Finding the Backdoor to your Interview

Spend at least 80% of your time finding a key to the back door. Unless you’re a perfect fit you will not get an interview by applying directly to a job posting. So don’t waste your time. Limit this effort to one hour per day.cropped-cropped-silho_teaser221.png

This call out is from a recent article written by Lou Adler. It’s here because we think it’s important to hear from a recruiter and influencer especially when he is telling you to stop applying directly to job postings and clicking anonymously on the ‘submit’ button. It’s what 225AM has been saying since our ‘Day 1’ and why we give our users a way to search across your social networks that sorts your connections by company, job title, location or industry. If you are looking to transition from your current job or searching for your first one then you really ought to refresh your perspective in the job hunt by considering what he says here.

By the way, ‘a perfect fit’ for a job is only in the mind of an eager candidate, never in the ‘eyes’ of the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for the reasons illustrated in the infographic linked below.

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 from lifehacker.com

This is Not Your Sibling’s XLS Spreadsheet

The 225AM team is very excited to give you a ‘sneak peak’ at what you, our users, have been telling us you desperately need. We were listening and have queued up the 225AM Job Tracker in our development pipeline!

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Just head to your 225AM dashboard and you will see that we added a Job Tracker/Management tab. Clicking on the Management Tool tab here will walk you through the function and flow demo of what we have planned and this is where we want your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

We need your voice and participation in this effort so that we create something that is of true value to you. We want to hear our user’s voice. We are still listening.feedback_tabs

Tell us if you don’t like our labels or if we are missing a critical feature or function or just about anything you can think of that would be important not just to you but to the 225AM user community of job seekers. Use our feedback system on the right side of your screen to keep us in tune with your ideas.

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Talk to us. We want to hear what you have to say!

Is Your College Diploma a ‘transferable’ Skill?

So a friend and colleague sent me a link to Why are so many college students failing to gain job skills before graduation?, a post from The Washington Post higher education news blog, Grade Point. As the title not-so-subtly suggests, there is a threshold barrier to gainful employment for college seniors and, not surprisingly, recent graduates.

The post calls out the results of the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus test. This is given to students in the first and last (senior) year to measure their gains in critical thinking, writing/communication, and analytical reasoning. The test results show that 40% of seniors fail to graduate with complex reasoning skills. Now consider this in light of The Association of American Colleges & Universities surveys of both students and employers. The purpose of the surveys are to gauge their respective opinions about graduates ‘readiness’ for the job market. The graphic below summarizes the surveys’ findings:

WSJ_graphicApparently there is a perception problem or a misalignment between what or how schools prepare their students for entering the job market and what employers seek or need.  There’s no easy answer but, I think, highlighting these findings is a strong start for positive outcomes on an individual basis.

Schools should actively and effectively encourage their students to blend together their practical and scholastic campus life experience.  Students (and their parents) should stress-less on picking a major to match the job market and put greater emphasis on developing the skills to successfully live away from the reading list and a syllabus. Taking a step toward making this adjustment is way more likely to produce an employable class, writ large.

Date Your Job

This article, Uncertain About Hiring, Some Companies Try ‘Test Drives’,  by Sarah Max from the Small Business section of the New York Times, introduces what appears to be a growing trend for start-ups and small businesses and gaining traction with job seekers as well.

The fact of the matter is that the job seeking/hiring process is expensive in mind-share and time for all the stakeholders . So it seems to be such good, common sense, policy to put a ‘try before you buy’ period into the hiring practice of any company or as the article’s featured company put it, a ‘temp-to-perm’ hiring process. This gives both the candidate and the company the opportunity to learn whether it is a match made in employment heaven and can save a lot of headache and expense if it’s not. Dating the job first may save everyone a messy ending.

INFOGRAPHIC: Status of Gen-Y and Jobs

Graduates

The Interview: It’s a test, but also not

You’re finally done with school and out in the real world, and now it’s time to start looking for work. So that’s what you do, and next thing you know, you’ve got a few interviews lined up. How do you prepare for those interviews? That depends on the company. And how do you learn about the company? Well, I’ve got some bad news: you briefly revert to being a student. Or, in other words, you get on the company’s website, and you study like you’re preparing for a test.

But hold on, because this isn’t a test. You’re not measured against an answer key; you’re measured against other candidates, and if you don’t get the job, there might not be anyone to tell you where you went wrong. So, more so than ever, you want to make sure your study tactics are up to snuff.

Luckily for you, Vox.com is here to tell you everything you’ve always done wrong while studying in the past, and to provide some new techniques, all courtesy of Peter Brown, author of the book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. No, it’s not written for job seekers and so some of it might seem a bit superfluous, but it really is a great resource.

Personally, I thought the most important tip was tip #6: Don’t cram — space out your studying. Sure, like Brown says, cramming might’ve done you well on a few little tests and quizzes, but like we’ve already established, this is different. There aren’t 10 pieces of information about a company that you can recite in order to get your interviewer to check the “Knows His/Her Stuff” box. This is a conversation. You don’t just need to know information; you’ve got to be comfortable enough with that information to relate it back to the questions that your interviewer asks. So start prepping EARLY. Then, by the time the interview rolls around, you won’t be struggling just to remember what you learned; you’ll just know it.

But anyway, that’s just one of many helpful tidbits here. So, read the article, and then get online and start learning about the companies that might pay your salary in the future!

Bad Habits, Inefficient Processes: You Just Gotta Ask

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Two years in a row, I worked at a boarding school summer program teaching middle school kids creative writing and journalism. What does middle school journalism entail? Some hard hitting articles about foreign policy? An opinion piece about the laziness of modern art? In depth interviews with professional athletes? No. Mostly, the students wrote silly little articles about activities, profiled teachers, and took pictures. It was really fun.

As the teacher, I was in charge of readying their work for publication (i.e. – printing it out on one of the computer lab printers). One time, during this process, I opened a document to find one of the students had written her article in two columns. Seeing as the paper printed in a double-column format, she probably thought she was doing me a favor. But he wasn’t. Instead of setting the document up as a two column document, she had simply done it all with the space bar, so each line had words from each column. In other words I had to copy each line individually to paste it into the master doc instead of just selecting the whole thing.

Did she get in trouble for this? No. Of course not. But you might, if you made a similar mistake at your first job.

Now, this is just an illustrative example. I imagine if you’ve been through college, you have at least a vague understanding about how word processors work. But the danger of forming bad habits is still there.

What do I mean by “bad habit”? I mean a way of doing something that will later require undoing. Bad habits occur most often because of eagerness and pride. You get an assignment and you want to look competent so you go and do what you think you need to do, even though you’re not sure how. It’s the work equivalent of putting together exercise equipment based solely on the picture from the box, or guessing how to get somewhere because you see the building you’re trying to get to off in the distance. Does it feel good when you get it right? Sure. But it’s not worth the risk of getting it wrong.

Luckily there’s an easy way to avoid bad habits: asking questions. If someone gives you a project to work on, double-check to make sure you know how to do it. Don’t want to sound like you don’t know what you’re doing? That’s simple. Just be confident with your questions: no apologies, no vagueness, keep it specific. In other words, don’t say, “Wait, what? Sorry, how do I do that again?” Say instead, “Just so we’re clear, I do that by doing x, right?” You could also try and get your supervisor to show you how he or she does things, or better yet, have him or her to watch you do the first couple of steps yourself to make sure you’re on the right track.

This is the best way to do it: front-load your questions. You can also make a go at it and get your supervisor to check in somewhere along the way where it’s not to late to back-track a little if you’re doing something wrong. But while this might show more confidence, it presents a new danger: inefficient processes. Not as bad as a bad habit, an inefficient process gets the job done and gets it done right, but maybe isn’t the best, easiest way to do things. And to make matters worse, a supervisor who’s just looking at what you’ve done, not seeing how you’ve done, will have no idea, so you could end up doing things the “wrong” way for a while before you realize. Seeking feedback and advice when you’re just getting started on a project helps you avoid this.

So go ahead: ask questions. Ask them early, and ask them often. That might initially seem annoying, but trust me, it’s better than putting a lot of work into something that someone else needs to put a lot of work into fixing.