Monday, August 12, 2013

Skype Interviews

We’ve covered the topic of interviews in a number of blog posts already. This one gives some tips to recent grads and this one provides tips for phone interviews. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of interviews, though, which is why we decided to address the subject again in this post.

While all interviews try to evaluate job candidates, there are different types that require slightly different preparation. For sit-down interviews, you must look the part in every way. You have to dress sharp, project good body language, etc. Phone interviews don’t necessarily require these things, but extra emphasis in placed on annunciation and tone of voice because the interviewer cannot see you. Finally, there is the remote interview done via videoconference (usually Skype), which presents a completely different set of challenges.

Here are some tips to help you nail your Skype interview:

Look the part
Yes, I know – it’s a Skype interview. That doesn’t give you permission to dress any less professionally than you would for a sit-down interview, though. Dressing up will also help you get into the right mindset. There is no reason to not look your best. Send the right message!

Find a good location
This is absolutely essential to conducting a smooth Skype interview. Find a place that is quiet and distraction-free, which typically means away from people. If you have little choice in the matter, make it clear to people around you (roommates, friends, family, etc.) that you need 30 minutes or so of no distractions. Also, make sure that your surroundings are appropriate. You don’t want to have embarrassing personal items in the background. They will only distract the interviewer and create a potentially humiliating situation. The best way to avoid this is to find a place with a very boring background – maybe a blank wall or something similar.

Have notes nearby
Don’t be afraid to use the format of the interview to your advantage. It might be a good idea to put sticky notes on your computer screen that will serve as little reminders. The interviewer will not be able to see them, and the best part is that they likely won’t be able to tell that you are looking at notes at all. Use your discretion when it comes to what information you want on-hand. Only you really know what’s important and what’s not.

This is the best way to ensure that you are prepared for a Skype interview. Have someone run a mock interview with you via videoconference. This way you can test your internet connection and see how you present yourself. It will also help you adjust to video/audio lag, which can result in awkward interruptions if you aren’t used to it.

Ultimately, the goal of a Skype interview is the same as any other – show the interviewer that you are the best person for the job. It definitely presents a new set of factors that are worth preparing for, but in the end the medium shouldn’t dictate whether or not you get the job. You should.

Good luck!

-Cobey Culton

Friday, August 9, 2013

Staying Organized During Your Job Search

It’s a situation you never want to find yourself in – a recruiter calls after receiving your application, and you have no idea what position they are contacting you about. Not only will you be embarrassed, but chances are you won’t be hearing from that recruiter again.

There is nothing wrong with casting a wide net. It certainly increases your odds of finding a job (assuming you applied to relevant positions), but it can be hard to keep track of all your applications. Soon, you find yourself in the humiliating situation outlined above.

The best way to prevent this is to get organized! The sooner you do, the better off you’ll be. Here are some tips on how to organize your job search:

Start from day one
It might be too late for some of you, but try to start your job search with a basic plan of how you intend to organize your applications, resumes, etc. It’s much easier to organize everything from the beginning than it is to go back through weeks, and maybe even months of materials pertaining to your job search.

Save job postings you’ve applied to
If you apply to enough positions, things can get out of hand quickly. Save all of the job postings you’ve applied to in a folder. If you want to store them on your computer, saving the postings in PDF form will probably work best. If you applied to postings that were non-electronic, scan them to your computer if possible. You could even print out job postings and keep them in a physical folder, as long as you keep it in a safe place that you’ll remember. Another option is to create a Microsoft Excel sheet with a list of jobs you’ve applied for. You could include contact info, the date you applied, and more if you really want to be on top of things.

Manage your time effectively
You’ve likely heard the saying that “looking for a job is a full-time job.” This is absolutely true. It can be easy to put things off, but hours turn into days and days turn into weeks pretty quickly. You will get out what you put into your job search. If you apply to one or two openings, the odds simply are not in your favor, so be aggressive with your applications. With all of this being said, don’t forget to relax occasionally. Your job search is important, but it shouldn’t consume all of your time. If it does, you will only stress yourself out even more. Try to put things into perspective and put your best foot forward.

In the end, the benefits of staying organized during your job search far outweigh the extra effort you have to put in. You don’t want to lose out on a position (and perhaps future positions) because you were too lazy to keep track of your applications. To put it simply: the cost of being organized is nothing compared to the cost of being unorganized during a job hunt.

-Cobey Culton

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Google+ and Recruiting

When it comes to social media, there is no doubt that some platforms are better than others. Of course, this is very dependent on one’s goal, as the audience tends to vary from site to site. For instance, LinkedIn is designed for serious professionals who want to connect with peers and potentially advance their careers, which makes it a valuable asset to recruiters. Facebook and Twitter are absolute must-haves for anyone, including recruiters, mainly due to their vast audiences.

Then there is Google Plus.

To this day, it seems that Google Plus is still some sort of enigma to many people. Why? I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps it is rooted in an innate distrust of Google, though I’m not convinced that’s what’s keeping people, and especially recruiters, from using it. Newsflash: Google Plus is now the second largest social network in the world. If that’s not enough to convince recruiters to jump on board, consider the following:

This was Google’s big selling point when they launched Google Plus (remember the commercials?). At the time, people were very dissatisfied with Facebook’s sweeping privacy changes, and Google tried to capitalize. The “circles” feature allows you to choose who can see each post. While this might be more useful for individuals who don’t want their boss know about their latest weekend outing, it can also be helpful for recruiters who want to control who is seeing what. After all, recruiters and staffing agencies often have two distinct audiences: job seekers and companies who might hire out their services to fill positions.

While not unique to Google Plus, a lot of communities on Google Plus tend to be vibrant and active. Recruiters will want to take a look at “Job Postings” communities within their particular industry, among many others. This is probably the best way to target audiences, but recruiters should make sure that they don’t try to promote their own openings too much. It sends the wrong message, and people will eventually tune you out. Try to engage in industry-related discussions and give job seeker’s tips geared toward their field of work before mixing in the occasional job opening.

IT Audience
This is not applicable to all recruiters, but for those who focus on the IT field, Google Plus is an absolute must-have. People in the IT community tend to be more active on Google Plus than anywhere else, so if you haven’t joined Google Plus you are lagging way behind. It’s time to get on board.

As mentioned in the introduction, the usefulness of social media sites depends largely on what you plan on doing, but there is no longer an excuse for staffing agencies and recruiters to not be on Google Plus. It’s certainly not the ghost town that some people claim, and the site has a number of features that warrant giving it at least a look. What are you waiting for?

-Cobey Culton

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mobile Recruiting

As technology advances, so does recruiting (and many other industries, of course).This means that recruiters are always trying to spot the next technological breakthrough that is bound to fundamentally alter the way people search for jobs and recruiters, well, recruit.

Right now, mobile recruiting is a hot topic. The emergence of smart phones and tablets has redefined what it means to do things “on the go.”  Here are some statistics courtesy of the Global Recruiting Roundtable blog (

  1. 3 in 5 job seekers have searched for jobs on their mobile device in the past year
  2. 68% use their mobile device to search for jobs once a week or more
  3. 1 in 4 would not apply to a job if a company’s career site is not mobile optimized
  4. 84% believe mobile devices will be the most common way people search for jobs
  5. 15 minutes before an interview, candidates use a mobile device to read the job description
  6. 1 in 10 use the mobile device during an interview to show off technical skills and past achievements

Most of these stats lend themselves to the idea that mobile recruiting isn’t just the future – it’s the present. Recruiters must ensure that they have a mobile-friendly website to accommodate today’s job seekers. Smaller screens and the “on-the-go” attitude make long job descriptions and complicated application forms unlikely to attract candidates.

Of course, there is the flip side to this discussion. First, not everyone has a smart phone or tablet. This may change 10+ years down the road, but the fact is smart phones (and their data plans) are still relatively expensive. Second, mobile devices simply cannot replicate the experience found on a computer. Sure, they might be more convenient, but given the choice between typing on a 4-inch screen and a keyboard, I’ll take the keyboard every time. Not to mention, navigating between windows and forms, uploading resumes and typing cover letters – all of that is much easier to achieve on a computer.

The takeaway here is pretty simple: mobile devices are just another way that job seekers can look for jobs, and recruiters would be wise to give the mobile platform the attention it deserves.

What about you? Did you use a mobile device during your job search? If you are just starting a search, how much do you plan on using one?

- Cobey Culton

Monday, July 29, 2013

Handling Salary Expectations

Often times, it’s the elephant in the room during an interview. You probably know where this is going because you’ve been there (or maybe you just glanced at the title of this post). Either way, many job applicants find themselves in for a rude awakening when it comes time to discuss salary, usually because their expectations are way out of whack.

This unfortunate situation is not uncommon. Typically, it is the result of poor communication between the employer and potential employee. The employer should make salary expectations clear early in the process so that job seekers don’t form an overly optimistic opinion of an opening. Job seekers, on the other hand, should make sure that they have a firm understanding of the salary expectations to avoid wasting their (and the hiring manager’s) time.

Here are some tips on how to manage salary expectations during your job search:

Do some research
Before you get your heart set on a minimum salary that you’re willing to accept, do some research. A quick Google search will get you on the right track. Take a look at the position you’re interested in and see what the average compensation looks like. This will at least get you in the same ballpark as the employer, at which point you might be able to negotiate a little bit. Be careful to not base all of your expectations on previous jobs. While your experience might give you a better feel for what to expect, no two positions are exactly alike. Keep this in mind.

Communicate your expectations
In some situations, employers will use your salary expectation as a screening question. It could come up in the application or be required in your cover letter. Sometimes they will ask you what your expectations are during the interview. While it can be a daunting question, be honest. It will save you a lot of time, especially if your expectations don’t match up with theirs. That being said, make sure your expectations don’t come across as demands. Make it clear that you have some wiggle room. Hopefully you won’t be too far apart, though. Your research should give you a good idea of what to expect.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate
Do not start negotiating your salary before you have a job offer! This cannot be stressed enough. Make sure that you have taken care of the important part – convincing the employer that they should hire you. Once they offer you the job, don’t be afraid to negotiate a little. Obviously, you don’t want to demand double the salary they offered, but they probably won’t be opposed to giving you a small bump if you ask for it. Of course, when going through a staffing agency, almost the opposite is true. You should negotiate your salary with the recruiter and they will expect you to stick to that amount. The amount that they are billing your potential employer is based around your originally negotiated salary requirements.

Discussing salary expectations with a potential employer is always one of the more uncomfortable aspects of the job search, but it’s also very important (and I didn’t need to tell you that). When it comes down to it, just do your homework and be tactful – these two things alone will set you up for success.

- Cobey Culton

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Looking for a Job While You Have a Job

Are you feeling restless in your current job? Underpaid? Or maybe just plain bored? If so, it might be time for a new job. (Check out our blog post on signs that you should look for a new job before you make any rash decisions, though).

It is wise to look for a job while you are still employed – but move forward with caution! Here are some tips on how to approach your job hunt:

Keep your search private
Your employer might not appreciate your decision to explore other opportunities, and if they find out you could face some serious backlash. This really depends on your supervisor/employer, but it doesn’t hurt to keep your job search private. No one is entitled to know what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you are pursuing a job with a competitor, the situation becomes even more precarious. You will likely be viewed as a threat to your own company if your supervisor (or anyone else) becomes privy to your job search.

Don’t let your job search affect your work
Nothing good will result from your job hunt negatively impacting your work. You are being paid by your current employer, and you should respect that fact. Additionally, if you find that the job market isn’t all that you thought it would be, you don’t want to have to embrace the reality that you will have to stay in a position that you essentially checked out of a few weeks ago. Looking for a job is certainly time-consuming, but make sure that you do all of your job hunting off the clock. You don’t want to have to explain to your supervisor why you were on yesterday. Talk about awkward.

Use your employment as leverage
There are a couple decided advantages to looking for a job while you are employed. First, employers like to see that you have a job. You will have the leg up on someone who is unemployed, fairly or unfairly. They either lost their job or quit (unless they recently graduated from college), both of which reflect poorly on them as a candidate. Second, if you eventually get to the stage of negotiating salary, don’t be afraid to play a little hardball. After all, you have a safety net if the offer falls apart. Let them know! They will up the offer if they truly want you on board. Obviously, everything should be treated on a case-by-case basis. If someone offers you your dream job then it would be foolish to push the envelope too much. Use good judgment.

Job hunting is difficult. Ultimately, if you already have a job, you are in a better position than 7.6% of the US population. You have every right to look for a new opportunity – just don’t jeopardize your current position. 

--Cobey Culton

Friday, July 19, 2013

Evaluating Job Offers

As we detailed in our last blog post, the decision to leave a job is rarely an easy one. This is especially true if you like your current position – but what happens when another job offer presents itself? How should you go about weighing the offer against your current situation? Or even one job offer against another?

It wouldn’t hurt to start with an old-fashioned pros and cons list. Here are some aspects to consider:

I hope that this doesn’t come as a huge shock to you, but yes, the money is important. It can come in many forms: hourly wage, base salary, bonuses, commissions, etc. One job might have a higher base salary, but the other could have the potential to bring in more money due to bonuses. Sometimes the comparison is more straightforward. Either way, make sure you completely understand the financial ramifications of all situations/offers. It is ultimately up to you to decide how big of a role salary will play in your decision.

The benefits package included with a job is not to be overlooked. Talk with HR and make sure you understand what is included. Take a close look at the health/life insurance options, 401(k) matching, vacation days, and sick time (to name a few). A good benefits package can easily make up for a dip in salary, so don’t completely write off an opportunity based on the pay without comparing the benefits. Again, it is up to you to decide what is most important when looking at a job offer, but you would be remiss if you didn’t at least consider the perks included with each situation.

Will one job require more hours or more travel (or both)? If so, carefully weigh the implications of a heavier workload. Make sure you can handle the lifestyle change, and above all, make sure that the increased workload is worth it. Also consider the commute that each job requires. Driving half an hour or more to work will really add up over the course of a year. It may even nullify bump in salary you receive. Remember: time (and gas) is money!

The work environment of each job should be a big factor in your decision. Sometimes this might even be a “gut feeling” type of decision. Let’s say you got a job offer that will pay you a little more, but you didn’t like the vibe of the office. Should you really take that offer if you love the work environment at your current job? Well, it’s up to you, but your overall comfort level and happiness should not be tossed aside in the name of the almighty dollar. On the side of things, don’t turn down a great opportunity because you are so comfortable in your current position. Leaving a place you are familiar with for a new job is uncomfortable by definition, but it might be the right decision.

Nobody said that world of job hunting is full of easy, black-and-white choices. Regardless, if you find yourself with any type of job offer you are already in a good situation, so don’t stress out too much. Consider your situation carefully because it is unique. What might be a great fit for you could be a not-so-great fit for someone else, and vice-versa. Good luck!

-Cobey Culton