The Non-Cheat’s Way to Predict Job Interview Questions

interview-questions-and-answers-predict
job interview questions in Singapore
You can predict interview questions

Job interviews can be pretty nerve-wracking experiences, and not surprisingly so when you bear in mind that things like promotions, higher salaries and better developmental opportunities, depend on how well interviewees perform. Another reason why they are so terrifying though, is because candidates typically have no idea what they are going to be asked and they are afraid that they are either going to be completely wrong-footed, or left sitting there like lemons with nothing to say.

What if I were to tell you then, that with a little bit of effort and research, you could fairly reliably predict the type of job interview questions that will come up? In this, the first of a whole series of articles on job interviews, you can find out how to do just that.

Okay, let’s start with the fact that interview questions are never asked completely at random. After all, what would be the point in that? What typically happens when companies have vacancies to fill is that the people in HR and/or the hiring managers sit down and look at the role description for the jobs in question. They take into account the nature of the tasks and responsibilities that the roleholder would have to deal with, the skills they would need to possess to be able to do the job successfully and the personal qualities that would help them to be more effective in the role. Any half-decent recruiter will also consider the culture of the company so as to try and draw in applications from those people who would be more likely to fit in and share the same values.

Once all of this information has been assembled, they would then create a job advertisement which would probably include a few words about the organization itself, a job description, a person specification and instructions on how potential applicants should go about putting themselves forward for the position. Around the same time that the job advertisement is put together, those who are going to be involved in conducting the interviews, review the ad itself, as well as the job description, and design a set of questions which is explicitly aimed at establishing who would be the best fit for the role.

There’s no trickery involved and none of the questions are designed to catch candidates out. If the role involves lots of customer-facing activity, therefore, then you can bet that a good proportion of the questions will seek to establish how much experience each of the candidates has in this area, how they have handled certain challenging experiences involving customers in the past and what the outcomes of those experiences were. Alternatively, they might involve hypothetical scenarios which call upon candidates to explain how they would deal with these situations if they were to encounter them. In each case, the questions themselves would give interviewees an opening to talk about the skills and qualities they have used or would use to deal with these situations and so to demonstrate their suitability for the position.

Look carefully, therefore, at the job tasks and responsibilities as they appear in the job ad or job description and think about the skills and qualities that would be required to succeed in the role, and the questions that you are likely to be asked will become self-evident. Sometimes job advertisements are not very descriptive/informative. For such cases, have a look at more detailed descriptions for the same role, posted by other companies. You can also consult an occupational database (such as Career Compass or O*NET) , to get a general idea of what a particular job is all about.  This, however, isn’t where your preparation should stop.

The same role in the same company can look completely different depending upon the organization’s priorities at any given time. A business that’s going through tough economic times, for example, might expect quite different things from certain of its staff members than it would if it had just won a huge new contract. Ambitions to expand, mergers and reorganizations, strong competitors and a whole host of other things can change a business’ priorities enormously, and they can change the expectations of staff beyond recognition. For you to be able to understand where those priorities lie and what types of things your job interview questions are likely to focus on, you need to research the hiring company thoroughly. Ask yourself what the main issues are, that are facing the company and the industry at this moment in time, who the organization’s main competitors are, what they up to and what the hiring company is doing to try to stay ahead of them. Then look for answers on the company website, in press releases and news reports, in trade journals and on relevant online discussion forums to find your answers.

Also, think about how these concerns are likely to affect the recruiter’s idea of what success would look like in the role that you are applying for. Would it, for example, mean more emphasis on saving the organization lots of money as opposed to trying to bring in new clients or customers? Would it mean earning the company the reputation as the best in customer service rather than delivering high volumes of sales? Again, if you can get to the bottom of the recruiter’s current situation and uncover the pain points that the organization is experiencing, you can more easily work out the direction that the job interview questions are likely to take.

Another thing that interviewers could very well query are aspects of your own resume, so take a good, hard look at this too. Are there any gaps in your work history that they might want to explore for example, or are there any skills or achievements that they might want you to back up with explanations? Study your resume through a recruiter’s eyes and see whether there is anything that you would want to query in his or her position.

Predicting interview questions, or at least the most important ones, really isn’t that difficult. It just takes a bit of time and research and for you to think like the recruiter. Most of the clues are actually right there in the job ad, and those that aren’t can easily be found elsewhere. If you do your homework thoroughly at this stage, you’ll be able walk into the interview feeling fully prepared and brimming with confidence.

When Is the Right Time to Talk Money During Salary Negotiation?

salary-negotiation

Cash might not be the only reason that most of us bother ourselves to go out to work, but of course it is a major consideration.  When is the right point in the candidate selection and salary negotiation process though, to talk about compensation?

Okay, the first thing to say about salary and benefits is that there are actually various stages of the selection process when employers are typically keen to tempt applicants, if not into a discussion, then certainly into revealing important information about current or previous levels of earnings.  As you will see, however, there are some excellent reasons why it is in your own best interests to delay.

The first point at which compensation is often raised by employers is as soon as they invite applications from prospective candidates.  Some job advertisements state specifically that applicants must divulge their current, past or expected earnings in order to be considered for the position.  There are, however, several major problems with complying with such a request.  First of all, no matter how well-qualified or well-suited you are for the job, if the figure that you reveal is too high, then there is a very strong chance that you could actually put yourself out of the running before your application has even been properly considered.  If the figure is low, on the other hand, then you could find yourself struggling with salary negotiation and getting suitable compensation if you happen to be offered the job.

With regard to current or past earnings, however, there is an even more important reason why you should try to avoid revealing this information, and that is simply that there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between any job that you did in the past or the one that you are doing currently and the one that you are now applying for.  Even if the job titles were the same, the tasks and responsibilities, the required levels of skill and experience, the company itself, your colleagues and co-workers and perhaps the hours and annual leave entitlement would all be different.  Trying to compare the two jobs and the appropriate compensation for each, therefore, would be like trying to compare apples with elephants and so each new job should only ever be considered on its own merits.

What many employers will typically assume if you do choose to reveal past or current earnings is that a further 10-15% on top of this will be enough to keep you happy, and so getting any more out of them can then prove to be extremely difficult, even if the position warrants a higher salary.  If you are asked to reveal current or past earnings at the point of application, therefore, try to skirt the issue by indicating that you will be happy to discuss it at the appropriate time, when you know more about the job and other important factors.  If you are asked to reveal your salary expectations, meanwhile, either use the same tactic or, if doing so would preclude you from applying, then do your research and indicate a reasonable salary range (a range, not one figure) for the particular role that you are applying for, in the particular location where you are seeking employment and for a person with similar skills and experience to your own.

Of course, the next point at which employers are likely to raise the issue of money is during the course of a job interview, but entering into discussions even at this stage could find you facing precisely the same problems as earlier on in the process.  In addition, however, if the recruiter thinks that you are the most suitable candidate for the role and you indicate during your interview that you want more money than their second choice of applicant, you could find yourself losing out on a job offer which might otherwise have been yours.  Again, therefore, if the interviewer tries to bring the subject up, simply tell him or her that you will be happy to discuss compensation at the appropriate time.  Incidentally, never raise the issue of money yourself during interviews, for the simple reason that all employers care about at this stage is what you can do for them and bringing the subject up is only likely to make them think that you are only interested in the job for what you can get out of it.

So, if the application and interview stages are not the appropriate times to discuss salary and benefits, when is the right time?  The simple answer is this: the only time when it is appropriate to talk about money and engage in salary negotiation is after you have received a firm job offer, and even then it is important to remember that you should be negotiating for what is reasonable for the job that you are applying for, not the one that you are doing currently or any that you done in the past.  Never raise the issue of money yourself before this point and if the employer happens to do so, then do your best to dodge the issue.  Employers aren’t stupid and most know that they are pushing their luck when they ask about current, previous or expected salaries, and so in many cases they will accept polite resistance and let it go until the time is right.

No Holds Barred Truth About Online vs. Traditional Education, From Someone Who’s Been There!

online-degree-programs-education.

Ten years ago, I would have bet good money that I would never earn a bachelor’s degree. For more years than I can remember, I wanted to go back to school, and oftentimes even said if I were rich and never needed to work, I would be a student for the rest of my life. The reasons I hadn’t pursued higher education were:

  • I was convinced I wasn’t smart enough to earn a degree. Since I did poorly in high school, it was a “given” that I was too stupid to do anything.
  • I could never afford to pay for a college education, and didn’t know the first thing about student financial aid.
  • I was under the impression my prior credits were only good for 20 years, and had no intention of repeating the “Introduction to Everything” classes, I took after high school.
  • I had no idea what I would major in. I had no goals or objectives in mind; I simply like learning about different subjects and new things.

In short, my wish came close to being true. From June 2005, through March 2010, I was a student, pursuing a degree, online. Had it not been for the innovation of “virtual education,” I could never have made one of my dreams come true.

How it all came about isn’t important. What’s important is the fact that I did it, and did it very well! Of the 32 total classes I completed, I received 27 grades of “A,” and 5 grades of “B.” Pretty good for a gal who barely graduated high school. Besides giving me the credibility I lacked, I gained something much more valuable than just education alone. I finally had confidence in my abilities, and the unconditional sense of self-worth it gave me knowing once and for all, I was NOT stupid!

Whether  Online vs. Traditional Education Is Better, Depends On Your Specific Situation

While it is evident that online education has become extremely popular, especially in the last five years, there is still much deliberation over which is better — online programs, or programs from the more traditional brick and mortar schools.

This is not a situation where the answer is black or white. Furthermore, it’s almost like comparing oranges to apples, because which choice is better depends on the particular person, his or her situation, and the specific type of program. I don’t think I’d want my surgeon or dentist to have received their entire education online! Clearly, there are certain disciplines not at all appropriate to do online. Any program where a considerable amount of laboratory work or “hands on” training is required, is best pursued on a campus, not in front of the computer.  On the other side of the coin, a program such as writing couldn’t be better suited to do online.

Online Education Is More Flexible And Accessible

One of the greatest advantages of online education is it can be done from anywhere, at any time. People who otherwise would never be able to attend school, for numerous reasons, now are as close as the keyboard of their computer. What’s more, even if a suitable brick and mortar university is within your vicinity, going online enables you to apply to any school, anywhere, as you are not limited by location. I am the perfect example. The University of Wisconsin has its main campus within a 10-minute drive from my home. We also have a wonderful private college, in town, and one of the finest technical colleges in the Midwest. Yet, I chose to study online.

The Average Age of Participants Is Higher, For Online Degree Programs

An advantage not found in any of my research, and something I hadn’t considered when I first enrolled; it was more common to find younger, right out of high school students attending campuses, while I was surprised to find the average age group of my fellow online classmates, across the board, to be in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. The majority of online students are “older,” working professionals, people in the military, or mothers with small children, all wanting a higher education, but due to other commitments had put it off, just like I did.

You Can Tailor The Pace Of Online Education To Meet Your Requirements

Most online degree programs can be accelerated, so doesn’t have to take four years to earn a degree. Of course, if you prefer a slower pace, then you do have the option of spreading the courses over a few years.

I went for the faster option. My studies focused on the skill set needed for my profession, in the real world. What is more, both online schools I attended did not follow a typical semester schedule. Instead, each class was six weeks long, which meant I had to take a class each session. After every two sessions, a weeklong break was built in, and twice a year, I had two weeks off.

While the faster pace isn’t for everyone, since they cram a lot of work in that six-week session, I could complete eight courses in a year, giving me 24 credits, instead of four or five classes, on a campus, giving me only 12 or 15 credits. Since it was very difficult for me to focus this intensely on more than one course at a time, taking one every six weeks suited me just fine.

No Exams

Another great advantage, typical of schools providing the accelerated schedule, is they don’t have tests or exams. You heard me. All assignments were project based. I wrote essays, reports, reviews, letters, memos, etc., participated in discussion board conversations, [same as any group forum] incorporated graphic elements into text, and did power point presentations. I never read so much, so fast, in my life. This was probably the most demanding task, since every week was a new unit. With every unit came a new unit’s worth of reading, and one to three written assignments. Often times, it became tremendously difficult to keep up with the work, and because there was hardly a minute of additional time, when I fell behind [and I did quite often] it was almost impossible to catch up.

Many online programs do have exams though. They will typically have a few examination locations around the world and you would need to travel to the location closet to you, to take the exams.

Beware of Online Degree Mills

When looking into online schools you must be careful not to be scammed by “degree/diploma mills.” These are fraudulent institutions (?) that sell unaccredited degrees, for a “small” fee. You answer several questions, and they tell you which level degree you are qualified to earn. I could have a PhD, for $500! They are phony as a three-dollar-bill. Thankfully, they are not as prevalent now as when online education first started.

So make sure the online school you want to attend is fully accredited. There are several different types of accreditation, which I don’t understand, but all you need to do is check their accreditation status and reputation on the Internet. A major clue that a school is not accredited is if they do not have federal student financial aid available. That is a dead giveaway.

Money, Money, Money

Cost is the biggest difference between online and traditional education. While the tuition at some online schools is as much as brick and mortar institutions, you don’t have to pay for housing, travel, time, etc. When I was looking into graduate programs, at various schools, I paid close attention to the cost per credit hour. I found huge variations in charges. Two schools I was particularly interested in had almost identical programs for technical and professional communications. However, one had tuition of $900+ per credit hour, while the other was around the $350 figure. Since most courses are three credits, I would be paying almost $3,000 to take one class, while it was only about $1000 at the other school. The school charging the outrageous costs couldn’t really justify why it was so high.

Pay strict attention to how much tuition is, per credit, as some institutions like to give a cost per program. Break it down, because you may find out you are being ripped off! In all my experiences with online universities, an average cost is somewhere between $350 and $500 per credit. Any more or any less than that, I’d be very suspicious.

The first online school I “attended” included all materials. I didn’t have to purchase textbooks for each class. At first I thought this was great; however, don’t be fooled; those costs are built into the price of tuition. The school where I earned my BS degree, did not include textbooks, and other than specific journal articles, etc. Almost every course required a hard copy book; often several. Another lesson to be learned, never purchase materials through the school’s bookstore. I found every single text I needed on eBay or Amazon, for pennies on the dollar — and I’m not talking about used books, in terrible condition, but new or as good as new books.

I never paid more than $30 for a textbook, which would have cost $150 through the school. You can also resell them; however, I love books; still have every single textbook, and used many of them as reference materials for articles and such.

Student Placement And Services Offered, Is More Comprehensive For Traditional Education

Online schools offer a long list of services to students, however, it can’t be as comprehensive as traditional education. Each student is assigned to a student advisor, who is the “go to” person with any problems, issues, questions, etc. My advisors were indispensible sources of advice and answers for me. I also had access to some of the finest online libraries and sources for research. Most online schools have career centers that help with things like writing a resume, interviewing, and so on, but none had genuine job placement services. So you’re left to yourself for the job search.

No Community, Campus & Extra-Curricular Activities For Online Students 

When people describe their traditional education experience, more than the actual education, they cherish and value all the other activities, people and experiences they were exposed to. It is a very rich experience and one which is missing in online education.

Educational Quality Of Online And Traditional Education Is Similar

The quality of online education vs. traditional education is like anything else. There will always be some that are excellent and others not so good. Even though virtual education is a fairly recent manifestation, the quantity of programs has increased by leaps and bounds (and is as good as traditional schools).  Students who take classes online do just as well, if not better than students who are on campus.

Furthermore, online instructors are highly qualified. They are required to have at least a Master’s degree, but most even have PhDs. What’s more, they don’t need to have teaching degrees, per se, but rather significant practical experience working in the field they teach. I can’t recall one professor I had that wasn’t thoroughly qualified to teach the class.

My feeling is online degree programs students must be more focused, more determined, more motivated, and have a significant amount of self-management and time-management skills. The quality of your education and grades you get are totally up to how committed and serious you are about your education. There is no one kicking you in the butt, making you do anything!

Online Education Has Made Great Strides In Popularity And Recognition

A report about online degree programs stated that during 2008, over 4.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course, an increase of 17% from the previous year, far beyond the 1.2% advancement of the general higher education enrolments.

Not too long ago there was much controversy over whether online degree programs were as worthy as traditional degrees, from an employers point of view. A 2008 survey showed that 83% of employers and hiring managers said they would hire someone who earned a degree online. Many corporations even have agreements with certain online institutions to provide online courses for their employees, at a discounted rate.

There’s been extensive research into the quality of online education, and now it’s finally been proven that there is no major difference between the results of online verses face-to-face education. The studies determined that quality of the education and what the students learned were much more dependent on the merits of teaching and how much effort the student puts into the work. It had little to do with where or how the education takes place.

That being said, all things being equal, I think deep down people will always view traditional education more favourably. If there were two candidates looking for a job and everything about them was similar, except that one person had an online degree and the other a traditional degree –  I think a company would hire the person with a traditional degree.  What do you think?

Staying Organized in Your Job Search

organising-your-job-search

Staying organized during a job search doesn’t exactly sound like a big deal; after all, finding a new position is the most important thing on your mind right now and you’re hardly likely to forget where you’ve sent your resumes, right?

Actually, with most job searches nowadays lasting months rather than weeks, unless you happen to be blessed with a photographic memory, the chances of you remembering every last little detail are pretty remote, and if you do happen to lose track of your job search activities, the result can be chaos, confusion and embarrassment.

For anyone who is unemployed, the accepted advice is that a job search should be treated like a full-time job, and of course eight hours of job search activity, five days per week, soon adds up to a lot of information, a lot of paperwork and a good deal of potential for confusion.  Even if you are already in work and are seeking an alternative position, however, trying to keep track of where you are up to can quickly become impossible, especially when you bear in mind the fact that some employers’ recruitment processes can drag on for months. All of this can lead to a lot of confusion and duplicated/wasted efforts. One example of what might happen is vacancies that you applied for but never received a response from, might be re-advertised at a later date. If you don’t have a record of your activities, you might spend time re-applying for such positions.

Even without the inevitable delays and potential for duplication during a job search, keeping track of your activities is absolutely vital if you are not going to lose all that important company research that you have done and if you are going to be able to follow up on your job search activities in an appropriate way, with the appropriate person, at the appropriate time.  In this respect, it isn’t just recruiters that you have to consider either, but all of your networking contacts too.

A final, but again extremely important reason for recording and tracking the activities of your job search, has to do with measuring effectiveness.  When you use a variety of job search techniques such as networking, responding to newspaper ads, applying via online job boards, attending job fairs and so on, it can be very difficult to assess using gut feeling alone, how effective each method has been over a period of time.  Clearly, your objective should be to put the greatest amount of time and energy into those activities which are most likely to meet with success, but if you can’t see, for example, where applications/activities are disappearing into a black hole never to be heard of again, the chances are that you will end up wasting your efforts and just continue to do the same unproductive things over and over again.

So, just how are you going to go about recording all of this vital information and keep your job search on track?  Although you can of course keep hand-written records of your job search activities, bearing in mind the sheer quantity of information that you are likely to acquire, often it is better to rely predominantly on computer records. This can be complimented with a few hand-written reminders of upcoming events and activities in diaries and on to-do lists, that you can keep on hand wherever you are.  Aside from being able to cope with the quantity of data, though, the other benefit of using commercial job-tracking software or Excel spreadsheets is that the data can quickly be sorted, for example by company name or the date of your next actions, rather than having to go through through reams of paperwork.

One of the simplest, ready-made systems for keeping track of a job search is one which most people already have on their computers, namely the Job Search Log, which can be found in amongst the Microsoft Excel templates.  With separate tabs for CV (Resume) Submissions, Networking Contacts, Interviews and Career Websites, the headings on each of the spreadsheets are customizable so that you can change them to suit you, although in most cases you should just be able to open up the template and get going.  If you use Microsoft Excel 2007, just open up the application, click on the Office Button in the top left-hand corner of the screen, select New and then type the words “Job Search” into the search field at the top of the center section of the dialogue box.  When the Job Search Log appears as an option, simply click on Download and then save the document to your desired location using whatever file name your choose.  In addition to the Job Search Log, Excel also provides a Job Application Log template which can be found by entering “Job Application” into the search field rather than “Job Search”.  Although a simpler, less detailed document, this one provides drop-down boxes for ease of sorting the information that you input.

There are also some online tools that you can use, such as JibberJobber.

Whichever method you prefer for keeping track of your activities during your job search, do start recording all of the details right from the start.  Believe me, it doesn’t take long before things have the potential to go awry!

How to write a resume: Showcase Your Tasks And Achievements

resume-job-responsibilities-achievements

Describing what you did in your previous roles is without doubt, a very important part of resume writing. Recruiters and hiring managers will read this information carefully, to see if you have what they are looking for.

Your job descriptions should include information on your:

  • Responsibilities i.e. The day-to-day and one-off tasks you performed
  • Achievements i.e. How well you executed your key job responsibilities

How to write a resume: Best practices for describing your job responsibilities

You need to find a balance between being concise and providing enough detail to the reader, so that they have a good understanding of the context, scale and scope of your responsibilities. These details help them know how relevant/similar your experience is, compared to what you will need to do in their organisation.

Start by providing the overall objective your role, with details of the scale and scope of your responsibilities.

  • What were you accountable for?
  • How many people did you manage, directly and indirectly?
  • What was the size of your department?
  • What was the budget that you managed?
  • What was the geographic scope of your responsibilities?
  • How many projects did you manage and what was the typical size?
  • And so on

Here is an example:

Spearhead Finance function for South East Asia, leading a team of 15 direct reports, supporting divisions with revenue of over $ 300 million.

Then move on to describe some of the main tasks you perform, in order to deliver your overall objective. Provide enough context for each responsibility you list, by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What….the task was
  • How….you went about it
  • How much/big….was the magnitude of the task
  • Why….did you perform the task i.e. what goals you were trying to achieve

Checking if you have included these details, where possible, will ensure that you avoid being too vague.

As an example, a typical task description might be – Reviewed and finalised commercial aspects of business/investment deals. Now let’s check if it includes all necessary detail:

  • What….the task was (Included): Reviewed and finalised commercial aspects of business/investment deals
  • How….you went about it (Missing): Comprehensive analysis (of the commercial terms and conditions) and negotiating with high profile clients and suppliers
  • How much/big….was the magnitude of the task (Missing): Size of deals was up to $50 million
  • Why….did you perform the task (Missing): To arrive at the most financially viable terms for your company
So the improved version would read something like this – Performed comprehensive reviews of the commercial aspects of business/investment deals with a size of up to $50 million, to optimise financial viability. Effectively negotiated with clients and suppliers to finalise favourable terms.

How to write a resume: Best practices for what’s most important – your achievements

Most people tend to have way too much information about job responsibilities in their resumes and do not pay enough attention to achievements. It is crucial to spend time thinking about your achievements during the resume writing process. There will be many people who have job responsibilities which are similar to yours, so you need to show recruiters what results you achieved for your employers, in order to separate yourself from the pack.

Communicate how well you performed the responsibilities you mentioned, as compared to your peers, the average, what was done previously, or some other benchmark. A good way to do this is through Action-Benefit statements. This consists of:

  • Action: Specific action that you took when faced with a situation, problem or opportunity that enabled you to achieve a positive result
  • Benefit: The positive result or benefit to the organization, such as an increase in revenue, a reduction in costs, streamlined processes or systems, or improved morale

To provide an example – Identified unfavourable terms in 5 major projects, each worth around $30 million. Negotiated with high profile suppliers to improve the terms, thereby reducing total cost of all projects by $2 million annually.

How to write a resume: Best practices for the amount of detail – More for recent jobs and less for older roles

A mistake which many people make when it comes to Singapore resume writing, is to include all details of what they did, in their previous jobs. This leads to an unfocussed resume, with tons of redundant information. When deciding what to include for your job responsibilities and achievements, it is useful to keep a list of the requirements of your job target in front of you, so that you can stay focussed on including only things which are relevant.

For jobs which you have held in the last 10 years or so –   As a general guideline,  you could use 3-5 bullet points to write about all your job responsibilities. Each of these bullets can be 1-2 lines long. The same goes for your achievements.

For jobs before that: Depending on how relevant the job is, keep the size of the description to around half or a third of what you have for your recent roles. You could even limit it to just one paragraph, with 4-5 lines.

How to write a resume – Remember to use action verbs at the start of your responsibilities and achievements

Start all your bullet points with action verbs, such as Managed, Delivered, Boosted, Revitalised, Revamped and so on. For your current role use the present tense (Manage) and for previous roles use past tense (Managed). Try to avoid the use of personal pronouns, like I, Me, My, and so on.

I hope you found this information on how to write a resume useful, especially when it comes to your job responsibilities and achievements.

8 Tips For Working Well With Recruitment Agencies

Firms that hire recruitment agencies do so because they don’t’ want to expend the time necessary to identify and screen viable candidates. For these firms the opportunity cost in terms of lost productivity when sourcing candidates more than outweighs the real costs associated in paying the fees of recruiters.

As a job seeker, there are real benefits to working with a recruitment agency, perhaps most importantly that can market your candidacy to potential employers and negotiate offers on your behalf.

Here are 8 tips to foster a successful relationship with recruitment agencies

1.      Set realistic expectations. First and foremost is to understand that recruiters are not working on behalf candidates but for the client companies who pay their fees.  Agency recruiters primarily work on a contingency basis meaning that they don’t ’get paid until they make a successful placement, typically evidenced by the new employee remaining on the job for 90 days. Recruiters typically a commission of between 15 to 30 percent of the candidate’s first year salary.

Because recruitment agencies must screen candidates carefully and time literally is money in the recruitment industry, it is not possible to respond to every candidate who applies but only to those who most closely match the needs of the vacancy. This is not only because professional recruiters are short on time and don’t want to bombard clients with candidate résumés, but also because they realize that their fee is tied into retention so want to ensure that the placement is a good match on each end.  Toward this end, you can expect that the recruiter will ask questions to determine you fit in terms of skills set, past experience, credit history, criminal background (if any) and work style preferences.

2.    Contacting Recruiters. If you are responding to a job ad posted by a recruiter, be sure to use his or her name in the salutation of your cover letter (if provided) or call the employment agency to determine who submitted the posting. Ensure that your cover letter speaks to that opportunity directly rather than sending a generic letter. In the letter, discuss how your background, skills and accomplishments can ensure your success in the role. If you are cold calling an agency, prepare a short script beforehand which includes your 30 second “elevator pitch” a statement of who you are, your current job title, and the type of job you seek. Get to the point quickly as recruiters are typically busy people who won’t be able to spend large amount of time on the phone.

3.   Partner with recruiters.  Viewing recruitment agencies as your partners in the job search process will go a long way toward ensuring a successful job search. Be open about any skeletons in your professional closet, such as termination from a prior job, poor credit and so on. Having any of these does not mean a recruiter will not work with you. On the contrary, the recruiter will often offer advice on how best to present such a background to potential employers. They will also know not to refer you to certain types of positions, where they are aware of the client being extra-sensitive.

Return phone calls and email from your recruiter promptly to show respect. This is especially important when you are engaged in job offer negotiations. There are instances in which a job offer has been rescinded because the candidate took too long to respond indicating lack of interest.

You should also provide feedback to the recruiter after each interview and indicate whether you continue to have interest in the job. In this way the recruiter can approach the employer on your behalf or refer you to other opportunities.

4.   Discuss your job priorities. Before actively engaging in a job search you should take an inventory of your priorities with regard to a new job. This can be salary, career advancement, schedule, location, benefits, etc.  Communicate these priorities honestly so that the recruiter will target only those opportunities that closely match your needs.

5.   Be flexible. Having set your priorities, try to also remain flexible as not every job will be a perfect match in all regards. For example, if the job offers room for advancement, tuition reimbursement, along with fully paid for health coverage but the salary is somewhat lower than your range, carefully consider whether the other features make up for this shortfall.  In itself, full healthcare coverage can easily add $400 or more to your pocket.

6.   Remain open to suggestions.  One of a recruiter’s pet peeves is to make suggestions based on what they know of their client company and job priorities only to have candidates try to argue the point and insist on doing things their way. Employment agencies have long experience counselling candidates with regard to resume preparation, interview techniques, what the company considers an ideal candidate, as well company culture. Be open to their suggestions as they will help strengthen your candidacy.

7.   Be proactive.  Recognize that recruiters are likely working on multiple job orders at any one time, each falling along a different point of the continuum. Due to this workload they may not be able to return your calls as quickly as you would like. However, there is nothing wrong with initiating a phone call or email to follow-up and indicate your continuing interest in one job, or availability to continue interviewing. Most recruiters value follow-up since it provides evidence of your interest. However, placement is the name of the game. If recruiters don’t have a job which matches your skills and interests, they will likely not spend much time speaking with you, preferring to concentrate on candidates who do match the criteria of their job orders.

8.   Work with multiple recruiters. Just as recruiters may be working with multiple candidates for any one job order, so should job seekers work with several recruitment agencies. This can help you gain greater exposure to the job market as not all recruiters have access to the same job orders. However, if you have applied to one company that a second recruiter also has the job order for, be honest about already having interviewed. If you fail to do this, you will leave a poor impression with both the recruiter and client company giving each the impression that you are trying to “back door” your way in.

Training Needs Analysis – a 5 Step Process

training needs assessment and analysis

Training Needs Analysis (frequently abbreviated to TNA) is an essential though often a daunting part of trainers and training managers’ jobs.

As a full training plan for an organisation or a department happens, at best, once a year, a Training Needs Analysis is an activity that is only infrequently required. This infrequency, combined with the amount of paperwork involved, makes a Training Needs Analysis more intimidating and overwhelming than it need be.

In this article a Training Needs Analysis is simplified into a 5 Step process..


Step 1: Set the TNA in Context.

The key to getting a TNA right is to set it within its proper context, whether the focus of the TNA is company-wide, a department or a new project team. The context of a Training Needs Analysis is the organisation’s business plan and this should be readily available, especially at the higher levels of the organisation.

The business plan will spell out the organisation’s goals and objectives. Ideally, each department, each section and each team will have specific objectives related to the overall organisational business plan. Whether this is the case or not, the training manager will need to assist the relevant line manager in clarifying the objectives of the business unit that is the subject of the Training Needs Analysis (be this a team or section or a whole department). If there are sub-units or teams within the business unit, the objectives of each should be clarified.


Step 2: Identify the Knowledge, Skills, Behaviours and Attitudes required.

In order to meet the objectives of the business unit, what knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes are required? The focus here is not on individual roles but on the business unit as a whole. If there are sub-units or teams within the business unit, this process needs to be completed for each. This is an important task, but it is primarily the responsibility of the relevant line manager and the training manager should only play a supporting role.


Step 3: Cascade Down from the Business Unit Level to Individual Roles.

Having identified the knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes required to meet the business unit’s objectives (and those of any sub-units), this should now be completed for each individual role. Again the starting point is the objectives of each role and this keeps the focus of the TNA on business objectives. Job descriptions for the various roles will be useful here.


Step 4: Assess the current levels of Knowledge, Skills, Behaviours and Attitudes.

The current level of knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes should be assessed for each individual. Where performance appraisal systems are in use and capture such information, this will greatly assist with this task. Where gaps are identified, a training need exists in that area for the individual concerned.


Step 5: Collate the Material.

The information gathered on gaps between required and existing levels of knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes for each individual should be collated at each sub-unit or team level. This will identify the training needs of the sub-units or teams. Collating the information of all sub-units or teams will then identify the training needs of the overall business unit in question and the Training Needs Analysis is complete.

The information gathered at each step of the process should be retained as it will be useful for subsequent Training Needs Analyses. In particular, while the information on the knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes required for the business unit and each of its sub-units and individual roles is time consuming to uncover, it is invaluable not only for future TNA’s, but for many other organisational purposes too such as recruitment and performance appraisal.

Once the Training Needs Analysis has been completed, solutions to the identified training needs should be developed in consultation with the relevant line managers and individuals. As the Training Needs Analysis was focused on business objectives throughout the process, the training solutions too will be focused on better meeting business objectives.

This makes obtaining the necessary resources easier to obtain as the ROI (Return on Investment) can be more straightforwardly stated. Additionally, evaluation of training provision will be also be straightforward as the training will have clearly stated objectives.

The Most Practical Guide to Job Search Networking

Job search networking is one of the best ways to look for a job and also one which is often overlooked.

During their job search people typically contact a few recruiters and also search for openings on job sites. There is nothing wrong with this and recruiters/job sites should be part of your efforts to find jobs. However, you should also look beyond these job search methods and try to get in touch with people in your target companies directly.

This is done by using your existing network/contacts and also by adding new people to your network. There are a number of things you can gain through such job search networking, including:

  • Making others aware of your job search and what you are looking for.
  • Getting valuable information about the industries and companies you are interested in.
  • Finding out about jobs which might not have been advertised yet and/or jobs for which companies have not been able to find suitable candidates for a while, through jobs sites and recruiters.

So let’s go through a few questions to help explain the concept/process of job search networking in more detail….

What happens when a company needs to hire someone for a particular job opening?

For an employer, using recruiters and/or job boards to find suitable candidates is not always the ideal option. They need to pay a fee to use these mediums, might need to go through a ton of resumes/candidates and there is more uncertainty about the quality of candidates.

So the logical thing for the employer/hiring manager to do is to first (or simultaneously) look inside the company for suitable people to fill the post. They will also ask their trusted network of co-workers, relatives, friends and other contacts for referrals (of suitable people they know and/or have worked with previously). In this way, they can avoid paying recruiters/job sites, deal with fewer candidates and might also have more confidence in the quality of people referred by their trusted network.

What can you do to take advantage of this, during your search for job opportunities?

You need be in touch with and get yourself on the radar screen of enough people, in an effort to either directly meet a hiring manager looking to fill a job, or alternatively be referred to such a hiring manager.

How do you go about meeting people and expanding your network? (This is where job search networking helps).

1) Start by using your existing contacts/network. This includes family, friends, professional contacts, fellow alumni and so on. Make a list of all such people, along with their contact details. Include all your contacts and not just those people who have relevant experience, or hold powerful positions. Remember, it’s less about ‘who you know’ and more about ‘who they know’ (for example, an aunt who has never been in the corporate world, might go for an evening walk with the wife of a senior professional in your target company). Such lists typically include anywhere from 50 to 250 people.

Once you have a decent number in the list, start getting in touch with people on the list. Inform them of your plans to find jobs, ask for advice/information, ask for referrals and also for any job leads.

2) Then find and contact people who you don’t already know. The best way to do this quickly is through online networking and the best tool for online networking is LinkedIn. You can use LinkedIn to find people in your target industry/companies and request them to spare 15-20 minutes (via phone or in-person), to provide you with some advice, job leads and referrals. (I will be writing another article shortly, with details on how exactly to use/navigate LinkedIn).

You can also use events, such as seminars, conferences, industry association meetings, etc. to meet, greet and network with relevant people.

Will people you contact during your job search networking, actually respond to your requests?

Many will not. However, most of my clients are pleasantly surprised by the large number of people who do. You will get many positive responses because:

  • People like to feel important/respected and give advice to others
  • Many people genuinely want to help others
  • People might relate to your situation, since they have been through a job search themselves
  • Other people want to expand their own network and learn new things as well and think you might be a good contact for such purposes
  • The person might be looking for someone with your background for a job they need to fill

What should you say when you contact people, to get help for finding jobs?

It is usually easier to contact people who you know well and you will know the best way to approach each person. Therefore I will not focus on contacting such people and will provide tips for contacting people who you don’t know well or don’t know at all.

> Approach 1: Request for information/advice and not for a job

This technique often has good response rates, since it puts people at ease and makes them more open to read/respond to your request, when you are not asking for a job. Here is an example of a script/message:

Opening/Introduction

Dear ________,

I came across your profile on LinkedIn and was hoping I could ask you for some career related advice. (- OR – I received your contact information from XYZ, who suggested that you would be an excellent source for some career related advice – OR – It was great to meet with you/hear you speak at XYZ event and as discussed, I am getting in touch to seek some career related advice)

Your Background

To give you a brief overview of my background, I am a senior Finance Professional, with experience primarily in the Telecom industry. On the education front, I graduated with a Masters in Finance from NUS.

More Information on Help You Want

I am thinking of continuing my career in the Consumer Goods industry and needed guidance on a few areas/questions, such as:

  • Advice on the companies I have shortlisted and on other companies that I could consider
  • Practicality of the career move I am considering and what I can do to increase the success of my job search
  • Whether my thoughts and expectations about the industry are in fact true

Closing

Given your expertise in the industry, I would greatly appreciate if you could spend 15-20 minutes providing your thoughts/guidance, which will really help me plan my career and job search. I look forward to hearing from you and also to the opportunity to meet/speak with you.

> Approach 2: Request for information/advice AND for job leads

Sometimes it is not feasible (or plausible) to only ask for information and you might need to take a more direct approach. Here is an example of a script/message:

Opening/Introduction

Dear ________,

I came across your profile on LinkedIn and was hoping you could help me with a career related matter. (- OR – I received your contact information from XYZ, who suggested that you might be able to help me with a career related matter – OR – It was great to meet with you/hear you speak at XYZ event and as discussed, I am getting in touch to check if you might be able to help me with a career related matter)

Your Background

To give you a brief overview of my background, I am a senior Finance Professional, with experience primarily in the Telecom industry. On the education front, I graduated with a Masters in Finance from NUS.

More Information on Help You Want

I am on the lookout for suitable roles in the Consumer Goods industry and would appreciate your help/guidance on a few areas, such as:

  • Any relevant job leads/openings that you might know of in the industry
  • Contacts for people/departments in your company, where my background could add value
  • Advice on other companies that I could consider
  • What I can do to increase the success of my job search

Closing

Given your expertise in the industry, I would greatly appreciate if you could spend 15-20 minutes providing your thoughts/guidance, which will really help me plan/advance my job search. I look forward to hearing from you and also to the opportunity to meet/speak with you.

What are the possible outcomes from the discussion?

Seems like a bit of a long-winded approach to find jobs. Is it really worth it?

Trust me. It works and I see the results regularly with my clients, one of whom provided this feedback recently –

I just did as you told me to and now a person from Credit Suisse asked for my resume, another lady from Apple asked me if I would be interested in a job and a person from Walton International emailed me asking if I would like to interview for a particular role.

Either way, I’m not asking you to abandon all other ways to look for a job and use only job search. Try job search networking in addition to recruiters and job boards. You have nothing to lose.

How to resign from a job, professionally and gracefully

When leaving an employer it is best to make a graceful exit, no matter how much you dislike your supervisor, peers or the company. Doing so is best for your reputation in the long term and you never know who you might cross paths with in the future.

Here are a few tips on how to resign properly:

  • Before you submit a formal resignation letter, have a talk with your supervisor(s). Explain your reasons for leaving the job and re-assure them, that you will make the transition as smooth as possible. Also agree on how much notice you should provide. In most cases, the proper response from your supervisor should be to wish you luck and to offer you any help you might need. They might even provide some useful company/department specific information on how to resign.
  • In some instances, your supervisor or others in your company might react badly to your resignation. They might behave rudely and display other behaviour which is not appropriate. Sometimes they might try to make you feel guilty about leaving. Remember, that you are not doing anything wrong by leaving the company and there is no reason to feel guilty. Also keep in mind that such a reaction is not good practice. Try to maintain your composure and be graceful in your exit, even if your employer in Singapore is not.
  • Check your employment contract and company policy, to have a clear idea of what formalities need to be taken care of. You should be clear on your expected entitlements – such as expense claims, unused vacation/sick leave and other benefits you should receive. For many of these you will typically receive monetary compensation on a pro-rata basis.
  • Get in touch with HR and provide them a formal resignation letter. Make sure to mention you last day of work and to request them to confirm all formalities you need to go through and to also confirm your entitlements/dues.
  • Try to spend your last days in the company as though you were not leaving. In other words, keep your work standard at the same level and complete all outstanding assignments (as far as possible)
  • Avoid burning any bridges and maintain good relations with people at work. Get the contact details for people who you want to stay in touch with and maintain as part of your network.
  • Your employer might say that they do not want to lose you and are willing to provide sweeteners (such as better salary or change of role/job scope). In this case, it is recommended to only take the offer if you think it is very lucrative/attractive. Studies/research has shown that people who do so, typically leave within a year (or might be asked to leave as well). This is because, although you might stay back, you have made it clear to your employer that you are not committed to the organisation.

I hope you found these pointers on how to resign useful. All the best in your new role!