Look At Me!!

It’s been said a million times, but based on what we’re still seeing online, bears repeating:  take care when posting pictures and personal information online.

Social media and social networking sites are wonderful!  From finding long-lost relatives on Facebook, to connecting with someone at a company you’re dying to work for, sharing through technology is a positive thing.  The internet has enriched humanity is countless ways.  What we share with the world can have far-reaching impact.

Of course, the flip side of everything being public is…that everything is public.  The internet is a shapeless galaxy with no beginning and no end, so who knows how far our posts will float?  Therefore, it is prudent to be careful about the image we project online that may be seen by potential employers.  The CFO who was considering you for that cushy finance job cannot unsee that unfortunate snapshot of you doing a shot while holding up a particular finger for the viewer.  That may not be your normal state, but it will leave an impression.

To minimize this risk, adjust privacy settings on personal accounts, such as Facebook, to the tightest level possible.  Remember that some profile pictures will always be public, whether connected to other people or not.  Use separate forums for professional and personal contacts.  Google yourself to see what a potential hiring manager might see if and when they Google you.

For professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, you don’t need to buy headshots, but put a little effort into your profile picture.  It should be properly lit, not an extreme close-up, and project a friendly, approachable image.  This is not the place for a photo of you in your award-winning Catwoman costume.  Watch your words, too: tweets, comments, posts, etc.  Potential employers might judge negatively based on vulgarity, rants, and so on.

In this world where everything is captured and recorded, it’s smart to exercise a little discretion.  It may not be completely fair, but it’s reality.  Keep an eye on your public presence.  The public has its eye on you.

Mind the Gap

It used to be that people would find a job and stay there forever and ever until retirement.  That has not been the case for quite some time.  Today’s American workforce is likely to experience more job changes than even a generation ago.  There are many factors affecting this relatively recent societal trend, but a major one is the economy, which has experienced a lot of turbulence over the past decade.  Many organizations have been forced to cut payroll, downsize, merge or close.

What does this look like on a resume?

Traditionally, this would look like unreliable job-hopping.  Potential employers would assume that the candidate was inept, selfish, or must have a personality problem.  Nowadays, frequent job changes, or stints of temporary employment, are normal and acceptable.

What should you do if you’re worried that a company might think negatively?

First of all, I cringe when candidates tell me that they’ve been advised to omit certain jobs, or fudge dates of employment, to hide a gap.  Companies are legally allowed to call former employers to confirm this information.  Generally, hiring managers are a lot more understanding of extenuating circumstances than a perceived deliberate cover up.  They’re realizing that a lot of good employees have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  With free time forced upon them, people may decide to explore a new career, go back to school, travel, or simply decompress while spending quality time with loved ones before returning to work.

I’m in favor of including all jobs, temp assignments, projects, contract work, volunteer work and schooling, (and designate each as such), on the resume itself.  A full explanation can be provided during an interview, and a recruiter can guide you on how to best present each situation.

Unless, of course, you really are inept, selfish, or have a personality problem. 😉

Let’s Get Down to Motives!

The interviewer asks the inevitable:  “Why are you looking for a new job?” and, for good measure, why you left your previous posts.  Before immediately revealing that you just want a shorter commute, let’s think about this carefully.

Obviously, if everything were perfect, you wouldn’t be on the market.  So why do they even ask?  Even if you are being recruited – just like “wandering eye” syndrome – you wouldn’t waste your time entertaining the opportunity unless something was missing from your current relationship with your job.  There are lots of legitimate reasons for looking.  Let’s be honest:  sometimes we just want a higher salary, or management didn’t deliver on a promise, or the workload makes even workaholics look lazy.  Should these reasons be disclosed to a recruiter or hiring manager?

Yes and no.  An applicant once told me he was tired of driving an hour, subject to traffic and the fancies of inclement winter weather.  The job he applied for, which matched his skills perfectly, was in his hometown.  But he wanted to make more than my client had budgeted for.  In this case, besides showcasing the employee’s talents and qualifications, I was able to convince my client that the close distance was advantageous:  no worrying about the employee being able to stay late, or being late because of snow.  The candidate got the job, and at his desired salary!  On the other hand, in most cases, we never want to make it sound as if this is the sole reason want to leave.  Many valid reasons for leaving a job, except for those out of our control such as companies closing or moving, can sound very petty and self-serving.  Managers want to know that there is genuine interest in their company, and in how you can apply your experience to helping fulfill their vision for the position.  They want to feel that the enthusiasm for the job and company is sincere, not borne of a desire to drive fewer miles.  Motives should always be positive, emphasizing how the company will be helped by investing in you.

Which brings us to salary.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting an increase, and if your current employer is unable or unwilling to oblige, it’s perfectly fair to see what’s out in the market for your position and skill set.  But again, you don’t want to emphasize that the only reason you are looking is for money.  Like it or not, it comes across a bit selfish and one-sided.  There will be plenty of time to discuss compensation if and when both parties like each other after the initial interview.

And if you end up getting that new job, there will be lots of reasons to be enthusiastic:  a fresh start, new ways to contribute and make an impact, new colleagues – and the shortened commute/new boss/bigger paycheck will be the icing on the cake no one has to know about!

Is This Thing On?

In a world where technology advances at the speed of light, and two-year olds are proficient with iPhones, it’s important for all of us – especially job seekers – to make sure our computer skills are up-to-date.  This is not to suggest that we all need to run out and learn how to write code or build a website (unless those are the types of jobs we’re interviewing for!), but we definitely need to know our way around universally used programs like MS Office, Outlook, Power Point, etc.  And with video conferencing a normal and convenient part of conducting business around the world, familiarity with programs such as Skype is also imperative.

We’ve seen otherwise qualified, management-level candidates passed over for positions because they copped to not knowing how to run an Excel report, or couldn’t figure out how to download and set up a Skype account.  We understand that new programs can be intimidating, and there seem to be an infinite number of functions and ways to screw everything up.  Getting over it is a simple matter of practice.  Take a class, or dive right in and teach yourself.  Many years ago, I taught myself Power Point so that I wouldn’t sweat bullets every time I was asked to create a presentation!

Learning a new program may seem daunting at first, but it really will be professionally rewarding once you know it.  Companies will view you as sharper than the competition, and that’s just the impression you need to make to stay ahead of the pack!

Excuse Me, Your Template is Showing!

Just as you would not want your figure-shaping unmentionables to show, so should you take the same care to not expose the template used to make your resume look so pretty.  Many a cover letter, resume or application has been received with its skeleton showing.  For example:

  • A resume that shows the word “Header” where the header is.
  • A cover letter that gushes about how badly you want to work for, literally, “insert company name here.”

This is so easy to avoid!  Before submitting these important representations of your career and goals, follow these steps:

  1. Proofread your document to make sure template instructions like “Type phone number here” are gone.
  2. Save in a Normal or “Read-Only” mode (for submission).
  3. Have someone else read it before sending out.

We understand that sometimes these templates and features are unwieldy, and there are a million of them!  Who hasn’t wanted to toss their computer out the window because the margins weren’t cooperating, or the line spacing was off by a millimeter?  Pinto Employment is here to help.  We will write your resume and send you a clean, usable MS Word document – the pretty picture.  See the Resume Writing section of our website for more information!

I Heard a Rumor

You land an interview with XYZ Inc. Part of your preparation might be to casually check with your associates to see what they know about the company.  Someone gives you a vague story about their customer service department screwing up every shipment.  Well, you can’t risk bringing your customers here, so you start to worry.  What if you bring on customers and then, because of this alleged uncaring import department, you lose the relationships you’ve worked so hard through the years to cultivate?  Maybe you should cancel the interview…

Whoa there!  You haven’t even given them half a chance!

There are always rumors out there about every company.  Most of the time, these are exaggerated and unfounded.  There are two sides to every story, and you owe it to yourself to give this interview a chance, with your own eyes and ears.  Besides, cancelling might just burn a bridge and any opportunities to work together in the future, here or elsewhere.

Remember when you were in elementary school, and at the end of the year, when you found out who your teacher would be for the next grade, invariably another student would proclaim, “She’s horrible!” or “He’s mean!”  And remember how nothing happened, the teacher was perfectly nice, and you lived to see yet another grade?  Don’t rely on hearsay; find out for yourself!

I Feel So Alone!

“I couldn’t call you back because my phone was misbehaving.”  “I didn’t check my email all day.”  “I can only interview Tuesdays at 7:00am or 6:00pm.”

These are actual quotes from people in need of a new job.  This amazes, confuses, frustrates, and annoys a recruiter or hiring manager.   We hate having to chase people.

To treat your job search with such nonchalance is a surefire way to let someone else swoop in and get the opportunity, and probably the job.  If you’ve submitted your resume somewhere, you should be ready for a phone call and/or an email, and you should have a plan for how to take the necessary time to attend an interview.  I’m not suggesting that you jeopardize your current job by calling out sick, but have a handle on your schedule so that it’s easy to set up an interview.

Allow us to provide some tips for best communication practices for your job search:

  • Make sure any phone number provided is working properly.
  • If you can’t answer a call right away, be sure to call back as soon as possible, preferably the same day.
  • Make sure your voice mail greeting is personalized, friendly and professional.
  • Have a professional email address, preferably your full name @ the email domain.
  • Check your email frequently and respond promptly.
  • Regularly check any social media through which you might receive messages (LinkedIn, for example).

Everyone’s time is valuable, and while there are obviously circumstances that arise that are out of our control, the key is to be flexible and responsive.  Don’t let the opportunity fall to someone else.  Make it easy for people to communicate with you!

Counter Offers

Things at work are horrible.  You start a job search and lo and behold, you are eventually offered a position with a great company, opportunities to advance, and a higher salary.  But when you tender your resignation, your manager protests and comes at you with a counter offer.  This may be in the form of more money, added responsibilities, or new perks. Tempting to stay, isn’t it?

Before you immediately accept such an offer, consider these things:

  1. Why did it take your resigning to compensate you appropriately?
  2. Will you need to put yourself through a nerve-wracking job search every time you find conditions unacceptable?
  3. How will your colleagues and managers feel if you stay? They are bound to find out what happened, as offices are full of politics and gossip.
  4. Will you always be asking yourself “What if…” after you’ve closed the door on the new opportunity?

You can count on management to be less than pleased that they were essentially given an ultimatum.  They may feel that you have been disloyal, and therefore will not hesitate to let you go should they fall upon difficult times or find a cheaper replacement.

Of course, this strategy may work.  You are within your rights to request reasonable changes and be paid what you are worth.  But more often than not, your current employer will be flustered, and the company you turn down might feel used as leverage.  You don’t want to burn any bridges, so think very carefully before attempting this strategy and making this crucial decision.

Testing, Testing!

Just when you thought your school days were behind you, you arrive at a job interview, and before you even meet the hiring manager, you are asked to take a couple of tests.  Don’t panic!  Many companies administer one or more of the following types of exams:

  1. General Aptitude: They want to gauge your basic reading comprehension, problem solving and math skills.
  2. Personality Test: We’ve seen this type of test administered mainly to sales professionals.  They want to make sure your personality will be a fit for the company culture and the position, especially if you will be dealing with customers regularly.
  3. Industry Exam: They want to make sure you understand the technical aspects of the job.  It may include questions about the industry, vocabulary, documentation and procedures.

Always allow enough time for the interview and any possible testing or filling out of applications.  Remember that these are being administered to all applicants as a matter of policy.  Take a deep breath, take your time, and answer all questions to the best of your ability.  Pencils down!

Business Plan Requests

A good sales professional knows his or her numbers intimately.  During an interview, she/he should expect to be asked about specific contributions.  Incredibly, we have interviewed countless career sales people who couldn’t quantify the most common measures of success:  revenue, gross profit, even approximate number of active customers in their portfolio!  While it’s not necessary to memorize the figures on a weekly basis, an active, engaged business development professional should be aware of what they bring to the table.  “My company keeps lousy records” is not a valid excuse.  In that case, keep your own – after all, you want to make sure you get the commission you are due, right?

Prior to interviewing for a sales position, we recommend that candidates gather and summarize their achievements, as well as potential new business being worked on.  The more dollar signs and details, the better.  Vagueness or over-inflation (“I have 2,500 business cards!”) may lead the interviewer to think there is no real substance.  Much better:  “I secured a 3-year contract worth $15 million in revenue with a furniture importer.”

If the initial interview goes well, the hiring manager may then request a business plan or forecast.  There are a few reasons for this:

  1. To get a clear picture of expected sales activity and marketing efforts
  2. To determine whether the company has the tools, pricing and personnel to support those targets
  3. To see if the profit generated would more than cover salary and expenses for this rep

Many candidates express concern that the interviewer is just trying to get sales leads and has no intention of hiring anyone.  But most of the time there is no ulterior motive; they are simply trying to find motivated individuals to help them grow.  We simply advise giving general information, such as tradelanes, volume and estimated profit.  This homework should be turned in as soon as possible!

If a company asks for a business plan, it’s because they enjoyed the initial discussion and would like to move forward in the process.  In the end, the opportunity should be a good match for all parties involved.  And sales professionals should keep track of their successes at all times!