Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mandatory Requirements are Not Always Mandatory

As a job search coach I am frequently asked if a candidate should apply for a job if not all of the mandatory requirements have been met. My response is yes. I have a real example of my own that shows that not all mandatory requirements are truly mandatory. Many people have found inspiration from this story; I hope you do too.

One April day in 2002, when I was on the job market I saw an ad for a job fair for a healthcare claims processing company. One of the positions they were looking to fill was one I was looking for, an Information Technology (IT) Business Analyst (BA). The odd thing was that the ad asked candidates to RSVP for the job fair. I thought the purpose of the RSVP was to schedule the candidates across the entire day instead of having everyone show up all at once first thing in the morning.

When I called the phone number listed in the ad, I was connected with a Human Resource (HR) representative. When she heard I was calling about the job fair, she asked how many years of experience I had in the healthcare industry. In response I told her I had worked with a healthcare company but since it was a Y2K assessment (checking systems to be sure they handled the year 2000) I could not say I had actually worked in the healthcare industry. It was then that she told me I could not attend the job fair, that the job fair was only for candidates who had five years of healthcare experience. I could not believe it – she was telling me I could not attend the job fair. They were going to be sitting there taking resumes and they would not let me attend.

That was in April. In July I networked into the same company. A former co-worker who knew my work as a BA insisted they interview me. He knew I could do the work and since had been trying to find the right candidate since before April, they had nothing to lose.

The BA Manager set up a phone interview with me. Although I lived less than half a mile from their offices, they wanted the first contact to be via phone. At the outset of the phone interview that July, the hiring manager asked about my lack of healthcare experience. She restated that the company has a requirement that candidates have five years of healthcare experience. She asked how they could be assured I can learn healthcare sufficiently to perform my job as a BA.

It was then that I pulled out one of my STARs. STARs are a way of documenting your accomplishments in the format Situations / Tasks faced, Actions taken, and Results realized.

The following is my reply to the hiring manager’s question:

"For the past three years I served as a lead BA consultant at a software company. Each client I worked with was in a different industry. I worked with clients in aerospace, banking, reinsurance companies, electric companies, gas providers, and others.

Through my series of questions, I learned their terminology, their processes, and their systems. I made it a practice to ask questions about areas around my scope of assignment so I had a fuller context of information.

Not only did I learn the business well enough to successfully serve in my role as Business Analyst, two companies asked to hire me back as a system expert because I knew their systems as well, if not better, than they did."

From that conversation, they brought me in for an in-person interview, they hired me, and two weeks later they promoted me to the Manager of the BA team when the previous manager left the company. A month later they asked me to work the next job fair – you know the one they would not let me attend back in April.

If I had not networked into the company, I would not have made it passed the requirement that HR was asked to implement. It was only by networking into the company that I was I given a chance to share my STAR. It is also because I had my STARs ready that I could respond so confidently.

Mandatory Requirements are not always mandatory if you have an abundance of the other skills and are prepared with your STARs.

Next Week: Sign up as a follower of the blog for next week’s article on the Power of Your STAR Statements to learn more about capturing your STARs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

* * * Looking for Your Input * * *

The job search can be a lonely experience.

We are looking to compile ways a friend and / or spouse can offer support and encouragement during this time.

What is the best thing a friend or spouse did for or said to you while you were in a job transition?

What is the worst thing a friend or spouse did for or said to you while you were in a job transition?

What would you like a friend or spouse to do or say to you while you are in a job transition?

What other suggestions do you have?

Send your input to

Job Seekers Should Take a Lesson from Successful Businesses

In a recent Wall Street Journal, the title of an article written by Suzanne Barly grabbed my attention. Although Ms. Barly wrote this article for business owners, the concept can easily be applied to job seekers. The title of her article is New and Improved For Many Small Firms, the key to survival is this: Don’t just sell the same old product to the same old people.

Your New Job is Sales
Job seekers are sales people. They are selling their skills, abilities, and experience. A salesperson cannot do a good job of selling a product – for instance a TV - without knowing how it works and what makes it better than the competition’s TV. Job seekers must understand their competitive advantages.

Like a salesperson looking for customers, job seekers have to find a buyer (future employer), identifying target companies who are hiring and fit the criteria the job seeker has established based on prior experience of what for them are traits that make a good employer.

New and Improved

So what does Suzanne Barly’s concept mean to the job seeker, you may ask? In her article, Suzanne was reminding businesses that the key to survival is to stop doing the same old thing. For a job seeker, that means stop selling the same set of skills, for the same work you have always done, to the companies which are cookie cutters of the companies you have always worked for.

With the tighter job market, experts say the secret to success in finding that next job is to cast a wider net. The experts do not mean you should mass distribute your resume. Instead, casting a wider net means you should consider other jobs where your transferable skills and abilities can be used within other types of companies or industries than you are typically used to. Give consideration to other jobs you are qualified for and interested in. Take into account industries that you have not worked in before or companies you had not previously considered because they are different than you are used to.

Consult a job search coach if you want help finding new ways to sell your product to new companies. It may be the key of your survival.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tip 3: Top 3 Things to Know in Your Job Search

I was recently asked what I consider to be the ONE most important thing to know about looking for a job today. The truth be known, if I had to boil all I share in my coaching practice to the point(s) all job seekers need to know and most don't, I would have to say there is not one, there are three. If job seekers accept and actually follow these three points, they will find that next job.

1) There is no shame in being unemployed. In my grandfather's day, if you didn't have a job it was because you were a bum; you were not even looking. Baby boomers grew up expecting to work for a company and retire with them just as their parents did. The truth of today's market is that the day of the gold watch retirement does not exist anymore. The world has changed, those days are over, and we didn't even get a vote. Today workers will change jobs 19+ times in their lives and change careers 4 times. Your next job won't be your last. Knowing that, there is no shame in being in a job transition, it won't be the last time you are, so get rid of any shame you are feeling and learn how to conduct a productive search. Now is a good time for that.

2) You have to know YOU to sell you. As stated in the last tip, you are now a salesperson and you are selling a product - your skills, experience, and abilities. Too many job seekers do not know their competitive advantage i.e. why an employer should hire you over your competition. If you don't know the answer to that neither does a prospective employer and they will hire the person who does know what he / she has to offer. If you updated your resume before taking a thorough inventory of your abilities, skills, accomplishments, personality and more, your resume and your interview answers are probably not representing your competitive strengths.

3) Network! I am willing to bet (and I'm a chicken gambler) that most job seekers who are not getting results are not networking or are not networking correctly. Many job seekers, way too many, are frozen behind a computer screen and applying to the posted ads on company and web on boards. They do not realize that only 15% of the available jobs are posted. They are also just one of thousands of job seekers who have applied to each position. Companies have different ways to filter through the tons of resumes and many of these methods are purely arbitrary even as random as taking the first 100 resumes and throwing the rest away. Only 10% of all job seekers are successful getting a job by applying to the web and they were only applying to 15% of the available jobs. It is through networking that 75% of job seekers get a job and it is through networking that you will find the 85% of the hidden job market.

When you network, you also have to do it correctly. It does not work like osmosis; your presence at an event is not enough. You have to actively meet people. At a recent networking event, I noticed a lady was sitting by herself at a table while the rest of the participants were up and talking to others. I thought she might be an introvert so I introduced myself. During the conversation she explained to me that she is unemployed. I shared with her that networking is a great way to get the lead that results in that next job and mentioned that some people are not comfortable talking to strangers especially introverts. She replied that, although her husband is an introvert and dislikes networking, she actually enjoys it. Interesting! Don’t confuse real networking with people watching or settling for meeting the two people sitting next to you. You need to be intentional about reaching out to others.

Back in 2002 when I was on the job market, I had to learn to network. For an introvert like me it was not a comfortable proposition. Through some research I found a book on how to work a room like a salesperson. One idea that worked for me is to assign myself a task such as meet everyone wearing red, or blue.

At one meeting that was where the men outnumbered the women, I chose to meet all of the other women. After summoning up my courage, I approached the first woman, explained what I was doing, introduced myself, and asked her name. After talking for a while, she asked me if she could accompany me to meet the next lady; she too was uneasy with meeting strangers. You can probably imagine what happened; we ended up with all of the women on one side of the room. Whether it is meeting people of the same gender, or introducing yourself to people wearing a certain color, give yourself a goal and work toward it.

Networking also means finding out how you can help the other person and following through with it if possible. Networking is not all about you. Some people refer to this mutual business relationship as net-weaving.

So if I had to summarize the key principles of finding a job in this market, it would have to be these.