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What are the best Questions to ask a Potential Employer in a job Interview?

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The interview is not only the employer’s chance to meet the candidate but also for the candidate to know more about the company he is looking work for.

In order to get a good understanding of the interview and know exactly what to expect from it, there are a few questions that could shed some light:

  1.    What are the prospects for career development at this company?

Besides the salary package, you want to know what’s the best way you can advance in this position you are applying for. Some companies have formal programs to help employees develop their careers. When you ask about that, it will help you make a good impression, as you showcase that you are forward-looking and not only focused on the immediate. Great companies will be interested in helping you grow, something that will contribute to the entire organization’s growth as well. However, you must also be careful as career advancement, in this case, could jeopardize the interviewer’s position if it happens they are the hiring manager. Oops!

  1.       What are the biggest challenges for this position?

Be curious and prepared. Any information you can have in advance about the job will enable you to think of potential challenges you might have and whether you want to tackle a job like this. There will definitely be others along the way, but the sooner you know what to expect, the better prepared you can be. By the same token, the challenges you might face could be critical to your success on the job. It is key that you know them before you start working so you can think proactively how to tackle them.

  1.       How would you describe this company’s values?

Working for an organization that doesn’t share the similar values to yours might cause a lot of friction. Why is it important to know the company values? Imagine yourself working for a company that doesn’t value contribution and ideas from its employees, but you are a creative person who can bring to the table a lot of ideas and availability to implement them. Inevitably, you will end up feeling frustrated not being able to voice your thoughts. Some values you could also think of: honesty, win-win mentality geared towards the client, caring for employees, impact to communities/social responsibility, etc.

  1.       What are the company’s plans for growth?

A company that doesn’t have plans to grow is a place where your own chances to grow drop. Employees at all levels need to be aligned with their companies’ larger goals and its vision. Anything less and that would pull the company and its staff in totally different directions. Ask for an explanation of the vision, and mid-long term goals of the company (some of these will be available on the website). Great companies will have a clear red thread between their reason to exist (vision) and their development strategy. This means that they care about everything in between, and that includes you! Your growth and development plan need to be a priority.

   5.       Who are the people in the team or outside the team that I’ll be working with?

This is a question that will probe the recruiter or hiring manager’s understanding of the role. A well thought out recruiting process takes into account all the moving pieces that will ensure the success of the right person to take that role. It will give you an idea about whether this is a role that contributes to the success of a specific team or has more of a floating role based on expertise that’s useful in various project teams. It might give you an idea about the kind of manager that you’ll have too.

  

Think ahead. The more you know about a position and the company you will be working for, the easier it will be for you to be in the right place. At SourceMatch we believe that the best candidates don’t accidentally land in the right roles. It takes concerted efforts to achieve the right fit that everyone can win from.

 

Photo credit: Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

What are the best Practices for job Search?

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While it’s good to take note of the best practices out there, we recommend you take your own approach, tweak and customize what you find out there.

Why is it important, you ask? Because that’s what’s going to help you filter through the hundreds of job openings. Here are our recommendations:

  1. Don’t apply for all and any jobs, better apply for a select few with fierce attention to quality than to submit your stock resume to hundreds of job applications. When searching for a job, start with the end in mind: “I’m searching for a/this job because….” Why are you looking for a job? What’s your number one motivator? Is it career advancement? Better pay? Exciting new challenges? Now, once you have that pictured, keep it on top of everything else in your mind because that’s your number one driver!
  2. Know what you want. Think about your ideal job, what’s really important to you and what’s negotiable. That will help you navigate what jobs you apply to, how you differentiate companies if you’re willing to take a pay cut to help you switch industries or career, or where you see yourself fulfilled.
  3. If you wonder what a company looks like “on the inside”, check Glassdoor, or just try to connect with people who already work there (mutual connections or via social media). Don’t just apply for a job, apply for a job at a company you would like to work for, that cares for employees and treats them like they’re a key factor in its success.
  4. Write your resume as if it would be for your dream job. Spend time to make your resume concise, and state what’s really critical to the job and company you are applying to, quantify and provide specific details – don’t use words like “some”, “a few” or “more” but rather mention x% increase in productivity/sales, managed Y number of people, and reduced costs by Z% in T months, etc.
  5. Write with the reader in mind. It’s better for your resume to be shorter rather than longer – expect recruiters and managers to have limited time. Thus, it’s really important that your resume can easily be measured by the person who reads it. How do your facts and numbers correlate with what the job description is requiring? Have you used the same keywords? Can you switch some of your vocabularies with the wording that’s been used in the job description?
  6. Use a resume template. There are plenty of templates out there, and also tools to help you out (like MS Word’s new Resume Assistant from Linkedin). Don’t shy away from using a design-oriented/more creative resume as long as it doesn’t hinder readability.
  7. Always be ready to provide references – talk to the people who can be a reference for you – ideally supervisors or clients representatives who can speak to your abilities. Ask them what’s the best way they wish to be contacted for reference check (i.e. via Phone or email first?). Let them know what kind of job(s) you’re applying to and what they can expect as questions, contexts, etc.
  8. Be humble. Strike the right balance between facts that show the level of your abilities and desire to develop or improve other skills. May it be via a letter of interest or during your interview, the natural tendency is to highlight every and all great aspects of yourself. However, making it clear you have personal development goals and aspirations, and long terms goals says a lot about you (i.e. hit-and-run, or vision driven, non-complacent, etc.).
  9. Go prepared for an interview. Read ahead about the company’s reason for existence (vision, mission, what they sell or do) as well as their principles, who their customers are, and especially what attracted your attention about them. Have questions prepared ahead of an interview, questions that relate to the job or to confirm your understanding of the company. You don’t have a second chance to make the first impression, so make it count.
  10. Be confident. When you get at an interview, by that point, you already know why you are there, why you have been called to interview, what drives you and who you are talking to. Don’t use words like “I guess”, “perhaps” or “maybe.” Rather use statements “It’s my understanding that…”, “I know based on … ”, “I recommend” or “I strongly believe”. This will let the interviewer know that you have created your own perceptions, and opinions and that you’re not doubting yourself, or that you’ll change your view based on what you hear. In other words “Own who you are!”

This isn’t a comprehensive list. However, you can see a dotted line between all 10 points about: do your homework, do the research, be disciplined. Until you find a job, you need to be the best at finding one!

And finally: although there are thousands of applicants out there, you are unique based on your upbringing, personality, experiences, values, goals or vision. So act like it when searching, applying or interviewing for a job!

 

Photo credit: Photo by Damian Zaleski on Unsplash

What is the best Strategy when a Recruiter asks About your Current Salary Before Making an Offer?

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What your strategy shouldn’t be: go in with a mindset that goes something like “I wonder what they’ll offer me” or “they should be paying me more than I make now!”, “I’ll negotiate up from whatever they offer me.” That’s a recipe for losing this important part in taking on a new role.
Be straightforward about your current compensation, and ready to talk about your top 3 reasons why you should be paid more in your new role.

Here are some pointers to help you figure out what they are:

1. Research how your current salary stacks up against your peers (i.e. Glassdoor) in the industry. Is it less? Then probably you are being underpaid while still having awesome results – that’s a sound reason to switch. Is it more? Then that might be a sign that your company values your skills more than other companies do! Use that to your advantage.

2. Research the typical salaries for the new role, considering company size, location, seniority etc. If they are lower than your current one, then you need to ask yourself whether this is a kind of position you want to take. However, listen to what they have to say/offer. If it’s higher, then it becomes a valuable piece of info in your discussion for the new position.

3. What’s the difference in responsibilities between the current and the new role? If the new position requires more then there’s a strong reason for you to ask for more salary. If it’s about the same or less, then think about different factors.

4. Is this new role going to challenge you and require more time than the current one? That’s great and you’re ready to go the extra mile, but your potential new employer should too, so consider that as well.

5. The standard of living – if you are moving to a new city, region or country for the new role, then you need to factor the cost of living in, but don’t forget about expandable income. If at the end of the month you’re left with less than what you previously had, and it’s important to you, then think twice.

6. What are the other components of your compensation package? Do they stack up against your current one? If the hiring organization doesn’t have comparable components, you should quantify their value and include that in the salary discussion.

7. Be creative about asking for a higher salary – if the hiring organization has good reasons to not give you a higher salary right off the bat, then fall back to asking for an incremental increase that’s time and legally bound (shows up on your employment agreement). I.e. after 6 months in the role 5% increase, and after 12 months in the role another 5% increase.

Keep in mind, your approach should always reflect (and come from) a genuine desire for both your and the hiring organization’s win.

Photo credit: Photo by Jessica Sysengrath on Unsplash

What do Interviewers Expect when Asking: “Do you have any Questions for us?”

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We’ll start with one statement: The interviewers expects you to be genuine.

We know there are probably hundreds of online and printed articles about the smartest questions you can come up with. It all comes down to you and the opportunity in front of you.

Let’s start with you.

There are a lot of things that are important to you, and only a handful that is crucial. Those are typical aspects that reflect what you expect of your life, career, the people or things that make you happy and fulfilled, and not least your health (this is a shortlist, you certainly have your own). You are there because in one way or another the job opportunity you’re interviewing for contributes to what’s critical to you. Once you’ve figured that out, think about what kind of questions you could ask that will clarify whether pursuing the job opportunity will contribute to what’s critical to you.

For instance, you may think: “In the long run, I want to be an outstanding business consultant, however, I don’t have any experience right now, so it’s crucial I get a job that helps me grow towards that ideal role.” so your question for the interviewer might be: “How does the company plan for professional development/growth?

Or you may think: “it’s crucial that I work for organizations that value a healthy culture that encourages creativity, instead of a top-down” so your question to the interviewer might be: “Could I meet some of the people I’d be working with?” If they are open to the idea, it will be a good way to tell what kind of culture you’d be dealing with.

Then continue with them

In the same way, think about what’s important to the company, why have they even posted this job? Is it because they’re growing? Is it because someone left? Is it because someone got promoted? Is it because it’s part of their strategy? Some questions you may ask:

How does this role help the company?

What made the person before me successful in this role?

Why has the person in this role decided to leave?

Or you can direct your question toward the interviewer himself:

What do you like most about working here?

If you were to change anything for the better at this company, what would it be?

Why did you decide to work for this company in the first place?”

You also want to get a clearer understanding of how they thought the interview went:

How do you think I and my qualifications match the company’s and hiring manager’s expectations?

Do your homework

Employers do spend the time to put Job Descriptions together. But that’s not all that they have on their webpage that can give you an idea of who they are and what they do. Their “about” page will help you know how they think, what they value (value/principles), where they’re going (vision), and how they’re going to get there (mission/objectives). Then review their “products/services” section of their website. Is there any aspect in particular that intrigues you? Is there anything that you think might be related to your job?

Ask a few specific questions that will help you have a complete picture:

How do you measure the effectiveness of that product or services?”

I noticed one of your values emphasizes the importance of people. How do I pursue this value?”

How often can someone get involved in corporate social responsibility initiatives?

Notice most of the questions are open-ended. This approach ensures you get the most out of your of conversation with the interviewers.

How they respond is an important indicator of that organization’s values. Did they provide honest and meaningful answers? Were they specific or generic/quoting from a “textbook”? Etc.

So be genuine, be yourself!

 

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What do Recruiters look for in a Resumé at First Glance?

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To get the best talent for the client, a recruiter will spend the time to evaluate resumes in accordance with the target profile. They will look at the resume components that relate to the candidate’s potential to be successful in the client’s organization. They will try to understand both tangible and intangible facets of a candidate’s background in relation to the client’s requirements for that position. Here are 10 specific areas that recruiters look at:

  1. What kind of organizations, teams, and cultures has the candidate worked in (i.e. corporate vs entrepreneurial, teamwork vs individual/expert consulting focuses work, focused on innovation/continuous improvement, etc.)?
  2. Is there any recent time gap in the resume? Could that kind of gap affect the relevancy of the candidate’s skills for the role they are applying for?
  3. If a candidate has focused on contract work, it may appear like job hopping – clarify whether a job was a contract or not by mentioning it in the resume. It could be that for the current job the client is looking for loyalty to previous employers (i.e. 3+ years average) or for someone who can come in and solve a problem and move on.
  4. Amount and relevancy of quantifiable achievements/facts – i.e. for each job, list top 3 achievements, and top 3 activities you’ve been involved in.
  5. The resume should not be too long (more 3 pages), or too short (less than a page), and with just enough info to strike a good balance between keeping it brief and having enough facts.
  6. If you are a recent graduate, fill in the page with the main school, extracurricular or internship projects that you were involved in – what you did and what were the outcomes.
  7. Resumes must be customized for each role in the sense of emphasizing the skills and expertise relevant to the role that the candidate is applying for.
  8. With today’s tools available online, there’s no reason why a resume would not be verified for grammar and spelling accuracy.
  9. Finally, the resume should be structured in such a way that it’s easy to read, without using difficult or unusual fonts (mainly sans serif fonts are easier to read – such as Arial, Segoe UI or Verdana)
  10. Make sure to insert page numbers if your resume is longer than a page. It makes it easy to follow through multiple pages.

Finally, make sure that the resume shows the real you. After all, a resume is a document that shows not only what you did, but what your potential is for your next employer. Use it wisely!

 

Photo credit: Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

What are the best Answers for “Why Should I hire you”?

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There are many details one could use to respond to this kind of question — for instance, you could highlight quantifiable achievements that match up to what’s requested of you. It’s a bit obvious but they would not have invited you to the interview as well as the other 15 people who have a similar skills set.

However, one of the things that a recruiter will be looking at (we believe the most important) is how genuine you are. We all have different upbringings, life and work experiences, and personalities. Those, combined, are difficult to mimic. Why did you show up for that interview in the first place?

  • Do you need a job?
  • Are you passionate about what this role entails?
  • Do you like their culture and you think you’d fit right in?
  • Are you excited at the growth opportunity in that position?
  • Does the company have a great reputation as an employer?
  • Etc.

These are all real & true reasons. Pick a few and be genuine about your answer.

Do it with a spin (if possible), again staying true to who you are: how does this job play out towards your dreams, your ambitions, and your career? Think of the long run or the well-known “what do I want to be when I grow up” — how this job is a stepping stone towards that (i.e. 20 years from now), and why that motivates you to master the skills required to succeed in this role. Most employers don’t have unrealistic expectations of keeping you around for the next 10 years or even 5 years.

If you don’t yet have a picture of what the long run looks like, don’t worry about it right then, and stick to the immediate things that really pushed you to apply for this job. 

And finally: interviewers are human and will be prone to being subjective. You might have been bright and shiny at the interview, but if the interviewer had a bad day, that could have just been the only reason for a rejection. Pick yourself up, and don’t give up on being who you are all the way through. Adjust the format but don’t compromise the substance.

To summarize: be genuine, paint a broader picture than that job, talk about what drives you to succeed, be genuine about it.

 

Photo credit: Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Threat or opportunity

Skills Gap | Threat or Opportunity?

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Even in a world flooded with information accessed at a distance of a “click” – one that fuels a competitive and constantly changing global economy – the workforce market is faced with a widespread challenge: the lack of skills required to tackle today’s business environment. How do we go about solving this issue?

The global competition demands a different skill set

Technology has changed the way the world is connected. Competition is global and it doesn’t matter where you are located on the map: Romania, India, US, etc. because you have lots of competitors for the same market share and talent. As a result, there is a constant need for skills on the market. Employers have high expectations and want to see a strong mix of: positive attitude towards work, technical knowledge, proactivity, solving issues in a timely manner, entrepreneurial skills, and social skills. Young graduates have fewer chances to get hired, as their current skills (or lack of them) don’t fit employers’ reality.

Studies show that around 80% of graduates work in a different field than the one they have graduated from. Still, they invest energy, time and money to graduate from a University and obtain a degree that they thought would be key to enter the marketplace.

And that raises the question: “Where is the disconnect?”

How do young graduates get a dream job when organizations don’t give them a chance?

The idea is simple – employers don’t want to invest in graduates if they don’t have the required experience. The reason? The risk for new hires changing their jobs right after having been trained is significant, especially with so many available jobs on the market. This pushes employers right back to square one.

Why not change the Educational System?

Young people go to universities with the hope that after getting their degree they can enter the workforce right away and bring value to it with their fresh enthusiasm. Disappointment sets in quite rapidly when they face reality: the market does not accept them unless they are properly prepared. All starts from the ground-up: the Education System, which offers too much theory and insufficient practice.

Now what?

To begin thinking about a solution there are 3 key matters that need our attention:

(1) restoring communication between universities and organizations in the marketplace, thus offering students the chance to get prepared for what the marketplace actually needs;

(2) keeping the information always accurate and in accordance with the demand;

(3) offering them practical training while still in school, by implementing a strategy in which internships are a significant part of the grading system, right from their first year of studies.

Both companies and young graduates would benefit from this.

There is a significant amount of change that needs to be done if we want to see graduates find jobs that they can bring value to from day one. It boils down to teaching students what they really need to thrive in a global market, and focus their educational process on pragmatic skills (i.e. problem-solving, creative collaboration, effective communication, thinking out of the box), not just theory. That can only be achieved with the help of organizations that need to transfer back into education the very skills that they wish to see in graduates.

Let’s get to work!

Creativity and your bottom line

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You need creativity more than you think

In our last post we looked at two important concepts: the New Economy and Talentism. Both of them have a lot to do with Creativity, which is as we’ll see “a catalyst for” and “a result of” innovation.

With every advancement, technology has reached into almost all areas of life, starting from communication, to cooking and driving. And as we’re well accustomed, iterations of each product amplify the pressure over the consumer to comprehend all its new features and how to use them. We’re bombarded with so many new things that reach out into our brain for our attention as well as our capacity to learn and adapt. Such complexity is what pushes us to transition towards new technologies and the realities that ensue (i.e. 3D printing, hyper-connectedness, robotics and automation, the new paradigms of work). The paradox is how the same innovators strive to showcase all of these complexities in a light of simplicity and thus alleviate any resistance, enhance the product’s market acceptance and rate of adoption.

stark-innovationThus, creativity acts as a catalyst for innovation through its sheer usefulness in the problem-solving process (i.e. answering a need in the market). Simultaneously, it succeeds innovation by demystifying new technologies for their intended audience.
This is why organizations that want to stay on top of their game in the New Economy need to breathe creativity. But how does that relate to Talent(ism)?

What drives creativity?

Access to resources – take for instance artists that have created art as they had access to various tools, materials, fine wood, paint, silver, gold, etc. The same principle applies today when you consider easy access to information, software, hardware, knowledge, training, and continuous education. How would high-end engineers be capable to innovate without a proper workbench, laboratory and state-of-the-art technology at their fingertips? How do you expect your teams to improve your business processes without the proper understanding of the principles of quality management methodologies such as Six Sigma and Lean?

Thinking outside the box or allowing yourself to be disrupted from your standard line of thought – we all like status quo, who doesn’t? It’s comfortable and cozy. If we want to create, we should put ourselves out there where we’re being challenged to think differently. Read books that are out of your usual knowledge areas, take on projects that just seem like you’re taking a big leap of faith and work towards shortening the gap of knowledge/experience, meet with people that do things differently or are labeled as outliers in your industry and learn from them what it takes to go through uncharted paths, or in two words: Be curious!

An environment that encourages ideas out of the ordinary and idiosyncrasies – this asks for high tolerance to failure and a quasi-safety net (note: not risk aversion) in the form of preventive actions for new and unconventional initiatives. Nowadays, especially with the tech startup scene the later seems to be rarer (to my surprise) since all of the great innovations had strong prior planning. What would change your organization, product, service or whatever you’re involved in by a few orders of magnitude?

stark-math

Exposure to as many interactions in the work environment as possible (open to listening, helping, being empathetic) is quintessential to creativity. The advantage of collaborative teams, spaces, organizations is by far their diversity giving way to creative problem-solving. This is also an indication for organizations to focus on socio-cultural diversity that enables divergent thoughts and decision processes. Take the classic example of coffee shops – why are they such a great place to come up with ideas? They encourage bohemian interaction and collaboration, as well as the allure of frugal creativity. Basically, it gives anyone the liberty to dream at no additional cost – everything is possible! Are our organizations creating this kind of environments?

The pivotal factor

Beyond a much longer list of drivers for creativity, people have a critical role, and especially decision makers in organizations who need to be responsible for facilitating creativity. Although the traditional model of a boss-run organization is extremely spread, it has become clear that it’s not a sustainable one. And seriously, who wants to rely on just one person to grow and develop an organization? It’s about time that leaders and managers would stand behind their teams encouraging them to think for themselves and to switch from an employee mindset towards an owner mindset. A reversed model of tapping into everyone’s talent, skills and experience so as to stir a sense of ownership for breakthrough ideas and initiatives, taking them from “aha” moments, to debates, to chiseled project plans, and down to bottom line impact.

Practical ideas

  1. Leaders educating their organizations about the cause-effect relationship between creativity and financial bottom line using concrete examples, and how that can contribute to their own well-being. Leaders and key decision makers need to realize that growing profits without a direct benefit to those who drive them isn’t sustainable (Dare I say: it’s even destructive?).
  2. An informal team commitment to personal development, while members hold each other accountable (i.e. reading books, listening to podcasts). Same as organizations, people need to “upgrade” themselves and to continuously learn. Does it help the organization? Probably it does, but in the end, it’s an investment in themselves, which they take further wherever they go (Disclaimer: I’m not saying that people should not stay with your organization forever)
  3. An informal coaching environment in which people will teach one another using a quasi-structure of information and knowledge, starting from their own expertise. This process may appear to be simple – it’s not. It puts people in a position in which they need to find the best means to transfer their knowledge onto others who might not interact with it on a regular basis. And it boils down to one question: how do you take your knowledge and reduce it down to an essence that your teammates can gather in max 30 minutes?

I’m convinced that this post just scratches the surface about the subject of creativity, and you’re encouraged to contribute with your own experience, observations and questions.