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Anxiety about the Future of Work

I have been reading a lot about job trends and what our work lives will be like in the future.  This is, as you would expect, something I have always done but it all has a new tone now.  Nothing like a pamdemic to speed up innovation tenfold.  It is fascinating to see the broad spectrum of opinion about this.  Some people think that robots and AI will eliminate all work as we know it.  Others think that robots and technology will enhance what we humans can do on our own and therefore make work better.

When I think back on my career in recruiting, a lot has changed in terms of the process and tools available to me .  I no longer have to stand beside  fax machine watching the pages pass through to make sure they don’t jam. I don’t have to flip through pages and pages of resumes in file folders  (that  were  never  in  the  right  order).  

Now, I can sit at a computer anywhere and have access to anything.  I can send information to a client or a candidate with the mere click of a button.

In the end, the process of what I do remains the same regardless of the state of technology.  I listen to what my client needs and then talk with lots of people until I find the right people with the right skills to fit the bill and find happiness.

Technology is  great enabler.  LinkedIn, Twitter and fancy databases provide easy access to all kinds of information but I still need critical thinking, writing and listening skills to do my job well.  Those cannot be replaced by any kind of AI.

When Apple and Microsoft first came out with programs like Word and Draw, we were suddenly able to make our work look totally professional.  My words looked like a manuscript. It was so cool.  It was a real come-down to realize that just because it looked like it had been published, did not make it publish-able.  It was still just words on a page by a budding recruiter.

The lesson here, is for all of us to continue to use our critical thinking skills to question how we use technology and to put the new tools to work in the best way possible. After all, they don’t call it “human” resources for nothing.

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Match Game – how to get your resume noticed

I had Zoom coffee last week with a candidate who was really frustrated because he had applied for lots of positions and not been contacted.

I asked him to tell me about one of them.  “Well, it was a mechanical engineering position in a manufacturing company.”

“What were they looking for?” I asked.

“An engineering degree and 5 years of design experience in a plastics manufacturing environment.  It was perfect for me.  It’s exactly the kind of company I want to work for.  I can’t understand why they have not called me yet for an interview.”

As we continued the conversation, I learned that while he did have experience in plastics, it was in equipment design not product design and that he did not have an engineering degree.

So at the risk of sounding harsh, I told him why he had not been called.  There were three criteria listed in the posting and he met only one.  In a resume sorting system, whether it’s human or digital, he won’t make the cut.

“But that’s not fair!” he wailed.  “I would be perfect for the role!”

That may be true but if you are replying to a posting where there are clear specifications, you better have most of them if you want to be considered.  Companies have reasons for their criteria and it really does not matter whether you think you are perfect or whether the criteria is justified.

If you are an “out of the box” candidate, then you need to apply in an “out of the box” method.  If your resume does not make the kind of impression you want to make, then you need to find a better way to make your first impression.

Find someone who can introduce you to a hiring influencer.  Speak at a conference or workshop.    Post a comment on a Linkedin discussion or write an article. These avenues allow your expertise, presence and general aura to make the first impression.

Bottom line: At the application stage, it does not matter if you think you are perfect for the role.  What matters is that there is a clear match between your experience/credentials and the posted criteria.

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How to Make the Most of an Information Interview

Information interviews are pretty popular these days. They can be a great way to learn about different roles and different organizations. These conversations, usually more casual than an actual interview, also provide a great platform for you to leave a lasting and positive impression.

But only if you are prepared.

So don’t blow it.

When someone grants you some of their valuable time, be respectful and use the time wisely. Do some thinking and research before you go. What specifically do you want to know? What knowledge do you want to take away from the meeting?

  • What was the most valuable part of their education?
  • How do they deal with the challenges of their job?  You can show off your knowledge here by citing a particular challenge.
  • Is this where they imagined they would be at this point in their career?
  • What is the best piece of advice they ever got?

Notice that there are two questions that are not on the list. How do I get hired here and will you be my mentor? These questions are out of bounds for this type of conversation. They should only come up if it is initiated by the person you are meeting.

The point of the meeting is to get information, not ask for a job. Respect that. Powerful and interesting questions will allow you to make the most of your time together. And if you are going to shower, shave and put on a jacket, you want to get the best return on that investment as possible.

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It’s Thursday….Do You Know Where Your Resume is?

Job opportunities seem to be flying thick and fast these days. Companies are making their “move forward” plans which often involve new leaders and differently skilled teams.

People, in general, seem to be reevaluating their work specifically or as part of their work-life continuum. Job postings on LinkedIn are getting lots of views and recruiters’ calls are being answered.

With all this action, you are bound to be presented with an opportunity that you actually want to explore. Something that sounds like a great next chapter – better boss, better mission, better growth – any of these things might grab your attention.

Moving to the next step almost always involves sending a resume. There might be a rare case where you are known to a company and you can secure a first interview without one but eventually, even when you are known in your industry, you are going to need to provide a resume.

When this happens, you want to have it close at hand. Last week, I ran into three people who were very interested in the job that I presented but it took them four days to get a resume to me and it was a crappy one at that. This was due to the fact that their resumes resided only on a home computer and it had crashed.

Making a resume on the fly is not good. You need time to consider what you want to include and not include, the best layout/format and of course, to have it spell checked by someone else. This takes several segments of your time.

When an opportunity has really grabbed your attention, you don’t want to have a sub-standard resume. You want to present a document that represents you with strength. Something you are proud of.

The lesson here is to a) keep your resume up to date and b) keep it accessible and secure. Almost everyone has access to some kind of free cloud based filing cabinet – Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive. Just don’t keep it on an old home PC or Tablet. That’s a recipe for stress and considering a new role is stressful enough.

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Questions for Today’s Interview

There are standard questions that I suggest for every job interview but in today’s work situation, there are some new ones that you might want to slot into your agenda.

Where is the work? This is on everyone’s mind right now. In the office or remote? Or some of each?  Be clear on what will work for you and your family.  Maybe working from home was the best thing ever. Maybe you miss the energy and free coffee of the office.

What changed in the group over the last 18 months?  The answer will give you insight into how your potential new team handled the changes brought on by the pandemic.   If the answer focuses on Zoom and Teams and little else, that probably means they have held their own but not seen any new growth or innovation.  If the answer includes faster paced product releases or better ties with their customers/other teams, then you are looking at a more dynamic group.

What has the turnover been?  This answer will tell you a lot.  Did they have lay offs at the beginning?  Have people left recently?  Was it team members or leaders?  You will get insight into how the organization treated their people at the beginning and how people are reacting today. 

Where is the organization investing for the future?  This allows the hiring team to demonstrate to you how connected they are to the bigger picture.  The details they provide will help you establish what they want to do over the next few years and whether it aligns with what you want to do.

Compensation.  Talking about compensation is not new but it is more important than ever.  What does the package consist of?  Is there a bonus plan?  Is it tied to personal achievements or team/organizational achievements?  Is the pay different if you are remote or onsite? Is the company offering a salary that is way above what you earn now? If so, try to figure out why. Are you signing up for 7×24 response rates or a 60 hour work week?

There are way too many questions here to ask in the typical interview. Pick the main ones that you want to ask and then keep the others in mind (or in your notes) to make sure that you the information you need to make a solid decision about moving forward with the role.

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Stepping Away

No career advice or pithy networking comments today….I have stepped away from my computer this week. Time to recharge and refresh.

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Cover Letters: Necessary or Outdated?

People offer to send me cover letters all the time.  I tell them not to bother.  My job is to provide notes to my client about each candidate so in effect, I am writing the cover letter for them.

But what about when you are applying to jobs directly?

It can be tricky to decide but whatever you do, cover letters need to be written individually.

envelope

You can have a standard paragraph in the middle but the rest of it needs to be customized every time.

If you are applying to a position online and there is no mention of a cover letter, then you can probably get away with just your resume.  Many application systems have questionnaires as part of the application process.  That is the company’s way of getting most of what would be in a cover letter.

If you see a posting that asks specifically for a cover letter, then pay attention to what it’s asking for.  A lot of times, an employer wants you to lay out your goals, achievements or maybe why you think you are right for them/the role.

Take a look at the tone of the ad and also look at their website.  Try to get a feel for the culture and use this to decide the tone and format of your note.  If the company is really creative or casual, use that style but if it seems corporate and formal, then go with that.

If you are referred by someone, you definitely need a cover letter that explains who referred you, their relationship with you and why the role matters to you.

Two points to remember:

Keep your cover letter short and to the point.  It is not your life story.  It should talk about who you are, what you are good at and how to get in touch.  All of the other details are in your resume.

Double and triple check the spelling – especially the name and title of the person you are addressing.  Nothing gets your letter in the trash faster than misspelling someone’s name.

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How to Resign with Respect

You are beside yourself with glee.  You have just accepted an offer for a  fantastic new job.  It checks all the boxes: people, scope, location and money.  Yippee!

What to do next?

It is important to plan your next steps with care and respect.  How you leave a job can play a big role in managing your career and your reputation.

Think about how much notice you need to provide to your current employer.  Check your employment agreement.  Many stipulate two or three weeks.  You may want to be magnanimous by offering four weeks but in most cases, it is not necessary.

Then, write a letter of resignation.  Make it formal but friendly.  Thank your manager for providing such a great opportunity to learn and grow.  Lay out the details of your last day and offer to do what’s needed for a smooth transition.

Be prepared for anything and everything when you tell your manager and hand over/email the letter.  Managers do not like it when someone resigns.  It almost always catches them by surprise and then they look bad to their boss when they have to deliver then news.  That’s where counter offers often come in to play.

When faced with an unplanned gap in the team, suddenly there is more money to give you.  Maybe the leadership team really was thinking of promoting you but the fact is, they didn’t and now you have chosen to go somewhere else.

Be firm and resolute in your tone in that “I am leaving” conversation.  Think about (but don’t share) all the reasons you are going to a new and better place.

Once the initial shock wears off, they will figure out who will take over your tasks and life will go on.  That’s why a couple of weeks is almost always fine. It’s not like you can get involved in long term planning or that you will enjoy getting left out of conversations that might be proprietary.  It’s all part of the transition.

So you go.  Your colleagues and managers will wish you well and hopefully, some of them will take a few minutes on Zoom to raise a glass to your future success.

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Tips for Video Panel Interviews

It’s been a year and a half and most of us have adapted to meeting people over a video platform rather than in person. It has been a struggle for some and an easy transition for others but we are mostly there.

Meeting a panel of interviewers over video is another story. When you have a panel interview in person, you know where to look. You can sort out who is talking even when two people are talking at the same time and you don’t have to deal with any kind of techno-lag.

All those things are harder over any video platform, even the most reliable. There can be connection problems, weird noises, people off camera and all manner of other things that can throw you off your game.

Here are some tips to get you through.

Find out the platform that will be used (Teams, Zoom) and make sure that it is set up on your device of choice. A computer is best because it is large and stable. If you are using a phone or tablet, make sure you use a stand. Nothing makes a panelist more nauseous then the image shifting as you hold it in your hand.

If talking on group video calls is not something you do everyday, pull together some friends or family and practice. Give them questions to ask you and get their feedback on how you look and sound.

In your practice rounds, log on and off the call a few times. Nothing is more agonizing than waiting for a video call to connect. It’s only a few seconds but it can seem like hours and in a pressure interview situation, it feels even worse. The more comfortable you are with that, the better you will present.

The big advantage to a video call is that you can have notes around you. Think about the important skills, stories and experiences that you want to get across to the panel and make some sticky notes or index cards. You can have them on part of your screen or you can tape them to the side of your monitor. It’s a great way to provide cues for yourself.

Prepare the same way you would for an in-person meeting. Do the research about the company, the challenges ahead and background about the panelists. Think about how your experience would benefit them. Remember, it is not really about why you want this role. The panel will ask you about that but it’s not the key. The key is what problems will you solve and how you will help the grow.

Finally, have a list of questions you want to ask the panel. Open ended questions are best. Ask why they chose the organization, what qualities do successful people have, what big projects are coming up. Getting them talking will give you real insight into who they are and whether they are your people or not.

So take a deep breath and click Connect. They can’t see you sweat on video.

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It’s a Funny Story…….

Over the last few weeks I have been asking candidates how they got into their professions. And more than two thirds started their answer with “well, it’s a funny story”.


Then they proceed to talk about the seemingly unrelated series of events that took place and culminated in them landing in their current role.


This gives me great cause for optimism. I read a lot about workplace transformation and AI and jobs disappearing. And I worry. I worry about how people will be able to keep pace with the shifts in the workplace.


But if so many people fall into jobs that they never could have imagined when they were in school then I guess there is a certain amount of hope that they will continue to follow new paths.


I have read about journalists who are working in digital marketing, an English grad who is working in software development and a music student who ended up being a great project manager.
Many of their initial opportunities came from networking. Often it’s a former colleague or a former manager who reached out or made a key suggestion.


The takeaways:

Keep your network warm. Make sure they know who you are and what you care about. (Not just your title and company).


Be open to listening to ideas and evaluating them as you go. If you are always “way too busy” to consider a new opportunity, they will cease to come your way.


Read a lot. Read about your industry, the tools you use, the news of the day and a bit about the economy. Keep your world broader than your desk.


Basically, if you keep your eyes open for ways to explore and learn about the future, you will be ready when it arrives.

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