Why You Should Stay True to Yourself During Interviews

August 31st, 2012

In his article “Authenticity is Where It’s at in Job Interviews,” David Gee talks about some of the possible consequences of not being true to oneself in interviews.  The idea here is that you should be honest about the types of work that make you happy!

Let’s face facts.  Regardless of the existence of incoming cash flow, bills are still coming in and debts must be paid.  When struggling to pay bills, it’s easy for desperation to set in and trump authenticity.  While this works for survival, it doesn’t necessarily help employers, longevity of your employment, or your resume.

But isn’t pleasing the interviewer a good thing?  In most cases, the answer is a definite “yes!”  However, that answer is a bit murkier if the interviewee is just telling interviewers what they want to hear—this is especially true when discussing nature of the available job.  If you really do not like performing repetitive sedentary work, a position that entails significant amounts of data-entry may not be a good choice.  And telling an interviewer that you like data-entry just to increase your chance of an offer isn’t a solid long-term choice.

Let’s look at the progression to really see how this typically works out.  At first, the job will likely work out well.  As someone with solid work ethic, you’re doing your best work, so the employer’s needs are met.  Since you have an income again, your needs of survival are being met.  In fact, having the income probably gives you a natural sense of relief, and your gratefulness shows in your quality of work.

However, time tends to make that desperation a distant memory.  Consequently, that feeling of relief that you originally felt starts to get replaced by something else—dissatisfaction that you are doing something you don’t like.  As a skilled worker, you can keep doing the job, but an enthusiastic and satisfied worker is far more productive than an unhappy one.  At this point, your unhappiness is affecting you and begins to surface in your work as well.  Morale and attitude change, and you can think of a million places you’d rather be than your desk.  Of course, we all go through periods of time where we feel this way about a job, but it’s not something that should hang over your head constantly!

So what do you do next?  Most likely, you start looking around for other job possibilities.   Your experience that got you this job in the first place is still valid, but now you have this job on there that has been short in duration.  And if the current position was a huge step down for you, resume reviewers may wonder why you took the job in the first place.  If there is possibility that you took it just until you could find something better, reviewers may be concerned that you are doing the same thing with them as well.  And last, this situation is difficult for the company currently employing you because they’ll be forced back into the situation of hiring again after you find a new job.

In the current market and with many unemployed, this can be very challenging advice.  While we can’t tell applicants what’s best for their situation, we can certainly say that for overall satisfaction with one’s career and for future marketability, being true to oneself is always the best way to go when discussing this topic in interviews, even if it means admitting that the position may not be a good match for you.

This Week’s Top Jobs
Part-Time Accountant
HR Assistant
Part-Time Legal Receptionist

Cell Phones in the Workplace

August 27th, 2012

In this world of technology, few people don’t carry a cell phone for the duration of the day, which means that most of us have easy access to our personal world 24 hours a day.  In some ways, it seems harmless enough to send a quick text or check one’s Facebook timeline.  Where’s the problem in that?  Well, employers actually do have a few reasons to be concerned about this, some of which are more obvious than others.

Perhaps more obvious is the effect on productivity.  Regular interruptions generally aren’t conducive to getting work done.  Most of us already have enough work-related interruptions throughout the day to keep us on our toes, so why add personal, unnecessary ones?  And let’s face it.  How often do we just send one text?  There’s often a natural back and forth in the conversation, which creates more distraction and an additional decrease in productivity.  The quality of work is typically lower as well since the regular distraction reduces your depth of focus.

A bit less obvious is the issue of company image, especially when the texter is someone who is visible to customers and clients.  Imagine what it feels like to walk up to the host/hostess station at a restaurant and wait for the employee to finish typing on a cell phone before greeting you.  Something about that situation can make guests feel secondary.  Even in cases where the employee immediately puts the phone down, there often is still a feeling that the customer is interrupting and imposing upon the employee whose job it is to be a hospitable ambassador of the company.

In the professional world, having a client see an employee busily texting can be just as disappointing as it was for the restaurant guest in the last paragraph.  And what about times where the employee is actually using the cell phone for work purposes?  Unfortunately, observers cannot tell the difference, but most people will tend to assume the worst—here’s another employee glued to his or her phone sending texts.  You could be putting the finishing touches on a proposal to a client, but the reality doesn’t matter as much as the image projected.  Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t use a cell phone for professional purposes!  It might simply be helpful to stay aware of what image you could be projecting to those around you.  Nearly every moment has a PR opportunity, so always strive to make it the very best you can!

While it’s possible to multi-task and incorporate personal cell phone usage at work, we still do our best work when our mind is in the game.  So let’s pull it together and take our focus and productivity to its highest potential!

Brush Up Your Skills for September Job Applications

August 16th, 2012

It’s mid-August!  As we begin to wake up from summer vacation, it’s time to prepare to start the fall season with a new lease on life.  And naturally enough, September is a busy time of year for job applications.  As most of us are aware, the job market is still a bit tricky, so many employers are expecting an even larger-than-normal influx of applications this fall.  With that in mind, how does one maximize chances of standing out to resume reviewers?  For the last several months, we’ve been posting on this topic.  Now seems like a great time for us to review some of those blog posts as folks prepare to flood the market with applications.  Under each of the following categories is a brief tip and also a link referring you to our previous blog on the subject.

Start with the Resume
Naturally, it all begins with your resume!  It’s the first opportunity you have to stand out and is the key to landing an interview.  Check out some tips on the one-page resume myth and also explore some basic resume advice.  Both offer excellent ideas on how to tweak this very important document.

And in addition to that information, keep in mind that many large employers scan resumes for keywords.  If you didn’t customize your resume to the job description and include some applicable keywords, you may not be considered—even with excellent experience.  This is simply because your resume will likely not come up in the search results.  Some reviewers are inundated with resumes and don’t have time to review every single one that comes through their online application system.  So when they receive 250 resumes for a particular position, they will search for keywords and instead will review the 100 that came up in a keyword search.  The good news is that you have some amount of control by simply including keywords!  It’s luckily a very easy solution.

Show attention to detail with online applications
Application tips part 1 and part 2.  The overall advice is simply to read and follow all instructions.  The more complete your application, the better chance you have of being seriously considered.  If information is missing, reviewers have a choice to make.  They can contact you to ask that you complete the application, or they can choose to simply set your application aside and move on to other applicants.  The more effort they need to put into being able to review your qualifications, the more you risk missing out on having your application reviewed.  And again, the good news is that you do have some control here!  By following instructions and completing your application thoroughly, you have dramatically increased chances that your resume will be reviewed.

Following up on application status
With so many applications piling up on a hiring manager’s desk, it’s easy now for individuals to fall through the cracks and get lost in the shuffle.  While you wouldn’t want to be overly proactive and possibly frustrate hiring managers, there are ways you can tactfully and diplomatically follow up.  Doing so keeps your name on the hiring manager’s mind and can really help to make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle.  To get the full scoop on these tips, click here!

Knock em dead at the interview!
Interviews—the culmination of all your resume efforts.  It’s the next step in the process, and it’s also something we’ve posted on frequently.  Be sure to check out blogs on basic interview tips and the following specific types of interview questions:  behavioral-based, tell me about yourself part 1 & part 2, and why you left your last position part 1 & part 2.

This Week’s Top Jobs
Defined Contribution Analyst
Health Fitness Coordinator
Compliance Analyst

Increase Your Odds of Getting an Interview (Part 2)

August 9th, 2012

Last week, we looked at two examples of candidates who wanted to make a career change; one had a strong possibility of being considered for the position despite lack of industry experience, and the other would have been better off using the time and energy on applications for other jobs.  So how do you know the difference?  In this week’s post, we’re reviewing some tips that will help you determine whether you can proceed with an application or instead move on and focus on other options.

Honest evaluation of the job description
The best way to really ensure that you are applying to jobs that match your experience is to study the job description and the requirements.  Look down the list and see if you have all of the requirements.  If you are missing some minor ones, that still could be okay.  For example, maybe you’re great with databases but haven’t used the specific database software mentioned in the job requirements.  It’s most likely still very safe to submit your application.

Notice areas where the listing says “required” versus “preferred.”  Not having the preferred qualifications will mean you aren’t the ideal candidate on paper, but you still could be a very strong applicant.  When reviewing the requirements, be very honest with yourself.  If you find yourself saying “I could do that” instead of “I’ve definitely done that in my previous job(s),” then it may not be the right job.  This is especially true if you find yourself saying that in response to the “required” skills.

In addition, look at your resume objectively and determine how long it’s been since you’ve performed certain tasks.  If you’re applying for a mortgage processor position because you’ve done the job, take note of when you last did that sort of work.  If your most recent experience was 7 years ago, you may wish to pass on submitting an application.   With most jobs these days, technology changes everything very quickly, and many industries have undergone serious changes due to the economy.  Because of all those changes, not having recent experience in that line of work could be nearly equivalent to not having any experience.

I don’t have experience, but I know I can do the job
In some cases, it’s entirely possible that someone with no direct experience in a particular field could still be very effective once on the job.  However, the major issue is that applicants without the experience reflected on the resume likely will not be considered.  With the competitive market today, employers are looking for reasons to disqualify applicants in the early review stages because they need to severely cut the list down to their top applicants.  Imagine the daunting tasking of going through 120 resumes for one job opening!

So just like we said last week, the intention of this information is never to discourage you in your job search.  Instead, we hope to give you some ideas to keep in mind so you can more effectively use your valuable time.  And with more time to focus on each application submitted, you will be more likely to craft a thorough application package, which automatically enhances your chances of being noticed.  Keep your chin up and good luck with your search!

Increase Your Odds of Getting an Interview! (Part 1)

August 3rd, 2012

When asked about what some of their application pet peeves are, one complaint hiring managers mention is the problem of applicants applying to jobs that do not match their qualifications.  As in most situations, there are two sides to this proverbial coin.  Sometimes it’s okay to apply while other times its best to just keep searching.  This week, we start by checking out an example of each situation.  Next week, we’ll focus on specific tips that will help you to avoid applying for jobs that don’t match your background.

Let’s say you’ve been working for a few years at a non-profit planning fundraising events, soliciting donations, and creating/maintaining relationships with donors.  After some soul-searching, you decide that it’s time for a career change, so you apply for an entry-level customer service/account manager position with a local insurance agency.  The employer plans to train someone in the industry and needs someone who has good people skills, ability to create/maintain client relationships, and also handle paperwork and processing.

This could work!  And here’s why:

  • The position is entry-level
  • Employer plans to train someone in the insurance industry, so you immediately know the company is not requiring that applicants have experience in the field
  • Skill set obtained in current job is very comparable to what the insurance agency requires
  • The insurance job is a lower pay than the current non-profit job—by $4 per hour

Not all career changes will require a drop in pay, but in most cases, applicants will not make the same salary in the new field as they made in the former one.  Being willing to take a cut in pay will dramatically increase your chances of making your career change happen.

Compare that scenario with an applicant who has a background in auto sales and has taken an interest in becoming an executive assistant.  In terms of transferable skills, certainly some do exist.  For example, auto sales will involve direct public contact, occasional high-pressure conversations, and a degree of comfort with multitasking.  But the existence of transferable skills doesn’t always translate directly into a strong job match.  Here’s more information to consider:

  • Executive assistants typically do a great deal of organizing and planning for executives
  • They often must have expert skills in Microsoft Office and other software
  • These positions tend to require an intense level of administrative tasks for the entire duration of the workday
  • Administrative duties in sales/customer service positions typically are not of the same depth and breadth as those of an executive assistant

In addition, it’s also likely that the employer is receiving applications from people who do have the experience.  In that case, it becomes even less likely that the hiring manager will take a chance on someone with no experience.

The purpose of all this information is never to discourage you!  The core message here is to use your time as wisely and efficiently as you can.  Since you’re taking the time to customize cover letters and resumes for each and every job application, you could be spending hours of time and submitting yourself for positions for which you will most likely not receive a call.  The best course of action is to maximize your chance of success by focusing on a smaller number of jobs that match your qualifications and that interest you, allowing you to submit high-quality applications to potential employers.

Not exactly sure how to go about screening jobs for matchability?  Then be sure to check back next week when we explore ways to do just that.

This Week’s Top Jobs
Data-Entry/Office Support
Compliance Analyst
Bilingual Bank Teller