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What do you want???

imageJob seekers are often asked… “What do you want?” or “What are you looking for?”

Those sound like legitimate questions… and they are. However, the reality is that a potential employer isn’t really all that concerned about what you want! They know what they want and need for a particular position and they are trying to determine if you’re the one that can do it best for them. Sure, they would ideally like to get someone that loves their work, and feels fulfilled in their job. However, those concerns are secondary to getting their tasks accomplished.

For many job seekers, that sounds cold, and they never thought of their job search from that perspective. When networking, or in an interview, their response to the “What do you want” question usually focuses on their own interests, ambitions, and desires… whether it matches the opportunity or not.

Should you give up pursuing the things you really want? Of course not! Carefully targeting the kinds of companies, teams, and positions that interest you is a key part of creating a fulfilling career and an effective job search.

So, does that mean it’s best to be disingenuous, or make something up? Not at all! What it does mean, is that you should be sure to think about which of your interests, desires, strengths and abilities best match the opportunity at hand, and help them connect the dots!

When you prepare your “elevator speech”, craft your interview answers, or have casual conversations with networking contacts in your job search, always think in terms of…

What desires in a job do I have, that would potentially be of interest to the person I’m talking to?

You can be sure that when they ask the question, they are thinking…

Is this person interested in anything I need or know about?

If their conclusion from your answer is “No”, then it’s unlikely the networking discussion or the interview process will go much further.

A job search mindset is really about adopting an employers’ mindset! It’s the same difference between having an “Objective” at the top of your resume, or a professional summary. The former is all about what you want, the latter is about what you have that satisfies what the employer wants. Which one do you think will generate greater interest?

In your job search, the next time you’re asked “What do you want?” …be prepared with an answer that will show that you are what they want!

(This article was originally written for www.job-hunt.org)


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Ya' Gotta Ask!

image

So many job seekers leave an interview and have no idea if it went well, if they are still in the process, if they were considered a fit for the position, how long it will take the employer to make a decision, whether there are more interviews in the process, or if they will get a call back.

The following days, or weeks can be extremely frustrating as they wait to find out.

Yet, most are unwilling to do the one thing that can alleviate that frustration right from the start… ASK!

 

Asking direct questions about your suitability for the job, their interest, and their process serves several purposes…

  • It shows the employer you have a sincere interest in the position and in moving forward

  • It shows professional assertiveness and thoroughness by seeking a full understanding of the status

  • It sets you apart from the majority of candidates who don't ask

  • It often causes the employer to make somewhat of a commitment

  • It gives you insights to help you evaluate how well things went, or not

  • It helps you set your own expectations about where you stand and what may, or may not, happen next

Let's discuss those last two points in greater detail…

As a recruiter, when I send one of my candidates to an interview with one of my client companies, I have the opportunity to debrief with each of them afterward. I often say that sometimes the stories match up, and sometimes I wonder if they actually met the right person! At times, a candidates perception of how things went is wildly different than the employers perception. Clearly, feedback didn't happen in the interview.

As a candidate, it's much better to know if there is continued interest… or not, before you leave so that you're not left wondering indefinitely. If the answers you get are discouraging, at least you know right away rather than fretting for days or weeks and then finding out the bad news. If the feedback is good, then you know you can have reason for hope. Furthermore, if you ask whether they see you continuing in the process, and they say 'yes', then it's more difficult for them to backpedal on that minor commitment later.

So… what, and how should you ask? Here are some ideas…

As an interview nears the end, it's very appropriate, and good to say something like:

"I'm very interested in this position and believe I can be very productive for you in this role. If it's OK, I'd like to ask a few questions about what's next…"

"Can you give me an idea of the interview and decision making process? What would be the next step and what kind of timeframe do you have in mind?"

"How many other candidates do you have at this stage?"

"Based on our discussion today, do you see me moving forward to the next step in the process?"

"If I don't hear anything, when would be an appropriate time for me to follow up with you?"

Be sure to listen to the answers carefully! These kinds of questions, and others, can certainly give you a good idea of their level of interest and set reasonable expectations as to when things will continue to move forward.

Obviously, it's possible they won't give you answers to some or any of these questions. Nothing works every time. However, you can be pretty certain you won't get answers to those questions if you don't ask. Even if they don't give you answers though, you will have made it clear that you are interested, and willing to ask the questions that most candidates are not willing to ask.

If you want to know where things stand, to make a positive impression, and to know what to expect…

Ya' gotta ask!


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How do employers judge Attitude?

imageJob seekers often hear how important a positive attitude is for a successful job search. However, they often don’t grasp how their attitude is perceived by employers.

Simply acting “cheerful” is not enough. There are several subtle, and not so subtle ways that employers get a sense of whether you have a positive attitude or not.

Certainly there are some obvious indicators of a poor disposition…

  • Coming to an interview with a scowl on your face, or never cracking a smile

  • Blatantly complaining about your previous manager or peers.

  • Or, expressing a strong disdain for your previous company’s policies, processes, or culture

However, people often make more subtle comments that can indicate an attitude problem as well…

  • “I can’t believe they laid me off, it will take three people to take over all my responsibilities.”
    (Subtle meaning: No one else can do what I can do, I think I’m superior and irreplaceable)

  • “The ‘senior management’ was set in their course, and wouldn’t take my advice.”
    (Subtle meaning: I knew better than they did… regardless of the fact that they had more information)

  • “The company was mismanaged and they made decisions that ran the organization into the ground.”
    (Subtle meaning: I lost my job and I’m still angry about it)

  • “I carried the team / did the ‘heavy lifting’ on that project.”
    (Subtle meaning: They were all a bunch of slugs, and I was the only one on the ball)

  • “They never paid me what I was worth.”
    (Subtle meaning: I’m better than others think I am. Or… They’re cheap)

…and many others.

Any of those comments may reflect the reality of your previous situation. However, typically when an employer hears comments like those, they are perceived as ‘red flags’ about your attitude.

A positive attitude is reflected in discussion that shows you are a team player, respectful of those in authority over you, professional in your interactions with others, optimistic about your responsibilities, willing to learn, and humble.

As you prepare for networking conversations and interviews… certainly be conscious about the obvious attitude indicators. However, also be careful about other comments you make that may cause them to question your temperament as well.

(This article was originally written for www.job-hunt.org)


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Wordle your resume!

Wordle

Most people, at some point, have seen a word cloud. It's a combination of words, randomly arranged, that are meant to represent an idea or some piece of writing.

Wordle (www.wordle.net) is a free online tool that will create a word cloud from any document, internet feed, or words entered into their form. The greater the number of times, or more prominently, a word appears in the document, the larger the the size of the word in the cloud.

It's an interesting way to display what's been most emphasized.

A couple of years ago, my kids each wrote what they liked best about their mother for Mother's Day, and uploaded it all to create a Wordle. It created a beautiful montage of the things that meant the most to them, and was a hit when my wife got it from them that day.

It can also be a creative way to see what really jumps out of your resume, rather than what you think it says. You may be surprised!

The words that appear most often and most prominently in your resume are the ones that are likely to make the biggest impression to the reader. Are they words that you intended to convey? Or are they words that distract or paint a skewed picture of who you are?

Additionally, as you may have often heard, it's best to tailor your resume for each position you apply to, in order to include as many relevant keywords for that particular position. It helps you get noticed more easily and certainly more likely to be picked up by keyword searches online or in their Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

If you Wordle your resume, and then compare it to the job description you are applying for… do the primary requirements show up as larger words in your word cloud? Your chances of being selected rise dramatically if they do!

While the process isn't perfect, it can certainly give you insight into your resume that you may not otherwise have seen. Wordle your resume and see what you get!


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Lots of interviews, but no offers?

imageIn a job market where virtually every opening receives dozens, or hundreds of applicants it can be difficult to be the ONE that makes it to the finish line and receives an offer.

In fact, it can be very difficult to even be selected for an interview.
However, if you have been getting a number of interviews at a variety of companies, and still have not received an offer, it would probably be a good idea to figure out what’s been going wrong.

It may simply be that in each case there have been better technically qualified applicants that you’ve been competing against.

You may have been pursuing the wrong kinds of jobs, that aren’t necessarily a good fit for your background.
You might have been interviewing at companies that weren’t a good culture fit for your personality. 

Or…
You may not be projecting the professionalism they would expect!

When a hiring manager considers an applicant, they are not only looking for specific experience and skills, but rather, want to find the whole package. Someone that can not only do the job, but will represent the department well, work well with others, be someone that will help raise morale rather than be a downer, someone responsive to others, and can communicate effectively.

All of these things, and more, are components of professionalism.

Particularly in a job market where there are a lot of available candidates, it’s usually not difficult for a company to find people that can simply do the job. It’s all of these other factors that determine which candidate is hired.

So take an honest look at yourself! If you’ve had a number of interviews but no offers… is it possible that you’re not presenting the most professional package? Ask yourself some questions. Be honest, and look at yourself as an employer might see you.

  • Do you make a good first impression? Are you dressed appropriately, and neatly? Do you greet them with a smile? Do you offer a confident handshake?

  • How well do you interview? Are you well prepared, or do you fumble for answers? Are your answers direct and concise, or do you ramble? Do you engage them in a 2-way give and take, or do you simply answer their questions and wait? Do you have relevant questions for them? Do you appear attentive, or never engage them in eye contact? Do you project optimism, curiosity, and make an impression that you’re coachable, or do you seem set in your ways?

  • How’s your follow up? After an interview, do you send a professional Thank You email or card, or send nothing? Are you pleasantly persistent in continuing to pursue next steps, or do you simply wait, or do you press too hard to the point of being annoying? Do you project an interest in the work, or in simply getting a job?

In each of these areas, consider the impression you make to an employer that is likely seeing many candidates… some of whom will be prepared and exude a great deal of professionalism. How do you compare?

Before your next interview, take the time to press your clothes, practice your greeting, and your handshake. Prepare and practice your interview answers, your demeanor, and your questions. Check your attitude and determine to be upbeat, direct.

You may find that taking a look yourself from the employers point of view, and preparing better will make all the difference in the world!



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Will Blogging Get You a Job?

A lot of job search advice these days includes recommendations that job seekers create a blog related to their field or industry. Some job seekers, as a result, view it as a silver bullet for landing a new job.

Does it work?

Maybe… but not necessarily the way many people think it will. And it takes time and effort to do it right.

Blogging can definitely be an asset in your job search, however, set realistic expectations, and learn how to make it effective…

 

What's likely: At some point in a hiring process, it's very likely that someone at the company you are interviewing with, will Google your name to see what they find. Several surveys have been done in the last couple of years that show this is true. What they find, will either help your chances of gaining an offer, or hurt them. A blog, that is professional and useful for your field or industry will typically be viewed very positively and is likely to set you apart from other candidates. It shows you're serious about your profession even outside of your job obligations. It shows that you think about your career and are able and willing to communicate what you know effectively for the benefit of others. It will support and enhance, the perception you created with your resume and your interviews. It is likely to swing the pendulum of their hiring decision in your direction!

What's unlikely: While it's reasonable to believe that a blog can enhance your chances of landing an offer once you're already being considered, it's highly unlikely that you will be found and considered for a position simply because you have a blog out there. It's unrealistic to begin a blog with a hope that if you "build it, they will come". A blog is not likely to become your "field of dreams". There are millions upon millions of blogs already out there, and they are a drop in the ocean of millions of other kinds of websites. The likelihood of an employer or recruiter to even begin looking for a candidate for a position by randomly searching through blogs, much less coming across your blog, is extremely minute. Unless you are a particularly famous or uniquely regarded name in your field or industry, your blog will not be your vehicle for being found online.

While it feels good to be "published" online, it's highly unlikely that your blog will gather significant traffic at all. A blog can gain a sizeable audience over time, however, it generally takes daily new content and a great deal of effort at publicizing it widely to get to a significant level. A wide audience, for your job search purposes, however, is not your primary goal. Gaining credibility with a potential employer is.

What to do: In order to make a positive impact, here are some pointers to consider:

  • Create content. A blog with 2 or 3 entries has little value. If an employer looks at your blog and sees that only a couple of entries have been made, it's easy for them to assume that you either have no commitment to it, or that it's only out there for show. It will not be seen positively.

  • Keep it professional! In order to make a positive impression to gain employment, you ought to write as if every entry were part of a job interview. Never use bad language or poor grammar. Never slam other organizations or individuals. Provide worthwhile information about your topic that is not simply fluff or platitudes. If an employer were to read one of your blog posts, it's an obvious way they can judge your communication skills, depth of knowledge and understanding, and possibly your attitude or disposition. It's certainly valid to express thoughtful opinions, however, it's never a good idea to write rants.

  • Keep it up to date. A blog whose last entry was 6 months ago is a dead blog. Your blog will have the greatest credibility if it has regular and recent entries. In order to have a positive effect, your blog should never have it's most recent entry more than 2 weeks old.

  • Publicize! If an employer decides to seek out what they can about you online, you want to be sure they can find your blog! The best way to do that is to make sure your blog is linked from other places on the internet. The easiest way to do that, is to provide links to your blog articles yourself. Post them on Twitter, in a Google Profile, on your LinkedIn Profile, Facebook, and anywhere else you can. The more links there are back to your blog, the higher likelihood it will show up in a search. Additionally, put the URL on your resume to make it easy to find you.

Side benefits:

  • Document what you know. A great many people, after having worked in a particular field or industry for years, gain valuable knowledge that can be instructive to others. However, they never take the time or effort to document that knowledge, and over time it can be lost. Blogging is a terrific vehicle to share that knowledge and insight with others, or at least have it written out to refer back to when you may need it in the future. Once you begin writing, you may be surprised at how much you didn't realize you knew!

  • You just MIGHT build an audience. If you're blog offers enough fresh and unique content that is valuable to others in your field, you just might find that your number of regular readers grows significantly. If so, you may be able to put ads, e-books, or other offers on your site as a way to generate an income. VERY few people ever make enough money from a blog to quit their "day" jobs. However, an additional side-income is never a bad thing.

  • Be presented with other opportunities. If your blog does get viewed as providing "expert" insights or knowledge in your topic, it may also generate opportunities for greater exposure. You may receive requests for interviews by other publications. You may get speaking requests, or you may be asked to write for other publications as well. Blogging can, and has opened new doors for people that they otherwise may not have been presented.

Is blogging the "holy grail" to a successful job search. Definitely not. However, it can tip the scales in your favor when you are being considered for a position, and may provide other opportunities as well!


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Outsourcing Your Job Search to Your Resume

imageIn leading my job search classes, or when talking to job seekers as a recruiter, I often have people seeking help with their resume.

They fret because they sent out 20, 50, 100, or more resumes to job postings and have received no response. They're sure that it's because their resume is bad and they need it completely revamped.

I'm a big proponent of building a strong resume, and at times, some people are getting overlooked because their resume is poor. However, I find that in a majority of the cases, their resume is not the culprit, but rather some other factor.

Creating a "perfect" resume won't solve their problem. They have to focus on other aspects of an effective job search and not "outsource" their job search to their resume alone. Sometimes fishermen use the wrong bait for the fish they're trying to catch. For many people, a resume, no matter how good it is, will not get the calls and interviews for you. It will take different bait to get results.

An effective resume is important, and I've written a lot about what makes a resume work in today's job market. For some people it may require getting outside help if they can't articulate their own experience, accomplishments, and achievements well.

However, for many people, no amount of fine tuning will get calls back when they simply send out their resume and wait. It can be for a variety of reasons…

  • They often send their resume to a wide variety of jobs without a targeted focus

  • They may be seeking a career change, while competing with other candidates who have performed a more similar job at a previous company

  • Their background may be very specialized and not clearly fit other available positions

  • They may be pursuing a position that requires relocation, competing with people that already live locally to the open position

  • They may be over-qualified, or under-qualified compared to other candidates applying

  • They may have skills very similar to a great number of other candidates and they don't get noticed among the sea of other applicants

  • They may be pursuing positions where the company is seeking a rare combination of rare skills and they only have some of the requirements

  • They may be pursuing executive level positions where people are overwhelmingly hired either by networking, referrals, or using external recruiters.

In these cases, and others, a resume is usually secondary in the process to get an interview. Networking, personal contact, referrals, and other means are going to be the way to gain interest. And presenting a resume will only be necessary at a later stage.

Certainly, executing other strategies to get interviews takes more work and is outside the comfort zone for a great many people. It's obviously easier and less stressful for most people to simply broadcast their resume to a number of job postings and companies and hope for a response. However, when that process doesn't get the results, it may not be the resume that needs to change. It may be you that needs to try something new.

Don't rely on your resume to get the results you need. Do what's necessary to get your next job, whether it's in  your comfort zone, or not.


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