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Sunday, December 19, 2010

More Reasons Why LinkedIn Is So Important for Job Seekers

Anyone who talks to me about job search strategy knows how much I evangelize LinkedIn. Here are even more reasons why LinkedIn should be a part of everyone’s job search – even for passive searchers.

You can put your job history out there without worrying your current employer.

Upload your resume on a job board and you risk your boss – or your company’s recruiter – seeing you tell the world you are available. Upload your resume on LinkedIn and you can invite your boss as a connection. “No worries boss," you can say, "I’m inviting everyone I work with to be a connection.” LinkedIn has over 60 million members. Joining LinkedIn shows you are a great networker and relationship builder. Posting your resume on a job board shows you are looking for another position.

LinkedIn is free for recruiters.

Job boards charge thousands per recruiter, per year, to have access to the resume search feature. LinkedIn searches are free. For companies seeking to cut costs - everyone - it is an easy decision. Nearly every recruiter I talk to puts LinkedIn high on their list of talent sources.

LinkedIn is a handy corporate employee directory.

The company search feature lets job seekers see helpful information about thousands of companies. Thinking of working at Amazon, Expedia or Microsoft? A company search will tell you if you have first or second degree contacts who are current or past employees. You can learn which professional associations people in your dream job belong to and where they volunteer.

Agency and corporate recruiters flock to LinkedIn.

More than 500,000 recruiting and HR staff are on LinkedIn and they are easy to find. Conduct a people search with the name of the company and the word recruiter for a list of gatekeepers.

LinkedIn has become a social reference check.

Nearly half of all employers run Internet searches on applicants. LinkedIn results are nearly always on the first page of the search result. Because profiles on LinkedIn include recommendations, links to blogs and Twitter accounts, and group memberships, they provide a multifaceted way of researching candidates. It is important that your LinkedIn profile matches your resume, and vice versa, to avoid disqualification based on discrepancies.

Recruiters assess the profiles of people in sales, marketing and PR roles at an even higher standard. If you are in sales, but not on LinkedIn or your profile is not complete, the message is that you do not “get” social media or you do not know how to market yourself.

What do you love about LinkedIn?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What's the buzz, tell me what's a-happening?

I consider the term "buzz words" to be synonymous with "keywords" - the words or phrases thought by the hiring manager or recruiter as most likely to appear on the resumes of candidates best suited for the job opening. Many of the words that people think are buzz words aren't. They may be action words (orchestrated, drove, owned), or they may be self-descriptors (hard working, action oriented, tenacious, etc.,) but they aren't buzz words. I have never spoken with a recruiter who enters phrases like "dedicated" or "driven" into their keyword scanning program.

A great deal of buzz word guidance comes from job postings themselves. If, out of ten postings for computer programmers, none seek Visual Basic, but five seek Visual, it's likely that Visual Basic has become obsolete and that Visual is a buzz word. In addition, ageism can be exacerbated by mentioning expertise with older technologies. I believe this to be true across industries, with a bit of forgiveness given to older buzz words from "old school" industries - accounting and law, for example. Phrases like "general ledger" have been keywords for years and probably will be for a long time to come.

The reasons not to use old buzz words (an oxymoron) boil down to - they're obsolete, they "age" the candidate, or they're not actually buzz words.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ten Things I Like about Me!

I write resumes for nearly everyone, from top executives and business owners to students just starting out. Without a doubt, the biggest omission on my client's "before" resumes is accomplishments. Often, it’s a painful process trying to remember accomplishments from ten years ago, but it’s important to portray oneself as a consistent achiever. My goal is to take the pain out of resume writing, so I recommend that everyone take the following steps – whether you decide to write the resume yourself or hire someone to take care of it for you.

Every time you receive a compliment, win an award or finish a project, email yourself a note about it. Set the stage (what was going on at the time, why did they need you to do the project), write about what you did, then talk about the outcome – how much did it help and what did your boss/client have to say about it. Be as specific as possible. If you streamlined a process and now it took 25% less time, calculate how many dollars that amounted to in labor savings.

Then, include a unique code in your email, XQ$, for example, and send the note to your personal email address. When you’re ready for a resume update (or to negotiate a raise), do an email search for XQ$ and voila!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Why didn't they hire me? Hiring managers share their reasons.

I asked my LinkedIn contacts to think back about the last person they interviewed but didn’t hire. I wanted to know why they didn’t make an offer to that candidate and what advice they wanted to give to the person.

Here are their responses:

There are trade-offs as a hiring-manager that you have to make. If you think that person you're interviewing has "potential" you should seriously consider him. I'm yet to see 100% matches, something is always missing or more than what I need to get the job done. If there is potential, I usually consider twice. Trade-offs are just not skill-sets, they maybe salary requirement, experience, maybe location etc. A "no" would come only if trade offs far outweigh, or if there are roadblocks like salary disagreement or on-site presence requirements for an off-site worker, etc.

I didn't hire them because they had a nervous laugh. A really creepy nervous laugh. I learned right then and there to tell a joke. If they don't get the joke, or don't laugh, then they are a dud and I won't hire them. If they have a weird laugh or crazy chortle, then they are cut from the program just the same. So sue me for laugh discrimination!!!

The last person did not have enough technical skill in one area and I did mention to them afterward that it was the sticking point.

I would have said, "Answer the actual question I asked rather than a rehearsed, canned response of buzzwords, and catch-phrases that didn't really say anything."

They didn't demonstrate any real passion -- for the position or for learning about it, for their past or for their future, and/or for opportunities in their life (at work and beyond). If you don't demonstrate eagerness, enthusiasm and excitement, I'm just not interested in you, no matter how qualified you might be.

The resume provides me initial insight into the person's skill set which leads to a phone interview to confirm the skills and experience. If these two levels are passed, the face-to-face meeting occurs. During the 1:1 it is important the candidate demonstrate personal accountability and communicate how his/her work behavior indicates proactive ability to generate results. If the person says what they will do and gets it done, I'm interested further. It is more important to get the right people on the bus. Skills can be learned. Attitude and behavior can't be taught and together are the difference between success and failure.

I did not hire him because of poor personal hygiene. I actually told him to shave, comb his hair and take a shower before he left his house the next interview.

I interviewed this person for a software testing position which requires some coding (programming) and I did not hire him for two reasons: he was a little cocky and he did not successfully finished his coding question. While the coding issue was obvious, I did not dare to tell him of his attitude. Up to this day, I am still unsure if I would tell if I am in the same position again.

I think the most frustrating part about hiring for entry-level jobs, is the different work ethic that I have vs. some of the younger people getting out of school. Nothing bad about them, but my generation was never part of the 'entitlement" generation, and I find expectations for what they want and what is reality in entry level positions are different.

Also professionalism... Jeans are ok in most corporations today, but not on a job interview!

Someone I interviewed answered my questions in very general terms without providing the depth and details I was seeking. As someone who makes behavioral questions the core of his interviews, I was asking the candidate to describe specific situations she'd been in, what actions she took in those situations, and what resulted from those actions.

For example, "Tell me about a time when the team disagreed on some aspect of the project, and walk me through the steps you took to resolve that disagreement". Despite much prompting and follow-up questioning, I never really received a clear answer as to what this candidate actually did in that situation.

For any question that leaned toward a past or potential challenge or deficit (i.e. "Tell me about a time when your work was criticized" or "Tell me about a challenge you faced..."; the person's answers all started with, "Well he/she/they...".

I could comfortably assume that if the individual did not take accountability for any of his past behaviors/actions, I would most likely see the same behavior if I were to hire him.

I did not mention this to the candidate however; it would be a great coaching point for him or any other potential candidate.

First of all, I am a straight shooter and often offer helpful advice to candidates whenever I can. I know that I would appreciate similar help from others.

The last candidate I interviewed wasn't hired because he didn't have enough experience in a particular area of need.

I interviewed a lady who had called in twice to "check some details" before her interview. On both occasions she had been rude to the staff she had spoken to on the phone. During the interview she was very abrupt, almost the point of being overly cocky, yet she had no clarity in her answers or in her ideas about her future. I didn't hire because I couldn't see her fitting into the team.

I just couldn't reject the candidate because his skills didn’t match my requirements. I felt he was a worthy candidate for his experience and I tried to forward him to a suitable opening.

It's hard to lose a worthy candidate.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Job Search Strategies (as published in the Washington CPA Magazine, May/June edition)

I was honored to be asked to write an article on job search strategies for the WSCPA.

Effective Job Search Strategies from a Recruiter’s Perspective

You have spent hours online searching job boards for open positions and have applied for hundreds of openings. You are exhausted, but don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Is there anything else you should be doing? Absolutely! Like with anything, the smarter your job search strategy is, the more effective it is going to be.

While working as a corporate recruiter, I had a front-row opportunity to see how candidate’s different job search strategies worked out. If the company I worked for extended an offer to a candidate, I backtracked several key factors, including how the person found out about the job, how their resumes looked, how they interviewed and how they followed up. Now, I share that information with my business clients. One of the first questions my clients want to know is how to find a job and in this article, I’m going to share that advice with you.

Start your job search by choosing 15 - 20 companies for whom you think you would love to work. They can be employers you have heard great things about from friends that have worked there, businesses you have read about in the news, companies that are geographically convenient or employers who make a product or service that you love. They should meet your "hard" criteria too; they should be of a size likely to provide you with the type of employment opportunities you seek, for example. This is a list you will add to and subtract from, as you gain more insight.

Don’t wait for an opening to be posted to apply. Some open positions can’t be posted, the person leaving may not know it (performance termination) or may not announce it publicly (planning a move), for example, but often the recruiter or hiring manager has already started looking. If your resume were to land on their desk before they needed you, you would likely get more attention than if you applied when they posted the job.

Once you have selected your target companies, start your research and record your findings on Excel. For each company, assign a worksheet and add information gained from news articles, blogs, company websites or word-of-mouth. Search your LinkedIn contacts for people you already know that can offer insight into the company’s culture, hiring process, opportunities, etc.

Not on LinkedIn? Join! LinkedIn provides a great place to keep track of your network. These are people that you work with or used to work with, friends, family, neighbors and fellow group members. The first step to using LinkedIn is to create a profile. You will enter information about where you have worked or volunteered, where you went to school, and the groups you are a member of. Then, start adding contacts; I suggest you only add people that you know, like and trust.

Lost track of some people? LinkedIn has several ways to find people with whom you have lost touch. You can look up an old employer and see all of the people who have identified that place as their current or past employer. If you remember them, add them. In addition, LinkedIn has a feature where it will “look” in your email and tell you who you already know that is signed up on linked in. Alternatively, you can type in someone’s name and see if they have an account. In any case, the person will get an email from you asking if they would like to connect. Once they do, you will be able to see their profile and that is when the magic happens!

Let’s say you connect with 100 people on LinkedIn and they have worked an average of five jobs each. That is potentially 500 employers where you now have an inside connection. The beauty of LinkedIn is that you can also see friends of friends, raising your potential inside connections exponentially. You will know right who to go to to get the inside scoop on a particular company.

LinkedIn has a few other terrific features and I have learned a few job search strategies that they do not talk much about. In addition to a terrific Q&A section and job board, you can learn a lot from looking at the profiles of people who hold your “dream job”. Wondering what industry affiliations to join? Check what groups that people holding the jobs you want are members of. Wonder what your ideal employer is looking for in a candidate? Look at the profiles of recent hires for clues on certifications, volunteerism and education.

Join and attend professional organizations. Typically, they meet once per month and you will often find that there is a guest speaker, they may offer snacks or a meal, and there is usually time for networking. Set a goal to talk to two or three people at each meeting. More than that and you will forget with whom you spoke. Ask for the cards of the people you converse with and jot down some notes about the conversation on it after your talks. Then, follow up – add them to LinkedIn and arrange a coffee meeting if your conversation went particularly well. Folks I have worked with have had great luck with alumni associations, so consider joining those as well. Many have a charter to provide services to job seekers.

Treat your network connections as you would your friends. Always ask about how you can be helpful to them, for example, to ensure they do not feel as if you are purely contacting them to see what they can do for you. Since the best networking is always done in person, casually ask if you can chat with the person in their office, short of that, a coffee meeting or other gathering is perfectly fine. Phone contact is next best, but try for a face-to-face meeting if logistically possible.

The best networkers never ask for a job, they know that someone who knows, likes and respects them will be alert to potential opportunities without having to be asked. The key is to keep your network responding to you in the “yes” mode – Yes, I can tell you what I like about the company – instead of the “no” mode – No, we don’t have any openings. Don’t encourage your network to avoid you because they don’t want to say no.

Did you get a “yes, you can stop by” response? Let them know you will have five questions prepared and that you won't take more than 15 minutes of their time - then stick to that. Make it clear when you have reached the end of your questions and observe the time, this will help them gain trust that you stick to your word and are not taking advantage of their kindness in seeing you. Quite likely, they will want to extend the conversation and at this point, it will become more of a conversation and less of a favor they are doing for you. Even so, be respectful of their time and they will feel more confident in referring you to talk with someone else. Your tone should be curious and positive while asking questions. Make notes during the meeting, add new information to your Excel worksheet and follow up on leads.

In addition to asking about what the person with whom you are talking likes best about the company, other great questions include, "What was your first position with the company?" "What is the hiring process like?" and "What advice might you have for someone in my situation?" Also, ask what groups or industry associations they are active in; consider following up on those groups to see if they might be a good fit for you. During your job search, strive to meet two people per week and join two groups that meet monthly.

Be sure to triangulate information whenever possible and don’t dismiss a job opportunity just because you hear negative comments from one or two people. They may be disgruntled, had a bad boss who is no longer there, or were bad employees. Even the happiest employees will bring their own skewed perspective; just keep that in mind.

Where you cannot seem to source a "warm" connection to a particular target company, be sure to drop the name of the place into your conversations with people. Chatting with your neighbor? Toss in, "I wish I knew someone from XYZ, it seems like an interesting place to work." If they know someone there, and if they know and trust you, they will introduce you. Don’t pressure them by asking outright whom they know; you want your network to say “yes” to you and you want it to be their idea, so they’ll take ownership of it down the road. Consider the difference: “Here’s that great controller I was telling you about,” vs. “John asked me to ask you if there were any openings for a controller.” The best connections come from a mutual party's desire to make a match, not a desire to get you off their back.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned answering want ads yet. That is mostly because the numbers are against you. As a warm contact referred by someone that the hiring manager knows and trusts, you are much more appealing than a stranger answering an ad on the Internet. This factor alone explains the reason why 70% of all open positions are filled by someone who knew someone who knew the hiring manager. Sure, that leaves 30% of all jobs, but would you rather be one of 3-4 people personally referred for a position, or one of 300 – 400 who apply for a position posted on Monster?

By the time most jobs make it to Monster, they are picked over. The company’s recruiter has exhausted their network of strong candidates as well as the networks of everyone that works for the company and is forced to go fishing with a large net. Instead of taking the work of someone she trusts that the candidate being referred is sane, smart and motivated, she has to shuffle through hundreds of anonymous resumes to try to find the best candidates. If answering ads on the Internet is part of your job search strategy, try to keep it under 15% of your search time.

Consider using staffing services, especially if your network is skimpy in your industry or if you are new in town. Know that it is thousands of dollars more expensive to hire you through a service than if you found the job yourself, so if you have leads on certain companies, be sure to let your recruiter know not to refer you to those places due to the commissions involved. Wonder which service to contact? Check the LinkedIn profiles of people working where you want to work for prior involvement with staffing agencies. Or, contact the HR departments of your target companies and ask if they are contracted to work with a certain company. When you meet with the staffer, talk about temporary, temp-to-hire and permanent placement options.

You never know where your next job will come, so take advantage of every opportunity and be prepared. Practice a brief “elevator speech” about what kind of job you want and why you are a valuable candidate. Tell a story about a time where you “saved the day” in some way in your last role. Don’t be overly concerned about not being completely qualified for the positions that interest you. An 80% skill match is close enough for most places as they are also interested in hiring people that are a good culture fit and show enthusiasm for the company.

Jill Walser, of I got the job! Career Services, is a former corporate recruiter now sharing inside secrets with her clients.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Interview Coaching - An Outline

Hi Jill,

I'm interested in your interview coaching services. I am a product management professional and have recently started my job search. I feel that my interview skills could use a lot of work. I'm curious about how we'd get started.

Best, Hannah

Dear Hannah,

Interview coaching can be scaled to fit your needs, budget and timeline. The feedback I have received from clients is that an initial session of 1.5 - 2 hours with a follow up session 1-2 weeks later is most helpful. I conduct the coaching sessions in a mock interview format where I will act as the hiring manager and ask questions. You will respond as you normally would and I will provide feedback on your answers. My goal is to help you convey your skills and personality in the most appealing way possible, so that the hiring team will feel you are smart, accomplished and fun to be around.

I am a strong believer in incorporating stories – examples of greatness – into interview answers. Stories are much more interesting and memorable than laundry lists of things you know how to do, and they can illustrate much more about your strategic perspective and enthusiasm. Part of what you would be doing in the interim between appointments is practicing your stories. I will give you guidelines and we will come up with 3-4 stories in the first meeting. By the second meeting, you will have a list of about 8-10 stories that can be used interchangeably to answer many interview questions and you will know what the interviewer is “really” asking when they ask a certain question.

If there are additional issues such as anxiety or lack of confidence, or if you just want more practice, additional coaching sessions can be scheduled. For local folks finding my Seattle office the most convenient, we will meet there. For others, we will meet in a mutually convenient coffee shop (I live in Bellevue). I provide phone coaching for people living outside the Puget Sound area.



Wednesday, February 24, 2010

5 Ways Temping Can Help Your Career

As many of you know, before I became a corporate recruiter, I spent over three years as a staffing recruiter. I worked for a great staffing agency called Northwest Staffing Resources, in their Bellevue office. This article was written by Sarah Honkala, a NSR temp working out of the Vancouver office.

5 Ways Temping Can Help Your Career

With unemployment high and new positions filling fast, temporary agencies can be a great way to find work. In the past ten years, I have spent almost five years working as a temporary employee. I used to feel a little self-conscious about that while watching someone glance through my work history. Then I realized all of the experience I’d gained by working in those temp positions. Now I see my time spent temping as an asset. I’d like to share the top 5 ways that temping has helped me in my employment search. If you keep an open mind and work hard, you can use these to help with your own career.

1) Short-term jobs can become long-term jobs. When signing up with a temporary agency, it is a good idea to be open for short-term work as well as long term. I know, you’re probably saying, “But with my bills, I really need a full-time job.” I understand. There have been times when I’ve needed a full-time job with no prospects. But short-term jobs can turn into long-term jobs. I worked a three-week assignment that turned into one year. I had a week assignment turn into seven months. I’ve worked a short-term assignment for a few days, and then was asked back when they needed help again. There are no guarantees that a job can turn into long term, but there aren’t guarantees that a permanent job is long term either. Temporary agencies get you back into working mode and give you a chance.

2) A temp job can help get your foot in the door of a company or organization. People want to hire people they are comfortable with. Do your homework. If you want to work for the government, find the temp agency they work with. If you want to work in the music business, find the temp agency that works in that environment. Ask questions before you sign up. Once you are working in that organization be proactive and helpful. When a position is open you’ll have better odds of being hired. I worked for the city government as a direct result of a temp assignment. (Note: if you are looking for a job with the government be patient, the hiring process can be lengthy).

3) Temporary jobs let you find your likes and dislikes. While working on temporary assignments make a note of environments you like and dislike. Do you find yourself more comfortable in a small office environment? A large organization? Working directly with people? Working with numbers? I found out while working in a temporary environment that it is important for me to feel like I’m doing a great job. I worked for awhile as a medical transcriptionist. I had no medical knowledge and would stumble on each word I typed. After the documents were typed they went to a quality control department. I knew my pages were getting marked up and it made me feel horrible. I went back to the agency and asked for an assignment I was better suited for. It was hard for me to pass up, but I’m glad I did it. I missed a paycheck or two but in the end I had a job I was better suited for. Finding an enjoyable job is a dream for many. Temping helps you find out what you like with the stability of one company, your agency, which looks better on your resume then excessive job hopping.

4) You can get experience in a new career field. I wanted to work in public relations. I had a Bachelor’s degree and a customer service background. I applied at different places and - nothing. I didn’t have the right type of experience. I communicated with the temporary agency about what type of career I was interested in and mentioned I’d like jobs that would help me in that area. I found myself working in public outreach and on a few other assignments that gave me experience. That is a great benefit of being a temporary employee.

5) The agency you work through will have more contacts then you do to help find you a job. Temporary agencies have mastered the art of networking. They know what companies are in the area and they know which companies are hiring. You can spend your time networking and following job lead after job lead, or simply fill out an employment application and let the temp agency do the networking work for you. This will get you a lot further then the newspaper ads and Craigslist.

Creating a career has become more challenging with the volatile times. Tricks and tips that worked before don’t work as well as they used to. Networking your way to a job is great, but it takes time to see results. A lot of the unemployed don’t have the time to wait and see results, they need results now. Temporary agencies are a great way to see results more quickly.
Working in a temporary environment can be stressful and challenging. Temping is an employment option that will take you from your kitchen table filling out applications, to behind a desk on your way to a new career.

Sarah will be writing more articles about how to be a successful temporary employee:

Thank you Sarah!

Are Thank You Notes Necessary?

Here's an actual email I received this morning from a client and my response:

Hi Jill,

Is it appropriate to send a thank you by e-mail versus a letter? I had an interview yesterday, they're making their decision by Monday and I don't think regular mail would make it in time.

Loyal Client

Dear Loyal Client,

Email thank-you notes are ok; they are better than nothing. A handwritten note on a tasteful thank-you card is so much better. Your competition will probably not have gone to the trouble and, especially in your industry, taking an extra step to show you care is what makes all the difference.

In part, they are assessing your performance and follow-up in this interview process and making assumptions on how you will act around their "people" - co-workers, managers, customers, etc. Hiring managers and recruiters keep handwritten cards and think fond thoughts of those that wrote them; when I was recruiting, I kept the one's I received on a board above my desk.

If you sent it today from the post office, it is quite likely going to reach them by Monday. You could spend a few dollars more to have it shipped overnight. Doing both - email and a card - will cover all the bases.

Good luck!

Jill Walser