Considering a New Job Offer

Are you considering a new job offer?  While, it’s not in my job description, I find myself advising people on how to make a decision on a new job offer, or deciding between two.

There are so many things to consider when you get a job offer:

Where are you now?  Are you currently employed or unemployed?  Are you on the verge of strangling your boss and/or co-workers if you don’t get out of your current job?  Are you running out of cash and need a job, any job, just to pay the bills?

It’s important for you to know where you stand, how you feel and why you feel this way.  Ideally you should know this before you interview in the first place.  Above all, be honest with yourself.  Why are you looking for a new job in the first place?

It’s amazing what goes through your mind when you are weighing the pros and cons of a job offer:

Salary:

Is the salary being offered what you need or want to be earning?  Are you taking something less because you are desperate?  Is the salary so much more than you’ve ever earned before that you’re starting to question your ability to do the work?

Commute:

Is the commute reasonable?  Many people think anything over ten minutes is too far to travel and others will drive for two hours to get to a job they adore.  Think long and hard about how much time you are willing, able and comfortable with spending commuting.  This is time away from family, friends and the other parts of your life.  Some people consider commute time working hours.  So if the salary isn’t enough to cover an extra two hours a day commuting, is it worth it?

Job Description:

Do you really want the job?  Is it something you are excited about doing?  Did you meet people you want to work with? Is it a company you feel good about?  Will you be happy/proud to tell someone where you work?

Benefits:

What is important to you in the way of benefits?  More vacation time, flexible schedule, better medical insurance,  and/or 401K plan?  Are you trading a higher salary for better benefits?  A $10,000 salary increase disappears really quickly when the company isn’t contributing to the medical insurance premiums or a 401K.

Considering a Job Offer:

When comparing two job possibilities even if one is new and one is where you have worked for years, it can be helpful to tell someone about both of the jobs. Pick one and list the pros and cons, then do the same for the other job. I know that sounds a little strange, but forcing yourself to speak “out loud” why you think you want a particular job over another one, can be very revealing.  You may be surprised to hear your own tone of voice change when you are talking.

While many tangible items can be considered, it’s also important to take into consideration your feelings, thoughts and perceptions of the new company, boss, co-workers and job description.  Ultimately it is up to you, but be sure to consider all of the parts and pieces before you make a final decision.

Be Yourself

I’m often asked for job interview advice. “ Be yourself ” sounds trite, but it means so much more than that.

Show your passion, show your enthusiasm. Don’t go over the top, but if you are interviewing without a smile or any level of excitement in your voice…is that really how you feel?  If it is then this isn’t the job for you.  If you are interested in the company, the job, the culture…let the person interviewing you know that.

Some people only seem to get excited when they are talking about how bad it was in their last job. Be careful what message that sends.  See post on complaining about former employers – http://www.calm-water.com/why-do-you-want-to-leave-your-current-employer/.

Common mistakes include staring at your feet, hands or cell phone (yikes!). Eye contact is important.  I’m not suggesting you bore a hole into someone’s head staring at them, but at least look at the person you are talking with so they know you are paying attention.  It goes along with nodding, smiling and making sounds that indicate you are following what they are saying.

There are some wonderful deep breathing exercises that help with nervousness and it’s common to be nervous, in fact it’s expected that you will be nervous. It’s a very rare person who breezes through an interview with no level of shakiness.

I’m amazed at how many hiring managers tell me they want someone with a sense of humor. Yes, they want the technical knowledge/skills and the positive attitude and the detail-oriented, hard working person…but a smile and a sense of humor goes a long way as well.  If you’re too rigid and shut down during the interview to let who you really are out, the odds are the smile and that quality of humor won’t be there either.

Your Resume Kept in Confidence

I include the expression “your resume will be kept in confidence” on my web site and try to remember to put it on all of my job postings.

Honestly, I think it should go without saying when you are working with a professional recruiter or a professional human resources person at a company, that we will protect your job search anonymity.

But just in case, I thought I would outline my version of the definition of keeping your resume in confidence.

What it means to me is that I will never, under any circumstances, submit your resume to any of my clients for any position, open or not, without your permission to do so.

Recruiting is a very competitive industry. The recruiter who gets your resume in first for any open role is the one who gets awarded the fee should you get hired. I know there are some recruiters who will send your resume out to any and all companies for any and all positions they think you may be a fit for, and not ask you first.  I understand why they do it, but I believe that it is unethical and I refuse to do it.

Do I miss getting a fee because while I was trying to reach a candidate on the phone, some other recruiter submitted your resume without asking? Yes.  It happens to me occasionally.  However, the level of trust and respect I have with my candidates means in many instances I’m the only recruiter who has a copy of your resume and I take that responsibility very seriously.

Make sure you are working with a recruiter you are comfortable working with and can trust to keep your resume confidential.

Resume Format

Most job postings request a specific format for your resume submission. Personally, I prefer a Word version and request that in my job postings. As a recruiter, there are many reasons why I ask for a Word version and I find I have to explain that, sometimes at great length to job seekers.

Some people are distrustful and suspicious. They believe that by giving a Word version, a recruiter will change their resume. While I’m sure that could happen, let me assure you that I personally do not do that.  I also find it highly unlikely that any reputable recruiter would do that.

If I see a spelling mistake, typographical or grammatical error, I will tell you. I operate under the belief that even if I do not place you with one of my client companies, I should still alert you to anything that might improve your chances of finding that next opportunity. In other words, if I can leave you better than I found you, that is a positive thing.

Many people send PDF’s. They can’t easily be modified, they maintain their layout no matter what and they make work for me.  The majority of my client companies request Word documents only.  I believe that is because PDF’s do not play well with human resource information systems and internal search software.  You really want to make it so your resume can be found when needed.

Recently, I’ve started receiving more resumes that appear to be web site pages (HTML’s). Thus far I’ve not found a way to convert them, copy them or save them.  Therefore, that format is completely useless to me.

While this is not connected to format, so much as failure to follow directions, there seems to be an increase in applicants sending me links to cloud storage areas (Google docs, Drop Box, private web sites, etc.).

Please keep in mind that the person reviewing resumes can easily open the requested file type and review the resume. If they are basically being told to “go get it”… the odds are they are not going to do that.

Remember, you are applying for a job. You want to make a good first impression and at the very least submitting your resume in the requested format is a good start.

 

Job Search Etiquette

In an attempt to help guide some job seekers through the job search and resume submission process, perhaps a few key etiquette points would be helpful.

When submitting your resume for any position; following the directions in the job posting is vital.

If the posting requests a Word document; that’s what you should send. Yes, I can convert a PDF into a Word document but when faced with hundreds of resumes from candidates who have provided me with what I asked for, that conversion will happen after I’ve reviewed all the rest.

If you use a site like Google docs or Drop box or have your resume attached to your LinkedIn profile or saved on your own personal web site; that may not be convenient for the person reviewing resumes.

Again, when I’m reviewing hundreds of resumes for a specific job opening and an applicant sends me a link, I do not have time to follow it to download a file.

Recently, I told someone it was not my practice to download files from unknown websites (or even known web sites) because the risk of a virus is too great and it is too time consuming.

Her response was that there was no way I could get a virus from this specific site, and implied I’m an idiot if I think that will happen. In what social interaction is it acceptable to tell anyone they are stupid?

I strive to be polite and professional in my responses to applicants. A polite and professional response is appreciated in return.  I’m not particularly motivated to spend extra time trying to help someone whose communication lacks proper etiquette.  I believe that is the case with most people.

If you are asked to call to discuss; please call.

The expression “at your earliest convenience” does not mean call me at 1:00 a.m. on your way home from a bar. And leaving a message I can’t understand is not polite or professional.  With caller ID now, you can no longer even claim it wasn’t you.  If I can’t understand your words, I can do a quick search for your phone number in my database and tie the message to the candidate. I use this information when a call is dropped in the middle of a message or there is static on the line as well.

If we have a call scheduled for a specific time, please call at that time or answer the phone when I call you. 

Cell phones are really wonderful. They also amplify the background noise.  So, please note that while you are telling me you are stuck in a meeting and can’t talk, I’m listening to the background noise as well.  The odds are I can hear the children splashing in the outdoor pool, the sound of seagulls overhead at the beach or people behind you yelling that they’ll catch up with you at the ski lift.

Polite and professional behavior is the very definition of good etiquette.

Interview Questionnaires

Some of my clients like to send out a brief interview questionnaire prior to scheduling an in-person interview. They provide a set of questions designed to see how the candidate communicates in writing as well as learn about some specific skills and experience.  The human resources and hiring managers put a great deal of thought into what to ask in order to learn more about the candidates.

I forward these interview questionnaires on to the candidates so I’ve seen more than most people when it comes to what types of questions are out there. I always include a link to the company web site so the candidates are able to research the company.

It is surprising to see how little effort some candidates put into providing responses.

The following are a few examples of questions, what the question really means and how short and sweet is not always the best way to move forward:

Question: The job requires significant travel.  Are you ok with traveling up to 80% of your time and working odd shifts to accommodate the customer’s schedules?

Answer: “Yes”

Feedback: This is your chance to tell the hiring manager how you feel about travel.  How excited you are to travel.  How you love to travel.  How you have traveled in the past and where and how well you interact with different cultures.  Possibly even mention you have some additional language skills that may be useful.  Or let them know you have a passport or want to get a passport or have always dreamed of having a job that allows you the opportunity to see the world.

Question: How well do you know MS Office?  Explain.

Answer: “Excellent computer skills.”

Feedback: This is your opportunity to elaborate on how you have used the various MS Office products in the past.  How you use Word and Excel on a daily basis.  How you are a guru with MS Project or Access or feel that you can use Outlook to its full capacity.  You could also list computer software training courses you’ve already taken.  You could offer to take computer software training courses in areas where you feel you could learn more.

Question: How much do you know about our professional product line and equipment?

Answer: “Some”

Feedback: This is where you can show off your technical expertise and experience and show your excitement for the opportunity to work for this company and its products.

Even these seemingly unimportant pre-interview questionnaires are examples of you and your work. Remember to think through your reply and always proofread everything!

It’s great to be concise and to the point with your answers and you don’t want to babble on without making a point, but be mindful of what the question is really asking and respond in a way that showcases your skills in the best possible way.

Mini Job Application Tests

All parts of the application and interview process could be viewed as “mini tests.” When applying for a new job there are so many major ways to make mistakes.  There are also a variety of actual tests (personality profiling, technical skills, etc).

There are some very subtle ways to mess up as well. Many companies use a variety of methods to screen out candidates and you don’t even know it.

For example:

Did you follow the directions in the job posting and apply correctly?

Did you send in an HTML or PDF when you were specifically asked for a Word document?

Did you include a cover letter, if requested?

Did you include a portfolio or references, if requested?

Are there spelling and/or grammatical errors on your resume or cover letter?

Did you spell the name of the company correctly?

If you received an email, text or phone message asking you to call, did you do it?

Did you schedule an interview and arrive late? Not show up?  Show up, but not dressed appropriately?

Did you go to an interview and not do any research about the company before hand?

While, any one of these could be a very minor mistake, it could also be what rules you out completely.

Every little thing you do and say can be viewed as another “test.”

Salary Requirement

We all know the mantra “He or she who states the salary requirement first loses.”  As a recruiter I struggle with the salary requirement question all the time.

There’s too much advice out there instructing job seekers to never tell the potential employer what they want for salary because it might be too high or too low.  What about it might be in the range?  What about how much time you are wasting if you really must have $300K per year for salary and the range goes up to $75K.  Are you really interested in the job at that rate?

That example is a bit extreme; however, I’ve seen potential candidates talk their way out of even getting an interview by trying to coyly avoid answering the question “What is your salary expectation?”

That’s a tough question. Answers I’ve heard that didn’t work:

Salary.com says the range should be (insert range here) and I’m fine with that.

It depends upon the exact package…(so if I say it pays minimum wage but the company pays for your medical insurance and has a pool table in the break room, will that work for you?)

I’ll tell you my salary expectation as soon as you tell me what the top of the range is… (then it will be the top of the range)

I’m flexible.   (What exactly does this mean?)

Money is not at the top of my list, the job responsibilities are more important to me.  (Does this mean you will work for free if you love your job?)

The one thing I know for a fact, when it comes to salaries:  When I say the range is $50 – 100K, the only number the candidate hears is $100K.  I honestly don’t know why everyone looking for work feels they automatically will receive an offer at the top of the range but I’ve never once had a candidate tell me $50K is exactly what they are looking for based on that range.

Unemployed Is NOT Who You Are

For so many people who they are, is tied into what they do.  I have noticed when you meet someone for the first time; it’s acceptable to ask “What do you do?”

Many people seem to define who they are as a person by stating what they do for work. So then, what happens when you lose your job?

“What do you do?” becomes a dreaded question seeming to require admission that you’re unemployed. As if this is the equivalent of saying you have the plague or you’ve just discovered you are totally worthless.

Being laid off, RIF’ed (reduction in force), down-, right- or smart-sized, redeployed, being part of a simplification, shaping, or optimization of the workforce, having your job outsourced or whatever the term of the day is does not mean you have no value.  If you have never had any of these things happen to you, you are extremely rare!

You are still a person and can still use your career as part of your definition of yourself. It is important to have a positive attitude and a smile!

Some responses I’ve heard from some very upbeat people to the question “What do you do?”

  • I’m currently an unemployed Electrical Engineer, but I’m working on finding a new employer and in the meantime I’m working on some design ideas of my own.
  • Right now I’m a Nutritional Delivery Expert (aka pizza delivery) but I plan to go back to Software Programming and I’m taking on-line courses in cutting edge technology (insert latest software language here)
  • I’m an Accountant. While I’m searching for my next position I’m studying for the CPA exams.

Whatever you say, make it a positive statement that indicates you are seeking something appropriate, you’re not just waiting for a job to fall into your lap, you’re keeping current in your field and you have a sense of humor.

Never under estimate the value of a good sense of humor!

Cover Letters

I am often asked if cover letters are really all that important. How much work should be put into tailoring and customizing a cover letter to submit with a resume?

My answer is “it depends.” Some hiring managers read cover letters just as carefully as the resume. Some people put more emphasis on the cover letter than the resume itself. Others skip them completely and just focus on the resume.

If the job posting specifically requests a cover letter, omitting it could get your resume rejected automatically.  Including a well-written cover letter, even if it is not required, adds a level of professionalism to your application.  Not everyone takes the time to write them.

However, sending a cover letter that you have cut and pasted from a previous application is dangerous.  The most common mistakes include:

  • Forgetting to change the name of the company
  • Forgetting to change the salutation
  • Forgetting to change the job title
  • Including a detailed list of your specific skills and how they apply to some other job

All of these mistakes will detract from your overall presentation.

Sometimes the request for a cover letter is a test to see how well you follow directions and communicate. This is especially important for management positions and roles that typically require written correspondence as part of your daily tasks.

Cover letters should never have any spelling mistakes, typos or grammatical errors. If you are a Technical Writer, Marketing candidate or Editor, your resume will be viewed even more critically.

Sadly, I once received a resume from a highly degreed Technical Writer. His resume had thirty-two spelling errors in it.  When I pointed that out, his response was, “Well, if the company can’t see beyond that, then I don’t want to work for them.”  The feeling was mutual.

For some brief examples of poorly written cover letters, see http://www.calm-water.com/interesting-cover-letters%e2%80%a6/