What Makes You Unique?

May 19th, 2017

As you draft your resume and attend interviews with potential employers, you’ll be making one thing clear: you’re a great match for the available position. You have the skills, experience, and temperament that the job requires and you’ll probably get along well with your supervisors and coworkers. But you’ll also need to make a second case: you’re not just a good fit for the job, you’re a BETTER fit than any of the other candidates in the pool.

First you’ll have to explain that you can provide what these employers need. Then you’ll have to explain that you can offer something the other candidates can’t. The first case will be comparatively easy to make. The second one might be a little harder. Here are a few moves that can help you succeed.

Offer a few requested extras.

Most job posts provide a list of required credentials (like a master’s in accounting, five years of experience, or a willingness to work night shifts), and they also offer a few “pluses”, or skills that can help a qualified candidate stand out. If you happen to have any of these extra bonus traits, don’t fail to mention them directly in your cover letter and resume summary. Use the exact language you see in the post, in case your employers use these terms in a keyword search.

Highlight areas of overlap.

Most of the candidates who apply for your target job will hold the required credentials. But if you can offer all of these must-haves plus a few qualifications that aren’t specifically mentioned on the list, be sure to point this out. For example, your company may be looking for marketing experts to help with a product rollout in Brazil. If you have the required marketing expertise, that’s great. But if you also happen to speak fluent Portuguese, you’ll quickly move to the top of the list.

Show off who you are, not just what you can do.

You may have the skills to execute the job, but if you also have the personality and the personal experience to blend in well with this company and its culture, your employers will want to know. If you feel a unique connection to this business model or your company’s target clientele, tell your story. Explain how you have the personality and the background to shine in this environment.

For more on how to grab your employer’s attention and gain an advantage over your competition, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing and job search experts at PSU.

Flexible Work Opportunities: Keeping Employees Happy

May 5th, 2017

To keep your company in motion, you need to attract and retain top talent. And to attract top talent, you have to be willing and able to offer the perks and benefits that talented employees want. Of course your salary offers will need to be competitive, but how can you move beyond salary? And how can you choose offerings that appeal to the types of employees you’re looking for?

Driven, brilliant, focused and self-sacrificing employees often have one trait in common: they have busy lives. Their attention is typically pulled in multiple directions by personal passions, family obligations, an interest in lifelong learning, and a desire for growth. So the best way to keep such people or you team can often be expressed in one word: flexibility. Keep these considerations in mind.

Let them manage their schedules.

Nothing irritates a passionate, high-achieving person more than being tied to a desk for no apparent reason. If your employee has no meetings scheduled at the moment but needs to remain in the office despite pressing obligations elsewhere, this can wear away at her patience with the company and increase her desire to work somewhere else. She’s an adult; you can trust her to leave the office for a dentist appointment and still complete her work on time.

Remote work typically means more work.

Despite what some inexperienced managers believe, allowing employees to work remotely can actually increase their output and productivity. Talented employees tend to overproduce, not underproduce, in the absence of oversight, so turn them loose and let them figure out what needs to be done and when.

Rigidity limits problem solving.

If you require a talented employee to work in only one place, in only one way, under strict supervision and within the limits of a rigid set of policies and procedures, you may reduce the potential for mistakes (sort of). But you’ll also reduce the kind of growth and learning that can result from mistakes and risk. Encourage positive outcomes, but demonstrate flexibility when it comes to how the work gets done and where it happens.

Trust begets trust.

Allowing your employees to work off site or manage their own schedules (or both) can demonstrate trust and respect. This can become a symbolic gesture that may result in immeasurable benefits for your organization. When employees and managers work in an environment of trust, they can stop looking at each other and start looking in the same direction.

For more on how to provide talented workers with the leeway, respect, and flexibility that can help them thrive, contact the Cleveland County management experts at PSU.

Think Reference Checks are Overrated? Think Again!

April 17th, 2017

As you source candidates for an open position, review resumes, and conduct interviews, you rarely doubt the value of you endeavors. You feel confident that the time you invest in these activities will pay off as you narrow your options and hone in on the most qualified candidates in the pool. But when it comes to reference checks, you may feel differently.

Too often, HR pros and hiring managers eliminate reference checks altogether, assuming that the payoff just isn’t worth the effort, time, and social awkwardness that reference checks entail. But if you’ve weighed the cost and benefits and decided to skip the reference check process, reconsider. Here are some benefits you may be overlooking.

Reference checks don’t take long if they’re done right.

You don’t have to set aside an hour for a long phone call; just correspond by email. And you don’t have to allow a rambling discussion to consume your afternoon; just ask a quick series of concrete questions with easy answers. If you read between the lines, even a five-minute exchange can provide insight into how others feel about your candidate and the general impression he leaves behind.

References DO provide meaningful information.

Managers often skip reference checks because most references provide bland, non-committal, unassailable answers that won’t get them into trouble. But if you don’t let this happen, it won’t happen. Instead of saying “Did you like the candidate?” (of course the answer will be yes), ask something more pointed. Try: “Was the candidate consistently on time? What did she do best? If you had to provide a coaching tip for me, what would it be?”

References catch red flags.

Just embarking on the process can provide meaningful information. For example, if you reach out to a reference and your call is ignored or avoided, you can consider this a successful data-gathering mission. You never exchanged a word, but this non-responsive reference has shared a data point that you can add to a growing picture of the candidate’s profile.

References might give more than you asked for.

An enthusiastic, full-hearted, hyperbolic testament to the candidate’s abilities can be a powerful statement. If even one of your candidate’s references shouts her praises to the heavens, you can consider this a plus. These enthusiastic supporters can also tell you about accomplishments or proud moments the candidate herself may have omitted due to oversight or modesty.

Reference provide a point of comparison.

You may have two candidates with apparently equal technical abilities, in which case a reference check might provide a quick and immediate tie breaker. Make the calls and see what happens.

For more on how to conduct reference checks in an efficient, appropriate, and meaningful way, reach out to the Cleveland County professional staffing team at PSU.

Do You Have a Great Work Ethic? Prove it!

April 3rd, 2017

Most managers want to know three things about their candidates: Can they complete the tasks assigned to them? Are they pleasant and easy to get along with? And finally, will they work just as hard for the company as they would for an endeavor in their personal lives? In other words, will they throw themselves into their daily efforts and treat company success and personal success as if they were the same thing?

It’s not exactly easy to convince someone that you “work hard” or that you are “a hard worker”. We all use that term, but we don’t all agree on what it means. For some, it means an employee who stays at the office till midnight. But for others, it means someone who leaves at 5:00 sharp after accomplishing a long list of goals. How can you prove to your interviewer that your work ethic is above reproach? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Know what the term means to you.

You can’t read your interviewer’s mind, so don’t try. Have your own definition of “hard work”, and your definition should be fixed and clear. You should be able to describe it to someone else, and you should know exactly how far your own actions fall from your ideal. If you believe hard work means staying late, that’s fine. If you believe it means trying again and again until you achieve a goal, fine. If you believe it means giving up quickly and revising your strategy, that’s fine too. Just know exactly what a “work ethic” means to you.

Tell stories.

Apply your own definition of the term, and tell a story (or stories) that illustrate your sense of hard work and determination. Tell your interviewer about the time you stayed in the office late to accomplish a specific goal. Or tell them about the time it took you a week to complete an important task because you wanted to do it flawlessly. Or describe the time you accomplished ten incredible feats during one five-hour workday. Start at the beginning, explain the circumstances and the challenges you faced, and talk about how you overcame them and triumphed through the power of hard work.

If they share their own definition, listen.

Listen to your interviewer and read their non-verbal cues. If they’re unimpressed by your definition of hard work (working extra hours), and they seem to place a higher value on leaving early after multiple accomplishments (efficiency, strategy, and focus), tune in. Change your tactic and emphasize stories and anecdotes that showcase your ability to get things done.

For more on how to show off your talents and pitch your skills during your interview, contact the Cleveland County job search and career management experts at PSU.

Interview Mistakes to Avoid

March 24th, 2017

Your interview date is coming up, and you’re ready for almost anything. You have a travel plan and a back-up travel plan, and you know exactly how to show up on time, dressed for success. You know how to highlight your strengths, show some flexibility, demonstrate a relaxed sense of humor, and frame key elements of your experience in the form of stories and narratives. You know what to do. But do you also know what NOT to do? Here are a few simple, avoidable blunders that might send the wrong message. Watch your step and don’t fall into these traps.

Don’t blame others.

In the broadest sense, this one is easy. Of course you won’t badmouth your last boss or talk about how the company let you down. But there are suggestions of blame that are not so obvious. Any time the conversation turns toward anything the least bit negative—anything at all—stay on the alert. Edit your language carefully to make sure you aren’t inadvertently casting shade on anything or person who might be implicated in your struggles or setbacks. Not one negative thing in your past has been caused by anything other then your own fumbles. And since your own fumbles may not be to blame either, step out of this territory as quickly as you can. There’s a time for flexibility, nuance, and accepting the basic failings of human nature. A job interview is not one of those times.

Make a point of learning from your mistakes.

If you need to describe a time when you messed up, a missed deadline, a past job that didn’t work out, or a goal you once had that didn’t materialize, don’t just tell your story and call it a day. Tell your story and then shift gears to talk about what you learned. Explain how the experience led to growth and how you’ll handle the same situation if it ever happens again.

Don’t try to be all things for all occasions.

Your interviewer may ask you a question like: “Are you a leader or a follower?” or: “If you have to choose between meeting deadlines and producing quality work, which do you choose?” and if this happens, just answer the question. You don’t have to say you’re great at both. Don’t try to game the system. Provide the information that’s being asked of you. Tell the truth and answer in good faith. If your interviewer says “There are no wrong answers”, take her at her word. Show trust and respect and you’ll reap the same in return.

For more on how to shine during your interview and avoid the kinds of pitfalls that can hold you back, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing team at PSU.

Find a Candidate Who Fits Well with Your Company Culture

March 10th, 2017

As you search for a candidate who can handle the challenges of your open position, take the culture of your workplace into account as well. “Fitness”, or the level of alignment between the candidate and the role, can be the product of a complex and delicate equation. The right candidate isn’t just ready to handle the daily tasks that come across his or her desk; she’s also ready to handle the kinds of clients your company work with, the coworkers who sit to her left and right, and the unique style adopted by the company’s upper management.

Are these managers hands-on or hands-off? Are these clients easy-going or edgy and demanding? Are these coworkers collaborative or competitive? No matter what the answers may be, here are some tips that can help you spot a promising match.

First, know what you’re working with.

Before you can find a cultural fit, you’ll need to understand the psychological and social fabric of your workplace. Look around, conduct surveys, and gather data points before you begin the sourcing process for an open position. Collect some statements that seem reasonable and plausible, like: “This is a fast-paced environment”, “Employees here are reserved and can seem cold at first”, “Mistakes and risks are not only tolerated here, they’re encouraged.”

Evaluate your candidate sources.

If you’d like to find seasoned employees who are experienced, level-headed and worldy, don’t recruit on a college campus. If you’re looking for young, ambitious dreamers and experience levels don’t matter so much, that’s a different story. Go where your cultural matches live, play, and search for work.

Explain your cultural challenges and watch what happens.

During your interview process, explain some of the challenges your candidate will face here and watch how he or she reacts. You might say, “We prioritize deadlines over everything else”. Or you might say, “Some of our clients can seem rude and unreasonable at times”, or: “We wear multiple hats here, which means you might find yourself sweeping or taking out the trash sometimes,” or “Our culture is demanding and rigid.” Ask how your candidate feels about these things and when as responds, read between the lines.

Rely on behavioral questions.

If your workplace is deadline driven, as your candidate to describe the most difficult deadline challenge she’s ever faced. If your workplace is collaborative, ask your candidate about the last time he had to work together with a team. Again, read between the lines. You’ll learn more if you keep your questions open-ended and encourage your candidates to answer by telling a story.

For more on how to use your screening process to find cultural matches, not just skilled employees, turn to the professional Charlotte recruiting team at PSU.

Stop Making These Resume Mistakes

February 17th, 2017

If you’ve been sending out an avalanche of resumes and you just aren’t getting the response rate you need, it may be time to return to your document and take another look with a fresh set of eyes. Even if you’ve edited every section multiple times, there’s a chance you may be committing one of these common mistakes. Reopen, review, revise, and try again.

Minimal Customization

Are you doing everything you can to tailor your resume for a specific audience? Don’t spend hours customizing your document for every opportunity that comes your way, but at the same time, you’ll want your resume to look like a targeted and specific message, not part of a spam campaign. Put brackets around three or four sentences and phrases, including your target job title, your target industry, and a phrase or two in your summary. Each time you submit to a potential employer, revisit each set of brackets and type in a title, industry, and area of focus that align with the wording in the job post.

A Lack of Keywords

Since most larger employers place resumes into a database immediately upon receipt, you’ll want your resume to find its way back out of that database and into the hands of a human reader during the review process. In order to increase your odds of being seen and read, make sure your resume contains some of the terms and words that will likely be typed into a search bar by managers and reviewers. Likely keywords include 1.) the exact job title 2). the geographic area or city where the job will be offered and 3.) a few of the most important skills and qualifications required by the employers and mentioned in the job description.

Seeming Conflicts

Your target employers want a full-time worker who will be willing to work off-shifts. Your last few positions were part time jobs, and a quick glance over your resume doesn’t reveal much evidence of working different shifts. If this results in a trip to the recycle bin, that may seem unfair. But during the early rounds of the review process, employers are heavily guided by impressions. So make sure a ten- second glance over your document suggests a candidate who aligns with the position in the broadest and simplest terms. For example, do you live in the area? If not, have you clearly expressed a willingness to relocate?

For more on how to avoid the kinds of simple errors that can allow your resume to slip through the cracks, turn to the job search pros at PSU.

Low Workplace Morale? Eliminate it from the Beginning!

February 3rd, 2017

Low morale can sneak into your workplace and become an insidious drain on your productivity and your bottom line. But if you know how to recognize the early signs and squash this expensive problem before it starts, you’ll avoid countless headaches and lost revenue in 2017. Here are a few tips that can help you keep an eye out and take quick action before a small dip in morale becomes a thorny and complicated hassle.

Don’t let it start.

When morale drops and workers dial out, they don’t typically come to your door to announce this. Nobody ever says, “Hey, my morale is low and it’s making me less productive. Can you help?” In fact, most employees who feel this way believe that they’re alone, and they work hard to hide the issue instead of seeking outside support. Don’t wait for an announcement; just watch out for subtle signs of disinterest and a disconnect between effort and reward. If employees are no longer giving their best efforts and they seem unconcerned about the long term, it’s because they’ve done a kind of cost-benefit analysis and they’re reallocating their energy and attention to other aspects of their lives. That’s when it’s time to step in and take action.

When you see the signs, speak up.

During the cold winter months, employees get sick, their family members get sick, gloom takes hold, once-exciting projects feel like drudgery, and daily challenges become daily chores. If your teams seem slower to react to new assignments and they don’t rush to contribute during meetings, ask what’s wrong. Ask how you can help. If you don’t get a concrete response, you can act on your own initiative. But ask first; the answer your receive may provide a shortcut to the solution.

Make a decision.

If your employees won’t tell you exactly what they need, take action on your own. Schedule team building and leadership workshops to break up the monotony. Shift assignments and responsibilities to encourage teamwork. Provide fresh new incentives for excellent work. Foster a culture of encouragement and support instead of depressing internal competition and backbiting. Find ways to make dull responsibilities and goals into games.

When in doubt, offer food.

Nothing tends to boost a gloomy, disengaged team like free food. Something as simple as a box of donuts in the break room can lift some spirits and show your teams that you care about them. A more elaborate gesture, like sandwiches or a pizza lunch, can take the message even further.

For more on how to boost morale and encourage employees to stay focused amid the distractions of the season, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing experts at PSU.

Top Job Seekers Need a Top Reputation

January 16th, 2017

When it comes to pitching a product or service to a potential buyer, sales and marketing experts recognize the value of branding. Marketing pros want their product to inspire certain feelings and spark certain connections in the mind of their audience, and they want their target buyers to remember the product and think about it long after their initial interaction has come to an end. As a job seeker, you need to become your own marketing expert, and you need to apply all the tools of trade as you pitch and promote your product: You! Here are a few tips that can help you grab attention and stay top-of-mind.

Keep it simple.

Of course your resume and cover letter contain volumes of information about who you are, what you can do, and what you’ve done in the past. But if you had to, could you simplify your message and distill it into a single sentence? How about five words? How about one? Think of a single word that captures the kind of energy you bring to the table. Then build your brand around that word.

What can you offer that others can’t?

You’re great at your job, for sure. And you have the years of experience, certifications, and personality traits that your target employers are looking for. But so do most of the other candidates seeking this role. What can you offer that these other competitors can’t? What makes you stand out from the crowd? Take that special talent or area of value and pair it with the word (or simple sentence) you generated above. An image of your brand may be taking shape at this point.

Adopt a signature color.

In our culture, certain colors bring widely accepted associations. For example, red suggests passion. Yellow suggests a sunny disposition. Green suggests creativity, orange implies friendliness, and purple invokes regal dignity. Blue often suggests intellect and cool headedness. If you were to attach a color to the memory of yourself, what would it be? Once you settle on a color that you’d like associated with your name, bring a bit of that color to your interactions with potential employers. Place a dash of it in your resume and wear an accessory to your interview, like a scarf or a pocket square. Think in the same terms as you choose your font, layout, and any other aspect of personal style.

Consider your voice and communication strategy.

Once you’ve adopted a brand, try to keep your presentation consistent. If you’d like to be remembered as passionate and committed, bring a passionate flair to your statements and assertions. The same applies if you’d like to be remembered as cool and collected, or upbeat and sunny. All of us are all of these things at various moments; we contain multitudes. But simple statements and simple associations are easiest to remember.

For more on how to establish and maintain a personal brand during your Charlotte job search, reach out to the local employment experts at PSU.

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Are You Managing Millennial Talent Effectively?

January 6th, 2017

As an experienced manager, you already know that not all employees will respond the same way to the same communication styles and coaching techniques. Some employees appreciate criticism, some resent it, some prefer a hands-on approach, and some thrive when their managers take a step back and allow them to take full ownership of their projects. These preferences and quirks don’t always correspond perfectly to certain identity factors, like age or background, and it isn’t easy to divide employees along clear lines (for example, it’s never wise to assume that men like to be treated one way and women another). But in some ways, millennial employees tend to stand apart from their gen X and baby boomer counterparts, and taking note of these differences can help managers to understand the needs of this unique demographic. Here are a few tips that can help you maintain productive relationships with your younger workers.

Treat them like adults but respect their lack of experience.

Generations ago, a 22-year-old person could be considered a fully realized adult, but in today’s complicated world, that expectation just isn’t reasonable. Respect your millennial employees by recognizing the limits of their experience. When they make mistakes, coach and teach, don’t berate. Help them grow; don’t insist that they step into the workplace already knowing everything they need to know in order to succeed.

Technology is great, but it isn’t everything.

Just because your millennials have mastered social media does not mean they’re “tech-savvy”. It doesn’t mean they can manage an SQL database or update a legacy IT system or even confidently connect their own devices to the company network. Again, keep your expectations and assumptions under control, and keep communication channels open. Explain what needs to be explained, and ask what needs to be asked.

Recognize the way they’ve been raised.

Studies show that when compared to their gen x and baby boomer peers, millennials tend to be more empathetic, more comfortable with supervision and oversight, and more willing to take innovative risks. Some of these “millennial” traits are simply products of age; everyone goes through similar growth phases during their early twenties. But some of these traits are unique and have not appeared prominently in previous generational cohorts. This may be due to rise of the internet, hover-parenting, a 24 hour news cycle, a cultural shift, or any number of other factors; we may never know for sure. But if you keep an open mind and listen carefully when your millennial employees tell you who they are and what they need, you get the most out of these relationships, and you’ll attract and retain a group of hardworking, ambitious future leaders who will choose your company over the competition.

For more on how to build strong relationships with valuable young employees, turn to the Cleveland County staffing and management experts at PSU.

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