Category Archives: Job Search

Job Change Perscription

If you are thinking about making a job change, consider the old adage:  fish where the fish are.

What is it that you want to do next and where are the people who are doing it now?  Better yet, who is doing it now and has a big problem?  The kind of problem that you know exactly how to fix.

Imagine you have decided that you want to move from the inside customer service team to an outside sales role.  You have been feeling hemmed in lately.  You really want to get out in field and get face to face with customers.

How about this?  Look for a company that has a product that’s the same or similar to yours and then drill down to find trouble.

Trouble could be in the form of a growth spike, a quality issue or wider market acceptance.  These challenges are pain points for company leaders.  Leaders want to relieve pain.  Figure out how to market yourself as the prescription.

An email message might say:

I have been listening to customers like yours for years.  I know what they need and how to package your product so that it provides a solution that fits.  Couldn’t you use someone like me in the field?

Just attach your resume and hit send.

There is certainly no guarantee that one email will start a conversation but it’s a good start.

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Filed under career change, Job Search, Networking

Mastering the Skype Interview

This week has been interesting. I met a lot of people – about half in person and the other half virtually.

I like the skype interview. I don’t feel guilty about making people come all the way to my office (and mortgage their car to pay for downtown parking). It’s also easier to fit in to busy people’s schedules.

Here is what I noticed. The people who met me in person had obviously taken care with their appearance and their timing. There was a general sense of preparedness about them when I met them in our reception area.

The skype chats were different. It seemed to be a much more casual thing. Not too much care with the surroundings and not to concerned about attire.

Now, I know that different industries have different “uniforms”. If you meeting someone from a financial institution, you need to look well dressed and successful. Cuff links and monogrammed cuffs are optional but the suit is mandatory.

But even if you are interviewing in a software company with Red Bull on tap, you are probably going to put on a clean t shirt.

Don’t let a video interview be your downfall. It is just as important as an in-person one.

  • Be ready – test your wifi connection with a friend before the call
  • Look neat – you can take the TV news anchor approach – shirt and tie on top, shorts on the bottom
  • Have your resume and place to make notes beside you
  • Turn off your phone – you know it’s going with that obnoxious ring tone you assigned to your brother-in-law in the middle of the thorny salary question
  • Remove distractions – let everyone (including your dog) know that you are in an important meeting

These things won’t necessarily get you the job but they will help you make a better impression.

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Interview Feedback – the good, the bad and the ugly

Getting feedback from a client after an interview is essential. It’s pretty great when a hiring manager calls to say the interviews went well and they want to move the candidates forward in the process. 

Sounds positive right?

But it’s not enough information. It’s tempting to let them off the hook and just move forward. That kind of thinking with come back to bit you later.

You need to know why they like the candidates. “He’s really nice” is not a valid reason to hire someone.

I am not saying you should hire people you can’t stand but you do need to identify what it is about their experience, style and education that makes them seem likely to fill the gap in an organization.

This is equally true when the hiring manager declares that a candidate is not a fit. What is is about them that makes them not a fit? It it something that will develop over time or a characteristic that is not likely to change?

Not knowing a company’s acronyms or specific processes can be overcome. You can even ask questions during the interview about how the candidate has gotten up to speed in the past for some reassurance. 

If the candidate shows up late, chews gum and takes a call during the interview, those might be characteristics that make that person a complete non-starter.

But be clear about what specifically is good and what is missing or misaligned. That’s the only way to increase your chances of making a successful hire.

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The Reference Game

References have been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers wanted verification that the person they want to hire is as good as they think they are. 

And who better to hear from than other managers?

Problems started to arise when managers were a bit loose with the material they shared like inadvertently giving confidential information about the candidate or the business.

Also, if a candidate did not get a role because of a bad reference, disputes arose and lawyers got involved. It was ugly.

At that point, HR in many companies created policies that prevented managers from providing references, only HR could. And because HR did not always know the person, they would only verify title and employment dates.

Not helpful.

As always, there was a workaround. Candidates would provide the contact info for a former manager who was no longer at the company and not bound by reference policies.

Smart, career minded people stay in touch with corporate friends and allies for this reason.

You can be sure that the material from this “cultivated” group is going to be positive through and though.

Employers started to question the validity of these references. This saw the evolution of the “back door” reference. This is when you know someone who knows the candidate and you reach out to see what they are really like. 

Although I see where this is seen as helpful, it puts us back to the bad old days of off-the-cuff references that are based on a general feeling as opposed to bona fide skills and experience.

I talked to one person who got her last job without providing references. The company no longer believed in them. They re- structured the interview process and started to use assessment tools. They felt that the information was much more useful and they felt just as good about their hires.

What’s your point of view on references? Pile of praise or pile of baloney?

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Job Postings and Romance

I have been reading a lot of romance novels.  Don’t hate me.  They are really are lovely.  They are not too long and they always resolve in such a nice, neat package – very appealing.

The problem is that I have now started to day dream about a rich, handsome guy showing up at work or on the train to sweep me off my feet.  Not just any rich, handsome guy. No, this guy has chiseled abs, just the right amount of stubble and a home in Sardinia.

I can wish all I want, but I have already been swept off my feet.  He has the stubble, but alas, no home in a sunny, warm locale.

And wishing is not going to change that.

I tried to explain that to a few candidates this week.  Not the part about getting a new husband, but the part about wishing for a new role that’s a departure from where you are today.

It’s not that a major career move is not possible.  It is just that you need to be rational.

I had someone try to convince me that they would be ideally suited to sell medical devices because their neighbour was a doctor and they had spent a lot of time together building a fence.   He honestly thought that having a beer with a doctor imparted enough knowledge to make him a legitimate candidate for the role.  Come on!

It is fine to daydream about a job when you read a posting on monster, but give your head a shake.  Read the list of requirements.  Can you honestly say yes to at least half of them?  It does not matter whether you agree with them nor does it matter that you think you have a better list of requirements.  The employer has put them there for a reason.  Respect it.

If the posting says “living, breathing human”, then by all means, go ahead and apply but if it says “have a degree in mechanical engineering”, then going on a date with an engineer is not going to cut it.

But if you see a place in Sardinia, could you let me know?

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Filed under career change, Job Search, linkedin, recruiter, Resume

Looking for that first job?

All kinds of new grads are being released in the wilds of the employment world this month.

They have a degree or a diploma in hand and are ready to land their dream job.

Wrong.

It’s really too bad that we have set them up for that expectation.  You first job will never be your dream job.  That only happens in the movies.

When you emerge from your sheltered school environment, you feel like you know everything.  Then you get a job and you realize how much you actually don’t know.  You also learn what having a “job” and a “boss” is really like.

It can be an ugly time.  But it’s also a time of great learning; it kind of caps off your education.  That first manager will really help shape what you want to do in your life.  If you are lucky enough to have a great manager, then the job itself is almost irrelevant.  You will learn about balancing work and life, about setting priorities and answering to different types of people.

If, on the other hand, you have a bad manager, it is still a great learning opportunity.  You learn a lot about the things that you don’t like and the things you will never do when you are a manager.

All this comes into play when you are looking for jobs number two and three.  At this point, you are starting to hone in on the things that you are really good at and the type of manager you need have to continue to develop.  Now, things are starting to shape up and you might actually be able to see what your dream job might really look like.

So, don’t get too hung up on your first gig.  Just start. Get a job,  make some money and continue learning.  That’s all that’s going to matter in the end.

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You want to be a what?

Spring is just around the corner and whether you are about to graduate or just itchy for change, there are many new and emerging roles and even, industries to explore. 

Gone are the days where a job with IBM or a bank or the government meant you were set for life. Those institutions may have good pensions but that’s about it. The concept of a “job for life” no longer exists. Even if you have been with.a company for a long time, there are no guarantees.

So, let’s put that idea aside. For good. That gives us the freedom to explore all kinds of different options. And there are lots of options. We just have to throw away the blinders that cause us to ignore or dismiss jobs seem unfamiliar or could be short lived.

I toured a bread factory this week. It was fascinating. The company has invested $10 million in new equipment. There are new mixers and a flour transport line and five kilometers of conveyors. Think of how many people were involved in designing, manufacturing and installing all that equipment. Not to mention the number of people it takes to develop recipes for clients and actually make the bread. (Turns out those pretzels buns we love are quite the challenge to make!)

Or consider the nuclear industry. Ontario Power Generation is refurbishing the four reactors at the Darlington station and the mega project is expected to take 112 months. That’s a long time and will involve not just engineers and trades people (although there are millions of hours of those skills needed). They will need analysts, and accountants and public relations folks and they might even need a sandwich or two as well.

Which brings us back to bread……

Don’t be afraid to explore opportunities that you have not considered. There are so many things happening so quickly that it really is up to each of us to explore, discover and research the big possibilities for our careers.    

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