Archive for June, 2010

Secrets to Figuring out the Corporate Culture

Job hunters are often advised to check out an organization’s “culture” early on in the hiring process. (I’ve probably given that advice in this blog, too.) Yet what does that mean? And how can you determine it without seeming silly — “Excuse me, Mr. Hiring Manager, but what’s the culture like here?” doesn’t seem a really effective way to go. And even if you were to ask, you’d likely get a vague answer, one meant to impress upon you (something about not really liking meetings and trying to trim them) how progressive a company they are, rather than bureaucratic or top-down.

So it doesn’t really make sense to attempt to answer the corporate culture in a general way. Yet what is a smart strategy for job seekers is to try to figure out some of the specific ways and means of an organization — what makes it tick, what are the priorities, how the work flows and who really makes decisions. That’s what we really mean by an organization’s culture. And trying to determine how an organization works and what’s truly important there can be the difference between making a huge career mistake in joining a place that’s wrong for you and finding an organization where you’re apt to feel comfortable after a reasonable transition period. The trick is seeing whether this organization values what you value in the workplace — it could be a great culture but still all wrong for you.

Here are some questions to ask and things to determine to figure out an organization’s culture: (more…)


June 30, 2010 at 11:25 am Leave a comment

What to Avoid Highlighting in a Job Interview

In job hunting as in life, it’s best to be honest and never to tell an overt lie. One’s resume, cover letter and other materials should be fact-checked for accuracy, and in interviews, candidates should stick to the facts as well.

Yet honesty doesn’t mean you have to advertise things about your background — especially things that wouldn’t affect your performance in a job but which, if you highlight them, might likely end (or certainly complicate) your candidacy for a position. The reality is that recruiters and hiring managers all have their own biases, even if they are trying to be objective about candidates, and by advertising certain things about yourself you may trigger such a bias.

If asked a direct (and legally permissible) question, you should answer to the best of your ability — it’s never a good idea to try to “trick” a hiring manager, as the truth is likely to come out in other ways and then they will question your honesty. And why take a job for which you have to lie about your qualifications? But at the same time, if something may be a prejudice on the hiring editor’s part — not wanting to hire “older” workers, for instance — why highlight parts of your background that may play into that bias? Some of this may get into ethically gray areas, and each job candidate will have to figure out their comfort zone for such things. The point is not to highlight certain things in an interview while staying on the good side of the truth.

Here are some things that hiring experts say candidates should avoid highlighting in a job interview: (more…)

June 29, 2010 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

How to Handle Difficult People — Even if They Are Your Boss or the Recruiter

Difficult people are everywhere, but they seem particularly insidious in the workplace. While everyone’s definition of difficult is different, it includes bosses and hiring managers who are arrogant, arbitrary, irrational, unfair, take credit for others’ ideas, happily pass along criticism but are stingy with praise and are moody — allowing matters in their personal lives to intrude into how they supervise people in the workplace.

You’ll meet these people again and again — including on the other side of the interview desk, when it seems really tough to cope with them because they hold the cards — so it’s not particularly effective to just try to avoid them. Instead, it’s important to be forewarned and forearmed.

While there are many reasons people become difficult in the workplace, this set of personality traits often stems from feelings of inadequacy — even though it may not appear that way at all. Psychologists say that lording over people and being difficult is often a way to cover up feelings that deep down someone isn’t competent — this is a “cover” that distracts from their work. While these inadequate feelings may not seem like they should be your problem, getting along with such people on the job or trying to get a job from them may be important to you, so it’s key to develop some strategies for dealing with difficult people.

Here are some tips: (more…)

June 28, 2010 at 2:57 am Leave a comment

How to Avoid Job-hunting Traps

Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, job hunters sabotage their own efforts. By acting on outdated information (perhaps based on the last time they searched, even if it was years ago) or misguided advice, they waste precious time and energy focusing on strategies that are unlikely to land them a job — at least any time soon. And sometimes what seems to be a good idea for a while turns out not to be worth more time, but it’s tough to change direction.

Here are some common job-hunting traps and how to avoid them: (more…)

June 25, 2010 at 11:40 am Leave a comment

More Things to Consider Before Taking a Job

Job hunting is a two-way street — you’re not only trying to convince an employer that you’re right for the job but the job needs to be the right one for you as well. Yet many job seekers get so caught up in the first part of the equation that they don’t pay enough attention to the signs of whether an organization is a good fit for them.

And this isn’t just a philosophical exercise — hiring experts say that a surprisingly high percentage of people who land new jobs are looking again in six months to a year because they jumped too quickly. Things like a bad fit with your boss, not realizing (and not liking) the specific duties of a job or a mismatch with the company’s goals and culture could have you on the hunt again far too soon, which you want to avoid for obvious reasons.

Beyond doing your research about a company by talking to current and former employees, reading all you can about the company online and asking good questions in an interview, you’ll want to look for telltale signs about whether this company and this position is a good fit for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before accepting a new job: (more…)

June 24, 2010 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

How Colleagues Can be Your Ticket to Jobs

One of the toughest parts of networking is determining where to spend that time and energy. We all know a lot of people — and the longer you’ve been working in a particular industry, the more you know — and it can be quite labor intensive to keep up with a lot of folks, especially in this era of social networking.

One could literally do nothing else all day but stay on top of email, instant and text messages, your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, the Web sites and blogs of those in your network, and phone calls to your various numbers in between having coffee, lunch and drinks with contacts and then heading to a networking event or two! Who has time for actual work?

The trick is to figure out who will be some of your best career resources — those who are going to help you get jobs again and again — and focus your networking attention on them. One of the best pieces of advice I received from a well-networked mentor early in my career was to make it a priority to be a good colleague and then to stay in touch with co-workers as they move into other jobs. They are in a position not only to introduce you to others as they know you but more importantly they know your work — so their referral or recommendation is authentic and likely will be respected and can open doors.

Here are some tips on how your colleagues and former colleagues can be a ticket to jobs for you throughout your career: (more…)

June 23, 2010 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

Be Prepared to Defend Your Resume

Even with all the changes in resumes these days, one thing remains the same: your resume must accurately reflect your experience and abilities. While a resume is a marketing tool, it needs to be an honest account of your background, skills and expertise. If you embellish, fudge or overreach, chances are that the attention you’ll attract will be negative.

Not only will inaccuracy or hyperbole on your resume potentially get you in hot water with this particular employer but they could well pass along the word that you have some inaccuracies on this important document. This is especially true in journalism circles — here in town and across the country — as journalism remains a pretty tight-knit community. The last thing you want to do is to showcase that you “can’t handle the truth,” especially about yourself.

In this highly competitive job market, employers are closely monitoring resumes for accuracy and truth in advertising. So be prepared to defend yours in a job interview or even in initial chats with potential employers. Larger organizations sometimes employ staffers or consultants to fact-check your resume before you’ll even get in the door.

So how do you make your background sound appealing on your resume without crossing the line into embellishment or into the dangerous untruthful zone? Here are some tipsĀ  on defending your resume: (more…)

June 22, 2010 at 2:59 am 1 comment

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