My name is Karen Silins, and as the President of A-Plus Career and Resume, LLC, I’ve personally helped more than a thousand clients find their dream job or career, or a new job in their chosen industry.
Since I can only help a limited number of clients individually, I’ve created this blog so I can personally answer your questions regarding job search, interviewing, networking, career transition, resume and cover letter development, and career planning/management.
Simply send your questions to Karen@careerandresume.com with Blog Question in the subject line, and dependent upon the number of questions per week, I will post them here along with my answers as soon as possible. Please be assured that we take your privacy very seriously, and will never post or share your name or email address.
From the advent of online job-searching websites, many people have assumed they can go online, post their resume and automatically get a job.
That’s not really how it works, said Karen Silins, president and owner of A+ Career & Resume LLC.
“It doesn’t mean that people don’t find jobs that way,” Silins said, “but there are well over 100 million people on those sites, also looking for jobs.”
As a resume writer and career/personal branding coach, Silins provides workshops throughout greater Kansas City, including with the Mid-Continent Public Library system.
Those on the search for a new job can put their time to better use, rather than just posting a resume on many job sites and facing potential privacy issues. Silins helped The Examiner in developing the Top 5 ways for effective online job searching.
1 USE JOB BOARD AGGREGATORS. Websites like indeed.com and simplyhired.com are examples of job board aggregators, which provide results daily on what new jobs are available. “That is going to save people a lot of time,” Silins said. “If you have more than one specialty – and most people do – you might be doing more than one search for jobs out there.” For example, searching “administrative assistant” could also require searches for “secretary,” “executive assistant” and “office manager.” When searchers find a job they’re interested in applying for, Silins said they should go directly to the company’s website to apply. “You are wanting to identify real companies,” she said. “This protects your identity much more instead of just posting your resume all over the Internet.”
2 GET ON LINKEDIN. LinkedIn, Silins said, “is networking online at its best.” Users can build a profile, offer up information on their work history and education and provide what certifications, licensing and professional development they’ve earned. Under the “skills and expertise” section, users can provide keywords right off of their resume, showcasing traits important to their respective industries. Connections can then endorse their colleagues for their skills, as well as provide paragraph-length recommendations. “It’s proof of experience by someone else saying, ‘Yes, they can do this.’” Silins said. “There’s nothing better than having that secondary opinion of someone saying, ‘Yeah, we think they’re great for you.’” Users can also join groups, where recruiters often offer up job opportunities that aren’t found anyplace else. “It’s another networking avenue,” Silins said of LinkedIn. “It’s going to allow you to connect with people who you would never connect with otherwise.”
3 USE SOCIAL MEDIA RESPONSIBLY. Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you need to give that opinion, Silins said. “HR immediately goes to online venues to search you out,” she said. “They’re going to Google your name. They’re going to see if they are on LinkedIn – and then they are going to see what you are saying on Facebook and Twitter.” What people don’t realize, Silins said, is that they are making comments about their personal lives and opinions that aren’t appropriate to be posting online, including pictures. “This happens a lot,” she said. “And, it’s not just pictures of partial nudity and people who are obviously drunk. It’s pictures of people with way too personal of stuff that they don’t need to be sharing online. I would just prefer that people don’t post their opinions, but oftentimes, people think of freedom of speech.” But, Silins said, with freedom of speech comes responsibility. “That responsibility translates into your job search, as well, and if employers don’t think you are responsible, they won’t hire you,” she said.
4 BE CAUTIOUS WHILE BLOGGING. Use the same good judgment with blog posts as you would with social media sites, Silins said. If you choose to blog or make social media posts, make them tailored to your areas of expertise. “That’s what personal branding is about,” Silins said. “Personal branding isn’t offering your opinion on every single little thing. Personal branding is discussing your areas of expertise.” Do research to identify trends in your industry that you can talk about, as well as share information from other experts in the field, Silins said. She recommends her clients go to Google to sign up for Google blogs and Google news feeds, based on a digest of keywords they seek out. For example, Silins personally receives daily information on career coaching, personal branding, resume writing and human resources.
5 DO YOUR COMPANY RESEARCH. People often don’t research the companies they are going to go to work for – and there is a lot of information out there, Silins said. Research should consist of more than just visiting the company’s website and clicking on the “careers” tab, she said. Glassdoor and Manta are two popular websites that provide company profiles and information. Or, Mid-Continent Public Library has access to databases that allow company research for job seekers. All they need is a library card, and they can even do the research from a computer at home. “There’s just a ton of information for people out there,” Silins said, “but if all else fails, Google the company.” Lastly, Silins said job searching isn’t “just a numbers game,” contrary to popular belief. “If you provide good information online, showcasing you are a professional in your areas of career interest and utilize the tools that allow you to do a more comprehensive job search, your success will increase significantly,” she said.
Company research is imperative to your job search and interview success and there are ways to capture that information for better interview preparation. I recommend creating an email to yourself, or using a Word document, to copy and paste hyperlinks of research information you would like to recall for a phone or in-person interview. Include a description of what information is in that particular link, and where it is located in the document or website, so you can easily and quickly find it for review prior to an interview, and if necessary, print and take with you. Research should encompass the following:
1) What does the organization sell – products and/or services, and who do they sell them to specifically? Academia “sells” knowledge, hospitals “sell” better health, not-for profits “sell” services, so remember, it doesn’t have to be a traditional company in order to have a “product.” Are those products and/or services sold to individuals, groups, businesses (a specific type of business), government, or all of the above? Do they have a niche?
2) How large is the organization? Where is the organization located (inclusive of multiple locations)? Size is both in employee numbers and revenues.
3) What recent articles have appeared about them in the media? Do a Google search.
4) What is their financial performance, particularly during the last two years of this economic downturn?
5) Who are their competitors? This is good to know for the interview, and you may want to apply to their competitors as well.
Your research can also help determine if the company is about to merge with another organization, be acquired (purchased), close its doors, financially struggling, has a negative corporate culture, pays poorly, recently laid off employees, or has a high employee turnover. On the flip side you may also discover it’s a terrific organization for to which to work and will have an increased desire to work there.
Just going to the company website and clicking on the “Careers” tab is not enough. Be able to answer the question “Tell us what you know about our organization” with detail. You will impress the interviewers and enhance your chances of landing the job.
Clients regularly ask that I coach them through various interview questions, and one of the most requested is “Tell Me about Yourself.” I definitely understand why this question creates so much anxiety on the interviewee’s part, mainly because they have no idea what the interviewer really wants from them. Here is how I coach my clients, helping them to develop an answer prior to the interview with a bit of background but also pre-answering a few potential questions that make the response more complete.
1) Keep the answer to between one and two minutes, not much more.
While I don’t want my clients to just give the 10-second recitation on a couple of items from their resume and then stop (that is way too short of an answer), I also want them to avoid the 20 minute dissertation inclusive of oversharing. While it might be interesting that you and your family moved from Detroit to Indianapolis when you were two-years old, this is not the time to relate that little tidbit along with an extended story.
2) Offer up the best of the best from your resume/ work experience, encompassing credentials/certifications/licensing, education, achievements, awards, major presentations, and important documentation developed. Be sure to keep these relevant to the job for which you are interviewing, and keep the list short.
3) Give them a glimpse into your personal life, but within reason. I tell my clients to use the following:
4) Pre-answer a few related interview questions:
If you use this “formula” to prepare your answer, then it will be complete, interesting, and provide the interviewer(s) some great information about who you are and why you are in that interview seat!
I am often asked by clients, seminar and workshop attendees and colleagues to recommend websites to bolster professional development, career and networking/business opportunities. With the myriad of sites available on the Internet, culling the herd can be exhausting and time consuming. My recommendations will come in blog posts over the upcoming months in three subject areas: professional development sites for clients/jobseekers and colleagues, informational sites to keep up on the industry (more colleague focused), and social networking sites-why you need to be on them! Today I start with two great sites for professional development, particularly for those that are unemployed, underemployed, or lack professional development opportunities in their current career.
Professional Development Sites
The American Management Association has wonderful free training for both jobseekers and industry professionals. AMA may have determined that the paid memberships, while practical, left out segments of the population they felt were important: the unemployed, underemployed and underpaid. With large scale, multi-day training programs and memberships often unfeasible for these target groups, what could they do to help? Offer a free membership and free and low-cost training options. AMA creates brand ambassadors who, when gainfully employed or in a better financial situation, most likely take advantage of their paid training opportunities. Furthermore, these individuals would share AMA programs with their new employers – extending the organizations influence, and filling training and development niches and gaps for these companies.
You can join by going to the MYAMA tab on the far right hand side of the page. Once you are a member go to the INDIVIDUALS tab and click on WEB EVENTS, PODCASTS or ARTICLES AND WHITE PAPERS. You can then take advantage of the free Webcasts, paid Webinars, free Podcasts, and free Articles and White Papers, which they have catalogued for members, and divided into various sections including Business Enhancement Skills, Communication Skills, Human Resources, Finance and Accounting, Sales and Project Management (to name a few). Each Webcast lasts about an hour, each Podcast lasts approximately one-half hour and both are well worth your time. Attention: Webcasts are free, Webinars are NOT – but are worth the price! Be sure to stay on the Webcasts unless you want to attend paid web events.
AMA also has a job board aimed at management positions, free monthly newsletters, events calendar, a LinkedIn group, and areas of the site devoted to government and enterprise-wide training needs for organizations. The site is consistently updated with great content and navigation is straightforward.
This one should be a no-brainer for anyone in the Human Resources, Recruiting or Resume Writing and Career Coaching industry. You can keep up with HR trends in hiring, recruiting, interviewing, salary negotiation, and any issues jobseekers and employees/employers face. One caveat – the site seems to want a company email address and not a Yahoo, Hotmail, etc., personal email account, I am hoping this changes (or has recently changed). My colleagues HR, Management and Training and Development clients will find this site useful as well.
Free webcasts are the attraction, and although they have paid levels of membership I have had a free membership for over six years with no issues. Not only will jobseekers and industry professionals have access to new webcasts for free, there is a catalog of 1,500+ archived webcasts that you can access by going to the Webcasts and Events tab, then clicking on the drop down menu where it says Webcasts and the sub-menu on Archived Webcasts and Podcasts. You have access to recent and upcoming webcasts (upcoming webcasts are also featured on the Home Page), often PowerPoint slides or accompanying presentations, and the recordings of the all the older webcasts. Bonus: Each one-hour webcast or archived webcast can be submitted to qualify for HR Certification Institute recertification credits.
Additional benefits include Virtual Conferences, a variety of HR Communities to join with topical blogs, free compliance forms, an HR Wiki, a LinkedIn group, and certification opportunities. The site is well-maintained, and easily navigated.
From the time I started my full time resume writing and career coaching business in 1999, scanning systems – called ATS (applicant tracking systems) have been the “elephant in the room” for jobseekers. Yes, you do see some posts from people frustrated with them, but to understand why the systems are harmful despite their convenience for the organizations that use them is rarely discussed. Let’s face it, jobseekers struggle enough writing a resume for themselves, as objectivity and generalized resumes are huge issues, and now we also ask the jobseeker to understand the following:
And we question why people might be having trouble finding work!
Unfortunately, most online applications take the jobseeker an hour or more to complete, often “timing” them out of the system (sometimes losing the information they just spent an entire hour inputting) and frequently don’t confirm receipt of the resume. Gee, I wonder why jobseekers might find this impersonal and infuriating. In an article (link located below) by CBS MarketWatch’s Evil HR Lady, Suzanne Lucas, she writes about a comment regarding a particular ATS system commented on by Peter Cappelli, a Wharton School/University of Pennsylvania management professor. He describes how a company’s system recently determined that none of the 29,000 applicants for an engineering job had the right qualifications. Really, not one applicant was qualified. Hmmmmmm.
If there are at least 14,200,000 jobseekers and 3,200,000 unfilled jobs (according to the article Nick Corcodilos link below), and people area applying for jobs right and left, then the problem isn’t just with the jobseekers. I understand that the days of reading each resume are gone due to the number of candidates, but quite frankly, the online systems have created a good part of this problem. Instead of a jobseeker sending a resume and cover letter via “snail mail” and having to pay for the stationery, envelope and stamp(s) which typically makes them consider carefully what they are sending out, the only cost is time, and for some people that means sending resumes to jobs they have absolutely no qualifications for on a daily basis and filling a company’s scanning system with thousands of unqualified candidates. The human touch is gone! Having personally seen these systems in action, I know what they do to the resumes, which includes deleting a lot of the information if sections aren’t titled and formatted correctly, and then scrunching everything up into a giant plain text paragraph.
I believe that the ATS systems could be used more effectively to help HR but still allow for qualified candidates to make it through the system for a potential phone screening. I will let programmers at the ATS companies and HR collaborate on how to best fix the issue, but would like to make a few suggestions to help both HR and the jobseeker.
1) Stop asking for information to discriminate – frame it how you want, but that is what is being done: a) No more leaving the unemployed out of the mix (this is discrimination at its worst) as you don’t get to complain about a talent shortage when you disqualify an entire group of potentially qualified candidates. b) You don’t need to know the candidate’s salary history, that’s for their tax returns and isn’t anyone else’s business, and in this era of salary chaos is only used for one purpose. c) Salary requirements are fine but don’t ask for an arbitrary number, leave them enough space to give you a range (again, the salary chaos), and perhaps you should consider the federal government model of giving people a range of what you will pay so everything is up front and this silly game doesn’t have to be played. d) Save the personality and behavior assessments for the qualified candidates, why are you wasting them on the mass of people applying? e) Skills test are fine (adding a column of numbers, where does the comma go in the sentence, and find the misspelled word or words in the paragraph), but remember, someone else could take those for the candidate.
2) Limit the questions. Questions you ask to see the candidate’s writing/communication style are fine in a very small amount, but let’s not go overboard; some of you make the old federal KSA system look sleek and refined. Besides, the feds changed this system because it was an unreasonable request for initial candidacy requirements.
3) Put information on the site about using a plain text document and what that type of document is specifically. Instructions abound on the Internet and it would be a nice gesture to offer some instructions to the jobseeker. Also, let them know (depending on the sophistication of your scanning system) their Microsoft Word document might not scan correctly and their PDF document almost certainly will not scan correctly.
Here’s my main recommendation to make the process a bit less laborious for jobseekers and perhaps even more beneficial for your company: Have two application process tiers!
First Tier: Utilizes four to five initial questions and submission of a resume and cover letter – that’s it!
Second Tier: For those who make it past the first application tier, a more detailed set of questions and an assessment if you desire. This would make the application process shorter for the applicant on the front end, and help you on the backend by having the most qualified candidates on paper answering the additional detail.
I do feel for the Human Resources Department (after all I used to be in your shoes as a former HR Director) as you are consistently short-handed and ask to perform a multitude of organizational tasks that the people you hire never realize. Please don’t allow this fact to be a reason for shortchanging jobseekers. When the economy does improve, the blog, Twitter and Facebook posts, online gossip columns about companies, and general talk among those seeking a new job will harm your candidate pool. People won’t be desperate for jobs anymore and the axiom of “the grass is always greener” won’t include you!
Too many articles are currently talking about the talent shortage, but the sad thing is many of these companies that say they have difficulty finding good candidates are discriminating against the unemployed, sometimes those with as little as one month of unemployment. I highly encourage organizations to take a hard look at their system if they are taking the unemployed out of consideration, regardless of whether it is one month or one year of unemployment. These are often highly skilled workers who would be valuable, diligent and loyal employees, if someone would give them a chance.
Whether you are unemployed or seeking career advancement, job searching can be very stressful. Although it’s natural to feel anxious when you’re “in the hot seat,” being prepared for that interview can go a long way towards making you feel more confident and presenting yourself in a polished way. Even though you don’t know in advance what the interviewer will ask you, if you consider how you’ll answer the most typical questions, you’ll be well on your way.
As a Certified Employment Interview Professional, I’ve found that clients who are ready to respond to the following questions tend to be most successful.
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. What would your current and past managers identify as your greatest weakness, and what would you identify as your greatest weakness?
3. What would your current and past managers identify as your greatest strength, and what would you identify as your greatest strength?
4. Tell us what you know about our company.
5. Why do you want to work for us?
6. Why are you leaving your current position or why did you leave your last position?
7. What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
9. If you were unable to meet a commitment or deadline, what would you do?
10. Why do you think your qualified for this position?
11. Tell us about a time you didn’t meet a company goal/objective/timeline.
12. What did you most dislike about your last (or current) job?
13. What motivates you to do a good job?
14. Tell me a suggestion you made that was implemented.
15. Give me an example of a time when you had to think “outside the box.”
16. How do you differ in what you can provide our company from other candidates?
17. Do you prefer to work in a team or individually? Why?
18. Tell me about a time you failed.
19. What book(s) are you currently reading?
20. How do you manage conflicts with a coworker? With a manager? With a client?
21. Describe/define your work style (or management style).
22. What new skills or abilities have you developed recently that you can apply to this position?
23. What do expect from this job?
24. What have you learned from your past jobs?
25. What questions do you have for me?
Be sure to bookmark this blog, as I’ll be offering some tips on the best way to deal with these questions in future posts.
We (Resume Writers, Career Coaches, HR, Hiring Managers, Recruiters) really need to teach job seekers to stop listening to the one-page rule. While one page can be appropriate for some job seekers it is absurd for highly experienced candidates and damages their search by becoming a chronological obituary instead of a marketing document. Two to three pages are fine if warranted and can make the difference between getting a hiring manager, recruiter and/or HR’s attention, and/or getting past the ATS scanning systems. Yes, as a former HR Director and current resume writer and career coach who still helps organizations hire new employees, we do give it a very short initial look, but if it lacks the information for us to determine you are someone to look at in more detail, then it doesn’t do its job. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see a seven-page resume from the typical job seeker, but the one-page advice for all job seekers needs is absolutely incorrect.
See my colleague Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter’s article featured in USA today regarding this very issue: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2012/04/30/why-you-shouldnt-conform-your-resume