Addressing Gaps in Your Resume

February 15th, 2019

If you’re like almost every other job seeker with a few years of life experience, you’ve probably been through one or two chapters in which you were either unemployed for a while or employed in a position with a title that doesn’t reflect your career goals. During the years since your graduation from high school or college, you’ve held one or more working roles, and in between those roles, you may have spent time searching for work, caring for family, recovering from an illness, traveling, attending classes, holding a short-term position to pay the bills, or anything else that filled your days but won’t work well as an entry on your resume.

Some employers perceive these “gaps” as idle chapters that require an explanation. And even those who understand that a gap isn’t a crime may still be curious. How did you spend that time? The answer can help employers and recruiters learn a little bit more about you. Here are a few tips that let you explain just enough of your life story without sharing too much.

First, understand the goal.

A six-month period between one job and the next won’t put you in the hot seat or signal a character weakness (at least not for a responsible employer). But it might suggest that 1) you were looking for work and being turned away; or 2) you weren’t looking for work, despite your evident free time. Both can indicate you aren’t as ambitious or growth-focused as your application suggests. You’ll want to allay this concern and convince your employers that, in fact, you ARE focused on the long-term growth of your career, gap or no gap.

Don’t overshare.

Never reveal your marital or family status to an employer until you’re onboard. If you took time off for your children, parents or an ill partner, keep that to yourself. Your family status is protected information, something your employers don’t need to know. (In fact, it’s illegal to ask).

Emphasize the positive.

Were you volunteering during this time? Describe your experience. Were you on a sabbatical or studying? Share! These are positive data points that can help you shine, even if they aren’t the primary reason you weren’t working during the period in question.

Move on quickly.

If an employer points to a six-month, two-year or ten-year chapter your resume doesn’t account for, have a short answer prepared, deliver it, and then move past the subject quickly. End your (very short) story by providing reassurance you haven’t missed a beat and your skills have not become rusty.

For more on how to frame your life story in a way that aligns with the needs of your potential employer, talk to the job search and interview experts at PSU.

The Impact a Bad Hire can Have on Your Team

February 1st, 2019

When you calculate the cost of a hiring mistake, you can easily add up the obvious costs: the post you’ll need to publish to attract replacement candidates, the cost of background checks and interviews for those new candidates, and the cost of onboarding for the replacement you ultimately choose. But there are few costs and expenses associated with a hiring mistake that are intangible—They can only be estimated, and while difficult to precisely measure, these costs can be shockingly high.

For example, a hiring mistake (usually defined as a candidate who leaves within one year) can have a dismal impact on the productivity and morale of your entire team. Here’s how.

An underprepared candidate lowers the bar.

Your new hire came on board unprepared for the job and lacking the skills necessary for the role. He struggled for a while before he left, and though he tried, it was unrealistic to expect him to gain meaningful expertise during a six-week training period. What does this hiring decision tell your other employees about an “acceptable” level of competence in the missing skill area (for example, SQL, Photoshop, customer service, language fluency, written communication, or basic math)? The bar of expectation drops with every day the unprepared hire stays on the team.

Attitude problems are contagious.

If your candidate failed because he was sullen, uncooperative, or had anger issues, that’s unfortunate, and a contagious bad attitude doesn’t always show up during an interview. But even more unfortunate: the impact of his sulks and complaints may stay in the air even after he’s shown to the door.

“Work ethic” is a shared metric.

What would you call an appropriate work ethic in an office where most workers leave at 4:00 pm? How about an office where the “slackers” are still at their desks at 7:30? “Hard work” is a relative term, and if you introduce an employee who vanishes in a cloud of self-congratulation at exactly 4:59 each day, others are inclined to follow suit.

Bumblers create roadblocks.

Sometimes the nicest candidates in the world arrive in the workplace and spend more time standing in the way than helping the team. If you hire one of these, you’ll have messes, mistakes, and derailed projects to fix after they leave, plus all the back-ups and work-bottlenecks you’ll need to re-open.

The hidden cost.

Unfortunately, hiring the wrong person can also put tiny cracks in something very valuable: trust. Your teams trust you to make smart decisions when it comes to assessments of character and background, and their success depends on your ability to get it right. One mistake can be easily forgotten, but with each additional misjudgment, the task gets harder. Choose the best candidates available, and your existing teams will thank you.

For more, contact the hiring and staffing pros at PSU.

How to Stay Motivated During Your Job Search

January 18th, 2019

The winter blahs can take a toll on any form of motivation. No matter what we hope to do—stay in shape, try new things, make new friends—it’s not easy to begin the process during the peak of the January doldrums. But there are few challenges harder to face in the winter then searching for a new job. So how can you get up and get out there when you’d really rather cuddle up with some cocoa and watch the snow fall? Here are few tips.

Stay focused on your goal.

Remember that landing your new job will be the kindest gift you can give yourself. If it’s what you want and need more than anything, then consider a new job the greatest form of self-care that you can offer yourself. Cocoa is nice, and cuddling up is nice, but real financial security and career growth are even nicer. Stay hydrated, get adequate sleep, and most important of all, stay focused on your most valuable goal.

Draw strength from your family and friends.

Too often, especially during the bleak winter, we tend to hide our weaknesses and problems from others. We hole up and protect ourselves by not letting anyone know what we’re going through. Do this if it makes you feel safe, but remember that your friends are part of a vast professional network and they may be able to help you in ways you don’t realize. Their help can take the form of both emotional and practical support, so know that both are available to you—if you’re willing to reach out.

Make lists and stay organized.

It’s easier to wake up, pick up your list, and start checking off items than it is to wake up to a completely blank slate. Each night, give yourself a gift for the next morning: a sense of direction and purpose. Create a list and make sure the first item is an easy one to cross off. As soon as you pour your first cup of coffee the next morning, you’ll already be on your way.

Talk to someone who can help you.

Find someone you know with specific experience in your specific field, someone who can speak to you directly about the challenges you face. You can think of this person as a long-term mentor or just a one-time conversationalist over a cup of coffee, but put yourself in their presence for a minute so you can remember where you’re going and why.

Create small goals that lead to bigger ones.

Have a few goals and to-do items on your list that you can check off in an hour. Include a few more that may take you a day. Have at least one goal that you can accomplish in a week. And a month. And so on. Break the bigger goals down into smaller tasks and maintain a sense of forward momentum.

For more on how to keep moving toward your new job, no matter what distractions and challenges lie in your way, talk to the job search team at PSU.

 

Four Tips for Better Employee Evaluations

January 11th, 2019

Improving your evaluation process can have a cascading impact on the success of both your team and your company overall. Smarter evaluations leave employees feeling motivated to succeed, they place employees on a clearly marked path to higher productivity, and then generate goodwill, since they let each employee know they are observed, known, and cared about. This feeling boosts retention, retention boosts teamwork, and teamwork brings success. Start this positive spiral by taking these four steps.

Positivity wins, negativity loses … every time.

When you scold or lecture a child, you might accomplish something meaningful or even life-saving (depending on the personality of the child). A sentence like “Never run into the street again, do you hear me?” has a place in child-rearing. But sentences like these have no place at all in a professional environment. Workers are not children. Review your words, both spoken and written, and remove anything that comes across as angry, personally critical, demeaning or threatening. This includes statements that attack the person instead of the action, for example “You aren’t good at this” instead of “You haven’t learned how to do this yet. Let’s get you the training/exposure/mentoring you need.”

Keep feedback informal and frequent.

Company policy may dictate one formal review process per year. But to make this process more effective, spend the entire year providing real-time, informal feedback on the employee’s progress and actions. Don’t watch them make a mistake in June and wait until December to officially criticize them for it. The annual review should formalize the setting of specific, measurable, actionable goals for the year ahead, based on the victories and lessons of the year just past.

Let the employee know why they (specifically) are valued here.

Avoid treating employees like indistinguishable warm bodies in chairs. Even if the job requires minimal training or experience, don’t let the employee feel dispensable. Show respect for the job and show respect for the person who holds it. Remind them why they were hired over other applicants, emphasize the importance of the role, explain the company’s hopes for them, and let them know your goal is to maintain a happy and mutually beneficial relationship. Make this clear during moments of both constructive criticism and praise. If you disrespect the person or devalue the job, expect turnover.

Set a high bar and expect the same.

Treat the employee with calm, professional positivity … and expect the same. Don’t open the door to awkward, angry, apologetic or obsequious behavior. Carefully choose the accomplishments and mistakes you decide to highlight and the terms you use to describe the employee’s journey to success. Don’t follow any turn in the conversation that slides the mood toward personal blame, shame, anger, gloating, empty promises on either side, or fear. Stay cool and collected.

For more on how to get the most out of your review process and prevent post-review turnover, contact the experts at PSU.

How Not to Be Awkward on Your First Day

December 11th, 2018

Your new job is about to begin! Roughly two weeks from now, you’ll be stepping into a new workplace, with new responsibilities, new clients, and new coworkers. But there’s one small challenge lying ahead that’s unique to your specific personality; You’re an awkward person, and your shyness and social anxiety don’t usually help you in these types of situations. In fact, sometimes they really stand in your way. Here’s what to do about it.

Don’t let your worries run away with you.

Anxious people tend to overthink, and when they overthink, they overestimate the problems and challenges that lie ahead. Molehills become mountains and small monsters become unslayable dragons. Imagine the worst-case scenario that looms in your mind—Is this scenario truly realistic? Of course not. Dial it down, and then down again, until it reassembles a situation that reflects real life.

If you seem happy and okay, everyone around you will relax.

If you’re visibly nervous and upset, others around you will pick up on that energy. The opposite is also true. Frame your calm demeanor as an effort to help others. Think of your relaxed smile and easy energy as a gift to those around you. It’s a friendly form of reassurance.

Try to remember names.

You’ll be blasted with lots of new information on your first day, and some of it will slide in one ear and out the other. That’s natural and normal. If what you’re hearing is truly important, don’t worry; you’ll hear it again. Meanwhile, take notes and prioritize the value of what you’re hearing and which bits you really should try hardest to process and remember. The most important thing will probably be names. So, each time you shake hands with a new person, make a conscious effort to listen to the person’s name, repeat it in your mind, and file it away.

Don’t sweat your small mistakes.

During the first day on almost any job, a new employee is universally given a kind of break. Take advantage of this fleeting moment and don’t beat yourself up over small blunders. Save that for later. For now, just fix your mistake or shrug it off and move on.

Remember where you are.

New employees—especially those who feel awkward in unfamiliar situations—are prone to one specific and common type of embarrassing blunder: forgetting which hallways they’ve walked down, which doors they’ve gone through, and where they are in the workplace. “How do I get back to my desk?” is a more common question than you might think. Do yourself a favor and anticipate this. Don’t just follow your new supervisor around blindly.

For more on how to keep a cool head and an easy relaxed attitude during your first day in a new workplace, talk to the career management consultants at PSU. 

Are Your Employees Burned Out?

December 7th, 2018

Great managers wear lots of hats. They’re coaches, organizers, schedulers, budget masters, and when necessary, they’re teachers, speakers, conflict negotiators, and diplomatic liaisons. They’re also great at taking care of the company’s most important and most valuable assets: its employees. Employees don’t just walk in the door already knowing what to do and contributing at maximum levels. They need managers to make sure the right people are assigned to the right tasks and every employee can access the tools they need for success.

Unmotivated and disengaged employees are NOT contributing at their full potential. And when teams are burned out, it’s the manager’s job to step in and set things right. Here’s how to recognize the signs and take action.

What does burnout look like?

Burnout takes several visible forms, but here’s something it DOESN’T look like: an employee walking into your office and saying, “I’m burned out.” That doesn’t happen. The signs are subtle, and it’s your job to spot them. Look for weariness, distraction and vague responses to new assignments. If your employees accept tasks by saying “I guess I can try” or “I’ll see what I can do,” take a closer look at the situation. The same should be applied to excessive sick days, quarreling and chronic bad moods.

Start honest conversations.

If you think your employee may be overloaded or disengaged, ask them to join you for a chat or take them to lunch. You don’t have to say, “You look burned out,” but feel free to diplomatically ask them how they’re feeling and how their days are going. If you hear signs of trouble, make note. Find out what you can do to help.

Keep an open mind when choosing a solution.

Your burned-out employee may be any number of things: overworked, frustrated by specific obstacles, distracted by non-work events, or simply bored and dispassionate about a job they once loved. Each of these will require a different response from you, so listen carefully before you develop a plan of action.

Keep career development on the table.

If your employee is overworked, take some jobs off their plate; that’s easy enough. But if they’re unmotivated because they’re outgrowing the job or in need of new challenges, bring the full force of your training and connections to bear. Find new ways to help them advance within the company, provide training in-house, provide resources that can help expand their education outside of the workplace, or learn more about their goals, so you can help them reach them.

Get burnout under control before you have to deal with a bigger problem: high turnover. Start by contacting the management experts at PSU.

How to Impress Employers During Your Interview

November 23rd, 2018

When you step in the door for your interview, you want to reassure the employer that you’re trustworthy, honest, hardworking and qualified. But every other candidate in line for the role will also be aiming for the same goals. So, you don’t want to just meet that bar of expectation; you want to soar over it! To truly stand out, you’ll have to blow your employers away. You’ll have to provide more than the minimum and make a truly lasting impression. Here’s how.

Bring everything you need.

When something comes up during the conversation about your past projects, your references or just the everyday details of your resume, will you be ready? Employers are typically impressed by candidates who can just reach into their portfolio folder—or phone—and produce the item, evidence or visual aide in question. It’s a polished gesture that makes you come off as ultra-prepared.

Ask the right questions.

Most employers will provide you with a chance at the end of the interview to ask your own questions about the role, the company or anything you choose. So, ask questions that elevate your profile. Don’t just say “No, but if I have any questions later, I’ll contact you.” Instead, ask about room for advancement. Ask if this job will provide you with the training or exposure you need to advance your career. Ask anything that’s on your mind and do it boldly.

Demonstrate you’ve done some research.

Of course, you can also simply just tell your employers you’ve been spending some time online learning about the company (not many candidates do this, especially at the entry level, so this move alone can set you apart). But it’s also nice to show—not just tell—when you share what you’ve learned and how you processed that information. Based on what you independently discovered, how would you describe this company’s needs, and how are you uniquely prepared to meet those needs? How can you contribute in a positive way to the better aspects of this company’s brand and reputation? How can you alleviate the negative aspects? How can you help this team meet its long- and short-term goals?

Think, talk and listen at the same time.

Most candidates can do one of these. Many can do two or three of them as the moment requires. But how many candidates can listen to what the interviewer says, process that information, and provide intelligent insights, responses and contributions to the conversation at the same time? Surprisingly few. Intelligent conversation is an art form, and it’s a task that happens to be especially difficult during times of anxiety or pressure. If you can stay poised, smart, verbal and tuned in, let it show. You won’t be forgotten.

For more on how to impress your interviewers and land the job you need, turn to the staffing pros at PSU.

Should I Perform a Background Check?

November 9th, 2018

As a newly minted employer for your own company, or a hiring manager burdened by time and budget pressures, you may think of background checks as expensive, time-consuming and unnecessary. After interviewing a candidate who seems quite decent and friendly, you may think, “Why should I waste time on this? My candidate surely isn’t some kind of criminal.”

That’s fine, and you’re probably right. The odds are low your candidate has a shocking, violent history of grifts and murder sprees. But misdemeanors, petty theft, anger problems, sexual harassment, drug abuse and a host of other far more common red flags could influence your hiring decision and save you from a mistake … if you know about them. Here are a few reasons why a background check should play a role in your hiring process.

Background checks are simpler than you might think.

It doesn’t cost much or take much time to request a criminal background check on a candidate. And as far as tedious paperwork is concerned, don’t worry; at PSU, we can handle that for you. In fact, we perform background checks on all our candidates prior to hiring and we recommend that all employers do the same.

Avoiding a bad hire is easier than letting go of a problem employee.

Even if your hiring agreement clearly states you can release a candidate at any time for any reason, this decision is rarely so simple and clean cut. Employees often ask for—and legitimately deserve—second and third chances after an incident or performance problem, and social connections can complicate the process. You’re free to hire whomever you choose for your own reasons, but you should have the information you need to understand and manage the person you’re bringing on board.

Resumes, cover letters, interviews and reference checks won’t reveal what a background check will.

By the time we’ve reached adulthood, almost all of us have been taken in or manipulated at least a few times in our lives. This can and does happen to everyone, and when it comes to staffing and hiring, it happens all the time, everywhere. Even highly skilled experts have trouble determining whether they are hearing the whole truth. As a company manager, it’s your responsibility to trust but verify.

Criminals don’t look like criminals, ever.

If you think you can spot a candidate with an undisclosed criminal past based on visual cues alone, prepare to be surprised. And recognize that this belief places you in a double bind: Not only are you more likely to allow a smiling, well-dressed troublemaker in the door, you’re also more likely to let excellent employees slip away because you misinterpret visual signals. Think the tattooed candidate is the one with the sketchy history? Think again.

Turn to PSU for staffing and hiring support, including background checks, sourcing and screening interviews.

Why You Should Work With a Recruiter

October 26th, 2018

You may be searching for a new job and not finding success just yet. Or you may be scouring the market and not finding a job match that’s quite right for you. Or you may be experiencing a little bit of both. In any case, if you haven’t started working with a professional recruiter, now may be a great time to start. A recruiter can add energy and focus to your search, and their years on the job and deep experience with searches just like yours can help you reach heights you wouldn’t be able to reach on your own. Here’s how.

Recruiters can find job openings you can’t find on your own

Not every job is publicly posted on a website you happen to use. And no matter how wide your social network may be, your recruiter’s network is wider AND more relevant to your job search. Most recruiters have been in the business for a long time. They can access and open doors you may not even be able to see.

Recruiters know their clients better than you do

You may find an open job with your target company … but other than the information you find online, you don’t know very much about the company, or the hiring manager, at all. Here’s a tip: Your recruiter does. They can help you make a connection with a certain employer by highlighting your most relevant accomplishments and skills.

Recruiters can advocate for you

Advocating for yourself is a necessary skill during your job search, but it’s not easy. Making your own personal sales pitch will always be an uphill climb. When you have others who speak for you and can provide support and testimonials, you move from the stairs to the escalator. Your recruiter can present you to their clients and make sure they see your best qualities.

Recruiters can steer you away from trouble and wasted time

If you’re barking up the wrong tree, or chasing a job that just isn’t a match, your recruiter can often see it before you do. Sometimes the salary will be far too low. Or the advancement opportunities won’t take you where you’d like to go. Or the employers need a skill set you simply don’t have. Your recruiter can find you something better.

Recruiters can help you polish your resume

When your recruiter gives you advice about your resume, you’re wise to take it. Again, they know what your target employers are looking for and what they need to see.

For more on how to connect with a recruiter and boost your job search, turn to the experts at PSU.

 

Interviewing for Soft Skills

October 12th, 2018

Assessing a candidate’s “hard skills” during an interview can be fairly straightforward (depending on the circumstances). Since hard skills typically include demonstrable abilities or simple facts, you can always ask the candidate to demonstrate the skill or ask if they possess it. Can you speak a foreign language? Did you win this award? Are you certified in this subject area? Have you held this role before? Easy. How you weigh the candidate’s response is up to you, but by asking the question, you place the ball in their court.

By contrast, soft skills can more difficult to assess. Asking a candidate direct questions in this area won’t get you very far. For example, “Are you easy to work with?”, “Are you a team player?” and “Do you like to work hard?” are silly questions, because the answer will always be yes. Try these moves instead.

Ask for stories.

If you’re looking for leadership, ask your candidate to describe an episode in which they were required to demonstrate leadership under challenging circumstances. If you’re looking for resilience, ask the candidate to describe a time they failed at something. What happened and what did they learn? If you’re looking for teamwork, conflict resolution or negotiation skill, ask for stories that can give you a sense of these traits. As the candidate responds, read between the lines.

Consider the interview a stress test.

Never bully, intimidate or behave rudely to a candidate—that goes without saying. But keep in mind that all interviews, no matter how friendly and professional, are inherently stressful. Monitor the candidate’s response to this baseline stress. Pay attention to body language (are they twitching and sweating?) and pay attention to how the candidate bounces back from the little hiccups of the process (awkward pauses, minor disagreements, misunderstandings).

Ask questions with no wrong answers.

Questions with clear right answers (like “Are you a hard worker?”) just waste time. But when all answers are equally valid, the truth can come to the surface. Try either/or questions like these: “Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?” “Do you prefer leadership or team roles?” “If you have to choose between turning in excellent work OR meeting a deadline, which do you usually choose?”

Share some unpopular aspects of the job.

Tell your candidate about some of the more difficult, unpleasant, tedious, disgusting, boring, frustrating or unglamorous aspects of the job they’re targeting; then observe their response. A cringe followed by a long silence can speak volumes. So can a candidate who lights up and leans forward. Cleaning grease traps, dealing with angry customers, spending lonely days on the road and working odd hours are daunting to most people. If your candidate isn’t one of them, that’s a good sign.

For more on how to choose the best candidates for your position, talk to the team at PSU.

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