Job Interviews

Revive Your Job Search: Freshen Up Your Skills

The first part of this series is on making a solid first impression with a professional appearance. To read it, click here.

Make sure your skills are competitive.
Every industry has its own set of rules for what skills are currently in demand. Do you know what employers in your field are looking for in an ideal candidate? If not, you need to find out. One way to do this is by carefully reviewing help-wanted ads and looking for a pattern. Highlight qualifications that you see listed repeatedly. These are the skills you need in order to attract the attention of hiring managers.

After you’ve determined what abilities are in high demand in your field, you’re ready for the next step – developing those skills. If your skills are weak in a particular area, that could be what’s keeping you from landing a job in your desired industry. Remember that you’re competing with many other candidates for open positions, and those with the best qualifications often receive top billing.

Perhaps you feel you don’t have the time, energy or finances to improve your skills. That’s not necessarily the case. Have you thoroughly researched what it would take for you to increase your qualifications? Most likely, the time and money you spend now to improve your professional abilities will pay off through better job opportunities in the future.

Revive Your Job Search: Dress for Success

Dress for SuccessHave you been looking for a job for quite some time? If you’re beginning to feel discouraged about your prospects, take heart – you can improve your odds of landing a good job quickly by following the tips below.

Let your appearance make a positive first impression.
Appearances matter. To compete in today’s job market you need to consider what your look is saying about you. When was the last time you updated your hairstyle and wardrobe? If it’s been more than five years, it’s time to get a makeover. Sporting a dated look makes employers wonder if your skills and ideas may be old news as well.

If you’re not sure what’s in style, turn on the TV or flip through some magazines to get a few ideas. Then go to your local department stores and look for bargains on classic business garments such as button down shirts, tailored jackets and black trousers and skirts.

Once you’ve got the clothes, it’s time to take a look at your hair. Your hairstyle is one of the first things people notice about your appearance, so make an appointment at a reputable hair salon to get an updated look. Hair stylists can also help groom unruly beards, sideburns and mustaches in a fashionable way.

Parts 2 and 3 of this series will touch on keeping your skills up-to-date and expanding your job search.

Are You Trainable? 3 Qualities You Need To Learn Anything

You may have noticed that a job offer or promotion doesn’t always go to the candidate with the most experience or best training. Instead, employers often hire and promote the candidate who seems most willing and able to learn the new role.

You might be asking yourself why a manager would ever pass up on a candidate with greater experience or more up-to-date skills. The reason is simple, really. While work history and capabilities are important, they’re no match for a willing attitude. In any new position there will always be new things for the employee to learn. That’s why the candidate who’s most trainable is often the preferred choice.

Becoming more trainable will not only make it easier to learn a new job, it will also boost your career by demonstrating to employers that you’re ready for any challenge. If you’re not sure how teachable you are, review the traits below and find out. If you fall short, don’t worry – once you know where you’re lacking, you can work on making improvements.

1. Enthusiasm – Eagerness to learn is a quality employers value highly in job candidates as well as internal recruits. A go-getter attitude makes learning any job easier, and enthusiasm increases a hiring manager’s confidence in potential employees’ abilities. 

If your outlook toward work tends to be more ho-hum than vroom vroom, you can kick up your career a notch by displaying enthusiasm during interviews or at your current job.

Remember, it’s no fun to train someone who doesn’t want to learn. That’s why when someone comes off disinterested, it’s no wonder employers are skittish about offering a position. So, slap a smile on your face and show some drive by demonstrating excitement about your work.

2. Humility – It’s impossible to learn new things if you don’t think those around you have anything to teach you. Author C.S. Lewis once said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.”

In order to be trainable, you have to come to new situations with an acceptance that you don’t know everything. Being humble isn’t the same thing as putting yourself down or having low self esteem. It’s important to feel good about yourself and to display confidence, but that doesn’t mean stepping on other people or refusing to listen to their instructions.

You can show your willingness to learn by valuing the opinions of others and asking for advice from time to time. When employers see that you respect the knowledge of those around you, they’ll be more inclined to hire and promote you.

3. Commitment – Learning new things isn’t always fun. Sometimes, training can be frustrating or boring. But, dedication is what enables you to overcome hurdles and succeed in a new role.

Do you stick it out even when times get tough? Hiring managers know that there’s a learning curve associated with any new position. That’s why they want to hire and promote individuals who are willing to stay the course.

You can increase your level of professional dedication by always following through on your commitments, turning projects in on time and keeping your word. Employers will be convinced of your perseverance when you can show a track record of dependability.

Do you want to be an in-demand employee? If so, focus on becoming more trainable by demonstrating enthusiasm, humility and commitment. Your efforts will be rewarded with interest and respect from employers.

The Importance of Showing Gratitude After a Job Interview

You’ve probably heard that you should write a thank you note after an interview. But have you followed this important advice or ignored this step? Do you know if it affected your job search? Here are three major reasons why you should always write a thank you note following an interview.

1. It’s simple.
There’s no reason you shouldn’t write a thank you note. It doesn’t have to be a long, exhaustive letter. It can be a simple, handwritten note that expresses your gratitude to the employer for taking the time to interview you. Or, you could send a thoughtful e-mail, especially if you know the hiring decision will be made quickly. This is your chance to demonstrate your professionalism and show that you’d be a courteous addition to the team. Make sure to thank everyone you interviewed with and use proper spelling and grammar. Learn how to write a post-interview thank you note so you can follow-up quickly after your interview.

2. It sets you apart.
I recently attended a meeting where the guest speaker spoke about writing thank you notes. Out of 30 qualified candidates for her position, she was the only one that wrote a thank you note. And she’s the one who was offered the job. This just goes to show how important a thank you note can be in determining whether or not you receive a job offer. Sending a note doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a job, but it can help push you ahead if you’re on equal ground with other qualified applicants. Interviewers take notice of those who make this extra effort. So, set yourself apart by taking the time to write a thank you note to your potential employer. It won’t hurt your chances of getting the job if you send a note, but it might hurt you if you fail to send one.

3. It’s an opportunity to provide more information.
A thank you note gives you the perfect opportunity to provide further information to the interviewer. You can include information you forgot to mention during the interview that would reinforce why you are the right candidate for the job. Remind employers of your strengths or share new information that entices them to request another interview or extend a job offer. This is one more chance to make a great impression, so don’t pass it up.

Taking a few moments to write a post-interview thank you note can make the difference between receiving a job offer and having to continue the job hunt. Don’t forget this important step, because your dream job could be a simple thank you away.

Do you write thank you notes to those you’ve interviewed with? How has it affected your job search?

Top 10 Go-To People for Good Job References

When you’re looking for a job, it’s a great idea to have a few references in mind in case you’re asked to list some during the application process. But, depending on your work history and what type of position you’re applying for, it can be difficult to come up with sources for references. Here are 10 great types of people to look to for references.

1. Former employer. The most obvious person to look for to get a job reference from is a former employer. Make sure this person is someone who knew of your work. Depending on the size of the company, this may be your direct supervisor or manager, or it could be the company owner. If you use a former employer, don’t use one who fired you due to performance or other job-related issues.

2. Current employer. Depending on your relationship and status with your current employer, this can be a good place to find a reference. If you’re subject to downsizing, are on a temporary assignment, or serve as an intern, it’s perfectly fine to ask your boss for a reference, because they know you’ll be looking for work. You can also ask your current boss to be a reference if you’ve simply grown beyond the current job you have and your employer supports this decision and knows you are looking.

3. Volunteer supervisor. If you volunteer for a civic, social or charitable organization, a supervisor or other high-level member of the organization can serve as a terrific reference and speak to your work ethic, attitude and willingness to go the extra mile.

4. Teacher or professor. Also consider people who have played a part in your education, personal or professional development, or job search. If they can speak highly of your work ethic, knowledge and application of job-related concepts, they could be a great source for a reference.

5. Business acquaintance. Sometimes, acquaintances you know through networking or professional development groups can be a good source for a reference, especially if they know of your work, have seen you in action or have a relationship with a customer or client who speaks highly of you.

6. Customer or client. Depending on the type of work you are pursuing, a current or former customer or client can serve as a reference. They can speak directly about your professionalism, timeliness and value to them, along with your ability to interact and form relationships. Sometimes, clients and customers will even take their business to the organization you join. When a customer or client speaks that well of you, it demonstrates your value to the organization beyond your ability to get the job done.

7. Former co-worker. In some situations, it’s appropriate to use a co-worker as a job reference, especially if they were on a team with you and you don’t think your employer or supervisor would make a good reference. But, tread carefully when considering a current co-worker as a reference, because you don’t want to create gossip, hard feelings, jealousy or maliciousness over the fact that you are considering leaving your job, because that never makes for a positive reference.

8. Teammate or group member. People you’re played with on sports team or fellow members of a hobby club or special interest group can make good references, especially if you have played a leadership role on a team or group outside of work. Those you’ve interacted with there will able to highlight a different element of your personality and demonstrate that you are a well-rounded person.

9. Fellow volunteer or board member. If you volunteer with a group or organization, fellow volunteers can make excellent references, particularly if they are in the same field you are pursuing. If you serve on a board with other business people, they can be an excellent source to demonstrate your professionalism and leadership.

10. Personal acquaintance. Depending on the type of job and the type of references requested, you can use a personal acquaintance as a reference to speak about your character and personality off the job. This type of reference can show how well-rounded, consistent, responsible and personable you are.

When you’re looking for references, select people who can speak to some aspect of your work abilities, character, leadership, work ethic or knowledge. Don’t forget to ask as a courtesy before you list someone as a reference. And always double-check that you have the most up-to-date contact information for every reference you select.

Who have been your best job references? Or, who have you thought about asking but aren’t quite sure?

3 Tips for Negotiating Salary During the Job Interview

negotiate salary in an interviewCongratulations, you’ve landed an interview! Maybe you’re even on your second or third meeting with a particular employer. As things move along in the process, you’re getting closer to the time of salary negotiation. To ensure that you’re prepared when the time comes to talk about money, check out the following tips.

Let Them Bring It Up.
You don’t want to be the one to broach the subject of compensation. If the employer is interested in you, you can be sure that the topic will eventually come up, so wait for that time to discuss it. That means you shouldn’t list your salary requirements on your résumé unless you’re required to do so.

Stating how much money you want too soon can box you into a figure that is lower than what you might’ve received otherwise, or it can eliminate you from consideration because the amount is too high.

Also, bringing up salary too early in the process is presumptuous and can make it appear that you’re only interested in money.

Do Your Research.
Before the interview, it’s your job to find out what the going rate is for the position you’re being considered for. This figure will vary depending on your location, skills, experience and education.

To get an idea of what the salary for the job will be, do online research on sites like salary.com, salary.monster.com or payscale.com. If you happen to have friends who work at the company you’re interviewing with or know people who work in the same industry, you can get a good idea about what type of salary you can expect.

Researching compensation before the interview is an essential step to receiving a competitive salary. After all, if you don’t know what’s a fair price, how will you know if the interviewer’s offer is one you want to accept?

Don’t Be Too Quick to Accept the First Offer.
Before you shout “yes” to the first number out of the employer’s mouth, take a moment to think things through. Even if you’re satisfied with the offer, it’s best to not be hasty.
Consider asking for a day or two to review the offer before committing. During this time, evaluate the offer and ensure that it’s in line with the position responsibilities and your background.

If the offer seems too low based on your research, try making a counter offer. But be sure you have solid reasons for asking for increased compensation or other perks. Employers won’t be inclined to dish out more money just because you say you “need” it. That’s why you’ll have to be able to explain why your skills and the position responsibilities deserve a higher salary. Chances are, even if the employer is unable to sweeten the deal, they’ll respect you for thinking things through and knowing what you’re worth.

Before going in for an interview, it’s important to know what a reasonable pay range is for the position you’re applying for and to be able to sell your skills to the employer. By preparing for salary negotiations, you’ll increase your chances of receiving the competitive salary you deserve.

3 Interview Mistakes to Avoid

You have been searching for a new job, so you’ve worked on your résumé, applied to a few places and have been offered an interview. Now it’s time to practice your interview skills. To be successful in the interview process and move you from the runner-up to the person who is offered the job, here are some key mistakes to avoid.

Being unprepared. Not being prepared gives the impression that you are not interested in the position or the company. Research the company and be ready to answer basic questions such as: “What do you know about my company?” or “What interests you about this position?” Write down a few questions for the interviewer, and then ask them at the appropriate time. Practice ahead of time how you will answer questions, such as those about your strengths and weaknesses. Role playing with a friend or family member can provide you with the practice you need for a smooth, and slightly less nerve-wrecking interview.

Inappropriate attire. Dressing appropriately is essential for a positive first impression. If you are not sure what to wear, check with the company to determine their dress code.  Then, dress one level above that. For example, if a company’s dress code is casual, wear business casual attire. If you are unable to determine the dress code or are in doubt, wear a suit, because it is always better to overdress than to underdress.

Poor timing. Don’t show up late for an interview; it’s inappropriate and gives the impression that you don’t take the interview seriously or value the company’s time.  Plan ahead, know the route to the location and leave early. If you are unfamiliar with the area, make sure you drive by the day before your interview to ensure you don’t get lost on your way. But, don’t arrive too early. Arriving more than 10-15 minutes early may make it appear that you have too much extra time, making you look desperate. Aim to arrive about 10-15 minutes before the interview, and use the extra time to stop by the restroom to straighten your hair and clothing. If you are going to be late, be courteous to the interviewer, and call them immediately to reschedule.

Preparing and practicing for your interview can help you avoid these common mistakes and can mean the difference between an awful interview and a successful one. You’ll be ready for any interview that comes your way by remembering to plan ahead, dress appropriately and be on time.

Have you made any of these mistakes in an interview? How do you think it effected the outcome of a job offer? What mistakes would you suggest others avoid during an interview?