Research Essentials: Company Research for the Interview

Many of my clients don’t research companies before interviews and are shocked when they don’t land the coveted job. Ironically, the primary reason why candidates fail interviews is lack of knowledge about the company. Knowing about the mission, values, services, and products within an organization is integral to succeeding on a job interview. Check out the following sources to guide your company research.

1. Google- Use Google to find different pages. I use it to find company web sites, articles about the company, CEO, and the department, and the annual report of the company.
2. LinkedIn- LinkedIn is an excellent resource for company research. Follow company pages to find job openings, articles, and department heads. Peruse the Groups feature to find company and recruiter groups. Note that recruiters do post job listing within regional job seekers groups. Use this as an opportunity to connect to recruiters.
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Another wonderful feature from LinkedIn is the ability to research your panel before you arrive on an interview. Connect with recruiters, human resources personnel, or employees at a company before your interview. Check their 2nd degree connections from their company or the department you intend to work for at this time. These “connections” are often members of your interview panel. Browse their profiles and record information on their professional passions, habit, education, or association that you have in common. This will help you make small talk during the interview.

3. AnnualReports.com- This site is another source of annual reports for companies.
A quick note about annual reports:
Clients ask me why I encourage them to read annual reports for companies. I know, they’re boring, and who wants to wade through strategic plans and statistics, right? However, I endorse the practice for the following reasons.

First and foremost, you need to know the financial health of the company. Research the net worth, total holdings, and market growth for a company. Unless you like working for turnarounds or realignments, why invest in company that may fold? If you’re leaving a bad work environment, you may be leaping from one bad situation to another one.

Secondly, you need to understand the direction of the company and your potential department. Are they expanding in your department or contracting it? How does your potential position fit with the bottom line of the company? If you can’t answer these questions, you’ll have a difficult time selling yourself to a prospective employer.

Finally, reading an annual report is essential for career management. Several clients have revealed in coaching session that they realized their annual reports hinted at possible layoffs, but they ignored the warning signs. Unfortunately, they didn’t heed the warnings and were blindsided by a layoff.

4. Hoovers.com- No, this isn’t a link to the famous carpet sweeper company. On the other hand, no one does market research like them. A great website featuring company reports, industry trends, and competitive insights for your field.

5. Wikipedia-Wikipedia is a quick reference for general information about a company. Don’t forget to check linked reference articles for talking points during your interview. Additionally, do a quick Google search to see if the company has its own Company Wiki. Employers want to see if you’re doing adequate research.
6. Yelp.com- Yelp isn’t just for checking out customer service at your local Applebee’s. Use the company reviews Information to learn how customers view the company. Are there problems that need to be solved? Create a few solutions before you attend the interview. They may ask you hypothetical questions to see how you’ll solve their problems, especially if you’re interviewing for a management position.
7. Glassdoor.com & CareerBliss.com- If you can’t contact an employee within the company before your interview, Glassdoor and CareerBliss are excellent substitutions. Learn how past and present employees rate working conditions, salary, and compensation packages before you interview for a company.
8. Know your worth: Use a salary calculator to figure out your “asking point.”- Many of my clients don’t know how much their skills are worth on the open market. I usually ask them to use a salary calculator at Salary or Payscale to help them determine their salary and benefits package. However, I caution them to use the median (most frequently occurring salary) as opposed to the average salary for your field to ensure that they don’t inflate their incomes.

Get started on your interview research with my Company Research Questionnaire. Simply download it from the Box.com widget.

Interviewing Master Class- 6 Week Program

Resumes may help a job seeker gain the attention of human resource professionals, but nailing the interview is essential to convert initial interest into a job offer. Far too many job seekers “Google”  answers to the most frequently asked questions before a traditional interview the night before the big day.  Learn  a more systematic approach to interview preparation by reading the “Interviewing Master Class” articles.

Topics covered will include:

I. Research Essentials-  What you should know about the company before the interview.

II.  Image Control- Dress for Success, Making an Entrance, Verbal Cues, Portfolios, Thank You Letters

III. Traditional Interviews- STAR Techniques, Frequently Asked Questions, and Checklists

IV. You Against the Machine- Phone Screens, Phone Interviews, and Skype

V.  What would Freud do on an interview?  Behavioral Based Interview Tips

VI. Survival of the Fittest- How to Claim Victory Over Stress and Panel Interviews-  Panel Interview tips, Situational  Interviews, and Surviving “Stress” tactics

Articles and resources for each module will posted on Wednesdays beginning July 09, 2014.

Career Journals- Unlocking Focus, Clarity, and Precision in Your Career

What do General George S. Patton, Ernest Hemingway, Anais Nin, Oprah Winfrey, and Benjamin Franklink have in common?  They were avid diarists.

Recent research has led credence to this practice.  James Pennebaker found journaling helped his trauma clients achieve better immune function and resiliency, adjust to college life, or find a job more quickly.  Harvard researchers Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer found that their students yielded personal growth.  Indeed, Amabile encourages students to record six “small wins” (accomplishments or victories) at the conclusion of your work day to track your progress and make more effective decisions.

Additional benefits of work journals include:

  1. Focus for resolutions and goals.
  2. Patience and appreciation for the process of setting goals
  3. Planning- Learning to appreciate your planning, thought process, and discovering your methods for tackling projects and problems
  4. Personal Growth- Keep a record of your daily work habits, work out put, and establish reminders for important tasks *
  5. Reflexive Practice- Learning to pay attention to your actions to cultivate more efficiency and more insight into your actions

As a career counselor, I keep three different styles of career journals to enhance my performance and give me clarity about my career decisions.  Each style highlights different professional goals, including reflexive practice, productivity, and making a career change. I encourage clients to commit to the practice for at least 10 minutes for 30 days, and we have astounding results.

I encourage everyone to participate in my “March Madness” career journal challenge. I will post more information on each journal style Friday, February 28th.  Select a journal style and write for 10-15 minutes each work day for the month of March. We’ll report our findings at the end of the month.

The Reflexive Practice Journal

While my clients may have grandiose plans and ambitions for their working lives, they are less likely to accomplish their goals if they don’t write them down and commit to learning from their mistakes.  The reflexive practice journal is designed to help clients track their setbacks, small wins, and room for growth.

The Reflexive Practice Journal includes questions that address the following:

Strengths: How are you using your strengths during your workday?

Planning:  How many hours in your work day? What have you/can you get done in a work day?

Accomplishments:  What are you accomplishing during your work day? What were your small victories? * Record the small wins you have every day.

Inspiration:  What items, ideas, or people inspired me today?

Setbacks:  What setbacks did I have today?  How will I approach these setbacks? Do I need extra help or resources?

Work Environment:  What are the positive elements in my work environment (people, resources, technology, tasks, etc.)?  What are the negative elements in my work environment?  What can I do about the negative things in my work environment?

 

Journaling for Habits:  The Yes or No Journal

This journal style track your daily tasks, learn where you need to delegate, and discover your work input.

Step 1:  Track daily tasks.  Include scheduling, emails, meetings, and phone calls.

*Consider using Toggl or RescueTime to track your time if you want to improve your efficiency.

Step 2: Say “no” (or consider saying no) to at least one task a day.  Why? You need to track what tasks are distracting you from getting your work done.

About those “Nos”

  • Are you spending a lot of time doing menial tasks that could be delegated to someone else?
  • Are the activities/tasks you perform contributing to your growth as an employee?
  • Are you spending too much time fixing another employee’s mistakes? 

Step 4: Use this journal in your evaluations. Determine whether or not your skills are being used effectively or whether or not other employees may need more training, counselling, etc.

 

Career Transitions Journal

This journal style is geared toward helping clients discover whether or not a career or job change would be an effective choice for them.

  1. What do you enjoy about your current job (tasks, prestige, working hours, coworkers)? 

2.    What don’t you like about your current job?

3.    Why do you want to change careers?

4.    What personal transitions necessitate a career change (having a child, taking care of an aging parent, putting kids through college)? 

5.   What impact would making a career change have on my life? My family?  My significant other?

6.   Do I have the time and perseverance to invest in the education or certification needed for a new career?

Learn more about career journals from my interview with Paul Guggenheimer from NPR Essential Pittsburgh.

 

What Should You Do When Your Job Isn’t Working for You?

 

Many of us begin our careers with youthful enthusiasm and vigor. However, workplace politics, life changes, or an honest assessment of your skills and abilities may cause us to question our career directions. How do you make strategic career decisions?

When advising private clients, I usually advise a multi-step process to making career changes. This posting is a compendium of what will be several postings on career changes. Consider the following questions when making career decisions:

 Can I Afford It?

Unfortunately, many people are making decisions to embark on careers without considering whether or not they can afford the education, or “underpayment” necessary in a field to pay their dues. Visit a financial planner to determine whether or not you can afford to change industries.

Is it the company or the industry?
Find out if what’s making you unhappy is it simply at the company you’re working for or an industry-wide phenomenon.  Many clients who want to change fields often discover that the issues they have with their current job are related to the industry they work in or workplace politics in general.  Switching careers has some financial risk, as you’re competing with people who have worked in the sector for decades.

Sometimes the answer to your career angst isn’t changing your career but finding the right environment. Consider whether or not you prosper in small, large, or medium sized companies.  Are you a visionary who would like to work in a startup or help turn a company around? Ask peers in your industry if another company might be a better corporate culture fit for you.

Do you have what it takes?

Lamentably, I often encounter clients who are industry veterans with over 20 years of experience in their fields, yet have no knowledge of their professional strengths and abilities.  This is a liability in an employer driven job market. Job seekers must know what makes them unique and how to sell these qualities to a potential employer.

I generally advise clients to take two tests, the Myers-Briggs and Strengthfinders 2.0.  The Meyers-Briggs is based on Jung’s personality typology.  The test gives you information on your personality’s strengths, weaknesses, and quirks.  I love to use the Keirsey website and the associated book “Please Understand Me II” to coach clients.

Strengthsfinder 2.0 is based on David Clifton’s outstanding work in strengths based psychology. Clifton recognized that encouraging workers to “fix” their weaknesses while ignoring their strengths created less productive employees.  Hence, he created the Strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment tool to help workers discover their strengths and use them at work. I recommend clients refrain from purchasing the book and simply take the tests and use the accompanying reports to improve productivity and develop a personal brand.

If you would like to learn more about how to address workplace satisfaction and career changes, listen to my NPR broadcast on 90.5 WESA in Pittsburgh.

How to Write A Summary of Qualification for Your Resume

As a workforce development professional, one of the most frustrating aspects of job search for many of my clients is writing a resume. Unfortunately, many clients reiterate hackneyed trends from the 80s in their documents. The most heinous artifact from this era is the objective. 

Why is the objective useless? It forces job seekers to develop trite sentences that don’t sell their qualifications. Additionally, it doesn’t relay the candidate’s unique selling point. In order to remedy this situation, the Summary of Qualifications was invented.

The goal of the summary is to concisely state a candidates skills, industry, and achievements in 5 sentences or less. One of my unique challenges as an instructor is to explain how to create one. Lamentably, most resume books and handouts targeted to job seekers doesn’t give a procedure for writing summaries.  Therefore, I created this formula for writing them.

Summary Formula

Sentence/Bullet 1: Name Your Industry, Years of Experience, Specialization, etc. Consider using descriptive adjectives before you state your industry.

 Resourceful workforce development professional with five years experience driving innovation for one stops.

Sentence/Bullet 2: List your key responsibilities

Adept creator of workshops on social media and internet based applications.

Sentence/Bullet 3: Brag! Write about your accomplishments, certifications, education

Proven track record of creating workshops adopted city wide in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Sentence/Bullet 4: Highlight your best skills for the position *Cater to job description

What industry do you work in/seek employment?

How many years of experience do you have in this industry?  _____________________ 

List your strengths in the industry

1. _______________________                      2. _______________________

 

3. _______________________                      4. _______________________

 

Do you have an area of specialization?  If so, please list it.

 

 

 

 

Now write your summary statement.

Example

ADMINISTRATIVE PROFESSIONAL 

Multi-faceted, efficient & reliable administrative professional with 10+ years of experience supporting executives, sales and managers to improve internal operations for small businesses. Proficient in all of the standard office desktop software, CRM applications and design programs. Diversified skill sets covering administrative support, client relations, writing, human resources & recruiting, account management and project management. Excellent inter-personal, phone and digital communication skills. 

If you’re creating resume for different fields or positions, you may want to create a new summary for each occupation. Don’t forget to cater the last sentence for each job application.  Good luck with your resume!

Pass Inspection: How to Protect Your Online Influence Using Google Alerts and Other Search Engines

In a competitive job market, every aspect of your personality is scrutinized in order to eliminate candidates during a job search.  Your online profile is one of the first things Human Resources will do when selecting their top candidates. Learn how you appear online and how to use Google Alerts to protect yourself.

  1. Step one, search yourself.

Search your name on several search engines.  Type your name in the following format:

Alexa Duval and “Alexa Duval”

Don’t just use Google, add Bing and Yahoo too.

Another option is using the site Brand Yourself.  The gives you a result of an initial Google search.  You can clarify what sites and information is yours.  Brand Yourself also gives you the option of tailoring your online presence to generate more Google traffic. The site is worth a visit for that insight alone.

While both methods are helpful tools in cleaning up your online image, I actually recommend that you use both methods when devising a social media presence.  I acquired more information using each method than if I had merely done the Google search.

  1. What did you find?  Did you find anything that paints you in an unflattering light?

The “real me” has a nice online presence.  However, I did learn that several women who share my name work in rather “interesting” positions. I have adjusted my url names to distinguish myself from my peers.

  1. How to use Google Alerts to manage my online presence.

Google Alerts is a wonderful tool to assess your online profiles.  The smartest way to protect your online influence is to set up a Google Alert for your name. Let’s do a step by step set up for Google Alerts.

Set up a Google Alert with your name.

  1. Type in www.google.com/alerts
  2. Type your name as the search query ex. Sasha King
  3. Select “Everything” for your Result Type.
  4. Select “Once a Week” for How Often you want a message. Selecting “Every Day” will subject you to a steady dose of spam.
  5. Enter your email account to have updates sent to you.

Read each email weekly. If you see inaccurate or disparaging information about yourself online, then consider removing the url. I’ll discuss this process in an upcoming post.

Happy postings!