The LinkUp Blog The Industry's Best-Kept Secret
As the leaves begin to turn up here in Minnesota and thoughts turn to once again to skating on frozen lakes and ponds, it also marks the time of year where one can hop on the roller coaster thrill-ride that is the Minnesota Vikings. With a seemingly endless supply of ups and downs and twists and turns, the Vikings never cease to turn stomachs, and this year is certainly no different. Just 4 games into the season, there have already been enough story lines with this year’s team to keep ESPN busy for weeks, from outdoor football in Minnesota to AP and Teddy to Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner. As has always been the case with the Vikings, there is just enough promise to remain hopeful, excited even, and yet there are also plenty of reasons to be very concerned and keep one’s emotions in check.
The exact same thing could be said about the U.S. labor market. While there are a number of very positive indicators that potentially point to continued job gains, an equal number of flashing yellow lights have appeared on the horizon, forcing one to acknowledge that the road ahead likely entails some unexpected nausea.
In September, new job openings in LinkUp’s job search engine (which only includes jobs found on corporate websites) remained flat from August. New job openings on corporate websites throughout the country rose by roughly 60,000 in September to 1.98 million, a gain of 3% from August.
The data in terms of job openings by category presents the exact same picture, with new job openings remaining flat from August and total jobs climbing just 3% from the prior month.
Looking at the year in total, new and total job openings in our search engine, particularly new job openings, have been steadily declining since a pretty decent showing in the first half of the year. Although we had a nice string of positive months over the summer, the pace of job openings growth has steadily declined, and average new job openings turned negative in September for the first time since May.
As a result of the steady gains in job openings we saw between June and August, we forecasted a very strong jobs number last month. We also indicated at the time that job gains would remain solid through the fall and into Q4 based on the leading indicator for labor demand (in the form of 2.4 million job openings sourced from the 50,000 or so corporate employers in LinkUp’s job search engine). But alas, like the Vikings upset win over the Patriots a few weeks ago that was not meant to be, we were devastated by a dismal jobs report last month. And while there are plenty of reasons to expect a significant upward revision to August’s numbers on Friday and despite our forecast for a solid number for September, our rosy outlook for the U.S. labor market in Q4 is far more tempered than it was just 30 days ago.
For Friday’s jobs report, we expect the BLS to report a net gain of 265,000 jobs in September, a very solid number to be sure. But unfortunately after that, the downward trend we’ve seen in LinkUp’s job openings over the past few months (and actually the entire year) will begin to weigh heavily on the labor market. As a result, we have some serious concerns about the kinds of jobs numbers we might see in Q4.
What we really could use at the moment is for the reappearance of AP (#28) and QE (#4).
Each month on the Wednesday before the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Employment Situation Report, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the current state of the U.S. labor market along with a forecast of the monthly jobs numbers. Our insights and forecasts are based on our highly unique job search engine that only indexes jobs from company websites. With a current index of 2.3 million job openings sourced directly from 50,000 companies throughout the U.S., LinkUp is able to deliver both a macro and a micro perspective on U.S. labor demand.
Our next webinar, which will cover our data for September as well as our forecast for this Friday’s BLS release, is scheduled for 4PM CST tomorrow. If you are interested in attending the webinar, please register here.
Employees today put a premium on good work-life balance, and as noted in our last blog, they rate it ahead of money, recognition and autonomy when defining career success. But many job-seekers avoid asking questions about work-life balance during the interview process for fear that they might seem lazy or selfish. As a job seeker, how can you learn which employers embrace a culture that balances work-life demands and which ones only claim to?
A little detective work and strategic research can go a long way in telling you which companies practice what they preach. Keep an eye out for these five red flags that indicate a company does not value work-life balance.
1. Bad reputation
The Internet is full of information and it’s not difficult to learn what current and past employees think of an employer. There are numerous sites that let employees rate their experiences at different companies, and it’s easy to research workplace conversations by searching hashtags on Twitter. Dig around and see what people are saying. Additionally, go through your network and see who has worked for or had experience with the company and give them a call or write an email; most people are happy to give their honest assessment.
2. No work-life info on the company website
Go through the company website and look at the hiring and career pages. You’ll want to find information on work-life balance policies. Companies that have this type of culture will typically share it in hopes of luring top talent. If there is no information about work-life benefits, it might be a red flag that few or none exist.
3. Unhappy atmosphere
When you communicate with the hiring managers, are they friendly and open or do they seem exhausted and unengaged? When you go in for an interview, do people seem to have a positive attitude, or are they just grumpy? How employees interact with you and one another may indicate whether they are happy or potentially overworked and unsatisfied.
4. Key cultural indicators
You must look at the big picture for clearer evidence of work-life balance. For example, does the company regularly have social events later in the evening? Happy hours at 9 p.m. are not compatible with the social lives of many people. Family picnics and bring-your-kid-to-work days are indicative of a culture that values life outside of work. Another hint: How many women are in leadership roles? The presence of female executives might indicate that a company values family and flexibility while promoting hard work.
5. Short answers to work-life balance questions
Of course you don’t want to lead by asking questions that only seem to benefit you, but there’s no reason you can’t ask some basic tactful questions about a company’s culture and work-life balance initiatives, especially on second and third interviews. If the interviewer provides only short answers or avoids these types of questions, it’s a big red flag that these policies don’t exist.
Not sure how to bring up work-life balance during an interview? Here are some tactful ways to ask and gain insight:
- Can you describe a typical work week for this position?
- What are the hours and can I expect to work on the weekends?
- Will the people I work with have the same schedule, or do some have flexible work hours?
- What is the corporate culture like?
- What sort of social activities do employees participate in together?
- Does anyone at the company telecommute?
- (And, if you are so bold…) Does the company have any work-life balance policies or benefits?
Juggling personal and professional obligations is no easy feat. But, it turns out workers do believe they can have it all – a successful career and a fulfilling personal life – and they are selecting jobs based on this expectation.
In fact, more than two-thirds of the employees believe having it all is achievable, according to an Accenture survey. The findings revealed that having both a successful career and a full life outside work is so important to employees today that many choose a job based on it.
This point is absolutely essential for employers to understand. To attract and retain top talent, you must demonstrate how you provide an environment and culture that embraces the modern expectation for work-life balance.
If you choose to bypass these types of initiatives because you either think it’s not important to the bottom line or it’s simply a fad that will pass with time, you might miss out on some key employees that could be essential to your success. After all, the same survey found that 52 percent of people have turned down a job due to concerns about its impact on their work-life balance. Additionally, work-life balance topped respondents’ definitions of career success – ahead of money, recognition and autonomy.
While providing a work-life balance isn’t required by law, those eye-opening numbers can’t be ignored– so what can you do? As an employer, you should take a look at the current state of work-life balance for employees. Are they satisfied? Is there room for improvement? What are your competitors offering?
Making room for better work-life balance at your company doesn’t necessarily require a complete overhaul. Consider these areas and ideas for improvement to help you attract and retain quality employees:
Flexible schedules: Offer flexible scheduling options as much as your business objectives allow. That might mean shifting a start or stop time by a half hour so they can avoid traffic, or offering flexible Fridays so employees can attend school events for their children. Job-sharing is another innovative offering; this allows two people to work part-time while fulfilling a full-time role.
Telecommuting: Some jobs, by nature, just do not allow for telecommuting. For those that do, working from home is a great way to attract top talent, including those employees who don’t necessarily live nearby. Plus, telecommuting can be a great way for a company to save money on hardware, electricity and desk space.
PTO: Provide adequate paid time off so employees can take vacations, enjoy time with their family and take necessary sick days without worrying about finances. Consider increasing PTO as an employee’s tenure with the company grows. Furthermore, limit the amount of PTO carryover from year to year – after all, you want to encourage employees to use time off rather than stockpile it.
Offer unpaid leave: There will be times when extraordinary events happen to employees due to circumstances out of their control. For example, a premature baby, a sick elderly parent, or a spouse who was in a bad car accident. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers of a certain size to provide 12 weeks of unpaid time off, but sometimes that’s not enough. Depending on the situation, employers might want to consider offering a leave of absence beyond what is outlined by the FMLA.
Practice what you preach: Managers must demonstrate good work-life balance practices so employees will follow. If you respond to emails while you’re supposed to be gone on a week-long vacation, employees will get the impression that they should do the same.
Having good work-life balance does not mean employees are working less. Each should be productive and dedicated when on the clock. It’s even okay to expect them to work overtime when necessary, such as at a tradeshow or on weekends during the busy season. But this expectation should be minimal or you’ll burn employees out, and before you know it, you’ll be recruiting new employees to burn out.
As a job hunter do you have a good sense of who these people are and what role they play? Understanding the responsibilities and motivations of each can set you up for success in your search.
“Seek to understand the role of each player, treat them with respect and follow their process, and they will be much more likely to become an ally in your job search,” says Dele Lowman Smith, a corporate coach and principal consultant for iLuminous Consulting.
Important roles to understand from the employer side include:
1. The sourcer: This is the person who gets down and dirty, filtering all the candidates and providing a regular pipeline of talent for the recruiter to review. If you do have interactions with a sourcer, it is likely prior to more formal discussions with a recruiter.
2. Recruiter: This person is retained by the employer to find talent, usually for high-level or difficult-to-fill positions, says Smith. “They are motivated to find the right fit for the employer since their compensation often depends on the success of the candidate.” It is key to remember that though they are your main point of contact with an employer, they work for the business, not you.
3. HR manager: The lead HR contact oversees the hiring process and often takes a more strategic view, ensuring a candidate is a good match for the role, but also the team and company as a whole. They offer insight on salary and in some cases will manage negotiations. They also make sure all employment laws are strictly followed. Depending on the company or role, you may or may not have conversations with the HR manager during the interview process, but they will likely support you from an HR perspective if you are hired.
4. Interviewer: Candidates typically interview with several people. An interviewer’s role is to assess whether the candidate is a good match for the position. It is often a leader in the group where a candidate would be working, a peer or a partner.
5. Hiring manager: The hiring manager is the person who makes the final decision about making a job offer, says Hank Boyer, principal adviser at Boyer Management Group. “This is the manager who will be overseeing the new hire. Most hiring managers are not experts in the interviewing and hiring process, but are strong operational people who manage their area of the organization.” The hiring manager is likely the most important person to impress in the interview process.
In addition to learning roles of note on the employer side, it’s also critical to know what roles exist within your own network that will best serve your needs. As the job seeker, understand and use these contacts to your advantage.
“All the people in your global professional network can directly or indirectly help you in your search,” says Boyer. “To be effective, the network must have been built and nourished well before it is needed to assist in a job search. Give first, get later (maybe).”
1. Reference: Someone an employer can contact to get insight about a candidate’s character and professional aptitude. Former colleagues, managers or business contacts are often references. You choose the references you provide an employer, so choose wisely.
2. Recommender: With the popularity of LinkedIn, it’s important to have professional endorsements. These contacts offer their positive opinion about the candidate’s skill set within an industry. This person might also be a reference and a referrer.
3. Insider: “People inside a target company who would be willing to meet with you (think informational meeting) and help you to gain an insider’s perspective of the employer, the culture, the people and perhaps even offer your resume to the HR department if the employer has an employee referral program,” says Boyer.
4. Career coach: Works with a job seeker to understand motivations, strengths, weaknesses and create a plan to achieve their career goals. Optional and works for a fee.
5. Support: A strong support system includes friends or family willing to assist with reviewing resume content, conducting mock interviews and providing words of encouragement.
Every job search is different, but understanding the key roles you are likely to encounter will help ensure successful interactions and a great first impression. What other roles have you come across in your job search?
A few concise words that describe what a person does – a job title is seemingly straight forward, right? Wrong. Between keyword stuffing and wordsmiths blending terms to make positions sound as attractive as possible, there are a lot of cluttered phrases being used to create fanciful-sounding job listings. These job titles can have so many different meanings that sometimes they end up having no value at all, which is a disservice to the job hunter and the company seeking new talent.
Here are our top 5 job titles and phrases that are so generic and open to interpretation, they get completely lost in translation:
What is a consultant? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary: a person who gives professional advice or services to companies for a fee. It’s not a building maintenance consultant (AKA janitor), an administration consultant (AKA administrative assistant), or a grammar consultant (AKA copywriter). All jobs carry a level of importance, but let’s keep consultancy aligned with the actual consultants.
If you look at any job, there’s an aspect of it that is analytical, which is likely why analyst is one of the most abused job title terms out there today. Professional analysts apply their expertise to study and make recommendations about complex problems. While receptionists, chefs or data-entry personnel may analyze throughout their day in some manner, doing so doesn’t make them an analyst. Lesson: skip the vague job titles and use analyst only when applicable.
Another job title term frequently overused is engineer. There are many different types of engineers – mechanical, civil, computer, etc. This should always be defined in the job title. Furthermore, education, experience and licensure are a big part of what makes an engineer a professional with highly valued and specialized skills. Sometimes employers use the term in conjunction with other words to make the position sound more impressive, like “customer engineer” when the position is really just customer support.
One of the most common words you’ll find in a job title is Manager, but what is the position really managing? Is it managing other people or work and process? Each could require vastly different experience and skill. For jobs managing people, what is the span of control for the position. If managing only two other people, using Manager in the title may be misleading to someone who is used to managing upwards of 20 people. On the other hand if it is managing work or process, reflect upon if candidates would be likely to use the term “manager” in their job search.
Similarly to manager, director is overused in job titles and can have a plethora of meanings. It can represent a high-level manager who directs a segment of a company. It can also be paired with other job titles to inflate the importance of the job (or the size of the company). There really shouldn’t be a director of fun or director of creativity in any type of organization. Furthermore, a three-person company shouldn’t need a managing director.
Best practices for job titles include concise and accurate words that reflect the actual responsibilities the position entails. Also important, is ensuring the title is logical so job seekers will find it in a search. If candidates aren’t finding your openings, you’re not going to fill them. Consider searching your competitor job titles on LinkUp.com to gage what is common for your industry. Bottom line: catch their attention with the title and secure their interest with the job description.
Many people don’t realize that there is more than one way to apply for a job. Depending on the position, a resume isn’t always the most suitable option. Choosing incorrectly may negatively impact your chances of getting an interview and ultimately getting hired.
So what are your choices? Everyone is familiar with the resume – that one page document that highlights your skills and employment history. A resume is used the majority of times when applying for a job in the United States.
Another option is the curriculum vitæ – which means “Course of Life” in Latin. Most commonly called a CV, this is typically used to apply for academic and research positions. Hiring managers for these high-level positions will be looking for CVs from applicants, so be sure to send one when appropriate.
A CV differs greatly from a resume. While brevity is key when developing a stellar resume, a CV is much longer and more detailed. It will chronologically summarize all your educational, academic and employment history. A CV will also detail published work, key presentations, awards, honors and affiliations.
Resume key components:
- Brief and concise.
- One page, two maximum.
- Can and should be customized for each job application.
- Does not have to be chronological.
- Does not need to cover your entire career.
- Is typically submitted with a customizable cover letter.
Curriculum vitæ key components:
- Long and detailed.
- Two pages minimum, five maximum.
- Lists all career history including teaching and research experience.
- Is always chronological.
- Is static – the same CV is used for different applications.
- Any customization takes place in the cover letter.
In the United States and Canada, academic and researching hiring managers may expect a CV, but in many countries around the world, a CV is the primary way to apply for any type of job. For example, in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, resumes are not used and a CV is expected. If you’re unsure which is appropriate, feel free to ask. It’s best to be proactive rather than apply incorrectly. Sometimes there may even be directions listed on the application section of the organization’s website.
If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your resume or if you’ve never written a CV before and aren’t sure where to start, there are a variety of resources available to help. For resume best practices, check out this Forbes article and remember that many college career centers offer free resume reviews to graduates. To start developing a standout CV, visit www.CVtips.com and check out this BBC article. You can also search for samples of CV formats for different countries to get ideas if applying internationally.
Our August jobs report is scheduled for 10AM CST on Wednesday, September 3rd. We normally host our monthly jobs webinars at 4PM CST on the Wednesday before the jobs report is issued on the first Friday of the month, but we had to change the time for the September 3rd webinar.
In terms of this month’s webinar, with the increasingly intense spotlight on the U.S. labor market and the implications for the Fed’s policy and guidance around interest rates and the timing and pace of tightening, the jobs report has never been so critical. With our index of 2.3 million job openings in the U.S., we have consistently maintained a unique perspective on what is going on in the labor market and have been able to leverage our index for the past 5 years or so to accurately forecast job growth in future periods. During our webinar each month, we walk through the job openings data from our job search engine, provide analysis around the data, and issue a forecast for the next jobs report as well as a preliminary 30-day forecast for the coming month.
If you would like to register for the webinar, please do so here.
One of the more fascinating examples of the emergence of powerful alternative data sources was highlighted by Jawbone following the earthquake in Napa this past weekend. The chart below (which can be seen here with a complete write-up) shows the percentage of Jawbone UP wearers in northern California who were woken up by the earthquake. Amazing.