Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Do I need A Career Coach, Career Counsellor or a Head-hunter?

If you are like many people these days who are in career transition and up against big career choices, the distinctions between a 'career coach', a 'career counsellor', and a 'head-hunter' may come in handy. By definition, a ‘coach’ is someone who instructs others in the fundamentals of a given activity while a ‘counsellor’ primarily listens to the problem and then gives advice on how the problem can be addressed. Both coaches and counsellors direct strategy to achieve desired results. A ‘head-hunter’ is an individual that can help you find a placement in your area of expertise.

When choosing to work with a counsellor or a coach, consider asking the following:
  1. Does this person have the appropriate educational background and/or experience with which to assess your situation?
  2. What time-frame should you expect in order to resolve your issue?
  3. How accessible are they? Can you call anytime or do you need an appointment?
  4. Are they able to help you create a résumé that will be read and meets the demands of a rapidly changing marketplace?
  5. How much do they charge?

Neither head-hunters nor career counsellors will typically look at the broad view of your life, including how well the careers you have in mind may align with your values and the other priorities in your life. A head-hunter in particular usually has little concern with whether a job is a good fit for you, or whether you would enjoy it. The head-hunter’s incentives are lined up with getting a fee for the placement, period.

With all of this being said, the most important thing in choosing a career counsellor, career coach or head-hunter, is that you feel chemistry and feel good about the person’s ability to support you in your job search or career transition. Never be afraid to interview more than one career coach, career counsellor, or head hunter to see which is best for you. Be sure to tell them about yourself, what you like and don't like about about work and any other relevant details about your situation. At the end of the call, ask yourself, "Do I feel empowered and confident in this person?" Know that you don’t need to hire the first person you speak with. Speaking to a handful of career coaches and career counsellors will only take a couple hours of your time and can pay off greatly if you find the right relationship to guide you to making the best career choices for you.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Zen and the Art of Quitting Your Job

When composing your letter of resignation, you are effectually terminating a contract so it is important to comply with all company policies and legal requirements related to your resignation.

Before you turn in your resignation do the following:

Clean up your computer. Delete personal files and email messages. Make sure you have the contact information for everyone you need to keep in touch with after you are gone.

Get the Details.
Be sure to get the details on the employee benefits and any salary to which you are entitled when you leave.

Ask for a Reference. Ask your boss and colleagues if they would be willing to give you a reference. If they agree, ask them to write you a LinkedIn recommendation as well as being available via email or phone.

Say Goodbye. Take the time to send a farewell message to co-workers and to let them know that you are moving on.

It is important to know that your letter of resignation will become part of your employee file therefore, it is best to keep the letter short and clear. Regardless of why you are resigning or how you feel about it, if you mention why you are leaving, make sure that you do not include anything negative or disparaging about the company, your supervisor, your co-workers, or your subordinates.

Here are a few tips to follow:
  1. Deliver letters of resignation either by snail mail or by hand
  2. Your letter can be either hand written or typed out
  3. The letter’s content should include your name and home address
  4. On the top left part of the page include the following:
  • Name of your immediate supervisor or the individual who is officially responsible for managing recruitment or resignations
  • Title of your immediate supervisor
  • Name of the organization
  • Address of the organization
  • Date the letter - You will then add your contractual notice period [usually 2 weeks] to this date
After the address contents, you will need to include the following:
  • Salutation - Dear [first name, surname]
  • In the body of the letter, state your leaving date i.e. add your contractual notice period [2 weeks?] to the date you have indicated on your resignation letter
  • Express thanks to your employer for the opportunities you have had during your employment [regardless of how you truly feel]
  • State that you are prepared to work until the end of your notice period
  • The closing i.e. Sincerely, Regards, etc.
  • Sign the document

As part of the resignation process, you will likely be invited to participate in a formal exit interview wherein your employer will want to delve into the ‘real’ reasons for your departure. During this process, it is important for you to remain polite, objective and stick to the facts. You do not want to jeopardize your future employment with negative comments in your employee file. You can also use this exist interview to return any company property that does not belong to you including keys, cell phone, PDA, etc. The company will not want to chase you to get it back, and you certainly do not want to be held responsible if it is not returned in a timely manner.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Strategies for Stealth-like Job Searches

Before embarking on a ‘below the radar’ job search, it is important consider what you are trying to accomplish by searching for a new job. If you are just looking to get some space between yourself and your current boss, then perhaps the first place to check for employment opportunities would be the job board at the company where you already work. It is not unusual for companies that are looking to fill vacancies to give preference to internal candidates and make an effort to encourage these individual to apply for other positions within the company. N.B. When looking for other opportunities within your organization, it is critical that you tell your boss that you are thinking of applying for a job in another department before you actually do it. The advantages of searching for new opportunities on the company job board are as follows:
  • You will reduce the chances of being viewed as a ‘traitor’ by your current boss; it is more likely that the company will view you as wanting to remain loyal to the company albeit in a different capacity
  • The company is already aware of the value you bring to the company
  • You have built in set of co-workers that you can call upon to support your petition for a move
Once you have decided to look beyond the limits of your company’s job board and search elsewhere, there are steps you can take to keep your job search confidential. Here are some suggestions on how to job hunt effectively while you are currently employed:  

E-mail Address Do not use your work email address for job hunting. Use your personal account or set up a free web-based email account specifically for job searching.  

Office Equipment Never use your employer's computers or phone system. Many employers monitor Internet usage and review phone call logs. Keep your résumé, your e-mail correspondence, and everything else related to your job search on your home computer.  

Your Résumé Be careful where you post your résumé. If you do not want your current employer to accidentally find your résumé when searching for candidates, post on job sites where you can keep your employer and personal contact information confidential.  

Employment History Do not list the name of the company where you are currently employed. Replace the name of the company with the word “Confidential”, identify the industry within which you work and use a generic job title. This step will also prevent your future employer from accidentally calling your present employer for a reference before you have given your present employer proper notice.  

Telephone Tips Never use your work phone number for job hunting. Instead, put your cell phone number and/or home phone number on your résumé. Be sure to have voice mail or an answering machine in place so you get the messages in a timely fashion.  

Get Organized Set aside blocks of time that you can devote to your employment search. In addition to focusing on your job hunt before and after work, at night and on weekends, you can use your lunch break to review your CV or write covering letters.  

How and When Utilize your laptop and find wireless connections to use. You can find wireless internet connections at bookstores, cafes or a library with internet access. Use your regularly scheduled breaks to return prospective employer phone calls.  

Laptop vs. Flash Drive Unless you are 100% sure that no one can access your laptop when you leave it unattended, do not store any confidential information related to your job search on your laptop. Opt to store all correspondence related to your job search on a memory stick and keep your memory stick with you at all times.

Interviewing Try to schedule interviews for either the beginning or the end of the day or on your lunch hour. If you have vacation time you can use, schedule multiple interviews for the same day.
Dress the Part Interviews require that you dress appropriately. If someone asks you why you are dressed in a business suit if the dress code at work is casual, tell them you have a function to go to directly after work.  

Be Discreet Be careful whom you tell that you are looking for a new job. If you tell co-workers, you can be sure that it will get back to your boss one way or the other. Do tell your family, so they can take messages for you and to help insure that they do not inadvertently spill the beans to your work colleagues and leave you a message that someone is calling about an interview.  

Line Up Your References Expect that your current employer is likely to give a ‘tombstone’ reference when called. A ‘tombstone’ reference is once where the HR Department will verify the start/end dates of your tenure with the company and your job title. As you may have to ask former colleagues or clients (if you owned a business) if they would be willing to give you a reference make sure that you have their contact information ready. N.B. NEVER supply a reference list until you are being offered a job.  

Double-check Your Outgoing E-mail Take the necessary time to make sure that the correct e-mail is going to the correct person.  

Keep Your Nose to the Grindstone While at Work Maintain the course at your current job and commit to keep putting in the necessary time and effort for your current employer. Remember, you are the one looking for other work so, it is up to you to figure out how to balance your current work situation with your job search efforts.  

Avoid Attending Job Fairs Where Your Company is Represented Do your research. Career and job fairs are a great place to look for other employment opportunities. Before you attend the event, make sure to investigate which companies are going to be represented at the event. If your company has a booth at the fair, you may want to rethink attending. N.B. You can always send your résumé directly to the companies that have a booth set up at the job fair, even if you cannot physically attend the event. Companies that set up booths at job fairs are well aware that not all candidates will be able to attend the event.  

Attend Industry Networking Events Go to job search focused networking events to build up your network. Always ask to be added to their company’s mailing lists.  

Create/ Update Your Profile on Professional Networking Sites Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and Plaxo. Make sure your content there is up-to-date and consistent with what you want your career brand to look like. Take every opportunity to expand your circle of contacts.  

Set Up Job Search Alerts Take advantage of the job search alert function that is available on all major job boards as well as your niche job board web sites. Also set up your alert on both and  

Develop a List of Target Companies Start following these companies on Facebook, Linked In and Twitter and post friendly comments when applicable.  

Consider Hiring a Career Coach Well-established career coaches can often save you time and money and give you piece of mind as they will do the job search for you. These professionals also can offer guidance on enhancing your résumé, improving your interview skills and increasing your chances of landing a new position.  

Be Attentive and Helpful When Recruiters Call Register with more than one recruitment agency. Consider entering into a partnership with a recruiter who can work discreetly on your behalf to distribute your résumé and uncover job opportunities. Give recruiters a reason to want to call you back  
Start a Blog Become a subject matter expert through speaking or blogging. You will attract opportunities.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

You have been unhappy at work for a while. You have half-heartedly been looking for another opportunity, and now, you finally have an offer on the table. You ponder the offer for a while, and then decide that it is time to print out the letter of resignation you wrote when you first started looking for another job, sign it, and hand it to your boss. Upon reading your letter of resignation, your boss invites you to have a chat about your decision to leave the company. As a result of the chat, your boss tries to convince you to withdraw your resignation. What should you do?

You are likely to agonize about your decision to have sent the letter in the first place. You now think about the impact that accepting or declining the counteroffer will have on your family. You are flattered by the fact that your boss chose to make it a little more difficult for you to leave by offering you more money, more time off or the promise of a promotion in the very near future. You begin to reminisce about the ‘good times’ you had with your soon-to-be ex co-workers. And now you are beginning to wonder if you did the right thing be resigning in the first place.

The best way to make a decision of this magnitude is to approach the problem pragmatically.
  • Regardless of the reason[s] why you wrote the letter of resignation in the first place, once your letter of resignation has been received, you have effectively set in motion a chain of events for which there is no “Mulligan” – [A ‘mulligan’, most simply put, is a "do-over."]
  • Even though your current employer has sweetened the deal, keep in mind that they are making a counteroffer much more for their benefit than yours. Why did they wait until you resigned, to offer you what you're really worth to them?
  • As a result resignation letter, you have now established that your loyalty to your boss and the company is in question.
  • The sole purpose of the counteroffer is to take advantage of you until they find a less expensive and ‘more dedicated’ replacement.
  • Decent and well-managed companies NEVER make counteroffers due to the fact that their policies are fair and equitable.
  • Apart from a short-term, band-aid treatment, nothing will change within the company. After the dust settles from this upheaval, you'll be in the same old rut.

Declining a counter offer with tact and finesse is always a good idea. Make sure your letter of resignation includes a thank you to your soon-to-be ex-employer for the opportunities you were given during your tenure at the company; it will keep your integrity intact and you will avoid any bad feelings that might damage your references.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tips on How to Make a Good First Impression

You heard it before and you have come to accept the following truism to hold in both your professional and private life. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The question now becomes, “How can I use this information and successfully apply its wisdom to my job search?”

It takes just a quick glance for someone to evaluate you when you meet for the first time. In this short time, the other person forms opinions about you based on your appearance, your body language, your demeanour, your mannerisms, and how you are dressed. Making a good first impression is extremely important, for it sets the tone for the rest of the relationship that follows.
  1. Be on time - The person you are meeting for the first time is not interested in your “good excuse” for running late. Being late is rude, inconsiderate gives the impression that your time is far more valuable than the time of the person you are meeting. You should always plan to arrive a few minutes early. HINT: When calculating your travel time, add at least 50% more time to deal with delays in traffic or making the wrong turn. If you are still unsure, try making a ‘dry run’ trip to the destination beforehand.
  2. Be yourself - Know that if you are feeling uncomfortable and on edge, it will have a direct impact upon the person you are meeting. Feeling ill at ease is likely to make the other person ill at ease as well. If you are calm and confident, so too, will the person you are meeting.
  3. Be aware of your body language - Use your body language to project appropriate confidence and self-assurance. Stand tall, smile, make eye contact, greet with a firm handshake. All of this will help you project confidence and encourage both you and the other person feel better at ease. Know that there is also a fine line between having a ‘air of confidence’ and being intimidating. If you find that the person you are meeting is moving away from you i.e. stepping backward or re-positioning themselves so that they on an angle, this is a sign that they believe you to be overpowering and they are likely to withdraw or become resistant to ‘connecting’ with you
  4. Present yourself appropriately - Physical appearance matters. Consider the way you dress. Are you dressed appropriately for the meeting? A clean and tidy appearance is appropriate for all business and social occasions. A good haircut or shave is worth the money and so is a good manicure. Clean and tidy clothes and shoes are also necessary. Dressing appropriately is as important as good grooming. A clean and tidy appearance is appropriate for both business and social occasions. Get a good haircut and use fragrance sparingly. Your fragrance should not arrive before you so, nor should your fragrance linger long after you are gone. HINT: When choosing a fragrance, it is critical that you apply it to your skin, wait several minutes and then smell it to form an opinion of whether or not to make the purchase. Fragrances will smell different on everyone and just because a fragrance smells good on the cardboard sample, or your friend, does not mean it will smell good on you.
  5. Smile! - A warm and confident smile will put both you and the other person at ease. Make sure that your teeth are brushed and that you take the time to take a breath mint before the interview begins. HINT: If someone offers you a breath mint, always take it; it is his or her polite way of telling you that you need one.
  6. Be open and confident - Use your body language to project appropriate confidence and self-assurance. Stand tall, make eye contact.
  7. Greet everyone with a firm handshake - Give the same handshake regardless of gender. No one welcomes a limp handshake. Look the other person straight in the eye and smile as you shake their hands. Men can make their handshake memorable by spreading their fingers out slightly. This will make their hand seem larger and will give more strength to the grip.
  8. Be aware of your nervous habits - Try to keep your nervous habits in check. Controlling a nervous jitter or a nervous laugh will give you more confidence and help the other person feel at ease. If you suffer from sweaty palms, try putting antiperspirant on your palms as part of your pre-interview ritual.
  9. Small talk goes a long way - Conversations are based on verbal give and take. If the opportunity presents itself, take a few minutes to learn something about the person you are meeting. If you can identify things in common with your interview, you will be able to ‘sell’ your skills, talents and suitability for the job better than the other candidates will.
  10. Be positive - Your attitude shows through in everything you do. Project a positive attitude, even in the face of criticism or in the case of nervousness. Strive to learn from your meeting and to contribute appropriately, maintaining an upbeat manner and a smile.
  11. Be courteous - Good manners and polite behaviour help make a good first impression; anything less can ruin the one chance you have at making that first impression. So always, be on your best behaviour! Your best behaviour should always extend to everyone in the office including the receptionist.
  12. Be a good listener - Don't be afraid to nod your head and chime in with the occasional "I see" or "I understand," or any other verbal cue that shows the other person that you are indeed listening attentively. Also, feel free to ask questions (preferably non-threatening ones) if you are unsure of what the other person is trying to communicate.
  13. Do not interrupt when someone else is speaking - Interrupting someone in mid-sentence is extremely rude and will count as one strike against you in just about any social setting. Proper etiquette is suggested at all times.
  14. Turn off your mobile phone - Your new acquaintance deserves 100% of your attention.
  15. Repeat the name if the interviewer - This will make them know you paid attention and will help you remember their name. Say your own name clearly and proudly. Don’t forget to tell the other person you are pleased to meet them.
  16. Speak clearly - Be sure to communicate clearly with the people you are meeting. Few things are more annoying than having to listen to someone without understanding what they are saying because they garble their words. Focus on speaking at a moderate pace with a well-modulated voice. Do not be afraid to enunciate properly.
  17. Use proper grammar when speaking - Avoid using slang. Know that ff people cannot comprehend what you are saying, you will never make it to the short list of candidates.
  18. Avoid jokes - Although a light crack or simple joke can do wonders to lighten the atmosphere and set the mood, if you are not careful, the effect will be the opposite. You don't want to be remembered as offensive in any way.
  19. Let the other person be the centre of attention - The worst mistake you can make is talking incessantly about yourself. You don’t want to come off as a selfish person who is only interested in himself, rather than appearing as someone who could help others further their business.

Can you think of other tips?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why Didn’t I Get the Job Offer?

We all have been there at one time of another. We believed that we ‘aced’ the interview> We answered every question in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, and yet, we didn’t get an offer. We replay the entire interview in our heads and wonder to ourselves, “What did or didn't I say or do that lost it for me?” We thought about chatting to the hiring manager to ask why, but experience has taught us that because companies are too afraid of lawsuits to give us any meaningful feedback, we are left frustrated, disappointed and disenchanted.

While there can be hundreds of reasons you didn't get the job, most situations fall under the following categories:
  1. Stronger competitor
  2. Non-verbal communication
  3. Changed job description
  4. "Nice-to-haves"
  5. Poor interview
  6. The interview process was a company ‘requirement’
  7. The company decided to ‘fishing’ to see what’s out there
  8. You are overqualified

Stronger competitor: Know that you have no control over this situation. You can control how you present yourself, but you will never have any control who else interviews. With the number of résumés companies get for each position, you can expect that you will see strong competition, and that you will lose some opportunities to a stronger competitor.

Non-verbal communication:
According to a number of studies conducted by Harvard University and University of Toledo, most hiring managers make their hire/non-hire decision in the first 2 to 30 seconds of the interview. Hiring managers will make judgments based upon any number or combination of factors even before the candidate has a chance to start answering questions. Some of the most ‘influential’ factors include the following:
  • Walk - Does the candidate walk with self-confidence?
  • Posture - Does the candidate look comfortable in the interview chair? Is the candidate sitting upright? Hiring managers will interpret a candidate’s slouchy posture as an indication that the candidate’s work will be sloppy and that the candidate has low self-esteem. If the candidate is leaning back in his seat with his legs crossed at the knee, hiring managers with interpret this body language to mean that the candidate is too relaxed for an interview setting and the candidate is unlikely to get hr job.
  • Handshake - Does the candidate have a firm handshake or one that feels like a limp fish? The candidate’s handshake should assure the hiring manager of the candidate’s desire for a positive first interaction and impression. A limp handshake signals low confidence and low self-esteem while an excessively strong handshake may inadvertently tell the hiring manager that the candidate is overly aggressive or trying to steamroll their way into a position with the company.
  • Interview etiquette - Does the candidate wait to be asked to have a seat before they sit down? Candidates should never take a seat until they are asked. How much space was taken up with the candidate’s note-taking folder? Candidates should pay attention to the amount of ‘personal space’ they are taking up. Candidates should resist the urge to spread out their belongings all over the desk. Hiring managers may also make decisions on candidates based upon which position the candidate tool at the interview table.
  • Clothing and accessory choice - Regardless of the work environment, a professional job candidate needs to wear an outfit that looks like the job they want to have rather than the job they have had in the past.. The selected outfit is often seen as a signal to the hiring manager of how well the candidate will interact with and be perceived by co-workers and/or customers. Candidates should also know that the accessories chosen by job seeker will either telegraph professionalism – or they won’t. Candidates should carry a brief case, use a leather portfolio, and use a nice pen. Shoes that are clean and shined also add to a solid, professional appearance. These little details tell hiring managers that the candidate cared enough to want to make a good first impression.
  • Grooming and Fragrance choice - Makeup, perfume, and jewellery, worn tastefully, can add to the hiring manager’s perception of the candidate’s professionalism. Dirty fingernails or scuffed shoes tell hiring managers that the job seeker is careless, too hurried, or unaware of the impression they have on others.
  • Personal Space - Hiring managers also watch for the listening and interactive behaviour of candidates. Candidates should appear engaged by leaning slightly forward in their chair to close some of the distance between themselves and the interviewer.
  • Facial Expressions - Hiring managers hire employees whose facial expressions are consistent with and punctuate her words. Candidates that fail to match their facial expressions with the words spoken can be seen as an indication that the candidate is uncomfortable or perhaps lying – neither are desirable behaviours in a candidate.
  • Eye Contact - Hiring managers want an employee who can maintain comfortable eye contact without staring or forced attentiveness. If the candidate spends the interview with his eyes moving all over the room and rarely making eye contact, the hiring manager will interpret this behaviour as a lack of confidence, or worse, that the candidate just doesn’t care. A candidate that never makes eye contact and/or talks to a spot over the shoulder of the hiring manager is seen as uncomfortable and demonstrating a lack of confidence, while long, forced eye contact on the part on the candidate can indicate an overly aggressive person who does not care about your comfort.
  • Attentiveness - Hiring managers expect that the candidate will listen to the questions asked. Did the candidate hear the question? Did the candidate succinctly and share stories, or ramble incessantly off topic? The former tells the hiring manager that the candidate is prepared for the interview and has success stories to share. The latter signals unprepared, ill at ease, or that the candidate didn’t care enough to pay attention.

Changed job description: Somewhere between when a job description was written and when the winning candidate is chosen, something about the job description changes. This is also frustrating to a candidate who planned a résumé and an interview presentation around a specific set of facts only to have the facts changed. Although candidates should expect business needs to evolve and change as competitive environments change, that personnel changes happen, and that with time, more information is gained to define the situation, it is impossible for a candidate to prepare for these types of changes within the organization in advance of the interview.

"Nice-to-haves": Another factor is the "nice-to-haves" skills. These particular skills were not even considered by the hiring manager, until they saw these skills on a résumé. As the hiring managers are privy to the future plans and directions of the organization, they may rethink their original ‘wish list’ and begin to consider a skill set put forward by candidate to address upcoming projects These "Nice-to-have" skills are the something extra, that can make the difference between the top candidate and the rest of the pack. During the interview process, candidates will be given the opportunity to ask about projects are coming up in the next 6 months to a year. By asking about future projects, the candidate will be given the opportunity to show off their own "nice-to-have" skills that may not have been articulated in the original job advertisement.

Poor interview: Most candidates are unaware of how they appear to an interviewer. If possible, a candidate’s best preparation includes practice interviews that are videotaped, if possible, and critiqued by trusted friends. Candidates can never prepare or practice too much for an interview.

The interview process was a company requirement: Another situation wherein the candidate has no control occurs when the company adversities for a position that is already destined to be filled by another, usually internal, candidate. The company wants to give the appearance that the completion for the position is unbiased and fair, but the reality is that it just isn’t. Candidates who find themselves in this position should take advantage of this opportunity and see the interview process as ‘practice’ for the real thing.

The company is ‘fishing’: Just as employed individuals will occasionally apply for jobs when they are not really looking, companies will also post a job opportunity just to see what is out there in terms of candidates. Companies may simply want to increase their pool of suitable candidates for upcoming projects. If during this ‘fishing’ expedition, the company finds a ‘fish worth keeping’ they may fast track their upcoming plans and hire the candidate for short term projects, both allow the employee to prove themselves as well as help ensure that the new employee is a good fit for the company.

You are overqualified: Yes, it does happen. Hiring managers will be reluctant to hire candidates who are over qualified for two reasons:
  1. The hiring managers are fearful that you are more qualified to do their job than they are and they fear that if they hire you, you will take over their position and they don’t want/need the competition.
  2. The hiring managers believe that the job is too far below your skill set and that you will ‘jump’ at the first opportunity that is more suited to your skill set and they will find themselves in the position of having to find yet another suitable candidate within a few months.

There are a number of reasons why you aren’t getting the job offers you believe you deserve. Know that there is no way that you can control many of them. Just know that your situation is temporary and that every, ”Thanks for coming in but we have decided to grant the opportunity to another candidate who is more suited to the company’s needs” brings you one step closer to, “Yes, when can you start?’

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Not Working? Start Networking!

If you have been in job search mode for a while and you aren’t getting your desired results, perhaps it is time to up the ante and take your job search to the next level in an not so forward manner. Both career coaches and recruiters know that when it comes to your job search ROI [Return On Investment], networking via informational interviews are far more successful than any other combination of networking in the market.

Informational interviews give you, the candidate, the opportunity to become part of different networking circle. In this networking circle, you will be exposed to professionals who are already working in the industry and able to get you closer to your employment and career goals.

Informational interviews are a subtle and effective method for you to look for a job without actually coming out and saying so. As with any other interview, there are protocols involved. Unlike a regular job interview, where you are one being interviewed and answering questions, during an informational interview, you are the person conducting the interview and asking questions.

The first step on the road to successful job searching via the informational interview road is to identify the companies where you would like to work and making a request for an information interview. This step is not as frightening as it sounds. Most people genuinely want to help others, especially if your request comes across as professional, undemanding and polite. This type of initial contact can be made with a simple phone call to the company. If the receptionist can’t help you find someone to chat with, the human resources department should be able to help you find someone.

Once you have been given the name, job title and contact information of someone at the company who is willing to take some time to talk with you, do the following:

  • Prepare sample questions for the interviewee. Although this step seems counter-intuitive, it is best that you are prepared to ask questions should the interviewee tell you that they have time right now and may not be so available in the near future. Your questions could include the following:

  • a. What are the skills/qualifications required for your specific job?
    b. How long have you been with the company?
    c. What were the steps [career path] involved in getting to the position you hold today?
    d. How would you describe a typical day on the job?
    e. What do you like best about your job?
    f. What do you like least about your job?
    g. Is there growth in the career field?
    h. From your perspective, what are the problems you see working in this field?
    i. If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why?

  • Prepare and practice your telephone script.

  • a. Write out a "script" that you would be comfortable saying.

    b. Practice your "script" ahead of time. Think of it as a rehearsal and say the "script" until it feels natural. Try it out on a family member or friend.

    c. Make sure you identify yourself and why you're calling.

    d. Let the person know that you need only 10 or 15 minutes of his/her time.

    Sample Scripts:

    Approach A: "Hello, my name is____________, and I understand that you are a (or work as a) __________________. I'm currently exploring this (company) (career/occupation) as a possibility for the future. I wonder if I could take about 10 minutes of your time to find out more about what you do (your career field)."

    Approach B:
    "Hello, my name is____________. A mutual acquaintance, __________________, suggested I give you a call. He/she said you would be the right person to talk to about working in your (company/your career field /position). Would you be able to talk to me now? I only need about 15 minutes of your time."

    Approach C: "Hello, my name is____________ and I understand that you are a (or work as a) ______________. I'm looking for advice about (your company), (your career field/position) . Could I take a few minutes of your time to find out what you would say to someone who wanted to get into your line of work?"

    If you get a negative response:

    Chances are, not everyone will be willing to help you, but that doesn't mean it's time to quit. Try these responses:

    Potential interviewee: "I'm too busy right now to talk to you."
    You: "Thank you for your time. Could you recommend anyone else to speak to?"

    Potential interviewee:
    "I'd like to help you, but I have too much work to do right now."
    You: "I really appreciate your interest and I understand you're busy. Is there a more convenient time that we could talk?"

  • Call the interviewee and introduce yourself. During this ‘pre-interview’, tell your contact that you would like to set up a convenient time to spend 15 - 20 minutes talking about the company and his or her position at the company. Please note that this meeting could be either on the telephone or in person. As this person is doing you a favour, you will need to adhere to their schedule.

  • Set a place to meet or a time to talk on the telephone. If the informational interview is scheduled for a later time, you will have the luxury of asking more in-depth questions about the industry and it is in your best interest to do so. Be punctual and do not go over the agreed upon time limit unless directed by the interviewee.

  • If you are meeting the interviewee in person be sure to treat this meeting seriously. This means that you should do the following:

  • a. Be on time
    b. Be prepared to ask insightful questions
    c. Dress appropriately
    d. Bring a copy of your résumé fir the interviewee, but DO NOT offer it unless the interviewee asks for it
    e. DO NOT ask your contact for a job!
    f. DO ask the interviewee if they know of others in the industry with whom you can contact to set up other information interviews

  • Always follow up with a thank you note. Following up with a thank you note demonstrates your appreciation for the time spent with you. It provides a courteous close to your interaction and signals your openness to future contact.

    The point of this exercise i.e. conducting informational interviews, is to leave a good impression. If you leave a good impression, your name may later be passed along to someone else who is in a position to interview you and this, in turn, may lead you to your next career opportunity. What have you got to lose?
  • Monday, March 8, 2010

    25 Interview Questions for Job Seeking Candidates

    Many people approach job interviews with a deer-in-the-headlights “please don’t let me say anything stupid” mentality. And while that is understandable, no matter how many times career experts say otherwise, you should know and take advantage of the fact that the interview process also affords you, the candidate, the opportunity to suss out the company as well.

    Know that trying to decide if the company is the right fit for you is just as important as the company trying to decide if you are a good fit for the company. Ill-fits help no one; they are costly for both the company and the candidate.

    As any strategist, regardless of their area of expertise, will share with you, the weakest position to be in is to, ‘not know what you don’t know’. By asking the right questions, you can often discover information that will speak volumes in terms your ability to hone in and, at the very minimum, put you in the position of being able to identify that which you don’t but should know.

    Once you learn how to ask the right kind of questions and scrutinize the answers, you will be in a far better position to decide if you are indeed a right fit for the company regardless of any forthcoming job offer. To vet the company culture properly, you may want to consider asking the following questions:
    1. Why is the position open?
    2. What can you tell me about the people with whom I will be working?
    3. What do you see as the ultimate goal of the department or team?
    4. What major problems are we facing right now in this department or position?
    5. To whom does the position report?
    6. What can you tell me about this executive’s management style?
    7. After you present my resume, when can I expect to hear from you regarding the status of this position? Who will make the final hiring decision?
    8. Can you describe, specifically, how the company navigates/balances work?
    9. Why do you enjoy working for this company?
    10. What attracted you to this organization?
    11. Can you describe the work environment here?
    12. What have you liked most about working here?
    13. What do you consider to be the organization’s strengths and weaknesses?
    14. What are the major concerns that need to be addressed immediately in this job?
    15. What challenges might I encounter if I take on this position?
    16. Is there a structured career path at the company?
    17. What is the organization’s plan for the next five years, and how does this department or division fit in?
    18. What would be a surprising but positive thing the new person could do in first 90 days?
    19. How are executives addressed by their subordinates?
    20. What are the organization’s three most important goals?
    21. How does the company support and promote personal and professional growth?
    22. What happened to the person who previously held this job?
    23. Do you have any concerns about my experience, education, skills?
    24. When top performers leave the company, why do they leave and where do they usually go?
    25. How many employee-initiated projects were approved last year?

    The list above is certainly not exhaustive, but it can serve as a good starting point and I hope these questions help you get ready for your next job interview. If you have any other questions that you believe should be on the list, please let me know!

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Viewing You as Buyers [Potential Employers] Do

    Let's pretend for a moment that you are in the position of selling a piece of real estate and that this 'real estate' is really you.

    In order to get a better understanding of how much you are worth on the open market, you would be likely to search the web for other pieces of 'real estate' that are similar to yourself. As you would be most interested in comparing 'apples to apples' you would refine your search and try to limit the number of 'hits' by considering the selling price of the real estate [salary being paid], looking at the surrounding neighbourhood [location of the job], the different features [credentials] of the other properties being sold.

    Once you are satisfied that you have a good understanding of the other available properties [your competition], you would then take 'selling yourself' to the next level and perhaps post several photographs of the property yourself [i.e. post personal profiles and/or résumés on a variety of social networking sites]. Alternatively, you could find an agent [recruiter] who will take care of those kinds of details for you.

    Good real estate agents [recruiters] will offer up a multitude of suggestions to help increase the likelihood of selling 'you' at a fair or better than fair price. They will share with you that some property-owners will list more information than others and suggest that the rationale for all of the additional information would be so that potential 'buyers' [employers] could have a better understanding of the major elements offered by any particular piece of real estate [you].

    Most 'buyers'[employers] will base their decision on whether or not to investigate further the value of the property on the initial 'view' of the property. With that in mind, the more effectively you can 'showcase' your skills and talents, the more effectively you will be able to 'sell' yourself to your future buyer [employer].

    To press this analogy even further, let's adopt some the lessons learned from selling real property and applying these lessons and tips to 'selling yourself as a candidate'.

    Seasoned real estate agents [recruiters] will tell you that the first step toward any successful sale requires that the property be clean and clutter-free. A 'clean' résumé equates to showing a lot of while space on the page and steering away from fancy fonts.

    Real estate agents will also tell you that your 'real estate' needs to be ready to show at a time that is convenient for the 'buyer'. This 'convenience' means that you should not give any potential buyer a reason to skip that which you have to show.

    Hint: Always store your résumé in a variety of formats i.e. MSWord, PDF and plain text so that you are ready to supply the information requested by potential employers at a moment's notice.

    Another tip offered by realtors [recruiters] includes the fact that 'buyers' prefer simplicity over complexity when viewing any property.

    Hint: It is best to remove all personal mementos. In résumé terms, removing personal mementos means that you should avoid and headings that include your interests and hobbies.

    Realtors [recruiters] will also tell you to brighten up your home with as many lights as possible. On your résumé, these 'lights' are your 'career highlights' and should be showcased at the top of your résumé.

    As 'pest control' can be of some concern to property owners, you, as a 'seller', should take the time to remove all of the unflattering elements that can show up on both professional and personal social networking sites.

    Although no real estate agent will ever tell you to list your 'property' [via a well-written résumé] with more than one 'realtor' [recruiter] and with more than one job board, it would be in your best interest to do so.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Bill Gates: 11 Rules in Life

    Bill Gates 11 rules in Life

    Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

    Rule 1: Life is not fair -- get used to it!

    Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

    Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

    Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

    Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping -- they called it opportunity.

    Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

    Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

    Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

    Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

    Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

    Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.