Friday, June 30, 2006

Risk/benefit of social networking in the job market

The blogging recruiters are talking about the use of social networking sites like MySpace and LinkedIn to find or screen candidates. They're having a lively discussion, but the takeaway for candidates is this:
  1. Be careful what personal information you share online.
  2. Be visible to recruiter searches on the business-oriented networking sites.

The big problem with the more "social" networking sites, such as MySpace, is that they're built for social purposes, not business. MySpace starts the registration process with a request for a picture—already questionable from a hiring perspective—then moves to questions that recruiters can't legally ask. The questions that recruiters are discussing in the comments to these posts are (1) what legal liability companies might incur when they find this personal information, and (2) where recruiters should draw the line at invading candidates privacy, even though the information is publicly available through these sites. Th emerging consensus seems to be that MySpace and its competitors are more dangerous than useful to companies, but candidates should be aware that some companies will search them.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is seen as useful for "sourcing" candidates (that's recruiter jargon for finding people who would be good for the opening they're trying to fill). So, if you want to be found, join LinkedIn and use the right keywords in your profile. The nice thing about LinkedIn is that you control what it says about you, so your profile should always be consistent with the way you're marketing yourself.

While you're waiting to be found, try Liz's ideas on how to find a job using LinkedIn. It's addressed to recent graduates, but the ideas work for everyone.

Know your value in the market

The money question comes up early. Whether it's a formal application that demands a salary history or a simple question about salary requirements, sometimes The Number is a roadblock on the way to meaningful discussion of the position. Whether it comes up early or late, though, you need to know your value in the market.

You're a unique and priceless individual, of course. Mom was right. But when you're negotiating a new position, sooner or later you or the company will put a price on your contribution. A certain degree of information asymmetry is unavoidable—the recruiter knows the budget for the position, and you don't. You can, though, with just a little looking, find valuable information about what your job should pay. is the obvious starting place. They have high visibility from some well-placed partnerships, and they're a good source. You can also find more focused results from industry- or function-specific salary surveys, such as Computerworld's annual IT salary survey or Pragmatic Marketing's technology marketing and product management survey. JobStar links to more surveys, and you can always search for "salary" and relevant keywords to see what's out there for you. The best approach is to find similar numbers from multiple sources, to lend credibility to your position.

If you're considering relocating for a job, don't forget to compare the cost of living in your new city with your current city. I like the cost of living calculator at Sperling's BestPlaces, because of the other information they offer. Other calculators are easy to find at, the major job boards, and other locations.

I'm adding this to the list of things to do before the interview, because it always comes up early in the process.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Networking without the sales pitch

Have you heard this: "Network, Network, Network! ? Of course you have. It's the standard advice for jobseekers. But when you network, do you lead with your 30-second pitch? Liz Ryan says that's the least interesting thing about you (via Dave Taylor):
HIM: "Hello Jane - I'm Andrew. What do you do?"

YOU: "Oh, I have a full-service marketing agency, creating brand identities for clients in print and online. We do website design and create kick-ass marketing collateral materials, and so some logo design. Also—"

Oh dear. It hasn't even been ten seconds, and poor Andrew is wishing he'd chatted up that fellow in the corner with the pince-nez, instead of Jane.

Liz and Dave both make good points about conversation. It comes down to this: networking is about meeting people. Otherwise, you end up with this:

Probably not the reaction you're looking for, but that's what the elevator pitch is—advertising. Engage people in an interesting conversation. They'll be glad they talked to you, which is a lot faster way of getting them into your network than force-feeding them your elevator pitch.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Get a business card for your job search

When you meet people in the course of business, you exchange business cards. When you meet them as part of your job, the card has your work information. When you're "in transition" (don't you love the euphemisms attached to the job search?), you need your own card. When you meet people who can help you, you don't want to hand them your name and contact information on a scrap of paper. Business plans on a napkin? Sure. But your name, contact information, and positioning go on a card.

Dave Taylor suggests best practices in business card design (via Dennis McDonald). I think there's room for interpretation in some of these, but it's worth reading his list to see how some people will evaluate your cards.
  1. Have a Credible Email Address
  2. Avoid Typos
  3. Don't Include Too Much Information
  4. Add Some Color
  5. Leave The Back Blank
  6. Have Business Cards
  7. And A Special Category For PR Folk... "

Business cards are easy to get. I've used VistaPrint twice and been pleased with the results (though buying from them leads to an unending stream of offers and surveys in your inbox). You can design your own card or use one of their templates. I don't think most recipients will care, as long as the card looks appropriately professional for your field.

Once you have a business card for your job search, carry it with you. Once you've paid to make a positive impression with a real card, you wouldn't it to be at home when you meet someone who can help.

Use attention-getting headlines to stand out

Harry Joiner has advice for candidates on getting found on Monster:
My advice to candidates: Change your headline to tell us what we need to know: Function / Company / Industry / Salary / Relocation preference.

Like this: Email Marketing / Land's End / Multichannel Retail / $85K / Will Relo

If you can add your SIC code next to your industry, so much the better. It won't matter to most recruiters, but it will matter to some. At a minimum, you should use OSHA's SIC code lookup to identify your industry, even if you don't refer to the numeric code. My point is, the more specific you can be, the better your headline will pull.

There are two steps to being found amid the résumés on Monster or other job boards. First, you have to match the search criteria that the recruiter is using. This is where using the right keywords is critical.

Once you match the search criteria, and this is Harry's point, you still have to catch the recruiter's attention from the list of matching candidates. A generic headline is much less attention-grabbing than one that summarizes the key points. As usual, it helps if you actually are what the recruiter is looking for.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Interview with the Headhunter

Scott Reeves has an article on how to work with recruiters: Acing the headhunter. Anthony adds some recruiter perspective and additional tips: How to interview with a headhunter:
By treating the headhunter as your partner—not your obstacle. By being totally honest and upfront with him/her. By showing him/her that you have reasonable expectations and are willing to listen to their advice.

Don't come off as a prima donna. Don't be rude to the staff. Don't show up in casual clothes. In short don't treat the headhunter as a useless middleman.

And above all don't get hostile or refuse to answer certain questions (unless they are obviously illegal). That is a major red flag.

Whether you like the term headhunter or not, a good recruiter is good to know.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Is your knowledge deep, wide, or both?

There's an interesting discussion on breadth versus depth of knowledge going on over at Successful Blog: 7 Steps to being recognized as an expert. The original post focuses on depth of knowledge—being recognized as an expert by knowing a lot about a topic:
  1. Be the expert you are, not the expert someone else is.
  2. Be an expert in ONE thing.
  3. Write expert content.
  4. Be an expert at keeping track of your niche.
  5. Be an expert at specialized searches.
  6. Be an expert at getting the word out.
  7. Be an expert at going deeper into your niche.

Dan'l countered with the need for interdisciplinary breadth:
We are coming into a time where the experts who will be successful in navigating the merging of technology, business, finance, markets, media are those experts in several of the realms at once. For only those persons will be able to see and trend the impacts and effects of the increasing collapse of specialties into combined forms.

Put them together, and you arrive at the idea of the T-shaped person, who has depth of expertise within a specialty combined with broad knowledge across many subject areas. Think Renaissance Man for the 21st century, updated for buzzword compliance. See the second point of Ideo's five-point model for strategizing by design. I like this model because it explicitly values all of the other things that make us real people, in addition to the specific expertise embodied in titles and labels.

Plus, it's easy to draw.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Does consulting success help or hurt the job search?

Marketing Headhunter Harry Joiner in your blog is not your resume, discussing the wisdom of approaching the employment market without a résumé:
In fact, if you're self-employed, you probably need a fresh, hard hitting, credential-rich resume more than anyone—along with a believable story as to why you would consider going back "in-house." Trust me, I applied for a handful of jobs during the last recession and couldn't get arrested. Having my own website and newsletter only made it worse.

Here's the challenge for the laid-off professional: If you're not working, hiring managers tend not to be interested. If you appear to be successful in your new consulting business, they'll want to know why you would leave a successful business of your own for a job. And if you're unsuccessful in your consulting business—well, unsuccessful is just not the word you want to bring to an interview.

I think Harry has the right answer: you need a great résumé and a solid story about why you consider this job (the one you're interviewing for) to be worth leaving your business behind. Just be prepared for interviewers who've never been laid off to be a little slow understanding that laid-off professionals have to pay the bills, too.

And while you're waiting, do everything you can to make the consulting business a success.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Other interviews can be quick and intuition-based

Structured interviewing represents one end of the scale. Here's an approach that's closer to the other end.

Hiring is Tiring (Via Brand Autopsy):

1. Go with your gut. ...Sometimes you can get a feeling in those first few minutes.

2. Listen to how they speak about others. This tells a lot about a person.

I would expect these two factors to be critical even in the longer, structured approach. By the time you get to a face-to-face interview, the company has already determined that you're probably qualified for the job. So much of the interview is for people to decide if they want to work with you.


Will you encounter structured interviewing?

Interviewing job candidates is a skill that most people just don't seem to have, and the process at most companies consists of a series of unstructured interviews with unskilled interviewers. Some companies, though, have an actual plan.

Mark Tsimelzon contributed a detailed explanation of his company's approach on Will Price's blog. Structured Interviewing (Via Dana VanDen Heuvel):

Like any complex process, the interviewing process is best structured and analyzed as a sequence of phases. At Coral8, we have four phases: email interview, phone interview, the first in-person interview (with 1-2 person), the second in-person interview (3-4 others). Whether you have the same stages or not is not important. What's important is having a clear understanding of a) why you are having each phase b) what you are trying to accomplish, and c) how you are going to evaluate the results. It helps if all the interviewers share this understanding, and keep the process as consistent across candidates as possible.

Read the post for the full explanation of what they do, and why, in each phase. There's also a warning about role-playing interviewers in on-site (group?) interviews:

Now, the candidate passed your interview, and you invited him to come again to "meet the team." Sounds innocent, but this is one of the more challenging parts of the process.

...For example, the team may agree that during the interview,
one team member will try to push the candidate a bit, disagree with him strongly on some issues, and see how the candidate handles it.

A structured process like this can be good news for the jobseeker, because it's designed to be an effective filter—much better than a simple keyword search. If you're qualified, the early knowledge test won't be a barrier, and you won't be lost in a sea of résumés from unqualified applicants. If you're unqualified, at least you won't waste your time on a job that you're not going to get.

Once you get the job, you can put everything you've learned about the hiring process to work on the other side of the table.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Free sources of industry news

One of the companies I've worked for had a PR guy who supplied us with news clippings and interesting analyst reports, delivered by e-mail to a long list of people in marketing and business management roles. When I left the corporate embrace, I needed a new source to help me keep up with current events in the industry, and I don't have time to read everything. I subscribed to some industry-specific sources, but I also found these two sources of current news.

FierceMarkets is an advertiser-supported news summary and industry information service that arrives in the form of an e-mail newsletter. Technology is well represented in their lineup, with a variety of specialized IT/tech categories, but it's not all tech. FierceMarkets also offers their news service for biotech/biopharma, banking/asset management, and healthcare. Their web site offers sample issues, so you can see the types of information they provide.

SmartBrief offers a similar service, but their model builds on relationships with industry associations. The news service is still free, and the summary includes items from the association as well as news clippings. The service is available for a wide range of industries, including advertising, construction, food service, retail and hospitality—the list offers 61 choices this morning.

Understanding the current trends in your industry is an important part of being competitive in the job market (it's helpful in your current job, too). These sources give you a quick and easy way to keep up with each day's news.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Jobseeker summer reading list

Kate Lorenz has a list of eight summer reads for the career conscious (and why they're worth reading) on MSN Careers.

Three books of advice on the job search:
What Color is Your Parachute?, Richard Bolles
Landing on the Right Side of Your Ass, Michael Laskoff
Knock 'em Dead 2006, Martin Yates

Two for the "read any good books lately?" interview question:
Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton
Blink, Malcolm Gladwell

And three for personal improvement.
Never Check E-mail in the Morning, Julie Morgenstern
The Little Red Book of Selling, Jeffrey Gitomer
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth, T. Harv Eker

I would add Naked Conversations, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel (review) to the second group, because it's the standard on the emerging relationship between blogging and business, and most people don't get it yet. If you're in the throes of career change, you might like Is It Too Late to Run Away and Join the Circus?, by Marti Smye, especially if you are considering leaving a corporate environment for something of your own.

Off the career track for a moment, I recommend One Bullet Away, Nate Fick's memoir of his time as a junior Marine officer in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's one of those true stories that reads like an adventure novel. And for something a bit lighter, but still possibly career-related, I plan to take Charles Wheelan's Naked Economics off the waiting shelf this summer.

Or you could amuse yourself with a beach novel, if you really just need to decompress. I'm a big fan of using the Internet to advance your career, but I would never suggest that everything worth reading is online.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How to identify confidential clients

Some of the best job opportunities are hiding behind confidential searches and listings. Usually, you can find out from the recruiter who they're working for early in the process. Sometimes, though, you can find out who the client is before you talk to the recruiter. Here's how:
  • Any description of the client or its business that reads like a carefully tailored bit of marketing-speak probably is. Copy the entire phrase or sentence into a search engine (in quotes), and there's a good chance it will take you directly to the client.

  • Search on combinations of industry and location to narrow the list of possibilities.

  • Any abbreviations or jargon in the description may be specific to the company. People who are immersed in their own company cultures don't always realize that they even have one, and this sometimes leads to identifiable jargon in their job descriptions.

  • The description may include other supporting information, such as how long the company has been in business. These details aren't enough to identify a company, but they can serve to confirm its identity.

This tip will not work every time, and I wouldn't spend much time on this exercise. If you can get a quick answer, you may be able to make a more informed decision about pursuing the opening, and you can get a head start on being informed about the client and their business.

Search-engine optimization (SEO) for your career

I've commented on some of the ways you can increase your visibility to recruiters and hiring managers in your market. I recently discovered Advanced Online Recruiting Techniques, a blog dedicated to teaching recruiters (and sourcers, specifically) how to use Internet tools to find candidates for their open positions. This query to find specific experience is an eye-opening example of just how sophisticated the use of search engines can be:

boolean strings and where to look online for IT Auditors:
(intitle:~CV OR inurl:~CV) audit (legal OR regulatory OR standards OR policies) (COSO OR COBIT OR "control framework" OR "control theory" OR "control design") (MIS OR CIA OR CISA OR CPA) -eoe -opening -post -preferred -reply -send -submit -your

That's a lot of search query, isn't it? The post goes into the logic of what is excluded from the results and why. The part that surprises me is searching for pages that include "CV" or "resume" in the text or title. I wonder how many résumés have the word in them? But that's nitpicking. The point here is that some recruiters, at least, are using search engines to identify possible candidates for their open positions. If you want to be found, then your online résumé—wherever it is—and the other elements of your web presence need to include the keywords that a recruiter would use to look for you.

If you want to be recruited, learn to think like a recruiter. Can a recruiter, looking for people like you, find you?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Why do so many people want to change jobs?

In this month's Reach Communications newsletter, William Arruda expresses his surprise at the results of CareerBuilder's 2005 poll that found “nearly three-in-ten workers say they plan to look for new opportunities in 2006 and 41 percent plan to leave their companies by the end of 2007."

I have a partial explanation for the high numbers of people planning to change companies. There's a popular explanation that people are tired from years of stressful work environments (especially layoff survivors) and stagnant incomes (almost everyone). I think the biggest factor is deferred ordinary turnover.

I don't have the numbers to back this up, but I suspect that there's a natural rate of voluntary turnover that has been suppressed during the tough years in the employment market. When companies are outsourcing, offshoring, and generally reducing employment, employees sit tight, happy just to have a job. When they perceive the market improving, they start looking for the next opportunity.

If a company experiences 10–15% annual turnover, and voluntary turnover has been on hold for five years, that means 50–75% of the employees are overdue to leave. OK, some mathematician could probably fine-tune that number for me (41–66%?), but you see the point. In this analysis, increasing turnover is a positive indicator for the employment market and doesn't necessarily point to trouble at any particular company. It just means that we'll see a higher level of activity as the employment market strengthens.

For the jobseeker, increasing voluntary turnover means increasing competition for open positions. If you're not working, do you have a good answer for, "What have you been doing since your last job?" You're sure to get that question.

A pointed, but useful, interview question

Dan Sweet poses a hard-hitting interview question in Hiring outside talent: a good culture indicator:
One of the best interview questions that I know of is, “Why aren’t you filling this position internally?” Almost NOBODY asks this, but it reveals a LOT about the company.

I don't think I'd ask it that directly if I wanted the job, but it's a thought-provoking question that you might want to get at indirectly. It gets at the internal dynamics of the company in a way that you would want to know before joining them.

My personal favorite is, "What concerns do you have about me in this position?" It invites the interviewer to bring up unspoken objections so you can deal with them.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What does your personal brand cost you?

I've lost count of the times I've heard or read about how the job search is about marketing yourself or building your personal brand. Not that I disagree, mind you.

Kathy Simmons writes that a strong brand can repel as well as attract. An important part of deciding what to do (or be) is deciding what not to do (or be). If your decisions about who you are and what you will do get in the way of certain opportunities, that should mean that those opportunities were somehow wrong for you. If you've done the self-discovery and personal branding homework, your commitment to your plan should close doors—just not the doors you want to open.

The key is for your brand to attract the right people while repelling only those people you wouldn't want to attract. Mike Wagner puts it this way: your brand is in the tension.
Your brand is in the tension between your business brains, your human hearts, and the marketplace realities. That’s not going away anytime soon. Own the tension and you will always own your brand!

Marcus Buckingham on sustained individual success: "Discover what you don't like doing and stop doing it." A high-paid job opening doing what you don't like doing is not an opportunity, despite the sales jargon that is so often applied in the job search. Turning them down early may be the hardest and best thing you can do.

What doors have you closed to make your brand coherent and aligned with what you know about yourself? What have you decided not to do?

Review: The Radical Edge

My review of Steve Farber's book, The Radical Edge, is up at the 800-CEO-READ blog.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Hiring boom in interactive marketing

Another report of opportunities in interactive, this time from AdWeek: Interactive shops struggle to fill empty desks (Via Logic+Emotion ).
Last week's report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau... throws a spotlight on one of the biggest obstacles to meeting the demand: a dearth of qualified talent... Shortages are most notable in key areas like analytics, site design and project management, and the squeeze is worst in the middle ranks,... which are thin because the industry did not hire many new recruits during the dot-com bust five years ago.

A couple of years ago I went to an event for alumni of a telecom vendor, seeing people who had left the company in the wake of the telecom implosion. I was amazed how many had jumped into real estate and mortgage financing, which seemed to be the new bubble. Is this the new new bubble, or is the growth real?

At least it's more fun than mortgages.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

7 things to do before the job interview

Congratulations on your upcoming interview! Are you prepared? You probably have a collection of lists of popular (or stupid) interview questions, and you know what to say when you're asked to "tell me about yourself." Now, let's talk about some online homework you can do if you really want to be prepared.
  1. Visit the company's web site. Spend some time getting to know the company. Read how they describe themselves and their products to their customers. Study the About Us section, learning about the company culture, the backgrounds of their senior executives, and the companies they associate with. Read their white papers and presentations. It can be a lot of work, but if you want to convince them that you really want to work there, you really should know a lot of what the company tells you on their own web site.

  2. Study the company on the stock sites. The finance sections of the major portals (Excite, Google, Yahoo) offer a lot more than stock trading information. Look over the management and insider lists, read the company summary, look for key competitors. Skim the SEC filings, especially 10-K and 10-Q reports. Even if the tables of numbers are meaningless to you, pay attention to the text, which will include discussion of the company's business, recent history, and current challenges. Hoover's is another source of background information that can be useful. If the company is privately held, move on to:

  3. Search for other information on the company. Use your favorite search engines. Find articles about the company, its products and its markets. Look for reviews of its products or analyst reports about the company. Find things written by people inside the company and profiles written about them.

  4. Search the blogs, too. Use Technorati or Feedster to find blogs that mention the company. You may find blogs written by insiders or some that mention the company or its products. Look for blogs about the company's industry, too. You might find an insight into current events in the industry from an industry insider or analyst.

  5. Set up feeds to monitor the company. One-time searches are great, but most interview processes take some time. When you find good sources of information on the company, add them to your feed reader so you'll see updated news as it's available. Kebberfegg or MonitorThis will set up a long list of feeds based on your search term, but you'll want to add the news feed from Yahoo Finance and others that you find.

  6. Look up your interviewer(s). If you know who you will be meeting, look them up (and assume that they do the same check on you). ZoomInfo generates biographies from available documents on the web (although the automated bios can have lots of errors, so be careful). Find out if they have profiles on LinkedIn; they have complete control over LinkedIn profiles, so this is the interviewer in her own words. Look them up on Google, Yahoo, or your favorite search site. You're looking for anything they've written, professional bios from trade show appearances, quotes in articles, and anything else that will give you insight into the people you're meeting. You may find some personal details that can help you understand the person behind the job, but be careful about revealing what you learn. You wouldn't want to leave a creepy impression.

  7. Know how to get there. You don't want to be late, and you don't want to have to call for help finding the interview location (but if you really have to call, call HR, not the hiring manager). In addition to the directions you got with the invitation to the interview, look up the company location on your favorite map site. Use the satellite photo feature to take a look at the building(s) and parking situation. Sometimes it's just nice not to be surprised by the parking layout (which driveway should I enter?) and to know where the building entrance is. If you know where to look for the building, you won't waste time driving around in a search for the building with the right number over the door.

It's a lot, but most of this is stuff you do to learn about your target companies, not things that wait until the interview is scheduled. You don't want to overwhelm yourself with research, but with so much information about companies easily available, you should have a good understanding of the company before the interviewer gets to "do you have any questions?"

Friday, June 02, 2006

Your company e-mail is not private

Don't use your work e-mail to find your next job. Companies read employee e-mail. You might as well leave your résumé—or cover letter!—on the office printer. Use your home account or one of the free e-mail services instead.

Update: Employees get canned for e-mailing
Nearly one in three U.S. companies has terminated an employee for violating e-mail policy in the past year, a survey released Monday said.

Results of a Forrester survey for Proofpoint.

Better networking through professional associations

Chris Russell has a great tip on Secrets of the Job Hunt: "If you want to open up opportunities for yourself and your career, consider joining a professional association." He has some specific ideas of how associations can be useful in the job search, plus links to directories of associations.

When you're out of work, it's too easy to network with other people who are looking for work. You need to make connections with people who are working, and associations can be a great place to make those connections.