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8 Self-Imposed Reasons People Can’t Find Jobs

It’s a tough job market… no question about it! People that previously seemed to be able to jump into a new job fairly quickly after a lay off, are having much longer stretches of unemployment these days.

image I had a person in one of my job search classes recently who was downright angry that his previous job search method wasn’t working. The last two times he had to look for a new job (both during booming economies) all he had to do was post his resume on a job board and wait for the calls, interviews, and offers. It took him less than a month each time. Now he posts his resume everywhere and hears NOTHING! He’s been unemployed for several months and is ticked!

Finding a new job today requires different methods and much more initiative than it has in many years. Unfortunately, many… perhaps most… people are trying to apply what worked in the past in a new set of circumstances. Much (certainly not all) of their delay in landing that next position is due to self-imposed causes.

In no particular order, here are eight:

~ A focus on themselves. When looking for a position, people are often too focused on what they want vs. what the company wants or requires. A resume that states something like: “Seeking a role as a Financial Analyst in a dynamic company with growth opportunities” says nothing about how the company will benefit by hiring you and everything about what you wish for yourself. Frankly, they’re not particularly interested in what you want, they have problems to solve and work that needs to be accomplished. How are you their solution for that? This is a critical perspective to keep in mind in resumes, networking meetings, and interviews.

~ An unwillingness to get out and actually talk to people. Cruising job boards and sending in a resume is not going to produce results in this market. Most people spend the vast majority of their job search time looking at ads, however, only 12% of jobs are filled through online ads. Over 80% of jobs are filled through various forms of networking. Networking is most effectively accomplished through conversations with actual people, by phone or face-to-face. It may be easier to stare at a computer screen, but results come through human interaction.

~ Lack of persistence. In sales (and a job hunt is sales), a sale is rarely made on the first, or even a second call. Persistence pays! If one person in an organization says they don’t have an opening or aren’t interested in your background… DON’T QUIT THERE! Someone in my class recently got a job at a company through the 5th person he called there. The previous 4 ALL told him there were no related openings. Most people would have quit after the first conversation. It’s critical to be persistent.

~ Fear of imposing on people. The vast majority, especially in this market, want to be helpful in some way. Often they don’t know how they can, but if you’re prepared with suggestions (outside of asking if they know of a job), they will usually be glad to help out. Most job seekers think they are imposing or ‘stalking’ someone LONG before the person they are pursuing feels that way. If people don’t know you’re looking, they can’t help you. Make a list of everyone you know, contact them and ask for referrals. You can get more help with that here.

~ Only doing what most other job seekers do. When sending a resume and waiting for a call, they are doing the same thing as 90% of all applicants do. They are no more to that company than a piece of data that arrived into their email box or database. Companies don’t hire data, they hire people. Without a human voice or face they will not get noticed out of the sea of other resumes. Use tools available to you like LinkedIn to find the right person to talk to or like Twitter to gain information and get noticed. Then make those calls! You can find more information here and here.

~ Lack of follow-up. Very often, it’s the little things that make the difference. A Thank You note or follow-up phone call are often the only thing that tips the scale toward one person over another. Don’t take lightly the value of calling to follow up on a resume, or sending Thank You notes after EVERY interview or conversation. Look for more detail here.

~ Lack of professionalism. Skills and competence are important for a position, however, in today’s market it’s highly likely they are seeing a number of people that can do the job. It’s the finer points that usually make the difference as to who gets hired. Communication skills, speaking concisely, appearance, respectfulness, personality… all components of professionalism will determine who wins. More on the topic here.

~ Poor attitude. No one wants to hang out with a grouch, or complainer, whiner, or someone who’s a general downer! Attitude is often the number one reason why someone moves forward in a hiring process or gets rejected. Speaking ill of a previous employer or position is widely understood to be a no-no… however, is one of the most common occurrences. Check your attitude before every call, meeting, or note. More on the subject here.

Different times require different measures. When the economy is booming and companies have difficulties finding enough people to accomplish various jobs, most people can find new positions relatively quickly. However, when each opening has a multitude of qualified candidates applying, other factors besides skills carry more influence in a hiring decision.

Check your job search process and make sure you aren’t limiting your own success!


Footnote:

Thank you for visiting The Wise Job Search. I truly appreciate your interest. If you like the material here and would like to help keep it viable, please peruse and visit book recommendations, and other resources posted throughout the site. Best wishes on your continued search, and feedback is always welcome!


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Five Ways to Shine in a Bad Interview!

As a job seeker, have you had an interview with someone that doesn't know how to conduct a good interview?

This is not an uncommon problem, and depending on how you handle it, can work to your advantage or disadvantage. In order to make sure they know you're the right person for the job, you may need to subtly take control of the interview yourself.

The first thing to do? Give them some grace!

If you're meeting with a hiring manager, particularly at a small or mid-size company, that may only hire one or two people a year, interviewing and evaluating candidates is not their area of expertise and they may never have had any kind of training. Often, they either ask questions that they may have been asked before, which may not be very appropriate to the position you're interviewing for, or they are more comfortable with talking about 'extra-curricular' topics rather than the position at hand.

Perhaps they are not a very talkative or conversational kind of person themselves. Or they may take up the entire time telling you about the company and position without asking many questions. It may be a very friendly interview, however, you must always remember:

If they don't know enough about you to know if you fit the role, you will not get hired!


A while ago, as I was working with a client company to fill a position, I had a candidate go in for an interview. Afterward, she called me to debrief and said:

"I think the interview went great! He asked me about any vacation plans and I told him I was looking forward to going to a Country Music Festival in Nashville. It turned out he was going to the same festival and that's all we talked about for an hour and a half! We got along really terrific, I'd be shocked if I don't get an offer."

I asked if they talked about the job or her qualifications at all, and she said only a couple of short questions. I knew she wouldn't get the job, and sure enough, the hiring manager said:

"We had a great conversation, but to be honest, I don't know enough about her to know if she's a fit and I interviewed someone else this afternoon that seems to fit the bill well."

My candidate didn't get the job.

If you take control, however, and they do learn about your fit for the role, you may be the only candidate they see that they did get to know. You can be the winner simply because you're the only one that took the initiative to show they can do the job!

So how do you take control? Here are a five points that may help:

1. Chemistry is good, but they have to see the fit! If the discussion at the interview is dominated by things other than your suitability for the position, you must turn it around. One good way to do that is to say something like:

"I'm really enjoying this conversation, but I'm very interested in this role and before we run out of time I'd like to discuss my fit and interest in this position. If I understand correctly, the job requires significant experience with _____, can I tell you some of my background in that area?"


2. If they are not asking questions that expose your strengths for the role, tell them anyway! Sometimes they may ask a number of generic questions, but none that really get to your unique fit. If that's the case, be sure to interject it yourself. Say something like:

"If I may, can I tell you about my experience with ______ that I believe is important to this role?"


3. If you don't know, and they're not saying what their most pressing requirement is, ask them! Ask something simple and direct like:

"What is the most important requirement you're looking for in a candidate for this position?"

Listen carefully, then be sure to tell them your relevant experience in that area.


4. Ask questions! If they are not telling you much about the position, ask questions to lead them. Questions like:

"What is a typical day like in this role?"
"What can you tell me about the team?"
"What are some of the biggest challenges in this position?"
and "What can I tell you about me that would help you in your hiring decision?"


5. When the time comes... make sure they know you want the job! Tell them:

"What you described seems to fit me well and I believe I can be an asset to you, what would be the next steps in the process?"
And ask them directly: "Do you see me as a likely candidate for this role?"


Not everyone you meet will be a great interviewer. If you want the job, you must make sure they learn what they need to in order to make an intelligent decision about you. Sometimes you need to take things into your own hands to make it happen!


Footnote:

Thank you for visiting The Wise Job Search. I truly appreciate your interest. If you like the material here and would like to help keep it viable, please peruse and visit book recommendations, and other resources posted throughout the site. Best wishes on your continued search, and feedback is always welcome!


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Are You a Talker???

In an interview, are you a talker?

Many people that can normally carry on great two-way conversations, talk way too much in an interview!

Whether it's nerves, a compulsion to make sure the interviewer knows everything about them, or a false idea that they are supposed to dominate the interview, people often hurt their chances of progressing in the hiring process because of an overactive mouth.

A good interview is a two-way street. As a candidate, you should be determining if the company, job, and team are the right fit for you just as much as the hiring manager is determining if you're the right solution for them. Asking questions and effective listening are a critical part of effective communication. If you're doing significantly more than half of the talking, the interview is not going well.

So how do you make sure you get it right? Preparation!

Here are some points to consider as you get ready and when you're in the middle of it:


~ Find commonly asked questions, and write out your answers. The process of writing them out helps you solidify your answers in your mind in complete sentences. In preparing for interviews, most people only think about the general example or idea they would talk about for a given question. However, since they haven't formulated the sentences in advance, when they are asked they tend to just keep talking until they think they've got it all covered. You don't have to memorize your answer word-for-word, but by having formulated complete, concise sentences once, you will be able to articulate your answer much more succinctly and effectively when you're asked.

~ Practice, Practice, Practice! The old cliche' is true... Practice makes perfect. Practice questions with your family over dinner. Practice with your spouse one-on-one. Practice while watching yourself in a mirror, or practice while hiding in a closet if you have to... but practice!

~ Give them an escape hatch. There's nothing more frustrating than someone that keeps talking without hardly taking a breath when you want to move on. Watch their body language closely. If they start fidgeting, squirming, or look as if they are trying to say something... Stop! Give them the chance to urge you on, or to redirect the conversation. Best to give a brief answer, then ask: "Does that answer your question, or would you like more detail?" Letting them give you permission to extend your answer prevents an uncomfortable situation.

~ Ask relevant questions, then listen! One way to make sure you're not the one doing the vast majority of the talking, is to get them talking as well. Peppered throughout your interview, you should be asking relevant questions as well. As much as possible, they should be related to the topic you're currently discussing. If they ask you about your ability to work on a team, give your answer and then ask something like: "Can you describe the team I would be working on?" It keeps the conversation going both ways and makes you appear more interested in the role. Resist the urge to interject additional comments while they are talking. Wait until they are done, then you can add one more brief idea to the topic, but let them move on to the next question as soon as possible.

~ Make sure you're answering the right question! Occassionally someone will misunderstand the question and run off down a rabbit trail answering something else entirely. It's even worse if you don't give them a chance to stop you. If you're not 100% sure of the question, be sure to ask for clarification. Say something like: "To be sure I understand, are you asking about ____?" This is also another reason it's important to give a brief initial answer and then ask them if that's what they were looking for and if they would like to hear more. Give them a chance to get you back on track.

~ Have plenty of questions prepared for the last part of the interview. Invariably, near the end of the interview you will be asked whether you have any additional questions. Make sure you ALWAYS have additional questions. To say you have no questions at this point comes across as a lack of interest in the position. In order to be ready, create in advance a list of 15 or 20 questions you would like answered. Take them with you in a folder. Then at the appropriate time, say: "Yes, actually I do..." Look down your list and select ones that haven't already been addressed. You can say: "We already discussed this one, and this one, and this one, however I would like to ask you..." Don't ask something that you already talked about earlier, it appears as if you weren't paying attention. Also, this is not the time to actually ask 10 or 15 questions. Depending on time, ask 3 or 4. However, in order to have 3 or 4 that haven't already been discussed, you may need to have 15 to 20 prepared. Asking questions is the best way to get them to talk as well.


For a successful interview, neither you nor the interviewer should be doing 65% or more of the talking. It should be a conversation leading to mutual discovery about each other and your suitability for the position. Preparation is the key. So get busy!


Footnote:

Thank you for visiting The Wise Job Search. I truly appreciate your interest. If you like the material here and would like to help keep it viable, please peruse and visit book recommendations, and other resources posted throughout the site. Best wishes on your continued search, and feedback is always welcome!



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How to Interview When They are Looking for a S.T.A.R.!

image If you are in a job hunt, and interviewing often, sooner or later you will undoubtedly be asked a behavioral question. Often they are structured in a S.T.A.R. model like:

Tell me about a time in your previous roles where you dealt with _______. Tell me the Situation. What was your Task? What Actions did you take? And what was the Result?

Without preparation, most people have long pauses and stumble through an answer. With this type of question, perhaps more than any other, preparation is key.

So, what are they really looking for when they ask a behavioral question and what kind of answer do you need to give?

The question is designed to tell them a number of things about you:

  • Past behavior is usually the best predictor of future success. How you handled situations in the past tells them a lot about how you’re likely to perform in the future.

  • How well can you communicate a detailed story? Do you pick good key details? Do you ramble? Is your story cohesive? Does it make sense?

  • Can you communicate what you did in a way that strikes the right balance between demonstrating your ability as well as being part of a team? Not claiming a project was all you, while not looking like you were just tagging along in a team either.

Most of the time people assume they have to give a story that had a positive outcome. Relating a positive story is good, but often a story with a failed or negative outcome can be just as, or sometimes even more effective. Describing a failed project or situation along with what you learned in the process and specifically how you would do things differently next time can show a great deal of insight, personal awareness, and willingness to learn on your part.  Those are attractive characteristics in a candidate.

If they ask multiple behavioral questions, however, don’t make all of your answers examples of failed results!

The key to nailing behavioral questions when asked is to think about them and write out answers in advance. Think of your previous responsibilities, and try to imagine several potential situations they may ask about. Such as: a difficult employee, difficult customer, a long term project, a crucial sale, or ‘crunch’ deadline.

Actually sitting down and writing/typing out your answers is a critical part of the process. Otherwise most people only vaguely think about what they would discuss if the question was asked. Furthermore, since they haven’t finalized an answer in advance, they often just keep talking until they think they’ve told the whole story. Often resulting in a long-winded rambling answer. Writing your answer in advance forces you to articulate it in complete sentences and hopefully hone it so that it’s more succinct. Once you’ve written it and read it, it’s much easier to memorize as well. It’s not necessary to memorize an answer word-for-word, however, writing it helps you remember enough to stay on track.

When crafting your answer, it’s critical to make clear what you specifically did, not just your team. It’s admirable to show team spirit and give recognition to others, however, if you describe everything in terms or ‘we’ or ‘the team did…’ then it’s easy to conclude you were there, but didn’t actually do anything productive. On the other hand, if you make it sound like you did everything and the team did nothing, you appear arrogant. Strike the right balance.

Next, practice! Practice out loud to yourself in a mirror, in the car, have your family ask you and you give the answers over dinner, or practice in a closet if necessary… but practice.

Go through the same process with several situations so that you’re prepared regardless of what is asked. Make your answers direct, and succinct.

Once you’re prepared it can have great benefits in your interview! You gain a great deal of confidence when they ask a complex question and you’ve got it nailed! Furthermore, you can use your answers even if the question wasn’t asked. If they ask a question like:

Have you ever had to deal with a difficult client?”

and you’re able to answer with a STAR model answer like:

Definitely, let me give you an example of a time when we thought we would lose one of our most important customers and how I approached the problem…”

That’s a much more impressive response than 99% of candidates are likely to give!

As with most interview questions, preparation makes you a far better candidate. Even if you are someone that can generally speak very well ‘off the cuff’, you will be even better if you’re prepared.

So the next time you’re asked a STAR question, show them that you are a star candidate!


Footnote:

Thank you for visiting The Wise Job Search. I truly appreciate your interest. If you like the material here and would like to help keep it viable, please peruse and visit book recommendations, and other resources posted throughout the site. Best wishes on your continued search, and feedback is always welcome!


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Who Does Your Grandma Know?

image Networking in a job search is critical. Often people don’t do it because they think they have to know hiring managers in their field in order for it to be productive. Not True!

It’s not who YOU know. It’s who you know, knows, and who THEY know!

Many people may think of their grandmother as a poor job networking contact. However, you may not know who her neighbors are, or who she knows at her church, or seniors club. You may not know which of her friends has a son or daughter in a hiring role. And more importantly, you don’t know who any of those people know.

Your job in your job search is to follow the trail of one referral to the next, and the next, and the next until you get to the one with the right opportunity for you.

In a Job Search Skills class I lead, I had one participant that found his job opportunity through an 85 year old grandmother at his church. She overheard him talking to someone else about his job search, and asked him what kind of job he was looking for. He told her he was an IT Director and she asked him what that was. He impatiently explained it to her, wondering how this person could possibly help. After he finished explaining his role, she told him to give her his phone number. He did and they left. The next day he received a call from her son who owned a mid-size company and needed a new IT Director! Who does your Grandma know???

Here are some tips to help you begin networking effectively:

~ Create a list of EVERYONE you know. One study showed that the average person knows nearly 300 people. Who do you know. Write out a list. Create headings of different ways and venues you may know people. Perhaps headings like: Family; Church; Service Providers; Kids sports; Health Club; All previous co-workers; Professional Association meetings; Friends; etc.

Don’t exclude ANYONE. Even if you assume they don’t know anyone relevant for you, you never know who the people they do know, know.

~ Gather all the contact information you can for each of them. This may take some time and effort. You may need to go through old notes, phone books, or online resources. WhitePages.com, LinkedIn, and Google may be good ways to compile that information. You’ll be much more productive contacting more people if you can make several calls in a row. You won’t be able to do that if you have to look up each persons phone number between each call.

~ Don’t ask if they know of a job! This is one of the biggest networking mistakes most people make in their job search. They ask everyone they talk to whether they know of a relevant job opening. The person may not fully understand your field, or simply nothing comes to mind, and it becomes a very awkward conversation at that point.

Let them know you are looking for a new position, and they will certainly realize that you would be interested in hearing about appropriate opportunities… so don’t ask! You have a different agenda in this call…

~ Ask for “Breadcrumbs”. Your objective from each networking call is to gain 2 or 3 additional names of people to contact. Let them know that directly. Tell them: “My job while I’m in my search is to follow the trail of breadcrumbs from one person to another until I get to one with the right opportunity. So I’m really just hoping you might be able to let me know of a couple other people that you think might be worthwhile for me to talk to. If you were in my situation, who would you connect with?” Then let them answer.

You’ll find the vast majority of people want to help. They just aren’t sure how. If they don’t know of a job, they often can’t think of what else they can offer. This gives them that answer, and most everyone will be able to think of a couple people they would talk to if they had to look for a new position.

~ Give them your contact information! Whether they think of something for you right then and there or not, be sure they have your contact information. They may think of someone else or something more for you 5 minutes or 5 weeks later. If they don’t know how to reach you, that lead is lost. Send them an email, give them a business card, mail them a note, or whatever works best for that individual. Make sure they know how to get back in touch with any additional helpful information.

~ Contact the referral… it’s a ‘warm’ call! You now have a new name that was referred by someone else that knows you. You can certainly now call them and say: “Bob Smith gave me your name as someone that may be able to point me in the right direction in my job search…”

You ask them for a couple of names that they think would be worthwhile for you to talk to, and it’s a warm call to those next contacts as well. It’s similar to instructions on a shampoo bottle: Wet hair, lather, rinse, repeat; instead it’s: Call, introduce, ask, repeat!

Networking for a new job is not just for those that are ‘connected’. It’s for everyone that’s looking for a job! Build your list and begin!


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Four Challenges Recruiters Face in Today’s Economy

image There’s a saying I’ve heard and used over the last several years…

“Making money as a recruiter can be very volatile. When the economy is good, there’s almost nothing better, and when the economy is bad, there’s almost nothing worse.”

I’ve been a recruiter for the last 23 years and have gone through multiple recessions in that time. I’ve been fortunate to begin my career during a recession. It actually taught me how to operate in a difficult environment. I generally find it’s recruiters that begin their recruiting career during boom times that wash out when times get more challenging.

As a job seeker, why should you care? Because understanding challenges recruiters face can help you present yourself in a way that makes you a more ‘placeable’ candidate.

Here are 4 challenges recruiters face in these difficult times:

1 – It’s more difficult to get job orders. You may say, ‘Well No Kidding!’ You don’t need to read an article to learn that! When companies are struggling themselves, and not hiring as many people, they are much less likely to be willing to pay a substantial fee to a recruiter.

Realizing that, as a job seeker working with a recruiter on a position that’s relevant to your background, you can be reasonably certain they are giving it their all to make it happen. A contingency recruiter doesn’t get paid unless they fill the opening, and without a number of orders on their desk they are going to do all they can to ensure the opportunity doesn’t slip away. Be easily accessible, available, and responsive. They need to move fast when the client is ready to see candidates, interview, or schedule follow ups. The recruiter will be most responsive to candidates that are most responsive to them.

2 – More new orders are ‘Purple Squirrels’. A ‘Purple Squirrel’ is an order for a skill set or background that is extremely rare and hard to find… the proverbial ‘needle in a haystack’. If a company is going to pay a fee to a recruiter, right now it is more likely going to be for a position they know is very tough to fill. Even though there are a lot of people in the market right now, usually the 'Purple Squirrel’ candidates are still working with a great deal of job security. Their current companies understand how difficult it would be to replace them as well and so take good care of them. Given the uncertainty in the economy, those candidates are often less willing to consider a move.

If there’s something in your background that can make you an attractive ‘Purple Squirrel’ candidate, be sure to point that out to recruiters. A good recruiter will proactively market a candidate that has a unique marketable skill set and presents themselves professionally. If you have experience in a unique software package or tool, a specific accounting practice, a complex sales process, it’s your job to make sure the recruiter understands those assets in you.

3 –There is great pressure to reduce fees. Competition is fierce. Many independent recruiters and small firms in particular are slashing their standard fees in the hope of attracting clients. Cheaper fees aren’t necessarily a better deal for clients if they aren’t getting the best candidate out of the bargain. A good recruiter competing against discounted fees, however, has to prove the value of their higher rates.

In a booming economy, it’s easier to place mediocre candidates. There are jobs for everyone. In this market, good recruiters are laser focused on finding the best of breed candidate for every position. If you want to be one of the people they put effort into, it’s your responsibility to prove you are a cut above the majority of candidates they see. Get good at articulating your unique skills and abilities. Be more professional, more responsive, and have a better attitude than the average candidate they talk to.

4 – The volume of candidates can be overwhelming. A good recruiter wants to feel that they are able to be of value to every person they talk to. The reality is that they can only place a tiny fraction of the people they come across. However, hopefully they can help with advice, leads, ideas, and information. When they are bombarded by calls, resumes, and inquiries from desperate candidates day after day though, it’s extremely difficult to give the individual attention they’d like.

As a candidate trying to get their attention, being ‘Pleasantly Persistent’ pays. Contact them regularly, but add value to each connection. Checking in every 3 to 4 weeks to make sure you are still ‘top of mind’ to them can help. However, alternate your contact between phone calls and emails. Briefly let them know what you’ve been doing for your search, and provide some potential leads or market information for them you may have learned along the way. Let them know any additional information about your background that may be helpful and update them on any additional training or relevant volunteer experience you may be acquiring during your search.

Remember, a recruiter’s primary responsibility is to their client company to find the best candidate for the position. The company, not the candidate, pays their fee. They are not your agent to find you a job. In order to have a recruiter work proactively on your behalf, the onus is on you to prove you can bring above average value to their clients. Prepare for your meetings with recruiters just as you would for a potential employer, because without the recruiters approval, you will never get to meet their client.


Footnote:

Thank you for visiting The Wise Job Search. I truly appreciate your interest. If you like the material here and would like to help keep it viable, please peruse and visit book recommendations, and other resources posted throughout the site. Best wishes on your continued search, and feedback is always welcome!


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