When do you give your notice?

Are you interviewing?  Are you anticipating an offer?  The time it takes to receive an offer letter after a series of interviews can seem like an eternity.  And the anticipation can be excruciating.

Your potential future manager may have told you “I want you” or “We’ll get an offer to you” or some other significant buying sign.  That’s great.  But be sure not to jump the gun.  Now is not the time to be so anxious you potentially derail the prospect.  Continue to manage your job search process to the end.

Understand there is still a process to complete.  That process can take time.  Offers can take a few days to go through the approval process.  At some point you will need to go through a drug and background check.  Do not be so anxious that you rush to give notice to your current employer at least until you have a written offer from your new company.  I have seen it several times through the years that a candidate is told an offer’s coming and then immediately give their notice only to learn later there will be no offer coming.  Now they have no job or are forced to ask for their old job back. That is a situation no one wants to be in.

The business climate within a company can change quickly.  What if your offer isn’t ultimately approved?  What if their situation changes and they lose the spot?  What if an internal candidate applies at the last minute?

Until you have an offer in your hand I strongly suggest you refrain from giving your notice.  Many people choose to not give their notice until their background checks are completed.  One decision you get to make through the entire job-search process is when you give your notice.  As freeing, gratifying or significant as it may be, don’t be too quick to do it and lose an opportunity.

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Plant your flag

“A straight path never leads anywhere except to the objective.” – Andre Gide

If you want results in your job search get specific.  I know, I know.  You believe if you cast a wide net you think you will be more likely to land an interview and a new position.  This thinking is wrong and takes you down many paths that lead to nowhere.

The more focused you are the more people will be able to help you.  They can either send you potential opportunities or send you to people with similar backgrounds that can help you network.  If you spread yourself too thin; trying to be a jack-of-all-trades that places you in a position where people feel they can’t help you because you have no concrete target.

Have a concrete target.  It does a couple of things.  First, it gives you focus in your job search.  You know what you want and can articulate it to others.  Secondly, it saves you time and trouble.  Knowing what you are after will save you the headache of chasing opportunities that don’t fit.  You can save time by not responding to job postings that fall outside your scope.

Take a look at the following two examples of objective statements taken directly off of candidates’ resumes.  What do they say?  What do they tell you?

Example #1

To obtain a growth oriented leadership position where I can bring my 12 years of experience managing projects and offering solutions to companies for a reputable company that has a good product.

Example #2

To obtain a challenging position within an organization that will allow me to utilize my management and customer service skills and provide an opportunity for advancement.

After reading those statements do you have a clear idea of what those candidates do?  What industry are they in?  What position are they after?  It would be helpful if they let the reader know.  Why are they using precious real estate on their resume for wasted words that do not get to the heart of things?

If you are going to have an objective statement on your resume make it count.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m from the school that advises not to use an objective statement at all.  I’ll explain why in a future post.

If you feel compelled to use an objective statement use something like this: To apply for the Java Developer position #2013-51674.  At the very least, that objective lets the reader know your background and what you are after.  It also references a specific position.

Imagine taking your objective statement off your resume and instead using it as your elevator speech.  Does that thought scare you?  Does it bring to a clear, sharp focus the purpose of using either the objective statement or the elevator pitch?  I hope so.  In a million years you would never dream of telling someone “I hope to find a challenging position with an organization that will allow me to utilize my management and customer service skills and provide an opportunity for advancement.”  It says nothing and wastes everyone’s time.

If given the opportunity you need to be prepared with something like:

“I design and build web sites for small businesses that don’t have the ability to hire their own staff full-time to do it.”  Or

“I’m a CPA focusing on working for companies in the oil and gas industry.”  Or

“I’m an executive assistant with 10 years of experience supporting senior staff: directors/VP’s/CIO’s in the telecom industry.”

Use those kinds of initial statements and then build on them so you can fill 10, 20, 30 or 60 seconds of time explaining what you do and what you are after.  If you are unable to do that, your search will last much longer than it should.

Happy hunting!

Always Assume Positive Intent

You’ve been there.  You know what it’s like to interview for a position several times over the course of a few weeks.  The interviews seem to be going well.  Why else would they have you back time and again to talk to yet other person if the interviews weren’t going well?  At each stage of the interview process you find yourself inching up the food chain; first it was the recruiter you spoke to.  Then it was the hiring manager, then their boss, then their boss.  And just for good measure they have you talk to another high-level individual in the company for another perspective.

During the process you’re minding your P’s and Q’s, sending thank-you notes and asking questions about next steps.  You are doing what you should to stay on their radar.  But after that last interview, much to your dismay, the lines of communication have been cut off and you don’t know why.  You are not getting any feedback or responses of any kind.  That’s odd because all through the process they had been fairly quick to respond.  The fact you are not getting communication from them is uncharacteristic of the process to date.

So, it’s been several days since the last time they communicated with you.  Everything had been going very well.  You have every reason to believe you are (or were) a top candidate.  What do you do?  The short answer is: keep communicating with them.  You have no idea why you haven’t heard from them and you have no way of knowing what is going on on their side.  So until you hear otherwise, assume things are still on track and move forward accordingly.

People get sick.  Their kids get sick.  Decision makers go on vacation.  Offer-letter approvers are out for a few days.   Maybe the position hasn’t even been approved yet and they are frantically working to get the position approved in order to move forward.  I know it would be nice if they let you know that but they haven’t.

Until they tell you “no”, you are still in contention.  So send them a professional, polite note once a week.  And let them know that’s what you are going to do.  Let them know they will continue to hear from you until you hear from them.

I don’t know why we are wired the way we are.  Humans too easily gravitate to the negative.  “They didn’t like me after all.  I haven’t heard from them in so long. I know I didn’t get that job.”  We start to assume the worst, second guess and start spiraling.  I’m as guilty of that as the next person.

A great piece of advice I received from a former boss told me “always assume positive intent.”  Until you have reason to believe otherwise, believe in the positive.  Maybe they did go ahead and hire somebody and didn’t have the decency to let you know.  It happens.  Keep communicating with them and make them tell you no.

I once interviewed for a position where I was communicating with the hiring manager several times a week.  It was a position I really wanted.  Then all of a sudden, there was nothing.  It got to the point I put a note on my calendar a couple of weeks out to remind me to send one final email.  Three days before that reminder was to pop up and remind me I received a message from the hiring manager.  She asked if I was still interested.

I was certain the position went to another candidate and they didn’t have the decency to let me know after all the time I invested in the process.  But it only proves my point you never know what’s going on on their end.  There are all kinds of stumbling blocks that can get in the way.  When I finally connected with the hiring manager she offered me the position.  Her reasoning for the delay made sense but it would have been nice if she sent a quick email at any point along the way to let me know.  It wouldn’t take much.  But if I hadn’t stayed positive in the emails I kept sending her, if my weekly emails had grown more testy and snarky, I have no doubt they would have moved on to another candidate.  That’s why you should always remain positive.

And I might add this; as a recruiter, I don’t do this and never have, but I am convinced some companies go silent on purpose.  They are gauging your interest level and evaluating how you handle it.  So handle it professionally and always assume positive intent.

Happy hunting

Setting appointments

In an earlier blog post I compared the job search process to the sales process.  One of the steps in the sales process is setting appointments.  I would like to follow-up on that step with some additional information.

I mentioned in the post that there is no direct correlation between setting appointments for a sales executive and a candidate calling into companies and trying to set interviews.  While true, there are some things you can do to help set other types of appointments; namely, informational interviews.

Get your target list of companies together.  Start researching who in the organization would be a good person to talk to.  With a little bit of time and effort you can easily get a good idea of how the organization is laid out and who reports to whom.  Once you have a good list, start calling into that company and ask for the people you have identified.  You can also follow-up by sending them an invitation to connect on Linked In (LI).

I suggest making the call first.  More often than not, you will get voice mail.  Leave a concise, professional message leaving your name and call-back number twice.  Be sure to speak slowly and clearly.  We so often give out our own phone number that we say it very quickly.  If someone is listening to your message and they are trying to write your number down as you say it, if you say it quickly they may miss it.  So say it slowly and repeat it.  I have also written previously on how to leave a message.  You can read that post here: http://wp.me/p3nLpj-2r

After you leave your message, you can then personalize a note in your LI message.  Something like: “Hi Chris, I left you a message but wanted to follow-up this way as well.  I have a couple of questions for you and would appreciate a bit of your time.”

I am a strong proponent of leaving your phone number in every communication: phone, email, LI messages, etc.  You want to be easy to contact.  If someone has to search for your number or listen to a message several times to get your number chances are they will give up trying.  I have long used the practice of giving my phone number in every message I send through LI.  My typical closing in LI looks like this:

Thank you,

Chris

817.300.3081

For every email account I have, I have created a default signature that provides my number, Twitter and blog information.  You want to be easy to contact.

Happy hunting!

At the end of the interview are you prepared with questions?

You’re nearing the end of your interview.  The interviewer asks you “do you have any questions for me?”

Now what?

Hopefully, you have been asking questions all the way through your interview.  But if not, you better have a good list of questions at the ready or you will be viewed as unprepared and/or disinterested.  Neither option is good.  Here is a quick list (certainly not all-inclusive) of questions you should be prepared to ask.  You can ask questions about the job, the company/culture, your responsibilities or the rest of the interview process.  You can tailor any of them to meet the specifics of your situation.

Here are some examples or thought-starters:

Questions about the job and your responsibilities:

When I start, what would be the top 3 things I would need to address or focus on in my first 30-60 days?  (This is important to ask because regardless of what the description says or what has been discussed in the interview up to this point, their answer will tell you what’s important to them and what they need you to focus on.  It also mentally places you in the position.  You want the interviewer to see you in the position.)

Based on our conversation, do you feel there are any issues with my background and experience that would keep me from receiving an offer?  (Take the opportunity and a pro-active stance to address any objections they may have about your candidacy.  You may not feel comfortable asking about your perceived deficiencies regarding your candidacy but it’s better to ask now in the interview setting where you can address them immediately and get an idea of where their head is rather than to wait to hear you didn’t get the job.)

Questions about the company/culture:

How long have you worked here?  (Are they brand new too?  If so, they may not have great insight into the company just yet.  If this is the case, follow-up with this question: why did you decide to work here?)

What do you like best about your position?  (Do they provide a ‘canned’ answer or do they provide something specific?  Their response could be telling.)

What do you like best about the company?  (Is it the free soft-serve in the cafeteria or is it the autonomy they’re given to do their job?  There’s a wide gap between the two.)

What would you change about the company is you could?  (This will give you a glimpse into how they view the company.)

Questions about the rest of the interview process:                 

Is there anyone else I need to speak with as a part of process? (Companies these days are notorious for not wanting to make a hiring decision. To support this behavior, many of them will throw in additional interviews at that final stage for additional reinforcement of their decision to hire or not hire.)

What is the rest of the process? (Do they know or does it sound like they are making things up as they go?)

When do you intend to make a decision? (Listen carefully to their answer. You will be holding them accountable to this if the process drags on.)

How many other candidates are you talking to? (You want to know as much about your competition as possible.)

When can I expect an offer? (You know what their offer would look like because the salary has already been discussed.)

Goal setting while unemployed

What does your production look like this week?  What have you accomplished?

“What do you mean Chris?  I’m unemployed and don’t have any objectives to hit.”  Oh, yes you do.  They may not be company driven but you definitely have to have goals while searching for a new position.

If you’re not accustomed to setting goals, now is the perfect time to hone that skill.  And the thing is, the faster you get good at setting goals, the faster something will come your way.

Things to consider:

  • What time are you going to get out of bed?  Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier than anyone else in the house gets up.  It may sound silly but what time you start the day has a huge impact on the rest of your day.  The earlier you get up, the more productive it makes you feel.
  • How much research are you going to conduct today? Do you know what your target companies are?  How much do you know about the way they operate?  How many people do you know inside that company?  How many people do you know that know people inside that company?  Get to work and find out.
  • How many calls are you going to make today?  Tell your story to as many people as possible.  The more you share your situation with friends, neighbors and past associates the more people you will have working on your behalf.
  • How many new people are you going to talk to today?  When you talk to people, get referrals from them.  Ask them for names of their friends and associates you could reach out to.  Be professional.  Be sure to let them know you will not bug the referral or even ask them for a job.  Your only objective is to network and share your story.  Then, get referrals from your referrals.
  •  How many new people are you going to meet today?  Are you a member of any networking or community groups?  Groups through your church?  Get up, go outside and meet people.  It’s the best way to break out of the bubble.  Once you’re outside interacting with others you will no longer feel the world closing in on you.
  •  How many people are you going to serve today?  Last week I wrote about a fantastic networking group The Southlake Focus Group.  You can read it here:  http://wp.me/p3nLpj-f1  One system they espouse is the H.O.P.E. method.  I am 100% on board with it.  It stands for Help One Person Everyday.  While you’re unemployed is a great time to serve people.  It’s a great time to volunteer.  You’ll discover that if you open up your heart and give of your time, you will receive so much more in return.
  • How many new opportunities are you going to learn about today?  Depending on your numbers from the previous questions, the answer to this one gets a bit easier.  The more people you talk to and share with the more you will learn about new opportunities.
  •  How much time are you going to spend on-line searching job postings today?  If you’re newly unemployed, you’ll probably need to spend a bit more time initially on-line looking at job opportunities.  But after about the first week, spend no more than an hour a day scouring the web for jobs.  Set up job-search agents that send you daily digests of new positions that meet the criteria you set.
  • How many interviews are you going to schedule today?  If you’re talking to dozens of new people a week it’s realistic to have an interview or two a week (depending on your specific career track).  Phone screens count too!!!!
  • How many interviews are you going to go on today?  The next step from the phone interview is the in-person interview  At the very least, another phone interview with another member of the hiring team.
  •  How many thank you notes are you going to write today?  This is a good barometer of how many people you’re talking to.  Be grateful for all the help you’re receiving and show it by putting a note in the mail.
  • How much time are you going to spend with God today?  If I may be so bold, I would recommend at least 30 minutes.  And wouldn’t you know? Since you’re now waking up 30 minutes earlier, you can use that time.  But if you can fit more in your day, do it.

Did you notice almost every category had the word ‘today’ tacked on to the end?  There’s a reason for that. Goals need to be action-oriented and time based.  Yes, you need long-term goals as well but having daily accountability will help you attain your long-term goals as well.

Here’s something else to consider.  When you’re talking to new people don’t be too narrow in focus.  Open up to the possibilities.  If you’re led to someone in another city or state, talk to them.  Yes, I know, you don’t want to relocate.  So what?  Get a new perspective.  Meet new people with new ideas.  You might just learn something valuable.  You also just might make a powerful connection that can help you in surprising and unexpected ways.

Let me know how I can help and Happy hunting!e

Don’t always assume your interviewer knows what s/he is doing…

You’ve heard it time and time again.  When you go on an interview come prepared with questions.  Questions about the company, the position, your future/potential responsibilities, the culture, etc.  Why bother going at all if you’re not interested enough to care to ask questions?  I’m a firm believer the candidate should always be the most prepared person in the room during an interview.

Everyone is busy right?  Employees at all levels in every organization are consistently asked to do more with less.  Everyone is stretched thin.

Just because there is someone sitting in front of you conducting an interview, that doesn’t mean they necessarily know what they’re doing.  Chances are great they have never had any training on how to conduct an interview.  Because of this they may be overly cautious in their approach.  They’re on guard, scared of making mistakes or asking an inappropriate or even “illegal” question.  And yet, they think since they’re the interviewer they are in a position of superiority.  That is a recipe for a very bad experience.  If that’s the case, how much value do you think anyone is going to get out of the interview?  You, them, the company?  It’s not good for anyone and it has the potential to be a big waste of time.

Remember, you’re there to land a job.  I’m not in the habit of wasting time going on interviews that won’t go anywhere.  I know you aren’t either.  I’m there to fight tooth and nail for it.  You’ve done the research, you know why you want the job, why you like the company and why you’re a great fit.  Don’t leave anything to chance.

Because you are so prepared and excited, it can be terribly disappointing when you show up and it’s obvious the interviewer hasn’t spent any time reviewing your information or bothered to prepare any thoughtful questions.  If they don’t have any thoughtful, substantive questions it’s another sign they don’t have much interview experience.

I once interviewed for a position I was very excited for.  The position would enable me to do things with my career I had not done yet and was excited about doing.  I was back for an in-person interview for the third time.  By this time, my references had already been checked.  We were close to closing the deal.  The only step left was to interview with the person that would actually be my boss.

When I arrived, the recruiter I had been working with let me know that my potential future boss got stuck in a meeting and it would be another 30 minutes before he was available.  Everyone is busy right?  I didn’t think anything of it other than the recruiter now had to keep me company for the duration.

Now would be a good time to mention that when I first walked into the recruiter’s office I noticed a resume printed out and sitting on the very corner of his desk.  As I sat down, it was easy to notice that it wasn’t mine.  I didn’t mention anything about it.  Why would I?  It wasn’t my office and certainly none of my business.  When my potential future boss walked in, we were introduced and, as he walked past the desk, he grabbed the resume off the corner and started to look at it.  He then proceeded to ask me what I thought were very confusing questions.

My background is recruiting sales people.  He was asking me IT-related questions.  When I mentioned I didn’t have that kind of experience he asked “then why does it say on your resume you have recruited IT for the past five years?”  I told him that “while I do have some IT recruiting experience, the vast majority of my experience is in recruiting sales people.  You have someone else’s resume.”

Obviously, he didn’t spend any time reviewing my information before hand.  Nor did he recognize the name on the resume wasn’t mine.  After all, he just met me 10 seconds ago.  He didn’t ask the recruiter if it was my resume.  He came in, grabbed a random document and started making assumptions.  As a result, he looked foolish and unprepared.

Pay attention to all the details when you are interviewing.  Even though the hiring authority in this example came across looking foolish, I was too blinded by the excitement of the possibilities to see what kind of boss he would be.  As a result, I was the fool.  I accepted the position and quickly learned it was a mistake.  I spent the next year or so figuring out how to get out of there.  Lesson learned.