Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stand Out: Get Recognized

Recognition in the workplace often comes from being your own advocate, especially if you have a manager who isn’t particularly great at recognizing team accomplishments. And typically, co-workers are too busy vying to catch the attention and recognition of their own managers to take notice and recognize your work. In other cases, your manager and others simply haven't been made aware of your accomplishments.

You can tactfully champion your own accomplishments and get the recognition you deserve by acting on the following tips:

Build a mutually respectful and professional relationship with your manager: Communicate regular project/task status updates to your manager using a preferred channel of communication (e.g. meetings, reports, emails, etc.). Find opportunities for brief and informal face-to-face interactions, which may be as simple as stopping by his/her office to say hello. Being visible helps keep you top-of-mind with your manager.

Report out: When you reach a milestone with a project or have a new idea or solution to a problem, share it with pertinent co-workers and management via email. When possible, quantify the benefits.

Contribute ideas and volunteer for new tasks: Share your ideas and opinions and be willing to take on new tasks. By doing so, your co-workers and management will see you as a contributor and a team player.

Track and record accomplishments: It is easy to get busy with daily tasks at work and lose track of your accomplishments. Take a few minutes each week to write a note highlighting some of the key achievements. Record, date stamp, and keep your accomplishments noted in a file you can later reference for preparing for a performance review or updating your resume.

Take pride and credit: Be proud of your work, whether it's recognized by others or not. And when your work is being referenced in your presence, be confident and comfortable about taking credit for it, but in a tactful way.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Importance of Asking Interview Questions

As a job seeker, you'll prepare to answer interview questions in advance. However, are you overlooking the importance of preparing your own questions to ask of those interviewing you?
Studies reveal that hiring managers and recruiters believe the quality of the questions that job candidates ask can be even more revealing than how they answer posed questions. Many express the following complaints about job candidates:
  • Not asking any questions. Interviewers may conclude that you lack genuine interest in the company and the position or that you have poor interpersonal skills.
  • Asking questions that lack relevance. It can serve as a red flag to interviewers that you don’t have an understanding of the position’s role and responsibilities.
Be prepared to ask a mix of strategic-level questions about the organization, its mission, and culture, operation-level questions about management, departments, and satellite offices, and functional questions about the job opening. It significantly increases the likelihood of the following:
  • A recruiter or hiring manager will realize that you grasp the overall scope of the position and have taken the time and effort to construct well-thought questions. 
  • You'll demonstrate your knowledge of the organization, expertise in your given field, and build rapport with those interviewing you.
  • You'll positively differentiate yourself from other job candidates—giving you a competitive edge.
  • It will help you assess whether the job and organization are a good fit with your skill set, goals, and values.
Bottom line: Asking several pertinent questions during the interview process will often determine if the hiring manager extends you a job offer.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ease the “Overqualified” Concern

As a job seeker, you would think abundant experience and knowledge would be viewed positively by potential employers. Instead, some job seekers are finding their knowledge and experience has employers viewing them as overqualified.

Employers are concerned that, once the market turns around, overqualified candidates will jump ship for a higher salary and more prestigious title. Some doubt an overqualified job candidate can be a team player able to work with those in less senior positions, and others are concerned that overqualified candidates will not find their positions challenging. An overqualified job candidate can also pose a threat to a hiring manager who is not secure in his/her role and is intimidated by a more knowledgeable candidate.

Understanding these concerns and using the tips below can help a job candidate tackle the “overqualified” objection:

  • Point out longevity: For those who have a track record of working for recent employers for five or more years or a single employer for 10 plus years, it's wise to point this out as a sign of your loyalty to employers.
  • Sell your value: Prospective employers might think you’ll require a higher salary than they’re comfortable paying. Therefore, it's extremely important to sell your value—with tangible examples where possible. For example, a candidate who mentions being responsible for saving $15k on a past project by negotiating lower vendor fees is providing a positive incentive for measuring his/her value.
  • Talk up team contributions: Share examples of how you’ve worked successfully on cross-functional teams, including individuals from management through administrative roles.
  • Share how you help your superiors shine: Articulate your interest in understanding and supporting your manager’s goals with an eye toward helping him/her shine in front of superiors.
  • Be specific about your interest in the company: Provide a few specific reasons about why the company interests you, such as its progressive history, nimble product launch ability, outstanding quality record, etc.
  • Align your resume to the position: Highlight the parts of your resume that resonate with the job requirements and consider leaving off those things that magnify you being overqualified, like a master’s degree.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Make the Most Out Of Career/Job Fairs

Career/job fairs are an opportunity for employers to talk to and screen a large number of job candidates. They also provide a chance for job seekers to meet a lot of company recruiters in one place and find out about available career opportunities. In order to make the most out of any career/job fair, follow the advice below:
  • Pre-register: Many career/job fairs allow for pre-registration and even the option to submit a resume in advance. Company recruiters then have the option of doing a preliminary review—noting those of interest to look out for at the fair.
  • Research the companies: When participating companies are listed in pre-event materials, take the opportunity to research those companies that interest you. This helps you prepare productive and relevant talking points to use with the recruiters.
  • Get your pitch down: You will likely only have a few minutes with each recruiter, so be ready to share a brief pitch that sells why you’d be an asset to the organization and highlights your key qualifications.
  • Dress professionally: A career/job fair is an opportunity for you to make a professional impression, so dress the part.
  • Review the event map and make a plan: Time is limited—both the recruiters’ and yours—so plan which companies you’ll visit and in what order. You may decide you want to settle your nerves by visiting one or two that are lower on your priority list when you arrive. If you have more energy and enthusiasm at the start, visit your top-priority companies first.
  • Bring several resume copies: Your resume will act as your calling card, so bring several copies.
  • Exude confidence and enthusiasm: Introduce yourself and extend a firm handshake while maintaining eye contact and communicating enthusiasm for the work you do.
  • Establish a follow-up step: Ask whether you can follow up with a call, or even bolder, a formal interview. The appropriate follow-up step will be based on your interaction with each recruiter. For example, if you find out there is an open job that is a good fit, then a request for an interview may make sense. No matter what, send a thank-you note.
  • Ask for a business card and take notes: Make sure you ask for recruiters’ business cards and jot down any notes of importance, such as follow-up steps or other company contacts you discussed.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Keeping Your Job Search Quiet

If you’re currently employed and looking for a new job, keep your job search quiet so as not to alert management, your boss, or co-workers. You don’t want to jeopardize your current employment situation. Use the following ideas to avoid tipping off your current employer if you’re in the market for a new job:
  • Avoid looking for a job on company time: It’s tempting to concentrate daily time and efforts on finding a new job, particularly when you’re unhappy in your current one. However, you should avoid job searching on company time. This minimizes the risk of your current employer finding out about your search. Besides, prospective employers appreciate that you are conscientious of using your working hours to focus on current job responsibilities and not on personal activities, particularly job searching.
  • Sidestep using company resources for job searching: Even if it’s after hours, avoid using your company computer to store your resume and send job-search-related emails. Also, look for an outside resource for making copies and sending/receiving faxes related to your search.
  • Steer clear of job-search-related phone calls on the job: Avoid making or taking these calls during work hours. If you need to make a follow-up call, do so during your lunch hour or make arrangements for an early or after-hours call. Many recruiters and hiring managers expect and understand this request.
  • Set up interview times outside of core work hours: When you land an interview, you’re inclined to want to accommodate whatever interview time the prospective employer suggests. Even so, you should avoid taking time away from your core work hours when possible. Many recruiters and hiring managers will accommodate you with early morning, evening, or lunch interview times. If this won’t work, consider taking a paid personal or vacation day.
  • Be careful about posting your resume on online job boards: Stumbling across your resume on online job boards can tip of a current employer about your job search. If you’re concerned about your current employer seeing your resume posted online, consider using a new feature that many online job boards now have. It allows you to block selected companies from viewing your resume.
  • Avoid professional dress that shouts “interview”: One of the most obvious ways to tip off co-workers and your manager to your job search is dressing up on interview days. If casual work attire is common in your current company, and you show up with a jacket and tie, you’re bound to raise eyebrows. Consider keeping certain wardrobe pieces, like a jacket and tie, in the car that day. If a complete wardrobe change is required, keep your interview clothes under cover in a garment bag and discreetly change before you head to the interview.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Use the Change of Season to Revive Your Job Search

As fall approaches, it signals an end to the more leisurely pace of summer and the return to a regular routine and schedule. For job seekers, this may mean reviving your job search, and below are some great ways to get started:

Focus on a plan: If you’ve fallen away from your job search plan or never had one to start with, now is a good time to get focused. Establishing a plan for how you go about your job search and scheduling related tasks into your calendar will help you stay on track.

Refresh and repost your resume: Add any new skills, volunteer work, or other experience to your resume. If you have nothing new to add, consider making slight modifications and reposting it on online job boards. Many recruiters search these job boards for recent resumes that meet their criteria, so it may be helpful to refresh and repost your resume on occasion.

Look at niche online job boards: Your resume may be posted on the large, popular job boards, but also search for and post your resume on online job boards serving professional or industry niches that match your qualifications and interests. These boards could return more targeted job results that may be worth pursuing.

Start cold calling: Most job seekers skip cold calling as a job search tactic because it can be uncomfortable calling people you don’t know. However, cold calling target companies and contacts you’ve identified can pay off in getting an interview or, at the very least, developing a new professional contact.

Broaden your network: Look at ways to expand your network. Tap into contacts that may not be aware of your job search and/or experience. Additionally, seek out new networking opportunities by participating in various groups you may not have considered, such as alumni groups, professional groups in your community and/or church, job seeker support groups, etc.

Refresh your professional appearance: A professional appearance is important, and refreshing yours can give you a boost of confidence. A new haircut or adding an accessory to your professional wardrobe can convey a fresh start. There are even creative ways to revitalize your look without dipping into your pocketbook; for example, consider swapping professional garments with a friend.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Temp Job: A Temporary Strategy

Finding and doing temp work is an excellent strategy for job seekers to use while continuing to search for on-staff employment. A temp job can help a job seeker build and strengthen skills and work experience, which can then be added to a resume. Plus, temp work is an excellent way to explore different types of jobs and companies and build a professional network. Temporary jobs can range from administrative work to highly skilled managerial tasks, and temp assignments can last a day, months, or even up to a year—although year-long assignments are rare.

Temporary employment agencies, also known as staffing agencies, are hired by companies needing to fill temporary jobs. As such, the hiring company pays a finder’s fee to the staffing agency. Beware of temp agencies that charge the temporary employee a placement fee; it could likely turn out to be a scam. A good place to start looking at the numerous temp employment agencies out there is through the American Staffing Association web site Use the site to search for a temp agency by geographic location, occupations, and type of work (e.g. permanent placement, temp-to-hire, temp assignment, and long-term staffing).

Just as you would apply to many open job postings, you should consider registering with more than one temp employment agency. Some agencies specialize in placing workers in specific industries and/or occupations. You can inquire about an agency’s clients to help you assess whether a particular agency may be more suitable. Temp agencies typically request that you submit a resume before they set up an in-person meeting. Be aware that temp agencies typically charge client companies as much as double per hour over what the agency will be paying you—this is common practice.

You should fully commit to doing an excellent job on every temporary work assignment. Treat it as seriously as you would an on-staff position. Temporary work can be a great opportunity to prove yourself and underscore your many skills. And although it’s not typical, occasionally, a temporary position can turn into a permanent staff position. At a minimum, there’s a good chance that, by being professional and reliable and doing a great job, you will come away from a temp position with a good reference, a broader professional network, and personal pride in a job well-done.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Aptitude Test May Be Part of the Hiring Process

A poor hiring decision can be a costly mistake for employers, so for many, it makes practical business sense to use aptitude tests as part of their pre-employment screening process. Aptitude tests measure ability and skill in a particular area and are often based on questions with multiple-choice answers. Some aptitude tests are timed; they assess how many questions you can answer correctly in a set timeframe. Others are power tests that focus less on time and more on your ability to answer complex questions accurately. The most common aptitude tests focus on verbal reasoning and logic or on math and/or numbers.

Before you concern yourself about a specific test, read here to learn more about the purpose of various aptitude tests:

  • Verbal reasoning and logic: Assesses spelling and grammar skills and your ability to interpret text. Basically used by employers to determine how well you communicate and whether you can follow detailed instructions.
  • Math and/or numbers: Evaluates your ability to comprehend basic arithmetic, number sequences, and simple mathematics.
  • Abstract reasoning: Looks at your ability to identify the basic logic of a pattern and reach a solution. This test can help employers evaluate your ability to learn new things quickly.
  • Spatial ability: Evaluates your ability to manipulate shapes in two dimensions or visualize three-dimensional objects that are presented as two dimensional.
  • Mechanical reasoning: Assesses your knowledge and understanding of physical and mechanical principals—used most often in technical and engineering occupations.
  • Data checking: Measures how quickly and accurately you can detect errors. Data checking is most often used in screening for clerical or data-input jobs.
  • Fault diagnosis: Used when placing job candidates in electrical and mechanical jobs, this test measures your knowledge of fault systems and your ability to repair faults that occur in electronic and mechanical equipment.

Typically, employers will provide job candidates with about one week of advance notice if they’re requiring candidates to take an aptitude test. Nowadays, many tests can easily be facilitated online. If you’re scheduled to take an aptitude test, it’s ok to ask the prospective employer what type of aptitude test you’ll be taking. And be sure to allow yourself enough time to check out the numerous websites that present sample aptitude questions and answers.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Job Seekers Should Try Cold Calling

If you’re looking for a job, you know firsthand it is not an easy process. You likely have used familiar job search tactics such as networking and applying to advertised job postings, but have you tried unsolicited cold calling? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. The thought of cold calling can range from uncomfortable to downright scary. However, cold calling can be a successful way to uncover the “hidden job market”—job openings that companies aren’t advertising. Although any job seeker’s ultimate goal is to land a job, your purpose for cold calling should be to initiate a professional relationship and ask for an interview. After you muster up the courage for cold calling, follow these tips before you start dialing:

  • Identify target companies and contacts: Make a list of target companies and identify contacts within those companies who would most likely hire people in your area of professional expertise.

  • Do your homework: Research your target companies and contacts. Try to find some news you could reference in your call, such as the company acquiring a new client or the contact being recognized for a professional accomplishment in a trade publication. This can be a nice ice breaker.

  • Plan and practice what you’ll say: Plan what you’re going to say and practice it a few times before calling. However, your call shouldn’t be so scripted that it doesn’t sound genuine.

  • Vary the times you call: It may take several attempts to reach your targeted contacts. Vary the days and times you make the calls. Try less hectic times, like early mornings, lunch hours, and evenings, when people may be more apt to answer their phones.

  • Be persistent and patient: Both persistence and patience will be necessary, as you will make numerous calls before successfully obtaining an interview. If you can’t get a formal interview, ask for an informational interview and email address for submitting a resume. And don’t be afraid to follow up in a few months to check on job opening status and to maintain professional contact.