4 Tips to Stay Relevant Before Searching for Your Next Job

Want to know the best way to be proactive in your job search? Check out my latest VentureFizz post here to learn more.

Finding Your ‘Culture Fit’ During the Job Search

Job fit isn’t the only thing you should focus on during the job search. Even if the job sounds right, knowing a company’s culture can help you determine if an opportunity is truly right for you.

What does culture fit mean and how can you identify it during your application and interview process? Learn more in my recent blog found on VentureFizz. Click here!

Asking Questions During the Interview Process

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.

2014 at a Glance

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Wow. We’ve made it through another whole year and it seems like they’re flying by faster and faster. As I take a moment to reflect on my personal and professional highlights of 2014, I’m reminded of how much can change in a year. It’s a nice reminder of what can be accomplished, but also that there is still so much more to do.

From a personal standpoint, I moved from Charleston, SC, to Boston, MA. After over a decade of dreaming about travel, I finally took my first European trip to Paris and Rome. I took the leap and became a puppy parent. And I made plans to finally tie the knot with my long-term fiancé in 2015.

From a professional perspective, I continued to build my strategic skills for the talent acquisition space, specifically in recruitment planning and employment branding. I finally had an opportunity to attend a human capital conference, which I absolutely loved. I was even able to meet professional contacts I connected with via social media over the years. Currently, I’m in the process of switching my employer/career, but that will come in due time.

As for blogging, here are the most viewed blogs posted in 2014:

 

Overall, I was both surprised and happy to see that my top post of all time was one of the first ones I wrote on this blog back in 2012: Basic requirements: A candidate’s search for a qualified employer. Since writing this post, my professional career has changed so much. I’ve learned more than I could imagine, gained so many new skills and really saw my potential. I was challenged often and always found a way to rise to the occasion, no matter how impossible it may have seemed.

As I restart my job search in 2015 and finally have a moment to reflect, I reviewed this specific blog post from 2012 and realized that even years later, the things I want from an employer still ring true today. I’ve had a great opportunity to work for a company that hit most of these points for the last 2+ years, letting me know that these companies really do exist. I’m hopeful and looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store for me.

Happy New Year!

#UCFBizChat: Uncovering Company Culture through Social Media

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A former colleague of mine recently reached out to ask if I would host a Twitter chat for her students at University of Central Florida (UCF). As a career center advisor, she was excited about the prospect of her business students getting exposure to seasoned recruiting professionals and the opportunity for them to get sound advice when it comes to careers after college. Of course, I was honored to contribute to the conversation, especially since the topic focused on investigating the company culture of prospective employers via social media.

Not so long ago I was in their shoes, aggressively looking for work at an employer I could feel excited about and one that seemed to match my personality and values. During my search, I discovered how informative social media was when trying to uncover that culture fit. Even after I finally landed a job, I often tell those who come to me for career advice about how important this research could be in terms of finding an employer that’s right for them. And for both students and experienced professionals, this should be a major part of the job seeking process. Digging deep with multiple resources allows a candidate to get a better sense of what the company is all about and may limit any surprises if they end up landing a job with the company.

As I’ve gotten more involved with things like employer branding, I’ve seen the hard work employers put in to try and provide valuable insight into their organization and jobs. They’ve really incorporated a ton of information about their culture, perks, videos, “a day in the life” campaigns and images of events or daily happenings. Although employers go through great lengths to provide a detailed and positive image for their companies to attract talent, I also know there are external factors that play a big part in the full employer brand, including news resources and employees themselves. Job seekers should incorporate this information too to ensure a more realistic and well-rounded view of the organization.

So, some simple research tips I suggest are as follows:

  • Career sites: Career sites are always a great starting point and may provide more information than just a job board. This is a place where employers can include updated information about the organization, specific roles and locations. Be sure to click around and review things like their videos, blogs, benefits details, corporate social responsibility and so on. Also, see if there are any external links to review, such as their social media sites.
  • Social media: Try to find career-focused social media sites for the company or their main social media sites if they don’t have it segregated. Review their postings, see how they interact with people and even investigate some hashtags they are using. This could help you discover current employees that are also using the hashtag to promote life at the company. It could provide you some more candid insight than what the employer shares on its own. Usually Twitter and Instagram are great for researching these things.
  • Google search: Performing general Google searches or setting Google Alerts can allow you to stay current with what’s going on at the company. Press releases, blogs, new jobs and news about the company keeps you updated with both good and bad. It could also help you get a feel for the direction the company is going in before you decide to apply to jobs. After all, you wouldn’t want to accept a job offer for a company that has been experiencing major lay-offs or is being acquired by a company that has a completely different culture. This can help protect your decisions.
  • Social networking: As I mentioned earlier, social media allows you to discover hashtags and current employees. If you’re really interested in a company, social media could be an easy way for you to connect with employees and get some real feedback about what it’s like to work there. If possible, I would also suggest trying to find an employee that either works in the location you’re looking at and/or an employee who might work in the same role or department. This can give you a direct look into the working conditions and culture of that particular office or role. Just because a company is tooting its horn for having an awesome company culture doesn’t always mean this trickles down to each location, department or role. It’s best to hear it straight from someone who knows.

School might be getting out, but doing your homework during your job search can save you a lot of headaches! Make sure to research on multiple platforms to ensure you’re getting the full story.

For those interested in this discussion, be sure to join #UCFBizChat on Friday, October 24th at 11:30am EDT.

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Recruiters: Pick Up the Phone

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post covering some of my findings during an independent research project regarding recruitment shortcomings. Mainly, my discoveries covered a multitude of faux pas regarding initial resume screening and outreach. Some situations were commonly found within the industry, while others were inexcusable. Mostly, though, it seemed to boil down to the fact that these issues could be attributed to poor training and/or unrealistic and irrelevant goals and metrics. Unfortunately, these issues continue on to other areas of the recruitment process, creating new opportunities for poor candidate experience. Let me tell you about the latest blunder I’ve come across…

They tell you that you should always be passively looking for new career opportunities, no matter how loyal and happy you are at your job. You never know what could happen, such as: layoffs; a new manager who is a bad fit; lack of job growth and/or salary growth; relocation; unethical situations from leadership; and so on. There are plenty of reasons why a person should always be building relationships with potential employers. With the recruitment process being somewhat longer than in years past, it’s best to get a head start in case you suddenly find yourself in a less-than-desirable situation with your current employer.

With that being said, I decided to investigate my new stomping ground of Boston and passively see what was out there. Moving from South Carolina up to this city, I was sure that there’d be plenty of opportunities for HR and talent acquisition at desirable companies. Plus, I already had my resume out there for the resume research project and had received plenty of calls and emails from recruiters. Why not actually speak to a few… or should I say TRY to speak to?

Here’s a recent situation that had me shaking my head and really question companies’ approach to talent acquisition. Recently, I was sought out for an HR coordinator role at a Fortune 100 global company. I was intrigued to see what it was all about, being that the company had a well-known consumer brand and is huge. After getting an email from the recruiter requesting some more information about my background, I decided to take a peek at their Glassdoor page. It had no branding and had some fairly low ratings. Normally, that would be a red flag for me but I decided to feel it out instead to really see if it was that bad or if it was just because a specific business unit or location drove down the ratings.

I emailed the recruiter back with the details they were asking for. It was pretty standard and I assumed that I would either never hear from them again, would get a phone call to set up a phone screen or would receive a generic rejection email. I was surprised to get an email back from the recruiter in less than 12 hours requesting more information again, however, this time it was 10 specific questions. As I reviewed the questions, I realized they would have been typical questions you would ask a candidate in a phone screen. I thought it was odd but I complied anyway just to see where it was going. After submitting my answers, I then received a new email asking to meet with him and the HR Director for a 3 hour interview on-site by the end of the week.

It is a candidate’s dream to have such quick turnaround and responsiveness from a recruiter. But, for that quick turn around and for a request for such a formal interview without even being screened seemed sketchy. I did research on the recruiter to double-check that it wasn’t a scam or that it wasn’t a third-party agency. I found that the recruiter was in fact an in-house senior talent acquisition manager for the company. I also verified that the name of the director was correct. My mind was reeling at the fact that the talent acquisition department of a well-known company would be that archaic. Not once did I receive a single phone call from anyone at this company, even if it was to simply schedule the on-site interview. There was no personal interaction whatsoever and I was unappreciative that they didn’t take the time to at least phone screen me. The reason being is that the phone screen isn’t just for a company to feel out a candidate, but it’s also an opportunity for a candidate to feel out the company. Maybe the position wasn’t a right fit, maybe the salary was too low or maybe the culture was not aligned with what I was looking for.

The next thing that bugged me was the fact that I didn’t have an opportunity to ask them anything about the role or company, but they knew plenty about me, especially the fact that I’m working full-time. Why would I waste 3 hours (not including travel time) to meet with a company that I knew nothing about? For all I know, I could have gone to an interview to find out this position was not at all what I was looking for. Do companies actually think passive candidates (especially employed ones) have time to waste by blindly walking into a time-consuming interview? Needless to say, I passed on the opportunity. For someone who is involved in HR and talent acquisition, I could easily tell that these processes seemed to be stuck in the past and there would be no way I could work at a company that wasn’t progressive, especially with things like candidate experience and recruitment in general. I understand that technology is changing the way people communicate, but I just found the lack of personal communication to be unacceptable.

Maybe the position was a great one and would have offered a competitive salary for the new increased cost of living I’m experiencing. Maybe the company actually was progressive and the HR and TA departments would have offered me the best career development experience I’ve ever had. I’ll never know, though, because the recruiter never took the time to pick up the phone to establish that relationship with me and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s experienced this before. Unfortunately, companies who don’t train their recruiters to provide a better candidate experience will be missing out on amazing talent, both active and passive. It’s sad to know that during my research I have only experienced a couple positive and impressive interactions. It really makes me wonder what happened to the recruiting profession.

Poor training doesn’t stop at initial outreach. Companies need to focus on a well-rounded training program that teaches their teams to provide a seamless and positive candidate experience from initial resume screening all the way to onboarding. That’s the ticket to building a strong pipeline of engaged talent that will eventually convert into engaged new hires.

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How Working at a Startup Could be Good for Your Career

While in college and early in my career, it was beat into my head that startups were not a viable choice as an employer. My peers and I were taught that startups were unstable and hard work. We were told that they couldn’t offer the desirable things that big corporations could, such as career growth, benefits and a retirement fund. But as years went by and people within my social circles matured, I’m now suddenly surrounded by individuals who have/are creating startups, work for one or have a desire to work for one. And by learning from them and comparing corporate experience against startups, I’m starting to wonder if we were all taught wrong.

Yes, startups are hard work. As some have told me, there are a lot of challenges when it comes to working at a startup. There are times where one day things are going great and then the next day you could be out of a job. Long days and late nights are common. Also, let’s not forget the anxiety of the daily uncertainty that comes with working at a startup. However, despite all of it, these individuals still prefer that environment over a corporate one… and for good reason.

Startups can be a great experience for recent grads and young professionals who are still developing themselves. Even if you have 5+ years of experience working in an established company, an experience with a startup might not be a bad thing to consider. In fact, the experiences one would face at a startup might be the very things that help you progress in your career faster than in a traditional setting. Here’s why:

  • You learn to be resourceful and independent: Unlike in established organizations, things in a startup aren’t neatly mapped out for you with standard operating procedures and extensive training. Additionally, you may not have experienced professionals to turn to if you have a problem or need help. Even though this might seem like a negative, it can actually be considered a positive because you’d have to learn how to be resourceful through research and self-education. Being independently resourceful, working closely with others and experiencing trial and error can boost your critical-thinking skills more than learning through traditional training. Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills are among the most desired skills by employers, even more so than actual job experience sometimes.
  • You’re exposed to new job functions: Because a startup is typically in a development, maintained or growth state, organizational structure might not be set in stone yet. Also, many job functions may not have been established yet due to lack of capital resources to put towards those full-time salaries. It’s not uncommon for people in a startup to wear multiple hats in order to keep the company afloat and progressive. Because of the blending of roles and the fact that multiple departments will work together, you could be exposed to new skills and knowledge. Diverse skills can help you become better-rounded and understand business on a deeper level. Also notable, it might boost your engagement because you aren’t strapped down to a monotonous job function. Consistently being challenged is very important when developing yourself professionally.
  • You learn a sense of accountability and loyalty: Since startups are generally small or mid-sized, there tends to be a level of transparency in the organization. Not just about the company details but also how your contributions make an immediate impact. Some of the laxed atmospheres of startups also allow people to voice opinions and suggestions and work to make them happen. Having a voice and seeing how your work directly impacts the business can create a sense of accountability and loyalty. Suddenly, you know exactly how you’re making a difference and that can be something to be proud of. You can see how you’re valued. In larger organizations, it might be a bit harder to get that feedback and see how you are helping the company. Also, some might feel like they can be easily replaced because the lack of transparency.
  • You have more control of measuring your results: Going off of accountability and seeing your personal impact, this can also help you measure your results better. Because you’re deeply involved in processes from start to finish, you can have better insight into measurable results. This can not only help you improve processes but also gives you a better look as to how you are progressing in your role. Having control over this and truly understand how it’s being measured may offer better feedback than a traditional performance review.
  • You can keep your integrity: For me, this one is a big one. We’ve all seen it in the news; major scandals in large corporations; employees being mistreated; leaders stealing from pensions; unethical business dealings… just to name a few. Competition can get the better of companies and suddenly they’re overpromising to secure business and end up under-delivering. Boosting bottom lines can mean compromising the moral fiber of the company and then these leaders expect their workers to support those skewed values. It’s a pretty terrible feeling to compromise your own integrity just because the company culture has shifted into something lacking basic values. With startups (at least good startups that haven’t been tainted), people still believe in the greater good. They’re working towards something that matters. Yes, making money and staying afloat matter but egos, pressure and cockiness seems to be less present.

Of course, the aforementioned isn’t true for every startup or every traditional organization. The key is to be sure to do your research. There are plenty of types of startups out there, from small to mid-sized, shipping to funded and more. It’s important to know what your basic needs are to support your livelihood and understand what qualities you respect in an employer. Knowing these things can help you find the right startup culture for you and hopefully that can help you build the skills you need for a stronger professional path.

Looking for a job at a startup? Check out StartupHire.

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