Sunday, September 4, 2011

Make the Top 5 - don't blow it in your interview

With the age of technology, horror stories of applicants who send in resumes on scented paper have been replaced with stories of job seekers who send in blanket resumes to 40 different companies in seven different industries. As experts, we're quick to remind folks that if you want the interview, you need to tailor your message.
So what happens when you are selected as one of the top five candidates among 100 applicants? You'd be surprised how seriously some of these applicants blow it.
I recently transitioned from career expert to hiring manager for one of the hospital marketing communications teams I oversee in Central Washington. All applicants were asked the same questions and evaluated on the same scale. Here were three bad answers, and what they should have said instead.
Question: Why do you want this position?
His answer: Well, I used to live there and I still own a home that needs a lot of repair. It would be great to be able to get back to that.
What went through my mind? You want to repair your house? What does that have to do with marketing?
Right answer: Because I used to work for the local newspaper, I have a lot of contacts in the community and through regular networking, I'd be able to add valuable input about what matters to our patients.
Question: Give me an example of a time when you demonstrated integrity in your job.
Her answer: That's a hard one. I guess there was a time when I was working for a fast food restaurant in high school and there was money missing from the till. I told them I didn't do it and they did an investigation and they realized I didn't do it. So that was good.
What went through my mind? Really, you're applying for a professional position, you have an MBA, and that's the best example you have?
Right answer: Any response where you found yourself at a cross-roads and you made the right decision, especially if it cost you, but you knew it was right or somehow helped a co-worker, a customer or someone else. Show me your empathy. Show me your committment. Show me that when the rubber hits the road I can count on you to represent yourself, our team and our company in a positive way.
Question: If offered the marketing assistant position, how long do you see yourself in this position?
Her answer: Well, probably at least a year. I think it's really important to learn as much as I can and who knows what else will be available by that time.
What went through my mind? In one year you will barely have moved through one complete cycle of calendar events. So essentially, once you've tried everything once, you may be ready to move on?
Right answer: I'm looking to commit to a position and learn from it until I master it, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and we end up making decisions or changes sooner or later than we planned, but I would only accept a position fully intending to give it my all for my entire foreseeable future.
The point is not to just say the right things, but to enter every interview fully expecting to give the prospective position 100 percent. As much as you may need or want a job, if you're applying for positions that you aren't prepared to commit to, it will come across in the answers you give.
Multiple times, I wanted to jump into career coach mode and give strategic advice to the job candidates I interviewed. Every person in the top five had a solid chance at the job for which they were being considered. Four of them blew it in the interview.
Next week, I'll share tips on what you MUST DO when you make it into the top five if your goal is to get offered the job!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Meaningful Internships = More Than College Credit

2011 grads have a leg up in the current job market, unlike in past economies where experience was more important. An onslaught of new technology and the increasing importance of social media and a web presence are making savvy, new grads attractive to cash-conservative organizations looking to get the biggest bang for their buck.

Today's graduate is educated, comes with training and if they've made the time and space to fit in a meaningful internship, they're also able to offer some experience and hopefully a handful of decent work samples.

So what is a meaningful internship? It's one that offers the student an opportunity to develop a realistic learning experience and measure the results of that experience with take-away lessons that will serve them in a real-life work situation.

The IRS is cracking down on employers who utilize interns to replace paid employees, so the tasks that interns are assigned have changed in some cases. Interns are no longer given entry-level jobs to take the daily burden off employees. This may change the parameters to protect the student, but it doesn't have to mean that internships cannot still be meaningful in terms of work experience.

--> If you know of a student who is getting ready to graduate, consider spoiling them with a gift that will give them an edge in the job market. The Creating Job Security Resource Guide, 2nd Edition, is now available online and in local book stores.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Crisis Averted... for a few days

There is never "the best time" to turn the ship around. There are many good times, in fact, any time before the iceberg, the edge of the waterfall, or any other game-changing crisis is a good time to turn the ship around. The republicans and democrats have been discussing the 2011 US budget for several weeks now as deadlines continue to loom and be pushed out "just in time" following tiny compromises. What crisis is looming in your career or your financial life? Have you received warnings to turn the ship around? Are there signs that the direction you're headed is going to require a path change? The Creating Job Security Resource Guide is your map to navigating a harsh job market. It includes all the tools you need in a compact package that doesn't waste your time with a lot of extra talk. Maybe you were waiting for the jobs to come back, only to discover that the new jobs may not pay what you've been making in a position that has become highly dissatisfactory. Maybe you are nearing the end of unemployment and you're trying to decide if you should take a lower job with lower pay or wait for a position you desire. There are some decisions that are just never easy. The secret is to compile the facts, jump in with your heart, and turn the wheel. The water may be choppy, and sacrifices may be required, but you'll be heading in the right direction before you know it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Stock market fun to watch again

A lot of people are predicting what the economy will do next. Will it improve? Will the nuclear threats in Japan impact the recovery? Will high paying jobs come back? (The US economy created more than 216,000 jobs in March alone -- but are they jobs that merely pay the bills or afford families a moderate sense of security?) Of course there are threats -- energy prices being chief among them -- and an uncertain housing market not far behind. But a key indicator I tend to look at is the stock market. Is it fun to watch again? Does your quarterly statement register in the gains column? As someone who was fortunate to work in senior management at a thrift (similar to a bank but with the primary revenue source coming from loans) and then a financial software company back in the mid- to late-1990s, I remember very well when the stock market was fun to watch. Bull market lead to jobs, jobs lead to freedom, and freedom leads to bigger possibilities. Recovering from The Great Recession will be a lot like recovering from a major accident. The progress will be there, and it will mostly be in the right direction. There will be fatigue and set-backs minute-by-minute, but the progress will be evident as the weeks and months go by. If you've dropped out of the job market because you just couldn't find anything that met your needs, now is the time to jump back in. As more jobs are created there will also be movement among those workers who have wanted to explore new horizons for some time but who have "stayed put" out of fear. If you're a little rusty, give yourself an edge with resources you can trust. That may be from industry-specific websites like those found in the Creating Job Security Resource Guide, 2nd Edition -- or it may be by hiring a jobs site like that can ensure individual jobs leads are current and provide what they claim. Whatever you do, the message is a positive one. The sun is peeking out again and with it you'll find many new opportunities on the horizon. You might even decide it's time to start watching the stock market. It's a brand new day!