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: 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.
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 would like to launch a new career in accounting, focusing on AP and AR (accounts payable/accounts receivable). Aside from on-the-job learning, where can one enroll for affordable training in basic bookkeeping and accounting?
A: Congratulations on making a choice to launch a new career in the field of accounting. Almost all businesses, regardless of size, require accounting services.
To better respond to your question, I consulted Jim Elgart, CPA of MarathonCFO, a consulting firm focused on delivering accounting and bookkeeping services to a wide range of businesses.
Elgart offered: "To begin a career in accounting, it would be really helpful to learn the accounting basics by either taking an entry-level accounting class online or in person at a local college, or using free web resources like Kahn Academy. You might also consider the learning resources and certification program offered by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (www.aipb.org). Once you have a basic understanding of the accounting cycle, you should enroll in QuickBooks Proadvisor program and take their online classes that lead to QuickBooks certification. QuickBooks is the most popular software for small businesses, so basic accounting and bookkeeping knowledge combined with a good understanding of the software will have you ready to begin working effectively in A/R and A/P."
Most accounting roles require some math aptitude as well as basic computer skills. Most A/R and A/P tasks are automated and are done online using bookkeeping software.
For more information about bookkeeping and accounting roles, visit this link
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/bookkeeping-accounting-and-auditing-clerks.htm. This link will provide you information on the work environment, expected pay, job outlook and some useful links for this occupation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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: 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 have just started the search for a new job and my biggest fear is that I'll actually find one. You see, I love my present job, everyone I work with, the commute--even a hard day may be draining, but so fulfilling. The career growth has been tremendous and it would be a very sad day to say goodbye. Unfortunately, I just can't afford to stay. My husband is disabled with a pension and even my super-frugal powers have only slowed the financial burn-rate to now a paycheck-to-paycheck status. My question is, when should I tell my VP? Could I possibly use this as an opportunity to push for more money (even though other directors earn the same as me)? How can I feel good about taking on a new opportunity (more prestige, higher income) when I'm leaving a place that means so much to me?
A: Wow! There are few readers who write so passionately about their current job. I can understand why you are torn.
It sounds like you have an ideal role except for the dollars. You are being paid at a rate comparable to your peers. If your VP raised your salary, this may create a problem with "internal equity." The term "internal equity" means that employees in the same or similar roles are paid at roughly the same level of pay, though there may be some variations depending upon experience, performance level, skill set, geography, education or other factors. Additionally, if a modest compensation increase was a possibility, would it be enough to put you in better financial situation?
Regarding approaching your VP, I am uncertain of your relationship with your VP. There is always a risk when you "tip off" your current employer if you are serious about leaving the company. Your employer and your VP could perceive you as less committed and/or offer you fewer opportunities (e.g., conferences, workshops, etc.). Though rare, your employer could ask you to resign immediately, which is sometimes a horrible shock to the departing employee. I have also seen the complete opposite happen: where your VP may ask you what it would take for you to remain in your current position. However, knowing that other directors are paid at a similar rate, this may be unlikely.
One other option to consider may include landing a part-time role elsewhere to supplement your income but remain in your current full-time role. Before accepting a part-time role, evaluate the pay to ensure that it will elevate your income to a level required for financial stability.
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 entering college in September, 2013. I am a strong student, especially in the sciences. I love biology and chemistry. I am also a good writer. I am a little bit introverted so I am not the best presenter to large groups of people. Over the next four years, I need to become more focused on a major, a career, a direction! I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!
A: Congratulations for being able to identify many of your strengths and interests so early in your academic career! This is an achievement in itself.
Your interest in the sciences is encouraging. Many colleges and universities are encouraging students to focus in the areas known as STEM subject areas. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. There are many career paths within the STEM areas of study. These careers include biomedical engineers, software developers or chemists.
Recently a report, called Hard Times, was produced by Anthony P. Carnevale and Ban Cheah. The report discusses data related to college majors, unemployment and earnings. The complete report is available by visiting http://cew.georgetown.edu/unemployment2013. In short, the report finds that a college degree is usually worth the investment. However, your college major can impact your marketability, your earnings and your employability. Although there are some surprising findings in this report, the information may be helpful to you as you continue to move through your college years. As an example, earnings increase as recent college graduates gain experience and/or a graduate degree. The fields of study where the median earnings are highest include engineering and computers/mathematics (p.8).
Another resource is the Fasting Growing Occupations published by the Bureau of Labor Studies. Visit www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm. What you will need to evaluate is the demand of an occupation but also the potential earnings.
If possible, try to secure an internship or a summer job in a field related to your major. This experience can be incredibly helpful. An internship or summer job in a related field can also broaden your connections in the field.
You are smart to ask these questions early. I work with many job seekers well beyond college who are still trying to find a career path that will bring them joy and a paycheck!
Q: I am a late bloomer and I worked in construction for eight years before I found out what I really wanted for a career. I went to school, graduated, got my certification, but right now prospects are very tight. How do I create a resume for a career in Radiology Tech, when I am not presently working in that field, but I am working full-time?
A: Congrats on finding a career that can bring you joy! There are some who never find what truly makes them happy in their work life.
You were smart to select an occupation in healthcare. Overall, healthcare is an area of expected growth and, in particular, the employment outlook for radiology technologist is quick positive. For more information about this role as a career, visit http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Radiologic-technologists.htm.
Changing fields is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. I see more and more people change fields within the workforce today when compared to past decades. A few tips for you:
- Stay connected to the career services office of the school from where you graduated. Often the career services office receive job postings and information on who is hiring within your field. They can also help you write a resume which discusses your work history but also conveys your intent to use your recent degree.
- Join a professional association. The American Association of Radiologic Technologists (http://www.asrt.org) is one to consider. There are also career services available through this professional association.
- Join LinkedIn and begin following potential employers. Join career-related groups on LinkedIn.
- Start networking within the profession. Networking opportunities might be available through your college, community, local library or professional association.
- Use free resources available. Visit www.boston.com/jobs. There is quite a bit of content that could be helpful to your job search.
- Several years ago, there was an article posted on www.boston.com specifically addressing career changers. It is still applicable today. You can read this article by clicking on http://www.boston.com/jobs/advice/careerdevelopment/transitions/2010/.
Changing your career is achievable. Good luck!
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.
Much has been said and written about what to do when interviewing for a job. From being on time to dressing one notch up to writing thank you notes, the advice is practical and important.
But what of the time before the interview? What specifically should you do before you start out to be prepared for your interview? Here are ten pieces of pre-interview advice to get you prepped so you can be your best.
- Make sure your shoes are cleaned and shined. People, including interviewers, notice your footwear. If it’s messy or dirty or unkempt, is that how you’ll be in your job as well?
- Check that clothes are neat and clean. That means they are stain-free, odor-free, and wrinkle-free. You don’t want to present an image that says you are a sloppy individual. It’s not a bad idea to invest in an iron: pressed impresses.
- Clean and trim your fingernails. One of the first things you’ll do is shake hands. You want to be sure your hands are presentable and create a positive image of you in the interviewer’s mind.
- See that hair is neat—combed, brushed, and held back away from your face. For men, a quick visit to a barber or hair salon to clean up areas like the back of the neck or the ears will improve your appearance and keep the focus on what you have to say and not on how you look.
- Leave extra jewelry at home. Keep it to a minimum—nothing flashy or jangly—so it doesn’t distract the interviewer.
- Print your resume. Bring along a clean copy and have several extras in case you meet with different people.
- Know the location. Have the address and phone number plugged into your phone or written on a slip of paper. If it’s on your phone and you have a map app, plug in the route so you know how to get there. Better yet, do a dry run the day before if possible so you not only know how to get there, you also know how long it will take.
- Practice the pronunciation of names. People simply aren’t named “Smith” or “Jones” anymore. Your best bet is to find out how to pronounce the names of the people you are scheduled to meet before you attend the interview. Call the company and ask the receptionist or a person in HR for the correct pronunciation. You’ll stand out, especially if your competition didn’t learn the correct pronunciation.
- Have writing paper and instrument. Bring paper and pen to take notes during your interview. You don’t want to have to ask for it during the interview.
- Be prepared. It may rain, sleet or snow so make sure your coat is in good condition. Pack an umbrella. Charge up your electronics and then turn them off when you arrive. Have a couple of breath mints that you can enjoy before arriving “just in case.”
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: 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
Q: My son is a junior in high school. He is very indecisive. He does well in math and science. He is also an introvert. He is not sure what he wants to do with this life or his career. I am nervous about writing a big check for college if he doesn’t know what he wants to do. How do we get beyond this?
A: Choosing a college is a major life decision. It is also a time of both anxiety and pride.
I think we place a lot of stress on young adults. How many of us really knew, with conviction, what career we wanted to pursue at that age? We often have a sense of what we like and dislike, which is helpful. But very few young adults know their exact career path with certainty. I work with 40-50 year olds who are still unsure if they made the best career choice.
I consulted Kathleen Hebden, College Counseling Services, former Guidance Director and School Counselor. Hebden currently runs a college consulting firm. Hebden advises, “Although attending college is about securing a job after graduation, it's also an opportunity to self-reflect and get to know yourself...how and where you learn best, your personal strengths and weaknesses, the type of work environment that suits you, etc. Colleges provide internships and coursework to help students determine their career path. Furthermore, this generation will change careers (not just jobs) 5-6 times so it isn't a deal breaker when a student has no idea yet what he/she wants to do. Encourage your son to consider colleges and universities that offer a variety of majors/minors and has a reputable career center. Every student needs to have a plan upon high school graduation. This plan can include vocational training, certificate programs, military service or a gap year. For a viable future in math and/or science, college is a must and there are many places, including state colleges and universities, that won’t break the bank if you do your research.”
Internships and coursework related to career interests are invaluable. If your son majors in engineering and then lands an engineering-related internship and hates it, that’s part of the learning process. Then, you both know that type of engineering is not an ideal choice for him in the long-term. Eliminating career paths is sometimes as important as considering different career paths.
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've been at the same job (with many hats) for the same company since 2001 in a pretty niche market. Now that I'm older and have a family, it really started sinking in that I am underpaid for someone with my tenure, abilities and for the massive amount of work I've done above and beyond my position. There isn't much room to 'move up', or even make a parallel move, so I'm looking in different areas for a new career that will make living easier, and not paycheck to paycheck. I am capable of many things, and have many skills, but my job field (office job in the photography field) doesn't necessarily translate on paper/resume easily, and I think I am often ignored/passed over. I have applied to 50 jobs this year in an array of fields (easily qualified for), and received one call back (then subsequently ignored). Is there a way to get my skill set past the 'he/she works in photography, we don't need pictures taken' stigma, and be seen as a loyal department head with great skills who just happens to work for a company who sells photographs?
A. You have told the story of internal and external job seekers who are challenged by communicating their value. First remember that employers pay you for the value of your contributions to their organization, not based on your family situation, or length of service. Do the research. What do roles like yours pay in service organizations? Reality is the best tool when it is time to negotiate, whether you are faced with an internal or external conversation. Perhaps you are being taken for granted and a more direct review of your contributions could help you maximize your earning potential.
To make that happen, you need to review every word of your resume. If you've had many hats at your current company, you need to define each role in general business terms, not terms just accepted at your company. In each of these roles, quantify the successes you were responsible for or participated in. Most often, companies where you are not considered the main talent but are considered a supporting player often overlook the kind of increases you believe you deserve. You may have already hit your peak compensation at your current company. The resume re-creation you are now tasked with may prove highly valuable if you want to try to renegotiate your current compensation.
Many job seekers use language in their resumes and letters which minimize responsibilities because they tie themselves too closely to the specifics of their current role. To be considered for external roles, you're goal is to remove the “picture taking” from the description of the work you do. Your organization is a service provider. You need to describe the work you do in terms of managing, leading, driving revenue and increasing the success of your company by being able to sell more services, deliver more services at a lesser cost, or increase productivity. All hiring organizations are interested in people who can drive success regardless of what the service or product might be.
Also, consider adding as many project details and results that you can to your LinkedIn profile through the upload and the update feature. Make sure it's completely updated with a recent head shot and communicates what you would like to do as much what you have accomplished.
Once the new resume is complete, change your approach from 50 applications to 50 networking contacts. Develop relationships with vendors and other service providers. You need to develop an external sales force that can speak to your skills and refer you to potential hiring managers, and the new resume will give you the breadth you will need to succeed.
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. After 2 years of unemployment, I have been offered a position as a marketing data analyst. This is a small career change, and I'm fully qualified (if not overqualified). Research shows salaries from a low end of $49k to an average of $62k/year. They offer a salary that is well below the low end of this spectrum. While I could cover my bills, I feel the offer is almost insulting and taking advantage of my desperate situation. How can I address this disparity? I like the company and would love to work there.
A. Prolonged unemployment is a horrible experience - financially, emotionally and career wise. It’s something that only those that have been trough it can fully appreciate. Unemployment statistics are made of stories of real people and real organizations going through challenging times. And the aftermath of this will invariably impact on how you view any offers you receive.
So celebrate that you have an offer. The people you met value your skills and the contributions you can make. Do your research. Why can the company fill this position now? Is this a replacement role for a recent vacancy? Or did they fill a long vacant position with a newly opened head count addition? Is this a new role based on business growth? The answers here, as well as a look at any type of financial information you can access might help explain more about how the offer came to be and why they selected the salary they did.
You say you like the company and would love to work there, but why? What do you know about the people and the organization that would explain what you consider a low ball offer? Are they the kind of people who would “take advantage” of your situation? Are they a not-for-profit that doesn’t fit your research data? Was the research conducted in a booming economy versus during a recession? Or perhaps they see your experience and qualifications a bigger career change than you believe.
While you have the opportunity, you should try to negotiate for a higher salary. Valid reasons include your experience, and the data you have on the typical salary range for this role. Approach the negotiations with gratitude, “Thank you so much. I am very pleased to get this offer, I am confident in the experience I bring to the organization, and the contributions I can make. I am disappointed in the compensation. Recent research I have done shows the compensation for this position between XX and XX for someone with x years of experience. This offer is below the low end of that scale. Is there flexibility in your offer?“
Hopefully you can add to the offer. If not, consider asking for a six month compensation review. If they cannot or choose not to enhance the offer, are you able to move past your feelings about the generosity of the offer? There are many ways to see the “reality” of this situation. You need to make sure that you can accept this job without bitterness. Should you accept the offer, you will want to be the high performing positive employee you can be, even if you continue to look for opportunities that offer more.
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: 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 work for a family-owned business. I have worked here for three years. There is an owner who is here 3-4 days per week. Two of his kids work here full-time. I think the plan is for the kids to take over the business one day. The kids are in their twenties but act like children. They bicker, fight and spend hours trying to sabotage each other. The kids drive us really hard but they don’t push themselves as hard. Instead, they spend hours texting friends or shopping online. It makes for a difficult work environment. All the non-family employees walk on eggshells. I don’t see a future here because I am not a family member. Do you have an opinion on how to make this a better work environment until I can find another job?
A: Working for a family business, as a non-family member, presents unique challenges. Conflict, however, occurs in all types of business, whether family-owned or not. Conflict can occur in any type of relationship, including work or personal relationships.
I consulted David M. Karofsky, President of the Transition Consulting Group (TCG). His firm works with family-owned businesses helping family-owned and closely-held businesses grow, thrive and work through inevitable conflicts in a healthy way. Remember, conflict is normal. How you approach and resolve conflict is essential to any positive work environment. Talking about how you will approach and resolve conflict is often helpful.
When I shared your concern with Karofsky, he offered the following recommendation: “I’d encourage you to talk with the owner directly about your concerns. Perhaps you could suggest a confidential, anonymous 360 performance appraisal for all employees, including family members, in order to gain objective feedback. If the owner seems unwilling to listen or address concerns within the workplace, you may want to consider looking for a new role if the conflicts become intolerable.” Only you can decide how much conflict you can live with on a day-to-day basis. Some of us have a high tolerance for conflict while others are more conflict averse.
Many business leaders, across all types of business, avoid conflict. No one truly enjoys confronting conflicts but some of us are better than others.
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.
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 would like to ask a colleague I respect tremendously to mentor me. I don’t work with him directly, but I know he’d be a great help. How do I ask? I don’t want to be a burden and I hope he’d enjoy spending time with me too. I want to bring specific ideas and goals to the table - is that too pushy?
A. There is a difference between pushy and prepared, and if you are going to ask for career support from someone, you need to show just how seriously you take their time and that you are highly invested in making the process easy.
A mentor is a person who acts as a trusted advisor to someone less experienced or new to a job or industry. Some industries and functions have apprentice roles with a senior craftsperson that plays the mentor. Some organizations have formal mentor/mentee programs, or mentoring can happen informally between two people who agree to a mentoring relationship. Either way, the mentoring arrangement should be determined by the goals and availability of the mentor and protégé.
There are many benefits to working with a mentor. They can help you with professional development, offer advice and encouragement, help you develop a network of colleagues and professional contacts, and help you understand politics in the workplace and the savvy to avoid issues.
The fact that you have a potential mentor selected means you’ve already crossed the biggest hurdle. You know your mentor, and don’t have a straight reporting relationship. Identifying a potential mentor who works within your company would be great, but is not a requirement. Finding someone who works or worked in your industry or function however is critical. You will benefit most from working with someone who has a shared understanding of what you do and where your challenges fit in your career trajectory.
Before you ask, assess the strength of the current relationship. Is there a mutual respect? Does your potential mentor like you? Have they been supportive in the past?
When asking your potential mentor to work with you, explain why you want to work with them and provide 2 or 3 goals you would like to work on through the relationship. Provide suggestions on how they might be helpful. Explain what you have learned already from “being in their circle”. If they suggest keeping the relationship informal, ask them to consider a 90-day trial period where you meet 2-3 times to asses if the mentor/protégé relationship will work. That gives you ample time to determine if it’s a fit, while giving you both an out if it’s not. Many people are interested in supporting others, but worry that they will take the burden of “making this work”. Let them know you hope to retain the informal relationship as well, but that you would also hope you have something to offer them, and open up the idea of a two way street. Clearly communicate your hopes on how long the ‘trial’ relationship will last and how frequently you would like to meet. Ask what might be the right amount of time for them. Remember their time is valuable and this shouldn’t be a never ending assignment.
If they say no, recognize the timing may be bad, the relationship isn’t there, or they don’t want the added responsibility. Be professional and retain a cordial relationship. They may suggest other people you can meet who can also provide professional development opportunities, and a flattered colleague is better than an unhappy mentor and mentee.
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: 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 have been out of the job market for 12 years as a full time Mom. I started my job search about three months ago, and I am feeling challenged by hiring managers lack of receptivity to my ability to transition back to the world of full time work. I’m a human resources professional and am confident my expertise is current and valuable. I know how to work and I have the energy to deliver. How can I convince at least one hiring manager I’m ready to come back full time?
A. You are coming back into a very competitive job market, so everything about your presentation needs to be of the highest caliber. There has been a great deal of movement in the human resources marketplace in the last two years, and the issues facing HR people have changed as well. Twelve years is a long time to be out and you need to make sure your resume, your LinkedIn profile and your networking support tell a compelling story about why people should meet with you.
Start with your LinkedIn profile. Use the recommendations area and the new endorsement areas. Develop a list of the competencies you want to showcase, and ask former colleagues to write recommendations expanding on those skill sets. Use at least two people from each role you had, and ask the same people, and others to endorse the skills you have the greatest desire to use. Some people may suggest you add any volunteer work you chose to participate in while you were out of the work place. I do not suggest this. Evaluate each activity very selectively for the impression it gives. If it is a highly professional activity, it may be appropriate, but if the activity screams “MOM”, leave it out.
Don’t overlook the visual. Get a great current picture – no kids, pets, vacation shots, and no ghosts – do not leave this blank. Make sure you look like a terrific colleague ready to go to work.
On LinkedIn, search the companies you used to work for and your target employers and start to follow them. The information about your former employers will help you find people you should be connected to, and help you expand your contacts quickly. You’ll also be able to access current jobs at these firms. These contacts, the people who know your work history best, may be the first people to help you identify a range of opportunities other than just full time.
Look at projects, assignments, contracts, and consulting opportunities which are a step to get you back into current employment. Once you are in the world of the working, the questions about the prolonged separation from work will evaporate. Adding current projects to your resume and LinkedIn profiles becomes an opportunity for multiple updates on LinkedIn to alert your contacts about changes in what you are doing and the kind of opportunities you seek. You also get current work to discuss in your networking meetings, and this will make it easier to get the attention of search and staffing people.
Join and attend professional association meetings. Most have reduced fees for professionals in transition, and job search groups. Ask HR colleagues about LinkedIn groups that post current jobs in human resources.
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 had a successful career in technology sales for many years. I left the workforce about ten years ago. I have three children who are all under 10 years old. I want to return to the workforce but I need a lot of flexibility. I also don't want a traditional corporate sales career. Can you suggest any options?
A: Congratulations on your decision to return to the workforce. You raise an interesting point at an interesting time. With such economic uncertainty, we might assume that flexible work arrangements have decreased in the US. However, Families and Work Institute's 2012 National Study of Employers (NSE) has reported that flexible work arrangements have increased in some areas since 2005. These areas include flex time, flex location and taking daily time off for urgent matters when needed. Some other flexible work arrangements have decline though, including transitions to part-time schedules or career breaks for family and/or personal reasons.
The Families and Work Institute also reports that employees with flexible workplaces report higher levels of engagement and job satisfaction, better mental health and stronger intentions to remain with their employers. For more information about flexible work arrangements in the workplace, visit http://www.familiesandwork.org/.
There are many flexible work options available. A part-time schedule with a reasonable commute, a role which offers telecommuting or even starting your own business are all options you may want to consider.
As with any job search, do your research before embarking on a new career. Consider the location, job responsibilities, benefits and the potential income.
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.
How much notice to your current employer is acceptable when separating from service, and does it depend upon your position/responsibilities? The norm (rule?) used to be 2 weeks, minimum. Lately, I am aware of people giving less than 2 weeks, and in some cases only a week. Is this a new trend? Perhaps it is a product of the current economy/job market that a job seeker would not pass up a better opportunity just because he/she was not able to give a full 2 weeks notice. I appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.
G. B., Springfield, IL
When you are choosing to leave a business for a new position, the two-week period is the standard minimum. Frankly, it still isn’t nearly enough time to hire and train a replacement, but it does provide a cushion during which the person leaving can finish up work in progress, hand off projects and work that others will have to absorb, and be available to answer questions. By giving your current employer two weeks notice, you are being considerate of the effect your leaving will have on him and on the company. While he may not be pleased that you are leaving, he will at least respect your effort to minimize as much as possible the disruption caused by your exit.
As an employer, I wouldn’t appreciate it if someone told me they were leaving and gave less than two weeks notice. And therein lies one reason not to do it. In business, it’s rarely a good idea to burn bridges. You never know when your choice to bolt after one week or less might come back to bite you. That boss could become a future client or prospect, or you might want to move on to yet another company only to find out the boss you left in the lurch is now the person interviewing you. Whoops.
I seriously doubt that there are many situations where your new employer is going to demand you start sooner than two weeks. Undoubtedly, he knows you are employed. In fact, offering to make the move in less than two weeks might look questionable to him. His thought process: Would you leave him in the lurch just the way you were offering to leave your current employer?
Before giving your new employer a firm start date, let him know you want to talk to your current employer about a mutually agreeable last day. To your new boss and your old, you’ll show yourself to be a person of character, one who honors commitments and takes responsibility for his actions.
Q. I have a Ph.D. and need to locate and begin to work with the best East Coast Retained Search Professionals for Higher Education Administration, for finding development/fundraising and/or faculty positions. Suggestions? Many "headhunter" firms are willing for me to pay to improve my already impressive resume and vita, but few will help me or my materials get in front of the right hiring people. Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.
A. You have lots of education and are looking for a position in education, but you have a few things to learn about how retained search firms and other kinds of staffing firms work. Confusion about what talent management organizations do and who they work for is common. This confusion causes a great deal of candidate frustration, disappointment and misplaced.
The key to avoiding this frustration is realizing that these firms are not interchangeable, and offer different expertise in support of their clients and candidates.
Retained search firms are hired by companies or institutions to conduct a search for the “right” candidate for a position. They do not limit their work by geographic location and industry specialists doing searches nationwide or globally can be housed anywhere. Retained search firms’ work involves generating a list of candidates and screening them out based on potential for success, skill set, capability and fit with the hiring organization. Ultimately they present a slate of three to five candidates to the hiring organization and the final candidate is selected of those choices.
Retained search firms are paid by the hiring organization and do not work for candidates. To get the attention of a retained search firm, start with research. Search firms, and consultants within those firms, have specialties. A personal introduction to the right person is always beneficial and a cold resume mailed in will be entered into their firm wide database, which they search regularly. You should contact every appropriate search firm in the country which fills roles in your area of interest. Retained search firms will not help you get your materials in front of hiring people unless they think you are the right candidate – they want to help their customer. They do not work for you, and if they decide to meet with you, remember that you are one of many in the screening process. You will need to continue to sell yourself to them and to the hiring organization.
Contingency search firms are also hired by the hiring organization to secure the right candidate for the position available. They may be given an exclusive opportunity to fill the position, or an exclusive for a period of time. Multiple contingency firms may be working to fill the same job and these situations are settled by recognizing the first introduction made to the hiring organization. These firms are more focused by geography and specialty within location. They also house significant databases of candidates with comments about appropriateness for a variety of roles, levels and cultures. Contingency recruiters are skilled at LinkedIn searches and if you have the right mix of talent, they will often find you. To meet a contingency recruiter, try to get referred by a person who has hired them, a person they have placed, or someone else they know. They also do NOT work for you, and you should not expect them to meet with you, respond to a cold resume mailed in, or a cold call or email. If they have a customer with a position for someone with your skills, they will contact you. They are paid by the company when the candidate starts the new job.
Outplacement firms are also corporate sponsored and provide services to an organization downsizing or laying off one person or many. Outplacement firms offer services to laid-off individuals in order to support them in developing an effective job search strategy, professionally written materials and strong interview skills. They provide an understanding of search firms and how to work with them, support in utilizing online research tools and LinkedIn, and by bringing jobs and networking events directly to the candidates they work with. Outplacement firms help to cultivate the skills needed to be the best candidate possible and may make referrals to search firms and hiring organizations where appropriate.
Retained search firms and contingency firms do not charge fees to candidates, as they are hired by the hiring organization to find them the person with an appropriate skill set. It follows then that they do not work for you and will choose to meet with you if your candidacy supports a need they have. They are not paid to provide services to you.
You can hire a career consultant or career counselor to support you in your career management or job search activities. What should be clear from your conversation or with any written agreement you enter into is that they will not find you a job. As you noted, they may offer to improve your resume or support your efforts to develop other job search skills. They may charge you by the hour or a set project fee. The ACP International website offers a list of professionals who can support you. You can also find services available at no or low cost through your college or university career services office, or even the state Career Centers.
There are other firms who may be called career firms or career marketing agencies which, for a fee, will offer to improve your resume and cover letter, produce mass mailings or emailing’s to retained and contingency search firms, or contact their network via an email blast on your behalf. Realize what you are paying for. You are not buying a job, or paying for placement, but you can hire these firms to work for you. Review the success rate of each effort they promise to make. Keep your expectations in check, and be clear on your responsibilities and theirs.
As for your higher education search, one of the most valuable local resources you can utilize at no charge is the Higher Education Recruiting Consortium website, which lists jobs by region and is an invaluable resource to job seekers.
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.
The workplace is a public place. Yet, we all have personal items to attend to, and sometimes those personal items seem to need attention during work.
The job-hunting cover letter and resumé are a perfect example. The office has a nice printer. It’s where your computer is, and where you spend an inordinate amount of your waking time. So it makes sense that you might want to write and print that cover letter or resumé at work.
This is when Murphy’s Laws—that set of maxims that basically says, “If anything can go wrong it will, and it will go wrong at the worst possible time”—are guaranteed to apply themselves. Sure enough the one time you don’t want your boss to see what’s in the printer is the one time he collects the stack, and there, right on top, is your cover letter and/or resumé.
Now, not all bosses are going to be perturbed by this turn of events, but undoubtedly you'll assume he or she is perturbed. After all, your boss is the keeper of your time, company time, and the bottom line. And you’ll wonder what the fallout might be for you. From the point of view that you are doing a non-work related task on company equipment during work hours, your boss has a valid reason to be perturbed.
So resist the urge to do your job search at work. Follow these rules to keep work and non-work separated:
- Word process and print your materials outside of work. Quick print services can do a professional job outputting your letter and resumé if you can’t do it at home.
- Use your own stationery, not your company’s letterhead, for any written communications.
- Only provide your personal telephone number. Don’t have your prospective employer call your work number.
- Use a personal email account. Don’t use your work email for your job search.
- Give a personal card printed with your home address, personal email, and phone number to prospective employers instead of your company business card.
- Don’t try to sneak out of work for a job interview. If necessary, use your personal time and take off a half or full day. It’ll help you present the most positive image of yourself because you’ll be focused on the interview instead of worrying if you’ll get caught.
In addition, remember to:
- Arrive five minutes early for the interview; it will guarantee you’re on time.
- Dress one notch up so you look like you fit in.
- Practice questions you’ll be asked and develop some questions you want to ask.
- When you greet your interviewer(s) stand up, look them in the eye, smile, offer a firm handshake and say your name clearly.
- Finally, write that thank-you note and send it within 24 hours. Email it if it’s appropriate for the company you’re applying to or when time is of the essence. Otherwise, send a thank-you note in the mail.
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.
I received a thank-you note in the mail the other day. A card in a smaller envelope was sure to catch my attention. Handwritten, too. Amidst all the junk and bills, that note promised something positive, a brief respite from the otherwise tedious mail. “What a pleasure,” I thought. So, I jumped to open it.
When I opened the card and began reading the message, I was struck by the uniformity of the handwriting. Every “e” was shaped exactly like every other “e.” Every “s” looked exactly like every other “s.” I started focusing on how similar everything seemed instead of on the message. In every instance, each individual letter was a perfect duplicate, each time it was used.
That’s when it struck me. The note wasn’t handwritten. It was computer generated. It was perfect. No one writes perfectly. Not like that.
I stress how important thank-you notes are in building strong positive relationships. Handwriting connotes a personal touch that says to the recipient, “You are important to me—important enough that I’m taking the time to handwrite this note to you. I appreciate you.” By forming the letters on the page you are putting something of yourself into the note. Through your writing you touch the recipient; you build the relationship.
As I looked at the thank-you note, I felt like I was being fooled. The sender clearly wanted to appear as if he had written the note, when in fact he hadn’t. He wanted me to believe that he appreciated my business so much that he took the time out of his busy day to write me a note.
Great, except for the subterfuge revealed by the computer-generated writing—and the assumption that I’m not going to notice. That, in a nutshell, is the problem with these fake handwritten notes. The perfectly formed, uniform writing that is meant to look hand-done lacks sincerity, and sincerity matters in business (as well as in your personal life.) When you are sincere, people will believe in you. They will have confidence in you. That confidence builds trust. Business is built on trust. It takes time to build trust. But it takes only one act to lose trust, and gaining it back again can be very hard.
Now, will that computer-generated “handwritten” note cause me to lose trust in the writer? Probably not. But it is one little chink in our relationship. Something that might give me pause to wonder about this person’s sincerity. If someone else, a competitor for instance, sent a note that really was handwritten, then who stands out?
My advice: Hand write the note. If your handwriting is poor, word process the note and then include a short, handwritten message at the bottom of the note, and sign it.
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.
I have worked at the same place for 18 years, and it is definitely time for a change. I am now again in the job hunt. However, many things have changed in 18 years, among them being the way the cover letter and résumé are sent to a prospective employer. We used to put them in an envelope and mail them by regular mail. Now it seems most people email them, often sending the résumé as an attachment to the cover letter. My question is: I still prefer to send them the old-fashioned way. Is that still acceptable? Would that lower your chances of getting the job? I am told that HR offices just toss them in the garbage when they come by regular mail. Well, that's rude of them, isn't it?
A.S., Lowell, MA
You are right: The landscape for submitting cover letters and résumés has changed, make that evolved. Most certainly that evolution can be traced to the explosive growth of the Internet and electronic communications in the eighteen years since you last engaged in a job hunt.
Not only have the letter and résumé gone the technological route, the entire process of the job search has as well. Although you still can find job opportunities in newspapers, online job search sites have clearly become the favored locations for job listings as opposed to the want ads, and companies now routinely list job openings on their own websites.
Regardless of where you find the job opportunity you want to apply for, the first rule of responding is to read the directions from the employer carefully, and then follow them. So, to answer your question, you should submit your cover letter and résumé by the method the employer requests, not by the method you prefer to use. If the employer’s instructions ask you to submit these documents in an email, then sending them via snail mail is not a good idea as it shows you are not prone to following instructions.
Be especially careful to note if the employer requests that you embed the résumé in the email rather than submit it as an attachment. Attachments can be laced with viruses so companies may prefer to receive submissions in the text of the email.
Besides following the submission instructions to the letter, the same basic rules of cover letter and résumé submission apply:
• Proofread for spelling and grammatical errors.
• Make sure they are an accurate representation of you and your capabilities.
• Relate specific accomplishments in addition to job positions you have held.
• Use a common, readable typeface and a simple, readable design.
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 know that HR laws and policies protect employees and candidates, but is there anything to protect an employee who is looking for a new job? If I ask someone who works at my current employer to informally put in a good word for me with someone they know at another company that I'm interested in working at, is that person bound by any laws or common HR policies from telling my boss, current HR, or senior leader? Or is he free to tell them, if he wanted to, maybe out of loyalty to our employer?
A. Can you keep this information in confidence? Most people can’t, and you need to be careful about your job search conversations when you are currently employed. When you are unemployed, your goal is to network with as many people as possible and let former colleagues, friends and people you meet know what types of jobs and employers you seek. While you are employed, your choice of who to include in your job search activity needs to remain limited to those who can support your activity without jeopardizing your current job.
There are no laws or policies I am aware of which would protect you from someone sharing information about your plans to leave the company, and seek new employment. Using colleagues who can recommend you, and provide positive references for you at a new employer is an effective way to run a successful job search. But before you tell someone your plans consider the persons role within the organization, and the position they will be in once they have this information. Select wisely a person who has demonstrated support and loyalty to your success.
If the person is a senior leader, or a human resources person they may see the need to disclose the information to the organization to minimize disruption to the work force, and help plan for your departure Sometimes what we expect to be “understood” - keeping information confidential - is anything but, and being very direct is the best course of action. If you want to share sensitive information, you need to let the person know that the information is confidential, and you do not expect them to divulge anything you say to others, and then ask if they are comfortable continuing the conversation. “Joe, I’d like to ask your help with a confidential situation, but I don’t want to put you in an awkward position at the company. I’d like to keep our conversation between us. Do you think we can make that happen? If not I understand, but I had to ask since this is really important”.
This person may believe the organization needs to know as they will still be an employee after you have departed. Your risk in having this information shared is, even if you choose not to leave, you will not be treated as a long-term employee anymore. You will be passed over for developmental opportunities or stretch assignments as the organization no longer sees you as a long-term employee.
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: 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. Is there a good place to start job hunting for new MBA's with over 10 years of experience in the work force? I have been mainly in IT support but looking to see if there are other possibilities where I can use my IT experience and new MBA skills.
A. Congratulations on the MBA! By getting an additional degree, you added to your employability, and your earning potential. Looking for a job which will use the years of experience you have, coupled with your new degree, needs strong job search skills in order to be successful. Start with your marketing materials. Make sure your resume is well developed and speaks to the buyer - the hiring manager. In your summary statement, make sure you highlight your past experience, your MBA, the professional strengths and interpersonal skills you bring. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, create one now. If you are updating, add the MBA, and some specific coursework where you excelled. You might list cases you worked on, leadership roles you held, and any academic accomplishments or awards you received.
The best place to start any job search is always with the people who know you best. Build your network; start meeting with people one at a time. Your college or university career office, and faculty can help you with employer and alumni contacts. Who else could value new MBA grads more than people who share that achievement with you? As you meet with these contacts ask to add them to your LinkedIn network, and ask who else they suggest would be a good person for you to meet, and which companies they think you should look into.
Explore the value of LinkedIn by refreshing your relationships in the IT world, and mining the contacts of people you have worked with in your former roles. Employee referrals are particularly effective, and may provide a financial incentive to employees who refer people who are hired. You can ask former colleagues to write you recommendations to include on your LinkedIn profile. This is a good place to add faculty recommendations as well, particularly if the faculty members consult to the business.
Once you have developed a target list of companies, and specific industries, research the appropriate headhunters to contact. Find those who specialize in your area, research their web sites and submit a resume. If you have contacts who have successfully worked with one of your target contingency or retained recruiters, use that connection to get introduced. Do not stalk these professionals. If they have an opportunity for you, they will make contact. If not, a barrage of calls or emails to them will not support your cause.
Looking for a job is time consuming, time intensive, and can be an adventure or torture – it’s your choice. There will be highs and lows, but with a plan, efforts spent in the right areas, and a dedication to learning the job search skills needed today, you can start the process of finding the right role for you.
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 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: When writing a resignation letter should I list where I'm going to work? If I don't list it and they ask, am I obligated to tell them? I am returning to my former employer. I left my former employer on great terms and only because they weren't sure our contract would be renewed and I was facing a possible layoff. Thank you.
A: Offering your resignation in writing is a professional courtesy. I strongly recommend writing a letter of resignation to your company and providing at least two weeks notice. In some roles, a longer notice period may be appropriate.
Your letter should be addressed to your manager and some employees will also copy Human Resources. It is a good idea to verbally communicate your intent to leave the company directly to your manager in a private, confidential way. Then, you can provide your written notice of resignation. Even further, it is always helpful to create a transition plan so when you leave, it is bit less chaotic.
You have no obligation to tell your company where you are going although certainly you will be asked by someone: your manager, co-workers, vendors or clients. I think it is fine to explain it as you state it in your question. “I am returning to ABC. I left on great terms and I really enjoyed my role there. The commute was a breeze too, only 10 minutes in the morning.” Most of your colleagues will understand and wish you well.
You want to ensure that you depart on positive terms. Yes, returning to your former employer might be a very good move for you but you also want to avoid creating havoc with your departure. You want to speak about your current employer, manager, workplace and colleagues in the most positive way possible. Some day, you might be working with some of these people again. It is a very small world.
Q. I have worked for this company for 15 years. Our parent company is reorganizing, and I will be layed off in Q1 2013. I am highly valued at my company and have been offered a significant retention bonus and 8 months severance to stay. My question is will I run into any issues looking for another job in corporate accounting should I decide to stick it out and join the unemployed once my time is up. I hate to leave all these benefits on the table and feel they are owed to me for my years of service. I just don't know what the best course of action should be.
A. The good news is you have a long notice period which will allow you to look at many career options and job possibilities. Your company is demonstrating significant trust in your ability to work through this kind of transition with the same professionalism you have shown over the last 15 years. Be careful of the entitlement behind your "they owe me" statement. The behaviors that can manifest that sentiment are typically not attractive in a well respected employee, and you want to ensure a continued positive relationship for the duration of the transition. The professionals who surround you are your references, and the core of your network. Keeping their respect is vital to your continued success - internally or externally.
Waiting is not an action you should think about. You are in a good position to begin a job search during this notice period. Develop a resume which speaks to the accomplishments of the last 15 years. Develop a networking profile, so that you can more easily build a network of people who can act as your field sales people. Join your professional association and attend meetings to develop relationships. Enhance your LinkedIn profile so that your transition responsibilities are highlighted, and show that you are doing more than "sticking it out".
Take the time you have to research the organizations you aspire to join, or the leadership teams you would most like to develop your skills with. Find out if you are in the right position to jump a level in the next job change. If there are experiences you need to make that happen, see if you can incorporate those learning opportunities into the next few months. Develop a plan to incorporate job search activity into every week between now and Q1 2013. Make sure your manager is in agreement about the time you'll need and your ability to do your job well, and conduct a job search. Your goal is to maximize the notice time, capture the generous benefits, and move into a great role with as little down time "joining the unemployed" as possible, and that is absolutely realistic.
Change over the next few months may also present you with opportunities. Reorganizations can be full of opportunity . The corporate plan may be developed, and may need adjustments. Make sure you stay flexible, aware of the needs of the organization, and your own career needs. Ensure the senior staff from your parent organization is aware of your capabilities, and positive attitude. Now your course of action needs to involve multi-tasking and multi-tracking.
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.
My husband and I will be relocating out of state, and I will be seeking employment there. Our relocation time frame is between 18 months and 3 years, sooner if I get the right opportunity. We already own a home there, and our mail is being forwarded from that address until we move permanently. Because my search could take a while due to the current job market, I want to start filling out "job interest cards" with various employers, to be notified when certain positions become available. The notifications are supposed to come by e-mail which is not a problem, but they want other contact information, which brings me to my question: when I fill out these job interest cards, which street address do I use? I want to be honest, but I also do not want a potential employer to discount me because of an out-of-state address. The on-line form has space for just one address. You cannot attach a cover letter/resume, and there is no room for a note/comment. Any advice or insight you can provide will be appreciated. Thanks so much."
G. B., Springfield, IL
Because you already own a home where you want to locate, you can legitimately use that address when you fill in the job interest card. You are being honest with the prospective employer. As long as you are being honest, you are on firm ground. You have a home in that area, and, if necessary, you would be able to accept a job offer and be at that location ready to start work. In no way are you attempting to pull the wool over a prospective employer’s eyes.
In this online age, job seekers are no longer limited to a local search. There’s a fair chance that applications will come in from across the country. However, if a company uses the interest card as a way to pre-screen applicants local to the area, it would be to your advantage to use that address.
A person would have a problem providing a local address if he didn’t own or rent a home in the area he wished to relocate to. Then he would be creating a fake address or using a PO Box in an attempt to show he had roots in the area when he really didn’t. In that situation, the only appropriate course of action is to use his current address.
Providing a “local” address in an area where you don’t actually own a residence is really a white lie. Once you get caught in it—and it’s really not a matter of if you’ll get caught, it is when you get caught—correcting the situation is much more difficult than simply having been honest in the first place.
Good luck in your job search.
Skip business school, I advise those who want to accelerate a management career; instead, spend a few years in a mental hospital. You could even work there.
It's good to know something about irrational behavior because there are days when everyone at work seems, more or less, insane. Usually what that means, of course, is that we just don't understand them.
What's more surprising—we often don't understand ourselves.
"The key to what you really want," says David Maister, a consultant and former business school professor, "lies in something that you don’t like to admit.
“'I don’t like to admit it but I really want to be rich.' Fine; go out and get rich. 'I don’t like to admit it but I’m a snob.' That’s all right; go work with 'upper class' people.
"Play to your 'evil secrets,'" advises Maister, "don’t suppress them" (Maister's Laws of the Job Search).
I'm sure there are exceptions. If you secretly dream of becoming a world-class homicidal maniac, suppression may be in order.
But most secrets aren't evil, they're energy.
The hard part: figuring out your secret. Before consulting, and before working in mental health, my jobs seemed random. But they weren't. Take a look:
1) Mailman, New York City. Great job, several summers during college.
2) Encyclopedia salesperson, Boston. Terrible job right after college; I lasted 30 days.
3) Taxi cab driver, Cambridge. Ok job, but lots of negative feedback. When I drive, even now, passengers often become agitated. They seem desperate to escape.
Are you desperate to escape your job? Maybe you've suppressed your secret. Mine didn't become obvious till later, in business school.
Ed Schein, a business school professor, had researched a concept he called "career anchors." Your career anchor, said Schein, is your #1 priority at work.
Schein identified eight anchors.
When I saw his list, one anchor jumped out: autonomy. That's what had attracted me to those jobs, and later to consulting. That was my evil secret.
Tip: You can't sustain enthusiasm if your job doesn't fit. Notice what energizes you. Do more of that.
© Copyright 2012 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
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 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.
I've been filling out applications for jobs and have no idea what to put for a job I had during the summers of 2007 and 2008. My boss passed away since I worked for her, and no one else at the company would really know me since there is high turn over. What do I put on applications when they ask for previous job/supervisor? For anyone who does hiring, does it look bad to write down a boss who did not know me? My fear is that a prospective employer will call this person and they will not know who I am. Does that look bad to a prospective employer?"
A. S., La Crosse, WI
No, prospective employers are aware that the current people at a business where you were employed four or five years ago might not have first-hand knowledge of you. Career changes and staff turnover are a fact of business life. It’s important for you to realize that you are not responsible for the fact that your boss from four years ago has since died and that people currently at that company might not know you. What you are responsible for is to provide accurate, truthful information about your past employment.
What alternative do you have: not to report that job on your application? Not a good choice. Doing so causes two problems. First, it creates a hole in your employment history that you may be asked to explain if you get asked in an interview. Second, by having left the information off the application, it gives the impression that you are evading reporting the job. The result: You look less than truthful. A prospective employer is not going to be very interested in you as a candidate if he doesn’t think you are honest.
On the application, in addition to the name of the company, dates of employment, and duties, add the name of the boss for whom you worked. You also can put the name of the person presently in that position, if you know it, and indicate that your boss has passed away. That’s being accurate and truthful. You worked there for two summers, and you deserve to be able to have that work as part of your employment record. Also, while that business may not currently have people who know you personally, it does have employment records that can verify you did work there.
At the end of any employment, it’s a good idea to ask your manager or boss for a “To whom it may concern” letter of recommendation, spelling out your duties and how well you performed them, as well as something positive about you as a person. Keeping these letters as supplements to your resume can negate the situation that you find yourself in now.
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: 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've been at my present job for just over 5 years. My issue is this: my boss never talks to me. I realize this sounds strange, but other than "good morning" she says nothing. She'll make a point of saying "good night" to people in the office, by name, but walks right by my desk & says nothing. I'm 48, and have been in the workforce for well over 25 years, and don't want to sound paranoid, but it makes for an uncomfortable situation. Should I read more into this, or just chalk it up to the fact that she doesn't like me and try not to care?
A: Good grief, as Charlie Brown would say. Generally, employees in the working world understand that the exchange of basic greetings are a professional courtesy and almost expected. Greeting others is a professional norm.
Your question raises more questions for me, rather than one single answer. My questions are as follows:
1. Do you make an effort to say “Have a good evening?” or “How was your day off?” After all, building a rapport is a two-way street.
2. Has your boss always been like this? Or is this behavior new?
3. What about during the day? Is your boss more responsive or friendlier? Or not?
4. When you are in meeting with your boss, does she treat you differently or the same as others?
5. How is your performance? Has she raised concerns about the quality or quantity of your work?
My guess is that your boss is probably an introvert. Communicating pleasantries is probably difficult for her. She may find it difficult to engage in even the most basic “small talk.” It is probably not directed at you personally. You do want to ensure though that your boss' behavior is not a smoke screen for her inability to confront concerns about your performance. A lot of managers struggle with how to confront performance issues in a tactful and professional manner. So... I would ask her in a private conference room or office. "Hey Mary, how do you think I am doing in my role as accounts payable specialist?"
Assuming there is no performance issue raised, it sounds like you need to make a decision. Can you tolerate this behavior and her work style? Or is it so difficult that you will decide to look for other opportunities? We all have different tolerance levels for impolite behavior. Some of us can live with more of this than others.
A note to supervisors and managers: your employees notice the efforts you make (or don't make) in connecting with them. The exchange of basic pleasantries can build a culture of collegiality and acceptance. It is an easy way to make employees feel welcome and valued.
Q: I'm changing careers and am looking for higher income employment without having to attain tons of additional education.
A: Where do I begin? Well, let me start gently. I think you have unreasonable expectations.
Very often employers pay for relevant experience. If you change careers, you may have to re-set your compensation expectations. First, you will likely be in a new and different role. Second, your industry may have also changed. These factors may impact your compensation.
We all would like to earn more without having to “attain tons of additional education.” Education is important. A Bachelor’s degree is almost expected in most professional-level positions, especially in Massachusetts. A Master’s level degree is a plus for many industries, especially knowledge-based industries like biotech, higher education or professional services.
A recent report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce entitled Hard Times, College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal is a worthwhile read. Recent college graduates are facing a tough employment market. The unemployment rate for recent college grads is hovering just under 9%. However, for those job seekers with a high school diploma the rate is 22.9% while for high school dropouts the rate is 31.5%. To review this report, visit http://cew.georgetown.edu/unemployment.
A college degree is still important but this report contends that not all college degrees are equal, especially with respect to employability. As an example, graduates with an architectural degree are facing an unemployment rate of 13.9%. However, recent grads in Engineering, the Sciences, Healthcare or Education are seeing lower rates of unemployment, closer to 7.3%. Those job seekers who have earned a graduate degree fare even better, facing a much lower overall unemployment rate at 3%.
If you hold a Bachelor’s degree and are looking to switch fields, a certificate program may be a viable option. As an example, if you have an undergraduate degree in business and hope to enter the field of web design, I would suggest considering a certificate program rather than an additional degree.
Q. My adult children seem indifferent to actively seeking a Summer job, in spite of the consequences (no spending money) and my help and guidance (most of their jobs have been through parental suggestions and connections). Is this a generational thing and what are your suggestions moving forward?
A. Looking to the future, planning accordingly and acknowledging consequences are all skills which mature as we age. So, yes, it is a generational thing. As college-age students become young adults, their action and inaction continues to have a direct impact on their parents. In a college mindset, summer is a long way away – especially as the spring break celebration has barely been planned, never mind enjoyed.
If you can’t say “Get a summer job because I am not going to fund you, and I won’t say anything else about it”, and mean it, I do have a few suggestions. Start with a calendar which you will share with our potential wage earners. Count the number of weeks from now until the last day of their semester plus at least one week to chill out, which brings you to just after Memorial Day. Pick a day that week and mark it with “Do or Do Not Start Summer Job and Earn Money”.
Any successful job search requires effective planning and execution within the right time frame. Many colleges and universities offer support in finding summer jobs, and you may want to add the Office of Career Planning to weeks 1 and 2 on the calendar, with a note that says meet staff, review summer job openings, attend resume writing workshop. Since they have worked before they have experience and so resume content for the week you assign to resume writing. Perhaps they plan on returning to a previous job for another summer, and have not discussed this with you, or their former employer. Now would be the time for those conversations, as employers are making these plans for staffing.
Strongly encourage your maybe job seekers to create a LinkedIn account. First develop your own if you haven’t already. Make sure to link to any connections you think may be able to help your offspring benefit from parental connections through their link to you. Let your kids know that since they are connected to your contacts, that after April 1, you will no longer be able to make phone calls on their behalf. You will still be able to make a LinkedIn introduction. Hopefully all the connections your contacts have won’t be used up by then. Though you are involved in their job searches, you can’t write recommendations for them on LinkedIn, but you can encourage them to get their own from former employers, and even faculty members.
Networking face to face is the most effective way to find jobs, and between your contacts, former employers, the alumni they can research, and parents of their friends - they should be getting leads to job opportunities. Since they are experienced ‘googlers’, the research they do on the job and organizations can prepare them for very effective interviews
The job search activity all has to happen. Starting now helps ensure job options, career experience, and fewer swoops of the helicopter parent. So email this article to your job seekers wishing them luck, and recognize they’ll need to do it all over again for full time work.
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 email@example.com) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. I have worked at a very large company for the last 5 years, and I love the benefits and vesting. I feel like I am going nowhere, and like I have more to offer than what I use every day. I do not have a college education but I got a job that requires college education for the most part. I would love to go back to school but I am impatient and I want to make money and succeed now. Do you have any suggestions? I haven't written a resume in a long time and I don't know where to start.
A. Many managers may be able to identify you - not by name, but by generation. Many studies have been done outlining the generational differences of employees in the work place and you have articulated those most often attributed to Generation X and Y. While employees in your generation also have many positive traits, (extremely tech savvy, readily available via technology, and ambition) you can be difficult to manage because of your impatience with bureaucratic management of upward mobility, and an aversion to delayed gratification.
As your manager may be from another generation, you can benefit from doing some research on generational differences in the workforce. If your manager is a baby boomer for example, he may expect to see you in the office working long hours to get you to success. They value loyalty and would not react well to an employee developing a resume for an external job search.
So depending on what you really want - a degree, money, success, and a resume begin with what you identify as your short term and long term priorities. Your current situation sounds positive in terms of security and compensation, with the negatives being you feel underemployed. One of the benefits you may not be tapping into is tuition reimbursement. If your company supports taking classes, I encourage you to complete your degree. Demonstrating a commitment to your own development is typically well received by current and future managers. This will also have a positive impact on your future opportunities, and ability to change jobs. The investment made in getting a degree has been shown to add a significant amount to your earning potential over the life of your career. The work which you are doing in your classes may also help you offer more than you currently do. Perhaps there are projects which you can take on that serve double duty, as an academic project, and a benefit to your firm.
Finding the direction you are looking for can come from classes, faculty mentors, or managers. Your demonstration of all the positive traits of your generation may help you find the path to your version of success - maybe not now, but sooner.
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 am a career changer, and after 25 years of raising a family I went back to school and earned my MS/SPED and tested for MTELs. I passed Communication/Literacy; Foundations of Reading; Health, Family and Consumer Science -- all but the Math sub-test of the General Curriculum. I have been subbing and working as a paraprofessional for 6 years. I get to the 2nd interview and never make it to the offer stage. Am I over-educated, under-experienced or just too old? I am 55, female and a great teacher! What gives?
A. Many people express a desire to enter the field of education after a long career in other fields, and you have made some serious commitments toward that. I consulted with Bob Maguire, Superintendent of the Medfield Public Schools. Bob notes, ?You haven?t completed the process for certification but you are on track to complete it. This is a very critical issue in applying for public school positions. Under state regulations a district is required to hire certified personnel. In certain circumstances a non-certified person can be hired but a waiver is required and is limited in time frame. Depending on the area of teaching expertise (and resulting job competition) the lack of certification can be a major issue in employability.?
Coming into any new field with experience makes for a more attractive candidate. Maguire commented that gaining experience in the field by substituting and working as a paraprofessional adds value and so attractiveness to your candidacy. ?As in any profession, networking can be important and being in the classroom in those capacities helps make connections to possible employment as positions may open in that district.?
Superintendent Maguire also advises you to broaden your search, if you are only looking at public school positions, as ?the current economic situation has impacted hiring in public education. You might want to consider looking at private special education schools, as well as regional collaborative schools.?
Finding the right expertise for feedback on job search situations is a great way not to get stuck on what you think the issues might be. Many people believe their job search is stalled on age, or over-qualification, or salary. While that may be the case, you need to zero in on what the exact issues are, so that you can address them in the job search. It also is important to quantify your job search efforts. If you have had 2 second interviews and never get to the next step, and are concerned about your employability, your concern should be focused on volume of job search activity. A successful job search takes many networking meetings, and interviews ? many more than most people plan on!
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.
“AM I A DAMAGED CANDIDATE?
Q. Over the last 10+ years or so, I've worked only in contract positions (finance and accounting-related).
Part of this had to do with not wanting to commit to the weather in Boston (I used to live in San Diego), and not wanting to commit to a job that I would become bored with. Also, I had no debt and no kids.
Nevertheless, at 50, I am afraid that I have damaged myself such that it will be difficult to find a "permanent" job.
A. Many job seekers look at why they might have trouble getting hired, worry about it, and then do nothing to prepare to overcome the issues. There is a better approach and that is: PREPARE! You need to prepare for the hardest questions, surprise questions, questions you wish you were never asked, and you must have great answers to all of the above. For example – you know (or you do now) that you will be asked some version of tell me a weakness. I asked a person this question today, and her answer was “I am passive aggressive”. I’m sure she is, but I know this isn’t the answer she wanted to give me. She did not prepare for this question so she blurted out an answer which did not make her look good.
Before you get bogged down in "damage control", review the positives that can be demonstrated on your resume. You have had 10 years of successful employment in a demanding field requiring trust from your employer in your talents, an ability to hold confidentiality, and a commitment to some time period agreed to between you and your employer. There are the ways effective contracts are run. Contract opportunities offered you the flexibility and freedom you wanted, and companies benefit from your availability without a need to make a long term commitment.
You don't say why, but it seems your needs have changed, and you are now interested in a more permanent job. As with any non-traditional career path, employers want to know why you did what you did, and it has to make sense. You also need to make sure your actions don't represent you poorly, and that you present as a low-risk candidate. The resumes of people who have had many jobs, or only contracted, appear as though they can't make a commitment, or there is a performance problem that is not visible from an initial meeting.
You know what people are going to want to know. Prepare the answers to the questions you know will come up. And if you can't anticipate the questions, then get help in coming up with at least 20 questions that won't be easy to answer. For example, "Do you get bored easily? Is that why you contracted?". If you want a permanent job, then this is not an answer that will help you. What you can say is "I took contracts and found that I could gain a great deal of experience from being involved in different financial issues at a variety of companies that I probably wouldn't have had the chance to do if I had been at one firm. I feel like I continued my education with many classes in each of these contracts, and made significant contributions as well”.
"You haven't stayed anywhere longer than one year; do you think you can do that now?". Some question like this will come up. Prepare your answer, and address the fear. The employer doesn't want to hire you, train you, invest in you and then have you leave. So your answer needs to address these unstated concerns.
So your needs have changed. What is it that the company gets by hiring someone with your non-traditional background? A finance person with broader experience than a traditional 10 years would have provided. A person who has worked at well managed and poorly managed companies and knows how to self-manage and get the job done? Prepare the positives about how the company will benefit. Prepare for positive answers to questions that address your "damaged" career path, and turn the employers view around.
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: 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.
I was leading a management workshop one day when, suddenly, a huge TV fell on my head.
It didn't just fall out of nowhere. The TV was on a tall stand, which I was moving to the side when the whole thing tipped over.
Not to brag, but usually you have to be about 8 years old to pull off this trick.
The TV was heavy and knocked me to the floor. The workshop stopped for a few minutes while I dusted myself off. I felt embarrassed.
"Large objects," I remember thinking, "should never fall on your head in the middle of a workshop."
Oh well. It's easy to lose your balance—in presenting, and in life.
When presenting, some people twist themselves into a pretzel. That's not a good look. Too unstable.
(Instead: stand with your feet shoulder-length apart, and your weight equally balanced. Breathe from your belly. Also, if possible, avoid head wounds.)
But even the pros fall.
Top fashion model, Jessica Stam, tripped while walking down a Paris runway. "I fell and got back up," she told the Wall Street Journal. "It happens, and it's no big deal."
Franklin Roosevelt, paralyzed from the waist down since age 39, fell while being helped to the stage at the 1936 Democratic Convention. The papers of his speech went flying.
"Clean me up," he told his aides, "and keep your feet off those damned sheets" (from "FDR," by Jean Edward Smith).
Moments later, Roosevelt was at the podium, telling a live audience of 100,000 that they had "a rendezvous with destiny."
Most hadn't noticed his stumble.
Tip: Life knocks you down. We all know that. The call is to get back up.
Best wishes for 2012—and the challenges, known and unknown, that await.
© Copyright 2012 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
Q. I have been in technology for over 30 years and looking for a change. I have been trying to find a career coach in the greater Lowell, Mass area but no luck so far. Do you have suggestions? I am thinking I might like to work for a non-profit company and would like to know the best way to research job openings.
A. Having a background in technology can offer you many opportunities in different industries, and working with a career coach can help make the entire career transition and job search practice more efficient.
To find career expertise look to your alma mater. Does your college or university offer services to graduates? You don’t need to be local. Through Skype and phone, you can receive great career coaching for an effective transition. If you would benefit from face to face support, and are no longer local, ask if they have any kind of reciprocity with a local college.
ACP International, the Association of Career Professionals International (acpinternational.org) is a professional organization of career consultants with a broad range of expertise. You can find an experienced career consultant specializing in your career transition needs and your geography. They list a number of different areas of expertise to help you find the most effective person for your job search needs. You might want a career change expert, or someone who specializes in non-profits.
Becoming familiar with the non-profit world can start with publications to identify what types of organizations exist. Non-profit organizations come in many denominations and can include public, and private education, health care, government, religiously affiliation, or social services. You might refer to the Chronicle of Philanthropy for development oriented organizations involved in a range of fundraising activities. Higher education jobs can be found in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and on the National Higher Education Recruitment Consortium web site (HERCjobs.org). There is also a resume bank where you can submit your credentials for consideration for positions which may be appropriate. There are a number of sites dedicated to non-profit jobs, and a simple Google search will provide you with a comprehensive list of jobs and organizations.
Volunteering with non-profits can give you exposure to the culture, the issues and the drivers. Networking with people with years of experience in the field, will help you narrow the type of non-profit you might find yourself drawn to. Many people working for non-profits are mission driven, and are happiest working for organizations supporting their cause. You may find that the desire to work at a non-profit organization is driven by which mission compels you.
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.
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. After nearly 10 years at a corporate giant I was downsized in 2006. In 2010 by a series of coincidences I ended up back at the company in a different capacity. In the nearly 2 years I've been here there have been many cutbacks and restructures. The job I'm now doing isn't even close to the job I accepted. I'm feeling like a steerage passenger on the Titanic. How do I explain my job hunting to potential employers when they see I'm looking to leave this company, especially in this market?
A. Everyone who has a job is entitled to look for a better job – even in this economy. Successful job seekers have a plan, and they work that plan until they find the right new job. A good plan does not involve risking your current job. It involves putting away some financial resources because severance and unemployment are limited, and successful job searches may outlast those limits.
The explanation employers want to hear about why you are job hunting is what you can do for them, and the contribution you can make to their organization. Hiring managers want to know what you are looking for in a job, proof of your capabilities, and that you are interested in their job and their company. This is the basis for an effective public statement, which is what you will use as you approach people who can impact your network and job search.
Job seekers who spend time focused on why they want to leave their current employer, and all that is wrong about their current role, company and colleagues don’t impress anyone. Your public statement should include a brief statement about why your current role doesn’t offer the opportunity for you to make maximum contributions to your current firm.
But before you say that, make sure it is true. Is there another division or manager within your current firm where your skills might be more valued, and you might find more opportunity? Looking at internal roles is an early step in a successful job search plan.
Develop an effective resume, and protect that tool. Maximum exposure through job boards puts the confidentiality of your job search at risk, and many current employers frown on their employees conducting external job searches. The risk of posting your resume or of responding to blind ads is not matched by the very small potential reward of making it through the online screening process.
Working with a small number of recruiters can be effective as long as you have a clear understanding of how they work, and they are clear about the confidential nature of your search.
Your current network, and the network you build, will be most effective as you explore new opportunities. A good network can help explain why a job seeker like you is looking for advancement.
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: I have been employed with the same company for 12 years. During a transition within my company, I was a manager in a department for 2 months, due to circumstances outside my control. Is it beneficial to include the short 2-month span on my resume? I went from logistics to manufacturing back to logistics, all management positions.
A: Employee and managers are almost always required to be exceedingly flexible in today’s workforce. The situation you have described is a good real-life example. This example demonstrates that you were adaptable and “chipped in” when needed. This is a valuable attribute to many employers so you will want to mention it in your resume. Additionally, you are broadening your skills and adding manufacturing as an area in which you have expertise. You will want to make sure that you mention this in your resume.
However, I would not add it as a separate and distinct role. If you did include it as an additional role, it may appear that your professional work history is “jumpier” and less stable than it is in reality. I would suggest incorporating it as a bullet point under your current position. Assuming you began in a non-management role, and were promoted into a management role, one format to consider is below:
Logistics Manager 2006 - 2011
- Responsibility/achievement 1
- Responsibility/achievement 2
- Managed 12-person manufacturing team for a two-month period during a company transition. (You can add additional detail here about volume, capacity or other metrics that might be meaningful.)
You do want to demonstrate your adaptability and your willingness to cover another area during a company transition. You also want to highlight that you have expertise in several areas, manufacturing and logistics. Many employers are looking for flexibility in their management ranks. This attribute will serve you well in your career.
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.
I'm currently applying for a position within my company. I'm not confident I will be the final candidate so I don’t want to make it known to those I work closely with that I have applied. But I have had some co-workers ask, “Did you apply?” What is the best way to answer this question with tact? I could be honest and say, “Yes.” But there is a big rumor mill in my place of employment and some backstabbing so I really don’t want it to be known at this time. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you!
M. E., Richmond, Virginia
You could lie and say, “No.” But inevitably you will get caught, the most obvious time being when you get the job you supposedly didn’t apply for. Having to deal with the fallout and recovering from the lie would be more difficult, I think, than dealing with co-workers if you tell them the truth.
You could brush them off with a question like, “What job?” or you could feign indecision: “I’m considering it.” But again, with your application already submitted, these answers look lame in the face of reality.
Sometimes we over-think and over-worry a situation when the answer is right there in front of us. Fact: you’ve applied. And fact: your co-workers are going to hear about it somehow. So grab the bull by the horns and say, “Yes, I did apply. I may not get it, but if I don’t apply, then I’m sure not to get it. So I threw my hat in the ring.”
I think the “but” in your question is the real issue because you’re worried that the rumor mill or some backstabbing may occur as a result of your applying. Yet, being honest has the best chance of countering any rumors or backstabbing. Once rumors start it is very difficult to stop them so nipping them in the bud is to your advantage. Your best chance to do that is to lead with the truth: you applied for the job.
Backstabbing is just as insidious. However, by putting your candidacy out in the open, any attempt by a coworker to sabotage your application will be more obvious. You can’t cry “foul” if you’re claiming you’re not in the game. Again, being open and honest is your best defense.
Whether you get the job or not, applying is good practice. It shows your boss or supervisor that you want to take on more responsibility and that you intend to grow in the company. It puts coworkers on notice that you’re serious about your work. Good luck. I hope you get it.
Q: I am currently in my first year of nursing school. I think I would be more interested in exploring biochemistry careers. I have been told that, unless I attend medical school, that this major is limiting. I see lots of biotech companies hiring recent grads with this type of major. What is your experience? Please don’t tell me I have to go to medical school. I would love to work in a research lab. What opportunities are out there? Is there a reasonable career path?
Thank you for your response.
A: You are thinking about fields which are expected to grow – which is a good thing. Graduates with a Bachelor’s in nursing have other opportunities outside of the traditional clinical role. Nurses can pursue opportunities in teaching, research or even pharmaceutical companies. The National Institute of Nursing Research website is worth exploring. Their website is http://www.ninr.nih.gov/.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Biotechnological research and development should continue to drive much faster than average employment growth.” Most scientists, working in research labs, hold undergraduate or graduate degrees in biochemistry, molecular biology, chemistry or a similar major.
David Bernstein, Esq., General Counsel and Chief IP Counsel of Providence-based NABsys, Inc., offers the following advice: “As a general rule, entry-level research positions are filled by individuals with backgrounds in specific areas of science in which the industry is focused. Examples include biochemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics and relevant engineering disciplines. Additionally, many research positions require an advanced degree.” Bernstein continues, “You may want to consider transferring into a program where you can receive training in biomedical research, or taking additional science classes while you continue your nursing studies. Some biotech companies offer internships or co-op positions, and these can provide an excellent opportunity to gain experience and make important connections in the industry.”
From a recruiting perspective, I can share with you that most of the research roles that we have worked to fill for clients almost always require (or strongly prefer) a Master’s degree or higher.
Q. I just started my senior year in college. I have changed my major from Business Management to Political Science to Criminal Justice to a dual major of CJUS with Psychology to just Psychology. I honestly have no idea what I am doing with myself or where I am headed. I know I want to continue my education after I get a Bachelor's Degree but I just do not know where to go from there. Career counselors at school have not gotten me very far and I am at a dead end.
A. College is a time to explore, and it sounds like you are doing a great job in the academic area. Exploration also needs to happen through work, and tying academic experience to related careers provides a reality test for many trying to decide which academic path to pursue. For many people just taking courses isn't enough to help provide the direction you are seeking.
Internships, full and part time jobs, summer jobs, and volunteer work all support learning about careers. The exposure you gain to environments, organizational cultures, managing and being managed and so many other issues help people figure out what they like, and don't like, their strengths and areas for development and interests. You want to continue your education, and to make it the most of it you may want to consider gaining work experience.
Career counselors can help ask the right questions as you sort out your skills, interests, and values. They can administer assessment tests to provide information about your style, and offer comparison data to others in specific careers who have a range of success. Good career counselors will help you see the themes and patterns in your selection of majors, and what you are drawn to or the issues that pull you in other directions. They can offer timely data about compensation, and your help you write a resume, and develop interview skills so that you can gain working experience. Ultimately you need to find your own answers, and test them out through working.
Your question also relates to high school and community college students. Getting work experience in a tough economy is challenging, but no less valuable or needed, as you develop career direction. Volunteer work, and any kind of paid work broadens a student?s view of how their education fits into the world after graduation.
As the chair of a large academic department at a state university, I interviewed a promising candidate. We worked out teaching schedules for fall and spring semesters, with the possibility of a temporary full-time position for the following year. I spent a lot of time nurturing this candidate, giving her the schedules she wanted, pushing to get her contracts issued early, answering a lot of questions, providing course syllabi, etc. In mid-August, she attended a three-hour orientation session for new part-time faculty and continued to be in contact with questions. The candidate gave me a verbal commitment to accept the teaching assignments for both fall and spring semesters. Eight days prior to the start of fall semester, she returned the contracts unsigned and also notified me through email that she had taken a temporary full-time position at another institution, but that she was still interested in teaching at our institution in the future. I was furious that she had given me no indication that she was still seeking full-time employment a mere week before classes began. Had I any indication that she might not take our position, I would have made arrangements with another candidate to fill in on short notice. Teaching is not like other jobs - you can't just put off the students for a month while you find another instructor.
Did she have a responsibility to notify me that she was still seeking full-time employment? Am I justified in my anger and unwillingness to consider her for any future teaching assignments?
P. M., Salem, MA
The short answer to your question is, yes, your anger and unwillingness to consider her for future employment are justified. Even though the contracts hadn't been signed and returned, she gave you a verbal commitment, and at that point she was honor-bound to live up to her agreement. Eight days ahead of the start of the semester is too little time for you to find an alternative instructor. In fact, once she accepted your offer, she should have backed out of consideration for any other job position that posed a conflict.
One of the hardest things about a job search is recognizing that a bird in the hand means you quit looking for the two that might still be in the bush. When an applicant receives an offer, it is imperative that an answer be given and honored if the job is accepted. Once the offer is accepted the hiring entity will turn away other potentially qualified applicants. Opening the search up again is time consuming, difficult and unfair to the other qualified candidates who may have moved on to other possible opportunities. Once made, a commitment to a job should be honored. Not only did this applicant go back on her word, she also torpedoed any chance of teaching at your institution in the future. Given that her position at the other institution is temporary, she can't afford to close off future opportunities.
Q. Please provide advice for connecting with current employers who are afraid of my age (55), or the name of the large global company where I worked for 27 years. Loyalty and dedication to one company seems to be more of a burden than a jewel for prospective employers in the market of today. What can a mature worker do?
A. You are in a challenging position, and while there is great value in your experience, and the wisdom you would bring to a new employer, you need to conduct an amazing job search to make that happen. And it is possible, so let's start from a positive view of all you have to offer. You are in the enviable position of having "the age advantage". Working with your resume, your presence, and your network, you can influence hiring managers and organizations to see that the advantages of hiring a mature worker far outweigh any negative stereotypes they may have.
With many years at one company, the fear is that you are stagnant and have not grown professionally and competitively, developed new skills, or stayed current technologically. To combat these erroneous assumptions, your resume must be crisp, quantifiable, show progression and increased responsibility, and highlight all technology you utilized.
The “how to's” in these suggestions range from the simple - do you have a professional email address which is your name, with no extraneous numbers added on? Do you have your mobile number and your LinkedIn profile listed? Review who and how many people you have on your LinkedIn profile. Do not look like a novice with under 150 connections. When you have been in one organization for many years you are apt to have a very tight circle of connections. Make sure the breadth of your professional world is well represented. Include former colleagues, vendors, speakers, and thought leaders in your area of expertise. Ensure you have a wide age and title range as well. Make sure the range is from junior to senior people in all categories from administrative people, technology experts, service providers and consultants. Ask for recommendations on LinkedIn to support all areas you think might be concerns. Have an IT person support how great it was to partner on a technology driven innovation where your support was instrumental to success. Ask a gen X'er to discuss the value you provided as a mentor. Look for reference statements you want to be known by, and initiate the opportunity for people to discover these strengths.
Your resume also needs to show promotions, challenges, and what might even look like a new job at a new company. Show stretch assignments, and how different the organization or group you worked with within the larger organization actually was. You need to develop a significant comfort level speaking of the many cultural changes which occurred in that environment, including working in areas where you were a specialist to other areas where you demonstrated an ability to roll up your sleeves. Hiring managers need to see that you have the broadest capability possible based on the opportunity and challenges you took within a large company.
Be excited to network. Revisit the people you worked with in each of these roles, and include them in your active network. Make sure you are exhibiting executive presence in every interaction, because you can be an old or young 55, genuine or insincere, and live on a one way or two way street. How you choose to show up is in your control. Attire including accessories need to be current, as does your language, examples, and casual references. Initiate reciprocal support for all networking meetings. Anticipate the support or help someone may need. Offer to help and ask what else you can do. Be direct with the names of people you would like to meet, organizations you are interested in exploring, and the kinds of roles you will consider. Help your network help you. Prepare paragraphs for them on how they can discuss your background, or to use in emails.
There are organizations and hiring managers looking for loyal, committed, 55-year-olds who worked for demanding large global organizations. Do everything you can to help them find you.
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 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: 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 have been unemployed since last September. I earned an MBA last January, and I have student loans and I can't find a job to save my life. Each day I apply on company's websites, and send out resumes. I have had a few interviews, but I get push back on the compensation. The hiring company thinks that now that I have an MBA I will want more money than they are offering. "Are you sure you want to work for this much?". I assure them I want the job, yet they select someone else and pay them who knows what. What should I do?
A. Congratulations on your MBA! This will serve you well in the long run though it may seem like an obstacle right now. Over the life of a persons' career, having an advanced degree inevitably adds to their total earnings.
Review the plan you had when you decided to pursue the MBA. What were you hoping to accomplish in the short term and long term with the skills you were developing, and the knowledge you would have? See if this target is the same now that you have been laid off and are looking for a new job. The first step in any effective job search is identifying the right target. Part of identifying that target is knowing what the pay rate is for specific roles. It is also important to note what kind of compensation structure companies have based on their culture, and whether they hire experienced people, new graduates, or some combination.
There are many ways for you to access the information which will make you a more successful candidate. Your college or university career office should be very willing to help you as a new MBA graduate. These targets may be different from your pre-MBA role. Working with a career consultant, you can identify target companies, network with alumni who work at those firms, and get specific information about the kinds of compensation structures or pay rates for people with your skill set. Most of these offices have research about the successful placement of their graduates, and their current earnings.
The career office can also help you with a full plan for an effective search. Applying for jobs via websites is one method of looking for a job, but it has one of the lowest returns on investment of all job search activity. The approach with the next lowest return is sending out cold resumes. You have been lucky to get interviews if these have been the only methods you have been using.
Put together a comprehensive plan to network. Meet with people who you used to work with, and other MBA students or graduates of your program. Let them know about your target role, the kind of companies you are interested in working for, and your target compensation. Find out if you are in the right compensation range. If not, find out why not. Hiring managers want to make sure you have a realistic number in mind. Too high doesn't get you considered, and too low suggests there is a hidden problem.
You may be applying for jobs which don't require an MBA, or necessarily benefit from the person in the role having that level of skill. If so, review your targets. Hiring managers are reluctant to offer "overqualified" persons the role for fear they will leave as soon as they can find a higher paying job. If you identify as a "new MBA grad", hiring managers will relate your compensation to your previous earnings, and be more willing to consider you for jobs that might seem lower paying for an individual with an MBA. You also need to find other reason to communicate why you are willing to take what seems like not enough money. Some people are willing to take less compensation because they are learning a new industry, or working for a non- profit organization, and are dedicated to the mission. Hiring managers can understand these reasons and are more willing to take risks on people who had been earning more, or look like they are capable of finding a job at a higher salary.
The good news is there are many ways to make your job search more effective, and you have marketable experience and a new degree.
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 have worked for a law firm in a small town for 6 years now, and I’m ready for a change. I have been looking for a job for almost a year now and just came across one I’m really excited about, but the new attorney is very good friends with one of my current attorneys. New guy says he would love to hire me, but he is afraid of harming his friendship with my current boss. We agreed neither of us would tell anyone, but we don’t know how to handle this so that everyone is happy. My current boss is “all business”, and I don’t think he’ll be heartbroken or all that surprised that I want to leave, but how can I be sure that he won’t be mad at his friend? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
A. I., Asheville, NC
A. You’ll never be sure he won’t be mad at his friend, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing the right thing. The best route you and New Guy can go is to let Current Boss know what is going on. You’re fortunate that Current Boss is “all business” and is not likely to be upset with you or let the situation harm his relationship with New Guy. You should approach Current Boss ASAP and say something like: “Thanks for seeing me. As you know I’ve been here for six years. I have really enjoyed my time here and appreciate all you’ve done for me. Recently, I began keeping my eyes open for new opportunities, and one has turned up that whether it happens or not, you should know about. New Guy has an opening at his firm. I’m interested in it and wanted to be sure to tell you about it before you heard it from anyone else.” The key here is you want him to hear the news from you and not a third party source. If you just accept the offer from New Guy the cats out of the bag anyway, and you and he look like you were trying to hide something.
Your big mistake is agreeing not to tell anyone. It may have seemed like it was the best solution, but it really is a subterfuge. The problem with subterfuge—the white lie or anything else you care to call it—is getting caught is much worse than dealing with the situation in an honest way to begin with. Unfortunately, the time you really don’t want to get caught—the time the consequences will be very unpleasant—will be the time you will get caught. Best bet: Come clean right away so you can complete your work with Current Boss on a positive note, begin working for New Guy with a clean conscience, and give New Guy the best chance of maintaining his personal relationship with Current Boss.
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. I am hoping you can help with a sticky situation related to temping. I took an assignment with an employer seven weeks ago whose end was contingent on the hiring of a full-time staff person for the position. I got the “have no expectations, this is not a temp-to-perm” speech my first day, and I was fine with that. But two weeks later my boss (the President) decided my resume had to be included in the candidate pool. I demurred at some length about conflicts of interest, but she pushed the issue. I interviewed. I am fairly certain I was not their selection, but have no concrete confirmation of this. In the meantime, time is passing, and I have other prospective opportunities in the works. And my kid needs to go to the dentist before school starts. Given that we’ve “crossed the streams” here, and that this is a profoundly touchy and emotional workplace, how do I ask for an end-of-assignment date politely and professionally?
TD, Pensacola, FL
A. Asking for an end-of-assignment date really has nothing to do with the issue of your job search. It has to do with having concrete information on which to base your next step in employment. When pursing your “other prospective opportunities” you need to know when your current work ends, so you can honor your commitment to your current boss and let prospective employers know when you’ll be available. Touchy and emotional do not matter, and it’s not that hard to find out what you need to know politely. Simply ask to speak with your boss. “Jane, thanks for talking with me. I asked to see you because I would like to establish a definitive end date for my work with you on the project.” You can even follow up by suggesting a specific date. “Would two weeks from today be sufficient time to wrap things up?” You can also use the conversation as an opportunity to seek closure on your application for the permanent position. You can either ask if a decision has been made, or, if you are convinced you really don’t want to work for your boss beyond your current project, you can explain that as your situation has changed (no further explanation is needed) that you are no longer a candidate for the position.
The bottom line here is: Don’t let your boss drive your bus. She’s not in charge of your employment decisions, you are. You’ve applied at her request and she hasn’t provided an answer in a timely fashion. In the meantime you have pursued other possibilities, and those may involve working with someone with whom you’d prefer to work. You need to know when you’ll be free to move on.
Q. I have been unemployed for the past year. I hold a bachelor's, master's, and J.D. although I have not passed the bar examination. I have applied for every type of job from waitress to VP with little success. I network through friends and alumni associations. I have different resumes and cover letters depending upon the type of job I'm applying to. Any further suggestions?
A. Job seekers often see a world of opportunity and start job search activity without a strategy. Take a step back and review your plan. Wanting a job is not a plan. A strategic review is needed. Start with a goal that makes sense for you, and for the organization who will hire you. The numbers are off in the job market. We know that employers continue to look for the right people, though not as many, and employees are looking for jobs.
You have significant education. Assess why you chose each of the degrees you went after, and see if you had goals at the time which are still valid. If you wanted to work as a lawyer when you went to law school, what is preventing you from taking the bar, and passing? Many people do not pursue that career path though they have the educational credentials. You will need to decide how important that is to you, and if you choose not to sit for the bar exam, or you do not pass, you will need to develop a terrific public statement explaining your reasoning. This will be a red flag for employers unless you can help them understand the plan you had. You might also choose not to list the JD on your resume if that is a recent acquisition, and you do not want to use those skills in your next job.
Review your work experience. What does your track record look like? Document the skills you have developed. Create columns of functional, industry, technical and personal skills. Look for themes and patterns to begin to see where you have strengths that specific employers might like, or environments that show up more often than not. For example, is higher education a place to use your skills? You have experience with the environment, the population (or customers), and now you need to review the kinds of roles (or titles) where you can use your skills. These kinds of job search strategy activities can be supported by members of your network.
Network with contacts in different industries and show them the document you have developed. Discuss the skills and experience you have, and ask them what types of roles or titles might be the right kind of targets for you to pursue. You may not have all of the skills or experience, but if you complete this exercise in a few different industries, and couple the information with your earlier assessment, you will be able to develop a more focused target.
Communicate with your resume and cover letters more effectively now that you can speak to a real target. Go back to your network, alumni associations, edit your LinkedIn profile, and ensure all your job search arrows are pointing the same way.
Anticipate talking to over 100 people about the kind of work you want to do. Make sure your target is clear, and your presentation, written materials, and interview examples all address why you can contribute in that kind of role.
Support services including career counselors might also be available to you through alumni services of each of your colleges or universities.
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 trying to enter the job market. I have been a nanny for the last five years, which is on my resume. I am looking for office work, but I am not getting any calls. What should I do?
A. Changing jobs, careers, functions or industries all present the same challenge. Your example is one many career changers can follow. You need to get people to see experience, skill, ability, positive attitude, and problem solving style which they can relate to their organization. Convey these messages with a resume, through an interview, or through a recommendation. There are some broad steps that will be very useful for anyone trying to make a career change.
Focus - on the skills your potential employer would want to see. Highlight all of your technology skills, experience with all kinds of software, and your organizational abilities. Show responsibility and ambition. Make sure your education is complete, including any classes or certifications you have. Your resume needs to showcase this information.
Identify - who values the current experience you have? Your nanny experience would appeal to employers involved in almost any kind of child services. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can generate. Consider pre-schools, public or private schools, publishing companies who specialize in children's books, a pediatrician’s office, a children's hospital. If you expand your target organizations, it may help you to connect with people who have a better understanding of the work you have done and your skills.
Network - with your contacts, and then ask for more contacts. If you have friends who have "office jobs" ask them to introduce you to an office manager, or a human resources person at their employer. Ask the people for whom you have been a nanny to make introductions for you. Ask other nannies that you know who may have had jobs like those you are targeting, and ask them to ask their employers.
Be pro-active - and make calls. You will need to apply on-line, to job boards, and work your network. You will also need to be pro-active and make calls to potential employers. If you don't get a call back in a reasonably short period of time, take action. Make another call. People will be impressed with your assertiveness, and willingness to take risks. You might connect with a supportive receptionist, or administrative person, or a person looking for office support at just the time of your call! There is certain serendipity in all job searches, especially when you are taking action.
Commit - to meeting with a certain number of new people per week. Persist and be creative with your efforts to expand the targets of people who value your most recent experience. A new job will happen with time, creative energy, and dedication to a proven process.
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 just joined a company after six months of unemployment. I had some reservations about joining this company but job opportunities aren’t exactly plentiful in my field. I took the job and started about a month ago. Here is the problem: it is commonplace, almost encouraged to swear and rant and rave all the time. My boss is the worst. It is incredibly offensive. He will yell profanities. I have counted and sometimes he swears more than 20 times per day. And not “under your breath” mumbling profanities. Instead, these are extremely loud profanities. It doesn’t seem to even faze him when employees run out of his office when he starts his tirade. No one seems even willing to report this to HR. HR is on a different floor and rarely visits our department.
A: Often the senior-most leader in the department, company or business unit sets the tone for culture. If this person works long hours, others feel compelled to work long hours. If this person is forthright and candid, others see that behavior and understand that is how business is conducted. If this person swears a lot, others think that this is acceptable behavior. Often times, employees will model this behavior (whether positive or negative) thinking that this behavior may help advance their careers.
It sounds like your manager sets the tone for your department. Your manager’s behavior could be interpreted as harassment, especially if this behavior occurs on a regular basis. Your company could be held liable for his behavior.
It is unclear to me why employees would not contact your HR department. I understand that some employees may feel like they have to suffer through this behavior. They may not want to “rock the boat.” Instead, they would rather put their heads down and endure the yelling. Some might even be happy that they have a job. You are right -- jobs in some industries are scarce now. The instability of this economy leads many employees to avoid confrontation and just try to ignore inappropriate behavior. I call this the “gopher syndrome.” Employees will retreat to their “holes” to avoid and hopefully survive.
You could request that a member of your HR team periodically visit your department. Ask that an HR representative be more visible with “open eyes and open ears.” Hopefully, the member of the HR team will directly observe one of your manager’s tirades.
Confronting hostile behavior is difficult and can be uncomfortable. However, you and your colleagues should be able to work in a respectful environment. If this behavior continues, I would suggest trying to talk to a colleague about approaching HR together. You could also consider submitting your concerns in a confidential memo.
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.
Elaine Varelas will join us at noon to take your job-related questions.
Q: My daughter is looking to major in marketing when she enters college in the fall. I am concerned that she will graduate and be unable to find a job. Help!
A: The field of marketing has evolved quite a bit over the last 10 or so years. Technology has influenced this field dramatically. Your daughter should ensure that part of her curriculum includes the world of online marketing. Smart and successful marketers can drive and sustain a business. This is a critical role for any employer.
Most of my clients look for marketing professionals that have depth and experience specifically in online marketing. Yes, a marketer should still have strong written communications skills to write copy. And they should have some experience in design and layout. However, online marketing skills are hot and in demand. I expect that this demand will only increase over time.
What can your daughter do to ensure success (really a job!) upon graduation?
1. Learn as much about online marketing as possible. Enroll in these courses early. My guess is that these courses would fill up early.
2. Land an internship or summer job in marketing. This experience is critical.
3. Begin to cultivate a network of professionals within business and marketing.
4. Set up a LinkedIn account to further develop her professional network.
5. Become an active blogger. PG-13 or cleaner in terms of content. She doesn’t want anything racy coming back to haunt her when she puts her resume on the street at graduation time.
6. Use Facebook – use it …. but appropriately.
7. Twitter – start using it, again appropriate content only.
8. Learn about web analytics. Most companies want to see the results of their marketing investments.
I asked Perry Allison, VP of Marketing at BiddingForGood for her advice. Her advice: “Every company needs marketing folks of different disciplines. And the technologies that are driving marketing are evolving incredibly rapidly so it’s always fascinating and always changing.”
Lastly, we all have to enjoy what we do every day. If your daughter is passionate about marketing, this is a sound choice for her.
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.
Elaine Varelas is back to join us today at noon and will answer any of your job-related questions. So grab your lunch and join the chat.
Elaine Varelas joins us today at noon to take any and all of your job-related questions. So if you're looking for some good, free career advice, stop on by at noon and join the chat.
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.
Has your springtime job search not netted any jobs yet? Join Pattie Hunt Sinacole as she offers tip to help you reel in the career you've been waiting for. Pattie will take your job search questions today at noon.
May is here, and what better month to kick-start your career? Join Pattie Hunt Sinacole today at noon at she chats about job-search tactics, trends she's seeing in the Massachusetts job market, and anything else work-related.
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.
Ramping up your job search? Elaine Varelas will join us at noon to take any of your questions about finding a job - or dealing with the one you have.
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’m curious what you think about following up after applying for a job.
The background: I’m an editor who freelances a lot, and I’m interested in moving to freelance work full-time. One of my frequent freelance clients has a job opening for a full-time freelance editor, and I applied (to the editor-in-chief) about three weeks ago. Since I applied, I’ve continued to get work from the company. If I had no business contact with the company, I would have followed up by now, but I feel that it would be inappropriate as I’m currently working for them on other projects.
I work closely with a managing editor there, but I also think it would be inappropriate to ask her if she has any information. Should I ask her for an inside scoop? Should I follow up with the editor-in-chief? Should I just chill out and see if they get back to me (again, it has been three weeks). On the one hand, I don’t want to do anything that would make me lose them as freelance clients. But on the other, they clearly like my work enough to keep giving me projects, so why not ask?
Help! I’m thinking too much!
I. B., Dallas, TX
A. You can’t put two different hats on the same head at the same time. Either you’re a freelancer doing work for the company or you’re a job applicant. You don’t want to confuse your roles, so keep them separate.
You are correct. When wearing your freelance hat, it would be inappropriate to raise the issue of your job application with the managing editor who is your principle contact. While she may have the “inside scoop,” it’s not her place to share it with you and it’s wrong of you to try to trade on your relationship to get the low-down through a back channel. And, you could be putting her into an awkward position by asking her.
As the job applicant, your role does allow you, after a reasonable amount of time, to ask what the status of your application is. The question becomes: What is a reasonable amount of time? My suspicion is that at the end of the interview you did not ask when you could expect to hear from them. (That, by the way, is a question I recommend be asked near the end of every job interview as it helps avoid the situation you find yourself in.)
If you were given a time frame, don’t call before that time has passed. If not, then three weeks seems like more than enough time to wait before calling the editor-in-chief and asking the status of your application.
Q. My older family member has been laid off four times in the last two years. He is over 50 and has just lost interest in working. His personal life has been extremely difficult, and the job losses have made everything even worse. I have tried to be encouraging, I've been demanding, and I told him he can't afford to just give up in this economy. I've told him to be positive because it will reflect in his life but he's just lost his ambition. What can I do?
A. Layoffs are now a fact of business life, and extended job search stories are daily news. This exposure of the job loss process has caused some people to lose sensitivity to the pain and the frustration and sadness incurred by those engaged in long term job searches. Some employers may even choose to eliminate or significantly limit the amount of support they provide to separating employees.
As you have witnessed, multiple job loss has a significant negative impact on the individual affected. The circumstances of being over 50 and having a prolonged job search can contribute to depression, loss of ambition, and lack of the energy needed for a successful job search.
Your continued support is a big part of what you can do for your family member. You can also support his efforts to find more support. You can not be responsible for his job search, or helping him climb out of the depression he may be in, but you can provide opportunities to find the right help.
If your family member has outplacement available to him, strongly encourage him to make use of the services. Join him for the initial meeting if that is what will get him to take advantage of the services. Working with a professional will offer one level of support he needs. If he does not have outplacement available to him after this job loss, but he had it at some other point, encourage him to contact the firm he worked with in the past. They most likely have alumni services available at no cost, and can refer him to other no and low cost resources.
Many companies offer Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services (at no charge) to their current and separating employees. These valuable services can provide a level of professional support to deal with the personal challenges and job search issues your relative faces.
There are also many job search support groups available. Some of these groups are run by religious or community organizations, some are function-specific, others are run by professional associations. With just a bit of networking, or research in your local newspaper, you will discover the right place for your family member to build a broad support network.
I hope your relative will consider a visit with a therapist. If your relative has health insurance, he may find recommendations through his provider. Support available here may be in the form of talk therapy, or medication.
It takes emotional energy to take any of these steps, and with your encouragement, I hope he can make his way out of a challenging situation.
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.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole joins us today at noon to offer job hunting tips, so stop on by and see if she can help with your career conundrums.
Q: What are the most common resume problems that you see? I am working with a group of soon-to-be college graduates. We are writing their resumes. We are hoping to pick your brain before we release their resumes to the working world.
A: A resume is a snapshot of a candidate’s work experience. In short, a resume is like an advertisement. Think about a print advertisement that you may have seen in a newspaper, magazine or journal. A print advertisement often capitalizes on a product’s strengths and minimizes any weaknesses. A print ad would never have a typo or misspelling within the ad. A print ad is easy to read.
The most common resume problems that I see include:
- A disorganized or fragmented format. Honestly, there are many sloppy resumes in this job market. Using different formats and fonts can be confusing and look just plain messy. Have a trusted friend or colleague provide feedback on your resume. Thank them for their feedback, even if the feedback encourages some editing.
- Typos, misspellings, etc. This is more common than you would think. I received a resume this morning. The candidate had a typo in the name of their current employer. Yet, the candidate claims that she is “detail-oriented” in her accompanying cover letter. Hmmm… I don’t think so.
- Lack of metrics. Tell me what you contributed – how you helped save money, how much you sold, how you increased client retention. Especially in sales roles… my clients are expecting to see this information on a resume.
- Inaccuracies in how you address me in your email or cover letter. Don’t address me as Mr. Sinacole. That’s my husband. Don’t address me as Ms. Sinacol. That’s not how I spell my name. I am not a sir either. Spell my client’s name correctly too!
- No email address. If you exclude an email address, that makes it difficult for me to reach you. And make sure that email address is appropriate for PG-13 audiences. I won’t contact you if you have an email address like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Several pages. For recent college grads, a one-page resume should suffice. Think back to my analogy about the print advertisement. You should not include every last detail of you (the product) but you should highlight your strengths and achievements.
- No LinkedIn. I am always impressed by recent grads who already are on LinkedIn. Take the time to create a profile and start using this tool. Include your LinkedIn address on your resume.
- No relevant skills. Sometimes including relevant skills are all it takes. If you have Salesforce.com experience, include it! If you have worked with Excel at an advanced level, mention it!
Your resume is often your first impression with a prospective employer. Make it a good one!
Elaine Varelas joins us today to take your job-related questions. So stop by at noon and join the chat.
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. I have been in job hunt mode for over two years. After a year and a half of no luck on full time positions, I turned my attention to finding part-time work as a CFO. I find my new contacts (Banks, CPA's, Insurance co's) are reluctant to recommend some one they don't have a past relationship with. I'm back looking at full time work while still pushing the part time work which is really messing me up (am I looking for part time or full time). Any suggestions?
A. Long term job searches offer enormous emotional challenges to job seekers and their families. Changing strategy, revising targets and resumes, and generally second guessing everything you do is often the methodology of long term job seekers.
The type of position you are seeking, full time or part time, isn't that significant of an issue. Your target position can continue to be a full time role, and old and new networking contacts will have no difficulty understanding why you would consider part time roles until the right full time opportunity surfaces. You might say "I am looking for a full time CFO role utilizing my skills in (name two or three key areas). I am also looking for part time opportunities to help organizations with interim needs in finance while I continue my search."
Getting your "new" contacts to support your search is the more important issue. Part of all successful job searches involves relying on old contacts as part of a strong network, and developing new contacts as you gather information, and introduce yourself into the marketplace. The strength of the old relationships can help you develop strong relationships with new contacts that are comfortable referring you to other people, and other opportunities.
If this is not the case, you need to review your networking activity in terms of who you are contacting, who is referring you, the amount of activity you are conducting, (a good goal is five face-to-face meetings a week) the conversation itself, how you offer to help the contact, and the follow up or follow through you need to act on. Each point in this list can derail your search. If you are concerned about your effectiveness in any area here, consider working with a career coach to develop your skills.
You may want to expand your options to contract and interim in addition to full time roles. Search professionals will understand the logic of expanding the kinds of roles you are looking into, and as long as you can commit to a time frame for a contract or interim role you should be considered.
Continue the search; perhaps volunteer for a non profit, or community group in a finance role; consider expanding your industry targets; join a job search support group; is your geographic target broad enough? And how many networking meetings have you had? Shoot for 250 great meetings, and stay positive.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is back today at noon, so stop by with all of your job-related questions.
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.
Are you nervous about the big job interview you have coming up? Frustrated that you never get responses from companies after sending in resume after resume?
Join us today at noon as HR expert Pattie Hunt Sinacole joins us and offers solutions to your pressing job-related questions.
Q. I am one of only 2 women in a large team of men. Today I overheard 2 of the guys discussing an interview with a candidate for an open position on the team. One of the gentlemen commented that the woman was pregnant, and he had concerns about how much time she would be out of the office because of this. The other man agreed that this was a concern and said it was too bad because she was otherwise a good candidate. The conversation did not include me, but I feel like the decision to hire or not hire this woman based on her parental status is unethical and discriminatory. Is there a way to bring this up to them? Or should I stay out of it since I am not in charge of this hiring decision, and the conversation was not intended to include me, it just took place near me?
A. Sometimes what appears to be etiquette crosses a line into legal and ethical issues. That certainly is the case here. Making hiring, or non-hiring, decisions solely on the basis of pregnancy is illegal.
The ethical question you face is what should you do now? You can choose to talk with the two men, talk to your manager, or stay quiet. Staying quiet is the easiest solution but it isn’t the ethical solution. I usually counsel that the first course of action should be to talk directly to the people involved as opposed to going to a manager.
Ask the men how the interview process is going. Mention that you overheard their conversation about one strong female candidate. Then mention that you may have heard wrong, but did they say that the her pregnancy made her a less attractive candidate? Give them an opportunity to respond, because it is possible that you interpreted the conversation incorrectly.
If they are foolish enough to confirm your suspicion that they would make a hiring decision based on the whether a candidate was pregnant, it’s time to talk to someone higher up the food chain.
The etiquette issue at hand is how you approach the men. Don’t threaten or assume wrongdoing. Tell them what you overheard and explain that you are simply bringing your concerns to their attention and then asking them for their perspective on what you heard. After you’ve heard what they have to say, then request that they confirm with you that they will not consider the woman’s pregnancy in deciding whether or not to hire her. If you’re satisfied, you can leave the matter there. If not, then it is time to discuss it with your manager.
Elaine Varelas is back and ready to take your questions about the world of work. So stop by at noon and join the chat.
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.
Elaine Varelas will answer your work-related questions. Pop on in and join us and noon.
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.
Join Pattie Hunt Sinacole as she takes your employment-related questions today at noon.
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.
Q: I'm looking into making a change after 15+ years in my current company. I now have over 20 years of experience and I'm looking to get into a VP/Director level position in my industry. Any recommendations on where/how to find the executive type positions, any recommendations on recruiter? I don't want to post my resume on a job site.
A: Congratulations on your tenure with your current company. It sounds like you have enjoyed a very stable employment history.
I know very little about you, your professional work history, your industry or educational background. In general though, I can share some broad recommendations for job seekers at your level.
- Network, network and then network even more. Networking still is the most successful job hunting technique. Most job seekers land new roles through a contact. This contact might be a former colleague, a neighbor or someone you met at your church or temple. Establish a networking goal. One contact per day? One contact every other day? Only you know how much time and energy you can invest in your job search.
- Update your resume. Make sure it is crisp, error-free and current (especially since you have worked for 15 plus years at the same company).
- Have professional references typed up and ready to share in a one-page document that looks and feels like your resume (same font, layout, etc.) Include email addresses, their relationship to you (i.e., former manager) and telephone numbers.
- Get active on LinkedIn. Connect with former co-workers, managers, supervisors, etc. LinkedIn doesn’t replace in-person networking but it is a helpful shortcut to connecting and re-connecting with others. Additionally, more and more companies are posting jobs on LinkedIn.
- Recruiters are best found through “word of mouth” referrals. Ask trusted colleagues, former co-workers. Make sure that the recruiter you work with has experience in your industry. This is increasingly important at your level of work experience. You should “kick the tires” before you engage a recruiter. You want to ensure this is a person that can work for your best interests, not just their best interests.
- Job boards are worth visiting but checking job boards should not be your sole job search technique.
- Think about ways to use social media in her job search. Twitter and Facebook are also ways to find out about opportunities.
- Professional associations related to your industry or profession are also worth exploring. Many have job posted on them regularly.
I agree with you that posting your resume on a job site is probably not a wise idea. Especially if you are currently employed, you will need to be professional and discreet in your search.
Join Elaine Varelas as she takes your career-related questions.
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.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole joins us at noon to take your job-related questions. So stop on by and get some good career tips from a professional.
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 heard from others that there is a preferred “way” of sending a resume via email. I am not sure I am sending resumes in the best way. Can you share any advice?
A: Email has certainly changed the way resumes are submitted and received in the job hunting process. I still have job seekers send me hard copies through the mail or by fax. However, email is often preferred since it is far easier to share with a client or another contact. Here is some advice –
1. Make sure that you are sending your resume in a format that is “openable” by the receiver. Most companies use MS Word. This is probably the most commonly acceptable format. Sometimes I receive resumes that can not be opened or read. This is unfortunate. Sometimes I will email the job seeker and request that the resume be re-sent. But sometimes I don’t, especially if I have received many resumes from candidates that are of interest.
2. Send it to the correct email address. Ensure that you are using an accurate email address.
3. Name your resume appropriately. Avoid names like resume2010.doc or resume.doc. Instead consider PatriciaHSinacole.doc or PatriciaHSinacoleresume.doc. Why does it matter? When I am searching for a resume, I usually know the candidate’s name. A title of resume2010 is not helpful for searching purposes. Additionally avoid names like Sinacolesalesresume.doc. It makes it sound like you are not really a sales person but instead you are using just one version of your resume and elaborating on the sales areas within your background.
4. When possible, try to email your resume to a person rather than a generic email@example.com. The value of networking is important. If you know an employee within the company, that employee will often forward it to the appropriate contact. I always pay more attention to personal referrals rather than just responses to an online advertisement.
5. Consider this option: write your cover letter in the body of the email and attach a copy of your resume. This eliminates the need to click on two attachments (on the receiving end).
6. Make sure that your email and your resume has your correct contact information. It is smart to add an email signature line with your contact information. I have called candidates only to find out that they have provided the wrong phone number on their resume and/or within their email.
7. Spelling and grammar can be a differentiator. Understand that and make sure that your correspondence is crisp, well-written and easy to read.
When you email a resume to another individual, you are often connecting to that person for the first time. First impressions count. It is important to understand that, even via email, you are sending a message about who you are as a candidate.
Yes, the winter is seems never-ending, and we're not even in February yet. Yes, we're staring at another forecast of more snow to hit the region this week. Yes, it's easy to want to give up your job search and hibernate until the spring.
To help snap us out of the winter doldrums, Elaine Varelas will join us at noon and offer ways to get your career back on track. So warm up that mug of coffee or hot chocolate and join the conversation.
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."
Pattie Hunt Sinacole joins us today at noon to take any and all questions about looking for a job - or dealing with the one your have. So come in out of the cold, grab a nice warm beverage, and join the conversation.
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.
Tracy Cashman, a partner at recruiting firm Winter, Wyman, joins us Tuesday at 11 a.m. for the second of our Big Help chats. She'll be discussing the job outlook for 2011 and any other career questions you may have.
Join us today at noon for a Big Help edition of our weekly Job Doc chat. Career consultant and Job Doc contributor Elaine Varelas will join us to take your questions about how to go about finding a job in the current market. Please stop by and join the discussion.
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!
Looking to look anew at your employment situation now that the new year is here? Join our first Job Doc chat of 201 and get some ideas and answers. Pattie Hunt Sinacole will start chatting at noon, so grab some lunch and stop on by.
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.
Sure, it's the holiday season, and work may be the last thing you want to talk about. Then again, what better time than the end of the year to reassess your situation, and seek advice on where to go next? Join Pattie Hunt Sinacole today at noon and chat about anything that's on your mind -- from switching careers to finally getting your foot in the door of that career you've been coveting.
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.
It's Monday, so you know what that means: it's chat time. Today, Elaine Varelas takes the helm of our weekly question-and-answer session. So drop on by and get advice on anything from job-hunting to office politics.
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!
Frustrated by the job search? Sick of your current job but not sure what to do? Have any other work-related issues you want to vent about? Then join Pattie Hunt Sinacole today at noon for our weekly Job Doc chat.
Q. I took a 6 month temporary job to keep looking for a full-time job that I felt would be a good fit. I didn't want to jump in to any full-time permanent job and end up disliking it. If I receive a full-time employment offer before the 6 months are over and would like to accept it would it be possible to maintain a good relationship with the temp agency if I give them proper notice (2 weeks)? At the temp job, I could train a person to take my place in one or two days. I would like to look after myself but also want to maintain a good working relationship. I do understand that I would probably burn a bridge with the temp agency's client. What is your view?
A. You are demonstrating very professional concerns, which will serve you well over the long term. You recognize the value of working hard to keep your word, maintaining relationships, honoring commitments you have made, and looking for win-win alternatives where a win-lose may happen.
These behaviors are of great value to employers in many situations, and clearly in contract or temporary roles. When you interviewed for the temp role, you saw the "trade". You wanted a role that would give you flexibility and the opportunity to continue to look for the right match in a permanent job. The company wanted a good performer, and someone who would commit for 6 months so they wouldn't have to train someone else, and could minimize disruption within the organization.
If you find the right job before your contract is up, there are a few ways to deal with the situation. If there was a short time left on your contract, you could ask your new employer for a delayed start date - perhaps three weeks, but not much more, would typically be acceptable for a new employer.
You can approach the temporary agency and explain the circumstances. This will not be the first time they have dealt with this situation. Though they may be disappointed, your willingness to have a candid conversation about your plans and the ways you can help support the agency’s maintenance of a good client relationship, will work in your favor. Some people choose to leave immediately with no notice provided, or they tell the company whose site they are at, instead of honoring the relationship between the agency and the customer account. These actions leave the agency in a difficult position, and start the bridge burning.
Your long term career is key, as well as your intentions. Employers value employees who understand mutuality in the employment agreement. And the reverse is true.
Elaine Varelas is here today at noon to take all of your job-related questions.
Q: If an individual who is entitled to severance pay later accepts a new position with another company, is he or she still eligible for severance pay? Or is the severance pay terminated?
A: The purpose of severance pay is to provide a terminated employee with some continuation of income after the employee is no longer employed. In Massachusetts, employers are not required to provide severance pay to most terminated employees. There are some exceptions however. Being a member of a union and/or having an employment agreement with a severance clause are two examples of situations where severance payments may be required. Another reason why employers offer a terminated employee severance pay is to limit the company's liability. Additionally, an employer might request that the employee leave the company in a professional manner and refrain from speaking negatively about the company. Often severance pay is given only if the exiting employee signs an agreement where the employee agrees not to sue their former employer.
Most employers determine their own severance policy. Policies can vary widely. Severance often varies depending upon the employee’s level within the company and their length of service with the company. Other factors can also be taken into consideration as well.
Some companies offer severance payments for a specific length of time. An example may be 12 weeks of severance. Another company might offer 8 weeks of severance and then if the former employee lands a comparable job during that severance period, the individual can collect the remaining weeks at 50% but in a lump sum payment.
In short, an individual must review the severance and/or separation agreement that was likely signed prior to leaving the the employer. This agreement should provide detail on the specifics of the "terms and conditions" of receiving severance. If in doubt, you could contact your former employer.
In my experience, most companies would terminate the severance pay if the terminated individual began a new role that was comparable to the former role that they held. However, some companies do offer the 50% lump sum payment too.
Over the past few years, there has been a bit of discussion with respect to severance and what constitutes a “comparable role.” In particular, what if the new role is a part-time position? Or a consulting role? Or a temporary role? Is that a comparable position to the full-time position that the employee had prior to being terminated? It is best to clarify how a comparable role is defined before signing any agreement.
Need help with your job search? Want to know if it's the right time to move on from your current position? Pattie Hunt Sinacole will be joining us today at noon. Ask her all of your work-related questions.
Q. I have been job hunting for over a year. I put together my original resume using one of the major online resume services. The result was okay, but I have submitted 30 online applications and am getting little to no interest. I'm not confident that my resume is as good as it could be and I need help. I would like to work with someone experienced who can help me fine tune my resume. I am willing to pay a reasonable price for quality. How can I find a reputable, knowledgeable consultant?
A. Resumes are one key part of a job search, and a successful job seeker needs to have an accomplishment driven resume to support his or her candidacy and showcase his/her talents. But, even the best resume can't get you a job - especially if too few people see it.
Your job search has not been effective over the last year, and we need to assess what may be limiting your success. Doing a recap and assessment of progress, successes and challenges, every quarter of a job search, can help you make adjustments which will get you closer to the offer stage.
Anyone who has submitted an online application knows how frustrating, impersonal and inflexible the process can be. You can go through the entire process and get hung up in the internal system, which can shut down and leave you hanging. Companies are trying to develop better systems, but until then remember; an online application is a first step in the job search process, and not a last step. This method of application is the minimum requirement to get into the process, and a minimum investment yields a minimum response.
You completed thirty online applications and that is admirable. Those applications must have been very targeted. You aren't getting any response, and it may be your resume, but more likely, you need to broaden your search. Were these 30 online applications generated from hours of research and networking? Was the application completed at the direction of people who told you that is how you could get involved in the process? Did you start with a broad target and come down to these bulls eye roles? Or did you generate these positions as jobs you would be willing to accept? How many more positions should you be considering, and how many more opportunities can you uncover if you broaden your targets and your job search methodology?
Applying online is one method, and you can stay online to move into method two - networking - through online tools such as LinkedIn, or Facebook. You can also complete online research of the recruiters who work with people in your area of expertise. Also, you should check all the online job boards including Monster, Career Builder, and MyJSTN.
But, you can't run an entire job search online. We know on average it takes 150 networking meetings, plus the work that surrounds getting those meetings, to successfully land a job. You can choose to hold these meetings over 18 months, 12 months or 6 months. Some of these meetings will be very helpful - others, well, not so much! But, what they will do is help you understand with great clarity what is happening with the kinds of roles you are looking for, and the kinds of companies you are interested in, and who they are hiring.
Job search math says there are typically 200 candidates for every online application. Are you doing everything you can to improve your odds? As you reviewed your tools, you became concerned that your resume could be improved. The New England chapter of the Association of Career Professionals provides a list of members who are qualified to work with you to write your resume: www.acpi-ne.org.
You may find that the benefit of working with a career professional on your resume leads you to look at the many other career coaching services a great career coach can provide. If they can shorten your job search by one month, how much value could that provide?
Whether you decide to use a coach or not, the real hunt begins when you dedicate yourself to the volume of work that needs to be done to be successful, and you do the work you may not want to do, each and every day.
Elaine Varelas will helm today's Job Doc chat. So stop by at noon and get answers to your questions about the working world.
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.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is back and ready to answer any of your questions about looking for a job - or dealing with the one you have. Join the chat today at noon.
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.
Q. I attended law school at night while working in higher education. I decided to leave my job to participate in a battered women's clinic through law school assisting victims of domestic violence. I had enough savings to get me through 10 months of being unemployed while obtaining court experience. I thought I could pick up temp positions while I wait for the bar exam results but I am having difficulty finding long term temp positions. And now my savings are dwindling. Any suggestions?
A. Congratulations on all you have accomplished. You have demonstrated drive, risk taking, self confidence, planning, dedication and so many other skills employers want. You have a goal, and you are going after it.
You now have a broad set of skills to call upon in any kind of temporary, permanent, or part time work you pursue. Targeting the right kinds of positions, in industries where your experience will be most highly valued, will be the best place to start. You worked in higher education, but I don't know what kind of role. Many colleges and universities have "seasonal" employee needs. Are there student orientation programs, or open houses, admissions fairs, or summer camp programs looking for staff? Return first to your former employer to see what needs they may have. Using your "old" skills may not be your first choice, but many employers are looking for experienced people who can walk into an environment they are comfortable with and effective in the day they start.
Have you spoken to human resources in your law school? Are there opportunities for someone with your higher education experience? I'm sure you have considered roles at other local law schools, and schools with paralegal programs.
Networking with your faculty members will also be vital to your success in this job search and in your future. They may be able to refer you to former students who are employed in law firms, corporate or organizational roles where temporary roles may be available. While these may start in non-attorney roles, you may find that their positive experiences with you (and great bar results) lead to a new role.
Alumni from your law school are also great networking contacts. I'm sure the alumni have a group on LinkedIn, which you should join. Posting a question about opportunities available for a student with many skills waiting for bar results may get you new opportunities.
Does the school have a career services office? Often employers will list job opportunities in these offices which might be posted on their site, or the career services staff may be aware of opportunities which they may be asked not to post.
Have you contacted legal recruiters? Make sure you know who they are, and review the information listed on their web sites. Though you may think it is too soon, developing these relationships now can offer you insight into the culture of various law firms, and the array of legal jobs outside of law firms.
Don't forget to work with general contract recruiters. Be willing to look at a broad range of opportunities, roles, and industries. They will be looking for positions you can walk right into - exactly what they are being paid to find for the companies who hire them.
Hopefully all these methods will get you closer to the success you are looking for pre and post bar results.
Need ideas on how to get your resume noticed? Do you need tips for that big job interview you have scheduled? Want to know if now is the time to start looking for a new job? Elaine Varelas will be here to chat at noon, so bring your questions.
Q: I was recently terminated and am unclear of the reason. In fact, when I asked why during my very abrupt termination meeting, I was told “we think it is best to part ways.” What does that mean? Am I eligible to collect unemployment? I have never had this happen to me before. How are reference checks usually handled when an employee is terminated? Signed, Confused.
A: I am sorry that you were recently terminated and are now confused as a result. I can not provide your employer's reasons on why you were terminated. I think only your employer can provide that information. It is unfortunate that you are not aware of the reason. Companies usually will provide this information but they are not required to provide a reason. In Massachusetts, and many other states, employment for most of us is “at-will.” What this means is that the employee can leave a position at any time and for any reason. And conversely, the employer can terminate the employment relationship for any reason or no reason at all.
Assuming you work in Massachusetts, you should have been provided information on how to collect unemployment assistance. I have attached a link to the information. http://www.mass.gov/Elwd/docs/dua/0590a_508.pdf. You can contact the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) by phone or by visiting them in person. Before contacting them, you should have specific information ready and available to provide to them. This information is outlined in the link that I have shared. Usually most Massachusetts workers that are terminated are eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. However, the DUA makes the final decision with respect to eligibility.
Each employer handles references checks on former employees differently. You may want to contact your former employer to ask them about their specific policy. More and more companies are providing only a confirmation of the following: whether the former employee worked at this employer, the specific dates of employment and perhaps the job title(s) held by the former employee. Sometimes the former employer will provide more information. It is important for you to know this information before you begin your job search. You will want to learn this information so your explanation of your separation is plausible and understandable by a prospective employer.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is back in the saddle today at noon and will be ready to take all of your questions and comments about dealing with the job market in Boston.
Q: I am an engineer with over 14 years of experience and was laid off one year ago. Since then I have been studying computer programming as a career change. I decided not to go back to school, but instead teach myself.
Any advice on how I should tailor my resume or cover letter so potential employers overlook the fact that I don't have a computer science degree?
A: There are typically two basic ways to present an employment history in a resume. The first format is the chronological resume that most employers prefer and are somewhat accustomed to because it is the most common format. The chronological resume provides an overview of a candidate’s work experience beginning with the most recent and working backwards through the different roles and positions that a candidate has held. Dates are usually provided as well as a short summary of what each role entailed.
The second format is the functional resume. This format is less commonly used. A functional resume groups similar job responsibilities together. A functional resume often omits dates (which is sometimes frustrating for the reader). So as an example, one section of a functional resume may be focused on sales experience while the next section might be on management experience.
Most employers are more comfortable with the chronological resume because it is used more frequently and it is an “easier read.” By that I mean, you can determine length of service at each role or company and find gaps in a candidate’s employment history. Functional resumes tend to minimize gaps in a candidate's work history.
With 14 years of experience in one field, you may want to consider a chronological resume. My recommendation assumes that you had a steady employment history with just a few employers.
Some employers will strongly prefer a computer science degree. And there may be no way around that. You can not fabricate a degree. However, you should be certain that your educational achievements are detailed on your resume. Some employers would prefer a Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. What your challenge will be is how to get a prospective employer to put you in that “or the equivalent” bucket. Detailing your academic credentials and any specialized training will be critical for you.
I must admit that I am strongly in favor of a attaining a college degree in most circumstances. College graduates almost always fare better in the employment market, but especially in the field of engineering. We all hear of the very successful college dropouts like Bill Gates. Bill Gates is not the norm. Most college graduates fare better in both strong and weak employment markets. In September of 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published some very persuasive data. For US workers, 25 years and older, the unemployment rate for high school graduates with no college education was 10.0%. For US workers, 25 years and older, the unemployment rate was 4.5% for those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Although the numbers have bumped around slightly for many years, this trend is pretty consistent.
Lastly, if you are Massachusetts resident, you should take advantage of the career services offered by the state. The Massachusetts One-Stop Career Centers have a variety of resources and services available to unemployed Massachusetts residents. You can download a brochure entitled The Resume Guide by visiting http://www.mass.gov/Elwd/docs/dcs/1865_508.pdf.
Q. I am a business owner, and I recently separated a manager from my company. I have followed all the right human resources practices and policies. We have had plenty of conversations about the issues which led to this conclusion, and all has been documented. The conversation worked as it should, and we are moving on. The problem is he has asked me for a reference, both on LinkedIn and more formally, in spite of being very aware of my issues with his performance. How should I respond?
A. A separation done well can often lead to a better match for the person leaving the organization. Separations are typically not easy, but providing plenty of communication about why the situation resulted in a separation and following appropriate human resources practices are essential to helping the person move forward in looking for a new job. The good news is that your former employee is trying to do that. The bad news is that he may be expecting too much from you in terms of making that happen.
LinkedIn is a great resource for job seekers, and the recommendations section serves a general purpose of generating credibility. But blanket reference statements are not a job seeker’s best bet to influence a hiring manager, particularly if an employee has been separated.
Providing references can be hazardous for organizations, and as a result many organizations have reference policies which provide only title and the confirmation of dates of employment for former employees. Some organizations allow managers to provide references if managers preface remarks by saying that they are not acting as representatives of the company. Very few industries still use written references with major exceptions being education, government and some non-profits.
Your former employee has put you in a difficult position by asking you to write something public on LinkedIn. First, employees should change the general question of “Will you be a reference for me?” to “Will you be able to provide me with a great reference?” Average references or those that are so general that they say very little, are not valued by hiring managers, and in fact may raise concerns about a candidate.
You certainly have the option to say “No, I will not be able to provide a reference”. You might also be able to say, “I am not comfortable providing a broad recommendation on LinkedIn, but if you would like me to speak to a certain employer checking your references about a specific job, I would be willing to do that. I would need you to call me in advance, and provide me with specific information about the job, so that you would be aware of what I would say. That way there are no surprises.” For someone in the job seeker position, evaluate what might be said by your reference, and decide if that person or another would be a better reference.
If you find that you can not provide this former employee with a reference which outlines some areas of strength, it is best to pass. Explain that you will not be able to provide the kinds of information which will support his job search, and you will not provide information which might hurt his efforts either.
Q: I'm 50 and without a degree. I am currently a Public Health Coordinator and have been for 10 years. Should I go back to school?
A: Returning to school is a commitment, but it is a commitment that often brings additional rewards. Returning to school is a very personal decision and difficult to answer based on what little information you have shared. Some questions that may help you make a sound decision:
1. Why are you returning to school? For personal satisfaction? A career change? Because you have credits toward a degree but never completed the degree?
2. What about finances? Does your current employer offer tuition aid? Can you attend school part-time? How long would it take you to attain your degree? Make sure that your plan to return to school is economically viable.
3. Do you plan to consider a certificate program? An associate’s degree? A bachelor’s degree?
Public health is a growing field. Employment opportunities are expected to be strong. When I researched this field, it appears that most senior-level opportunities in this field require some type of degree and/or licensure. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/oco), a bachelor’s degree (or higher) is often required for many roles. Management roles in particular may require a master’s degree. For Medical and Health Services Managers, the BLS specifically states, “Job opportunities will be good, especially for applicants with work experience in healthcare and strong business and management skills. A master's degree is the standard credential, although a bachelor's degree is adequate for some entry-level positions.”
Education does pay off. Recently the College Board, a non-profit organization in New York that researches educational trends and data, found that people with college degrees earn more than their counterparts without college degrees. Additionally, those with college degrees are less likely to be unemployed during their lifetimes. To read more about the benefits of a college education, you can download a free copy of the full report entitled “Education Pays 2010” by visiting http://trends.collegeboard.org/files/Education_Pays_2010.pdf.
Q: I have 20 plus years in banking industry. I was laid off because of budgets cuts last October. What jobs are out there which do not require a college degree or a long commute? I am a former data entry keyer.
A: I am sorry that you have been impacted by the consolidation in the banking industry. Just 20 years ago, there were several larger regional banks that provided employment opportunities for many workers at all levels. Many of these larger banks have been acquired by national or even international banks with headquarters outside of the Boston area. There are still financial services firms in the Boston area, but many are facing challenging times.
According to research conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Employment and Training, the Massachusetts economy should continue to expand at a rate of 6.3% by 2016. Technology will continue to have a strong impact on the jobs forecast.
Health care and information technology are both expected to grow. Fourteen of the 20 fastest growing occupations will require an associate’s degree or higher. The fastest growing occupations include network systems and data communication analysts, personal and home care aides and computer software engineers.
According to this report, one growth area that you may want to consider are the office and administrative jobs least affected by office automation. Customer service clerks, receptionist, billing/accounting clerks are all roles that require significant contact with other humans. By 2016, these jobs should expand by 11%. Individuals with strong computer skills tend to fare better when applying for these jobs. The area of office and administrative jobs would likely be the best category for you to further research since some of your skills may be transferable. Some of the jobs may require further training and schooling but many do not require a college degree.
One resource to explore is the Labor and Workforce Development section of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ website (www.mass.gov). There is a wealth of information on career services, seminars, job postings and other helpful job hunting links. When I searched data entry jobs on their site, several opportunities appeared to be a match for an experienced data entry candidate. Additionally, there are One-Stop Career Centers across the state for residents of Massachusetts. To print a listing of these centers, visit http://www.mass.gov/Elwd/docs/dcs/2066a_508.pdf.
To view the full report entitled The Massachusetts Job Outlook through 2016, visit http://lmi2.detma.org/lmi/pdf/careermoves/CareerMovesJOBoutlook.pdf
Elaine Varelas joins us today at noon to answer all of your job-related questions.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole returns today at noon to chat about getting a job. So if you need jpb interview tips, or the best way to get your resume to the top of the pile, then stop on by and join the chat.
Need help with your resume? Want to know if it's time to look for another job? Pattie Hunt Sinacole will be here today at noon to help you tackle all of your employment issues. So top on by and get your questions answered.
Q. I am an RN and I left a job I had for 3 years at a health information company to accept an electronic medical record training position with a major healthcare organization, reporting to the SVP. When I arrived to start my new job, the job description and my report to manager had changed. This was all a surprise to me. After five weeks, I was released by my newly assigned middle manager, with no documented reason, other than being told I was still a probationary hire. This is a first for me! How do I handle presenting this to a new employer and what about on my resume?
A.Presenting the job on your resume and developing a public statement on a very short job can be a challenge. You might decide not to add the job to your resume to eliminate the immediate screening from a resume review. You have a good story to tell in networking meetings, or interviews, and hopefully you can articulate some of the actions you took with your former employer to understand what had happened.
The original agreement, and the reason you chose to leave a stable job was for a specific role, and to report to a Senior Vice President. Change happens in organizations, and we can understand that. At the same time, you should have been given the opportunity to try and understand it, by being prepared for the changes prior to your first day. What should have happened is the SVP, the person who hired you, should have called you to explain the organizational changes which needed to occur on both the reporting structure and the responsibilities of the new role. You would then have had the opportunity to discuss these changes in greater detail, register any concerns, and make arrangements to meet with your new manager, in addition to a face to face meeting with the SVP.
You deserved the opportunity to accept this new “offer”, to reject it, or to work out some kind of understanding about what your future would hold. Five weeks seems very fast for any action to be taken, especially being separated from the job.
There are so many questions to ask, which in hindsight may have altered the outcome. Did you talk to the SVP? Did you talk to a human resources person? What did your original offer letter say? Did you have an offer in writing? Some people would suggest you had an opportunity to talk to a lawyer if the written offer was not honored as it was written. Were you offered severance based on the separation, and the initial circumstances?
People have accepted offers, and changed their minds, or received better offers. Companies have made offers and then withdrawn them based on changes in the economy, or other circumstances. These situations do happen, and when both sides work with integrity and honest communication, facing responsibility for their own actions, fair resolutions should result.
I encourage you to communicate with a senior leader at this firm about a positive public statement which supports your job search. Your conversations with potential employers should be using the same statement showing your understanding of the organizational changes which led to your departure.
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.
Elaine Varelas returns today at noon to answer your job-related queries. So stop on by and join the chat.
Q: A friend of mine was placed at our firm through an employment agency. She is now looking for a new job and contacted the same agency to see if they can help her. This agency let our office manager know that she is looking for a new job. I find this to be completely inappropriate and somehow illegal. Is there anything that can be done?
A: The intricacies of working with an employment agency can be complicated. First, let's look at how an employment agency is paid. Pay or income can often drive behavior! An employment agency usually works for the company or the employer. Often times, the agency has a written agreement with an employer that details the working relationship. Usually, the employment agency is NOT working for the candidate, or your friend. Your employer most likely paid a fee to hire your friend.
Now, let's discuss your specific questions. Your friend was placed at your company by an employment agency. Your employer likely paid a significant fee to the agency after your employer hired her. The employment agency probably has a written agreement with your employer. Sometimes that written agreement specifies a period of time where their placements are guaranteed. That means if the employee leaves within a certain time period (30, 60, 90 or 180 days), the agency may need to either replace the new hire (sometimes for free) or refund the fee (a full or partial refund).
The agency wants to retain the business of your employer, first and foremost. They are hoping to place other employees there and make more money. Their allegiance is likely to the employer, not your friend.
A detail that you didn't mention but would have been helpful to know: did the agency tell your friend that they would need to inform your employer before agreeing to work with your friend again? Ethically, this is probably the best approach. Then your friend can decide whether she wants to work with that agency again (and also understand that her current employer would know about her search for a new job) or choose to pursue other avenues to find a new job.
From what you have shared, what the agency has done is probably not illegal but unethical, maybe. If the agency advised your friend that they would have to inform your employer of her job search and she had taken steps to re-engage the agency to help her with her search, then, I am less likely to view them as unethical. After all, your employer is their client. However, if the agency called your employer without first discussing this with your friend, then I would be more concerned about the ethics of this agency.
One other factor is the length of service of your friend. If your friend has been employed with your company for several years, then the agency could probably work with your friend without compromising their current relationship with your employer. Agencies can not guarantee that a candidate will remain employed with a client indefinitely.
Need help with the job hunt? Want to know how to deal with an untenable situation at your current job? Then ask Elaine Varelas, who will be here at noon to take all your employment-related questions.
Q. I am an engineer with over 14 years of experience and was laid off a year ago. Since then I have been studying computer programming as a career change. I decided not to go back to school, but instead educate myself.
Any advice on how I should tailor my resume or cover letter so potential employers overlook the fact that I don't have a computer science degree?
A. Losing a job with 14 years of experience is a difficult position, and assessing where you are in your career and what you want to do next needs to become the focus. Many people, when put in this position, choose to go away from their old career rather than go to a new career. I don’t know if that is why you chose to try to make a career change to computer programming, or if this is something you have been interested in pursuing. If this has been a long term interest, I encourage you to continue to study and to look at educational institutions where you can gain credentials to make you more employable. The Division of Employment and Training (DET), often referred to as the unemployment office, can offer information and financial support for specific training or coursework.
I would also encourage you to reconsider your engineering career. You have 14 years invested in an engineering career, which has hit a rough patch, as have many functions and industries. If you can utilize your engineering skills and continue to develop and utilize your new programming skills, you may find a career change easier to make. You may also decide a career change is not your short term goal. It may be a longer term goal which can be made easier to reach.
Looking for a job in computer programming without credentials and experience will prove more difficult than a job search for an engineering position with 14 years experience. In this competitive economy, potential employers aren't going to overlook anything, unless they like everything else they see about a candidate’s background. Writing great cover letters and resumes is all about highlighting your strengths and minimizing your "weaknesses". Resumes of anyone who has been working should start with a summary of the skills they can offer a new employer. You will need to make it easy for a hiring manager to see what you can do for their company, division or department. These lead statement needs to compel the reader to keep going. The same is true for cover letters. Avoid clichés and highlight the greatest value you can offer.
If you are being evaluated on paper, your candidacy is not as strong as being evaluated in person first or at least at the same time your resume is screened. Revisit the network you have developed over your career, and communicate in person, if at all possible, with your contacts to see who they may be able to introduce you to. If they can make a call on your behalf, even better. If you can’t meet in person, make phone calls. You can confirm information and offer thanks via email, but you build the best relationships with more personal contacts.
So, consider the options you have to gain credentials, think about trying to continue with your previous career for a while longer and really tap into your network to get you where you want to be.
Need some last-minute interviewing tips? Pattie Hunt Sinacole is here to helm our weekly Job Doc chat. So stop by at noon and join the conversation.
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 spent a good deal of time putting in all of my personal information/job history to apply for a position online. At the very end, they require a full credit and background check, asking for my social security and driver's license numbers which I refused to provide (meaning I was bounced out of their system - no longer a candidate). Am I behind the times here? Is this typical and acceptable?
I would willingly provide this information to an employer who has extended a job offer so they can run a background check which is both fair and reasonable. Why should I surrender my privacy to merely be considered a candidate? Is this standard practice now and I am out of step or is it as invasive as it feels? Given all of the identity theft, I am very cautious with personal information. Do they really need to know everything before they even look at my resume?
A. Being a candidate for a job means being evaluated, assessed and scrutinized in more ways than most can imagine. Hiring organizations will ask for an array of public and private information and can research additional information not provided directly from candidates through many forms of social media and reporting organizations.
If you are in a job search, take the time to find out what you look like in cyberspace. Evaluate your LinkedIn profile, clean up your Facebook page, and review any tweets or blogs where you can be identified. If you have concerns about potential credit checks, get a copy and see what you may have to address.
Companies are trying to avoid becoming too invested in any candidate with red flags and based on the volume of applicants, they now start the screening process in this way. References and any kind of investigations used to begin at the offer stage, but no longer. Avoiding potential hiring issues is as important as capturing the best talent for many companies.
Barry Miller, a Seyfarth Shaw attorney who specializes in providing advice to employers and defending employment-related claims explains, "Employers generally are free to ask for information such as Social Security Numbers and driver's license numbers in the employment screening process. However, a number of issues in the current business environment have led to increasing restrictions on employers that collect sensitive personal information from employees or applicants.
If employers use credit histories in the screening process, they must comply with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires that employers make certain disclosures to the applicant before a credit check is run and provide additional disclosures if it takes adverse action, such as declining to hire an applicant, based on the information in the credit history. Some governmental agencies have taken the position that the use of credit histories in a way that is not tailored to the requirements of the job may run afoul of state or federal discrimination laws."
You are right to be concerned about what happens to this data and how it is stored. "Employers that collect sensitive personal information in the screening process are also required to take steps to prevent the unauthorized use or disclosure of such information. The federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act requires that employers take reasonable measures to safeguard information derived from the credit reporting process", Attorney Miller explained.
Massachusetts has a stringent data security law that requires all businesses that come to possess personal information regarding Massachusetts residents to adopt a comprehensive information security program designed to protect against data breaches and other improper disclosures of sensitive personal information. These protections may provide applicants with some reassurance that information disclosed in the employment screening process is not likely to be misused.
Having to provide this data may not make you feel comfortable and learning that you will need to at the end of an online application only adds to the frustration. Many of these obstacles can be minimized by trying to access companies in other ways. Try to use your network and do the same kind of online research to find out more about your target employers employment screening process.
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).
Pattie Hunt Sinacole will be here today at noon to offer guidance and suggestions for your job search. So stop on by and join the chat.
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.
Elaine Varelas is back for the second week in a row to helm our weekly Job Doc chat. So stop by at noon today and join the discussion.
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.
Having trouble closing the deal and landing that new job? Need tips on how to make your resume stand out among the hundred of competitors for a job opening? HR expert and Boston Globe Job Doc Elaine Varelas will be here at noon to offer advice.
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. Five years ago I started as an administrative assistant at a financial institution. Over this time I have been promoted with a few different titles all while expanding my responsibilities and still reporting to the same person. I feel highly valued, empowered and enjoy my job. I have become the go-to person for a variety of tasks, projects or when in need of a solution.
We are in the midst of a major reorganization with lots of new eyes. In my current role, I feel like jack of all trades for the organization but a master of none. How do I begin assessing and labeling what I do? I am concerned because I don't fit into a generic role, and I worry that that I am going to appear dispensable to people that are new and do not yet appreciate my value or contributions.
I need to redo my resume to be able to show the new "powers" that I make a difference. Much of my work doesn't seem quantifiable, showing percent change or growth, and I know this will be important for me to move forward. I would appreciate any help you can offer.
A. Congratulations on looking forward. In a difficult economy, with the prospect of a major reorganization, company leaders are making difficult decisions about which positions must be eliminated, and therefore which employees will be impacted. Many valued and valuable contributors have been impacted by cuts at all levels, and in all industries. Your goal - documenting your value to the organization is a good one, and one many employees should add to their "to-do" list.
One of the easiest ways to collect specific information about what you do on the job, and the impact this has on the organization, is to document your work daily. Most people do not do this, but using your daily planner (online or hard copy) as a way to keep track of the work you are involved with, provides a historic record which can easily be reviewed at the end of a week, month or quarter. Make sure you add the impact your work had as well. If you aren't sure how to assess the impact, ask for assistance from your manager. Work can be translated into the value it provides, and with practice, you will be able to ask yourself the right questions to turn your daily notes into accomplishment statements.
Develop a series of questions to ask yourself or your manager about your work. Did it increase productivity? Avoid additional cost? Generate revenue? Save time? Identify the Problem, review the Action, and identify the Result. "PAR" is a tool used by many career consultants working with candidates to showcase skills and accomplishments. All of this will provide you with resume data, and you will then have records at performance appraisal time, for financial review and bonus conversations, as well as when promotions are being discussed.
So, now you will start doing this data collection for the future, but we need to take a retrospective look as well. One of the areas often overlooked by internal candidates, which is one way to look at all employees, is the external information available about them. What does your LinkedIn profile say about you? Does it say great things about your current employer? Do you have recommendations from senior staff and colleagues at the company who you have supported through projects? Make sure there are more places than your personnel file where the breadth of your capabilities can be reviewed. Be your own public relations firm.
In addition, make sure you are very knowledgeable about the business, not just your own area. Read everything you can that is written by or about your company. Know the strategy and the leaders. Read about what is happening in your industry and know what your competitors are doing. These activities, and the conversations and discussions that you will be able to participate in, will help you differentiate yourself.
Lastly, connect within your organization. Volunteer for cross organizational projects. Meet with your contemporaries who have responsibilities in other areas of the company. Become involved with the charitable efforts of your company. Key roles and contributions happen in many more places than behind your desk.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is back for another question-and-answer session, so stop by and get some job hunting tips today at noon.