Monthly Archives: September 2016

Job Search Tips

I’m sure you’ve heard some of these from well-meaning friends and family. What worked back in the era of the 3 martini lunch—or in the era when MTV still played music—doesn’t work today. If you hear any of these bits of advice, you have my permission, and encouragement, to ignore them!

Drop your resume off in person. Companies follow strict protocol for resume submission. I don’t know of any employer nowadays that accepts unsolicited resumes in person. Don’t do this. Follow the rules that the employer sets forth in the job descriptions.

Call to “schedule an interview.” This is presumptuous at best, intrusive at worst. If they want to interview you, they will contact you.

Print your resume on bond paper. No one wants a printed resume. No one. Don’t waste your time.

Limit your resume to one page. Unless you are a new graduate, you probably have more than a page’s worth of accomplishments.

Call to follow up on your application. First, unless you sent your application materials directly to an individual, how are you going to know who to follow up with? Again, contemporary etiquette dictates that the hiring company will reach out to you if they wish to have a discussion.

Send the hiring manager a gift so that you will stand out. Gimmicks will not get you a job.

If you’re not applying to 100 jobs a week, you’re not trying hard enough. The most effective job search is targeted. Applying to every posting you see is ineffective.

Offer to work for free in order to “prove yourself.” Not only will no reputable employer go for this, you should never offer your services without compensation. You perform valuable work for which you are compensated.

Get in as a temp, and then you’ll get hired full time! This worked in the 90s. It worked well in the 90s. But now, many companies use “permalancers.” That is, they keep contract employees as temporary ones and very rarely hire them for full-time roles.

Lets Accept a Job Offer

Every executive job search has much in common with every other job search. The rules of the game don’t fundamentally change according to industry, geography, or job status.

Despite the commonalities, however, executives in particular are on a slightly different road than other job seekers. The difference manifests itself in two ways.

First, executives face some special challenges of their own, challenges that don’t often confront other applicants, and they need to recognize and master those executive-specific challenges.

Second, in our experience executives are perfectly capable of making the kind of mistakes that any applicant might make, but they are particularly prone to certain kinds of mistakes. We may not fully understand that proclivity, but there seem to be some pitfalls that executives have special trouble avoiding. One thing we’ve learned, though, is that part of the problem is that executives simply don’t recognize those pitfalls for what they are.

We’ll look at both categories, the mistakes that are executive-specific and the ones that are more generic, and at how each affects three things: the job search, the executive resume and the executive interview. At the very least, the pitfalls themselves should become more visible, and increased awareness should put the executive job-seeker in a better position to call on some tested strategies for avoiding the worst job-search mistakes.

Mistakes in the Search

It’s all too easy to handle the job search in a way that won’t optimize the outcome. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to avoid common mistakes.

Failure to be proactive

The traditional, and all too typical, approach to the search is a reactive one. It involves recruiters and job postings, and little is required of the job seeker beyond throwing your resume in the general direction of any and all opportunities that seem to meet the most basic criteria.

That’s sometimes enough for the basic search, especially if the job market is strong, but the executive search should be proactive, not reactive. Presumably, you’ve been in the industry for a while. You know the companies that occupy the space, and you know the ones you’d like to join – and the ones you’d rather avoid at all costs. If your knowledge is lacking on this front, it’s worth doing your homework, finding the companies that appeal to you and targeting your efforts in that direction.

When you know what you’re looking for, you’re in a position to target the right companies with the right openings, and if you stay tuned to what’s happening in the organizations that matter, you shouldn’t hesitate to take the first step when it seems appropriate. In a proactive search, you don’t have to wait for the jobs to come to you.

Doing all your networking online

No one would deny that we live more and more of our lives online, and that’s where a great deal of professional networking gets done.

It’s a mistake, however, to put all your eggs in the online basket. As an executive, you’ve no doubt learned the value of the personal touch in the real world. A single one-to-one meeting can accomplish more than 100 emails.

That holds true for professional networking. Keep up with your contacts, and make new ones, in person. Whether that means attending professional events, going to alumni functions or expanding your volunteering efforts, in-person contact has impact far beyond anything that happens online.

The reason when you decide to leave that job

As a career coach I am often asked by clients if I think they should take a job offer. Just because you get a job offer doesn’t mean that you have to accept it.

To help you make your decision, create a list of important criteria for taking or turning down a job. Your list might include salary, benefits, commuteHow do you answer the interview question, “Why did you leave that job?”

This post is the third in a series of excerpts from my upcoming eBook, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview, to be published January 4, 2017. You can pre-order it as an eBook now or get the softcover in January.

Does your departure indicate a problem that could derail your interview?

If you left and immediately started a new job, it’s no problem: you left for a better opportunity (or what you thought was a better opportunity, even if it didn’t work out).
On the other hand, leaving without a new job lined up is generally a red flag, so this question is tricky.

The key is this: although one reason may dominate in your mind – probably the most emotional one, such as a personality conflict or issue with the boss – usually there are more reasons. List them all on a piece of paper. Then see which of these reasons makes the best impression.

Here’s an example.

Joe quit his job for the following reasons: (1) his boss was a micromanager, (2) the company, a hospital, had toxic office politics, (3) the circumstances made it difficult or impossible to move up into a better department, (4) he couldn’t stay until he found a new job because the job left him no time or energy for job search, and (5) he also had an itch to move into the pharmaceutical industry.

Reasons 1 and 2 are a minefield that would be hard to discuss without presenting himself as a complainer who badmouths his former employer. But he doesn’t need to go there; he can build a truthful answer out of reasons 3-5:

“While Bayworth Hospital is a great institution in terms of patient care, and I had three excellent years there, with strong accomplishments like the ones we’ve discussed, there really wasn’t a path upward for me there any more (reason #3). It was time to leave and pursue my longtime interest in pharmaceutical companies (#5) like this one. The job was intensely demanding and it didn’t leave me the energy to conduct a search. (#4) So I gave notice, helped the department make a smooth transition, and then left to devote myself to a full-time process of transitioning into doing what I’m most passionate about.”

Why does this answer work? Because it’s true, tactful, brief (30 seconds) and focused on the positive. It’s also a great example of the “sandwich technique”: surrounding a negative (the fact that he left) with positives (his respect for the hospital in certain ways, his accomplishments and his passion for the current opportunity).

What if Joe had been fired? In a past chapter I said “Never volunteer a negative.” Joe doesn’t need to say he was fired, unless specifically asked. His answer could be the same as above, with a slightly different ending:

“…It was time to leave and pursue my longtime interest in pharmaceutical companies like this one. Since then I’ve devoted myself to a full-time process of transitioning into doing what I’m most passionate about.” time, do you like the people you will be working with, is the new job challenging, is the company stable, does the mission of the company resonate with your values, is there opportunity for growth, etc. Your list will be unique to you as we all have different criteria that are important to us. For example, it might be important to someone who has the responsibility of a mortgage and children to work for a stable organization whereas someone without those responsibilities might be open to more risk. Or conversely, a person who has a home and family might love the challenge of working for a start-up whereas a person just starting out in his or her career might be drawn to a company that offers security. Make your list based on what is most important to you.

After you have your list of important criteria, put two columns beside each of your criteria. Above column one write “Yes, this criteria will be met in the job” and above column two write “No, this criteria will not be met in the job”.

If the job offer meets most or all of your criteria, dig a little deeper. If anything concerned you during the interview process – the interviewer complained about the company, the job responsibilities were not clear, no one could answer your questions about benefits – ask follow up questions. Find out as much as you can about the company, its future prospects and what it is like to work there. If the answers that you get are good, ask for the offer in writing.

Don’t say yes to a job offer you really don’t want unless you feel that you do not have any other options. Remember, just because you get an offer doesn’t mean you have to take it.  Make your decision based on what is best for you and follow your instincts.