These Four Obstacles can Stall Your Job Search

November 27th, 2015

After months (or years) of thinking it over and gathering your courage, you’re finally ready to take action. You’re ready to start looking for a new job. It’s time to get this ball rolling, and this time, you’re serious. You finally have the momentum you need to create your resume and break free from your current dead end position or impossible boss.

First: Congratulations! Every journey begins with a single step, and the hardest part of any difficult task is making the decision to get started. Second: If you plan to reach your goal, you’ll need to keep moving, even when the going gets rough. Watch out for these potential obstacles that can stall your search and bring you back to square one.

A Counteroffer

Your new employer makes an offer, you give notice your old employer, and before you can blink, your old employer raises your salary then and there. Your new paycheck will be a few dollars more than it was in the past. But if you accept, you’ll be right back at your desk again next week, facing the same bleak prospects, the same frustrating boss, and the same miserable commute. Remember: your goal is to make a change and get out of here. Stay focused. Maybe if you tell your new employer about the counter offer, they’ll change their original number.


A rejection can be discouraging, especially after you pour your heart into your application and stay up all night preparing for your interview. And if you think one rejection is hard, you may feel pretty beaten down by the time you’ve racked up 20 of them. But don’t be deterred. If you stop searching because rejections hurt so much, you’ll just stop searching. Nothing else in the world will change. Don’t let a few disappointments or a bruised ego prevent you from moving forward. Shake them off and keep going.

False Promises

Again, if your employer finds out that you’re searching, he or she may sit down with you to determine why you aren’t happy and what can be done to keep you in your chair. But if you’re determined to go, go. Even if your employer promises to improve his behavior, adjust your workload, or support you during conflicts, don’t count on a permanent change.


Don’t get pulled off course by big developments at your current job, like an important new project or a client with an urgent issue. Give some attention to the matter at hand, but don’t abandon your job search. If you don’t have time to look for work, make time—spend at least a few minutes or an hour on your search every day until you’re settled in your new position.

For more on how to stay focused and complete your job search without giving up or getting derailed, contact the career management team at PSU.

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Make Your Meetings Better

November 20th, 2015

Your meetings may be efficient, short, and productive, but there’s a strong chance you could be getting more out each session than you already do. And there are plenty of reasons to make this happen: meetings consume a huge portion of the working day for an average employee, and every minute NOT spent in a meeting can be spent on other tasks that require focused individual attention. These extra minutes add up. Just a simple tweak to your meeting structure can help you—and your employees—accomplish more over the long term. Here are a few ways to streamline the process.

Cancel when you can.

If there’s any way to avoid scheduling a meeting or any alternative methods that can be used to accomplish the same goals, consider these alternatives. Meetings should be a last resort. As you create a list of invitees, keep the list short. Before you add a name, consider this person’s hourly salary and imagine how this time and money might be better spent.

Write down goals.

The person who decides to schedule a given meeting should document the goals of the session before distributing invitations. He or she should also type up an agenda so the session stays on track. Distributing the agenda before the meeting can help each participant know what to expect, how they can contribute, and when the session is expected to end.

Encourage contributions, but stay focused.

A totalitarian approach to meeting sessions can keep your meetings short, since everyone at the table will be afraid to speak up and will just scribble notes until it’s time to leave. On the other end of the spectrum, a relaxed open forum may encourage contributions that haven’t been fully thought out, and may turn your meeting into a rambling free-for-all. Find a sweet spot in between; encourage participants to speak up, but keep the atmosphere formal, focused, and respectful.

Planning or status?

Don’t confuse a forward-thinking planning session with a status update. If the goal is to inform, check in, and report on progress, keep the conversation centered on the present. If the goal is to look ahead and lay the ground work for future action, stay focused on the road. Make sure each participant clearly understands his or her next steps and action items before leaving the room.

Provide background before the meeting begins.

Don’t spend the first half of a long session providing updates and backstory that most of the participants already know. Distribute this information beforehand, or encourage participants to inform and educate themselves before showing up. Again, weigh the value of this time against the hourly salaries and alternative tasks of each participant.

For more on how to keep your meetings focused and purposeful, contact the staffing and business management team at PSU.

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Make a Great Impression during Your Phone Interview

November 13th, 2015

Once an open position has been posted and a pool of applicants have submitted their resumes, employers tend to choose either of two options: They can narrow the candidate pool to a small group of final contenders and then call each contender in for an in-person interview. Or they can narrow the pool to a moderate size and then screen each applicant over the phone before issuing interview invites.

Managers often choose to conduct phone screenings first, since this process saves time and money for both parties. Sometimes a few simple, direct questions can remove candidates from the list if they misunderstand the nature of the position, or they’re unable to accept the job if it’s offered.

So if your employer contacts you for a phone interview, how can you make it clear that this job is the right one for you? Keep these tips in mind.

Listen carefully.

This job may NOT actually be the right one for you, and you can save yourself plenty of hassle and headaches if you discover this sooner rather than later. Listen to the interviewer, don’t just wait for your turn to talk. She may offer valuable information about the job’s long hours, required travel, limited opportunity for advancement, or meager salary. If you still want the job, carry on. But if not, now is the time to ask follow up questions and potentially reconsider.

Be direct.

During your in-person interview, you may be asked open-ended questions that require thought and soul searching, like “What are your greatest strengths?” and “Where would you like to be in five years?” But phone interview questions are typically more straightforward, so be sure to give straightforward answers. Be honest, be clear, and keep your message short.

Consider your non-verbal gestures.

You may think that your non-verbal gestures don’t matter, since your interviewer can’t see you. But think again. Stand up (or sit up straight) as you speak. Make sure you smile when you say hello (people can hear a smile in your voice). And speak clearly and slowly—don’t rush or mumble.

Pause before you speak.

Don’t talk over your interviewer. It’s better to deal with long awkward pauses (they’re not as awkward as you think) than confusing verbal pile-ups. Let your interviewer finish speaking, then pause for two full seconds before you respond. Take your time. When you can’t see each other, it’s better to move too slowly through a conversation than it is to rush.

Deliver a shortened version of your elevator pitch.

You may have a prepared statement in mind that you plan to deliver during your in-person interview. If so, offer a stripped down version of the same basic talking points before you end your call and hang up the phone. Mention or two of the most important reasons why you feel you’re a perfect match for this job.

For more on how to ace your phone interview and land the job you need, contact the staffing and job search experts at PSU.

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How to Determine Appropriate Compensation

November 6th, 2015

You’ve completed a resume review and several rounds of interviews, and you’re ready to reach out to your chosen candidate. You have a primary contender in mind, plus two back-ups if your first says no, and all three are likely to fit the position and serve the company well. Now that you’ve found your candidate (and runners up), it’s time for the next step: assembling your offer. You need to open the negotiation by presenting a number that’s high enough to close the deal, but not high enough to leave money on the table. Here are a few moves that can help you identify that number.

Conduct research first.

A quick trip to the internet (and your own in-house experts) will start you down the right path. This move is by no means conclusive; the internet may set an average compensation bar for a candidate with this amount of experience, but that doesn’t mean your job is done. Popular salary sites can do two things: they can present you with a wide ballpark estimate, and they can provide a sense of what your candidate knows and expects. (Both of you will surely visit the same sites.)

Recognize that the candidate and the company use different metrics to determine salary.

Your salary offer will be based on two primary factors: the rarity of candidate’s skill sets (her replaceability), and the monetary value she brings to the company. If her actions bring a flood of revenue, some of that revenue should be returned to her. And if her skills are hard to find, you’ll need to stretch to keep her on board. But recognize that her metrics are different than yours. Unlike you, she’ll also be factoring in the cost of her commute, her childcare needs, the other offers she’s fielding, her previous salary, and the amount she needs in order to live the life she wants.

Ask for previous salary figures, but don’t expect an answer.

Ideally, most employers would like to pay their candidate exactly what she made at her last job, plus one dollar more. This usually represents the minimum offer that can be placed on the table. Anything less and the candidate will simply walk away. Anything more may be unnecessary to landing a yes. But recognize that if you ask for this data point, the candidate is not obligated to respond. Most savvy candidates will offer a preferred range instead.

Pay more to get more.

Nickel-and-diming your candidate may look like a thrifty move on the surface, but the long term matters more than the immediate moment. Unhappy employees disengage and eventually leave. But if they’re paid well, unhappy employees often stay, struggle through the hard times, work to impress difficult bosses, and search hard to find value in the enterprise. Err on the side of retention, and make sure that your offer is generous enough to keep your new employee loyal when the going gets rough.

For more on how to crunch the numbers and arrive at a salary offer that bring your candidate on board—and keep her there — contact the staffing team at PSU.

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