Company Confidential

What does it mean when a job is posted as “Company Confidential?”

From a professional recruiter’s standpoint, I can explain it. Recruiting is a very competitive industry. It’s rare that an outside recruiter has an exclusive arrangement with a hiring company and can post the hiring company’s name. We are protecting our client and we are protecting ourselves.

There are candidates who say they would never “go around” and apply directly to my client company, some of which were actually doing that while they were on the phone with me. So I learned long ago, that as much as I would love to trust everyone. That’s not a smart thing to do.

There are also recruiting companies who don’t have enough work and find it easier to call other recruiters; find out who you are recruiting for and then call that company to sell their own recruiting service. They, of course, don’t tell the recruiter they are competition. They disguise themselves as viable candidates.

Where I find it confusing is when a company who is running their own job postings doesn’t include their name. There are very few explanations for this that make any sense. The ones that come to mind are:

The company is recruiting for a position that currently has someone in it. They can’t risk losing the person they are trying to replace until they have someone new to fill it.

Perhaps the company doesn’t want their competitors to know they are hiring. Although to me that sounds like a positive thing; perhaps they think it makes them look weak.

My favorite is they don’t want to use their real email address because then they will get SPAM emails and they’ll get follow up emails from the applicants. Heaven forbid an applicant knows who you are!

On the down side of not including the hiring company information…well…where to start? If someone is currently employed, they are certainly not going to risk submitting their resume to an unknown company. I know people who have done this. It’s an awkward situation, trying to explain to your boss why you are looking for a new job. I’ve seen it happen.

Employed or unemployed, sending resumes in to automated applicant tracking systems, computers and even to people blindly is extremely frustrating. Why make it more frustrating for the job seekers? They can’t even track where they’ve sent their resume because so many postings don’t include the company name.

There’s a definite downturn in applicants. I recruit full time and I talk with hundreds if not thousands of people who are either actively or passively looking for a new opportunity. It’s my opinion that giving the job seekers more information is a win/win situation for everyone.

Tailoring Your Resume

One of the many issues that get me up on my soap box is the topic of tailoring your resume for the job you are pursuing.

I am not in any way suggesting you fabricate a resume to match the job opening. What I am saying is, if you have the experience that is being sought, leaving it off of your resume is a huge mistake. Searching for the right job is hard work. Yes, this adds to the work you need to put into the search, but it is definitely worth it.

Assumptions about what can be logically gleaned from your resume are dangerous. For example, assuming the hiring manager will know that because you have 30 years’ experience working with cats; you obviously have worked with dogs as well. Who would know that?

When it comes to technical skills, it’s even less obvious. Because you know C++ does not mean you obviously know Java. Because you’ve spent ten years working in accounts payable, does not mean you know how to work in accounts receivable. The people reviewing your resume are not psychic!

I recently had a conversation with a candidate whose resume had not one single key word match. It had not one single skill, degree, capability or talent that was required for the job. He had never worked in the industry of my client or any industry even remotely connected to my client.

During the course of the conversation he told me he literally spent the last thirty years of his life in that industry. He grew up in that “world.” His father was the vice president of a huge corporation and his entire career was focused on this discipline in this industry. (I hear this one all the time. My father or mother was a brain surgeon; therefore, I am qualified to perform brain surgery. Not quite to that level, but you get the idea. Being related to someone who knows how to do the work does not qualify you to do the work).

When I suggested he tailor his resume and put into writing what he knew about the work, the industry and how his skills and talents could be transferred into this field he knew intimately, his answer was: “I tried that once about 30 years ago and it didn’t work. It’s way too much work and I’m not interested in doing that again.”

I’ve also heard: “If the hiring manager is too stupid to know that I can do this work, I don’t want to work there.” That’s good because they don’t want you to work there either.

It’s far too easy to blame someone else for not seeing your worth and to assume your skills are obvious to anyone looking at your resume. It’s a job search and that means there’s work involved.

Beware of Lists

I see so many articles and posts suggesting questions that you really need to ask on an interview. Top ten questions to ask! Don’t leave the interview without asking these important fifteen questions. Seriously?

What is important is that you ask the right person the right types of questions and be aware that some of them will present you in a way you did not intend.

For example:

How often are performance reviews given?
Are salary adjustments geared to the cost of living or job performance?
How does the company measure success?
What exactly does the company value?

All good questions, but if you ask them all, you are really asking: when am I going to get my first pay increase, how often will I be reviewed and given a pay increase, and what do you base my increases on. One of these questions should open a discussion and hopefully result in additional information, however, all of them will make you appear to be only focused on the salary and nothing else.

Another example:

Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?
May I talk with the last person who held this position?

What are you hoping to learn from these types of questions? Do you want to know if the company promotes from within? Or do you want to know if there’s an issue with the boss and no one stays in this position? Perhaps you are hoping to learn both, but it’s highly unlikely anyone will answer honestly if there is an issue and there is high turnover in this position.

Ask questions that are relevant to your situation of the interviewer who is most likely to know the answer.

Questions about the specific work should be addressed to the hiring manager. Questions about benefits and company culture are likely to be answered better by the human resources professional or peers.

Lists can be helpful as suggestions, but don’t think you need to ask them all.

Happy Holidays and the Job Search Continues!

Just a reminder that not every company ceases hiring activities around the end of the year. Yes, it’s the holidays and scheduling interviews may slow down for some companies, but resumes are still being reviewed and decisions are still being made. Year-end budgets are being worked out and in some cases offers need to be extended before the New Year starts.

So if you have decided it’s not worth your time to look at job postings this close to the holidays, you may be missing out.

I’ve posted several openings over the least two weeks and am receiving resumes from all over the globe. Local candidates have the best chance of being hired…so don’t stop your search under the mistaken idea that no one is hiring this time of the year.

Also, on the plus side since so many people assume no one is hiring this time of the year, your competition for the job openings is less. It’s much easier for your resume to work its way to the top of a pile of 25 – 50 resumes rather than the normal 100+. So why not use the holiday slow down to your job searching advantage?

Season’s greetings to everyone.

How to Work With a Recruiter

Job searches can be frustrating, time consuming and downright lonely. It’s good to have other people keeping their eyes open for you for your next opportunity; friends, family, co-workers and recruiters.

Not all recruiters work the same way. As in any field, there are good and bad. There are personalities that work well with you and ones that don’t. However, adding a recruiter to your networking team can be very helpful.

When looking for a recruiter to add to your team, here are a few things to keep in mind:

First, be sure the recruiter you are talking with is paid by the hiring company. The majority of us are, so you shouldn’t have to be worried that there’s a hidden fee. But it’s best to get that clarified, up front. That information should be on the recruiter’s web site. If not, don’t hesitate to ask.

There must be a sense of trust. Keeping resumes confidential should go without saying. I have never submitted a resume to a hiring company without obtaining the permission of the job seeker first. Trust is vital. If you don’t have that with a recruiter, find another one to work with.

A good recruiter should be willing to talk with you. I like to gather more information than just a resume. What’s your current salary? What range are you targeting to make a change to a new company? Why do you want to leave your current employer? How far are you willing to commute to work? Are you open to relocation? Are you able to travel and if so, what percentage (domestic/international)? What’s truly important to you (e.g., work/life balance, a challenging job, the size of the company, the industry, the salary, the benefits, the commute…). The more I know about what you are seeking, the easier it is to know when an opening crosses my desk, if it’s right for you.

As with anyone who is part of your job search team, you should feel comfortable emailing or calling. I’m not suggesting you call every day to check in, but watching the postings and connecting on sites such as LinkedIn and knowing you have someone to reach out to, makes a big difference in your search.

Whether you are actively or passively looking for a job, having a good recruiter on your side can be a huge benefit.

A Good Sign of Growth

As a professional recruiter, I’d like to think I have a good feel for the job market. Every day I look at job postings, help wanted ads, networking sites and professional magazines (on line and paper). I see ups and downs and trends and flows of various jobs. I know when a company is growing and when they are shrinking. I hear from the job seekers about wonderful places to work and not so wonderful places to work.

A few months ago I saw an influx of staffing and recruiting firms appear overnight into an industry that had been somewhat quieter in this economy. Some of them popped up in January and were closed by March. If you’re not in the recruiting industry it’s easy to assume this is an easy way to make a ton of money. If you are in the recruiting industry you know better. And if you opened and closed in three months you really know better.

I have noticed something recently though. I was afraid to mention it, in case I scare it away, but more frequently I am seeing openings in Human Resources. More specifically there are more openings for Talent Acquisition and Inside Recruiters for a variety of companies.

I’ve never seen this written up as a formal economic indicator for potential job growth. And, while I am not an economist myself, this seems to me to be a very good sign.

When a company is getting ready to grow, one of the first things they need is a strong internal human resources department. This includes people who can find the talented employees they need to in order to grow…and do it quickly and efficiently.

So while I continue to see negative news on the job front, one of my own personal indicators of good things to come is this increase in human resources openings. My fingers are crossed that I’m right!

Resume Myth: Be Creative with Your Resume Format

Showcasing your creative talents in your resume formatting can distract from the actual content and your true abilities do not shine through.

Multicolored resumes are normally a turn off. I’ve seen some that are 3 – 5 different colors and styles of font, on a colored background with clip-art embedded throughout. Or, even worse, including your photograph. If you’re absolutely convinced your photo needs to be on your resume, at the very least make it a recent business professional version.

Columns are also not a good idea. For companies who scan in the resumes, it comes out as sentences from left to right, so whatever is in the left column gets merged with the right column and makes incoherent sentences. While it might look good on paper or on your computer screen, once the formatting has been removed, you have a mess. I’ve seen two page resumes formatted as columns, end up being 10 – 20 pages long once the formatting is gone…and no one will look at that much information.

When it comes to your resume, what is important is clearly and concisely capturing your skills, experience and general knowledge in a way that attracts the attention of the hiring manager and encourages them to schedule an interview with you.

Resume Myth or Just Plain Bad Advice: Keep your resume to one page

In reality, unless you have just graduated from school and have absolutely zero work experience, a one page resume is not only almost impossible it’s not serving your best interests.

Two pages is the standard resume length. Three is even permissible. Anything over three and you had better have lists of publications, patents and very, very impressive information to share. Otherwise, you’ll be perceived as being egotistical.

I’ve seen recent high school graduates with two page resumes. All that community service work, volunteer projects, helping out with the family business and school committees actually can be seen as work related skills.

While you don’t want to list it as official “Work History” or “Work Experience,” this is still experience, especially if it is related to the job for which you are applying, so go ahead and include it on your resume. You can title it “Volunteer Work” or “Community Service” and highlight the skills, experience and general knowledge you gained from this experience.

Over the years, I’ve met some very impressive high school graduates who have suggested and managed volunteer projects, done presentations to a formal board of directors, created and/or maintained a non-profit web site, etc.

Until you have actual work experience to fill up the pages, showing that you have some transferable skills will help you get your foot in the door.

If you have twenty years of work experience and you are trying to cram it onto one page, stop it!

You are expected to have at least two pages of information. You don’t need to list everything you’ve ever done for each employer. However, the work you’ve done that is relevant to the job and any impressive accomplishments will go much farther towards getting you an interview than a one page resume.

Ten Unwritten Rules of Internships & Co-ops

You are about to start your first internship, co-op or training job. Perhaps you need actual hands-on work experience in order to meet the requirements for graduation or you are working on gaining experience to improve your chances of employment upon graduation. The skills, experience and knowledge you gain from an employer willing to take you on before you’ve graduated will be valuable.

Take it from someone who has seen many students go through a wide range of companies and industries in a wide range of positions. There are some unwritten rules that employers never tell you, but you really need to know. Some may seem obvious, some may be surprising. They are here to provide some help and insight and hopefully some humor.

1. You are new. You are green. You have no actual work experience. You do NOT have all the answers to all the questions and no one expects you to. So, jumping into the middle of a conversation with how you would solve the problem will most likely end poorly. The odds are you do not have all the information nor can you see the big picture. So while your solution to whatever the problem is may sound brilliant to you…it may be totally destructive to the company, project or product you are working on at the time. You don’t know what you don’t know and that can be dangerous.

If you are asked specifically for your input on a discussion, by all means provide it. This is your opportunity to shine. Speak clearly, concisely and understand that this is your opinion based on what you know about the question/issue/problem to be solved. But don’t take it personally if it’s not the actual solution the company goes with in the end.

2. This is a job. Dress accordingly. Showing up to an interview or your first day dressed in anything less than business casual is an insult to the company. Of course, if you are fortunate enough to work for a company that wears jeans and t-shirts most of the time, feel free to blend in (within reason). However, under no circumstances should your t-shirt have an opinion of any kind printed on it and definitely nothing risqué.

For females, do not dress like a little girl or a hooker. There are many TV programs showing women dressed in short skirts with low cut blouses that are not actually something a true business professional would wear to work.

You want to be taken seriously, you want people to respect you and listen to you when you speak and value your opinion and technical skills, so try to stay neutral. You don’t want the main focus to be what you are wearing.

3. Opinions in general can be dangerous. Do not discuss politics, religion or any other topic that may be viewed as controversial. The safest thing is not to discuss anything other than work. Possibly puppies and kittens…but definitely not controversial subjects.

4. If you are assigned something to do. DO IT to the best of your ability. Ask for further information, clarification or whatever you need in order for you to do the work yourself; however, do not attempt to assign it to some other intern or employee. I’ve seen this happen first hand. You were not hired to delegate work. You were hired to help out and to learn.

5. Do not make faces, roll your eyes, sigh, swear, or indicate in any way that you feel the assignment is beneath you. It’s tempting to let it out if you feel that making copies or filing or running an errand is really not why you are there. And while it’s not going to help you learn about your specific field of study, it is going to teach you humility, team work and will give you a glimpse into what it’s really like to work for a company. Doing whatever needs to be done, whenever it needs to be done and being someone who can be counted on to pitch in, help out and in general has a positive attitude, will make you a better employee in any field, doing any type of work.

6. Salary. Assuming you are paid for your internship, do not discuss your salary with anyone in the company except for your direct supervisor and/or whoever is designated as the contact person for payroll. If you have questions, talk with only the appropriate person.

Brace yourself: There will be taxes withheld. Yes, most people know this; however, I’ve seen at least one intern start screaming that no one has the right to take money out of his pay check. If someone has to call your Mother to calm you down, you won’t be working for this company when you graduate and any credibility you’ve established up to this point is now gone.

7. Do your best to get along with everyone in the company, no matter what department they are in or what position they hold. This is great practice for your future. Cross-departmental collaboration and teamwork are more than just a bunch of buzz worlds. Being able to work with everyone is vitally important to your career.

8. Many companies have what is referred to as an “open door policy” – meaning if you want to talk to someone, you’re free to come in and do so. Even the most casual companies, would still expect you to knock on the door first or politely ask if this is a good time BEFORE launching into whatever you wanted to talk about.

9. This really should go without saying but if you report to someone and go over his or her head, behind his or her back or in any way communicate with someone they report to and leave them out, it will not be viewed favorably. As a concept an open door policy is a good idea, however in practice you still need to respect the hierarchy and your direct supervisor. The only acceptable time you can get away with bypassing your direct supervisor is if you’re being harassed and need to report it to human resources or someone higher up the management ladder. Follow the rules of the company if you have this happen to you.

10. Traveling on Company Business or Business Meals – just because you can, do not order the most expensive thing on the menu. Don’t over eat. Don’t drink alcohol. Yes, that’s what I said…don’t drink. Or at least if you are in a social situation and do drink, do not, under any circumstances get drunk. I could write an entire book on how alcohol has destroyed a career.

There are many other unwritten rules, but these are the ones that seem to cause the most problems and while it is assumed everyone knows these things…well, there’s a saying about assuming too.

Communication Skills Required

More and more job postings have something in them about having strong communication skills, oral and written communication skills and/or presentation skills.

This seems like such a simple thing, you might wonder why it’s even posted as a requirement.You might think everyone is capable of communicating at least on some level.

In reality though, so many people communicate by text, email, skype using abbreviations and acronyms and letting spell check change words however it sees fit…the ability to communicate verbally seems to be lost.

When I see this as a mandatory requirement, what it means is you must be able to speak, understand, comprehend and write clearly. And, unless otherwise noted, this is expected to be in English.

It saddens me to receive resumes from candidates with stellar GPA’s and a beautifully written resume, only to call them and discover they cannot speak or understand English. Not all of them are from other countries.

When I ask a question and the answer is the same words I just said rearranged into an incomprehensible sentence …You’re in trouble.

Entry or senior level, hourly or salaried, whatever type and level of candidate you are…if you are answering every question with a yes or no…You’re in trouble.

While this may seem to be an efficient way to respond, it doesn’t help you prove you are capable of holding your own in a conversation or that you actually comprehend the question you were just asked.

When I ask for feedback on why someone did not get offered the job, the majority of the time, the answer has something to do with inability to communicate.

The art of conversation is important. Practice with friends and family if you need to brush up your communication skills.