Form W-4: What is it? What is the importance of it?
2020. All one has to do is see, hear, or say that year and fatigue sets in.
2020 was a year for the books. Not only did we see economic upheaval with the cyclical ebb in major industries such as technology and oil and gas, but the world was blindsided by a pandemic that never stopped. Unemployment hit record levels spiking in April 2020 at 14.7% - largest increase in history of tracking the data (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). And, in the background, the IRS was issuing a change to the W-4 that may impact many people – employers and employees alike. Every year begins with new: new resolutions, new focus, and new forms like the W-4 which is reissued like a new edition of a bestselling book every year by the IRS. Did you miss the newest edition of W4? Don’t worry. It’s available for free download on the IRS.gov website.
Why is this important?
IRS Form W-4 is a tax form employees use to indicate their tax withholdings to their employer. It states what an employee is withholding from their paycheck to compensate for federal taxes based on their current tax situation.
Also known as the “Employee Withholding Certificate”, or formally known as the “Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate”, the W-4 form helps employees determine how much to withhold from each check for federal and state tax coverage. New employees fill out a W4 when they start a new job but, as it is one of many forms, it may not be given much attention. In previous years, the form was so easy to fill in that it didn’t cause much need for concern. An employee would fill it in, turn it into HR, and go about learning their new job, company, and role. Right?
That is the thinking of yester-year. Enter the improved 2021 W-4 which had to undergo changes due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 making significant updates to the tax code, one of which was to double the standard deduction (from $6,500 to $12,000 for single filers and from $13,000 to $24,000 for joint filers).
In case you did not catch the changes to the W-4 form in 2020, be sure to note the changes in the 2021 W-4.
What’s New on the 2020 and 2021 W-4 Forms?
It has a new name; it was formerly known as “Employee Withholding Allowance Certificate.”
Did you start a new job in 2020? Have a major life change in 2020? Then you most likely completed the 2020 W-4 form – which was the big adjustment from the 2019 and prior forms. Form W-4 no longer holds the title “Employee Withholding Allowance Certificate” and instead is referred to as “Employee Withholding Certificate” and now aligns your employee withholdings to the federal tax code language
Married taxpayers or those with dependents or more than one job have a bit more calculating to do on the new Form W-4. In Section 2, employees specify if they have multiple jobs or if they have a spouse who is also working. If you answer “yes”, to any of the former statements, completion of Step 2 followed by Steps 3 and 4 for just one job is required. It is suggested to use your highest paying job for a more accurate calculation.
Say So Long to Allowances
As of the 2020 Form W-4, Allowances are a thing of the past and this continues on the 2021 Form W-4. Redesigned to create a simpler form to complete and easier for workers to accurately state how much federal income to withhold from their paychecks, the 2020-2021 Form W-4 uses an updated long form to calculate the exact dollar amount to declare.
Fear of numbers? Have no fear! The IRS provides a Tax Withholding Estimator
The Tax Withholding Estimator calculator to guide you through the process of estimating. In Step 3 of the Form, employees claim any children and other dependents reducing the withholding for the child-tax credit, $2000 per-child or $500 for other dependents. Step 4 is where any other adjustments to an employee’s withholding is made such as withholding taxes from other income sources (not from jobs) or if you plan to itemize deductions rather than take the standard deduction.
Final Step – Signature
Be sure to sign your Form W-4 prior to submitting to Human Resources. Why is this so critical? If you miss the signature line on your Form W-4, it’s invalid. Your employer will disregard any new selections and withholdings, and select “single” for your form.
But I’m Exempt!
If you are claiming “Exempt” on your Form W-4, a few things must occur.
- You had zero federal income tax liability in 2020.
- Your income was under the filing threshold for your filing status and you did not need to file a tax return.
- You must write “Exempt” on step 4(c) of your W-4 form.
Keep in mind, claiming an exemption means that you have no income tax withheld from you paycheck. If you choose this incorrectly, you may end up owing taxes and penalties.
With 2020 in our rearview mirror and the job market on the upswing, employers are most likely seeing an influx of new employees. Employees who have not had job changes or significant life changes, such as marriage or other family changes such as having children, have probably not filled out a W-4 in a LONG time. That’s why we recommend that you review the 2021 W-4 instructions, Publication 505 and the IRS FAQs discussing the new W-4, all of these details can be found at IRS.gov. You can also ask your payroll or human resources department on how to fill out and submit the updated W-4.
- Takeaways to keep in mind after you complete the new Form W-4:Keep an eye on your paycheck after you submit your new W-4. Be mindful to see if more or less federal income tax was withheld.
- If less, your refund may be smaller, or you may owe more if nothing else is changed.
- If more is withheld, your refund could be larger or you could owe less if everything else stays the same.
Still looking for that ideal job where you complete the new W-4? Join ICON Information Consultants Talent Communities to let us know what you want to focus on. Let’s leave all the confusion and upheaval of 2020 in the rearview and aim clear sights ahead at 2021.
Job Searching for Over 50's in a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic is making the job market more difficult to breach and is creating new challenges for job seekers. Companies are receiving record applicants for each position, interviews are scarce, and when granted, typically are taking place via a video conference, making it a difficult to develop a rapport with the interviewer. Job seekers fifty and over have felt these challenges the most. The layoffs, furloughs, and new method of job searching have left those in the workforce over fifty feeling overwhelmed by everything that trying to find work can entail. That is why we have compiled a list filled with advice and tips on how to navigate the job search for those over fifty.
Be Flexible and Comfortable with the Unfamiliar
The most important skill you can have in this new job market is flexibility. The pandemic has made it feel like everyone is out looking for a job. In order to compete, it helps to be open to new ideas. Being flexible about your location is especially important. This pandemic means that your new potential role could be remote, full time in an office, or a mixture of in office and remote work. Emphasizing that you are comfortable working in an office or from home can go a long way towards landing a new job. We have seen candidates not be invited back to a second interview because of their rigidity concerning where they were willing to work. We also recommend that you manage your expectations regarding your salary. There is a good chance a prospective employer could offer you a job opportunity at a lower pay rate than you were previously making. We recommend you still consider these opportunities, because they can still provide a valuable career path.
COVID-19 has brought all of us into unfamiliar territory that we have had to learn to navigate. We suggest you navigate your job search the same way, by staying open to new ideas. As you are looking for a prospective job opportunity, make sure your search isn’t too narrow. There is a chance that you can apply your specific set of job skills to varying job positions or industries. Even if you were at your last job for several years and feel the most comfortable in that same role, geographic location, and salary it provided, it is always prudent to keep an open mind to other possibilities. Additionally, some employers are hiring workers without a formal job interview. If this happens, discuss the role with the recruiter and ask all the questions that you would normally ask in an interview. Stay receptive to the idea that companies are hiring directly from the experience on one’s resume. Prospective employers will appreciate your ability to be flexible about interviewing styles, start dates, hours, work location, salary, etc.
Update that Resume
An updated resume is one of the first things you should complete when seeking a new job. Make sure your resume focuses on your most recent and relevant skills. We recommend only using your experience from the last fifteen years and that your resume is no more than two pages. Also, be aware of the dates you add to your resume. It is not necessary to add your age or college graduation year. This helps neutralize your resume when potential employers are reviewing it with other resumes. Another good tip is to tailor your resume to the job position to which you are applying. When you are reviewing the job description, note any key skills or requirements expected of you. If those job skills and requirements apply to your own career experience, make sure your resume emphasizes them. And finally, if your email is from an older carrier (yahoo, Comcast, aol) create a new email specifically for job searching with a newer email provider (gmail, outlook, etc).
Be Technically Savvy
In 2020, being tech savvy is an absolute must, especially during a pandemic where more and more remote roles are becoming available. Computer literacy is necessary, and if you have experience using any software, make sure you highlight that on your resume. Look at the positions you are applying for and note any technology it would require you to use. If you aren’t comfortable using a computer or operating software, you can always find free or affordable classes online or locally.
You should also get familiar with other online tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts. Hiring managers are taking advantage of these video tools by utilizing them for interviews, meetings, and virtual job fairs. If you end up using one of these video tools, make sure that the background of your space seen on camera looks professional, and that you have a professional appearance. Treat these interviews and meetings the same way you would treat an in office interview. While prospective employers are looking for an excellent resume, the first impression you make matters too. You will stand a better chance of landing the job if you present yourself professionally, even if it’s only over an online video.
Update Your Image
Speaking of your image, perhaps it’s been a while since you have been on the job market and you are wondering how you should present yourself during interviews, whether they are in person or online over platforms like Zoom. Besides updating your resume and skill set, we recommend giving yourself a makeover. Give your hair/beard a new style, or buy some new and updated professional clothes. A new and updated look can go a long way in building your own confidence and presenting yourself as a top professional. Also, if you are using websites like LinkedIn, update your profile picture to match your fresh image. Some people over 50 resist putting a profile picture on LinkedIn, believing that it is not necessary. Having an image matters. Be sure and do not overlook this keep step.
Network and Volunteer
Another way to find your next career opportunity is through volunteering. Is there a charity or organization you have always been interested in? Use volunteering as an opportunity to meet new people and network. Not only will adding volunteering to your resume make you stand out, but you never know who you’ll meet. Some people you meet may connect you to a prospective hiring manager, recruiter, or agency. Tap into your network of friends, neighbors, and former work colleagues. Let everyone know that you are looking for a job and the type of job that you are interested to secure.
You can also use volunteering as a tool to learn a new job skill. For example, say you want to learn how to use Microsoft Excel. Offer your services to the organization or charity of your choice by making spreadsheets for them. This is a great way to update your job skills, network, and make your resume more appealing all at once.
Get Your Resume Out There
Speaking of technology and presenting the best version of your professional-self online, we recommend you make sure your resume is on several online job boards. Some good examples would be LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and ICON’s own talent community. These job boards will not only help you search for new job opportunities and alert you when new opportunities are available, but will also help get your resume out to perspective agencies and recruiters.
Navigating your job search amid a pandemic is challenging, but it does not have to feel impossible. Rather than feeling like COVID-19 had taken part of your career from you, we hope this list helps you feel like there are still plenty of possibilities out there for you and your job search.
Should I Continue with Furlough or Look for a Job?
Furlough, a word that many of us have come to understand as a method for a company to signal formally that they will bring you back to work as soon as business picks up. Furloughs are short-term, unpaid leaves of absence that typically leave health insurance and 401k benefits intact. However, as the effects of COVID-19 drag on, the word furlough has come to be more of a hopeful idea rather than a reliable plan of action.
Generally, if you are put on furlough, you have the right to seek other employment and you should seriously consider doing so. This should be weighed against your own financial circumstances, satisfaction with your current job, reflection on your own career aspirations, and your need to reskill/upskill in order to remain employable. A person who has a solid rainy-day fund and would like to take some time off is facing a different decision than a person who must go back to work sooner rather than later to support themselves and their family. Another way to view whether you should look for a new job is to determine what would happen if the furlough were extended for another equal period of time. If this happened, would you kick yourself that you didn’t get started sooner and were one of the First to Work?
If you are leaning towards jumping back into the job market, a good way to begin is by updating your resume. Now is the perfect time to look at some of the newer styles out there and make some updates that will make your career profile really stand out.
- Refresh: Keep it short & sweet. When refreshing your resume, try to keep it to one page. Present the information in as succinct a way as possible. You do not want the reader to feel as if they are reviewing a novel.
- Review: Check your grammar. When you receive a new role, your first instinct is probably to add a new section on your resume summarizing the position. However, you want to ensure you change the verb tense of the details of your past role to past tense. For example, after leaving Company A, you will want to change “develop software” to “developed software”. Showing that you took the time to review your resume details says a lot about you before you even walk in the door.
- Reflect: Just how awesome are you? Reviewing your resume is a great time to reflect on your own professional achievements. Don’t just list out all of your job duties – show how you made an impact. Quantify what you did to help your company. Did you bring in new clients? Did you implement a program that increased employee retention? Did you automate a process that saved the company a bunch of money? If so, quantify how much with either a percentage or dollar value. This is your chance to tell the reader how you have brought value and been an asset in previous roles, and at the same time displays your potential to do the same for their company.
In summary, being on furlough offers an opportunity to take stock and determine your next best step forward. Use this time to really look at your resume, keeping in mind that this will be the first impression you make upon a potential employer, and you’re going to want it to be good. Make sure it is current and provides readers with the most useful information in the most concise way possible; check your grammar and punctuation; and, finally, take a moment to look back at all you have accomplished so far in your career and all you still have to offer! Then, click here to start applying to the job of your dreams.
Text Your Way to a New Job
We spend a tremendous amount of time on our phones: engaging in social media, messaging with friends, and yes, even searching for jobs. Just as the traditional methodologies for job seeking – classifieds, hitting the pavement, and lengthy paper resumes – have given way to more modern approaches like online job boards, virtual networking and personal branding, so too have recruiters and employers evolved in the ways they seek out talent.
In fact, you may have even started receiving text messages about new job opportunities. When responding, bear in mind you are texting with a potential recruiter. You’ll want to be sure that your communication back is both clear and effective. But don’t worry: we’ve got a few notes that will help you handle this type of exchange successfully.
Get Back to Them Right Away
If you get a text from a recruiter about a job opportunity, you will want to respond as quickly as possible, especially if you are interested. Know that they are also looking at (and texting) other candidates, so your response time here is critical. Taking a few days to get back to them can eliminate your chances of getting that job altogether, because by that point it has likely been filled. If you don’t respond at all, they will move on and assume you were not interested. It is always a good idea to send some kind of response. Even if you are not interested in that particular job, they may have another opportunity for you, either now or in the future, and your responsiveness and professionalism will be noted.
Don’t Let Autocorrect Run the Show
Even though texting is a much less formal method of communication, it is still extremely important to pay careful attention to your response. Autocorrect is something of a double-edged sword. While it can be a great boon in getting your message across quickly, on the flip-side, it can be a bane when it comes to making a good impression. Without even a cursory grammar check prior to sending, it can easily undercut your credibility, altering your good intentions and twisting your words into either the nonsensical or the downright vulgar. The responsibility is on you to take a minute to review what you have written before hitting send.
We’ve all done it: Accidentally sent a text intended for another party to the wrong person. The results can range from hilarious to humiliating. And now adding yet another layer of complexity, you have may have a stream of recruiters in your inbox. You’ll not only have to keep messages from your friends straight, you may also have to keep up with messages from multiple recruiters about multiple jobs for multiple companies. Be absolutely certain you have the correct message thread open before responding. It can be all too easy for your texts to start running together, and before you know it, you’ve sent something inexorably damaging to someone who wanted to offer you a job. Key word: wanted. Just double-check that you’ve got the right recipient pulled up when responding.
Don’t Let Text Recruiting Scare You
Text recruiting is actually a great advantage to you in your job search. Employers are able to get (and give) real-time responses, which can cut down on the total time it takes to get you hired. It is easier to stay engaged, especially if you (or they) aren’t necessarily sitting at their desk all day – both parties can message on the fly, ask questions (and have them answered quickly), and just generally keep the relationship fresh. In spite of the potential pitfalls, the benefits certainly far outweigh the risks.
Are you looking for your next job online?
Partner with ICON today and let us connect you with your next great opportunity.
Posted by Nicolette Salazar
Job Searching in a Pandemic
After the economy started shutting down in March, the previous 10 years of job expansion came to an abrupt halt. More than 40 million people have filed for unemployment and the US is currently hanging at a staggering 14.7% unemployment rate. But beyond these record high numbers, how do you actually find a job? While at best a full recovery is going to take at least 2 years – with unemployment forecasted to stay above 9% through 2021 – there are companies that are ready to hire and there are ways you can prepare now to get the ball rolling.
If you’ve recently lost your job, you may be feeling discouraged and disillusioned, and that’s ok. Take a beat and grieve your loss. Then go ahead and take stock of your situation: assess your finances and evaluate the industry you’ve been working in. Ask yourself if you need a short-term solution to make ends meet right now or whether you might have the luxury of taking a little more time to look for something aligned with your long-term career goals. It’s ok to tuck away that 5- or 10-year plan for the moment and focus your efforts on what will get you by for the next 3-6 months. Consider how you can adapt your current skills and experience to be applicable and advantageous to those industries and companies that are needing help, and tailor your résumé to showcase that.
Speaking of résumés…If you haven’t updated yours in a while – or it’s in an outdated font – we’ve got some tips. Think of your resume as a living marketing document, something carefully curated to highlight who you are, what you’ve accomplished and what you have to offer. It should NOT be a simple transcript listing out your education, jobs and a laundry list of associated tasks. It’s a good idea to build your framework and adapt different versions for different industries and positions. Hiring managers want to see how you would be a good fit for them and your resume may be your only opportunity to strut your stuff.
There are also things you can do now that will help you get hired later. Take this time to brush up on or learn new skills. Coursera and Khan Academy have a bevy of courses you can take for FREE covering topics from computer science to business & entrepreneurship to data analytics and so much more! Attain certifications on Microsoft IT, with specific role- and technology-based programs, and LinkedIn Learning, with learning paths aligned with business, creative and technology skillsets. Regardless of industry, every employer will be looking for candidates who can adapt to a variety of situations on the fly and remain agile.
But how do you even figure out who’s hiring in the first place? Sometimes, it comes down to who you know. Start networking and building those virtual connections. Attend workshops and conferences online (check out Grow with Google OnAir, Eventbrite, and Inc.com). Take stock of who you are already connected with on LinkedIn and Facebook and set up a virtual coffee break as a sort of informational interview. You’ll line up conversations with people in desirable fields or companies and gather information from them to get a better understanding of the landscape. Be specific of your ask of them, including time commitment and what you are wanting to accomplish. Be sure to have a short paragraph prepared in advance that engenders a connection, displays commonalities and gives them a glimpse into who you are. Take the time to email introduce yourself to your industry specialized or local staffing firms. They all have job listings. Check out our listings here. And don’t forget those job boards! CareerBuilder, LinkedIn and Glassdoor are an excellent place to start.
Whether you are working or not, these are all things everyone can be doing. You may not think your industry has been (or is going to be) directly affected by this pandemic, but everything is connected and things could change in a moment’s notice. Be sure you are aware of what’s going on, stay on top of industry news and trends, and take steps now to ensure you are ready to pivot into what’s next.
Posted by Nicolette Salazar
What You Do Now Matters
With the government stimulus and extra unemployment payments, are you making more money on unemployment than you did when you were gainfully employed? If that has happened to you, then without a doubt, it has probably been a great relief. Millions of Americans have recently found themselves in a similar situation. However, what happens when the unemployment relief is terminated? Although it might appear to be a good idea to accept the money and prolong your return to the workforce, there are some important things to consider as we move out of crisis and into recovery:
There Is an Expiration Date
While right now you may be bringing home more than what you used to make, it’s very important to recognize that these benefits have a shelf life. As early as July 31st, the additional benefits offered under the CARES Act could start to drop off. Now is the time to think ahead.
If you typically bring home $15-$18/hr, but with unemployment and COVID relief you are bringing home $24/hr, please do not turn down a job because it pays less than your current combined unemployment benefits. It is extremely unlikely that you will find a job comparable to your previous position that pays more than the market rate. Even though it may be less than you’re making by drawing unemployment, it is wise to get back into the workforce as quickly as possible. Think of the long-term impact of turning down an offer that will get you back in the workforce now compared to not being able to find work at all for another 6 months to a 1 year or more.
One of our candidates yesterday expressed what has become a very common sentiment: “This unemployment is awesome! I get to just sit back and let the money come in.” But in the next breath he added, “I know it’s not going to last, though. I’ve really gotta get to work soon because I’ll be hurting when this ends otherwise.”
The Competition Will Be Stiff Later On
Now that many business have begun to open back up, they are looking for people to join their teams and help get them open back up now. If you’ve been actively applying to jobs, then this is great news for you because many people have been slow playing looking for a job and you will have access to more opportunities. This will flip overnight when the extra stimulus money is stopped, which right now is July 31st.
Businesses are requesting interviews now, and if you disregard a legitimate opportunity, without a doubt there will be more competition, millions more, once the stimulus payments are stopped. You need to be ahead of the curve on this one.
Recovery Does Not Equal Growth
Businesses big and small have been hit hard by the pandemic, and many have had to not only lay off workers but have had to make the hard decision to close their doors permanently. It will be harder to find a job if you wait it out, and there will be fewer available jobs overall. We are going to see a shift from what has been called a candidate’s market -- where there were lots of jobs and candidates could be really choosy – to an employer’s market, where the employer will be taking the lead.
What does this mean for you? Think supply and demand economics: When the supply (qualified candidates) far exceeds the demand (jobs available), candidates must become more savvy about looking for a job, interviewing techniques, and networking.
First Impressions Matter
If you have been contacted by a recruiter or hiring manager regarding a job (or subsequent interview and offer), please keep in mind that transparency is very important. If you are not interested in a job – or going back to work right now – let them know. Consider replying with, “I am happy to interview and would love to be considered, but I am not available to start work until August 1st.” This is so much better than demonstrating a total lack of interest and respect for their time, particularly if you are already far enough along in the process to be asked for an interview or even an offer. If you have let it go that far, the onus is 100% on you to communicate your intentions – don’t just not show up to your interview or quit responding to calls/texts/emails. This behavior certainly will make an impression, but not the kind you want to be remembered for.
In short, if you have been at home, it’s time to get back to the job search. Companies need employees and are proactively making returning to work as easy as possible with remote work options. Click to view all our open jobs.
Posted by Nicolette Salazar
New to working as a contractor?
So, you have been contacted by a recruiter over the phone with a staffing agency you perhaps never heard of or you replied to a random email in your inbox, went on an video interview, and suddenly find yourself with a job offer. Congratulations!
Your talents, skills, and sparkling personality all added up to make YOU who the staffing agency’s client selected. But were you fully engaged in everything that was coming at you during what may have seemed like a whirlwind process? Do you know whether the job you have just accepted is a full-time offer directly with the company you interviewed with, or if it’s a contract (i.e. temporary) assignment at the company through a staffing agency?
Either way, welcome to the wonderful world of staffing! For many of you, this may be uncharted territory. Not to worry, we are here as your guide and here are some tips to help you navigate:
Ask questions. While staffing is old hat to your recruiter, it may be completely new to you. The first thing you’ll want to confirm is whether this is a full-time (direct hire) position. If so, your onboarding will be done directly with the company you interviewed with and NOT through the staffing agency who recruited you.
If it’s a contract (or temporary) position, then the staffing agency will be your “employer of record.” They are the ones who are responsible for paying you, providing benefits, and managing your contract while working for their client. In this case, be sure to understand the following:
- Length of the assignment/contract (Could it convert to full-time? Is there a set end-date?)
- Rate of pay and frequency of payroll (When and how do you enter your time? Are you paid every week?)
- Benefits (What does the healthcare package look like? Are you eligible to accrue vacation or sick time?)
- Point of contact (both at the staffing agency and at the company site)
Prepare your documents. While not necessarily any more or less than most companies require nowadays, your staffing agency’s onboarding paperwork can require some legwork on your part. Below are some items you’ll want to have handy for this process:
- Documents for the I-9 (i.e. passport, driver’s license, social security card, etc.)
- Bank account information for direct deposit
- Previous employment information (be sure the dates you provide are accurate, as they will be verified with your previous employer. If your dates are off, that can raise red flags and prevent the process from moving forward.)
- Former residences (this information is used by 3rd party verification services to run a background check at a county, state and federal level)
- Certified copy of your highest level of education completed (i.e. high school diploma, college degree or transcripts). It’s good to have this in the event there are any issues verifying your education with the institution itself.
Be proactive. The onboarding process can be intense, but being prepared with everything you’ll need to complete the paperwork will be a huge help! Be sure to return your paperwork within 24 hours of receiving it, because the process cannot get started until you do. If you haven’t received your paperwork within a day or so of receiving the offer, be sure to follow-up with your recruiter or recruiting coordinator. Stay on top of things the whole way: go to your drug screen at the scheduled date/time; check in on your background check status; provide any additional paperwork requested as soon as possible; and confirm your reporting instructions and start date. If you take these steps, it is quite common to complete all onboarding steps within a week.
Be in the know. You probably received an employee handbook or company policy manual as a part of your onboarding. Did you read it? There is some good information in there and you’ll want to be sure you understand it; things like, employment policies, expectations, and best practices. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with what’s in here, and use it as a reference for when you have questions.
Stay in contact with your recruiter. As with any relationship, it is important to cultivate open communication. Remember, your recruiter is your champion. Let them know how you are doing, if you’re going to have to miss work or are running late, any new and interesting projects you may be working on, any challenges you may be facing, etc. Recruiters spend a HUGE amount of their day on the phone, so if you aren’t able to reach them that way, shoot them a quick email – they do want to hear from you!
Build your brand. You are your own best marketing department. Think about the things you love about the companies or personalities you follow socially. Are they trustworthy? Are they positive? Do they remain relevant/on-trend? Do they stay engaged? Do they engender a connection that keeps you coming back? Show that you are all of these things – both to your staffing agency and their client -- during your assignment, and you’ll be the one your recruiter calls when that next opportunity comes in.
ICON is here to partner with you on your career path, and we’d love to connect. View our current opportunities HERE.
Posted by Nicolette Salazar
Job Interviews during COVID-19
During COVID-19 and post-COVID, many companies are switching to phone interviews and video interviews. Both come with their own challenges. We will address each one separately.
Tried and True Phone Interview
For a phone interview, make sure you are in a quiet location where there will not be noise, music or a barking dog in the background. Unexpected noise is the number one irritant for all phone interviewers. If you have a dog, know that they tend to bark at the worst possible moment. They are quiet all day but the minute you start to talk on the phone, they start to bark. Therefore, make sure that you are far away from your dog. Go into another room. Trust us, they bark.
Next, check the bars on your phone and the level of your connection. If you know that you have bad reception in your home, then conduct the interview someplace where you know that you will not be fading in and out. Not being able to hear the candidate is also very irritating as an interviewer and causes interviews to be cancelled all the time.
Finally, speaking of "hearing," the person on the other end of the phone cannot see you and therefore, cannot see any verbal clues such as nodding in agreement or shaking your head "yes" or "no". You must speak up and give positive active listening signals. “Yes," “Right,” “I hear you," “I agree." All of these audible responses let the other party know that you are still on the line and engaged.
Be peppy and upbeat. It is hard on a phone but smiling and standing up helps you convey energy in your voice.
Video Interviews – The New Age of Interviewing
For video interviews, practice, practice, practice. Work with a friend to mock interview and prepare via FaceTime or on an online site. A video interview is the same as a face-to-face interview, you need to practice to look and feel comfortable. Please don’t have a video interview without practicing first.
If you can, find out the system in which the interview will be conducted. Some systems have tips on how to prepare for the interview. Things to check in advance are:
- Ensure your microphone and camera on your computer or phone work.
- Check the lighting. How do you look? Do you have shadows under your eyes? Make sure you have adequate lighting.
- Clean up and clear out the background in the picture. When people are interviewing you, they are also looking at your surroundings. Make sure that it is neutral and clean. Remove any distractions – photos, pets, etc.
Video and phone interviews are here to stay. Do some research on it; prepare just as you would for a normal interview, and you will ace it.
Interview Tips to Get the Job Offer
Dear job applicant, Congratulations! You have made it past round one!
You have landed that all-important interview where you can showcase your skills in a face-to-face setting (or at least a phone discussion). Below are some tips for highlighting your skillsets and interest in the role, as well as some basic interview etiquette.
Reconfirm the interview the day before (or the Friday before if your interview is on a Monday).
It never hurts to send your interviewer or recruiter a quick note confirming the interview date and time and that you will indeed be available. This simple step highlights your enthusiasm for the role (you took time in advance, even if just a few minutes, to re-confirm). This quick, short note also demonstrates your respect for the interviewer’s schedule.
Arrive 15 minutes early.
""If you're early, you're on time.. if you're on time, you're late...." -Lombardi."
It goes without saying that you should be on time to your interview and this means a little early. Consider arriving 15 minutes early. You can let the receptionist know you are early and that you are happy to wait until the confirmed interview time. This shows that you are punctual and excited about the role and gives you a minute to review the job again, as well as your notes, in the waiting area where you will get a picture of the interactions in their office environment.
Do not “ghost” your interviewer.
If another job opportunity comes your way that you decide to accept, let the interviewer or recruiter know that you are canceling your interview. Their time is valuable too. You never know whom you will run into again in your professional career. With modern computer databases, companies have developed very accurate long-term memories. Everything is recorded and many companies are banning interviewees that fail to show up from interviewing for any future positions. The interviewer you ignored and never returned the text/email/phone call could be the person influencing whether you receive a job offer, or even your boss, later down the road.
Take some time in advance of the interview to go through practice interview questions. Look up the company again (you should have looked up the company when writing your tailored cover letter). Re-read the job description. Jot down questions you have about the organization, the role, and performance expectations. You do not want to end an interview without asking at least a few key questions.
Ask for a business card.
Interviews can be overwhelming. You want to put your best foot forward and you may be nervous. One simple step you do not want to forget is to ask for your interviewer’s business card. This will give you the interviewer’s contact information for follow-ups, including sending that all important thank you note.
Say thank you.
Post-interview, send your interviewer a thank you email. If you don't have their contact details, ask for a business card during the interview. It shows that you are a professional. Express again your interest in the role and why you are the perfect candidate.
An interview gives you the chance to reiterate what you stated in your resume and expand upon items that make you a qualified candidate outside of what you included on paper. Confirming your interview ahead of time, arriving early, being prepared, and following up are all simple ways of showing your interest in the organization and role.
Feeling Bored? Time to Head Back to Work
AARP recently polled respondents age 45 and over. Thirteen percent of participants stated they are retired but are seeking work. Common reasons for seeking work include securing finances, saving more for retirement, or having a sense of purpose. Those reasons make sense considering the average monthly Social Security payment is $1,420, which does not spread too far.
Why Return to Work?
More than ever, having a sense of purpose is coming from our work. Work is a big part of a person’s life and that does not end with retirement. Many "failed retirees" go back to work part-time or change careers completely. A Rand Corp. survey of retirees confirmed that 82 percent never thought of their retirement as a permanent situation. It can be good to take some time off, rejuvenate, and then find a position that is bettered suited to one’s current circumstances. With the average life span for those who reach age 64 now stretching all the way to 84 years old, there are still many potential years of work available. Besides extra income and a sense of purpose, other reasons to return to work include:
Mentoring – The pressure of moving up the corporate ladder is over. Now is a great chance for you to pass along your expertise to another up and comer.
An Opportunity to Pursue a Passion – Perhaps you want a change. Maybe you want to learn a new skillset, trade or even industry. Internships or entry-level jobs are a fantastic way to “get your feet wet” in another field and pursue a career passion you always had.
Staying Busy – Maybe you found that retirement is not for you after all. Perhaps you miss the interaction you have when other professionals surround you. Even a part-time role can give you the satisfaction of working with other career-minded individuals while giving you more free time than if you were a full-time employee.
So, How to Re-enter the Workforce?
ICON has opportunities across the United States and Canada spanning all major industries and in all major job categories, and then some. We serve all major metropolitan areas as well as more remote locations. And we offer virtual work opportunities allowing you to work from your home while contributing to the success of our clients.
Some of our top placements are in:
- Information Technology
- Accounting & Finance
- Human Resources
Retirees have the advantage of not needing to focus on the earnings potential of the job, so these second career individuals have the flexibility to pursue work that interests them. And since they are voluntarily putting their skills and experience to good use, they usually have more autonomy and flexibility and can handle office issues with greater skill.
For a list of our open positions, click here. We would love to help you jump back into the workforce!
6 Surefire Ways to Resign with Grace
In times of stress, sometimes it seems like the only way to handle an issue is to quit work immediately and focus on the overwhelming issue at hand, whether that is a sick spouse, death of a loved one, natural disaster, etc. However, there’s a great deal to consider before hastily quitting your current job. Even if you’d love to give your boss a piece of your mind, it’s important to leave your job on a positive, professional note. Here’s how to do it:
Give Written and Verbal Notice
Once you know you’re leaving, speak with your direct supervisor to inform him or her of your decision. If you need to leave quickly, let them know the circumstances and offer to help in any way that you can. It’s also a good practice to formalize your resignation by giving your boss a resignation letter. The letter should be short, polite and factual, no need to vent in a resignation letter. Without a doubt, tell your boss before you tell anyone else! Although two weeks is standard, it’s a nice gesture to offer more time if you are able. If you have to leave within a day or two, offer to help transition outside of working hours or offer to accept phone calls from the person taking over from you.
Don’t Burn Down the House
Unless you’re leaving the country or have become independently wealthy, there’s a good chance that you’re going to have a long work life ahead of you where you will cross paths with many of the same people over and over again. So, no matter how happy you are about your new job, you must do all you can to leave on good terms. There is a good chance you’ll need your current supervisor or other company official as a reference. People will more readily help you if you keep it professional at the end. Professional means giving notice, not speaking ill of anyone, offering to help train other people and generally being concerned about transitioning your work.
Let Co-Workers and Customers Know
Once you’ve told your supervisor and received approval to announce your departure, you should inform your co-workers and if appropriate any customers or outside parties that you work with, along with who will be taking over for you. It’s appropriate to send a mass farewell email—one specific to clients (if allowable) and one for co-workers—letting them know where you’ll be moving on to and your relevant contact information. This is a great way to show that even though you’re leaving, you’re not severing ties.
Clean Things Up
Time to clean up and clear out. No one likes to have to go through someone else’s folders and try to figure out what is important. It’s your responsibility to not leave any loose ends (or, if it can’t be wrapped up during your notice period, leave detailed instructions). No matter what projects you happen to be working on, be sure you finish them. Nothing shows professionalism like a person that finishes jobs before they leave.
Offer to Train Your Replacement
Offer to help find your replacement by screening resumes, sitting in on interviews, working with the new employee, or creating a manual for your job. This will go a long way toward softening the impact, particularly if you are asking for a short notice period.
Even if you are not asked directly for your feedback on the company, ask your supervisor for a chance to provide your personal perspective on the company. Use the time to thank him or her for the things that you have learned and offer tips for the next person that will be doing your job. You can offer constructive criticism about the company, but avoid blasting anyone. It might feel good, but it can only hurt things in the long run. At the same time, thank your coworkers and former manager. Send an email to your teammates and manager thanking them for the time you had together and how you are thankful for your experiences. Try to think of something unique about the co-worker and manager. This costs nothing for you to do and will help you leave on a good note. End your email with an offer to help your former co-workers and a way for them to reach you.
Staying professional will show that you took your job seriously and that you’re grateful for the experience.
Networking, Not Just for Salespeople
The benefits of networking are vast. Whether you are an entrepreneur and part of a neighborhood small business owners group, or an IT professional who is part of a more formal society, networking is an activity you should not ignore. It can be as simple as attending a monthly meeting or more in depth such as sitting on the board of the professional organization. No matter how much time you invest, even a few hours a month can enhance your career. Below are some common, and maybe not so obvious, reasons you should start networking today.
It adds something of value to your resume. Listing your professional networking groups is a great addition to your resume. It shows you take your career seriously and are always looking for ways to expand you knowledge base.
It provides you with a network of professionals to discuss ideas. Before making that presentation to your manager or submitting your resume for a role, having a network of professionals in your field of expertise allows you to solicit feedback on ideas, presentations, your resume, and allows you an opportunity to practice interview questions and responses. Consider your network as a critical resource as you go through your career.
It is a great way to find out about open positions. Perhaps you found a role on a job board of interest to you. Consider that it is very possible an employee of that organization is also a member of your networking group. Or a member of your networking group mentions an open role within their organization. Whom you know is often the primary way that people find new jobs.
It can be a very fulfilling past time outside of your normal working hours. Being part of a networking group does not have to take a lot of time. Maybe you meet once a month. Knowing that you are pursuing your career goals and making the decision to expand your expertise can be a very rewarding feeling.
It can help you improve your overall career skills. Perhaps your career goal is to become a Director of IT or the VP of Sales. Being part of a networking group can help you improve your leadership and even public speaking skills, among other things. It can allow you to take the reins on coordinating a meeting or even becoming an officer of the networking group’s leadership team. Being an active member of a networking group can enhance skills that will make you a better, more well-rounded, employee.
So talk to coworkers in your department or do an Internet search to find a networking group in your field. It will boost your resume, give you a group of people to bounce ideas off of, help in your job search, improve your overall career skillsets, and give you a sense of confidence and satisfaction that you are taking the extra step to improve yourself professionally.
Don't Miss These Important Interview Tips
Interviewing tips are all over the internet. We have consolidated them all into one place. Have a read through the top tips on how to crush your interview.
Re-confirm the interview the day before (or the Friday before if your interview is on a Monday). It never hurts to send your interviewer or recruiter a quick note confirming the interview date and time and that you will indeed be available. This simple step highlights your enthusiasm for the role (you took time in advance, even if just a few minutes, to re-confirm) and your respect for the interviewer’s schedule.
Arrive 15 minutes early. It goes without saying that you should be on time to your interview and this means a little early. Consider arriving 15 minutes early. You can let the receptionist know you are early and that you are happy to wait until the confirmed interview time. This shows that you are punctual and excited about the role and gives you a minute to review the waiting area and the interactions in their office environment.
Do not “ghost” your interviewer. If another job opportunity comes your way that you decide to accept, let the interviewer or recruiter know that you are canceling your interview. Their time is valuable too. You never know whom you will run into again in your professional career. The interviewer you ignored and never returned the text/email/phone call could be the person influencing whether you receive a job offer or even your boss later down the road. With modern computer databases, companies have developed very accurate long-term memories. Everything is recorded and many companies are banning interviewees that fail to show up from interviewing for any future positions.
Be prepared. Take some time in advance of the interview to go through practice interview questions. Look up the company again (you should have looked up the company when writing your tailored cover letter). Re-read the job description. Jot down questions you have about the organization, the role and performance expectations. You do not want to end an interview without asking at least a few key questions.
Ask for a business card. Interviews can be overwhelming. You want to put your best foot forward and you may be nervous. One simple step you do not want to forget is to ask for your interviewer’s business card. This will give you the interviewer’s contact information for follow-ups, including sending that all important thank you note.
Say thank you. Post-interview, send your interviewer a thank you email. If you don't have their contact details, ask for a business card during the interview. It shows that you are a professional. Express again your interest in the role and why you are the perfect candidate.
An interview gives you the chance to reiterate what you stated in your resume and expand upon items that make you a qualified candidate outside of what you included on paper. Confirming your interview ahead of time, arriving early, being prepared and following up are all simple ways of showing your interest in the organization and role.
Maybe You Shouldn't Retire
Are you retired but thinking of rejoining the workforce? ICON is just the company for you. Whether you are looking for a part-time or full-time role, to work in your field of expertise or move into something else, or want something flexible to fill part of your day and supplement your income, we can help you find what you need.
Why rejoin the workforce after retirement?
- Mentoring – The pressure of moving up the corporate ladder is over. Now is a great chance for you to pass along your expertise to another up and comer.
- An Opportunity to Pursue a Passion – Perhaps you want a change. Maybe you want to learn a new skillset, trade or even industry. Internships or entry level jobs are a fantastic way to “get your feet wet” in another field and pursue a career passion you always had.
- Extra Income – Of course, going back to work means extra income. If you have already planned and saved for retirement, perhaps this could be your travel funds or your dream second home money. Or this could be the money you live off of, not yet dipping into your retirement savings.
- Staying Busy – Maybe you found that retirement is not for you after all. Perhaps you miss the interaction you have when other professionals surround you. Even a part-time role can give you the satisfaction of working with other career-minded individuals while giving you more free time than if you were a full-time employee.
ICON has opportunities across the United States and Canada spanning all major industries and in all major job categories, and then some. We serve all major metropolitan areas as well as more remote locations. And we offer virtual work opportunities allowing you to work from your home while contributing to the success of our clients.
Some of our top placements are in:
- Information Technology
- Accounting & Finance
- Human Resources
As an ICON employee, you will receive a robust benefits package, competitive pay, and support from our team who will help you step-by-step through your assignment. You receive one dedicated Recruiter and one dedicated Consultant Care Specialist the entire time you work with ICON. Your dedicated resources will build a relationship with you so they understand what you need to be satisfied in your role.
For a list of our open positions, click here. We would love to help you jump back into the workforce!
Cross Training...Not Just for the Gym
On this Motivational Monday, consider talking to your manager about the benefits of professional cross training. It shows your interest in developing yourself professionally and your dedication to helping your organization. If you are not sure how to start the discussion, below are some benefits of cross training you can discuss with your supervisor.
- Cross training supports employee growth, allowing employees to learn new skills while helping an organization prepare for situations where other employees may need to step in to help with workloads. Additionally, cross training can give employees a break from the minutia of their day-to-day responsibilities and allow them space, even if for an hour or two, to focus on a new skill and recharge their battery.
- Cross training allows employees to gain a better understanding of how the company functions as a whole, leading to synergies among departments and a stronger team mentality. It is not uncommon for departments within companies to form silos and not understand what other business functions go through, where they excel, and how they may need help. Cross training allows for a fresh set of eyes to examine cross departmental tasks which can result in discussions of how processes and procedures can be improved for greater operational efficiencies.
- Cross training allows employees to get to know one another and to build those professional bonds that result in a true team mentality. It allows employees to feel like a part of the organization as a whole, not just a member of a specific department.
- Finally, do not forget, cross training can help within a specific department. It allows employees to take skills learned during the cross training program back to their current role. Perhaps a finance guru can show you something new in Excel that you can take back to your department to make an improvement to a manual process. Or perhaps an IT professional can give you a system tip that will make you and your colleagues’ jobs easier.
Cross training does not have to take days or weeks. Even an hour or two sitting down and learning just a few things can help you develop yourself professionally all the while helping your company be the best. So schedule that meeting with your manager today to discuss your interest in cross training and learning something new!
Posted by: Karen House
Yoga for the Mind
With so much focus in today’s society on physical wellness, ICON would like to promote yoga stretching for your mind.
Have you wanted to improve your Excel skills or overcome your fear of public speaking? Have you always wanted to write a novel? Many times we focus our attention on improving our skillsets that are directly related to our job and do not think about those indirect skills that can ultimately make us stronger, more well-rounded employees. So today, we here at ICON recommend stretching yourself.
The good news is that you do not have to spend a lot of money to pursue your interests. Groupon has discounts for online courses daily. Regularly, there are Microsoft Office courses, accounting courses, and so on. You can also contact your local community colleges and review their online or campus-based classes. Another great resource is a local library. Many libraries have electronic catalogues where books with information, tips and tricks can be borrowed electronically for several weeks. Of course, if you would like to spend a bit more money, you can attend a professional seminar.
You might be asking yourself, how will a creative writing course help my career? Strong writing skills can set you apart, from business proposals to marketing initiatives. You will be surprised how many co-workers will turn to you for help when they realize that you have amazing writing skills.
Perhaps you do not currently use Excel in your job, but you want to move up and Excel prowess is important for the managerial role. By studying outside of work hours, you will be one-step ahead in securing that promotion.
Finally, being able to stand up in front of a crowd and provide an engaging talk on any topic is an incredible skill and one that will get you noticed. So take that public speaking class and set yourself up for leadership success.
Don’t wait, create a plan and start that novel, enroll in that Excel class or public speaking course. Take the time to pursue an interest, even if it does not seem related to your current position. At the end of the day, it will make you happier, feel accomplished that you followed through on a goal, and will make you a more skilled applicant or employee.
Posted by: Karen House
How to Write a Great Cover Letter
We have discussed a number of topics in our Motivation Monday series, from resume tips and tricks to the importance of networking. Today we focus on the all-important cover letter. With some time and critical thinking, anyone can stand apart from a sea of applicants.
While you may have a general template to start with for your cover letter, it is not a one size fits all document. You need to customize your cover letter, tailoring it to the role for which you are applying.
To begin, thoroughly review the job posting. Notice what key words or recurring themes stand out. Sometimes a posting will reiterate the same skillset in different ways. For example, a posting may not specifically state, “requires customer service experience.” However, there may phrases such as “must have excellent interpersonal skills” or “must be a problem solver.” Identify those key words and themes. Also, pay attention to any specific skills or experiences the company requires, such as particular technology systems. Look for what may not be obvious at first glance, all the while, keeping in mind what is explicitly stated.
Next, think about what experience or skills you have that address what you took away from the job description. What specific examples of utilizing those skills can you think of? In our customer service example, an experience where you went the extra mile to help a customer might be a good picture to paint in your cover letter. Tell that story. Remember, this is a way to showcase something that is not already stated in your resume. It can also allow you to emphasize a specific skill that is listed on your resume by highlighting an interesting example.
Also, take some time to research the company and drawing one or at most two connections. Are you familiar with the industry? Maybe you have indirect experience with the company or industry. Think outside of the box. You want to express your excitement for what the company does. It can help to look at past press releases, the executives’ profiles, and everything on the company’s website.
Finally, think about the reader. Think about how to keep your cover letter engaging. Ask other professionals, friends, or family to read the letter and provide honest feedback. Also, do not forget about grammar and punctuation. Spellcheck is amazing, but it is not 100%; read your cover letter and check for grammar and punctuation. Then set it aside and come back to it again with a fresh set of eyes.
Your cover letter is a chance to show who you are as a professional. It is a chance for you to be creative and engaging. Remember, look carefully at the job description, identify recurring themes or keywords, do your research, and ask for honest feedback before sending it.
Posted by: Karen House
Let Others Sing Your Praises - Using References to Win Jobs
When is the last time you reviewed your professional references list? When it comes time for that all important reference check by a potential employer, it is wise to use relevant, professional references. This is your chance to confirm your skillset with examples from those you have worked with, whether at a job or in a professional manner outside of work.
USE PROFESSIONAL REFERENCES
Personal references are okay if the application or hiring manager asks specifically for a personal reference in addition to professional references. Otherwise, you come across as a stronger candidate if you use credible people who can speak to your skillsets, your work style and ethic, and/or your leadership abilities. A former manager is preferable, but you can also consider colleagues, especially if you worked in a team setting or on a project together. They can speak to your ability to work within a team environment.
MATCH YOUR REFERENCES WITH THE ROLE
It is important that your references can speak to the skillsets you have that pertain to the role for which you are applying. The more on point your reference is with providing information that will prove valuable in your new role, the stronger a proponent of you they are able to be. If you are a recent college graduate, consider professors or those who can discuss how you helped an organization through an internship.
THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
Besides your standard work relationships, if you are a part of a professional organization, you might also consider asking the president or a fellow member to serve as a reference. They can discuss your motivational drive, as well as your thirst for continuing education in your field, and how you give back to your professional community.
Have your references lined up ahead of time. When it comes time to submit them to your prospective employer, make sure to call your references again. Let them know whom they can expect to receive a call from and for what role you are applying. Also, let them know if they need to highlight specifically any of your skills. It is the professional way to approach references and gives them a chance to think about your value add to a new team and organization.
In summary, references provide support to what you state on your resume. Choosing appropriate, professional references who can speak to your abilities relevant to the role for which you are applying can make you stand out amongst the final list of candidates. So take a look at your reference list today. Even if you are not actively looking for a new opportunity, it never hurts to be prepared. You never know when an ICON recruiter might have the perfect role to help you advance your career!
Posted by Karen House
As a professional, you most likely have ideas on a regular basis of how to improve your job or your company, from process improvement initiatives to increasing employee engagement and retention. While thinking about ideas is wonderful, the ideas can only come to fruition if you speak up and engage other people.
Many people are terrified of public speaking, but we do not necessarily mean speak up in the sense that you need to make a presentation to your entire organization or start a campaign. For now, we simply mean discuss your ideas with your manager or the appropriate leader within your company. Do not allow fear to stop you from sharing something that could make a huge impact to your department and company.
We have mentioned confidence in several of our Motivational Monday articles and this is another example of how you can boost your professional profile and self-esteem. Not only are you adding value to your company, but you will also walk away proud of the fact that you shared an idea or concern with your company’s leadership. You took the leap.
Regardless of whether or not your idea actually pans out, voicing your ideas shows your dedication to your company and your career, and your critical thinking and creative abilities. It can also be the kernel of an initiative that drives long term value for the company. When everyone shares their ideas on how to improve their organization, nothing but good things can come from it.
So today, we urge you to Speak Up. Talk to your leaders about your ideas. We promise you will not regret it.
Posted by Karen House
Professional Certification - Is it worth the effort?
Whether you are a Project Manager, Information Technology guru, or Human Resources professional, most career fields offer professional certifications through professional organizations or specific certifying agencies.
Holding a professional certification shows that you are well-rounded, interested in your field, and have knowledge that has not been gained through on-the-job training. It also shows ambition and drive. Once you obtain your certification, most programs require a minimum number of continuing education hours to re-certify upon expiration. Your certification shows your dedication to your field and to continued education.
So where do you begin? Start with your current resources. Talk to your manager, colleagues, and professional contacts. Ask them for recommendations about what certifications to pursue. Talk to your Human Resources department. Ask them what certifications are required or recommended to advance in your role. Join a professional organization to expand your network. Attend a networking event and talk to other professionals in your field. Lastly, just pay attention. What credentials do you see referenced in other professionals’ titles? This can provide insight into the certifications most appropriate for your field of expertise.
Once you decide on a certification to pursue, you need to decide whether self-study or a preparation course is most appropriate for you. Again, this is where talking to professionals in your field can help you make the best choice.
A professional certification cannot replace experience, but most certification programs require a minimum amount of experience to qualify to take the test. Your certification can enhance your resume, highlighting your dedication to your field. It is also a confidence boost. Imagine receiving that passing score and putting those credentials in your signature line.
So take the leap today. Start talking to people. Do some Internet research. Sign up for that prep course or schedule the exam. Today, make a commitment to set yourself up for professional success!
Posted by: Karen House
Mapping Your Career Strategy
LinkedIn and Facebook have become popular sites for recruiters to source talent. You have probably received at least a message or two from a recruiter about an open role or a request to connect. Particularly on LinkedIn, recruiters find you because of the information that you place in your career history section. Think of LinkedIn as a place for your mini resume. Many times LinkedIn members, especially those not actively searching for a role, ignore the messages or decline the connection requests. ICON recommends that you consider accepting the connection request or sending a note back to the recruiter to bolster your long-term job search strategy. Here are a couple of reasons why:
Networking: Accepting the request or engaging in a brief conversation with the recruiter is a good chance for you as a professional to network. Recruiters that contact you very likely specialize in your field of work and are a wealth of knowledge as it pertains to industry hiring trends, benefits trends, and much more. If you have an industry question, they can be an excellent resource for you. Whether you are looking for your next opportunity or just curious about what the market looks like; generally, a recruiter can tell you what is going on. Ask them questions on the market, competitors, trends, anything that you want to know about.
Industry Information: On a very similar note, the companies that the recruiters are linked to often offer valuable information through blog posts and articles that are relevant to your field. Recruiters are usually the first to repost their organization’s informational pieces and it is a no-cost, easy way for you to educate yourself about your field of interest, job hunting, and other career advice.
Relationship Building: Lastly, when the time comes for your next career opportunity, you already have a relationship with someone who can help. Starting a job search is easier when you already have an established network of contacts. It can boost your motivation and self-esteem to know that you have a place to start the search process. And you never know; you may see a role that you are interested in and low and behold, you are already connected to that position’s recruiter.
So next time you receive an invitation to connect from a recruiter on LinkedIn, or elsewhere, consider giving the individual a moment of your time. They can be a valuable resource for your long-term job hunting strategy and a sounding board when you start your search for your next role.
Posted by: Karen House
CONTINUING EDUCATION PAYS OFF
No matter what field you work in, your area of expertise should be ever evolving and strengthening. Whether you are in human resources with constantly changing employment laws or in IT where technology is advancing at a rapid pace, continuing education is key to career advancement. Top performers and leaders know the importance of continuing education to develop their knowledge base. So where do you start?
Almost every field has at least one professional organization. They are great resources for finding continuing education opportunities. Professional organizations have everything from networking events where you can talk to other professionals about industry challenges and trends to formal seminars focusing on a topic affecting your industry.
Another great place is through local community colleges and universities. If you want to brush up on your accounting skills, consider taking a course through your local college. Universities also offer many online courses so you may also consider taking a course remotely.
No matter which direction you go to boost your knowledge base, taking the initiative shows dedication and drive to your employer. So on this Monday; give some thought to what continuing education opportunities might most benefit you in your career.
Posted by: Karen House
THREE WAYS TO REFRESH YOUR RESUME
If you are searching for your next role, you will want to have an up-to-date version of your resume. There are also many other reasons to keep a current version on your computer or phone. Whether a role within your organization becomes available or your marketing department requests a copy of your resume to include with business proposals, you want to have it ready to pass along.
When refreshing your resume, try to keep it to one page. Now is the perfect time to look at the newer styles of resumes. Many new templates have moved away from Times New Roman as the standard font, are more visually appealing, and include a self-assessment section. Present the information in as succinct a way as possible. You do not want the reader to feel as if they are reviewing a novel. Put yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you want to know quickly whether this person has the education, experience, and/or skillset you are looking for?
Second, check your grammar. When you receive a new role, your first instinct is probably to add a new section on your resume summarizing the position. However, you want to ensure you change the verb tense of the details of your past role to past tense. For example, after leaving Company A, you will want to change “develop software” to “developed software”. Showing that you took the time to review your resume details says a lot about you before you even walk in the door.
Finally, reviewing your resume is a great time to reflect on your professional achievements. Do not just list your job duties. Quantify what you did to help your company. Did you bring in new clients? Did you implement a program that increased employee retention? If so, quantify how much with either a percentage or dollar value. This is your first chance to tell the reader how you were an asset to your company.
In addition, thinking about your accomplishments can be a serious morale booster. When you start reflecting upon all that you have achieved, you will most certainly notice a boost in your professional self-esteem. It can be especially powerful to see your biggest accomplishments outlined on a computer screen or piece of paper.
In summary, take a few minutes this week to look at your resume. Make sure it is current and provides readers with the most useful information in the most concise way possible, check your grammar and punctuation details, and, most of all, enjoy the boost in esteem from thinking about all you have accomplished in your professional career. Then, click here to start applying to the job of your dreams.
Posted by: Karen House
YIKES! DID I REALLY USE THAT PHOTO?
When is the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile picture? If it is more than three years old, it is time for an update. What picture are you using? If it is noticeable a photo of you with friends, a selfie, or on vacation, it is time to freshen up that look and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Department and big box stores often have a photography studio offering inexpensive photo packages where you can have a professional headshot taken. You might also reach out to a university that offers photography classes or maybe you have a friend that is a stellar photographer. Professional photos do not have to break the bank.
After you choose your photographer, think of your clothing. The good news is that you do not need a full suit. Since it is a headshot, a suit jacket works. You want to look polished and professional because your profile picture indicates how serious of a candidate you are. If you do not have a jacket, you can borrow from a friend, look for store sales, or check out a thrift store.
Of course, you will probably have several pictures to choose from after your photo shoot. Sometimes, the act of cropping a photo makes all the difference. As the images on Linkedin are small, be sure and crop the photo so that it only includes your head and shoulders. If you are not sure of which photograph to choose, ask friends, colleagues, or upload a couple to a website where the public votes on which picture to choose. Yes, there are websites out there that offer this free service. Photofeeler is just one example.
Now that you have taken your photo, chosen a picture, and uploaded it to your LinkedIn profile (or other professional profile), by this one simple step, you have let potential eployers know that you are a viable candidate. A professional photo conveys how important your career is to you. It shows you were thoughtful and took the time to put your best foot forward.
A simple refresh of your LinkedIn profile does not have to be time intensive or expensive and it can make a big difference when potential employers are viewing your profile. On this Motivation Monday, we recommend you make that photography appointment and get ready to secure a great job.
Stay tuned for more tips on how to stand out in the crowd and land the job of your dreams!
Posted by: Karen House
VOLUNTEERING YOUR WAY TO A NEW JOB
When looking for a job, volunteering can boost more than your resume. It is a great conversation starter and don’t be surprised if your interviewer asks about it. It is a positive experience you can discuss. You can even probably answer some of the interview questions with responses about your volunteer work, not just discuss past career roles. This can make you a unique and memorable candidate. We want to stress that community service is not about making yourself look good. It is truly about helping others. But while helping others, you just might find it helps you improve yourself.
You can also boost your specific job skills through volunteer work. If you work in marketing, help your local animal shelter put out social media posts to get some of their furry residents adopted. If you are a top-notch administrative professional, see if you can help a charity with their back office paperwork. If you only want an opportunity to give back, help a local food bank, drive for Meals on Wheels, or help unload donations at the Salvation Army. There are so many opportunities in every community to give back.
Volunteering also gives you the chance to meet other people, to make new friends, and to network. You never know, that co-volunteer might know of the perfect job opening. Leads for new positions often come from people directly outside of your network.
Finally, giving back allows you to step away from the stresses of your everyday life, to put things in perspective, and you might find it helps boost your confidence. So look for an organization in your community, rolls up your sleeves, and get out there and help. The benefits of volunteering are endless!
Posted by: Karen House
AM I WASTING MY TIME?
It wasn’t very long ago that individuals searching for a job flipped through the “Help Wanted” section in the local newspaper or looked at magazines for open roles and then mailed their resume or walked into the company office and personally handed the receptionist their resume. Of course, with the Internet and all it offers, those days have passed. The question now is “Should I use a job board” and if so, “How do I stand out among hundreds of other job applicants.” ICON is here to tell you that yes, job boards work and here a few tips for making yourself the star applicant.
- Research – Once you see a role that you are interested in, start by researching the company. What is the company’s mission statement and core values? Do they align with your career ideals? What are its new interests, products, and what are the company’s competitors doing? You can find great information on the company’s website, including their press release section, through Google news searches, and if a public company, on a stock research site.
- Put your research into action – Take all of your research and include it in your cover letter. It can be tempting, especially with the ease of clicking on a button to submit your resume from your phone, to skip this step. But a thoughtful cover letter can be what makes you stand out. This is your opportunity to shine as a candidate and make the hiring manager know that you are serious about the role and the company. Tie back why you are the perfect fit for the role based upon what you now know about the organization, whether you have worked in a similar industry or a similar entity type, such as a publicly-traded company or a privately-held entity.
- Take a good and hard look at your resume – With hundreds and even thousands of resumes submitted to a role, you want your resume to rise to the top. Make your resume look fresh, easy to read, and with all the information easy to find. Try to choose a modern font and layout. There are many free resume-building tools online. Create a few versions and show them to friends, mentors, and colleagues. Ask them which resume would make them want to know more about you. Oh, and do not forget the basics. Check your grammar and punctuation. Do not only rely on spell check to catch errors. Read your resume aloud slowly. Does everything flow?
- Take an even harder look at your resume – Almost all companies and recruiters use a form of software that searches and ranks all the resumes against the job description. Tailor your resume to the role you are applying for. Look at the key skillsets and language used in the job posting. Are they looking for someone with extensive Microsoft Office experience? If you are in expert in the software, say so and related it to a particular position. Tie back the skillsets you have that align with the skillsets the company is looking for. This means that each job application may require a slightly different resume.
- Network – Do you know someone who works for the organization, perhaps someone in a professional group you are associated with? Perhaps you don’t know someone that works for the organization, but think outside the box. Maybe you know someone who has worked with the hiring manager in the past and can give you some tips on his or her professional style? Don’t forget to talk to friends and even neighbors.
We understand that these steps take time and searching for a new job is a full time job within itself. It is tempting to download your resume to your phone and hit send to every role you see, but if you really want to stand out and get shortlisted to the second phase, then you need to put in the work ahead of time. Showing you took time to understand as much as you could about the company and really thought about whether you would be a good fit for the role can set you apart from everyone else.
Applicants secure jobs that are posted on job boards every day. There wouldn’t be so many boards on the market if they didn’t work. Therefore, be smart and thoughtful about the application process. Take the extra time, write a cover letter and resume geared toward the company and particular role, and network. It can definitely help you land the interview for your dream job!
LOOKING FOR A NEW JOB
Think of the job search as a project and create a plan. Certain steps in the plan will bring you more success than others. As with any project, from remodeling a bathroom to planning a trip around the world, there can be setbacks or unexpected advances. Here are some tips to get you started.
Why you? – Spend time examining what makes you special. Examine your key attributes, qualifications and talents. Look for jobs that match these qualities. As you learn what makes you special, your confidence will show and you will be more likely to secure the job that you want.
- Clean up – Review your resume, Linkedin profile and other social media accounts. Update your information and include a professional photograph. Be sure to smile.
- Promote yourself – Once you know what you want, reach out via social mediaand friends to let people know that you are looking for a new position and the type of position that you would like.
- Search for open positions – Look at staffing firm and job boards for positions. Click here to see ICON’s openings. If there is a talent community, join the community to receive notices about upcoming jobs.
- Network – Once you find jobs that you are interested in, spend time searching for a contact in the company. Linkedin is a great source to help show you possible contacts within your target company. Reach out to the contact and ask to meet or chat for 15 minutes so that you can learn more about the company.
- Don’t forget to say thank you - If a company contact sets up a time to chat with you about the organization, remember to "say" thank you. Following the meeting or phone call, send an email thanking the contact for his/her time, reiterate your interest in the company, and highlight why you are the right fit for the organization. A simple thank you can set you apart from the competition and help get you a formal interview.
- Practice – If you have a former colleague or mentor, ask him/her to stage a practice interview with you. It will help you feel prepared, which will in turn boost your confidence walking into an interview when you do land one. The saying is true, "practice makes perfect."
- Keep your chin up – It’s a numbers game. You definitely will not hear back from all jobs to which you apply. If you don’t hear back after a period of time, send an email or make a phone call to check on the status and then move on.
- Focus – Looking for a new job is a full time job. There is no way around it. Put the hours in and you will find that new position.
Remember to check back with us for future tips and tricks in the employment world. Coming up … when you do land that interview, how do prepare to also land the job.
ICON TIPS TO CRUSH YOUR INTERVIEW
We are often asked about interviewing, how to stand out, and make the interview go well. Our advice is as follows:
- One week to one day before the interview, practice your responses to core interviewing questions, such as “Tell me about yourself,” “What are your greatest strengths?,” etc. Have a friend ask you the questions so that you become used to reacting spontaneously to questions. Have the friend judge your body language too. There are great books and lists of questions on the internet, use these questions to practice, practice, practice until you become comfortable and fluent.
- Three days to one day before the interview, do your research on the company, the position, and the person that is interviewing you. Find out if you have any connections to the company. Look at their website and news articles on the company and the industry. Check linkedin.com to see if you have any connections to the company. If you do, let them know that you are going to the interview. Ask them to put in a good word for you.
- Prepare two to five smart questions about the company and position based upon your research. There is a ton of resources on the web for good questions to ask an interviewer. If you will be interviewing with multiple people in different functional roles, then think about questions that would make sense for each person that you will meet.
- Plan your interview attire the night before, if in doubt about what to wear, ask us or dress up a level.
- Bring copies of the resume that you submitted for the position, your questions in a notebook and a pen.
- Arrive 20-30 minutes early. Do not go in yet. Sit in a quiet location for a little while and take a deep breath, be calm. We tell you to plan to arrive early because anything can happen. Your car can break down, you can have a hard time finding the building, you can have a hard time finding a place to park, etc. Anything can happen. Giving yourself the gift of 20-30 extra minutes will allow yourself time to be calm and prepared.
- Enter the location 10-15 minutes before your appointment time. Be nice to the first person greeting you. If their name is noticeable, remember it for the next time you go back. Smile. Treat everyone you meet with respect.
- Ask for a business card from the interviewers.
- During the interview, remember your body language, be authentic and positive. Tie your answers back to your practiced skills and accomplishments.
- Be concise; answer the question but don’t ramble. Most people can’t concentrate longer than a minute or so and this includes the person interviewing you. Keep it impactful. Answer the question and then give them the opportunity to tell you if they want to hear more by ending with, “Would you like me to give you more information/details about ……?”
- Do not speak negatively about your previous employers.
- Ask questions as appropriate. Ask about the next step in the process.
- Tell them you are interested in the job. This is very important.
- Send a personalized thank you letter and express your interest in the role again and why.
If ICON has asked you to take a software or programming language skills test, our top advice is to study for it. Doing well on a software skills test, such as Excel, can be the deciding factor for whether you are offered the job or not. Therefore, practice, practice, practice.
Even if you use Microsoft Word or Excel every day, it will benefit you to review some of the tutorials found on YouTube and take a practice test or two. Most skills test are judging not only your mastery of the basic functions but also if you know the higher-level functions and commands.
There are many websites available offering free practice tests of Excel, Microsoft Word, Power Point and Indesign Creative Suite. Additional, there are websites devoted to testing your programming skills in C+, SAP, Java and many other languages.
Set aside some time before taking the actual test and study, it will greatly enhance your chances of landing that new job.