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.

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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.

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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LinkedIn Mistakes Job Seekers Make

LinkedIn Mistakes

As an active or passive job seeker, the job market can be a bit tricky. Even more so, job seeking can seem intimidating when a seeker is constantly reminded of all the things they need to do in order to stand out to a recruiter. One of the popular tools job seekers and recruiters now utilize is LinkedIn. Although this has been used for several years now, seekers who are new to the platform or haven’t used it often enough may not know the ins and outs of this social media platform, including the expected etiquette. As a recruiter, I’ve seen the painful misuse of this site which may or may not have cost candidates a job opportunity.

Yes, LinkedIn is a social media platform. Yes, it’s used to build networks and communicate. However, LinkedIn is NOT a lot of things. For example:

  • LinkedIn is not Match.com: this is by far the worst offense myself and other recruiters have experienced. LinkedIn is a site for professionals to network and shouldn’t be utilized as a primary source to find an intimate relationship or hook up. More importantly, these intentions (either sweet or inappropriately worded) should not be the first form of communication to a new connection. If you are a job seeker at a job fair, would you approach a recruiter at their booth/table and say the same things? No.
  • LinkedIn is not Facebook: LinkedIn is a fantastic way to share news, industry-related content or even promote your own content to build a personal brand. Plenty of professionals have used this well and I’ve found it to be a great source of information. However, there are a few people out there who use the “update status” section as a way to post useless information. Honestly, there are plenty of people who misuse the same feature on Facebook, but at least that site is a bit more casual in comparison to LinkedIn. If you’re a job seeker trying to get your name out there, do you think irrelevant or inappropriate posts are going to help you show prospective employers your worth?
  • LinkedIn is not Instagram: Of course, some professions are much more creative than others and LinkedIn can definitely be used to promote these portfolios. However, if you are in this type of profession or even if you’re not, there should be a limit to what you post. Much like the inappropriate dating emails or irrelevant status updates, images shared on LinkedIn should be reflective of how you’d want to present yourself to a recruiter or hiring manager. Nix the awkward selfies as your profile pictures. Try to avoid “oversharing” by posting pictures unrelated to what should be shared to your network.
  • LinkedIn is not Twitter: Twitter is a great way microblog, self-promote, network and just post a quick update. It’s not uncommon for people to post several times a day and with Twitter chats being a great way to virtually network, it’s not uncommon for people to post several times an hour. However, this elevated amount of posting should be kept exclusively to Twitter. LinkedIn’s newsfeed is already bombarded with an obscene amount of content. Limit your LinkedIn postings to a reasonable amount on a daily basis or weekly basis. You don’t want to annoy people with your over-posting to the point where they end up hiding your updates. This could seriously work against you if you ever do post any updates you want seen.

Of course, no one is perfect and there’s no perfect way to be a LinkedIn member. Even I’ve been an offender of some of these situations. Some people might like what you share, while others won’t. Some posts might work for certain professions while others don’t. The important thing is to do your homework, understand how this platform works and really research your “audience”. And always err on the side of caution. If you think your postings can work against you in your job hunt, then reconsider before you post.

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Taking Social Media Recruitment to the Next Level

instagram and vine

For years we’ve been hearing about utilizing social media for recruitment. Over time, this developed beyond sites like LinkedIn and has now spilled over to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Open Source. But are you still missing out on available talent?

With more candidates finding ways to creatively share their personal brands, it might be wise to start tapping into other social media sites like Instagram and Vine. Not sure where to start? Check out a blog I wrote on SourceCon last month.

“Let’s Get Visual: Attracting and Sourcing Candidates Using Instagram and Vine.” Click here to read the original blog post on SourceCon.

Marketing and the Recruitment Professional

Don't jump bus advertisement

I remember when I first started learning about talent acquisition and recruitment. It seemed like the role focused more on keyword searches to find a bunch of resumes on job boards. Once a large stack of resumes was acquired, I then spent time interviewing individuals for jobs. If a job wasn’t open, I performed discovery calls to proactively build talent pools in the event that a new position opened up. Search, review, interview, document, and repeat. After a few months of going through this cycle, I felt turned off by the systematic approach. I thought this function was supposed to be about communication and genuine human interaction, not a robotic process. I bowed out from the recruitment role and eventually came back a couple years later to discover that it had morphed into something bigger and better.

When I originally decided to pursue a degree and career in human resources, I never dreamed that marketing skills would be imperative to have. When I returned back to the recruitment field, I soon learned that the role had taken on a new form and the successful recruiters were the one who blended talent acquisition skills with marketing. No longer did recruiters source the job boards for hours on end. Instead, they had structured their day to have equal time for sourcing/recruiting, interviewing, and now, marketing. After I got a sense of what people were doing, I dove right in and created a marketing strategy of my own.

  • I said farewell to posting and praying: Instead of posting job openings and waiting for people to apply, I became more proactive. How was I going to share this with people? More importantly, how was I going to make this engaging? My job promotions had started off as a link to the job with the title and location. Soon, I developed it into mini-marketing campaigns. These campaigns offered details that job seekers really cared about: company culture; things happening in the company; details about the office environment; details about the people they’d work with; and more insight to the projects or things they’d impact if they took the job.
  • I went to the places that allowed resumes to come to life: If you guessed social media, you’d be partially correct. Although social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have been great, there is so much more out there. I started researching candidates and found blogs, portfolios, interest groups, other specialized social sites, and more. This helped me see more of what they had to offer than what their resume initially stated. It took their resume and made them into a 3D version of a candidate. I loved it.
  • I nixed the template messages: When I receive a message that seems even remotely “spammy”, I typically delete it before I even read it. How do you think candidates feel when it’s obvious that they’re just another person on a list for recruiter spam? I took this into serious consideration and decided to spend more time on message customization. After I researched the candidate thoroughly through social sites, read more about what they like, or learned about what opportunities they were looking for, I got cracking on some message creations. I let them know why I was contacting them and what individual characteristics stood out to me. Additionally, I’d include specifics about the opportunity based on what the candidate seemed to be interested in. Does it take extra time and effort to do this? Sure, but the response rate increased because of it.

Of course, there are plenty of other things that a recruiter can do to blend marketing skills into their recruitment strategy but these were some of the first ones I eased into once I got back in the game. It was nice to start seeing a candidate as an individual, talented person rather than a keyword search result. It was also amazing to see how people responded to my creativity. In a sense, it felt honest because I was spending more time connecting opportunity with the right people and vice versa. If you’re in talent acquisition/recruitment and you haven’t tested these skills out yet, I highly recommend it.

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Revamping Your Interview Strategy

Oh, interviews. The bane of many job seeker’s existence. The thing that causes stress, anxiety, and frustration. The part of the job hunt that we try to prepare the hardest for and yet it sometimes doesn’t seem to be enough. The one thing that has us beating our brains, trying to figure out where we went wrong if we end up not landing the job. After being a job seeker and then a recruiter, I can safely say there is no magic formula to help you be an expert interviewer. However, regardless of how strong of an interviewee you are, there are still plenty of ways for you to properly prepare yourself to make you feel confident in your abilities. After being rejected several times when I was a job seeker and then working on the other side of the interview table, I soon found ways that have helped me and the candidates I’ve coached be more successful during this portion of their job search.

Here are some best practices to help you prepare for your interviews:

  • Review the job description and company details in depth: look over the job description and get a feel for the types of skills they seem to be looking for. Really absorb the verbiage they use when describing their expectations. Once you feel you have a clear understanding of this, make sure to check out their career site and company details. Take the time to understand their company culture, their mission statement, and even try to find employee testimonials to gain some insight of what it would be like to work there. Having these details will set you up nicely for the next step.
  • Take stock of you own skills: more often than not, candidates end up talking themselves out of a job. Either they say too much or they say too little. It’s important to find that middle ground that allows you to provide the information you intended to without causing the interviewer’s eyes to glaze over. Compare your experience against the job description. Can you sum up your experience and skills in a couple solid sentences that seems to hit the key things they’re looking for? Make it easier for the interviewer to see your transferable skills by finding ways to express your experience clearly, concisely, and in a way that will closely match their job description.
  • Write it down: many times, the first interview is an introductory phone screen. It will be very beneficial for you to write down the skills you assessed in the step above to ensure you have all the details readily available. Additionally, write down examples of how you used these skills on the job. Aside from general questions about your experience, recruiters will also ask you situational or behavioral questions that help them assess your level of experience in the skills they’re requiring. Having these examples written down already will allow you to get straight to the point without getting stumped or providing unnecessary details. It can also allow you to reduce your nerves when you’re racking your brain for an example without causing too much of an awkward pause.
  • Use your network: there are many people out there that you can connect with that have either worked in a similar job, a similar company, or actually worked/works at the company you’re interviewing at. Take the time to talk to them about their interview experience. There may be a chance that certain interview questions stuck out in their mind. Knowing these questions beforehand can help you be one step ahead. If you don’t feel comfortable connecting with people you don’t know, do a general search for interview questions relevant for the job you’re going for. They may not be the exact questions, but they could give you a good feel of what you may be asked throughout the interview process.
  • Use your resources: the internet is a wonderful tool. Candidates have the ability to research the company in depth. PR pieces, forums, and blogs can help job seekers get a sense of what’s happening in the company or get an idea of what others are saying about the company. Websites like Glassdoor provide detailed reviews in regard to employees’ overall feelings about working for the company. Some interviewees also give details about their interview experience, things to look out for, questions they were asked, and provide general advice. Not only will reviewing these details help you with your interview, but it can also help you formulate impressive questions for the recruiter.
  • Show that you did your homework: recruiters are often impressed by candidates that have done their homework. They’re even more impressed by the candidates that seemed to go above and beyond and looked deeper than just what is on the company website. In that same regard, they also enjoy well-thought out questions that are a step above the general ones that they’re typically asked. Did you see something on a blog that interested you? Ask them more about it. Was there an employee review that sparked up something that concerned you? Try to get clarification on the situation. These are the types of things that help the interviewer feel like you genuinely care about the company you’re recruiting for.
  • Follow up: doing well in your interview isn’t the last step of having a good interview. It’s also about what you do AFTER the interview. If you have a LinkedIn account, be sure to connect with the individuals you spoke with. If you have the email or phone number of those individuals, be sure to send a follow up message to thank them and reiterate your continued interest in this position. This can help them feel that you are serious about this job.

Interviewing is definitely a tough thing to master and although I wish I had a way to assure you that this will help you land a job 100% of the time, I can’t. The important thing is to use this as a guide to help you build the confidence and skills you need to do better during your interviews. But above all else, the best thing you can do is learn to be adaptable. If something you tried during an interview didn’t work out as you had hoped, take the time to evaluate what went wrong and find a way to tweak your tactic so you have better luck next time. Eventually, all your hard work will pay off.

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