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.

Job Seeker: Don’t Rule Out a Phone Interview

The interview process has evolved over the last few years. I recall interview processes only being an interview or two before the company made a decision on whether or not they wanted to hire you. With the changes in the economy and workforce, recruiters are now overwhelmed with a large amount of candidates applying to their job openings and do not have enough time to interview them in that capacity anymore. Therefore, the interview processes have changed into a series of steps, with phone interviews typically being the first one.

Being in talent acquisition myself, I spend most of my week setting up initial phone interviews to determine if the candidates are: interested in the job; interested in the company; and meet the basic requirements. I’ve been a job seeker before and, trust me, it’s a full time job in itself. Surprisingly, I’ve come across plenty of candidates that have decided against doing a phone interview because they were either in the interview process with another company or holding out for a company to reach out to them about their application. In those situations, I can’t help but shake my head. As a job seeker, you should be exploring as many relevant opportunities as you possibly can, especially if it doesn’t require too much time out of your day. You never know what can happen during your job search (or what WON’T happen), so it’s best to have your feelers out as much as possible.

I’ve seen plenty of candidates who’ve waited on a company to contact them about their application just to find out a month later that they were never going to receive that call. I’ve also had candidates hold off on interviewing with other companies because they were interviewing elsewhere, only to be rejected by the company at the final interview stage. Putting off other interviewing opportunities not only wasted time, but they also ended up losing out on opportunities because other available candidates jumped all over it. As a job seeker, you not only have to be aggressive in your search, but you also need to ensure that you don’t make rash assumptions about things. For example, a phone interview isn’t going to land you a job within 20 minutes, so you still can buy time in case the other opportunity you’re waiting for comes through. Or just because the opportunity or company isn’t ideal for you doesn’t mean other opportunities that are more of a fit won’t be presented.

Phone interviews don’t require too much time or effort and can benefit you:

  • It’s quick: phone interviews typically last anywhere from 15-30 minutes and will allow you to get started with the interview process without having to dedicate a ton of time to it. This is a way for you to determine if it’s something you would want to dedicate time to.
  • It gets your name out there: this is an easy way for recruiters and companies to get to know: you; what you’re looking for; and what you’re abilities are. Even if the job opportunity isn’t right for you, you’ll at least be on their radar for something else down the line.
  • You can learn about a company or opportunities: sometimes a job description or an “about me” section on a company website doesn’t do an opportunity justice. I’ve almost ruled out companies in the past based off of these two things but was pleasantly surprised to learn that my assumptions were wrong once I spoke to the recruiter. The additional details allowed me to determine if it was a right fit or not.
  • It can help you pipeline: Like I said earlier, sometimes the timing or the opportunity isn’t right for you at the moment. However, it can help you determine if it is a company you want to look into down the line. This can be a great way to build a relationship with the company so once you do feel like the timing is right, you can easily reach out to the recruiter and get the ball rolling.
  • Recruiters like to help: Let’s say you didn’t like the opportunity that the recruiter initially reached out to you about- that doesn’t mean it’s over. Recruiters often network with each other to see what each other are working on (internally and externally). If the recruiter you spoke to knew someone who is looking for a candidate with your talent, it is very likely that they’ll pass on your resume to the other recruiter.

Before you turn down a phone interview, think about all the benefits above. A thirty minute phone call can help you be even more strategic in your job search.

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Knowing the Line between Standing Apart and Standing Alone

In today’s job market, employers are flooded with resumes from interested candidates. People are unemployed or underemployed and are fighting for the limited jobs that are available. Candidates are doing their best to make their resumes impeccable so recruiters can find the keywords and see that they are the best candidate for the role. But even a nicely formatted, customized, and keyworded resume might not be enough to catch the recruiter’s attention. Savvy candidates are recognizing this and started constructing creative resumes to really set them apart. But are these creative resumes helping or hurting them?

Being in talent acquisition myself, I stare at resumes all day long. So, naturally, a resume that is different from the common, mind-numbing format and font is always a welcomed surprise. It can be something as subtle as a colorfully displayed PDF version, an infograph, a chart, or an additional portfolio of their work. These simple things can really add value to a resume and catch a recruiter’s eye.

Some candidates have even gone bolder. For example:

Although these “alternative” resumes have received quite a reaction to them, it’s important to consider what you’re promoting in your resume. Is your resume going to help you stand apart from other candidates, like these examples did, or is your resume going to backfire?

Remember the important aspects of a resume: experience, education, skills, and so on. Those are the bare necessities to help recruiters determine if you have some or all of the skills that are needed to be considered for this job. Then, you can get a little more creative: find ways to show recruiters that you have more to offer than just your experience; help them see that you fit the culture; show them your passions and values; and make them clearly see why hiring you would be their best choice.

Many candidates have done this successfully but some have lost sight on the important aspects of a resume, traditional or not. Make sure you double check what you’re presenting to your recruiters to ensure that the information you’re sharing isn’t: potentially misconstrued; irrelevant; potentially make them question your abilities or professionalism; full of useless facts that wastes their time; or so over-the-top or out there that they lose the message and can’t see how you would be a good candidate.

There’s nothing wrong with being creative to try and stand out against the overwhelming candidate pool. However, it’s important for you to research the companies that you are targeting to ensure that you know your audience well enough. Knowing a company’s culture, values, missions, and so on can help ensure that your alternative resume is appropriate. And remember: there is a fine line between standing apart from other candidates and creating a resume that might make you seem unhireable.

Sometimes, Culture Fit Overrides Job Fit

As some of you know, company culture is one of my favorite topics to discuss. So, in light of a current situation, I felt that today’s blog post should discuss this. Recently, an individual was referred to me for some career and job seeking advice. Of course, I jumped all over this because I absolutely love helping people figure out what they truly want and how to be proactive about getting it. As I provided some advice to her, I recalled some important lessons I learned while job seeking myself.

This woman told me about some of the job roles she was interested in and how a couple of the companies she interviewed with seemed to have great opportunities involving this type of role but the company in itself left her feeling uninspired. She also happened to know a few people that previously worked at these companies and she was able to determine that the company culture didn’t really seem to match what she valued.

Of course, the fact that she mentioned personal values seemed to pique my interest and we hashed out these details. After learning what seemed to be important to her and what she really was passionate about, it was easy to see why these companies left her feeling uninspired. The companies had nothing to do with any of that. And after thinking about it, I recalled the time when I was aggressively looking for work. I was so set to get my career going in HR that I accepted jobs with companies that didn’t match my personal values. Or what’s worse, I found that their culture and ethics were awful. Needless to say, I was happy to land a role in HR but I was miserable, I learned nothing, and I really felt like I gained nothing from working there. Before I knew it, I was looking for work again because I desperately wanted to get out of that less than ideal situation.

As I considered these situations, I realized that sometimes finding a job in a company that has a culture that matches your values could be more important than struggling to get your foot in the door for a role you’re targeting. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to find a company that made me want to stay with them long term. I realized that perhaps starting in a position that wasn’t necessarily what I was targeting might be the way to go. I knew that if I was happy with the company, I wouldn’t mind taking a little extra time to work my way up to where I wanted to be, career-wise.

Sometimes it’s not enough to just be involved in the role you desire if the company in itself isn’t ideal for you. If you’re a job seeker, it’s important to research the culture to ensure you don’t end up in a bad situation that leaves you scrambling for a new job and company that is better suited for you. Unfortunately, changing jobs so quickly doesn’t look great to recruiters.. It looks better if you stick with a company longer-term and progressively move your way up.

Spend that extra time to do your research and really dig deep to make sure the company you’re accepting employment with is going to offer you more than just a job title and a couple skills in your field. You spend a good portion of your time at your job so finding an overall fit might be the better choice when it comes to finding a long and lasting career.

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Switching Up to a Career Seeking State of Mind

Alright, the economy really did a number on us as employees. Many of us have lost jobs or were in fear of losing it. We took pay cuts, benefit cuts, and worked extra hard to compensate for being under-staffed. Some of us had to take crummy jobs after crummy jobs just to make sure our mortgages were paid and there was food on the table. Some of us even wondered if we’d ever find a stable job again. I say- enough! I’ve been there before and I know it’s rough. But 2013 is a new year and with last month adding over 100,000 new jobs into the mix, we’re hoping things are looking up. With that being said, it’s time to switch gears and start getting career-minded rather than “job to get by”-minded.

Building yourself up to get ready for your career and achieving your career goals does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. So, what should you be focusing on to help you get where you need to be? Here are a few ideas:

  • Personal Branding: resumes are becoming redundant and often highlight what you done rather than your career path intentions. It’s time to stand out of the candidate-crowd and get people to know you for what you WANT to be known for. Get involved in activities, groups, or conferences that can help you gain skills and network. Get exposure on social media. Start TALKING about it.
  • Be about it: maybe your personal brand won’t land you the dream job right off the bat, and that’s to be expected. Your relevant skills might be a bit rusty or maybe you need to develop new ones to keep up with the way the industry had changed. Internships, projects, and volunteer work are never below you- remember that. Some people’s pride and ego get in the way from taking on these seemingly innocent projects/roles. But the truth of the matter is; these situations help you build the skills you need to be an attractive candidate.
  • Learning is continuous: so be sure to add to your talking and doing by learning. Think of it as being extremely well-rounded. Your mind needs to be sharp and up to date. Be sure to find learning opportunities, whether it is to take classes, read business books/blogs, or simply join in a discussion relevant to the career/industry you’re targeting. This can keep you fresh and be ready to contribute useful ideas/insight when you have the opportunity to shine.
  • Build your network: doing all of these steps will be pretty useless if no one knows who you are, where you’re located, or what you’re striving for. It will also be useless if you have no idea what feasible options for you are. Build your network of contacts, get to know them and let them get to know you. Simply building and maintaining these contacts can help them reach out to you if opportunity arises or they can even help guide you so you can ensure you’re taking the right steps towards your goal. Your network will be your support, your mentors, your key to opportunity, or just a good conversation.

Your career isn’t a fleeting thing. It is your future, and a long-term future at that. Take care and pride in these steps to help you reach your goal in the most ideal way possible. 2013 will be the year that you will focus in on your potential and strive to be the best version of yourself. Take action!

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join #Tchat on Twitter on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

#Tchat Recap

Storify : Lose job, keep career

5 Powerful Career Drivers for the Future of Work – Forbes article by Meghan M Biro

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Humanizing Your Resume on Social Media

In the battle to find a decent job, I’ve heard many candidates say that they wish there was a way for them to stand out against other applicants. These candidates are working to grab recruiters’ attentions, communicate, and build relationships. They’re hoping to show that there is so much more that they can offer an employer beyond what their resume presents. And many of these candidates still have trouble finding the opportunities to do this. As I have learned, a great way for candidates to do this would be through social media.

Many recruiters are utilizing social media as a way to market their current needs, to search for prospective candidates, and to make it easier for candidates to find them. Social media can help candidates discover what companies are hiring and which recruiters are handling specific openings. Most importantly, social media makes it very easy to start two-way communication between recruiters and candidates.

Do you want to show that you’re up to date and knowledgeable about industry trends? Post something, start a discussion, participate, and be responsive. Try to find ways to connect with recruiters on this level and you can really add something extra to your resume.

Another popular trend that is occurring is scheduled virtual discussion groups. Recruiters and candidates can come together, discuss relevant topics, and network. Sometimes these groups will have previews of the topic. If so, make sure you prepare so you can add value to the discussion and really leave an impression.

Social media really adds transparency that can help candidates ensure that a company or position would be a right fit for what they’re looking for and vice-versa. I’ve personally had some great experiences using this, ranging from: landing a job; networking with amazing people that have helped me progress professionally; and also as a way to locate a great candidate pool for job openings that I’m working on. It’s made my life easier both as a candidate and as a recruiter. So, don’t rule it out.

If you have any questions on how you should utilize social media to your benefit, please feel free to contact me on Linkedin or Twitter.

Linkedin

Twitter: @AshLaurenPerez

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Job Shadowing as Part of the Interview Process

Recently, some business contacts and I were discussing some of the issues that HR and companies face in terms of turn-over. Of course, we dissected the many reasons why employees decided to voluntarily leave: pay; lack of advancement; culture issues; and so on. One of the other issues that I had mentioned was the fact that employees feel like they weren’t given a realistic preview of the job before accepting the role. This had us all thinking about our interview processes. Many interview processes have extended from a simple face to face into a longer interview cycle. These cycles can include phone screen, face to face meetings with several members of the team/organization, and presentations. Even after all of those different scenarios, employees still feel that this is the case. So what could we do better?

I thought about all of the interviews I’ve been a participant of over the years and considered the details. Many of the interviews were informative, both over the phone and face to face. The recruiters and hiring managers took the time to interview my skill-set and was also open to answering questions I had about the company, the day-to-day, and the expectations. And although that might seem sufficient, I realized it really wasn’t.

It wasn’t until I experience an interview that involved a 2 hour to half day job shadowing session that I really felt like I got a good sense of the job. In this session, I took time to sit down with multiple people in the organization: people I’d work directly with on a team; people that I would support; and department managers. In each of these instances, the person I was shadowing would take time to show me what their role entailed in a hands-on way. I was visually able to see their to-do lists, the systems they used, their processes, and so on. Additionally, I was able to take notes, ask them questions, and get a better understanding of how it all worked. This also allowed the person who was “interviewing me” to see how much I truly understood about the job and really actually see if the experience I claimed to have was legitimate.

In addition to getting a realistic view of the role, the company, and the people I would potentially be working with; this also gave the company an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of how I would fit in. They tested my knowledge, they saw how I was responding, and they saw how I interacted with different members of the organization. This was a fantastic way to not only see if the role/candidate was a match but if the candidate/company also had a cultural and value match. It helped me feel extremely confident when it came to deciding whether or not it I would be happy in this role and company. It ensured that surprises were limited and I knew what I was getting myself into. And vice versa.

Although recruiting and interview processes are extensive as it is, I would love it if more companies took the time to include this in their interview loop. I would be curious to know if this could help limit the turnover of employees, whether voluntarily or not. I know it made a huge impact and difference in my candidate experience.

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You’re so Vague- You Probably Think This Post is About You

Let’s face it, interviewing is tough. And it’s not just tough on the candidate’s end, it can also be tough on the interviewer. It can be long, tedious, and exhausting. Even after you put in all this time and effort, something ends up shifting, causing you have to go through the steps all over again. Unfortunately, some of these situations are out of our control. We can’t change policies or laws overnight nor can we change economic and financial shifts that can influence the outcome or length of these hiring practices. However, interviewers could definitely make the interviewing process less painful simply by being open and honest. This can help candidates get a better understanding and hopefully limit some frustrations they experience.

First off, let’s stop being vague: No one likes playing guessing games, especially when it involves their career and financial security. Before going through the recruiting and interview process- get the facts. Simplified and generalized job descriptions aren’t good enough. Sure, it’s opening up your candidate pool because a large number of candidates could say, “Oh, sure, I could do that/I’ve done that.” But we’re trying to focus on the specifics. Recruiters complain about being overwhelmed with unqualified resumes, but part of the issue is because their job descriptions are too ambiguous that these candidates might actually believe they are qualified. Let’s present the position properly straight off the bat.

If you’re going to ask tough questions, be ready to answer them, too: Candidates are interviewing your company just as much as you’re interviewing them. Before interviewing candidates, make sure you have all the details and know what questions are safe to answer and which information you are allowed to provide. Choosing an employer is tough and candidates are weary of getting themselves in a bad situation. If you plan on asking candidates detailed or hard questions, do not shut them out when it’s their turn to ask you things about the job and company. It wouldn’t be fair to ask them to make a decision of whether or not to take a position with you if they don’t have a realistic idea of what they’re getting themselves into.

Make sure you’re on the same page for timelines: Nothing is more frustrating than going into a job interview (especially when you are hurting for work) and finding out that either the interview process is extremely extensive, the position isn’t open, or that there isn’t a huge rush for the job to be filled. Explain to the candidate from the beginning all these details. Let them know how long the interview loop is, the typical timeline, what each interview entails, and a timeframe they should expect to hear from you at the end. This is even truer for positions that aren’t officially open. I’ve been in those shoes before- I’ve interviewed for a company who said the position isn’t open yet but it will be fairly soon. I had my heart set on it so I rejected other offers to ensure I was ready to start ASAP… 6 months later, the position still wasn’t open, I still had no idea when it would be even after asking several times, and my savings account was almost depleted.

The candidate experience is important and it isn’t fair to hook and hold candidates without their knowledge. Be open- tell them all the details you can about the position so the candidate knows if it’s something they want to continue interviewing for. Be honest about interview timelines or hiring timeline expectations.  I understand that we are trying so hard not to let quality talent turn away from us, but you should let your candidates make informed decisions. I’m sure they will appreciate the fact that you aren’t wasting their time or giving them the run around. It could even help build a better relationship and retain potential talent even if the job isn’t available right then.

More Links:

Your Hiring Process Repels Candidates.

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Switching Gears: Changing Your Career Path

In life, sometimes what you set out to do turns out to be different than you imagined it. Maybe once you get involved in your career or degree you realized that it doesn’t spark your passion the way you initially believed.  Maybe you’re scared of making the change. Maybe you’re comfortable with what you’re doing and pursuing something new is too much of an effort. Whatever the reason may be, I hope people realize that if you feel in your heart and mind that you want a change, then you should consider it. Making a change towards something that would make you feel fulfilled and satisfied isn’t as hard as you may think.

As I was thinking about this subject, I decided to interview my good friend, Nader Owies. Nader took the plunge and made the change to follow the career path that he was honestly passionate about. Here’s what he has to say about getting courage to take those chances:

Ashley Perez (AP): Why did you decide to change your degree from Political Science to Film?

Nader Owies (NO): “I never actually changed my degree; my game plan while graduating from undergrad was still to go to law school. While in school, I minored in film to fill my elective requirements and I ended up with so many courses I just spoke with my advisor about getting a minor degree, as well. The real decision was after school, when I was applying to law schools. I always had the reservation about what I was getting myself into. The truth was- I hated politics, and law, but working in law or politics paid well and from my experience at school I came to learn that I was good at both, so why not right? That, and my parents chanting the standard,’ Be a doctor or lawyer’ song that all parents learn when they have kids, were pushing me towards it. I don’t remember the exact moment or anything, but my idea of what I wanted out of life kept showing me that I was heading in the wrong direction. Sure, I could be a successful lawyer or politician or whatever else and have enough money to be comfortable. But I didn’t want to sacrifice my happiness for that. I wanted to love what I was going to be doing almost every day for the rest of my life, whether it made me a lot of money or not.”

AP: What are some of the reservations you had about making this change and how did you overcome them?

 NO: “My parents were a big factor: both of them being Egyptian, and anyone with foreign parents knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say convincing your parents that you want to go to film school rather than law school is like pushing a boulder up a hill. Beyond them, the only other reservation was the change in lifestyle. I knew what going to graduate school meant:  I had to leave everything I know behind, pick up everything I owned and chase my dream. Very few people have the guts to do that, and only about 5% of those people actually succeed at it. However, I kept telling myself, there is always going to be a million reasons not to do something, yet there is always going to be one reason do to it- because you want to.

AP: What are some challenges you faced during this transition and how did you overcome them?

NO: “Most of the challenges had to do more with the practical things in life rather than the educational journey I was going on. School came easy because it was what I loved; every day I was watching and talking about films. The challenges weren’t anything different than most people go through. Basically it was just becoming an adult and having to deal with things you never had to worry about before. My only advice for anyone going through that transition: don’t put things off for tomorrow, just do them right now.

AP: What was the one piece of advice that led you to be inspired enough to take this chance?

NO: “I had a professor in college who told me something I’ll never forget. He said in a lecture one day, ‘You will spend the majority of your adult life at your job. If you are simply there to make money you will find that the stress will kill you before you ever make as much as you want and you’ll be miserable the whole time.’

AP: What are some of the most memorable successes and failures you’ve had while pursuing this new degree and career?

NO: “The good thing about working in movies is that your successes and failures are very apparent. You can literally watch them on a big screen. There are a few projects I worked on here and there that while piecing them together in the edit room, I had that realization that I was stitching together a huge dud. And no matter what I did in the end it would still be a dud. But you live and you learn; take the lesson and move onto the next one.”

AP: What advice would you give college students or recent grads in regard to this?

NO: “Always work your ass off. I’m sure it is this way in plenty of other industries, as well, but in entertainment, your reputation is everything. People will hire you on reputation alone, so make sure you leave a good impression with everyone you work with, and do the best you can with what you’re given.”

AP: What are some realistic factors you wish you knew before doing this?

NO: “How expensive graduate school really is. I always knew the amount, it’s just until I did the math and realized that paying back that amount over ten years that I would actually be paying more than double the amount I initially borrowed. I know that no one would give out loans without interest rates attached, but in the name of education and bettering the human race, someone should make it illegal to charge that much for seeking knowledge.”

I’ve known Nader for several years and always held him in high regard. He has a great head on his shoulders and was the perfect person to trust to give advice about this subject. Yes, he’s had reservations, challenges, and failures. But the point is, he faced these situations head-on because he knew that the end result was going to be worth it. He would rather try to obtain the things that he was passionate about than take the easy and safe way through life. If you have a passion, try to pursue it because if not now, then when?

__________________________________________________

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Assessments to Find the Best Candidate/Job Fit

Over the course of the last month or two, I was networking with a contact I met via LinkedIn named Bob Gately. We had connected through a discussion post I had started on the LinkedIn: HR group. This post talked about some of the issues that candidates experience during the interview process. One of the main issues I had brought up was: whether or not the rigid interviewing process was potentially causing companies to lose quality talent. After months of commenting on this discussion, Bob introduced me to an assessment called the ProfileXT.

As the discussion post grew longer and longer with comments from various HR professionals, it became apparent that there seemed to be a lot of conflicting views and practices. Although there was a lot of great information, it also became clearer that no one seemed to be on the same page. Everyone seemed to have different interview criteria and practices. Also, no one could determine the most effective way to interview in regard to pinpointing the right candidate/job fit.

And then Bob chimed in.

Bob had mentioned an assessment that he had been using for several years called the ProfileXT. Because I was sincerely intrigued, I spent time discussing the details of this assessment and I was completely blown away. This assessment measures candidates’ personality traits, and their math and verbal competencies. It then takes the results and compares it to the criteria that a company determines to be the qualities that lead to higher success rates. Basically, the assessment works like this:

• Company determines their current best employees for each job function and has them take the assessment. Assessment results will give a range of certain qualities and traits that these employees have. This sets the bar for what would make a future employee successful at this job.

• Candidates going through the interview process take the assessment. The assessment involves a series of questions that measures their personality traits, as well as their math and verbal competencies.

• After the assessment is completed, a report will be generated that shows where the candidate falls on a scale of 1 to 10 for each criterion (there are a ton!)

• The scales can then be deciphered against some literature that explains what each criterion means and what their score translates to in that regard.

• Once the scores are translated, they can be compared to the company’s “Successful Employee” range and determine if the candidate possesses the necessary qualities and traits that the company believes would make a nearly-ideal employee.

Although this explanation is extremely general, I’ve attached some documents that Bob provided to give more detail on how this assessment works. Some of the main benefits of this assessment are as follows:

• The assessment can identify the talent that is ideal for the job and company.

• It allows candidates to find out their strong/weak qualities so they can determine which jobs would be best to apply to.

• It can help candidates understand themselves better so they can sell themselves with supporting documentation.

• It can reduce turnover.

• It can make the selection process less biased and can conform it in a way so that everyone’s on the same page.

I really thought this was a great tool. I was able to test it out and felt that the results were very accurate. It was also amazing to see the success percentages that were generated when I compared my results up against jobs that I’m interested in doing. Mind boggling!

I suggest that companies consider giving this assessment a trial run. I’ve attached more information on it and also Bob’s contact information so you can get additional insight on how it would work for your company. If you’ve used it (or are planning on using it) I’d love to hear how it’s helped you during the talent acquisition process.

PII Case Study SOS Reducing Turnover

PII PXT Users Guide