Ten Important Lessons I Learned in My Job Searches

Ten Important Lessons I Learned in My Job Searches

For 20 years I’ve been in the job market, either in a job or in a job search, and 15 of those years I’ve been recruiting all levels of professional talent for multiple companies in various cities and countries. Through all of it, I’ve learned some important lessons that I’d like to share.

1. Network now and forever.

NetworkingIf you’re not doing it already, start immediately. Networking should be an integral part of your career, and is critical when you’re in a job search.

Periodically connect with your existing professional contacts, whether it’s getting together or just passing along a relevant article to them, but stay in touch.

Extend your network regularly. Every time you attend a conference or off-site business meeting, make a point of connecting with someone. And, consider asking your current network to connect you with other contacts they value.

Extend yourself to those within your network by offering to help, introduce them to other contacts or act as a mentor to a junior professional.

When you ask someone in your network for assistance or to connect you to a hiring manager, be specific and thoughtful in your ‘ask’. For example, if you’re in the job market, and interested in a specific role, be prepared by providing your resume, as well as an outline of your strengths and accomplishments that match the requirements of the role you’re interested in.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is engaging and professional. Don’t just drop your resume into your LinkedIn profile. Your profile should be more distinctive and include the highlights of your career. Create a headline that speaks to what you’re passionate about in the business world. Hiring managers and recruiters are constantly using LinkedIn, so a strong headline can get you noticed.

If you want to minimize age bias, abbreviate your experience, including only the last past 10 to 15 years.

3. Have an elevator pitch ready.

NetworkingWhen you least expect it, you’ll be asked what you do or what you want to do. Be ready and be concise, zero in on what you do and what you want to do. Your story should take less than thirty seconds to tell.

Always have your elevator pitch ready, not just when you’re making a job change, but all the time, because opportunities can arise when you least expect them.

4. Regularly update your resume.

Annually, it’s a good idea to update your resume, even if you don’t need it. That insures when you do need it, you’ll be ready to go.

I’ve met leaders and senior professionals who recommend you keep a record of your accomplishments and update your record at least annually. It’s a great idea and good practice to get into.

5. Be prepared to discuss salary during a job hunt.

It may seem radical that when you’re in the job search, you get asked about your salary during your first conversation with a company, but it happens frequently. The reason why? Companies don’t want to spend valuable time with candidates who aren’t likely to fit their role. And, from your perspective, there’s nothing worse than spending 8-10 hours interviewing, and then receiving an offer that $10k to $25k below what you’d consider. You’ve just wasted valuable time and energy that could have been spent on a stronger role. So, while it feels intrusive, discussing desired and/or actual salary insures you and the company are focused on a role that matches what you’re interested in.

If you’re asked for a specific number and you’re not comfortable providing one, consider providing a range. If you want to be flexible about compensation, add that you’re flexible when you reveal your salary. And, tell the hiring manager or recruiter why you’re willing to be flexible, so it doesn’t appear to be desperation. Many individuals are flexible in their compensation requirements for reasons such as a better location, work/life balance, because they feel they’re over the current market salary or they may be transitioning their career.

6. Be organized.

cover-letter-writingJob search should be viewed as a project, and potentially the most important project you work on at any point in time. Like all good project managers, develop a plan and schedule, work the plan, and stay on target. Good project management skills will keep you organized when you’re juggling multiple interviews and roles, and interviewing with several companies.

7. Set aggressive goals each week.

Since most of your work will be meeting people or applying online, set goals for both, applications and networking. And, make your job search your number one priority every day. When you’re in a job search, you should spend 6 hours/day minimum on your job search, like your standard work day, whether it’s time spent networking, in meetings, resume submissions or research.

8. Contact and confirm your references.

Don’t include references on your resume or when you apply for a role, but do connect with your professional references early on in a job search. You should gather a list of at least 3-5 references and use only 3 of the most appropriate when you’re asked for them after an interview(s). Most companies want a reference from someone who supervised you, a peer, and one other person who knows you professionally. If this is your first role after your education, then teachers and professors can be used as they will speak to your work ethic. And, stay in touch with your references regularly.

When you get asked for the names and contact information for your references, reach out to the ones most appropriate for the role, and provide them information about what you’ve learned about the role, reiterate strengths that are important for the position, and thank them in advance for the recommendation.

Once they’ve provided a positive reference, and you’ve accepted the offer, circle back with your references, advise them of the role you just accepted, and thank them again.

9. Stay positive.

Job search, whether your currently employed or not, can be exhausting and discouraging. It’s critical that you stay positive. When the going gets tough, reach out to motivators in your network for support and fresh ideas. And, even if it’s difficult to hear, take the advice they give. Sometimes, we can become too siloed in our thinking when it’s about our career or salary. After all, it’s highly personal and often fundamental to how we define ourselves.

10. Pay it forward.

Do what you can to help a colleague, friend, or connection whenever you can. Help others through introductions, or mentoring more junior colleagues. And, if someone seeks your advice, be generous in providing it. Never forget that someone else is today in the same situation you were at one point and may be again.

Job search and managing your career can be exhilarating and frustrating. Being prepared and organized will make you savvier and appear more professional, and get you the results you want faster!


20 Interview Questions You Need to Ask an Employer

You’ve got your first interview coming up with the manager and you’ve prepared how to answer all the questions including why you’re looking for a new role. But have you thought about what questions you should ask?

This is the first time you should be asking specific questions to find out more details about the company, the culture, your future manager, peers you’ll be working with, and future growth opportunities.

It’s a good idea to start with general questions and then move on to more specific questions.

About the Company

  1. Ask about the company’s short and long-term goals. What are major initiatives this year and what are the long-term plans?
  2. Inquire out about the culture. While most companies declare they have a positive work environment, what does that really mean? Ask the interviewer what their experience has been and what they value most at the company. Ask what they’d like the company to improve? Is it corporate sponsored events, community giving, or perhaps more frequent internal or executive communication. It doesn’t matter what the answer is, but it can provide valuable information for you.

Position Specifics

This can be tricky because candidates often ask general questions like, what are the job expectations, or how do you define success? And, the answers often don’t provide useful information. Be specific.

  1. How would your time be allocated on a ‘typical’ day?
  2. What are the challenges that you’re going to face? In the first 90 days? And the first year?
  3. What’s the structure of the team and how long have people on the team been at the company and in their roles?
  4. What obstacles may arise? And where will the resources be to overcome them?
  5. What metrics do they use to determine success in the role?
  6. How frequently will your manager meet with you? Daily, weekly, or bi-weekly?
  7. What’s your manager’s management style? Are they a hands-off manager or a micromanager?
  8. Request a meeting with your peers on the team. It’s a great opportunity to get a good feel for what you’re getting into. What were the department’s biggest challenges last year and how did they solve them?

Salary and Compensation

interview-questions-for-employersSalary and compensation conversations should be kept general in the beginning of your meetings. Likely the recruiter will ask your salary, or salary range, and you can provide them current salary, desired compensation, or a range. However, if you provide a range, keep the range within $5-$7K, because whatever range you state, the employer hears the lowest number, while you’re thinking the highest end of the range. This disparity can result in an offer that disappoints.

In meetings with the actual hiring manager, salary and compensation questions you initiate should be kept to a minimum.

  1. You may want to ask for confirmation your salary is in the range of what the company has allocated for the job.
  2. You can ask for an overview of the company benefit plans. Some companies won’t provide specifics until the end, but many will provide you a summary of their overall benefits.
  3. Ask when detailed benefit information will be available.
  4. Ask about perks the company regularly provides, like matching contributions to charities, educational reimbursement, free beverages, casual work environment, work from home days, etc.

Training and Future Opportunities

  1. Inquire about any early training.
  2. Ask if there’s a senior resource available for questions or if they have a formal mentoring program? It’s always a benefit to have a mentor, so if it’s not offered, find one within the company as soon as possible. It can be an employee in another department, but your mentor should have more tenure and seniority to be the most useful.
  3. What are the future training opportunities, from web training to conferences and onsite training?
  4. Ask about growth opportunities? What’s been typical in the department?
  5. What was the manager’s trajectory in the company and have they promoted any team members?
  6. Ask about opportunities to transition to other departments and the flexibility to do so if it’s good for your long-term career growth at the company and an opportunity presents itself. What are the limitations?

interview-questions-for-employersIt’s important to have some knowledge of the individual you’re meeting, as well as the organization before you ask any or all questions. If you’re interviewing at a start-up, growth opportunities, training and mentoring may not be clearly outlined. However, if it’s a small start-up you’re interested in, it’s important to understand your manager’s philosophy to promoting people, and in the end, you’ll likely need to be more open to taking a risk. Well established companies often have formal development and/or training programs, so you’re likely to get more concrete information.

It doesn’t matter how much you want the job, it is critical you get as much information and your questions answered, so you can make an informed decision if you get an offer. There’s nothing worse than accepting an offer and learning later, you should have asked more questions and now you’re committed to a job you don’t like.

In the end, stay positive throughout your conversations with the company. There will be times when it’s appropriate to ask certain specific questions, and other times when you’ll have to keep questions more general. And you need to be sensitive to the interviewer’s interest in answering questions. Don’t ask too many questions at once. There’s nothing worse than a candidate who drills the interviewer with multiple questions when the interviewer isn’t convinced they’re a strong candidate. It confirms to the interviewer that the candidate has little awareness of how the interview is going or doesn’t know that timing of questions is critical.

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Smart People – The Best and Worst of Being Smart at Work

I wanted to write about what it meant to be a smart person in the workplace, and realized it’s been widely written about already. It’s generally accepted that being smart is fundamental to success and there are numerous articles and blogs that support that belief. So, rather than restate what others have said, often better than I could, I wanted to highlight articles that were especially interesting.

What defines a smart person?

An article in HighIQ talks about the benefits of being smart, and how intelligent you need to be to be considered ‘smart’. In this article the author defines the ‘highly gifted’ individual with an IQ of 140 and above, while just being ‘smart’ has an IQ at 130 and above. Are you curious what your IQ is? It doesn’t really matter what your actual IQ tested at, or tests at, because it can change. Most people inherently know how smart they are, especially once they’ve been exposed to both a formal education and the workplace. Whether you’re a CEO or you’ve only worked one year, you know if you’re smart. Doing well in academics isn’t always the only indicator of an intelligent mind. In an article in the Elite Daily, several of the most successful businesspeople in today’s world were challenged in school, with the most recognized name being Bill Gates. Consequently, while intelligent individuals frequently get good grades in school, some don’t and still have profound success once they’re in the workforce.

And in the Forbes article, Science Says These Five Things Prove You’re Smart, being smart is defined by anxiety, early reading, early music lessons, left handedness and a solid sense of humor. This appears to be an unscientific way to conclude intelligence, but I felt it appropriate to include.

What are the quirks of being a smartie?

According to an article by John Stanley HunterBusiness Insider , published in the Independent on Friday 5, August 2016, smart people swear more, have a larger profanity vocabulary that they can spout easily, and don’t get much sleep. They can also be very funny. After reading that article, I realized I’ve met a lot of smart people, who were quick with their humor and sometimes profanity, along with interesting ideas and stimulating discussions.

And in an article in the Thought Catalog by Kovie Biakolo, smart individuals often are harder on themselves, less happy, misunderstood, frustrated, sometimes not particularly successful and frustrated because a superior has a lower intellect, which dramatically articulates the frustrations that can occur when someone has a high intellect. But, they don’t have to limit you.

What are the downsides of being smart at work?

Whether you’re smart or not, everyone makes mistakes and has flaws. But smart people make some unusually stupid mistakes. Smart people often respond too fast to simple questions, getting the answer wrong because they rely on knowing they’re smart, and don’t think about what the question is really asking. Smart people sometimes don’t ask questions when they should. Likely because they assume they already know the answers from past experience or knowledge they’ve gained.

Think you’re smart? You should read this article in Ladders…and likely you’ll realize you still have a lot to learn.

In an article in the Houston Chronicle, “The word “smart” is often associated with a high intelligence quotient or IQ. And, Webster’s Dictionary defines “smart” as mentally alert, knowledgeable, witty and clever. There is one major difference between a smart employee and one who simply has a high intelligence quotient. An employee with a high IQ is able to comprehend, analyze, process and reproduce information. While a smart employee has these skills too, he also possesses a worldly wisdom and common sense that no textbook or training can teach, including wisdom that is derived from his life experience.”

To take that information further, being a genius doesn’t necessarily provide more benefits in work output, but being smart, and combining it with experience and common sense will likely get one farther, faster.

What are the benefits of being smart at work and at home?

In a recent Reader’s Digest article, wise people execute a lot of smart habits and actions that should improve their knowledge, quality of life and social skills. These positive actions and habits are wise for anyone to develop at all stages of life.

In the end, being smart doesn’t get you happiness, guarantee productivity, money, or love, but it does give you the ability to learn what you don’t know, what you’re doing wrong, and how you can improve, if used well. The rest is up to common sense, luck and fate.

After my research, I learned it’s generally an advantage in the workplace to be smart. But like many advantages it must be appreciated, and individuals need to be aware of the challenges they still face and focus their energy on strengthening the positive and coping with the negative. Consider intelligence and smartness another tool in your toolbox you can use to make yourself better, and you’ve got a valuable tool. Waste it, by too much comparison and introspection, and it becomes a burden.



How Do You…A Healthcare Professional, Handle Gaps In Your Resume?

You took time out from your work, now you’re wondering…how do I explain it. Will it hurt my ability to get another job, much less a job I want?

Let’s start with the first question:

How do you explain a gap in your resume?

Foremost, transparency from the start is highly recommended. Be honest. But, don’t pour out your whole story and explanation. That information should only be passed along to close friends and family. If you aren’t prepared and don’t have your elevator story set, you could end up having your absence hurt your chances of getting that job.

Start by preparing, planning what you’ll say, what your story will be and begin with an honest, concise explanation of what happened.


  1. Laid off: You were laid off. If others were laid off at the same employer, include it. If no one else was laid off, you need a plausible explanation why it happened to you. It may be the number of patients were declining, or they needed to reduce everyone’s hours, or they lost funding. But, what if you had difficulty learning something specific? Explain why, and how you’ve overcome the challenge. Don’t expect to avoid it. You’ll need to tackle it head on. If it was due to differences with management, state that, but concisely, and then add information such as the circumstances, the result, and what you’ve learned. Explain how it’s made you a better professional. And be prepared with this information before you start applying for any jobs.
  2. Family illness: Whether it was you, a family member or parent, explain the reason concisely and add what you learned throughout that will benefit you in the future. You don’t need to reveal who was ill, what the illness was, for how long, or what support you provided, and if it was you, you don’t need to tell a future employer. I hate to admit it, but there will always be lingering concerns that you could be at risk for future health issues if you reveal too much.
  3. Raising children: If you took time off to raise a family, everyone will celebrate you, although they may not say it. Your next employer will appreciate your dedication to your family. But you do need to explain it quickly, and explain what you’ve learned while you were not working that would benefit them directly. This could include volunteering at a professional organization (even if you just started recently), any additional learning or training you received, or a skill you learned while at home. A valuable skill may be as simple as ‘I learned how to handle conflict with others, because of an experience I had and what I learned from it.’ If it’s a skill an employer will value, it’s likely a skill that will provide reception of both your time off and your new skill. Lastly, confirm that you’re ready to return to work and have all the reasons you took time off resolved. Be swift and definite with this statement. Then move on. Most employers will too, and they’ll appreciate your family values.
  4. Business venture: You had an opportunity to go after a dream, but it didn’t work out. Explain it briefly, and absolutely guarantee employers you won’t be returning to it, you’re committed to this career now, or if it’s still ongoing, that your participation there is minimal.
  5. Return to school: This is likely the easiest to explain because you just need to say it, and explain what you learned that will benefit your employer in the future. Again, be succinct.

Where do you begin to tell people you’ve had a gap?

Right from the start…on your resume is best. Use a chronological resume and put it on there. We can’t say it enough, transparency, transparency, transparency. You can state it like this on your resume:

Family Leave (2015 to 1/2017)
Took time off support a family member. Or, if it was you, state ‘Personal Reasons’ as your title, then don’t give a reason here, but do take classes or do some volunteering before you start applying for a job.)

  • Continuing education classes you took.
  • Research you did during this period.
  • Volunteering you did during this period.

Whatever the reason there’s a gap, deal with it quickly, be honest and transparent. Your values and ethics are always being considered – and a gap in employment often reveals your character, values and ethics. The life choices we make reveal a person’s substance.

For more information about opportunities or next steps, check out our employment opportunities or contact us!

Nurse Interview Tips

Tips to Succeed in Nursing Interviews

Everyone hates interviewing. It can be scary, nerve-wracking, anxiety-producing, discouraging, and it’s time consuming when you’d rather be doing anything else.

So, how do you make the most of your interviews?
Two simple recommendations…prepare and practice.

Healthcare Training CEUsSeek out a couple sources for advice, friends who have interviewed recently, and website blogs. On the internet, research topics like ‘interviewing advice’ or ‘interview questions’. Spend time reviewing the information you discover before you begin your preparation. Your preparation before the interview will make a huge impact on how well you do at the interview.

Put together a brief explanation of why you’re looking for a new role. In some circles this is referred to as an elevator pitch. According to Wikipedia, ‘The name ‘elevator pitch’ reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes and is widely credited to Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso (while he was editor for Vanity Fair) for its origin.[2][3] Bottom line, it’s your story, succinctly conveyed in a short elevator ride. Your ‘story’ should be about a paragraph long. It’s challenging to be succinct, so write it down, review it, and edit until you’re satisfied. Start with a high-level explanation of your current role. For example, ‘I’m a RN in XYZ’s critical care unit, in charge of a small team.’ Then explain where you’re headed and why. Perhaps, ‘While I love what I’m doing, I’ve been there for seven years, and think it’s time for a fresh challenge.’ Or ‘while I enjoy where I’m at, there are only limited opportunities, and I’m looking for an organization with more growth opportunities.’

Next, consider the questions that will come up during the interview. Prepare for those the same way you prepare for your ‘story’. Consider drafting responses to the following frequently asked questions.

Question 1: Tell us about yourself.

Answer Example: ‘I’m an energetic, dedicated, and compassionate RN with 5 years’ professional experience in both clinic and hospital settings. I value providing the best quality of care to my patients and supporting my peers so that we provide the best care possible to all patients.’ Its succinct, complete and reveals your motivation and healthcare goals.

Question 2: Why did you choose healthcare as a profession?

nursing-interviewingAnswer this question with a strong, specific response. Your response will reveal your motivations and it can make or break the rest of your interview. Telling a personal story is the best way, but be authentic.

Answer example: You may have grown up with an ailing family member for whom good healthcare was critical. Then, you decided you wanted to be a part of the solution. Or, perhaps your experience wasn’t that personal. But it could be something as simple as, ‘whenever I had to have a vaccine or injection, which I was particularly scared to get, I always appreciated when the staff understood my fears and supported me. It was then that I realized I wanted to do that for others.’ Or it could be from an experience volunteering or because you realize that healthcare is vital and becoming more so to improving people’s quality of life. And you decided you want to be someone who’s directly involved in making it better for them. Whatever response fits you, make it real, authentic, and show your commitment and passion to what you’re doing. Never answer with, something like, ‘I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but was good in science classes, so I kind of fell into it.’ This is an opportunity for you to show the interviewer you’re a dedicated and responsible caregiver.

Question 3: What are your strengths?

Almost every interviewer asks this question, and while I’ve often heard it criticized by some professionals as too broad, or they always get the same answer, I’ve always found the question valuable. It’s valuable because while everyone often answers similarly, there are nuances in tone, in words used, and in supporting stories that can influence how believable and valid the strengths are. I’ve experienced dozens of candidates providing responses that don’t relate to the job they’re seeking or are vague, without any supporting statements, leaving the interviewer wondering if they’re sincere.

And because it’s an easy question for interviewers to ask and candidates to answer, I’m confident it will remain the number one question asked in interviews.

So, how do you best answer the question? Prepare ahead with 3-4 strengths that apply to the new role you’re considering. And, provide a supporting statement or story that reveals where it’s been a benefit for you in your past.

Question 4: Why are you interested in leaving your current job?

Never, ever criticize your current employer. The only exception is if there’s public knowledge about the organization that simply explains why you’re looking. For instance, if the hospital is closing and it’s been made public. In which case, stating that as your reason for looking is a public fact, genuine, and will be appreciated by the interviewer.

Question 5:  What are your salary requirements? Or what is your current salary?

male-murseThis is a challenging question for many to answer. Should you tell your current salary, should you say what you’re hoping to get? Or, should you respond that you’re open to ‘market’ compensation?

We recommend that you don’t provide any of these answers without some consideration. If you’re comfortable with your current salary and it’s not an important part of your decision to accept a new role, then be transparent and say where you’re at. However, if you’d like to get an offer for the most you can, then you’ll need to be more careful. It’s important to be forthright and transparent, but you should qualify that. For example, state your current salary, your desired salary, and your supporting reasons for wanting a higher salary. Valid reasons for wanting a greater salary are that your current organization has been restricting increases because of cost control, or the market has significantly improved, or you’ve gained additional experience or education and haven’t yet received an increase that correlates with that achievement. Reasons that aren’t well received are statements like ‘This is a bigger role,’ or ‘I’ll be working harder here,’ or ‘My commute will be longer.’

All in all, if you want your employer to be trustworthy and transparent, then you should also be transparent and display that you’re trustworthy.

And, finally, you’ll likely be asked one or more difficult questions, such as:

  1. What do you feel is the most challenging or difficult part of being a nurse? Describe a time when a physician gave an order that you believed was incorrect. How did you handle it?
  2. Describe a time when you were unsure of the best protocol to follow. How did you handle it?
  3. Describe a time when you had a conflict or disagreement with your supervisor. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
  4. How have you handled coworkers, physicians, or others you work with who become rude or demanding?
  5. How do you stay current within the nursing field? What publications do you read? What research findings interest you?
  6. How do you handle a request you disagree with?
  7. Can you describe a time when you had to intervene for a patient, what you did, and why? What was the outcome?
  8. How would you handle a patient, who complains about everything?
  9. If your shift ends at 5:30 and your replacement has not arrived by 5:45, what do you do?
  10. Tell me about the last time someone critiqued your work. How did you respond?
  11. Have you ever disagreed with a supervisor’s decision? Tell me how you handled the situation.
  12. When you have a lot to do, but not enough time on your shift to do it, how do you handle the situation?
  13. Talk about a time when you disagreed with a co-worker.

Nurse Interview guideSince you know ahead of time that there will likely be difficult questions, your best action is to prepare for them ahead of time. While you’ll never know exactly which questions you’re going to be asked, our recommendation is to prepare three to four stories of challenging experiences you’ve had and the action you took to resolve a problem and what you learned from the experience. While this won’t arm you to answer any question, it will generally help you answer many of them. As you prepare your responses ahead of time, write down your examples, review them, edit until they’re succinct. Then review them with a family member or friend and listen for any possible changes you should make, or any additional information you should be including.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: “In career news, healthcare is everywhere. That’s because the healthcare industry is projected to add more jobs—over 4 million—than any other industry between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And it is projected to be among the fastest-growing industries in the economy.” So, while the industry is growing, people are continually joining the healthcare field, which means you’re also likely to have competition when you interview. Therefore, preparing for any interview is going to be critical. And, as you prepare, think about the responses you’ve put together, practice with family and friends. While you don’t want your responses to sound too rehearsed, preparation goes a long way to helping you come across confidently, not rehearsed.

In the end, your education, experience, positive attitude, and preparedness will likely lead you to getting the job you want.