Monday, November 30, 2020

3 Things You Must Know for a Job Interview These Days

When interviewing for a job these days, you need to be ready to tweak your responses so that you help an employer see how you'll not only be dependable and valuable once we all return to normalcy -- but also if you need to work remotely.

For example, an employer may ask you about how you collaborate with others, how you stay productive or how you juggle multiple demands on your time. Before the pandemic, this was pretty straightforward to answer, but now there are more subtle things the interviewer will be seeking:

1. Will you be on time to work -- even when working remotely -- or will emails go unanswered until nearly noon? Do you have a system in place to make sure that you're ready to go with the rest of the team when they need you, such as a reliable Internet connection?

2. Are you organized enough to work remotely and often on your own? Can you give an example of how you have been self-directed and delivered your work on time? Can you provide examples of your resourcefulness?

3. Are you a good communicator? This needs to come across clearly in a Zoom interview with a hiring manager. Dress professionally, have good lighting, make sure you sit up straight, look into the camera when answering and smile when appropriate. 

When the interview is over, make sure you send a follow-up email, thanking the hiring manager for the interview, restate your top qualifications and express your commitment to ensuring you're an asset to the organization -- even if you're working from your kitchen table.

Monday, November 23, 2020

What You Need to Know Now About Remote Interviews

I've given advice in the past about being a good detective when you're interviewing for a job. This means that you do a little sleuthing on the employer, such as doing online research to check out the financial health of the employer and checking out the employer's location to see if the workplace looks a little shoddy and the employees are downtrodden and stressed.

Those can all be signs you don't want to work at such a place and require some hard thinking about whether it would be a smart move to work for such an employer.

But with more employers hiring remotely -- and offering remote jobs during the pandemic -- how can you perform your due diligence when you can't go into a physical workspace?

There are several ways you can still check out an employer:

1. Do a drive by. While you may not be able to go into the employer's business because of restrictions, you can still drive by the place of business and check out the area. Go during the day and at night -- you never know when you might work late and have to walk to your car or the subway stop by yourself. Would you feel safe? Does the area provide safe parking, nearby parks or affordable eateries? These might seem trivial now, but they can make a difference in work satisfaction when the employer does fully reopen and bring back employees.

2. Talk to employees. An employer who has nothing to hide should be willing to let you talk to other employees via Zoom or other means. Ask the same questions you would in person, such as what the typical work day looks like, the positives and negatives of the company, management style, opportunities for advancement, etc.

3. The work structure. If the company is now working remotely, how does the work flow? Who managers what teams? How is communication done? How will you be trained? What will be the hours of operation? If the company plans to make the position permanently remote, will be you be required to spend some time in the office? How will your productivity/performance be measured? How will opportunities for promotions be given? How will feedback be given?

Don't think that just because the world is turned sideways at the moment that you can't do your homework when considering a job. In fact, it's more important than ever that you go into any interview prepared to ask questions since you may not get a chance to observe and learn from what's happening around you during an interview.

Monday, November 16, 2020

The First Thing to Do After a Job Interview

Even though you may have more phone or Zoom interviews during your current job search because of the pandemic, the basics of job searching remain the same: do your homework on an employer so you're prepared for an interview; dress appropriately; ask questions -- and always, always, always send a thank-you note.

I cannot tell you how many hiring managers say that they're always impressed by thank-you notes, and how it helps candidates stand out. With that in mind, here are some things to think about when writing a note:

  • Send it within 24 hours. While etiquette rules say you can wait about three months to send a thank-you note for a wedding gift, it needs to be much sooner than that after a job interview. Send an email within the first day of an interview, then send a handwritten note by the next day.
  • Recap the highlights. Thank the person for his or her time and take the opportunity to mention two or three things you might have discussed, such as your skills for the job. If you feel like there is a key point you forgot to mention earlier, include it in the thank-you note.
  • Stay professional. I can't believe I need to mention this, but here I go: Be professional when writing these notes. Don't swear or use emojis in your email. Don't use pink glitter stationary. Use correct grammar and spelling (there is no automatic spellcheck available when you're handwriting a note).
  • Be unique. It can be tempting to send a form thank-you note that you find online, and that's OK to a point. But they all read the same, and the receiver will recognize a template. So, try to come up with something unique to include, such as "I really enjoyed hearing about your master gardener class," or "Hearing about your love of golf makes me want to start taking lessons."

Monday, November 9, 2020

3 Keys for a Great Recommendation

When searching for a new job, we often just focus on what we will say to employers about our skills and experience. We practice answers to questions such as "What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?"

Employers understand that you've practiced these responses, and expect you to offer reasoned answers. They won't really learn anything earth-shattering from these responses, so they may look elsewhere for real insights into your talents and abilities. This usually leads them to ask for references. 

Unfortunately, this is where many job seekers mess up. They haven't really prepared the people who will speak for them, and that can lead to such lackluster or unhelpful recommendations that their job chances may be diminished.

You should always put as much time into preparing your references as you do any other part of your job search. Your references will appreciate it (they're busy people and may not remember all of your stellar qualities) and will ensure that a hiring manager hears a flattering account about you.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Get specific. Think about how a reference can showcase skills most important to a particular employer, whether it's resolving customer disputes, coming up with new ideas for products or  being great at quality control. Remind your references of where you showed such skills -- they'll appreciate not having to dig through their own memories.
  • Cast a wide net. References don't have to just be former employers or teachers. If your pastor or rabbi has worked closely with you on a spring break project, for example, then think about having him or her write a letter outlining your ability to work collaboratively. In addition, the more diversity you have in your references, the better able you will be to offer the right reference for various employers or jobs.
  • Offer a template. If you think your reference is fine with recommending you -- but uncomfortable in writing a recommendation letter -- offer a template or at least relevant talking points.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Yes, Your Boss is a Person, Too

During this pandemic, we've all been doing a lot of self-care, and caring for our family and friends any way we can.

How about your boss?

What have you done lately to take care of your boss?

You may resent such a question. After all, you take care of the boss by doing your job every day and doing what he/she requests of you.

But what else? Do you do anything on a regular basis that makes the boss feel seen as a person, or cared about as someone who is trying to do a good job?

I've had bosses -- both new managers and seasoned veterans -- tell me that one of the hardest things about their jobs is the loneliness they often feel. They understand when the team goes out to lunch or hangs out on the weekends and don't invite him or her. They know their team might feel awkward with the boss around.

But, that still doesn't make it fun to be excluded from the everyday things we do to show others that we care about them. Do you ever ask the boss about his weekend? About how he's coping with working from home or trying to juggle kids and a career? Do you ever say to your boss, "Hey, we're starting a virtual book club and we'd love for you to join us"?

Do you ever offer a genuine compliment or "thank you?" to the boss? (I'm not talking being a brownnoser and delivering sappy, overly contrived messages.) Do you take the time to offer a smile and a genuine "How are you?" before launching into your latest problems?

Or, do you instead provide a little "snark" in your emails, a little passive-aggressive behavior when interacting with him or her? Do you fail to acknowledge when he or she is obviously stressed?

Be assured that the good bosses out there are feeling a lot of stress these days over making sure that everyone on their team is OK. They are trying to take extra work off of them, putting in long hours every day and on the weekends.

If you've got one of these managers, congratulations. Now it's your turn to make sure the boss is doing OK. Do this daily or at least, weekly. Let him or her know that caring isn't a one-way street.