career advice

5 useful ways to fill in time when hoping for a job interview

I find too many job seekers who are ill prepared during their job search. The first two things that you should do when seeking a new employer is 1. Make sure that your social sites are private – if they are your source of socializing and 2. make certain that your voicemail message is professional – this includes “ringback” tones. You don’t want to make a bad impression before landing the interview.

What’s “Fit” Got to Do With It?

Companies today are looking for more than just education, experience, and transferable skills.  With an increasing price tag on turnover, recruiters and hiring managers are looking deeper into the intangibles.  The article below gives good perspective on what “fit” has to do with anything.

How often have you heard something like this when you’ve been rejected for a job: “We found someone who we feel is a closer fit.”

When you know in your heart that you have all the skills, experience and education that the employer seeks, it is only natural to ask: “How can they say that I’m not a right fit?”

You might reprise Tina Turner’s song with modified lyrics: “What’s fit got to do with it?”

Using “fit” can be a fudgy kind of excuse that employers give when they don’t want to risk revealing the real reason someone else beat you out for that prized opportunity. Employers aren’t under any obligation to reveal the reasons that they reject any given candidate. And, they are reticent to do so lest it open them up to unwanted protracted discussion, or even to a lawsuit.

“Fit,” however, often really is the issue. Employers are rightly concerned these days about more than just melding a candidate’s skills and a job’s responsibilities. In a landmark survey, Leadership IQ determined that a shocking 46 percent of newly hired employees will fail within 18 months, and that technical competence was only related to 11 percent of those failures.

Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, contends that the managers who fared significantly better than their peers in their hiring decisions focused their emphasis on interpersonal and motivational issues. The survey suggests that the key elements of fit that make for long-term employee success include “coachability,” emotional intelligence (or “the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and accurately assess others’ emotions”), motivation, and temperament, which includes one’s attitude and personality.

So what is a job hunter to do?

1. Search for a great fit, not just a great job. While the need for an immediate paycheck can be very real and pressing, remember that signing on now to a job with a poor fit can be very costly for you later on. Each time you apply for a job you’ll likely have to explain all the transitions from one company to the next on your resume. If at all possible, you want to avoid in future job hunts having to explain why the job you take now just didn’t work out. Even if you’re successful in obtaining and taking an ill-fitting job now and becoming one of those 48 percent who fail within the first 18 months, you can create a red flag in your own future.

2. Look for companies that fit your personality and work style. Rather than randomly applying to a large number of jobs at many companies, look beyond job descriptions. Slow down and take the time to learn something about each company to which you want to apply. What do current and former employees say about its corporate culture? Does the company encourage teamwork and camaraderie, or is it every person for him/herself? It is a company that cares about its employees enough to have mentoring programs, and are you open to them? Are managers hard to access, likely to be available when you need them, or are they ever-present micro-managing one’s every movement? Which management style do you need to be successful? Learn about these and other fit issues on sites like Glassdoor.com, Vault.com, etc.

3. Use your interview to demonstrate your fit. You can do this in a couple of different ways if you’re well prepared. First, weave in things that demonstrate your fit into your interview. For example, if you know that a company wants to mold their employees through mentoring, you might talk about how much you appreciated being mentored in some past experience and how it helped you to grow professionally. This can be especially powerful if you can use it in answering a question, “Tell me about an area of your weakness.”

Second, if you haven’t had an opportunity to weave your fit stories into the early part of an interview, use your research when you ask your own questions at the end. You might pose something like: “I thrive in an environment where [fill in the blank with something about yourself that matches with the company’s culture]. If I were to work here, is that what I would likely experience?”

Sometimes fit really is a wimpy excuse used in rejection letters. Yet, if you can demonstrate your fit for a role in addition to showing that you have the right skill set and experience, you increase your chances of hearing: “We think that you would make a great addition to our company, and would like you to start within the next two weeks.”

Happy hunting!

Source: US News, by Arnie Fertig

5 Ways to Become an Efficient Job Seeker

Are you the kind of job hunter who feels that the search is taking over your life? Perhaps you sense that you’re spinning your wheels, putting in lots of hours looking for that new job and never gaining traction. Maybe you can relate to the person who stays up ’til all hours of the night, prowling job boards and sending a resume to anything that looks remotely interesting. If your job hunt consumes every waking moment, it is time to put it into perspective and more effectively utilize your time and energy.

Here are some things that you can do to gain control of your job hunt, save time, and allow you to appropriately balance it with the other parts of your life:

1. Treat your job hunt as a job. Define and schedule your “on” and “off” hours. Work hard and be productive while you are “on,” but also carve out guilt-free “off” time for proper work-life balance. As you gain that balance, you’re likely to find that you’re working more efficiently and productively.

2. Organize your time. Determine in advance how much time to allocate to each task, and focus exclusively on one thing at a time according to the schedule you lay out for yourself. If necessary, set a timer on your computer or phone to prompt you to go on to the next thing. While many people feel that they thrive on multitasking, studies have repeatedly shown that this doesn’t work as well as we tend to believe that is does.

Whatever puts you closest to nailing down a job offer should get top priority, and dealing with people always trumps impersonal online activities. Top priority goes to preparing for and following up actual interviews. Next is following up with networking opportunities, then comes creating new networking opportunities, etc.

Make time in your schedule for in-person business networking, researching new companies and their openings, participating in job hunter networking groups in person and online, and expanding your personal brand on LinkedIn.

3. Organize your desk. It can be altogether overwhelming to come into your home-office and see piles and piles of disorganized papers. Allocate some time each day to throwing out or shredding whatever you can part with, and putting everything else into a file or folder.

Rule of thumb: Only touch each piece of paper once. Deal with it, and don’t just keep shuffling paper or creating piles that you plan to deal with later.

At the end of your job-hunting business day, clear everything off your desk so that you can start fresh the next day.

4. Organize your computer. Create a filing system that works for you. You will benefit by having a folders for research, applications sent, each company with which you’re actively speaking, each recruiter you’re actively working with, networking groups, etc.

5. Don’t bother reinventing the wheel. There are many repetitive tasks that you can automate so you don’t have to “rethink” them time after time.

Examples:

a. You can save the URL of search results on Google, Yahoo, and Bing as a hyperlinked cell in your spreadsheet. Make each one a separate line, and in the next column remind yourself of what the search was for. On a regular basis, repeat the search by clicking the link and your results will be updated. In a similar way you can track company websites, specific job postings, etc.

b. Use Google Alerts to follow people, companies, or topics of interest and get a note in your inbox automatically. For example, if you follow a person, every time his/her name comes up in the news or a web posting, you’ll immediately receive word.

c. Within LinkedIn you can also follow people or companies of interest. When you do, you will get ongoing updates whenever their status or something else about them changes.

Central to the effectiveness of any time management strategy must be your desire and commitment to manage your time. When you begin the process, you may be amazed to see how much more productive your time can be, how your job search process can be enhanced, and how you will enable yourself to engage in a healthy work-life balance.

Happy hunting!

US News    Arnie Fertig

10 unusual interview mistakes, and 6 that are all too common

Most of us can recall an embarrassing moment in our lives that was caused by nerves. Whether it was drawing a blank at a crucial time, spilling a drink on a first date or stuttering through a presentation at work, at one point or another, anxiety has gotten the best of all of us.

One of life’s most notoriously nerve-racking events, the job interview, is perfect for these sorts of foot-in-mouth moments. The combination of excitement and pressure can cloud our judgment and lead us to make mistakes, decisions and comments that we wouldn’t normally make.

Making mistakes is part of being human, and most hiring managers will let the occasional blank stare or fumbled sentence slide during an interview. But there are some slip-ups that you just can’t recover from, mistakes so ridiculous that they’ll completely eclipse any potential you may have in the mind of your interviewer.

What kind of mistakes, you ask? Well, mistakes like the ones below, which hiring managers reported to CareerBuilder as the most unusual interview mishaps they’d ever seen. (Though we’re not certain all of these mistakes were caused by nerves, we’re going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt here — mostly because we can’t bear to think otherwise.)

  • Candidate brought a “how to interview book” with him to the interview.
  • Candidate asked, “What company is this again?
  • Candidate put the interviewer on hold during a phone interview. When she came back on the line, she told the interviewer that she had a date set up for Friday.
  • Candidate wore a Boy Scout uniform and never told interviewers why.
  • Candidate talked about promptness as one of her strengths after showing up 10 minutes late.
  • On the way to the interview, candidate passed, cut off and flipped the middle finger to a driver who happened to be the interviewer.
  • Candidate referred to himself in the third person.
  • Candidate took off his shoes during interview.
  • Candidate asked for a sip of the interviewer’s coffee.
  • A mature candidate told the interviewer she wasn’t sure if the job offered was worth “starting the car for.”

How’s that for some third-party embarrassment?

But before you ask, “What kind of idiot would ask a stranger for a sip of his coffee?” know that it doesn’t take a mistake as bizarre as the examples above to kill a perfectly good interview. There are a plenty of less ridiculous but equally detrimental interview gaffes that job candidates — even smart ones — make all the time.

According to the CareerBuilder survey, the following are the errors job seekers make most often:

  • Answering cell phone or texting: 77 percent
  • Appearing disinterested: 75 percent
  • Dressing inappropriately: 72 percent
  • Appearing arrogant: 72 percent
  • Talking negatively about current or previous employers: 67 percent
  • Chewing gum: 63 percent

So how can you avoid making mistakes — outrageous or otherwise — in your next job interview?

Be prepared, says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “With preparation and practice, candidates can greatly improve their interview skills,” she says. Well-prepared job seekers are more confident, articulate and relaxed — and therefore less susceptible to error — than those who aren’t.

Before your interview, research the company, conduct mock interviews with friends and practice telling anecdotes that highlight your accomplishments, Haefner suggests.

Originally Posted on CareerBuilder – For even more tips on successful interviewing, check out the video posted by The Work Buzz.

Objectives on Resumes

Monster PenRecruiter Roundtable: Objectives on Resumes

The Recruiter Roundtable is a monthly feature that collects career and job-seeking advice from a group of recruiting experts throughout the US.  The question we put before our panel this month is: How important is having an “objective” or “summary” section at the opening of a candidate’s resume?

 

Your 15-Second ‘Elevator Pitch’
If you want to convert your 15 seconds of fame into an in-person interview at the company of your choice, include a summary statement at the opening of your resume.

A well-written summary statement tells me how your experience and skill set will help my company solve a particular challenge, become more profitable or efficient, or break into or further penetrate target markets. In other words, it will make me want to read the rest of your resume and consider you for the opportunity. The best summary statements I’ve seen are no more than three to five sentences long and show me that you clearly understand the role you’re applying for.

— Cheryl Ferguson, recruiter, The Recruiter’s Studio

A Better Use of That Space?
While a summary could clarify your goal or objective, I don’t think it is a necessary part of one’s resume. Recruiters review candidates’ information every day, and look for certain skills and experiences found in the body of a resume. Save the extra space for accomplishments, goals achieved, awards and unique skills relevant to the job.

— Bob Hancock, senior manager of global talent acquisition, Electronic Arts

Review Real Situations
Including an objective targeted to a specific position can be helpful since it quickly tells an employer why the job candidate is interested in the opportunity and is the right fit for it. The key is to provide information that will pique the hiring manager’s interest without adding superfluous details or items listed later in the resume.

Only include an objective if the resume is targeted to a particular opportunity. Omit this section when creating a general resume.

— DeLynn Senna, executive director of North American permanent placement services, Robert Half International

Most Useful Cases
For me, it’s most important in two cases:

1. Executive or Experienced Candidates: If you have been in business for a while and have taken on a variety of challenges, and even if you have depth in one discipline, it’s still helpful to know your elevator pitch. An experienced executive will be able to make a pithy statement about top-level skills.

2. Career Changers: If you are trying to reposition yourself from one discipline to another (and I know people who have done this successfully), you should explicitly state the skill sets that are directly transferable. A candidate I know went from market research/analytics to organizational development and this [objective statement] was crucial for the hiring teams to connect the dots.

— Ross Pasquale, Search Consultant, Monday Ventures

Build Momentum
If the candidate fully understands the job they are applying for, a succinct objective or summary could be helpful. However, many candidates do a poor job at making their statement match the position of interest. Instead, there is a tendency to lean towards making a broad statement in their objective such as, “To obtain a position in the financial services industry.” A statement such as this loses the momentum the “objective” or “summary” could have had.

— Robyn Timmerman, recruiter, Wells Fargo Wealth Management Group

Source: Monster.com

6 Red Flags Employers See in Your Job History

By Alison Green | U.S.News & World Report LP – Wed, Oct 24, 2012 1:54 PM EDT

Long before you get to a job interview, hiring managers are forming opinions about you based on your resume and your job history. Here are six of the most common red flags they look for.

1. You have multiple short-term jobs. If you have a history of quickly moving from one job to the next without staying very long, employers will wonder whether you get bored easily, or can’t keep a job, or don’t know how to identify the right fit for yourself. If you do have good reasons for the job changes (such as a spouse in the military), make sure to fill in your interviewer quickly so she doesn’t draw the wrong conclusions.

2. You quit your last job with nothing else lined up. Since most people line up a new job before quitting an old one, employers raise their eyebrows if you left without something new waiting. They wonder what the real story is: Did you blow up one day and walk off the job in a fit of anger? Do you get upset at work and make impulsive and rash decisions? Were you actually fired but trying to claim you left on your own?

3. You were laid off from your last job. While plenty of layoffs are about company cutbacks or restructuring, employers know that companies sometimes use them as an opportunity to get rid of lower performers. To combat this question, be sure to mention if your whole team or division was let go. If you were the only one laid off, that raises more questions than if you were part of a group that was laid off.

4. You’ve been unemployed for a while. Even in this economy, some hiring managers look at long-term unemployed candidates and wonder if there’s a reason that other employers haven’t hired them. Fortunately, many employers do understand that it can take time for even good candidates to find work in this market–but it’s important to show that you’ve been spending your time volunteering, building your skills, or something other than a year-long job search.

5. You have large gaps between jobs. When employers see gaps of unemployment, they wonder what happened during that time. Did you leave the previous job with nothing lined up, and if so, why? (See No. 2) Were you working somewhere that you’ve deliberately left off your resume, and if so, what are you hiding? Gaps raise questions that you don’t want on a hiring manager’s mind.

6. None of your past managers are on your reference list. If you only offer peers as references, or other people who didn’t directly supervise your work, hiring managers are going to wonder why. Managers are usually best able to speak to the quality of your work and your strengths and weaknesses, and steering reference-checkers away from those conversations can be a red flag. Plus, employers will usually ask to be put in touch with your past managers anyway.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She’s also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager’s Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.