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Crush Every Step In The Job Search Process… And Get Hired! – Debra Wheatman

Expert Interview Series

Debra Wheatman

President, Careers Done Write

Debra Wheatman, CPRW, CPCC is a marketing and branding expert who has been featured in print and on television regarding career planning topics. As the president of Careers Done Write, she has worked with thousands of professionals to help them realize career success. We had a chance to sit down with Debra to talk about the various aspects of the job seeking process, and to hear her advice on how applicants can improve their chances of getting hired.

Tell us a bit about your background. How have hiring processes and practices changed during your 18 years in the human resources industry?

The entire hiring process is a different animal than it was as recently as the 1980s.  Up until then, the hiring process typically took less than two weeks and consisted of a first and second interview, reference checking, and in many cases an offer of employment on the spot. By the late 1990s, companies were instituting more formalized, time-consuming hiring processes, which included panel interviews and requiring candidates to present their ideas of how to solve business problems to a group of people. However, it was during the Great Recession when unemployment neared double-digit rates that companies’ hiring practices went from merely protracted and complex to the drawn out processes we see today. This is most apparent in high-tech and startup companies.

The number one problem I see with resumes is a lack of focus on accomplishments and achievements. Too many people default to what amounts to a laundry list of daily activities.

Name one relatively simple change that someone can make to his or her resume to make it more attractive to potential employers.

The number one problem I see with resumes is a lack of focus on accomplishments and achievements. Too many people default to what amounts to a laundry list of daily activities. No one needs a recap of your typical work day. What the hiring manager needs is some intelligence on how you solve problems, communicate, and follow through. 

When it comes to networking, what is the most common networking opportunity that young professionals fail to take advantage of?

Thinking that it can all be done online via social media. Social media is a critical component in networking, and everyone out there should have a LinkedIn profile. But there is no substitute for getting away from your computer and out in front of actual people. Human-to-human connection is essential. 

Could you share some tips with us for how young professionals can help establish their personal brand using social media?

I would preface this response by stating that brand building is an exercise that takes place both online and offline. In either medium, you build your brand by answering the following questions:

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What do I like to do?
  3. What makes me unique?

With social media, you have the unique opportunity to build your audience and to provide them with content they value. Regardless of the platform, this should be your goal. You need to know what you want to communicate and who your audience is. If you are consistently (and consistency is key) producing fresh, engaging content, that will help to quickly build your brand.

Finish this sentence: "The interview question that most applicants tend to answer poorly is…" 

. . . “So, do you have any more questions?” This is the opportunity to ask insightful, unique questions that can set you apart from other candidates. If there is anything that was discussed which requires further clarification, this is the time to ask. Some other good questions to ask include:

  • What are the 30/60/90 day goals for this position?
  • What do you see as the biggest challenge for whoever takes on this role?
  • What is the biggest challenge facing your market/clients/customers?
  • What is the biggest opportunity for the business over the next 12-18 months?

To what extent (if any) should a job candidate try to negotiate the terms of an entry-level job offer?

Everyone should negotiate. When you negotiate, you want to do so in a professional and non-demanding way. Be sure that you know your worth, so research compensation levels online. And most importantly, remember that the compensation package is not only about salary. There are many other non-monetary components of the package that can be negotiated. 

In the next five to ten years, what skills will young professionals need to learn and master if they want to land the jobs they really want?

They will need to blend interpersonal and technical skills. While there is clearly an industrial revolution upon us—artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, and drone technology are rapidly integrating into the workforce—employers are still going to need people with soft skills. So in addition to keeping up with the latest trends in technology innovation, I would advise young professionals to hone things like their communication and interpersonal skills. We’ve all worked with people who are technically brilliant yet socially stunted. A mix of both technical and interpersonal skills will be the key to getting ahead. 

Ready to take your shiny new resume out for a spin? Give Vocate a try and start looking for your next dream job!

Zack Andresen

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