Monday, July 27, 2009

A good time to look for a new job ( read that correctly)

Beth Gilfeather

One of the big contributors to why the job market is so weak today is employee retention believe it or not (not necessarily the lack of newly created positions). This lack of job hopping is happening for several reasons to include misperception of market conditions, negatively perceived salary trends and plain old fear of getting caught. All of these obstacles can be addressed and easily overcome. Start looking for a new opportunity and YOU can help stimulate this job market.

In recruiting, we love attrition! It causes a daisy chain of vacancies that must be filled (Bob leaves his job and opens up a position, Sue leaves her job to take this position and opens up her job, etc..).

Unfortunately today, less and less candidates are jumping ship. Why?
-They are afraid there aren't any good jobs to choose from (or any jobs at all to choose from)
-They are afraid the salary they get offered will be too low
-They are afraid they will get caught and terminated, "laid off" or ostracized as a result

Let's address these one at a time:

1- In some instances, people aren't looking right now because they think nothing is happening. Not true! While demand for new hires is certainly down, there are certain verticals that are doing better than others. The technology vertical is one of them. Sales is also a vertical that is picking up. To help you get a more positive (and accurate) perspective on the state of the job market, you'll need to jump online:

Make sure to use job boards like and (not just the run-of-the-mill Monster and Careerbuilders of the world). These sites "aggregate" postings from all over the web (not just from their paying customers) and this will give you a much better sampling of the jobs that you are interested in. Not only will it pull more jobs to you, their search capability is excellent and will allow you to really focus in on what you want.

You can also search the web using an effective boolean string. Try this one: (intitle:job OR inurl:job) KEYWORD or KEYWORD (MA OR Massachusetts) 01432..05544. I have used Massachusetts in this sample, but you can list your own state and zip code range. This will ensure you only pull back jobs in your location. Use a website called and go to "applications" and choose "Zip codes in a radius" to establish the zone you want to search in. Make sure to list the first and last zip in sequential order and separate it by two periods. You can also run this string replacing the word "job" with "position" or "career"

2- People also aren't looking because they think the salaries will be too low. No, we aren't seeing 20% pay raises like we experienced back in the day. However, people are getting good offers right now. We all need to wake up and smell the coffee here. Salary levels have changed. Just like how your home value has gone down, our professional "worth" has too to some extent. As a result, I think we all need to adjust to the new economy which will be about fair, reasonable, merit-based jumps in salary. I think it's perfectly acceptable to want to shoot for a 10% increase when expecting a job offer (and hopefully they can do this or even more). But we need to recognize that salaries are going to go through the same cycle that everything else has in the economy (a correction). So don't expect for an employer to pay you any more just because you need to make more money. Here's the good news...the days of the "low ball" seem to be over. We witnessed a lot of companies over the past 6 months try to put out a low offer and inevitably lose the candidate as a result. Companies are realizing this and are in a better position to be reasonable and fair having been burned by this in Q4 and Q1.

3- Afraid of getting caught is probably the biggest reason people aren't looking. You certainly don't want to be the one who has demonstrated your disloyalty to the company when cuts are being made. If you do, you will likely find yourself terminated or conveniently laid off. And if you are lucky enough to not get terminated, get ready for the bitter attitude you will continue to get from your boss. There's no reason you have to risk your job to conduct a job search.
Use a confidential resume and make sure to take off not only your name and address but also your current employer name. Companies will often run searches on Monster and the web using their company name as the search term to pull back "confidential" resumes of current employees looking to leave.

Don't use your work email to conduct your job search. First of all, your company can monitor this and find out. Or an innocent subject line that reads "your interview tomorrow" could be easily displayed on your desktop when your boss is over at your desk.

Always list your cell phone, not work phone. If you work in an open environment, it is completely obvious when you are trying to hide something on a phone call. This will only lead to suspicion.

If working with an agency, make sure they aren't openly marketing your background if you don't want them to and make sure they aren't sending your resume out without speaking to you first.

Don't ever put your resume into an open database or resume emailing service. You have no control over where it will go.

Bottom line: There are jobs out there. They pay well and you don't have to get caught looking for a new job.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How to Answer 'Tell Me About Yourself...'

By: Jon Jacobs

A new acquaintance recently asked for guidance handling the open-ended interview question I used in the headline of this post. "Although it sounds benign, it can be lethal," he observed. "What do you feel is the answer a hiring manager/recruiter/other is looking for? Just as important: What do they not want to hear?"

He's smart to be looking for effective ways to field that deceptively simple question. It probably trips many people - and in fact probably tripped me up more than once.

While job-hunting in 2006 and early 2007, I faced the question numerous times. Later, when I had the opportunity to hear what career coaches and hiring managers had to say, I realized I'd been going about answering it all wrong.

More Than Where You've Been

The key is to not to make the question a jumping-off point for a career-path version of the "autobiography" your third-grade teacher asked you to write. Remember how everyone tackled those? "I was born in Metropolis, Ohio. My father is a car dealer. I have a sister, Patty, two brothers, Joe and Bill, and a dog, Spike. My hobbies are baseball, model trains and coin collecting....."

In other words: Resist the natural tendency to tick off each of your career roles and transitions in a single narrative.

The interviewer isn't looking for completeness. Instead, she is looking for a coherent "story" that provides indications you're a good fit for the opening. That means your answer should briefly convey both:

· A sense of who you are and where you're going - why the opening you're applying for represents a logical culmination of where you've been. You needn't make that point explicit, but if you can suggest it in your answer, you'll score points. And:

· Something about your previous career that prepares you for the role you're interviewing for. Just as with a resume, take pains to focus this part of your answer on accomplishments, not just responsibilities or functions. For each past or present job you discuss, mention an anecdote about a challenge you faced, a project you completed or a learning experience you had that's directly relevant to the new role. If you can also relate that challenge or project to your motivation for wanting the role, so much the better.

Don't Ramble

You needn't go through each and every job you've had. Feel free to skip over any of them. Nor must you explain why you left jobs: The interviewer surely will question you about that later.

The best answer to "tell me about yourself" will have the Goldilocks quality: just enough detail, without getting tedious or long-winded. Concise but not too concise. I envision this answer taking up to two minutes, assuming the interviewer doesn't break in with tributary questions while you're speaking.

If you can, try to watch yourself from outside while answering. Imagine one fraction of your mind perched in a corner of the wall and keeping tabs on how you're coming off. Be on guard against rambling. If you catch yourself starting to delve deeper and deeper into one situation or one past job, cut yourself off and move on.

When I had to job hunt a few years ago, I rehearsed answers to, "describe your three biggest strengths and your three biggest weaknesses." Surprise - not a single interviewer asked me that question. All the rage in the 1980s and early '90s, it seems to have all but vanished from modern practice. Instead, today's obligatory question is "tell me about yourself." Whether you meet by phone or face-to-face, it's often the first substantive thing out of the interviewer's mouth.
I hope this helps you develop a response that keeps you in the game.

-- Jon Jacobs