Job Search

Monday, February 13, 2012

Acing the Phone Interview

An increasing number of job applicants are finding themselves faced with an initial phone interview, sort of a hoop through which to jump before getting some face time with a hiring manager. Though daunting in that the medium itself strips conversation of crucial non-verbal cues, there are a few ways to make this experience into more enjoyable and successful.
First, set up the right physical environment. For most people, that’s a quiet space at home, a room where there will be no distractions or competing noise. That includes pets, so make sure Fluffy has settled nicely onto the living room couch for a sound nap. One additional advantage of choosing a bedroom for this conversation is that typically there’s a mirror on the wall. And since you will have no one to look at while speaking, it’s not a bad idea to look at yourself. A one person audience, as it were. Granted, this might feel weird and most people don’t take me up on this suggest but it definitely does work. Looking at someone with a smile on their face—even if it IS you!—is much more energizing than talking into the air.
Second, not enough can be said about being prepared. Research the company, google your interviewer, print out a copy of your resume, write out notes (another advantage of the phone interview—you can glance at your notes and no one will notice) and think through your answers before encountering   the questions. This is especially true for phone interviews where silence seems to stretch out longer than in real life.
Finally, relax and be yourself. Smile—seriously, don’t neglect a smile—and forget about trying to be perfect. Look to connect with the person on the other end of the line. They are, after all, trying to solve the knotty problem of a vacant position and you might just be the one to make their day.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 02/13 at 01:31 PM

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Networking 101

What the rest of the country is just beginning to experience has been a way of life for us living in Michigan. Signs of a weakening economy are so ever present that we’re sometimes past the point of noticing. We’ve been driving—or with the increased price of gas, maybe biking—past evidence of a shrinking economy for nigh onto many months.
Which led me to think that it just might be time for some good news in the form of my Person of the Week, alias Theo. Theo’s got one more year of school left, his 5th year, and he admittedly started looking for internships very late this year. What he’s got going for him, however, is a hefty load of sheer persistence and a dash of flexibility (full time/part time/unpaid with part time paid elsewhere—you name it). That plus the ability to network with about everyone he knows.
So, what does that networking look like? In this case, it takes place at the local gym where Theo is well known and well liked. In between bench presses or during water breaks he approaches senior sweaty buffs with a simple question about internship options within their work place or possible referrals. And he’s getting a number of sympathetic and supportive responses, as most of these people would love to have a hard working guy such as Theo around. Nothing is clinched yet but it’s looking pretty optimistic.
What Theo does naturally may seem more of a stretch to others. But networking is a skill which anyone can master. Here are two easy ways to get started:
• First, take a fresh look at your environment. Who do you come into contact with as you work, worship or play? Theo isn’t doing anything different by heading to the gym; he just mined that normal, everyday routine for possibilities.
• Think about what you have to offer an employer and include some of those skills in your conversations, making use of lead in’s when talking about yourself such as the following: adept at, experienced with, comfortable with, trained in, or skilled at.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 06/04 at 02:44 PM

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Random questions about resumes

With the job search ramping up for many seniors, I’m getting a lot of scattered and random questions about resumes, questions about small and subtle details, the sum of which ends up being greater than the individual parts.
So, I thought I’d take today to answer a few of the more common inquiries.

Q: If my resume is two pages, do you staple them together?...


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/06 at 09:02 AM
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Thursday, March 30, 2006

It’s spring. Do you know where your job search is?

Serious spring fever hasn’t hit yet but it’s pretty close. With temps hovering around 65 and birds singing, the last thing most students want to do today is sit in a library. Even worse, contemplate The Job Hunt, synonomous for many seniors with an identity shift from life long student to professional. Too much to deal with at one time. So head-burying may seem like a better option, fueled by internal phrases like “I’ll find something when I graduate. It shoudn’t be too hard. Something will work out.” Anything other than face the frightening fact that in a few weeks you will no longer be a student.

So if the Big seems to much to handle, how about taking a few baby steps? Consider completing one of the following in the next week.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 03/30 at 01:27 PM
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

When to use resume and cover letter templates…

I know of few people who get all geeked about writing their own resume or, much less, constructing a cover letter. So, the quickest way possible to complete this onerous task is to revert to a template—pulled from MS Word if you’re looking for a way to basically fill in the blanks or copied directly from other resources.

There. The job is done and you’ve got something ready for your job search, right? Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that you’ve got something to distribute but no in the sense that it may not be all that effective.

Here’s what I mean. Suppose you’re an HR specialist who sees literally hundreds of resumes a day. What would grab your attention more, a resume from the very predictable Word template or one where the writer took a bit more care to craft its contents? The answer, I’m sure, is obvious. After a while, it takes effort to get past the same-old same-old template look and really pay attention to the contents, even if it’s great stuff.
So, best use of the template in my personal opinion is as a structure for your initial draft. After that, ditch it in favor of something more distinctive.

On to cover letters. Again, there are samples all over the place. But here’s my suggestion.  Tweak and adjust the standard stuff so that it’s really you who’s coming across.  This is especially true if your particular job search does not match the sample cover letter. For instance, I heard from someone today who ended their cover letter with a phrase saying that she would call in 10 days to check on the possibility of an interview. Good stuff normally. That’s how the sample letter was worded. However, the companies where that person was applying did not provide names or phone numbers, thus rendering the phrase meaningless and inappropriate for that particular employer.

So, take resume and cover letter samples as just that—spring boards for your own creative additions and subtractions.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 03/14 at 02:50 PM
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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Marketing yourself…yuck

I realize that today’s title flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Current job search literature is replete with admonitions to market and brand yourself, the end result being a coherent product ready for employers to pick off the shelf, as it were.

Personally, however, I find the idea mildly repugnant. And a number of Calvin students seem to agree. Modesty rules, putting us at a seeming disadvantage in job search situations.

But, there’s nothing wrong with communicating who you are, right? I mean, how else will an employer know who they’re hiring?

So, in lieu of marketing yourself, may I suggest the following strategy:


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 03/02 at 01:30 PM
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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Readers’ questions on interviewing

A recent e-newsletter published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers made the following observation: out of all the hoops job seekers jump through, they tend to make the most mistakes during the interviewing process. More than on resumes, cover letters or sceening phone calls.

So with that backdrop, I thought I’d move to some readers’ questions on the subject.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 11/10 at 03:23 PM
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Both sides of the fence: real life interview tips from an experienced student

Today’s advice comes from someone who’s sat in both chairs—that of the interviewee and the interviewer. After being selected from a pool of internship candidates, Helga was then assigned to travel the state and search for new employees, quickly throwing her into the role of an interviewer herself—even though she’d not yet finished college. Based on her summer experiences, here’s what she has to say…..


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 11/08 at 11:50 AM
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Friday, October 28, 2005

Cover letters: sample introductory paragraphs

Yesterday’s blog on cover letter guidelines—helpful in a general sense, right? But you may still be puzzling over ways to jump into that first paragraph. How do you start when you don’t know what to say?

To answer that question, I’ve included a number of alternative first paragraphs excerpted from
Cover Letter Magic, hopefully enough to get you started.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/28 at 10:35 AM
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cover letter tips

Though most of my appointments of late have been freshmen and sophomores seeking a suitable major, walk in traffic has been more concerned with the job search. And what stumps most people is the process of writing a cover letter.

Most cover letters follow a 3-4 paragraph format, but there are ways to make sure those brief paragraphs flow with fascinating text.

Cover Letter Magic, one of my favorites on the topic, lists the following Top 5 Cover Letter Writing Tips especially for new grads:


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/26 at 08:10 AM
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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

‘60’s flashback

What to do after graduation.  A topic I’ve covered a few times in the past. But today’s New York Times nails what I’ve observed in my office as well, grads seeking a Fanciful Detour before the real career begins.

The author profiles a few grads working at what looks like non-traditional post-grad jobs, everything from driving a bus across country to leading tour groups to applying to the Peace Corps. The kind of thing people in the 60’s did under the rubric of expanding our life experience.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/25 at 11:58 AM
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Friday, October 14, 2005

Tips on working a job fair—to the max

The first time I walked through an in-progress job fair was the spring before I started my job as a career counselor. The event was held right here on campus and I was employed, so there was no reason for my fright & flight response. What was I afraid of? A room full of strangers? Not knowing what to say? Looking foolish? Probably. Anyway, I just about ran out of the room…in a professional sort of way, of course.

I later found out that I’m not the only participant with the jitters. Which is why I’m recommending this great web site——to help stave off some of the anxiety these events can produce. It took a bit of exploring but I finally found their golden resources on what to do while at the job fair.

And here’s one more tip I commonly pass along. As you enter the room, look for the lone and lonely booth. The one where the recruiter is standing all by him/herself and looking longingly at the other booths with long lines. That’s the place to start. Break the conversational ice with someone who’ll be genuinely glad you stopped by. Make their day and build your confidence at the same time.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/14 at 08:42 AM
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Treasure hunting at your local job fair

Tis the season. Yes, even news paper columnists are commenting premature retail Christmas ornaments lining store isles.

But the season I’m thinking of is the annual round of college job fairs. Here at Calvin we run ours cooperatively with a consortium of colleges and universities, drawing a sizable crowd of employers.

So you may be thinking…what’s the deal with the treasure hunt subject line?


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/13 at 08:16 AM
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Friday, October 07, 2005

The internet and your job search

Blogs are subjective. There’s no way to get around that fact. But sometimes they’re more obviously and blatantly biased, as you’ll find with today’s topic. I have OPINIONS on doing an internet job search.

On the positive side, the internet offers speed and possibilities. At your fingertips. Personally, I love it. It’s the first place I go to research most things.

And, on the good side, I actually know people who’ve gotten jobs, good enough to actually be referred to as professional positions, and they found them on the internet. E.g. just as I was about to trash a major job posting board, my very own nephew, who limited his search to that self same job board and, contrary to my advice, used nothing else in his job search, found a job through that service. Well, shut my mouth. I tempered my critical remarks after that, at least for a while.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/07 at 09:50 AM
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Moving into new territory: differentiating resume writing from academic prose

New ground indeed. Don’t mean to make the title sound scary for risk-adverse people but, for seniors, moving to “resume style” takes a bit of getting used to. The same style which has guaranteed success with your profs will prove to be a turn off with employers.

So, here are some tips to earn employer commendations in the best form possible, namely an interview:


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/05 at 09:44 AM
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