Archive | April, 2013

Even More Common Job Search Grammar Errors

April 26, 2013


We’ve already covered the top three common grammar errors found during the job search. But there’s more. Even if you’re not applying for a job in a writing field, communication skills are important to any employer. And that includes how to write. Your resume is a great place to show off your skills. Be aware of these common issues before you send off your next application:

1. Tense Issues
For current positions, use the present tense. For past positions, use past tense. It’s easy to accidentally jump from one tense to another during a resume writing session. Or to forget to change a past position into past tense during a resume revamp.

Present tense: “Lead a team of 5,” or “Develop new product.”
Past tense: “Led a team of 5,” or “Developed new product.”

2. Consistency Issues
When writing a resume, you’ll be making some decisions including the placement of bullet points, the format of your dates, and whether you are writing in full sentences or omitting words like “the.” To make it more complicated, there are some grammar choices that are neither right nor wrong. For example, the Oxford comma. It all comes down to one thing: choose one format and stick to it throughout your whole resume.

With the Oxford comma: “I wrote, edited, and distributed press releases.”
Without the Oxford comma: “I wrote, edited and distributed press releases.”

3. How to Spell Resume
Here’s one more that might surprise you — the spelling of resume. Technically it’s spelled “résumé” with two accent marks. Many candidates add one accent mark, which is completely incorrect. If you’re going to add an accent mark, add them both or leave them both off.

Correct: résumé
Acceptable: resume
Incorrect: resumé


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3 Things NOT to Think About In Your Next Interview

April 24, 2013


3 Things NOT to think about in your next interview

Stay positive. It’s about the only thing you can control in your next interview, besides avoiding these bad interview habits. When it comes to the one-on-one interrogation, you have to focus on doing great instead of focusing on everything that could go wrong. Here are the three things you need to push out of your mind during your next interview:

1. “I have to get this job or I’ll be unemployed forever.”
We’re not going to beat around the bush: you might not get this job. But you know what? There are many reasons why you didn’t get hired that may have been out of your control. Beyond that, you know better than to play the waiting game. If you don’t have another interview already lined up, you’re smart enough to already have a few other resumes floating around out there. And you’re busy networking too. So what are you worried about? Something will come up.

2. “I’m totally unqualified for this position.”
Sometimes you wonder, why did they even bring me in? Did they even read my resume? Sometimes a company sees potential so they want to talk to you in person. Or maybe they’re interviewing you for a position that you didn’t even apply for — without you even knowing it. Perhaps a similar more entry-level position is opening soon so they wanted to talk to you just in case you’d be a perfect fit. So go with the flow and feel confident. They brought you in because they like you.

3. “I biffed that question, there’s no way they’ll hire me now.”
If you mess up a question, just let it roll of you like water off a duck’s back. Keep moving forward. Keep the momentum. And keep the focus. They won’t even remember that question you messed up if every other response you have is spot on. It’s even possible that your great personality and communication skills will outshine any answers you give — those are the kind of soft skills employers love.

Image by Bill Strain.

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The 4 Things You Need In Your Job Search Toolkit

April 19, 2013

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The 4 Things you Need in your Job Search toolkitIt’s April. College seniors are counting down the days until their diploma is in hand while seasoned professionals may be giving their lives — and their careers — a little “spring cleaning.” Spring is the season when everything emerges from hibernation — and that includes job listings. With this job search toolkit, you’ll be able to lock down a new position before summer begins (that’s June 21 if you’re curious). Here’s what you need to launch any successful career search:

1. References
We’ve made it clear that you can never have too many references. They’re especially important for recent college graduates who may lack experience but who hold a lot of potential.

2. A Network
Don’t have one? Start building it today. We’ve broken down what networking really means, and with all the online tools out there, it’s easier than ever. Begin by marketing yourself on sites like Twitter and Linked. Reach out for informational interviews, career advice, or potential mentorships. You never know who can lead you to a job.

3. The Right Resume
Every resume you send should be tailored to the position. That’s step one, but that’s not all there is to it. Don’t forget our best resume advice ever: focus on the positive results your work has produced. Don’t think you have any? Even if your background is filled with jumbled experiences, you can find a focus for your resume.

4. A Great Outfit
We’ve discussed the three small career investments with big payoffs and two of those have to do with the clothes on your back. You don’t need a fancy or expensive suit. You just need one that fights great and isn’t wrinkled. Really, that’s all there is to it.


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Common Grammar Errors During the Job Search

April 17, 2013


You might find it hard to believe, but some companies will throw out a resume if they find a typo or a misspelled word. Why? Because of a few reasons. One, you didn’t take the time to copyedit or fact check, which means you might not be great at paying attention to details. Two, you rushed through this application which means the company may be one of 100 that received your resume — and you don’t care much about any of them. And three, the job market is so tough that even the tiniest mistake can get you placed in the rejection pile. Here are a few grammar lessons you may need to brush up on before sending out your next resume or cover letter.

You’re vs. Your
Think of this way: “you’re” means “you are.” Double check every time you used “you’re” and replace it with “you are.” Does it still make sense? If not, you need to replace it with “your.” “Your” is a possessive form of “you.” Read more about the difference at Grammar Girl.

Example 1: If you hire me, you’re getting an excellent candidate with outstanding skills.
Example 2: If your company is looking for an excellent candidate with outstanding skills, hire me.

They’re vs. Their vs. There
Here’s another contraction: “they’re” means “they are.” So go ahead and replace every instance of “they’re” with “they are” and see if it still makes sense. “Their” is used to show possession — try replacing every instance with “our” and see if it still makes sense. Finally, “there,” like “here,” refers to a specific place.

Example 1: “I love working with the marketing department. They’re a bunch of extremely talented individuals.”
Example 2: “I love working with the marketing department. Their talents are unmatched.”
Example 3: “I loved working there. The people were extremely talented.”

It’s vs. Its 
This is a hard one, but it shouldn’t be. Again, “it’s” is a contraction that means “it is” or “it has.” Replace each instance of “it’s” with “it is” and see if it still makes sense. “Its” is a possessive pronoun. Usually these have apostrophes within them, but not in this case. Commit it to memory.

Example 1: It’s a great company and I’d love to join the team.
Example 2: Its reputation is unmatched. I’d love to join the company.

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Before You Accept the Offer, Get Employee Testimonials

April 11, 2013

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Before you accept the offerWe’ve touted the importance of references before — every job candidate needs them — but what about references for the company itself? After all, agreeing to a new job opportunity is a big deal. It’s also a huge time commitment and life change on your part. So how do you know if you’re the right fit? Employee testimonials.

I haven’t tried it myself, but I doubt that most companies will supply you with a list of references (read: current and former employees) at the end of your next interview. Don’t despair. There are plenty of ways for you to get the insider information you need before accepting an offer.

1. Get face-to-face time.
One thing you can do during an interview is to request to meet with your actual boss. This person will not always be the one interviewing you, so don’t expect him or her to be there. And if you have a group interview, don’t freak out. This is a great opportunity for you to see who you’d be working with everyday. Can you see yourself working side-by-side with these people?

2. Reach out to your network.
There it is again — the elusive network. Ask friends and friends of friends if they know anyone who works at Company X. Would they be willing to share their experiences with you? Or pass along the name and contact information of someone who would? Ask the difficult questions that you were too nervous to ask in the interview.

3. Scour the website.
Great companies have nothing to hide. There will be raving employee reviews all over their Facebook page and on their careers site. For example, Spectrum Brands has an entire series of videos focused on employee testimonials. When a company has taken time to gather testimonials like this — and you can see the sincerity on the employees’ faces — you should start feeling pretty good.

Image by SalFalko.

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Don’t Wait For Your Boss to Set Your Goals

April 9, 2013


Don't wait for your boss to set your goalsAt most companies, you’ll sit with your boss once or twice a year for a one-on-one. You’ll talk about your performance, your goals for the upcoming months, and your future. Then you’ll stock away the paperwork and not think much about it until your next meeting…But what if you stopped and analyzed your career more than twice a year? What if you set monthly goals? Or weekly goals? And you stuck to them? My guess is that your career success would skyrocket.

Instead of relying on your company or your boss to lay out the framework for your career, set a few professional goals for yourself. Today. Dream big and don’t let the confines of your position hold you back. If you want a promotion within a year, write that down. Some say the act of writing a goal down is the first step to achieving it. Then say it out loud!

Next, break down each individual goal into a few baby steps. What are three things you can do within the next six months that put you closer to that goal? Make sure those baby steps are action-oriented and achievable items you can realistically cross off your list within a set timeframe. The key here is to list deadlines and action items. Visit this list weekly and stick to your deadlines.

If you’re having problems holding yourself responsible for self-imposed deadlines, bring in some help. Share your list of goals with a spouse, friend, or family member. Make them check in on you. Share your progress. And tell them they’re aloud to get on your back when you miss a deadline. Tough love is good for your career.

 Image by Denise Krebs

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Why You Can Never Have Too Many References

April 4, 2013

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Why You Always Need ReferencesYou’ve got the degree. You’ve got the experience. But do you have the references?

When it comes to job offers, sometimes a perfect interview and a great background aren’t enough. You need someone to vouch for you. And it can’t be just anyone. Think of it this way: a candidate with strong, glowing references is much more likely to get an offer over someone who listed a friend and an 8th grade teacher. Don’t lose the tie breaker next time around. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Companies DO actually call references.
Take it seriously when a company asks for emails and phone numbers. Make sure you ask your potential references if it’s okay that you list them before you dish out their information. If you’ve already asked their permission, give a heads up that a call may be headed their way. You can even give a little pep talk. For example, “They really like that I have XYZ experience so be sure to touch on that!”

2. References must be recent and relevant.
And that is why you can never have enough references! Along each step of your career, you must always network and make connections. Even if you’re not looking for a job right now, you should still be thinking about who could be a great reference for you when the time arises. Hint: it’s the people who know you and your work ethic.

3. Don’t cross the line.
Here’s another reason why you need an arsenal of references — some companies have policies that forbid their current employees from recommending others. That means you could find yourself out of luck, unless one of your former coworkers has already left the company. Also, be aware that your current coworkers might not feel comfortable referring you at a new company. Searching for a job while you have a job is a solo act, so be sure to have some past references up your sleeve.
 Image by Joel Kramer.

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Why We Love Madison

April 2, 2013

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CAREERS 04 LOVE vimeo sdws from Spectrum Brands, Inc on Vimeo.

Sure, Wisconsin has its share of harsh winters. But one of our Marketing employees, Devon, learned quickly why Madisonians tend to love their city so much — despite the snow.

“I underestimated how incredible the summer, spring, and fall is here and just how incredibly mild it is during that part of the year and how you can really get out and do things,” she said.

Madison is known for its extensive bike paths and easy access to water sports. In fact, the capital city is located on an isthmus and is surrounded by two lakes: Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. When the weather is nice, you’ll find sailboats, kayaks, and fishermen abound. And a Saturday doesn’t go by without crowds strolling the shops on State Street or the booths at the Dane County Farmer’s Market, set along the perimeter of the capitol building.

“I live downtown in Madison and it’s great,” said Tera in Web Design. “You can walk everywhere and you’re definitely a part of everything that happens.”

Her favorite perk is thanks to Madison’s somewhat small size: there’s no big-city traffic. While Madison has a small-town feel, it still has the benefits of a metropolis with excellent restaurants, a top-of-the-line performing arts center, and multiple art museums.

“I think of Madison as a ‘big’ small town,” Tera added. “So while they have all these great modern conveniences, it has a voice and a vibe.”

Some of those distinct vibes can be found in unique neighborhoods like the campus area, Williamson Street, Monroe Street, and nearby suburb Middleton. But none of these areas are too far from Spectrum Brands.

“There’s nowhere in the city that you can live where  your commute here to Spectrum is more than 20 minutes,” said Devon. “So just having that time back in your day frees up time in your personal life.”

Watch more videos about Spectrum Brands on our careers page.

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