How should I explain my layoff in my job interview?

Dear Sarah,

I was laid off 5 months ago due to a company merger and it has been tough finding work. I’ve finally managed to snag an interview recently, but now I’m struggling to prepare how I’m going to frame my layoff. Any advice?

Thanks,

Laid Off and Out

Hey LOO,

First of all, congrats on the job interview!

Secondly, you’re not alone having had a tough time getting an interview. At Talent.Works we’ve actually found that the job hunt is tougher for those that have experienced layoffs/firings; having either on your resume is the equivalent of losing 5 years of work experience. (It’s especially hard if you were fired, quit, or laid off in the first 15 months of being there).

The good news is, you’re past the hard part! This company has already viewed your resume, liked what they saw, and decided to start the conversation. At this point, it’s all about communication:

Be Transparent  

Understand that there is nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to a layoff. There are a multitude of reasons that someone will get laid-off in their lifetime and it happens to everyone from star employees to 80% of an entire sales department, for example. (In other words, don’t take it personal as there are business decisions.)

Be honest and transparent about communicating your situation, for example, include the correct start and end dates to your jobs. In your case, explaining the circumstances surrounding your layoff (RE: merger) will also eliminate this as being a performance issue. Whatever the reason, keep it brief.

Explain your value add

Regardless of the amount time you spent at your job, hiring managers want to know how you contributed. Make sure you list out your accomplishments such as raising funds or saving money and tie it back to the bottom line. Even if you were there for 6 months, emphasize your skills and how you contributed to departmental goals.

Make available past work

If you haven’t already considered it, crafting a specialized blog, website, or portfolio showcasing your work is a great way to convince hiring managers you have the skills necessary for this position regardless of past circumstances. Case studies, writing/design samples, and lesson plans are all great examples of what a manager would find helpful in making their decision. Of course, don’t share anything of a proprietary nature.

Gather your references

Social proof! Colleagues willing to provide testimonials as to your work ethic and past performance is incredibly valuable, especially if it’s coming from the job where you experienced the layoff. It will offset potential concerns and they’ll be able to briefly speak to the situation, if asked. If they’re not able to provide a phone reference, send them a reference request via LinkedIN and make sure your hiring manager has access.

All the best!

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Why Smaller Companies Are Better Early on in Your Career

The allure of large, name-brand companies such as Google, Edward Jones, Deloitte and Hyatt (all included in Forbes 100 Best Places to Work 2018) is understandable. Great perks, brand association, more resources, and exposure to the workings of core business on a large scale (i.e.: processes, performance, making an impact, etc.) make for an environment that can help you reach your career goals…maybe.

Although the corporate mold has major benefits in some respect, applying to smaller or medium-sized companies (<200) especially early on in your career will not only increase your transferable skillset but foster a ‘think outside the box’ mentality that will serve you in any working environment.

You’ll quickly learn a ton.

With varied responsibilities that don’t always fit your job description, you’re expanding your skillset on a regular basis. Getting to wear multiple hats and work cross-functionally with different departments is a highly sought after professional attribute in any business setting.

Creatures of habit will balk at change in responsibility, and if not presented correctly (i.e.: not being offered the proper resources to help you succeed) this type of transition can be stressful. Ultimately for your budding career, more opportunity is best and employees that work in smaller companies are visible and less likely to be siloed where they can’t professionally grow.

You’ll have more influence.

In a small business setting, the work you do is naturally more visible. For this reason, you’re able to make a tangible impact on a daily basis. Larger companies may offer a built-in support system but the connections you make at a smaller company where your immediate team and beyond are regularly witnessing your wins and contributions arguably makes for intimate references and networking connections.

Your professional success is vital to the success of a small business and this is a huge motivator for managers to make themselves to you. Your first job(s) are learning experiences and your boss/mentors have a great deal of information and experience to share. In larger companies (perhaps where the bottom line isn’t the #1 goal) it may be more difficult to gain access to your manager.

More flexibility to discover what works for you.

Larger businesses have corporate policies and regulations that are put in place regarding what an employee can and cannot do; not doing so would absolutely burden a corporate structure of 500+ employees. Smaller companies inherently have the wiggle room to offer things like flexible work schedules/breaks, adaptability in hiring, and even work from home options. This fosters a certain work ethic early on in your career where trust between yourself and your manager/co-workers is vital. There is no room to take advantage of long breaks everyday as your presence is noticed.

Applying to smaller businesses and start-ups requires a different approach. If you’re looking for guidance in how to get a small business interview (or what jobs would best fit your skills), we can help.

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

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5 Tips for Beating Imposter Syndrome in Job Interviews

“What gives me the right to be at this interview?” 
“Do I belong here?”
“Did their HR make a mistake?”

 

Is it difficult to communicate your accomplishments during interviews? Do you feel as if what is on paper doesn’t represent the “real you”?

Many people suffer from interview jitters, but for some it’s an all-consuming feeling where they believe themselves a fraud and their interview a complete fluke despite their quality as a candidate. This persistent feeling of self-doubt may also sometimes hamper a candidate’s chance of moving forward in the hiring pipeline if they are coming across as unconfident. It’s called ‘imposter syndrome’ (IP) and many people from all walks of life will experience it in their lifetime. 

In job interviews especially, the last thing you would want to do is discount your achievements and have trouble remembering all the awesome projects you managed. So, how do you beat it during the interview process?

Familiarity will calm your nerves

Do your homework. Research typical interview questions for your specific job title and of course the company itself. Glassdoor is a great resource for checking out the specific questions candidates were asked and their overall interview experience. (Of course, take it with a grain of salt as everyone’s experience differs.) Realize that it is normal to expect to learn new skills in a new job and practice how you are going to frame questions around areas you need to improve.

Your internal dialogue isn’t reality

You may think you’re tanking the interview, but understand that the hiring manager sees something different and even expects some level of nervousness. While you’re overthinking how they must be perceiving you, you’re actively forgetting that an interview is a two-way street. You are there to interview the company, meet potential coworkers and managers, check out the workspace and generally see if this would work for you. Be present, focused, and try to enjoy yourself.

Hard work>Perfection

High-achievers and perfectionists are vulnerable to imposter syndrome because they’re constantly setting unrealistic expectations for themselves. It’s important to realize that nobody knows everything, and that’s okay! Seeing yourself as a hard-worker who gets things done as opposed to someone constantly chasing perfection will help you recognize your strengths and speak to them authentically.

Take your time

When candidates are nervous they tend to talk fast and immediately respond to every question. Give yourself a moment to absorb the information and ask clarifying questions, if necessary. You might even take notes or request to use the whiteboard. Hiring managers are looking for thoughtful, calm responses and prefer you take as much time as you need to answer their questions.

Post-interview evaluation

After the interview is over, give yourself an honest self-evaluation. Write down all the positive aspects that you believe contributed to your possibly getting the job. This behavioral conditioning exercise will help steer you away from focusing on the negative unnecessarily and instead how well you managed your stress.

Conclusion

Imposter syndrome is the idea that you got to where you are professionally due to some kind of error. The causality is unclear, but there are steps to take to better help you realize your accomplishments with the confidence you deserve. Interviews may seem daunting but, as the job seeker, much of what seems intimidating is controllable.

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

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Women: Win at Negotiating your Job Offer

Women face a unique set of challenges when negotiating job offers. Being viewed as ‘pushy’ when advocating for salary is an unfortunate bias that holds many women back from achieving wage parity in the workplace. It’s no wonder that when compared to men they’re far more likely to take that first offer; comparatively, men are 8x more likely to negotiate a higher starting salary.

A recent study out of Australia also found that when women actually do ask for raises, they are less likely to get one. (Rock, meet hard place.)

Same game, different ballpark.

Negotiation is, unfortunately, different for men and women out of necessity. It’s common knowledge that women in the US earn only 77.4% of men’s annual salary and data confirms the existence of workplace bias. Ladies, effectively sharpening your negotiation skills will help you to achieve your career goals beyond a salary. Whether you’re in the early stages of navigating the job market or you have an offer on the table you should be empowered to negotiate your next job contract.

So how do you prepare, especially if you’re not a “negotiator”? You obviously don’t want to ask for too much and risk coming across as out of touch, or get lowballed (so-to-speak).

But, first — here’s some surprising data:

According to TalentWorks data, being a job seeking woman gives you about a 50% hireability boost over men. Resumes with obviously female names had a +48.3% higher chance of getting an interview.

women hireability

We believe this is indicative of many reasons: women outperforming men in college (last fall women made up 56% of university students on campus nationwide), most recruiters are women, and how hiring and promoting more women boosts your bottom line.

Know your salary scale.

Before you’re offered the job, make sure you’re aware of the industry standard of pay (at least what is typical) for this position. Also, understand that your location, skill set, the industry, years of experience, and education/certifications all represent factors that you should leverage when nailing down the offer.

“To begin with, do your research.” says Erin Feldman, Senior TalentAdvocate with TalentWorks. “Try using a Fair Pay calculator or similar tool to be able to go into your negotiations informed. This will give you an idea of what folks in similar positions are making in your area. Then be sure to consider non-monetary compensation such as benefits, PTO, retirement, flex-scheduling, and the option to telecommute. These can have just as much value (if not more!) than salary alone.”

Frame your requests.

Every administrative assistant, programmer, and business analyst comes with a unique background. If you have skills that range beyond that of the job description, consider positioning them in way that ties back to the business. For example, if you’re a marketing manager with advanced SQL skills you can leverage the fact that not only do you have data analytics chops but database management experience that can directly contribute to advanced lead analysis. Know your strengths and differentiators.

Demonstrate your effectiveness.

Negotiation is an art, and you need to master it. Studies have shown that by using a certain negotiating strategy, specifically, saying “I’m hopeful you’ll see my skill at negotiating as something important I bring to the jobwomen improve both their social and negotiating outcomes. By knowing your worth as a candidate and presenting it in a relatable, personable manner you are not only effectively negotiating but making a good first impression as being a capable employee.

Maintain perspective, but don’t be afraid to walk away.

If you’ve done your research, asked for market rate, and are being reasonable if presented a low offer (and it’s becoming a back-and-forth), don’t be afraid to bail. Understand their constraints (i.e. salaries are determined by departmental budget), but hiring managers do in fact have wiggle room. It’s your job to figure out where they’re flexible (and where they’re not) and if that works for you.

Conclusion

Negotiating a job offer is part of the job search process. The more prepared you are to do so, the better you will fare. Remember that salary is important, but consider the whole deal such as the job’s potential for growth, flexibility with hours, and perks. Your goal is to position yourself effectively and get the job right.

Need some 1:1 practice with an actual hiring manager? For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

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Why you shouldn’t be ‘comfortable’ at work

Comfort isn’t inherently a bad thing. Besides hammocks swinging in the wind, being ‘comfortable’ invokes a state of calm and freedom from stress, the latter being both a killer of productivity and good health. Unfortunately being ‘too comfortable’ in the workplace can evolve into stagnation, apathy, mediocrity, and routine; even if you’re satisfied just getting a paycheck, this state of mundanity could hurt both your career and potential.

What is “Eustress”?

Eustress is a state of productively honed stress where stress itself is seen as beneficial. In the workplace, eustress (the opposite being ‘distressed’) means having sweaty palms for managing a big project or campaign, going for that promotion, and forging new ways for better efficiency across different departments. It’s exposing yourself to new opportunities and personal growth in your current job. It’s being a little uncomfortable.

Stop resting on your laurels.

Listen to Grandpa. It’s one thing to feel grateful and satisfied with your career, and quite another to take your job for granted. Remember your first week of work? You were probably eager and fully committed to learning new skills and meeting new people. No matter what stage you are at in your current position if you’re feeling ‘too comfortable’, underwhelmed, or just plain bored, here are some tips to provide you a fresh outlook on your job and abilities as an employee:

Tips for getting “uncomfortable” in your job:

Get paid to learn new skills: When was the last time you updated your resume? Retrieve your long forgotten LinkedIN password and check out what your industry peers are listing under skills and certifications. Many employers will subsidize courses and accreditations if they’re related to your current job. That’s free money!

Meet more people: Push yourself professionally and sign-up for a networking event. (If networking events fill you with dread, have a measurable goal such as meeting 5 people in 1 hour.) Expanding your immediate network through industry events exposes you to new opportunities in a uniquely personal way.

Ask your manager for more responsibility: Getting a little uncomfortable means challenging yourself. If you spend hours watching the clock, it may be that you need a new project. Throw a meeting on your manager’s calendar and come prepared with tangible ideas.

Start the job search: If you’ve been at your place of work for years and you’ve found that you’re not progressing in your role, learning anymore, or not getting the support/feedback you desire it may be time to look elsewhere. Advancing professionally means breaking out of your comfort zone and making a decision that’s best for you.

Conclusion

The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. If you’re in a comfortable routine in your current job, there’s a good chance you’ve lost the fire you need to grow and evolve both professionally and personally. Break out of living for the weekend and punching a time clock by exposing yourself to little stressors that push you forward and enhance workplace productivity.

Bored at work or stuck in a career rut? For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

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Why your Bachelor’s Degree isn’t worthless

Many job seekers rightly question whether their decision to attend college was a good investment. College today requires a great deal of time and money and the return on investment (ROI) isn’t always clear–especially when you’re simultaneously seeking work and paying Sallie Mae. Certainly there are different ways to evaluate the worth of your degree (some majors are considered to be more “valuable,” the name recognition of certain universities over others, how you decided to finance it, etc.) but the value of higher education in the job market today versus not having a college degree at all is clear.

It’s the new standard.

According to the US Census Bureau, over a third of American adults are graduating with Bachelors degrees, an 18% rise from just a decade ago. (It was only 4.6% in 1940!) Due to the oversaturation of the baccalaureate, it is now seen as the minimal credential necessary to attain an entry-level job. “Degree inflation” is commonplace across industries from administration to dental lab techs. Where the high school diploma was once suitable, the BA represents a basic point of entry into the workforce.

You still need the competitive edge.

Although a bachelor’s degree is viewed with less “prestige” than years past, not having one is a red flag for recruiters and hiring managers screening candidates. For one, a college degree acts as a litmus test for dedication and a certain commitment to one’s future; if you’ve pursued higher education there’s a certain cache you hold over a candidate without a degree. Secondly, many entry-level positions require a basic understanding of technical skills that in many ways are assumed with a college degree in 2018. In this respect, college grads are seen as more capable than non-grads.

You’ll earn more money.

On average, college graduates earn $1 million more over their lifetime than high school grads. Millennials with only a high school diploma earn 62% of what college grads earn. If you’re in the job market with only a high school education, you may be forfeiting a great deal of your earning potential.

Also, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates for people holding only a high school diploma are double that of those with a BA. Yikes.

It’s a buyer’s market.

Oversaturated markets and technological advancements in the workplace allow the buyer (aka the hiring manager) to set the price, so-to-speak. LinkedIN ssThe new standard for obtaining a “good,” middle-class job starts with the minimum ticket for entry and hiring managers recognize this trend in the labor force. Their ultimate goal is to secure the best candidate for the lowest price, and given this new standard, there is rising competition among education groups for the same positions (i.e.: Masters degree-holders in the same job pool as BA-degree-holders).

In addition to job hunters with MAs competing for positions that traditionally only require the 4-year degree, employers across industries are pushing education requirements towards even higher degrees.

Conclusion

In an ideal world hiring managers would focus on the whole person and the different experience each candidate offers when looking for top talent. Unfortunately, lack of time and resources precludes many employers from being so open-minded and certain standards are set to whittle down applicant pools. The undergraduate degree in 2018 is the basic investment towards a path to middle-class job opportunities; whether this is “fair” relies on new standards for opportunity being set.

If you’re currently in the job market and resenting your college degree as you tread through the endless slough of online applications, TalentWorks can help. In addition to optimizing your resume and matching you to jobs (that actually interest you) we have 24/7 mentorship with experienced hiring managers.

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

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Tips for Older Millennials Looking For Family Friendly Jobs

According to our data, the best age for both men and women to get a job is 28 to 35. It’s a sweet spot in your career where you automatically have a 25.1% chance of being hired compared to other age brackets.

Why? Well, it could be indicative of this age bracket’s ability to be flexible in terms of opportunity and salary (i.e.: you’re young enough to take entry-level positions and old enough to have proven yourself as senior level managers). I’d be remiss not to mention that this data validates a stark reality: ageism in the workplace. (God forbid, you’re a 36 year old software engineer or 45 year old educator looking for work).

Sweet Spot on Hiring Chart

In any case, it’s simply the best time to be a job candidate. This age bracket also happens to represent the “most ideal” time to start a family, both financially and scientifically depending on how many kids you would want. Although there are wonderfully effective ways to delay parenthood such as IVF (a treatment 100% covered as a perk in many large companies and counting [yay!]), this is a dilemma that working women especially must weigh at some point, specifically: how do I maintain my career at this pivotal point while planning for kids?

Enter the “family-friendly” work environment.

It’s a job perk that is quickly becoming the new standard at companies driven by a millennial/young Gen X workforce. In an age where equally shared bread-winning and child-rearing is the preferred norm, it only makes sense to accommodate the talent you want to retain. “Family-friendly” work environments are employers that understand that life happens and provide their staff with the necessary flexibility to be a parent. It’s one thing to offer telecommuting opportunities, but if your employees are made to feel guilty about doing so it’s not a perk.

“Employers are beginning to realize that a family-friendly workplace benefits the business as well as the employee. Companies that offer flexibility and family-friendly policies generally experience increased employee productivity, less turnover, and lower absenteeism. This trend, combined with increased demand for flexibility amongst workers, is making the family-friendly workplace more of the rule than the exception.”

Erin Feldman , Sr. TalentAdvocate at TalentWorks

So, how do you find these unicorn-esque, ‘family-friendly’ work environments that not only market themselves as being flexible, but actualize it? Let’s dive in:

5 Keywords ‘Family-Friendly’ Companies Use

  1. “Flexibility”/“Flexible work hours”/“flextime”/“Job sharing”
  2. “Telecommuting opportunities” (“WFH available”)
  3. “Good work/life balance”
  4. “Paid parental leave”
  5. “Unlimited sick days”

Finding the ‘family-friendly’ work environment is not difficult, but you need to know how to search and deduce from the job post the type of company they represent. Although how “family-friendly” a company claims to be is relative (and we’ll get into that), it starts at the job listing and researching the company beforehand.

Interview Questions to Ask Regarding “Family-Friendliness”

  • In terms of this position, what does a typical work day look like?
  • How do you prioritize a work/life balance?
  • What kind of flexible work arrangements do people have?
  • How do you, as a manager, support and motivate your team?
  • How do you incorporate employee feedback into daily operations?

You don’t have to be sneaky or tip-toe around wanting more information regarding flexibility if you ask the right questions. Avoid inquiring if their employees work long hours during the first phone screen for example, and instead, ask the hiring manager during the second interview how they prioritize a work/life balance.

Many companies boast flexibility as an HR hiring tactic, but it’s in the interview with your potential boss and colleagues that you’re given the opportunity to suss out the actual environment. When you’re in office during an on-site interview, take a look around, as well. Do you see decorated desks with family photos, or nerf guns? Do you see people that represent the 28-35 year old age bracket? An intergenerational working environment can be very beneficial in many ways, but it’s important to have colleagues and managers you can relate to when looking for said flexibility. (Not many people in-office around the time of your interview? Look up their employees via LinkedIn to get a sense of who is being hired.)

Conclusion

If you happen to be in the 28-35 year old hiring ‘sweet spot’ (I’m looking at you, Millennials!) you have more options than you realize as a candidate. Finding a ‘family-friendly’, or flexible working environment is possible and your sway as an ideal candidate should lead you to succeed in having both a career and starting your family.

Psst– You can also pay us $10 to do it all for you: we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

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