Posted by Erik Even on May 28, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Interviewers love to throw difficult questions at applicants. Some people just like to see you squirm.
But it’s mostly a way to see how prepared you are; it’s also an attempt to get an unrehearsed answer.
The solution? Rehearse your answer.
What kinds of people do you have difficulty working with?
First, don’t point out that the interviewer ended a sentence with a preposition — that won’t go over well. But absolutely do not get drawn into the trap of complaining about people with whom you have worked. The interviewer will sympathize, laugh at your stories, and then not hire you.
Instead, tell the interviewer that you have had issues working with people who don’t communicate well, such as a manager who doesn’t take the time to keep in touch with people outside his or her group. Explain that by going out of your way to initiate contact with this person, and showing genuine interest in his or her issues, you brought this manager around and established a great relationship.
Now you sound like a problem solver with great people skills.
Why do you want this job?
This is a difficult question because the usual, true answers — I’m unemployed and need to pay the rent; I hate my current job; this job pays more; I need to move closer to my boy/girlfriend — are not what the interviewer wants to hear.
What they do want to hear is, why do you want this particular job? And any good answer will specifically address both the position and the company. This position represents the best next step for me in my career. I have researched a number of companies, and this company will offer me the best opportunities. I believe in what you’re working to accomplish, and I want to be part of that.
Sounds like you’re sucking up? News flash — that’s what a job interview is.
What kind of salary are you looking for?
It’s a perfectly reasonable question, and it’s grueling. Say something too low, and you either lose the job or get paid less than you’re worth. Mention too high a figure, and you’re out of the running.
Here’s the trick — turn it back around. I’m afraid I’ll need more information about the precise title and responsibilities. What is the budgeted salary range? Ahah! Got ‘em!
I’m looking at your resume, and don’t you think you’re overqualified?
Worst. Question. Ever. Fortunately, there is an answer, if you haven’t already been asked why you want the job, because the answer is the same. Focus on the position itself, and that you would find it enjoyable and meaningful. Talk about the company, and how much you want to be part of it. Tell the interviewer that unlike less-experienced hires, you will hit the ground running and bring added value to the firm.
Posted by Erik Even on May 27, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
If you’re like me, an oxygen-breathing hominid, then searching for a new job while you are still employed causes you a lot of stress. It shouldn’t — especially in this economy, workers need a job in which they can feel secure. Many of today’s job searchers aren’t looking for a better wage or title. They want greater job security.
But certain mistakes can reduce your current job security, or even get you fired. While employers should take an employee’s job search in stride, most don’t. And many managers will fire you if they find out you’re looking, even if you’re only passively searching.
So keep your job search secret at work. And here are some things you should not do.
Don’t discuss your job search with your “friends” at work — even the trustworthy ones. Remember the young woman who admitted an affair with her boss to a co-worker “friend?” What was her name? Monica Lebowski? Feel free to discuss your job search with your work buddies — after you get a new job.
Don’t conduct your job search on your computer at work. As I’ve mentioned before, your employer has the legal right to monitor everything you do on your work computer, even if it’s personal business or your personal web email. Conduct your job search at home.
Don’t mention your job search on social networking sites. Believe it or not, some employers actually know that Facebook and LinkedIn exist. Use these sites to network — but get a hold of possible job contacts via your personal email, from home.
Don’t talk to your current employer’s clients or competitors. I know, this can make it very hard to find a new job. But there’s a very good chance these people will contact your boss and report that you are job hunting. You can never know who your boss hung out with at the national convention last year.
Don’t go to job fairs. There’s too a high chance that one of your boss’ friends, or someone representing your own company, will see you there.
Be careful where you post your updated resume. It’s okay to have the latest version of your resume on LinkedIn or a resume hosting site. But you don’t want your boss to see your resume on Craigslist or some other classified ad site — it implies you are actively looking.
Don’t forget to ask anyone you interview with to PLEASE not call your current employer. I’ve never personally known a potential employer to call a current employer without express permission. But mistakes happen, so make sure the recruiter or potential employer understands they should not call your boss. Provide three alternate references, at least one a former supervisor.
Posted by Erik Even on May 26, 2009 in Advice
I haven’t complained about business jargon for a while, so here we go.
centers of excellence (n.)
Poke around the Internet, and you’ll see that this term is very popular, but no one knows what it means. It seems to refer to any division or group within a company that’s doing a good job. To me, it seems strangely formal — why not a Coterie of Virtue or a Paragon of Professionals?
long-pole item (n.)
The single most important part of a business plan; it’s what’s holding up the metaphorical “tent.” This metaphor is (1) too obscure and (2) inappropriately sexual, especially to employees still stuck in the 9th grade. Fortunately, standard English already has a word for this: linchpin.
performance management (n.)
A highfalutin term for “assessing progress toward achieving predetermined goals.” In other words, what managers are supposed to be always doing anyway. If you had to to attend a performance management seminar at the Days Inn Flamingo Room in order to know this, you should not be a manager.
Wow, this is terrible — on the same level as “irregardless.” It has something to do with replacing human workers by automating their work on a computer. What, did “computerized” get thrown out of the dictionary?
special sauce (n.)
This is supposed to refer to proprietary or unique properties. “Our competitor’s product works, but it doesn’t have our special sauce.” And in the back of the room, Beavis & Butthead can’t stop giggling.
Previously: Is Using Business Jargon a Good Idea?; Some New Business Jargon; and Some More Business Jargon.
Posted by Erik Even on May 25, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Some people hate networking. I should know, I’m one of them.
But if you’re not getting out there in the world and meeting people in your profession, then you are doing direct harm to your career. There are reasons that professionals in your field attend conventions and conferences, join organizations, take classes and exchange information online. They are keeping their skill set updated, learning about trends in their own field, and meeting their next employer.
If you are “between opportunities” right now, and diligently sending out resumes every day, then those resumes are competing against the resumes of people who have actually met the employer, who handed their resume over in person, who have made an indelible impression on the person doing the hiring. Whereas you are nothing but a list of qualifications on a piece of paper.
If you’re unemployed right now, the best thing you can do to find a new job is to network. However, you may not have the financial resources to take classes, attend conventions, or go to school reunions. That’s why it’s vital to do your networking when you’re gainfully employed.
Even if you don’t enjoy it, networking may get you your next job, or help you avoid unemployment in the first place!
Posted by Erik Even on May 6, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
If you’re unemployed right now (or even if you’re not), there are some very good reasons for starting your own professional blog.
Especially if you are an expert (or an aspiring expert) in your field, you can use a blog to put your name out there as a go-to guru for your industry. It’s far better than just putting up a resume site, because the content of your blog will be propagated across the social networking community.
Having your own professional blog will show prospective employers and clients that you are a serious, dedicated professional in your field, who has expertise to share with colleagues.
Some advice for your professional blog:
Find a reliable web host. In other words, don’t use Google’s Blogger, or any other free blog hosting service. You need a host that takes customer support seriously. And using a professional, for-pay hosting service shouldn’t cost you more than $100 a year.
Find a host that has an application to automatically install blog software. That will save you a lot of trouble.
You don’t need your own domain name. If you want one, that’s perfectly cool, and shouldn’t cost you more than $10 a year. Buy the domain name through your web host — that simplifies things immensely. But you don’t need one. People are going to find your blog through Google or Technorati, where domain names don’t matter.
Use WordPress. It’s simply the best blog software available right now. It’s easy to use, and it’s free (which in this case isn’t a bad thing). I’ve never needed technical support for WordPress in the years I’ve been using it. If you do end up needing support, however, you’ll have to pay for it.
Keep your private life separate. Don’t discuss your personal life on your professional blog. You can start a separate personal blog if you want, and talk all about your children, hobbies, or obscure sexual fetishes. But keep your professional blog on target. And certainly don’t write about anything you wouldn’t bring up around the water cooler at work.
Post new content every week. Visitors who like your content will bookmark your blog or add it to their RSS reader. But if there isn’t regular, new content, those people will stop checking. At the bare minimum, post once a week. Twice is better — and several posts per day is best of all!
Link to other blogs in your field. It may seem odd to link out to sites that are most likely competing with yours. But this is how blog software, and the blog search engines like Technorati, work. The more often you link out to other blogs, the more often they will link back to you, driving up your hits. When you do link to another blog, or add any outbound link, explain to your readers what the link is about, and what you think of it.
Don’t embarass or criticize former or current employers. This is death for your career. No firm wants to hire someone who will bash their company online, either while an employee or after they leave. Unless you’re blowing the whistle on some kind of illegal activity, don’t air your dirty laundry in public. If you want to criticize general trends in your industry, wihtout naming names, that may be okay. But if you have a current employer, they still may not approve. It’s a fine line — tread it carefully.
Posted by Erik Even on May 4, 2009 in Advice
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of the most common workplace injuries, and can leave workers in pain, decrease their productivity, and even prevent them from holding down a job at all.
According to The National Institutes of Health, CTS:
“…occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist… The carpal tunnel – a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand - houses the median nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the median nerve to be compressed. The result may be pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm.”
While many things can cause CTS, one common cause is stress from repetitive hand and wrist movements — exacltly the kind of movements you make when writing, typing and using a computer mouse.
CTS is treated with drugs, physical therapy, and/or surgery.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help prevent CTS.
- Perform stretching exercises
- Take frequent rest breaks
- Wear splints to keep your wrists straight
- Use correct posture and wrist position — back straight, forearms level with the desktop
- Use an ergonomic mouse
Just by being aware of the danger, you can take steps to ensure that you’re never afflicted with CTS.