Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Posts Tagged ‘interview

What’s Keeping You From Getting Hired?

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If there was one thing that stood out from Vault’s recent Job Hunting in CSR series, it was the disconnect between candidates and employers. A recent survey by Towers Watson further indicates that this disconnect might be much more widespread because of a difference in priorities for employers and employees.

Job Skills

A survey released by TalentDrive, the team behind online resume aggregation search engine TalentFilter, now adds yet another layer to the troubling scenario. The report suggests a widening gap between current employers’ expectations and job seekers’ actual skill sets.

In a month-long survey, 79,000 job seekers (86 percent actively seeking employment) were asked to assess their personal skill set and attitude toward the current job market. Additionally, 20,000 hiring managers from Fortune 1000 companies were asked if they had noticed a change in the quality of candidates since the recession’s start.

The results of the survey are unnerving:

Almost three-quarters of the job seekers surveyed were pessimistic about their career search: that’s the number of respondents who indicated that they possessed the required skill set for positions, but were not getting hired. Little wonder, then, that 37 percent of respondents expressed no hope that things would improve.

However, 42 percent of the employers surveyed indicated that the recession had not only increased the quantity of candidates, but that they were finding more qualified candidates than in years past.

So where is the disconnect? When candidates believe they possess the required skill sets, why are they not getting hired? Take into account that 67 percent of those surveyed reported having between one and five interviews per month since the beginning of their job search, and that 75 percent of those had not received a single job offer.

Specialization or general business skills?

Since your company started hiring, how many interviewed candidates on average would you consider

Could the disconnect come down to a question of specialized vs. general business skills? According to the report, 71% percent of HR representatives reported that more than half of their open positions were specialized.

Comparatively, 61% of the job seekers’ group considered themselves to be “professionals with broad skill sets.”

Interestingly, my interviews with MBA graduates Ashley Jablow and Geet Singh reveal a flipside to the specialization picture. Having focused on CSR and sustainability at business school, both Jablow and Singh confessed that their job hunts weren’t exactly working out to be walks in the park. However, in their case, partial blame goes to a lack of demand for CSR work. For the respondents of the TalentDrive survey, specialized skills leaned toward more traditional fields like IT and technology.

Job Search Destinations

What source has recently delivered/uncovered the most quality candidates?

If there is one area where the TalentDrive survey shows job seekers and employers in agreement, it is where they are finding each other. The winner: Social Media.

An overwhelming 74% of job seekers said the most beneficial job search method was posting a resume on job boards followed by 27% picking social media, for the first time surpassing traditional methods like classified ads, professional recruiters and networking events.

Agreement was mutual with 27% of employers saying the highest response for most effective search method was social networks, followed by resume sourcing technologies.

Other highlights:

For the types of positions your company fills, what skills/activities make an applicant stand out?

Differs for each position: 55%
Longevity with past employers: 21%
Certification: 16%
Advanced degrees/MBA: 5%
Extracurricular work/Volunteer work: 3%

What category would the majority of your open positions fall under?

Mid level/management positions: 67%
Entry level: 16%
Director/Executive positions: 14%

Since beginning your active job search, how many interviews have resulted in an offer?

No offers: 75%
Less than half: 21%
More than half: 3%
All interviews resulted in an offer: 1%

Given the current job market, how willing are you to transfer fields or change your skill set to adapt to a new work environment or industry?

Not willing or interested: 11%
Somewhat willing, depending on the opportunity: 44%
Very willing: 45%

Does your experience relate to these results? Do you have a story to add to these numbers? Leave a comment, email us In Good Company or connect on Twitter @VaultCSR!

Four Tips to Get Your First Job Ever

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Hopefully if you’re graduating from college, you have at least one internship stint under your belt. But what if you don’t have any work experience at all? You spent your summers on an anthropological dig in Boudreaux, for example. It’s unlikely that your skills dusting ancient bones will translate easily to the corporate world. So I’m not going to lie: it’s going to be an uphill battle convincing employers that you have what it takes to hack it at their organization. But it’s not impossible.

College student applying for first job with student resume I asked Connie Thanasoulis, former recruiter, co-founder of SixFigureStart and esteemed Vault blogger about how to find a new job if you don’t already have one–in fact, have never had one. “Recruiters and hiring managers always feel that a person with a job has more posture,” Thanasoulis says. “With that said, you could learn to have more posture. I once coached an employment lawyer who had never had to look for a job before. His wife did well in her job so income was not a problem. But he said that he lost all his posture and confidence. I had to talk him down from the ledge!”

While the job search of an employment lawyer is quite different from someone straight out of college, the same “posture and confidence”-building techniques are the same. Here are four tips recent grads and other inexperienced job searchers need to understand:

Four Tips to Get Your First Job Ever

  1. “You have skills that are necessary in the marketplace,” says Thanasoulis. No matter where you are in your career. “Make a list of your top 10 skills and quantify them–give an example of each skill in five or six bullet points.”
  2. “You have significant and measureable accomplishments” as a college graduate. Think of your academic experience in terms of accomplishments and make a list of your top five: Did you start a new club? Did you volunteer in an interesting way? Were you a research assistant on a professor’s project? These are real, quantifiable accomplishments that will look good on your resume.
  3. “You will find a job.” Even if it’s not your ideal job, it’s a valuable step in your career. Says Thanasoulis: “The first job is so key because you learn so much. Then you can take your skills to the next level.”
  4. “It’s just going to take some time…but you will get there!”

So chin up. Figure out exactly what your accomplishments and skills are–you probably have more than you think. Good luck!

–Posted by Carolyn C. Wise Admit One,

You Have to Be This Beautiful To Get This Job

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When I was unemployed and searching for a job, I always felt like there wasn’t a job site that met my specific talents.  Luckily, in spite of this, I was able to find a job, but should anything ever happen and I am out looking again, I was just made aware of a site that seems almost created exclusively for me.  On April 29, 2010, was launched to help those men and women who have been hampered by their good looks and want to find a job where the competition is a little less fierce.

All sarcasm aside, this site truly did launch and the press release that was sent out to announce this new job search resource makes some sense, as disgusting as that may sound.  As the press release notes, if you walk into any successful night club, you’ll notice that the bartenders are hot.  At any restaurant, the waitresses can get you to order extra food just by batting their eyelashes.  And a good salesperson knows that their ability to sell can be augmented by a beautiful face, a winning smile and maybe a specific way they dress.  And look at your news anchors.  Beautiful people are a hot commodity, so it would make sense that a website would be devoted to this sect of the population that is out of work and “too beautiful” to be unemployed.

When I worked at a newspaper, our salesperson was very attractive and led us to record sales.  Our receptionist was beautiful and she was there to greet people – the first face they would see when they came to our office.  And one of our reporters was a knockout and she was strategically used on the police beat – why, because if police didn’t respond to the guy talk that sometimes wins them over with male reporters, they love flirting with a beautiful woman.

According to the press release, is an employment website which helps beautiful, skilled and talented job seekers to stand out from the competition in the job market. At the same time it helps employers seeking beautiful, skilled and talented people, to speed up their recruitment process.  Here is what Ralph van Troost, founder of, said about the site: “I figured if no-one else is going to close this ugly gap between beautiful job seekers and employers looking to hire them, I’m going to do it myself.”

But here is the problem with the site.  After working hard on a resume, preparing for the job interview and struggling with rejection from one company after another, there really is no need for a site to deflate the ego of the unemployed job seeker any further.  In order to get full access to the site, you need to be considered a beautiful person.  How does this happen?  You upload your picture and get ranked, sort of like Hot or Not Hot or Face the Jury.  If you don’t rank, you don’t get the access you might need for the job you want.  Now, not only are you not getting the job, you are also being told by total strangers that you might be ugly or at least not pretty enough to work where you want to work.  Imagine how detrimental this could be at a time when morale is already low.

But here is the other problem.  We do take notice of beautiful people – it’s a tragic fault of the society we live in, but if you pay close attention, there are those that aren’t considered beautiful who are the patron’s favorite bartender or waitress, because they win them over with conversation.  There are sales people who sign the clients on their charm.  There are reporters who use talent to get the story.  There are other kinds of beautiful out there, which can’t be measured by a photograph and superficial minds.

If anything, is for those who already have jobs and are casually looking for new ones, but for those hardworking unemployed individuals who need a job yesterday, is not only an ugly site, it’s a waste of time…and no matter what economy we are in, time is money.

How Showing Flexibility Can Help You Land Your Next Job

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Following on from yesterday’s post on changing paradigms in the working world, both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times provide further evidence that this isn’t your grandparents’ hiring market, and that the key to surviving in it is adaptability.

First up is a piece in the Journal, which points to the trend of companies giving younger workers “new responsibilities typically reserved for employees with more work experience under their belts.” The reason: younger workers are typically cheaper and therefore less likely to be laid off for cost reasons than more experienced colleagues. That creates opportunity for younger workers seeking to get ahead—provided they’re willing to take on extra responsibilities, and likely for little to no extra money.

Then there’s the Times, which reported yesterday on a surge in short-term contracts—a result partly attributable to cautious employers not wanting to commit to full-time hires, and partly, as the Times piece makes clear, to employees seeking to keep their options open and not become reliant on a single employer.

What both articles make clear is that flexibility and adaptability are key qualities to be able to demonstrate to existing or potential employers. Short of including those qualities as adjectives on a resume—not a tactic that’s likely to be especially effective, given that anyone can do it—the question is how to draw attention to one’s ability to deal with flux and learn on the job.

For those already in jobs, that answer is easy: volunteer for new tasks and projects, and express willingness to try anything that comes along.

For those seeking a new position, however, the task is trickier. Obviously the best place to stress your adaptability is in an interview. For that reason, it’s worth brainstorming a few examples of different types of work you’ve done in advance of an upcoming interview. And, if you can stress how you stepped up to a new task that lay outside of your regular responsibilities, so much the better.

For so many of us, nailing the interview is the easy part. Getting it—especially with so much competition—is the tough part of the process. As such, try preparing a resume that demonstrates a range of skills and abilities, even if you held the same job for the past 20 years. And, as always, if you can provide details of how those skills brought value to your employer you should be a lock for a call inviting you to come in and press your case face to face.

The importance of being flexible cannot be overstated in this economy. But it’s about more than a simple exercise in branding yourself: with temporary positions likely to dominate the market for some time to come, demonstrating flexibility and adaptability on the job is the real key to getting ahead—not to mention securing that permanent offer or killer reference for the next position.

In Case You Missed It: How the Hiring Process Really Works

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What does $27 get you these days?  Depending on the place, you could probably get a drink or two with some friends after work and be able to remember the night the next day.  You might instead go on a date to Friday’s, choose from the $9.99 menu…and <gasp> pay for her, too!  Or you could spend your money and completely change your life, with advice you will remember for a lifetime; advice that could help you land your next job.

On Friday, April 16, 2010, teamed up with SixFigureStart to present another edition of its weekly seminar series aimed at providing job seekers and those looking to change careers with the intelligence they need for the career they want.  Caroline Ceniza-Levine was on hand for a webinar entitled “How the Hiring Process Really Works: An Insider’s Guide to Getting the Job” that provided a behind-the-scenes look at what the recruiter sees during the job search.

According to Caroline, because the economy is still in a state of flux, the employer continues to have the upper hand in the job search.  However, with companies now starting to hire more than before, the time is ripe for job seekers to get out there and be noticed.  Still, with the uptick in the economy giving employed people the courage to test the waters and change jobs, the market has become even more competitive than before.  Sharpening your job skills is of the essence.

The webinar, which you missed (yes…you!), focused on the 8 steps of the hiring process from the employer’s perspective:

1.  The job opening is defined.  Our company needs a new public relations specialist.

2.  The budget is approved.  The company gets the green light on offering $XX for the job.

3.  The search kicks off.  HR posts the job on the company site or through a job board, like on

4.  Resumes.  The handwritten ones ripped out of spiral notebooks are thrown out here, as are resumes that are too hard to read, too long, or have spelling errors.  You have been warned.

5.  The interview process begins. Remember, you only have a few minutes to make an immediate impression.  Develop your elevator pitch fast. Make sure you follow-up with a thank you.

6.  Finalists are selected.  Keep your energy up as you move through the process.  Each interview takes you one step closer to the job.

7.  An offer is made.  Everything is negotiable, including salary.  And if you didn’t get an offer, maintain contact with the potential employers, because if the offer isn’t accepted by the first place job seeker, the runner-up can still find him or herself with the crown.

8.  The new hire begins work.  This is where you want to be.

Caroline offers key advice on how your own job search should not begin with Step #3, but rather before then, through various networking possibilities.  This is what we often refer to as the Hidden Job Market.  For every job that gets on a job board, there are so many others that don’t make it because someone with the proper networking capabilities got to the company first.  These networking opportunities, such as friend referrals, can also help address issues with your resume, such as a gap in employment, or extreme career changes.

In addition, Caroline answered some of the following questions:

  1. I got laid off and my boss and my boss’ boss offered to help with my job search; how do I take advantage of this opportunity?
  2. What are the best ways to talk about gaps in employment?
  3. I sent my resume to 50 places and had two friends put my resume forth personally, but I have heard nothing.  Feels like a big black hole and I am getting very frustrated.  Why am I not getting any responses?

You can find out answers to these questions and other advice that will help your job search by purchasing a downloadable version of this webinar…or register for the next webinar and learn on Friday, April 23, 2010, from 12 – 1 p.m., how to Identify Your Ideal Job Targets.  This webinar will teach you how you can get your dream job when you don’t know what it is?  Go to to register today.

How to Get Back to Work After YEARS of Downtime

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“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

With so many laid-off lawyers and jobless JDs flooding the legal market, there would seem to be little room for an attorney who’s been out of the workforce for years. Lawyers who set aside their careers–whether to raise a family or for other reasons–and are now looking to reestablish themselves face a very tight job market, a pool of much younger talent and, if they haven’t kept on top of developments in their field, a steep re-learning curve. The prospect can be daunting.

Yet, as is clear from a story in this Sunday’s Washington Post, opportunities do exist. (hat tip: ABA Journal) The Post piece, despite its television for women flavor (“The Return: A stay-at-home mom attempts to go back to work after nearly two decades. Can she revive her career?”), offers some real hope to onetime lawyers looking to return to practice. [Spoiler alert: our heroine, Amy Beckett, does eventually land a job.]

Among the takeaways from Beckett’s story that might help in your own search:

Don’t be afraid to volunteer or take on contract work while you look for something more permanent. Unpaid or part-time work can help you build a network and maybe even do something worthwhile. (“For years, I had resisted signing up and volunteering somewhere because lack of salary means lack of prestige,” Beckett said. “In this case, I feel it’s an investment, and it’s a project that I identify with. I love to pull weeds and be in the dirt and be in gardens. This may point me in a good direction.”) Beckett eventually obtained an interview at the employment law firm where she was offered a job because of contract work she’d done for one of the firm’s tenants.

Expect to have bad days. Notwithstanding self-boosting daily affirmations (“I keep thinking, ‘I’m an appealing person, I’m smart, I’m good to talk to, I would be good at this!’”), you’re going to get rejected, feel discouraged and lose confidence (“I’ve failed at everything I tried. I failed at my first job here. I got fired and was told I was incompetent. I’m hanging onto the shreds of my professional identity with this contract work, which is unsatisfying.”). The key is not to let it overwhelm you: “Tarbox [Beckett’s husband] had seen Beckett low before. ’Fortunately, she was dogged enough that she would pick herself off, dust herself off and try again,’ he said.”

In the end, Beckett’s air of confidence and self-assurance apparently “made a strong impression” on the hiring partners at Passman & Kaplan, as did her intelligent questions during the interview, and she was offered a position. As Suzanne Bianchi, a UCLA sociology professor, told the Post, “You’ve got to convince somebody to take a chance on you, and you have to have the self-confidence that you can do that.”

–Posted by Vera Djordjevich, Vault’s Law Blog

Interview Etiquette: Is a Handwritten Thank-You Necessary? Legal Professionals Weigh In

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Job seeking lawyers and law students can leverage the low-stress “informational interview” in a number of ways: as a source of firsthand information, as a chance to ask questions inappropriate (e.g., $$) in “real” interviews, and as a way to build self-confidence in the interview setting. The Lawyerist offers a handy set of pointers for the informational interviewee (or is should it be “interviewer”? The infoview features a sort of role reversal, where the job seeker can drive the discussion.)

A point/counterpoint in the Lawyerist comments:

  1. “Great post, except one thing: please don’t send me anything written. From thank you notes to cards, I rarely even open them—they go straight to the trash can.”


  2. “[That view is] in the extreme minority, here. The number of lawyers who actually ignore (or actively despise) paper is extremely small. For the vast majority of us—including in my paperless office—a handwritten thank-you note will always be appreciated more than an e-mail.”

It’s safe to say that #2 is still the prevailing view, although the anti-paper position is probably growing steadily.

–Posted by Brian Dalton, Vault’s Law Blog

Which of the statements do you agree with? Does the rule vary depending on the industry/level of the job? Let us know your thoughts via the comment field below.

Written by Phil Stott

April 1, 2010 at 11:46 am

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