The One Most Often Overlooked Interview Question

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Job seekers prepare for every interview question imaginable and have their own long list of questions to ask in return, omitting one that they frequently fail to address: “What is the office space like for this position; where will I sit?”

Most job seekers are concerned about job requirements, salary and benefits, not taking into account how the physical environment can impact job satisfaction and success. And, then there is the eagerness to simply land the offer and not wanting to appear too particular or pushy in the interview by asking about office details.

If you are not offered a tour of the facility before the offer phase, ask for one. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the full picture of your potential work experience before deciding to join a company. Ask if the person filling the role will have a private office, a cubicle or sit in today’s more trendy open shared space. There are pros and cons for each, but it can be a shock going from an office with a door to a large, wide-open room with no dividers.

Rare is the employee who wouldn’t opt for a private office, but there can be advantages to working in cool, Silicon Valley-style office without barriers, including increased transparency, collaboration and team cohesion. Truth be known, however, the greatest advantage for companies that build open-plan offices can be cost. Fewer walls and cubicle dividers mean less expensive construction.

But the true costs can be the exact opposite of the intended benefits: more distraction, lower productivity, increased illness spread through close contact, conflict among employees and decreased morale.

If you love the new opportunity but the workspace isn’t ideal, you may be able to use it as an additional bargaining chip. It could help you negotiate more remote work time, for instance, as a tradeoff.

Take your new work environment into serious consideration before signing on with a company. It can impact more than your ability to produce optimally and succeed, including taking a toll on your emotional and physical health.

 

 

 

 

What You Should Know Before Signing a Severance Agreement

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More than 2 million Americans voluntarily leave their jobs every month in the US, with millions more leaving involuntarily through termination. Rare is the case of an employee collecting a cushy severance package when exiting of their own volition. Unless, of course, it pays for a company to help transition an employee who resigns and, for example, may be a holder of critical company information. A nice monetary send-off may help tighten potential loose lips or ensure continued good relationships.

Of the millions and millions of other employees who are off boarded involuntarily, most generally walk away with very little or nothing, unless they hold upper-middle or senior-level positions with significant years of service to warrant a severance pay out or they are part of a larger layoff or downsizing and a company wants to prevent bad press that could result form sending off employees without assistance. In the latter instance, assistance may not be monetary in nature, but rather career counseling, resume writing or cover letter preparation.

In the devastating moment of job loss, a monetary severance can help ease the pain and provide a cushion while finding new employment. It can be a great benefit, making you eager to sign on the dotted line, but it’s also not without risks.

Most severance agreements include terms legally binding you to abide by them after you’ve signed the agreement, and most of those terms favor the employer, not you. For instance, you may be forbidden to take legal action against the employer or defame the company in any way. If you are fired for age discrimination or retaliation, you can’t bring suit against the company after you sign a severance agreement. Think twice and take your time before signing. Most agreements have a deadline and provide time for you to fully consider the terms.

If you also signed a non-compete agreement at the onset of your employment, you will most likely be unable to immediately find work in the same field. Signing a severance agreement may make it impossible to legally appeal the non-compete agreement even in cases of hardship in which you can’t find employment outside of your field.

If you are offered a severance package, heed the following advice:

  • Don’t sign a severance agreement unless you have to. If you have a nest egg, as most people should, to protect you in the event of losing a job, rely on that instead. You won’t be legally bound to the stringent restrictions built into most agreements and will be able to walk away with a greater degree of freedom.
  • Find a reputable labor attorney who can review the agreement and advise you before signing. A legal professional can walk you through all of the terms and make sure you understand the extent of the restrictions.
  • If you do need to sign an agreement, you may also be able to negotiate the terms before signing. You could secure more compensation or benefits for a greater period of time, instead of what is originally stated in the agreement.
  • Understand the consequences of what could happen if you do sign and then break your agreement. The penalties could be severe.

Whether or not you accept a severance agreement and the terms, walk away, move forward and commit to not disparaging the company. You want to heal from the experience. Speak favorably about the positives of your work experience and those you worked with. Protect yourself from potential libel and from having any negativity backfire on you with the company speaking unfavorably about you and your work.

Beware of Online Job Search Scammers

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Should You Provide Your Social Security Number on a Job Application?

It’s rare, but occasionally a job seeker may be asked to provide a social security number on a job application for background checks that could occur if a job offer is extended. Should you provide it?

No. Never. Definitely not.

An employer shouldn’t be conducting any background screening until the formal job offer stage, at which time references are contacted and credit checks sand criminal reports are conducted.

Giving out your social security number in advance of an offer may result in discrimination on the part of the employer, giving them the ability to gather data on everything from financial information, divorce records, traffic violations, etc.

Recent news reports also indicate that giving out personal information, a social security number or bank account data may also put you at significant risk with online job search scammers preying on job seekers in order to commit identity theft.

Protect yourself. Follow a few safety guidelines:

  • Be leery of any offers for interviews that happen quickly after posting or submitting a resume.
  • Check out the interviewee in advance on LinkedIn and company websites.
  • Make sure the company is legit.
  • Don’t participate in a text message interview.
  • Never provide your personal details, such as social security number or bank account information until a bona fide offer from a reputable company is in hand.

Tap, Touch and Done. All Job Searches Should Be This Easy

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Why would a job seeker choose to have Fridayd handle their job search processes? For starters, Fridayd makes online job search activities quick and easy. A job seeker can spend 30 minutes or less per week reviewing and applying to jobs rather than hours and hours. On a mobile device, it’s just tap, touch and you’re done!

So simple.

Compare the difference of Friday and traditional job search:

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So smart.

Think Netflix. That’s how Fridayd works. It’s intuitive. The Fridayd engine learns job seeker preferences and serves up the most relevant job search postings. Why does this matter? Most job search boards return a wide array of job search results, many of which are insignificant and cost the job seeker time to sort through them.

So streamlined.

Fridayd makes a job search efficient and stress-free, saving the job seeker on average 40 hours per month in job search time.

What can the job seekers do with all of that saved time? Focus on an existing day job; spend more time networking, preparing for interviews or developing skills; or enjoy family, friends or personal interests.

So sleek for the savvy job seeker.

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This Is the Best Way for College Grads to Beat the Job Search Numbers Game

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Congratulations, new grads! You’ve worked long and hard on your accomplishment. Degree in hand, you are off and running into the job market – you and millions of other new graduates.

The competition is fierce. Even though the job outlook is relatively good for those leaving college behind and entering the workforce in 2017, finding a new job is not easy and my take some time.

It’s a numbers game when it comes to the applications you may need to submit to get an actual interview followed by a job offer. You may have to submit 100 applications to get 10 interviews that may yield only one bona fide offer. That may sound like a lot and may shatter illusions you have about the rapidity of landing your dream job now that you have the degree that you were sure would open all of the right doors.

But don’t be dismayed. Today’s job search activities involve more than just searching for and applying to jobs, such as networking. Plus, there is help with the tiresome job of finding the right opportunities and completing all of those applications. We’ll get to that, but first, here are some tips to keep your head above water and give you advantages in your search.

  • Have a realistic understanding of the how long it might take to find your first professional gig. Lucky are those that land their ideal job right out of the college gate, so expect your search to span months rather than weeks. It may take on average 7.5 months to find a new job for even the most skilled professional.
  • Take all of the help you can get from your university career services. Ask for help crafting your resume and cover letters.
  • Find a mentor. Ask a more seasoned professional for guidance in your search and career growth. People love to share their wisdom.
  • Work your contacts and build your network. Networking is key today. You should ideally spend most of your time on networking, interview preparation and career development and only 10 percent or less of your job search time on online activities. Start with who you know and ask them to introduce you to contacts in their own networks. Network with college professors, family friends and relatives, neighbors, your college classmates who have already landed positions – anyone who may help refer you for opportunities.
  • Get to know yourself. Understand your greatest strengths and develop a pitch to sell them.
  • Practice interviewing so that you sound natural and confident and can answer all of the tough questions in a positive light.
  • Create a job search support group of recent grads to share tips and provide positive encouragement throughout your search.
  • Believe in yourself. No matter how many rejections you get, there is a “yes” waiting for you out there. Stay the course.

Now back to the help you can get to win the numbers game and keep your job search on track. One way you can be more effective and efficient is not to just find job postings, but to find the right ones with little effort. The second is to eliminate the time spent completing applications.

Submitting applications is necessary. You can’t exclude that chore, but you can get it done without doing the work yourself. And let’s be honest; wouldn’t you rather spend your time doing more differentiating job search activities or doing whatever matters most to you?

This is where Fridayd comes in as a technology solution that searches for the most highly relevant job opportunities, completes and submits applications on your behalf, uncovers networking connections for you…and keeps your job search on course without missing a beat until you find the position that is right for you.

Hundo p this is the best way to keep your job search moving and beat the numbers game.

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5 Tips for Measuring a Company’s Engagement…Before You Take the Job

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Fifty-one percent of employees in the U.S. are actively looking for a new job. That’s more than half, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report. And that’s huge.

The biggest cause: employee engagement, or lack thereof. Seventy percent of U.S. employees are not engaged at work.

Disengagement can be an individual employee’s problem, for a number of reasons, such as personal challenges outside of work that serve as distractions, lack of interest in the work performed, ability to perform job functions, etc., but more often than not, employee engagement is a companywide issue related to culture, a mission employees can embrace, communication, management style, workplace recognition, opportunities for growth and simply having the right tools and resources to perform tasks optimally.

As a job seeker, a hiring company’s track record on engagement is an important element to consider in choosing to team up. You are more apt to work to your full potential at a company with a high level of engagement. But how do you measure employee engagement before you accept the offer?

Pose the Question

Ask the recruiter, the hiring manager and anyone who interviews you specifically about engagement and what the company does to promote it. Gallup has twelve questions companies can ask employees to help measure engagement:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

You won’t ask these questions, but they give you a good idea of what you want in an engaged workplace. You can ask related questions, such as how the employees are recognized, how performance and progress are measured, how employees feel about and embrace the company’s mission, what the company does to create a shared vision, and how employees are mentored or developed.

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Turnover Rate

It’s an old, but not outdated, question to ask. It can be an indicator of troubled waters within. Don’t stop at asking for the rate alone. Ask about underlying causes.

What’s a good turnover rate? It’s not one-size-fits-all and depends on the industry. The hospitality and restaurant industries have higher turnover rates in general as a result of the transient nature of the workforce. For example, high school and college students may fill hourly, unskilled labor positions. Turnover rates may be 16-17 percent for all industries as an average, but hospitality may have as much as 37 percent. If you are considering a professional role in such an industry, you can drill down and ask about turnover rates for their management workforce instead.

Employee Reviews

People talk, and in the age of social media, they have a platform to be heard. Glassdoor gives employees the opportunity to rate an organization. Keep in mind, however, that a disgruntled employee or even a job candidate may give a skewed review. Look for a repeated theme of negativity. Additionally, a small number of reviews won’t give you an accurate picture. Five reviews won’t tell you as much as 150 will. Look for other clues too on other social media platforms. A search on Twitter with a hash tag in front of a company name may reveal some surprising insights.

Ask Insiders

Ask existing contacts at the hiring company about their personal experiences, and more specifically ask about their sense of engagement. Do your networking homework and find other contacts working for the organization who may be willing to have a conversation with you.

The Golden Cup

Check a company’s awards and accolades for being a best pace to work and awards for engagement. Some awards and winners include:

Achievers Engaged Workplace Awards

Gallup Most Engaged Workplaces

Fortune Great Place to Work

Glassdoor Employee Choice Awards

Additionally, most local and regional business journals and newspapers host awards for best workplaces as do industry associations. Bear in mind that such awards are achieved through employee surveys and feedback. An award may measure many aspects of workplace, though, such as benefits, and may not measure true engagement, so use multiple channels to gather information on engagement to get an accurate account.

Moreover, just because a company is not on an award list, doesn’t mean it is not a great place to work or that it doesn’t have an engaged workforce. Companies apply to awards; they are not nominated by the award-granting entity.

Compensation Clues about a Company’s Culture

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What does compensation have to do with a company’s culture? A lot, according to Payscale, a leader in compensation management solutions. Payscale’s 2017 Compensation Best Practices Report states that “Compensation is one of the number one culture-definers for organizations.”

If you are looking for a new job or in the negotiation stages, the compensation on the table tells you how much a company values your talent, but also may hint at more, including how well the hiring company treats its employees overall.

Don’t just look at the compensation on the table, though. Go deeper. Ask about the company’s history of annual compensation increases. It’s okay to ask that question. Does the company pay for performance or is tenure a bigger indicator of substantial increases? This will be important to you in judging what your potential increase will be and how fast you can possibly grow your income.

Does the company pay a standard 3-5% annual increase, and what does it take to get a bigger jump in salary? Is promotion the only way to garner bigger compensation increases? Too many candidates are so focused on the initial offer that they fail to investigate what impacts their future earning potential.

As expected, high-performing and enterprise companies typically offer better compensation as opposed to non-profits or underperforming businesses. If you are offered a compensation package that doesn’t stack up at the former, it can be a clue about overall culture and how a company appreciates its people.

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Image: Payscale’s 2017 Compensation Best Practices Report

Some companies play the low-ball salary negotiation game and offer a lesser amount on the first offer, waiting for you to negotiate a higher income. Be leery of that too. A really great company with an award-winning culture knows the value of its talent and communicates it from the get go. They show respect to candidates by cutting to the chase and putting the very best offer on the table—the first time.

Know your worth and know the company you are interviewing with. Look for red flags that can tell you more about the company’s culture and what it might be like to work there. Don’t be fooled by a great brand, mission or accolades that may merely amount to great marketing. Compensation may be a great indicator of what’s really under the hood.

Wrap-It-Up Friday

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Everyone loves Fridays, closing out the week and heading into the weekend. It’s no surprise, then, that Fridays are considered one of the least productive days of the workweek.

You may not feel like jumping into a new project on Friday or powering on at full throttle, but Fridays are actually a great day to be super productive in another way and do all of the things that you don’t get to on the previous days of the week because you’re heads down or running from meeting to meeting.

Make Friday a wrap-up and strategic-planning day. Try to keep meetings to a minimum. Take stock of what you accomplished, what projects you moved along and what action steps you need to attack starting Monday morning. Write down and chart out your action items for the following week. This can make you feel good about what you tackled during your week as you wind down for the weekend and have you organized and ready to hit the ground running on Monday morning.

Manage your inbox on Fridays. Answer any emails you couldn’t address on other busier days. Follow up on any sent emails that you haven’t received responses to. Delete or file emails that are lingering in your inbox but don’t require action.

Fridays are a great day to nurture business relationships, which is also considered work. Schedule coffee or lunch with a business associate or team members. Most people are in great spirits at the end of the week, making Fridays more conducive for team building and bonding.

Make and return phone calls on Friday. Chances are that your end-of-the-week cheeriness will make business calls easier and more enjoyable.

Dream on Friday. That’s right. It might sound like doing nothing, but engage in creative and purposeful ideation. What can be done better? How can you do it? Pull other team members into your dream session for brainstorming new business ideas or improvements. Order in the bagels or lunch for your visioning jam. Everyone will be more relaxed and open.

Fridays don’t have to be a waste. Walk away from your desk feeling like Friday was just as productive as any other day of the week – just in a different way. It can be fun to switch gears on Friday, tie up any loose ends and engage more with coworkers or business associates.

 

 

Tax-Deductible Job Search Expenses: Know What You Can Deduct and What You Can’t

 

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Income tax filing deadlines are looming. With less than a month before the regular filing cutoff date, don’t forget to check out the law for job search deductibles and to include them when you file.

What’s deductible and what’s not?

Basically, if you were searching for a job in your same field of expertise, job search expenses, such as resume preparation fees, job search-related travel, employment agency fees, phone charges and mailing costs qualify for deduction.

But there are hitches in the rules for deducting job search costs. For instance, expenses must be more than 2% of your adjusted gross income. If you’re adjusted gross income is $80,000, your job search expenses would have to be more than $1,600 to be eligible for deduction.

College graduates are often at a disadvantage because they have yet to establish employment in a specific field. As a result, they do not qualify for the tax write-off if they are looking for a job for the first time.

You must keep a record of your job search expenses with receipts to prove what was spent in case of an audit and you have to complete a Schedule A when filing if you are deducting job search expenses.

Learn more about job search tax deduction by visiting the IRS website for tax filing guidelines.

Fridayd’s job search solution qualifies for tax deductions under the current rules for employment agencies and outplacement services – if you are searching for a job in your existing occupation.

 

 

6 Ways to Feel on Top of the World During a Job Search

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Searching for a new job can be overwhelming, especially if an ideal opportunity takes time to materialize. There is a lot of great advice on how to keep your chin up and stay positive, but sometimes you have to go beyond just an optimistic outlook and take action to keep feeling hopeful.

That action can take many forms, but most people feel happier and more fulfilled when they are learning, growing and contributing to something outside of themselves.

Novelist Alice Hoffman tells a story of how her protagonist in “Faithful” survived and thrived after a tragedy that changed the trajectory of her life. A secret admirer helped her find her way on a path to a new existence and career by sending her simple, two-word notes of encouragement, such as “Be Something” and “Do Something.” Those words of inspiration required action, and that action resulted in improved feelings and well-being.

As it turns out, two-word action steps can be good guidance for anyone facing a job search and waiting for the right position and interviews to emerge. Here are a few other action steps that can help keep you feeling great about yourself and what you are doing in the present when it seems like nothing is happening on the job front:

Read Something

Read about anything. Read to learn or read for pleasure. You always expand your view and knowledge in some way when you read.

Learn Something

Learn anything. Learn a new skill, a foreign language, how to play a musical instrument. It doesn’t matter. Learn about whatever is of interest to you. Learning requires intense focus and keeps us grounded in the here and now.

See Something

Notice more about your environment, wherever you are, or make a deliberate effort to visit some place new to see new things. Seeing, really seeing, helps us appreciate all that is.

Explore Something

Explore new ideas, new people or new places. If we are curious and always exploring, we feel more alive.

Create Something

Most people think of creating something as an artistic endeavor. It’s not. Create something right where you are. Create a more orderly home or office, create an evening with friends, create an event to help a cause. Live to create and make things happen. When you are deeply involved in the creative process, almost magically more creativity flows in your life.

Give Something

Give anything: your time, a helping hand, advice, clothes to charity, a cup of coffee to a friend, love, kindness or even a simple smile. Give.

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Focusing 100% on landing a new position can really drag you down. And you don’t have to. Concentrating so much on your search is really fixing your attention on yourself. Direct your attention to activities that can really make a difference in your life.

A job search can be time-intensive, though, so how do you find room in your schedule for the activities that can be so much more life-affirming? If you are using Fridayd to manage your job search, you’ll have the time to focus more on what matters most and all of the activities that make you feel better about yourself!