Archive for the Communication Category

The Light At the End of Your Job Search

Posted in Communication, Confidence, Empowerment, Interviewing, Job Search, Motivation, Recruiter on December 14, 2009 by jcsicareerassist

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you land a position other opportunities start presenting themselves? Do you find that strange?  What about the phenomenon that occurs when several companies ask you to interview in quick succession?  How does that happen and why is it so unpredictable?  Well, there are several factors that play into these occurrences.  Some things that influence it are the market, the number of positions you applied for, and the depth of your network.  However, I am going to suggest that the number one contributor to this type of opportunity flow is the waxing and waning of confidence.

There’s no statistical evidence that I am aware of,  but if you just look at other key indicators, I believe a significant argument can be made for this case.  I’ve spoken with thousands of job seekers and heard their stories and a clear pattern has emerged.  If you imagine yourself in the scenario below, I’m sure you will get a sense of familiarity if you’ve ever spent any significant time seeking opportunities.

The First Wave – You have just entered the job market.  You’re riding high off the fact that you “have time” thanks to your severance package.  Furthermore, you know your skills are in demand.  You believe you’ll have a job in no time.  You talk to friends and let them know what’s going on.  Some  people are even jealous of your little break from the rat race.  What’s more, you already have a few prospects from people you know from the industry.  You have two or three interviews scheduled.  “This is going to be easy”, you think to yourself.  You go to the first interview full of confidence.  It ends with a lot of smiles and handshakes.  They tell you that you will hear back from them soon.  The waiting begins.  You think back on your interview.  It’s been two weeks since you heard anything and your calls weren’t returned.  You begin doubting yourself.  The other interviews follow suit. The future stops looking so bright.

The Second Wave – After some time you start to reevaluate your search.  Everyone you’ve spoken with confirms that the market is tough and what you are experiencing is normal.  It may not get you a job, but somehow it makes you feel a little better.  You start to reminisce on the earlier days in your career when things were easier.  Sure you made less money, but you had more fun.  You were in the trenches with your comrades or you had the chance to do the “real work” where the action happens.  Right now, you’d welcome the return of those days.  In fact maybe that’s what you should’ve done all along.  You get excited.  Now you have more jobs to choose from and a greater chance at landing something.  You start getting calls again, a few more interviews are scheduled, and you’re back in the saddle. 

The Third Wave – Looking at broader search criteria has helped you get more interviews, but the employers are concerned about you taking a “step back”. As a result, no one has pulled the trigger despite the fact that you’re offering them a bargain.  You’re getting a little frustrated with the whole situation.  You’re almost thinking of starting your own business.  You start looking into your options.  You realize that all these years you could’ve been your own boss.  You’re beginning to gain a strength that isn’t dependent upon whether or not you’re hired by one of the companies you’ve applied to.  You know you have value and if no one is going to take you up on your offer to impact their company, you’ll make an impact of your own.  You start thinking that all these companies have been doing you a favor.  They helped you to realize that you are not defined by your job.  You feel so good that you’re not certain if you ever want another job again.  That’s when your phone rings.  It’s a recruiter.

The Fourth Wave – You decide to go in for the interview.  Because you’re not concerned about the outcome, you are very confident.  Who knows, this company may turn into a sales prospect for your new business. You engage the interviewer(s).  You tell them your story and you even secretly give them your new sales pitch on how to improve certain facets of your industry.  You leave the interview and get back to work on your ideas for your business.  You don’t give the interview another thought except to send thank you notes. A few days later the phone rings.  The recruiter wants to know if you can do another interview.  You say yes.  A couple weeks later you’re signing an offer letter.  You say to yourself, “this is nice, but if it doesn’t work out I have my back up plan.”  For the next few months, with a twinge of pride,  you have to tell recruiters that you found a position.

While this may not be your exact story, I’m sure the message is not lost.  Confidence is key.  Not only have I personally experienced this phenomenon, I have spoken to numerous job seekers that can testify to a similar experience.  I have also spoken to people who had new jobs before their first severance check cleared.  I can tell you that these individuals made decisions quickly and did not lack in the confidence department.  Of course, just being confident won’t land you a job, but without it, you may never be able to convince employers to give you a chance.  So be mindful of your confidence level throughout your search and be sure to participate in activities that will keep it high as you seek opportunities.

Companies Have Feelings Too

Posted in Communication, Interviewing, Job Search, Rules of Engagement on December 11, 2009 by jcsicareerassist

On December 9, 2009 we hosted a webinar entitled, “The Anatomy of the Interview Process“.  During the presentation we discussed how a company’s interview process is their formalized relationship building practice.  Our goal was to convey to job seekers the fact that like all relationships, the interview process is designed to evolve in stages.  Therefore, a key contributor to interviewing success is respect for the process.

To illustrate these stages we loosely compared the interview process to the stages of forming a long term romantic relationship.  These stages were labeled as:

  • The Screening  –  “The Interest Building Stage”
  • The Telephone Interview  –  “The Curiosity Stage”
  • First Round Interview  –  “The Present Compatibility Stage”
  • Second Round Interview  –  “The Future Compatibility Stage”
  • Final Interview  –  “The Proposal”
  • The Offer  –  “The Confirmation”
  • The Trial Period  –  “The Honeymoon”

We understand that when people are on the job market, interviewing can feel like a “David and Goliath” situation, but when it comes down to David won.  When you interview, keep in mind that it is a meeting between equals.  The company has a problem and they are hoping that you are the solution.  If you feel that you are, help them to see it.  You can’t do that if you are hiding behind a fear that they will reject you, nor can you be clear if you don’t realize that their process is meant to protect them from making a hiring mistake.

It’s all about relationships and we all know what it is like to learn lessons from previous relationships.  Well companies do too and often times their interview process reflects that.  To go a little deeper, let’s explore some hypothetical situations that can hurt a companies feelings.

Long Commute – Long distance relationships are hard.  We’ve tried them before and had an unpleasant experience. One of our best employees left us for a company closer to home.  It was hard to see them go.  Since then we are only interested in people within a certain mile radius.

Too Much Pay – “More attractive” offers are hard to pass up.  We once hired someone who was “willing to take a considerable pay cut for the opportunity to be a part of our company”.  Three months in she was offered a deal that was an increase on her previous salary.  That put us behind on a critical project.  Now we only look at people that have salaries within our range or are extremely close.

Career Level – We once hired a Sr. VP who “longed to return to his individual contributor days”.  From the first day there were challenges.  He had no patience for his coworkers with less experience and tried to assume the lead on every project he was a part of.  Despite his talent, we had to let him go for morale reasons.  From now on we pay attention to the previous roles our candidates have held.

Former Employees –  We once hired a former employee who left the company for a better deal. Three years later she applied and was hired for a position similar to the one she held previously. By six months it was obvious that she wasn’t happy.  She cited that the company was not as she remembered it.  Now we treat hiring former employees very delicately. 

We hope that stories told in this context will help job seekers see the human element of the interview process.  Understanding that a lot of the decisions made in the hiring process are not personal cannot only help you to stay motivated throughout your job search, it can also empower you to address the circumstances from the company’s point of view.  That’s engagement–something you should always be mindful of when building relationships.

If you’d like to hear more insight on subtleties of the interview process visit the links below from our webinar:

Be The Turducken When You Interview

Posted in Communication, Empowerment, Hiring Managers, Interview Secret, Interviewing, Motivation, Networking, Personal Brand with tags on November 25, 2009 by jcsicareerassist

With Thanksgiving here, I decided to get festive in my interview analogies by introducing the Turducken as a model for job seekers to consider the next time they sit down for an interview.  For those of you who have never heard of the Turducken, it is a partially deboned Turkey that is stuffed with a deboned duck that has also been stuffed with deboned chicken.  But that’s not it.  There’s more stuff inside.  The minds who invented this culinary delight go further by filling all of the gaps and cavities with other stuffings.  Just thinking about eating it is intimidating to me.  Talk about more than “meats” the eye.

When I heard about the Turducken just recently, my mind went straight to the thought that like this meal, there’s always more to people than what is on the surface.  So keeping with the whole Thanksgiving theme, I thought that it would be a good idea for people on the job market to think about what they are grateful for–the gifts, skills, and talents that they have honed over the years.  Think about what kind of services you can provide to an organization–all of the things that you possess on the inside that are not made visible by a resume or online profile.  The next time you present yourself, be the Turducken.

This may sound like a strange analogy at first, but just imagine that someone asks you to cut the Thanksgiving “bird” and to your surprise you find a duck, and then in that duck, you find a chicken.  If that’s the first time you’ve seen such a thing, you won’t soon forget it.  And, more than that you are going to tell others about it.  That’s what candidates need to go for when they interview.  You want to pleasantly surprise the first interviewer so that they will tell the next person in line and on and on until the whole company gets to know you.  We’ll be talking more about this approach to the interview process in our upcoming webinar, The Anatomy of the Interview Process on December 9, 2009 at 12PM.  In the meantime, I suggest candidates take time  this holiday season to focus on what cannot be seen and working with others on how to share that with others.  If you can get one person talking on your behalf, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Ending The Confusion About Inclusion – Diversity 2071

Posted in Communication, Diversity, Empowerment, Hiring Trends, Inclusion, Job Search, Small Acts of Recovery, Social Media, Uncategorized, Web 2.0 with tags , , , , on November 20, 2009 by jcsicareerassist

On this blog, we try to offer a thought-provoking take on all subjects related to job seekers and their experience on the job market.  As I’ve mentioned, we believe that empowered job seekers will have a significant impact on the overall turnaround of the market itself.  So when we decided to write about Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), we wanted to offer an outlook that you might not find anywhere else.  Having a clear unfiltered picture of what a totally inclusive culture would mean to the business world will explain why so much effort is being put into creating it.  As job seekers, it’s important to know that D&I isn’t going anywhere and that it’s in everyone’s best interest to understand why it is essential to their success to have an idea of where it is headed.

In order to envision the future of D&I, I began considering what kinds of careers the next generation would reflect upon having grown up in a digital age driven by technologies that allow us to connect and share information with increasing rapidity.  I even chose the year 2071, to illustrate the year that children born today would be eligible for retirement based on the current government recognized age of 62. Living in a time when anyone can contribute their thoughts any time they want via social media platforms, I wondered if they will laugh at our generation for ever needing Diversity training in the first place? 

Considering the way the internet is being used today really put D&I in perspective and the more I thought about it the simpler it became.  When you really break down D&I, it’s driven by the fact that–on an individual level–everyone just wants to fit in somewhere and express their creativity freely.  With virtual worlds, online gaming, social technologies, and search engines, being able to experience this is increasingly becoming a cultural norm.  As more and more people engage across digital platforms, it will become more difficult not to engage in other social arenas as well.  So when you eliminate all of the distractions it becomes clear to see that D&I efforts are suited to facilitate the highest level of engagement. Now for many, this may sound too simple and it definitely doesn’t present a clear business case for why time and money should be invested in programs and training to try to get entire organizations on board. So there must be more to it.

Well while companies know that what’s driving the need for D&I is fundamentally simple, it isn’t easy at all.  Transformation never is.  It is uncomfortable and challenges everything we know.  It demands vulnerability in exchange for growth.  And the rewards that come from our efforts will only meet us halfway.  That means we must extend ourselves.  In essence we must put ourselves out there and learn by doing.  For many of us that is too scary.  We’d rather just close our eyes and wait for change to pass us by.  But, that’s not going to happen.  We’ll be pulled in eventually.  Just ask anyone who reluctantly created a Facebook page or people on the job market who are finally accepting the value of a LinkedIn account.  It’s the same process.  And if you still think social media has nothing to do with Diversity, just wait. 

I deleted an earlier version of this post because in the end it was just one more post telling us what we’ve already heard before.  If Affirmative ActionEqual Employment Opportunity, and the idea that diversity breeds innovation were convincing enough, the discussion would have ended long ago and people would be volunteering to learn how they could help the process move forward.  But because in large part, mankind’s fear of loss still generally exceeds their desire for gain, the D&I dialogue will continue until we reach the tipping point where resistance is obviously costing us more than voluntary compliance.  Understanding this is leverage for those willing to take a front seat on this transformational roller coaster. By the year 2071 when the confusion about inclusion is no longer an issue, the retirees will be able to look back on what it took to get to an inclusive culture and simplify it into a definition like the one below.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) – A systematic process designed to facilitate information transfer through converting a culture from a driving mindset of “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM)  to one of  “What’s In It For Everyone” (WIIFE) .

Now, you might still be asking what this has to do with your job search.  The answer has everything to do with market relevance.  The market is headed this way and if you are not, your POTENTIAL to contribute will be irrelevant since your resistance will represent an information bottleneck. When it is all said and done I believe the retirees of 2071 will demonstrate that the business case for Diversity and Inclusion never had anything to do with the categories that we break ourselves into and everything to do with increasing the flow of ideas and information. 

Google is growing by leaps and bounds because it feeds our need to know and gives us access to information on demand.  Every time we go to a search engine and look up anything, we increase our expectation to find answers quickly. We are in an age where information is currency and anything that gets in the way of our access to information will be minimized and eventually eliminated.  It is inevitable.  We are fast approaching a point where the only hang ups in communication will be individuals withholding information because they are operating on an obsolete paradigm.  So I submit that in the future of business this will not be tolerated from anyone regardless of a person’s race, color, national origin, sexual identification, age, religion, or disability.  The business case for D&I can’t get any clearer than that.

The Ultimate Interview Secret

Posted in Communication, Empowerment, Interview Secret, Interviewing, Job Search, Motivation, Uncategorized, Volunteering on November 2, 2009 by jcsicareerassist

The job is already yours.

How many interviews would you say it takes to secure a job? 1, 2, 5000?  The truth is that when it comes to securing a job, the interview doesn’t end until your last day at the company.  Everyday that you engage with an employer is an interview day.  And given this logic, your first “interview” is also your first workday.  This is a secret that  successful interviewees know and apply daily.

The reason companies hire is because they have a problem and they are looking for a solution.  Interviewees who understand this start working for the company as soon as they find out about the opportunity.  The first thing they do is ensure that they understand the challenges of the organization.  Next, they determine if they have the skills or access to the skills required to bring about a solution.  If they do, they will work to communicate to the decision makers that they have a means to ease the pains that the organization is feeling.

Once they are brought in for the interview/first day they begin to consult with the interviewer.  They use this opportunity to demonstrate their ability to listen, engage, and problem solve.  But more than this, they make sure this first hour or so of work shows that they are already adding value to the company.  If they do this successfully, they will be asked to return and it will continue on until a point in time when either the employee or the employer determines that they’ve gone as far as the relationship will presently take them.

You see, the idea that you need a company’s permission to work for them is a fallacy.  By working for any particular industry, you are automatically working for every organization operating in that industry.  When you move on to a different company, it is ideally because it provides an opportunity to make a greater contribution to your industry of choice.  The more value you add to your industry, the more in demand you will be and the greater the reward will be over time.

The mistake that many candidates make is to think that they cannot contribute unless someone hires them.  But the people who find opportunities the fastest are those who are always looking for ways to contribute to their industry.  They volunteer.  They create blogs.  They participate in online discussion groups.  They start online communities.  They even start their own companies. 

Candidates with this mindset have the goal to contribute to their field to the maximum of their ability.  And because they’re passionate they will do this regardless of the number of doors they have to walk through before they start getting paid for their services.  This is the Secret of empowered interviewees and now it’s yours.

To learn more interview success tips, join us for our upcoming webinar on December 9th at noon.  In The Anatomy of the Interview Process, we will discuss:

  • Phone ettiquette
  • Interview Preparation
  • The Recruiter Relationship
  • Managing Company Expectations
  • Navigating the Interview Process and more…

Our presenters will be Sr. Recruiter and Author of “366 Tips for a Successful Job Search”, Cynthia Wright and JCSI Candidate Relationship Manager, Pedro S. Silva II.  We look forward to your participation and welcome your feedback.

How To Overcome The Need For Closure

Posted in Closure, Communication, Emotional Investments, Follow-up, Interviewing, Job Search, Motivation, Recruiter, Rejection, Uncategorized, Whole-Part Whole on October 20, 2009 by jcsicareerassist
Do you see a connection?

Do you see a connection?

This isn’t the first time that the subject of closure has come up on the JCSI CareerAssist blog.  In a previous post entitled Handling Non-acceptance, we told candidates not to focus on the things that they cannot change.  Sometimes you will not know why you were not chosen for a specific position and you will need to rely on assumptions to move forward.  Then in Managing Your Emotional Investments In a Job Search, we encouraged our readers to keep interviews in perspective.  Being attached to every opportunity can be mentally and emotionally draining and can rob you of a true opportunity when it comes around.

In this post, we are going to assume that the advice in the above mentioned posts didn’t quite stick.  Intellectually you understand that rejection isn’t personal.  You can even see how the concept of leaving the interview at the interview would reduce some stress.  But at the end of the day you still find yourself waiting by the phone to hear back from a potential employer unable to breathe until they let you know one way or the other.  If this sounds like you or someone you know, then read on.

In order to make sense out of the need for closure, it may help to know that our brains are actually wired to see relationships holistically.  As the shapes above show, we tend to see things in wholes instead of individual parts.  Most people would describe the shapes as a circle and a square with missing pieces  rather than a bunch of disconnected lines.  This is known as Gestalt Psychology.

Translated to the job search, this means that when we speak to someone about an opportunity we are going to automatically expect it to come “full circle”–pun intended.  When it doesn’t, our brains tell us that something is missing and this is considered a psychological threat.  What happens in many cases is that we assume that we have somehow caused the “missing” piece by lacking in some way.

In order to overcome this, we must be able to see the stages of recruitment as “whole-parts”.  Based on the Whole Part Whole (WPW) Method used in some sports training  and other modalities, the participant is trained to see that each component is a whole within itself.  An example from basketball would be that while the ability to shoot free throws are a part of a game, the ability to shoot free throws is also a skill on its own.  In other words, an interview is part of getting a job, but it is also just an interview.

If you are following this logic, then you can see how “leaving the interview at the interview” is possible.  This is accomplished by:

  • Seeing the whole.  The big picture.  In other words finding a job. 
  • Gaining an understanding of how the parts relate to the whole. These are considered “whole-parts”. Phone Screens, phone interviews, f2f interviews (how many rounds?), etc.  Ask your recruiter for more information.
  • Focus on developing your skills in each “whole-part”. Phone presence, f2f interview skills, follow-up skills, etc.
  • Approach each “whole-part” as a singular event.  An interview serves its purpose in real time without being seen as making or breaking the opportunity.  The goal is to have an excellent interview experience.
  • When reviewing the event, keep it in perspective.  Don’t think how you can stop losing opportunities. Concentrate on developing your “whole-part” skills.
  • Realize that it all comes together in the end.  If you excel in your “whole-part” skills then the whole picture will eventually come together.

As you can see, overcoming the need for closure is more about what not to do than it is about doing  some technique.  The key is to keep the “whole-parts” in perspective.  By seeing the “Whole-Part Whole”, closure is integrated into the process as it moves step by step.  Seeing the process this way reduces stress by releasing candidates from carrying the burden of their entire futures into every recruitment engagement.

Listen Attentively Respond Accordingly (LARA)

Posted in Communication, Interviewing, Job Search, Networking, Personal Brand, Social Media, Uncategorized on September 8, 2009 by jcsicareerassist
Do you hear what I am saying?

Are you hearing what I am saying?

We are trying to start a new job search acronym that we hope goes viral and transforms interview rooms across America and maybe the world.  That acronym is LARA.  It stands for Listen Attentively Respond Accordingly and you can say you heard it hear first–unless you’ve heard it elsewhere.  If you did, please let me know because I googled it and was shocked not to find it somewhere in the first five pages.

I’m shocked because with all of the job tips out there, I believe that this one should be at the forefront of every candidate’s mind when they sit down for an interview.  After all, we are supposed to be in the age of communication.  We have all of the tools necessary to deliver a message, but they’re  all pointless if they are not received and no feedback is given.  Keeping LARA in mind can help prevent that.  Try it and see.

The next time you’re in a conversation make sure you’re doing your best to really listen to what the other person is saying.  If you’re not clear, ask for clarification and then respond to them in a way that conveys that you understood them and have given your answer some thought.  If this isn’t a common practice, you will notice immediate differences in people’s responses toward you.  You may also notice that there are a lot more barriers to communication than you may have been aware of previously.

The number one barrier you should be mindful of is assumptions.  As noted in the Breaking Down Barriers… article by  Aysha Schurman, “Effective communication can never take place if someone is busy making assumptions.”  However, there is a catch 22 when it comes to job interviews.  After all, a job interview is generally nothing less than a conversation based entirely on assumptions with the job description serving as an assumption checklist.  As a result, by not employing LARA, there can be an increased likelihood of miscommunications.  As a job seeker trying to get noticed and get hired, it usually falls on you to reposition the conversation so that your interviewer sees beyond the job description. Here are a few ways to do that:

  1. Address the major assumptions up front.  This creates a space for LARA to be effective.  Until they are addressed, assumptions will prevent meaningful value-added conversation from taking place.
  2. Introduce new information into the dialogue.  This gives everyone involved something to move on to after the “assumption checklist” is completed.
  3. Create your own assumptions with a well managed social media presence. If your profiles are reviewed, you can almost guarantee that your interview will be personalized rather than a standard plug and play format. (To learn more attend our free upcoming webinar.)
  4. Develop well thought out, open-ended questions that address the organization’s future in their industry. This is your chance to be the interviewer and demonstrate your ability to think strategically. This is LARA’s place in the sun. If you ask questions they never considered, they just may have to hire you to come up with an answer.

When it’s all said and done, full communication does not occur until what has been transmitted is received and confirmed through feedback.  Consider LARA to be the operator in this scenario.  As all of us have undoubtedly experienced–in job interviews and in life–there are times when what you believe you are saying is not what the recipient hears.   By employing LARA you can take command of the conversations you participate in and keep them on track.