Archive | February, 2011

Location, Location, Location – The Reality of Applying for Out-of-State Jobs

28 Feb

I received the following email the other day from a reader: 

“Hi Dave,

I’m wondering how to approach the job search from outside New York.
I’ve heard so many different answers on this, most saying it’s nearly
impossible to land a magazine job without actually being in the city.
But I’ve also heard of others who manage to land interviews without a
New York address. What’s the real deal?

I currently live in Tennessee, but am relocating to New York at the
end of next month. Will employers ignore my resume because I do not
have a New York return address even if I’m willing to travel for
interviews between now and my move date?”

This is a great question, and one that I come across often. The short answer is that yes, it is difficult to characterize yourself as a serious candidate for a magazine job in NY if you don’t currently live here. First, there’s the prevailing sentiment that everything outside of New York is barren desert and that no other work experience will translate. If you get past that hurdle, however, there is still the challenge making it clear that you can and will make yourself as available as needed. When we post jobs, we need them filled yesterday, so waiting a month for an out of state candidate to pack up, find a place to live, and relocate isn’t exactly what we recruiters are hoping to do. And relocation assistance? For most companies, and except for executive-level positions, giving you money or resources to help you move is so 20th century.

Basically, when I see a resume that I like, there are two things I want to know when it comes to location: that you can come in to interview within 48 hours and that you can start work 2-3 weeks from an offer being accepted. If both of these criteria are met, we’re good to go.

So to give recruiters what they’re looking for, there are two strategies you can employ that can greatly help your chances.

1. Keep it vague. Don’t list your address on your resume (which many resume experts say you shouldn’t be doing anyway.) If you only have your work experience, a phone number and an email address, you’re not screaming to the recruiter that you’ll need special handling. If you go this route, when a recruiter calls you for an interview you don’t want to surprise them with your relocation saga. You need to be able to schedule an appointment and make sure you can get there. It’s OK to say that you’re in the process of relocating and that you’ll be there in a couple of days to interview. Just make it clear that you’re handling it. 

2. Cover (Letter) it. If you list an out of state address, or if it’s clear from your work experience that you’re currently employed in a different locale, open your cover letter with the following statement (or a close approximation): “Though I am currently located in Tennessee, I am immediately available to interview in New York with 24 hours notice, and will relocate at my own expense to begin work in 2-3 weeks should an offer be extended.” Don’t get flowery with your language. Just state the facts that we want to see. If I see a resume with an out-of-state address and there is no mention of relocation in the cover letter, I assume it’s something the candidate either can’t/won’t do or something the candidate just hasn’t put enough thought into.

So yes, there is hope for landing a job when you’re not a local. Just make sure that you are being clear in your intention and your availability and – I can’t stress this enough – be honest. Don’t promise more than you can deliver in terms of your availability. If you keep these tactics in mind, your location shouldn’t stand between you and your next job.

Questions or comments about this topic? Let me know below – I’d love to hear from you!

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Questions?

24 Feb

I’d like to take a minute to thank my readers for being kind enough to give me some of your attention during my first few weeks in this forum. Now that you’ve hopefully gotten some sense for what I’m about and what I might be able to offer, I’d like to open up the floor.

What do you want to know about? Are there questions you haven’t asked, or haven’t gotten the right responses to? This should be an interactive experience, so let me know what you want to read. I’ll do my best to leave no question un-answered.

Please comment below, or email me at hr.dave1@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you.

D

How to Ace the Informational Interview

22 Feb

With all the clamor about how networking is the way to find your next job, how traditional job boards are dead, how the place to be is the “hidden job market” (how hidden can it be, when everyone with a URL and a dream seems to know about it?), we’re seeing a substantial shift in the way interviews are being granted by companies. Your first meeting is becoming less about a specific job and more about an “informational” interview. Now I’m not talking about that lunch you set up with your sister-in-law’s cousin Fred in accounting – I mean a meeting with either a member of the management team or an HR/Recruitment team: someone who will be directly involved with any hiring decisions that are made.

The strategy for a job-specific interview is simple. Be ready and prepared to explain how you are the most perfectly qualified for the job based on the description and your knowledge of the company. When it comes to an informational interview, however, you don’t have as many tools in your arsenal. Therefore your preparation work is even more vital.

When I call someone in for an informational interview it’s usually for one of two reasons. Either:

  1.  I have multiple open positions with similar qualifications that the candidate might fit into, or
  2. There isn’t anything appropriate open at the moment, but I anticipate a need down the road for someone with the candidate’s particular skill set and background.

In either case, I’m looking to not only make sure that what I perceive on paper is confirmed in person but also to figure out if there is an intangible culture fit, which you can’t get from a resume. I’m not necessarily judging against a job description and qualifications, but against an idea of what I think the ideal candidate would be.

So the job of the informational interview candidate is to establish a connection, be specific in laying out the value s/he would add to the organization, but be vague enough to not disqualify him/herself from any potential opportunities. Not necessarily an easy job. If you’re called in for an informational interview by a company you’re interested in potentially working for, there are a couple of easy steps you can take that will help your cause.

Before the interview, do the same research you’d do for any job interview. Visit the company’s website and do an exhaustive internet search to make sure you’re not missing any information, positive or negative, that you should have on hand. In addition, look at any and all job postings the company has put out recently to see what kinds of positions it’s looking to fill. Google searches and aggregators like Indeed.com are great for this kind of search, because they can contain out-dated listings and give you insight into jobs that have recently been filled.

Next, make a list down the left side of a piece of paper of the company’s stated goals and endeavors from its website or press releases, and add the job responsibilities from any current or past job descriptions that are appropriate for you. On the right side of that paper, opposite the appropriate list entry, write down the skills and experiences you possess that match each goal or requisite. You probably won’t have a match for every left-side entry, but you’ll be left with a pretty good list of why you’re good for the company. Now memorize it – it doesn’t look good to read from your notes when talking about yourself.

Now pretend you’re preparing for any other interview: Know where you’re going, dress appropriately, show up 10 minutes early.

During the interview, you’ll probably be able to get the information you need to make the rest of your case, while starting to think about whether this is the right opportunity/company for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for the answers you seek. There’s nothing wrong with, at some point during the conversation, asking your interviewer what it was about your resume or background that made him/her call you in. There’s nothing shameful about asking about the kind of role your interviewer can envision you playing in the company. Hopefully you’ll be able to glean this information during the course of the interview and not wait until the very end. If you wait too long, you won’t have time to work this new-found knowledge into your talking points to make sure the interviewer knows s/he was right to call you in.

Usually at the end of the conversation, one of three things will happen.

  1. The interviewer will tell you about a specific position that’s open (cue “hidden job market” theme music) and ask you if you’d be interested in such a position
  2. The interviewer will tell you that there’s nothing immediately available that’s right for you, but there will likely be some opportunities coming up in the near future and that s/he would love to keep in touch.
  3. “Don’t call us; we’ll call you.”

Regardless of which one you get, ask for an appropriate time frame when your interviewer might have more information (if you haven’t already agreed on next steps). If it’s 1 or 2, you’ve gotten what you’ve come for – and so has your interviewer. You’ve found a potential match in either a current or future position.

If it’s #3, it wasn’t the right place for you anyway.

Either way, you’ve just had a successful informational interview. Congratulations, and keep up the good work!

Questions or comments about this topic or any other? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Best and Worst: 6 Ways to Make a Lasting Impression in Your Job Search

17 Feb

Who doesn’t like to make a good impression? It’s what we strive for in our social lives, professional lives, and every other life we may be leading. We want people to think good things about us, and we know how quickly they’ll judge us because we do the same thing to people we come into contact with.

I’m not about to tell you how to make good impressions in your social life – I’ll trust that you can figure that out on your own.

What we’re talking about today is making a good impression in your professional life, and more specifically when you’re trying to get a job. There are plenty of ways to get noticed during a job search. But getting noticed isn’t always a good thing, and sometimes the line between making a great impression and an irreparable one is thin – tread with care.

Top 3 Ways To Make a Good Impression:

  1. Be referred. The single best way to stand out is to have someone familiar to the recruiter or hiring manager say that you’re awesome (or at least competent). When I get a resume from someone I know in the company or the industry, I’m going to give that resume a pretty thorough look. If it’s at all a match for any positions I’m looking to fill, I’m going to call that person in for an interview.
  2. Be original. This is a personal preference, but I like to see some wit in my applicants. Give me a fantastically original and compelling summary line on your resume; an opening line in your cover letter that makes me take notice; a way of phrasing an experience on your resume that I’ve never seen before; something that tells me there’s an interesting person behind the qualifications – a person that I would want to work with.
  3. Be accessible. This should be the easiest thing in the world, but so many people have problems with it. If your resume is right for the job I’m going to call you, so please have an accurate phone number and email address on your resume. If you’re a designer, writer, or other type of profession that has/should have a portfolio, please link to your online portfolio on your resume. This may seem like a complete no-brainer, but I’m amazed at how many resumes I get without complete contact information.

Top 3 Ways to Make a Terrible Impression:

  1. Be too persistent. This can come in many forms. You can be too persistent by finding my phone number at the office (which isn’t hard if you really want to) and calling several times a day to “check on your candidacy.” If you really want to ramp up the effort, call several times a day, don’t leave a message, and hang up when you get my voicemail. My caller I.D. and I have a good laugh about that one. You can also be too persistent by separately calling/emailing everyone who knows anyone remotely connected with the position in question (this is especially effective when you don’t know any of those people at all.) I’ve gotten the same person’s resume forwarded to me 15 times in a day from various colleagues all with the same message: “I don’t know this person, but wanted to pass it along.” Spamming isn’t cute.
  2. Be over the top. Rainbows, butterflies, skulls, crossbones, and Santa Claus all have one thing in common. They all will ruin a resume (much the way that glitter and confetti will ruin your thank-you note.) Also, play around with your font colors – I’m printing with a black & white printer onto white paper, so light colored fonts can leave me guessing about what the resume actually says. Professional email address? Who needs one? YouNeed2HireMeIfUKnowWhatsGood4U@email.com is not a professional email address. And for bonus points, do a little cyber-stalking before you send your resume. Tell me about how cute my kid is; how you think it’s so great that I have such a loving and happy marriage (I seriously had a candidate email those things to me once.) Not creepy at all.
  3. Mis-manage your online presence. Really want to turn me off? Follow my company’s recruiting Twitter feed, then when I go to follow you back have every other tweet be a profanity laced, slang-infused, TMI offering rant about what you did/drank last night and what you think about that other girl/guy. This shows a huge lack of judgment. If that’s what you want to tweet about, go for it. But don’t try to draw a prospective employer’s attention to your tweets unless you really want to make a bad impression.

So there you have it. Some sure-fire ways to make an impression. Hope you’re making the one you want!

How have you made an impression, good or bad? I’d love to hear your stories!

The Single Most Important Interview Question

14 Feb

There is one defining question that comes up in every interview I do. How you answer can impact your candidacy more than any other answer you give. Can you guess what it is?

  1. What is your greatest weakness?
  2. Why do you want to work for this company?
  3. What do you want to do?
  4. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

The correct answer is #3, though if I were the type to ask about the tree thing I’m sure that would be the most important question for me (because I’d be that kind of guy.)

So, did you get it right?

What do you want to do? It seems like a simple enough question, but there are so many possible answers that finding the right one can be overwhelming at times. This question stumps all but the most prepared candidates, and for many different reasons. Entry-level candidates are tempted to say “I’m looking to do anything to get my foot in the door (which is another post for another day)” because they don’t want to disqualify themselves from any opportunities. More experienced Candidates give in to the temptation to say something smart and b-school sounding, like “I want to be able to influence the strategic direction of the department by introducing creative solutions and structured processes.” Yeah, you and everybody else.

The way to answer the question of what you want to do, in case you were wondering, is one of two things. If you’re in an informational/exploratory interview, you want to be as specific as possible about what kind of position (or at least what kind of career) you want. Here, an entry-level candidate can get away with “I want a position where I can put in the work and learn the skills to become a successful sales/marketing/pr/basket-weaving/marine biology professional (please, choose one that’s true for you.) More experienced candidates need to be even more specific – talk about how you want your next job to be different from your current/last one, what specific skills you want to utilize and/or develop, what you want to DO every day.

If you’re interviewing for a specific position, you’ve done your homework and are applying for appropriate jobs, there’s only one possible anwer to this question (hint: it will sound an awful lot like the job description.)

As an HR guy/recruiter, my job is to make sure that the best possible candidates for a position are presented to the hiring manager. If you can articulate what you WANT to do, it really helps me determine whether that’s you. The jobs I recruit for are hard jobs. If you don’t really want to be doing the job, you won’t last in it. And then in 6 months when you quit or get fired, it’s my fault for recommending you.

I don’t care for things being my fault. So for both of our sakes, know what you want to do before you walk into my office for an interview.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

To Call, or Not to Call. That is the Question.

11 Feb

I was reading a blog post by Debra Wheatman and it started me thinking. The post was about how to stand out from the crowd through an online application process. In this saturated job market, so many job seekers are looking for ways to stand out. It’s easy to either blend in or to get carried away and stand out for all the wrong reasons. Finding that happy middle ground where you’re making a statement that recruiters and hiring managers want to hear – now that’s where the challenge lies.

Follow-up is great, but when does it become too much? At what point do you stop being pro-active and start being needy and obnoxious? First off, job seekers need to be aware that recruiting is a collaborative process. If you call and get to speak with a recruiter, you don’t also need to try to identify and call the hiring manager – and vice versa. We all talk to each other, and we know what you’ve been up to.

Also, be ready with the reason that you’re calling. If you get me on the phone, I’m going to say “hi” and wait for you to talk. Please have something to say besides “I just wanted to make sure that my resume was received.”  You probably got a confirmation at the end of the online application, and then received a confirmation email telling you that your resume was received and will be reviewed. If you’re calling to reiterate your interest in an interesting way or to bring to light a specific point about your qualifications, go for it. But only if you are sure that you’re a great match for the position.

If someone calls who is right for the job in question, I want to speak with them.  If someone not remotely qualified calls about a position, it doesn’t present that person in a positive light. Be honest with yourself about how close a match you are. If you’re not sure, ask a friend or mentor. Think about how you’ll rank compared with the most perfectly qualified candidates. If you’re at the top, call or email. If not, don’t.

If the ad says “no phone calls”, don’t call. Period. Consider the instructions a test – if you ignore them, you fail.

In spite of how hopeless the online application process may seem at times, from a recruiter’s standpoint it’s the easiest way to find talent. All we need is for the right resume to show up in the in-box. When it does, be sure that we’ll see it. And we’ll call you.

Salary is Not a Four Letter Word

9 Feb

Every day I come across posts by job search experts, career advisers, coaches, and every other kind of self-imposed, trust-inducing title telling me the same thing:

Never, ever, ever discuss salary during an interview process. 

They say that it gives the job seeker a disadvantage; that it’s putting all your cards on the table; that it can range anywhere from distasteful to stupid.

I couldn’t disagree more. It’s all well and good for experts to tell candidates that they shouldn’t talk about money, but I think that some of them are missing a bigger picture here. Now d0n’t get me wrong – I have great respect for some of the experts in the field of job search and career development. This is one point, however, on which we’re going to have to agree to disagree. I’m not saying that a job seeker should necessarily bring it up during the first interview, but if your interviewer asks, please don’t beat around the bush.

I head up a corporate recruiting department and I can tell you that if I ask a candidate for their current and target salary and that candidate won’t give me an answer, I’m going to think long and hard about whether I want to possibly waste more of my time and the hiring manager’s time with a candidate we have no idea whether we can afford. I generally phrase the question “Talk to me about money. Where are you now and where do you want to be?” If you can’t answer at least one of those questions we’re in trouble off the bat.

Coaches please take note. This advice can seriously hurt a candidate’s chances of getting the job. If I ask a someone about compensation and s/he says “Isn’t it a little premature to discuss salaries?” That doesn’t leave a good taste in my mouth at all.

Entering into an interview process with as much openness and transparency as possible from both sides is the best way to move forward. Entering into the process as nemeses isn’t good for anyone.

There are two universal truths in this conversation.

1. Companies want to save money where they can.

2. People want to make as much money as they can.

Given these two truths, salary usually ends up being a compromise. Wouldn’t everyone rather enter into the conversation knowing the parameters?

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