As an HR professional, I am used to being on the interviewer’s side of the hiring table. That makes it easy for me to forget all the hard work candidates put into preparing for their interviews—well, some candidates. There are also people who waltz in totally unprepared, which makes me wonder whether they really want to be hired.
These 21 tips from Company Folders reveal the things prepared candidates do before, after, and during their interviews. Knowing these prep strategies will help you discern which candidates did their homework—and which ones didn’t—so you can get a better idea of who will make a good employee. Besides, it never hurts to brush up on interview etiquette; one day, you may find yourself on the other side of the table. Continue reading
I originally wrote this for a friend over at Horizon Point Consulting. I think it’s going to be interesting for you guys as we head into the end of the year and start thinking about our careers, accomplishments, and the path ahead. Enjoy!
I couldn’t sleep. It was 4:17am and I had stared at the clock for half an hour. Might as well get up and get started. I rolled out of bed with a big smile. It was my first day as the new owner of Lighthouse Research, and I felt like it was what I had always been preparing for all throughout my career.
This scene played out a few months ago when I took over an HR technology research and advisory services firm, but I’ve been an entrepreneur for quite some time now. I started the journey back in 2009, and I have continued my “side hustle” over the years. Looking back, it has been an incredible joy. I’ve taught myself many new skills, had the opportunity to work with and meet some very interesting people, and grown by leaps and bounds professionally.
I completed some research in October 2016, and the number one thing that my audience was curious about was how to get into contracting/freelancing either as a part time or a full time opportunity, so I know this is top of mind for many people. Maybe you’re one of those people as well? If so, I’ll give you some helpful advice and insights that I have picked up along the way.
Handling a Second Job/Gig/Activity
As I mentioned, I’ve been doing something outside my “day job” ever since 2009. For most of that time, it has been this blog/business. However, I’ve also done speaking, training, HR certification study instruction for one test prep company, freelance writing, HR consulting, etc. Up until a few weeks ago I was working part time as an HR consultant to help stay plugged into the HR community, because I left my practitioner position back in 2014 to become a technology analyst/researcher.
Handling that second position is not always easy, but it’s doable. I have four kids. I go to church. I volunteer. I have other responsibilities, and I make sure they all get taken care of. Here are a few things to consider if you want to start your own side hustle:
- Does your day job take up more than 60 hours of your week? If so, you probably can’t fit in additional work. It’s time to back that down, find another job, or put your side hustle dream on hold. Be willing to talk with your boss or explore other opportunities if it means you get to pursue the dream you’ve been holding back on.
- Do you enjoy working on projects, connecting with new people, and wearing the “business” hat? I know that accounting, billing, etc. is one of the least favorite activities for many independent workers, but it is a part of life. Today there are many tools to help make this easier, from apps for tracking business mileage to online banking for keeping your business expenses/revenues separate from your personal funds.
- Are you self-motivated? This is touched on below in the “passions” discussion, but it’s important that you can make something happen when it’s time to get to work. Some people don’t have the discipline to focus when nobody is standing behind them, and if that’s you, then you will have trouble making the transition to self-employment.
How to Monetize Your Passions
The first part is obviously to know your passions, right? Yet I see so many people that start off with the thought, “How can I make some money? What’s hot right now?” That’s a torturous path, because you can only work so hard at something that you don’t truly care about.
In my case, I started with something that was top of mind for me, but it also tied to an activity I love. Back in 2009 I earned my HR certification. During my preparation, I started writing my thoughts and study schedule online as a way to hold myself accountable. One week, I got off schedule due to a personal issue, and I received several emails from people asking where that week’s blog was! It was then that I realized that this was bigger than a project to keep myself on track—others were interested as well.
After I received my certification, I took my study notes, added some lessons learned, and started selling it from my website as a $19 eBook. I’ve sold hundreds of those since 2009, and I actually took it down a few years ago when I started selling a higher priced course that expanded upon the eBook content. I’m passionate about teaching and helping others, and I’ve received dozens of great testimonials and comments from students over the years that found value in the work I created.
That’s just one example, but hopefully you start to understand how this kind of business works. Questions? Feel free to hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to help however I can.
Want More Information?
Do you want more information about a specific area of interest for you personally? Maybe you’re interested in learning more about the opportunities ahead? Do any of the following sound familiar?
- I’m an entry level professional trying to find out how to make your mark on the world
- I’m a mid level professional ready to advance to a leadership role
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Whatever your current position, I want to help give you actionable ideas and insights for how to move to the next step in your career journey from a series of experts who have already demonstrated success in your area of interest. Just enter your email below and I’ll be in touch soon.
Over the last week I’ve received more than half a dozen emails from people looking for their first foray back into the HR realm after making a move to a new city, taking time off for childcare/maternity leave, and other similar stories. It’s a challenge, but this is easier than breaking into HR in the first place if you have some sort of track record to point to. Often, those early experiences (whether in HR or outside) can help us by illuminating the activities we don’t want to do just as much as highlighting those thing we do want to do. Today I’m going to offer some practical tips and strategies to help those of you that are on the outside trying to get back into HR.
The Local HR Group/Chapter
Let’s talk about networking. What? You’ve heard of it? Well, good. It’s a primary component of my advice for those people trying to break into HR. But I realized this week that I have a more radical view of networking than others. And no, not in the “annoy everyone around you all day every day” kind of radical view. I’m talking about the kinds of ideas and opportunities I create around me to find and connect with other smart people. Note: I hate talking about myself, but this is a good story that illustrates the point. If you have a good story, please leave a comment on this post so others can learn from your example as well!
When I was getting into HR back in 2009, I was much more shy than I am today. I didn’t have anything of value to offer the HR community. I was just one of many recent grads with a degree and a job that didn’t fit my long-term goals. So I went to my local SHRM chapter (CIPD for those of you across the pond).
Yes, this is a common step for many people. But what happened next is not.
Instead of going to events and trying to meet people, I decided to make people want to try to talk to me (remember, super shy here). I emailed the webmaster for the local chapter and asked if there was a way to help with the website and other duties. He readily agreed, and I started attending board meetings with a small group of smart, connected individuals in the local community.
Because I was a board member, the others quickly got to know me and my credibility grew. And I started connecting with others in the chapter over time.
About a year after I started volunteering one of the board members had a job opening. It was a stretch opportunity for me, but because she got to know me through my volunteer work, she knew I would be a good fit.
And then I stopped, gave up the whole networking thing, and forgot about it forever.
Heh, not really.
The next year, I decided to do something that nobody had done before in the local chapter. I started an HR book club as a way to connect to like minded individuals, learn some lessons, share some expertise, and read plenty of books.
Through the book club, I forged stronger relationships with some of the people I already knew, and I also extended my reach to others in the chapter that were interested in developing themselves through books. That year-long experience was a lot of fun, and I still talk regularly with one of my friends that I made in the group.
There have been other initiatives within the chapter I have participated in, but those are some of the ones that stick out as particularly innovative.
Find an HR Technology Vendor
This is another option that is completely different from pretty much anything you’ve ever been told, but it’s worth a shot (especially if you’re in or near a large city). HR vendors sell technology to companies, but their primary audience is HR leaders. I think approaching a vendor with an HR degree, certification, or background would make you more valuable than someone just coming off the street with no knowledge of HR, recruiting, and those aspects of the business.
The caveat here is that you’re probably going to have some level of technology savvy to pull it off. I’m not saying you need to be a code jockey, just that you can use technology and find your way around without a lot of fumbling and help.
There are providers across the world that offer these solutions, but if you’re in areas like Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, etc. there are probably quite a few companies to pick from. If you want a list of company names to give you a head start, check out my How to Learn HR for Free post.
The Bottom Line
The one thing I want you to take away from this conversation is this: applying online, submitting resumes, etc. should only be 10-20% of your job search efforts, not 80-90% as is the norm. It will require you to get quite uncomfortable in many cases, but it’s also the key to creating the career path that serves you best.
What other questions do you have around the topic? Anyone else have a great story of how you’ve made it happen?
This week I was approached to complete some HR informational interview questions by a young lady heading back to college for a master’s degree in HR. I’ve answered similar questions before, and I have always had a heart for students looking to break into HR, so I obliged. As I responded, I wondered how others would answer and what advice they would share with someone preparing to enter this amazing profession of ours.
Would you pick a question and give your own answer in the comments section below? I used these informational interviews years ago before I got started in HR, and the responses helped me to hit the ground running when my entry level HR career took off.
HR Informational Interview
- What are the main duties of someone in HR? It depends on the position, but an HR generalist typically touches a variety of areas, such as recruiting, compensation, benefits, employee relations, training and development, and safety.
- What kinds of problems or difficulties occur in performing these duties? I’ve found that in general, companies and leaders that do not value HR are the biggest stumbling block to success. If they don’t believe that what you’re doing is value-add and benefiting the organization, then no matter what you do there will always be a limit on the positive impact you can have.
- What kind of rewards or enjoyments does this work provide? I would say that HR pays fairly well, if you are competent and willing to work hard. Beyond that, the satisfaction of helping families with their benefits, working with an employee to develop themselves for a promotion, or helping to coach managers through challenging times are some of my favorites.
- What characteristics do you believe are needed to be successful in Human Resources? Usually this question is met with answers like “confidentiality” or “multitasking.” I’ll take a different approach: you need to have a sense of humor. This job can be draining if you don’t have an outlet. Imagine having to terminate someone through no fault of their own simply because the money isn’t there to support the position. Do that often enough without a release and you start to lose your mind. For me, a sense of humor is one way I can get through those tough days and stay fresh.
- What kinds of knowledge and skills must someone have to be successful in HR? The basics of HR include recruiting and staffing, managing employees, labor relations, risk management, benefits and compensation, etc. The more nuanced things include this list of the top five senior HR leader competencies.
- What else should someone thinking of getting into the HR field know? It will be nothing like you expect from the textbooks. You will learn about 10% of what you need to know to be successful with a degree in HR. The other 90% comes from doing HR every day.
- As I said I have a B.S. in Family and Human Services. Do you think that my background will influence me, positively or negatively, in the field of HR? I think you’re probably going to be very caring and considerate of the differences people have and what that enables them to bring to the table. The only concern is a lack of business-mindedness that is a critical part of HR today. If you can’t speak the language of the business leaders and only talk about morale and such, you won’t have any credibility.
- Why did you decide on a degree in HR specifically and not another Business-type degree? I knew when I was a child that I wanted to be in HR–I just didn’t know it was called HR. My parents owned a small business and had constant challenges with hiring, benefits, retention, etc. I always thought I would get a degree in management to figure out how to solve those kinds of problems. When I got to college I realized that this “HR thing” was exactly what I had always wanted to do!
- What exactly is your current position and what does it entail? Currently I’m not in a traditional HR role. I am working as a research analyst helping some of the largest companies in the world by creating research, publishing case studies, etc. I spend much of my time writing and creating research from primary survey data.
- Why haven’t you made a switch in career fields? If you have, why did you return to HR? Some would say that I did by stepping out of the traditional HR role, but I like to think that now I can help employees at a hundred companies instead of just those at the one company I was at previously.
- What general advice do you wish people told you about HR before you started? I did many interviews just like this one, so I had most of my questions answered early on. The only thing that would have helped more would have been more general in nature. I would have liked to know that companies often don’t change, even when they are on the wrong path. My first HR job was for a company that ended up going over the financial cliff because our leadership was unwilling to make the changes necessary to improve the business.
- Any specific advice for me? Especially concerning pursuing a Master’s Degree and what to do before and during the program. I’d spend as much time shadowing and talking with in-the-trenches HR folks as possible. Sign up for Twitter if you’re not already there and follow conversations like #NextChat. This will help you find other HR leaders that are worth following. Look for other HR blogs that will help you see through the eyes of accomplished professionals, such as HR Capitalist, HR Ringleader, and HR Schoolhouse. Good luck!
What do you think? Did I steer her in the right direction with the informational interview questions? Did I miss anything critical?
I have been on a parallel track to HR for the last year and a half or so, and there are a few things that I miss about my beloved profession. There are other things, as mentioned below, that I certainly appreciate about my current role. For those of you contemplating a step into a consulting or other position outside the “mainstream human resources” function, here are some things you might run across.
What I Miss
- Having insight into the business operations, funds, etc. The bird’s eye view of things. You never realize how much you appreciate it until it’s gone.
- Having a say in who receives recognition/rewards for their efforts. I miss being able to “go to bat” for someone that earned it.
- Knowing the value that everyone brings to the organization.
- Being able to talk with the CEO and other leaders as a trusted friend and swaying them when they are on the wrong path.
- The satisfaction of bringing on the perfect recruit, solving a manager coaching issue, or helping an employee with a career milestone.
What I Don’t Miss
- I no longer have to deal with employees that don’t deliver results and managers too awful to do anything about it.
- I don’t have to spend hours on the phone trying to investigate sexual harassment or other claims.
- I don’t have to put some of my favorite skills to the side and keep them unused for most of the time.
- I (sometimes) miss having an office with people around me.
- Probably some other stuff that my mind is glossing over right now like a faded memory–picking out the good parts and whitewashing the bad.
What I Love Now
This list isn’t complete without talking about what I love about my current role. It’s not too shabby!
- I get to write. Pretty much as often as I want. And I like to write quite a bit, so that’s saying something.
- I talk with technology companies all the time, but I’m not being sold–I’m asking the questions and digging into capabilities. That’s much more fun.
- I get to peek into some of the HR, learning, and talent practices at world-class organizations and share those insights with the world.
- I have the opportunity to impact many more companies, employees, and leaders than I did in my previous positions.
- I have the ability to work from home, which lets me work how and when I am most productive.
This is a great exercise! Think about your current role–what do you like best? What would you gladly give up?
As I look back on the past five years and all of the people I’ve met, I have made some interesting conclusions about career choices. My background as an HR pro has helped to expose me to a wide variety of experiences, people, and career options. I was talking with a friend a few days ago about some of the HR positions I have had over the years. Some of them were at dysfunctional companies with dysfunctional teams. Others were made up of great people vigorously pursuing excellence at all levels. However, I don’t know that I would have appreciated the good ones as much if I didn’t have some bad ones sprinkled in there for comparison.
Think about it. If you are feeling pretty sore from a workout or from a long, stressful week, you appreciate a massage more. If it’s hot out, that cold drink seems especially soothing.
So while we’re all working hard to offer great work environments and engaging opportunities for employees, they might not realize how nice they have it without a really awful place to compare it to.
So, what’s the answer? I really don’t know. We won’t make it unappealing simply to make a point, but there has to be some way to make this work. While you’re pondering that, let’s talk about something else: coaching.
One of my favorite HR activities is providing coaching to managers and employees at critical moments. For whatever reason it’s just something that I really enjoy. Recently I spoke with a friend about some of these career coaching moments, and we discussed how to approach some particularly tricky options his employees are facing.
Here are two scenarios that are probably all-too-common. If you have seen employees with these sorts of challenges, I’d love to hear how you helped them to resolve the issues.
The Overpaid Employee With an Entitlement Mentality
Let’s call her Carla. Carla has worked for this company for years and has tons of experience in her field. She’s the most technically competent employee that works for this company–and she knows it. She has been poking her manager about a pay raise because she thinks she is worth more money. The truth is she’s probably already overpaid for the level of responsibility she holds and overall value she brings to customers.
So, like it usually happens in this situation, the manager sends her to HR to talk.
My recommendation was to turn it around. This is not HR’s job to discuss this–it’s between the manager and employee. I suggested my friend get the employee to set up a meeting (after all, she is the one pushing this so hard) between her, her manager, and HR. The employee needs to lay out what she wants and expects, and the manager needs to be upfront and honest about her career aspirations, the value she brings, and what possibilities lie ahead.
Every time I do this the manager initially balks at the concept. However, after the fact they appreciate having the clarity between them and the employee, and HR was able to observe/facilitate and offer support without having to be the one driving the discussion.
Honestly, the employee forgot that less than five years ago she worked for an absolutely terrible organization that treated her poorly. She’s become a bit aggressive and entitled at the same time, and this is the first step to rectifying that.
The Humble Employee with Limited Experience
Another employee faces a career decision as well, but of a different type. This guy has a great attitude and has grown in responsibility over time. He also has about five years of experience with this company, but he realizes that he doesn’t have the depth and breadth of experience to move to the next level. He doesn’t want to leave, but at the same time, he knows that something will have to change for his skills to be up to the task of managing his function in the coming years.
So my friend talked with him about possibly leaving for a year or two to work at another organization, learn their processes, strategies, etc. and then return in time to step up to the next role when it is time. Obviously this carries some risk:
- what if the job doesn’t materialize
- what if the things he learns are not enhancing his skill set
- what if the company can’t hire him back when they originally said they would
- who will run his function in his absence
You get the idea. It’s scary.
And yet it’s innovative. It’s a solution to the problem. And without anyone internally to mentor him and help him grow, this might be the only chance to gain the needed experience to ultimately help this company succeed.
If you think you might identify with this guy and need to make a change for your own career development, then scout out some local opportunities to see what might be available. And if you’re looking for a resume template to help you with that search, check out this resource.
So, those are just two of the most recent conversations I’ve had about HR being involved in career discussions with employees.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Which of these types of employees is working in your organization right now? How can you help them?