Know Your Stuff

It always intrigues me how people look outside themselves as soon as they think about making a change.  If you’ve spent any time or thought thinking about finding a job, you’ve probably bought more books on interviewing than you’ll ever read and talked the ears off of your nearest and dearest.

Most interview books tell you how to practice for the interview as if it was a test.  I’m not saying this kind of preparation doesn’t have value – it does and, if you’re lucky, you might even be asked one or two of the questions/answers that you’ve rehearsed.  Other books promise to help you find your dream job and to “find your bliss”.  Well, they have their value too.  After all, hope and aspirations are what our civilization was built on.

Interestingly, few truly focus on YOU, the EXPERT on your candidacy.    Preparing answers to questions you may or may not get asked feeds into your fears and, while you’re playing the guessing game, will also add a hefty portion of worry, doubt and anxiety to boot!!

I say control the things you can!.

In times of change simplicity gets my vote every time and the following Skills Inventory technique is one that I have found works for every candidate no matter where you are in your career.  The best part is that you can do it wherever you are as long as you have a pen and blank paper!

Here we go:

1. Take a piece of paper and divide the page in two columns. Label one of them Education and the other one Dates. Next step: list the schools/colleges you attended and qualifications obtained under the first column and dates attended/graduated in the second column.  Also make sure to list any achievements whilst at school – Swim Team Captain? Editor of the School Paper?  you get the gist.

2.  Take another piece of paper and divide it in three.  This time label the columns Jobs, Dates, Responsibilities.

3.  List every single job you have had and the dates you were there. While you are at it, include any volunteer positions or internships (if applicable).  In this instance – the more detail, the better.  The more self knowledge you have the better equipped you’ll be to ace the interview.

3. Now list all your responsibilities under each job. Now list the skills those responsibilities translate to.  Start with the tactical/technical skills and expand it to softer ones like communication and people management abilities.

4. Beyond What you did, Where and When you did it – think about the impact you had.  What are the things you are proud of?  Did you save money?  Drive revenues?  Solve problems/remove obstacles? Keep high standards during tough times? What mistakes did you make?  What did you learn from them?

Once this is done – take it in – look at the experience you bring to the table.  Appreciate your talents.  Don’t be modest or critical – give credit where it’s due!

How do you feel about yourself?  Are you surprised by how much you’ve done/can do?  Did life get so busy that you forgot?  Do you feel confident that you can now clearly talk about your experience and why someone should hire you?

Do you feel good about your abilities but glum about the prospect of doing this job “forever”?!  Then take another sheet of paper, divide it into two columns, label one Current Job(s) and the other Ideal Job and list all the skills in the first column, copy the skills you ENJOY doing into the second column and add new ones – you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water! – keep what you love doing and build on it by finding experiences that expand your horizons and abilities.

Have fun with this foundational step – it should be fun and clarifying – next blog: how to match your existing skills and aspirations to finding the right job.


Giving Good Phone Or Setting The Scene For Your Phone Interview

I often find motivation and learn lessons from experts in fields that are, at times, complementary to mine and, often, completely out of the box.

My goal, when reading these “How To” books, is to find one, maybe two tools or tips that I can implement quickly and that will have the greatest positive impact.  Given my tendency to work at warp speed and my natural impatience, this means I flick through and read only what interests me the most.  Benefit to you is that I am a walking version of Cliff’s Notes.

I’m currently obsessed with David Allen – in fact, he’s my Productivity Hero.  I’m reading his book – “Getting Things Done” – and it’s great!

Allen talks about a 4-criteria model for deciding what to do in the moment (buy the book and check out page 192 for full info).  It’s brilliant and simple.  So much so that I’m “borrowing” it and creating a modified version tailored for the phone interview.

If you are actively job hunting or have had the good fortune to receive a call from someone like me, the likelihood that your first interview will be by phone is almost 100%.  Every step in an interview process is a means to an end and, until you are hired, one step MUST lead to the next if you want the job.

The phone interview is a first impression that you can’t afford to get wrong so pay it the respect it deserves, set the scene and follow this 3-criteria model to ensure success.

1.CONTEXT: this is all about the where and what.  If your goal is to make the best impression, then make sure you aren’t calling from your car and/or on your cell in a bad cell area.  Trust me, “can you hear me now?” gets frustrating and old REALLY quickly.  Think that taking the call outside, around the corner from your office is a good idea – think again – nothing is less conducive to a good interview experience than competing with the sound of gale force winds or traffic in the background! Think you can juggle picking the kids up from school or food shopping and speaking to the VP, Recruiting at that company you are dying to work for?  Think again! In fact, if you aren’t in a quiet, focused environment using a land-line phone, in front of your computer where you have your resume and internet browser open then you aren’t setting yourself up for success nor are you valuing anyone involved in the interview process – including yourself!

2.TIME AVAILABLE:  we live in a microwave society where even 48 hours in a day wouldn’t give us enough time to get everything done.  Interviews need to be planned for and that includes managing your time.  DON’T cram your phone interview in between other meetings – allow for the probability that your interviewer could be late to the call and the possibility for the call to go longer than planned if you’re knocking it out of the park.  An interview needs to be treated like a cable appointment – allow for the widest window of time possible!

3. ENERGY AVAILABLE:  THIS is really important to get right.  Energy and attitude are everything.  If you aren’t a morning person then don’t agree to a crack of dawn call (or in person interview for that matter), if you are typically running on empty after 4pm DON’T schedule an interview then either.

Interviews are like tests you can’t really study for but you CAN give yourself a huge helping hand by making sure that you are, at minimum, in the right place, with the right tools and with enough time and energy to put your “best phone” forward.  I think you deserve that much – don’t you?



Insider Career Advice From Wendy “The Headhuntress”

Ever wish you could spend an hour with elite executive recruiter Wendy Doulton? In one week, Wendy “The Headhuntress” Doulton is coming to Bravo with all of the straight-talking career and interviewing advice she shares with only the top candidates in the world.

Wendy’s advice isn’t always what candidates want to hear…but what they NEED to hear to get the jobs they want.

Her one hour special airs on Bravo Monday, November 14 At 10pm Et/Pt

Play the video next to this post to get a sneak peek of Wendy in “The Headhuntress” right now!

More information [From Bravo Press Release]


One Hour Special, Featuring Search Firm Guru Wendy Doulton, Airs Monday, November 14 At 10pm Et/Pt

New York – With record unemployment continuing to make headlines, everyone could use a personal career coach. But only Bravo has the expertise of Wendy Doulton, star of their upcoming special, “The Headhuntress,” premiering Monday, November 14 at 10pm et/pt. As founder of the Katalyst Career Group, Doulton is known for her no-nonsense style and impressive list of Fortune 500 clients. And with over 15 years of industry experience, including in-house positions at Yahoo, DreamWorks and Google, Doulton has been an executive recruitment resource for a wide range of industries including digital media, entertainment, fashion and music. She knows how the career game is played and her sharp tongue makes it clear that she isn’t shy about voicing her opinion – whether critiquing a resume or trying to place the next great CEO, Wendy Doulton follows her gut when it comes to satisfying her clients. Her keen eye for talent has led to associations with some of America’s best known brands . And although some may describe Doulton’s tactics as unique, her results are unquestionably successful.

Starting salaries on the rise

Fresh out of college and wondering what the job market has in store for you? Check this out…According to a job survey report just published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average salary for new grads entering the workforce is up by more than $2,300 – a nearly 5% increase over the previous year’s average figures.

The NACE reports positive changes in starting salaries across a variety of fields. Some specialized disciplines saw a more than 23% jump in average starting salaries!

“The steady increases in starting salary offers we’re seeing this year is a good indication that the job market for new college graduates is gathering strength,” says Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director. And due to new industries being created, this trend will continue.

Despite fluctuating national numbers that aggregate a too broad selection of data to tell the whole story, tech and new media job growth is absolutely BOOMING and average salaries are not only starting high, they are continuing to grow.

Rapidly changing technology on the web including mobile and social media are creating a need for talented, knowledgeable people. This is a time of unparalleled opportunity for street smart job seekers of EVERY level. Get OUT THERE!

More on the subject:

Search For Smarties – Getting FOUND by potential employers online

Sometimes the greatest opportunities come from being in the right PLACE at the right TIME. Fortunately for you, getting front page ranking when recruiters look for candidates doesn’t have to be a random event. Technology has tipped the hand of fate and, with a few strategic tweaks, you can make sure that the time and place are ALWAYS right.

Recruiters use EVERY means available to them to find the best people – we’re talking scouring Google (and other search engines!), Twitter, Facebook just to name a few not to mention a live LinkedIn ticker on their desktop. So why wouldn’t YOU use every online tool available to you to get found? Play the game…you CAN get found at just the right time by exactly the right people if you learn a few new tricks.

Here’s how to supercharge your resume’s “search power” in the top 5 ways that REALLY MATTER!!

Titles and Keywords
In the land of job hunting TITLE is King. Everything else you write in the copy serves as your title’s very important but supporting cast. It’s essential to make sure it contains keywords that relate to and support the titles you have chosen and that they ACCURATELY describe who you are and WHAT YOU DO. (I could write an entire post on the importance of knowing what it is that you “do” in all areas of the job search — oh, that’s right…I have! Read more on this here >

The goal of a search engine is to quickly cut through mounds of data and instantly deliver the most relevant results. Whilst titles and keywords have their place, Relevancy is the key point here so make sure the keywords you choose reflect your actual experience. Being relevant in search terms means being delivered as the exact result that was searched for. (I mean, OUR JOB is to find the most relevant candidate for a position. Search is the PERFECT tool to weed through hundreds of resumes.)
If you WANT to be an SVP but your experience is that of a Senior Manager, DON’T pack your resume full of keywords that will put you top of the list for a job you are still 10 years away from being ready for! It’s the quickest way to highlight yourself as someone who’s not right for a job and, possibly, to be dismissed for other opportunities that could lead you to your coveted SVP Title. Time is a recruiter’s most precious commodity so make sure you are worth the time we’ve invested in finding you!

Showing up number one in Google, Yahoo, Bing (for the right reasons) is great. More critical to your job hunt, however, is optimizing your resume for Job Sites like Monster, LinkedIn, Hotjobs and The Ladders. Use these sites well and use them all.
Optimize your LinkedIn profile, post your resume on Monster, Hotjobs, DICE or whatever other site suits your background. I coach candidates to use these sites strategically, to post their resumes at all times even when they aren’t looking for a job. Many jobs posted on Monster are there to comply with certain regulations or have already been filled by the time you apply. Even more likely is that you will get lost amongst the hundreds of other, likely unqualified, people who have applied for the same job. Turn the tables – use the sites pro-actively. Tighten up your resume and post it for the tech savvy recruiters to find. Not looking? Even if you are happily employed right now, there is nothing wrong with a little proactive advertising!

You’ve stood out from the crowd! You’ve been found! Your background looks relevant and recruiters are banging down your door! And that was the easy part… The whole point of getting found is CLOSING THE DEAL. And that is down to skills – interviewing skills that is. Get prepared, get focused, brush up your interview techniques – practice makes perfect!

Trend Alert – Employers, Move To Offer!

Hiring managers and employers: a word of advice to you…STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT.  Good candidates are ALWAYS hard to find but especially now that the market is picking up. (And trust me, it IS.)  Not only are YOU looking, but candidates are out there too –  they’re taking calls, they’re interested and playing. Speed is the name of the game and SMART companies know they need to move FAST.

If you find somebody that’s 90%- 95% of what you’re looking for, MAKE AN OFFER – and make it a GREAT one.  GONE are the days where you could have a beauty parade…I can guarantee you that two or three other companies are looking for EXACTLY the same person that you are and, if you wait too long to make your play, your prize candidate will get snatched up before you get through your second stack of applicants.

DON’T get in your own way…time is of the essence, and you have a small window of opportunity to get and maintain your candidate’s interest enough to get them to say YES!

If you don’t move quickly, you are not only going to be competing with their existing employer who WILL counter-offer them (if they know what’s good for them), but you’re also competing with other companies who may get your perfect match because they were faster than you.   I cannot stress this enough.  Too busy to interview? – well, your competitor down the road isn’t.

There are two places you should be spending your time – retaining your top performers and doing whatever you can to recruit the best candidates on the outside.

If you find somebody, MOVE as QUICKLY as possible – and do do WHATEVER it takes to speed up the process. Get all of your hiring managers together in one day, set up a back-to-back interview blitz, do whatever due diligence you need to move to reference checks, and offers.  In a market this hot, Second Tier candidates are in high demand – if you’re not careful you could end up with sloppy seconds.

This is my first word of warning…every time I pick up the phone to pitch one of my client’s jobs, I’m talking to someone who has several offers pending.  This week alone, I have lost two great candidates because my client didn’t move quickly enough.

Employers, forewarned is forearmed. You snooze, you lose!

Candidates, YOU are in demand. The worm has turned.  What are you waiting for??

YOU ARE What You Tweet – Rules of Engagement for the Digital Age

The 2am Tweet telling the world your boyfriend’s a wanker, the not-vague-enough Facebook rant about your boss…just remember times have changed. There’s no way around it. And just like the Hello Kitty tattoo you got when you were 18, some stupid decisions are permanent. In the modern world of constant connectivity, the things you say and pretty much everything you do is irreversibly cached in some way shape or form and can be found if someone wants to find it. If you don’t realize by now,  what you say, and WHERE you say it matters.

I know what you are thinking, “Anyone with half a brain would take EVERY precaution to not broadcast their private business in the first place.” (Clueless on the subject? Go here first.) But what seemed like a good idea after three POMtinis can be frighteningly damaging in the cold light of day! If you are foolish enough to broadcast your dirt in the first place, trust me, your mistakes are just waiting be discovered. So how DO you turn it around and make sure the first thing that comes up in Google isn’t an unflattering web picture of you passed out in the bushes? Google yourself. And do it often. Edit/delete/remove anything negative you can. Come up with an answer for everything else. You don’t know what you don’t know, and if you don’t see what’s out there about you, you just simply wont be prepared to handle it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. You have GOT to take charge of your own reputation.

Think Ahead And Just…Don’t.

What may have seemed like an opportunity to make a quick buck when you were a gorgeous, but starving 20-something year old WILL come back to haunt you when you are interviewing for that next big career move. Forewarned is forearmed:  please, please, PLEASE don’t let yourself be the subject of sexy “modeling” pictures, or anything else that could damage your reputation.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it won’t be found – chances are fairly high that if it’s out there, someone will find it….eventually. Tick someone off at work and, before you know it, your co-worker has morphed into an undercover spy with a vendetta just waiting for the perfect time to plop an incriminating dossier on your boss’ desk.  Background checks are par for the course, and Facebook, Twitter, MySpace are a corporate recruiter’s DIY detective kit.

A good rule of thumb: anything you wouldn’t want your Grandma to know about shouldn’t be discoverable by future/current employers or co-workers.

And remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…

So How Much Damage Can Really Be Done in Only 140 Characters?

A little Tweet never hurt anyone, right? WRONG.  Even worse, the impact could be greater than just you.  Ever read about the ad exec who accidentally “f-bombed” all of his agency’s biggest account’s Twitter followers? (See the story here.)  He THOUGHT he was logged in to his own account. OOPS!!  What became a massive, life-changing slip up probably took all of three seconds to execute and probably a lifetime to correct. Not only did he lose his job, but got his whole agency FIRED from their biggest account.

Notes to self: 1. DON’T be stupid and careless 2. DO MIND YOUR P’s & Q’s on Twitter and Facebook 3. DO REMEMBER – not all advertising is good advertising. Make sure your words, message, and tone present exactly the kind of image you want to portray to employers – this applies to your “personal” account too!!   4. Make sure your virtual self is a true representation of who you really are -  DON’T masquerade as an  executive by day and a sex blogger by night!!

Your “personal” Tweets (and all other comments you make online) are PUBLIC information – you may as well put up a billboard or take out a full page ad on the front page of the NY Times!

SO REMEMBER! THE PEN AND TWEET ARE MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD.  What seems like an “in-the-heat of the moment “event can have a lifelong, negative impact. Mouthing off on Twitter might feel great for five minutes, but the words you choose can impact your life forever. You decide if that’s positive or negative. Use that power wisely.

If the shoe fits…Finding the job that works for you

You wouldn’t wear a size six shoe if you are an eight and a half. So why would you take a job that you know isn’t a good fit? Even the most gorgeous Manolo Blahniks won’t fit if they aren’t your size. I don’t care how hard you try to get them on…all you’ll be doing is causing unnecessary pain.

What’s important in a job is not what it looks like on paper, but that it meets your specific needs. Different jobs/companies/opportunities may make sense at certain times of your life and may not at others. A job that is just perfect for someone else might be your career made in hell.  Horses for courses, I always say – It REALLY is about finding the shoe that fits and being honest with yourself.

I once took a job because I could wear pajamas to work – not that I DID, but I COULD!  The point being that the fact that I could wear what I wanted spoke volumes about that company’s corporate culture. It was fun, creative and funky – at the time, nothing mattered more. After a while and the birth of my son, the novelty wore off and it couldn’t quite rationalize the less than market-rate salary and 90 hour weeks. It was the perfect job for right then, but as it turned out, not for forever.

Maybe you’re a new mom, and require a job that will allow you the flexibility to stay home a couple days a week with your infant. Maybe you’re just out of college, are still living with roommates, you’re footloose and fancy free but ready to explore the world – getting paid to travel, stay at swanky hotels and travel for free might sound like fun! Maybe the title on your business card means more than the job you do – take the VP job if that’s all that counts!. WHATEVER it is you really want, right here, right now, get clear on it BEFORE you dust off your interview suit. In fact, do it before you send out your first resume or cover letter.

When it comes to career nirvana and getting the right job for you,  you’d be amazed to see what truly matters.  Stop judging a job by its title/salary/status.  Focus on what success looks like and feels like to you.   Visualize it – what are you doing, wearing, saying?  Who are you speaking to? What does your boss look like?  How does he/she act?  What about your colleagues?  What does your office look like – where are you sitting?  I’m sure you see where I’m going by now.   YOU get to define what being happy and fulfilled in your job mean.  Don’t focus just on the packaging. Give it substance and weight . Make it mean something to you and own it!.

Everything that glitters isn’t gold! Dig deeper. Get clear about what you really want, but be careful what you wish for ’cause you might just get it!

When Persistence Is Stalking – The Right Way To Follow Up

If your phone and email are ringing/binging off the hook then it’s probably safe to bet that you are in the running. If, however, you are still checking your email, cell phone, and land line every five minutes and wondering why they haven’t called, you might want to follow these tips on what to do.

Read Their Signs…
At the end of every interview with me, candidates know EXACTLY where they stand and what next steps are. If I have any reservations, I bring them up in real time. I don’t believe in leading people on and I certainly don’t have time to deal with hundreds of calls from people who aren’t right. I’m often thanked for my “candor” – (I think that’s a compliment) and I pride myself on my no-nonsense, transparent way of communicating.  In my line of business, honesty is key to building trust and to me getting you the right job! Word of warning: I am not the norm and you won’t usually get such clear communication. You are likely to end up in no man’s land…a no communication zone. Pay Attention! Notice their reactions to get clues on how you did. How well do you think you answered their questions? Did they take the time to walk you around to meet other team members? Did you get a sense that the hiring manager really liked you?  Did YOU like him/her? All of these things can give you valuable hints about whether you will be asked back.

Ask The Right Questions….
An interview is a two-way street. You are really both after the same information: is this job a match for everyone involved? An interview should be a conversation — not an interrogation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. But make sure they are the RIGHT questions.  DON’t blurt out “How’d I do?” but DO ask for guidance.

Where are you in the interviewing process?

How many interviews will there be?

Have I answered all your questions?

If I haven’t heard from you in a week, can I call you?

These questions are designed to get a sense of what time lapsed and, potentially, silence might mean.  Unless you completely blew them out of the water or it is a one person operation, they won’t give you a firm “yes” or “no” after the first interview. But if you find out they need someone to start in two weeks and a month later, you are checking to make sure your ringer isn’t off, you can safely assume they went with someone else.

Don’t be afraid  to show your hand – if you’re interested, TELL THEM!  But tread lightly.  You could also say: “I am interested and would love to understand more about what your process is.”  “Would you mind if I check back with you in about a week to see how things are going?” “Have you seen enough candidates to make a decision or do you expect to know more by next month?” Keep questions light, but don’t be afraid to let them know you have other offers coming, just do it gently and get to the point.

Fish Or Cut Bait – When To Stay And When To Go

Every meeting with your long-winded boss feels like nails on a chalkboard. You’ve started fantasizing about working in a drive-thru, and had to physically pinch your mouth closed this morning to stop the words “Ugh, I quit.” from just tumbling out.

Honestly, don’t bother. You’re already saying it…your shoddy performance, slack attendance, and general carelessness as of late speaks loud and clear (if not to you, to EVERYONE at work) that your heart simply isn’t in it. They get it – you are unhappy at your job. But passive aggressiveness will get you nowhere. Whether the answer is to find another job or simply work with the one you have, here are three clues it’s time for you to make a change:

It’s obvious you no longer care.
Unlike the amazing work that got you gold stars at the beginning, anything you have turned in lately is full of careless errors. Um, sorry. You aren’t fooling anyone but yourself. Blatantly careless work a clear sign to your manager that you are either looking for a new job or riding it out as long as you can. You think you are hiding how much you hate your job by doing the bare minimum, right? Think again. Dry clean your interview suits and get your resume together…if you don’t take charge of this situation, I promise your manager will do it for you shortly.

You’ve taken 38 sick days this year.
If you have used so many sick and vacation days that it has become an issue, you are quite literally telling your boss “I don’t want to be here.” Of course, life happens. People do have circumstances that justify significant absences from work. But generally, if your month long “mental health break” doesn’t qualify for short term disability leave, you should probably just quit and get your head on straight. Everyone needs vacations and breaks – it is why they exist in the first place – but at the end of the day, you must at VERY LEAST be present and do the job you were hired to do. I mean, what do you think they are paying you for?

You’ve gotten a bad evaluation, or worse, a formal warning.
If you have gotten a really bad evaluation or a formal warning, take the points they’ve raised about your performance seriously. Whether or not you decide to stay at this job, fix these issues now or I PROMISE you they will come back to haunt you at every job ever after. An important thing to keep in mind: to your employer, a bad evaluation or formal warning means two crucial things: 1. They have given you due notice that they have good reason to fire you, and 2. Their impression is that you are currently a problem employee.

Can you work hard to turn it around? Sure – this may be just the wake up call you needed. Just know that now you not only have to fix your issues, but also perceptions developed through watching your poor past performance. With dedication and focus, you could become your manager’s favorite success story. At worst, you start giving it your all TODAY and are able to leave with your head held high and a recommendation. Next time, hopefully, you’ll be smart enough not to make the same mistakes.

It’s not about staying somewhere just to stay. If your love affair with this “hot” job has fizzled flat, it won’t do anyone any good to stay in it just for the paycheck. You might find adjusting your attitude and quitting bad habits will make THIS job a better place. On the other hand, if you are so over it you can’t function, do yourself and your employer a favor and exit gracefully. You (and they) will be happy you did.