Tag Archives: job hunting

The Dog Days of Summer: Why Summer Jobs Matter

Recent and upcoming graduates know, first hand, that many “entry level” positions aren’t really entry level – many require some amount of work experience. And for most students the best time to gain that experience is during the summer.

Internships are a great benefit to any resume, but for those who are unable to take an unpaid internship, summer work can provide the same, if not more, benefit, while still allowing you to earn an income. Even if your work experience isn’t as relevant to your desired career as an internship would be (think life guard, camp counselor or painting houses), employers will be intrigued by the skills and experience that you obtained. And since “soft skills” are always in demand, be sure to highlight the things you have learned and your positive attributes by pointing to your accomplishments and by earning recommendations from managers and mentors.

Internships (paid or unpaid) and work experience are the cornerstone of any resume. Whether you favor one or the other isn’t as important as the dedication and ability to learn and grow that you demonstrate to future employers by your willingness to work.

To Search or Not to Search?

Two takes on searching for jobs during the holidays.

Why to avoid starting your job search in late November and December:

The reasons against applying for positions during the holidays tend to be better known than the reasons you should. The most obvious reason is simply the timing. Hiring managers (just like all people) tend to take time off during the holidays. Less time in the office means less time looking through resumes and scheduling interviews.

A lesser-known reason has to do with most companies’ annual budgeting process. As the year comes to a close, many hiring managers run up against the limitations of departmental budgets. A position that seemed important to fill following Halloween may be ‘rolled over’ into the New Year. End-of-year pressures may make employers less likely to commit to a new hire.

Why you should apply for jobs during late November and December:

The best reason for applying during the holidays is simple: visibility. With less people applying to positions (HR managers do, in fact, report a dip in applications during the holidays), your resume is more likely to stand out. You are also signaling to potential employers that you are serious about finding a job even if your colleagues are busy trimming the tree and sipping eggnog.

End of the year interviews are also the perfect time to get your foot in the door with potential employers. Make a positive impact in December and you may become a company’s first choice in January. Also, with holiday parties, volunteer opportunities and various community events, the holidays are the perfect time to expand your network.

The Verdict?

Despite the real or imagined headwinds faced by job seekers in November and December, one should keep in mind that making your next, best career move is an all year round opportunity.

Happy Holidays!

Don’t Slow Down your Job Search just because it’s Summer!

Lessons from a Recruiting and Staffing Firm

Everyone is on vacation… Companies are waiting until Fall to hire new people… It’s just too hot!

Why should I be looking for a job?

We asked three of our experienced Recruiting and Staffing Consultants why summer is a great time to start your job search.

Pam – Your resume will stand out more

PamMost recruiting and staffing professionals, as well as corporate hiring managers, are inundated with resumes throughout the year. This is frequently the reason why it feels as though your resume is constantly ending up in what we, in the industry, call the Resume Black Hole. Simply put, your resume may get more attention in the dog days of summer!

Summer is a great time to apply because – and this is backed up by data AND experience – applications dip during the summer months. Corporate hiring managers and recruiting and staffing professionals are more likely to sit down and digest what’s in your resume. And, as the resume is the primary tool with which to market yourself, this can make all the difference in finding the job you want.

Charles – It shows that you are motivated and dedicated

CharlesWhile everyone else is lounging by the pool working on their tan, you’re out looking for a job. That means something to individuals in HR and the Recruiting and Staffing Industry. Recruiting professionals are only able to work with a limited number of candidates, so finding those who are the most motivated and most serious about finding a job can frequently make a difference.

And don’t think for a second that our clients don’t notice either! They are dealing with the same summer shortage of applicants that we are, so your willingness to suit up for an interview in 100 degree weather means something to them as well.

Patti – It’s easier to start a conversation

PattiAnyone who’s ever been on an interview knows the experience can be a little awkward, especially at the beginning. After all, you’re sitting down with a complete stranger to talk about an issue that can and will affect your future, and possibly your life! It’s best to start off on a good foot and make a good first impression.

Summer is a great time for interviewing because easy conversation starters abound.  Have any big 4th of July plans? Are you doing any traveling this year? When’s the last time you made it to the beach? Isn’t summertime in Chicago just the best!? These are easy ways to establish a rapport with your interviewer and allowing them to know more about you.


Now put down that margarita, fix up your resume and put on your best summer interview outfit! If you need a place to start, visit our Job Board. Or, if you are a recent graduate, be sure to visit our Recent Grad page. We promise, all of our offices have air conditioning… And, as always, Reach Higher!

To Temp or Not to Temp? Let’s discuss the pros and the cons!

by Karen Rae Horwitz, President, JobGiraffe

We’ve all heard the adage that “it’s easier to get a job if you have a job.”  If you are not

JobGiraffe, Karen Rae Horwitz, employment, job seeking, hiring, recruitment, staffing
Karen Rae Horwitz

working currently and also feel you are not making real progress by just sending out resumes, finding temporary employment through a reputable staffing agency may be just what you need to jump-start your job search.

There are many good reasons for a job seeker to turn to temporary employment.  Possibly you plan to start school (or are still in school) and simply cannot commit to something for the long-term. Maybe you are moving to a different city and need income while you get settled and make new connections.  In fact, one of the most common reasons candidates choose temping is that it can be a great way to enter the workforce, especially if you have little to no work experience. It is also a terrific way to learn new skills, gain experience and make valuable connections.

Here are some common objections to pursuing a temporary position, and my responses to them.

Why should I take a position with an end date attached to it?

Temporary jobs aren’t always so temporary. In fact, many times you can keep the position for as long as you want. Also, when working with a staffing agency, you may be able to secure a new temp assignments so that you experience little to no gaps in your employment.  There is also the often overlooked fact that temporary jobs can often lead to permanent employment! Employers who are looking for temporary workers are, by definition, in need of more help, so if you can prove yourself to be a valuable asset during the term of your contract, many companies will choose to keep you on permanently. This happens routinely at JobGiraffe.

Should I take a job without health insurance, a pension plan or paid vacation time?

It is true that companies frequently do not offer benefits to temporary employees because, as a temporary worker, you are simply not eligible for them.  However, many temporary agencies are beginning to add benefits options for their temp workers, and due to recent changes in the law you may now be eligible for benefits offered through state healthcare exchanges. New options (available through the ACA) make it easier than ever to pick up a health plan in the private market, often at reduced or subsidized cost. As for the ability to add to a pension plan, it’s true you will not participate in one while temping, but by working temp you will still be making contributions to your social security account through payroll taxes (FICA) and you will have the ability to make contributions to an existing (or new) IRA account – and both are just as important to your future as having a defined pension program through an employer. As for not receiving vacation time (this is a very common myth), at JobGiraffe, and many other staffing agencies, you can accrue paid vacation time even as you work in temporary positions.

Won’t a temp job look bad on my resume?

Having temporary work in your background is 100% more beneficial than having unexplained gaps in your work history. Most employers have themselves worked temp at some point in their own career or have used temporary workers in their business. They understand that it is simply a fact of life in today’s labor market. Also, don’t think that just because it’s temp work it’s not a valuable experience.  Temp positions are often available because an employer requires a very specific set of skills or expertise at a given moment. Highlighting the accomplishments of your temp position is no less important than highlighting experienced gained through a full-time “permanent” position.  Never sell yourself or any of the experience you have accumulated short!

Taking a temporary job also reflects well upon your work ethic and your openness to take on new challenges. The adage that “it’s easier to get a job when you have a job” is still around for a reason. Having large gaps in your work history for no specific reason is considered by most hiring managers – rightly or wrongly – as a big potential red flag.

Hopefully I’ve dispelled some of the myths surrounding temporary employment and also touched on many of the benefits: learning new skills, making connections, achieving specific or tangible goals, etc.

Temporary jobs may not be for everyone, but in my opinion they should be seen as an important tool in your toolbox. If you’re looking for work, or want to change your employment situation, talking to a staffing agency about a temp position is a great way to “create your own good luck” and become a more engaged and proactive job seeker.

Reach Higher!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

Recruiting the Recruiter – 5 Questions You Should Ask Before You Start

Now that we have covered the five things that every recruiter will want to know about you, it’s time to talk about what you should be asking them!

Ben Horwitz, JobGiraffe, World Giraffe Day
Ben Horwitz, JobGiraffe

As a job seeker, you’ve probably already encountered a dozen articles on what questions you should be asking prospective employers, but do you know the questions you should be asking recruiters? The obvious difference between a hiring manager and a recruiter is that, between the two of them, only the hiring manager is looking to hire you directly. But that difference entirely changes the game.

Here are the five questions you should be asking every recruiter you meet or speak with:

Question One: Do you ever charge a fee to job seekers?

First off, if the recruiter says there is any type of fee – or any cost to you at allRUN! The best way to know if a recruiting and staffing agency is really on your side is to look at how they are paid. If a recruiting and staffing firm’s goal is to match the right person with the right job, then they should only receive a fee (from the client!) and only once that match has been made. And, some type of free trial period should be included for the benefit of both the hiring company and the new employee. Our incentive as recruiters should always be to match candidates to jobs in a way that produces a good outcome for both our client and the job seeker.

Question Two: Will I be considered for positions other than the one I applied for?

Most recruiting and staffing agencies have a large number of open positions that they are looking to fill at any given time – many of which may never be publicly advertised. Recruiting consultants can use their knowledge of clients, open positions, the local job market and the job search process to guide you towards a position that fits your skills and experience. Your recruiter should always fully investigate the position you originally applied to, but you should also be prepared to be introduced to other clients and new opportunities.

Keep your options open and consider all positions that are available. No matter how much you thought the original position you applied for is the right match for you, there may be even better opportunities available to you through the recruiter’s network of local or regional clients.

Question Three: What will this process look like moving forward?

Since interviewing with a Recruiting and Staffing agency is different from interviewing with a company looking to hire, you should always know what the next steps will be. You should ask your recruiter how and when they plan to contact you; how will they share information pertaining to employers with you; what research will you need to perform; what to prepare and/or bring  with on interviews; and how you should organize the process if your recruiter secures multiple job interviews for you.

It is also fair to ask your recruiting consultant how long they think the process might take. It is not unusual for members of the JobGiraffe staff to work with a single candidate for several weeks and even months. The more you and your recruiting consultant can work as a team, the better your chances are of finding the right job.

Question Four: Should I continue to look for positions on my own?

Sometimes a job search takes longer than we’d like. In fact, if you have decided to work with a recruiting and staffing agency, your recruiting consultant may already have discussed this with you. Recruiting Consultants should be your advocate first and foremost; therefore, they should never stand in your way of finding the right job. If you wish, you should continue to search for positions on your own and work in tandem with your recruiter. If you secure an offer on your own, let them know immediately.

Question Five: How will I know when I’ve found the right position?

Hopefully, you will have had a chance to meet with various types of firms and investigate multiple positions. You may even have received an offer to accept a position – or two. If you have received one or more offers, choosing the right position may require some thought. Your recruiting consultant will assist you in organizing the pros and cons of each offer, noting such factors as type of position, industry, potential for learning and growth, travel times and ease of commute, and a full breakdown of the benefits and compensation package. Salary alone should not be the deciding factor as to which position you accept. In some cases, perhaps none of the offers should be accepted, and you should simply continue your search!

No matter the outcome, or whether or not the offer was secured on your own or with a recruiter’s client, a good recruiter will help you to sort it all out and make the best choice. Should you accept and start a position that was not presented by your recruiter, always keep the lines of communication open, because you never know when you may need their help again. A good relationship between a candidate and recruiter can work in your favor throughout your career!

Good luck. And remember to Reach Higher!

Ben Horwitz
Communications Director
JobGiraffe

Thanks, Coach!

JobGiraffe, Karen Rae Horwitz, employment, job seeking, hiring, recruitment, staffing
Karen Rae Horwitz

by Karen Rae Horwitz, President, JobGiraffe

No matter how many years it’s been since you walked with gown and mortarboard to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, I’ll bet you can still name your high school gym or sports coach – right?

Whether you played sports, marched in the band or took Tae Kwon Do at the neighborhood “Y”, we’ve all had important mentors along the way.

Most of us also had the experience of working with our high school or college career development department or counselors. These were useful free services with helpful people who assisted students with understanding how their class selection, skills and scholastic achievement fit into the job market and could shape their future careers.

But what does one do when graduation is in the rear view mirror, or your camp days are long gone, and you’re in need of help with your current job search?

Some people turn to professional career coaches; people who – for a fee – offer personalized advice on how to land the best potential new job. Most job seekers are aware of these services, and they can be very helpful for some people, but is paying a fee REALLY a practical decision for most? Probably not. What many people do not realize is that there is another form of career coaching available that is not only free, but can also lead to you finding your dream job – using a recruiting and staffing firm!

Let’s take a look at why:

Comprehensive Information: There is a common misconception that the consultants who work at recruiting and staffing agencies operate just like HR professionals – focused on filling a specific opening with a specific candidate – but this is incorrect!

Although you may have initially applied for a specific opening with a staffing agency, the consultants working for that agency will look at your education, skills and experience in relation to ALL the positions (and companies) they handle, and ultimately present you with the best fit(s). Plus, they often consider contacting non-clients to discuss potential openings for you that may not yet exist! Like a “talent agent”, your consultant will “shop” your resume around to potential employers to see if an opening can be created or may soon become available.  Working with a recruiting and staffing firm can open hundreds, if not thousands, of doors to openings and opportunities that you may not have access to through any other medium.

Additionally, based on their many years of experience placing people with a variety of backgrounds within numerous types of jobs for countless types of companies and organizations, you can receive comprehensive feedback on your career potential and salary expectations.

Real-Time View of the Local Economy: Consultants at recruiting and staffing agencies have their finger on the pulse of their local job market in an unparalleled way. That’s because everyday they are in communication with the companies in their region about various types of openings. When there are changes in local hiring trends, staffing agencies will be aware of these changes before any economist and certainly before the general public. This ‘real-time’ information becomes invaluable intelligence that can be the difference between you being ahead of or behind the hiring trends in your area.

Resume and Pre-Interview Assistance: Recruiting and staffing consultants will look at your resume and in short time make immediate corrections and/or suggestions for its improvement, which will increase your results in securing interviews.

Also, based on your personal interview, they will make observations regarding your personality type, strengths, weaknesses, areas for learning, potential for growth and help you to “connect the dots” with types of positions, companies or industries that you may not have considered previously – or have even known about.

How strong are your skills and experience? In addition to testing your relevant computer software knowledge and skills, your consultant can offer free tutorials to boost any gap in your proficiency or suggest learning others to boost your marketability. Plus, your consultant will perform various verifications, reference and background checks (all of which should be free of charge to you) to be certain that your background WILL check out as you expect, and if discrepancies are uncovered, help you address them NOW – rather than when its too late.

Additionally, once an interview has been scheduled, your consultant will also offer valuable interview advice and insight into the firm or firms you will meet with! For example, one of our clients LOVES the Cubs – so you’ll know NOT to blurt out how being a Sox fan has improved your work habits!

Fees – It’s FREE: Recruiting and staffing agencies in the Chicago metropolitan area do not charge the job seeker! Chicago is an “EPF market”, or Employer Paid Fee market. Agencies are paid if – and only if – you are hired and providing you stay a certain length of time. In JobGiraffe’s case, this is typically no less than 90 days, but usually more like one year. This fact is not only kinder to your wallet than using a paid career consultant, but helps to assure you that the staffing agency will always work hard to make the best match possible between you, the job seeker, and the company who needs you, otherwise we don’t get paid. And, if you are working with an agency in Chicago, and they are charging you a fee – run!

We’re Your Biggest Fan: When you work with a consultant, not only will you have a liaison between you and the hiring company, you’ll have your own cheering section! Your consultant will always be in your corner rooting for you and will be your best advocate. In fact, oftentimes your consultant may have the ability to ‘tip’ things in your favor if the hiring company must decide between you and someone else.

Also, in addition to providing you “your own cheering section” as you score your next job, your consultant can also be the source of invaluable feedback if you never seem to make it to the “second round” or always seem to always come in “2nd Place”. Sometimes you may be doing something wrong on your interviews, and not even realize it!

This unique “third party professional” can make a difference in every aspect of your job search. Read the profiles of the JobGiraffe staff. A common theme, profile after profile, mentions how gratified they are to help make a difference in the lives of job seekers – and that’s not just true for the JobGiraffe staff – because I do believe it is the common thread shared by consultants across this industry.

So once you land the job you’ve been looking for through a recruiting or staffing firm, don’t forget to say “Thanks Coach”…

Reach Higher!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

Karen Rae is President of JobGiraffe, formerly Paige Personnel Services, where she has guided her company through up and down economies for more than 20 years, advising both employers and job seekers on employment trends and challenges, and the strategies to meet them. She can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com. 

Cover Letters Are Still Alive – and Thriving!

JobGiraffe, Karen Rae Horwitz, employment, job seeking, hiring, recruitment, staffing
Karen Rae Horwitz

by Karen Rae Horwitz, President, JobGiraffe

It may seem to job seekers that cover letters are not as important as they once were, as we’ve all heard about how little time most hiring managers spend reading a resume or that a computer may actually scan your resume before human eyes ever do.

True or not, this does not mean you shouldn’t include a cover letter when applying for a job!  Although your resume may be the only item reviewed during a company’s first round of selecting candidates for interviews, for the second round or beyond, you can be certain every piece of your submission will be carefully examined, and your excellent cover letter may give you a ‘leg up’ against the competition!

But what makes a good cover letter in today’s world? I’d like to give you seven simple steps to create the best personal/professional introduction (a.k.a. cover letter) you can submit.

1. Writing in the ‘first person’ and ‘present tense’ is the way to go:  Within resumes, most candidates correctly refer to themselves in the third person and avoid using ‘I’ to create a more professional representation of their work history, but you should not do the same in your cover letter.  You can speak to the reader in a more “normal” manner and tone, referring to yourself as “I” and discussing your past and your present in a manner that’s easy to read and understand, and will allow the reader an opportunity to sense your personality.

2. Keep your formatting simple and consistent: The header on your resume (that part at the top which contains your contact information) and your cover letter should be identical. You should use the same font and approximate size for the text in both, and in general make the two documents look as though they belong together.  This simple organizational tactic reflects well upon you and will help you be remembered by the reader. Plus, should your resume and cover letter be accidentally separated, it will be very simple for them to be brought back together.

3. Don’t make your cover letter too lengthy or word-dense: Not only should your cover letter never be longer than one page, it should not look like a law school text. Asking a hiring manager to read a lengthy document about why you’re the right candidate for the job may be asking too much. Make sure there is a balance between the white background of the document and the black text.  This will encourage the reader to engage in what you’ve written as opposed to just scanning it. Taking the reader’s time into consideration will go a long way.

4. Directly address the job you’re applying for and why you’re a fit for that job: Your resume submission should always keep the job you are applying for in mind and you should adjust certain information within the resume appropriately, but it should still read as an objective overview of your professional history. Yet, within your cover letter, it is totally appropriate to specifically address the job you are applying to – and stress why you’re a good fit for it!  Share important highlights of your education, background and/or skills that are the most relevant to the position. If you know who the hiring manager is, or which department they’re within, you should be addressing them personally or by department.  If not, “Hiring Manager” is acceptable.

If you are not willing to take the time to create a personalized and customized cover letter for each resume submission you make, then it is probably best NOT to use a cover letter.

5. Don’t make your cover letter a “mini resume”: The information or professional highlights that are within your resume should not be repeated verbatim in your cover letter. Your cover letter should be seen as a tool to either intrigue the reader into wanting to carefully examine your resume or, if it is being read after your first interview, to reinforce why you are a good fit for the position. Also, keep in mind that your cover letter is a great way to reference positive information about yourself that wouldn’t seem appropriate – or that wouldn’t fit – within your resume.

6. Highlight your main selling points: While your cover letter should read more like prose than a resume, it’s also always best to add a couple of bulleted or highlighted remarks within the cover letter. This will help to visually break up the letter and make it not only easier to read but will also make sure you get across a couple of your best selling attributes should the reader be in a rush.

This could be done by simple bullet points in the middle of the cover letter…

  • With five years of successful outside sales experience, I’ve developed strong interpersonal skills and the ability to connect with people in all levels of an organization.
  • With advanced proficiency in MS Office and experience with Oracle ERP systems and Salesforce CRM software, I have the computer skills necessary for this position

Or, it could even be done by addressing some of the specific needs listed by the company in their job description.

Your ad specifies: Strong interpersonal skills

I offer: Five years of successful outside sales experience that required working with people in all levels of an organization.

Your ad specifies: The need for strong computer skills

I offer: Advanced proficiency in MS Office, experience with Oracle ERP systems and in-depth knowledge of Salesforce CRM software.

7. A strong ending: Emphasize your interest in the position and, although it may seem obvious, always be sure to thank the reader for their consideration in a positive and professional tone. And be sure to sign the cover letter if it’s being delivered by mail or in person, and if sent via email, consider adding an image of your signature. This adds a personal touch and is sure to make you ‘stand out above the crowd’.

Now ‘Reach Higher” and get that job!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

Karen Rae is President of JobGiraffe, formerly Paige Personnel Services, where she has guided her company through up and down economies for more than 20 years, advising both employers and job seekers on employment trends and challenges, and the strategies to meet them. She can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com. 

Job Requirements Aren’t Fact: In Fact, They’re Often Fiction!

Hockey superstar Wayne Gretzsky once famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Karen Rae Horwitz, JobGiraffe, jobs, job hunting, resumes, applying for a job,
Karen Rae Horwitz

This adage can also be applied to your job search. The unfortunate thing is that most job seekers often view themselves as unqualified for positions, when they actually are well qualified. By not applying, they deprive themselves of even the chance to be considered for the position.

After many, many years in recruiting and staffing, I feel this is not the correct way to approach a job search because frequently hiring managers, especially when writing a job description, list too many requirements and tend to include the experience and skills that they’d want the ideal candidate to have, as opposed to listing the core abilities that would actually lead to one being considered for the position.

Sound familiar?

OK, in defense of employers for just one moment, it is partly understandable; why wouldn’t an employer try to hit a home run and find that “perfect” candidate? Yes, there is a chance that the perfect person is out there, but the problem becomes these well-intended ‘top talent scouts’ inadvertently alienate and intimidate the really good, really qualified candidates!

This has actually become a substantial problem, as a recent Harvard Business Review study concluded that 41% of women and 46% of men report that feeling as if they are unqualified for a position is the number one reason they won’t even just send in their resume for consideration. They express sentiments like, “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications, and I didn’t want to waste my time and energy.”

It is never a waste of time or energy to apply for a job!

As recently explained in a similar GovExec.com article, “Hiring managers get overexcited and list too many things, even though only a few parts of the description are truly core. But the term “requirement” gets read very literally, and scares people off from jobs they could well get.” The author continues to say that people often forget how much of the hiring process is a human experience. This is a fact that should never be overlooked; you can often make up for not meeting certain requirements by bringing other things to the table. A steady work history, applicable education, strong references, prior professional accomplishments, a trainable nature and the right personality for a certain company culture; these things influence hiring managers just as much as your quantifiable skills!

At JobGiraffe we deal with this reality all the time. We often have to curtail the long “wish lists” from employers when writing our public job descriptions, understanding that by really only focusing on the core requirements we will actually be able to see more and better qualified applicants. We’d rather interview people to ascertain the totality of both their actual work experience and their unquantifiable qualities when deciding if they may be a good fit for a position.

But beyond JobGiraffe, the truth is, daunting job descriptions may not change, but your actions can!

Reconsider those positions you didn’t apply to because you felt you didn’t have the listed requirements. Even if it’s something that is seemingly concrete, such as a certain type of degree that’s being required. If you have the same experience and skills but not the right type of degree, do you really think an employer wouldn’t be willing to consider you for a position? Feeling like you could contribute to the success of the company will trump any kind of “perfect applicant wish list”.

A final side note; interestingly enough, women and men differ greatly in how often they let a fear of under qualification effect what jobs they apply to. Is it said that men apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, but women only apply if they feel they meet 100% of them.

This is an important lesson that all job seekers should learn; job descriptions are not rules written in stone, just wishful guidelines of the employer. Most all of us harbor a fear of being rejected, which is very normal, but when you let this fear effect how you job search you are only doing yourself a disservice.

Remember what “The Great One” said – “you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take”, and you won’t get a job that you don’t apply to!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe