Bloomberg is reporting on the rise of a new phenomenon, boomerang employees who return to former employers. The article cites a survey of 1,800 HR professionals, managers, and employees that indicates that 76% employers are more likely to rehire former employees. Other surveys show that one of employers’ biggest concerns right now is retention. These surveys are further indicators that the hiring market is changing in workers’ favors.
If you’re looking for a new job and have good relationships with a former employer, it might be a good place to look for an opportunity. They know you, and you know them. If you don’t like an offer, you can always look somewhere else. Sometimes it’s good to be a boomerang.
Jim (not his real name) is a client who's having trouble with his job search. He graduated with a degree in Marketing in 1998 and worked in marketing positions for two large firms over the next ten years. In 2008, he was laid off with tens of thousands of other Americans. His job search did not go well. His mother had a contact that got Jim a job in customer service, a position he held for the next seven years. Now, he wants to look for work in marketing, not customer service. He has taken a part-time job in retail that will let him take his time and be selective in finding a position in the field he loves. The problem is his mom. She worked in customer service for 30 year and has broad industry contacts. She is pressuring Jim to take another call in a field he has no passion for. She says he needs to get a job as soon as possible. That advice is terrible. Jim's strengths are in marketing, and he enjoyed great success over his first 10 years in the field. I recommended that Jim does what he wants to do. The easiest job to get is often the worst one to take.
According to the Department of Labor, there are more than 5 million open jobs in the U.S., the highest number since such statistics were first kept in 2000. Huffington Post reports that this news is good for the labor market and the overall economy. This good news does not guarantee that you can find a good job. Finding a job and managing a career is always an individual enterprise. It’s a lot easier when companies are hiring.
Clients frequently ask about difficult job interview questions. They want to know how to speak the magic words that will turn into a job. Here's the real question: What does the employer need? The better you can understand what the employer is looking for, the more likely you are to get the job. Rather than study canned answers to interview questions, I recommend preparing for an interview this way:
1. Know your strengths. Practice talking about why you are good at what you do. Be able to tell stories that will help an employer see how you have used your strengths on the job.
2. Listen and ask questions to learn what the employer needs. An interview should be more of a discussion than a test. Your challenge is to understand what the employer is looking for and show that you are the solution to the company's problem. I recommend asking this question: What are the three biggest challenges I'll face in this position? After the employer answers this question, demonstrate how you can meet these challenges and be an asset to the company.
It's never easy to get a job. Rather than worry about questions you might not even be asked, figure out what the employer needs and demonstrate why you are good at what you do. If you can do those two things, employers will want to hire you.
A good job search should focus on why you are good at your job. Many of the clients who work with me on interview skills focus too much on what they don’t have. They worry that an interviewer will ask a question that they will not be able to answer. Here’s another way to approach interviewing: Focus on your strengths.
No employer will ever hire you for what you don’t know or can’t do. They want to know why you will do a good job. The best way to impress an employer is to play up your strengths. To define your strengths, start with your resume. Use the margin to note key words that will make you an asset to the employer. Look at your achievements and think about how each of those examples reflects a strength. What makes you good at what you do? That’s the key question to answer.
“What can you do for me?”
That’s what employers really want to know when they are hiring a new employee. Too often job seekers worry so much about what they’ve done – and haven’t done – in the past that they don’t answer the employer’s big question. In writing your resume and presenting yourself at an interview, stay focused on what the employer needs. How do you know what the employer needs? Look carefully at the job post, and adapt your resume to the requirements and qualifications. Before going on an interview, look at the job post again. Ask yourself: Why will I be an asset to the company? Show how your strengths will make you the best candidate. No employer will hire you just because of what you did in the past. They will hire you because of what you can do for them. Answer the question:
“What can you do for me?”
A client recently told me that he was checking several major job boards for openings. He asked what else he could do. I asked about networking, which he was doing. Then I asked if he was checking the websites of companies he wanted to work for. He wasn’t doing this. Can you assume that the company you want to work for is posting on job boards? Are you looking at the job boards where they are posting?
Checking company websites is also a good way to learn more about your industry. The more you know about your employment market, the easier it is to network and target the best employers. There is no magic trick that will let you find a good job. What work in your most recent job search probably won’t work in the next one. Try to find different ways to look for work. Better still, build the kind of knowledge about your industry that will let you manage a career.
I’ve written in the past about the danger of signing non-compete agreements. A client recently told me a new tale of non-compete woe. He was working in a technical position for a company that was sales focused. My client’s position had no function related to sales, so he could not steal any accounts or clients. He applied for a job with a company that purchased from his current employers. The hiring manager informed my client that they would love to hire him, but could not do so because of the agreement he signed. In most cases, non-compete agreements last for one year. The one my client signed lasts for 18 months. There is currently a position open at the company that wants to hire him, but he will not be free for another four months. He has lost two opportunities to work for a company that wanted to hire him.
If you are taking a new job, think carefully before signing any non-compete agreements. In a profession with limited opportunities, a non-compete agreement could keep you from working. If you don’t understand what an employment document is saying, take it to a lawyer before signing it. Be very careful before signing any employment document. Don’t limit your future.
LinkedIn is a great tool if you want to work for a specific company, and I frequently recommend that clients use it. However, almost all of us have a better tool for networking: our phones. Make a list of people who know you as a professional. Call them and let them know what company you are trying to work for. Then ask if they know anyone who works for that company. If they say no, don’t get frustrated. Good networking takes patience and the ability to hear the word no. If they do know some, ask if they would make an introduction for you or if you could use their name in contacting that person. Have a plan for what you want to say when you contact your new network partner. Be able to articulate why you want to work for the company and how you can contribute. Networking is never easy, and it takes a long time. Even so, when you make the right connection, doors will open.
Too many people have the wrong idea about how to look for work. They update their LinkedIn profile and wait for a call. They send their resume to some recruiters, and then they wait. It's time to stop waiting.
Career coaches have a name for the kind of job search that relies on waiting: the passive job search. Workers on all levels -- entry to executive -- find a new job faster and get more offers when they perform an active job search. This method requires that the job seeker take charge and look for the job him or her self. It's hard to make the contacts needed for networking or spend nearly an hour to fill out an online job post, but that's the best way to reach employers and market your skills. Track what you've done to move your job search forward. When you get stuck, try to find new ways to locate and contact potential employers. Looking for work is hard and often frustrating. However, if you follow a passive job search because it's easy, the only thing you might achieve is waiting for the phone to ring. Get active.
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