Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Posts Tagged ‘Job skills

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!

Should You Bring ‘This’ Up During a Job Interview?

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In 2007, when the financial industry was at the brink of collapse, one executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) saw opportunity. Shannon Schuyler, then a member of PwC’s recruitment team, wrote a white paper for company leadership emphasizing that the firm needed someone to reorganize and refine their community initiatives, and give their corporate responsibility a face.

Three months later the job was hers. How did she re-strategize the firm’s hiring policies and recruitment outreach to encompass PwC’s commitment to corporate responsibility?

  1. For one, having a background in experienced hiring and on campus recruitment helped. She has seen first-hand the gradual evolution of the hiring landscape, where candidate priorities shifted from the best-paid job offer to work/life balance, and today, to a company’s commitment to responsible corporate citizenship. Her experience assured peers that directives coming from the new Corporate Responsibility Leader would be balanced and realistic.
  2. Secondly, the message from campuses was loud and clear. According to Schuyler, candidates are increasingly asking what the firm is doing to give back to the community, who they donate to, what they do toward the environment, etc. “They want to know how they can get engaged when they start. They want to know what our strategies are,” she said.
  3. Finally, she noted, markedly changing business strategies and decision making processes can be a double-edged sword. As her team continues to work on ensuring that new hires are aware and receptive of the company’s commitment from day one, she is also responsible for inculcating a deeper cultural change among current employees. And that is where her real battle lies.

Her observations mirror findings of Vault’s recently concluded Job Hunting in CSR series, where four MBA candidates discussed business school, their career transitions and job hunting, all connected with a commitment to CSR and change management.

For now, Schuyler is focusing on the “life cycle of a student.” Her team is busy redefining the firm’s hiring strategy by shifting their focus from best practices to candidates’ personal journey. “Increasingly, we ask, what are the opportunities? What could we continue to build on as a continuum? Would that really change what their education experience is, and ultimately, their success? It’s not just how you do the equations, but how you’re taking that and making it part of their life.”

–Posted by Aman Singh, Vault’s CSR Editor

Zappos: Rewriting the Book on Corporate Transparency

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Does your company have an HR handbook? Chances are, you’re thinking yes, of course. What about a culture book for employees? Zappos does.

The company, which started by selling shoes a decade ago, is today an Amazon subsidiary and has expanded to a multitude of merchandising. It is also probably one of very few companies to grow its brand around an idea of transparency, ethics and collaborative culture. For Tony Hsieh, cofounder and current CEO of Zappos, this was intentional from Day 1. In his recently released book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose—which I will be reviewing in the coming days on Vault’s CSR Blog: In Good Company—Hsieh devotes a whole chapter to the Zappos Culture Book.

In short, the book contains employee interpretations of what their company’s culture is all about and how it is different to other companies. And this is no mere PR exercise, designed to make the company look good: all of the entries received were inserted with minimal editing, even when they were anonymously submitted. Of course, Hsieh took a risk; no company is perfect and since culture is perceptional, the initiative could have resulted in a mudslinging session directed at Zappos management.

But it didn’t. While the majority of the entries were positive, not every employee was thrilled with the company’s culture—and that was reflected in the book. Hsieh, as promised, inserted both the criticism and the positive feedback when creating Zappos’ first Culture Book. His aim: To show existing and new employees what working there is all about, including the good, the bad and the ugly. In fact, much to his delight, the book has been downloaded by people who don’t even work at Zappos.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh blogs regularly as well as staying engaged with customers and employees via Twitter

The company produces a new Culture Book every year. For Hsieh it epitomizes the evolution of the company’s brand over its short existence. “We wanted to be as transparent as possible, so we decided that none of the entries would be censored or edited, except for typos. Every edition of our culture book includes both the good and the bad so that people reading the book can get a real sense of what our culture is like. With each edition, it would also be a way of documenting how our culture was evolving over time.”

The idea of a culture book isn’t unique; it is Zappos’ treatment of transparency and accountability as a priority that makes this worth noting. Most companies conduct some form of employee survey to gauge problem points and get feedback on what’s working. However, publishing it without censorship in a publicly available document is what makes Hsieh’s approach sustainable. Even if it isn’t popular in every C-suite.

As a manager, how open are you to engaging your team in positive criticism? With new generations stepping into the workforce every year, ideas are bound to constantly evolve, but are management styles redefining and realigning accordingly? Whether you call it corporate responsibility, sustainability, or something else entirely, it doesn’t need highly designed websites and ad campaigns to work. It can start small: like spearheading a collaborative and transparent workplace culture. But it has to start from the top.

Hsieh puts it succinctly, “Even today, our belief is that our Brand, our Culture, and our Pipeline are the only competitive advantages that we will have in the long run. Everything else can and will eventually be copied.”

Join the discussion by leaving a comment, emailing Vault or connecting with us @VaultCSR.

Does Dissent Have Any Room In Your Team?

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In today’s highly skilled work environment, dissent is a no brainer. As college graduation rates continue to climb, they are gradually also redefining work culture. Hierarchies and established ways of doing things are increasingly being tested by a new generation, adept in technology and much more in favor of a work/life balance. Call it the war between the millennials and baby boomers or just yet another realignment of the way we operate in corporate America, life in the cubicle is changing.

Learning to embrace opposition and maneuvering it toward resolution is no easy task. Even in the most modern and youth-centric offices, traditional rules and authority often end up becoming reasons for dissent and fraction. But sometimes all it takes is a different take on the process or eventual conclusion of a project.  As an executive, then, how do you handle conflicting ideas from team members?

Keeping in mind that not all offices follow a democracy, here are five ways to ensure your team remains motivated, creative and purposeful.

1) Set the tone for the team and the project: When introducing the project, make the process, the expected conclusion and everyone’s role in it clear. By detailing personal targets as well as specifying individual roles, you will make participation easy as well as achievable and accountable. Also, by spelling out the process, you’re indicating how much participation, engagement and thinking outside the box you really want. Because let’s face it: not every project needs brain surgery and new processes. But what if you’re positive that your idea will succeed and you just need your staff to fall into line? Again, offices aren’t democracies, so just make your idea clear and ensure that everyone understands what you want. You might not receive the Favorite Boss of the Year award, but at least you won’t send mixed signals to the team

2) Talk it out: Despite making goals and the processes clear, sometimes team members–many of whom have been taught that creativity, engagement and leadership give birth to the best ideas–will still go ahead and put forth a proposal that might run counter to yours and propose a different set of outcomes.

You can handle this two ways: a) Invite the employee to present her idea to the team and get collaborative feedback. Hey, after all, two (or three) heads work better than one. Or b) you have a one on one conversation with the employee and demonstrate why you think your proposal has a higher rate of success. If there remains disagreement, chart out the pros and cons, connect the differences in the two proposals and invite dialogue instead of restraining thought. While debates don’t always lead to conclusions, they ensure active engagement and tell your team that their ownership in the project is equally valuable.

3) Test it: If an active debate doesn’t sort out the picture, give her the chance to test it out. Give the employee a fixed time span, the resources and the bandwidth to test out the proposal within a limited test area. By encouraging a practical solution, you’re ensuring engagement, encouraging creative thinking, leadership and respecting their input. As I said, the aim isn’t to prove someone wrong, but to find the most efficient and successful way of completion. Together.

4) Simulate a proposal: Simulation exercises can be useful in resolving team conflicts. Especially if the project is time-sensitive and you need to test out a new theory/proposal of a team member, and don’t have the resources to ensure a proper test. Give the team member a test environment to work with internally and use the results of the simulation, whether that be a closed network meeting, a survey of the contended parties, or a role play within the office, to decide the eventual process. Again, this will keep your team motivated and involved. And nothing breeds respect for the boss and commitment to the company’s success like active engagement.

5) Make it clear: Every executive has a different modus operandi. Make it clear if your prescribed methods are the only way. The autocratic management style still exists in many executive suites and if it is the way you swear by, the least you can do to ensure follow-up and diligent conclusion is to make it clear from the start. Again, no guarantees of team loyalty laurels, but at least you ensure attracting the right kind of talent for your team. Rest assured there remain many today who will kowtow to your ideas and orders without the tiniest objection, so if obedient and hard working employees are your goal, make it clear.

    Event Alert: Accredited Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner Workshop

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    Next month, the Center for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) will complete five years of conducting sustainability seminars and certifying CSR practitioners. The two-day seminar historically have always been filled with useful workshops, individual presentations from practitioners, many debates and rich discussions surrounding the aspects of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

    Last year, I attended one of CSE’s workshops and came back certified as a CSR practitioner as well as armed with much-needed clarified information on the issue. This workshop, which is conducted by CSE and approved by international think tank, Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), attracts executives every year from a range of industries. For example, my session last year had a diverse group including representatives from consulting firms, consumer products manufacturers, lawyers, policy regulators, professors, scientists as well as HR specialists and a pilot from an international airline.

    If you are seeking a broad overview of CSR this workshop is highly recommended. Besides theoretical concepts and key guidelines, the forum gives you an opportunity to network with other CSR-minded professionals across industries. This networking and sharing of ideas and more so, learning from what they are doing in this growing field, can prove immensely helpful in carving your career in CSR and green issues.

    What is even better is that this year for the first time, in collaboration with Vault and In Good Company, CSE is offering an exclusive discount to our readers. Just make sure to mention “VAULT” during the registration process and you will be able to shave 25% off the fee!

    For complete details, including registration process as well as first-person perspectives from last year’s workshop, visit Vault’s CSR Blog: In Good Company.

    CSR Job Posting: Knowledge Manager with Edelman

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    For those who read MBA graduate Ashley Jablow’s appeal earlier this week, where she discussed her skills and her job search for a company that focuses on corporate responsibility, this is point on. Edelman, the global public relations company is looking for a candidate who will work on CSR, branding and business strategy.

    The job posting is below:

    Description: Corporate and brand citizenship research associate: this person will have a passion for and experience with: social issues, branding, business strategy, consumer behavior, qualitative and quantitative research. S/he must be self-starter and able to work effectively with a variety of multiple assignments. S/he must have demonstrated research skills, solid knowledge of MS Office Suite (especially PPT) and superior verbal and written communication skills. The ability to quickly assess a topic related to social issues, find, review and aggregate pertinent information and create compelling written analysis in a variety of formats,is a core responsibility of the position.

    Qualifications: This individual will be a critical part of the Edelman Citizenship team, working closely with firm leadership to develop future oriented points of view and processes/products and services related to the intersection of citizenship, corporate reputation, issues management, and CSR. The ideal candidate has an advanced degree in business/experience in cause branding/ corporate citizenship consulting. Exceptional written skills required. Experience working with NGOs and public private partnerships also important.

    Work attributes include: self starter, curiosity, broad consumer of information from multiple sources around the globe, superior writer, ability to create powerful PP presentations and other communications and facility to analyze and develop diverse information into strong added value for the team, firm and field.

    Responsibilities: The Research Associate is responsible for implementing and monitoring research projects for the practice area and within a specific set of accounts primarily under the direction of Kristian Darigan Merenda, SVP, and Carol Cone, EVP in specialty areas focused on brand and corporate citizenship. The position will be supplemented by interns, and account executives from client engagement teams. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

    Research and Development:

    • Using Edelman paid subscription resources and publicly available data, regularly perform secondary research, track trends and compile briefs focused on topics including, but not limited to: green marketing, cause related marketing, social marketing, cause branding, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, fund raising, and nonprofit marketing, etc.
    • Help supply content for an internal, global knowledge management system to support Edelman’s work in the brand and corporate citizenship arena.
    • Participate in the development, analysis and execution of Good Purpose and other pioneering research/ thought leadership strategies.

    Marketing Communications:

    • Develop insights to share externally via goodpurposecommunity.com, social networking sites, blog content, and white papers.
    • Develop cutting edge presentations, in conjunction with managers for: Internal training, Client education, New business, and Speeches.

    To read the complete the job listing for “PR: Corporate Citizenship – Knowledge Manager” as well as to apply, visit Edelman’s Careers page.

    Got some tips for candidates looking for jobs that include an expected corporate responsibility? Or want to share your job search experience? Contribute to the discussion! Write in by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company or connecting with me on Twitter @VaultCSR.

    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.

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