Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

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Tag: Job Search (page 2 of 3)

A Recruiter’s Guide to Professional Branding

10 Tips for Enhanced Clarity (+ better job-seeking results)

There are people with such in-demand skills (ie. web developers) that a simple ‘I’m ready to look for something new’ brings a flurry of job interview activity. Yet even these folks can benefit from the long view of professional branding. Fuzzy branding begets fuzzy results (don’t be fuzzy and frustrated).

Here’s what I mean:

  1. Know what you want to be known for. As you craft your resume, begin with a ‘Professional Summary’ which includes 2-3 sentences that capture the essence of your professional self. Keep the idea behind those sentences short and powerful: “I make databases sing” “I’m a change agent” “I’m a people connector”.  Are you calling out your superpower here? You betcha.
  2. Know your “why”: Even if you landed in a career ‘by accident’ (like I did, though I don’t believe there are any ‘accidents’), know your answer to the question “Why do you do what you do? “Because I love it” “Because I’m good at it” “Because I like making a difference”. What’s yours?
  3. Variety = Balance (and a bigger network): Across your career, it’s a good idea to work at companies both small and large, startup and established. Try working both contract and perm roles. You’ll have a deeper understanding of how things are done in each, a broader perspective, and…a bigger network.
  4. Know why you chose the jobs you did: Maybe you were recruited; other times perhaps you needed a change (or your job went away) so you hit the job boards. There’s a reason why you accepted each job. As you describe them on your resume (and in interviews), focus on what you learned & how you contributed. PS: “It was the best option at the time” is also a-ok.
  5. Look ahead to your next move: There’s nobody shepherding your career but you. Think like an independent contractor or entrepreneur: keep a shortlist of companies you’re curious about. Cultivate relationships with the people in them. Change is a constant, and nothing is permanent, not even a permanent job. Let your loyalty be fairly divided between your current employer and your own future.
  6. Always be adding to your network: Pick the style of networking that fits you, whether it’s 1:1 coffees/lunches or big networking happy hours. Meetups and professional events are the obvious choices, but strike up a genuine conversation wherever you are. Talk to people at kids’ activities, church, the dog park, the gym, in coffee shop lines, on vacation, doing nonprofit/volunteer work, at sporting or cultural events. Add the people you meet to your LinkedIn network if you like them and want to stay in touch.
  7. Offer help: Dale Carnegie said it best: “To get what you want, help others get what they want.”
  8. Teach a class or mentor someone: There’s no better way to cement your knowledge (and your great reputation) than by sharing what you know. If you’re in technology, offer your help to the local high school’s STEM initiative. Find a student mentoring opportunity (Google ‘mentoring opportunities’ ~ you’ll be amazed!). Find someone in your current company who’s less-experienced that you can informally or formally guide.
  9. Ask for help: People generally like and enjoy helping others. Ask for an introduction, or tag along to a lunch or meeting. Find a Meetup with a topic you want to learn about. Take a class, either online or in-person. Find your own mentor who can help guide you in your career.
  10. If writing’s not your strong point: Hire a professional to polish your resume for you & make sure your LinkedIn profile is congruent. Whether you do it with me or get a recommendation from someone you know and trust, be sure your digital brand represents you well.

Why ‘professional branding’ and a long view toward visibility?

Because an ‘apply and pray’ strategy probably won’t bring great results when you need/want to find a new job. The most-successful and resilient job seekers have a robust network and a clear picture of their value proposition. You can, too.

And if you need help, here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute intro conversation.

 

Recruiters: Friend or Foe?

Chances are, at some point you’ll have the opportunity to work with a recruiter, either as a hiring manager (for a fee, they help you find the right candidate) or as a job-seeker (they recruit you for one of their searches or generously share their network with you).

Two tips for engaging with a recruiter: “Be nice,” and “Be discerning.”

Be nice, because even though you might get more calls and emails than you’d like from recruiters, at some point in your career, you might need them. It’s easy to say, “No, thanks” or “Thank you, not now”, whether you’re a hiring manager with a job posted or a candidate with hot skills. That very same recruiter you hang up on today might be the recruiter for that job you really want five years from now.

There was once a hiring manager who seemed to take great satisfaction in slamming the phone down on any recruiter who happened to call. He became known for his rudeness.

The years came and went. He was promoted from manager to director. Things seemed rosy as his company grew and grew. But the day came when his very successful company was acquired. Suddenly, he needed to find a new job. But the recruiters remembered his rudeness and stayed away.

Be nice to recruiters. You never know when you’ll need them.

And be discerning, because not all recruiters are equal.

How do you find a good recruiter? The same way you find a good doctor, daycare provider or dry cleaner: you ask people you trust to give you a referral. Are you a hiring manager looking for help in filling a role? Ask other managers in your company, or others in your area of expertise. Google ‘IT recruiters in (your city)’. Look on LinkedIn. Then contact the recruiter and let them know what you’re looking for. Find out how they work, what their most-common searches are, and ask for some success and failure stories.

How do you choose the right recruiter? Here are some good questions to ask:

  •    What’s your specialty / area of expertise?
  •    What’s your process like?
  •    What are your most-common searches? Not all recruiters cover all types or levels of searches.
  •    How do you find your candidates? How do you find your searches?
  •    How many recruiters does your firm have? What’s their average tenure?
  • Do you have references I can talk to?

A good recruiter will have at least five years of recruiting experience and over 500 LinkedIn contacts. They’ll have a professional LinkedIn bio and a crisp, clear head shot. Take a look at their recommendations, too. Are they recent?

A good recruiter will want to meet you, whether you’re a candidate or a client. How can they represent you (or your company) if you haven’t met? They’ll spend at least an hour with you and ask a lot of questions. They may have suggestions on fine-tuning your resume or your LinkedIn profile (if you’re a candidate) or your job description (if you’re a client).

The best recruiters are not afraid to ask the hard questions. They’ll tell you if they aren’t the right resource for you. They’ll respond to your calls and emails, they’ll offer feedback and they’ll be in touch even when you’re not actively looking. They’re relationship builders. When you’re underway on a search, they’re responsive, and they show their leadership by offering best-practices and advice for success, whether you’re hiring or being hired.

Bad recruiters can be sales-y, irrelevant, ineffective and around only when you have something they want, but the good ones are worth finding and holding on to. A good recruiter will be your eyes and ears in the marketplace. If you’re lucky, s/he’ll be your biggest advocate and your secret career weapon.

A RECRUITER’S GUIDE TO LAUNCHING YOUR SEARCH FOR THE RIGHT NEXT JOB

Sure, you can find jobs online and apply to them, crossing your fingers and HOPING you’ll hear back….

But mapping your job-seeking journey using mindfulness, preparation and some initiative will more likely get you to the right destination: a job and company you really like.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Update your resume. With data, yes, but also review and fine-tune it. Do your best to capture the essence of your strengths without overwhelming the reader. For recruiter-recommended best practices, check out this video.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is looking good: use an updated head shot, the right amount of information in your ‘about’ section (not too long or blocky), along with some recommendations from current co-workers or clients. Make sure dates align with those on your resume. Be careful about being overly active on LinkedIn, though ~ it can be a red flag to your current employer that you’re looking (or shut off notifications).
  • Create a target list of 20-30 companies whose work and culture you find attractive. Keep commute in mind, too. Find your target companies using online research and talking with people. Another good resource is the Business Journal’s “Book of Lists”, available in larger cities.
  • Conventional job search wisdom would tell you the next step is to look for open positions on your target companies’ CAREERS pages, and if you didn’t see anything, you would drop that company from your list. BUT more than 80% of job seekers find their new roles outside of the traditional application process! Set Google alerts to help you stay informed of new postings on your target companies’ Careers pages so you’re in the know.
  • THEN… narrow your target list to around 10 first-choice companies, your shortlist.
  • Start networking: meet as many people as possible (ideally at least 5) from each company on your shortlist.  Do not use LinkedIn messaging for this ~ figure out their work email address. In your email, ask them (in a non-stalker way) if they’d be willing to meet up for a 20-minute coffee to tell you about what it’s like to work at their company. Don’t call it an “informational interview”; you’re simply making connections. And connections are what get you to the front of the hiring line.
  • Craft an elevator pitch about what you’re good at and the kind of work you’d like to be doing next. Role play with your partner (or friend, or in front of a mirror) until this 30 second description flows out of your mouth like you’ve been sayin’ it all your life.
  • Make sure your self-care includes enough sleep, regular exercise, plenty of water, healthy food, not too much caffeine or alcohol. Add in positive self-talk  & creative/ social downtime. Create balance, because this isn’t a sprint.
  • Ask your references ahead of time if they’ll put in a good word for you when the time comes (and then alert them when that time arises). Yes, in many cases, references are still checked. Also ~ be aware of what your references are saying about you! If you’re not sure, ask them how they describe your work. Even tell them what kind of role you’re being considered for so they can have their thoughts prepared.
  • Stay positive & be patient. Remember, you don’t know what lies around the next corner: that next conversation may lead to a wonderful job. Don’t give up a few inches shy of the gold!
  • If you’re between jobs, consider contracting. The all-or-nothing “get a permanent job only” mission might rule out otherwise-great opportunities. Know how much you need to earn to cover your expenses. Have an idea of what health insurance will cost you. Be aware of the going rate for your skills niche so you don’t inadvertently price yourself too low (or out of the market). If you’re working with a recruiter and your rates are at the higher end of the scale, their markup may make you too expensive.

By following these steps, you’re creating a vision and a brand for yourself, as well as building a network along the way. Time spent in figuring out your destination ahead of time, preparing yourself, and asking for a little help with directions will help you arrive at the right destination.

Have a great trip! If you need a little direction, click here for a free 15-minute “Ask me anything” call.

You’ve Got the Perfect Experience. WHY Didn’t You Get the Interview?

5 Common Resume Missteps

Of course, there could be other factors why that interview didn’t come your way. But if you have a hunch that your resume isn’t opening doors, try taking a look at it with these 5 tips in mind.

1. Your resume is too long. But how long should it be? you ask. My answer: it depends. Generally, 2-3 pages (contractors’ might be longer because assignments are typically outlined). If you work in technology, tools change quickly, so while the work you did 10 years ago may be relevant, the tools have likely been replaced. A common technology mistake: listing every single tool or technology ever used. Trim it to the ones you know best. If you’re mid- or later-career, going back more than 10-15 years can make you look out-of-step.

A resume is an appetizer, not the meal.
It should whet the appetite, not overwhelm it.

2Your resume doesn’t highlight your skills for THIS job. I know, I know. You don’t want to tailor your resume for every job to which you apply. To an extent, I agree. However, pay attention to the key requirements (from the job description) and call yours out. Especially if it’s not a clear match, if you REALLY want this job, and/or you don’t know the person receiving your resume (HR/Talent Acquisition).

As one of my hiring managers once said, “If they’re applying for a six-figure job, I expect them to tailor their resume at least a little bit.” You decide.

3. Your resume is hard to read. Take an objective look: have you used blocks of text? A block is anything more than a couple of medium-length sentences strung together. People tend to skim when reading resumes, so format yours with the reader in mind. Use bullet points, shorter sentences, and proofread it from their point of view.

Does it draw you in? Or is it overwhelming?

4. Your resume is poorly-worded or has inconsistent grammar/spelling/punctuation. I’ve seen resumes whose ‘responsibilities’ sections were copied from a job description. Or they’re written in a way that assumes the reader has familiarity with you and/or with what you do. It bears repeating: keep your reader in mind as you write your resume. Also, make sure verb tenses align (they should all be past tense, except for the job you’re in now). Spell check! Punctuate correctly. When you think you’re finished, have a picky friend review your resume.

Ask , “If I were the hiring manager, would I want to talk to me?”

5. It’s not long (or detailed) enough. Create context: how many people did you manage? What was your impact (# users, # facilities)? What was the $ savings / % growth / whatever you achieved? What’s the size and industry of your employer if it’s not well-known? Instead of writing ‘fifty million dollars’, use ‘$50 million’. Did you notice how the symbols also drew your attention in?

There’s a fine line between ‘too long’ and ‘too short’, but your resume shouldn’t just be a few Cheez Its.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of resumes. Most are perfectly fine and will do the trick (especially when you have a sought-after skillset). Some resumes are incredibly good, and some are really bad. But if you’re applying and not getting interviews, try these 5 tips.

If you’re still struggling and would like 1:1 resume advice, let a recruiter revise your resume (it’s like having the IRS prepare your taxes).

The Elephant in the Room

what’s “old”? some insights (and tips) on DEFLECTING age bias

A vital, intelligent middle-aged woman with much to offer recently told me: “A friend who works in HR said I should plan on this being my last job.”

Ouch. 

I’ve also heard this: “I’d like to look for a new job, but I’m worried about companies passing me up because of my age.  So I guess I’d better just stay put.”  Or, “I’m pushing 50; I need to be careful.”

There’s real fear coming from the 50+ crowd. It’s understandable, given past trends of jobs being outsourced or companies getting rid of tenured workers in favor of younger (read: less-expensive) ones.

So we pull back, not wanting to talk about that elephant in the room, age. Notably, OUR age. We start believing that we need to settle, gratefully accept what we have, sit on the sidelines, be passed up or passed by, lucky just to have a job. Never mind stepping out and looking for a new one ~ with all our experience, we still might not get hired.

is this true?
Not so much: SOME (GOOD) news

 

According to this article from CNBC, the unemployment rate for 55+ workers is lower than the general unemployment rate by almost a full 1%.

And studies are showing that mental and emotional abilities peak at different times. It’s not like we thought, a burst of brilliance at age 30 followed by the inevitable slow decline. There are plenty of role models for hitting one’s stride later in life: people who changed careers or built businesses and made it big later, celebrities who got a slow start, people who didn’t follow a traditional path (if there still IS one).

The rules have been kicked to the curb.  People are marrying + having kids later, living longer, waiting to retire (if they do at all) and reinventing themselves along the way. PLUS there’s a shortage of workers. A pretty rosy picture, all in all.

Still, if you’re “of a certain age”, it pays to be a bit crafty. Be bold, be unapologetic, but be mindful of the possibility of age bias.

In other words, don’t give them any ammo.
How?
  1. Your resume: avoid phrases that lead with decades of experience (“25+ years”) or long-in-the-tooth descriptors. Instead of “vast”, for example, use “deep” or “extensive” or “rich”.  Also, don’t go back for decades with your work history. Especially in tech, the last 10 years or so is plenty. Add a “Prior Roles Include” section if you want to capture relevant earlier titles.
  2. Address the “older workers are more expensive” conversation (at the appropriate time): seasoned workers may be more expensive, but I’ve also heard it eloquently said, “I’m at a point in my life where money is less important: I’m an empty-nester, my kids are out of college, I have flexibility to choose the work I want to do.” This one can be a little tricky, though. Don’t lead with “I’m inexpensive” — you want to be fairly paid for your expertise.
  3. Keep learning + adding new skills: find out what the hot ones are, then pick one up that’s relevant. Not just because I told you to. Be interested in it and have some kind of practical application for it. Udemy has skazillions of courses, cheap. There’s also YouTube (free) and all kinds of interesting problems to be solved in the world.
  4. Mingle with all generations: add younger folks to your network ~ your peers may be retiring. How to find Gen Y’ers / Millennials? Go where they are: mentor, teach what you know, volunteer (find a hackathon or a social engineering opportunity). Bring Genesys Works into your company, get invited to your local high school to give a career presentation, hire college interns. Meetup.com and Evite are full of ideas.
  5. Be mindful of your appearance: stay reasonably fit + at a healthy weight. Walk with a spring in your step (want to see how you look when you walk? have someone take a quick video). Hold yourself tall. Cultivate a personal style (that suits you) based on current trends. This includes shoes, glasses, hairstyle, makeup for gals, your pearly whites. Strike a balance, though. You’re not trying to look like a Millennial ~ you be the best version of you.
  6. Listen to yourself: are you talking like a curmudgeon? Steer clear of topics like illness, surgeries, aches and pains, too many stories about the grandkids or decades-old events, how things were “back then” or “we always did things that way”. Your brain is always listening and will faithfully recreate whatever you focus on. The best part: you can reverse it! Don’t do this for them, do it for you. Read this.
  7. Cultivate a youthful attitude: open-mindedness, focused in NOW, flexibility, curiosity, an appreciation of different perspectives and an interest in new ideas. “Old” is a mindset as much as it is a chronology.

I’ve heard that after age 50, we must choose whether we’ll engage with life or drift toward the sidelines. Even though stepping back might seem appealing, decide to stay interested and relevant, whatever that looks like for you. Put energy into learning, experimenting, and getting outside of your comfort zone regularly. Not just professionally, do this in your life.

Chuck Squires, a 35+ year veteran of Robert Half International, role models this beautifully. He’s retired, but stays connected through mentoring, networking, giving back to the business community. On vacations, he’s off hiking in the Andes or volunteering somewhere. His zest for living is infectious and inspiring.

“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

— Sophia Loren

At any age, your network is your best professional asset (keep in mind, your network is the people who will help you, not your number of LinkedIn connections). Cultivate it with consistency, and be sure you’re helping others along the way.

A LinkedIn article popped up in my feed recently ~ the topic: could older creatives compete with younger talent? The headline photo: a middle-aged guy with a full gray beard. He was sitting on the ground, MacBook Air atop his thighs.  Dressed sharp, wearing Clubmaster shades, muscles faintly visible under his rolled-up sleeves, sockless-in-oxfords-with-tanned-ankles. My god, he looked HOT. Experience and perspective + curiosity and energy are irresistibly intriguing.

You have much to offer: your unique perspective, your experience, your skills, your sensibilities. Stay in the game. We need you here.

I help mid-careerists tune up their professional brand.
Embarking on a job search? Gunning for a promotion? Launching a speaking sideline?
I use my recruiting and writing experience to help you get clear.
Want to connect?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a 15-minute no-strings-attached call. 

 

Search 101

24 recruiter-tested Tips for Job-Seeking Success

A fortunate few never actually look for jobs: they’re recommended by superiors or recruited by former co-workers. For the rest of us, here’s a toolbox of best-practices to make job-hunting easier and more productive.

On your professional brand:
  1. DO have a recently-updated resume. Especially if you’re a leader, have it reviewed and reworked by an expert
  2. DO have a recently-updated LinkedIn profile with a clear, professional-looking head shot
  3. DO make sure the dates and titles on your LinkedIn profile match your resume
  4. DO ask for LinkedIn recommendations from people who know you and your work well

Michelle spotted a LinkedIn job posting that looked like a perfect next role. Wisely, she asked around and found a professional who could review and revise her resume + her LinkedIn profile. Feeling much more confident after the resulting profile update and resume had been delivered, she applied to the job.

On figuring out where to begin your search:
  1. DO pick 5-10 companies you admire and for whom you think you’d like to work
  2. DO your research on each company. Using LinkedIn, find a common connection and ask for an introduction
  3. DO invite people in these companies for a quick cup of coffee near their office. Say something like, “I’d love to hear what you like about working at X. Can I buy you a quick cup of coffee?”
  4. DO ask people you trust for a recruiter recommendation
On networking:
  1. DO spread the word: let friends and family know you’re looking for a new company
  2. DO mingle: attend Meetups in your field of expertise (or ones that strike your fancy)
  3. DO look for and join LinkedIn groups in your profession
  4. DO expand your personal network by taking part in volunteer activities. Make sure to choose a cause that you truly care about

David is great at asking his LinkedIn connections for introductions. When he finds postings that fit his experience, he immediately looks to his network to see who can be an advocate. This has given him several opportunities to interview, as well as offering insights into these companies.

On applying to company websites:
  1. DON’T rely only on applying to jobs online, unless your skills are in high demand
  2. DON’T regurgitate your entire resume into your cover letter, if you’re using one. Keep it simple. Here’s a guideline.
  3. DO try to find an advocate inside the company as well as applying online
  4. DO tailor your resume to the job, highlighting the most-important skills
On staying the course:
  1. DO look for a job before you actually need one. 411 is easier than 911
  2. DON’T get impatient! Depending on your salary, it can take 6-10 months to find the right next position
  3. DO take consistent action so you feel empowered
  4. DO take good care of yourself physically and emotionally

Michael, who’d been off the job market for a couple of years, really enjoyed the networking aspect of his search. He took every opportunity to meet people. Along the way, he also made it his business to connect others and offer his help. His confidence, curiosity, and kindness added tremendous velocity to his search. Very quickly, he landed a great role with a Fortune 500 company and is now happily digging in.

On adding velocity to YOUR search:
  1. DO find ways to help others along the way.
  2. DO assume that things are working out for the best, keeping a positive outlook
  3. DO stay curious and open-minded. That job that doesn’t seem to be a fit could end up being best one in your career so far!
  4. DON’T allow yourself to get bitter, angry or desperate. These attitudes are repellent, and people pick up on them even when they can’t pinpoint what it is about you that is off-putting

Amy, who’s been job-hunting for 5+ months, is finding it hard to land one. It’s ironic, because the market in her city is hungry for people with her experience. She’s had phone interviews, but they never seem to result in face-to-face meetings. The problem? She’s tense and angry. The roles don’t pay what she expects to earn. Rather than adopting a curious and confident outlook, she’s bitter.

Your search can be a trial, or it can be an interesting and exhilarating adventure. By deciding to take the long view, asking for help along the way (+offering your help to others) and refining your job-hunting skills, you’ll be giving it the attention it deserves.

Happily, your results will reflect this.

Need some objective + experienced advice for your professional brand? I can help.

Here’s a link to my calendar to schedule a 15-minute, no-strings-attached call.

Behind the (agency) curtain

Some tips on engaging more effectively

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, agency recruiters and search firms are a fixture on the job search (or hiring) landscape. But they’re not interchangeable and they do need some cultivation. Here’s a roadmap to save you some time and potential heartache.

PART 1: they’re not all created equal :: Things to know

Agencies have different focuses. Some search firms only recruit and place people with deep skills in a particular technology tool (ie. Office 365 or Salesforce). Others focus on a skillset (developers, scrum masters, etc). There are agencies that target midlevel (2-10 year) candidates and others that only work on executive search (senior- and C-level). If you’re new to working with agency recruiters, take a look at their ‘available opportunities’ to get an idea of their practice. Make sure their area of specialization aligns with your skillset.

They often have different lines of business: some work strictly on contract or contract to hire job searches, others only work on permanent placement. Find out what their ‘bread and butter’ is ~ and then, if their focus isn’t the same as yours, keep moving.

Just because a recruiter calls does not mean you need to work with them. Do your homework! For instance, if you’re looking for a perm/direct hire role, don’t waste time (yours or theirs) with a firm that only places people in contract roles, unless you’re truly open to a contract position.

In the direct-hire / permanent placement world, there are different kinds of searches:

Contingent (the agency doesn’t get paid unless they find a candidate that the client hires); usually non-exclusive and a race with other firms to present qualified candidates.

Engaged (the client company pays part of the agency fee up front), which generally gives the agency some exclusivity and traction with the client.

Retained (the client company pays the agency fee in installments, even if the agency doesn’t find a candidate). Essentially, the agency is getting paid for its time, and hopefully for a well-suited candidate. Retained searches are most-often used for senior- and executive level searches.

Why is this relevant? Because the agency’s influence depends on whether the client is using them exclusively or putting the search out to many firms.

Recruiters vary wildly in experience. The big firms like Robert Half  and Modis hire inexperienced recruiters, train them up, and see who makes it. Recruiting is a tough and competitive game with a high turnover rate.  Especially if you’re 10+ years into your career, be discerning. Work with a recruiter with 5+ years of experience (and proven success).

Just like the rest of us, agency recruiters have relationships of different degrees with their client companies. It’s worth asking how well they know a hiring manager and whether they’ve made recent placements with the company before agreeing to be represented there.

Here’s why: once an agency presents your resume to a company, the agency can charge a placement fee if you’re hired. Agencies typically claim this right for 6 – 12 months.

The problem comes when a company is NOT willing to pay an agency fee. If you’re competing against someone who comes in via the company’s Careers page or a referral, it could easily tip the balance in their favor.

So ask your recruiter: how many people have they placed with the client company?  Who pays the agency fees: Talent Acquisition (which might say no even if the hiring manager agrees to consider agency candidates)? Or does the fee come out of the hiring manager’s budget (meaning s/he has decision-making power over paying an agency)?

An agency recruiter who’s invested in your success will generally have answers to these questions. They’ll also tell you if their relationship is strong enough to get traction on your behalf.

PART 2: How to work smart with your agency recruiter

NOTE: You are not the agency recruiter’s client ~ the hiring company is. You’re paying your recruiter zero dollars. Please don’t be that candidate who expects their recruiter to do everything. They’re not your agent, though a good and well-connected recruiter will often act as one for a top-notch candidate.

  • Unless you have sought-after skills (and even if you do), collaborate. Stay in touch (find out from your recruiter how often is appropriate). Ask about positions you’ve seen on the agency’s ‘opportunities’ page. Mention jobs you’ve seen posted on companies’ Careers pages to see if they’ve got a lead in.
    DO NOT APPLY TO THE POSITION FIRST AND THEN ASK YOUR AGENCY RECRUITER FOR HELP ‘GETTING IN FRONT OF THE HIRING MANAGER’. Once you apply to a role directly, the agency cannot represent you at that company.
  • Give back: offer to help your recruiter by tapping your network, by introducing them to potential candidates, etc. If you’re a hiring manager who needs help filling a job on your team and you can use a search firm / agency, your recruiter should be your first call.
  • Don’t be needy. Calling for daily updates or expecting your recruiter to fix your resume / LinkedIn profile is asking too much.
  • Slow down a bit and ask questions, especially as you get close to an offer. It’s your future. Here is where an unscrupulous recruiter (who’s getting paid to place you) might not be 100% forthcoming. If you have niggling doubts, address them. Ask for a final phone call with the hiring manager or HR if you’re not clear on things. Better safe than sorry.
  • You can work with different agency recruiters. However, you cannot (generally) be represented by more than one agency to the same company (even for jobs in other departments) within the same 6-12 month period. Once your resume is inside the company, that’s the agency who’ll get the fee if you’re hired.

A longstanding relationship with a trusted recruiter provides a lens into the marketplace, even when you’re not looking. As with any relationship, it needs attention, care and feeding.

Consider it an investment in your craft
to have a good recruiter on speed dial.

I use my agency- and corporate recruiting experience to help mid-career job seekers.
Got questions?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute Q&A.
Don’t be shy.

Red Flags in Job Opportunities

a cautionary tale + some real world advice

A story I’ve heard more than once: a posting for the perfect job appears. You apply. Astonishingly, you get a call and an interview request shortly thereafter. You go in. The office is gorgeous. The people seem to be exactly the kind you’d like to work for (and with). After the requisite number of interviews, they tell you an offer is forthcoming.

You’re elated ~ this came together so effortlessly! It seems like a great next step. You’re ready to give notice and climb aboard this new train.

Is this the real thing? Or is it too good to be true? Of course you do your research, like reading Glassdoor reviews.

What constitutes a red flag? Here are the most-common:

  • You didn’t meet or talk with your new leader or future peers (true story!).
  • The reason the position is open is vague or hasn’t been explained to your satisfaction.
  • You’re not a senior leader or C-level exec, but you’re asked to come in for an inordinate number of interviews (>3).
  • You’re going to be in a leadership role, but your request to meet with your future team without your prospective leader in the room is denied.
  • There isn’t a clear set of measurable expectations for your success (ie: “If we fast forward 3-6 months, what should I have accomplished in order to be on track?”).
  • The offer, the position, the speed with which it all came together is amazing, but you still have this niggling feeling that there’s something you’re not being told.
  • OR things move quickly at first, but then drag out for weeks or months, with a lot of unexplained communication gaps.
  • The salary is okay but the bonus potential is fantastic. However, they can’t quite come up with the track record for bonus payouts, confirm when bonuses are paid or describe the parameters / requirements for qualifying.
  • There’s disturbing press about the company or negative word on the street. You inquire, but your interview team is not forthcoming about what’s being done to address it or fix the problem.
  • You ask about the company’s mission / vision and the C-level exec says, “I guess we’d better get one.”
Some general guidelines for your due diligence:
  • Meet with 360 degrees (subordinates, peers, leaders). Extra credit if you have friends on the inside and/or vendors with a trustworthy lens into the company (ie. do they pay their bills?)
  • Get a satisfactory answer for why the position’s open, especially if there have been several people in the role within the last few years.
  • Know what will be expected of you. Corollary: make sure your leadership is invested in your success.
  • Trust your gut. If you have doubts, slow down and find out why.
  • If the bonus is a large part of the compensation, know what you need to do to achieve it and what the payment history has been.

None of these red flags mean you should automatically decline an offer. They ARE indicators that you need more data. Asking too many questions during the interview process makes some folks uncomfortable ~ they worry that their chances of being hired will be clipped.

You’re vetting your future company to the same degree that they’re vetting you. If you can’t satisfy your curiosity without getting kicked to the curb, is this a place you want to work?

And…what other opportunities are you letting go of for this one?

Questions are good.
Red flags can also be good.

Answers are better. Get them before you make big decisions.

I use my recruiting + writing experience
to help mid-career professionals better-define
their professional brand.

Curious? Let’s talk.
Here’s a link to schedule a 15-minute, no-strings-attached call.

I got an introduction. Now what? 

Some thoughts on how to bridge the (awkward) gap.

“What do I do when someone in my network DOES make an introduction?”

Someone asked this recently. She was in a bit of a panic, wondering how to behave, what to say, and of course, whether she’d actually get to interview for the job she wants so badly.

A couple of suggestions:

If it’s an email introduction

You have a friend in the biz who graciously sends a joint introductory email to you and the person you’re trying to connect with (if they’re a really good friend and they know the person well, they also circle back a week or so later to make sure the connection was actually consummated).

The email you send to both people (your friend and the new contact) could read something like this:

Hi, X, thanks so much for the introduction!

Hello, Y,

It’s nice to v-meet you! I’ve gotten great intel on <your company> from several sources. It seems like an amazing place to be right now. When X mentioned he knows you, I asked for an introduction.

What works best? A call or a quick coffee near your office? It’d be great to have an opportunity to visit with you.

Warmly,
<your name>

Keep it short & simple, warm but dignified (you’re not desperate). You can mention the job you’ve spotted (if there is one), but don’t make it the sole focus of your email. Focus first on making the connection.

Please don’t be that person who says they’re “the perfect fit for the job.”  Don’t regurgitate your resume. Focus on the company more than the opportunity ~ who knows, maybe they’ve already gotten to final interviews on this job but there’s another one in the wings.

If it’s in person:

I learned early on at Robert Half that I could invite someone I knew to invite someone THEY knew for a joint coffee or lunch. Having that middle person who knows both parties takes a lot of the awkwardness away. Ask your connection if they’d do that for you.

If you end up meeting your new connection on your own, do a little research ahead of time so you can come up with a topic or two. Hello, LinkedIn. Maybe you’re both interested volunteer work, or you attended the same university.

Another idea: you can cold-call someone in the company (maybe someone in a role similar to the one you’re currently doing) and invite them to lunch. Coffee works too.

Be candid about the reason for your gesture. Say something like “I’d really like to learn more about your company, because it seems like you guys are solving some interesting problems” / “I’d like to be part of an innovative company” / “I like your company’s community involvement. I’m interested in being a part of a company like that.”

I think it’s important to identify with the WHY first (ie. why this company?). The job you spotted (if there is one) comes second.

Let the person get to know you a bit rather than lunging at the job. If they become an advocate, you’ve made progress toward ALL potential jobs. If you get so focused on this one position, you miss the opportunity to bond a bit. Take your time. Slow down a little.

Ask good questions: “What made you decide to join?” “What’s your biggest challenge been?” “What suggestions do you have for me?” “Do you have influence over this position?” “Is there anyone else you think I should chat with?”

Focus on the person you’re meeting. Be curious about the company. You’re doing research, not zeroing in for the kill.  Be helpful if you can.

Do this in a genuine way and follow through with a genuine thank you afterwards.  With practice, it’ll soon feel more natural. I promise.

I help mid-careerists better-tell their professional story.
Leverage my recruiting & writing experience (it’s like having the IRS prepare your taxes).

Here’s a link to schedule a 15-minute, no-obligation intro call.

Need a Fast Start?

a Recruiter’s Advice for Today’s Job Search


Are you arriving on the search scene after a hiatus?  Some of my clients have spent a decade or more with their companies (some thought they’d spend their whole career there).  It’s easy to get focused on day-to-day life, with job+family overriding networking.

If you suddenly find yourself on the brink of a job change, these guidelines will help:

Evaluate Your Professional Brand
  • Get help with your resume & LinkedIn profile from a savvy friend or a professional. Putting your best (digital) foot forward is super important, not only for your brand, but also for your confidence.
  • Spend some R&D time reviewing job postings (LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor). Figure out where your skill set fits. Job titles have evolved over the past 10 years.
  • Take an objective look at your appearance: do you need a more-current set of specs / haircut / interviewing clothes? I know of one outplacement coach who advises his clients to drop 5 pounds as a confidence-builder.
Get active on Social Media (LinkedIn)
  • More R&D: comb through LinkedIn to find former leaders & co-workers. Invite them to connect with you (if you aren’t already).
  • Change your LinkedIn visibility status to ‘open to opportunities’ so recruiters can find you. But don’t stop there:
  • If you’ve ignored LinkedIn (you’re not alone!), make it a daily practice to ‘like’ things that are professionally relevant. If you really like them, add a comment and/or ‘share’ them to your network.
Fire up your Networking
  • Think about where your next leader (or someone who knows her/him) might be found. Go there. Use Meetup.com to find professional events in your area of specialty. Attend regularly.
  • Get out for coffee / breakfast / lunch as often as you can. Invite former co-workers, people you’d like to know better, a recruiter or two (do your homework).
  • Regularly look for job postings (LinkedIn, Indeed, company Careers pages) that fit. BEFORE you apply, go to LinkedIn to see if you have a 1st degree connection at that company. If you do, ask them whether they’d be willing to promote you to the hiring manager / talent acquisition.
  • Don’t be a serial monogamist job seeker: have multiple lines in the water at any given time. This will help you from getting too attached to one opportunity.
  • Be curious about people you’re meeting outside work (at church, the gym, kids’ events, sporting events, volunteer activities). Find out what they do, where they work. If it’s appropriate, mention your job search. And connect with them on LinkedIn!
  • In addition to targeting a job / job title, talk to people to learn where the interesting problems (that you can help solve) are. Companies are growing, transforming, being born. Tap your growing network to find them.

It’s a brave new world out here in job hunt land. Social media has truly shifted the landscape. The old ‘apply and wait for a call’ doesn’t work. LinkedIn connections (the real kind) are golden , and it’s easier than ever to peer inside companies. There are even tools to help us assess cultures.

Here’s a quick article on bias-proofing your professional brand.

Looking for some help refining (or de-fining) your professional brand?
I can help.
Here’s a link to my calendar to set up a no-obligation intro call.

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