really happy in my new role. My new role offers upward mobility and the opportunity to fine tune some of my skills. Plus I can return to school in a few months because my employer has a very generous tuition aid program. Sounds perfect right? I just received a phone call from the company who didn't offer me the role in May. They have a similar position, much like the one I did not get in May. I am not sure what to do. I would rate my current job as a 9 out of 10. It is great but not perfect. I have one annoying co-worker. What should I do? Should I talk to the other company?
A: You are in a fortunate position. You must have left a very positive impression on the company with whom you interviewed in May of 2013. Many job seekers don't realize that often companies will re-contact a strong candidate at a later date. This is one of the reasons why I suggest never to "burn a bridge." Often times how you handle rejection is just as important as how you handle an acceptance. Had you been angry, nasty or bitter when you didn't receive an offer in May, you probably would not have heard from that company again. Kudos to you for your professionalism and poise.
Now, to address your current dilemma. I would talk to the first company again and thank them for their interest. Be gracious and listen to the opportunity being discussed. Remember you don't have a solid job offer from them. They are simply reaching out. You may hear some details that are not ideal - maybe the job responsibilities are not as appealing as the ones in your current role or the benefits don't include a generous tuition package. You rate your current role a 9 out of 10 -- a pretty high rating! Few jobs are a 10 out of 10. Taking a new role would be an unknown. Your current company has invested time and money in training you and on-boarding you. I would, however, suggest always maintaining a positive relationship with the first company. Employers and careers will have ups and downs. It's wise to have strong professional relationships with others if and when needed.
Judy Shen-Filerman is founding principal of Dreambridge Partners in Arlington, a cross-cultural leadership development and communications coaching firm. Judy coaches professionals and executives across industries on career advancement as well as lectures at leading business schools across the US. She contributes regularly to boston.com's Job Doc.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology Search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technologies.
Q: Is it legal for potential employers to ask what your current salary is and require a specific answer?
A: Employers can ask a broad range of questions of candidates. Most employers understand that they should focus on job-related questions. It is common for a candidate to be asked about skill set, related experience, education or certifications.
Compensation is also considered a job-related question. I consulted Lisa Stephanian Burton, Esq., a partner in the Labor and Employment Practice at Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP. Burton offered, "It is legal for a prospective employer to ask applicants their current salary. I recommend providing an accurate answer when asked. Prospective employers often will call current or former employers and confirm name, dates of employment, last position held and salary. Additionally, employment applications often require an applicant's signature, which certifies that the information provided is true and accurate. If an employer learns that information provided on the application was inaccurate, it could be used as grounds for termination."
Burton raises a point worth expanding upon. Often times companies will require an applicant to complete an employment application, rather than simply submit a resume. The employment application is a way of gathering the same data from every applicant since resumes often differ in content. Most employment applications contain "fine print" at the bottom or top of the application form. This "fine print" often states that, by signing the application form, you, the applicant, are verifying that the information provided is truthful and no material information has been omitted. If you state that you hold a degree and you do not, if you state that you worked for a former employer for 15 years and it was actually 10 years, or if you state that you have earned certifications but have not, this misinformation could be grounds for termination, regardless of when this misinformation is discovered. This is particularly damaging to employees who have worked for a company for several years and then a discrepancy is discovered.
In short, be candid and honest when you represent yourself, including your salary. A misrepresentation can be a costly error.
Q: I have been unemployed since the end of May. I have tried everything to get a new job - job fairs, networking, traditional applications online and through the mail, asking friends and family if they know any leads..... it has been a nightmare search process, and I am losing steam. How can I reinvigorate my search? I am in the education field (looking at both teaching and non-teaching jobs).
A: You sound discouraged. A job search can have plenty of disappointments and setbacks. You are not alone.
1. Don't isolate yourself. Join a networking group. When you find a good networking group, you should leave there feeling energized about moving forward with your search. A networking group serves as a support system. Additionally a well-run networking group can be a source of job leads as well as new or alternative ideas on how to run your search. There are several outstanding networking groups in he Boston area. Acton, Hopkinton, Temple Emanuel in Andover are all networking groups with a strong and loyal following.
2. Re-connect with your college or university. College career services offices should not just serve recent grads but offer services for alums as well. Your alumni office may also run networking events.
3. Check out meet-up groups, www.meetup.com. I found this group when review job seeker groups on www.meetup.com. http://www.meetup.com/Effortless-Networking-for-Job-Seekers/
4. Get active using social media. Join LinkedIn. Begin using twitter. Check job boards but be careful not to use a computer as your sole job search tool.
5. Find new ways to connect with others. The Newton Free Library has an incredible range of services for job seekers. Visit http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/jobhunter for more information. At 7pm on Thursday, November 14, Joan Cirillo, President and CEO of Operation A.B.L.E. is speaking about challenges and approaches for the mature job seekers. Cirillo's presentation is part of a regular series at the library called the Job Seekers and Career Development series facilitated by Tammy Gooler Loeb.
6. Lastly consider substitute teaching to begin building relationships within school systems. Often these roles can evolve into longer term assignments for teachers requiring medical and/or personal leaves.
Don't give up hope. A job search is a full-time and exhausting process. There will be lows and there will be highs. Keep swinging.
Q: I have been in my job for 12 years. Recently I was told that my job will be phased out by the end of the year. I live on cape cod and do not wish to relocate at this time but am unsure of the opportunities on the cape. Any thoughts?
A: I am sorry to hear that you will be losing your job at year-end. Thankfully you have been given some notice and have some time to develop a plan for your job search.
Your job search should begin now. Dust off and update your resume. There are thousands of well-formatted resumes online for you to review all over the internet. Boston.com has quite a bit of helpful information for job seekers under the Jobs tab of boston.com. Visit http://www.boston.com/jobs. There is even a free resume builder tool available for job seekers.
Begin networking and contact colleagues, neighbors and friends. Let them know you are beginning to search for a new job. Get active on Linkedin. Re-connect with colleagues and former co-workers. Join groups on Linkedin related to your industry and specific to the cape cod area. Your personal and professional contacts are the best source for finding out about new roles. Linkedin even has a few cape cod-specific groups.
Limiting your search to cape cod could also limit your opportunities but it depends upon a number of factors, including your level and your industry. Think about whether you could at least expand your search to include south shore.
Research cape cod (and perhaps south shore) networking groups. Join professional association groups specific to your career. If you are committed to remaining on the cape, you may have to consider other industries or professions. A few cape-specific sites to visit include www.capecodchamber.org, www.capeevents.com, www.capecodyoungprofessionals.com and cape-cod.meetup.com.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology Search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technologies.
Judy Shen-Filerman is founding principal of Dreambridge Partners in Arlington, a cross-cultural leadership development and communications coaching firm. Judy coaches professionals and executives across industries on career advancement as well as lectures at leading business schools across the US. She contributes regularly to boston.com's Job Doc.
Q: I work for a small start-up outside of Boston. This is my first job out of college. I love the energy, our product, the work environment, the benefits and the people. Over lunch last week, one of my more experienced co-workers told me we were all "at-will" employees and we could be fired at any time. I keep replaying what he said in my head. It has gotten me nervous. What does this mean? I even looked back at my offer letter and there is a comment in there about me being hired on "at will" basis. I don't want to lose my job but I am also afraid to ask anyone but the Job Doc!
A: Good for you for landing an exciting and fun job for your first job out of college! Congratulations. It is encouraging to know that enthusiastic college grads can find rewarding employment opportunities in 2013!
You are wise to ask this question too. You probably were hired as an "at-will" employee. Most Americans are hired as "at-will" employees. This term means that you can leave your job at any time and your employer can let you go at any time. As the employee, you don't have to share a reason for leaving and your employer does not have to specify a reason for letting you go either. If you were hired with a specific employment contract, you may not be an "at-will" employee but usually these agreements are used for very senior-level hires only. Sometimes you may hear of other positions that are not "at-will," including teachers, police officers or firefighters who are working as part of a union contract.
Although you should be aware that you are an "at-will" employee, it is not something that should worry you. I would bet that most of the employees in your company are in the same category. I would also bet that most of the people you know are also employed in "at-will" positions. You were smart to ask!
Q: I am a recent college graduate who has a Sociology Degree with a minor in Environmental Science. Can you recommend the type of job I should be looking for? I would like to work with children and or help with adults needing assistance. Are there any agencies that could help me?
A: There are probably several occupations that would work for your skill set and interests. The ideal role includes two factors: 1. interesting work that you love and can be passionate about and 2. work that provides you an income which you can live on. There are many people employed across the US that either love their jobs but struggle financially, or really despise what they do but make a decent income. The trick is to find both!
During your college years, it is helpful to intern and work part-time or summers in your fields of interest. Did you ever work at a summer camp with kids? Or in a role caring for adults? This practical experience is invaluable. Many of us enjoy studying subjects but then, in a real-life situation, it is not exactly what we expected!
One resource worth reviewing is the Occupational Outlook Handbook report on "Most New Jobs." This report lists the 20 occupations with high growth rates. It also provides some data on the pay listed for each occupation. There are several occupations which may be of interest to you. Visit http://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm for the complete report. There is also a useful tool on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website called "Occupation Finder." This tool allow you to sort through different roles based on education , projected growth rate and a number of other factors. Visit http://www.bls.gov/ooh/occupation-finder.htm to access this tool.
Employment agencies could be helpful but so could the career services office of your college or university. I would start at your college or university first. Their office will likely have job postings and leads for recent graduates which would be appropriate for your major and career interests.
Q: I was recently offered a job and accepted it immediately. The interview process was rigorous and I am so excited to have been offered the job! It is a wonderful opportunity and a step up in terms of responsibilities.
I am working with a recruiter at a well-known placement agency. The recruiter asked me if I could start the new job within a week. I want to give at least two weeks' notice to my current employer. The recruiter told me that two weeks' notice is really not necessary anymore. I was told (by the recruiter) that I should focus on the new job, not the old one. What's your take?
A: Congratulations on your new role! It is encouraging to learn that candidates are accepting offers and that companies are hiring.
My sense is that you know what you should do, but you are looking for validation. I think the recruiter is not providing sound advice to you. If I had to take an educated guess, my guess would be that the recruiter is probably driven by the fee he or she expects to receive based on your placement in the new role. A recruitment agency often issues their invoices after a candidate starts a new job. The sooner you start, the sooner the recruiter gets paid! A check in your recruiter's hands, sooner rather than later, could be influencing their advice to you.
I think offering two weeks' notice is what is expected of most professional roles. Leaving your role in an honorable and ethical way is important. My first reason is that it is simply the right thing to do. Second, professional circles are often small ones, particularly in specific industries. You may be working with one or more of your current colleagues at some point. We never know what the future holds for our careers. Depending upon your career path, you also may need a professional reference from your current supervisor or a colleague. Separating from your current company in a professional way can only work to your benefit. Stay firm in your conviction.
Q: My frustration is that I was working with a headhunter. I have found out that headhunter left the firm without telling me. So I left a message for another headhunter so maybe she may help me find a new job and she never called me back. Should I try to find another agency? And how do I start with networking during tough job market?
A: It is an exasperating experience when you are working with a placement professional ("headhunter") and they leave the firm without notifying you. However, we don't know why your contact left the firm. Perhaps the individual did not leave voluntarily and was not permitted to contact you about their departure. Or, as you suggest, the individual left the company, and somewhat unprofessionally, did not share this information with you.
You can certainly consider working with another agency, assuming you did not sign any exclusive agreement with the prior agency. Placement agencies are often helpful especially if you have a specialized skill. Many employers will use placement agencies if they don't have the in-house resources to devote to a search for talent or the skill set is hard to find.
Relying solely on an employment agency is risky though. An employment agency will try to place you if they can earn a fee. Some agencies will not work with you if your skill set is not in demand.
As you probably know, networking is critical to any job search. Establish a networking goal. As an example, connect or re-connect with 10 colleagues in a single week. Remember it is not just the individual with whom you are meeting, but instead their entire network of contacts. Offer to pay for coffee or an iced tea. Some meetings will end without immediate success. Some meetings may be fruitful and connect you to opportunities.
Check job boards too but don't spend more than 25% of your time checking job boards. Some job seekers, especially introverts, will spend their entire work week online without meeting a new contact in person.
Join LinkedIn if you haven't. Begin connecting with others on LinkedIn. Join groups on LinkedIn and watch what others are sharing. Check out the Jobs tab on LinkedIn and search for roles that might be appropriate for your skill set.
While lots of mention is made of the importance of your online presence to your job search, it’s the interview that can spell victory or defeat. The reason the interview is so important is it helps the person doing the hiring determine how well you will fit in, how easily others will work with you, and how effectively you will represent the company to clients, prospects, suppliers, and the general public. You get the interview because you have the skills necessary to do the job, but you’ll get the job because you build a stronger, better, more positive relationship with the interviewer than your competitor does. Remember: The interview is all about your image, the image of you that you leave with the interviewer(s).
While whole books have been written about what you can do to be more effective in an interview, much of that advice can be distilled into five key points:
- Be on time. You can’t be late, not even one minute late. Organize yourself to arrive five minutes early. If you arrive earlier than that, find a place nearby—maybe a coffee shop—to cool your heels until the five-minute mark.
- Dress one notch up. Looking your best is important, but looking like you will fit in is equally important. Arriving for an interview in business formal at Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont won’t help you look like you fit in to their culture. Likewise, showing up in business casual at a trust company where everyone is dressed in business formal demonstrates your lack of attention to detail.
- Prepare like for a final exam. Preparation takes two forms: Develop questions you can ask the interviewer and practice answering questions the interviewer is likely to ask you.
- Master the greeting. Certainly the handshake is important. It starts when you stand to meet the interviewer. Grasp the interviewer’s hand crook of thumb to crook of thumb, use a firm grip—not a bone crusher or limp wrist, dead fish—two or three pumps and then disengage. While you’re shaking hands, remember to look the person in the eye, smile and say the person’s name as you greet him or her, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms./Mr. Clarkson.”
- Thank them twice. Of course you offer a verbal thanks as you shake hands at the end of the interview. Then, the next day or that afternoon or evening, write your thank-you note. It can be short, four or five sentences will do. If you’ve offered to provide additional information during the meeting, you can use a sentence to reference when you will be forwarding it. If you meet with three people, send a note to each person. If you do and your competitor doesn’t, you will stand out.
Tracy Cutone, a partner in WinterWyman's HR Contract Staffing division, has over 15 years experience in recruiting, HR and training and development. She currently partners with clients on strategic hiring needs and contract labor solutions.
Q: I read this column every week. Most of the time I agree with the advice. I have a question I have never seen asked. What are 3 things that most job applicants do right? (Please mention the big ones). What are the 3 things that most job applicants do wrong?
A: Thanks for asking this question. It's a great one and had me scratching my head for a bit. It's hard to identify and explain just three of each!
What strong candidates do:
1. Pay attention to the details. Their resume is flawless. They show up on time and maybe even a few minutes early. Often they bring an extra hard copy of their resume. They return calls or emails promptly with the appropriate tone (not too casual with "Hey Dude" as the greeting and not too formal with "Dear Madam"). They spell the company name and the recruiter's name correctly. Their email responses have no typos.
2. Build rapport quickly. Without overdoing in a phony way, smart candidates build rapport quickly. They find a common interest: you both own a rescue dog, you vacation in the same town, you both root for the Red Sox or you attended the same college. Strong candidates make connections quickly and authentically.
3. Make it easy to hire them. They are qualified and they highlight the relevant qualifications, skills, experiences and attributes which are the most important for the job. The best candidates present well both over the phone, in person and via email. They offer more than what you expect (e.g.,"I would be happy to interview on Thursday at 6pm if that works best for the CEO.") They are positive and gracious during the selection process.
What weak candidates do:
1. Irritate early and often. Their resume is sloppy. Communication is difficult. They don't show up for an interview or they show up late with a poor excuse. When a recruiter calls them on their tardiness, they become defensive. They take several days to respond to emails or messages.
2. Don't prepare adequately. The recruiter recommends they dress a certain way which will fit in with the company culture. The candidates argues. A weak candidate ignores a recruiter's requests to visit the company's website and research the company's product, service and competitive landscape. Candidates should always ask questions about the company and about the role. Questions indicate interest and intellectual curiosity.
3. Have unreasonable expectations and egos. Sometimes they request unreasonable dollars, hours or benefits. An early ego is detected and often big egos don't play well in the sandbox. "No thanks" is how most of my clients respond. I have one client who says, "Egos need not apply." It is more common for my clients to assume that a new hire will do almost anything to get the job done, even if part of the job seems beneath the person.
Finally, one more piece of advice. Strong candidates differentiate themselves in a positive way. Writing a 30-60-90 day plan, an outline of anticipated accomplishments if hired, shows enthusiasm, thoughtfulness and a high level of interest.
Q: I was interviewed by a company in July of this year. I went back on three different dates for several interviews. The company said they had many candidates applying for this one role. I found out in August that I didn't get the job. I am crushed and angry. I spent so much time with this company and even shared some of my past work with them. What should I do about getting my work samples back?
A: From what you have shared, I think there may be two issues to address. Let's first start with your anger. It's normal to feel disappointed and angry if you don't receive a job offer, especially after you interviewed multiple times. You must have a been a final contender. However, you can't let your anger fester or you may bring those feelings with you to the next interview. No one wants to hire a hostile and bitter candidate. I have interviewed candidates who have trouble shaking feelings of resentment and it's not good. You can share and vent these feelings with your spouse, partner, friend, therapist, cat, dog or parakeet. But you shouldn't "let them out" during events like networking meetings or interviews.
Regarding your work samples, kudos to you for sharing them. By sharing them with a potential employer, you have demonstrated your skill and worth! You provided samples of what you can accomplish so the interviewer could better understand what you can offer. When sharing work samples, it's best to make high-quality copies in advance. You can leave the copies with the company and retain the originals. If you have only originals to share, taking them with you after the interview is probably prudent. If the company is still in possession of your work samples, I would suggest emailing a quick note asking them to be left at the reception desk if possible. Or if you are comfortable with the company mailing them, that might be another option.
On a related note, I have had clients reconsider "runner-ups" in the past. Ensure that all of your communication with this company is positive and professional. On more than one occasion, I have observed a client re-connecting with a candidate from a past search for a role (maybe even a different role) within the company. Burning bridges is rarely smart.
Q: I recently completed an online employment application after I noticed a company posted the perfect position for me on the "careers" section of their website. It took me quite a while (over 90 minutes!) because the application form was quite detailed and challenging to navigate. I was delighted when I finally was able to hit the "submit" button and receive a message that it was done correctly. This was on a Friday. Over that weekend, I received an email from a recruiter. I didn't open the email until Monday around noon. I responded enthusiastically and was eager to hear about the role and the interview process. Now I have not heard back from her and it's been three days.
A: You have touched on a delicate subject! This is one of my top complaints when interacting with job seekers. In fact, it drives me wild! If you are actively seeking a new opportunity, checking your email frequently is critically important. Daily checks of your email are expected at a minimum. I would even recommend checking your email at least several times per day if you are an active job seeker.
Typically when an employer approves a new role within a company, there is some urgency to finding suitable candidates for this role. When a company posts a position externally (on their website or on job boards), the company is often inundated with candidates. Some candidates are qualified and some are not. If a qualified candidate is identified early in the process, it is encouraging to the recruiter! The recruiter wants to fill the role quickly, efficiently and, most importantly, with the best candidate.
When we work with clients to find strong candidates, I am amazed when candidates take days to respond to our voicemail or email messages. If at all possible, these messages should be reviewed and responded to within one business day. Your response time is one indicator of your interest level. Most of us have smart phones these days, which are capable of receiving emails.
Of course, I don't know exactly what occurred in your specific situation. However, I do know that plenty of candidates, who took too long to respond, have missed opportunities with our clients.
Q: I'm looking to relocate, but jobs in my field are slim. I applied for one in July that I am very interested in. It took 6 weeks for them to download my resume. A month later they outsourced to an executive recruiting agency. I applied to the agency thinking they'd start from scratch, and followed up by email a week later, but the recruiter did not respond. It's still posted on both the company's and recruiter's websites. It's a small company but growing rapidly, so HR may be overwhelmed. Advice?
A: Welcome to the job market! I call this phenomena "the black hole" because it often feels like you have submitted your resume to a giant black hole, never to hear back from the company and/or the executive recruiter.
First, you have shared that "jobs in my field are slim." To me, that means you need to consider expanding your search. Are there are related fields, where jobs are more plentiful, that you should consider? For example, if you are looking at a sale rep role selling electronics, perhaps you should consider a sales rep role selling medical devices? Targeting growth industries is one way to improve your chances of landing a role in New England. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified roles expected to grow. Visit http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2012/01/art5full.pdf to read more about occupations expected to grow over the next few years.
There could be a number of reasons for why the company and the executive recruiter have not called you. You mention one possibility: that they are a small, rapidly growing company and may not have the appropriate resources in-house to handle the search. However, if the recruiter thought you were a strong candidate, they would probably have contacted you.
You should not focus solely on this opportunity. You also need to continue to pursue other opportunities. Many job seekers have been burned after they have become enamored with a specific role and/or company, only later to have found out they are not being considered as a serious candidate.
Remember to spend time networking within your target field but also related fields. Join Linkedin and review the groups related to job hunting, networking and your fields of interest. Research professional associations within your field as well. Many professional associations post jobs for their members.
Good luck on your search. Don't let setbacks slow you down. They are part of the process!
Q: I have been looking for a job for several months now. I am expecting a written job offer within the next week or so after the new company checks my references. I realize that I am not sure how to quit in a professional way. Any tips for that?
A: You are smart to be thoughtful in your upcoming departure. How you leave a job speaks volumes about your professionalism. A few tips:
1. Give appropriate notice. Most employers expect at least two weeks notice. There may be extenuating circumstances where three or more weeks might be appreciated. Examples where more than two weeks notice might be helpful to your former employer: a vacant position within your department, a colleague on a leave of absence or vacation or an important deadline or launch.
2. When communicating your intent to leave the company, inform your direct supervisor first in a private way. Hopefully this information can be communicated in person. Or if your supervisor works in a different location or is traveling, a phone call may be the best alternative to an in-person meeting. No supervisor likes to hear about one of their team members leaving through the grapevine.
3. Put some thought into a transition plan. Who can pick up some of your responsibilities after you leave? How can the work still get completed? The plan may not be perfect but you have given it some thought so your supervisor can think proactively so work does not fall through the cracks.
4. Don't burn bridges. Don't sabotage your former employer. Be gracious and helpful about responding to questions even after you have left.
5. If given the opportunity to participate in an exit interview (i.e., a final meeting about your reasons for leaving, details about benefits, pay, etc.), try to present your feedback in a helpful way. There may be negatives about your former company, former boss or former role, but try to weave in some positive comments too.
Finally, it is a small world. You want to depart on professional terms because you may be working with some of your former co-workers in a future life. One of them may be a future client, manager or colleague!
Q: How would I land an entry-level biotechnology job? How do I make my resume stand out? How do I get a temp job in a hospital?
A: Congrats on your eagerness to join a growing field! Biotech jobs can include developing new drugs and therapies, creating tools for detection of new and/or existing diseases, analyzing pesticide usage within commonly grown crops, exploring alternative fuels for both commercial and residential application or reducing the rate of infectious diseases. One website to bookmark is the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council site, www.massbio.org. As of today, this site has over 1000 jobs posted on it. The jobs range from a Clinical Laboratory Manager to a QA Associate.
Having a degree in a scientifically-oriented field would be helpful. Some of the degrees that could be good paths to a career in biotech include biology, chemistry, nursing, laboratory science or even biotechnology. Biotech is career path which often requires an advanced degree. Evaluate which jobs often require advanced degrees.
If you are earning a degree in a scientific field, it would be helpful to secure an internship in a related field. Internships are valuable in several ways. First, they provide job-related experience. Second, internships broaden your network of professional contacts in this field. Third, when looking for an entry-level role, to have a biotech company's name on your resume is a plus.
Your resume will stand out if it is well-designed, error-free and contains industry-related experience. Have a trusted friend or relative review your resume. Most of us don't find our own typos or mistakes when we edit and re-edit a document.
Regarding a temporary role in a hospital, check out the organization's website. If you know anyone who works there, he or she could be helpful in sharing what areas might be hiring. Reach out to an HR team member in a professional way. Tell him or her you are interested in a temp role. Explain that you are open and willing to try any entry-level role.
Good luck in finding an entry-level role in biotech!
Q: I am 55 and have been job hunting for several months now. I apply for jobs, for which I have significant and related experience. Then, nothing. No response, nothing.
There was one job for which I interviewed. It was perfect for my background. The role required extensive experience in my field. During the interview they told me I was a strong candidate but then nothing. I called, emailed and followed up several times. I have a friend that works at this company and she said they were still interviewing for the role. My friend told me that they may be looking for someone younger but she could not confirm this information. The hiring manager is around 30 years old and could be my son. I never heard back from the company. I assume it was eventually filled.
This has happened repeatedly. I think I am being discriminated against by this company. I want to explore legal actions. What are your thoughts?
A: It sounds like it was a frustrating experience. In many cases employers’ hiring decisions are made for entirely appropriate reasons. Even when employers handle the hiring process incorrectly, their missteps do not necessarily violate the law. Sometimes, however, poor recruiting and employment practices can cross the line between unprofessional and unlawful conduct.
The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Massachusetts state Fair Employment Law both forbid age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. These laws prohibit discrimination throughout employment, including during the recruiting and hiring processes. The circumstances of your application certainly raise concerning questions, however, there may be a number of legitimate reasons you were not selected for this job.
If you believe that there is evidence that you were the victim of employment discrimination, you may consider filing a charge of discrimination with either the U.S. Equal Employment Commission (the EEOC) or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (the MCAD). It is important to keep in mind that bringing a discrimination case often takes many months, or even years. Proving age discrimination is particularly challenging. According to employment attorney Daniel S. Field, a job applicant asserting a federal age discrimination claim must prove that age was the determinative factor for the employer's decision (as opposed to just one factor among several under a "mixed-motive" theory). This requires an applicant to produce evidence that age was the ‘but-for’ cause of the challenged employment action, according to Field who is a partner at Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP, an employment and labor law firm.
To assess your options, the best place to start may be with an experienced employment lawyer who can discuss your options. NELA is an employee-side legal organization that may be able to help. http://www.massnela.org/
Q: I am re-entering the workforce after a six-year leave and finding it difficult to find a job. My resume is showing my last employer which is in the automotive industry. What should I do with my resume to make it more appealing?
A: Congratulations on your decision to return to the workforce! Job hunting is a challenge alone. You have shared two additional challenges to your work history which may be additional challenge: a six-year gap in your work history as well as recent experience in the automotive industry.
Let’s start with discussing the six-year gap first. One option is to create a functional resume. Instead of using the chronological format (starting with your most recent role and working backwards), consider a functional format for your resume. A functional resume focuses less on the dates and more on your accomplishments and/or skills. You may have several different headings in a functional resume. The headings may include achievements or they may present your skills within specific areas (e.g., technical skills, operational skills, leadership/supervision or manufacturing expertise). For examples of different resumes (including the functional resume), visit http://www.boston.com/jobs/bighelp2008/fall/resume_types/.
Let’s tackle the automotive industry now. Several reports in 2013 indicate an upswing in hiring within the automotive industry in 2013. Even with the recent hiring surge, the auto industry will probably never offer the same pay and benefits to many workers as they have in the past. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one area of growth within the automotive industry is auto repair and maintenance. Visit http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_203.htm to review what industries expect to see growth in wages.
There may be other industries to consider. If you have expertise in manufacturing, it may be worth considering industries with projected long-term opportunities. For more info, visit http://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm to review the expected fastest growing occupations. Notice that many of them are healthcare-related.
Good luck in your search. Be open to different roles and industries. Opportunities not always come from where you expect them!
Q: I have been job hunting for about six months. It was slow around the holidays. I became discouraged because I would send resumes to companies and would hear nothing back. Then, I started becoming smarter about using my network. I also noticed the job market seemed to pick up after January. Now I have two offers in hand. Both are good offers and I think I would be happy with either role. How do I decide?
A: Congratulations. Your hard work and persistence paid off. It sounds like you also may have made a change in how you ran your search: instead of simply emailing a resume to a company, you used your network to your advantage. Your professional network of colleagues, friends and acquaintances can be a valuable asset during a job hunt.
Two offers in hand! Good for you! Here are some of the factors to think about when making a decision:
1. Look at the complete offer, not just the salary. The salary is important but should not be the sole reason for accepting the offer.
2. When employees report high levels of job satisfaction, one factor is often critical: how interesting and challenging the work itself is. Does one role offer more challenging or interesting work?
3. Think about your career path. Which role offers you opportunities beyond this initial role?
4. Evaluate the employee benefits. Compare the medical, dental, life and disability plans. Is there a retirement savings plan [like a 401(k) plan]? Is there a company match for this plan? Does the company offer tuition aid, training programs or other professional development opportunities?
5. Understand the compensation part of the offer. Is there a base salary plus a bonus or other incentives?
6. Is one commute better than the other? Is there free parking or is there an expense associated with parking? Is either role accessible via public transportation?
7. What supervisor and colleagues seem to be a better fit for your work style?
8. If flexibility is important to you, does one opportunity offer you more flexibility than the other?
Make sure that you receive any offer in writing. A written offer helps clarify the details of the employment offer. You want to ensure that you understand the specifics of each offer.
Congratulations again! I am happy to hear that job seekers are landing in 2013!
Q: My son is graduating from college this month. He is searching for a job. We have been very fortunate since many of our friends and family members have been able to take time to meet with him, either by phone or in person. I have encouraged him to send thank-you notes to each person who has met with him. He tells me that this is old-fashioned. What’s your opinion?
A: This is the classic case of “your parents know best.” I agree with you.
If family members and friends are taking the time to meet with your son and maybe even buying him a cup of coffee or a sandwich, then yes, a thank-you note is appropriate. It doesn’t have to be the old-fashioned note via snail mail though. In most cases, a note via email is fine. A thank-you note via email also has a few advantages for a job seeker. First, it is quick. A thank-you email can and should be sent within a day or two. Second, a resume can be attached to a thank-you email, making it easier for the recipient to forward it to a colleague, friend or other interested party. Although your son should bring a hard copy of his resume to any in-person meeting, it is smart to also send a copy via email. A hard copy can be easily misplaced or quickly show signs of wear. A soft copy can be shared with a network. For example, if an uncle has a soft copy of your son’s resume in his inbox and hears about a job opportunity, it is much easier for him to quickly forward the resume.
If an email address is not available, I would resort to mailing a hand-written thank-you note written on a simple, yet professional note card. Like the email thank-you note, the note card should be mailed within a day or two.
A thank-you note should be written professionally, with no typos or misspellings. Grammar should be checked and the note should be customized. As an example, if an uncle’s love of sailing was mentioned during the lunch meeting, a reference to that would be appropriate.
People often remember who sends them a thank-you note. Manners matter during a job search.
Q: For the first time ever, and for a period of several months, I have been unemployed. In the past, I always performed well in face-to-face interviews, but I am less confident with phone interviews. What one skill would you recommend strengthening before receiving the call?
A: Telephone interviews have become a popular screening tool, and are now equally as important as an in-person interview. A candidate can either advance through to the next step of the interview process based on the phone conversation or be eliminated.
Here are some tips to help boost your confidence:
1. Confirm the telephone interview in advance, preferably using email to have a record of the date and time.
2. Ensure you have good phone reception. If you are using a cell phone, make sure that you test your reception in advance.
3. Print a copy of your resume and have it accessible during the call.
4. Be on time and prepared. Sometimes candidates take an informal approach to telephone interviews. Don’t make that mistake. Be as prepared and professional for a telephone interview as would for an in-person interview.
5. Rehearse possible responses to questions. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to conduct a mock telephone interview with you.
6. Eliminate distractions. Crate your dog, turn off the radio and, if in your car, pull over to a quiet spot so you are able to talk in a focused way.
7. Don’t forget to ask about next steps. For example, you might close with, “Jane, thanks for taking time to talk to me about the Research Scientist role at ABC Company. Can you tell me what the next steps are in your process? I am really interested in this position.”
8. After the call, follow up with a thank-you email.
9. Stay close to email. You want to be accessible if the employer is trying to reach you after the call.
Telephone interviews are a common first step in the interview process. Like with any skill, your performance will improve with practice.
- editing expertise provided by Ms. Sloan's 6th grade classes, Hopkinton Middle School
Q: How do I combat age discrimination in hiring? I am 61 and I know that it is happening to me.
A: Unfortunately age discrimination does exist. A 2012 survey conducted by the AARP reported that almost one-third of Massachusetts residents report that they, or someone they know, has experienced some type of age discrimination. AARP is a non-profit advocacy group with a focus on those 50 years old and over.
Here are some suggestions:
• Ensure that your skills are current. Dated skills can hinder your search.
• Be tech savvy. Use social media as part of your job search. You should have a basic understanding of tools like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter.
• Use technology to your advantage. Make sure that you research prospective employers in advance of any interviews.
• Consider a functional resume, which highlights your skills and accomplishments rather than dates.
• If using a chronological resume, consider summarizing your early career roles and focus on the last 15 years or so.
• Think about what age biases exist. Maybe they include inflexibility or an inability to learn new tasks? Within your responses to an interviewer’s questions, weave in examples that counter those assumptions. An example:
Interviewer question: Anne, tell me about a time when you had to train a new employee while you worked at ABC Company?Finally, I asked Career and Executive Coach Tammy Gooler Loeb of
Your possible response: At ABC, I was often asked to train new employees based on my knowledge of XYZ software. I realize how important flexibility is when you are a member of a growing team. At ABC, we had a period of incredible growth in 2011, so I probably trained about five new employees during that period of time. (Then provide specifics on the process of how you trained new employees).
Tammy Gooler Loeb Coaching & Consulting what advice she would offer. Loeb offers, “Most people underestimate the scope of their network and its ability to be helpful in their job search. These can be both professional and personal connections. You are not only connecting with them, but also with the people in their extended networks who may be of assistance as well.”
Q: I have been working for 15 years in one profession but only have an associate’s degree. I was transferred to North Carolina for a job several years back and am trying to return to Massachusetts. Do you think employers would be willing to take my years of experience in lieu of a bachelor's degree?
A: You raise a common question in the world of career management: experience vs. education. Usually experience, and relevant experience, wins out. However, some industries still have expectations, and even requirements, around degrees.
In the field of education and higher education, degrees matter and a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or even higher may be required or preferred. In many knowledge-rich industries like biotech, life sciences or health care, degrees are also important and in some cases may be required. In many consulting roles, the firm employing consultants would like to be able to tout “MBA with 12-plus years of experience in pharmaceuticals” or “BSN with 10 years working within Boston’s finest health care institutions.”
Conversely, there are some industries in which degrees may be preferred but related work experience often trumps the degree. These industries would include manufacturing, retail or construction.
Massachusetts, as a state, can be a challenge for those who don’t hold bachelor’s degree. Massachusetts beats out all of states when comparing the percentage of residents who hold bachelor’s degrees. Almost 40% of Massachusetts residents hold a bachelor’s degree.
It would be wise to start networking in advance of your relocation back to Massachusetts. Connect with friends, family and colleagues and let them know of your plans to return. Often times a vibrant professional network delivers valuable information that could lead to job leads or at least intelligence about your field (i.e., who is hiring and who is not). Job boards can provide information about hiring trends and skills which are in demand.
Visit www.boston.com and click on the jobs section. There is information on hot jobs in Massachusetts, job postings, interview tips and other career resources.
Q: Could you tell me how to go about finding employment in the Boston area when you live in the Midwest? I live in Chicago. I do not want to come to Boston without a job.
A: Finding a new job from afar is a challenge. However, you can be successful with a plan. Some recommendations:
1. Connect with any area Boston contacts that you may have including friends, family or other professionals. LinkedIn is a great way to jumpstart these connections. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is complete and includes a photo and recommendations. Add new contacts daily. On LinkedIn, you can join Boston-area groups that are related to your profession.
2. Most of the job boards allow you to fine-tune your search by geographic area. This will be especially helpful to you since you are focused on a Boston-area search.
3. Find out if your college or university has networking events in the Boston area.
4. Research professional associations in the Boston area.
5. Make sure that you clearly communicate that you expect to relocate at your own expense. Sometimes hiring professionals see an out-of-state address and assume that a costly relocation might be required.
6. Consider securing a phone number with a local area code.
7. If possible, consider planning a trip to the Boston area and plan several face-to-face meetings during these visits.
8. Don’t rule out temporary or contract roles. Often these roles lead to full-time employment opportunities.
9. Be responsive to emails and phone calls placed to you. You should try to respond to all of these inquiries within 24 hours.
10. Use Twitter to follow job hunting experts and companies. There are quite a few related to job hunting (and even specialized industries) which are Boston-centric.
11. Never say no to an introduction. When you are introduced to a new contact, you are also introduced to that individual’s entire network of contacts.
Finally, write a quick thank-you note (by email or mail) to anyone who has been helpful to you during your search.
Q: Are there community career services where people can go to talk to someone about their career options? This is for someone who has been working for over a decade, does not have a college education (so no alumni career services), is employed (so I don't think he can go through unemployment services), but is extremely unhappy in his career. He needs to talk to someone about how his skills can transfer to another field, but he doesn't have money to throw at a fancy boutique service. Any suggestions?
A: Great question. One major point to clarify: the Massachusetts One-Stop Career Centers are an option. These centers primarily assist job seekers who are unemployed but their services are also available to those looking to change jobs. They have offices throughout the state and run a variety of workshops on resume writing, interviewing skills and even using LinkedIn during a job search. Attending some of their workshops and events may be a challenge for a working person because many are scheduled during the day. However, there are services available through their website. Check out www.mass.gov/lwd/employment-services/.
Additionally, many public libraries, including Newton Free Library, offer free workshops which may be more convenient for a job seeker currently employed. Tammy Gooler Loeb, career and executive coach and contributor to the library’s career development series, explains, “The Newton Free Library offers a monthly Job Seekers and Career Development Series, free to the public. Upcoming programs include Interview with Confidence in April and Social Media and Your Job Search in May. The library offers many resources for job seekers, including a reference librarian who specializes in career services. For more information on this series and additional events at the library, visit www.newtonfreelibrary.net/events/talks.asp. Reading Public Library has a similar program. On Wednesday evening, May 8th, I will be speaking as part of the Job Search Skills series at the Reading Public Library. For more info, visit www.readingpl.org.
Lastly, explore www.boston.com/jobs. There is a wealth of relevant and contemporary information for job seekers. Under “advice,” there is even more information on job-related topics, including common resume blunders to a discussion of what occupations are expected to grow. Thankfully there are quite a few resources available at low or no cost.
Q: I love my married name. It's a rhyme-y, memorable name, which is a vast improvement over my maiden name, and I feel it's a nice fit for my line of work. Unfortunately, someone in the entertainment industry also feels the same way. If you do a quick internet search of my name, the majority of the hits on the first page refer to an elegant and demure entertainer. I have recently started looking for a new job and I'd hate to miss out on an employment opportunity just because the hiring manager thinks I'm someone else.
What's should be my plan of action here? I've thought about including some sort of disclaimer on my resume, maybe a light-hearted joke about not googling my name from a work computer, making sure the safe search is on, and rest assured, I am not THAT (insert name here). I'm a designer, and we designers get a bit more, uh, creative freedom with our resumes. Or is it best to just ignore the issue and count on the intelligence of my future employer to know the difference?
A: Your problem is more common than you would think. Several years ago, I answered a similar question in this column. As I recall the details of that question from a few years back, the job seeker was concerned about being mistaken for a famous convicted felon with the exact same name from the exact same town!
First, think about how you can alter your name so it is bit different than the exact name of the well-known entertainer. If the famous person’s name is John Robinson, consider using John R. Robinson, III or Jack Robinson. Or you could also consider attaching an acronym like BFA after your name to clearly designate that you hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Some may still ask you about your name, but it sounds like you are ready to respond with a little dose of humor. Also, consider developing a Linkedin profile and adding the URL to your resume. The reader can then look at your profile, including your photo, and be assured that you are not the famous individual.
Those who share names with the famous carry a bit of a burden. However, usually after the initial comment or joke, the focus is on the candidate’s ability to do the job.
On a related note, I had a client several years back that had a small department of four employees. Three of the four employees had the first name of Sara or Sarah. When hiring additional staff for this team, they hoped they could find talent with a different first name.
Good luck with your search!
Q: I am a child care provider and I am hearing a lot of information about a new fingerprinting law in Massachusetts for child care providers. It is hard to tell what is required and what is not. Do you know? I heard it also applies to bus drivers and teachers. Thanks.
A: Kudos to you for being aware of new legislation! On January 10, 2013, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law H4307, An Act Relative to Background Checks, which requires early education providers and school districts to conduct fingerprint-supported national criminal history background checks on all teachers, school employees and early education providers in Massachusetts. Previously, school districts and early education providers were only allowed to conduct name-based Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks covering criminal history record information for crimes committed in Massachusetts. The CORI search had serious limitations, in that it did not include any criminal history record information for crimes committed outside Massachusetts. I contacted Jeffrey Dretler, a partner in the Employment Law Group at Prince Lobel Tye LLP. Dretler explains, “Under the new law, all newly hired teachers, school employees, bus drivers, early education and care and out-of-school time providers and even subcontractors who may have direct and unmonitored contact with children, must undergo state and national background checks prior to the start of the 2013-2014 school year. All current employees must undergo national background checks over the next three years, prior to the start of the 2016-2017 school year. The law also requires that fingerprint-based national background checks be conducted on household members (age 15 and older) of applicants for family-child care licensure; on all in-home non-relative Department of Early Education and Care (DEEC) funded caregivers; and on all applicants to be adoptive or foster parents. The law even requires that the school committee, superintendent, principal or other administrator also submit to the fingerprint-based national background check.”
The information obtained from these background checks can be used by the DEEC in connection with licensure issues and investigations of alleged misconduct by educators. For further information, visit http://www.mass.gov/governor/pressoffice/pressreleases/2013/0111-background-checks-legislation.html.
Q: It's been more than 2 years since I was last employed. Should I change the chronological format of my resume to one that highlights my work experience (35+ years) rather than show the gap in employment? I have already deleted the second page of my resume because it was no longer pertinent to a background in mechanical drafting.
A: Great question. Let me share the advantages and disadvantages of both the chronological resume and the functional resume.
The chronological resume typically has an objective or summary at the top. Then, the candidate’s work history is detailed starting with the present role and working backwards. The education section is at the bottom sometimes along with special skills, certifications or relevant training.
Most employers and hiring professionals are familiar reviewing this type of format.
It is easy to follow for the reader, perhaps because the chronological resume is more commonly used.
This type of format highlights the candidates’ most recent experience, which is often the most relevant. It is also easy to follow a career progression with this type of resume.
This format can accentuate gaps in a candidate’s work history.
It may not be the best format for career changers or those re-entering the workforce.
The functional resume groups together common skills. As an example, there may be skills headings like management/supervisory skills, technical skills, sales skills or scientific skills. A candidate’s work history is provided toward the bottom of the resume. Education, certifications, and special skills are often detailed at the very end of this type of resume.
Advantages:The format can help a candidate highlight capabilities and skills which are transferrable, which is good for candidates changing careers.
A functional resume can de-emphasize short stints within a career. This format can also minimize the focus on periods of unemployment.
This type of resume is a bit more difficult to review, from the reader’s perspective. Many hiring professionals are taught to look for gaps in a candidate’s work history. This format tends to make this process more challenging.
The focus is more on transferrable skills but sometimes the employer’s names are hard to find if this format is used.
Finally, you may want to using a functional resume and comparing it to the chronological version you have been using. One final tip for your resume: if you have 35 plus years of experience, consider dropping the months off of your chronological format. Instead of May, 1991 – November, 2011, consider 1991 – 2011. This tip may also help take the focus off of your recent period of unemployment.
Q: I am a frustrated job seeker with about ten years experience in my field. After being laid off last summer, I took a few months off to travel and visit with friends and family. I thought I would have an easier time landing a new job in my field but now I am really nervous. My search has been harder than I expected. Every week, I am sending out about 10 or more resumes but I am getting very little response. When I do talk to a company, they say that I am overqualified. What effect does my period of unemployment have on my job search? Do you think I should eliminate an advanced degree from my resume? Perhaps I should consider changing fields too?
A: I think many job seekers have experienced similar challenges. It is ok to enjoy travel and some freedom for a period of time. However, as you discovered, weeks can turn into months very quickly.
Consider developing a disciplined plan and stick to it and hold yourself accountable. A few key steps of your plan should include:
1. If you are not receiving calls interviews, ask a few trusted colleagues and/or family members for feedback on your resume. Your resume should be crisp, legible and error-free.
2. Network and then network more. I once had a successful job seeker explain that their professional network has been their only insurance against prolonged unemployment.
3. Build a profile on LinkedIn. Linkedin is an online networking tool that can only help your job search. You can connect with former colleagues, friends, neighbors, etc. Career-related groups are also available on Linkedin.
4. Use job boards but don’t spend your entire day behind your PC. Spend about 75% of your time building relationships, contacting former colleagues and attending networking events. The remaining 25% of your time can be spent behind a PC.
Finally, I would not recommend deleting an advanced degree from your resume. For some roles, an advanced degree may be preferred and it could differentiate you in a positive way. I think you would have more success remaining in your current field unless your field is one that is shrinking. Good luck with your search. Remember, a job hunt is often a full-time commitment.
- editing expertise provided by Ms. Sloan's 6th grade classes, Hopkinton Middle School
Here’s a quiz for you: You’ve been asked to come in for a job interview. You want to look your best. What should you wear for the interview if it is at:
1. A dot com company?
2. An ad agency?
3. A private bank?
Remember: What the right attire is for an interview at the dot com can be very different from what’s expected at the private bank or even at the ad agency.
Looking your best is an admirable goal. The real issue is: What is best? Best does not mean always dressed in business formal—a dark suit, white shirt and tie for men or a suit and blouse for a woman. It means being dressed appropriately for the business you are interviewing with and then kicking it up a notch.
Your goal is to look your best while also looking like you fit in. Wearing a business suit to a dot com might be as much of a problem as wearing jeans and a turtleneck à la Steve Jobs to an interview at a private bank. The best way to know what to wear is to find out what is considered appropriate at that business. In some cases, you might be able to stop by and observe what employees are wearing. However, with building security limiting access only to visitors with appointments, a phone call to the receptionist or HR department is a more likely approach.
Certainly for the private bank, dressing in business formal clothing will equate to looking your best. But for the ad agency, it may mean slacks and a more informal jacket, maybe a tie for men. At the dot com, it may even mean no jacket or tie.
Here are some things to be aware of regardless of the venue:
Clean: Clean means freshly laundered and pressed with no stains. It’s unfortunate, but every now and then you’ll get a coffee stain or other spot that won’t come out. In that case the shirt, skirt or pants is simply no longer appropriate as business clothing. A job interview is also the perfect time for a shoeshine.
Neat: One of the best clothing innovations to come along is the “no-iron” dress shirt for men and women. It’s the best. I used to iron my own shirts, and since “no-iron” became available, my iron has remained in the closet. Retire “no-iron” shirts when they lose their right-from-the-dryer crispness.
No Odor: Your clothes and you and your breath should be odor free. The shirt you wore yesterday may still be “clean,” but it may have a stale body odor scent to it. Wear freshly laundered clothing to the interview. Some companies have “no scent” policies, so this is a time to lay-off cologne, after-shave and perfume.
Q: I am a recent college graduate from Arizona State University who is looking to relocate to the Boston area. I graduated with an art history degree and a minor in anthropology and I have a vast background of customer service experience. I have been applying for jobs in the non-profit, marketing and arts sectors in the Boston area but I am still confused as to how I find a job in a place where I have never lived before. I have a ton of skills and am willing to learn but how do get my foot in the door and find an employer that can trust somebody with entry level experience?
A: Your job search in the Boston area will be a greater challenge but one that can be successful. A few tips that will increase your success:
1. Use social media to your advantage. Create an account on LinkedIn. Learn how it works. Join groups on LinkedIn that further your connections in Boston. Create a Twitter account. Begin following job sites and Boston-centric sites. If you are targeting specific employers, follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter.
2. Research alumni connections and associations in the Boston area. Talk to your professors about contacts that they may have in the Boston area.
3. There are several job posting sites that have a focus on non profits jobs. Idealist.org is one to think about visiting frequently. Check other sites as well.
4. Think about buying a cell phone with a Boston-base phone number for job hunting.
5. Be clear that you don’t expect a prospective employer to pay for your relocation. The thought of a relocation expense may scare them off. Let them know you could relocate quickly.
6. Make sure that you have video chatting capability in case they invite you to interview using this type of technology.
7. Like other job seekers, you should ensure that your resume is crisp, error-free and well designed. Your resume should not exceed one page.
8. Also make sure that your resume includes key words which are desirable for your target industry and/or target employers.
9. If possible, travel to Boston and try to fill that time period with a jam-packed schedule of interviews and/or networking meetings.
10. If you know where you plan to live and can use that address, begin using that address on your resume. A local address conveys that you are serious about relocating.
Job hunting from a distant location can be daunting but not impossible.
Q: I am looking for a job in just about any field. I have a degree in English and have worked in many fields including brewing and cell phone repair, as well as customer service. I can learn exceptionally quickly. How can I convey to potential employers that I can learn anything and put forward 100% effort without sounding self important?
A: Great question. Former co-workers, colleagues and managers are an excellent place to start. People that have worked with you in past roles probably know you work hard and produce quality work. Begin connecting and re-connecting with these contacts on LinkedIn and in person. Your contacts can refer you to companies with the following message: “This is a strong candidate. Strong work ethic. Learns quickly. Willing to do what it takes.” It is easier for a professional contact to refer you to another professional in their network especially if that former colleague has observed your work firsthand. It is also less awkward for a professional contact to give you high praise.
If you have a LinkedIn profile, ask some of your former co-workers and managers to write recommendations on LinkedIn. These recommendations can share “real-life” examples of your work ethic and your ability to learn a job quickly. They can also endorse your skills and expertise in specific areas like customer service, graphic design or business development (whichever apply to your career). Employers are often checking a LinkedIn profile before they even invite a candidate in for a live interview.
Make sure that your resume is crisp, error-free and well-designed. I think sometimes English majors are held to a higher standard!
During an interview (either via telephone, video chat or in person), weave some of these attributes in your responses. As an example:
Q: Mary, tell me a little bit about what your manager at ABC Company would say about your performance in your role as a Customer Service Rep?
A: Mike Smith was my manager at ABC. I really enjoyed working for him. I am a high-energy quick learner and he allowed me to learn new skills that were not even part of my formal job description. As an example, I developed a knack of using some of the unused modules available in our software to better troubleshoot customer complaints. I was able to train others on how to use these modules and features. I think it helped us resolve customer complaints more quickly and efficiently.
Lastly, if a cover letter is requested, include some of these attributes in your cover letter.
Q: I have not interviewed in many years, and I am dreading the whole process. Thinking about it makes me so nervous that I know it will affect my performance. What can I do to prepare and get over this so I can get a job?
A. Interviewing can be an anxiety producing event, and many people see the entire process as a meeting with people who are there to judge you or find fault with your experience. Some interviewers do their best to increase anxiety; while others believe the best way to find out about a candidate is to make them comfortable with the process. Unless you are interviewing for a high stress job, anticipate interviews as an opportunity to talk to others about all that you have done, which they have already told you they are interested in hearing more about. Also take it as an opportunity to interview them to determine if their organization is a place you want to work.
I consulted with Dr. Paul Powers, a career coach and author of "Winning Job Interviews” (Career Press), who notes that job interviews are anxiety producing because a lot hinges on their outcome; this is a totally normal and predictable human response. He says it is par for the course and to use the word par to remember three keys to reducing interview anxiety.
P is for preparation. Before the interview review your resume or application and know every aspect of the information you have included. Many interviewers will use our resume as a guide or script for the interview so have a positive anecdote for every item. “WJI” has a comprehensive list of many typical questions you might encounter which you can use as a guide to your preparation. Take the time to write out the answers you will use so that your comfort level increases. Review your notes from previous interviews to remind you of things you feel comfortable talking about, and were well received in other interviews.
A is for attitude. You've gotten this far in the process- pat yourself on the back. No one has so much time on their hands that they can waste time interviewing candidates whom they think can't do the job. This interview is proof that you are making solid progress - no matter how many you've had.
R is for relaxation. A moderate amount of stress is not a bad thing and can actually enhance memory and performance. But if there's too much and it's getting in your way you should utilize the stress reduction technique that works best for you. Others have successfully used deep breathing, gentle exercise, meditation, visualization (either of past, positive interviews or just of calming natural scenes).
And finally, just before you meet your interviewer put a smile on your face and say to yourself “This is going to go great!” Paul and I agree that this will help you make it so.
Q: My career has spanned over 25 years and I have been very successful in the corporate world. I have managed large, successful sales teams as well as large project and development programs. Past employment was secured through relationships. I never finished college, and now I find that I can't even get a call back from an employer, even for jobs I am perfectly suited for. Do I have to go back to school in order to get a job? Or is there something else I can do to get over this hurdle?
A: Congratulations on having a successful career. The most important sentence in your question is "Past employment was secured through relationships." You are proving one of the most important strategies in the art and science of job hunting. Relationships matter. Most job seekers still find out about new opportunities through their personal and professional networks.
Let's start with the positives. You have had a successful 25-year career in corporate roles. You have worked with successful sales teams and large project and development teams.
However, most of the candidates with whom you are competing probably have completed a college degree. An article published by the Boston Globe on December 15, 2010 paints a picture of who we are in Massachusetts. According to the article, written by Globe staffers Peter Schworm and Matt Carroll, “Massachusetts has a greater percentage of college graduates than any state in the country.” This article, entitled “A portrait of the state’s population,” was based on a five-year survey called the American Community Survey (ACS), published by the US Census Bureau.
Let’s return to another positive though: your network. Your network is likely filled with professionals who have worked with you and/or understand that you have worked hard to achieve some success in your career. These contacts are critical! Education is important but relevant experience is more important.
A few pieces of very specific advice:
1. Lead with the positives when you pitch your background and career. Focus on your success, tenures with companies, experience, enthusiasm and energy for past roles.
2. Use your network. Get active on LinkedIn.
3. Don’t ever lie about your lack of a bachelor’s degree. It will come back to haunt you. Instead acknowledge that you never completed your degree, but you believe that your 25-year career with lots of success if far more important.
If you are close to attaining your degree, think about how you could finish your degree. Could you look at online courses if you are two courses short of a degree? Or could you consider a school that would award you credit for some of your work/life experiences. If you choose to return to college, research the college thoroughly in advance. You will want to make sure that the college is accredited.
Q: I have been to two job interviews for a position and received positive feedback both times. On my second interview I met with the department manager. After the second interview the person to whom I would be a direct report told me not to worry and she would contact me soon. She planned to talk to the manager the next day. It has been over one week and I have not heard anything. I sent thank-you e-mails immediately after each interview and after one week I sent another e-mail asking politely for any feedback and offering to provide any more information they may need to help with a decision. I still have not heard a word. Is it time to move on and is this the norm with employers?
A: Unfortunately, the scenario you describe is increasingly common. I call it the “black hole syndrome.” You may never learn why you were not offered the job. However, hold your head high. It sounds like you interviewed well and you were smart to send thank-you emails to the individuals with whom you met. There are several possible explanations for what occurred. Some include:
- The company offered the role to another candidate.
- They don’t understand the “unwritten rule” of re-connecting with a candidate (especially one that has interviewed) to tell the candidate the final outcome of the selection process.
- The role was put on hold.
- The position no longer exists and the responsibilities have been absorbed by others.
- The company is being acquired or merged with another company. Often when this occurs, open positions are put on hold indefinitely.
- The company representatives are uncomfortable giving you feedback.
I would suggest exploring other opportunities. You don’t want to continue to waste time and effort on a role that may no longer exist.
Q: I run a small business. I was told by my attorney that I should not rely solely on a candidate’s resume. I have read that resumes are full of embellishments. How do I know what a candidate’s work history really is? Should I be using an employment application form? Thanks Job Doc.
A: Resumes are wonderful tools for better understanding a candidate’s background. A resume, though, is like an advertisement for the candidate. It may not be complete and it may include embellishments, errors or omissions. A resume is most often written by the candidate and the candidate can choose what to include or what to exclude. A candidate can omit a job from which they were terminated or state that they earned a bachelor’s degree, when they have not.
A well-designed employment application often forces a candidate to be more complete in the details of their work history. As an example, most employment applications ask why a candidate left a certain position. Most resumes do not include this information. An employment application may also ask about a candidate’s compensation history, which again, is information often not revealed in the candidate’s resume.
Employment applications often have “fine print” at the end or beginning of the form. The language in the “fine print” will state that, upon signing the completed employment application that the candidate agrees that the information provided is true, complete and accurate. In short, it pressures an applicant to be more truthful. There is often language that states that if a candidate is not truthful and complete (regardless of when the misstatement is discovered), that the candidate can be terminated if the candidate becomes employed by the company. For example, in 2013, John Doe claims to have a master’s degree at the time he applies to ABC Corporation, but does not hold such a degree. In 2014, it is discovered he never completed the requirements for his master’s degree, he can be terminated when the misstatement is discovered in 2014.
Candidates be warned. Be truthful about your work history and academic credentials.
I’m a female marketing consultant. I always greet new clients with a firm handshake. I generally don't do anything in subsequent meetings with people I already know. My question is, how should I greet my regular clients? Should I shake hands every time? I'm not a kisser and I don't want to give the wrong impression, but I never know if I should kiss or hug someone. I don't want to appear cold, but I don't want to give the wrong impression.
What's appropriate for female professionals?
M. D., Saugus, MA
Yes, whenever you greet someone, you should shake hands. It’s an expected norm in today’s business world. As a woman, by extending your hand first, you remove any question a male might have about whether or not to shake your hand. Conversely, if a person reaches out to shake your hand and you don’t reciprocate, it creates a very uncomfortable moment as the person stands there with his neglected hand dangling between you. All the focus of the greeting turns to why you didn’t shake his hand. You literally could damage an existing relationship or ruin your chances for gaining business from a prospect simply by not shaking hands.
The only excuse for not shaking is if you have a cold or the flu and don’t want to chance spreading your germs. In that case, offer an explanation as the greeting starts. For instance, at a first meeting with a prospect, you might say, “Please excuse me for not shaking. I have a cold and don’t want to chance giving it to you. I am so pleased to meet you.”
A woman who was in marketing once told me about her most important client, who invariably would greet by coming out from behind his desk and giving her a hug and kiss on the cheek. She was creeped out by his greeting but, at the same time, didn’t want to say or do anything to mar the relationship. Given that this had been going on for a while, doing something to prevent the hug and kiss probably would be noticed. She would have to decide if the effort to change the greeting was worth the risk of causing an awkward moment with her client.
In business hugs and/or kisses are not appropriate for any except people you know very well. Even then, it subtly shifts the focus away from the professional. What could Ms. Marketing have done to prevent the hug and kiss initially? At the first greeting, she holds her hand out to shake; then, if the person starts to move in for the hug and kiss, she should stiffen her arm gently to keep him from moving in. Works every time.
Q. I am interviewing regularly with no offers yet, but I think I am getting close. I was asked to have lunch with two people from the group I hope to join, and the hiring manager. I know not to order spaghetti, but what else do I need to know about meeting three people over food, so I can turn lunch into a job offer.
Many important interactions happen over food, and you are wise to consider what to choose from the menu. The message that is often associated with an invitation to interview over food is “we like you, and now we want to get to know you even better”. So take the opportunity seriously, and as with any meeting you are invited to, do your research. If you know where you will be going, check out the menu in advance. Select something that looks easy to eat, doesn’t have red drippy sauce, and isn’t something others would be appalled to see you order? (not the time for liver and onions, or steak tartare).
I consulted with Jean Papalia, owner of A+ Etiquette in Boston, who provides business protocol programs. Through 25 years of experience working with employers and job candidates, Jean has found that dining etiquette skills are an essential part of our business culture and a blunder can cost you a job or lose a client. Employers need to know they can trust you to represent their organization in any dining or business-social situation.
Papalia suggests that before you go to that business lunch, you brush up on your dining etiquette skills so that you will be confident and comfortable. “You want your interviewers to pay attention to what you bring to the table (i.e. your skills and experience) not what you are doing at the table.”
Though Jean has a comprehensive list of etiquette tips the keys seem to start from knowing which utensils are yours. Forks are to the left of your plate, (clue - 4 letters in fork and 4 in left).
Remember BMW – Bread plate is on the left, meal in the middle, and water/drinks on the right.
As far as what to order, you can ask your host for recommendations, such as “What do you like? Or do you have a favorite dish?” Whatever you order, this is not the time to experiment with new foods. If you’ve never had oysters, just move on to something that you know will be safe and easy to eat. Do not order alcohol at lunch, even if your hosts do. If wine is served with dinner, consider half a glass or none.
And some basics that we know you know but just for others, don’t talk with your mouth full and always chew with your mouth closed. Covering your mouth with your hand while you talk and chew is not acceptable. Cut food one piece at a time, and make pieces small.
Consider this a business meeting. Meetings don’t start until everyone has the materials, and meals don’t start until everyone has been served. Most often your host may say “bon appetite” to signal everyone to begin. If not, look to your host and follow their lead.
Papalia offers one additional piece of advice about business meals. Do not arrive starving. “It’s NOT about the food! You want your focus to be on the conversation and the relationships you are building, not on the next course.”
Q: Although a potential employer can't overtly use age as the basis for making a decision, we over 55ers will frequently be passed over for younger applicants for a job. How do you sell your age as an asset when you are interviewing without being overly pushy about it?
A: Great question. You raise a reality that many job seekers are facing. A candidate will be told, “You are not a good fit.” Or, “Not sure if you would do well with our team.” Or worse of all, no response at all.
In short, you have to convince the interviewer to focus on your value to the company, not your age. Candidates who can demonstrate value get hired. After all, an employer is buying your services trying to get the best bang for their buck.
Here are some tips:
1. Limit your resume to two pages. Consider eliminating your early career roles which may not be as relevant.
2. Include key words in your resume that showcase your skills as up to date. Make sure that you have stayed current in terms of technology, industry trends and experience.
3. Ask a trusted colleague for advice and feedback on your resume and your job search.
4. Don’t offer hurdles that make it easy for a recruiter to eliminate you. What are hurdles? Comments like: “I won’t go into Boston anymore.” Or “I don’t have the time to learn the newest version of that software. I went to a training class in the 80’s and that was enough for me.” Instead offer what you can do. Speak in flexible terms. Examples include: “I know I could learn the latest version. I enjoy learning new technologies.”
5. Some of my clients perceive some email addresses, such as having an aol.com extension, as that of a candidate who is living in the past.
6. Talk up your current experience. Candidates who reminisce, at length, about companies that have died, are not perceived as vibrant candidates.
7. Check your clothing and appearance. Make sure that you are not wearing a suit that you bought in the 80s.
8. Think about what you are expecting in terms of compensation. If you last made $70K and an employer is posting the role with a $50K price tag, is $70K reasonable? Sometimes I think companies are focused on dollars and cents. If another candidate comes along and will take $55K, then think about your salary requirements. I find sometimes it is not a candidate’s age but their salary requirements which scare off the employer. A $70K salary offer could disrupt their internal equity (what they are paying others in the same or similar roles).
9. Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, be energetic, willing and enthusiastic. Companies want to hire engaged candidates, of any age.
Q: I have been with the same company for about five years. All of my performance reviews have been good and I have a strong relationship with my boss. I also work well with my co-workers both in and out of my department. I like my company for the most part. My company is small and we don’t have a policy for posting jobs internally. I know some larger companies post job internally so employees can apply. When a job opening becomes available, the President never thinks about anyone working might be interested. He always rushes to hire from outside the company. A few of us are sort of irritated by this happening again and again. What do you think about this?
A: It sounds like you enjoy your work, your colleagues and your employer overall. All of these factors are very important to job satisfaction.
I agree with your observation that larger companies often have more formal policies for posting jobs internally. Smaller companies sometimes also post jobs internally but it is less of a formal practice and sometimes done only when someone points it out to one of the business leaders.
I think your President might rush to hire from the outside because no one has asked him to consider looking internally for qualified candidates. Perhaps your manager can request that opportunities can be posted internally. Many companies will post most opportunities, but not all opportunities. Sometimes a required skill is very specialized and it would be challenging to find that specific skill set internally.
I think you raise a valid point. I think your President needs to be aware of this concern and then he may re-consider his past practice of hiring external candidates. Retaining current employees is as (if not more) important as attracting new employees.
Should I wear a suit and tie, jacket and collared shirt, or just a collared shirt for a Skype interview?
Congratulations on landing a Skype interview! A Skype interview is an interview conducted using a computer. Your computer would need special software (like Skype) to be able to connect with another party and your image would be projected on their computer screen. Additionally, your voice is also transmitted to the other party. This type of interview is often used to save time and money, especially when there is significant distance between a candidate and the company’s location.
An online video interview is just as important as an in-person interview. You should dress as if you were interviewing at the company’s location. You also should dress professionally from head to toe. Often candidates believe they should only dress professionally from the waist up. This is not the case. You might need to stand up to adjust your webcam. You don’t want to be worrying about your outfit.
A few other tips for online video phone interviews:
1. Do a technology check before the day of the interview. Test your connection with a friend. Sometimes a slow connection causes awkward pauses and lags in the conversation. You don’t want to be concerned about your connectivity during your interview. Exchange phone numbers and contact info before the interview just in case there are any unforeseen glitches. Make sure that you have a phone handy during the planned interview time. Part of your technology check should be testing how an outfit plays on the screen. A loud pattern may be distracting. A bold necklace might cause unnecessary glare.
2. Make sure that your Skype profile is a professional one. Skype requires users to select a user name and a profile photo. Both the user name and the profile photo should be appropriate and professional.
3. Eliminate distractions. Silence your phone. Crate your dog. Make sure that your background is professional and does not include an unmade bed or dirty dishes in your kitchen sink. If you are planning to schedule this interview at work, be careful. A private lockable office would be a good choice for a location.
4. Remember to focus on the camera, not on the image on your computer screen. Practice this before your interview.
5. Prepare! Just like for an in-person interview, prepare! Don’t minimize the importance of this interview.
Q. After a totally unproductive job search over the last 4 months with no interviews, I took all the job search advice I had read about. I got a new suit, polished my resume, am trying to network, and even have a LinkedIn profile. I have gone from no interviews to having had three this month, but no offers. I got stopped at one phone screen, and 2 first interviews. I can do these jobs – my skills are there. What gives?
A. You have discovered that a casual approach to the job search doesn’t work, and that in this ultra-competitive market you need to impress at every stage. Every aspect of your search needs to differentiate you from every other candidate. The steps you have taken are great to move you ahead in the process. Your network and perhaps LinkedIn profile are finding you the opportunities. Your new resume must be improved if it is getting attention. But the rest of the job search comes to a screeching halt, and many job seekers experience the same issue.
To help you change this pattern, I consulted Susan Goodman, of Goodman HR Partners, a full cycle Human Resources consulting firm. Susan interviews candidates for all roles at all levels of organizations and she finds that otherwise well qualified candidates don't make it past the first round of interviews because they cannot convey what one CEO calls “fire in the belly”. They can’t demonstrate sincere interest and enthusiasm for the role, the company and the product. The best way to be ready to demonstrate your passion for the job is to take the time and effort to do all your homework prior to the interview.
Candidates most likely to be recommended for further interviews are those who are well qualified and well prepared. Goodman says, “A candidate who has thoroughly researched the role, the company, the market and the leadership team has an automatic leg up in the interview.” Preparation might include using your network to speak with employees or customers of the company, looking up the members of the company’s leadership team and the people you will be interviewing with on LinkedIn, and doing a deep review about why you are excited about this position and how you can contribute to the company’s goals. In addition, Goodman recommends that candidates review the job description carefully and consider the key job responsibilities, the commute, the work schedule and the travel requirements prior to interviewing.
It is unproductive and a turn off to interviewers when the candidate is unaware of something that is clearly indicated in the job description. Prepare thoughtful questions that express your interest in finding out more about the job, the company, the competition, and the industry. Don't ask questions that you can easily find answers to on the company website which indicates you did not care enough to adequately prepare for the interview. The people you are talking to are most likely very passionate about their company and product, and when you demonstrate that same level of passion your chances of getting to the offer stage increase significantly.
Q: When fielding a screening phone interview, what one skill would you recommend strengthening before receiving the call? Thanks!
A: A telephone interview is as important as an in-person interview. A few tips before I offer a specific answer to your question.
1. Make sure that you are using a phone that will provide good reception. Using a cell phone can be risky, especially if there are connection concerns.
2. Confirm the call in advance. Email is a good vehicle for confirming the date and time of a scheduled interview.
3. Monitor your voice. Make sure that you are able to sound positive, confident and enthusiastic.
4. Have your resume handy. The individual conducting the call is probably looking at your resume when making the call.
5. Check email before and after the call. The interviewer may need to push the call back a few minutes or reschedule the call. After the call, send a thank-you email as quickly as you can. Make sure that you are checking email frequently.
Now to answer your question! I would recommend strengthening your preparedness. This applies to all candidates, at all levels, across industries. Don’t take a call “on the fly” or receive a call in a loud area. Prepare in advance for a quiet location with no interruptions. Ready yourself with examples of some of your strengths. As an example, instead of saying, “I am good under pressure,” consider “I am good under pressure. For example, last week our copier died when we were printing a complex proposal for a client. The client required several hard copies be delivered by a certain deadline. I found a local copy shop that was able to handle the copying. I picked it up and walked it to our client’s office with minutes to spare.”
Telephone interviews are now a common screening tool. You want to make sure that you advance to the next level.
Q: I am gainfully employed in my field. Most think I am lucky to have a job. In reality though, I am overwhelmed almost all of the time. In 2008 and 2009, my employer laid off many employees. We have re-hired a few employees but we are all working very long hours and our CEO believes we should be available all the time (e.g., weekends, holidays, vacations, etc.). I was at a funeral last week and he knew I was at a funeral. He called four times and was very insistent at me returning his call immediately. The expectations are enormous. The stress level at my company is through the roof. I have had colleagues walk out the door without another job lined up, because they could not handle it anymore. I have never seen this in your column. Is this common? Do you have any advice?
A: Unfortunately, your situation is increasingly common. However, I do believe these employers do not represent the mainstream. There are some leaders who don’t understand that employees need time to re-charge. Most employees can survive the work environment you are describing if it is a short-term requirement. As an example, if you are a manager of an engineering team and you have an upgrade that you need to have in your clients’ hands, you can all pull together, work wild hours and meet the deadline. However, as a long-term norm, most would consider this an unhealthy environment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout can sometimes result from lack of control. If your schedule, workload or assignments are out of control, stress and burnout can occur. If you don’t have the necessary resources available (e.g., staff) this can also contribute to your stress level.
If you believe your situation is temporary, and could be remedied by talking to your CEO about boundaries (e.g., only dire emergencies require a call during a funeral) and securing additional resources, your situation may be salvageable.
Take advantage of your company’s employee assistance program (EAP) if there is one available. I consulted with Kathleen Greer, Founder of KGA, an EAP firm and sought her expertise. Greer offered, "Assembling a leadership team is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor and retention is important. When executives join an organization, they expect some separation between work and home. Unless a serious workplace crisis is brewing, it is not appropriate to expect round-the-clock work from a leader.”
You will need to honestly assess how long you can continue in this role if your desired changes are not made. I suggest developing a plan for remaining with the company (including establishing boundaries and adding resources) but also developing a plan for considering a new opportunity if your internal situation does not improve.
Q: I am looking to re-enter the job market after being a stay-at-home mom for five years. My problem is that I don't know for what jobs to apply. I worked construction before I left the job market and would like to return working with sustainable living. I am 47 years old and haven't been on an interview for over 15 years. I feel my age and lack of experience interviewing may hold me back from some jobs. I need resources to help me interview, write my resume, and find the right job.
A: Congratulations on your decision to return to the workforce. Let’s first start with addressing your resume challenges. There are many resources available to you. One place that offers helpful information is http://www.boston.com/jobs/advice/. Check out the section called BEGIN YOUR JOB SEARCH. This section has information on how to create and build a resume, what occupations are on the rise and information on salaries for a wide range of occupations. This information is all free and available to you 24 hours a day. You could also consider hiring a job search coach. However, this is usually not free.
The state of Massachusetts also provides residents with career centers located across the state. http://www.mass.gov/lwd/employment-services/career-services/career-center-services/find-a-career-center-near-you-1.html. These offices offer a wide range of services from creating a resume to networking.
Before you jump into the workforce, reflect on your skills. Are you a whiz on the computer? Are you good at planning events? Do you enjoy the details of accounting? Are you an especially good writer?
Start your job search with an open mind. There are probably many positions that you would enjoy and would also capitalize on your skills. Especially since some of your experience is dated and competition for jobs is fierce, you should be flexible with respect to the roles which you might consider.
I would suggest becoming an active networker. Start telling others you are re-entering the workforce. Talk about what you are good at and what might work for you in terms of a job opportunity. Neighbors, friends and former colleagues are all good sources of job leads. You should also consider joining LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an online networking tool. Once you create profile, you can begin to connect with others. You can also join groups on LinkedIn. There are several groups whose focus is on sustainability on LinkedIn.
Resilience is important in a job search in this economy. You will probably encounter more “Sorry, we’re not hiring” than “Can you interview on Monday?” Keep swinging though. There are opportunities for flexible and resilient job hunters.
Q: I have been applying for many jobs in the computer/IT field. I have decent experience and do consider myself a good fit for many of the jobs. I have my associate's degree in IT and am currently enrolled in a bachelor's program. My question is, how do I address the fact that I do not meet the requirement of having my bachelor's but think that I still could do the job?
A: You are smart to ask this question. Enrolling in a bachelor's degree program is also a wise investment in your career.
Many companies will request a bachelor's degree, especially for technical roles. Often times a bachelor's degree may be preferred but technical skills are far more important. Make sure that your resume (especially the top half of your resume) includes all of your technical skills. Many recruiters sort through piles of resumes and you want to make sure that you feature your technical skills prominently. A recruiter should not have to “dig” for these skills.
Additionally, it is important to be candid about your educational achievements. You should certainly include that you have earned an associate's degree. However, it is important to accurately describe that you have not completed a bachelor's degree but you are currently enrolled in a bachelor's degree program.
One option is to consider the following:
Community College - Associate's, Information Technology Boston, MA
University - Bachelor's, Computer Science - expected May, 2013 Boston, MA
The format I have used above informs the reader that you have completed an associate's degree but you are enrolled in a bachelor's degree program. It clearly states that you expect to complete your bachelor’s degree in May of 2013 but you have not completed it as of yet.
A bachelor's degree is important in the field of information technology. For more information about the link between earning and education, read Megan Woolhouse's article from October 11, 2012 - http://www.boston.com/news/nation/2012/10/11/report-links-earning-power-college-degree-engineers-top-list/JY9ft22NbkppcgoFOHhPYK/story.html.
Q: I am applying for a new job, at a new company, after 20 plus years with the same company. I am so nervous and anxious. I have not been on an interview in years. I feel like I am a kindergartener on the first day of school. The thought of sitting across a desk from someone who will ask me questions about my background is nauseating to me. How do I get over this? What can I do to prepare?
A: You get an A for being brave and candid. Many others have probably been in your shoes but instead just muddled through the process. Here are some tips:
1. Research. Research the company and research the opportunity. Information is power. You will want to be able to speak confidently about the company, the industry, competitors and the opportunity. The more you know, the better.
2. Update your knowledge on how the interview process has changed since you last interviewed. Visit www.boston.com and click on jobs. There is a lot of valuable information available on the site, from what to wear to how to do well on a phone interview.
3. Practice. Practice with your spouse, your partner, your dog. Practice some tough interview questions. Be ready to provide tangible examples of your achievements. The more metrics the better.
What do I mean by this? Instead of “I am a people person,” consider: “I work well with customers who are really angry. I am often able to effectively address their concern and offer a reasonable solution, like express mailing a new device to them. I am a good listener and try to give them the opportunity to vent. I can empathize. I would be frustrated too. I often receive the most disgruntled customers. My retention rate with these customers is about 87%, one of the highest within ABC Company.”
4. Use social media to help you learn more about how candidates land jobs. Social media (e.g., Linkedin, Twitter, etc.) has changed the world of recruiting. This expertise will also demonstrate how you have remained current.
5. Lastly, be gracious and authentic. Thank all those who meet with you or spend time with you.
Q. I applied at a company three years ago for a position and never heard anything. Is it appropriate to apply again for another position they are advertising now?
A. Absolutely. Three years ago or even three months, if you haven’t heard back
from a company, and they have opportunities which interest you, and for which you are qualified, apply! Just because you didn't hear back before, doesn't mean it will happen again.
There are many reasons applicants don’t get responses from companies but there are things you can do to market yourself and help you stand out against other applicants. For instance, If you applied online, you may not have made it through the initial screening tool. Make sure you have plenty of key words which show just how qualified you are for the position and reflect the breadth of your skill sets.
Perhaps you responded to an ad, and were just one of many cover letters in the pile. If your letter was addressed “To whom it may concern, Dear Sir or Madam or Attn: Hiring Manager”, chances are you didn’t make the cut. Do the research and determine the name of the hiring manager and adress your cover letter accordingly. If you can't find the hiring managers name, get the name of someone who may know that person, and include that persons name in the letter and the subject line of the email as a 'referred by' reference.
You can also leap frog the whole pile by having an employee you know or someone familiar to a person in your nerwork who can hand carry or email your resume or even make a call to the person running the process. You may think you don’t know anyone, but invariably someone you know is likely to have a connection.
Get on LinkedIn, carry your target list of companies with you, and ask everyone you meet if they know anyone.
Finally, if by some chance, you are not qualified for the role, and that is why you didn’t hear back, do everything possible to get noticed by the hiring decision makers. You can do this by connecting with them on LinkedIn and writing thank you notes for considering you application. If they hadn't seen your resume, a personal note may prompt them to take a look. You never know when an oppportunity more appropriate for you will open and leaving a lasting impression puts you in a better position to have them contact you the next time. Good luck!
Q: I am working on my associate’s degree in Biology. I was going to pursue my bachelor’s, however I am afraid that I will not find a good job because of all the rumors I've heard about this degree. Eventually, I want to pursue a higher degree but wanted advice as to what to do next. Should I keep going with a bachelor degree's or should I major in something else, like nursing or something specific? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
A: Congratulations on furthering your education in one of the expected growth areas within the US. It is probably better to rely on facts, rather than rumors, about the job prospects for a biology major.
According to a May, 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, STEM occupations (jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) represented nearly 8 million jobs (or 6%) of the jobs in the US. Also according to the May, 2009 BLS report, STEM occupations were high-paying. For all STEM occupations the mean annual wage was $77,880. STEM occupations are often in knowledge-rich fields where education-level matters. You are smart to consider furthering your education beyond an associate’s. Most of these knowledge-rich fields will require a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree. In some fields, a doctorate may be preferred or even required.
I believe there is a mix of factors when considering what is the best path for you. Consider the following:
1. What courses do you like? What courses do you dislike?
2. What are your strengths? Are you a strong writer? Do you enjoy building spreadsheets?
3. What areas are expected to grow within the field of biology? Is there a specific field within biology which appeals to you?
4. Try to work in a few different roles through internships, summer jobs or volunteer roles. If you don’t enjoy a particular role, that’s ok. It is better to discover that now than later.
5. Research pay scales for different roles.
A biology degree could open many doors for you. A bachelor’s in biology could lead you to working in a pharmaceutical company or in a university. Or if you enjoy writing and biology, technical writing might be a path worth considering. Biology majors have landed jobs in zoos, aquariums, hospitals, labs, environmental organizations, colleges and universities, government agencies, research organizations and museums.
Registered nurses are in demand and this demand is expected to continue. As we, as a country, grapple with healthcare, including healthcare reform, obesity and living longer, nurses will continue to be in demand.
Neither path is wrong. However, you have to find out which path you would enjoy. Many of us spend 40 or more hours per week working at our jobs. Make sure you like most of what you do.
Q: I've had a good first interview at a company. I found that I share a connection on Linkedin with the hiring manager. Would it be appropriate for that connection to call the hiring manager now before the second interview decision is made? My connection is a relative to an immediate family member (i.e, by marriage) and I know him very well socially. He is a respected business person and the job is a high level business job.
A: Congratulations on a strong first interview! You must have been well-prepared and organized.
You are smart to use Linkedin during your interview process. Some job seekers forget that Linkedin is a tool that can be very valuable during a job search. You can research current and former employees, company information and most importantly… if you know someone! Or sometimes you can uncover contacts who are connected to the hiring manager like you have.
I think your instincts are good. If your relative is a well-regarded and respected professional, he might be a helpful contact. First, I would ask him if he is comfortable contacting this connection. Some people have hundreds, even thousands of connections and know some much better than others. If there is a professional and/or personal relationship between your relative and the hiring manager, your relative may be able to convey some of your positive attributes. Think about what was discussed during the initial interview. Did they mention a strong work ethic was important? Did they mention punctuality and reliability as being critical requirements? Was creativity discussed? If your relative can comment on some of these traits, that might be persuasive. I would suggest discussing, in advance, what you would like your relative to mention during this call or email. You would want him to focus on relevant traits which he has observed. If the role is an accountant, perhaps he could mention that you did well when you studied accounting at ABC University. Or if the role is an events planner, he could mention some of the social events that he has attended that you may have organized.
Q. Which college courses would you take right now in order to get a high paying job in when you graduate?
A. Education has been shown to increase earning power, whether you are in college or on the job. But there will be a broad range of high paying jobs and your skills and interests, in addition to your education, will play a role in your ability to be successful.
Successful careers and high paying jobs are achieved through a combination of education, experiences, ambition, skill, and personal attributes, not just one course.
If your question about courses refers to which course of study, or major should you pursue, consider utilizing The Occupational Outlook Handbook. The OOH (www.bls.gov/oco) is the government's source of career guidance providing information on hundreds of occupations including the responsibilities of the role. You can browse occupations by categories including highest paying, projected fastest growing, and projected most new jobs. The occupation finder can help you narrow your search and add criteria like entry level education and on the job training, including apprenticeships.
The OOH shows that fields like civil engineering, computer systems, IT security analyst, and biochemists lead the way in projected job growth and compensation, while other fields show a decline or no growth, and limited earning capacity. Taking courses in any of these fields can help you determine if you have interest, aptitude and the desire to continue with additional coursework in the field.
Most college counselors will encourage you to broaden your education by taking coursework out of your major. Courses that are considered valuable by most employers include pubic speaking, and writing. Many careers have been derailed by a lack of skills in these two areas. Courses which develop analytic and quantitative skills, whether in business, math, science, or statistics, are highly valued. Develop skills to read the financial pages of your company, and the economics of the global marketplace. You will be at a disadvantage if you do not develop computer proficiency as demonstrated by everyday use. Courses exposing you to information technology and technology management can be valuable, as can a psychology course showcasing behavioral styles, or a general understanding of motivation of self and others. Make sure your course work includes project based work so you develop team and leadership skills. Etiquette courses may no longer be offered, but find a way to gain this knowledge.
All of these can be enhanced greatly by related work experience. School activities, internships, and summer jobs showcase how education and experience can make you a valuable part of any organization.
Q. Nylons or not? I am told by many women that nylons are out of fashion, and bare legs are appropriate in the office. Your thoughts, especially for an interview?
A. While these may not be the most important job search issues ever discussed, professional appearance does have an impact on how candidates are perceived and how seriously they are taken. In a toss-up between two qualified candidates, the person demonstrating good judgment will win.
Interview attire guidelines are not the same as the rules for work attire. The suggestions for interviewing are much more conservative than for people who have already made it through the interview process and are successfully employed. Your goal as a candidate is to look professional, current, appropriate, and to make sure you are memorable for all the right reasons (your attire should not be at the top of that list!). People who disagree say that interview attire, “isn’t how I would dress for work”. However, for example, doctors and nurses don’t interview in scrubs or lab coats. There is a uniform for interviews, so use your creative expression in other areas.
Situations for wearing hose (or not) continue to be discussed by many fashionistas. As an interview guideline, if you choose to wear a dress or skirt and jacket, I recommend wearing very sheer hose, in all seasons. In addition, a survey recently reported on Boston.com (“Workplace Attire No-No’s”) only 57% of people over 50 consider “no hose” acceptable, and 73% of men find the “no-hose-look” distracting. In an interview situation, offend the fewest people possible – you don’t know who you will be meeting.
And men need to mind their own hose selection. Match the trousers with socks that go over the calf with working elastic. Socks in a puddle on top of unpolished shoes do not represent anyone well.
A final accessory for discussion - your phone and headphones. Put them away before you enter the main building of the office where you are to meet or interview. Turn the sound off, turn the vibration off, power down. Do not distract yourself or the people you meet by having to take your headphones off as you are greeting the receptionist, or the person who will interview you. Be focused and let people know there is nothing more important than this interview, this company and the work you would be doing for them. While you wait, review the materials in the leather portfolio you brought. Enjoy the look of the extra copies of your resume and refresh yourself on the interview answers you have prepared, or the questions you want to ask. And of course you can always read the company literature on the end table in the waiting area.
Q: I recently applied for a job and listed my education as having a bachelor’s degree. I completed all the course requirements. I participated in the graduation ceremonies in May, 2012. I received a letter several weeks ago from my college. They are now saying that they will not release my diploma because I have several unpaid parking tickets. I am afraid that this will hurt my chances of landing a job. Have you ever heard of this happening?
A: Colleges and universities may withhold a transcript and/or diploma if there are outstanding debts owed to them by a graduating student. Some examples include unpaid parking tickets, reimbursement for property damage repairs or unreturned items loaned to a student (e.g., library books, CDs, laptops, etc.).
Often colleges and universities will include this information in their student handbook. It is a common practice since it is often the last opportunity that your undergraduate college can collect monies due to them.
If you believe the parking tickets were given to you in error, you probably should have appealed the ticket(s) when you received them. Usually the appeals process and time frame are explained on the ticket.
It sounds like the parking tickets you have received may have been legitimate. If that is the case, it would probably be smart to pay the tickets so you can proceed with your job search. If a prospective employer checked your academic background, your college would likely state that your graduation requirements have not been met and/or are incomplete. This is not the way you want to begin a new position with a new company.
My advice is to contact your college. The Bursar’s Office is probably a good place to start. Explain that you need for your transcript and diploma to be released. They will likely accept a credit card for any outstanding financial obligations.
If you are a finalist for a new job where they are likely to check your educational background, you should move quickly. You may be forced to reveal your situation. If this is the case, you should explain that you are in the process of resolving the matter as quickly as possible.
Q: How do I include relevant coursework in a resume? Which section should it go in and how should it be formatted? Love your column! Thanks.
A: Thanks for the kudos! Let me first discuss the goal of a resume. A resume should be a summary of your professional experience. The goal of a resume is to illustrate how you can bring value to a prospective employer.
Most resumes start with contact information at the top. Your name, home address, email address and a telephone number (cell or home number, whichever is your primary telephone number). More resumes now include a LinkedIn address and even a twitter handle. A twitter handles is almost expected for candidates in marketing and/or social media. Below this contact information there might be a summary or an objective. I prefer a summary and I suggest that a summary include key words that immediately allow the reader to understand, at a high-level, your background and skill set.
In academically-oriented industries, an educational overview might follow the summary or the objective. In technical industries, a list of technical skills might follow. On most resumes though, an overview of the candidate’s employment history would follow.
Under the professional work history section, a candidate's education is often presented. Usually degrees and certifications are listed here, with most the recent degree or certification at the top of the list. This is the best place to list relevant coursework too. I envision this portion of your resume looking like the sample I have drafted below:
Bachelor of Science, Finance, ABC University
Relevant Coursework: Accounting, Quantitative Analysis and Microeconomics
For you to include “Relevant Coursework” on your resume, you want to be certain that you include courses that are required and/or preferred by a prospective employer. Think about what courses would differentiate your background in the most positive way.
Make no mistake about it. At every stage of the job search process from initial inquiry and application to final interview, everything you do, say and write will be judged not only on its own but also as it stacks up against the other applicants.
Certainly your job skills and experience matter, but how you present yourself in person is equally important. Remember, it’s not how you see yourself, it’s how the decision makers assess you in comparison to the others in the hunt that will determine your success.
None of the advice I’m about to offer is rocket science. You’ve undoubtedly heard it all before. Yet, in spite of that fact, over the years I’ve been amazed at how many people showed up for a job interview with me who failed to groom themselves appropriately.
To ensure you compete equally or, better yet, stand out from the crowd, here’s a personal grooming checklist. Take action on each of these tips, so the decision maker has the best opinion of you.
- Hair. Men, make sure you have visited a barber or hair salon recently. And “hair” also means eyebrows trimmed, neck hair shaved, nose hairs removed, facial hair groomed. Women, think professional rather than sexy for your hairstyle, and deal with unwanted facial hair with bleaching, tweezing, or waxing as necessary.
- Odor. Body odor is an immediate turn off, so be sure to clean up—that means soap and water. Use deodorant, but nix any cologne, perfume, or scented aftershave. It also means attacking any bad breath issues by brushing your teeth and enjoying a breath mint before you arrive.
- Clothes. If you dress one notch up from the norm for the job you’re applying for, you’ll look appropriate and as if you belong. Be sure your clothes are ironed, clean, stain-free, and odor-free.
- Footwear. If you’re applying for an office job, leave the sneakers at home. Men, wear dark socks and make sure they are long enough so your calf doesn’t show if you cross your leg. Shoes should be polished. Women, comfortable pumps are your best bet, and nylons will complete a professional look.
- Hands. Clean hands and trimmed and clean fingernails are a must. Just before you arrive rub in a dab of hand sanitizer—a considerate thing to do for yourself and the people you are meeting.
- Posture. Stand up straight; it shows you are a confident person. Hunching indicates you are unsure of yourself. Similarly, sit up straight and lean forward to look engaged and interested. Don’t fidget.
Final advice: Your attitude going into the interview matters. Remember: You want the decision-maker to see you as a professional, and as the best fit of all the candidates to work at and represent her company.
Q. What is the best way to address not having a Bachelor’s degree when the job description states Bachelor’s Degree Preferred? I've been an executive assistant for over 15 years. I have a two year degree and a wealth of experience working in a variety of situations.
A. Job descriptions and advertisements address the ideal qualifications organizations are looking for in an employee for a specific role. To the employer, these represent the skill set, capabilities, sophistication, knowledge and culture, among other things, that are representative of their employee base. You are right to take into consideration what they are asking for, and to take note of the "preferred" comment in the search language, but do not let this deter you from applying for the position.
If you prepare a letter response, focus on the skills sets and requirements of the job which you do have. Make sure you address these specifically in the cover letter, and the skills are clearly demonstrated on your resume. A "T" style cover letter can be used very effectively. As the body of your letter, put what the organization says they need to the left of the T using their language, and on the right side of the T put the skill set and experience you bring which addresses that need.
To address the education, your resume should have an education section and an additional education section as well. List the college or university you attended, the degree if you have one, and a line that says "Successfully completed coursework in...". Use that same line in the T cover letter. Add the coursework you think most closely speaks to the responsibilities of the job, the industry of their organization and the function of the person you would report to. For example, if you are reporting to the CFO, list finance, accounting, or any quantitative courses you took. If you are working with a marketing group, list management, sales, or business related courses.
All employers like to see writing courses, and public speaking courses as these are vital to so many jobs, so add these if you have them. If you have additional technology training and experience, make sure to list these under the additional education section, in reverse chronological order so that your most recent experiences have the limelight.
When networking, with people who may work at the organization, you can ask if there is something specific about having a degree that the organization is invested in. Some firms want to be able to say "over x% of our staff have degrees" or a certain number of people are "enrolled in degree programs". For some employers, you might decide that taking a course or enrolling in a degree program might help your candidacy. Finding employers who reimburse for continuing education may be just the motivation you need.
Encourage your network to talk about all the skills you bring to the job, and not look at your lack of a degree as a short fall. With 15 years of experience, play up your real life skills, and the maturity to successfully represent the company, your boss, and complete the work that needs to be done with an A+.
Q: I have to raise a complaint about the "attend networking events" advice. When I was unemployed I was told this all the time, but the only "networking events" I could find were through my college alumni association, and after a few you've met almost everyone there. I would go to the occasional conference or symposium if I could find one for free, but I found them to be very poor for networking purposes. Plus there aren't events every day, in fact the opportunity is rare, so you start to feel unproductive on a day-to-day basis. It feels like you should be going to a "networking event" everyday when in fact that's impossible. Maybe there are more "networking events" for other professions, but overall I found it to be a frustrating strategy.
A: Networking can be frustrating. A job hunt can be frustrating. But prolonged unemployment is far more frustrating.
Networking works! I have received several inquiries recently like yours. Almost every job seeker is told to network. However many of you are now asking, “Where do I find these events?”
Let me share some very concrete networking events:
- Yes, your college alumni association is one option. Professional associations also offer networking opportunities.
- Visit www.meetup.com. Plug in your zip code and search for a group that might work for you. There are groups for web developers, business developers and those that just want to network.
- The Acton Networkers group is a great group of very active job seekers who meet weekly. Check out www.actonnetworkers.com. Hopkinton Networkers is an offshoot of Acton Networkers. Both meetings are well-run and members exchange job leads and landings. A donation of $1.00 is requested at the door to cover the cost of refreshments. The Acton Networkers are on LinkedIn under groups.
- Temple Emanuel in North Andover and Temple Emanuel in Newton both have vibrant professional networking groups. Both of these groups have active LinkedIn groups as well.
- Public libraries in Massachusetts (and other states) are offering job search resources for free. I know both the Reading Public Library and the Newton Free Library have job search resources, including networking events.
- Visit www.job-hunt.org. You can view networking events by state. In Massachusetts, there are over 40 networking events listed.
Some of these groups may put some meetings or live events on hold for the summer. However, I think you will find that many of the live events begin to “ramp up” in September.
Q: I am a graphic designer with 10 years of experience and have applied to 119 jobs since moving to MA on Jun 3. I have had zero interviews. I tried doing some follow-up phone calls, but those only resulted in rude "they'll call you if interested" or instances where I had to just leave a message. No one ever calls back. Please keep in mind that I only apply for jobs that I am 95%+ qualified for. What am I doing wrong???
A: Great question. Your current job hunt strategy is a popular one. As you have discovered though, it is probably not the most effective job hunting strategy.
Your approach to job hunting can sometimes be successful with luck and in a strong economy. However, I would suggest that you revise your job hunting strategy immediately.
Here is what I would suggest:
1. Develop a Linkedin profile. Several years ago, boston.com published a great “how to use Linkedin” article. I still share it with job seekers. Here it is: http://www.boston.com/jobs/bighelp2009/september/articles/linkedin_tips/
2. Use Linkedin every day to expand your network. Join Linkedin groups which are affiliated with your profession and your desired geographic location.
3. Network, network and then network more. Connections lead to job opportunities. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. should all know you are looking for a new opportunity.
4. Attending networking events in the area.
5. Consider attending a meetup group. Visit www.meetup.com.
6. Connect with an employment agency with expertise in the placement of graphic designers.
7. Don’t dismiss contract or temporary opportunities. These opportunities often lead to longer term full-time roles.
8. Never say no to an introduction. If a friend refers you to a former colleague who runs a marketing agency, meet that person. It does not matter whether they have an appropriate opening or not. They may know of an opportunity or put you in touch with another colleague who is hiring.
Finally, firing off resumes to online postings should be one part of your job search strategy. However, developing contacts should be the focus of your job search.
Q: I work in an intellectually-stimulating, but low-paying job. I really enjoy my work, and intended to have a long career contributing to the common good at the expense of a substantial paycheck.
When my job situation looked a bit shaky a few months back, I applied to a job in a more corporate environment on a whim, and I just received an offer. This job would more than double my current salary, but I don't really find the actual work that interesting, and I think I might get bored very quickly. Also, I would no longer contribute to the common good, but rather to a company's profits. However, this job would allow me to pay off debts, potentially move to a nicer apartment, and have a nicer lifestyle.
How to you balance the vast improvements to lifestyle with the serious decline in quality of work? Is it worth it to change careers for a bigger paycheck?
A: Interesting work vs. a bigger paycheck. It is a difficult question to answer because it is different for every employee.
However, there do seem to be some universal motivators for employees. If you and I reviewed the truckloads of data available on employee satisfaction, we would find many commonalities. Most of these motivators are universal. There is little variation between industries, company size, geographic location or level within the organization. When asked, employees consistently value the following:
- Employees want to feel connected to a mission or a purpose. In your question, you used the term “common good.” It sounds like you are connected to your employer’s purpose.
- Employees want to be in a role where 1. they can do their best, 2. the expectations are clear and 3. they will be recognized when they produce good results.
Recognition should be fair, consistent, meaningful and appropriate. What do
I mean by appropriate? A pat on the back is appropriate for a well-crafted
description of a product. A new car is probably overdoing it!
- Employees want to have positive and productive relationships with co-workers. Most of us spend a lot of our waking hours at work. Unproductive and unpleasant work relationships can erode a work environment.
- Employees want to feel included, welcomed and safe. Ask employees for their opinions and suggestions. A “command and control” style of supervising employees is a demotivator for most. Listening, really listening, is a powerful management tool. Really listening says to employees, “I care about what you are saying. You are important. You have a voice here.”
Finally, I am not stating that money is not a factor. Money is a factor. Most of us face financial realities like rent, car payments and utilities. However, it is one part of the job offer puzzle.
Q: After four years of teaching, I've decided to change careers and head into human resources/training. I thought I'd have a bit of time on my side, but I've been unemployed since December. The possibility of securing an entry-level position in that field is a no-go so far and my fears of gaining any sort of employment grows with each day. I do have a background in recruiting, so this isn't a change that is completely unrelated to my experience. What are the steps that I should take at this point?
A: How exciting and frightening, all at the same time! A few positives on your side: you have previous experience in recruiting and you are still early in your career. However, a challenge that are probably encountering is the competitiveness of the employment market. You are likely competing against candidates with more HR/training experience. Additionally I have observed that training budgets continue to be tight. You may want to re-focus your search within HR. You may want to consider a generalist role or a recruitment-focused role (to capitalize on your recruitment experience).
In terms of your search, you should be networking extensively. You should be active on Linkedin, Twitter and other forms of social media. Be careful not to spend too much of your time behind a computer. Using technology should be part of your search but take the time to connect with colleagues, former co-workers, friends and neighbors in person as well.
Consider using the career services office of your college or university. Also consider joining professional associations within the world of HR. Many professional associations also post jobs and offer assistance with job searches. The Northeast Human Resources Association (www.nehra.com) is a good resource for your search.
You should also consider temporary or contract roles. Many employers, who might be skittish in the economy, will fill an HR need with a temporary employee or contract employee. If the need continues, often the temp or contractor will be converted to a role on the company payroll. There is less competition for the temporary and contract roles too since most employed job seekers would not consider a temporary or contract role.
Lastly, make sure that you are keeping current with your HR skills and knowledge. Professional associations often offer free or low-cost professional development opportunities for members.
Q. I have an internal position open and have two current employees who have applied. I have interviewed both; however, I feel the one I need to hire is the one who has been here less time than the other. They both are very reliable employees, but the one I want to hire makes considerably less mistakes than the other. I just don't know how to deliver the disappointing message to the longer term employee.
A. It's great that you have two reliable employees who are interested in staying with your organization and moving into other jobs. You didn't identify the full internal selection process, or the roles these people play, but since there was an interview involved, we'll assume that seniority isn’t the sole criteria for being hired into a new role, and that "bumping" is not a valid selection process either.
You identified "accuracy" as the key competency needed for the new role, and based on past performance the employee with less seniority better displays that skill. Many people are not given reviews in an accurate manner, or sometimes not given performance reviews at all. So we find employees who do not have a realistic view of their performance, or a clear understanding of how to improve on the job. Based on a lack of qualitative information about their performance, they may believe that seniority becomes the objective decision criteria for moving into another role.
The ideal situation would be if each employee had a clear understanding of her strengths, and her areas for development, from having received prior feedback on performance. It would be easy to say, "You are a valued employee, and I appreciate the work you are doing for this group. I have not selected you for this position at this time based on the need for greater accuracy in your work. As we have discussed, I'll need to see an improvement with the number of mistakes you are making on the job. Work you do to develop your accuracy will help you to be considered for other positions in the future."
Since most situations aren't ideal, in addition to the first two sentences noted above, your conversation may need to add, "I know you have been here longer than your colleague, and that is important to me and to the company. We need the highest level of accuracy in this role, and I need to see that more fully developed in your work. We should talk about how to make that happen."
Choosing people for internal roles presents many organizational considerations which can influence selection and hiring decisions. The more closely you can identify the skill set you need, and the demonstrated history of those skills being utilized, the more objective the decision can be. If there are other thoughts impacting your decision, identify what those might be, and discuss them with an HR person or another manager to ensure you have a fair process.
Q: Can you suggest a good career counselor in the Boston area? I need one who charges reasonable fees.
A: Finding a good career counselor can be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you navigate your search for a reputable career counselor:
- Before searching for a career counselor, think about what you want from that counselor. What are your goals and expectations? What do you hope to achieve after you have worked with a career counselor?
- Think about logistics. How far you are willing to travel? What times and dates are you available to meet with your career counselor? Are you willing to do some of your meetings and communication on-line or virtually?
- What is your budget?
- Word of mouth referrals are often a good place to begin. Ask around.
- Visit the Association of Career Professional International at www.acpinternational.org. There is a search function that might be helpful.
- If you attended college, you also may want to research options that might be available through the career services office.
- Visit the websites or the Linkedin pages of your possible career counselors. Ask for a few minutes on the phone with a few that seem promising. Share your expectations and goals and ask how they would best meet your expectations and goals. Ask about their experience in your industry or industries that most interest you. Ask about fees up front.
- Check references before you make a final decision.
- Ask for a complimentary in-person meeting before you sign any agreement. You want to ensure that a rapport can be built. You should treat this as if you are interviewing them for a job. You are!
- Read the fine print. Make sure you understand what you are buying and receiving.
- Lastly, be ready to invest the time. A career coach will most likely not place you in a job. They will instead make your job search skills more effective.
Q: I was recently interviewed by a small technology company in the Boston area. I am pretty sure that they asked me some illegal interview questions. Some of the questions I was asked were what religious holidays did I need off, if I was a US citizen and if I planned to have a family in the near future. Are these legal? I didn’t get a job offer but I also decided I didn’t want to work at this company after meeting some of the people there.
A: Thanks for sharing your experience. You have good instincts. All of the questions that you mention are illegal and should not be asked during the interview process.
Small businesses sometimes struggle with hiring and retaining talent. Often the leaders of these businesses have not been trained on how to hire talent effectively. Hiring talent effectively includes asking appropriate, job-related and legal questions during the interview process.
Questions about religion should be avoided for the most part. If a hiring manager is concerned about scheduling and time off issues, questions about the scheduling and/or anticipated time off requests are permissible. For example, it is acceptable to ask: “Are you able to work Saturdays in December since that is our busiest month?” Or, “Do you have any planned time off between now and the end of the year?” The focus should be on the business, productivity issues and scheduling challenges not religious holidays.
Candidates should not be asked about US citizenship unless it is a requirement of the job. Some government jobs (or government sub-contractor jobs) require US citizenship. Most jobs don’t require US citizenship though. Instead, an interviewer can ask whether you can work legally in the US or not. There are many candidates who can work legally in the US but may not be US citizens. Companies need to make sure that candidates are able to work in the US legally but they should not demonstrate a preference one way or another.
The question about whether you are planning to have a family is clearly illegal (whether asked of a man or a woman). Hiring managers can ask about your ability to work overtime, additional hours, weekends, etc. It is also permissible to ask about your ability to travel.
Sometimes companies don’t realize that their hiring managers are representing the company so poorly and unprofessionally. It sounds like you would not have been happy there even if you had been offered a job.
Q: How do you know if you got the job when you go to an interview? Many times I go to an interview and is well qualified for the job but don’t get it.
A: Great question but unfortunately there are probably many reasons why a candidate does not receive an offer after feeling an interview went well. Some of the possible reasons include:
- Several strong candidates were interviewed. For some reason, another candidate was selected. Especially since 2008, there have been fewer opportunities available. When an opportunity does become available, many candidates apply. Sometimes these candidates are overqualified or beyond what the company even expected from the candidate pool. I have had several clients share with me that they feel like they could have offered the job to any one of the final candidates because all were qualified and capable.
- The opportunity no longer exists. It is uncommon, but sometimes an open position is put on hold and the company is no longer actively recruiting for the role.
- Sometimes an internal employee is moved into the vacant position.
- Often HR or the hiring manager does not want to give candid feedback to candidates who are rejected. A candidate can sometimes become angry, hostile or downright nasty if you give them candid feedback. Or a candidate can be argumentative about the reasons for not selecting.
- Sometimes a candidate’s skills, background, qualifications or compensation expectations are not on target for the role. Interviewers can sometimes learn a lot during the hiring process. A hiring manager might think that 7-10 years of experience is required in the early stages of the recruitment process. Yet when the hiring manager interviews a candidate with 5 years of experience, the hiring manager now thinks that candidates with fewer years of experience should be considered.
- Or you might think that you aced the interview, but the recruiter would not share your assessment.
The good news is that with each interview, your interviewing skills should be improving. You should feel more relaxed and confident when meeting with recruiters, HR or hiring managers.
Q. I received a job offer from my second choice of two possible places I have been interviewing with. I won't know the decision of my first choice company until tomorrow. I told the person making me an offer, that I would call them back tomorrow. Was it a mistake to ask that? I told them I needed to discuss it before I accepted the offer. In the event that I am not offered the job from my first choice company, I'm hoping I haven't been rude to a possible employer.
Balancing an offer and the possibility of another offer can be a challenge, and asking for a day to think things over is reasonable. How you asked and what you said are the most important factors in thinking about rudeness and maintaining a positive professional relationship.
Regardless of whether an offer is from your first, second, or even third choice company, those making the offer want to have confirmation that you want to join their company -- every offer needs to be treated with a positive reaction, even if you aren’t sure you feel that way. There are a few key steps to make sure your response keeps the conversation on the right track, leaves you open to work another offer, and also to maximize any negotiations.
After the offer is made, your first reaction needs to be, “Thank you! I am very pleased you have selected me for this position”.
Next, reinforce why you are the right choice - “I know I can make great contributions to the role, and I am excited about the team of people I will be working with”. You might add a short sentence that speaks to a specific challenge they face which you have discussed as an area you have experience.
Listen to the full offer - listen for title, base salary or hourly rate, bonus potential, health care coverage and costs, vacation time, all other benefits including 401K and match, stock, and the list can go on depending on your level. Before this conversation, develop a comprehensive list of the items you anticipate being offered and compare that list to what is actually offered from each company.
If the offer is what you want and anticipated, you can tell them how pleased you are with the offer, and that you would like a day or two (a short time – perhaps a weekend, or enough time to make a call to the company you want to hear from) to review the information they provided. Ask if you will receive the offer in writing, and give them an accurate time of when you will call to let them know your final decision. Close with thanks to all the people involved in the process.
If the offer is short on what you had hoped for or anticipated, you can say “I am very pleased with the offer, but is there any flexibility with the compensation? I was looking at X, and 4 weeks of vacation”. Proceed with caution. You may gain some delay time if they need approval. And, remember to end every conversation with a statement of appreciation.
At this point you can call your first choice employer to reinforce how interested you are in the job. Hopefully you already know when a decision will be made, but you can say, “I am very interested in the opportunity to work for this company, and I wanted to know where the decision process is. I have another offer, but I am most interested in working for you.” In the best of all cases, the interest is mutual and the company will come to a positive conclusion, and provide you with an offer that surpasses your first offer. Should that not be the case, you have burned no bridges, and delayed just long enough to think about your options.
Q: I have been unemployed and doing some temp work for about five months now. I have applied to many jobs and have not had anyone besides temp agencies contact me for interviews. I have had several people look at my resume and cover letter and they said they were both good. I am frustrated and not sure what else to do. Please help!
A: I don’t have a lot of information about your skill set, industry, work history or education. However, let me share some general comments and observations.
You have demonstrated a commitment to your temporary role. This is a positive. You should continue applying for jobs but also focus your efforts. If you enjoy your current work environment, company culture and the content of your current role, you may consider approaching your supervisor and asking about opportunities within this company. Often companies will post open positions on an intranet or a company bulletin board. Check these listings often. There also may be other opportunities within this company, but not within your immediate department.
Don’t close the door on the temporary agencies that are contacting you. More and more of my clients use temporaries as a way to “try before they buy.” They want to employ you on a temporary basis for a short time before they extend you an offer as a full-time employee. Temporary roles can also expose you to new skills, or sharpen old ones. Make it known to the temporary agency that, although temporary roles are fine, your longer term goal is to secure a full-time role with a company.
Like all job seekers, you should be actively networking. Actively networking with colleagues, friends, alums, etc. is a proven way to learn about job opportunities that others might be aware of.
About 75% of your job hunting time should be connecting with people, hopefully in your profession. About 25% of your time should be behind a computer. Often times, job hunters will actually have these percentages reversed during a search.
Q: I am self-employed. I run a small consulting business providing information technology expertise. I am doing well but I am building my business. I work seven days per week. I love the work. The problem? I get about five networking requests per week. Some are from people I don’t even know. Some are from people I went to college with 25 years ago and have not kept in touch with. Some are from friends and family. Some are from recent college grads and I really don’t have any good connections for them. More often than not, they are friends of friends of friends. I want to be helpful but this is turning into my new part-time job! I don’t get paid for this and these people don’t seem to understand that. This time should probably be used building my business. HELP! I have never seen this question in your column before.
A: Your letter hit home with me. I live that same personal challenge. I don’t get paid for having coffees, lunches or a glass of wine with job seekers. I probably receive about 10 requests per week so I think I have you beat!
I struggle with maintaining a balance of being focused on my business while trying to be a helpful resource. Here are some guidelines that I have established for myself. I hope these help you maintain that balance.
- I limit my networking meetings (coffees, breakfasts, etc.) to two per week. Between the travel time and the time away from my business, I have found this limit to be manageable. When job seekers call me I tell them my available times, which are often three or more weeks in the future. If that doesn’t work for them, then that is a choice the job seeker must make. I know it seems harsh, but I can not turn my world upside down and cancel existing appointments because a person that I met at a cookout 11 years ago has lost a job.
- If someone wants to meet me in person, I have to make it convenient for me. It has to be a reasonable location and a time and date that work for me.
- I am often more open to a phone call, which does not require travel time. Yet, still I have to limit these calls, both in terms of length of the call and the number of calls I can take per week.
- I have had many job seekers ask me to revise their resume and help them find a job. I do this type of work but I charge for it.
- Sometimes I have to say “no” to job seekers. It is difficult to do. But if I have met them, shared job seeking strategies, given them feedback on their resume, etc., I feel like I have been more than generous with my time.
Finally, I do believe in giving back. I do believe that sometimes additional business can come from these networking meetings. Even these meetings don’t result in additional business opportunities; I think it is the right thing to do.
Q: For the first time in two years, I won't be reading your chat on Monday. I wanted to share what landed me my new great job: my thank you note to one of the individuals with whom I interviewed. In my note, I committed to helping the company achieve one of its most important goals. For some reason, that commitment totally sold them on me. So my advice to job hunters is never underestimate the power of the thank you note.
A: When I read your submission to the Job Doc column, I had to read and re-read it again. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t ignore or miss a question.
After I read it several times, I wanted to do a dance in my office. After my urge to dance subsided, I wanted to stand on my chair and yell “I told you so people, I told you so!” I decided both responses were a little too juvenile but I should share with you that I thought long and hard about doing both.
Thank you for sharing your experience and your success. Thank you notes are critically important to a job search. They can “make it or break it” for a job seeker. You are living proof.
Even if a colleague, a contact or someone has spent time with you, a thank you note should be sent or emailed. Even if you have been rejected and turned down, a thank you note should be sent. Several job seekers have recently shared with me a common interview experience. The job seeker is a finalist but ultimately another candidate receives the offer. Although sometimes incredibly disappointed, the candidate sends a thank you note and maintains a relationship with the recruiter. Weeks or months pass and the recruiter contacts them for another opportunity. Finally, the job seeker receives an offer.
I truly appreciate you sharing your experience. Thank you for writing. Best of luck in your new role!
Recently I was asked by a young male seminar participant, “I’ve got an interview with an advertising agency next week. What do I wear?”
The reality is most job interviews are a competition. It’s not just how you look, act and express yourself that matters, it’s how you look, act and express yourself in comparison to the other candidates that matters.
If you apply to a dot com business where everyone is in jeans and a t-shirt and you show up in a suit, you don’t look like you belong. Conversely, if you apply to a private investment bank where business formal is the norm and you show up in khakis and a golf shirt or even a button-down shirt with no tie, you may have significantly hurt your chance for the job before you answered the first question.
My advice? Dress one notch up. Find out what the people who work at that agency wear to work and then kick it up a notch. If they wear golf shirts and khakis, you wear a button-down shirt, no tie, slacks, and maybe even a jacket or blazer. Your goal is to look like you fit in.
During the twenty years I owned an advertising agency, I interviewed dozens of job candidates. I was amazed by the people who came in for an interview dressed inappropriately. Most were dressed too casually, and many displayed body language that was unprofessional, like slouching in the chair or not being able to look me or other staff in the eye as we talked. I couldn’t help but wonder: If that’s how they dress and act for the interview, how are they going to dress and act when meeting clients or prospects when they represent my business and me?
So, how do you find out how people at that business dress? If possible, try visiting the day or two before your interview. Introduce yourself to the receptionist, and take a moment to observe how people are dressed. In addition, check with the receptionist or assistant to confirm the name, spelling and pronunciation of the person or people you’ll be meeting with. If you do it correctly and your competitor doesn’t, you’ve got a leg up.
Regardless of business casual or business formal, wear clean clothes, ones with no stains or odor. Clothes should be lint-free and pressed as well. Better yet, today’s no-iron shirts and pants are a great way to look sharp without having to do the ironing yourself or pay to have your clothes pressed. And while you’re at it, check your personal grooming: hair, nails, teeth, breath, and beard.
Q: I recently had an interesting issue come up with a recruiter. A recruiter claimed that there is a new MA state law that requires all employers to verify the current/previous salary of all new hires. He claimed that this is to ensure people get a "fair" salary. I did some research online and found nothing. I have a strong feeling that this is just a negotiation tactic used by some recruiters to probe for low salaries. Does such a law exist?
A: You have good instincts! As of this writing, there is no Massachusetts law which requires employers to verify the current or previous salary of an applicant in order to ensure that the applicant receives a “fair” salary in his or her new position (or for any other reason). However, many prospective employers can lawfully ask applicants to provide their salary histories and may seek to verify that information directly with the applicants’ prior employers, through independent research or hiring a third party to conduct a background check. A background check could include verifying a candidate’s salary history, educational records, credit history or criminal history.
I consulted Jeffrey Dretler, a partner in the Employment Law Group at Prince Lobel Tye LLP. Dretler offers, “When an employer engages a third party to gather this type of information, the inquiry is governed by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and requires the employer to obtain the applicant’s advanced written authorization. If the employer contemplates making or does make a decision not to hire the applicant based on information contained in what is referred to as a ‘consumer report,’ the employer must provide the applicant with a copy of the report, notice of his or her rights, and a reasonable opportunity to explain or correct any errors in the report.”
Dealing with a candidate’s compensation can be a challenge. As a candidate, you can choose to not share your salary history with a recruiter. However, if you do respond with false information and the employer later discovers that you intentionally supplied false information, your sharing of false information could constitute grounds for termination of employment.
You have touched upon an issue that has attracted a bit of attention recently, which is the balance between an employer’s interest in screening prospective candidates and the candidates’ right to privacy. For example, some employers are requesting applicants share their passwords or log-in information to social networking websites such as Facebook or LinkedIn in order screen the applicants’ connections or conduct. Dretler warns, “Employers should think twice before adopting such practices. Maryland recently became the first state in the country to make such an inquiry illegal and similar legislation has been proposed in Massachusetts. Even without specific legislation, such a practice could constitute a violation of the candidate’s statutorily protected right to privacy, although no Massachusetts court has yet ruled on the issue.”
Q: I have been out of the workforce for the past 5 years. I have 20+ years of education and was a small business owner. I am overqualified for entry-level positions and have been turned down for employment at several major retailers. My past work experiences were in real estate and finance. But I want to start a new career in the food or the fashion industry where I feel that I can express my creative talents. I am willing to start from the ground level. How do I find networking events or career coaches who can guide me and help me getting hired?
A: Congratulations on asking some very good questions. Let’s tackle the networking events first. You should begin by perfecting an elevator speech. When a colleague, friend or neighbor asks what you are looking for, you should be able to summarize your background, skill set and your aspirations. This is easier said than done but it a worthwhile exercise to draft, perfect and rehearse this pitch.
For networking, consider the following:
1. Connect with friends, colleagues, alums from your past and present. Linkedin makes it easy to do. Join groups on Linkedin. Join a few with a food or fashion focus.
2. Check out www.meetup.com. This is a site which coordinates events for people with common interests. I visited the site and found several area groups with a variety of interests within food. For example, there are groups with interests in natural foods cooking and ethnic dining.
3. Re-connect with the colleges and universities you have attended. The career center and alumni relations offices could be helpful to you.
4. Schedule coffees, lunches, etc. with colleagues and friends. In-person networking is invaluable.
5. Never say no to an introduction. Often when you meet with a contact, that contact will refer you to another contact. Contacts are valuable. Never say no.
The Association of Career Professionals International (www.acpinternational.org) is a good place to start when searching for a career coach. There is a “Find” feature on the website and you can enter basic information and find matches that might be appropriate for you. Always ask a few key questions before hiring a career coach. First, ask about their background, qualifications and experience. You should interview them. Make sure that you feel like you could build a productive relationship with this coach. Second, ask how they are paid. You want to ensure that you understand this information in advance. Third, what is their process or approach? Finally, check a few references.
Q. I have been looking for a job for the last few months and I'm worried about coming into summer. I have scheduled a two week vacation and new job or not, I really do want to take it. At what point in the interview process am I obligated to let a prospective employer know of these plans?
A. People looking for jobs continue to make plans, and schedule vacations. But there is no need to share too much information too soon, as your vacation plans may not be all that important to some of the people you meet. In your networking meetings, or first interviews, you do not need to discuss your non work plans. The less said the better, even if you are excited about your plans and even though vacations can make for great conversation. But people should remember you for the skills you bring to a job.
As the interview process proceeds and the company becomes more interested in you, they may ask when you would be available to start the new job. This is a positive indication, but still not an offer. At this point you can let the hiring manager know that you would be available to start on very short notice, and ask when they would hope to see someone start. Remember that you can start a job, and take a vacation in just a few weeks, or delay a start. Look at all options. Listen for any details about plans for the first few months on the job. Are there deadlines to be concerned with, or month end responsibilities? Take note of how these might cause conflict with your vacation plans, so that when the time is right you'll be prepared to overcome any obstacles.
When you do receive an offer, thank the person; reinforce all the great reasons they want to hire you by outlining the contributions you can make. If there are points in the offer you want to review, or consider negotiating, you should let them know you will review the offer and get back to them. Discussing the vacation plans should not come separately from a discussion of other issues you want to discuss in the offer.
If you are satisfied with the offer, you can let the hiring manager or human resources person know you are really excited about the offer, and you are eager to start. With no pause, you should continue by saying you have a situation which you hope won't cause any issues, which is a confirmed plan for a two week vacation. Provide the dates, and ask which start dates would work best for them. "Would it be better for me to start, and work for the two weeks, and then take the time off, or would you rather I delay the start?" Your expectation should be that you'll take this time off without pay, which you should offer, but your organization may decide to "front" you the time and let you borrow against your accrual.
Make sure to reinforce your willingness to minimize any disruption on the organization and your new colleagues.
Tracy Cashman, a partner at recruiting firm Winter, Wyman in Waltham, provides placement services for all levels of IT positions, including high-level IT Managers/Directors and CIOs.
Q. Can I change my desired salary after my final interview? I was just promoted in my current job, and I think will have a higher salary before my final interview.
A. Congratulations on your promotion! The timing does pose challenges in your negotiation with your potential new employer, and before you talk to them, you need to find out where you stand with your current employer. First you will want to understand what the promotion offers you. What is the financial component of the promotion and what is the impact in terms of new responsibility? Is this what you wanted from your current employer? Most people don’t leave jobs just to make more money. There are many other reasons that send people out into the open job market and away from what their current employer has to offer. Most people are looking to change jobs in order to get a new manager, or for more opportunities for development. Most situations where there is a counter offer to stay do not succeed.
It sounds like you are confident you want the new job, and that things are progressing well for you in that process, but you don’t have an offer yet. Companies and hiring managers most often ask for information about compensation prior to the final interview. Most likely you gave them information on what you are currently making and what you are looking for at some point earlier in the process. The most effective negotiators offer a salary range to provide for some flexibility, and also ask how that range fit in their pay plans for the position. If you have not had that conversation, you will be able to add your raise to what your current compensation is - even if you haven’t started making that rate of pay yet.
During your next interview, continue to sell yourself into this role. You don't yet have an offer, so it is too early to try to negotiate pay. One of the ways to introduce your promotion to the conversation is to talk about the new responsibilities you have been asked to take over as part of a promotion. Discuss the new responsibilities as an extension of what you are currently doing, which would also show them what you can do for them in your potential new role. You may be asked if you got a raise, and that is the time to let them know that "Yes, I have been offered an X% raise. How does that fit into the salary range you have designated for this position?"
Your power to negotiate is at its peak at the point of offer and while you are discussing the role. Your power is not as high before an offer is made, or after you accept an offer. So while you can change your desired salary after the final interview, hiring managers won't want to feel mislead if they give you an offer with the number you said you wanted, and you tell them that isn't the number anymore. You can review the components of the offer, and ask how much flexibility there is. You can suggest alternatives and remember to focus on what makes this the best offer for you.
Q: I’m looking to move to Boston in the near future. What are your tips in finding a good job for a young professional with a Bachelor’s degree and how to go about marketing yourself? Are employers willing to deal with a potential employee not in the area yet?
A: Welcome to Boston (almost)! You can do some job hunting from afar. Some recommendations:
1. Get on Linkedin and start connecting with colleagues, friends, neighbors, alums, etc. Join some groups on Linkedin. When joining groups, look for Boston area groups. Also try to join groups that are geared to your profession. There are also quite a few groups for young professionals on Linkedin. Look for an alumni group in the Boston area on Linkedin.
2. Find out if your college has alumni networking events in the Boston area.
3. Connect or re-connect with any Boston-area contacts that you may have.
4. Search the job boards. Many job boards allow you to restrict your search to a certain geographic area.
5. When you write your resume and cover letter, you should explicitly state that you plan to re-locate at your own expense. Often times when a recruiter reads a resume with an out-of-state address, there is a question of whether this candidate would need relocation assistance.
6. Consider buying a Boston-based cell phone now and listing this number on your resume.
Although you can do some job hunting from afar, in-person networking should also be part of your job hunting plan. Linkedin is a short cut but it does not replace having a cup of coffee with a former colleague or meeting a fellow alum for a bagel.
If possible, plan a trip or two to the Boston area. Try to schedule several face-to-face meetings during these trips. Check out www.meetup.com. This website lists gatherings, of all types.
Lastly, send a thank you note or email to everyone who is helpful to you during your search. Don’t burn any bridges. Be persistent without stalking.
Q. I recently interviewed with a company for a job I really want. The interview was strong, all went well, and kind words were said by the potential employer. They seemed to be very positive about my test scores, and interested in my overall presentation. The close was, "We'll let you know by the end of the week". I sent a 'thank you for meeting with me' note, and a separate 'just checking in regarding the position note'. I'm very worried as they did not hold true to the 'end of the week' promise for me to hear something. What can I do?
A. What you can do is try to avoid being in this position by impacting your interview prep skills. Two questions job seekers pose on a regular basis are "how and when can I follow up?” and "why don't companies follow through on their communication commitments?". While each interview is unique, the common challenges job seekers and employers face can be anticipated, and dealt with to minimize confusion and second guessing series of questions which often accompanies job searches. For instance, "If they liked me wouldn’t they have called by now? Is it too soon for me to call them? Which person should I call? Is an email better? Am I being too aggressive?".
Interviews are exciting, and most job seekers are looking for a positive response as soon as possible after every interview. People hope to hear they will be invited back to interview again, or that a phone conversation will follow, or an offer will be the next step. Recognize what you are looking for before you go in to these meetings. When you are asked if you have any questions, you should start with questions dedicated to the role, and questions that can help you highlight your skills. After that, you will want to be able to get information about what the interview process will be like and you might include questions on who else will be part of the process. End with a question that reminds them of what they need - "When would you ideally like someone to start?". These types of questions will help you gain insight into the process, who else you might be meeting with, and their target start date.
Even with this information, most hiring processes takes longer than anticipated, and certainly longer than job seekers expect. Projects get in the way, deadlines change, priorities change. People are on vacation or out sick, and if they are part of the interview process, there are delays. Effective job seekers show professional follow up and patience. Hiring managers will feel more committed to respond to your call and email - not every single one - but at least a few to try and keep you generally informed as to the process.
If you anticipate this will happen, (and it will more often than not) then you will make sure to ask additional questions to help you in the process. You can ask "will you be my point of contact? Would it be ok for me to follow up with you about where we are in the interview process? Do you prefer email or a phone call? If I don’t hear from you by the end of the week would it be ok to call early the following week?". You won’t ask all these questions, but enough to get permission to follow up. You might also ask if it would be easier to follow up with their assistant or support person if they have one.
Your connection to a potential employer can be strengthened by asking permission to follow up and staying connected throughout the process.
Q: I recently applied for a senior-level engineering role. Before I met with the hiring manager, the receptionist asked me to complete an employment application. I have not completed one in many years. Usually I just share a copy of my resume. Is this a new trend?
A: Resumes are helpful in understanding a candidate’s background, skill set and work history. A resume can also give an interviewer some perspective on the candidate’s organizational skills, writing skills and attention to detail. I view resumes as an advertisement for a candidate. The candidate is allowed to decide upon the content, the layout, the paper and even the font of the resume.
The employment application requires all candidates to provide the same information so it is easier to compare candidates. It also asks some questions which probably will not be addressed on the resume. As an example, an employment application may ask the reason for leaving for each job in a candidate’s work history. Usually a candidate would not provide this information on a resume.
Perhaps more importantly is the “fine print” on the bottom of an employment application. There is often language at the bottom of the employment applications which says that as a candidate, you have provided information that is truthful and complete. An example will help illustrate my point. If you were a candidate and were fired from a job in 2009, you may not include that on your resume. However, you must include that in the employment application. If you don’t fully disclose your background on an employment application, you could be terminated if this misinformation is ever discovered during your employment with the company, regardless of when it is discovered.
Finally, make sure that your resume, your employment application and your LinkedIn profile are all similar. Any glaring differences can be a concern.
Q: I was fired from my last position for poor performance. I had returned to finance after 12 years and found out just how much the industry had changed. I went to work for two brokers with $1B under management. It was a nightmare. I was in over my head. Long story short...how do I present this in an interview without sounding completely incompetent?
A: You may not believe me right now but you have learned some valuable information because of this experience. Being terminated can take an incredible toll on your self-esteem. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself.
You have learned what you can do well and what you can not do well. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. You probably understand some of your weaknesses now (e.g., recent changes in the brokerage world). But what did you do well? You may have very strong PC skills. Or you might have very strong client relationship skills. Think about what went well and also what when wrong in your last position. This information can only help you in your next role.
You are right to ask about how to best explain your termination. You always want to emphasize the positives and minimize the negatives. Your explanation could be something like this:
In my early career I worked in the finance industry. In 2011, I landed a job working for two brokers with $1B under management. I really liked the work environment and my team members. One of the areas that I also enjoyed was the service side of my job, especially resolving client problems. What I underestimated was how much the industry had changed over the years. I am eager to return to the workforce.
Additionally, never “bash” your former employer. This will only make you sound bitter and negative. Make sure that you can select one or two positives from your recent job. Talk about these positive experiences in an enthusiastic way. It might be related to a favorite client, a special project or a special skill which you acquired.
Q: I recently interviewed for a job on a very informational basis. I met with the department manager who is trying to get the new position added to his team in early 2012. I was referred to the department manager by my brother-in-law who knows this guy through professional channels. My brother-in-law asked me how the interview went and I told him I thought it went very well. My brother-in-law asked me if I sent a thank-you note or email to the guy after we met. I didn’t send a thank-you note because it didn’t really feel like a formal interview. The department manager took me to lunch but we only talked about the possible role for about 30 minutes. The rest of the time we talked about sports, changes in our field and our families. My brother-in-law is now clearly irritated at me and insists I should have thanked this guy with a note or an email. I think a handshake and a verbal thank-you right after the lunch were fine to thank him. What is the protocol for sending a thank-you note? In the past, I have sent thank-you notes but only if there was a “real job” at stake. My brother-in-law and I agreed to send this to this column and you would tell me if I should have sent a thank-you note (or email).
A: There is nothing like a good family dispute to spice up holidays, cookouts and other family gatherings! However, I might disappoint you with my response.
I agree with your brother-in-law. In fact, I would probably push it one step farther. I think you owed a thank-you note/email to the department manager AND your brother-in-law.
Let me explain, starting with your brother-in-law. Your brother-in-law became aware of a possible job opportunity that might be of interest to you. You want him to continue passing these job leads to you. A quick email, saying “Hey, thanks for the heads up! I appreciate you forwarding me this contact. I will follow-up with this guy and keep you posted.”
You should have absolutely thanked the department manager in a more formal way. For some companies, a note (via mail) is still the expectation. For many companies, a quick email would have been perfectly acceptable. It sounds like this department manager treated you to lunch (this is my assumption) and then talked with you about a possible opportunity as well as other common interests. He took the time out of his day to meet with you in person, probably because of his relationship with your brother-in-law! Anytime another individual meets with you to talk about your career or an opportunity for you, then a thank-you note should be sent.
Dressing correctly won't get you the job, but dressing incorrectly can lose you the job. At the interview stage dressing correctly matters for two reasons:
1. You want to create a favorable first impression and look like you belong at the organization.
2. You want to avoid making a mistake that knocks you out of consideration.
Office dress codes were simpler years ago. Work outfits were "white collar" or "blue collar" (or a uniform) and everyone knew what was meant. Nowadays it's not so easy. Standard advice about playing it safe no longer applies. The old rule of thumb was to dress conservatively in business attire and you can't go wrong; I'll give you an example where that approach costs candidates the job:
Example #1 --- Technology Company where the clothes = culture fit
My staffing firm does work for a very desirable technology company. The company's environment and dress code are casual. We noticed a trend where candidates who were dressed in business attire (or even business casual attire) were rejected as "not a culture fit."
Many of these candidates were otherwise highly qualified. If you asked the hiring managers about the importance of attire on interviews they would say something like, "I don't care how they dress, lots of people think they need to dress up for interviews, I look past it and look at their skills." While the hiring managers said they didn't care about attire, it seems that their subconscious took over and in fact attire did matter.
Example #2 --- Investment Management Firm with a traditional view on how employees should dress
I'll give a different example where the old rule of thumb does apply. The company is a very desirable financial firm. Candidates in the industry dream of working here. Their selection process reminds me of how I imagine admissions might work at Harvard or Yale. Tey have so many applicants that even flawless applicants get rejected simply because they don't have enough slots for all the flawless applicants. The company dress code is traditional business attire. If candidates show up for an interview in anything but true traditional business attire, they are likely to be rejected simply because there is an equally outstanding candidate who did not make this mistake.
Preparing for an interview
- Ask about the dress code during the phone interview. An experienced HR professional or hiring manager should tell you the information without being asked. But you don't want to take any chance, ask the question before you come in for an in-person interview.
- Get some real world perspective. If you know someone who works in the industry, you certainly should speak with them about proper attire and about many other topics that are beyond the scope of this article. If you don't know anyone, work your LinkedIn connections, chances are you can work your way to someone who can give perspective.
- I knew a candidate who really, really wanted the job, so the day before the interview she waited in front of the building lobby and observed how people were dressed. Extreme? Maybe, my point is you should work hard to get information on how you should dress because it does matter.
- Deciding how to dress in creative environments can be particularly stressful as you may need to look hip. You may need to take more chances in such a situation. Nonetheless, following these steps and seeking to get up front information can only help.
If you're stuck interpreting the dress code on your own, below are some general guidelines. Again, it is better if you can get specific information on the organization where you are interviewing; if you can't, the following guidelines should help keep you out of trouble.
Business Attire - For the most conservative work environments, appropriate attire is as follows:
- [For Men]: Navy suit, white dress shirt, black shoes, black belt, and a conservative tie with a simple pattern.
- [For Women]: Black skirt or pant suit, conservatively tailored blouse or shell, closed-toe shoes and pantyhose or stockings. Jewelry should be kept simple.
Business Casual - This is the most common dress-code you will encounter. The interpretation of business casual is the broadest and therefore riskiest for interviewers. You should work hard to get information on the organization's interpretation of business casual. In general, consider the following:
- [For Men]: Appropriate outfits for interviewing include dress pants, a button-down dress shirt, dress shoes, and a blazer. If you think the company leans more toward casual and less toward business then skip the blazer.
- [For Women]: Interview outfits can range from suits that are slightly less formal to trousers paired with a conservative and sweater or blouse, and closed-toe shoes.
Casual - This is the most poorly interpreted dress code option. You want to dress a bit better than the existing workforce; you might stand out and look like you are there for an interview, this is perfect. If you don't have much information about the attire at the organization, I would recommend that you consider dressing at the low end of business casual for your interview.
- If the workforce wears jeans, then it is acceptable to wear jeans on your interview. Pick a pair that are dark and new looking, not all washed out, and not bedazzled.
- Wear a collared shirt even if the workforce wears tee-shirts. Pick a polo shirt or casual button-down.
- Avoid sweats, short pants, cut-offs, and tank tops.
- Don't show a lot of skin like a bare midriff, or too much cleavage.
- Avoid sneakers, sandals and flip-flops for your interview even if they are commonly worn by the workforce.
Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the chairman of the American Staffing Association?s Board of Directors. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.
Q: I moved to New Jersey for a promotion, thinking it would be a 2-3 year assignment. That was in 1990. My family and I very much want to return to the Boston area but I have no network to speak of in the area. Complicating matters is the fact that I also want to change careers. I'd appreciate any thoughts on how to get jump started.
A: Welcome back to Boston… well, hopefully soon! You are smart to make the connection between your “network” and a job search.
How can you build a network in Boston while living in New Jersey? Building a network, especially in the early stages, can be partially accomplished using technology. LinkedIn is an important tool and can be used to build your contacts. If you are currently employed, avoid adding 20 contacts per day. Instead, add a few each day. If you are currently employed, you don’t want your LinkedIn profile to scream, “I am looking for a job in Boston!”
It sounds like you have roots in the Boston area. Think about joining groups on LinkedIn, particularly groups that have a Boston-centric purpose. Again, join groups slowly if others might be checking your profile. Add groups affiliated with your college or university. Consider joining Boston-based groups with a focus on your profession. You can join up to 50 groups on LinkedIn. These groups have been invaluable to me in my career.
Try to plan a few trips to Boston. New Jersey to Boston is a drive-able distance, especially if you are tacking some time onto a long weekend. If you have friends and family here, let them know of your interest in relocating back to this area. Consider attending networking or professional events during those trips. Schedule a coffee or a lunch with contacts that could be helpful to you.
You can also target specific companies or events using technology. If your industry experience is in medical devices, you can find out if the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council is holding an event during one of your trips. Many of these industry associations also post jobs for free for their member companies.
Q: I have a daughter who is a high school senior. Her guidance counselor often posts your column on the bulletin board outside of his office door to encourage “good choices.”
My question is that I have heard that employment professionals often check a candidate’s Facebook page before making a hiring decision. Is this true? It seems odd to go to this extreme. However, here is my concern. I am not a big Facebook person. I joined to check on my daughter’s profile and comments. Sometimes her information does border on being inappropriate. For example, photos of her and friends sunbathing. In some photos, she is fully dressed but showing too much skin. There are a few inappropriate comments too. Of course, there are some photos which are harmless, like the photo of our dog or a snowman built last winter. Some comments are fine too.
Also, do colleges check these pages?
A: You are smart to check your daughter’s online profile. Although Facebook is a wonderful social media tool for connecting with others, it can have a darker side. First, beyond the job hunt, your daughter may be communicating information to online predators unknowingly. Talk with your daughter about what she discloses on Facebook. Less is often better.
Employers are increasingly checking online profiles, including Facebook. It is easy to do since accessing a Facebook profile takes seconds. It is important that your daughter’s privacy controls are in place. Employers are trying to gather all the information available on a candidate. If a candidate has several pictures of themselves at parties, drinking beer, etc., then a hiring representative might reconsider extending an offer to this candidate. Any hire is a risk and companies want to mitigate risks. According to Mike Astringer, Founder of Human Capital Consultants, “If a potential employer finds inappropriate material on a social media site chances are good they will use that information in a hiring decision.” A growing number of college admissions officers admit to checking applicants’ Facebook pages. Many feel since it is public domain, it is another piece of information available to them. It is a smart idea for students (and others!) to critically look at their Facebook pages and remove anything that is racier than PG-13. The main profile photo should be positive and professional. A high school graduation photo would be a good choice for your daughter.
In addition to removing salacious photos, all of us need to be aware that the negative comments could have repercussions (especially regarding a college or a prospective employer). Many of us are connecting with colleges and companies. Colleges and employers are able to read these comments and posts.
PS – I hope your daughter’s guidance counselor posts this column outside of his office door!
Q. If a resume should be brief, how can I present myself to a prospective employer as someone who is employable? I have previous employers who have merged with out of state companies, or gone out of business. They cannot be contacted for references, so what do I put on my resume?
A. Resumes have evolved to help job seekers tell their story, as so many stories have become much more complicated. More data is acceptable to be included in a resume. Hiring managers welcome answers to the questions resumes can create regarding a candidate – the same kind of questions that can tank a candidate during the initial screening process.
With mergers and acquisitions, employees may have worked for multiple employers without changing their job, office or desk chair. You may have been laid off from your last 2 or 3 employers, and have gaps in employment. How you represent your value, contributions, and potential on a resume is based on the difference between telling the story of your skills, and documenting time.
The description of each job can include a brief statement on the company at the beginning of the entry. Make sure you represent your entire time at this company, not just job by job time. One big mistake candidates make is to showcase dates for each job which make people look like job hoppers when the story could be told in a much more positive way. Highlight longevity, promotion, and increased responsibility. The content of the job must include quantifiable information on results achieved while in the role. Show as many positive accomplishments as possible. At the end of the job description, add why you are no longer there. “Company acquired by NewCo; Reduction in Force of 20%” or “plant closed”.
Follow the same process for your other jobs. You aren’t trying to make excuses for being in the job search. Your goal is to make sure employers recognize that in job loss, lightning can strike twice, and if they can get past that, in the resume review, you get that much closer to an interview.
Your references wont’ be added to your resume, but they can travel with that document. References don’t all have to be bosses that are hard to track down, but find former supervisors who can speak to the work you did, and your value as an employee. Use LinkedIn as a resource to reconnect to these people so they can help your job search. Prepare a second page which matches your resume on top – all your contact information and “References of”. List the people you plan to use most often. Get the information before you need it – including cell phone and email address. You can ask your references to address the reason you left and speak to the reasons you would be a risk free hire.
So answer the questions up front. Show your ability to contribute. Provide results of what you did on the job, with back up from supervisors or colleagues that you added value to the organization. And show that losing a job doesn’t mean you won’t be a superstar when given the opportunity.
Q: I've been unemployed since last May. I have posted for many jobs, interviewed for some, and I usually hear I'm over-qualified for what they are looking for. How can I best over come this to land my next career move?
A: Your question mirrors several that we have received for this column over the past year or so. These are frustrating times for job seekers. Many employers are trying “to make due with less.” In short, they are trying to hire fewer employees, pay them less and still remain competitive. It is a difficult balance.
Here is what I can share. If you have been called in for interviews, your resume is probably in good shape. My advice:
1. Networking is incredibly important. Invite a former colleague for a cup of coffee. Schedule a quick chat with a neighbor who is connected. Never say no to an introduction.
2. Get on LinkedIn and expand your contacts. Join groups on LinkedIn. Join groups that are related to your career and/or your education.
3. Don’t spend your entire day at your PC. Attend a Meetup event. Join a networking group.
4. Consider re-writing your resume. Some job seekers have several different versions. If you have been receiving feedback that you are overqualified, consider only showcasing the last 10 or so years of experience on your resume. Try to keep it to one page.
5. Consider temporary, contract and consulting roles. These roles can often lead to full-time roles.
6. Make sure that you have a one-minute pitch about who you are as a candidate. Include your professional history and your career interests. This pitch should be succinct, authentic, enthusiastic and polished.
7. Thank everyone. Any contact who meets with you, send them a thank-you note or thank-you email. Be gracious and appreciative.
8. During networking events, dress for the job you want, not the job you last had.
9. Take care of yourself. Make sure that you are living a healthy and balanced life. Your appearance matters now probably more than ever.
10. Even if you have not received a job offer, leave every recruiter and hiring manager with a positive impression. They may call you for another role in the future. A thank-you note (even if you did NOT receive an offer) differentiates you in a very positive way.
11. Be reasonable about expectations, especially around compensation. You may have to re-set your expectations to get your foot back in the door.
12. Be resilient. Dust yourself off after a setback. Think about what you could have done differently.
Keep swinging. A door will open.
Q: I interviewed with a company in early January. After I left the HR Rep’s office, I could overhear a conversation that she was having with the hiring manager. I took my time putting my coat on. I heard them talking about my candidacy. Specifically, they mentioned my email address (which is firstname.lastname@example.org) and the manner in which I was dressed. They were extremely critical. These are not qualifications for the job. I don’t get it. Do they want me to dress like a librarian?
A: Your question raises several different issues, all worth further discussion and comment. First, it sounds like the HR professional needs a more private space to discuss candidates. Second, these comments were not intended to be heard by you but it sounds like you lingered hoping to hear more.
I don’t know any of the specifics about your skills, the company, the role of interest or the work environment or industry. However, I will assume it is a professional work environment where there is an expected “dress code” at least for candidates.
Candidates should ALWAYS look professional. In most cases, what you wear out to a club on a Saturday night is not the same attire you would wear to an interview. It is better to err on the side of conservatism rather than dress flamboyantly. I don’t know how you were dressed but obviously it caught their attention, and not in the most positive way.
Your email address also sends a message about you as a candidate. Recently, I was a panelist with some of the best recruitment brains in Boston. “New Year, New Job” was a panel hosted by Ed Nathanson, Director of Talent Acquisition at Rapid7. Rapid7 is growing by leaps and bounds. One of the topics the panel discussed was a candidate’s choice of email. When you use an email that is racy, inappropriate or salacious, you are sending a message about your professionalism. Some job coaches recommend that you use one email address that is exclusively reserved for your job search. It should be simple and professional, like email@example.com. It should never give the HR person a moment of pause or distraction.
It sounds like you received some difficult feedback while you were leaving that interview. I know it is hard to digest. However, it might be an opportunity to learn and improve your candidacy for the next role.
Q: Is it ok to contact an HR person you found on LinkedIn to ask for feedback as to why you didn't get an interview for a job you thought was a great fit? I found the guy on LinkedIn and he has his personal email address in his title. It's a very big company and they don't post HR contact info on their site. I feel like I'm stalking or being a pest, but feedback would be really helpful as I move forward with my job search. I'm in my 40s, looking for senior-level/mgr/director job.
A: LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool and can be helpful in a job search. It sounds from your question that you are not angry, hostile and irritated. (Well… maybe a little but it doesn’t sound like these emotions are dominating your thoughts.)
Feedback is often helpful as part of the selection process. Sometimes HR professionals are reluctant to share feedback for a number of reasons. Some candidates express the need for feedback and then when you share feedback, these candidates become defensive and even downright nasty. Some candidates began to re-sell their skills and experience to you when, in all honesty, it is too late. The offer has been extended and accepted.
In your situation, you need to be willing and open to feedback before you contact this HR person. You have to be prepared to receive feedback that may be mixed, with some positive feedback but also some negative feedback.
I think you can send him a request to connect on LinkedIn. If he accepts, his acceptance is an encouraging sign that he might be willing to engage in further dialogue. If he ignores your request, I would interpret that as a sign that he is less than enthusiastic about connecting with you on a post-interview basis.
I suppose you could email him too since he has publicized his personal email address on his LinkedIn title. However, if he didn’t share this email address during the interview process, I would be reluctant to use it.
If you do connect with him, be professional, gracious and thank him for re-connecting. He may keep you in mind for other opportunities or refer you to other HR professionals. It is a small world and you want to leave a good impression.
Q: I would be interested to get your opinion on something that I've always wondered about when job-searching. In general, after sending in a resume for a job opening, is it okay to email them a week or so later to tell them you are still very interested? A friend told me to do this, but for some reason it just seems pushy to me. Is there a precedent for this? Is it tactless?
One reason I'm wondering right now is because I recently found a job that looks like it would be a great fit. I emailed in my resume on Monday morning. Later on Monday afternoon I noticed that they put up a fresh link where you submit your resume on their internal website. I'm wondering if I better get in touch with them again since I used their "previous method" to send in my resume.
Thanks for any info you can provide.
A: I agree with your friend. Following up in a professional way is a recommended next step. It is a gentle balance between being too aggressive and inappropriate vs. expressing interest and inquiring about the next steps in the selection process.
In your specific situation, I would have probably re-submitted my resume using the new link that was available to job seekers on Monday afternoon. Sometimes these links are created to direct resumes to one certain mailbox or individual. You want to make sure that your resume lands on the right desk.
If you have an internal contact, I would recommend sending that individual a quick email with the job (and job number if there is one) in the subject line. That internal contact may recommend using the link to submit your resume.
Lastly, aggressive follow-up can be tacky, rude and concerning. However, sending a professionally crafted email summarizing your continued interest and identifying the available job can be a positive in your favor.
Q: I don't understand the reason why some potential employers would check a candidate’s financial background. It doesn't make sense to me. People need jobs to be responsible for their financial state of being.
A: Your question is valid, particularly in this challenging economic climate. There are legal issues and limitations associated with requesting a financial background check on a candidate. However, there are some legitimate reasons why some employers conduct financial background checks on final candidates. In several states, there is recent legislation that limits the use of such information.
Employers conduct financial background checks on candidates for a variety of positions but most often for roles in schools, hospitals, financial institutions, airports or the government. One of the reasons is simple. The employer wants to minimize any risk associated with hiring a new employee. The rationale is that a candidate’s financial background should be a factor in the hiring decision. The concern is that if you hire an employee with a precarious financial history or a large debt, this employee may be more likely than other employees to engage in fraud or embezzlement. Or this employee could be vulnerable to bribery or undue influence by others.
I contacted Jeffrey A. Dretler, a Partner in the Employment Law Group at Prince Lobel Tye LLP. Dretler explains, “Using financial background checks as part of the hiring process is governed by a federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and various state laws with which employers must comply. Usually, an employer does not conduct the check itself, but engages a third party who specializes in gathering such information. The background check is often referred to as a ‘Consumer Report’ and the third party which conducts the check is referred to as a Consumer Reporting Agency. The FCRA requires an employer utilizing a Consumer Reporting Agency to conduct a financial background check to obtain a candidate’s authorization before doing so.” Under the FCRA, the employer must provide the candidate with a notice of the rights available to them. Lastly, the employer must provide the candidate with a copy of the final report, and must notify the candidate if it intends not to hire the candidate based on information contained in the report. The candidate should be given a chance to clarify or explain this information because, although rare, mistakes can occur.
Dretler offers, “Recently, in response to the economic crisis, a number of states (e.g., California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington) have enacted laws which prohibit an employer from making an adverse hiring decision based on a candidate’s financial situation, except in certain limited situations such as applications for positions with financial institutions, state-approved credit unions, investment advisors registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, certain managerial roles, positions with access to highly confidential data, and positions where federal law requires a company to examine credit history data.”
During a recent seminar at a college, students wanted to know whether or not their Facebook page impacts them in their job search.
The short answer is: yes, it does impact you. Everything you do or have done can impact you. The Internet, especially Facebook, has simply made it easier to look at you as a whole person.
Companies want to know as much as possible about applicants before they make a final choice. They know your skills from your education and your past work experience. What they don’t know as readily is what you are like as a person. Will you fit their corporate culture? Is the “you” you presented in an interview accurate and trustworthy?
Social media offers important glimpses into you as a person: How you present yourself; what you say about yourself; what images you show on your page. Do you talk about your work life? If so, what do you say and how would it sound to another person?
What other people say and show about you are equally important. Photos in particular can make or break you. I know of one young gentleman who was asked in for an interview. The interviewer requested they visit his Facebook page together. The young man was embarrassed to see a picture a friend had posted and tagged with his name. He had fallen asleep on the beach and his friends had thought it would be a good joke to surround him with empty beer bottles, take his photo and post it. Clearly not the image he wanted to present.
Before beginning the job search, take time to review the content on your pages. Even better, have others review it for you to make sure you are presenting yourself in the best terms possible. It’s better not to hide parts of your image through privacy settings but instead to keep your page clean in the first place. You want to be okay owning everything on your page should people you aren’t friended with see it.
Check regularly for information or photos that others may have posted about you. If you find a photo in which you are tagged that makes you uncomfortable, contact the person who posted it and request, firmly if necessary, that they remove the photo. At the very least, untag the photo so it doesn’t come up in any searches of you. Checking this once isn’t enough, especially during the job search. Do it regularly, and again just prior to any interviews, so you can be sure your image is the best it can possibly be if an interviewer wants to look at your page with you. It’s okay to have a personal life, but your personal life shouldn’t be so incongruous with your work life that people question your trustworthiness or judgment.
Q. I have just been moved into a management role, and am being asked to hire an administrative person who will report to me. I am not used to being on the hiring side of the desk. I have interviewed people, but I’m not sure what to pay attention to when I am trying to hire a person that I will work with very closely. I know there is more to this than “do I like them” -- please give me clues on how to do this right the first time.
A. Job search candidates often wonder what is going on in the hiring manager’s mind, how they get selected for an offer, or why they don’t get that offer. With the process you are going through now, we can try to shed some light on the inner workings of the issues around hiring people. There are 5 points that hiring managers focus on, and candidates should keep these in mind if they hope to get the offer.
Whether you are using an agency, posting an ad, or networking to find the right candidate, you need to start with the job description. This document describes the tasks and responsibilities of the job, Point 1: the Skill Set -- specific knowledge, and educational background needed to be successful in the role. In the interview, or on the resume, you need to ensure you see the capabilities to do the job, either through a demonstrated ability or the transferable skills. You might also include Point 2: The Interpersonal Attributes -- on the job description if you believe they will be important to fit into the current culture. Is yours a team or independent work environment? Is there a great deal of direction provided, or do you need to be a solo-problem solver? Are you looking for people who love to multi-task, or highly methodical process people. There are no right or wrong answers – only right for your job and your environment. So develop honest answers to what is needed to be successful in your organization, and make sure you give the person the chance to tell you about their style.
What would work best interpersonally if a person is going to be added to a work group, or working with you? Is this a job that faces the public frequently where a significant introvert wouldn’t be happy. Or is it in a quiet office where an extrovert would be in the halls looking for people to make connections? Either of these can be appropriate in the right environment, and the reason you are trying to find the right match is Point 3: will they stay?
Turnover among staff takes up significant time and resources in any organization. It takes time to interview, create transition plans, and dedicate training time and resources for the new hire. Upheaval follows even with the most well organized plan. No one wants to have to go through the process again in any short period of time, so part of the hiring process is trying to gauge how long a person will stay. Will this job keep them engaged and give them opportunities to learn on the job. Is it at the right level so they aren’t overwhelmed but challenged enough? Does it make sense for them to be looking at this role?
All those answers lead into Point 4: Future Potential. Can you see this person staying long enough to grow into another role? It may not be up the ladder, but it might be another opportunity within your organization. If they are looking for advancement in 3 to 6 months, and that is barely enough time to be fully trained in this role, you put yourself into the next round of interviews. If you see the person offering a longer term relationship, bring stability to the organization.
Point 5: Are there obstacles to success for this person that you see, which they might not? Is this the first time the person has had to drive to work as opposed to taking the T – will that be an issue? Review any issues you foresee.
Get second opinions. Share what you are looking for in the ideal candidate, and have other people interview and provide feedback. Hopefully you will meet skilled candidates who can help you identify why they are right for the job. Hiring well is a skill that can be developed.
Q: In November I had a job interview for my dream job. I thought I absolutely nailed the interview and met with all members of management team. I was told that I should hear back within the next two weeks. I sent each person a personalized thank-you letter. Each letter thanked the individual for their time and recapped a piece of our conversation. I also re-iterated why I thought I would be a good fit for the organization.
Fast forward two weeks and have I heard nothing. I sent a very polite follow-up letter to the HR rep asking for an update and expressed my interest in the position. She responded four or five days later and apologized for the delay. She explained that with the holidays, things were taking longer than expected and she was still "gathering feedback from management.” She stated that she would contact me after she had received feedback from management. Fast forward another two weeks and I have heard nothing. Although I did not want to be a pest, I also did not want them to think my interest in the position was waning. I sent another follow-up email. This time I have yet to receive a response.
This is my dream job and I really want it. I know the timing is crappy because of the holidays but shouldn't this process be done by now? Is there anything more I can do? Does this mean I didn't get the job?
A: I can understand your frustration. When you think you have found the ideal role and then it does not materialize, it can be maddening. This job hunting phenomena is sometimes called the “black hole” because the opportunity and any related communication seem to evaporate. It is discouraging for job seekers, but unfortunately a common complaint.
Several things could have occurred:
1. The company could have hired another candidate.
2. The HR Rep could still be soliciting feedback from the selection team. This takes time, especially in late December and early January.
3. The HR Rep may be pre-occupied with other pressing distractions.
I have one piece of feedback to share. I am concerned about the quality of your thank-you notes or emails. I had to revise and edit your original Job Doc question dramatically. There were several typos, run-on sentences and grammatical errors. Of course, submitting a question on-line to the Job Doc is not the same as thanking a prospective employer for an interview. However, you may want to have a trusted friend or colleague proofread your thank-you notes. I don’t know for sure, but your thank-you note may have been a factor in your candidacy.
Q: My situation seems complicated to me, let alone an employer! I left a position as a legal secretary in 2008 for an office manager position. That position did not work out and I was let go after about four weeks. From November 2008 to the present, I have been unemployed. However, in December of 2010 I underwent surgery which necessitated a long recovery period that I hope will end very soon. My most recent salary was $65,000 and I was at a fairly high level administratively. Do you have any advice on how I can address these issues concisely in an interview? Also, what approach should I take regarding my illness? Should I seek a position at the same level that I left? Thank you for your help.
A: Your situation is indeed a bit complicated but can be presented in a credible and positive way. Remember to focus on the positives and minimize the negatives.
First, let’s mention the positives. Think about your professional background and where you have enjoyed success. You don’t need to give a lot of detail regarding your surgery. Instead focus on the present - you are ready, willing and able to return to the workforce.
You have been unemployed for a prolonged period of time. This period of unemployment will no doubt raise a yellow flag for a potential employer. Of course, your surgery was a factor. The economy is also likely a factor. However, the focus should be on what you can deliver to the employer.
Regarding your compensation requirements, you are in the same boat as many others right now. Some of my colleagues call this the “new normal.” Many employees were earning very competitive wages in 2006 and 2007. Then 2008 hit and there has been a correction in terms of compensation. I think you may need to be flexible. Look at any offer you may receive in a holistic way. Don’t just focus on the base salary. The benefits, the commute, the work environment, the company’s mission and the work responsibilities are all important. Also, don’t overlook temporary and/or contract roles. These roles often convert into full-time roles.
Your elevator pitch might sound like this:
I worked for Smith, Brown and Jones, LLP for almost 10 years. I worked for three partners. It was a challenging and exciting role. In 2008, the law firm suffered because of the economy. I left the firm for an office manager role at ABC, Inc. Unfortunately this role was not a good fit. In December, 2010, I had some surgery. I used much of 2011 to recover. I received a “clean bill of health” from my doctor and am ready and eager to return to the working world.
Q: Hi! I am frustrated and hope you can help...I was laid off 2 months ago from a toxic job, but still have not found employment. I have had a few interviews, but nothing has panned out. My most recent interview has me stumped - it went great (I thought), and at the end, the HR rep gave me her card, told me to call/email her any time for an update, and told me things about the 2nd interview. I sent her a thank you letter by email immediately. Then I received a rejection letter in the mail. Any ideas??
A: You raise a common situation that I think many of our readers have experienced during their job hunts. Let’s discuss the positives first.
• You are no longer in a “toxic” job.
• You have had a few interviews.
• There was some initial interest in bringing you back for a second interview.
• You understand the importance of sending a thank you note quickly.
What this tells me is that you are probably applying for appropriate jobs for which you are qualified. Your resume is also probably strong. You have an understanding of professional etiquette and have demonstrated that by emailing a thank you note quickly.
I don’t know what happened in your specific situation. I can offer several educated guesses but they are guesses and I can not be certain that any one of these reasons apply.
Some of the plausible reasons include:
• The employer hired someone else for the position. Another candidate could have been stronger. An internal candidate may have raised their hand during the selection process.
• The company did not fill the position. Or the employer has delayed the filling of the position.
• There was something about your thank you note that was not well received. Either the content or perhaps a glaring typo?
• Perhaps the qualifications or requirements of the job changed? After a hiring manager interviews several candidates, this can happen. After gathering intelligence from candidates, sometimes a different skill set is identified.
HR Reps sometimes have difficulty having these conversations with candidates. While there are candidates who welcome honest feedback, other candidates can become very defensive, even argumentative or belligerent.
Don't let this single outcome impede your search. Dust yourself off and keep swinging.
Q: I'm a well-educated professional with 20 years experience in my background. I've been trying to find a full-time job for the last three years with no luck. Is it possible that some employers find me overqualified or that my salary will be too high and they would rather hire a more inexperienced candidate?
A: Thanks for your question. You raise a very important point. I have received a lot of questions like yours. These questions have been asked of me through the Job Doc live chats (check boston.com for when these are scheduled, usually on Mondays at noon), through the Job Doc column and even from friends, colleagues and family.
Most candidates assume it is their age. Candidates will say, “Employers don’t want to hire me because I am 52 years old.” Or, “The hiring manager was 30 years old and seemed intimidated by my 20 years of experience.” Certainly age discrimination does exist. However, sometimes is not simply the age of the candidate.
I have found it is sometimes assumptions related to more experienced candidates. Very often employers see a 10, 15, 20 years of experience and assume that the candidate will request a very high salary. And of course, the employer would like to get the best “bang for their buck” so they look at lower experience levels. Sometimes it is not age, but a perceived “price tag.” Or sometimes it is the stereotypes that many of us may associate with a more mature candidate. We can not change your age or your years of experience but we can counter these stereotypes.
Here are some ways to better compete with less experienced candidates:
1. Demonstrate flexibility. Explain that you are flexible with respect to working conditions and job responsibilities. Avoid comments like: “At my age, I am not driving to Boston. When I was younger I would have, but not any more.” Or, “I don’t want to sit behind a phone and make 100 calls per day. I did that 20 years ago. I want to focus on higher-end selling.” Candidate don’t realize it but sometimes they are offering limitations when they are interviewing.
2. Consider deleting early or irrelevant experience from your resume. You can summarize your early experience as “Other Experience” and exclude dates and details.
3. Explain that your compensation expectations are reasonable. In this “new normal” economic environment, many employees are making less than they were just a few years ago. Focus on the total offer, not just the base salary. The commute, the benefits, the role, the company's mission's and the work environment are all important factors.
4. Be diligent about follow-up. Ask for the job.
5. Present yourself in a contemporary way. Ditch the 10 year old suit. Talk about current trends and technologies in your industry.
Good luck in your search. I do predict an uptick in hiring in 2012.
Real estate agent #1 hates the red tiles in our foyer. She tells us that right away.
(My wife and I are staying in Boston, but attempting to sell our house—for the second time. We're interviewing agents.)
"These tiles—they're the first thing you see," she says. She looks very unhappy.
Everyone knows the power of first impressions. I used to train salespeople on this challenge.
When you walk into someone's office for a sales call or a job interview, how do you start strong?
Generally, it's not by insulting the other person's flooring.
Sincere compliments work better. You might comment on the building, or the view, or simply thank them for accommodating your schedule.
Agent #2, within minutes of arriving, says she's obligated to read a disclosure form, as if informing us of our Miranda rights.
My wife, meanwhile, is leading the way upstairs. But this agent doesn't budge. She seems glued to the red tiles. I used to like those tiles.
So she reads the form, but sounds scripted and inflexible.
Do you ever sound that way?
Adapt to the other person. If the other person talks fast, speed up; if they like small talk, chit-chat; if they seem no-nonsense, follow suit.
Agents #3 & 4, a couple, show up on our doorstep, uninvited.
I'm not the sort of person who lets strangers into my house, unless it's at gunpoint.
But this couple is well-dressed and well-mannered—armed only with a unique selling proposition: "We've got some innovative and aggressive ways to market your house."
That's exactly what we're looking for. And knocking on our door—which no other agent has done, even though it's public knowledge that our first listing expired—demonstrates boldness.
Can you demonstrate what you're selling?
For example, if you say you're innovative, prepare some examples and testimonials of your creativity and, just as important, act that way. Walk in as if you're already on the job.
Well, I'd like to report that we hired the plucky couple, but we didn't. Turns out, they were long on flair but short on experience.
Also, their company name, "Depart Realty," focused on the seller's concern (leaving), not the buyer's (arriving).
Their yard sign, "DEPART!" implied, "Get Me Out of Here!"
And if a buyer came to the house, that's what she'd see. Even before the tiles.
Tip: In high-stakes meetings, sometimes all you get is a few seconds. Send a powerful message, immediately.
© Copyright 2011 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
Q. I am interviewing for a job. Before they make an offer, the company completes a background check. I don’t think I have anything to hide, but that depends on what they can find out about me. What do they want to see, and what will they be able to get access to?
A. Almost all companies do some research into the backgrounds of their candidates. There is a significant range in the depth of background checks conducted by organizations in different industries, or for a variety of job functions. Employers directly, or through utilizing the services of a third party, can conduct background checks. Most often employers want to check references. They are interested in nuance, and what the reference has to say, or not say, about the candidate. Names of references are either provided on an employment application or provided separately by the candidate giving permission to conduct the reference check.
Kellie O’Shea, with Creative Services, Inc., which performs background investigations and drug testing programs, explains, “There are hundreds of different background search components. An employment background check will include at a minimum, a criminal background check and a social security trace which is a tool used to identify alias names and previous addresses of the candidate. The check will verify past employment (usually the last three employers or ten years of employment) and confirm education credentials. Where regulated or recommended because an applicant will be driving as part of their job, employers will run a motor vehicle driving record. In some cases, if an applicant is working in a financial capacity or with cash, employers will run a credit report.”
O’Shea notes that, “When a third party, a consumer reporting agency (CRA), conducts a background check, separate from the reference check, the employer and the CRA are subject to the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If a CRA conducts the background check, a clear disclosure is required regarding the background check. These disclosures are usually accompanied by a release form that includes a wide scope of search types allowed in the background check.” There is a trend of states restricting the use of these credit reports for employment purposes.
Social media has offered new areas for recruiters and employers to screen potential candidates. According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 45% of HR professionals are using social media sites in recruiting, including to screen out potential new hires. Publicly available information on social media sites can get you knocked off the short list.
So clean up your on line persona, ask about the nature and scope of the background search being done, read consent forms closely and request copies for your records. More than you imagine is available for an employment background check.
Q: When you are applying for a job where you have to send an email with your resume and cover letter, what do you say in the actual body of your email?
A: Technology has certainly changed the job application process. Very often candidates are required to complete an online application. Or an applicant must submit a resume and cover letter via email.
Sometimes a job posting or advertisement will direct you what to include in a subject line. It might be a job number or the title of the job. If no specific instructions are given, I suggest referring to both the job title and your full name (e.g., Credit Analyst - Jane Anne Smith). What is critically important is to follow the company's instructions. If the company has requested that documents be sent in a certain format, send them that way. If the company has requested all resumes and cover letters be submitted by a deadline, email your information before the deadline.
There are two different approaches with submitting a resume and cover letter via email. With the first approach, you can cut and paste your actual cover letter into the body of the email. This can be helpful to the interviewer since they will have to click and open fewer attachments. However, some employers (especially more formal companies) will view this negatively. A company may not consider this a "real" cover letter. Sometimes when your cover letter is embedded in the body of an email, the formatting is not ideal and then the printed version is less than attractive. If you choose to cut and paste your cover letter in the body of the email, it should still be professionally written and free of errors. This approach is probably acceptable when applying for many positions, especially for smaller, entrepreneurial companies or when a company does not request a cover letter.
The other option is to attach both a cover letter and a resume as separate documents to your email. This requires a bit more work for the receiver but it fully complies with a company's request to submit both a resume and a cover letter. If the receiver plans to print the documents, there will likely be fewer formatting problems and both documents will appear more polished in printed form. The "two attachment" approach is probably best for senior-level positions or when applying to larger, more formal companies or when a company specifically requests a cover letter. In the body of the email, you can explain what documents are attached and also highlight any special qualifications or differentiators about your background. It is also a good idea to reiterate your contact information.
One tip that is a simple yet often overlooked detail is the title of an emailed resume. Use your first and last name rather than "resume2011" or something similar. It makes you easier to find.
Lastly, make sure that your email address is appropriate and professional. Ditch the racy email addresses. These type of email addresses send a message and not a good one.
Thank you for your column in the Boston Globe about saying "Thank you.” I find that an honest rendition of those two words merits much in return.
Could you please address the regrettable habit that has sprung up, that of a reply of "No problem" as opposed to "You're welcome?" I am routinely getting this answer, particularly from the younger set, particularly from people whom I have just thanked for doing their job, the one they get paid for! "No problem" sounds insincere and insouciant. Of course I am 72 years old, so perhaps this is a change I should learn to accept. I hope not!
S. C., Oak Bluffs, MA
You’re welcome, Sara.
Unfortunately, that phrase seems to have disappeared from our language. How often do you hear it as opposed to how often you hear someone replying to a “thank you,” by saying, “Oh, no, thank you.” Whenever I hear that return “Thank you,” all I can think is, “Why are you trumping my ‘Thank you’ with your ‘Thank you?’”
When you respond to a “Thank you” with “You’re welcome,” you are acknowledging the thanks and letting the person know you appreciate it. To say nothing when someone says “Thank you” to you is the equivalent of ignoring the person, and nobody likes to be ignored.
If you really do want to thank someone in return, saying “You’re welcome; and thank you, too” is the best solution. Saying “You’re welcome” first removes any implication that you are simply dismissing the person’s “Thank you” by not acknowledging it.
“No problem” has wormed its way into the normal dialogue we experience with each other. I hear it from all ages of people, not just young people, and I’m inclined to accept it as part of our language today. That said, the same advice holds true for a “No problem” or “It’s nothing” response to a “Thank you.” Precede it with a “You’re welcome,” and now it works perfectly well as a response.
So, today, tomorrow, the next day, take a moment to think about how you’ll respond the next time someone says “Thank you” to you. Try bringing back “You’re welcome” as the first thing you’ll say in acknowledging the “Thank you.” You’ll put a smile on the other person’s face, and that is the real point.
Q: I am in a stable job (as stable as employment goes) but am considering moving for higher salary and better advancement prospects.
Given the world wide economic situation, and in particular the looming US budget threat, is there a high risk in moving into a new job now?
A: When I read your question (and re-read your question), initially I could only reply with one question: "Where is my crystal ball?" Unfortunately, I don't have a crystal ball. I wish I did! I will have to talk with my editor at www.boston.com about that request!
Stability in a current role is valuable right now. I know many unemployed individuals who would likely view your current situation with envy. There is always a risk when you change jobs and/or companies. However, sometimes these risks can pay off.
However, many professionals often “keep the door open” in the event another opportunity presents itself. It is a smart tactic. We live and work in uncertain times. No one can predict the future. However, you can proactively prepare yourself should you encounter uncertainty in your current role.
You raise a related and important topic. Successful job hunters often have a robust and active network EVEN before they launch a job search. What do I mean? Be smart by growing your professional network each and every day, not just when you are job hunting. Become active on LinkedIn. Connect and re-connect with colleagues both on-line and in person. Ensure that your skills are current. Dust off your resume and look at it with a fresh eye. Does it represent you well? If not, consider giving it a tune-up. Use social media to broaden your network and reach out to new contacts or associations. Never say no to an introduction within your field.
Now about getting my hands on that crystal ball...
Q: I have to relocate to Boston from Southern California due to family obligations. I will pay for my move myself, and I have a residence in Massachusetts. I have applied to many jobs via email, but nothing. I'm about to take out a display ad in the Globe. How can I get noticed?
Conducting a job search in Boston from Southern California is a challenge but not an insurmountable one. A hiring manager may be assuming that you expect the company to pay for a move and that your time to start a new role may be delayed.
Here are some options for you to consider:
1. Join Linkedin if you haven’t already. Connect with as many professional contacts as you can, especially in the Boston area. Also join groups that are appropriate for your career and Boston-based professional associations.
2. If you attended college in the Boston area, re-connect with your college or university. Educate yourself about what your alumni association offers.
3. Use your Massachusetts address on your resume.
4. Consider obtaining a Massachusetts cell phone number before you make the move.
5. Be clear in any communication that you expect to pay for a move yourself. Also be clear if you are returning back to the Massachusetts area. To most recruiters, returning to Boston is more appealing than relocating to Boston.
6. While email is one tool, use all online tools to their fullest. LinkedIn, Twitter, etc can all be effective and helpful in a job search.
7. If feasible, consider returning to Boston for a few days during the workweek. Try to schedule 1001 coffee meetings, lunches, quick sandwiches during that period of time. Make sure that you are gracious to all who fit you into their schedules. Send a thank you note to all who meet with you.
8. Use job boards. These can be helpful with your job search, especially those job boards that can help you search in a specific geographic area.
9. Pick up the phone. Call your contacts and search firms. Schedule phone meetings to pick the brains of current and former colleagues.
10. Check boston.com daily for who is hiring and who is not.
Job hunting from afar is more challenging than in your own backyard. However, you can be successful.
Q. When you are applying for a job where you have to send an email with your resume and cover letter, what do you say in the actual body of your email?
I always try to say something like “Hello, Attached please find my cover letter and resume to be considered in your search for a Product Branding Marketing Assistant. I believe this is a wonderful opportunity for me and I look forward to speaking with you soon,” but I'm never really sure what to put.
A. Before email, these messages were considered “letters of transmittal” or the message saying there is a message to follow. Kudos to you for knowing that every communication you send matters to a hiring manager and attention to detail keeps you moving forward in the process.
The job search method of last resort is an emailed resume and cover letter, but even here there are things you can do to improve your chances of getting your materials read.
First exhaust all methods of networking to get introduced to the hiring manager, a person in human resources, an employee in the area you’d like to work in, or any current employee. Your goal is to meet with anyone at the company so they can hand carry your paperwork to the appropriate people. If that doesn’t happen, try to get the name of the right person to send the email to so that you don’t have to send your resume to the black hole at jobs@...
In addition, see if you can have a conversation with anyone who works at the company. Many organizations have employee referral programs, and employees are incented to introduce people to the organization. They can get anywhere from $500 to $2500, or more for referring a person who gets hired. This might be the motivation they need to let you use their name.
The "TO" section is now filled with a live person, and you can get a phone number so that you can make a follow up call after you send your resume. In the "SUBJECT" line use “Referred by (employee name) for (job title)" if you were able to make that happen. It will catch the attention of the hiring manager and encourage them to read on. If you don’t have a referral source, use something descriptive and positive as the subject like “Proven (or exceptional) Product Branding Marketing Assistant.”, Take the opportunity to differentiate yourself.
In the email intro, change the approach from why the opportunity is good for you, to what you can do for the company. “The materials describing the contributions I have made in Product Branding Marketing are enclosed. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how I can have a positive impact with (company name).”
Hiring managers have very little time and attention for written correspondence, so you need to maximize every opportunity you have to get them to the next step of reading a great resume of accomplishments, and a cover letter explaining how you will make significant contributions to the company. Try and focus on what is in it for them.
Q: What is the best way to address company name changes on your resume, when those changes happened years after you left the company? My alma mater changed its name about 10 years after I graduated, so I use the current name on my resume. But one of my former employers (mid '90s) merged with another company and changed the name. Which company name do I use on my resume, the current company name, or the name of the company when I worked there? Or both, i.e., "ABC (formerly XYZ)"?
A: Great question, especially in this age of mergers, acquisitions and consolidations. Your question also triggers an additional question on reference checking. For example, what company information do you provide so a prospective employer can verify your professional work history?
I like your suggestion and it mirrors what I often suggest to candidates. As an example, perhaps you worked for Shawmut Bank in the 80’s. Shawmut Bank is no longer a stand-alone entity. Through a series of acquisitions, Shawmut Bank is now part of Bank of America. However, these transactions occurred well after the time you were actively employed at Shawmut. Using your example, you could represent this part of your employment history as:
Financial Accountant 1983 – 1986
Bank of America (Shawmut Bank is now part of Bank of America)
Alternatively, you could also state this part of your employment history as:
Financial Accountant 1983 – 1986
Shawmut Bank (now Bank of America)
There may be some instances when you may want to omit one of the above names. If a former employer has a tarnished reputation, perhaps then you should leave the company name off your resume and simply list one company name. It is important to state the current or most recent name of the company for reference checking purposes. For example, it would be a challenge to contact Shawmut Bank to verify your employment since the company is no longer in existence! You would want to make sure that you list Bank of America’s name as they likely have the records for former Shawmut employees.
With respect to colleges and universities, you can use a similar approach. However, in this instance, I would suggest using the current (and perhaps more recognizable name) followed by a parentheses explaining the former name, if needed. As an example, you could list University of Massachusetts at Lowell (formerly University of Lowell). Or even, simply University of Massachusetts at Lowell may be the best choice.
Q: I am a manager of a small IT (information technology) team. I am disgusted at how unprofessional many candidates are when supposedly they are so very interested in a new job. Candidates don't dress appropriately. All of their answers are filled with "you know" or "like" or other slang terms. I had one candidate refer to me as "dude" in our interview. Here I am ready to hire and I can't find anyone that understands basic professional decorum. No one sends a grammatically correct thank-you note. And their follow-up is non-existent. And I won't even mention the texting, checking their phones, etc. during breaks between interviews. Do you see this as frequently as I do? I don't feel it is my job to coach candidates on how to behave professionally.
P.S. I often post this column on my office door to share with my team members.
A: I can sense your frustration as a hiring manager. You share many valid concerns, many of which I have heard before. I have personally witnessed some of these concerns as well. Let me try to offer some (hopefully helpful) advice to these candidates.
1. Dress the part and then some. What do I mean? Dress NOT for the role for which you are interviewing. Dress how the hiring manager dresses. It is better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. No wrinkly shirts or pants. Good hygiene. Get a haircut. Brush your teeth. Look professional, presentable and enthusiastic.
2. Have a trusted colleague or family member ask you sample interview questions. Be careful of the crutches many of us use. The "you know" is a common one. Especially when nervous, these phrases seem to slip out more frequently. "Dude" is definitely not a noun that should be used to address a hiring manager, ever.
3. Thank-you notes are a must. Make sure that the note is polished and crisp. In some companies, an emailed thank-you note is fine. For more formal companies, I would suggest a type-written mailed thank-you note.
4. Keep your phone out of sight and silent. No one should even know you have a phone with you.
5. Before ending an interviewing (whether in-person or on the phone), a candidate should always ask about follow-up. An example: "Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today about the IT Specialist role. I am very interested in this role. What are the next steps? How should I follow-up with you?"
Good luck with your future hiring!
Q: I recently landed my first job after graduating in May. However, I am confused about my offer letter. In my offer letter, it says that I will be an "at-will" employee. I am not familiar with this term. I have signed the offer letter but not sure exactly what this term means. Can you help explain this to me?
A: Congratulations on landing your first job after college! This is an achievement! Kudos to you!
Most employees working in the United States are "at-will" employees. This term means you are not working with an employment agreement in place. And it also means that you will not be a member of a union. Don't worry too much though. Most employees in the US don’t have employment agreements. Employment agreements are most often used for senior-level hires (e.g., Chief Executive Officers, Vice Presidents, etc.) And most employees are not members of unions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 11.9% of all US workers were union members in 2010.
The term "at-will" simply means that you can resign or leave your job at any time. It also means that your employer can do the same: terminate you at any time for any reason. You don’t have to give your employer notice that you are leaving your role and they don’t have to give you notice either. However, most employees, as a professional courtesy, do provide their employer with two (or more) weeks notice before leaving the company.
Most employers incorporate the "at-will" language in offer letters to newly hired employees. The employer is trying to clearly explain the terms and conditions of your offer. Your offer letter probably also confirmed your salary, start date and title. It may have also included information on where to report on your first day as well as what to bring with you.
A quick article that you might find helpful since you are starting your first job:
“Seven ways to make the most of your new job.” To read, visit http://www.boston.com/jobs/galleries/seven_ways_to_make_the_most_of_your_new_job/
Q. I am relocating to Boston from a small town out of state. Prospective employers are asking what salary I was making and using that as a basis for what they will offer. This is comparing apples to oranges. I do not see the relevance of what I was making in a small town versus a large metropolitan area. How can I politely ask what they are offering?
A. Welcome to the big city! Prospective employers want to know what all candidates were making in their prior jobs, not just those who are relocating. Salary comparisons do set the tone for what an organization might offer you. "Comps" provide information about where you were in a certain salary band or grade, particularly when a title doesn't offer as much information as needed to differentiate the many levels within one role.
But you now have tools to help you. For many years organizations bought propriety research relating to salary surveys in a variety of industries. The government provided information comparing cost of living in various geographic areas. Companies used these tools and others to make competitive offers for new hires and to provide equal standards of living to employees who were asked to relocate from rural to urban settings or the reverse.
With these tools now easily accessible to job hunters through sites like salary.com, you are equipped with the same kind of research that companies have had at their disposal for years. The information they are asking of you is relevant so don't have a bad attitude about being asked questions. Anticipate these questions, prepare for them, and develop answers which will work in your favor.
When you are asked about your previous compensation, your answer would include: "At my previous firm, I was making in the high $XXX's which was the top of that salary band. My research suggests that this geographic area carries a 25 to 30 % higher cost of living, with a matching increase in competitive pay for a role with these responsibilities and someone with my level of experience. What is the compensation range you have for this role?".
This statement needs to be made in one breath, and with confidence. You may be asked where you got your research, which you will easily be able to discuss. You gain information about the range set for this position. It isn't an offer but you now have information about their thoughts about the role, and the company has a clear view of what you will see as a competitive offer based in data, and not just desire.
There are other ways to get additional specific information from other web sites including glassdoor.com, which offers "inside information about jobs & companies". This information includes interview questions, compensation data, and comments about cultures of specific organizations. Make sure to compare any web data you receive with other sources like placement or search people, and from former employees who may be available to you via LinkedIn.
This preparation and a good attitude about sharing actual information and data should get you the competitive offer you are looking for.
Q: I am an undeclared student entering my sophomore year of my university. I have always enjoyed physics, science and chemistry. I have thought about declaring engineering as my major. I am not sure what type of engineering careers are promising. I’ve seen a few job postings for Materials Engineers. These postings have interested me. What types of companies typically hire this type of engineer? What is the job outlook for these roles? What do hiring managers look for when hiring Materials Engineers? If I don’t land a job after college, my parents will be very upset. I want a job that I enjoy though.
A: Materials science is a diverse field that involves creating and improving materials such as metals, polymers, and nanomaterials to name a few. There are many incredible opportunities which will allow you to continue to use the skills that you have learned in physics and chemistry. You are fortunate to have an interest in this area.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for engineers are expected to be quite good. Starting salaries are typically higher for engineers, as compared to other college graduate degrees. For more information, visit http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm.
I consulted Steve Milt, Chief Operating Officer at DSA Detection in North Andover, Massachusetts. Milt recommends, “To get started in your career it will be important to choose an industry that interests you. Traditional employers for materials engineers include aerospace and electronics companies, but the list extends broadly to medical devices and biotech, green technology and companies like mine, DSA Detection, that are focused on the security industry.”
Milt further offers, “Finding relevant internships and summer jobs to build a track record is an important first step. Select an industry and find a paid or unpaid job during the summer or during the school year. Treat it like your most important class. If your first job isn’t a great fit, that’s ok, because materials engineers can transfer across industries somewhat more easily than other types of engineers. Employers take a chance every time we hire a new employee, so we look for markers of commitment and career progression, like completing projects with business value and receiving increasingly challenging work assignments. These internships and summer jobs are an important chance to make yourself highly marketable at graduation time.”
Many materials engineers choose to pursue advanced degrees as they progress through their career. Milt explains, “If you establish yourself as a high performer, your future company may be willing to pay for all or part of your advanced degree. At DSA Detection, high performer means understanding project goals, completing tasks on schedule, showing good communication skills, all while being a fun person to work with. As an engineer you will build good analytical and decision-making skills, which may lead to greater responsibility and management opportunities down the road.”
Q. In a recent interview I was asked, "Is this the only position you applied for at this institution?". I told the truth -- that I did apply for two other jobs there. My question is: what do you think was, or would be, the impression of the interviewer if they knew that I applied for more than one position in their institution? I know it's not illegal to do so, and I am tempted to do it again to increase my chances of getting a job, knowing that I have the skills, experience and attitude to do what the job/s require.
A. Telling the truth in interviews is a step in the right direction. And you need to take it a step further. There are many questions that interviewers will ask which need more than an answer -- they need an explanation which eliminates a concern, or enhances an asset. With a question like this, your job is to figure out what the concern behind the question may be, and how to address it, so that you move your candidacy forward.
In the hiring process, managers and human resources staff like to believe their role and their company is the only job and organization you ever wanted to join in your career. If you applied for many jobs, they will ask what it is you really want to do. If they imagine that you are easily attracted by other roles, and/or organizations, and their opportunity is something to tide you over until you get the job you really want, they will turn the other way. They want to know if you are interested in the benefits, the short commute, or something else that has nothing to do with the actual work the organization does. The fear they have is that you will be off to another position as soon as you can, and they will be starting the recruiting process all over again.
Since on line applications make it so easy for people to apply for jobs, hiring managers are aggravated by the need to review resumes from people who have few qualifications for the responsibilities in the role. Multiple applications to the same organization aren’t illegal, but they won't necessarily increase your chances of being hired. When anyone says, or acts as if, "I need a job -- any job ", hiring managers are turned off. And in an interview, or by applying to multiple jobs within one organization, you can imply that you interest is only in having, “a job – any job”.
To reassure them that you aren’t spamming their applicant tracking system, your answer might be “Yes, I noticed that there are two other jobs looking for the skills and experience I have -- both called for X years of experience, a demonstrated ability to X, and quantitative and project management skills. Because I possess all of these traits and experience, I have submitted my resume”. Your job search activity needs to make sense to the hiring manager, and a good explanation will help showcase the strengths you bring.
Hiring managers, HR people, and recruiters want to see a track record of the skills and accomplishments needed to be successful in the role they are offering. They also want to be reassured that the job they have is the one and only job you want.
Q: I hear all this information about personal branding and branding yourself as a candidate. Branding is now a job search technique? Can you explain this to me?
A: Great question. I consulted Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future and Founder of Millennial Branding, to help me better answer your question. According to Schawbel, “Personal branding is about discovering what makes you special and unique in the marketplace and then communicating that, through multiple mediums, to the right people. By using your distinct personality, publishing content related to your expertise on blogs and social networks, and connecting with as many professionals as you can, you will have a leg up in the job search process. Think of the internet as the new global talent pool. It's not just about searching for a job anymore. It's about recruiters finding you on search engines and social networks based on the visibility you create from the content you publish. Nearly 90 percent of companies are recruiting on social networks and 64 percent have hired through a social network this year (source: Jobvite.com).”
According to Schawbel, you may want to create a "personal branding toolkit," which includes profiles on the main social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+), in addition to your own website (yourfullname.com), and a business card. Schawbel recommends “constantly and prolifically communicate your brand through your networking profiles, events, forums, speaking engagements, and more.”
Schawbel and I agree on the importance of LinkedIn when it comes to launching a search for a new opportunity. A complete and robust LinkedIn profile is important. Growing your LinkedIn network is important too. LinkedIn is a good forum for sharing your expertise with others. There is an incredible amount of business intelligence shared on LinkedIn. Although LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool, it does not replace the old-fashioned in-person networking and relationship building. It is an incredibly helpful tool to connect (and re-connect) with contacts new and old.
Q: I am about to begin a job search. I haven’t done this in a long time. What one tough question should I be prepared for? In your opinion, is there one question that is really tough and stumps many candidates?
A: You are smart to prepare for a job search. Preparation is critical to a successful search.
When I read your inquiry, one question immediately came to mind. The question isn’t really even a question. I think many interviewees are stumped by “Tell me about yourself.” Candidates often are unsure of where to start, what to include and what to exclude. A well-prepared candidate has thought of this question in advance. A very well-prepared candidate has practiced an intelligent response before it is asked.
1. Don’t start with where you were born, how old you are, how many kids you have, etc. It is too personal and not relevant.
2. Do start with an overview of your professional career and capabilities.
3. Provide relevant examples of your successes and/or strengths.
4. Link your answer back to what you know about the role.
One possible response to "Tell me about yourself" when interviewing with XYZ Company:
I am a seasoned Business Development professional with more than 10 years of professional work experience. I consider myself a “hunter” in that I have been successful in landing new clients and building profitable relationships throughout my career. After graduating from ABC College, I was fortunate to have joined DEF’s training program in sales and business development. This formal training followed by practical work experience was an ideal entry into business development. I remained with DEF for five years. I was promoted twice at DEF. In 2006, I joined GHI. GHI is a venture-backed technology firm, similar in size to XYZ Company. I was in a business development role at GHI and landed several high profile clients, including STU, QRS and LMO. I have enjoyed the role tremendously at XYZ but I am considering other opportunities in the eastern Massachusetts area. I am concerned that XYZ will be unable to secure another round of funding in this climate. I think there are a number of similarities between the role at GHI and the job description that you have shared with me, especially the focus on landing new clients in a competitive environment.
With the sample response above, I have attempted to summarize “my” professional work history. I’ve highlighted strengths and reasons for looking at a new opportunity. My intent is to deliver a response that is positive, professional and credible. Every question asked of a candidate is an opportunity, an opportunity to provide positive information about your candidacy.
Q: I am a new supervisor. I recently began the hiring process for a position which now reports to me. I have a question that I am embarrassed to ask anyone here. Several candidates have completed our company’s employment application in a very sparse way, answering some but not all of the questions. They often will write “see resume” or “see attached” particularly in the sections which ask about the candidate’s employment history. I am not sure if this is acceptable. Candidates often attach a resume to the application form. Do you have an opinion about this?
A: Great question. Let’s start off by discussing the purpose of an employment application. The purpose of an employment application is to collect and document job-related information about a candidate. If used, an employment application should be given consistently to all candidates for a specific position.
Resumes are usually developed by a candidate. The main purpose of a resume is to showcase a candidate's background and skills in the most positive light. There is no requirement to include all positions held or even accurate information. Some candidates will omit negative information, like a position from which they were terminated.
Most companies that use an employment application are looking for detailed and consistent information about a candidate. Often an employment application form will include “fine print” on the bottom or top of the form. The “fine print” discusses that the information provided should be truthful and complete. It may even explain that a candidate could be terminated if the information provided is not complete or truthful, regardless of when this misinformation is discovered.
Your instincts are on target. You should require all candidates to complete the employment application form. A resume may contain inaccurate or incomplete information. When a candidate signs an employment application, the candidate is agreeing that this form contains truthful and accurate information.
I would suggest explaining to candidates, in advance, that you require all candidates to complete the employment application fully. You can encourage candidates to submit a resume also but be clear that the completed employment application is required. I have even had to say “please don’t enter explanations like ‘see resume’ on the employment application form.”
Good luck in your new position!
Q: I have never seen this question in this column before. I am a hiring manager of a growing company. We are selectively adding to our team of engineers. Because of the economy, we have many qualified candidates from which to choose. Sometimes we narrow down the pool of candidates to a few final candidates and then select one that we think will best fit with the team. I have had to turn down many strong candidates. One candidate though has been a bit too overzealous in her follow-up. I often suggest to a strong candidate (who may have been turned down) to follow-up with me periodically. And most candidates will email me every few weeks if they are still interested and looking for a job. This is fine. However, recently, I had a candidate who called me 2-3X per week since May, 2011. Then she will email me minutes later saying that I have not returned her call. Her tone will be aggressive and demanding. She has asked our receptionist for my cell number saying that she has trouble reaching me. Once she even stopped by our reception desk and left a small gift for me. The last straw was that she found me on Facebook and has asked that I “friend” her. I am getting nervous about this woman. She is behaving in a way that is too forceful. I no longer will consider her for our next position. What can I do?
A: Thanks for your question and I can almost feel your anxiety as I read (and re-read) your question. I have run across a few candidates with similar behavioral traits. Simply said, these behaviors can be frightening.
You should put this candidate on notice that her follow-up behavior is beyond what is acceptable. Maybe you did not specify how frequently she should follow-up with you (e.g., once per week or once per month?) or what method (e.g., email or voicemail or only if you have seen a position posted on our website?). However, she has gone beyond what most would consider reasonable and professional limits.
I would suggest emailing this candidate a clear message. The email could read like this:
Mary, I have received all of your emails, voicemails and even a gift from you. I think your follow-up has been excessive. Please discontinue contacting me. I wish you the very best in your job search.
Sending an email provides a “paper trail” of evidence that unquestionably communicates to Mary that her behavior should stop. It may be helpful to have a copy of this email if you ever have to file a complaint against her.
If Mary’s behavior continues, you should consider further action to protect yourself and others in your company and family. If you have building security, I would notify them. You may also want to notify the local police. Stalking and harassment are against the law in Massachusetts.
Q. I am wondering what's the unspoken etiquette for applying back to the same company after being laid off. My girlfriend was laid off from a small start-up company, and the reason was the company couldn't keep her during this recession. Her boss/president told her that when the business picks up he would contact my girlfriend. This was 6 months ago.
Out of curiosity, I checked this company's website recently and found they are hiring. What does it mean that the former boss has not contacted my girlfriend? Her review shortly before the layoff was good, and I don't believe there was any animosity. Should I tell my girlfriend and encourage her to apply? Or does not being asked to return indicate that she is not welcomed, thus no need to waste her time and energy for it? We are getting financially desperate at this point.
Thank you so much for your help.
A. Yes, you should tell your girlfriend what you have learned, and yes, she should apply. The situation reminds me of the age-old adage: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
At this point what you know is your girlfriend was laid-off six months ago. You also know she received a good review and didn't perceive any negative vibes while she worked there. And you have discovered they are hiring again. What you don't know is why they haven't contacted her, and you'll never know if she doesn't contact them.
Sometimes I think we spend far too much time trying to second guess other people's motives and end up torpedoing ourselves in the process. If your girlfriend simply assumes they don't want her to apply or work there, then she'll never know if her assumption is correct or incorrect. The only way she'll know is to apply. Really, what is the worst that can happen? She doesn't get the job. On the other hand, she may discover they really did like her and want her back.
Your situation is a good reminder to employers to act on what they tell employees. If an employer indicates they will remain in touch and let a person know when a job opening occurs, then they should follow up. By doing what they say they'll do, employers create a positive image of themselves and their company, and that can only help them both in recruiting and in retention. That said, I would give your girlfriend's employer the benefit of the doubt and not read anything specifically negative into the fact that they haven't contacted her. They might have simply assumed she's gotten another job.
Q. I have been unemployed for over a year. I have applied to hundreds of jobs and only had a few interviews here and there. Office work, retail… I’ve been applying to everything with no luck. Since I’m home most of the day, I’ve decided to work on my dream of becoming an author. I’ve finished a novel (that hasn’t been published yet) and I wrote some short stories and freelance articles. I thought by putting I’m a writer on my resume would show that I’m proactive and I haven’t been sitting on my butt not doing anything the past year. Putting this on my resume has backfired because the past few job interviews I’ve been on, the interviewer implies that I would rather stay home to write then work for them. I’m barely making any money and I need a real job. How do I get a hiring manager to understand I’m serious about getting hired?
A. Your job search so far seems to be defined by what you haven't done more than what you have done over the last year. While I applaud working on your writing skills, effective job seekers aren't "home most of the day". Take a look at where you find motivation. Is writing a "dream", or an actual goal? You have applied for every kind of job there is, but with no target, or action plan it will be very difficult to show that you are serious about getting hired.
Hiring managers want to see that you have maximized your time off, especially when it is an extended period of time. But they also want to know what it is you can do for them. They need to see the skills, experience, knowledge, and capabilities you have and how they make you successful in the position.
Many job seekers succumb to the pressure of finding a job and forget to focus on what they have to offer. Many people go right into action mode, without taking the time to do a self-assessment to identify their skills, values and interests. Doing this work will help you develop the right target, and strengthen your answers to interview questions.
Right now your writing is a great avocation. Often the best job matches are made when an avocation, hobby or interest, is woven into a career. Focus on jobs where your work experience can be combined with your writing. You may need to develop a portfolio of writing samples, especially if you were paid to write them. Develop a broad target by looking into a variety of industries and functions to see which positions need the skill set you bring, and get active.
You can't conduct a successful job search at home. Build a great LinkedIn group. Set up face-to -face networking meetings to talk about the skill set you bring, and the kind of contribution you can make to an employer. Anticipate at least 100 face-to-face meetings before you find the right opportunity. It is a competitive market. Commit to using your skills in this next job. You can continue the writing and publishing on your own time, after you are employed.
Q: I am interviewing for a sales role for a medical device company. The company has asked me to fly out to their headquarters in southern California to meet with the VP of Sales and some of the other senior leaders. When we were discussing the possible travel dates and logistics, they said that they would need my exact name (not a problem) but also my date of birth. When I asked about the date of birth requirement, they said that this is a TSA regulations requirement. Isn’t it illegal to ask my date of birth at this stage of the interviewing process? Is the date of birth a valid TSA requirement?
A: You are right to be concerned about what you may be asked during the interview process. The law does limit, and in some cases, completely prohibit, an employer’s questions with respect to an applicant’s age, race, national origin, religion, disability, criminal history or other “protected class” status.
However, your situation is a bit different since traveling to the employer’s site was a required step in the interview process. I consulted Attorney Jeffrey A. Dretler, Partner of the Employment Law Group at Prince Lobel Tye LLP. Dretler confirmed my initial analysis. In short, the medical device company with whom you are interviewing has not violated the law if it requested your date of birth in order to make flight arrangements for you to travel to California to interview. Dretler explains, “The company is correct that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires all airlines to collect the date of birth and other information from its passengers. If this candidate booked his or her own travel, then the company would not need this candidate’s date of birth for this purpose and very likely would not have any other valid grounds for requesting the applicant’s date of birth at this stage of the interview process.”
Since the company with whom you are interviewing appears to be asking for your date of birth in order to comply with federal law (i.e., TSA regulations), the inquiry appears to be permissible under both federal and Massachusetts law. If the company were not making travel arrangements for you, and still was inquiring about your age or other protected class status, you should ask the company why it is requesting that information. If it does not appear to you to be related to legitimate job qualifications, you may wish to consider contacting a competent attorney or seeking guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Q: After nine years of service, I was laid off by a large Boston-based company in January, 2010. I have picked up some contract and consulting work for short periods of time through friends and colleagues. However, I can see from the interviewers’ faces that I need to work on a response to one question. I am tired of the question, “why do have such a large gap in your employment history?” I want to say, “because I was laid off…. isn’t that obvious?” These interviewers are so callous and don’t understand that being unemployed for over one year takes a toll on a person’s self-esteem. So Job Doc, how do I answer this question? I will follow your advice. I just need to know what to say.
A: Thank you for submitting your question. This question could have been written by hundreds of job seekers who share your frustration.
Let’s start with the positives. It sounds like you probably enjoyed a stable work history prior to being laid off. This is important information to convey and highlight during any interview. Also, you have secured some consulting and contract roles. These roles should be included on your resume and mentioned during the interview.
And that question, about the gap in your employment (however it may be phrased), should be expected. You will get that question again. Expect it, prepare for it and don’t let it irritate you. An interviewer is trying to find out what occurred during that gap. It could have been that you left your last company because you were tired of travel. Or you left your last role to care for a sick family member. Or you left because you were fired after you were linked to embezzling company funds. All three are possible reasons and all three reasons are very different.
Here is my best advice. When “the question” is asked, don’t get emotional. Expect it. Prepare for it. This part of the interview may play out like I’ve described below.
Interviewer from XYZ: So John, you have been out of work for over a year. That’s a long time. Tell me about the circumstances of when and why you left ABC and tell me what you have been doing since you left ABC.”
You: Jane, thanks for giving me an opportunity to explain. First, I should point out that I was with ABC for nine-plus years. I started with ABC right out of college and then was promoted three times. Like a lot of companies, they struggled financially in 2008 and 2009. I survived three layoffs but finally in early 2010, I was laid off too. As you probably recall 2010 was a tough year and a lot of Massachusetts-based companies were not hiring. Fortunately, through networking, I have been able to secure quite a few consulting roles with several small- and mid-sized companies. What I have learned is that I thoroughly enjoy working in smaller, entrepreneurial environments, much like XYZ.
In short, what you are communicating is that you:
1. have had a strong professional work history and that the lay-off was an aberration and due to the overall economic climate, not your performance
2. you are not bitter or angry but you are looking for your next opportunity with a positive outlook and enthusiastic demeanor
3. that you were proactive and an effective networker which enabled you to land several consulting roles
You have woven in many positive comments about yourself and your work history. Your final comment is linking your abilities and preferences back to the opportunity being discussed.
Every question asked during an interview is an opportunity. Don’t run from it or take offense! Instead prepare by crafting a response to showcase your abilities, skills and relevant experience.
Q: I am in my mid-50s and feel like I am being discriminated against in job interviews. How do I show to a potential employer that I could outwork any 30 year old with the same skill set? This employment market is difficult but even more difficult if you have a few gray hairs. Please don’t give me legal advice, just practical advice.
A: Unfortunately, discrimination does exist. And it may be impacting you personally in this job market.
But let me offer some practical counsel on how you can move an interviewer from thinking about your age to focusing on your capabilities. There are stereotypes associated with more mature job seekers. A short list of some of those stereotypes might include:
- being inflexible or rigid
- having outdated skills or work style
- being slow to pick up new ideas, concepts or skills
- working more effectively in a traditional, hierarchical environment (rather than a collaborative, open environment)
Knowing that these are common stereotypes, how can you demonstrate that these misconceptions don’t describe you as a candidate?
1. Dress and accessorize in a current way. Leave your 20-year old suit home. (Or better yet, donate it!) Walk through an office park or office building and observe how professionals are dressing. There is some variation between industries for sure. Ask a trusted colleague for candid feedback on your professional dress. Be willing to accept it and adapt if needed. Carry yourself in a confident and energetic manner. A 2010 www.boston.com article on the topic might be helpful - http://www.boston.com/jobs/galleries/interviewdress2010/.
I recently had to accept some difficult criticism from a family member regarding my style of casual dress. On a recent daytrip, I was told, “Ditch the fanny pack. It makes you look frumpy.” Hmmm… that feedback was hard to take. However, I no longer wear the fanny pack!
2. Be able to demonstrate that you have current skills. Talk about current technologies and trends in your industry. Don’t remember and recall days of the past when mainframes, live operators and little pink message slips were commonplace in most business environments. Avoid comments like: “I remember using a typewriter!” Although experience is helpful, employers are also looking for forward-thinking employees.
3. Provide examples where learning a new skill or talent was exciting. Weave into your interview real-life examples from your work or even personal life which show that you are vibrant, enthusiastic and energetic. I have a 60-plus year old sister who has both a bike and a kayak. She is the epitome of good health and energy. If you have similar interests, mention them in a casual way. (“Oh yes, I know exactly where your office is located. I enjoy the bike trail that runs behind your building almost every weekend in the spring.”)
4. Share examples of when you worked in a high energy, collaborative and unstructured environment. (“When I worked at ABC Inc., it was a high energy and very casual environment. It was an incredibly fun place to work. There was a group of us who took night classes at XYZ College right down the street.”)
If you knock down early age-related assumptions about you as a job seeker, an interviewer is more likely to re-focus on your skills, capabilities and potential as an employee. Discrimination does exist, no doubt. Neither one of us can eliminate it in the employment market. You can, however, be mindful of the common stereotypes, and try to re-direct the focus to your professional work experience and capabilities.
Q. I have a Ph. D. in life sciences and have been having a terrible time trying to find work. I finally got an interview with a fantastic, internationally renowned organization. I am qualified and know it would be a job I would excel at.
I had an initial phone interview with two of the top three executives/CEOs, and it went well. They flew me in for my second interview. I felt that these were good panel interviews - each an hour long - but sometimes you think it went well and perhaps it didn't.
I followed up with an email to all members I interviewed with, and I also sent a follow-up email to the CEOs I initially met. I was told that they would let me know their plans next week. Fast forward - it has been over a month, and no response. No email, letter, or phone call to let me know that they went in a different direction.
I find this extremely rude behavior for an organization of this caliber. How do I word a letter stating my feelings? – I want to point out that it is clear they have gone a different direction and I was not chosen, and that while I am disappointed in their notification process, I wish them the best.
A. Job seekers who are accomplished and degreed, as you are, still face disappointment and frustration in the job search. I am not sure you have taken this into account as an expected part of the process. Your frustration is understandable, and how you choose to deal with that feeling is important. You might consult a previous Job Doc article that I wrote on January 8th, 2009, titled Why No Updates After Job Interview?, for ideas on why this happens.
In your next interview, you will need to create a situation that ensures you can get feedback. This is within your control. Throughout interview processes, candidates are encouraged to develop relationships with all people involved in the search process, not just the most senior people. Early on, you probably spoke with the assistants to these senior staff members. Make valuable use of these interactions. They have access to a great deal of information, and are typically more accessible. Make sure you engage these people in your process. Ask about them, their lives, their jobs, and their responsibilities in the interview process. Ask their permission to call them if you need help or information.
Through these conversations, you will be able to follow up with assistants and receptionists after any step in the process –whether you want to learn how to submit for expense reimbursement, or find out where in the decision process the company is. You can call to ask if there is a best time to reach the person you would like to speak to, or if it easier to schedule a call. There are many reasons for a lack of follow up on the part of a company – plans change, perhaps they made an offer and want to wait to see if it was accepted. Burning any bridge, whether you feel it is justified or not, may feel better in the short term, but can cause long term damage to your search.
The reality is that you don’t need to send a “final” letter. It may provide you some “closure”, but you are really looking for the last word, which will not serve you well in this process.
Q. I have recently been offered a job contingent on my background check. The job is with a hedge fund, handling financially sensitive information (which I assume means they will perform a thorough background check). Would an open container ticket from 2008 in another state show up in the background check? Should I disclose it in the offer, next to the line stating, "Would you like to disclose any information prior to the background check?"
A. Congratulations on the job offer! Great industry and I applaud you for looking at the details involved in taking an offer to a fully successful close. People do have offers withdrawn for a host of reasons, and many people can’t believe this can actually happen.
Your goal is to make sure that the organization prepared to hire you has no obstacles in the way to making that happen. References and background checks are part of that assurance. Employers are sensitive to the backgrounds of their employees, and background checks can uncover small and large issues. Asking the question allowing you to “freely disclose” anything you might like to share can be frightening to people who may have small blemishes on their records.
I consulted with Attorney David Conforto, from Conforto Law Group, (confortolaw.com) a boutique law firm based in Boston specializing in employee legal support. Conforto reports “The timing of your offer is good! In August 2010, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law CORI Reform. This law became effective in November 2010 and restricts the criminal record information that Massachusetts employers can request from prospective employees even after the initial written application. Under the law, the employer's criminal background check cannot include: (1) felony convictions that have been closed for more than 10 years; (2) misdemeanor convictions that have been closed for more than 5 years; or (3) a prior first conviction for any of the following misdemeanors: drunkenness, simple assault, speeding, minor traffic violations, affray, or disturbance of the peace.”
There is great sensitivity in handling the issues and questions surrounding the offer and background check. Conforto recommends consulting with an attorney to make sure the job offer is contingent solely on a background check, preferably through e-mail. You need to ensure that you do not raise red flags by asking the question, and that your inquiry is seen as a clarification only. If the job offer is withdrawn, you will be certain it was solely because of the results of the background check.
Second, consult with an attorney in the state where the violation occurred to determine if it is considered a misdemeanor or a lesser offense. If it is a lesser offense, it should not be included as part of the background check. If the offense is, in fact, a misdemeanor, it is unclear at this point whether an open container violation satisfies the exclusion in the third prong as a ‘minor traffic violation’.
Always answer the questions on the background check truthfully. Do not raise issues, which do not need to be raised, and by doing your research prior to risking an offer, you should be able to pass the last screening step with no issues.
I went for a job interview this morning that was set up by a contract agency; I even showed up ten minutes early. They were interviewing another candidate. I waited until 25 minutes AFTER my scheduled time (a total of 35 minutes). I emailed the contract agency to advise them of the situation and then left. They called me when I got home to find out what was going on; but they really only seemed to be interested in the fact that their guy walked out and did not seem to understand or be interested in the principle behind my actions.
I feel that the interviewer could’ve at least come out to offer a time frame that I would be seen or an opportunity to reschedule. I felt that the employer had no regard for my time, and this was only an interview…what if I actually was hired by the company?
Is there a better way to handle such a situation? I feel that if I tolerate any degree of disrespect in an interview, either from a contract agency or an employer, then it will be an open door for it to continue.
R. K. H., Richmond, VA
How frustrating! Interviewers have a responsibility to manage their schedules and be on time. In spite of the interviewer’s breach of etiquette, and assuming you didn’t have another appointment that would be affected by the delay, by choosing to wait you would’ve learned a lot about this company from the way they handled their error. In the meantime, you could’ve asked the receptionist or administrative assistant who greeted you:
- if you had the right time for your appointment
- if the interviewer was aware of your arrival
- what the delay was
- if you were expected to wait or reschedule
If you absolutely had to leave, you could’ve communicated that, politely, to the receptionist. Despite the poor first impression this company’s staff has made on you, while you were still in the interview process, you had a chance to be a successful candidate. As you’ve discovered, by up and leaving it became all about your perceived lack of professionalism rather than about their lack of respect. Unfortunately, that’s how the contract agency sees the situation as well, and it may affect your success with landing future interviews. The better move may have been to stay and complete the interview and then pass along your dissatisfaction to the contract agency. Your case would’ve been much stronger if you made sure that you did all the things expected of you.
I am a believer that the job interview is a two-way street: you’re interviewing the company to see if it’s a place you want to work just as much as the company is interviewing you. There’s no question that the way a company treats a potential employee in the interview process says a lot about the culture of that company and how you can expect to be treated if you accept a job offer.
Q: In April, I had an informational interview scheduled with a friend of my cousin. I rarely drive into Boston and it causes me great anxiety when I do. I left plenty of time that morning but probably not enough time. Because of rain and highway construction delays, I never got there on time. I just turned around and came home. Now what do I do? I am so embarrassed that I really don’t want to admit what happened. Is it too late to send a note of apology? My cousin is irritated that I did this after he referred me to his friend.
A: We have all had those mornings when traveling to a location seems to be filled with hurdles, delays and hiccups. Here are some thoughts about how to best handle this in the future:
1. Think about scoping out the location, the route and the parking beforehand. Some people will even “take a dry run.” This means traveling to the location before your appointment to ensure that you know the area, the potential setbacks, parking options, etc. While this is often smart to do, you can not always anticipate traffic or weather delays. You should build in extra time for delays however. I often will use the 2X rule. If I expect a commute to take 30 minutes, I plan for a 60-minute commute.
2. Consider public transportation. Sometimes the stress of finding a parking spot, traffic delays, etc. can cause more hassle than the convenience of driving may be worth.
3. Don’t rely solely on a GPS for a new destination. I usually use both a GPS and a printed map.
If you are running late, it is a professional courtesy to call the person and ask if he or she can still meet. If not, offer another option.
In your specific situation, you should have called the person and explained that you were running late or needed to re-schedule. It is unacceptable to be a “no show” especially since you were referred by your cousin.
I would suggest apologizing to both your cousin and the person you were scheduled to meet. You made a mistake. I think it is important to acknowledge the mistake. You will have to decide whether it is worth it to reschedule this appointment. The other person may not give you a second chance. And if traveling to Boston provokes such feelings of anxiety on your end, it may be better for you to schedule conference calls with contacts in Boston.
Q. I have applied for a new job, and am very interested. All has gone well, and they asked me for references, including one from my current boss. My current boss does not know I am looking, and if he did, it would make things awkward at work. The hiring manager wants to discuss with me why I opted not to have her speak with my boss. Is this a common request? How should I handle it?
A. Providing references is a common request for job seekers. Your references should be valued and protected. Their names should not be released too early in the job search process. If you do not yet have an offer for the new job, you can be very honest and let the hiring manager know that your current boss does not know you are looking and would be disappointed to lose you. Let her know you have other references that are available, and that you’d be happy to provide those after an offer is made. This should not be a surprise to the hiring manager. It is a common situation, and your candor about the need to protect your current situation, and your significant desire to join the new organization will hopefully generate the offer you need to move forward.
Job seekers often leave the necessary work involved in providing references until the end of the job search - the offer stage - which can cause serious mistakes in the process, and provide less than effective references. The development of references starts with:
1. Select. Select 6 to 8 people who can speak well about your many professional
talents. Choose people senior to you, your current and former manager,
peers, external consultants with whom you worked. They should be committed to your success, eager to help you and they should know your work well.
2. Ask. The question isn't “Will you be a reference for me?”, but "Will you be a great reference for me?” You need advocates, not people who are lukewarm about your capabilities. Ask for permission. Do not list people as references if you have not asked and prepared them. Also know that just because you selected and asked a reference to support you, you may not choose to use them on some jobs, or at all.
3. Prepare. To do a good job as references, people need to be prepared. They must have a copy of your resume and be familiar with the contents. Prepare long before you actually need a reference to speak to anyone.
4. Present. When asked to provide references select the best, and most appropriate three from your prepared references. Provide name, title, relationship, email address, and the phone number where they can most easily be reached.
5. Communicate. Once you have given an interviewer your references, alert your reference to the job you are applying for and why is it such a great match. Provide a posting if possible. Explain any concerns the employer may have so that they can help overcome those objections. Provide the name, title, email address and phone number for the person who may be calling.
This process happens for each opportunity which gets to reference request stage. Stay in close contact with your references as they help you take job search activity to a successful ending.
Q. I have worked in the property and casualty field for 11 years and in healthcare for the last 4 years. I am interested in working for a specific property and casualty company.
I have received a phone call and an email in response to resumes sent for the same position posted at different times. I responded to the phone call with a few calls, but did not hear back. I responded to the email by email and then a few phone calls, but again, did not hear back.
One of the recruiters from this firm did visit my LinkedIn page. I am considering attempting to connect with the recruiter through LinkedIn. Is it appropriate to do so? What do I say? I am interested in even an entry level (e.g., call center) position despite being a qualified insurance professional with management experience.
A. LinkedIn is made for connecting and there is etiquette suggested by LinkedIn and practiced by effective users of this great tool. One of the worst ways to use LinkedIn is to try to connect to people that you do not know, and want something from. “Linking” is a mutual activity. There needs to be a benefit to both parties. Many people see others who are part of a larger group, and attempt to link individually without a clear sense of why the other party would want to connect. Unless you are able to be introduced to a person, consider communicating without inviting someone to link.
There is something positive in your resume or profile which attracted the attention of the recruiter, but it seems there may also be something which puts an end to that interest before you make it to the next step. Review your written material with a critical eye. Ask a respected colleague from the property and casualty industry for feedback. You may need to make changes to something which is raising red flags. People may also wonder why you left the industry 4 years ago, and you may need to make that information understandable and positive.
Focusing all your energy on one firm is not a good job search idea. There are many reasons why an organization would not choose to follow up on a candidate. What is it about this specific firm that has your interest? Perhaps there is a history with people or relationships here, which may be part of the lack of interest on their part. I would try to communicate with the recruiter via email. There is no need to request a link. You may get the answer to your questions and, if not, be prepared to move on.
In regards to the actual position - being flexible about the level of position you would be willing to consider is positive, but you seem ready to take this to the extreme by considering an entry level role. Those types of comments from any job seeker lead to red flags for hiring managers. Confident candidates, particularly with 11 years of experience, focus on the value they add to an organization, and are more attractive to hiring managers.
Q. I’ve been wondering about this question for a while. One of my colleagues left my firm a few years ago (maybe 3-4?) and asked if she could list me as a personal reference. I told her it was OK and willingly spoke with potential employers about her. Fast-forward to the current time, and she’s still listing me as a personal reference. I haven’t kept contact with this person, and I’m no longer comfortable being a personal reference. I’d appreciate hearing any hints on how I can relay that information to potential employers. I don’t know anything negative about this person, I just haven’t been in contact with her for a few years (and have no way of getting in contact with her now). Thanks.
J. C., Fairfax, VA
A. When all else fails, a little benevolent honesty goes a long way to solving a problem. Rightly so, as you have lost contact with this former colleague, your comfort level for providing a reference has diminished with the passage of time.
You have two options to solve the problem. Wait for the next company to call asking for a reference. Explain the situation to the caller, “Jim, while I’d like to give you some insight into Jane’s capabilities, the fact is I haven’t been in touch with her since she left ABC Corp four years ago. It’s been long enough since then that I’m uncomfortable answering your questions now. Would you please provide me with her current address so I can contact her to discuss this?” Or, you could contact the last company that called you and in a similar manner ask for Jane’s address so you can contact her. It’s important you make the effort to find Jane or you will continue to have to respond to companies seeking a reference from you about her.
As individuals build a network that includes people who are willing to provide references, it’s important to stay in touch with the people in the network. Do so not only when seeking a job, but also while you are on the job so your network participants know what you are doing and can speak about you from a position of current knowledge.
If, over time, you are still providing a person’s name as a reference, do yourself and the person the courtesy of re-asking their permission before simply providing their name as a reference. Otherwise you risk having the person tell the company he or she is no longer willing to give a reference, and that is not what you want your prospective employer to hear about you.
Q: My employer routinely recruits from the outside of the company, without giving internal employees the opportunity to apply for available positions. I am tired of it. I would like to know about internal opportunities before others find out about it. What’s your opinion?
A: In most cases, it is a good practice to encourage internal employees the opportunity to explore available positions within a company. After all, most company leaders would prefer to retain talent within the company structure rather than have that talent look outside the company. There are times when it might make sense to recruit for new hires outside the company though. Some reasons may be:
1. The employer wants to bring in a fresh perspective, perhaps even from a competitor.
2. The company feels like no one internally is qualified. This is often easier to assess for a smaller company.
3. The company is looking for a specific expertise (e.g., a certain level of competence in a new software program or a specialized clinical expertise which is not available internally).
4. The position may be an entry-level role.
I can understand your frustration however. Especially after a period of economic distress and limiting hiring activity, many employees are eager to see new opportunities posted internally. Posting a position internally sends several messages to the employees, including:
1. We are hiring. We are alive. We are doing ok.
2. The career growth of our employees is important to us.
3. We want to retain talent.
4. Even if no one is qualified internally, perhaps an employee may know of candidates outside the company that may be suitable.
As a general rule, I fully support the posting of internal positions. However, there may be times when there are business reasons that support considering external talent. Lastly, there also may be instances where an internal candidate is qualified and could be promoted into an available role.
Q. I am 45 and have over ten years experience in the research field, but I am stuck. I can't seem to get to another level. I keep seeing younger and less experienced people get the same jobs I apply for, but am deemed "unqualified" for. It feels like my career is over, as I am stuck at a low level job, making less than when I started out.
What can I do?
A. Plateaus in careers can happen for a few reasons, and with an honest assessment, you can identify your challenges and work on a development plan which may blast you out of your rut.
The range of areas to start your assessment is wide. But I'll start with some basic questions. Are you healthy? Are you physically and emotionally fit? If not, I encourage you to seek support so that your answer can be a solid yes to both of these questions.
Take all of your past performance reviews. Read them carefully. Identify all direct and indirect comments regarding "opportunities for development", or areas to work on. Don't argue or disagree. Divide a blank sheet of paper with a line down the center of the sheet. Label one side "personal attributes" and the other "professional attributes". Assign each comment into the appropriate column.
If this does not give you enough data, you will need to find colleagues and friends you trust, and ask them to deliver "brutally honest feedback" delivered kindly, to help you identify the personal and professional blind spots which may be stalling your movement. Add these to the list you started earlier. Is the personal attribute side more heavily weighted, or the professional side?
You may find that this review gives you insight to the areas which may be stalling your career. Does it look like you need professional skill development, or to address issues in your personal style or behaviors? As people become more senior on the job, career derailers are most often found in the personal style categories. Arrogance is one of the main offenders, joined by lack of team performance, and the inability to take constructive feedback. Pay extra attention if you find these on your areas for development.
If you identified professional skill set weaknesses, review what you can develop on your own, and what you may need external training or coursework to improve.
Putting together, and implementing a plan for action in both these areas will need the support of others. You can approach a human resources leader, or a trusted and supportive manager, or close colleagues. Taking charge of what you can change can have a significant positive impact on your career. Assuming that age discrimination at your young age is the culprit won't help you go as far as you would like.
Q. In an interview, before a panel of interviewers, when the interviewee enters the room, must the panel members stand? Does it depend on whether the interviewer is male or female? Older or younger? Lower or higher in rank? Thanks for any help you can provide.
G. M., Atlanta, GA
A. Your question implies that a panel of interviewers did not stand up. I have to wonder why they would choose not to stand to greet the interviewee. Standing up is such a simple act of respect, and standing when the interviewee enters the room is a welcoming gesture that sets a positive tone to the start of the interview. By showing that measure of respect, the interviewers define the positive respectful place the business is. Does age, gender, or a difference in rank matter? In terms of the basic gestures of respect we expect of each other, no they do not. Male or female, older or superior, they should stand to greet the interviewee.
One of the things I tell interviewees is that the interview process is a two-way street. As much as a company is taking the measure of you, you should be using the interview as an opportunity to take stock of the company and to answer one question: Is this a company I want to work for? How they treat you is an important clue as to how you can expect to be treated as an employee. Do they show the respect you know you should accord them? In this case, since you would stand to greet them, do they stand or do they remain seated? Do they ask inappropriate questions? Are they engaged and listening or do they seem bored and distracted? How they treat you is a mirror reflecting the culture of the company they represent, and you will find you are either attracted to it or repelled by it.
So much has been written about how interviewees are meant to behave during an interview. But there’s very little advice directed at the interviewers. Interviewers should stand, look the interviewee in the eye, shake hands firmly, introduce themselves, and offer guidance as to where to sit. They should do their homework and be prepared with questions they want to ask. They should listen attentively as the candidate presents him or herself and answers their questions. At the end of the interview, they should let the candidate know what the next steps are and when a decision can be expected. And finally, they should be sure to thank the candidate and then follow up by sending a thank you note.
Q: I have been a stay at home mom for the past ten years. I am interested in pursuing adjunct teaching at a local college or university. I did teach about 10 years ago but my contacts there may have moved on. I have about 15 years of professional work experience and several advanced degrees. What is the best way to inquire about these jobs?
A: Congratulations on your interest in returning to teaching! Let’s start by exploring your prior teaching experience.
Try to re-establish a relationship with some of these contacts. You might want to even stop by the college and visit. Or check the college’s website to see if there are any names familiar to you. Additionally, you could check LinkedIn to re-connect with employees currently working there as well as former employees. Colleges (and other employers) often like to re-hire quality talent. Re-hires often “hit the ground” a bit more quickly than other newly hired employees who have no or little experience with the employer.
You should also update your resume if you have not done so. Ensure that you have a focus on your higher education experience, especially teaching. Also, begin gathering your professional references.
Begin networking and using other job hunting tools. Social media of all types can be useful in a job search. Spend about 75% of your job search time networking and not behind a computer. Networking with professional and social contacts is still the best way to find out about job opportunities.
Also check out higher education-specific websites. One site in particular to visit is higheredjobs.com.
Lastly, familiarize yourself with how technology has impacted higher education, especially with the evolution of e-learning and online learning options. During the last 10 years, technology has had an incredible impact on how content is delivered to students.
Q: I am a freshman in college. I want to get into a professional sales career when I graduate from school. What can I be doing through my college years to gain some good experience? I don’t want to land a dead-end job after graduation.
A: I am impressed by your question, especially coming from a college freshman. Some of the best and smartest resources available to me are my clients. I consulted Jon Carson, CEO of BiddingForGood in Cambridge. The engine of Jon’s e-commerce business is his inside sales team. Jon’s advice:
The best route is to see if you can find an internship working in an inside sales organization in a role as a lead qualifier or an appointment setter. Just as marketing has trended to the web because of the inherent measurement, sales is trending to the inside model vs. outside because of the increased measurability. The field of sales is trending from art to science so you need to find an internship that will expose you to the science of sales. One way is to intern in a support role in CRM administration for tools like Salesforce or Landslide.
Sales roles are increasingly measurable. Few sales folks get to spend days on the golf course anymore. Instead, they are constantly filling their pipeline, developing a good referral base and closing business.
Internships and summer/part-time jobs are a great way to test the waters for sales (or any industry). Plus, you will be gaining valuable experience. Good sales people are often tenacious, motivated by a goal or a metric and resilient. Resiliency is important. Why? Sales people tend to be told “no thanks” more often than not. It is critical to be able to be able to make your next call with the same energy, passion and enthusiasm. You have to be able to shake setbacks and move on.
Lastly, think about joining LinkedIn now. LinkedIn is an online networking tool. The more contacts that you have when you graduate, the better.
Q: I am trying to look for a job because my company has just announced a merger. I fear that I will lose my job when all the internal departments are reviewed. I always hear about networking when looking for a new job. How can I do that while working full-time?
A: You are smart to be proactive. And yes, my mantra to job seekers is always “network, network, network and then network a bit more!” Most job seekers find jobs through a colleague, professional contact, friend, neighbor or relative. Ideally, you should have a strong and vibrant network even when you are not looking for a job. When you launch a search, it is not an onerous task if you have a strong network of professional contacts.
Looking for another position while employed is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you have a job and income. Often job seekers who are actively employed are more appealing to a prospective employer. I hear this from unemployed job seekers all the time – that they feel there is a stigma associated with being unemployed. The challenge is a search takes time and time is tough to find when you are employed, especially if your current role requires long hours.
You still have to find time to network though. Breakfasts or early morning coffees are attractive options for many professional. Lunches with local contacts may also be an option. A sparkling water or beer after hours is sometimes possible. Although not a substitute for networking, Linkedin can save you valuable time with establishing and re-establishing contacts. Although not always a popular choice, I have met with colleagues and contacts on weekends when time is simply not available during the week. While some are open to weekend meetings, some are not. Realize that some may consider weekends off-limits. Lastly, telephone meetings can work if over-scheduled calendars or geography prevents an in-person meeting.
You can also effectively network at social events that might already be on your calendar. Think about some of the springtime events that you may be attending. Are these events that could possibly lead to job opportunities? Maybe sitting at a child’s lacrosse game can have a dual purpose after all? Maybe an alumni mixer is a good place to re-connect with a few old faces? Perhaps a Memorial Day cookout is a place to make a few new connections?
Q. Do you have tips for phone interviews? Also, which time slot in an interviewing cycle is the best?
A. As the cost of travel and the demand for brevity increase, more initial screening is being completed by phone. In the interest of efficiency, many first interviews and even follow-up conversations are done over the phone, through Skype and by way of other virtual meeting techniques.
So how do you stand out if the interviewer has only your voice to judge? First, begin by looking at the bright side – outfit choice, eye contact, hand shaking, traffic, parking – all the idiosyncrasies of interviewing, are no longer an issue. The phone eliminates many of the stressful, physical requirements of the interview process and allows you and the interviewer to focus on your words alone.
Interestingly, there have been many studies done on how people are perceived by voice alone - and content is not the main factor that is evaluated. The tone and pace of your voice are what will set you apart. As silly as it may sound, you will want to practice with both of these prior to your interview. Similarly, where you hold the phone affects how you will sound. Practice with a friend to see how close the phone should be to your face, or decide if headphones work better for you as they allow your hands to be free.
Then, get dressed! Don’t participate in the phone interview in your pajamas – getting dressed will make you feel more confident and thus sound more confident. Some Professional Communicators believe standing makes all the difference. Stand over a desk where you have already prepared your notes, resume, list of questions, eyeglasses, and anything else that you might need. Standing will allow you to breathe more deeply and sound better. However, keep in mind that standing means standing still, not walking around. If you are pacing your home office, opening cabinets, or shuffling papers while interviewing you may run the risk of being heard through the phone by your interviewer - so stay put.
Also, though phone interviews are done in the interest of time, do not feel rushed. Take your time and actively listen as if the person were sitting directly in front of you. Lastly, make sure you smile! Smiles can be heard through the phone. You still need to develop a relationship, even if you don't meet face-to-face.
To the question about interview time slot: if you have a choice on the interview slot, review when you are at your best. Are you a morning person? Go for it and hope the interviewer will be awake too. A night owl should close out the business day and showcase the high energy they still have. Stay away from before or after lunch - the interviewer might be hungry or drowsy, and you won't have their focus.
In any interview the goal is to express your qualifications and personality. In a phone interview, don’t forget to be charming and interesting as well as informative. Though the phone interview process is awkward, use this as an opportunity to showcase your ability to adapt.
Q: I am working as a contractor for a small start-up. I hope to be hired soon by them. I have a dilemma though. They are interviewing a former neighbor of mine. I know this person is a convicted felon and he has spent some time in jail a few years ago for fraud. I don’t know if this company does background checks or not since I have not officially been hired by them. This company’s hiring process is very casual and informal. Do I have an obligation to inform this company? I don’t want to start trouble but I also feel very awkward in not disclosing what I know to someone. Any recommendations?
A: You are in a quandary. Let’s explore your legal obligations (if any) first.
To better address your legal obligations, I consulted Attorney Jeffrey A. Dretler, Partner of the Employment Law Group of Prince Lobel Glovsky & Tye LLP. Dretler offers, “In the circumstances described, assuming you did not enter into any contractual obligation to make such disclosures, there is no legal obligation requiring you to disclose what you know about your former neighbor to anyone at the company. At the same time, assuming you did not become aware of the information in a privileged or confidential setting (e.g. doctor-patient or attorney-client relationship), there is no legal obligation prohibiting you from disclosing what you know to the company. That being said, acting or failing to act each may have consequences that you need to carefully consider.”
Let’s assume you do disclose this information to the company. Then, as a result of your disclosure, your neighbor does not receive a job offer. Your neighbor could discover that it was you who provided information to the company. Dretler explains that in this situation, your neighbor “could try to bring a civil cause of action against you for interference with prospective advantageous relations or even defamation. If the information you provided to the company was true, and was motivated by your belief that the company’s interests were best served by knowing the information, and not based on malice, your neighbor will not succeed on his or her claims against you.” The employer will likely appreciate this information in advance of extending a job offer to this candidate.
Alternatively, let’s assume you do not make the disclosure and the company hires your former neighbor. If a problem surfaces with this new employee, and the company finds out that you knew about this person’s history and did not disclose it, it may reflect poorly on your judgment and commitment to the company.
In short, you will need to weigh both the benefits and the risks of the situation. You will also need to assess your own moral and ethical compass. If this situation were with a client of mine, I would hope that you would disclose this information to a company representative such as the human resources officer, hiring manager or CEO/president. Be clear that you are making the disclosure with the best interests of the company in mind, and not because of any personal malice against your former neighbor. Ask them to verify what you know to eliminate any possible misinformation or error in your recollection. When providing information to the company, distinguish between the information you know to be true and that which you may be less sure about, and do not spread any of this information to people who do not need to know it. Hopefully, by following these steps, you will not feel as if you are keeping important information from the company you hope to become more a part of, nor will you feel as if you are doing something to cause trouble for another.
Q: I am new at this job search stuff. I feel like I am getting a canned response when I ask HR why I didn’t get the job offer. They always say something like: “A candidate who more closely matches our needs was selected.” I want to know the real reasons. How can I learn and improve my job search skills if real feedback is not given? What are some of the real reasons that you see?
A: I appreciate your search for candid feedback. It is important information but not always shared. Job seekers do sometimes eliminate themselves from the selection process for some very “fixable” reasons.
Here is my list:
1. Not checking email or voicemail. There have been dozens of candidates that I have tried to contact this year and I don’t hear back from them. Or I hear back from them way too late in the process.
2. Saying something inappropriate in the interview. Candidates complain about former supervisors, talk way too much about their kids (including showing me photos of their kids during the interview), describe their hassles with the MBTA or bring up topics that are irrelevant to the job for which they are interviewing.
3. Candidates treat a telephone interview too casually. There is a dog barking or kids in the background. I had one candidate schedule a telephone interview with loud music playing in the background.
4. Not wearing the appropriate clothing for an interview. It is better to over dress than to under dress. I have heard more than one hiring manager recommend: “when in doubt, wear a suit.”
5. Candidates who apply for every job … whether it is a VP of Marketing or a Purchasing Agent.
6. Typos, poor grammar, etc. on resumes and within emails and cover letters. Or a candidate will direct their cover letter to “Dear Mr. Smith” and Mr. Smith is not the correct name but they have forgotten to edit the name. Or they identify a company in their cover letter and it is the wrong company name!
7. No follow-up. Candidates should email a quick note thanking me and the hiring manager.
8. College degree. It almost always helps. Finish your degree. Completing 3.5 years of college is not the equivalent of earning a degree.
9. Be succinct, clear and concise in your verbal and written communications. Avoid the overuse of “ya know,” “like,” or profane language. It signals unprofessionalism.
10. Visible tattoos, piercings in unusual places and black fingernail polish might be fine for some work environments but not ours. Do your research before you walk in the door of the company.
I have shared some of the many reasons why candidates don’t get offers. Sometimes these real reasons are not shared with candidates because candidates can become defensive and angry. However, there is some truth in what I have shared.
Q: I was laid off nine months ago. I have had great success with landing interviews. However, I seem to be a finalist but never receive an offer. I am getting frustrated and discouraged.
During a recent interview, I had a hiring manager ask me why I have been unemployed for so long. His tone of voice and body language made me feel horrible. I felt very defensive and know I did not respond in the appropriate way. I babbled some answer that I can’t even accurately recall. I thought I knew all the toughest interview questions but this one really stumped me. What is the best way to answer this question? I felt like screaming a response like “This has been the worst recession in 30 years…. Have you read a newspaper lately?”
A: Let me begin on a positive note. Your resume and professional work history must be impressive. Why do I believe this? You are being interviewed and rising to the top of a probably very large pool of talent. There are many (sometimes hundreds!) talented candidates who are vying for every available position – both employed and unemployed candidates. With each and every interview, you have gained valuable experience. This can only work to your advantage.
When asked a tough or unusual question, I advise to first take a moment to think about it before formulating a response. You can even respond… “I don’t think I have been asked that question during my search. Let me give it some thought.” A short response like this can buy you a moment or two. It is best to respond in a factual, open yet positive way. One way to respond might be:
I don’t think I have been asked this question during my search. Let me think about your question for a moment.
First, I should point out that prior to this period of recent unemployment, I was gainfully employed for 22 years. I began as a marketing intern during my senior year of college and then ultimately rose to the director of marketing role. I am thankful that I can pursue a passion for a living. I really enjoy the field of marketing. I was very effective in the areas of web analytics, customer acquisition and retention metrics as well as selling sponsorships.
As we have discussed, I was laid off, along with 57 colleagues, in the summer of 2010. As you know, the economic climate has been a challenge for job seekers. There are so many strong candidates applying for every available position. Fortunately, I have picked up some contract work over the past several months. I was hoping that the contract roles would lead to a full-time role but that has not been the case.
I am searching for a full-time marketing role.
A job seeker should answer a question completely and honestly but also capitalize on the opportunity to showcase the successes and strengths. It is fine to begin with a short response that buys you a bit of thinking time. Then, highlight some of your strengths – your stable work history (before this bout of unemployment), the upward trajectory of your career, your areas of expertise in your field, etc. Additionally, if you have worked as a consultant, contractor, point this out! And consider including these contract roles in your current resume to help fill the gap. Lastly, end on a professional and encouraging note. Avoid being defensive or irritated. Being defensive, annoyed or irritated at one question can diminish your ability to advance in the process.
I am thrilled that you didn’t yell “This has been the worst recession in 30 years…. Have you read a newspaper lately?” Sure, I can understand why you would want to respond in this manner. But it doesn’t help you land a job.
Keep swinging. Don’t let an interviewer’s question get under your skin and rattle you.
Q. I spent four years in a high-stress job in finance, regularly working 60 - 70 hours per week. I was laid off 1 year ago, and since then I have rediscovered my love for reading, writing, and life outside of the office. I'd like to return to financial services, since I have substantial knowledge, experience, and certification, but I'm not interested in another high-stress, time-demanding role. Many employers are afraid to hire someone looking to take a step back, since they are likely to leave at their first chance to move back up. So, how do I communicate that I am a conscientious, hard-working employee who's just not interested in working over 40 hours per week?
A. You don't. Employers don't want clock watchers. They do want conscientious hard working employees who will do what it takes to get the job done. You don't benefit from putting limits like that up front in dealing with employers. The realizations about what you want in your next role are key to the next steps in your job search.
You have done some great assessment work which will guide you, and does not need to be shared with an employer. You have reached new conclusions, and identified the kind of position you are looking for, and potentially the kind of environment you want to work in. You have also found that you'd like to lead a more balanced life, where your time spent at work is offset by a range of interests outside of the office. These goals can be met without waving a red flag saying "I need to leave at 5" to an employer. Employers will have a different list of what they want from an employee, and finding the match is where it all starts to work.
The new awareness you have developed can set a direction for you. You can use the additional job search skills of networking and research to identity cultures, industries, and organizations where working 60 hours a week or more is not the norm. Here is where you make decisions on whether to try and engage in interviews with companies who have a reputation for burning out employees, or taking the time to focus on different roles, or industries where balance is more easily attained. You may need to adjust your compensation requirements, which could enlarge the pool of potential employers.
Your networking contacts can introduce you to managers who are looking for hardworking, talented people, particularly when they are reassured that the person isn't looking for a short term opportunity, and doesn't see a lateral move or a move back as failure, or slacking. These companies do exist. As do companies who are looking for talented, hard working people who are willing to work more than 40 hours a week when there is a business need to do so.
You may also want to add information to your resume which showcases activities you dedicate time to outside of work, which you are comfortable discussing in an interview. Good hiring managers want to see that people have outside interests.
Some people believe that taking a career step back will make them achieve balance in their lives. You may be surprised that you find there are high stress jobs, and there are high stress people who bring their type A behavior to any job, and any environment.
You greet the job applicant in the lobby: "Did you have any trouble finding us?" you ask.
You're the interviewer, and you've got two questions - this isn't one of them. This is a filler.
Filler questions break the ice.
But we also use them when we're desperate. Sometimes with a problem - any problem - we don't know what we need to learn, or, if we do know, we're unsure how to learn it.
Consider the problem of hiring the right person:
1) What do you need to learn about the applicant? That depends on what's required to do this particular job and fit into this particular organization.
2) How will you learn it? What are the best questions?
"Tell me about yourself," you ask the applicant.
That's a classic opener: you start broad (without telegraphing your intent), then later you drill down.
What's underneath your opener - and many other questions - is one of your two Big Questions: "Why should we hire you?"
The applicant, if skilled, will ask questions to figure out what you're looking for. Then he will answer your big question.
Applicant: "Well, I could talk about my marketing background, my leadership experience, or my last triathlon. Where should I start?"
Here, the he has asked a smart counter-question. He gives you some options, plus some fast, bulleted info.
You: "Let's talk marketing. Any experience with social media?"
Is social media experience a must-have? What, exactly, are you looking for? Why?
Applicant: "Yes! To launch our new office machine - a combo fax, copier, and microwave oven - we made a series of You Tube videos called 'Indestructible.'"
So far, the applicant is doing OK. Unfortunately, he's about to get worse.
You: "Suppose your boss were sitting here. What kind of constructive feedback might she give you?"
Here's the other Big Question you're fishing for: "Why shouldn't we hire you?"
Applicant: "Well, she'd say I'm too aggressive."
You: "In what way?"
When someone uses abstractions, like "aggressive," don't pretend you understand. Ask for specific examples.
Applicant: "For the You Tube campaign, 'Indestructible,' my concept was to first spill coffee on the machine, then drop it on the floor, then hurl it out a window, and then take a sledgehammer and try to bludgeon the thing to death . . ."
You: "OK. We'll get back to you."
Tip: Whether you're meeting a client, coaching an employee, or interviewing a job applicant, figure out what you really need to learn - and then, how to ask.
© Copyright 2011 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
Q: I've applied for a few jobs through an online application system and I'm able to check the status of my application. However, they all still currently say "Application Received." I know from someone who works at this company that the next step is "Under Review." Is there anything I can do to get the HR manager to take a look at my application?
A: More and more companies are automating their candidate selection process. Many larger employers use online application systems. These application systems sometimes require a candidate to complete an online “fill in the box” application. Other systems receive resumes via a centralized email address and scan the resumes into a candidate tracking system. It is helpful to know that your online application was received. However, from a candidate’s perspective, you want to know more. Not only do you want to know more, but the sooner the better! To a candidate, days of waiting feel like weeks of waiting!
You mention that you have an internal contact at this company. This contact could be very valuable to you. It would be helpful to better understand what the typical timeframe is between the “Application Received” to “Under Review?” Is it 10 days? 21 days? Or is it never for candidates of no interest? Your friend may be able to find out more information about these timeframes.
Additionally, can your friend put in a good word for you? Can your contact perhaps email the HR manager recommending you as a candidate? If your contact at this company is a former colleague, this may be very helpful to your candidacy.
Do you know others at this company? Have you scoured your LinkedIn connections and other professional contacts to determine if there are others that could be helpful in your search?
Recommendations carry weight. Recommendations coming from former colleagues or supervisors can be especially persuasive.
Lastly, you could email the HR manager asking for an update. This may be risky because you don't want to irritate the HR manager. I would recommend that the tone of this email be courteous, professional and demonstrate interest in the company and in the role.
Q. A friend of the family was interested and qualified for a finance position at the company my wife works for, and he asked my wife if she could pass his resume to the recruiter at her company. Five months have passed and there has been no contact from the recruiter or the hiring manager. My wife has been brushed off when she inquires and the role is not filled as of today.
Our friend is frustrated, and my wife is embarrassed. She has asked me if this is how human resources departments work. This is one area where HR people are getting a bad name and they can control it. Will they? Jobs need filling and people need jobs.
A. Employee referrals can be a highly effective way for organizations to find the right people for the right jobs. In a good economy many companies use employee referral programs as an incentive to current employees who refer high quality candidates that will fit into the culture. In the current economy, some employers have decided not to keep these bonus programs in place, but that shouldn’t stop employees from making referrals, or companies from paying attention to the candidates employees refer to the organization.
One of the most effective ways to make an employee referral is through an email introduction. And it may not be too late for your wife to try to get some attention from HR in this way. She should send an email to the hiring manager, the recruiter and the vice president of human resources, attaching your friends resume. In the email, she can copy the job posting, and address the personal characteristics your friend has which would make him a strong candidate. She might decide to copy or blind copy your friend so that he is totally confident she has done her part.
She should also ask both of them to get back to her about their reaction to the candidate and what the next steps might be – only so she can get back to the candidate. If they understand she will take the responsibility for rejection, they might choose to get back to her. If they are interested, they will move forward. Copying the vice president of human resources make the referral more visible, and will help your wife in case she doesn’t get a response.
Also, I encourage your wife and anyone making a referral to visit their offices, or make a phone call to the manager, and the recruiter to find out what to say to the candidate. It should be easier than this, but when people have too much to do, as most human resources people do, even important tasks fall through the cracks.
Candidates need to know that urgency to fill a specific job often comes and goes as competing priorities move in. Keep steady pressure on all your efforts in the most positive way. Frustration is such a huge part of the job search, and finding ways to keep it our of your professional presentation is a must. Continue to utilize employee referrals as one more way to build a successful job search strategy.
Recently, Steve Hartman at CBS News did a report on thank you notes that included an interview with John Kralik whose book, 365 Thank Yous (Hyperion, December 28, 2010) was just published in time for the 2010 holiday thank you note season.
While this book focuses on Kralik’s effort to write thank you notes each day, it raises the interesting question: “Why should we write notes to people?”
The answer, in a nutshell, is that notes - thank you and otherwise - are a way of staying connected that is personal, that people appreciate, and is memorable. In this electronic age our communications are rapidly becoming more and more impersonal as we find faster and faster ways to get that communication done. Text-speak is just the latest example of faster is better: ‘b4’ for “before,” ‘cul8r’ for “see you later,” ‘lol’ for “laughing out loud.” The examples are legion. While they make sense in a text as long as they are decipherable by the uninitiated, you don’t want those abbreviations creeping into your business communications—emails, reports, or letters.
The time and effort it takes to think about the recipient, to compose and hand write the note, to address and mail it, and the tactile feel of nice note paper makes it a communication that says, “You are important to me.” When I’m asked what’s the difference between an email thank you and a handwritten one, I explain that an email is written, sent, received (hopefully) among many other emails in a day and read (hopefully), and then deleted. After a handwritten note is received and read, it is most likely put down on a desk or counter, or posted on a wall where it is seen and remembered repeatedly. “Would you rather be deleted or remembered?” I ask the questioner. The answer is self-evident.
The heart of the issue is the personal nature of a handwritten note. One of my greatest concerns about the evolution of electronic communications is the loss of the “personal” in those communications. While email, texting, and chatting are great business tools, their everyday use simply doesn’t carry the same importance, permanence, or meaning as a handwritten note. The note itself evokes your presence when it is opened, held, and read. The handwritten note is a perfect way to stand out from the crowd and of keeping you foremost in the recipient’s thoughts.
Sure, email and other forms of electronic communication are here to stay and they do a great job to keep businesses humming along at warp speed, but it doesn’t lessen the value of occasionally sending a handwritten note, something that stands out and honors the recipient.
As Kralik and Hartman have discovered, recipients really appreciate it.
Q. I have been unemployed (laid off) for just over a year now. I have had only a handful of interviews, and can't get past that point. I am a mid-career worker, with no specific profession. I feel that my master's degree in art is preventing me from getting more interviews, as it is not a requirement for any of the jobs I am interested in, and probably makes me appear "over qualified." What are the legal/ethical/moral implications of dropping it from my resume? Thanks!
A: You are smart to reach out and ask for help and advice. There are a couple of pieces of advice and comments that I would like to share.
First, when you share that you have “had only a handful of interviews,” this statement concerns me. More specifically, I question how you are presenting your work history in a resume. Take a critical look at your resume. Use the resources available online at http://www.boston.com/jobs/advice/. Consider having a trusted friend and/or colleague critique your resume.
You mention that you are “a mid-career worker, with no specific profession.” Hmm… this piece of information is a yellow flag to me. If you can not determine your profession, it must be even a greater challenge for someone who is reviewing your resume!
Your resume should be reflective of your professional work history and education. Sometimes job hunters do omit certain less relevant pieces of information from their resume. For example, if a job seeker held a bartending job part-time, the job seeker should probably not include this information when they apply for a position at a tax consulting firm. Sometimes job seekers will even tailor a resume to a specific job and re-order past job responsibilities. For example, if a position requires international experience, a job seeker may tailor their summary.
Original summary: Highly accomplished finance and accounting manager with over 20 years of experience in public accounting.
Revised summary: Highly accomplished finance and accounting manager with over 20 years of experience in public accounting. Strong international experience, primarily with clients from Japan, UK and Europe.
Most job seekers should not include every experience in their work history but include only relevant work experiences. However, when you are completing an employment application, it is important to include a complete and accurate representation of your work history (including academic qualifications) to the best of your ability.
If you do remove your advanced degree from your resume, you should be willing to provide a reasonable explanation for omitting this information. This is particularly important since a hiring professional may compare a completed employment application to your resume. One plausible explanation to consider: "As you can see from my completed employment application, I earned a Master's of Arts in 2005. It does not relate to the account executive role that I am pursuing. My resume includes my work experience that is most relevant to the account executive role. Art is a passion of mine but not a career interest."
Q: Why would a potential employer cancel an interview later in the day after scheduling it stating that it has been put on hold indefinitely? Does that have something to do with me?
A: There could be several reasons why an interview may be canceled. It may not even be related to you as a candidate. Some of the possible reasons could include:
1. The position is no longer a valid position and the employer has decided not to fill it. Perhaps they have realized there isn’t a need to fill the position and they can operate with the existing staff. Companies are constantly evaluating headcount. Employees are expensive!
2. The position has been filled by an internal person. Sometimes an internal person has raised their hand and expressed an interest in a role within the company.
3. The company knows of an upcoming acquisition and/or merger. The company may be reluctant to hire employees because of the upcoming change. Or the company may be planning to relocate to another geographic area. This location change could also force an employer to re-assess and perhaps delay hiring needs until the move has been completed.
4. The company had decided to hire another candidate. Perhaps they have sourced another candidate with stronger qualifications.
5. The hiring manager may have assumed that they had the authority to hire a replacement when, in fact, the vacancy has not been officially approved.
I could continue listing possible reasons and some may be related to your candidacy or qualifications and some may be completely unrelated.
In short, it would be smart to stay in touch with this employer. Email a note to your contact at this company thanking this person for their time and requesting that they please consider you for future openings. This is an opportunity to demonstrate that you are a true professional. Who knows? This company could contact you again in the future. After all, they expressed initial interest in your resume. However, you also need to continue your search. You can not rely on this vacancy becoming available again.
One of the most surprising questions I have received came from a young man who was having trouble landing a job. “I was 20 minutes late for one job interview but only five minutes late for another,” he said. “I guess I can understand why I didn’t get the job when I was twenty minutes late, but not getting the job when I was only five minutes late seems unfair. What’s the problem?” What was surprising about his question was that he had no concept that “late” is not a relative term, you either are or you aren‘t.
In my seminars, I tell participants, “If I had only one piece of advice I could give it would be: Be on time.” If you’re on time, you start out on the right foot. When you’re late, you start out on the wrong foot trying to recover from your error. You know that because the first words out of your mouth are, “I’m sorry.” In the case of this young man, late is late, and if he can’t be on time for the interview can he be relied on to be on time preparing a report, meeting with a client, or simply getting his work done in general? It’s no surprise he didn’t get the job, especially if, in comparison, his competition was on time.
At a job interview your goal is to stand out from the other applicants, not just because of your job skills, but also by your polished personal skills. By concentrating on these five essentials, you’ll improve your chances for success:
Be on time.
Prepare. It’s expected that you ask questions about the company where you’re applying, so do some research ahead of time. Practice answers to anticipated interview questions. Do it out loud so you get used to hearing yourself and so your mouth gets familiar actually forming the words. The key here is practice will give you confidence, and businesses favor people who are confident.
Dress one notch up. Make an effort to check out how people at that business dress. You want to show you belong and your clothing will signal that instantly. If they dress casually, you might step it up by adding a tie or jacket to your outfit.
Smile, look them in the eye and speak clearly. Your goal is to show your interviewer that you can represent her company positively and effectively. If you mumble, if you can’t look the interviewer in the eye, if you’re sullen, she’ll wonder if that’s how you’ll interact with colleagues, clients, prospects, or suppliers, and she won’t be impressed.
Thank them twice. First at the end of the interview, and then a second time when you send a thank you note, ideally within twenty-four hours. You can start by sending an email thank you. Best practice is to follow it up with a note sent in the mail. It’s not only polite, but also proves that you know how to conclude a business interaction effectively.
2011 is almost here and while many of us have been eagerly awaiting a fresh start in a New Year, economists are not predicting any immediate or significant job growth until the end of the year. This news combined with an already challenging job search can stir up some additional anxieties in many of us. I thought I would again take a break from our regular format, to share some pointers on how to put your best you forward in 2011 to find that next great job.
While we don't have influence over the global marketplace and can't control all the issues that plague our lives, there are some things we do have power over. We can control our professional development, our attitude and our connections. We can become better at our job searching techniques, stronger in our industries, and even more indispensible to our next organization. For the New Year, resolve to be the most productive connected job seeker. Here are five strategies for starting your New Year off right:
Keep your network alive—It’s never a good idea to neglect your network. Reconnect with former colleagues and managers. A vital part of networking is nurturing the relationships you have right now. Make those phone calls or set up coffee dates with colleagues, managers, clients, and vendors. You also want to build your network by cultivating new relationships. Make a goal to participate in at least one face-to-face networking event each month—both within your profession and your industry. Ask your connections to introduce you to someone you want to meet. You also want to take those phone calls you are getting from others looking for work. We all know ‘one hand washes another’, and you never know when a friend may be able to return a favor and pass on your resume to a contact at your dream company. Having a vibrant network is crucial in the job search, but it can also help you gain a well-rounded perspective for staying positive during a job search.
Be recognized as an industry expert—When a CEO is faced with a business dilemma, who is she going to call? Will she bring in a consultant or come straight to you? Build your reputation so that when you land that next position you become your organization’s “go to” person in your discipline. Get at least one person (preferably a manager) from every company you’ve worked for to write a recommendation on LinkedIn. Start following recognized authorities in your industry on Twitter. Read as many good business books you can fit into your free time. Read your local and national trade publications, and follow the general business media. It is important to be knowledgeable about issues specific to your discipline, but you can make more of an impact at your next interview by being on top of all the current happenings in your industry.
Find a mentor—Maybe you think mentors are only for those just beginning their careers—think again. Mentors can serve as valuable resources in any stage of your profession. Think about the goals you would like to accomplish in the short- and long-term. Do you want to hone a skill set or embark on a new challenge? How can a mentor help you reach these goals? Your goal can be lofty (I want to be a SVP in five years) or more focused (I want to learn how to start a micro blog). Allow others to share their insights and expertise to help you achieve your aspirations.
Volunteer—Part of what keeps us grounded and focused in our lives and jobs is keeping a larger perspective. One way to gain that perspective is through volunteerism. You can volunteer at your time at a local food bank or volunteer your professional skill sets at an organization that needs it. You may be able to share a valuable skill with those who are in need—and learn something in the process. By helping others, you can help yourself—and your job search.
Exercise resilience—The companies that have fared best under these uncertain economic circumstances have shown organizational resiliency. You can show personal resiliency as well by taking care of yourself—physically, mentally, spiritually, and professionally—so you will be better able to handle the challenges and opportunities 2011 may bring. Happy New Year!
Q: I am in a contract job but really need to land a full-time job in 2011. It seems like I am always a finalist but never get the offer after several rounds of interviews. What gives?
A: I appreciate your candor. In 2010, job seekers faced incredible competition for every available position. I have seen it from the other side of the table. My firm has recruited for several positions this past fall only to be inundated with queries from hundreds of job seekers. Job seekers have been advised to be persistent and they are indeed being persistent!
Let’s discuss what is working for you. Your resume must be strong since companies are interested enough to contact you. It sounds like you are being invited back for follow-up interviews. This is encouraging! If you are a poor interviewee, you would not have been invited back for “several rounds of interviews.” Interviewing is a skill that many improve with experience. Make sure that you when you leave an interview, you honestly assess your performance and think about what you could improve when interviewed again.
It sounds like you are well-qualified and have a strong background. But the reality is that others are getting offers. Even well-qualified candidates are being turned down by companies in this market. How can you differentiate yourself?
1. Always follow-up. Ask about follow-up before you leave an interview. Don’t leave it to guesswork. Ask about next steps. Email or mail a thank you note. Be gracious, sincere and professional.
2. Lead with your strengths. We are all humans with strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that you fully articulate your strengths. Acknowledge but don’t dwell on your weaknesses. Explain how you have been able to compensate for your weaknesses.
3. Use inside connections. Use your network. Does someone in your network work at this employer? Does one of your contacts have another contact working at this employer? Inside contacts can make a difference.
4. Make sure that your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are a positive representation of who you are. Use the available privacy controls on Facebook. Employers are visiting these profiles so use them to your advantage.
5. Develop a working draft of a 30-60-90 day plan to present in the final stages of the selection cycle. The development of this type of plan requires a time commitment from you. You will need to have knowledge of the job, the culture of the organization and most importantly, a firm grasp of the hiring manager’s expectations.
If appropriate, you can email this to the hiring manager when you have been identified as a finalist. I would not recommend investing the time on such a plan unless you are certain you are a finalist. In this plan, you will want to lay out what you hope to achieve in the first 90 days. I would not expect this plan to be perfect but instead you would be asking for the hiring manager’s input.
Developing such a plan demonstrates a level of interest, commitment and would likely separate you from others. It would make you memorable – in a good way! Such a plan can also showcase your organizational and written communication skills.
6. Many contract roles can evolve into full-time positions. Is that a possibility in your current role?
7. Finally, stay in touch with the hiring managers that you have met during your search. Many of my clients are adding staff in 2011. If you made a positive impression, you could receive a call from one of these companies!
Keep swinging. Maintain a positive attitude and continue your search. You are doing a lot of job search activities well.
I get a lot of questions this time of year from job seekers who aren't sure whether they should continue their job search through the holidays. My answer is always a resounding yes. Therefore, I thought I would take a break from our regular format to provide some tips on how to shine as a candidate during the holiday season when it's even more challenging than usual to get the attention of a hiring mananger.
In short, I suggest you become your very own Santa Claus and make sure your efforts reflect the “Nice” list.
Naughty. Be a humbug!
Nice.Take time to recognize your individual blessings. Enjoy the holidays, join in the celebration, and remember that we all have something to feel good about. This will actually endear you to friends, family, and others.
Naughty. Give up and restart your efforts in the New Year.
Nice. Bump your job search efforts up a notch by increasing your holiday activities to stand out from those job searchers who simply give up during the holiday season.
Naughty. Ask, “What’s in it for me?”
Nice. Lend a helping hand. Volunteering to help others can expand your network of contacts and allow you to demonstrate your talents at a time of year when many corporate, charitable or community support programs are short of help.
Naughty. Refuse invitations to holiday parties.
Nice. Take advantage of the season’s social hubbub as holiday parties offer great opportunities to expand your network. Also, reignite your network connections and spread good cheer by sending holiday greeting cards.
Naughty. Have a bleak and negative response to, “How’s the job search?” that revolves around where you have been and why you haven’t found a job yet.
Nice. Have a positive and proactive response to, “How’s the job search?” that focuses on where you are going and what you are looking for.
Naughty.Focus only on making your interactions with people about job leads.
Nice. Focus more on getting to know other people so you can build stronger, long-term relationships that will create more opportunities personally and professionally.
Naughty. Give in to the stress and strife.
Nice.Give yourself permission to simply relax. Not only will you enjoy the holiday season, taking a few scheduled days off will help you stay mentally fit and refreshed in the months to come—making you a more attractive candidate and potentially shortening your search.
Q:It has been a long time since I've had to look for a job, so the concept of the phone interview is new to me. If you have a phone interview scheduled and the person doesn't call, should I call them? How long past the scheduled time should I wait before I call?
A: Telephone interviews have certainly grown in terms of popularity as a hiring practice. It is a method of quickly screening candidates without either party having to tangle with the logistics of an in-person interview (e.g., weather, traffic, etc.).
Confirming a telephone interview in advance may eliminate some of the “who calls whom” confusion. If you don’t hear from an interviewer by the pre-agreed upon time, you should call them at a few minutes past the designated time.
Telephone interviews are as important as in-person interviews.
Some telephone interview tips:
1. Confirm the telephone interview in advance. Email works well for confirming a telephone interview. A sample email message:
Hi John, Thanks for inviting me to participate in the telephone interview for the role of Inside Sales Rep. As I recall, you had suggested that I call you at 10am on Tuesday, November 10th. I will plan on calling you at that time on 617-123-4567. In case you need it, the best number for me at that time is 508-123-4567. I look forward to hearing from you at that time.
2. If using a cell or cordless phone, make sure the reception is good. This is probably my biggest pet peeve with telephone interviews. I prefer using a non-cordless landline on my end. However, some candidates use a cell phone almost exclusively. This is fine. But please make sure the reception is good and that the phone has been charged. There is nothing more frustrating than a dropped call, a line that goes dead or a spotty connection.
3. Be prepared for the call. Your total focus should be on that call. You should not schedule a call for when you are food shopping or waiting for your oil change in a noisy auto repair garage.
4. Be as prepared for the call as you would be for an in-person interview. Have your resume with you. Research the company in advance.
5. Follow up after the call. Don’t leave the follow up hanging or else you won’t know expectations on next steps. For example: John, Thank you so much for taking the time today to talk to me about the Inside Sales Rep. role. When should I follow up? Do you prefer that I follow up by email or a phone call?
6. Stick close to email before and after the call. There are so many strong candidates who apply for every job. Email is probably the best vehicle for notifying candidates of next steps (or even a re-scheduled call). If you are not checking email at least every day (if not several times per day), you may be missing important information about the next steps in the process.
7. Send a thank you note/email after the call. It will make you memorable in a good way.
The selection process for a job starts before you walk into the company to interview for a job. Preparation is important. Think about how you can provide examples of how you have shown value in the past. Prepare a list of accomplishments, achievements, etc.
Finally, a company hires people to add value. Be ready to articulate what you can contribute.
Q. I have not looked for a job for many years. I have been happy where I am. I now have an opportunity to interview with a company which involves travel. For the first on-site interview, the company wants me to pay for the flights while they cover hotel and ground transportation. Is this normal? Should I simply oblige or try to negotiate?
A. “Many years” in one job may mean that you have not been open to interview for other opportunities, or even engaged in conversations with organizations, or entertained meetings with search firms. For some reason, this time is different, and you are interested in an on-site meeting with a potential new employer.
Why? That is most likely the question the company representatives are asking themselves. Is the destination somewhere spectacular? It seems the company may be trying to gauge your sincere interest in the opportunity as opposed to the idea of a free airplane ticket.
Many companies and recruiters are carefully watching their recruitment travel spend, and are choosing to use video conferencing for initial screening interviews, in addition to a phone screen. Many organizations set a level of employee beneath which they will not pay for travel, and may say "no relocation" in an ad or posting which conveys a similar message.
I have seen this recruiting and cost containment strategy used in higher education when interviewing graduate students leaving graduate programs. In the early stages of a career, everywhere can be considered a reasonable location, and lots of roles look interesting – especially when there is no financial or vacation time restriction to travel to interview. Colleges and universities developed an interesting way of assessing potential commitment by asking candidates to pay for travel expenses. If they were not asked back for a second interview, they split the cost. If they were asked back and chose not to have a second interview, they split the cost. If they were asked back, received an offer which they declined, they split the cost. If they were asked back, received an offer, and accepted, all costs were reimbursed.
So, how serious are you? If this situation turned into an offer could you see yourself accepting? If you are seriously interested in exploring this opportunity, you can ask why they have that type of policy, and then decide to try to negotiate, to ask to video conference first to see how interested you really are, or move ahead.
Q: I am 26 years old and work in retail and then also have a part-time childcare job. I really want to work in a professional office environment. I have a degree but I really don't use it in these jobs. I feel like I am headed in the wrong direction but I also have bills to pay and I don't have a lot of time to job hunt. Am I stuck in these jobs forever? How do I make a change?
A: I understand your dilemma. It is hard to make a change. Yet the longer you wait, the harder it will become. Let me share some suggestions on steps you can take to make a move.
1. Use the career and alumni services office of your college or university. Re-connect with them and meet with them if possible. Explain that you are looking for a more professional position.
2. Update your resume. Include your retail and childcare experience. Make sure that you include your degree! Make your resume crisp, error-free and professional. I always find it easier when a candidate includes their name in the title of the resume attached. An example would be: JaneMDoe2010. Of course in 2011, that date should be changed.
3. Start using social media tools on weekends and free evenings to start searching for a new opportunity. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter can all be valuable in a search. Check job boards too.
4. Let your friends, relatives and others know you are looking for a new opportunity. Build a network of contacts. These contacts are critically important. Thank anyone that meets with you, shares their time with you or provides a referral to you.
5. Begin actively networking. Meet with 1-2 people per week. Explain your situation. Ask for their advice, guidance and referrals if they hear of an opportunity.
6. Make sure that your PC skills are current. Almost every professional role requires solid PC skills.
7. Join groups on Linkedin. These groups are important. Expand your connection on LinkedIn.
8. Keep close to your email. Nothing is more frustrating than an unresponsive candidate.
9. Evaluate your email address. Ensure that it is professional and descriptive. Avoid addresses that are racy or inappropriate. Today I received a resume from an email address that was similar to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hmmm? No thanks.
10. Consider contacting a few temporary and/or contract firms. You may have to start at a reception desk or in a clerical role, but it is a foot in the door and will give you valuable experience in a professional environment.
11. Invest a bit of money in your professional wardrobe. It is better to be a bit overdressed than too casual. Buy a few classic pieces and then build from there. What you wear out on a Saturday night is probably not appropriate for what you would wear to an office environment on a Monday morning. Dress for the position to which you aspire.
12. Ensure that your online presence is positive and professional. Clean up your Facebook page if you have photos online that are less than professional. Limit your Facebook page visitors by using their privacy tools.
13. If you work for a large retailer, there may be opportunities that are not strictly retail selling. Larger retailers have opportunities in finance, hr, marketing, operations, etc. Often these larger retailers have an internal job posting system that might be worth exploring.
14. Never say no to an introduction. Introductions often lead job seekers down a path of opportunity.
15. Stay positive. Know that you may encounter rejection. Learn from the slips, falls and missteps and correct your course going forward. Avoid bashing former employers, colleagues or jobs.
A job change can occur. It will take effort. Good luck!
Q: I participated in the interview process (2 rounds) with a prospective employer this past August. The second round consisted of a meeting with the hiring manager and a senior executive in the company. Since then, I received positive feedback from the HR liaison shortly after the second interview, however, I have not heard back from this organization during the last 2 months. What can I reasonably expect in terms of communication from this organization as to the status of my candidacy? Thank you.
T. L., East Freetown, MA
A: Unfortunately, you’re closing the barn door after all the cows have escaped.
If you didn’t ask for a time frame for their decision, then two weeks from your last interview, you should have felt comfortable calling to ask about the status of hiring for the position. Given your situation—two months has passed without any word from the company—you may feel you don’t want to do this because, in essence, you are calling them out for not contacting you. One way around this awkwardness is to indicate that you are concerned they might have sent you information that you did not receive, essentially giving them the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, if you haven’t heard from them in two months either they may not be hiring at all or they may have gone with someone else.
In the future, at the end of an interview make a point to inquire what exactly the next step is or when you can expect to hear from the company. If you hear from them by that date, great; if you don’t, then it is appropriate to contact the company within a day or two after that date to ascertain your status and where they are in their decision making process. At each stage of the job application/interview process, you should always find out what the next step is and when you can expect to hear about it. By not asking, you can end up in the awkward position you are in now of not knowing when to follow up.
One piece of advice I’d like to share: Keep in mind that the interview process is a two-way street. You are gathering information about the prospective employer just as much as the employer is learning about you. If I were in your situation and the employer had indeed not contacted me about the position in two months—especially after two rounds of interviews—then I would wonder if this is a company I would want to work for.
Q: I have heard a lot of conflicting advice on where and how to look for a job. I am a recent college graduate and have been on a contract assignment since September, 2010. I took the summer off and did not job hunt but used the time to enjoy myself. In hindsight, I think that was a mistake. My parents are ruthless and are irritated that I have not found a job with benefits since I am now a college-educated adult. I like my contract work but I am sort of ashamed that I haven't landed a real full-time job like my friends that recently graduated. Can you give me a list of 10 things to try? I am beginning to get hopeless. My parents will believe your advice and I am willing to try anything.
A: Let's start with some positives. Congratulations on earning a college degree! And kudos on landing a job in a challenging economy! Both are achievements! It is a tough time to be a job seeker but that should not slow you down. A contract assignment is often an effective way for both a job seeker and an employer to "test the waters." By that I mean you are learning about their culture, expectations, work environment all while receiving valuable "on the job" training and experience. This employer is also learning about you -- your skill set, work habits and your potential value if you are hired as a full-time employee. Contract assignments can often lead to full-time offers! A contract role is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, you should be explaining to prospective employers that although you are a job seeker, you are actively employed!
Let me share a bulleted list of actionable steps that should be part of your job search.
1. Network, network, network. Maintain a strong and vibrant network of contacts. They may be former classmates, professors, co-workers, neighbors or friends. Networking is simply the most powerful job hunting tool available and almost completely in your control.
2. LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn to help you more effectively network. Complete and
profile and get active. Join sub-groups related to your career and interests. LinkedIn is not a substitute for networking. Instead it should compliment and target your networking efforts.
3. Use job boards but don’t focus 100% of your time on job boards.
4. Familiarize yourself with Twitter. Jobs are constantly being tweeted and re-tweeted. You can follow specific industries, people and interests.
5. Use your career services office. Join an alumni group.
6. Develop an elevator speech. An elevator speech is a two minute summary of who you are, what you want to do and what your next role might look like. Make sure it is succint and positive. Eliminate the negativity. In your question, you used words like "hopeless" and "ashamed." Make sure that these words are not part of your elevator speech.
7. Never say no to an introduction. You never know where a job lead may come from. A former college professor, a neighbor or a cousin could all introduce you to a job lead.
8. Be gracious and courteous. Always thank those that have given you their time, their feedback or a referral.
9. Make sure that your resume is crisp, professional, error-free and in a reader-friendly font.
10. Lastly, if you are a top contender for an opportunity, think about submitting a 30-60-90 day plan. This plan should articulate what you hope to accomplish in your first 90 days on the job. This demonstrates a focus, a level of interest and a seriousness that may differentiate you from your competition.
I hope these steps are helpful. Good luck with your search.
Last week’s question about table manners also asked the more general question: “What is the proper etiquette for business meals at restaurants?” “Proper etiquette” has purpose. It’s not simply rules for rules’ sake. In a nutshell, the purpose of dining etiquette is to make the act of eating as pleasant as possible.
Eating is really a gross activity. You have food on a plate. You cut it and/or try to balance it on a fork. Then you raise it to your mouth without letting it fall back onto the plate, the table, or you. Once you get the food in your mouth, you chew it up into a soft pulp which you then swallow. You do this thirty or forty times during a meal at the same time that you are trying to carry on a conversation with the other people at the table. Table manners limit the grossness of the act of eating and promote the social aspect of dining.
The most basic table manners—chew with your mouth closed, don’t talk with your mouth full—spare your tablemates the unpleasant sight of the first stage of digestion. Using utensils correctly ensures that food stays on the plate and is delivered to the mouth neatly, efficiently, and unobtrusively. If you have any doubt about your mastery of these basics, eat an entire meal in front of a mirror. What you see is what your dinner companions see. If you’re really not sure what to do, you can always wait and watch what other people are doing and then follow their lead.
As a guest at a business meal, you should be a pleasant dining companion and contribute intelligently to any business discussed, but your goal is to be invited back the next time. Your skill and confidence—or lack thereof—will be noticed. Take part in the general conversation while not dominating it. When there is no general conversation, make the effort to talk with the people seated next to and near you. Leave the impression in your host’s mind that you added materially to the meeting and that your dining manners are an asset, and you’ll make the best case for being included at the next event.
Finally, there are five key manners to be aware of at any business lunch or dinner:
• Don’t be late, not even 5 minutes late, and wait for your host to arrive before going to the table.
• Begin eating only after your host has asked you to or after the host starts eating.
• Don’t drink at all, or limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage throughout the event.
• It’s the host’s prerogative to initiate any business-related conversation.
• Thank your host twice: once at the end of the meal and then send a thank you note the next day.
Q: I graduated in May with a degree in accounting and am struggling badly trying to find a job. I don't know exactly what I am doing wrong or what to do next. Advice?
A: Congratulations on your degree! Don’t despair. Let’s focus on some action steps that you can take to hopefully improve your job search.
- Get connected with your career services office at your college. Often the career services offices will have jobs posted by both local and national employers.
- Consider temporary or contract work. There are many firms that specialize in accounting. Shop around to find one that best meets your needs.
- Create a profile on LinkedIn. Join accounting related groups on LinkedIn. Start connecting with folks, former classmates, professors, friends and neighbors on LinkedIn.
- Research Meetup. Meetup.com is an online tool that connects people with common interests from cooking to technology. You can enter accounting into their search engine and see if there is a group that might be meeting soon.
- Join a professional association. Some to consider are The American Accounting Association (www.aaahq.org), The Massachusetts Association of Public Accountants (www.mapaweb.org) and the National Society of Accountants (www.nsacct.org).
- Make sure that your resume is clear, crisp and presents your education and work experience effectively.
- Network, network and then network some more. Your goal should be 2 in-person meetings per day. Coffees in the morning and an ice tea in the afternoon. Translation – you don’t have to pick up the tab for two meals per day for two people. A cup of coffee is more affordable than a meal! You should offer to pick up the tab if someone takes time out of their schedule to meet you for an hour. Offer to pay. They don’t have to accept but offer to pay. It is a nice gesture and demonstrates that you are a professional!
- Develop a 1-2 minute elevator speech. It should include who you are, a summary of your education and work experience and some information on what type of role you hope to land.
- Look at job boards but don’t spend your entire day searching online. I often advise job seekers to limit themselves to two hours per day on job boards. Many find that limit helpful.
I also consulted James Elgart, Chief Financial Officer of Cambridge Biomarketing in Cambridge, MA. Elgart’s advice:
My suggestion for recent graduates in accounting is to look for opportunities in public accounting. If the larger firms are not “biting”, don’t dismiss regional and even smaller CPA firms. Gaining experience in public accounting will provide a real opportunity to roll up the sleeves and get a taste of a lot of different areas within accounting (e.g., individual taxes, business taxes, audits, etc.). Getting exposure to the functional areas within accounting is important. Ultimately, you will gravitate to those areas where you demonstrate competence and hopefully enjoy the challenges offered.
Further, Elgart advises to explore the requirements to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Although it requires significant effort, it is a differentiator on a resume. Becoming a “CPA candidate”, qualifies you to become a student member of the Massachusetts Society of CPAs (www.mscpaonline.org). Lastly, Elgart recommends to keep up-to-date on QuickBooks and other technologies and software.
Q: For the past few years, I have had, by necessity (layoffs, family illness, economy, etc.), held a series of short-tenured jobs. Before then, I was a very successful top salesperson. Now, just everybody who reviews my resume comments on my short stays and despite my explanations, they toss my resume aside. What can I do?
A: This is a very good question and one that I am commonly asked. The days of spending 10, 15 or even 20 years at a single company are over for many.
Fortunately, there are a number of solutions on how to best present your work history in your resume. First, remember… always, lead with your strengths (just as you would when you were a successful salesperson).
Some solutions that may work for your resume:
- After your contact information, include a summary of your skills and work experience that is persuasive. Make sure that you have included certain key words that would trigger a key word search. For example, if you have a strong background in software sales, make sure that you include software sales in your summary. Larger companies often scan resumes and then hiring managers will do a key word search to find the best candidates from the internal database of scanned resumes.
- Include metrics in your resume. How much did you sell against your quota or your goal? Did you land any challenging or name brand accounts? What were your greatest achievements? A sales resume without metrics is a yellow (if not red) flag for most hiring professionals.
- Consider a traditional chronological format but eliminate the months and use only the years. Instead of 06/2002-7/2003, consider 2002-2003. It reads a bit more smoothly, is still truthful but minimizes any gaps along the way.
- If a traditional chronological format does not work, consider a functional resume. A functional resume is a resume where like skills and work experiences are grouped together. It can be effective when well-written.
Beyond your resume, make sure that you are actively engaging in the most successful job hunting tactics. Social media tools and job boards are important but are not a substitute for in-person networking.
Ensure that you have perfected your elevator speech. What is that? An elevator speech is a two minute summary of you who are as a candidate, a quick summary of your work history and what your next career steps might be. Your elevator speech should be authentic, truthful and highlight your strengths. This elevator speech should be your “opener” for almost every conversation that you have that is career-related.
A sample is below:
Hi. My name is Jane Smith. I am a salesperson through and through. I have about 12 years of sales experience working primarily in software sales. I began my career as an inside sales rep and enjoyed tremendous success – winning the President’s Sales Cup three years in row while I was with TUV Company. I was then promoted into a field sales role where I landed quite a few big clients like ABC, DEF and JKL. Most recently I sold online advertising space for QRS and exceeded my quota by 10% or more every year. I went back to school in 2005 and earned an MBA from State U. I am now looking for my next sales role. I love selling and am eager to return to a fast-paced, quota-driven role where I am measured on landing new business.
There is tremendous competition for each and every opportunity right now. And the selection process seems to lengthen a bit during the summer months because of vacations and other scheduling conflicts.
Let me share one tactic that some successful candidates have offered to my clients recently. Final candidates are often sharing a 90-day plan with a prospective employer. The 30-60-90 plan includes goals and milestones that the candidate expects to accomplish in the first 90 days. These plans serve to differentiate a candidate – in a good way. Such a plan can illustrate a candidate’s ability to think critically about success factors if offered the job. The plan demonstrates interest and showcases the candidate’s ability to organize and present information in a logical format.
Lastly, in your situation, you will need to perfect your responses to questions regarding gaps in your work history. Some gaps are explainable and some are not. You will likely get asked about gaps in your work history, so let me offer a suggestion. One sample approach for you to consider:
As we discussed, I was at QRS for over seven years. I left QRS to take care of my elderly mother. Thankfully, my mother’s health has improved dramatically. When I was ready to return to the job market, the economy was not working in my favor. I landed a job at DEF. It was a venture-backed company and it ran out of funding, so I was laid off along with 50 other employees. I am now looking for a new sales position and would love to land a role similar to the role at QRS. I loved that role and was very successful in exceeding my quota month after month there.
Notice I led with a strength (providing a real-life example where you have showed commitment to a company). Then, I provided an honest explanation of a gap in your work history. Further, I explained another gap in a direct and non-defensive manner. Finally, I closed with a positive, forward-looking statement.
It is also worth visiting the jobs section of www.boston.com. There is alot of information about resume writing, interviewing skills and job search tactics.
Q: I see that there are many government and government subcontractor jobs available. What is the secret to getting hired by these employers? What type of background check do they do? I see jobs being posted with different clearance levels but I am not sure if I am supposed to get the clearance level (or already have it?) or the employer handles this?
A: Getting hired by the government or by a government subcontractor in some ways is no different than getting hired by a non-government employer. First, compare your qualifications to the requested qualifications for a specific role. If you believe you are a strong candidate, you should apply according to the steps indicated – it may be submitting a resume and cover letter via email or mailing the requested documents. Or if you have an internal contact at the company, that may be another avenue to submitting your information.
I consulted Maryanne Cromwell, Director of Human Resources for Quantech Services, Inc. Quantech Services provides a wide range of services to many clients, including the US Navy, Department of Defense and Department of Transportation. Cromwell explains the background check process:
The background checks can be very detailed for a security clearance. Most government and government contractor positions require a secret clearance. You must be sponsored by a company or the government in order to receive a clearance. If a position requires an immediate clearance they may not be able to hire you for that specific position. If the company is willing to hire you with a contingency of securing a clearance they will start the clearance process before you are hired. It takes about two weeks to secure an interim secret clearance. You must complete detailed paperwork which includes a background investigation for this clearance. Some of the items that are asked involve your Foreign Interest (if anyone owns property abroad), Drug or Alcohol abuse, Credit History (Bankruptcies, Liens etc…), Military History (Dishonorable Discharge). If you don’t have positive history with these types of items then you will most likely be denied the clearance. You must also be a US Citizen to be eligible for a clearance.
In 2008, the Federal Government employed about 2.0 million civilian workers (excluding the postal service). For more information about job opportunities and trends in hiring and employment in the Federal Government, review the visit Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition (www.bls.gov).
Q. I am very interested in joining a small consulting company. I was introduced to the staff through a networking contact and had a great initial meeting with a consultant. After that, they asked me back for informal meetings with a few different people. They are all great and they seem to like me too. I know they have a real opening, but I haven’t been asked to interview for the position yet. What are my next steps? I don’t want to be too pushy, but I don’t want to lose what I think could be a great opportunity.
A. So far so good! Discovering opportunity through your network is exactly what job seekers hope for. Your network led you to what seems to be a good match and there is a great deal for you to do at this stage. Many people might describe meetings as informal, but meeting people you want to work with who might want to work with you, is anything but informal. Interviewing is a process of getting to know someone, the skills they have and their experience. It is also an opportunity to learn what an organization is looking for in terms of skills, style, and strengths needed for success on the job. Interviews do not necessarily need to start with formal invitations or use the question and answer format.
Your “interview” started with the introduction you received from your networking contact. That person described you; your skill set, and in their encouragement to meet, probably suggested some areas of professional interest for their contacts to explore. In each interaction you have had so far, you have been assessed for the position they are hiring for. Each participant in the interview process most likely has a list of criteria they have for the new hire and in their meetings with you, are looking for examples or demonstrations of these criteria. So, now you know you have been interviewing and you know you have not answered the most important questions they never asked.
Not every interviewer can provide candidates with a good interview, and as a result, great candidates need to over-prepare. Most people will prepare a list of the questions they anticipate being asked and they will prepare answers to these questions. They will also prepare a list of questions they want to ask. These preparations are all valuable, but where good candidates stop preparing, great candidates continue. Regardless of the questions asked, great candidates prepare a list of the messages they need to get across. Have you learned how they would describe the successful candidate? If you know what you would like to be asked in a formal interview, you know what you’ll discuss regardless of what gets asked or doesn’t. Are there examples of work you have done that you can discuss so the hiring organization can see how you would be successful on the job?
You have been interviewing, and now you have the opportunity to demonstrate the behaviors of a successful member of a small consulting company. So, take the initiative to arrange a next meeting. Discuss your sincere and significant interest in their organization and make sure you are prepared to convey the information which will make them see the best option there is – making you an offer.
Q. I recently attend a legislative reception consisting of cocktails, light hors d’oeuvres and networking. What is the proper etiquette for keeping your suit jacket buttoned? Many of the men had unbuttoned their jackets while talking, but I thought that one would keep it buttoned until they sat down. What would be the correct procedure?
S. F., Richmond, VA
A. Etiquette is an ever-evolving set of guidelines that help us know what to do and what to expect others to do so our interactions can be as successful and positive as possible. One way etiquette has clearly been changing is in the softening of a variety of rigid “rules”. One such rigid rule was the notion that men should always button their jackets unless they are sitting down. To button or not to button is no longer a mandate. More important is your own comfort level because if you are comfortable, you will exude an air of confidence which is a good thing both in business social and purely social situations. You might want to button because it will create a more formal look . At an interview or when making a major presentation, the buttoned look helps create an image of polished professionalism. You might choose a more casual unbuttoned look at a social or business social event such as the one mentioned in the question. The sense of comfort and approachability that the unbuttoned look gives can make joining a group and engaging in small talk easier and more pleasant.
If you are going to button, whether you are wearing a three button or a two-button jacket, don’t button the bottom button. With a three-button jacket you can button both the top and middle buttons, or just the middle button. Some image experts will tell you buttoning only the middle of the three buttons is a more casual look. If you have a double breasted jacket keeping it buttoned when standing looks better.
In today’s world the important issues relating to wearing a suit or jacket are:
1. When you have a choice, wear one. So often I go to events and am astonished to see men wearing a sweater or just a shirt or even jeans and a t-shirt, no jacket much less a tie. If it’s even a question of to wear or not to wear, then wear a jacket and tie. You can always take it off. But if you don’t have a jacket and tie and it turns out the occasion is more formal, then you’re out of luck.
2. A good fit. Regardless of how complimentary the sales person is, take your new purchase to a tailor and have it altered to fit your body. It’s well worth the extra investment. You’ll look sharp and confident.
Q. My husband has been looking for an accounting job for months. He has over 10 years experience in cost accounting. He is now going for his MBA and is sitting for his CPA. Do you have any tips to give him to get an interview? He has not had one interview this year.
A. Experience in accounting, with the additions of a CPA and an MBA will help your husband be a very strong candidate for an array of roles in many industries. Adding these credentials to his current experience and skills is a good use of time, but not at the complete expense of job search time. Often people taking classes or programs for certification to enhance their skills will wait to start a search until they have completed their additional education. This kind of delay can have a negative impact on job search effectiveness and is not a mandate from employers.
Your frustration, and his, over a lack of interviews is to be expected. Getting interviews is one step toward the final goal of job offers. “Getting a job” is too big of a goal to measure against daily. The most effective job searches can be organized like most big projects – with interim goals, documentation of the many steps involved and metrics of activity leading to the goal.
Writing a great resume, which demonstrates your capabilities, is the first step. It needs to be complete, accurate, have no errors and be compelling to the reader. Be willing to adjust your resume based on feedback from knowledgeable sources, but don’t change it every time someone gives you a comment. Many people will over focus on editing and re-editing their resume as an excuse to avoid more difficult job search activity.
Effective job searches use all tools available, so a write up similar to your resume should be part of your LinkedIn profile. If you are a graduating senior, or a senior executive, and everywhere in between, you need a LinkedIn Profile. Let people find you. If you have skills employers are searching for, make it easy to be found. Make it easy for recruiters who are looking for people with your skill set to find you.
Find recruiters. Do the research on which recruiters fill the kind of jobs you are looking for. You should plan on working with several recruiters. Remember they work for the hiring organization and if they have the right opportunity for you, they will contact you. Stay flexible to the kind of opportunity they present to you and be very clear as you evaluate what kinds of roles you really want. Dedicate perhaps 10 to 20% of your time to recruiters.
Your husband might also consider contracting roles. Many recruiters offer both full time permanent roles and contract roles for projects to cover leaves or for temp to perm opportunities. With his background and skills, there are many types of organizations where he can use his skills. He should be able to gain interview experience with the recruiters and with companies. Your husband should focus on exploring industries he is interested in getting into and take contract opportunities that add to his experience.
In addition, networking activity can not be overlooked. Former colleagues form the base for a strong network and new contacts from MBA classes, faculty members, and university staff should be part of your husbands’ network. Study the concepts of effective networking as you would any other business class. This skill will be needed throughout a long and successful career and at least 40% of job search time should be spent on these activities.
Professional associations are also vital and there are many finance and accounting groups available to join. Your networking contacts can make recommendations about which groups to try and where to dedicate time. At least 10% of your time should be spent with these efforts.
Job seekers engaged in prolonged searches can also benefit from job search support groups. The sense of community, continuity, and sharing of best practices, can have a profound positive impact on job seeker behavior. Finding colleagues in this process can bring humor, perspective, and encouragement to a very demanding process.
Reviewing web listings and job boards will be a continuous process. Reviewing web sites of companies where you have a special interest can be valuable, and the larger boards where many roles are listed may offer insight to where the openings are. Perhaps 5% of your time should be spent here. Using this information, coupled with getting more details and introductions from your network, can make you a much more effective candidate for these roles.
Committing to each of these activities weekly and in the right proportion, will get your husband that much closer to the large “get a job” goal.
As employment figures continue to be headline news, it's not surprising that I often run into people, both college grads and newly-unemployed mid-lifers, who are either looking for jobs or who are in the interview process. Once you've been invited in for an interview, a key to success is how well you connect with the interviewer(s). Your people skills can be the critical difference between you getting the job or someone else getting the job. While there are whole books devoted to the interview process, here are five simple tips that will go a long way toward helping you connect with the interviewer:
Be on time. It's almost impossible to recover from the bad impression you make when you're late. Many employers say that an interview is "over before it starts" if the applicant doesn't arrive on time. At the very least, know where you're going and how long it takes to get there. If you're delayed, it’s better to call and ask if the interviewer would prefer to reschedule.
Dress appropriately. An interview isn’t the time to make a fashion statement with your clothes. It’s far better to be memorable because of who you are, not because of what you wear. Do some research—visit the company ahead of your interview to observe how the employees dress or call the HR department for the company dress code. Then, dress one notch up.
Be prepared. Practice your answers to regularly-asked questions, such as “What is your greatest strength?” and “What relevant experience have you had?” and “What are your weaknesses?” Preparation also means developing your own questions, so study up on the organization beforehand and draft a few questions of your own.
Greet with confidence. Confidence is a key trait of successful business people. Stand, smile, focus on their eyes, say your name and theirs, and give a firm (not bone-crusher or dead fish) handshake. All of these actions convey your self-assurance, not only to your interviewer, but also to everyone with whom you interact.
Thank them twice. Expressing “Thank you” to your interviewers is critical. In addition to your verbal “thank you” at the end of the interview, a follow-up thank you note is a must —either written on quality paper or sent as an e-mail and preferably sent within twenty-four hours. You’ll have to determine which delivery method will leave the best impression, and it may be wise to send an e-mail with a follow-up handwritten note. The thank you note is also the opportunity to continue the conversation with your interviewer(s): to answer any questions that arose, or to deliver any additional facts or materials that were promised.
Q. For the past few years, I have had by necessity (layoffs, family illness, economy, etc.) a series of short-tenured jobs. Before then, I was a very successful top salesperson. Now, everybody who reviews my resume comments on my short stays and despite my explanations they are done considering me as a candidate. What can I do?
A. Everyone, and especially every hiring manager, has very concrete ideas about what is too long a period of time to be at a job and what is too short a time frame. The implications of the length of time on the job impact whether your resume will make it through screening, and how far you will make it through the interview process is often based on the reasons behind why you have changed jobs. Managers assume they know a great deal about you as a worker, a performer, and the kinds of issues you would bring should they hire you just by looking at your resume.
Short term jobs raise concern with most managers. They make you "suspect" as an employee. Hiring managers want answers to why it seems you can't hold a job. Are you incompetent? Unreliable? Did you cause problems in the work place? Perhaps you were just too hard to get along with. One short term job - with a good explanation, most people can understand, but multiple short time jobs are a cause for concern. When acquisitions and layoffs were at their peak, many people stayed in the same chair but had a new employer. For example, professionals in hi-tech became known as nomads as their careers followed company hiring or laying off based on that quarters success or failure.
You say you left the jobs by necessity, but many employers would not agree with you. Your goal is to make sure the reader sees a commitment to work and to your career. Resumes often create short term jobs where there aren't any. If you had a number of jobs with the same company, make sure the dates show the entire time at the organization in bold, and use a smaller notation for the number of months or years for each role at the company.
When you say short tenured, I am assuming you held the jobs for less than one year. If it is even less - perhaps several months, you may consider eliminating the position from your resume. Some people would disagree with this tact, but I believe it is worth considering.
Others might think that close to a year is a reasonable amount of time, which could be true for very junior or pre-professional jobs. The selection process and training a new employee are expensive endeavors and employers are not happy to have to go through this process more often than they need to. Most employers believe that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Their belief is if you left jobs after a short period of time, you do not show a commitment or loyalty to the job.
The easiest and most effective way to explain short term jobs is by meeting with people face to face, so networking still leads the preferred methods of job seeking. The answer you develop needs to encompass a period of time, and not a litany of "I left that job because...and that job because..." You will be asked why you made the transitions you did and your answer might be something like, "After five very successful years in that role, I needed to care for a relative. I left my position and was able to be a primary caretaker. When I then found a new position which I knew I could commit to, the economy took a turn for the worse, or my relative became seriously ill once more (whatever was the case). This was a time of challenging and difficult decisions. I am committed to my career, and to the companies I work for, and would hope to show you that in this position."
Practice, fine tune, and get comfortable with a truthful answer that represents you well. Use those selling skills, and show why this hire is low risk, and what you will be able to contribute will more than make up for the trepidation they may have wondering if you will leave them having to hire again before they are ready.
Q: I took some time off from my career to care for my mother before her death. Initially, I took a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Then, I left my job knowing that my employer could not hold my job for me indefinitely. My company reorganized and had lay-offs during the time that I took care of my mother. I have re-applied for my old job (which I really loved) but I don't think they will have an open position for a very long time. I need to return to work. I am still working through all the grief but I have a pile of bills to pay too. Do you have any suggestions for how to return to the workforce? Also, how should I explain this period of unemployment? I am reluctant to discuss the details of my mother's illness, hospitalizations and death.
A: I am very sorry for your loss. I can personally empathize with your loss. Losing a loved one is a devastating event. Quite often, after a loss, we are expected to dust ourselves off and return to our daily lives. This is easier said than done.
If you feel like your grief is overwhelming, you may want to consider therapy or joining a support group. Either or both could be helpful. The hospital that provided care for your mother before her death may be a good source for information and referrals. Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship may also provide counseling or referrals to appropriate resources. Discuss your grief with your physician to make sure that he or she is aware of your loss. Your physician may also refer you to counseling for your grief.
If you have not conducted a job search in the last few years, you should spend some time researching job search strategies. A job search today is much different than it was even five years ago. Boston.com has an entire section devoted to jobs. Visit www.boston.com/jobs.com. A few quick tips:
- update your resume, be truthful about your dates of employment and make sure that it is crisp, polished and professional
- develop a 1-2 minute "elevator speech" about who you are, your background, your qualifications, education and what type of role would be of interest to you (see a sample below)
- begin re-connecting with former colleagues, co-workers, friends, neighbors and others with the intent of letting them know you are looking for work
- use social media tools to help jumpstart your search (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can all be helpful when used effectively)
Your elevator speech should be authentic, truthful and succinct. Without knowing you or
your work history, I have developed an initial draft that you should review and edit. It should contain accurate information and sound like your voice, instead of mine.
I am a seasoned Human Resources Representative. I have worked with a number of well-known firms including ABC and DEF. I have more than ten years of experience in all facets of HR including recruitment, employee relations, benefits negotiation and administration as well as compliance. I enjoy working on the most complex and unusual HR questions and resolving them efficiently. I have an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from LMO University. Most recently I was employed at XYZ in Boston, MA where I was an HR Rep for the entire eastern region. I absolutely loved my job at XYZ. I left XYZ in late 2009 to care for my seriously ill mother. Sadly, I lost my mother this past spring. I am now eager to land a new role in HR. I am looking for a role similar to the role I had at XYZ. Every day at XYZ was a challenge and I enjoyed my role there quite a bit.
With the sample elevator speech above, my goal is to be factual and also demonstrate the enjoyment that you mentioned in your most recent role. If you have a degree, it is often helpful to mention that information. Notice I discussed your mother's death but I didn't focus on it or provide details. Instead my last statement brings us back to your career interests and enthusiasm for your work.
Realistically, you will have to practice your own elevator speech several times before it is ready to be used in your job search. Practice in front of a few trusted friends or relatives. You will also want to make sure that you can speak candidly about your mother's death without losing your composure (another one of those "easier said than done" things). It may take time, but with practice, your elevator speech will become smoother and more authentic.
Why is an elevator speech important? It is a critically important component of a job search. When you have the opportunity to talk to a former neighbor, someone that you run into at your niece's soccer game or a hiring manager that picks up the phone when you call, you want to be prepared with a succinct and clear message. Most people give anyone a few minutes of their time. You want to make the most of that time and be able to communicate your message quickly and efficiently.
In 2002, my mother died after a lengthy illness. My mother, who raised seven children, used to give me very good advice when I faced a daunting challenge. Her words were simply, "YOU can do this!" I encourage you to take my mother's advice with regard to your job search -- "YOU can do this!"
Q: I have applied for several jobs within my company through our internal job posting system. I have been turned down at least three times in the past year for internal opportunities. I need someone to give me a chance at a new role. I am in a job that is monotonous and boring. I have been doing it for more than one year. I have a degree in communications but I am hardly using it. There is so much out there about how to land a new job when you are unemployed. My company has not had lay-offs like other companies. What gives? What about finding a new job within your current company? I also don’t think my company is posting all open jobs within our company.
A: You are in a fortunate position but probably don’t realize how fortunate your current situation may be. First, you are gainfully employed when national unemployment figures are hovering around 10%. You may not be in your ideal job but it sounds like your company offers a stable environment. Many will be reading your question and feeling envious rather than sympathetic.
Congratulations! Your company posts some jobs internally! Not all companies post jobs internally. And it sounds like there have been some internal opportunities posted despite the overall challenges during this recession. Your employer is not required to post all jobs. Your company can select which open positions to post and which ones not to post. In general, posting jobs internally though is a good practice. It allows existing employees to move within an organization and also sends a message that your company is hiring. This is a welcome signal to many employees. Lastly, posting a job internally often yields a significant number of employee referrals from existing employees. Many employers offer employee referral bonuses or other rewards if an existing employee refers a candidate that is hired.
Without knowing a lot about your company, I can tell you that there are many, many employees at your company who are focusing on the work on their desks and feeling like they are lucky to have jobs. There are likely employees at your company that are not aggressively pursuing roles outside of your company, particularly if your employer is stable. With more and more employee remaining in their current positions, this often results in less movement internally within companies. This pattern often occurs during recessions.
Although I understand you feel like you are currently not challenged, there are ways to improve your chances at progressing within your current organization. A few pieces of advice:
• First, perform your current job well, really well. It sounds so obvious but it is true. Many employers will not allow an employee to post for another role if the employee is not performing well in their current role.
• Ask for additional duties and responsibilities if you have the ability to take on more work. You will be viewed as a “go-getter” who performs beyond the expectations of your job. Do not use extra time to chat with co-workers, text friends or check social networking sites.
• Make sure that your relationships with peers, colleagues, members of your HR team, your supervisor and others are strong and professional. Develop a strong internal network of colleagues. Avoid excessive complaining, whining or negativity even if your role is not ideal.
• Don’t post for every position that becomes available. Be thoughtful. Post for those roles that are a reasonable step beyond your current position. Make sure that you are qualified. If you are required to submit a written document when you post for a job, make sure that you present your qualifications in a crisp and professional manner. I would guess that internally posted positions are attracting many qualified candidates from within your company. Competition is fierce for almost all opportunities right now.
• Be gracious to those that spent time with you during the posting process. Send thank you emails or notes. I often favorably remember those candidates that send me a thank you note or email. It is a small world. One of the individuals may be a colleague or even a supervisor some day.
• Think about challenging yourself in other ways like learning a new skill (think about which skills may be helpful in your next position) or returning to school at night.
Hiring has picked up recently but I am certainly not seeing a hiring frenzy with any of my clients. I think most companies are filling roles in a cautious and prudent manner.
Q. I know executive search firms use video to interview so they don’t have to travel, and more people are video chatting, and people work virtually, but I am having a hard time understanding the virtual job fair concept. I need a job so I’ll do what it takes but is this for real? I’m not so sure about the ads I read for people who will help you get a job. Tell me if this is “spam”.
A. You are right about technology encroaching on many aspects of the traditional job search, and not just from the candidate’s side. Using LinkedIn, twitter, Facebook, blogs, and job boards are now standard for hiring managers and the use of video interviews are no longer limited to retained search firms. They are used by human resource executives interested in expanding their pool of potential candidates.
The combination of all these technologies combined with companies seeking great candidates and job seekers looking for great jobs comprise a virtual job fair. These multi-media based recruitment platforms started with avatars representing the job seeker and the recruiter – not exactly at the level we see with today’s avatars. Many companies considered these a costly activity with a cost of hire was too high to make these events worth while.
There are a number of organizations. , like Career Builder, producing virtual career fairs. They are real, and each fair needs to be assessed based on the value they provide, the cost, and the amount of access to companies.
I asked Lindsay Stanton, Senior Vice President of Sales and Strategy for Job Search Television Network (JSTN) to explain more about the services. “A JSTN video virtual career fair is a video based event allowing company clients to use their Video Job Reports and Company Profiles and candidates to connect with the opportunities on a dynamic level and see an inside view of the organization.” Through the JSTN television network, channel 62 locally, strategic partnerships, and web advertising, JSTN attracts active and passive job seekers from recent college graduates to executives.
Lindsay also points out “We have partnered with colleges and universities around the country helping alumni access the services and we are partnered with disabledperson.com and JOFDAV.com (Job Opportunities for Disabled American Veterans).
At the virtual job fair, candidates can create a 20 second video introduction by using their web-cam for only $5.00. Recruiters can view these, chat live if they are interested, and save them to refer to after the event. During the live chat recruiters and candidates can interact by exchanging an application and resume. Candidates also have access to career consultants, and expert advice on the JSTN site and at the virtual job fair.
To register for JSTN’s next virtual career fair visit, http://www.myjstn.com/vcf/ad/keyston_partners
As a candidate, you need to be prepared to answer questions quickly, make a positive impression, and have a strong resume which you can speak to comfortably. Looking good on video and knowing what you want to highlight is also key. Professional attire is a must. I recommend practicing on your own video equipment if you have it! Video gives you the opportunity to make a great impression, or to land at the bottom of the pile. Develop these new job search skills to be the most effective candidate you can be.
Q. How long should you reasonably be expected to commit to a new job? I'm in an entry-level position currently and have been looking for a new job on-and-off for the last 18 months with no success. I'll likely move out of state next summer when my boyfriend finishes graduate school. Advancement within my company isn't an option. I’ve promised myself I'll stop my search once I know I would be at a new job for less than a year, but I still feel uneasy submitting applications. I'm very unhappy with my current job, but don't want to make enemies at a new job by leaving shortly after starting. Any advice would be most appreciated.
A. P., Huntington, NY
A. While the time frame can change, a one-year minimum commitment to a job is a good rule of thumb. That time frame can be affected by the type of job it is and how long employees typically stay in the particular position before advancing or changing jobs.
Before springing your time limitation in an interview, try to ascertain the expectations of the particular position. Ask how long the person before you held it and if that was the typical tenure. If the interviewer asks how long you’re able to commit, be upfront about your time constraints. You’re correct in thinking that you’re less likely to get a good recommendation or future career network support if you leave a job soon after taking it.
A year is a long time and plans can change. There are a variety of factors that may influence your situation a year from now. A new job may turn out to be your dream job that you don't want to leave. Your boyfriend’s plans may change. While I hope it’s rock solid, your relationship itself may change. Your instincts are correct: if you arrive at a point where you will be in your present job for less than a year, then staying there until your future is well defined may be your best option. You’ll be able to give your employer reasonable notice and leave on a positive note and, perhaps, with a letter of recommendation.
You’ve looked for a new job unsuccessfully on and off for 18 months. If you decide to continue your search, shake things up. In your off hours, make the job search your number one priority, not an on- or off- again effort. Examine your current network and how you can modify or add to it to help you be successful. A one-year position could be a perfect opportunity to try something different outside your career experience or education. There may be interesting opportunities at a local hospital, retail store, dot-com, financial business, or non-profit.
Q: I am not an expert in HR but I have been hiring recent college grads and am appalled by the lack of professionalism and lack of respect that I have observed during our hiring processes. Can you publish some guidelines for college grads to review before they begin interviewing for jobs? It seems like no one has ever told them how to behave during the interview process.
A: Well, there are college grads who "get it." I have even hired a few recently for clients! However, I have seen the same lack of professionalism that you have seen in some candidates as well. Let me offer some guidance:
1. The interview starts before the interview. What does that mean?
a. Research the company. College grads are expected to have a basic understanding of the company's business model, clients and strategy.
b. If you know anyone at the company, it is worth calling or emailing that contact. Check LinkedIn.
c. Invest in your wardrobe. Most of us don't have to buy a $1000 suit but professional dress is important. For most interviews, leave controversial accessories at home -- nose rings, flashy earrings, purple shoes, etc. The focus should be on your skills, work experience and value, not on what you are wearing.
d. Your Facebook page. Lots of jobseekers get angry at me when I ask how they would feel about a potential employer viewing their Facebook page. Of course, most prospective employers are going to look at this page. Either make it private or remove the R-rated photos and comments.
e. Take the telephone interview seriously. Have your resume in front of you. Be prepared with a few questions that demonstrate interest in the role and/or the company. Be on time for a telephone interview just as you would for an in person interview.
f. Be ready for the interview. Have a few meaningful accomplishments ready to discuss. Be prepared to discuss your strengths and weaknesses. Lead with your strengths. Present the positives in your background. Be authentic and use your own words. Avoid clichés that sound too well-rehearsed.
g. Make sure that your resume is crisp, readable and error-free.
h. Can you get there and arrive on time? Do a test-run if you are unsure. Build in extra time for traffic, weather and/or other hassles. Don't guess!
i. Have your professional references typed up and ready to go. Make sure that you have contacted each one to let them know that you wish to provide their info as a reference.
2. The interview.
a. Arrive a few minutes early, 10-15 minutes ideally. Don't complain about the traffic, the elevator, the parking or the guard at the front desk. Have your license or other form of identification with you. Some parking garages and buildings require visitors to present a license or other identification before entering the building.
b. Bring along a few extra hard copies of your resume.
c. Look crisp, polished and professional, including your accessories. Don't carry along a backpack from your high school years.
d. Have a strong, confident handshake. Don't give a limp handshake to men or women.
e. Maintain good eye contact. It is ok to look away once and a while. Staring can become uncomfortable too.
f. Turn off your phone or other buzzing/ringing electronic items. Don't even think about checking your phone or other handheld device during the interview.
g. Be candid but lead with your strengths. If asked, offer a weakness but follow up with how you have strived to work on that weakness. Explain that you are open to feedback and you understand that feedback is part of the development process. Be prepared with good examples of some of your work-related accomplishments.
h. Be a good listener. Use active listening skills. No chewing gum!
i. Taking notes demonstrates that you are serious and interested.
j. Ask for a business card. You will want to thank that person for their time.
k. Never leave an interview without knowing the next steps. When can you contact them? Who should be your contact? What is the expected timeline for extending an offer?
3. After the interview.
a. Assess your performance. What did you do well? What didn't you do well? What can you do better next time? Your first interview will probably not be flawless. That is ok. Learn from that experience.
b. Send a thank you email, note or letter. Which one? You will need to assess how they have communicated with you thus far? If they are a law firm, consider a formal letter. If they are a technology start-up, an email is probably fine.
c. Follow up. It shows interest and professionalism.
d. Be gracious even if you don't receive an offer. It is a very small world. You never know you will be sitting next to on an airplane or at a Red Sox game.
In the end, as humans, we all learn from our mistakes, errors and missteps. Learn from those mistakes and improve your next performance.
Q: I recently was asked by an employer to participate in a telephone interview for a job. I have never done a telephone interview. What should I expect? What should I do?
A: I am so glad that you asked. I just completed about 20 telephone interviews for several clients. Telephone interviews are as important as in-person interviews. I can share many pieces of advice (especially after this week!):
1. Be prepared. It sounds so simple. But apparently it is not. Don't schedule a telephone interview while you are picking up your dry cleaning, mowing your lawn or babysitting your neighbor's toddler. These background distractions impact your ability (and my ability!) to focus and concentrate. I had one candidate this week call me while she was food shopping. Don't make this mistake. I don't want to hear the guy from the deli asking if your turkey is sliced thin enough. This call deserves your full attention.
2. Be prepared. Yes, again. Be prepared. Know the company. Research the company before the call. Again, it sounds so simple. I have heard several times from candidates "Now what company is this call about? I sent so many resumes out that I can't keep track." Personally, I really don't care about how many resumes you sent out. I care about presenting the best possible candidates to my clients. I don't want to talk to candidates who haven't visited the client's website and who often lack a basic understanding of what my client does on a day-to-day basis. This is your job as a candidate. I can fill in some of the blanks but do your homework before our call!
3. Be prepared. Yes, sorry again... Have your resume in front of you. I have taken the time to review and print your resume in preparation for our call. You should have a copy in front of you during our call. I will be asking you about it! You should not have to say, "Gee, let me print that out... can you give me a minute?" Or "I didn't know I would need a copy of my resume for the call." Hmm... interesting. What did you think we would be talking about?
4. Be prepared. I am getting redundant, aren't I? Well, this time I mean be prepared to take my call at our pre-scheduled time. Translation -- be on time, be punctual, be ready to talk at our pre-scheduled time.
5. Follow up. If I ask you to call me back during the first half of the following week, please do. If you don't follow up with me, it demonstrates lack of interest. If I ask you to email me 3-5 references, that means.... email me 3-5 references. If I ask you, which I frequently do, to stick close to your email so we can efficiently schedule an in-person interview, then check your email regularly over the next few days.
The interview process starts far before you walk into a company for an in-person interview. The preparation is so very important. Do your homework. Demonstrate commitment. Show that you can add value. Finally, remember to prepare a list of accomplishments to share with your interviewer. You want to convey that you can add value if offered a new role.
Q. I think I am coming close to an offer. I have had two interviews, and they told me they will be checking my references, and then inviting me in for another meeting. Everyone tells me to be ready for an offer. What does that mean?
A. Congratulations may be in your future, and all the signs point that way, but that doesn’t mean your work is over. Being ready for an offer means making sure the hiring manager and organization have no obstacles to making the offer. It also means knowing what you want in an offer so that negotiation and your acceptance go smoothly.
You have selected references who want to support your job search and can speak highly about your skills, work ethic, and talents demonstrated when you worked together. Your references need to know what the job is, why you are the ideal candidate, the challenges you will face and all about the skills you have to address these challenges. If there are any issues or concerns the hiring organization has about you, prepare your references to address these as well. Do not let them be surprised. Your references should sound similar enough to show they are all speaking about the same person, but not so identical the content appears scripted.
Ask your references to contact you as soon as they have completed the reference conversation. They can provide you with information about the questions asked, areas of special interest in your skills, and you’ll want to know if there are any issues. If there are, you may be able to have your other references address them in their conversations.
Make sure to select and prepare your references every time they may be called, and ask for that return call. Excellent reference conversation can validate why an organization wants to make an offer, or raise concerns that might not have been there prior to the conversation. Certainly a written thank you is in order after all the support is provided.
Being ready for an offer also means you know what you want your offer to look like. Compensation packages are involved with many areas including salary, benefits, retirement contributions, flex hours, the opportunity to work virtually, vacation time, tuition reimbursement, child care and car allowances. Companies change compensation packages based on the role, the value to the organization, and the difficulty in making a successful recruit. You may change what you want in a compensation package based on where you are in life, and being able to prioritize what matters to you will help you create a win-win environment .
Knowing what you hope to receive in an offer allows you to be prepared for the offer discussion while your negotiation power is at its peak – when the offer is made. Being ready for an offer also means knowing about the corporate culture and what will most likely be acceptable regarding what you value most as part of your package. If your highest priority is a 4-day work week and working virtually for at least two of them, what are you willing to give up in exchange? Is this an organization who has done this before? If not, your chances of making your offer look like this are slim – unless you have skills that are in high demand.
Take a complete list of offer components, and prioritize what you need and want. Evaluate what you’ll be willing to let go of so that you can maximize the gain in the areas you rank most highly. When the offer comes, be appreciative. Thank you is the appropriate first response. Then listen to all that is offered – the details really matter here. Does it meet what you had hoped for? Is it in the right range? Is something vital missing? Increase your value by reminding them why the match between your skills and the position is ideal. Then ask if you can ask a question about the offer. Your question might be about the flexibility in the offer because you have just a few points you’d like to address. Be ready to discuss your top picks, in a very positive manner. Negotiations will move forward if handled professionally, and show that you are ready for an offer.
Q: I've been searching for a creative-marketing job for quite some time now. With 10+ years of experience, I thought I would have been invited on a few interviews within the last year and a half, but have yet to receive one call. I see the same job listings posted and reposted, what is the best way to get your resume noticed?
A: Thanks for your question. You raise several very important issues. First, let's talk about your job search strategy. Yes, you should be following jobs that are posted. In most fields, job postings are easy to access and provide useful competitive information about what companies and industries are hiring, what skills are required and sometimes even compensation for a specific skill set. And many companies post jobs. However, not all jobs are posted. I would like you to think about how you are using your time.
Networking is still the most powerful job hunting tool. Networking is critical to discovering the hidden job market - those jobs that are not posted. Networking is also key to being referred into a company. Have you been using LinkedIn? LinkedIn is a very powerful networking tool. It does not replace the old-fashioned, traditional networking of meeting contacts for coffee or for lunch, but it is very valuable for connecting with and expanding your professional network. There are also subgroups on LinkedIn that target very specific interests, skill sets and specialties. There will likely be subgroups that target creative marketing. Also, Twitter is an easy and simply way to find out more about job openings. You can follow a targeted group of people, professional associations or companies.
I hope that you have been active in professional associations that might offer you opportunities to network. Alumni association events can offer helpful networking opportunities. There are also some great Meetup groups in the Boston area. Visit www.meetup.com to better understand how Meetup groups work. Meetup is an online community that links specific groups that meet to discuss a variety of topics. There are Meetup groups that focus on networking, sharing job leads and marketing.
Work on a two-minute job pitch speech if you haven't already. In two minutes, you should be able to summarize your skills and work history. Make it memorable and authentic. Here is a sample:
Good morning! My name is Mary Jones. I am a creative marketing professional with more than 10 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. I have a particular passion for public relations. I also enjoy media relations. I have an undergraduate degree from University of XYZ and an MBA from ABC University. I am now in the market for a new opportunity. Can I have about 20 minutes of your time to pick your brain to determine if you, or your network, may know of opportunities that might be a good fit for my skill set?
My personal observations over the past several years with regard to marketing roles are:
1. There has been a shift toward quantitative, more data driven marketing roles where a company's investment can be measured.
2. Email marketing, natural and paid search and tracking and analytics are skills that seem to be more in demand.
3. Roles in online marketing seem to be growing while roles in traditional marketing seem to have stabilized.
Think about your skill set. If you have some of the online marketing skills, are you highlighting them strongly enough in your resume? Make sure that your resume is crisp, easy-to-read and not too dense. Include meaningful metrics where possible. Use bullets to list skills rather than a paragraph format. A resume should summarize your professional work history and not include every detail. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to critique your resume.
Q: I have been without work in my field for over 3 years. I worked at the same institution for over 34 years but had to leave for reasons I cannot go into here. I have an excellent resume and great references but cannot not seem to get an interview or get past human resources. I have networked and done everything right. I have applied to over 40 postings at one institution and can't seem to get even a phone call. I am extremely frustrated at this point but have not given up. I am an allied health professional. Is it possible they look at my being at one employer for over 30 years a detriment?
A: Congratulations on continuing your job search. Sometimes 30 plus years with one employer can be viewed as a negative but not always. Many view 30 plus with one employer as a remarkable achievement.
When I hear that a candidate is struggling to land interviews, I often worry about their resume. I am concerned that your resume may be too long, too dense or contain typos. Ask a trusted friend to review your resume. Ask them to share their honest feedback. Is it easy to read? Does it summarize your skills effectively? Boston.com has information on resumes do's and don’ts. Visit www.boston.com/jobs/advice for more information on building a strong resume.
Based on the information you presented, I can not make any recommendations on how to best explain your reason for leaving your last company after 34 years of employment. When an employee has worked for a company for such a lengthy period of time, usually an interviewer will ask you, or any candidate, about the circumstances around your leaving.
Instead of applying repeatedly to postings at the institution of interest, explore LinkedIn. Find out if you know of anyone at that company. On LinkedIn, you can enter a company and search for employees that have listed that company as an employer. Don’t have a LinkedIn account? Start one! LinkedIn is an online networking tool that can connect you to hundreds of contacts after the contacts have accepted your invitation. Having an employee at that institution provide information on open positions is far more effective than emailing them 40 resumes. LinkedIn also has subgroups that would be very beneficial to your search. Many positions within companies are not posted. It is critical to access these opportunities. You will increase your chances of hearing about new opportunities if you have contacts that know you are looking for work.
Work on your elevator speech too. What is an elevator speech? It is a job pitch that quickly and succinctly summarizes your background, skill set and even how another person can help you in your search. Be careful to remove any frustration, anger or frustration about your job search. A sample job pitch might be:
Hi, I am Jane Smith. For over 30 years, I worked as a dental hygienist for a small dental practice in Brookline. I have an Associate’s Degree from ABC Dental School. I love my field and I especially enjoy building relationships with patients over a period of time. I am now in the job market and looking for a similar role. I wanted to pick your brain on any opportunities that you may know about in the Boston area. I am excited to find my next opportunity.
Have you considered temporary or contract roles? These roles can sometimes lead to full-time offers.
Allied health roles include a broad range of positions including emergency medical technicians, phlebotomists, dental hygienist, cardiovascular technicians and lab technicians. Have you joined professional associations? Is there a school or alumni association that could be helpful?
Opportunities in healthcare are expected to grow significantly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides this information regarding job opportunities in healthcare:
Many job openings should arise in all employment settings as a result of employment growth and the need to replace workers who retire or leave their jobs for other reasons. Tougher immigration rules that are slowing the numbers of foreign healthcare workers entering the United States should make it easier to get a job in this industry.
Q. In the past 12 months, a key position in my company has gone through 2 employees, and we're about to lose the third. These people have chosen to leave--even in this job market--because of the unreasonable expectations for the position and the abusive treatment from the supervisor. I'm in another department and I need to work closely with the person in this role. This has all had a negative impact on my ability to do my job.
My boss understands this, and is not holding me responsible. I've talked to HR, and though he agrees it is a bad situation, the supervisor is considered "untouchable". My question is do I have to be part of the problem? I've participated in the interviewing process for the last two people and with the next one I might need to say “can you deal with a sociopathic boss?" How can I look a stranger in the eye and interview him or her for a job I'd tell a friend or family member to run away from as fast as they could? I don't want to make an "issue" out of not helping in the new hire, but I don't want to be complicit any more in perpetuating a bad situation.
A. In this economy, and with the challenges companies face, fewer people are deemed “untouchable”, or they are viewed that way for a much shorter time frame. The cost of turnover in key positions can be been calculated in terms of real dollars, and lost productivity.
Effective human resources people and managers whose areas are negatively impacted are able to communicate this cost so the situation can be rectified. Offering coaching to difficult managers can be very effective, but not all offers are accepted.
I commend you for being courageous enough to discuss the issue with human resources and with your supervisor. Your manager needs to support you by having the discussion in greater detail with human resources, and taking the conversation to the next level of management. As your supervisor, your performance and professional livelihood should be important enough to pursue the issue. You are being prevented from being able to shine, to learn and develop, to be recognized for your success by others, to perhaps get a bonus based on your performance, or to be recognized on any kind of succession plans as having potential. Your career is being impacted negatively, not just your job.
Separating out the issues may help to evaluate what you can impact. You need the person in this key role to succeed, so that you too can too. If the expectations of the position are unreasonable, you may be able to help human resources redesign the job. With your insights, and the comments which were hopefully gathered during the past two exit interviews and by speaking with the incumbent, there may be a way to make the position more manageable. The challenging manager needs to be involved in this process. HR should be able to have a conversation about the cost of continually recruiting for this position, and the need to redesign the role to gain support from all involved.
In this way, the structure of the role might be viewed as the issue, and not the manager. As far as being part of the interview process, you can be honest with HR and decline to participate. Or you can also be part of finding a person to take the position who is made aware of the challenges, has experience working with difficult managers before, and wants a job where they can be successful.
This is also why applicants are encouraged to ask questions about why the position is open, and how the role is structured. When positions have history, it is most often not just because of the former employee.
Q: I have been job hunting for over one year, looking for a senior executive assistant or administrative assistant position. I have more than 10+ years of great experience, and have no trouble landing interviews. But no job offers. I've read up on interview skills and feel I do all the right things. I have never doubted my ability to come across well in such situations. I don't know what the problem could be. Any advice or suggestions? Thank you.
A: Congratulations on your persistence. This is an extremely competitive employment market. With Massachusetts unemployment hovering at just over 9%, there are many qualified candidates for each open position. Employers are very selective right now. However, I have heard from more than one employer the same sentiment: “Any one of these candidates could do this job and do it well.”
The fact that you have landed interviews is encouraging. The fact that you had landed interviews means that your resume is probably very impressive. It is likely crisp, easy to read and error-free. This is important. I still receive resumes that are choppy, too dense, are filled with too many confusing fonts. Boston.com has professional advice and tools that help candidates build a strong resume. Visit http://www.boston.com/jobs/advice/ for more information.
One additional comment about your resume - you may want to consider using two versions. I would suggest tailoring one more specifically for the administrative assistant role and then using a second version designed to target the executive assistant role. Since they are two distinct jobs, this may help you secure more interviews. Some hiring managers are reluctant to consider candidates that have executive assistant titles in their backgrounds for administrative roles. We don’t want that experience to work against you.
I am also pleased to hear that you have researched interviewing skills. You sound like a serious job hunter. The interview is really designed to get more information about you, the candidate. A talented interviewer will try to learn more about your skills, talents, potential value to the company as well as how you will fit into the culture. Try to conduct a little research on about the opportunity -- about the job, the manager and the company before you ever enter the company. The interview does NOT start when the interviewer says “Hi Sam. Welcome to First Beacon Group. How are you today?” It starts before that point. You should research the company, the culture, their product or service, their competitors and even their strategy. There is so much information available online now; it is much easier to access this information than it was even 10 years ago. If you have a contact or colleague at this company, give this person a call. Don’t know anyone at the company? Check out Linkedin and search for those with current or former connections to the company. Additional knowledge and insight shared by an employee or former employee is valuable.
A couple of interview pointers:
- Be prepared. Arrive a few minutes early. Map out a route beforehand if you have the slightest concern about how to get to your interview destination. Build in extra time if you are concerned about travel time or traffic.
- Bring an extra hard copy of your resume.
- Dress the part. If they are a suit type of place, wear your best suit. It is always better to be a bit overdressed than a bit underdressed. Minimize distractions. This is not the time to wear your flashiest earrings or loudest necklace. You want the focus to be on your skills and experience.
- Be ready to answer the most common interview questions. Provide examples that demonstrate your points. Be succinct, clear and confident. Avoid rambling, long-winded stories.
- Maintain good eye contact and appropriate body language. Be an active listener.
- Avoid bad mouthing former colleagues or employers. This is a turnoff.
- Be gracious throughout the interview but especially at the end of the interview. Thank those that met with you. Offer a firm handshake.
- Remember to make sure that you have demonstrated your value. An employer is like you or me (a consumer) at a department store. Like a consumer, the employer wants to purchase an item (an employee) that can provide value. You need to demonstrate what you bring to the company in terms of value. Is it increased revenue? It is improved efficiency? Is it reduced expenses?
- Send thank you notes or emails to all who met with you. Follow up in a persistent but professional way.
Lastly, interviewing is a skill. Like any skill, it can be improved. Practicing interviewing can enhance your interviewing performance. It will only work to your advantage.
Q. I am trying to be thorough in my job search and have prepared different versions of my resume to address the potential needs in a few different roles. I have been told I have exceptional experience and academic credentials, and I believe I could realistically pursue several career tracks. How would you suggest I market myself to retained search firms? Many firms today have a place on their website where you can upload your resume to be considered as a candidate for positions for which they are sourcing candidates. Since I have different versions of my resume targeted to different industries and/or positions, how do I approach them with the best chance of getting a response?
A. Retained search professionals are seeing the market for their services improve, and after a dismal 2009, first quarter of 2010 offers a promising outlook for the rest of the year. Many job seekers have been overlooking these resources, and your efforts with these recruiters are much likely to pay off.
For an insiders look into how to successfully access retained forms, I consulted with Joe McCabe, Vice Chairman of CT Partners (formerly Christian and Timbers). Joe offers two suggestions when approaching retained search firms. First, get your “generic” resume in the firm's database by applying online to give you access to everyone throughout the firm.
Also, research the consultants on the firm's website to see which ones have a search practice most closely aligned with your career experience. Send that slightly tailored version of your resume to the most relevant consultant first. So if you have financials services experience than send that version to the consultant who handles that vertical market. McCabe cautions that the content should be fundamentally the same with different highlights, but it must not contain any inconsistencies in the core content.
Often people with multiple resumes consider various formats. Most retained search professionals prefer the traditional layout of Company, Title, and dates employed, as opposed to resumes challenging the reader to identify where responsibilities were performed or when someone worked at a particular organization.
Retained firms, and contingency firms as well, have functional or industry specialties and if your areas of expertise do not fall into those areas there will not be a response to your unsolicited emails or calls. Focus on accessing firms who are looking for people with your area of expertise. Remember the firms do not need to be local to the area of your search. A west coast firm may be doing an east coast search, or the reverse. And only one retained firms has an individual search.
If you are right for a job, search people will be eager to talk to you. If they do not think they can present you to a company they will not meet to network, or to hear why you want to make a career change into the role, or industry. I say this because job seekers often forget what search specialists are responsible for finding the right candidate for a company not the other way around. They are compensated by the hiring companies so they will always remain priority for them, not the job seeker. Remembering these hard facts will hopefully make some of the rejection that comes easier to handle.
Q: I was laid off in February. I saw it coming so my resume was done, and I have a LinkedIn account and a Facebook profile. I know I’m supposed to use 'social networks' as a tool to find a job. But I’m not sure I really get how to use them in a job search?
A. I’m so glad you were prepared for your layoff, and that you took advantage of that time to prepare for the search. Many people do not use the advance notice they have, which is unfortunate. Networking remains the best way to conduct a job search, and the number one method leading to offers. Add technology and we have super tools when they are used effectively. A job search is about effectively marketing yourself and your skill sets to prospective employers. Social and professional networking tools provide a simple and efficient way to accomplish this. And using these tools is worth while because HR professionals, hiring managers, recruiters and search firms are also using these tools to look for you.
To consider your LinkedIn profile current, it should have great resume content for all your experience areas as well as references from former colleagues at each job you’ve held. Consider growing your connections by entering the names of the companies you have worked for, so that you can review who else you might want to invite to link. Have you listed all your current or past professional memberships? I don’t find the outlook mass invite strategic enough, but other people are comfortable using that tool. But I do encourage you to spend time “playing” to see who else you know by looking up people, companies, reviewing the jobs link. This treasure hunt will pay off. Your goal is to develop a strong network of level 1 connections. LinkedIn describes these as your trusted friends and colleagues. Based on the number of level 1 contacts you have, your second and third level contacts grow exponentially, so you have more potential leads and information. Include your picture, and make sure a person interested in hiring you would consider it professional. On the home page you can share information about the kind of position you are looking for – these updates can be very effective.
Next, join some industry relevant LinkedIn Groups. LinkedIn groups are a great way to keep current on industry news, networking events, trends and more. So start by joining all of the groups hosted by the largest industry associations and trade magazines in your field. You may also see job openings posted here before they are listed anywhere else. Also, creating a reading list on Amazon (which feeds into your LinkedIn account) to let your contacts know what you are reading and what you are interested in is a simple way to give a hiring manager more information on you than what they will find in a resume. You may also find great recommendations about books organizations are using as professional development. Make sure professional reading is what is listed here.
Some people use Facebook as a less formal networking group. You might have personal friends, or people in a broader selection of professions as contacts. Use the fan status to follow companies you need to learn more about. Facebook (MySpace, Friendster, etc.) and LinkedIn makes it easy to query your entire network with job search related questions. Both tools are great for providing brief updates on where you are in your search and what help you might need on any given day.
If you want to take your social networking strategy to the next level consider sharing your industry expertise through microblogs like Twitter. It’s a great way to showcase your knowledge and experience with your peers as well as potential employers. Also, you can easily feed your Twitter account into your Facebook profile making updates a lot more efficient and allowing you to reach two audiences simultaneously. If you don’t feel like you have enough to say to dedicate a Twitter account to that effort, than share your knowledge by commenting on other industry blogs and trade publications articles.
Other simple social networking efforts includes creating Google Alerts on job titles and companies of interest so you can be the most knowledgeable candidate to respond to job queries and be up-to-speed on the company when it comes time to interview.
At any job seeker level, take the time to make the job search process efficient, and more competitive. These tools become a two way street. You are looking for the right opportunity, and by creating a larger online presence you are making it easier for employers to find you.
Q: I am currently employed at a nonprofit as a grant writer. However, I am going to start, in the next year or so, a search for jobs in a different state.
What are some best practices for conducting a job search remotely? I will be able to travel there when/if needed, but I feel I may be at a serious disadvantage when it comes to networking in the region or making strong connections to the places I'd like to be. How can I minimize this disadvantage?
A: Conducting a remote job search is a challenge but not insurmountable, especially if you are comfortable using technology.
First, begin using online tools likes Linked In. You can begin to network online with contacts in the state or region of interest.
If you have family or friends in that area, reach out to these individuals. Developing relationships with contacts in the target area is critical.
Contact employment agencies in the area. Ask friend and family members for referrals.
If you have attended college, or lived in this area before, make sure that you mention this fact to prospective employers and contacts. Prospective employers will be less skeptical if they sense that you have roots in the area.
There are online job boards that allow you to target specific areas geographically. It would be smart to begin spending some time on these job boards now.
Develop contacts with professional and alumni associations in this new area. Spend some time online researching these organization online, and then, if possible, join.
Think about leaving your current address off your resume. Or include two addresses -- one that is current and one that is your future address. Often times, hiring professionals see a resume with an out of state address and immediately dismiss the candidate. They may think it would take too long for the candidate to relocate. Or they may fear they will have to pay your relocation expenses.
Also think about obtaining a new cell phone number with a local number that corresponds to your new town or city. This will indicate to employers that you have "made the leap" and are serious about relocating.
Explain in your cover letter that you anticipate moving (or even better, that you are in the process of moving) to your new state by a certain date. Think about adding "at my expense" if that is a financial reality.
Try to schedule some informational interviews via telephone. You will likely have to plan a job hunting visit to this new location. Try to be efficient as possible with this job hunting visit and fill that time with as many in person meetings as possible. Make sure that you have your 1-2 minute job pitch speech ready to go and perfect. This should include a quick summary of your background, skill set and what your next role might look like.
Like all job seekers, research the employment market before you make a final decision. Ensure that you are not moving to an area with limited opportunities for your profession. You also should ensure that your resume is crisp, concise and free of errors.
Q. I interviewed with 5 people from the same company. I met with them one at a time, and at the end, I met with the whole group. In my one-on-one meetings they were pretty direct about who they liked and who they didn’t. They told me who worked hard and who I wouldn’t need to pay attention to if I got the offer and took the job. It was really strange, and I wasn’t sure who to believe. When it came time to answer questions in front of the group, I felt like I was knee deep in internal politics and gossip and I didn’t even work there yet! Please don’t tell me not to take the job. I need a job, but I need a job that will last.
A. I am sure the company leadership including human resources would be horrified to hear of your experience. Part of the preparation in an effective recruitment, is for human resources and the hiring manager to coordinate areas to be discussed and questions to be asked by the company representatives. Most employees know they are acting as ambassadors for the company and are eager to represent the firm well. The employees you met with showed their dysfunction readily so before you accept an offer to join this group, you need to find out more about whom and what to believe.
Evaluating work environments, potentials colleagues, and a manager are an critical elements of the interview process. Yet, many job seekers forget that part or ignore it in their efforts to secure a job offer. In the assessment of an offer, I encourage people to think about whether they will be happy in the position , whether they will be successful, and how long they anticipate staying. Conducting a job search is hard work – conducting two searches in a very short period of time are even more difficult.
If you have the opportunity in this process, I would try and schedule a follow up meeting with the manager you would report to, and a human resources person. Without disclosing what happened, probe the relationships within the “team”, assess the managers understanding of the challenges, as well as their plans for the future. Perhaps plans include re-staffing this team and you are the first hire. Try and get the same kind of information from human resources. Without addressing these concerns you may be walking into a job where you (or anyone else) can’t win.
Q: What can I do to improve my interview skills? After months of networking I am finally getting interviews and I can’t afford to mess up these chances to get a job. I’ve been told that though I am likable, I ramble and give too much detail without getting to the point. What tips do you have to straighten out my presentation?
A: Interviewing is a skill that can be improved with practice. To really develop your skills, you will need to practice in writing, with friends, and in front of a video camera if possible.
Imagine the interview is thirty minutes long. Within those thirty minutes you will have specific time frames, each with a purpose. The first few moments are considered an icebreaker. These minutes may happen as you walk to or sit in someone’s office. Perhaps they ask about traffic or weather. Now is not the time to be negative, respond in short positive statements.
At this point, a transition to the more formal interview will take place. A question often used to start is something such as “Tell me about yourself.” This is not the time to start with a life history, so prepare a written answer which shows a professional progression, the strength of your work experience, and highlights aspects of your personality like dedication, commitment to learning, leadership, and willingness to work hard. You might also prepare a brief personal statement describing your education and places you have lived (particularly if you are willing to relocate). If you go over ninety seconds with this answer, you’ve moved into rambling territory. If interviewers want additional information, they will ask follow-up questions. Try to remember that interviews are conversations with give and take on both sides.
The next part of the interview is where you can showcase how well suited you are for this position. In preparation, study the job description to prepare statements which speak directly to the responsibilities and the challenges of the role. Your research should extend into the culture and environment of the company. Examples that you give should align with what you know about the work-style of the organizations. For instance, if their culture is all about teamwork, your examples will not focus on all the independent work you have done. Most of the errors made in interviews occur in this section, which can easily be prevented by research, preparation, and practice. Prepare at least ten examples highlighting aspects of your experience that will help the recruiter make a positive decision about your employment.
The next section of the interview is focused on questions you may have. You must have at least ten questions ready to ask. These questions demonstrate your sincere interest in the opportunity and that you have prepared for the interview. You will not use all ten questions and you don’t need to save them for this section. If a topic relating to your question comes up during the interview, ask it, don’t wait until the end of the interview. The questions you prepare cannot be questions you would have easily discovered the answers to in your preparation for the interview or questions related to compensation, vacation, or benefits.
As the interviewer begins to bring the meeting to a close, you may be asked if you have any other questions or if there is anything else you would like to say. Take this opportunity to quickly review the match between your skills and what the job needs. Next, express your interest in the position and ask if the interviewer has any concerns about your ability to do this job. If they do, try to resolve the issue at that moment. Ask if the clarification helped, which it hopefully did.
Your last question follows a “Thank you. I really appreciated the opportunity to meet with you. Can you tell me what the next step in the process will be?” This gives you information about the appropriate time to follow up, and the person you need to contact. This general guide to interviewing will only work if you invest the time and energy into the preparation. If you do find yourself slipping back into old habits of rambling, practice wrapping up what you are saying in 5-10 seconds, even if you are in the middle of a thought.
Call a friend, get out the video camera and improve your chances of getting the offer.
Q. I worked in a dentist's office as a hygienist for over 20 years until he retired. I am now in the process of looking for another job. I send out resumes but get no response. I think that when they look back at 20 years, they know that I was compensated well. I'm willing to take a big cut in salary just to get a job, but how do I put that in a resume? "Willing to negotiate salary" doesn't seem to be working. Thank you for any advice you can give me.
A. Many job seekers know from experience that sending out resumes is one of the least successful ways to get a job, yet it continues to be a significant part of the job search process. Getting you into conversations with people who can hire you or people who can get you to hiring managers is your new goal, and there are a few ways to get you started. Before you decide you need to give up compensation, let’s make sure your job search plan gives you the best chance to get a good response to your efforts.
It sounds like you may have chosen to wait to start the process until your former boss retired. Many job seekers wait until their current role is over before they start the search, and that can really hamper your chances of moving the search forward in a better time frame. In your case, can you ask the dentist to make calls to his professional colleagues to see if they have a need in their offices? Is there a web site or professional association where dentists connect to look for the staff they need? Where have your colleagues gone? You need to find the current and future openings, and then we can deal with your compensation.
For anyone currently employed, your job search should begin once you know you need or want to leave. You may have a 6 week notice, or you may be planning on making a change in 12 months. In both cases, you can put together a plan which involves targeting appropriate organizations or companies, people you know and you’d like to meet, the development of a compelling resume, posting that resume on job boards, a LinkedIn profile with recommendations, and a full list of the web sites that may have jobs in your area of expertise. Some of these recommendations may be new to you but consider learning these new tools your next step in professional development. Use a OneStop Career Center, or a library if you need support to learn to use these tools. It will be worth your time to take the initiative.
When you need to send a resume, you’ll want to include a great cover letter. The focus of the letter is a brief highlight of your skills, what you can offer the new organization, and here is where you let them know that “compensation is flexible, and I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the position in greater detail.”
Following the plan involves meeting with lots of people – developing a full network. In these meetings, after you are able to discuss the extent of your experience, you should identify the kinds of people you are trying to meet. These can be dentists in an office, or perhaps a specialty clinic, or introductions to dentists and other hygienists. In these conversations, your goal is to get an understanding of current compensation, and to let your network know that you are flexible in terms of your financial expectations. If your network is sending your resume, with your message about flexibility, you should be able to generate more meetings, and that’s where offers happen.
Q. It’s spring break time, and my son wants to go to Florida with all his friends. He’s been there, done that, and as he and his friends say, “bought the T-shirt”. He is a senior in college and I think it is time to start looking for his first professional job. He has friends who graduated last year who are still looking for work. Tell him it is time to get serious and get employed, and out of my wallet.
A. Last semester of senior year in college means many things to different people, and yours is a perfect example of how parents and seniors might not share the same vision of how to spend the time. This may be a great opportunity for you and your son to practice the fine art of negotiation – a great skill needed for a successful job search.
College seniors should start their job searches now, if they haven’t already. And college students hoping to find summer work should also begin an active search now.
‘Now’ is a relative term in college time, so if you want your students to begin the a successful job search consider bartering with them. The is not a lot of time between spring break and summer to look for work, and a summer with no job is a very long time, especially with limited cash. In partnership, students and parents might begin the process of documenting the job search steps that need to be completed with a commitment of how much time will be dedicated to the activity. Some of the steps can be completed before a great college style spring break – which shows good faith effort.
Let me give you and your college student a head start on some of the steps.
Step1. Clean up your web presence. No spring break photos on Facebook, or any other incriminating pictures, or posts of you or any of your friends. You might even have to add your parents as friends. No tweets that a hiring manager wouldn’t be thrilled to see.
Step 2. Create a LinkedIn account. These will be professional contacts who can help in your search. Build your network, and do not say “I want to do this on my own”. It takes a network. Learn this lesson now, and you’ll be ahead of job seekers for your whole career.
Step 3. Develop a compelling resume. This sales and marketing tool needs to tell the story of you as a committed worker. Learn how to write a very effective resume. Edit it, have professionals review and edit it. What does each line say to the reader? Give each item the “so what” test. Do they learn about your skills, or do they say so what?
Step 4. Identify and prepare your references. Select at least 5 people who can talk about the work you have done and can do. They need to be totally committed to saying great things about you to anyone who will listen. Make sure your references have your resume, and are familiar with your experiences. Stay connected with them so they know anytime they might be called.
Step 5. Use your resources. Meet your college career services staff. Learn what they teach. Utilize the range of their services. Ask them questions; ask them to edit your resume; ask them who they know; and ask them about successful students who came before you and how they made it happen.
Step 6. Network. Learn to network effectively. Read everything you can about networking, and practice. Practice with your friends, your references, and your career services professionals. Develop this skill to expert level.
Step 7. Success.
Step 1 can be completed before spring break; Step 2 can be started as you pack. All the other steps will lead to success. You get to decide when you start the next steps, and the timeframe that will get you to the last step in the process – for this time.
Q: As an existing employee, how do you answer the question "what do you want to get from your company over the next 5 years?" Or do you even answer this question?
A: This is a great question either from an internal applicant (a current employee looking to move into another role within the same company) or an external applicant (a candidate hoping to land a position with a new employer). Your question sounds like a variation of the question "where do you want to be in 5 years?"
First, you want to make sure that your response doesn't limit you in any way. If you respond with "My one and only goal is to land a role in auditing. I know I could do an amazing job and I think I have the attention to detail often required in that type of role." However, what if your company is looking to outsource auditing? Or if you reply, "I need to be making $75,000 in five years." This makes it sounds like money is the most important criteria and you don't really care about the role or how you will add value to the company.
Second, this is an opportunity to show your passion, enthusiasm and value to the company. Think about: "I really have enjoyed my two years working directly with our customers on the retail side of the company. I think I have done a very good job of describing the features and benefits of our products as well as handling difficult customer complaints in an effective manner. I think this knowledge and experience could also be add value to a number of other areas. I think I could be successful in training, auditing, quality or finance. I am passionate about our products and I think my passion shows in the quality of my work and my level of commitment to this company."
Third, you may be able to gain some information on what functions are expected to grow (or shrink) in both the long-term and the short-term. This knowledge can help you target areas in which there is planned growth that may translate into opportunities.
Lastly, make yourself memorable when asked this question (in a good way). Leave an image that can be visualized. I once had a candidate say to me "I like to leave a footprint where ever I have worked... in a good way. I left it better, improved, ahead of where we were when I first joined the team. I improved our service levels in the two years that I worked in that group." I still remember that candidate.
Q. My job search is now coming on 5 months, and I don’t understand where the offers are. I am doing what everyone says, I network, I use the job boards, I have as good resume, I am told I interview well. The big bases are covered. Everyone can improve something (I do know that) but am I doing anything wrong or is this just how it is?
A. The job search in this market can be a frustrating, challenging process. Everything you do in this public forum does matter. Each interaction counts, and how you present to every person becomes part of your story. People do talk about candidates within companies and between companies, and you want to make sure what your story is represents you as positive, professional, and an asset to any organization.
We know of situations where people have lost offers for being rude to receptionists, condescending to wait staff at lunch interviews, or because their etiquette was lacking. We know people who ask for a networking meeting and then don’t offer to pay for coffee or lunch. We can start a collection of worst behaviors exhibited by job seekers – feel free to send me your examples and experiences. There are many stories about people who hurt their candidacy by ignoring what they think are the little things, and when it is an employers market, the little things add up.
I’m not saying this is the case for you. The job search does take months and you need to use all methods, and probably with a lot more diligence than most people expect. The challenge is each of these many activities needs to be completed effectively, leaving a positive impression with each person you reach.
You have the big bases covered, so let’s review the “little things”.FULL ENTRY
Q. I can't tell you how long it has taken for me to start getting interviews, but I have been doing the exhausting work of getting a great resume, networking, researching, making calls, using job boards, everything you are supposed to do to get a job. I finally got an interview, and I thought I was ready to answer anything. I wasn't surprised by any questions, but it didn't go well. It just seemed flat. I could tell I wasn't having an impact. I have worked too hard and too long to have it all fall apart here. Help me interview, please.
A. Stay positive! You have made great strides to get this far in the process, and you can improve your interview skills. Interviewing doesn't start when you walk into the meeting room to shake hands with that hiring manager, but long before with the preparation involved as you work on developing the messages you want to convey.
Start by reviewing what you got you in the door. Was it a connection? Be able to address how you have that connection, and what your relationship is, and know how your contact is connected to the interviewer. A connection can get you in, but there has to be more to talk about. What was in your resume that interested the organization enough to invite you in? Make sure you know the details of that specific area of your work, and that it is current knowledge and not a vague memory.
Many people do only half the preparation needed for successful interviews. They prepare for the interview by being ready to answer questions. That is certainly part of the preparation you need to do, and many interview preparation books exist which will cover the most often asked interview questions. Most people are familiar with "Tell me about yourself", or "What are your strengths and weaknesses?". "Winning Job Interviews", by Dr. Paul Powers offers a great guide.
This is vital preparation, but it can become much more effective after completing research which will lead to the development of the messages and stories you want to tell. Your corporate research will give you details on the financial situation of the company, the outlook, organizational strategy, culture, and their biggest challenges. The research your network can provide most often brings you greater insight to the area your work will be part of, and the people with whom you would work most closely, what they need most from a person in this position, and what is most likely "to sell".
Rather than start by preparing for questions, begin with the messages you most want your audience to hear, and believe. I consulted with John Monahan, president of Monahan Communications, a public speaking and consulting firm, and a long time Boston TV reporter. John says "Your message has to be to the point. Your message or story must be well thought out to have impact. So, have a plan and keep it simple. The bottom line is understand the company and your relation to it."
Take the themes and messages you have identified, and work these into the answers you are preparing. What is it you can do to help the company succeed? Tell a story from your experience that highlights how you have done that in the past. This story needs to point to your skills, show how you fit into the culture of the company, and address how effectively you would work within this new organization.
These same ideas should be used to develop the questions you want to ask. Prepare questions that will show your sincere interest in learning more about the challenges this position will address. The answers you receive can help lead to a conversation drawing you deeper into how your skill set can make a positive impact on the organization. Practice interviewing is a very valuable tool. Work with a friend, a family member, or a tape recorder. We are all eloquent in our own minds, but hearing what we say out loud can improve interview skills and get you that offer!
Q. As part of the search for a new position, I’ve had to travel to prospective employers for interviews. In the last two months I had one interview that was 208 miles from home — which cost me a total of $117.10, including tolls. I asked for reimbursement from the Human Resources person the day after the interview. The other interview was 244 miles, totaling $135.20. On this occasion I asked my potential manager who to contact for reimbursement. After numerous attempts, I finally gave up on trying to be reimbursed per customary business travel expense practices. Was I correct in asking for travel expenses? Was my timing correct? I am currently out of work so the reimbursement would be helpful.
A. G., Methuen, MA
Q. What about those interview marathons in which, in a single day, you meet with a series of up to 7 managers? I have one coming up and I am worried about being redundant. Do I keep repeating the same "stories," or do I look to find a new and fresh way to answer the same question seven different times? Thanks so much.FULL ENTRY
Q. I would like your perspective on what I perceive to be a frustrating trend: job applicants showing up too early for interviews. When I have interviewed for positions, I’ve made it a point to arrive about 5-10 minutes before the scheduled time. If I arrive earlier to ensure I’m not late, I make it a point not to enter the facility until the 5-10 minute window.
In my current position, I’m often required to interview candidates and have noticed they’re showing up earlier and earlier. Often I get a call from the reception desk that my candidate has arrived as much as 30 minutes ahead of the appointment. I often have a full calendar and cannot take time out to go and greet them, even though it makes me feel uncomfortable keeping somebody waiting idly in reception.
H.S., Mansfield, MA
A: My number one piece of advice for job seekers, and perhaps the most important, is to be on time: not too early and not too late. Being late, even just a couple of minutes late, is a sure fire way not to get the job. You’re starting off on the wrong foot, and you’re making the interviewer wonder if that’s the way you’ll treat clients, prospects, and fellow employees.
Being on time also means not arriving too early. Not only does it create an awkward situation for the interviewer, who feels responsible for your comfort during the wait time, it also can create difficulty for other interviewees, who may not want to be seen interviewing. Often, interviews are staggered so that candidates don’t meet in the waiting area.FULL ENTRY
Q. Could you give me some advice regarding a past (and last) employer of
eight months, (six of which she was on maternity leave) who will not give
references to any of my potential employers (hence, preventing any sort of
A. Lacking a reference from a supervisor for a job of less than a year, even if it is your last job, will not prevent you from finding successful re-employment. Let me offer some strategies for doing an “end run” around the missing reference and then discuss general reference etiquette.
I can understand why an employer who has supervised you for only two months would be unwilling to provide a reference for you. It is unfortunate, but not fatal, that this is your most recent employer. Here are some possible ways to help solve your immediate problem:
1. Check with human resources in the company. Many companies now have a policy of only verifying dates of employment and prohibit supervisors from providing references. If that’s company policy, you’re off the hook. When asked for a reference, simply state company policy and provide the interviewer with a name and telephone number in human resources.FULL ENTRY
Q: I held a state position as a Court Administrator for ten years. I have been looking for work since August 2008. I have completed every training course provided by the state and hold many certificates. I have so much experience in what I do and applied to so many positions within the state and all I receive are thank you but no thank you letters. Why? I have gone on one interview where I made it to the second interview, had my references checked, and no call back yet. They seemed like they were really interested so I called human resources and she tells me by next week I should know something. The position has not been filled. It’s almost 2-1/2 weeks since the interview. I'm confused as to what they are looking for and why work experience and certificates don't even land you an interview...
A: Searching for a job, at any time, is an incredibly frustrating experience. You do all the right things, you have all the right credentials, you interview well, and still there is no job offer. Add in this horrible economic environment and you have an incredibly challenging time to find work.
I can only suggest three things:FULL ENTRY
Q: I just finished an interview and I feel like I missed out. I want to reinforce to the interviewer that I am the right person for the job. I don't live far from the place, and I wanted to see about taking the person to lunch. Is this considered bribing?
A: Ah, the universal longing for an interview do-over! Even the Chief Justice needed a do-over to swear in President Obama properly. You usually don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression, but perhaps there are a few actions you can try that might help. Inviting the interviewer to lunch is not one of those. No interviewer will want to risk the hint of impropriety, the suggestion that he or she can be “bought” for the price of a good meal. If anything, interviewers take applicants out to lunch to impress their future hires or to assess them in a social setting.
Q. Wondering what you think a proper answer is for: "Where do you plan to be in 5 years?"
A. Before I give you a suggested response, let me offer why I think the interviewer may be asking this question.
First, they may be looking for a candidate that is committed to joining a company for the long-term, not just the short-term. The interviewer may want to ensure that a candidate is not using this position or this employer as a short-term “stepping stone” to another role or until a better offer comes along.
I still find it surprising how many people will respond to this question (or a similar one) with an answer like, “I just want to get my foot in the door because I need the benefits but I am hoping to move into another role soon because this isn’t really what I want to do. But I need an income and the benefits.” The interviewer may then be thinking, “Do we really want to spend time and money on orienting and training this candidate when they plan to move onto another role?”FULL ENTRY
Q. I have been out of work now for nearly four months. I have had many interviews and great leads through networking. Still nothing has panned out.
Given this economy, and with so many people being out of work searching for jobs, I find it frustrating when the HR rep/hiring manager does not get back to you with updates on the interviewing progress. I have had to call or e-mail (numerous times) to get updates, many only met with silence. Is it too much to ask for status updates from HR without solicitation? I know we are all busy, but I really believe that is an important practice now-a-days. I find it bad practice if an organization does not communicate any status when unemployed people need that information to move on. You think you are still in the running, to only find out an offer was made weeks ago to another candidate.
Do I long for the days of the rejection letters in the US mail? At least it was closure.
A. The job search is not tennis. In a really nice (maybe not so competitive) well-played match, everyone knows their turn, they know the boundaries, they understand you are not supposed to ignore a ball hit your way, and you are supposed to try and get it back to the person who sent it to you - or at least to the other side! Sounds good, but as I said, the job search is not tennis.FULL ENTRY