The “what are your weaknesses” question is universally the one that most interviewees are afraid of being asked, and the question that most interviewers are most likely to ask. Therefore there is no reason not to have an excellent answer.

No one likes to admit that they have a weakness, whether it be for chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate, or procrastinating until the very last minute before an important project is due.

The key to answering this question correctly is to provide a weakness, and discuss how you have overcome it, or are working to overcome it. An example I always use is that unless I’m constantly vigilant, my desk can turn into an absolute hovel of papers. I have a tendency to let things pile up even after I’ve completed a project, thinking that I’ll still need to refer to my notes in the future. It’s only after a few weeks have snuck by and I make a desperate attempt to find the desktop again, that I realize that I didn’t need to save as much paperwork as I did.

Because I know that this has the potential to be a big problem for me, I’ve changed my work habits to make sure that I set aside time when I come into the office every Friday morning to clear off my desk and prioritize my projects for next week. I have found that it makes me feel much more sane, and keeps me productive.

Note in the above example how I discussed my weakness: that it’s always been a problem, and how I work to overcome it on a weekly basis. Also note that admitting this specific weakness probably won’t keep me from getting the job-unless the hiring manager is a compulsive neat freak (in which case it’s probably best that I not work for them).

Avoid weaknesses that could seriously cast doubt on your work ethic or personality. Never discuss coming into work late, personality conflicts, or the quintessential “I work too hard” as a weakness. First, nobody wants to take a chance on you if you have the first two weaknesses, and nobody actually believes the third one. Acceptable weaknesses are a fear of public speaking, or the constant battle to stop a common bad habit, and others that are not typically job-threatening. Don’t forget to show how you are working to overcome these weaknesses.

 

By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC. www.redincllc.com

Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com

Often at the end of a presentation to jobseekers, people will come up to me and ask me what I think of some piece of advice another coach has given them. I’m always taken aback by some of the things I’ve heard over the years.

A presenter advised jobseekers going for an interview to not bring anything with them.

Not a coat, not a purse, not a notebook/pen or a copy of their resume.

Huh?

I asked my client why the coach gave that advice, and they said that they felt that the applicant should look like they just walked down the hall for a meeting, I’m guessing implying that they already work there.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I was in the corporate world I always brought a notebook and pen to a meeting. I rarely took notes, but it made me look like I was prepared to swing into action should the opportunity arise. (I also could use it to write a HELP – THIS MEETING IS SUCKING THE LIFEBLOOD OUT OF ME! note and toss it out the open window…but that was just in my fantasies.)

So the advice to not bring anything makes no sense. I actually interviewed someone who did that, just walked into the interview with absolutely nothing, and my impression was that he didn’t really care and was completely unprepared.

And yet job seekers will hear the advice from that coach, and implement it because that person must be the “expert.”

Let me tell you this. There is no “gimmick” to getting a job. There aren’t tricks, secret knocks, hidden codes, special handshakes. Taking advice that flies in the face of common sense just because someone claiming authority told it to you isn’t doing you any favors.

I guarantee each and every one of you, at one point has been in the position to hire someone, whether it’s a contractor for your home, a mechanic, hairdresser, or person to sell you a car. You knew what you wanted them to do, and you hired the people that gave you the most confidence that they could do it. It was just that simple.

Chances are that the person you ended up hiring did something to differentiate themselves, and they were qualified for what you wanted them to do. Differentiated and qualified. Also, the way that they differentiated themselves was relevant to the position. If you were looking to hire a painter, one who came dressed as a clown “just to stand out” would seem a little odd. Another painter who came dressed neatly (rather than showing up in his speckled painting clothes), would subtly give you the impression that he would also be neat when he worked in your home. A good thing.

However, if the painter was dressed neatly (differentiated), yet didn’t have as much of or the type of experience that you were looking for, you wouldn’t hire him-because he wasn’t qualified for what you wanted him to do.

So being different just for the sake of being different won’t get you the job if you’re not qualified. Showing that you’re different from other candidates in a way that relates to the job, while also being qualified for the job, will work.

Before you adopt some truly creative approaches to your job search, always do a common sense test to evaluate someone’s advice. Hiring managers and recruiters don’t come from different planets with odd rituals that they’ve devised to trick job seekers. Every hiring manager and recruiter is a person, just like you, and they go through the same decision-making processes you do when looking to fill a position-regardless of what that position is. Put yourself in their shoes and look at how you would react to determine if someone’s advice is sound.

 

By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC. www.redincllc.com

Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com

Every time I do presentations about how to be a more effective networker, the number one question on everyone’s mind is, how do you start a conversation with someone you don’t know?

As a veteran of many networking events, I feel everyone’s pain on this one.  I’m actually more of a “sit back and see what happens” kind of gal, and I really find it hard to talk to people I don’t know either.  But in order to grow my business, I had to learn how to get out there, and in order for you to get a job, you’re going to need to master this skill too.

The best opening line?  A compliment!  Who doesn’t love receiving a compliment, and who doesn’t instantly love the person giving the compliment?  It is a never fail conversation starter.

Here’s how it typically goes:  As a woman, I’ll usually compliment a guy on his tie (psst….I don’t always LIKE the tie, but I can say something like “I’ve never seen a tie quite like that one, there’s got to be a story behind it.” and it works just as well).  I have absolutely no idea why, but about 70% of the time they actually have some sort of story behind their tie.  Then because I just gave them a compliment, and listened to their tie story, they are much more open to talking to me.

For a man trying to network with a woman without coming across as a cheesy pickup line? Stick to comments about the venue, food, traffic or speaker. You can also ask how she heard about the event, and what she’s hoping to get out of it.

One other tip that always works, look for the other person at the event who isn’t talking to anyone else, but looks just as dazed/confused/lost as you probably do.  They will welcome your conversation.

The goal is to get the other person in a favorable state of mind to talk to you.  Once you’ve broken the ice, you can ask them more questions about their background, and then share your experiences that correlate with theirs.

Networking just takes practice.  The more attempts you make to create friends at these events, the better you’ll get at it.  Promise.

Now get off your couch and get goin’!

 

By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC. www.redincllc.com

Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com

Always a Bridesmaid in Job Interviews and Not Getting the Offer?

It’s always frustrating during the job interview process to successfully jump over the initial hurdles, only to be met with silence instead of getting an actual offer.

Whenever I hear a client describing this situation, this tells me that:

  1. The resume is working
  2. They’re getting through the initial screener interview on the phone.
  3. They’re passing the first round of in-person interviews,
  4. But when it comes down to the company selecting between them and someone else… it’s never them.

This means that the client needs to focus on fixing this last phase of the process since that’s where they’re getting hung up. The resume isn’t the problem, but the approach to this fourth phase is the challenge.

On the employer’s side, they like a candidate, and can see on their resume that they have the qualifications to do the job, but…

There’s always a but….

They just don’t have that “gut feeling” about the person, that innate confidence that whatever challenges are thrown their way, they’ll figure it out.

A great example of this was a client I worked with who was having this exact issue. I solved it by thinking about what kind of person the employer was likely expecting. Is this a fast-paced job where they would want someone who looks like they have a lot of energy? Do I need someone who is more serious and analytical? Would I be looking for someone who is highly creative and innovative?

Then I get in my mind some of the mannerisms that would correspond to those qualities. The mannerisms are important because subconsciously they tell the employer if the words that are coming out of the candidate’s mouth correspond to who they are as a person.

In this case, the candidate was interviewing for a position as a CFO. However, his eye contact was pretty non-existent, which gave me the impression that he was a bit “shifty.” Not what a company would be looking for in a CFO. He had no idea his eye contact was so bad. Once I brought it to his attention and he fixed it, he got the offer.

You need to show not only through your words, but through your attitude that you’re the type of person they can trust and rely on.  If you’re getting that bridesmaid/bride scenario one too many times, find a coach or work with a trusted friend who will set you straight on the changes you need to make.

 

By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC. www.redincllc.com

Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com

About a year ago I was asked to serve on a panel for a Human Resource conference at Nazareth College. Various HR professionals from around Rochester came to this conference hoping to stay up to date with the latest changes and trends. Why me? When I got there, I quickly realized it was a panel full of Millennials. What was the objective? To let HR professionals from around the Rochester community ask us questions about what we would want to see in an office environment, in a career or an ideal manager. I found this to be refreshing but also a little intimidating.

In July of 2018, Forbes stated that by 2025, 75% of the workplace will be made up of Millennials. As I sat there, I realized that the workplace practices have began to shift, and some HR professionals are having a hard time navigating. They needed our help. So, what came out of this panel? We discussed four common trends and feedback as to what we believe would make the average Millennial “happy.”
Consistent Feedback

It became clear from the questions we were asked that some managers see millennials as children who need constant reinforcement. However, I heard from the panel that we like to know how we are doing and how we can become better. What can we do to further our knowledge? Or, what changes can we make to become more efficient and productive. As Forbes stated, we come from a world where everything is graded and available for the public to see. We see this in schools and in social media, and we are used to being recognized for accomplishments and our failures, to us, the workplace should be no different.
Flexibility

Millennials are always on the go. We are constantly on our phones and working in non-traditional settings. Having flexibility to work different hours or occasionally work remote allows us to feel appreciated and keeps us from burning out. We are looking for a company with a good, flexible culture that will allow us to flourish.

A Clear Path to Career Success
We are eager to learn and achieve new goals. We enjoy having a clear path, so we know what milestones we need to hit to get to the next level, and ultimately our ideal position. We need to increase our knowledge by learning something new and through being challenged, or we get bored. Without variety, we may start to look for a new opportunity that will be more engaging.

Opportunities to Give Back to the Community
We like to give back to our community by either donating or getting involved. Sponsor a day to allow others to give back. This will not just benefit your Millennials, but will benefit others in the company who feel the same way.

Even though I was intimated by the thought of serving on a panel in front of a room full of HR Leaders, I appreciated being involved which is also a common trait amongst Millennials. We like to be involved!

So, what is the point? Millennials are setting the pace for future generations who will be entering the workforce. We are technologically savvy, hungry for success, and driven by feedback. Employers can get more out of Millennials through understanding and embracing the four common trends we discussed. It is true, Millennials do need to learn to adapt to changing environments. So do employers. We want to share our stories and knowledge, so let us help foster change for the future.

By Aly Raco

If you’ve ever had the thought: “I’ve applied to every job I see, but I don’t get called for an interview—what am I doing wrong?” or “Should I get certification in XYZ, is that what’s keeping me from getting a job?”, this article’s for you.

Let’s take a step back and look at the job search process as purely a buyer and seller transaction with employers as the “buyers” and employees as the “sellers.”

And as we all remember from our economics classes, buyers call the shots. You can call yourself a seller all you want, but if you’re trying to sell a product that no one wants to buy, you’re not going to get very far. You need to fit the requirements of the position—as dictated by the buyers—and clearly market yourself as that fit.

What this means from a job seeker perspective is if you consistently see that employers are requiring experience with a particular piece of software that you’ve never worked with before, for example—but that you fit all other requirements for the position—it would be well worth your time to look into learning that software.

Think of it this way, if you were faced with a pile of resumes that you needed to sort through, wouldn’t you start by looking at those people who possessed that unique certification or software experience you had asked for?

It’s your responsibility to make yourself hire-able. If the market of employers is dictating specific experience or certifications, as evidenced by the job descriptions you’re seeing—it’s your responsibility to look into learning it. Chances are there are some easy online resources to get you started, perhaps a friend of yours used to work with it and would be able to give you a tutorial, or any other unique resource can open up and help. But you need to at the very least, seriously investigate how to make it happen.

Another strategy is to see if there are any close comparisons between a piece of software that is similar to what they want, and what you’ve used. Start by researching the software they require in the job posting. Often either on the software company’s website or YouTube, you can find a tutorial/demo. Does it operate similarly to a piece of software you’ve used before? If so, you can write your resume as: Experience with Potato Software (Similar to French Fry Software), where French Fry is what the company is requiring.

The employer is the buyer. If you want to be bought, it’s critical that you try to meet them halfway.

By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC. www.redincllc.com

Providing resume writing, job interview coaching and job search coaching to clients around the world.

Frequently when I’m working with clients to write their resumes or prepare for job interviews, they admit that they’re not comfortable talking about their accomplishments. They were brought up not to brag, so having to sell themselves in the job search process goes against everything in their nature.

I completely understand where they’re coming from, so I try to put a different perspective on the situation.

  1. Your accomplishments can’t speak for themselves if you don’t say them. Describing what you’ve done in a particular situation and the outcome lets the hiring manager or recruiter learn more about how you solve problems and how effective you are.
  2. By only providing the job description of each role you’ve held, you’re not differentiating yourself from the competition. For example, if everyone who applied for a Marketing Director job only included what their job responsibilities were, the resumes would all look the same. Your unique accomplishments get an employer excited about what you could do for their organization.
  3. Most people think of selling themselves as being pushy, but we all know that pushy salespeople often don’t get the sale. Selling yourself in this case means knowing what you’re good at and simply describing the situation. Let the employer draw their own conclusions.

 

The fact is that you can’t expect an employer to get excited about you as a candidate if you can’t show them that you’re worth the salary and benefits you’re asking for.

This is especially true when working with a recruiter who then needs to pitch you to their client. By working with them to give them the talking points they need, you make their job easier when presenting you to the hiring manager.

Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com

By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC, www.redincllc.com

This is one of those job interview questions that will be asked by the savviest of interviewers. Although it’s positively heart-stopping to be on the answering end of this question, if you were the employer, wouldn’t you want to know how this seemingly fabulous person ended up on the job market? It’s similar to finding a used car that’s only got 1000 miles on it and is 3 years old; just a little too good to be true, and you can’t believe that no one else has discovered this amazing find.

Your challenge is to not give the interviewer any ammunition to rule you out of the game.

  1. Never, ever, ever give the appearance of a grievance against a former employer. Most people know that they shouldn’t say anything, but body language and awkward pauses will give it away. Practice your cover story with a friend to provide a seamless, brief explanation. Then shift the conversation to what interests you about the job you’re interviewing for.
  2. Never speak ill of any of the tasks you performed at your current or a previous job. ANY tasks. You might think that this new job would provide a blissful escape from the tedium of your last one, and so you gleefully explain to an interviewer all of the mind-numbing things you previously did. However, your interviewer is thinking about the similar (but different) mind-numbing tasks of this position and decides that you would quit after the first month. There’s no reason to hire you if you’ve already given them a reason for you to quit.
  3. Also, you don’t want to speak ill of your co-workers. This world is too small, and good jobs are too few to take the chance.

So what CAN you say?

  1. That you wanted a new opportunity, and you’ve taken your current or past position as far as you could. You’re proud of accomplishing X, Y and Z, and now feel that it’s time for you to learn a different aspect of the business, or to work for a bigger (or smaller) company. The key here is to focus on the future.
  2. If you are applying for a job that touts flexible hours, work from home or excellent benefits, you can mention those qualities as a reason to look into this new position.
  3. That you weren’t really looking, but this job caught your eye so you thought you’d find out more about it.
  4. If you were terminated from a previous job you can say that you were laid off as a result of a company-wide restructuring or budget cut, if it’s the truth. In many cases you can simply say that and let it go.

However, if the company is going to call a previous employer to verify that you worked there, they can ask them if you are eligible for rehire. If you were let go for a disciplinary action, then the answer would be no. If you suspect that this scenario could happen to you, the best course when asked this question in an interview is to very briefly admit what you did wrong and what you would have done differently.

I’ll hire a candidate who shows genuine remorse for doing something wrong over one who gives me the impression that they’re hiding something when I ask about their termination. This answer absolutely must be practiced, but if it’s handled correctly, it’s not a problem for an employer.

Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com

By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC www.redincllc.com

We all know that people form impressions based on the smallest details. Perhaps when you read this message line you laughed at how improbable it would be to NOT get a job offer because your handshake was too strong or too weak.

Well, you’re right, it doesn’t work quite that way.  However, it is one of the details that people use to form an impression of you.

We’ve all been the recipient of those bone-crushing handshakes.  Think about the sense you get of the person who just delivered that blow. Do you consider them too aggressive? Inconsiderate? Powerful? Overcompensating? Overbearing?  Are you likely to want to shake hands with them again?  They could have a great personality and be a nice person, but nevertheless this detail is consciously or unconsciously collected in your mental database.

What about those handshakes that are the typical limp fish?  Or, those kind of “fingers-only” handshakes? They leave me with the impression that this person doesn’t want to get too close to me. I never get a warm, friendly, approachable vibe.

If I’m hiring candidates for a customer service or sales role, I’m definitely going to be either consciously or unconsciously influenced by how people shake my hand since this is how they would also represent themselves to prospects or clients. If it’s an internal role, it could be a small clue about their personality and how they work with others.

It is hard to describe a “perfect handshake”, but I strongly recommend that you practice with a partner who will give you honest and direct feedback about what you are doing wrong.  It might seem like a very minor detail, but when you’re interviewing for the perfect position you don’t want to take any chances.

Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com

 

Over 15 years ago, I wrote an article entitled “Never Accept a Counteroffer.”  Today, I sit down to write a very similar article.  Many things have changed over the years.  Technology has changed.  The job search process has changed.  We have all gotten older and wiser.  One thing hasn’t changed, however.  My advice to Never Accept a Counteroffer still stands firm.

The job market landscape continues to be a candidate-driven market, meaning candidates are in high-demand and companies who are hiring are working hard on attracting the right candidates to join them.  The US Unemployment rate as of November 2018 was 3.7%, the lowest rate since October 1969. (https://www.thebalance.com/current-u-s-unemployment-rate-statistics-and-news-3305733)

Not only are companies working hard to attract new employees, but they are also working hard to make sure they don’t lose you – the great employee they already have.  Reasons you might look for a new job could include:

  • More money
  • More flexibility
  • Better/different training
  • Challenges with coworkers/boss
  • Company culture
  • Better commute
  • Better benefits
  • Different responsibilities
  • Career growth

Before you decide to start to look for a new job, it is important to have the right conversations with your current boss/employer to make sure there is not a potential to better your current situation.  You might not know about a great project coming your way that would interest you – or that a raise has been planned and is right around the corner.  Also, if your employer doesn’t know you are unhappy with your circumstance, they can’t do anything to change it.  However, if you determine it can’t be fixed, you owe it to yourself and your career to understand what opportunities are available elsewhere.

The step to start to look for a new job, especially in this job market, is a big one.   Understanding the emotionality of going on an interview at another company makes you really think about what you don’t like about your current job or current employer.  With the current job market as active as it is, the interviewing and offer process for mid-level high-demand talent could be as short as 3 weeks – so hold onto your hat!

Receiving an offer from a new company and making the decision to accept that offer can be very exciting and for some, can be a very challenging process full of pros and cons. If you decide to accept a new job offer, prepare yourself to give your notice as well as to receive a counteroffer.

Preparing to give your notice is as important as preparing for an interview and can be an emotional process, especially if you have personal relationship with your coworkers or boss.  Follow the following steps:

  • Draft a respectful resignation letter, thanking your employer/boss for the opportunity to work for him/her.
  • Specify your last date of employment (always give a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice) and offer to assist with a transition plan.
  • Provide your contact information so they know how to get in touch should they have questions after you are gone.

This will provide a great amount of goodwill through your notice time and will also allow your employer to have a positive impression of you during your last two weeks.  Remind yourself that you made this decision after a lot of thought and this is an exciting time!

Here are some comments we have heard over the years from our candidates (this is what their bosses said when they gave notice….):

  • “This couldn’t be happening at a worse time.” (is there really a good time?)
  • “I thought you were really happy here. Let me see what we can do for a raise and don’t make any decisions until we connect again.” (as if you hadn’t made your decision already)
  • “You are going to work for who? Oh wow. I haven’t heard great things. Have you done your due diligence?” (casting doubt on your decision)
  • My personal favorite (because it was said directly to me): “I am not impressed.You qualify for a much better job than that one.”

It is important to remind yourself the reasons you began to look for a job in the first place and to be careful not to feel bad for accepting a new opportunity.  Counteroffers will mitigate the company’s initial shock of losing a great employee, but most often will not provide the long-term solution you are looking for.  The same circumstances that caused you to consider a change will most likely repeat themselves in the future.  Enjoy your new career opportunity!