Want to know the best way to be proactive in your job search? Check out my latest VentureFizz post here to learn more.
Interviewing is never easy no matter how skilled or comfortable you are when it comes to selling yourself. Preparation prior to the interview can be involved and the amount of interviews within an interview loop can be demanding. The agonizing waiting period between the final interview and offer can be stressful. But, throughout the whole process, many job seekers are more focused on impressing the interviewer and landing that offer, causing them to forget that the interview is mutually beneficial for them, as well. This process is a prime time for a job seeker to investigate the company by asking deep questions to as many interviewers as possible. This can ensure that the company is worth the effort.
When I was in talent acquisition, I’d often ask my candidates if they had any questions at the end of the interview. A good portion of the time, candidates didn’t have any. Or if they did, they were often very basic. The questions typically covered things like pay, expectations, management style and so on. Many of those questions could have been answered by simply reviewing the job description or doing research on the company. In the end, the responses didn’t clearly show a candidate why this is a good employer for them for the long-term. Knowing salary details and day-to-day duties are important, but it doesn’t get to the core regarding what else the candidate would face if they accepted an offer. More importantly, the answers could easily be a canned, elevator-speech that gives no deeper insight. When all is said and done, a candidate may accept a job only to realize that there are a ton of deal breakers that they missed.
Whenever I’m interviewing somewhere, I like to take the time to ask each interviewer unique questions. It’s a fantastic way to learn about their experiences and the variations between them, allowing you to get a fuller picture of the company. It doesn’t necessarily have to be job-specific; the questions can have a range between job details, company culture, values, general experiences/examples and so on. The important thing is not to just listen to the responses, but also to take notice of their reactions when answering. Does their face light up? Do they seem cautious and guarded? Is it a genuine answer or does it seem practiced and calculated? These things can help you see which responses are more honest and which ones seem suspiciously reserved.
Some questions might include:
- What was a defining moment at the company that made you say, “This is why I’m here”?
- Do you have an example of a situation internally or with a client that resonated with you?
- What makes you proud to work here?
- What is the dynamic of the team you work with? How do they function during good times? More importantly, how do they work together during the bad?
- What makes your experience with this employer different from previous ones? What makes you stay?
- What is one project that you could work on at the company, whether you believe it would be implemented or not?
Hearing their stories is a great way for a candidate to envision themselves at the company. Even if all of the responses are positive, some of the answers might shed light on things that a candidate does or does not want to face at their workplace. These things should be considered heavily along with the traditional aspects such as compensation, benefits, perks, culture, employee value proposition, job, department, managers and the like. When an individual spends a significant time at work, it’s best to identify whether it is a right fit or not.
I’ve been networking with a lot of job seekers lately who have expressed their frustrations about finding good jobs in corporate America. Some of them have considered working for startups even though they know that sometimes working with a startup could be unstable. Others have even considered starting their own. Regardless, many of them were curious to know more about life at a startup to determine if it was the right choice for them. Luckily, I have recently connected with an individual who lives in Silicon Valley and has worked in different startup environments. She was happy to provide useful information about this.
Jocelyn Aucoin, who currently works at WorkSimple in San Francisco, has been kind enough to answer the following questions about startups. Here are some details to help give a realistic idea about it:
Ashley Perez (AP): How did you get involved with startups?
Jocelyn Aucoin (JA): “A good friend of mine originally approached me about helping him out with a startup he was working with, knowing I had a background of running my own business and knowing how key an autonomous work ethic is to working at a startup. I was immediately hooked. Startup life really feeds my love of building and creating.”
AP: What are some of the most interesting lessons you’ve learned?
JA: “I’ve learned to be just as proud of my failures as I am my successes. If I’m not pushing myself, if I’m staying comfortable, then I’m probably pretty safe, right? But if I’m working to constantly do more with what I know, challenge the status quo, and think ‘sideways’, then I’m going to fail. It’s inevitable. And I’m totally fine with that. I’d rather try and fail then never try.”
AP: What are some examples of things that go against common belief in terms of starting a startup?
JA: “I think there’s a misconception that people ‘settle’ for working at startups. This is just not true. The brightest, bravest, most creative people I’ve met in my working career are the ones working for startups. If you want to be inspired – daily – it’s where you want to be.”
AP: What are some of the challenges that startup employees face?
JA: “The biggest challenge for me personally is the extreme ebb and flow. The work pace is unpredictable and things happen fast and without warning. That means you have to be on your toes at all times, ready to go. And whereas that’s difficult in terms of planning out a week or a month, it’s a catch-22 because it’s also what keeps me from getting bored.”
AP: What are some realistic situations that employees can deal with when accepting a position with a startup (i.e. lack of benefits, lack of stability?)
JA: “Well, there aren’t always a lack of benefits. That can be the case – but not always. It depends on the type of work you’re in and the level of the startup. But yeah – it’s realistic to expect a bit of instability. Again I’d say that’s what makes it exciting. It’s a bit like walking a tightrope. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
AP: What is the difference of a startup environment vs. an established company?
JA: “Established companies typically have ways that things have been done and they require things be done in this way. Startup culture is built around innovation – and that shakes down to every level. They will generally welcome new ways of thinking and new ideas which breeds energy and creativity. You notice the difference from the moment you step foot inside a startup. You can feel energy.”
AP: What is some advice you can give to job seekers who are considering working for a start up?
JA: “Practical advice? Identify the companies where you can see yourself and start connecting with the people who work there via in any way you can. Don’t send a blind resume. Instead, say you’d like to chat and share ideas. Remember, startup culture is about collaboration and ideation. And things move fast. Also, these places don’t have big HR systems in place, so don’t expect process to move in an overly processed way. General advice? Buckle. your. seatbelt!”
I was thankful for connecting with Jocelyn because this seems to be a hot topic out in the working world. Her answers proved that startup life can be exciting. Also, working for a startup can have an equal share of failures mixed with successes. If your personality and work ethic match some of the things Jocelyn had mentioned, I’m sure you will find your experience rewarding no matter what the outcome may be.
More about Jocelyn: Jocelyn Aucoin is the Community and Social Media Manager at San Francisco and Minneapolis – based startup, WorkSimple. Find her at Blue Bottle Coffee or on Twitter at @jocelynaucoin.
“It’s all about who you know,” I’d often hear people say to me while I was going to college. More seasoned professionals had constantly told me that in order to leverage my position into the working world, it was best if I knew someone. I figured that knowing someone wasn’t as important as getting the education and experience to prove that I was competent enough to do a job. However, I soon found out that the advice of getting to know people was important for my career. Getting knowledge and experience was great but if you didn’t know someone to display that to, then your career hunt could be a bust. Therefore, I’d like to focus today’s post on the benefits of business networking, both internally and externally.
Sometimes people underestimate the importance of networking (I was one of them at one point). As I network more and more, I really do see that there are some fantastic benefits to it. Networking can help your career in the following ways:
- Keep you abreast about industry trends: Networking can help you learn about industry trends, concepts, technology, news, and resources that you may have never easily learned about on your own. Additionally, talking to individuals that know more about this topic can allow you to get a deeper understanding and obtain knowledge that could give you a competitive edge for your job hunt.
- Keep you in the loop about what companies are hiring: There are a lot of great companies out there that you may not know about. Networking can help you get exposure to companies that fit what you’re looking for but you haven’t discovered yet on your own. Additionally, finding companies that aren’t as well known could help you have less competition for the jobs you are applying to.
- Allow you to know ASAP about job openings in the companies you are targeting: Companies don’t always post their jobs externally. Networking with people can allow you to know about job openings before others do, which could increase your chances of being selected.
- Open up communication with other recruiters/hiring managers: Sometimes the people you network with won’t always have an opportunity for you. However, if you build these relationships they’ll be more willing to refer you to other individuals that do have openings and could put in a good word about you. Referrals are highly regarded.
- Raise your professional profile within a company and/or industry: Networking internally could help you build your reputation in a positive light. You could go from the average employee to the go-to guru. Building clout this way could help you obtain a promotion at your current employer or become a desired employee that companies seek.
- Get opportunities to work on special projects: Getting to know people can allow them to learn your interests and your abilities. Therefore, they could easily consider you for any upcoming projects in your workplace that are relevant to these. Having the opportunity to work on these special projects could help you gain useful experience and knowledge that will build your resume up nicely.
- Showcase experience to correct hiring managers when attempting to get a promotion or raise: Your professional profile and contributions to special projects could easily catch the eye of the hiring managers in your workplace. These things can support your resume and could allow managers to confidently consider you for promotions or raises.
There are so many benefits networking can provide. I’ve started networking a lot more and wished that I had done it sooner. I’ve met so many interesting people that have taught me so much about the field I’m interested in and even more. These individuals have been so helpful and were willing to spread the word about my blog. They have also sent my resume out to their connections to help my job hunt. It’s been a joy networking with these people and I hope that I can pay forward the kindness they have shown me. I strongly suggest that you take time to build these relationships because they could be great for your career in the long run.
Photo Source: Infovark
Job seekers, are you tired of getting no response to your resume submittal? Recruiters, are you sick of looking at the same resume styles over and over again? Having been in both situations, I can honestly say I am. It’s been quite a dull experience creating my resume or having to review resumes of others. After a while, all resumes seem to blend together and it becomes hard for candidates stand out and differentiate themselves from others. Over the years, it has been beaten into our brains that a professional resume needs to follow a certain format. However, does this still hold true today?
Throughout my research, I have noticed that employers are starting to appreciate people who take a creative approach to their resumes. Candidates are finding ways to customize their resumes to show their industry and job function competency. For example, my friend who is pursuing production in the motion picture industry recently showed me his resume. It was a fun, artistic page that looked like a movie ad. It included his information, education, and links to the projects he had done. In my recruiting days, I had never seen a resume like that. It was actually quite enjoyable.
As I investigated this topic further, I came across the following cases: marketing candidates who created their resume as a brochure; broadcasting candidates who made videos or recordings of “radio hosting” as their resume; and creative writing majors who made their resume into a short story. I found these methods to be imaginative, entertaining, and a good way to display their capabilities. I would have much rather reviewed these resumes than the mundane “chronological” format.
A new extension of people’s “resumes” will be the social media aspect. Recruiters can now review candidates’ “web presence” via social sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Candidates: here is another way you can make yourself shine. Make sure your profiles clearly display your experience and education for the job/industry you’re targeting. Post things that are relevant and display your up-to-date knowledge of an industry’s news. However, please note: if you make your profile pages public to employers, make sure you don’t have anything incriminating on there (i.e. embarrassing party photos, unprofessional e-mail addresses, or taboo “interests and activities”). I’m all about individualism but there has to a certain line you shouldn’t cross, especially while actively finding work.
Job Seekers, I’m in the same boat so I know how tiring it can be to keep fighting for opportunity and not find it. I urge you to take a chance and let your personality show. Find a new way to demonstrate who you are and what you can do. For example, I’m interested and experienced in human resources, technology, and writing. Those are the three industries I’m targeting but it was becoming apparent to me that I had to do something more than submit a resume via job postings…so, I did. In fact, you’re reading the version of my resume. This blog was meant to inspire, open minds, and have people consider different perspectives. I also created this to help motivate people stuck in a rut and hopefully give them ideas on a new tactic. However, this is also my personal resume. This blog will display the following to employers:
• My competency in: writing and blogging; human resources; and social media use.
• I’m up-to-date with human resources and technology trends and news.
• I understand information relevant to the industry well enough to create my own ideas from it.
I think what’s most important about creating your own resume is the fact that you can show employers more of who you are. The original formatted resume shows employers that we can do specific job functions but it doesn’t prove that we truly understand it on a deeper level. It doesn’t illustrate our passion. Sure, my resume might say I have successfully performed data entry but does that mean I want to spend 40 hours a week entering data? Additionally, we’ve created our original resumes to have specific keywords and terms that employers were looking for. If we all conform to what we think employers want to see on our resumes, it’s no wonder why our resumes blend in.
Some employers will appreciate your method and some may not. But that’s the point- finding an employer that appreciates you and vice versa. It’s time to test the waters and take that extra step to stand out against the competition. Most importantly, make sure you have fun while you’re doing it!
Links to read (I apologize, hyperlink function does not work!):
No More Resumes, Say Some Firms- WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203750404577173031991814896.html
For those who have read some of my previous blogs, I’m sure you can see that I enjoy writing about finding a fit between candidate and company. I strongly believe that job seekers can find what will make them happiest if they spend time determining their values and what they truly want out of an employer. If they have the luxury of time, I typically urge people to hold out for a company that can offer them the closest to their ideal. If not, then I suggest for those who need to take a job for financial reasons to still continue to search for their perfect situation. Although this information is all fine and dandy, it does not give suggestions or tips for what happens once you land an interview.
So, let’s fast forward a bit. Let’s say you took the time to dig deeper into your inner self and were able to determine what you really wanted out of a company and job. After a little soul searching you were able to find a few companies that seemed to be aligned with your requirements and decided to apply to an open position there. Well, it was all smooth sailing up to that point but what happens when someone actually calls you in for an interview? How do you prepare for the interview to ensure that the company is how you perceived it?
My best suggestion is to have well-thought out, structured questions. Unfortunately, candidates in this economy have shied away from asking questions for fear of turning off the interviewer. Contrary to popular belief, most interviewers actually enjoy speaking to candidates that ask solid questions. This shows that the candidate did their homework, was genuinely interested in learning more about the company, and actually took the time to think of ways to contribute to the interview rather than it just is one-sided. Good questions can not only impress the interviewer but also help you get a better feel for the company before deciding to accept a job offer that might come your way. The interviewer may also get a better feel for you, too.
To prep for your interview, re-research the company by doing a deep dive. Get down to the nitty gritty and find all the legitimate details you can in regard to the company. Once you’ve compiled all the important information, compare those notes against the things you want out of a company. Connect the link between the two and take the time to formulate some intelligent questions. If aren’t sure where to start when it comes to creating these questions, feel free to look at the link at the bottom of this article written by Jacquelyn Smith from Forbes.com. She had some great questions to ask, as well as questions to avoid.
I’m sure you’ve done your research before committing to anything big, pricy, or long-term: buying houses, moving, purchasing a car, deciding on a college, and so on. Why should a job be any different? You spend a good portion of your life at a job and typically, most people try to find a company they can commit to long-term. Try to get the most information you can before making that commitment. That includes asking questions and getting informative answers from someone on the inside. It pays to take this extra step.
Take control of your employment choices and continue on the path of finding that perfect fit for you. Don’t let it all fall apart once you get to the interview stage. After all, you’ve made it this far in your career goals- don’t give up on what you want now. Best of luck!
Ideas for interview questions:
Since the fall of the economy, candidates have been fighting to find work. There have been endless days of restructuring resumes, checking job boards, dead-end interviews, and rejections. Rejections come in all forms: no response, a generic e-mail that gives no reason, a quick e-mail/phone call to let you know they went for a more “qualified candidate”– and that’s that. Another defeat.
After this sets in we start to try to find ways to portray ourselves to be the “best fit”– we update resumes and professional sites, we research interview tips to make sure we say all the right things, we try to obtain any experience we can just to fit those requirements the company looks for. And yet, even after we’ve exhausted ourselves with all of our efforts to be “perfect”, it didn’t make a difference. We are still jobless to the point where we consider taking anything just to keep ourselves financially afloat.
My question is: why are we trying so hard only to fit what a company is looking for?
I feel that employers should be considered partners. You do for them, and they do for you- that is a good relationship that will be beneficial to both parties and will allow both to progress. So why are we trying so hard to only fit their needs and completely push aside our own?
Ideally, before the workforce (or lack-there-of) had stomped on any inkling of individual dreams and expectations, we had once had a vision of what our perfect work situation would be. If you completely abandon those, how do you expect to find that one company that makes you want to be committed to them for years to come? Personally, I think that work should be more than just getting a check to pay the bills. It should ignite passion and inspiration. It should make you believe that you are there for a reason, that your effort is recognized, and make you feel like you are irreplaceable.
Perhaps that is a little too naïve and optimistic but if companies are setting the bar high for their future employees, why shouldn’t you do the same for your future employers? It’s a big world out there. There has to be somewhere that could respect your values and maybe even encourage them… so why would you stop until you find it? Don’t settle for less than you deserve. This is your life.
I’m sure you’re used to seeing the requirements on a job posting, why not create your own “employer posting” with your basic requirements and preferred requirements? These things could help you strive for something and potentially ensure your overall long-term happiness with an employer. This could also help you find ways to “interview” the employer rather than have them running the show. Your work is a good portion of your life so it’s important to consider what you’re willing to commit to.
So here’s a shout-out to future employers! Here is a list of my current requirements (basic and preferred) for my next employer:
• I am seeking a company that creates a workplace in which the employees feel like they have purpose and that each employee’s contribution makes the biggest difference, no matter what level or job function.
• I want a workplace that promotes unity and allows all levels and departments to network and function as one team towards its goals, rather than keep everyone siloed in their departments.
• I want leaders that ignite passion and inspire employees to strive to be the best version of themselves, both personally and professionally.
• I want a company that is full of open and curious minds and is willing to listen to suggestions from employees.
• Even more so, I want a company that encourages innovation and will take a chance on things that “can’t be done” because they’ve “never been done” to prove to the world that YES! IT CAN BE DONE! After all, how is business going to progress if no one is willing to take a chance?
• I want managers who are invested in their employees and will take the time to help them grow and help them move forward in their career paths.
• I want a company that tests traditional workplaces by trying alternative workplace styles.
• I want a company that promotes continuous learning and allows employees the opportunity to really find what they’re good at or find something they love to do.
• I want my employers to celebrate individualism and welcome different insights and approaches from these employees.
• I want an employer that let’s employees see a future rather than a dead-end.
These requirements are just to name a few things that I’m looking for. I want a company that actually has a good vision, culture, and mission and follows through with that. So many times I’ve been attracted to companies with wonderfully stated visions and missions only to be disappointed by the reality of it. I want a company that is REAL.
I know that if I find a company like this, I will commit and work hard for them. I will want to grow with them because they will allow me to grow. I would want to be the best employee I could be because they create a positive workplace and do not put a limit on what I can do. Unfortunately, this type of mentality and attitude cannot be reflected on a resume or application… so here are the things I wish I could say. I know what type of person I am and could be…. But those reviewing applications and resumes may not. I’m sure there are plenty others out there that are the same way and it’s a shame to think of all of the amazing employees a company has missed out on because of their rigid requirements and hiring practices.
Maybe I won’t find all the things I want out of an employer but I hope to find an employer that does have some of these things. Like I said, It’s a big world out there and there is bound to be somewhere that understands my values and views. And if I can never find it…. I guess I’ll just have to create it 🙂