Colleen Aylward: How To Get A Job In Today’s Rough Market

Written by Phil Hall
on February 07, 2012 No Comments
Categories : Person Of The Week

10877_colleen_aylward Colleen Aylward: How To Get A Job In Today's Rough Market PERSON OF THE WEEK: Seeking a new job can be a stressful experience in the best of economic times, and it is certainly no fun in the current business climate. It is especially difficult for those in the financial services industry, where the tumult has yet to abate.

This week, MortgageOrb gets job-hunting advice from Colleen Aylward, founder and president of Bellevue, Wash.-based recruitment firm Devon James Associates Inc. and author of the book ‘From Bedlam to Boardroom: How to Get a Derailed Executive Career Back on Track!

Q: Where do you see the unemployment rate heading in 2012? And, in particular, what does the job market look like within the financial services industry?

Aylward: Well, since no one really knows what the true unemployment rate is any more – 9%? 15%? 20%? – I won't quote a number. But I have a strong feeling that unemployment will stay the same or even get worse in 2012.

Although it was lauded in 2011 as an industry largely unaffected by employment woes, the financial services industry will be one of the industries hard-pressed to sustain its former employment levels in 2012. There are three factors creating this problem.

First, there is the trickle-down effect of a stalled economy from the last two years – companies and consumers have been waiting for the ‘hope factor’ to kick in, and it hasn't. Both groups remain hesitant about spending, even if they have cash in the coffers.  Â

Second, there is the unresolved economic chaos in Europe. Foreign stock funds and emerging markets are still underperforming globally, and while the U.S. economy suffers, there aren't a lot of reasons to move portfolios around.

And third, this is an election year – historically, not much gets done in an election year. With this lack of increased spending, lack of new investments, a limbo-like state in political direction for the year and fear by incumbents to make aggressive changes, there are few reasons to ramp up hiring for an unknown future.

On the other hand, temporary staffing of certain finance-oriented positions may increase due to continued pressure from the Internal Revenue Service in collecting tax and fees from businesses – this brings greater need for temporary bookkeepers, accountants and auditors. Also, there is continuing merger/acquisition activity that brings in more paperwork and, thus, temporary project work. And until the healthcare initiative gets figured out completely, businesses will continue to hire temporary workers that come without the benefit cost overhead.

Q: A Jobvite survey found that 83% of employers rely on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to find new hires. If that is the case, what should potential job seekers have on their LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages, and what should they avoid posting on these sites?

Aylward: Since employers rely heavily on Internet data to find and vet potential new hires, job seekers must have these essential ingredients on their profiles:

LinkedIn. If you choose only one online forum to use in presenting yourself, choose LinkedIn and use industry keywords that recruiters would use in their online search for prospective employees (e.g., ‘financial services,’ ‘mergers,’ ‘payroll,’ ‘SEC,’ ‘CPA,’ ‘Seattle,’ ‘MBA,’ ‘controller’).

Keyword density. This is the recurrence of these keywords in your profile. The current density number seems to be seven times on your first page in order to rank at the top of the search list for those keywords.

Connections. The world of online search is all about getting directly in front of your exact target, which, in your case, is an internal recruiter or hiring manager. In order for you to get on a recruiter's or hiring manager's radar, you must be connected to him or her, or be connected to those in his or her own network. Then, when they do an online search by keyword, your profile will be visible to them.

In order to be chosen from the list for an interview, once you are found online (companies vet candidates online today before any interview takes place):

Photo. Recruiters and hiring managers do want to hire people who are well-groomed, experienced, positive, pleasant and intelligent. We can tell a lot about people from their photos. If you don't have a photo, we think you don't like the way you look and move on quickly to the next candidate.

Recommendations. You need to prove that you are great, not just state it on your resume or profile. Recruiters and hiring managers want to know what types of people will verify that your skills and experience have and will lead to success.

Match your keywords to the job description. This is of major importance, since it is most often a computer system that screens your cover letter and resume, not a human. The trick is to truthfully match (and reuse) the company's own keywords – their value statement words and their job description words – so that your profile will come up first in the search list.

Q: The Internet is overflowing with information with varying degrees of accuracy. What is the most efficient way for a job hunter to conduct online research regarding the pros and cons of a potential employer?

Aylward: In the old days, only systems like Hoovers were seen to contain the inside secrets of a company – the names and titles of decision-makers, their incomes and the company financials. Today, we use additional tools like Zoominfo.com and Bizjournals.com to find out data about the health of companies. And now, in the world of full disclosure, people want more info about the qualitative aspects of a company: their values, corporate culture, working environment, green initiatives, charitable foundation work – and, yes, dirt.

Here are some tools to find data on prospective employers:

Company websites. Most companies have their own website that attempts to portray a branded image. One of the most poignant brand pages will be the company's blog, often holding postings from the CEO.

LinkedIn. Not only should you have a business profile of your own on LinkedIn, but you should use the system to do research on companies of interest to you. You can use the same Search field as recruiters do, and find the lists of employees and their individual profiles. This tells you a lot about the type of people they hire, how many have left, and who has replaced them.

Google or Bing. A favorite search of mine is ‘best companies to work for in [your city].’ Another telling search is something like ‘financial services’ and ‘record earnings’ and ‘growth’ and ‘expansion.’Â

Reuters and FTPress.com. You can easily go to reuters.com and look for info on companies, or you can use Google or Bing for these searches and just include ‘site:reuters.com’ or ‘site:ftpress.com’ in your search string.

YouTube. One source you may not think of for due diligence on a company is YouTube. Just go to the site and type in the name of the company, and you'll find a list of videos from or about that company.

As for sites to find ‘dirt’ on companies, consider Glassdoor.com, Complaintsboard.com, Corpwatch.com, Techdirt.com and Ask.com.

Q: What are the pros and cons of job hunters' creating their own YouTube videos to promote themselves to potential employers?

Aylward: A job seeker's mission is first to get found, and then to get interviewed. In the ‘any press is good press’ line of thought, a video clip of yourself is still different enough from the other 100 candidate submittals that it will probably get you noticed by a recruiter or hiring manager. This is a good thing, especially if you are submitting yourself for a position in a progressive company, or one involved in media or emerging technologies or news or public relations.

On the other hand, there may be some downsides. If the video is not done professionally, you may appear amateurish or just bumbling. The purpose of a video clip is to quickly get your personality, poise, confidence and attitude directly in front of an interviewing decision-maker, and if the medium you use is detracting from any of your good qualities, then it is better left alone.

In many financial sector jobs, privacy and accuracy of data are of utmost importance. Often, this translates to liability issues as well and corporate policy that frowns on divulging too much information, to whom, and for posterity. So in this industry, you would be well served to make a short, straightforward video of yourself in a suit, talking only about business successes, advanced skills, work ethic and immediate availability.

Don't mention past employer names or client names on video, and don't mention dollar amounts you were responsible for, portfolios you dealt with, opinions about past employers or their philosophies. And if you are making a video to submit for a particular job in a particular company, use their keywords.


Q: In your opinion, has the online environment made it easier or more difficult for potential employees and employers to connect?

Aylward: The online environment has made finding, connecting and screening out job candidates much easier for employers. It offers recruiters and hiring managers much more up-front due diligence with which to do this, and utilizes technology to speed up the process.

Now, using tools like LinkedIn to disperse more detailed job information to a targeted audience, employers can spend more time talking (even if virtually) to qualified candidates instead of wading through piles of resumes. Using Facebook and Twitter to acquire ‘followers,’ employers are now creating their own ‘fan base’ for use not only in hiring, but in getting the word out quickly regarding new product introductions, press releases and internal changes.

LinkedIn gives business professionals a forum for presenting themselves, whether they are active or future job seekers. It allows them to brand themselves, research employers, find useful industry connections and publicly validate their worth to a future employer.

For job seekers, Facebook offers an additional forum for finding connections, following company activity, and receiving immediate notices about job openings within the companies you follow. Twitter offers job seekers an easy way to look for jobs that may not be posted elsewhere, and to find the decision-makers for those jobs. Both Facebook and Twitter allow a job seeker to save searching time and effort by ‘signing up’ on each tool to receive important job information.

Unfortunately, if job seekers don't know the online rules, tricks and tips to follow, they may not ever be found in order to compete for a job.

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