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Job interviews are all about selling yourself. Highlighting the skills and experience you’ve gained in your career that make you a great fit for your desired job. But what about the skills and experience you have gained outside the office, specifically from raising children? Are those fair game in an interview, or could simply mentioning your parental status backfire?
It’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against a candidate simply because he or she has children, (or is pregnant) but technically there’s no law that says the interviewer can’t ask the question.
Because human beings conduct interviews, it’s inevitable that some will come to the table with preconceived ideas about how being a parent can affect someone’s job performance. Interviewers may make assumptions about parents; such as they’ll need more time off to care for sick kids, attend parent-teacher conferences or school events. They may also assume a parent will have less time and energy to dedicate to their career, and less flexibility to work outside the typical 9-to-5 work day. Stay-at-home moms and dads returning to the workforce may also be unfairly tagged as having rusty skills or less knowledge of industry trends.
Worries over those perceptions often may make parents decide to keep mum about having kids – and that’s unfortunate. Yes, parenting requires a significant time commitment, but it’s also an incredible skill-building experience. One of the toughest jobs in the world – raising an actual human being – can help a person develop a wealth of skills that translate well to their professional lives.
To keep kids alive and thriving requires the organizational skills of a super computer, the negotiating prowess of a diplomat, and the stamina of a decathlete! It teaches you empathy, how to multitask, be flexible, prioritize and manage sometimes difficult personalities (aka toddlers and teenagers). Plus, parents have a vested interest in keeping their employers happy; they have mouths to feed and mortgages to pay – a lot is riding on their work. What employer wouldn’t want a candidate with those qualities?
Ultimately, you are the only person who can decide if playing the “parent card” will benefit or work against you. However, here at LinkUp we believe there are three times when it is advantageous to mention you are a parent in an interview:
1. If you’re a stay-at-home parent headed back to work.
The time you spent at home with your little ones was a wonderful bonding experience, but it also left an employment gap on your resume that might raise questions for a potential employer. Here sharing you have children is a no brainer. It explains the employment gap, and allows you to speak to your excitement for re-joining workforce.
2. Your parenting experience is more relevant than your professional experience.
Interviewers can ask some tough questions, and sometimes your experience as a parent will be a better answer to a question than your work experience. Leverage those previously mentioned parenting skills when they provide a stronger interview response than actual work experience, or when you lack relevant work experience.Remember, however, to do so sparingly. While parenting skills can absolutely be applicable to office jobs, employers will likely place greater weight on formal office experience.
3. When you want to work for a family-friendly company.
If disclosing that you are a parent is going to dissuade an employer from hiring you, do you really want to work for them anyway? A growing number of companies put a great deal of emphasis on work-life balance, and supporting parents is a key plank in their platforms. In fact, these companies may view candidates with children as more rounded individuals who will fit well with the organization’s culture. I would go so far as to seek out these employers, because your kids aren’t going away any time soon – at least until college – and working for a company that doesn’t respect your parental responsibilities may create more stress than it’s worth.
What’s your take? Have you mentioned your kids in an interview situation, and if so, what was the outcome? I know I feel strongly that I want to work for a business supportive to parents, and wouldn’t hesitate to disclose. I love working, but I love being a mom even more. I’m forever thankful for the skills my two little ladies have taught me that i could never learn behind a desk.
Summer’s almost here and vacation planning is in full swing. That means managers everywhere are busy balancing vacation requests against company staffing needs. Not an easy task. Could this delicate balancing act be solved with an overhaul of the corporate vacation policy? Some high-profile companies have done just that by throwing vacation time out the window and offering unlimited time off.
Unlimited vacation time is a trendy benefit, and a majority of American workers seem to be solidly in favor of it. In an Ask.com survey, 69 percent of the workers polled said they would be eager to take a job that offered unlimited vacation time.
Companies that favor the practice say it helps them attract and retain top employees. The idea is that employees blessed with such an awesome benefit will be inspired to perform at a higher level, will manage their time accordingly and not abuse their employer’s trust. They’ll be more likely to work during off hours, and work harder overall. That’s the theory, although I’m not sure it’s based on an entirely realistic view of human nature or the workplace environment.
Further, evidence suggests that unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) isn’t going to work for every company.
“Unlimited vacation policies aren’t right for companies with large non-exempt populations,” says Liz D’Aloia, founder of HR Virtuoso Company. “When you consider that 59 percent of working Americans are paid an hourly wage, that tells us that this probably won’t be a viable solution for the majority of the workforce.”
D’Aloia also points out that certain businesses, like retail, restaurants, hospitality, health care and call centers, need to have a certain number of people in house at any given time. “It’s also often hard to measure individual worker productivity in these industries,” she says. Many unlimited vacation policies stipulate that a worker’s productivity should not be impacted by PTO, but as D’Aloia observes, for certain types of jobs, effectively measuring productivity may be a challenge.
Another factor to consider is the 31 percent of people from the Ask.com survey who weren’t that impressed by unlimited vacation policies. They may represent a group of employees who will not welcome such a policy. In fact, when newspaper conglomerate Tribune Publishing attempted to introduce such a policy, backlash from unhappy employees convinced the company to abandon the plan. Employees felt the proposal effectively removed the monetary value of vacation time they accrued; essentially, they would no longer be able to bank vacation days and receive a cash payout when they left the company.
D’Aloia reads a bit more into the employees’ response: “The staff rebelled. Clearly, the Tribune employees didn’t trust the management team to truly allow ‘unlimited’ vacation.”
In order for unlimited vacation to work at your company, a specific set of circumstances must be in place, D’Aloia says:
- Your business is seasonal and has an exempt workforce, such as an accounting, tech or sales firm
- You can easily measure productivity
- A high level of trust exists between company and employees
- You have the right culture for unlimited vacation to work
“In April 2014, Harris did a survey for Glassdoor, which revealed that a only a quarter of American employees with paid vacation took all their allotted time off,” she notes. “Two in five said they only took 25 percent or less of their available time off. Do we really need unlimited vacation if Americans aren’t taking all of their available time off? Or is there another reason why Americans are stashing their vacation time?”
In the end, even having the right type of business – fully exempt workforce, easily measurable productivity, etc. – might not be enough to make an unlimited vacation policy workable for your company. A policy that tips too far in favor of either company or employees is sure to leave someone dissatisfied. And unless you can be 100 percent confident your employees will not abuse the policy, and employees completely trust that your company won’t use the policy to cheat them out of anything they feel they’re due, it may be impossible to create an unlimited vacation policy that everyone views as fair and balanced.
Last week we spoke to employers about finding the right intern. This week we are focusing on college students. Internships aren’t always what they appear, but there are some steps you can take to find the right internship and get the most out it!
From excessive filing and hourly coffee runs, to getting stuck on projects you didn’t sign up for, more than a few of us can recollect a less-than-stellar internship experience.
As a good intern, you’re doing the job because you want to learn and gain valuable experience. While you shouldn’t expect to work on the most in-demand projects, you also shouldn’t be asked to run to the dry-cleaners multiple times each day.
To avoid the internship from hell and ensure you add to your skill set during your internship (and not just a line item to your resume), consider this proactive approach:
1. Responsibilities: First, address the required responsibilities and any concerns you have during the interview process. Convey what you hope to get out of the internship. Ask about the organization’s plan for the intern’s duties and how your work will be evaluated. The hiring manager should be able to tell you, in general, what a typical day will be like if you’re hired.
2. Set Goals: Next, if you’re offered the job and you still aren’t confident everyone is on the same page, make a list of the goals you most want to meet and accomplish during the internship, email it to your supervisor and ask for confirmation. This kind of written communication can provide peace of mind.
3. Manage Expectations: Remember to keep your expectations in perspective. You are there to learn, but also to make employees’ lives easier. You may make copies, arrange meetings and do other menial tasks. The goal is that responsibilities like these are balanced with other more valuable activities that provide you with hands-on experience.
4. Be Professional: To gain trust early on so more people involve you in projects, always arrive on time, do every task with enthusiasm and prove that you are trustworthy; opportunities should follow. Even if they don’t, you will know you have done your best to make a lasting impression and gain some valuable references.
5. Be Proactive: When you get the assignments you want, don’t be afraid to speak up, says Erin Slayton, LinkUp’s 2014 marketing intern.
“Asking questions is one of the most important things you can do to get the most out of your internship,” she says. “Seeking clarification or feedback on assignments shows that you care about the quality of your work. Asking others how you can help shows you are a team player and that you are self-driven, and finding ways to help others can make you strong connections and improve your skill set.”
Erin did just that during her tenure at LinkUp and did a phenomenal job! (Bonus: check out Erin’s post on questions job seekers should ask in their interviews to stand out)
6. Be Curious: Additionally, take it upon yourself to learn from your co-workers. Ask about their careers, how they got where they are today, what they like and dislike about the industry. Is there anything they would do differently if they could go back in time? This information can be invaluable, so take their advice to heart.
7. Network: Finally, even if your internship is lackluster, the opportunity to network is incredible. Spend time meeting people inside and outside your department throughout your internship. Be sure to connect on LinkedIn and stay in touch. Ask co-workers to coffee and lunch. Always be a grateful learner.
Interviews for summer internships are in full swing and employers across the country are trying to find the right college student to fit the bill. How can you make sure you find the ambitious youngster rearing to go rather than one who is more self-entitled than self-driven?
I believe you should start by defining what you want from an intern. A whopping 97 percent of employers planned to hire an intern or co-op student in 2014, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, and it’s likely that similar numbers will look to do the same in 2015. If you don’t proactively define expectations and develop a program, the experience will likely lead to failure.
Before announcing you’re taking applications, know where the intern will work and who he or she will report to. Just like any new employee, someone will need to train this person and it may take a little extra time. Define what the day-to-day will be like, and be frank about it during the interview process.
When it comes time to interview, there are a few red flags to watch out for to ensure you get an intern who is a good fit:
- Lack of enthusiasm – Quality interns will make up for their lack of experience with enthusiasm for learning at your organization. If someone is ill-prepared and disengaged during the interview, expect the same if he or she works for you.
- Arriving late – There are a lot of things you wouldn’t expect an intern to know simply based on his or her lack of life experience. Tardiness, however, isn’t one of them. Being on time is necessary and refusing to do so is a sign of disrespect.
- Too focused on salary – I believe all internships should be paid simply because if you expect someone to work hard for you, even an intern, that person should be compensated. If an interviewee focuses too much on compensation, however, his or her heart is likely in the wrong place.
- Negativity – If the intern-to-be speaks poorly of past employers or professors, it’s a sign that the problem might be the person rather than the situation. Plus, no one wants an intern who is downer; a pleasant personality is a must.
One thing you may want to be a bit lenient on is if an intern appears nervous during an interview. For a typical job candidate, nervousness is a red flag. For an intern, a certain level of nervousness can be expected since this might be the first time this person has interviewed in a professional setting. Use your best judgement.
Bottom line: Advertise an internship and you’ll likely get hundreds of applicants. Today’s savvy college students know that a degree on a resume doesn’t count for much without some experience to back it up. Having a solid program and keeping an eye out for red flags during the interview will ensure that you and your intern get the most out of the experience. And who knows, maybe you’ll just happen to discover your next permanent hire.
Just because your interview is over doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to continue making a good impression. Skipping some simple yet highly strategic steps can actually decrease your chances of ultimately getting an offer. Here are the top seven post-interview mistakes people commonly make:
1. Skipping the thank-you note
Some candidates skip sending a thank-you note because they assume it’s a given that they appreciate the interviewer’s time. Big mistake. A thank-you emphasizes your gratitude and is another opportunity to get your name in front of the decision maker. Email is generally acceptable but if you know the interviewer is a bit old-fashioned, a handwritten note is a nice gesture.
2. Delaying sending the thank-you
Second only to not sending one at all, sending a thank-you too late can backfire. Job hunting is hectic and seemingly small details like a thank-you note can be easy to procrastinate. Make it a priority so you give the impression that your potential future employer is a priority; you should email within 24 hours of the interview. (Pro tip – block 30 minutes on your calendar immediately following the interview for thank you notes)
3. Writing generic copy
A generic thank-you will only make you appear lazy. Send thank-yous to anyone who interviewed you and add short yet compelling copy. Be genuine and reference things you talked about, things you have in common or ideas spurred by your conversation. It shows you paid attention and put time into your response.
4. Skipping the follow-up
Most interviewers will tell you next steps at the conclusion of the interview. If you haven’t heard anything after an agreed-upon amount of time has passed, don’t by shy about following up. Interviewing can be a long, tedious process and it’s completely acceptable to follow up about where a company is at in the hiring process. This action also reminds them that you are still interested in the position. If a timeline was not stated during the interview, a follow-up phone call or email after a week is appropriate.
5. Calling and emailing too much
One follow-up phone call or email is completely acceptable. If you call more than once without being told to specifically, you are quickly going to gain a negative reputation. Same goes with email; there’s no need to email the hiring manager daily for an update. Know when it’s okay to contact the company and when it’s best to sit tight.
6. Skipping LinkedIn opportunities
Building your professional network is important. After an interview, it can be appropriate to connect with company contacts on LinkedIn. Skipping strategic connection requests means one less time you put yourself in front of an important decision maker. While some people may not approve the connection, it’s worth your time to try.
7. Being a sore loser
If you find out that you did not get the job, the best thing you can do is be gracious for having the opportunity to have interviewed with the company. If it’s somewhere you really would like to work, you may want to send a note that says you would be happy to be considered if the candidate selected doesn’t work out or if new opportunities arise in the future.
Ellen Pao’s decision to eliminate salary discussions when hiring at reddit has everyone talking. Her goal appears to be a noble one: to close the wage gap and salary discrimination. Yet she may be going about it all wrong.
“Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate,” Pao said to the Wall Street Journal. “So as part of our recruiting process we don’t negotiate with candidates.”
Hey Ellen, that isn’t going to help! Prohibiting women from using negotiation skills and learning more about how to negotiate is at best a band-aid solution to a much bigger problem. Women continue to get paid approximately 80 cents to every dollar a man earns. Cultural stereotypes often follow women throughout their careers, no matter what industry they work in. The glass ceiling is real for far too many female professionals.
Instead of eliminating negotiating, I think we need to focus on teaching women to negotiate more effectively. It is, after all, a skill that virtually every professional needs in order to be successful, whether you need to convince your boss to start a new project or negotiate effectively with vendors and customers.
So are women really bad negotiators? It’s not so much that we’re bad, it’s that we often don’t do it at all. Sheryl Sandberg herself has even stated that women fail to negotiate because they don’t want to deal with a negative reaction. At face value, that makes sense: starting a new job is a big deal and no one wants to appear confrontational or uncooperative, right?
No. Not right. Too often our instinct is to please and it’s causing us to miss out on opportunities to really stand out. I’ve been on both sides of the negotiating table, as a job candidate and as an employer. I also have a 4-year-old daughter who one day will need to negotiate, so I believe in being a good role model to her by standing up for what I think is fair.
If you’re starting a new job, don’t back down when the opportunity to negotiate comes up. Instead, stay optimistic and remember these tips to help you get the salary you deserve:
1. Know what you’re worth
Don’t let the hiring manager dictate what you’re worth; know your value ahead of time. Research salaries for positions at companies close to where you are applying. Experience, geographical location and responsibilities are all influential factors.
2. Be positive and confident
Once you are able to support what you think you’re worth with research and evidence, present your thoughts in a confident and positive manner. Going into it with anxiety and uncertainty can backfire, so stay strong.
3. Listen and collaborate
Negotiating is a two-way street, and in the end it is best if both parties get what they want. Remember to listen to your future employer and use examples to show why hiring you (at your desired salary) is a win-win for all involved. Collaboration instead of competition will likely result in a better outcome.
4. Know your audience
Don’t negotiate on the first phone call. Go through the interview process and wait for the official job offer before starting negotiations. Remember, many companies expect to negotiate and will therefore not lead with thir best offer; it’s up to you not to leave money on the table.
If you’ve never before negotiated for salary or if it’s been a while since you last did, consider role playing to help prepare for discussions. Ask a friend or family member to go over your “pitch,” and he or she can ask questions so you can practice responding appropriately.
The year started out with a bang thanks to impressive first-quarter job growth. While March’s gains of 126,000 jobs were lower than expected, more than half a million jobs were added in January and February alone, and new job postings on LinkUp were up 24 percent. But as the New York Times points out, even with normalized unemployment and increased job growth, employed workers are not getting the raises they would typically enjoy considering these economical indicators.
It turns out if you’re facing a paltry raise this year, you’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit back, be quiet and take it. You are your best advocate for increasing your compensation, so it might be time to think outside the box about how you can get the most out of your job. Here are 10 ideas to consider.
1. More vacation days
If a raise is out of the question, consider asking for additional paid time off. This can be a great option, particularly if you have a longer tenure at the company.
2. 401k match
If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(K) employee match, ask for one. If they already have one, see if you can increase it by 1 or 2 percent.
3. Flexible work time
Sick of working 8-5? See if you can get a flexible work schedule that allows you to work alternative hours that better fit your lifestyle.
4. Flexible work arrangement
Try to negotiate a work-from-home schedule. Less time in traffic can mean a better work-life balance and savings on fuel costs.
5. Performance-based bonuses
Rather than an annual raise, propose the idea of performance-based bonuses to your manager. Pitch a fairly aggressive program and then go get it!
6. Ask to have costs offset
See if you can get costs of employment reimbursed by your employer. This could include the cost of parking or the cost of Internet at home for telecommuters.
7. Travel and receive per diem costs
Depending on how travel policies are structured, you may be able to earn extra cash by not spending all the per diem you’re allowed.
If you’re eligible, mention your desire to work overtime to your supervisor. If it’s available, it can be a great way to boost your paycheck, particularly if you are paid a higher amount for an overtime wage.
9. Apply for a promotion
Sitting idle may be comfortable, but it likely won’t get you a big pay raise. To boost your salary, work hard and apply for available promotions.
10. Get a side gig
When all else fails, if you want more money consider alternative ways to use your skills. Can you freelance or consult on the side? If there a hobby you can turn into a business? If so, get to work!
As a result of having broken my left wrist while snowboarding in Colorado last week (Sun Down Bowl, Forever), I will be honoring the December 20, 1980 Jets-Dolphins game with this month’s non-farm payroll (NFP) forecast. During that historic broadcast nearly 35 years ago, NBC’s Don Ohlmeyer decided to eliminate the play-by-play crew in an effort to increase the ratings for what he called a “dog of a game.” So in tribute to that game (but mostly because one-handed typing is ridiculous), I am eliminating the play-by-play for this month’s NFP blog post.
I do have to make one comment given that our forecast might appear a bit anomalous given our projected decrease in net job gains from the prior month despite a 10.2% increase in the blended average between new and total job openings on LinkUp in February. The forecast of a net gain of 275,000 jobs in March, which is 20,000 jobs less than the 295,000 jobs gained in February, is due to the fact that the blended average of new and total jobs in LinkUp’s job search engine (which indexes 3 million jobs from 50,000 corporate websites) fell by 0.8% in February (see last month’s new and total ‘Jobs by State’ chart).
The 10.2% in the table above results from our paired-month methodology in which we use two sets of data points for February – the first when comparing February to January and the second when comparing February to March. In looking back at historical data, it appears that in months like February where job listings actually fell from January but the blended average using the paired-month methodology shows a positive gain, the negative number becomes the overriding factor. This was the case in April and May of 2013 and again in June and July of 2014. This refinement to our forecasting model would have rectified 3 of those 4 forecasts and we’ll see if that holds true again with Friday’s numbers.
And in the event that our methodology remains somewhat or perhaps entirely opaque, rest assured that there is a method to the madness – a method, in fact, that resulted in LinkUp being the 3rd most accurate forecaster among participants in Bloomberg’s monthly NFP survey for 2013 and 2014.
I hope our streak continues and that this latest tweak to our model doesn’t turn this month’s prediction into a dog of a forecast.