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It’s Not You, It’s Me: Why You’re Not Getting Hired or Promoted

[As Published on Recruiter.com]

 

Whether it’s not hearing back about the job for which you applied, being politely turned down after an interview, or being passed over for promotion, rejection hurts.

It would be understandable to get angry, depressed, and/or apathetic about it. Eventually, you’ll move on.

Or, you could reflect on the situation to analyze why you were rejected. This is the harder path, but it is much more therapeutic and increases your odds of success for the next time.

Let’s say you applied for a job. You were one of five candidates out of 200 applications to get to the interview stage. All five of you are qualified to do the job, or you wouldn’t have made the cut. What variable separated the winner from the rest of you? It was probably soft skills.

According to a study from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center, well-developed soft skills account for 85 percent of job success. Hard skills account for the remaining 15 percent. Broadly defined as “interpersonal skills such as the ability to communicate well with other people and to work on a team,” soft skills were first formalized by John P. Fry and Paul G. Whitmore in a 1974 report on leadership research in the U.S. Army.

What counts as a soft skill varies depending on whom you ask, but a list published in 2012 by researcher Marcel M. Robles does a good job of summarizing some of the most valuable ones:

  1. Communication: speaking, writing, presentation, and listening skills
  2. Courtesy: manners, (business) etiquette, graciousness
  3. Flexibility: adaptability, willingness to change, teachability, adjustability
  4. Integrity: honesty, morality, doing what’s “right”
  5. Interpersonal skills: sociability, a sense of humor, friendliness, empathy, patience
  6. Positive attitude: optimism, enthusiasm, confidence
  7. Professionalism: poise, business-appropriate appearance and behavior
  8. Responsibility: accountability, reliability, resourcefulness, self-discipline, common sense
  9. Team work: cooperativeness, supportiveness, collaboration,
  10. Work ethic: loyalty, working hard, taking initiative, self-motivation, showing up on time.

Some of these qualities are quite subjective, such as being “businesslike” or “adaptable.” Others are more objective, such as “taking the initiative” and “showing up on time.” Can you perfect all of them? No. Nobody’s perfect. If you think you are, then let’s add “humility” to this list.

How can you improve your soft skills? It’s the same as getting to Carnegie Hall – practice! Volunteering, interning, running a blog, tutoring, mentoring, and joining a professional association are all good ways to practice these soft skills, especially those that relate directly to interpersonal communication. For the balance: follow the “Golden Rule”, be well groomed, dress well, manage your time, keep a calendar, and, the easiest of all, set your alarm clock!

It’s hard to see ourselves as others see us, so consider asking trusted friends, colleagues, family members, and bosses for feedback on where your soft skills are strong and where they need improvement. People like to help each other out, and they’ll likely be flattered you asked.

Your education and experiences will get you noticed, but your soft skills will get you hired.

Employers know what they want. They hold all the cards. They’re in the driver’s seat. You can’t fight city hall. Enough metaphors? The truth is that you must fit into their expectations.

Be accountable and realize that when it comes to soft skills, it’s you, not them. Fix what needs fixing.

Ferris Kaplan is founder of Best of You Resumes.

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How NOT To Blow Up Your Interview

You’ve gotten in the door so now you must sell yourself. Close the deal by demonstrating why you are the best choice to fill their needs.

Rich Ditieri, CEO of Startup Institute, wrote for Entrepreneur magazine about “The 10 Most Careless Interview Mistakes You Should Avoid.” Here’s his list and check link for details:

1) Not downloading the app [of that company]

2) Being negative

3) Actually, just telling them about yourself

4) Forgetting Google exists

5) Forgetting LinkedIn exists

6) Not speaking to your audience

7) Not preparing for the obvious

8) Going too fast

9) Not being yourself

10) Not understanding the next steps

A good start, but…there aren’t only 10 mistakes to avoid. In fact, here are MY additional 10 to help you:

11) Not managing your arrival time

Rehearse the route in advance—at the same time you’ll be going for real. Allow extra time for traffic delays, accidents, full parking lots, busy check-in desk, slow elevators, etc.

12) Not dressing properly

Dress one level better than the current employees. If they are business casual, then wear jacket & tie/pants suit or blouse & skirt; if they have jacket & tie, then wear a suit/dress or suit. AFTER you get hired, you can wear the jeans, shorts, and flip flops like everyone else.

13) Not maintaining eye contact

The interviewer should be concentrating on your answers, not thinking/questioning your interest, or ease to be distracted. Put on your game face and shut out everything else.

14) Not having a confident, professional handshake

The handshake is a lost art, given our current hugs, chest bumps, high-fives, and fist bumps. Practice with a friend or family members on pressure, duration, and number of shakes, until comfortable.

15) Not finding a common interest over which to bond

Find something that you have in common with the interviewer. Check their bio/profile on corporate website, LinkedIn, and Facebook. In their office, look for books on shelf, sports trophies, toys on desk, plaques on walls, photos of pets, anything to break the ice.

16) Not taking notes

When you sit down, take out a pad & pen so you look interested to write down any comments or notes—even if you doodle or never take any, you’ll look prepared.

17) Not having questions prepared

Show respect for, and an interest in the company by having a few questions ready about the company’s business/recent mentions in the news.

18) Not asking for the job

Don’t take anything for granted. Even high-profile politicians know to introduce themselves, shake hands and ask for your vote.

19) Not writing a thank you note to every person you met

Email is good, but handwritten is better. Send separate note to receptionist, administrative folks, H.R. people, and interviewers—everyone, since they will compare feedback about you.

20) Not following up on status weekly

If they give you ranges or specific dates for follow-up, be patient. If not, then it’s fair to email or call their office to check on process and reiterate your continued interest.

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com.

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employment, job hunting, job interviews, job search, resumes, Uncategorized

Your Future Is In The (Business) Cards

[As published on Recruiter.com]

 

According to a Microsoft study, a goldfish now has a longer attention span than you do.

Hey, over here — there’s more!

Microsoft found that the average human’s attention span is now eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. The goldfish clocks in at nine seconds.

Why does Microsoft care, and why should you? Because shorter attention spans affect concentration, comprehension, reading, advertising, and interpersonal interactions.

Given how short the average person’s attention span is — and that includes hiring managers and recruiters — how can you become a memorable candidate?

It’s actually quite easy: Leave behind a business card.

The practice of exchanging business cards seems to have originated in China in the 15th century, according to some sources. The practice has evolved since then, but there’s a reason it’s still with us all these centuries later. Having a card to present while networking accomplishes several things:

  1. It shows that you’re prepared. You’re not fumbling around for a pen and scrap of paper on which to scrawl your contact info.
  2. It presents the important information you want a person to know, such as how to contact you and how to find out more about you.
  3. It demonstrates respect for the tradition of reciprocating the exchange of cards. Avoid that uncomfortable moment when someone gives you a gift and you don’t have one for them!

It’s not enough to simply have a business card; you want something that presents the best of you. A few guidelines on what makes a great card:

  1. Provide only necessary information so the card is not cluttered and doesn’t confuse the reader. Name, one phone number, one email address, maybe a mailing address, maybe a LinkedIn URL (not Facebook!), and a personal website, if you have one.
  2. Select a simple theme/colors/font combination that reflects your personality but looks professional. Your business card should be easy to read, and card scanners should be able to parse it. A fancy script and/or tiny typeface are red flags about your judgment.
  3. Give yourself a title, like “Sales Consultant,” “Customer Service Specialist,” “Digital Marketer” — something memorable and realistic. Unless you’re in a really creative field, don’t get cutesy. No one likes a “Chief Thinking Officer,” “Creative Guru,” or “Rainmaker Extraordinaire.”
  4. Utilize the back of the card for a few lines about your accomplishments or qualifications, such as “Master’s degree in education,” “Certified in C++,” or “Proficient in Google Analytics.” Leave at least the top half of the card’s back empty so the person has space to write notes.

Remember: Receiving another person’s card is an invitation to follow up with them. Duck into another room and make notes of everything you can remember about your conversation on the back of the card. This may include information like a spouse’s name, a reminder to send an article of interest, inside information about their company, projects they’re working on, or next steps for following up.

You are an outsider trying to get inside. That’s what networking is all about. The goal is for the recipient to remember you weeks and months later. You want them to think of you when they have a vacancy or hear about one before it’s posted.

You are continuing a 400-year tradition of introductions and etiquette, so carry the cards in a decent case. Resist the temptation to use a binder clip or rubber band.

You may make a good first impression, but a business card leaves a lasting impression. That’s how you become memorable.

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com.

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Are You Ready For Your Close-Up?

If you were a company hiring people, would you think it efficient and cost effective to scour the country and fly in, house, and feed candidates to interview?  That’s what we used to do.

Would you save money by filtering through resumes and then conduct phone interviews of the best applicants?  That’s what we used to do.

Now, companies are asking candidates to produce a video of themselves answering provided questions or just introducing themselves. I’m not sure why it took so long, since we’ve had video conferencing capabilities at Kinko’s since 1994, Skype since 2003, and FaceTime since 2010.

This is a paradigm shift—having a webcam, but not necessarily a resume?

An initiative called, “World Hiring Day,” was September 14, and 200 companies accepted videos from job hunters. (Wall Street Journal, 9/14/16, Page B5).

Companies have applicants download an app or link that explains their procedure and expectations. HireVue Inc., a firm that provides video interviewing software, said that it hosted nearly three million such videos last year, up from 13,000 five years ago. (Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2016, Page B6).

Do you still need a resume?  Absolutely.  Even, if not for them, you need it for you. It’s a chronology of titles, places, dates, and skills to quantify accomplishments, and stay organized when speaking.

Now, that companies can hear AND see you, you need your elevator speech to be confident, and your answers on-point without sounding rehearsed. Neatness counts, so you also need decent production values which means considering your location, lighting, background, ambient noise, attire (at least from the waist up), and proficiency to shoot and edit (if possible) your video.

Scanning videos for facial and other non-verbal cues adds more scrutiny to who you are. Reciting selections from your resume demonstrates what you’ve done and what you can do.

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com.

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Hello, I Must Be Going: Job Hoppers Have No Time for a Gold Watch

[As published on Recruiter.com]

Your parents and grandparents likely had only a few jobs before settling in with one company until retirement. For you, that’s probably not the case.

According to a PwC report, millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – comprise a quarter of the workforce. They are the largest generation since the soon-to-retire baby boomers, and they have very different goals from previous generations.

For example, money is not their highest priority.

(“Wha-what?” you say. “Heresy! These young’uns!”)

More important to millennials is that they have a true work/life balance; that they be inspired to grow personally and professionally; that they be productive, but not tied to the office for long hours; and that they feel a sense of purpose and are contributing to solutions instead of acting as small cogs in the larger machine.

These aspirational goals, though noble, are not the same as those of millennials’ parents and grandparents, who wanted the money, were okay working for “The Man,” and were willing (and expected) to stay as late as it took to get things done.

According to the PwC report, 38 percent of millennials who are currently working said they were actively looking for a different role, and 43 percent said they were open to offers. Only 18 percent expect to stay with their current employer for the long term.

Not long ago, job hopping was a bad thing, but the times, they are a-changin’. Wall Street Journal article cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014 findings that workers aged 25-34 averaged three years at their employers, compared to 5.5 years for all employees over 25.

Regarding job hopping, the average hiring manager used to think, “What’s wrong with this person who can’t keep a job? How quickly will they leave me? A chronic short-termer will likely use me as a stepping stone, so is it worth taking that risk to hire them? If this person burns me, will the next one of their contemporaries be any better?”

Why are younger workers leaving their jobs sooner? Because they can. Hiring managers in technology, finance, consumer/retail, business services, and healthcare are becoming more accepting – or more desperate – in order to fill critical roles. Competing for the best people is nothing new, but today’s employers need to make compromises due to outsize demands and a smaller supply of qualified workers.

This new paradigm has further implications for the future. How compatible will these young job hoppers be with coworkers of different generations? How will they behave as managers later in their careers? Will they accept, support, and encourage short-termers, or will they revert to old-school mindsets of wanting long-term, consistent teams? Will they hop less, wanting more financial stability as retirement gets closer?

I’ve hired several dozens of people during my managerial career and recommend that employees stay in a job for at least three years. The company has gone to considerable expense to search for you, hire, and train you. It takes at least one year to learn the season/cycles before repeating them. Fewer than 36 months probably isn’t enough for you to get acclimated, learn your job, make contributions, prove yourself, and master it before saying see ya later.

Groucho Marx, as Capt. Spaulding, told his party guests in Animal Crackers, “Hello, I must be going, I cannot stay, I came to say, I must be going. I’m glad I came, but just the same, I must be going.”

That was long before the age of millennials.

Marx proclaimed to his gathering, “I’ll stay a week or two, I’ll stay the summer through, but I am telling you, I must be going.”

Do what’s best for you, but before jumping ship, consider how your current employer might speak about you later and how your new employer might (skeptically) view your commitment.

Be prepared to discuss what loyalty means to you. Give a lot of thought to that classic question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Ferris Kaplan is founder of Best of You Resumes.

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Reading Between the Lines of a Job Ad

When you read a house-for-sale ad, with practice, you can decode that “easy-care-yard” means small or already full of stones and cactus. “Great starter house,” means you should expect to spend a lot fixing it. We read the ad with skepticism.

When we see a job ad, we read it with eagerness. We want it to fit and be the perfect next gig. Blinded by the opportunity, we quickly scan the title, location, qualifications, requirements, and next steps.

An article by Hannah Morgan in U.S. News & World Report, details what to look for, and I agree with them.

I would add:

1) Read the ad with optimism, the FIRST TIME. If convinced that this could be something positive, then READ IT AGAIN as “The Devil’s Advocate.” Dissect every line to decode what they really want, and if you really have it.

2) Try this trick…copy & paste the entire job description into a Word Cloud to see what the most important keywords are TO THEM. Then, copy & paste your entire resume into a Word Cloud to see what YOUR KEYWORDS are. If similarly prominent, great. If not, you can change your resume to reflect what they’re looking for, or recognize this as a red flag and move on to the next ad.

It’s easy to be overly optimistic and mail or email out letters and resumes applying for everything. Yes, it’s a “numbers game,” and you’ve got to send out more to get more responses, but your time is valuable, so be selective. You must craft each letter and each resume to each specific job, or you are wasting your time.

Companies have vacancies to fill. They have the power to hire, but THEY NEED YOU more than you need them.

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com .

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Old School: Please and Thank You

Thank_you_note

It used to be common courtesy to politely ask for something, and then to give thanks when receiving it. Over time, this courtesy has become less common.

Despite the advanced technology, lack of parenting, or erosion of social skills, humans have not yet evolved from wanting to be appreciated.

Your resume is to get you an interview, and your cover letter should conclude by nicely asking to meet.

The most overlooked tool is the Thank You note. When you’ve gotten far enough into the process to actually have an interview, congrats, but don’t stop there!

There’s an often quoted 2012 survey by The Ladders, whereby, 75% of interviewers said that receiving a thank you note from a candidate affected their decision. However, only 21% send them sometimes, and 10% never do!

I’ve hired a lot of people, and receiving a thank you email or handwritten note has always made a difference. Not only did that person now get another opportunity to be top-of-mind, but also they got a follow-up chance to impress me.

There are thousands of free thank you notes online to sample, but show your personality and your genuine interest in THEM.

1) Keep it short. This is not for you to re-hash your cover letter or attach your resume. Three paragraphs (Nice meeting you…reminder of you with what got their attention…and then showing your passion for the job) are all you need.

2) No mistakes. Don’t implode after getting this far. Have others read it before sending. Check for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and that your name and contact email/phone is legible. Be sure to have the correct spelling of their name.

3) Send it soon. Email it within 24 hours, but not as soon as you get home since it may look desperate. If mailing it, do it right away since it will take 2-4 days to be delivered. Send one to each person with whom you met. Trust me, they compare notes about YOU.

Learn how to be more marketable at BestOfYouResumes.com.

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