Thursday, November 19, 2015

Prepare for your next interview with this short checklist

Written by: Diane LeMaire, Senior Managing Director F&A Search, CFS Houston
This is one of my favorite documents I created that I share with my candidates to help them prepare for an interview. I hope it helps you too! 

Before the Interview:

The more prepared you are the more confident you will be
  • Buy a portfolio if you do not have one.
  • Make copies of your resume and references. 
  • Make sure your suit is dry-cleaned and ready.
  • Do your research! Go to the company website, LinkedIn page, Hoovers/D&B and Google. Look for goals and objectives, corporate culture, and any new press releases. This information will be imperative for the interview.
  • Google the company name and the hiring managers you will meet and also check out their LinkedIn pages.
  • Compare your resume to the job description. Think about accomplishments you can point out. Make sure you can explain all reasons for leaving, and keep all responses short and to the point. Never, ever say any thing negative about an employer in an interview. Believe it or not, it IS a very small world. 
  • Prepare a list of at least 5 questions per interviewer and have them ready in your portfolio.
  • Make sure you have the directions and know how to get there.
  • Role-play with anyone! Interviewing is not your profession, which means you have to practice! Practice the hard to answer questions. You never want to sound scripted or that you are fishing for an answer. If you do not know how to answer specific questions, ask your recruiter for advice.

The Day of the Interview:

Don’t forget to smile and have a positive attitude. First impressions can make or break an interview! 
  • Arrive early (if you do not know the location drive by the night before).
  • Review your notes before you go in.
  • Give yourself a pep talk (you should be a little bit nervous, this is normal).
  • Walk in with confidence and tell the receptionist whom you are there to see. Do NOT be rude to whoever is at the front desk. Chances are they will be asked their impression of you.
  • Make sure you are looking for your interviewer. Do not sit and read or be on your phone. Sit with confidence and a smile on your face!
  • Give a good, firm handshake. If you have a tendency to have sweaty palms, wash your hands with really cold water before you enter the reception area.
  • If you have a problem with direct eye contact, look at their eyebrows. They will never know the difference.

During the Interview:

Don’t worry if you have done your homework you are well on your way.
  • Rule number 1…People love to talk about themselves. Don’t forget to ask about the interviewer’s background and why they like working for their employer. 
  • It’s very important to establish rapport so look for commonalities.
  • Ask the interviewer to describe a typical day in the role; ask about projects and how you can make an immediate impact. Remember: The employer is probably doing his job and the one you are interviewing for as well. The more you can help, the more likely they are to hire you.
  • Talk about your accomplishment and goals. Be prepared to talk about challenges and how you overcame them. 
  • Always know the answer to the strength and weakness question. Don’t forget about your 5-year goal(s).
  • Make sure you ask the questions you prepared. Don’t forget to include questions to better understand the job and what it would take to be successful.
  • Don’t ask about benefits or salary. This is about the job and the company. Your recruiter can get you that information.
  • If the money question comes up tell them it is more about the opportunity and you are sure they would make you a fair and competitive offer. If they press you tell them what you are making. If they keep pushing you give them a range. Never, ever give them a number! Don’t put a number on their application either.
  • Don’t forget to ask a lot of questions and show enthusiasm. Most candidates are cut from the process simply because the manager does not think the candidate is interested in their opportunity. 

The Close:

This is your chance to bring it all together.
  • Tell them you are interested! Yes, say it out loud. 
  • Ask if there are any concerns about your ability to do the job. This is your last chance to sell yourself!
  • Explain that after learning more about the company and the position you are even more excited about this opportunity. Review the experience you can contribute and ask for the job or the next step in the process. 

The Follow up:

  • Call your recruiter immediately. It is essential that we speak to you before we speak to the client to gauge your interest level.
  • Very few candidates actually write a thank you note. I recommend an email immediately after and a hand written note as well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

10 ways to design your workspace for super productivity

Article written by James Kerr, partner at BlumShapiro Consulting
Anyone working in an office, whether virtual, at home or in a place of business, knows that their productivity is shaped by their surroundings. Their personal workspace is an important factor to their happiness and productivity. Here are some tips that may be worth considering:
  1. Start with Tunes: For a variety of reasons, I prefer stuff by Southside Johnny, Jason Isbell and Lucero. But, find what you like and make it part of your playlist while working. It helps with focus and creativity.
  2. Liven it up with plants. Plants are living things and can raise your spirits while naturally cleaning the air. When working at remote locales like coffee shops and restaurants, I like to be seated by areas with plants and light.
  3. Time-Box Your Day for Efficiency: There's one universal truth about work, it never ends! There's always more to do. So, I like to put some boundaries around how much time I spend on any give activity. Setting a time limit enables me to cover more ground than I would than if I drill down on any single task--the variety keeps me fresh and "in the game," longer.
  4. Schedule Study Breaks: For the reasons outlined above, it is easy to drive through a work day without ever taking a break from the action. So, I schedule some study breaks throughout my day. Often, I just get up from my desk and walk around the office. But, a mental break from the action helps you to renew before you go back after it.
  5. Establish a space to recharge your senses. One area is for working. The other is to recharge and to think. Having a place to go from your desk can help you gain perspective, even if it's within the same office space. I have a Yogi Bo that I use at my home office. It is my "go to" place when I need a change of locale to ponder business issues.
  6. Integrate Simple Tools, Whenever Possible: Productivity tools can be a tremendous help as long as they don't come to rule your life. If you can't get to sleep at night because you can't put your cellphone down for fear of missing an email or tweet, you've taken the idea too far. Recently, my firm adopted an integrated cellphone, email and voice system that I'm finding to be a great productivity enhancer. Today, voicemail messages left on my office phone come into my cellphone's email--good stuff!
  7. Incorporate Collaboration Capabilities: Technologies that foster teamwork and information sharing need to be integrated into the way we work. Tools, like Skype and Microsoft Lync, which work while both in the office and on the road are the ones that can drive improved collaboration wherever work is done.
  8. Stand-Up to Break It Up: I have a stand-up desk set-up at work so that I can choose to stand while working on my laptop. I find that periodically shifting from a seated position to a standing one helps to break-up the day and it just may be a healthy choice to make.
  9. Find a Comfort Doodad: Have something small on your desk or in your briefcase that you can grab when need to relax and think. It can be a polished stone that reminds you of a beach that you like to visit or a golf tee that prompts a nice thought about the coming weekend--anything that takes your mind away from the issue that you're working through. I keep a yo-yo around. Even if I'm camped out at a Starbucks, I can stand-up and give it a spin, whenever I need a diversion to help me bust through.
  10. Keep an e-Journal: Your e-journal should be a running list of ideas and lessons learned that you can review periodically to spur on thinking and assist in problem-solving. A simple way to do this is to create a document that you leave on your desktop. Whenever inspiration strikes, just fire up the file and add the idea to your list.

To close, I hope that these ideas inspire you to reimagine your workspace so to be more productive. The easier we can make our work lives the easier our life will become. For a nice complement to these, and other productivity ideas, be sure to check out this infographic that I discovered as I was conducting some research for this piece. There's some clever ideas presented in it that can be used to augment the ones offered above.
This article was originally published on and can be found here.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Breaking Bad [Interview Habits Edition]

Interviews are already nerve-wracking, so you can’t let unnecessary bad habits affect you negatively. No matter how confident or credible you may be, having these habits can deter a hiring manager from selecting you for the position. Don’t let these habits be the reason you don’t get a job! Here are common bad interview habits and how to break them:

Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses
You will be asked about your strengths and weaknesses inside and outside of work. It’s important to be fully prepared to answer this question so that you’re able to find a happy medium – a response that doesn’t sound like you’re bragging about your strengths or that you’re incompetent with your weaknesses.

The Fix: Tia McKeen, Staffing Manager in Portland, encourages candidates to “call and interview their own references to find out what others perceive as their key strengths. When they are asked this in the interview, they can share what others have shared with them. This way, when references are called, the hiring authority is likely to hear more about these strengths from a previous employer, reiterating what you’ve already shared.

However, it’s important to keep your weaknesses skill-focused. A common response is ’procrastination’, which has a negative connotation. Instead, you could say ‘time management has been a challenge for me in the past, however, I have found that creating a daily to-do list where I prioritize tasks helps me accomplish what’s most important first and keeps me on track for deadlines.”

Body Language
This includes crossed arms, shaking legs, tapping fingers, or bad posture. Your body language plays a huge factor in selling yourself to the company because it’s a visual representation of how you hold yourself and how you express certain opinions or emotions. NicoleHicks, Staffing Manager in Seattle, finds it “terribly off-putting when a candidate is too relaxed. I’ve noticed some people slouching to the side or resting their head on their hand as if to perform some kind of body language power play. It gives the impression that they are disinterested, condescending, or unprofessional.” 
The Fix: Practice makes perfect! Make a valiant effort every day to adjust your back posture when you’re sitting. This trains your body to automatically maintain that position. While mastering posture, focus on keeping your body language open by avoiding crossing your arms and legs. If you do, the interviewer will see you as guarded. Rest your hands together on the table if you need to but you can also use your hands to talk or help you describe something (but don’t do this excessively). Relax and feel as comfortable as you can to produce the most natural body language.

Hicks expects a natural dialogue to occur with a positive attitude. “You can expect that in an interview, you will be asked questions to which the answers may be on your resume. I’m not asking because I didn’t read it already. Likely I may be looking for clarity on something specific but in general it’s an invitation to get a natural dialogue going so I can get to know you as a person. Getting frustrated and annoyed by that fact or including ‘as stated on my resume’ or ‘as we’ve already discussed’ in your response is not a positive way to frame your answer.” 
The Fix: Remind yourself that the interviewer is trying to understand you as a person overall and not trying to trick you or be rude. If you find yourself getting frustrated, it’s okay to take a deep breath and a moment to think of an appropriate answer. Show the interviewer that you are good employee material by staying calm and collected during stressful situations.

Particularly when a person chooses to leave a job because of a toxic work environment, they take some of that environment with them when interviewing. Hicks recommends that you “stop being negative – about yourself, former employees, co-workers, etc.” How can your future employer be certain that you won’t bad-mouth their company if you’re unhappy there? 
The Fix: Staying positive is easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. Think about the overall outcome of the situation if you were to be positive. You’d maintain good relationships with your previous and future employers, and you’ll start off with a good reputation at your new job. Write out and practice different responses to interview questions that might provoke your negativity so that you’re prepared to answer them professionally, maturely, and positively.

Getting carried away with your voice during an interview is fairly common. We get it, you have a lot to say in a short time, but it’s important to stay relevant to the topic or question asked. Hicks adds, “Everyone should know to not word vomit or provide too much information, but they don’t always do that. Sometimes rambling can be related to a negative attitude but I’ve also listened to family drama, old supervisor’s infidelity, and other totally irrelevant things.” 
The Fix: Don’t dig yourself a hole! Once you get started on an irrelevant topic, it can be hard to stop talking because you get more and more nervous that you’ve lost your way in the conversation. When you start going off topic, find a way to connect that experience to the company. This trick makes it seem as though you intended to go off track a bit because you had a point to make. It can also be helpful to talk slowly and pace yourself. This prevents your words from getting away from you.

Want more information on interviews? Please comment below! Looking for a job? You can contact one of our recruiters here

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Get the most out of using a recruiter

Written by: Tatiyana Cure, Executive Recruiter, CFS New York

Using a recruiter to help you find a job is very beneficial; you have someone in your corner who is going to do everything possible to find you the right job. They prep you for interviews, negotiate for better salary, and do a lot of the job search legwork. As great as that sounds, you need to make sure you’re getting the most out of using a recruiter. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Identify Industry Specific Recruiters: Ensure that your resume is on file with recruiters who specialize in the industry pertaining to your background. It’s unnecessary to be in an irrelevant database.

2. Provide You Resume: Even if you are not interested in a specific opportunity that was presented, make sure you are one of the first people to be contacted about other opportunities relevant to your goals and expectations.
  • Use specific keywords in your resume: Most recruiters search their candidate database with specific keywords, and you want your resume to be found.
  • Provide contact information: When an amazing career opportunity comes knocking, make sure you’re able to answer the door. Provide multiple ways for a recruiter to reach you whether that is your cell, work phone number, or e-mail address.
  • Be honest: Never lie on your resume, in interviews, or conversations with your recruiter.
3. Quantify Accomplishments: Have an in depth conversation with your recruiter regarding your professional success since this is what makes you stand out amongst your peers.

4. Specify Expectations: Discuss compensation, title, industry, and responsibilities up front and honestly. Nothing is more aggravating to your recruiter than having you back out after you are offered a position that you weren’t that interested in.

5. Ensure Confidentiality: Compensation and other sensitive matter should only be discussed with your recruiter (and spouse).

6. Keep in Touch: Send an updated resume, additional accomplishments, and changes in expectations to your recruiter when applicable.
  • Avoid unnecessary follow up: If your recruiter hasn’t contacted you, that means there are no open roles that suit your interest or qualifications. *Remember, your recruiter has a relationship with the hiring manager. If the recruiter advises you on do’s and don’ts, taking the advice will only benefit you.
  • Do not rely solely on your recruiter: If you are an active candidate, continue your own efforts, but do not post your resume on a job board if you are currently employed.
7. Pay it Forward: If your recruiter calls about an opportunity that’s not right for you but you know someone who might be interested, you should share the name with your recruiter. Doing this does not go unnoticed by a recruiter, and it’s an easy way to stand out among other candidates.

8. Debrief: Call your recruiter promptly after your interview. This gives you an opportunity to get their input and follow up on questions you wanted to elaborate on. When your recruiter speaks with the hiring manager, he/she will be able to add or clarify some information that you both agree will significantly impact you moving forward.

Some things to remember:
  • Don’t take things personally: If you see your recruiter post a job and are wondering why you haven’t been contacted about it, feel free to reach out to him/her and inquire. However, if your recruiter is honest and says that this is not the right fit, it’s in your best interest to respect that.
  • Have patience: Your recruiter handles most pressing matters first. If he/she hasn’t gotten back to you, most likely there are no appropriate opportunities to discuss and will reach out to you when that happens.
  • Don’t burn bridges: If your recruiter is not successful in your eyes, do NOT burn that bridge. That same recruiter may reach out to you in the future for an amazing opportunity or network with other recruiters and hiring managers who you may have an interest with.
  • Never go behind your recruiter’s back: This includes directly applying to an opportunity that your recruiter discussed with you or avoiding recruiter’s instructions.
  • Be honest about what’s pending: If you received an offer resulting from your own efforts, keep your recruiter abreast and don’t let it be a surprise. If you receive an additional offer from your recruiter’s efforts, discuss your best interests with your recruiter. Again, don’t burn a bridge by not communicating your intentions.
  • Accept the offer promptly: If you take too long to contemplate an offer, the potential employer may question your commitment and possibly withdraw the offer.

We love to hear your questions and insight, so please comment below! You can also reach out to one of our expert recruiters. Find the closest CFS office to you here. 

Creative Financial Staffing (CFS) is the nation’s largest, privately-held accounting and financial staffing firm. We provide qualified accounting and finance professionals on a temporary and permanent basis across a broad range of industries.

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