Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is Texting Keeping You from Landing Your Dream Job?


Okay. So the title of this blog indicates that text messaging may be interfering with your ability to land your dream job. That, among other communication tools, may be true. And as I promise I’ll get to my point, first... I have a confession that I need to get off my chest.

I texted my husband from my bedroom… while he was in the other room!

There. I said it. I texted my husband who was one room away from me, rather than getting up, walking 30 feet and engaging in a conversation with the man whom I’ve been smitten with for almost 10 years. AND… I’ve done it on more than one occasion. Curious to see if I was completely alone on this, I shared my dirty secret with two of my co-workers, thinking I would be completely ostracized. However, I found out I was NOT alone!

One of them actually admitted texting her spouse from the back seat of a car, while he was in the front-- all because she was too tired to talk!

While I would like to think that utilizing technology rather than walking across my home may indicate that I am incredibly efficient (many of you would call me lazy), it is likely an indicator of a growing shift in the way we communicate and engage with other human beings.

So, prior to my confession, I told you that texting would interfere with your ability to land your dream job. How?

Communicating effectively is important as you go through your career search. In fact, communication—written or verbal—may be for an employer the deciding factor between you and another candidate. Here are a few important basic communication tips for you to consider while going through your career search:

1. Make communication personal. Recruiters live in a world of impersonal job seekers—make yourself stand out by including a cover letter with your resume with the company name in it. Better yet, if you can find out the recruiter’s name, include that. “Dear Sir or Madame” certainly follows the job seeker etiquette book I’m sure—but it isn’t going to help you stand out from the crowd.

2. Use proper grammar and spelling. In written communication, misspellings in your resume indicate a few things. Numero uno—you don’t have strong attention to detail. Numero dos—you don’t use the resources available to you (i.e. spell-check or friends who can proofread). While not everyone is as fanatical as I am about spelling, I can tell you that we are out there. And we can spot a misspelling a mile away. So take the time and proofread. If my plea isn’t reason enough, I’ll share a quick example. I received a resume for a candidate who was applying for a communications position at our company. On her resume, she indicated that she was a public relations professional. However, she left out the letter “L” in the word public. I’ll let you figure out why that was embarrassing. And, again, remind you the importance of proofing your resume.

3. Follow up. Communicating before and during the interview process is important. However, what you do after the interview can help you stand apart from the candidates with whom you are competing. Be sure to send a “thank you” note to the person who sat down with you. At minimum, send an email. Ideally, send a written note. People don’t get a lot of mail these days, so a hand-written note will help the recruiter or hiring manager to remember you and will respect the extra effort you have gone to.

4. Ask the recruiter when and how they prefer you communicate with them. As you begin to develop relationships with recruiters and other hiring managers, you’ll find that they may all prefer a different timeframe and method of communication. Some prefer you email, some prefer you call, and some prefer the aforementioned text. And some get offended if you do it the wrong way! So how do you find out the timeframe and method of communication they prefer? The simple answer… ask.

Communication during your career search can be a tricky thing to master. However, if you are diligent, personal and get back to the basics of communication, you are certain to get yourself on the right path to your dream job. And so, sir or madame… (insert your name here)—“thank you” for thinking of about how to better communicate during your career search. Best of luck and we’ll C U L8TR.

U can text Abby L8TR at abby.ludens@mattressfirm.com

Friday, December 3, 2010

Interview like the “Stars” but without the spray tan…

That’s right; my inspiration for this blog comes from the hit television show, “Dancing with the Stars”. After watching this number one rated television show, I realized that many of the principals that make this show a success hold true to the interview process as well. You might not have to sport a spray tan and skimpy costume, but you will need to be on-point, in-sync, entertaining, confident, and put in lots of hard work.

The stars usually come on the show with little to no dance experience, but somehow manage to put on a good performance. One thing that does hold true for the winners of the show is that they are true competitors that consistently improve night after night. They take the feedback given from Carrie Anne, Bruno, and Len each week in hopes to improve their scores and be saved from elimination.

Most people aren’t the most natural interviewers, but much like our “Stars,” putting in the hours of practice before the performance will increase your chances of getting a perfect 10 (or in a jobseekers case, landing the job).

So don’t tip-toe around the dance floor; come out with a bang! Be confident. Don’t stray from the integrity of the “dance” or your values. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you. And most importantly, try to have a little fun!

Now go salsa, tango and waltz your way towards that mirror-ball trophy… or the job you always wanted!

Need some dancing lessons of your own? Contact amanda.williams@mattressfirm.com

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Are you killing two birds with one stone, or are you killing your chances of landing a job by multi-tasking?

Multi-tasking is a bad thing especially when you are on a phone interview! Most of you are reading this and thinking, well of course that is not a good thing; but you would be surprised by the number of people who do not know this simple fact. To many, multi-tasking is a way to be productive, “kill two birds with one stone”, and manage your time…. But when you are trying to land a job, multi-tasking while on a phone interview can be the stone that kills your chances of landing a face-to-face interview.

Moral of the story, if you are on a phone interview make sure you pull over if you are driving, shut out any other noise that may come up, DON’T type on the computer or shuffle through papers and keep focused on the task at hand… landing a face-to-face interview.

Save those multi-tasking skills for when you get the job!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Do you have any questions?


That moment that you walk into an interview can be daunting. You don’t know what kinds of questions the interviewer might ask you. And as soon as you finally get though of the interviewers questions, they ask you the big question. “Do you have any questions?”

The important thing is not to worry. Remember that you are not the only one being interviewed. You are also interviewing the interviewer. Bring questions with you to the interview. It’s okay to have them written down. Having your questions prepared exhibits good preparation on your part to the employer. Preparation is a competency that most employers look for.

How do you prepare for these questions? Most people know the general questions that we have been taught from our parents, career services, or friends. “When can I expect to hear from you?” or “Why is this position available?.” These are still great questions, but don’t forget that you are also doing the interviewing. Also use questions that directly affect what you’re looking for in a company.

Write down 3 things that you’re looking for in your next career opportunity. Now that you’ve done that, starting thinking of questions that you can ask that would allow you to know if this is a career that would be satisfying. For instance, if you value a fun environment, ask a question geared towards the day to day duties or about the culture. Once you think of all the questions that you have developed, write it down. Take your questions to your interview. Now the interviewer knows that you are engaged, prepared, and ready for the career opportunity.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tell Me About Yourself

We all know that this is typically the first question in most interviews. You may think this is the easiest or one of the most challenging questions in an interview.

I cannot tell you how many times I see a great resume, (and yes, I get excited to interview them) ask candidates this question and they completely go off topic!

Don’t get me wrong, I love that you just got back from your honeymoon, just had your third baby, just sent your kids off to college or just bought a new home. However; it’s another story when you begin to inform me about your battling divorce, how you can’t stand your parents or kids, your recent break-up or how your dog just ran away from you.

Here are a few tips on a great way to actually answer this question:
• Begin with any educational experience…you earned that degree, be proud of it!
• If you are a recent college graduate, talk about extra-curricular activities you were involved with during school—employers love to see that you put yourself in leadership positions.
• When discussing employment history, start with your first position and end with most recent.
• Make sure you touch base on what your responsibilities entailed with each position.
• Never talk negatively about former companies!
• Always end on a positive note; for example…that brings us to today and I’m looking forward to learning more about this organization!
• Lastly, keep it professional and leave the personal topics at home!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The First Interview...Ring Ring!

If you are out there in the job market you have probably realized that formal/face-to-face interviews are few and far between, why is that you may ask? Well, how well did you do on your phone interview? You may be sitting here thinking that a phone interview is nothing … it’s not even with the hiring manager … just some person that asked me a few basic questions, but my resume speaks more about me than that measly 10 minute conversation. WRONG!

That person is a recruiter and they are hired to see if you match up to your resume and if you are somebody they want to invest more time into. So, now you are asking yourself what can I do to ace my phone interview. Well, lucky for you I’m here to help!

It will start off with a recruiter reaching out to you so your first rule is – make sure your voice mail is professional; include your full name along with a nice message that you are unavailable, but to please leave a message. DO NOT have a song waiting to greet me or you telling me to just “leave a message. “ This is a huge turn off; if you are seriously in the job market and your voice mail is not professional recruiters will feel that you are not that serious about your next career move.

Second rule of thumb; if you do happen to pick up the phone and it is a recruiter requesting to conduct a quick 15 minute phone interview with you and they ask you if this is a good time to talk … think about it. Are you in the car? Are you out shopping with your friends? Are you at your current job? If you are distracted in any way – just let us know that you would prefer to schedule an appointment for a different time. THIS IS NOT A TURNOFF! I would prefer you be prepared and able to concentrate on the questions I am about to ask you. So schedule a time that is good for both of us!

Rule number 3 – have the necessary items ready to go 1) your resume, you will spend the first few minutes telling me about yourself so make sure you are accurate 2) pen and paper, you are going to want to take some notes about what I’m going to tell you 3) information regarding my company, if you applied to my company you should know something about it and have questions for me, even if it is only a couple. But make them smart questions, do not ask me about pay / compensation – these are questions you ask if you are going further in the interview process.

Now the next rule is going to seem a little crazy, but I promise it works when you are talking to the recruiter and answering questions … STAND UP … that’s right, I said get out of that chair and stand up. Standing up gets your energy flowing and allows your true personality to come out. Lastly, get a mirror, yep, and look at it when you talk all the while remembering to SMILE, smiling also helps increase your energy and it allows you to come across friendly over the phone.

There are a lot of sample interview questions on line and if you want to really prepare yourself you should take a look at those, even print them out and have some already answered. You may be thinking, this sound like cheating, well if studying for a test is not cheating then why would studying for an interview be considered cheating. So prepare yourself and you will soon find yourself with the dream job you have been waiting for!

Good Luck!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

First Impressions Are Everything: Make it an Ice Breaker

Recently, I was asked to help out a student sales organization with mock interviews. Eager to offer advice to these hopeful college students, I quickly accepted the job. I was set up with a total of 12 mock interviews all back to back. Each student was nervous but very well prepared by this elite sales organization. After each mock interview, the students asked for feedback. They were very receptive to all the advice that I had given them.

However, I had one student enter the room. You could tell that he was nervous as he perspired profusely. He apprehensively clutched his resume that was neatly placed between a manila folder. Not sure what to do next, he shook my hand asked me if he could have a seat then placed his resume and manila folder on the desk. He began telling me about himself without ever handing me the folder. You could see the fear in his eyes. I asked him his first question. He then apologized and asked for a moment to think. After 3 seconds, which to me felt like 30, he then answered my question I almost forgot how nervous I once was when I was on the other side of the table many moons ago. Already anticipating the feedback that he would ask for, I started to envision the advice I would give him to be more relaxed and expressive of his talents.

And then it came to me. I explained that he should think of an ice breaker before entering the room. Not only is the interviewee nervous, but sometimes the interviewer is nervous too. You want to separate yourself from the myriad of potential candidates in the room, but not by being known as the guy who sweats profusely. Everyone knows that the first impression is made in the first ten seconds. So think of something that is interesting. (Stay clear of religion or politics.) It could be something like, “Wow, it’s raining outside, but we sure need that rain.” Or you could say something about sports like, “What did you think about that Cowboy’s game?” (You might not want to admit if you’re a fan of that team until you find out who the interviewer is rooting for.) You want to remain natural and only talk about true events. This could possibly change the entire mood of the interview, allowing you to be yourself and make you and the interviewer more relaxed.

Once I gave him examples of breaking the ice and using the Cowboy’s example, his face quickly brighten and revealed an amazing smile that he hadn’t shown the entire interview. He then began to tell me about this Cowboy’s game with so much passion in his voice. Without hesitating, I yelled out, “See, that’s what I’m talking about! By talking about something you enjoy, you now are comfortable with me and have shown me a side that has set you apart from the rest.” The student soon realized this and looked at me with that same amazing smile, and said, “Thank you.”

Although it was a mock interview, this was the first time he ever had to interview for a professional job. He knew what he was supposed to do, but was so nervous, that he never thought about ways to get comfortable. At this time I realized that I had provided the most effective advice all day. Whether you are a recent college graduate, someone recently laid off after many years in your position or someone who hasn’t interviewed in along time, we all get nervous and forget how to separate ourselves from the others.

Just remember that first impressions are everything, they have to be good and memorable!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Phone Interviews: How to "WOW" Employers

In todays job market many companies are resorting to the phone to help with the initial steps in the interview process. Hundreds of resumes reach a recruiters desk and it is impossible to interview everyone face to face. A phone interview is the first step for a job seeker to sell their self to a company, and a company’s first chance to screen the candidate.

As a recruiter it is amazing, and sometimes humorous, to hear some of the phone conversations I have on a daily basis. Many applicants need tips on how to sell themselves and prepare for a phone interview. This had me thinking about what I can do to help a potential job seeker pass the first step in the interview process! I have 6 simple and easy tips to help any job seeker land a face to face interview and increase their chances or getting that dream job. In this Blog I have the first three tips:

1. Preparation before the call begins

Before you begin applying to positions, make sure to clean up your voicemail. Many times a recruiter will not even make it to a conversation with the applicant because they have already formed an opinion based on the voicemail. Having a professional voicemail, which clearly states your name, one that is to the point and energetic will make the right impression. Think about your ring tone, as much as we like to personalize everything, do you really think a professional recruiter wants to hear Marvin Gaye “Lets Get It On” or “Baby got Back” as a ring tone? With hundreds of candidates’ to contact, it is essential that you make a positive impression with your voicemail. Recruiters will make note- Awesome voicemail, or horrible voicemail, not professional. Don’t sell yourself short before you even get a chance to talk with the recruiter. Make these simple changes and give yourself the opportunity you deserve.

Another important tip before the phone interview is to remember what positions you have applied for. Many times applicants will send their resume to hundreds of companies, not even realizing what qualifications are needed or knowing anything about the company. It is important to have conducted research and know why you applied for the position. It is never good when a candidate tells a company, “what was this position for again, I applied to lots.” So in short, do your research and remember who you are applying to. It is hard to get excited about a phone call from a company as a job seeker, if you are not excited about the position.

2. Timing is everything

When a company does call you, make sure you are not busy. If you are on break from work, inquire about how long the call will last. If it isn’t a good time to talk, let the recruiter know you are preoccupied and see if there is a better time to call back. A phone interview to some people may seem like a simple task, however, getting into a conversation that can affect whether or not you move on the interview process, requires your undivided attention. You want to allow yourself the opportunity to think and speak clearly without being distracted. Have you ever tried to talk to someone while watching your favorite TV show? I bet the conversation didn’t go very well. Imagine trying to give your best effort to impress someone while you are doing something else… probably not the best you can do. So when a recruiter calls make sure you are in a place where you can give your full attention and that you have a reliable phone with a good signal.

3. Be prepared to talk about yourself

This may seem like a no-brainier, but this is something many people struggle with. Many candidates ask me, “What do you want to know, everything should be on my resume.” This may sound silly, but this mistake happens often and usually isn’t something that impresses the recruiter. By knowing what the position entails, you are able to point out previous work history that would relate to the current position, for example: “ I noticed this position was seeking sales managers in training and I have had some experience that allowed me to utilize my sales ability. While with the GAP, I had the highest percentages of credit card sales for four months.” Knowing what experiences to focus your attention on will help with effectiveness in telling your background. It is also good at this point to tell the recruiter up front why you left each position.

Stay tuned for the last three tips to ensuring a face to face interview.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Getting to the Hot Seat: Setting Yourself Apart at Career Fairs

We all know that career fairs serve as an opportunity for you to find that dream job you are looking for. On the other hand, you may find it hard to get in for an interview after introducing yourself to a number of employers. The aim in this blog is to introduce career-oriented individuals like yourself to four steps to increase your chance of getting signed up for an interview, and ultimately to get the offer letter in the mail.

Step 1: Bring Passion & Energy

Upon your entrance to a career fair, it is vital to set yourself apart by being aware of your body language and energy. Having a good attitude and being able to transfer this to an employer will certainly lend a hand. Often times, recruiters see job seekers walking around without a smile, shoulders shrugged as if they forgot what it means to have excitement. By having a positive mindset and a smile, your aptitude to impress the employers of your choosing enables you to be one step closer to the metaphorical “hot seat”. However, having the correct body language and energy is not all you need… first impressions also come from what you wear!

Step 2: Dress Professionally

As alarming as it may sound, I am in disbelief when job seekers show up in flip flops, a t-shirt, and jean shorts. You could have the greatest charisma in the world, be passionate, and give a firm hand shake and still be disqualified based on what you wear. It’s important to remember to dress business professional; yet in a way that helps you stand out. For example, men often wear a black suit, blue dress shirt, and a red tie. To set yourself apart, consider wearing a navy blue suit, off white dress shirt, and an orange tie. Trust me, in this situation you will stand out if you introduce yourself with passion, a smile, and the correct body language. Remember, you are probably looking for an exciting career where you can grow. Find a way to encompass professionalism while standing out in a subtle way. Once you have caught the recruiters’ attention through your professional look, there is still another step in getting closer to the hot seat.

Step 3: Know who you’re talking to!

When job seekers have accomplished the first two steps, many times they miss out on the third step. We all know that people love to talk about themselves, and often times recruiters get excited when you talk about the company they represent and live for. Before arriving to a career fair, make sure to research the companies that fit your career objective. From there, learn what these companies are looking for in candidates, their latest news in the media, their mission statement, and where they are headed in the future. If you can have this conversation with a recruiter and ask well-thought out questions, you are light years ahead of the competition. What this communicates to a recruiter is that you are prepared, a hard worker, and not looking to join just any organization. By communicating to a company why you are the right person for the position, you can be confident that you have done what few job seekers have thought of. There is undoubtedly one last step that will dramatically increase your likelihood of getting into the hot seat; yet many candidates will never do this.

Step 4: Follow Up

Following up with the recruiter is pivotal in getting on board with the company. Be sure to ask the recruiter for his or her business card, and after you have met with them at the career fair make sure to follow up. One way to follow up is to write a thank you letter expressing your sincere interest in the company and position. This goes to show that you are persistent and truly believe you have what it takes to be successful. Following up is your last opportunity to make an impression with an employer; be sure not to miss out on this essential piece of the puzzle.

To recap, remember that it’s all about preparation. As the old saying goes “If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Be sure to bring passion & energy, dress business professional, have a solid understanding of the employer you are interested in, and make sure to follow up. If you can deliver these simple steps, I am confident that you will have a higher capability of landing your dream job.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

360°: Change in the Workplace


This can be a scary word for some. As the old saying goes… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, if you’re not adapting to change, you could potentially be “broke”.

The inspiration for my blog on change came from U2. While I am frequently inspired while listening to music, my thoughts began while I was one of the lucky 80,000 people who scored a ticket to their sold out 360° Tour show in Houston this week. Whether you’re a fan of U2 is irrelevant, but even non-fans have to give credit to this band for standing the test of time since their inception 33 years ago. How have they managed to be one of the few bands to do it?


U2 is a great example of a group recognizing the importance of reinventing themselves to appeal to fans year after year. At any point in their lives, they could have said—you know what, we have enough money and we have a good fan base… why change?

This same lesson can be applied in your approach to your life at work. You have to be willing to change if you want to remain relevant and hirable in today’s job market.

If you’re in the job market today, you’ve either been forced to make a change or you’ve decided to make a change. Either way, the word change should be an important part of your vocabulary as you enter into the interviewing process. You need to be able to demonstrate to a potential employer that you have a history of adaptability and willingness to change. Today, more than ever, with business models, processes and company initiatives changing at an unprecedented pace, employers are going to weigh heavily your ability (and, frankly, your desire) to change. During your interviews, be prepared to share specific examples of ways you have experienced change, how you adapted to them and how it has made you stronger in your area of expertise.

Don’t have a strong track record demonstrating your ability to change?

Here’s your call to action. Find ways to reinvent yourself. Take a class on a topic you’ve been interested in… volunteer for something you’ve never tried… do something wild that may take you out of your comfort zone. It’s never too late to learn how to change.

Take it from a band like U2. They are all nearly in their 50’s and 2009 may prove to be their best year yet… all because they are willing to, year after year, change.