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Job Talk HERC's Jobseeker Blog

Job Talk HERC's Jobseeker Blog

HERC's blog for jobseekers, Job Talk, offers tips from experts in the field that will help you with your search and provide the best ways to promote yourself to prospective employers.

By Paula Goodman

diverse handshakeHigher Education customarily uses recruitment firms for only select positions. Yet they do so often enough that it is worth explaining here the differences in types of firms, what would be the reason a school/university would engage a firm, and how you should best interact with them.  Being very cost conscious, academia more often than not chooses to try to fill positions using their own resources.  There are certain circumstances, however when they feel the need to contract with a third party. 

 

Those situations include (1) a senior position that is highly visible internally and externally (2) a position that is deemed “hard to fill” usually due to special skill sets not easily available on the open market (3) there is extreme urgency to fill the role and the hiring unit smartly recognizes that if they rely on their internal mechanisms the search will be prolonged.  

These third party vendor firms are usually two types - retained or contingency.  A retained search firm commands a hefty 30% of the base salary.  These firms are elite and well known in their fields so do not have trouble sourcing high caliber people.  They also have armies of researchers who maintain a strong data base. These firms get paid even if an internal candidate is hired or the employer ends up hiring by a referral from their own network.  Alternatively, contingency firms get paid ONLY if the employer hires someone they referred. Their rates are also less.

So how should you as the candidate deal with these third party vendors?   First keep in mind that they are unlikely to see you on an exploratory basis so reaching out to them will unlikely get a response. If, however, they happen to be working on an assignment for a university and you meet the qualifications then you become of interest to them.  Keep in mind, however, they work for the client who is paying them and NOT for you.  As long as you are “in play” they will be responsive to you.  If you are not, then sadly you can expect what could border on ill treatment.  I do not mean to be discouraging.  These firms, especially the premier ones, can be your way into an institution of higher education if all else aligns.  Your expectations of them simply need to be clear.  

About the Author: 

As Director of Recruitment in central Human Resources for Columbia University, Paula Goodman manages senior level searches on an ad hoc basis. She advises internal schools and departments on recruitment strategies for positions at various levels.  She handles high priority referrals from internal and external stakeholders of importance to the University.  Under the auspices of the Office of Work-Life, she provides career advisement for accompanying spouses/partners of potential faculty recruits.   She also provides confidential career advisement for officers contemplating internal moves. Additionally, she was  re-elected for a second term to the University Senate as the sole representative for non-faculty on the Morningside campus.  Paula returned to Columbia in 2000 after spending 14 years in senior recruitment positions in industry.  Prior to that she was Assistant Director of Career Services at Columbia Business School.  She has both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree from the University of New Hampshire.

hand with pen photoBy Paula Goodman

There is a great deal of information about how networking is the key to a successful job search.  I do agree to some extent although not that networking will necessarily be the direct link to landing a position per se.  The activity can, however, be extremely instrumental in leading you to the offer you so intensely desire.  In higher education, networking is particularly challenging.  Most managers are so overworked and under –resourced they have trouble finding the time to do anything above and beyond what is necessary every day.  Added to this constraint is what I have referenced in past articles - the fact that there are no “hidden jobs.”  Government regulations require every position in higher education MUST be posted.  The key to networking is to find your “way in.”  Who do you know in your peer group, extended family, alumni association, or LinkedIn groups who have contacts inside organizations you have targeted and in functions that match your skill sets?  You should  always use your referral source’s name when reaching out.  I recommend starting with an email of introduction mentioning this person---after of course getting their permission to do so.  NEVER say in your initial overture that you are reaching out for a job lead.  It is better to indicate that you have a strong interest in what the new person does and where they are doing whatever “it” is.  Also take the opportunity to mention how well your skillset matches their area.  This may sound overt but if done properly it is more subtle.  If you are fortunate enough to get a face to face meeting or even a phone meeting, be just as prepared as you would be for an interview.  Research the organization and find out all you can about the individual.  People are usually flattered that you took the time to do so even for this type of meeting.  Try to end the meeting with their giving you other individuals to contact and ask for their permission to use their names. Be sure to follow up with a thank you letter/email that has substance to it.  Periodically follow up with this first networking contact updating them on your activity.  As long as you do not do so too often, they will appreciate knowing.  Your hope is that they now have a vested interest in your success.  Job boards often get a “bad-rap.”  While networking is a critical part of a thorough job hunt, I  highly recommend you still check job boards on a continual basis.  Should you see an ideal job posted, you can strategically bring it up with your networking contact.  I have always felt that if the stakes were not so high that networking could actually be fun and an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.  Try to arrange your thinking accordingy.


About the Author: 

As Director of Recruitment in central Human Resources for Columbia University, Paula Goodman manages senior level searches on an ad hoc basis. She advises internal schools and departments on recruitment strategies for positions at various levels.  She handles high priority referrals from internal and external stakeholders of importance to the University.  Under the auspices of the Office of Work-Life, she provides career advisement for accompanying spouses/partners of potential faculty recruits.   She also provides confidential career advisement for officers contemplating internal moves. Additionally, she was  re-elected for a second term to the University Senate as the sole representative for non-faculty on the Morningside campus.  Paula returned to Columbia in 2000 after spending 14 years in senior recruitment positions in industry.  Prior to that she was Assistant Director of Career Services at Columbia Business School.  She has both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree from the University of New Hampshire.

Man on phone imageBy Paula Goodman

While retained executive search firms have sophisticated data bases they can sort through with every new search, recruiters and human resources managers inside higher education rarely have anything resembling such.  So how do you keep yourself visible without being annoying?  As I have mentioned in prior blog posts, you should take the initiative of continuing to check a University’s job site on a regular basis searching for positions that match your background.  If you have actually been interviewed in the recent past and were told you were a “near-miss”, then you have the added advantage of knowing the institution and knowing the person with whom you want to renew contact.  So ideally, you should reach out to that person as soon as you see a new posting that appears to be a match.  Always, always attach your resume never assuming the person can easily access it or has the time to look for it.  Ideally cut and paste the newly posted position right into the text of the email, again not assuming they know exactly which position you are inquiring about.  Noting you have already applied online in advance of the outreach further indicates your interest level.  I usually am working on multiple positions simultaneously and may or may not have been engaged to help recruit for the job in question.  If I have met you, however, and formed a positive impression then I can easily find out about the new posting.  So how often to reach out?  I recommend no more than twice a month and being very targeted in choosing to inquire about those positions where you totally meet the minimum qualifications and have strong interest.  I would not recommend “checking in” without a specific agenda.  But with very senior candidates with whom I formed a strong relationship during a past search but who were not selected, then a friendly hello email especially around the holidays is not ill advised.  I can site a few examples in my experience recruiting where someone surfaced themselves at exactly the right time in a challenging search process and a happy ending occurred. 

About the Author: 
As Director of Recruitment in central Human Resources for Columbia University, Paula Goodman manages senior level searches on an ad hoc basis. She advises internal schools and departments on recruitment strategies for positions at various levels.  She handles high priority referrals from internal and external stakeholders of importance to the University.  Under the auspices of the Office of Work-Life, she provides career advisement for accompanying spouses/partners of potential faculty recruits.   She also provides confidential career advisement for officers contemplating internal moves. Additionally, she was  re-elected for a second term to the University Senate as the sole representative for non-faculty on the Morningside campus.  Paula returned to Columbia in 2000 after spending 14 years in senior recruitment positions in industry.  Prior to that she was Assistant Director of Career Services at Columbia Business School.  She has both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree from the University of New Hampshire.

Career Fair Tips Blog Photoby Kimberly Simmons, PharmD

Looking for a job, the right job, or even networking for job opportunities is often a daunting task when considering the number of applicants that you are vying against.  Within the St. Louis region, career fairs occur frequently and often times the same employers attend, in search of top talent.  So, which career fair(s) should you attend to gain maximum visibility?  What do you take?  How do you present your best self to ensure that you progress to the next step within the interview process?  It all starts with self-confidence of your knowledge, skills and capabilities, selling yourself, and closing the deal! 

Prior to attending a career fair, it is prudent to research the company sponsoring the career fair as well as the corporations who will be present.  This will help you to vet the value of the career fair in the eyes of the community and corporations who may attend.  Additionally, by researching the corporations who will be present, you can ascertain that you are not re-interviewing/re-presenting to the same corporations at each fair and allowing them to form assumptions.  Lastly, it is helpful to research the corporations who will be attending the career fair so that you may tailor your cover letter, resume/curriculum vitae (CV), anticipate on-site interview questions, and engage the company representatives in conversation. 

At the career fair, be prepared to introduce yourself with an elevator pitch to each person who you meet.  Don’t present the generic elevator pitch that starts with, “Hi, my name is_________ and I am ______ and I am seeking ______” but be innovative.  Craft a powerful, memorable and captivating elevator pitch that gains the interest of your potential employer, such as, “I realize that over 80% of fast food chains utilize social media, mass marketing, and digital media to reach consumers and X company is holding true to a traditional approach by only using mass marketing and digital media.  I am a marketing specialist with over 10 years of experience with Y and Z companies and would like to talk with you about how I have helped these companies to leverage social media to grow their market share by DD points during my time as an employee”. 

Your innovative elevator pitch should be matched to self-confidence in your knowledge, skills, and capabilities, which begins with your cover letter and your resume and/or curriculum vitae.  If you are not confident with your cover letter and/or resume/CV work with a qualified consultant.  These two documents are an opportunity to sell you from the layout of the document to the information contained within.

Also, it would behoove you to take a front man (friend) and a smart device.  The front man is a tactical move that would scope out all of the companies which you may have researched in advance or identified on spot.  Your friend would speak with the companies listening for buzz words, learn the names of company representatives, and other pertinent pieces of information that would benefit you and position you well in your meeting with the company.  The smart device would enable you to look up additional information that your front man referenced about the companies so that you have detailed information to engage potential employers in conversation.  After a debriefing between you and the front man, your friend would formally introduce you to the corporations as “Hi, corporation X, we spoke earlier about Y, and I think Sue has Z skills that are matched with what we spoke about”.  Essentially, your front man is selling you to the corporation and utilizes the cliché of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’.   

Prior to ending conversation, always close!  Ask the person about next steps, when will they be expecting to make a decision, when will the phone/in-person interviews begin, when will you hear from them.  This establishes an expectation and shows interest on your part.

Finally, follow-up with potential employers, promptly, with a handwritten note..  Although in the electronic age, emails are quicker and easier, it is less personal.  A handwritten note signifies that you went the extra mile and made it personal. 

Bio

Kimberly Simmons is the Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and is an Assistant Professor in Pharmacy Practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy.  She is a native of Atlanta, GA and relocated to the region in 2012.  

white male on deskBy Paula Goodman

Although interviewing in general is not easy, It is even tougher in higher education.  The hiring units are often distracted as they try to accomplish all they need to do with limited resources.  While the stakes should be and indeed are very high for them to fill an open position, getting through their daily work day is simply higher on their immediate agenda.  So your objective is to convince them that you are the best candidate they have interviewed so far and better than any they have yet to meet.  The more prepared you are and the more you set yourself apart from other candidates the stronger your strategic competitive edge will be. 

Typically an interview is first arranged with an HR representative or a Department Administrator.  You need to get past this person in order to meet with the actual supervisor.  This first interviewer’s role is to determine if you have the skills and competencies to meet the needs of the hiring manager.  So you need to explain everything you have done as it relates specifically to the employer’s needs.  It does not matter what you think you can do or feel you can do.  What matters is what you have DONE and whether what you have done is a direct match to what the hiring manager needs doing.  I recommend dissecting the job description point by point and coming up with the closest parallel responsibility from your prior work experience that corresponds to each point in the description.  You need to convince them you will have a very short learning curve and will add value right away. 

Phone interviewing is on the increase as a mechanism to narrow the pool of applicants. While a face-to-face interview usually works to the advantage of the candidate, you should be very responsive to the prospect of a telephone interview.  I encourage candidates to prepare just as thoroughly.  Make sure to engage the interviewer with the tone of your voice and with enthusiasm.  Remember to listen carefully and not feel as if you have to fill any moment of silence.  

Advance research on the institution is just as important in academia as it is in any other setting.   Any employer expects you to know what differentiates them from their competitor institutions and to offer up sound reasons as what appeals to you about their school/department.  The best answer of course is that the actual job responsibilities excite you but you also need to weave in your research about the hiring unit.

Once you move to the stage of interviewing with the hiring manager per se, chemistry between you and that person comes into play.  That is harder to prepare for, but looking the person up in LinkedIn is very easy in these times, so you should definitely try to learn as much as you can about the interviewer.  There is an enormous amount of material online about interview questions so I will not go into great detail here.  The most critical thing to remember, however, is specificity.  If you have indeed dissected the job description as mentioned above, that should be great preparation for you to be very specific about your qualifications.  Concrete examples of accomplishments are obviously better than vague generalities.

At the conclusion of the interview, you can certainly inquire about timing of next steps.  This question only confirms your high interest in proceeding with the process.  You should be sure to follow up the interview with a thank you email no more than 24 hours later.  This also allows you to integrate any points you might not have thought to include during the interview and to reinforce those that you get the sense the interviewer is most interested in.

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