Category Archives: Recruiting and Employment

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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How to Identify the Savviest Recent Grads and Motivate Them to Work For You

Every twelve weeks or so, I undergo a ritual at Smarterer: the changing of the guard for our interns. As one group of seasoned old hands moves on after three intense months at Smarterer, a fresh-faced new group comes on board.

I always sit down with the departing group and talk to them about their plans, and in doing so, I’ve gained some insight into what makes these recent graduates successful and how to appeal to them.

There are always one or two interns who stand heads and shoulders above the rest in terms of their approach to their career. They are inevitably the ones we bend over backwards to help out, and or even hire full time. They’re the ones with multiple job offers from other employers. Yet they are not necessarily the ones who were most skilled coming in the door. So what do they do that makes them stand out and get hired? Here are the three behaviors that distinguish the good interns from the great:

  • They raise their hands to gain skills.

    Marketing is a big field with lots of sub-disciplines, including content marketing, social media, search engine marketing, lifecycle email marketing, and marketing analytics. Interns at Smarterer may work on one or two of these during their tenure, but probably won’t deep dive into all of them. It warms my heart when I overhear an intern ask, “Hey, can I sit in on that marketing analytics meeting? I want to get exposed to how it’s done,” or “I’d like to take a shot at rewriting copy for the upcoming email campaign so I can gain some experience there.” The savviest interns are ones who recognize that these are marketable skills and push to gain them. They don’t wait for assignments to come their way – they ask for opportunities to help. They go to classes at Intelligent.ly almost every night (since Smarterer covers their tuition I get a bill at the end of the month and can see who the learners are). In short, they work their tails off during their internship to get exposed to everything they can, and they are more marketable as employees as a result.

  • They ask for feedback.

    At this stage in a career, feedback is key. Interns and entry-level hires should be direct and ask for explicit feedback on how they are performing on specific tasks, and open-ended feedback on what else they should be doing. Remember that at this stage there are unknown unknowns – by asking experienced people for feedback, interns and new hires can surface some of these and accelerate their performance.

  • They network like fiends.

    Recent graduates have little work experience and an even smaller network – yet a professional network is one of the most powerful assets a young professional can have. The successful interns are the ones who sense that they should invest in building and maintaining their network, and who use their time with us wisely. That means making time to sit down with people to ask for their advice on career direction, volunteering to help out with their projects, and participating in events they care about. In exchange, you’ll gain their mentorship, support, and potentially valuable introductions. Case in point: I met with a Smarterer intern last week who wants to pursue a career in writing, and thinks the right next step for him is in copywriting. My advice: tap the networks of key team members for suggestions on how to start in that field. The mere act of asking for help creates a commitment on the part of the person being asked – by giving advice they become vested in the outcome. It pays to learn that lesson early and practice it often.

What does this mean for employers?

Many young professionals getting out of internship programs are skilled – if they’re smart they’ve gained experience that makes them really valuable, and they can hit the ground running. But that also means they’re savvy and know how to create opportunities for themselves, so you may have to compete for them. But what do they really want? From my experience, they’re looking for more of what I outlined above – opportunities to gain skills, to learn through exposure and feedback, and to build their network. Here are some easy ways support new team members:

  • Offer tuition reimbursement, time off to take classes, or even brown-bag lunch sessions in which you bring in a subject matter expert and invite them to discuss a topic.
  • Offer consistent feedback in the form of 1:1s or other direct sessions – and ensure that your management team does the same. Encourage mentoring and networking throughout the organization.
  • Understand that new team members – and particularly Millennials – want to feel that they have an important role to play in something meaningful, and that their work, even if it’s entry-level, makes an impact. Make sure you paint this picture for new hires from day one, by sharing your company’s mission, cluing them in to your strategy, and ensuring they understand the impact of their work on your overall goals and objectives.

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Internship

For students and recent grads, summer means much more than frequent trips to the beach: it’s internship season. Whether or not you’re getting paid, you’re probably wondering, “How is this internship really helping me?” With studies showing that 60% of students believe that internships are a requirement—and employers agree—internships are more important than ever. If you’re one of the lucky ones that has already landed an internship, here are some tips to make your experience as valuable as possible:

1) Develop a network.

LinkedIn Internships are one of the best ways to start building your professional network. Talk to people around you—don’t be afraid to go to lunch or coffee breaks with coworkers, staff meetings, and other company events. As Dawn Rasmussen writes, when you spend time to talk and ask questions, you develop interpersonal relationships that can lead to other opportunities (including future job offers). And translate your offline network to online connections—LinkedIn is a great place to start!

2) Learn new skills.

Employers often say that many potential employees coming out of college lack  skills necessary for the workplace. Internships provide great opportunities to master some of these skills, like crunching data in Excel or crafting impressive presentations with PowerPoint. Maybe a coworker frequently does graphic design for your company. Ask to hear about some of their Photoshop tricks! Also, as Alison Green suggests, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. You’re an intern who’s looking to gather as much experience as possible. Your coworkers have experience and will be happy to share their list of tips.

3) Go beyond the call of duty.

Exceed your employer’s expectations. ExcelThis doesn’t mean that if your supervisor asks you to send her an email, you should send her four. Exemplifying professionalism and motivation enables you to learn much more from your tasks and show that you are ready for more responsibility. For example, if you’re asked to do research, present your findings with notes and explain your thought process with an organized chart in Excel!

If a coworker is expressing frustration, offer to help with anything that you can. Even if these tasks are outside your job description, it provides a fantastic opportunity to keep learning new skills.

4) Ask for feedback.

During the first couple of weeks, you’ll naturally want to prove that you can produce quality work, but you’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way. Accepting mistakes and maintaining enthusiasm are qualities of a strong employee. That’s why asking for feedback is so important. When you ask your supervisor if you can improve your work in any way, it highlights your professionalism and work ethic. Plus, it will help you learn faster and it may prevent other mistakes in the future.

5) Bring a positive attitude.

We all know that there’s nothing harder than trying to work with someone who’s sending negative vibes. While some intern tasks may be frustrating or tedious, remember that you have a set of skills that the company desires. So bring a positive attitude! Being enthusiastic about your work will not only demonstrate that you’re interested, but it will also contribute to the work environment. Enthusiasm can go a long way. It’s as simple as this: being the kind of employee that companies want to hire means that they are more likely to hire you.

Ultimately, an internship is what you make of it—to get experience that you want requires your own initiative. Following these tips will help you have the best internship experience possible and will further prepare you for your future career.

Have tips of your own or other internship stories? Feel free to post them below!

Who Hid All the Jobs? The Case of the Hidden Job Market

Our CEO, Jennifer Fremont-Smith, mentioned a pretty startling statistic in one of her recent “…er” posts: “Over 12.3 million people are unemployed in the U.S., yet 3.7 million jobs are unfilled.” Jennifer attributes it to a skills gap, and that’s definitely part of the problem, but, as anyone who’s looked for a job in the past couple years knows, they’re hard to find!  I thought I’d go looking for all these untaken jobs.
How can you find hidden jobs?First up on my Private I-I-I (“Investigative Intern using the Internet”) agenda was a pretty simple question. Why are these jobs hidden? 

Susan Adams of Forbes thinks it’s basically a question of ease. “Given the choice of sorting through hundreds of difficult-to-distinguish applications, and taking the recommendation of a contact, or considering an applicant who has demonstrated initiative and enthusiasm by getting in touch directly, most hiring managers will take the most efficient path,” she explains.

According to David Perry, a headhunter, the hidden job market is really just the consequence of people leaving their jobs, which companies don’t want to advertise. “Every year there’s 20-25% turn over,” Perry told Fortune. “So in a 1,000-person company, 200 or 250 people are going to turn over, either through attrition, or someone moves.”

Okay, so how do you land at the vacant desk of one of those 200 to 250 people?

It’ll probably help you to adjust your definition of “job.” Once you stop considering a “job” to be a single, concrete item, of which a company only mints one or two at a time, the hidden job market snaps into focus: the game is to be available and desirable, not to find the exact desk you want to sit at.

As Angie Jones puts it in Carreerealism, “Often, the employer isn’t aware of the need to hire until the perfect candidate presents him/herself. It isn’t unusual for an employer to create a position for a great candidate.”

Keeping your new definition of job in mind, return to your job search. Do the same things you were doing before – research the company, network to get closer to hiring managers, let your contacts know you’re looking, position yourself as the solution to the company’s most immediate problems – just realign your targets.

Once you set your sights on the hidden job market, you’ll be on the fast track to employment. It’s simply a case of probability. What’s more likely – that you’ll be the best candidate with the right keywords in a pile of six hundred resumes being fed through a machine, or that your favorite company has a problem you could solve? If the second’s not true, the first won’t be either. Find the problems you can solve, and let some hiring managers know! 

The jobs aren’t hidden under a rock. They’re not a secret. All “hidden job market” means, as it turns out, is that hiring managers aren’t looking for people who sound exactly like a job description — they’re looking for solutions to problems.