How to research companies when looking for a job

research companiesLooking for work is not just about finding a job. But its about finding a place that will be a good fit and where you’re likely to be happy. The best way to achieve this is to carefully research companies that you can target in your job search.

This is an important step in the job search process. The more time and effort you spend upfront, the more likely you are to find a place that’s right for you.

Forget the job search boards. They usually don’t yield favorable results. Instead be proactive. Research the companies in the industry you’d like to work in. Find out the name of the hiring manager, and contact them directly for an informational interview. Not that many people use this tactic, but it works.

A good resource to find the hiring manager, the person with the power to offer a job, is the American Job Center’s employer locator. There are more details on this subject at our website.

Best ways to research companies

But what’s the best way to research companies? You can do the obvious like check out their websites, if they have one, and their profiles on LinkedIn. You can search the internet for information and articles about the company and possibly its executives. A good place to find articles and names of local company executives is in an American City Business Journal weekly newspaper, if you live in one of the 43 cities where they are published. All ACBJ newspapers are online and are invaluable resources, but they do require subscriptions. Many libraries in the cities where they are located have the publication in both hard copy and online formats, however.

Local chambers of commerce serve as excellent resources for those looking for jobs, especially at small companies. These chambers are not just for big cities either. Many medium-sized and small towns have them as well. And many, if not most, have a website with a directory of member businesses, their owners and contact information. The easy way to find them is to do an internet search using the name of the town or city and state followed by “chamber of commerce.”

Be creative in your research

If you really want to find out what it’s like to work in a particular company, you need to be a bit creative and dig deep into internet resources. And don’t neglect to do this. If you think these are only for white-collar, managerial or administrative work, they’re not. These sites include the whole gamut of companies and job types.

Here are a few sites that can help you:

LinkedIn – If you have a LinkedIn account you can check a company you’re interested in, see who in your network works there and get together with them to learn more about what it’s like to be an employee. Once you get an interview, it’s a great place to find out more about the hiring manager’s background.

Great Place to Work – Not many job seekers seem to use this resource, but it’s a good way to find companies with workers who are happy to be there. You can search lists of the best places to work in certain industries or places. You can also search certified companies by search terms, industry, state or size.

GlassdoorGlassdoor offers reviews written by current and former employees about life at particular companies. There’s even a section with reviews of people’s interview experiences, often with the questions they were asked.

Indeed – Another website that offers reviews and salaries, Indeed includes companies – from Sittercity and Starbucks to Apple and AT&T – that provide all kinds of jobs.

CareerBliss – Although similar to the others, Careerbliss provides a bit of a twist. Dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace, it features a list of the 50 happiest companies in America with links to job openings at each of them.

Fairygodboss – Unique in that its reviews are written by and for women, Fairygodboss emphasizes things like maternity leave and work-life balance. It also incorporates articles and a pregnancy newsletter.

Comparably – Another, newer, review and salary website, Comparably has the tagline “Making Work Transparent & Rewarding.” It includes a company culture rating that measures how employees feel about their (non-monetary) benefits and the company’s culture – in other words how happy they are to work there.

Social Media – Although not everyone has them, you can get an idea of how a company wants to present itself by checking out its social media sites. Their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts can offer insights that you may not be able to get elsewhere.

Tips on how to succeed in a video job interview

video job interviewThe coronavirus has changed our lives in many ways, including how we interview for jobs. Although unemployment numbers have soared, some companies are still hiring. They are, for the most part however, using a technique not usually employed in the past – the video job interview.

Tech companies, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Google, were onboard early with the practice, and many others have followed. It’s impossible to know what will happen in the future, but video interviewing may go on for months to come.

How to prepare for a virtual interview

A virtual interview requires the same preparation as a regular interview. You need to:

  • research the company and the hiring manager.
  • put together a list of questions that you will ask.
  • study a list of potential questions that you may be asked and practice them.
  • get a good night’s sleep beforehand, etc.

There are, however, different requirements for these interviews that you should be aware of. Here are some of the things you need to do in preparation and during the interview:

What you need to do differently

Learn how to use the video conferencing software. If you’ve unfamiliar with the video conferencing software the hiring manager will use, look for some online tutorials on how to use it and go through them a few days before the interview

Make sure your technology works. First of all you’ll need a computer with a working camera and microphone. Make sure you have the bandwidth that can accommodate video streaming. Although a computer is preferable, if you don’t have one, you can use your smart phone or tablet. But be sure that whatever you use is propped up and doesn’t need to be held.

Choose a place with no distractions. Choose a quiet place for the interview. This could be a home office, if you have one, or the kitchen table or another quiet place at home. Make sure no one else will be around, and if you have a dog that barks, it might be best to put it outside or ask a friend to take care of it for an hour or two. It’s best to have a blank wall behind you so there are no distractions, and the hiring manager will concentrate on you instead of what else is in the room.

Make sure there’s plenty of light. This could be natural or artificial light, but it’s important that the hiring manager can see you clearly.

Dress professionally. Yes, you’re at home, but you still need to make a good impression. Wear the same sort of outfit that you would if you were going to an in-person interview. Avoid bright colors and elaborate jewelry, however, because these may be distracting online. 

Get there early. This is just as important as when participating in a face-to-face interview, maybe even more so, since it may take a while to sign in.

Look into the camera. This may take some practice, maybe with a friend beforehand, but make sure you’re looking into the camera on your computer rather than the face of the hiring manager on the screen. Looking directly into the camera means you will be making eye-contact with the person interviewing you. And if you’re using your smart phone or a tablet, make sure you’re centered on the screen.

Speak carefully. When video conferencing, there can be lag time between what you say and when the person on the other end hears it, so speak slowly (but not too slowly to sound unnatural), and enunciate clearly. Also wait several seconds after the interviewer speaks to make sure you don’t interrupt them.

Don’t forget the importance of body language. Sit up straight with feet planted firmly on the floor. Make proper eye contact by looking into the camera on your computer. Don’t forget to smile.

Show enthusiasm. You won’t be able to start off the interview with a handshake, but you can show your enthusiasm when you first connect. Begin the interview by saying that you are happy to meet the hiring manager, and thank them for taking the time to talk to you.

Try a power pose. Right before the interview, you may want to try a power pose, but not in front of the computer or with the microphone on. Researchers have found that assuming a power pose for two minutes before an interview gives people the confidence they need to make a favorable impression.

Send a thank you note. Don’t forget to send a thank you note after you finish the interview. Since this can be an email or hand-written note, make sure you have the hiring manager’s email address or physical address, depending on which type you choose to send.

 

Code Tenderloin founder Del Seymour helps ex-offenders learn job skills and discover how to reclaim their dignity

Code Tenderloin

Del Seymour founded Code Tenderloin to help people gain some of the opportunities that tech companies were bringing to the area.

Reclaiming your dignity after being incarcerated can be a difficult task. But it doesn’t have to be.

Often people are hampered by a self-defeating attitude. But you can turn that attitude around and break the mental chains that are holding you back.

Just ask Del Seymour. A former drug dealer who lived in a dumpster in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood for 18 years, Seymour turned his life around and now helps those who are in reentry, who live on the streets and who face other challenges. He focuses on the Tenderloin, an area adjacent to the city’s mid-Market, where tech companies like Twitter, Square and Uber have set up shop.

Questioning why the people in the Tenderloin weren’t getting a share of the opportunities that tech companies have brought to the city, Seymour founded Code Tenderloin five years ago. During the time it has been in existence, the organization has trained more than 2,000 people, at least 35% of whom were formerly incarcerated.

Code Tenderloin conducts both job training and programming classes

It offers Job Readiness and Code Ramp programs. Job Readiness is the first step, a program in which participants – and anyone can be a participant they just have to walk in the door – learn the basics. These include how to set goals and create a resume, as well as how to make a good impression and succeed in the workplace.

Code Ramp teaches beginning JavaScript programming, with advanced classes for those who wish to go further. The classes take place at Uber headquarters, LinkedIn headquarters and PianoFight, an independent arts venue. They are taught by volunteer instructors who are employed in the tech industry. Other volunteers serve as teaching assistants, who work with the instructors. Still others act as tutors who help students one-on-one. Some of these students are studying on their own and need help.

“We have volunteers from major tech companies to small start-ups and many boot camp graduates from the Bay Area,” says Donna Hilliard, the organization’s executive director.

“Some people volunteer because they come from an untraditional background and want to support others to help them break into tech. Other people have heard about the work we do from other volunteers and want to make an impact.”

Although Code Tenderloin is about helping people get jobs, at its heart it is much more than that. Seymour says the most important subject to deal with is dignity – or lack thereof.

Code Tenderloin helps people regain their dignity

“The main thing we do at Code Tenderloin is we give you your dignity what you already got,” he says. “I tell people I can’t really give you your dignity. You already have it. It’s just a matter of claiming it and not guilt tripping yourself every day you get up. It’s done it’s over. It’s not a life sentence. Don’t make it a life sentence.”

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of help out there for those who take the initiative to reclaim their dignity. And there’s one way to help ensure that you won’t lose hope when making your way back into society.

“Reach out for support. Stay around people who are positive,” Seymour says.

It’s essential, however, that you look for help as soon as you can after getting out of jail or prison, according to Seymour.

“Time is of the essence. The longer you don’t get hooked up and connected with organizations that can help you, the more chance that you will not be successful,” he says. Quit guilt tripping about what happened years ago.

“There’re reasons why there’s a referee in a boxing ring. When a boxer gets beaten down, the referee has to stand there and help them get back up,” he says. “You can’t get up when people are beating on you. And sometimes the person beating on you is yourself.”

Kevin Poppen offers excellent job search advice from prison

Kevin PoppenAlthough we are regularly contacted by people in prison, it’s rare to receive a letter that offers the kind of advice we received from Kevin Poppen, who is currently incarcerated at Growlersburg Conservation Camp #33 in Georgetown, Calif. And what we learned from him can go a long way towards helping those who are incarcerated prepare for their lives on the outside.

We heard from Poppen after sending him a copy of our book, Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed. He wrote to thank us for the book and encourage us to include what he refers to as a “reentry journal” in our next edition. And it’s such a good idea that we certainly will but don’t want to wait until then to share it with our readers. We decided to interview him by mail to see what other ideas he has.

Create a reentry journal

The idea to create a reentry journal came to Kevin Poppen when he was in solitary confinement. (He’s been incarcerated for 17 years.) Here’s the story, in his words:

“About four years ago, while sitting in administrative segregation (solitary confinement), I would daydream for hours and hours on end about what I was going to do when I got out of prison. For five months straight, I sat in a concrete box 24 hours a day, was allowed to leave the cell only once every three days for a five-minute shower. I spent five months staring at a wall creating budgets (all with arbitrary numbers, as I had no way of researching anything), playing out whole scenarios in my head about what I would do, where I would go, what I needed to accomplish and what might get in my way.”

One day Poppen grabbed a notebook and started randomly writing down his thoughts into what he describes as a “dream journal.” It even included a floor plan of what his future house would look like. At one point his sister sent him a box from Amazon that included a nice leather-bond notebook. About the same time, Poppen began to read Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed and three other job search books that we recommend. And he started to record useful information in his journal.

How his journal is organized

Poppen has several pages in the front of his “Re-entry Journal” for brainstorming. This section includes random thoughts, ideas, addresses and whatever. The rest of the journal is broken down into sections – housing, employment, nonprofit and social service info, and a detailed to-do list for once he begins his new life.

Where does he get his information? “Although some of the info came from the four books, but a lot of contact information and ideas I have in my journal came from years of slowly collecting. One inmate on the yard may have an inmate resource list of available services, another may have lived at a particular transitional housing location, another may have the address of a nonprofit that sends books to inmates.

“One good book I remember helping quite a bit at the time was published by Root & Rebound. (The organization’s Roadmap to Reentry provides legal information to those leaving prison.) Another way I’ve compiled info over the years is through inmate legal newsletters and magazines, such as Prison Legal News, California Lifer News, and newsletters from the Initiate Justice and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.

Deciding what info to include

Poppen narrowed his topics down to the three things necessary for survival – food, shelter and clothing. And what one needs to obtain these things – employment.

Examples of what he included in the different categories:

  • Food – physical and website addresses for nonprofit organizations, government agencies, churches and food banks.
  • Shelter – contact info for transitional housing/sober living residences, Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) info for Section 8 housing options, etc.
  • Employment – Turnaround packet instructions, job search websites, temp agency addresses, and info on how to conduct advance Google searches and use LinkedIn and zoominfo. Also resume ideas, interview questions, a strengths/weaknesses assessment and other useful tidbits picked up from the books he read.
Further preparation

In addition to compiling the information in his Reentry Journal, Poppen is creating a to-do list. That way he can hit the ground running when he gets out.

Here’s a list of the things Poppen plans to do immediately upon release:

  1. Check in at the parole office.
  2. Visit the DMV to obtain an identification card and make an appointment for a driving test.
  3. Visit government agencies to see if he qualifies for assistance (food stamps/general assistance).
  4. Check in with residence (sober living home or transitional living residence).
  5. Go shopping for work clothing.
  6. Start job search.
Change your mindset

While a reentry journal and to-do list will form a roadmap for reentry action, those leaving prison will also need to examine their attitudes, according to Poppen.

“Their heads need to be in the right place. Whatever behaviors or ways of thinking that got them incarcerated in the first place must be ironed out. Do this first,” he wrote.

“Some serious introspection needs to be exercised. I have yet to meet someone in prison whose real problem was the crime they committed. The problem is the underlying factors that caused the behavior in the first place. All the rest is a waste of time if someone isn’t prepared mentally and emotionally. The first step to prepare for reentry is to figure out the real reason one was incarcerated. And then seek help.”

Once that is taken care of, those preparing to leave prison need to assess what their needs are. “Then I would network, network, network. Learn how to write professional letters, and go on a letter writing campaign. Write every nonprofit that deals with inmates. Ask for referrals, and write some more,” Poppen wrote.

At the same time, they should write everything down in a journal and prepare a turnaround packet. “If they don’t have enough content for a turnaround packet, dedicate some time each day (while still incarcerated) to work on the things they need to do to fill out their checklist,” he wrote.

Poppen recommends keeping a day planner to record the dates when people write letters and the dates any responses are received. Write a short synopsis of the content of the letter and its response. That way people can remember what they’ve done and tracked their own progress.

Final advice

And there’s one very important final thing to do, Poppen writes. “Anxiety should be addressed. It’s common for inmates to experience anxiety when thinking about and trying to plan for the future. This seems especially so the longer they have been incarcerated and the closer they get to their release date.

“It’s important they know that this is normal. They need to just put one foot in front of the other, and it will all work out. Being prepared is the best defense. It builds confidence and adds something to the equation.”

Learn how to develop soft skills – they can help you get and keep a job

soft skills

Soft skills are particularly important for jobs in which people deal with the public.

Many people think that the hard skills they’ve developed are what will bring them success on the job. Recent studies, however, suggest that it’s the soft – or people – skills, that may be the key to success.

And it all starts with the interview. A survey of 400 HR/hiring professionals conducted for software provider iCMS in mid-2017 found that 75 percent of recruiting professionals have ended an interview early because the candidate didn’t demonstrate the soft skills they were seeking.

Although that may be true, once someone secures a job, soft skills are even more important.

But what exactly are these soft skills, and how do you learn them?

Soft skills are people skills

Soft skills are people skills that allow you to get along with and communicate with others effectively, manage situations and show leadership.

In fact, workplace expert Alison Doyle lists more than 150 of them in an article she wrote for thebalancecareers.com. Doyle divides soft skills into categories and includes all the supporting skills for each category. These categories are:

  • Communication – Communication skills are essential to getting along with a boss and co-workers. They include speaking, listening and writing, among others.
  • Critical thinking – Critical thinking is becoming increasingly important in a rapidly changing world and includes the ability to be creative, flexible, and innovative and to problem solve and troubleshoot.
  • Leadership – Although everyone is not in an official leadership role, leadership qualities are still needed to make decisions, manage conflicts and inspire and motivate the people you work with.
  • Positive attitude – People like to work with others who are friendly, happy and easy to get along with.
  • Teamwork – As more and more companies are dividing their employees into teams, such skills as collaboration, interpersonal skills and learning how to deal with difficult coworkers are skills that will help people do well in their jobs,
  • Work ethic – Companies value workers who are dependable, punctual, organized and can work well under pressure.
Soft skills can be rare among employees

A survey of 291 hiring managers conducted in the U.S. in 2016 by LinkedIn revealed that 59% of them considered soft skills difficult to find.

If soft skills are so hard to find, you can set yourself apart by developing some of the most important ones. Think about the job you are looking for and the industry it’s a part of. What soft skills are important to carry out that type of work?

For example, soft skills are particularly important in customer service jobs, whether it’s being a server at a restaurant, working in retail or providing tech support for a product.

While some of the skills are innate personality traits, many of them can be learned and practiced. But how do you that?

Ways to learn soft skills

There are many ways to learn soft skills. These range from community college courses to online tutorials. You can also improve your soft skills by reading books or joining organizations.

Community college courses. Check out the course offerings of your local community college. Many community colleges offer entire course curriculums on soft skills and job readiness.

Toastmasters International. To learn to be a better communicator, you may want to join your local chapter of Toastmasters International. This is an international organization that promotes communication and public speaking skills and has chapters in 141 countries.

Udemy. Online educational company Udemy offers a series of courses on developing soft skills. They’re not free, but the prices are affordable for most people.

Soft Skills Training: A Workbook to Develop Skills for Employment. Frederick A. Wentz wrote this book, which alternates articles and stories about people’s successes with exercises that make students think about the importance of soft skills.

YouTube. YouTube offers many videos on developing soft skills.

Your local public library.  Check with the librarian at your local library for suggested books to read and any online complimentary resources they offer.

 

What you post on social media can keep you from getting a job

social mediaAs social media becomes a growing presence in everyday life, you need to be increasingly careful about the things you post and tweet.

The pictures you publish and the things you say on social media sites can keep you from getting a job, can get you in trouble with your boss or can even get you fired. But social media postings can also work in your favor, if they portray you as professional, able to communicate effectively and make you appear as a person that would be nice to work with.

60% of employers use social media to research applicants

And don’t think that hiring managers and recruiters aren’t looking. They are. Or at least according to CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment survey of 2,186 hiring and human research managers conducted between February 10 and March 17, 2016. It found that 60% of employers use social media sites to research job applicants, up from 52%  last year and 11% in 2005.

“Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. “And with more and more people using social media, it’s not unusual to see the usage for recruitment to grow as well.”

Info on social media can hinder job search

The company’s survey found that 49% of hiring managers who screen candidates using social media found information that made them decide to not hire a candidate. The top things that bothered them:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information (46%)
  • Information about a candidate drinking or using drugs (43%)
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc. (33%)
  • Bad-mouthing a previous company or fellow employee (31%)
  • Poor communication skills (29%)

Jobvite, a San Mateo, Calif.-based software and recruiting company, found similar responses. In its Jobvite Recruiter Nation Report 2016, based on an online survey conducted in June and completed by 1,600 recruiting and human resources professionals:

  • 47% of recruiters view pictures of alcohol consumption negatively on social media
  • 60% find over sharing a problem
  • 72% view typos negatively
  • 71% find indications of marijuana use problematic

Shutting down Facebook account may not be best idea

In the past some people recommended that job seekers should shut down their Facebook accounts, since it’s impossible to tell what a hiring manager might find offensive. These days, however, many hirers may wonder why a certain job seeker does not have a social media presence, i.e., a Facebook account.

According to the CareerBuilder survey, 41% of employers said they are less likely to interview a job applicant if they are unable to find information about that person online.

Although LinkedIn is used by hiring managers and recruiters to get an idea of an applicant’s professional background, Facebook – and to a lesser extent Twitter – portray the personal side, and can answer the question, “Is this someone I would enjoy working with.”

If your Facebook postings or tags are even slightly offensive, however, it might not be a bad idea to deactivate your account while you’re searching for a job, since it will no doubt work against you.

And even after you get a job, you’re not safe. According the CareerBuilder survey, more than a quarter of employers have either fired or reprimanded an employee because of content they found online.

It’s important to carefully consider each and every photo and comment you post, especially on Facebook. So constantly monitor your social media presence and make sure it portrays you as the kind of person that the company you dream of working for would like to hire.

 

Job search tactics: Getting to the hiring manager

business-170645_640In these days when job boards and company websites can suck resumes into a black hole never to be seen again, it’s often only those eager to try different tactics who will find success.

But it’s not easy. And it takes a lot of work. You have to be proactive, not passive. The ultimate goal is to approach the person who has the power to give you what you want – a job.

Forget the human resources departments. They’re just there to weed applicants out. Your goal is to get to the manager of the department in which you are interested in working.That person is usually also the hiring manger. In most cases in smaller companies – maybe those with 20 employees or less – the owner would be the hiring manager.

In order to get to the hiring manager, you must learn to think like a detective and gather clues to discover who in a certain company might be able to hire you. Taking some or all of the following steps can help get you on your way.

Make a list

The first thing to do is make a list of companies that have the type of work you’d like to do. Start with maybe 25 or so and expand from there. If you are familiar with Excel, create a spreadsheet or use any method you feel comfortable with – even pencil and paper will do. Include the company name, address, website URL and the main phone number. Leave space to fill in the name of the hiring manager of the department you would like to work in, as well as their direct phone number and email address.

Search the Internet

Do a search using the names of each company and the title of the hiring manager, for example XYZ Corp. + warehouse manager. This may bring up articles in which those people were mentioned or a list of company managers or executives. It could also lead you to the LinkedIn profile of the very person who has that position. Sometimes a search won’t reveal anything, so don’t be disappointed. This is just one of many tactics that you can use.

Check out company websites

It’s important to learn as much as possible about the companies you’d like to work for, and one of the best ways to do this is by exploring their websites. Many companies have newsrooms and media centers, which are actually designed to help journalists but can also be a wealth of information for anyone who’s savvy enough to check them out. You may find a list of company managers, or press releases that often quote various managers on topics that may be newsworthy or of interest to the general public.

Call and ask

Call the company’s main phone number and ask for the name of the manager of the department that you are interested in. Tell the receptionist that you want to contact that person and make sure you ask the proper spelling of their name and what their official title is.

Once you know that person’s name, you can search for them online and check out their LinkedIn profile, which can be a wealth of information about the manager’s career experience and even personal interests.

Mine social media for info

If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, open one right away and create a profile. Then invite as many people as you can to be in your network. LinkedIn is an invaluable treasure trove of information about people and the companies they work for.

In order to use LinkedIn to see if you have a connection to someone who might be employed at a company you’re interested in, go to LinkedIn.com and search for the name of the company. Click on that company, and the names of the people in your network who are working there will pop up. Contact those people, no matter what department they’re in, and ask them for information on what it’s like to be employed there and to introduce you to people in departments you might be interested in.

Besides LinkedIn, you may want to also check out Google+ and Twitter, which are also very good sources of information about what’s going on at companies and serve as additional ways to contact hiring managers who might be active on those platforms.

Trying some or all of these tactics will get you closer to the hiring managers who have the power to employ you. And if they don’t happen to have any openings, they may know friends or colleagues who do.

In a job search, as in many areas of life, it’s who you know – as well as what you know – that counts.