Friday, April 12, 2013

Re: You're Hired

Today I want to discuss something that seems to be a hot topic of conversation and the source of much anxiety among my peer group: getting hired.

Before I jump into it, I want to preface this by saying that no, I am not exactly qualified to speak on this topic. My only qualifications come in the form of an HR internship I held in college, my B.A., and my own personal experience talking with recruiters and finding that perfect job. That being said, I have picked up quite a few nuggets over the years that I find myself sharing with up and coming college grads from my alma mater and I figured that if my advice can help them, then maybe it could be help to some others out there looking to land their first "real world job" or for young professionals looking to make the switch.

1. Leverage Connections

I cannot tell you how many times I've heard someone say, "I only got the job because I know so-and-so and they referred me. UH HELLO?! You GOT the job. Last I checked, there is no separate category in HRIS or payroll that indicates that you knew someone prior to getting hired. They don't dock your pay for having a friend or family member that also works for the company. Quite the contrary, at most medium to large firms (or small firms that are looking to grow), their best source of candidates comes from employee referrals. At every quarterly meeting I've ever been part of, the topic of employee referrals comes up and it's always, "Send us resumes - we are proud of you and the work that you do, and we'd much rather take the time to interview and hire someone that already has your stamp of approval than search through the paper pile of faceless resumes." Every internship and job that I have held during and post college was the result of being referred by someone. I still went through the application process just like everyone else, still needed to interview well (I have known hiring managers who do turn down employee referrals who can't interview well), and still needed to work out my own hiring negotiations. The leg up that employee referrals gives you is that of being noticed. In order to be considered, you must first be noticed, which leads me to...

2. Proactively Reach Out

Another question I hear a lot is, "Should I email the hiring manager or HR rep?" Now, I understand this is a perfectly legitimate question. I had a bit of heartburn over this myself when applying to jobs. "Will I annoy them? Will they think I'm too desperate?" But, truthfully, I think those are the wrong questions to ask. Again, in order to be considered, you must first be noticed. I cannot tell you how a hiring manager will react to your email, but I can tell you that getting a reaction out of them may be the one thing that keeps your resume alive in the process. More and more HR departments are relying on initial computer scans of certain keywords in resumes that will take the first pass of weeding out unqualified candidates. I don't know about you, but when I was applying to jobs, I wanted a person reading my resume, not a computer. The key to successfully reaching out to potential employers is to have a point to your communication. Emails that are purely inquiring in nature are more likely to be straight up ignored. However, if you email in conjunction with submitting your application, then your email says, "Hi, I am really interested in working for you. I have already taken the necessary steps to submit myself into the pool of candidates, but now I'm going above and beyond to share with you how much I want this job - and by the way, please see my resume and cover letter for more information on how much I want this job." The email correspondence should not be as lengthy as a cover letter; that is what a cover letter is for. I typically reiterate who I am, what position I'm interested in, and then throw in a little something that shows I've done my research. Maybe something you saw in the news about the company, or a question you came up with, while browsing their website. These are easy enough that it doesn't take a lot of time on your part or on the part of the recipient to respond to, which is important. Furthermore, most people love talking about themselves. So, if you frame your question in such a way that is fairly open ended, that allows them the opportunity to talk about how amazing they are and how amazing their job is, and then they're feeling pretty good about themselves and about you! Now, that is a win-win.

3. The Follow Up

Okay, so now you've submitted your application, you've reached out to the hiring manager or HR rep singing their praises and a week has gone by and you still haven't heard anything. Don't panic. This is perfectly normal. I don't want to make generalizations about large vs. small companies, because usually larger companies have larger HR and hiring departments to compensate. The fact of the matter is that all companies are being bombarded by job seekers right now, and a lot of what makes the hiring process so lengthy is the leg work that HR has to do in weeding through the many unqualified candidates to find a few qualified ones that they can actually reach out to. Onboarding is serious business and costs a company a lot of money, so companies aren't going to take their chances interviewing just anyone. I have heard many different perspectives on this one, but I think that the best rule of thumb is to give anywhere from one to two weeks and then just send a follow up email. Your follow up email should be short, sweet, and to the point. "Dear so-and-so, I am writing to follow up on the status of my application, which was submitted on xx date. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns regarding my resume. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Best, Your Name"

4. The Interview

Oh the interview...I'm not going to lie, this is my favorite part of the hiring process. I am one of those weird people that loves interviews. Don't ask. I don't even know the answer. First of all, there are so many books written on this topic that I'm not going to get into every aspect of what makes a successful interview (maybe I'll do another post dedicated to that), but for now let's focus on some big ticket items.

  • Punctuality - You should arrive exactly 15 minutes before your interview. "Why did she say exactly 15 minutes? That seems really anal." I have seen this from both the perspectives of the hiring managers and from the perspectives of HR and have found that 15 minutes is the golden number. Believe it or not, HR's job is not sitting around and interview candidates all day long. There is a LOT of paperwork that goes into each candidate pre-, during, and post-hire. Not to mention all of the other hundreds of hats that HR wears throughout the day. Their job is not to sit around babysitting candidates before their interviews begin, so getting there too early will actually have a negative impact on your first impression with HR. On the other hand, arriving too close to your interview start time sends a red flag to the hiring manger, who is looking to see how much you care about this job and how seriously you take yourself and the profession. If you don't take punctuality of the interview seriously, then why should they believe that you would take anything else seriously if given the job? It may seem like a stretch, but this may be your only impression that you get to make, so make it count. I once heard a hiring manager say that 15 minutes early to an interview is on time and anything after that is late. And if you're actually late to your interview, she would ask you to leave. I don't know about you, but I would probably cry if I showed up to an interview and was immediately asked to leave. You've worked so hard to get to this step, so do it right! Note: If you do arrive way too early, that's fine. Just sit outside in your car or in the lobby before checking in. Better to have too much time on your hands than not enough.
  • The Outfit - Suit up or go home. This varies by profession, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on here, but I will say this, look sharp. Even if you're interviewing for a job in say electrical engineering and you know that every day you'll be wearing jeans and a t-shirt to work, on interview day, make it a point to dress up. I think a good rule of thumb is to try to match what management would be wearing. So, if in the field they're wearing jeans, but at corporate, they're wearing suits and you're interviewing at corporate...go with the suit.
  • The Questions - Be prepared to speak on every single bullet you have on your resume. If you can't elaborate on it, then take it off. Also, at the end of the interview, when they ask if you have any questions for them, this is NOT optional. You need to have 2-3 questions prepared to ask every interviewer. Have a few canned questions in case you get stumped, but actually listen during your interview to things that the interviewers are saying and try to tailor your questions to them. This will show that you are paying attention and that you not only take what they say at face value, but you also thought about it and now have follow up questions. Note: If you are a first time interviewer, it doesn't hurt to ask them for feedback on your interview performance. I received some amazing feedback that I have since implemented from one of my first internships. I also once had a hiring manger ask me if I was going to ask for feedback, so some of them are ready and willing to give it!
  • Props - I don't really know what else to call this, but be sure to have a professional bag/briefcase with you, a notepad, and your own pen. Also, even though we're living in the digital age, it is still very much appreciated by hiring managers to have several printed copies of your resume on hand. A lot of times, they only will have time to scan the copy HR sent out a few minutes before your interview, so don't take offense if they don't have your resume or if they seem totally ignorant of it when they meet you.
  • The Follow Up - Always get business cards from your interviewers and send follow up thank you emails. Ask HR about the timeline of when you should hear from them, so that you have a good idea of when to do second round follow ups. If they tell you that they won't be making a decision for a month, then don't start harassing them two days later.
5. Re: You're Hired

Hopefully, assuming everything went well, you will receive a letter informing you that you are HIRED! If so, congratulations!! If not, never fear! That just means that this wasn't the job for you. Keep at it, though, something will come through. For next steps and starting the negotiation process, please check out this site. It has amazing information that I used during my hiring process and I highly recommend it.

Hopefully this is a helpful overview. Again, everything in this post is my opinion, based on personal experience and advice I've received over the years. Please feel free to ask any questions and I will try my best to provide feedback. And, if you are currently in the job hunting process, best of luck! Try to enjoy the ride and be sure to make note of lessons you learn along the way. They will come in handy with each new application!

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