Working with a Recruiter: How to Get More Out of Your Relationship

April 16th, 2018

If you’re a job seeker, recruiters probably approach you and step into your life through either of two avenues: either you find them or they find you. If you connect with a staffing agency directly (which should definitely be a key element in your job search strategy), you’ll be connected with a team member who will take your information, learn more about you and what you’re looking for, and maybe provide you with a skills test so they can present your results to interested employers.

If a recruiter approaches you, that means you’ll probably receive a call or email from a stranger who found your resume through a job board database, a company database, or a colleague. The person will check in with you to assess your level of interest and availability, and the two of you can take the relationship from there. In either case, a few simple moves can help you form a fruitful connection and bring you closer to your next great job.

First, answer quickly.

If your recruiter sends you a job post that looks amazing, answer right away. Positions close quickly, and the responsive bird gets the worm. The email you receive may have been sent to literally dozens of other seekers at the same time, so if you don’t answer, somebody else will.

If you aren’t interested, move on.

If your recruiter shows you a job that looks perfect, minus a few negotiable issues (a low starting salary, a full time schedule when you’re looking for part-time) answer and explain what you need. But if the job is a non-negotiable “no” (way too far outside of your commuting range, for example), don’t waste the recruiter’s time. Respond promptly by saying you’d like to be kept in the loop on similar jobs, but not this one.

Don’t take anything personally.

If your recruiter doesn’t answer you right away or works to get you into a position that just doesn’t materialize, shrug it off. Keep in mind that the recruiter wants to find a position that is a good fit for you and for the employer.

Be honest, direct, and clear about what you want.

Your recruiter wants you to succeed, and they want only the best for the company that hires you. Do help them to help you by being clear and straightforward. If you don’t want a certain set of traits from a job, say so. And if you hold some qualifications but not others, let them know. Relentless positivity won’t get you where you want to go, but honest conversations will.

For more on how to help your recruiter to help you, contact the job search professionals at PSU.

Successfully Preparing for a Career Fair

April 2nd, 2018

When you see an announcement for a career fair in your area, don’t just dismiss it without taking a closer look. Even if you’re happily employed, or you’re actively seeking work but you don’t think this particular fair has anything to offer you, look again. Some career fairs showcase a surprisingly diverse group of employers from different industries, and you never know when a job fair might light a spark or introduce you to an important new contact. Opportunities are everywhere! And career fairs often become sources of kismet and coincidence that can change lives. If you decide to show up on the scheduled date and time, keep these tips in mind.

Dress nicely.

Look sharp, since you’ll be interacting with lots of people who will see you for only a few seconds and will have little else to go on while gathering a first impression. Eye contact and a pleasant expression will go a long way as well.

Take it in.

Keep your head up and feel the vibe in the room. Scan for friendly faces and keep your ears open. If you overhear a conversation that intrigues you, it’s okay to drop in. As in, “Excuse me, did you just say you know Sally Johnson? I know her too,” or, “Excuse me, did you just mention the X corporation? I have a connection there and he has a position he urgently needs to fill.” Don’t stare at your phone and tune out the world. At a career fair, this can lead to missing out, missing the point, and missing your moment.

Be patient and calm.

Desperation is unfortunate, since it can actually keep the things we desperately need away from us instead of drawing them closer. Even a vague sense of restless urgency can come across poorly and can be off-putting. So relax. Prepare to wait in some long lines. Don’t demand anyone’s attention or validation, and don’t say “I’m sorry” when you actually mean to say “Hello” or “Here’s my resume” or “It’s nice to meet you” or “I’m looking for a full-time position as a senior market analyst.” Anxious people do this all the time at job fairs, but you don’t have to be one of them.

Bring lots of resumes.

You’ll probably distribute your resume to some employers via app, email, or the cloud. But bring a stack of old-fashioned paper resumes with you as well, and try to leave as many behind as possible. Again, stay open minded about the specifics of the job or company you’d like to work for. If a certain employer might be a good fit but you aren’t sure, err on the side of leaving a resume. You can always discuss your credentials with the company in detail later on.

For more on how to make the most of your job fair experience, whether you stay for three hours or three minutes, contact the staffing and job experts at PSU.

Stop Using Meaningless Keywords in Your Resume

March 23rd, 2018

If you’re like most job seekers, you use your resume document to present your background and qualifications in a readable, organized way, but you also work hard behind the scenes to make sure your file finds its way into the hands of recruiters and gets top billing in search results. You probably keep your phrases tightly aligned with the phrases used in your target job posts, and you probably load your document with strategic keywords.

But are you using the RIGHT keywords? Here are a few ways to make sure your keyword choices are actually helping you instead of just taking up space, or worse, holding you back.

Stay contextual.

Don’t just list a string of meaningless words across the bottom line of your resume document. Instead, take each of those words and find a place for it within your text. Human readers don’t like to be fooled into clicking on a document that isn’t as relevant as a search algorithm would suggest, and if the words you choose really are relevant, you shouldn’t have trouble building them into your profile.

Blend the broad and specific.

If you work in a very focused corner of, for example, the fashion industry, find a way to use the phrase “fashion industry” in your profile. While some of searches conducted by recruiters will be narrow, others will be wide, and some recruiters will be looking for your document in a huge database that covers job seekers in every imaginable sector. Don’t miss a chance to stand out.

Include these three phrases, always.

No matter what else you include in your resume, always mention 1) your target job title, 2) your geographic area, and 3) your industry. For example, “Associate Account Manager”, “Auto Sales”, and “Seattle, WA”. Or “Veterinary Technician”, “Animal Health”, and “Boston Metro Area”. These phrases are used by almost all hiring mangers and recruiters during the early stages of the search, especially if they’re sourcing candidates online. Again, don’t miss an easy opportunity to get yourself into the running.

Don’t game the system.

Some clever moves may propel you through the first stages of the search process, but they might also upset the human readers that stand at the final gates. For example, if you add skills, degrees, licenses and qualifications to your document that you don’t actually hold, but you place them in white text so they can be seen only by digital readers and not by humans, you may fool the system and get your document into the final round. But you won’t go beyond that point, and you may harm your professional reputation in the process.

For more on how to use resume keywords to your advantage, turn to the job search experts at PSU.

Establish a Company Culture that Makes an Impression

March 9th, 2018

You want your company culture to send a positive message, and you want your employees to enjoy coming into the office every day. What manager doesn’t? But there’s one thing that attracts and retains top employees even better than a good company culture: a GREAT company culture. Plenty of employers can boast that they treat their teams fairly and maintain clean, functional and professional places of business. But can you make your own company stand out by offering more than the minimum? Can you set yourself apart and create a culture that leaves a lasting impression? Of course you can! Here’s how.

Apply visible effort.

Show your existing employees that you care sincerely about their job satisfaction and growth and show them that culture matters to you. Take frequent surveys, do regular check-ins with individual team members, supply training opportunities, and keep your door and your ears open to suggestions related to culture. If some aspect of your process or management seems to be holding back the flow of positive energy around the workplace, take care of it with speed and honesty.

Address complaints.

There are few things more frustrating than a company that boasts about its culture in ways that are clearly inaccurate. For example, an “innovative” company with rigid, arbitrary rules about process or protocol. Or a company that boasts of diversity but won’t hire a balanced mix of race or gender. Or worst of all, a company that celebrates teamwork but won’t address complaints of bullying or toxic managerial behavior. Don’t be that company. If something isn’t working, listen and resolve the issue—Don’t pretend it isn’t happening.

Don’t squash the fun.

Too often, companies back instinctively away from any activity that carries the slightest hint of “risk”, either brand risk or risk of legal exposure. This means requests with no immediate financial benefit are rejected without consideration. No funny hat day, no Saturday miniature golf outing (someone might get hurt), no onsite parties (someone might behave badly), and no ice cream socials (someone might choke on a sprinkle). No time wasters, no hack days, no tomfoolery. Don’t be that company. Lighten up and reap the benefits of stronger relationships and greater trust.

Be kind.

Giving an employee a break, forgiving a mistake, allowing an extra bereavement day, asking about a family member’s health, or letting a flu-ridden employee stay home without demanding a note from a doctor are all small steps toward a positive culture. Respecting your own humanity and the humanity of your workforce will bring financial gains over time, not losses. Be fair– don’t give breaks to some while withholding them from others– but be reasonable. Your employees will give you their best if you can accept them at their worst.

For more on how to retain your best workers and get the most out of their contributions, contact the Charlotte staffing professionals at PSU.

Should You Hire a Candidate Who Will Play it Safe or Take Risks?

February 16th, 2018

You’ve completed your first few rounds of interviews, and you’ve narrowed your candidate pool down to two final contenders. Both hold the necessary qualifications for the job (the right training and adequate years of experience), and both seem perfectly reliable and pleasant to work with.

There’s just one big difference between the two. Candidate A (Let’s call her Bold Betsy) jumps into new situations without hesitation, pushes all her chips onto the table when she sees a potential reward, and takes decisive action when she has all the facts…and sometimes even when she doesn’t.

Candidate B (Nervous Nora) holds back and avoids taking decisive action, even when she has all the information she needs. She always wants “more data”, and even if the risk is small or the wrong decision will bring minimal fallout, she hesitates. She wants to play it safe or not play at all.

Bold Betsy speaks up in meetings and owns the room, even if she might be wrong. Nervous Nora stays quiet, even when she’s clearly right. Which personality do you need on your team? Here are a few moves that can help you decide.

Ask the team.

When it comes to risk-taking tendencies, there’s no “right” or “wrong” personality type. These are just two different ways of living, and both are perfectly healthy, smart, and productive. But each one is a better fit for some situations than others. So what does your team need right now? If you already have plenty of one type on board, maybe it’s time to balance things by hiring from the other end of the spectrum.

Where is this role heading in the future?

If the role is limited right now, a bold personality type might get bored and seek greener pastures before the company and the team have a chance to grow and expand. But in the future, when a bold type can accomplish more, do you want to be held back by the shy soul you’ve hired? What you need now might not be a fit for later, so prioritize the future, not the present.

Where do you fall on the curve?

If you don’t mind taking risks, close your eyes and roll the dice. Choose the candidate with whom you feel a stronger connection and a greater sense of innate trust. But if you yourself are a Nervous Nora, then do what Nora does: exhaustively comb your available data until you’re one hundred percent sure that your chosen candidate is a perfect fit. If you need to, schedule more interviews. Don’t be afraid to hold out for a while in order to get what you want and feel satisfied with your choice. Trust your instincts.

For more on how to make the right decision during the final round of the selection process, contact the expert recruiting team at PSU.

Don’t Let Change Set You Back

February 2nd, 2018

Change can be exciting and being pushed outside of our comfort zones can be the first step on an exhilarating adventure. But ask any camper caught in rainstorm with a leaky tent and they’ll tell you: adventures aren’t always fun while you’re having them. The most meaningful, transformative and valuable experiences of our lives are often brought on by moments of major change. And these moments, while they’re taking place, can be distinctly unsettling and unpleasant.

If you’re reluctant to throw yourself into the unknown or you tend to back away from change because the difficulty of the experience doesn’t seem worth the ultimate reward, take a minute to rethink that position. Only by embracing new situations can we leave the old ones behind and evolve as employees and as people. Keep these thoughts in mind.

Chances are, you’re not the first person ever to face this situation.

No matter what you’re going through—or what you’re about to go through—you’re not Magellan. You aren’t a pioneer facing an unknown wilderness. There are plenty of people around you who have taken this step before and come out alive on the other side. Make an effort to find out who they are and where they are. If you can, try to glean something from their experience that might inform your own.

Fear causes more problems than the thing you’re afraid of.

Fear is a real thing, and unfortunately, it’s an instinct that pushes us into the path of harm just as often (or more often) than it saves us. Fear can cause an elevated heart rate and shallow breathing, but it can also cause poor judgement. Desperation rarely leads to wise decisions. When fear takes over, find a way to center yourself, deepen your breathing, and retake control of your destiny. Push out phrases like “This offer stinks, but I’ll never get anything better” or “I should hedge my bets or this situation might end in disaster.” Stay calm; disaster and doom are less likely than your fear would have you believe.

Focus on what lies on the other side.

Change is like a wall of thorns, or a moat full of crocodiles, or journey over a snowy mountain, or…you get the idea. The point is, there are difficult obstacles in your path, for sure, but if you focus on the gains that lie beyond the challenge, you’ll get there faster. You’ll also enjoy the experience more.

Help yourself by helping others.

If you’re facing your difficult transition by yourself, that’s one thing, but if you’re making this journey with other people around you, focus on their struggles, not your own. Make the process easier for them. Coach them, rally them, find solutions to their problems and ease for their worries, and you’ll find that your own worries seem to diminish.

For more on how to navigate a difficult change, contact the Cleveland County career management professionals at PSU.

The Value of Empowerment

January 19th, 2018

Too often, new and inexperienced managers step into the role with an attitude that seems to make sense at first: “If I just work extra hard and maintain total control, nothing can go wrong.” They then proceed to hover relentlessly over their direct reports, not allowing a single mistake, a single moment of idle time, or a single lapse in productivity. They stay late, double check every project, and insist on being kept in every loop. Then they fail. And that’s when they begin to understand the value of empowerment. If you see a bit of yourself in this profile, take a step back and keep these key considerations in mind.

Refuse to be afraid of mistakes.

Or rather, don’t let your fear of mistakes control your decisions. Your direct reports are definitely going to mess up sometimes. And when they do, you’ll take ownership of their mistakes, like good leaders should. But mistakes have great value. The more your employees make, they more they’ll learn. And the sooner they start the cycle of mistakes and learning, the faster they’ll gain competence, personal investment, and meaningful, hard-earned skills.

Hard work isn’t always the answer.

Sometimes hard work wins the prize, and harder work wins even more and bigger prizes. But sometimes this isn’t the case at all. Recognize when it’s time to let go and trust others—even those who work under your aegis. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your team is step back and let them engage directly to solve a thorny problem on their own.

Free your hands and free your time.

If you constantly hover and micromanage, you may prevent a few clerical errors or squeeze a few more minutes of productivity out of your team. But at what cost? The time you spend devoted to this endeavor should really be invested in tasks that only you can take on—the kinds of planning, mission-focused, or concept based items that can’t be delegated or outsourced to others. If you give yourself time to focus fully on these tasks and do them well, you’ll be advancing the interests of your company and your own career. If you get bogged down in actions that can and should be handled by your team, both of you will be held back.

Listen and learn.

When your teams need the kind of help that only you can provide, of course you should listen and support them. Provide the resources, data, and guidance they need. But as a manager, sometimes what they really need from you is a quiet sounding board. Allow your teams to talk first. Chime in when it’s time.

For more management and coaching tips, turn to the recruiting team at PSU.

Battling Job Search Burnout

January 5th, 2018

Job search burnout: the struggle is real. Even when the job market is booming and unemployment is low—in fact, ESPECIALLY when these conditions are in effect—an extended job search can be morally, financially, and even physically exhausting (ask any anxious person who hasn’t slept in a few days). After a seemingly endless series of rejections or disappointing feedback from disinterested employers, it’s natural to start looking around for other ways to spend the day, and if job seekers don’t recognize the signs of burnout, they may be tempted to simply stop looking for work and abandon the process, regardless of the consequences.

But giving up isn’t the answer, especially if it means a stalled career or remaining trapped in an unrewarding job that adds no value to your career. Before you’re overtaken by burnout, recognize the signs and fight back.

Don’t be relentless.

If you berate yourself for every minute that you spend awake and not looking for work, stop doing that. The job search is NOT a full-time job, counter to what you might believe. Set aside one hour, or four, or 30 minutes every day to work on your resume, and when that period ends, pack it up. Recharge your battery, turn your attention back to your current job, or spend time with friends and family.

Drop the pressure or you may be tempted to drop your standards.

If you’ve decided that your job search is a “failure” after a month goes by and you don’t have a new gig, the artificial deadline you’ve imposed may push you to make desperate decisions, and desperate decisions are rarely smart decisions. Don’t accept an absurd commute, impossible hours, or a salary that’s less than you deserve. Settle in for a long climb; you’ll get there when you get there. You won’t get there at all if you panic, give up, and accept a job you don’t want.

Get help from a recruiter.

If you feel like you’re getting tired and losing the energy and optimism you had at the beginning of your job search, it may be time to seek help from an expert outside source. An experienced, established recruiter with wide and deep connections in your industry and your geographic area can help you find and impress the employer who’s looking for you right now just as urgently as you’re looking for them. In the meantime, your recruiter can help you polish your resume and your pitch until they’re tightly targeted to your ideal opportunity.

Contact our Cleveland County career management experts at PSU to learn more!

Jump Into 2018 With a Plan

December 15th, 2017

The new year is appearing around the bend, and every time the clock resets and the confetti rains down, we all get a chance to start over. It’s a time for new begins, a time to let go of our past mistakes and move forward with our hearts set on better decisions and a brighter future.

In the career management world, this tends to mean one of two things: Either you’re leaving your old job behind and searching for a new one, or you’re buckling down and redoubling your commitment to the job you have. Either you’re facing a transition and 2018 will bring you into a new workplace, or you’re looking for ways to reengage with your current role and bring new passion to your daily tasks.

In either case, the STAR goal-setting system can help. During the remaining days of this year, star putting together a plan based on the STAR acronym and you’ll cross the threshold into next year with your path laid and your ambitions blazing. Keep your goals:

Specific

Instead of setting countless ambiguous goals like “Become more proactive” or “Start Self-Promoting”, try shortening the list and keep each item concrete and specific. Instead of becoming “more proactive”, set your sites on the specific actions you plan to execute each day. Try: “Send out five resumes each day, 25 per week”, or “Contact three network connections by phone each week”. If your plan emphasizes engagement at your current job, try this: “Ask for feedback twice each week” or “Ask to be assigned to the Jones project”. General efforts toward self-promotion might include: “Send out three manuscripts each week to potential agents” or “Start a blog and post one entry per week.”

Trackable

Measure your progress toward your goals as you move through the year. And if this seems impossible, adjust your goals so you can attach numbers to your definition of success. If you’d like to make more sales, track your increased cold calls and presentations. If you’d like to land more interviews, start with your baseline (four per month, for example) and raise that number to five.

Achievable

Unattainable goals are a fast track to discouragement. No matter what you decide to do, break your large goals into milestones, and make sure each milestone isn’t so ambitious that it’s unrealistic. If one of your milestones feels like a stretch, break it down into two or three smaller ones.

Relevant

Keep every step of your path focused toward a realistic and meaningful vision of yourself and your career. Don’t get so bogged down in the details that you forget the larger picture and get lost along the way. For more guidance as you lay out your plan for 2018, contact the career management experts at PSU.

Hire Employees with the Highest ROI

December 1st, 2017

As you launch your staffing search, you’re looking for a candidate who knows what they need to know and has the right balance of interest and disinterest to thrive in the role at hand. A great employee will come with the proper education and a matching technical skill set. They’ll also have a personality that dovetails with the needs of the position; a solitary job will require an introverted candidate, for example. A socially forward-facing job will require a candidate with a deep well of social energy and a distaste for solitude and isolation. In addition to all of the nuts and bolts and boxes you’ll need to check, don’t lose sight of the big picture: you need a candidate who will generate returns for the company.

A truly winning profile attached to a great smile and a can-do attitude won’t amount to much if they require huge upfront training costs and then disappear in one year. A Steady Freddy who stays for ten years won’t bring high returns if they spend those years doing exactly what they’re told—nothing more—and surfs the internet for the remaining hours of the day. So in addition to checking off your must-haves, how can you make sure your candidate will be a high-growth investment? Here are a few signs to watch for.

They seem committed to this industry and career path.

Younger candidates rarely know for sure what they “want to do when they grow up.” At 22, this is not a realistic expectation, nor should it be. So when you find the rare candidate who truly knows that this is the perfect life-long career path for them—from now until retirement—scoop them up quickly. They’ll be invested in learning industry skills and seeing all sides of the field, rather than testing and asking if this is truly the field for them.

Check their reaction to the downsides.

During your interview, be clear and honest with your candidate about what most would consider the greatest challenges of the job. For example, make statements like: “You’ll rarely have a minute to yourself here”, or “We can’t afford to tolerate even minor mistakes” or “You’ll need to take apart and clean out the grease traps every single day, which some people find unpleasant”. Ask them how they feel about this challenge, and if their eyes genuinely light up, sign them on.

Check their work history and examine employment dates.

For the highest returns, look for candidates who tend to stick with roles for the long-term. If your candidate tends to drop jobs after less than three months because they don’t feel fulfilled, take a closer look.

For more on how to identify the “soft” skills that indicate team player and personality match, turn to the Cleveland County hiring experts at PSU.

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