The Interview: Last Bastion Between You and The Position

Interviews remain one of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of the job search. Once the resume is in order and applications completed and submitted, the interview, or more specifically, the interviewer, is the last bastion between a job seeker and the position.

Even before a job seeker arrives, a million decisions need to be made. What should I wear? Should I bring a resume? Multiple copies? Should I show up early or right on time? How firm should my handshake be? Should I chew gum? A mint? Where will I dispose of the mint? Should I bring coffee? Reading materials? A list of questions? Should I ask questions? Should I bring up salary?

The answers are not always so obvious. You should bring a resume in a folder. In fact, bring a few. It can help you during interview questions. You should show up ten minutes early; early enough that you have time to get your bearings, but not too early that you are a bother to the hiring authority. You should approach with a smile and a firm handshake. You should not chew gum.

DRESS Dress professionally: not too casually, and not as if you are going to a wedding or gala. Don’t wear jeans or flip flops. Avoid loud or garish prints. Lay off the cologne or perfume; the hiring manager doesn’t want to smell you before they see you. A business suit almost always works, for both men and women. Tasteful accessories can help show your personality without negatively impacting the interviewer, but keep it simple and streamlined. Present your most polished self.

BEFORE When you arrive for the interview, if you need to wait, sit quietly and review your resume. You could also take this time to go over a list of your accomplishments and career goals, strengths and weaknesses. How can you benefit this company? Avoid fidgeting or rifling through your belongings. Appear collected, calm, and confident. You never know who may be watching, and if you strike the interviewer’s colleagues as strange or anxious, it may hurt your chances.

DURING While you should know generally about the company for which you would like to work, you don’t want to overburden the interview with operational questions, especially if the interviewer may not know the answers.  Keep questions specifically about the position for which you are interviewing. A few examples: “What would a typical day look like in this position? What tasks would I be responsible for?” These lead to further discussion where you can interject experiences from your own career. Discuss past experiences and employers in a positive light, even if they weren’t so positive. Always display how you can help the company. You should only discuss salary after you have obtained the offer. If the interviewer asks for salary, the best course is to say you would like to receive compensation commensurate with the position and your experiences.

FOLLOW UP Hiring authorities and recruiters are constantly barraged with applications. They may tell you they’ll let you know next week, but the truth is, they may not have even contacted all the candidates yet. If you haven’t heard anything by the appointed time, call and ask if you are still being considered. Also, don’t forget the power of the thank you note. If you send a note to the hiring manager thanking them for their time and consideration, it could go a long way.

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The Internship Movie: “Returnships” Will Ease Reentry To Workforce

The new movie The Internship coming out today and starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as obsolete salesmen trying to maintain relevancy in the digital world, identifies an important opportunity for job seekers and hiring authorities. As job seekers struggle to update their skill sets or close an employment gap and hiring authorities face labor shortages, both sides may benefit from “returnships:” internships for older professionals, returning mothers, transitioning military, and the long-term unemployed, according to one employment expert.

“Employers are consistently wary of employment gaps brought on by a layoff, parenthood, or some other life event that prohibits working. A ‘returnship’ for former or transitioning professionals with otherwise sterling employment records, but prolonged unemployment solves this issue,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and business coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Candidates, such as returning mothers or retirees, who have been out of work for six months or longer are perceived as having outdated skills.  As a result, they are often screened out early in the recruiting process.  A ‘returnship’ on a resume shows the employer that the candidates are willing to learn, have updated training and recent on-the-job experience, making them much more marketable,” said Challenger.

“The benefit to companies, unlike with entry-level interns, is that returnees can be assigned more complicated projects depending on their previous industry experience and set of skills.”

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, Goldman Sachs offered an 8 week paid “returnship” for non-client facing departments in 2008. The effort resulted in 6 hirings from the 11 attendees. Since then, the program has grown to include positions nationwide and helped 120 individuals return to the workforce, according the company’s 2011 Environmental, Social and Governance Report. Moreover, those enrolled took on advanced tasks, such as developing training programs or creating mechanisms for client confidentiality.

“Companies would be wise to invest in ‘returnship’ programs in order to find and develop the right talent for their organization, which does not always mean the youngest or most malleable. Older professionals, returning mothers, and veterans already have the on-the-job experience most internships are created to impart on college-aged job seekers,” said Challenger.

“Professionals interested in pursuing this sort of opportunity should not sit back and wait for a company to develop a ‘returnship’ program. Request meetings with high-level executives at companies that interest you and suggest starting such a program yourself. If you can convince one company of the benefits, others may follow suit.

“Just like with entry-level interns, getting your foot in the door is not the end of the line. Meeting the right people during your time at the company is critical. The higher up the executive you impress, the greater the odds that a permanent position will be found for you. Even if they cannot find a spot for you in their company, they may know executives in another company that may have openings.

“Professionals should treat the process as a constant interview. Take initiative, show how you can benefit the company, befriend those who are already employed with the organization, always be on time and professional, and seek feedback,” offered Challenger.

Who Benefits From “Returnships?”

The Returning Parent – Mothers and fathers who have left the job market to raise a family often return to biased employers who are wary of their skill sets and absence from the workforce.

Transitioning Military – Former military have extensive on-the-job training in new technology, leadership development, and discipline, but lack experience with corporate culture a “returnship” would offer.

Older Workers – Older professionals have to deal with age discrimination, as well as potential gaps in employment.

Expatriates – Workers going to other countries for employment would gain necessary and helpful experience in another culture.

Long-term Unemployed – Whatever the reason for the employment gap, a “returnship” would revitalize a resume.

Employers – Recruiting interns who already have extensive on-the-job experience is valuable for any employer, as these professionals are ready to hit the ground running and take on meatier tasks.


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Tips for Teen Summer Job Seekers

As summer break gets underway for most of the nation’s high school and college students, many have already started summer jobs at the mall, day camps, amusement parks and movie theaters.  Those who were unable to secure a job offer may assume it is too late, but nothing could be further from the truth, according to one employment authority.

“We expect summer hiring to improve from last year’s pace, which could mean steady hiring through at least July.  Many employers filling summer positions may have already completed the initial process of interviewing and hiring.  However, some employers may need more workers than expected.  Others may find that the workers they hired were not a good fit.  In any case, summer job seekers should not give up,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., which provides job-search training to people who were laid off by their employers.

In April, Challenger forecast that teen employment gains this summer would increase from 2012 levels due to steady improvement throughout the economy, but particularly in lower-skilled, lower-paying hourly wage categories. Continue reading

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How To Use Your Summer Internship

The nation’s employers are increasingly selective in recruiting and now demand that even entry-level candidates have on-the-job experience.  As a result, the once optional summer internship has become a requisite component of any young person’s resume, according to one employment expert, who advises those embarking on internship programs this summer take steps to ensure they make the most of the experience.

“Internships are more important than ever, but not all internship programs are created equal.  Many employers do not have any type of strategy when it comes to utilizing and educating their interns.  In these situations both the employer and the intern lose.  It is critical that young people entering an internship program take a proactive approach to managing and maximizing their experience,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and business coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

According to a recent outlook by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the entry-level job market is expected to be stronger this year.  However, the competition for these positions remains fierce and having internship experience can greatly increase the odds of post-graduation job-search success.  A survey of 2012 graduates conducted last August by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 60 percent of those who participated in paid internships received at least one job offer.  In contrast, only 36 percent of graduates with no internship experience on their resume had received job offers. Continue reading

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Job Search Advice for the Long-Term Jobless

June will mark the four-year anniversary of the official end of the Great Recession and, unless there is a significant shock to the economy, it will be the 40th consecutive month of private-sector payroll gains.  Yet, millions of chronically unemployed Americans the job market have yet to see any improvement; a trend that could have dire consequences for the long-term health of the entire economy.

The longer one is out of work, the more difficult it becomes to achieve job search success.  And, unfortunately, this is a situation that has not reversed, despite steady improvement in the overall job market.

The number of Americans out of work for 27 weeks or longer has declined since reaching a high of 6.7 million in April 2010.  As of March, the count stood at 4.6 million, according to the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  However, much of the decline may be attributed to long-term job seekers abandoning the labor market entirely, and therefore no longer counted among the unemployed.  Long-time job seekers still represented nearly 40 percent of the nation’s 11.7 million unemployed.  That is down only slightly from a peak of 45 percent in April 2010.

The ongoing struggle for long-term job seekers was further demonstrated in a recent study by a pair of Northeastern University economists who examined variables impacting job search success.  The two sent out 4,800 fake resumes with identical credentials but varying duration of unemployment, industry experience and number of previous jobs held.  In tracking employer callback rates, the two discovered that the duration of unemployment played the biggest factor in whether a candidate would get a callback.  Those out of work for less than six months were far more likely to get a callback versus those out of work longer than six months.  Even those with no relevant industry experience were more likely to get a callback if they were unemployed less than six months.

The obstacles for long-time job seekers are numerous.  Candidates who have been out of work for six months or longer are perceived as having outdated skills.  As a result, they are often screened out early in the recruiting process.  This may seem unfair and employers may indeed be weeding out great candidates, but when job postings receive hundreds if not thousands of applicants, from which a handful are selected for face-to-face interviews, the initial screening process more closely resemble a lottery than anything else.

For long-term job seekers who make it beyond the initial screening process, there is the challenge of addressing the significant gap in experience with the person conducting the interview.  The interviewer is going to wonder why you have not been hired and whether your skills and/or work ethic have deteriorated.  As the interviewee, you have to overcome these preconceptions.

The long-term unemployed also face self-imposed barriers.  Many have lost self-confidence due to the length of time out of the workforce.  Others have had a series of rejections, which may leave them feeling defeated even before they walk through the doors of an interview.

It is not just those experiencing long-term unemployment who suffer.  It impacts the entire economy through decreased consumer spending, as well as increased government spending on social safety net programs, retraining programs and other programs to assist those left behind following the nation’s economic upheaval.

These obstacles are significant, but not impossible to overcome.  The following is advice to the long-term unemployed looking to take advantage of the recent surge in job creation: Continue reading

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Using Social Media To Land A Job

More and more employers and recruiters are visiting social and professional networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn for the job search.  As the number of unemployed workers continues to grow, job seekers are using these sites to brand themselves to future employers.

LinkedIn has always been touted as the site to network professionally; however, job seekers are now also turning to Facebook and Twitter for job leads, advice and contact building.  Hundreds of recruiters are trolling Twitter, searching for applicants with relevant skills, while job seekers post links to their resumes, websites and examples of their work for previous employers.

Twitter allows users to “tweet” up to 140 characters at a time to be seen by their “followers,” post links and directly message other users.  With that much exposure, job seekers have a platform to instantly pursue job leads and professional contacts.

As the popularity of social networking sites continues to increase among older people, so will the amount of time spent on these sites at work.

Moreover, job seekers who decide to start their own businesses can utilize the website to market their products or services.

Through Twitter, new business owners can immediately connect to hundreds of potential customers while fashioning a brand for their services.  Through blogging and building a social networking page, job seekers have an edge over those job seekers who lack the technical saavy.

The advantage is not just for job seekers, as social and professional networking sites are now viewed as an invaluable tool for employed professionals as well.  Some companies are choosing to use social networking sites to their advantage instead of banning them.  These sites can be used to communicate with current and former colleagues, as well as other industry professionals, share best practices, meet customers, resolve issues and answer questions.

In a survey of about 200 human resource professionals conducted by Challenger, about 10 percent of the respondents to the survey said their companies view social networking sites as invaluable marketing, networking and sales tools, and six percent actually encourage employees to have a presence on these sites.

Overall, social and professional networking sites are changing the face of the job search.  Only a few years ago, job seekers only search tools were newspapers and cold calls.  Now, technology serves to instantly connect seekers with employers, recruiters and job leads.

 Using Social Media Networks To Find A Job

Build your network. Challenger coaches advise job seekers to utilize every person in your personal and professional networks. With Twitter, you can grow this network to include hundreds of people.

Build your brand. Your Twitter page can show a little something about yourself with the pictures and colors you choose to use.  The interface allows you to post links to websites or blogs, so when building your Twitter or Facebook pages, make sure to include links to these.  Start a blog discussing industry trends as you see them.  Include discussions about your work. Basically, talk yourself up.  You are a product employers must have.

Participate in the online community. It’s not enough to have a presence on these sites; you must also actively participate. Comment on someone’s work. Endorse someone. Start a discussion. Post a photo or link to a provocative article. Write a blog post. Active users get more views and therefore, more opportunities to connect with employers.

Advertise your job loss. Although a job loss can be a trying time for families and loved ones, telling your “followers” that you are looking for a job can be not only therapeutic, but also incredibly useful to finding a new position. Hundreds of recruiters are on Twitter and have no problem following your tweets. You can cast a very wide net on Twitter with potential to net incredible results.

Think before you tweet. Twitter can be as anonymous as you want it to be. However, if you want to find a new position, you might want to spend some time on each tweet. Remember that you’re marketing yourself, you’re a product. Much like with blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., you don’t want to post anything that might cause pause (see: nude or racy photos, questionable content, etc.). Moreover, 140 characters limits your literary ability. What you read as witty, another might read as acerbic. What you think is funny, someone else might thing is offensive. Obviously, you want to show the world your best face, so keep this in mind when fashioning those 140 characters.

Get Recommended.  LinkedIn allows users the ability to recommend each other’s work.  As professional networking sites become the new resume, ask colleagues to advocate on your behalf on your LinkedIn profile.  Recruiters trolling these sites are much more likely to be impressed if past colleagues rave about your performance.

Post Your Work. LinkedIn launched a new place on your profile to post links to or upload files of specific projects on which you are working. You can share similar links and files on FB and Twitter. Make sure to include your best work on your profiles in order to give recruiters and employers a taste of your abilities.

Join Groups.  LinkedIn also allows users to create and join professional groups, allowing you to instantly communicate with others in your field.  Join up, and start building those relationships.


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Labor Day Resolutions

 Labor Day kicks off what is typically a more volatile employment environment, as companies adjust payrolls to align with year-end goals and plans for the coming year.  This makes it the ideal time for workers and job seekers alike to reboot their efforts to find or keep a job, according to the workplace authorities at global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

For many companies, business activity declines during the summer months, as sales slow and key decision makers take off for vacations.  The pace tends to quicken as the year comes to a close as companies scramble to hit earnings goals and establish objectives for the new year.  As a result, it is not unusual to see a flurry of employment changes in the final four months of the year.

Following the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, it should come as no surprise that this has been one of the worst recoveries.  That point was recently driven home by two reports confirming just how weak this recovery has been.

An analysis of economic data by the Associated Press reveals that in addition slow job growth and stubbornly high unemployment, economic growth, as measured by GDP, has never been weaker in a postwar recovery.

Consumer spending has grown just 6.5 percent since the end of the recession, undoubtedly due largely to the fact that most Americans’ pay increases are not keeping pace with inflation.

Meanwhile, a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Americans who lost work during the recession are having significant difficulty finding re-employment; even when they do find new work, they’re taking major pay cuts.  Of all workers laid off from 2009 to 2011, just 56.9 percent had jobs as of January 2012. Another 27.5 percent were still unemployed, and 15.7 percent had dropped out of the labor force altogether.

Despite the bleak employment picture, keeping or finding a job should not be considered lost causes, by any means.

People continued to hold onto their jobs or find employment, even in the weakest point in the recession and recovery.  The key to success on both fronts is to take an active approach, as opposed to a passive one.  In this economy, it is critical to make your own opportunities. Continue reading

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