Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Expect the Tight IT Market to Get Tighter This Year

by John Zappe

Even as the number of tech jobs in the U.S. was steadily climbing in 2012, hitting an all-time high last month, workers were feeling just a bit less confident in their ability to find a new job.
In the last few days, several reports and forecasts have come online, all of them showing that tech workers, despite their own confidence issues, will be hard to recruit.
TechServe Alliance declared that the number of tech workers in the U.S. grew in 2012 by 4.14% to an estimated 4,339,800 workers. That’s more than two-and-a-half times the national rate of job growth (1.52%) exceeds even the growth in the health sector, which increased by 2.26% between January 2012 and last month.
Yet a Randstad Technologies poll conducted in the fourth quarter of last year found 44% of the participating IT workers confident of their ability to find a new job. In the third quarter, 55% were confident. Workers’ confidence could have been shaken by the showdown over the fiscal cliff issues. Another possibility is that with only 275 IT workers in the survey, a few real worriers could have skewed the results.
In any case, employers aren’t buying into that fear. CareerBuilder’s 2013 job forecast says 27% of hiring managers plan to hire permanent, full-time IT workers this year. That’s also what TechServe Alliance expects.
Noting IT employment got off to a “strong start” last month adding 15,800 jobs, TechServe CEO Mark Roberts said, “Despite the lingering uncertainty with the U.S. and global economies, I anticipate demand for IT professionals will remain robust throughout 2013.”
With unemployment in the sector below 4%, the hunt for IT talent is only going to get harder this year.
Rona Borre, CEO of Chicago’s recruiting and tech-staffing firm Instant Technology LLC., told Crain’s Chicago Business, that the market for tech talent is “the tightest I’ve seen it since the tech boom in the late 1990s.”
That view is shared by executives of startups in sectors from software to life sciences. Nine out of 10 companies are hiring, but facing difficulty in finding and keeping the talent they need.
Silicon Valley Bank surveyed 750 company leaders, learning that 87% of them find recruiting talent with the skills they need to be “somewhat” or “extremely challenging.” Two-thirds of them say the biggest challenge they have to retaining talent is “finding and competing for the people with the right skills.” The cost of salaries and benefits, though a concern, came in a distant second. Most critical are the STEM skills, the executives said.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

10 Interview Questions You Should Never Ask (and 5 You Always Should)

by Kristine Solomon of LearnVest

“So, do you have any questions for me?”

This common refrain toward the close of a job interview can make even the best of us stammer when the tables are turned. But with the national unemployment rate over 8%, sharp interview skills are more important than ever.
Whether or not you’re currently looking for a job, try your knowledge: Do you have the right questions to ask your interviewer?

The goal, of course, is to ask a few smart questions—thoughtful ones that show you’ve been paying attention and have done your homework when it comes to researching the company and the specific job you’re after. At the very least, you want to ask something.

Most employers agree that, “No, I have no questions,” is the worst possible response. “The most frustrating thing for a recruiter is when you don’t have any questions at all,” says recruiter Abby Kohut of

We asked professional recruiters to brief us on the top 10 most common interview questions to scratch off our lists immediately—plus five effective ones to ask instead.
Questions You Should Never Ask in a Job Interview

1. Anything Related to Salary or Benefits
“Company benefits [and salary negotiations] don’t come into play until an offer has been extended,” says Kohut. The same principle applies to sick time and vacation days. It’s best to avoid any question that sounds like you assume you already have the position—unless, of course, your interviewer brings it up first. 
2. Questions That Start With “Why?”
Why? It’s a matter of psychology. These kinds of questions put people on the defensive, says Kohut. She advises repositioning a question such as, “Why did the company lay off people last year?” to a less confrontational, “I read about the layoffs you had. What’s your opinion on how the company is positioned for the future?”

3. “Who is Your Competition?”
This is a great example of a question that could either make you sound thoughtful—or totally backfire and reveal that you did zero research about the company prior to the interview, says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter of Before asking any question, determine whether it’s something you could have figured out yourself through a Google search. If it is, a) don’t ask it and b) do that Google search before your interview!

4. “How Often Do Reviews Occur?”
Maybe you’re concerned about the company’s view of your performance, or maybe you’re just curious, but nix any questions about the company’s review or self-appraisal policies. “It makes us think you’re concerned with how often negative feedback might be delivered,” says Kohut. Keep your confidence intact, and avoid the topic altogether—or at least until you receive an offer.

5. “May I Arrive Early or Leave Late as Long as I Get My Hours In?”
Even if you make it clear that you’re hoping for a flexible schedule to accommodate a legitimate concern such as picking up your kids from daycare, Barrett-Poindexter advises against this question. “While work-life balance is a very popular concern right now, it’s not the most pressing consideration for a hiring decision-maker,” she says. “Insinuating early on that you’re concerned about balancing your life may indicate to your employer that you are more concerned about your needs and less concerned about the company’s.”

6. “Can I Work From Home?”
Unless it was implied in the initial job description, don’t bring it up. “Some companies will allow you to work from home on occasion once they see what a productive employee you are,” says Kohut. But an interview isn’t the time to be asking for special favors. Right now your top priority is selling them on you first.
7. “Would You Like to See My References?”
“Interviewing is a lot like dating,” says Barrett-Poindexter. “It’s important to entice with your value and attract them to call you for the next ‘date.’” Offering up your references too soon may hint at desperation. Plus, you don’t want to run the risk of overusing your references.
8. How Soon Do You Promote Employees?
“An individual asking this question may come off as arrogant and entitled,” says recruiter Josh Tolan of

9. Do I Get My Own Office?
This is an uncomfortable one, says Tolan. Of course you may wonder about it, but will something like this really play into whether you accept a career opportunity or not? If so, he says, it may be time to rethink your priorities.
10. Will You Monitor My Social Networking Profiles?
While a valid concern in today’s culture, this is something best left unsaid. “It gives the impression you have something to hide,” says Tolan. Play it safe and don’t post anything(especially disparaging things) about your company, co-workers, or employers on Facebook, Twitter—or anywhere on the internet, really.
And yes, even if you’re not “friends” with anyone at work. These kinds of things have a way of getting around.
Questions You Should Definitely Ask in a Job Interview

1. Can You Explain the Culture to Me, With Examples of How the Company Upholds it?
Asking for specific insight into the company’s culture is key. “Everyone will tell you that their culture is great, but examples prove it,” says Kohut. This will help you decide if you want to work for them. At the same time, most interviewers are also trying to assess if you’re a good cultural fitfor the company.

2. How Have You Recognized Your Employees in the Past?
This is another example of a smart question that digs for specifics. “You want to be sure that your new company appreciates its employees,” says Kohut, and that the company values morale.

3. What Do You Like Most About This Company?
By nature, most people like to talk about themselves, so this question helps warm up your interviewer, suggests Barrett-Poindexter. It also provides critical insight into whether you’d be happy working with this individual or company. “If your interviewer’s answer excites you, that can further reinforce your decision to continue the interview process. If the response is lukewarm, it may give you something to think about before deciding to invest in a future here.”
4. Can You Give Me Examples of Collaboration Within the Company?
“This is a great question for team players,” says Tolan. It not only shows that you have a quality that’s very valuable to the company, but it also gets down to brass tacks when it comes to company culture.
5. What are the Most Important Things You’d Like to See Me Accomplish in the First 30, 60 and 90 days of Employment?
This question shows you’re in invested in what you can bring to the company, and not just what the company can do for you. “Expect the answer to go deeper than just a basic skill set requirement,” says Barrett-Poindexter. “Hope that the interviewer will wander a bit, providing personal insight into qualities he favors–perhaps even offering nuggets of detail you can use to reinforce your value in the follow-up thank-you letter.”

Monday, February 18, 2013

What Motivates You?

Strategies to Answer This Tough Interview Question

"What motivates you?" is one of those tough interview questions where your answer will depend on your background and experiences. This soul-searching interview question can really catch you off guard unless you've thought about it before the interview. Contemplating when you have been most satisfied in your career will not only help you answer this question, but it will also help you focus on what you want in your next job. 
Two candidates answer the motivation question, reflecting their values and what is important to them.
The first one says, "In my previous job, I worked directly with customers and their problems. What I liked was solving problems and helping people. Sometimes it took a lot of effort on my part, but it was very rewarding when the customer appreciated the service."
This interview answer reflects the candidate's interest in helping people and the satisfaction he gets in finding solutions.
The second candidate says, "Two years ago, I was involved in a project I was really excited about. The team I was working with had to come up with innovative ways to market a product that was not received well by consumers. It took lots of effort and long meetings, but we met our deadline and launched a terrific marketing campaign. It was really a motivating experience."
This candidate likes thinking outside the box and being part of a team. He loves a challenge and works well with pressure and deadlines.
Prepare Your Script
Writing out your thoughts will help you think about times when you felt energized by your work, times when you looked forward to going to work. For a source of ideas, refer to your resume. Which tasks did you list? Were they the tasks you enjoyed most and felt most motivated doing?
A statement on your resume might be:
  • Project leader: Led a team in coordinating and monitoring the progress of projects to assure the flow and completion of work on schedule.
What was it that was motivating about this experience? Being in charge? Being the source of information? Controlling the flow of work? Making sure the standards were in line with your work values?
By making a list of motivating experiences from your last two or three jobs, you will begin to see patterns of projects and tasks that stand out. Analyze what you did before. Do you want more of this type of responsibility in your next job? The answers to these questions will give you insight into what stimulates you as well as possibilities for fulfillment in future jobs with similar responsibilities.
Additionally, by focusing on times when you were energized by your work, you may become more enthusiastic about the job you are seeking.
There is no such thing as the perfect answer to the motivation question. Your answer will be based on your own individual experiences and analysis. Ultimately, this exercise will help you reveal to the interviewer what turns you on in your work. Even if you are not asked this question, your preinterview thinking, analysis and scripting will help you be more focused, project more interview confidence and be more in control of what you want in your next job.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

7 Qualities of Incredibly Productive People

Jeff Haden, Inc.

Some people get more done than others--a lot more.
Sure, they work hard. And they work smart. But they possess other qualities that make a major impact on their performance.
They do the work in spite of disapproval or ridicule.
Work too hard, strive too hard, appear to be too ambitious, try to stand out from the crowd. It's a lot easier and much more comfortable to reel it in to ensure you fit in.
Pleasing the (average-performing) crowd is something remarkably productive people don't worry about. (They may think about it, but then they keep pushing on.)
They hear the criticism, they take the potshots, they endure the laughter or derision or even hostility--and they keep on measuring themselves and their efforts by their own standards.
And, in the process, they achieve what they want to achieve.
They see fear the same way other people view lunch.
One of my clients is an outstanding--and outstandingly successful--comic. Audiences love him. He's crazy good.
Yet he still has panic attacks before he walks onstage. He knows he'll melt down, sweat through his shirt, feel sick to his stomach, and all the rest. It's just the way he is.
So, just before he goes onstage, he takes a quick shower, puts on fresh clothes, drinks a bottle of water, jumps up and down and does a little shadowboxing, and out he goes.
He's still scared. He knows he'll always be scared. He accepts it as part of the process. Pre-show fear is like lunch: It's going to happen.
Anyone hoping to achieve great things gets nervous. Anyone trying to achieve great things gets scared.
Productive people aren't braver than others; they just find the strength to keep moving forward. They realize fear is paralyzing while action creates confidence and self-assurance.
They can still do their best on their worst day.
Norman Mailer said, "Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day."
Remarkably successful people don't make excuses. They forge ahead, because they know establishing great habits takes considerable time and effort. They know how easy it is to instantly create a bad habit by giving in--even just this one time.
They see creativity as the result of effort, not inspiration.
Most people wait for an idea. Most people think creativity happens. They expect a divine muse will someday show them a new way, a new approach, a new concept.
And they wait and wait and wait.
Occasionally, great ideas do just come to people. Mostly, though, creativity is the result of effort: toiling, striving, refining, testing, experimenting... The work itself results in inspiration.
Remarkably productive people don't wait for ideas. They don't wait for inspiration. They know that big ideas most often come from people who do, not people who dream.
They see help as essential, not weakness.
Pretend you travel to an unfamiliar country, you know only a few words of the language, and you're lost and a little scared.
Would you ask for help? Of course. No one knows everything. No one is great at everything.
Productive people soldier on and hope effort will overcome a lack of knowledge or skill. And it does, but only to a point.
Remarkably productive people also ask for help. They know asking for help is a sign of strength--and the key to achieving more.
They start...
At times, you will lack motivation and self-discipline. At times, you'll be easily distracted. At times, you'll fear failure or success.
Procrastination is a part of what makes people human; it's not possible to completely overcome any of those shortcomings.
Wanting to put off a difficult task is normal. Avoiding a challenge is normal.
But think about a time you put off a task, finally got started, and then, once into it, thought, "I don't know why I kept putting this off--it's going really well. And it didn't turn out to be nearly as hard as I imagined."
It never is.
Highly productive people try not to think about the pain they'll feel in the beginning; they focus on how good they will feel once they're engaged and involved.
And they get started. And then they don't stop.
...And they finish.
Unless there's a really, really good reason not to finish--which, of course, there almost never is.

Read more:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

5 Things You Should Be Doing If You’re Unemployed

By ZipRecruiter

You know the saying, “Applying to jobs is a full-time job”?
Don’t listen to it.
What You Should Be Doing If You’re Unemployed
Applying to jobs you’re not qualified for (which 50% of job seekers reportedly do!) is counter-productive to your job search. Competition is too fierce. Even qualified applicants aren’t getting callbacks. So, stop applying to so many jobs and allocate time each week to becoming more hirable. Here’s how…
1. Volunteer
Volunteering can increase your chances of being hired if you’re strategic about it.Unemployed teacher? Help out with after school programs or volunteer to be a coach’s assistant. Web designer? Find a local non-profit in desperate need of a re-design and offer your services pro bono. By volunteering somewhere relevant, you’ll keep your skills fresh while enhancing your resume.
2. Keep Your Skills Current
If you lack a skill commonly required for jobs you’re seeking, spend time each day building that skill. Take advantage of numerous free resources online, including tutorials, e-books, and how-to videos. If you’d rather have more of a class setup, then look for free or affordable adult education classes in your area. Alternatively, if you already possess the necessary skills but haven’t been practicing, the do so. Skill atrophy is a huge concern for hiring managers, so practice and get yourself ready for pre-employment skills tests.
3. Network
There are two parts to networking: reconnecting with your old contacts and forming new ones. Depending on where you are in your career, reconnecting might mean contacting professors, college advisers, and internship supervisors, or it might mean getting in touch with old colleagues, bosses, and business acquaintances.
Find them, e-mail them, call them. Ask them to coffee. Ask how they are (networking is social, after all) and let them know the specifics of your job search (industry, location, etc.). See if they know of anything or anyone.
Most importantly, follow up!
At a temporary dead-end with your current contacts? Make new ones. Go to networking events sponsored by your university, industry, city, and so on. And look beyond traditional networking events. Consider going to lectures, neighborhood council meetings, even community bar crawls (go easy on the sauce). Each of these provides an opportunity to meet people with similar interests, and you can have fun in the process.
Again, follow up!
4. Freelance
Some job seekers are opposed to anything that’s not a full-time job. If this sounds like you, it’s time to change your mindset. Freelancing is a great way to boost your skills, resume, portfolio, professional network, income, and confidence. Search for freelance openings here.
5. Build An Online Presence
Get found online. Start a blog, spruce up your social network profiles, create an online portfolio to showcase your work. Find companies you’re interested in working for, subscribe to their blogs, and follow them on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Find decision-makers at those companies and follow them as well. Learn what they’re talking about, do a little research, and then engage with them online. Impress them with your interest and insights.
Worst case scenario — you’ll learn what’s important to them and use this information to customize your application when a job opens up.
Better case scenario — you’ll establish a rapport with someone who will recommend you for a position and/or tell you about unpublished openings.
Best case scenario — you’ll impress someone so much over time that they’ll create a job for you or bring you in for an exploratory interview.
What are you doing to become more hireable?

Friday, February 8, 2013

5 Ways to Dramatically Improve Your Skills

Jeff Haden

He may be an American hero and the first man to break the sound barrier, but years ago Chuck Yeager sent me on the wrong path.
Okay, maybe it was my fault. I read Chuck's autobiography and somehow came away with the (hey, I was young) impression that great pilots become great pilots by taking great risks: Superior skills could only be acquired by constantly pushing the envelope, intentionally crossing the line between control and potential disaster and reeling it back in....
So I assumed becoming not just a good but a great motorcycle racer required taking great risks. Hey, I figured, just ride WFO and by hanging it out over the edge and pulling it back in enough times time I would either become a great rider or...
I tried not to think about the "or."
Eventually -- way longer than it should have taken -- I was forced to think about the "or" and realize guts had nothing to do with going fast. Maybe it was riding for another hour with (as I later discovered) two broken wrists. Or maybe it was touching an unpadded knee to the pavement at 120 mph and seeing stark visual proof that a kneecap is a bone.
Or maybe it was when I realized I didn't think of crashing as an "if" but as a "when."
I never became a great racer, but I did learn what most successful people -- in any field -- already know: Bravery isn't a requirement for accomplishment. Talented, highly skilled people don’t take big risks, yet they still manage to accomplish big things.
How? They prepare. They train. They constantly experiment and adapt and refine, refine, refine. Successful people gain superior skills not by breaking through the envelope but by approaching and then slowly, incrementally expanding the boundaries of the envelope.
The key to improvement is making small, smart changes, evaluating the results, discarding what doesn't work, and further refining what does work. When you constantly modify and refine something you already do well, you can do it even better.
Say you want to improve a certain skill. Here are simple techniques:
Go a lot faster. Force yourself to go much faster than normal. You'll screw up, and in the process you'll adapt and find new improvements.

Go a lot slower. Force yourself to go slower and you’ll identify techniques or strategies that hold you back. Plus you can experiment with new techniques that aren't apparent at normal speed.

Break a complex task into smaller parts. Almost every task includes a series of discrete steps. Pick one step, deconstruct it, master it... then put the whole task back together. Then choose another component part to deconstruct. Incrementally improve enough steps and the overall improvement can be huge.

Measure differently. Pick a different measurement than you normally use to analyze your performance. Measure speed instead of accuracy, for example. Or use video or audio for feedback. (Watching yourself isn't particularly fun but you'll quickly see you a number of things you never realized you could do differently.)

Practice perfectly. Focus on performing a task as well as you possibly can. When you try to do your best even the smallest mistakes are obvious. Then you can learn from those mistakes, adapting and modifying your techniques so you constantly, even if only incrementally, improve.
You can extend this to almost anything. Whether it's a physical task, making sales calls, giving presentations, managing employees, conducting interviews... any task can be performed more effectively and efficiently.
Don’t just push the envelope until it breaks... or until it breaks you. Tweak, refine, and reinvent a skill that you already perform well... with a little time and a lot of focus, you'll perform incredibly well.