Are Skills the Best Thing to Focus on with Potential Candidates?

I am going to piggy back on last week’s posting by talking more about Lou Adler’s webinar on the Most Important Question to Ask During an Interview.  If you haven’t read the article on LinkedIn, you should.

In his webinar he elaborated on his article but also focused on the entire interview process, from creating a job description to hiring a new candidate.  He explained that most of the time, hiring managers and recruiters focus on the wrong things when looking at potential candidates, they first of all don’t fully understand what the functions of the job are and hence focus on what is it that the candidate has in terms of their strengths and skills rather than what can they do overall. 

Job descriptions are more often than not written in a manner that explains exactly the skills that are needed, rather than what the job entails.  This is why more often than not, not only do hiring managers disregard potentially great candidates but great candidates disregard the job because they see that 10 years of experience is needed and they might only have 5.  But perhaps that candidate has done more in those 5 years than someone else in 10.

Essentially, the primary focus should be the candidate’s performance profile, rather than how they fit into the job description with specific skills, academics, competencies, etc.  Now, this can’t always work as there are certain things you need to have done in your career to get certain jobs. You can’t just graduate and expect to be a manager.  So take this with a grain of salt and apply the concepts in the best way that they work for you. 

But keep in mind, ability and motivation to do the work are the keys to the hiring process!  Thank you to Lou Adler for a fantastic webinar and don’t forget to buy his book!

What did you do today?

P.S. Check out Lou’s website for recruiters!

P.P.S. Are you looking for a new show to watch?  Tune in to The Job on CBS on Friday’s at 9pm eastern time.

Job Search Tips from Recruiters

My apologies for missing a couple of weeks of blog posts.  You know how life gets sometimes.  During those times, you eventually come to a point where you have to stop, reset, and make time for the things you love, which for me is blogging.  So for the next three weeks it’s nothing but career and job advice! :)

I am pretty excited to share a wonderful article I stumbled upon, 50 Job Search Tips from Recruiters, that hit on so many points that I’ve written about, and others that are bonus job search tips that I simply had to share.  I’m going to take out a few key points that I wanted to copy out first and then you can read the rest of the article at your leisure.

1. “When preparing your resume for submission, create a section following your professional summary that is titled “Experience Highlights”. Craft four to five bullet points that summarize your expertise as it relates to the specific position. Many organizations now use technology to sort through keywords and you should tailor your resume each time to accurately reflect your fit with the role. Be sure to include what you personally did and the result.” –> What a great tip about adding in experience highlights.  I have a summary section but this is a great new twist on that section.

2. “If you really want to impress a recruiter, tailor your resume to fit the job description of the job you are applying to. Don’t rely on a cookie-cutter resume to pique the interest of the recruiter. Pick out some main themes in the job description and use similar words or phrases when writing your career objective and when describing your work history.” –>How many different ways can I say, “I could NOT agree more!”

3. “Use keywords from the job description in your resume. For example if the job description lists working in a Call Center Environment make sure you have “Call Center Environment” in your resume….but make sure you actually have that experience before you add it in your resume.”

4. “As a recruiter for a call center I see a lot of resumes with inappropriate handles for emails. Take the time to get a free email address with your name and use it only for resumes or networking needs.”

5. “Many people have found themselves out of work for six-months, one year, or more as a stay-at-home parent who are looking to re-enter the workforce. Many times, these people become candidates in our applicant tracking systems who have obvious and unexplained employment gaps on their resumes.  In Corporate America where we see hundreds of resumes a day, these candidates may not stand a chance. Although some recruiters may disagree, some of the best advice comes from better utilizing your cover letter (yes, I read them!) and resume to depict a little bit more of your life story. Job seekers can easily dedicate a section of their resume to where this mystery time has been spent. Have you been a home manager (stay-at-home parent)? Have you been actively pursuing work (an avid job seeker)? Have you been serving others and gaining additional skills (volunteer)? Or have you simply gone back to school? As recruiters, we want to know these things!! Job seekers can also write a sentence or two in their cover letter to explain their situation. If I don’t understand why someone is applying for a specific job, I often times scroll back up to the cover letter; seeking clarification.” –>A wonderful tip!

6. “The best piece of advice I can give to job seekers is the mindful discipline to follow-up with those with whom you’ve met along your job search journey. Gone are the days of handwritten thank you notes, but not their lasting impact and impression!”

7. “Develop an elevator pitch to use at career fairs or networking events.”

These are the lucky 7 that I picked out as the top tips.  Read the rest but remember these 7!

What did you do today?

Refresh Your Resume

Now this is going to be a short, but I think informative, post.  A while back I guided you all to an article about how recruiters look at a resume and which sections you should spend more time fine tuning.  You can find the post, Your Resume Through the Recruiter’s Eyes, and other useful tips that I’ve posted by searching in the “Recruiters” category from the choices to the right of this posting.

Since a bit of time has passed since that article was written, I thought I’d share a new article written by the folks at Career Builder.  The article/blog post is titled, How to Make a Resume Shine and is done in an infographic format.  I can’t say that I disagree with any of the changes that are highlighted in this infographic.  You have to make sure to tell your concise and compelling story but leave the recruiter wanting to find out more.

That something more might be them really wanting to see what kind of portfolio you might have, and THAT will hopefully get you through the door to the hiring manager.

Good luck!  What did you do today?
P.S. Click through to the rest of the blog posts on the workbuzz site for more information!
P.P.S. Have you read my blog post on Unemployment that I did for the Bullhorn Reach blog?  Read it and then follow Bullhorn on Twitter!

Your Resume Through the Recruiter’s Eyes

Not too long ago I came across an amazing article that showed two resumes.  This was a study which was done on 30 professional recruiters.  Eye tracking was used, and the article revealed what the recruiters looked at in the first six seconds of looking at anyone’s resume.  With the number of applicants to every job, these results are crucial and I think will truly help anyone out there to tailor their resume so that it doesn’t get lost in the numerous piles…or worse yet, simply put in the rejection pile.

I’ll link you to the article at the end of this posting but I wanted to highlight what was found first.  If you look through the comments on the article you will also get some great advice from other recruiters who say that they spend more than six seconds on a resume…more like 10-20!

Your resume will get A LOT more viewing time if it is structured in an easy to navigate way.  Tell them who you are in your title & more importantly, create a summary section which tells them in a concise way why you should be hired and what you have already accomplished.  Think LinkedIn summary.  This should be followed by intro’s to each job.  Just a one to two sentence synopsis of what you are doing in your current role or what you’ve done in the past.  Just because you’re a financial analyst in one place doesn’t mean you’ll fit into the shoes of a financial analyst in another.  Yes, the basic tasks might be the same but a financial analyst in the job you are going for is actually covering someone else’s tasks as well.  This is where tailoring your resume to each job becomes increasingly important.  Lastly, close with your education.

Do these simple things and I think you’ll be on your way to getting that next job!  Good luck! What did you do today?

P.S. As promised, read the fascinating article about How Recruiters See Your Resume.

What the Recruiter is Thinking During a Job Interview

I always enjoy sharing advice with you about the other side of the job interview.  We all know what we, as an interviewee are thinking and trying to say but what does the recruiter think about and focus on while he or she might be asking a question?

Well, I came across a great article to share with you all and because I personally do not have any inside information about a recruiters mind, and luckily have not had to try and impress one in over a year, I am pulling out the most interesting parts of the article for you.

As it turns out, and as Jayne Mattson (a Senior VP at Keystone Associates here in Boston) writes, there are three main questions that a recruiter needs answered before he or she can make up their mind as to whether you are a good fit.  The recruiter might not come out and ask you these questions but you are being assessed to figure out…

  • Can this person do the job?
  • Will he do the job?
  • Will he fit in with the company culture?

And now, and I love top ten lists, here are the top ten questions that a recruiter may ask you during an interview.  Some of these I have written about before but it never hurts to highlight them again.

1.      As you reflect back at your last position, what was missing that you are looking for in your next role?

2.      What qualities of your last boss did you admire, and what qualities did you dislike?

3.      How would you handle telling an employee his position is being eliminated after working for the company for 25 years, knowing they would be emotional?

4.      How do you like to be rewarded for good performance?

5.      Can you give me an example of when your relationship with your manager went off track and how you handled it?

6.      When a person says “I have integrity,” what does that mean to you?

7.      Can you tell me about your experience working with the generation X or Y? What are the three qualities you admire about them?

8.      Do you think age discrimination exists in the job market and if so, why?

9.      Can you convince me you are the most qualified person for this role based on what we have discussed?

10.  As you look at your previous companies, can you describe in detail which company culture did you excel in the most and why?

Basic and to the point right?  But be careful, you NEVER want to speak badly about your previous employers so tread lightly when being honest.

Now go on and read the article, Inside the Recruiter’s Head: What He’s Really Asking You During the Interview, and get tips on how to answer to the questions above.

What did you do today?

Databases vs. People – The Importance of Keywords

I have written a lot about key words and their importance.  We have all heard about recruiters and job search databases, we may have even griped about not hearing back from the jobs we applied to.  Well, as we all may know, the large number of applicants versus the small number of hiring managers and HR personnel just doesn’t add up.  So what happens?  Databases get implemented and this is where keywords get implemented.

“Today, the gatekeeper is not a person. It is a computer database. Recruiters and hiring managers use computer databases to manage the astronomical number of resumes that are submitted to them daily. Most people understand that the big job boards such as Job.com and others are database-driven but sometimes people unfamiliar with the intricacies of modern job search assume they avoid the database if they email the resume as an attachment. “I didn’t upload it – I emailed it to the recruiter” is a common comment.”

Databases are told what to look for, in terms of keywords, and they then scan your resume for these keywords.  Even if you send a resume to a recruiter, he or she is stil going to run your resume through a database.

“What…job seekers do not realize is that everyone uses a database to manage resumes, including recruiters. Most of the time, when a resume is sent to a recruiter, the resume is loaded into the database before the recruiter even sees it. Recruiters prize their databases as valuable depositories of potential candidates.”

However, don’t overlook networking.  Just because databases may be used, it’s still worth it to send your resume to numerous agencies, recruiters and connections.  The more people/databases look at your resume the better!

“…the use of databases has made job search much more of a numbers game. Job search success is still to some degree a matter of ‘who you know’ but it is also a matter of ‘how many contacts’ you have. That means getting the resume to as many potential companies, recruiters, and hiring managers as possible. Sending the resume to a couple of recruiters will not realize good responses.”

So fine tune your key words and if you need some help, take a look at mine in my About Me section.

What did you do today?

P.S. I pulled the quotes and inspiration for today’s blog post from an article titled, Gatekeepers Replaced by Databases by Alesia Beneditct who write for GetInterviews.com

Old School Interview Tips-Step4: Interview Questions

Well, here we are in my last installment of Old School Interview Tips.  Today’s tips are more recent than the “old school tips” I’ve been referencing.  Yesterday I promised to share with you what I believe to be one of the hardest interview questions.  This came to me while exploring other blogs in the boston.com business blogs section.  A recruiter writes a blog titled, Confessions of a HeadHuntress, which I found extremely helpful.

So here goes, and first…I’d like to thank Kelly Moeler for sharing this advice:

Kelly’s 10 Tips for Salary Negotiation
• #1 – You are not there for charity and neither are they. It is a given that you are there to make a living – money is critical to “making a living.”

• #2 – They will rarely if ever quote a salary range to you out of the gate and if they do – it’s a vast range. Ie. This role will pay between $20k and $120k. Very similar to the cable guy’s work schedule.

• #3 – There are ways for companies to verify salary so whatever you do – do not blatantly lie about your prior salary history.

• #4 – I understand that you felt underpaid at your last job but an increase from $40k to $95k may be a hard sell to that company. If you TRULY believe that a $55k INCREASE is something you deserve, have reasons to back it up including what the market cost is for someone completing those tasks.

• #5 – KNOW YOUR MARKET – Are you a copywriter? What do other copywriters make on average. It is a much more convincing argument to say “I am looking for X based upon my prior salary and knowledge of the industry average of X amount.”

• #6 – “I’m flexible” is not an answer to a salary question. Gymnastics questions? YES. Salary questions – no.

• #7 – You should consider your three ranges and know them well. Your ideal salary range, your true salary range, and your bottom salary range – meaning that if you go below that range, paying your bills becomes difficult.

• #8 – Research the company you’re interviewing with – are they known for lower salary ranges but have AWESOME perks/vacation time, etc?

• #9 – Other than salary, what are your motivating factors? Do you want more time off? Do you really want a strong healthcare plan? Is there room for advancement in this company that would warrant a pay decrease in the interim because the overall long-term potential for growth is there?

• #10 – As hilarious as we all find it, $1 million-zillion dollars in the voice of Dr. Evil from Austin Powers is never the right answer.

If in doubt and you are truly uncomfortable, simply say “My most recent salary/current salary is $55k and based upon this role – ” and go from there. It sets the standard for the conversation without backing you in to an undesirable salary range.

**********************************************************************************************************

I feel like I’ve put myself out of the running a few times by giving a broad range, or by simply reverting the question back to the recruiter. Even if I say that the range is nothing I’m tied to and I’m much more interested in the work, they seem to lose interest in me, which I honestly think is a little wrong, but I guess is the way the cookie crumbles.  Cost of living is still high and unless you want someone uneducated and with no experience, which I guess in some cases IS the case, then there should be a cost associated with that kind of labor.

Now, how about a few other questions to ask the interviewer?  Here I’d like to thank the people at Doostang.

1. Ask questions about fit. “It’s helpful to ask questions like, ‘What was the last person who filled this position like?’, ‘What does the ideal employee look like?’, ‘What happened to the last person that had this position?’  It’s certainly okay to get a sense for what your predecessor was like, because those are the shoes you’re trying to fill.

2. Ask questions about the kind of work you may be expected to do.  “Ask, ‘What big projects are there that might be coming up?’, ‘Will I be working more independently or with a team of people?’”, ‘What is your company’s management style?’”

3. Ask about the company in general. “Example questions include, “’What is the organization structure at the company?’”, “’What are the long term goals of the company and where do you see it going in 5 years?’”, “’What is the future of this industry like?’”

4. What kind of experience will you have at this company? “If you can, try to get a feel for office culture and the company’s attitude towards its employees.  This is a key determinant in how happy you will be at a corporation, and is important to know as soon as possible.  Some questions to ask are, ‘Is the office culture more laid-back or traditional?’, ‘Does the company provide guidance on cultivating career goals?’, ‘How often and in what manner will my work be evaluated?’”

Go get em!

What did you do today?

Old School Interview Tips-Step 3:Interview Prep for Recruiters

I hope you’ve been enjoying the last two steps of the interview process, as seen from the recruiters side.  Today I wanted to explore the “old school” tips I have about interviewing candidates.  Let’s begin…

Recruiters prep work:

1. Prepare- “Always guide the interview.  By preparing questions and reviewing the resume in advance, you will move the conversation in the direction you want…”

2. Establish Rapport- “Introductions go more smoothly and lead into more effective interviews when you begin with rapport-building statements and questions…remember that your first words to the candidate will set the mood for the rest of the interview.”

3. Gather Information- “There are four types of techniques that interviewers use: Open-ended, Probing, Direct, and Situational, and all should be utilized in the interview.”

Open-ended questions are those that force the candidate to think and formulate his/her answer before speaking.  The interviewer should be evaluating not only what is being said but how it is being said-what was the thought process behind the formulation of the answer. Ex: Tell me about the project you’re currently working on.

Probing questions are used to gather information about something the candidate has said that merits more attention, is interesting, or raises red flags. Ex: What is your specific role in the project?

Direct questions are those which require a yes/no or very short answer…they are used to clarify information. Ex: So you independently designed your own experiments/projects?

Situational questions are hypothetical ‘What if…?’ questions and are useful in determining how the candidate thinks through problems.

Here are some questions interviewers are taught to ask:

1. Give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.

2. Give me an example of a time when you were able to communicate successfully with another person, even when that individual may not have personally liked you.

3. What did you do in your last job in order to be effective with your organization and planning?  Be specific.

4. Describe the most creative work-related project you have completed.

5. Give me an example of a problem you faced on the job, and tell me how you solved it.

6. Tell me about a situation in your past in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.

7. If you joined our organization, where do you think you could make your best contribution?

8. In considering joining a company, what are some of the factors that you take into consideration?

9. What do you regard to be your outstanding qualities?

10. To be a successful manager, what percentage of your decisions must be correct?”

4. Give Information- Having learned what a candidate has to offer, the interviewer should provide information about the company.

5. Close the Interview- In closing the interview, the interviewer should ask if there is anything else he/she should know about the candidate’s qualifications, and then explain what the next step will be in the selection process, inform the person when to expect to hear from the company.”

Tomorrow I will share the toughest question us candidates have to answer.

What did you do today?

Old School Interview Tips-Step 2:Phone Interviews

To continue my “Old School Interview Tips” I wanted to share what I found out about the tips that are given to the interviewer/recruiter for when they will be conducting a phone interview.  I am excited to take a look at the other side of the coin and see how I can work my magic to wow the person on the other end of the phone line.

“The format is the same as the in-house interview, but less detailed, and should always end with a definitive action.”

Opening: Start with a few general introductory words about who you are and GENERAL information about the position.

Information Gathering: Ask open-ended, probing and direct questions to determine the candidate’s general qualifications.

Providing Information: Provide a little bit of information on the company and ask if they have any questions.

Closing: Always close the interview with some direct information.  Decide what the verdict is, and according to that decision make the appropriate close:

NO: (Refer to a previous post about other phrases recruiters use to tell you that you’re not in the running anymore.) ‘I’m looking for someone who has a little more experience in XYZ than you at this time…’

MAYBE: ‘I’m not sure whether your background is appropriate for this particular position, however I would like to give it more consideration.  I will call you on ….’ -mark it in your calendar to follow up with the candidate.

YES: ‘I would be interested in having you come in for an interview. I will ask HR to set up a time.’”

I hope this helps to understand the steps recruiters take to put you into one of three buckets.

But what is the reason for the phone interview? Well, after digging through some old papers I found more information from Marcus & Associates,  Executive Services of America, Inc.

Here are 5 real reasons for a phone interview to occur:

1. The “screening call” from Human Resources: ” Quite often, the HR department needs to learn more about you for the purpose of sending your credentials down to the hiring manager…”

2. The “Ad Response” from a hiring manager: “When a hiring manager with an open position runs an ad…they often have to run brief telephone interviews on the top ten or more resumes.”

3. The “in-depth” telephone interview: “Generally…either already screened by the HR department or by a recruiter, the hiring manager will want to conduct a more intensive session dealing with the past experience and skills of the applicant in comparison to the job requirements.”

4. The “recruiter interview”: “After being recruited for a position…you will have a telephone conversation in detail with this outside consultant. It can be specific to a given project or allow you an opportunity to go into your [the candidate's]aspirations and goals for your career in general.”

5. The “committee telephone interview”: (Personally, I’ve never had this happen before and am kind of happy about it.  It’s hard enough to exude your personality over the phone but to do so with several people on the line…then again, is that why I’ve been on speaker phone before?)  “Sometimes several hiring managers will decide to get together on the interviewing process, so that they can share their conclusions afterwards.”

So…what do Marcus & Associates suggest you can do to prepare for any one of these situations?
Here are the tips in my own words.

1. Even though you are being interviewed, remember that the interviewer may be feeling just as uncomfortable as you…make them feel at ease, this will show your personality.

2. Smile over the phone!

3. You are being judged by the same criteria used in an in-person interview, so exude self-confidence!

4. Keep it short and sweet and don’t ramble on about your skills and success’.  Prepare some answers ahead of time.

5. When dead air arises, an extremely uncomfortable time, make sure that you have some topics to bring up and some questions to ask.

6. This is when listening skills are most important!  So listen up and turn off any noise around you.

7. The success of the interview will come from how comfortable you are with your surroundings so, get comfortable and make sure the call is happening at a good time when you will not be interrupted.

8. Never ask about compensation or benefits and don’t bring up issues at a current or previous employer!

Since I like round numbers…here are my own two pieces of advice!

9. Sit up when you talk. Your voice changes so you don’t want to sound like you are making the phone call from your bed.

10.  Always have a pen and paper next to you!

I hope these tips help and…what did you do today?

P.S. Tomorrow is Free Museum Day so print your tickets! And Monday…look forward to more interview tips!

Old School Interview Tips-Step 1:Recruitment Strategy

Back when I graduated from Northeastern University with my International Business undergrad degree I was fearing I wouldn’t find a job.  The majority of my class mates had jobs from previous co-ops, which I still believe gave THE best real world experience, so I felt like I had been jipped.  Right after graduating I decided to go home, that being Latvia, for a month and then come back and re group.  After my trip home I actually ended up landing a job at a logistics company…which was shut down a couple of months later.  Before that even happened I KNEW something fishy was going on so I had been searching and gave my notice two days before everyone was going to be laid off.  Pretty good timing right?

Anyway, this post isn’t about my job searching anecdotes but rather the advice I was given by my dad back in 2006.  He gave me a folder full of interview tips and steps, starting from the recruiting strategy, to screening and the final offer process.  To be honest, I never even looked at it.  However, I’ve decided that since my meeting with the recruiter tomorrow has been moved to next week I will to look at the tips I’ve got on hand, and see if four years later they still apply.

Today I want to take a look at the recruitment strategy, according to the booklet I have:

Developing the Sourcing Strategy: “The hiring manager and HR will think of all sources where suitable candidates can be found…in-house transfers, referrals, ads, trade journals, job fairs, associations, conferences, competitors or companies doing similar research, etc.”

The way this has changed today is, that you must also include posting the jobs on LinkedIn, job boards and even Twitter…among other social networks.

How to screen resumes: “1. Review the job specifications and compare the information on each resume to those qualifications.  2. Divide the resumes into three piles…first pile…individuals who seem to possess all of the qualifications for the job…second pile…put the ‘maybe’-resumes that exhibit some, but not all, of the qualifications…resumes from people who are clearly unsuitable or unqualified go into the third pile  3. Reread all the resumes in the first pile.  Look for resumes that show specific accomplishments, career progression, and willingness to work hard…if necessary review the ‘maybe’ resumes.”

I am doubting that this process happens these days.  I am leaning more towards software that pre screens all candidates by searching for key words, hence the key words from my resume in my “About Me” section of this blog.

Red Flags: “Gaps, short term employment, job progression, sloppiness, no cover letter.”

These days, the first two don’t “really” apply any more.  Millions of people will have gaps in their resume.  As for short term employment…that’s what recruiting companies are all about, contract work!  I wish I could say that job progression was still something recruiters should look at, but as someone who went from being in the product and marketing departments at two well known companies to getting an MBA and working retail…I’m here to be the voice for those who, due to no fault of their own, have to downgrade a bit.

There you have it.  I wonder if some of these tips still apply but at least we have a little bit of a glimpse to the inner workings of the recruitment process.  Tomorrow, how to conduct phone interviews.  Both for the interviewer and interviewee.

What did you do today?

P.S. Don’t forget to tune into the new recession themed Apprentice tonight!