Starting To Look Like 2009 For Job Seekers PLEASE READ

I saw today that the WA State unemployment claims system is seeing the same levels of activity as it did in 2008-2010. Not so coincidentally, that is the same time I started this blog.

Being a recruiter with experience at companies such as Microsoft and Volt at the time, a had a lot of recently laid-off employees asking me the same questions over, and over. So: I started a free resource that anyone can access. This blog is over a dozen years of my expertise gleaned throughout my career.

I have kept it up date, I have added fairly regularly. So: here we go again. Please read this blog first before you reach out to me or any other recruiter; see if your questions have already been answered. Be aware that most recruiters are slammed right now, so trying to get an answer to your very singular question, which is already answered online in a thousand different places, may not make you a high priority.

I check my comments section once a week, and i get an email notification when anyone DOES leave me a message, so if you have a specific question not answered here, just ask.

Your UX Design Job Search

Since we are seeing a major uptick in senior UX Designer roles in our agency, I thought I would help put together some of the input we have received from hiring managers about what they are looking for.

It should go without saying, but for a designer, a portfolio is the most important part of your professional profile. You should have a link to your portfolio link on your LinkedIn profile, on your resume, and any other online platform you use for marketing yourself. A lot of designers want to know what should be included in your portfolio. From our hiring managers:

Your portfolio shouldn’t be just a series of "pretty pictures". It should clearly delineate your *process* for solving design problems.

Identify the problem you are tackling

-Delineate your ideation(s) to help resolve the problem

-Incorporate items like drawings, wireframes, prototypes, etc.

-Include your potential solutions, and *why* you have created each of them

-Showcase the final solution with detail about how it solved the initial problem

After your portfolio, your resume is your next self-marketing tool. I have seen a lot of design-oriented resumes that are lacking critical information. Designers have a tad bit more leeway when it comes to creativity and flexibility on an actual resume in terms of style, but elements need to be easy to read (the more graphics on it, the harder that is). Employers STILL want to know who/what/where/when/how.

This includes your employers/clients, and attached to *each* employer (who): what their general business is; where (this is their industry niche as well as geolocation); when is the timeline you were working with the client and *each project* in some sort of chronologic order; how – what tools/technologies/methodology did you use. Finally, if you worked as an actual employee, you should be able to include some metrics about the project. For example, if you redesigned the UI for a mobile app for an ecommerce company, how much new traffic/new customers were logged? What was the boost in revenue in the first 30/60/90 days?

As big data has reshaped business and marketing by providing exceedingly granular information on metrics that impact how businesses measure and scale customer and industry behaviors, trends in resumes and what hiring managers want has also changed. The further along in your career you are, the more detail you should be able to provide with numbers: budgets, revenue impact, timelines, size of projects (#, $, %). While it can be difficult to provide longer term numbers as a consultant or freelancer, you *should* be able to invoke the scope of work/contract for some basics. Did you come in under budget and early? Were you able to provide concepts in 1 iteration vs. multiple? If the client hired you for multiple projects instead of just one over the course of a project *say so*, as that indicates they liked your work and felt that you were able to gel with their vision. Since you may not have access to the metrics that show the success of a project, it is absolutely vital to be detailed on your process from inception to delivery.

Designers have a lot more ways to sell themselves than other professionals, but the "pitch" needs to be crisp, clean, and targeted.

Your Dream Job ‘ How Much Experience Do You *REALLY* Need? (USA)

I have seen a lot of advice lately from recruiters and resume/career coaches that are telling candidates that they should always take a chance and apply to their dream job when they see it. I am going to agree, with some caveats. And I am going to explain to you what those parameters are. I spend a significant amount of time reading resumes from people that are interested in jobs that they are totally unqualified for. It is frustrating for them to receive an auto decline, and honestly a waste of my time when someone applies for a role requiring 5+ years of experience, 3 specific skills and industry experience *that they don’t have*…not even if I am being generous.

So, from a 17-year recruiting veteran, here is my take on pursuing your dream job based on a *job description*: If you meet at least 75% of the stated requirements including education, experience, functional skills, and industry tools ‘ then yes, by all means apply. If there is a long laundry list of tools/software programs that are industry standard, and you have most of them or related industry standards, then go for it.

This is where I am going to put some major caveats around your efforts. It is absolutely vital to understand that small or privately held companies have MUCH MORE FLEXIBILITY in this arena. The reason for this has to do with government/federal compliance regulations. Contextually, there are potentially 2-4 different sorts of regulations that would affect larger employers, but the bottom line is: companies that are impacted by these regulations *legally can only hire candidates that meet the stated job requirements*. The ‘nice to haves’ are used as qualifiers to delineate between equally qualified candidates.

The most broad set of employers impacted by this role are those that are government contractors or subcontractors with more than 50 employees and contracts of $25K or more. The governing body is part of the EEOC, known as the Office of Contract Compliance Programs. Basically the laws require employers that are compliant to have a process where they consider ALL QUALIFIED APPLICANTS for every job, and they can ONLY CONSIDER QUALIFIED APPLICANTS.

This list includes:

-All public sector jobs such as federal/state/local/county governments ‘ and all public education roles.

-Healthcare providers that accept Medicare/Medicaid or any other government subsidies

-Any company that supplies goods or services to the government. This is the tricky one. Think of it this way: Microsoft provides site licenses for Office; Aramark may provide uniforms to the cleaning staff at the Pentagon (and the janitorial company as well); the company that delivers food, and the comestibles suppliers to all the military bases all over the world; Ford usually provides the vehicles to law enforcement agencies nationwide. GE provides medical equipment to hospitals, labs, and research universities. This impacts almost ALL enterprise companies in the US (whether they are headquartered domestically or internationally.)

One of the other main compliance organizations is USCIS. This will apply mostly to STEM roles, but it affects any organizations that sponsor H1-B visa employees. There are two ways this impacts hiring.
-To qualify for an H1-B, candidates MUST possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

-When a company decides to sponsor H1-B workers, it must determine its’ standardized job descriptions for the position types that the visas will be used. Once those parameters are set, they legally must be adhered to and maintained for ALL recruiting/hiring efforts and processes.

As you are looking for your dream job, absolutely reach for the stars, but understand that employers may not even consider you if you don’t actually have the qualifications that they are looking for.

The Recruiting Process – Salary – Part 1: Terminology & Processes

Hiring/terminology salary basics for mid-large size employers (~100+)

Before we start, here is some terminology that Finance, HR and Recruiting/TA (Talent Acquisition) use that help explain some of the process that goes into recruiting. This is going to assume a basic understanding of business structure in terms of cost centers, budgets, and organizational structures. The point at which a company starts considering the implementation of these processes/tools varies, based on size, where they are in their business lifecycle, industry (ie some industries have much stricter legal compliance requirements such as healthcare or finance), cash flow/investments, variation of products/services. Most tools/services vary from spreadsheets to cloud-hosted systems that charge subscription fees. The very first thing to understand is that finance considers people *no differently* than any other fixed physical capital expense, such as equipment, supplies, or real estate. When drawing up an annual budget (for the purposes of HR this includes raises, new hire salaries, bonuses/equity, and benefits as well as equipment and physical space), finance is the first and final arbiter of resource planning. New hires, raises, performance incentives, and all downstream approvals are all based on budgets. ‘People’ as a resource are differentiated from other types of expenditures as ‘position numbers’. Position numbers are fixed placeholders within an employer budget tied to the operating costs under a specific organization (usually either a specific business unit or a vertical such as operations, sales, marketing, product development, etc). Without an approved position number, new hires (either internal or external) do not exist. Position numbers are to track employees, and there is a 1:1 ratio of employees to position numbers. New position numbers may be added during the course of the fiscal year, but that requires approval from finance and leadership (C-level/SVP) and a business justification from the hiring manager and his/her management team. New position budgets are based on a number of factors including existing employees, growth projections, and overall business strategy.

Headcount: this is the total number of positions approved in an annual budget for an organization. Headcount includes every employee from the CEO to the receptionist or janitor that is an employee on the company’s payroll. When a Reduction in Force (RIF, or ‘layoff’) occurs, this means that the headcount and position numbers are being eliminated completely.

At the beginning of an organization’s fiscal year (which is NOT necessarily the same as a calendar year), new (added) headcount is approved, and may be approved to open during specific times (for example, midway through the fiscal year, like the beginning of Q3 or May/June for a fiscal year that matches a calendar year). This is often done in conjunction with closing or suspending unfilled positions from the prior fiscal year, and involves an intense assessment between HR, TA, and finance as to why a position is still open at the end of the year. Often the fourth quarter is a time when companies either scramble to fill open positions or start closing unfilled openings.

Finance, HR, and TA track the budget and headcount numbers via databases which allow for reporting capabilities and information management. The system that tracks employees is called an HRIS, or Human Resources Information System. It tracks all expenditures related to employees including compensation, paid time off, performance reviews (raises/bonuses), and benefits. (All of this information is purely from a financial tracking perspective, all tied to budgets.) The HRIS may be a module in a greater budget management system, or a standalone system. The most important aspect to understand that it tracks the 1:1 approved position to budget allocation. TA (Recruiting) uses and additional system, called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), to manage the workflow of hiring one person into one position number. When a position is opened (whether it is a new position, meaning it has not existed before or a backfill meaning someone was in the position and no longer is), the system generates a sequential number for the purpose of filling that specific position *one time*, which is called a ‘requisition’; this requisition number is generally referred to externally as the ‘job number’. If the position (number) is filled then reopened, a new requisition/job number is assigned; they are not generally reused. The ATS is different than the HRIS, and may also be either a standalone system or a module. The major difference in the HRIS vs. the ATS is that the ATS has two ‘views’: the requisition view, and the candidate view. Unlike the HRIS which has a distinct 1:1 correlation at all times, the ATS has a 1:many capability for the majority of the time a requisition is open, until an offer is made, accepted, and processed. At that point, the information feeds back into the HRIS with the 1:1 person filling the position number.

The budget allocated for a specific hiring manager at the beginning of a fiscal year is determined by the existing employees (number, skill set, seniority), existing and projected workload (increase or decrease of the team, organizational changes such as merging groups or even splitting teams.) At this point finance, HR, and Compensation (which is generally a part of HR) collaborate on the specifics of labor budgets (employee compensation). This includes: salaries (new and existing), bonuses, equity (if it is part of compensation). Compensation uses a specific tool called a ‘salary survey’ which is an aggregated database that takes into account factors such as size of company, geography, industry, and title (usually initially based on the US
B /><a href=> Department of Labor occupational handbook</a>). Companies pay subscriptions to have access to this data, and they also self-report annually.
*When you go to a website like <a href=’’></a> or <a href=’’></a> looking to research salary information, the information provided is based on the same data.

When the compensation data is aggregated, one dataset that is generated is ‘internal and external equity’, which -simply put- is the comparison of salary numbers between existing employees ("internal equity") in a specific group, business unit, and the company. ‘External equity’ is the comparison of the same factors with external information (gleaned from the aforementioned salary survey).

Once all the salary data is aggregated and defined, THEN salary ranges and compensation elements are defined for new hires. It takes into account projected raises for existing employees as well as the competitive numbers externally.
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Preparing For Behavioral-Based Interviews

One of the most frequently asked questions recruiters get before interviews is "how do I prepare?" and "what sorts of questions should I anticipate?"

There are a couple of ways you can prepare for almost any interview. One of the VERY BASIC things you can do is understand: EVERYTHING ON YOUR RESUME IS FAIR GAME for detailed questions in an interview. If you have skills or experience on your resume that are not relevant or *you don’t remember the details* (for example, how a computer program works, specific procedures you used, or the details of a project including the outcome, team size, or the problem you were solving) then TAKE IT OFF or be prepared to defend and explain why it is still on there. Employers are looking for current skills and experience.

The other step you can take relates to behavioral-based interviewing, which is the style most companies use currently (also very similar to the STAR method). The premise is that how you have behaved and handled situations in the past will indicate future behavior *including learning from mistakes*.

So, how does one prepare for this? It is actually easier than you would think, because you will draw from experiences directly in your own life (and this includes school for new grads.)

You want to develop and really drill down (ie practice) responses for questions to general competencies almost every company looks for.

-Conflict management/resolution (with another person/group)

-Time management (how you manage your own schedule)

-Prioritization (this is different than time management-this is more project/example and deadline specific)

-Learning from mistakes (think of an example where you failed at something, and what you learned from it; if you can give an example of how you implemented that change in a similar situation, that is golden)

-Communication skills (how have you learned to collaborate with people that have a different communication style than you? Examples would be someone that prefers email vs. instant messaging, or likes to engage in small talk that impacts your ability to get your work done on a regular basis, or someone that saves all their communication for the end of the day vs. as it hits their desk – how do you work with them to resolve this, especially if it impacts your work)

Think through your work/school project history and select concrete examples of times when you have dealt with each of these sorts of situations, and how you manage them. Obviously, the questions involving other people are more difficult.

Most interviewers are looking for proactive actions, collaborative solutions, taking responsibility and learning from past mistakes, and understanding that you need to be flexible to meet changing deadlines/priorities. Ask former colleagues, classmates, or managers for examples they think of if you cannot figure any out. (I recommend NOT asking your family…they tend to have very strong biases and family dynamics are often magnified significantly over professional examples.)

Once you have your examples, practice talking them through with someone. Keep your answers succinct – 5-7 minutes or less for each of these examples. Any more than that and interviewers will think you are rambling and don’t understand prioritization. Put a timer on while you are practicing with your stand-in interviewer. Most interviews are 30-50 minutes with 5-10 minutes for you to ask questions, so keep this in mind. As you progress in your career, make sure you have at least a few updated examples to draw from.

Good luck!

The Side Hustle vs. Your Day Job

It is interesting that I have heard about two very different situations in the last week involving professionals that are trying to have their cake and eat it too with a FT, paying corporate job and also with a side hustle.

The first was an aspiring young professional looking for their first job after completing their education. I was looking at their resume, and one of their entries was ‘model’. I was intrigued; my most recent employer utilized models (although they were unpaid). I asked them about it. Apparently throughout their education and some early jobs, they had done some bona fide product modeling for campaigns for big companies in the area. They recently changed their hair color and apparently this aspect of their career has taken off. I thought it was a great topic of interest, but not relevant for a resume for a career resume. Then came the kicker: the model needs 1-2 days/month for photo shoots.

So there are two issues with this particular goal. First is that very few employers are going to just let you take off during regular business, and pay you a salary, to work for someone else. It is a conflict of interest. You can certainly use your PTO/time off, but the second reason is even more complex: the industry they are hoping to get into is in direct competition with the clients they were modeling for. Most employers have a non-competition clause in offer letters, especially in the tech industry. (My suggestion was to stick to consulting/freelance work if the modeling was that important to them.)

The second instance I heard of was someone that owned and operated a coffee stand. The problem is when this employee comes in repeatedly late (during established, core, business hours), leaves early to take care of business (like going to see their accountant to file tax forms or stop by the coffee stand to fill in for a shift if a barista calls in ill.) While this could actually be a business that works if the employee opens early and leaves to go to their FT paying job on time, and there is no conflict of industry interest, the employee STILL owes an employer their undivided attention during core business hours if they are getting a paycheck.

I have a former manager that neglected our team while they were trying to build out their own interior design business; it was a disaster.

Let’s be super clear: having a side hustle/job may or may not be a cause for concern for employers. I have worked as a corporate recruiter and also had a retail job on weekends, and it was not an issue. My last employer was super strict on NOT moonlighting. It really comes down to a conflict of interest and priorities. If you are accepting a FT employer’s money, benefits, training, etc. then you owe them your time and dedication. Tech companies often have provisions about IP developed while you work for them’you may need to consult an attorney if you do ANY work at all on their property (physical premises as well as equipment) such as build a software app.

The point is, if you have a side gig that you feel compelled to pursue like a startup, or a creative endeavor that you hope to turn into a revenue stream ‘ you need to do it on your own time and not expect your employer to ‘understand’. When you accept a FT job, you agree to be part of a team, adhere to corporate policies and give your employer your efforts. If you really need flexibility, stick to contracting or freelance (1099) work.

Recruiter ‘ Candidate Interview Preparation

As part of my regular process working with candidates for interviews, I always set up a call with them to answer their questions, go over the general process, and cover some HR questions. I have noticed in the last year or so that many candidates are not making the best use of these conversations; there are a lot of misconceptions and a ton of often erroneous advice from ‘influencers’ who think they understand the recruiting role from my side of the equation, but are not recent or current recruiters. The truth is that there are constant changes to recruiting practices and processes, *many of them spurred by legal updates* at city, state, and federal level. These are changes that recruiters keep abreast of as part of our regular duties, and that includes having our corporate legal counsel (attorneys) interpret and build best practices for us to use during our daily routine.

I’ve been a recruiter for over a decade, and my experience is pretty typical for a corporate (internal) recruiter. Here are some current candidate themes I have seen.

Interview preparation: it is completely reasonable to ask the recruiter what the structure of the interviews will look like, how many people will be on the interview loop, and general sorts of questions that will be asked, how to prepare, what to wear.

    • However, for most companies, the recruiter is not the person doing the scheduling, so they probably don’t know what your final interview schedule will look like. They may not even know who all the interviewers are, especially during busy times like holidays and spring/summer when lots of people are on vacation. If you have received any sort of correspondence from another person (usually a Coordinator), then that is the person who will be managing the schedule.
    • While most recruiters should be well-versed with the requirements of the roles they are recruiting for, they are not on the actual interview team. They don’t do the day-to-day work the interview team does. They can answer *general* questions about preparation for your interviews, but they won’t be able to tell what specific questions, or even necessarily detailed topics that the interview team would ask. Honestly I learn the most about what my client teams do in our interview debriefs; this is where we talk about each candidate after the interviews are complete.
    • Most interview teams are made up of a large interview pool, and most interviewers have more than one question. It is also worth noting that recruiters and teams do look on Glass Door; if someone posts that they interviewed for a specific position at a certain company and they were asked XYZ, then it is highly likely that interviewers will change their questions.
    • Even if a recruiter DOES know some of the questions you may be asked, they probably will not tell you those specific questions. Asking for this is like asking for the answers to your final exam.
    • The questions you will be asked in an interview specifically related to your experience are taken from your resume, your LinkedIn profile, your blog/portfolio/other online public sources. Everything on your resume is fair game for questions. If you overinflate your resume and skills, be prepared to justify to your interviewer WHY it is present.

As part of the recruiter’s job, they are tasked with gleaning some basic information from you prior to the interview process.

    • Your work authorization status. For US citizens, this question may seem strange, but unless you state on your resume or application that you *are* a US citizen, for legal purposes, we need to ask everyone what their authorization status is (basically whether or not they will require any sort of visa/immigration support at any point after an offer is made.) Most candidates that are on any sort of visa will understand what this entails and be able to answer this question. If you are on any sort of visa, the recruiter will be able to answer basic questions regarding applications for visas and green cards. Please keep in mind that they are not immigration experts, and will not be able to advise you on questions pertaining to issues other than ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
    • If a company offers relocation benefits, they will confirm that you do need relocation or not. In the case where a company does not offer relocation, and you have indicated that you will be moving to the city where the job is located on your resume/application, the company will assume that you are providing your own relocation. Smaller companies often don’t have money to offer individual contributors (non-management/executive) candidates to move.

Compensation: this is the ‘elephant’ in the proverbial room. This topic is one of the biggest misunderstood and hotly debated conversations. So here is my opinion, and that of the majority of recruiters.

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    • Many parts of the country have made it illegal to ask candidate what they have made in a past job. Candidates can easily find this information online, but it *is* changing regularly. Until it is a federal law, candidates should be familiar with the legalities in the areas they are applying for jobs. Here is an HR-industry <a href=””>resource</a> kept up to date with all state/city applicable laws.
    • It is a FALLACY that ‘everything is negotiable’, especially for your average employee below the VP level. The larger a company is, the more likely things will be less negotiable.
    • It doesn’t matter whether it is a $1-$2/hr or tens of thousands of dollars, *every* position has a range.
    • When a recruiter asks you for a range for your salary expectations you should be prepared to answer the question. You should have an idea of what you are looking to take home in cash at the end of the year. This would include your base salary, any equity, and cash bonuses.
    • It is totally reasonable to ask the recruiter what the breakdown of their particular total compensation structure looks like. (I actually start this discussion by giving the broader breakdown and specifically asking what a candidate is looking to take home in cash, either their base salary, or total for the first year.)

I think the single biggest misconception at this stage is that candidates believe that recruiters are asking them this question so that they can lowball at the offer stage. While this may be true when working with an agency on a contract offer, this is very definitely NOT the case for corporate recruiters. As a recruiter, I assume that if you are looking for a new job, you want at least a 10%-20% increase in your annual take home pay.

    • Salary ranges generally have a significant amount of overlap between internal levels. Many companies look for strong talent, and leveling doesn’t occur until after the interview. ‘Levels’ are different for every single company and should NOT be the sole basis for compensation decisions.
    • Having a *broad* understanding of what a candidate wants helps when it comes to the offer stage; the more information we can share with the hiring manager, the faster the offer process can go.
    • Honestly, knowing what you are worth is the sign of a self-aware candidate that has done their research. Some excellent resources include: <a href=”>Payscale</a>, <a href=””>Salary</a>, and a quite granular <a href=””> relocation calculator</a> that can help you compare cost of living between different cities and competing offers.
    • It is fine for you to ask a recruiter what the ranges look for their roles. But it is a two-way street: if you aren’t even willing to discuss your expectations at all, you do risk the chance that you may not be invited to interview.
    • The responses ‘I am looking for a fair market offer’ or ‘I prefer to discuss salary at the offer stage’ are not generally acceptable in today’s business culture.
    • If you refuse to tell the recruiter what you are looking for in broad terms, then you are starting off your relationship with your potential new employer on a sour note: coming across as arrogant and uncooperative; ill-informed about current recruiting/job-seeking practices.
    • Just as you are looking for a transparent corporate culture, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for collaborative employees.

Recruiters are candidate ADVOCATES. They WANT you to succeed and are trying to set you up for success, and that includes being honest with you if your salary expectations are something the company is unable to meet. Honestly, we are trying to make sure that we aren’t wasting YOUR time as well as the interview team’s.

LinkedIn Primer/Refresher

With it being graduation time across the board, I have received a lot of questions about “how do I put together a LinkedIn profile? What should be on it?”

Your LinkedIn profile is a public snapshot of you as a professional. It is more than a bio, less than a resume. First impressions are absolutely vital. There is also a feature experienced professionals can turn on that disallows anyone from your current company to see that you have enabled the ‘looking for a job’ function.

Your photo should be a head shot only (if you choose to use one). Not a full body shot, not a picture with your cat, dog, SO, or friends. You don’t need to pay for a professional photo, but it should be a decent photo, without a distracting background. It can be color or B & W, it just needs to be relatively clear. *Bonus: if you are an avid photographer or have a great Instagram account, choose a photo that represents you as a person for your banner photo. It is a way to interject some personality, but make sure it isn’t something that is going to cross any lines that are legally off-topics like your ethnic/marital/religious status. Stick to inanimate objects, panoramas, and only use original photos, don’t plagiarize.

You should use your *full* legal name (first/surname), if you have a nickname put it in parentheses. Jonathan (John) Doe, Elizabeth (Beth) Rogers. If recruiters are trying to search for you, they will use your whole name. If you have a common name, use your middle initial. ‘Joseph (Joe) K. Brown’. If you come from a culture that used matronymic/patronymic names, use the name that you have on your driver’s license/ID.

‘ The biggest question I get for LinkedIn profiles in the top section is title. What should I call myself? Simply, *use the title of the job you are aspiring for* IF you are qualified. Don’t use ‘currently seeking new opportunities’. If you are looking to be a Marketing Analyst, use that. If you are currently employed, make sure you use your industry standard title, not something that your company has dreamed up. ‘Chief Cat Wrangler’ may be what you are known by in your current company, but ‘Executive Assistant’ is going to be much more useful.

‘ Your ‘About Me’ section is the equivalent of your professional/executive summary. This is where you summarize your skill set.
o It should not include your education (as there is a specific section for that), although ‘recent graduate with an MBA in Finance’ is a good start.
B />o If your industry has certifications, you can mention them here (although there is also a certification/license are below, this is really the snapshot of you and they are relevant.) It should include any specific industry skills/tools you are familiar with and currently use. And ‘industry’ does not mean Office, the internet, or basic computer skills everyone knows. Examples might be accounting software programs like SAP or advanced Excel, or Peachtree; or email marketing tools like Mailchimp; or industry equipment such as a crane or forklift.
o Make sure you are using quantifiable skills and experience here, not buzzwords or ‘fluffy’ resume marketing jargon. ‘Strong communicator with excellent people skills’ is useless. ‘Professional trainer with instructional design background and five years in call center classroom setting’ is descriptive with enough detail to orient your reader.
B >o If you have any sort of an online portfolio, you can put it in this section (if you put it in the ‘contact’ or ‘personal website’ section recruiters may not find it.)

‘ If you are open to relocation, make sure to list the cities you are interested in.

Professional Experience/Employment History: The next section of your profile is arguably the most important to recruiters; this is your employment section. The biggest mistake most people make is not having robust enough entries.
B > I’m going to start with actual employment: make sure you have an overview of what you have done. This should be a basic overview of your ‘roles and responsibilities’, any significant accomplishments or projects. You can use bullet points to help your reader. It does not need to be as detailed as your resume, but should have some level of information that is useful. When you are entering your employer(s), make sure to choose them from the drop-down menu if the option is available.

‘ IF you just graduated from school and don’t have any relevant experience, you can use your school as your employer and say ‘Full time student’, OR if you did anything extracirricular you can say ‘Independent Contractor’ or ‘Freelance’. Highlight specific projects you worked on that reflect the role/s you are trying to achieve. ***INTERNSHIPS/CO-OP/WORK-STUDY EXPERIENCE SHOULD ALWAYS SUPERSEDE YOUR EDUCATION**. (If you have any actual work experience, DO NOT use ‘Full time student’ in the employment section as that will push your most recent internship down to the second slot.)

‘ If you have any relevant hobbies that you have been paid for/given away, use ‘independent contractor’ or ‘Freelance XYZ’ and give examples about the scope of the project(s) you worked on. BR />Your Education section should be your most recent *matriculated* school OR an extended program like a bootcamp.
<r ‘bsically=”” public=”” private=”” hs,=”” secondary=”” education=”” with=”” a=”” degree=”” (aa,=”” ba=”” bs,=”” master’s=”” phd)=”” or=”” true=”” vocational=”” instructional=”” programs.=”” this=”” includes=”” longer=”” term=”” certificate=”” programs,=”” but=”” not=”” singular=”” courses=”” like=”” coursera=”” udemy;=”” those=”” can=”” go=”” under=”” your=”” ‘about=”” me’=”” section=”” unless=”” you=”” have=”” taken=”” full=”” course=”” load=”” ‘nanodegree’.=”” <br=””>’ If you graduate from a bootcamp or other vocational program AND have a prior degree, you should keep your actual degree as well.
Skills section, endorsements

‘ For recruiters this is the goldmine. This is where LinkedIn puts the keywords recruiters use when they are looking for a particular skillset. We generally don’t care how many people click on this section to give you a ‘thumbs up’; we just care that you HAVE these skills listed. This where you want to go to town and throw in the kitchen sink.

‘ Endorsements: this is the freeform area where people write nice things about you. They should be people who *know your work*. Teachers, mentors, former managers/clients/peers. It is only useful if they write DETAILED feedback. ‘Joe is really nice and was always on time’ is useless. ‘Joe was a huge asset during his internship. He managed a social media marketing campaign that increased our online traffic by over 15% in three months’ is gold. You can ASK your direct connections for endorsements (but they do need to BE direct, first degree connections). You can ask them to endorse you, and be specific about what you are looking for. ‘Jessica, I was hoping you could write an endorsement about the social media campaign I worked on during my internship with Acme last year.’

Making Connections

‘ You should be connecting with people you know’the great thing about LinkedIn is that you can literally connect with anyone’your Significant Other, next door neighbor, dogsitter, bartender at your favorite club, manager of your favorite band’don’t be shy. You never know who may be of value to you. As long as you know someone personally, send them an invitation if they are on LinkedIn.
BR/’SN INVITES TO RECRUITERS at companies of interest-but make sure to tell them WHY you are sending them an invite (I archive any invite that does not have a note). Explain that have just graduated with a degree and are looking to pursue a job as a XYZ in Anytown, state/province/country. Rroups section is a great way to grow your network. Alumni groups for schools, hobbies, geographic focus, industry affiliations/professional associations.
olwspecific company pages that are either on your ‘target’ list or leaders in your industry or geography. ‘Share’ and ‘like” updates that are relevant. This puts them into your feed/timeline. Make a comment if sharing about why you like the update.

‘ Share articles or press releases you see of interest in your industry (set up a Google alert or RSS feed)

‘ Make sure to install the mobile LinkedIn app on your phone. In the upper right hand corner, you can also create a QR code of your own profile; save that as a photo and you can share it with anyone at conferences, out in public, etc.

Hopefully this will give you a good overview of creating a solid LinkedIn profile during your job search. Good luck!

Interviews: Not Asking Questions Is Asking Not To Be Hired

I have seen several posts on LinkedIn recently about candidates asking questions during interviews. I was having a phone call with a candidate yesterday and he asked me how to prepare for the interview and formulate questions.

So from a hiring perspective, what do your interviewers expect from you, other than answering their questions?

Simply put: excitement/interest in the job! You express this by asking questions. I have declined candidates that have done perfectly well functionally on interviews, but showed little to no interest in the job. If you don’t ask questions of your interviewers, here are the three impressions you are probably giving:

A) You aren’t really interested in the position.
B) You are arrogant/stuck up, "don’t play well with others."
BR />C) Boredom.

Hopefully, most people will ask general questions of their interviewers that are pertinent to the job. Make sure you ask your interviewers DIFFERENT questions, not the same ones.

-Why is this job open? If it is a backfill, why did the person leave the position?
B />-What is your role on the team?

-What is a typical day like in your group?

-Can you tell me your impression of the corporate culture? The team culture?
-Who are the stakeholders outside of the immediate team this role interacts with?
B >-How does this position contribute to the bottom line success of the company? (For the hiring manager) What are the metrics/objectives I would be evaluated on in the first 3, 6, 12 months?
BR />The more senior you become in your career, the more expectation there is that you will be interested in the company and industry as well as your immediate job/team. Formulating questions to ask is probably not only the easiest and most comprehensive way to prepare for an interview, but doing some homework about the company will also give you some insights into the business, culture, history, etc. It can also help someone that identifies as introverted feel more relaxed to have a list of questions ready to ask.
B >How do you start? Visit the organization’s website.

If they are a producer of a product, look at their product pages and understand both their business, their customers, and their industry niche. If the company provides services, read up about those services and check their portfolio of customers. It is *always* pertinent to ask about specifics.

-How is your product doing?

-How much market share do you have?

-Who is your main competition, what makes you better? Why would a customer/client choose you over your competition?

-What makes you "special"?

-What is your business model?
B />Publicly held companies will have an investor section; check out their financial performance over the last 6-18 months. "Why was there a downswing last spring? I see there was a surge in your financials a year ago, what do you attribute that to?"

-Press releases. "I see your CFO left after only 13 months, did s/he give a reason why? Why did you close your facility last January in XYZ location?"

-Job Descriptions: you can learn a lot about a company not only by what positions are currently open, but also by how they are written. You can see what industry tools they use (and you can look on Wikipedia if you aren’t familiar with something) and determine if they are up to date or behind the times. Often, job postings will have dates on when they were originally posted. If a common job has been open for more than a 2-3 months, it is a valid question to ask. "I see you have a marketing assistant position that has been open for over four months; I’m curious why it has been so hard to fill?"

External sources:

-Glassdoor should be a no-brainer in this day and age. Check out the employee reviews. Do make sure you read general as well as areas that are of more interest to your field specifically. A company that has a lot of high-turnover positions (customer service, warehouse, retail) will probably get more negative reviews. But if their professional jobs have similar feedback about working conditions, pay, benefits, leadership…that is a major red flag.

-LinkedIn is where you check out current and past employees. See how long people stay at the company – if most employees leave after less than two years, that is a red flag. If there is anyone in your first or second degree network, reach out and ask if they would be willing to have a chat with you about their time at the company. Schedule a phone call and ask their opinion and experiences.
B >
-Consumer reports/customer comments reflect how a company is perceived. If they get a lot of complaints about how customers were treated, that shows a major disconnect or at the very least a lack of organization. Don’t forget to check the BBB if they are a company that provides services. -Run a Google search on the company and legal action. See if they have been sued or part of any major cases.

-Check out local news/media outlets like the local Business Journal, the city newspaper, industry publications/portals.

B >o a actually find, as you do some research on the company, that it changes your mind about whether or not this is the right company for you. You may become more excited, or reach the conclusion that this isn’t the right place for you. Either way, it will give you more context about what role you may potentially play, where the organization is going, and whether or not you can envision yourself spending 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year working there.

The Informational Interview

Last week a former colleague of mine from the Seattle Times interviewed me for a piece she is working on specifically on informational interviews.

They can be a valuable networking tool, and even help someone determine if a career path they are considering is right for them. But if you are going to pursue this course of action it is important to know what an informational interview is, and more importantly what it is *not*.

Believe it or not, "Informational Interview" is a very descriptive name for the process. This is where someone that is exploring career opportunities has a short (15-30 minute) conversation with someone in either the role they are contemplating or someone that hires those professionals. In either case the goal of the meeting or phone call is to get *information* about what the job entails, and what characteristics hiring managers look for when they are looking for people. Sometimes informational sessions come in the form of structured panels, sometimes they are 1:1 meetings.

A while ago I was on a recruiting panel for Seattle Pacific University. They had a new Master’s program and several recruiters representing different facets of the industry were invited to speak to the students on working with different recruiters when they came out of school. I represented the corporate recruiting side, although I’ve done agency as well. Part of the questions entailed how we got into recruiting. One student asked how I like corporate HR, and my answer actually clarified some ideas for her. I pointed out that although recruiting as a career is part of the human resources process, it is different from most other functions in that it deals heavily with people and communication. Most of the other facets of Human Resources, such as HR Generalist, only deal with people via employee relations, which is solving issues or and occasionally dealing with transitions like promotions or terminations (layoffs, exit interviews, etc). The role of HR in any company is to safeguard the organization via policies and procedures that keep the human capital in line with legal and corporate mandates. Compensation, payroll, benefits all deal with facts and figures, not people. Training obviously deals with people, but less on a 1:1 than on a 1:many basis. She had not realized the differences and, like many young adults graduating with an HR concentration hadn’t had the opportunity to explore the different disciplines within the Human Resources industry.

Many companies have a process whereby an internal candidate starts a job search with an informational interview. S/he will contact a potential hiring manager to find out more about the group and what the manager is looking for in a candidate. It also might include asking about management style, team dynamics, and expectations. It is vital to note that the employee is *not* trying to sell themselves. They are gathering information to see if they are interested in formally applying for the position. The manager may ask questions to see if it might be a good match based on the employee’s side as well. There may or may not have been a resume forwarded.

For external candidates, the number one thing to remember is that it is considered bad etiquette to try and turn an informational interview into a job seeking session. When someone gives you their time, it’s imperative to be respectful of it and not misuse or misrepresent yourself or your intentions. Since part of the object of an informational is to network, keep in mind that you can gain an unwelcome reputation in the business world by not "playing by the rules" as it were. Also something to keep in mind, many busy professionals may not have the time to leave their jobs and meet you somewhere, so keep in mind that a phone call, while not as effective for *your* needs, may be better for theirs and as such, accept it in the spirit for which it is offered, and keep on target and conversation salient. Don’t go off on tangents and try to win over your contact. I’ll be honest, the biggest problem I have when people contact me for an informational meeting is that even though we schedule thirty minutes, all too often it goes on…and on…and on. So usually I try and schedule a phone call.

If you are exploring a specific job or industry from a career planning perspective, it is very helpful to have questions ready to ask. You will want to ask about things like "a day in the life", skills or training that are most valuable, other professions that you could expect to come in contact with, career path options, state of the industry (growth/competition, new innovations) for the next 5-10 years, if there are any industry associations to join or web portals to access for industry information. If you are still in school, perhaps what classes might be more valuable than others (have a list of a few choices). Ask if they know if there are internships available in their industry (some industries don’t traditionally offer internships.) At the end of your conversation, thank them, and ask if it would be alright to send them a LinkedIn invitation. There is a bonus to having an informational interview with someone and making a good impression: you may have the beginnings of a mentoring relationship if you handle the meeting/call well.

Being a current industry job seeker is a bit different, because the temptation is so great to try and turn every contact into an immediate opportunity. But the point of the informational interview is to better hone your job hunt, to find out what is needed in the industry, and to expand your targeted industry network. You want to seek out professionals with experience hiring (including being on interview loops if they are not a manager) in your field, whether current or past. LinkedIn is going to be your most valuable tool, along with attending professional networking events. Make sure you know the title/s you are looking at (be open to different opportunities), but also be able to talk in skill sets. Make sure the skills you are honing in are functional skills by industry, not soft attributes. An example would be sales and business development knowledge and tools for a manufacturer (, cold-calling vs. warm) versus ‘strong communication skills’. Concentrate on actual experience and training needed. Present your questions succinctly. "John, I’ve got five years in bookkeeping and business accounting such as payable and receivables under my belt in a small company, and I’m wondering if you can suggest what else I should concentrate on to improve my skills, or if there is any particular industry you know of that might be hiring my skill set right now?"
BR />

Fight the urge to say, "so do you have any suggestions how I can get into healthcare right now?" That is not an appropriate use of the interviewer’s time. I cannot tell you how many requests I get weekly from people saying, "so, I’m trying to get into XYZ industry right now; what should I do?" It is your responsibility to do the research needed to get into said industry, and if you don’t know how to do so, find resources like your state Unemployment Office, school career counseling center, or even a career coach to help you do so. If you are using this particular informational interview as part of that research, you need to have identified several specific jobs or career paths that you are interested in, and have specific questions in mind to ask the interviewer. You need to be able to align your skills and history to what you are looking at, keeping in mind that you may need to get some more general experience before you can jump into a new industry.

As an example, several years ago, I was taken with the idea of being a production (tv, movie) location scout. I had been to Toronto, where a favorite TV show of mine was set and went on a Location Tour. I was really blown away by how the cinematography had transformed spaces from reality to how they looked on camera. It took a lot of imagination and understanding of the camera to be able to see potential. I found a local location scout and had coffee with him. He told me the ins and outs of the business, and in the end, I decided that the uncertainty of the paycheck wasn’t something I could commit to at that time. But it sure was fascinating and I think it would definitely be a fun business at another point in my life.

If used appropriately, Informational Interviews can be a great resource for the job seeker both for learning and networking.