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Why are you the best candidate for the job?

Anyone jumping into the career search process needs to be able to answer this question.  The interviewer may ask this in various ways; "What are your strengths?", "Why should I hire you over the other candidates?", "What skills do you have that are a fit for this position?".  No matter how it is phrased, the point is to have you directly and concisely explain what experience and skills you have that are crucial to success in the job.  So, how can you answer this most effectively?  There are some key steps that will help you be more confident, less stressed, and position you as the best candidate for the job when answering this type of question.  The key is to prepare, plan, and execute.

  • Read the job description thoroughly. The job description is the cheat sheet/Clif Notes for any Phoenician in the job search process. Scroll down to the ‘Qualifications/Background/Skills Required' sections. Note the behaviors and skills that are needed for the position.
  •  Narrow down and prioritize your options. Employers list their required skills in order in the job postings. Make sure that you pay attention to the specific skills and then identify the ways you have excelled in those in your past experiences.
  •  Be specific, clear, and concise. Once you have listed the ways that your past behaviors are a fit for the position, you need to write down very specific examples of your ability to use those skills. Vague language like "I am a very strong communicator" will not get you the job. Specific examples with results will move you into the next round of the interview process.
  •  Anticipate and prepare for flexibility. Breathe - the interview process may have a hiring manager ask you a question that throws you for a loop. If you didn't understand the question, ask them to repeat it. If you don't have an answer off the top of your head, let them know that you would like to respond them via email once you have had an opportunity to respond.
10:29 am          Comments

How have you prepared to be competitive in your job market?

Are you ready to jump into the job search process? Before Phoenicians leap into an online job search and start posting their resume to job sites, you need to make sure that you are ready to present yourself as a candidate who is prepared to be competitive in your job market. This is important for anyone who has the goal to transition to a new career or move forward in their current field.

Do you know the trending skills you don't have? How are you monitoring the industry trends that are important to the hiring process? Have you taken time to understand how the companies you are interested in are using new skills in their workplace? If not, you need to get that information so you are ready for detailed conversations about your skills in the interview process.
What have you done to keep current with your industry? Do you follow the groups and companies in your industry that you plan on targeting for your next career opportunity? Have you joined professional organizations that provide ongoing education in your field? Look for affiliations that can offer webinars, courses, or speaking presentations to keep you up to date on what is going on in your industry.
Do you have an external network that includes people from your current industry and the companies you want to be employed by? LinkedIn® is an important professional tool to launch into your next career opportunity. Not only can you build a network, but you can find companies that have jobs in your field. Utilize your Connections to be introduced to people in other companies that you may want to pursue in the future of your career. Don't rely solely on social media to supply your network - source contacts through in person interactions and industry events too.

1:37 pm          Comments

Does your resume past The Voice test?

It seems silly that a reality TV show would parallel the job search process, but it does. The Voice takes people who are talented and sends out their verbal resumes in front of the world. As you develop your document to email to companies and contacts, think about the way they will view your resume as if they are in ‘the blinds'. This is the real world of recruitment...candidates are compared based on their documents and then moved into the next stage of the interviewing process.

Is your resume ‘pitchy'? In resume speak, this refers to how much you have tailored your resume to the job description and company. Companies want candidates to take time to truly evaluate how they can add value through their skills in the position. If your resume is vague and all over the place, and is non-specific to the skills needed for the position, it may find its way quickly into the delete pile.

Did you choose the right song? Are you trying to get a job that fits your current skills and past experience? If you are making a transition between industries or moving into a new position that is above your current role, make sure you have done your homework. Determine what technical, communication, education, or other specific skills you need to make the jump and be certain you have acquired those before you post your resume for an opportunity.

Are there mistakes you made and no one turned their chair? Remember that your resume is the first introduction to an employer and that first impression has to be positively memorable. Misspelled words, poor formatting and incomplete information can be obvious reasons that your resume gets put into the trash. Take the time to review your resume and ask an unbiased second party to double check it. Catching errors before you send it will increase the chances that you move ahead into the interview process.

10:53 am          Comments

Why are life-long learners valued in the workplace?

The Phoenix job market has several industries that are growing, such as healthcare, business services, and finance.  As companies in these areas increase their workforces, job seekers need to examine how they can show the prospective employers a desire for life-long learning.  Employees who are searching for ways to continuously improve their current skills and learn new ones are perceived as being flexible and adaptable and open to new experiences.  Here are some things to consider in positioning yourself as a candidate who wants to learn.

When did you last earn a certification or licensure?  Even if your industry doesn't require any formal certifications or licenses, you can think outside the box in this area.  There are professional training programs such as Fred Pryor that provide certificates for completing workshops.  Even Microsoft and Mac have programs that include certifications in some cases.

Have you spent time shadowing a colleague or cross-training lately?  Showing an interest in how your position fits into the complete organization by learning about other departments is seen as a positive trait by future employers.  Sharing your skills with co-workers during these experiences is also a win-win for the company.  Asking your current supervisor for opportunities to expose you to alternative positions may also open a door to your next career opportunity.

Do you know what options you have to get additional training internally?  One of the things that holds some employees back is a lack of knowledge about internal training options.  Start with your supervisor and if they aren't familiar with options, contact HR or the training department.  Identify what skills you want to improve upon or gain and then find a program that is aligned with those.  After you attend any programs, share your experience and learnings with your peers.  This is a great way to show your supervisor that you are willing to help others learn too.

12:17 pm          Comments

Leveraging your mid-year review effectively

Some companies may make a mid-year review a formal process, while in others the Phoenix based employee needs to request this type of discussion.  The start of summer is a great time to carve out time with your manager to determine your current year's progress and establish a go forward plan for the balance of the year.  Employees who prepare for these meetings will have positive outcomes and also feel empowered to work on professional development.

Understand what your objectives are...  The first step in having meaningful performance discussions with you manager is to clearly outline your objectives.  These may be corporate goals, department goals, project specific goals, or independent goals.  It's important that you not only know what you will be measured on, but how each criteria is weighted in evaluating your performance and progress.

Document, document, document...  As the employee, you are responsible for consistently documenting your activities throughout the year.  This includes not only your successes, but also the obstacles that you have encountered and how you dealt with them and overcame them.  Don't rely on your manager to have kept track of everything you have done - their responsibilities are broader than noting your actions.

Be open to critique and adaptation...  When you are mentally preparing for these discussions, anticipate what feedback you may receive from your manager.  Be ready to take constructive input and make changes in your actions and behaviors.  Avoid appearing defensive by taking notes on the feedback and acknowledging that you are willing to continuously learn.  Bring your own recommendations on the areas that you want to develop in as well - cross-departmental training, external soft skills training, mentoring new employees, etc.  Planning ahead to share how you want to continue to professionally develop will show your manager that you are committed to the performance discussion process.

12:14 pm          Comments

Making your summer internship a win-win

You've recruited college students and are ready to have them for a productive 8-12 weeks in your company.  Members of the team have signed up to coach the interns, start dates have been confirmed, and you're prepared to make the summer experience positive for the students and effective for your employees.  So, why are there companies that no longer hire interns?  Why have there been complaints by students that they ‘wasted their time' working at certain organizations?  Here are some recommendations to have win-win results from your internship program this summer.

Establish meaningful work.  When you hire part-time or full-time employees, you have a clear plan on what role the person will have in the organization and what their responsibilities will be.  The same planning needs to take place for interns.  This is an opportunity to evaluate the students' skills and how they could become bench strength for your company.  Determine individual and team projects that will utilize their strengths and allow them to build new skills in the workplace.

Make sure everyone understands their expectations.  This is crucial for the existing team and the incoming interns.  Conversations about communication, organization, and timeliness expectations should happen on Day 1.  Interns will thrive if there is a clear discussion around how/when to use voice mail, texts, email, or in person communication.  Mentors and coaches should be willing to explain the culture around work space expectations and attendance.

Measure progress consistently and provide feedback.  Any employee who signs up to support the intern team also needs to provide critical and positive feedback.  These conversations should be two-way so the interns can express concerns, ask questions, and give input to add value to the organization.  The best internships give specific objectives at the start and scheduled progress checks throughout.  Interns should bring notes with accomplishments and any obstacles they have encountered.  Using this process will also make it easier to write a formal recommendation letter for the intern at the end of the internship.

Be open to modifications and honest communication.  Even the largest company with a tenured intern program needs to change up the activities from year to year.  Once the interns are in place for a couple of weeks, it's important to ask for their feedback and then modify activities accordingly.  Moving interns from one department to another during their summer is a best practice to let the internal team completely evaluate their skills and ability to adapt.  Encourage honesty with all members of the team.  Showing flexibility and open communication to the interns will provide them the best experience and also produce the highest level of results from the projects you assign them.

12:13 pm          Comments

Are your soft skills strong enough for the job?

According to the latest issue of SHRM magazine, employers are struggling to find candidates that have the soft skills they need to be successful in the job.  Many industries were surveyed and soft skills were the biggest gap that candidates had in the hiring process.  Even in highly technical fields, these types of skills are needed at all levels of the organization.  So how can you best prepare for the soft skills questions during the interview process?

Identify the skills that your industry values the most.  It's impossible to master every soft skill, so understanding which ones are most important for your industry will narrow down the field.  For the top job titles according to the April labor market information report for Phoenix, verbal communication, listening, and organization skills will be the key soft skills.  As a RN, sales rep, or administrative assistant having examples of your experience using those skills will help the interviewer realize your fit for the job.

Determine your current skill level and where your gaps are.  Most people would say that they have some type of customer service experience - using the soft skills of communication and problem-solving. The best candidates will be able to assess how they can build upon those skills.  Consider practicing your problem-solving and communication outside the workplace - volunteering or in professional organizations.  If you need additional training in an area, identify options to do that and be prepared to discuss that in the interview process.

Develop a plan to build new skills and continue to grow strengths.  If you are transitioning to a new industry, this is crucial.  You may need to get experience in multitasking by taking on a project in your current job or asking for a leadership role in your volunteer work.  Even if you feel like you are an excellent communicator, if you know that public speaking is important for your next career opportunity, consider joining Toastmasters® or similar groups to increase your abilities in that soft skill.  All employers value team members who want to be lifelong learners. 

Candidates who identify the importance of soft skills in addition to experience and technical skills will increase their chances of securing the job.    Phoenix veteran can exhibit their soft and technical skills at upcoming preparatory workshops and a hiring event with several employers.

12:11 pm          Comments

Avoiding Tunsilitis before you enter the job search process

As the NFL Draft started tonight there were some surprising situations that affected the outcomes predicted by professionals.  One of the most significant changes in the predicted draft order was triggered by an unexpected social media post affecting the dramatic drop in selection of Tunsil from Ole Miss - a top 10 pick plummeted to 13th pick and was saved by the Miami Dolphins.  Many Phoenicians will know Ole Miss from the memorable story of Michael Oher - the movie The Blind Side.  So how did social media change the expected results and how can you make sure that your online presence doesn't adversely affect your ability to move into your next career opportunity?

What social media do you use publicly and why?

You may be using certain platforms to establish a media based presence as a blogger or someone who has credibility in a specific area.  If that's the case, make sure that you've limited your content to articles that won't trigger emotional reactions from your potential employer.  If you don't need to be on some platforms while you are job searching - make them private or be sure that they are ‘hiring appropriate'.

Can your network damage your job search opportunities?

Everyone has a friend who wants to ‘tag', ‘hashtag' or @ you in every comment or post.  If any of those people have content that wouldn't be favorably viewed as professional and in good taste by your next employer, you have a few choices.  Ask that friend not to tag/hashtag/@ you anymore...unfriend that person until you are hired...make your account private and be very selective on who can include you in their content and then limit your tagging/hashtagging/@ ing.

Your past can follow you - the internet is forever....

It seemed fun at the time.  No one would ever put that on their personal account and there isn't any way that an employer would find that picture.  Tunsil probably thought the same thing a year and a half ago when he made a choice that he now wishes he could retract.  The bottom line of job search - whether it's through the NFL Draft, a campus career fair, or a citywide recruitment event - is that the hiring company will try to learn as much about you as possible before they invest in you and your career.  The candidates that understand how competitive the process is will take control of every aspect of the way they represent themselves to the prospective employer - including their social media presence.

12:10 pm          Comments

What does graduation season mean for job seekers?

Prom is almost over and now high school seniors and collegiate seniors are looking to graduation.  So why is this an important time of the year for job seekers?  Entry-level jobs are either filled or needing to be filled quickly to meet training classes for summer.  Families may be relocating from Phoenix to other states during the summer to get settled before the fall school year starts.  These dynamics create opportunities for job seekers to potentially transition.  Here are some things to do before you jump into a web search for your next career opportunity.

Make sure your resume accurately reflects your skills. 

This isn't just updating current job titles and responsibilities.  Double check that you have all training and technological and/or language skills listed correctly.  Your volunteer and professional organization involvement should highlight the skills you will also use in the workplace.  Don't forget your accomplishments and recognition - put them where you earned them, not in a separated section.

Examine what your social media communicates to companies.

Employers will be checking your social media before they interview you.  Not only should your profile pictures be professional, but you should maximize the features of the various platforms.  LinkedIn® content needs to be complete and be sure to utilize the Recommendations to have an online reference book for hiring managers to read.

Don't get caught off guard - practice now for that phone interview.

Most employers will use some type of phone screen as the first stage of the hiring process.  Use this time to anticipate typical phone interview questions you will get and write down your answers.  Vary the examples of your experience between different jobs, volunteering, and involvement in organizations outside the workplace.  Preparing now for the phone interview will make you the most competitive candidate when the time comes to pick up the call and talk to the hiring manager. 

12:08 pm          Comments

Position yourself as a player in the Final Four

The interview process for Phoenicians will eventually be pared down to a final group of candidates.  Just like the collegiate basketball championship tournament, the interview process for jobs will have multiple phases, involve evaluation of your skills at different levels (brackets), and end up with a final interview to determine which candidate (team) is the best fit for the job (winner).  What are some ways to increase your chances to end up in the final group of candidates?

Understand how your skills will help the company to be successful.

Phoenicians who have taken time to completely understand the job requirements and then plan examples of how they have used those skills, will be most effective in the interview process.  Be able to communicate past experiences you have had where your skills have produced positive results that made an impact for your employers.

Provide documentation to backup your answers. 

The candidates that bring hard copies of performance reviews, ‘atta boy' emails, and other proof of their skills will help the hiring manager to verify the skills they have.  If you have specific computer skills in Microsoft or Mac programs, examples of that will assist the interviewer also.

Follow up after every encounter with the company.

People who master follow up emails/letters have an advantage because their professionalism skills will shine through as a reminder after the interview.  Make sure that you include follow up communication to administrative assistants, HR specialists, and anyone else who you interact with during the process.  Including all of the people in your documented appreciation may open up the conversation between all of the team members to discuss how you may be the best fit for the job.

12:00 pm          Comments

Phone interview tips from The Voice blind auditions

The first round of The Voice television show is very similar to the stage many Phoenicians will go through once they submit their resumes.  If you have the skills on paper to make it to the next round of candidates that are being considered for an in person interview, some of you will have a phone interview scheduled.  Watch the blind auditions on The Voice to learn best practices for mastering a phone interview and move onto the next stage of the interview process.

Silence is golden

One of the contestants in the first rounds of The Voice blind auditions stomped onto the stage.  This was such a distraction for the judges that they commented on it.  In a phone interview, it's important to remember that the interviewer can only hear - so any distracting background noise will detract from the answers you are giving.  Prepare to be in a completely silent place so your words are the only thing the interviewer will hear.

Confidence is the key

Since the interviewer can't see you, your voice has to communicate confidence.  The Voice contestants with trembling voices or pitch problems are in many cases showing their nervousness about the process.  Phone interviews can be stressful, so it's important to remember that you are the expert on your background and skills.  Show your confidence in your abilities with voice tone and word selection that accurately expresses your professionalism and fit for the job.

Understand your skills and strengths

There are times in the blind auditions where the contestants get asked ‘what type of music do you want to do?'  The judges are trying to see whether the person would be a good fit for their team.  The parallel in a phone interview is ‘what are your strengths?'  When you get this question, be prepared to relate how your past experiences and results will make you successful in the position.  If you explain your strengths in a way that fits the role, you help the hiring manager see how you are the best fit for their team.

11:58 am          Comments

Political town halls can provide interviewing advice

It's a rather new phenomenon that political networks are holding Town Halls for both Republican and Democratic candidates.  Phoenix job seekers can use these as opportunities to see what to do and what not to do in the interview process.  These television events are also a great way for people to evaluate how to interact with your interviewer and audience in a way that will move you into the next round of the process, or in the case of the candidates, into the next round of the primaries/caucuses.

Connect with the people

The interview process involves many players - administrative people, HR personnel, department management, and potential co-workers.  At each stage of the process, it's important to connect with all of the people and show your appreciation for the role they play in finding the right candidate.  For the individuals running for President, you can watch their abilities to do this with people from varied demographics and those who are best at making these connections will have the greatest chance of winning.

Answer the question - don't dance around it

Candidates in the interview process and those running for political office need to focus on answering questions as thoroughly as possible.  It's obvious when people are vague or dancing around an answer instead of directly addressing the question.  If there's a case where you haven't had experience in an area, be honest about it.  Interviewers realize that you may not have previously had exactly every responsibility for the job they are hiring for - talk about the behavior that is closest to the one they ask you about and relate how you could use that skill in the job.

11:56 am          Comments

Three things you and Peyton should consider before a job change

Super Bowl 50 is over and the Broncos fans are ecstatic that their champion quarterback, Peyton Manning, was able to win what may end up being his last professional football game.   For Phoenicians who are considering a significant shift in their career path, there are some similarities between what Peyton should think about in advance of any announcement or dramatic moves and what job seekers should determine.

What has been preventing you from being as confident or successful in your current industry/role?

Peyton might assess, as some fans have, that he never fully recovered from surgical procedures and his arm isn't going to be throwing distances like it did five years ago.  Perhaps your department or industry has adapted new technology or procedures that you have struggled to learn and master.  Maybe there has been a merger or other dynamic that has required your role to take on new responsibilities.  Understanding what the main reasons are that you feel motivated to make a change is important.

Have you determined what skills you need for the new industry you want to enter?

A natural transition for Peyton may be sports broadcasting.  He has built public speaking skills through his years in the NFL and endorsements and even guest appearances on shows like SNL.  Before you start updating your resume, assess what the most important skills are for the jobs you want to secure.  If you need to get additional training or experience in an area, establish a plan and timeline prior to launching a job search.

Which ways are you willing to compromise in your work life to make the job change?

Odds are that Peyton won't be making quite as much money in his next career as he has over the past few years playing football.  Use resources online like to help you evaluate what salary and benefits are reasonable for the new role/industry you want to move to.  Understand the hours needed to work each week in various positions to be successful.  Identify if moving to another area of the state may increase your opportunities or accelerate your ability to make the move. 

Taking the time to thoroughly evaluate your options and determine the career opportunities that make sense for your move will make you an educated, strategic, and competitive candidate in the job search process.

11:54 am          Comments

Three skills you need to get any job

Reality tv this time of the year is ripe with examples of ‘what not to do' in any job search process.  Whether you are on The Bachelor and are trying to secure a job as an engaged person (yes, that can be a job...), or you are on a real job based interview show like American Idol or Shark Tank, you should watch tv to understand how to avoid pitfalls when you are interviewing.

  • Collaboration (aka...teamwork): Jennifer Lopez was able to say on American Idol last night what many hiring managers want to say to prospective candidates. "It's not about you." It's about the skills and past experiences you have had that can benefit our organization in the future if we decide to have you as part of the team. Being a soloist only works in the opera and the orchestra, and even then you have to know when it is your time and how long you are supposed to be in the spotlight.
  • Communication: Demanding your point of view is the only one will only result in challenges with your future co-workers. If the examples you provide in the hiring process are centered on how you always led, controlled, and directed other people - you aren't showing an ability to communicate an idea and get consensus.
  • Problem-solving: There are too many examples of the lack of this ability in reality tv to even start talking about it. In the workplace, your manager doesn't want to have to watch over you to assist you in avoiding obstacles. Hiring managers will look for tangible instances where you have used your problem solving to assist in completing projects, supporting colleagues, and successfully exceeding objectives.

Interview candidate who can successfully explain their past experiences and positive results in using these skills will stand out from the competition in the job search process.

11:53 am          Comments

Are you keeping your New Year's resolution?

Phoenicians just unfortunately watched the Arizona Cardinals miss a chance at this year's Super Bowl.  If you are someone who has been ‘waiting' to enter the job market, or holding off on some other activity at work that would build upon your professional development - now is the time to act.  We all say that we have personal resolutions, but what are your job and career resolutions and how are you going to work to make them happen?

How are you selecting your goals?  Professional resolutions need to have a timeline, be specific, and most importantly be actionable.  Once you identify what you want to do to improve your growth in 2016 in the workplace, discuss it with your manager.  Research what resources are available to you before you have the meeting and be prepared to ask for their support in internal and external professional development activities.

What are the activities you are/can doing/do to make the goals happen?  Don't limit your search of resources to internal experiences such as online tutorials and departmental training modules.  Examine the skills that you want to work on from a broader perspective.  There are companies that provide training on technical and soft skills that your company may support and collaborate with.  If not, asking your manager to allow you to attend external training and share that with your peers could be beneficial to not only you, but the entire team.

When are you going to execute each of the steps of a plan to produce results?  One of the biggest reasons New Year's resolutions fail is that people don't commit to a timeline for execution and follow up.  When you have a plan, establish timing for each of the steps.  For example, attend the seminar February 2, meet with your supervisor to discuss what you learned February 4th, present your ‘best practices' you are going to put into place in your job activities to the department team February 9th, follow up with team on your results March 10th.  Having a plan is only impactful if you are measuring what, how, and when.

11:51 am          Comments

Why American Idol auditions are the best training

You are confident, you know why you are there and you have prepared for this moment in an interview with an employer in Phoenix...just like the American Idol auditions.  But, are you ready for a curveball - what will you do when Keith Urban asks you a random question, when you see Jennifer Lopez and want to meet her, when Harry Connick decides to switch places with Ryan Seacrest for a segment... This is what interviews are all about - the unexpected, the question that takes you by surprise, the introduction to another internal employee who you need to impress.  SO - how can you try and be ready for the unexpected?

  • Have a backup song. Your family may have told you that the song you sing the best is amazing. As an employer, the skill you think is your strength may not be the one that we feel you have the best examples of - so it's important to have backup examples on other strengths that are directly related to the job description.
  • Don't go in committed to one genre.  There may be other open positions in the organization that you have skills for that would be a good fit for you and the company, so don't limit yourself.  Listen to the active conversations during the interview process and be open to being adaptable - you may seem like a country singer, but have more of an R&B vibe...
  • Be open to critique and ready to take feedback and implement it moving forward.  The candidates in American Idol and any interview who don't consider and think about the judges' feedback will not be successful.  In any interview, the person you are talking with is giving you cues and recommendations on how to better manage the current interview process, or how to be successful in the next one you may be involved in.  If you don't recognize that, identify the assistance, and then execute it in the next step of your process - or the next company you are engaged with - then you are not utilizing the American Idol training. 
11:45 am          Comments

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