How to Master the Interview

June 22nd, 2018

Despite what some employers want you to believe, most job interviews are more-or-less the same. Some employers want you to assume that an interview with their unique company represents a special opportunity to connect in a special way with a special enterprise. Of course that isn’t true; most companies develop their interview process using research, trial and error, and careful observation of the interviews conducted by other successful companies. As a result, nothing they do is new or special, and every question and observation they apply during the process will be drawn from a long-established set of patterns and formulas.

The good news for job seekers: If employer interviews are research-and-formula based, then employee interviews can (and should) be as well. There’s a science to this process, and a method that works in one case will likely work almost everywhere. This is a dance with known and recognized steps. Learn the steps and you’ll do well with almost every interviewer you encounter. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Settle down.

This tip applies across every industry from food service to surgery. When you’re nervous and uncomfortable, you make others nervous and uncomfortable. But when you relax, you make others feel relaxed and happy. If you can’t calm your nerves or steady your shaking hands by forcing yourself to do so, start thinking of the process as a favor to your interviewer. Help them. Make them feel at ease. Let your calm demeanor reassure them. Turn the tables, even if only in your mind.

Focus on a few key points, not a huge file download.

An interview is a conversation, not a massive exchange of data and information. You don’t need to tell your interviewer about every single accomplishment or A plus you’ve ever earned. They won’t remember these details anyway. Touch on some highlights (maybe two or three) and don’t worry about the rest. If you’re scrambling to blurt a laundry list of facts about yourself and you’re so focused on transmitting that you aren’t listening to your interviewer, something is wrong. Think of the interview as a date. If the two of you enjoy the conversation, you’ll have plenty of time later on to share more facts and details.

Look and sound trustworthy.

When we meet someone new, most of us want to look and speak in a way that makes us seem friendly, stable and pleasant. But in an interview, there’s one quality that exceeds these others in weight and value: trustworthiness. Before you convince your employer that you can expertly remove a gall bladder or design a website, you need to convince them that you will show up every day and present yourself honestly. You’ll do your best and you won’t embarrass the company. If you hit the mark, you won’t have to say these things because your voice, clothing and body language will send the message for you.

For more on how to master the basics and make a great impression in every interview you attend, contact the team at PSU.

Empower Your Employees for Success

June 8th, 2018

In order to succeed at their jobs and make meaningful contributions to the company, your employees need one thing that you may or may not be adequately providing: personal agency. Some inexperienced managers believe the opposite. They assume that the more they ride herd over their teams, the “better” these teams will do. In other words, if they spend their days telling their employees exactly what to do and how to do it, watching closely as they follow through, correcting every mistake in real time, forbidding risks, preventing failure, and scolding anything less than perfect obedience, then every project will end in victory. Employees are like oranges; the more you squeeze them, the more you’ll get out of them.

But this simply isn’t true. Studies and empirical evidence show that success lies in giving employees breathing room, so they can make decisions, solve problems on their own, and (gasp) fail. Leadership means backing off by a step a two and allowing your employees to learn and grow. Here’s how.

Stay focused on the long term.

It’s hard to watch an employee attempt something risky and fail. When we see such a failure looming, our natural instinct is to reach out and steady the bicycle so the crash doesn’t happen. But to avoid acting on this impulse, focus on the future. The quicker and harder the crash, the more the employee will learn, and the sooner you’ll see the day that she pedals confidently on her own. Keep thinking about that day.

Recognize that their real value comes from who they are, not what they do each day.

Your employee might toil along on a Monday afternoon, filing files and processing projects. But as the day and the year go by, you aren’t paying her for each of those little projects. You’re paying her for the knowledge she’s accumulating, the judgement she’s exercising, and the competence she’s gaining in her role. You’ve a hired a person, not a robot. So value the contributions she makes that only a person can make. Give her enough room to exercise her ever-growing critical thinking skills.

Trust is magical.

An employee who feels trusted will rise, as if by magic, to a higher level of trustworthiness. Before taking a risk, the trusted employee will put everything she has into making the smartest possible decision. The employee who doesn’t feel trusted, on the other hand, will accept less responsibility for the results, will not feel as confident, and will probably make a poorer decision. But it won’t matter, because if you hover over her, both the decision and the responsibility for the outcome will be yours, not hers.

Trust brings personal connection.

The simplest reason to trust your employees: If you do this, they will like and respect you more. Employees tend to work harder and stay with the company longer if they genuinely like their bosses. Step back and watch your relationship flourish. For more on how to do this, turn to the team at PSU.

Engage Your Employees and Reduce Turnover

May 18th, 2018

If you’re still reeling from the last resignation notice you received when the next departing employee shows up in your office to break the news, you may be dealing with more than just a bad week. You may have a serious turnover problem. If you keep losing valued and trusted employees, and you’re seeing promising new hires come onboard only leave within a single year, take a close look at your engagement strategy. Don’t ask how you’re losing them; ask what you’re doing to keep them. Start with a few simple moves that keep your employees loyal even when they’re lured away by other offers.

Provide something your competitors can’t.

Every workplace culture is different, so what does your culture have to offer that others don’t? What sets you apart? Is it an inspiring, collaborative atmosphere where great ideas come to life? Is your workplace friendly and welcoming? Can your teams trust and count on each other during times of stress? Do your workers think of each other as friends and family? Maybe your culture has an elite, driven vibe that makes employees proud to be part of the energy, or maybe your workplace is goofy and fun loving. Work to bring out the best in your culture and dial down the worst.

Do your workers feel appreciated?

After a long hard week of dedication to a project, there’s nothing quite like having the project cut from the final proposal and swept off the table without a word of acknowledgement from upper management. Of course the employee who put in that work will be paid either way, but sometimes work isn’t just about the money. When your teams go the extra mile, make note of it and thank them, regardless of the long-term results for the company.

Listen to their needs and interests.

Encourage your employees to share with you when it comes to their career plans, their personal goals, the subjects they’d like to learn about, and the things they hope to get out of their relationship with your company. As you help them to excel as employees and contributors, make sure they’re also satisfied with their side of the equation. They should be getting returns from the job that are equal to their contributions and sacrifices. If they aren’t, make note of it and provide them with training, compensation and support before they find another employer who can give them what they aren’t getting from you.

Resolve conflicts before they drive employees away.

Sometimes employees leave due to unmanageable conflicts or constant exposure to toxic people. And when this happens, you’ll probably never know. Exit interviews rarely contain statements like “I didn’t get along with my officemate” or “I had to work every day beside a real jerk.” Keep an eye out for these kinds of problems and fix them before they push talented workers out the door.

For more on how to keep engagement high and turnover as low as possible, turn to the Cleveland County management professionals at PSU.

How to Move Forward After Being Fired

May 4th, 2018

You’ve just been fired, and you’re ready to count this episode among the hardest you’ve ever faced in your life. You’re not alone; according to survey data, most respondents rank job loss among the ten most difficult life challenges most of us will ever encounter, almost on par with divorce, losing a home, or losing a loved one. Job loss is stressful in countless ways, some of which compound the difficulty of losing a paycheck. Breaking the news to family members, finding ways to pay the bills, and explaining the event to interviewers in the future are all difficult tasks, and there’s no way to sugarcoat the truth: the road ahead will be rocky. At least for a little while. But you can make it, and in time, you’ll be back on your feet with this rough patch well behind you. Here are a few ways to make that day come a little sooner.

You’re not alone.

You may feel embarrassed by this event, as if you’ve been exposed as a bad worker or a fraud. But that’s simply not the case. Firing (as painful as it is) is quite common, and the reasons can have little to do with your ability to make it in the world. There’s often a case to be made that the event wasn’t completely your fault. Spend two minutes thinking about that, and then put it behind you. You have bigger concerns then placing blame—on yourself or on anyone else.

Don’t wallow.

You may be tempted to spend weeks sweeping up the pieces of your broken heart, but don’t do this. As soon as you’re able, get outside, exercise, search for a new job, or plan your next adventure. The longer you sit still, the more your dark thoughts and ruminations deepen the hole you’re in. It’s healthy to ruminate after the loss of a loved one, and our memories keep loved ones alive and with us. But a job is not a person. Your ruminations won’t honor the past or help you heal. Bring the wallowing stage to a close asap. After a job loss, this stage helps no one.

Take the opportunity to change course.

Before you leap into a new job exactly like the last one, think of this moment as an off-ramp on an expressway. If there’s a chance that your previous jobs or career path weren’t quite right for you, act on that possibility before the moment passes and you miss your exit. Career pivots are always easier when your old job disappears involuntarily. It’s much harder to stand up from your desk and force the move on your own.

Get help.

Whether you’re changing direction or just getting back on track, you’ll benefit from the words and guidance of career experts who have seen it all before. Contact the Charlotte staffing professionals at PSU for perspective, tips, and job search resources that will help you regain your stride.

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.

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