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Monday, September 22, 2014

5 Easy Ways to Market Your Employer Brand Using SEO

Are you a small or medium sized business that is growing and needs to bring in more talent? Or, is the talent you have not working out and you need to replace it with better talent? You've recruited and recruited, but you just aren't getting the quality or quantity of applicants that you had hoped for and you can't figure out why.

While we can talk about recruiting strategy in another post, there's also good chance that you don't have enough online employer brand presence. Did you know that job seekers are 80% less likely to apply for a job with a company that doesn't have a large internet presence?

Search engine optimization (SEO) can help you fix this quickly with a few tweaks to your website. Even someone who knows nothing about SEO can make these tips work for them!

The Most Important Thing You Can Do: Generate Link Juice (also called linkbacks)

Get your company name mentioned in as many places as possible and make sure that those places link back to your website. Link Juice is the most important, and also the most time consuming, piece of advice that I can give you for SEO. The more linkbacks you have to your website, the higher your ranking on search engines will be. Want to know how many linkbacks your website currently has? Go to Google and type in link: followed by your URL (example: If Google tells you that search did not match any documents, then no one is linking to you. If results appear, then all of those web pages have linked to you at least once.

So, how can you generate more linkbacks?

  • Start a social media campaign. YouTube is the best social media platform to self-generate link juice. This is mighty convenient, since job seekers are 80% more likely to apply if a job description includes videoPinterest is another good source for self-generated link juice. Facebook, not so much.
  • Find online forums and bulletin boards related to your business and post in them. Answer people's questions in a general way and then say something like "for more information, visit my site at". (Note: Read the forum's policy. If they have a "no-follow" policy then search engine will not count those links when ranking your site).
  • Ask every one you know to link back to your website.

What Else You Can Do (In Order of Importance)

  1. Update the titles of your pages to include key words and phrases that job seekers or your customers might be searching for. For example: The title of your Contact Me page should not be Contact Me. Instead it should be Contact Your Name or Name of Your Company | Geographic Location | Phone Number. My contact page says Contact Robin Brodrick | Talent Counseling | Greater Boston | 617-372-4305.
  2. Add in or optimize your website's keywords. There should be a section for this in your Content Management System (CMS). Enter in 20-40 keywords or phrases that jobseekers and customers might be searching for. Separate each word or phrase with a comma. You do not need a space after the comma. Make sure to include common misspellings, your geographic area, etc.
  3. Update your website's description. This is the blurb of text that appears below your website's name in search engine results. There should also be a spot for this in your CMS, whether it be WordPress, Joomla, or something else. The description must be 156 characters or less. It should contain keywords and phrases in the form of a sentence and should also entice people to click on the link. For example, you may want to describe what the business does and then say, "Click here for a free consultation" to entice them to click on your link.
  4. Have meaningful and engaging content. I wish that this was the primary thing you could do to increase your search engine rank, but that's just not the case in the world of SEO. That doesn't mean it's not important. Your content is what will keep people coming back to your website. It's also what will entice job seekers to click the Apply button. You should include why your company is a great place to work, the job description (don't forget to include a video to increase the chance that a job seeker will apply by 80%), and a summary of your benefits.
Now you know the five most important aspects of SEO. Implementing these changes will benefit you in two ways. First you will start seeing more job applicant because you will have a larger presence on the web and will be marketing your employer brand. The second benefit is that this will have the nice side effect of your website being easier for potential customers to find, too.

What should you do if you need more information, or need specific advice for your situation? Seek the help of an SEO subject matter expert (SME). I can personally recommend Ben Vivante (, who teaches a great SEO class at BCAE.

Have you used SEO to market your employer brand? Was it easy? Did you find that it increased the quality and quantity of applicants? I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments section!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Social Media Recruitment is a Fallacy

There is no such thing as successful recruiting via social media. This is why so many companies think that they get a poor return on investment (ROI) when their talent acquisition team uses social media to advertise jobs.

There is such a thing as using social media to successfully brand your company and grow your pool of talent organically.

So, how can talent acquisition teams successfully use social media to source and build their pipeline? First, management has to recognize that growing the company's employer brand via social media is a long term game, especially if the company is in a niche market. It's an arena where you get what you give. 

It's also important to recognize that everything you think you know is probably wrong. For example, what do you think the most popular website is for job seekers right now? LinkedIn, right? Wrong. (Sorry, LinkedIn). According to Jobvite's 2014 Job Seeker Survey, it's Facebook.

Some suggestions for growing your talent pool by growing your company's employer brand on social media platforms:

If you are leveraging LinkedIn
  • Join groups that your talent will most likely be using. Participate in those groups. Ask questions and see who gives you answers (and then, of course, research those people and go from there). Engage the users. Also, answer the questions of others. 
  • Social media networks respond positively to people and companies who reach out, instead of just trying to advertise themselves. Publish long-form posts that will appeal to your pool of talent (how to do that successfully is a topic for a different post). Look at who comments and likes your articles. Connect with them. Now you have expanded your network and can source directly from that group or get referrals from them.
  • Don't forget to respond to or to like the comments that people make in response to your posts - remember, social media success is dependent on your level of engagement!
  • Make sure that you have an active and complete company page on LinkedIn.

If you are leveraging Twitter
  • Research the hashtags that are most frequently used by your talent pool or that have to do with the geographic location where you want to find talent. Now you have two choices: use those hashtags in your tweets, or find the people who use those hashtags and do further research to see if they are the fit that you are looking for (or might know someone who is). 
  • Don't just tweet out links to your job openings. No one will follow you. In fact, you might lose followers if that is all you tweet. Tweet interesting articles. Retweet other people's tweets from your industry. 
  • Use Bitly to make your long links short so that you can say more within your 140 character limit. Bitly also lets you track clicks on your links and see what source they came from. 
  • Lastly, and counter-intuitively, don't follow everyone who follows you. You want to have more people following you than people who you follow - it just makes you look better. It will also reduce the noise in your Twitter feed. Follow those people and companies who might tweet something relevant to you.

If you are leveraging Facebook
  • Create a careers page. You can create a separate careers page, or make it a sub-page of the company page. I recommend the latter, so that you can use the main page to engage readers.
  • The best applicants come from referrals. Referrals usually come from friends and family. Guess which social network has the highest concentration of friends and family, according to Mashable and every other industry resource out there? Make sure that your whole company participates in sharing company news and jobs. Their friends and family will like the careers page and the company's network of active and passive candidates will expand as this goes on and on.
  • Create quizzes, contests, and engaging content to engage your audience.
  • Post employee experiences.

If you are leveraging Google+
  • Boolean search, baby. You can boolean search the profiles of the 540 million active monthly users, which is something you can't do on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Build and keep track of your pipeline with Google+ circles and communities. You can also use this to tailor your communications to different groups of talent.
  • eMail prospective talent, even if they haven't listed their email address on their profile!
  • Create a Google+ company page.
  • Host a Google+ hangout. Connect your company's top influencers with your followers via awesome video conference tools!
Still not generating the talent pool that you were hoping for? Get inspired! Be creative! Create a referral contest and offer an awesome reward, like cold hard cash. For example, challenge the social media community to refer qualified candidates to an opening that you're having a hard time filling. Whoever submits the refers the applicant who gets hired will be awarded $2,000.

Have you had successes or failures recruiting on social media? Is there a trick you wish you'd known from the beginning? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below so that we can learn from each other!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Darth Vader vs. Yoda: Which Type of Mentor Will Boost Your Career to the Next Level?

It's not what you know, it's who you know.

This frequent truth is one reason that so many of us aspire to increase the size of our network. It's also part of the reason that many people who are starting out in their career are looking for a mentor.

There seem to be two schools of thought about mentorship. The first is that your mentor will spoonfeed you the knowledge, experiences, and professional contacts necessary to move you up the career ladder and that this will be done in a way that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The second is that the best mentors have a tough love approach.

So, which type of mentor is better? I'd like to tell you a story. Several years ago I was determined to make a career change from Marketing and Business Development to Human Resources. I had the transferrable skills to go into recruiting, so that's what I set my sights on. I spent months applying for recruiting jobs online. I had a few interviews. Nothing panned out. Then I got a call from Sean Quimby, whom I had interviewed with a few weeks earlier, and who had called me in person to inform me that GL Advisor had decided to hire a recruiter who had vastly more experience. This time, Sean was calling to tell me that the budget had increased and that, if I was still available, he would like me to join the team.

At the time, I had no idea how lucky I was to have landed this particular job with these two individuals. Sean had been the VP of HR at Zipcar when the company went public and the Director of two HR functions at Equinox. And the person that had beaten me out for the first recruiting opening? That was Jamie Palmer, who has an astonishing amount of full-service recruiting knowledge and experience.

GL Advisor had never had an HR division before, and I had never recruited before. Needless to say, there was a large learning curve on both sides. Every day I felt like I was faking it, until one day I didn't. A few months later, GL Advisor dissolved the HR department. (It had never been their intention to keep it. We were all brought on as independent contractors who would stay only until their short-term needs had been met). I began interviewing for Talent Acquisition positions right away. The interviewers kept asking me the same question: How did I know so much when I had only been doing this for a few months. My answer? I had two great mentors.

When I was working with Sean and Jamie I thought that I was just adapting to my new role. It was only in retrospect that I realized that they had both taken me under their wings and were teaching me everything they knew - even if it wasn't related to the task I was assigned at that very moment. They involved me in projects and assignments that were way out of my league. They expected me to be able to keep up and add value. I think that I lived up to their expectations, although I know that I made some mistakes along the way.

Sean and Jamie did mentor me through fear. But the fear didn't come from tough love; the fear came from being scared of disappointing them. They were my Yodas. They saw the awesomeness inside of me and helped me learn how to harness it. They taught me lessons that I didn't know I needed to learn.

The truth is that mentors come in many different forms. Sometimes you won't even realize that someone was your mentor until your life moves in a direction that takes you away from them. I still speak of Sean and Jamie with fondness in my interviews and in other parts of my life. They didn't just mentor me in Human Resources or in Talent Acquisition. They mentored me about life, about the benefits of risk propensity, about seeing the true potential in others, and about the kind of person I want to be. 

I hope that one day I can pay it forward.

It's not what you know or who you know. It's what you learn from who you know. It's also how you choose to implement that knowledge. The best mentors will get you nowhere if you don't take any action.

Have you had a mentor (or do you currently have one)? I'd love to hear about your experience and about their mentorship style in the comments section!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Is Your Drug Testing Policy Decreasing Employee Morale & Productivity?

I once worked for a retail corporation that drug tested all of their store employees and candidates, but did not drug test executive or corporate office employees and candidates. One day, I happened to have a few minutes alone with the head of the HR department. I took the opportunity to ask why this was. He looked me in the eye and said, "Because if we drug test our executive candidates then we won't have any executives!" And he was serious.

Does your drug test policy treat all of your employees the same? It should. After all, what does it say about your company if the cashiers can pass a drug test but the directors and VPs can't?

Of course, there's always the question of whether or not companies should be drug testing at all. According to Quest Diagnostics and SHRM, drug testing improves employee morale and productivity while decreasing attrition and absenteeism. But according to the Houston Chronicle, the DOL, and ACLU, drug testing decreases employee morale because employees view it as an authoritarian action by the employer and find the process itself to be demeaning.

Which side of the issue do you take? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How to Avert Corporate Scandal by Leveraging Talent Acquisition

Corporate scandals have been sadly rampant over the last 15 years. In 2001 and 2002 alone: AOL inflated sales figures and exaggerated revenue by as much as $49 million in 2002 to secure its purchase of Time Warner. Arthur Andersen was convicted of shredding documents containing information about the Enron audit in 2001. Enron falsified its levels of profits and debts and also bribed government officials in other countries in order to win international contracts in 2001. Halliburton booked $100 million in construction costs before clients had agreed to the cost in 2001. Tyco’s former CEO was indicted for tax evasion in 2002. Xerox falsified five years of accounting, which resulted in showing an additional $1.5 billion of non-existent income. I won't even get into the more recent banking and loan scandals that caused the housing bubble to burst.

The impact of these publicized ethical lapses is diverse. First, employees who already struggle to uphold ethical standards may be inclined to try and copy-cat others. On the other hand, the attention paid to the harsh punishments and devastating effects of ethical breaches may encourage employees who are on the fence to choose the more honorable path. Most importantly, when corporate ethical lapses are publicized, it allows other companies the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others. For example, Enron had a well-written ethics policy, but did not have a corporate culture that promoted ethical behavior. By analyzing the factors that contributed to the ethical lapses, companies can take a proactive approach to encouraging employees to act ethically. Incorporating ethics into company culture and creating incentive programs that reward ethical behavior are just two examples.

So, how can the recruitment team be a resource that help an organization avoid the fate of the companies mentioned in the opening paragraph? Recruiters are the gatekeepers of company culture. They should be viewed as essential to the current and future success of the company. Recruiters can only gain an in-depth knowledge of the company’s future goals by participating in planning meetings with senior management. When recruiters understand the future needs of the organization, they can hire candidates who will perform well and fit in with or enhance the corporate culture. Recruiters who are participants in strategic planning sessions can support and expedite the execution of managements’ business strategy and contribute to increasing company profits. Additionally, recruiters who understand the company’s future plans can hire not only for the company’s current needs, but also for the company’s future needs.

Neuborne, E. (2003). Incentive ethics under fire. Potentials, 36(3), 5.
Patsuris, P. (2002, August 26). The Corporate Scandal Sheet. Retrieved from
Phillips, J., & Gully, S. (2012). Strategic staffing (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Fine Line Between Standing Out & Being Creepy (Interview Series #5)

This post concludes my interview series. The previous posts in this series have provided tips that will help you stand out and beat your competition. For example, you can ask the interviewer insightful questions that no other candidates have asked or be able to think on your feet to answer tricky interview questions better than other interviewees.

You should definitely put your own spin on these tips so that they are a reflection of your true self. But keep in mind that there is a fine line between standing out and being creepy (or all out inappropriate for the situation).

For example, you could follow up after your interview by sending an astonishingly well written thank you email. Now you stand out. Or you could follow up by mailing each interviewer a handmade thank you card with the interviewer's face on the front of the card. Now you're creepy - now matter how well written your thank you note is.

Think before you act. Always make sure that your actions are appropriate for the situation. Always act professionally no matter how casual the interviewer seems.

What have you done in an interview situation that you thought would make you stand out but in hindsight you realize was creepy? When I was in my early 20's I once went in person, uninvited, to follow up on the status of my candidacy. Creepy!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How to Be Ready to Answer Any Interview Question (Interview Series #4)

The internet is full of posts that tell you what questions you can expect to be asked in an interview. Some of these posts even tell you the "best" way to answer all of these questions. Can you memorize 100 interview questions and their corresponding recommended answers? I can't. Also, I don't see the point in stealing someone else's answers when you should be letting the interviewer get to know you by proving your answers to their questions. This strategy will help differentiate you from the ten other candidates who all said that their biggest weakness is public speaking or taking on too many tasks at once.

Sure, some companies might ask you oddball questions like "What three things would you bring with you if you were stranded on an island?". I never minded those questions. There's no wrong answer as long as you can explain your reasoning. I would bring a mechanical engineer, a zippo lighter full of lighter fluid, and drinking water.

The questions that always made me nervous are the typical questions such as "What is your biggest strength and your biggest weakness?" I always used to give the recommended answers: "My biggest strength is that I am both a strong individual contributor and team player. My biggest weakness is that I sometimes overcommit myself".

Years later I entered the world of Talent Acquisition and realized the error of my ways. Everyone else was giving those same answers. Everyone except the people who got hired. Those candidates had real answers. They also took the time to explain what steps they were taking to strengthen their weakness and maintain their strength. If you follow this formula, your answers to interview questions will likely change over time. Right now my answer is that my biggest strength is my ability to set priorities and manage them. To maintain this strength I read a lot about priority assessment methods, utilize the Eisenhower Matrix priority setting system, and use apps or software to make sure that I meet deadlines. My biggest weakness is that I interrupt people. I was raised in a family where this was the norm and this horrible habit was only pointed out to me recently. To improve this weakness I have joined Toastmasters. Contrary to popular belief, Toastmasters doesn't just help you with your public speaking skills - it also helps you improve your active listening skills.

In fact, joining Toastmasters is the best way to prepare yourself to be able to answer any interview question, even the tough ones. Instead of trying to memorize hundreds of interview questions and answers, you will learn how to prep, be a good audience for your interviewer, deliver your responses concisely and with confidence, and think on your feet.

Attend a few meetings as a guest. The worst case scenario is that you disagree with me. The best case scenario is that you join and learn to implement a slew of communication, listening, and evaluation skills that are lying dormant inside you, just waiting to be tapped into. I'm a member in District 31 - feel free to say "hi" when you visit!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to End an Interview and Land the Job (Interview Series #3)

The end of the interview is a great chance to make a lasting impression. It's easy to do so by asking insightful questions that take the interviewer by surprise and that other candidates haven't asked.

I like to go into interviews with an arsenal of questions. That way I'm guaranteed to have something to ask at the end. I try to pick 3-5 questions to ask, depending on how the conversation has gone. I print them out. There's no shame in not having them memorized. I have been collecting great questions to ask interviewers for the last decade or so and would like to share them with you in order of my most favorite to my least favorite.

  1. I'm even more excited now than I was when I applied. Is there anything that I've said, or haven't said, that makes you think I am not a great fit for the role? (Note: This question should be asked with confidence, not trepidation. This is always the last question that I ask in an interview. Always. To every interviewer. If there has been any miscommunication about what awesome talent you are, this is your chance to put that confusion to rest).
  2. What's one thing that's key to being successful in this company that somebody from outside the company wouldn't know?
  3. How would you describe the company culture, and if you could change one thing about the culture what would it be?
  4. Who are the heroes in this company and what characteristics do they have in common with one another?
  5. What are the characteristics of people you have hired in the past, but who've burned out, failed, or left?
  6. What is my future boss' leadership style?
  7. How has the job been performed in the past and what improvements would you like to see the new hire be able to implement?
  8. How is success measured in this role? What is the performance review policy and how do I make the most of it to ensure that I'm doing the best I can for the company?
  9. What are the group's best and worst working relationships with other groups in the company?
  10. What is the rhythm of work here? Is it consistent, or are there periods during the year where there are crunch times and we're pulling all-nighters?
  11. Which competitor are you most concerned about?
  12. How does this role help achieve the strategic goals of the company?
  13. What do you see ahead for the company in the next five years?
  14. What do you enjoy most about working here?
  15. What are the most attractive and least attractive parts of this job?
  16. What are the key accomplishments you'd like to see in this role over the next year?
What interview questions have you used that knocked an interviewer's socks off and made a lasting impression? Write them in the comments section!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Power of Thanks (Interview Series #2)

It is immensely important to write a thank you note to your interviewers as soon as possible after each meeting. A thank you note can make you stand out among all the other candidates who did not write one. It also shows that you paid attention during your interview, care, and are committed to building a relationship with the interview team. However, writing the perfect thank you note can be challenging. Luckily, there are a few tips you can follow to get it right.

In your opening paragraph, be sure to thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. This shows that you respect their time and understand that it is valuable. Express that you enjoyed the conversation and are excited about the opportunity to join the team.

If you are not a perfect fit for the role then you should address this in your next paragraph. Let the interviewer know that you recognize this but believe that you are up to the challenge and that your transferable skills make you well suited for the role.

Next, address the goals or culture of the company and talk about why you want to work there.

Lastly, thank the interviewers again for the opportunity. I personally suggest that you include a surprising hard sell to close your letter. For example, let the interview team know that you can be reached any time if they have additional questions or would like to offer you a second interview (although I would be a bad friend and coach if I didn't tell you that some people consider the hard sell a risky move).

Include a salutation such as "sincerely" or "kind regards" and following it with your name and contact information.

Tip: Avoid writing in a passive voice.

Need a customizable template to follow? Here you go!

Dear Interviewer's first name,

Thank you for meeting with me today to discuss the Position title position. I enjoyed our conversation and am excited about the opportunity to join the Company Name team.

I recognize that I do not have the traditional skillset experience that most of the other candidates have. However, I truly believe that I am up for the challenge. You mentioned that you need talent who is adjective 1, adjective 2, and adjective 3. My background in skillset 1 and skillset 2 is well suited for this.

I believe that the goals of Company name or department can be achieved and that fresh talent will expedite that process. I would be proud to work for a company that wants to company goal 1 and company goal 2. I look forward to becoming a part of that culture.

Again, thank you for considering me for this exciting opportunity. Please feel free to call me if you need additional information, have any questions, or would like to offer me a second interview! Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Your first and last name
Your phone number

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How to Make the Most of an Interview (Interview Series #1)

Congratulations! Your resume made it through the abyss that is the applicant tracking system and now you have an interview. Whether it is a phone screen or a face to face meeting, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

Do not use this time to judge the opportunity. Use this time to sell yourself. Focus on providing good answers to the interviewer's questions and asking good questions of them. Evaluate the opportunity a few hours after you have left and have had a chance to digest the experience.

If this were a slow dance, the interviewer should lead. Let the interviewer drive the process. Do things like ask if it is okay to take notes, or take a pause before answering a question to make sure that the interviewer has finished asking the question (and to give yourself a moment to think before you respond).

While you should not use this time to evaluate the opportunity, it is advisable to ask a handful of questions that will provide you with information for when you are later deciding if this is the right move for you. Ask good questions. If you do not ask any questions it may make the interviewer think that you don't care.

Most of your compatibility with the company and the role is determined by how you look and how you sound. Try to make your answers concise. Make sure that you are actually answering the interviewer's questions instead of going off on a tangent about something else. Dress appropriately for the interview. This may mean something different depending on your geographical location. For example, appropriate dress for East Cost interviews is usually business formal, while appropriate dress for West Coast interviews is often more casual. Ask you recruiter if you are uncertain of how formal the setting will be.

Enthusiasm may separate you from the rest of the talent pool. Some say that you are judged during the first two minutes of an interview, while others say that it is the first ten minutes. In either case, enthusiasm about the role and the company always makes for a good impression.

Last but not least, don't panic! Don't be so nervous that you are robotic. The interviewer wants to get to know you and to have a real conversation with you. Any interviewer who has been properly trained will sense if you are just telling them what you think they want to hear. Always be honest, but remember not to say anything

Yes, I intentionally left off any mention of having a strong handshake. A strong handshake will do you no good if you show up in a wrinkled shirt and spend your time talking over the interviewer. While it is a good way to start things off, a strong handshake is highly overrated.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Yes! You Should Include your Burning Man Volunteer Experience on your Resume!

 Image by Scott London

A few weeks ago, after perusing many resumes and profiles of executive candidates, I sent a tweet out that read something like: You probably shouldn't include your Burning Man volunteer experience on your resume when applying to Corporate America.

That tweet has now mysteriously disappeared from my profile. 

I've been mulling it over, and yes, you definitely should include your Burning Man volunteer experience on your resume. It indicates that you enjoy interacting with diverse groups of people and that you have the distinctive ability to stay sane when every one around you is acting like they're on drugs.

Lastly, if you volunteer at Burning Man every year, would you really want to work for a company that would view that as a bad thing?

So I suggest that you go ahead and start putting your unique experiences on your resume. After all, shouldn't your resume content be a reflection of you, instead of a reflection of who you think companies want you to be?

Monday, September 1, 2014

How to Change Careers and Find Happiness

“A tie is a noose, and inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonetheless if he’s not careful.” This quote from Yann Martel, author of the book Life of Pi, exemplifies why it is important to be happy in your career. If you wake up every morning loathing your job or bored to death with your career track, it may be time to consider changing careers.

The first step to making a successful career change is to decide which new career will make you happy. After all, starting over is challenging, and you don’t want to have to do it more than once. Please, take the advice of someone who is already on her third career! The most important thing to consider when making this decision is: What are you passionate about? After all, if you do what makes you happy then you’ll never work a day in your life, right? Passion can come from many different places, and will be unique to each individual. 

The second step to making a successful career change is to identify your transferable skills and experiences. If you have tons of them then that’s great – you will just need to adjust your resume to highlight these transferable skills and experiences. If you do not have many transferable skills, then you should educate yourself on the industry and take classes that will help you develop the skills needed to be successful in your new career. Be sure to add this new education to your resume – even if it is ongoing. Also, make sure that your resume has industry key words in it. Many companies use an applicant tracking system that lets them enter in a keyword or Boolean phrase and pulls all resumes that contain the search word or phrase. You should also be sure to include a two to four sentence professional profile section at the top of your resume that explains why you are super awesome and will add value to the company.  

The third step to changing careers is to network and apply, apply, apply!  Have patience, and don’t get discouraged. When I was transitioning to a career in human resources, I applied to over 20 job openings before I landed my first interview, and to over 35 job openings before I got my first offer. I also suggest that you join networking groups in the field you want to get into and attend their events. Even though you may be uncomfortable and feel out of place, it will help you pick up industry jargon, and you may meet someone who will give you a great job lead!

The fourth step is to interview. You should go to every interview you are offered, even if you think that the role or the company isn’t perfect. It’s great practice for when you finally get to interview for your dream job at your dream company.  

The last step is to pat yourself on the back. Changing careers is hard work! If you haven’t already landed your dream job then it’s only a matter of time since you have followed all the necessary steps: you chose something you are passionate about, you educated yourself, updated your resume with your transferable skills and experiences, and have been networking and applying to job openings like your happiness depends on it. Keep asking good interview questions and following these steps and you will achieve your goal of successfully making a career change!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Do You Still Need a Third Leg to Get Ahead?

There is a great post circling LinkedIn right now called Why Aren't Women Advancing at Work? Ask a Transgender Person. The post addresses how differently trans individuals have been treated at work in their new gender. I, for one, would be shocked if much of the information in this post came as a surprise to women. 

Transmen experience a higher level of respect, are interrupted less frequently, and have their opinions questioned less often than when they lived as women. Not surprisingly, transmen also felt like they were given more opportunities to succeed and to advance in the workplace than when they lived as a female. Transwomen have the opposite experience, and many find it shocking that they are now talked over in meetings and that their opinions are questioned even when supported by facts. 

If you're a woman reading this, you might be discouraged. But don't worry! You don't need a third leg to get ahead; you just need to be 2.5 times more productive than the average male to be thought of as equally skilled and competent!

How can we overcome the gender inequality that exists in the workplace (especially when some insist that it has been eradicated)? 

The glass ceiling that is so frequently talked about in HR circles is built on a rock-hard foundation of unconscious bias. Policies and procedures need to be in place to reduce or eliminate the objective factors that so easily overshadow the subjective factors that hiring and promotion decisions should be based on. It is also imperative that companies start training recruiters and hiring managers on how to identify their unconscious biases and overcome them. 

But why should companies stop there? Shouldn't all employees, at every level of the company, undergo this training? Why aren't companies including this in their new hire orientation and training?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Surprising Way to Increase Your Productivity at Work

Admit it, we've all been late to work at least once because we stayed in bed enjoying our partner a little too long that morning. And how did that day go for you once you finally made it into the office? Did you notice that you were happier, more energetic, and found it easier to concentrate?

We all know that sex has health benefits like improving heart health, reducing pain, and getting a better night's sleep. But did you know that having kinky sex has even more benefits than having vanilla sex? In 2013, The Journal of Sexual Medicine published an article to compare the psychological health of those who practiced BDSM sex versus those who practiced vanilla sex. The results astounded many. Instead of supporting the rumor that BDSM is associated with psychopathology, they found that those who practice BDSM are more conscientious, more extroverted, and more open to new experiences than those who have vanilla sex. Kinky sex also results in being less neurotic and less rejection sensitive while also having a higher subjective well-being. Several other studies have also arrived at these same conclusions.

Imagine, you go into work and your boss rejects the proposal you've been working tirelessly on for the last two weeks. You accept the rejection, but don't let the project fall off the table. Instead, you ask your boss what they found unappealing about the proposal. Once their objections are clear, you introduce yourself to a couple of people who work in departments that could help you build a stronger proposal. The three of you have coffee that afternoon and come up with an amazing new spin on the original proposal. You bang out the rough draft by 4:00, all while still managing to finish the mundane day-to-day activities that keep you employed. Your boss loves the new spin on the old idea and is now fully backing your efforts. 

And all because you got spanked and shackled (and maybe more) last night.

Why not give it a try? See if it lives up to its potential and report back. Help others understand exactly how their personal lives are affecting their professional lives!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Does Your Company Really Care About You?

I have worked for more companies than I would like to admit - probably twice as many companies as are listed on my LinkedIn Profile. I have worked two to three jobs at the same time for most of my life. I have seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and the illegal. Today was a reminder about what an amazing company I work for - a company that views me as a human being instead of as a faceless number or another cog in the wheel of their strategic business plan.

There is no doubt that my company is not perfect, and could improve in a several areas. But, I have faced several health challenges since day one of working there, and they have been shockingly supportive. I accepted their offer of employment on the morning of Monday, May 6th, 2013. Later that night I found out that I was pregnant. I decided to withhold this information from them, but on my first day I had to run to the nearest bathroom during my tour of the building because I was overcome with morning sickness. I had no choice but to reveal my secret. Four days later I suddenly started having some scary signs of a miscarriage and had to rush to the emergency room. I was sure that I was going to get terminated for all of the trouble I was causing. To my surprise, my boss was incredibly caring and concerned and worked with me to help schedule my required bi-weekly ultrasounds since my pregnancy had been deemed high risk.

I was also certain that my contract would be terminated when I gave birth to my son and decided to take six weeks off from work even though contractors don't qualify for maternity leave. Once again, to my surprise, they made it work and reinstated my contract at the end of my six week leave.

Luckily, I haven't had any major health issues that interfered with work over the last seven months. Until yesterday. I had a scratchy throat when I woke up, but didn't have any other them symptoms of being ill. Then, very suddenly, around 11:00 AM my throat swelled so badly that it felt like it was taking up my entire neck, I could barely swallow, and I was having difficulty taking a full breath, along with a slew of other symptoms. I called my PCP and she told me to go to the ER. Being the cheapskate that I am, I called my husband and asked him to come pick me up and drive me to the ER because ambulances are expensive but I didn't feel like I could drive myself. My very pregnant coworker came and sat on the couch in the lobby with me while I waited. Another coworker passed by and asked what was going on. When he found out that it would be 30 minutes until my husband arrived, he immediately pulled his car up to the front door and insisted on taking me to the ER himself. He stayed with me until my husband arrived.

I was at the ER for seven hours, during which time I received text messages from my superiors one and three levels above me. When I saw the texts come through I was immediately dreading reading them because I was sure they were going to be asking me when I would be able to come back to work, or if I could make up the lost hours from home once the doctor released. To my surprise, both of them were sending me notes of kindness and support, telling me that they hoped I felt better soon and not to worry about work until I felt better because they would figure out a way to cover my workload. I was completely shocked because we are currently understaffed and going through a transitional period in our department.

It's important for you to know that, as a contractor, my company can terminate my employment at any time for any reason. They are not being supportive and caring because they have to be, they are being supportive and caring because they want to be and because that is the kind of culture that they want to spread throughout the company. Is it like this in every department where I work? I don't know, but I sure hope so!

What is the culture like where you work? Do you feel like a nameless, faceless desk-jockey for eight hours a day (or more)? Or do you feel like your company truly appreciates the work that you do and recognizes that you are a person and that your contributions matter?

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Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Gain Visibility to Unadvertised Job Opportunities

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You've heard it before - a large percentage of job openings are never posted for the general public to see. A LinkedIn connection of mine recently asked me how she can gain knowledge of these unlisted openings. The sad answer is that there is no guaranteed formula for success. However, there are some things that you can do to skew the odds in your favor.

Network, network, network!
Build a network of contacts in your area of expertise. Most major cities have a plethora of networking groups. Just do a LinkedIn or Google search to find out what is available in your area. Attend the live networking events to get people to know and trust you. By gaining their trust, they will be more likely to recommend you for an unlisted opening. 

Participate in the social boards on LinkedIn. If you can use your expertise to help others solve a business problem then someone in that group may remember you if an appropriate opening comes along. Also, join and participate in appropriate forums. For example, if you are a female in the executive space then a women's leadership forum would be an excellent choice.

If you are interested in working for a particular company, find out who you know who works there, or who has someone in their network who works there and would be willing to make the connection for you. Don't be afraid to ask for a referral!

Increase your online presence and build your personal brand
Create a website or blog that highlights your expertise and why you are so uniquely awesome that any company would be better off with you on their team. Include the website on your LinkedIn profile.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and is full of keywords so that your profile will pull when recruiters search for people with your skills. 

Take a course in search engine optimization (SEO) so that you will be listed in a higher ranking in search engine results.

Happy Hunting!

Have you been interviewed or hired for an unlisted job opening? How did you find out about the opportunity?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

5 Easy Steps to Create a "Professional" Headshot for your Social Media Profile

Robin Brodrick's LinkedIn Profile Photo
Many people have asked me to refer them to whomever I hired to take my LinkedIn profile photo. I always smile because this photo was taken on a Sunday afternoon, in my house, by my husband (who is by no means anything close to a professional photographer).

Here's how we did it:

  1. Do it on the day you get your hair professionally cut and styled. If you are female, do your makeup (a matte finish works better than a dewy or sparkly one). I did my own makeup, but you could have your makeup done professionally at Clinique, Mac, or any other cosmetics counter in the mall. If you are male, make sure you are clean shaven or that your facial hair is neatly trimmed.
  2. Iron a neutral colored sheet and tack it to the wall. We chose gray because I thought it would compliment my skin tone, but you could just as easily use white, beige, or any other neutral color. 
  3. Position one Bayco 150-Watt Incandescent Portable Work Light on either side of you. Using two lights like this helps reduce or eliminate shadows. To produce truer colors than a normal incandescent light, we used a bright white light bulb that produces a natural daylight appearance. You can use any brand, but we used Utilitech 18-Watt (75W) BR40 Medium Base Bright White Indoor Flood Light CFL Bulb Energy Star. The total cost for materials was around $32.
  4. Get another person to take a ton of photos of you from as many different angles as possible. When that person gets bored and starts complaining, you should review all of the photos, decide you don't like any of them, and get that person to take a whole other round of photos.
  5. Choose the photo you like best and crop it appropriately. I used Windows Live Photo Gallery, but you can use any program that achieves the same result.

See the difference that cropping makes?

You can also check out this awesome post by Ariella Coombs that outlines what your profile photo should not look like (although I disagree with #8 - I happen to love black and white profile photos).

Have you created your own professional looking profile photo? What methods did you use?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

How to Write an Effective Professional Profile for your Resume or LinkedIn Summary

Why do you need a professional profile?
Because many potential employers will not read your cover letter, so they may not know how absolutely awesome you are (note: this does not mean that you shouldn't include a cover letter in your application!). If you have a similar experience level as other applicants, your professional profile may help set you apart.

What is a professional profile?
A professional profile is a resume section that introduces who you are. It should include any notable professional, volunteer, or academic experience and accomplishments.  

What isn't a professional profile?
A professional profile is not an objective statement. An objective statement states what the job seeker is looking for. A professional profile states what the job seeker can offer an employer.

Who should use a professional profile?
If you have experience in your field, or have transferable skills and experiences from another field, you should use a professional profile.

Who shouldn't use a professional profile?
Candidates who have never been employed, are applying for an internship, or have no transferable skills should not use a professional profile.

How long should a professional profile be?
Four sentences or less.

Template to write an effective professional profile
(Insert industry here) professional with extensive experience in (insert relevant skills here). Key accomplishments include (insert accomplishments here).

Example of a short professional profile
Human Resources Professional with extensive experience in talent acquisition operations. Key accomplishments include being recognized for outstanding contribution to TA Ops by EMC in 2014, developing and implementing a staffing plan for all BJ's new club openings on a national level in 2013, and growing GL Advisor's customer service department y 52% in two months in 2012.

Example of a long professional profile
Human Resources Professional with extensive knowledge in recruiting, talent acquisition operations, and working with senior executives across multiple business units and functions. Strong leader who understands that each human interaction is an inherently critical component of a broader strategy for continuous growth, which sets the stage for long-term success in creating higher profits, employee satisfaction, and customer loyalty. Key accomplishments include:
- Being recognized for outstanding contribution to TA Ops department by EMC in 2014
- Developing and implementing a staffing plan for all BJ's new club openings on a national level in 2013
- Growing Graduate Leverage's customer service department by 52% in two months in 2012

Do you use a professional profile on your resume? If so, do you structure it the same, or differently than I have recommended here?

Do you know someone who could benefit from including a professional profile on their resume? Why not share this post with them?

Have questions? Post them in the comments section and I will respond!

American InterContinental University's Career Services Department, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to Optimize your Resume and Attract the Attention of Recruiters

You're on the hunt for a new job. Maybe you're actively looking because your company just went through a round of layoffs. Perhaps you’re passively perusing to see what opportunities you're missing out on. You've uploaded your resume to CareerBuilder, Monster, and LinkedIn and applied to a few job openings at various companies (maybe even the one you’re at now), but the phone just isn't ringing. It’s time to revamp your resume, my friend.

Most companies use applicant tracking systems that allow them to search their database by keyword or by doing a Boolean search. Recruiters also use these techniques to search for candidates on LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Monster, and other websites. It is critical that your resume be Search Engine Optimized (SEO). There are 6 easy steps that you can follow to optimize your resume and attract the attention of recruiters.

Keep the format simple
  • Use Arial or Calibri for your font.  These are the fonts that are recognized by most applicant tracking systems.
  • Avoid using headers, footers, or text boxes.
  • Use black font.

Include a Professional Profile section
  • Many recruiters will not read your cover letter (note: this does not mean that you should not include a cover letter!). 
  • This is your opportunity to succinctly tell recruiters why you are awesome, explain how you add value to the company, and mention some of your accomplishments.
  • Keep it under 4 sentences.
  • Place this section towards the top of your resume.
  • For an example, check on the Summary section on my LinkedIn profile.

Include a Skills section
  • Your resume will now be more likely to appear if recruiters are searching for a specific skill-set.
  • List 10 skills or less.
  • Organize your skills alphabetically or by category.
  • Make this the last section on your resume.

Use industry key words, phrases, acronyms, and abbreviations
  • This will increase the odds of your resume appearing in recruiter searches.

Include an Education section
  • Mention all of your education, even if it is incomplete, ongoing, or not for credit.

Don’t forget your contact information
  • You would be surprised at how many strong candidates submit their resumes with no phone number or email address.
  • Include your name, street address, preferred phone number, and email address.
  • Some people don’t like to include their street address. It’s important to keep in mind that applicant tracking systems also let recruiters search by distance from the primary office location. If there is no street address on your resume then it will not show up in the search.

Do you know someone who is searching for a job but isn’t getting any calls from recruiters? Why not share this with them?

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