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Job Tips

Here is a set of Frequently Asked Questions designed to jump-start your job search…
prepared by the pro's at Responsive Technology.

Is my job right for me?

Am I right for my job?

How do I evaluate my career options?

Where can I get some help with my resume?

I'll need a cover letter, won't I?

How do I prepare for my interview?

34 Ways You Will Succeed On Interviews

What do I do when they mention money?

Is it a mistake to accept a counteroffer?

What if I am entry level?

How can I evaluate and benefit from a headhunting firm?


Is my job right for me?

Most people can answer this question rather easily just by measuring the level of stress, comfort, and joy they experience on their job day to day. Outside of the obvious emotional response to your job, how do you rationally analyze if the job is good for you?

Ask yourself...

  • What skills am I learning that will be marketable over the next few years?
  • Is the current product or service that my company is involved with considered marketable over the next few years?
  • Do I enjoy what I'm doing? Am I being challenged enough?
  • Do I get involved in new and exciting projects?
  • Have I learned 80% of my current skills in this position and therefore maxed out on my growth curve?

Take our Startup Aptitude Test!

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Am I right for my job?

In some economies it's enough just to have a job, but the Silicon Valley in 1999 is such a hot market, you may just have a choice.

Decide what your goals are and if you are likely to meet them in your current position. Align your skills, personal strengths, and interests.

Ask yourself...

  • Am I a jack of all trades and an expert at none? How will that affect my career?
  • Do I want a management position? (because you like to lead or be in charge)
  • Do I want to stay in hands-on but state-of-the-art work?
  • Do I want a sales position? (because you like dealing with people, or want greater income)
  • Do I want more responsibility? (because you thrive under pressure)
  • Do I want less responsibility? (because you value family and quality of life more)
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    How do I evaluate my career options?

    You have two major career planning paths:

    Career planning within your own company: A good time to do this is at your performance review. Discuss with your manager their plans for you and compare them to your goals to see if they are in sync. Only disclose as much as you feel safe doing, without hurting yourself. Sometimes you will need to go to other safe contacts within the company to discuss your opinions. Many times, the Human Resource department can help in this situation as can other managers.

    Change companies: Do this when it is clear that you will not be able to meet your goals at your current company. You should certainly keep an eye out for the type of position and company that not only improves upon your current situation but moves you along toward your specific goals. Using a good headhunter as your eyes and ears can be invaluable here in keeping you informed of the ideal positions as they come up.

    Remember, you have to ask for what you want. If you want a different project, less hours, or more opportunity, ask for it. But also understand the possible consequences and ramifications before you do: weigh the risk vs. the return.

    If you decide your future is elsewhere, understand it is very difficult to change the type of position you have and change companies at the same time. Most companies will want to hire you for the skills you already have, not those you hope to learn.

    Regardless of the path you take, plan ahead by keeping a log of everything you do on the job to document your skills and accomplishments. When a large project or task is completed request some form of a completion or commendation letter (if you truly deserve it) describing your task and specific accomplishment. These letters and records will be very effective when it comes time to create or update your resume.

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    What if I am entry level?

    Responsive Technology does not place entry level personnel but we have provided these tips to help you get going.

    The entry-level search:

    Click here for help with your entry-level resume.

    1. Investigate all of your school's outplacement services. Find out which companies act as sponsors for your school's programs and try to find the name of their representatives. Contact them and inquire about who to send your resume to.
    2. Visit other Universities. Many of their job listings are publicly posted.
    3. Regularly screen the classified ads in newspapers, trade publications and online for entry-level positions. Start this search about two months prior to graduation; getting an interview could take time.
    4. Keep abreast of any and all companies that come to the University to conduct interviews. Apply to all companies; don't be selective at this point. You gain valuable experience with each interview. The practice and knowledge gained about how real companies operate makes each interview worthwhile.
    5. Leverage your skills and projects to optimize your chance of getting an interview. Focus on companies and positions that match up well to specific projects you've done at school. This is what would make you more qualified for a company or position than your peers.
    6. Use your contacts and follow up. If you have friends or relatives that work at a particular company, call and ask them to give your resume to the Human Resources department with their personal reference. You will have a better chance this way than by sending your resume in cold.
    7. Go to job fairs.

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    Where can I get some help with my resume?

    Right here...right away!

    If you just have to be independent, here are some tips to help you write a winning resume:

    Name:

    Put your name in BIG, BOLD letters, leave out your middle initial, and keep first name short (like "Russ" instead of Russell).

    Objective:

    Keep it short and sweet. Cover all the position titles that you would be interested in and any pertinent applications.

    Examples:

  • Product Marketing Manager, Product Engineer
  • Software Engineer in Graphics or Communications.
  • The "objective" section serves mostly as a tool for the Human Resources department to help sort through resumes. It gains more significance if your have more than 5 years of diversified experience, or, when you desire a position different than what you are already doing.

    Responsibilities and Accomplishments:

    Responsibilities: This section should consist of 5-6 lines that concisely delineate your work responsibilities. Start sentences with action verbs such as completed, performed, designed, developed, initiated. Include any technology tools you've used such as CAD, languages such as C/C++, JAVA, operating systems, test equipment, etc. Of course, it's important to include specific products you've worked on.

    Accomplishments: Hiring managers love to read about your accomplishments. Your chances of getting an interview are increased significantly when you list your accomplishments. Start your accomplishment statements with action verbs such as developed, initiated, completed, increased, and improved. It's also important to quantify the accomplishment, i.e. decreased reject rate by 60%, or, designed an IC that had 500 thousand gates. Quantification adds extra impact to your resume and the hiring manager will feel it.

    Summary: This is a good idea if you have over 5 years' diversified experience. Summarize your skills, responsibilities and applications. Stay away from empty words like very self-motivated, self-started, and resourceful. Use facts to sell yourself instead of descriptive terms that require their belief.

    Education: Show the school name and location, date of graduation and any special achievements (dean's list, cum laude, GPA 3.3/4.0 etc.)

    Don't list classes you took or offices held (bike club president) unless you've just graduated.

    Experience: List your most recent job first. Show the company location, dates of employment and your title. Note: Your title should be generic enough so any company will know what you are:

    Yes:

  • Software Engineer/Project Leader
  • Digital Design Engineer
    • No:

  • Staff Engineer II
  • You should then have 1 or 2 paragraphs giving a thorough, general overall description of what you do.

      Example:

    Designed and developed hardware and firmware for various graphic systems involving VGA BIOS, 486 microprocessor, and CD-ROM memory interfaces.

    Then list specific accomplishments, applications or technology you worked with in a bulleted list. 5 or 6 of the major accomplishments should suffice.

    Keep in mind at all times who will be reading the resume and making the hiring decisions. First, Human Resources sees the resume and generally just focus on the major paragraphs. Hopefully, the hiring manager will look at it next with more interest in your specific work. Accordingly, you should list specific accomplishments that would separate you, in the manager's eyes, from the 30 other resumes they are looking at (but remember to use facts).

    At the end, list any other extracurricular activities that are pertinent to your profession. It is not necessary to list personal items: married, 2 children, hobbies: tennis, ski etc. as they have as much chance as creating a negative bias as they do a positive one, depending on who's reading it.

    Don’t bother to list that your "References will be furnished upon request." They already know that; it just wastes space.

     

    Format:

      Experience vs. length of resume:

      0 - 5 years = 1 page

      6-15 years = 2 pages

      16-30 years = 3 pages

    Typeface should be consistent and easy to read.

    Paper should be a good bond.

    Bold face position titles and degrees earned.

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    I'll need a cover letter, won't I?

    Yes. Here is one you can adapt to your needs:

     

    Date

    Addressee

    Dear Mr/Mrs smith:

    I am responding to your ad of 2/1/99 in the NY Times in reference to the Senior Marketing Position.

    I am confident that I have the necessary skills and background to succeed at this position. My background includes:

    --

    --

    --

    I have enclosed my resume for your review. I look forward to an opportunity to meet with you to explore your position further.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,

     

    Your name

     

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    How do I prepare for my interview?

    Due diligence:

    • Read company literature distributed by the company, read the web page, and if you're using an agency, get whatever information they have to offer.
    • Find out or make scientific assumptions on what they might be looking for beyond what an ad gives. Study to brush up on those skills.
    • Role-play with friends using typical interview questions.

    Dress for success

    • Dress like an attorney. It's better to look too professional, or even more professional than the interviewer. Remember, you don't want to be the worst-dressed of 8 people interviewed.

    Probably the most important thing to remember about going on an interview is your goal.

    The primary goal of an interview is to get the company interested in you enough to make you an offer. Remember, the company is interviewing you, you are not interviewing them. Of course you want to evaluate the position, but to have that opportunity you must first beat out the competition. If the company is not interested in you, no matter how much you like them, you can forget about working there.

    The other important thing to remember, therefore, is that you are (whether you like it or not) in a selling situation and the product is you. So you must learn how to sell yourself, or, if you prefer, present yourself in a way that shows you to be the best person for the job.

     

    4-step interview approach to maximize your chance of getting an offer.

    Step1

    Focus on the client's needs. You need to get them to tell you what they are looking for before they get you to tell them what you are offering. In this way, you can concentrate and emphasize those specifics in your background that are pertinent. To help you in this process, it is reasonable to ask several open-ended questions at the beginning of the interview.

      Example:

      "I know a little bit about your company and the position, but could you give me a little more detail on exactly what you're looking for, what would the ideal person be like, and what did you like about my background?"

    By doing this, you should gain valuable insight into what their needs are while you get to sit and relax into the interview.

    Step 2

    Managers hire people they like, especially if they know they may see you 8 hours a day. Try to be as comfortable and relaxed as you can. Tell yourself, "If I don't get this job, it will be OK anyway." Try to let your true personality come out. Act more like you are at a company Christmas Party chatting with your boss. Be friendly, be yourself. And always ask good questions.

    Step 3

    Be confident. The managers' biggest fear is making a hiring mistake. The more confident you are, and the better you get that across, the less risk the manager takes by making you an offer. You certainly don't want to be cool or arrogant, but you do want to show that you can handle the job. Don't qualify yourself with negatives such as, "well, I've never done that, so I don't know how good I'll be at it." Instead, try "well, I haven’t had the opportunity to work with that, but what I have done is learn various technology rather quickly in all my situations, and I'd look forward to an opportunity to enhance my skill by quickly learning this one." And ask, "Is that skill what's needed for this job?"

    Always ask questions, so you truly understand their needs.

    Step 4

    Managers hire people who show interest in the company and the position. If, by the end of the interview you are absolutely convinced that you're not interested in the job, then by all means be honest andsincere.

    However, it would be prudent to save your evaluation of the position and company until after you have left the interview. There is usually too much going on during the interview (emotionally and intellectually), especially if you have been selling yourself, to fairly evaluate the position.

    The best thing to do during the interview is to look and listen for things that you like about the company or the position and let the interviewer hear what you think. Also, you should show interested body language: never fold your arms. Sit up straight, lean forward if comfortable and use eye contact and affirming head shakes to show when you are interested and that you are actively listening.

     

    In summary,

    1. Ask questions early so you can focus on their needs
    2. Be yourself, be well liked, relax
    3. Be as confident as you can
    4. Show an interest in the position and the company.

    If you do any of these things you will improve your chances of getting an offer.

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    34 WAYS YOU WILL SUCCEED ON INTERVIEWS

      1.Dress for success - show a professional image
      2.Be early for interviews (12-15 minutes)
      3.Express interest and enthusiasm (Empathy)
      4.De-emphasize money and fringe benefits (open on salary)
      5.Compliment past employers or minimize if unpleasant
      6.Maintain good eye contact
      7.Extend a firm, friendly handshake
      8.Express Appreciation for interviewer's time
      9.Give direct responses to questions
      10.Ask questions about position and the company
      11.Be receptive to the possibility of transfer to other locations
      12.Exhibitconfidence and poise (at ease, calm)
      13.Exhibit assertive attitude without being overly aggressive
      14.Exhibit tact
      15.Express yourself clearly (voice, diction, grammar)
      16.Express a purpose and goal to a career move
      17.Express willingness to 'earn your stripes'
      18.Express mature attitude
      19.Exercise good, courteous, well-mannered behavior
      20.Make short, direct responses to questions on unfavorable factors in record
      21.Indicate participation in company activities (team play)
      22.Maintain your health, exercise
      23.Be decisive (make decisions)
      24.Fill out company application neatly and completely
      25.Show interest in finding a good career opportunity
      26.Express interest in long term opportunities (goals)
      27.Show understanding, compassion
      28.Display high moral standards
      29.Show interest in the company or industry you are interviewing with
      30.Be energetic; well rested
      31.Avoid prejudicial comments
      32.Show broad interests (work and play)
      33.Take criticism as a professional statement
      34.Get an offer - then make a decision about the company.

    FOLLOW MANY OR ALL OF THESE SUGGESTIONS!

    THEY WILL GET YOU HIRED AT THE OPPORTUNITY YOU WANT!

    THEY WILL HELP YOU SUCCEED ONCE HIRED!

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    What do I do when they mention money?

    Never bring up money unless you are specifically asked... and do your homework before you are asked.

    Find out what you are realistically worth by talking to recruiters, other managers, your peers, and, by looking in published salary surveys. Trade publications are a good source for surveys. EE Times publishes an ongoing salary survey of special interest to Silicon Valley candidates. Bookmark the link to refer to later.

    When you discuss money, always tell them exactly what you are making (including your complete package, i.e.: bonus, stock, 401K, commission, other perks and expenses) Mention what you expect to be making after your next review if it is within the next 6 mos.

    If you are very close to an offer and they ask you how much you are looking for, ask yourself what your bottom line is. Then figure what you ideally want (as in, fair market value). Then tell them what you want ideally, but also let them know that you would be open to "consider" an offer as low as your bottom line.

    Let them know that money is not really the issue (companies don't like people to take their job just because they are money-motivated).

    Learn to take a balanced view of the money and the job's career potential. Look at it this way: if you turn a job down because the final offer is $2000 less than what you wanted, how does that $2000 really impact your life and career versus how the new job would impact your life and career. $2000 comes out to be about $30/week after taxes. Is that $30/week really so important for the next year that you'd be willing to walk away from an excellent opportunity for career advancement and long term income gain?

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    Is it a mistake to accept a counteroffer?

    The following article was written by Paul Hawkinson Publisher of the Fordyce Letter and appeared in a recent issue of the National Business Employment Weekly.

    Counteroffers: Road to Career Ruin?

    A raise probably won't permanently cushion the thorns in your nest.

    By Paul Hawkinson, The Fordyce Letter

    Matthew Henry, the 17th century writer said, "Many a dangerous temptation comes to us in the fine gay colors that are but skin deep." The same can be said for counteroffers, those magnetic enticements designed to lure you back into the nest after you've decided it's time to fly away.

    The litany of horror stories I have come across in my years as executive recruiter, consultant and publisher, provides a litmus test that clearly indicates counteroffers should never be accepted…..EVER!

    I define a counteroffer simply as an inducement from your current employer to get you to stay after you've announced your intention to take another job. We're not talking about those instances when you receive an offer but don't tell your boss. Nor are we discussing offers that you never intended to take, yet tell your employer about anyway as a "they-want-me-but-I'm-staying-with-you" ploy.

    These are merely astute positioning tactics you may choose to use to reinforce your worth by letting your boss know you have other options. Mention of a true counteroffer, however, carries an actual threat to quit.

    Interviews with employers who make counteroffers, and employees who accept them, have shown that as tempting as they may be, acceptance may cause career suicide. During the past 20 years, I have seen only isolated incidents in which an accepted counteroffer has benefited the employee. Consider the problem in its proper prospective. What really goes through a boss's mind when someone quits?

    • "This couldn't be happening at a worse time."
    • "This is one of my best people. If I let him quit now, it'll wreak havoc on the morale of the department."
    • "I've already got one opening in my department. I don't need another right now."
    • "This will probably screw up the entire vacation schedule"
    • "I'm working as hard as I can. I don't need to do his work, too."
    • "If I lose another good employee, the company might decide to "lose" me too."
    • "My review is coming up and this will make me look bad"
    • "Maybe I can keep him on until I find a suitable replacement."

    What will the boss say to keep you in the nest? Some of these comments are common:

    • "I'm really shocked. I thought you were as happy with us as we are with you. Let's discuss it before you decide on anything."
    • "Aw gee I've been meaning to tell you about the great plans we have for you, but it's been confidential until now."
    • "The MIS has you in mind for some exciting and expanding responsibilities."
    • "Your raise was scheduled to go into effect next quarter, but we'll make it effective immediately."
    • "You're going to work for who?"

    Let's face it. When someone quits, it's a direct reflection on the boss. Unless you're really incompetent or a thorn in his side, the boss might look bad by "allowing" you to go. His gut reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving until he's ready. That's human nature. Unfortunately, it's also human nature to want to stay unless your work is abject misery. Career changes, like all ventures into the unknown, are tough. That's why bosses know they can usually keep you by pushing the right buttons.

    During the past twenty years, I have seen only isolated incidents in which an accepted counteroffer has worked to the benefit of the employee.

    Any situation in which an employee is forced to get an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions, is suspect. No matter what the company says when making its counteroffer, you will always be considered a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you will lose your status as a "team player" and your place in the inner circle.

    Counteroffers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you. Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. Conditions are just made a bit more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you. Counteroffers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions?

    Decent and well-managed companies don't make counteroffers -- ever. Their policies are fair and equitable. They will not be subjected to "counteroffer coercion" or what they perceive as blackmail.

    If the urge to accept a counteroffer hits you, keep on cleaning out your desk as you count your blessings.

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    How can I evaluate and benefit from a headhunting firm?

    1. Ask the recruiter their technical credentials.
    2. How long have they been in business.
    3. Ask for several companies where they've made placements that they use as references.
    4. Ask them to let you know every company they intend to pursue on your behalf and to provide you with a weekly update of their activity.
    5. Ask for a sample of their current openings that generally match up your background.
    6. Do they specialize in certain technologies/fields? What makes them special? Their knowledge, contacts, etc.
    7. Tell them which companies you don't want them to work.
    8. You should "interview" as many recruiters as you can before giving them your resume.
    9. Ask if there is any financial obligation. Most agencies work on a contingency or search basis, where the fee is paid by the company.
    10. Ask if they are dealing directly with the hiring manager, or with the Human Resources department.
    11. Agencies work best if you have at least 3-5 years of experience. Companies usually don't want to pay a fee for junior candidates, but it does happen.
    12. Ask agencies about the market conditions – what's hot, what's not.
    13. You can use agencies to get a feel of your salary appropriateness – ask several .
    14. Check with a friend or peer who used them before.

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    Entry-level resume help:

    This resume should focus on your skills and projects that you specialized in in school or in full-time or part-time jobs. It is best to focus on a position that matches and leverages your skills and the projects you have worked on.

    Your Objective:

    List several types of positions that match up to your background (the more the objective diverges from your skills, the harder it will be to get anyone interested in you)

    Education:

    List this next; it's very important. Make sure to list Academic Awards and accomplishments (dean's list, etc.). List individual pertinent projects that demonstrate your skills or particular academic achievements. If you feel you've taken specialized courses worth listing and are well in line with your objective, then list them with a limited description, if necessary. Don't list courses that a manager would have expected you to take for the degree you've earned.

    Experience:

    Here you should list any pertinent job experience. This would include if you worked as a lab assistant, research project, etc. Of course, list any full-time pertinent work. Again, show a description of what you did, giving details that would be useful and applicable to your objective. Always list the dates you worked. Indicate if the work was full- or part-time. If worked more than 20 hours per week, you should indicated that in your description.

    At the end, list any professional affiliations. You can also list extracurricular activities, clubs and volunteer work.

    Personal hobbies are OK to list but are not necessary.

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