Thursday, June 27, 2013

Phoning It In

One way to find out what skills that job seekers need is to participate in the process yourself. I have had several phone interviews over the past couple of weeks and have learned a lot from these experiences.  The first thing that strikes me is that they were each stylistically different.  One of the interviews was more of a monologue on the part of the interviewer who went to great length to describe the program and goals.  There was some discussion that was along the lines of some of the immediate tasks that I might take on for the job.

A second phone interview had a single interviewer who was simply doing screening.  Was I still interested? Did I understand the job?  Was the proposed salary OK?  The third type of interview is the one that I have the most familiarity with.  A lead interviewer is joined by several other people in the organization.  They each usually ask one question and they ask for your questions at the end.

One of these team interviews was unusual in that the interviewers were very direct in their expectations. Another one was more genial in that they were trying to get vet me but also sell me on their organization.

Some of the takeaways I have from these experiences:  First of all, as career coaches always say, you have to be prepared. I was over prepared for most of these and knew that I would not get to show everything that I knew but it gave me confidence that I was ready.  One really good question they asked, was my most significant accomplishment in the past year --- I was not ready for that but it's a good example of how in most interviews you get questions you were not expecting.  That question is also good because it has made me reflect on that very thing.

I made the effort to sound confident and knowledgeable.  I was in a location that did not have a lot of background noise and had a good connection.  Doing some research on these organizations ahead of time gave me some good ideas for questions to ask.   I also based some questions on what's current in the field.  For example, career services are under increasing pressure to provide data on outcomes.  Some of my questions revolved around how that looks or the expectations for how that might look for the given organization.

The test of whether any of this pays off is whether I get invited to interview on-site.  I anticipate those experiences will be a bit more of a challenge.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Yes Indeed

One thing that has happened over the past few weeks is an opportunity to learn more about what's going on with job boards and job posting systems.  I thought it might be interesting to offer some insights into some of these, a few of which are very interesting in their unique approaches to gathering job seeker data and "finding" possible matches.  This is a step forward, albeit an experimental one, for these services because it goes beyond a much more laborious traditional job search/application process.

Let me be clear, I do not believe that any of these services is the answer to ultimately getting hired.  They are good to very good research tools, but ultimately networking and interviews are the key tools to getting a job offer.

That said, I will give my thoughts on one of the more popular job search sights, Indeed.  Indeed is a job aggregator.  It searches many sites and tries to provide a "one stop" to find all of the jobs that fit the search criteria.  It has a very good advanced search feature that allows you to create saved job searches and automatic emails to matches, etc.  You can sort the results by relevance, although the results that show up sometimes leave me questioning what the system was actually looking for.  You can also sort by date, which is helpful if you're running a saved search and just want to view recent postings.

Indeed generally takes you to the recruiting organization website to do the actual job application.  This is good because the data on responses to applications through third-party websites is not good.  Applications done directly on the recruiting organization website have a somewhat better response rate.

Overall, I like Indeed but it is less targeted and massive in the data that it can provide.  The less targeted something is, the more of a "roulette wheel" effect and the less likely you will get a positive response.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Can Humanities Majors Still Be Relevant

I was not a humanities major but since I am highly verbal and auditory I think I have always been attracted to many aspects of the humanities. Yesterday, Business Insider had an excellent interview with Darrell Bracken, CEO of Logitech, who graduated from Hendrix College in Arkansas with a degree in English.

Mr. Bracken provides a much more succinct explanation of why and how humanities majors can be relevant using himself as a case study.  Since I have worked in higher education at a liberal arts university, I have had the opportunity to observe first-hand some really talented humanities majors. I have always said that the real key to being successful post-graduation is early evaluation of post-graduation goals.  This is more critical for humanities majors than any others because for the most part, the majors are non-vocationalized. That is, they are not attached to a specific job as would be an accounting major.

With the earlier planning in mind, humanities majors can then seek the vocabulary necessary to communicate their skill sets. They can create portfolios of work that will be attractive to future employers.  Finally, and most importantly they can seek internships related to their career goals -- the practical experience combined with the educational background is the lynchpin that makes the difference between being underemployed at graduation and having the necessary cache' to be competitive at a higher level.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Locally and Globally

I met with a representative of an organization that promotes international trade and economic development.  They have also been involved in promoting education on international business by working with the local colleges and universities on case competitions.  These have been very valuable to the students who have participated because they provide a real-world example of the challenges of operating in a global economy.

My contact was most helpful in providing feedback to me about some of the ideas that I have for moving forward.  I was also able to update him on some contacts at Trinity so that he can move his program forward even though I'm no longer there to help him.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Not Every Day is a 20/20/60 Day

I just read an excellent article in Business Insider, Use the '20/20/60' Rule to Find Your Next Job.  The idea is that the balance of your time in a job search the 60% should be spent networking.  The rest of the article covered the "hidden job market" with some excellent statistics to back up their contention that most hires happen because of networking and not because of online applications, which is where most job seekers spend most of their time.  I have always been a proponent of the hidden job market concept and that is why I  place a heavy emphasis on networking and being a connector when I advise others.

One thing to bear in mind though, is that it's important to feel/be productive every day.  Some days you may not have a lot of networking contacts lined-up and that's OK.  Using that time to peruse the job boards is OK and can make you feel productive in short spurts -- just remember that the payback on this is small so quickly it will not feel as productive.  If you have a lull in your networking that's a signal that research is in order to expand your network and also to follow-up with people you have touched base with in a awhile.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Interview Prep and Being Quick on Your Feet

I had an onsite interview that followed a phone interview by a couple of days.  The interview was interesting in that during the phone interview the recruiter asked me to consider and prepare to respond to 3 specific things.  One had to do with operations and logistics, a second area was about intern development and the third was coordinating an educational program.

Over the course of a couple of days, probably about 3 hours total, I formulated some responses to the areas being considered.  I actually created a PowerPoint for myself that I took into the interview, both printed and on my tablet (in case I could not get network access).

The interview itself was different in that there were very few questions asked.  Most of the time, I spent listening to the interviewers thoughts about the plans and goals for the organization.  During the course of the hour plus discussion I did get to present some of my thoughts on the three areas.  Even though I did not get to give the complete details, because of time I at least got to provide some broader thoughts and show that I was prepared.

Some take-aways from the experience:  First the preparation paid off.  I felt prepared and confident to cover the required areas.  Second, the notes I created were very helpful. As we got into the discussion and I realized we were running short on time, I was able to go to the areas that seemed most pertinent to the concerns that were articulated by the interviewer.  Second, always be ready to be quick on your feet. I had planned for the interview to be more "standardized" and to get more time to talk, but had to adjust on the fly for a different experience.  Hopefully, it was good, but I think that I did a good job on my end and I cannot control what the interviewer thinks.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Insights from the World of Non-profits

Several individuals in the world of the non-profits have been very helpful.  They have taken the time to meet or speak with me on the phone.  The first thing that I observe is that most non-profits look and act a lot like for profits.  The biggest differences are in mission and money.  They are not operating to make money and often rely on fund raising to finance their mission.  I think that this also affects the internal politic of these organizations as well.

Their needs from a hiring perspective are not that different either.  I hear them say how important communication skills and professionalism are for the people who work for them. They do seem to place a higher emphasis on prospects understanding and buying-in to mission than you might see with a lot of for-profits.  I am also interested in how many of them like having interns or who are interested in developing internships.  Some of the recent discussions about pay versus non-pay internships are affecting their decisions on this, as well as staffing to oversee these programs.

I for one would love the opportunity to work with a non-profit to develop internships and also to work with interns themselves as new professionals.