Tip of the Week on CareerUSA.org
Tip of the Week on CareerUSA.org
3/18/18 - 11 common words and phrases to avoid using in a job interview

by Ruth Umoh

Employers use interviews to gauge whether you're the right person for a job. But you could tank your chances with a hiring manager by using certain words and phrases, says Barry Drexler, an expert interview coach who has conducted more than 10,000 interviews.

With over 30 years of HR experience at notable companies like Lehman Brothers and Lloyds Bank, Drexler says these are the 11 words and phrases that should be eliminated from your interview vocabulary:

'You guys'
Drexler hears this phrase most often used by recent college graduates. Typically, they've never interviewed for or worked in a corporate environment.

"They talk like they're talking to one of their buddies," he tells CNBC Make It. "They're just so used to talking that way."

However, saying "you guys" is much too informal and sounds like slang, says Drexler. "It drives me nuts."

Instead, he suggests referring to the company by its actual name or saying "your firm" or even just "your company."

"I wanted to get ill after I heard this [word] so many times," says Drexler. "It's too cliche."

He adds to this list other descriptors like "hard-worker" and "people-pleaser."

Not only do these words hold little weight, says Drexler, but they also won't help you stand out because everyone else is using these words to describe themselves.

"Cliches are awful," says the interview expert. "I'd avoid those."

Don't use the word "comfortable" when answering questions about why you want a specific role, type of job or position.

"The word 'comfortable' is the kiss of death when it comes to careers," says Drexler.

Your potential employer doesn't want a comfortable employee, he says, because it insinuates that you aren't a hard worker and that you'll take whatever comes easy.

Drexler suggests saying that you want a challenging role or a stimulating role. "You want something that's rewarding, not comfortable," he adds.

'Work-life balance'
Companies really don't care about your work-life balance, says the interview coach. It's that simple.

"Companies talk the talk about having a great work-life balance," admits Drexler. "At the end of the day, they want work out of you. It's just talk."

Although it may sound cynical, all your employer truly wants to hear is that you're ready to work and that you'll work around the clock if need be, he says.

"If you say you're looking for work-life balance, that translates to, 'I want to socialize and I'm only going to stay from nine to five, and at five o'clock I'm out the door.'"

No hiring manager wants to employ a "nine-to-fiver" or a candidate who is already thinking about their personal life before joining the company, says Drexler.

"I'm not suggesting that [work-life balance] is not important or that a company should work you to death," he adds, "but don't bring it up in an interview."

'Like' and 'enjoy'
Like is a weak word that doesn't really say much. For example, if an interviewer asks, "Why do you want to work here?," you should never respond with a phrase that incorporates the word like, such as "I like doing analytical work," he says.

"It doesn't mean anything," Drexler explains. "I like golf but I suck. I like analytical work but I'm awful."

Enjoy is another word that should be avoided at all costs, says Drexler, because you're wasting an opportunity to use a more powerful word. Instead, use words like "excel" or phrases such as "I do this well" to convey your strengths.

'Can't' and 'don't'

Can't and don't are negative words and negativity has no place in an interview, says Drexler.

Refrain from using phrases such as "I don't like doing this, I can't do this," or "I don't want to do this," he explains. You want to show an interviewer that you are open to taking on any role or task and that no job is too small for you.

Even if you legitimately don't have a skill that the job requires, he recommends letting the interviewer know that you're willing to learn. This gives your interview answer a much more positive spin.

"You don't want to ever be negative," says Drexler.

Drexler explains that interviewees often feel the need to bring up the fact that they were fired just to have it out in the open. However, this dampens the whole interview and isn't necessary.

Plus, there's no way for an interviewer to find out that you've been terminated.

"Get it out of your head. Get over it," says the interview coach. Instead, tell the interviewer that you feel like it's the right time to pursue other opportunities or that it's the right time to find something new.

Also, speak positively about your former place of employment, even if you were fired. Drexler advises saying that you a great career with your previous employer and that you learned a lot, not that you hated the company and the direction it was heading.

"No one is going to hire someone that's going to bash their [former] company because then you're going to bash our company too," says the interview expert.

'You should' and 'you shouldn't'
Avoid giving unsolicited advice. "Never say 'you should' or 'your company should,'" says the interview coach. "You don't work there yet. You're just a candidate."

Conversely, refrain from sharing your thoughts on what they shouldn't be doing. Don't tell an employer that they should stop doing something or that the company is doing something the wrong way unless you're explicitly asked, he adds.

"Candidates do that, I swear," says Drexler. "They're telling the interviewer how to run their own company."

The best way to address a glaring problem, he says, is to start with "In my experience, this is what works."

The interview coach adds that it's perfectly reasonable to not agree with everything a potential employer is doing, but you must bring up your concerns in a diplomatic way.

"It's not what you say, it's how," says Drexler.

3/11/18 - The Right Cold Email Can Land You a New Job Faster Than Any Cover Letter

by Heather R Morgan

Cold email is much more than just a tool for salespeople.You can use it to meet people you admire, raise money for a charity, or even turn a message into a ticket for an exclusive party.

You can also get a new job and even change your career path. While you shouldn’t expect a response that immediately includes an interview slot, a well-written cold email sent to the right person can give you a huge advantage over those still sending resumes through job boards. Why? Because, having done your research and selected the most relevant contact, you’re not one faceless application among hundreds of others going to human resources.

Of course, your email has to be good enough to stand out in a crowded inbox. In fact, many of the rules that apply to sales emails are just as relevant when it comes to looking for work. With that in mind, here are three things to remember and do when using cold email to find a new job or career.

1. Find the right person to contact.

A thoughtful message that paints you in your best light is useless if it goes to the wrong person. For example, emailing the Operations Manager will not help if you're after a job in marketing. It sounds obvious, but there are tons of people out there who will blast an email to multiple contacts at one company, thinking the more emails they send, the greater their chances of success. Instead, pick the most relevant person at the company and concentrate on writing an email they'll find enticing.

To do that, conduct thorough research. Gather essential details (title, size of company, job description) on LinkedIn or the company's website. Check to see if past colleagues or classmates have ever done work with this company; they might be able to introduce you. Look for recent news, awards, or published works from your contact. Referencing such things is often an effective way to open the email.

Thorough research has another advantage, too: it teaches you more about the company's business. When it comes time for the interview and someone asks you to articulate what you think the company does, you won't have to think hard to find an answer. Same goes for those making a full-on career shift—you'll learn way more about your new industry researching companies and contacts than you will reading about them on some job board.

2. Keep it short, simple, and small.

Cold emails are not cover letters. You may be asked to eventually submit a cover-letter-like document, but for this initial introduction, follow the general rule of cold email and keep it short: three to five sentences, max. Unlike a human resources department, your contact will not necessarily be expecting an email about potential employment. So if your message is a wall of text outlining your many skills or how you grew that one website's traffic to over 2 million visitors per month, the recipient's eyes will glaze over, so to speak.

The easiest way to make sure that doesn't happen is to keep your ask small. Don't just say, "I'm interested in any job openings you have in marketing. When can we discuss this?" Don't even say you'd like to meet up to talk about potential employment. Instead, ask to meet up for coffee so you can learn more about the company and what it does.

Similarly, if you see a problem you're able to fix, explain how you can help. A friend of mine got his current job when one of his favorite news sites went down. He sent a cold email to the Information Technology Manager to say he knew how to retrieve the site and get it back up; the company offered him a job about a week later.

For those changing careers, the ask is simple: just say you're considering a change to that person's industry and would love to hear their take on it.

3. Don't hesitate to send a follow-up if you don't hear back.

There's nothing wrong with sending a follow-up email if your contact has not yet responded. While I don't recommend a full eight-touch campaign, some gentle persistence can work in your favor. Maybe the contact was on a deadline when you sent the first email, and meant to respond but never did. Perhaps they're testing you by not responding, to see if you have the ambition and commitment to keep asking. Along the same lines, someone may be waiting for a follow-up to make sure your first message wasn't just a mass mailing to as many companies as you could find.

Don't spend too much energy wondering why the person has yet to respond, though. If, after a follow-up or two, there's still no response, move on. Part of persistence in finding a new job is knowing when to shift your focus to another potential employer—one who may have an even more promising opportunity waiting for someone like you.


What email tricks do you have when it comes to searching for and finding new employment? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

For more advice on cold email, sales and marketing, check out the Salesfolk Blog. You can also follow me on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn to ask me questions.

Heather R. Morgan is an economist and the founder of Salesfolk, which has helped over 500 companies revitalize their sales prospecting strategies. Having written 10,000-plus cold emails in the past decade, Morgan has developed a new process for crafting mass email templates that still feel personal, combining copywriting best practices and game theory. Her cold emails see at least three times more responses than the industry average. The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

3/4/18 - The Best (And Worst) Ways to Find a Job

by Heather Huhman

The job market is, and always will be, highly competitive. You can bet that any job you apply for will have a handful (or five) of equally qualified — and equally determined — job seekers vying for the same opportunity. And, to stand out from the crowd, some job seekers will do just about anything to find and land a job — even if it borders on unconventional (and unprofessional).

But there’s a fine line between appearing determined and appearing desperate.

Here are three extreme job search strategies job seekers have taken, why you should avoid using those tactics, and what to do instead:

Tactic #1: The “Will Work for Food” Sign
After being unemployed for more than four months, a St. Louis man decided to take his job search to the streets. Dressed in professional attire and accompanied by a sign that read, “Unemployed. My family’s dreams don’t work unless I do! Please take a resume,” he handed out copies of his resume to passersby on a busy sidewalk.

Advertising your job skills on a busy, city street does take guts, but it doesn’t give you an opportunity to tailor your resume to different jobs and organizations. And, according to a survey by The Creative Group, almost 40 percent of executives say the most common mistake job candidates make on a resume is including information that’s not job-specific.

What to Do Instead: The nature of the Internet makes hitting the streets with your resume in hand unnecessary. There are plenty of other ways to get your resume seen by the masses, while still enabling you to tailor it accordingly.

Social professional networks and resume hosting sites allow you to post a general resume that can be easily searched and viewed by a wide variety of hiring professionals. If you want to take it up a notch, consider creating a personal branding site for professional purposes and feature your resume, a portfolio, references, and more.

Tactic #2: The Resume T-shirt
You might have seen this extreme job search tactic firsthand — the resume tee. As you’ve probably gathered, this tactic involves printing your resume, job skills, and basic need for a job on a T-shirt and wearing it around town. While this literally advertises your skills and desire for a job, it can come across as slightly desperate — not to mention lazy.

Look at it this way. If equally qualified and determined job seekers are out there doing everything in their power to find the right job fit for them and you’re simply wearing a T-shirt and hoping to be found, what does that say to hiring professionals? What’s more, what are the chances that your “resume” is getting seen by the right people?

What to Do Instead: There’s nothing wrong with taking a creative approach to your resume. In fact, creative approaches, such as video resumes, can help you stand out among a sea of job seekers all using the same, lackluster templates. However, it should still come across as professional and relevant to the industry or company you’re looking to join.

Tactic #3: The Brutally Honest Cover Letter
Considering 51 percent of employers said that they would automatically dismiss a candidate if they caught a lie on their resume, according to a survey by CareerBuilder, honesty is the best policy. There is, however, such a thing as being too honest — especially when it comes to the job search.

When drafting a cover letter, for instance, some things are better left unsaid, such as the exact reason you want the job (i.e. when that reason has to do with a paycheck, above all). Instead of being brutally honest about why you want the job, your lack of experience, where you see yourself in the next five years, why you left your last position or the reason for the large employment gap on your resume, frame your answer in a positive light.

What to Do Instead: Your goal, as a job seeker, is to find the right job fit. And you can’t do that without being honest with yourself and your potential employer. While you want to be honest, you don’t want to teeter on the brink of offering too much information (#TMI). Be honest without being brutal.

As Jerry Seinfeld once said, “Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” And, when it comes to the job search, that may just be true.

2/25/18 - Why Your Next Interview Could Take Place Via Text Message

by Makeda Waterman

The next time you apply for a job posting on Glassdoor, don’t be surprised if you receive a text message from a recruiter. Sound far-fetched? Think again. A Gallup News article recently shared that “sending and receiving text messages is the most prevalent form of communication for Americans younger than 50,” so it’s no surprise that companies like Aegis Worldwide and OpenTable have already leveraged the technology for initial interviews.

Enter: Canvas. Launched June 2017, Canvas is world’s first text-based interviewing platform. Used by recruiters, it allows HR pros to engage more candidates per day, inform possible phone interviews and engage with young talent in the way they communicate most.

“In recruiting, speed is of the essence. Recruiters and hiring managers are moving faster than ever while making smarter, more informed decisions,” said Aman Brar, CEO of Canvas. “With our latest round of platform updates and continued automation, Canvas is creating an incomparable space for recruiters to have valuable conversations with high-quality candidates while reducing the time to fill open job positions.”

The days of hiring managers sending candidates to landing pages to schedule interviews will be a thing of the past. Instead, they send messages where they know candidates will see them: their phones. But there’s a right and wrong way of responding to a text message to win the interest of a recruiter or hiring manager. Before you decide to press the send button, read these tips.

Respond, But Do So Selectively

Most people haven’t encountered a text message interview before, so they may not respond to a text right away because it is either unfamiliar or they would prefer a human connection with a live recruiter on the phone. But if you choose not to engage, you may be self-selecting out of the interview process already — so don’t just ignore it.

However, it is worth screening these messages before responding. Some job hunters have fallen victim to text message scams, in which illegitimate companies request personal information. If you ever receive a message from a person asking for your name, address, date of birth, Social Security Number or other personally identifiable information, do not respond. You can save the message and report it to your local authorities.

Keep It Professional

Text message interviews are one way to find out if an applicant has excellent writing skills and is professional, so treat your replies just as you would any other workplace communication. Avoid abbreviations like “Gr8! C U Soon” or “Thx for the invite!” as well as slang or other informal language. And don’t send any emojis — although you may just be trying to show personality, it can appear unprofessional to some recruiters and hiring managers.

A few other tips to consider when texting interview responses:

 If you ever receive a text about a job you applied for, hopefully this article will help you. If you want to receive an invite for an in-person interview, treat it as you would a live phone conversation, be as professional as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Good luck!

2/18/18 - The 7-Day Plan for Getting a New Job

by Heather Huhman

The job search can be draining, especially when none of your leads come to fruition. So draining, in fact, that you may feel like you lack the fuel to continue your search. But, instead of halting your job search entirely, consider taking smaller steps toward achieving your end-goal of landing a great job.

After all, small steps can lead to big changes. As Robert Collier once said, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

To help you regain your confidence and inch yourself closer toward landing your dream job, here are small wins that you can achieve every day this week to boost your hireability:

Monday: Do your homework.

Just as you expect hiring managers to study your resume before the interview takes place, hiring managers expect you to do your homework on the company and the job at hand.

Know what role the position plays in contributing to the company’s mission and vision (which you should also know). Find out what makes their brand different from the competition. Research the organization’s latest wins so that you can reference them during the interview.

In short, know your stuff.

Start your week off by researching the companies on your wishlist. Knowing where a company has been, where it’s going, and how you can help will not only impress hiring managers, but also give you a better idea if the job and organization are a good fit.

Tuesday: Revamp your resume.

Some things on your resume will stay the same no matter what job you’re applying for, like your education, past work experience, and contact information, for instance. But, with 61 percent of employers wanting a resume that is customized for their open position, according to recent research by CareerBuilder, it’s crucial that you tailor your resume to fit the job you’re applying for.

That can be as simple as highlighting certain skills or accomplishments that are in line with the company’s job description. So, make the most of your Tuesday by customizing your resume to fit each job you’re planning to apply for.

Wednesday: Reconnect with old connections.

There’s no telling which employers will ask for professional references, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and reconnect with anyone who can vouch for various skills and capabilities. Before beginning your job search, reach out to past co-workers, managers, professors — anyone you feel will have something valuable (and positive) to say about you to potential employers.

Set aside some time to reconnect with these people via email or a professional social network, like LinkedIn. Let them know that you’re planning to begin your search and ask if it’d be OK to list them as a reference — they’ll appreciate the heads up.

Thursday: Research networking opportunities.

Don’t rely solely on job boards and social media to discover the latest jobs within your industry, as some jobs don’t ever make it online. Sometimes the best way to discover new job opportunities — especially those that aren’t advertised — is through networking events.

Take some time out of your Thursday to research upcoming industry events and networking opportunities for the week or month and mark them on your calendar. These can easily be found on local industry-related websites, professional associations or organizations’ web pages, or social media.

This takes all of fifteen minutes and can help you form new professional relationships, learn about upcoming job opportunities, as well as give you a great opportunity to practice speaking about your background and skills.

Friday: Clean up your online presence.

Before pressing “pause” on your job search for the weekend, spend some time cleaning up your social media profiles. Considering nearly half (48 percent) of hiring managers who screen candidates via social networks said they’ve found information that caused them not to hire a candidate, according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, you can’t afford to let your social media profiles get messy.

So, what social media content turned employers off the most according to the survey?

Saturday: Go shopping.

A Saturday spent shopping sounds a lot more appealing than a Saturday spent job searching. But this shopping trip is designed to help boost your hireability by preparing you for networking events and job interviews (let’s hope for a lot of the latter).

To help you look the part, stock your closet with outfits that are appropriate for the line of work you’re interested in. Keep in mind that interview outfits should always be slightly nicer than your everyday office wear. When it comes to the job interview, professional garb will work in your favor.

Sunday: Set your goals for the week.

Start your week off on the right foot by setting aside some time on Sunday evening to set your job search goals for the week. Stick to the “small steps” method outlined in this post and strive to get something small done each day to bring you closer to landing the job of your dreams.

Creating a list of job search “to-dos” will encourage you to stick to those goals, as well as help mentally prepare you for the week ahead.

2/11/18 - From Spreadsheets to Sticky Notes: 7 Strategies for Managing Your Job Search

by Sarah Greesonbach

When you’re actively looking for a new job, you can’t afford to wing it on the organizational front. Whether you apply for five jobs or 100, you’ll soon find yourself buried in an extraordinary number of resumes, cover letters, job descriptions and interview invitations. If you don’t keep them carefully organized, you may not identify the right opportunity — or worse, you’ll flounder when the right opportunity comes along.

If you want to stay on top of all of the applications, LinkedIn requests and other digital paraphernalia that go along with your job search, it’s time to break up with your bad organization habits. Here are seven techniques that will help you overcome the most common job hunt organization issues so that you know the where, what, who and how for your next interview:

1. If you aren’t good at organizing… figure out why

Organizational skills aren’t one-size-fits-all. There are just as many ways to be disorganized as there are to be organized. Instead of haphazardly applying “organization tactics” to your job search, try to identify specific ways that you tend to be disorganized and troubleshoot those issues directly.

For example, do you tend to lose hard copies? Digital apps will be where it’s at for you. But if you forget anything that isn’t written on pen and paper, a paper calendar or sticky note wall will be a better solution. And if you aren’t sure how you like to stay organized, try something new. If you’re usually an Apple Calendar kind of person, start using a paper planner, or vice versa.

2. If you have a hard time following up… use a spreadsheet

When your job search is in full swing, it’s way too easy to send an email and forget it. Not only can this cost you when you aren’t following up at appropriate intervals, but it can also make you feel like you’re constantly treading water without getting anywhere. Your job hunt becomes an overwhelming, never-ending headache instead of a systematic, purposeful journey.

Combat this by starting a detailed spreadsheet that tracks all the pertinent details of your job search, such as the company, job listing and contact details. As you move through the job hunt process (and the interview process), highlight the steps you’ve “completed” so you can show yourself just how much work you’ve done along the way.

3. If you need reminders… go high tech

There’s nothing wrong with manual spreadsheets that lists all of the job search details you need to know if it’s working for you. But if it’s not working for you — if you frequently forget to update the spreadsheet and you’re never quite sure about what your next step should be — you need to take your job search into the 21st century with a free online project management tool like Trello or Wrike.

Using a project management tool as a job seeker allows you to organize all of the job search details and automate when and to whom you should send a follow-up note. You can also adjust your settings to automatically receive reminders when it’s time to update the individual jobs or check in on the progress of the hiring manager.

4. If you’re a visual person… try sticky notes

The sticky note wall is a tried-and-true organizational method that works for writing a book, setting goals and yes, getting a new job. First, pick a large wall you can divide into 3-4 columns. At the top of each column, mark out a different stage of the job process or your job search to-do list (e.g. “Draft Resume,” “Apply,” “Interview”). Then, write each job on a sticky note and set it in its appropriate column. As you work through your job hunt and make progress, move the sticky note to the next step.

Not only can it be very motivating to see your progress in such a visual way, but it is easy to get a quick snapshot of where you are in the process by simply glancing at your sticky note wall. Pro tip: You can also use the “Sticky Notes App” on your phone or computer if a digital version of the sticky notes would save you the wall space.

 5. If you forget the details… keep thorough notes

If you’re speaking to one or two prospective employers each week, it can be tough to remember who’s who and what you talked about. If you don’t take careful notes, you may unwittingly repeat yourself or send a thank-you note to the wrong person and reference the wrong conversation. Talk about awkward!

If that sounds like something that could happen to you, use a free tool like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote to keep track of the meetings you have. For extra memory help, pull the LinkedIn photo of the person you’re speaking with into the note sheet and capture notes like the person’s company, job title and location. Not only can you look at a picture of a real person when you’re in the midst of a phone screen interview, but you can also easily go back and remember who you spoke with when you’re considering job offers or writing thank-you notes.

6. If you’re losing motivation… make a list of reasons you’re searching

If you find yourself putting off your job search or simply not looking forward to any part of the process, you’re letting the discomfort of a job hunt distract you from the reason you’re looking for a new job. Get back in the right headspace by bringing the focus back to what motivates you.

Make a list of the reasons you’re looking for a new job — toxic workplace, skipped over for a promotion, low salary, etc. — and keep it in a prominent place. Not only will this motivate you to stick to your plan and find a new job, but it will also prepare you for the interviews ahead by keeping your deeper purpose of your job search front and center.

7. If you’re feeling burned out… schedule some downtime

Little tasks can pile up, especially if you’re managing a full-time job during your job search. Instead of spending a whole day on your job hunt once a month and getting frustrated with your lack of progress, set short but regular periods of time to check in and make consistent progress. A half hour two or three times a week will ensure that you’re responding to hiring managers at appropriate intervals and staying on top of new opportunities as they come out.

 A job search is a job of its own: you’re practicing time management, patience and even customer service as you balance your search with your current job. But you don’t have to let the complexity of all the resumes, cover letters, applications and interviews throw you off. Just find an organizational method that works for you so that the energy you put into the job search pays off with a new job — not a new headache!

2/4/18 - What Every Employee Needs to Know About the Future of Background Screening

by Michael Klazema

Whether you are interviewing for full-time jobs or workers from the gig economy, there is a good chance background checks are going to figure into your professional future. Background screening—both as a pre-employment due diligence measure and a post-employment monitoring technique—is evolving fast.

Being cognizant of the trends and changes in background screening will help you prepare for your next job interview and understand what your current employees are thinking. Here are four background check trends that every employee and prospective employee needs to know.

1. Background checks for on-demand workers are becoming more common

For a long time, businesses used nontraditional methods to screen and vet nontraditional workers. Detailed background checks were essential for full-time workers, a little less common for part-timers, and virtually unheard of for contract employees. As the gig economy grows, this habit is dying out. Businesses are increasingly coming to terms with the importance of having freelancers on their teams. They are also starting to recognize that freelancers are still representatives and ambassadors for their brand—even if they are a little more removed from the business than full-time workers.

According to Intuit, gig workers are expected to make up 43 percent of the workforce by 2020. As the freelancing trend continues to spike, more and more employers are running full-fledged background checks on contract workers.

Bottom line, if you are part of the gig economy, you should expect to submit to background screenings to land freelance jobs. These screenings could include anything from criminal history checks to educational verifications. They will likely get more detailed as the gig economy continues to grow.

2. Questions about criminal history on job applications are going to disappear

Depending on where you live, you may have already noticed this trend: more and more employers are removing questions about criminal history from job applications. Some companies are doing it voluntarily, but most have been spurred by a legislative movement called “ban the box.” Ban the box policies are intended to reduce employment discrimination against ex-criminal offenders. By removing the criminal history question from job applications and delaying the background check until after a conditional offer has been made, these policies seek to help ex-offenders get a fair chance at employment.

According to the National Employment Law Project, 29 states and more than 150 cities and counties have adopted ban the box policies. Some of these laws and ordinances only apply to public (i.e., government) jobs. Others, like a policy on the books in Los Angeles, apply to public and private employers alike.

You can click here to find out whether your city, state, or county has a ban the box policy. Even if it doesn’t, it will only be a matter of time before ban the box is the rule rather than the exception.

 3. Continuous background checks and ongoing criminal monitoring will become the norm

Virtually all employers have adopted pre-employment background check policies. Companies are split when it comes to screening current personnel. Some require existing employees to update their background checks every five years or so. Others use continuous screening to get real-time alerts when a current employee is convicted of a crime.

Over the next few years, it’s likely that employers are going to come to a consensus on how to screen existing employees. What that consensus will be remains to be seen: it could be an every-five-years policy, an annual background check policy, a semi-annual policy, or a continuous real-time monitoring policy. In any case, job seekers and employees should know that what they do after they get hired is going to matter just as much as what they do before they get hired.

 4. Employers are going to continue using social media for pre-employment screening

“Social media background checks” are sketchy from an administrative standpoint. Employers like to look at Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to learn more about what their candidates are like in real life. However, findings on these fronts are often misleading, out of context, and based on assumptions. Worse, social accounts can reveal personal, potentially bias-creating information—such as sexual orientation, gender identification, race, religion, nationality, and political affiliation—that employers cannot use in employment decisions.

CareerBuilder statistics show that social media background checks are 500% more common than they were a decade ago. As there is still no law or EEOC/FCRA guideline that prohibits or restricts social media screenings, they are likely to remain common for the foreseeable future.

Some employers are changing how they use social media screenings. Some use third-party businesses to do the social media search, requesting reports that exclude information that might create unintentional bias or discrimination. In other cases, a hiring manager might ask an employee or HR rep not involved with the hiring decision to do the social media check.

Employees and job searchers should be aware that companies are looking at what they do online. Ramping up your privacy settings and thinking more critically about the things you post will help you avoid trouble. You may also want to go back through older posts and photographs and delete anything potential employers or current bosses might find objectionable.

Preparing for Your Background Check
As you get ready to start your job search, know that employers aren’t changing their practices because of you. While three of the four trends listed above emphasize employers’ desire to learn more about their workers and candidates, those policy shifts aren’t personal. Instead, businesses are ramping up their employee screening strategies to safeguard their brands, their reputations, their existing employees, and their customer base.

As a job seeker or employee, the best strategy is to be honest, forthright, and amenable to all employer requests. Many employers are willing to overlook past mistakes, but almost none will overlook dishonesty.


Michael Klazema has been developing products for criminal background check and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.

1/28/18 - The 3 Kinds of LinkedIn Messages That Are Unlikely to Get a Response




As a career coach, my inbox is often flooded with messages from people I’m connected with on LinkedIn who are reaching out about something or another. Now, I don’t mean to be judgmental, but I often find myself sighing with annoyance when I open them up—so much so that I was motivated to write this article.

You see, the thing is, I’m open to making new connections and willing to talk to anyone, so the fact that I often put off responding to messages means people are missing the mark. And that stinks because it takes effort to both find people to connect with in the first place and then cultivate a networking relationship from there.

I want to be excited when I read your message and I know you want that, too (or at least I hope you do!). Often times, it only takes a few tweaks to your words or tone to make that possible.

Below are messages inspired by real ones I’ve received along with my thoughts on why they’re not the best approach.

Quick note though: Unless you have LinkedIn Premium, you’ll need to connect before you send a message. But that doesn’t mean you can just send the generic invite. Instead, send a customized one with with these short templates so they’ll accept your request and you’ll be able to actually send over a note.


1. The Empty Query

Initial Reaction

It’s nice that you want to find a way to help one another out, but this message doesn’t give me anything to work with. Perhaps there’s something in my my background that led you to reach out in this manner?


Why This Is Better
Anyone can spot a generic, non-customized message from three Wi-Fi zones away, and if you care about standing out, you’ll be careful not to be labeled as generic, right? The updated version attempts to start building a rapport. By including a customized, targeted line, I can tell George has looked into my background and is excited about finding a way to potentially work together. And that makes me much more inclined to respond to this.


2. The Vague Ask

Initial Reaction
How’s everything? Hm, that’s a rather large question for someone I don’t know in real life. In fact, I’m not sure I’d even know where to begin in responding to this person.

 The Revised Message

Why This Is Better
Being clear up front is just good business. It sets clear intentions and demonstrates professionalism. Many people have experienced accepting a meeting only to find it turn into a sales pitch. If you’re clear about the reason why you’re reaching out, you’re going to build a higher level of trust out the gate and find people who are attracted to your proposal. This is what building a network is all about.


3. The Forceful Demand

Initial Reaction
Hi Matt. My current profile has been updated to indicate that I’m no longer a recruiter (not to mention I definitely don’t specialize in the Florida market as I’m in Los Angeles). If you’re going to spend the time, energy, and effort in sending messages and attempting to foster relationships, it’s far more more effective if you target the correct audience.

 The Revised Message

Why This Is Better
If you’re actively seeking a new position and are wanting to connect, it makes a huge difference if you can share in a couple of sentences what you’re looking for and a glimpse of what you bring to the table. Even though I’m no longer entrenched in the recruiting world, I’m still well-connected.

If Matt had demonstrated clear professionalism in a straightforward introduction, and made note of target roles he’s seeking, I’d for sure be inclined to point him to resources or ask him for his resume to pass along.


The thing to remember is that if you’re asking one of your LinkedIn contacts for something, you need to make it as easy as possible for that person to follow up.

It may be difficult to see it, but every piece of correspondance counts—from the way you first connect to how you stay connected. Don’t randomly reach out to 20 of your LI connections for the sake of hoping something falls into place in your job search. By building off of the revised templates above, you’ll be able to initiate conversations that result in meaningful networking relationships.


Emily Liou is the founder of CultiVitae, where she teaches, coaches, and advises thousands of ambitious corporate professionals seeking career transitions. As a former recruiter and human resources professional, Emily has the inside scoop on what companies are looking for. Her passion is in the area of personal and professional development, and she believes everyone has the ability to cultivate their lives. When not reading books and blogging, Emily is often found exploring $ or $$ restaurants in Los Angeles, or rock climbing.

1/21/18 - Should I Use a Salary Calculator to Negotiate a Job Offer?

Ask a Real Recruiter: Should I Use a Salary Calculator to Negotiate a Job Offer?

Dear Recruiter,

I think I blew my last interview by asking for too much from a nonprofit using a salary figure that I found through Google. My question is, when asked about salary requirements, is it okay to say a number and then mention that's the number you found on Salary.com or Payscale.com?
Still Figuring Out My Worth


Dear Still Figuring Out My Worth,

For many people, the dreaded salary question is the most nerve-wracking stage of the interview process.

Did you aim too high and shoot yourself in the foot? Or, did you aim too low, undervalue your worth, and leave money on the table?

You’re right to want to be prepared for the question, because if things are going well, you’re going to need to face it. So, let’s start with the question you asked:

Data aggregators, such as the two you mentioned, may be useful as one data point, but they shouldn’t be the only thing you consider. Even further, I wouldn’t recommend volunteering that your source is a salary calculator, as it could signal a lack of insight about your profession and the marketplace you’d be working in, as well as an inability to see the big picture.

Which brings me to understanding the big picture. And I’d actually like break this up into two parts because I think it often goes overlooked in most tactical advice on this topic:


The Big Picture Within Your Own Life

Market data is one approach. But, at the end of the day, it’s what matters for you that should govern what you negotiate—provided you’re being realistic. Consider things like your cost of living, as well as the totality of how this job does or doesn’t makes sense for your life.

For instance, if the pay’s slightly lower, but it provides the work-life balance or flexibility you desire, that’s worth considering. What are the benefits or perks like? How about things like the culture or growth opportunities? In addition to salary, you’re allowed to negotiate for these things, too. (It could be easier for a company to give you an extra week of vacation than 10K more than they budgeted for the role.)

Only you know what would make you feel fulfilled and happy in your role, so take the time to really think about it.


The Big Picture Within the Company, Industry, and City

The hard question: Are you being realistic?

Understand that most positions have a salary range and your experience will likely dictate where in that range you fall.

For instance, are you on the more junior or senior end for a role of this type? Do you have relevant experience or are you more of a transitional candidate?

Moreover, what is the industry you’re applying to, is the company currently profitable, and what do the standard salaries look like based on your answer to those two questions? A Series A start-up is likely to have a very different compensation plan than a publicly traded and more established tech company.

Now, those calculators you mentioned can be a part of how you evaluate what standard is. But, in addition to that, I recommend speaking to your network (and even asking in informational interviews) so you can get a real understanding of what’s normal.

Understanding the above should help you go into the conversation with more confidence. And combining that with reading up on articles like this list of negotiation tips and this piece about knowing your worth should make this part of the process way less painful.


This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Real Recruiter in the subject line.

Your letter may be published in an article on The Muse. All letters to Ask an Expert become the property of Daily Muse, Inc and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

1/14/18 - This is the best trick to remember someone’s name

By Monica Torres

Before a networking event filled with people whose names I need to remember, sometimes I will mouth out the names to myself right before I enter the room. It makes me feel silly and self-conscious, but it has always served me well.

And now, a new study published in Memory backs me up on why reading out loud is one of the best learning and memory tricks you can do to remember words.

Study: You’re more likely to remember words when you read them out loud

Researchers Noah Farrin and Colin MacLeod from the University of Waterloo in Ontario Canada recruited 75 students to take a memory test of vocabulary words. Two weeks before the test, the students recorded themselves saying the 160 words. Then on the day of the test, students prepared in four different ways: They read 20 of the vocabulary words silently to themselves, they heard someone else read 20 of the words in a recording, they heard themselves read the selected words out loud in a previous recording, or they just read the selected words out loud to themselves.

Then the researchers tested the students’ memory recognition by asking them to recall whether the words chosen for the test were words they had just studied or were words from two weeks prior.

Out of all the study methods, having the students read the words out loud to themselves was the most effective recognition tool, with students guessing the correct word order with 77% accuracy. Listening to the recording of themselves came in second place, while hearing someone else’s recording and reading silently came in last.

The most effective memory tool

The researchers suggested that reading aloud in the moment is the most effective memory tool because it’s giving your brain the most tools to remember information. The act of speaking aloud activates motor processing cues because your mouth is physically mouthing the words. Second, it also activates your auditory processing because you’re hearing the words, and in addition to hearing words, you’re hearing them in your own voice, which has been found to make information more memorable.

“This may well underlie why rehearsal is so valuable in learning and remembering: We do it ourselves, and we do it in our own voice,” the researchers concluded. “When it comes time to recover the information, we can use this distinctive component to help us to remember.”

Next time you need to remember some Very Important Contact’s name before an event, try speaking the name out loud.

Monica Torres is a reporter for Ladders. She is based in New York City and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.

1/7/18 - 7 Questions You Can't Leave an Informational Interview Without Asking

by Kat Boogaard

You’re considering a certain career path. So, in an effort to learn more about it, you gather your courage, heed that age-old career advice, and connect with somebody who already works in the sort of position that you’re interested in.

Yes, you put yourself out there. The hard part’s over right?

Not exactly. Making the most of that conversation involves more than just sitting down at that coffee shop corner table, staring nervously over your latte, and eventually spouting out an awkward, “So… tell me about what you do.”

In order to get the insights you’re so eager to get your hands on, you’ll need to ask targeted and smart questions. Like what? Here are seven you should absolutely have in your back pocket.


 1. “What Attracted You to This Career Path?”

Of course, it’s best to dip your toes in and start with the basics.

Kicking off your conversation with a question like this one will give you a greater understanding of what initially drew that person to this sort of position—which provides some necessary context as you move into the rest of your discussion.


 2. “What Previous Professional Experiences Have Helped You Most in This Role?”

In a similar vein, don’t be afraid to dig into that person’s professional history. It’s always helpful to understand how somebody arrived at this current point in his or her own career.

Perhaps a specific certification has really given that person a boost in this position—meaning it’s something that you’d also want to look into. Or, maybe he needs to rely on a skill set he didn’t anticipate.

That’s all handy information to have as you consider making a move yourself.


3. “What’s Something That Would Surprise People About Your Day-to-Day?
You might think that you know everything there is to know about that particular field. But, you’d be surprised—getting a peek behind-the-scenes is always incredibly enlightening.

Maybe everybody assumes she spends her days out in the field—but, her role actually requires a ton of desk work, for example.

Using a prompt like this one will empower you to find out more about those lesser-known parts of a specific position.


4. “What’s One Thing You Wish Somebody Would’ve Told You Before Going Into This Field?”
Sticking with that “surprise” angle, it’s worth digging more into that person’s head to find out what personally shocked him or her about that role.

Whether it’s the fact that he had no idea how much he’d need to rely on his math skills or he didn’t anticipate needing to collaborate with so many different departments, there’s bound to be some element of that job that was unexpected.


5. “What Are Some of the Biggest Rewards of Your Position?”
Of course, the goal of your conversation isn’t to just uncover any surprising or negative parts of that position. You want to find out what that person loves as well.

Perhaps the income can’t be beat or she loves that no two days are the same. Or, maybe the work is fulfilling and rewarding, and she knows that her work is contributing to the greater good.

Finding the right job for you involves finding one that lines up with your own values and priorities. So, it’s smart to touch on the most positive pieces of that role to see if they match up with your own ideals.

6. “How Would You Describe Somebody Who Would Excel in This Career?”
You’re eager to not only discover whether that type of position is what you’re looking for, but also if you’d be a reasonable fit for that sort of role.

The person that you’re meeting with will obviously have some valuable insights into what it takes to succeed in that job, and it’s worth asking how he or she would describe a qualified candidate.

If he or she touches on skills and competencies you already have? You’re well on your way. If not? At least you’ll know what you need to work on in order to present yourself as a seamless fit.


7. “What’s Most Important to Prepare for a Role Like Yours?”
Ideally, you’ll walk away from that conversation with a handle on your next steps. To get some actionable information that you can walk away with, end your conversation with a question like this one.

Is there a certain certification you need to get? A class you should take? Experience you have to have? Other people you should reach out to?

Find out what he or she recommends to help you adequately prepare for that job, and you’ll have leveraged that conversation to actually take steps forward.


When you’re considering a certain career path, informational interviews are an enlightening tool to lean on—provided you’re prepared to ask the right questions.

Make sure to use the seven included here, and you’ll maximize that coffee date—with as few awkward pauses as possible.


Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.