Job Tips & Advice You’ll Want To Follow…

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Key insights curated for the modern job seeker.

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How to prepare for your Zoom Interview
Rachel Loock
University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

Many organizations have returned to the office in recent months. But if you’re called for a job interview, there’s a good chance it will still be conducted remotely.

That means preparing for the interview in a slightly different way.

Some aspects of your standard interview prep won’t change. You’ll still need to research the company and the interviewer’s background, and be ready to describe how your education and experience are a solid match for the position. You’ll want to prepare answers and anecdotes that demonstrate your core competencies, as you normally would. And you’ll want to prepare a list of questions to pose to your interviewer when it’s your turn to ask them.

But there are some differences in preparing for a virtual interview.

As a career and leadership coach at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, I’ve helped lots of people get ready for their Zoom interview in the past. Here’s my advice:

Test the tech: We’re all much more familiar with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meets than we were 18 months ago. But a little practice never hurts. Enlist a friend or family member to perform a test run of the technology. Doing so will help alleviate potential glitches.

Set the stage: Take a look at everything the camera puts in view during your online interview, including the background. Position your camera somewhere that is free of background noise and visual distractions. Natural or soft lighting, slightly above and behind the camera, will help you look your best. If you can create a serene, professional setting, styled with houseplants and books or use a background that’s already been created, that’s great. But a plain, neutral-colored wall works just as well. Zoom’s “Touch Up My Appearance Setting” is another option you might want to use.

Adjust your settings: Make sure your account includes a professional looking headshot and your full name, as it appears on your resume. Both will appear when you join the call — making them an important part of your first impression.

Dress to impress: In-person or via-computer, you should always dress for the job you want. Don’t skip the shoes and dress slacks just because you don’t expect anyone to see them from your webcam. Dress like the hiring team is in the room. If you need to stand up to move to another room or to adjust the lighting, you won’t have to worry that you are wearing stretchy pants instead of trousers.

Create some space: Interviewees should strive to recreate the same distance from their camera that they would have sitting behind a desk at an interview. Your interviewers should be able to see your hand gestures and facial expressions — but they shouldn’t be so close that they can see up your nose.

Check your posture: Body language is important and does convey over video. Remember to sit up straight and lean in slightly. Nod or smile at appropriate moments to project enthusiasm.

Check in: When there are multiple people on the call, it can be a challenge to properly address everyone. Don’t hesitate to backtrack on a question, verifying that an individual interviewer feels you answered it sufficiently. Address the interviewer(s) by name, where possible. For questions that speak directly to your core competencies or experiences, ask the group if they would like more examples, anecdotes, or if anyone wants you to elaborate. Those simple check-in questions can make sure you’re tending to and connecting with everyone on the call.

And, scene: After you’ve answered the interviewers’ questions and they’ve answered yours, thank them for their time. Pause for a moment after you’ve ended the call to make sure your microphone and camera are turned off, and then take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders and get started writing personalized thank-you emails to everyone in the interview, just as you would if it had been conducted in person.

Rachel Loock is the associate director of Executive MBA Career Coaching, Programming and Outreach at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

A simple guide for writing the perfect cover letter
Dori Jamison
University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

No one loves writing cover letters.

They can seem awkward or even boring when you’ve written many. And they are time-consuming.

So when a job posting includes the words “cover letter optional,” it can seem like a relief. With those three words, you are blissfully let off the hook on that arduous but tedious task. Right?

Not quite.

The bad news is that the cover letter is never really “optional.”

The only time when you don’t need one is when the job description specifies: “No cover letters, please.”

For many years, I’ve advised professionals as they navigate their career searches. As the director of MBA Career Coaching at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, I help candidates get jobs in consulting and professional services, among other fields. Before this job, I spent several years as a recruiter for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Today, in the wake of the “Great Resignation,” a lot of companies are scrambling to fill record numbers of employment vacancies. It’s a great time to be looking for work. And it may seem reasonable in this environment to assume that, as a jobseeker, you’re in the driver’s seat and don’t need to write those “optional” cover letters.

But a cover letter — a good cover letter — is worth the time and energy when you want the job. It introduces who you are in a way that goes beyond the resume, it demonstrates your interest in the position and the organization, and it inspires the reader to take action. The cover letter can be the difference between getting the offer or not.

A large percentage of today’s job postings either require a cover letter or make it optional. Only a small percentage will indicate no cover letters. That means you should be prepared to submit a cover letter as part of your application 80% to 90% of the time.

As a former recruiter, I know there are times when two candidates end up closely ranked in the hiring team’s estimation. In those times, a cover letter can make the difference and help you inch ahead of the competition.

Here’s my advice for writing a good one, without a ton of effort each time.

Create a boilerplate. This part does take time and effort. For the first paragraph: Write an introductory paragraph that you’ll adapt for each new role and each new company. For the second paragraph: Write out several of your skills, or competencies, in a skimmable, bulleted format. Each competency will be in bold type, with a sentence or two that tells a very short story of how you have used this skill and what outcome it produced. Focus here on direct evidence — facts, not judgments. For the third paragraph, describe what drives you and what you’re like to work with. That is your value proposition. For that final, closing paragraph, restate your interest, thank the hiring team for its consideration and look ahead to next steps.

Customize, customize. That boilerplate is going to do so much heavy lifting. Using the boilerplate you created, you’ll modify the introductory paragraph, asserting your interest in the role and the company. Then, you’ll select two or three of the bullet points from your boilerplate list to specifically highlight the skills mentioned in the job posting. The third and fourth paragraphs can likely remain just as they are. That’s the beauty of this strategy. It’s far less daunting to modify an old cover letter than to start from scratch each time.

Find an editor. It should go without saying, but a good cover letter is well-written and free of grammatical errors and other silly mistakes — like accidentally leaving in a reference to the last company you applied to. Achieving that requires a second pair of eyes or even a third. Enlist a friend or loved one who will be your editor, and be prepared to return the favor someday.

One final tip: Always re-read the job description once or twice. Make sure you know what the posting is asking for, so the cover letter speaks directly to that. And remember, it’s not about what you want the hiring team to know; it’s about what they need to know.

Dori Jamison is the director of MBA Career Coaching at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Prior to coming to Maryland Smith, she worked for eight years as a recruiter for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

This is the most important question you’ll get asked in a job interview
Neta Moye
University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

Your interview is progressing well. You’ve concisely communicated why you’re here — in your career journey and in this interview — with your “tell us about yourself” narrative. You’ve provided concrete examples of your professional accomplishments that speak to your readiness for this role. You’ve conveyed the value you could bring. You think they’re convinced.

Then comes that final question: “Do you have any questions for us?”

It’s tempting to skip this one. It’s the end of the interview, and by this point, you may be feeling slightly wrung out, overwhelmed, and even short on time.

Be aware, hiring managers often place a lot of weight on what you say here.


Because asking questions can signal your interest in the company and the position. Your questions can demonstrate that you’ve done some upfront research; that you’ve been listening intently throughout the interview; that you are curious and want to learn more. The one thing you don’t want to say here is that you don’t have any questions for your interviewers.

As a leadership professor and head of the Office of Career Services at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, I’ve had the opportunity to work with successful, mid-career professionals as they navigate the interview process. We talk a lot about the process — and the importance of this one question.Here’s my advice on answering it well.

  1. Plan ahead. Assemble a list of questions that you truly want answered; sincere curiosity goes a long way. You likely won’t ask all your questions, but it’s good to have several ready so you don’t ask a question that the interviewer has already answered. In most settings, asking two to three questions is ideal — asking more may suggest that you don’t respect the interviewers’ time. Be sure to read the room and body language for signs that they want to wrap up the meeting. Remember: You’ll have opportunities to learn more in future conversations, so don’t overdo it.
  2. Do your research. Don’t ask questions that can be easily answered with a quick online search. Scan the company website about basic details and history, as well as current news articles about the organization’s recent challenges and successes. Reach out to current and former employees to find out more about what it’s like to work there. Your social network could be a good source for locating these folks, and your university alumni office may help with introductions. Questions that demonstrate you’ve done your “homework” are strong signals that you take this opportunity seriously.
  3. Tailor your questions to suit the meeting. When you’re speaking with someone from human resources, ask questions about the interviewing process or the overall organization. When you’re speaking with the hiring manager or your world-be supervisor, ask more specific questions about the role itself or the team. If speaking with prospective colleagues in adjacent departments, ask about collaboration and work culture.
  4. Refer back to projects or ideas the hiring team has mentioned. Reference what was told to you earlier in the conversation when you ask a question. This conveys active listening, respect and a desire to learn more.
  5. Not all questions are good questions. Avoid “yes/no” questions. You want the two-way conversation to continue, so ask open-ended questions. Also, avoid self-serving questions — those about salary, vacation days and other benefits; save those for after you get the job offer. Finally, try not to ask multi-pronged or overly complicated questions. This is not “stump the interviewer” time. It is a chance to show your interest in learning more about the work, the team and the organization.

As you compile your list of questions for the hiring manager or team, here are a few suggestions to get you started. Again, make them your own.

  • In your opinion, what does success in this role look like? Are there key performance indicators?
  • If hired for this position, what should I aim to accomplish in my first three months?
  • What are the strengths that have led others to succeed in this role?
  • How did this position come to be open?
  • How long have you been with the company, and what’s something you enjoy about working here?
  • Can you tell me a little about the company culture?
  • What do you see as the most pressing challenge this company is facing right now? This team?
  • Is there anything else I can provide to help you with your decision?

Neta Moye is an assistant dean and executive director of the Offices of Career Services at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is also a clinical professor of leadership, management and organization. Moye has over 30 years of experience in the field of human resources and leadership development.

4 Tips to Help Job Seekers Looking for Advice
Tip #1: Need a job? Have no experience? That’s OK! Companies are relaxing job requirements to cope with worker shortages.

Do you have good people skills? Drive? A clean shirt?

You’re hired!

Employers are loosening job requirements amid the most severe worker shortages in recent memory. In many cases, they’re hiring candidates with no experience and training them to fill in the gaps as long as they have the aptitude and soft skills such as a knack for communicating well and working hard.

Eighty-eight percent of businesses say they’re bringing on candidates who have strong soft skills and then providing job-specific training, according to a Harris Poll survey of 2,100 employers for CareerBuilder conducted March 31-April 23. In 2019, just 62% of employers had hired candidates who lacked the required skills and trained them, CareerBuilder says.

Story from: USAT

Tip #2: Remote jobs are here to stay. Will virtual hiring be the new norm?

Many executives and employment experts believe that virtual onboarding will remain post-pandemic. Why? Because traditional methods apparently haven’t been working well for new hires even before COVID-19 forced many to work remotely and online. Includes tips on ways to make a virtual onboarding experience more effective.

Story from: USAT

Tip #3: American Are Quitting. Here’s How To Negotiate for the Next Job.

In the market for a new job? It may be a good time to be you. Americans have been quitting their jobs in record numbers, and as the economy improves, job openings are nearing new highs. In this column, management professor Rellie Derfler-Rozin offers advice on how not to squander this moment. Her four tips include:

Careful how you talk about money: Her research shows bringing up the topic of compensation can cost you the job.

Don’t sabotage your negotiations: Negotiations aren’t a zero-sum game. Here’s how to approach them to grow your economic advancement.

Guest column from Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland

Tip #4: Switching Careers? Advice You’ll Want To Follow…

Working from home during the pandemic presented a breakaway from the traditional workday routines, and with it, time to reflect on our careers and wonder what might be next. For many, that has meant contemplating a big career change. For career-switchers, management professor and executive career coach J. Gerald Suarez offers his advice. His five tips include:

Find your burning yes. Be driven by exploring and pursuing a meaningful and creative opportunity versus simply avoiding something that has become unstimulating. What is your picture of success? What is your picture of fulfillment?

Align the shift with your gift. What is your uniqueness? What talents can you apply to a new context? Remember: Changing what you do doesn’t mean changing who you are.

Guest column from Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland