Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

June 27th, 2017

Are you looking at your current career status and thinking that it may be time to pursue other options? At some point, many of us end up with this dilemma, so it’s good to know how to navigate the situation to create a positive outcome.

What’s got you down?
With your current position, what’s lacking? Maybe you’re feeling stagnant and unchallenged, or perhaps it’s looking like there’s nowhere else to grow. For anyone serious about his/her career, these are legitimate concerns.

What can you do?
A talk with your manager could be a great start. Should you choose this route, rest assured that the context of the conversation doesn’t have to be that you’re thinking of leaving. Instead, the focus should be on the current position and the opportunities that may be available to you. For example, can you be given more responsibility and a chance to learn new skills? What steps can you take to climb up to the next level? Are there even options for higher-level positions for someone in your career track? The information you gain from this meeting could really help shed some light on the situation.

Other ways to research
Besides evaluation of your current position/company, you can (and should) research to see what the alternatives actually are. Do some legwork and search out positions and companies that could be a match. Compare opportunities, positions available, and benefits of those companies to what you have now. Give careful focus on whether or not these new opportunities could ultimately present you with the same problem you’re experiencing now.

Is the grass greener?
Sometimes, the best way to really figure this out is to interview. Even if you’re on the fence, take the interview if you get it! During that process, you may discover something substantial (whether good or bad) that suddenly makes everything clear. This is information you would never have in your corner without meeting the hiring manager(s). Doing the interview costs you nothing except a little bit of time but can provide peace of mind. Going on the interview is the path of least regret—it gives you what you need to know so you’ll never have to stress over any what-ifs because you did your homework and made a fully informed decision.

A quick caveat: If you know beyond all doubt that you have no interest in the position, the most polite thing to do would be to turn down the interview. There’s no value in wasting your time or theirs.

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all approach here because everyone’s situation is different. But if you take some time to reflect on things and research the possibilities, you can make the right decision for you.

Adam Lafield
Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

The Secret to Getting your Resume Read

June 13th, 2017

Not so long ago, it was sufficient for a resume to say things like “managed a team” or “handled high volume of incoming calls.” But now hiring managers read each resume expecting something more specific–a quantified explanation of your accomplishments.

Increasing revenue and/or decreasing expenses?
Like the rest of us, employers love to find ways to maximize revenue and minimize expenses. So if you’re consistently responsible for generating $75,000 in revenue each quarter, say it! That stands out much more than “exceeded quarterly sales goals” or something to that effect. It makes it easy for the reader to wrap his/her mind around the size of your accomplishment.

Naturally, the same goes for situations where you have saved money for your employer. First, quantify this with a number as opposed to “researched ways to save money for the company.” And second, keep in mind the overall size of your company’s budget. Saving your company $250 monthly on a line item that was $2,500 is much more meaningful than that same savings applied to a $25,000 item.

Volume matters
This concept is especially important for positions where performance is measured in output and productivity (as opposed to revenue generation). One place we see this often is in A/P or A/R. When listing this as a responsibility or title, give the full picture. Were you handling 650 invoices per month or more like 175 per month? This information will make it much easier for the reader to accurately understand your level of experience.

Another area where volume counts is in a call center environment. The term “high volume” is rather subjective. Providing a number would be ideal. Also helpful is a detailed description of what you’re doing on the calls. Someone taking 25 calls per day isn’t necessarily working less diligently than someone taking 100 calls per day; it depends what those calls entail, types of transactions involved, etc. Last, don’t forget to list accomplishments you may have with meeting metrics for an extended period of time; this indicates that you will likely be able to hit the ground running.

And people matter even more!
For all you managers out there, show readers that your experience is real. Incorporate into your resume the numbers that show how many direct and indirect reports you have or had.

Even administrative professionals can find ways to bolster their resume with numbers. Whether you are the administrative glue that holds together a team of sales reps or an executive assistant who supports several C-level executives, quantify your experience.

Numbers or percentages?
Typically, I advise candidates to go with whichever method is more flattering. After all, your resume is a marketing piece that should accentuate your brilliance. For example, if you increased your FB follows from 100 to 150, you were responsible for a 50% increase. Whether you chose percentage or number, be sure you know the statistic from both sides in case an interviewer asks you to break down the details. Last, any numbers smaller than 10 should be spelled out, the only exception being dollar amounts and percentages.

Amidst a sea of text, numbers stand out on the page! Your quantified accomplishments will immediately draw one’s eye.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

Master Your Resume with this Checklist

May 23rd, 2017

When I was a child and actually read real paper books, I remember what it was like to make a selection at the library. If the cover of a book caught my eye, I would flip it over and give it a chance to sell itself to me. And if it did not catch my eye, the book would remain untouched on the shelf.

In the world of resumes, the process is actually quite similar. There’s a lot to be said for the concept of marketing, despite the fact that we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover. Now, this doesn’t mean you should take your administrative resume and create a work of art (though, those folks in the creative field can and should take a more creative approach). Instead, what I’m referring to is a focused effort to ensure the overall look is visually appealing and easy for the reader to follow, resulting in a resume that actually gets read. Essentially, it comes down to consistency and organization.

  • Font–Keep it simple with the classics like Arial or Times New Roman. They’re easy to read and will not get in the way of anyone’s ability to decipher your resume. And once you’ve selected a font, keep it consistent throughout.
  • Font size and other formatting options–With regards to font size and formatting, consistency is key. If you bold and/or enlarge the font for headings of each section of the resume, ensure each heading has that same formatting. In the end, there are not specific rules on when and where to bold, italicize, or underline; the only rule is that of consistency. Are you sensing a theme, here?
  • Bullets–In all honesty, no resume is really complete without bullets. Definitely use the bullet function that exists within every word processing program. Using dashes or asterisks as bullets just doesn’t deliver the same look as the bullet function. And within that function, you can select which symbol to use as a bullet. As with other methods of formatting, what matters here is uniformity. And when arranging your bullets, create what’s referred to as a hanging indent. That simply means that the second line of your bullet is in line with and begins right under the first letter of the top line in the bullet (just like I have done my bullets here in this blog).
  • Page Breaks—At the end of the page, it’s best to complete one particular job and its bulleted list of responsibilities before the page ends so nothing carries onto the next page. In order to accomplish this, you may need to adjust margins or manually create page breaks.
  • Spacing–Keep an eye on how many spaces or lines you leave between each section of the resume. If you leave two blank spaces between the end of one job and the beginning of the next, ensure you have the same spacing throughout the employment section of the resume.
  • Dates–When it comes to dates, there are many different methods of formatting and placement. There is no wrong way; again, it’s a matter of consistency. If you choose to use the xx/xx/xxxx format, it would be incorrect to use xx/xx/xx at some point later in the resume. Some resumes have the date at the left side of the document while others have it at the right margin. Both are correct. However, if aligning the date to the right margin, it’s best to use the tab key or set the align right tab stop in your document. Simply using the spacebar to place that component does not work and can create a bit of a mess.

It’s entirely possible you may create this flawless resume in your word processing program only to have the formatting get destroyed when the reader opens it in a program that is not compatible with yours. The good news is that there is an easy, painless way to fix this! Simply save your resume as a PDF file. This will ensure that the reader sees the document in exactly the way you intended them to.

And last, always double-check your entire resume when you make any edits or updates. Since the formatting can be rather sensitive, it’s easy for an edit in one part of your resume to throw off the formatting somewhere else. For example, adding some extra lines near the top of the resume will bump things down and could potentially throw off the page break you manually created at the bottom of the page. Taking a couple moments to double-check will help make sure your resume remains a professional, consistent document.

Written by:
Tiffany Appleton, Director, Accounting & Finance Division
Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

The Secret to Writing Compelling Job Advertisements

May 18th, 2017

If you truly want to attract top talent to your company, it is well worth the time spent on tweaking your job advertisements. A job description is not the same thing as a job advertisement. A job description is a list of duties an employee will perform. The job advertisement is a marketing piece you use when advertising a job opening to attract top talent.

A well written job advertisement includes:
Company Description: This is an overview of what your company does, what industry you are in, how long you have been in business, exciting growth, and types of customers you serve.

What the Employee Will Do: Here is where you may want to include the duties from the job description, but that list won’t serve you well. Instead, a future employee wants to know what they will be able to accomplish and contribute. Take your list of duties and turn them into active statements about what they will accomplish and what the end goal looks like. For example, a receptionist may have a job duty of “answering phones.” Instead this could read as “create a warm and inviting environment for all customers greeted both in person and via the phone.”

Job Requirements: This list should be short and only include the requirements that are absolutely essential. It is ideal if your requirements list is skills based and speaks to the challenges this job will present. For example “extensive knowledge of Excel pivot tables and v-lookups” speaks to the level of analytical complexity the right candidate will have.

The Right Personality: Include a blurb about the soft skills which lend to success in this role. It may read like this if you are seeking a self-starting, team player “You see what needs to be done, and you do it, without needing to be told. You love being part of a team doing whatever it takes to meet a common goal of company success!”

Company Wow’s: Let the world know why your company is awesome. Do you have any special benefits or perks? These would be the things your employees talk about like free lunch on Fridays, stocked snacks in the kitchen, 100% paid healthcare benefits, lots of holidays or PTO, generous retirement plan contribution, bonus eligibility, gym or cafeteria located in the building or nearby, ability to work remotely on occasion, a commitment to really working only a 40 hour work week, awesome management team that actually listens, or simply amazing people who like to work as a team. Even if you don’t offer any “special” perks, there are still reasons why people like working there – ask your existing employees if you are not sure what to include.

In the current market, candidates have choice as well as access to lots of information about prospective employers (think Glassdoor or Google News searches). Knowing they desire this information, it is best to provide them much of this information upfront in the job advertisement. Ideally, your job ad is complete enough the candidates feel compelled to apply without additional research.

~ Tiffany Appleton

Graduates: Success in 5 Easy Steps

May 9th, 2017

Congratulations on your big achievement! After years of hard work as a student, you’ve reached the end. Well in reality, it’s the beginning…of your career! Since this is all very new, figuring out next steps can be a bit confusing. To help get you started, let’s do a quick breakdown and give you a rough outline of how these next steps might look.

Five Steps to Success after Graduation

1. Graduate and celebrate
I know you’re all excited to just jump right into the search, but take some time to pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Look back on all that you’ve accomplished before you start looking forward into your future. Let yourself feel all the potential that lies ahead on your career path.

2. Create your resume, cover letter template, and other crucial documents
We actually have a bunch of blogs in our archives that would be helpful for this. In the beginning, you’ll just need the basics and can then later customize your resumes and cover letters as you apply for various positions. And while it’s a bit early in the game, it’s still not a bad idea to start thinking about professional references so you can create that document as well.

3. Take stock of your resources
Your school’s career center is a great place to start; they may be able to help you with leads and/or job-searching tips. And of course, staffing firms like Johnson & Hill (there’s my inevitable shameless plug!) can be a really great resource. Also don’t forget the power of networking. Meet new people and steward those relationships over time. You’ll find that they are your most valuable resource and can unlock lots of doors for you. And the rest of your search will likely be comprised of ads on specific company websites and job boards like CareerBuilder, Indeed, and LinkedIn.

4. Apply!
These days, most application processes begin online. Think of each application as a seed that you plant. You have to plant lots of them because you don’t know which ones will take root. And keep in mind also that some may not grow immediately, but it’s still important to keep planting because that’s the only way to achieve a fruitful harvest. And on that note, the punny farmer metaphor has officially come to an end.

5. Interview
The first couple interviews can seem overwhelming, but they really don’t have to be! Honestly, it’s a conversation. This is your chance to talk about yourself and your goals while also learning a great deal about a company. Don’t let it freak you out! And before you start getting interviews lined up, think about what you’ll want to wear so you’ll be ready to dress your best before you even get your first interview request.

If you have questions about resumes, cover letters, interviews, or any other part of the job search process, please check out our blog archives! We have a nearly limitless array of information there to help you shine like a star candidate. Good luck!

Are You Doing Reference Checks the Right Way?

April 25th, 2017

Do you ever wish you could skip the reference checking portion of the interview process? It just seems so time consuming and you know they are only going to provide you with names of people who are going to say good things, so why bother? Your time is valuable and could be well spent elsewhere, right? Maybe, but if you approach your reference checking process a little differently, you may find it to be super helpful in both deciding on whether to make the hire and how to best manage the new hire once on board.

The first thing you should always do when checking a reference is to verify the nature of the working relationship between the potential hire and reference. Ideally, you are looking for a supervisor or managerial reference. You should be asking a question like “what was the nature of your working relationship with Susie?” If there is any question whether this person was a supervisor, you should follow-up with a direct question like “Did Susie report directly to you?” or “Were you responsible for Susie’s performance review?” Knowing the exact relationship here will provide context for the rest of the information you learn from the call.

From here, there are two basic ways to proceed, either with directed questions, or a general open-ended conversation. There are pros and cons for each.

The open ended approach can work well because you may learn things about the candidate that never came up in the interview process. This approach can allow for follow-up and clarifying questions too. Just be aware, the reference is going to stay very far away from anything negative and you will never learn about any challenges they may have had or any weaknesses.

With directed questions, you get to ask about exactly what you really want to know. This can work well for things like dependability, duties and responsibilities, and soft skills/personality traits. Just make sure your questions are phrased properly to uncover the information you are seeking. “Tell me about Susie’s dependability” is very different from “Was Susie consistently dependable?”

The ideal approach may be to ask a few key directed questions, and then follow-up with “What else should I know about Susie that we haven’t already discussed?” Be very attentive, because many times it is not what the reference says, it’s what they didn’t say that you should be keying in on.

If you perform multiple reference checks (and you should) it is very helpful to think about the common themes that shone through. These should be their key personality traits, the tasks they love to perform, and likely their preferred management style. One of the best things I learn through reference checks is how to best manage the new employee to ensure I am getting their best performance and they are appropriately challenged and happy.

Given the potential legal consequences, you know the person on the other end of the phone will choose their words carefully, and focus on the positive. But there are still many ways to ensure you get very useful information out of that 5-10 minute conversation.

~ Tiffany Appleton

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

April 18th, 2017

SERIES: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

(Author Stephen Covey)

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw®

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

~Abraham Lincoln~

Renewal. Reenergize. Revitalize. This is “Sharpen[ing] the Saw”. No matter our roles or goals, we cannot fulfill them if the vessel that holds our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self is not being honed for the journey.

As we’ve walked through the 7 Habits, each habit has helped us achieve focus, establish priorities, and collaborate with others. All habits take time to truly own. And achieving mastery over these is not a linear process. It is a cyclical one requiring continual renewal of our energies, a redirection of our path, and a striving toward balance in all areas of life. It is a shedding of an old skin and growth of a new, fresher one that can withstand old and new pressures put upon us with improved strength.

Sharpening the saw means a strong body, a dynamic, energized mind, passionate yet focused emotions, and a sensitive and giving spirit. Renewal of these aspects of ourselves looks different for each person. What we tap into to rebuild will depend upon our personalities, interests, and overall make up.

Take some time to think about what helps you renew your spirit. What makes you feel like YOU? Is it exercise? Perhaps socializing with friends? Reading a good book? Do you get renewed by spending time alone with your thoughts? For those of us who are introverted, alone time is essential to rebuilding our energy before facing the world again. Others are energized by more activity. Either way, it means making and taking the time for ourselves. It means stepping out of the mechanics of our usual routine to reconnect with our inner voice.

Just as chopping down a tree is so much easier with an axe that has been sharpened and primed for work, navigating our way through our own personal journeys will be as well with a rejuvenated mind, body, and spirit.

~ Erin Counter ~

I’m Sorry for Apologizing?

April 13th, 2017

So what is all this business with blogs that tell us to stop apologizing? Personally, I’ve been trained from childhood to be polite and just come to terms with accepting responsibility. Am I just being stubborn with embracing change, or is our world becoming a bit cold and devoid of feeling? Well, I hope it’s not nearly as dramatic as either of those! Really, it’s a matter of understanding the true meaning behind this and gleaning the items of value so we can utilize them.

Let’s start with some examples
One apology blog that I read painted the picture of some innocent individual walking down a hallway and apologizing for accidentally colliding with someone. This author said the individual should not apologize. Since the other person was also walking in said corridor, that person was equally at fault, making our protagonist’s apology superfluous.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit saddened by a world where we collide with others and don’t acknowledge it in some way! A quick apology seems quite acceptable there, or perhaps an “excuse me.”

It’s about word choice
A few days ago, I was brainstorming with a colleague in her workspace. She reached for her mug to grab a sip of tea, and my arm was sort of blocking the mug. I stifled an apology and instead said, “excuse me” as I moved my arm. I didn’t do anything wrong, and my colleague certainly was not expecting an apology. I just needed a couple words that would acknowledge that I was unknowingly in the way.

For many writers on the topic, their fear is that apologies either make us weak or that some of us apologize so often that the overuse can irritate others. So instead, I suggest that we find other words to express the same concept.

Let’s try another example. You’re running 15 minutes late for your appointments on a particular day. You have someone who arrived on time and has been waiting for you. Instead of staying “I’m sorry I’m running behind!” you can say “thank you so much for your patience!” This use of gratitude shifts the focus to a positive statement about how patient your customer or client is. And as added bonus, this positivity makes it less likely that your customer/client acts defensively about the delay since you have acknowledged it.

Keep in mind, of course, that sometimes we do have to apologize for being late. After all, I can’t show up to work 3 hours late and just thank everyone for their patience.

Sorry not sorry?
I think we all have at some point said something like “I’m sorry you took it that way” when someone interpreted our words in a way we did not intend. So here’s the problem. That’s not actually an apology—despite the “sorry.” It shifts the blame back onto the other person, implying that they are wrong for how they feel.

Something more effective might be “I’m sorry my words caused you to feel that way.” The negative impression wasn’t intended, but it still happened and people are all entitled to feel the way they feel. Taking on some responsibility tends to put the other party more at ease, allowing you to then rephrase things in a way more in line with your original intention. So yes, this is a case where “I’m sorry” goes a long way, provided it’s actually delivered as a true apology, of course.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

Adulting While Emailing: You Can Do It!

April 4th, 2017

In a world ravaged by text messages and a perpetual shortage of time, it seems our email etiquette has run amuck! Today, let’s have some fun looking at email faux pas to make sure our next professional email is on point.

Back to basics
What would you suppose are some of the key elements of the professional email you’re about to write? Some of you would say complete sentences, punctuation, a greeting, etc. And yes! You’re correct (see below). However, I’m thinking of something even more basic–your name. There’s a reason you used to get a couple hundred points on the SAT just for getting your name right. It’s sort of important!

Unique and intriguing usage of punctuation and grammar
“I’m sorry I missed your call! This job sounds great! Please call me when you have a moment! I’ll be available today between 3 and 5 pm! I love puppies!”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with our good buddy, the exclamation point. However, if used too much, it can feel like a caffeine overdose.


Did you even read the entire message? It’s hard to get through! There really isn’t anything terribly wrong with the content of that email, but the caps make it rather difficult to feel anything but overwhelmed when reading the text.

“i am good at customer service and have working in call centr for like 3 years call me if you like my resume”

The only way to make that more hilarious would be to mention that I also have excellent attention to detail. Let grammar check and spell check be your friend, but still don’t forget to proofread. And back to attention to detail; if that line appears in your resume, check it ten times to ensure there are no typos in that sentence. Believe me, it happens. A lot.

“Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse any typos”
I think I saved my favorite for last! Sending something from a mobile device does not disable our ability to proofread. There may be some limitations with formatting, but that’s ok. Overall, I think most of us look the other way if a little typo pops up, but mobile device or not, a professional email is still a professional email. And unless you’re driving while emailing (which I know none of us would EVER do, right?), the email systems on mobile devices don’t make it terribly challenging to ensure that your message is properly executed. In the end, it’s a matter of making sure our smart phones are making us smarter!

~ Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

Keeping Your Career on Track–The Easy Way

March 23rd, 2017

Keeping Your Career on Track–The Easy Way
Part 2

This week, we continue our career path topic and delve into the slightly more complicated subject of what to do when you either don’t have career growth options with the current company or you have options but no mentorship infrastructure to help guide you on your way.

Your current employer isn’t in line with your ultimate goal
This scenario can exist if there are no positions to grow into, if there is no turnover that would allow growth, or if your current employer is not the industry you’re interested in pursuing. Nearly every situation adds value of some kind to your experience and to your skillset, so this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to jump ship right away. Depending on your situation, you may want to have a talk with your current manager to let them know where you are. The open approach is ideal but not always an option, depending on your individual situation and the type of manager/supervisor you have.

But either way, start thinking about companies and opportunities that could be a good next step. Since you have a job and income to pay your bills, you can take some time to evaluate options and the next steps that will best serve your ultimate goal. Try to find companies that offer lots of room for growth so you don’t have to jump around too much to make steps up the ladder. And in larger companies, you would likely have a manager to assist you in reaching your goals.

You’re working with a difficult manager
Let’s say you’re working for a company that does have opportunities for growth, which we discussed in last week’s post; however, what should you do if your manager is not someone who is going to help you grow?

The most effective leaders get to know their employees, their strengths, and their interests. And with that information, they work with the employee to create goals and assist that individual through the career process. When this happens, the employee is happy, and the company is successful. It creates a win-win scenario. But what do you do if your manager will not be of assistance when it comes to your career? There are several possible outcomes, and there is no one blog that can really tell you what to do. But with that said, we can at least try to give you some ideas of where to start.

You may be in a situation where you can still grow within the company but will need to do so of your own volition. In this scenario, you would be responsible for learning more about the opportunities available, the process, and also setting yourself up with goals and a path.

In some cases, you may find HR to be helpful. They may be able to offer information about possible career options or even refer you to other contacts in the company who could help. Or within your department, maybe there’s another coworker who has gone through the growth process and can give you some helpful feedback. Mentorship comes in many forms!

The last (and most unfortunate possibility) is that you may have to find another job. While I don’t like to encourage a dramatic course of action like this, it’s also important to realize that your career path and career planning are a very big deal. If you don’t have a way to set yourself up for success, it will make the process significantly more challenging and will reduce your chance of reaching your goals. Don’t jump to this conclusion too quickly, but also don’t underestimate the value of your path.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist