Virtual Interviews: Tips for Jobseekers and Employers

11 Tips for Virtual Interviews

Virtual interviews have become increasingly common, including with state government agencies in Austin, TX. Before COVID-19, Peak Performers had been transitioning to conducting mostly virtual interviews because of their convenience for all parties. Now, living with the virus, you will find most employers, including Peak Performers, are conducting their interviews via phone or video chat or some combination of the two. Let’s look at some tips for both jobseekers and employers:

  1. Treat it like a normal interview. It’s important to take all interviews, regardless of how they are conducted, with the same level of seriousness. Preparation includes: studying before you interview (jobseekers should research the organization, employers should re-read the candidate’s resume), getting plenty of rest the night before, being well fed before the interview, and cleaning/dressing yourself professionally
  2. Mark your calendar. Prior to the event, make sure that you are prepared to do the interview. You should send out or respond to calendar invites to let the other party know it’s really happening. As an additional courtesy, you can send an email expressing your excitement and providing the other party with another means to contact you if there is connection trouble.
  3. Check technology. Test out the technology to make sure you are set-up and ready to go. If possible, make a test call to a friend or family member. In particular, you should make sure that your webcam and microphone work.
  4. Manage noise. Find yourself a quiet room in your home (not outside). Sounds like a dog barking, garbage disposal running, or someone playing music in the next room may not be something you notice but your interviewer probably will. If you’re concerned about background noise, wear a headset or earphones.
  5. Manage lighting. Find a room with good natural light when possible. Avoid sitting with your back to a window as this tends to turn you into a silhouette. Use overhead lights when natural light is unavailable or insufficient.
  6. Adjust your webcam. Adjust the angle of your webcam so that your head is centered in the frame and the camera clearly shows both your shoulders. Sit so you are directly facing the camera.
  7. Manage interruptions. Don’t forget to silence your phone and computer so it doesn’t interrupt you. Additionally, put a sign on your door and let household members know that you will be interviewing. If interruptions do happen during the interview, such as a child coming in to interrupt you, mute your microphone, deal with the situation patiently, thank the other party for their patience, and return to the interview. We’re all human and working under unusual circumstances—do what you need to do and then get back to it.
  8. Take notes. For employers this is really important, especially if you’re interviewing multiple candidates and need to recall who is who. Jobseekers should also have a pen and paper handy to take note of their interviewer’s name, email, and phone for follow up.
  9. Speak clearly. Remember to talk slower than you might do in person, especially if you are conducting a phone interview. Pause before answering a question to think about it and avoid, when possible, excessive filler words. You want to sound thoughtful and communicate clearly.
  10. Smile often. Remember to smile often, even if you are doing a phone interview. A smile brings a natural enthusiasm to your voice and is particularly important with a video interview.
  11. Look at the camera, not the screen. Finally, when doing a virtual interview, look into the camera as much as possible when talking. This gives the perception of eye contact during the interview.

Dude, where’s my job? Job seeking advice for recent grads!

Taking the next big leap: into the work world

So you’ve graduated—now what?  Maybe you’ve moved out on your own or maybe you’re looking to.  Maybe you’ve already got your foot in the door with an organization, or maybe you’re bussing tables to make ends meet.

Fear not—employers are looking for energetic and enthusiastic young people like you who are ready to change the world! And there are tons or opportunities out there for the eager recent grad.  

Here are 5 tips to help you get started:

  1. Start somewhere: it may not be your dream job right away, but it helps get you there.  Every job you get from making hamburgers to answering phones teaches you something about yourself and about your talents.  Don’t be afraid to try something new and make professional contacts along the way! (PS: Peak is a great place to start in entry-level professional positions.)
  2. Be flexible: chances are you’re young and mobile.  Take advantage of that. Your first or second job may be located on the other side of the country or maybe even in a different one—sounds like a fantastic adventure! Besides asking yourself when can you start…maybe ask yourself where you can start?
  3. More jobs offline:  You may spend most of your time online but your future employer may not.  Have you thoroughly researched a company before applying there? Have you looked for personal referrals and people who might know people?  Have you networked with anyone besides through Linkedin?
  4. Always follow up: even if you don’t end up taking a job after an interview, give the hiring manager the courtesy of a personal phone call or email to thank  them following an interview or offer. Be grateful for every opportunity whether it lands a job or not.  Always be positive, and leave the door open for future opportunities.
  5. Avoid job hopping: even if you don’t like your job, try to resist the urge to “job hop.”  A prospective employer may be less likely to consider you for a new position if they perceive that you are less committed and dedicated for the long-term.
  6. Pick yourself back up: it’s possible you will fall flat on your face or find yourself in a job that’s a terrible fit for your skillset.  Take note, learn from the experience, and move on. Your first job will likely not be your last—but you’re sure to learn a lot along the way!

Did you know we’re always hiring at Peak?  Have you read about what we do?  Start your career with Peak Performers by sending us your resume.

Peak Performers Employee Appreciation Event:  PEAKnic

PEAKnic 2018

On Thursday  May 17th, 2018, Peak Performers celebrated their employee appreciation event, PEAKnic.  Aside from the wordplay—there was much horseplay and balloons and painted faces and sidewalk chalk and sandwiches.  What a party!

The Peak staff ready for the big event.  Where are their party hats?

Yeah, those party hats!

Charlie gets into the action announcing winners of a drawing.

Associates Jesse and Marilyn at the event.  Look at all those sandwiches in the background.  Will there be leftovers 😉

Staffing consultant, Cheryl, is sad to see our guests go.  Next year, Cheryl!

A full house and fantastic event.  Thanks to all who could come!

Over 50? Looking for a job?

5 Tips for Job Seekers over 50

It’s hard finding a new job or transitioning careers, especially when you might be thinking more about retirement.  Things can be extra challenging these days competing with tech savvy millennials who will work for lower wages and can relocate easily—however your future is still bright!

Here are 5 tips to compete in the job market!  (By the way, we’re always hiring at Peak!)

  1. Stay positive, stay current: Employers can sense energy and enthusiasm—they appreciate perspective but don’t want someone stuck in the past.  Make sure to stay positive and in the present both on paper and in person.  Remember that you want to highlight your past and not live in it.
  2. Get techie: Realistically, most of your work will be done on a computer from now on.  Most likely you already use a computer on a daily basis but maybe it’s time to learn some new skills.  It’s likely in your new job you will be using Google Docs, Quickbooks, Salesforce, or another cloud-based, collaborative application–so maybe it’s time to do some research and familiarize yourself with the software currently prevalent in your career field.
  3. Update your resume: Have you been in one job for ten years?  Twenty?  Probably time to update your resume.  Did you know that your local library may have resume writing classes?  Have you looked at resume writing tips online?  Also, don’t forget to tailor your resume towards each job you apply for.
  4. Link up—Linkedin: Linkedin is not only a great way to look for jobs but also to reconnect with former colleagues and friends in the field.  Many of your best job leads will come from personal referrals.  So tighten up that resume and get online to connect.
  5. Leverage your experience: you’ve been there and done that.  Don’t forget to show it on your resume and talk about it in the interview.  Most employers value experience, perspective, and a long list of things you’ve done.  While ideal resumes should be tailored specifically to the job you’re looking to get, don’t be afraid to point out all the ways you’ve changed the world!

By the way, have you heard about our mission at Peak?  Do you think you might be a Peak Performer?  Send us your resume!

Finding the job you LOVE

A note from our founder and CEO:

For many of us, growing up is a time of exploring ideas and our relationship to life – to others around us and the universe in which we live.  It’s a big and complex universe with an enormous number of choices to be made.  Many of us spend the first 25+ plus years of life just figuring out which choices will aid our survival the most (and which ones are most harmful).

Most schools emphasize getting to college as soon as High School is done and that often means entering the full time workforce at the age of 22, 23 or later.  And it can be a big parental (and personal) disappointment when you discover that you actually dislike the kind of work for which you have been trained – at enormous cost.  And if you graduate with debt the shock and disappointment can be personally devastating.

How can you know what you love to do, until you do it?

So finding the job, the work you love, is a bit tricky.  It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem.  How can you know what you love to do, until you do it?  You may find that even the greatest job at the best company in the world can send you into your pillow crying if your boss is mean.  Or you may find the menial tasks of your chosen profession drive you to a boredom not experienced since Middle school.

The days of going to work for one employer in one city, in one trade or profession are gone.  The odds are very good that you will not work any one place for 30 years.  

Job sampling, and temporary work, in today’s “gig” economy is the most beneficial way for you to find out:

  • Where you want to work
  • What kind of work you really enjoy
  • How your skills can be best deployed to help an employer
  • How and where you get the most personal job satisfaction.  

Work is no longer just about the paycheck

For the first decade of working, I had no idea what kinds of jobs I loved, so I sampled multiple jobs, employers, and job types.  From highly technical and precise map making, to highly imprecise and social sales jobs. 

Prior to creating Peak Performers, I had jobs in…

  • A car wash, making dirty cars clean (until the next time it rained)
  • Mapping possible hydroelectric dam locations
  • Selling Persian, Turkish and other exotic rugs and expensive carpets
  • Selling electronic stereo equipment and home electronics
  • Mapping the back side of the moon
  • Analyzing the right level of staffing for large plywood manufacturing plants
  • Grinding steel plates in a machine shop (that lasted one day)
  • Selling insurance and annuity products to elderly people
  • Helping people with disabilities develop work skills
  • Helping minority and women owned small businesses get government contracts
  • Helping low income and minority workers get re-trained and placed into new careers
  • Helping older workers get trained to change occupations and helping minority youth access the workforce 

I finally settled on helping people with disabilities develop work skills as my ideal type of work.  That was after having 15 jobs!  Some lasting years and some only months.  

To give another example: our family dentist began his post-university career as an electrical engineer.  He is a highly social person who likes talking to patients.  Electrical engineering was not a good fit, to say the least.

No one really knows what they LOVE to do until they have done some various things.

No one really knows what they LOVE to do until they have done some various things.  Employers are no longer expecting you to give them your whole life and they are no longer guaranteeing you a lifetime job.  That’s a good thing for people seeking a well-balanced, happy and prosperous life because you don’t want to commit for the next 30 years either.

So, looking at the reality of today’s job market, all jobs are, in effect, temporary.  And you as a candidate can make the best of this opportunity to look around and sample different jobs, in different sectors for different employers until you find the job you LOVE.  

The whole box of chocolates might look inviting, but there will be one in the box that’s better than all the others.  It’s up to you to find it.

-Charlie Graham, founder and CEO of Peak Performers

A recruiter’s review of 3 job clubs in Austin

Looking for work is hard. It’s even harder if you try to do it alone.

The job club model is designed to utilize the collective power of a group to help job seekers find and keep employment opportunities. Each group tends to have their own culture and flare, but they all typically include weekly meetings, networking, resource sharing and guest speakers who provide a wealth of information on the job search process.

Our recruitment team benefits from staying connected to various job clubs in Austin, and we thought we’d share some insider information on our three favorite groups in the area.


Background

According to the group’s official website, the Launch Pad Job Club (LPJC) was “created in 2001 and was facilitated by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The job club was formed to support the thousands of unemployed tech workers who were displaced by the Dot Com bust.” During the last recession, attendance grew upwards of 300 weekly attendees. These days there are typically 60-80 job seekers and volunteers.

Full disclosure: Peak Performers is a sponsor of LPJC, but they did not pay us to write nice things about them. We actually paid them.

Atmosphere

It’s impossible to talk about this group without mentioning Kathy Lansford Powell. She founded and has galvanized the group since its inception. Her energy and enthusiasm have trickled down throughout the volunteers and programming alike. We’ve found that this tends to be a more experienced crowd with a wide range of skills and backgrounds. While the membership is professional and serious about the job search, the meetings tend to be fairly casual and light-hearted. You’ll want to stay alert though — recruiters often visit the meetings and lurk in the crowds.

Highlights

While there are several other job clubs around Austin, the LPJC can proudly say they were the first in Central Texas. Their signature program is called Leap to Success, which offers the talents of members to area non-profit organizations for free, short-term projects. This is a great way for job seekers to keep their skills fresh, increase their network and feel good about giving back to some incredible organizations in our city.

How to get connected

Contact   Website  Facebook  LinkedIn  Twitter   YouTube

Meetings

LPJC meets every Friday, typically at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin. Newcomers are encouraged to arrive by 9:30 for orientation, and the main agenda starts at 10:00 AM and usually lasts until noon.


Background

Like many groups across the country, the roots of what is now HiredTexas sprang up following the recession in 2008. It originally began as a career assistance group but has since grown into a full-service job club offering learning opportunities, job search assistance, peer support and a wealth of community connections. A full narrative of the group’s history can be found here.

Atmosphere

HiredTexas has a family-like and hospitable atmosphere, and new members are quickly welcomed and encouraged to get involved. The “5 pieces of inspiration” shared by the group facilitator help set the tone for a week of motivated job hunting. There is also a potluck networking lunch that occurs the second Tuesday of each month. HiredTexas meets in a church building, but there is no direct religious component to the programming.

Highlights

The group recently revamped their website, and we’re big fans of the clean look and updated content. They offer an abundance of resources, including unique forums designed to meet the needs of an evolving workforce. The personal marketing support forums include a Career Assessment, Marketing Plan, Resume, LinkedIn profile and picture, and Interviewing. Forums for Networking Effectively, Informational Interviewing, and Negotiating the Offer are in also development. They also offer free classes on Computer Fundamentals and the Microsoft Office Suite products. If you’re in need of motivation, you may benefit from joining a Career Action Team to keep your job search accountable.

How to get connected

Contact   Website  Facebook   LinkedIn  Twitter   YouTube

Meetings

HIREDTexas meets every Tuesday from 10 AM until 12:00 PM at Grace Presbyterian Church (Round Rock). The meeting is generally divided into three parts: guest presenter, networking, and various forums.


Background

The Austin Job Seekers Network (JSN) began as a ministry of the Hill Country Bible Church in 2009. Craig Foster is a dynamic and engaged leader, and he has grown the group to involve thousands of participants throughout the years. They are now an independent, non-profit organization offering a comprehensive approach to caring for the whole job seeker. JSN normally runs 90-100+ job seekers and volunteers each week.

Atmosphere

Prior to attending for the first time, our team heard many positive reviews about JSN from job seekers and recruiters alike. The weekly meetings are professional, interactive and full of positive, encouraging energy. Keep in mind that the meetings are hosted in a church building, and there is a clear religious component to the messaging. They are a faith-based group; however, people of all faiths are welcome to participate, and many do.

Highlights

According to a leading job search expert, JSN is considered one of the top 5 job clubs in the United States. The group offers compelling keynote speakers, small group training on a variety of job search topics and workshops on career direction and life calling. Our favorite thing about JSN is that they have a section of the running agenda dedicated to the “donut people.” When someone has good news to share (often in the form of a job offer), they bring a box of donuts to celebrate and offer their good news to the rest of the group.

How to get connected

Contact  Website  Facebook  LinkedIn  Twitter  YouTube

Meetings

JSN meets every Monday morning from 9:00 to 11:30 AM at the Hill Country Bible Church Lakeline on 620 near 183. Newcomers are encouraged to arrive twenty minutes early to sign-in and meet with a coach.


We can’t possibly list all of the resources associated with these groups, so you’ll have to check them out yourself. Each group is free to attend and all are welcome. We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. Have you benefitted from the job club model?

 

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4 tips for job seekers with disabilities

Based on Census Bureau data from 2015, there were an estimated 1.6 million working-age Texans with one or more disabilities. In the same year, Austin was home to nearly 72,000 residents living with disabilities or roughly 8 percent of the city’s population. These are significant numbers, and they likely do not include many invisible disabilities as defined by the ADA Amendments Act (2008).

While the situation is improving, many challenges remain for job seekers with chronic medical conditions in the United States. Discrimination in the workplace, lack of accessibility and inaccurate perceptions are all contributing factors to a disability unemployment rate that is more than twice as high as the general population. Moreover, the unemployment rate is not an ideal metric to gauge the economic participation of people with disabilities, as it does not account for many people who would like to work but are not actively seeking employment.

However, more and more employers are realizing the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities. In this day and age, companies need employees who are able to solve problems in unique and creative ways. And candidates with disabilities are often well positioned to think outside the proverbial box.

With more than 22 years of experience putting people with disabilities to work in Austin, we’ve compiled some of our best advice for job seekers with chronic medical conditions.

Consider a public sector job

The Obama administration exceeded their goal of hiring 100,000 people with disabilities during the past several years. With many states and municipalities following, this act alone has undoubtedly contributed to a falling disability unemployment rate over the same time period.

If you’re unable to get a government job directly, you might consider working with a company that does business with the public sector (shameless self-promotion alert). At Peak Performers, we recognize that disabilities have little to no bearing on an individual’s skills and capabilities. Our mission is to find jobs for qualified individuals, especially those with a disability. In fact, at our company, your status as a person with a disability can actually put you at an advantage–when we fill jobs, we give priority to qualified people who have a chronic medical condition.

Expand your network

Shameless self-promotion aside, we’re not the only ones in Austin providing jobs for people with disabilities. We recommend utilizing a variety local and online resources in your job search. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • The Launch Pad Job Club is a networking, support, and job lead sharing organization that aids and supports job seekers in Austin. Looking for work is hard to do alone. The job club model offers free, weekly meetings to network and learn from local experts and job seekers.
  • Workforce Solutions is our regional workforce development system and a partner of the American Job Center network. With three locations in the Austin area, WFS is a one-stop resource for job search assistance and employment-related services in Travis County.
  • If you are new to the workforce or are recently disabled, you might benefit from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) – one of the leading sources of guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

Consider when to disclose

The key question for many disabled job seekers is when (or if) to disclose their medical condition to a potential employer. Depending on your individual circumstances, this decision will be different for everyone. However, it’s important to think ahead and be prepared to address any skepticism from a hiring manager.

For people with highly visible disabilities, it is generally recommended to address any accommodations at the outset, so that expectations are set early in the process. Those with invisible disabilities can typically choose whether or not to disclose at all. Many career advice articles suggest that if your disability is not easily noticeable, it’s best not to say anything. Despite legal protection, the sad truth is that workplace discrimination is still a significant reality for people with all types of disabilities.

Know your worth

If and when you do decide to disclose, keep in mind that it’s not necessary to outline your entire medical history. We recommend sharing any accommodations you might need and focusing on how you’re able to contribute to the company. As with any job search process, it’s important to highlight your skills, experience and professional accomplishments. Understanding your worth can go a long way to giving you the confidence to nail the interview. The system might be broken, but you certainly are not.

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What to wear to your Austin interview

According to the Austin Business Journal, there are an estimated 157.2 people moving to our area every single day (we’re not sure how to calculate one-fifth of a person, but we’ll take their word for it). Central Texas has been one of the fastest growing regions of the US for many years. More and more people are drawn to Austin’s growing economy, laid-back atmosphere and mild winter weather. We’re also proud to be ranked 2017’s best place to live by the ubiquitous assessors at US News & World Report. If you’re new to our beautiful city, we feel confident you’ll assimilate quickly.

With so many fresh job seekers from other parts of the country, we thought we’d offer our best recommendations on what to wear to your next job interview in our city. With over 22 years being Austin’s preferred staffing and recruiting firm, we’ve interviewed countless candidates and helped put thousands of people to work at State of Texas government agencies. We’ve seen it all, to say the least.

For starters, here are a couple general guidelines to follow for any job interview:

  • Try not to stick out. We recommend dressing to look like you could start working the moment you walk in the door. If you’re interviewing for a construction job, for instance, bring your jeans and work boots. If you’re hoping to work in a courtroom, however, full suited attire might be more appropriate. If you’re still not sure what to wear, you might consider doing some subtle research into what other employees typically wear to work.
  • Wear what makes you feel good. When people look their best, they tend to have more confidence and self-assurance. While your personal image shouldn’t be a significant factor in an interview, it could communicate your attention to detail and give the hiring manager an idea of how you might represent the company to future clients or customers.

Keep in mind that there are only two seasons in Austin – hot and less hot. If you’re flying in for an interview, remember to check the weather report because precipitation and temperature can shift drastically in Central Texas. Another caveat is that most Austinites love air conditioning, especially when it’s 100 degrees outside. While you might find yourself sweating during the walk from your car, you might also be shivering while sitting in the company lobby.

Austin is also a city where it’s highly plausible to see people wearing flip-flops and shorts to a place of worship. Nowhere is this theme more salient than in the tech industry. It’s generally not a good idea to wear very formal attire for software development or information technology related positions.

That being said, most office or professional environments in Austin will go by the general rules of business casual.

(Mike Nudelman/Business Insider)

 

For women, this usually means casual skirts, dresses, pants and blouses. Similarly, for men, this typically means a shirt with a collar tucked into dress pants with casual dress shoes. It is also common to see people in sweaters, vests and a combination of other seasonal accessories. Outside of certain formal industries, you’ll rarely find anyone wearing a suit in ATX.

Despite the stereotypes, leave your cowboy boots at home. And if you’re still stressing about what to wear, it’s usually okay to just ask.

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