29 August 2014
Today, possibly more than ever, communication is hailed as a big factor in fostering healthy workplace culture and relationships. Many businesses are doing away with private offices altogether to encourage collaboration, and in some extreme cases, a few have chosen to completely reorganize their floor plans to achieve the same goal. But while these cooperative efforts are new to the workforce, there is a much older practice that still needs to be perfected, one that is much more central to good communication than a strategically placed cubicle: giving and receiving constructive feedback. Those on both the giving and receiving ends of feedback have responsibilities to make the exchange as productive as possible. Here are ways to make feedback your friend, regardless of what side you’re on: Giving Feedback If you’re an employer or manager, then first and foremost, be sure to give feedback regularly. Rather than boosting productivity and correcting issues, you’ll only be aggravating already existing problems or creating new ones entirely if you save up six months to a year’s worth of comments for performance reviews. Addressing issues as they arise—and acknowledging hard work on a regular basis—are great ways to ensure that an employee’s performance runs smoothly, not dips and peaks depending on the time of year. And don’t skip over the positive feedback! In fact, encouraging an employee who is doing a good job is imperative to making sure that more constructive feedback is well-received. Employees will be less open to receiving feedback if they feel they only get it when they’ve made a mistake. When it is necessary to address a problem, be sure to do so in private out of respect for your employee. Likewise, treat it as a conversation—not a lecture. There are ways to make “negative” feedback into constructive feedback, and admonishing someone for making a mistake is not one of them. Instead, be sure to address issues from a neutral stance rather than an accusatory one; for example, “I noticed this project went unfinished” rather than “You failed to finish this project.” At the end of your feedback, always include a way in which the issue can be remedied and avoided in the future, or at the very least, ask if your employee has any ideas on such strategies. Finally, be sincere. Many choose to use the “sandwich method”—starting and ending with something positive, including any less-than-desirable feedback in between the two—but this only works if all your feedback is related. Avoid taking this route if you are only doing so to sugarcoat your real message. However, if you have three or more “related” comments to give, the sandwich method can be a great way of beginning and ending on a positive note, with the more constructive criticism at the center of the conversation. Receiving Feedback Should you find yourself on the receiving end of feedback, it can be a harrowing experience if your supervisor isn’t quite as tactful as to use some of the methods described above. However, whether or not your employer is a pro at constructive conversations is less relevant to what you can take away from your experience than what you make of it, yourself. Regardless of your situation and your manager’s style, you should always actively seek feedback. This can show that you’re not only approachable, but actually eager to know what you’re doing right and what you can improve on. This will also make it easier to understand your employer if they aren’t the best at communicating. But whatever you do, don’t shut down the moment you receive the commentary you asked for; be open to all types of compliments and criticism, and absorb it all equally. Getting defensive or making excuses could make a manager reluctant to approach you in the future, especially if they are already hesitant to begin with. Instead, process the information and relay it back to be sure you understand it fully. When you’re both on the same page, be sure to be appreciative of the feedback—whatever its nature might be. If it’s something negative, one sincere apology is enough and you can move on to how you’ll fix and avoid it in the future. If it’s something positive, assure your manager that you’ll be sure to keep it up and appreciate them taking the time out of their day to acknowledge your work. Then, apply your manager’s comments to your future work, and you’ll be well on your way to even better performance—and, possibly, a better relationship with your employer!
27 August 2014
The journey towards landing your next job begins with a resume that will get you noticed enough to make it past the initial screening process. Therefore, if you intend on standing out, we recommend creating a resume that flows with clarity and readability, but that also markets your attributes in a strategic and creative manner. For example, there are certain resume tactics you can utilize to highlight the professional image you want to convey to prospective employers, thus increasing your chances of getting a call for an interview. Here are 4 strategies you can use on your resume that may help prospective employers connect with you: Include a professional summary Most hiring managers want to know “what sets you apart from competitors,” and your resume is the first attempt you might have to make a strong first impression. As a result, think of your resume as a marketing brochure, which displays the benefits your services can bring to the position. Try to customize your professional summary for your prospective employer by highlighting certain accomplishments that would help in your new role. Keep in mind, this should be as succinct as possible. Use keywords effectively In today’s tech-driven world, hiring managers often use application tracking systems to find candidates with resumes that meet the job’s requirements. To do this, they search the system for resumes that contain the most keywords to the skills they’re seeking. Therefore, to make it easier for hiring managers to find your resume and increase your chances of being invited for an interview, you’ll want to strategically use appropriate keywords. To improve the keyword optimization of your resume, we recommend highlighting the specific skills and programs that are listed throughout the job description on your resume. Remember that anything in excess is never a good thing, so as a best practice try not to overuse certain keywords as this may dilute your accomplishments. Decide between chronological and functional resume formats There are two types of formats that most job seekers often utilize to create their resumes: Chronological and Functional. The chronological resume lists your work experience and responsibilities starting with your most recent position and traces back throughout your employment history. It also highlights the overall progression you’ve made through the positions you’ve held and the companies you’ve worked with. On the other hand, the functional resume emphasizes the skills you’ve acquired through your career accomplishments. This format helps to highlight specialized knowledge and transferable skills (i.e., project management, listening skills, communication, etc.) that could be applicable to the position you are applying to. For recent grads with less work experience, this format can be especially helpful as it focuses on your skills rather than on your experience. Share professional social media profiles and websites An increasing number of job seekers are beginning to include links to their social media profiles to help separate their resume from their competitors. Therefore, if you intend on sharing links to some of your professional profiles or personal websites on your resume, make sure they reflect the same level of professionalism that your resume does. For example, if you provide links to your personal blog, make sure you highlight certain posts that are relevant to the job you are applying to. In addition, if you participate in conferences, regularly contribute to a blog, or associate with certain groups and organizations, listing these on your resume could also help make you stand out.
26 August 2014
If you have the goal of moving to a new position internally, you have some work ahead of you—work that could prove to be very rewarding! Applying to a role that’s opened up within your company requires as much professionalism and tact, if not more, as applying to a role at another company during a job search. But if you’re already comfortable with your company and happy with its culture, obtaining another position within it could be a great move for you, especially if you’re looking to gain new responsibilities and learn new skills. So to best prepare yourself for the process, take a look at the following best practices of applying to an internal position: Before Applying You’re likely to find the job on your company’s website or, perhaps, hear about it through the grapevine. Once you’ve been made aware of the opening, first take some time to familiarize yourself with it, as you would with a job posting from another company. It’s important that you only apply if you are absolutely positive you will be happy and productive in the role; you don’t want to make a move that could jeopardize your employer’s faith in your judgment. Then schedule a meeting with your current supervisor. You may feel as if you want to apply to the job before notifying your current boss, but it’s important to first discuss the situation so that it doesn’t seem like you’re hiding anything. Emphasize that you enjoy your current position and are simply looking to advance within the company, and you feel this new position would give you the opportunity to do so. Since there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the role, you want to make sure you’re in good standing with your current supervisor should you still continue to work together. The Application Process Though you already have plenty of contacts within the company, you’ll typically have to apply to the position as anyone else has to. However, don’t take the process for granted because of your advantage. You’ll still need a stellar resume, cover letter, and good references to pull off an impressive application. The good news here is that you can (and should) tailor your materials to reflect your specific accomplishments. This is easier to do when applying to an internal position since you won’t have to take up room with introductions and other preliminary information that your current workplace already has. You will, however, have to make a case for why you should be transferred from one position or department to another. For example, try outlining a couple of major projects you spearheaded that translate well into the role you’re applying for in your cover letter. The Interview The interview for an internal position is likely to be slightly different than for one elsewhere. Still, you should treat it as seriously and with as much professional tact as you would an external interview. Expect to be asked about your current position, why you want to leave it, and why you’re choosing to move around within the company rather than the more traditional route of applying elsewhere. There will be typical questions as well as those geared specifically toward your role within the company. As with every interview, honesty is the best policy—let the interviewer know that you’re looking for the added responsibilities, a change of scenery, or whatever it is you’re aiming for. Just be sure to not focus solely on making more money and definitely do not speak negatively about your current team or supervisor. It’s worth restating: you may not get this position and will still have to work with the same group of people! It’s always your best bet to avoid burning bridges, anyway, since you’ll be working in the same company regardless. The Results If you do get turned down, make sure not to take it personally: the hiring manager’s reasons could range from wanting to bring in new talent to simply needing someone with other skills. The best thing you can do for yourself in this position is to ask openly what the reason was for you not obtaining the position. That way, you can work on those points for the future, and know how to handle such an interview next time. If you do get the position, thank all involved parties appropriately and be sure to apply yourself in the position to show you were the right choice. Good luck and happy interviewing!
22 August 2014
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. – Epictetus Every step of our careers requires us to be great listeners: networking, interviews, all aspects of our jobs themselves. But how many of us really excel at actively listening and absorbing what’s being said at any given time? It can be argued that rusty listening skills can, and possibly often do, pose some of the biggest problems for job seekers and the employed alike in achieving their goals—whether those goals are to obtain a job or to progress in one. If you’re looking to improve your listening skills, there are ways to practice active listening; as with every other skill, practice makes perfect. Imagine you’re out to lunch with a coworker. The two of you are discussing an important project that you’ve been working hard on and take quite a bit of pride in. Your colleague seems to be listening at first, but then turns to read a text message, encouraging you to continue speaking while they do so. They type back while you’re talking, then put the phone away and fix their gaze on some far-away point past your shoulder. Now, imagine this: you’re at that same lunch with that same coworker, only they are looking you in the eye and nodding as you speak. On occasion, they pitch in to paraphrase what you say or to ask a question. They don’t turn their attention away to anything or anyone else while you speak and wait until you finish what you have to say before chipping in with their own ideas, and their ideas seem to reflect and compliment your own. Even if you aren’t very perceptive with social cues, you’re likely feeling as if your coworker would rather be elsewhere in the first scene. But your colleague’s behavior in the second instance suggests an obvious investment in what you’re saying, as it’s the behavior of an engaged listener. So the next time you have a conversation with someone, model your behavior after your hypothetical coworker. Avoid distractions such as your phone and thinking about anything other than what the person is saying. Make eye contact to show that you’re focusing on the person, and rather than form your response ahead of time—something many of us subconsciously do—focus on the present and what the person is saying. Occasionally, nod to show that you understand or, if you don’t, pipe in to ask a question. By all means, just be sure to wait for a pause in the conversation to avoid interrupting the person who’s speaking. If you’re following these steps, your body language should follow (engaged listeners tend to lean in when they’re absorbing information). Then, all that’s left to do is respond! Before voicing your own ideas or opinions, however, reiterate what the person has said in your own way to ensure you fully understood. You’ll find that the more effort you put into actively listening, the less effort it will eventually require. Not only will your new skill improve your current relationships, it could impress a hiring manager in an interview or improve your job performance as well!
20 August 2014
The summer season is in full swing and although you may think employers are going on vacation or hitting the golf course, it’s actually been one of the busiest seasons for new jobs in the Financial Services industry that we’ve had in a while. While on one hand there is no better time than the summer season to relax, on the other hand, unfortunately many job seekers often share the same laid back approach to their job search strategy. “As a finance professional looking for your next opportunity, it can be very tempting to become complacent during the summertime when you think less hiring is happening, however, we advise that there’s no better time to ramp up your job search leading up to Labor Day,” says Mitch Peskin, Executive Vice President of The Execu|Search Group’s Financial Services division. “Time and time again, the financial services sector has seen the effects summer vacation can have on candidates and the interview process. While some candidates may lose momentum in their summer job search, we recommend candidates take advantage of this lull in job seeking and stay focused on your professional goals.” Whether you’re looking forward to an end-of-year bonus or taking a vacation, there are a few opportunities to keep in mind before waiting until next year to start your job search: Hiring Budget Timeline – Many companies set a hiring budget in order to fill a certain number of positions within the calendar year. However, certain positions often go unfilled, and as a result hiring managers miss out on strong potential candidates because there may be less allotted funds in the hiring budget come the new year. Therefore, if you decide to wait until January 2015 to start your job search, there is a chance you may miss the best opportunities, thus making it more challenging to stand out once the hiring season is up and running. “Take the time now to get ready for the post-Labor Day hiring surge because companies are determined to fill the year’s remaining positions sooner rather than later,” says Mitch. Signing Bonuses – As a finance professional, waiting around for an end-of-year bonus can seem very appealing, but in a recovering financial marketplace like today, companies are making highly competitive offers to candidates in the form of signing bonuses as an incentive to acquire the best talent during the late summer/early fall season. “We’ve seen that the biggest months of recruiting and hiring across a number of industries tend to fall between late August and November,” notes Mitch. “Therefore, if you’ve thought about switching jobs at any point this summer, don’t let an end-of-year bonus (which isn’t guaranteed) dictate your next career move.” Opportunities to Move to a Hedge Fund – In an industry that has so many professionals aiming for positions with hedge funds, what better time than now to try and make a move before the heavy hiring season commences later in the year? “Don’t wait until the summer is over to start your job search when everyone else is searching—if you are a strong finance professional with an impressive background and specialized skill set, why not make a move now?” says Mitch. “Make yourself stand out during the late summer season by doing your due diligence (i.e., update your resume, brush up on interview skills, network with the right professionals, etc.) to hit the ground running after Labor Day.”
18 August 2014
When it comes to arriving at a standard job interview, it’s easy to feel like you’re off to a positive start – you’ve arrived on time, dressed to impress, practiced your smile, and perfected your firm handshake. Who else could be as prepared as you? However, when it comes to interviewing over the phone, all bets are off. Since phone interviews are often used to further narrow down the candidate pool, typically only last for about 15-20 minutes, and allow little capacity for body language, imparting a positive first impression over the phone can be a more daunting task than doing so in-person. However, following through with these four steps will give you the confidence you need to impress any hiring manager every time you pick up the phone. Dress professionally While it is in no way necessary, dressing like you would dress for an interview at the office can actually help get you into the professional mindset necessary for success. After all, it may raise some major red flags if the interviewer can tell you aren’t focused on or mentally prepared for the conversation. Eradicate distractions To ensure you can communicate clearly and coherently with the hiring manager, eliminate any and all distractions and potential for technical glitches. For instance, make sure you hold the interview in a place that is quiet and gets good reception. Loud background noises may detract from your answers, while a loss of service can prematurely cut the interview short. In the same vein, do whatever it takes to remain focused for the entirety of the interview. Without your interviewer being able to see you, it may be tempting to check your email, but try your best to avoid distractions like this. Be prepared One of the advantages of phone interviews is that you can have a cheat sheet. Prior to the phone call, jot down any relevant information about the company, details about position, some talking points, and any questions you plan on asking. This way, if you get nervous or forget what you want to say, you can refer to your notes. Smile While this may seem counterintuitive, you should smile and make any other gestures you normally would during an in-person conversation. This will allow your personality to shine through, allowing you to sound more confident and interested in learning more about the opportunity. Though phone interviews can be nerve wracking, if you remember to review these tips prior to the call, you should find yourself well on your way to landing an in-person interview!
15 August 2014
Imagine for a second you are a business owner and your company is about to undergo an audit, will you want to hire: a candidate who has over 10 years of experience in the accounting industry but without a CPA, or a candidate who has 5 years of experience and holds their CPA? Nine times out of ten, you’d probably choose to work with the professional who has the CPA. For certain employers, having the right certification/designation after your name can make a big difference in how you are perceived within your respective industry. Whether you are early in your career or a veteran in the accounting field, the sooner you get your CPA, the better it will be for your overall career growth. Here are some of the most important reasons why you should consider getting your CPA now: Advanced certifications are in high demand An advanced certification is not only useful in enhancing your professional marketability, but it is also something that employers are increasingly demanding from prospective candidates. “In the past, employers would give their employees 5 years to attain their CPA, but today, many organizations that are looking for accountants with 2 or more years of experience are demanding that candidates have their CPA or parts passed,” notes Elisa Dammacco, Managing Director of The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance division. It distinguishes you as an accounting professional Simply possessing the three-letter designation puts you in a better market pool of accounting professionals. In addition, possessing this certification exemplifies your dedication and diligence in meeting the stringent qualifications and requirements necessary. On the other hand, without it, employers will always question the lack of dedication you bring to your professional development. It’s important to take into account both the short and long term benefits this certification will bring to your career. Is your professional growth worth one year of commitment to take an exam, where its importance and applicability will always be relevant to business operations? We think so. It improves your marketability “Every hiring manager is looking for a candidate that is dedicated, hard-working, diligent, and committed to holding themselves to the highest industry standards,” notes Elisa. “To an employer, the candidate who holds their CPA is the one they will typically consider to be the best choice.” Within the accounting/finance sector, employers often view professionals without the CPA certification as unmotivated with a lack of initiative to improve their professional career. “The CPA is one of the most marketable and recognizable certifications in the business world, and is also the best investment an accounting professional can make in their career,” advises Elisa. It provides professional mobility As the financial market continues to strengthen and competition continues to stay fierce, without a CPA certification, it may prove to be more difficult to move outside of your organization if you decide to. Our accounting/finance recruitment specialists continue to advise candidates to get their CPA, as more organizations are in search of CPA certified candidates in lieu of more years of experience. “For instance, if a hiring manager receives 10 resumes for one accounting position, if your competitors have their CPA and you don’t, your resume may automatically fall to the bottom of the pile.” “Therefore, if you want to enhance your professional mobility, acquiring your CPA is the best route to take now.”
13 August 2014
On August 12th, The Execu|Search Group held its inaugural Women’s Network meeting at the New York Times building. Founded by women across a number of levels and divisions in The Execu|Search Group—Lisa Carver; Samantha Parris; Stephanie Tancredi; Jaclyn Statile; Daniela D’Alessandro; and Katie Niekrash—the Women’s Network aims to bring our female employees together under two common goals: 1) To ensure that women at all levels of The Execu|Search Group are meeting, supporting and helping one another to move forward in their careers. 2) To function as a unified collective that supports related nonprofit organizations together. For its first meeting, the Women’s Network welcomed guest speaker Cheryl Bonini Ellis, founder of Ellis Business Enterprises LLC. Cheryl is a trusted business adviser and high performance coach with over 30 years of leadership experience. Through team-building exercises and interactive presentations, Cheryl laid the groundwork for the Women’s Network goals by teaching the value of trust, collaboration, and respect amongst teammates through the topic “From Me to We: Improving Results through Trust & Mutual Support.” “The group came about through discussions regarding the stereotype that women can’t work well together or that professional women typically don’t get along,” says Katie. “My fellow founders and I feel strongly that the women at The Execu|Search Group disprove this idea every day. As a result, we wanted to create an environment in which women not only are respectful of each other, but where we also actively help and support each other. We hope to reach a place where women at TESG are partnering to reach their career goals, as well as making an impact outside the firm by supporting related nonprofits together.” The Women’s Network will be meeting bi-annually, with charity events throughout the year to benefit related causes. The first slated event will be taking place on September 19th at the Grace Institute, which aims to “empower underserved women in the New York area to achieve employment and economic self-sufficiency” through skills training, career development, counseling, and job placement. The Women’s Network will be providing soon-to-be graduates of the program, many of whom are single mothers, victims of domestic violence, and/or homeless, with interview tips and resume building advice to help prep them for their entry into the job market.
12 August 2014
In the accounting/finance field, it’s common for companies to present employees with counter offers when they resign. But if you’re one of those employees, should you accept one? It can be tempting to take what seems like the best offer on the table, especially when it comes from the company you are already employed with. Whether you’re seeking higher compensation, better benefits, or a more flexible work-life balance, it might seem to make the most sense to stay where you are already comfortable if you can attain those goals there. However, doing so can create numerous issues down the road for future job prospects and your career as a whole. “It’s important to remember that there’s a reason you chose to leave your current company to begin with,” says Managing Director of Accounting/Finance at The Execu|Search Group, Elisa Dammacco, CPA. “In fact, it’s not usually just one reason. Just because you get that extra bonus doesn’t mean there won’t be other things you’re unhappy with in the future. Choosing to re-enter the job market, interview, and secure a new offer isn’t an easy process, so make sure you know why you decided to do it before returning to your original employer.” If you had already approached your company with your goals and were refused, only to be given what you asked for in a counter offer, ask yourself: why did it take the threat of losing me for them to be flexible? Will this be a continuing problem in the future? Then consider the following effects accepting a counter offer can have on your career: It may not really be the best offer. Say, for example, you’re looking for better compensation. If your company gives you a counter offer of an added bonus or a better yearly salary, there’s no guarantee that won’t affect other areas of your pay. The bonus may just be one-time, or if your yearly salary increases, you may lose bonuses altogether. “Many employees find themselves back at square one when accepting a counter offer,” says Elisa. “Their employer will often offer an incentive to return along with a promise for even more benefits in the future—more bonuses, better pay, etc. But if there’s only a verbal promise and no clear agreement written down on paper, will that offer still be there down the line?” It can harm your reputation. Even in the best-case scenario in which you attain all your goals in an agreement with your current employer, you still run another great risk: tarnishing your reputation in your field. Accounting/finance sectors are small worlds, and it’s easy for the employer who took the time to make you an offer to feel insulted and pass on the word when you return to your old company. Likewise, you’re also tarnishing your reputation with your current company—even though your employer has recognized your talents and clearly wants to retain them, they may now see you as disloyal and quick to jump into the job market, even if that’s not the case. It can put you on the front lines for a layoff. Because your employer may now have this opinion of you, you can likely become one of the first in line for a layoff. No company dispatches their most loyal and dedicated talent when it comes time for downsizing, so if you’ve given the impression that you’re willing to move on to something else, your employer may be inclined to choose you first. It can close future doors. Should you find yourself in the job market again (which, according to the Wall Street Journal, 93% of those who accept counter offers do), the employer you turned down a position with will be less likely to make you another offer. If you turned down their offer once, they may expect you to do it again, and will probably rather avoid wasting valuable hiring time on a candidate who may not know what he or she wants. So what’s the best way to approach a counter offer situation? According to Elisa, it’s to thoroughly ensure your current employer is incapable of giving you what you need up-front. Then, when you know that’s the case, move on to a different position. “If you do all you can to obtain your goals at your current company and there isn’t room for improvement, then you have to make the decision to move on,” she says. “Knowing for sure that you tried your best before seeking elsewhere will help you avoid taking any counter offers and setting yourself back in the future.”