Monday, November 17, 2008

Tenure, or "How Long Have I Been Here?"

As candidates search for new career paths they quite often think about what they want in a new position. Higher salary. Better benefits. The corner office. An easier commute. These are all legitimate reasons to seek out a new job, but have you ,as a job seeker, ever stopped to think about what the firms want or need? Of course we all realize firms are looking for specific skill sets, education or training. So you think "I've got everything they are looking for. It's in the bag."

Let me ask you... How is your tenure?

It's a safe bet that you may not have thought much about that. I can tell you the agencies and firms are thinking about it though. In fact, it's one of, if not THE, first thing they take a look at. Sure, it was easy to be lured away in 2006/2007 when salaries were sky-high and benefits packages were amazing. Some candidates had even made as many as three career changes in one year. That seems like a lot, right? Well it is. Although candidates probably weren't thinking about it at the time, it's now coming back to haunt them.

Fast forward to 2008.

As the year progresses we all witness firms tightening their belts. Budget cuts are leading to reductions in salaries, bonuses being cut and even the dreaded layoff. One benefit of being in the Washington, D.C. area is that there is still a strong employment market. That's not to say that firm's aren't still tightening their belts. This time around they're hiring more strategically, and as mentioned earlier tenure is one of the first things they look at.

As an agency we are here to educate and guide you into making the right decision. Due to the current state of the economy and job market it is tough out there. There are more job seekers (many unemployed by no fault of their own) than there are jobs. If you are currently looking for a new job because you feel you deserve a higher salary, you don't like your boss or you're not getting enough vacation time (again, all legitimate reasons to seek out new employment) you might want to make sure your tenure is strong enough to support those reasons. If not, staying put until the economy picks up might be your best bet. Firms generally like to see candidates with a minimum of three years at their present firm. Job hopping indicates instability, inability to commit and lack of dedication. How do you think it looks to a prospective employer when, regardless of the reason, you left your last two or three jobs after only six months? 

Steffan and Company recently started recruiting for an administrative position. In a weeks time we received nearly one thousand resumes. Some qualified, most not. Of those with qualifying backgrounds, only a handful had tenure of 18 months or longer. You, as a job seeker, have a lot of competition out there right now. Additionally many firms are scrutinizing resume and backgrounds, so make sure you have all your bases covered. That means getting employment dates correct, with days, months and years (a majority of firms do very thorough background checks!), your reasons for leaving (terminated, layoff, relocation), a list of 4-6 supervisory references, and most of all... make sure you have that strong tenure! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Five Ways To Secure a Better Raise

1. Arrive 30 minutes early and be ready to work within 15 minutes. "Early is on time, on time is late, late is unaccaptable." Don’t always ask for over time, especially if you spend any time on the Internet for personal reasons or take personal calls at work. The firm does not dock your pay for it do they? Give them a freebie once in a while.

2. Before the end of the day ask your boss if there is anything that they would like done before you leave. Even if no is the answer they still remember you offered.

3. During your first 90 days, every Friday go in and ask your Boss how you are doing. It reminds them weekly of your performance so when it comes time for your annual review it is not based on the last few weeks. From 90 days to 6 months make it biweekly and from 6 months to a year make it once a month.

4. Sign up for extra-carricular activities in the firm. Join sports teams, food drives, social committees etc. This makes you very visible and paints you as a team player.

5. Stay away from any and all gossip. It can only hurt you in the long run. Politely tell the grapevine you want no part of it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Give An Agency A Chance

Job seekers are not always so quick to work with an employment agency. They feel agenices are pushy, unethical, ask for too much information, and that they are only in it for the money. In other words, agencies don’t care about you. At Steffan & Co. we really try to make you feel special, wanted and needed. Please read our testimonial. But, remember that working with an agency is a two way street.

An unofficial fact is that 80% of the jobs in DC are handled through employment agencies, whether they are temporary or permanent. We are a necessary evil to some and a Godsend to others. The following are a couple of tips to help ease the pain of working with an agency.

In order to help your agency out and allow them to make you a priority, start by responding to their calls and emails as quickly as possible, taking care of the necessary paperwork and testing (if required) as soon as possible. If you are not able to complete this first step within 2-3 hours let the agency know when you will be able to complete it. Contact is key. Keeping in constant contact lets us know that you are interested and you're not just "testing the water." If the agency is prepared to schedule you for an interview, then do it within 24 hours if possible. Agencies and their clients often do not have the luxury of time and therfore will not wait for you to make time for them. If you are not able to interview within 2-3 days of submitting your resume it is best to wait until you do have the time.

Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Not only should you review your resume but have 2-3 others proofread it as well. DO NOT RELY ON SPELLCHECK! Spell check does not know the difference between "their, they're and there" or "your and you're." A great tip to find spelling errors is to read the resume backward. Your eye can play tricks on you. If you are reading and anticipate a certain word, you will see it spelled correctly (even when it is wrong) simply because you are expecting it. Taking time out for revisions is time lost getting your resume in front of the client. Make sure to include a list of 4-6 supervisory references with your resume. The references you provide should be notified that they are being used as a reference and to expect a phone call.

Honesty is the best policy. Always be upfront with an agency about any terminations or jobs not listed on your resume. The agency can help explain gaps in employment. Let the agency know if you are interviewing elsewhere, waiting for an offer or have already accepted another offer. Additionally you should provide a list of other agencies you are working with or have submitted your resume. It will save time and reputations (not just ours, but yours as well) in the long run.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Objectives Bring Objections

There are many resume experts who will tell you to include an objective on your resume, but is it really necessary in the real world? We at Steffan & Co. say no. In our many years of recruiting we have lost more interviews for qualified candidates because their objective had nothing to do with the job they are applying for or it is just “fluff”. If you have to have an objective make sure you change it for each individual job you are applying for. For example, do you really think an appropriate objective for a secretarial candidate is "To obtain a managerial position?" Too narrow an objective can also hurt you. An example would be sending your resume to a firm looking for a real estate legal secretary with an objective that states you are looking for a litigation legal secretary position. Instead of an objective consider using the space for something that adds to your experience or skills, such as a summary of skills, educational achievements or extracurricular activities.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Taking A Vacation... The Right Way

Americans typically take the least amount of time off and/or vacation time from their jobs than in any other industrialized nation in the world. From paid vacation time to maternity leave to family leave, The United States is notorious for offering-and taking- little when compared to European nations, Canada, and even parts of the Far East.

If it can be tough to get a significant amount of time off from an established career for a vacation, what does that mean for someone currently searching for new employment? Everyone likes to take vacations, and just because you are currently looking for or starting a brand new job doesn’t necessarily mean that your family vacation is cancelled for the year. The key is to ask for the minimal amount of time off needed in a timely, respectful fashion.

What exactly does that mean? How do you ask for time off when you don’t officially have any “time off” to ask from? Very carefully! The first thing to always remember is to be honest. If you already have an August vacation planned and you are in a first interview that you feel is going well, let the interviewer know that you have a pre-planned, pre-paid family vacation that you wish to go on. Offer this information at an appropriate time during the interview, and explain to the interviewer that you would be more than willing to work extra before or after your time off (or even possibly do a small bit of telecommuting during your vacation)—whatever it takes for you to be able to keep your already made plans.

The employer will usually be honest in return, either sharing that your time off shouldn’t be a problem, or letting you know right away that the time off won’t be possible. You can then decide what is more important for you—this particular job or your vacation. Human resource professionals admit that a pending vacation (one week long or less), as long as not during a critical time of the year, would not affect their decision in hiring who they feel is the right person for the job.

If you have a vacation coming up soon, you may want to suspend your job search until after you return home. You want to make yourself available for interviews at the employer’s convenience, and it can give a poor impression if you get a call from an HR representative and are not available. If you wish to continue searching for a new job with a vacation coming up in the next few weeks, you might consider a line in your cover letter addressing your availability for interviews. One idea might be something along the lines of “I will be available for interviews, at your convenience, anytime on or after June 10th, and look forward to speaking with you in person regarding positions within your Firm.”

Most Human Resource professionals would discourage asking for any significant time off (more than one or two days) once you start a new position, until you have officially earned it. Instead, take advantage of long holiday weekends for family getaways and short vacations. Once you have “earned” vacation time, make sure you don’t ask for time off during crucial business times (tax time for Accounting firms, end of company fiscal years, etc.) and show respect for your co-workers who may already have requested certain time off. Seniority does have its advantages!

The professionals at Steffan and Company can help you navigate a job search around a pending vacation, as well as help prepare you for interview questions regarding time off needs. In fact, Steffan and Company can help you easily navigate through all aspects of finding new employment, including resume editing, interview coaching, and individual preparation for all aspects searching for and securing a new job. Take the guesswork out of searching for professional employment—let Steffan and Company do the work for you. They are the best in the area at what they do—placing qualified professionals in great jobs working for top companies. Call today and find out what they can do for you!