Four Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Job Interviews

Job interviews are like visiting the dentist; you know they’re important, but you hate to go. Even the most confident job candidate expends an inordinate amount of time preparing for the interview, whether it’s on-site or on the phone. Most candidates feel nervous, anxious and stressed at the prospect of being judged by a group of strangers. What can job seekers do to mitigate their fear, take control, get through the interview process and get the job?

Prepare for Every Interview

The enemy of nervousness is preparedness. There are all kinds of things you should do to get ready for each interview. If you follow these tasks before every interview, it will lessen your stress and help you perform more effectively:

  • Prepare by researching the company and, if possible, the people you are interviewing with.
  • Develop a list of questions to ask the interviewer, from what is the corporate culture like to clarification on the job description.
  • Practice interviewing with a friend, focusing on defending any gaps in employment on your resume and answering questions in a way that is positive, articulate and energetic.

Taking time to prepare for your interview isn’t much different from prepping for any big meeting. The key to nailing it is to do your homework before the event.

Stay Focused on the Positive

One mistake many candidates make is to bad-mouth their former employer. Even if your last boss was Attila the Hun, it’s important not to bring negativity into the interview process. All it does is make you, not your employer, look bad. Negativity has no place at work and certainly not in the first impression an employer has of you in the job interview. If you practice your interview techniques with a friend, make sure to work heavily on staying positive throughout the meeting.

Stay Strong and Don’t Give Up

It takes a lot of courage to interview, not get the position you wanted, and get back on the applicant horse by sending out more resumes. Just remember that you do not have everything riding on just one interview. We currently have historically record low unemployment, which means there are more job opportunities than there were even five years ago. So, stay confident and work to impress the potential employer, but know there will likely be other interviews for you to pursue.

Relax and Boost Your Confidence

Staying relaxed during an interview is easier said than done. But there are some techniques you can adapt to help you stay calmer and feel more in control before the interview starts. Here are some techniques to try:

  • Play music on the way to the interview. Music can take your mind away from worrying and help eliminate some of the stress hormones circulating around your body. Your favorite song can energize you while soothing your frazzled nerves.
  • Just taking time to breathe deeply is something most of us simply forget to do. That’s exactly why there are dozens of apps designed to remind you to breathe deep, clear your mind, and calm your stress. Anytime you experience anxiety, your body naturally wants to breathe more shallowly, so focus inward, breathe deep, and meet that interview head-on.
  • Practice a little creative visualization before the interview by sitting quietly in a room and imagining what you would look like in the job you’re interviewing for. Visualize nailing the interview and getting an offer on the spot. Then imagine your first day at work and how much fun you’ll have.

While these are just a few interview tips, Top Stack recruiters are standing by to help nervous job candidates find, prepare for and win their next job. Contact us today.

 

Important Email Etiquette Tips When Searching for a Job

You may be surprised to know there are actual rules for email that apply to your job search. Most of us use email every day, but few people realize there are some best practice tips for using these tools for the job hunt. This article will give you all the tips you need to not only use these tools, but use them properly to get your candidacy noticed by the right employers.

Tip 1 – Keep Job-Seeking Emails Separate

Not only is it bad form to use your current work email to send out resumes, most of the time your employer has a monitoring system in place for what’s being sent. Getting caught searching for a job at work is usually grounds for being let go on the spot, so avoid the practice entirely.

Instead, set up a private email at Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail or any one of a number of other free email service providers on the market today. From there you can send out inquiries and resumes to whomever you choose without jeopardizing your current employment relationship. Make sure your email address is professional; hotstuff1234@hotmail will turn off hiring managers, so keep it simple and appropriate.

Speaking of inquiries, whenever possible try, to reach out directly to hiring managers instead of a general email inbox. Did you know most jobs occur from networking and not from applying online? Sending a generic application usually fails, which is why we recommend approaching a hiring manager directly with a clear subject line stating the job you’re applying for.

Always include a signature at the end of every email, with your name, email, phone and LinkedIn profile.

What to Include in the Email

It may be tempting to send an abbreviated version of a cover letter to the hiring team because you’re using email. Skip abbreviations and emoticons or any slang you may normally use. In fact, the email actually takes the place of a professional cover letter, so what you should write is the full-on document you would normally produce in Word.

Like any other cover letter, your email cover letter should have a beginning, middle and end, just like any other business letter. Always have a professional signature at the bottom of the page. Given that reviewers will skim the content, keep it short and to the point.

Make sure you proofread so there are no typos on the email. You can install an app like Grammarly to help ensure your emails are clean and error free. If you’re still worried, send a test email to a friend and have them check it for you. Typos in an email cover letter are just as bad as typos on a resume.

The email should be succinct; make sure you mention the role you’re applying for, the skills you have (preferably in bullets) and the next steps. When attaching your resume, send it as a Word document or a PDF. Always thank the reader for the opportunity to apply and keep it to no more than three short paragraphs.

Finally, use a simple font like Times New Roman or Cambria. Don’t use color and use 10-point or 12-point font, so the email is easy to read.

While these tips will help your email get noticed, contact the recruiters at Top Stack to find out more actionable ideas for the job search today.

Employment Gaps in Your Resume? Here’s How to Address Them

While employment gaps are common on a resume, there is a trick involved with explaining them to prospective employers. Many times these gaps are planned for, such as the birth of a child or going back to accomplish a degree. Other times the unexpected occurs, from a job layoff to a major illness. Either way, there are blank spaces in your resume that are clearly noticeable. How you explain these holes will affect your future job prospects. Fortunately, this article will help you prepare for your discussions with hiring managers. Here are some commonly asked questions and answers from workers with a gap in their work history. 

Should You Mention the Resume Gap?

First, if the gap was several years ago and you’ve been successfully employed since, you probably won’t need to mention it. Keep in mind there is no rule that you have to include all your experience on a resume. This is especially true for workers that have been employed for a decade or longer. In most cases, your early career history isn’t necessary to the current job search if you’re applying for a mid- or later career track. Most recruiters will suggest just keeping the history to the last 15-years or so if you are applying for a management position. 

There are several ways to make a more recent gap in your work history more appealing to employers. For example:  

  • You can use dates to make the gap stand out less. Try removing the month from the date history and instead just list the year.  
  • You can use resume formatting to make the gaps less obvious, like putting the dates of employment in non-bold type.  
  • Start your resume with a summary at the top to draw the reviewer’s eye to your accomplishments and skills. 
  • Include any experience and skills you gained during the employment gap. Did you volunteer; take a class or a sabbatical? List it on your resume as a valuable skill. 

If the gap was recent, the employer or recruiter is certain to notice it and comment on it. In any case, be prepared to explain it clearly and succinctly to the recruiter or hiring manager. What was your rationale for the break? If the break wasn’t voluntary, what happened to put you in that situation? Emphasize the issue has been resolved and you’re ready to return to work.  

If you were laid off, it’s a very good idea to provide the potential employer with documentation of your excellent performance before the layoff. A decision to conduct company downsizing is a decision that employees can’t control. It’s important to show you were a solid employee prior to the economic downturn the company faced. Part of an active networking process is to ask for recommendations now before you need them during the job search.  

Networking With a Recruiter

The best networking advice we can share is to speak today with a recruiter. These professionals are on the prowl for you; employers hire staffing agencies to find the best talent.  

Contact the staffing professionals at Top Stack today if you’re looking for a career shift. We can supplement your professional networking efforts and help you find the perfect fit. 

4 Important Tips for Passive Job Seekers

Here’s a tip for everyone working today: Even if you love your job, you should be prepared to leave it. While that may seem disloyal, in fact, it’s good advice. That’s because markets can shift dramatically leaving employers facing downsizing, which means your job may be on the line. We also know employers can act erratically, so the truth is no job is ever really safe. Many of us have lived through a down economy, so you should always have your resume updated.

Around 73 percent of employees today are passive job candidates, meaning they aren’t actively looking for a new job, but they’re open to it. Here are four of the best tips to stay prepared for the next big thing.

Update Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is one of the resources recruiters use to find job candidates. Take the time now to update your profile. Consider this online presence as your resume, so make it highly professional and up to date, by listing your skills, education and certifications. It’s also a good idea to start to connect with people and their networks to build your own. Try joining a few LinkedIn groups, which are the online version of a MeetUp. Then, write a few recommendations for your colleagues and ask them to recommend you.

Improve Your Networking Skills

While today’s unemployment market heavily favors the job seeker (there aren’t enough employees to go around), it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t force yourself to continue to make networking connections. The bigger your network, the better your chances of finding a job, especially if the job transition is unexpected. Try going once a month to a networking event in your field. Also, post status reports on social networking sites to let people know you’re still around. Sharing interesting job-related articles is just one way to stay in front of your social network.

Check Out Companies

Instead of mindlessly surfing the internet this weekend, surf the internet with a purpose. Start to scope out the kinds of employers you’d be interested in working for, if push came to shove. Here’s another tip: Check out recruiting firms. A recruiter is the best resource for finding the best jobs in today’s hot market. Recruiting firms work directly with hiring managers to fill roles, and many times they find out about positions even before they are posted. So, even though you are “passive” in your job search, you can prepare a list of top companies you’d like to work for and recruiters can help you get your foot in the door.

Update Your Resume

We talked in a prior article about the importance of keywords; updating your resume now and keeping it ready will speed your time to market, should something happen at your current job. Each time you change jobs, get promoted or take an online class, your resume should be updated. You can even have a cover letter template ready to go – just in case.

At Top Stack, we know life changes constantly. Contact one of our recruiters to begin to pave the way for your next job search.

4 Tips For Successfully Reentering the Workforce

If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, coming back is going to feel like a big adjustment. The business world and the technology we use to navigate it changes rapidly, so if you’ve been away caring for a sick relative, or dealing with a personal illness, the transition back may feel a little intense at first.

This article will give you the tips you need to successfully reenter the workforce, no matter the length of absence or the type of job you’re seeking.

Tips for Work Reentry

The first step is to connect with a trustworthy recruiter who will have your back as you search, interview, and finally, land the next big thing. Top Stack can help with this. But there are other tips for work reentry you should consider, including the following:

  • Update your skills list before you even start looking for work. We recommend a resume refurbish based on keywords (see our prior blog post), as well as some padding to fill gaps in employment. Do you know the saying that it’s always easier to find a job if you have a job? That’s actually true, so if you haven’t worked in a while, try volunteering for a worthy cause a few months before you even put your credentials out there. This will pad the resume a bit to help employers understand you’ve still been out there in the world.
  • Try building a functional over a chronological resume. A resume that heavily emphasizes the dates of employment will only make it really easy for employers to see where the gap in working was. Try rewriting the resume to focus on experience and not length of stay. You can create headings such as “Programming Experience” (inserting the right keyword for the job you’re searching for) and then listing the highlights of what you’ve accomplished and learned.
  • Get out there. We know this is a difficult step, but it is the most important. Get your resume on free job boards like Indeed or Monster and then talk with a few recruiters to find the one you most want to work with. Most job boards and the applicant tracking system recruiters use leverage very precise algorithms that will aid you in your job search. Use these tools. You may also want to try your hand at networking at MeetUps or other events to improve your chances in the job market.
  • Ask for help. Even if you’ve been out of work for a while, here’s what you need to understand. The unemployment market today favors the job candidate, particularly in those high-demand jobs like programming, engineering or healthcare. But even though the odds are in your favor, it’s important to use resources that are standing by to help. All you have to do is ask. In the case of the job seeker, one of your best resources is a recruiter who can be your advocate.

If it’s time to start your own job search, start a conversation with the team at Top Stack. We are your best resource for reentering the job market, and have jobs standing by that will get you back in the saddle. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

How a Recruiter Will Help You Prepare for an Interview

When it comes to an interview, a recruiter can be your best friend. There’s no one better when it comes to helping you prepare for that very first employer impression. Even if you feel like you don’t interview well (in fact, especially if this is the case), consider working hands-on with your recruiter to put your best foot forward. Here’s how a recruiter can help you interview well and land your next job.

Tips and Takeaways From Recruiters

Recruiters can help candidates learn how to stress their strengths and de-emphasize their weaknesses in effective ways. The recruiter you’re working with may ask you to write down four or five strengths and weaknesses, along with a one-paragraph example of how you’ve exhibited your strengths on the job and overcome your weaknesses. The recruiter may even have you talk about these skills, practicing the actual interview process. If they don’t, why not ask them for help? Recruiters are expert interviewers and see countless resumes every day. They’re a resource that wants you to land a job as much as you do.

Recruiters may help you practice the universally accepted correct interview answers. Each answer should be about two minutes long. There’s a concept many recruiters know and teach their candidates called “Say a Few Words” (SAFW). This means:

  • S stands for the opening statement on each question answered.
  • A is amplify, which is a clarifying statement to push the point home.
  • F is to remind you to provide a few examples that illustrate your point.
  • W is the reminder to “wrap it up.”

SAFW leaves the interviewer, whether it’s on the phone or in person, with a concise but effective way to get to know a candidate. It backs a statement up with a short behavioral example illustrating your point. Then it closes the deal, wrapping each question up in a nice package.

Another tip is that recruiters may ask you to write-up two of your most important accomplishments to date. This can include your work on a team as well as an individual goal met. What did you learn? How does it illustrate the job skills the employer is seeking?

The goal is writing up this document is that many times the person being interviewed can get nervous, which may make them forgetful. Taking time to write this down may help you retain the information, even when an employer puts you on the spot. (Especially when the employer puts you on the spot!)

The recruiter may have you practice the universal question: I read the job description and your company’s website, but could you tell me in your own words what you think the job entails? This allows the candidate to take control of the conversation and get the employer or hiring manager talking about what’s important to them. Then the interviewee can zip back in with their SAFW set of job qualifications that sell them for the position.

Recruiters, Not Diamonds, Are a Girl’s (and Boy’s) Best Friend

The Top Stack team is different. Our job is to provide you with the coaching you need to land your dream job. That’s why we partner with our employer-clients to understand exactly what they’re looking for. We can help you prepare for your next big move. Contact us today to start the conversation.

The Importance of Using Keywords in Your Resume

The old days of just creating a resume are gone. Today, the majority of recruiters or hiring managers simply won’t notice a resume without searchable keywords. Let’s look at the types of keywords and how they can help improve your resume to land your next job.

Understanding Keywords

Keywords are a short phrase or individual words on a resume that tie into a particular job posting. They can include credentials, skills, qualities and abilities of a candidate. They could include technical expertise or other requirements hiring managers are looking for in a role they’re trying to fill.

Keywords are important for tracking purposes. Most companies now use applicant tracking systems (ATS). This technology is widely used to track resumes and screen candidates for jobs. The software has a query system so hiring teams can search for candidates by job skills. The ATS software can eliminate candidate resumes that don’t have keywords matching the particular job description. That’s exactly why it’s important to add keywords into both your resume and your cover letter.

What Kinds of Resume Keywords Are There?

The job of keywords is to get the attention of hiring managers because it matches the job description. Given that most recruiters and hiring teams simply scan resumes for relevant experience, having keywords makes your resume stand out against all other candidates. Here are some examples.

For an employee benefits manager role, use keywords such as:

  • Employee;
  • Benefits;
  • healthcare benefits; and
  • benefits policy.

For a customer service manager position, try to use keywords like:

  • customer service;
  • computer skills;
  • order entry; and
  • phone skills.

For a logistics manager:

  • supply chain;
  • warehouse;
  • operations; and
  • logistics manager.

How do you figure out how to use these keywords? Look at the ad. It should have keywords throughout it you can incorporate into your resume. Try searching for similar job listings to find out what top words seem to be used in most of them. Especially look at the responsibilities/qualifications sections of the job description.

You may want to also look at the company website for keywords. Look at the section called “About Us” to determine what the company thinks is important. For example, if the company uses the word “creative,” clone that adjective and pop it in your resume. Make sure the language of your resume is the one spoken by the company — use keywords whenever possible.

Yes, you should do this for each job application. We know it’s labor intensive, but it will increase your chances of landing a job. Salt these keywords throughout the resume and mix up both hard and soft skills. A variety of keywords in several different places will show the diversity of your experience. Since the company’s ATS may be queued to find particular characteristics, try using multiple versions of keywords and phrases. For example, programmer and developer or nurse and clinician are interchangeable job titles that can mean the same thing.

Finally, consider using some of the same keywords in your cover letter, in case the employer is also scanning these types of documents. An easy way to do this is to list your keyword-heavy job skills in a summary at the beginning of the letter in a bulleted format.

Contact the Top Stack team for more career advice and, when you’re ready, we have the best jobs to fit your skills.

Different Types of Interviews and How to Prepare for Them

When looking for your next job, there are many different types of interview styles. There are behavioral interviews, where you’re asked to share your experiences in solving specific problems. There’s the lunch interview, which tests your relational skills in a whole new environment. You may be invited to a Skype interview, which for the uninitiated can be a bit nerve-wracking.

It’s important to know how to be prepared for each of these types of interviews. Here are a few examples of interviews the next hiring manager may throw at you and how to prepare for each one.

#1 The Standard Interview

If you’re lucky, the employer won’t throw anything too radical at you in this scenario. However, it doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t prepare. Take time before this process to research the company you’re visiting as well as practicing some of the most common types of interview questions, like “What’s your biggest weakness.” Find out from your recruiter in advance who you’re meeting with and even try to find out more about them so you can feel a little more comfortable with the new faces at the interview table.

#2 The Skype Interview

If you’ve never done a video interview, this one will take a bit of time to get used to. First, test your laptop, desktop or another digital device to determine the software works. Then find an appropriate room for the visit, keeping in mind what the employer will see in the background behind you. Next, make sure the camera is portraying you in the most attractive way, by shooting you head-on and not panning up into your chin. If you’re uncertain about any of these tips, there are dozens of articles online to prepare you.

#3 The Case Study Interview

For programmers, many companies give you a coding problem to solve. Sales roles often have a series of behavioral tests. Writers usually have to give an article sample or take a writing test. Either way, companies are increasingly seeking new ways to have you prove your skills before coming on board.

#4 The Behavioral Interview

These interviews seek to quantify your skills in concrete ways by asking a series of questions that start with, “Tell me about a time that you…” The goal of these questions is to test how fast on your feet you are as well as trying to determine your future behaviors on the job by looking at what you did in the past. The best way to prepare is to look up samples of these types of questions and practice a few concise examples of your on-the-job skills.

#5 The Lunch Interview

If you get nervous eating around new people, this can be a tough interview. However, you should assume the potential employer must like you; they wouldn’t invite you to lunch if they didn’t. A lunch interview gets a prospective employee out of the artificial environment of the interview room and gives you an opportunity to get to know the employer in a more relaxed setting, even if, in truth, you won’t be relaxed at all. If you know the restaurant in advance, check the menu and pick out a few options that are: A) not too expensive; and B) easy to eat. Bring along a small notebook (that could fit beside your plate) with conversation prompts and questions.

For more top tips, talk to the talent team at Top Stack.       

 

Tips for Staying Productive While Unemployed

If you’ve experienced unemployment, particularly after working for years, you may know the weird feeling of dislocation that can come from having too much free time on your hands. While it’s a good idea to update your resume and write great cover letters when unemployed, there are a few other things you can do to make the most of your time. This includes volunteering, learning a new skill, catching up with your network – or building new connections. Here’s how to stay productive while looking for your next career path.

Volunteer

Employers today are interested in your efforts to improve the world around you, so volunteering for a worthy cause while you’re laid off is a great way to use your time. Not only will it make you feel good about yourself, but it also adds skills to your resume. It can even connect you with a new social network that could lead to a new job. It will illustrate to employers that you kept your skills sharp during your time away from the work world. One important tip is you should give some thought to where you’ll be volunteering. How does the organization connect to your job market? Can the activity give you some valuable resume skills you could highlight during an interview?

Increase your industry visibility

This might be a good time to get active in an industry-related association. Most cities have a variety of events going on that can increase your skills and help you network with employers and employees. Many of these events are also free or low cost. When you find the industry-specific organization that’s right for you, why not use your free time to help them with meetings or events? Make sure you’re connecting with everyone you meet on LinkedIn.

Reach out to your existing network

A social network is only as good as the connections you manage. Think about your network as a living web of people you can help – and that can help you. If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile recently, now is the time. Then work on reconnecting with people you haven’t seen in a while. Relationships atrophy over time, so make sure you email a one-on-one communication with “your people” on a regular basis. You can also ask colleagues you’ve worked with to give you a reference on the platform.

Learn new skills

Remember when you were working and you thought, “If only I had more time, I’d learn X.” If you’re unemployed, there is no better time than to brush up on old skills or create new ones. There are all kinds of free online classes, including those from Harvard and MIT found on the edX website. For programmer wannabe’s there are classes at freeCodeCamp that can retrain you for a job in the digital field.

Call Top Stack

If you’re unemployed, make calling Top Stack a priority. We have a variety of positions available right now you may already be qualified for. What are you waiting for? Start the conversation.

Are You Familiar With the Three “R’s” of Resume Writing?

Resumes still matter even in our digital society where your social media profile is often the first impression in the job market. Hiring managers still lead with the request, “Let’s see a resume,” so taking the time to craft a good document that adequately represents you may just get your foot in the door.

Here are three important tips for honing your resume by following the rule of the three “R’s.”

Resume Tips and the Rule of Three R’s

To ensure your resume leaves a great impression on everyone who reads it, be sure to follow the three R’s of resume writing: Relevance, Results and Realism. These three categories will help you craft a marketing document that leaves employers with a great first impression. For example, create a resume that is:

  • Relevant to the job you’re seeking. If you’re wondering about having a few versions of your resume lying around to highlight different skills, our best advice is to just do it. When creating these documents, consider the job you’re applying for. What will hiring managers want to see on your resume for the particular job they’re advertising? For example, if you’re applying for an entry-level accounting role, will the employer care about your time waiting tables at a local restaurant?Keeping your resume relevant means discarding the parts that won’t give you a leg up in the job. Given that hiring teams scan resumes for information, having a few keywords related to the job you’re applying for will make your resume stand out.
  • Results oriented, listing your major accomplishments at each job. It will give an employer a good sense of what you’ve done in the past and help them quantify what you bring to the table. Rely heavily on action verbs like:
  • Facilitated
  • Grew
  • Created
  • Achieved
  • Won
  • Managed
  • Handled
  • Coordinated
  • Planned
  • Produced
  • Realistic resumes are the ones you can back up with facts later on in an interview. While your resume is a marketing document, always stick to the truth so you don’t appear to hyper-inflate your skills at your next job interview. If you mentored new employees but didn’t manage them, don’t imply supervisory skills you don’t yet have. Many hiring teams will smell the over-inflation simply because they’ve seen it all before. Think of it this way, even if the resume nets you a job you’re underqualified for, what will your first few weeks on the job actually prove to your employer?

Making your resume more appealing to hiring managers’ means you have the specific skills and experiences they’re looking for at that time. That’s why you want someone looking at your resume to be able to discern quickly what you bring to the organization and where you’re interested in adding value.

Talk with the talent team at Top Stack about your goals for the future. We can help you hone your resume to highlight your skills and move into the position you’ve been waiting for.