Friday, April 29, 2011

Recovering After a Bad Interview

Interviewing is not a comfortable process for most; almost everyone can recount at least one bad interview experience. An interview can fall short for many reasons: Maybe you didn’t provide the right information or enough information, or perhaps you tripped over your words or weren’t convincing enough. Regardless of the reason—even one that was out of your control—your best response is to use what you’ve learned and move forward.

If you experienced an interview that went wrong, try some of the action steps below to prepare and improve for your next interview.

Identify Opportunities for Improvement

Immediately following your interview, make a list of things you felt didn’t go well in the interview. Next, carefully consider and note viable solutions to issues you’ve identified. For example, if rapport with the interviewer was an issue, develop a few ice breaker questions to use next time. If you didn’t close the interview well, rehearse a fine-tuned closing pitch. Were some of your answers incomplete? If so, develop accurate and strong responses for next time. Practice your responses out loud or, even better, ask someone you trust to practice interviewing you and give you candid feedback.

Review and Refine Your List

Just prior to your next interview, review your list of challenges and solutions to make sure you’re adequately prepared. As you acquire more interview experience, add to your list. Note solutions that are working and modify solutions that aren’t.

Make a Lasting Professional Impression

It’s natural to feel disappointment when you are not invited to the next interview step, but you should still focus on leaving a lasting, professional impression. Remember to send the interviewer(s) a thank you note. Emphasize your continued interest in the company, and ask to be kept in mind for future opportunities. Regularly check the company’s website or job boards for new postings that may be a good fit.

The wisest interview strategy is to be your professional best in every interview situation. And remember, every interview should be viewed as a learning experience.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

5 Sure-fire Indicators of Job Posting Scams

The economy is at low and layoffs are high. The increased numbers of job searchers has also increased the number of job search scams. Some scammers are looking to steal personal information and money. Others are just looking to waste your time and make money on your online activities. Here are some ways you can identify whether or not a job posting is legitimate.

Requests for Personal Information
These types of postings are most likely phishing scams that are looking for information they can use for identify theft. Never submit your social security number, date of birth, driver’s license, or bank account information to anyone without verifying their authenticity. Very few legitimate companies will require your bank account information in the hiring process.

Unrealistic Promises
Many scammers offer outrageous promises to lure people into submitting their information. Work from home, earn up to $10,000 per week, set your own hours, no experience necessary, and start today are all promises that should prompt you to do research. If it sounds too good to be true, it just may be.

Request for Registration on another Site or Web Conferencing Service
This strategy is a way for scammers to make money from your actions. When a scammer sends you to a site that asks you for a membership or to sign up for a conference service, they are setting up a system to earn affiliate money from web traffic. There is not necessarily a danger to your identity or personal information with this scam. However, it is a huge time-waster and uses you to earn money for someone who is not being honest with their intentions.

Obvious Spelling or Grammar Errors in the Posting
Scams that are generated from foreign countries are often evident due to the fact that their grammar is not quite right. Everyone makes mistakes and even top companies may misspell a word or have a typo in their posting. However, you should take precautions when the entire posting is full of errors.

Overseas Contact Information for Local Job Postings
If you have submitted your resume to a local position and the response you receive comes from an overseas email account you should beware. Also avoid inquiries from employers in a foreign country looking to hire people in the United States to handle accounts payable or receivables. They often ask you to open a bank account and collect checks (that will bounce) and make payments to vendors. When the account becomes overdrawn, you are liable for the money because you opened the account.

Use common sense, take precautions, and always do your research before moving forward with a company. Use the Federal Trade Commission ( and the Better Business Bureau ( to conduct research.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pros and Cons of being a Post Grad Freelancer

One of my career dreams was to be a freelance writer when I graduated, but I thought it would be just that, merely a dream. Yet, here I am, a recent post grad working the freelance gig with several "mini-jobs". If freelancing is your dream also, here are some pros and cons you'll need to know before diving in.

1. You set your own schedule. Working from home doing freelance work on your computer is a giant pro. I do a lot of my work when I first get up in my pajamas. I can take breaks to get lunch with a friend or run some errands. You can work in a cafe or Starbucks. If you plan to move somewhere, you won't have to quit your take it with you!
2. You'll never get bored. I like the notion of having a plethora of small jobs instead of a 9-to-5 I go to every day. It makes the work day different and always changing.
3. You can actually make a lot of money. Freelancers can get paid a good amount per hour or per project and if you line up enough, you'll be rolling in the dough!
4. If you're motivated to keep finding jobs, the possibilities are endless. You can take on as many projects as you feel you can handle - you don't have to take projects your boss gives you that you hate. You are able to pick and choose which types of jobs and projects you'd like to focus on.

1. The all-important money issue. When you freelance, you're basically self-employed. Which means you have to pay your own taxes and figure out money issues without the help of a company. There's no one to chip in for taxes like a business you work for would, so you end up paying more. While I haven't had to deal with self-employed tax time yet, I know I will need extra guidance to get things right. And say goodbye to tax returns, you'll always pay since you haven't been all year.
2. Another money issue is the sporadic pay. I'm lucky enough to have a few gigs that pay every week and every other week, but most freelance gigs don't allow you to get your money when you really need it. You'll also need several good paying freelance jobs to make any real cash.
3. Unlike starting at a new company as a post grad, working freelance jobs at home leaves no room for new co-workers or new friends. It can be a lonely job if you're looking to meet new people or simply like the company of others while you work.
4. You have to be very organized and good with time management, otherwise you'll fall behind, especially if you have many different projects you're working on. College is actually a good practice for this. Think of each job or project as a class you have to pass and know you have to organize your time to finish each one on deadline.

Before you dive in, get all the facts. If this is something you're really passionate about or crave a freeing schedule, then go for it! If you end up getting a regular full-time job after all, you didn't fail: you tried. If you try your hand at freelance and realize that it isn't the gig you want as a post grad, that is the beauty of being a newbie in the career world. You choose for yourself and shouldn't feel stuck in the one position if you feel it isn't for you. Keep going!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Basics of Pre-employment Assessment Tests

In order to prepare for a pre-employment test, you must first understand the purpose of the test and the type of test you may be taking. The general purpose of these tests is to assess your potential rather than your acquired skills and knowledge. There are several types of tests you may face and each type of test has a different purpose.

Personality Assessments
Personality assessments are presented as a series of true/false or multiple choice questions. Your responses to the questions enable the employer to infer many things such as how you communicate, how you respond to stress, and even how likely you are to stay with the company if hired.

One approach to this test is to be yourself and answer honestly and spontaneously. This is the response most employers are hoping to receive, but may not be the best approach for you. Many of the questions are open to interpretation. Therefore, before answering each question, think about the motivation behind it. The best approach is to be honest, but think about the reasoning behind each question instead of approaching it as black and white.

When answering the questions of a personality test, it is important to answer the questions consistently. The tests often ask the same basic question multiple times in different ways.

Verbal Assessments
Verbal skills tests measure your ability to understand written instructions and may include spelling and grammar tests, checking data for errors, and assessing your communication skills. These tests may be used for clerical, customer service, or data entry positions.

Numeric Reasoning Assessments
Numeric reasoning tests are a measure of your basic arithmetic, mathematics, and number sequencing abilities. You may have to solve math problems, infer information from graphs and charts, or demonstrate your ability to interpret statistical data. These tests are used for career fields that require the ability to work with numbers such as accounting, bookkeeping, and construction.

Spatial or Mechanical Reasoning Assessments
Spatial or mechanical reasoning and fault diagnosis tests evaluate your knowledge of physical, mechanical, and three-dimensional objects. These are often used for technical types of positions where mechanical aptitude is necessary such as engineers, electricians, and mechanics. Police forces, fire departments, and the military also use these types of test to evaluate problem solving skills.

General Preparation Tips
* Arrive on time for the test and present a professional appearance.
* Dress and behave as though you are in an interview.
* Take practice tests. You can find free online tests as well as word puzzles or
math puzzles in books. Prepare yourself for a timed test scenario.
* Get a good night of sleep the night before and eat a good meal prior to the test.

Can’t Conquer Your Career Goals? Consider Hiring a Coach

Ever hear of Sean Foley? If you’re not a golf fanatic, you probably haven’t. But if you do closely follow the sport you would know him as Tiger Woods’ swing coach. You read that correctly: one of the best players in the world has a guy telling him how to swing. And Sean wasn’t Tiger’s first swing coach: Hank Haney was his coach for over six years. If someone as prolific as Tiger Woods can see the benefit of hiring a coach to help him, what is holding you back from hiring one to help you with your career? Here are situations where hiring a personal coach (or lifecoach) can benefit your career.

You don’t know what career to go into The common belief is that you can expect to change careers over six times in your lifetime (I, personally, think I am somewhere around three or four right now). Some of these transitions are easily navigable; others can be fraught with difficulties that can spill over into other aspects of one’s life. A coach can listen to the problems you are encountering with your current career and suggest courses of action that coincide with you level of risk, personal comfort, and ambition. It could be that you can enhance your current career in some way, or that you abandon it entirely for a new one. You will not be told what to do by your coach, but guided in a holistic way to best help yourself.

You don’t know how to progress in your career A lifecoach can also be of assistance if you are not progressing in your career the way that you feel you should. Through inner exploration and tailored exercises you can discover areas in your career life where you are being held back-by you or by your employer-and work to overcome those obstacles to rediscover what initially ignited your passion.

Your personal life is affecting your career No one exists in a vacuum and it is commonplace for one’s personal life to affect one’s career. While a lifecoach is not a therapist, he or she can help you identify the anxiety you are feeling and help you create goals or strategies that will point you in the direction of success.

The Beatles sang that you get by with a little help from your friends. If you find yourself spinning your wheels, stuck in career circumstances that you are not happy with, a coach can be the person to help give you a push out of the mud and down the road to a brighter tomorrow.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Have a Job Contingency Plan

It always makes good sense to have a carefully thought out and well-constructed plan you can put into action immediately if you were to lose your job—in other words, a job contingency plan. Being prepared with a job contingency plan can help ground you and give you direction, especially when the unexpected happens. Following are items to consider and related action steps for creating your contingency plan.

· Keep your finances in order. Stay on top of your current financial situation—know your expenses, your income, and your savings. Identify current expenses you can eliminate to bolster an emergency savings fund. Start paying down your credit card(s) or other debt.

· Investigate company policies and resources. Determine what benefits your company may offer in the event of a layoff and how those may impact your budget. For example, is there a history of offering severance pay? Are you entitled to pay for unused vacation and/or sick time? Does the company offer support services like career counseling and job search assistance?

· Look into government unemployment programs. Specifically, check out the Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program and the benefits available to eligible workers.

· Identify transferable skills. You’re bound to have skills that may transfer to another industry or occupation. Identify these and emphasize them in your resume. If company layoffs have been department-specific, consider now how your skills might transfer to a less vulnerable department. Begin networking with key contacts in those departments to establish relationships you can tap into later.

· Fill skill gaps. Identify any skill gaps and explore whether you can fill those gaps through additional training, volunteer work, college courses, etc.

· Identify additional sources of income. Identify other income and work opportunities you could call upon if you lost your job. For example, can you freelance? Can you do home repairs? If so, consider building on this experience and the related networks.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Uncle Sam Wants you! Four Tips for Landing a Federal Job

The federal government is the largest employer in the United States. For someone looking for a stable position with excellent growth potential, this is a good option. However, getting a job with the government is a bit of a daunting process. Here are some tips to prepare you for federal employment.

Know Where to Look
The main site where most federal positions are listed is However, each agency within the federal government does its own hiring. Check each agency’s web site to find their individual openings and determine their hiring process. You can find a list of agencies at You can also find a list of internships and opportunities for students at

Be Prepared
The federal application process is lengthy and requires extensive information. However, the more prepared you are in advance, the easier the process will be. Gather employer addresses, supervisor names and contact information, salary, and hours worked per week for each position. You will also want to gather your transcripts and references. If you are a military veteran, you will need to upload your DD-214 form to take advantage of your veteran’s preference. Many applications require you to fill out a supplemental questionnaire with the application. You will find a link to preview the application within the job posting. Some answers require short essay responses, so preparation in advance is important.

Be Specific
It is imperative that your resume clearly demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that are required for the job. Provide detailed examples of these KSAs within the resume. Always list both month and years in your job experience so that the exact number of months of your experience is clear to the employer.

Be Patient
The federal hiring process does not move as quickly as hiring in the private sector. Don’t be surprised if you submit an application by the deadline and you don’t hear back for several weeks or more. There is a very specific screening process the government must follow and this takes time. There is a feature on that allows you to track the status of your application.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Employment Credit Checks and Your Job Search: an FAQ for You

According to a recent report by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 60% of employers run some kind of credit check on their new employees. For those that are struggling to make ends meet in the down economy, this news can be out-and-out scary. Below is a brief FAQ of information and resources to help you be a more knowledgeable applicant.

Why do companies run credit checks? The arguments for running employment credit checks are protection and personal judgment. In businesses where the primary function is handling sensitive client information (such as document shredding companies) or handling cash (such as banks or credit unions), proponents claim they value the information to assess the decision making ability and responsibility of the candidate. As the SHRM report cited above states, employers generally conduct credit checks for financial/fiduciary positions (91%), senior executives (46%), and those with access to high-level employee information (36%).

What do businesses look for in the credit checks? has a comprehensive breakdown of what is included in an employee credit check, including bankruptcies, child support payments, and loan and credit card accounts with payment histories. Not every report contains all of this information. The SHRM report also notes some interesting employee credit check data, such as only 11% of businesses consider foreclosures when hiring and no businesses considering medical debt. However, there have been reports that, in contrast to the data from SHRM, job seekers have been denied jobs based upon medical debt and foreclosures. This is why many states are passing legislation to protect those who have fallen on hard times.

What can I do to improve my credit report? This website offers excellent advice on how to improve your credit report, beginning with requesting a free annual copy from all of the major credit bureaus. You can use the report to look for significant errors including incorrect late payments and to insure the correct amount of outstanding debt. General advice from experts to maintain excellent credit include always paying you bills on time, working directly with your creditors if you get behind on your payments, and paying off your debt instead of moving it to lower-interest credit cards.

While employee credit checks are only part of a company’s hiring decision, it’s in your best interest to stay credit-vigilant when searching for a job and do your best to rectify any negative situations.

How to Resign your Job the Right Way

Many signs show the economy is on the mend. Maybe you have received an offer for a higher paying job, you have the opportunity to return to your pre-recession career field, or you are ready to go back to school. Whether you live in a small town or a large metropolis, the best rule of thumb is to never burn bridges. Here are some considerations to ensure you always leave a position in the most positive way, with as much professionalism as possible.

Put it in Writing
No matter the reason for leaving a position, you should think of quitting your job as the end to a business contract. Therefore your resignation should be in writing. Your letter should be short, simple, and direct. The letter must contain your intent to leave, the date on which you will leave, the date you are submitting your resignation, and your signature.

Be Definitive, but be Considerate
When you offer your resignation, do not approach it as a negotiation process. Never offer your resignation unless you are prepared to walk out the door; it should never be an ultimatum to obtain higher pay or better benefits. However, don’t feel as though you have to apologize or offer personal reasons for leaving.

Offer at least two weeks’ notice. However, if you are in a high-level position you may need to provide at least a month. Ensure you have an exit strategy to transition any open projects or files and train your co-workers. Maintain your integrity by working hard the remainder of your time with the company and living up to your commitments. When resigning, your goal should be to make this as smooth a process as possible – for everyone involved. You can even offer to assist with hiring and training your replacement.

Be Prepared for a Negative Reaction
There are many different ways in which your company may react. Some companies will want you to work the remainder of your notice and others may escort you from the building immediately. You may be shunned by your co-workers and your boss may try to make you feel guilty. Don’t take it personal; try your best to keep your last few days professional and cordial.

Some companies may ask you to meet with Human Resources to conduct an exit interview and gain the “real” reason you are leaving. In an exit interview, avoid criticizing your employer or your boss. You might run into the same person at a new company and you might also need a reference form your previous employer.

Keep in Touch
Maintain professional contact with former co-workers and supervisors. Consider these former co-workers as part of your professional network. Protect your professional relationships; you never know when you may need their assistance. Avoid gloating over a new salary or benefits package.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Preventing Career Burnout

Most workers experience career burnout at one time or another; however, prolonged signs of career burnout lasting a month or more can be serious—and damaging. Career burnout can be self-induced and/or caused by outside factors. For example, working in a fast-paced, stressful environment where employee accomplishments are often overlooked can lead to career burnout. Conversely, employees with pessimistic dispositions who take no responsibility for directing their own careers cause their own burnout.

Before you can address career burnout, you need to be aware of the symptoms. Following is a sampling of symptoms:

  • · Exhaustion, chronic fatigue, no motivation
  • · Anxiety
  • · Boredom
  • · Indifference
  • · Frequent bad days
  • · Feeling unappreciated or worthless

Plenty of techniques exist for preventing or combating career burnout. The list below can help. As you review these options, consider how well each will work based on your particular personality and/or situation.

· Stretch yourself: Volunteer on a project team, write an article for an internal company newsletter or trade journal, propose a new idea.

· Expand your network: Reach out to professionals inside and outside your company. Make it a goal to have lunch once a month with someone you’d like to get to know better.

· Learn from and/or teach others: Check into whether your company or industry association has a mentor/mentee program. If not, consider establishing a mentor/mentee relationship. Either one almost always leads to great learning experiences.

· Be grateful: Each day note a few things you are thankful for. Having an attitude of gratitude is bound to spill over at work.

· Emphasize career goals: Set career goals and monitor your progress. Besides giving you more control over your career, this will most likely cause you to pursue things that interest you.