Candidate References

The hiring process can sometimes be long and anxiety-laden for both the candidate and hiring manager. The candidate thinks: do they like me? Am I on the short-list of candidates? Will they ask me to move on to the next round? The hiring manager thinks: will this candidate be able to perform this role? Are they a good cultural fit for the company? Will they accept the offer if we were to extend it to them?

Careful Selection
These questions sometimes aren’t all answered until a hiring decision has been made, however, speaking to a candidate’s references can offer perspective and insight into a candidate that the hiring manager might otherwise not get just by speaking to the candidate directly. For this reason, candidates should be careful when selecting references to present to either a hiring manager or recruiter.

Get Permission
It is customary to have a former supervisor or coworker agree to serve as a reference for you before you distribute their contact information. This allows them to be prepared when being contacted by a prospective employer on your behalf but it also gives them time to think and bring memories of you and your work to the forefront of their mind.

Having someone agree to serve as a reference largely ensures that they will speak positively of you and want the best for you and your career trajectory. However, you should still give careful thought to who you want representing your work, knowledge and skills. A lukewarm reference, while not terrible, won’t put you a notch ahead of another candidate of equal standing that supplied spectacular references. Also, a reference from so far in your past will have the safe effect. While not a deal-breaker, this might bring up more questions than reassurances for the hiring manager, such as: why didn’t the candidate supply a person from the recent past? Is there a reason the candidate went so far back in their job history? Has their work or temperament shifted?

The Icing on a Cake
Reference checks and conversations can be viewed like the icing on a cake. Usually by the time a hiring manager or recruiter speaks with a candidate’s references, an opinion has already formed of the candidate based on their resume, cover letter and direct conversations with them. Maybe writing samples have also been provided and they’ve met multiple members of the team. Now, the references come in and solidify an already favorable opinion of a top candidate.

Worst Case Scenario
Instead of being the icing on a cake, reference checks could also be a bad litmus test of a candidate, if not handled properly. If a candidate passed along reference contact details thinking it was just a formality and didn’t take the time to touch base with the reference and that person either didn’t want to serve as a reference or spoke negatively of the candidate, this candidate’s chances of getting offered the job are slim to none. This scenario applies to recruiters as well as direct hiring managers. If a candidate is working with a recruiter and the recruiter (or HR representative of the staffing agency) has a negative conversation with a reference, the odds are good that the recruiter will not want to represent this candidate for a job.

Hidden Benefit
A positive benefit of having conversations with people you would like to serve as references is that you get to keep in touch with people that have either shaped or been a part of your career journey. If you used to interact with someone during every business day, both of you would enjoy updating each other on your professional life.
Reference checks are an important piece of the hiring puzzle and one that should be given adequate thought and attention.

Navigating Holiday Office Party Season

‘Tis the season-for office parties! These parties can be a great way to further get to know the people you work with day in and day out. People tend to be more relaxed outside of the office and there is finally time to have fun conversations that often can’t happen when there are projects and deadlines during the day.

However, there is one important factor that shouldn’t be overlooked at a holiday work party: it is still work.

Your supervisor and head of the company will want you to enjoy the gathering they’ve either personally planned or financed as it is a time to give back to employees that make everything possible. What they won’t want to see is a glimpse of how you behave in a rowdy bar with your personal friends on the weekend.

It is important to keep your image and behavior professional, mostly because you cultivate a complete picture of yourself every time you interact with people in your company.

There is a reason tv shows and movies include scenes of that one employee that gets way too drunk: it is comical but completely inappropriate.

Other behaviors that should be avoided are delving too deep into your personal life, wearing clothing that is not appropriate and letting your work suffer the day after the party.

A second important factor is that an office party is the perfect time to cultivate relationships with coworkers that you would like to get to know better or to find out more particulars of their job. You might even have a few minutes to lightly discuss with your supervisor the projects that you would like to get involved with.

If done right, an office holiday party can be the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy fun time away from the office.

The Key to the Cover Letter

When looking for a job due to unemployment, current job dissatisfaction or finding openings at a dream company, drafting a separate cover letter for each prospective position may seem daunting and time consuming. Many applicants may keep stock cover letters depending on company or job industry, but they are doing themselves a disservice by not crafting a fresh cover letter each time, no matter how long it may take. The importance of doing so lies in the purpose of the cover letter.

The typical first step in applying to a position, either through a recruiter or directly, is submitting your resume and a cover letter. Unlike the resume, the cover letter is meant to speak directly to the hiring manager and or HR professional as to why you want the position, what you will bring to the position and company, and your overall motivations and experience as an employee and person.

It also indirectly serves as a writing sample, which is an important factor to keep in mind.

Your qualifications, skills and most important experience are included in your resume, so the cover letter is your opportunity to showcase additional attributes about yourself that the hiring manager wouldn’t otherwise know. They are looking to get a deeper glimpse into the person behind the employee that would be in their office. Are you a dedicated volunteer for a specific cause or charity? Do you ski in the winters or surf in the summer? Are you a spin instructor or have an interesting hobby after hours? These details will all contribute to the picture you are painting of yourself.

While those details will certainly help craft a conversation during the phone and or in-person interviews, and will help HR professionals identify with you as a person, the central piece of the letter should focus on your motivation and desire to do the specific job applied for at this specific company. The job title and name of the company should be included as well as specific aspects of the job description and why you would be the best person they could hire.

The key to all of these details is that they be portrayed in a genuine and heartfelt manner and that you match everything back to the position and company. This will make the hiring manager feel like you greatly desire their particular position, not just a new position.

Every company wants to make careful hiring decisions and hire employees that really want to work on behalf of their mission and endeavors. Eloquently portraying that you do, and will do so effectively, will help them see you as their next great hire during the hiring process.

New York’s Sexual Harassment Law Overview

Going to work in an environment that is comfortable and free from unwanted or negative comments is important. Regardless of gender, employees deserve to have a safe place to be productive. To this end, beginning on April 1, 2019, New York employers with at least 15 employees must provide sexual harassment training every year. This applies to all employees who work at least 90 days and more than 80 hours per year. Records of the training and who attended must be kept on file for at least 3 years.

This law is called the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act and it went into effect on May 9, 2018 under Mayor de Blasio. The overall goal of enacting annual training and ensuring that NY employers have a sexual harassment policy is to create a work environment that is safe, welcoming and productive for all employees.

Through the training and the individual employer’s policy, employees will be provided knowledge on what constitutes sexual harassment, what to do if an employee observes sexual harassment, and what avenues someone can take if they feel they are a victim of sexual harassment. Case studies and examples may be included in the training to give participants a real feel for different scenarios and what may be considered unwanted or uncomfortable for a fellow employee.

In addition, there is a responsibility of managers, supervisors and the company itself once a sexual harassment claim has been brought to their attention. The key part of this is that the person who felt sexually harassed must say something in order for the process to move forward. Once a company has knowledge of a claim, they have a legal obligation to conduct an investigation.

Resources for employees include the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforce anti-discrimination laws at the federal level. Their website is www.eeoc.gov. More detail about the Act itself can be found here: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/stop-sexual-harassment-act.page.

A good rule of thumb for all employees is to maintain a high code of conduct for themselves and the people around them. What one person may consider a harmless joke could be deeply offensive to another. Also, if employees become friends outside of the office, they may become more lax in language or demeanor amongst other employees in the office, but it is important to always remember where you are.

Employment law is constantly evolving and changing, and this Act is an important measure to ensure the workplace is productive and comfortable for employees.

The Phone Interview

After applying to multiple positions and attending networking events, your efforts are finally paying off: you’ve been asked for a phone interview! While this is an exciting first step in the hiring process, it can also be fraught with risks.

Don’t fall into the following traps:

Too Casual

This means in both speech and demeanor. Since you are on the phone likely in a comforting environment to you, it is easy to slip into old habits of casual language as if you were speaking with an old friend or even a longtime coworker. Just because you are not being evaluated in person doesn’t mean the interviewer isn’t picking up on your social cues. Perhaps they are picking up even more so since they only have your voice and language on which to base an opinion.

Make sure you dress professionally as it subconsciously will make you speak and present yourself in a more commanding way. If you feel like you are dressed for a professional environment, you will speak as if you were in one!

Have good posture and use facial expressions as if the interviewer was sitting across from you. It may feel funny at first, but the inflections in your voice will be come through the phone and will make you seem more engaging.

Not Using Your Resources

Since you are not in person, you can have your research and resume laid out in front of you for reference. Don’t forget to glance at your resume to jog your memory of work experiences and sills you can use in conversation. If you have research on the company printed out, bring company news, historical company facts, etc., into the conversation so the interviewer gets the feeling that you are interested in their job, not just any job.

Unprofessional Environment

If you are taking the phone interview at home and have noisy pets, make accommodations for them before the phone rings. Perhaps bring a dog to another floor of the house or make sure the cat has enough food and water prepared.

Don’t have the tv on in the background and limit the possibility of background noise as much as you can. For example, don’t sit next to an outside window in case the neighbor’s landscaper decides to show up.

If you are taking the phone interview at your current office and have ducked into a conference room, make sure it is either formally reserved or the door is shut/ locked so you don’t have fellow employees entering the room. That would not only be uncomfortable for you but for them, as well!

No Follow Up

Even though the prospective company did not host you in person, the interviewer still devoted time out of their day to get to know you, your experience and skills, and decide if you could be a good fit for them. Sending a thank you message is important as it recognizes this time investment and their consideration of you for their company.

If you devote ample preparation time and avoid these pitfalls, you will likely see yourself preparing for the next step in the hiring process: the in person interview!

Lunch Hour Power

In traditional jobs employees are given a lunch break, oftentimes an hour, to eat and recharge. These 60 minutes can look very different person to person. Maybe you like taking the full hour to eat while scrolling the day’s news or a book, or you like to get out of the office with coworkers to get some fresh air and take a walk. Regardless of how you use this hour, it presents a powerful opportunity to not only network within your own company, but to seek out contacts in other companies that may help advance your career.

In House

Is there a manager or director that you always seem to gleam inspiration or knowledge from in meetings? Do you find yourself inwardly thinking that you would love to learn a lot more from them outside the confines of those meetings or work flows? Take advantage of the opportunity your lunch hour gives you and ask this employee to grab a mid-day cup of coffee or bite to eat. Chances are they will accept because people are happy to talk about their own experiences and knowledge with others.

A bit intimidated or nervous? Take a few days to notice their routine and where they usually get their coffee or lunch. Then a simple question of “I was already going to grab lunch at {establishment’s name}, I’d love for you to join me.” Playing to someone’s preferences will always increase your chances for an acceptance.

Then, use the opportunity to learn from them and create a repour that will be beneficial on a professional and personal level. Once you see the valuable connections you are able to make in a relatively short period of time, you will soon find yourself with a packed lunch calendar!

Stone’s Throw Away

Not only are contacts within your own employer beneficial, but is there a vendor that is often used whose office is nearby? Or a fellow company in the industry with whom you have LinkedIn contacts but would love to have actual conversations? Reaching out to these people will offer you the same benefits as forging relationships within your own company, while also enriching your view and knowledge of your industry at large. And, should you find yourself in the intentional or unintentional position of trying to find another job, these contacts will come in handy.

Virtual Connections

If your job isn’t structured in a way where you can leave the office or your office is in an isolated region, seek out lunchtime webinars or online training sessions where you can virtually meet other people in the industry while enriching your skills.

Using the 60 minutes that that are given to you in the middle of the work day to actively connect with coworkers in your company and within the larger industry can be a strategic method to advance your career and forge valuable relationships.

You’re Hired! Now What?

The phrase that every job candidate loves to hear: “you’re hired!” Emotions run strong and all the preparation that was put towards securing the position finally feels validated. However, now is the time to actively transition from having secured the job to starting off on the right foot with your new company. Consider the following:

Appearance

Chances are you had at least one in-person interview, during which time you noticed how the employees dressed. Now is the time to take stock of your wardrobe to be sure you have clothes that match the culture of your new environment. As formal corporate suits and khakis with a polo are completely different office cultures, it is important you meet expectations in the clothing department, especially if you will be interfacing with clients or external visitors.

Bonus: treat yourself to a haircut! Walking in the office on day one with a fresh haircut will give you a confidence boost and after working hard for the position, you’ve earned it!

Training

If you commented during an interview how you would be willing to learn a program or skill, now is a great time to research class offerings or watch a few online tutorials on the subject. Actively trying to improve yourself already will be an impressive quality that your new boss and coworkers will appreciate.

Network

So you’ve done your homework on the company to prepare for the interviews, but now is the perfect time to do research on LinkedIn to figure out team structures and everyone’s experience. If you already have some semblance of faces, names, and job titles, you will be ahead of the game and will feel less intimidated when meeting a lot of people on your first day.

Travel

Taking a dry run of your new commute at the time you would actually be commuting will prove invaluable as you will be able to get an accurate picture of how much time you will need. Traffic patterns, probability of accidents given certain roads or highways and bus or train timetable accuracy are all issues to be conquered ahead of your first day so you don’t leave anything to chance.

These four items will help you get into the right mindset for your new role and company and will alleviate, as much as possible, the first day jitters.

Interview Ready Resume

The beginning of the job process is centered around a candidate’s resume. Whether you submit your resume directly or work with a recruiter, the company will first judge your candidacy based on your resume. Don’t let the below resume pitfalls keep you from a job opportunity that could be a great next step in your career.

Basic Grammar

Not using the proper tense for present and past jobs can not only confuse the hiring manager, but make you appear sloppy and not having attention to details. Same goes for spelling and punctuation. It is imperative that you take your time when writing your resume and each time you make additions with current jobs and experiences. Even if you have the exact experience a company is looking for, they will proceed with another candidate that has the same background but with a flawless resume.

Accuracy

Exactly reflecting the month and year you started and ended with each company is a basic expectation on a resume. Unfortunately, people either don’t include the months or include inaccurate or false dates. This could have very negative consequences on your candidacy.

Accuracy in what you list as your experience is equally important. Each line on your resume and each skill that is included is fair game for interview questions, so be sure you are able to expand upon everything that your resume contains.

Formatting

Depending on the industry, a clean, reader-friendly resume is your best option. Consistent formatting of titles, companies, dates and bullet points throughout the resume is key. This will allow the hiring manager to quickly scan for salient information while also viewing you as an organized, professional candidate.

Length

A resume should not be an exhaustive list of every task you performed at every job you’ve had. Reflecting on the title of the job you are applying for, it is optimal to tailor your past experiences and skills to what is required and desired by the company for that specific role. Be sure to include all the experience you have that matches what they are seeking, and then offer additional details of your work history during the interview process.

Your resume is the first example of your work product and you want it to reflect positively on you as a candidate. If you follow these tips, you will be in great shape to begin discussions with a company that could be your next employer!

The Importance of Punctuality in the Job Process

We’ve all either experienced this dreaded scenario or know someone who has: a utility provider says they will be at your home between a certain window of time and either arrives at the last possible minute, late, or not at all. The anxiety and frustration you or the person you know felt is not only unfortunate but avoidable.

The Reasoning

Punctuality is supremely important in all aspects of life, especially the job process. Once you decide to work with a recruiter or submit your resume directly to a job posting, being accessible, responsible and timely is of supreme importance. This is because from the first time a client receives your name for consideration, an opinion is starting to form, subconscious or not.

As a job candidate, you want to do everything in your power to give yourself the best shot possible at what could be a great job opportunity, which in turn will elevate other aspects of your life, such as work-life balance, commute, salary, etc.

The competition is always high in the job market for qualified candidates and you don’t want a time management issue to be the reason someone else beats you to an offer.

Helpful Tips

If you have a phone interview scheduled for 10:00am, be completely prepared with your resume and other pertinent materials and waiting with your phone at least 10 minutes prior. This will give you a chance to mentally prepare, calm your nerves and be ready for the phone to ring at 9:57 in case the interviewer is a few minutes early.

When you are going to an in-person interview, plan to arrive at the location a half hour early. Don’t enter the office until 5-10 minutes before your interview, but arriving at the location will ensure you are in the area in enough time to take into account any weather issues, transit delays, traffic volume, missed exits, etc. If the office is in a suburban location, waiting in your car will allow you to compose yourself and go over your materials. If the office is in an urban setting, sit in a nearby coffee shop. This approach will also help you get a sense of the local area that you are considering spending a large chunk of your daily time!

After the interview, either phone or in-person, sending a timely thank you note will leave a nice impression. More guidance on thank you notes can be found here.

Taking the same approach of subsequent interviews will solidify you as a punctual and responsible candidate who would be an asset to their company not only for your skill set and experience but for your personal qualities.

Throughout the duration of the process, whether you are working with a recruiter or a company directly, being in close contact if and when last minute issues arise or you have to withdraw from the process for any reason, will only leave a favorable impression of your memory. You want to avoid a recruiter and or client being blindsided by a decision or problem that could have been communicated sooner.

Happy job hunting!

The Art of the Thank You Note

Congratulations! Exploring the interview thank you note means that you’ve either had a phone or in-person interview, and that in itself is worthy of celebration. Now, in order to positively seal the memory of you in the hiring manager’s head, a perfectly crafted thank you note is essential.

The Opening

It may seem obvious or like an afterthought, but correctly addressing the hiring manager’s name, or whomever you met with, is essential. Erring on the side of formality is better, too. You may have overhead colleagues address the hiring manager by a nickname or shortened version of their name, but this is best left for once you have been hired.

A good rule of thumb is to use the name that appears in the person’s email signature.

The spelling of the name is highly important as well, as this shows attention to detail and attentiveness.

The Content

The overall goal of the thank you note is to thank the person or people who took time out of their day to speak or meet with you, while also conveying yourself as a competent and engaging candidate. The sentences you write should be genuine and authentic; not boilerplate language that is recycled for use after each interview. Briefly touch on why you can see yourself in the role and the skills and experience you would bring to the table along with how your personality would be a good culture fit for the organization.

The Timing

Due to the fast-paced nature of the job market, it is imperative to send the thank you note on the same day as your interview or, at the latest, the beginning of the following day. You want to remain top of mind with the hiring manager(s) who may have met a few people that same day.

When a great candidate sends a heartfelt and timely thank you note expressing continued interest in the role, organization and potential colleagues, the positive benefits cannot be understated.