Monday, April 13, 2015

After the Interview

After you attend an interview, what do you do; what would you do? I am relentlessly suggesting that when seeking a job, your activity during the interview process requires that, in order to increase your odds for success, you must effectively multi-task because it is a contest between you and, well, everyone else. You need more than a good resume, for the simple reason that at some point you’ll be asked, “Tell me about yourself?” at which point you’ll actually have to speak. I also suggest people conduct research, because they are most likely going to be asked, “What do you know about our company?”  Additionally, I tell people to prepare and hone their interview (soft) skills so that when they do speak, what comes out of their mouths actually helps, rather than to hurt or detract. I recommend applicants formulate questions to learn as much as possible about the position for which they are interviewing, to not only demonstrate that you are fully engaged in the process, but also to have the information needed to thoughtfully consider any job offer they might receive. For the same reason, I urge them to apply the most basic of negotiating techniques, because you are a process participant and not a mere passenger, and your participation and influence need not end upon your exit from the interview. 
As a matter of course, I always suggest job candidates compose and send a Thank You letter or note; each step, each time, sending one to whomever you interviewed with. It needn’t be long and even just a couple lines will suffice. If you are thinking strategically, a Thank You letter is never just a Thank You letter. Rather than to elaborate here, dig into my Blog Archives and look for my entry of 14 January 2013 on just this subject – it is worthy of your time. The Thank You letter gives you yet another chance to get noticed in a positive light.
For those of you who want to be a bit more proactive in your efforts, if you were given a timeframe within which they said they would follow-up with you after your interview and, for whatever reason they don’t, take the initiative and follow-up with them, reminding them of their own positive comments. Lack of follow-up by a hiring manager does not necessarily indicate a lack of interest; sometimes they are just plain busy. On many occasions a hiring manager thanks me for the reminder and apologizes for the delay. Here’s another guideline: if the interview went well, not only from your perspective, but they tell you it went well and give a clear impression they will further consider you, follow up with them. However, if it didn’t go well, then move on to something else. I know some readers may suggest a hiring manager might not like your extra effort and could get irritated, but for what, demonstrating your interest? If you are content with crossing your fingers and hoping no problem, I am making mere suggestions, you’re free to take them or leave them.
Another precaution you should follow is to restrict your follow-up efforts to email or snail mail. Never call a hiring manager’s mobile phone number unless you have been expressly instructed to do so. You don’t want to be deemed a stalker now, do you? I suggest you restrict yourself to typed correspondence. And, if after an attempt or two they don’t reply, you’ll have your answer regardless.
If you received no indication one way or the other about the result of your interview and you want to follow-up after 7 – 10 days, go ahead and make your attempt, always seeking the person with whom you’ve met. 
However, if you are represented by a recruiter or a recruitment agency (yes, there is a difference), it means the recruiter represents your interests and speaks for you; you’ve made them your agent, working on your behalf. As such, you should never go around the recruiter to contact a hiring manager; it will anger the recruiter as well as the hiring manager and will not be viewed favorably. This is the trade-off if you want someone else to represent your interests. 
On this topic of proactive follow-up, granted, there are hiring managers and HR staffers who will clearly differ with my suggestions. Many want you to obediently submit to their rules, although, consider that they don’t have your best interests at heart, but if you act professionally and in good faith your conscience should be clear. My goal is to better help you to help yourself and there is nothing that I ever suggest that I wouldn’t or haven’t done myself for over 22 years. Another very good reason to do what I am suggesting is because most people don’t engage in these extra steps. Furthermore, what if it is a close contest between you and another applicant for the same position? The present job market is a crowded and competitive landscape, being more assertive than passive can be the difference between success and failure.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Getting an Invitation

In January I posted a blog entry suggesting people do more real activity than limit themselves only to online efforts, which in reality amounts to not much effort. As a matter of common sense, I always suggest you must do more if you want better results by augmenting your conventional online job search activities with other more proactive physical activities. If you are relying almost solely upon online resources, you are doing little more than the equivalent of purchasing a lottery ticket and crossing your fingers. Sadly this is what most people are doing and maybe, if we just send out one more resume, then maybe…this time ours will be the winning ticket. But rather, you must get your hands dirty if you want better results and commit to the hard work necessary to dig, in order to find those golden nuggets of opportunity, which are getting increasingly harder to find. The gold rush is over but that doesn’t mean there’s no gold to find; it’s simply harder to come across. 
Wary of my advice, a reader had commented that physically approaching a company in our modern era was absurd and a waste of time. He suggested they would probably call the police to charge you with trespassing or, at the very least, you’d be looked upon as a weirdo. He went on to say that without an electronic invitation from a company or a hiring manager, you have no hope of success. Well, the first part of his claim is silly, there is nothing wrong with hand delivering and presenting your resume in person if you are in the vicinity and have occasion to do so, or best of all, if you’ve established contact directly with a hiring manager. I don’t think it is futile and any time you can exercise physical measures involving a face-to-face introduction involving a handshake, or secondarily engaging in a telephone call with a decision maker, it can have more impact than the faceless, digital activities to which we’ve been reduced and limited. But the second part of his claim about the need for an invitation has validity. If I consider the pessimism of the commenter, it suggests we’re all powerless to influence our own fate. Sorry, but I don’t accept that premise and I certainly hope you don’t either.  
So, how do we increase our chances of getting an invitation? The answer to the question goes to the core of the problem we face and precisely what I am seeking to influence by way of this blog. If you stop to think about it, sending your resume into a virtual black hole, then crossing your fingers and waiting for someone to call or send you an email, is getting you exactly the kind of results you should expect from such a non-activity. Over the last 20 years, our job search abilities, much less our interview skills have degraded, faded and withered to the point at which most people have rendered themselves helpless, becoming mere bystanders to their own fate. True, companies have automated and done their best to shut you out and compel you to obey their processes. Although their processes are meant to make things easier one must ask, easier for whom – certainly not you. If you want more control over your fate, you’ve got to take it, wresting it away from those who don’t have your best interests at heart. Self-interest is not a bad thing, especially when it comes to what’s best for you and your family. Proactive self-interest is what is necessary if you want to get noticed; the internet is a tool, not the solution; you are the solution.
So, when I suggest you get out there and find who might be a potential employer and seek to contact them directly, do it. Network – and I do mean physically meet and speak with people, shake hands, pick up the phone. You know the only difference between today and 20 years ago is that the internet has replaced the Yellow Pages, email has replaced the telephone and snail mail. For those who think email is better, it isn’t. Back in the day, as now, it is the same; if you send 100 resumes you might get 1 or 2 responses – but – the difference is that in the past when you mailed a physical resume in an envelope it landed on someone’s desk, they opened it and looked at it. Sent via email, most resumes never get seen by a human. So frankly speaking, perhaps snail mailing a good resume together with a well-crafted cover letter and addressing it to a specific decision maker, I contend, might in fact be a good thing to do (among your other efforts) precisely because nobody else is doing it.  
Know also, that even physical efforts often don’t yield a job offer because you made a single effort – that’s not how it works. It takes repeated attempts and multiple efforts to get a result and the more you do, the more your odds will increase. It’s pretty simple really but you have to step out of your comfort zone, which for most people, has become far too insular and comfy while simultaneously stationary, stagnant, and sadly, debilitating. Many people will continue to do nothing but others, when they get angry enough (and hopefully before hitting rock bottom) will become more proactive by necessity. Sadly, it takes a crisis for many people to change their ways, but I suppose that’s part of human nature. If and when you make a choice to do more, try to find that balance between being persistent, but not overbearing. Be innovative, be inventive and as long as you are conducting yourself professionally you owe no one an apology. 
For one example, many people may email first, they might attempt some other steps in between and then if they feel strongly enough, will try to make direct contact. But increasingly fewer and fewer people have the nerve, much less the self-confidence, to make direct contact. Sadly many have lost the ability to do anything but hide behind their resumes. 
Me, when I call companies seeking to introduce myself and my services to a company, there is little doubt they already have a recruiting resource, so I have a similar challenge as you do. I flip it around. I pick up the phone and first attempt to reach my point of contact directly and yes, I bypass HR whenever possible because frankly, they don’t possess, much less know the details about any positions(s), and have only a bare-bones basic description of whatever management gives them – so why start with them – again, think outside of the box. If that fails, I next attempt to reach their admin assistant or personal secretary in an attempt to establish contact. If that fails I send an email. If that fails I try LinkedIn. After I’ve exhausted all other efforts, then I will contact HR. I also don’t take “no” for an answer, if one door closes, I look for another. I also engage in multiple efforts at one time, just as you should be pursuing more than one job opportunity concurrently. This is what it takes, folks. If this sounds like a lot of hard work and mental effort, well of course it is, who told you finding a good job, was easy.  
So, become assertive and make an actual physical effort so that you gain attention for yourself to seek the electronic invitation that is necessary, so you can address them face-to-face. Now, having made it crystal clear, go back and read my blog from January 26th entitled, “Stop Relying on the Internet”.
For what to say and how to say it when your moment arrives to impress whomever you’ve worked so hard to establish contact with, go to my blog archives and read a series of entries in April 2013 addressing just how to do what I am suggesting. 
If you are frustrated and you want to do more, there are resources, and then it takes only the will to actually do something.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reference Checked Before the Interview

If you think you are reference checked only near the end of the interview process, you are mistaken - that’s how it was, but no longer. Sure, reference checks as we’ve known them still exist, usually at the end of the hiring process, when an HR rep or hiring manager says to you, “we’d like to make you an offer contingent upon checking your references.” That’s a good sign and the words we want to hear, it means you’re almost there.
But that’s not what I am talking about. Often reference checks take place before you are invited for an interview and it often is a substantial factor in whether or not they will choose to consider you and has little to do with your professional abilities. I am of course referring to your digital footprint, your virtual self, online and especially social media, where increasingly often you may be scrutinized and from where impressions about you are drawn. So while you may be focused upon presenting yourself professionally and doing everything right from that perspective, conclusions are often made according to the impression you make on a personal level, as a reflection of what you post and share online even before they meet you - so much for first impressions, eh.
When you apply for a job and submit your resume, you may be well-qualified on paper, hoping for a chance to meet face-to-face. But it is common and becoming obligatory that HR or a hiring manager will look you up using any number of methods -- and it’s easy, free and takes only seconds simply using the basics: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and of course any work-related website where you may be listed. When they do, what will they find; what will they see and what conclusions might they draw as a result? Imagine, the hiring process is supposed to be about your professional suitability and qualifications for the job you seek - but you may be judged and possibly disqualified according to how they view you personally. Yeah, it’s messed up but that is the reality of where we find ourselves in the modern era – ain’t technology grand?   
I have seen postings that leave me shaking my head in disbelief when, for example, someone vents incessantly about how unfair life is, or someone who suggests they don’t want to live, or they want to hurt someone, or a woman who is having a difficulty publicly regrets she didn’t terminate her pregnancy (yeah, I actually saw one like this), etc. You name it, it’s out there and people do it without a second thought. Occasionally, when I’ve pointed out some of these missteps to people I’ve met, they get defensive and retort by arguing they can post what they want and then preach to me about free speech and their freedom of expression. Indeed, you can express yourself however you see fit and so too can hiring managers do the same, by not choosing you.
My point is simple: I’m not suggesting that you not be you but perhaps you should set the appropriate filters to be more selective in just who your audience may be. Likewise, go through and delete old and potentially unsatisfactory or unflattering comments and photos you might have posted and have forgotten. This may surprise some, but with the exception of your closest friends and family, nobody really cares about your innermost thoughts. 
So, what’s your online footprint look like at a glance? Don’t shoot the messenger; I’m just here to give constructive advice. You can post to your heart’s content all over for all to see your likes, dislikes, pet peeves and mood du jour without any forethought or afterthought – after all, we’re free to screw up in life, just don’t blame others when it comes back to haunt you. 
The internet is a great and powerful tool. You can as easily investigate companies and even the very people you may work for – and you should. You absolutely should exploit all means available to you in order to be as well informed a job candidate as is possible. But they also have the right to scrutinize you in the same manner and like it or not, fairly or unfairly, you will be judged accordingly.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Networking Effectively

Networking for professional purposes has been diluted in its meaning, having become so vague it’s worthy of clarifying the different types of networking as related to your job search efforts. It is wise to identify what kind of networking activity will be an investment with a higher rate of return for your efforts.
Many people are using social networking in their job search efforts. As with any online resource, you cannot and should not rely upon virtual means as a singular effort, for the simple reason that you will be missing opportunities found by other methods. Many jobs are not posted online. 
Some people confuse recreational aimed social media / networking with actual human interactive business networking. How many online friends you can accumulate doesn’t mean much because, after all, there are friends and then there are acquaintances. I suggest most people we know are acquaintances. Facebook and Myspace, which I think is still around but has been supplanted by Facebook, are recreational devices sometimes masquerading as a tool for business networking. Yes, there are products marketed there, but for job search and professional networking I don’t see it as very much use, although some may disagree with me. Facebook can be useful for finding professional sector-specific or support groups a person can join to conduct some level of networking. 
LinkedIn is probably the best known and, to my knowledge, the most used business / professional networking tool, although to my irritation, it seems they want to be more like Facebook, because now I get notices about peoples’ birthdays, which is pretty useless for business networking. I mean, I am not going to consider someone professionally as a result of a birthday wish and if you don’t know it already, keeping business and personal activities separate should be a Golden Rule. Furthermore, LinkedIn is a key resource for most recruiters I know, me included. For your information, here is a list of 20 business -aimed social networking websites you may find useful:
Another option for social networking for professional purposes is to find resources that are industry specific in scope. For example, I am a military Veteran and there are social networking resources for Veterans. These organizations fulfill many roles and one of them is networking for job opportunities. One with which I am familiar and endorse is, which is a resource for all U.S. Military Veterans but with a special focus on Airborne, Special Forces and Spec Ops Veterans. Social networking isn’t simply about providing a place for professionals to find jobs but, in the case of groups such as Gallant Few, it provides a morale-support aspect when associating with like-minded and focused professionals. 
The other type of networking activity is true-blue traditional, business and professional networking. Networking for professional and business purposes, that which networking was before the advent of the digital age, was always conducted in-person and face-to-face. Often business deals were and are conducted as a result. The reason is simple -- via relationships, built as a direct result of physical interaction, is still the most effective because there is more trust and confidence built on personal relationships. Again, association with like-minded people increases the chances of gaining a tangible result. Consider this: would you be as willing to provide a professional reference to someone with whom you might have exchanged online correspondences but don’t know, or, for someone with whom you’ve actually met in person and interacted?
Generally speaking, networking is a wise addition to your job search efforts. Many people have better results networking than they do with over-reliance on passive online methods, which allow you to sit on your butt while pretending you’ve actually done something. However, networking of any kind is an activity that takes time, so if you have a short attention span or are obsessed with instant gratification, your expectations may be unrealistic. 
Also, keep in mind that searching for a job requires a multi-faceted concert of interwoven activities. This means you also need to have a credible and coherent professional online presence, separate from your personal profile, which I hope your privacy settings reflect. For more suggestions about your online presence in this regard, see my blog entry from Monday, the 2nd of March, earlier this month.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Failure to Communicate

During the conduct of the interview, an applicant is supposed to elaborate upon the information on their resume in order to give the interviewer a good and thorough understanding of their abilities, and how that can relate to the role for which they have applied. Meanwhile, the interviewer should be able to explain to any and all applicants as to what the job entails, and also elaborate about the organization, including the reason as to why this firm is worthy of joining. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get real and substantive information that is necessary to any thoughtful decision; I am speaking with reference to both the interviewer as well as the interviewee. 
I speak and meet with a lot of people and the majority are spewing the same old tired clichés and lines. There is so little originality as everyone is becoming a stereotype. Hiring managers repeat the same lines that have no meaning and their brains are too often shut off as they just go through the motions. I spoke with a hiring manager who told me they are looking for someone who is innovative, someone who is a self-starter and a hard worker (yawn). So I asked, “What do you mean by that; please describe what innovative means to you? How do you define a self-starter and a hard worker; I need to understand your perspective in order to find you the type of person you are describing?” As often happens, they looked   confused and, as often occurs, they didn’t know how to answer. At the same time they are dumbfounded as to why they can’t attract the right potential employees. Or, if I ask them, “Okay, so help me to help you; in order to attract the types of people you say you want to hire, please tell me a few reasons why someone should consider joining your company?” They go on to say things such as, “We’re a market leader”, or “We’re a great place to work”… But when I again ask them what that means and to elaborate, their frustration is visible (and so is mine). 
To be fair, job applicants are very often just as zombie-esque in their rote and empty claims. They say things such as, “I want to join a good company.” So I ask them to elaborate, to explain to me what their definition of a good company is, to which they reply, “You know, a good and stable company with growth potential.” And again, I ask them what does that mean, to them?  Increasingly often, they can’t answer with anything more than generalities or more clichés. Meanwhile, they are frustrated that no company is calling them back.
In both cases, I have to really probe to get any real substance from them and often they become frustrated by my questions because, for whatever reason, they are not capable of articulating what they want, or seek to really communicate. I don’t expend much effort or waste much time with these people. 
Where this is going is simple; regardless of on which side of the table you sit during the interview process, you have to switch off the auto-pilot, grab the controls and fly manually, using your God-given senses and develop your abilities, if you want to excel. You have to do more than to only want or wish it. Sure, everyone says they want to, and if you ask them they’ll tell you they really, really mean it. You must be able to do more than simply talk a good game. At the very minimum, may I suggest that you conduct the most basic of due diligence necessary in order to both back up and elaborate your claims. Be able to actually represent yourself and your organization with more substance than worn-out talking points; in short, try actually communicating and engaging in a discussion at the interview, rather than trading in canned and watered-down empty calorie questions and answers. Or, as another cliché would suggest that you not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.
And if I haven’t already made my point, try this; sharp hiring managers take notice of those who do more than spew forth the same old boring clichés. Likewise, sharp candidates recognize and gravitate toward hiring managers who are not just going through the motions and faking it. If you want to be different, try a little individuality. I say it too often but for many it falls on deaf ears; if you look like, sound like and act like everyone else, why should anyone take notice of, or choose you, over any of the other also-rans? 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why You Should Heed My Advice

I hear people complain and say, “…you don’t know how tough it is.” Or, “when was the last time you looked for a job”, blah, blah…  well, those folks couldn’t be more mistaken. For those who want to do more than to complain; if you are serious and you mean it, I can help with useful advice if you’re ready to do more than most people – who, by the way, aren’t doing much so it’s no wonder many see no real results.
For more than two decades I have been conducting business that is closely connected to peoples’ job searches and interview efforts. So I have been directly involved with, witnessed, and heard more situations than I could ever list. Furthermore, I apply the same advice that I give to others, and translate it into my own business development efforts, which includes sales technique that is at the heart of what you should be doing for yourself now, or whenever you will find yourself searching and/or interviewing for a new job.
For example: When I am conducting business development and building relationships with new companies to market my services, it’s a sure bet they already have someone else they are using for their recruiting needs. So, if I call them and say something generic, weak, and non-specific like, “…do you have any vacant positions, maybe I can help”, they will disregard me. It is likely they’ll walk away from the conversation feeling they just wasted five minutes of their life that they can’t get back. The simple fact is I’ve given them no reason to take notice of me or consider me any further, because I would sound like every other mediocre person out there saying the same, lame thing. You know, like most job seekers who can’t figure out why they are getting nowhere. If I want to be seriously considered, I must give them a reason as to why they should consider me over someone else, whose services they already use, or why they should consider my services compared with many others seeking the same thing. So let me ask rhetorically, how does this differ from your task, when you seek to gain the attention of a potential employer? 
If you haven’t already noticed, what I’ve just described is selling, whether selling a service, a tangible product, or selling someone on the idea that you are more worthy of notice and consideration than the next person, and this is what I do when I coach people in their job search and interview efforts. These concepts are necessary and to dismiss it is fine, you can go right back to the crowd standing over there, collecting dust and bitching about how unfair everything is. Or, you can challenge yourself to take one or more of my suggestions and step out of your comfort zone, which I contend for some, may not be so comfy. 
The job market is difficult and getting more so. Don’t doubt me on this selling business as it relates to your efforts. You are the product and your resume is your product brochure, and the sooner you get your head around that fact, the better. Furthermore, a professional sales person is someone who truly believes in the product(s) or services they represent. Any loser who claims, “I can sell anything” is a con artist, at best. 
So, if you believe in yourself, what you have to offer a company, and you feel confident you can contribute to an organization of which you seek to be a part, you must get them to take notice. That takes more than a finely-crafted resume, the sole purpose of which is to get you in the door and seated in front of a hiring manager. Which means, you will need to multi-task and get beyond the resume in order to truly capitalize on any opportunity. 
One thing I am not shy about is saying that the people I coach always do better and are better prepared for their interviews. So it’s up to you, do things your way if it is working for you and getting results. If it is not, well… I don’t suggest anyone do anything I haven’t or wouldn’t do myself. The new reality these last few years requires that you must do more than have a good resume to be noticed. You can’t get hired if you can’t get noticed, and you’re unlikely to get noticed if you are standing in the middle of a crowd of others, who all look and sound alike.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Increasing Your Chances

I am always preaching to people that they should exercise all their options and to not rely solely upon point-and-click online job search efforts, which have a limited chance for success, if that’s all you are doing. You should avail yourself of multiple methods and strategies. However, I’ve never said nor suggested you stop your online efforts when, in fact, you should be doing many different things simultaneously.
Most people have a resume and many invest a lot of time to have a good one. But even those focused predominantly on digital means fail to use social media to its fullest potential. While I espouse the need for people to be proactive and hands-on in their efforts, you should not neglect the passive means by which others might come upon and find you. You must learn how to juggle your efforts; you have to multi-task. 
There is little doubt that LinkedIn, as an example, is a good resource and currently the most popular social-networking resource on a professional level. Most recruiters and agencies use it as a primary tool and resource to quickly and effectively find potential job candidates. That won’t be the case forever and at some point something else will replace it, but for the moment I don’t see anything on the horizon.
It doesn’t cost anything to have a profile and I suggest that, if you don’t have one, to consider it. If you do, then it should be every bit as good, impactful and as detailed as your resume – frankly speaking, it should be identical to your resume. Many different professions have social media sites reflective of their market and business niche. I am in no way endorsing LinkedIn but simply using it as a frame of reference.  
Many are nervous because, well, what if their boss sees it? And guess what, I’ll bet he or she has a similar profile. It is also likely they are listed and have a professional bio on their company website, so why not you, as well? I’m only suggesting you post a professional profile like everyone else and, if you are asked, simply tell them the truth -- you want to increase your online professional credentials. If you are still worried, then improve upon it in stages so as not to arouse any attention. Furthermore, if you have invested time in your resume, it makes sense and requires very little time to transfer the info onto whatever professional social networking website suits you, be it LinkedIn, Xing or any number of pages focusing on your niche market; there are also groups and associations for military veterans for social networking. However, resist the urge to sign up and post on too many different pages, lest you’ll lose track of all the places where your info is posted. There are exceptions, and some companies or organizations forbid their employees from posting online professional profiles, but that is usually due to security concerns. 
I’ve long suggested you adopt a mindset by which you are always watchful for new opportunities, regardless of how secure you think your job is – today.  But that is not the main point, which is, you are simply keeping with modern trends and that means you have an online professional profile. By the way, if your boss has one, does that automatically mean he or she is looking for a job? 
I am not anti-corporate, but I am more pro-employee than ever, for the simple fact that we are all regarded as more expendable than ever – even though there are, as I contend, no expendable people. The days of companies looking out for and taking care of their employees is a thing of the past, which means you have to do more for yourself; if no one is looking out for you then who else is going to do it?
Increase your odds as best you can and this is yet but one small thing to add to a long list, which you can and should do for yourself. Do this not to replace your physical efforts but to raise your professional profile in conjunction with your other efforts.