Archive for December, 2008

Land The Interview

December 30, 2008

We are clearly in a buyer’s market where employers possess both leverage and pricing power. As the economy weakens and the unemployment rate rises, employees become more nervous about what the future holds for our companies and careers and begin searching for alternative opportunities. As a Human Resources Director, I track the response rates for my job postings and have seen a 54% increase in responses verses a year ago. The competition is fierce so you must be extremely proactive in your job search.
If you try to get an interview the same way everybody else does you will get the same results. You must be unique and use various strategies outside of the norm. Here are some tactics that can help you get your foot in the door.
Call the employer. Most candidates send their resume by email. A job posting can garner literally hundreds of resumes. It is impossible for the employer to screen and review all of them. In contrast, very few candidates call the hiring manager. So be different,
Step one is to call the company and find out who the hiring or recruiting manager is for the position of interest. Simply say “I have corresponded with the recruiter for the “position”, but am not quite sure of his/her name. Can you help me?”
Once you have the name of the hiring manager/recruiter put together a list of 4 or 5 critical reasons why you are a great candidate for the position. Then call, introduce yourself and say “the reason for my call is I have a strong background in . . . and believe my past successes such as [insert critical reasons] make me a great candidate for the position. I forwarded my resume and would love the chance to speak to you about my background to see if there is a good fit.” Focus the conversation on your strengths and close for the interview.
Send your resume by regular U.S. mail and email. Since the vast majority of resumes and correspondence today come through email, a hard copy sent through regular mail may ensure your resume gets noticed. Again, find out the name of the hiring manager and send your resume and cover letter to their attention.
Network into the organization. All of us know a lot of people. Create a list of your college friends, colleagues, vendors, friends and neighbors and you will quickly have access to a strong network to tap into. Networking sites like Linked-in (www.linkedin.com) and Facebook (www.facebook.com) can help by offering you a well defined network and identify where your connections are employed. The purpose of your network is not to get you hired, but rather to get you the meeting, whether by phone or face to face. Contact your network and ask for help.
Personally drop your resume off. Years ago as I was looking for an operations manager a candidate showed up at my workplace to introduce herself. She was professionally dressed, had her presentation down and was respectful of my time. She told me she simply wanted to ensure her resume was reviewed. Linda, who was a candidate I would have passed on if I received her resume via email, turned out to be one of the best hires I ever made.
We are in difficult economic times and changing jobs is very difficult for everyone, so you must differentiate yourself. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. These techniques will help you get more interviews.

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Assertiveness Can Lead To Career Success

December 9, 2008

Assertiveness

Years ago, when I was being recruited by a major southern bank, they flew my wife and I down to Charlotte to become better acquainted with the city and to pitch us on accepting the position.   On the flight I sat in the middle seat and my wife sat on the aisle.  A man came to our row and switched his gaze between his ticket, my wife and the seat numbers below the carry on storage.  After about one minute of doing this, my curiosity was piqued and I asked him if I could assist.  I will never forget his response: “I must be mistaken but my ticket says I have this aisle seat, but because your wife is sitting there I must be wrong.”  We looked at my wife’s ticket and she promptly moved to the window, her correct seat.  This was my introduction to the indirect, nonassertive nature of southern communication.  A New Jerseyan would have simply said “Hey that’s my seat, get up!” 

In that scenario, and in the workplace, it is best to strike a measured balance between a passive and aggressive approach.  The following tips will help you strike the right balance and help you show your metal and get what you deserve.

1.       To be assertive you must have an end in mind.  Knowing what you want allows you to be authentically firm and keep you from equivocating under pressure. 

2.       Prepare what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.  Preparation will imbue you with additional confidence and help you deliver your message more effectively.  Without preparing you may get nervous and be too passive or too aggressive.

3.       Pick the right time and place.  Many people become nervous when they need to be assertive and end up making their case in passing or as an after-thought. If you want a raise, a new office or an internal job transfer schedule the conversation with the right person and take it to a neutral site if appropriate. 

4.       Be direct.  Don’t beat around the bush.  For example you can say “I want to move into the open office.”  Whether or not your request is granted the other person will respect your directness.

5.       Be clear in your requests by making them time and result specific.  Instead of “I need the project completed soon” say “I need all the data entered and scrubbed for errors by 12:00 Friday.” 

6.       Confirm directions via email.  If you are giving directions, ask the people you are directing to send you an email confirming the details of your conversation.  When having an important conversation with your boss, send them the email.  The follow up ensures a shared understanding and minimizes confusion and future pain.

7.       Don’t confuse the issue.  Stay focused on your goals and don’t let the issue become confused.  For example, if you are seeking completion by an employee of a project, don’t let them change the subject to another employee who they perceive is the problem. 

8.       Use I statements.  “I” means it is your opinion, belief or request.  It places you in an assertive position where you take responsibility for your actions.

9.       Have Positive Body Language.   Use a strong handshake and strong body language.  Stand or sit up straight, look the person in the eye and keep your body open (don’t cross your arms and legs).  Be sure not to point or to get too close since those are signs of aggressive behavior.

These tips will help you become a more effective leader, employee and coworker and get what you want out of your job.  Its time to get out of the back seat and begin driving the bus!