Friday, October 30, 2009

Fortune 100 Job Openings (61-80)

Continuing the series...

Previous Posts:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Behavioral Interview Preparation - Addendum

I was just preparing some interview questions for a round of interviewing I am conducting for a retained search, and got to thinking that the previous preparation update I gave didn't really go into any depth on how to prepare for behavioral interview questions. There is a pretty good guide here that covers most of what I would recommend.

I would say that there are very few companies that engage in full-on behavioral interviewing, most will use some combination of behavioral-based questions (tell me about a time...) and traditional questions (what are your strengths...). I generally tell candidates that preparing for a behavioral interview will make them more prepared for any non-behavioral questions as well. Therefore, it is important to prepare for both!

The idea behind behavioral interviewing is that if somebody cannot walk the interviewer through a specific situation, they probably have not done it. I had a candidate tell me in an interview that in 9 years as a supervisor, she had not ever had to discipline one of her employees. I found that hard to believe, but she seemed like a good candidate so I went along in the process. When I checked one of her references, I learned that she had not been a supervisor at all! This reinforced the premise of behavioral interviewing. That she couldn't describe an instance where she had disciplined somebody meant that she didn't know how to do it.

The most important part of preparing is to do a thorough reading of the job description to identify the key competencies for the position at hand. Sometimes, the description will just include them in a section simply titled "competencies." Other times, they will not. If they don't, look for competency-based language "must work well under pressure," "must have excellent problem-solving skills" etc.

Write each competency down, and think of a specific situation from your work history that demonstrates your competency in that area. The article linked above advocates a STAR approach:
Situation: Use specific details about a situation or task.
Task: Tell what led to the situation or task?
Action: What action was taken; discuss what you did and who was involved.
Result: Communicate the outcome.

This seems about right. I always tell people that few details are too mundane. Your interviewer will tell you if they've gotten the point to their satisfaction. The key is to have your situations ready to go for whatever competency is mentioned or seems appropriate, and to have a plan to address what seem to be the keys to the position.

Each answer should start with a description of the situation, so if the question is "Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker." The answer should start out: "Last August, another mechanical engineer and I disagreed about a design component for the new XJ-152."

Then backtrack and give the background: "She and I had been tasked with re-designing the actuation mechanism to the XJ-152 because the previous design failed in live testing 20% of the time, which is far more than the 5% that is deemed acceptable."

Then go back and describe the situation in more detail: "I was convinced that pneumatic actuation would be a more stable mechanism than the existing hydraulic system, but she was convinced that we only need to redesign the hydraulic actuation."

Then discuss how it was resolved: "I proposed that we step back and make a matrix of the customer requirements and go through the designs point-by-point to determine the best result."

Then discuss the result: "In the end, we determined that my design really was more stable, but that given the pricing requirements of the customer, it was clear that the hydraulic design was the only one that would be feasible. I was able to identify two key places where stability was compromised in her proposed design, and we worked together to resolve those and come up with a design that we were comfortable with."

I am not an engineer, so hopefully a scenario like this would include more technical details, but you are demonstrating your ability to resolve disagreements in a process-oriented fashion and give your interviewer a really good idea of how you would handle similar situations that arose. You can demonstrate this similarly even if the question is asked in a non-behavioral way, like "How do you deal with conflict?" or even "How would you describe your ability to work in teams." Describing this kind of situation in that level of detail will tell your interviewer more about you than an answer that you would typically hear to those two questions "Well, I try to work out conflicts in a way that best achieves customer goals." Or something like that.

Going into an interview with 5-10 specific situations that highlight your strengths and successes will make you a more effective interviewee, regardless of the techniques used by the interviewer.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Interview Preparation Guide

Preparing for the Interview - Understand your background

Review your career history thoroughly. Review dates, positions, responsibilities, and accomplishments. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Be prepared to cite specific examples of accomplishments and how your experience can help the company reach some of their goals. Concentrate on your most recent positions but don't neglect the skills you developed early in your career.

How to Prepare

Consider each position and educational period of your life separately, as an individual “section.” Break each section into three preparation steps, as shown below. Writing out answers for each section will commit it to memory and help you easily recall this information during an interview. It will also allow you to review it later or before your next interview. Be sure that you can answer each of the following questions about each position or educational period.

1. Why you took a position

2. What did you do while in the position; what did you gain from it, how will that experience help you succeed in this position.

3. Why you left a position

Preparing for the Interview – Know the company

Gather information on the company before going into the interview. Learn about their history, current situation and their future goals and objectives. Your search consultant will have a great deal of this information, but you may also want to reference the library for website, periodicals, trade journals, articles, annual reports and D&B reports, etc.

Have a thorough understanding of the position, its responsibilities, expectations and goals. Prepare questions about the position to learn as much as you can and to effectively align your skills with the needs of the position.

Talk to your search consultant about any specific issues that may be addressed in the interview or if the client has any concerns about your background you may have to elaborate on.

Sample questions to ask about the company and position follow: (Choose those appropriate to your situation)

Questions About The Company

What are the primary goals and direction of the company?

Why did you join the organization?

How has your career progressed since you've been here?

What is your style and philosophy of management? Would you say it is the same for upper management?

What kind of individual are you looking for?

Can you tell me about the history of the company?

What do you think are the advantages of working here?

Questions About The Position

What are some of the immediate challenges I should expect in this position?

How will my progress be evaluated?

What are the three most important things you would need me to accomplish in the first six months on the job?

After I prove my capability and potential here, what are my opportunities?

What would a typical day involve? Typical week?

What kind of experience did the previous individual in this position have?

What happened to that person, were they promoted, transferred, fired, etc?

What have other candidates lacked that you have interviewed?

How many candidates have you interviewed?

When would you ideally like the person on board?

Based on my skills and experience, what might my biggest difficulty be?

Helpful Reminders

  • Arrive at your interview early so you have time to check your appearance and breath right before your interview (especially if it's after lunch).
  • Bring a portfolio and a nice pen (Cross, Mont Blanc, etc.) to take notes.
  • Bring extra copies of your resume.
  • Ask for their business card before you leave so you have the address to send a thank you letter.
  • Write out the questions you have for them so you are well prepared.
  • Listen carefully to the questions you are asked, make sure you answer precisely that question! Answer directly and concisely, don't be evasive. They'll let you know if they want additional information, so don't ramble.
  • Keep good eye contact and a relaxed posture throughout the interview, don't let your eyes roam and don't squirm in your seat.
  • If you bring along information to share during the interview, be careful to judge their interest level, some people don't like show and tell during interviews and will become bored quickly.
  • Remain poised and attentive during the entire interview, don't unconsciously play with anything. For example, pen, paper, card, coffee, etc.
  • Be sure to thank them before you leave and offer a firm handshake.

Closing the Interview

Successfully closing the interview is a major step in your ability to land the position. Many interviews end in an uneasy manner. Use the following three step approach. Your last impression could be the most important. REMEMBER: Companies want to hire people who want to work for them. Be enthusiastic.

1. Ask if they have any reservations about your ability to do the job.

Address any concerns openly and honestly and try to overcome any obstacles before you leave.

2. Summarize how your skills and experience will address the client's needs expressed during your interview.

Discuss how your experience and skills will help the company either solve their problems or achieve their goals

3. Express your interest sincerely and ask what the next step in the process will be.

Don't ask for the position prematurely. It is great to show enthusiasm, but wait for the appropriate time, most likely the second or third interview.

Counter Offers

Surveys still show that eight out of ten employees who accept counteroffers don't complete the following year with their employer, so why even consider one. Emotions run high when a resignation is received and promises tend to be made that are unrealistic. A natural fear of change could make you do something you would not ordinarily do. Never underestimate the value of your integrity in this situation.

Have you ever thought about the reasons why a company will extend a counter offer?

  • It is much cheaper to keep you than to lose you. There is always a downtime expense when someone leaves. It is costly to train a new hire.
  • Morale suffers. Your company runs the risk of others following your lead. Under staffed departments are not happy departments.
  • Counter offers protect management from looking bad. Everyone has an ego. Your manager is being evaluated by his/her ability to retain staff.

8 Reasons for Not Accepting a Counter Offer

1. The same circumstances that now cause you to consider a change will repeat themselves in the future.

2. Statistics show that if you accept a counter offer, the probability of voluntarily leaving in six months or being let go within one year is extremely high.

3. Why is it taking your resignation to receive the compensation or position that you seek?

4. The money for the counter offer, is it your next raise early?

5. Your company may immediately start looking for a new person at a cheaper price.

6. You have now made your employer aware that you are unhappy. From this day on your loyalty may always be in question.

7. When promotion time comes around, your employer may remember who was loyal, and who wasn’t.

8. When times get tough, your employer may begin the cutbacks with you.

Dress the part

You put a lot of work into making your resume look great. You were successful at landing an interview. Now is the time to shine!!

People generally feel more confident about themselves when they look good, so take some extra time to pick out what you'll wear for your interview to ensure you look your best.

Men and women: when choosing what to wear for a professional position you are safest with conservative dark suits and long sleeve shirts or blouses.

For men: ties should be conservative but "in style," dark socks, shined shoes and a well groomed appearance. Belt should match your shoes. Facial hair should be very well groomed. The clean-shaven look is usually the best bet.

For women: keep to an overall conservative look. For example, knee length skirts, moderate heels, minimal jewelry/makeup and simple hairstyles. As far as briefcases go: a briefcase before a purse - never both.

NOTE: Be sure all your clothing, shoes, hand bags, briefcases, etc., are in good condition.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fortune 100 Job Openings (41-60)

This is really going to take a long time. Please report any dead links in the comments...I'm linking to the search page when possible rather than the general careers page. It's nice to know all of the jibberish about what a nice place XYZ corporation is to work, but if you are a job seeker, you first are probably wondering if there are any openings that could be a fit.

I'm also utilizing my new favorite tool, Indeed Job Search Trends, to add a link to see the general employment trends at each of these companies.

Previous Posts:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Passive vs. Active Candidates...discuss

I am going to get myself into some trouble for this discussion, but contrary to the popular opinion of many people in the agency recruiting industry, I firmly believe that there is no substantive difference of quality between your average passive candidate and your average active candidate. I'll clarify the implications of this, but I have heard many many people tell me that they don't use job boards to search for candidates at all for a variety of reasons which I will address herein. Now this opinion isn't shared by everybody, but I would say that most agency recruiters are taught that job board candidates are not worth your time.

Our job as recruiters, whether we are on the agency or corporate side, is to find the most qualified candidate for whatever job we are working on. Now statistically, something like 10-15% of the workforce is actively looking at any particular point in time (depending on the unemployment rate, of course). A larger percentage will consider opportunities if they make sense, and then a larger percentage won't consider new opportunities at all. I think that the goal should always be to cast as wide a net as is feasible to make sure that as a recruiter, you are able to speak to the highest number of qualified candidates as possible.

So why wouldn't recruiters use job boards? The three most frequently cited reasons are as follows.

1. Why should a company pay a fee for a candidate they can find on their own?

I think this is presumptuous on a number of levels. Firstly, not all of our clients have access to job boards and a small percentage of them know how to use them as effectively as a talented recruiting professional should. It is irresponsible to assume that just because a candidate posted a resume on Monster that the client has reviewed their resume. If you find a candidate that has not talked to your client, that person is by nature somebody that the client couldn't find on their own.

2. The job boards are full of unemployed and otherwise less-qualified candidates.

I know from experience that this is not true. I suspect that the distribution of candidates on the job boards is similar to that of the population as a whole (a few bad, a lot of average, and a few good). It is important to remember that very talented candidates change jobs on their own as well.

3. The job boards are full of candidates who will be interviewing all over town.

The implication here is that either there is more competition for their services (which kind of flies in the face of #2), or that they will have already submitted their resume to every employer in town. Neither of these is necessarily true. As with #1, it is presumptuous to assume that your average candidate knows how to conduct a job search. Even if they have submitted a resume to your client, taking 5 minutes to call them and find out can yield enormous amounts of other information (Where else are you interviewing? Where else have you sent resumes?). If there actually is demand for their services and the recruiter is concerned about it being harder to close them, then that is tough luck! We owe our clients the best possible candidates regardless of their employment situation.

This isn't the most insightful post, except to reinforce the notion that our goal as recruiters is to find the best candidate. If the candidate who is most qualified for job X happens to be unemployed, then so be it. If they happen to be happily employed and you have to pry them away from their current employer, that's what you do.

Personally, I follow a strategy of moving from easy sources of candidates to most difficult. With job board candidates, the competition for the submittal can be fierce and time is of the essence. If a fee is going to be paid for John Doe to get a job, I want to collect that fee; I don't want my competitor to get it just because I was going after "passive" candidates.

This is also a lesson for corporate recruiters. I have worked in-house for corporations that I know paid fees for candidates that were on Monster when they had access to Monster. Having a competent talent acquisition team is vitally important to prevent this from happening, but until every one of my potential clients has in-house recruiters that call all of the job board candidates before putting the job out to recruiters, I will continue to use Job Boards as an integral part of my sourcing strategy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Competition" for jobs at record levels

Yahoo (via the AP) is reporting "Job competition toughest since recession began." The takeaway:
There are about 6.3 unemployed workers competing, on average, for each job opening, a Labor Department report shows. That's the most since the department began tracking job openings nine years ago, and up from only 1.7 workers when the recession began in December 2007.
What I find stunning is that there were 1.7 unemployed workers for every job posting when the recession began in December 2007. I can't decide if that is efficient or not! What that indicates to me is that even when things were going well, there were still more people than there were available jobs. Our economy seems to require a certain amount of unemployment, of course, so what do we take from this?

It is clear that there is a talent gap. That is, that there are always jobs being created for which there aren't enough qualified individuals to fill, and there are always jobs being eliminated that have a surplus of talent. Efforts to address this usually involve displaced worker retraining, but that is always a reactive outlook. Is there a better way?

Up until the 1990's, a lot of companies would retrain workers with skills that were no longer needed. The linked article articulates many potential reasons, but what I take away from it is that it is clear that individuals need to take this upon themselves to do. Is that asking a lot? Probably, but it is always easier to find a job when you are currently employed (or at least it feels easier because there is less pressure).

Here's the simplistic advice:

First, seriously evaluate your current job and its future prospects. Both within your current company, and what would happen if you lost your job. If you have a job on this list, it doesn't matter how secure you feel with your current employer; if something happens, it will be difficult to find a similar job in a similar industry.

Second, pick a new career likely to experience job growth.

Third, train for the new career and leave your current job when you have lined up a job in the new career. There is a lot of advice on how to do a career change; but the key is to commit to it before it's too late.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Unlisted Jobs

There's a pretty good post up at the Career Rocketeer about finding and acquiring jobs that are never listed on job boards. I think that the advice is generally good, but I sometimes wonder if we are reaching a point where there are fewer unlisted jobs than before.

Before the internet, companies relied on the newspaper classifieds if they needed to advertise a job, and many jobs went unlisted because of the expense in advertising. Headhunters were fat and happy. As the internet developed, things didn't change much because it still cost hundreds of dollars to advertise a job on a major job board.

Now, it is still expensive to advertise a job on Monster ($395 or so), but almost every company has a careers section on their website (which is free), and many if not most of those jobs get picked up by Indeed and/or SimplyHired. Additionally, most OFCCP programs require posting to certain state employment and/or diversity sites to remain compliant.

So the question is: How many jobs are filled with an external candidate without ever being posted to a readily available internet source. I'd venture that the answer 4-5 years ago was well over 50%, but that today, the answer is probably closer to 25-30%. I can't find any sources that have actually studied this, but I'm fairly confident that the trend is correct.

Networking will always be important, and even 25-30% is a lot of jobs, and these are generally jobs at small, growing companies that offer a lot of opportunity. But the takeaway is that you need a strategy to address posted jobs in a similar way to rise above the heap.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fortune 500 Job Openings (21-40)

Continuing the series after a really long break. I actually think that a new Fortune 500 list may have come out, so if there are duplicates, I'm really sorry.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Indeed job trends search

I just discovered this trend search available at Indeed and it is incredible! You enter search terms and you can see the trends of job postings back to 2005 (I'm assuming that's when Indeed started) in graphical form. Their example shows an astronomic rise in the frequency of the term "social networking" appearing in job postings. I think the possibilities are endless in exploring this data.

The "Absolute" tab will show the percentage of all jobs that contain a given search term, so you can see, for example, which states are doing better relative to others. Minnesota peaked in January '09 at .6% of the total job postings (not perfect, since the state name isn't always mentioned in the job posting, of course). Iowa, however, has been holding steady for 2 years.

What about job titles? Engineer also peaked in January '09, but Accountant has been falling since January '08 or so. If you want to put two terms in the same graph, separate them with a comma in the search box (Here's the example comparing engineers to accountants in relative terms).
Anybody doubting that Healthcare has fueled a lot of job growth can look at the chart for Nurse and see that it has more than doubled its share of the total job postings and hasn't fallen yet, while you can clearly see that certain manufacturing jobs have been plummeting.

The other option is "relative" which shows the percentage growth over time compared to the same search terms. So you can see that our manufacturing jobs have fallen over 50% while our Nurse search has increased over 100% since 2005 (that is there are more than twice as many nurse job postings today than there were 4 years ago).
I could get lost in this data, but it could be useful for recruiters deciding where to specialize or focus, or for students deciding on a field of study, or any number of other reasons.

Oh, and for the curious, I think that the Recruiter search probably most closely matches the overall job trends...down about 12% from Fall '07, and about 25% from its peak in July '07.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Unemployment up, but jobs still hard to fill

The BLS reported that the economy lost some 263,000 jobs last month, more than anticipated. ERE highlighted a TalentDrive survey that reported:
"Despite filtering through the online resume pandemonium ranking as a top challenge for recruiters, when asked if, once the resumes had been located, the quality of candidates met or exceeded their expectations, over half (54% of those surveyed) said yes, the quality of candidates was of the caliber they required."

I found this both surprising and unsurprising at the same time. That means that 46% of the corporate recruiters that responded to the survey are still not getting qualified candidates on their own. As an agency recruiter, I am not surprised because we know that the best talent usually has to be found and recruited.

I don't know how many hiring managers I've spoken to, however who will say "we are getting flooded with resumes, so we don't need to use recruiters." But by their own admission, they aren't getting the caliber of candidate that they want or need. This means that their jobs are staying open longer than they need to, or being filled with inferior talent. I don't know what the percentages would be in a thriving economy, but I bet it would not be terribly different. For mid- and senior-level professional positions, you need a talented recruiter (internal or external) who can go out and find the most qualified candidates for your needs...even in the worst job market in 25+ years, they aren't necessarily knocking on the door.