Polish Up That Elevator Speech

Most of you have heard of an “Elevator Speech,” right? The story goes something like this – let’s say you have an interview for a job you really want. You get into the elevator on the first floor of the building and find out the other person in the elevator is the head honcho who is going to have the final say in whether you get hired.  You now have about 60 seconds to ride in the elevator with her to the top floor.  When she finds out that you are the candidate under consideration, she seems curious about you. What “speech” can you give her in that elevator ride to peak her interest and ensure that you get the offer? Ahhhhh! If you don’t know, then you need to figure this out – and fast!

You meet people all the time, especially if you are networking, attending professional organization meetings, and actively pursuing job leads. Sometimes, you really only have about an “elevator ride” worth of time to impress someone or not. So what can you do? Try to identify what you really want to market about yourself and what sets you apart out there.  What value do you add? What do you want other networking professionals to remember about you? Practice your “elevator speech” out loud. Listen to other people’s answers when you ask them what they do – what impresses you? Who do you remember and why? These are not easy questions to answer – but investing some time and careful thought into your “elevator speech” can create a lot of opportunities for you.

If you are at a networking event, be sure that your interaction is not “just about you.”  It’s important  to focus on building relationships, too.  So show interest in the other person and ask how you might be able to help them. You will certainly be remembered for that!

 

Do Recruiters discriminate against the unemployed?

Scary…but true. Job seekers tell me they have been told that being unemployed was a reason for being eliminated from the process. And within the last year, a job ad got a lot of press for specifying that “…the unemployed need not apply.” Ahhh!! In a good economy, there is an assumption that those who are out of work were not good performers. However, it is hard to understand why this bias remains true in a tough economy when so many top performers are out on the street as well. So, I recently chatted with several local recruiters to ask about this bias and what can job seekers do about it.

 

Recruiters responded employers have a preference for the employed. Some companies feel that those who are employed “made the cut,” so they must be more valuable than those who were downsized. According to Rachel Evans, Managing Partner, AgentHR Recruiting Group, employers are also legitimately concerned that someone who is unemployed is a “flight risk.”  They worry that a desperate job seeker may accept a position if they have been unemployed for quite some time, and accept a job since it is a “paycheck” to them. That is, the job will help with their current financial difficulties, but the job or company are not really a good fit, and the job seeker will flee when a better position comes along.

 

So, if you are not employed, how can you overcome such biases out there? One thing you can do is to demonstrate that you are not just sitting around unemployed by getting involved in some type of work or professional activity. See if you can obtain temporary work – especially if it is related to your field. You can also try to get involved in various professional activities – this can be taking courses, earning a relevant certification, or becoming involved in a professional association and contributing to their committees and needs. These efforts should be noted on the résumé and in your cover letter to demonstrate that you are currently involved.

 

In submitting your résumé, the most important thing you can do is to be sure your resume stands out and matches job-specific keywords, according to Lynn Parker, CPC and Director of Talent/CEO of Guy-Parker and Associates. Lynn says that most employers are relying on applicant tracking systems (ATS) that search for keywords most closely matching their job description. She recommends that candidates (1) select positions that are relevant and match your skills (2) ensure your résumé includes keywords that reflect your skills (3) tailor your résumé and cover letter to the keywords of the job ad or position description.  Lynn also cautions that you check to be sure that your cover letter is addressing the position you are applying for and that all names are correctly addressed to the right person or company.

 

Another thing Rachel recommends for most unemployed candidates is not to go the route of 3rd party recruiters, except for contract assignments. They are better off targeting the in-house recruiters. If companies are to take the chance on someone unemployed, they certainly would be reluctant to pay an agency fee. In addition, sometimes accepting contract work, even with a lower salary and no benefits, could be a ticket into a permanent position within a company. If you are somewhat venturesome, you might want to consider some form of entrepreneurship–just be careful of scams out there (you can check via the BBB and sites like “ripoffreport.com.”)

In terms of your job search plan, Lynn advises that you avoid getting overwhelmed by setting priorities. Take some time to rethink your goals, identify companies that you want to work for, and do your networking to get to the right people. All agree that social media, like LinkedIn, provide excellent tools to support a job search with effective networking capabilities. Participating in discussions on LinkedIn groups, can give you exposure and demonstrate your knowledge…..so that eventually, employers and recruiters may start coming after you!

Career Fairs…are they worth it?

Career Fairs can be very overwhelming and time-consuming. How many should you go to? Which booths should you visit? Do people REALLY get jobs this way? Some people do – just as they do from Internet career boards (monster, hotjobs, etc), networking, or ads in the paper. The key to making the most of any career fair is to do your homework. First, be selective about which career fairs you attend.  Find out which companies will be there. Decide if you have any interest in working for them and see if you can find out whether there are any openings in your field.  Second, develop a target list of companies to visit. Then, go to their websites and do some research. Third, be thoroughly familiar with your résumé and be prepared to answer on the spot interview questions. On the day of the Career Fair, be dressed professionally and have résumés ready to give out. Be sure to prioritize which booths you visit and let the interviewer know why you are interested in that particular company. Ask about current possibilities and what their timing is. Thank the interviewer and ask for a business card. Promptly follow up with a thank you note. Oh…remember to wear a smile!

Are you making some big mistakes on your interviews?

Everyone makes mistakes, right? But you may not be aware of some of the interview mistakes that may cost you a job offer! So what makes employers crazy? Here are some of the top responses that consistently pop up in surveys as well as from recruiter feedback: Being late for the interview (with no good reason); poor personal appearance;  overly scented perfume or poor hygiene; distracting jewelry (jangling bracelets, overly fancy jewelry in the workplace, or too many piercings); untidy facial hair; overbearing personality or a “know it all.”;  inability to express oneself clearly; poor grammar; over- emphasis on money or benefits not the job; bad-mouthing a former employer; no eye contact; expressing that one wants the job just for a short time; knowing nothing about the company; asking no questions about the job; poor listening skills.

 

Review these top items and see if there are areas you need to work on, such as:

  • Are you offending an interviewer with your perfume? Most recruiters will tell you not to use perfume at all, since so many people have allergies or just may have different tastes on what scents are pleasing.
  • Have you done your homework in preparing for the interview? You can read the company website, google press reports or business journals, or dig for information from someone you may know who already works there. If a recruiter is sending you for an interview, ask the recruiter for any info about the company or the position.
  •  Check out your mode of dress and jewelry in relation to their culture – are beards or facial piercings acceptable or frowned upon? Is business casual appropriate in that environment?
  • Are you asking about company benefits at the beginning of the interview? Try to focus on understanding the job itself and emphasizing your enthusiastic interest in the position. Let them hear what you learned about the company from your research and why you are so interested in working there.
  • Be sure you leave the interview on a note that highlights your skills and how you are going to add value.  Ask questions you have about the job, the department, the company, and of course, then feel free to ask a about the benefits and the potential salary range.

Handling Salary Issues: Are you Negotiating too soon?

Many candidates lose a job opportunity by negotiating salary too soon…and they don’t even realize it. The employer asks what you are looking for and you answer with a specific number. Yikes! Once you quote a specific salary, you have started the negotiations. Perhaps you quoted too low, and now they wonder if you are really qualified. Or, they do want to make you an offer but not they can keep you at the low end of the potential range. Even worse, you may have quoted too high, and they may already eliminate you from consideration.

How to prepare? First, understand that salary is only one aspect of your total compensation. Determine in advance, what your total needs are including salary, vacation, benefits, commuting costs, etc. Decide where you are able to be flexible. How to answer that question? First, ask the employer what the salary range is for the position and you can then affirm (or not!) that the range is within your ballpark. Of course, they may not be willing to provide that information to you. Alternatively, you can state that you would like to be paid fairly for the level of the position and try to avoid further discussion about it until an actual offer is on the table. Also, you can quote a salary range that you are looking for, based on a determination of your needs. Be cautious though – do not say it is based on your needs – state that it is based on fair market value and you can easily fine this info online beforehand (try www.salary.com). Do some research to see what average salaries are for your position and level, and now you will have factual info to quote to the employer as to what ranges are appropriate for your level. Let them know that the acceptable salary offered will be influenced by what is included in the rest of the compensation package. Remember, keep a poker face during these discussions and always let them know how excited you are about the position itself. You may be surprised how employers rise above their initially quoted range to close a deal when they can focus on your value and not get bogged down by the numbers coming up too soon in the process.