Research Careers Blog

9 quick tips for a successful interview

Editor’s note: Gimhani Gunasinghe is head of marketing and communications at London School of Marketing. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Start your career with a winning interview.”

Every career starts with an interview. And while it may only last for an hour, it could become the deciding moment in your marketing future. First impressions make a world of difference, so we offer top tips to help you get over your first major career hurdle.

Be prepared

A little research goes a long way. Don’t wait to be questioned on your knowledge of the company you are interviewing with. Drawing links to the company in each answer you make will impress your prospective employer, proving you have looked into their company and carefully considered the position you are applying for.

You are hired!Be courteous

Candidates are often prepared to show their best face to the interviewer, without considering that they are making an impression as soon as they walk into the building. Interviewers know that individuals are more likely to show their true selves before and after the interview, so be courteous to everyone you meet. After all, if all goes well, these could be your future colleagues.

Be confident

It is easy to get carried away with the fact that you need to impress your interviewer. While confidence is good, remember that boasting is not an attractive trait. Keep in mind the true extent of your achievements, and be realistic about the positives you can demonstrate without exaggeration.  Also remember one of the most frequently asked questions in interviews: “What are your weaknesses?”  Come prepared with an answer that shows your human side without compromising your ability to do the job.

Be professional

Your appearance speaks long before you do. Aside from maintaining good personal hygiene, be sure to dress professionally. Different companies have different attitudes towards attire: some prefer a laid back approach, while others are more formal. The research you have conducted into the company culture should indicate the appropriate style you choose for your interview. If you are uncertain, err on the side of formality.

Be inquisitive

At the end of the interview, you will usually be asked if you have any questions. This helps the interviewer to assess where your priorities lie. If your first concern is about holidays or salary schemes, you may give the wrong impression. You should ask at least one question regarding the work associated with the role, before asking about anything else. Also limit the number of questions you ask, and consider the manner in which you ask them. Show interest, but do not interrogate.

Be prompt

Punctuality matters. If you arrive late, it shows a lack of respect for the company and its employees. It also indicates that you are not able to meet deadlines on time. In order to prove that you value the time that has been set aside for you, aim to be five minutes early, ten at most. Make sure you know in advance where the interview is being held and account for traffic.

Be willing

A new role means there will be new things to learn. It is always important to demonstrate that you are keen to do so. Even if your competitors are more experienced, you can make a strong case for yourself by showing your willingness to learn and adapt. For example, if you are enrolled or are hoping to enroll in a CIM qualification, mention this. Your commitment to your education is sure to make a good impression.

Be calm

It’s normal to be nervous. The trick to controlling your nerves lies in proper preparation. Find out as much as you can about the interview process to familiarize yourself with it. Write down possible questions the company might ask and consider how you might answer them. This will be much easier if you know someone working in a similar role, or at a similar company. Your friends and fellow students may be going through a similar experience, so share notes with them.

Be observant

While at the interview, observe the company environment. If all goes well, you will receive a job offer, so pay attention to the details. If staff seem happy, this suggests a positive company culture. If everyone seems stressed, it could suggest poor management. Simple observations will tell you if this is an organization that you want to work for. After all, this is a two way agreement: you need to want to work for the company as much as they want to employ you.

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Young adults look to experience more with their careers

Editor’s note: Paul Abbate is the senior vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs’ Omnibus Services business in the U.S. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Can’t get no job satisfaction? Think again.”

Eighty-five percent of Americans are satisfied with their jobs; however most would change something if possible, or at least this is what a recent survey from Ipsos Public Affairs’ Omnibus Division recently uncovered. In the May survey, U.S. Work Place Satisfaction, it seems as if most workers are satisfied with their job but would like a more appropriate salary (27 percent, with women 34 percent), and benefits (17 percent, with women at 19 percent). What would I change? Well probably a more comfortable chair, room with a view, access to more K-Cup coffee machines and an ability to walk on water.

But if these requests cannot be satisfied, maybe it’s time to take action and change jobs. Forty-one percent of Americans think it is likely they will change jobs in the next 12 months, and Millennials top out at 56 percent. Are Americans really fickle, or looking for a change? Whatever happened to the dawn of The Organization Man, William Whyte’s seminal work from the ‘50s, where Americans graduated high school, got a job and then parked their bottoms at a desk or assembly line, and didn’t move until Mr. Pension-profit-sharing-palooza was dumped in their laps enabling retirement in Sarasota, Fla. until dust-to-dust sets in.

We also asked, “If you found out tomorrow you were financially able to quit work, would you?” Only 40 percent said they would stop working, and the remaining 60 percent said they would prefer to continue working.

Say what? That’s not my American dream. Powerball will set you free! I live by this motto. Even my financial advisor admitted under oath that you can’t beat the return on investment from a $2 winning ticket, and all you have to do is throw caution to the wind with the 175,223,110 odds for winning.

The tongue and cheek aside, here is what we can glean from the findings from this omnibus survey research:

  • Employers have satisfied employees but to build retention and maintain greater longevity and loyalty with employees, fair pay and benefits go a long way to mitigating work force migration.
  • Younger up-and-coming workers (Millennials) are looking to move and experience more with their career, and they will be the toughest to retain regardless of fair pay and benefits.
  • There is a genuine desire to work in the U.S. when 60 percent say they would continue even after they are financially well off. Uncle Sam can feel proud.

 

U.S. career satisfaction infographic

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How to stop an unwarranted bad job reference

Job search button on keyboardLeaving one job and moving to another can be a challenge but sometimes opportunity presents itself and you find the job that’s a fit.

Imagine having successfully navigated the demanding pre-screening process: You nailed your interviews and perhaps even received assurance that an offer was imminent but then you never hear from that prospective employer again. Clearly, something went awry – but what cost you that job?

At this point, consider that one of the final phases of the hiring process – the employer check of your references – may have been your undoing. “A majority of the references we check are for job candidates who suspect negative feedback from former employers,” said Jeff Shane, President of Allison & Taylor Reference Checking, a firm that offers professional reference checking services, in a press release.

Despite the fact that many companies prohibit managers from providing references, Shane notes that people most likely to provide negative references are former supervisors. “Perhaps a position of authority makes them feel that the company reference policies don’t really apply to them – or that there is no way that their former employee will ever become aware that negative feedback about them has been given out,” said Shane.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the overtly negative references that can be problematic. A vague answer or a simple “not eligible for rehire” from Human Resources can also doom an applicant’s prospects for future employment.

The most reliable way to ensure that your references are responding appropriately to employment inquiries is to conduct a reference check(s). If a reference check confirms negative or inappropriate feedback, you have the ability to take action to prevent further harm to your employment opportunities. One of the foremost options is to have a cease and desist letter issued that will help ensure that the transgressor will stop their actions out of fear of corporate reprisal.

A single bad reference could keep you unemployed indefinitely. Be proactive with your references and have them checked to ensure they are not costing you that new job.

 

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Preventing the jerks at work from dragging you down

Do your co-workers inspire and motivate you or do they bring you down, making it a difficult to walk into the office each morning? It’s no surprise that dealing with jerks at work can be challenging on an emotional level but new research from Michigan Ross Professor Gretchen Spreitzer shows that having toxic co-workers also affects your work quality.

In this short video, Spreitzer provides real-world advice for dealing with difficult colleagues.

Read more about Spreitzer’s research and the consequences of having de-energizing work relationships at michiganross.umich.edu.

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Are you wasting time developing your strengths and weaknesses?

Editor’s note: Thuy Sindell is co-founder and president of Skyline Group International’s coaching division, a San Francisco-based human capital solutions company. Milo Sindell is president of Skyline Group.

Popular culture is obsessed with extremes. Whether it is fast cars, bizarre foods, extreme sports – bigger, faster, spicier, riskier – extremes are compelling. Our t-shirts even boast our pride in extremes: go big or go home. Our attraction to extremes comes naturally to us and our own base brain responses are composed of two extremes: fight or flight. We are naturally attuned to extremes because of the clarity in the polarities of black and white, fight or flight, etc.

This same attraction to extremes is prevalent in the world of leadership development. A great deal of effort is spent knowing and polishing one’s strengths while attempting to improve one’s weaknesses. Once again we act on our attraction to the clarity of extremes, “I am good at this, therefore I’ll keep doing it.” Or, “I’m bad at this, I better work on improving.”

You can make the argument that focusing on your strengths is good for your self-esteem, effectiveness and career. According to a February 2014 Gallup.com business journal article, this is why the point continues to be reinforced. That’s been the whole basis for the strengths movement.

What about the argument for focusing on your weaknesses? Besides a long and outdated tradition of teachers forcing us to focus on our weaknesses, what is the point of that? It doesn’t get you anywhere significant or fast. Meaning, if you focus on getting better at details, you will only marginally get better. If you focus on getting better at being neat at home, it will only last for a few days until you are back into your old habits again.

Where our minds don’t naturally go to is the middle. It isn’t sexy. For some reason we forget about the middle, whether it’s the middle child or middle schools. The first born child and youngest child get all of the attention. Similarly, primary school and the early years are instrumental in child development and high school years are pivotal to getting into college.

What opportunities lie in the middle? The Sales Executive Council (SEC) reports that when you spend time focusing on your middle performers you see a higher return due to the sheer volume of people benefitting from it. Specifically, in 2000, the SEC demonstrated this point by running the numbers on 625 sales reps across 11 different organizations. The median sale was $4.5 million. When they took the high performers (who made up 20 percent of the population) and calculated their sales, the final figure came out to $158 million across these 11 companies. Five percent more would have yielded $7.9 million. The SEC looked at the middle performers (who made up 60 percent of the population) and found them only to be producing $271 million (not quite double the revenue). If this group had achieved 5 percent more, it would have yielded $13.5 million. While high performers achieve much higher sales individually, if you try to squeeze another 5 percent out of them, you are not going to see much. If you go after another 5 percent from middle performers, you get 70 percent more revenue.

We don’t naturally gravitate toward the middle. Take another example of the neglected middle: your skills. Most people will naturally default to leveraging their strengths or putting a significant amount of time into correcting their weaknesses. This happens daily to millions of company leaders when they get their 360s or performance reviews. They immediately focus on their weaknesses and what they need to do to fix them.

Also, in the last decade, organizations and leaders have been pushing more for leveraging strengths and ignoring weaknesses. While this strength-based approach is appropriate when we are looking at whether we are in the right jobs or roles, when it comes to growing and developing ourselves as a professionals and leaders, we often overlook the huge pool of development opportunities found in the middle – the skills that aren’t the tried, true and overused strengths and aren’t the things at which we will never get much better.

Research by Michael Lombardo, Robert Eichinger and many others has shown that effective leaders evolve and grow throughout their careers, whereas failed leaders get stuck in a pattern of overusing their strengths to the point of staleness. We have found the greatest source of individual development comes from the majority of skills that you have in between your strengths and weaknesses – skills that fall in that middle range in which, with some investment, can quickly become learned strengths.

We still need to leverage strengths and quickly triage weaknesses; however, spending too much time on both of these extremes is not going to help you grow as a leader. Overly depending on strengths is not going to make you stronger and is especially risky as the business landscape changes, whereas focusing on your weaknesses will only cause incremental improvements over time.

 

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10 job search tips for 2015 graduates

Editor’s note: Peter K. Studner is president and senior consultant at Los Angeles- based outplacement services firm Peter K. Studner Associates and the author of Super Job Search IV. – See more at: http://researchcareersblog.com/#sthash.WP9kjcM7.dpuf
Editor’s note: Peter K. Studner is president and senior consultant at Los Angeles- based outplacement services firm Peter K. Studner Associates and the author of Super Job Search IV. – See more at: http://researchcareersblog.com/#sthash.WP9kjcM7.dpuf
Editor’s note: Peter K. Studner is president and senior consultant at Los Angeles- based outplacement services firm Peter K. Studner Associates and the author of Super Job Search IV. – See more at: http://researchcareersblog.com/#sthash.WP9kjcM7.dpuf

Editor’s note: Peter K. Studner is president and senior consultant at Los Angeles- based outplacement services firm Peter K. Studner Associates and the author of Super Job Search IV.

College seniors, rejoice: According to a new study from Michigan State University’s College Employment Institute, employers will be recruiting more college graduates in 2015 than they have in well over a decade.

ResumesWith hiring for bachelor’s degrees increasing by 16 percent from last year alone, it’s true that finding your first job may not be the monumental quest it has been for grads in recent years. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put just as much thought and effort into the job search process as they did. After all, your professional future depends on this next step.

Here are 10 things that 2015 college graduates should keep in mind as they search for employment:

Your first job is more important than you might think. As you send out résumés and applications, you should focus on finding a job that allows you to learn about working in your chosen field. That may seem obvious but some graduates are in such a hurry to get placed that they don’t take the time to consider where they want to be in three, five or 10 years.

Your college degree will never be more valuable than it is right now. After you accept your first job offer, you’ll receive promotions and new opportunities based primarily on your accomplishments, not on the diploma hanging behind your desk. The point? It’s important to consider your future goals and leverage your degree in a way that sets you up for a successful, fulfilling career in years to come.

Consider your skills when choosing a field. Yes, all college majors naturally correlate with certain career fields, and you should definitely consider applying to positions in those areas. But it’s also worth your while to spend some time independently considering your skills – both academic and otherwise – and think outside the box when identifying potential career paths.

Many job seekers with whom I’ve worked over the years have been surprised by the field in which they ended up, albeit pleasantly so! Spend a little time using the Job Skills Transfer Assessment Tool (JobSTAT) at the Minnesota Department of Labor’s Web site, PositivelyMinnesota.com. The tool matches your experience, skills and knowledge with possible careers, and lets you know where your skill gaps might lie. Although the actual job openings listed on the site are in Minnesota, JobSTAT is an excellent way to learn about careers that align with your current skills.

Look for opportunity, not salary. Many graduates have large debts to pay off and are understandably tempted to go for the highest salary offered (perhaps you can identify!), but that course of action could be a mistake. High salaries come with high expectations. And if you don’t have enough experience, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Furthermore, the position that pays best now might not be the one that helps you achieve your long-term goals.

Your first job should not necessarily be the one that pays the most; it should be the one with the greatest opportunity for you to learn – not only what to do but also what not to do. Observing a really bad role model in action is one of the most valuable work experiences you can get.

Don’t overstate your experience. Perhaps you held one or more jobs before you graduated from college. Even if those positions were in line with your career path, think carefully about the claims you make on your résumé. What did you learn from those jobs? Can you honestly present yourself as an experienced employee, or will you have to fake it during your interview and hope that you catch on quickly once you’re hired? Will you be squandering an opportunity at a top-notch company by overstating your experience?

It may be wiser to take a less lucrative position where you can admit what you do not know and openly express your desire to learn. Your attitude going into your first “real” job must be positive and proactive. Remember, the organization you’re joining will depend on you. No matter how small your role, you should be able to do your part – and then some.

Make sure your résumé tells your story. You have spent up to 8,000 hours acquiring your degree – don’t drop the ball now. Put as much effort into preparing your résumé as you did into crafting a crucial paper for an important class. Too often, job seekers (whether they’re recent grads or experienced workers) send out hastily written résumés assuming that hiring managers will be able to read between the lines and see how amazing they are. Newsflash: That never happens.

Poorly prepared résumés and other collateral materials will rule you out, even if you are the most qualified candidate – and you’d be surprised by how often this happens. Make sure your résumé does a good job of highlighting your skills, accomplishments, work history (if applicable) and education. You’ll also find helpful resources and hundreds of model résumés at SuperJobSearch.com and on the SuperJobSearch app, which is available for Apple and Android devices.

Prepare (and then prepare some more) for your interview. While the number of job opportunities is increasing, only candidates with outstanding presentation skills will get the plum jobs. Like it or not, most jobs are secured or lost in the interview stage, so put more effort into preparing for interviews than you do into any other part of your job search campaign.

Putting prior thought into how you might answer both standard and tricky interview questions can help you avoid disaster and gain an advantage over the competition. Be sure to rehearse your responses out loud, too. The more comfortable you are talking about yourself, your skills, your accomplishments and your goals, the better impression you’ll make on your interviewers.

Choose a company that aligns with your values. You may not have thought about how your personal values might – or might not – align with your career. But this is essential to consider before accepting a position, because the values factor will impact your performance and your personal fulfillment. When considering an organization, consider questions such as: How do they treat clients? Team members? Might my success come at a cost to someone else? What are their priorities? Will I feel proud or ashamed at the end of the day?

Do your homework. This is one area where negative information can be more valuable than positive. As you interview, learn from the people you meet about the success they have achieved. Their comments can provide you with clues as to how you might feel and perform in years to come.

Be sure to check out GlassDoor.com, which lets you read reviews of companies from current and former employees. Also, Barron’s magazine is a good source of information about many companies. To subscribe, check student magazine discounters (www.MagazineLine.com) for low-cost rates.

Make sure the company has a solid future. Independently, make sure that your research includes forecasts of the company’s activity, product or service. Bear in mind that the products and services they are offering today probably didn’t exist five, 10 or 15 years ago.

Does the company appear to have a solid plan going forward? Are there new products or services in the pipeline, and do they strike you as being viable? Even though you probably won’t stick with the same employer for decades, you don’t want to be caught short without a transition planned.

Look for paid internships. Understandably, most college graduates set their sights on full-time paid jobs. But don’t assume that internships are behind you.

Paid internships, which might last for six months, a year or even longer, are sometimes available to college grads. They’re a good place to learn what goes into becoming a top performer. (These are different from the internships offered to students in return for college credits.) Check out Job-Hunt.org for internship listings in your area, including those at Fortune 500 companies.

Be an active learner. Yes, you’ve successfully obtained your college degree but that doesn’t mean your education is over. In order to build a successful career, you must become a life-long learner.

Don’t assume you know it all – or even that you know enough – now or ever. Just as a company must keep reinventing itself in order to meet new market demands, you must keep developing your skills throughout your career. Those who keep learning new skills on a continuous basis will be the real winners in the long run.

Savvy graduates will take the time to prepare for their transition before actually going out on the job market. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are today – so make sure your focus and self-presentation complement, instead of detract from, the education you bring to the table.

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The benefits of fun in the workplace

Editor’s note: Nat Measley is the CEO and managing partner at The Fun Dept., Philadelphia.

fun in the workplaceTo have fun or not to have fun? That is the question.

Are you curious how companies like Google, Zappos, Southwest and others develop those winning workplace cultures, with such high productivity and profitability? Regardless of the industry, there is a common thread running through the highest performing companies: the inherent or stated culture of fun. Among companies denoted as “great” in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, a whopping 81 percent of employees say they work in a fun environment.

If you look closely at the highly successful companies mentioned above, they incorporate fun into the fabric of their culture. Fun at work may not be a silver bullet that produces superior results on its own but a workplace environment that prioritizes fun will rise above the competition. With stout leadership, dedicated management and strong company values, company-wide fun can take you over the top.

Prioritizing fun in the workplace will have a direct impact throughout your company in a myriad of ways but there are a few specific areas that can be highlighted.

Organizational health

Everyone would agree that a healthy and happy employee is a more productive employee, right? Fun can be an important component of emotional wellness. Often, fun is used to encourage participation or bolster existing wellness programs. The attention on emotional intelligence in the workplace and its impact on the bottom line is rapidly gaining momentum. For most organizations human capital is the largest asset and the single largest expense. It seems like a natural place to focus on, considering it will have the largest impact on the bottom line. We have already seen the biggest advances in technology and those investments today are producing marginal returns and impact on productivity. The next revolution in the workplace is culture.

Productivity

Secondly, let’s explore productivity. Do you ever get a break? Are you expected to work eight hours per day, straight with no breaks? Fun can offer great breaks and distractions – not wasting time but true valuable break time. As an example, there is a national call and customer service center that offers its employees a unique schedule. They have broken up their average daily time commitment into on-phone time and quick breaks (dubbed “shorts”). These shorts are sprinkled throughout any of the call center employees’ days. They last 15 minutes or less, during which time employees can play ping pong, take a walk outside or do anything they please.

Look at Google. They give their employees 20 percent of any given work day to simply do what they want to do. And no, that time does not have to be work related. Why? One reason is for the sake of productivity of their work force. They realize that their people are working hard. The breaks are meant to enhance productivity of employee on-time.

Relationships and loyalty

Relationships and loyalty (sometimes retention) go hand in hand. A staggering 79 percent of companies believe they have a significant retention and engagement problem. Losing an employee can cost up to four times their salary, depending on the position. What about attracting the next generation of great talent? The tides are shifting and given the choice most people – especially Millennials – will choose culture over pay. Culture and fun is a differentiator that will give you the competitive advantage.

Engagement

How can engagement be affected and in turn, affect the bottom line? In human resources, one very popular metric is employee engagement – an employees’ emotional and active commitment to the success of the company. Engaged workers are enthusiastic about their jobs. And disengaged workers are not. According to a Gallup survey a company loses $2,246 per disengaged employee per year. Why? Disengaged employees take more sick days. They arrive late, miss deadlines and are more likely to instigate customer complaints. In all, they drag people and business down.

Fun can help. Fun has a 68 percent correlation to employee engagement scores. In other words, if someone perceives their work environment is fun on a survey, their individual engagement score will be affected positively by 68 percent. In other studies, 75 percent of companies observed who incorporate fun into their culture and operation who also currently measure engagement report increased or maintained scores over time.

Yes, it’s true. Fun at work is builds solidarity, connections and an outlet for workplace stress. When designed and delivered at regular intervals with forethought and understanding about what your staff needs.

OK, you get it. So, how do you get started? Remember this is a cultural change not a single event or two so it takes time. Start by assessing your culture. Ask yourself if you see value in fun fitting in and then explore how the fun can become a part of your operation. The next big revolution in the working world is focusing in on culture. Enlightened leaders recognize that the old hierarchical ways of doing business and treating employees like numbers, not people, are no longer effective. You will be glad you considered fun, and so will your employees and your business!

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10 connecting conversations to help your company succeed

Editor’s note: Dan Prosser is the author of Thirteeners and CEO of The Prosser Group and BreakthroughSchool.com.

Group Of Office Workers Meeting To Discuss IdeasHere’s an inconvenient business truth for you to consider: It doesn’t matter how valuable, cutting-edge or unique an organization’s product or service is if its people can’t connect positively and effectively with each other. In fact, workplace connectedness is one of the hallmarks of a great organization with a culture of high performance. Consider the following statements made by employees from Glassdoor’s 2014 top five best places to work:

  1. “The people above you really want you to be successful and offer a ton of valuable coaching and feedback.” – Bain & Company
  2. “You are surrounded by smart, hard-working people who genuinely care about the company. You truly feel like everyone is pulling the company in the same direction.” – Twitter
  3. “Eastman cares about its people through open communication, training opportunities, career advancement, and work-life balance … I like the focus on innovation and customer engagement to drive results.” – Eastman Chemical
  4. “Employees are…some of the smartest and dedicated I’ve worked with, and also a lot of fun to work with (seriously).” – Facebook

 

Best places to work companies don’t achieve connectedness through grand, expensive gestures. Their success comes down to the conversations that take place every day between employees and their leaders.

As I discuss in my new book Thirteeners,business – all business – is actually just a network of interconnected conversations. In too many companies, these conversations are destructive. They spread like a virus and keep people disconnected. In others, the conversations create environments where people feel heard, mirrored and validated.

A small percentage of companies consistently achieve the kind of authentic dialogue that connects people, allowing them to execute through conflict, chaos, good times and bad. These are the thirteeners. They’ve figured out how to promote conversations that contribute to employees’ feeling connected to each other, to their company’s vision, to their common purpose and to their strategy. Your company can promote these kinds of conversations, too.

Here, I spotlight the 10 connecting conversations happening in successful companies:

Conversations that encourage contribution. Your employees invest a huge amount of their time and intellect on your organization’s behalf – and they want a return on their investment. Believe it or not, the return they want most is not a bigger paycheck. What they want is the chance to make a difference – to contribute something meaningful to the outcome of the organization and be appreciated and acknowledged for it.

When your people don’t create this opportunity, your employees leave you for what they perceive as a greater opportunity to matter. But when you assign responsibility and allow people to provide solutions that you actually put to use, they’ll speak highly of you and they wouldn’t think of leaving. In fact, they’ll want to work harder to make you even happier. Be sure to let them know that you want to hear their ideas and suggestions!

Conversations that convey acknowledgment and appreciation. Chances are good that many of your employees were wounded in the workplace before you hired them: They’ve been passed over for promotions and given insufficient compensation for hard work. They’ve been taken for granted and treated like numbers. (Maybe this has even happened within your own organization.) The good news is, you can help right these past wrongs – to your benefit.

Your first impression might be that saying thank-you and good job is awkward and might feel clumsy, and your employees may also feel that way at first. However, I promise you that the rewards of your efforts will greatly outweigh your initial discomfort. You’ll be giving your employees a gift they’ve never received anywhere else, and they’ll feel a sense of wholeness that they’ve never experienced at work. And as a result, their engagement, loyalty and productivity will soar.

Conversations that encourage alignment. In companies that are listed as best places to work, everyone heads in the same direction – not necessarily just by following the leader but also by making sure that when any strategic element is altered, everyone has an opportunity to contribute to changes that must take place in other areas of the business. Operations in aligned organizations have minimal confusion. There are no territorial disputes, and everyone looks out for everyone else.

If you’re a CEO or executive leader with final authority, it’s important that you use contribution conversations to allow others to bring ideas to you. Your job isn’t to find the holes in their concepts but to be able to say whether you can be aligned with the proposed effort or action. If you can, then you empower others to dig deep into themselves and contribute. If you can’t, then share what’s preventing you from being aligned. That becomes a teaching opportunity.

When people are aligned, they understand the business goals for the year and the role each goal plays. They recognize there must be alignment for their efforts to affect the bottom-line success of the company.

Conversations that build accountability. When employees are being accountable, they make specific promises to take action to accomplish goals. Everyone sees everyone’s promises, and there are no secret deals to undermine the effort to keep those promises. And, of course, those promises are kept. The results of people’s actions are fully measured, and everyone’s contribution is visible.

In a culture of accountability, everyone is “count-on-able.” And it’s not just leaders who make sure that accountability happens. In a connected organization, everyone holds each other accountable for fulfilling promises. If a person promises to produce a particular result, someone (or a team) holds that person accountable for fulfilling that promise.

This requires saying, first, “You said this, but you didn’t do this”; then, declaring what’s missing; and, finally, requesting a promise to clean up the situation (or renegotiating the original promise). There is no shaming involved.

Conversations that facilitate continuous communication. Even great companies struggle to shore up communication. But in companies where there is a high degree of communication, employees hear from management about anything that happens, especially if it impacts the way they do their jobs in a timely manner.

In many organizations, one of the first steps in shoring up the communication gap is ensuring that no one finds out about task-essential information accidentally or after the fact. It doesn’t reach anyone first through gossip or the grapevine. Whenever possible, strive for proactive transparency.

Conversations that build relationships. I call relatedness the source of all results. When there is relatedness, it’s very easy for an employee to talk to his or her direct supervisor, because that supervisor listens. And there is real solidarity among executives, managers and employees.

Nothing meaningful happens unless there is a relationship between the two people working together. Two strangers might have a problem starting the conversation necessary to getting the issue handled – even if they work for the same company. But two colleagues with an established, positive relationship can get the ball moving quickly and without misunderstandings. This is how connectedness cures a host of ills.

Conversations that underscore responsibility. When most people hear the word responsible in a workplace context, they assume it has to do with blaming others for what went wrong or for not doing what they said they would. But no company listed as best places to work practice that. For them, being responsible means taking the initiative to do what is necessary to get the job done.

Responsible employees don’t wait for a supervisor to tell them what they need to do before taking action. Make sure your people know that they have permission to take the initiative. Then make sure they have the resources and support to do so.

Conversations that encourage integrity. What does it mean to demonstrate integrity? It begins when management says they are going to do something, and the statement is followed with authentic action. Their actions are always in-step with what they said they would do.

This is not the same as being honest, decent or virtuous. Integrity is a way of being in which management says X is going to happen, and X happens. And it applies beyond management. There is a clear and total match between what people in the organization say and their actions.

Conversations that develop a sense of possibility. When employees can see and understand where the company is going and can feel connected to their company’s plans for the next three to five years – and longer – they will not fear that their job could end suddenly through no fault of their own.

Your job as a leader is to discover possibilities for your business – both for your workplace and your marketplace. You must then share those with your employees and let them contribute, as co-creators, to a strategy you can successfully execute together.

Conversations that acknowledge (and enhance!) fun, rewards and gratefulness. This isn’t a discussion that you can start around a conference table or during a one-on-one meeting with an employee. (Can you picture yourself saying to your team, “So, how much do you love working here? I feel so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful company, don’t you?”) Instead, it has to originate – voluntarily – with your employees. The good news is, it will develop organically once you start having the previous nine conversations.

On most days, employees of best places to work companies can’t wait to get to work. Yes, really. They say things like, “This is a great place to work, and I feel grateful to have the opportunity to be here with these great people.” Often, they say they can’t believe they get to work there. That’s because they feel involved, appreciated and connected.

I attribute many of the outcomes in business to the degree of connectedness that exists between people. Can I prove it? Not scientifically. But there are enough people who accept this view of how the world works to make it worth talking about. Even more, it’s important to implement it in our organizations so that we can realize our potentials and so that our employees can experience a level of relatedness that brings them satisfaction.

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6 things to do after a great interview

Editor’s note: Peter K. Studner is president and senior consultant at Los Angeles- based outplacement services firm Peter K. Studner Associates and the author of Super Job Search IV.

Woman handing over resume at interview.You’ve just had your first, second or even third interview with a prospective employer, and you walked away from the meeting with a really good feeling. The interviewer may have even let slip that you’d be a great fit for the company or that your accomplishments are impressive. Understandably, you’re excited about the possibility of being hired. And if you’re like many job searchers, you’ll assume that your campaign is (finally) at a turning point.

But don’t ease off the gas pedal just yet!

A lot can happen between an outstanding interview and a job offer. Often, a great interview will put you in a group of five or six finalists, which must be narrowed down. Or the company might locate an internal candidate who eclipses external applicants. Or they decide to put the search on hold, or cancel it altogether.

The point is, there are many reasons why a promising job lead can dead-end, even after the interview stage. So don’t break your forward momentum until you have an offer in hand!

Here are six things job seekers should do after a great interview:

Don’t assume you’ve crossed the finish line. This bears repeating: Smart candidates will keep their campaigns moving full steam ahead while waiting for a job offer. Stop-and-go searches are depressing and create enormous amounts of needless stress each time you have to restart your campaign.

Keep networking and courting other employers. Try to actively cultivate as many job possibilities as you can. Ideally, you want to have a few offers come in at the same time so that you have a choice of the best position for your career.

Oh, and one more thing: Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to help others. For every 12 to 16 networking encounters, candidates usually hear about at least one job opportunity. While you might not be a good fit for each of these opportunities, chances are you know someone else who is! Fellow job seekers will appreciate the lead, and in turn, they’ll start looking for opportunities for you.

Assess your interview. While your great interview is still fresh in your mind, review it with an honest eye. Consider (and write down for future reference) what went well and what you’d like to improve on in the future, if necessary. This might be as general as cultivating more confident body language, or as specific as tweaking your approach to a certain question.

There is no such thing as a perfect interview. Treat each one as a learning opportunity. Hopefully you’ll receive an offer and won’t have to use your notes but it’s always best to actively engage in improving your skills.

Keep your references informed. If you have given the company references, be sure to inform those people that you’ve completed a promising interview and that they might get a call. If possible, discuss the position with each reference and point out which of your skills and accomplishments you’d like them to emphasize to the employer.

I suggest sending your references a copy of your resume with your most pertinent accomplishments highlighted. Ask each reference to let you know if they get a call and how it went.

Say thank you. Of course you should send a short message to each person you met at the company, thanking them for their time and consideration. It’s becoming increasingly acceptable to do this via e-mail, but sending a hard copy never goes amiss.

In addition to expressing your appreciation, you might include a follow-up thought based on a particular interview question. And be sure to state that you look forward to the next step in the process.

Look for opportunities with competitors. When you interview with one company, it’s worth your time to research and approach its competitors in case they, too, have job openings. Google “competitors + [name of company].” Then, depending on your requirements, you might approach one or all of the results.

If you don’t see a similar job opening listed on the competitor’s Web site, prepare a neat cover letter addressed to the person in that company who would be interested in your accomplishments. For example, if you are a quality control associate, address your letter to the vice president of quality, or operations, production or manufacturing. Call the company and ask for a specific name and contact information, stating that you want to write that person a letter. Or better yet, find someone within the company you can network with using your LinkedIn contacts.
Your letter should not ask for a job but should tell the reader about your key accomplishments and inform him or her of your availability. After all, since the company with which you originally interviewed hasn’t made you an offer or promised you a job, you are still a free agent.

Get the most bang for your travel buck. If you are traveling out of town for an interview, plan to visit with other companies on this trip. In advance, call their human resources departments to ask if you can drop by and talk with one of their internal recruiters. If some or all of your travel expenses are covered by the company with which you’ll be interviewing and you are asked why you’d like to stay in the area longer, do not discuss your plans to visit other organizations. Merely say you wanted to see more of the area or to visit with a few friends or relatives.

To make the most of your time away, I also recommend that you locate some of the leading recruiters in the area and arrange to meet with them. Call in advance, indicating that you will be in their town on business and would love to stop by. Do not name the company with which you will be meeting, as the recruiter may very well work closely with your prospective employer. Keep it confidential.

The biggest mistake most job seekers make after a successful interview is simply doing nothing. Remember, the more you network, apply and interview, the closer you will be to getting that ideal job. Don’t stop until you’ve crossed the finish line!

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Strategies for engaging Millennials in the workplace

Editor’s note: Aimee Lucas is a vice president and customer experience transformist at Temkin Group, a Boston-area customer experience research and advisory firm.

Millennials in the workplaceEngaged employees are valuable assets, yet organizations are having difficulty engaging the fastest growing portion of the workforce, Millennials – employees born between 1980 and 2000. Temkin Group’s 2014 survey of over 5,600 U.S. full-time employees – 33 percent of which were Millennials – found that just over half of this generation were moderately or highly engaged, putting them behind both Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Further research into this generation revealed the differences between Millennials and their older colleagues is not as distinct when it comes to what they look for in a workplace or in their bosses. While the following characteristics are not exclusive to this generation, our research found Millennials are:

  • Group-oriented. Millennials prefer team-based, collaborative work. Relationships are important to them and they interact with an extensive network of personal and professional connections. Our research found that compared to other employees, Millennials put greater importance on working with people they can learn from.
  • Progress-driven. This generation wants to make a difference at work right away. Our research shows that compared to employees from other generations, Millennials favor jobs with a boss who teaches them and helps them progress in their careers.
  • Socially conscious. Millennials seek meaningful work and will look to work for employers whose principles align with their personal values. Despite the desire for meaningful work, the study found that nearly 40 percent of Millennials do not understand the overall mission of their company, making them the least mission-connected of the three generations primarily represented in today’s workforce.
  • Autonomous. Millennials prefer choices over mandates. Compared to respondents from other generations, Millennials seek jobs that have flexible work hours and that encourage creativity, rather than bosses who provide specific directions for getting work done.

 

Companies are recognizing both the challenges and the opportunities associated with Millennials and are using a variety of approaches to engage this generation with their work and employer. We expect this focus to continue through 2015 and beyond as this generation continues to grow in number and begin to become leaders themselves. To understand how to best capitalize on this generation we interviewed a number of companies and identified five specific strategies that can be integrated into a company’s existing employee engagement efforts:

Expand job descriptions. Millennials want opportunities to grow and showcase their skills in meaningful ways, and they desire feedback confirming they are making valued contributions on the job. Companies should clearly define performance expectations and what success looks like and create a variety of opportunities for this generation to expand their knowledge and skills.

Create connections. This generation is used to working on teams and collaborating with others. They actively seek opportunities to form relationships both inside and outside of their organization. To fulfill Millennials’ need to build relationships, companies should foster network building within and across generational lines, organizational levels and functional roles.

Make work matter. Meaningfulness is a powerful intrinsic motivator, especially for Millennials who want to make a difference in their company and in the world at large. It’s important that organizations help this generation connect to the company’s values, culture and causes employees care about.

Make work more flexible. Millennials have grown up in a world that affords them many opportunities to choose where, when and how they communicate, learn and complete their assignments. To keep pace, organizations need to demonstrate adaptability in how they communicate, train and expect work to be done.

Develop Millennial leaders. Savvy companies need to help managers and leaders across the organization understand generational differences so that each group evolves its approaches and processes that touch employees.

HR must step up

If organizations want to actively engage Millennials, then their primary employee-focused programs need to adapt. Here’s a primer for HR groups that want to make an impact on the Millennial generation:

Hiring and onboarding. Millennials evaluate potential employers across many dimensions, including brand reputation and alignment of values. Thus, HR organizations should have a well-defined company brand and communicate that brand through the channels that Millennials naturally gravitate toward, particularly in the digital/social realm. Branding stories should center on “employees like me” and highlight how Millennials are making an impact at the organization. During the onboarding process, HR should reinforce the brand and company values and help new Millennial hires form meaningful internal relationships quickly.

Training and development. Most Millennials are used to more interactive forms of learning. So while traditional classroom-based programs might be the norm today, HR organizations need to incorporate technology-based training and collaboration tools into their Millennial learning plans. HR must facilitate growth and development outside of the classroom through stretch assignments, special projects and formalized coaching or mentoring programs. HR organizations should encourage managers to provide more frequent feedback, and train them on how to offer clear and specific coaching that recognizes both the good and the bad.

Performance management. Millennials are ambitious and have high expectations about how they will progress within their organizations. They look for very clear success criteria and want to see the path ahead of them. To appease their need for advancement, HR organizations should develop clear career paths that include more frequent milestones that emphasize individual skill development and that recognize growth even without formal promotions. This also means that HR must help managers let go and allow Millennials to take new jobs inside the company, otherwise these young employees may leave the organization to find opportunities elsewhere.

Recognition and incentives. Millennials, like generations before them, want to hear that they are doing a good job – they just want to hear it more frequently. Millennials are accustomed to structure and regular praise, and in the workplace this translates into a desire to know how they are measured and a need to receive recurring validation and approval that they are on track. HR organizations should establish non-monetary recognition programs that encourage managers and peers to find Millennials who are demonstrating the behaviors required for success. HR should also examine its formal incentive programs and incorporate rewards for demonstrating the company’s values and for exceptional team performance – both workplace elements that are important to Millennials.

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