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What Employers Are Looking for in Employees

What are employers looking for in their employees?

 

STEMpathy!

 

Coined by author and journalist Tom Friedman, STEMpathy is “a combination of science, technology, engineering, and math with human empathy, the ability to connect with another human being.” This is what employers are looking for in their employees; people who not only have technical expertise, but soft skills and character.

At the 2017 Gateway Conference hosted by The Municipality of York in October, I was privileged to sit on a panel of HR professionals discussing What Employers are Looking For in Employees. The other panellists were Moderator, Mary Duncan, Chief Human Resources Officer at CAA, Shelley Khosla, Director, Human Resources at Weber Shandwick, and Sonya Whyte, Associate Vice President, Talent Acquisition at TD Bank.

As the discussion progressed, Shelley told the audience that she looks for people “who demonstrate passion, curiosity, resiliency, and creativity, and who are able to work collaboratively in teams.” She also said that employers look for employees who align values with principles, embrace and celebrate differences, work in the same direction, and contribute to an irresistible culture.

Sonya remarked that she looks for employees with passion, diversity of thought and people, and inclusion. During interviews, she looks for people who show depth, who are able to demonstrate what separates them from others, and who are able to talk confidently about their background. That’s one of the reasons she listens carefully to people when they answer the “tell me about yourself” question as it gives her an idea of the person’s thought process. She also looks for employees who “think like a customer and act like an owner.”

Mary said she looks for people who demonstrate competency, creativity and cultural fit, and who display enthusiasm about the company.

For my part, I focused on the interpersonal or people skills. These soft skills are harder to observe, quantify and measure. They are akin to character skills and are very important in and outside the workplace. They complement the technical skills and are required for everyday interactions.

It is very important to hone your soft skills. While your technical know-how may get your foot in the door, it’s your people skills that will open more doors for you; it’s these skills that will determine success or failure in one’s career. Faizolhardi Zubairy, Head of Digital Media at PETRONAS Dagangan Berhad, said, “Your work ethic, attitude, communication skills, negotiation skills, emotional intelligence and leadership are the soft skills that are crucial for career success. (Stretch Beyond Your Comfort Zone for Career Growth).

The bottom line is that employers are looking for employees who have a good blend of technical capability and soft skills. They look for people who can communicate well; who are positive, respectful, reliable and honest, and have integrity. They look for people who are able to function in cross-cultural environments, appreciate differences, fit in with the corporate family (culture), and contribute to a team. They also look for people who demonstrate the five elements of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

In making a decision between two candidates, Kevin Sheridan, Employee Engagement and Management Expert, and contributor to HR Daily Advisor blog, said I would take the person with the right character any day of the week.  Character is ingrained in a person’s core being and dictates how he or she will behave.  It encompasses one’s ethics, values, dedication, motivation, and outlook.  It is nearly impossible to alter a person’s character, for better or for worse. Skills are things that are learned.” (Culture is Merriam-Webster Word of the Year – For Good Reason).

It makes sense, therefore, that anyone who is in a job search or a career transition, should assess their STEMpathy skills. You may have the  technical expertise (STEM), but lack character and soft skills, so pay attention to both. You will also need to assess your emotional intelligence skills, becoming aware of your strengths and weaknesses, how to control your emotions, demonstrate empathy, exhibit professionalism and strong interpersonal skills, manage disputes and build and maintain relationships.

Apart from discussing the skills that employers look for in employees, members of the Panel also offered additional job search advice:

  1. Weave stories into your resume and during interviews.
  2. Create your resume with the most important and relevant information up front.
  3. Make sure the content of your resume aligns with the job posting if you want to get the attention of the HR manager.
  4. Keyword matching is essential; make sure your resume contains keywords from the job posting. It should also have lots of white spaces to make it easy to read.
  5. Customize your resume for each position instead of sending the same version to every company. It’s easy to tell if you are mass mailing.
  6. Your resume should be short – a maximum of two pages
  7. Create a good LinkedIn Profile. “Social is critical to employers”, said Sonya Whyte. “I sometimes share LinkedIn Profiles with my team.”
  8. During interviews, speak about your unique successes and stellar results
  9. Follow-up after the interview and send a Thank-you note. Common courtesy goes a long way in today’s busy workplace.
  10. Demonstrate that you understand, and have the skills required for the job
  11. Articulate why you are qualified in your resume and at the interview. Draw the alignment between your skills, experience and job requirements.
  12. Describe how your transferrable skills match the position
  13. Send a concise cover letter. While some recruiters do not want to see cover letters, some on the panel believe they serve a purpose. They help you stand out in the selection process, so use it to share what it is you bring that others may not.

Armed with the above skills, you will fit the mold of what employers are looking for in employees.

How to Get an Influential Person to Have Coffee With You

Coffee_Meeting2How would you like to get a once-in-a-life-time opportunity (face-to-face or virtually) to connect with someone famous, or with the Chief Decision Maker at your ideal employer? What if you could meet with a VIP – someone who could give you the inside scoop about one of your target employers? Yes, you can, and all it takes is a cup of coffee and lots of courage!

As a big proponent of going beyond the resume and using unconventional strategies to reach out to employers, I am always looking for unusual ways job seekers can connect with people who can play a role in their job search.

Recently, I learned about Ten Thousand Coffees, a new organization that is making it easy for job seekers to reach out and connect with busy and influential people who they would not normally get a chance to speak with. Its mission is “to connect students, recent grads, and young professionals with industry leaders and experts and engage in life-changing, career making conversations over coffee.” Even if you do not fall within those categories, you can also use the strategies outlined below to meet with an influencer, have coffee, and boost your career opportunities.

Wondering how you should maximize those precious moments when you do connect? Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, offers four ways to connect with powerful people: “Interview them, write about them, do them a favor, and be interesting.”  Here are my suggestions, although not necessarily in the same order:

Make Yourself Interesting. First impression counts, so before you reach out to any of the individuals with whom you would like to connect, do some introspection. Ask yourself, “Apart from my skills and expertise, what else makes me an interesting person?” It could be that you are good at golf; you sew your own clothes, or you won a dance competition. Find ways of incorporating those interests into your profile, especially if the person you are targeting has similar interests. As Dorie says, “Successful professionals like meeting compelling new people.

Interview Them. Prepare a list of questions for your time together. Remember, these individuals are busy people and won’t have time for frivolous questions, so make sure your questions are well-thought out. Your list could include:

  • How did you become a/an ____________?
  • What aspects of your job gives you the most personal satisfaction?
  • What skills and personal qualities are necessary to do your job well?
  • How long have you worked for this organization?
  • What are your major responsibilities?
  • What do you perceive to be the major rewards of this job?
  • What are the major frustrations in this job?
  • What do you like most about this job?
  • What are the most frequently recurring problems?
  • What advice would you give to a person coming into a company, or entering a profession like this?

Write About Them. To gain additional mileage out of your coffee meeting, write an article or blog post about the interview. Break up the interview into mini blog posts and ask readers to comment. Or, if you are active on Twitter, use pieces from the interview as tweets. Not only will you be showcasing your expertise, but your influencer will be impressed. He or she might even retweet your posts. Sooner or later, recruiters and potential employers will begin to take notice of your professional activities.

Do Them a Favour. You may be thinking that there’s no way you could return a favour to this ‘important’ person. Of course you can. First of all, at the end of the interview, ask them this networking question: “How can I help you?” They might quickly dismiss your question by saying “It’s OK, or it’s no big deal.” It may not be a big deal to them, but do them the favour anyway. You could rebroadcast the interview as a podcast, upload it to your YouTube channel, or submit it to news outlets – online and off. It could also be as simple as recommending a restaurant, or sending them an interesting article about one of their competitors. They will thank you for your initiative.

These strategies can help you connect with influential people whether or not you are a part of Ten Thousand Coffees. Are you ready to snag an interview with an influential person? Go ahead!

Beyond the Resume (Part 1): Unconventional Ways to Get Noticed By Your Next Employer

Beyond_the_Resume_Red2Are you tired of your resume being rejected by inanimate applicant tracking systems? Have you been spending hours of your precious time submitting your resume on websites without success? Is it beginning to feel like you are going fishing but keeps returning with an empty net? If you answered “Yes” to those questions, it’s time to apply some outrageous strategies to get the attention of your next employer.

In this three-part “Beyond the Resume” series, you will be introduced to some unconventional, and sometimes outrageous strategies that people have used to get the attention of employers.

There is a popular quote that says “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.”  If that’s what you have been doing without much success, it’s time to suspend all that you know about the job search, stop doing what everyone is doing, and try something different, scary, and unconventional. After all, what do you have to lose?

Below I have highlighted some unconventional ways that people have been able to get the attention of employers. Some have landed their dream jobs; others are in the initial stages:

Foot in the Door Strategy: The first is a story I heard of a woman who wanted to work for the biggest advertising agency in town. She sent the owner a box with a shoe (a new one) along with a note that said, “Now that I have my foot in your door, I’d like to talk to you about a job.” “Outrageous”, you say. “That would never work for me or anyone I know”. It might or might not, but this lady had done her homework and knew this gentleman was likely to be impressed with her strategy. (She got the interview, and the job.) Bear in mind that companies hire when they see someone with the skillset they need…that’s why you should aim to get your foot in the door.

Failed Fax Machine: Last week my Office Coordinator client tried to fax her resume and cover letter as requested in the company’s job posting. She tried for hours and couldn’t get through. She decided to Google the name of the company to get the phone number. She found the information and made a call. Here is her account of what transpired:

“I called [Company] on Wednesday because after faxing for about an hour and getting a continuous busy signal… I had to make the call. I had a long and informative conversation with a gentleman. He explained that they have had, and are still having problems with their faxes and emails.  He invited me to submit my resume by snail mail. After hanging up the phone I googled his name and found out he is the owner of the company. I amended my cover letter to read:

Dear Mr. _____,

Thank you for giving so freely of your time to explain the problems with the fax machine at your office. I was hesitant to call as the ad stated .. no phone calls, but I was quite concerned that my cover letter and resume for the Office Coordinator position was not going to end up on your desk if the fax wasn’t working. I can only hope that the problem is corrected quickly so that orders are received and processed in a timely manner and you can continue the business of running [Company].  

I finished with the rest of my cover letter.”

This client did not allow a non-working fax machine to stop her from getting through. She took the initiative to call, and who who did she get? The owner of the company. Her resume and cover letter have probably reached the owner’s desk by this. Let’s see what happens.

Focusing on Microsoft: I have often talked about this young man in Oregon who tried for two years to get into Microsoft through the normal ‘apply online’ channel. Realizing that it wasn’t working for him, he decided to start adding his comments on Microsoft’s blogs on any topic that was within his realm of expertise. Someone took notice and began to monitor him and his comments. Very soon he was contacted by a Microsoft recruiter and within 10 days of the contact he had landed his dream job.

This story was shared by a senior recruiter at Microsoft some time ago during a recruiters’ teleconference.

This Business Insider link – Best Techie Resumes – also provides additional creative ways that some people have landed opportunities. And, before you begin to think it worked for them because they are technical wizards, put on your thinking caps and see how it could work for you.

The above examples are some bold and probably outrageous ways to stand out, get connected, get interviewed, and get hired. You might not want to be that in-your-face, but consider this, how else will you be found?

The point of this post is: whether you are entry-level job seeker, an aspiring manager, manager, or emerging executive, you too, can do something outrageous and unconventional to pull employers towards to you. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of nerves.

Are you ready to do some out-of-the-box thinking to land your dream job? Share your strategies here.

Is Your Résumé a Reflection of Who You Are, or is it a Fake?

Just in case you haven’t heard the news, the former head of PayPal, and recent CEO of Yahoo! has tendered his resignation five months after assuming the position. He fudged his resume – just a wee bit – by stating that he has a degree in Computer Science and one in Accounting. A vigilant shareholder, apparentlywith his own motives, did some research and found that the CEO does not have a degree in computer science. This is yet another high profile person who has had to resign his job because of inaccuracies in his resume.

Several years ago I wrote an article titled, Lying on Résumés…Alarmingly Common, and it looked at several high profile individuals who had embellished their resumes. A former manager of a professional baseball team had to retract a statement that he was an All American Basketball player, and that he played basketball at UCLA prior to signing with the Dodgers. Another sports executive switched his degree from social work to business administration in an attempt to gain an edge in the purchase of a sports team.

In Canada, a politician had to quit his caucus when it was revealed he never attended law school as he claimed on his résumé. There was also a ‘doctor wannabe’ who practiced medicine in the US and Canada for 10 years before it was found out he never had a medical degree. In 2007, the former dean of admissions at MIT had to resign after she lied about her academic credentials. She said at the time: “I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to MIT 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since.

So, whether it’s a degree that one does not have, or skills or duties that are exaggerated, it is obvious that many people feel compelled to beef up their resumes with fake accomplishments. More often than not the perpetrator is someone in a senior role. This leaves one to wonder why people who have been successful on their own merit, feel that they should embellish their qualifications.

Although reference is being made to people at high levels of an organization, it does not mean others with lesser qualifications are not using the same tactics. Surveys show from time to time that a vast number of people – ranging from general office to senior executives – pad their resumes. But as these people have found out it is never a good idea to exaggerate one’s credentials. Sometimes it takes five months to uncover the truth; at other times up to 28 years, but when it happens it can have a devastating impact on one’s career.

Since spring is in the air and the Yahoo story so recent, it may be a good time to review your resume and make sure that every  employer, date of employment, and achievement is correct. No one wants to be caught in embarrassing situations like these.

7 Job Search Do’s and Don’ts

 

DON’T send a cover letter with “To Whom it May Concern”. It portends laziness and lack of interest.

DO the research to find the name of the person responsible for hiring.

 

DON’T use “References Available on Request” on your résumé.

DO use a quote from your performance appraisal or a testimonial that highlights your value.

 

DON’T replicate your job description when developing your résumé.

DO include powerful accomplishment-based statements that address the employer’s buying motivators or needs.

 

DON’T spend too much of your job search hours on the computer.

DO arrange more face time with people in your network.

 

DON’T send a generic Thank-you note after the interview.

DO send one that recaps key elements of the discussion and reiterates your interest in the position.

 

DON’T ask for a job at an informational interview.

DO ask for one or two names they recommend you contact.

 

DON’T relate your life story when asked “Tell me about yourself”.

DO talk about your education, work history, and what you have recently done for your company.

 

 

Image Credit: Dirjournal.com

Tips for Moms Returning to Work – Part IV

When you are taking time away from work for motherhood, keep networking. The single most important thing you can do is keep in touch with former co-workers and other contacts.

Stephanie AuWerter, Senior Editor SmartMoney.com

Are you a mom returning to work?  Follow our series:

Tip # 4: Connect with professional associations. You may have heard of  the ‘six degrees of separation’ adage – that everyone is only separated from everyone else by six degrees. Research professional and business associations in which you have an interest, sign up for their ezines, visit their websites and read their blogs to get current information on what’s happening in the industry. Contribute to discussion forums and attend monthly meetings where you can meet and network with individuals who could provide you with the key to your next job. Put yourself in a position to meet new people – those who can get you closer to your next employer.

Tip # 5: Arrange practice interview sessions. Think of the interview questions that would present a challenge for you and practice answering them with someone who will give you some candid feedback.  Become familiar with behavioural interview techniques, and practice to frame your answers in terms of stories. Be prepared to answer questions that begin with “Tell me a time when… or Give me an example of…” Make sure to project confidence while referring to the time you were away from the workforce. Never apologize for your absence.

Tips for Moms Returning to Work – Part III

Are you a mom preparing to return to the workforce in the New Year? Read Tip #3:

Choosing the right résumé format. Employers tend to prefer the chronological résumé, which gives a historical timeline of your work experience, but this becomes problematic when you have been away from the workforce for a time. As an alternative, you could use the functional format which focuses on notable skills and accomplishments gained from a number of jobs. Use headings such as Administration, Fundraising, Event Planning and Project Management, and list your activities and achievements under those headings. Another alternative is to use a combination format, beginning with a value statement or professional summary that answers the employer’s question, “What should we hire you?” Below is an example:

VALUE STATEMENT

Juggled several tasks as president of school council and chair of membership committee of the local Girl Guides Club. Negotiated sponsorship opportunity with a major retail chain enabling the club to increase membership from 25 to 80 within 5 months. Initiated and led the first Neighbourhood Watch group in Lakeside, significantly reducing incidences of trespassing by 25%. Used Excel to create a budget for a family of five, monitoring it on a weekly basis to ensure there were no overruns. Managed bookkeeping responsibilities for a sole proprietor and implemented an aggressive collections policy that increased cash flow by 30%.

The above summary is an example of how you could incorporate your family and civic involvement into your résumé. The aim is to be creative and bring together your outside professional involvement as well as your related child-rearing activities.