Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why Employer Research Is Critical in Your Job Search

Working for the right employer can be an important part of your happiness and success in a job. If you like, relate to, and believe in an employer’s mission, you will feel that your work makes a contribution. If you are interested in what an employer offers, creates, produces, or sells, you will be more connected to your work and the workplace. If you feel an employer values and respects you, your coworkers, its customers, and its work, you will feel proud to work there. If an employer offers a work environment, opportunities, and benefits that match your desires and needs, it’s likely you will be satisfied.

So not only is it essential to apply for jobs that match your skills and interests, it is crucial to find employers and work environments that suit you as well. For example, early in my career I was a copywriter for automotive parts. I loved the writing. But I did not enjoy writing about mufflers and car batteries. It was difficult for me to get enthusiastic about another tonneau cover or car top carrier. From this experience and others, I learned that the right employer is just as important as the right job.

That’s why employer research is critical in your job search. If you discover an employer doesn’t suit you in key ways, it’s better not to apply for a job opening there at all. Why waste your time and theirs? Instead, target employers you know are a better match. You may be applying for fewer jobs, but chances are you will be hired more quickly because of good fit.

So how can you do employer research? Here are some suggestions:
  • Scour online sources. Review the organization’s website, social media, blogs, news releases, and reports. You will learn about the employer’s purpose, focus, direction, size, growth, products, and financial situation. Many employer websites offer information for prospective employees on opportunities, benefits, and culture. Other sites, such as news outlets, may provide overviews, insights, and customer reviews.
  • Employer ratings on job search sites. Job search sites may give ratings and reviews from past and current employees. Take comments with a grain of salt but still read them.
  • Talk to others who work or have worked there. By talking with current and past employers, you may get the inside scoop on issues that are sometimes hard to learn about in any other way, such as expectations, culture, work hours, workload, managers, work environment, stress, company flexibility, pay levels, communication, and organization. Perhaps you can also make a networking connection this way.
  • Read your local news, particularly the business news. You can often uncover details about an organization’s activities and plans from the media. Has the company bought a building, launched new products, or announced growth plans? Conversely, has an organization been hit with lawsuits or downsized? Let any such information help you decide whether to apply for a job with a certain company.
  • Network with professional associations and career-focused groups. Associations and online groups that focus on your field have members that work or have worked for many different organizations. You may be able to uncover the best employers—and learn the ones to avoid.
After you have done the most detailed employer research you can, be sure to ask yourself whether what the organization stands for, offers, and will mean to you as an employee are a good match. If your answer is yes or possibly, then go ahead and apply. If the answer is a clear no, move on to the next opportunity. Your future self will thank you. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

15 Pointers for Winning Phone Interviews

By Susan Pines, Shy Job Seeker Blog

You’ve learned an employer wants to interview you over the phone for a job opening. That means they are interested in you. So what else do you need to know? Sometimes a phone interview is a screening interview, used by employers to determine whether to take their interest in you to the next level. Sometimes time, distance, or a large number of candidates to interview makes phone interviews the next convenient step in the employer’s hiring process.

Be ready for a phone interview [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
Be ready for a phone interview.

No matter, you need to prepare for and handle a phone interview in some different and not-so-different ways than for an in-person interview. Here are 15 tips for job interview success over the phone:

  1. Research the employer and the job. Know what the employer does and what the job entails by reviewing the job ad, the company website, and social media. Informed candidates come across as more interested in the job and better organized.
  2. Prepare some questions. Have a few questions ready for the employer, such as the biggest challenges of the job and what problems they need you to solve immediately. Don't ask about vacation time or salary until you are offered the job.
  3. Be ready to sell yourself. Be prepared to state your qualifications and how they meet the employer’s needs.
  4. Eliminate background noise. Find a place where you can close the door--away from the TV, barking dogs, noisy kids, the running dishwasher, and outside traffic. Ask others in your household not to use the vacuum cleaner, do laundry, talk loudly, or blare music during the call.
  5. Make sure you have a good connection. You want to hear and be heard by the interviewer. Find a spot with a good cell phone connection if you have no landline access.
  6. Ensure no interruptions. Turn off call waiting on your phone and ask others to stay out of the room during the job interview.
  7. Use the restroom beforehand. No flushing during a phone interview, please.
  8. Have water nearby. Get a glass of water ready and keep it on your table or desk, just in case.
  9. Have your resume, a notepad, and a pen handy. Your resume will remind you of points to make. You’ll be able to jot down key notes with the pen and paper.
  10. Be ready for the phone to ring. Make sure you know the right day and time (including the time zone) for the call. Have everything ready and answer the phone after one ring. You don’t want the interviewer’s call to go to voicemail.
  11. Stay focused. Avoid scrolling through social media, snacking, and other multitasking just because the interviewer can’t see you. Stay alert and focused on the conversation.
  12. Speak normally--not too fast, not too slow. Make sure the employer can hear you by speaking in a normal, well-paced tone.
  13. Show enthusiasm in your voice. With no body language available, you want your voice to convey your enthusiasm for the opportunity.
  14. Express your interest in the job. Be sure to let the interviewer know you are interested in the opportunity.
  15. Ask what’s next and thank the interview. Before you hang up, find out the next steps and thank the interviewer for his or her time and interest.

Phone interviews aren’t ideal, but they can be an important part of getting hired. By following my 15 tips, you will be ready to make a great impression in a phone interview.

Friday, August 4, 2017

First 5 Things Employers Look for in Your Resume

Reviewing resumes is not fun for employers. It is tedious and frustrating because so many applicants make errors, are unqualified, or come across as unprofessional. Here are the first five things I look for as an employer when reviewing resumes.
    First 5 Things Employers Look for in Resumes [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
  1. Who is this person? Does the name ring a bell? Might I know the person through my network and therefore be able to learn about the real him or her? If I know the candidate in some way, I am immediately more interested. So, if you can, reach out to a contact in an organization before applying for an opening. This step will most likely give you a leg up on other applicants. Although this action is not always possible, it is worth trying to make a connection, especially if you are excited about the job opening.
  2. Is the email address professional? I have seen job applicants use email addresses that are silly, nonsensical, political-sounding, personally descriptive, or borderline vulgar. I have seen job hunters list email addresses that they share with a spouse or that include their birth year. All of these uses show a lack of good judgment. When job seeking, use an email address that is some variation of your first and last names.
  3. Do I see typographical, grammatical, or other errors? If a job seeker makes mistakes on a resume or cover letter, I fear he or she will make errors on the job. Mistakes are an automatic rejection, so be sure to read your materials forward, backward, and out loud. Don’t rely on spell-check alone. Ask a trusted friend with good writing skills to read it also.
  4. Are the person’s experience, skills, education, and traits relevant to the job? This information is key, of course. Yet it’s amazing how many people will apply for jobs that have nothing or little to do with a job opening. So please save your time and the employer's time, and pursue openings that are a good fit for your background and abilities. Also take a few minutes to tailor your resume to the job. See my Shy Job Seeker post, Customize Your Resume in 15 Minutes.
  5.  Does the person have the right experience level for the job? If I need five years of experience for someone to do a job, I may consider three years of experience or eight years of experience. But I will most likely eliminate new graduates and someone who has been a manager in the field for 20 years. I want employees who can do a job but will also be challenged by it. If you are underqualified or overqualified for a role but interested in it, take extra time with your resume and cover letter to create a picture of why you are a great match for the job.

Employers go through resumes very quickly, so you need to make sure yours will stand out. Consider these five points, and you will take a big step toward getting hired.

Monday, July 3, 2017

What Are the Best Careers Across the Nation?

What Are the Best Careers? [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
Learn about the best careers no matter where you live or want to live.

If you are making a career and education/training decision, data from the U.S. Department of Labor can help you choose wisely. Called career reports, the information includes the following lists, some of which can be tailored to specific locations in the United States:
·    Fastest-Growing Careers—Discover the jobs that are growing the fastest.
·    Careers with the Most Openings—Develop a list of jobs with the most openings by state or throughout the nation.
·    Careers with the Largest EmploymentSee careers with the largest employment in the country and by state.
·    Careers with Declining EmploymentBuild a list of jobs with the biggest declines by state and nationwide.
These free career reports include facts about the number of jobs, wages, and education required. The information is useful in many ways, such as the following:
·    Learning how hard it may be to find a job in your location
·    Deciding whether it may be difficult to find a job in a new location
·    Considering whether to pursue an education or training program
·    Understanding the median pay for various careers or for careers of interest to you
·    Choosing a good-paying career
·    Wondering how a new career may affect your salary and your chances of getting hired
·    Discovering careers that are growing quickly and therefore may offer good opportunity for the future
·    Weighing whether to leave a career or job with fewer employment prospects in the future
The government spends a lot of time, effort, and taxpayer cash to develop and maintain all of this occupational information, so be sure to take advantage of it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Magic Words for Job Searching

What if you could find a secret document that tells you exactly what to say in your cover letter and resume to elicit an employer’s positive response? Wouldn’t it be great to use just the right words to have a hiring employer say, “This is the one,” before he or she meets you? Ever wonder if there are magic phrases that can get a company to contact and hire you?

Magic words for job searching [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
Looking for magic in your job hunt?
Pull a rabbit out of the hat with the right words!
Well, this mysterious information exists, and it’s called the job opening ad or help wanted ad. That’s right, employers who run help wanted ads often tell you exactly what they want to hear from job applicants. If you use the employer's phrases, terminology, and wording in your job search materials, they usually will be eager to talk with you.

There are many ways to say the same thing, so using the employer’s own expressions will help him or her feel an immediate connection to you. For example, as a writer, I find organizations often will use various words and terms to refer to their writing needs in job ads, including communications, editing, copywriting, marketing, content development, editorial, publications, online updates, blogging, journalism, and social media. When I've applied for a particular job, I use the employer's exact words in my resume, as long as they are really part of my background.

So when you see a job you are interested in, don’t just send off your resume. Take some time upfront to review the job ad line by line. Print it out, highlight the skills and qualifications you have, and make notes on important wording. Then take a bit more time to incorporate the words and phrases into your resume. You may be able to add words, delete words, replace words, and give more emphasis to certain parts of your background in your resume summary section and in your cover letter. 

Employers will often include in job ads the employee traits they desire as well, such as self-starter, collaborative, and deadline-oriented. Be sure to include these "soft skills" in your resume if they describe you and if you have the experiences to prove them.

Pay attention to words and requirements the employer repeats in the ad, and give extra emphasis to these details in your application materials and in job interviews.

Every part of your resume, such as your summary, job experiences, education, training, and volunteer work can benefit from this analysis. By using the employer’s own words, I often have received fast responses to my job applications. In addition, parroting the words in job ads will help your resume get through resume screening technology that automatically rejects applications without the right keywords.

This approach of choosing the right words is all part of job targeting, which helps you find the best job for you more quickly. Of course, you don’t want to claim experience, skills, traits, or education that you don’t have, so only use the words if they apply to you.

Please let me know if this job-search approach works magic for you.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Open Your Eyes to 5 Job Seeker Blind Spots

By Susan Pines, Shy Job Seeker Blog

As a job seeker, you may have blind spots that prevent you from getting job interviews. Although you may feel you are doing everything you can in your job hunt, you may have areas where you need improvement but don’t see it. Ask yourself these five questions to uncover your job search blind spots:

Open Your Eyes to Job Seeker Blind Spots [Shy Job Seeker Blog]

  1. Do I apply for jobs only posted online? Many job openings can be applied for only online. But numerous jobs can be found in other ways. You are missing out if you don’t network by asking people you know if they are aware of job openings and contacting employers of interest who may not have posted all of their openings yet. Also be sure to look for openings beyond the big job boards. Check out sites focused on specific fields, consult your alumni and professional associations, and research smaller organizations. In addition, pay attention to your local business news and contact companies that appear to be expanding and hiring or are making plans to do so. Also see my post, "50 Other Ways to Find Job Openings."
  2. Do I use the same resume and cover letter for every job application? Although it takes a little time and effort to tailor your job search materials to an employer’s requirements, it is important that employers see how you can fulfill their needs. Study job ads and add to your resume the terminology and keywords that the employer uses. This approach will help you get through automated screening systems that will toss your resume if it doesn’t include specific keywords. See my related post, "Customize Your Resume in 15 Minutes," for more help.
  3. Do I apply for just about any job? If you apply for any and every job, you will get worn out and will not get too much interest. Employers want employers who can fill their needs. Narrow your focus and apply just for the jobs that suit your background and skills. You will be more quickly called for an interview if you target your job hunt.
  4. Am I informal and casual in my job applications? Although informality has become more common in everyday communication, your business communications, especially during the job search, should be more formal and professional. Your resume, cover letter, emails, and phone calls should be devoid of all lowercase proper nouns, all capitalized words, slangy acronyms, unprofessional email addresses, and unprofessional voicemail messages.
  5. Am I a social media mess? Many employers will research potential employees online. Be sure they won’t find anything inappropriate or unprofessional about you.

Spend some time thinking about your possible job-seeking blind spots, including the ones above. Then make an effort to address them to get hired more quickly. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

How to Answer Weird Job Interview Questions

By Susan Pines, Shy Job Seeker Blog

Is it just me, or do employers seem to enjoy asking weird questions in job interviews? Most employers aren’t psychologists, so I doubt that they are trying to analyze you, although that is the feeling job seekers get from strange questions.

Employers may be trying to gain insights into your personality and demeanor. In asking odd questions, employers want to see what you’ll say, whether you can remain calm and pleasant, whether you’ll squirm or stutter, and whether you can think on your feet.

How to Answer Weird Job Interview Questions [Shy Job Seeker Blog]

So job seekers should not only prepare answers to common job interview questions, they should be ready to be asked just about anything. Here are a few job interview points to remember, plus tips for answering unexpected, unrelated, and just plain bizarre job interview questions.

  • Expect strange questions. What is your favorite word? What animal would you like to be and why? Which superpower do you wish you had? Tell me the title of a song you’d like to write. How many basketballs would fit in this room? If you could be any food, what would you be and why? What would be the title of your autobiography? So plan for oddball job interview questions. Then prepare for them and stay calm when they happen.
  • Take a breath and control your body language. When a crazy question comes your way, take a breath, smile, and stay in control. Avoid eye-rolling, sighs, and nervous laughter. Don’t say what you may be thinking, such as “What a dumb question,” or “How is that relevant?”
  • Have an answer for strange questions. Your answers should all have the same effect: Letting the employer know you will get the job done well and dependably. So what's my favorite animal? "A worker bee, because although it’s an insect, it’s always getting the job done." My favorite word? "Accomplishment, because that’s what I strive for." Superpower? "Do the work of two people." Song I’d like to write? “I Work Work Work Until It’s Done.” Get the idea? Always find a way to bring your answer back to the job. You don’t need a brilliant answer. Just give a simple statement to satisfy the employer’s curiosity, and then hope the interviewer will move on.

If you find the employer is asking too many strange questions, you may want to evaluate whether you want to work there. In my experience, weird interview questions may foreshadow odd work environments and unsatisfying work experiences.

How have you handled peculiar job interview questions? Please let me know! Thanks for reading today.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

3 Fast Resume Facelifts

3 Fast Resume Facelifts [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
Give your resume a fast facelift.
If you are--or soon will be--job searching, be sure to spruce up your resume. Here are three tips for a fast resume facelift.
  • Update your jobs, education, and activities: Be sure to add your current role, plus new education, awards, professional affiliations, and volunteer activities. Drop old jobs, especially if they are not relevant to the work you are seeking now. If you have important work experience that is more than 10-15 years old, remove the dates and combine it into a “Related Experience” section. Delete references to old software and technology. Make sure you have up-to-date contact information.
  • Hone your summary section: At the top of your resume, stress your key skills, including those you have developed since your last resume update. Skim help-wanted ads to find the skills and background employers are seeking in jobs that interest you, and add these abilities and experiences to your resume if you possess them. Incorporate new technology skills and new terminology for your field as appropriate.
  • Proofread and proofread again: When you make changes to your resume, you risk creating typos and other errors. Be sure to go beyond spell-check and read your resume forward, backward, and forward again. Make sure your punctuation, capitalization, and spacing are consistent. Consider asking someone you know with good writing skills to proof it for you.
Of course much more goes into creating a good resume than the three points above. But at least your resume will be fresh and current for your job hunt.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

When to Reject a Potential Employer

How do you feel when an employer contacts you about a job opening for which you’ve applied? Most people experience a variety of emotions, including hope, excitement, and even anxiety. Many job hunters are eager to get hired, so when an employer gets in touch, it is a good sign that the process is moving forward. This is especially true because job seekers usually don't hear back from many employers. 

When to Reject a Potential Employer [Shy Job Seeker Blog]

Sometimes, however, it is the job seeker who backs out of the hiring process. Throughout my career, I have said no to several potential jobs before receiving a job offer and sometimes even before a job interview. Why did I do this? How do you know if you should back out of the hiring process for a particular job? Here are my experiences, which may help you decide whether to continue pursuing a job opening:
  • One employer sent me a full job description before setting up a job interview. After reviewing the six-page job description, I realized the role would involve many tasks I would dread. The job would also involve late nights and weekends. I could have interviewed and learned the extent of these responsibilities, but my gut feeling was I didn’t want to waste my time or the employer’s time when our expectations were so different from the start.
  • During a phone interview, an employer told me the salary for the job. He said there was no wiggle room, no negotiation. It was the final amount. The pay was nowhere near what I expected for my background, my skills, and the job's responsibilities. So I backed out before pursuing the job further.
  • When I interviewed for one job, the supervisor didn’t ask many questions, couldn’t answer my questions, and was disorganized. Although she seemed nice enough, I couldn’t get a handle on the job or exactly what she wanted me to do. I removed myself from consideration because it was a frustrating waste of time.
  • When applying to a blind ad, I knew a job was in my city, but I didn’t know for which company or where it was located. When the employer called, I learned the job was in an industry that didn’t interest me, and it was on the other side of town, which would involve a long commute.

Now some people may think I should have followed through on these job possibilities until receiving an offer or a rejection. But I couldn’t see putting in the time and effort. I said no and focused my energy on finding the right opportunity.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Top 10 Shy Job Seeker Posts of All Time

Top 10 Shy Job Seeker Posts [Shy Job Seeker Blog]

This article represents my 101st Shy Job Seeker post. I hope this blog has been helpful to your job hunt and career over the past few years. In honor of 100 Shy Job Seeker posts, I present the following list of the top 10 Shy Job Seeker entries. The number 1 post is the most popular and most read article.
  1. Don’t Lie But Don’t Be Shy: Tips for Resumes and Cover Letters
  2. 12 Ways to Make Your Layoff Pay Off
  3. 5 Ways to Energize Your Job Hunt Now
  4. How to Leave a Professional Voicemail in Your Job Search
  5. 10 Grim Gaffes of Job Searching
  6. 15 Ways to Boost Your Job Search Mindset
  7. 50 Other Ways to Find Job Openings
  8. 5 Ways You Are Eliminating Yourself in the Job Search
  9. Are You Making a Good First Impression in Your Job Search?
  10. The Only Unemployment Rate That Matters
I plan to continue writing Shy Job Seeker posts to inform, guide, and encourage you in an effective employment search and in successful career management. Thank you to all my readers, especially to those who have shared posts with others and through social media, as well as to those who have provided comments and feedback.