Sunday, July 15, 2012

How To Turn Off Your Activity Broadcasts on LinkedIn

I have made no bones about the fact that I am a big proponent of using social media as part of any successful job search. Networking on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter can lead you to that next position. But if you are not aware of who is watching, it can also backfire. One big issue that many job seekers don’t realize is that each time any facet of their LinkedIn profiles are updated, it’s broadcast for every direct connection to see. Connections such as bosses and co-workers are probably not the people you ideally want being tipped off that you are actively engaged in a job search. Take the right measures to prevent this, and it won’t be a problem. Here’s how:

Taken directly from LinkedIn’s site, here are some of the changes that trigger updates (and activity broadcasts):

  1. Adding a new current job position.
  2. Adding a new current school.
  3. Adding a new link to a website.
  4. Recommending someone.
  5. Adding a connection.

To remedy this potential problem, follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to your LinkedIn account
  2. Hover over your name at the upper top right of the screen
  3. Click “Settings”
  4. Find “Privacy Controls” toward the center bottom of the page
  5. Click “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts” and follow directions

In addition to turning your activity broadcasts on and off, the settings under Privacy Controls also allow you to:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Interview Blunder #7 - Late To The Interview

This should go without saying, but………..DON’T BE LATE TO AN INTERVIEW! If anything, schedule your time to be on or near the premises at least 10 minutes early.  This should ensure that unusually heavy traffic or anything else out of the ordinary will not cause you to be late. But don’t fall into the annoyance of arriving way too early either; that may come across as too desperate or a bit creepy.

This is not set in stone by any means, but some of the general rules of thumb for time are as follows:

-        A couple of minutes can be forgiven, but a quick apology is nice
-        More than a few minutes definitely needs an apology
-        10 minutes is on the borderline, so there better be something pretty dire that held you back
-        Over 15 minutes will normally warrant a cancellation, especially when the interviewer is on a tight schedule of consecutive interviews

It is a shame when interviewees arbitrarily disqualify themselves based on simply not making it to an interview on time. The big issue of course is that by being late, you are not relaying any confidence to the interviewer that promptness is a strong point. If you can’t make the interview on time, how can you be relied on to make it to work when you are supposed to if hired?

There are of course exceptions to every rule, so don’t despair completely. I will admit that if I have on paper someone who looks to be an exceptional candidate, I will give some leeway to rescheduling the interview or starting it once they show up. However this may not always be the case with others, so don’t assume you are the exceptional candidate or that it is okay to be late. Try to avoid any of these issues by making it a point to be on time.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cover Letter Tip: Address The Hiring Manager By Name

While it is true that your cover letter may not be more than glanced at due to the significant influx of resumes being submitted across the board, you still want to be prepared in case it does. If you do not show that you were concerned enough to find out the name of the person with the hiring power, you won’t be making a very strong impression.

Addressing the letter to

“Dear Human Resources”

“To Whom It May Concern”

“Dear Sir / Madam”

Contrast these generic titles with one that personally addresses the hiring manager:

“Dear Mr. Johnson”

It may seem irrelevant to some, but that little personal touch can make a world of difference. I feel more flattered when somebody addresses me by name versus “Dear Recruiter.”

Now ideally if you are following the 80/10/10 rule (80% of your time should be spent networking, 10% working with recruiters, and 10% applying for positions posted online), the need for a cover letter at all will only apply to 20% or less of your time. There are competing schools of thought regarding the importance of cover letters, or why cover letters are overrated. In any case, the question of course arises – what do I do if I don’t know thename of the hiring manager? In a previous post, I address that issue specifically (highlighted above). Suffice it to say, with a little legwork and creativity, you can find the name of pretty much about anyone.

Before I end this post, let me share a tip that extends beyond personally addressing the hiring manager in a cover letter: Find ways to personally make contact and network with that hiring manager over simply including his/her name in print on a piece of paper. Being able to network like this will skyrocket your chances landing for the position, and reduce the need for a cover letter at all.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Interview Blunder #8 – Not Knowing The Company Name Or What They Do

A great way to screw up an interview is to show up completely unprepared. You would be surprised at just how many people show up to an interview with no idea what the company does, let alone the company name! Once I as an interviewer realize that the interviewee hasn’t taken the time to learn anything about the company, the interview is as good as over. Funny enough, the first question in these cases is one I can predict 99% of the time – how much does it pay? There seems to be a strange correlation between a lack of homework, and this question.

If this is a common tactic for you, I can assure you that this is why you are not getting offers. If you aren’t embarrassed by it, you should be. In a nutshell – correct it! The following are a few methods to use in order to make sure that you are prepared with understanding that the company does, a little about the interviewer, and the company’s name.

First, visit the company web site and Google the company name in order to pull up articles or related info. Taking a little bit of time to read about the company will not only give you a background of it, but should also prepare you with good questions to ask during the interview.

Follow the company on LinkedIn. Not only can you find some valuable information about the company itself, but you also can see company profile updates as well as updates regarding new employees who have joined the organization, and employees who have recently left. This can prove very valuable in getting a gauge on the culture, and the types of employees who are employed there.

There are instances from time to time where the name of theinterviewer/hiring manger is not provided. Don’t despair though because there are still ways to figure it out. We live in a Google and online world. You can literally find just about anyone or anything. With that being said, do a Google search of the company name along with key words such as the title (or presumed title) of the manager, or "jobs," "employment," "human resources" to see if a similar posting has been archived from the past with the contact name listed. You can also try searching LinkedIn and Facebook using the same type of clues. LinkedIn in particular is about the easiest method for finding someone – I do it all the time. IF those don’t work, pick up the phone and make a call to the main line of the company. Ask for the name of the hiring manager. Be conspicuous, and not too obvious so as to not blow your cover. Finally, there are an increasing number of search engines popping up such as Pipl, Wink, Zoominfo and Zabasearch. These sites are touted for being able to search deeper into the web than an engine like Google.

The moral of the story is that if you show up to an interview with no knowledge about the company, what they do, or even the name, you cannot expect to have success. Take 15-20 minutes beforehand, and do your research. This small investment of time could end up paying dividends.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Interview Blunder #6 – Turn Your Cell Phone Off!

Cell phones have been around now for well over a decade, so this blunder should go without saying. But believe it or not, it still is a problem from time to time during an interview. This is the easiest interview blunder to rectify; turn off your phone…..completely. Setting it to vibrate does not solve it; it can still be heard. Turn off your phone well before you enter the interview, and there will be no problem.

The message a cell phone ringing in an interview send to the interviewer is that you think your personal life is more important than the interview, that you don’t care about the interviewer’s time, and that you don’t take the interview seriously. This has never happened to me personally, but I did hear through a colleague in the industry a story of an interviewee who’s cell phone rang during the interview, and the candidate actually had the audacity to ask the interviewer if she could leave the room to take the call! I’m still blown away by this account.

If you do forget to turn off your cell phone, and it does ring during an interview, silence it immediately! Apologize to the interviewer, let him/her know you thought you had turned it off, and then take this opportunity to let him/her know you are now turning it off. If you don’t shut it down completely, you risk another call, text message or voicemail notification. A first strike may be forgivable; a second will not. Don’t blow an interview for a silly reason like this.

Are Reference Checks Eliminating You From Consideration In Positions You Interviewed For?

In a survey conducted by OfficeTeam (full survey here), it is noted that just over one in five candidates (21%) are eliminated from consideration after speaking to their professional contacts. More than a third of those surveyed (36%) said they were most interested in obtaining input on an applicant’s past job duties and experience. Second to this was learning about the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses (31%).

Managers were posed the question, "When speaking to an applicant's job references, what is the most important information you hope to receive?" A full breakdown of their responses are as follows:

Description of past job duties and experience

A view into the applicant's strengths and weaknesses

Confirmation of job title and dates of employment

Description of workplace accomplishments

A sense of the applicant's preferred work culture

Other/don't know


I can tell you from experience that when a handful of candidates are still in the running for a position, and all credentials and experience are fairly equal, reference checks often end up being the difference in the final decision. A bad reference can be damaging, so be wise who you choose to be reference prior to them being checked. I would rather talk to a reference who has hands-on knowledge of the candidates unique qualities, achievements and experience versus speaking to someone who holds a big title. Also, it’s not a bad idea to supply more references than required, and definitely make sure to get permission from the people you list. It reflects poorly when a reference is called and is taken completely by surprise.

I know people in HR departments at companies who have no qualms with calming any and all former managers, colleagues or personnel from the applicant company’s former HR department they can find. The reason of course is that most of the time a more candid picture will be painted by those who can serve as references but are not directly provided by the candidate. I have used this method to discover big discrepancies in the length of work service stated (by as much as 18 months), and in one case found out the candidate had never worked for a listed company at all! After one interview with a prospective candidate, there were enough red flags raised in the responses given that I was highly suspicious. That skepticism was confirmed when I contacted the Ivy League school the individual had supposedly graduated from and it was confirmed no one with that name had graduated, let alone attended school there.

But don’t be completely frightened by all of this because there are still a good share of companies and employers out there who do not take time to check a single reference. I don’t agree with it or advocate it, but it happens. In a couple of my previous jobs before being a recruiter, I worked for organizations that didn’t call a single reference. Be ready with solid references, but don’t be totally surprised if they aren’t ever checked.

As a last note, I addressed the issues of what prospective employers ask about in reference checks, and how to deal with bad references from previous employers. Both of these discussions can be found here.

Job Search Tip: Make Your Goals Realistic

It can be very taxing on job seekers as they embark on a job search. Often, and unfortunately, the necessity of such a search is brought on as a result of a layoff or reduction in force. This of course can cause emotions of low self worth or esteem which you hope to avoid because a big part of a successful job search is maintaining a positive attitude. Don’t compound the issue further by setting goals that are completely out of reach.

Successful goals should be measurable, attainable and specific. They should also be realistic, and not completely out of reach. Is it implausible to send out 150 resumes in one week? No. However, it’s a goal that may not be as productive as utilizing a mix of networking endeavors in combination with applying online for only those jobs that you are a good fit for. If you are sending out 150 resumes just to meet your number objective, you may not see the results you hoped for. Focus on quality, not quantity. This is where you will see better outcomes.

Keep in mind that goals are set to achieve an intended outcome; in this case a new job. Take it one step at a time, and actively and persistently work toward attaining it. Most of all, be realistic. It is wonderful to have high ambitions, but make sure they are attainable. Otherwise you will end up defeating the entire purpose – to get that new job that awaits you.