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How To Build The Perfect LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is the best social media platform to develop and  showcase your professional brand and interact with other industry influencers. It’s also an increasingly important component of the hiring process, with 94% of employers referring to a candidate’s LinkedIn profile before extending an offer.

We’ve already gone through the don’ts of social media for professionals, and now we’re going to focus on the dos. Specifically, how you can craft a killer LinkedIn profile that properly showcases your skills, abilities, and your impeccable personal brand.

1. The Profile Photo

According to LinkedIn, users with a profile photo are 14 times more likely to be viewed than those without them. So yes, you absolutely need one. But you need the right one. Your profile photo should be a recent headshot of you in professional dress. A neutral background is best, but don’t be afraid to showcase some warmth and personality. Avoid photos of you in unprofessional situations, like your recent beach vacation or a raucous happy hour.

2. The Headline

Your headline is only 120 characters long, but it is the most important part of your profile. Keep yours concise but creative, and use as many industry keywords as you can, without resorting to clichés (translation: no generic buzzwords). It may take some time, but the right headline will make you much more visible when others search your industry.

3. The Summary

The first part of your background tops out at a 2,000 character max. While you don’t have to (and likely shouldn’t) fill this entire section to the brim, you should aim for at least 40 characters to maximize your SEO potential. Like your headline, your summary should showcase your personal brand while remaining succinct and employing strategic industry keywords . Focus on your skills and accomplishments, and include links to examples of your work wherever possible. This last step adds considerable credibility, and provides your connections with solid examples of your work.

4. Experience

You have the most freedom in your experience section, with 100 characters for your position title and an additional 2,000 characters per description. This section should read like your dream résumé, where you can list all previous experience and accomplishments without any fear of page limits. That does not mean it should be long-winded and effusive. On the contrary, it should remain as clean, clear, and precise as the rest of your profile. And, of course, your actual résumé. But you can add links to videos, websites, or other examples of your accomplishments that are not possible with a traditional résumé. And be sure to include volunteer experience, as this reflects favorably on employers and colleagues.

5. Projects

This section showcases past and present projects, and like the rest of your profile, it is always an excellent idea to include links to actual deliverables whenever possible. You can include everything from white papers to graphic design, so be sure to list all relevant accomplishments.

6. Education

Like in your résumé, you should include information on institutions attended and degrees earned. Unlike a résumé, you can highlight relevant courses or assignments to increase your specificity and credibility. Furthermore, this section is a great tool to connect with other alumni, like your old college roommate or your favorite professor.

7. Skills and Endorsements

This section is second only to your summary in its importance and potential. Listing your discrete skills for potential employers to see is an excellent way to get noticed, and the more endorsements those skills have, the more credible you are as an influencer and candidate. Don’t be afraid to reach out to previous employers or colleagues to request these endorsements. If you’d like to take this a step further, your professional connections can even submit recommendations that will be published directly to your profile!

8. Post Regularly

Like Facebook, LinkedIn allows users to post updates – articles, photos, etc. – as often as they please. Unlike Facebook, however, your LinkedIn posts should always remain strictly professional. For example, a clear photo of a conference or industry event is encouraged, but photos of your beach vacation are not. If you do post articles, make sure they are related to your industry. Whenever possible, include a picture in any article posts to ensure that it will be seen by more people.

6 Tips to Ace a Phone Interview

In today’s fast-paced economy, many employers are now opting for initial phone screenings of potential candidates as opposed to an in-person interview. This added step allows companies to sort through candidates without committing to the expense and time required for on-site meetings. It also requires an entirely different set of interview skills on the part of candidates, whose assets are suddenly condensed to their voice, tone, and personality.

If you’re searching for a new job, chances are you will experience at least one phone screening. As with any interview, you’ll need to bring your A-game if you’re going to land the job. We’ve compiled all of the tips you need in order to ace your next phone interview.

1. Don’t Wing It

Often, phone interviews are conducted by human resources employees who are trained to determine quickly whether you meet the basic job requirements, and make initial judgments about personality, temperament, communication style, and salary expectations. Therefore, although they are usually less than half an hour long, they can yield a wealth of information to the screener.

That is why it is so important to take the proper time to prepare (see below). If a screener calls you and asks whether you are available now for a phone interview, it is always in your best interest to let the interviewer know that you are not in a place to speak freely, but would love to schedule a call within the next week.

2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

As with any interview, you should prepare by exhaustively researching the company and position you are applying to. You should also prepare to answer detailed questions about your work history and qualifications. Be sure you are able to address any significant gaps in your employment history, and can justify every career move. Know every bullet point of your qualifications so that you can go into detail when asked. Be sure your phone is charged and you have plenty of time if the interview goes longer than anticipated.

And, as a final step, search for a photo of the person you will be speaking to online (LinkedIn may come in handy here). You will feel more comfortable in your responses if you can visualize who you are speaking to.

3. Act Like They Can See You

While it may be tempting to conduct an interview in your pajamas, you’re much more likely to feel and sound professional if you look the part. Put on professional clothing that makes you feel comfortable and confident, brush your teeth, and get your game face on. Be sure that all sounds and distractions – televisions, pets, traffic noises – are accounted for and eliminated before the call.

And don’t forget to smile! Any customer service representative can tell you that smiles can be heard and felt regardless of whether the person you’re speaking to can see you. It will be much harder to sound tense, nervous, or uncertain if you have a smile on your face.

4. Act Like They Can’t See You

Now that you’ve covered the basics, take advantage of the fact that your screener will not, in fact, be able to see you. Get up and walk around – you’re more likely to sound prepared and confident if you are standing than if you are sitting. Compile all of your notes, your résumé, and your application in one place so that you can reference them easily during the interview. To eliminate the sound of paper shuffling, you can even tape your paperwork at eye level.

5. Request Next Steps & Contact Information

Before you hang up, be sure to ask your screener what the next steps will be, and when you can expect someone to follow up with you. Then, be sure to request your screener’s contact information (email and phone) so that you can complete the next step below.

6. Follow Up

Even if it’s “just a phone interview,” you should still follow up with a written thank you note to your interviewer within 24-48 hours. Be sure to express your gratitude for the opportunity to discuss the position in detail, and summarize what you spoke about on the phone. If you want to sound especially clever, include a short blurb and a link to an article about a recent occurrence at the company that you found during your research.

The 5 Small Résumé Mistakes That Are Keeping You from Getting Hired

Even as the finance and accounting industry comes to rely more heavily on technology, the old-fashioned paper résumé remains a central component of the hiring process. We all know what to avoid – the obvious résumé mistakes such typos, glaring grammatical errors, incorrect contact information, etc. have long been revised out of our final product. You have even included keywords and highlighted your soft skills.

So why are you still not getting hired?

There are many small, often-overlooked errors that stand out to hiring managers, who routinely go through hundreds of résumés in one sitting. We’ve compiled a list of these insidious little oversights that may be keeping you from landing the job you deserve.

1. Abbreviations

Your résumé is a showcase of your professional writing skills, and should be considered a formal business document. While you may think you are avoiding long sentences and saving valuable space by using shortcuts like “etc.,” “asst.,” and “assoc.,” you are in fact conveying laziness and a lack of professionalism to your potential employers. So leave the abbreviations for your notes, and remove them from your résumé.

2. Generic Lines and Language

To include an objective statement, or not to include an objective statement? For that is the question that everyone seems to be debating. The consensus from most hiring managers, however, is that it simply isn’t necessary when the purpose of your résumé is clear and focused. Furthermore, everyone knows you will provide references upon request. You don’t need to include this in your résumé. Using generic, unnecessary language simply because everyone else is doing so will only distract from your more meaningful content, and take up valuable space on your résumé.

3. Be Consistent in Your Formatting

One of the most insidious résumé mistakes is not your writing, but your formatting. It doesn’t matter what you bold, so long as you bold it consistently. If you are bolding your job titles, bold all of your job titles. If you are italicizing your place of work, italicize all of your places of work. Take the extra time to ensure that your spacing is even and consistent. Your hiring managers will thank you. Maybe not verbally, but you get the idea.

4. Avoid Periods if You’re Not Writing Complete Sentences

If your bullet points are short statements and not complete sentences, do not end them with a period. Period.

Example:

  • At the end of each quarter, I assist the department director in writing, formatting, and presenting the quarterly report. [PERIOD]
  • Assisted in the writing, formatting, and presentation of quarterly reports [NO PERIOD]

Notice the difference? Good. Please do not commit this cardinal sin of résumé writing again.

5. Watch Your Tenses

This seems simple, but you may be surprised at how often you find yourself committing this seemingly-small grammatical mistake. Here’s a test – go through your most recent résumé and see how often your verbs for past positions are in the present tense, for example “managing the office budget” versus “managed the office budget” (and, while your at it, check for any punctuation mistakes like those mentioned above). If all of your tenses are completely correct, congratulations! You are a résumé writing rock star! If not, now is a great time to address those little quirks.

A second, and equally important grammatical consideration is consistency in your subject verb agreement and your past and present tenses. For example, if you begin a sentence in the past tense, make sure all of your subsequent verbs are also in the past tense. The same goes for the present tense.

But enough of grammar school! Your résumé is one of the most powerful tools you have in your job search. We hope these tips will help you write a strong, error-free résumé that engages and impresses your future supervisors.

The Social Media Mistakes that Could Keep You from Getting Hired

A 2014 study showed that 93% of hiring managers review an applicant’s social media profile before making a hiring decision, and that 55% of them had reconsidered a candidate based on what they found. In 61% of these instances, the candidates’ social media blunders lost them the job offer.

But what are candidates doing to scare away hiring managers in droves?

1. Keep It Clean

Let’s start with the obvious. References to illegal drugs scare away 83% of surveyed recruiters (although 2% do say it’s a positive, if you want to chance it), sexually explicit posts are a turn off for 70% of recruiters, profanity is a deterrent to two thirds of recruiters, guns are a negative to over half of them, and alcohol is “concerning” to a further 44%.

The simple solution is to leave common vices off your social media account, whether it be a status update, a profile picture, or a post by a friend. If you are unable or unwilling to do so on your personal social media accounts, you may want to consider creating and curating separate accounts for your professional self.

2. Keep It Professional

Aggressive, politicized posts can be a turn off to recruiters, and just over 1 in 6 said that any indication of your political affiliations could be a potential negative. So can posts about bad work behaviors – whether yours or another’s – as they showcase questionable business ethics. Furthermore, posts that bash current or previous employers and clients are a huge turn off, and can even get you fired.

Our advice – for finding a new job and keeping your current one – is to ensure that anything you post on social media could double as break-room conversation fodder. If you can say it around the water cooler, you can (probably) say it on social media.

3. Grammar, Spelling, and Grammar

We all hated spelling tests in school, and diagramming sentences was a special sort of punishment. The anarchy of the digital world was an excellent opportunity to escape the tyrannies of our jr. high English class. Comma splices, ebonics, acronyms, and a complete disregard for punctuation flourished in this untamed land!

Alas, this hasn’t stopped 66% of recruiters from holding bad grammar and poor spelling on social media profiles against many hapless job candidates. So if you’ve been hiding from your ancient language arts enemies, Revising and Editing (you know who you are), it may be time to call a truce.

4. Use Those Privacy Controls

Whether or not your social media persona squeaky clean, you should always employe carefully chosen privacy controls to protect your content from unwanted eyes. Some platforms, like Facebook, allow for extreme levels of specificity, making any post visible or invisible to select groups you can choose and customize each time you post. Take the time to explore the levels of privacy control available to you on your social media profiles so that you can customize your posts accordingly.

Another strategy to consider is changing or altering your first or last name so that you are not easily searchable. Using a nickname, middle name, or even a silly character name could deter unwanted cyber stalking and leave your social media accounts untouched.

And, if all else fails, you can simply deactivate your existing social media accounts while searching for a new job.

For tips on how to add value to your social media accounts and actually increase your chances of getting hired using social networks, click here.

Whatever you choose, be sure to stay smart with your social media choices to land the job of your dreams!

softs kills you need to succeed

The Soft Skills You Need to Succeed

We spend most of our time and energy focusing on the development of “hard skills” – degrees, accomplishments, certifications – never realizing that we’ve been developing an entirely different set of essential skills throughout our entire lives. While we were sharing swings on the playground, standing up to a bully in high school, and negotiating a chore chart with our college roommate, we were in fact developing “soft skills.”

Soft skills are the qualities we often take for granted while we are applying for a job or squirming in an interview. They are, however, the skills that allow us to communicate effectively, work well with others, and build professional relationships. As such, they are immensely important assets that we should be sharing with potential employers. In some cases, they may even be more influential in getting us hired than our work history and past accomplishments.

Here are some of the top soft skills employers look for:

1. Communication Skills

Communications skills are not limited to your ability to captivate a room or write the perfect email. Even more essential is your ability to exchange thoughts, ideas, and information with your team members and customers. Effective communication keeps office operations running smoothly, minimizes conflict among team members, and ensures that the customer is both satisfied and well-informed. All of which are great for business. This quality will likely be on full display during the interview process, so be sure to let this skill speak for itself through your actions and words.

2. Teamwork and Collaboration

The ability to play well with others is even more important once you leave the playground. Employers want to know that their employees can get along well, as this allows them to generate creative ideas and collaborate for the efficient and effective completion of tasks. Whether leading, following, or monitoring progress, a valuable employee will be sensitive to the needs of their colleagues and willing to contribute in a variety of ways. Be sure to emphasize the quality of your professional relationships in previous and current positions, and include examples of effective teamwork in your answers to interview questions.

3. Adaptability 

Employers want to know that you are committed to the longterm success of your business and industry, and that you are willing and able to keep pace with important changes that may come your way. A passion for learning, an interest in expanding your skills and testing your wings are all important qualities that bode well for your career and your employer’s bottom line. Your résumé should tell the story of your continued growth, and you should highlight your interest in continuing this trajectory when in discussions with your potential employers.

4. Problem Solving

This one is a no-brainer. Employers are always on the lookout for employees who can think on their feet and resolve the many unanticipated problems that arise in a fast-paced work environment. When issues arise that could delay or hinder a project – just before the hard deadline, no doubt – an employer wants to be confident in their staff’s ability to rise to the challenge and handle obstacles effectively. Be sure to share your own experiences with a potential employer by clearly describing how you identified a problem, your approach to resolving that problem, and the colleagues you either included or supported through its resolution.

5. Sense of Humor

No, your employer is not interested in your extensive collection of knock-knock jokes. But they are looking for employees who can bring some levity to tough situations. One person’s light-hearted take on a setback can be extraordinarily valuable for the entire work atmosphere, and bring some much-needed positivity to otherwise negative situations. Whenever possible, showcase a lighthearted attitude in your application, cover letter, or during your interview with a bit of strategic silliness or self-deprecation. You may be surprised at how well it’s received.

When it comes to your soft skills, it’s best to show, rather than tell. Start by making sure there are no typos on your résumé or cover letter, and that your language is clear and concise. Call attention to your soft skills by demonstrating how you have used them effectively in your career. For example, instead of stating that you are a great problem solver, describe how you helped identify inefficiencies in business processes and the process by which you and your colleagues improved them, being sure to include the results of your endeavors.

Finally, be sure you’re always improving on your existing soft skills or challenging yourself to learn more. Work with a mentor, take a course, or volunteer your time to continuously improve your most essential tools for success.

How to Harness the Power of Social Media in Your Job Search

How to Harness the Power of Social Media in Your Job Search

Getting noticed in today’s job market is becoming significantly more difficult: competition is fierce, and the sheer number of applicants makes it increasingly difficult to stand out. While there are many important components of your job search, such as the perfect resume and the first interview, many candidates overlook one key component.

Social media is a powerful tool for creating your personal brand, researching your potential employers, and interacting with industry leaders. Following the simple steps below will allow you to harness the power of social media during your next job search.

Clean Up Your Act

We’ve written extensively on social media mistakes, but it all boils down to this: before you begin making connections or interacting with others in your chosen industry, be sure your social media platforms are representative of your potential as a prospective employee. If your tweets are laden with profanity and your Facebook wall is plastered with photos from last week’s raging party, you may have some work cut out for you. Privacy controls exist for a reason, namely, to block certain viewers from content you’re not willing to share. Be sure yours are carefully administered, if necessary. Or, to be on the safe side, avoid posting compromising content to begin with.

If you would prefer to keep your personal life separate from your professional life (not an unusual approach), then consider maintaining separate profiles for each purpose. However, be aware that a simple Google search may turn up both accounts, depending on your privacy settings. 

Add Value

Now that your social media accounts are free of any questionable content, you’re ready to begin adding value. The most important platform in this step is your LinkedIn profile, which will serve as a landing page for potential connections and employers. Be sure your profile picture is up to date and professional, your job history is complete and current, and your relevant skills are a testament to your talents and competencies. Reconnect with prior employers and coworkers to request recommendations or endorsements, and don’t be afraid to post quality, industry-related content from time to time.

Posting quality content is especially important on Twitter, which lends itself to communication between industry influencers and thought leaders. Follow the influencers in your industry to stay informed of the latest trends, and don’t be afraid to tweet at them if you appreciated an article they wrote or found their advice valuable. You may just get a response or a retweet!

#Hashtag

We’ve said it before: hashtags are an excellent way to take your job search to a new level. Whether its on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Tumblr, hashtagging allows you to connect with larger topics and conversations. They are also easily searched by potential employers and industry leaders. For a complete list of relevant job search hashtags, check out our recent blog.

Pro Tip: Whatever you post on social media is public content, meaning current employers or coworkers will likely be able to see your profile as well. Be sure you aren’t tweeting and posting about your job search — without proper privacy controls — if you have not informed your current employer of your intentions.

Remember, hiring managers today have access to much more than your resume. Spending a few moments to ensure the quality of your social media presence may be the key to ensuring your job search success!

Useful Hashtags for Job Seekers

Never underestimate the power of social media when it comes to job hunting. See these useful hashtags for job seekers. A large chunk of a businesses’ advertisement budget is dedicated to their social marketing campaigns to try and build brand awareness and followers. As a job seeker, you need to do the same as these companies by marketing yourself as well.

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Why you should avoid asking "tell me about yourself" in an interview

Most interview candidates come prepared to answer interview questions such as “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your weaknesses?”  

“Tell me about yourself” usually elicits answers like “I’m a motivated self-starter that loves individual accountability; but don’t worry, I also love working collaboratively.”

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