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Resume, Job Searching, and Internship Guides & FAQs

Resume, Job Searching, and Internship Guides & FAQs
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Noodle Staff March 22, 2024

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Resume

Maybe you tended to a sick family member, cared for your kids, pursued a degree, or spent a five-month sabbatical birdwatching in the Amazon. Or maybe you were one of the 21.9 million workers U.S. businesses laid off in 2018. Whatever the reason for the gap in your employment history, you’re not alone.

According to Monster’s 2019 State of the Candidate Survey, roughly 60 percent of Americans have been unemployed or had a gap in their career. Of the 1,000 current full-time U.S. employees who participated in the study, 43 percent reported that they had either been fired or laid off more than once.

If you’re anxious while applying for jobs after a stint of unemployment, that’s natural. While a gap in your resume isn’t a guaranteed disadvantage, studies show that it can hinder your chances of getting the next job you seek.

Research by the resume-writing company ResumeGo indicates that employers are less than half as likely to reach out about a position if you leave a long gap between jobs in your resume. While a one or two-year gap only slightly decreases your chance of landing an interview, a three-year gap cuts your chances virtually in half.

What’s more, letting hiring managers come to their own conclusions about gaps in your employment history—like you took a career hiatus to run from the law or simply do nothing—will almost certainly harm your prospects.

According to ResumeGo, on average, applicants who provide a reason for a gap on their resume have a callback rate 60 percent higher than that of applicants who chose not to disclose the reason for a stretch of unemployment in their career.

Given the findings, explaining a gap in your employment history is a smart move. But can you clearly explain your decision and how it worked to your advantage? Instead of succumbing to jitters and fumbling your response, here’s how to talk about your work history—gaps and all—and come off as the stellar candidate that you are.

1. Expect the inevitable

Recruiters are curious, and when it comes to your employment, they’re interested in learning about when, why, and how you left previous positions, including any periods on your resume not covered by paid employment.

One of the first things they’ll think when seeing a gap in your employment history is “What the heck were they doing?” according to Stu Coleman, partner and senior managing director at WinterWyman, a talent acquisition firm. “Some candidates, for whatever reason, have trouble keeping employment,” he says. “But for the majority, there’s generally a really good reason, like a medical issue. When you speak with them, you find that out.”

Even if you feel awkward or ashamed about a gap in your career, being prepared to provide clarification—whether in your cover letter or during an interview—when asked is far better than just crossing your fingers and hoping the situation is overlooked.

2. Know that honesty is (always) the best policy

Gaps in employment happen—and recruiters and hiring managers realize this. They’re also good at verifying candidates’ career history, which makes lying about any gaps in your employment history a genuinely terrible idea.

In a 2018 TopResume study, 97 percent of surveyed recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals admitted that discovering a resume lie would cause them to reconsider—if not immediately dismiss—a job candidate.

Speaking the truth isn’t only beneficial for keeping your resume out of the trash, either. By speaking candidly about your employment history, you control the narrative—and better still, avoid any chance of coming off as someone who’s hiding something.

So, when questions about the gap in your resume come up, explain that you left the workforce after having children, hit pause on your career after several intense years in a field, or that you took time off to head back to school. If you’re reduced to lying and pretending to be something you’re not, your integrity will immediately be called into question.

3. Emphasize the positive

No matter the reason for the gap in your resume—whether it’s getting fired, caring for a loved one, or even the birdwatching sabbatical mentioned above—you can almost always find value in the experience. And while you should avoid divulging too much information about what caused your lack of employment, you need to give specifics on how you productively spent that time.

You would do well to prepare a brief anecdote or two that emphasizes how you grew personally and professionally and became more self-actualized during your time away from the workforce. This can include anything you’ve done to keep up on your industry or prepare for your re-entry into it. You might also bring up any freelance work, volunteer positions you held, classes or events you attended, or any other way you advanced your skills.

Here are some examples of how you might describe a gap in unemployment:

If you were laid off

“My previous employer had to make a series of budget cuts. As a result, my role was eliminated. I’m proud of what I achieved in my previous position, and I’ve used my time out of the workplace to think seriously about what I want from my next role. It also allowed me to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the industry. I’m confident that this opportunity is right for me.”

If you were fired

“The company and I had different expectations. Looking back, I’m certain there were some things I could have done differently. Since leaving, I’ve clarified my professional goals and worked to improve my communication skills, which I believe will be an asset in my next role.”

If you took time off to raise children

“I chose to be a stay-at-home parent until my children were in their teens. I made sure to keep my skills and industry knowledge up-to-date during that time through professional development courses and networking events. Now that my kids are grown, I’m ready to re-enter the workforce and looking forward to utilizing the skills I learned along the way.”

If you went back to school

“I wanted to expand my career options through additional training in my field. I’m looking forward to using the skills I gained from my degree to benefit an organization. This role is the perfect way for me to do that because…”

If you put your career on hold for health reasons

“After ongoing health problems, I left the workforce to focus on getting better. I’m grateful to have overcome them and know they’ve made me a stronger person. Now I’m fully recovered and ready to focus on the next stage of my career.”

If you went on sabbatical or traveled

“After spending several years working for a company in a very demanding job, I realized I was ready for a change. I decided to take some time off before starting a new position to fulfill my goal to backpack through India. The experience allowed me to readjust and refocus, and hit the ground running on the next chapter of my career—and I feel this role is the ideal place to do that.”

If you unsuccessfully attempted a career change

“Before changing occupations, I didn’t think critically enough about what was missing in my career. After pausing a bit to reflect on the setback, I’m confident in my professional goals and ready to take the next step. I’ve also pursued certification in my field to deepen my skill set and qualifications that I’m certain will benefit this position.”

(Written by Mairead Kelly)

Does the perfect resume exist? As if nailing down the right format isn’t hard enough, you’ll need to spell- and grammar-check to boot, and drop a whole bunch of buzzwords while incorporating an accurate snapshot of your work experience, achievements, and skills.

That resumes are essential to landing a new job is basically a universal truth. And while forming your own isn’t exactly synonymous with a good time, for many job-seekers, it’s the cover letter that represents the most dreaded part of the job search.

For one, cover letters need to be short, which can be hard for anyone trying to summarize even as little as a year of work experience, let alone ten or 20 years in a few cogent sentences.

What’s more, whether you’re a recent college graduateswitching careers, applying with years of hands-on experience in your field, or someone whose leadership skills are certified by the Harvard Kennedy School, you’ve likely grappled with the challenge of incorporating the skills that you know can help you move to the top of nearly any application pile, in any industry. Namely, communication, critical thinking, collaboration—and you guessed it, leadership.

One of the many soft skills that employers value, a cover letter that clearly demonstrates your leadership skills is essential to securing any job that requires you to take initiative and be a leader—whether as a manager or among your peers.

When hiring for leadership skills, employers look for candidates with qualities that will allow them to successfully interact with colleagues and clients while increasing employee engagement, supporting a positive work environment, and helping remove obstacles for their team’s workflow. Some may even inspire colleagues to apply leadership traits in their own work.

So, how can you demonstrate your abilities as a leader in a genuine, captivating, and concrete way without walking through your entire career path? It’s all about letting your leadership skills speak for themselves. More specifically, it’s about optimizing your cover letter by incorporating actionable and relevant stories and experiences—and completing a few more steps that we’ll get to here.

Provide examples of your leadership skills

Resume building site Zety’s 2020 HR report indicates that each corporate job offer attracts an average of 250 resumes. Given those numbers, a cover letter that provides specific examples of your leadership ability can make the difference between landing an interview and the growing sensation that your application disappeared into the HR black hole.

To stand out, you’ll need to drum up some leadership-based anecdotes from previous jobs. You can do this by brainstorming projects, assignments, or responsibilities that best illustrate your leadership expertise. From here, you may select one to describe in-depth or a handful of shorter experiences to talk about.

For example, imagine you’re a Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduate applying for an associate role at a consulting firm. You might highlight the following in your cover letter:

While completing an MBA, I acted as a [role] of [club name], an organization that promotes career and professional advancement and socially minded students cultivate relationships with non- and for-profit social enterprises and organizations. Through panels, networking events, workshops, and other activities, [club name] seeks to prepare students to join an international network of leaders committed to using the power of business to create a better world.

Or maybe, you’re a teacher seeking a position with greater responsibility. Your cover letter might include:

As a teacher at [school name], I worked as a resource provider by helping new staff members set up their classrooms. This included brainstorming ideas for differentiating instruction and planning lessons, creating classroom guides that explain to students how to get help when their teacher is busy, and offering recommendations on how to use grade-level curriculum pacing guides.

If you don’t have leadership experience from a job

Remember, leadership is not just about job titles. You may find that your ability to inspire people to work toward a common goal, gauge priorities, and manage resources stems from non-work-related activities focused on teaching, motivating, coaching, and supervising others.

No matter what positions or experience you have under your belt, leadership skills are valuable, whether you were the editor-in-chief of your college paper, captain of your swim team, or acted as a community ambassador while volunteering at a nonprofit organization.

Quantify your impact

While past job titles and achievements may do some work to capture the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, convincing them of your leadership skills doesn’t stop there. In this case, you’ll need to back up real-life examples of your skills with specific, measurable results that are unique to your experience.

When writing about the leadership skills you applied to previous jobs and activities, think about quantifying their impact by using hard information, whether time, money, volume, process-improvement percentages, your rank in performance, or even the size of your team.

Let’s apply that to the first example we used above:

While completing an MBA, I acted as a [role] of [club name], an organization that promotes career and professional advancement and socially minded students cultivate relationships with non- and for-profit social enterprises and organizations… In [club name], I led student recruitment efforts across [school name]’s MBA and MAM programs. In two years, [club name]’s student members grew from 70 to just over 250, including two additional student chapters at prominent U.S. business schools.

Incorporate action from the job description

If you’ve written a quality cover letter, it’s natural to want to use the bulk of it for each job you’re applying for, save a few tweaks here and there. However, it’s likely that this approach won’t highlight your skills as successfully as you’d like and worse, fail to portray what makes you the ideal candidate for a specific job. This is where optimization comes into play.

So, if you take the time to write a cover letter, take the time to make it a worthwhile read by referencing specific action phrases—like “oversee,” “communicate,” and “inform,” for example—from the job description, whether by inserting them into anecdotes of your leadership skills them or using them to describe what interests you about the prospective position.

Highlight skills associated with leadership

Irrespective of how you define them, all good leaders regardless of role, industry, or location have a number of soft skills that help motivate their employees, team members, and clients. While it’s a no-brainer that employers seek these skills in the candidates applying for leadership roles, these skills are also immensely valuable for all job applicants and employees.

So, what are they? To answer that, think of an effective leader you’ve interacted with. They have the ability to communicate well, motivate their team, handle and delegate responsibilities, listen to feedback, and have the flexibility to solve problems in an ever-changing workplace.

Turns out, leadership is about much more than an ability to rally a team or spearhead a project. What employers are really looking for are candidates who can help them achieve their biggest priorities. And remember, this is true whether you’re applying for a seat in the C-suite or an entry-level position.

When applying to a job, consider which key personality traits will further strengthen your description of your leadership skills. Not sure where to start? The global recruiting site Hays names these eight characteristics as attributes all strong leaders should have:

  • Professional
  • Results-oriented
  • Inspirational
  • Accountable
  • Influential
  • Intuitive
  • Emotionally intelligent
  • Big-picture thinking

Now, it’s all well and good to say you think big or possess intuition that helps you make difficult decisions wisely, but you need to convince employers of this claim. How? By quantifying these associated skills and illustrating how you’ve applied them previously.

Like you did with examples of leadership, think about past accomplishments and objectives you met in former roles, and give quantifiable anecdotes that prove you can do what you say you can. If you find that these soft skills are present in the leadership-based examples you’ve already provided, you’re already one step ahead of the cover letter game.

(Written by Mairead Kelly)

In the world of social media, Twitter is a 500-pound gorilla. It’s a veritable powerhouse that has changed how people get their information and created a forum for global conversation never seen before.

Best of all, by enabling you to network with people you wouldn’t normally be able to reach and to create an online profile that attracts potential employers, Twitter can help you build a professional presence that just might get you that dream job — and position you as a thought leader in your field.

On the flip side, if you don’t create a professional looking profile, if you follow people who post nonsense, and if you share things which are offensive or controversial, Twitter can end up wasting your time and damaging your reputation.

We’ve put together a list of tips to help you make the most of Twitter and leverage it for your professional success.

Choose a professional username

Your username is the first thing people will see, so make sure it paints you in a professional light. If you’re new to Twitter and just now creating your account, use your actual name as your username, if possible.

If it’s already taken, however, try some variation of it using your middle initial, a number, your company name, or your school. Tip: Incorporate something that defines your degree or what you do, e.g., @JoeTheWriter.

Create a custom background

Try to avoid using stock photography or one of Twitter’s template backgrounds for your account or you’ll blend into the Twittering crowd. Instead, create a unique, custom look that reflects who you are and what you do.

If you have a logo, design a background that incorporates it. Or, you could use photo of your company building or your workspace. If you’re still in school, consider using a nice photo of your town or campus, or even of yourself. Tip: PicMonkey is a great free tool for creating custom images.

Use a professional-looking head shot

This is the first impression that many will have of you; make sure it’s a good one. If you have a professional looking photo of yourself, use it for your profile image. If you don’t have one, you consider having a few head shots taken by a photographer.

If that’s not in your budget, find a friend who knows how to work the light to ensure that you’re looking your professional best. Tip: If you’re DIY-ing it, search for “professional head shot” on Pinterest for pose and outfit ideas.

Put some thought into your bio

Lots of folks use their Twitter bio to say something cute or funny. And for most people, that’s fine. But if you’re trying to create a professional aura, you need to use this part of your profile effectively. Think of it as a mini-résumé or elevator pitch, and say who you are, what you do, and why people should follow you.

For example: “Personal Branding and Marketing Specialist with 12 years of experience. I help people excel in who they are.” Or, “Active college student with a strong work ethic and passion for helping others.”

Tip: be sure to use keywords to make your bio as SEO-friendly as possible.

Tweet about relevant topics

It’s important to have a professional profile, but unless you’re sharing valuable information, it won’t do you any good.

Your tweets are your chance to position yourself as a thought leader in your field or particular area of study. Before you tweet, ask yourself what value it will offer to the kind of people you want to follow you. It’s fine to share something fun every once in a while to reflect your interests and unique personality, just make sure it’s not something off-color or offensive.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Justine Sacco, the PR exec who was fired after her inappropriate tweet caused a social media maelstrom.

Tip: be consistent with your tweets; two or three a day is fine. Just don’t overdo it.

Follow leaders in your field/industry

Who you follow is just as important as what you tweet to others. It demonstrates what you’re interested in and what kind of information is important to you.

Search for leaders in your particular area of expertise or interest, share their best tweets, reply to them and engage in conversations. You never know where it may lead you.

Tip: use sites like Twellow or WeFollow to find great people to follow.

One hundred and forty characters may not seem like a lot, but Twitter can play a major role in helping you establish yourself as a pro and getting you exactly where you want to be.

(Written by Rachel Gogos)

It used to be that your résumé was just a physical piece of paper you literally handed out to potential employers. But today, paper is passé and pixels are all the rage.

I’m talking, of course, about LinkedIn, the social media giant that has changed the way we think of résumés, as well as the way we find our next (or first!) jobs.

LinkedIn is a great place to showcase who you are and what you love to do. In today’s competitive job market, it’s imperative to have a robust, impressive LinkedIn profile which will wow potential employers and get you that oh-so-important first interview.

According to Business Insider, “94 percent of recruiters use social media, in particular LinkedIn, to fill open positions,” and “77 percent of LinkedIn users said that it helped them research people and companies,” which is a vital part of landing that all-important job interview.

If you really want to take advantage of LinkedIn to showcase your outstanding skills and qualities, the first thing you have to do is build an impressive profile. LinkedIn’s profile interface is the most comprehensive of any social site. In addition to providing room for all the information you would normally put on a traditional résumé or C.V., it also allows you to add interactive features like hyperlinks and video, which can really help you strut your stuff for potential employers.

Building a Stellar LinkedIn Profile

The basic LinkedIn profile includes the following sections:

  • Contact Overview
  • Summary
  • Recommendations
  • Experience
  • Honors and Awards
  • Skills
  • Education

The Contact Overview is like a snapshot of your profile. One of the most important parts of this section is the headline or tagline, where most people put their current job title and company name. But even if you don’t have a job yet, you should fill this space with something attention-getting.

You could be creative and put a favorite quote or lyric from a song, if it spoke to who you are and what your career goals might be. Or you can spell out who you are to potential employers, saying something like “Professional Hard-Worker with a Drive to Succeed” or “Lifelong Learner with a Passion for Helping Others.” The headline is a searchable field, so make sure you come up with a phrase that will attract the kinds of people with whom you want to connect.

The Summary section gives you a little more space to talk about yourself. Use this section to describe any valuable experience, skills, achievements, and anything else that makes you stand out from the crowd and seem like a valuable future employee.

Tip: separate your Summary into subsections with snappy headers such as “Specialties” or “Achievements”). If you have a great website, blog, or links to other impressive online achievements, this is the place to brag about them.

The Recommendation section is one of the most important parts of your LinkedIn profile. In our socially connected world, people want to know what good things others have to say about you. Reach out to reputable people you trust and ask them to write a recommendation for you.

Approach your teachers, coaches, neighbors, current and former employers. The more you can add to this section, the better.

Tip: Recommend others on their profiles and you might find they’re likely to return the favor.

The remaining sections — Experience, Honors and Awards, Skills, Education — are similar to your traditional résumé. The only difference here is the Skills section, which is built by other people endorsing you for skills based on their past experiences with you. This gives potential employers a chance to see what others consider to be your best skills and talents.

The Finishing Touches

In addition to completing the main sections, there are a few other things you’ll want to pay attention to when creating your LinkedIn profile.

Profile Image

On other social media sites it’s fine to use a fun or funny image of yourself to show off your personality. On LinkedIn, however, it’s best to choose a more professional-type photo. If you’re a recent college or graduate school grad, your senior photo might be an appropriate option. If you don’t have a good headshot, having a professional photographer take one might be a smart investment. Or, ask a friend with a good camera to do the honors.

Show Your Involvement

Today’s employers want doers. They want people who lead and take action. Run for your local school board. Volunteer to help organize a community event. Teach a course at a community college. Look for ways you can be an active leader and then highlight these roles on your LinkedIn profile. After all, this isn’t the place to be humble. Be proud of your involvement and let others know you’re a doer!

Join Groups

Once your profile is pretty much complete, start searching for and joining groups which interest you. Search your school’s name and see what groups pop up. Plug in your various interests, your hometown, and things you want to learn more about. Belonging to several groups shows that you’re active and that you enjoy connecting and learning from others.

Make Connections

Once your profile is complete, start reaching out and “linking” up with people who can help you get where you want to be, those who might work in your field, have the job you want, or share similar interests with you. After someone accepts your request to connect, thank that person and start a dialogue. Ask for advice. Show that you’re eager to learn and that you’re willing to put the time in to succeed. After all, LinkedIn, like any other social media resource, is about building strong, authentic relationships which will pay dividends down the road.

Who knows? Maybe some day down the road others will want to connect with you on LinkedIn to tap your knowledge and expertise.

(Written by Rachel Gogos)

Congratulations! You have your diploma in one hand and your first job interview in the other.

Increase your odds of being hired by showing up for the interview fully prepared and ready to make a killer first impression. Don’t be timid about expressing your desire to work for the company. But above all, be true to yourself so they’ll know that they are indeed hiring the right person for the job. Read on for more tips.

1. First impressions count

The first ten minutes of a job interview are crucial. Most employers admit that job interviewees only have this brief window to make a good first impression on them.

Make every second count. Arrive a few minutes before the appointed hour and make sure you are dressed appropriately for the interview. If you’re interviewing for a startup, adhere to attire guidelines that are more relaxed.

Be aware of your body language. A firm handshake is a clear sign of confidence. If you don’t already have one, practice until you do. Remember to sit up straight, speak in a clear, audible voice, and maintain good eye contact throughout the interview.

The big picture behind how you can stand out with your first impression in the interview is to wow the interviewers with your professional demeanor.

2. Arm yourself with relevant information about the company

Not only should you know as much as you can about the company, you should also have a clear idea of the responsibilities that come with the job. Go through your resume before the interview and mentally highlight where your experience or college course work supports your qualifications for the job. Come to the interview ready to point this out at the right time.

There are some questions that HR directors and hiring managers almost always ask during interviews. You can find some of them herePractice and formulate your answers to those questions before your interview so you won’t be caught off guard.

You should also be prepared to ask questions. Many interviewers end the interview by welcoming questions.Take this opportunity to inquire about the challenges connected with the position, or how the job relates to the company as a whole. Posing intelligent and pertinent questions at this point will definitely leave your interviewer with a lasting impression of you.

3. Display an appropriate attitude throughout the Interview

If you really want the job, be sure your interviewer knows this. Don’t project an aloof or cold demeanor in an attempt to appear business-like. Employers want workers who are excited to come to work every day because they know these are the workers who will give their best to the company. They will likely prefer a candidate who wants to be part of the company rather than someone who just wants a job.

4. Give truthful answers that reflect who you really are

A good interviewer can easily see through platitudes and posed answers. Keep your answers professional, but let them also reflect who you are as a professional and as a person. Even in a corporate world where most relationships are defined by roles and functions, HR managers like to know the real people behind the resumes.

Sources:

Adams, S. (2014, March 3). How to ace your job interview. Retrieved from Forbes

Adler, L. (2013, September 30). Five things you must not do in an interview and five things you must. Retrieved from LinkedIn

Doyle, A. (n.d.). How to dress for an interview. Retrieved from About.com

Doyle, A. (n.d.). Top 10 interview questions. Retrieved from About.com

Gurney-Read, J. (2013, September 25). Graduate jobs: How to stand out in an interview. Retrieved from The Telegraph

Landy, S. (2007). Ditch the flip flops: Ace your job interview fresh out of college. Winnetka, Illinois: Keystone Three LLC.

Lee, T. (n.d.). Job interview body language: Master your mannerisms to find success. Retrieved from CareerCast

(Written by Emma Yenko)

With the power of the internet at your fingertips, you don’t need a scholarly journal or academic’s endorsement to look like an expert. First, sign up for an account on LinkedIn and fill out your profile. Next, follow these tips from Laura Short at the University of Wisconsin-Stout to look like an expert in your field. Link these profiles to your LinkedIn account and watch the job offers roll in!

Blog your work and work your blog!

Start a blog with your career-related academic work and try linking to other blogs in the industry. Not sure you want to start your own? Guest post on a blog that caters to the industry you’d like to work in. Platforms like WordPressBlogger or even Tumblr make setting up your own blog quick and easy to do. Try writing about what you’re learning in class or publish papers you’ve written for a class or project.

Dig for news and content

Set up a profile at Digg.com and start linking to articles that relate to the profession, industry or job you’d like to have.

Create a booklist on LibraryThing.com

Set up an account and make a public book list at LibraryThing so potential employers can see that you’re reading and interested in the current material that’s relevant to your industry or desired position.

Make a YouTube video

Have a friend film you as you complete a task or teach a lesson on a career-related topic and post it on YouTube. This will show employers that you can actually do the things your resume indicates. Want a job as a programmer? Make a video that teaches people basic computer coding, how to create a website, program a mobile application, etc.

Set up a twitter account

Twitter is an incredible networking tool that will help you to find others in the industry you’re interested in working in. Interested in education? Follow @DianeRavitch or @arneduncan, as well as a host of other teachers, administrators and professionals. Ask questions and offer helpful information. A strong network of twitter followers could help you find a potential employer and will show other potential employers that you actually know your stuff!

Create an online portfolio

If your industry requires a portfolio, set one up online and link to it in your resume so employers can see what you’ve done quickly and easily.

Make news

Let your alma mater know what you’re doing once you graduate. Be it your high school, college, graduate or professional school, getting featured in a newsletter or local paper looks great to employers.

Get Published

Write an article for your local paper or your school’s paper on something related to your field of professional interest. Read and subscribe to industry news sites or publications and write a response letter to an article. Small local papers are often looking for fresh writers or articles, so don’t be intimidated.

Set up a profile on Medium

Set up a profile on Medium. You don’t have to be a total expert to write articles that people will link to and read, you could write a list of acknowledgements about people who have influenced you in your life, make an article for charity or write a book list of the best books on a topic you’re interested in.

Job Searching

When thinking about pursuing a particular career path, wouldn’t you just love to pick the brain of an expert in that field?

Informational interviews, or one-on-one meetings with someone in your field of interest, are an opportunity to do just that. Unfortunately, not enough people utilize this option in the course of preparing for their career.

Gathering Information Is Key

When a new venture is in your future, gathering information is key to your success. For example, if you want to go to medical school, it helps to research factors such as the prerequisites, cost, and future job prospects. You should always do this kind of research before committing to an educational or career path.

Before you embark on this journey, it’s wise to speak with those who have pursued the same goal. Asking about the challenges they faced and the advice they can offer will give you insight into how to prepare for this next step — or even if this is the right field for you in the first place.

Why It’s Important

According to a 2012 article in U.S. News and World Report, the informational interview is widely underutilized. But those who do pursue these opportunities can glean important information to move them forward in achieving their goals:

“An informational interview is a one-on-one conversation with someone
who has a job you might like, who works within an industry you might
want to enter, or who is employed by a specific company that you’re
interested in learning about. These interviews are excellent options
for plotting a career path or focusing your aspirations.

“Because they’re preliminary in nature, informational interviews are
also useful for someone who knows what type of job they want but is
still at the beginning of his or her search.”

How Do I Start?

Begin by using your current network of friends, family, and colleagues to seek out people in your chosen field of interest. You can also be creative about searching for potential people to interview. Contact people at companies who have jobs that seem exciting to you, or use your school’s alumni network to get in touch with former students who pursued a career you are passionate about.

Once you have a few people to reach out to, craft a well-written email that you can send to these contacts. Make sure to describe your background and what you are interested in learning from them. Personalize each email to demonstrate you’ve researched the recipient’s accomplishments.

At the end of the email, ask if she has time for a short (15 or 20 minutes!) meeting to talk about her work. You can suggest grabbing a cup of coffee together, or setting up a time to talk by phone if the person isn’t in your area. If she accepts, ask when and where it would be convenient for her to meet — at her office, a nearby coffee shop, or elsewhere. As Kay Crawford, certified career coach, suggests in U.S. News, you need to keep your expectations reasonable and be clear about exactly how much time you’d like the contact to give you.

Be sure your message demonstrates that you understand the value of this person’s time, and expresses enthusiasm, gratitude, maturity, and professionalism.

What Should I Do?

Once you have an informational interview set up, be sure to prepare:

  • Arrive on time
  • Dress professionally
  • Bring a business card and resume
  • Have your questions ready and make sure they reflect your research
  • Be mindful of the time
  • Practice your interview and communication skills
  • Thank your contact for meeting with you

Note: You can offer to pay for coffee if you meet in person, but you don’t need to press or go beyond this gesture. It’s important to be mindful not to create the impression that you want more from this person than her expert advice.

What Do I Say?

If you’re seeking information about a specific career or profession, do your research in advance. These are some questions you may want to consider asking:

  • What does a typical workday look like?
  • What parts of your career do you enjoy most?
  • What are some of the common pitfalls and challenges in this career?
  • What recent trends have you noticed in this profession?
  • What are the most important skills in this profession?
  • What types of volunteer and internship positions do you recommend?

Before you leave, make sure to request a business card and ask if you can connect on LinkedIn .

Following Up

After an informational interview, always follow up with an email or a paper thank-you note. Make sure to personalize what you say. For example, talk about a specific piece of advice that stuck with you from the conversation.

If the person agreed to connect with you on LinkedIn, send her a request in a timely fashion. If you keep in touch and your relationship develops, you can consider endorsing one of her skills or writing her a testimonial.

If appropriate, keep in touch from time to time. You can send a note to let the person know how you are and how much she helped you. If you come across an article or study that is relevant to the discussion you had together, you can send it in an email. Depending on the personality of the contact, your relationship may evolve into one where you feel comfortable occasionally meeting to check in. If this is the case, you may consider sending a holiday card or inviting her to your graduation party.

Authenticity, honesty, professionalism, and gratitude will get you where you want to go in regard to informational interviews and the networking involved in making them happen. Enjoy the process, and use these experiences as golden opportunities to build your professional network while gathering crucial information for the fulfillment of your professional goals and aspirations.

(Written by Keith Carlson)

You’ve been studying all week for tomorrow’s exam. While scoring below an A on one college test isn’t the end of the world, it may affect your grade point average—which you’ve been working tirelessly to keep up since middle school. You know GPA matters because it’s enabled you to get here.

So, how important is it to your job prospects?

The role your GPA plays may vary according to how well you’ve done in college and the industries that interest you.


A High GPA (3.5–4.0+)

Congratulations! A high grade point average is no small accomplishment. It indicates hard work, dedication, and commitment to your academic success—all qualities that matter to many employers.

You can compete.

Sectors such as finance, tech, accounting, and engineering still use GPA as a key metric in their initial evaluations of candidates. Some even ask for SAT scores! These domains are highly competitive, and your GPA is one of the principal indicators of your competence.

Industries such as these also consider GPA because they are among the most popular fields among recent graduates—and GPAs provide an easy shorthand for Human Resources departments to whittle down large candidate pools.

According to Amir, a recent Rutgers Business School graduate who secured a coveted consulting position at PricewaterhouseCoopers: “I think GPAs are very important. It’s an initial indicator on how valuable a candidate is, especially when one is applying for the job online.”

Still, you’re not alone.

According to a report by the Teachers College Record, an A average is more common than you think. When considering the evolution of grading across a wide spectrum of schools over the past 70 years, current data indicate that A’s represent 43 percent of all letter grades on average, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. Grade inflation means that, while your GPA will make you competitive, it won’t necessarily land you a job.

GPA isn’t everything.

It’s also important to remember that employers are looking for skills, qualities, and experience that a GPA doesn’t always capture. To put it another way, your GPA may get you in the door, but it’s not going to close the deal. There are other factors—your creativity, interpersonal skills, critical thinking, and communication ability—that are likely to be far more relevant than the grades you received in college coursework.

Leadership, special projects, related work, or internship experience—these are what will help you maintain your lead.


An Acceptable GPA (3.0–3.4)

While a GPA in this range isn’t outstanding, it does demonstrate competence. And there are other ways for you to stand out!

Focus on leadership.

Jerome Joseph, Dean of Students at Uncommon Schools and former Teach for America Associate of District and Community Partnerships, has also emphasized the importance of leadership.

“I came into teaching as a TFA corps member, so my GPA was a fairly significant consideration when I was offered a spot. I had a 3.2 major in biology, which I think was solid but nothing that blew people away. I had a lot of intangibles that I think set me apart, such as serving as Vice President of the Student Government Association at Howard University.”

The National Association of Colleges and Employees (NACE) agrees, citing leadership roles as more influential than GPA when evaluating a college graduate’s candidacy.

Build relevant experience.

GPAs can serve as predictors of success, but there is no more important measure to employers than actual experience. As reported in the Daily Free Press in 2013, having relevant work experience is critical to post-college success. The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace found that relevant work experience is more important than college grades to prospective employers, noting:

“Employers place more weight on experience, particularly internships and employment during school vs. academic credentials including GPA and college major when evaluating a recent graduate for employment.”

Expand your network.

Remember that a GPA in this mid-range doesn’t automatically disqualify you from working at a large company or in a competitive industry; it just means you need to network. “I would say a high GPA definitely helps, but the connections you make are way more important,” says Jabe, a junior at Drexel University and a marketing intern at Fox Rothschild.

Networking is not a practice to be fearful of, but is rather an important skill to master for career success—and networking is becoming easier because the job hunt is increasingly social. According to a recent LinkedIn report on 2015 global recruiting staffing trends, social professional networks provide the best quality and quantity of placements.

NACE also confirms this trend in its 2014 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey, reporting that nearly half of employers who took part in the study used social media to find and reach out to prospective hires.

An internship is a great way to find a mentor.


A Lower GPA (3.0 or below)

The general guideline is that you should leave a GPA lower than 3.0 off your resume (unless it is expressly requested by a prospective employer). That said, there may be extenuating circumstances to consider. Just because your GPA is lower than other candidates’, you’re not out of the running. Before you give in to the urge to tell a little white lie—which can come back to bite you if a hiring manager checks your transcript—consider a few scenarios.

What’s the reason?

Remember that you’re human, and employers are too. It can be difficult to balance academics with emergency situations: Did you deploy for military service? Did you take a leave for medical reasons? Did you have to take on full-time work? Each of these reasons can help employers put your GPA and candidacy in context.

What’s your major vs. overall GPA?

High achievement in all your courses is admirable, but it’s really your major GPA that matters most. Take the time to calculate each, and if your major GPA is higher, then include it (and specify that it’s your major GPA). Chances are that it captures the classes and competencies most relevant to the work you’re seeking anyway.

It’s worth repeating: Expand your network.

Networking is particularly important if your GPA is below a 3.0. Your GPA on its own may not earn you consideration, but networking will allow you to make connections and tell a fuller story of your strengths.


After Your First Job

Remember that experience usually trumps other factors when you’re applying for work. As a recent college graduate, hiring managers may look to GPA as a metric of success, but after you’ve been in the workforce, your most important credentials will be your accomplishments and experience. That is to say: You can remove your GPA after your first job.

“After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different. You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently,” said Laszlo Bock, the Senior Vice President of People Operations for Google, in an interview with The New York Times.


A Final Word

Regardless of where your GPA falls on the four-point spectrum, remember that the post-college job hunt is about demonstrating your value and fit. Ensure you have relevant experience and projects, a formidable skill set, and a solid professional network—because, no matter what your GPA is, these are the factors that employers value most.

(Written by Lawrese Brown)

It’s common to be asked about your leadership skills when interviewing for a job. Of course, if you’re applying for management, executive, or coaching positions, questions like “What’s a time you exercised leadership?” or “Can you tell me about a time when you solved a problem for your team or employer?” are bound to pop up. But it’s not the only time they would.

“Everybody can lead at every level; there are no excuses,” says Michael Useem, director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the author of, among other books, “The Leader’s Checklist.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re on the front line or the top line. If you are given an office with the powers of that office, what do you add to the office above and beyond those powers?” he asks. “Do you excite and motivate people? Do you bring excellence and vision to what ultimately is the objective of that office or even the whole company? Everybody should be good at leading, whatever their level in the hierarchy.”

That same thinking has become a preoccupation of organizations in today’s increasingly uncertain and ambiguous world. As startups, global corporations, and even the mid-size companies in between the evolve, so does their confidence in their workers’ ability to rethink, challenge, and develop the business they’re in.

As a result, companies face a need to bring in leaders, whether in the form of a frontline worker, administrative support, salesperson, or the VP of Operations. Every employee has an important role to play.

What’s more, many companies look for candidates with leadership skills out of the hope that they can grow in their positions and acquire management skills and business acumen that’s necessary to take on senior-level and executive roles.

So, how do you demonstrate your leadership skills in an interview? With some preparation and practice, just about anyone can find a way to showcase their ability in this realm—and do so in a way that sets them apart in the job market.

Share a story about a time you demonstrated leadership

The opportunity to underscore your leadership skills with a few work-related anecdotes may materialize through a question like, “Could you tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership?” At the same time, you don’t need to wait for the interviewer to ask you about leadership to give specific examples of how you demonstrated it in the past.

For example, if an interviewer asks about an accomplishment that you are proud of, you might respond by talking about your work turning around the marketing department at your previous employer, which historically struggled to hit its quarterly goals. If you have completed a rigorous leadership training—such as the Public Leadership Credential from the Harvard Kennedy School—explain how you’ve applied that training in real-world circumstances.

If they ask you to identify your biggest strengths, maybe you’ll describe your ability to inspire teammates—and describe the time you helped a less-than-enthusiastic coworker find motivation by complimenting their work, asking them their opinion, and making them feel like a valued part of the team.

When brainstorming stories to share, remember to keep them brief by choosing experiences that demonstrate your point as clearly and effectively as possible. And remember, you can have leadership skills without having experience managing a department or team. Think about all of the leadership roles that you’ve held, whether professionally or as a student or volunteer.

You should also give thought to which leadership skills are likely to be relevant to the job you’re interviewing for to pick the most relevant story. For instance, does the job description mention serving as a cross-functional liaison? You might call attention to a time in which you were responsible for managing a project across different teams.

Highlight your statements in a quantifiable way

As the person with firsthand experience of a project’s or position’s success, it can be easy to think of your past accomplishments as clearly contributing to a former employer’s mission, vision, and goals. But instead of simply stating that you were a great mentor model or helped created a profitable sales strategy for the upcoming year, consider emphasizing your accomplishments by using hard numbers and timelines.

For example, if a network security system upgrade resulted in $150,000 saved in potential data loss for a former employer, be sure to communicate that. Superlatives like “first,” “last,” “fewest,” and “most” can apply too, whether you were the first woman to ascend a law firm’s partnership ranks or ensured the fewest work injuries in a supply chain solutions company’s history while employed as its warehouse supervisor.

Aside from shining the spotlight on money and time, you can also describe results in terms of productivity, output, and even accolades. No matter which you use, quantifying your accomplishments is a great way to help prospective employers understand the impact you made within the context of your career—and impress them while you’re at it.

How to avoid leaving out on any important details

Many of the questions asked during interviews are behavioral interview questions like, “How do you handle challenges?” to “What do you do if you disagree with a co-worker?” Generally, these questions are more open-ended and usually ask you to share stories from your previous jobs in a way that reveals your skills, abilities, and personality.

Of the many competencies that inform behavioral interview questions, leadership ability is one of the most common, along with teamwork, collaboration, and emotional intelligence. But remember, the interviewer isn’t necessarily asking “yes or no” questions, and so it may help to review how to answer them without forgetting to include the who, what, where, when and how.

Enter the STAR technique, an interview response method that’s especially useful for responding to interview questions that require an anecdote, including all the right details, and creating a deliberate storyline that any interviewer can easily follow.

Here’s how it works:

  • S = Situation. Describe the situation in which the event took place.
  • T = Task. Describe the task you were asked to complete. If there was a particular problem or issue you were challenged to solve, illustrate that here.
  • A = Action. Explain what action you took to complete the task or solve the problem.
  • R = Result. Explain the result of your actions. For instance, if your actions resulted in completing a task, resolving conflict, or another positive outcome for a former employer, explain that. If possible, this is where you’ll quantify your success or provide concrete examples of the effects of your efforts.

Match your leadership skills to the employer’s values

Talking about why your leadership skills make you the best fit to advance a potential employer’s goals is a great way to stand out from your competition. To do so, it’s key to be well-versed in the position’s expected functions and duties as well as the employer’s culture, mission, and values.

This not only means committing the job description to memory but researching current employees, and potentially even reaching out to some to get their perspective on what their employer values in the workplace.

As you research an employer, pay attention to how their website frames their values and mission—and how company review sites do too. You can also learn more about its culture by keeping tabs on the organization’s social media presence.

By researching the company and its employees, you’ll get a solid grasp of the projects you’ll be working on and the people you’ll be working with. It’s a way to make the interviewer’s questions work for you by serving as an opportunity to share why your leadership skills will mesh well with the company’s needs and goals.

For example, let’s say you’re interviewing for an engineering role within a company known for using eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes. You might be more passionate about the company’s mission than others due to your volunteer work campaigning for <a href=”https://resources.noodle.com/articles/the-best-degrees-for-careers-in-climate-change-and-sustainability
target=”_blank”>climate change awareness.

And since an effective leader instills an action-oriented mindset into everything they do, from here, you might provide specific recommendations for how the company can better its sustainability standards, whether through a specific project, policy, or program.

(Written by Mairead Kelly)

High school or college students (or anyone new to the job market, really) can gain a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge from “job shadowing” someone, even if it’s just for a single day.

Job shadowing entails following a professional for a specified amount of time to get a sense of what a particular position involves. Though it may seem trivial at first glance, a wise student — or one who has read this article — will benefit immensely from on-the-job learning when it comes time to apply for internships or jobs. Here’s how to make the most of the experience:

1. Watch things go wrong, or right.

Some of the most constructive job-shadowing days are ones in which you witness something break or go wrong. These are the moments when you get to see how people perform under stress, how they solve problems, and which types of leadership structures are best suited to dealing with emergencies. Pay attention to how the chain of command works when something goes awry.

For example, in a tech company, a manager might ask members of the engineering, development, programming, and product teams to identify a problem and fix it, while telling client-facing employees to see whether they can delay a product launch by a few weeks.

A takeaway lesson for everybody witnessing this situation is that these teams should have been interacting on a regular basis, and perhaps implementing progress reports. Also, buffer time should have been included in the timeline to allow for unexpected emergencies.

But even in the event that something hasn’t gone wrong, try to pay attention to the practices in place that keep things running smoothly: do teams seem to communicate well internally? How about with other teams? Ask the person you’re shadowing these two questions: what is the company doing well and where is there room for improvement? Since this is a low-stakes conversation, she may be more candid with you than she is with her colleagues.

2. Learn how to answer situational questions.

Your future job interviews may include situational questions about what you would do in case something specific happens. Great answers come from experience, though that doesn’t mean you have to have been the one to experience something — maybe you simply saw it unfold.

Take the scenario outlined in the previous section. If an interviewer asks what you would do in a similar situation, your confident response might be: “Assuming progress reports and test runs weren’t already implemented to catch this problem ahead of time, we would need to buy time for the tech team to fix the bug.”

You might then explain the ways in which the sales or customer service team would have to interact with clients to explain to them why they need additional time. Or you might propose that those tech teams work on adding a simple but specific feature as an added bonus that might help placate the client.

Such incisive answers may cause the interviewers’ jaws to drop. How is it that a high school or college student can give such an astute answer? Because the student witnessed something like this during her shadow day and took the time to think about how to solve the problem, and how to prevent similar ones from occurring in the future.

3. Understand how things work.

Pay attention to who reports to whom, how often, and why. Does this model of command seem to be working well, or is it tangled in bureaucracy — a waste of effort? Is it too firm, too flexible, or malleable enough to be adapted to different situations? Do most employees seem to be enjoying their work? Do people generally feel appreciated by their managers? Is there a general culture of resentment, or one of collegial support?

Paying attention to these things will prepare you for situations in which you may find yourself in the future. The limited amount of time during a shadow day may prevent you from observing all or most of the situations discussed here, but knowing what to look for will allow you to more quickly recognize them if they arise.

While you may not be allowed to sit in on closed meetings, there are other places and times when you can learn valuable information about the workplace or industry. Coffee rooms, lunch rooms, copy machines, and water coolers are places where employees run into each other and chat. These are places where they will discuss, laugh about, and complain about their work and the company. If you can, listen in on these conversations or join them. You might get great advice or perspective from someone.

Opportunities to overhear such conversations will vary from workplace to workplace. If you are required to follow someone around at all times, then that may limit your chances of encountering such a situation. These conversations need to arise naturally, so don’t feel disappointed if you don’t encounter everything that is discussed in this section.

4. Ask insightful questions to gain knowledge.

Asking good questions is a great way to leave a positive impression. Here are a few examples of what you might ask the person you are shadowing:
Knowing what you do now, what would you have changed about your education and training if you could do things over again? Knowing what you do about industry trends, what type of classes or training would you suggest that I take or do? How well do you think your college education prepared you to do this type of work? Is there anything outside of schooling that you would recommend that I do to better prepare myself for a career like yours? Were there situations in the past that required this company or department to change its operating procedures? What were they?

5. Learn the lingo to use on your résumé.

An effective way of learning appropriate lingo (technical terms or industry jargon) is to ask the person you are shadowing to write a short description of her job, just as she would on her resume. Tell her that this is an exercise to help you learn industry lingo and encourage her to use such language in her blurb. Make sure to ask her to explain what specific terms mean.

For example, what does “pipeline” mean? Or “quality assurance” and “quality control”? What does “product” mean in the context of this company? This knowledge will be useful to you in the future, whether you’re applying for internships or jobs. It will also help improve your ability to communicate in that particular industry, which showcases your competency and quality. Not all industries or types of work have an extensive list of lingo, but most do.

6. Get a foot in the door.

If you left a positive impression on your shadow day, the company may be more inclined to take you on for an extended internship in the future. Or, someone at the company may be a great reference for your applications to internships at other companies. It makes a big difference if someone knows you and can vouch for you among the many resumes that flood in. Make sure to follow up your job-shadowing day by writing a thank you email or letter.

(Written by David H. Nguyen)

Summer is a time of transition and decision-making for students and new graduates in all fields and at all levels.

Some grads have landed coveted internships and full-time jobs and are focused on making their mark and evaluating their long-term prospects within their new industry. Other grads are managing the complexities and anxieties of an ongoing search, pursuing opportunities and refining their search parameters and priorities. Current students are considering concentrations, majors, and postgrad plans — and even those who have left formal education far behind may be using the longer, slower summer days to wonder: “What’s next?”

Two schools of thought dominate the public discourse surrounding major educational or life decisions — and those schools battle it out particularly fiercely during graduation season. For brevity’s sake, let’s call them Team “Do What You Love” and Team “Grow Up and Pay the Bills.” The late Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford graduation address exemplifies the first approach; Cambridge University ethicist William MacAskill came closer to the second in The Atlantic.

Why You Shouldn’t Forgo Either

My personal experience — and those of the many MBA and EMBA candidates, undergrads, and others I’ve served as a consultant with The MBA Exchange — highlights the strengths and limitations of each approach. On the side of Team “Grow Up,” economic considerations during and following school at any level are very real, including student debt burdens, and we ignore them only at great peril.

But is Team “Love”’s approach valuable only to those with independent wealth? I’m arguing not. Here’s why:

Working is hard no matter what you do.

Working is hard. Really hard. U.S. workers work more hours, achieve higher productivity, and benefit from fewer protections than our peers in other industrialized nations. As workers, our well-being, engagement, and burnout rates frequently reflect this stress — a finding that cuts across multiple professional fields and levels of income and seniority. In short — whether you’re a banker, a teacher, a ballerina, a freelancer, or an employee — prepare to work a lot at whatever you do. A whole lot.

Working is a lot easier when you love what you do.

Work that you don’t like is even harder than that. Think about your experience of airline flights into a headwind, versus those with a tailwind. Employee motivation research performed at Harvard Business School suggests that love of your work can function like a professional tailwind, meeting deep human needs beyond the paycheck (again: the paycheck is really important, too!) Gallup research on employee disengagement, conversely, shows that indifference or dislike of your work can function as a powerful headwind, with damaging consequences to your individual career, family, organization — and, on a macro level, local and national economies.

How to Find a Balance

But what if your love doesn’t correlate clearly with making money? Well, my own first love was stage acting — not a traditional or obvious feeder to my later path to business school and consulting. I joined Team “Grow Up” shortly after starting college in New York City, and realizing that Broadway likely wasn’t for me. By making that transition awkwardly — dismissing, rather than analyzing, my love of performance — I missed some opportunities to find genuinely satisfying work on all fronts. My advice to those facing similar decisions now is to try asking yourself these questions:

What do I really love about my passion?

In asking myself this question, I found that while I loved the trappings of acting — costumes, lights, applause, make-believe — I just as importantly loved the collaboration. Live theater in particular is one of the closest, highest-stakes endeavors I know. If I miss my entrance, I leave my fellow actors alone on stage; if our lighting designer misses a cue, our Tony-winning performances (I wish!) become invisible. Conversely, if we can all rely on each other, that frees us up to create an experience, together with an audience, that can transform us all for the better.

How does your passion energize you?

What kinds of work will tap into that energy? What kinds of work will drain it? Analyzing my passion seriously in these way has led me to seek out and create meaningful collaborative work opportunities, across multiple fields and contexts, that energize me.

It’s also helped me steer away from more solitary pursuits, which, while attractive in many ways, would ultimately slow me down. Saying “I can’t ever make a living as an actress!” postponed that very powerful insight. Looking for the deeper, less obvious features of our loves can lead to more focused, powerful choices with positive ripple effects for all.

So when you’re thinking about the major in econ versus the one in French; the MBA versus the MFA; the teaching job versus the banking analyst gig; or the entrepreneurial versus the corporate paths: don’t let the outer trappings dictate your decision fully. Your head and your heart are both essential components of smart decisions, educational and professional, now and (as far as I can tell!) always. Good luck!

(Written by Jessica Burlingame)

As a college student, you’re not unfamiliar with tests. But did you know that employers are increasingly using tests in the hiring process as well? In fact, according to 2012 data from the American Management Association (AMA), 70 percent of employers use some kind of job-skill testing. The use of employment testing as a way to pre-screen job candidates is growing every year.

This post covers five things you should know to do your best when faced with such assessments.

1. Why do companies use employment testing and pre-screening?

Two challenges many companies experience in the hiring process are: volume and quality. That is, they receive a high volume of applicants, but only a small percentage of them are qualified.

Consider these U.S. statistics:

  • There are 250 applicants for every open position
  • One out of three applicants misrepresents her skills on her resume
  • Employers report one out of every five hires is “bad or regrettable”

Pre-screening a large pool of candidates with the help of an assessment tool enables companies to save significant time and money. It narrows down the number of candidates hiring managers need to meet face-to-face and increases the chances of bringing in only those who are most likely to be a good fit for the role and the company culture.

2. How are employment tests administered?

Some tests may be administered one-on-one by a member of the company’s human resources department, or even by a trained psychologist. But in the vast majority of cases, the tests are multiple-choice or free-response, administered by computer or mobile device, such as your phone or tablet. You may be asked to be onsite at the company’s office, or you may be allowed to complete the tests remotely.

Increasingly, new technologies are making it easier for employers to evaluate a range of skills using shorter, cloud-based assessments that save time for everyone. Expect to see more of these tests administered through mobile devices. The process can be as easy as getting an email or in-app notification from a hiring manager, completing a test on your phone, and then moving on with your day.

3. What can I expect to be tested on?

Companies can test candidates on a wide range of dimensions, from cognitive abilities and critical thinking skills to personality traits, job knowledge, or situational judgment.

Recent (2012) data from the AMA show that:

  • 46 percent of employers use personality and/or psychological tests for applicants or current employees.
  • 41 percent of employers test applicants for basic literacy and math skills. ​
    Increasingly, human resource professionals find that the key to effective hiring includes assessing not just personality but also emotional and practical intelligence, cognitive abilities, and traits related to attitude and character.

Employers across industries are increasingly looking to evaluate “soft” skills such as creativity, emotional intelligence, and motivation in objective ways. These kinds of skills are critical for knowledge workers (whether they are engineers, marketers, or researchers), since such roles often entail self-directed work as well as the ability to collaborate and interact well with colleagues.

4. What kinds of companies are using these tests?

Employment testing is more prevalent in large organizations. One reason for this is that the biggest companies often have the largest pools of applicants, and thus need the most help narrowing down candidates.

Testing is used across a range of industries, from hospitality to medicine to aerospace. The same type of test can be useful in different contexts. For example, an assessment that evaluates how well candidates can pay attention during repetitive tasks can be an important part of the hiring process for three different positions:

  • For a Concierge: The hiring manager needs to know the candidate can pay attention to each client’s needs, even though similar needs may arise throughout the day.
  • For a Doctor: The hiring manager needs to know the candidate can remember to perform routine tasks (like hand washing) many times throughout the day.
  • For a Pilot: The hiring manager needs to know the candidate can pay attention to critical dashboard indicators even when an aircraft is on auto-pilot.

5. How can I do well on employment tests?

The truth is, there’s no way to study for an employment test. Instead, we have two recommendations about how best to prepare. First, educate yourself about the kinds of tests you will be given and how they will be administered. Second, relax (get a good night’s sleep the day before the test), and come in prepared to give honest answers.

Lying or trying to read too deeply into each question can backfire. These tests often include an internal validity scale, so employers may be able to tell if your answers don’t match up. Plus, think of it this way: The tests are not only designed to help companies get the best candidates, but also for you to get matched with a position that will truly be a good fit for your skills and personality. If you give honest answers, you’ll be more likely to get matched with a job you’ll love.

(Written by Kevin Greaney)

In the digital age, social media is impacting various aspects of our lives — including the job search.

With LinkedIn — a rapidly growing social media site that allows users to connect and network with colleagues, classmates, and friends — employers can learn about us with the click of a link.

Our professional lives are adapting to the Internet. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you’re using social media to your greatest advantage, especially if you’re a college senior exploring post-graduation opportunities.

If you’re a college student on LinkedIn, you’re in good company: More than 30 million students and recent graduates have LinkedIn pages, and more than 200,000 college students join each month, according to the LinkedIn website.

If you’re looking for the way to get the most out of your profile, start here:

1. Fill out your profile completely.

It’s important to fill out everything on your LinkedIn profile, making sure each section is complete. Don’t just list your past job experience; write what you achieved at each job, just like you would on your resume.

If you have any school or work-related projects you’ve completed in the past few years, post those to the “Projects” section of your LinkedIn profile. Share any awards you’ve received, any extracurricular activities you’re involved in, and community service projects you volunteer at.

List at least five of your skills, and ask employers and professors for recommendations. Filling out your profile can help illustrate your credentials to employers who use the site.

2. Make sure your content is LinkedIn appropriate.

Don’t post a profile photo where you’re standing with your friends at a party. Instead, choose a professional headshot with no other people in the background. In general, remember that LinkedIn is meant for professionals; it’s not a platform to post updates about your nighttime adventures or to write witty comments on your friends’ pages.

3. Connect with everyone you know — from colleagues to friends.

Expand your network as much as possible; you never know who one of your connections might know. It’s as easy as the click of a button. You can also search those in your important email lists to see if any of your contacts have LinkedIn profiles. Having a lot of connections also helps you see how others in your field accomplished what they did, from where they started to where they ended up.

4. Use LinkedIn to communicate with employers and search for jobs.

You can search for jobs on LinkedIn and let employers find you based on your credentials (another reason to completely fill out your profile). LinkedIn will also recommend jobs for you based on your education and experience. And, you can reach out to employers or connections on the site to network.

Other tips:

  • Your headline, which appears right under your name, should reveal where you are academically or in your career, for example, “English major” or “Data Analyst.” And/or highlight your career aspirations, for example “Seeking employment in public relations.”
  • The summary should discuss your strengths and skills and what you hope to accomplish next in your career.
  • Take the time to comment on some articles posted on LinkedIn about your industry. Show you’re interested and engaged in your career path.
  • Double check your profile for typos and errors.

Sources:

What Every College Student Should Post on LinkedIn. (2013, August 12). Retrieved August 28, 2014, from Mashable

Friedman, J. (2013, January 18). Job Networking Through Social Media: The Advantages of LinkedIn for College Students. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from Huffington Post

LinkedIn Profile Checklist. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2014, from LinkedIn

Salpeter, M. (2011, May 11). Why College Students Should Join LinkedIn. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from U.S. News

The Value of LinkedIn for College Students and Recent Grads. (2014, March 25). Retrieved August 28, 2014, from LinkedIn

(Written by Jordan Friedman)

Are you still using the classifieds to look for jobs? Turns out there’s a better way to find a job and connect with employers: social media. Melissa Venable, our guru for all things social, online, and career-related, shows you just how to maximize your job search by using tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to discover opportunities and get networking!

The Internet, and the access it provides us to people and resources, can be leveraged for your career development through the use of many social media and networking sites. This growing system of tools allows job seekers to both explore employment opportunities and market themselves to potential employers. Social media and career advising are two popular topics on my blog Inside Online Learning and with this post I am bringing them together, highlighting some of the ways job seekers are engaged in a web-based search for employment.

Have a Strategy in Place

Take a little time to plan your engagement with social media – assessing your goals for the process and making some decisions about how you will proceed. Set some ground rules for yourself before you begin to develop your online presence or digital identity with career development in mind.

1. Choose your sites carefully. Having fewer, well-developed accounts may be more helpful in the long run than opening many accounts where there’s little activity. Remember, it’s not about the media, but what you can do with it in terms of joining communities, building relationships, and marketing your skills and experience. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are just a few of the available platforms you should consider.

Tip: Find out which sites are popular with working professionals in your career field and explore these first.

2. Take a professional approach. How do you want to be perceived by others who view your profile information online? Consider this from the employer’s perspective and keep everything professional across the board, from your selection of an avatar or photo to your email address. For sites in which you are already active, check your privacy settings to ensure that the information available publicly is what you want others to see.

Tip: Ask for feedback about your online presence from your school’s career services professionals and alumni from your program working in positions similar to the ones you are seeking.

3. Develop a personal learning network. You’ve probably heard the saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” This is often be true of finding a job and your network can be even more important in a tight job market. Employers often feel more comfortable hiring people they know or who have been referred to them by someone they know. By connecting with others both inside and outside your career field, you build relationships that may lead to job opportunities. Social media tools allow you to do these things online.

Tip: Build your network now, while you are a student, through school groups, professional associations, alumni mentoring programs, as well as with your classmates and instructors.

Manage the Tools and Tasks

Action on your part is necessary to implement your social media strategy and engage in a successful job search. It can seem overwhelming, especially as you get started, but here are a few techniques for managing the process:

4. Be proactive. It’s not enough to just register for accounts, you’ve got to maintain them – keeping them up-to-date with your latest information and making sure that they say “hire me!” Career coach Tim Tyrell-Smith defines “updating” as “the act of refreshing or providing a reminder of your presence online. The act of adding new content or information about yourself within your profile or content stream in each social platform.”

Tip: Schedule time each day to update your accounts, reply to messages, and make new connections.

5. Identify specific companies. Personal branding expert Dan Schawbel recommends, “conduct[ing] a people search instead of a job search.” This holds true both online and in person. Social networking sites feature not only searchable individual profiles, but also company profiles.

Tip: You can “follow” company accounts and search for people that are working there. Add them to your networks and reach out with questions, not about job openings, but about the industry to get conversations started.

6. Go where the conversations are already happening. Locate groups that are already discussing the career topics you are interested in and you may find a group that can help answer your questions. LinkedIn is one of the largest social platforms focused specifically on career networking with a range of participation options that includes discussion forums and alumni groups, and tools specifically for students.

Tip: It’s okay to “listen in” to an online group at first to get to know the flow of discussion, the topic, and participants. Don’t wait too long to join in and add your questions and feedback to the conversation.

7. Demonstrate your skills and experience. One of the benefits of social media in the job search is that there are many ways for you to present your skills and experience online. This could take place in a variety of ways such as sharing helpful resources with your Twitter network, blogging about your areas of interest and expertise, and developing an ePortfolio with samples of your work.

Tip: Add links to your websites and professional profiles to your email signature.

8. Look for jobs. This may sound obvious, but have you considered that many employers are now announcing job openings through their social media accounts? As reported by Job-Hunt.org, a Jobvite survey of over 800 employers in 2011 found that 89% were “using or planning to use social media for their recruiting.”_

Tip: Review and edit your profiles in the sites you are using to focus on your skills and experience, and let people know you are looking for a new position.

Is participation in social media required for your job search? No, unless of course the jobs you are looking for will require or involve social media in some way, but it is another tool at your disposal. When used thoughtfully and purposefully social media and networking tools can help you open conversations, build relationships, and find new career opportunities.

(Written by Melissa Venable)

Internships

Too often, students looking for an internship concentrate their efforts in the business or for-profit sectors. Many do not consider including nonprofits in their search because they often assume that this sector only offers volunteer opportunities.

Parents and students may not realize that nonprofit organizations can give an intern a rich learning experience. If you’re looking for an internship, there are two strong reasons to expand your search to include nonprofits.

Reason One: A Growing Sector

First, according to The New York Times, while “the overall economy has been expanding slowly…nonprofits have been growing at a breakneck pace.”

The article, called “For Nonprofits, a Bigger Share of the Economy,” continues, “all told, roughly 1.6 million nonprofits employed 10 percent of the domestic workforce in 2010 and accounted for 5 percent of GDP.” While many nonprofits are charities, others include advocacy groups like the Sierra Club, local historical societies and conservation groups, sports leagues, and local theater groups. Many nonprofits focus on their communities and help with housing, youth work, and small business startups.

Reason Two: Important Lessons

Second, while you may have been involved with a nonprofit in a community service program or as an individual volunteer, an internship can give you a greater opportunity to understand and experience the challenges facing nonprofits today and in the future. This is knowledge that you can leverage in the future as you search for full-time positions.

Interns learn how their nonprofit is funded and how to identify and understand the target market. They also gain opportunities to work on publicity campaigns, become involved in the strategic planning, and learn to manage the many volunteers upon whom the nonprofit depends.

Finding an Internship

You’ll be surprised to learn how many nonprofits there are and the wide variety of fields in which they operate. Follow these steps to find the right nonprofit internship opportunity for you:

  1. Do a Google search for nonprofits in your area. Seeing the results will give you an idea of which kind of opportunities you can consider.
  2. Make a list of the organizations that you are interested in and try to identify what they have in common. Are you interested in working with youth in local neighborhoods or are you interested in the arts? Does working with rescue animals appeal to you or do you want to work in the environmental field or conservation? Do you want to work with an organization that helps find and fund small business startups? Or do you want to get experience in the healthcare field in a clinic?
  3. Look at the organizations’ websites and research what they do, how they’re structured, and who manages them.
  4. Compose a cover letter that explains why you are interested in the organization and pair it with your resume. It’s a good idea to mention that you’re looking for an internship where you can learn more about the nonprofit sector and about this particular agency, specifically. This statement can help clarify that you are looking for an internship position as opposed to a volunteer opportunity.
  5. Email your resume and cover letter to the nonprofits you are interested in. Most nonprofits are small, so your point of contact will probably be the director or someone on their board.

An Intern and not a Volunteer

If you are specifically looking for an internship, it can be helpful to create a list of industry-specific skills and knowledge you want to acquire. Emphasizing you desire to delve into the industry can signal to your potential employer that you aren’t looking for a volunteer position. You can then share the lessons you hope to learn in your cover letter or interview.

Here are some examples of lessons you may want to get out of your internship at a nonprofit:

  • Understanding the establishment of your specific organization and how it fits into the narrative of how nonprofits are started
  • Comprehending the structure of the agency and what each of its departments do
  • Learning about the budget and funding systems that allow the nonprofit to maintain its operations and continue growing
  • Understanding the challenges confronted by this specific organization, and by the sector as the whole, now and in the future

Follow Up Steps

Like with any other internship, make sure that you build a portfolio as you spend time at the nonprofit. You may be surprised about how relevant this experience will be to your future career, whatever that may be.

It seems likely that nonprofits will continue to grow and play a vital role in the economy. And now is the time to widen your thinking and include nonprofits in your internship plans.

You may think of internships as something that only college students do. But you shouldn’t rule out internships as an option after you graduate. They can be a great start to your post-graduate career.


Why You Should Consider It

A post-graduate internship can be especially useful if you are graduating at an unusual time — in the winter instead of the spring — or if you are changing your career focus. Perhaps you were a biology major and now seek to launch a career in public relations, for example. Or maybe you have been unable to find a full-time job in the industry of your college major.

In such circumstances, a post-graduate internship can be very useful. An internship will allow you to spend some time experiencing a new field or career without the commitments and expectations that a full-time position would entail. If you find that you enjoy working with your internship employer, moreover, you will be well-positioned to nab a full-time job, should one present itself. Even if you do not ultimately work full-time for your internship employer — either by choice or by lack of available job opportunities — the contacts you make and the experience you gain in your internship will be helpful as you begin your career.


Opportunities to Look for

For most college students, an entry-level position is the best place to start. Not only do these opportunities offer wages, but they also offer employee benefits.

If you are having difficulty finding an entry-level opening, keep in mind that some companies explicitly extend their official internship opportunities to recent college graduates. These opportunities may be found with organizations as varied as Turner Broadcasting and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as with smaller startups.

Even if an internship does not explicitly say that it is open to recent graduates, it may well be, provided that the position does not specify “college credit only” or “current students only.” When you apply, make sure you explain your reasons for seeking out an internship instead of a standard entry-level position.

Keep in mind that, if your goal is to secure a full-time job with your internship employer, your chances are better if the internship is paid. A 2013 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showed that while 63.1 percent of paid interns receive at least one job offer, only 37 percent of individuals with unpaid internships receive an offer. In fact, the latter group fared just two percentage points better than those with no internships at all.

Another thing to consider is that internships often do not offer health insurance. If you are under 26, you can still be under your parents plan. If your parent doesn’t have a plan, or if you are 26+ years old, you can consider purchasing an individual or family health care plan.


Finding an Internship

You can start by exploring positions on internship search engines, such as IndeedIdealistMediaBistro, or Noodle’s own internship search engine.

Online internship search engines are a good place to begin when looking for a position. Knowing what type of experience you’re seeking will help you use the location, pay, and field filters more effectively.

You should also talk to people who have worked or are working in companies that are interesting to you. You can search on LinkedIn or company websites for contact information, and send a polite email requesting an informational interview — i.e., a short meeting so you can learn more about a position, company, or field. The person you meet with can give you an idea of what it is like to explore a career in her field and what your next steps should be. Note that the purpose of this meeting is not to ask for a job or internship outright, but to get more information about how you should proceed.

Professors can be a great resource if you are struggling to find opportunities. Set up a meeting with a professor who works in a department relevant to your desired field, and ask what her students have usually done to break into the job market.

If you are having a difficult time finding the right internship opportunity, you can look for other kinds of experiences to get your resume internship ready. For example, reach out to a company you are interested in and ask if you could volunteer or shadow someone. You can also seek an externship — a short training program that may last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Getting a foot in the door can be the most crucial part of the post-college job search. An internship, externship, or volunteer position can ensure that you will be poised to take the next big step down your career path.

(Written by Samer Hamadeh)

If you were asked to imagine what the typical intern looks like, chances are the images of Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) from the movie “The Internship” probably don’t come to mind. However, that may change in the near future thanks to one growing trend: returnships.

The concept of a “returnship” is similar to an internship: it is a temporary work arrangement agreed upon between companies and “returnees” (those completing a returnship). Returnships are designed for more established professionals instead of students or inexperienced workers.

Who Wants a Returnship?

Likely candidates for returnships can range from:

  • New parents seeking to return to the workforce after childbirth and childrearing.
  • Older workers, who are more likely than younger workers to face long gaps between employment opportunities (Posthuma & Campion, 2009).
  • The long-term unemployed seeking to spruce up a stale resume.
  • Professionals who took a break from the workforce to earn an advanced degree.
  • Professionals seeking to transition into a new industry.
  • Why We Need Returnships

Returnships are part of a new age of work opportunities, and have been designed to be mutually beneficial to companies and returnees. According to the Harvard Business Review, returnships allow companies to utilize the high expertise and skill of professionals with less risk of wasting time or too many resources.

Returnees benefit from returnships as well because hiring managers will be able to base hiring decisions on meaningful work samples rather than on perceptions of a candidate’s potential. As such, returnships may be a solution for workers wanting to prevent hiring managers from being scared away due to a lack of recent work experience.

Are There Potential Setbacks?

Like internships, many returnships are not paid positions. Thus, failing to compensate returnees may cause companies to miss out on opportunities to recruit highly-talented candidates who would need financial support to participate.

Returnships may also distract returnees from searching for full-time and/or permanent job opportunities. Furthermore, some experts have argued that listing a returnship on one’s resume may undermine professionals’ attempts to find a job rather than helping them. This is because the term “returnship” may conjure up images of an inexperienced worker learning to be a professional (as in a traditional internship) despite the fact that returnees already are professionals.

Returnships are not guaranteed to lead to full-time and/or permanent positions. However, despite the fact that returnships are new, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of employment following the completion of a returnship.

How to Ace That Returnship

First, you should examine the success of former returnees of any returnship program that interests you; make sure to aim for the promising ones! For example, as of February 2014, roughly 50 percent of the 123 returnees who completed Goldman Sachs’ 10-week returnship program have been hired into permanent positions.

Second, you could increase your chances of gaining the specific skills you think may be marketable for you by developing a returnship proposal for a company. This process involves identifying a company’s needs, developing a plan to address these needs (utilizing the skills that interest you), and making the case for your value to the company.

Finally, it is imperative that you convince companies that you are coachable. Returnees may erroneously be perceived as set in their ways or more difficult to manage than traditional interns given their experiences, skills, and more well-developed perspectives. Thus, it’s important to show that you are genuinely interested in learning, can handle criticism with grace, and are thankful for the opportunity.

Sources:

Bowie, L. (2010, July). The benefits of a returnship: A.k.a. internship for the mid-career employee. Examiner.com. Retrived June 24, 2014, from The Examiner

Cohen, C. F. (2012, November). The 40-year-old intern. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from Harvard Business Review

Cohen, C. F. (2013, June). What “The Internship” gets right (and wrong) about mid-career internships. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from Harvard Business Review

Cohen, C. F. (2014, February). The “40-year-old intern” goes to Wall Street. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from Harvard Business Review

Koba, M. (2013, October). Returnships for older workers: Proceed with caution. CNBC. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from CNBC

Posthuma, R. A., & Campion, M. A. (2009). Age stereotypes in the workplace: Common stereotypes, moderators, and future research directions. Journal of Management, 35, 158-188.

(Written by Jade Jenkins)

Since the moment you were offered the internship, getting full-time employment as the next step has been front and center of your current career goal.

If you want to actualize that goal, you’ll need to equip yourself with these five strategies to help you transition from rockin’ intern to rock star employee.

1. Show that you fit in

Take time in the beginning of your internship to meet as many people (and in as many departments) as possible, and observe the culture and practices of the workplace. Pay special attention to the way current high-performing employees dress, how early they arrive to meetings, how they interact with each other, and pace their work efforts.

If you can successfully mirror and integrate these employees’ behaviors and how they present themselves, your supervisor and co-workers may eventually see you as an employee who’s part of the team, rather than “just” an intern.

2. Make yourself indispensable

It’s often said that hard work is the key to success. Although hard work is appreciated, your internship supervisor and co-workers are more concerned with getting results.

Make it your goal to work smarter (rather than harder per se) by making yourself indispensable. Volunteer for tasks that will help employees increase productivity. Identify procedures and tasks that you could organize to improve efficiency. You could even offer to write or design a training guide for future interns. Whatever you choose to do, get approval, do your research, and keep detailed records of how these projects relate to productivity and other outcomes.

3. Establish and use your network

Professional relationship-building is a skill that’s just as important as your work experience, knowledge, and abilities. An intern who has established meaningful workplace relationships signals interpersonal skills and is likely to have many options for good job references. Find co-workers in positions that interest you, and invite them to lunch to discuss their experiences. People love talking about themselves, so focus on their experiences and how they got the job. As your relationships mature, make sure that everyone knows you’ve enjoyed your internship experience, and are looking for an opportunity to do similar work as an employee rather than as an intern.

4. Seek out negative feedback

Don’t rest on your laurels. Your internship manager is very busy and may put off discussions about your areas of growth until you make a noticeable blunder. Specifically ask for feedback and show that you are taking the time to effectively improve your performance.

This signals that you are capable of being managed and won’t be an additional source of stress for your manager. Employees’ performance improvements often signal manager effectiveness, so your improvements will also boost your internship manager’s reputation — which will give you bonus points!

5. Make the ask, and be persistent

You almost certainly will not be presented with a job offer if you don’t ask for it, so be prepared to make the case for yourself if an opportunity is available. Your goal is to persuade your internship manager that they will get a return on investment if they hire you. Keep track of your accomplishments. Cite specific instances of your effectiveness as an intern. Jog your manager’s memory by including as many events that he or she may have witnessed as possible. Bonus points if you can convey this information in the language of dollars and cents!

However, understand that an opportunity may not be available. If that’s the case, stay in regular contact with your internship manager in case an opening becomes available in the future.

Besides, whether or not get the full-time gig, you gained valuable experience and began to build your network. That’s huge progress in anyone’s book!

Sources:

Aldman, S. (2012, July). Odds are your internship will get you a job. Forbes. Retrieved June 5th, 2014, from Forbes.

Green, A. (2011, January). 10 tips for getting the most out of your internship. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved May 29th, 2014, from U.S. News and World Report.

Green, A. (2014, April). Eight things that managers wished incoming interns knew about the working world. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved from U.S. News and World Report.

Harris, P. (2013, August). Network your way into the hidden job market (before you really need to). Workopolis. Retrieved June 5th, 2014, from Workopolis.

Taylor, J. M., Jenkins, J. S., & Barber, L. K. (2013, October). Breaking bad (news): Some constructive criticisms of performance feedback. APA Center for Organizational Excellence Good Company Newsletter. Retrieved May 29th, 2014, from APA Center for Organizational Excellence.

(Written by Jade Jenkins)

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