The Value in Job Searching During the Holidays

December 6th, 2016

The holiday season has begun! In terms of the job search, this is typically a time of year when candidates step back a bit and focus their attention in other directions. Reasons for that vary, but frequently this happens due to the assumption that no one is really hiring during the holidays. If your life during this time of year gets so overwhelming that it really does command your full attention, then by all means, maintain that focus and set the job search on the back burner until January! However, if you’re taking a break from the search because you feel that employers aren’t hiring, you may be missing out on a chance to really gain some traction in the candidate market.

First, it’s of course true that some employers aren’t hiring this time of year. In some cases, it could be the end of the fiscal year, so hiring is on hold while everything is finalized. And then in other situations, there could be so many folks on vacations and out of the office that it just makes sense to hold off until things go back to normal in January.

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But with that said, the hiring activity does not completely die off; there are still employers out there in need of top candidates to fill valuable positions within their organization. That’s the first key point here. But there is a great advantage that may seem less obvious. As we’ve already mentioned, many applicants stop applying for jobs during the holidays. So for whatever jobs that do become available, there is likely going to be a lower volume of incoming applications and less competition for those that do choose to apply. The holiday season could be a great opportunity for your resume to stand out even more than it would otherwise.

And last, the other reason to keep the ball rolling right now is that your competition will likely surge after the holidays are over. Once the New Year arrives, it’s a time when many are focused on new beginnings and a fresh start in several aspects of life. As a result, we typically see a huge influx of new applications during the month of January—making it the polar opposite of the volume that we see now. So if you have a little time this holiday season to keep the applications flowing, we encourage you to go for it! By grabbing every chance you have to stand out as a star candidate, you’re boosting your chances of starting off the New Year on a very positive note.

Adam Lafield, Recruiter

Habit 6: Synergize®

November 30th, 2016

SERIES: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
(Author Stephen Covey)

Habit 6: Synergize®

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Aristotle

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“Synergize”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of synergize is “to cooperate with another or others, especially to remedy something”. From a medical perspective, it means “to increase the activity of (a substance)”. From a business perspective, synergy can be the life blood of a company that relies on a team to get the job done. The process of cooperating with others in an open and creative way can bring about results superior to those achieved by an individual.

How does this apply to my personal and professional life?
For those of us who work in a team environment, we know that it comes with its benefits and challenges. We each bring our own unique experiences, ideas, values, and personalities to the group. Working in a synergistic way with our colleagues requires a genuine openness to the insights of others. It is a willingness to suspend our own track of thought or set way of doing things.

At the heart of synergy is valuing what makes us different. Unity can exist even amongst the most diverse group of people. A diverse team is exciting, dynamic, and successful…If the members of the team value the unique attributes of one another. Synergy in a business environment can act much like it does in the medical world. It can “increase the activity of” a unit. When ideas, questions, visions, and even criticism can flow freely within a group, the natural outcome is greater productivity. A continual exchange of information and opinions will free minds to work incessantly at planning and improving.

What can I do?
Take a moment to look at the team you work with every day. What does each person bring to the group that you yourself do not? Does someone have expertise in a particular field that allows them insight into certain industries? Does someone else have a very logical mind and provide structure to complicated projects? Find a way to make note of and value the unique contributions of each person. Then seek out those individuals for their advice and thoughts on a regular basis. As individuals, we are capable of only so much. By tapping into the pools of talent around us and letting them flow into our minds and methods, we can achieve things beyond our own abilities.

~Erin Counter~

The Secret of Asking Questions During Interviews

November 22nd, 2016

You’re in an interview and it’s going great! You told them about yourself, discussed strengths and weaknesses with ease and tact, and you even aced the behavioral-based questions with applicable examples from your past employment. Phew! You’re just about to give yourself a well deserved pat on the back when out comes a question you weren’t prepared for. “What questions do you have for me?”

We’ve all had that panic moment. Actually, I had an interview once where I had finished speaking with the executive director and thought (with fairly good reason) that I was done. And then, surprise! I was suddenly having an impromptu meeting with a director of a completely different department and had absolutely no questions ready for this individual. Well, the good news was that I still got the job! So it’s not necessarily true that not having questions is an automatic disqualification. But with that said, it’s still certainly ideal to have something ready to go!

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When it comes to questions, it’s always better to have too many—-mostly because some of your questions will be answered during the course of the interview conversation. Also, don’t stress yourself out by trying to remember the questions. It’s more than acceptable for you to have a notebook and pen to not only jot down items of importance but also so you have your questions written down and won’t forget them in the heat of the moment. Furthermore, writing notes as the interviewer answers your questions shows that you do actually care about the responses and the information you’re receiving.

Great things to ask during an interview
What do you love most about the company you work for?
What does a typical day in this position look like?
What are you looking for in a candidate?

Things to avoid during the initial interview(s)
Basic questions about the company
Doing so implies that you haven’t done any research on the company, which makes interviewers wonder why you have interest in a company that you don’t know much about. Instead, do some research on the company and then ask questions based on the information you found.

Salary, benefits, paid time off, etc.
If the interviewer brings it up, then certainly discuss it. But if they don’t mention it, it’s best saved for a later part in the process and let this interview be all about the opportunity itself.

How long before you can bid on other jobs?
It’s great to be excited about the chance to grow with an organization! In an interview, it’s a good idea to ask about the advancement opportunities. When wording your question, just avoid asking for specifics about how long you have to stay in the current role. It can make an interviewer feel like you don’t really have interest in the job and want out as quickly as possible.

In short, the best questions are those that show you have interest in the company and that you’re very interested in learning more. And it’s ideal if those questions show that you have done your homework on the company and have really given a lot of thought to this position and the opportunities. The ideas given here certainly are just the beginning. Good luck and happy interviewing!

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter

Accepting/Rejecting Counteroffers–The Quick and Easy Way to Decide

November 8th, 2016

Great news! You got the job! It’s everything you were looking for, right down to the easy daily commute. All you have to do now is give notice to your current employer, which you nervously but professionally take care of. But behold! They put a counteroffer on the table, leaving you entirely unsure how to proceed. You had no doubts in your decision–until now.

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During this sometimes clouded moment of judgment, it’s usually helpful to simply break down the situation into logical pieces and see what makes the most sense. First, ask yourself why you wanted to look for new opportunities. Next, compare that answer to the details in your counteroffer versus the details of the new job offer. Simply put, if your original reason for searching out a new job isn’t resolved by the details of the counteroffer, accepting said counteroffer likely will not satisfy your needs—at least not for very long.

Not that it’s a general rule that one should never accept a counteroffer, but most counteroffers can only accomplish one or two things—additional money and/or a new title. If strictly about money, a counteroffer that involves a rate increase certainly could do the trick! In that case, accepting the counteroffer could make all the sense in the world and make you very happy for an indefinite period of time. However, accepting a counteroffer that leaves the original concern unaddressed often results in that concern creeping back up, leaving that individual looking for jobs again.

Contributors
Adam Lafield, Recruiter
Tiffany Appleton, Director, Accounting & Finance Division

Employee Retention Rules You Should Break!

October 25th, 2016

Monday mornings are difficult enough as it is, and then an employee you never expected to leave, gives their notice, what are you to do? Typically a world of thoughts will fly around in your head and you want to save the employee. You may even ask “what can we do to keep you?” And before you know it, a counter offer is made. But is this the best way to proceed?

adobe-spark-1Data shows more than 90% of employees who accept a counter offer still leave within one year. Typically they have a reason for initiating a job search in the first place, whether it is more money, a better work-life balance, shorter commute, promotion and/or growth opportunities, different supervisor, or improved company culture. On the fly, the only thing you probably have the ability to change is to offer a raise to incentivize the employee to stay. Money does talk! Combine this with the fear of change and this is why people often accept a counter offer and then realize shortly after nothing else that concerned them has changed.

Instead of a counter offer, some companies will ensure the employee knows they are eligible for rehire. Every so often after an employee leaves, they realize the grass isn’t greener and they inquire about returning. This can work well because the returning employee knows what they are entering into and makes a commitment for the long term before rejoining the company.

So maybe next time you are caught off guard with a resignation notice, instead of a counter offer allow the employee leave on good terms. Be sure to let them know you are open to a conversation down the road if they realize your company was where they were meant to be.

Written by Tiffany Appleton

Spruce up your job search this fall!

October 18th, 2016

Fall is officially here, so what better time to add some zip to your job search by reflecting on your process to ensure that all your ducks are in a row? This way, you can be sure you’re running your search in the most efficient way possible, which bolsters your chance of getting a call for an interview!

Update your Resume
Super important! Did you recently change your phone number, address, or email? Imagine the frustration the recruiter will have when they just can’t wait to speak to you on the phone but the number is no longer active. Don’t let it happen to you!

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And if you recently moved, some resume reviewers are looking at geographical location to see how far of a commute you are from the position. You may have recently moved 5 minutes down the road from the company, but they may still think you’re 45 miles away based on the resume.

And it never hurts to double-check to make sure your most recent position is totally up-to-date. Make sure you have all your responsibilities listed. Maybe you received a promotion since your last resume update? Be sure all that great information gets in there! Also, if your most recent position has already come to an end, go ahead and update the dates for that job. Some recruiters are looking for applicants who are ready ASAP, so they may pass on your resume if it looks like you’re still working.

Job Requirements
This is a tough one because we always want to plant lots of seeds and hope that maybe someone sees potential in our resume even though we don’t technically have all the experience. For best results (and for the sake of your sanity!), try finding a balance with this one. Check out the requirements and see if you have any of them on your resume. If you don’t have any of the requirements, it may be something you want to hold off on applying to.

The biggest reason really is that you’re going to spin your wheels and waste a lot of your precious time. When applying to all kinds of jobs where you don’t have any of the required experience, the chance of getting return on investment of your time (an interview) are somewhat slim. This job search process is time-consuming, so it makes lots of sense to work smarter not harder. With that said, if you have some of the requirements or there are very clear transferable skills (which you can make even more clear with a brilliant cover letter), then apply!

Have References Ready
If you haven’t done so already, definitely check out our 3-part series on references! But in the meantime, have your references ready before you begin the search process. This often-forgotten part will become very important in the near future.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter

Maximize the Power of your Professional References

October 6th, 2016

SERIES: References–Stewarding the Relationship

Part 3: Making your list
Welcome back to our references mini-series! For our last installment, it’s time to actually make the reference list that you’ll give to your interviewer. Of all your contacts, which are the best types to use? You’ve been stewarding relationships, so do you really have to tell them you’re submitting them as a reference? Let’s find out!
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Whom do I list?
The most ideal reference would be a current or former supervisor. Typically, they are the ones most able to confirm dates of employment, position(s) held, performance feedback, and eligibility for rehire.

In many cases, it’s acceptable to have a coworker on there, provided you have given supervisors as well, but an entire reference page of only coworkers is not the strongest approach for you as an applicant. And if you’re a recent graduate and haven’t really had much in the way of work experience, you can certainly provide names and contact information for professors and guidance counselors.

And when it comes to how many of these references you need, interviewers will usually let you know what they require. However, a good rule of thumb, in general, is to list three to five professional references.

Give your references a heads up
And now, that brings us to another important (but often missed) reference tactic—-alerting your references that they may receive a call about you. Even if you have been regularly in touch with your contacts, it’s still best to let them know that you’re actually submitting their name as a reference. It’s a very polite thing to do, but it serves several purposes for you as well.

For example, we have found that references are more likely to return a reference check call if they have advance notice of said call. And even better, they are more likely to give a thorough reference as well. When references have a heads up, it allows them (even if only at a subconscious level) to remember you as an employee and formulate some thoughts about you ahead of time. If they receive the call and are caught off guard completely, they may struggle under pressure to remember you and all your great contributions, potentially resulting in you not receiving the thoughtful, fabulous reference that you deserve!

The other part of this advance notice tactic is that it gives you the chance to briefly fill in your reference contact on all the details of the job for which you are being considered—the job title, responsibilities, etc. Many folks who are experienced at giving references will then share with the prospective employer a list of strengths and attributes that connect you with the position at hand. Your reference can potentially help to further connect the dots for the prospective employer as to why you are a perfect fit for this position.

By doing all these things, you are helping your references to give you a great reference. And a great reference from them makes you a more solid candidate!

Adam Lafield, Recruiter

Easily Have Professional References at the Ready

September 26th, 2016

SERIES: References–Stewarding the Relationship

Part 2: Maintaining a Reference Pool
So last time, we talked about general ways to go about securing references for yourself. Today, we’re focusing on how you maintain a pool of references so you always have them at the ready. By taking this step, you accomplish a couple things. One, your references will never feel frustrated that they only hear from you when you need a reference. And two, you’ll never have to rush around last-minute trying to pull together a list of people who are willing to be your reference.

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Steward the relationship
Thinking back to the last time someone helped you get a job offer by providing a reference, did you follow up with that reference to let them know the outcome? Hopefully, the answer is yes! Anytime someone has helped you, personally or professionally, they have some level of interest in seeing you succeed in whatever endeavor you are pursing. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be a reference for you! And since they are invested in your success, they will be elated to hear the big news and will feel good that they were able to help in some way.

The long-term outlook
And that initial step really segues nicely into the ongoing level of stewardship. Now that this reference knows that you got the job, keep them abreast on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be weekly or monthly but just throughout the year at opportune times (we’ll cover this more in detail in a few moments). The regular contact is a chance for you to share how the role is going, changes in your role and promotions you receive, and maybe even some big news that your company is celebrating.

Staying in touch the easy way
You can certainly set up reminders in your calendar to remind you that it’s time to check in with your contacts. However, LinkedIn is really a great resource to help simplify the process for you.

First, make sure you are connected to your supervisors and coworkers—past and present. Once you are, the system makes it very easy for you to come up with reasons to reach out to your contacts to check in with them. You receive alerts when someone changes jobs, gets a promotion within the company, or when they have an anniversary. What a great time to send a message to congratulate them! And meanwhile, you can give them an update on how you’re doing as well.

In addition to these features, LinkedIn also allows you to endorse your contacts for their skills. And even better, those endorsements help to boost the value of their profile to other viewers, so your contacts will appreciate the kind gesture.

Steward Away!
This isn’t meant to serve as the be-all, end-all list of reference stewardship, but it should help get you started on brainstorming some ideas. Whatever method you choose, what matters is that you find a way to build relationships for the long-term. Once you have that, asking for a reference will be effortless and instead feels like asking for a little help from an old friend.

Adam Lafield, Recruiter

Getting Fabulous References the Easy Way

September 20th, 2016

SERIES: References–Stewarding the Relationship

Part 1: Getting your references!
With there being so many challenging parts of the job-search process, references is one that oftentimes ends up overlooked…until it’s too late! It’s an exciting moment to finally make the cut and get to the point where your interviewer is asking for references, but that excitement quickly morphs into panic if you’re not prepared.

pic-for-ref1-postIn this first of three installments, we’re going to look at some general ideas on how you can proactively take control of references. Check back soon for the continuation of our references topic!

Creative ways to get references
First and foremost, always leave on good terms! Sometimes, this is easier said than done, but you’ll thank yourself in the future when you need a reference. It’s always unfortunate to have invested several years into an organization and not have a positive reference to vouch for your time spent there.

If someone leaves your current company and could be a reference for you in the future (even if you’re not looking for a new job at the time), definitely stay in touch! In a later installment, we’ll go over several ways you can go about staying in touch in very easy ways. This is super important in situations where you need a reference from your current position but you don’t want to alert your current supervisors that you’re thinking about leaving.

My company has a no references policy
This happens a lot, but it’s important to ask the question and see what happens anyway. If you ask for a reference, the worst that could happen is that you’ll get a “no.” But sometimes, folks are willing to give you their personal contact information so they can do it off the radar. Or some companies won’t allow a professional reference, but they may allow a personal reference (which frequently ends up morphing into a professional reference anyway).

Hopefully, this will be enough to get you started! The next blog topic will focus more on staying in touch with references so you always have them at your fingertips for when you need them. In the meantime, good luck with tackling your references strategy!

Contributors
Adam Lafield, Recruiter
Tiffany Appleton, Director, Accounting & Finance Division

Are You Doing Interview Follow-Up the Right Way?

September 8th, 2016

To follow up or not to follow up! This is the question we all ponder while sitting next to the phone, patiently waiting for a callback after an interview. While the answer on this question can vary from one interview to the next, there are certainly things you can do and rules of thumb to follow as a guideline.

During the interview
At some point in the conversation, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Of course, you’ll ask whatever brilliantly thought out questions you may have. However, one of your questions can and should be about the next steps in the process. And as part of that, include a question about when it would be a good time to follow up.

Never be afraid to ask! It’s not an unusual question and you aren’t stepping on anyone’s toes. They’ll let you know roughly where they are in the interview process and about how long they anticipate the process taking. And since you so eloquently asked, they’ll inform you as to when it would be appropriate for you to contact them to request an update. With that said, be sure you have a phone number or email (we’ll talk more about the email shortly) before you leave.

And last, it’s uncommon but possible for them to request that you not follow up with them. In that case, you would naturally accept that and simply wait to hear back. And if they do make this request, it’s not necessarily a negative sign at all. So never fear! Just take a breath and wait it out.

Rule of thumb
Forgot to ask during the interview? Don’t sweat it! A basic guideline to follow would be to check in about a week after your interview. If you got the sense from the interviewer that they plan to move really quickly on making a hire, you could possibly check in sooner. Just be careful with that as you wouldn’t want to come on too strongly. Being eager and excited about the position is a very good thing and will be appreciated, but coming across as pushy can certainly be a turnoff.

Saying thank you
In the days of email, this little step is so often forgotten! In a previous section, we emphasized getting an email address from the interviewer. This is so you can send a thank-you email after your interview. Back in the day of paper and pencil, a couple days was an acceptable timeframe. But now with email at our fingertips, it really should be within 24 hours. And to be honest, it doesn’t need to be anything lengthy or complex. It’s simply the thought, and interviewers really do appreciate getting these!

Adam Lafield, Recruiter