Job-search clubs going from in-person to meeting online with Zoom

As a career strategist at MassHire Lowell Career Center, I lead a job club for our clients. Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, we met in-person in a large room. At these meetings, there would be anywhere between 10 and 20 people.

safe-meet-new-people-994x400

We didn’t meet in person often—only every second and fourth Tuesday of the month—but our clients enjoyed the opportunity to get out of their house and share the news of their job search or participate in a mock interview.

The mock interviews were a key activity of the job club meetings—sitting in the hot seat and being interviewed by me or another member of the group while being filmed with a digital camera. The rest of the participants provided feedback at the conclusion of the interview on the interviewee’s answers.

Times have changed

Now, all of the in-person meetings have been thrown out the window. We’re confined to our homes, only allowed to venture out for groceries, gas (who needs it, though?) takeout food, and exercise. Life has changed rapidly.

To pile insult upon insult, we’ve experienced the worst number of unemployment of all time. Our labor market is truly in a crisis. Hopefully a two-trillion-dollar relief fund will help the new and currently unemployed. But the future is unpredictable for everyone.

For the unforeseeable future job seekers can’t network in-person. They can’t share ideas on how to better search for jobs, talk about potential opportunities. tout their happy landings. So, what can job seekers do?

Go to virtual communication

The only solution to continue networking, even meet for social reasons, is to go online. The phone is another option, of course, but it’s not as intimate as using platforms like Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Google Hangout, and others. (Employers have resorted to interviewing candidates online.)

The job club I lead, since the pandemic has forced us to practice social distancing, has had two meetings via Zoom so far. We haven’t let the pandemic phase us. The first meeting garnered 15 members, the second 19. There are 21 members in the group.

The first Zoom meeting was all about job-search talk. I would normally insert my advice in the past, but I wanted the group to simply touch base. It wasn’t as rewarding as meeting in-person. But it was the best we could do.

The second meeting was our Zoom mock interview. I had one member interview another member. The logistics were not hard. There was no need to make one of them a presenter and the other a guest. Zoom makes it extremely easy to facilitate mock interviews.

After the mock interview, the other members provided sage advice to the interviewee. I inserted my opinions as well, but I wanted the group to be more self-sufficient. Besides, many of the members have had far more experience interviewing candidates than I have.

Of course I recorded the event. The interviewee gladly allowed me to share the recording with the members. She said it was a learning opportunity for everyone.

Although the mock interview was but an exercise, it still demonstrated to the other 17 members what it’s like to be interviewed online. A few of the members have experienced video interviews. For the majority of them, however, this was a new experience.

I ended the meeting encouraging the group to form smaller buddy groups. I want them to reach out to each other without having to attend a formal job club event. As job seekers, they need to be self-sufficient. Already some of our members have contacted me asking with whom they should connect.


To use a cliche, online job club meetings are becoming the new normal for our members. Given the positive acceptance thus far, I’ve considered increasing the job club meetings every week if only to get these job-searching warriors together.

If you lead a job club at your career center, consider doing it online. Don’t let the momentum die because you can’t meet in person for the time being. Of all the platforms, I highly suggest Zooom.

Employers, job seekers, and students—stay the course

As a career strategist at a MassHire career center, I’m asking employers to keep the hiring wheels in motion. Employers, you might have to close your doors, due to the Coronavirus, but this doesn’t mean you can’t stay the course.

Job seekers, I’m talking to you, too. This is not the time to give up. Especially not now. There will be some who will give up; don’t be one of them.

man climbing

These are certainly tough times. We get this. My clients are stressed enough trying to get their careers on track, so taking 14 days or more off is not what they want. They want to work and need a job “yesterday.”

Employers, you have time

Employers, you have more time than ever to interview candidates for open positions even if you have to shut your doors or limit access to the public.

Our career center has been instructed by the state to deny access to the public. This is smart. But we’ll continue to work and communicate with our clients via telephone and Zoom.

I’ll offer my customers the option of Zooming with me and other career advisors. This is not ideal, especially in a service industry where that human connection is so important.

Recruiters can go about business as usual. You have technology like Zoom/Skype, assessments, the phone, and text—to name a few—to continue interviewing job candidates who are already in the pipeline.

Hiring managers can still communicate with recruiters, HR, and most importantly candidates.

My LinkedIn colleague and good friend, Mark Anthony Dyson, offers some great ideas for technology to use in his article, Increase Your Work-From-Home Efficiency: 9 Handy Tools for Remote Workers, published on Job-Hunt.org. These tools are free or inexpensive. Use them.

Job seekers

I don’t want you to give up your search. Reach out to recruiters at the companies you’ve been communicating with. Also reach out to hiring managers, if possible. Demonstrate your desire to work. Show employers you’re not giving in to this temporary pandemic. At the same time prepare ahead of time.

Drive forward networking with new and existing connections. Use Zoom or Skype to conduct virtual meetings.

Continue to update your resumes for potential jobs. Write tailored resumes to each job.

Complete your LinkedIn profile, continue building your focused network, and engage on LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn at least four times a day, 20 minutes each day.

Reach out to new recruiters and staffing agencies in your industry. If you are engaged with employers, don’t disregard other possibilities. Things going slow? Don’t rely on employers who are dragging their feet.

For my clients who have job offers but haven’t started, consider approaching other employers to begin communications. If you’re asked whether you’re working, you can truthfully tell them you’re not.

Lastly, get out of your house. Take walks, go on road trips, do your hobbies. In other words, don’t let life stop.

Students, you need to stay on track as well

My daughter is a senior who is supposed to graduate in May. Her senior year has essentially been ruined. You probably have the option of completing courses online. Take advantage of this. Don’t let your studies slide.

And professors, don’t let your students down. I’ve heard of professors who refuse to adopt new technology to teach their courses. Don’t perpetuate the stereotype that older workers cant’ use technology. Accept help. Hire an assistant.

Seniors, your goal is to graduate. You may have been robbed of the last semester of your senior year, but there’s still the possibility of having a party to beat all parties when this disruption as ended. My daughter will.


What it comes down to is not letting life stop.

Employers, I know you have many important tasks related to the pandemic you need to tend to. Don’t forget the most important task at hand; hiring an employee to make your life easy.

Job seekers, the search goes on. Don’t give up. Don’t rely on an extension of your UI benefits.

Students, make us proud and ace your unline classes.

Photo, Flickr, Y-Shumin

Are recruiters to blame? 4 tips for working with recruiters

Recruiters are often the front line of the hiring process; they advertise an open position, read more résumés than they’d like, interview and screen multiple candidates, and finally present the best of the best to the hiring manager (HM).

Recruiterman

And for this service, employers pay a hefty price—25% to 30%—of the new hire’s first annual salary. You could say recruiters are the middle-person between job candidates and employers. You could also say it’s a pressure-filled and thankless job at times.

Recruiters earn their salary from their employers. Some candidates don’t understand the pecking order of the hiring process. In this sense, these candidates might feel slighted. I witness this in my role as a career strategist in an urban career center.

Said job seekers feel that recruiters are unresponsive, clueless about the role, don’t have their interest in mind, make them promises that fall through, ghost them, among other faults. In some cases, job seekers’ complaints are warranted, but in other cases their blame is unwarranted.

Understand that recruiters are humans, too

No one takes a job to fail. They don’t start on day one with the mission of being a lousy employee. Some people may approach their job halfheartedly, not quite sure what they’re doing, but they don’t say to themselves, “I want to be the worst employee possible.” This applies to recruiters, as well.

Recruiters face the possibility of failure on a daily basis. Agency recruiters, who get paid only when they place a candidate in a company, face rejection from the companies that employ them.

Likewise, corporate recruiters who have the ear of HM—more so than agency recruiters—get frustrated when they find the ideal candidate, only to be rejected for one reason or another.

According to Steve Levy, a principal recruiter, and social media consultant, a very small percent of recruiters are cut out to succeed in their trade. I talked to him recently to get a feel for the life of a recruiter.

Steve’s goal is foremost to find the most qualified candidates for his boss, but he also aims to help candidates succeed in their job search. The two are not mutually exclusive. If a candidate is not a fit for Steve’s boss, he’ll refer them to other companies where they might be a fit.

Hiring managers ARE the bottleneck

But it’s not this simple.

It’s often said that HMs are looking for the purple squirrel, someone who meets all the requirements of the position, plus some. This might be true, but only because of their reluctance or fear of hiring the wrong candidate and having to start over.

Hiring the wrong candidate is costly. This can include opening a new requisition for a replacement; paying a recruiter fee, yet again; weeks of searching for a replacement; setting up benefits; training; and, if the employee was customer-facing, the possibility of lost customers due to damaged relationships.

Recruiters and candidates are both victims of HMs who are unresponsive, making them wait days, if not weeks, for the verdict. The candidate is in a state of limbo, waiting anxiously by the phone for a yea or nay from the recruiter.

The recruiter on their part tries to keep an open line of communication, but they only know as much as the HM tells them. Being in a state of limbo is disheartening for the candidate and recruiter.

Then there’s the fact that HMs aren’t necessarily astute when it comes to interviewing candidates sent to them by recruiters. I asked recruiters who frequent a Facebook group, Recruiters Online, how they feel about hiring managers.

One respondent, Steve Lowisz, added, “Most hiring managers have never been trained on how to work with internal or external recruiters….We need to stop, and educate them on the process of how to interview”

4 tips to make the recruiter’s job easier

Apply for jobs for which you’re qualified

One major complaint recruiters have of job seekers is that they apply for jobs for which they’re not qualified. If you have little to no experience in program management, don’t apply for a program management position.

“Carefully read the job description,” Levy advises, “to make sure you are qualified. If you’re not, don’t apply.” Sounds like a simple directive, right? Unfortunately some job seekers don’t heed this advice and use what’s called a “spray and pray” approach.

Write a sound résumé

This starts with expanding more on positions that are relevant, not positions you performed in the past. Shelby Mangum weighed in from Recruiters Online about telling the proper story with your résumé:

“The jobs most relevant to what you’re applying to, typically most recent, and had the most seniority should have the longest bullet points. Too many times I see people with barely an explanation of their current director job, but they tell me all about that entry-level coordinator job from 7 years ago.”

There is some difference of opinion when it comes to the length of your résumé. Levy, for example, says, “I don’t care if a résumé is three-pages long. If it has great content, I’ll read the whole thing.”

Other recruiters require that their candidate submit one-page résumés, presumably because they’re too busy to read the deluge of résumés they receive. Levy says this is laziness.

These are two of the basic tenets of résumé writing. Candidates must also sell themselves with their résumé. Keep the summary short, but provide an accomplishment or two within it to entice the recruiter to read more.

In the experience section, this is where you really want to hit recruiters on the head with accomplishments that include quantified results. Trish Wyderka, a résumé writer and coach writes, “The advice that I give to all my clients is to be sure [they] address how [they] can help a company make money, save money or save time.”

Finally, candidates need to submit résumés that can pass the applicant tracking system (ATS). this speaks to a tailored résumé that fits the job’s requirements. A generic résumé, which fails to address the required skills and experience, will fail miserably when it is “read” by the ATS.

Ace the interview

Interview older man

Job candidates need to be better prepared for various types of interviews. Gone are the days when you received a phone call telling you to come in for a face-to-face interview, perhaps followed by another.

Today, the interview process is more complicated, to say the least. Many of my clients who haven’t had to look for work in the past 10-30 years are shocked by the way companies are interviewing candidates.

The interview landscape is changing. Traditional interviewing isn’t going away anytime soon; however, newer innovations are emerging on the scene.

Employers are using personality and analytical assessments. To job seekers, these are challenging not only because of the questions that are asked but also because candidates are timed.

Despite the failings of traditional interviews, recruiters still use telephone interviews to determine a candidate’s salary range, as well as if the person can actually do the job. Recruiters also conduct in-person and Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, and other electronic interviews.

The first bit of advice is to arrive at an in-person or Skype interview prepared to answer the difficult questions. Former recruiter, Jenn Gorius Gosselin, advises, “Know what you can do, what you want to do and why the job and this company interest you. Ask for the job if you indeed want it.”

Recruiters want to hear your enthusiasm for the job and company. During a telephone interview, recruiters need to hear the enthusiasm in your voice, and they need to see it in your body language in an interview.

Know where recruiters hangout

Jobvite.com claims that 87% of recruiters and other hiring authorities use LinkedIn to find talent. However, the majority of job seekers are on Facebook (approximately 65%). This might be the case because two billion people use Facebook compared to 650+ million LinkedIn members.

If you want to know where recruiters hang out, it’s not as simple as you’d imagine. LinkedIn is certainly populated by recruiters, but Facebook has become a platform of choice for many recruiters. Levy says he’s disenchanted with LinkedIn and uses Facebook and Twitter as much, if not more, than LinkedIn.

Louysa Akerley says, “I use primarily LinkedIn, but I really feel that Facebook is an untapped market for recruiting since the majority of the population is on Facebook, while only a certain percentage are on LinkedIn.”

Lastly, create a strong presence on social media

Do yourself a favor by cleaning up your Facebook profile eliminating any incriminating photos and reference to politics. Then befriend recruiters who serve your industry. As for LinkedIn, make your LinkedIn profile complete, connect with recruiters and industry leaders, and engage with your connections. This way you’ll cover the two major social media platforms.

Photo: Flickr, Les Roches Global Hospitality Education

Photo: Flickr, Seattle Search

Hot LinkedIn Trends for 2020: What the Experts Say

To land a job in 2020, you will need to have a strong LinkedIn profile. And, that profile needs to clearly brand you. But is a strong, well-branded LinkedIn profile enough? According to four LinkedIn experts it isn’t.2020cubes

I asked Hannah Morgan, Kevin Turner, Jessica Hernandez, and Andy Foote for their insights for the year ahead and received answers ranging from the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) to building a strong network and engaging with your network.

Branding with Your LinkedIn Profile

Before I share the experts’ advice, let’s start with the basics—branding yourself with your LinkedIn profile. This will always be important.

In 2020 job seekers will have to put more effort into writing content for not only SEO, but content that resonates with hiring authorities. Yet great content won’t be enough:

Background image and head-shot photo

You’ll need to brand yourself with images that speak to your occupation and industry. These will include most notably your background image and photo.

More people are coming around to including a background image. After all, who wants that ugly, light blue image behind their photo? (LinkedIn Help: Adding Background Image.)

A head-shot photo is a must. Increasingly more people are realizing that to be memorable, trusted, and liked, they must have a quality photo. LinkedIn members are owning their photos by making them more theme-based or they’re presenting a casual pose.

LinkedIn Headline

Greater emphasis should also be placed on the Headline. There are a plethora of articles that talk about the importance of keywords and/or a branding statement to go with them. The following Headline includes keywords and a branding statement:

Finance Manager at Company X | Financial Planning and Analysis | Auditing | Saving Organizations Millions.

The About section

Job seekers are giving this section more attention, and that is a very good idea. They are including more content that tells their story which includes statements of their greatness. Think about the passion you have for what you do, and how well you do it.

Hint: share quantified accomplishments that prove your value. Write this section in first-person point of view.

Experience

You will be wise to provide more descriptions of your jobs in your Experience section. Your resume probably includes duty and accomplishment statements, but this is where you want to create the WOW factor with your profile. Stick with the accomplishment statements and personalize them.

One of my greatest accomplishments was initiating and implementing – before the deadline – a customer relations management (CRM) system that increased productivity by 58%.

Better content that brands you should continue throughout your LinkedIn profile. In Education you can tell a story. Do not skip adding your volunteer experience. Companies appreciate those who volunteer. Think branding!

Ensure that all of these elements consistently support your brand.

Advice from 4 LinkedIn experts

Gone are the days when your profile was seen simply as an online resume. Also gone are the days when your profile sat on the Internet waiting for hiring authorities to find you.

Now, with more than 675 million members on LinkedIn, you must be more proactive to be found. This means that, as a job seeker, you also need to consider multiple components of your LinkedIn campaign, not simply your profile.

Many resist getting more involved in their LinkedIn presence, and this resistance to developing a focused network and engaging with their network is human nature, as it takes hard work. But doesn’t being successful take hard work?

To discover which LinkedIn trends you should follow in 2020, I asked these four renowned LinkedIn experts their thoughts on this topic. Each of them offer valuable advice:

Hannah Morgan—your activity on LinkedIn matters  

Having an updated and robust profile is important, but posting, sharing, and commenting on LinkedIn will generate attention to your profile faster. In fact, posting updates on LinkedIn almost guarantees more people will view your profile.

LinkedIn users interact with content from peers and colleagues more than influencers or organizations. So what you share will get noticed.

Post information and topics most important to your network and potential fellow colleagues.

According to LinkedIn’s 2017 Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide, these are the topics users care about:

  • Industry Insights
  • Tips/Best Practices
  • Jobs/Skills
  • Leadership
  • Industry Events
  • Product or Service Information
  • Employee Perspectives

Here are some more tips to keep in mind when posting on LinkedIn:

  • When sharing an article, explain why you are sharing it.
  • Use three relevant hashtags when posting an update.
  • Respond to every comment on your posts.

There’s another reason to be active and positive on LinkedIn. Everything you like, comment, share or articles you’ve written are visible to anyone who looks at your profile.

Your activity shows the topics you are interested in, your communication style, and that you know how to use LinkedIn. You can see anyone’s Activity section, so go check it out. If they haven’t liked, commented or shared anything in 90 days, you won’t see any activity.

However, if they have been active, you can see all their likes, comments, and shares.

At the end of the day, being active on LinkedIn by commenting and sharing articles relevant to your field helps people understand your career interests and calls attention to your professional reputation and personal brand. When people see your photo and Headline along with the career-related updates you share, it puts you top-of-mind.

More about Hannah: Hannah’s LinkedIn Profile, Hannah’s website, and Hannah’s articles in Job-Hunt.

Kevin Turner—better SEO  

Back in 2005, I remember joining LinkedIn as one of its first million members in the US. Then in 2011, the membership hit 100M globally, and now we are entering this new decade 675M+ members strong. It makes sense that being found on this platform is more challenging than ever.

Continued change

Change itself will continue to be a constant state. If you have been active on the platform long enough, you have seen experts gaming the system, LinkedIn losing control, resetting the algorithms, and gaining it back again, time after time.

When you are in the business of monetizing data, as is LinkedIn, losing control, means losing money, so LinkedIn must continuously stay ahead of the experts. Nowhere was this more evident than in the early years, when getting your profile on the first page of a search was too easy.

The search results suffered, with top rankings given to profiles that were unread-ably swimming in a sea of keywords.

We should expect change, just when we think we have figured it out.

Keywords and personal SEO

Keywording an LI profile, to increase exposure, is now just a starting point of your personal SEO. Yes, you still need to implement in-demand keywords, but you can’t just stuff them in anywhere or leave them in lists.

These keywords should address your target audience, represent your niche value add, support your goals, and we must ensure they are consistently, grammatically, repetitively, and contextually used throughout each component of your complete ALL-STAR level profile.

Engaging other members

Engagement is what turns the world’s largest database of professional resumes into a vibrant community.

Social platforms exist for dialogue. So, those who regularly contribute, thoughtfully listen, respectfully nurture the conversation, and show they are always learning, will be rewarded.

Authentically publish, post, comment, like, and share every day to maximize exposure and establish your knowledge leadership.

Analytics and AI

Predicted Analytics based in the current and future state of LinkedIn’s AI, On and Offsite Tracking, and Psychographic Profiling will be taking on a more significant role in defining members’ value, ranking, and suitability for hire.

Beware that a misguided social campaign, off or on LI of flaming, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, hate, plagiarism, negativity, and even connectivity relationships (guilt by association) will negatively impact ranking, promotability to opportunities, and potentially lead to expulsion.

On the positive side, AI will be deciphering your content and actions to predict your unlisted hard and soft skills. Audit your reputation across the Internet, repair if needed, and refocus it to get you to your goals.

Remember the most valued social currency is based on the gold standards of Authentic Sharing, Caring, and Reciprocity.

More about Kevin: Kevin’s LinkedIn Profile and Kevin’s website.

 Jessica Hernandez—building strong networks  

The power of LinkedIn resides in building relationships and engaging with your connections.

In 2020, liking, commenting, and starting conversations is the best way to engage not only with colleagues but also with hiring managers, decision-makers, and those on your “get to know” list.

I encourage everyone (not just job seekers) to focus time on building and expanding their network by:

  • Connecting with 3-5 people per week.
  • Engaging with your network by liking, commenting, and sharing their posts.
  • Posting at least once per week, sharing relevant industry news, or publishing articles in your area of expertise.

I’ve found that most people don’t actively network on LinkedIn until they’re in job-search mode, but that’s when you should already have a strong foundation in place. You don’t have to wait until you want to make a career move to start engaging on LinkedIn.
In fact, it’s better if you start now.

Admire a few companies? Dream of being on their team one day? Follow those companies on LinkedIn now, look for connections employed by those companies, and start engaging with their posts.

Research who the hiring managers and decision-makers are within the company and request to connect with them. You can start building relationships long before asking for help in a job search.

Not foreseeing a career move anytime soon? That’s OK. It’s still important to connect and engage on LinkedIn. Many of the relationships I have with others in my industry started by liking their posts, following their work, and adding to the conversation.

Make it a goal to invest 10-15 minutes on LinkedIn every day engaging with people instead of just scrolling through the feed.

More about Jessica: Jessica’s LinkedIn Profile and Jessica’s website.

Andy Foote—video, causality, hashtags  

I have three predictions for your LinkedIn campaign: video. causality. hashtags.

When it comes to putting yourself out there and doing everything to be noticed, it is hard not to imagine a time when the About section will be a video. Whether that happens in 2020 or 2025, I don’t know.

I think LinkedIn users do not care about LinkedIn profile visits as much as they care about whether those visitors took action as a direct result of something they saw (or read) on their profile page or elsewhere on LinkedIn.

The missing link on LinkedIn is, and has been for a while, is causality. What causes people to take action on LinkedIn? That’s the holy grail.

People “browsed” me. OK. So what? Most of the time LinkedIn does not even show the route they took (80% of my profile browsers don’t come via Homepage, via LinkedIn Search, via LinkedIn Profile, via People similar to you, via Messaging, via Groups, via Other).

Seriously, what the heck is “Other” and how does that help me? So, I predict that LinkedIn will figure out a way to provide meaningful browser route data, hopefully soon. We are more or less operating blind without knowing this.

LinkedIn is 100% invested in hashtags. I think they are incredibly powerful, and we are just scratching the surface in terms of potential.

Hashtags plus analytics equals a new, efficient, and intelligent way of branding and content distribution.

Imagine a “hashtag dashboard” where you can see clicks live, time on page, and re-shares. I am thinking bit.ly combined with Google analytics, in a LinkedIn wrapper. Exciting, yes?

More about Andy: Andy’s LinkedIn Profile and Andy’s website.

The Bottom Line

Here you have it; all LinkedIn experts agree that content is not enough when it comes to your LinkedIn campaign. Yes, it is important, but so is being more proactive in developing a focused network and engaging with your network.

Let’s recap. To have a stronger LinkedIn campaign, you will need to:

  1. Create a profile with strong content and images.
  2. Engage, engage, engage. This is where the work really comes into play.
  3. Pay attention to SEO; it’s important in being found.
  4. Develop a strong network and engage with it.
  5. Make sure you use hashtags to the fullest and video might play a larger role in your profile.

More About Expert Advice for 2020:

This article originally appeared on Job-Hunt.org

 

New LinkedIn feature provides advice on how to answer 26 general interview questions

As well as questions specific to two industries.

LinkedIn has launched a new interview-practice feature which leaves me with a sense of ambiguity. On one hand, I think it’s a great attempt to educate job seekers on how to interview for a position. On the other hand, there are limitations to this new feature.

Interview women

What should we expect with any feature that tries to be all things to all people? Where you might love the new information presented, I might see it as slightly contrived and overdone. LinkedIn has done its best, and I give credit where credit is due.

Let’s first look at where to find this new feature. Many people are unaware of it, let alone where it resides.

How to find Prepare for an interview

Click the Jobs icon, select More Resources, and choose from the dropdown Prepare for an interview.

Prepare for an interview

LinkedIn shows you a list of what it considers to be the most common interview questions, as well as questions specific to two industries (Categories). At this point there are 26 common questions and questions for only finance and sales.

Common Questions

You can first watch “expert” advice on how to answer a question, then watch an example of how someone would answer the questions. You can also record answers to questions and submit them for feedback from your connections by selecting Practice and get feedback.

What’s nice about this feature

The new interview-practice feature gives job seekers some guidance on how to answer what LinkedIn deems are important questions. I’m encouraged that LinkedIn is taking the job search more seriously. As well, LinkedIn is sending the message that practicing answering questions is smart.

Another plus is the number of behavioral-based questions listed under Common Questions. This type of question is most difficult to answer. The advice on how to answer them is sound. Career strategists and coaches suggest using the well-known S.T.A.R. format when answering behavioral-based questions.

The quality of the videos is top-notch. LinkedIn’s career strategists and hiring managers are well-spoken in both framing how to answer the questions and delivering sample answers. (Ironically career strategists are matched with each other, and the same goes with hiring managers.)

The videos are a good length overall. Most of them don’t exceed 1:50 minutes, which is nice if you’re interested in seeing most of the videos.

LinkedIn offers tips on how to answer questions. For example, to answer “Tell me about yourself” LI suggests:

  • Prepare for this question in advance and have a compelling story about your past experiences.
  • Pull prominent skills from the job description.
  • Be “SHE” (succinct, honest and engaging).

To answer, “Tell me about a time when you were successful on a team”:

  • Describe a problem that arose with a team.
  • Outline your key actions with the team.
  • Explain the positive result based on the work you did.
  • Give credit to your teamwork skills.

Probably most valuable is the ability to record answers to questions with which you need the most practice. And then send your recording to a connection for critique. This could be a gamechanger for someone who sees the need to practice answering questions and has someone who is willing to provide feedback.

Practice answering questions

Where this feature drops the ball

The most obvious fault of this feature is that LinkedIn has more work to do in order to complete it. I’m speaking about how only two industries are represented, finance and sales. It would be nice to have a wider range of industries, such as marketing, engineering, medical devices, nursing, etc.

This might be a reflection on the questions interviewers are still asking, but many of them are ones I’ve seen since being in career development, 15 years (gulp). Such as, “What is your greatest weakness?” Could LinkedIn have been more creative when it comes to the Common Questions?

Not all the questions have video. This speaks to the fact that LinkedIn has miles to travel before it sleeps. Where there are no videos, LinkedIn provides articles that don’t have the same appeal. I would rather see fewer questions than incomplete samples.

Related to one of the strengths I mentioned above: the quality of the videos is top-notch, the answers come across as contrived. Some of the career strategists and hiring managers think that acting is a better approach than speaking naturally. Also, please do not start with, “That’s a great question.”

Do they think interviewers want candidates to walk into the room and schmooze them with canned answers? I suppose the speakers shouldn’t come across as deadpan but come on, let’s not talk too unnaturally.

Conclusion

Overall, I think this feature has some merit. It can benefit job candidates who are nervous going into their rounds of interviews. There are more pluses than negatives. Now the big question is will LinkedIn require its users to upgrade to premium to use this feature?

Competing in the job search is healthy

The story of John and Amy

John is a marketing manager who was laid off a month ago. He worked at a large cloud software company but was told that their largest client dropped a multi-million dollar contract. So his VP gave him the bad news with tears in her eyes.

Amy is a project manager whose fate was a little more extreme. The new president didn’t think her team was meeting tight deadlines, so he let her go. Amy was devastated and is having a hard time getting her mojo going. She’s been holed up in her house for two weeks.

Compete

The job search begins

John and Amy meet each other at a career center orientation and then later in an advanced résumé writing workshop. John asks Amy if she would like to attend a large networking event in the local area. Reluctantly she agrees; networking has always made her uneasy. They agree to carpool.

To her surprise Amy enjoys the networking event. She is content talking with two or three people at length. John also enjoys the event as he works the room, meeting a large number of people. When they meet up at the end of the event, they agree that they’ll attend the next networking event.

At the next event Amy is the one who shines; she meets two project managers who are empathetic to her plight. One of them was also let go under upsetting conditions. He assures her that being let go isn’t as uncommon as she thinks.

The project managers are also part of a buddy group that meets for lunch before the networking event. They invite her to join. Amy agrees but only if her fellow job seeker, John, can join them. The two project managers say they’d love two new members.

Competition in the job search

The buddy group proves to be just what Amy needs; it’s smaller than the 80-person group that she and John have been attending. John also enjoys the intimacy of the group, even though the large networking group excites him more.

One-on-one networking

During the buddy group, one of the members brags that he’s had phone conversations with four people and is having dinner with two of them the following week. They are key players in the companies for which he’d like to work.

Another member tells a similar story about how he’s having coffee with three people, two of whom work for his desired companies. The members of the group declare him to be the winner of this week of networking.

John and Amy are both confused and ask what the group members are talking about. They’re told there’s a competition for landing as many one-on-one networking meetings with people at your desired companies. The weekly winner’s lunch is on the group.

While driving together to the next networking event, John and Amy talk about having a competition of their own. Because they’re new to the job search, they decide they’ll start with easier job-search techniques. They’re both on LinkedIn, so they’ll start by improving their LinkedIn campaign.

LinkedIn connecting and engaging

Connecting with 15 quality contacts a week is harder than Amy thought it would be. John, on the other hand, has no problem connecting with other marketing managers, MarCom specialists, marketing vice presidents, as well as decision-makers in his target companies.

Amy hasn’t even settled on 10 target companies, whereas John has 20. By the end of their first week of competition, Amy has connected with five project managers and five friends. “Friends don’t count,” John teases. Amy retorts with, “How many posts have you responded to?”

Amy has John there. He has only responded to one post that week. Amy responded to one post a day and has written two of her own. Amy is definitely engaging more than John. “Online is not my thing,” he tells Amy. But he knows he has to engage more if he wants to be top of mind.

John and Amy agree that developing their LinkedIn campaign is a tie. This will be ongoing and just one piece of the job-search plan they’ve devised. They strive to actually meet with potential leads like the two members of the buddy group have.

John has his first one-on-one networking meeting

John receives a direct message from one of his LinkedIn connections. A general manager at one of his target company says in his message that he came across John’s profile and likes John’s marketing experience in a cloud company. He invites John to meet him for drinks 20 miles from where John lives.

Amy hasn’t been as fortunate. With 180 connections, she’s not getting any leverage from LinkedIn. John decides he needs to give Amy some help. He creates an invite template for her that explains her goals to create a network of like-minded people. As a marketing manager, he knows a little about writing copy.

John’s meeting goes well. The person with whom he meets tells him the company is looking for a marketing manager with his experience. He wants John to meet with the VP who is currently in Germany but will return next week. John says he’d love the opportunity.

This week goes to John. Amy gives him this and says she’ll buy him coffee at the next buddy group.

Professional Networking Document

The topic at the next buddy group is Professional Networking Documents. John and Amy are unaware of this networking tool but quickly catch on. One member, a director of engineering, explains the concept.

“Essentially the top half of your document is your résumé,” she explains. “Include a headline and a brief summary of your recent, greatest accomplishments. The second half includes your desired positions, types of companies you’re targeting, as well as the actual companies you’re targeting.”

John is confident he’ll have the edge for the last part of the Professional Networking Document. He already has 20 target companies. Amy realizes she’ll have to work on her target companies. There’s no way she’s going to lose to John two weeks in a row.

When they compare their Professional Networking Documents that week, John is blown away by the 25 target companies Amy has for her document. He’s happy for her but also reminds her that she’ll have to connect with people at the companies she has listed.

She tells him she has sent invites to at least two people at each company. She has already been accepted by at least half of them, thanks to John’s template he devised for her.

Amy connects, really connects

Two weeks after John and Amy have completed their Professional Networking Documents, Amy hears from a manager of project management at one of her target companies. Not her favorite company, but one that is 10 miles from her home and has a reputation for healthy, work-life balance.

Amy arrives at the networking meeting equipped with her Professional Networking Document. She is nervous but the manager of project management comes across as kind and sincere. The conversation flows nicely until he asks her why she left her last job. Amy is not prepared to answer this question.

Somewhat emotional she tells him the long version of the story. Later, on the ride home, she regrets not having an answer prepared for his question. She knows she blew it. In addition, she didn’t even give him her Professional Networking Document.

However, the next day she receives a direct message on LinkedIn. It’s from the gentleman she spoke with the previous night. He writes that the VP of the organization would like to meet with her next week for an interview. Is she available?

A week later

The interview with the VP goes well. He isn’t as personable as the manager of project management and he asks her more technical questions, but she feels more confident. Besides, he doesn’t ask her why she left her last company.

Before she leaves the meeting she asks when she should expect to hear from him. He tells her that the manager of project management will contact her within a week.

The week of the competition goes to Amy. John buys her a coffee before the buddy group meets. While they’re drinking their coffee, Amy expresses doubt about doing well if she’s offered the position. She can do the work, has the skills, but her former president did a real number on her.

A week later

Two hours before the buddy group is to meet, Amy receives a phone call from the manager of project management. He is offering her the position and wants to apologize for the salary, which he anticipates to be 80% of what she previously made. It is. The salary is non-negotiable, he assures her.

But the company can offer her four weeks of vacation, two weeks more than they usually offer new employees. As he’s explaining the vacation time, Amy suddenly says, “Why me? I mean…I didn’t think anyone would ever want me.”

The manager of project management laughs, “I know you’re not broken, Amy. I knew this when we talked. Your sense of self-awareness and passion for what you do won me over. Your explanation of why you left your last job was a bit long, but I get it. I was in your situation once.

And, your friend John contacted me before I reached out to you. He said he’s never met someone as committed as you….I think you owe him coffee this week.”


John lands after six months of being unemployed. He continued to attend networking meetings and eventually became the leader of the buddy group. The two members, who taught Amy and him that competition in the job search is healthy, also landed.

Photo: Flickr, Yeo Kai Wen

9 reasons to feel optimistic while searching for a job

I have the privilege of leading a job club for people I deeply admire. The reason I admire them is because, as the saying goes, they “keep on keeping on.” Sure, they face setbacks and sometimes trudging to our career center in downtown Lowell, Massachusetts, is hard. Nonetheless, they arrive with a friendly smile and warm handshake.

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Recently I led the job club which I’ve done hundreds of times. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I felt unprepared. But minutes before it began, the topic I wanted to address came to mind.

“Optimistic,” I said when they settled down. They looked at me quizzically. “Optimistic,” I repeated. “I want to hear about something that makes you optimistic. It doesn’t have to be about your job search. It can be about something in your life.”

I asked a woman sitting across from me—we sit together as a group, as equals—what makes her feel optimistic. She announced to the group that she is applying for two jobs that she’s stoked about. That’s a start. Another member said he’s lost 20 pounds since being out of work. I told him I was jealous.

Reasons to be optimistic

There are reasons to be optimistic while you’re trying to land your next job. They can be the small things you do that make you feel a sense of achievement.

1. Attend Networking groups

Attending networking groups to find opportunities can make you feel optimistic. Will you come away from every event with leads to pursue? Not always; but if you attend consistently, it will give you a sense of achievement.

2. Begin a healthy routine

I tell my workshop attendees that when I was unemployed I had already been walking 45 minutes a day. I increased my walking to 90 minutes a day. This helped me clear my mind of negative thoughts. Your thing might be going to the gym, doing yoga, meditation. These are all great ways to feel optimistic.

3. Plan to take some time off

You might think this is counterintuitive, as your goal is to conduct a proactive job search. But you deserve a break to recharge your batteries. Go to a museum with your family or friends. Many museums have free events.

If museums aren’t your thing, go to a movie (bring your own snacks) and take the rest of the day off. Feel optimistic that you will resume the job search with vigor.

4. Meet a former colleague for coffee

Tell your former colleague that you’re paying for the coffee in exchange for some information. The information you’re seeking is what you’ve accomplished where you last worked.

You might be too close to your accomplishments to see them. Others might speak to them better. Feel optimistic when you hear about your accomplishments.

5. Celebrate your successes

A great interview is a success. Sending a tailored résumé to a company for your desired job is a success. Informational interview, success. The point is to celebrate the small things you’ve done.

You don’t need to go crazy–maybe a good bottle of wine, a short road trip with family, letting your job club know about your successes. Be optimistic about these small successes.

6. Getting to the second, third, fourth round of the interviews

Look, if you get this far in the process, you’re doing something right. More specifically, you are desired for your skills, accomplishments, experience, and personality. Will you get the job? Hopefully. But if you don’t, be optimistic nonetheless. Think to yourself, “I got further than many other people.”

7. Start a side hustle

You’re a graphic artist. Spread the word that you will design graphics for 3/4 the price companies would have to pay. This is a great reason to feel optimistic. You are creating another stream of revenue that can keep giving once you’ve found your “real” job. This is a great reason to feel optimistic.

8. Be able to conduct your job search

There are times your job search is disrupted. Childcare might be one of those reasons. Your spouse works full-time and you can no longer afford childcare. Lean on a friend to watch your children while you attend a networking event, meet someone for an informational interview, escape to the library to write your résumé. Your job search is important; find a way to make it work.

9. Volunteer

You might not want to work for free; I get that. Think of it this way, you’re volunteering for a good cause. Is an animal shelter your thing? Or volunteering for an organization where you can enhance your skills might be what you want to do.

There are practical reasons to volunteer, such as using this experience as fodder for your résumé, or networking your way to a paying job. Volunteering has proven to be a very effective way to find a job. Besides, it will get you out of your house. Another great way to feel optimistic.


There are other ways to feel optimistic during your job search and many of them don’t have to relate to your search. Every little victory is helping you get to your end goal, as they will give you a sense of achievement.

If you can think of other reasons to feel optimistic, I’d love to add them to this article.