Shana Lebowitz and Allana Akhtar
Just because a job posting omits the name of the person in charge of the hiring process doesn't mean you should address your cover letter "To whom it may concern."
According to Amanda Augustine, a career advice expert for TopResume, you'll always want to direct your cover letter to a specific individual (unless the posting is anonymous). Otherwise, you might give the impression that you didn't put any effort into your application or you don't pay attention to detail.
So how do you figure out who's doing the hiring? Augustine shares her top strategies:
Reread the job description.
Before you panic and conclude that there's no name listed, go back and reread the job posting very carefully. There might be a name and email address lurking at the bottom of the posting that you missed the first time.
Use the email address provided to search for a name.
Sometimes companies will direct candidates to send their applications to a specific email address without providing a name to go along with it.
That's a big clue.
There's a good chance the email address is the person's first initial and last name (for example, mine is email@example.com), or maybe just their first name. Once you have that information, you can run a Google search for "S Lebowitz Business Insider" or "Shana Business Insider" and see what you come up with.
Look for the person who created the posting.
If you found the job posting on LinkedIn, sometimes you'll see it was created by a specific recruiter or hiring manager, depending on the size of the company.
In that case, you should address your cover letter to him or her because that person is obviously directly involved in the hiring process.
Look for information about who you'd be reporting to.
Maybe the job posting says you'd be reporting to the director of marketing analytics, but doesn't give that persons' name. Run an advanced search on LinkedIn for any current directors of marketing analytics at the company and see who comes up.
If that doesn't work, you can run a standard Google search for "director of marketing analytics" and the company name. You might even find that person's spoken at a recent conference, for example, which would give you some insight into what interests her and what kinds of information you should include in your cover letter.
Search the recruiting agency's website.
If the job posting was created by a specific recruiting agency, go to that agency's website and look at the bios of all the recruiters who work there.
See which one works primarily with the company you're applying to.
Google part of the job posting.
It's possible that the website where you spotted the job opening isn't where it was originally posted.
To find out, take a portion of the job description that lists the specific role or requirements, put it in quotation marks, and hit search. You might find the original posting, which includes the name and/or email address of the person in charge of the hiring process.
Leverage your network.
Here's where a large professional network comes in handy.
Run an advanced search on LinkedIn to see if you have any connections who currently work at the company you're applying to. Ask that person if he or she a) knows who you should address your cover letter to, and b) would be willing to pass your application onto the appropriate person.
You can use the same strategy if there's a company employee you met once at a networking event. Simply email that person: "I don't know if you'll remember me, but…" Express your interest in the position and ask if he or she can direct you to the appropriate person.
This tactic is especially effective, since studies suggest that applicants with someone to vouch for them are more likely to land the job.
Make sure you submit your application through the standard method as well as through your mutual connection. The company may want to track each application that comes in for their records.
It’s like walking a tightrope to find the balance between having the personality employers want and not coming off as having the one they hate.
BY AMANDA AUGUSTINE
When it comes to nailing an interview, your personality may play a larger role than you think. According to a recent study conducted by TopInterview and Resume-Library, 70% of employers consider a candidate’s personality to be among the top three factors in deciding whether to extend a job offer. It’s substantially more important than education (18%) or appearance (7%).
So, what personality traits will make or break your chances of landing the job? Employers reported that “overconfidence” was the most offensive. However, when asked which personality traits they find the most attractive, they rated “confidence” as the second-most important quality.
The message is clear: If you want to land the job, you must balance sounding confident, without being perceived as overly confident during the interview. It’s certainly important to demonstrate your job qualifications and your value to the company. However, if you take it too far, you may be perceived as arrogant, which will only hurt your credibility and ruin your chances of landing the job.
Here are five ways you can avoid crossing the line from confident to cocky during your next interview.
Nervous energy before an interview can be beneficial. It will keep you on your toes and help ensure you sound authentic when answering the interviewer’s questions. In fact, I often help clients figure out how to boost their energy level before an interview to ensure they make the right impression. However, if you fail to manage those nerves, you may find yourself trying to overcompensate during the interview and inadvertently come across as arrogant.
To mitigate this risk, determine the best way to release some of that nervous energy and work it into your pre-interview routine. Whether it’s a spin class, meditation, or jamming out to your favorite song, find what works for you and do it.
SHOW, DON’T TELL
When you walk into an interview, you’re expected to confidently discuss your skills and your value to the company. After all, if you’re not confident in your abilities, why should a prospective employer be confident in hiring you? However, it’s how you communicate your skills that makes all the difference.
The key is to get specific. Instead of using sweeping statements like, “I’m a skilled marketer. I know everything there is to know about email marketing,” share information that demonstrates your proficiency in a specific area, such as an award you’ve won or a measurable result you’ve achieved. The candidates who can prove their success are the ones genuinely impressing the hiring manager without coming across as smug.
AVOID STRETCHING THE TRUTH
There’s no room for false modesty when you’re looking for work. However, be careful not to overstate your abilities, embellish your previous responsibilities, or take full credit for a team effort. No one likes a braggart, and most interviewers can see through those exaggerations with a few follow-up questions. When discussing a previous accomplishment, give credit where credit is due. Instead of pretending it was the result of a one-person show, acknowledge your other team members and explain the contribution you’ve made in bringing about the win.
WELCOME THE “WEAKNESS” QUESTION
No one is perfect, so don’t try to pretend you are during an interview. If you’re asked about a weakness, don’t avoid the question or provide one of those faux weaknesses such as “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m too nice.” Instead, share a work-related area that is nonessential to the job, and explain the steps you’ve taken to improve.
The STAR Method (Situation, Task, Actions, Results), which is typically used to answer behavioral interview questions, can be a great way to explain how you’ve overcome a weakness in a succinct, yet thoughtful manner.
To do this, think of a real situation or task you’ve struggled with previously, such as being uncomfortable with public speaking. Choose a shortcoming that’s genuine, but not a key requirement of the role you hope to get.
Identify what actions you’ve taken to improve this skill or overcome your professional shortcoming. For instance, if you’ve struggled with public speaking, explain the class you’ve completed to overcome your fears.
Share the results of your actions. Have you recently volunteered to present at the company-wide meeting? Have you completed a course to gain proficiency in a certain skill? Have your performance assessments in this area improved?
Demonstrating a level of self-awareness and commitment to professional development is much more attractive to employers than pretending you are perfect.
PREPARE TO ASK QUESTIONS
Whenever an interviewer asks you, “Do you have any questions for me?” your response should always be an enthusiastic “Yes,” whether you’re on your first or your fourth round of interviews with the company. Employers use this question to gauge your interest in the opportunity, so blowing off this question at the end of the interview will only leave you looking cocky or, worse, uninterested in the position.
While some questions will naturally emerge from your conversations with your interviewer, I find it helpful to prepare a list of questions like this one in advance that you can ask each person with whom you meet. The benefits of this extra preparation are twofold. It shows the hiring manager that you’re taking the interview seriously and you’re genuinely interested in the opportunity. It also helps you learn more about the company and determine whether the job is the right fit for you. It’s a win-win.
Amanda Augustine (@JobSearchAmanda) is the resident career expert for Talent Inc.’s suite of brands: TopResume, TopCV, and TopInterview. With nearly 15 years of experience in the recruiting and career-advice industry, she is a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and résumé writer (CPRW), helping professionals improve their careers and find the right job sooner.
Having friends in high places can be a definite benefit when you’re looking for a job referral. Even acquaintances can help you land your dream position if they’re so inclined. But first things first—if they haven’t offered, you need to ask. That’s where some awkwardness can come in. How do you ask a friend to refer you to their company without seeming pushy, desperate, or exploitative? Here are some tips that will help you get the referral you want without putting unnecessary strain on the friendship.
It’s a question, not a demand
You might feel comfortable enough with your friend to say, “Hey! You’ve gotta get me a job at your company!” But no matter how close you two are, no one enjoys feeling like they’re having demands put on them. This approach could make your buddy feel defensive and resistant.
Instead of telling him to give you a referral, ask nicely. Say something like, “You’re so lucky to work at XYZ Corporation. I would love to work there. Would it be possible for you to give me a referral?” Make sure your friend knows this is a request—not a requirement of your friendship.
Make sure it’s reasonable
Your friend may be awesome, but that doesn’t mean she’s a miracle worker. If your bestie works at a high-tech company and you can barely operate your smart phone, you can’t expect her to put her reputation on the line for you. After all, if your friend refers you for a job, she’s basically telling her employer she thinks you’ll be a valuable asset to the company. If that turns out to be untrue, both of your good names will be in jeopardy.
If you don’t have the qualifications, work ethic, or commitment to make your friend look good, don’t put her in an untenable position. That’s taking unfair advantage of your relationship, and it’s not likely to end well career-wise or friendship-wise.
As any good scout knows, being prepared is essential for success. You can’t automatically assume your friend will be thrilled with the idea of giving you a referral. The fact is, if your pal knows you’re looking for a job and hasn’t already made the offer himself, there could be a reason. So be ready to defend yourself and explain, in a calm and logical way, why you think you would be a good fit for the company.
If you don’t have the best track record and that’s holding him back, show him how you’ve changed and matured. Give examples. Show enthusiasm. Let your friend know if he refers you for the job, you’ll make him proud.
Give them an out
You should be able to give good reasons for your friend to refer you, but you also have to accept it if they just don’t want to do it. Don’t get defensive or keep trying to push your point. Simply say, “Thank you for listening. I totally understand.” Don’t badger or make her feel like you’re unwilling to let it go. Present your case succinctly and objectively, and if she doesn’t take the bait, let her off the hook. You don’t want to find yourself short a referral and a friend.
Asking a friend for a job referral can feel a little uncomfortable for both parties, regardless of the level of closeness between you. But you can reduce some of that awkwardness by being humble, reasonable, prepared, and gracious. Your entire friendship isn’t based on this, so if the answer is no, don’t take it personally. And if the answer is yes, make sure you show your gratitude (a nice dinner or tickets to an event are a good way to go)—especially if you get the job!
Here’s an example of the perfect thank you email, according to Yale career experts
by Dustin McKissen
Never undermine the power of sending a thank you note after your interview.
Whether it’s for a job or an internship, a thank you note is literally your last chance to sell yourself an employer. Aside from not sending one at all, many candidates make the mistake of writing one that’s far too generic.
Here’s an example of a strong thank you email, according to career experts at Yale University’s Office of Career Strategy:
(Courtesy of Yale University, Office of Career Strategy)
Don’t know where to start? Here are some essential tips on how to write the perfect thank you note:
1. Paper or email?
This is a tricky one.
While some hiring managers argue that handwritten letters are a lost art that can go a long way (provided that you have flawless penmanship), most prefer the email route because it’s more convenient for all parties.
The short answer? It depends on the company you’re interviewing at. If it’s a digitally-focused organization, for example, you’re better off sending your letter electronically.
If in doubt, send your letter via email. That way, you won’t have to worry about it getting lost or your interviewer not receiving it in a timely manner.
(Also, keep in mind that it’s what you actually put in your note that counts, not how you send it.)
2. Send one to each interviewer
If you spoke with several people at the company, be sure to ask for their business cards at the end of each interview.
Each letter should be personalized with specific information that you talked about with each person. Even if the discussions were the same, your letters shouldn’t be.
“Putting the time and effort into personalizing your notes shows that you were paying close attention to the information conveyed by each interviewer,” a career expert at Yale explained. “This will benefit you when the interviewers compare notes — which they will do. ”
3. Include the basics
While your letter should go beyond a simple thank you, you still need to:
Reiterate your interest
Express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time
Emphasize your best and most relevant qualities and skills
Mention specific topic discussed in the interview that you found to be the most appealing
Include one or two past experiences that prepared you for the responsibilities of the position
4. Go above and beyond
This is your chance to really show that you were listening attentively and took time to reflect on the interview.
Here are a few ways to go above and beyond in your thank you letter:
Mention something exciting you learned about the company that makes you want to work there
Talk about a skills shortage you now know they have that you’re uniquely poised to fill
Include links to projects or work samples you talked about in your interview
Comment on a small detail that your interviewer mentioned (e.g., wish them safe travels if said they were going overseas for an upcoming vacation)
Clarify something you said during the interview
Highlight something you failed to mention
Also, a candidate that expresses eagerness and excitement for a role is always refreshing, so don’t be afraid to add some personality. (But don’t take it too far; your employer still wants to see that you have proper business etiquette.)
5. Keep it clear and short
Your thank you note should be no more than one page. Typically, 250 to 300 words is fine.
If you’re sending your letter via email, the subject line should be simple (e.g., “Thank you - Sales Marketing Associate interview”).
6. Don’t wait too long to send it
There’s no need to send your thank you note immediately after the interview. The sweet spot is generally within the 24- to 48-hour period after the interview.
Helpful tip: As soon as you exit the building, jot down notes and specific details that you want to include in your letter. Everything will still be fresh in your head and you’ll have a much easier time writing the letter when you get home.
7. Proofread, proofread, proofread...
A sloppily written letter can blow your chance at getting the job, so always do a thorough check before hitting that send button.
Beyond grammar and spelling, make sure that:
Names, dates and email addresses are correct
The correct company is mentioned, especially if you’ve been interviewing at other places (I once received a thank you email that included the name of our company’s competitor)
Similar to the previous point, you also want to make sure you included the correct job position that you interviewed for
Dustin McKissen is the founder of McKissen + Company, a strategic communications firm in St. Charles, Missouri. He was also named one of LinkedIn’s “Top Voices in Management and Corporate Culture.” Follow him on LinkedIn here.
Screen phone calls are so yesterday. Your next employer might want to do the initial interview via text message.
Texting has become a fairly routine staple of communication today. Many of us don't give a second thought to having relationships in our personal lives almost entirely by text, it seems. But as the portal to that dream job, texting is still pretty foreign to most of us.
Texting for a job in lieu of the more traditional screener phone call is becoming more common. Depending on the role the company is trying to fill, texting may take you and the recruiter fairly deep into the courting process.
For Barnes, after a little research to confirm the recruiter's identity, that text exchange began his hiring journey – covering his qualifications, availability and even his salary requirements. It was well into the process that he finally got to connect with his prospective bosses in person.
That said, we may not yet be to the point of total comfort going from first contact to first day on the job via text.
In some ways, texting for hire parallels online dating, says Aman Brar, CEO of Jobvite, whose text-based interviewing platform Canvas is used by, among other places, the hospital that hired Barnes.
"In most cases, you are going to have a few live dates before you get hitched and spend the rest of your life together,” Brar says.
The path to most upper management positions, as well as doctors, lawyers, and other professionals will typically still play out the old fashion way and barely rely on text-based recruitment if at all. But Brar says his company’s text platform is used by airlines hiring pilots, hospitals hiring nurses, and employees in manufacturing.
Jared Bazzell, talent acquisition manager at CDW, a tech-solutions provider for businesses, says the mobile phone has changed recruiting. “We use texting on the principle that we want to communicate with our hires how they want to be communicated with,” he says.
Some applicants will kickstart the job hunt-by-text search by responding to an ad that specifically says, “Looking for a job? Text `Job to XXXXX,’ says Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at iCIMS. Her company last year bought TextRecruit, a candidate engagement platform that uses texting, live chat, and artificial intelligence to help organizations hire.
“From an employer’s perspective, fish where the fish are,” she says of TextRecruit, which has clients such as Amazon, Chipotle, Six Flags, and UPS.
Many such positions are hourly or blue-collar type jobs. But texting might be used at any level to schedule interviews or even arrange next steps after getting a job offer.
The pros and cons
Along with potential opportunities, texting brings its own set of challenges, not least is knowing where you as a candidate stand. Absent the visual cues evident during an in-person or even video interview, it can be difficult for applicants to gauge their prospects. Same goes when a candidate can’t pick up the tone in a hiring manager’s voice.
On the other hand, if a would-be employer happens to ask you a challenging question via text – how might you resolve Problem X at our company? – you may have some time to think about and craft a strong answer, rather than having to respond on the spot. In fact, applicants can often respond to questions more or less on their own time.
What’s more, texting may let candidates casually inquire about a company's benefits or work-from-home policy as the questions occur to them.
That said, just as how to properly dress for an interview varies by job, industry and custom, the rules of how to engage a potential employer and stand out by text may vary as well.
Can I use emojis?
How do you navigate the uncertainty and avoid mistakes? The soundest advice – and this goes for almost any text exchange – is to make sure you know who you are texting with before hitting "send."
Texting with friends and family is typically casual, but that doesn’t mean messages with a prospective employer will be equally informal. Some employers may be sticklers when it comes to proper grammar or spelling mistakes; others are more relaxed.
Same goes for abbreviations (“u” instead of “you”, for example). And be wary of autocorrect. Always check to make sure your words haven't been embarrassingly or unfortunately altered before sending.
So can you use a smiley face?
Consider the job you’re applying for. A role in retail, for instance, may be more casual than a job where the quality of your writing will be critical.
“We have instructed our recruiters that texting is the fastest, most efficient way to reach your candidates instantaneously, no matter where they’re at. And therefore, using chat language – emoticons, emojis, you name it – is all fair game,” says Scott Sendelweck, HR Digital Marketing Manager at Community Health Network.
But Vitale of iCIMS advises candidates to remember that, “It’s still a job, and just because you’re using two thumbs to communicate doesn’t mean you can treat it completely casually as though you are chatting with a friend here.”
The use of emojis isn’t the worst thing, she says, but probably unnecessary.
Short and sweet is fine, too, but she recommends keeping a level of decorum and professionalism. That means capitalizing letters and using proper punctuation.
Bazzell at CDW says his recruiters use emoticons and emojis when texting candidates. “Our recruiters show empathy. They show excitement, and that’s the same thing we see back and forth. It looks and feels like a real text message.”
But spelling does count, he says, and you need to consider “How are you presenting yourself to an executive?”
Am I speaking to a human?
In the early rounds, you may not even be texting with a live person at all, but rather a chatbot instead.
“We want to keep humans at the center of the conversation but certainly use bots where they make sense,” Brar says.
Many organizations will tell you when that is the case.
Mya Systems built an automated “conversational AI” chatbot recruiting assistant called Mya, with the goal, according to co-founder and CEO Eyal Grayevsky, “not to replace human-to-human interaction, but rather connecting a job candidate with the right recruiter.”
Mya clients include L’Oreal, Pepisco, Singapore Airlines, and Adecco, with the main focus on hourly type positions. Though Mya also helps fill entry-level finance and accounting type jobs, as well as nursing, internships and new graduate programs.
Grayevsky says a candidate will know the text outreach from Mya is genuine because you would have had to previously opt in.
"Our technology is able to personalize and let you know, 'hey, you applied to a job nine months ago for a retail associate role in Atlanta, Georgia. Just wanted to check in. This is Mya on behalf of Jane at L’Oreal.’ Jane was the recruiter that they had engaged with. And there’s a link for more information to validate that.”
Many of the questions Mya asks are open-ended: “What are you interested in?” What are you looking for in your next job?” “Are you all right with weekend work?”
The system can build a summary report card and surface interactions that the human recruiter can later review.
“Text is really nice. It is short, to the point, this is not an essay. You can provide bite-sized insights into who you are, what you stand for, what you’re looking for,” Grayevsky says. “For candidates, be yourself and treat it like you’re talking to a recruiter because a recruiter is ultimately going to see these interactions.”
One thing he stresses is that a bot is not going to decide whether or not you get the job you’re after.
“Our role is not to reject," he says. "Our role is simply to move people forward that are clearly a fit as quickly as possible..”
Almost all the candidates who survive the text stage are presumably going to get a chance to impress a would-be employer in person, so be careful not to misrepresent yourself while texting.
Keeping that in mind, the best way to stand out compared to the next candidate is to put your best foot, or thumbs, forward.
Have you landed a job mostly by texting with a recruiter or hiring manager? Please share your experience: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow Ed Baig on Twitter
As the global population ages, we will see increasing numbers of older employees in the workforce. Yet age discrimination is prevalent today. According to a recent AARP study, nearly two out of three workers age 45 and older say they have experienced age discrimination.
A bias for younger employees is seen not only in the tech sector, with seven out of 18 top Silicon Valley companies having a median age of 30 or younger, but also in non-tech sectors. A study conducted by the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank showed that callback rates about jobs were lower for older applicants, with women having lower callback rates than men.
Despite the negative stereotypes that older workers have less energy and are less productive, the data shows otherwise. According to research from the Stanford Center on Longevity, older workers are healthy, have a strong work ethic, are loyal to their employers, and are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs than their younger coworkers. Moreover, a London Business School study showed that more people under 45 were exhausted (43%) than those over 45 (35%), with the least exhausted group being those over 60.
There are some jobs where gray hair (and the experience that comes with it) is viewed as an asset, such as C-level and more senior roles. Even then, an older candidate might be competing with a person — or be interviewed by someone — who is 10 to 20 years younger.
Sanjiv was in his late fifties when he interviewed as an internal candidate for the executive director role at a nonprofit. He knew the board was looking for a leader who could drive change, and came to the interviews equipped with several new ideas for the organization. Nonetheless, he was told by the board member who interviewed him that they were looking for “younger minds.”
Anita was laid off at the age of 55 after working at a large tech company for more than 30 years. Unemployed for nine months, she was starting to get discouraged after experiencing several incidents of ageism. One recruiter said outright that the company was looking for somebody younger, and a recruiter at a fraternity-like startup asked if she would have a problem with the late-night parties and drinking. She ultimately landed a great job at a large software company, where she was hired by a boss 20 years her junior.
Lauren was 49 when she interviewed and landed a job at a popular social media company, where the average age is under 30 and her boss, who hired her, was almost a decade younger than she was. Having interviewed with many big names in tech, she recognized that ageism could have been present, but says she hasn’t felt it. Nonetheless, she was conscious of not sharing information that would allow others to “do the math” to determine her age. For example, while she was open about being a parent, when talking about her kids she intentionally did not share that they were in college.
If you are concerned about ageism, employ these strategies to help make age a nonissue in your interviews:
Lead with energy instead of experience. Show your excitement about the opportunity and the work you do. Anita credits her success in her job search to her passion, which her boss still talks about. Instead of discussing how many years of experience you have, or how many times you’ve done a certain type of project, show your enthusiasm for the job by saying something like, “This is my sweet spot. This is the work I love to do.” Calling out all of your years of experience (no matter how valid or meaningful) can have the unintended consequence of alienating or intimidating your interviewer, or making you appear to be a know-it-all.
Adopt a consulting mindset. Approach your interviews as consulting conversations, showing curiosity and a learning mindset. Use good open-ended questions, combined with engaged listening, to better understand the organization’s context and unique challenges to identify where and how you can most add value. This approach will not only be more compelling but also will help you show up more confidently, as you elevate yourself to being a peer of your interviewer. The mindset shift is part of how you can change the perceived power dynamic from you really wanting or needing the job to you having the solution or know-how that the company needs.
Demonstrate humility and a nonhierarchical approach. Lauren attributes her success in her interviews to showing genuine humility and demonstrating an egalitarian approach in collaborating with others. She demonstrated this by asking questions like, “Where do you want to take advantage of the brilliant work the team has already done, and where do you think it might be time for a slightly different approach?” She also made a point to talk about “supporting teams” versus “running teams” and was sure to give credit to the people doing the work. Given that collaboration is the norm for Millennials, anything that signals a hierarchical style, like asking about title or span of control, is a red flag about one’s ability to fit into a culture where the work is co-created.
Connect with your interviewer. Research shows that starting with warmth is an effective way to influence others. This can be as simple as a smile. In finding ways to connect personally with her interviewer, Lauren made sure to use current references that a younger person could relate to, like a popular show on Netflix. Humor is another way to connect and show the other person you’d be enjoyable to work with. However, do not use dated references or self-deprecating humor like “that was pre-internet” or “that was probably before your time.” It’s uncomfortable and alienating.
Show your ability to work well with diverse groups of people. Anita illustrated this by giving examples of projects she led across multiple functions, geographies, and levels of leadership, including new managers. In doing so, she conveyed her ability to work well with younger colleagues, without needing to specifically highlight age. Similarly, Lauren conveyed that her intent was to take advantage of people’s different experiences, and gave examples of working well with people from the military who were having their first experience in the private sector. This example showed she could collaborate with younger people who had a different set of experiences without calling attention to age.
Look the part. Fitting in with a younger crowd doesn’t mean you need to wear a hoodie or look like everyone else. You should feel comfortable and authentic while being consistent with the culture. If necessary, get help in refreshing your wardrobe and accessories. Many department stores offer styling services for free. Anita brought her 26-year-old daughter shopping and bought a few outfits and some jewelry that were stylish and versatile for a range of companies. Another client got new, fashionable frames for her eyeglasses, which she wore to the interview so that she wouldn’t have to take her readers out.
Reframe any inappropriate comments or questions. In Sanjiv’s case, he could have reframed the board member’s desire for “younger minds” by saying, “I think what you are really looking for is innovative thinking. I’d love to share some of my ideas that could help this organization amplify its impact and be a model for others in the field.” When asked if she would be OK with the late-night parties and drinking, Anita kept it brief and said, “I love to celebrate success with my team,” and then refocused the conversation elsewhere. If you’re unsure how to respond to an inappropriate comment or question, respond with curiosity, asking something like, “Can you say more about that?” or “Can you share more about what you’re hoping to learn, so I can address your underlying concern?”
While ageism exists, focusing on what you can control and employing the strategies above can divert attention from your age and refocus it on why you are right for the job.
Rebecca Zucker is an Executive Coach and a founding Partner at Next Step Partners, a boutique leadership development firm. Her clients include Amazon, Clorox, Morrison Foerster, the James Irvine Foundation, Skoll Foundation, and high-growth technology companies like DocuSign and Dropbox. You can follow her on Twitter: @rszucker.
If you’re preparing for an interview, you’ve probably encountered a sea of advice on how to succeed. But which job interview tips are worth following — and which are a waste of your precious time?
When it comes down to it, job interview prep is pretty simple: know who you’re talking to, understand what they need … and be prepared to make the case that you’re the one who can supply it.
That’s the short version. Here’s the long one — everything you need to know to get ready for your next conversation with a hiring manager. Follow these job interview tips and you’ll make the best possible impression:
1. RESEARCH THE COMPANY
When you’re applying for jobs, you don’t have time to thoroughly research each company. But once you’re called in for an interview, you need to have a good picture of what you’re walking into.
What’s the employer’s mission? How many people work there? Are there multiple offices and/or locations? Are you sure you know exactly what they do? Read up on recent articles about the company and the industry they’re operating in. This can help you not only get a bigger picture of where they stand — are they growing rapidly or downsizing and filling old positions? — but also decide if it’s the right place for you to work.
You can reach out to friends who have worked there by searching sites like LinkedIn or tapping alumni directories. Get an inside view of the company if you can. What’s the culture like for real, not just on social media posts?
2. KNOW THE INTERVIEWER (AND THE CEO) BY SIGHT IF POSSIBLE
Along with researching the company, you should also try to learn a bit about your interviewers. Check out the team’s public social media profiles and web presence. If the company has a directory with bios, you might be able to see how long the interviewer has worked there, their interests and maybe a photo of what they look like.
Knowing your interviewer by sight (and perhaps even their boss or the CEO) is a great way to avoid any wacky misadventures as you arrive for the interview. Remember the story of the guy who shoved past someone on the train, only to come face to face with him in the meeting? Yeah, don’t be that guy. And if you happen to be on the elevator with the CEO, there’s a great chance to make an impression on them on your way to or from the building.
3. KNOW THE JOB REQUIREMENTS
As job interview tips go, this seems like an obvious one: read the job description before you go to the interview. But you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother.
Don’t skim, either — it’s important to read the details carefully. Be ready to emphasize your specific experience that matches their requirements. If they’re seeking someone with skills that you don’t have, you can also make a point of showing why you’re a great fit for the job anyway. But if you don’t read the job requirements ahead of time, you might miss your chance when you have 15 minutes to make your case.
You should also always have a handful of questions ready to ask the interviewer. The hiring manager will probably ask if you have any at the end. Don’t let this opportunity slip away. Some examples of solid questions include:
Is this a new position or are you filling a slot for someone who is leaving? Why?
What’s a typical day like for this person in the position?
What are the goals for a person working in this position? What benchmarks will you be setting in the near and long-term?
What kind of growth opportunities are available to someone in this role?
What do you like about working here? What’s the culture like?
What is the time frame for your hiring process or what are the next steps like for this role?
4. KNOW WHEN TO BE QUIET
Your interviewers aren’t here to listen to your Ted Talk. They want to have an exchange with you, and learn what you’d be like to work with. Nobody likes someone who never shuts up and won’t let anyone get a word in edge wise.
“It’s OK to stop talking,” said one Reddit user, according to Undercover Recruiter. “I’ve interviewed far too many people who just don’t know when to shut up. Some people are nervous. Some people are unsure. Some people don’t think for a second before they start blabbing, and they’re STILL trying to talk over the interviewer as they try to steer them towards the next question.”
Want to become a better listener? Practice active listening techniques and even when you’re nervous, learn how to slow down, think about your responses and make considerate replies to questions.
Active listening skills are also great “soft skills” to show off during an interview (along with being on-time, prepared and respectful of others). They don’t necessarily come through on paper, so make sure you can practice them in person.
“When someone sees that you are actively listening, they immediately think that you care about what they are saying,” writes Mat Apodaca at Lifehack.org. “It’s well known that most of us gain great satisfaction from being understood. It’s one of those things that just makes us feel good.”
5. HAVE EXTRA COPIES OF YOUR RESUME READY
Yes! Even if you don’t give them out, having half a dozen nice hard copies of your resume, along with a paper copy of your portfolio (for creative types) is a wonderful thing to bring to an interview. You don’t want to leave that to the last minute, though. Have copies printed professionally, or do them at home on nice paper. It’s old school, but it lets you steer the recruiter’s eyes if they don’t have a hard copy.
Having some nicely printed copies of work samples from your portfolio lets you share visuals from your past work without the hassle of setting up a whole A/V presentation in a strange room. If you’re willing to bring and use a laptop or tablet to show off multimedia work, make sure to have your materials available offline. Don’t ever rely on there being connectivity or an internet connection where you interview. You might spend more time trying to search down a guest user password for the WiFi than actually talking about why you’re a good fit for the job.
6. NOTIFY REFERENCES AHEAD OF YOUR INTERVIEW
“Hey, old boss I haven’t talked to in five years, here’s a heads up!” In addition to asking before you list contacts as a reference, you should also let them know when to expect a call or email. It’s polite, and you can also maybe remind them when you worked with them last, the type of role you’re interviewing for now and major projects you worked on together.
You also don’t want to hold up getting that final job offer by having references go AWOL. Make sure they’re in town, and ready to give you that final OK so you can land that job.
If they decline being a reference, don’t take it personally. Even awesome bosses get super busy and can’t be good references sometimes, especially if you haven’t worked with them for a while. Have a backup list of potential past managers, coworkers or even trusted one-time project buddies you can tap for a solid reference.
7. RESEARCH YOUR SALARY REQUIREMENTS (JUST IN CASE)
Yes, you could get asked the dreaded salary requirements question during a first interview. While it’s totally OK to ask to hear more about the role before answering, you’ll want to have a range in mind. Otherwise, you could find yourself shortchanged and resentful once you’re on the job.
Take the PayScale Salary Survey and get a free salary report in minutes. Then use the PayScale Salary Negotiation Guide to build your negotiation strategy.
8. CHOOSE A GOOD INTERVIEW OUTFIT
I’ve fielded so many questions from friends about what shoes to wear to an interview in a snow storm (boots or business shoes?) or how to find a plain black skirt with just hours to go before a meeting. Avoid these problems now, and get ahead of the “searching for your size” problem well in advance. Think about having a couple of interview outfits ready to go in your closet, like a professional pair of pants and a couple of tops (in case you get called back for another meeting, you’ll want to change things up).
Most companies won’t require you to wear a real suit these days, but some industries that are still formal (law, banking, etc.) do expect some level of business dress. If you research your field and the company well in advance, you’ll have an idea whether it’s more laid back, or a chance to dust off your simple black suit. Have an outfit ready for the hottest of summer days and the coldest of winter so you won’t spend that night before an interview searching the sale racks for something that fits.
And yes, it’s a good idea to try it all on and see if it fits, if you feel confident and awesome in the outfit, and see if it still seems like a current style. A suit you bought 10 years ago might scream “I’m out of the loop” while something too trendy (never reach for the leggings) might broadcast that you’re not professional or serious enough.
9. WHEN NOT TO LISTEN TO JOB INTERVIEW TIPS
Ultimately, you want to show your interviewer some of your own personality. You can prepare TOO much sometimes and come off tense or fake. Try to find ways to think about responses to common questions without sounding like a robot. Don’t forget to laugh or share personal moments that can make a memorable impression on this potential new coworker (or boss).
“The more free-wheeling and relaxed the interview conversation is, the more comfortable you and your interviewer will be,” writes Liz Ryan at Forbes. “You will be more memorable. You will be in your power.”
When you’re done, relax, take a deep breath and write (and send) those thank you notes. You’ve made it further than a lot of other applicants, so know that even if you don’t get the job, you’ve done great work.
By Shireen Jaffer
While being ghosted is never a good feeling, you’re not at a loss. If you still feel like a job is the right opportunity for you, ask yourself, “How can I become a priority again?”
The digital age has introduced new, and often painful, ways of ending relationships.
None of them are more hurtful than “ghosting.” For those of you who are fortunate to not have been ghosted before, being ghosted simply means that someone has stopped responding to all communication.
And sadly, this disappearing act isn’t only happening to those dating. Candidates on the job hunt are just as much at risk of being ghosted by recruiters.
Being ghosted when you’re applying for a job doesn’t mean sending in an application and never hearing back—that happens to everyone. It means you applied, assumed the interview went well, and expected to hear good news soon.
And then, nothing.
No next steps, no calls, no emails. Just dead silence in response to your follow-ups.
Candidates can easily spend six months on the job search, and being ghosted when you thought you had a promising lead can be devastating. As rough as the experience feels, just know that it may not be your fault. And if it is, there are always actions you can take to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Here’s why you may be getting ghosted and how you can reconnect with recruiters:
The most common reason job candidates get ghosted is also the one they have the least control over: a company simply changes focus.
A change in priorities. A position they thought they needed to fill right now suddenly isn’t as important.
An influx of internal referrals. Recruiters are often told to prioritize referrals, so even if you had a great conversation on the phone or in-person, the recruiter may be prioritizing an internal referral instead.
Timing. The recruiter you spoke to initially may be on vacation, have quit, or been let go.
A poor recruiter. The recruiter you’ve been working with might just be dropping the ball or feeling overwhelmed, and that’s why you’re not hearing back.
Now, it’s also possible the candidate has done something that resulted in ghosting.
Bombing the followup. Sometimes, candidates can have a promising interview but completely bomb the followup without realizing it. That usually means they’re no longer a priority for the recruiter.
Not showing initiative. I’ve seen candidates who were too passive in showing their interest in a role. One woman I worked with was told by a recruiter they would send her an assessment test as a next step. But she never responded to that email with a note saying, “Okay, thanks for sharing next steps. I’m looking forward to taking the assessment test.” She just assumed they would send it. But that’s not always the case—recruiters want candidates to show a consistent desire for the role
If you’ve been ghosted, you’ve been deprioritized.
While being ghosted is never a good feeling, you’re not at a loss. If you still feel like a job is the right opportunity for you, ask yourself, “How can I become a priority again?”
Making your candidacy top-of-mind means following a few simple steps:
1. Focus on thoughtful follow-up.
Hands down, the best thing you can do is to follow up.
Send one email per week for at least three weeks. Be thoughtful in your correspondence and continue to express your interest in the company and the role. Be specific. Study trends in the industry and reference your research when you correspond with your contact. Offer thoughtful discourse that continues to show them that you can walk in and begin contributing immediately. Most people don’t ignore that type of follow-up.
And even if they tell you it’s not the right fit, at least you received a final answer and can move on.
2. Connect through different channels.
It’s completely acceptable to reach out through different channels if you’re not getting any emails back.
Try sending a polite LinkedIn message along the lines of, “Hey, I really enjoyed our conversation last week and would like to chat about next steps.” Just don’t bombard the same person through every channel you find. One follow-up on a different channel is enough.
3. Reach out to build other relationships.
If you notice the job posting has been taken down, that’s a pretty clear sign the role has been filled. If it’s still up, then it may be worth reaching out to another recruiter at the company or even the hiring manager.
This is really about showing your interest and building another relationship with someone internally. But don’t be surprised if the recruiter you spoke to is very much still active. In that case, at least you know that the interview didn’t go as well as you thought and you need to pursue other options.
If you’re consistently being ghosted by companies, you need to find out why.
Sometimes, candidates get ghosted because the recruiter isn’t doing a great job or priorities change.
But if you’re being ghosted over and over, then it’s time to reflect on your own actions and figure out what you may be doing wrong. For instance, candidates often don’t know what skills and metrics the company is actually looking for, and without doing effective research to find out, candidates end up not speaking the same “language” as the recruiter.
Unfortunately, recruiters aren’t incentivized to give candidates feedback about where they messed up. It’s not part of their job. That’s why personalized feedback is at the core of what we do at Edvo. If you’re being ghosted consistently, then you may need personalized feedback from a trusted source. Having someone on the inside to look at your follow-ups or hold a mock interview with you can go a long way.
Being ghosted is an emotional experience, whether it’s done by a love interest or a potential employer. But you don’t have to let it define you. Figure out why it’s happening, make whatever changes you can, ask for help, and put yourself back out there.
With a little introspection and perseverance, you’ll find the right long-term match.
Shireen Jaffer is the co-founder and CEO of Edvo—a job search platform making it easy for candidates to identify careers on the upswing, learn how close they are to being the ideal hire, develop the skills highest in demand, and get the support they need to land the best job. Our team is on a mission to get 1 million people jobs by giving them control over their search. I am also a TEDx Speaker, an angel investor, a mentor-advisor at Rewriting the Code, and the founder of Skillify.
This is the most impressive resume I’ve ever seen—based on my 20 years of hiring and interviewing
I’ve received thousands of resumes throughout my entire career — and believe me, I’ve seen them all: Too long, too short, too boring, too many typos, too hard to read and every layout imaginable.
To be completely honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of resumes. Heck, I even wrote a book about all the things that are more important than the resume. Yes, you do need a one, but what most experts don’t tell you is that resumes only account for 10% of the hiring decision.
That said, it would take a lot to wow a tough critic like myself. A few years ago, however, I was surprised to find a resume that actually managed to impress me.
In fact, it was one of the best resumes I had ever seen in my 20 years of hiring and interviewing. It had no gimmicks, no Fortune 500 company listed and wasn’t folded into an origami airplane. Needless to say, I hired the candidate.
Here’s what made it stand out from the rest:
1. It was easy to read
This resume had plenty of white space and was two pages long, which is expected if you have more than 10 years of experience.
Everything was nicely organized: Line spacing was just right, company names in bold, titles italicized and job details arranged in bullet points. Oh, and not a single typo to be found.
I liked that the font was nothing fancy. Too many candidates waste time obsessing over which font to use. I won’t weigh in on Times New Roman versus Calibri, but I will say that it should always be simple and easy to read.
2. It told a story
This resume told a story about the candidate’s career journey. There were no information gaps (i.e., a missing summer). From top to bottom, there was a clear “before and after.” In just a few seconds, I was able to see a “staircase pattern” of the candidate’s career growth.
In other words, the chronological list of work history — in order of date, with the most recent position at the top — showed a clear progression of more senior roles and more advanced responsibilities.
3. It listed accomplishments, rather than just responsibilities
I’m not interested in reading what you copied and pasted from the original job description listing. What employers really want to know is whether you’re an above average candidate who’s capable of delivering quantifiable results — and this person did a great job of proving that they were.
It’s always better to highlight your responsibilities by detailing your most impressive accomplishments:
Instead of “expanded operations to international markets,” say “expanded operations to eight new countries in Latin America. ”
Instead of “led marketing and sales team,” say “supervised marketing and sales team and achieved 15% annual growth vs. 0.5% budget. ”
4. It told the truth
There weren’t any discrepancies that raised red flags. Everything was believable and the numbers weren’t exaggerated.
Even better, the resume had links to the person’s LinkedIn page and professional website, which included a portfolio of their work. This made it easier for me to fact-check the resume, which in turn made the candidate seem like an honest person.
My advice? Tell the truth — period. A colleague once told me about someone who listed “convicted felon” on her resume. The candidate submitted her resume, then called the hiring manager and asked, “Would you hire an ex-convict?” After a series of questions and some due diligence, they offered her the job. And based on what I’ve heard, she ended up being an excellent hire.
While big accomplishments and recognizable company names will give you an advantage, make no mistake: Employers will do a reference check — and if they find out that you lied about something, it’s game over.
5. It didn’t have any cliché claims
There were no generic and high-level claims such as “creative,” “hard-working,” “results-driven,” “excellent communicator” or, my least favorite, “team player.”
Including any of these cliché terms will make your hiring manager roll their eyes in less than a second. Skip the cheesy adjectives and overused terms and go for action verbs instead.
Instead of “excellent communicator,” say “presented at face-to-face client meetings and spoke at college recruiting events. ”
Instead of “highly creative,” say “designed and implemented new global application monitoring platform.”
6. It came through a recommendation
Not everyone will have a connection at their dream company, but knowing someone who can refer you is the most effective way to get an employer’s attention.
The fact that this resume came through a recommendation from a respected colleague played a significant role in getting me to open the PDF file. That, in addition to the few seconds I spent skimming it, was the one-two punch that made me want to know more about the candidate.
Blasting your resume everywhere won’t get you anywhere. I get sent dozens of resumes on the daily from people I don’t know, and the vast majority of them go unopened.
That might seem harsh, but here’s the truth: You should always go out of your way to get a warm introduction. If you don’t have a connection, do some research and find a friend of a friend who knows someone who has an “in.”
Then, ask your potential referral out for a coffee date. Once you’ve established a genuine relationship, tell them about the job opening you’re interested in and ask if they can recommend you. If you can make this happen, I guarantee your resume will get read.
Gary Burnison is the CEO of Korn Ferry, a global consulting firm that helps companies select and hire the best talent. His latest book, a New York Times best-seller, “Lose the Resume, Land the Job,” shares the kind of straight talk that no one will tell you. Follow him on LinkedIn.
by Eileen Hoenigman Meyer
Company culture, the social climate of an organization, is a vital but elusive consideration to weigh when you’re interviewing for a job. Intuition alone seems an inadequate measure. How do you ask the right questions to tease out key cultural clues? How do you pick up on the right cues? How can you double check your intuition?
Knowing what you need from a professional culture anchors an informed candidacy. Leaders shape culture mindfully and purposefully. Your approach to a cultural evaluation should be mindful too. After all, cultural fit isn’t a nice add-on; cultural fit is job fit.
It’s hard to split your concentration between being a savvy cultural evaluator and being a stellar interviewee. Rather than having the distance that you need to truly observe the culture and reflect on its nuances, the interview can feel like a tour of culture guided by an interviewer who has a vested interest in shaping your perceptions.
Wouldn’t it be helpful if there was a better approach to cultural assessment, rather than just listening to your gut? Good news: Glassdoor has just the tool for you.
Why Culture Matters
What exactly is culture, and why does it matter so much when it comes to your job satisfaction? Professors Charles A. O’Reilly and Jennifer A. Chatman define culture as “a set of norms and values that are widely shared and strongly held throughout the organization.” These values underscore employees’ experience. If your employer values innovation, for example, you feel that. The cultural framework, with which you interact daily, is infused with the value.
Interestingly, Glassdoor research reveals that eighty-five percent of CEOs and CFOs agree that a dysfunctional corporate culture leads to unethical behavior, demonstrating that leaders recognize that the culture they shape directly impacts the output their employees render.
Clearly, culture matters, so how do you evaluate it in the tight space that a job interview affords?
Tooled For Success
Created by Dr. Donald Sull, MIT Sloan School of Management senior lecturer and co-founder of CultureX, the Culture 500 tool applies AI technology to Glassdoor’s rich data, scientifically ranking the corporate cultures of more than 500 top US companies. Collectively, the companies employ 34 million people, approximately one-quarter of private sector employment.
MIT researchers started their work by analyzing 1.2 million Glassdoor reviews. They used a natural, language processing algorithm to classify free text into more than 80 culture-related topics; those were then categorized into nine cultural values, affectionately termed “the Big Nine.”
Getting to Know the Big Nine
The Culture 500 calculates the percentage of mentions and positive reviews that each company earns across each of these Big Nine values. Job seekers can customize cultural evaluations by pulling a set of companies and comparing them along any of these Big Nine values:
Agility: Agile companies are nimble, flexible and quick to seize an opportunity. Internet and management consulting companies are leading industries when it comes to this value. Uber is a top-notch practitioner of this corporate value.
Collaboration: When companies exercise this value, their employees are cohesive and productive, within their group and across teams. Fast food and retail apparel are some industries that have this down to a science; HP is a standout.
Customer: The customers’ needs are central, for businesses that radiate this value. The company prides itself on listening to customers and creating value for them. Pharma & bio tech and Medical devices are leading industries, while Chick Fil A is a distinguished player.
Diversity: Bring yourself, because there’s a place for everyone in these inclusive cultures. Diversified financial services and consumer goods are some top industries when it comes to cultivating diverse cultures, and TD Bank is a leader.
Execution: Companies implement this value by fostering behaviors like taking personal accountability for results, delivering on commitments, prioritizing the activities that matter most, and adhering to process discipline. Toyota is a high performer when it comes to execution.
Innovation: Companies that value and fuel creativity and experimentation and are eager to implement new ideas exhibit this value. Communications equipment and enterprise software are lead industries when it comes to innovation, and SpaceX is a standout.
Integrity: Staff members across the board, from entry-level professionals to company leaders, maintain a code of honesty and ethics that consistently inform their actions. Industrial conglomerates and electrical equipment companies are leading industries when it comes to integrity, and Charles Schwab is top notch.
Performance: The company recognizes performance and rewards results through compensation, recognition and promotion, and it handles underperforming employees tactfully and strategically. The insurance and semi-conductor industries stand out when it comes to performance, and Goldman Sachs is a leader.
Respect: Employees, managers and leaders exercise consideration and courtesy for each other. They treat one another with dignity, and they take one another’s perspectives seriously. Consumer goods and enterprise software are high performers when it comes to this value and SAP is a standout.
Finessing the Big Nine
How can the Culture 500 tool help you when you’re searching for a job? Start experimenting. You’ll notice that for each of the Big Nine values, the tool’s algorithm calculates the percentage of reviews that mention each value for each company, plus the percentage of positive reviews each value garners. This enables you to see a snapshot of how frequently and positively current and past employees mention each of the Big Nine values for each company.
The Culture 500 Tool is your customized glimpse into company culture for some of the US’s key companies. Use it to isolate and compare the values that foster job fit for you.
The culture That Fits Your Life
Thinking about corporate culture, and evaluating these cultural dimensions, position you to be a more informed candidate.
What does at-will employment mean? Learn this and other details like exempt vs. non-exempt status.
"CONGRATS, YOU'RE hired!" When you hear these exciting words, you'll likely also encounter a job offer letter.
An offer letter is typically a good faith effort by an employer to provide clarity regarding the position for which you just spent months interviewing. Yet it is wise to remember that this is a legal document, often designed to protect the interests of the employer.
It is very tempting to just get it signed so you can move forward with a new opportunity. However, you have the most power before an offer is signed, so it is imperative that you review and understand this employment agreement.
Set aside time to print out and review all documents. Make note of all inconsistencies and questions before you request a conversation or send an email outlining your concerns. If there is anything delicate or significant, or if you have more than three items to discuss, a call is typically better than a long (or multiple) emails. Be sure to address everything at once and in a positive manner to avoid negotiation fatigue and frustration.
The extra time you spend upfront to ensure your offer is correct establishes your attention to detail and provides a clear outline for your success in your new role. Here are some key details of an offer letter to understand and review before you make the deal official.
A job offer letter may contain these details:
Part-time vs. full-time status.
Hourly vs. salaried status.
Exempt vs. non-exempt status.
At-will vs. contract status.
A confidentiality clause.
A non-solicitation clause.
A mandatory arbitration clause.
A non-compete clause.
Inspect what you expect.
The first thing to look for is your title, salary, job responsibilities, start date, benefits and other items that you negotiated for or agreed to before being offered the position. Many offer letters start as an offer letter template or offer letter sample, so if you negotiated a different title, salary or PTO benefit than is standard, there is a chance one or more of those items may have been overlooked when generating your offer. Make a note of anything inaccurate.
Understand your employment status.
Offer letters should make it clear whether you are a part-time worker or full-time employee as well as if you are an hourly employee, a salaried employee, eligible for overtime pay or not eligible for overtime pay.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time
Part-time employees work less than 40 hours per week. Often part-time roles are under the threshold to be eligible for benefits like vacation time or medical coverage. Full-time employees are expected to work 40 hours (or more) per week.
Hourly vs. Salaried
Hourly employees typically work eight or fewer hours per day and 40 or fewer hours per week.
Salaried employees are expected to work a full-time schedule of at least 40 hours a week and to complete all responsibilities as needed, regardless of what time they started that day or how many hours they already worked that week. In other words, you work until the work is done, instead of stopping based on a preset schedule.
Exempt vs. Non-Exempt
Exempt employees are ineligible for (or exempt from) overtime pay.
A non-exempt employee is eligible for overtime pay. This means if he works beyond a pre-defined, full-time schedule, he is usually eligible to receive 1.5 times his hourly rate.
The offer letter may describe how your state defines those boundaries and the overtime rate of pay. For example, in California, standard overtime is defined as more than eight hours in a day or more than 40 hours in a week, and double time time applies if a worker puts in more than 12 hours in a day.
What is at-will employment?
At-will employment means that an employee can be dismissed by the employer at any time and for any or no reason at all (barring cases of discrimination, retaliation and other special circumstances). At-will employment is very normal and no cause for alarm. It is the prevailing law of the land for most of the U.S. It also means that you, as an employee, are entitled to leave your employer at any time, regardless of reason.
Look out for scary clauses.
Most offers will include a "confidentiality" and a "non-solicitation" clause. Some may include mandatory arbitration or non-compete clauses. Be sure to read these clauses or sections carefully so that you understand and agree that you can uphold what is expected. Note that some of these clauses are limited by state rules, so be sure to check your local labor law protections.
In simple terms, a confidentiality clause requires that you keep information, tools and resources that belong to the company confidential and not share that information with others or take it with you to use in your next role.
A non-solicitation clause generally prohibits you from pursuing clients, contacts or employees that you encountered while working at the company after you leave.
A mandatory arbitration clause bans workers from taking disputes they have about wage theft, workplace discrimination and unjust dismissal to court. Instead, employees must settle grievances with their employers in private proceedings presided over by arbitrators.
A non-compete clause prohibits workers from joining a competitor after leaving the company. This kind of clause may have a time limit or geographic boundary.
Get it in writing.
If you discussed any special considerations, other benefits, perks or future actions, make sure those are in writing. Often these special considerations are agreed to in good faith between you and your new manager but can go unfulfilled if not in writing.
For example, you and your manager agree that if you accomplish certain performance objectives in the first two months, she will request a $5,000 base salary increase for you. Then, your manager leaves the company a month into your new role or is swept away with an internal promotion. You are now left trying to sell to a new manager that you have this handshake agreement.
If you are accepting the role because of an additional incentive, be sure to get it in writing. It will ensure clarity regarding the agreement and it keeps you safe in the event there are management changes.
Robin Reshwan is the founder and president of CS Advising and Collegial Services. She and her team enable thousands of professionals to advance their careers through their advice, career coaching and recruiting efforts. Robin’s professional development tips are used by media outlets such as LinkedIn, Yahoo, Business Insider, Fast Company and Monster. She is a recommended career and executive coach for LinkedIn, educational institutions and Alumni Associations including Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business and University of California, Davis. An experienced entrepreneur, business executive and Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW), Robin has been honored by LinkedIn and the American Business Women's Association. You can follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter or email her at email@example.com.
By Kathryn Vasel, CNN Business
The job interview process can be intense.
First there's the screener call, then comes the face-to-face interview, followed by another one (or two or three), possibly a test and likely some homework to prove you have the skills and ideas needed to join the team.
"You are lucky if you get away with three rounds of interviews," said Barry Drexler, an interview coach with more than 30 years of human resources experience.
The process can be exhausting, especially when you're maintaining your current full-time job and still pursuing other jobs.
"It is expensive for candidates if they have to take a half day, long lunch or fly out for interviews and take days off," said Rich Gee, a high-performance coach. He worked with one client who had six webcam interviews before getting a job offer.
While some companies are moving faster in today's tight labor market, it's still uncommon to land a job offer after one single interview. But candidates can become fatigued, or even annoyed by the time and effort required to get an offer.
Don't let your guard down
You are being evaluated every step of the interview process -- so stay on top of your game.
"Don't take the person calling to schedule your interview for granted," said Drexler. "Don't be arrogant and be flexible and careful with everyone you are talking to."
It's also important to keep your answers consistent from interview to interview.
"It's not about giving the same answer for every question," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half. "There is a level of detail you will give to different people. But avoid glaring inconsistencies like telling one person you are willing to travel and another that you aren't crazy about travel."
Keep your stamina up
It's a job seeker's market, which means candidates have more leverage than in the past, but the juggle of calling out of your current job and keeping your enthusiasm up for those lightning rounds of interviews can be draining.
Don't be afraid to ask early on about the hiring process.
"In that initial phone screener, ask the recruiter what the interview process is like so you know what to expect," suggested Sarah Stoddard, community expert at job review site Glassdoor. She added that more senior level positions tend to have a longer interview process.
Each person you interview with is looking for a set criteria, so make sure you are clear with your capabilities and experiences.
"Prepare for each person's agenda," said Drexler. "HR wants to know if you're a cultural fit. The hiring manager wants to know you can do the job and get it off his desk. And his boss wants to know you have the potential to move up. The CEO and highest level executives want to know how you think."
As a candidate, you want to show some flexibility when scheduling interviews, but companies are willing to work with your time constraints.
Be clear about when and where you are available to interview to avoid multiple back-and-forth phone calls and emails to arrange a time.
Companies understand a candidate's time is limited, and are usually flexible with scheduling, including lunch and before- and after-hours interviews.
"Most companies are expecting that today," said McDonald. "They know in order to win the best candidates who are busy and highly sought after that they need to be flexible."
When the homework piles up
Assessments are a common part of today's interview process and help an employer gauge your competency or personality. But be careful about doing too much.
If you are being asked to do more than one presentation or assignment, Gee recommends finding out more information about the additional request.
He suggested asking how much longer is left in the interview process and learn more about why they are asking for more work.
"If they are asking for a whole business plan, I sometimes ask clients to push back and ask: 'Are you going to pay me for this?'"
If you are being asked to provide proprietary information or more information than you are comfortable divulging, don't be shy about speaking up and saying you can't disclose confidential information.
The never-ending interview
If the company is being inflexible or flaky during the interview process, that could be a red flag.
There are many reasons an employer isn't pulling the trigger on a new hire, according to Gee. Sometimes hiring mangers aren't sure exactly what they're looking for, want to delay spending money until the next quarter or hiring just isn't high on the priority list.
He recommends candidates that feel like they are trapped in an interview spiral try to have other opportunities in the works and ask the hiring manager what's going on.
"If it's taking too long -- especially months -- that means [the company] is disorganized, or you aren't important and the company doesn't care about the hiring process. You need to walk," said Gee.
Learn what to say when following up on a job application.
"DO I REALLY NEED TO follow up on a job application?"
Clients ask this all the time. Or they'll issue this sort of statement: "If they want me, they will call me."
This is the wrong approach to take. Once you have submitted your application for a job, unless the hiring manager tells you specifically not to follow up, you can't just leave the application hanging out there and wait.
Because job candidates now get automated emails saying their applications have been received, many people feel like they cannot follow up because their materials have already been acknowledged. But this doesn't mean you should passively check your voicemail or email in case the company eventually requests an interview.
Find a way to follow up. Doing so does not make you look unprofessional. Your priority as an applicant is to demonstrate to the employer what you would be like as an employee if hired, and following up on a job application after a reasonable amount of time shows that you are interested in the position, organized and assertive – just like you would be if you got the job.
Here's how to follow up on a job application:
By LinkedIn message.
Through your network (on LinkedIn or otherwise).
Here's what to say when following up a job application.
Make sure that your tone, whether written or spoken, is polite and professional. Do not demand information about your job application and keep your communication short.
When following up on a job application by email, make sure that your subject line is clear. Something like "Position Name Job Application Follow-Up" lets the hiring manager know right away the purpose of your email. In the body of the message, state the date on which you submitted your job application. Then ask the following three questions:
Was my application received?
Can you please provide the approximate time frame for the recruiting process?
Do you need any additional information?
Finally, include a short statement about how you are still interested in the position and why you would be a good fit.
You can also reach out to the hiring manager on LinkedIn. Follow the same guidelines as above for writing a LinkedIn message.
Many job seekers do not prepare for phone follow-ups or voicemail messages as well as they should. To make an impressive follow-up call, practice what you want to say out loud. You may even find it helpful to write scripts that you can read word for word in case the hiring manager picks up the call or you get her voicemail machine. Make sure that you have practiced enough so that you sound natural and confident. If you need to leave a message for the hiring manager, remember to state your phone number in your message.
You may also be able to follow up using your network. If you have a connection who works at the organization, you can reach out to him and ask if he has any details about the hiring process. You can also ask if he could give you the contact details of the hiring manager if there was no follow-up information provided on the job application. Otherwise, you can look on the company's website to search for the hiring manager's contact information.
Here's when to follow up on a job application.
Generally speaking, one week after submitting your job application is an appropriate time to follow up.
To keep track of your outstanding applications, create a running list of the positions for which you have applied. In a spreadsheet, digital document or on paper, include the following details:
Hallie Crawford (MA, CPCC) is a certified career coach, speaker, author and U.S. News Careers contributor. As a certified coach for over 18 years, Ms. Crawford and her team of coaches and resume/LinkedIn experts specialize in career direction, job search and work performance coaching. Her coaching company, HallieCrawford.com, has helped professionals worldwide identify, secure and succeed in their dream job. Her team of coaches work with people of all ages, and have helped thousands achieve their career goals. Ms. Crawford has authored multiple books helping others advance, improve or change careers including, “Identify Your Ideal Career,” “Flying Solo, Critical Career Transition Tips for Professionals,” “5 Keys to Finding Your Ideal Career” and “Jumpstart Your Job Search”. She is also regularly featured as a career expert in the media, including on CNN, Fox Business News, The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger and Forbes.com. Connect with HallieCrawford.com on LinkedIn or contact them at http://www.halliecrawford.com/contact-us/.
Building a business network takes time and effort, so be sure to do it right.
by Maurie Backman
When it comes to furthering your career, you'll often hear that the people you know are just as important as the things you know, if not more so. Knowing the right people can open the door to new opportunities and help you develop skills you can't learn from a class or a book. And the best way to meet those key people is to network as much as you can.
That said, if you're going to network, it pays to do so effectively. Here are a few networking mistakes you'll want to avoid at all costs.
1. Not being choosy
It's a good thing to be open-minded in the process of networking, because you never know when someone you'd otherwise be inclined to write off could end up being extremely helpful to your career. That said, your goal in networking should be to amass a list of useful contacts -- not connect with every waking person who's willing to give you the time of day. If you're not at all selective about the people you add to your professional network, you'll risk wasting your time on the wrong contacts and ignoring the folks who deserve more of your attention. Therefore, be a little picky when deciding who to stay in touch with.
2. Being too demanding
You'll often hear that you need to be somewhat aggressive if you want to move your career forward. But if you cross the line into becoming obnoxiously pushy, you'll risk alienating those contacts who could otherwise be of service to you.
Therefore, be careful not to ask too much of your associates, especially those you don't know very well. If, for example, you meet someone at a business conference whose company you've been itching to work for, you should most certainly follow up with an email containing your resume and ask that it be forwarded. You can then feel free to follow up a week after the fact, and maybe even a week after that. But don't hound that contact with follow-ups the day after your first email is sent, and don't push too hard if that person insists that he did what he was asked to do. You're better off expressing your gratitude and maintaining a good relationship.
3. Not following up
Meeting someone at an industry gathering and exchanging business cards will only get you so far if you don't have another conversation following that encounter. Failing to follow up with your contacts will essentially negate the effort you put into building those relationships in the first place. Rather than let that happen, make a list of the people you need to stay in touch with, and set calendar notes that remind you to reach out with emails or invites to lunch.
You can also stay in touch with your contacts by sharing information you come across. For example, if you happen to read an interesting article about your industry, there's nothing wrong with forwarding it to a few people who might share the same view -- and that's an easy way to make contact and maintain relationships.
Networking is an unquestionably important aspect of building a solid career. Steer clear of these mistakes to avoid missing out on key opportunities.
by Jillian Kramer
Working remotely, from the comfort of your home office—or even your couch—is a dream for many job seekers. But finding companies open to telecommute jobs isn’t always easy—and even when you do, navigating the waters of remote work can be tricky. That’s why we spoke with Marie Romero, director of talent acquisition for Blue Shield of California, a company committed to work flexibility for its employees. Here, she reveals everything from how you can approach asking for remote work on your resume, to what questions you can expect to be asked in an interview and how you can climb the corporate ladder from home. (If you’d like to one day work for Blue Shield of California, this Q&A is packed with helpful info, too.)
Glassdoor: Why has Blue Shield of California (BSC) prioritized hiring telecommute and remote workers? How do they factor into the larger company’s success?
Marie Romero: Blue Shield of California’s mission is to transform health care and ensure access to high-quality health care at an affordable price. This means transforming a dysfunctional health care system that is bankrupting us as a society into one that is worthy of our family and friends and sustainably affordable. We want employees who can be whole-heartedly dedicated to our mission to transform healthcare and that also enjoy family, friends, and passions outside of work. We offer full or partial remote working arrangement options for many roles because we want to enable employees to bring their best selves to work. Sometimes, that is best accomplished working remotely.
Benefits like remote working arrangements are part of Blue Shield’s larger strategy to be a great place to work for everyone. At Blue Shield, we embrace the whole person. We understand that great talent wants—and needs—flexibility to integrate work and life. We want our employees to embrace their whole life—and be fully human—which means having strong personal passions and a career with deeply meaningful work. If a remote working arrangement enables you to balance a happy, healthy life, and the business needs are still met, then we support it. What the company stands for is just as important as [its] pay and other benefits.
Glassdoor: How can job seekers highlight their willingness or ability to work remotely on their resume? Do you have any advice?
Marie Romero: Job seekers should highlight their preference or ability to work remotely by adding that at the top of their resume in the location section or in the objective area. Noting “open to remote work arrangements” is helpful. Mentioning this in the phone screening area or on your LinkedIn profile is also important. It’s best to spend time thinking about what your ideal remote arrangement could be—[either] partial or full remote— before you start a job search.
Glassdoor: Are the soft skills you look for in a remote [or] telecommute worker different from those who come in office? Why or how?
Marie Romero: The soft skills for a successful remote working arrangement are generally the same as those who come to into the office, but they are significantly amplified. For example, strong communication skills, which are necessary for all employees, are even more essential for remote arrangements. A remote employee will need to function fluidly without any of the body language clues you gather in face-to-face meetings. You need to be able to express yourself well—in both tone and content—through phone, email, instant message, screen sharing and video.
Relationship building skills are also key for successful remote arrangements. You will need to strive to build productive relationships with colleagues who you may never meet face-to-face. Blue Shield has invested a lot into training for managers and employees on how to create inclusive environments, no matter where the team is located. But the remote employee must ensure their physical remoteness from a location does not limit his or her effectiveness.
Taking initiative is another important soft skill. Every employee must independently structure their work day, determine priorities, work through barriers, and drive for results. However, the remote employee does this without any passive queues from colleagues dropping by to follow-up on a project or bumping into partners in the breakroom. When working remotely, you must motivate yourself and know when to ask for help. It takes honesty and courage to be a great remote employee. You must be confident enough to raise your hand and ask the awkward question if you can’t follow the conversation or have lost track of the project. Sometimes, you need to be vulnerable. Without that courage, it can be easy to fall behind and not deliver the results expected. Only you can guard against that!
Glassdoor: What are two or three interview questions you ask candidates for remote work?
Marie Romero: In interviewing remote employees, Blue Shield focuses on topics like the ability to collaborate, drive for results, and self-motivation. We may ask questions like: How have you established and maintained collaborative relationships with colleagues despite geographic differences? How did you keep the momentum of the project going? Tell me about a time that you handled a difficult interaction or conflict in a remote setting?
For remote employees, it’s important to be able to identify and resolve challenges, especially among team members and peers. Being out of sight doesn’t mean that struggles don’t happen. During the interview process, Blue Shield will try to identify how successful a remote candidate is at addressing issues quickly and openly. If necessary, we want to know that a remote employee can resolve interpersonal or business issues as easily as in the office.
Glassdoor: When your team is interviewing candidates, what are some of the traits or experiences that you’re looking for in an excellent telecommuting candidate?
Marie Romero: The traits that we look for in remote arrangement candidates are excellent communication skills and personal courage. It’s so important to have every employee know that it’s essential that they speak up, ask questions, request help when needed, and raise the flag when something is going wrong. Every employee is empowered to speak up. That’s personal courage and it is highly valued at Blue Shield of California. We expect this from employees every day.
Glassdoor: Telecommuting is popular among the disabled community. Why should they consider working for Blue Shield of California? What makes BSC a great place to work for all abilities?
Marie Romero: Blue Shield of California prides itself on diversity and inclusion. We have [had] seven vibrant employee resource groups emerge, including one for disability inclusion. These groups help make Blue Shield a great place to work for everyone by enhancing our collective understanding and empathy about challenges faced by our colleagues and their families. The Disability Inclusion Employee Resource Group provides programming, support, and community for people of all abilities and their allies. We encourage everyone to bring their authentic selves to work and contribute their best ideas and efforts to our inspiring mission of transforming healthcare. Knowing that you can be “entirely yourself” at work and that you will be accepted and appreciated because of who you are is fantastic feeling. You don’t have to hide or change parts of yourself at Blue Shield to fit in. This makes us proud to be Blue.
Glassdoor: Often for job seekers, it can feel like remote work doesn’t provide room for career growth or promotion. How would you suggest candidates for remote work approach the conversation of learning, development, and growth when speaking to BSC recruiters and hiring managers?
Marie Romero: At Blue Shield, we believe that you own your career trajectory. That doesn’t change whether you are in an office or remote. Blue Shield encourages people to inquire about our host of growth and development programs and opportunities for learning across the enterprise—there are many. But it is also important for a remote employee to be self-aware and reflective about what your career goals are and what are the realistic paths for development. A remote employee may have a very different career path than some others, but everyone can develop a meaningful work experience. The bottom line is that employees should strive to be recognized for the value that you bring to the organization, regardless of your location.
You may also need to be flexible and attend some meetings and events in person. Be willing to do that and recognize that the flexibility of working remotely goes both ways. Work ebbs and flows based on business needs, so the working arrangement needs to be flexible too.
Working remotely eliminates wasted commute time. Be smart and use that time for self-development, like building new skills, enhancing your working relationships, and learning more about the healthcare industry. At Blue Shield, we believe in growing leaders at all levels and providing growth and opportunity for all employees. Remote employees can participate in several company-offered leadership development and training opportunities, because we believe in investing in our talent and providing everyone with the tools and encouragement to take charge of their own career growth. It’s about finding the right balance between being remote, going into the office sometimes, saying “yes” to special assignments, and keeping hold of the reins on our career.
Candidates can talk with recruiters and hiring managers about what some of their expectations are for next steps and their career during the interview. This should be part of determining if the company is a fit for your needs. Think about your expectations before you get into those interviews.
Glassdoor: Is it still important for remote candidates to ask about BSC’s total rewards like wellness, tuition reimbursement, and how BSC builds community, even if they are working remotely or from home?
Marie Romero: Absolutely! All our benefit plans are available to employees whether they are in a building or work remotely. We have an award-winning program called Wellvolution that provides lifestyle coaching and support to our employees. With gym memberships, tuition reimbursement, and online learning and development programs, Blue Shield offers great total rewards programs. We have a robust community life with volunteering, resource and affinity groups, and corporate and personal continuous learning opportunities—as well as three paid days per year to engage in community service of your choice. Every employee can take advantage of these programs regardless of their location.
Glassdoor: Lastly, what are your top two pieces of job search advice for candidates considering applying to a role at BSC?
Marie Romero: First, candidates should get to know Blue Shield by checking us out at [our career page] and following us on Glassdoor, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. We are mission-driven and leading a transformation in healthcare. We want people who are ready—and excited—to step up to that challenge. What we stand for sets us apart. We get to impact people’s lives in a very meaningful way, every day. If that sounds exciting to you, we’d love to talk to you!
Second, every job candidate should spend time in self-reflection about what kind of work is going to fulfill you. Beyond pay and benefits, what would make work meaningful to you? Spending time on career “self-care” and trying to better understand what interests and inspires you is very important. No one can do this work for you, and there are no shortcuts. Clarifying your personal aspirations will help you target roles where you can bring the greatest value. Sharing that insight with recruiters and hiring managers sets you apart!
Having a well-crafted resume can be the key to getting your foot in the door at the company of your dreams. But figuring out how to make your resume fully representative of your experience and also stand out is easier said than done. After all, hiring managers and recruiters generally only spend about 7 seconds reading your resume before deciding whether to move forward or not. Most people know the basics of how to put together a decent work history, but here are some tips you probably haven’t heard before that can help your resume stand up to the 7-second test.
1. Only include your address if it works in your favor.
If you’re applying to positions in the city or town you already live in, then go ahead and include your address. In this case, it lets the hiring manager know you’re already in the area and could theoretically start working right away.
But if you’re targeting jobs in another area and you’d need to move in order to start working, it’s probably a good idea to leave your current address off of your resume. Why? Recruiters are sometimes less excited to interview candidates from another city or state, since they often require relocation fees.
2. Be a name dropper.
It may be poor form to drop names in everyday life, but you absolutely should do it on your resume. If you’ve worked with well-known clients or companies, go ahead and include them by name. Something like: “Closed deals with Google, Toyota and Bank of America” will get recruiters’ attention in no time flat.
3. Utilize your performance reviews.
You might not think to look to your annual review for resume material, but checking out the positive feedback you’ve received in years past can help you identify your most noteworthy accomplishments and best work attributes — two things that should definitely be highlighted on your resume. Including specific feedback you’ve received and goals you’ve met can help you avoid needing to use “fluff” to fill out your work experience.
4. Don’t go overboard with keywords.
Many companies and recruiters use keyword-scanning software as a tool to narrow the job applicant pool. For this reason, it’s important to include keywords from the job description in your resume — but don’t go overboard. Recruiters can spot “keyword stuffing” a mile away.
5. Use common sense email etiquette.
There are two types of email addresses you shouldn’t use on your resume or when applying to a job via email: your current work email address, or an overly personal or inappropriate email address, like firstname.lastname@example.org. Stick with something professional based on your name in order to make the best possible impression.
6. When it comes to skills, quality over quantity.
There’s no need to list skills that most people in the job market have (Think: Microsoft Office, email, Mac and PC proficient), which can make it look like you’re just trying to fill up space on the page. Keep your skills section short, and only include impactful skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying to.
7. Choose to share social accounts strategically.
Including links to social media accounts on a resume is becoming more and more common. But it’s important to distinguish between professional accounts—like a LinkedIn profile or Instagram account you manage for work—and non-professional ones, like your personal Twitter or Facebook account. While it might be tempting to include a personal account in order to show recruiters who you are, you’re better off only listing accounts that are professionally-focused. Save your winning personality for an in-person interview.
8. Use hobbies to your advantage.
Not all hobbies deserve a place on your resume, but some do. Hobbies that highlight positive personality qualities or skills that could benefit you on the job are worth including. For example, running marathons (shows discipline and determination) and blogging about something related to your field (shows creativity and genuine interest in your work) are hobbies that will cast you in the best possible light and might pique a recruiter’s interest.
9. Skip generic descriptors.
Hardworking, self-motivated, self-sufficient, proactive and detail-oriented are all words you’ll find on most people’s resumes. But most job seekers are motivated and hardworking, so these traits don’t really set you apart from the rest of the applicant pool. Instead, focus on the specific skills and accomplishments that make you different from everyone else applying to the position.
10. Keep an accomplishment journal.
Keeping a log of your work accomplishments and positive feedback as they come up can make putting together or updating your resume significantly easier. Include as many details as possible so you don’t have to spend time tracking them down later.
The job search process is unforgiving. It doesn’t matter how many things you might be doing right, it just takes one wrong move, one misunderstanding, or one poor decision to entirely ruin your chances of getting the job.
As a job seeker, this reality can really be frightening — especially if you find yourself in a situation where you’re simply not getting interviews no matter how many job openings you apply to, and yet you don’t have a clue what you’re really doing wrong. So with that being said, here are the most common things I see job seekers doing all the time that actually end up sabotaging their chances of getting that all-important interview.
1. Standing out — but in a bad way
Standing out in a crowded field of job applicants is a smart move, but far too often the execution behind this concept ends up hurting job seekers more than it actually helps them. For instance, many job seekers try to stand out with their resumes by using fancy templates or even turning their resume into a full-fledged infographic. In the back of their minds they think, “With such a uniquely designed resume, I’ll surely get a leg up over all those other applicants with their typical uninspiring black-and-white resumes.” However, the reality is, uniquely formatting your resume just makes it harder for hiring managers to skim through your resume. Even more importantly, applicant tracking systems often can’t parse these fancy formats so your resume ends up being discarded completely.
2. Shooting yourself in the foot with an unprofessional online presence
Sometimes the reason you aren’t getting any interviews has nothing to do with what you’ve submitted in your application, but rather what job recruiters are finding out about you online. With how prevalent social media and internet culture has become, employers scour the online presence of all their serious candidates the way law enforcement would for a criminal fugitive. Whether it’s a vulgar tweet you might have made in the past or selfie showing you getting drunk at a nightclub, any of these sorts of things can immediately zero out your hiring chances.
3. Doing it all yourself
A “do-it-yourself” mentality is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s good to be independent and put your best foot forward when the going gets tough. But on the other hand, thinking you should always do everything yourself can blind you from the reality that sometimes it’s better to seek help.
Far too often I’ve witnessed job seekers struggle for weeks just to produce a subpar resume, when they could have been far better off hiring a professional resume writer to do the work for them. Of course, finding reliable help is oftentimes tricky in and of itself, so be sure to do your due diligence when it comes to picking out a resume service or career coach who you can rely on to get the job done right.
4. Failing to address the elephant in the room
Do you have long work gaps? Alternating experience in two unrelated fields? Or perhaps you come across as a job hopper?
While you might be tempted to just hope and pray that hiring managers aren’t going to catch on to concerning aspects of your work experience, it’s oftentimes better to take the initiative in addressing these issues head-on – especially if they’re something that can’t be missed.
The fact is, recruiters are trained to be skeptical and often assume the worst when left to their own imaginations. By offering a clear explanation in your cover letter, resume objective statement or your LinkedIn profile, you might just be able to convince hiring managers to overlook any glaring issues that may otherwise plague you.
5. Being inconsistent
Inconsistency erodes trust. One of the biggest blunders job seekers make is confusing recruiters with contradictory information. If your resume says you worked at a marketing firm from 2014 to 2017 as a “content marketing manager”, your LinkedIn profile better say the exact same thing, and not contradict your resume by listing your position as simply a “content marketer” or stating that you ended your job in 2016 for example. Inconsistencies like these often lead hiring managers to assume the worst – that you’re lying and not just making a trivial mistake.
By Jennifer Post, Contributing Writer
Writing a resume can be difficult for everyone, but for those 50 years of age or older, it can be even more difficult. Maybe they've been out of the workforce for some time, or they haven't been able to keep up with the latest processes and technologies. The good news is that AARP and TopResume have partnered to help those in that age group.
"Resume writing is crucial as more and more older workers stay in the workforce, often looking for new jobs, or even new careers," said Susan Weinstock, AARP vice president for financial resilience programs, in a press release about the collaboration. AARP now offers a resume advice and professional writing service to help baby boomers feel more comfortable applying and interviewing for new jobs.
Follow these tips when updating your resume
There are also things you can do on your own to boost your chances of landing a new job. Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume, offered 13 tips to help older job seekers with their resume:
1. Focus on your recent experience. The further along you are in your career, the less relevant your earlier experience becomes. The last 10 to 15 years is really what matters, so focus on detailing those years of experience that are related to your job search. If you really want to add older work experience, add it to a section of your resume called "Career Note."
2. Eliminate older dates. Not every position you've held needs to have the start and end dates listed on your resume. Remove the dates related to work experience, education and certifications if they don't fall within that 10-to-15-year window.
3. Limit your resume to two pages. Recruiters spend less than 10 seconds reviewing each resume and application that comes across their desk before deciding if the candidate deserves further consideration. If you want your resume to be noticed by hiring managers, keep it short so they get the gist of your work history within that 10-second timeframe.
4. Avoid a "jack-of-all-trades" approach. Although you might have held multiple roles throughout your career, your resume should be tailored to support your current career objective rather than providing a general summary of your entire work history.
5. Optimize your resume with keywords. Improve the chances of your resume making it past the applicant tracking system and on to a human by adding keywords within your resume from the job description.
6. Upgrade your email address. Don't give employers a reason to believe you aren't tech savvy. Ditch your AOL or Hotmail email account for a free, professional-looking Gmail address that incorporates your name.
7. List your mobile phone number. Only list your cell phone number on your resume so that you answer the phone yourself in addition to controlling the voicemail message potential employers and recruiters hear.
8. Join the LinkedIn bandwagon. If you've avoided using LinkedIn in the past, now's the time to create a profile that promotes your candidacy to employers. Once your profile is complete, customize your LinkedIn profile URL and add it to the top of your resume.
9. Showcase your technical proficiencies. Show employers that you've kept up with the latest tools and platforms related to your field by creating a small section toward the bottom of your resume that lists your technical proficiencies.
10. Customize your online application. Small tweaks to your resume can make a big difference in determining whether your online application reached a human being for review. After reviewing the job listing more closely, make small edits to customize your resume so that it clearly reflects your qualifications.
11. Ditch the objective statement. Avoid using a run-of-the-mill objective statement that's full of fluff and focuses solely on your own wants and needs. Instead, replace it with your elevator pitch, which should be a brief paragraph summarizing your job goals and qualifications.
12. Aim for visual balance. How your resume is formatted is just as important as the information itself. Focus on leveraging a combination of short blurbs and bullet points to make it easy for the reader to quickly scan your resume and find the most important details that support your candidacy.
13. Focus on achievements, not tasks. At this point in your career, recruiters are less concerned with the tasks you've completed and more interested in learning what you've accomplished. Use bullet points to describe the results you've achieved and the major contributions you've made that benefited your employers.
"It may be unfair, but age discrimination is a real thing in today's workforce and job search," said Augustine. "Some employers are concerned that candidates of a certain age aren't looking for a long-term gig because they're close to retirement."
People might not want to admit it, but there is a fear among businesses that they won't get what they need from older applicants. Augustine added that one of those fears is that older workers aren't tech savvy, or they are resistant to change, which might make them difficult to train and, ultimately, harder to work with.
"It's important for 50-plus candidates to dispel these concerns on their resume and cover letter as well as during the interview process," said Augustine.
Keep your skills sharp and relevant
One of the biggest fears of applicants age 50 and older (and employers) is that the skills those workers will come in with aren't as up to date or necessary to get the job done. There are ways, though, to keep your skills sharp and develop new ones.
"Many free or low-cost online courses are available through sites such as edX, Coursera and Skillshare," said Augustine. "If you prefer in-person training, seek out programs through your local library or college."
Augustine also suggested, for those interested in improving technical skills, turning to AARP. AARP now offers free technology training in various markets around the country. It's a good way to brush up on existing skills and learn completely new ones.
Updating your resume isn't enjoyable, no matter what age you are. But it does get harder the older you get, an unfortunate reality of our society. Thanks to TopResume and AARP, steps are being taken to make the process less daunting and more successful.
Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily and Business.com. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, NJ or binge watching Pretty Little Liars for the 700th time.
Any of them can kill your chances.
by Daniel B. Kline
Imagine showing up for a job interview a little tipsy, wearing mismatched clothes, and then talking for the entire time about things unrelated to the position you're applying for. Most people would never do that -- yet applicants often make the equivalent of those mistakes on their cover letters.
Your cover letter is essentially a pre-interview. It's a tool you can use to show a potential employer something of who you are in ways that don't fit neatly into a resume. If you waste that opportunity, you may never get an interview, let alone have a real chance at landing the job.
1. You spend the whole time being silly
It's fine to show some personality, or even to have a little fun. Going full absurdist may make the person reading your cover letter laugh, but a laugh isn't the same as someone wanting to interview you.
Don't go too far off the rails. Focus on why you're a good fit for the job, and if your fit is indirect, make your case but be careful to connect the dots. In most cases, if you don't write a traditional cover letter and opt for a silly story or some other form of comedy, your resume is going in the trash (and you'll never know if you got a laugh or a groan).
2. Don't talk about another job
Your cover letter should explain why you want the job being advertised. It should not expound about how your real goal is to be a mountain climber, a poet, or a sheepherder. The people doing the hiring want to think that you're passionate about the position being offered.
It's OK to confess to a hobby, especially if it relates to the work. It's not a great idea to express long-term goals that have nothing to do with the position being offered.
3. You go full-on generic
If your cover letter talks about how you the skills to succeed in any job, the hiring person won't be impressed. The same is true about talking about "drive", "passion", or how hard you work.
Those are all great things, but you need to address the specific job being hired for. Make it clear that you wrote a cover letter for this position. Cite questions raised by the job ad, and explain why you specifically fit.
It's great that you're a hard worker, but relate that in a specific anecdote that ties to what's being asked for in this job ad. Remember that every person sees themselves as qualified, and it's your job to make yourself stand out with why you'll do well in the role being hired for.
Take the time to shine
It's OK to have a rough cover letter that you adapt for every job you apply for, but make sure you adapt it. Many job ads ask questions that aren't answered on your resume. Find a way to address those things in your cover letter.
In many ways, a cover letter is a test as to whether you can follow directions. The company has asked for specific things, and if you ignore them they may well ignore your application.
Nobody will tell you that’s why you didn’t get the job. But an apparent lack of interpersonal skills is often the underlying reason candidates get passed over.
BY JUDITH HUMPHREY
You may be well versed in interview skills, but it’s easy to let drop a phrase or a comment that inadvertently signals you may not “fit in.” Nobody will tell you that’s why you didn’t get the job. Yet, an apparent lack of interpersonal skills is often the underlying reason candidates get passed over.
People skills are in fact one of the top requirements of most jobs today–and interviewers listen hard for any telltale sign that you may not work well with people.
To avoid ruining your chances of getting that second interview or coveted job, be careful not to use the following seven expressions that may betray a poor relationship with others.
1. “MY TALENTS WERE NOT BEING PUT TO GOOD USE”
When talking about your last job, beware of dissing your employer by saying your talents were not fully used. It’s easy to fall into this trap, because you’ll want to give a reason for your departure. But saying your employer didn’t put your skills to good use signals more than a touch of resentment.
In the same vein, avoid saying your contribution was not recognized, or your skills were not a good fit with the job. Even saying nothing about your last job but simply that you are “looking for a company that can make use of your talents” conveys the impression that your last company let you down. So avoid the undertow of such comparisons.
2. “I DIDN’T FEEL CHALLENGED BY MY LAST JOB”
You won’t impress a future employer, either, by saying your last job was boring. If you weren’t challenged, it’s your fault.
Employers expect candidates to take the initiative and create opportunities for themselves. Saying you didn’t feel “challenged” essentially puts the onus on your last employer to provide you with a stimulating, fully curated experience. That’s not realistic. Any recruiter will see such a comment as reflecting an “attitude” and poor people skills.
3. “I’M LOOKING FOR A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE”
It may be true that you want your next job to offer you something “different” than your previous job had provided, but making a statement like this will send up red flares. The interviewer may think, “Wow, this candidate was miserable where she worked, that doesn’t bode well for hiring her.”
Instead of making such an implicit comparison that casts a shadow on your previous job, tell the interviewer in positive terms what you are looking for in your future role.
4. “I LIKED MY MANAGER, BUT . . .”
You might think you’re being generous by offering up this positive comment about your boss. The only problem is that the rest of the sentence beginning with “but” will undercut anything positive you’ve said.
The “but” may be followed by “we didn’t see eye to eye,” or “the job was less than satisfying,” or “management didn’t show the kind of leadership an organization should have.” Whatever the next part of the sentence is, it won’t work for you. It’s a negative that shows you didn’t fit in for some reason.
So stick to positives by avoiding the word “but” altogether.
5. “I’M A HARD WORKER WHO GETS THINGS DONE”
This may seem like a positive self-affirming statement, but if you use these words, your interviewer will likely see you as a loner who focuses on work rather than on people. The “worker” syndrome is no longer an asset, because in today’s companies, things get done by teams, by collaboration, by shared goals.
So don’t focus on yourself as a good worker, or your interviewer will hear your comment as a self-revelation that does not suggest an ability or comfort with people. Instead, you might say that you lead a team or are part of a team that has done great things in your specific area.
6. “I’M AMBITIOUS: I’D LIKE YOUR JOB ONE DAY”
Recently, I’ve been told by a few VPs of HR that they are hearing this expression more frequently from job candidates, and they don’t like it. Imagine a 20-something newly minted graduate who gets a coveted interview with a senior executive, and when the executive asks where the candidate sees himself in 10 years, the young person replies, “I want your job.”
Whew! It may seem to be a statement that smacks of confidence or boldness. But unfortunately, it shows a lack of people skills, because the comment implies that the young person thinks he is capable of taking on the senior leader’s role and knows what that executive does. A senior vice president I know responds to such statements with, “What is it that I do?” And rarely does the job candidate know. Save such showmanship for less critical conversations, and instead provide an answer that is more realistic, and yes, humble.
These six expressions are frequently used in interview situations and should be avoided if you want to present a positive profile of yourself as someone who works well with people. After all, jobs will increasingly go to those who have strong people skills.
The more experienced you are, the harder it is to find the right job.
By J.T. O'Donnell Founder and CEO, WorkItDaily.com
If you're over 40 and in the hunt for a new job, you may be wondering why it feels so much harder than it used to. Especially, when the news keeps saying we have the lowest unemployment in decades and companies are complaining about how they can't find enough talent. It doesn't take too long before even the most positive and enthusiastic seasoned professional starts to wonder if age discrimination is the culprit. I personally don't like to call it age discrimination. I call it "experience discrimination," because it's a more accurate explanation of what's happening. Here are three reasons why:
1. Why buy a Porsche when a Kia will work just fine?
I work with a lot of over-40 job seekers who get enraged when they are told they're "overqualified" for the job. After years of working hard to gain their knowledge and skills, now it's essentially working against them. They don't want to hear the realities of business. Companies want to make money. If they can do a job with a less-expensive employee, they will. I often use the example, "How can a employer justify paying for a Porsche if they believe they can get from point A to point B just as well with a Kia?" As a seasoned pro, you have a bunch of bells and whistles the employer doesn't want to pay for. And with over half the workforce being Millennials, it's the law of supply and demand. In the minds of employers I've spoken with, Millennials have fewer bad habits, are looking to impress and please them as a way to climb the ladder, and are cheaper to boot.
2. You say you'll take the lesser job. But is your ego really OK with it long-term?
After months and months of looking for work and being told your overqualified, you can see why over-40 workers might start to rationalize accepting a lesser role with less pay. Unfortunately, employers don't buy it. Why? Just like you, they live in the me-centric culture that has taught us all we deserve more, i.e. "You worked hard for this. You've earned it." Going backwards in pay and job status isn't easy to take in a society where answering the question, "What do you do for work?" is so tightly tied to our personal identities. Out of desperation to seek employment, you can rationalize the pay cut. But long-term you'll more than likely want to focus on finding a job that matches your perception of your worth. Employers know that. It's why they don't want to hire you. Why train you when they know you'll leave once something better comes along? Moreover, who wants to manage an employee who deep-down feels they're in a role that's beneath them?
3. Studies show we're not as self-aware as we think we are.
In this new age of emotional intelligence, many people think they're more in touch with other's feelings toward them than they really are. Unfortunately, we tend to over-estimate our skills in this area. Studies show as much as 85 percent of workers don't realize how they're being perceived in the workplace. Which means, you may think you're a tech-savvy, hip, 40-something professional. But it's more likely you're seen as frustrated, overly worried, longing for the gold-ole-days, and losing your edge. Especially, to Millennials who are still stinging from years of being called "lazy" and "entitled." There's a boomerang effect to chastising a younger generation. When they come of age and dominate a workforce, the payback is real.
The solution? Think "specialist", not "generalist."
Many over-40 workers think marketing themselves as a Jack or Jill-of-all-trades is the best way to get hired. In my experience, it isn't. Of course you're a generalist. You've been in the workforce a long time. You've got a wide variety of skills as a result. But now you need to convey how you will leverage your advanced capabilities to solve a specific problem and alleviate a big pain for employers. In short, what's your specialty? There's an expectation
all those years on the job trained you to excel in a particular area. And therefore, are worth paying extra for. Strip away your vast array of skills and focus in on the ones that will save or make the company enough money to justify the cost of paying more for you.
P.S. Job interviews are where most 40+ job seekers deliver the wrong message.
In my experience, the decision to not hire the seasoned pro happens in the job interview. The hiring manager gets the wrong impression based on the attitude and focus of the over-40 candidate's responses. Without realizing it, many seasoned pros give off a vibe that makes them seem opinionated, inflexible, and a know-it-all. Sadly, employers don't tell you this. Instead, they lie and say, "we think you're overqualified and would be bored here." If you're someone who has left a job interview saying, "I crushed it. They were hanging on my every word," only to get the overqualified rejection, you may fall into this category. The solution is to learn techniques for answering interview questions that send the age-appropriate message. When you were younger, what you lacked for in knowledge you were expected to make up for in confidence and enthusiasm. But as we mature, the expectations shifts. Employers are looking for more humility and situational awareness from seasoned pros. In spite of all your knowledge, they want to know you sincerely believe you have a lot to learn -- from co-workers of all ages.
by Eileen Hoenigman Meyer
Ask any job seeker or employee about salary negotiations and one of the most popular responses is, “I would negotiate but I don’t know what to say.” Having the right words to say, or write, during a salary negotiation is vital. Communication can make or break discussions and impact your confidence to get paid fairly.
First things first, determine your current worth in the job market. Use Know Your Worth to receive a custom salary estimate based on your title, company, location and experience. Once you have the information, it’s time to advocate for yourself.
Josh Doody, author of Fearless Salary Negotiation, knows how challenging it can be to learn to financially advocate for oneself. He took his first job without negotiating his salary. Once he got hip to the dance, he doubled that salary.
We teamed with Doody to equip job seekers and employees with exactly how to tackle tricky salary negotiation conversations.
Situation #1: Prying During the Prescreen
How should you respond when you’re asked about salary right off the bat? You want to demonstrate that you’re enthusiastic and cooperative, but you don’t want to tip your hand. Doody explains: “It’s a salary negotiation tactic disguised as a gatekeeper-type interview question.”
Recruiter: What’s your current salary?
You: “I’m not really comfortable sharing that information. I would prefer to focus on the value I can add to this company and not what I’m paid at my current job.”
If the interview team doesn’t know your salary, they can’t use it as their starting point. Doody writes, “that’s probably going to mean a higher initial offer for you.”
Recruiter: What’s your expected salary?
You: “I want this move to be a big step forward for me in terms of both responsibility and compensation.”
Doody points out, “sharing your current salary or your expected salary is not in your best interest. . . They’re interviewing you because you’re a qualified candidate, and they need a qualified candidate. . . They would also like to get a good deal. . They’re not going to stop interviewing you just because you don’t make it easier for them to get a good deal on you.”
If they pass because you won’t acquiesce, that’s a red flag. Doody says, “then they’re extremely motivated to get a bargain…That’s bad news for you even if you get the job.”
One last thing, resist the temptation to tell a white lie when asked for your salary during the prescreening process. If you underestimate what they’re willing to pay, you’re leaving money on the table. If the real answer is that they would compensate someone like you up to $75,000 dollars, and you guess they would pay a salary of only $65,000, you very literally may have just cost yourself $10,000.
If you overestimate and tell them your salary expectation is $85,000, you may set off red flags that cause them to rethink the interview process altogether. This is pretty rare, but you could disqualify yourself by being “too expensive” for them. If your expected salary is well above their budgeted pay range, they may just move on to other candidates with lower salary expectations.
The bottom line is you probably aren’t going to guess what their salary structure looks like, and if you try to guess you may cost yourself a lot of money.
Situation #2: Savvy Counter Offering
After you’ve secured an offer, Doody recommends using this formula:
“The counter offer calculator accounts for four factors—the base salary of your job offer, your minimum acceptable salary (“walk away” number), how badly the company needs you to accept the job offer, and how badly you need the job.”
Use “firm and neutral” language like this:
“Tom offered $50,000 and I would be more comfortable if we could settle on $56,000. I feel that amount reflects the importance and expectations of the position for ACME Corp’s business, and my qualifications and experience as they relate to this particular position.”
Or, if you had a competing offer:
“Thank you so much for the offer. As I mentioned during my interview process, I am speaking with a couple of other companies. If you’re able to move the pay to [insert your number], I’d be eager to accept.”
Doody explains that email is the perfect medium for this message. This way, the hiring manager can share it in a format that clearly makes your case to each person with whom it’s shared. Your case won’t get the same treatment if it’s restated recollections of a conversation.
The hiring manager will likely come back with a figure between your base salary and your counteroffer. For Doody, the distance between these figures represents your “salary negotiation window.” He recommends compartmentalizing this window into increments. In the example above, the window is $6,000, so he recommends devising a response for each possible offer.
If, for example, the offer is $55,000 or above, Doody says it’s a taker.
“If the company comes back with $53,000, then you say ‘If you can do $54,000, I’m on board!’ If they stick with $53,000, then you would say, ‘I understand the best you can do is $53,000 and you can’t come up to $54,000. If you can do $53,000 and offer an extra week of paid vacation each year, then I’m on board.’”
Decide which benefits, like vacation time or flexible working hours, are most important so that you can apply them to bolster the deal. Rank those benefits in your mind and use those in your bargaining.
Extra vacation time
Work from home
If they do not accept your second-priority benefit, you move on to your third-priority benefit. Regardless of whether they accept your final response, then you’re finished; don’t get nit-picky or greedy. You have maximized your base salary and maximized your benefits as well.
Situation #3: Raises & Promotions
Doody explains: “Your primary reason for requesting a raise is that the salary you’re being paid doesn’t reflect your current value to the company. That salary was set some time in the past, so your argument is that you are more valuable now than you were. . . ” You have a fair justification. Now you need the right plan.
Start by mentioning, via email, to your manager that you’d like to discuss compensation in your next private meeting. After that conversation, Doodly advises preparing a strategically constructed, easily sharable salary increase letter.
Suggested Email Script:
“As we discussed, it has been [amount of time] since [“my last significant salary adjustment” OR “since I was hired”], and I would like to revisit my salary now that I’m contributing much more to the company. I’ve been researching salaries for [job title] in [industry] industry, and it looks like the mid-point is around [mid-point from your research]. So I would like to request a raise to [target salary].”
The letter should also highlight your accomplishments and accolades. Doody notes that if your proposal isn’t accepted on the first try, you can work with your manager to create an action plan.
“I would love to work with you to put together a clear action plan and timeline so we can continue this discussion and monitor my progress as I work toward my goal.”
Always remember, your talent is precious, and you deserve to be compensated for it. Learning to foster conversations about compensation is a vital skill that yields rewards.
The rise of 'hybrid jobs' can provide more work opportunities for the right professionals.
By J.T. O'DonnellFounder and CEO, WorkItDaily.com
A recent article on the rise of hybrid jobs caught my attention. It refers to new types of jobs that require non-traditional pairings of skill sets. In particular, when the author discussed the term "purple squirrels," it brought back memories! This term is commonly used in the staffing industry. It refers to people with a rare combination of skill sets. So rare, it takes a ridiculous amount of effort to identify and hire them. If you've ever worked in recruiting, then you've likely dealt with a hiring manager who's asked for the impossible. You know, the one that wants, "a bilingual brain surgeon who will be happy with $10 an hour." When I worked in staffing, I remember cringing when requests for purple squirrels came in. Why? They were hard to find and usually required a lot of money to woo away from their current employers. Which is EXACTLY why every job seeker today should strive to be one!
Want to skip the job search and make recruiters come to you? Strive to be a purple squirrel.
When you brand yourself the right way, you will build a reputation for your unique combination of skills and find recruiters knocking on your doors--or at least asking you to connect on LinkedIn. All it takes is a little research and some keyword optimization and you can improve the chances you get discovered. Here's what to do:
Step 1: Collect attractive job postings.
Find five to 10 job opportunities you are interested in where you feel you're at least a 70 percent or higher match. They should be in the same industry or skill set in order to provide some focus on the content.
Step 2: Create a word cloud.
Copy and paste the text of all the job postings in an online word cloud creator to see which hard and soft skill sets are most common across them. You'll be amazed at which key terms are popular--many of which you might not even have listed on important career tools, i.e., your résumé and LinkedIn profile.
Step 3: Add relevant keywords in strategic places.
Take the top 10 to 12 skill sets and add them to your LinkedIn profile and résumé in strategic places. For example, the terms you put in your LinkedIn headline matter greatly. It's prime real estate--when a recruiter uses a key skill set in their search parameters and you have it in your headline, the chances you'll show up in their search results increases. And the more keywords you have in the headline that match their search, the higher in the results you'll appear.
P.S. When it comes to job security, "brand or BE branded."
Being a purple squirrel is useless if nobody knows it. Branding your unique combination of skills is one of the best ways to ensure you'll be found more frequently. While every job is temporary, you can create job security for yourself in the form of a good personal brand. The more people who understand the problems you solve and the pain you alleviate for your employers, the easier it is for them to imagine you working at their companies.
NOTE from Jeff Morris, Founder of CareerDFW - Do not state you are a "Purple Squirrel". Let your key words and stated skills say it for you. Do not put the words "Purple Squirrel" on a resume, Bio, LinkedIn profile.
by Emily Moore
Odds are, you already know how important networking is. You might have leveraged your network to land a job, procure a new client or even switch careers entirely — or at the very least, you probably know someone who has. But despite the endless benefits of networking, many people still dread the experience.
Often, this is because they simply don’t know what to say. After all, approaching a stranger you know nothing about can be pretty intimidating — what in the world do you talk about?
Well, the next time you find yourself wondering this at an industry mixer, don’t fret. We talked to a handful of career experts to get their recommendations on great questions to ask while networking. Use any of these questions for a quick and painless conversation starter.
1. “What brings you here?”
This light-touch question is a great way to begin a conversation, explains Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of The Connector’s Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence and Impact.
“This question shows you are interested in the other person and are not just trying to figure out how they can help you. Their response will give you a sense of what they are working on and what is on the front of their mind. That will lead you to extend the conversation and figure out how you can add value to them,” Tillis Lederman explains. “They will also likely ask you the question in return and give you an opening to share what your current objectives are.”
2. “How did you get involved in the industry/company?”
Once you know a little bit more about somebody’s professional background, ask them how they got their start. It can provide valuable takeaways for you, as well as make you seem more likable.
“Finding out more about their journey leading up to their current role can offer an excellent insight into what you might need to do in order to work in that industry, role or company,” says Lars Herrem, Group Executive Director at recruiting agency Nigel Wright Group. “Demonstrating your interest and enthusiasm is key to creating a lasting impression and making yourself memorable, something which will prove extremely beneficial if you end up reaching out to this person in the future.”
3. “Since you work in the industry, how do you feel about X?”
Asking about a specific, timely event in the industry — whether it’s proposed legislation, a merger, a recent news story, etc. — is a great way to show the person you’re speaking with that you are knowledgeable and thoughtful, both of which are key to being memorable, says career coach Eli Howayeck of Crafted Career Concepts.
“First impressions matter. The best thing you can do, besides being a nice person, is to demonstrate how you think and what you know about the marketplace,” Howayeck explains. “This helps direct the conversation and informs your conversation partner that you likely know what you’re talking about or, at a minimum, pay attention to what is going on in the world and [are] not only focused on yourself and your advancement.”
4. “How would someone get their foot in the door in your company/industry?”
The ultimate objective of networking is often to get a new job, but coming out and asking somebody you just met to help you get one can be pretty off-putting. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t approach the topic at all — you just have to do so delicately.
This question “is a subtle way to ask about opportunities without coming right out and saying, ‘Do you know if they are hiring?’” says career coach Madelyn Mackie. “If you are lucky, they will ask you if you are interested and then provide you with a business card to follow-up with them after the event.”
Even if they aren’t able to help you out directly, though, you will likely gain some valuable insight that will help you in your job search process.
5. “Based on your journey, what do you wish someone would have told you earlier in your career?”
This is a great question to ask if you’re speaking with somebody who is more senior than you are. It allows them to impart the knowledge they’ve acquired over the years with you, as well as appeals to their ego.
“People are way more comfortable sharing their wisdom than they are sharing their contacts, and both can be very valuable,” Howayeck says. “Seeking to learn from others honors them and shows that you’re invested in growth. It also shows deference and can endear the person to you and deepen the connection.”
6. “How do you spend your time outside of work?”
At its heart, networking is all about forming connections with others, so don’t be afraid to veer towards lighthearted chitchat. Questions like this one help people open up, and make it clear that you don’t expect the interaction to be purely transactional.
“This kind of question lowers the stakes and also gives the other person a chance to discuss what they’re passionate about,” Howayeck explains. “It also shows that you are actually interested in them as a person, and not just what they do and how it could help you.”
Who knows? You may even bond over a shared interest or activity!
7. “What’s the best way for me to get in touch/follow up with you?”
Ask this question, and you’re guaranteed to avoid one of the biggest mistakes that novice networkers make, according to career coach Nikki Bruno: “Beginning networkers often make the mistake of giving away a stack of business cards but gathering none. The only way to ensure that you’ll be able to follow up with new contacts is to get their information; it keeps you in the driver’s seat.”
“Note that this question is intentionally different from ‘May I have your card?’” Bruno adds. “Asking to stay in touch or to follow someone shows that you view him/her as a human being, not as a mere contact.”
After months of unemployment, one of my career coaching clients desperately needed a new job, but she wanted to make sure it was in a field she loved. So, we re-did her resume and LinkedIn profile, wrote a cover letter, talked about potential transferable skills, and reviewed the descriptions of jobs she was interested in.
There was just one problem: After two months, she still hadn’t applied to anything. When we talked about why she wasn’t applying, we realized that she was chasing perfection and it was paralyzing her search.
Don’t get me wrong—you should do your very best when applying to a job. But if you try to be absolutely flawless, you’ll probably get in your own way.
At a certain point, you need to accept that what you’ve put together is good enough. If you don’t, then the whole effort was pointless. After all, it’s hard to get a job if you don’t actually apply.
The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the job will no longer be available. In the beginning, my client listed 10 specific jobs she wanted to apply to. By the time she was ready to hit “submit,” most of the positions on her list had already been taken down or filled.
Finally, wasting too much time making everything “perfect” subtracts from the time you need to spend on a very crucial part of the job search: networking. Instead of agonizing over every detail, you could be attending events, reaching out to contacts, or meeting someone for an informational coffee. These activities will get you much further than an award-winning LinkedIn headline, trust me.
If you’re like my client and can’t help but let your perfectionist tendencies get in the way, here are some bad job search habits you need to be aware of and cut out of your process—now.
1. You Only Apply to Jobs You’re the Perfect Fit For
Here’s the cold, hard truth about job descriptions: Hiring managers are describing their dream candidate—one they know they’re unlikely to find. Because the chances of that person existing and just happening to apply for this specific opportunity are pretty small.
So why do hiring managers do this? It’s more beneficial for them to create a wish list and hope someone who’s 90% there applies than to list the bare minimum and end up with a candidate who’s missing several crucial skills or qualities.
Of course there will be roles you won’t come close to being qualified for. If it’s a nursing role and you never went to nursing school, or it’s a software engineering job and you don’t know how to write a lick of code, or it’s a management position that requires 10 to 15 years of experience and you’re in year one of your first job, it’s not going to happen, so don’t even bother applying.
But otherwise, if you can fulfill a majority of the requirements—say 75% of them, give or take—or you fulfill the most important requirements, you should still try. You may be surprised to find that you have some transferable skills that technically apply to that other 25%. Or that some of the skills you’re lacking may not be a priority to the hiring manager. Or even that the hiring manager values passion over skill set (which can often be taught).
Worst case? You don’t get a callback. That’s not such a horrible outcome.
2. You Sweat the Small Stuff Way Too Much
There’s a lot of advice out there about addressing your cover letter that can be scary to anyone who considers themself super detail-oriented.
And it usually leads a perfectionist down a rabbit hole desperate to find the name of the exact person they’re contacting, a feat that can often take hours (if not be impossible), depending on how niche the role or company is.
But the only rule you really need to live by is this: Don’t start with “To Whom It May Concern.” Or “Dear Sir or Madam” for that matter.
Sure, you want to put some effort into finding the person. But a few minutes tops. Ultimately, it’s only a few words on the paper, and while they’re important, the more important words come after it.
In your cover letter and everywhere else on your application, that’s the stuff you should spend time on—the substance. Like, say, making sure that you’re highlighting how your experience will help you with certain role responsibilities (oh, hello, transferable skills!) and that your passion for the company and position is clear. At the end of the day, proving why you’re a great fit is 10 times more important than nailing a salutation.
3. You Quadruple Check for Typos
You should spell- and grammar-check your application—of course you should. You want to spell the hiring manager’s name right and your name right, and not mess up “its” versus “it’s” (is that just my pet peeve?).
But perfectionists tend to get a little wild when it comes to proofing their materials, spending way too long looking them over for any sign of error.
Here’s the thing. Recruiters spend six seconds looking at your resume. Yes, seconds. Not minutes.
Given that, it’s pretty unlikely they’ll catch minor typos (unless they have super skimming vision). And even if they do, most people understand that all humans—even job candidates!—make mistakes sometimes.
And if you do happen to spot a mistake on your application and it’s driving you nuts, you can always follow up once you realize it—yes, really!
The point is, you don’t want to let your fear of typos stop you from sending in your materials at all. So trust your proofreading skills. If you’ve gone through everything with a careful eye at least once, you’re probably just fine.
4. You Ask Too Many People to Review Your Materials
Your partner. Your coach. Five friends. Heck, let’s ask the Starbucks barista, too!
Having another set of eyes on your materials is incredibly helpful, especially if you’ve been looking at them for way too long and need a fresh perspective. Someone else can catch errors you may have missed and tell you if something is confusing or feels irrelevant to the job.
But when you ask too many people for their input, you waste a lot of time waiting for them to get back to you, and risk losing your chance to throw your hat in the ring.
And many times you end up with too many (often conflicting) viewpoints. Because each person has different life and work experiences—and different context about your life—that can lead to them giving you advice that’s colored by their particular point of view. And trust me—you do not need three, four, or nine different perspectives on this. You’ll never satisfy everyone, and you’ll start to lose who you are in the process.
Stick to two outside opinions, max, and make them people you truly trust and respect. When you find yourself looking for a third person to chime in, just send in the application instead.
You need to believe that you’re a solid applicant and that you’re capable of putting together top-notch materials. (Because you are.) Otherwise, you’ll spend way too much time second guessing yourself.
The job search is already tedious enough. Don’t spend more time on it than you need to, and definitely don’t let the need to be perfect hold you back. So, please, for the love of job seekers and kittens everywhere, hit submit and move on with your life. (Oh, and good luck!)
Abby is a writer, career coach, and health educator living in Portland, Maine. When she’s not trying to make the world a happier and healthier place, you can find her cuddling with her cats, hunting down the city's best coffee and grilled cheese, or dipping her toes in the Atlantic.
Question: After multiple interviews, a well-known company made me a job offer that I refused. The offer was good, considerably more than I earn now. But the deal was unacceptable because, from one meeting to the next, the team showed me the company is undisciplined, disorganized and incapable of conducting business with someone they want to hire. And they recruited me! I didn’t go to them looking for a job! This of course tells me they are not worth doing business with, period.
I’m writing to you because I’ve concluded that I should have cut the meetings off sooner. I was so focused on performing at my best that I didn’t calculate the problems that now appear so obvious to me. Can you poll your readers and ask them what signals during interviews tip them off that a company is not worth working for?
Nick Corcodilos: Don’t feel bad. In the throes of the evaluation process, a candidate is understandably trying so hard to impress that he or she dismisses signals that suggest it’s time to walk away. Nonetheless, there are indeed signals you should be looking for early in the process. You should not wait until after you’ve invested many hours and loads of effort to calculate whether an employer is worth it!
6 reasons to reject an employer
San Francisco recruiter Ken Hansell posted this story on LinkedIn, from a job candidate who rejected a job offer and declined to negotiate further. Like you, this candidate probably waited too long to tell the employer to take a hike.
I declined the offer… I’m staying where I am. The recruiter called me and asked why? This is one of the top companies. What’s the counter offer? Me: No counter offer.
1. I had six rounds of interviews.
2. I was grilled with questions but nobody took the time to explain what the job is like and did not even ask if I have any questions.
3. Lots of questions did not make sense – like why I am leaving my employer. I was not, your recruiter approached me and convinced me to come for your interview. Where I see myself in 5 years. They could not tell me where they see their company in 6 months.
4. The hiring process is too long, too disorganized.
5. The offer took too long.
6. The interviewers did not compare notes because during the six rounds of interviews they were asking the same questions. This should not look like an interrogation. They also looked tired and stressed.
If you want to hire talent, fix your basics. Treat candidates as people, not as applicants.
This job candidate has outlined six clear signs that showed the company was not worthy of consideration. All these signs are important, but the third one is key: The interviewers behaved as if the candidate is chasing the company when, in fact, the company is recruiting the candidate.
Who’s recruiting whom?
This critical distinction is lost on most people. Applying for jobs you have sought out is one thing. But when a company finds you, pursues you, solicits you, and convinces you to come talk about a job — then the calculus changes entirely.
As you and the candidate in the LinkedIn story both noted, you were not looking for a job, so asking you why you wanted to leave your old job is not just presumptuous and rude — it reveals a totally misguided approach to hiring.
When you are recruited, an employer should do three things:
These are not unrealistic asks. Some employers do it right. (See Smart Hiring: A manager who respects applicants.)
When you are recruited, an employer who fails to treat you as an honored guest reveals a profound ignorance of how the world works. That’s simply disrespectful. It’s the sign of an uncouth, uncultured, stupid organization that’s bound to fail — one you’d be wasting your time with. (See Stupid Recruiters: How employers waste your time.)
Blind recruiting is spam
I’ll repeat that: When a company — whether its manager, its recruiter or its headhunter — comes to you and suggests it is interested in you, it should treat you with special respect and deference.
Blind solicitations are not recruiting; they’re spam. The trouble is, most people don’t understand this. They allow companies that recruit them to treat them like beggars. Don’t. You’ll save a lot of time if you separate employers you pursue from those that come to you.
This is not to say other employers can get away with not treating you respectfully. But when a company or recruiter solicits you, expect to be treated well — or walk away if you’re made to feel like somebody who applied for a job.
What the 6 signs really tell you
The six signs above tell you that an employer is wasting your time. Here’s why.
By — Nick Corcodilos
Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.
This is the information you need in order to make your case before you go into a salary negotiation.
BY GWEN MORAN
Even as the job market breaks records, wage growth has remained sluggish in the U.S.–and employers don’t seem too anxious to change their penny-pinching ways. Two-thirds of employers reported retention as a top concern in PayScale’s “2019 Compensation Best Practices Report,” up 7% from 2018. But of the 81% that are planning base pay increases, slightly more than two-thirds are estimating an increase of 3% or less.
So if you’re seeking a higher number on your paycheck, it’s likely up to you to make it happen. Before you go into a salary negotiation for a new job or a bump in pay for the position you already have, here is the information you should seek out to make your case.
START WITH SALARY GUIDES
Annual salary guides and compensation reports like those from PayScale, Randstad, Robert Half, and others may give you some insight into general salary trends. You can get a sense of how respondents say they’re budgeting for salary increases, what their main concerns are about compensation, and how they’re thinking about salaries in general.
In addition, sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com can also give insight into specific companies and their compensation practices. The general information you find on the internet can be a helpful starting point, says Lydia Frank, PayScale‘s vice president of content strategy. “It’s a good idea to get your information from a variety of sources,” she says.
CONSIDER GEOGRAPHIC DIFFERENCES
PayScale’s research found that, over time, some U.S. metro areas led in compensation growth while others lagged. For example, the PayScale Index for the fourth quarter of 2018 found San Francisco having the largest year-over-year wage growth at 4.9%. Los Angeles, Boston, and New York were tied for 7th place with 2% year-over-year growth. The Nashville metro area came in at No. 32 with -0.7% growth.
If you’re in a growing sector in a high wage-growth city, this could be a promising indicator for compensation negotiations. But when you factor in inflation, wage growth generally isn’t much to write home about. “Mostly we have less spending power in our paychecks, even if it’s a higher number than we did in 2006, because inflation has eaten away some of those increases. I think that’s a nuance that gets missed,” Frank says.
UNDERSTAND YOUR EDGE
Jim Link, chief human resources officer (CHRO) at Randstad North America, says one thing that stood out to him when reviewing the Randstad U.S. “2019 Salary Guide,” was the rise in importance of some positions that hadn’t seen much of a base pay increase in the past, especially in manufacturing and logistics sectors. Even assemblers and programmable controllers, where a relatively small degree of technical skill is needed, are seeing average raises in the 5% range.
“To me, that’s a good sign for our economy, but it’s also fascinating to me that it’s taken this long for those positions to really flex their muscle in our economy. It’s about time and a little overdue, in my mind,” he says.
This year, Randstad’s research found more marked salary jumps in some specializations and skill intersections, which may offer a salary negotiation advantage, too. For example, engineering coupled with project management experience and information technology (IT) pros with healthcare experience got bigger pay increases than their counterparts who didn’t specialize, he says.
PRICE YOUR JOB PROPERLY
Frank encourages people who feel like they’ve taken on more responsibility to check in with human resources. Ask to look at the job description that is being used for your current job. If you’re performing additional tasks, especially those that are typically done by someone in a higher-level job, that can be a great negotiating tool.
“Sometimes, HR doesn’t understand how the job has evolved, and the manager doesn’t necessarily know they’re supposed to alert HR to that,” she says. Frank believes most HR departments will be open to this conversation so they can write more accurate job descriptions in the future.
CONSULT THOSE IN THE KNOW
Whether you’re seeking information for your current job or a new one, seek out colleagues who formerly worked for the company or champions within the company who have supervisory responsibilities. They may be able to provide insight into compensation levels or expectations, Link says. More important, they may be able to give you insight into how the company thinks about pay. For example, they may help you see whether the company is more open to investing in benefits or performance-based compensation than base salary increases.
YOUR OWN PERFORMANCE AND VALUE
Of course, be prepared to show the results you’ve generated and the value you’ve contributed, Link says. Whether you’re negotiating for more pay in your current company or proving your worth to a prospective employer, walk in with a list of how you’ve gone above and beyond in your job, the skills you have added, and how you’ve helped make a difference in the company’s performance. “Never forget that the best information you have is about your own performance,” he says. Show that you’re a team member worth adding or retaining, and you may be rewarded with additional compensation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010), and several other books.
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Certainly feels like an absurd interview question, but managers are trying to suss out your critical thinking, creativity, and ability to work under pressure. So here’s how to answer.
BY JARED LINDZON
What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer? How would you describe the color yellow to a blind person? How many square feet of pizza is eaten in the U.S. each year?
The questions may sound absurd, but they’ve all been asked in professional interviews, and may have even been the most consequential test of the entire hiring process.
That’s because employers know that candidates can list skills like critical thinking, creativity, and ability to work under pressure on their resume, but the best way to test their abilities is often through seemingly absurd and unexpected questions. Furthermore, in an age where candidates can research, anticipate, and prepare for likely interview questions, the unexpected and unrehearsed responses often prove the most revealing.
“These kinds of questions allow us to dive deeper into a candidate’s thought process and kind of gauge their personality,” said Michael Pearce, a health care recruiter with Addison Group.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BOARD GAME?
Pearce says that when evaluating candidates he typically asks them to name their favorite board game, explaining that their response often reveals more about their personality and professional strengths than their resume.
“For example, if a candidate chose Risk, it highlights to me that they’re methodical and strategy focused and would best fit into a role that requires those skill sets,” he says.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICH?
When recruiters ask open-ended questions, Pearce says, there’s often no wrong answer, but warns that a more specific question could suggest the they’re looking for something precise. For example, Pearce says one client requested that he ask each candidate how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“They were specifically looking for people to be as descriptive as possible,” he says, adding that the role required strong communication skills. “They’re looking to see if the candidate included a step-by-step process as if they’re explaining it to someone that’s never heard of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BREAKFAST FOOD AND WHY?
Glassdoor’s senior director of corporate communications, Scott Dobroski, similarly makes a distinction between two different oddball question categories. He explains that the open ended questions are often intended to test creativity and critical thinking, while more quantitative questions are designed to test how the candidate solves problems under pressure.
In either case, however, Dobroski says that hiring managers are often more interested in the thought process behind the answer than the answer itself.
“It could be ‘what’s your favorite breakfast food and why?’ and someone might say ‘Cheerios, because it’s the breakfast of champions,’ and explain how they’re a champion in the workplace,” he says. “It’s the open ended questions where you’re given the opportunity to take something quirky and relate it to the workplace and who you are as an employee and what you bring that’s different from competitors.”
Dobroski adds that it also reveals something about the candidate’s personality, which can help determine whether they’d fit with the company’s culture.
HOW MANY PENCILS COULD YOU FIT INTO THIS ROOM?
Quantitative questions are similarly intended to evoke a detailed explanation, but attempt to reveal how the candidate approaches challenges under pressure rather than something about their personality. One example employers could ask is how many pencils they could fit in the interview room.
“What they’re looking for is not a one-word response, but thinking out loud on how you would get to a solution or a conclusion, because that’s what we do all day when we’re working,” says Dobroski. “We’re faced with planned and unplanned challenges, and problem solving is an asset in every job.”
He explains that when faced with a quantitative question candidates should do their best to think out loud, feel free to ask questions, and even request more time to think it over before responding.
“You want to ask questions to get to the best answer,” he says. “Like ‘Are they standard sized pencils?’ ‘What’s the thickness of the pencil?’ Do I have anything at my disposal to chop up the pencil before?'”
IF YOU WERE A NEW ADDITION TO THE CRAYON BOX, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
When it comes to odd interview questions there’s often little candidates can do to anticipate them, and that’s okay, explains author and job search expert for The Balance Careers, Alison Doyle.
“Don’t even try, because you can’t anticipate them,” she says, explaining that there are other ways to prepare. “What you might think about is if you’re asked something off the wall, what’s the best way to respond.”
Doyle explains that instead of trying to practice answers to wacky questions, candidates should instead practice how they would approach them in more general terms.
“Stay calm, think about it a little bit, and remember that you can ask questions if you need to,” she says. “Try and be creative, like if they ask, ‘Iif you’re a new addition to a crayon box, which color would you be and why?’ they’re looking at how you answer more than the answer itself.”
When asked an odd question in a job interview Doyle says it’s far more important for candidates to remain composed and demonstrate an ability to defend their answer than it is to arrive at the “right” answer. After all, responses can be as absurd as the questions themselves, as long as there’s also an equal amount of thought and purpose behind them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist born, raised and residing in Toronto, covering technology, entrepreneurship, entertainment and more for a wide variety of publications in Canada, the United States and around the world. When he's not playing with gadgets, interviewing entrepreneurs or traveling to music festivals and tech conferences you can usually find him diligently practicing his third-person bio writing skills.
Many professionals will probably recognize this situation: You go to a meeting or an event and, assuming that everyone there already knows you, or that you're playing a minor role, you introduce yourself with your first name — or not at all.
No big deal, right?
Wrong. "I see it happen all the time, and it's terrible," bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch tells CNBC Make It. "Your identity is an important piece of information for context in any business situation."
Welch, a career coach, says it drives her crazy when people fail to say their full names during an introduction. But worse, this blunder could be hindering your professional advancement. "Not stating your full name at the beginning of a business encounter essentially announces, 'I don't matter,' or 'I lack confidence' — or both."
Welch says that a failed introduction is not just "first-impression poison," but "it can be a career killer, because who wants to listen to a person who doesn't believe in themselves?"
This was first pointed out to her 10 years ago, when bestselling author and financial advisor Suze Orman scolded her for making this mistake during a speech. Welch says that after she left the stage, Orman grabbed her and said, "You didn't say your name!"
Welch protested that she had been introduced, but Orman said it didn't matter. "Even when you think people know who you are, say your name — both first and last. Own your name and you own the room."
She took Orman's advice to heart. Recently, Welch spent a day coaching MBA students. The event included a Q & A, and Welch says she "watched person after person take the mic and say, 'Hi, umm, my question is blah blah...'" As each student came forward, she sat there thinking, "Who is going to hire you if you can't even introduce yourself properly?"
"Please take this advice about your name," she says. "I promise you'll see an impact on you and everyone in the room right away — and eventually on your career."
Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at email@example.com.
You scan a job posting and everything looks normal (responsibilities and requirements, check, lots of jargon related to your field, check), until you come across the following: Please submit a resume and letter of intent.
Huh. That’s a phrase you’ve never seen before: “letter of intent.” Do they mean like a cover letter, but in a different, slightly confusing way?
Well, yes and no. There are plenty of similarities between the two, and also several differences. Here’s what you need to know about letters of intent.
What Is a Letter of Intent?
To play off the name, a letter of intent is about stating your intentions to work for a particular company. There may be a specific role you (or the employer) has in mind, but more often you’re interested in tossing your name into the hat for any opportunities an organization may offer.
“In my experience, I’ve seen an intent letter used usually when there’s not a specific job that a candidate is interested in applying for,” says Kaila Kea, a career coach on The Muse. So you’d probably write one if you’re submitting a general application to an organization you’re a major fan of that isn’t necessarily hiring for your dream job just yet.
How Does a Letter of Intent Differ From a Cover Letter?
It can be easy to confuse a cover letter with a letter of intent. In her experience working with job seekers, Kea differentiates them this way: “Intent letters tend to be a bit more company focused—you’re talking a little more about the employer than the specific job.” They’re also more general in terms of how you talk about your skill set.
“On the flip side of that, the cover letter can be more job-focused, a little more position-oriented, because there’s a specific job that’s posted that you want to speak to,” she adds.
As a result, each type of letter requires a different approach.
For example, says Kea, with a cover letter you might say, “I’m highly interested in a product manager role at [Company] for the following reasons,” while with a letter of intent you’re more likely to say something along the lines of, “I’m highly interested in a managerial role at [Company] for the following reasons.”
Going broader “gives you more wiggle room into what the employer may align you with in terms of roles,” says Kea. Rather than pigeonhole yourself into one path, you allow the hiring manager to slot you into the best-fit scenario.
Letters of intent can also present themselves in situations outside the application process—for example, if you want to follow up after a job fair or a networking event. “Again, there may not be a specific role listed that you’re interested in or that you can apply for at that time,” Kea says, but emailing a letter of intent is a great way to express interest in working for their organization one day.
Why Do Companies Ask for Letters of Intent?
Companies ask for letters of intent mainly when they’re as torn about what they’re looking for as you might be.
“In some cases, employers might have several jobs posted at once for one department or for one specific project,” says Kea. They may ask for a letter of intent because they’re not entirely sure what kind of person they need to fill the gaps in those departments. Maybe they’ll end up hiring two senior-level managers, or they may be just as satisfied with one mid-level exec and one entry-level employee—depending on which people wow them in the application process.
Letters of intent are also frequently used to hire for contractors or freelancers who aren’t your standard W2 employees, because if, for example, a contract falls through, companies can easily line up the next qualified candidate for the job.
Put simply, a hiring manager most likely wants to widen their candidate pool, so they’re looking for anyone and everyone who shows an eagerness and passion for the company.
The type of letter can also vary across sectors. “In my experience, the more established organizations [and] private companies typically go with a cover letter,” says Kea, while letters of intent might present themselves at startups or nonprofits that are more mission-focused and growing at a greater rate.
“So from a candidate perspective, if you’re asked to submit a letter of intent, that may mean that the company is newer, that they’re trying to source talent in a different way, whereas the cover letter [is] more of a classic go-to,” she explains.
How Do You Go About Writing a Letter of Intent?
First off, you want to express plenty of interest in the company itself. “A lot of people get really wrapped up [in saying] ‘I’m the perfect person for this job, I want this job, I’m great for this job, hire me for this job,’” says Kea. “And there’s nothing wrong with that…but one of the things that makes an intent letter so successful is really showing that you identify with the company’s mission, their values, their goals.”
Letters of intent can also be more current. For example, rather than talk broadly about the company, you may mention something about them in the news or a recent update to their product. You want to include “anything that would grab the attention of the employer and also show that you’re keeping up with what’s happening with that organization or in your industry,” she says. (Of course, you could also reference something current in a cover letter, too, if that’s how you want to grab the reader’s attention to start off.)
And, as with a great opening line to a cover letter, “it helps to capture their interest and encourage them to keep reading; that’s of course the goal,” she adds.
If you’re struggling to come up with something specific about the company to discuss, then talk about something that’s engaging about yourself, says Kea. What makes you stand out? What unique skills, experiences, or passions do you bring to the table? And how do these align with what the company needs, given what you know about them?
Overall, you want to make it general enough that you’re showing interest in the company as a whole, “but also specific enough so that the employer walks away with at least one key takeaway from you and your skill set and what you can bring to this organization,” she says.
Let’s go back to the product manager versus managerial role explanation above. If you were to write a cover letter, says Kea, you’d probably try to speak to a particular product manager position. So you would focus your letter on why you’d be good at that job—the experiences you have working on a product’s lifecycle, managing vendor relationships, and collaborating across teams, to name a few examples. You’d also want to make sure you’re addressing specific points in the job description.
But if you were writing a letter of intent, you’d instead want to focus on how you’d be great for a managerial role—whether it’s as a product manager or something else entirely. In this case, rather than mention your product manager experience, you might talk about how you led a team, managed expectations, or coordinated logistics for meetings. You’re referencing specific skills, sure—and your resume is highlighting both sets of skills—but you’re tailoring your letter to what the hiring manager may be looking for.
A Sample Letter of Intent
Let’s say you’re an experienced designer and product manager looking to join a startup in some capacity. You do some digging to figure out who to address your letter to (please, please don’t use “To Whom It May Concern”), and discover that the head of the product department is named Caroline Coffman.
You might send her the following:
Dear Caroline Coffman,
When I was 10, my brother fainted while waiting to ride a rollercoaster at Six Flags. It was an incredibly hot day, and we’d been in line for an hour.
I don’t remember anything else about that day—what other rides we took, what we ate, even who exactly we were with—but I distinctly remember the feeling of wanting to know why. Why did this happen? Why did we have to wait in such long lines? Why hasn’t anyone come up with a solution to the problem of overcrowded amusement parks?
It’s for this reason that I’m thrilled to apply to work on the product and design team at Rydes. Not only does your mission of revolutionizing and adding efficiency to theme parks spark my curiosity and eagerness to fix things, it also reminds me of the bigger picture: that you should leave an amusement park, or any family outing for that matter, with fonder memories than your sibling passing out. Your latest product update featured in Forbes around waiting times on lines especially spoke to me and further encouraged me to write this letter.
A little bit about me: I majored in design and applied arts because I wanted to be self-sufficient in how I solved problems, and because I enjoyed working with my hands as well as my mind. I took on a role as associate UX designer at a small startup because I was fascinated with making websites that were seamless and free of obstacles, then shifted to a product manager position at a larger company because I realized how much I liked collaborating across departments and working with various experts to brainstorm ideas and solutions. To me, the most rewarding part of my day is helping my team members be productive, feel motivated, and achieve their goals. With this experience and skill set, I’m ready to leap back into the startup world and work for a company whose ambitions align with my own.
I want to thank you for considering me to join this fantastic team of innovators and creatives, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Now that you know the difference between a cover letter and a letter of intent, go tell your friends this new fun fact! And maybe consider this new form of applying the next time you set your eyes on your dream company.