Job Seekers Should Consider What Their Online, In-Person and On-Paper Personas Say about Them

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals ArticleA potential employer takes just a moment or two to size up a potential candidate, leaving job seekers little room for error when trying to make a positive first impression. Whether presenting themselves online, in-person, or on paper, job seekers relay a lot of information to a potential employer in the first few minutes. Employers quickly assess confidence, energy level and professionalism – all key traits that tell the employer what a candidate might bring to the workplace. As a result, it’s very important to present yourself in the best possible light.

Job seekers need to focus on their accomplishments and fit for the role first and foremost, which can make them feel pressured. But, there ARE steps they can take to ensure another interview or – better – a job offer.

Here are suggestions for making the best first impression:

  • Long resumes are a turn-off. It’s perfectly acceptable for executives to have a resume that’s as much as three pages long, but longer than that is overkill and employees looking for more junior positions should shorten their resumes even further. There is no reason to offer every detail in your resume.
  • Make sure the resume is up to date and written to highlight your relevant skills and experience that fit your current search.. Most people merely update their old resume. It’s important to write a new resume from scratch with each new job search, because typically you are interviewing at more senior levels. For example, five years ago you might have written about your individual contributions to a team; today you need to emphasize your management experience and what you have done to lead the team.
  • Resume style matters. Don’t overlook how the resume is organized and presented visually with regard to fonts and layout.
  • Make sure your online presence puts you in the best possible light. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated at all times. Clean up your Facebook page of anything that might raise an eyebrow to recruiters or an employer.
  • Dress for your environment. Dress for an interview in accordance with the employer’s office dress code, whenever possible. If it’s a suit-and-tie environment, dress the part. If it’s business casual, then it’s perfectly acceptable to forgo the jacket. There is a risk in overdressing; you need to demonstrate that you understand and fit the workplace culture.. When in doubt, ask the recruiter how you should dress for the interview.
  • Be aware of your speech patterns. Don’t speak too quickly or too slowly, too quietly or too loudly. Employers will consider this when they envision having to speak with you or be present in meetings with you daily.
  • Other physical cues. Always use a firm handshake and make eye contact with the interviewer. Sit up straight in your chair. Those rules have and will always apply.
  • Be mindful of your energy level. People gravitate to others with a good energy level because they look forward to working alongside them every day. Be enthusiastic but not over the top.
  • Don’t patronize a younger interviewer. Just because someone is younger or less experienced than you are does not mean they lack the authority to put a halt to your interview process. Further, it is good form to show anyone that interviews you the due respect they deserve.
  • Make them notice your accomplishments. Minimize distractions such as excessive jewelry or makeup and pull back very long hair.
  • Keep your answers to the point. Avoid going into too much unnecessary detail in your answers, but always offer to provide additional detail to your interviewer if they are interested in knowing more.
  • Don’t dress like you don’t need the job. Always dress like you achieved career success but leave your fur coats and very expensive jewelry at home. You never want to look like you don’t need the job.

The rules about only having a few moments to make the right impression still apply. Today, though, it’s about making sure you put your best foot forward in multiple media, including the Internet. But promoting yourself through multiple channels should be the catalyst to prompt a prospective employer to take the next step.

About the Author

Kathy HarrisKathy Harris is Managing Partner of New York City-based Harris Allied, an executive search firm specializing in Technology, UX/UI Design and Quant Analyst placement services in the Financial Services, Professional Services, Consumer Products, Digital Media and Tech Industries For more information, visit Contact Kathy Harris at [email protected].

Advice to New Graduates in Their Job Search: ‘Put Your Baseball Cap to the Side’

If you are a recent college graduate entering the job market after spending the summer backpacking through Europe or taking some downtime, you are facing a tight labor market.

Now is the time to put your baseball cap to the side and look long and hard at how you can present yourself to an employer in the best possible light.

Here are some basic, yet all-important, steps you can take to stand apart from the crowd as you embark on your job search in this highly competitive environment:

Have a great resume – The newly minted grad should have a resume that looks grounded and substantial. It should be free from typos, organized and feature a classic font. Don’t get artsy unless you are looking for a job in a creative field. It should be one-page long and leverage every marquis interaction you have had. Cite every internship and recognized brand company name.

Get great references – Call your professional references, network with them, and ask them if you can count on them for a glowing reference. Solicit their advice on your job search and ask for their feedback on your resume. This is the time to start thinking about who could be your mentor when you need to make career decisions.

Practice interviewing – Before you meet anyone, practice conducting an interview. You can find sample interview questions suited to your industry online. It’s important to be able to field tough interview questions that come your way, so rehearse interviews with a trusted advisor. Candidates who are unprepared for interviews are a constant source of irritation to hiring managers.

Interview for information – Ask and arrange for informational interviews. Not only are they an opportunity to practice your interviewing style, but they also may provide you with an opportunity to get your foot in the door. Go dressed like you are ready for a real interview; make eye contact; be aware of your body language and be prepared with questions. It’s important to demonstrate that you are serious even though the interview is informational. Ask about their hiring plans for the year. Ask them for advice. Take notes and pay attention. Follow up with an emailed or written thank-you note and connect on LinkedIn.

Know what you want and be specific – Be prepared to tell a prospective employer exactly what you want. Refer to your skills, education and contacts that are applicable. You should be able to clearly articulate your goals and vision. This can leave a far better impression than trying to be flexible, open to anything and non-committal.

Be prepared to discuss the highlights of your academic career – Your GPA and even your SAT scores matter. Prospective employers, especially for highly quantitative roles, look at these scores to benchmark candidates competing for entry-level positions.

Perhaps the best thing you can do is get an advisor or mentor. Ask them for advice and candid feedback. Have them role-play interviews with you, review your resume with fresh eyes, and ask if they’d be willing to give you a reference if needed. Having someone in your corner during the job search process can make all the difference.

About the Author

Kathy HarrisKathy Harris is Managing Partner of New York City-based Harris Allied, an executive search firm specializing in Technology, UX/UI Design and Quant Analyst placement services in the Financial Services, Professional Services, Consumer Products, Digital Media and Tech Industries For more information, visit Contact Kathy Harris at [email protected].

Treat Job Interviews on the Phone, Via Skype or Video Conference as You Would In Person

With nearly half of all interviews for technology-related jobs being conducted remotely, job seekers should prepare for them just as they would for an in-person interview at the company’s own offices.

More companies are conducting interviews with job candidates via phone, Skype or video conference, especially for first interviews where a hiring manager is simply trying to pre-screen candidates for the team or when a candidate lives too far away to justify flying in for a quick interview at this early stage in the process. But job seekers are not always comfortable with the virtual aspect of this kind of interview.

Unfortunately, lack of preparation for a remote interview can put even the best candidate in an unfavorable light and ruin their chances for a next round, onsite interview. The saying, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” really rings true in these situations.

Here are some suggestions for job seekers who stand a good chance of having to be interviewed remotely:

  • Land lines still offer the best connection: When possible, arrange to conduct the interview over a land line. Cell calls, which are more routine than ever, still get dropped and can prove unreliable in the most important moments.
  • Go to a quiet place: A barking dog, crying baby or street traffic all present a distraction. Make sure you conduct your interview in a quiet room with the door closed, just as you would be doing if you were interviewing onsite at the prospective employer.
  • Get a pen and paper: Have something to write on and write with, as well as a copy of your resume, with you. Just as you would during an in-person interview, jot down important questions you want to ask, readily reference dates and key skills on your resume. Take notes about the position that the hiring manager shares with you.
  • Have questions ready: Make sure you have two or three questions to ask about the position ready to ask at the end of the call. The hiring manager will most likely ask if you have any questions. In an effort to both reinforce your interest in the position, as well as cover those aspects of the position you are keen to have answers about, have those questions ready to share. Ask for example “Am I a fit for the role?” or “What are my next steps?” These reinforce that you are very interested in the position.
  • Be timely: Showing up late for a job interview is getting off on the wrong foot. Be as punctual for those remote interviews as you would be in person.
  • Dress appropriately: Even if the interview is virtual, make sure to dress for the office culture you are interviewing for. If it’s business casual, wear a button-down shirt and slacks. If it’s a suit-and-tie shop, dress to impress. The only exception would be if you are coming from your current job where the dress code is different. Regardless, dress to impress. T-shirts and jeans are never suitable attire for any job interview.
  • Think on your feet: If you are conducting the interview via phone, stand up when you are speaking. You will naturally have more conviction in your voice and this translates to confidence and a smile.
  • Sit up straight: If your interviewer can see you during your remote interview, sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Also, feel free to gesture naturally with your hands if you do so when you are speaking in person. You will come across naturally and with confidence, as well.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Sometimes the technology associated with a remote interview makes people uncomfortable. Practice on Skype with a friend; find your best angle; and get comfortable with the controls, volume and camera position, for example. Do the interview on a laptop or computer screen versus an iPad. Don’t wear white, since it is a bad choice on camera; wear a blue shirt instead. Keep jewelry to a minimum. Wear a jacket if you are prone to sweating when you are nervous.

While in-person interviews are always preferable, remote ones have become the norm, except for C-Suite executives. If you are offered a choice, always go with the in-person interview. But if not, you CAN take the steps necessary to leave a good impression.

About the Author

Kathy HarrisKathy Harris is Managing Partner of New York City-based Harris Allied, an executive search firm specializing in Technology, UX/UI Design and Quant Analyst placement services in the Financial Services, Professional Services, Consumer Products, Digital Media and Tech Industries For more information, visit Contact Kathy Harris at [email protected].

Big-Name Firm or Hands-on Experience: How to Get the Most out of Your Internship

Internships can be a valuable stepping stone for college students to start on their career path. But when it comes to deciding where to intern, students must consider where they’ll gain the most experience. Should they pursue a big-name firm that offers prestige, or will a small company offering practical, hands-on experience that is directly related to their career goals be a better choice? This decision is often predicated on what year of college the student is in.

Although working at a big-name company looks great on a resume, you’ll want to spend your time doing more than fetching coffee and answering phones. If a big name firm gives you the opportunity to do meaningful work that will help build your resume, great. Smaller firms can be a great choice and offer incredible career-related exposure with varied responsibilities. There is great value in being able to show potential employers you’ve had meaningful experience in your intended field. This experience becomes more important as you move closer to graduation.

As a freshman or sophomore, going for the big-name company is fine since there is still plenty of time to gain practical experience during a later internship. However, juniors should aim for an internship that will provide ample opportunities to hone skills that will be significant when it comes time to seek full-time employment after graduation.

An internship is an important part of your career development strategy. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you research possible internships and companies:

  • Internships offer a reality check. They allow you to see what it’s actually like to work in the field you think you want to work in – or you may realize that you hate it and that it’s not for you. Regardless, this is all valuable insight.
  • Internships are a good recruiting tool for HR departments. Human resource departments offer these as a means to recruit the best students from the top schools. Attaining and completing a quality internship is a means to securing full-time employment upon graduation.
  • Position yourself as a serious candidate just as you would for a job search for a full-time position. That means you have to market yourself. Develop a great cover letter. Clean up your Facebook page. Set up a LinkedIn profile. You have one chance to make a good impression.
  • School programs can pave the way. See if your college offers a formal program to connect students with companies that offer internships.
  • Be proactive if your school does not have such a program. Contact HR departments at companies where you may want to intern to see what they offer. Ask your academic advisors if they can help get you connected to the right companies. Start networking through LinkedIn and other contacts to see who knows someone at companies that interest you.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Start looking for a summer internship as early as January because these positions go quickly.
  • Cast a wide net. Be open to companies of all sizes. Consider paid and unpaid internships.
  • Once you land the internship, take advantage of all it has to offer. Get involved in all the company’s intern-related activities and training opportunities. Network with heads of as many departments as possible. Treat it like a ‘real job.’

Whether you apply for and accept an internship at a large company or small one, remember that internships are really designed to give students a leg up in a very competitive job market, and give employers a head start in recruiting the best of the best. Interns that perform well stand a good chance of receiving a job offer even before they graduate.

About the Author

Kathy HarrisKathy Harris is Managing Partner of New York City-based Harris Allied, an executive search firm specializing in Technology, UX/UI Design and Quant Analyst placement services in the Financial Services, Professional Services, Consumer Products, Digital Media and Tech Industries For more information, visit Contact Kathy Harris at [email protected].