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Getting the Interviewer Past Your Age

 

Roberta Gamza, Career Ink (www.careerink.com) | © 2018

When you are a 50+ job seeker, your success depends on your attitude. If you think your age is going to be a factor, then it will become a self-fulling prophecy. You earned this interview by demonstrating your qualifications on your resume and perhaps during a phone screening. You’ve got a legitimate chance at this job, so don’t let a biased interviewer stop when she/he sees your grey tresses – take control of the interview and show them what you bring to the table.

Of course, it is natural to be concerned, age discrimination is a real thing in the workforce, but don’t carry your baggage into the interview. Interviewers can sense your discomfort and will interpret it as a lack of confidence may be due to your qualifications or maybe due to your age.

Second only to attitude is preparation in this effort. Find out everything you can about the company. What’s going on in the industry? Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis of the company and be prepared to talk about what you know. Become familiar with their products and the position they hold in the market. Learn about their competitors, especially their #1 competitor. Even if your findings are less than perfect, you’ll earn their respect for being well prepared.

Walk into the interview confident, willing to show how you can solve problems and contribute to the bottom line. Focus on what you can do for the company. Turn the interview into a working session by asking about real problems they are facing now. Specifically, ask about what keeps them up at night and what is the biggest problem you can solve for them. Tell them how you would solve the problem. If it is a gnarly problem, then show them how you approach gnarly problems. Any time the interviewer goes astray and focuses on your shortcomings, get back to solving their problems.

If you get the interviewers to trust that you can solve their problems, the job will likely be yours.

Transform Your Age into an Asset

Roberta Gamza, Career Ink (www.careerink.com) | © 2018

If you’re an experienced professional above 50, you’ve likely had a few concerns about age discrimination in the workplace. Going out into the job market at any point in your career increases anxiety levels and adding age discrimination just makes the task even more daunting.

Age discrimination is illegal, but we all know it happens, so how can you counter it and land an interview where you can show them what you can do?

It starts with a powerful, compelling resume that gets you the interview. It is imperative that your resume is targeted to the job and the company – the content must be meaningful and relevant to the employer. It must demonstrate your knowledge and skills. Pack your resume with keywords and display accomplishments that are powerful, quantified, and state the benefit the company derived.

Don’t go back to the beginning of time with your resume, 10-15 years should do it. It’s not a history of your career, but rather a marketing brochure demonstrating the value you were to previous employers while predicting your future value to employers. An earlier experience that is relevant can be included on the resume, but it does not need to be dated. It can be mentioned in a profile, summary, or an early career section.

If you are job hunting, you are going to be googled. It is an absolute must that you have a LinkedIn profile today that aligns with your resume. Just because LinkedIn will always ask for more information, does not mean you have to fill in earlier and earlier jobs. Use a flattering picture that judiciously shaves off a few years, but don’t get extreme here by using a picture that shows you 20 years younger.

We live in a social media world and while millennials may be finding jobs with Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram, if you are not comfortable doing so, don’t. But certainly, educate yourself on these social media platforms and get comfortable talking about them.

Keep yourself technologically savvy — up to date with technology in general, but most importantly the technology and trends in your profession and industry. Stay current, get necessary certifications, or take refreshers if your certifications or any of your training is dated.

Don’t forget about current software and applications. Consider enrolling in local classes or take the online classes (LinkedIn Learning), look at the software’s demonstrations, take their tutorials, or download free trials to boost your knowledge.

If you demonstrate that you are continuing to learn and getting better every day on your resume, in phone screenings, and during the interview, your extensive experience can become an asset.

How to Write Your First Resume

How to Write Your First Resume

Roberta Gamza, Career Ink (www.careerink.com) | © 2017

Hot Not to Lose the Job

Congratulations Graduate!  You’ve earned that degree; now is the time to put it to work and land your first job. You’re going to need a resume!

Sounds intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The goal of a resume is to generate interest and interviews, so your resume must position you as a valuable candidate. As a new grad, you may feel you lack the experience necessary to do that, but you have more experience than you think.

Resume writing must start with a goal and that goal is to land a desirable job with a desirable employer, not just any job with any employer. Make a list of companies and positions that are of interest. Then look for job postings that align with your choices. Carefully examine those postings and look for keywords. Keywords are the words applicant tracking systems are going to use to filter online applicants; they are industry buzzwords and terminology, the names of applications and tools you use in performing the job, action verbs, and hard skills you need to perform the job. Job postings are loaded with keywords and your resume needs to contain about 70% of the keywords the hiring manager selected to pass the filter. Now that you have your targeted employers and positions, you can work on your resume content strategy. Resumes are future-focused marketing documents intended to position you as the best candidate for the job. They must contain content that is meaningful and relevant to the hiring manager and demonstrate your potential to learn and perform. To gather content, take a fresh look at your classes and class projects, extracurricular activities, volunteer experiences, and jobs, even the menial jobs you’ve held. There’s a lot more there than you think.

There are 3 resume sections that are a must for new grads: Education and Relevant Coursework, Work Experience (paid and unpaid), and Extracurricular Activities.

Education and Relevant Coursework

  • Coursework and projects often simulate real-world work and can add valuable experience to the resume just like internships and fellowships.
  • Academic or project competitions can highlight your contributions, teamwork, and accomplishments.
  • Participation in special academic programs and international studies speak highly of you.

Work Experience

  • Summer jobs demonstrate dependability, trustworthiness, accomplishment, and growth in responsibility.
  • On-campus and off-campus jobs while attending classes demonstrate time management, organization, and prioritization skills while revealing your motivation and determination.
  • Internships

Extracurricular Activities

  • Volunteer roles, working with community charities and fundraisers can show everything from leadership, commitment, and problem-solving skills to passion and kindness.
  • Roles and responsibilities in fraternities, sororities, as well as student clubs and organizations show your commitment, initiative, and often teamwork and/or leadership qualities. If you’ve planned and led a special event, you have experience in project planning, logistics, leadership, and fiscal management.

Be sure to write powerfully and concisely; use active tense. Allow sufficient time for this part of the process. It takes much more time to write tight, concise, and targeted content. Be prepared to write and rewrite a few iterations of your resume. Remember format is equally as important as content. You must make it easy for the reader to consume this content, so forget gimmicks, slick fonts, and brightly colored paper unless you are a graphic artist. Stick to tried and true, common fonts and use plenty of white space and bold judiciously. Don’t use templates unless you want to look like everyone else. Most importantly, never determine length before you have your content. Your resume may fit on one page, but don’t try to cram it onto one page. If your content demands more than one page, go to two pages. Just be sure all content is meaningful and relevant to the position you seek.

Top 10 Tips for Writing a Great Resume

Does your resume grab the attention and hit home with employers? Does it generate responses? A resume is not just a history of your career, a listing of jobs you held and the tasks you performed. It’s a future-oriented marketing piece positioning you as the most qualified candidate for a position. To do that, the content must be based on the position you are seeking, not just the ones you held. The content needs to be meaningful and relevant to the employer. It must demonstrate initiative, problem-solving, and value to previous employers.

Know what’s important to the employer. Begin with a strongly focused introduction. Concisely summarize responsibilities and focus on your accomplishments. Be very strategic; paint the right picture with your words. Use formatting to enhance readability and drive your message home. Write tight; trim and polish at least three times. Take these 10 tips to heart when preparing your resume.

  1. Get into the right mindset. Overcome procrastination and don’t lose sight of the real goal. It may seem like your goal is to write your resume, but your real goal is to capture the employer’s attention and land a job.
  2. Start fresh. Get rid of old resume baggage. Keep your eye on the job you are seeking. Approach your resume with today’s perspective.
  3. Assume the employer’s perspective. It’s not the story you want to tell, but the story the employer wants to hear. Demonstrate you can solve problems, save money, and make money.
  4. Don’t tell me, sell me! Job hunting is a sales job. Your resume is a sales tool, marketing brochure, and calling card. In sales features attract, but benefits sell. Load your resume with benefits. Articulate your value, previous contributions, and successes.
  5. Use industry keywords liberally and appropriately. Don’t just dump them in the resume, use them in context throughout the resume.
  6. Capture attention with a combination style that includes an introduction, career history, short job descriptions, bulleted accomplishments, education/professional development, specialized training, credentials, and certifications as well as affiliations, memberships, and community involvement.
  7. Distinguish responsibilities from accomplishments. Responsibilities are the tasks they hired you to do; anyone with your same title has the same responsibilities. Accomplishments tell us how well you performed those tasks and how valuable you were to your employer. Accomplishments are unique to you. They differentiate you from other candidates.

Avoid weak responsibilities; they do more harm than good. Ineffective resumes include long laundry lists of bulleted responsibilities. They tend to be passive, uninspiring, and make you look like every other candidate. (i.e., troubleshoot networking components, install, configure, and maintain computer equipment). Do not just repeat your job description.

Use strong responsibilities that paint a robust picture of what you did. (i.e., Service Manager. Managed a 7-member team repairing an average of 390 warranty and non-warranty repair orders per month.)

  1. Make accomplishments strong. Maximize the most powerful content on your resume. Quantify or explain the impact of your work on the organization. Frame your results with context. State how you improved or streamlined something, mentored someone, avoided a crisis, helped a customer, increased productivity, saved money, and so on. (i.e., Consistently beat annual profit target of $1.5M by at least 2X. Delivered 20% of company’s total 2015 revenue with 15% profit margin.)
  2. Avoid standard templates that make you look like every other candidate and follow good resume writing practices. Be generous with white space; select a common font; vary sentence structure and employ parallel construction; use emphasis sparingly; be consistent in capitalization, punctuation, spelling, type, and line spacing.
  3. Edit, proof, and polish at least twice, then walk away and look it over with fresh eyes in a day or so.
Written by: Roberta Gamza (www.careerink.com)

Really Different or Rarely Different?

Really Different or Rarely Different?

I hate labels such as “Millennials” – a term first coined by Strauss & Howe in their book Generations.

My wife asked me to write an article on Millennials in the Workplace. The general definition of Millennials seems to be those born between 1980 and 2000. Now, I am in the habit of doing (almost) everything my wife asks of me, but why me? I doubt I have anything more to add to the myriad of opinions out there. Everyone has a position on the topic, and none of the research is conclusive. I have spent the last week having an internal debate in my head and thinking of reasons why I should not do this. I can’t justify turning down my wife…

So here is my Generation X (generally born between 1960 and 1980) observations, solely within the workplace.

This is based upon what I have observed, what I feel etc., not scientific conclusions, just my biased non-researched views. So there, you can’t challenge me for this article. And, by the way, what qualifies me as remotely capable of writing down my views? Probably because I have three Millennials as kids and that I work with about 30 of them at Wazee Digital every day.

The way I think about Millennials in the Workplace is to begin by understanding what they faced when they entered the workplace. Yes, there could be all sorts of psychological factors that influenced them prior to that. However, I focus on what they faced from about 2005 to 2010 when the earliest group of them left their college and protective parent years behind and entered the workplace. Not quite losing the generational lottery, but during this short 5-year period here is what they generally saw:

  • Global Financial Crises & the Mortgage Loan debacle
  • Many of their parents unemployed and or savings depleted
  • Disastrous and costly Middle East Wars
  • Climate Change and an Environmental mess
  • Political gridlock
  • Corporate scandals
  • Resurgent China and offshoring depressing wages
  • Terrorism close to home

As I think about it, the only things Generation X have provided Millennials that provide great utility are The Internet, the cellphone & e-commerce.

So, I totally understand why Millennials often exhibit a high degree of skepticism and distrust with Generation X. Estimates say that by 2020, nearly half of all workers in the workplace will be Millennials. I believe all workplaces have this unavoidable Millennial/Gen X combination – typically with Gen X as management and Millennial as non-management. Workplaces will have to understand these factors and challenge the traditional management/employee dynamic. For me, the cornerstone is all about inspiring the Millennials, understanding the different views and avoiding stereotypes.

While I agreed with my wife to write an article (short), not an essay (long), let me close by listing all the disparaging terms I hear about Millennials and give you my opinion as they relate to the workplace: They.

  • Have a lesser work ethic than Gen X – untrue. You are not inspiring them.
  • Want to do meaningful work – true. What’s wrong with that?
  • Have been so sheltered – why is this even relevant? If it’s true it’s the Gen X’s fault – so fix it.
  • Are overconfident – great.
  • Provide immediate candid feedback – who wants to work with folks who “suffer in silence” anyway?
  • Think communication is texting – true. Texting and email are great for information sharing but awful for convincing or relationship building.
  • See supervisors as mentors, not bosses – yes, Gen X’ers they actually want your help!
  • Are over-entitled – sometimes. Probably because Gen X parents overprotected them and are not finding that “air-cover” in the workplace.
  • Don’t have a defined career path – fair point. Keep encouraging and give them the freedom to explore.
  • Value job satisfaction over financial rewards – correct. But the Gen X obsession with money has not worked out so well.
  • Look for a better work/life balance – correct. Why not? Travel, health, and rest are proven to provide more productive employees.
  • Don’t trust management – correct. Most Gen X management teams have not earned this trust.
  • Change jobs when the going gets tough – fair point. This is one the Millennials must own. The grass is rarely greener.
  • Don’t ascribe to Corporate Values – partially true. But most corporate values are BS anyway.
  • Rudely multi-task – yes, Millennials (and a number of Gen X’ers) you are guilty as charged. You can’t fully participate in a conversation and have one eye on your phone.
  • Have a strong BS detection antennae – correct. They sniff this out very well.
  • Have a greater sense of community purpose – correct. Companies should be part of the societies in which they live. Millennials are challenging companies to turn this from an annual report fable into a true commitment.

Hopefully, my views can form part of the beginning of a generational understanding in the workplace not the end of the debate. Yet most of all, I hope that Millennials have the courage to mimic the Gen X strengths and learn from our Gen X’s many mistakes – so that they can preserve my social security benefits for years to come!

Mark A. Pougnet | COO and CFO

“Why Should I Hire You?”

“Why should I hire you?”

This question might be a lead-in to your worst interview nightmare. However, every employer wants to know why you deserve the job. Be prepared to tell your interviewer why “you” would be a great fit for the position! Better yet, present yourself in a way that provides an answer before the question is ever asked. This is a very valid question if you are to put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes.

Know the job description: Do your homework and make sure you examine the job description point by point. Know the requirements of the position you’re applying for and how well suited you are to the position. Make notes on work you’ve done or skills you’ve grown that exactly match points on the job description. Also, note skills you may need to learn to be successful in the role. Be honest with the interviewer about your limitations, but focus on your strengths. Tell the interviewer why you would be great at the job.
Give concrete examples: While you are looking over the job description, make notes about past projects, growth experiences or life skills that make you well suited for the position or company. Take your notes into the interview and make sure you speak to specific points that show them you’re right for the position. Employers want to know that you’ll fit into their culture and that you’ll hit the ground running.
Be confident in your abilities: The best interviews end with you silently asking yourself, “Why wouldn’t they hire me?” Sell your skills and experience in a confident, but a non-arrogant way. You bring unique skills, knowledge, and experience to the table. Remember that the interviewer is just getting to know you, so you will need to tell them (and show them!) who you are and what you will contribute to their company.
Dress for success: Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Strive to be someone they remember as well put together from head to toe. Even if you know the work environment is casual, go to the interview as if you are applying for a CEO position. A well-dressed person oozes confidence, professionalism, and respect; all traits employers seek.
With a little practice, you can master the art of giving a good interview. ACLIVITY offers a variety of Career Services that help you get the job! Call us for coaching, resume help or interview skills training. We’re here to help!

Conducting a Successful Job Search

Thanks to the Internet, searching for a job today is vastly different than it used to be. Until fairly recently, a job seeker browsed local classified ads, found a compatible-sounding job listing, prepared an elegant résumé on bond paper, and sent it out by fax or U.S. mail. That has changed. Today, finding and landing a great job comes with the challenge of learning how to utilize the many available Internet resources to aid in your search.

Searching for a Job on Internet Job Boards
Searching for a job online has become a common, but not always fruitful, approach. With all the publicity given to Internet-based job boards and career sites, you might think that online job searching makes finding a job easy. Job board sites such as CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com list millions of jobs, but actually landing a position is much harder than just clicking your mouse and waiting for a reply; it takes perseverance and wise use of online job boards.

  • Career Builder (careerbuilder.com)CareerBuilder claims to be the nation’s largest employment network. Users can search millions of jobs by category, geographic location, keyword, industry, or job type (full-time, part-time, internship).
  • Indeed (indeed.com)One of the newest and fastest growing job search sites on the Internet, Indeed.com is a metasearch engine that uses a Google-like interface to search the Internet for open job listings.
  • Monster (monster.com): Monster.com offers access to information on millions of jobs worldwide using a search technology called 6Sense that matches applicants with the best job opportunities for their skills. Because of this cutting-edge search system, many consider Monster.com to be the Internet’s premier job site.
  • College Grad (collegegrad.com)CollegeGrad advertises itself as the “number one entry-level job site” for students and recent graduates. In addition to searching for entry-level jobs, users can also search for undergraduate and graduate degree programs to help them develop marketable skills.
  • Career JournalPart of The Wall Street Journal; CareerJournal provides listings for high-level executive and finance positions.

Beyond the Big Internet Job Boards
Many job seekers may turn their backs on job boards but not on online job-searching tactics. Savvy candidates know to search for jobs in other ways. Some examples are:

  • Company Web Sites: Probably the best way to find a job online is at a company’s own website. Many companies now post job openings only on their own websites to avoid inundation by the volume of applicants that respond to postings via online job boards. Many job seekers find that they are more likely to obtain an interview if they post their résumés on company sites. This allows a more direct connection to decision makers, and job seekers can keep their job searches (and personal information!) more private than on job boards.
  • Professional Organization Websites: Online job listings have proven to be the single most popular feature of many professional organizations, such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the National Association of Sales Professionals, the National Association of Legal Assistants, and the Association of Information Technology Professionals. Although you pay a fee to join, the benefits of being a member of a professional association in your career field are enormous. Remember that it is never too early to start networking. If you join a professional organization while you are still in college, you will be setting yourself up for future success as you build a network of professional connections.
  • JobCentral National Labor Exchange: JobCentral is a public service website provided by the DirectEmployers Association, a nonprofit consortium of Fortune 500 and other leading U.S. corporations. Many companies now use jobcentral.com as a gateway to job listings on their own websites, which results in the advertising of millions of jobs. Best of all, this service is free and bypasses the big commercial job boards. You can search for a job description or job title, and apply directly on the website of the hiring company.
  • Local Employment Web Sites: Although many of the big job boards allow you to search for jobs geographically, many job seekers have more luck using local employment websites such as CraigslistCumulus Jobs and JobStar.
  • Niche Web Sites: If you want a job in a specialized field, look for a niche website, such as Dice (dice.com) for technology jobs, Advance for Health Care (www.advanceweb.com/jobs/healthcare/index.html) for jobs in the medical field, and Accountemps (www.accountemps.com) for accounting positions. Niche websites also exist for job seekers with special backgrounds or needs, such as older workers (www.workforce50.com) and veterans (www.veteranjoblistings.com).

Social Media Sites
Perhaps you already use sites such as Facebook or Twitter to communicate with family and friends. Did you know that users are increasingly tapping into social media sites to prospect for jobs and that recruiters use these sites to find potential employees? LinkedIn is currently the top site for job seekers, with over 200 million users, including job seekers and recruiters. Other popular sites include Plaxo, TheLadders, BlueSteps, and Jobster. Twitter has created a job search engine called TwitJobSearch (www.twitjobsearch.com), and many companies now post recruitment videos on YouTube. Savvy job seekers use these tools to network and to search for available positions. Of course, the most successful job seekers understand the necessity of maintaining a professional online appearance and taking the time to connect personally with recruiters.

Use Caution
Be aware of the dangers associated with using Internet job boards and other employment websites. Not only could your current boss see your résumé posted online, but a fraudster could also use your information to steal your identity. The following tips can help you safely conduct an online job search:

  • Use reputable sites: Stick to the well-known, reputable job boards. Never use a site that makes you pay to post your résumé or a site that makes you feel uneasy.
  • Be selective: Limit the number of sites on which you post your résumé. Employers dislike “résumé spammers.”
  • Use a dedicated e-mail address: Set up a separate e-mail account with a professional-sounding e-mail address for sending and receiving emails related to your job search.
  • Limit personal information: Never include your social security or other identification numbers on your résumé. Consider omitting your home address and home phone number to protect your privacy when posting on big job boards.
  • Post privately: If given an option, choose to post your résumé privately. Doing so means that you can control who has access to your e-mail address and other contact information.
  • Count the days: Renew your résumé posting every 14 days. If you keep it up longer, it will look as if employers have no interest in you. If you have not received a response in 45 days, pull your résumé from the site and post it somewhere else.
  • Keep careful records: Keep a record of every site on which you post your résumé. At the end of your job search, remove all posted résumés.
  • Protect your references: If you post your résumé online, do not include your references. It is unethical for job seekers to post their references’ personal contact information online without the references’ knowledge.
  • Do not respond to a “blind” job posting: Respond only to job postings that include a company name and contact information. It is unfortunate that many scammers use online job boards to post fake job ads as a way to gather your personal information.

Finding the Perfect Job (For Students)
A successful job search requires an early start and a determined effort. Students with proactive personalities are the most successful in securing interviews and jobs during and after college. These successful candidates are not passive; they are driven and “make things happen.” Recruiters respond to a proactive nature. They will also consider your education, life experience, grade point averages, and internships when reviewing your qualifications. Communicating what you have learned inside and outside the classroom—and connecting with other—people will continue to be critical elements in landing a great job. Traditional job search techniques, such as those below, can help you find a position that fits your interests and skills while building your professional and personal network.

  • Check announcements in publications of professional organizations: If you do not have a student membership to professional organizations, ask your instructors (or librarian) to share current copies of professional journals, newsletters, and other industry resources.
  • Contact companies in which you are interested, even if you know of no current opening: Write an unsolicited letter and include your résumé. Follow up with a telephone call. Check the company’s website for employment possibilities and application procedures.
  • To learn immediately of job openings, use Twitter to follow companies that interest you.
  • Sign up for campus interviews with visiting company representatives: Campus recruiters can open your eyes to exciting companies, job locations, and positions. They can also help you prepare by offering mock interviews.
  • Ask for advice from your instructors: Your teachers often have contacts and ideas for conducting and expanding your job search and growing your skills.
  • Develop your own network of contacts: Networking still accounts for most of the jobs found by candidates. Therefore, plan to spend a considerable portion of your job search for developing a personal network.
  • Attend career fairs: Job fairs are invaluable in the quest to learn about specific companies and future career options. The more you know about the company and its representatives, the more comfortable you will be soliciting a position and giving a great interview.

For information on conducting a successful search for a job, creating a standout resume or performing well in your interviews, contact us. Our Career Services can help you succeed!

Seven Ways to Nurture Your Company Culture

“Defining Your Company Culture” helped you ask the questions – and come up with the answers – that hone in on, and clarify, the culture you want your business to represent. But, it’s not enough to just define your culture, you need to maintain it, communicate it and keep it a living, breathing part of your business. Consider these seven ways to nurture your company culture. Define and communicate your core values. It’s easy to be cynical about this – until you realize how important it is. Some companies come into existence knowing their core values are to “never sacrifice quality” or “always do the right thing.” But if they don’t communicate it, and hold employees to that standard, those values go unsupported. Know your values and communicate them. If you’re not so clear on your values, ask your team to (anonymously) comment on what they think the company’s values are. This could be a rude awakening if you haven’t been careful to manage your values, but it can also give you an idea of what messages are coming across – so you know which messages you need to manage. Defining and communicating your values is key to bringing everyone on the same team to support the specific vision of your company. Keep it fun. Culture is all about a certain version of fun. No matter what business you’re in, you can have fun. You could host events for families (summer picnics?), publish media that is specifically for your employees (a weekly newsletter to keep them informed and inspired), dress-up days (wear costumes to work) or any engaging and fun activity that purposely blurs the lines between personal and work life. Show employees you care about them (for real). To build loyalty among your employees, make sure to show you care about them in the totality of their lives. When they start working for you, find out their kids’ birthdays and their wedding-anniversary date, to commemorate those events with a card or a call. Ask about their hobbies and interests, so you can talk about those things, or reward them in ways they’ll actually enjoy. Hire only the types of people who fit your culture. Finding people who fit for your company can be difficult. It’s common to interview dozens of people and only find one that would actually match your environment. Though hiring is a challenge, don’t settle for someone just because they’re a body to fill a position. Make hiring easier by narrowing the field. Place well-crafted employment ads that define the culture, and demonstrate what fitting that culture would mean in action. Create interview questions that help you define the candidate’s fit for the culture (“How do you spend your free time” or “Select three values from the list below that tell us what kind of person you are.”) Administering a skills test during an interview is a great way to see what aptitudes a person brings with them and get a feel for how a person reacts when they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. Everything about your interview (and possibly a probationary period) should allow the candidate to demonstrate how well they fit your vision, mission, and culture. Hire only the employees that really fit. Get rid of employees that “don’t fit.” Now that you’re trying to hire the best fit for your company, apply that logic to deciding who to keep. Odds are you have staff that is holding you back from embodying the identity you’re trying to bring to life. Many of us have worked for a company where employees whine, act like children, are difficult to work with and generally don’t produce the work results or have the personal qualities that make them a good team member. If you’ve given employees the tools they need to succeed and they aren’t succeeding, you have an obligation to remove them from your team. No matter how developed your culture, retaining staff that undermines your cultural values has a negative effect on your team. Check in to see how it’s going. Come up with ways to measure your employees’ satisfaction periodically, and then respond to their feedback. Be sure to make any feedback you request anonymous, and don’t just focus on the positive feedback while ignoring signs that you need to improve your management. Employees want to know that you take their ideas seriously. When you receive feedback that is negative, act on it. Change the situation. Make things better. Employees will notice if you pat yourself on the back for the positive feedback and ignore the rest. Deal with the criticism and use it to make your culture stronger, clearer and more attractive for your employees. Acknowledge your employees. Everyone loves getting a paycheck, but that’s not the most important thing about having a job. We spend so much of our time at work that how we are made to feel at the office determines how happy we are. We all want acknowledgment, respect, recognition, and a simple “thank you.” Don’t expect that paying the wages is all it takes to get great work, and loyalty, from your team. Give them a little extra appreciation and they’ll keep supporting your culture and company success. Once you’ve taken steps to define your culture, keep developing and maintaining it. After all, when employees enjoy coming to work, they are more likely to contribute their best efforts and stay around. Though nurturing the culture you have defined is a daily, challenging task, it can help you boost productivity and retain your top talent.

Defining Your Company Culture

The answers lie in the culture you’ve created.

Developing a unique culture that helps your employees drive performance is a significant way in which you can differentiate your company. The challenge is that culture is extremely difficult for leaders to pinpoint, define, quantify, and understand at a level that they can actually manage. It may seem like a nebulous or fluffy concept to those who are used to managing via quantifiable data — and it’s even more challenging to identify aspects of an organization’s culture that, if proactively managed, will have a tangible, positive impact on performance. In this way, the people you retain to implement and manage your organizational, employee and company cultures will be some of the most important people on your team.

Let’s look at three different ways culture is at play in your business.

Organizational culture is the behavior of the people who are part of your organization, and the meanings that they assign to their actions (“Why do I/we do this work?”). Organizational culture includes your company’s values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs, and habits.

Employee culture is created by the beliefs and behaviors that dictate how your company’s employees are treated, trained, incentivized, how management interacts with employees, and how each person handles outside business transactions.

Corporate culture is often implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. One can also hire specifically to develop a corporate culture rather than letting the definition happen an undefined way.

You can put these definitions to work in this way: Corporate culture is built on the people you hire, and collectively, those people define how the company “feels” while it does what it does. The people you hire work inside an employee culture, which determines how it feels to work inside the corporate culture. The organizational culture is created by how the employee and corporate cultures impact the team’s ability to meet organizational goals.

Defining Your Culture

Looking to define your culture? Think about these three questions”

Why does the company exist and where is it headed? How does it do what it does? Successful companies have employees who are committed to the company mission and have a shared vision of the future. Define morals, attitudes, and tactics that are acceptable to your company as it does what it does. The premise of your organization can serve to galvanize the staff toward the success of your mission (Ending child hunger? Helping the world? Employees can get behind that!).

What skills and supports do employees need to do their jobs successfully? How will you structure training and support? What type of employees will best help you achieve your organizational objectives, and what tracks for promotion are available? It’s important to think about what employees experience when being hired, on-boarded, trained and supported in their daily work. Top-performing companies have employees who feel ownership over their work and provide input on organizational decisions. These employees are more likely to take responsibility within the organization and shoulder the autonomy to carry out those responsibilities. With thoughtful training and a structure that allows for support and advancement within the company, employees are more likely to take the initiative to grow their careers at the company that has supported their development.

How will your organizational structure allow decisions to be made effectively and efficiently? How will people be encouraged to operate in accordance with the stated values and norms of the company? Be clear about what you stand for, and the hierarchy or methods that will allow your business will solve problems. Create systems that help stakeholders reach consensus and know what your values dictate you’ll say “yes” or “no” to. Make your objectives and values clear – so that employees, customers, and shareholders can applaud you when you get it right, and identify actions that mean you’re getting it wrong.

Most employees tend to prefer a work environment where organizational goals are communicated and the company has developed methods to support the employees while they meet goals. The way you define evolve your company’s culture will touch nearly everything that happens – or doesn’t happen – in your company. Though clarifying your culture can be a tricky, time consuming (and daily) task, it is incredibly important to your success.

5 Common Workplace Myths

Everyone brings ideas about what’s “good” and “bad” in the workplace. Your ideas about how you are supposed to perform your role will affect not only the company and the team, they will affect you too! While some employees choose to stress out, check out, just wing it, stay in a rut or keep their mouth shut, wise, professional employees keep it together, stay focused and contribute. If any of these 5 workplace myths are directing your actions at work, you might want to reconsider your ideas of what’s “good” and “bad”.

Multi-tasking is the best way to go: Just because you can do more than one thing at a time doesn’t mean it’s effective. If you are splitting your attention between a phone call and an email, odds are good you are not going to be focused enough to take in the details of either task. You tune out your conversation while you’re typing your email, or send your email while you’re talking and lose focus that would allow you to catch your mistakes. Especially if you have a lot of work to do, do one task at a time. If you’re multi-tasking, you might limit your ability to get the job done effectively. Stay focused, and each part of your work will turn out better. And, you’ll save yourself the stress of juggling too many things at once.

It’s OK for you to chat with your friends at work: You may have close and long-lasting friendships with your coworkers. If you do, keep them professional. Don’t give preferential treatment to your friends or exclude other team members. Establish clear boundaries that will help you and your friends stay out of deep or personal territory, and keep your actions and discussions professional.

You don’t need to track your work because you know what you’re doing: Chances are you have a lot of individual tasks, processes and deliverables tugging at your attention. If you’re not keeping track of what needs to happen, and when, you might miss important details. You’ll be more productive if you plan your day ahead of time and group similar tasks to create a more streamlined workflow. If mornings are the most hectic, plan your day at the end of the previous weekday – or vice versa. Having your tasks and timelines mapped out will keep you on track when there is so much work to do that it’s hard to think.

It’s better if you stay in your comfort zone: Most jobs are routine. If you’re not careful, you might think that you should stay right where you are, doing exactly what you’re doing, just the way you’re doing it. Things are working, right? Everything is fine. However, coming out of your comfort zone is important – as a push toward professional and personal growth. To push the envelope a bit, reinvent processes to make your work more accurate or efficient, volunteer for projects or tasks that pose a challenge, ask a supervisor for direction on expanding your knowledge. Learning new skills makes your mind stronger, and spreading your wings a little might help you create professional connections. Of course, you need to be a reliable and focused employee, but while you’re at it, push your limits.

Being assertive will get you in trouble: The professional environment is a collaborative space. Though some team members are more ‘senior’ than others, each person has unique knowledge and perspective to contribute. There are times when stating what you think, want or believe in can be intimidating. If the stage isn’t set for smooth and easy dialogue, you might need to be assertive. But don’t worry. Assertive doesn’t mean aggressive, or that you should deny other’s rights to state their opinions. It just means to stand firm and thoughtfully (and calmly) state your ideas and suggestions. Take an active part in the discussion and advocate for change when it’s needed.

The rules you follow at work can support, or hinder, your Professional success. Your attitude, methods and personal style can allow you to contribute your best at work, become a valued member of the team and grow your skills. You spend a lot of time at work. You might as well make good use of it!

Looking for a new opportunity? Contact us today!

How to Answer the Most Common Interview Questions

Job interviews can intimidate even the most hardened professionals. It’s a challenge to be on the spot and come up with targeted answers to questions that you may not have prepared for, especially when you want to be (or NEED to be) offered a job. Even if you’re a perfect fit for the job and a great communicator in normal circumstances, on the day of the interview you might find it difficult to convey your skills when stammering becomes your primary method of communication. But preparation… ah, preparation. It can foil the nerves and make you sound concise, even erudite.

How do you prepare? With some online research and time spent considering your strengths, interests, and needs, you can be prepared to answer a variety of interview questions. Below, we’ll cover the ten most common questions. With just a few well-constructed sentences, you can win over an interviewer and find the words to express just how perfect you are for the position.

As you look over the questions below, think about how you might answer. Your responses don’t have to be wordy but, if you want the job, they do have to be well-targeted and speak to the point the interviewer is trying to get you to talk about.

Tell me a little about yourself. The interviewer really wants to know how you’ve directed your life experience to be where you are today – and how they might benefit from your experience. A seemingly innocuous question, this one could sound like you’re being asked to share about your personal life. But, it isn’t a personal question. It’s an opportunity, like every other interview question, to tell the interviewer how you fit into the company or position. When sharing bits of your history, include accomplishments or experiences that have helped prepare you for the job you’re applying for. Make your answer succinct; don’t expand on your entire personal or professional history.

How much do you know about the company? The interviewer really wants to know if you’ve done your homework and knew what you were getting yourself into before you sat down for the interview. You could give a simple answer, something you found on the company website, but the interviewer has already heard that from candidates they didn’t hire. Make a short statement focused on what you know about the company’s goals, vision and culture and add a personal touch about how you gravitate toward, and might support those goals.

Describe your areas of strength. The interviewer really wants to know how the skills and attitudes you’re bringing to the table might play out against the responsibilities of the role. Whichever of your strengths you choose to highlight, pick the ones most relevant to the position, and then elaborate. For instance, if great at working under pressure, you might say, way like “I am able to manage multiple priorities effectively and under pressure. I think that will be important as a (Job Title).”

Describe a few of your weaknesses. The interviewer really wants to know how self-aware and honest you are, and how your shortcomings might show up if you are hired. Everyone has weaknesses, and if you can’t talk about them, or show you’re working on self-improvement, you’re not going to be able to answer this question. You don’t have to share too much personal information, just a couple of things you’re currently struggling with but are trying to improve. For instance, “I’m not great with conflict so I’m working on developing my communication and stress management skills. I’d like to learn to remain present, open and communicative when conflict arises so that I can excel in situations where conflict is a necessary part of strategy development.”

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? The interviewer really just wants to hear you say that the work you’ve done has had a positive, productive result. Give the interviewer some context before you dive into what you did and what was achieved. If you’ve singlehandedly reworked the company’s operational goals, improved workplace efficiency, or increased revenue by 500%, say so. For some in the workforce, this will be a tough question to answer. If you’re not a manager or process developer, your positions might not have afforded you the opportunity to accomplish extraordinary things. But in each position, there is room for accomplishment. Describe anyway in which you’ve excelled at your position and highlight the results of your efforts, even if the results aren’t mind-blowing. You might have more to say here if you’ve expertly managed finances to reduce expenses by 25% or managed company mergers. Don’t be shy about stating your accomplishments, no matter your previous experience.

Why are you looking for a job? Why did you leave your last job? The interviewer really wants to know if you were in a position that didn’t fit you, if you behaved badly, or if you’ll make excuses to explain why you’re interviewing. No matter the reason you’re looking for a job, keep it positive. Don’t throw anyone under the bus, even if you had to leave your last job because the manager was inept, yet entrenched, and brought down the morale of everyone in the office. Give a short explanation and then state that you’re trying to find a better fit, and you believe the company you’re interviewing for is that fit.

Why do you want this job? The interviewer wants to know if you really want the job and understand the company and the role you’ll be playing. Employers want to hire someone who is enthusiastic about the job. This is another opportunity to fill your answer with reasons you’d be a great fit for the job and company. Rehash why you are the best pick for the role and why you’re excited about working for the company. Talk about how you think you can contribute immediately and make an impact long-term.

Why should we hire you? The interviewer really wants to know why they should care that you want the job when so many others do too. Here is another opportunity to tell why you’re the best hire. Try to stay away from half-hearted responses like, “I’m fully capable of the work required.” Focus on how well you’ll fit into the culture, that you’re great to work with and how thrilled they will be with their choice when you use your skills and experience to their benefit.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? The interviewer really wants to know if you’re interested in moving through or moving up. This is not a personal question. It’s about where you see your career going. If you’re interviewing for a job that has no room for advancement, don’t say, “I see myself growing into a new position with the company.” In most professional roles, there is a need for ambition and drive, so an answer focused on growth would be appropriate. Demonstrate that you have realistic expectations of the position and your trajectory, and know that it’s ok if you don’t have it figured out yet. Maybe this position will help you define what’s next.

Do you have any questions for me? The interviewer wants to see if you’ll take the easy way out and say “No.” Always, always, always say, “Yes” to this question. Before your interview, do some online research to identify questions you might ask the interviewer. (We’ve posted an article with some great questions to ask, which you can find at https://aclivity.com/questions-to-ask-in-an-interview/ ) When this question comes up, you have a chance to learn more about how the company might be a good fit for you. Ask about the team, the pressure, the expectations, the down-sides – anything to gain insight into the reality of working for the company.

When you have been offered an interview, it’s important to make the most of the opportunity. Being prepared to answer the interviewer’s questions will help you feel at ease while you are trying to make a positive impression. It will also help you stand out from other applicants. Remember that job hunting is about finding the right fit. Though you want to convince the interviewer to hire you, be sure it’s a job and company that really fit what you have to offer and can support you in taking your career where you want it to go.

For more interviewing tips, or to take advantage of our Career Services, contact us today!

Setting Your Team – And Temp – Up for Success

Utilizing the services of a Temporary employee can be incredibly beneficial to your team’s productivity and success. Finding the right resource, in this job market, is pretty easy. Getting a new person acclimated and up to speed is the challenge.

Some employers believe that when a Temp comes on board, it should be plug-and-play. The Temp should show up in the right place at the right time, get right to work, contribute exactly what is needed to the team or project, and that’s that. No support necessary. Let’s rethink this idea. For a few seconds, imagine how it feels when you come into a new environment and want to feel welcome, be acclimated quickly, find and embrace your niche. You’re the new kid here. Do you want to be left to your own devices, or would some help make it easier on you (and everyone around you)?

In our experience, our clients’ state of preparation when contracting a Temp has a strong influence on the assignment’s success. If a client has not prepared for a Temp’s arrival, it can result in an awkward, unproductive and disheartening experience for everyone involved. Think back, doesn’t it make sense that we all come up to speed a little quicker with some support? Set your Temp – and team – up for success by putting the tips below into action.

  1. Ready the existing staff. Make sure that your current staff knows when a Temp will be coming in. Tell your team why you are bringing in outside help, what you expect that help to do for the team and convey your expectations of your team’s behavior and relationship with the Temp. Will certain staff members be responsible for orienting the Temp? What about when the Temp needs training or oversight? Let your team know your expectations ahead of time, so they can think through their role in the process, adjust their workload, and be ready when the Temp arrives. You can bolster your team’s faith in the help you are bringing in by qualifying the value of the Temp. Let your team know the history, skills or industry experience the Temp is bringing to the table. Remember to encourage your team to come at the experience with a good attitude, no matter how heavy the current workload, or how tense (or loose!) the work environment. Ask your team to refrain from complaints or derogatory statements about the workload, or other staff to allow the Temp to come into a positive workplace.
  1. Host a meet and greet. On the first day, assign an employee to introduce the Temp to key team members and any employees with which they will interact. Since you have already advised the staff that a Temp will be coming in, your existing team should be prepared to take a minute to acknowledge and introduce themselves to the Temp. Anyone involved in or affected by, the work the Temp will do should be included in the meet and greet.
  1. Take a tour. Giving your Temp a tour will help them survey the new environment and feel more comfortable with their place in it. Assign an employee to take the Temp around the facility. Show them where the lunchroom, coffee area, and restrooms are, where the copy machine is (and how it works, if applicable), and where they will get supplies like pens and paper. The tour might include the meet and greet, or might be separate, but it should land the Temp at their workstation for an introduction to the equipment and supplies they will be using.
  1. Help the Temp feel welcome. You know how busy your team is – and it’s probably why you’re bringing in help. Don’t let the flurry of normal daily activity stop key players from slowing down to help your Temp feel welcome and acclimated. Be helpful and encouraging while the Temp comes up to speed. The Temp is now part of your team – and will become productive faster if, in the first days of the assignment, they are properly oriented to their role in the organization and feel welcome.
  1. Get out the organizational chart. In certain positions, it is vital that a Temp identifies the major stakeholders in their work product. If appropriate, take a minute to review the organizational chart and highlight any hierarchies of which the Temp needs to be aware.
  1. Communicate your expectations. Every Temp comes into an assignment aware that there will be unique rules and requirements. The beauty of a qualified Temp is their adaptability and willingness to do exactly what’s needed. If you convey the rules and expectations early on, you are more likely to get what you want out of the Temp. Make sure you go over exactly what you expect of them in the role, what specific duties they are to perform, point out important deadlines and timelines, and connect them to an employee who will provide training or answer questions. Tell the Temp the do’s and don’ts of company policy – like eating or drinking at their desk, taking breaks, personal phone calls, emails, and social media rules.
  1. Check-in. Check in with the Temp a few times during the day, and at closing, to see how they are fitting into the culture. Ask how they are feeling about the workload, their level of understanding about expectations, and identify any difficulties they might be having performing their job. Also, check in with staff members to learn how they feel about the Temp. Get your team’s perspective on how well the Temp is performing in the position and fitting into the culture. Check in again weekly, to make sure you do not miss any changes in attitude or interpersonal issues that come up among the team. Once you’ve seen the Temp demonstrate they are a good fit and know what they’re doing, you can rest easy. Until then, check in regularly.

As an employer, you should prepare for a Temp just as you would prepare for a new staff member. Make sure the stage is set to support the success of the Temp, and your team, by reading a dedicated workspace, all necessary equipment, passwords, access badges, and training resources. If from the start, you do the work of preparing for, orienting and training your new Temp, you save yourself (and the Temp) the time, trouble and headache of dealing with performance problems, access issues, and workplace disruption.

If you consider the tips above and prepare yourself for the specific, intentional work of bringing a Temp on to your existing team, it can be a smooth and rewarding process for everyone involved.

Seven Tips for Temps – How to Keep the Job

Congratulations, you have landed a temporary position! Now that you have gotten your foot in the door, is it time to coast? Nope! It is time to think about being a valued temporary employee and improving the odds that you will be offered permanent placement.

In today’s employment marketplace there are many skilled, educated candidates vying for open positions. Employers have the freedom to choose from a large pool of qualified candidates. Once you have been selected for a temporary assignment, it’s important to start thinking about how NOT to lose the job. Putting into action the seven tips below can improve your odds of being kept on, given a great recommendation, or offered permanent employment.

  1. Be on time! Employers see tardiness as a sign of disrespect, or worse – inability to conform to expectations. If you must be late, make contact as early as possible and have a good reason.
  2. Present yourself well. Do not let go of your professional manners or behave casually in a professional environment. Remember that, at work, there are always unique, and sometimes lofty, expectations. Be willing to meet those expectations and present yourself as a willing, courteous and engaged employee.
  3. Know your culture. Before you accept a position, ask your recruiter about the type of company culture you will be working in. If the temporary position is short-term, it might not matter as much to you, but if you are taking a temp-to-permanent position, it is important that you know what type of work environment you are expected to fit into. Fitting well into your company’s culture is a key determinant of longevity in a position – and increases the odds of you being happy to go to work every day.
  4. Learn willingly and take notes. All new jobs come with a learning curve. Chances are good that you will make mistakes as you come up to speed on the requirements of your position. Own up to your mistakes and learn from them. Coming into a position with a “beginner’s mind” and a willingness to learn as you go will make it easier for others to work with you – and will help you develop your skills, making you a more useful member of the team. Always have a notepad on hand, and take notes on “who, what, where and when”. This will not only help you remember important details but show the client you are serious about learning and mastering your position.
  5. Remain productive and volunteer. You have worked with the type – the paycheck-focused employee that takes any and every opportunity to use their “down time” to check Facebook or Twitter, email friends or make personal phone calls. If you want your employer to see you as a valued employee, do not be that type. When you are on the clock, there is no real “down time”- there is always something to do to add value. If you are at a loss and feel there is time to twiddle your thumbs, ask someone in charge how you can make yourself useful. Do not just sit there surfing the web.
  6. Be part of the team. A workplace is a small, specific community. Even as a temporary employee, you are part of that community. You can increase your comfort and communicate your willingness to continue in the company by getting to know the people you work with and letting them get to know you. No matter the role a person is playing on the team, you are on equal footing – because you are human too. Try not diminish, or let others diminish, your value as if you are “just a temp.” You have a part to play, and it is easier to play that part if you are willing to be a friendly, interested and engaged part of the team. Establishing rapport with the people you work with does not just improve your chances of being made a permanent part of the team; it is also a great way to expand your personal and professional network by practicing your interpersonal communication skills.
  7. Take care of your health and wellness. Your physical and mental state has the potential to affect everyone around you. Take good care of your body and mind – make time for lunch breaks, get enough sleep and exercise, voice any concerns you have about your work environment, and communicate any personal problems you might be experiencing to your supervisor or recruiter. There are often resources made available for people working through loss, depression or other personal challenges. If you speak up when you are not feeling physically or mentally well, you will be seen with understanding. If you keep quiet, you might be viewed as unproductive, moody, or unable to meet the requirements of your position.

It can be challenging to be a temporary employee. You have been pre-approved for a job, but you are also on probation the minute you walk in the door. Your actions in the workplace will determine if the employer trades you for another temporary employee, or if they bring you on board permanently. Be willing to bring your best self to your work. Use the tips above to become a better employee and a more considerate person.

Is Your Resume Catching Attention?

If your resume reads like a job description, it probably will not land you an interview. A recruiter is more likely to contact you for an interview if you have effectively quantified the work you have performed in your previous positions. When evaluating the strength of your resume consider the tips below.

  • Highlight certain skills and experiences by using a “Strengths & Skills” section at the top of your resume. Use bullet points to detail the skills you have used and the ways you have succeeded in your career; just make sure those skills align with the job description.
  • For each previous employer, list the company name and department, size (in revenue), industry, number of employees, the states or countries the company operates in and the name, title and department of your direct supervisor.
  • Use action words! Words such as managed, led, organized, reduced, improved and won are all great ways to communicate that you have actively contributed to your employers’ success.
  • Demonstrate how you have utilized your skills to create measurable success for the companies for which you have worked.
  • Quantify your work. Use dollars, numbers and percentages to show that show you have been an asset to your previous employers. You could detail the number of your direct reports, size of your department or budget, important schedules you have followed, reduction in turnover rates during your employ, specific projects you have successfully completed or key entities you have supported. You could also include information on changes in company rankings, revenues, clients, customers, sales and/or procedures directly attributable to your efforts. Be sure to highlight time or money saved and increases in efficiency. Draw the recruiter in with numbers that prove you are a great candidate for the position for which you are applying.
  • Proofread your resume! Typos and omissions speak volumes about your attention to detail.
  • Perform a final review of your resume, ensuring that it clearly describes your strengths and accomplishments in a quantifiable Remember, recruiters want to hire people with experience in the role they are staffing!

Our Career Services can help you create a resume that communicates your unique skills! For more tips on finding and landing the right job, contact us today! We’re here to help!

Writing A Cover Letter

Your cover letter is just as important as your resume. Cover letters offer you an early opportunity to highlight your experience specific to a position or company. Any time you are responding to an advertised opening, inquiring with a company about possible opportunities, or asking to do some networking within a company of interest, you should include a cover letter.

All cover letters should:

Explain why you are sending a resume:

  • Introduce yourself and let the reader know what you are asking for. Be specific: are you responding to a specific ad for an open position? Are you inquiring about future opportunities? Are you looking for an internship?

Indicate how you learned about the position or the company:

  • Reference the location of a job posting, or name a networking connection or current employee. If you were referred by someone, mention their name to solidify the referral.
  • State why you are interested in the position and/or company.
  • If you are not responding to a specific position, indicate the types of positions you are interested in.

Convince the reader to view your resume:

  • The cover letter forms a recruiter’s first impression of you. Take the time to write a detailed letter that demonstrates your communication skills and reflects your personality.
  • This is your opportunity to “sell yourself.” Call attention to any skills and experiences that directly relate to the job or company.
  • Let the reader know why you are a perfect fit for the position.
  • Provide any information requested in the job advertisement, especially if the information is not on your resume.

Indicate your plans for a follow-up:

  • Do not assume the company’s contact will call you. Provide your contact information as well as a statement about your intent to follow-up.
  • If you are applying for an advertised or open position, take the initiative! Say something like, “I will follow up with you in the next two weeks to arrange a time to meet and discuss my qualifications.”
  • If your cover letter is expressing an interest in the company, but not for a particular position, say something like, “I look forward to contacting you in the next couple of weeks to learn more about your organization and possible opportunities.”

Our Career Services can help you find and land the right job. Contact Aclivity today! We’re here to help!

Protect Your Resume and References

We have heard from clients and candidates who are displeased with other staffing firms sharing resumes and other personal information without consent. It is important to protect your resume and references – and Aclivity treats your personal information with care!

Did you know that when a staffing firm calls you for an interview, a position might not actually be available? Many times, staffing firms call on candidates to simply fill their database or “fish” for leads. Sometimes, they send your resume to multiple clients, making the selection pool look larger to a client even if you are not right for the position. Providing your resume and references might not always be to your benefit.

A reputable recruiter will ensure that they are sharing your information with your consent, and offering you available positions that fit your interests and skill set. When deciding on your next career move, be sure to find a professional advocate or online service that will protect your privacy.

Here are some tips to consider when sharing your personal information with a recruiter:

  • Ask the recruiter to identify the opportunity clearly, including the client name and job description. You have a right to know where a recruiter is sending your resume. If a recruiter claims he/she cannot tell you the name of the client, or that the company name is confidential, you should immediately disengage and seek out a more reputable staffing firm.
  • Tell your recruiter that he/she will need your permission before posting or sending your resume anywhere. In the worst case, a staffing firm can/will send your (and others’) resume to dozens of companies without your consent.
  • Protect your references. DO NOT list them on your resume, as staffing firms use the information to identify new business opportunities.
  • Ask the recruiter about the staffing firm’s placement success rate. How many of their candidates are placed in jobs? How soon after application? What is their job turnover rate? The answers will determine how much time recruiters spend matching you with the right job; not just any job.
  • When posting at online recruiting sites, avoid posting your resume to multiple job boards. Consider using other sources, such as LinkedIn, personal networking or a trusted recruiter’s website.

Whether you are actively looking for work or just curious about opportunities in the market, share your resume and references carefully. Research the staffing firm or recruiter website and review social media profiles and reviews. Avoid the temptation to restrict your job search to the Internet and speak directly with a recruiter. Ask questions. Make sure you feel comfortable and confident that the recruiter will protect your privacy before you share your personal information. An experienced, professional recruiter can safeguard your privacy while finding you a rewarding career!

For more help finding and landing the right job, contact usWe’re here to help!

The Value of Using LinkedIn

LinkedIn

The Value is in the LinkedIn Basics

There is so much untapped value that comes from becoming a member of LinkedIn, if you were unaware. LinkedIn can help you promote your business if you own or operate one, it is a fantastic way to network with others in the industry of your choosing, or locate either new talent or a new career!

LinkedIn is the place to meet:

  • Where else can you mingle with the more than 500 million members from all around the world?
  • More than 250 million active members each month
  • The average LinkedIn member has an average annual household income of $140,000
  • Two people create a LinkedIn profile every second!
  • LinkedIn now has 3 different job posting platforms in use.
  • Nearly 50% of LinkedIn members have decision-making authority for their companies
  • The people on LinkedIn are there primarily to network or grow their business

The top ways that LinkedIn promotes you:

  • LinkedIn allows members to create a personalized professional presence
  • It’s an online resume that can work for you all day long by creating a place to post your experience and intentions.
  • LinkedIn encourages the community to endorse you via online recommendations that back up claims you make about your professional abilities and character.
  • LinkedIn is a professional forum to share links, images or documents that demonstrate work you’ve done.
  • The forum is set up to gain introductions to potential employers, colleagues, or clients in your field.
  • Follow companies that you are interested in pursuing and directly search member job postings.
  • Join various groups that align with your interests and participate in discussions. Having an interest group in common with another LinkedIn member is one way you can invite others into your network and have access to group job listings.
  • One of the most famous statements in business is, it’s all about who you know. So step towards the best way to be more connected than you could have ever imagined. With LinkedIn, you can benefit from the connections of people you know and benefit others with your connections.

To get started on LinkedIn, you’ll need to:

  • Know how you’d like to use LinkedIn. Are you directing people to your website? Are you looking for employment? What you want out of the social network will determine how you use it.
  • Create a login and take the time to create a profile that demonstrates your unique strengths and experience.
  • Check in frequently and make connections to resources that align with your current or desired field.

With a few basic steps in place, you can market yourself or your business worldwide!

If you’d like more help getting started on LinkedIn, email shenia.ivey@aclivity.com to receive information on personalized coaching and training!

How To Negotiate A Raise

 

Most Finance and Accounting professionals are well versed in the technical side of their jobs but are not as skilled at the behavioral and interpersonal side of business. Many employers assume technical skills are a given, so employee skills can quickly become an overlooked commodity. In this culture, Finance and Accounting professionals must develop effective communication and negotiation skills in order to receive performance-based pay increases.

“In business you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

Negotiating your salary with your employer is a good test of your negotiation and communication skills. Many people dread this often-intimidating process. However, it is important develop these skills for two key reasons:

  1. You would like more money and;
  2. You will be judged by your employer based on how you handle yourself during the negotiations. Most savvy employers are able to make quick, accurate judgments about your value to the company based on how you negotiate.

So how do you negotiate your salary? Consider these tips to demonstrate your masterful negotiation skills and improve your chances of getting an increase:

  • Understand the macro financial constrains that exist: How is your organization doing vs. the overall plan? How is your department perceived? Is your organization’s market growing? How is the organization’s performance vs. its peer group?
  • Remember that there is always budget for salary increases for great employees: Just keep in mind that there is seldom a reason to mention this to your employer!
  • Be able to quantify the value have you added to the company over the last year: What real, tangible cost savings or revenue enhancements can be directly attributed to your performance? It only counts if it has a real dollar impact, not if it “made us more efficient.”
  • Know how your boss is perceived in the organization and how much authority they have: Can they approve a raise without anyone else’s input or do they need to get approval? Are they going to go to bat for you? Why would they?
  • Consider your relationship with your boss: If it’s not great, it needs to be rebuilt before you request an increase. If there is no trust between you and your employer, odds are that you aren’t going to get anywhere in a salary negotiation.
  • Step into the shoes of your boss as you prepare for your negotiation: If you were them how would you respond to such a request? Your chances of success are greatly enhanced if your employer agrees that an increase is fair.
  • Be yourself in discussions: Prepare what you are going to say but make sure it’s in your own words and comes from the heart. If you are new to negotiating, tell your boss that you are nervous. Your honesty will melt all but the most hardened hearts. In certain situations, you could improve your bargaining position by asking for help. Getting your boss on your side of the table when negotiating with the organization can improve your chances of being heard.
  • Keep the negotiations face to face: Don’t use email or text, as these means are useless when trying to convince people to do anything for you. Using text or email will simply demonstrate that you’re not being direct; you’re actually avoiding face to face interaction.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal signals you are giving: Eye contact and hand movements are the most common means of non-verbal communication. Take a pen and notepad into the meeting and take notes if you need to keep your hands busy. Be sure to make eye contact.
  • Talk slowly and ask questions: Be prepared for questions that your boss might ask about why you think you deserve an increase. Answer the specific question that’s asked and listen well to responses that indicate you need to improve (or more clearly demonstrate!) your performance.
  • Plan the timing of your request: What day of the week and time of the day is best for your boss? Drop hints before your request to let your boss know what’s coming. Mention that you would “like to find a convenient time to discuss your compensation” so they can take time to think about it before you meet.
  • Prepare for your scheduled meeting: Do some industry comparisons as a guide or get some coaching from Aclivity or another trusted resource. Talk to colleagues and find out what tactics have worked for them. Write down your thoughts in advance and practice your negotiation with your trusted advisor. Be brief. Make your points and stress that you are seeking fair compensation for the value you provide to the company. If possible, don’t rely too heavily on your notes in the meeting. If you are trying to make more than 5 points, it’s too many.
  • Own your perspective: Truth is a matter of perspective. If you are going to make a point in the discussion that is subjective, be clear that you’re conveying “how you feel.” No one can argue about how you feel and it sounds less threatening than telling your boss what’s “true.”
  • Don’t compare your salary with others’: Don’t use comparisons of your compensation vs. other internal employees as a bargaining tactic. This argument will make you look petty since it attempts to justify your increase by comparing yourself with other people. It also reveals that you have had conversations about confidential topics with other employees, suggesting that you may not be trustworthy. Focus on the value that you bring to the table.
  • Don’t make threats: Don’t threaten to quit or say you will be forced to start looking for another job; your boss will know that’s a possible outcome if they turn you down. Listen and take feedback. Being told “No” this time will make it easier to get a “Yes” next time. If your negotiation is trending negative you could ask to defer the conversation and request their agreement to bring the topic back up again at a specified time. Ask your boss what behaviors, skills or contributions would necessary for them to consider giving you an increase in the future.
  • Don’t justify the raise by talking about your personal expenses: Bringing up your personal finances will be interpreted as a request for your company to compensate for the fact that you cannot manage your own affairs. Focus the negotiation on your tangible value to the company (how you personally make or save them money).
  • Remember that there are other types of “increases: There are a number of other things that you can ask for other than a pay increase which may be easier for your boss to grant. Consider asking for an increase in bonus potential, an extra week of paid vacation, tuition assistance, expense reimbursements like cell phone or home office, a spot bonus for specific tasks well done, or a 401(k) match.
  • Do your research: Communication, negotiation and interpersonal skills can be learned. We all have weaknesses in these areas, but we can compensate for them with a little effort. Learning about effective communication and negotiation methods will also help you “read” your boss—and adapt to limitations in their communication skills!

Negotiating a raise is a process, not an event. Introduce the topic and plan on having a number of discussions. Be patient and demonstrate your value without getting defensive. Let the other party warm to your point of view. Rarely will you go in, ask for a raise, and get it without a bit of negotiation. And, remember that we’re here for you if you’d like advice (or practice!) before your negotiation!

Good luck!

Conducting a Successful Job Search

Thanks to the Internet, searching for a job today is vastly different than it used to be. Until fairly recently, a job seeker browsed local classified ads, found a compatible-sounding job listing, prepared an elegant résumé on bond paper, and sent it out by fax or U.S. mail. That has changed. Today, finding and landing a great job comes with the challenge of learning how to utilize the many available Internet resources to aid in your search.

Searching for a Job on Internet Job Boards
Searching for a job online has become a common, but not always fruitful, approach. With all the publicity given to Internet-based job boards and career sites, you might think that online job searching makes finding a job easy. Job board sites such as CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com list millions of jobs, but actually landing a position is much harder than just clicking your mouse and waiting for a reply; it takes perseverance and wise use of online job boards.

  • Career Builder (careerbuilder.com)CareerBuilder claims to be the nation’s largest employment network. Users can search millions of jobs by category, geographic location, keyword, industry, or job type (full-time, part-time, internship).
  • Indeed (indeed.com)One of the newest and fastest growing job search sites on the Internet, Indeed.com is a metasearch engine that uses a Google-like interface to search the Internet for open job listings.
  • Monster (monster.com): Monster.com offers access to information on millions of jobs worldwide using a search technology called 6Sense that matches applicants with the best job opportunities for their skills. Because of this cutting-edge search system, many consider Monster.com to be the Internet’s premier job site.
  • College Grad (collegegrad.com)CollegeGrad advertises itself as the “number one entry-level job site” for students and recent graduates. In addition to searching for entry-level jobs, users can also search for undergraduate and graduate degree programs to help them develop marketable skills.
  • Career JournalPart of The Wall Street Journal; CareerJournal provides listings for high-level executive and finance positions.

Beyond the Big Internet Job Boards
Many job seekers may turn their backs on job boards but not on online job-searching tactics. Savvy candidates know to search for jobs in other ways. Some examples are:

  • Company Web Sites: Probably the best way to find a job online is at a company’s own website. Many companies now post job openings only on their own websites to avoid inundation by the volume of applicants that respond to postings via online job boards. Many job seekers find that they are more likely to obtain an interview if they post their résumés on company sites. This allows a more direct connection to decision makers, and job seekers can keep their job searches (and personal information!) more private than on job boards.
  • Professional Organization Web sites: Online job listings have proven to be the single-most popular feature of many professional organizations, such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the National Association of Sales Professionals, the National Association of Legal Assistants, and the Association of Information Technology Professionals. Although you pay a fee to join, the benefits of being a member of a professional association in your career field are enormous. Remember that it is never too early to start networking. If you join a professional organization while you are still in college, you will be setting yourself up for future success as you build a network of professional connections.
  • JobCentral National Labor Exchange: JobCentral is a public service website provided by the DirectEmployers Association, a nonprofit consortium of Fortune 500 and other leading U.S. corporations. Many companies now use jobcentral.com as a gateway to job listings on their own websites, which results in the advertising of millions of jobs. Best of all, this service is free and bypasses the big commercial job boards. You can search for a job description or job title, and apply directly on the website of the hiring company.
  • Local Employment Web Sites: Although many of the big job boards allow you to search for jobs geographically, many job seekers have more luck using local employment websites such as CraigslistCumulus Jobs and JobStar.
  • Niche Web Sites: If you want a job in a specialized field, look for a niche website, such as Dice (dice.com) for technology jobs, Advance for Health Care (www.advanceweb.com/jobs/healthcare/index.html) for jobs in the medical field, and Accountemps (www.accountemps.com) for accounting positions. Niche websites also exist for job seekers with special backgrounds or needs, such as older workers (www.workforce50.com) and veterans (www.veteranjoblistings.com).

Social Media Sites
Perhaps you already use sites such as Facebook or Twitter to communicate with family and friends. Did you know that users are-increasingly tapping into social media sites to prospect for jobs, and that recruiters use these sites to find potential employees? Linkedln is currently the top site for job seekers, with over 200 million users, including job seekers and recruiters. Other popular sites include Plaxo, TheLadders, BlueSteps and Jobster. Twitter has created a job search engine called TwitJobSearch (www.twitjobsearch.com), and many companies now post recruitment videos on YouTube. Savvy job seekers use these tools to network and to search for available positions. Of course, the most successful job seekers understand the necessity of maintaining a professional online appearance and taking the time to connect personally with recruiters.

Use Caution
Be aware of dangers associated with using Internet job boards and other employment websites. Not only could your current boss see your résumé posted online, a fraudster could use your information to steal your identity. The following tips can help you safely conduct an online job search:

  • Use reputable sites: Stick to the well-known, reputable job boards. Never use a site that makes you pay to post your résumé or a site that makes you feel uneasy.
  • Be selective: Limit the number of sites on which you post your résumé. Employers dislike “résumé spammers.”
  • Use a dedicated e-mail address: Set up a separate e-mail account with a professional-sounding e-mail address for sending and receiving emails related to your job search.
  • Limit personal information: Never include your social security or other identification numbers on your résumé. Consider omitting your home address and home phone number to protect your privacy when posting on big job boards.
  • Post privately: If given an option, choose to post your résumé privately. Doing so means that you can control who has access to your e-mail address and other contact information.
  • Count the days: Renew your résumé posting every 14 days. If you keep it up longer, it will look as if employers have no interest in you. If you have not received a response in 45 days, pull your résumé from the site and post it somewhere else.
  • Keep careful records: Keep a record of every site on which you post your résumé. At the end of your job search, remove all posted résumés.
  • Protect your references: If you post your résumé online, do not include your references. It is unethical for job seekers to post their references’ personal contact information online without the references’ knowledge.
  • Do not respond to a “blind” job posting: Respond only to job postings that include a company name and contact information. It is unfortunate that many scammers use online job boards to post fake job ads as a way to gather your personal information.

Finding the Perfect Job (For Students)
A successful job search requires an early start and a determined effort. Students with proactive personalities are the most successful in securing interviews and jobs during and after college. These successful candidates are not passive; they are driven and “make things happen.” Recruiters respond to a proactive nature. They will also consider your education, life experience, grade point averages and internships when reviewing your qualifications. Communicating what you have learned inside and outside the classroom—and connecting with other—people will continue to be critical elements in landing a great job. Traditional job search techniques, such as those below, can help you find a position that fits your interests and skills, while building your professional and personal network.

  • Check announcements in publications of professional organizations: If you do not have a student membership to professional organizations, ask your instructors (or librarian) to share current copies of professional journals, newsletters, and other industry resources.
  • Contact companies in which you are interested, even if you know of no current opening: Write an unsolicited letter and include your résumé. Follow up with a telephone call. Check the company’s website for employment possibilities and application procedures.
  • To learn immediately of job openings, use Twitter to follow companies that interest you.
  • Sign up for campus interviews with visiting company representatives: Campus recruiters can open your eyes to exciting companies, job locations and positions. They can also help you prepare by offering mock interviews.
  • Ask for advice from your instructors: Your teachers often have contacts and ideas for conducting and expanding your job search and growing your skills.
  • Develop your own network of contacts: Networking still accounts for most of the jobs found by candidates. Therefore, plan to spend a considerable portion of your job search developing a personal network.
  • Attend career fairs: Job fairs are invaluable in the quest to learn about specific companies and future career options. The more you know about the company and its representatives, the more comfortable you will be soliciting a position and giving a great interview.

For information on conducting a successful search for a job, creating a standout resume or performing well in your interviews, contact us. Our Career Services can help you succeed!

Why Employers Should Use Recruiters to Gain Employees

Many managers would say that 90% of their success in their management role depends on the performance of the employees on their team. From this vantage, hiring the right people is a key to any company’s success. When you know you need help—the right help—it can be difficult to spare the staff, time or focus to search for the needle in the professional haystack.

When you need top talent, using a recruiter is a great idea!

  • Recruiters are the right tool for the job: If you need your car fixed, you take it to a mechanic. If you are sick, you go see a doctor. If you need outstanding human resources, you hire an agency that succeeds by leveraging their network of talent to meet client’s staffing and consulting needs.
  • Recruiters help you define what you’re looking for: A recruiter can help you flesh out your position description, understand the market rate for the role you’re filling and connect you to pre-screened, available talent.
  • Recruiters keep employers focused, saving time and money: For companies without a dedicated Human Resources department, finding new talent is not always the best use of time or energy. Recruiters save employers the distraction (and cost!) of hours spent evaluating resumes, managing online postings, scheduling interviews, testing basic skills—and then doing it all again every time a position opens up or turns over.
  • Recruiters know where to look for talent: Recruiters have the data-mining tools, subscriptions and network you need to find the right employee for the position you are filling. Recruiter’s networks develop with an eye for finding, and keeping in contact with, the best available talent.
  • Recruiters are less likely to lose the best candidates: The talent you are looking for should be handled with care. When a recruiter finds the one best candidate for an open position, they have already done their homework. Recruiters know the types of positions or companies the candidate is most interested in. Recruiters know the job market and what your competitors might offer the candidate for a similar role. And, recruiters can encourage the candidate that’s best suited to the position that it’s a good idea to join your team.
  • Recruiters produce risk-free results: Recruiters work on a contingent basis. Though they have no control over the actions you take to ensure the success of a placement, recruiters guarantee their placements. There is no risk since you pay after your needs are met!

When you’re looking for your next great employee, contact Aclivity! Our Five-Star Client Promise (www.aclivity.com) guides all of our actions, guaranteeing you a great recruiting experience. Call us today and let us put our network of Finance, Accounting and IT professionals to work for you!

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