Thursday, December 20, 2012

Do references matter in a job search?

By Susan Ricker

When a company requests references with a job application, you might be tempted to skip it, thinking, “Doesn’t my work history speak for itself? Won’t my references all just say good things about me? Do employers even call references?” However, according to a new study from CareerBuilder, employers definitely pay attention to what your references say. In fact, 69 percent of employers say they’ve changed their minds about a candidate after speaking with a reference.

The national study surveyed hiring managers, human resource professionals and workers across industries and company sizes to get a better look at what matters when it comes to references. Check out what references are really saying about you, what hiring managers know and how to get rave reviews.

What hiring managers and employers know
References do matter to potential employers, and they come up earlier in the hiring process than you may think. According to the study, 80 percent of employers said they do contact references when evaluating potential employees. Sixteen percent of those employers will contact references even before they call the candidate for a job interview

What your references say about you could make or break a job offer. Sixty-nine percent of employers said they have changed their minds about a candidate after speaking with a reference, with 47 percent reporting they had a less favorable opinion, and 23 percent reporting they had a more favorable opinion.

However, not everybody is convinced references matter. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said references haven’t swayed their decisions on a candidate one way or the other.

What job seekers should know
It may take extra time to gather contact information and include it in your job application materials, but hiring managers do notice the quality of references, as well as their existence: 29 percent of employers who have contacted references reported that they have caught a fake reference on a candidate’s application. When a reference is contacted by a potential employer, it’s not always guaranteed he or she will sing your praises: 62 percent of employers who contacted a reference listed on an application said the reference didn’t have good things to say about the candidate.

You can improve your odds of getting a great review by simply notifying your references and mentioning what type of job you’re looking for. Don’t surprise your references and risk a short, uninformative review. Fifteen percent of workers reported that they have listed someone as a reference, but didn’t tell that person.

How many references should you include? Seventy percent of workers reported that they provide three or more references when applying to jobs. Ten percent said they typically don’t provide any references, which can be a huge mistake in a job search. Leaving references off of a job application runs the risk of telling hiring managers that your past employers and clients wouldn’t recommend you.

The bottom line is that most employers notice references, which means it’s important to choose yours carefully. “You want to make sure you are including your biggest cheerleaders among your job references,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder.  “Before choosing someone, ask yourself ‘Did this person understand my full scope of responsibilities? Can he or she vouch for my skills, accomplishments and work ethic?’  You also want to make sure that you ask your former colleagues if you can list them as a reference.  If someone is unwilling, it helps you to avoid a potentially awkward or damaging interaction with an employer of interest.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

7 Key Habits of Super Networkers

The ability to network successfully can be one of the greatest assets in business. It allows some people to find incredible opportunities, while others just watch from the sidelines.
Effective networking isn't a result of luck -- it requires hard work and persistence. What does it take to be a super networker? Here are seven of the most important habits to develop:
1. Ask insightful questions.
Before attending networking events, get the names of the people who are expected to attend and search social media sites like LinkedIn to figure out which topics they're probably most interested in. For people who are already in your network, don't assume you know everything they're up to. Find out what they're currently working on -- or perhaps struggling with. This attention to detail can go a long way at your next one-on-one lunch or dinner meeting.

2. Add value.
One of the most powerful networking practices is to provide immediate value to a new connection. This means the moment you identify a way to help someone, take action. If, for instance, you know someone in your network who can help a new connection with a problem, drop what you're doing and introduce the two individuals.

3. Learn their 'story.'
Ask successful entrepreneurs to tell you how they got where they are. Most people think of this as an exercise in rapport building, but hearing these stories can tell you a lot about a person's approach to business. The more you understand your networking partner's mentality, the better you can add and extract value from your relationship.
For example, some entrepreneurs pride themselves on working 16-hour days and doing whatever it takes, while others focus on being strategic and waiting for the right opportunities to open up. These are clues that can not only allow you to see what people value, but also what working with them might be like.
4. Share a memorable fact.
When someone asks, "What do you do?" don't give a canned elevator speech about your company and career. Mention something personal that defines who you really are. Maybe you have a passion for playing an instrument or an obsession with collecting antiques. These are also "things you do," so make it a point to share them. Such personal details can help lighten the mood and get people talking.

5. Keep a list.
What's your routine after attending a networking event or meal? If your answer is, "I go home," you're probably going to miss out on opportunities. Write down important topics that came up at the event. This habit can help prevent opportunities from falling through the cracks and give you something to reference in conversation the next time you meet. You can also develop a reputation as someone who's on top of things.

6. Make small promises and keep them.
No matter how small a promise you make -- such as sending an email or returning a phone call -- delivering on that promise reflects on your character. By following through on your word, you start building a reputation for trustworthiness, which is exactly how every great networker wants to be perceived.

7. Reward your 'power' contacts.
Keep a list of your top five to 10 networking partners and do something each week to add value to one person's life or business. You might send them a book or set up a lunch to introduce them to one of your other contacts. This habit can help you be proactive about staying in touch with your most powerful contacts. Just as with fitness or investing, the most successful people are the ones who choose to be consistent in their actions.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect: How to Rehearse for Your Next Job Interview

By Caroline M.L. Potter
There are a lot of steps that usually happen before you get to the interview portion of your job search: writing a resume, networking, compiling yourreferences. Most folks are able to put a lot of effort into getting the interview, but many fall apart during the actual interview. Why? Poor planning and a lack of practice. 
Instead of winging it, or relying solely on your professional skill set, you should stage a rehearsal for your next job interview.
Not sure how to go about doing so? Start by enlisting a family member, friend or partner to play the role of interviewer, and ask that she stay in character from start to finish. Set up a space, such as a desk or table, where you can create a suitable setting. Then use these 10 tips to from corporate trainer Marlene Caroselli to make your interviews -- both mock and real -- successful.
Do Your Homework
"Learn all you can about the organization in advance," advises Caroselli. Share this information with your mock interviewer, perhaps in the form of crib notes. She can use this to grill you.
Tune In
"Watch people being interviewed on television and make note of what works," she advises. Look for traits that make people likable and competent.
State the Unobvious
"Create one really intriguing statement about yourself," she says. "For example, a woman I know, expecting to be told, 'Tell us a bit about yourself [the most popular interview question],' replied, 'I think I should tell you I'm a nonconforming conformist.' She explained what she meant and wound up getting the job."
Think Outside the Box
A little visualization can go a long way, according to Caroselli, author of Principled Persuasion. "Think about a visual that really represents what you can do," she says. "It can be a photo taken at an event you organized, for example. If you have nothing that symbolizes your capabilities, then look for a pattern not readily apparent in your resume and be prepared to talk about that particular interest or talent, apart from your official work history."
Know Your Lines
Actors do it, and you should, too. "Memorize a few short quotes and have them ready," Caroselli says. "They'll help you respond articulately to virtually any question."
Sum It Up
The very first request an interviewer may make is, "Tell me about yourself." In order to answer this interview question quickly and succinctly, she urges interviewees, "Have an elevator speech ready in case they want a brief overview of your career."
Be Tough on Yourself
Research tough interview questions and provide them to your helper. Also, point out gaps in your skills or holes in your resume and instruct her to grill you on those points. "By comparison, your own, actual interview will seem like a walk in the park, and that prospect will encourage you," Caroselli says.
Capture It on Camera
"If possible, have someone video you doing an interview rehearsal," she says. "Then study your body language to see if it reveals confidence, poise and enthusiasm."
Listen Up
Close your eyes and listen back to the recording of your replies to interview questions. "Play the tape back and analyze your responses," she says. "Ask yourself, 'Would you hire you?'"
Stay Calm
Work on being relaxed before your big meeting. "When you get to the interview site and are waiting to be called in to the interview room, work on a brainteaser," Caroselli advises candidates. "Research shows it calms the nerves and takes your mind off the challenge ahead."

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Differences Between Leading And Managing Your Job Hunt

Vivian Giang

There's a huge difference between looking around for a job and actually taking full responsibilities of your job hunt. In this competitive workforce, you need to be completely proactive.
According to a survey conducted by JobVite, 61 percent of jobseekers say that it’s been harder finding a job this year compared to the previous one.
And this is the reason why those looking for a job should stop managing their job hunt and instead start leading it.
One of the biggest differences between a leader and manager is that a leader innovates whereas the manager administers. This means that the leader comes up with new ideas and moves everyone else in the organization into a forward-thinking phase.
This person has to constantly keep his eyes on the horizon and develop new strategies and tactics. He needs to be knowledgeable about the latest trends, studies and skill sets.
In a similar way, a jobseeker who is leading his job hunt needs to think outside the box in order to stand out in the crowd.
We speak to career expert Melissa Llarena who shares with us research from her soon-to-be-published book that explains the differences between managing and leading a job search. 
1. The manager will create a LinkedIn profile whereas the leader will belong to groups and discussions. 
LinkedIn is a massive networking opportunity for professionals and contributing to the discussion will present you as a thought leader in your industry. You should target the right groups and start conversations related to your areas of expertise.
2. The manager will think about job opportunities alone whereas the leader will evaluate these opportunities with others.
Leaders are aware of their blind spots and will ask for opinions from people they respect,” Llarena told us. “It’s a highly effective strategy to invite professionals to join this board of advisers who have a pulse in your industry, career goals, and intrinsic values.”
3. The manager will study the company’s web site whereas the leader will study the company’s social media sites. 
When companies use their social media accounts, they are speaking directly to their audience and customers. You should also follow the company’s executives’ accounts. This will give you a better idea of what the people behind the company are like and what they believe in.
“You can follow them, engage in their conversations, retweet their messages and eventually you may find yourself engaging in a one-on-one conversation with a top executive at a firm,” she said.
4. The manager will connect with current employees, but the leader will connect with former employees as well.
In order to understand the organization better, you need to speak to the people who know it best — the employees. Although current workers are great sources, former employees can reveal the challenges within the company. Then, you can make a better evaluation as to whether the organization is a good fit for you.
“Talk to former employees because they will be more candid,” Llarena told us. “Current employees have their jobs at stake while former employees have comparatively less to lose.”

Friday, December 7, 2012

The #1 Career Mistake Capable People Make

I recently reviewed a resume from a talented individual. She had terrific experience. And yet, there was a problem: she had done so many good things in so many different fields it was hard to know what was distinctive about her. I know her pretty well and am determined to be useful to her. Yet, based only on her resume it was unclear who in my network to recommend her to.

We talked through this and developed a strategy based more closely with her Highest Point of Contribution (where I flesh this idea out a bit more fully in Harvard Business Review). I see this problem frequently: people who are overworked and underutilized. Much of the responsibility for this lies with out of touch managers but I think we also need to be more deliberate and discerning in navigating our careers.

It is easy to see how this happens:
Step 1: Capable people like to achieve.

Step 2: Other people see they are capable and give them assignments.

Step 3: Capable people gain a reputation as "go to" people. They become "good old [insert name] who is always there when you need her."

Step 4: Capable people end up doing lots of projects successfully but they don't break through to their highest point of contribution.
Using a camping metaphor, it is as if people keep adding additional poles of the same height to the tent. We end up with 10, 20 or 30 poles of the same height, somehow hoping the tent will go higher.
The slightly painful truth is, at any one time there is only one piece of real estate you can "own" in another person’s mind. People can't think of you as a project manager, professor, attorney, insurance agent, editor and entrepreneur all at the same time. They may all be true about you but people can only think of you as one thing first. At any one time there is only one phrase that can follow your name. Might we be better served by asking, at least occasionally, whether the various commitments and projects we have add up to a longer pole?

I saw this illustrated recently in one of the most distinctive resumes I had seen in a while. It belonged to a Stanford Law School Professor [there it is: the single phrase that follows his name, the longest pole in his career tent]. His resume was clean and concise. For each entry there was one, impressive title/role/company and a single line description of what he had achieved. Each one sentence said more than ten bullet points in many resumes I have seen. When he was at university his single line described how he had been the student body president, under "teaching" he was teacher of the year and so on.

The point here is not primarily about resumes, although it applies there as well. The point is we can benefit from evaluating career opportunities through the lens of the question, "Will this become the longest pole in the tent?" If the answer is no we may well still choose to do it. But at least we do it with greater awareness.

There is always a tension between specialization and generalization and I am not suggesting we should shift entirely to one side or the other. Being able to do many things is important in many jobs today. 

Broad understanding also is a must. But developing greater discernment about what is distinctive about us can be a great advantage. Instead of simply doing more things we need to find our highest point of contribution. Failure to be conscientious about this represents the #1 mistake, in frequency, I see capable people make in their careers.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Please Stop Using These 15 Words In Your LinkedIn Profile IMMEDIATELY

-Julie Bort

LinkedIn has scoured the profiles of its 187 million members and come up with a new list of overused, useless buzzwords. 
These are the words that can be an instant turnoff to a recruiter who sees them over and over again because they show that you aren't "dynamic" with great "communication skills," but the opposite.
"You wouldn’t mention how disorganized or irresponsible you are, and their antonyms (organized, trustworthy, etc.) are wasted words too," explains LinkedIn's Nicole Williams.
So, if you are using any of these 2012 buzzwords, fire up your LinkedIn profile right now and scrub them out. Here they are, in order of how overused they are:
-Extensive Experience
-Track Record
-Problem Solving

A few other buzzwords made the list for countries outside the United States. No matter where you live, consider ditching these from your profile, too.
-Experimental (a buzzword in Brazil)
-Multinational (a buzzword in Egypt and Indonesia)
-Specialized (a buzzword in Spain)
By the way, even though some of the buzzwords from 2011 didn't make the Top 10 in 2012, that doesn't mean they've become good words to use again. So, you'll still want to avoid these:
-Communication skills