Recruitment Advice

Securing your dream job is not something that you want to leave to chance. Below you will find step by step guides for some of the common issues facing candidates in today’s highly competitive job market. There is no substitute for effective preparation and these guides will help advise active job seekers where to invest time and effort throughout the job hunting process.

At TalentSphere we understand the importance of supporting our candidates and so always strive to build strong relationships based on trust and clear communication. Whilst we encourage you to read the following guides thoroughly, there is no substitute for investing time with your consultant; gathering advice on the best approach to your job search; getting interview preparation; being prepared for your new temp role; or getting current market information. Ask us; we are here to help.

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Writing a cover letter

The central aim of a well-written cover letter is to spark a potential employer’s interest in your resume. Consequently, it is imperative not only for your cover letter to be entirely flawless, but that it be tailored towards the particular opening that you are seeking. In order to do so, you must convey clearly and succinctly why you will best contribute to the company over other qualified applicants.

Formatting an Effective Cover Letter
I.    Contact Information: It is important that your contact information be displayed in a manner that will make it simple for your employer to contact you. Similar to the format of a standard resume, include your name, address and contact information in the top left corner of your cover letter. Below your personal information should be the employer’s contact information, followed by a formal salutation to your potential employer. Ideally, you should address the cover letter directly to your employer (i.e. Dear Mr. John Smith), but if you are unaware of his or her name, you may also substitute with “to whom it may concern.”

II.    First Paragraph: The introduction of your cover letter is intended for you to express why it is you are writing. Assert the position that you are applying for and how you came to learn of the opening. Be sure to convey that you have fully researched the opening for which you are applying and that you have an appreciation of how the company functions. Conclude the introductory paragraph by beginning to explain why the position at this specific company appeals to you.

III.    Core Paragraphs: Here is where you make the case that you have the necessary skills, experience and knowledge to effectively perform the tasks required of this position. It is vital to touch upon any personal experience—whether it be academic, extracurricular, or professional—that is relevant towards the position you are seeking. Do not just repeat bullet points on your resume—instead, try to weave a personal story from your previous experiences that communicates your genuine interest in the job opening. Upon reading this paragraph, your employer should be aware that you are not only uniquely qualified for this position, but that you are motivated to perform the required tasks to the best of your ability.

IV.    Concluding Paragraph: Several points must be articulated in your final paragraph. It is crucial to warmly thank your employer for taking the time to read your cover letter and considering you for the position. Reiterate your sincere interest in securing the position and that you are looking forward to further communication with their company. Formally conclude the letter, and leave your employer with the sense that while you are earnestly interested in the job opening, you are nonetheless not in a desperate situation.

Interview Preparation Guide

Okay, so you’ve scored an interview with one of the greatest companies on the planet. You’re so excited that you’ve already pictured yourself working there: smiling, happy and blissfully content.

But there is still one more hurdle to overcome before you set up your new desk: the dreaded job interview.

Gulp.

To get you through this challenge we’ve prepared the essential interview preparation guide so not only will you blitz the interview, but you’ll have fun doing it too. Read on to discover our simple tips to wow the crowd at your next job interview.

Tip #1: Know your stuff
So you love the company. You think it is amazing, incredible and inspirational. But what exactly do you love about it? Is it the acclaimed board of directors? The company’s stance on environmental ethics? Their fantastic products and services? Or maybe just their great company culture?

Knowing what you like (and even dislike) about the company you’re interviewing with is fundamental. A job interview is often the largest financial transaction you will ever make and should be treated as such. Make sure that you put in the effort and research that a transaction of this size warrants.

Showing that you understand the company’s products, services and culture is vital for making a positive impression in your interview. It will help you stand out from the crowd and show that you’re serious about the role.

Hint: for extra brownie points, make sure you mention any recent news items or articles the business was featured in, as well as refer to any social media posts they might have made. Yes, Facebook just became your homework.

Tip #2: Prepare your responses to standard interview questions

Although the interview is a time for you to gather facts and information to determine whether you would like to work with an organization, you should always remember that your first goal is to secure a job offer.

With this in mind, you should be mindful of your responses to interview questions. When you’re doing your preparation, as yourself ‘how would I feel if someone said this to me?’ Often, it’s not so much what you say, but how it comes across that’s important. Consider how the response makes you feel – if it comes across as negative in any way, then you need a better answer.

While you can’t predict every question that an interviewer throws your way, there are still a few that you can guess. Ones like: ‘Tell us about yourself’ and ‘What can you bring to the company?’ are pretty standard and should be prepared for.

You should also expect some questions about your strengths and weaknesses as well as what appeals to you about the role you’re applying for. Be prepared to discuss your previous work history in detail and why you left each position.

Answer any difficult or tricky questions with confidence. For example, if you’re asked about a gap in your resume, you shouldn’t hesitate with your response. Be proud of the journey that has led you to where you are today and instill confidence in the interviewer.

Sites like Monster are great to get a consolidated bunch of common interview questions. From here, you can either write your answers down or practice answering them out loud – whichever way works best for you. Or why not enlist the help of a buddy? They can pretend to be the interviewer and let you know how natural and professional your responses are.

A good trick is to use “I” instead of “we” when you’re describing your skills and capabilities, and to research ‘behaviour-based interview questions’ online, in particular the ‘STAR’ technique.

And although you may get some left field questions such as, ‘If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?’ you can tackle these by remaining true to your personality. Inject some of you into your responses so the interviewers walk away knowing not just what you’ve done, but who you are.

Have fun with both the interview itself and the preparation, after all if you get through this step you’ll soon be working with these people. Prepare intelligent questions for the client and show that you have done your research.

For more information and a 1:1 interview preparation session, ask your TalentSphere Staffing Solutions consultant.

Tip 3. Look the part
One of the easiest parts of the interview preparation process is your presentation. This is something that you have complete control over and should use to your advantage.

Some basic guidelines are to ensure that you’re clean, tidy and well presented. Your outfit should be ironed and your hair neat and orderly. Men should be clean-shaven and all shoes should be polished. Your cell phone should be turned off and you shouldn’t be carrying cumbersome items with you.

All in all, you really just want to look professional and well groomed. Your appearance shouldn’t be what stands out (unless you’re a spitting image of Angelina Jolie or George Clooney), instead it should just be another aspect of ‘you’ that is equally as complimentary as your personality and experience.

Tip 4. Know what you want
I’m assuming that in part, you’re applying for this job because you actually want to earn a decent living. If this is the case, and you’re not actually a secret millionaire looking to pass the days somewhere fun, then you’ll need to have a figure in mind for what salary you will accept.

Often, the interviewer will ask you directly what your salary expectations are. While you can give a response like ‘It really depends on the role and company I’m working for’ to get out of answering it, it’s probably better to be honest with them. Offer what you believe is a fair and reasonable figure, with a little room for negotiation. If you are working with a recruitment agency, make sure you have discussed your salary expectations upfront. Your agency will be able to advise you on how best to handle this question if it comes up in the interview.

If you also need flexible working hours or any other benefits, make sure you mention this up front too. You can leave a lot of it until they’ve actually offered you the job, but if it’s something non-negotiable then mention it in the interview.

Don’t forget to find out what they can offer you as well. Too often we overlook the fact that the interview is a two-way street, where both parties are trying to determine whether the situation is beneficial. Remember to consider your wants and needs and consider whether this is the right role and business for you.

Tip #5: Keep your eye on the prize
The goal of the interview is to either secure a job offer, or to get to the next stage of the interview process. Therefore, don’t worry about the consequences of accepting the job during the interview process. Save this for when you have the offer in front of you. You can worry about the details, the resignation process and telling your significant other you have taken a job on the other side of town AFTER you have been given the job offer and decide to move forward!

Make sure too that you maintain the same enthusiasm and professionalism after the interview. A good way to do this is to send a follow-up thank you note. Have it triple checked by your consultant or friend – too many have missed out because of simple typos in the thank you note.

And last but not least, practice. You might feel silly talking to yourself in the mirror, or wandering around the house answering interview questions, but all that practice will translate to a stress-free and calm interview experience.

It all boils down to a simple formula: do the groundwork, have fun, be yourself and do the best you can. The rest will fall into place.

Behavioural Interviews

During behavioral job interviews, one will be asked to share information which sheds light on their potential value as an employee. For example, an interviewer might ask the interviewee to describe an instance in his or her life where a particular type of achievement was demonstrated. These questions often play a key role in the hiring process, and one should prepare for these crucial questions by learning a technique prior to the interview itself.

One system for successfully answering these questions is known as the STAR Technique (or alternatively as the SAR and PAR techniques), which is an acronym for how to effectively impress your interviewer with your response.

Situation. Succinctly describe to your interviewer the situation that you were in, along with any necessary background information for appreciating the context. Be sure to be specific enough that your interviewer adequately understands the circumstances, but without getting lost in unimportant details.

Task. After providing a sufficient backdrop to your interviewer, explain exactly what it was that you had to do. This task need not be a previous work experience—feel free to mention any relevant responsibility pertinent to the interviewer’s question. Also, be sure to clearly express any additional challenges that you were facing, such as time constraints or other pressures.

Action. Articulate to the interviewer the specific course of action that you took. It is perfectly acceptable if you are describing your actions as part of a larger team—simply be sure to mention your actions. While conveying your actions to the interviewer, it is essential that your strongest qualities are brought to light without explicitly mentioning them.

Results. Explain to the interviewer the impact of the actions that you just described. Quantifiable results will be more effective than your subjective analysis, so try to provide objective data wherever possible. Conclude your response by articulating not only what you achieved, but also what you learned in the process.

Now that the STAR technique has been explained, the next valuable step is to go over typical questions that are likely to be asked at an interview. While it is imperative not to simply memorize answers verbatim, it is best to be prepared for the types of questions which often come up at interviews. This will leave you in a position where you will be able to think on your feet during the interview itself.

It is likely that you will be asked to offer an example of a time where you experienced a particular challenge, such as facing multiple tasks simultaneously or a split-second decision. Other times, the question may be vaguer and up to your subjective interpretation, such as a question asking you to describe a difficult challenged that you have recently faced.

One should also be prepared to answer questions involving one’s ability to effectively work alongside others. This can be phrased in several ways, such as questions about instances where you had to deal with a conflict among colleagues, how you dealt with situations working alongside unpleasant coworkers, or how you have effectively communicated with disgruntled customers.

Depending on the position, the interviewer may be particularly interested in your power of persuasion. Questions to be expected in such a scenario will involve instances where you convinced a coworker to change his or her mind, whether through a visual presentation, verbal reasoning or any other technique. Your interviewer might be especially interested in situations where you were successful in motivating coworkers to boost their productivity.

A thornier group of questions for which one must be prepared ask the interviewee to explain past failures. This may involve a situation in which you had goals that were not reached or where you provided an incorrect solution to a fixable problem. This question may come in many forms, but it is a favorite of interviewers, and one should be particularly prepared to answer this group of questions with the STAR technique.

In essence, it is impossible to prepare for every type of question that might come up at an interview. Nonetheless, by mastering the STAR technique to answering questions effectively, one will be sufficiently prepared to rise above any question that your interviewer may summon.

The Resignation Process

We have all heard the horror stories of a resignation gone terribly wrong. The boss who flies off the handle, the co-worker that spews verbal abuse and even the beloved janitor who sobs inconsolably at the company’s significant loss. To be quite frank, leaving a job has the potential to be an emotional disaster for everyone involved.

Quitting your job doesn’t have to be a difficult, drama-induced affair. There are ways to calmly, politely and effectively tender your resignation so that no feelings are hurt and no bridges are burned.

To make your resignation seem like a walk in the park, just follow our step-by-step guide to quitting your job with ease.

Step 1. Book in a meeting face-to-face
As much as it would be easier, and far less confrontational, to draft a message on Facebook, tweet an announcement, email or text your boss that ‘you’re just not that into the job’ anymore, it’s probably not the wisest move.

While booking a face-to-face meeting is considered old school in some circles, it’s still the best port of call for this situation.

To begin with, you should choose the timing of your resignation carefully. Consider things like whether you have any outstanding commission or bonuses owed to you as well as vacation leave and other benefits.

Also think about whether the company’s policy is to walk you out of the building immediately following resignation, or if you will serve a notice period. Considering these things beforehand will remove a lot of stress from the process.

Then, ask your boss, in private, for a meeting when they are next available. Try to book it in at least a few days in advance, even if they insist that they’re ‘free now’. This will give you more time to prepare.

Step 2. The meeting: be calm, honest and straightforward
If you’re handing in your resignation, the chances are pretty high that there are at least some elements of the job or workplace you don’t like. But now is not the time to voice these issues. You have already made the decision to leave so any issues you raise will likely be dismissed and unless you think it would benefit your predecessor, not worth your while.

Instead, focus on offering tangible (but still honest) reasons for your resignation. It could be because you were offered a role that paid more, was closer to home and offers greater career advancement.

Be honest, open and relaxed. Even if you’re feeling nervous, try not to show it. Project that you’re calm and collected and sure of your decision. If your boss becomes emotional, don’t react. Your goal is to get out of this meeting emotionally (and physically!) unscathed. Possibly even with a glowing reference letter too.

So, don’t rise to the bait of complaining about your job. Your boss may try to win you over by promising the world, but stick to your guns. Counter-offers are a normal part of the resignation process and one you should be prepared for. If you absolutely want to leave, then don’t accept the counter-offer. Easy.

Counter-offers are often a spontaneous reaction from the employer in order to solve an immediate problem for the business: I. e a vacancy!  Statistically, 90% of all employees who accept a counter offer still leave within 12 months. This is because the fundamental motivators of why you resigned are rarely addressed.  Instead, you’re offered extra cash or a promotion, which can be often viewed as too little too late. After all, why weren’t you offered these benefits before?

Fore more information on counter-offers, read our next article ”Why Counter Offers don’t work”

Step 3. The meeting: bring the essentials
Unfortunately, it’s quite common for a small percentage of employees to threaten resignation when they don’t get their own way. For you, this usually means that your boss will bring a ‘what can I do’ attitude to the meeting, even if there is nothing they can do to make you stay.

To show you’re serious, make sure you bring a written resignation letter with you. The letter should state the facts, including the date you are submitting your resignation, a brief explanation of why you’re leaving and a short thank you for the opportunity to work with them.

Ensure too that you include when your last day at the company will be. Oh, and if you want to avoid igniting those flammable bridges we were talking about, ensure your notice period is reasonable. Even if your contract stipulates a week, offer at least two weeks and preferably a month.

Step 4. Get your affairs in order
Woo-hoo! The meeting is over, the resignation was begrudgingly accepted with few tears and tantrums and you’re now free. So, what should you do? Spend the next month torturing your co-workers? Reconvene at the pub? Google cat videos on YouTube?

If you want to keep that stellar business reputation you’ve accumulated, you’ll do none of the above. Instead, act as though nothing has happened. Perform all your normal duties to the best of your ability, offer advice and guidance to your co-workers and do not, I repeat do not, check out.

Leaving a tangled web of to-do’s, should-have-done’s, and oops-forgot-about-that’s is the quickest way to destroy your positive reputation. Leave your desk clean, your duties completed and provide a clean slate for the person who takes over your role.

If you’ve been asked to train somebody, do so to the best of your abilities. Tell them the secret ins and outs that helped you over the past months and years and ensure they have all of the passwords and information they need.

And once all that is done?

Then you can go to the pub. But now you’ll have a reference letter in hand and a bunch of your sad, but not spitting mad, co-workers with you.

See –  tendering your resignation doesn’t have to be tumultuous. Just follow these steps, act responsibly and you will ace the resignation process.

For more information on the resignation process contact your TalentSphere Staffing Solutions consultant.

Counter Offer Traps

Whether an employee or employer, proceeding with a counter-offer invariably ends in failure.  Read below to see the employers perspective of what happens during the counter-offer process.  Decide for yourself if this journey is for you:

Counteroffers are often perceived as the knee-jerk reaction to an employee informing his or her employer that they have received a more attractive job offer elsewhere. At first glance, a counteroffer seems like the most reasonable course of action: why hire a new employee when there is a capable worker sitting right in front of you?

Needless to say, counteroffers often lead to a much messier reality, and employees and employers alike should be wary of their consequences. For example, according to leading staffing firms, even in cases where counteroffers are accepted there is a greater than 90% probability that the employee will change companies within the next twelve months. There are many reasons that underlie this reality, but one fact is clear: there is no disputing the claim that counteroffers are statistically unlikely to work out.

It is important to keep in mind that the relationship between the employee and the employer has been changed forever. The employee has revealed a lack of trust and loyalty towards the company and this cannot be fixed simply by rehiring the employee for slightly more money or a more prestigious title. Beyond irrevocably damaging your relationship with the employee, the counteroffer will also negatively impact the working relationship this employee has with his or her coworkers. This will almost certainly lead towards decreased performance in the productivity of the employee.

Additionally, even in instances of an accepted counteroffer, it is impossible to forget the fact that the employee has demonstrated that he or she was having significant issues working with your company that warranted a job transfer. It is unlikely for these reasons not to rise up again in the employee’s future at your company, and you will be left in an even more embarrassing situation. Face the fact that the employee is not a perfect fit for your company, and release the said employee before further complicating the situation. Temporarily increasing the salary or title of the employee is unlikely to be more than a short-sighted band-aid that will hurt even more when ripped off down the line.

This is without approaching the issue of creating a slippery slope within your company. Word will spread like wildfire that a counteroffer was made to an employee at your company, and soon the entire office will be buzzing. It will not be long before many other employees are devising schemes with the aim of taking advantage of counteroffers, and it is likely that you will be placed in a bind. By offering a counteroffer, you are in effect setting yourself up to be blackmailed in similar situations by all of your employees in the future.

Moreover, since offering a counteroffer will necessarily involve senior management at your company, you are staking yourself on the employee’s future performance at your company. What if, even after accepting a counteroffer, the employee’s work performance begins to slip, or—as statistically is likely to be the outcome—the employee takes a job at a competing company? You will have not only been embarrassed in the eyes of other employees, but your managers are likely to look down upon your decision-making ability for suggesting a counteroffer to such an employee. Make the safe decision and let the disgruntled employee go, before you get further entangled in the outcome of the situation.

As an employee, turning down the counteroffer should be a simple decision. You will forever be excluded from the inner circle of your manager’s trusted employees, irrespective of your performance going forward. Moreover, whatever problems existed prior to the counteroffer being presented are likely to reappear in the near future—how will earning slightly more money solve any of the problems that initially led you to apply for jobs at competing companies? It is highly unlikely that you have a future at this company, adding yet another reason to make the move sooner than later.

Even if the said employee accepts the counteroffer graciously and continues to perform well at your company, your relationship with the employee is likely to deteriorate. For example, think about what will happen during the employee’s yearly salary review. You will likely feel taken advantage of by this employee because of his or her behavior during the counteroffer negotiations, and you will hold it against the employee during performance review. The employee, understandably, won’t feel this way at all, and the likely outcome will be further discord in your relationship. In essence, holding onto an employee by making a counteroffer is doing nothing more than setting the stage for future disagreements.

When making decisions about the future of your company, always be careful to overlook the quick-fix option in favor of the choice that will pay off higher dividends in the long run. While the short-term expenses of hiring a new employee may seem greater than the relatively low costs of presenting a counteroffer, in the long run it is statistically clear that the more sensible option is to accept the employee’s resignation and hire a new employee.

After a few minutes of reflection, it will be clear that this is the more levelheaded option that involves the least amount of risk to your standing in your company. Keeping your composure and listening to your employee, followed by a simple acceptance of his or her resignation, is undoubtedly the preferable alternative—both in the short-term and definitely in the long-term.

Tips for New Job Success

Making a positive first impression at a new job is extremely important and will shape your entire work experience at your new employer. Below are some crucial pieces of advice that will go a long way in winning over the hearts of your coworkers and managers. Your first impression is often the lasting impression, so all of these suggestions should be utilized by new employees looking for a successful start.

Take initiative: Let your coworkers know that you are a self-starter by taking initiative during your first few weeks at your new job. It is likely that as you are first starting out at a new job your workload will be lighter than usual, so take advantage of this opportunity to put forth your own ideas and projects. Your input will be remembered by senior management, especially when it comes time to decide who should be given more responsibility.

Be seen: always. It is always important to maintain a strong record of attendance, but it is particularly crucial when beginning a new job. To the best of your ability, avoid taking sick days and wait a period of at least a few months before taking a vacation. Equally important to showing up to work every day is coming early and staying later than required. Even a half hour extra in the morning and evening will go a long way in establishing your reputation as a hard worker. More than just physically being in the office, keep in mind that you are on company time and focus only on work-related tasks.
Listen first, talk second. This might be a tough adjustment depending on where you are coming from, but it is always best to let your new coworkers speak first at meetings. There will be a time for you to make your own contributions after others have suggested their ideas, and they are more likely to be received in good taste if you wait your turn. There is a lot for you to learn about your new employer, so it is best to give yourself a chance to first absorb information before dictating to others. Moreover, by always speaking first you risk being perceived as an arrogant know-it-all.

Stay away from office politics: Every office will have its own particular tensions and internal politics. Getting involved in these discussions as a new coworker will undoubtedly create rifts between you and some of your coworkers. As a newly hired employee, simply avoid these conversations. If you are present for a heated conversation about politics or religion, try your best to leave unscathed by keeping a comfortable silence.

Keep meticulous records: The only person who will be keeping a careful account of all of your achievements is you. This is important for several reasons, both for success at your present employer or at any future company. It will also make you feel better at the end of a long workday, knowing that you have made a positive contribution at the office. Additionally, these records will be significant down the line when you are involved in discussions related to raises and promotions.

Create a relationship with your manager: This does not mean informing your boss of every minute detail of your workday, but it does mean impressing on your boss that you are a hardworking employee. Make sure your boss is aware that you are dedicated to your job and motivated to succeed at your new company, because this is how your boss will remember you in the future. If the situation presents itself, finding a personal mentor from one of your superiors would be an even more ideal situation.

Don’t be shy—ask in order to learn: Everyone remembers their first day of work when there was still a lot of ambiguity about how the company functions. The only way that you’ll learn the necessary information to perform your job effectively is by asking lots of questions during your first several days. Your coworkers will be able to help you succeed, but they cannot read your mind. If you are having trouble, seek out an experienced coworker and ask for some help.

Be a friend to your coworkers: This means learning their names as quickly as possible! The earlier you have all of their names memorized, the better you will be received by them. This also includes your behavior outside of the office, such as during any after-hours events that your office is running. Maintain this warm and positive attitude at all of these functions, such as if there is an office trip to a local bar. In a similar vein, always let your coworkers and superiors know that you sincerely appreciate their advice and input.

Look the part: Dressing as a professional is a major part of making a positive first impression. In order to be perceived as a hardworking employee, you first have to dress in a way conducive to that perception.

Actively be a teammate: This involves helping your coworkers whenever the need arises. You will receive a warm reception not only by taking on your own projects, but also by aiding your coworkers in whatever way possible. In order to ease your transition and to speed up the process of fitting in, always strive to help out your coworkers.

Learn. Learn. Learn: Take advantage of all opportunities to learn more information about how the company functions. Each office has its own internal ways of getting work done, and you will be required to absorb this information as quickly as possible. This will allow you to not only understand the company better, but to have a clearer idea as to what your own priorities and limits should be.

Stay organized: Take advantage of all the tools at your disposal to further your success by staying organized. Each office will have technology to help you stay on top of your obligations, so be sure to integrate these tools into your work from the very first day.
Constantly network. Do everything possible to establish connections with a wide range of people in your line of work. Especially at a new job, the future is unpredictable, so it is vital to have relevant contacts that you can rely on in a time of need.

By following these straightforward pieces of advice, you will set yourself up for a positive transition at your new job. This will solidify your image as an employee that others are happy to be around, improving your chances of receiving raises and promotions in the future.