Tag: preparation

Tips for Avoiding Career Missteps

Posted on April 10th, by a Guest Contributor in Career Advice. 1 Comment

One of the many effects of our improving economy is a noticeable uptick in workers changing jobs. As recession-era fears subside, employees become more confident in their ability to find better opportunities. Whether they are seeking higher pay, more robust benefits packages that meet their personal needs, or intangibles such as feeling appreciated, many workers will be moving on in 2014. For those with thoughts of making a change, and even for those with no immediate plans to leave their jobs, now is a great time to take a career inventory incorporating the following guidelines: 


Don’t Quit Networking Once You Get a Job: People are usually vigilant about networking when looking for a job but stop once they’re hired. Your long term career success is dependent on your ability to continue to build strong business connections as well as nurture current relationships.


Put More Focus on Benefits: When looking for a job, weighing the options is about much more than base pay. The role, manager and compensation are all important factors in deciding whether to join a company, but benefit programs (such as work-hour flexibility, health and wellness programs and family leave policies) and company culture are critical factors as well. More than ever, the gap between work and home-life is closing, and working for a company that understands that can save you a lot of stress and money.


Be the Driver of Your Own Destiny: Too many people depend on their manager or boss to set the tone for their career path. Your career success is dependent on being the driver of your own destiny. Be proactive in the assignments and responsibilities you take on. Talk to your manager/boss about what you want and where you see your career path going with the company.


Keep Social Media Profiles Professional: The lines between personal and professional are more blurred than ever before. Even if you have a personal profile page on Facebook or Twitter that you intend for your friends’ eyes only, keep it professional. Never post something that you wouldn’t want your boss or prospective employer to see. In today’s digital age it’s easy for employers and prospective employers to find you online.


Keep Your Skills Sharp: No matter what industry you are in, it’s important to keep building on your skill set. It’s not enough to graduate from college and call it a day. Education is an ongoing process and it is important to stay sharp and keep up with the latest industry trends if you want to be a key player at your company.


Create a Five Year Plan: When you started out in your career you likely had a five year plan. It’s important to keep this plan alive! Update it every year. Re-evaluate what you wanted to achieve last year, where you are now and how you would like to see the next five years go. It’s a lot easier to make career decisions when you have a solid plan laid out.


By following these tips, you will be in a much better position to meet your career goals, whether they be an immediate job change, a future move, or even a promotion within your current place of employment. Just remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and those willing to consistently put in the work are more likely to come out ahead.


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About the Author:  A previous guest writer for Women of HR, Chris Duchesne has more than 15 years of experience in HR technology. In his role as VP of Global Workplace Solutions for Care.com, Chris oversees Care.com’s suite of services offered to institutional and corporate clients, their employees and families. Under his leadership, the program has grown to serve 150 organizations representing more than 600,000 employees. A father of three small children, Chris also knows first-hand the challenges working parents face. An in-demand expert on work-life integration, he has been featured in The New York Times, Real Simple, CIO, Yahoo! Small Business and Employee Benefit News.


Prepare for the Worst? Or Prepare for the Best? Or Simply, Prepare.

Posted on February 27th, by Dorothy Douglass in Business and Workplace. No Comments

I live in Indiana.  It’s February, typically considered a winter month (you might hear a little cynicism in my words…).  And it’s snowy.  Albeit, there’s much more snow here than we’ve had in recent years, but is that really a surprise?

I was scheduled to attend a local seminar tomorrow.  I am a “nerd” and enjoy learning, especially if it will help me be a better HR professional, coach, &/or person.  I always like to get another trainer’s perspective & I am familiar with this speaker – who I consider to be excellent, so I was looking forward to it.  I got an email yesterday morning indicating it had been postponed until late this month.  Our “weather” hadn’t even hit yet, although forecasters had been prognosticating a new “snowpocalypse” for days.  And I saw or heard it everywhere I turned – Facebook, Twitter, television, radio.

The weather predictions appeared to be coming true by mid-afternoon yesterday and lots of snow began falling.  Our company began monitoring in order to make prudent business decisions about closing or delaying opening today.    As weather often does, it appeared to taper off last evening, and yet, the social media and television continued to “blow up” with news and details of “snowpocalypse.”  It’s no wonder people overreact – the worse-case-scenarios are played out on every avenue of communication.

My husband was up early today, and was out snow-blowing our drive, and our neighbors, long before any county snow plow would have considered coming down our road.  I got to thinking about all of this after getting the 5:55AM email that our business would open as usual today.  It seems like everyone is preparing for the worse-case scenario, instead of preparing so it won’t be.  Does that make sense?

What I mean is, it seems with the advent of social media and immediate news feeds, we tend to take on almost a ‘victim’ mentality.  The weatherman predicts weather, everyone posts it on their statuses or news feeds,  we all run to the store for bread, milk, and perhaps some adult beverages, and then we wait for the weather, sometimes predicting early that we can’t make it in.  Often, the weather doesn’t end up being near as scary as predicted, and yet, many are paralyzed by the thought of that ‘worse-case scenario.”

What happened to simply preparing for the weather – extra layers of clothing, getting up early to shovel, snow-blow, scrape the car windows, leaving earlier than usual in order to get to work.

I do not remember a day that my Dad & Mom didn’t get up and go to work.  Dad owned his own business,  Mom worked at the local university, and no matter the weather, they got up, prepared for it, and went to work.  Why are we any different today?  We have better gadgets – snow blower, automatic car starters, warmer clothing and such, along with better prediction information – and yet, we aren’t preparing for the rigors of getting up and going to work, we are preparing for the worse.

Kind of like my seminar planned for tomorrow.  I’m bummed.  It seems like with a little preparation, the seminar might have been able to happen. Maybe not, depending on the speaker schedule and travel location, but it feels like we prepared for the worst, instead of preparing for the best.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anyone to endanger themselves to get to work.  Yet, before our social media, did our parents and prior generations know better, prepare better, have a better work ethic?  I don’t think so.  I think they just used good common sense and prepared – for the best. Without all the “noise” from social media and news 24/7 on television, radio and streaming through our laptops and other devices, people simply prepared.  Perhaps they had more time….


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 About the Author:  Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution.  She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University.  She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization.  She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job.   She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn.  She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.

The Unique Challenges of an HR Job Search

Posted on January 7th, by Andrea Ballard in Career Advice, Career Transitions. 5 comments

You’re an HR professional and you’ve decided it’s time to change jobs. Maybe it’s something happening within your company causing you to switch, or maybe it’s something inside of you telling you it’s time. Either way, this is one time where things should be easy, right? After all, you’re a professional in Human Resources! Finally, a chance to use all of your knowledge and ‘insider information’ to position yourself competitively and go for what you want.


It’s not so easy.

Expectations are raised in an HR job search. Most of this comes from the pressure you put upon yourself. “I should know what I’m doing.” “My resume and cover letter better be 100% perfect and error-free.” “I interview people all day long, how hard can it be to turn the tables?”

Yet many of us in HR have put our own career development at the bottom of our massive to-do list. Our resume is not only imperfect, it may be completely out of date or merely an exhaustive list of our job duties, rather than a presentation of our accomplishments. We may use LinkedIn to find candidates…that doesn’t mean we’ve put any time or attention into our own profiles. And interviewing? We began to think of all the times we’ve nit-picked and criticized candidates for not being prepared enough, or spouting rehearsed answers that didn’t really answer our questions.

On the other side, expectations of professionalism from potential employers run high as well, and with good reason. If an employer asks for a cover letter and resume in the format they request, you’d better be giving them both – and don’t even think about using a canned cover letter.

Loyalty is another issue many struggle with. When you spend all day touting the benefits of working for your company, and comparing how good your company is to the competitors, it’s hard to imagine going to work for a competitor! Many employees feel loyal to their employer, but it seems especially hard for HR people to imagine leaving for a similar job in the same industry. And how many times have we discarded candidates for being “job-hoppers”? That’s the last thing we want for ourselves. So 3 years turns into 5, and then 7, and finally 10 and before you know it, you can’t imagine leaving, even if you’ve completely stopped growing or learning in your position.

Confidentiality is another challenge HR professionals face in a job search. Many of us have counseled employees against using our employers equipment and/or time to conduct a job search, but let’s face it: many activities related to job searching take place during the day when you are working at your current employer. Sure , you can fill in online applications or do email at home at night, but interviews often work best for employers when they can take place during the day, and suddenly you may find yourself needing to be out of the office on numerous occasions, without wanting to share the reason.

Many of these challenges are related to applying for a posted job, which we know is not the best way to land a new position. Time spent networking and building relationships is the most productive and often leads to your next position in HR. Still, many HR folks let some of these challenges stop them from even contemplating a change.

What unique challenges did you face when searching for your HR job?


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About the Author: For 15+ years, Andrea Ballard, SPHR, has brought a unique, common sense perspective to the business of HR. A former HR Director and Training Manager, she advises companies on how to design/implement flexible work life programs to attract/retain top talent. A certified coach, she helps women create a balance between motherhood & career. She is the owner of Expecting Change, LLC,  blogs at Working Mother and is on Twitter as @andreaballard.

Can You Meet For a Cup of Coffee?

Posted on October 29th, by Debbie Brown in Career Advice, Career Transitions, Networks, Mentors and Career. No Comments

Ever get that call from a former colleague or someone you recently met at a conference asking for that “cup of coffee?”  It is typically a code name for a job search, and I believe we should all be saying yes and be willing to support others in their quest.

But this post is not speaking to those of us taking the call – it is speaking to the caller.

Yes caller- I mean you- and how you may do a better job preparing for those coffee meetings so they are productive for both.  It surprises me how often I meet with people who are uncomfortable with or unsure how to make the most of our meeting.  Here are some suggestions for you to consider to make the meeting productive:

1. Have a target list of companies of interest in the industries you are pursuing.

When I meet with people that come to the table with a target list it helps me think of people I know to connect them to. These people may not be in the exact companies you list, however they will most likely be in the same industry. If you are a generalist that can cross industries that is great, however keep in mind that this list will help trigger new connections for you, which is why it is so important to prepare one.


2. Research the LinkedIn network for who you are meeting with to identify potential contacts of interest.

Connect on LinkedIn if you are not already connected and read through the contacts and make a list of who would like to connect to. We all know LinkedIn relationships vary across a spectrum, so the more names you identify the better your odds are of meeting more people.


3. Have jobs you are applying for handy with explanations for the feedback you are getting.

This could provide an opportunity for coaching and also prompt further discussions about potential opportunities.


4. Have an idea for how you may be able to help the person you are meeting with.

This one may go without saying, however  many people  do not do this . Even if the person you are meeting with says they cannot think of anything in the moment, I have been impressed with people that say that they have thought of a few things on their own (which may be handy in the future).


There are so many positive outcomes that can come out of a job search.  What are some of the best (and worst) experiences you have had from requesting or agreeing to a cup of coffee?


Debbie Brown is a Senior Sales Executive in Analytics, Software and Services . The majority of her career has been spent managing people and teams in software and services provided to the HR industry. Debbie enjoys sharing leadership best practices and as an avid reader is always happy to share great book recommendations. You can connect with Debbie on Twitter as @DebbieJBrown.






The Advice I Didn’t Take

Posted on September 19th, by Heather Rose in Business and Workplace. No Comments

One year into my HR career I hired my first direct report.  I formed the job description, posted it on a jobs site and reviewed resumes as they came in.  I felt like it was a stepping stone for me professionally, and I looked forward to having someone to develop and mentor.

After interviewing candidates I ended up hiring a referral from a co-worker that was an ideal Specialist to assist my HR Supervisor role.  I could delegate a project with general guidelines and know it would be a success.

Fast forward several months, and due to a restructuring I inherited another direct report that didn’t turn out to be as easy to deal with.  Daily life in the office became a challenge, and since I was still fairly new to having direct reports I went to my manager for advice.  For the most part I felt that we were on the same page, but when another member of the team brought to my attention possible wrongdoing by my direct report, I was surprised to learn my manager and I didn’t agree on next steps.  Having been provided supporting documentation to the suspected violation, I was ready to investigate the issue and further discuss with my direct report.  My manager, however, did not think it needed to be investigated at the time and suggested waiting to see what came of the situation.

After thinking it through and discussing with another trusted colleague I decided to go against my manager’s advice and address the issue at hand.  Feeling that my own credibility was on the line if didn’t look into the matter, I was proud that I stood my ground and did what was right to acknowledge the problem.

You may find yourself in a similar situation where you are at odds with professional advice you were given.  Take it into consideration, but also ensure that you fully research the topic at hand to ensure you have all necessary information.  Discuss with your network to hear several other viewpoints, and if appropriate, consult your company’s policies and procedures.  Trust in your analysis of the case, and go forward with confidence in your decision on how best to handle.


About the Author: Heather Rose, PHR is an HR Professional with over 6 years experience supporting top organizations’ HR functions. In addition to her career in HR, Heather enjoys writing about her life adventures, reading and traveling. You can connect with Heather on LinkedIn.


Photo credit iStockphoto

Desperate Times Call for Not-So-Desperate Measures

Posted on August 29th, by Judith Lindenberger in Career Advice. 2 comments

During a recent career coaching session with a client, I realized that much of the advice that he had been given was, in my humble opinion, not so very good. In fact, the advice was desperately bad.


For instance, my client said that a friend told him that he should not wear a suit to an interview because it would make him look desperate. The word desperate came up a few more times. The same friend told my client that you should never admit that you have been laid off from your job, even if is true, because that would make you seem desperate. And last, my client asked if reaching out to prospective employers, without seeing a job posting, would make him look desperate.


My advice about the suit. If you own a good suit, wear it to an interview. Dress up. Polish your shoes. Trim your facial hair. Be clean and neat. You want to make a good impression. Dressing well helps make desperately good first impressions.


My advice about admitting that you were laid off from your job. Tell the truth. There is no shame in having been laid off. The vast majority of Americans know at least one person (a friend, relative, neighbor) whose job has been eliminated. Explain that your job was eliminated, stay positive about your former employer, and move on to explaining why you are interested in their job opening. Doing so will make you seem desperately honest and focused.


And last, my advice about reaching out to prospective employers. Do it! It shows initiative and drive not desperation, in my book.


I am curious. Do you agree or disagree with my advice? And what crazy career advice have you heard and disagreed with?


About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.


Photo credit: iStockphoto

Breaking Into Human Resources Management

Posted on August 13th, by a Guest Contributor in Career Advice. 5 comments

Professionals in the field of human resource management help to contribute to the success of any business by strategically managing its human capital. Moreover, as a potential career, it is gaining in popularity and increasing in stature. In fact, in 2006, Money Magazine listed the role of the Human Resource Manager as being at number 4 of its best jobs in America list, based on factors such as difficulty, flexibility, creativity, and future job growth in the next decade.

Getting into the field of HR will require the right level of education and training for the role. Since the profession is expected to grow in the coming years and according to Business Insider the salary is also likely to increase, the competition for these jobs will become more fierce, meaning more and more students entering higher education courses specific to this field.
Education and Training

HR People from Monster.com has found that HR employees come from a wide range of backgrounds from an educational standpoint. However, while the subject and content of your degree program won’t necessarily limit your ability to gain access to an HR job, it is recommended that you complete a full University degree to be considered for many jobs in this field. For the best possible training and preparation for a career in HR About.com advises a bachelors degree in HR will be best. This will give you a foot in the door, and will invariably be more highly looked upon by hiring managers than other unrelated subjects. Regardless, most degree programs will open the door to potential employment.

It must be noted, though, that many highly successful HR managers will not have gone through higher education or got a degree. A recent article by the NY Times addresses the increase in demand for job candidates with degrees, suggesting that in a majority of the cases where these successful employees did not obtain degrees first, they will instead have developed their successful career before the post-grad landscape became too highly populated and competitive. These days it is increasingly difficult to obtain an HRM job without having completed a degree first, so this should be your first port of call.

Those who are keen on pursuing a specialized career in HR or a managerial position will want to consider enrolling in a business degree that has more of a specific focus. If you do a more generalized degree to keep your options open, focus on taking extra courses to make you more employable. You can do this after completing your degree, or even during it if possible.

In addition to completing a degree at college, many HR professionals will look to become certified in various disciplines. HR Daily Advisor published an interview based on a survey that revealed HR Certifications are providing many advantages. If you do complete a professional certification, this could lead to higher earning potential – the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHM) and Professional in Human Resources (PHR) are two examples.
Finding Work

Finding work within this field isn’t really any different from looking for a job in any other industry. Using online career search websites is a good place to start. However, these online career sites are fairly general in nature, and so looking for specific HR related work is more appropriate and targeted. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is one option that is designed for this specific field.

Bear in mind that some companies will tend to recruit from within as suggested by an article about the benefits of internal hiring published by Forbes. If you are working within a larger company and are interested in moving into HRM then keep an eye on any internal job boards and network with HR managers to see if any potential jobs come up. Networking outside of your company at industry specific events is also a good idea.

As with most professional jobs, however, the easiest way in is to complete your degree and then seek a professional certification via a reputable company. This will give you the best head start in the industry.


Dee Fletcher is a freelance and ghost writer. See also enjoys guest blogging, and does it as often as she can to build her online presence. Dee writes mostly about current trends or events relating to business and technology, but will occasionally write about various industries as well. She works from her home in Southern California and loves to visit the beach as often as she can.


Photo credit iStockphoto


Your Identity Beyond Your Career

Posted on July 23rd, by Lois Melbourne in On My Mind. No Comments



What do you want to be known for?  What is important to you?


If you think you are too young to read about retirement or you roll your eyes at the thought of it because it seems impossible, then YOU need to keep your butt in your seat and read this one.  If you still want to jump elsewhere – replace the word retirement with sabbatical, or career change, and most of all of this discussion is very applicable there too.


I know my circumstances for retirement are somewhat unique, but the ah-ha moments and realizations I want to share are life lessons and they also happen to be really more powerful when finding yourself free of the high demands of one’s current high speed career.


Personal Request

The word retirement is not a bad word and stop making people that use it feel lazy or shameful. My husband and I have renamed our current status to sabbatical, because of the negative responses we get for using the word retirement this young.  Oh well, I expect no sympathy – just a point to make.



When one retires and finds more time on their hands, a lot of self-reflection begins.  I believe this is one reason so many people that thought they would love retirement or worked really hard to get there, find themselves miserable. They don’t like what is reflected back to them, when they look deep.   The time to evaluate one’s self is when you are slaving away at your job so that you find some releases and rewards along the way.

  1. Are you an interesting person that can carry on conversations beyond your work and your kids?
  2. Do you have hobbies that you love to spend time on? Can you find a way to cultivate them now (you will like your life better if you do)
  3. Do you really know how to relax?  Really unplug? It’s been three months and I still check my phone far more then I need to.



Do you have real friendships that would exist without the work or work-style connections?  This is a tough one for a lot of people and a lot or relationships.  Do your conversations go beyond the topics of work, your industry, or the escape from such work?  These may be the friends that have been there through good and bad and always were available, or they could be the friends that you share your hobbies and other interest with.  If you find this category of your life lacking, I encourage you to evaluate and cultivate your relationships.  It might still be some of the same people in your life, but taking the friendships into a different direction can be rewarding and important.



Can you spend extensive time with your spouse and truly enjoy it?  I am blessed that I have worked side-by-side my husband for the last 20 years, so this part is easy for me.  I see other couples really struggle when they are more in each other’s calendars.  It doesn’t mean things are broken, but you might want to find more common activities and also plan for separate time with no guilt from either party.



This is where most articles focus on retirement, starting your own business, or the risk of career changing.  There is a reason for that – it is important.  Entrepreneurs are conditioned to “know your number”.  The biggest portion of that term is knowing the number it would take to sell your business, but the critical day-to-day practicality of that expression applies to everybody.  What are the numbers it takes to live the life you expect?


I could reach those numbers quickly due to a couple of really key points in our lives.

  1. I categorize all of our expenditures into buckets in Quicken.  Even if you need to look at it really often or you want to deny how much you spend on something, that just doesn’t do you any favors.  If you are trying to hide an expenditure, then you definitely need to categorize it (electronics, jewelry, travel, entertainment, groceries, dining, etc)
  2. Have a real advisor that can help you evaluate your expenses, your income and your assets.  I am not talking about the job title Financial Advisor; those guys are sales guys trying to sell you insurance, investment vehicles like annuities, and help you watch your stock market investments.  I am talking about someone that is really designed to evaluate the way you live.  Often tax accountants are better prepared for this then many financial advisors.  I use an amazing company call SmithFrank; they are the real deal when it comes to all financial considerations.


Here’s the deal.  If you know your financial requirements, you shape yourself and your relationships, and you dream about what you would do with your life and time if you were in the cubicle or on the plane again, you may find retirement, life-style entrepreneurship or a sabbatical is more easily within your reach then you thought.  These things will certainly make your life at any stage better.


I have had a goal on my life list for well over a decade and I am now getting a chance to pursue it.  I have wanted to create children’s books about doing what you love to do, for a career.  So maybe sabbatical is a better for term for me, but really what I am doing is just living within a new framework.  I am glad I planned for it.


Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is co-founder and former CEO of Aquire Solutions, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. After entering a bit of a sabbatical life phase, she is authoring a series of children’s books about career ambitions.  She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a speaker, author of industry articles, and an occasional blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.


Photo credit iStockphoto

Behavioral Interviewing: A Strategic Imperative

Posted on July 9th, by Amanda Papini in Business and Workplace. No Comments

When networking with job-seekers, I hear that behavioral interviewing is common practice; thus, I was shocked to read this article on Business Insider: “Google Admits Its Crazy Interview Questions Were ‘A Complete Waste of Time.”  I could not believe that a Fortune 100 company was still asking questions such as, “Why are manholes round?”  I am unable to determine how someone can objectively answer this type of question.  Behavioral interviewing is evidently a practice that is not as common as I had thought.  If behavioral interviewing is not something your company is practicing now, it is should be put into practice as soon as possible.

My typical one on one interviews last around forty-five minutes and I am strapped for time to extrapolate all the relevant information I need to determine whether or not this candidate is not only a fit for the role at hand but, also for our culture.  It is critical that I utilize the time with planned questioning that assesses what the candidate has done in the past and what she is likely to do in the future, rather than assessing whether or not the candidate can solve brainteasers that she will not likely be faced with in the role.  I believe that most individuals that secure interviews can tell you what someone should do in certain circumstances, but is it what she actually did when finding herself in that situation?  You are often able to discern how much experience she has handling the situations you are asking about by how quickly she is able to produce examples and how she handles herself under pressure.

If you are struggling to know where to start, I began by reading a couple of valuable books:  How to Choose the Right Person for the Right Job Every Time by Lori Davila and Louise Kursmark and High-Impact Interview Questions by Victoria Hoevemeyer.  These books offer sample behavioral interview questions and rating scales to get you started.

The most challenging piece can be getting consistent practice of behavioral interviewing across all of your hiring managers’ interviews. As all of us in HR know, the hiring managers are typically swamped and the last thing on their mind is preparing in advance for an interview.   I started off by utilizing behavioral interview questions for soft skills, as many hiring managers struggled with how to measure a candidate’s soft skills, but understood the importance of making this more objective.  It was also effective to let them know that I was going to assist them with being more prepared for the interview and complete some of the up-front work for them by developing the questions.

This provided an additional benefit, in that I was able to introduce more of a focus on soft skill assessment.  So often hiring managers place greater value on finding candidates who are a “plug n’ play” due to their technical skills that I have seen many hires who don’t work out, not due to their technical abilities, but the missing soft skills that were not assessed during the interview process.  It is important to remind hiring managers that specific technical skills can be trained; however, soft skills often cannot or require a larger time investment not only from a training perspective but also in fixing interpersonal problems that occur that are not as easily solved.

Greater acceptance from hiring managers can be acquired by conducting post hire analysis of the new hire’s performance and correlating this with the interview questions asked.  This allowed the hiring managers to make better hiring decisions in the future and determine which questions were valuable in making staffing decisions.  This also resulted in saving the hiring managers a lot of time and expense through a reduction of bad hires.

After experiencing the benefit of asking the same soft skill questions to various candidates and being able to rate them on a scale that allowed objective comparisons across candidates post interview, I convinced the hiring managers to allow me to assist with the development of technical behavioral questions as well.  Often, I taught them how to include technical elements in the soft skill questions, such as, “Tell me about a time you identified a data or reporting discrepancy and how were you able to validate the data and take corrective action in a short amount of time.” This would allow the hiring manager to not only assess someone’s attention to detail and ability to work under tight deadlines, but also their ability to understand the technical reporting aspects of the job.  It is incredibly important to eventually be able to assess the technical aspects of a job and the soft skills required at the same time, due to time constraints of interviews.  Additionally, this helps avoid receiving the canned responses to basic soft skill questions such as, “Give me an example of situation that demonstrates your ability to effectively manage your time.”  I typically recommend surveying all of the candidates for 5 technical and 5 soft skills and ensuring that all skill sets that are necessary to be successful in the role are covered by one of the interviewers on the team.  As a past Recruiting Director, I embrace the opportunity to ensure that questions aren’t being repeated over various hiring mangers that are interviewing candidates for the role and that we are providing a great first impression to our candidates of an organized agency.

Not only did our implementation of behavioral interview questions across the agency help secure talent that was a better fit to role but also perpetuated a stronger presence of our agency in the marketplace.


Photo credit iStockphoto

Amanda Papini, Recruiting Director at Response Mine Interactive started her career in recruiting at Medical Staffing Network in 2005, and moved over to a corporate recruiting role at BKV and Response Mine Interactive in 2007, where she built an internal recruiting practice for both companies. Amanda has since staffed over 250 full-time employees within both companies; an average of 50 hires per year. After assisting with RMI and BKV’s growth over the last 5 years, Amanda decided to move over to focus solely on RMI’s talent acquisition and take on a role more dedicated to employee development.

Approaching a Job Search after a Termination or Layoff

It’s usually easy to spot: the nervous jitters as he talks about his most recent position, the disdain he is clearly trying to hide about his supervisor or colleagues, the glossing over of the actual job conclusion.  By the time I ask, “ so what prompted you to leave” or “what brings you in today,” I can almost recite the words that always include “laid-off”, “let go”, “downsizing”,  “bad manager”, etc.  As a career coach, I encounter a myriad of clients who have a gap in their employment history.  Typically these clients address this issue with me in one of two ways.  They either shy away from the topic (think example above) to avoid mentioning it until half way through the appointment, after the resume review, or they bring it up immediately and we spend the better part of an hour talking about this event that has defined them for the past several months of the job search.

The whole “defining” aspect of a termination is the problem and the number one factor that gets in a job seeker’s way between knowing Ellen’s guest line-up on any given Tuesday and signing an offer letter.  Whether you actually introduce it at the forefront of every conversation that has a slight hint of a networking component OR you skirt away from this part of your past like you have a cousin in the mafia and are in witness protection, the emotion is the same – shame.  Shame seeps from every pore of your being if you let it.  It portrays a desperate need for any job and scares the heck out of any recruiter, hiring manager, or potential colleague.

So what is an innocent, talented, recently laid off employee to do?  Take a week off to sulk, lick your wounds, replay all of the unfair aspects surrounding the lay-off, and talk your nearest and dearest ears’ off about the numerous ways you saved the company X amount of dollars and are so much more talented than Ted in accounting, and then stop.  Stop venting.  Stop sulking.  Stop watching fluff TV all day.  Now follow these steps:

1.)    Wake up on Monday of week 2 post lay-off and go to a coffee shop.  Look around, watch the birds outside, read the business journals, and write down 10 jobs you want (in your field), and 10 companies you want to work for.  The key here is want.  This is your chance to choose where you want to and should be.  Don’t take this task lightly.

2.)    Then go on LinkedIn.  How does your profile look?  Is your most recent position up-to-date with the amazing achievements you accomplished?  How is your picture? Meaning: Is it professional (not a shot of you with your significant other cropped out from a high school reunion) and has it been taken in the past 5 years?

3.)    Now start reaching out.  Ask first degree contacts out to coffee.  Talk to them honestly and authentically about what happened, what you think you are good at, where you want to be, and ask for help.  People want to help.  Really they do.  Sometimes they just need permission to actually offer it.

4.)    Next do searches for contacts at companies you’re targeting.  Use LinkedIn groups as a resource to a whole new community of contacts and search those groups by job function or company. Then invite these potential contacts to coffee and do the same.  Be authentic, and give them the gist of the fact that your company had a downsizing and you are now focusing on these specific roles at companies like the one they work for.

5.)    Lastly explore the job aggregators.  What’s out there? What is trending?  Who seems to be hiring?  Apply appropriately and then circle back to step 4.

In a follow-up post I’ll advise on how to talk about a layoff to employers during an interview.  The main thing to remember about starting a job search after a termination is that this is an event that happened but you don’t have to let it keep happening to you every time you talk to someone.  Let the emotions that surrounded the event go and focus on all of the value you brought to your roles and the value you have to share with a future employer.  Surround yourself with people who remind you of your amazing attributes, read books and articles, and broaden your industry and business knowledge.  Oh yes, and by all means, turn off daytime television.


Photo credit iStockphoto


Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), and  Brooks Institute, a well-known film, photography, and design school where she served as Director of Career and Student Services.  She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR, and Job Dig.