Pay Attention to What You’re Applying For…Please?

dos and donts

Yes I am on a hiring frenzy again and can I just say, I really wish people would just pay attention. There is a reason that we list required skills, required education and required experience. If you don’t even come close, don’t waste your time or the employer’s time. Yes there is something to be said for stretching yourself and looking to make a career change. I would never want to discourage that, however sending through an application that looks like you applied by mistake it not the way to accomplish that goal. Call the employer ask about the experience required, what they are looking for and how you skills may or may not transfer, yes I’m telling you to conduct an informational interview.

Here are some simple Do’s and Do Not’s when applying for jobs:

  • Do customize your application, resume, objective statement (if you use one) and cover letter for each job.
  • Do Not assume they’ll overlook it when your cover letter is for a teaching position and you are applying for a Management role.
  • Do take the time to fill out the application completely.
  • Do Not put “see resume” in the application sections asking for your duties and skills.
  • Do have an objective party review your resume for edits and errors you may have overlooked (a second pair of eyes is always good).
  • Do not rush through your resume and just send it to get it in. You may as well not have sent it at all.

You will hear lots of people say that finding a job is a full-time job. This is absolutely correct. It takes time, effort, creativity, determination and a dash of gumption (yes I just used that word). To land the interview, let alone the job. If you aren’t willing to put your best foot forward during the research and application process, you might as well forget getting the interview.

Working with students and graduates I make the analogy, if you aren’t willing to put in at least as much time into your resume and application process as you put into figuring out your interview outfit; then you are wasting your time. You may as well be sending your applications/resumes out into the dark hole of the internet, because no one is going to see it. You will not get a phone interview, you will not get an in person interview, you will not pass go and you will not collect $200.

A little time and effort on the front end, is going to make your job search so much more productive. Take the time, personalize, preview and perform.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search and career advice come back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

Gossip is as Gossip Does

Thumper

We all know those folks who seem to feel the need to let others know they know more than they should, or at least more than you. In an effort to seem important or in the know, they have to tell someone around them. Here’s the problem, they never know the whole truth. The whole truth never gets spread cause the whole truth is never as interesting as their interpretation of it.

Yes lots of big ambiguous words, I did that on purpose to prove a point. Interpretation, perception, misdirection, confusion and chaos this is what happens when folks decide to share what they shouldn’t.

According to an article by Mary Abbajay of the “ The CareerStone Group”, “ The Danger of Workplace Gossip “Gossip is the death of teamwork as the group breaks up into cliques and employees start refusing to work with others.” What may seem like harmless sharing, posturing or chit chat; can quickly turn into a culture killing disease.

Recently, I experienced a situation where a colleague felt they had information about an individual that was ‘juicy’. They also felt they had the right to share this ‘factual’ nugget of information with everyone and anyone who would listen. Truth be told this tid bit was no more than an observation made by someone else and their personal interpretation of the events, having nothing to do with fact. The results were so damaging that the individual felt that leaving the organization was a better option than staying and trying to overcome the damage done to their reputation.

Yes this is an extreme case, but not that uncommon. So for just a minute I’m going to get on my soap box. My Mom, who is one of the most amazing women I know, raised me to “Do No Harm”. Seems simple enough, I know, but so often not observed. So instead I’ll bring it in a bit closer. Remember the movie “Bambi”, yes the animated Disney version! There is a line in the movie stated by my favorite character. Thumper is scolded by his mother for something he said. She asks a simple question, “What did your father say?” To which Thumper humbly replies, “ If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Very good advice.

In the professional world you will always encounter people you don’t enjoy working with. There will be cliques, mean girls, Heathers and people who just rub you the wrong way. Don’t become one of them. Put a smile on your face, try not to misinterpret what you hear, see, experience and keep your observations to yourself. Don’t go to a co-worker with the, “I saw something and I just don’t know what to do”, comment excusing your gossipy behavior. If you see something legitimately not right, follow the chain of command, be objective and state the facts. When all else fails seek out your HR professional and talk with them. Do no harm.

If you are the person with integrity, you don’t start those conversations, you don’t participate in those conversations, and you don’t even allow them to happen around you, then it won’t take long before your behavior is not only noticed but emulated.

There is a quote by Gandhi which is often truncated, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” You frequently see this as “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Truer words have never been spoken. He is proof that one man, one person can make a difference.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search and career advice come back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

dont sell yourself short

So you got the interview, fantastic! Now the work really begins. Remember that getting a job is a full time job and the interview is just one mile on the journey.

Just to refresh on what to do next:

  • Research the organization thoroughly. Know who they are, what they stand for and how you can add value to that mission.
  • Have thoughtful questions prepared. Don’t ask about salary, hours, benefits or how many days you can be late before you get fired. (Yes I actually had someone ask me that question.)
  • Dress to impress, remember the point of the interview is to get the hiring manager to actually be able to visualize you doing the job. Don’t spoil the image with your Friday night best. You’re looking for a job not a date.
  • Have extra copies of your resume and references, smile, shake hands firmly, make good eye contact, speak clearly and make a personal connection to the position.
  • Finally, don’t sell yourself short!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve interviewed a candidate and their ability to clearly and articulately verbalize their skills, experience and enthusiasm is what kept them from being chosen. The best person to sell you to the hiring manager is YOU!

Letters of reference are great! Awards and certificates of achievement are fantastic! Any external documentation you have that demonstrates your abilities in an objective and positive light make sure you bring with you and discuss. If you can’t speak on your own behalf, however, the battle is lost.

Confidence is key! How often have you heard that phrase? I’m sure you’ve heard it A LOT. It’s very true, if you can’t hold your head high and let the hiring manager know, that you know your stuff, no one is going to do it for you. Besides, when you have to step into that role, you won’t have a herald trumpeting your skills ahead of you as you walk down the hallowed halls of your new organization.

If you can’t speak the language of your industry with confidence, know who you are and your value, and believe that you are the best choice for the job, how can you expect to convince the hiring manager of the same?

You are your own best advocate in the job search. Know what the going rate for your position is, understand and speak the terminology specific to that industry, hold your head high and be prepared to describe that not only can you do the job, but that no one can do it better.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

All Soft Skills Boil Down to Customer Service

soft skills

I arrived at the airport on Wednesday for a very long flight home only to find that my flight was over an hour delayed, this meant I would miss my cutoff for my final leg of my journey home. It was the last flight out and I was going to have to spend an additional night where I was. For those of you who are frequent travelers, this is not that uncommon an occurence. I received great service at the airport that night as they set me back up in my original hotel and provided for a taxi to take me to the hotel and return me to the airport the next morning. Again, not an unusual story.

The next morning once I made it to my first desitnation I went to check in on my upgrade and was met with complete disregard, as if going to the customer service desk was the biggest inconvenience in the world. I was bothering this woman who was there to assist me, how dare I! It occured to me at that moment what the practical application of ‘soft skills’ is and why employers spend so much time and money tring to identify employess that have it.

All soft skills, at their very basic level boil down to some form of customer service. While doing some research this morning on soft skills I came across an article titled Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters . This is by no means an all inclusive list but I think it’s pretty close.

  • Strong work ethic. Will you arrive on time and do your job to the best of your ability with honesty and integrity?
  • Positive attitude. Will you approach your job with a smile and genuine joy for what you are doing?
  • Good communication skills. Will you interact with internal and external customers in a manner that best befits the organizations image?
  • Time management abilities. Will you treat others time (including your organization’s time) with the same respect you would like others to give you?
  • Problem solving skills. Will you approach challenges in a way that provides objective judgement focused on the needs of our customers and organization?
  • Acting as a team player. Will you work collaboratively with members of your group to provide superior results?
  • Self confidence. Will you lead by example and provide assistance where and when needed?
  • Abiliy to accept and learn from criticism. Will you listen and heed the counsel of those around you in a professional and positive manner?
  • Flexibility/Adaptability. Will you accept that sometimes objectives change with little to no warning and it is your job to continue to provide the best support of those objectives?
  • Working well under pressure. In times of difficulty will you continue to act in the manner above to smile, be positive and approach the task at hand?

At the most base level all soft skills are your ability to put the needs of your internal and external customers first, provide service with a smile, regardless of the task at hand, and the desire (it is a choice) to enjoy what you are doing. If you can master these few things then the list above will be taken care of. Soft skills, cultural fit, customer service are the same thing.

Your challenge is to be able to demonstrate that you possess these traits in your resume and in the interview. Make sure to tell stories about your experience that demonstrate your willingness to go out of your way to help your customers, co-workers, department and organization. Doing that will put you head and shoulders above the rest.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

Kids and Interviews Don’t Mix

imagesCA6A53GG

As parents, talking about our children comes as naturally to us as walking and breathing. I do it all the time, and if given a little rope will completely consume the conversation with anecdotal stories of my fabulous four’s antics. Having four children at home, I have a story for just about every situation and trust me when I say reality is much stranger than fiction. See, there I went, point made. There are instances however, where going off on ‘kid tales’ is not appropriate and can actually be detrimental; the Interview.

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing a delightful woman for a position. She was professionally dressed, articulate and well informed. She asked thoughtful questions and her resume was quite impressive, however her children dominated the conversation from the very beginning.

She took a very clever approach to her interview, wherein she tried to tie each of her previously held positions and their duties to the position she was interviewing for. A good strategy to show that you have the skill set, direct or transferable, and experience necessary to be successful in the new role. Her mistake was that each of her positions was related through her children in some manner or other.

When asked how she would approach managing a divers staff with somewhat differing approaches to their daily activities, her answer was about recruiting volunteers for her children’s PTA. When asked to discuss her experience with coaching and mentoring students to achieve career success she noted a program she work on with elementary children with regards to drug use.

Now I do want to point out that both of these endeavors are important, difficult and have intrinsic value to our society; however they did not clearly connect the dots between her skill sets and the needs of the position for which she was applying.

With her management and human resource background, she should have been able to easily make connections and share examples from her work experience to the job at hand. I wasn’t sure if her answers were due to a lack of understanding of the job she was applying for or her parental instinct to share stories about her children. Either way, she talked herself out of the job.

She was nervous, she was not observing the non-verbal cues of her interviewers, and she was not answering the questions in a manner that befitted a professional with her experience.

Kids and interviews don’t mix. Even when you feel the interview is informal and the interviewer is sharing stories of their children, stay away from the subject. It’s too easy to fall into the storytelling parent and lose sight of what the conversation is really about.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Why Do They Ask That?

imagesCAZDDIOR

Yesterday I received an instant message from a student who was asked a question during an interview she wasn’t sure how to answer. She was interviewing for a Medical Billing position and the hiring manager asked “What would you do if the computer system went down?” She was confused by the question and after the interview called to ask me why they asked that question and what the right answer should have been.

I asked her how she responded and she told me that she said “I would do other activities like filing and returning calls.” they asked the follow up question, “So you wouldn’t do any billing the whole day?” Ouch!

Ok let’s think about this. No this wasn’t a question designed to catch you off guard, although that was probably how it felt. This was a question to get to the root of your critical thinking skills, how would you behave under pressure, or if you had to improvise to still achieve your goal. In other words can you call an audible at the line of scrimmage?

Ok you’re at the line and you can read the defense is going to blitz to your left and your play is leaving you vulnerable on that side. So you have to call an audible, make a play change on the line to still move the ball toward the goal. Are you decisive enough to change direction when you see the line collapsing in?

Once she understood the reason for the question, she then asked me what I would have said. I would have asked if they have resources in place for a paper only process in the event this happens. If they do not, I would probably make it a priority to help devise a process to accomplish the daily tasks with a manual or paper process in the event of a power outage or computer crisis. What I would want to make sure is that all my daily tasks were able to be completed in a timely manner regardless of computer issues.

Understanding the question goes a long way to making sure you’re providing the best answer. The questions hiring managers ask are purposeful, to see if you are a good fit culturally, skillfully, experientially and professionally. A good way to think of those, not so obvious questions, is to just think what would you want to hear as an employer? You would want to know that the individual you are hiring will be dependable (there on time for their scheduled shift), professional (able to express to your customers the image you want), adaptable (able to change priorities as needed by the organization), and decisive (able to make decisions for the benefit of the organization). This is not an all-encompassing list; but you can’t just come out and as a candidate, so will you be here every day, on time? You know what that answer would be, true or not.

Think about what kind of employee you would want to hire, what would you want to know about them and answer the question accordingly.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Help A Shark Ate My Resume!

interview etiquett

I had to put a catchy title out to get your attention. The truth is, everyone has an opinion about interviewing etiquette, which do you follow. I had an extraordinary high school social studies teacher and my junior year he gave me a great piece of advice. “Betsy”, he said, “the world is full of people with opinions. One thing you have to understand, opinions are like butt holes (sorry couldn’t use the real word), everyone has one and they usually all stink.” Dressing for an interview is not rocket science, nor is behaving like a professional. However several of my colleagues felt this was an area that may need further discussion so here we go.

  • Always arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Always leave your cell phone in the car not in your purse/pocket/portfolio.
  • Only 1 in 4 job seekers bring a portfolio to an interview. If you don’t’ have one, get one.
  • Smile!
  • Look everyone you meet in the eye, shake their hands firmly and speak clearly.
  • You have never had a bad boss, co-worker, customer, company or experience with a previous employer.

If you have spent more time figuring out your outfit than you’ve spent researching the company, you’re already in trouble. Make sure you google the organization, look up their mission and vision and any recent news about them. Never go into an interview with out at least three very thoughtful questions to ask the hiring manager that aren’t, salary, schedule or vacation centric. Always, always have a way to relate a personal connection you have to their organization.

  • There is a difference between interview shoes and Friday night shoes. Please differentiate!
  • When you look in the mirror after you’ve dressed for the interview and think, “dang I look cute”, it’s probably not the right outfit.
  • Sensible shoes, minimal jewelry and make up, hair out of your face, teeth brushed, deodorant on and no perfume.
  • If you think your skirt may be too short, it is.
  • If you think your shirt may be too low cut, it is.
  • If you question any part of your ensemble, there is a reason, listen to your inner self and make the right decision.

An interview is a time to shine. You want the hiring manager to see you for the diamond that you are; you also want them to be able to visualize you actually doing the job. If any part of what you say or what you wear makes them question how you will fit into their world, game over. No matter how casual the interview may feel, never let your guard down for a minute. Reframe all questions in a positive way. Only wear an outfit your mother would approve of and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your father to hear come out of your mouth.

Again, it’s not rocket science, its common sense. Say please, and thank you, yes ma’am and yes sir. Shake hands, smile and follow up with a thank you note within 3-days. If you can take just these few tips with you to the interview, then you will be playing head and shoulders above your competition.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

One Size Does Not Fit All

untitled

Should my resume have an objective statement? Should it be in chronological order or reverse chronological order? Does my education go at the top or the bottom? Should my skills section include bullet points or a paragraph? How long should my cover letter be, should it include my personal mission statement?

I could go on and on with a never ending list of questions regarding the content, format, flow and chronology of your resume. There was a time when resumes were expected to conform to a somewhat specific format; a formulaic (if not archaic) standard of content inclusion and order. That is no longer the case. Depending on the research, a hiring manager can take anywhere from 3-12 seconds to review your resume. I’m of the mind that the higher level the position the longer they’ll spend initially reviewing your resume. However that being said, you need to think of your resume as a piece of real estate; it’s all about location, location, location.

If the job description is heavy on the bulleted technical skills; then your bulleted list of technical skills should take up the best real estate on your resume. If there is heavy weight given to your educational degrees or requirements, then that information should reside in the prime location. If the position requires writing samples, your objective statement and cover letter must be clear, concise and superbly written. I give very similar advice to students/graduates preparing for an interview. If the hiring manager is excited, mirror their enthusiasm. Look to your audience for your queues.

You can glean a lot of relevant information from a job posting/description.

  • Required skills – these are your key words.
  • Results Oriented & Proven Track Record – what success have you achieved at previous positions?
  • Relevant work experience – what positions have you held with transferrable skills?
  • Bachelor’s /Master’s Degree Required – make sure it’s front and center not buried on page 2.
  • Progressively responsible positions – not reverse chronological order.

I don’t claim to be the end all be all of the resume writing world. Doubtless there are many who would disagree with me on some points; however there is one area which I think we’ll all agree. The days of a one size fits all resume are gone. If you are not tailoring your resume for the job, industry, level and audience, the chances you will get the call are greatly diminished. Someone out there is taking the time upfront to perfect their image as the ideal candidate, are you?

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Power of Positivity

positivity

In your last interview were you asked any of the following questions?

  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell me about the worst supervisor you ever had?
  • Why do you want to leave your current position?
  • Tell me about the most challenging co-worker you’ve ever delt with?
  • Have you ever delt with a difficult customer, what did you do and what was the result?

Do you know why hiring managers ask these questions? Well let me tell you. They want to see if you are a positive or negative person. Yes it really is that simple, and yes we ask those questions on purpose. We know if you are going to talk bad about a previous, supervisor, co-worker or company; you’ll talk bad about us as well. If you speak about yourself in negative terms, it’ likely you’ll do the same about the people around you.

These questions, for the most part, are not about finding out if you had a bad boss or co-worker so we can find out how to manage you better. These are questions designed to see how you will communicate with and about the organization you desire to join. These are questions designed to see if you are going to be a positive or negative force with our organizational culture.

So to answer your question, yes they are trick questions; however they are not tricky to answer in a way that will make you shine.

  • When asked about your weaknesses, your response should be about your greatest areas of opportunity. After all a weakness is just an area in our life we have not developed as fully as we would like. It’s not a weakness, is an opportunity for us to grow in areas we are not as strong.
  • When asked about your worst supervisor/boss or co-worker or customer; again you need to reframe the answer. You haven’t had bad anything; you may have had challenges with communication, direction or understanding but in each case you were able to overcome these challenges to create a satisfactory work environment or experience.

It’s not rocket science! It does however, take practice. Reframing comments to maintain a positive style of communication is a skill that must be honed. Hiring managers will continually throw questions at you to coax you into a feigned level of comfort to get you to provide them with a negative response. Don’t fall for it! Organizations are drowning with applicants and they are looking for reasons to disqualify candidates and get down to the gems. This is one of the ways they will accomplish their goal.

If you want to stand out; be smart, thoughtful, professional, and always, positive. I can’t stress this enough! Hiring managers want to bring productive, professional and positive individuals to their organization. It’s up to you to show them you are the best choice.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Finding A Leader Not A Manager

Finding Nemo

What do you believe are the key characteristics of a successful leader? How important are these characteristics to you as you look to move into a new position? Will having a manage or supervisor with these characteristics help you to be more successful? Do you want to work for someone who inspires you to do better, to grow and reach for higher goals?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have one more for you. How do you identify these characteristics during an interview or hiring process? Better yet, how do you know the person you may be working for in the position you’re considering demonstrates these characteristics?

There is so much more to the work experience than schedule, salary, benefits and environment. There is the big ‘C’. Culture is often created and defined by the leaders in an organization; so how do you find out if you will be working for a leader or for a manager, because there is a big difference.

Navigating these waters can make you feel like Dory trying to find Nemo in the middle of the Ocean. Needle in a haystack doesn’t quite cut it. Where do you start? Who should you ask for help? Or do you, just keep swimming just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming, hoping you don’t run into sharks, jellyfish or worse, humans!

Seeking a little assistance is never a bad thing. Here are a few questions you should stop and ask yourself and your interviewer/hiring manager before saying accepting any offer.

  • What is the management style of the person this position reports to?
  • What is their communication style?
  • What training and development programs are available to help someone new to this position be successful?
  • What does your new hire orientation consist of?
  • How does this position play a part in overall mission of the organization?
  • How frequently do individual reviews take place?

Yes this is a long list of questions and I could actually add a few more, but for the sake of brevity let me make my point.

  • Does the company care about your success?
  • Are they investing in human capital?
  • Do they value ongoing training and performance management?
  • Do you personally identify with the mission/vision of the organization?
  • Can you see yourself spending 70% of your waking hours working with and for these individuals?

If you can positively answer those questions, then you can feel confident you are making an informed decision. If you find that they either don’t know the answers to the above questions or are unwilling to answer them; then I say again you can feel confident you are making an informed decision.

An interview is a two way street. It has to be a good fit for everyone, that’s when the magic really happens. When it’s a one sided relationship or when you are unclear as to the value of your role, expectations or performance, then back away slowly and carefully consider the steps you are about to take and if they will align with your longer term goals.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

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