When writing a resume, some folks subscribe to a “spaghetti on the wall” philosophy — throw everything that you’ve got on it and see what sticks. But to recruiters and hiring managers, it’s all about quality, not quantity. After all, with only about seven seconds to capture their attention, you want to make sure you get to the good stuff right away. Because of this, it’s probably a good idea to pare down your skills section from time to time.
Consider an artist’s portfolio, for example.
“Any serious practitioner will tell you that your portfolio is only has strong as its weakest piece. The same can be said of the skills you list on your resume — less is more,” says Aurora Meneghello, career coach and founder of Repurpose Your Purpose.
Wondering what exactly you should strike from your resume? Start with these seven items.
1. A Language You Only Studied in High School
Sure, you took French in high school for a few years, but are you really at a level where you feel comfortable holding everyday conversations with native speakers, or reading in that language? If the answer is “no,” it doesn’t belong on your resume.
“It doesn’t matter that you have basic or intermediate understanding of a language. Unless you have mastery of it, and can actually use it for work, leave it out,” suggests Meneghello.
In a worst-case scenario, your recruiter or hiring manager could be fluent and try to engage you in conversation — if they call your bluff, you can bet that you won’t be invited to move forward in the hiring process.
2. Basic Computer Skills Like Email and Microsoft Word
At this point, listing “email” or “Microsoft Word” as skills is almost equivalent to listing “reading” or “basic math”. They’re not differentiators — they’re expected.
“By adding [these] as a skill, candidates may appear to be trying to add ‘fluff’ to their resume, i.e., that they are grasping for anything to include because they don’t have enough relevant skills to list out,” says Peter Riccio, Founding Partner of recruiting firm Atlas Search.
One exception to this would be if you’ve honed a very specific practice using these programs, such as “[creating] an access database from scratch and [importing] data from Excel and other databases,” says career coach Mary Warriner. “Now that is worth mentioning in your skills section.”
3. Social Media (If You Haven’t Used It as Part of Your Job)
You might have thousands of Twitter followers, tons of Facebook friends and countless Instagram likes, but managing your personal brand and managing a company’s professional brand are two completely different things. Working in social media in a professional setting often requires much more than just posting engaging content — it often involves data analysis, experience with paid media and more.
“You may be awesome at posting pics of your friends and even sharing news about your current company; however, if you are not applying for a Social Media Strategist position, you shouldn’t mention your Facebook skills,” Warriner says. “Instead, review the job posting for the required skills and be sure to list the significant skills that you do possess.”
4. Soft Skills
This one’s a little tricky, because recruiters do love to see soft skills on your resume. However, they need to be demonstrated through examples rather than stated flat-out — saying that you’re a good communicator, for example, is useless without concrete examples to support it.
“The single most common mistake job seekers make is to list out soft skills on their resume — for example communication, multitasking, leadership, problem solving, etc. The message that sends to anyone reading the resume is ‘I may not have made clear what my soft skills are, so I’m listing them out just to make sure you see them,’” Riccio says.
Instead, demonstrate those soft skills by showing rather than telling.
“It’s so important to make sure that your soft skills are very clearly communicated in the body of the resume. For example, instead of listing ‘multitasking’ or ‘leadership’ as a skill, candidates should write ‘led multiple concurrent projects through to completion leading to x% ROI’ under the relevant position,” Riccio advises.
5. Exaggerations or Flat-Out Lies
Job seekers are often told to pepper in keywords from the job description to their resume. But if you don’t have one of the skills listed in the description, you shouldn’t include it in your resume just for the sake of mirroring the language. While you might think you can get away with it now, it will eventually come to light.
“If you are not an excellent oral communicator, don’t put that on your resume… If the job requires you to stand up in front of a group of people and deliver a message on a daily basis, you will probably fail miserably in that job,” Warriner says.
But that doesn’t mean you need to have every single skill listed in the job description to apply for a job — a good rule of thumb is that you should be an 80 to 90 percent match.
6. Outdated Tech
The preferred software and technology used in the workplace can change rapidly, but it’s important to stay on top of it nonetheless. Otherwise, you risk looking like you’re unable to keep up in a dynamic workplace.
“Companies are looking for sophisticated, flexible professionals who understand technology. By including technology that’s outdated in the skills section of your resume, it gives employers the impression that you’re skill set is stale and that you will have a much steeper learning curve,” Riccio says. “In a competitive market, employers want to invest people who have demonstrated an ability to learn quickly.”
So leave off things like coding languages that are no longer widely in use, outdated versions of modern software programs and other irrelevant technology.
7. Irrelevant or Joke Skills
This may sound obvious, but there truly are people who still list things like “expert-level guacamole maker” or “certified ping-pong champ” on their resume.
“Do not include skills that are irrelevant to the job you are applying for. I know I am amazingly proud that I make the best ‘award-winning’ cookies, but I’m in HR — I do not put that on my resume!” Warriner says.
Sure, there probably are a few recruiters and hiring managers out there who will find it funny or charming. But when you’re applying to a job, you don’t know who will appreciate that and who won’t — so it’s better to err on the side of professionalism.
Are you making one of these top five mistakes? Hint: You should worry more about being specific, than sounding impressive.
Recruiters know all too well that not all resumes are created equal. But while the weaker ones land in the rejection pile for lots of different reasons, there are some common themes. Here are a few resume mistakes recruiters say they keep running into.
MISTAKE #1: NOT ENOUGH NUMBERS
“Anyone can say they are results-driven or a great leader, but we want to see metrics,” says Nicole Hubmann, a recruiter at Webdam, the asset management platform owned by Shutterstock. “It’s the lack of metrics that stands out as a red flag, whether it’s on a resume or in a phone discussion.”
Job seekers may feel pressed for space or worry that there’s no single data point they could share about their work history that’s jaw-droppingly impressive. Don’t worry about being impressive, though–focus first on just being specific. “For example,” says Joe Shao, cofounder of talent-acquisition platform PerfectLoop, “I might read a line such as, ‘consistently exceeded sales quota.’ That’s forgettable. Then I jump on the phone and learn what they meant was, exceeded sales quota 220% in 2017, becoming the top salesperson in the company.’ That is much more compelling to me and hiring managers.”
If you don’t provide enough metrics, you may never even get to that phone screener where you can explain to a recruiter why they matter.
MISTAKE #2: BAD FORMATTING OR TOO LONG
Resumes need to look pretty–not because recruiters are interested in your aesthetic sense but because they care how you organize information. David Lewis, CEO of HR consultancy OperationsInc, runs through some of the most common offenders: “Font is too small. Font is too large. Oldest job listed first. Resume is too long.”
Hubmann explains why these misfires matter: “We are looking for candidates who want to be part of a winning culture that is results-oriented and performance-driven. A candidate who is self-aware enough to understand their impact is more likely to give concise, clear examples on their resume.”
MISTAKE #3: RELEVANT SKILLS ARE TOO HARD TO FIND
Kari Guan, a recruiter at the apartment rental finder Zumper, says that in weak resumes candidates typically fail to “list any experience that is translatable to the role they’re applying for. This might sound fairly obvious but it happens more than you’d think, and makes me think they didn’t read the job description.” In other words, explaining your top overall job skills is one thing, but highlighting the ones that make you competitive for a specific role is another thing entirely.
Guan says this is true even for entry-level roles, where candidates may not think they have much work experience that counts as “relevant.” Even then, she says, “If they’re a recent grad, I always appreciate including a note about a personal experience they’ve had that’s applicable to the role and I might not otherwise know about.”
Lewis adds that candidates sometimes do include relevant skills but don’t give them a place of pride, especially when it comes to technical abilities. Many forget to put all the technology they know that’s crucial to the role in its own dedicated section.
MISTAKE #4: THERE’S NO CLEAR NARRATIVE
Says Shao, “The thing that I see all the time is that candidates miss their chance to tell their most compelling narrative. It’s especially common for a certain type person who isn’t great at self-promotion. But it is a resume,” he says–“This isn’t an Instagram selfie at some party, it’s actually an appropriate time to brag factually. If you don’t, you might lose the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager.”
Many think the time to do that is in their cover letter, but the fact is that many recruiters don’t even read those. So you need to show how your experiences have built upon one another and that you’ve grown as a result.
“For tech, we are not seeking consultants,” says Hubmann. “Instead, we look for someone who has experience working with a team on an evolving product. Often, consultants produce an app or a website and then move on to the next project, never having to deal with the impact of their product on the customer or the company. We want someone who has been through the long haul with customers and understands the importance of integrity in the product.”
So make sure your resume is a clear story about your progression, and not, as Lewis puts it, “a summary of [your] career greatest hits, with mention of what occurred at the end in a smaller section.” And whatever you do, he adds, never list your oldest job first.
MISTAKE #5: IT’S SUSPICIOUSLY VAGUE OR JUST BORING
Sometimes resumes stand out for what they don’t say. Lewis says one hallmark of a crappy resume is that the dates of employment are either year-ranges only, like “2012–2014,” without any months, or leave off those dates altogether. That may be a sign that a candidate is trying to mask a history of job-hopping or a long stretch of unemployment.
But for Guan, vague, generic qualifications often mean passing up a candidate for another reason: “When the responsibilities they list are too general, there’s nothing that grabs me and makes me interested in learning more about the person.” Recruiters are people, too, and reviewing resumes can be dull work. If you can’t get them excited to find out more about you, they’ll find someone who can.
Rich Bellis is Associate Editor of Fast Company's Leadership section
You found the perfect job opportunity. Not only are you qualified for it, but also you love the company and are excited to join the team.
After you apply, don’t just hope to hear back. The best way to land your ideal job opportunity is to be proactive.
In fact, here at Job-Hunt.org we conducted a survey and found that 51 percent of employers and HR professionals say they do not consider candidates who don’t follow up after they submit an application. In other words, you’re more likely to be passed over if you don’t at least send an email to your potential employer.
Following up is just one aspect of your strategy. You need to build a strong online presence, as well. Our survey also found that 61 percent of employers and HR professionals agree managing your online reputation is important.
The best time to start is now. It’s important to develop an authentic representation of who you are as you search for jobs. By being proactive, you are ready to impress potential employers.
Here’s what you need to do to manage your online presence to stay competitive and earn your dream job opportunity:
Learn How to Optimize
Chances are when employers get your application they’re going to look you up. In fact, our survey found that 17 percent of employers and HR professionals say the first thing they do is search for the candidate on Google.
The good news is, you can influence what they find online. First, determine what keywords you want to rank for. These might be skills, certifications, and job titles. To rank for these in the results, start creating content online through a personal website, a blog, or another outlet like Medium.
When you create content, make sure you know the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). Essentially, search engines look for content that comes from a credible authority and delivers value to the user.
Keep in mind, our survey found 40 percent of employers only check the first page of results. Ensure you include relevant keywords so Google ranks your content high.
It also helps to build a website with your name in the domain. This way, when they search your name, they will find your optimized website where you can include your current resume and a portfolio of your work.
Define Your Expertise
Being an expert can define your employee brand and make you stand out from the competition. In fact, our research found that 28 percent of employers say a candidate’s industry specific knowledge is the most important aspect of their online presence.
Think about what you want potential employers to know about your industry knowledge.
For example, if you work in marketing, define what specific domain you are an expert in. This could be paid advertising, social media marketing, or another field within your career.
When you look at your past experiences, highlight the skills and accomplishments that are associated with and demonstrate your expertise. This way, you can use your knowledge to inform others.
Continue to Educate
Once you know what strengths you want to promote, develop a content strategy that allows you to continually educate your audience. When you deliver value on a consistent basis, you can become an industry thought leader.
Employers like to see various kinds of content. Our survey found that the forms they consider to be the best quality are online courses, instructional articles, and ebooks.
As you continue to optimize your content and build a body of relevant work, you can earn more followers. Creating various forms of content to educate others shows employers you’re creative, passionate and an effective communicator.
Join Groups Online
As you prove your expertise and educate people in your industry, your professional network becomes invaluable. In fact, our survey found that 38 percent of employers said they consider professional organization memberships to be a requirement in candidates.
However, just joining these groups is not enough. Stay engaged with other members, attend events, and meet people.
Bottom line: employers want to see you engaging in your industry, sharing ideas, seeking out learning opportunities, and staying informed.
Our survey found nearly one out of 10 employers said candidates who comment in LinkedIn groups increase their chances of getting contacted for an interview. Furthermore, 13 percent of employers consider commentary in industry chats, through outlets like LinkedIn groups or Quora answers, to be high-quality content.
Publicly commenting helps show that you’re interested and passionate about your industry and excited to offer your insights to others. Dedicate some time throughout the week to connect with others and stay engaged.
Your online presence is an ever-evolving project. As your career progresses, share your new skills and what you learn. This will not only help you earn your ideal job opportunity, it will also keep you learning and growing as a professional.
How are you managing your online presence and pursuing your ideal job opportunity?
Susan P. Joyce, is an online job search expert and owner and publisher of Job-Hunt.org, the guide for a smarter, safer job search. Connect with Susan on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Don’t ever say, “My last boss was terrible.”
BY LILLIAN CHILDRESS
The hiring manager has already sifted through resumes and decided that they want to meet you. Now it’s your turn to make an impression. And, unfortunately for you, every sentence you utter during the job interview is going to be a part of that impression. The best way to prepare for potential embarrassment? Know what’s off limits.
Avoid these 11 statements next time you’re up for a job, and you’ll be well on your way to wowing your interviewer.
“THAT’S A GREAT QUESTION!”
While this phrase may be a great addition to social conversations, it’s not something an interviewer needs to hear. Instead of sounding surprised that the recruiter asked a question, remember that you’ve prepared for this interview. Plus, the questions they ask are almost always from a preset list. Playing the game of flattering your interviewer is tricky, and should be used sparingly. Get straight down to answering their questions.
“WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE ROLE, AGAIN?”
Any questions showing your lack of research into the company, the job description, or the industry itself show that you haven’t adequately prepared. Preparing for a job interview is like preparing for a final exam–you need to know your stuff. There’s no doubt it’s important to ask your interviewer questions, but the questions you ask should be targeted toward information you can’t find online: what the company culture is like, how the values of the company play out in day-to-day business, etc.
“I’VE ACTUALLY NEVER DONE THIS TYPE OF JOB BEFORE, BUT . . . “
If you have a lack of experience, your resume will show it. There’s no need to further underscore your lack of qualifications. In fact, the interview is your chance to creatively connect the dots between your resume and your decision to apply for the job. It’s where you’re able to tell the interviewer why you’ll be a perfect fit for the job, even if that’s not what it looks like on paper.
“I REALLY CAN’T IMAGINE ANYONE MORE QUALIFIED THAN ME”
Self-aggrandizing during an interview only serves to hurt you in the end. Since you haven’t seen the resumes of the other applicants, there’s no use in overtly comparing yourself to them. What’s important to learn is the art of the subtle comparison. “We all have room for improvement, so be honest with yourself: How would an interviewer see you as compared to other candidates?” writes personal brand expert Brenda Bence. The key is being able to talk about the things that make you special–not just saying that you’re special.
“MY LAST BOSS WAS TERRIBLE”
Absolutely no griping about your last company allowed, unless there’s some really special circumstance. Complaining about how you didn’t get along in your last work environment is detrimental on two levels. First, it shows your lack of ability to cope with a challenging situation and move past it. Second, the last thing your interviewer wants is for you to be talking trash about their company or employees in the future. Obviously, it’s important to talk about past challenges you’ve faced on the job–but critically evaluate, don’t complain.
“THIS WILL BE A GREAT STEPPING STONE TO MY NEXT CAREER MOVE”
While this may be the exact reason you want this job, it’s not a savvy move to share with the interviewer. Hiring managers are generally looking for someone who will display a long-term commitment to the company. Instead, career expert Lynn Williams recommends asking questions about your opportunities for advancement in the company. This shows, according to her, “that you mean to stay with the company and let them benefit from your developing skills, knowledge, and maturity. You’re not just showing commitment, but long-term commitment.”
“I DON’T KNOW”
There’s always a better way to respond to a question you’re unsure of than saying, “I don’t know.” Of course, it’s always important to be humble and not make up what you’re not sure of, but this is where your communication skills come into play.
“I DON’T HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR YOU”
Having questions prepared for your interviewer is almost as important as being able to answer the questions they throw at you. The questions you ask are an opportunity to display the deep knowledge you have of the company.
“THAT’S A REALLY NICE WATCH YOU HAVE ON!”
Attempts to flatter your interviewer will most likely fall short–especially in relation to appearance or material possessions. If you really must compliment the interviewer, make it related to something you know they’ve done in the business, or even talk about a move the company made that you admired.
“UM, SO, LIKE, I REALLY, UM . . . “
As in any situation where you want to sound confident, intelligent, and collected: Cut the filler words. This is also another reason to practice what you’re going to say out loud, beforehand, so you’re not searching for your words when you’re in the real interview.
“DO PEOPLE GENERALLY LIKE WORKING HERE?”
Don’t try to beat around the bush. Ask specific questions about company culture and team morale, and be direct. The best way to get the down low on what’s happening in an office is to talk to current or former employees there.
by Emily Moore
Hunting for a job is hard work. In between researching companies you want to apply to, drafting your application materials, and networking, it can be a huge time suck. So it’s not a surprise that many people try to shave off time and effort where they can — it’s all about working smarter, not harder. But unfortunately, some of the corners people cut don’t just reduce the amount of time they spend searching for a job — they also reduce their chances of actually getting a call back from a recruiter.
Case in point: drafting a one-size-fits-all resume. Once you’ve created a resume that you’re really proud of, it’s tempting to blast it out to all of the jobs you apply to. But doing so is a missed opportunity, says Michele Moore, certified career coach at Ama La Vida.
“Employers are not interested in ‘vanilla’ candidates and genuinely appreciate when applicants take the time to highlight the reasons they are a perfect fit for the position so they can more easily spot these individuals and move them to the next stage of screening,” Moore says. Because of that, “you should absolutely tailor your resume to suit the company, industry, location, and other parameters of the role.”
The good news? You don’t need to completely start from scratch. The most recent final version of your resume can serve as a template — things like your contact info won’t change, but there are a few specific fields you want to customize. Here’s what Moore recommends.
When customizing your resume to a particular opportunity, “this is probably the best place to spend your time, reflecting on the vacancy description and pulling out of it key words and phrases that align with your talents. Then make sure your resume includes these words and phrases,” Moore says.
Not only is this critical in making sure that recruiters and hiring managers know you’re the right person for the role — it’s critical for the computer scanning your resume as well.
“This is particularly important when today’s Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) use these items to auto-screen applications in the early rounds,” Moore says. “Without including some of these crucial skills, your resume may never even make it to a recruiter or hiring manager.”
Work History / Experience
Experience comes in at a close second for the most important area to update with each company you apply to.
“Similar to [skills], the precious real estate on your resume should be used to hit on only those things that are pertinent to the job description,” Moore says.
Depending on how many different positions you’ve had over the years, you may be able to omit certain jobs entirely if they’re not applicable to the role you’ve got your eyes on. But if you do have to pull from just a handful of prior work experiences, make sure that you highlight how those past positions have prepared you for the one at hand.
“You may be very proud of your banking background, but if you are applying for a position in the hospitality industry, this may not be as relevant as some other areas of your resume. Speak to your strengths and try to link transferable skills when attempting to move from one field or industry to another,” Moore recommends. “For example, in the above instance, speak about how you served clients at the bank in a way that ties into the priorities of a hospitality-based employer.”
When it comes down to it, skills and work experience are what matter most — but it’s nice if you can give recruiters and hiring managers a glimpse of who you are outside of those areas as well. For that reason, adding an Additional Experience section that highlights volunteer work, hobbies, and interests is often a good idea.
“Personal sections of one’s resume (like outside hobbies or interests) have fallen out of vogue in the last few years, but this is one area where you can really differentiate yourself, particularly if you have done things outside of work that speak to the company’s core values,” Moore says. “For instance, if a company has an active corporate responsibility program, your work with that local literacy program or homeless shelter may show them that giving back is also important to you and you will endorse and espouse these values on the job.”
Okay, you’ve got me — this isn’t a part of your resume, but it’s worth bringing up that cover letters, just like resumes, should be tailored as well.
“Outside of your resume, use your cover letter to demonstrate your understanding of the company, its mission, and its vision. Do your homework and explain why you are interested in working for the firm and why you believe you would be a great fit in specific terms,” Moore shares. “Overused or trite phrases that may be found in any cover letter will simply be overlooked and not give you those extra points you may need to get a call.”
Will tailoring your materials to each position you apply to be a little bit more work? Yes. But will it pay off in the end? Absolutely.
“Personalizing your resume… is not only a good idea, but also becoming more necessary in today’s job market where there is keen competition for great entry-level roles,” Moore shares. “Even if you don’t see the opportunity to tailor your skills or experience (or don’t have much experience yet), there is always something that can help you stand out from the rest. Even things like your location, availability, interests, educational aspirations, or personal attributes can help you land a great job!”
You’ve aced “Tell me about yourself.” You’re cool as a cucumber when asked, “Why do you want to work here?” And you laugh in the face of “What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?” You’re way past Interviewing 101, but there’s a tricky subset of questions that you may not have mastered yet: behavioral questions.
Behavioral interview questions require you to pull a specific moment from your work history to explain and expand on, and they can be one of the hardest ones to tackle — interview questions are tough enough, but coming up with an example on the spot makes it all the more difficult.
To give you a head start, we pulled out a handful of behavioral interview questions from our list of the top 50 most common interview questions. Get ahead of the game by learning how to answer them and preparing anecdotes in advance!
1. Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
Resist the urge to talk about that time you won your office softball league playoffs or how you got a 4.0 in your hardest class in college. To really nail this question, you should “share a story that is as close as possible to the job you are interviewing for, and that best showcases your strengths and approach to work,” says Aurora Meneghello, career coach and founder of Repurpose Your Purpose.
“Describe an instance where there was a problem, state the impact of that problem, and how you were able to solve it. Share the results beyond your immediate solution. For example, if you created a new onboarding system for new hires, share why the company needed one, what was the impact of not having an onboarding system, how you went about creating one, and how, one year later, there is less churn, employees are more efficient, etc.,” Meneghello says.
2. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
One of the oldest tricks in the book is for candidates to respond to this answer by sharing a ‘mistake’ that’s actually a positive attribute, such as “I work too hard’ or “I care too much.” But be warned: recruiters can usually see right through that.
At the same time, though, “you should avoid talking about a colossal failure. The mistake most people make is that they either try to dodge the question, or they give an example that is detrimental to them; you are still there to sell yourself and prove yourself as a valuable asset, after all,” says Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant for giffgaff.
Instead, “try to think of something that happened a long time ago. More importantly, focus on the lessons you learned and how you carried these lessons forward to ensure you didn’t repeat the mistake,” Pritchard recommends.
3. Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.
When answering this question, make sure not to cast blame on others for whatever predicament you ended up in. Even if they had a hand in it, you don’t want to sound like you’re not a team player or don’t take responsibility for yourself.
“Keep your focus on what you did, and describe the circumstances in a neutral manner. Stay away from examples of difficult bosses or coworkers: although all of us have experienced something like that, an interviewer has no idea whether you are correct in your assessment, or merely projecting your own faults onto others,” Meneghello cautions.
“For example, you could talk about having to build a project with a fraction of the budget your competitors have, and how you were able to use grassroots techniques to overcome that obstacle. For your story to make the biggest impact, make sure to describe vividly why it was so difficult: the bigger the problem you solved, the bigger your impact!” she says.
4. Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.
Before you get caught up in sharing your accomplishments, take a step back. Because in order to convey to an interviewer how you went above and beyond, you need to first define above and beyond.
“Candidates often botch this question by failing to give a brief backstory. Before you can showcase how you went beyond the role, you have to first set the parameters of the job,” says Executive Coach Tim Toterhi. Try to describe what the context of the task was, the goals, and what was specifically expected of you.
“It is best to pick a project which paid off for the company; perhaps you stayed for two extra hours on several occasions to make sure everything was completed well ahead of schedule and to a high quality, or maybe you volunteered to pick up the work left over by a colleague who resigned,” Pritchard says. “Whatever the example, it should demonstrate a can-do attitude and a willingness to get involved and go the extra mile for your company.
5. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
Again, in this situation, blaming or bad-mouthing someone isn’t the right route to take. It will only make you look deflective or petty. Who knows? You may even be unknowingly disparaging your boss to someone who knows him or her.
“Especially if you’re interviewing within your current industry: the world is very small. The person you complain to, might attend church services with, or be married to a relation of your boss,” says success strategist Carlota Zimmerman. Rather, “the emphasis here is how disagreeing with your boss forced you to take initiative and to put the company first, ahead of your frustration and disappointment.”
“Ideally, you want to make it clear that you and your boss maintain a civil, respectful, maybe even close relationship. You want to demonstrate your empathy for your boss… and your belief in achieving the company’s mission statement,” Zimmerman adds.
6. What are some of your leadership experiences?
Don’t get caught up in just listing every leadership role you’ve ever had — think about the ones where you truly made a difference. “Anyone can rattle off the manager positions they’ve held or the volunteer work they performed, but the leadership is measured on impact,” Toterhi says. “People should be changed (for the better) for having interacted with you. And, if you’re lucky, you should be changed as well.” And if those experiences are related to the work you’ll be doing, all the better.
In addition, you’ll want to make sure that your experiences as a leader demonstrate proactivity.
“Never give examples of a time leadership was thrust upon you; this sounds like you are reluctant to take on responsibility and have to be made to do so,” Pritchard says. “You should demonstrate your ability to build a harmonious team and create a positive working relationship with the people you lead.”
And, of course, that teamwork should ideally lead to results.
“Someone who is a leader is able to demonstrate the ability to get others to want to get on board with the direction the team is going. Think of an example when you were able to get coworkers or direct reports on board with an idea that had a successful outcome,” advises April Klimkiewicz, career coach and owner of bliss evolution.
Older job seekers should sell their comparative value.
Many candidates carry outdated assumptions into their job search. One of these is the fear that age discrimination is so ubiquitous as to be paralyzing. "No one will want to hire someone old like me," is a common excuse for inaction and defeatist procrastination. In fact, organizations throughout the economy are increasingly turning to older workers to address talent gaps and skills deficiencies. Far from being a debilitating limitation, extensive life and work experience can be competitive advantages in a job search when the seeker knows how to leverage and position them.
Every generation complains that the one that follows "doesn't get it." What most of these employers mean is that the younger workers have yet to attain the characteristics that more seasoned talent can offer. Recruiters and managers can take a chance that a young employee will grow on the job or they can shortcut the process by hiring for maturity in the first place. The older job seeker, therefore, needs to remind the recruiter or manager of these virtues during the contact and interview stages.
Maturity has many connotations, but at its core refers to the ability of people to act correctly, effectively and ethically in a myriad of situations. Mature people understand the "big picture" and leverage their life and work experiences to intuit what is important and what is less so. Older workers have often quite literally "seen it all before" when it comes to scenarios with employees, customers and other constituents. While some younger people are wise beyond their years, most have not seen enough diverse circumstances to truly qualify as mature.
The older job seeker will model a centeredness and seriousness of purpose that a skilled interviewer will recognize immediately. During interviews, it is wise to offer illustrations of situations where your maturity was instrumental to achieving organizational goals. Experience, even in a seemingly unrelated field, breeds confidence and maturity in the older candidate.
An experienced job seeker can communicate in no uncertain terms that he or she will be at work early and among the last to leave; and that they understand that personal toughness is a virtue worthy of emulation. The older candidate will have prepared anecdotes from his or her career and life to emphasize their reliability under any circumstance.
Older workers rarely expect to be promoted within the first few weeks of a new job. They understand the importance of building credibility and paying dues. Mature individuals contribute first and seek reward after having proven themselves. This sense of realism extends to job tenure and compensation as well. When reminded, employers love the idea of workers who know the value of their work and are less likely to change jobs for a small raise or title change. Experienced workers have had truly bad bosses in the past and they know that a manager who is perceived as unreasonable by the young team members might be no big deal relative to other "true nightmare bosses" of the past. In addition, older workers know that having an exacting supervisor can be a prime opportunity to grow and improve on the job.
Mature job candidates should find ways to communicate that they understand and live by a code of "old-school values" like loyalty, appreciation and dedication. By being ready with anecdotes and supporting evidence for their value, these job seekers will shine in comparison to their younger colleagues.
Efficiency and Focus
Older workers tend to have less drama in their lives. They come to work to, well, work. Where there is sometimes a biased perception that older people lack energy and focus, these concerns are easily dispensed by the effective use of body language, eye contact, firm handshakes and insightful and observant conversation.
The job market can be intimidating for employees who are on the back half of their working lives. Our popular culture and major media can at times worship youthfulness to the apparent exclusion of the more mature. When one considers what organizations need to succeed, however, it is clear that employers and candidates alike need to retune their thinking.
With national unemployment at historical lows and yet workforce participation also low, it is time for older workers to rethink their assumptions and come back to work. American companies and other organizations will only be able to reach their goals if they think logically and with an open mind about their talent needs. It is left to seasoned talent to know their worth, sell their benefits and reap the rewards of their tenure.
Peter A. Gudmundsson is the president & CEO of Hire-Maturity LLC, a company that helps employers engage with high quality talent that is mature, experienced and capable. Until recently, Gudmundsson was CEO of RecruitMilitary, a company that conducts over 100 career fairs in more than 50 cities, manages the largest veteran online job board and published Search & Employ magazine in digital and print formats. Most of Gudmundsson’s career has been dedicated to leadership in media, education and intellectual property-intensive businesses including the Dropout & Truancy Prevention Network, Design Guide Publishing and Primedia Inc. (KKR’s media company). Gudmundsson is a regular media contributor and has appeared on CSPAN, multiple television and radio programs and has published opinion pieces in Forbes, The Washington Post, The Hill, The Christian Science Monitor and many other periodicals. Gudmundsson is also the author of The Veteran Hiring Leader’s Handbook and Not Done Yet: A College to Career Transition Guide for Parents. A former U.S. Marine field artillery officer, Gudmundsson is a graduate of Harvard Business School (MBA) and Brown University (BA in History with Honors). Follow him on Twitter @pagudmundsson or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Experience and work history aren’t the only things that can set you apart from the competition on your job hunt. Impeccable interview skills can be the winning attribute that you have that others don’t. And like the saying goes, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.” That means you have many opportunities to show a recruiter or hiring manager that you’re the perfect candidate for the job.
Here are four signs that your interview skills are better than the rest:
1. You are proactive during each portion of the interview process.
Much like dating, the job search is now a mutual selection process, with both employers and candidates opting in when it comes time to sign an offer. You’ve got to be proactive every step of the way to ascertain whether this company and job is the right fit for your life. To do that, every interaction has to be useful and beneficial for you to make that ultimate decision.
Informed candidates are curious, so you’re asking any and all questions to get the best picture of the company, the team and the role. From inquiring about next steps, to team work styles, to transportation options, to asking for email addresses for thank you notes, these interactions show how engaged you are as a candidate and leave a lasting impression on employers.
Here are some unique ways to be proactive during each portion of the interview process:
2. You are equipped with anecdotes that “show instead of simply tell.”
One of the first things I learned in journalism school was “show don’t tell.” That means that it’s better to provide an anecdote or scenario to describe what I’m writing rather than just simply write about the action. Show your skills and experience through concise, clear and compelling anecdotes.
Instead of telling a hiring manager that you led a team of 4 in your last job, lend an anecdote or story about what you learned from leading that team or how you empowered them to contribute to the business’ bottom-line. Rehearse 3 or 4 good anecdotes about your past work or educational experience that “show not just tell” why you’re a uniquely informed candidate.
Anecdotes are the perfect way to answer prompts like:
3. Little, if anything, catches you off guard.
There’s a big difference between being a know-it-all and being prepared. Your goal in an interview is to appear confident in your skills and interest in the company, not to be cocky. Therefore, you should rarely be caught off guard by an interviewer and, thus, stand out from the crowd.
One employer said, “An informed candidate is someone that knows about the company — that’s done research and that has read the job description, [who] understands the opening so that when you’re contacting them, they’re essentially meeting you half way. It also shows me that that person is motivated because they are doing the work they need to do.”
Because you’ve browsed dozens of interview questions that are asked of candidates applying to the specific role that you are, you have prepared in advance and over time will prevent last-minute cramming. The result? A confident candidate.
4. The interviewer comments on how well-informed you are.
A recruiter or hiring manager paying you a compliment by noticing how well-researched and responsive you are is the ultimate sign that your interview skills are better than the rest. They’re impressed by your questions, amazed you caught that corporate announcement last month, wowed by what they’ve heard about you from your references and mentions that they want to introduce you to others that are not on the interview loop. All great signs.
Remember, it’s not only about what’s on the resume or cover letter that will land you a new gig. It’s about being proactive and engaged at every step of the job search process. Sure it’s time-consuming and it feels like a full-time job, but anything worth having is worth the energy.
Online searches are being used more often to weed out potential candidates.
While job applicants are used to being told to ditch the beer pictures on Facebook, more than half of U.S. companies now are less likely to interview a candidate who has no online presence.A national survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder found that more than 57 percent of employers are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online. The majority of companies will dig through social profiles, but find it even more suspect if they see nothing at all.
“Most workers have some sort of online presence today — and more than half of employers won’t hire those without one,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “This shows the importance of cultivating a positive online persona. Job seekers should make their professional profiles visible online and ensure any information that could negatively impact their job search is made private or removed.”
The survey included a representative sample of more than 2,300 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes in the private sector. Cyber-vetting, the practice of researching potential candidates online, is becoming one of the primary ways companies find the right match for an open position.
Jason Eckert, director of career services at the University of Dayton, has seen his share of social media faux pas committed by students looking to land a job after graduation. He’s also seen students land positions because of their social media skills.
More than 70 percent of employers will use social media to screen candidates before hiring, a significant increase from the 11 percent of companies who practiced cyber-vetting in 2006. It’s become so important to employers that 30 percent of human resource departments have an employee dedicated to check social media profiles.
Eckert recalled one student in particular who had a job offer revoked after the employer saw his profile picture on Facebook. “He made his Facebook profile picture a very unflattering picture of himself dressed very scantily and drinking alcohol,” he said.
Approximately 54 percent of employers acknowledged finding content on social media that caused them not to hire a candidate for an open role. Because of that, UD’s career services department talks to students about social media do’s and don’ts — and they encourage students to create a LinkedIn profile for employers to look at.
“It’s having a professional presence,” he said. “It’s illustrating you’re part of the professional culture of 2017. I still see instances where young people are making mistakes online, but that number has decreased compared to four or five years ago.”
Doug Barry, president and CEO of Dayton-based BarryStaff staffing company, said job seekers should be aware of what their goals are online. Applicants should make sure they’re digital brand doesn’t contradict the values or messages of the companies they’re trying to work for.
““Be smart about it,” Barry said of a person’s online profile. “Employers are looking for reasons not to hire you.”
“On the flip-side,” he said, “employers are making a mistake if they’re not hiring people for not having a digital profile. A lot of people don’t want to live in the digital world. It’s not a bad thing to be a private person. I would caution employers looking negatively upon that.”
Katie Sturgis, director of talent acquisition for Dayton-headquartered CareSource, said the company does have a social media policy to remind employees that they represent the company online and in person. CareSource still hires people who don’t have an online presence, but Sturgis said social media can be a “first impression” for companies to get to know candidates.
“A tool we utilize on a daily basis is LinkedIn,” she said. “I think the key is providing accurate and up-to-date information. Candidates need to realize this is their opportunity to represent themselves out on social media.”
Employers are also using social media to monitor their own employees. More than half of employers use social networking sites to research current employees. Thirty-four percent of employers have found content online that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee, according to the survey.
Melissa Spirek, full professor of media studies at Wright State University, said companies use digital information to determine the ability of the candidate to fit the culture — and they also use personal data posted online to learn information that would be illegal to ask in an interview.
Such information can include a candidate’s martial status, age, even sexual orientation.
Spirek’s advice to job applicants: “They should ask themselves, ‘What is the potential cost of posting this message?’”
By the numbers
70: Percentage of employers who use social media to screen candidates, up from 11 percent in 2006.
57: Percentage of employers who are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online.
54: Percentage of employers who acknowledge not hiring a candidate based on their social media profile.
Although the job market is way better than it was just a few years ago, it’s still no picnic trying to find a job that is a match for both your skills and the culture you want in a career. After all, it’s about more than just filling a ROLE for you, you want to find a place where you can grow, plant your flag and build the base for your future endeavors.
That’s a lot of pressure on every resume you send out, every cover letter you write and every interview you go on. We’re compiling some of the best advice for candidates out there on the internet in the hopes it will help you during your job search and beyond. After all, many times we find ourselves on both sides of the interview desk as our careers progress.
Navigating the ATS.
There are a lot of articles aimed at recruiters and HR professionals around how to maximize investment in the Applicant Tracking System but someone seems to have forgotten to tell APPLICANTS the ins and outs of navigating an ATS successfully. Consider this rectified!
An Applicant Tracking System is the little sorting robot who matches your resume to the job openings to which you applied. If your resume is formatted incorrectly or it cannot see the parallels between your resume and the job posting, it could send you a rejection letter before your resume is ever seen by human eyes. This is one of the reasons that so many jobseeker focused posts will encourage you to call after submitting a resume, include a cover letter and ensure you receive a receipt of your submission. Because like nearly all robots, ATS are prone to making mistakes a human might not make.
For jobseekers, consider the following to ease the pain of applying via this as-yet-undisrupted method:
Use phrases and terminology from the actual job posting.
While not a foolproof method to ensure you’re getting seen by a pair of human eyes, it gives you a better chance than most. Even the most basic SEO knowledge can help you here, since many systems rely on semantic or phrase search, meaning it may not realize that InDesign proficiency means you understand and can work with the Adobe Suite. Being a marketing manager in your past role may not match up with business development coordinator unless you use phrases and titles the computer can match together easily.
Have your stuff together.
Many ATS are older, which means if you accidentally hit the back button or take too long when building your online application, you might get kicked off and all your progress is lost. While companies SHOULD pay attention to their candidate experience (that’s YOU) and try to make it as painless as possible, on the backend, many of these systems are duct-taped together to try and form a complete system, which means changing one can bring the whole house of cards down. So until that issue is fixed, remember to have all your documents ready and waiting when you sit down to apply for that dream job.
In days past, we told candidates to look up the teams and hiring managers on LinkedIn and check Facebook reviews, but today’s candidates have even more inside information to gain! From Glassdoor and FairyGodBoss to Comparably and Kununu, there are reviews on companies, teams, hiring managers and even interview experience. It’s that last bit that can come in handy when you are interviewing for a company. Get the inside scoop from people who have aced the interview (and those who haven’t). Another great place to research is Quora!
Of course, all these come along with the same advice you’re used to hearing, like ensure you have a receipt from your submission. No matter what your recruiting friend tells you, a cover letter is still appreciated by the majority of recruiters and thank you emails (not handwritten notes) are noted by hiring managers. If you can get past the ATS, and you spend the time to truly look at both the posting and the career site or FAQs page, you have a much better chance of making your way into the job of your dreams!
Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, a full service marketing and advertising agency serving the HR and Recruiting sectors. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the recruitment and talent space.
Headlines abound whenever Facebook or Google introduce a new feature or product. Recently, both rolled out similar services for job seekers, but don’t expect these tools to take all the work out of landing your dream job.
Here’s what the two Silicon Valley giants are offering. Google will aggregate listings from five major job sites to display in search results. On Facebook, companies can post jobs and contact and track applicants. The social media site will also push relevant jobs into users’ news feeds.
Both companies want to keep people on their websites longer and serve paying customers (i.e., advertisers and businesses). For the individual job seeker, these launches tout added convenience -- but to what purpose? Being able to blast out resumes to more companies from a single site may feel better quantitatively, but it’s potentially worse from a qualitative standpoint.
If you want to build your career and not just find a job, developing your professional network will be far more valuable than uploading your resume to every listing site on the internet.
Where to start
Just do it: Put yourself out there, don’t dismiss anyone as unhelpful and be gracious to everyone you meet. You never know who may connect you to a great opportunity. Rather than view your network as a bunch of people you may eventually be able to “use,” approach it as a chance to meet interesting, diverse people who will expand your world and introduce you to new experiences, whether they be jobs or not. Don’t limit yourself to the short-term goal of finding a job; invest in relationships that you can carry with you for years to come.
Certainly, networking can be daunting when you’re early in your career and don’t have a lot to show for yourself. And especially if you’re shy, it may be even harder to initiate conversations with people you barely know who are older and more experienced. The truth, however, is that many of us genuinely enjoy using our successes to help someone else who shows promise and ambition. I encourage my peers to become mentors all the time, so they can see how rewarding it is to get a youthful perspective and use their experience to further someone else’s career.
How to grow it
LinkedIn is a great place to connect with potential mentors as well as people who might be looking to hire. You can also visit the pages of companies that interest you and find names of people in the department where you’d like to work. But just like blindly sharing your resume won’t guarantee results, you need to do more than send strangers invitations to connect online. Craft a personalized message to each person explaining your goals, why you consider this person a role model, and why you deserve a half-hour of their time.
You’re also going to have to approach people in the real world. Step outside your comfort zone, attend industry functions and meetups, and request informational interviews with people in roles to which you aspire. The worst that can happen is they say “no, thanks” or don’t respond. I’m in my college’s alumni database and have indicated I’m open to hearing from recent grads seeking advice. Your school very likely has a similar network for finding established professionals in your target field.
Continuing education is another avenue for meetings others involved in your industry -- both teachers and fellow students. Ask where others have worked, how they found their jobs and whether they’d be willing to make introductions for you. Connect online to see who else they know.
And, while you don’t want to turn every fun activity into a professional networking session, keep your eyes and ears open when you’re socializing too. There might be someone in your book club, church or spin class who knows someone at your dream company. As long as you’re respectful and not overbearing, it can’t hurt to let people know you’re looking for career help.
How to use it
Above all, remember you are asking people to give you something: their time, their advice, their support. You’re asking for a favor, so be gracious, patient and receptive, whether they’re in a position to offer you work or not.
Listen more than you talk. Be curious, open-minded and flexible, rather than having a fixed agenda and set of expectations. If you’ve had a good first meeting but aren’t sure where to go from there, ask if you can continue to check in with them occasionally and seek their guidance when you’re prepping for important interviews. See if they’ll keep you in mind for an internship or even a freelance project.
Walking away from a networking meeting or informational interview without a promise is not a failure. You’re building relationships and your career, not job hunting. This is the beginning of a conversation that could last for years if it holds value for both of you.
Lisa Haugh has more than 15 years of experience leading legal and HR functions for a range of startups and mature companies. At Udemy, she heads up all legal and human resource functions, including all hiring, training and diversity efforts. She received her BA from UCLA and her law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law.
In today’s competitive business environment, it may seem nearly impossible to stand out. But many people have managed to step out of the shadows by opting for a strategy primarily used by businesses themselves -- branding.
Personal branding is the key to giving yourself an advantage both in your current job and when you search for a new one.
Your personal brand is something that follows you around whether you want it to or not. It’s something that exists even if you don’t bother to cultivate it. From job to job, the way you present yourself professionally matters, and it is instrumental in establishing yourself as a valuable leader.
What exactly is personal branding?
Understanding the ins and outs of personal branding is obviously the first step in the right direction. The concept can be simply defined as the method of marketing yourself and your career to improve relationships with managers, colleagues and clients. Turning yourself into a brand helps you manage how you’re viewed and how much trust you can establish in your career. It involves creating a distinct voice, image and ethical standard.
But, it’s also something that takes consistent work over the course of your career. That is to say, you can’t write a particularly excellent blog post one time and expect that to carry you through the rest of your life. On top of that, just generally having a social media presence is no longer enough to qualify as a personal brand.
Building trust with those around you.
Trust isn’t something that flourishes naturally on a wide scale. It’s something you have to cultivate, and the best way to do that is with a unique personal brand. When it comes to who consumers trust the most, it’s almost always individuals. Corporate branding may technically be more visible, but it’s almost universally seen as less trustworthy. In fact, brand messages are shared 24 times more often if the originator of the message is an individual.
Clearly, you can use your personal brand to build trust as long as that brand reads as authentic and sincere.
Finding a niche.
One of the most valuable facets of a personal brand is discovering your niche. It can be difficult to stand out if your area of expertise is simply “marketing.” If you try something more specific, you can magnify yourself and your skills. Although your target demographic may be more narrow, you are more likely to connect with that audience. I have spent most of my career focusing on Wikipedia. May not sound exciting, but it has helped me stand out as a go-to person for those in need of a Wikipedia page.
Becoming a thought leader.
While becoming a thought leader might not be at the top of everyone’s to-do list, it can happen if you establish yourself in a niche. Whether you are writing articles or participating in interviews, a portfolio of helpful information and advice will propel you to thought leader status. Again, this is all about building trust with valuable and actionable guidance.
In order to become a respected intellectual in your field, you have to know what you’re talking about, offer genuine counsel and really mean what you say. Done well, personal branding can walk side-by-side with personal development and career success.
Mike Wood is an online marketer, author and Wikipedia expert. He is the founder of legalmorning.com, an online marketing agency that specializes in content writing, brand management and professional Wikipedia editing. He is a regular contributor to many online publications where he writes about business and marketing. Wood is the host of the Marketing Impact podcast and author of the book, Wikipedia As A Marketing Tool.
WRITTEN BY: Forbes Coaches Council
Top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer firsthand insights on leadership development & careers.
Networking is crucial for career building. There's a lot that rides on the good recommendations of others, from a simple reference on a resume to having your name passed on to an interested party who's looking for someone with exactly your skills. But networking is also challenging. Taking the wrong approach when meeting people can leave a negative impression, or worse — none at all.
Below, 11 experts from Forbes Coaches Council talk about what they see is key to a good networking pitch, including being concise, connecting emotions, doing research and demonstrating empathy. Here's what they advise:
1. Develop Your Elevator Pitch
Before networking events occur, take time to memorize and develop your elevator pitch. Be clear about the types of people you help and what you do for them. Understand your personal brand and what makes you unique and different, then share this in a positive way. Let the other person go first, and show genuine interest in what they have to say. Show genuine care and concern for others. - Rebecca Bosl, Dream Life Team
2. Do Your Homework
Before attending an event where you will meet new people, study the host organization, mission, board and members. This will help you build conversational rapport and avoid a situation where you seem to be "selling yourself" in an unsolicited pitch. Remember to be yourself and appeal to new acquaintances as "people first." - LaKisha Greenwade, Lucki Fit LLC
3. Listen More Than You Talk
Start by building and fostering relationships where you do more listening than talking. Learn about the needs of others, and identify ways to align yourself with their requirements. By demonstrating clear value, you won't need to conduct hard sales or pressuring networking tactics to get people to hear you out. Listening to learn puts others first, helping build trust to secure investments. - Adrienne Tom, Career Impressions
4. Find Commonalities Between You
Look for information about their work, or something you both care about. Bridge that to how meeting with you will benefit them. Commenting that you liked their article doesn't incentivize them to meet with you. Instead, say that you have published a similar article. A great pitch lies in finding the commonalities between you and creating a feeling of connection, even before you've met. - Jessica Sweet, Wishingwell Coaching
5. Be Relatable: It Makes You Interesting
Your pitch should strike interest in someone you meet to make them want to know more. Don't just tell them everything you do, ask them about what they do and weave what you do into the conversation. Don't talk about money. Focus on impact. Whatever you say should place you in the position to be remembered by the person you are connecting with. - Maleeka T. Hollaway, The Official Maleeka Group, LLC.
6. Share A Story That Triggers Emotions
While everyone else is busy sharing forgettable facts and figures in the same old snooze-worthy style, captivate your audience by sharing a relatable story that pulls at their emotions. Stories make people feel things. And given that 90% of purchases are based on emotions, the story-centered networking pitch always wins. - Stephanie Nivinskus, SizzleForce Marketing
7. Be Authentic
Be you, and be authentic. People can see fakeness from a mile away, and we all get turned off by it. In order to be authentic, notice all the things you say to yourself about who you should be and what a "successful professional" should say, do and want. Then, practice communicating an introduction versus a "pitch," without all those "shoulds." If you feel more alive and free, you are on the right track! - Susanne Biro, Susanne Biro & Associates Coaching Inc.
8. Have A Consistent Message
There have been so many times when I've met someone in person and been impressed, but then when I looked them up on LinkedIn, their brand did not align in both places. The key to a great pitch is to be consistent across all mediums, both in-person and digital. Start by identifying who you are and what your goals are, then build a consistent message that aligns with your identity and goals. - Brendan P. Keegan, velocityHUB
9. Be Specific
Be painfully specific about what you do, for whom you do it and why they like having it done for them. If you're not specific, people don't know how to connect with you or how to help you, let alone hire you! Most importantly, remember, as Mike Wien of the Specific Edge Institute says, "Specific does not mean exclusive." - David Taylor-Klaus, DTK Coaching
10. Offer A Call To Action
The key is in getting others to take action. Give something away for free that they value, so you can stay in touch and build value. It could be a free sample, a white paper, an ebook, a webinar, or an open house invitation. It's low risk for them and something that will add value to their lives. Once you've said your benefits-focused elevator speech, always end with a call to action. - Sandi Leyva, Sandra L Leyva Inc.
11. Have An Answer To The 'So What' Question
Reflect on your elevator pitch, and ask yourself what you would say if a person said "Sounds great, but so what?" Your ability to explain the bottom-line benefit or impact of your value proposition is key to crafting a pitch that connects all the dots so the reader will never ask "So what!" - Virginia Franco, Virginia Franco Resumes
You went through the numerous rounds of in-person interviews. You established great rapport (and—dare you say—even a friendly bond) with your potential new boss. You had reached the final stages of the hiring process and you knew it.
All that was left to do was wait for the decision. So, when an email finally appeared in your inbox, you eagerly clicked it open.
Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends. You skimmed the first couple lines until your eyes tripped over that one sentence you dreaded seeing: “Unfortunately, we decided to move ahead with another candidate.”
Your heart sinks into your shoes and you’re caught between either crying or throwing something (or maybe a little bit of both?). And, in the midst of the flurry of emotions, you’re also reminded of this: You need to find a way to politely respond to that brutal rejection email.
Wait… Why Reply at All?
I know, it’s tempting to slink off into a dark corner and pretend the whole thing never happened. Getting the old “thanks, but no thanks” is humbling enough, without having to swallow your pride, paste on a smile, and write something friendly and professional in return.
But, rest assured, it’s important that you indeed do draft a response after being rejected.
Why? Well, for starters, it’s a great way to demonstrate your professionalism, establish the grounds for a continued relationship, and—in some circumstances—even open the door for future opportunities.
Think that sounds impossible? Just read Muse writer Sara McCord’s story about how a rejection transformed into another offer, and you’re sure to be humming a different tune.
Even further, responding to the rejection gives you the opportunity to ask for feedback, which is valuable information you can use to continue improving and making progress in your job search.
Alright, you get it. But, now comes the hard part: actually drafting that cringe-worthy, ego-deflating email.
Now sure how to pull it off? This template can help.
Thanks for letting me know about your decision.
While I’ll admit that I’m disappointed I won’t be able to work as part of the [Company] team, it truly was great to meet you and learn more about the great work that you’re doing.
I’m excited to keep following [Company] as the team [name a current company goal], and I’ll keep an especially close eye on [project/development you discussed in your interview].
Thanks once again for the opportunity, [Name], and I hope our paths cross again in the future. I’m wishing you and [Company] all the best moving forward.
Now, the Final Step
Another wise thing you can do after hitting “reply” on that rejection email? If you haven’t already, request to connect with the hiring manager or department leader on LinkedIn—making sure to include a brief and personalized message along with your invitation about how much you enjoyed meeting him or her and mentioning that you’d love to stay in touch.
That message could be short and simple like this:
I really enjoyed meeting you during my interview for [role] with [Company]. I thought I’d connect here so we could keep in touch.
Wishing you the best,
Whether it leads to something down the road or not, you’ll at least know that you handled the bad news well and did your best to keep the lines of communication open.
Nobody wants to receive a rejection email, much less respond to one. However, hitting “reply” on that dreaded message is actually a wise move.
I know—easier said than done. Fortunately, using this template will make it that much simpler to craft a professional and constructive message in return. It might still sting, but at least you can rest assured that you’re polite and respectful until the bitter end.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website. http://www.katboogaard.com/
Whether you are well into your career, or have a gap in your employment, it can be tough to decide what to include on a resume. This is especially true when you reach a point where you question whether your work experience happened too long ago to include on your resume.
Most people are looking for a straightforward answer or rule that tells them exactly how many years is too far back to include on their resume. However, career experts and coaches say there’s no hard-and-fast, right answer.
We spoke with Michelle Aikman, NCRW, co-founder and Director of Adventure Learning of Cerno, to discuss just how far back your resume should go.
The rule of thumb
The standard rule people will often hear is that any experience past ten years is not relevant and should be kept off a resume. But, Aikman points out that there is no hard and fast rule that applies to everyone because some people don’t have work experiences that lead them to what they want to do next.
“My rule of thumb is to consider how important the experience is to convey your ability to do the job and whether it is absolutely critical that you communicate your qualifications or past experiences with a timeline attached to it,” says Aikman.
If the experience still applies, regardless of when it occurred, Aikman says you should still put it on your resume.
“As long as it gives the employer enough information to understand it, it opens the door for you to talk about that experience,” she explains. “It might not be recent, but is still relevant.
It’s all about relevancy
When it comes to placing old work experience on your resume, Aikman says to focus on relevancy. If you did something in high school or college that is more relevant to what you are trying to do than other recent experiences, then Aikman says you absolutely should include it because it adds to your qualifications.
For those with a large gap in their employment, filling out a job application or going to an interview might be nerve-wrecking if you’re worried an employer will notice how far back your resume goes. But if you accomplished things in your personal life that you are proud of, you can find ways to showcase those accomplishments on your resume as relevant experience.
For example, if there is a gap in your employment because you had to care for a family member or loved one, you can explain what you learned or accomplished through that experience in a way that showcases the relevant work to the job you are now applying to. Maybe that experience taught you how to manage another person’s life–so you can showcase why you’d be a great assistant or general manager.
“It just comes down to pulling out the relevant words to describe what you did,” says Aikman. “It may mean you need to be skilled in how you present the information, because you may not be able to use the language you used before. Think about how you can communicate this experience using language that will resonate with the employer.”
Translating old experiences
Moreover, not only is providing relevant experience important, but it’s also important to translate the experience for your future employer. Aikman says you must come to terms with the challenges you are facing while unemployed, but showing the employer why you are motivated and want to work for them.
“The cover letter is a really good place to explain this,” advises Aikman. “It’s important that you provide details on why you are trying to transition right now because employers tend to get nervous about why you are unemployed or haven’t been hired yet.”
Aikman explains this is a significant issue for many people with a large employment gap and that many career services centers or professionals are not able to help because they don’t know how to.
Go beyond the resume
Unfortunately, a stigma still exists around being unemployed. When you are looking for a new job, the standard process of filling out an online application or dropping off a resume isn’t always enough. Aikman advises that those in this situation should be more pro-active in reaching out to employers by attending networking events and building relationships with other professionals.
When it comes down to it, Aikman says you just have to communicate to the employer that the experience you have, regardless of when it occurred, does make you qualified for the position
“You have to believe in the resume for it to work. I think anything can go on a resume, it’s just how you communicate it using the right language,” she says.
by YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR COUNCIL
You’re doing everything right in your job search—following instructions down to every last detail, crafting the perfect cover letter, tailoring your resume. But you’re not hearing back.
Why? You’re not the only one following the instructions and your materials are probably getting lost in the sea of other qualified candidates. Hiring managers receive loads of applications, and if you want to stand out, you sometimes need to take the road less traveled.
To help you out, we asked seven successful entrepreneurs from YEC to share their best unconventional job search tactics to land the role of your dreams.
1. Don’t Discount the Informational Interview
When I was 21, I started a podcast that involved reaching out to people with the jobs that I wanted and interviewed them about how they got to where they were. It turned out that setting up those informational interviews was a huge key to building relationships that would lead to landing my first job. Insider tip: Don’t ask for the job or bring your resume. Instead, make it about them and their experiences.
—Allie Siarto, Allie Siarto & Co. Photography
2. Send a (Personalized) Cold Email
I recently hired someone who wrote me a passionate email about their desire to join my team. The email came out of left field and was unrelated to any particular job openings at that time. The reason I gave the person a shot is because, by sending me a well-written message packed with enthusiasm, they showed their tenacity, creativity, and optimism—all qualities I value when looking for new talent.
—Mark Krassner, Expectful
3. Notify Your Network
Let your friends and network know that you’re open to new opportunities. Curate a list of people you trust and reach out to them about your openness to exploring new roles. Ask them to recommend opportunities and companies to consider.
—Adelyn Zhou, TOPBOTS
4. Solve a Problem
I once hired someone for a position I didn’t know we needed. He contacted me and (politely) pointed out a weakness in our operations, then showed me how we could solve it at a practical cost, thus improving our services. I was so impressed he took such care to study our business that I knew we needed him onboard. So, if you’re fond of a company, demonstrate how they’d be better off with you.
—Nicolas Gremion, Free-eBooks.net
5. Get Your Face Out There
A very unconventional approach nowadays is getting a job the old-fashioned way (seriously, it works). If the company’s local, find out where they’re going to be and approach them first. Maybe it’s at a job fair, networking event, or industry conference. Put yourself out there, introduce yourself, and you’ve already taken the steps to standing out among the countless online job applicants.
—Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
6. Stay on Top of Social Media
Many companies will share open positions on their social channels to find potential employees within their followers. Candidates who come from their followers are already familiar with their business and more likely to share the same aesthetic as the brand.
—Bryanne Lawless, BLND Public Relations
7. Leverage LinkedIn for a Coffee Date (or Two)
One strategy I recommend is reaching out to the hiring manager or an employee on the team over LinkedIn. Ask for mentorship or career advice, but never ask for a job. Build a relationship over several meetings. Impress him or her with a great attitude and enthusiasm for the industry, and maybe the perfect opportunity will present itself.
—Terry Kim, NexGenT
Ilana Gershon - Harvard Business Review
How do you get a job these days? The answer often involves networking — it isn’t what you know, it’s whom, we’re told. But what does that mean? After all, we’re connected to many people, in countless ways. So who can actually help? What kinds of relationships should we try to use when we are looking for a job?
If you go to job-searching workshops — and I went to more than 50 in the course of studying the contemporary hiring landscape in 2013 and 2014 — you will be told weak ties are the key. Weak ties are the people you know, but not terribly well: your child’s teacher, or the friend of a friend you happened to meet at a party. This advice originated in a groundbreaking study by sociologist Mark Granovetter in the early 1970s. He interviewed 100 white-collar workers who had switched jobs in the previous five years and discovered that weak ties helped many of them find out about their next job.
Weak ties were important for one simple reason: Your strong ties (colleagues, family, and friends) probably knew about all the same jobs that you did. Granovetter discovered that you were more likely to hear about unknown job possibilities from the second cousin you ran into at a wedding, or from the former neighbor you saw in the supermarket parking lot. Of the people in Granovetter’s study who found out about a job opening through word of mouth, 83.4% said they found out through a weak tie. In the early 1970s it became clear that the most effective way to find a job through networking was to be in touch with as many weak ties as possible.
I set out to learn whether that was still the case. After all, Granovetter’s study was done decades ago, long before we all started using the internet. If the technologies that help us look for a job have changed in significant ways, I reasoned, it’s likely that the ways we get information about jobs have also changed. I had to find a way to replicate Granovetter’s study in some form to see which networking ties matter in today’s media ecology.
I located a great source: A weekly meeting held by an organization for white-collar job seekers in the Bay Area, a portion of which was dedicated to successful job seekers telling their stories — on film. While it’s not a duplication of Granovetter’s study, watching 380 success stories collected from 2012 to 2014 allowed me to conduct a fairly comparable study.
So, are weak ties still the key? No. Of the 141 people who said they thought networking had helped them, only 17% reported that a weak tie did the trick. Workplace ties, however, proved to be more useful. More than 60% of the storytellers reported that someone they had worked with in the past helped them find their next job. These weren’t always coworkers — former bosses and former clients helped, too. But what job seekers found most useful were people who could talk knowledgeably and convincingly about what the applicant was like as a worker and colleague.
That’s a dramatic change from the 1970s, and the most obvious driver is our wildly altered media ecology. When Granovetter conducted his study, the major challenge in finding a new job was learning that the job existed in the first place. In the 1970s people found out about jobs through newspaper ads, “help wanted” signs, or word of mouth. Nowadays, that’s the easy part: People learn about jobs because they find job ads online, search listings on corporate sites, or are contacted by recruiters. That has led to a new problem: Too many people are applying for the same jobs. The hard part now, as most people know, is standing out from the pack — having your résumé noticed in a large pile, or finding some way around a clunky applicant tracking system. Hiring managers face the same problem, having to sort through hundreds of applicants with the limited tools of application software, résumés, and cover letters. In these moments, what those hiring value most is a strong recommendation from someone who actually knows the applicant as a worker and can assure them that the person will be a good hire.
While these connections are important, it’s important to note that they may not change one of the most problematic results of networking: relatively homogenous workplaces. Granovetter himself noticed that even if people were getting jobs through weak ties, networking wasn’t changing the makeup of companies. After all, if no one of color or from a working-class background was hired into an office, there were fewer people to spread the word that the job existed in the first place. Nowadays, the problem is more of an implicit bias in how recommendations function — people tend to recommend their former coworkers whom they liked working with. Relying on workplace ties doesn’t solve the problem of how networking creates barriers to creating a more diverse workplace; it just shifts the locus of the problem.
Practically, since recommending someone for a job is such an important part of hiring — and a way people with different backgrounds and perspectives can be excluded from workplaces — it has become a significant ethical decision. Everyone involved in hiring decisions should think carefully about who is being recommended and why. And for the job seeker who is networking, don’t give up on weak ties entirely — 17% of them still have good odds. Ultimately, however, workplace ties may hold more weight. The kinds of networks that your workplace allows you to nurture matter not only to your present working conditions but also to what jobs you can get in the future. The best way to increase the likelihood of getting the job you want later may be to treat your colleagues well at the one you have now.
Ilana Gershon is an associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University who studies how people use new media to accomplish complicated social tasks such as finding a job and breaking up. Her new book is Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Don’t Find) Work Today.
We all have weaknesses and have experienced times of failure–but how we overcome those shortcomings often says a lot about our personalities and work ethics. Despite the lessons learned, our flaws are not always something we want to talk about, especially in a job interview.
Regardless, it’s wise to be prepared for those dreaded questions in any interview, such as, “What are your weaknesses?” and “Tell me about a time you failed.”
Job interview coming up? Consider the following to help you answer such questions about your failures with growth areas.
Research common interview questions
Though it’s not always on their list of questions, many interviewers want to assess how a candidate deals with setbacks. If an interviewer asks you to tell them about a time you failed, don’t let shock or panic set in. If you’re not able to come up with an example of your failures or weaknesses, it can signal an interviewer that you lack self-awareness or do not handle criticism well.
Moreover, one of the reasons interviewers ask this type of question is to see how well you think on your feet. If you prepare ahead of time with some examples of times you failed or a mistake you made in a previous job, you’ll be ready to answer the question immediately, which tells the hiring manager that you came to the interview well prepared.
Get honest input from a colleague
If you’ve stayed in touch with a co-worker that would know one of your weaknesses, or was there when you failed at work, reach out to get their advice. Talking through a previous failure with a co-worker who was impacted by your failure or witnessed it can give you some helpful perspective that might come in handy when you have to talk about it in an interview.
Ask the co-worker how they felt you handled the situation or why they think you made the mistake in the first place. This might give you some closure on what happened too. If you always just viewed the mistake as a time you failed, maybe now you understand the lessons you truly learned from it.
Reflect on your mistakes and failures
Nobody is perfect, so there are times where you failed or made a mistake in your last role. You know what they are too; you just might have buried them because you don’t like to think about those mishaps.
Taking the time to reflect on your mistakes helps you identify your areas of improvement, which isn’t a bad thing. In fact, if you’re able to talk about your failures during an interview, it shows that you are a mature person who has grown since making that mistake. This also shows the interviewer that you are someone who values learning and finds benefits in challenging yourself.
When you take the time to actually reflect on your mistakes, you find an honest answer about your failures. Having a keen sense of self-awareness is important for any job, so if you’re able to give a good, mature answer to a question about your failures an interviewer will notice that you are a person of integrity.
Talk about what why you failed
When you give your example of your failure don’t just say, “I lost a huge client for my company and my team failed as a result.” All this does is tell the interviewer that you made a big mistake. Instead, go into the details to show that you actually understand why you failed.
For example, if you lost the client because of your communication skills or because you couldn’t beat a competitor’s price, explain that. The more you can show that you learned from the mistake, the better you can communicate to the interviewer that, despite this previous failure, you won’t make that same mistake in this job because you understand what went wrong.
Rehearse your answer
No matter how much you prepare, you could still draw a blank during the interview when this question comes up. Limit the chances of this happening by practicing.
Give a friend a set of random interview questions to ask you; knowing that one of them is “Tell me about a time you failed.” Even though you know it’s coming, when it finally comes up, see how well you handle being asked this question on the spot.
Preparation is key for acing an interview and by rehearsing your responses, you’ll be more likely to walk into your interview confident and ready for any curveballs that might come your way.
The hiring manager might’ve hinted you’ve got it in the bag. Don’t take them at their word.
BY DON RASKIN
You’re walking out of your job interview and playing everything back in your head. Maybe it’s for your dream job, maybe it isn’t–but you feel great. You think you really nailed it. Now you all there’s left to do is sit back and wait for an offer.
It never comes. Weeks later, you realize something must’ve gone wrong. Either the competition was a lot steeper than you’d imagined or (gulp) you choked and just didn’t realize it. More than likely, something went wrong at the last step of the process.
This is more common than you might think. Lots of candidates get really far along in a drawn-out hiring process, only to lose out on the offer at the very end. Here are three of the more common mistakes job applicants tend to make despite thinking they’ve nailed an interview, only to wind up surprised when that offer never arrives.
1. YOU MISSED THE REAL REASON FOR THE FINAL INTERVIEW
After several rounds of interviews, you’re brought in one last time to meet the most senior member of the team. At this stage, many candidates think that all they really need to do is stick to their script–it’s gotten them this far, so why switch it up now?
But it’s a mistake to continue presenting yourself exactly the same way you did in the earlier rounds of interviews. What you might not realize is that the criteria by which you’re being judged changes the farther into the interview process you go. In earlier rounds, hiring managers might be checking up on specific hard skills you’ll bring to a job. They’ll probe your past experience to make sure it’s a fit.
But once a prospective employer decides that your technical requirements match the needs of the open position, they’ll start judging you on a different set of skills. So if you’re called back in for a second or third time, be careful how you interpret the questions you’re asked. The same one you heard in the first round–for instance, “What’s the biggest asset you think you can you bring to the position?”–may call for a much different answer.
If you answered that question with your technical know-how earlier on, you might want to use it later on to sell your soft skills (here are a few tips for doing that in the midst of an interview). Leadership, communication, and interpersonal abilities tend to be bigger decision factors late in the interview process. How well you present them might determine whether you get an offer.
2. YOU WAITED TOO LONG TO FOLLOW UP, OR SOUNDED TEPID ONCE YOU DID
Your job interview went so well that the hiring manager wrapped up by strongly suggesting that you’d hear back soon with an offer. So you leave and wait. But the company goes silent–you hear nothing back and can’t figure out why.
Chances are you took those surefire signs of their interest to mean your work was basically done. You were smart enough to remember to follow up with a thank-you email–but what kind of thank-you was it, and when did you hit “send”? Companies will assume you’re considering more than one opportunity, so if you’re lukewarm or late with your follow-up, they might guess that your interest is flimsy and make an offer to a candidate who seems more eager. (Some might even infer from that how passionately you’ll pursue your job once you’re hired.)
No matter what the company tells you in that final interview, you can’t stop acting like a candidate and start acting like an employee until an offer letter is in hand. Your post-interview follow-up can be as important as the impression you make in the interview room. No matter how far along you get, send an email to the team you interviewed with expressing your continued enthusiasm for the job–and do it that day. It’s your last chance to sell your candidacy and reiterate why you’re the person they can’t live without.
3. YOU WERE SLOW HANDING OVER YOUR REFERENCES
References are an insurance policy for many employers. They just don’t feel comfortable making a job offer without talking to people you’ve worked with in the past. When you leave the interview and the interviewer asks you to forward your references, it may sound like a late-in-the-game formality. But even if the request didn’t sound urgent, you’ve got nothing to lose by treating it that way. Once you walk out of a successful interview and the company asks you for references, you need to supply that information within 24-48 hours.
The main reason candidates are often slow to pass along references isn’t because they shrug off their importance, though. It’s because they wait too long to line them up. If you start calling around at the end of the interview process, a solid week may pass before you secure three great contacts who are willing to vouch for you, bring them up to speed on the position, and send their contact information.
While you do that, many things might happen. Someone within the company asks for the job, or a new candidate comes in and wows the hiring manager who’s waiting for your references. Maybe a higher-up raises a budget concern and the company decides to split the job responsibilities among current employees, then stops looking to fill the opening (trust me, it happens all the time). The point is, you need to strike while the company is high on you and hot on filling the role. Slowing down the process by making them wait on references is a simple way to kill your chances in the homestretch.
These mistakes are easy to fall into because things have gone so well through the rest of the interview process. Never let your guard down or assume you’ve got it in the bag. Keep trying to impress until the offer is yours.
In previous jobs, and now in my role as a managing editor at CNBC, I've conducted dozens of job interviews.
I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly, and I'm constantly amazed at the basic things that candidates screw up.
The No. 1 thing that can ruin your job interview is surprisingly simple: Displaying low energy.
I've seen it plenty of times myself and have heard it from many different hiring managers. While it can be hard to define what exactly "low energy" means, here's what it typically looks like:
It comes down to a simple truth: If you don't clearly want the job, it's near impossible to persuade someone to give it to you.
Kate White, the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, underscores this point in her career advice book "I Shouldn't Be Telling You This." After years of analyzing why some candidates dazzled and others disappointed, she realized the ones she liked seemed excited to be there.
"There's even a little bounce to their step when they walk into the room, and you may sense that bounce even when they're sitting in the chair talking to you," she writes. "They want the job, and they're not afraid to show their passion."
White says too many people tamp down their enthusiasm because they're nervous or worried about seeming unprofessional, and it's the worst mistake you can make. "Here's what you must remember: It's the hot tamale who wins the day, not the [candidate] who's as cool as a cucumber," she says.
What can you do to make sure the interviewer sees how much you care? Start by smiling wide and sitting on the edge of your seat with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Come prepared to talk about why you're a great fit and what you've achieved in the past. Ask lots of follow-up questions.
Energy is contagious. If you show that you're excited about the job, the hiring manager is much more likely to be excited about you.
Other articles that this article refers to:
FROM THE WEBMASTER - This article has been removed from CareerUSA.org by request of the author, Alison Green. Please use the link above to read this article.
Congratulations! You got the job. Now for the hard part: deciding whether to accept it or not. How should you assess the salary as well as the other perks? Which publicly available information should you rely on? How should you try to get a better deal? And what’s the best way to decline an offer if it’s not the right job for you?
What the Experts Say
When an employer extends a job offer to you, he has, in essence, “fallen in love with you,” says John Lees, the UK-based career strategist and author of The Success Code. “He has psychologically committed to you, and it is a critical moment.” According to Lees, “you have more leverage” to shape your job description and improve your salary and benefits package “right after you are made an offer than you do in your first two years of employment.” Still, evaluating a job offer is not always straightforward — especially since you may not have the luxury of comparing it to others. “Step back and think expansively about your objectives,” advises Jeff Weiss, president of Lesley University and author of the HBR Guide to Negotiating. “Think about the offer in terms of your development, your quality of life, and the variety of the work you want to do.” No job offer will be perfect, so a big part of the evaluation requires you to “think about the trade-offs you are willing to make.” Here are some ideas to help you figure out if the job is right for you.
Shift your mindset
First, you must recognize that receiving an offer represents a “new and different phase” of the job search process, says Lees. “The purpose of the interview is to get the offer,” he says. The next stage is about weighing that offer and then negotiating with your new employer. “Pause, you are starting a new chapter.” Bear in mind that even though the job is yours if you want it, you must “continue to be enthusiastic” in your dealings with your prospective manager, says Lees. “By sounding critical or suspicious or by questioning something about the offer, you are sending a negative signal,” he says. “It sounds as if you’re uncertain that you want job.” That may indeed be the case, but it’s not the message you want to send to your would-be manager. “Employers need to feel that you are committed.”
Next, you need to think about what matters to you in both your professional and private life and then “assess the offer” against these metrics, says Weiss. “People tend to focus on the dollars, but it is useful to ask, “What is of value to me?” After all, money is only one component of career satisfaction. “Very often it comes down to, ‘I would rather make X amount of money and be excited to go to work in the morning, than make X plus 10% and hate my job,’” he says. Below are the most important components to take into account as you assess the offer.
Even when the money on offer is enough to live on, you need to figure out if it’s an amount worthy of your knowledge and skills and whether it’s in line with the local market. Look at the financial package on the whole. The key question, says Weiss, is “What is someone with my competencies and experience in this role and in this city paid?” Databases and job search websites, such as Glassdoor, Indeed, Ladders, and Salary.com are a good starting point, but Lees recommends talking to recruiters and headhunters and others in the industry. “Find anyone who knows the sector and the range,” he says. As part of your detective work, you must also devise “a good argument for why you are in the top 10-15% of that range.” But usually there is only so much wiggle room. “You must have a backup plan if there is no flexibility on money in terms of what other areas you want to push back on.”
It’s also important to think about whether you will “derive job satisfaction,” from the offer that’s on the table, says Lees. To answer this question, you need to know the “kinds of activities you want to be involved in and the skills you want to use” as a professional. Ask yourself questions like “Do I want to lead a big team, supervise only a few others, or have zero management duties? Do I want to be in front of clients? Do I crave autonomy? Do I want lots of international travel — or no travel at all? What kinds of projects do I want to be engaged in? And what kinds of professional tasks do I want no part of?” Then see how well the offer matches up against the responsibilities you’re being asked to take on. “Also, look at what you will be doing, what success looks like, and what benchmarks you’ll be judged against,” he says. Having a deep understanding of what’s expected of you is critical for deciding whether you do indeed want the job, he adds. Think hard about whether the “the job is achievable and whether you feel you are going to be able to hit the targets set out.” If the answers are no, it may be that the role is ill-conceived or not for you.
You must also “do your due diligence,” on the organization and its people to make a sound judgment on whether you will enjoy working there, notes Weiss. Ask yourself, “Is this a place where I will be happy? Where I will be challenged? And where I will thrive?” To answer that, Lees recommends “working the phones, reaching out to your contacts and LinkedIn network,” and asking questions. “What is the organization like? How long do people stay? Find out what happened to the last person who did the job.” You will not be able to negotiate or change the organization’s culture, of course, but it is helpful to know beforehand what you’re getting into. It might make sense to do a trial run at the company during the evaluation stage. “Say, ‘I really want to learn more about this organization. Can I spend a few hours with the team?’ That’ll give you a sense of what your colleagues are like, what it would be like to work there, and where the bodies are buried.”
Flexibility, vacation, and other perks.
For many employees, vacation time and the ability to work flexible hours are an increasingly valuable perk. While health benefits are typically standard issue, additional paid time off may be negotiable. If flexibility is not an explicit component of the job offer, you can broach the topic in the negotiation stage, says Weiss. But bear in mind that “things like that are much easier to raise when you’ve made yourself invaluable,” and have been working in the job for a certain period of time. That said, it’s important during the evaluation stage to find out whether current employees are afforded such benefits. Get a feel for how a request for flexibility might be received by senior management. “If you are a perfect match for the job and it’s a tight market, you have a lot of leverage,” says Lees. But if the market is more fluid, you may have little leeway.
“You must also assess your walk-away alternatives,” says Weiss. Even if you don’t necessarily have other job offers in hand, you need to consider other possibilities. “Think about the offer in terms of the cost and benefit of starting the job search process all over again, of staying in your current job, or of waiting to see what other offers materialize later down the road,” he says. If nothing more, this exercise is useful in helping you realize that you have options.
Devise your plan
Once you have “determined the most important elements of the offer that you would like to change,” you need to “decide which cards you are going to play and the sequence of how you will play them,” says Lees. Formulating your negotiation strategy requires creativity, says Weiss. If you are dealing with an intermediary — an HR administrator or a recruiter, for instance — remember to “not only make requests, but also arm that person with questions, information, and ideas.” Come at it from the “perspective of joint problem-solving.” He suggests saying something like, “The salary you’re offering is great, but I want to keep developing in this role. I can imagine some possibilities that might make the job more palatable such as having access to a mentoring program, a rotation program, or an educational allowance. Which of these might be possible?’”
Be tough but cheerful
The rest is “classic negotiation,” says Lees. “You want to maximize the cost of the things you are prepared to accept and minimize the things you’re asking for.” Demonstrate that you’ve undertaken a thoughtful evaluation. For instance, you might say, “I am quite happy with the role and responsibilities, but I would like to work from home one day per week.” Seek to come across as a “tough but cheerful negotiator,” he says. “Go into the deal-making with your eyes open,” he adds. “You can’t negotiate everything, and once you’ve agreed on something you can’t go back on it,” he says. Adds Weiss: “It’s not what you ask for; it’s how you ask for it. Be well-prepared, respectful, and constructive. You want to be seen as someone they want to work with.”
Say no (politely) if it’s not right
Ideally there will be some give and take in these negotiations, but if “you keep coming up against a ‘no’ for everything you ask for, that demonstrates inflexibility” on the part of your prospective employer, and that “could well be a management style you don’t want to live with,” says Lees. Heed red flags. “Pay attention to your internal monitoring system,” he says. “If due diligence tells you that you should not take the job, listen.” Besides, there is no shame in declining a job offer if it’s not the right fit. “As long as you turn it down politely with one or two good reasons — it will not stretch you enough or you want to work in a different sector — you shouldn’t feel bad about it,” he says. And yet, you should “always leave the door open,” says Weiss. “The people you are dealing with are your potential customers, potential advisors, and perhaps even your future employers. Be respectful.”
Principles to Remember
Think about what you want out of your job and use that as a framework to determine the elements of the offer you would like to alter
Be selective about what you push back on
Employ classic negotiation techniques by maximizing the cost of the things you are prepared to accept and minimizing the things you seek.
Be critical or suspicious when questioning something about the offer.
Neglect to consider your walkaway alternatives.
Ignore red flags.
If your instincts and due diligence tells you that you should not take the job, listen.
Case Study #1: Do due diligence on salary considerations and be open to making trade-offs
Two years ago, Jane Chung was contacted about a job as a project manager at Los Angeles-based AltaMed Health Services Corporation. At the time, Jane was a consultant and counted AltaMed among her clients.
When Jane got the offer, she was instantly pleased. “The initial base salary was around 20% higher than my salary at the time,” she says. “Normally, I would’ve been tempted to accept immediately, but I knew that I needed to do a more thorough calculation of the complete offer package.”
Jane’s first order of business was to do a careful, comprehensive evaluation of the money. She used publicly available information from Glassdoor and Indeed to get a sense of the specific title’s market average. She also talked to recruiters and other people in her LinkedIn network to determine her worth. “I make it a habit, whether I’m actively job searching or not, to use my personal network to inquire about other companies’ paid time off allowances/policies and flexibility in work schedule,” she says.
From her due diligence, she learned that going from the private sector to a non-profit health system would mean a significant reduction in bonuses. “I recalculated my total current pay to be inclusive of benefits and bonuses, and factored in the increased scope and responsibility of this new position,” she says.
Next, Jane reflected on whether she would be happy working at AltaMed. “My primary motivation for pursuing a position was because of the mission of the organization to provide healthcare to disadvantaged and under-served communities,” she says. She was already familiar with and impressed by the organziation’s’s culture, dynamics and senior leaders.
And there were other perks. “I also knew the company observed a corporate shutdown during the holiday season, which was a plus for me,” she says.
She then formulated her negotiation plan. A recruiter was acting as a go-between, and Jane made sure to “ask a lot of questions” while continually “expressing genuine enthusiasm for the offer.”
Her first request was for a higher base salary, and while AltaMed did comply, the second offer still didn’t meet her goal. So she next asked the recruiter if other elements, such as paid time off, were open for negotiation. Unfortunately, “she said that wouldn’t be possible because of the company’s strict adherence to the PTO formula based on years served,” Jane recalls.
Still, the move “did help the recruiter know I was committed to this position and that I was also open to negotiating other elements,” Jane said. She asked once more if the company could sweeten the offer and it responded with another small base salary increase plus a signing bonus. So she took the job.
Today Jane is in the middle of a new job search as her project is tied to federal funding that is due to end in September of this year.
Case Study # 2: Prioritize what’s important to you and formulate an approach
A few years ago, a recruiter approached Andrea Molette Bradford, a marketing executive who has worked for Coca-Cola and Sprint, about a vice president position at a large retail company based in a different city.
Andrea was eager to make a career change and excited about the job. “The recruiter provided invaluable information about the company and coached me during the interview and the offer process,” she says. “However, I kept in mind that the recruiter was hired and compensated by the company; therefore, I did not expect him to prioritize my best interests.”
The offer arrived, and it was pretty good. She was pleased with role and responsibilities, starting salary, health benefits, bonus payment, and stock options.
But there were still some things that Andrea wanted to change. “Whenever I consider an offer, I always write down what I want, in priority order. I never share this list, but it is my north star in negotiations.”
Her first priority was more vacation time; the second was a later start date. “I wanted to push it back so that I could close out my home and have time to move and get settled in my new city,” she says.
She then formulated a plan for how she’d approach these requests. The thrust of her message was that she was satisfied with the bulk of the offer but wanted to maintain the number of weeks of holiday that she had in her current job. “I also told my boss that traveling makes me a well-rounded professional, and I need that vacation time in order to see people and things outside of my backyard.” She also explained that she had relocated before and knew how important it was to allow “adequate time” for the transition.
Andrea strived to come across as reasonable and positive during the negotiation. She secured the additional vacation and, although her prospective boss wanted her to begin work earlier, Andrea ultimately prevailed. “The hiring manager pushed hard on [the start date], but I think he understood that it was important to me, and I only came to the table with two requests.” She says she made the right decision to take the job.
Today Andrea is an independent consultant. “I am always open to great opportunities,” she says.
Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist in Boston and a lecturer at Wesleyan University. Her work has been published in The New York Times, USA Today, and The Financial Times.
This question’s frequently a field on job applications, and it’s asked by recruiters and hiring managers alike. If you’ve ever applied for a position, you’ve come across it. And unlike other inquiries that allow room for interpretation, this is one that can only be answered factually, right?
Technically, yes. This isn’t something you want to be dishonest about—even if you fear that the number you give will be the one you’re offered (and not a dollar more). Because this is a common concern for many, I reached out to a few career coaches and touched base with The Muse’s own talent acquisition manager, Lauren Roberts, for advice on how to navigate this classic interview question.
Muse Career Coach, Theresa Merrill, advises people to be honest about their current or past salary. Misrepresenting anything about your work history in an interview or on an application is “unethical,” and therefore unadvisable. She explains: “There’s a high probability that the truth will come out, and then you’re done. You’ve lost all credibility, trust, and, most likely, the job offer.”
That said, Merrill tells clients to avoid sharing these details at all costs. As does career coach Antonio Neves. Both Merrill and Neves recommend doing your research and knowing what the range is for similar roles (and if you’re stuck on how to get started on that, this guide to figuring what you’re worth is indispensable). Remember that the company has budgeted for this role, so it’s OK to turn the question back around and ask, “What’s the salary for this job?”
Neves says to let them know that you’re knowledgeable on the salary range of the position. And Merrill counsels, “If you get to the point where you feel you must give them something, provide a range—not a hard number.”
Although Merrill notes that many companies are “seeking to pay you what you’ve previously been paid,” Roberts says that most organizations are aware that what you’re making now isn’t where you want to stay if you make a move.
She adds, “I think it’s fair to say that even if the recruiter only asks you what you are currently making, you can follow up by providing both where you’re at now and where you’d like to be to give them a sense of your expectations.”
Like Merrill and Neves, Roberts recommends researching the fair market value of the role. The bottom line is that lying about your current salary isn’t a good idea, but not directly answering the question with one hard figure and instead demonstrating your market research is acceptable.
If your fear of revealing your salary stems from worry that your offer will reflect that amount and no more, it’s totally reasonable to set your expectations higher and make it known from the start what you’re looking for. You just don’t want to go nuts and quote a number that’s not at all within the range of that role.
As Merrill explains, “If you give a number too high, that’s not in line with the job role, you may remove yourself from consideration.”
And you’re way too skilled, and you’ve worked way too hard to knock yourself out of the running by shooting too high. Instead, do your research and go after what you’re truly worth.
Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.
by Emily Moore
When you finally score an interview, it can feel like a huge deal. And to you, it is! It’s the first big step towards finally getting the job of your dreams. To recruiters, however, it’s all just a part of the daily grind. After all, professional recruiters often conduct hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews per year.
Now, that’s not to discourage you or suggest that recruiters don’t care about you. The point is, though, that they go through the interview process a lot more often than you do — so when you give what you think seems like a well thought-out, unique, and interesting response, they may have already heard it a few times that week alone. If you truly want to stand out in their eyes, you need to avoid these cliché answers and dig deeper into what kind of information they’re *really* looking for.
But which interview responses are the worst offenders, and what should you say instead? We reached out to a number of recruiters, HR professionals, career coaches, and other experts to hear their thoughts. These are the seven answers they advised job seekers to avoid at all costs.
Q: Tell me about yourself.
A: Details of your family life, medical history, or professional flaws.
Why It’s Bad: “Avoid ANYTHING personal that will be held against you in the interview or if you are hired. There are topics such as health and family that the employer should not bring up (because it’s illegal.) You should avoid these things too. Also, don’t bring up your shortcomings. If you are invited to interview, the interviewers believe you can do the job. Be confident and believe in yourself,” says Devay Campbell, Career Coach at Career 2 Cents.
What to Say Instead: A narrative that outlines your work experience thus far, why it’s relevant to the current position, where you want it to take you and, if you have time left, a couple short details that shed light on who you are as a person, such as interests and hobbies.
Q: Tell me what you know about the company.
A: Very obvious details, like their industry, or avoiding a straight answer completely.
Why It’s Bad: Failing to research the company that you’re applying to suggests to the interviewer that you either don’t truly take it seriously, are lazy, or just don’t have common sense. “If [candidates] are unprepared to answer this question, the likelihood of them securing a position with a company shrinks dramatically,” says Dave Lopes, Director of Recruiting at Badger Maps. “Even fifteen minutes of browsing their website will prepare the candidate to answer this question adequately.”
What to Say Instead: Describe things like the product/service the company provides, their target market, and their business model, among other publicly available, business-critical information.
Q: What’s your greatest strength?
A: “I’m a team player.”
Why It’s Bad: “[The] answer is too broad- no specifics about your unique qualities,” says Laura MacLeod, HR expert and consultant at From The Inside Out Project®. “EVERYONE should be a ‘team player’- so what makes you special? Feels forced and inauthentic- [like you’re just] spouting a phrase you think HR wants to hear.”
What to Say Instead: “Be specific about HOW you collaborate with co-workers and connect with other departments to produce the best product [and] WHY you think it’s crucial to develop these connections and develop relationships. Give examples from previous work experience,” MacLeod advises.
Q: What’s your greatest weakness?
A: “I work too hard/I’m a perfectionist.”
Why It’s Bad: “This answer comes from candidates who are trying to share something they perceive as a strength, cloaked as a weakness. Who wouldn’t want an employee whose biggest flaw is being too driven or striving for perfection?” says Mikaela Kiner of UniquelyHR. “The problem is that the candidates who provide this answer are unwilling to admit to their real areas of development. We all have them — I want to talk to people who know what theirs are, and are actively working to improve.”
What to Say Instead: “Candidates should be honest. By the time we’ve had a few jobs, I think each of us knows what we need to work on,” Kiner says. “Be ready to honestly share something you need to develop, how you know / who’s given you feedback, and what you’re doing to get better. The ideal answer demonstrates a willingness to be self-aware, and also that you’re a continuous learner.”
Q: Where do yourself in five years?
A: “I see myself doing this job still.”
Why It’s Bad: “A lot of interviewees say this because they believe it shows a great deal of loyalty and commitment to the company, making them the perfect hire. However, what this actually does is suggest a lack of ambition. Employers don’t want to know that you will want to be in the same position five years later, they want to know what you will do to develop yourself and the company,” says Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant for Ben Sherman. “[This] is your opportunity to showcase your ambition and drive. Five years is a long time, and to suggest to a potential boss that you don’t see yourself progressing at all in that time shows a distinct absence of zeal.”
What to Say Instead: “Candidates who truly want the job will know a natural progression… can occur in that role, but a bit of extra research couldn’t hurt,” Pritchard says. “Research the various departments within the company and see where there may be opportunity to branch out. Explain to the interviewer your goals; how would you like to grow within the department? More to the point, ultimately, how would you like to help grow the department and indeed the business? What skills do you possess that help you to achieve this? Naturally, you want your employer to believe you will be a loyal worker who won’t jump ship in the next couple of years. At the same time, though, you should be giving them an explanation as to why you are worth keeping for five years in the first place.”
Q: Why do you want to work here?
A: “Because I need a job.”
Why It’s Bad: You might think this candid answer could come off as funny or refreshingly honest, but make no mistake: If you don’t give a real reason why a company should hire you, they won’t. There are almost always plenty of other candidates for them to choose from.
What to Say Instead: “To answer this correctly, you must [do] research on the company and have [an] answer about the things they believe in, new products or [initiatives] or where they are going,” Campbell says. A few better answers? “You are a leader in the _____ industry and I want to be aligned with an organization [that’s] on the cutting edge and leading the pack,” “[your] mission of ______ is aligned with my personal values,” or “I am excited that you… just introduced (or will be introducing) ______ to [the] market. You are doing great things and I am certain I can learn and grow here,” advises Campbell.
Q: “Why should I hire you this for this position?”
A: “Because I’m passionate about it.”
Why It’s Bad: “Being passionate does not help you stand out from other candidates,” says Natasha Bowman, Chief Consultant at Performance ReNEW and author of the upcoming book You Can’t Do That At Work! 100 Common Mistakes That Managers Make. “A more unique, appropriate response would be to specifically align your background with that of the organization.”
What to Say Instead: “Demonstrate your ‘passion’ by discussing quantifiable results you’ve obtained for other organizations,” Bowman says. “How active [are you] in industry trade organizations? What measures do you take to develop yourself outside of the workplace?”
Utilize the resume real estate between your contact information and work experience wisely.
If you're not familiar with the term "career summary," it's those few lines or bullets at the top of your resume directly under your name and contact information that tell an employer who you are. Some call it a career profile or executive summary, among other things.
Before we go on and talk about what it is, let's talk about what it's not. It is not an objective statement. There is a very important distinction between the two. If you've been in the workforce for a long time, you're probably more familiar with an objective. That's old news. An objective would tell an employer what you were looking for. Employers now receive so many job applications that they expect you to do a bit more work to tell the employer that you are what they are looking for.
Here are some examples of strong career summaries for three different backgrounds. They do not have to be in sentence format; some people prefer to use bullets and that's OK. Keep it short and simple either way, as a long career summary will likely not be read.
"Award-winning executive assistant with over 10 years of experience directly supporting senior federal government executives. Employs exceptional analytical and problem-solving abilities to deliver strategic plans and improve processes. Adept at change management and strategic communications."
"Expert project manager with 12 years of experience in health care nonprofits leading program development, community outreach and the design and delivery of educational content. Acknowledged for event management skills and ability to inspire teammates."
"Versatile statistician with 20-plus years of experience in health care, pharmaceutical and market research firms, developing creative solutions to complex research questions using SAS and other tools. Recognized for communication ability, concise writing skills and for proactively tackling challenging problems."
What are the key elements of each of these?
Description. The opening line is a summary of each person's background. It indicates their profession or role, how many years of experience they have and the industry or industries in which they've worked. If you've won awards, don't be afraid to say so right off the bat! This is not something everyone has under his or her belt, so it will help you stand out. Just make sure you also list your awards in a separate section of your resume under work experience. Even if you don't have awards to speak of, use words like "expert," "versatile" or "accomplished" to describe who you are. Depending on the job you are applying to, you can also change the title (e.g., "executive assistant" to "administrative assistant").
Demonstrate Value. Your first or second sentence should tell the employer the value you bring to them. In the second example, we understand the person has experience leading program development, community outreach and the design and delivery of educational content. The employer will immediately understand this person can use those same capabilities on the job with them.
Here's how to figure out what to include. Look at the job requirements – often called "minimum qualifications" or "basic requirements" across several job postings that you plan to apply to. What are they looking for? Hopefully there is a common thread, but if not, create several career summaries to fit each one and give you some practice. The first sentence is likely to stay the same for each, but the value you offer may change. Also, maybe instead of the term "community outreach," they use the term "external relations." Make those changes, because an applicant tracking system (ATS) will look out for specific terms. In other words, be sure to tweak your career summary to align your background with the job requirements.
Separate Yourself. In the second and third examples, you see the words "acknowledged for" and "recognized for." Another term you may wish to use is "known for." The goal of this part is to state why you are unique. In other words, what makes you different from your colleagues? Think about what you've noticed over time as well as feedback you've been given by managers or peers. This gives you a key opportunity to address some of the job requirements from a posting, as well. If the requirements state "strong writing skills," "proactive" and "problem-solver," and that describes you perfectly, you might use a sentence like the final one in example three above.
The bottom line: You need a career summary, and it should be specific rather than filled with cliched words and phrases. It should cover what you personally can bring to the employer and be aligned with a posting's job requirements. Taking these steps to build your summary will enable you to be leaps and bounds ahead of the crowd.
Marcelle Yeager has been a blogger for On Careers since March 2014. She is the president of Career Valet, a premier provider of career services that helps launch people to the next level of their career. Marcelle also co-founded ServingTalent, a recruiting agency that places military and Foreign Service spouses in jobs. Prior to starting these ventures, Marcelle worked for over 10 years as a strategic communications consultant in Washington, D.C., and overseas for over six years. She holds an MBA from the University of Maryland. You can follow her companies on Twitter @careervalet, @servingtalent, Facebook (Career Valet, ServingTalent), or connect with her on LinkedIn.
Ever since I’ve started working at The Muse, I’ve gotten cornered by people at social gatherings who whisper in my ear, “Hey, I’m looking for a job, I heard you can help.”
I typically respond by pulling the person into a back alley, opening up my trench coat, and asking if the person’s looking for fully-tailored resumes, or cover letters with witty openers—or, for an extra cost, offer letters that only need their signature.
Just kidding. The lighting in back alleyways tends to be horribly unflattering.
Instead, I typically respond with something about letting their network know they’re looking, since that’s the best way to get their foot in the door. To which they almost always say, “Oh, that’s nice, but I’m trying to keep this pretty low-key right now.”
I get it. When I started my last job search I did the same. I had this fantasy of waltzing into dinner and announcing the news to my friends and family that I landed this amazing new position.
They’d say, “I didn’t even know you were looking.” And I’d casually reply, “Oh, it just fell into my lap.” Then they’d all simultaneously think, “Wow, Jenni must be really good at what she does to leave one great company for another.” Then I’d say something fancy like, “Next round is on me, old chaps.”
How did that fantasy play out in real life?
I got a few interviews, zero offers, and eventually laid off. The good news is that being unemployed left me with no choice but to confront two truths:
I was unhappy in my current situation.
I needed help.
These facts are easy for me to type out now, but they felt so hard to admit when everyone else around me appeared to be thriving in their careers. No one else I knew needed help from their network, so why did I?
However, as soon as I started being honest about my situation, the opportunities started rolling in. Turns out people want to help you! But they can’t if you don’t clue them into what you need.
Think about it: Have you ever turned to a friend in the middle of a conversation about The Bachelor and said, “Hey, would you like me to proofread your resume?” or “My cousin’s company is hiring if you’d like me to connect you two.”
That means that rather than trying to pull this off all by yourself, tell your friends, tell your former colleagues, and tell your family. While you don’t want to shout it from the rooftops (mostly because that’s a wildly ineffective way to communicate), you should clue your network into the fact you’re looking. It’s honestly as easy as sending this “Help me find a job” email.
The majority of the interviews I went on after being laid off came from friends-of-friend leads. Leads I never got before I lost my job because no one knew I wanted them. And the position I ended up getting at The Muse? That “in” came from a former manager’s friend.
So, if you’re serious about looking for a new role, stop treating it like a stealth mission. You’re not in the CIA (unless you are, and in that case, you do you). You’re just someone who’s looking for a new opportunity—and who’s smart enough to know it’s a lot easier to find it when other people are keeping an eye out, too.
By Pattie Hunt Sinacole
Q: I have been told repeatedly to “follow up” after an interview. But how? Should I mail a thank-you note? Snail mail seems old-fashioned. Do I send an email? Or place a phone call? What do you recommend? I have had more than one recruiter ask me to “follow up” with them? But honestly I am not sure what that means. Thank you Job Doc.
A: Following up after an interview is essential. Candidates who follow up after an interview demonstrate interest and show a commitment to the process. Alternatively, candidates who do not follow up are perceived as less interested or less serious about the job opportunity.
I recommend candidates ask about how to follow-up before the interview ends. For example, Marie is interviewing with ABC Company on Tuesday, February 14th. Before she leaves the interview with Tamara, the hiring manager at ABC Company, one of her final questions should be: “Tamara, can you explain to me the next steps in the selection process?” Marie will hopefully learn more about the process. Marie might learn when they hope to fill the role, how many interviews are part of the process and how many other candidates are being considered at this point. This is helpful too because it can set expectations as to how long each step might take. If a company explains that they intend to ask candidates to interview two or three times at ABC Company, then that may take several weeks. If a company explains that they expect to have a decision by Friday February 17th, that is a very different timeframe. Marie can also ask “how do you prefer that I follow up with you?” Tamara may offer several options – by phone, with an email or she may offer a specific date. When we handle recruitment for our clients, I will often ask a candidate to email me by a certain date.
Additionally, always send a thank-you note. Email is typically the best way to send a thank-you note. Make sure you email it within 24 hours of an interview. In the email, you again want to reiterate your interest. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate professionalism and can serve as a sample for your writing skills.
Your career history will pack an even bigger punch with these dynamic words.
Caroline Zaayer Kaufman
Your resume isn’t a place for modesty; it’s a chance to show companies all the awesome things you’ve done—and what you can do for them if given a chance. Take the opportunity to liven things up a bit. Weak, vague or overused verbs can actually diminish the excellent work you did at your last job, so choose words that more accurately reflect what you do.
“It’s critical to choose active, industry-appropriate action verbs,” says Linda Hollenback, a brand and career strategist who owns Philadelphia-based Hollenback Consulting. “Well-chosen lead action words make the difference between highlighting your skills and undermining your contribution.”
To help your credentials pack the maximum punch, Monster created a list of strong action verbs to make your resume more powerful.
Action verbs for communication skills
Instead of: talked, led, presented, organized
Use: addressed, corresponded, persuaded, publicized, reconciled
You can present data and lead meetings all day long, but does that mean you actually got your point across to an audience? Simply saying that you talked to other people doesn’t prove that you achieved your goals.
Stir the interest of a hiring manager by using words that have a bit more personality than the usual suspects. That might encourage him or her to want to meet you in person.
For example, instead of saying you “organized” an off-site meeting, say you “orchestrated” an off-site meeting. And instead of “leading” the meeting, perhaps you “chaired” the meeting.
“‘Persuaded’ is another great verb to use,” says Christina Austin, founder of New York City–based ExecBrands, a career-branding firm, “as it highlights a candidate’s ability to influence others.”
More precise words can also add a touch of formality to your actions, she says. Words like “addressed” or “corresponded” can carry more weight than a generic “wrote” or “spoke.”
Action verbs for organizational skills
Instead of: organized, ordered, filed
Use: catalogued, executed, monitored, operated
Did you organize a project, then walk away? Probably not, so choose words that express how you organized and followed through with a project to completion. For example, “executed” says that you saw it through to the end.
“By focusing on the task rather than the purpose or significance of the task to the organization, a job seeker may limit the perceived value of his or her experience,” Hollenback says. Instead of “filed account paperwork,” she suggests something more descriptive of your purpose, such as “monitored client accounts.”
Action verbs for management skills
Instead of: led, handled, oversaw
Use: consolidated, appointed, delegated, established
Leadership experience is excellent for a resume. However, just saying you “led” a team is not nearly as powerful as saying you “established” a team, which indicates you took the lead to create something new.
“A word like ‘oversaw’ hints that someone is supervising work on a high level, but not necessarily participating in a project actively,” says Andy Chan, co-founder of Prime Opt, a Seattle-based career-coaching center. Pick words that reflect the true nature of your contribution. For example, “Established a nine-member productivity team and delegated operational tasks to three junior managers.”
Each of these verb choices combines to give the hiring manager or recruiter an impression of your work style—just be sure to avoid repeats. “Multiple repetitions of an action word reduces the word’s impact and makes for a boring read,” Hollenback says.
Grab your dictionary or thesaurus if you’re feeling stuck, and when you’re done, be sure to have a trusted friend or colleague read over your resume to make sure it reads properly. And if you need more help, get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's partner TopResume.
Too many job seekers make the interview process more complicated than need be, thinking they need to do something special to stand out. Actually, you want to focus on the simple over the extraordinary -- nailing basic interview etiquette and typical interview questions. You want to treat the interview like a conversation, not an interrogation. You want to relate to the other person, develop a connection and have a back-and-forth dialogue.
Here are 10 easy-to-follow tips to stand out in your next job interview:
Start Your Interview In The Lobby
The interview starts before many job seekers realize the interview starts. When you check in at reception, your demeanor with the person at the desk is often reported back to the interviewer. If you’re ready with the name of your interviewer and time of your meeting, you appear organized. If you sit with good posture in the lounge area, you exude poise. Start your interview behavior as soon as you enter the building.
Be Excited From The Start
An important part of your interview demeanor is your level of enthusiasm. As a recruiter, I empathized if a candidate was nervous and I tried to put them at ease, but I was always impressed by the candidate that I didn’t have to care of, that was comfortable in a meeting and especially that seemed excited to be there. Many candidates will be qualified – you want to be qualified and excited for the job.
Be Poised From The Start
As you walk from Reception to the interview room, are you grasping for your coat, your bag, your phone, your portfolio, your water, and all with one hand so you keep the other free for a hand shake? You don’t want to look overwhelmed or clumsy at the outset. You know your interviewer is going to come out and call for you. Yet, many candidates are surprised when the time comes and then flail around for all their things. Don’t make me call a U-Haul to help you move your stuff! Hang your coat, and put as much as you can in your bag so you only have one item to carry.
Minimize Nervous Habits
When you sit down with your interviewer, ground yourself with your feet planted on the floor and your hands on your lap or on the desk. If you tend to shake your knee up and down, cross your legs. If you like to twirl or tap a pen, don’t keep a pen in your hand. You know what your nervous habits are, so seat yourself in a way that minimizes these behaviors.
Prepare Your Introduction
You know the interviewer will ask you about yourself – Tell me about yourself or Walk me through your resume or What are you working on currently? Set your introduction in advance so you focus on the most relevant skills and experiences related to this job. If you have multiple jobs, you don’t want to bury your interviewer in unrelated details – pick out what s/he specifically should know to realize your fit to the job at hand.
Prepare Your Stories
Similarly, you know the interviewer will want to check your qualifications for the job. S/he might pull out items from the job description and ask you to give examples of when you did these things. S/he might describe attributes or skills the company wants in this role and ask you to prove you have these. S/he might share a current project or responsibility the new hire will be tasked with and ask how you’d handle it. Prepare the stories from your career that you know are relevant to the job. Use the job description as a guide for what skills, experience, and attributes you need to highlight. Sure, the interviewer might add something that wasn’t revealed in the job description, but this doesn’t happen often. If you prepare against the job description, you’ll be ready for a vast majority of the questions.
Have Questions To Ask
The interview is a two-way exchange. Many interviewers leave time for questions, and use the questions you ask as an indication of your interest in and knowledge of the role. If you have no questions, you’re not interested or you didn’t bother to research the company or role. Next!
At the end of your interview, thank the interviewer for his or her time. Reiterate your interest in the role. Ask about next steps so you’re clear on when and how to follow up. Don’t be so relieved that it’s over that you just run away without ending strong.
Place Cues For Yourself Where You Can Easily See Them
Given all the responses that you need to prepare (your introduction, various examples of your skills, experience and attributes, questions to ask, your strong close) and behaviors you want to model (sit up straight, don’t tap your pen), you might want to give cues to remind yourself so you don’t blank out on anything. Bringing a sturdy notebook or leather pad to take notes is always a good idea so you remember any helpful information you learn in the interview. This is also a good place for cues to remind yourself. If you think you may forget an example, say a financial analysis you did in your last role, write “Financial Analysis” in big letters so you remember to mention it. If you tend to rush out of an interview, write “End Strong” in big letters to prompt you to say, “Thank you, I want to reiterate my interest in the role. What are the next steps?” Placing cues is also something you can do during Skype interviews (position post-its strategically around your webcam so you can see your cues but still make eye contact).
Finally, don’t forget to smile throughout your interview. Smiling relaxes you and the interviewer. It also helps you appear friendlier and develop that connection. If you can even just remember to smile at the opening hand shake, smile at the first question and smile at the close, then you have built in at least three smiles for your interview.
Remember that the interviewer wants you to do well –when an opening is filled it means less work (no more interviews) and help is on the way (you’ll be taking on the work). In this way, you can relax knowing the interviewer is on your side. You can also relax knowing that a good interview is a few simple steps and well within the reach of any job seeker willing to do a bit of preparation.
I am the cofounder of SixFigureStart career coaching. I have worked with executives from American Express, Goldman Sachs, Condé Nast, Gilt, eBay, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. I'm also a stand-up comic, so not your typical coach.
An analysis of 350,000 messages found the best way to end an email if you want a response
I've always thought of obsessing over your email openings and closings as a bit like obsessing over your outfit — not worth it.
As long as you don't do something outrageous — say, sign an email to your CEO with "xoxo" or show up to a job interview wearing a clown costume — you'll be fine with whatever you choose.
I was wrong.
According to a new analysis from Boomerang, an email productivity app, different email sign-offs yield different response rates. And woe to the unappreciative emailers among us: The analysis found that the best way to end an email is with gratitude.
Specifically, results showed that the most effective email sign-off is "thanks in advance."
For the study, Boomerang looked at closings in over 350,000 email threads from mailing list archives in which, they wrote in a blog post, many emails involved "people asking for help or advice, hoping for a reply."
Then they picked out the eight email sign-offs that appeared over 1,000 times each and figured out the response rate linked to each sign-off. Here's what they found:
"Thanks in advance" had a response rate of 65.7%
"Thanks" had a response rate of 63%
"Thank you" had a response rate of 57.9%
"Cheers" had a response rate of 54.4%
"Kind regards" had a response rate of 53.9%
"Regards" had a response rate of 53.5%
"Best regards" had a response rate of 52.9%
"Best" had a response rate of 51.2%
The average response rate for all the emails in their sample was 47.5%.
The Boomerang blog post also cites 2010 research from Adam Grant and Francesca Gino, which found that participants who received an email from a student asking for feedback on a cover letter were twice as likely to help when the email included the phrase, "Thanks so much! I am really grateful."
Interestingly, three separate etiquette experts previously told Business Insider that "best" is the most appropriate way to end an email. And one such expert said that "thanks" is "obnoxious if it's a command disguised as premature gratitude."
The Boomerang analysis didn't measure how recipients felt about the sender — just whether they responded. It also didn't measure the power dynamics at play. Maybe your boss signs their emails "best," and they always get an answer.
Bottom line: If you want a response to your email, it can't hurt to end it with an expression of gratitude. Thanks for reading!