Monthly Archives: October 2016

What to do Stumped in a Job Interview

Interviewing is stressful and nerve-wracking for most. Sometimes, you have all the right answers. Other times, the process can reduce a normally confident professional into a sweating, rambling, seemingly inexperienced newbie in their field. No matter how comfortable you are with the process, chances are you will be asked a question for which you don’t have an answer, or be asked about experience you are lacking. How you respond when the pressure is on says a lot about you. Here are three tips on how to survive the stump.

Don’t lie. In her book “Presence,” Amy Cuddy, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, says that people judge others on two factors: trust and respect. Of the two, Cuddy’s research has shown that trust is required first. “From an evolutionary perspective, it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust,” she says. This is a critical finding for job seekers deciding whether to embellish an answer or be honest about a shortcoming. The top priority in an interview is to convey that you are genuinely the right person for the job and you can be trusted to be part of the team.

The flip side of this is the candidate who rushes to give an ideal-sounding (but not entirely truthful) answer. If the hiring team picks up the insincerity or learns the response wasn’t accurate, all credibility is lost. You cannot re-establish credibility in the interview process once it is gone. So, remember, when in doubt, be honest.

Ask for clarification. My son once had a math teacher who shared some of the greatest advice I have ever heard: If you are stumped on how to solve a problem that seems unnecessarily difficult, chances are you are trying to solve the wrong thing. Most questions in an interview should be answerable. If you have been asked a question that seems unnecessarily difficult, there is a strong possibility you may have misinterpreted what has been asked. It is always better to ask for clarification than it is to flail in uncertainty.

 You are not alone in the instinct to quickly answer before you have checked your assumptions. Stopping to clarify is a learned professional and social skill. It requires patience, self-control, confidence and a desire to get the right thing done (not just get something done). These are excellent traits to demonstrate to a prospective employer. They are the signs of a strategic and efficient employee who has the ability to thrive in dynamic environments. Embrace the opportunity to display them.

Demonstrate your problem-solving ability. The world of work is evolving at record rates thanks to the rapid growth in digital and technological advancements. Employees encounter new issues and problems for which there is no best practice or protocol on a regular basis. Often a tough question is designed to see how you react when you don’t have an answer. This is a chance to show your problem-solving competence.

Start by asking for clarification and checking your assumptions. It is also OK to say, “That is a great (or unique) question. Although I have not experienced that in the past, here is how I would approach it here.” You are establishing that you are trustworthy, because you did not make up an answer. You are demonstrating your capabilities with your methodical approach to handling the answer. And, you are showing that you can move forward even when uncertain or under stress.

There are a few interviewers who are mean-spirited and delight in making candidates squirm. But most of the time, the tough questions serve a purpose. On the surface, they can shed light on technical areas of expertise you need to demonstrate to work effectively in the role. At a deeper level, they may mirror the stressors often faced in the work environment. Furthermore, they champion the honest, thoughtful problem-solver who has the best chance of acclimating to a new environment and a dynamic role. The next time you feel stumped, relax and remember having an answer isn’t the only purpose of the question.

Info What to Do if Recruiters Don’t Have Time to Read Your Cover Letter

A position just opened up at your dream company. You’ve combed through your resume to make sure everything is up to date (and spelled correctly). All that’s left is to personalize your pitch with a stellar cover letter. Except – here’s the thing – it may not get read. According to a 2016 Jobvite survey, about one-quarter of recruiters say a cover letter is not important when reviewing applications. But with a little creativity, there are still ways you can highlight those intangibles that don’t always stand out on a resume but can make you the perfect fit.

Nail the Modern Resume

The extinction of the cover letter might not be a major loss, but it does mean you’ve got to get a bit more innovative with other parts of your application. This starts with the resume. Simple is better; you don’t need extravagant, custom-designed logos or neon font (unless you work in graphic design or another creative industry).

Recruiters spend minutes looking over a resume if you’re lucky, so the most important thing is that it’s clean, easy to read and hits on as many of those major job requirements as possible. The good news is these are often spelled out right in the job description, so you already know exactly what they’re looking for. Tailor your resume to make sure you’re highlighting those key components in the job description, and include a summary detailing what makes you a unique candidate. Keep it short and sweet, two to three sentences at most (it’s called a summary for a reason), and really zero in on your career focus, some high-level competency or a niche interest.

 After you’ve nailed the big stuff, then you can worry about peppering in other details such as personal interests. The bottom of the resume is the place to include things like hobbies, club memberships, volunteer opportunities and extracurriculars. Just make sure they’re relevant.

Make a Connection

You’ve probably heard the tired phrase, “It’s not what you know, but whom you know.” While that’s not totally true – your industry skills and expertise are important – so is developingprofessional relationships and creating a network of referrals.

Applicants referred to hiring managers through a personal connection are five times more likely than average to get the job, and 15 times more likely to be hired than those applying online through a job board. It makes sense, we are constantly looking to our peers for recommendations on everything from which brunch places have the best mimosas to which dentist to see and more.

The best way to network isn’t necessarily to outright ask about job opportunities at the company you’re interested in. Instead, make genuine connections by scheduling informational calls or coffee with someone who shares your passion for the industry. That way, when that perfect opportunity comes along, you’ll have a connection on the inside who can champion you as a great match for the role.

The referral has always been a stronger guarantee for recruiters than the cover letter ever was, so get out there and make some new friends.

Let Social Media Tell the Story Cover Letters Used To

It probably comes as no shock that companies are looking through your social media profiles. But you might be surprised to find that recruiters aren’t interested in scouring through your every post, hunting for some embarrassing photo or profane tweet. Rather, they’re feeling out whether you might be a good culture fit.

 Today, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tell a hiring manager a lot more about you than the cover letter ever could, and it’s all fair game. Don’t make it too obvious, but get ahead of recruiters during the job hunt by curating your feeds and including your social media handles in your resume (they will find them with a quick Google search anyway). When done right, this can showcase your creative skills, personality or ability to cultivate a large following that will help land you a job.

But even if you aren’t keen on the social media scene, make darn sure you have a LinkedIn profile. It’s not only a great resource for you during the job search, but also one of the first places recruiters check out when looking at a candidate. And fair warning, you will be judged if you don’t have one.

Be About the Results

The absolute best way to capture a hiring manager’s attention (and something very few candidates actually do) is to show them how you can make a difference through results.

Most applicants list responsibilities from previous jobs on their resume, but your resume should say more than just “Hey, I did this job.” The simple fix: discuss the impact those responsibilities had.

For example, instead of putting, “Responsible for yearly budget,” write: “Managed a $200,000 annual project budget and reduced costs by 20 percent over two years.”

Recruiters are looking for employees who achieve results (after all, that’s what they pay you for), so avoid phrases like “responsible for” and “worked on” that don’t really say much about the impact you’ve made. Instead, leave a much stronger impression by quantifying your results to show hiring managers you’re looking to do more than just collect a paycheck.

While most recruiters have moved on from the cover letter, some industries or specific jobs (especially those where writing is prevalent) might still ask for one. If so, be sure to explain how you came across the opportunity and how your qualifications match the job requirements. But don’t overdo it. Selling yourself as the “perfect fit” when you’re actually not can be a huge turnoff for hiring managers. Instead, stick to being humble. Share your passion for the work and eagerness to learn what you don’t know. If you do that – plus follow the tips above in the case recruiters don’t read your letter – you’ll set yourself up to land that next big opportunity in no time.

The Ways to Assess Your Relationship With Your Job

Cupid is in the air: As Valentine’s Day is upon us and heart-shaped candy boxes and flowers are exchanging hands left and right, there’s one relationship you might want to examine a little more closely: the one between you and your job.

Interestingly enough, in a recent poll from Monster that asked how respondents would describe their current relationship with their job, 49 percent indicated they’re open to new possibilities. Eleven percent said “it’s complicated,” 11 percent said “I feel comfortable and secure,” 14 percent said they’re “miserable” and only 4 percent said “it’s true love.” (Eleven percent replied “none of the above.”)

Use the following guidelines to assess your relationship with your job, and then figure out if it’s time to break up once and for all.

It’s true love. You’ll know it’s the real thing when you’re completely excited by what you do! Sure, it may not be 100 percent great all the time – hello, commuting woes – but it’s the type of work you’d wake up early on a Saturday to do. It doesn’t feel like work because you’re having so much fun.

And it’s not just in your head! You’re getting recognized for your work, paid fairly for it and on top of all of that, you have an awesome boss! What’s not to love? Congratulations! Seriously, you and your employer are gaga for each other – a wonderful feat. Treasure this relationship.

Open to new possibilities. Considering almost half of poll respondents indicated they’re not above stepping out on their current company for a better one, the verdict is simple: Look for a new job! Be open to knowing better jobs are indeed out there waiting for you.

It’s comfortable and secure. This relationship is a safe bet. After all, job security is definitely important, plus you feel assured that you know how to do your job – and you do it well.

Here’s the thing, though: You don’t want to get too comfortable and hit a plateau. Eventually, your career will get stuck and then, of course, you’ll have to pivot in order to get out.

Discomfort is where growth occurs, so if you want to remain comfortable and secure – and those aren’t necessarily bad attributes – then keep your job relationship just as it is. Some people don’t like change, don’t thrive on it, don’t want any part of it. But if you’re secretly wondering what’s out there, or if you’re underemployed and have a lot of untapped potential, start exploring your options externally.

You’re technically in one of the best positions a worker can be in. You don’t loathe your job and want out now. As someone who’s comfortably employed, you can interview for other jobs with confidence as you explore your options. Best-case scenario: you find a better-paying job that is also secure. Worst-case scenario: you explore your options and realize your current situation is better than what’s currently out there. Just make sure to keep your eyes and ears open for new job opportunities, and apply online as soon as you see new openings that fit your interests.

[See: How to Quit Your Job Like a Class Act.]

It’s complicated. Relationships can be hard work. If you’ve ever witnessed a friend get upset over a relationship, only to break up with a significant other, get back together, break up again, get back together again, rinse and repeat – you know what I mean. These kinds of on-again-off-again relationships usually result in a breakup. There were good reasons for that breakup the first time, let alone the second and third times.

As sparks fizzle, red flags emerge. The same pattern holds true if you have a complicated relationship with your job. Perhaps you work for a toxic boss, but the pay is fantastic and you get a generous amount of time off. But that, too, is complicated. Sigh.

Your best bet is to start looking for a new job. Even the action of starting to look should put a spring in your step for much-needed new beginnings.

It’s miserable. You’re underpaid, undervalued and, oh, did we mention working for a toxic boss or company with values misaligned to yours? You’re downright despondent and chances are, unfortunately, when you’re this unhappy, you’ve probably noticed it’s affecting your social and personal life as well. Maybe you’re more irritable, only want to sleep or are disinterested in hobbies and people who previously gave you joy.

Start looking for a new job today. Don’t hesitate. You are entitled to work you enjoy doing at a company that values you. It’s really that simple. Even though you may become numb to it, which is all too common, there are better jobs out there! Time to plan breaking up with that employer.

House GOP Reopens Test of the Unemployed

Many Americans without jobs may be required to pass a drug test or lose short-term unemployment insurance payments as a result of legislation from congressional Republicans that is set to come up for a vote this week.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote as early as Wednesday on a resolution that would nix Obama administration limits on drug testing the unemployed.

Opponents see an expansion of testing as unnecessary, degrading and potentially costing more than it would save. But proponents see it as a way to utilize public funds to enforce work-suitable conduct, benefiting both taxpayers and job-seekers.

Unemployment insurance is a federal-state benefit program that generally allows 26 weeks of pay tied to a beneficiary’s recent job history. It was established in the 1930s and is funded through taxes paid by employers. Historically, it has featured no drug testing.

“In some sense you have been taxed for the benefits, so it’s a little like giving drug tests to people whose houses burned down if they want to collect on their fire insurance,” says Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institute, describing skepticism of the idea.

 The legislation considered this week, House Joint Resolution 42, would strike down a federal rule formalized in August that allows states to test people fired for using drugs or those seeking jobs involving transportation, guns or positions where testing is ordered by law.

The August regulation opened the drug-testing door for the first time since a 2012 lawprovided the statutory basis, pending Labor Department identification of occupations “that regularly conduct” drug testing, applicants for which would be eligible for tests.

The 2012 legislation was the product of a compromise, with Democrats winning an extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed. At the time, politicians strongly disagreed on the likely scope of testing, foreshadowing the current debate. Some Republicans feel the Obama administration intentionally identified very few occupations.

 If successful, the latest measure from Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and 34 cosponsorswould force the Labor Department to craft a different rule. A win also would provide momentum to another Brady bill, the Ready for Work Act, which would explicitly allow states to decide for themselves who among the unemployed should be tested.

Though hard numbers are unclear, a 2011 survey by the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association and the Society for Human Resource Management offers ballpark figures for employers that regularly drug test, with an estimate that 57 percent test all job applicants and that 36 percent perform testing after hiring. A SHRM spokeswoman said it has not performed more recent surveys and DATIA did not respond to an inquiry.

Currently at least three states – Mississippi, Texas and Wisconsin – have laws allowing for unemployment insurance drug testing.

Burtless, who worked at the Department of Labor during the Carter administration, says only recently has the idea of drug testing federal benefit recipients crept from concern about welfare and food stamps to unemployment insurance.

Now, however, the issues have been directly connected by some advocates.

A Valentine’s Day blog post on the website of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., conflates the two.

“Giving states flexibility by overturning this rule has immediate economic benefits. After implementing drug testing, Utah saved more than $350,000 in the first year alone as drug users were barred from receive benefit payments from the taxpayers,” the post says, linking to a 2013 article addressing payments denied to 250 people who failed to meet drug-screening requirements for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families welfare program, though just 12 Utah applicants had tested positive for drugs.

Both sides have pulled the TANF drug-testing experience into the discussion. A Think Progress review of 10 states with drug testing for TANF in 2015 found about $850,000 in cost to administer drug tests that detected 321 active drug users – with Utah spending nearly $29,000 that year on screening and tests to ferret out 18 drug users.

A paper posted online this month by National Employment Law Project points to the findings and describes the Republican push as “inventing problems that do not really exist, scapegoating the unemployed, and wasting time and money ‘permitting’ states to enact programs that will be struck down by the federal courts as unconstitutional.”

Supporters of additional drug testing, meanwhile, use a traditional welfare-reform pitch.

“As the governor said, we will help our fellow citizen when they are down and out, but public assistance should be a trampoline, not a hammock,” says Tom Evenson, a spokesman for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the public union-busting Republican who has pushed for the measure.

The resolution is likely to be strongly opposed by Democrats, one of whom last yearproposed legislation to drug test wealthy people who claim more than $150,000 in itemized tax deductions to highlight her opposition to drug testing benefit recipients.

 “We’ll definitely reintroduce it,” says Eric Harris, a spokesman for Top 1 Percent Accountability Act author Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.