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

Monday, July 15, 2013

Signs That it's Time to Look for a New Job

On this blog we have published numerous posts that pertain to either finding or starting a new job - but what about the other side of the coin? When do you know that it is time to leave your current job and pursue other opportunities?

The sad reality is that many people are in a job that is simply not a good fit for them. Maybe the work isn’t something that they are passionate about. Maybe the culture and work environment of a company doesn’t mesh with their personality. There are countless reasons why a job might not be a good fit for someone, and more often than not there are obvious signs that indicate it might be time to start looking for other opportunities.

Here are some to look out for:

Your work doesn’t interest you
A feeling of indifference toward your work is often at the root of many people’s unhappiness. If you don’t like what you are spending 40+ hours per week doing, you are going to have some serious issues. A general lack of interest in your job will lead to other problems: showing up late, not putting forth your full effort, etc. Obviously, not everyone can have their “dream job,” but having at least some interest in your work will solve a lot of problems.

You don’t feel challenged
If you don’t feel like you are being challenged, it might be time to check the latest job postings. This usually means that you aren’t being utilized properly. Make sure you explore all avenues before quitting, though. Your supervisor might be open to giving you some new responsibilities, so don’t jump ship before you’ve at least discussed that possibility. If it’s clear that new opportunities in the same company simply isn’t going to happen, or you wouldn’t be interested in staying even if they offered, it’s probably time to pursue other opportunities.

You aren’t being paid enough
This is a tricky one because just about everyone thinks that they deserve to be paid more. If you truly feel that you aren’t being compensated fairly, either based on the industry-wide average or what your coworkers are making (provided you somehow obtain that information), talk with your supervisor. It never hurts to ask, even if you don’t think your odds of getting a raise are very good. If your request for a raise is turned down (and you are being blatantly underpaid) it could be time to look into other job openings.

You don’t get along with your coworkers
If you are constantly clashing with your coworkers and/or boss, it might be time to at least consider moving on. With that being said, before you start looking for a new job you need to look in the mirror and make sure that you aren’t the root cause of all the conflict. If you really can’t put up with your boss or coworkers despite your best efforts, it wouldn’t hurt to explore other opportunities. You will never be happy if you can’t stand the people you work alongside for 40+ hours a week.

Please Note: In very few situations is a good idea to quit your job without any sort of plan in place. If the situation is within your control, make sure that you have a job lined up before you submit your letter of resignation. Otherwise you could find the world of job hunting to be far less merciful than you anticipated.

- Cobey Culton

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tips for Your First Day of Work

So, you nailed the interview and got the job. You start on Monday. Now what?

The first day of work at a new job is nerve-wracking for just about everybody. Here are a few tips to make sure that you put your best foot forward on your first day:

Do some research
You should have already done some cursory research about the company before your interview. Now that they have hired you, consume every bit of information you can find prior to your first day. Browse their website and maybe do a few Google searches – you will likely be surprised at how much information is out there. If you come in on your first day well-versed in the company’s goals, history, etc. you will set yourself up for success on day one.

Be on time
Whatever you do, don’t be late on your first day. There is no need to make this point longer than necessary. Make sure that you know where you are going and that you allow enough time to get there. Nothing creates a worse first impression than being tardy on your first day of work.

Wear appropriate attire
Hopefully when you interviewed you got a good feel for the work environment. If so, dress accordingly so that your appearance jibes with coworkers. If you weren’t able to get a preview of the work environment, don’t hesitate to ask someone (your supervisor or an HR rep) about the dress code. Being overdressed can give off the impression that you are “showing up” your new coworkers. Being undressed, on the other hand, might send the message that you don’t care about your new position. Look sharp, but don’t overdo it.

Listen and take notes
You are new, after all. Commit yourself to listening and observing instead of talking, at least during your first few days. This approach will endear you to your coworkers and help you adapt to your new environment. Learn the names of your coworkers and make sure you have a good understanding of your job. This is not to say you shouldn’t assert yourself at all – ask questions, even if they seem “dumb.” Your supervisor will appreciate your desire to do things right the first time through. Just resist the urge to recommend an overhaul of their current way of doing things, no matter how inefficient it may seem. Sure, they may be bringing you on board to get a fresh perspective, but don’t offer that perspective right off the bat. Save that for when you are completely acclimated to your new work environment.

If you follow the basic tips outlined above, you will be off to a good start. In the end, don’t forget what has gotten you to this point. They hired you for a reason. Go out and show them why!

- Cobey Culton

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Using LinkedIn to Find a Job

Last month we put up a blog post that discussed the ever-evolving role of social media within the job search. We concluded that social media can go a long way towards helping your job search or hurting it, depending on how you decide to use these relatively new platforms.

Each social media platform probably warrants its own blog post, and even then we would just be scratching the surface of how to use social media to land a job. In light of this, we decided that it would be helpful to focus on LinkedIn in today’s post. Of all social media sites, LinkedIn is the most professional-oriented, which makes it particularly valuable when looking for a job.  

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of LinkedIn:

Step 1: Perfect Your Profile

On LinkedIn everything begins and ends with your profile. From your profile picture to your experience, your profile on LinkedIn is essentially an online copy of your resume.

With that in mind, choose a profile picture that gives off an aura of professionalism. This is typically the first thing that people will look at when viewing your profile, and as you hopefully already know, first impressions are vitally important. A head shot is often best because people will be able to see and recognize your face. Also make sure that the picture is reasonably current so that hiring managers and/or recruiters aren’t in for a surprise.

While having a good profile picture is important, the real meat of your LinkedIn profile lies in the “experience” section. In fact, it probably isn’t a bad idea to lift this section right off your resume. Use the “professional summary” section to provide a summation of your experience, highlighting experiences that are particularly important or notable. Remember to list your skills in the “skills and expertise” section. People who can vouch for these skills are able to “endorse” them if they feel so compelled.

Step 2: Connect

Once your profile is satisfactory, start connecting with people you know in an effort to grow your network. The more people you know, the more opportunities you will have to potentially advance your career. If possible, try to get at least one recommendation from someone you have worked with. These recommendations appear on your profile and will only increase your chances of landing a job.

Make sure that you don’t go overboard, though - only connect with people that you know and trust. There is no need to connect with random people just so you can look popular or important, and these people will likely decline your invitation anyway.

Step 3: Search and Stay Active

While it’s not unusual for people to be contacted by recruiters or hiring managers, don’t sit back and assume that employers will find you. Go to the job search section and see if there are any that look appealing. If there you find a position that seems to be a good fit, don’t hesitate to hit the “apply now” button. Also, be sure to take note of what keywords appear in postings that interest you. Ensure that these keywords also appear in your profile so that you are more visible to employers and/or recruiters.

In the end, LinkedIn is just one of many tools that you, the job seeker, have at your disposal. Hopefully the tips above will get you headed in the right direction, at the very least. Good luck!

- Cobey Culton

Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Impress Your Recruiter

Chances are, if you are or have ever been a job seeker, you have come into contact with one or more recruiters. If this relationship did not work out, it may have been because you weren’t a good fit for the position, or it may be because you made some mistakes that recruiters see every day. In order to avoid these mistakes and impress a recruiter, follow the below steps:

1. Remember the details. This sounds like a very obvious point, but you’d be surprised how many candidates try to discuss a job opening and don’t know the correct job title or haven’t read the job description. Nothing dampens a recruiter’s interest in a candidate like the inability to remember the position. Take notes if you have to, just do what it takes to cement this information in your head. Any recruiter will respond more positively if you make it clear that you’re on the same page.

2. Follow up in a professional manner. It’s understandable to be excited about a position and eager for updates. One “thank you” email or phone call is appropriate after an interview. A weekly check-in phone call is okay. Anything more than that may be too much. Your recruiter will let you know when there is an update on any position for which you’ve been submitted. Recruiters are just as eager for updates as you are.

3. Dress professionally. You can read further on this topic here, but this is still a point to be made. Even if you’re just meeting with a recruiter for a preliminary interview, dressing professionally shows that you respect the recruiter and are serious about the position.

4. Be open and honest about your expectations. There are a lot of details that go into searching for, applying for and accepting a job. If you are looking for a certain salary amount, tell your recruiter. Waiting until you have the position to try to negotiate a higher rate will just put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and you may end up losing the position and the trust of your recruiter. If you have expectations about location, training, anything, let your recruiter know up front. If everyone is on the same page from the beginning, there is a higher likelihood of each person getting what they want from the process.  

5. Tailor your resume to the job opening. This is just one of those things that shows your interest in whatever job that you’re working with your recruiter on. Make your skills stand out in a way that’s meaningful for the hiring manager. You are proving that you know how to make yourself stand out on paper.

While job searching can be frustrating and time consuming, working with a recruiter can help you get a job much quicker than searching on your own in some circumstances. Impressing your recruiter can not only make them more comfortable in submitting you to the client, but it will make them work harder to impress you in return. Following the above steps will help you to develop a strong and lasting professional relationship for someone who can be a great resource in that job search. 

-Katie Berryann

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Phone Interview Tips

In one of our May blog posts, we discussed basic tips for interviews.

Before you even sit down with a hiring manger, though, many companies will screen you by way of a phone interview. Naturally, some strategies you would have employed in a sit-down interview go out the window, while a set of new factors come into play.

So, what should you do to ensure that you ace your phone interview? Here are some tips:

Phone interviews are unique in the sense that you are in the comfort of your own home. This allows you to have material nearby that you otherwise wouldn’t have in a conventional sit-down interview. Make sure you have a copy of your resume readily accessible, and don’t be afraid to scribble down some reminders on a notepad – maybe a skill or experience you want to be sure to highlight or a list of questions you have. Don’t forget the basics, either, like the name of the person conducting the interview. While this might seem obvious, you would probably be shocked at the number of people who either blank on this or neglect to do basic research. Remember, you are in the comfort of your own home, so there is no reason to not have this information at hand.

Eliminate Distractions
You could argue that this goes back to preparation, but it is important enough to merit its own section. Unlike a conventional sit-down interview where distractions aren’t really a concern (just be sure to turn your phone off), phone interviews require that the interviewee locate a quiet, distraction-free environment. Find a place where you won’t be interrupted, but remember to make sure you get good cell service in that area. It is also a good idea to turn off call waiting for the duration of the interview.

Keep your answers short but impactful
It may seem like a good idea to provide long-winded answers during a phone interview, but it really isn’t. This doesn’t mean you have to be short with the interviewer, but it does mean you should avoid directionless rambling. It is still possible to engage the interviewer while keeping your answers concise. Also, remember to listen and ask questions. This kind of thoughtful disposition will help you make a good impression by showing that you have genuine interest in the position.

When it comes down to it, an interview is an interview. As the job applicant, your goal doesn’t change based on the format. A phone interview certainly presents a different set of circumstances that require some general tweaks in your overall approach; however, in the end you just have to trust yourself and the work you have put into the process. Give it your best shot – anything past that is out of your control.

-Cobey Culton

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What is Open Data and Why is it Important?

This is a post from one of our partners, Open Data Solutions. Open Data is an exciting new concept which will be spreading through at least North America, and the rest of the world in the next couple of years. Everyone should be aware of this policy and figure out how they can be involved. See the original post here:

At the beginning of this year, President Obama signed an executive order, requiring federal government agencies to have their data available to the public and machine-readable. Without commenting on the effectiveness of this order, or the percentage of agencies who follow, we should still note that for the United States, this was a big step towards bringing open data policies further forward into the public eye. There is still a long road ahead before Open Data is a household term, as well as much more to be accomplished at not only the federal level, but also the state, city and country government levels. Open Data Solutions is dedicated to establishing, cultivating and maintaining these government open data initiatives. Before the establishment of an open data portal, however, it is important to understand what Open Data really is and why it's important.  

What is Open Data? 

“Open Data” is a policy in which governments release their raw data in machine–readable format. This data is unbiased, with no previous analysis and has been collected using tax payer money. From here, government open data initiatives take this data and provide visualizations to make this data easily navigable and understood by the public. Visualizations can be in the form of spreadsheets or interactive maps or charts – however the data is best displayed. These government initiatives are driven by involvement of their communities. Citizens can request data sets, anything from crime records to environmental data to broadband speeds. This civic engagement is vital to the success of an open data portal. 

Open Data vs Open Government
Open Government and Open Data are similar but are not the same thing. Open Government is a policy which promotes "transparency" but instead of the raw, machine-readable data, Open Government data is released in pre-analyzed, proprietary formatting. While this is technically "transparency" of data, it doesn't allow for the data to be shared and used in any way but how it's released. Open Data has many more uses than Open Government data. 

The Many Uses of Open Data
Because Open Data is raw data, and more data sets can be requested, the possibilities are endless. The Open Data portals that are most effective use their data in ways with which citizens can easily interact. For instance, the City of Chicago lists all crimes from 2001 to present. Another successful portal, the City of Raleigh, shows all parking in Raleigh - public and private. This data, collected by the government with tax payers' money, is now available to the public in an easily understood format. Any dataset can be requested and with Open Data, citizens have the resources to be safer, more knowledgeable constituents. 

-Katie Berryann

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Social Recruiting

The recent advent of social media has undoubtedly provided staffing agencies a huge opportunity. Job seekers are more accessible than ever, with LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter literally putting millions of people at these companies’ fingertips.

As Andrew Hally points in a recent blog post on The Staffing Stream, though, many staffing agencies fail to employ these social tools effectively. The statistics are actually pretty alarming. Here is a brief excerpt from his post:

In 2012, only 12 percent of recruiters were connected to all three of the networks, with 14 percent of recruiters using a combination of LinkedIn and Twitter for recruiting versus eight percent using LinkedIn and Facebook. Fifty percent of North American recruiters using Twitter for recruiting have fewer than 50 followers, and 26 percent of North American recruiters using Facebook have fewer than 200 Facebook friends.

Oddly enough, Hally makes no mention of Google Plus, which recently surpassed Twitter in active user count. With only 12% of recruiters using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, there is no telling how far that number would tumble if you added Google Plus into the equation.

So, the first problem is abundantly clear: staffing agencies and recruiters simply aren’t utilizing social media to its fullest extent - but why?

One reason could be the distinct disconnect between the overwhelming number of people that are active on social media websites and the number of people that recruiters are actually reaching. Fifty percent (yes, 50%) of North American recruiters have fewer than 50 followers. Obviously, there are a number of factors at play here, so we have to be careful to not oversimplify the problem.

Part of the explanation may lie in the fact that websites like,, etc. are able to provide a smorgasbord of job opportunities from a handful of recruiters. These websites also allow the job seeker to target specific opportunities that match up with their ambitions, which is clearly a better alternative to being spammed on Twitter/Facebook by recruiters who post a new job listing every ten minutes (the majority of which are irrelevant to the job seeker). However, job boards really only reach active job seekers – there is an entire network of people who may not be actively searching for a job, but could be convinced to take a better opportunity.

The bottom line is that staffing agencies should try to engage job seekers on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ which will in turn drive traffic to their website/job listings. Instead of posting a stream of job listings on Twitter, they should attempt to provide something somewhat proprietary: a blog, interesting/relevant links, etc. Social recruiting is about creating an audience – one in which there are both active and passive candidates.

This is not to say that recruiters shouldn’t toss up the occasional job opportunity, especially if it is one that will attract a larger audience than others. Still, recruiters should take a hard look at their social media strategy. It is certainly a powerful tool, but only if used the right way.  

- Cobey Culton, Digital Marketing Intern

Friday, June 7, 2013

Is a College Degree Worth It?

With the increasing costs of tuition across the country, this question has become increasingly relevant for those considering the pursuit of a higher education. At the risk of sounding like your high school English teacher, there really is no “right” or “wrong” answer. Each person and industry is different.

We can still look at the statistics, though, which show that those with a college degree are employed at a higher rate (only 3.7% unemployment) than those without one (8.1% unemployment).

But what about the IT industry, where experience is especially crucial? Can experience overcome a lack of a degree?

As a general rule, education (degree and/or certifications) still carries a lot of weight, especially for someone trying to break into the industry. Each job will require a different set of qualifications, and each employer will value these qualifications differently, which brings us back to the original answer of “it depends.”

With that said, a degree and/or certifications certainly can’t hurt you, so if money was no object this question wouldn’t be much of a question at all – of course you would want to further your education.

Given the large investment that is college, though, ROI (return on investment) is ultimately the best measuring stick for the value of a degree, and an IT degree ranks especially high in this area.

As Michael Goul of InformationWeek points out, the IT industry is proving to be the exception in today’s economic environment, with both job opportunities and salaries expected to rise in coming years. While Goul focuses on master’s degrees, these encouraging projections certainly make it easier to pursue a bachelor’s degree or certifications in IT (

With that said, a degree or certification isn’t absolutely essential. If you establish a good reputation within the IT community and/or have a strong network, you will definitely have a leg up on the competition. One way to get your name out there is to write a “white paper,” assuming you have enough knowledge on a specific topic. A white paper includes an extensive review of a particular (IT-related) problem and a proposed solution to said problem. A very specific specialization can also set you apart, though finding job openings suited to your skills will be more difficult.

In the end, if it is financially feasible, go for that degree (or certification). It will open more doors down the road, at the very least. Combine that degree with relevant experience, and you will be setting yourself up for a bright future indeed.

- Cobey Culton, Digital Marketing Intern

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Professional Networking

In today’s world of business Networking is Everything!  Business networking is really about building lasting, professional relationships. It can offer you a way to reach decision-makers who may have been very difficult to engage otherwise. Business networking is a way for you to make the maxim, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." work for you.

Below are six tips that I have always found to be very helpful:

1. Make yourself known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people will remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them and makes them more likely to recommend you to others.

2. Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom.  Articulate what sets you apart from others doing the same thing. Standing out in this way will generate referrals from those who notice the difference.

3. Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Feel free to return the favor – recommendations can go both ways. A well-thought out and sincere recommendation will do wonders for your reputation as a networker. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow!

4. Always keep your integrity - build trust and reputation. Sometimes a situation arises which tempts us to do the wrong thing, causing a difficult decision that could have been avoided. Making such a mistake can damage business and personal integrity. We are all human; mistakes happen. If you do make a mistake or wrong decision - whether it significantly undermines your integrity or not - always admit it and apologize. Failing to apologize for wrong-doing will damage your integrity and reputation far more than the original misjudgment itself.

5. Focus on establishing quality contacts versus quantity. Most people have experienced the person who, while talking to you, keeps his eyes roving around the room, seeking his next victim. This individual is more interested in handing out and collecting business cards than establishing a relationship. Always focus on the quality of the connection and people will become much more trusting of you. This will allow for stronger and longer-lasting relationships.

6. Once you have established a professional network, let it work for you! If you’re looking for a new opportunity, reach out to those in your network who may be able to aid in your search. Point out your carefully cultivated recommendations; ask others to put in a good word for you with hiring managers that may be in their network. This makes your search much easier and more effective.

When you focus on really getting to know people, you will build quality, productive relationships that will work for you and your business over and over again. Luckily, there are tools like LinkedIn now which help to build larger and more complete networks. So get out there and cultivate yours now!

-Glynda Mealer, President

Monday, June 3, 2013

Social Media and the Job Search

In today’s day and age, social media websites have become an integral part of the job search for both job seekers and employers. Job seekers use social media to identify job openings now more than ever before (it’s all about networking, after all) and companies, like it or not, have started using social media profiles to vet potential candidates for job openings. In fact, a recent survey indicated that 37% of employers use social media profiles as a part of their screening process (

It might sound a bit disconcerting that companies actually sift through your “digital footprint” as a part of their evaluation process, especially if some of the content on your Facebook or Twitter profile is not particularly flattering. Instead of destroying your prospects of getting a job, though, you (the job seeker) can easily flip this to your advantage – but how?

Keep private interactions, well, private…
There are numerous “red flags” that companies look for when perusing your various social media profiles. Profanity, pictures of you having a little too much fun, and/or poor grammar are all examples. Check your privacy settings and make sure that these more “personal” items are not public. Or even better, don’t post these things at all! All they can do is hurt your prospects of getting and job, fair or unfair. There is nothing wrong with leaving some of your profile viewable to the public – just be smart about that content.

Present yourself in a professional manner
As you probably know, first impressions are absolutely critical. They are equally critical when companies take a look at your social media profiles. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, or any other site, make sure that your profile picture communicates an aura of professionalism. This is obviously somewhat subjective, but you can’t go wrong with warm smile and professional attire. Your social media profiles are a great opportunity to market yourself to potential employers, so take advantage! On a site like LinkedIn, where job seekers and employers are the priority, this is especially important. Ensure that your resume is easily viewable/accessible and that your grammar and spelling are top-notch.

Engage in discussion
While certainly not essential, engaging in a larger community discussion relating to your field of work can’t hurt. If anything, it shows that you are actively involved and interested in today’s topics of discussion in your industry. Plus, you might learn a thing or two from these online conversations. Twitter is a great place to find these discussions, which are often identified by hashtags. Sites like Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn also offer separate communities where people in the same industry can exchange ideas.

With the relatively recent emergence of social media, job seekers and employers alike are still trying to determine the best way to put these websites to use. For job seekers, the idea that potential employers can do a quick Google search and pull up a wealth of information in the form of Facebook/Twitter profiles is daunting – but it doesn’t have to be.

Just use good judgment when posting updates and pictures that are more personal, and try to create a positive, professional image with the information that is publicly viewable. The good news is that (for the most part) this information is all within your control.

Once you have established a professional image, go ahead and unleash the power of social media: network and engage. You will be glad you did.

- Cobey Culton, Digital Marketing Intern 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Biking/Running Trail in Raleigh, NC

One of the main cities where we place candidates is Raleigh, NC. This is one of the fastest growing areas in the country and there are several reasons why. Not only does Raleigh boast one of the best school systems in the US (, a solid IT Industry foundation and a diverse cultural experience, but it maintains several large parks. From camping to hiking to boat rentals, the parks around Raleigh have something for everyone. One such park in the area is Legend Park. The trails here are well-known in the mountain biking community and are popular with area runners. 

Legend Park is located at 550 City Road in Clayton, NC. The trails are approximately 8 miles of everything needed to sharpen your trail running skills. 

The trails are separated into two sections.  The first section is known as the "lowers" and is where I usually will begin my run.  The entrance to the lowers is near the mountain bike skills area that is clearly visible as soon as you park.  Once you enter the lowers the fun immediately begins as you quickly run over the first mountain bike obstacle.

The great thing about running these trails is that the terrain is constantly changing.  One second you are on rolling hills, crossing creek beds, and the next you are running on a boardwalk. 

There are even a couple of rock gardens to allow you to test that rock plate in your favorite trails shoes.  If you like to mix in a very steep hill climb every once in a while, these trails have that too.  After following the lowers trails along the creek, through the rock gardens, over the boardwalks, and up and down some pretty steep hills, it's time to head for the "uppers".  The uppers seem to officially start at what is referred to as Hucksville.  Hucksville is basically two giant drops that appear to be about 25 ft.  Bikers jump off the high end and roll down to the lower.  Search YouTube for video of guys going off of them if you are interested.

After passing Hucksville the trail continues to run down to the edge of Harvey’s Pond.  It is nice sometimes to stop for a sec and just enjoy the scenery.  After the pond there is a giant ravine to run down and then power back up.  Once up top, the trail allows you to either continue straight to Larry's Loop or take the Magnolias Run trail (1.1 mile loop) to the left or  take the Little Big Horn trail (.95 mile loop) to the right. 

Magnolias Run seems to be more challenging to me because of the trail weaving up and down a valley.  During the run there are several technical obstacles and bridges to enjoy (or not,), depending on one's level of exhaustion.  This is true with Little Big Horn as well, but it doesn't seem to be as hilly as Magnolias Run.  Both trails loop back to the top of the giant ravine so it is easy to run one and then run the other if time and/or energy permits.

For some runners these trails prove difficult.  For other runners they are easy.  I am confident however, that they are without a doubt fun for all runners.  Make plans today to take the trip the Legend Park in Clayton, NC and you see for yourself. 
*There are ticks on the trails, so use repellent and check yourself thoroughly after your run.  Also, remember that mountain bikers built and maintain these trails so be respectful and yield the right of way.

I hope this review of Legend Park was interesting and informative. 
Have a safe run!

--Tommy Faucette, Technical Recruiter

Friday, May 17, 2013

Contract vs Permanent Employment

In today’s economy, coming back from a major hit, many companies are struggling to make ends meet.  One of the ways that they have found to save some money is to bring on contractors in lieu of permanent employees. By doing so, they save on insurance and benefits costs, while increasing flexibility when it comes to extra help for projects. Because of this increasing trend, contracting jobs are becoming easier to find than permanent positions and those in permanent positions are being frequently recruited for contract roles. I myself have reached out to many candidates in permanent positions and I am always greeted with the same question, “Why should I leave my permanent job for a contract position?” Well, I have several great reasons why contract jobs may be BETTER than permanent ones.  

They are becoming more commonplace. I know I mentioned this previously, but it’s an important point. Looking for jobs is not an easy feat and finding one that fits your skillset and requirements narrows the search even more. Contract jobs are becoming more and more common, and for perfectly stable companies. The state government uses contractors frequently, as do national and multi-national companies. If you are open to contract opportunities, your job options expand significantly and your options are much more varied - which leads me to my next point.

You can direct your own career. With contract jobs, you have the opportunity to pick and choose which projects you’d like to work on. You can just choose positions that will challenge you to learn new skills or move your career in a new direction. Contractors usually have a wider range of skills – they aren’t stuck doing the same thing over and over again and they have more opportunities to vary their projects and therefore their skillsets. This makes them more marketable to a wider range of companies. Contract roles also allow for a “try before you buy” approach – for both parties. Employers have time to determine whether an employee is the best fit for the position. And the contractor has the ability to get the inside scoop. Some companies seem to offer a great work environment, advancement opportunities, etc., but it’s a totally different story from the inside.  It should be a good fit for both employer and employee and contracts allow for that test drive period. Also with designing your own career comes the added benefit of a larger professional network and one geared more towards your professional end goals.

You can earn more money. Because of the contractual nature of these positions, and the expertise required, often companies can offer a significantly higher pay rate. And I know that many people who become contractors have to navigate enrolling in private insurance themselves without the discounts of a group policy, but DataStaff employees enjoy a competitive benefits package that includes paid holiday, vacation, and sick leave as well as medical, dental and vision coverage. As many of our projects are long-term, we also enabled employees to participate in a matching contribution (4%) 401k plan as well. So finding a staffing agency that supports you is important. Another bonus for contract employees, especially in the IT Industry, is overtime pay. The Fair Standards Labor Act (FLSA) defines Computer Professionals as exempt employees. Since most permanent positions compensate on a salaried basis, it is not required for companies to pay them for hours worked beyond 40 hours. However, in demanding project environments, it is commonplace to work long hours. Contract employees are compensated for each hour worked.

Now I know that the length of contracts can be a little discouraging. I find that the most common lengths are 6 months and 12 months. Often, these are set that way because of purchase orders, especially on government projects. The project could be set to last a couple of years, but they have to apply for the funding in pieces. During an interview, you should talk with the hiring manager about the project and its goals – you’ll get a better idea for how long you’ll really be needed. 

- Katie Berryann, Technical Recruiter

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Interview Tips for the Recent Grad

My first couple of interviews right out of school were terrifying. I had no idea what to wear, what to say, what was expected of me in any way. The only experience I had was of waiting tables and babysitting. I was totally overwhelmed and badly needed guidance. Here are the top five tips that would have helped me immensely.

1.     First impressions are key. While it may seem trivial, what you wear is incredibly important. Corporate, financial and professional opportunities may call for a suit as expected interview apparel, while start-ups or tech companies have a more laid-back vibe. It is important to know the culture of the company and to dress in a way that shows that you fit well within that environment (while still demonstrating your most sophisticated presentation). When you show up in polished business professional apparel, the interviewer will know you're serious about pursuing the opportunity. The essential thing is to be neat, professional, current and conservative. No plunging necklines, no tank tops, no open backs. And watch the cologne/perfume levels. You want to impress, not suffocate your interviewer. Just as important is showing up on time. Not an hour early, not late. 15 minutes early, tops. You want to respect that you scheduled an interview at a specific time for a reason. Make eye contact, speak clearly, smile, shake hands and smile. Be confident – you are a great candidate and you're there to tell them exactly why.
2.     Remember your audience. There are plenty of hiring managers that are very good at making you feel at ease in your interview. But no matter how at ease you feel, remember that this person is evaluating you on your level of professionalism and poise. Now, I'm not saying don't be yourself. But be the most intelligent, pleasant and composed version of yourself there is.
3.     Be prepared. Look up the company at which you're interviewing. Do your research. You want to be sure that it's a company for which you WANT to work. An interview is about deciding whether it would be a good fit for both parties. Bring a hard copy of your resume, whether or not you've sent a digital copy. Bring a pen, take notes. Show that you're interested!
4.     Prepare questions. I know that this goes along with my previous tip but I feel like it's big enough to deserve its own section. When I've asked potential candidates if they have any questions, and they don't have any, it seems to me as though they are just passively accepting any information and haven't done any research. While you're researching the company and reading over the job description, think of a couple of questions that are relevant to your potential positions and the company itself. Feel free to ask what your day-to-day duties would be like. Ask what your biggest challenge is going to be. But do not tune our your interviewer to try to come up with questions while they talk. Engage in a conversation with them and bring a couple of questions with you to show that you're engaging with the information already provided to you. Remember that this is also your moment to figure out if the position is right for YOU as well.
5.     Follow up. I won't deny that there are some candidates that I was lukewarm about when they left an interview, but with followup emails or phone calls, they grew on me. Those few words - “thank you for your time” or “I appreciate the opportunity” show the hiring manager that you are still interested after your meeting and you cared enough to take the time to reach out and show gratitude for the opportunity. It doesn't take very much of your time, but it could increase your chances of getting the job. 

- Katie Berryann, Technical Recruiter

Monday, May 13, 2013

Resumes in Today's World

If you are a job seeker, you most likely have read articles telling you what are the top things to do in order to get your resume noticed. There are countless opinions as to what makes the best and most impressionable impact on a hiring manager; there are a few unwritten rules as well as a few accepted norms. I have my own opinions to throw in to the lot.

1.) Keyword searching. As people lean more and more on technical advances to streamline the recruiting process, it is sure that if you have submitted your resume for review to multiple companies, it has at least once been perused by a digital gatekeeper. It is important to remember that many companies use software to qualify and rank candidates prior to a human ever laying eyes on your resume. These gatekeepers fail to see the dedication to layout, “interesting” font, or polished word choices you have carefully selected to put the most pizzazz on your points. Remember to have enough “meat” in your resume to appetize the screeners, as well as key words which correspond to the job you're applying for which will show up in keyword searches. This leads me to my next point

2.) Tailor your resume. Yes. It may be easiest to make one resume and hit the mass “send” button to 100 jobs. This may lead to success, but truly if you spend just a few moments to tweak your resume and pull out applicable experience for each position, you may meet with better success. This would add a more targeted approach to your search; you would apply for those positions with only those companies that you are really interested in. Again, pulling out key verbage or words from the job description itself may help with keyword searching mentioned above. Please do not take that as license to copy and paste directly from the job description as this is a sure way to end up in the bottom of the waste basket.

3.) Social Media. Realize what your social imprint is and use your network to the best of your advantage. Always make sure that your social networking profiles display your best self (if you do not have one, this is a great opportunity to get one, fast – LinkedIn is most useful for the professional job seeker). Ask for recommendations, post useful industry information, join professional associations online, etc. I guarantee prospective employers will look; I do every day. Also, connecting to people within a targeted company through LinkedIn may be a great way to push your experience to the forefront. Feel free to add a link to your successful LinkedIn profile on your resume. 

4.) Keep it simple. Unless you are a graphic designer, keep your format simple and easy to read and impress them with a direct approach and display your experience. Here, I find “Objectives” to be just a time-waster. I prefer summaries that tell me why someone is a great fit for what I need. The “Objective” section is often bland and tells me very little about your actual experience. If your education is your strongest asset, list it first; the same with technical skills, certifications, or your experience. Lead with what is most relevant to the position and with your strongest asset.

5.) Action verbs and Uniqueness. Your resume may only be viewed for a few seconds before a manager moves on to the next; entice them! A list of responsibilities does little to tell me of what your experience is. The stronger action verb used, the greater the connection. Example:
  • Customer service


  • Created dynamic displays and implemented merchandising strategies to increase revenue through up-selling
Yes, the latter may be a little more “fluffy”, but you may see the idea. Also, demonstrate what you bring to the table that is different from others. A list of duties only tells of what you can do, I want to know what made you “special”; what made you an asset, someone indispensable to the company. If you created a new way of doing things, saved the company money, streamlined a process, increased efficiency- please share. The best examples of these are ones that are quantifiable.

6.) Be truthful. Remember to sell the best version of yourself, but that you must portray an accurate representation of your experience and skills. Never lie on your resume. Even if you do end up with the job, you can be fired later, a la Yahoo! CEO, Scott Thompson. Accurate education and work history (including employment dates) are essential; remember everything listed should be verifiable.

So what do you think? What is the best resume-writing advice you've ever received? 

-Samantha Oster, Operations Coordinator

Thursday, May 2, 2013

We are DataStaff!

DataStaff is an established Small Business Corporation with a strong local presence in the state of North Carolina. DSI has a proven track record working with both government and private institutions supplying employees with various skill sets at competitive bill rates. We work hard to develop symbiotic relationships between candidates, employees and clients. 

We here at DataStaff are a diverse group of individuals with differing levels of experience and each of us has tips and techniques, anecdotes and advice from our combined years in the staffing agency. With this blog, we hope to share our wisdom with the world. We will post information about the residential areas where we place candidates, job search tips, and other interesting information that could be valuable to our network.