Category Archives: Career Advice

4 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Hired [GUEST POST]

For the unemployed job seeker there are many obstacles. One being, the fact that days spent with a laptop, on couch, and in pajamas don’t exactly translate into a heightened sense of self-esteem.

On the contrary, being out of work can be downright depressing. And when unanswered resumes and failed interviews start becoming the norm, it may feel like your life is trapped under a heavy paperweight. Luckily, there is a solution known as landing a job. How do you do that? Refresh your interview skills by breaking 4 bad habits that are keeping your name off of the payroll.

You Think Practicing is for Chumps

Regardless of how common the initial “So, tell me about yourself” interview question is, it still has the ability to throw people. Why? They don’t practice. Before walking into any interview you should have two sentences about your professional self polished and down cold. Consider yourself your own agent; you need a pitch that is clean, concise and above all, interesting.

In addition to ironing your interview clothes and having your next-day directions ready to go the night before, you should also invite a friend over. In a nonthreatening environment a friend can help you go over the most commonly asked interview questions; don’t stop until you come up with a killer response for each. It’s also a good idea to work out a solid one liner to say at the end of the interview. “Thank you so much for your time; I’m excited about X position and I look forward to the possibility of building a future with your company.”

You Allow Nerves to Get the Best of You

Whether you went to your high school football games or not, there’s no denying that those mandatory pep rallies got you a little pumped. Job interviews are no different; you’ve got to psych yourself up if you’re going to walk in with an enthusiastic and confidant attitude. Consider the alternative, if the interview does not go well you’ll be in the same exact situation; so in actuality, you have nothing to lose and only a job to gain.

For the employer holding yet another black and white resume, they are going to need the right attitude to catch their attention. Weeks or months of unemployment may have you dragging, but a similar attitude will not get you noticed. Have some coffee, listen to your favorite music on the way there and above all, smile. Commit to getting pumped up for just one half hour of your life and find an effective way to pull that energy out of you.

You’ve Zipped Your Lips

Mid-interview are your hands folded? Are you smiling politely? Are you eagerly waiting the next question? Well, you shouldn’t be. Strive to turn the interview into a conversation, where your own input and proactive questions can open your interviewer’s eyes and ears.

Of course you have to listen to an interviewer’s questions and comments, and you should be active in acknowledging or agreeing with them, but then you need to jump off. Build on the topics they present and show off your own skills and unique background. “I understand what you mean about finding someone who can keep up with the busy tasks of this position. When reading the job description it seemed to me that was the big focus. I myself have some experience with that…”

This is the interviewer’s time to get to know you, so don’t let your resume do all of the talking. Instead, use it as a platform for your conversation. If there is one thing you are an expert on, it is yourself. You know your motivations, strengths and weaknesses, so be enthusiastic about sharing the unique qualities that make you a great addition to any team.

You’re Ignoring Culture and Questions

Any job that you try out for has a company history and mission. Do not walk into an interview without knowing those elements like the back of your hand. This way, during the interview you can display your preparedness and invested interest. It is also important to gain an understanding of your potential company’s culture and most important, find an angle in which you can fit yourself into it.

At the end of the interview be ready to fire back when asked, “So do you have any questions?” An employer will be impressed to see that you are already picturing yourself as a position holder with questions like: “How do you hope the next person to fill this position will enhance it? If I were to be selected, what would be the first checkpoint you’d like me to reach? What qualities do you think it takes for a person to excel in your team environment?”

Of course at the end of the interview you are going to shake hands with your interviewer. Be sure to express your earnestness when thanking them for their time. The interview process may be nerve wracking for you, but it can be very tedious for an employer. Make their day by being enthusiastic, interesting and unique. Above all, be memorable and if all goes well, you’ll get a call back.

Know any other interview habits are worth breaking? Drop us a line in the replies or send a Tweet over to @smarterer!

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This is a guest post by Kelly Gregorio

Kelly Gregorio writes about topics that affect small businesses and entrepreneurs while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a merchant cash advance provider. You can read her daily business blog at http://www.advantagecapitalfunds.com/blog/.

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5 Ways to Make a Great First Impression With Your Resume

ResumeFirst impressions are everything. Whether it’s the first date, first day of school, or a job interview, first impressions set the stage for what’s to come. When applying for jobs, your resume sets the stage for you, arriving on the recruiter’s desk before they even meet you in person. A recent study shows that recruiters and employers will only scan each resume they see for an average of 6 seconds. That means in 6 seconds flat, they’ll decide whether or not you’re a worthy candidate for the position. In that tiny frame of time, you want them to see the best you have to offer them.

Put your best foot forward and make sure your resume is prepped and polished for any position you may apply for. Customizing resumes for each potential job is essential. It’s a good idea to change it up every time you apply for a new job, so it is perfectly tailored each time. Here are five ways to make resume improvements.

The Master Copy

Start with a master resume. This should be one document, several pages in length that chronicles your entire professional history, civic engagement projects, and a full database of skills. From here, you can pick and choose what goes on to each individual resume, so each one is fine-tuned for the job you’re applying for. If you format it the right way, you can even just copy and paste lines directly into your latest resume.

Your Most Recent Experience May Not Make you Most Qualified

What was your last job? If you’re a recent college graduate, there’s a chance it is something in the food service industry, or retail. While it’s all well and good that you worked through college, a summer internship in the field you’re trying to break into might be just the thing to catch your future employer’s eye. List the most relevant experience you have above the most recent experience you have. If your resume is overflowing with amazing and relevant experience, its ok to remove your part-time job.

Buzzwords

When reading a job posting online, or hearing about a job from a recruiter, there are certain triggers that help assure you that you are the perfect candidate for the position. We call these triggers buzzwords, and you’re not the only one who perks up when you hear them. Employers and recruiters are actively searching for candidates who include buzzwords in their resumes and cover letters.

So where do you find these magic words?  Start by looking in the actual job description. If the employer already described their perfect candidate, then you should describe the perfect candidate to right back to them when detailing your previous positions. While you’re at it, make it a point to check the company’s website. What kind of language do they use to describe the company? They might call themselves a group of professionals with excellent communication skills who take pride in their corporate-social responsibility. At your previous job, didn’t you effectively communicate with the rest of the office to plan a volunteer event?

Don’t Limit Your Research

If you’re unsure of the skills desired of your position, try searching for people with the same job title on Linkedin. Which aspects of the “skills & expertise” section are they most endorsed in? If you’re proficient in those skills, they should be on your resume as well.

Necessary Extras

While you’re checking the company’s website for buzzwords, see what kind of organizations they volunteer with. What are they passionate about? If you have any previous experience with any of those organizations, or even a similar organization, don’t hesitate to include it.

If there is anything else you’ve done in the past that might be of particular interest to a future employer, include it! For example, if you’re applying for a  position that will include writing, and you have published writing samples, add the links in an extra section. If you’re applying for a job in social media, and you’ve monitored professional accounts in the past, include those links. Don’t be afraid to show off your work!

By the time you’re through, everything about your resume should reflect your most positive self, who also happens to be the ideal candidate for each specific position. Remember, you only have 6 seconds, so make the most of it!

How to Set Career Goals You’ll Actually Achieve

Smack in the middleWhat do you want to get out of your career? Do you even know? As simple as the question sounds, many people cannot come up with an easy answer off the top of their head. It’s easy to go with the flow from job to job and take opportunities as they open up, but it’s also very important to set career goals for yourself to meet to keep yourself on track to achieving what you want.

In fact, setting career goals go a long way in reaching satisfaction and productivity in one’s job. “People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine, says Brian Tracy, motivational speaker and author. So what can you do to set your own career goals and maximize your workflow? We’ve got some tips below.

It’s Time to Get S.M.A.R.T.

It’s great to set goals, but you won’t get very far in achieving them if they aren’t realistic and specific. Thankfully, George T. Doran, a professor of management, created a simple and memorable framework to set all of one’s goals by called the S.M.A.R.T. framework. (We here at Smarterer are a fan of the name!) Let’s break it down:

Specific - The more defined and specific a goal is, the more likelihood you’ll have a good idea of the progress you’re making. Ask yourself the six W Questions: Who, What, Where, When, Which, and Why? Instead of setting the goal of learning how to cook, which is too vague, turn it into something like “I want to learn how to cook Spanish food.”

Measurable - You can’t manage something unless you can manage it. There has to be a measurable element to each goal one sets in order to track the progress towards this goal. Instead of saying, “I want to learn how to cook Spanish food,” change it to “I want to learn how to cook five Spanish recipes.”

Attainable - Is it safe to assume that you can actually attain the end result you’re looking for? Sure, it’s easy to learn five recipes, but it would be much less realistic to assume you’ll learn fifty and remember them.

Realistic - It is important to ask yourself the question of whether or not you are willing and able to achieve this goal. Set a goal that will force you to reach and draws upon more motivational power than an easy goal.

Timely - Give yourself a reasonable deadline to stay on track. Improve your original goal by setting a date by which you want to complete it. “I want to learn how to cook five Spanish recipes by February 15.”

Don’t Let Your Goals Backfire

While the importance of setting goals has become very apparent in the workplace, don’t take them too far. According to Susan Adams of Forbes, pursuing these ambitious career goals “can encourage both excessive risk-taking and unethical behavior.” Sure, if you’re managing an account for a client, you may want to double their revenue in two years, but don’t compromise on your values or the values of your company by doing something shady or illegal.

How can one avoid making this mistake? As Adams notes in her article, “A few ideas: Create… ‘locks’ for ethical behavior. For instance, employees could sign an honor code of conduct. Another idea: Bosses should define and demonstrate ethical behavior and the boundaries of risk-taking.”

So, I’ll ask again: What do you want to get out of your career? Do you now have a better idea after being armed with this framework? Let us know what your S.M.A.R.T. goals are in the comments below.

How To Design The Best Business Card

Here at Smarterer we often write about emerging job search trends in the digital world. One trend that doesn’t look like it’s set to go away anytime soon, though, is business cards. Business cards are still the most effective way to distribute your contact information and make someone remember you.

In fact, business cards are an important component of one’s personal brand, and can go a long way in creating a lasting impression. They can be an extension of your personality and depending on the design, can really convey any type of image that you want. Check out these 51 Unique Business Cards That Will Make Your Mind Explode.

While there are no absolute standards for business card design, there are a few general guidelines and best practices. Use light colors, make sure to include an image or the logo of your company, and keep the design as uncluttered as possible. The goal is to choose your elements carefully in order to create the most cohesive and well designed card as possible.

Check out the excellent infographic below, put together by the folks over at WEBS, to learn how to design the best business cards. They’ve even thrown in a little bit about etiquette at the bottom as well. Enjoy!