The critical last step in the job search that you don't want to forget

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but when it comes to landing a new job, the same holds true. Chances are that at least a handful of people played a part (big or small) in creating this new opportunity for you, so make sure you don't forget to give credit where it's due and take some time to say thank you to anyone and everyone who was there along the way.  This includes:

  • The hiring team at your new company, including your new manager, anyone you interviewed with, and any recruiters or coordinators who helped you through the process 

  • Anyone who made introductions for you or helped you make a connection somewhere 

  • Anyone who put their own reputation on the line by making a personal recommendation 

  • Anyone who passed along your resume to someone with influence 

  • Anyone who helped you with your resume or reread it after all 86 revisions...I feel like you at least owe them a drink or something, right?  

  • Anyone who offered advice, assistance, an introduction, anything at all...even if they didn't help you with this particular job.  

  • Friends and family who cheered you on, helped you pick out that new interview outfit, and kept you from giving up and bingeing on that tub of cookies & cream when you thought you'd never make it

I'm certain that I'm missing someone, but you get the idea, right? All this to say that your job search process isn't over once you sign the offer. Make sure you take the time to show some appreciation, even if it's just a simple, "thank you." It's proper human behavior, but it's also good karma and we can all use a little bit more of that, right?  

How to prepare for the interview

Alright, so you’ve submitted your carefully tailored resume, wowed them over the phone, and now you have the golden ticket - a chance to interview in person. Congrats! Now it’s time to make sure you are well prepared so that you can make the best possible impression and get yourself one step closer to a formal offer. Here are my top 4 tips for preparing for the in-person interview:

1. Do your research

Make sure you understand the basics of what the company does and how their business model operates. What is their product or service? How do they deliver it? Who are their customers? What is their purpose?

In many cases, the recruiter will include the interview agenda with a list of who you’ll be speaking to. Don’t be creepy, but make sure you do your homework and research their backgrounds. What is their role? How long have they been with the company? What kind of experience do they have? Do you have anything in common with them that you can use to make a connection or break the ice? Understanding who you’ll be talking to can give you a bit of insight as to what they’ll be looking for from you and the types of questions they might ask. I once spoke to a co-founder without realizing he was a co-founder until halfway through our conversation!

Review the job description so you are clear on what the role is, what the responsibilities are, and what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate. This will help you anticipate questions you might get as well as any concerns the interviewer might have about your experience (or lack of experience); if you can anticipate their concerns, you can be better prepared to address them.

2. Logistics

Make sure you confirm all the details before the day of the interview. This includes the address, building number, parking information, who you should ask for when you arrive, the time of the interview, and any other special instructions. The last thing you want to do is call them ten minutes after your interview is supposed to start, asking which building they’re in.

Plan out your clothes at least two days before - this gives you time to make sure you have something to wear that you feel good in, get it dry cleaned if you need to, and make sure it’s ready to go so you’re not up late stressing the night before.

Finally, make sure you schedule your day so you have plenty of time to get to the interview, which means you need to make sure you know how long it would normally take you to get there and add in a few extra minutes for a safety cushion.

Do a final sweep of your resume and make sure you have a printed copy for each person you plan to be interviewing with. If you don’t know how many people you’ll be meeting, a good rule of thumb is to have at least 3 copies you can hand out if you need to.

3. Prepare notes

Think through the skills, experiences, and special knowledge that you want to make sure you get to talk about. These are the things that make you feel most confident and excited about the opportunity. List them in a notebook you can take with you so that you make sure you don’t forget to bring them up when you get a chance to talk about yourself.

You also want to have a list of questions ready for each person you’ll be interviewing with (again, if you have the list). A minimum of three questions for each person to start, and then if you have more you can try to read how the conversation’s going to see if you have time to ask more. Trust me, you do not want to have a brain freeze when they ask you if you have any questions; be prepared!

4. Practice

Yes, in order to get that great job you need to have certain knowledge, skills, and experiences, but the trick to interviewing well is being able to show the hiring team that you, in fact, do have those things. You have to sell what you have to offer, and for most people this is not something we’re used to. It takes practice. My favorite tip is to google “common interview questions” and just run down the lists asking yourself each question and make sure you practice answering them out loud. Make sure you can think through the question and that, if you were asked it in an interview, you have a coherent answer for it. You can’t know the questions you’ll get in advance, but you can practice answering general questions and talking about yourself so it’s not so new once you’re actually there.

And finally, practice your introduction. No doubt someone will say, “so tell me about yourself,” and you need to be ready to tell them what they need to know quickly and succinctly. Don’t share your life story, but do give them enough information so they have some context as to why you’re interviewing with them and how they should steer the conversation. There are tons of great examples online, but rather than just reading the examples, practice talking it through so you find a way that feels comfortable and natural and you don’t sound like you’re reciting from memory.

Ready? Alright, good luck and let me know how it goes!

Should I be researching companies on Glassdoor?

These days, there’s no shortage of ways to research a company that you might want to work for. Glassdoor is probably the most popular site for candidates who want to get the inside scoop, and I’m often asked if it’s a good resource and if you should be reading up before an interview. The short answer is yes, I definitely think it’s worth checking out, but make sure to keep a few things in mind...

The great thing about Glassdoor is that it’s accessible to everyone and it’s anonymous. The bad thing about Glassdoor is that it’s accessible to everyone and it’s anonymous. While I do suggest taking a look at a company’s profile, I always add that you should take everything you read with a grain of salt. Anyone can write a review for any company, which means there’s no verification that someone writing a review has actually worked there. You also don’t know anything about their experience or why they might be writing the review, particularly if it’s negative. Were they fired? Not performing to expectations? Do they have any reason to hold a grudge against the company? Working in HR, I have seen employees be released from their jobs and the next day a negative review pops up. Just remember that what you’re reading is only one side of the story.

The other thing is that most people who love the company and their jobs don’t often think to take the time to leave a positive review. Think about buying products for yourself - when it works, you simply enjoy your product and go on with your life, but when it doesn’t work, then you think about leaving a review on the company’s website. I’m sure there’s a fancy psychology term for it, but the basic idea is that unless there’s some kind of incentive, most happy employees aren’t spending time posting on Glassdoor, so you’re definitely missing out on everything they have to say. That’s why you want to ask lots of questions during your interviews!

One final point is that smaller companies, particularly those who aren’t well-known brands, don’t always have as much data on Glassdoor as the larger, more well-known companies do. One company I worked for was a government contractor and purposefully tried to avoid public attention because of the sensitive nature of its work, so we didn’t have much of a social media presence at all, including on Glassdoor. But it was an amazing company and I spent six wonderful years working there, so don’t write off a company just because you don’t see a lot of reviews. Do your research, pay attention in the interview, and talk to the employees while you’re there so you can make an informed decision.

Are you thoroughly confused yet? There’s a lot to keep in mind, but I do think that Glassdoor can be a really valuable resource. Just make sure that it’s not the only data point you’re using to judge whether a company is worth your attention.

Photo courtesy http://kaboompics.com/

Photo courtesy http://kaboompics.com/

So you’ve been laid off...now what?

Few events are as jarring as losing your job, especially when it happens unexpectedly and it’s the first time you’ve ever been through it. Here are a few things you should know:

  • First, it’s totally normal to freak out. Losing a job is one of the most stressful things that can happen in our lives, and everyone handles it differently. You may be worried about money, angry that this decision was made, or feel ashamed to tell anyone. It’s all totally normal. Take a few days to let the news soak in, process it how you need to,* and don’t make any major decisions until you’ve had some time to come to terms with this change.

  • Take inventory. Once you’ve had time to clear your head, you need to assess the situation so you know what you’re dealing with. How much money do you have in the bank? How much time do you realistically have before you have to take the backup job? What expenses can you cut temporarily? What else in your life might be impacted by this change?

  • Make an action list. Seriously, there’s nothing like a good checklist that will give you some direction and make you feel empowered when you start marking things off. Refresh your resume. Reach out to people you know. Setup job search notifications. Write your cover letter. Get moving.

  • Attitude is everything in this situation. I get it. It’s easy and understandable that you would be angry, upset, bitter, worried, etc. You are entitled to your feelings, but if you want to make the best of the situation, you’ve got to get your attitude in check. Remember that time on Sex and the City when Charlotte forced herself to get dressed and go to Brady’s birthday party after she’d been locking herself in the house for days? “Now is the time for guts and guile,” girl. So pick yourself up, put on your very best outfit, and get back out there.

Photo courtesy Healthy Strides (click to link)

Photo courtesy Healthy Strides (click to link)

  • Remember you’ll be better on the other side of this. We don’t grow when we’re comfortable! Even though the situation right now is annoying at best and terrifying at worst, when you make it to the other side you’ll be smarter, more experienced, stronger, and refined...basically Superwoman. Chin up!

 


*Be smart and take care of yourself. If you ever have thoughts of harming yourself or anyone else, make sure to reach out for professional help immediately.

How to explain why you're leaving your current job in an interview

It’s inevitable. If you’re interviewing for a new job, chances are you won’t get too far into the process before you hear something like, so tell me why you’re leaving.

This question seems to make a lot of people nervous, but unless you’re leaving under severe circumstances, I don’t really think it needs to. As a recruiter, I’m looking for a few different pieces of information when I ask this question:

  1. Are there any red flags? Basically, what kind of risk are we taking by hiring you?

  2. Are you unhappy and, if so, why? If you’re leaving to get away from something (a job you don’t like, a manager you can’t stand, even a commute that you’re tired of), I want to make sure that you’re not just going to find yourself in the same situation here.

  3. How do you approach this topic? It’s perfectly understandable that you may have some negative feelings or resentment toward a job or a company that you’re leaving (whether on your own or involuntarily), but I want to see that you’re a professional and that you’re leaving on good terms. This is not the time to complain about everyone you worked with or how your boss is a major micromanager. Save that for girls' night. 

A lot of people ask me how they should answer this question, and the first rule of thumb is to be honest - always, always, always. And start with the positive aspects of your experience.

The culture and mission of the company are incredible, but I’m really ready to move forward in my career and unfortunately the opportunities for advancement just aren’t here right now.

I have a lot of respect for the work that my manager does and the expertise she brings to the team, but unfortunately we don’t see eye-to-eye on management style. I’ve found that I work best in a more structured environment, so that’s what I’m really looking for in my next opportunity.

What if you’ve been laid off?

Working at X has been an incredible experience for me, but unfortunately our office is being closed (or there’s been a change in strategy and my role has been impacted). Now I’m taking this opportunity to find my next great fit and I’m so excited to be speaking with you today.

What if you were let go?

I definitely understand the concern around this one, but again, be honest. I promise it will come back to you at some point if you’re not, so have the uncomfortable conversation now and show how you’ve learned from your mistakes and are moving forward.

Unfortunately, I was let go from this position. I thought the role would be a better fit than it was and I was unable to perform the work as it needed to be done. I respect the company’s decision and we parted on good terms. I’m excited to move forward and find a role that is more fitting for my talents and skills.


Depending on the situation you’re in, this can be an uncomfortable question, but prepare yourself to address it head on with truth and poise and you can’t lose.

Free resource: The phone screen interview prep sheet

In my work I have interviewed hundreds of candidates and trained both job seekers and hiring managers on how to prepare for interviews, and yet I’d still tell you that I might be one of the worst interviewees around. When asked to talk about myself, I still get nervous (the sweaty palms!), I still flub my words, and I still freeze up and forget all the amazing experiences I was going to talk about. If you can relate, I’ve got the perfect tool for you below, and you can download it absolutely free!

My phone screen prep sheet is meant to help you think through the answers to questions you’ll almost certainly be asked in the initial round of interviews. This is usually when you get your first chance to pitch yourself to the recruiter or hiring manager, and you’ve got to make a good first impression to get to the next step. You have to be able to talk about what you do, why you’re a natural fit for the role, and if you can’t clearly articulate your skill set, you might not get another chance to convince them. I don’t say this to make you nervous (promise!), but just to share how critical it is that you can get your basic message across to the interviewer.

The prep sheet covers several areas of conversation that are likely to be part of the initial phone screen, so that you can write down your notes in advance and quickly refer back to it during your conversation. This way you don’t get lost rambling on and on and you don’t forget all the important things you wanted to share. Consider it a cheat sheet of sorts. Here’s how to use it:

  • Jot down the company, the job title, and the name of the person you’ll be talking with so you keep them straight (particularly helpful if you’re applying to multiple different opportunities) and can refer to the interviewer by name (build that connection).

  • In the “About Me” section, write out your “elevator pitch” so you’re prepared to give a brief history of your experience and why you’re now interested in this opportunity.

  • Under “About the Company,” make sure you have a quick description of what this company does and who their customer is so you have an intelligible answer when the recruiter asks you what you know about them. Even if you think you understand what the company does, make sure you can summarize it in 2-3 sentences. Believe me, I have flubbed this before and if you’re applying for a job, you need to be able to show you understand the basics of the business.

  • Under “What I Do Currently,” summarize your role and what your primary responsibilities are as well as the impact your role has on the company. Don’t just assume they will know from your title.

  • Under “Why I Should Be Considered For This Job,” you need to have 3-4 strong points ready to address this question. Why are you the person they should invest in?

  • Next, you need to share “Specific Examples of Relevant Work/Projects.” This is different from what you do. You need to have 4-5 examples of real projects or other things you have done that directly align with this job to show you have the experience they’re looking for. Be ready to expand with details if needed.

  • Finally, under “Questions I Have,” make sure you have 3-4 solid questions to ask the interviewer about the role or the company. If there’s anything you’re particularly interested in knowing or that would be a deal-breaker for you, write it down so you don’t forget to ask.

And there you have it! While it certainly doesn’t cover every question you’ll get, it’s focused on the pieces that you’ll almost certainly get and that you might easily have a hard time talking about in the moment. Just jot down your notes so you can have them with you for the moment you inevitably forget how to talk about what you do or any relevant experience you’ve had (happens to the best of us). This works well for the phone screen because the interviewer can’t see you, so take advantage of that and be prepared to blow them away!

How to turn down a job opportunity without burning bridges

Someone asked me the other day what to do after being contacted by a recruiter on LinkedIn about a job she had no interest in pursuing. Should she respond and, if so, what should she say? I’m sharing my top tips as well as a template you can use if you ever find yourself in the same situation.

First, if a recruiter reaches out to you about a job, congratulations! This means you’re at least doing something right in terms of being seen and sharing your skills. That’s step one to getting the job that you really want. But if you’re not interested in the job that they want to talk to you about, there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to respond.

DO make sure you reply to the message in a timely manner. I absolutely understand that some professionals are contacted by recruiters all day long (hello, software engineers!) and just have no time to reply to every inquiry they get. Most of us, however, are not in that boat, so just take a quick minute to acknowledge their existence. You’d want someone else to do the same for you.

DO politely thank them for the consideration. This is just basic manners, but it says a lot about you as a person. You wouldn’t walk past someone who held a door open for you without saying thank you (obviously), so don’t forget to say it in this instance, either.


DO be honest if you’re not interested, but let them know what types of roles and opportunities you would be interested in so that they can reach out if they ever have something that’s more fitting.

DON’T be rude or condescending in your response. Obviously you would never do this, but I have to say it. Make sure your tone is one of appreciation, flattery, and not of irritation or arrogance. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!


DON’T miss out on the opportunity to stay in touch! You never know when this person might be able to connect you with your dream job, so tell them you’d love to keep in touch and go send them a LinkedIn request. It’s all about who you know, so don’t miss a chance to grow your circle.

DON’T skip the chance to help them connect to someone else who might be right for the job. Maybe this isn’t the job for you, but would it be a great opportunity for your roommate/brother/third cousin/sorority sister? Even if no one specific comes to mind, let them know you’ll be sure to share if you can think of anyone else who might be interested. This positions you as a connector in your network, which is always a good thing, and could potentially help someone you know as well as this recruiter. That’s good karma, people.

Here’s a great template you can use (just be sure to personalize it so it matches the situation and sounds like you):

Hi RECRUITER FIRST NAME,

Thank you so much for reaching out! I sincerely appreciate the consideration. While this position isn’t quite what I’m looking for at this time, I’d love to stay connected and I will be sure to pass along the opportunity as well as your contact information to anyone I know who might be a better fit.

If you ever have an open opportunity in the areas of (INSERT YOUR AREA OF INTEREST HERE), I would love the chance to be considered again. Best of luck to you in your search and thanks again for your interest.

Best,


YOUR NAME

Should I tell my recruiter I'm talking to other companies?

Congratulations! You’ve found a job that you’re really interested in and you’ve made it to a phone screen or live interview, or maybe you received an offer already. You’re also talking to another company and aren’t sure which way you’re leaning yet. Should you tell the recruiter or interviewer that you’re considering other opportunities?

I think there are really two ways to ask this question, so I’ll start with the first: Am I obligated to tell the recruiter that I'm talking to other companies? 

The short answer is no, you are not under any requirements to tell them that you’re considering other jobs or offers. I think most recruiters will assume that you are considering other opportunities unless you were not actively looking and they reached out to you directly about this specific job. If you contacted them, they probably assume you’re shopping around, so it’s to be expected. Typically I would only ask a candidate if she is considering other offers if I’m going to make an offer or if I’ve already made an offer because I want to know what we’re competing against. Are the offers comparable? Do you need to accept or decline by a certain date (in which case I might need to fast track your offer so we don’t lose you)?

The second way to ask the question is, Is it appropriate to tell the recruiter that I'm talking to other companies? 

Again, your recruiter probably assumes that you are shopping around for the best opportunity unless they know you were not actively looking and they reached out to you directly. I wouldn’t advise you to bring it up unless you need to, so this might be fitting if you have another offer on the table and a deadline to accept or decline. It would be appropriate in this situation because you’re letting them know they need to make their best offer by a certain day or time if they’re really interested in you. As a recruiter, I want to know if I have those limitations around our discussion.

A word of advice: Some recruiters might question whether or not you really have another offer and might think that you’re just saying that to rush an offer or to get a higher salary. Being the ethical professional that you are, you would never do this, so most will take your word for it. Particularly if your skill set is in high demand or if you’re a really stellar candidate, they’ll take you seriously and do their best to get you an offer in the timeframe that you need to consider it.

How to ask about next steps after an interview

So you got an interview or a phone screen (congrats!) and it went really well (congrats again!), but the interviewers didn’t mention anything about next steps and you forgot to ask. How can you find out where you go from here? I like to suggest what I call the “thank you follow-up.” It’s an easy and professional way to ask what comes next without sounding presumptive, demanding, or pushy.

I always recommend sending a thank you to anyone you interview with as well as whomever you worked with to schedule the interview, such as a recruiter or coordinator. Hand-written notes are unbeatable, but these days I think it makes more of an impression to follow-up quickly and unfortunately by the time your card gets delivered by the mail service, they’ve likely already made a decision on whether or not they want to move forward with you as a candidate. So send an e-mail and just make sure that it’s well-written and personable. I like this approach because it shows appreciation and professionalism as well as initiative and real interest in the opportunity.

Stuck on what to say? Here’s an example you can customize to your situation:

Hi NAME,

Thank you so much for scheduling my call/interview with NAME(S) yesterday. I really enjoyed the conversation(s) and I hope that he/she/they did, too. I would love to learn more about the role and I look forward to hearing about next steps if you believe that my background and experience could be a potential fit. If you need any additional information from me, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thank you again for the opportunity.

Best/sincerely/regards (whatever sounds most genuine to you),

YOUR NAME

Regardless of the outcome, you will have left them with a positive impression. Even if this isn’t the perfect fit, they’d probably be happy to consider you for any future roles that you might be interested in.

Good luck!

A good time to check in

The end of August always has me thinking about everything I love about fall: the cooler weather that can't come fast enough, my daughter's birthday, the start of the holidays, my wedding anniversary, and my favorite boots that go with everything. But since we still have a few weeks left of summer, it's a good time to savor what's left of this season and start preparing for the next. It's a good time to check in.  

So how's work going? What has this season taught you? Was it everything you expected or was it full of surprises? Did you accomplish what you wanted to, or is there more work that needs to be done over the coming months? Are you struggling or feeling on top of the world? Are you somewhere in between? Did you feel aligned with what matters most?  

And what about what's next? How can you really take advantage of the next few months to get closer to where you want to be? Can you foresee any challenges coming up that you can start preparing for now? What would you like to do before the end of the year? How would you like to wrap up 2016? These are the questions to start thinking about now! How can you focus on what matters most with everything that will be going on?  

And most of all, how can I help? Reach out and let me know 

Here's to your best fall yet.  

-Ashley