Dressing for an Interview

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Sadly the old adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ never seems to apply to people. Within the first ten to twenty seconds of meeting someone new, most people have formed an opinion of you based entirely on what you look like. Right or wrong, they are judging your clothing, hair style or cut, makeup, jewelry and shoes. In some instances they are also judging perfume/smell, eyeglasses, body piercings, tattoos, etc.

This makes it even more important to be dressed appropriately for an interview and for at least your first day at work (until you figure out what the company culture is with respect to clothing). The focus of an interview needs to be on your skills, what you have to offer the company, how your background is a fit for the opening and the company and NOT on what you look like.

In all the years I’ve been recruiting, I’ve near once heard someone say there was a problem with a candidate showing up wearing a suit. Even for a job where you will never wear one in the course of a normal work day, being dressed professionally for the interview is at the very least a sign of respect.

Once you are hired, you may find you are going to work in a t-shirt and pajama pants, but for the interview that sends a negative message.

If you have no idea how to dress professionally, I would suggest you Google it. There are thousands of sites with advice on what to wear. You can even ask the person scheduling the interview what is appropriate for their company.

In many cases I’ve been told to tell the candidate to wear business casual. A suit is not expected or required. That means you need to figure out what business casual actually looks like. Again, in some companies you could end up in pajama pants and a t-shirt, but for the most part you should lean towards something not quite that casual. Remember it is “business” casual not “lying around the house” casual.

To get you started, here are a few links offering advice on what to wear, how to dress for your body type, etc.:

http://career-advice.monster.com/job-interview/interview-appearance/10-interview-fashion-blunders/article.aspx

http://www.redbookmag.com/life/money-career/advice/g604/job-interview-outfits/

http://career-advice.monster.com/job-interview/interview-appearance/Mens-Interview-Fashion-Tips/article.aspx

http://www.embraceyourwardrobe.com/handouts

 

Passive Job Seekers

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Where are all the job seekers? I was asked recently where I find candidates.  Having been in recruiting for a couple of decades, I have developed a network of my own and connections I know well and trust.

A large portion of the resumes I have in my database are what are referred to as passive job seekers.  People who have been employed at some point in the past or are currently working and have a feeling they might be happier elsewhere.  That could mean they are “sort of” looking for a different position, title, line of work or just a different company. This could be doing similar work, hopefully for a higher salary or a complete change in industry and/or career focus.

Most passive job seekers have a few things in common:

  • They don’t have time to be looking at everything, but they are open to hearing about opportunities if something really amazing comes across my desk.
  • They want to share their resume with someone they know they can trust; someone who will be honest about how their resume looks and how it presents.
  • They want to be certain the resume won’t accidentally find its way to an employer that they are not even remotely interested in working for, or worse, appear on their manager’s desk as a candidate for an opening for their current employer. (Yes, I have heard of this happening—no I’ve never done it).
  • They want to work with someone who will not “hard sell” or “bully” them into going for a job they are not really interested in pursuing. Someone who will listen to them. Someone who will be honest about requirements and can tell them where their resume appears weak and advise on what is missing. Also advise where they can improve their resume to showcase the skills they have that are not presented with enough information.

One of my unbreakable rules is: Never, ever, ever submit a resume for a job without talking with the candidate first to make sure it is in his or her best interest to pursue. No matter which recruiter you work with, be certain this is one of their rules as well.

 

Happy 4th – Still a Good Week to Job Hunt

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The Independence Day holiday is fast approaching and many companies are closed for the week, this is also a common week for vacations for both employed and unemployed individuals. Therefore, everyone is more difficult to reach this time of the summer.

If you are unemployed or passively seeking a new job and decide to go on vacation because “nothing is going to happen this week,” I’d like to remind you that not everyone is taking the week off.

It would really be in your best interest to take a functioning cell phone with you and/or check your emails.

It is not uncommon around this time of the summer for me to have employers asking to schedule phone or in-person interviews this week and I cannot reach the candidates.

This is not the end of the world; however while we’re waiting for you to respond to your voice mail messages, or for you to check and return your email messages; please note that someone else may be offered the job while you are away.

It would be so much nicer to come back from vacation refreshed with an interview scheduled or take a little time out of the week for a phone interview and perhaps have a new job to return to?

Happy 4th!

 

Resume First Impressions

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Hiring managers and human resource professionals are inundated with resumes and sometimes resort to skimming them for highlights. This takes 10 to 30 seconds. In that span of time any number of pieces of information can jump out and make you look like you are the perfect candidate or not even close.

Name: Is your name on the resume? Go ahead and laugh but I get hundreds of resumes every week and more times than you would think, there is not a name on the resume. Also if you put your name and contact information into a “header” sometimes it appears as grayed out and other times it doesn’t appear at all unless the person reviewing it clicks insert, header, edit and then it shows up.

Worse are the ones that arrive with the candidate’s first name spelled incorrectly. If you put your name in all capital letters (e.g., NANCY and you spell it NACNY, spell check will not necessarily highlight it as being incorrect). It’s not spelled wrong; it’s just all capital letters. Read the resume or reject it?

Location: In the age of identity theft and everyone afraid of disclosing too much information, at the very least include city and state. If the hiring company is not paying for relocation, they are likely not going to want to pay to fly you in from the other side of the country. Can they determine where you live quickly? Read the resume or reject it?

Telephone Number/E-Mail: Keep laughing. Beautifully crafted cover letters imploring me to please call to discuss the opportunity so the candidate can expand on their relevant work experience that do not include a telephone number or an e-mail address in either the letter or on the resume make up about 20% of the resumes I receive. Yes, I can figure out the email address usually by finding it on the original email. However, if I save your resume and don’t have an immediate opportunity for you, when I pull it back up from the database and there is not a phone number or email on it. How many hiring managers will spend time trying to find the information?

Objective: If you have an objective on your resume and it is to become a Marketing Manager and you are applying for a SEO Specialist job, you might want to think about how that makes you look to the person reviewing the resume. Obviously you are not applying for the right job. Read the resume anyway or reject it?

Give the person reviewing the resumes what they want and what they need right up front. Why jeopardize your chances?

Interview Feedback – Should Not be an Attack

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I am often asked by candidates, why they did not receive an offer.  They want feedback so they can improve their interview style or technique and do better on the next interview.

Often what I hear for feedback is:

• not a good cultural fit

• lacked industry specific experience

• failed to show enthusiasm for the position

• failed to follow up with a thank you letter or email

• failed to make eye contact

Recently, I relayed the company’s decision and the candidate asked me for specifics.  The hiring manager did not feel that the candidate connected with him during the interview and did not believe the candidate would be a good cultural fit for the company.

Instead of saying thank you I got harassment (eleven phone calls and 48 emails).  I was still trying to get the candidate to understand my client had offered someone else the job.

If you ask for feedback, don’t take it as a personal attack. Sometimes it just wasn’t meant to be and it truly has nothing to do with you personally.  Sometimes it’s meant as constructive criticism and to be helpful. Wouldn’t you want to know if you are not making eye contact?  Or you are twirling your hair or blinking insanely or biting your nails?

When we are nervous, some habits and nervous mannerisms appear and you may not even be aware of them.

So if you ask for feedback, please take it as graciously as possible and consider the person relaying the information may truly just be trying to help.

First Jobs and Things you May Not Know

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It’s getting to be that time of the year when new graduates are finding and starting their first jobs.  Every year I discover some new things that I thought everyone already knew, only to find that some of the basics are not common knowledge.  So while some of this may sound obvious…I’ve heard from more than one person about some new hire who didn’t have a clue.

All fees are paid by the hiring company.  I can’t say this enough.  It’s on my web site in multiple locations and it is the standard when working with the majority of professional recruiters.  Decades ago it was common for a job candidate to pay the recruiting fee out of his or her first pay check(s).  Now, it is extremely rare for a recruiter to charge a fee to the job candidate.  Do not be embarrassed to ask if there’s a fee associated with working with a recruiter.  While it is better to know up front, the majority of us are paid by the company who hires you.

Travel is required.  I’m always surprised by the number of people who don’t want to travel for work because they think they are going to have to pay for it out of their own pocket.  Again, there are always exceptions, however, for the most part if you have a job that requires you to travel, the company will either pay in advance or reimburse you for travel, lodging and meals.  Alcohol and entertainment are not typically reimbursable expenses (unless you are in a sales position and part of your job is to take customers out and provide entertainment).

This is not a license for you to fly first class, rent an expensive car and eat steak dinners every night.  Some companies pay “per diems” (meaning they will set a specific amount per day that they do not expect you to go over to travel, stay at a hotel and eat).  Some companies just expect you to use your own judgment when it comes to expenses.  As a general rule, if you would not normally spend your own money on <insert questionable purchase here> then the odds are the company will think it is out of line as well.  This does not mean starve yourself or stay in a hotel in a questionable area either.

First day paperwork.  Some companies remember to tell you to bring identification with you for your first day.  If no one says anything about this, it’s always a good idea to bring a valid passport or your driver’s license and some other form of government issued identification.  If you’re really curious about acceptable forms of identification see:  http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-9.pdf

It’s also helpful to know your social security number, bank account number and routing information.

You will need to complete an Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate so your employer can withhold the correct federal income taxes. W4 Form looks like this:  http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf

Direct deposit is a nice perk that many companies offer.  For this you will need to know the name of your bank, your account number and routing information.  Your very first pay check may not appear in your account automatically and you may have to deposit it yourself.  Don’t assume it went in without checking.  I’ve seen many people throw away their first check assuming it made it through the direct deposit process.  Reissuing a paycheck costs the company and it takes time.

I’m a big fan of mentors.  If you have one or two when you start your career, you are lucky.  If not, it may be well worth your efforts to politely ask some people you know and respect.  A mentor to help with business basics and etiquette and one for technical expertise is a good place to start.

Job Hopper or Not

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Today I received an extremely well written cover letter indicating I had found the perfect candidate for one of my job searches.

Among the many qualifications mentioned in the cover letter were dependability, loyalty and dedication.  The candidate went on to explain how her experience was a precise technical fit for my opening as well.

Thinking this resume would definitely be worth reviewing, I quickly opened the attached resume.

My definition of dependable, loyal and dedicated must be different.  Attached was a resume listing approximately twenty different jobs with twenty different companies over a span of less than five years.  None of them were labeled as “temp” or “contract” or “consultant.”

If you are going to lead with these qualities, at the very least, there should be some explanation as to why you haven’t stayed with any of your former employers for longer than six months.

Throughout my recruiting experience, every hiring manager I’ve spoken with has the same feelings about job changes.  “No job hoppers” is a common mantra.

There are times when changing jobs frequently is truly not the employee’s fault.  I’ve seen resumes where the last three jobs ended abruptly because the company was sold, changed management or moved out of the area.  So it is not always within the employee’s control.

When there is no logical reason for five jobs in a year, you may wish to consider adding brief explanations on the resume.  I don’t normally recommend this, as most people feel the need to write a paragraph explaining what happened.

However, wording such as:  “Company relocated” or “Company closed” after the name of the business goes a long way towards assuring anyone reviewing your resume that you may in fact be loyal and dependable, just caught in a bad situation.

 

Follow-up 101

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I firmly believe there needs to be a new mandatory college course.  All students, in all disciplines of study must take and pass this course in order to graduate.  It would be called “Follow-up 101.”

Are you looking for a job?  If so, when a potential employer, hiring manager, human resources contact, recruiter, staffing agency, headhunter or anyone who has the potential to help you actually get a job offer contacts you, you have one responsibility:  Contact them back.

There are various means of communication in the business world:  telephone calls, e-mails, social media and text messages, just to list the most common.

It is extremely rare that a job will land in your lap and you will have no responsibility in the process.  (Better odds of winning the lottery).  When a potential employer calls you, call them back.  If they send you an email, email them back.  If they email you and ask you to call them.  CALL THEM BACK.

The only way you can fail at this process is if you do not respond at all.

Sadly, better than 50% of the job seekers who email a resume to me do not answer me when I email or call them and ask to speak with them.

Step two in the job search process is to actually speak with the person you sent your resume to in step one.

In the recruiting world, candidates who respond professionally and in a timely fashion immediately float to the very top of the candidate pool.

Too Much Information

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Social media is fun.  It’s a great way to stay in touch with your friends and family, but when it comes to searching for a job it can be deadly.

A candidate sent in her resume for a creative marketing role.

What’s the first thing the hiring manager did? An on-line search to see if there were any samples of her work out there.

What did the hiring manager find? The candidate’s blog.  (Great chance to show off her writing skills, right?)

What the blog told the hiring manager?

The candidate has a really bad attitude and a seriously flawed work ethic.  Her blog was a detailed rant about her last employer, how horrible it was to work there and how she walked out on them in the middle of her second day.

Any chance she’s getting an interview?

NO!

Bad Advice from Friends

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This particular scenario happens way more often than you might think, so I’m sharing a recent experience in hopes of saving someone else.

One of my candidates was offered a job. The salary offered was over the top of the original salary range. By the way, this is a clear indication that the company really, really wants to hire you. It is extremely rare for an offer to come in at the top of the range, let alone more than the top of the range.

I found out after it was too late that the candidate took the advice of a “friend.” The friend advised my candidate to push for more money with specific instructions to avoid the recruiter and go directly to the hiring manager with the request/demand. The friend’s point was “What have you got to lose?”

And the answer to “what have you got to lose” is: The job offer. It was withdrawn.

This particular candidate had already exhausted his unemployment benefits and had told me he was desperate to find work. The salary that was offered was more than he had ever earned in any past job and he was convinced by his friend that even what was offered was lower than he could get if he just pushed for more money.

If you are working with a Professional Recruiter, you may want to consider this person actually knows what she is doing and will be able to advise and guide you in a way that your friend can’t.

After all, your friend truly does have nothing to lose when you lose the job offer.