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Alan Carniol is the Founder of InterviewSuccessFormula.com, an online training program that helps job seekers deliver powerful answers that prove why they are the right person for the job. Follow Alan and Interview Success Formula on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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Imagine sitting in a job interview. You’re already nervous. You know you have something to contribute. You really admire the company. However, when the interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, you buckle. You realize telling your story in person is quite difficult. You stumble or forget the most important pieces of your personal story, potentially damaging your interview experience. Now what?
We create stories about ourselves in mere minutes online in social profiles or blog “about” pages. Why is it so hard to tell the same story in person? Perhaps the solution is to merge your two stories, your online self and offline self, together in order to optimize your image. The following are a few tips that can help you to craft a compelling personal story for job interviews.
Your Two Stories
According to Rafe Gomez, author of What’s In It For Me: A Powerful New Interview Strategy to Get Hired In Today’s Challenging Economy, the trick is to create validations.
“The online story — blog posts, articles, etc. — should validate the assertions and promises made in the offline story — resume — if you’re seeking to leave a positive and memorable impression in a job interview. For instance, if you’re presenting yourself in interviews as being an experienced sales executive who has delivered results for your employers, your online story should support this assertion,â€ Gomez says.
Further, blending the two stories will back up any career history claims you’ve made during the interview. “Online mentions of, references about, or discussion of your accomplishments will serve to legitimize your offline claims, and make it indisputable that you could be an invaluable addition to your interviewer’s organization.â€
According to TheLadders job search expert Amanda Augustine, making the two as similar as possible can make telling your story more interesting.
“Your online presence and interview responses give you a chance to provide more color to your career history. You can go into more detail and really show your passion for a particular industry or company in ways that aren’t possible in a resume. However, the bottom line is that both stories should be similarly positioned,â€ Augustine says.
Look at your interview story as a way to “sell” your accomplishments, strengths and motivations to the interviewer. By doing so, you clearly show why you’re worthy of the position.
“Remember that as a job seeker, you must develop a personal advertising campaign to tell prospective employers and recruiters what you’re great at and passionate about, and how that’s of value to an organization. Your online presence, resume, and how you pitch yourself during networking events and interviews are all components of this campaign. Each of these components needs to tell one consistent story to build a strong personal brand,â€ Augustine explains.
Be Sure Your Story Checks Out
A recent JobVite survey indicated nearly four out of five hiring managers and recruiters check candidates’ social profiles. It’s possible you will be researched online before your interview. If your offline story does not match your online one, the interviewer may challenge you.
“Before an interview, make sure you Google your name so you know what any recruiter or hiring manager will see when they search for you (and trust me, they will). If any damaging results show up, now you have a chance to try and remove them or at least prepare a response for the interview. The worst thing you can do is look surprised or taken off guard when an interviewer challenges your story based on something they found online,” says Augustine.
It’s also important to spin the conversation back to your accomplishments if things start to go sour. According to George Dutch of JobJoy, flush out concern by asking what caught their attention and if they have any specific concerns about your capabilities.
“Understanding the interview as a risk assessment exercise helps you respond appropriately to these kinds of challenges. It’s not personal — they don’t know you — it’s them doing their due diligence,” Dutch says.
Creating your interview story in a digital era means more than telling the interviewer about yourself. Merge your online and offline stories to create a more cohesive story. Doing so helps the interviewer understand why you’re right for the job.
What do you think? What are some other ways to create your interview story in a digital era?
Scott Rothrock is the co-founder and CTO of RemarkableHire, a talent-sourcing platform that uses social evidence to help recruiters and hiring managers find and evaluate the best job candidates. Connect with him and the RemarkableHire team on Facebook and Twitter.
Finding top-notch technical talent can be hard. But are we experiencing a shortage of qualified candidates, or are brilliant minds simply being overlooked? Traditional recruiting methods just don’t cut it in terms of finding highly skilled candidates anymore, and companies may be to blame for their less-than-brazen use of these hiring techniques.
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Top tech candidates are out there. So, how do you find and hire top talent?
Get serious about seeking talent. While companies say they are looking for the next “game-changing” employee, they certainly aren’t updating their selection processes to do so. Journalist George Anders, author of The Rare Find: How Great Talent Stands Out, observes the incredible shortcomings of companies who rely on conservative selection processes — and end up narrowing their criteria to such a degree that they often miss candidates with unusual potential.
Anders explains that wise leaders shouldn’t expect exceptional talent to come in a neat package. Companies should be scouring the market for candidates with resilience and creativity, while keeping traditional skills, such as work ethic and reliability, in view.
Employers should consider finding talent through methods that are as unique as the candidates they’re seeking. Facebook’s strategy of using online programming puzzles to test and attract new talent stands out as a great example. These forms of tests offer an alternative route for those who might initially be overlooked during an application process.
There’s no doubt that hiring managers and recruiters are serious about the hiring process. But their hiring methods sometimes take too few creative liberties, and therefore pass up serious talent. While the resume was once the mainstay of the HR industry, for instance, you’re likely to miss candidates with serious potential if your hiring process relies solely on resumes. In this day and age, many of the top tech candidates spend much more of their time honing their craft than they do honing their resume.
Recruit to train. Let’s face it: Not all employers are blameless for the talent recruitment struggles they’re facing. Peter Cappelli, a professor and author who recently wrote,Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It, presents a possible solution for this issue. Cappelli argues that companies need to return to the ancient way of doing things — focus on recruiting talented people, and train them to be the skilled employees you wanted all along.
With the unemployment rate at 7.9%, business leaders are still complaining about the shortage of qualified candidates. These same leaders’ companies offer job descriptions with an impossible number of requirements, and then use software to filter through thousands of applications. The talent search is doomed from the start when there are precise words needed to alert the applicant-tracking software that a candidate should get through the gates and into an interview.
The tech industry should not be forcing applicants to apply through automated resume screening tools. Put more emphasis on a candidate’s core abilities to learn and adapt rather than being overly precise on a given skill set. If you focus on foundational competencies and professional athleticism, you’ll be able to look at a broader pool of qualified candidates and maybe even find the talent that your competitors might have overlooked.
Go niche. Social communities revolving around specific areas of interest — such as GitHub, Dribbble and StackOverflow, for example — exist for every nook and cranny of the tech industry. Use these to attract talent looking for specific jobs rather than post on a generic job board, where your listing can easily be lost or overlooked. Not only can you assess candidates’ qualities even before the first interview and find out if their area of expertise is consistent with yours, but you can also create and build a network of potential candidates to look at when you have other openings.
As more and more tech candidates contribute to these online, peer-reviewed communities, recruiters can get deeper, more objective appreciations for the candidates’ core competencies. By using this information, you can rank candidates based on how well they’ve demonstrated the core set skills you’re looking for, and save time that would otherwise have been spent in screening interviews. Because of the way many of these niche communities are designed, you’ll be able to see actual examples of candidates’ expertise rather than bullet point descriptions of their skills.
Don’t stand in your own way of finding the tech talent you need; take advantage of these tips to set your organization apart, and find a perfect match.
What is your company doing to find and attract top tech talent? Tell us in the comments.
A recent CareerBuilder survey suggests that 21% of workers plan to change jobs this year -– a 17% jump from last year, and the highest percentage since the recession.
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For employers, this turnover rate can be a frightening thought, especially when you consider the potential impact that the loss of an employee can have on productivity and morale. In this competitive environment, many employers are likely wondering how to keep their brightest stars and how to bring promising fresh blood neatly into the fold.
Not long ago, Big Spaceship held a hack day, in which members of our crew could self-organize to produce anything that made our agency a better place. There were a number of results — from solutions for a healthy workplace to tools to appreciate daily moments of humor and joy. Big Spaceship has been evolving its culture for 14 years, but it wasn’t until recently that a printed book -– a rarity in the digital age -– would illuminate the ins and outs of our company values and what they mean to employees new and old.
Turns out, this simple reminder of our values has been a key ingredient in keeping our already tight-knit crew as cohesive as ever. It’s helped the youngest and newest staff members feel engaged and confident, and encouraged the most senior employees to remain open-minded. Culture is organic; it changes and it can’t be dictated by one person.
As your company begins to look inward to attract and retain employees, here are five tips that any business can use to create its own culture manual.
You can’t mandate culture,
A successful manual must be a manifestation of the culture that already exists at your company. Its origins should be completely organic –- a far cry from many corporate environments, in which a single person or committee is responsible for dictating the culture. Remember: Your culture may be encouraged from the top-down, but it will only take hold from the bottom-up.
One of the ways that smart business leaders can spur this phenomenon is by actively putting hiring power into their employees’ hands and allowing them input on who joins their environment.Google, renowned for its organic culture, is a great example of this; the company institutes committees when taking on new hires, naturally helping everyone feel involved and valued.
Balance friendly encouragement with tough love,
People appreciate the honest truth, because it means you respect their intelligence. A lot of things that make a company great require sacrifices, and your manual should tell both sides of the story.
Encourage your employees to ask for help when they need it; feeling supported is absolutely essential to maintaining worker happiness. But don’t let them get too comfortable. Force them to take initiative and, instead of complaining, take it upon themselves to make changes when and how they see fit. Happiness and productivity both stem as equally from independence and confidence as they do from a sense of support.
People will pitch in if you give them freedom and time,
Freedom and time are golden. In the modern workplace, these are two attributes that can be extremely hard to come by — especially when it seems as if every half-hour a new meeting alert pops up. Technology is turning many employees’ ways of life into a vicious cycle, transforming them into slaves to their calendars.
Don’t let your employees become cogs in the wheel. Give them permission to take a step back from the grind and make culture a priority, not an add-on. Sometimes the best brief will say, “Here’s the general space we’re playing in. The rest is up to you.”
Stand for something,
Studies have proven that purpose-driven brands have greater success than those that are only concerned with maximizing shareholder value. But aligning your company with certain beliefs and behaviors also means that not everyone will be a perfect fit within the company’s culture. To be straightforward at Big Spaceship, we list our values on our careers page, because we know it will help attract the right kind of people — and let others know they might be better off elsewhere.
Southwest Airlines is a brand that’s been lauded for being particularly purpose-driven in recent years. They’ve built up a reputation for being hard-working, respectful and, perhaps most importantly, laid back and friendly. They stay away from candidates who don’t fit the bill, and these efforts have paid off: The company has only a 2% turnover rate.
Find the themes that define the way you work,
It’s important that every workplace articulate its unique features and create themes, both internally and externally, that can be narrowed down and shared with all employees.Defining distinct pillars will help your employees feel grounded in their day-to-day, and will keep the sometimes numerous and potentially overwhelming aspects of your culture in perspective.
Zappos is successful at this type of transparency. Its list of ten core values, while a bit lengthy, manages to convey a simple and flexible framework within which its employees can work and play. It’s a strategy that’s worked for us, as well. Our manual has three chapters: the first is about embracing humanity in the workplace, the second is about collaboration and the third is “We Change.”
Dear Patron’s, how do you inspire Go-ahead in the workplace? Share in the comments.
There are numerous reasons to run a business out of your home, with cost savings and an easy commute being the top two. However, there may come a time when the business outgrows the home. Common signs are when boxes of inventory overtake the dining room or you need to invite employees or customers to meet in your living room.
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Some people can work successfully from home for years, while others outgrow their home office faster than expected. Here are some of the warning signs that you’re ready to move beyond the home office.
Your home office affects customers or clients,
These days, many people — whether they work for a Fortune 100 company or are self-employed — work from home at least part of the time. While home offices are commonplace, you still need to keep up a level of professionalism to the outside.
If a dog barking, baby crying or roommate’s music interrupts a big call, it might be time to relocate. You need an environment that lets you give clients 100% of your attention when needed.
You can’t separate work and home,
Getting office space outside of the home might be necessary if you find yourself struggling to separate your personal life from your work. For example, do you procrastinate on a big project by doing the dishes or watching TV? Do you find yourself unable to unplug at night?
Sometimes having a physical separation between work and home can help inform your mind when it’s time to focus or relax.
Your house looks more like an office,
Can you walk through your living room without tripping over boxes? Can you eat at your kitchen table without needing to move piles of paper first?
Many people start out working in a spare room, then “work stuff” inevitably migrates to the garage, basement, living room and bedroom. This is particularly true if you’re dealing with any kind of supplies or inventory in the business. If work is invading your home, then it’s time to get more space.
You need to meet with customers and vendors,
Do you ever ask customers or vendors to meet you at your home? Holding meetings on your living room couch or at your kitchen table not only reflects poorly on your business, but also impacts your family or roommates.
You should also consider that increased traffic through your front door can be a red flag for some home associations, and could also affect your homeowners or renters insurance.
You’ve brought on employees,
Many businesses move out of the home once they hire employees who need some kind of workspace.Not every employee is going to want to work in your home, use your personal bathroom or listen to your family discussions.
If your employees can’t work out of their own homes, then it’s only fair that you set up a more conventional office environment so they have the space and resources to do their job. In addition, many homeowners’ policies won’t cover liability for your employees.
You want to be more visible,
Not every business will benefit from a local presence, but some will. Having a physical office with street signage gives your brand local visibility 24 hours a day.
Alternatively, working out of a shared office, executive suite or incubator environment will automatically expand your network of potential customers, partners, and vendors.
You’re stagnating at home,
Maybe you feel you’ve reached a plateau with your business — it’s difficult to get motivated or find inspiration for new ideas. Or maybe you feel like your original home office no longer reflects how your business has grown over the years.
In these cases, you may want to shake things up with a new physical space, and get inspired by joining a community of fellow startups, small businesses and professionals.
Taking the Plunge,
Once you’ve decided it’s time to move out of your home office, you don’t necessarily need to purchase commercial space or sign a longterm lease.
Consider your needs. If inventory and excess boxes are the main issues, maybe you’d benefit from storage space. If you’re looking for a quiet place to concentrate a few times a week for big projects, then you should consider a shared office or executive office center where you can rent space on a part-time or even as-needed basis. There are also co-working and incubator environments for those who’d benefit from the energy and support of a community.
Last week we showed you some of the startup world’s most creative office spaces. These colorful environments with airy floor plans and comfortable conference rooms put the cubicle to shame — but before you start shelling out for employee skate parks and rock climbing walls, consider that not all office luxuries will serve your workspace equally well.
Mashable spoke with several startup employees to find out what they loved about their unconventional office spaces, and the results were fairly unanimous: An open floor plan and quirky extras encourage communication, collaboration and general satisfaction far more than cramped cubicles.
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“The more comfortable our employees feel in the office environment, the more comfortable they are to speak up and share their opinions and insights with the team,” ZocDoc CFO Netta Samroengraja says in an e-mail.
Most startups have certain crucial design elements in common. These include employee lounge areas with cozy seating and colorful accents, snack-filled kitchens where employees can chat as they refuel and TV monitors used for everything from video-conferencing to gaming.
Startups with enough square footage also tend to shell out for recreational spaces — ZocDoc has a game room outfitted with beanbag chairs, a ping-pong table and an acoustic guitar — that contribute to a playful work environment that’s not just about punching the clock.
Some office add-ons will make sense for only a small segment of businesses; TastingTable, for instance, rents a test kitchen and dining room staffed with two full-time chefs near its SoHo offices. The extra kitchen space is a boon for the food-and-drink newsletter, but is probably a less prudent investment for a software firm.
At Zazzle’s sprawling Redwood City headquarters, everything from the communal desks to the wallpaper was custom-made to reflect the company’s design-it-yourself ethic, according to co-founder and CTO Bobby Beaver. Likewise, Etsy takes a DIY approach to office design with colorful knickknacks, quilts and plushies, all made by Etsy sellers. “My apartment is so boring compared to the office,” says Sarah Starpoli, Etsy’s Employment Experience Manager.
Quirky office additions such as HowAboutWe’s popcorn machine — which one employee assures us is regularly put to good use — or Zazzle’s ping-pong table may not rank as “strictly necessary” for your startup, but they undoubtedly contribute to a more welcoming work environment. “Go to your local IRS office to get a taste of the dark side of an office landscape,”Squarespace’s director of interface, Michael Heilemann, suggests.
There is, however, a fine line between a morale-boosting office perk and a misallocation of your startup’s precious funds. So, when you’re decorating that new exposed-brick loft space, go the more sensible route and avoid the 10 extravagant accessories in the gallery below — ball pits, bike repair shops and Bengal tigers are on the list — that only Google and Facebook can really afford, at least until you’ve made your first million.