Assessing Company Culture

A critical part of the interview process is assessing fit – does the candidate fit the company culture and does the company culture fit the candidate?  How can a candidate accurately assess the culture of the company they are considering?

Do Your Research:  Don’t just look at the company website.  Social media will give you much better insight into the culture of the organization.  Look at what they post on Twitter or Facebook.  Check out their videos.  Also look at independent sites such as Glass Door to see feedback from employees.

Network:  Even with social media there is some level of company control over messages.  Talk to current and former employees.  Leverage your Linked In connections and alumni contacts to identify contacts who can tell you what it is like to work there.  Ask them why they chose to join the company.  What keeps them there?  What do they like most about their work there?  What do they like the least?

Observe:  Arrive a few minutes early for your interview.  While you are waiting in the lobby pay attention to how employees interact with one another.  If there is no interaction, that certainly tells you something about the culture.

Pay Attention to Heavy Emphasis:  If everyone you talk to in the interview process mentions the pool table in the lounge or the summer outing, you should do more probing.  If they are all talking about the same thing is the emphasis on the wrong things?  Do their actions support the scripted message?

Before you decide to spend several years of your career with a company, it is critical to gain insight into the culture to determine if this is a place where you would choose to spend your days.

 

 

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Are You Sabotaging Your Job Search?

You would expect job seekers to be doing everything possible to put their best foot forward in their job searches; however that is often not the case.  Here are things job seekers are doing that frustrate and annoy hiring managers and result in the candidate not getting an offer.  Job seekers need to differentiate themselves from the many others seeking the same positions.

With large number of applications received online, hiring managers are looking for easy reasons to whittle down the number of resumes they want to seriously review.  Many candidates are making basic errors to sabotage their own job search efforts.  How can you avoid a quick trip to the “no pile”?

Don’t Follow Directions —If you can’t follow the directions in the hiring process, what makes an employer believe you will be able to follow directions on the job?  If it asks you to attach a resume, do it.  If it asks for references, provide them.  Demonstrate that you are prepared and capable of following directions.

Make Errors – Hiring managers have little patience when you attach the wrong cover letter indicating your interest in a different job at a different organization.  They are not impressed with your lack of attention to detail.  Blatant typos or grammatical errors also demonstrate poor attention to detail and land that letter and resume in the reject pile immediately.  Do not send me your resume or cover letter in edit mode so hiring managers can see the changes you made.  What takes the cake is when the error is I in the sentence claiming your attention to detail.

Don’t Show Your Lack of Effort —Form letters are easy to spot.  If you are not interested enough in the job to customize a letter, most hiring managers are not interested in you either.  Don’t assume you know what the job responsibilities are based on the title.  Read the job description and refer to the job accurately in your cover letter.  Go online and check the website.  Demonstrate that you took some initiative and learned something about us.  Try to find the hiring manager on the website if it is not mentioned in the posting.  Show some initiative rather than sending yet another letter to Dear Hiring Manager.

Don’t Cause Me Extra Work to Consider You —Many applicants don’t bother with a cover letter if it doesn’t indicate that it is required.  They often feel their resume is all that is needed and that their experience speaks for itself.  Guess again.  Don’t make the hiring manager try to understand how your experience relates to what they are looking for.  Don’t expect them to figure out what it is you really want to do next and why.  Write a customized cover letter to address what the hiring manager is looking for and how your experience fits their needs.

It is NOT All About You – Don’t make the hiring manager count the “I”’s instead of reading the content of your cover letter.  First of all, it is not a good example of strong business writing to start nearly every sentence with I.  More importantly, it is not all about you.  The hiring manager has a business need to fill.  Your letter should demonstrate how you can help them address that need.  It shouldn’t be a summary of your resume or a dissertation on what you really want or need.

Don’t Act Desperate –While it can be very frustrating to be unemployed for a long time and that you are worried about making your next rent payment, that isn’t a reason for them to hire you.  Acting desperate makes them think you just want any job and that you’ll leave as soon as the job market improves.  While managers may respect your personal issues, they are not going to influence their decision and really have no part in the interview discussion.

Don’t Skip Your Homework —Information is available at your fingertips via the internet.  There is absolutely no excuse for not doing your research.  Learn about the company or organization.  Know what they do and who their customers are.  See what you can learn about the department you will be interviewing with and you can also learn about the person interviewing you.  Don’t come in and waste the hiring manager’s time by asking what the company does.

Don’t Ignore the Hiring Manager —If they go through the mountain of applications and identify a few for phone screens, you should be flattered and then step your preparations into high gear.  Don’t ignore a request.  Don’t wait more than 24 hours to respond.  Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm by being responsive.  Your lack of response will be interpreted as a lack of interst.

Don’t Forget to say Thank You —This is the easiest way to stand out from the competition.  Say thank you to everyone who interviews you.  Send a quick email thank you and follow it up with a handwritten thank you note.  Personalize each note to reference something specific you discussed.  This is a great opportunity to reaffirm your interest.

An Interview Invitation Doesn’t Mean You Got the Job –Hiring managers do not interview just one person.  Don’t assume that when you are invited to interview that you have the job.  Leave the cocky attitude at the door.  It has no place in an interview.

Don’t Forget to Network —If you claim to be so passionate about this organization or this role, who have you talked to who works there or in a similar organization?  Who have you talked to in order to learn more about this role?  Demonstrate your interest by showing initiative.

Absolutely Don’t Blow Them Off —If you have an interview scheduled, either in person or by phone, you are expected to keep it.  If for ANY reason you are not able to do so, you should call with as much advance notice as possible to notify the interviewer and ask for an opportunity to reschedule.  If you are not available for the scheduled appointment and they don’t hear from you at all until three days later, you have convinced them that you do not have the customer service skills or common courtesy to work in their department.

While it seems obvious that these are things to avoid in your job search, many job seekers are regularly sabotaging their own search efforts.  Pay attention to the details to ensure success in your search.

Unfortunately people desperate for a job think that sending more resumes to online postings increases their chances of getting a job.  It doesn’t make a difference and they are being careless in the process which hurts them further.  They need to demonstrate attention to detail and they need to network like crazy.  Your behavior throughout the process is an indication of how you are likely to behave and perform on the job.  Be sure you are putting your best foot forward.

Alternatives to the Summer Internship

College students look forward to the summer break as an escape from the classroom and often as an opportunity to earn money.  Finding a paid summer internship can be very competitive but don’t panic if you don’t land an internship.  There are other opportunities to add value to your resume and prepare for your future.

  • Gain Work Experience – Even if it isn’t paid.  Gaining experience is the most important goal, whether you are being paid or not. This also shows future employers that you are motivated and focused.  While it is ideal to gain some exposure to your field of choice, for this year, it is critical to be employed.  Doing most anything is better than doing nothing.  Retail or fast food experience at least exposes you to customer service skills and time management.  Before settling for those options reach out to non- profits organizations and offer your services.  They often need assistance but have no budget.  Ask your contacts if you can shadow them for a day or work on a project as a volunteer.  Be creative and find ways to build your work experience even if you are not receiving a pay check.
  • Networking – It is time to start seriously thinking about what you might want to do for your career.  You may have selected a major already or you may still be considering your options.  Either way, this is a critical time to begin networking.  Talk to people who work in fields that interest you or companies that interest you.  Start with the “low hanging fruit” – parents of your friends, people your parents know.  As you get comfortable with information interviews, reach out to alumni of your school.  Many people will make time to talk to a student and they often have some flexibility in their schedule in the summer.  Learn what skills are necessary for success in the field you are interested in.  Send a thank you note to each contact you meet.  Invite them to link with you on Linked In and ask if you can keep them posted throughout your next three years.
  • Informational Interviews- As you identify possible career options reach out to people in your field of interest and request an informational interview.  This extends your networking efforts but helps you gain valuable insights into your chose field.  What skills are critical>?  What does an employer expect from an entry level hire?  What is necessary to succeed longer term in this field?
  • Professional Associations – Identify a relevant professional association for your chose field and join as a student member. Attend meetings and start building your professional network.  During your informational interviews you can ask for recommendations of the best associations in your field.
  • Prepare Your Tools – Be ready. Sometimes companies have last minute summer needs due to students who changed their plans or unforeseen business needs.  Be sure you have your tools prepared so you can jump on those opportunities.   Update and edit your resume and ask several people to review it for you to ensure that it is flawless.  Practice writing cover letters to jobs in your field and ask for feedback to improve them.  Practice interviewing with a friend, colleague, family member or your career center.  Ask for feedback.  Anticipate frequently asked questions and consider your answers in advance.  Practice researching companies of interest to identify questions you can ask in your interview.  The more preparation you do now the easier the process will be.
  • Develop a Plan – Build a list of target companies you are most interested in working for.  Use your summer to research and identify alumni and other connections at those companies.  Prepare to maintain your networking even while you are back in school but get a good start during the summer.  Start reviewing job postings at your target companies to get a feel for the types of positions they post for entry level.  It is too early to apply but it gives you a better sense of what to watch for in the months ahead.  Commit to attending on campus career fairs, company recruiting events, etc. when you are back in school.  Manage your time wisely so you don’t miss these valuable opportunities.

Having your eye on the end goal throughout your four years in school increases the likelihood of employment at graduation but it also helps you focus on the best opportunities for you.

 

How to Stay Relevant in Your Current Job

To succeed in your current job and to prepare yourself for future opportunities, it is critical to make networking and learning part of your normal routine. This will keep you relevant in your current position as you prepare for future opportunities.   With a little practice and discipline, it is entirely possible.  Don’t get so busy doing your job that you forget to invest in yourself and your future.

Networking

Even while you are successfully employed, networking it critical to your professional development and learning.  Maintain the network you have and continue to build your professional network.  Successful networking does not require large blocks of time, a few strategic minutes here and there makes a difference.

  • Network within the company – learn what other departments do and how that influences your work, learn what skills enable people to advance in their careers, be interested and interesting, meet someone for coffee or schedule a lunch.  Set goals to keep yourself focused on networking
  • Leverage Linked In – keep your profile up to date, seek recommendations, post updates, review your skills list, use Linked In to find former managers to stay in touch for future references, find former colleagues and reconnect, identify alumni connections in key companies of interest, keep expanding your network
  • Networking beyond your current employer – participate in relevant professional association meetings and conferences, learn best practices from others, build your network in companies of interest, identify people you can learn from
  • Mentor – identify a professional mentor, gain insight from someone who will tell you the truth and help you learn and grow in your career.  Consider mentoring someone junior in your field.
  • Give Back – host informational interviews with people more junior in their careers who wish to learn from your experience, you may learn something too while you are helping them
  • Set goals and hold yourself accountable so networking doesn’t fall to the bottom of your growing to do list

Professional Development

 You need to be continuously learning to grow professionally.  Be creative in identifying different ways to accomplish that.

  • Internal Training – identify relevant internal training sessions, build your technical skills, managerial skills, learn something new, work with your manager to identify relevant training and make it a priority
  • Professional Organizations – identify at least one relevant professional organization, attend meetings, meet other members, volunteer to work on a committee, get involved, your learn something from those you work with in these groups
  • Professional Conferences – if budget allows, take advantage of these opportunities, learn from the sessions but also from other attendees,  if budget doesn’t allow, review the presentations online after the conference, follow up with relevant presenters
  • Take on New Projects – volunteer to work on a project or with a team that forces you outside your comfort zone, force yourself to learn something new, let your manager know the type of skills you seek to hone and look to identify a project assignment which is relevant, consider a cross functional project to expose you to other parts of the organization
  • Read – stay current on relevant industry and business periodicals, read while waiting for meetings or while commuting if you take public transportation, always have something relevant to read in case you have unexpected down time, make it a habit to review the key publications on a regular basis, be well-informed

Investing a few minutes each week in your own networking and development will increase your satisfaction with your current position and will keep you relevant and growing for future opportunities.

New Year’s Resolutions for Job Seekers

The ball has dropped, and you’ve made a promise to yourself that 2017 will be a year to remember when it comes to taking the next step in your career.   But, if your number one goal for the New Year is to land a new job, hopes and wishes are not enough; you need to define and execute a plan to ensure your success.

Finding a new job is both an art and a science, and there are a few tried-and-true guidelines for helping job seekers prepare to land that coveted job in the New Year.  So if you want to start 2017 off on the right foot, career-wise , consider adding one of these to your list of resolutions:

  • Create a plan – You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going.  Define your goals and a specific plan to achieve them, along with actionable steps.  Assess your skills, strengths and interests.  Think about the type of work you enjoyed even it was in internships, part-time jobs or even volunteer experiences.  Document your plan and measure your progress against it.  Set weekly goals, and hold yourself accountable.  Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your weekly goals.
  • Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags and make the appropriate reservations.  As you embark on your job search journey, you also need to have the appropriate tools.  Is your resume up-to-date and ready to go?  Have someone else proof it for you to ensure that it has no typos or grammatical errors.  Practice writing customized cover letters, and ask for feedback.  Consider developing a networking profile to share during networking meetings.  Think about who you can use for references and ensure that you have their current contact information.  Having the right tools won’t get you the job, but it can get your foot in the door so you have an opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

 

  • Develop a target list – What companies are you most interested in working for?  What industries interest you the most?  What companies hire for the roles you are considering?  What companies are in your geographic target area?  Start your list and then expand your research.  Use online tools to create a robust target list.  Research those companies to learn more about them.  Use your target list to direct your job search efforts.  Prioritize your list based on where you have contacts, alumni connections or LinkedIn connections.  Look at recent posting history to further prioritize your list.

 

  • Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do in your job search.  More positions are filled through networking than all other approaches combined.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 80 percent of all jobs are filled through networking.  Online postings often receive hundreds of responses.  To stand out and be noticed, you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager.  Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts.  Networking is NOT asking for a job, however.  It is meeting with someone at the company to learn more about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, they skills they value, the corporate culture and their hiring process.  Networking involves a significant amount of listening.  The holiday season can be the perfect time for networking – some businesses are less busy so managers are more likely to have flexibility for meetings, you will see family and friends at holiday gatherings and you can ask who they might know in your target companies, as well.

 

  • Identify networking contacts – Identify all your contacts (family, friends, former colleagues), and see who they know at your target companies.  Think about former work colleagues, former student colleagues, etc. and see who they know.  Utilize your alumni database.  Search LinkedIn.  The true power of LinkedIn can be found in the groups, so identify relevant groups to expand your network. Work to identify contacts in all your target companies.  Do your neighbors or your parents’ friends have contacts in those companies?  Ask for 15 – 20 minutes for an informational interview.  Come to the discussion well prepared and learn as much as you can.  Ask each contact for at least three other people you should contact.  Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow-up when you see an opportunity at that company.  Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week.  It makes a difference.

 

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare – For each informational interview, prepare as if it were a real interview.  Research the company.  Prepare your questions.  Make a positive impression.  Demonstrate your interest and passion by coming well prepared.  Practice with friends and family if you are not comfortable.

 

  • Always say “thank you” – Interviewers remember when candidates send a hand-written thank you note.  Stand out from the crowd.  Time is a precious commodity so say thank you when someone is willing to share time with you.

 

  • Add value to your resume – If you know you are missing critical skills on your resume, can you volunteer a few hours per week?  Most non-profits need the help and would give you an opportunity to develop and enhance your skills.  Maybe an unpaid internship is a good investment to add critical skills to your resume.  In addition to adding valuable skills, it also shows your initiative and creativity.

 

  • Protect your social media presence – Many potential employers check applicants online before making an offer.  Be careful what you post knowing that it may be seen by a potential employer.  Pay close attention to your security settings. Put your best foot forward.

 

  • Sweat the details – They really do matter! Many cover letters and resumes are not moved to the “interview pile” because of lack of attention to detail.  There should be absolutely no typos or grammatical errors in the cover letter or resume.  Do not cut and paste your cover letters – it is too easy to send with the wrong company name or wrong job title.  Be careful not to brag about your attention to detail when the letter has obvious errors.  Don’t exaggerate your experience – two years is not extensive experience in anything.  Be sure to be well prepared.  Arrive on time.  Know who you are meeting with.  Don’t ask the interviewer what the company does, instead have some well-thought out questions already prepared.
  • Remember, it isn’t all about you – A hiring manager has business needs to address.  That is why they received approval to fill the position.  There is a specific job to be done, and they want to find the best qualified person to fill that job and the best fit for the organization.  Don’t focus your cover letter and/or interview on what this position can do for your career or how much you need particular benefits.  The employer really doesn’t care.  Focus instead on how you can help the company meet their business needs.  What valuable skills do you bring to the table?  How can you make a difference?
  • Be responsive – When employers do start calling you for interviews, be responsive and professional every step of the way.  Make a positive impression with every interaction.  Dress professionally, arrive a few minutes early, answer your phone professionally and come well prepared.

 Differentiate yourself – There are many candidates for each open position.  Use every opportunity throughout the process to differentiate yourself positively.  Again, the focus should be on how you can meet the employer’s needs, not what they can do for you.

 Don’t leave your career path to chance; now’s the perfect time to revamp your approach as you resolve to pursue new opportunities in 2017. Develop a plan and execute it flawlessly, and there’s a good chance you’ll be celebrating a new job in the New Year.

 

2016 With Whom Should I Network

You’ve heard all the data on how most jobs result from networking.  You know it is important but you are stumped.  You don’t know anyone with a great job at a highly successful company so what are you to do?

You already have network.  The people you know are your network – family, friends, current and former coworkers, former classmates, faculty members, etc.  All these contacts are sources of valuable networking connections.  While they might not have the right connections for the jobs you seek, remember each one of them also has a network of connections.

It is important to have a focus.  You can build a huge network but if no one works in companies, industries or roles that interest you, there is less you can learn from them.  Identify your target list of companies and focus your networking efforts on finding connections in those companies or their competitors.  Once you are connected to the companies on your list, try to find connections in the functional area that interests you.

To build your network, it is easiest to start with people you know and then expand from there.  Here are some possible sources of networking connections:

  • Family, friends and neighbors
  • Alumni
  • Professional associations
  • Community, religious, political or social organizations
  • Faculty, advisors and Career Center staff
  • Your current and former classmates
  • Former employers and co-workers
  • Mentors
  • Your parent’s friends and your friend’s parents

It is easier than ever to find connections.  Utilize LinkedIn to find people you know and see who they know as a way of expanding your network.

Job Search Advice for New Graduates

Congratulations you’ve graduated but now what are you going to do?  The clock is ticking on your students loans and mom and dad keep asking you about your job prospects.  What is a new graduate to do?  Finding a full-time job needs to be your primary focus and priority.  Resist the urge to perfect your tan or spend the summer travelling.  Finding a job can be a full-time job in itself so you need to get focused and get started.  Here are some suggestions:

Create a plan – You need to define your goals and a specific plan of how you plan to achieve them.  You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going.  Assess your skills, strengths and interests.  Think about the type of work you enjoyed on internships, part-time jobs or even on campus.  Document your plan and measure your progress against it.  Set weekly goals and hold yourself accountable.  Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your goals for the week.

Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags.  As you embark on your job search journey you also need to make sure you have the appropriate tools.  Do you have your resume up to date and ready to go?  Have someone else proof it for you just to be sure there are no typos or errors.  Practice writing customized cover letters and ask for feedback.  Consider developing a networking profile to share during networking meetings.

Think about who you could use for references and collect their current contact information.  Ask their permission to use them as references and tell them you will notify them when you share their information with a hiring manager so you can brief them on the job.  Having the right tools won’t get you a job but it can get your foot in the door so you have the opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

Develop a Target list – What companies are you most interested in working for?  What industries are of greatest interest to you?  Start your list with your current preferences and then begin your research to identify other companies or industries that are similar and need your skill sets.  With a variety of online tools you can do significant research into these companies to prepare you for networking meetings and interviews.    Your target list will help guide your job search efforts.  Do your research on which companies have opportunities in your field and who has been hiring.

Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do to be successful in your job search.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 80% of all jobs are filled through networking.  Online postings often receive hundreds of resumes in response to a single posting.  To stand out and be noticed you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager.  Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts.

Networking is NOT asking for a job.  It is meeting someone at the company to learn about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, the skills they value  etc.  Networking involves a significant amount of listening.  Start with friends and family and explore who they know at target companies.  Do your neighbors or your friends’ parents have any connections to those companies?  What about former co-workers or classmates?  Sign up for the alumni network at your school and leverage the alumni database to identify contacts.  Most people will give a fellow alum a few minutes if asked.  Sign up for Linked In and identify contacts there as well.

Ask each networking contact for at least three other contacts.  Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow up when you see an opportunity at that company.  Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week.  It does make a difference.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – When you are invited in for an interview be sure you thoroughly prepare.  Utilize your career services office to help you prepare for interviews.  Ask for a mock interview with feedback.  Research the company thoroughly.  Prepare questions in advance to ask your interviewers.  Demonstrate your interest and passion for the job by coming well prepared.

Always say thank you – Interviewers remember which candidates sent a hand-written thank you note.  Stand out from the crowd.  If the timeframe is quick, send an email thank you but still send a handwritten note.  It can break the tie between two finalists.

If you need to work part-time- Maybe you don’t have the luxury of dedicating yourself full time to your job search.  If you need to work part-time or on a temporary basis, be extremely selective.  Think about skills that you need to develop and focus on a job that helps you develop or refine those skills.  Look for ways to gain exposure to an industry or company of interest by taking a temporary or part-time position to gain experience and visibility.  The enhanced skills and experience will help you further your job search instead of only putting money in your pocket.  If your goal is to work in an office, try to find office experience rather than becoming a store cashier or a waiter.  Focus on transferable skills.

Add value to your resume, volunteer – Can you volunteer a few hours a week to add value to your resume?  A non-profit may be happy to help you gain some much needed experience while they gain coverage for summer vacations etc.  Find an organization you care about and explore opportunities to help.  You can gain office, finance, marketing, sales, communications, technology or other experience while helping them address a critical need in their organizations.  Not only does this add value to your resume, it also shows the employer that you care about giving back and that you showed initiative and creativity in gaining some experience.

Protect Your Social Media Presence – Some potential employers will check out applicants online before making an offer.  Be careful of photos or descriptions of activities you might not want an employer to know about.  Put your best foot forward on all fronts to maximize your chances of success.  Be careful with your security settings.

So, plan your journey.  Get out from behind the computer and start networking your way to a successful job search.  Enjoy the interesting people you meet along the way and all you will learn about different companies, functions and roles.