Should I Take The Job? Finding The Job That Fits.

Square Peg Few things will give you a sense of greater pride (and momentary euphoria) than receiving a job offer from a hiring company. Not only does it make you feel valued and “wanted”, but in a shaky economy like the one we continue to experience, it provides welcome relief to anyone that has had to cope with being unemployed. While there are times that we (as grown-ups) must take a job we know we don’t love, in order to pay the bills, there are other times when it makes sense to do your homework and ensure that the company will be a good fit. Too often we have heard stories of recent graduates taking the first job that was offered to them, only to be disappointed  and frustrated with the job after a few months. According to a recent Bullhorn report 46% of new hires leave within 18 months!

The problem is that when interviewing, applicants have little interaction with a company beyond the HR department and perhaps 1-2 meetings with the person who will serve as your “boss”. This tells you nothing about your colleagues or work environment. To really understand the job you may be accepting, you have to dig deeper, ask questions and look at the following:

1. Company’s Reputation & Leadership – Before you even walk in the door, you should have done your homework on the company and have a firm understanding of their business, overall market, products, leadership and financials. On paper they should be a company that you would be proud to represent, and be poised for continued growth & innovation. And don’t forget to check out the Executive Team. They are vital to the company’s long-term prospects, and you want to make sure you have smart, savvy people at the helm of each department, especially your own.

2. Company Culture: Too often prospective applicants get wade-down considering their potential salary & benefits, when what they should be focused on is the company’s overall environment and culture. It’s very easy to use the visual cues around you to get a sense of how the office behaves, starting with the reception you receive at the front desk. What is his/her tone?  Are you made to feel welcome? Look around the office…is it formal or casual? Do people work in a bullpen environment or individuals offices? What’s the dress? Is there a pool table and slide in the middle of the room? What’s the male to female ratio..young to old? Work is done in many different ways, and it’s important for you to know in which kind you will thrive.

3. Work Expectations - Before accepting any jobs it’s vital to understand your own role in the company and that you can meet the expectations that they have for you. This not only includes any set goals or deliverables, but other job requirements such as “standard” office hours”, out-of-town travel, working from home & weekends, TPS reports, and managing others…all of which can impact your work experience.

4. Salary & Benefits: Of course salary & benefits are key to accepting (and staying at) any job. We want a great place to work, but need to be paid what we are worth and what will pay the bills. Increasingly companies are going beyond salary and health benefits to include other perks to attract and retain talent, such as child care, free food, even chair massages, but really comes down to what benefit you derive.

With all the social networking going around, it’s easier than ever to do your homework. Find friends through LinkedIn that are connected to any company you are considering, as well as Glassdoor which will give you an “inside” look at various jobs & companies, including your connections through Facebook. Go get the job that’s right for you.

Rise of the “Projeclications” or “Applijects”

This week I was sent an interesting blog piece from the Harvard Business Review Network entitled  “Projects Are the New Job Interviews”  by Michael Schrage. In this piece Michael points to a growing trend  among large businesses and corporations to “field test” potential job candidates, before they are awarded/offered the big full-time position.  As we all have experienced first hand, the interview process is flawed. You can give people quizzes & tests, check references, and conduct team meetings, but in the end, it really comes down to how someone performs on the job and works in conjunction with the other employees.

These paid projects allow both sides to better vet each other, and ensure that there is a good fit.  And while many in the comments section went wild over the idea of being “pitted against” other job candidates, as Michael points out “there’s nothing fake or artificial about the value they’re expected to offer. These organizations treat hiring as part of their on-boarding process. Hiring becomes more holistic rather than “over the wall. More importantly, everyone in the enterprise now “gets” that people only get hired if and only if they deliver something above and beyond a decent track record and social graph.” 

While this may be revolutionary among the big firms, this hardly news among small-to-mid sized business who have come to rely on temp-to-permanant staff to grow their businesses, especially in an unsteady economy. For these smaller businesses, the cost of adding incremental (full-time) staff can be crippling, so instead they rely on more flexible staff who they can train, and promote to full-time as their business continues to develop. It is the ultimate hands-on job interview, and where we have seen the greatest movement in the last year here among Hourly members. While some of our members prefer the flexibility that comes from part-time or project work, others have been thrilled to see part-time jobs transition into full-time and many cases, over-time paid positions.

While abuse is rampant among companies using people to get free work , whether they call them internships, externships, or “projects”, we do agree that more and more companies, large and small, will increasingly use projects as a  hiring tool. “College graduates, MBAs and older job candidates will learn how to sniff out which “applijects” are genuine invitations to success and which ones are sleazy bids for cheap labor. In the same way job candidates learn how to interview well, they’ll get the skills to “appliject” well because they understand how to optimize their influence and impact within the constraints of the project design.”

In all cases, going into any short-term project with an employer, make sure to…

  • Have a clearly set project outline, with goals and timetable
  • Limited NDA (non-discolusre agreement)
  • Payment terms, with money paid either weekly or twice a month. NEVER all at the end.
  • Process for review at the end of the project

Have you been asked to perform a project for an employer, in anticipation of getting a job? Tell us your story!

The Art of the Interview – Making a great first impression

Growing up, my parents were sticklers for good manners and “poise”, as they liked to call it.
“Remember to give them a nice firm handshake”, “Look Mr. Jones in the eye”, “Don’t sit unless you’re first invited”, “Don’t speak over someone else. Listen before you respond”, “Sit up straight.. speak clearly” and all the other sayings that tortured me as a kid, but as an adult understand just how vital these tid-bits are to interacting with others, especially during the interview process.

Having been on both sides of the hiring process, and speaking with countless HR managers, the in-person interview is one of the most important factors in getting the job. Companies are about culture, and no matter how fabulous someone is on their resume, it doesn’t mean bupkis if you blow the interview.

Want to make a great impression? Here are 8 great tips to keep in mind.

1. Be On Time: This does not mean to show up 30 minutes early, but a good 5-10 minutes. The hiring manager wants to know you are prompt, but anything earlier, you are going to either look desperate or inconsiderate, making the manager feel like they must shuffle their schedule to accommodate you earlier. AND please pitch the Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts cup before you come in. It’s an interview, not a coffee clutch.

2. Dress Appropriately: Dress for the job you want. Clothes should be Neat (pressed), Clean and Well Fitting. Do not wear anything where the buttons are clearly straining or so short that you fear bending over. Hair should be neat or tied back and keep makeup/perfume/jewelry to the bare minimum.

3. The Interview Starts At The Front Door: Your first point of contact may be the company receptionist. Enter the establishment with confidence, but respect for this “gatekeeper”. Greet them with a warm hello and clearly state to them your name, who you are there to see, and the time of your appointment, especially if you are early. Don’t sit, unless the receptionist tells you that it might be a while, in which case check out any literature on the Company that is available in the waiting room, BEFORE you grab the NYPost or People Magazine.

4. Be Prepared To Jump: When the interviewer enters and calls your name, you should get to your feet as quickly as possible, but in a controlled manner. Smile, and while walking over extend your hand to the person, telling them how nice it is to meet them. Remember to give a nice firm handshake, which will give a instant sense of strength of character.

5. Be Observant: In most cases you will be walked through the office before arriving at your final destination, if appropriate make small talk about something you notice en route. Art work on the wall, history of the building, etc. Once in the office, if it is chocker block full of chotskies & mementos, this person is a ‘Social Butterfly’ and you may continue engage in small talk for a few more minute (just don’t ask about the kids..it’s creepy). On the flip side, if this office is overly neat and tidy with less than 2 pictures on the desk, be prepared to get right down to business. This person is No Nonsense, Type A.

6. Connect with the Interviewer: Throughout the interview process be sure to listen intently to the Hiring Manager, and answer questions with confidence, but as succinctly as possible, remembering to smile when appropriate. Look em in the eye, and watch your body language and any nervous ticks. We all have our “tells”, the trick is to keep them in check.

7. Have Questions At The Ready: Prior to your appointment be sure to have researched the company and have 3-5 good questions to ask at the end of the interview. Questions pertaining to Salary, Benefits, Vacation Time or Perks are verboten (absolute no-nos), UNLESS brought up by the Hiring Manager. Here are some ideas of 10 Questions to Ask.

8. Leave On a Strong Note: When leaving be sure to thank the Interviewer for their time, express your interest in the job and that you look forward to hearing from them. You can ask if it appropriate to follow up and when, but understand that you may be meeting them at the beginning of their hiring process. Say goodbye to the receptionist on your way out, and BE SURE to send a thank you note when you return home. Not interested in the job after all that? Still send a note of thanks with a nice explanation of why it’s not right for you.

Good Luck!!

Getting Great References

This week I read a great piece by Susan Adams on How To Get The Best References for a potential job, and realized that for many job seekers, this part of of the hiring process is often an afterthought. Something they pull together at the last minute when it’s requested, and really it is one of the most vital pieces of information that an Employer has in making their final decision. I think for many there is a complacency that has set in knowing that most Employers will not disclose much information under reference check immunity laws (more to come on this topic later), but the truth is that past bosses or co-workers are never shy about sharing positive information and recommending people that they feel are rockstars. And in this economy this last push is just what might get you the job.

So what’s the key to having great references?

  1. Build your list ahead of time – Have a list of references prepared before you start your next job search, and be sure that you not only have asked permission from each person to include them on the list, but that their contact information is correct. Also try to include any pertinent information on contacting your references, such as preferred contact method (email/cell), and the best time to call them…they have lives too.

  2. “Offer 360-degree” references – As Susan Adams points out in her piece, “this means including a superior, a colleague and someone who reported to you. That way the hiring manager can get a sense of your strengths from multiple perspectives.”This is especially relevant if you are looking to take a job where you will be managing others.

  3. Your references should be recent (& relevant) – Very often potential Employers will want to contact someone from your last three jobs. Better to already have them listed, and anyone else who can offer insight into your skills and performance as it relates to the job you want. And while you would “think” that it would go without saying…do NOT list your current boss as a reference, UNLESS you are changing jobs for a very specific reason..ie. Company is shutting down/layoffs or you are relocating to another state.

  4. Be upfront & honest – Have a recent job that didn’t quite work out??? Any good Hiring Manager will notice when there are no references from a recent job. Rather than hemming and hawing about it, explain the reasons of why the position did not work (without bad mouthing the company or manager) and what you learned as a result. Turn it into a positive!

  5. Make references available on request only – While resume’s are being submitted at dizzying pace online, references should NEVER be sent as part of your application. Here at Hourly we offer members the ability to list references in their LockBox, only to be released on request, and think this same attitude should be used everywhere. These lists often include private information such as phone numbers and emails, and should be respectfully guarded.

  6. Follow-up with your references – You should not only let your references know when you are looking to give them the heads up, but you should let them know when you have accepted a job. These individuals are your champions and should be treated with respect, lest you need them again. Take the time to write them a thank you note, or do something nice to show your appreciation. Demonstrate that they were right to sing your praises.

Dress For Success

Half asleep, listening to the early morning news shows, I was struck by all the advice that “job experts” seem to dole out each week, that are inspirational, but seem to have little bearing on this new economy. Somehow dusting off your resume and donning your best suit seems so old school, and for some looking for work outside the corporate sector, this style might actually be working against you.

More and more we are hearing from members that they have not gotten a job because they were over-qualified. This might be the case, but in truth I don’t know many employers that would jump at the chance to have someone really on the ball take a position at their company, even if it seems crazy that they would want it. It’s like the nerd being asked out by the prom queen….who is going to say no? More often I think this excuse is used to overcome a perceived disconnect in work styles, which may be communicated through language and demeanor, but also might be something as simple as dress.

Who in this economy has not seen someone applying to a position at retail outlet or fast food establishment in a suit? It’s great that you want to look professional, but an employer wants to know that you can fit in, and so key to getting a job in this market, is dressing the part. This is not license to dress like a slob, but instead to make slight adjustments based on where you are applying. Here are some simple guidelines.

For the Men:

  • A collared Oxford Shirt, Navy or Kahki Pants and Belt will serve you well 90% of the time. A polo shirt is also acceptable in warmer months, but in both cases take a minute to make sure that your cloths fit well and are free of stains and wrinkles.
  • Add a tie only if seeking a managerial position, and a jacket/suit if you will be working in a more traditional corporate environment or with clients.
  • Sneakers are not acceptable footwear, unless they fall into the hipster/camper category.
  • Piercings, jewelry and visible tattoos should be removed or well covered
  • Hair (on your head and face) should be well groomed

For the Women:

  • Dress pants and a plain blouse or sweater are ideal for women 75% of the time. For more of a corporate environment, we suggest wearing a pencil skirt or dress that falls to just above the knee or below. Jeans are never okay, even the ones you spent an entire paycheck on. And like the men, it is important to check to ensure that the cloths are well fitting and neat.
  • Flats or low heels are preferred footwear to wear to a first meeting. Dress boots are also okay, but should not have anything tucked into them. Sneakers are a no go.
  • Makeup and jewelry should be kept to the bare minimum. Studs or small hoops for earrings, single bracelet or watch on wrists, lipstick, mascara, blush and just a hint of perfume. A little dab will do you.
  • Hair should be nicely quaffed or pulled back, as my mother said people want to see your eyes.
  • Facial piercings or visible tattoos should be removed or well covered. Bra straps should never be showing, nor should any cleavage or excessive leg.

In the end, employers want people working with them who not only represent their organization well, but fit in with themselves and their colleagues. So think before you walk out the door. First impressions do mean a lot.