Your Network Rocks, But…

LinkedIn Network

Try InMaps to see your network’s spread

Let me start this off by making it crystal clear I do believe getting a warm referral to a job can make a huge difference. It tells a prospective employer that someone they believed in enough to hire and keep around, someone who knows more about you than they will learn from your resume, thinks you would be great at this job.

However, unless you’re very well connected, your network is not the holy grail of job searching, and should definitely NOT be the only tool you use. As preferable as it is to just ask around for a job, here’s why it may not be enough:

  1. Your connections are not endless. Great jobs you will be great at and that will make you happy are out there, but the odds you know someone who can help you get it are directly dependent on your network (and I don’t mean knowing recruiters.) How many people do you know who work in a company or an industry you really want to work in? That’s probably what your network is limited to.
  2. People only remember you’re looking for a week. Or maybe two. The deal is though, unless you see someone every week and talk about your job search, they may not think of you the next time someone tells them about a job. That doesn’t make your 2nd and 3rd connections on LinkedIn sound so promising all of a sudden…
  3. You party with your friends. It’s sad, but true. Friends see you at your worst sometimes and that can affect how they perceive you’ll be at work. A stranger who interviews you, on the other hand, will only see what you want to show them. I’m not advocating being deceitful, just putting your best foot forward and being the person you want to be.

In short, definitely leverage your network when looking for work, but don’t forget to explore all of the other avenues out there. I’ve gotten most of my jobs so far just by applying in.

How to Make Yourself Stand Out (AKA How to Get an Interview)

First of all, let me apologize for not writing in a few weeks. My new job has been awesome and I’ve been so focused on making sure I do a good job there that a few things have had to fall to the way side. So thanks for sticking it out with me!

Now on to the good stuff =]

Recruiters, sourcers, hiring managers, etc., who does everyone you want to impress look for? Rock stars. It’s the recruiting #buzzword of the day. So are you a rock star? I bet there’s something that makes you a rock star. Whether it’s a cool hobby, some impressive expertise in a domain, or your ability to just make something look easy. I won’t write about figuring out what that special something is just yet, maybe that’ll be good for another post.

So, assuming you’ve already followed the first few common-sense steps to applying for a job… (in no particular order)

  1. Make sure you’re actually qualified for the jobs you’re applying for
  2. Follow directions
  3. You’ve got a resume and a cover letter draft ready to go (yes, you are supposed to tailor them to each job you apply to…)

…you should be ready to rock star up your resume and cover letter.

What makes a rock star? Outstanding accomplishments, deep expertise, an unquenchable thirst to learn…. oh and some crazy notion that challenges are fun and exciting. So how do you show people you’ve got a little (or a lot!) of that?

You tell them a story. Not a long, 10-pager mind you. Just enough to help them see what’s so special about you. Your story starts at the objective line.

  • Are you a recent grad?
  • Do you have 10 years of experience?
  • Do you have an unquenchable thirst for learning
  • Do you love challenges?
  • Are you just way too excited to change this industry?

Point it out! Your objective line is a great place to do that! “Recent grad with 1 year of experience in PCB design for consumer electronics looking to take on new challenges and make company XYZ’s products even better!”

Make sure whoever’s reading your resume doesn’t miss that because it’s drowned out in some not-so-glittering details about all the super technical, in-depth things you did. 

  1. Cut out the jargon. Does your mom understand what you do when she reads your resume? If yes, you’re on the right track. If not, consider changing some of your verbage…
  2. Bring out the meaning in the tasks you did. Did your technical jargon accomplish something like creating a new product for your company? And oh, you were in charge of doing everything from A to Z all by yourself? Well, make sure you write that clearly and simply! I sure as heck don’t that’s what your “oscillometer design, integration and validation” experience means.
  3. Don’t undervalue your college triumphs. Winning some cool competition or working on an electric car in college is just as valid once you graduate as it was when you were trying to flirt with the not-so-geeky sorority girls (although I would continue to do cool things after college, especially if it’s been several years since you did anything that exciting. You want to continue being a rock star!)
  4. Show off a little. There’s nothing wrong with dedicating a few lines to some cool personal/research projects you undertook or having a section where you list all of your accomplishments and awards. Heck! Have both (just stick to the 2 page rule. Less is more.)

The point is – don’t be afraid to show off, and write it all in a way that makes it easy to understand for everyone who did not sit in those mechanical engineering courses with you.

Freebie insider tip: Don’t apply to a whole bunch of jobs at one company – the recruiters and hiring managers can see the list of the 10+ openings you applied to. Let’s face it, how likely is it you’re a good fit for ALL of those roles?

*** Like this article? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for more great tips! ***

What a Recruiter Will and Will Not Do For You

It’s been interesting getting into recruiting, because I suddenly became the go-to for all sorts of resume, cover letter, job pivot questions, etc.

One of the more interesting ones is “Will a recruiter get me a job?” Honestly, I see exactly why so many people think this, and I would love for it to work out the way we all wish it did, but…

A recruiter’s job is not to get you a job.

Wait, so if your job isn't to get me a job... what do you do all day?!

Wait, so if your job isn’t to get me a job… what do you do all day?!

You getting a job is often a great benefit of a recruiter’s work, but a recruiter is usually focused on the company s/he works for and its needs. If your needs and the company’s match up, then it’s a match made in heaven. The rest of the time though, there may not be much a recruiter can do to help. (Nope, no magic perfect job creating wands.)

So, considering that a recruiter gets paid by a company (or several) to find people and therefore focuses on getting that entity what it needs first and foremost, what kind of assistance can you expect from a recruiter?

  1. Determining whether this is a job you want. A recruiter will usually have 10-20 job openings s/he’s working on and should be knowledgeable enough about the openings and company(ies) to help you figure out whether you would like any of them.
  2. Positioning yourself. With that knowledge about the companies comes insight about what they want. A recruiter will be able to help you tailor your resume and prepare for interviews so that you can confidently showcase the skills and attributes that will be most impressive and valuable to the hiring manager.
  3. Advocate for you. If a recruiter submits you to a recruiting manager, it’s because s/he saw potential for you to be good in a particular team/position. As such, s/he will be able to argue your case to the employer (and will want to since recruiters are paid to find people who get hired.)

Here’s what a recruiter usually will NOT do:

  1. Sit you down and explore lots of different options
  2. Go out there and find jobs for you to apply to
  3. Force the employer to hire you

Now that you have a better idea as to the support and guidance you can expect, what are the things you can do to  get the most from any recruiter?

  1. Build good will by being responsive. Hate it when you don’t hear back from a recruiter for weeks on end? Well, we don’t like that very much either. If you help us by keeping us in the loop, we will want to help you that much more.
  2. Be honest. There are benefits to hiding your cards, but a good recruiter has your best interest in mind. No one wins if you leave for another company after a few months. If you let us get to know you, the improved understanding of your personality, goals and singularities will enable us to represent you more accurately and to make better suggestions regarding openings.
  3. Be understanding. It may not seem like it from your end, but there is actually a lot of elements recruiters do not have control over. Case in point: sometimes a hiring manager will not return our phone calls or reply to our emails for weeks, so we have no updates to give you, no matter how many times you ask. Or we can receive feedback that someone we submitted was not a good fit, but no details as to why, so we have no advice to offer to help you be more successful next time. As much as you may want to take the frustration of the job hunt out on a recruiter, try to remember that we can be powerful allies and that sometimes we’re just doing our best to connect you to a job but don’t have the power to hire you ourselves. 

The take homes are that recruiting can be messy, and that recruiters can help you but will not do all of the work for you. You still have to go out there, find jobs, apply to them, and give some great interviews. Oh, and recruiters are people too. Treat us well and we will (for the most part) return the favor.

Repost: How to Negotiate a Job Offer, By Upstart Blog

I came across this great article by Upstart Blog and thought it would just be way too selfish to keep this to myself. Taking credit also just wouldn’t float my boat, so please consider this a friendly share and check out the article on Upstart Blog’s page.

To wet your appetite, here’s the beginning…

“Recently, one of my mentees – “upstarts” as we call them – asked for advice in negotiating a job offer. He had two competing offers – one from a large well-known tech company, and the other from a startup. The offer from the bigger company was better financially by a long stretch, but he was more excited about joining the startup. In the end, he negotiated a significantly better offer from the startup and got the best of both worlds.

A friend suggested that I share the advice I gave him, considering the many job-seekers who might benefit from it. I hired more than a thousand people directly or indirectly when I was at Google, so I’ve seen many flavors of negotiation – some more successful than others. And I also know well how both startups and larger companies think about the hiring and negotiating process…”

Click on me to read the rest of the article on Startup Blog. Enjoy!


How to Keep Your Chin Up During your Job Search

Looking for a new job can be a little demoralizing… every single company you interview with (assuming they even contact you regarding your application) isn’t going to call you back to a 2nd round interview or hire you… and you know what? That’s OK!

So that may sound a little crazy, but let’s be honest. Would you rather end up at a job you hate or hold out just a little longer for a great company you’ll be happy to stay with a few years?

So, in the meantime, here’s how to stay cheerful, motivated, and remember your worth! =

  1. Keep trying! Sounds a little nuts, but each company that isn’t right brings you one step closer to finding the right company. Explanation: if you’re not spending your time and energy on companies that aren’t right for you, you’ve got more resources to focus on finding that perfect professional home =] Plus, the more companies you reach out to, the likelier you are to find that right fit more quickly! (Note: this does not mean spam companies you’re sure wouldn’t be a good fit.)
  2. Focus on the positive. Talking about yourself and what you bring to teams (and brainstorming when you prepare for those interviews) should have given you a pretty solid understanding of all the great things that make you a wonderful person to hire. Don’t forget all those great things! No one is perfect and we each have our individual flaws, just as we possess unique talents, so don’t get bogged down by the rejection, and remember all the things that make you a great employee (that they’ll be sorry they missed out on!)
  3. Learn. Interviews go both ways. Recruiters and hiring managers want to get to know you, but you also want to get to know them too so you know what you’re getting yourself into. As you do more interviews, you should have an increasingly more comprehensive understanding of the current state of your industry and what you can realistically expect (salary, office culture, work-life balance, etc.) Use this knowledge to make that company you want to work for that much more real in your mind (can you imagine what it’d be like?) and cement your resolve and determination to find it!
  4. Don’t take rejection too personally. Companies often have a very clear idea of the skills, experience and personality they want for a given role. Being rejected for a position does not mean there’s anything wrong with you, it just means you weren’t the person they think will be the best at doing this job with their company (and its own, special culture.) I realize this is more difficult to do than to say… so when you’re not selected for a role, try asking yourself, would I be happy working for a company that isn’t right for me?
  5. Be happy. Looking for a new job can be hard work if you put your mind to it! Crafting and sending out resumes and cover letters, doing phone screens, filling out applications, taking personality and aptitude tests, attending on-site interviews… doing this 8 – 5 everyday can be exhausting! Make sure you still make some time for the hobbies and people that make you happy.

You probably could have guessed it, but what makes me happy is walking and playing with my fuzzy little terror =]

Added benefit: sunshine makes me happy!

Added benefit: sunshine makes me happy!

*** Like this article? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for more great tips! ***

How to Ace a Phone Screen (or Interview!)

Got a request from a good friend of mine, so I thought I’d go over some tips to blast through the phone screen and get yourself invited for an interview. (These tricks are also great for the interview itself!)

Quick announcement first though: I’ve started helping friends & contacts out with resumes, cover letters… everything related to applying for a job really! If you’d like some help, feel free to leave me a message here, Tweet or Facebook me. 

Now, for phone screens!

You can learn to speak “good” like me! Credit:

What is the purpose of a phone screen?

  • To make sure you have the experience a recruiter/hiring manager is looking for. Did you lie on your resume? Are your position titles misleading? Did you work on a specific task on a daily basis or do a few hours each month… These are the kinds of things that will be checked during a phone screen. 
  • To check your communication skills. Are you awkward or uncomfortable to speak with? Will you be able to communicate with customers, colleagues and managers in a professional manner? Those things are important! If you thought your English and Comm. professors were full of it… you’re going to regret it now!

Here’s how to shine:

  • Don’t lie on your resume. Sounds obvious, but a lot of people do it anyway. The truth will come out at some point, and you won’t end up getting the position. Instead, you will waste your time going through process and end up on agency DO NOT CALL lists. PS: if you do get the position, you could get fired for lying, so just don’t do it. Seriously.
  • Determine what the most important things you did are. First, identity the key tasks and skills mentioned in the job description. What have you done that is similar or helped you develop those skills? Those are the things you want to focus on to convince your interviewer that you have what they’re looking for.
  • Practice talking about the things you did at your different positions. Tell your friends, your family, your dog, your cat… hell, tell your neighbor! The more you talk about it, the more comfortable you will be telling your interviewer about it despite being nervous. This means you won’t stumble as much, or mumble…. or fill the conversation with as many “ums.”
  • Relaaaaax. Stress can make you sound less capable than you really are, so take a deep breath, do some stress-relief exercises, and make sure you’ve done everything you can to prepare beforehand so you’re as comfortable as possible =]
  • Research. Doing a little research on the company is one of those important things you can do to prepare so you’re as comfortable as possible during your screen (mentioned under “Relaaaax.”) I doubt most places expect you to know everything about their company for a preliminary phone screen, but it’s still good to have some kind of understanding of what they do and be able to explain why you want to work for them.
  • Join ToastMasters. So what if you really just don’t feel comfortable communicating / feel really awkward? Check these guys out:  They’ll help you practice giving speeches in an accepting environment (yes, it WILL help you!), give you practical tips, and, most importantly, force you to practice!

Let me know if this was helpful!

*** Like this article? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for more great tips! ***

Will Playing Hard-to-Get Help You Land Your Dream Job??

Well… it really depends! Let’s keep this short and sweet though.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s use a metaphor anyone can relate to: relationships. Finding a job is like dating; both process are driven by people. Can playing hard to get help you in dating? Yes. But it can also ruin your chances! So, as with just about everything else in life, it’s all about balance.

The point of playing hard-to-get is to communicate that you are wanted and have other options; it gives you value in other’s eyes. This works with finding a job. Why would a company want you if no one else wants you? If you had valuable skills then other companies would want you too, right? So whether you do or don’t, act like you have options!

Ask insightful questions, like what the work environment is like, what people like about working at this company, the reason the last person left, the kinds of tasks you will get to do in this position (you want your work to be interesting!)… Things someone who is deciding between several options would take into account.

Yes, it sounds simplistic and silly, but HR, recruiters and hiring managers are all people too. Life lessons permeat all of our actions, including what we do at work.

There is a flip side to take into account: pulling too far and losing it altogether. Just like in dating, you can play too hard-to-get. Make your interviewer think you’re not interested and just wasting their time, and they won’t take you seriously.

So how do you avoid doing that? Don’t act disdainful, like you’re too good for the job. That’s one of the biggest tip-offs someone won’t take the position in the end, and a recruiter is looking for the best person for a position, so why would s/he waste his time on someone who obviously is not interested?

Another large hint is when a candidate asks about money too early; it can foretell problems in negotiating money. Sometimes candidates try to get as much as possible, so much so that they end up asking for too much and end up losing the job. If you’re sure you can find a company who will pay you for, then great! But if not…. then you might not want to ask about money too early.

The point to remember is that this whole process is driven by people: the candidate, the recruiter, HR, recruiting managers… It’s the biggest variable to keep in mind. Keep your sights on your interactions with you interlocuteur(s) and you will be that much closer to getting that dream job!

*** Like this article? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for more great tips! ***