Tag Archives: CareerBum

It’s Not You, It’s Me…

By: James Caan, originally published on LinkedIn

Have you recently left an interview feeling demotivated? Disappointed you didn’t get the job, or unhappy with your interview performance?

As an investor, I’ve had to learn that not every deal succeeds. The same is true of interviews. I would love to guarantee you 100% success, but not every interview will end with you getting the job, because some things aren’t meant to be, and for whatever reason, you’re not the right candidate for that role.

The important thing is not to dwell on your misfortune, it’s okay to fail, failure doesn’t mean you need to give up, it’s just another experience to learn from.

Instead of wallowing and losing hope, immediately look for what you can learn from the experience and come away stronger.

Make sure you ask for feedback

If you fail to get selected, assess why you weren’t chosen and be prepared to deal with any issues you can identify.

Let’s say you receive an email that says “Thank you for coming in, but unfortunately you haven’t been selected”.

The first thing you should be thinking about is finding out why. Nine out of ten interviewers won’t give you a reason in the email, and most people accept that.

This is where they go wrong. If you don’t know why, how are you going to improve?

Find out what went wrong

Don’t be afraid to call your interviewer directly and pose the question. The trick is to handle this conversation carefully to ensure you get an answer you can work with, and not a bland, generic ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ response.

Be polite, yet forward. Show your appreciation, thank them for their time, trigger their memory by referring to something specific you discussed – something that will help the interviewer put a face to your name.

Then it’s time to make your move…

Ask: “I interviewed for the marketing role recently. I fully understand you found a better suited candidate, but just out of curiosity, could I ask what did you think made me unsuitable for the job? What do I need to work on?”

Initially, the interviewer will be taken aback by your question, and will probably try and give you a generic “you didn’t have the right experience” approach.

That’s the time to push harder.

“What area in particular did you feel I lacked experience?”

When you have an answer you can work with, you can either take this opportunity to push back and pitch yourself again, or thank them for the feedback and ensure you take this particular point into consideration next time you’re interviewing.

Constructive feedback can highlight weaknesses you weren’t aware of. Don’t see this as a bad thing, understanding your strengths and weaknesses is vital for future success, and it’s a skill many of us lack.

Take it from me, as an employer and businessman, this approach is guaranteed to leave a good impression.

Tips for a Better Interview

Are you ready to wow hiring managers during your next job interview? If you aren’t sure, you better keep reading. Here are some excellent interview tips:

Have an outstanding resume.

Impressive qualifications are a must on any resume, but a list of key accomplishments may not be enough. Your resume appearance is important, as well as your attention to detail. An error free resume is absolutely necessary.

Gaps? Get rid of them.

Life happens, but you don’t have to broadcast it on your resume. If you went through a time that you did not have a full time position, fill the void with volunteer work, projects related to your field that you worked on or even unrelated work. Hiring managers are looking to hire a productive person.

Be honest

Most people have worked in a position that they don’t wish to highlight, or a company they are less than proud of, but have to include the information for resume continuity. If an employer asks you about this position, even if was less than positive, be honest. The worst thing you can do in an interview is to be caught telling an untruth.

Prepare for interview questions.

There are many questions you know you will be asked. You will be asked to tell the interviewer about yourself, you will be asked about your work history, your greatest accomplishments, your weaknesses and so on…be prepared. There will also be questions that take you by surprise, making it that much more important to prepare yourself for the standard interview questions.

Show who you are.

It may not be a good idea to enter with a joke right away, but a little personality will go a long way in an interview. Employers are working to determine if you will be a good cultural fit with the current team. Don’t be too rigid that you aren’t showing who you are. Find common interest points to discuss.

Follow up, follow up, follow up!

Always take the time to send a thank you note or email (determine which is best during the interview process, some companies don’t use a lot of technology) within 24 hours. Missing this step could make all of your effort thus far a waste. During the interview be sure to ask for an appropriate timeline to call to follow up about the position.

Acquiring New Skills

TryYou are ready to make a change in your career, but you are currently at a fork in the road.  Do you stay within the same role in a new company, or are you ready for substantial change?  Depending on the answer, you may have to go back to school to learn a new skill set.  However, before taking on the financial burden, do research.

Call a hiring manager who has experience hiring for positions like the one you are interested in, ask what qualifications they are looking for and what would set someone apart from the pack in their pile of applications.  Call someone who is in the current position you are seeking, ask what credentials they had at the time of hire.  How they landed their job? What organizations they are involved in?  What is their education level?

From these conversations decide if going back to school is for you and necessary to land your dream job, or if you could perhaps pick up these skills by volunteering or by taking a similar position that you are more qualified for.  Write your plan on paper, develop a timeline, develop a budget and then go for it!

Hire the Right Qualities

With an extremely low unemployment rate, hiring can be a battle!  To circumvent the possibility of making poor hiring choices based only on passing filters through met qualifications, it is important to look for quality employees, and not to lose a possible perfect organizational fit due to an outdated hiring filter.

With Nebraska unemployment rates extremely low, employers can make a tough situation worse by applying unnecessary hiring screens to their processes.  These filters could be based on degrees, work backgrounds and disqualifiers such as credit scores or criminal backgrounds.

With certain jobs, degrees are absolutely necessary, IE: nurses, doctors, layers, etc.  However, just because you have previously hired individuals with bachelor degrees, that should not preclude you from giving thought to looking at individuals with associate degrees, or perhaps no degree, but with similar experience.

Nontraditional work backgrounds can offer a transferable skill set.  Success comes from ability and experience, not strictly one or the other.  With drive and passion, employees can exceed expectations; adversely, with lack of these, an employee can fall short of hopes.

Some disqualifiers are mandated by federal law, such as care workers being unable to have a criminal history.  However, some are company policy and could be outdated or irrelevant.  To screen out potential hires based on a criminal history, credit score or reference, could be a misstep.  Many applicants are working toward bettering their lives and are looking for a chance to prove themselves.

In the end, removing hiring filters may increase the length of the hiring process, due to more resumes and more choices.  However, if you find the best possible fit, it could reduce your turnover and increase your employee satisfaction.

Make a Great First Impression at the Job Interview

When you are ready to look for work, really ready, take the time to put your best self forward.  There are many opportunities for error on a resume and in an interview, so here are a few tips to help you stand out in a positive manner.

Ensure the individuals you recruit as references for your resume:  a) know that you are using them as a reference, b) know what position you are applying for and what your expectations are of them as a reference c) think highly of you as a professional.  Too often job seekers list references without first checking with them.  Put a lot of thought into the people you put down.  Make sure they are articulate, think highly of you, and are professional on the phone.

Stay positive.  When an interviewer asks you about a past employer, or why you are looking to leave your current position, it is important to not state the negatives about the job.  It is easy to say that you don’t like the supervisor, or you have a co-worker that always calls in sick, or perhaps that you keep getting skipped over for a raise.  But DON’T.  Instead say that you have always been interested in the company you are applying to, or that you have been working toward this position.  Refrain from saying anything negative about your past/current employer and turn the tables to where you are seeking out this position because it is the perfect fit for you and you are the perfect fit for the company.

One more piece of advice, when you arrive, shake your interviewers hand, firmly, while looking him or her in the eyes and smiling.  Do not give the limp fish handshake.  A firm handshake exudes confidence and power.  That is the goal of the whole interview, to show that you are confident that you are the perfect fit for the company and position.

The interview is your ticket to the position.  Research the company, know your stuff and be prepared and confident.  Your future just started.

Running Background Checks When Hiring

Make Your Employee Background Check Reasonable

Running an employee background check can not only be helpful in better understanding the applicant, but can also be useful in protecting a business from liability. Employers must still be very careful about what kind of information they ask for and look into, however. If an employer goes too far, he or she may face a lawsuit. Here are some things to keep in mind when performing an employee background check:

  • Be reasonable: The best advice for an employer running a background check is to keep such an investigation reasonable. Running a credit report and checking up on references makes a lot of sense, but combing court records, interviewing neighbors and requiring physicals for all of your applicants may not make much sense and may get you in trouble.
  • Make your investigation business-related: Part of being reasonable is ensuring that your background check is really business-related. If you are hiring a security guard, then digging heavily into a person’s criminal background may be extremely relevant and justified. If you are hiring a part-time janitor, you may not need to go to such lengths. In order to avoid being sued, make sure to tie what you’re asking for directly to the job at hand.
  • Get the applicant’s consent: Another way to avoid liability in general is to get the applicant’s consent before accessing potentially sensitive information. Some things, like credit checks, expressly require you to get the applicant’s consent, but even if you might otherwise have access to sensitive information, it pays to be careful and get the applicant’s consent in writing. The easiest way to do this is to simply ask for the consent on a job application.

Records an Employer Can Likely Consider when Performing an Employee Background Check

Some of the records below, such as credit reports, drug tests and driving records, require the consent of the applicant, but are still considered routine records to be used when performing a background check. As discussed above, regardless of the record type, always make sure that such an inquiry is related to the job. Asking a pizza delivery man for his driving record makes sense, but asking a software engineer for his or her driving record may not be as relevant.

Here’s a list of the types of records routinely involved in an employee background check:

  • Drug tests
  • Driving records
  • Social Security number
  • Court records
  • Character references
  • Property ownership records
  • State licensing records
  • Past employers
  • Personal references
  • Sex offender lists

Records You May Not be Able to Consider when Performing an Employee Background Check

  • Criminal records: Whether employers can access criminal records varies greatly between states, but in many states such records can only be used by certain employers such as public utilities, law enforcement, security guard firms, and child care facilities. Even if employers cannot access criminal records, whether employers can ask about past criminal activity also varies greatly between states, but some states allow employers to ask about a criminal past even if they won’t allow employers to access criminal records. This is probably a potential employer’s biggest area of liability and it is highly recommended that you consult a lawyer to find out the rules applicable in your particular state.
  • Bankruptcies: Although bankruptcies are a matter of public record, employers generally cannot discriminate against applicants because they have filed for bankruptcy.
  • Worker’s compensation: When a person files a worker’s compensation claim, the case becomes a public record. An employer may usually only use this information if the injury might interfere with the applicant’s ability to perform the work required by the job, however.
  • Medical Records: Medical records are confidential and generally cannot be released without an applicant’s knowledge or authorization. Employers can require a physical examination for the job if it makes sense, however, in which case the employer will have access to those results.
  • Military Records: Under the federal Privacy Act, military records are confidential and can only be released in very limited circumstances
  • Educational Records: Generally, transcripts, recommendations, discipline records, and financial information are confidential and cannot be released without consent. If the applicant gives their consent and it makes sense for the job, however, transcripts can be, and often are, requested.

Source: Essential Screens, Running Employee Background Checks

The Secret to Success

What is it that makes people successful and I mean really successful compared to you or me? Are they smarter or do they work harder? Are they risk takers or have powerful and influential friends?

The financial newspaper Investors Business Daily (IBD) asked these same questions a few years ago and started a multi-year search for the answer. They studied industry leaders, investors and entrepreneurs to understand the traits they all had in common that contributed to their success.

1. How You Think is Everything. Always be positive. Think success, not failure. Beware of a negative environment.

This trait has to be one of the most important in the entire list. Your belief that you can accomplish your goals has to be unwavering. The moment you say to yourself “I can’t…”, then you won’t.

2. Decide upon Your True Dreams and Goals. Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them.

Goals are those concrete, measurable stepping stones of achievement that track your progress towards your dreams.

3. Take Action. Goals are nothing without action.

Be like Nike and “Just do it”.  Every day try to take some action towards your goals. It may be small, but it’s still an action.

4. Never Stop Learning: Go back to school or read books. Get training & acquire skills.

Becoming a life long learner would benefit us all and is something we should instill in our kids. It’s funny that once you’re out of school you realize how enjoyable learning can be.

5. Be Persistent and Work Hard: Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up.

There is no getting around this and there is no free lunch. But, if you’re working towards something that you’re passionate about, something you love – then is it really work?

6. Learn to Analyze Details: Get all the facts, all the input. Learn from your mistakes.

You have to strike a balance between getting all the facts and making a decision with incomplete data – both are traits of successful people. Spend time gathering details, but don’t catch ‘analysis paralysis’.

7. Focus Your Time And Money: Don’t let other people or things distract you.

Remain laser focused on your goals and surround yourself with positive people that believe in you. Don’t be distracted by the naysayer’s or tasks that are not helping you achieve your goals.

8. Don’t Be Afraid To Innovate: Be different. Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity.

Follow through on that break-out idea you have. Ask yourself “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”

9. Deal And Communicate With People Effectively: No person is an island. Learn to understand and motivate others.

Successful people develop and nurture a network and they only do that by treating people openly, fairly and many times firmly. There is nothing wrong about being firm.

10. Be Honest And Dependable: Take responsibility, otherwise numbers 1 – 9 won’t matter.

Source: Pick the Brain and Grow Yourself; 10 Secrets to Success by Victor Stachura