Stratford Office: 203-386-8800 | Stamford Office: 203-325-3799

Your Job Search, Your Computer Screen, and Social Media

July 6th, 2012

You’re on the job market and you don’t want to stay here long. So you’re using every tool at your disposal to find your way back into the workforce as quickly as possible. You’re making appointments with each of your contacts to ask for advice, you’re scanning job boards daily, and you’re following up on every conversation that might lead you to suitable employment. You’ve contacted your old bosses, your favorite professors, and (if you’re a new graduate), your friend’s parents. And you’re doing whatever you can to make the most of your internet resources, including social media. But before you rely too much on social media tools to advance your career, stop and think.

Social media can provide a great way to round out your job search, and it can definitely help you reach out to contacts you haven’t heard from in a while. But can Facebook and Twitter really provide a magic formula for instant job success?

Social Media and Your Job Search

Every day, we hear from job seekers (often new graduates and young people) who wonder why Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn aren’t launching their careers into the stratosphere. “I posted a profile,” they tell us, “but it doesn’t seem to be working.”

Our answer: Posting a social media profile probably won’t hurt your chances of success. But when it comes to the job search process, passivity, hope, and excessive time spent in front of a screen won’t get you where you need to be. Instead, post a profile and get quickly back into the real world. Pick up the phone and actively reach out to anyone you know who might be able to help you. Arrange “informational interviews”, or short meetings in which you sit down with your contacts and find out what they would do and who they would call if they were in your shoes.

In the meantime, use the hours between your meetings to search for open positions that match your qualifications and skills. When you find these positions, take decisive action. Research the companies behind these postings, tailor your cover letter directly to specific contacts at these firms, and polish your resume until it shines.

Each day when you wake up, develop a plan of attack that’s at least 80 percent action and no more than 20 percent social media and hopeful waiting. Put your shyness aside, be bold, go forth, and get away from your screen. Social media has its place, but if you make Facebook the cornerstone of your job search process, you may be engaged in the process for a very long time.

For specific tips and personal guidance, contact your local recruiting company in Fairfield County  at Merritt Staffing. We have the experience and resources you need to stand up to the challenges of your job search.

I Was Told I was Overqualified. What Should I Do?

June 22nd, 2012

Here’s a question we frequently hear from job seekers: “I’m a mid-to-senior level candidate with a graduate level education, and more than once I’ve been turned away on the grounds that I’m ‘overqualified’. Can you explain what employers mean when they say this? I’m not applying beneath my level, and in some cases I’ve even been invited to apply and then rejected.”

We’ll break our response down into two parts. First, employers cite overqualification as an elimination criteria for specific reasons, and you should know what these reasons are. Second, you may need to change your approach in order to get around this common obstacle. We’ll show you how.

What Does “Overqualified” Mean?

Employers don’t make hiring decisions based on a simple linear spectrum that runs from “incompetent” to “brilliant.” There are many other complex personal, political, and financial factors that influence a hiring choice, most of which we’ll never be told, especially since employers are reluctant to explain their decisions and expose themselves to legal backlash. Calling you overqualified may just be a diplomatic way of saying you aren’t a match for the culture. Or maybe there’s a bitter football rivalry between the hiring manager’s alma mater and yours. Fair? Maybe not, but at least these decisions don’t result from anything you’re doing wrong.

If you truly are perceived as overqualified, recognize that employers hesitate to accept candidates who might leave as soon as a more appropriate opportunity comes along. Hiring and training are expensive, and a low risk candidate is one who’s willing to stay for a long time. Salary may also a key determinant. Most managers don’t even want to begin salary negotiations with a candidate they’re pretty sure they can’t afford. Why start a conversation with you about what you’ll accept when the next candidate in line is sure to be cheaper and less likely to haggle?

Overqualified: What Can You Do About it?

First, make sure you’re applying for the right jobs. If you’re aiming too low, you’re more likely to be dismissed as restless or expensive. Second, make sure you’re reaching the right people. Some of the gatekeepers you encounter, especially those who are just one rung above you, may find you threatening. Try to make an end run around these people and reach the ear of those at least two steps above your level.

Third, control the conversation. Let hiring mangers know why you’re looking for a job at this level even if they don’t ask. Have faith in your reasons. They’re good reasons, or you wouldn’t have them. Don’t apologize or dumb down your qualifications (never do this), but make sure you anticipate any potential confusion and explain it away before the door closes in your face.

Finally, if you’ve been rejected on these grounds more than once, maybe it’s time for a little soul searching. Consider aiming higher than you currently are, maybe even quite a bit higher. Experiment by sending out a few applications for positions that feel far beyond your reach. What’s the worst that could happen?

For more guidance with your job search process, contact a staffing agency in Fairfield County at Merritt Staffing and find out what we can do for you.

Summer Job Hunting Tips

June 8th, 2012

There’s no specific legal season set aside for job hunting. Unfortunately, the job hunt happens when it happens, and when we’re out of work, most of us can’t just mark our calendars and wait for a more promising season to start the job search process. 

In the wintertime, we need to work the job search in around holiday preparation, cut back on seasonal indulgences for financial reasons, and choose a pair of slush boots and a thick wool scarf that complement our interview attire. In the fall, the job search may turn in our favor, since we’re often able to command the full attention of hiring managers when their minds are focused on work and not distracted by outside events. The spring is a time for growth, risk, change, and excitement, and this fever can give a much needed boost to our energy levels and our willingness to head into the unknown.

But what about the summer? Are there any special considerations we should take into account as we face the job search process in June and July?

Summer Job Hunting

1. Recognize that summertime work schedules involve large gaps. If you send an application and don’t hear back for a week, that’s normal. During the summer that period extends to about two weeks. After two weeks, it’s time to follow up.

2. As you choose your interview attire, a black wool suit might seem a bit much when the temperature climbs past ninety degrees. And it is. Tone it down a bit by reaching for grey if you can. For summertime interviews, women can easily skip the suit and wear blouses, skirts and light slacks as long as they suit the culture of the workplace. 

3. On the day of your interview, think ahead. Consider the weather and what it might do to your hair and clothing. Wear deodorant, and if you arrive a bit early (which you should), find an air conditioned lobby or coffee shop where you can wait comfortably.

4. Be ready to alter your plans on short notice. If you intended to head for the beach this weekend and not come back till Tuesday, be prepared to cut the trip short and head home for a Monday job interview if you’re called in. Don’t agonize. Just pack your bags.

5. If you have plans that can’t be cancelled, like flights or trips out of the country, explain this to your interviewer as clearly, simply, and politely as you can. Don’t make excuses or apologize too much. When and if you’re offered an alternative date, be as flexible as possible. (If you can avoid it, it’s best not to make these kinds of plans while you’re job hunting.)

For more help with the job search process in Connecticut during any season, contact the Connecticut staffing and employment experts at Merritt. We have the experience and resources you need to get your career on track.

Become the Candidate Employers Love!

May 16th, 2012

Five hiring managers are seated around a desk, sifting through a stack of more than a hundred resumes for two open positions. This is the first round, so unfortunately, almost every resume ends up drifting into a pile bound for the trash bin.

Every once in a while, one of the screeners will say “Hey, listen to this one,” and share a clunky sentence or humorous resume misstep with the others, who will laugh at the poor applicant’s expense. The mood in the room is lighthearted but also urgent, since the position needs to be filled by the end of the month.

Then one of the screeners holds up the resume in her hands. “Wow,” she says. “Just wow.” The others listen as she reads a few lines aloud and then passes the resume around.  Within a few minutes, the other managers have all had a chance to glance over it, and without another word, it’s placed carefully to the side. “Well, that’s it,” says the hiring manager. “I think one of our positions has just been filled.”

They still have one more position to staff and a stack of fifty more resumes to review. Yours is somewhere in the stack. Will it get the same response?

How to Be the Candidate Employers Love

If you want to be the candidate at the center of unanimous, enthusiastic agreement, make sure your resume contains these key elements.

1. Include a summary, not an objective.

Objectives are out. Instead, head the resume with a very short paragraph summarizing the rest of the content, in other words, summarizing you. Condense your unique self and everything you have to offer into three compelling, readable sentences.

2. Give a real sense of what you’ve done.

Be honest. Be clear. And for pity’s sake, drop the buzzwords. After each job title you’ve held, write a short description of what you actually did. Then insert a few bullet points listing your key accomplishments. Try to attach a number to each accomplishment, as in “reduced customer complaints by 40%”.  But let your history speak for itself. Too much spin suggests you have something to overinflate or hide.

3. Emphasize the story.

Everyone in the resume stack has something to offer, everyone has a degree (if a degree requirement was specified in the job posting), and everyone has basic familiarity with the field. They all know how to show up on time. They all know how to meet deadlines. And they’re all “leaders” and “team players”. But you have something they don’t have. Find it, and make sure it’s woven throughout the resume like a theme.

4. Don’t be careless.

Of course your resume should be typo-free. But this is only because typos suggest a larger underlying problem– that of a candidate who goes through the motions, feels entitled to a job, and doesn’t expect to be scrutinized or held to a higher standard. Typos say: “I can’t be bothered to take this seriously,” which is a death knell for a resume. Make sure your resume is not only typo-free, but comes across as a thoughtful and meticulous work of art.

Your local staffing company at Merritt Staffing are pros when it comes to drafting and editing resumes. We know exactly what employers are looking for, and we can help you polish your resume to an irresistible shine. Contact us today and get the job search guidance you need.

Mobile Job Apps: The Future of the Job Search Process

April 6th, 2012

You can’t carry your computer around with you all day, but your job search can and should involve resources you can access from anywhere. And for almost every imaginable aspect of your job search process, there’s an app. Some of these apps are vital research tools, and some just make the search process more convenient. Some are free, and others can cost 10 dollars or more to download. While you’re looking for work, it may be a good idea to focus on apps that are free, like the ones discussed here.

As you consider adding each of these apps to your job search tool box, try to stay focused on your long term goals and don’t get distracted. Your mobile apps should be supporting your search process, not getting in your way or taking up valuable time that you’d otherwise be spending in face-to-face meetings with your contacts. With that in mind, consider downloading free resources like these:

Mobile versions of job boards and networking sites

Monster.com, Careerbuilder, Indeed.com, and several other popular, widely-used job boards are now offering mobile versions of their job search tools for job seekers on the go. LinkedIn and Facebook are also available anywhere; keep them with you throughout the day if your job hunt relies on your social network. Just download them to your iPhone or Android phone for free.

Twitter and social media dashboards

Twitter can also be easily downloaded to your mobile device, and so can Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, which can help you monitor multiple social media feeds at the same time.

Apps that can help you manage contacts and arrange in-person meetings

Lunchmeet, which is free for the iPhone, can help you arrange meetings with potential employers or helpful contacts while on the go. Simply enter your current location and tell the app who you’re planning to meet (a friend? A former boss? A colleague or classmate?) The app will scan the area and help you find a suitable dining venue. If you’d like to go out for lunch but haven’t made specific plans with anyone, the app can connect you to other job seekers in the immediate area who might want to meet up, exchange contact information and compare notes. You can access the Lunchmeet tool through your LinkedIn account.

Some apps like the Blackberry Card Reader (which is not free at $9.99) can scan the business cards that you collect at lunches and networking events and then transfer that information to your contacts list.

Apps for document management

Job seekers often need to access important documents, spreadsheets and Word files while they’re out and about. Try Documents to Go, a free Android app that can help you store your vital job search materials in the cloud and access them from the anywhere. With this app in place, your resume, biographical info, spreadsheets and presentation materials are always just a click away.

For more information about mobile apps and other helpful job search tools, contact a staffing company in CT at Merritt Staffing and make an appointment with one of our staffing experts.

The Perfect Match: What Makes a Good Employer?

February 17th, 2012

From the job seeker’s point of view, a job search can often seem like a one-way process. After all, if you’re the one applying for a position, then you’re the one under scrutiny. And you’re the one hoping to meet the expectations of hiring managers who may or may not like what they see when they look over your background.

But it’s in your best interest to keep the process moving in two directions. After all, you’ll be dedicating your skills, time, talent and resources to this organization. And beyond a paycheck, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting something back. How does the company measure up to YOUR expectations? On what criteria should you base your decision? And if it’s better to pass on an offer, how can you tell? Here are a few things to look for as you compare your options.

Like-Minded Coworkers and Mentor Access

How will you get along with the people who work here? Are you a match? It may not be easy to tell based on a single interview, but do your best to make an educated guess. If you’re a working parent and a team player, stop and think before you commit to a company full of hyper-competitive single people who stay at work till midnight, and vice versa.

The availability of mentors may also influence your decision. Great mentors can help you make connections and support your professional growth, but not all companies provide or encourage this model.

Security

Where is this company headed three, five and ten years into the future? Is this a promising start-up or an established multi-national corporation? The answer may affect your sense of long term job security. If layoff rumors are likely to sweep through this place every few months, will you be able to adapt?

Room for Growth

If you enter this firm at a certain level, when will you be able to climb to the next rung of the ladder? Find out what your advancement options are and whether or not the company will support your progress. If there’s only one position above you and that person isn’t leaving any time soon, you’ll need to factor that into your long term plans.

A Comfortable Work Environment

Does this company share your values and your general approach to life? Will you be respected here, and will you respect your employers and the enterprise in general? Think carefully. Your quality of life depends on more than just a paycheck. There are few situations more rewarding than a job you love, surrounded by coworkers you respect, regardless of how much money you’re making. It’s the days, hours and minutes you spend here that will determine your future happiness or misery. So be honest with yourself. Feel free to turn the tables, ask questions, and put the employer under the microscope before you sign on. For additional advice and guidance with the job search process, contact your local employment staffing service in Connecticut at Merritt Staffing today.

How Your Social Media Profiles Can Help You Land a Job (or Lose One)

December 2nd, 2011

For the last five years or so, there’s been plenty of buzz about social media and its potential seismic impact on every aspect of our lives. Some marketers naturally exaggerate the influence of Facebook and Twitter, because it stimulates businesses competition for social media advertising space. But can social sites really make or break your job prospects? Let’s take a closer look.

Professional networking sites like LinkedIn can certainly help you – as well as your associates and allies—when it comes to passing names along to companies and people who are hiring. If your friend knows a hiring manager and she scribbles your name and phone number on a cocktail napkin for him, that’s networking. But if she can simply introduce the two of you on LinkedIn, he’ll be able to review your profile and all of your qualifications in a professional setting at a single glance. That’s super networking.

Facebook profiles and twitter feeds may also have impact on your job search, since they can allow you to broadcast your needs to a large audience of friends who may be able to help you. They may have a negative impact as well, since some hiring managers have been known to skim Facebook and Twitter profiles as part of their selection process. Just in case, it’s a good idea to make sure your privacy settings are well controlled, so potential employers can only see text and images that cast you in a professional light.

It’s a mistake to conduct your entire job search via the internet and expect positive, immediate results. The most valuable networking happens in real life, and it begins when you pick up the phone and arrange meetings with people who can help you. Don’t overestimate the power of any social networking site, and certainly don’t sit back and expect your profile to find a job for you. In spite of the buzz, LinkedIn usage is by no means universal, and Facebook may be popular, but it’s not where busy professionals spend most of their time.

There’s a chance your profile could harm your prospects, but the dangers of social media, as well as the benefits, may be somewhat overblown. Examining Facebook profiles during the job selection process is a questionable and controversial move that most reputable employers would rather avoid.

Want help with making your social media profile shine? Contact a staffing company in Connecticut at Merritt Staffing for more information.

© Year Merritt Staffing. Site Credits.