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

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

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand Then to be Understood®

September 1st, 2016

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

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand Then to be Understood®

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.” ~Stephen R. Covey

SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND

One of my biggest pet peeves is listening to two individuals conversing who think they are disagreeing, but in fact they are both saying the same thing. They just don’t know it because both are focused on getting their viewpoint across and not on understanding the other person. Sometimes a third party intervention is the only way to get them to stop and listen.

What does “Seek First to Understand Then to be Understood” mean?
We’ve all been there. The other person is talking and what are we doing? We are formulating in our head how we want to respond. Our first syllable blends into their last, and round and round we go. In conversations, especially ones in which there are disagreements, we are eager to make sure our voice is heard.

We know that communication is more than just words. Tone, body language, and facial expressions give meaning to what is being said. Truly understanding someone requires our full attention on their whole person. That is a lot of information to take in and process. If we are busy processing our own thoughts and emotions, we will miss a big part of their meaning and intentions.

When we listen with the intent to reply, we filter what is being said through our own lens. Our brain automatically reframes the input using the schemas we have built and lived through in our own lives. Consequently, we assume we know what the other person means or needs before they have thoroughly expressed themselves. We can find ourselves offering advice when none was sought, leaving our conversation partner feeling misunderstood and frustrated.

Seeking first to understand is not easy. It requires us to step away from our own bias and needs. It requires our full concentration and the ability to seek out a full comprehension. Only after we have done this do we “reply”.

How does this apply to my personal and professional life?
Relationships cannot exist without communication. Whether we are speaking with a family member, friend, co-worker, or customer, everyone wants to be understood. Everyone has a need for their voice to be heard and their thoughts to be valued. When we validate that need by first seeking to understand, we travel into the seed of human desires and connect with them at the core of who they are. A true connection can develop that establishes trust and a feeling of unconditional acceptance. A value cannot be placed on a trusted friendship. In business, becoming a trusted advisor to our clients and employees establishes long lasting relationships in which there is mutual benefit.

What can I do?

Seeking first to understand involves active listening. Active listening is something that many counselors are trained on in the mental health field. That is a field that requires trust to first be established between counselor and client before help can be given or received. Active listening is conveyed through non-verbal and verbal means of communication. Smiling, nodding, making eye contact, the way we are sitting all convey to the speaker we are engaged with them.

Verbal responses include asking questions for clarification, reflecting what they are saying, and positive reinforcement where we agree. Reflection is perhaps the most effective of these as it allows the speaker to hear back how we are receiving their message. They have the opportunity to feel understood or to correct any misinterpretations we may have. We show our focus is on them and that we truly want to connect and understand them.

It goes against our natural inclination to help others, defend a position, or assert ourselves. “Seeking first to understand” is a skill that must be honed over time. Practice of this essential skill can reap a vast reward in our relationship driven world.

~ Erin Counter, Operations Manager ~

Now You Can Be a Phone Etiquette Master

August 29th, 2016

Adobe SparkAre your phone skills getting in the way of your job search? And when we say “skills,” we’re not thinking about your word choice, phone demeanor, or anything along those lines (although, those certainly are important as well). No, what we’re actually alluding to for today’s blog would be more along the lines of etiquette for cell phone users-—so that basically includes all of us! We’re going to discuss a few basic but often overlooked ideas that could be undermining all your awesome efforts.

Phone Interviews
These days, a phone interview can happen just about anywhere. And well, that’s half the problem! Back in the day, a phone interview always happened on a landline (for anyone who still remembers what that is) and usually in the comfort of someone’s quiet home. But now with the convenience of cellular technology that puts mini computers in the palm of our hand, you can have a phone interview while driving the car, going grocery shopping, or even while on your lunch break.

Since on-the-go phone calls have become a part of society, it’s not always common-sensical to stop and reflect on any of this before making or taking a business phone call. So when the moment arises, take a quick check around your environment to see if there is anything going on that could sound odd or distracting on the phone. If there is a crying baby in the background or if you’re driving down the road with windows down, all of those are sounds that could put a damper on the phone call.

And aside from all the noise, doing anything on the phone (even walking!) will mean you’re not as fully present in the call, which usually means you won’t be your stellar self. Give yourself a break from all that multi-tasking and just bask in the moment of your interview so you can shine. And even better, staying focused on the call frees you up to have a pen and paper in hand to take notes.

And one last thing when it comes to phone interviews and calls, it never hurts to check the bars on your phone to make sure your signal is strong enough to support a call. For example, I was doing a reference check once on a weak connection. It took us half the reference call for the employer to realize that he was giving me feedback for the wrong employee!

Voicemail greetings

On the whole, voicemail greetings seem to be making improvements in leaps and bounds! However, it’s something many job seekers forget about, so it makes sense to give it a quick mention. When you have a moment, give a listen to your voicemail greeting so you can hear what prospective employers are hearing if they end up going to your voicemail. If it’s a custom greeting that you recorded, it’s good to mention your name and make sure the recording has a pleasant, professional sound to it. And of course, the prank-style voicemails aren’t usually the best way to go. But after your job search is done, you can always change it back!

~ Adam Lafield, Recruiter

Hiring Challenges and the Paradox of Choice

August 18th, 2016

Hiring Challenges - Choice.jpgOften times we are paralyzed when we have too many choices. Take a moment and think back to a childhood trip to the candy store or ice cream stand. Do you remember the overwhelming feeling of so many delicious choices? The desire for more options than you could choose? And the feeling of panic that you may choose the wrong one and have regrets? I frequently hear from hiring managers they have the same feelings when it is time to make a hiring decision.

Choice overload is a real thing; this psychological process has been studied within the retail world since the early 70’s. Making a decision can become overwhelming due to the many potential outcomes and risks that may result from making the wrong choice.

When it comes to making hiring decisions, there are some very simple processes you can put in place to mitigate the paralysis from too many choices.

  1. Skills Checklist: Create a simple checklist of “must have skills” and “nice to have skills.” Following each interview, quickly check the boxes for the skills the candidate has. This can help you more easily rule out the candidate you really connected with and liked, but didn’t quite have the right experience.
  2. Limit to 2 Choices at a Time: Force yourself to make a decision between only two choices at a time. For example, meet two people, choose who you like better and keep that person and let the other one go. After you meet the next person, again make a decision between this new person and the previous person. If you are always limiting yourself to two choices at a time, you are much less likely to get overwhelmed and can more easily make a decision.
  3. One Decision Maker: When you have an interview team involved, you now have differing opinions to take into account. Before the interview process starts, appoint one person as the official decision maker and give the other interviewers veto power only. This allows everyone involved to have a say and it will ensure a smoother decision making process.

By including a little bit of planning prior to beginning the interview process, you can significantly limit the paralysis of too many choices. I am not sure I can help you out with the dilemma of choosing the right candy or ice cream flavor, but these tips should certainly help with making your key hiring decisions.