Friday, 29 July 2011

Why Invest in Career Coaching?

Factors Impacting Your Job Hunting Success
Developing your career can be a job in itself.

It is a job that calls for its own specailised set of skills - unfortunately they aren't skills that are taught at school!

Analysing your skills, identifying your key skill set, communicating your skills and match to a vacancy effectively in a CV or on an application form, performing well in an interview, giving an effective presentation at a second round interview - these can all be daunting tasks.  Where do you start? 

Working with a career coach will help you in a huge range of areas. A career coach gives a more independant viewpoint than friends or colleagues. A career coach will help you:
  • Carry out a skills analysis and identify your key strengths
  • Assess which of the roles currently on the market are best matched to the skills and experience you've gained so far
  • Clarify your career direction and job requirements
  • Establish clear goals and plan a route to get there
Career coaching will also:
  • Give you a CV review and critique, tailored to both the library & information sector and to your own preferences
  • Provide individual interview coaching
  • Give you mock interview practice and feedback on your performance
  • Review any presentations you are asked to prepare, act as a 'test audience' and give you suggestions to improve content or style 
  • Act as a 'critical friend' and sounding board for your ideas
It need not be expensive, and you may not need support in all of these areas, all the time.  One of the great benefits of career coaching is that you can 'pick and mix' the different options and book one 1 hour session, one CV review, or a series of sessions including skills analysis, CV critique and interview coaching - the choice is yours.

How to avoid having your job offer turned down

In today's climate, when you have managed to get sign-off to recruit for a post, you want to make sure that you are successful in finding the right person for the job.

Nothing is more frustrating than sifting a high number of applications, interviewing people, finding a strong applicant who would be a great fit into your team, only to have your job offer to them turned down.

Why does this happen?

It is tempting to think that it is all down to the person's current employer, making them a counter-offer they can't refuse.  However, it is rarely that simple.

If someone is on the job market, applying for jobs and going to interviews, they usually have very good reasons to be seeking a new role:
  • lack of opportunity for career development
  • stagnant salary
  • poor location / commute
  • clash of personalities in their team
  • poor management
The fact they have applied for your role, met you for an interview and probably returned for a second round shows that they felt your organisation and the job on offer were interesting and could solve one or more of these issues.

So what makes people change their mind 'at the last minute' and turn down a job offer?

Fortunately, it is often factors that are within your control, and so you can reduce the chances of this disappointing and frustrating situation happening to you.

It is important to remember that applicants going through a recruitment process are judging the organisation, the role and the people they meet along the way, in just the same way that you are judging their fitness for the role and the team.

You need to make sure that as much attention is paid to the attractive elements of what you are offering as to the attributes of the candidates.

This is called 'employer branding' by HR, and there are some simple tips to make sure you portray a positive employer brand to your prospective new employee:
  1. Promote the culture and benefits of working for your organisation
  2. Describe the positive aspects of the team you have in place,
  3. Talk about the scope of the role as it stands and the opportunities to develop it further
  4. Talk about the challenging aspects of the role in a positive way, as opportunities to develop
  5. Explain the training and CPD programme at your organisation
  6. Make sure all the people they meet are friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic about their jobs and the organisation
You also need to make sure that other members of your team who are meeting the candidates are aware of these issue and are prepared to answer questions like "why do you enjoy working here" or "why made you decide to stay here so long" in a positive and enthusiastic way.

If you follow these steps then the candidate you offer the job to will be feeling positive and keen to join your team; they are therefore much less likely to be tempted by a counter-offer from their old employer.

Friday, 22 July 2011

7 CV Blunders to Avoid

Setting out to draft your CV can be a daunting experience.  A blank sheet of paper awaits you, and you need to make decisions on layout, what sections to include, what dates you worked where.. the list goes on.

There are some blunders which crop up time and again, which you can avoid by paying attention to some quite simple tips:

  1. Don’t write essays.   If you write lots of long paragraphs in your CV you are dramatically reducing the chances of anyone reading it.  Your CV is analogous to a marketing brochure.  It should send clear, straightforward and easy to digest messages to your intended audience.   
  2. Don’t cram the space full.  Your messages will be lost if they are mired in a mass of text. Make sure you have a clear, simple layout using lots of white space, bold section headings and bullet points. Make your key skills easy to pick out, and relevant to the type of job you are applying for.
  3. Don’t include a picture.  Unless you are applying for a job in some European countries (eg Germany), a picture or other graphics are only expected on CVs for the media industry and graphic designers.  Putting in a photograph just invites the person reviewing your CV to make subconcious judgements based upon your appearance.
  4. Avoid using loads of different fonts or coloured fonts.  Multiple different fonts look messy. Stick to one font, and just vary the size for different levels of heading (eg Header 1 = your name = largest font size, then Header 2 = section headings = second largest size, then Header 3 = Company names = third largest size, etc).
  5. Don’t lie.  Don't even be tempted to exaggerate the truth a bit.  It might get you the interview, but then you will be quizzed face to face and asked to give examples to demonstrate the skills you claimed to have.  Interviewers may also check out your online profiles and/or take up verbal peer references either before or after the interview.  Failing all that, if you get offered a job based on a lie, you will then be expected to perform to the standard you let your new employer to expect...
  6. Don’t try and include everything you’ve ever done in your entire life.  While you need to avoid having gaps on your CV, there is no need to include the same level of detail about the bar jobs or retail work you did while a student as for your most recent information management role.  Devote more space and prominance to the most recent &/or most relevant skills and experience, which demonstrate your suitability for the jobs you are applying for.
  7. Avoid being so generic that it could be anyone’s CV.  This particularly applies to the profile section.  While it's OK to use 'How to...' books and articles for inspiration, don't just copy down a cool-looking list of 'action words' to create your profile.  Make sure you write something personal, accurate and relevant to your skills, your career goals and the type of job you hope to get.
If you follow these steps, and if you have done a thorough skills analysis before putting pen to paper, you will be able to create an effective CV and raise your chances of securing interview invitations.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Effective CV Writing - where do I start?

Your CV is your personal marketing brochure – it should clearly demonstrate why you are the solution to the hiring problem faced by the employer.

If you bear this in mind as you set out to create or update your CV it will help you with all aspects of writing it – the structure, the content, the language to use and the best layout.
An invaluable exercise to do before you start putting pen to paper on your CV itself is a skills analysis.

Once you have a clear idea of the skills you have to offer, it is a good idea to prepare a skills matrix.   This equates each of your skills to an example showing how you demonstrated it.  You will be able to refer to this again and again throughout the job hunting process – writing your CV, assessing job adverts to see which ones suit you and preparing for interviews.
Influencing     -     Persuaded manager to do xx
Communication         -       Within a team
Organising     -     A collection of grey literature
Next you should think about which of the skills you have are particularly relevant to the job you are applying for – these should stand out loud and clear for anyone reading your CV.
Once your CV’s written, give it to a friend and ask them to pick out your key skills from it.  Don’t give them any hints!  Compare the skills they notice to the list you made of the skills needed for the job – do they match?  If not, your CV needs some more work!!

Remember, your CV is NOT a history of your life.  Your CV is your personal marketing brochure. 
With this in mind, you can see why you should NOT include:

·         Date of birth (age discrimination is now illegal in the UK)

·         Marital status (how does this show you are suitable for the job?)

·         A photograph (unless your physical appearance is a vital attribute for the job in question)

·         Number/ages of children (or pets) (again, does this have any bearing on your ability to do the job?)
Now you have a clear idea of which of your skills and experiences to emphasise in your CV, to match the job or type of jobs you will be applying for.

The next step is to decide on the order of the different elements, so that the most relevant are highlighted.
The key elements to include are:

·         Skills

·         Career History

·         Education & Qualifications

Other potential (optional) elements  you could include are:
·         Profile

·         Hobbies and Interests

·         Publications & speaking engagements

Within each element, make sure that the most relevant &/or recent item is placed at the top.  Within each item make sure that you order the bullet points so that the most relevant information is again at the top.
If you follow these steps, you will have made an excellent start to creating an effective CV which promotes you to the types of employer you are targeting.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Interview Preparation - What Questions Will I Be Asked?

When I have contact a candidate with the good news that a client has shortlisted them for an interview, after the initial pleasure often comes an email or call full of questions, or even panic.  What questions will I be asked?  Will they be competency ones?  What are competency questions?  Help!

There are innumerable questions that you could be asked in an interview; one guide that I saw in the past listed 90 different questions!  However, they tend to be grouped into questions focused on a few core areas:

·         Relating to educational achievement

·         Probing work experience and skills

·         Ascertaining personality and attitudes

In any of these areas, the questions could be competency based or not.  Competency based questions are those intended to elicit evidence that you have exhibited certain behaviours that the employer feels are important to carry out the work successfully. 

Typically the employer will have several levels of competence in mind for each behaviour;

1.       Basic understanding of the concepts in a familiar setting

2.       Ability to apply the concepts in a new setting

3.       Detailed understanding of the concepts and integration into workflow

4.       Expert understanding and application in any setting

 They may have positive and negative indicators (example) in mind for each level, for each competency.

Here are some example questions (competency based ones have a (C) after them):

Relating to Education

·         What were your favourite and least favourite subjects in college/university?  Why?

·         Why did you decide to go to university?

·         If you had the opportunity to attend college/university again, what would you do differently?  Why?

·         Describe a time when you were juggling several assignments/priorities (C)

Relating to Experience and Skills

·         Describe your ideal manager / colleague / subordinate

·         What is the greatest accomplishment of your career to date?  Why did you select that one?

·         Tell me about a time you worked as part of a successful team (C)

·         What are your main responsibilities in your current role?

·         What would your last manager describe as your greatest strength?  Weakness?

·         What experience have you had that qualifies you for this job?

·         Tell me about a time when you managed a group to achieve something (C)

·         Describe a situation when you saw an opportunity to change/improve something (C)

Relating to Personality and Attitudes

·         What are your immediate and long-term career goals?

·         What are you looking for in an organisation?

·         Who would give you your best / worst reference?  Why?

·         What did you like most / least about your last job?

·         Tell me about a time when you took a risk (C)

It’s also important to remember that interviews should be a two way conversation – the interviewer will probably ask you whether you have any questions for them.  Having none at all indicates to the employer that you aren’t really interested in their organisation/job!  Make sure you prepare a long list before you go, as they will probably answer some of them during the course of the interview (use the job description and try and imagine doing the work described – lots of questions will probably spring to mind).

There is no way to rehearse answers for all the potential questions you might be asked.  Instead, prepare by working through all your skills and key experiences, matching them up to the requirements of the job description, and having several example situations to hand, ready to use in answer to whatever questions come up.  Preparation is 9/10ths of the way to success!