How to “Decode” Job Descriptions

September 29th, 2014

How many different job descriptions have you read during your job search? Hundreds? Maybe even thousands? They can seem pretty confusing! Oftentimes, job descriptions are written by a committee, or by someone inexperienced. Others are prepared by recruiters or staffing firms (like Helpmates) with very specific goals in mind.

Decoding job descriptions to land your next jobHM_DecodeJD_Pic

Regardless of the person writing job descriptions, there are some specific clues you can identify to help you understand what an employer is looking for in a suitable candidate. Here are some of the most important:

  1. Look for words that are repeated frequently. While there are often a range of specific skills or experiences an employer is looking for, those words/skills that are repeated frequently are likely some of the most important skills necessary to succeed in the position. If you notice several skills mentioned throughout a job description and they fit your background, it is wise to similarly highlight these areas in your cover letter and resume.
  2. Keep an eye out for culture cues. Job descriptions can provide great insight into the culture of an organization. For example, a “significant growth opportunity” often signifies a desire for employees who can wear multiple hats. This type of organization is typically smaller, perhaps a startup, and can be a very dynamic place to work. “Flexible work hours” can be a sign of organizations that push hard to meet deadlines, even working past the 9 to 5. If you’re the type of person who likes to go “all in” on a project, this language may be a cue that the organization is a cultural fit. The tone of voice in job description language can also provide culture cues. A more formally-written description may signify a company that’s very professional and structured, while an informal, casual tone may signify a more relaxed, creative culture.
  3. Don’t ignore the requirements section. For some reason, this section tends to fall at the end of a job description, but for many employers it is the most critical. While the opening paragraphs of a job description often paint a picture of the role and the company, it’s in the requirements section where you can often find some of the real-world specifics and expectations that would come with a specific role. Also, ensuring you meet the requirements is critical toward getting a positive response from your resume. Many employers will toss a resume that doesn’t meet the minimum listed requirements. Look carefully at this section for additional insight, and to double check your resume and ensure you’re putting your efforts into the right job opening.

Taking a closer look at job descriptions can have a profound effect on your job search. Partnering with a staffing firm can also help you find the right jobs in Southern California. Visit the Helpmates job board to view our current openings, or contact us to take the next step in your career.

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Understanding Your Value Proposition

September 16th, 2014

When it comes to your job search, your value proposition is critical. What is your value proposition, exactly? It’s that set of skills (soft, technical or industry-specific) that make you better suited for a position. More importantly, they make you stand out from the competition. value prop

So understanding your value proposition – and effectively communicating it – during job interviews is key. These four tips can help you better position yourself for your next career opportunity:

  1. Do research on the company’s main challenges. To understand how you can best perform within a certain role and company, you should understand its challenges or “pains.” What are they struggling with? Where could they improve? Once you’ve identified those challenges or “pains,” take a look at your background and accomplishments to craft a value proposition that directly addresses them. This small bit of research will immediately put you miles ahead of the competition.
  2. Read past performance reviews and ask for more input. Performance reviews are an excellent opportunity for your supervisors to review your on-the-job performance and offer tangible steps for reaching your goals. Review them for critical insights to guide your value proposition. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers with targeted questions. Targeted questions can help you gain some excellent insight into your specific value proposition. When speaking to co-workers, position the question as a method of trying to improve your performance and expertise. Try something like: “What is the one area of expertise or skill where you feel like I’m the ‘go-to’ person in our office?” or “If I focused my attention on strengthening one skill, what should it be?”
  3. Pare down extras. In your written communications and during job interviews, eliminate any extras that don’t support your value proposition. You may have worked really hard to gain some specific experience or accomplishment, but if it doesn’t contribute to your value proposition, it’s diluting the message you want to convey the most. Leave it off your resume and avoid bringing it up during job interviews (Bonus: Recruiters spend an average of six seconds looking at your resume – This ensures they’re spending those six seconds on the most important parts!).
  4. Go beyond your resume. Your cover letter should entice recruiters to read your resume, and your resume should get you a job interview. Don’t head into a job interview ready to simply regurgitate the points on your resume. Instead, illuminate those points. Offer insights into how you achieved certain results or how you overcame challenges to succeed.

Understanding your unique value proposition has tremendous impact, both for job seekers and professionals in every capacity. Following these steps can help you take a closer look at your career and how you’ve developed, and can help you further enhance your value within the workplace. Defining your value proposition now can be a tremendous step toward advancing your career and reaching your goals!

Helpmates specializes in helping professionals in Southern California reach their career goals across a range of disciplines. Visit our job board for the latest job openings, or contact your local Helpmates office for more information.

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How to Know When Your Employees Are About to Jump Ship

August 20th, 2014

Employee retention is always a hot topic – the cost of turnover is high, and the competition is constantly seeking ways to land top talent (especially your top talent). But identifying and preventing an employee from seeking greener pastures can be somewhat elusive.ID-10057575

While there is no specific formula for predicting when an employee will leave, there are certain indicators that can identify when an employee is considering jumping ship and heading elsewhere. Keeping an eye out for these key factors can help you spring into action and go the extra mile to keep top talent where they belong:

  1. Less contribution. When an employee starts to mentally “check out” of conversations and meetings, it could mean that he or she is preparing to make a clean break, or that the employee simply doesn’t care about his or her job anymore. There could be a few things at play here, but if an employee who typically chimes in often and offers constructive ideas suddenly starts to clam up, it could be a bad sign.
  2. Different clothes. Yes, how an employee dresses can be a sign of impending two-week notice. If your team typically wears khakis and a polo, but suddenly an employee starts showing up in a button-down shirt and dress slacks, it could be a sign that there are job interviews on the schedule. Conversely, if business suits are expected in your workplace and you find an employee suddenly inching toward business casual, it might indicate that something is brewing.
  3. Personal crises. When something dramatic happens – a death in the family, illness, divorce, or something similar – these circumstances can often cause people to assess their current life situations and determine what, if any, changes should occur. Oftentimes, jobs and careers are one area where people feel empowered to make changes.
  4. Not-so-social butterfly. For many businesses, team lunches or after-hours social activities are great team builders that build camaraderie. If one of your employees suddenly drops out of these activities, it could be a sign that he or she is trying to create distance from the team due to an impending departure.

What should you do now? 

If some of these factors are tipping you off to a possible departure of one of your employees, it’s a great time to pull this employee in and have a non-confrontational talk – how are things going? What’s new? Are you happy here? Based on the answers to those questions, your organization could find itself in a range of situations. And when your employees decide to move on, or you’re looking for more superstars to add to your team, call Helpmates. Our network includes talented professionals from across Southern California who are ready to jump in and make an immediate impact.

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Is Your Onboarding Process Alienating New Employees?

August 6th, 2014

Employee onboarding is traditionally a key part of employee development. Getting off to a good start is key to a successful, long-term career. Right?

In today’s fast-paced world where team members where multiple hats and have varying responsibilities, onboarding can be one area that falls by the wayside. But especially in today’s fast-paced world, this is where a solid onboarding plan is especially critical. Here’s why:ID-100162795

  • Turnover is too expensive. The cost to hire a new employee is often estimated at 150% of that employee’s salary. Not to mention the productivity and morale hits that will tax your office when a new employee gets off to a bad start, only to leave a short while later.
  • It can lead to unnecessary training. We’re all busy, and it can seem like a burden to spend some time with a new employee to show him or her the ropes and help be sure that employee is settled into the company. But, that short upfront time burden can prevent extra headaches down the road when your employee suffers from ignorance over company policies or procedures. It’s not fun for the employee and it’s certainly not fun for you – answering even more questions or fixing mistakes and issues that could arise.
  • Better camaraderie. It’s hard being the “new kid,” no matter how old you are or how many jobs you’ve had. Successful onboarding can help prevent awkward moments in the lunchroom when you don’t know anyone’s name and have nowhere to sit. It helps foster a sense of teamwork early on for new employees, and can make a huge difference when you’re just starting out.

Onboarding can make a tremendous impact on your organization – both positive and negative. Are you worried that your organization is tipping the scales toward negative? Here are some signs that your onboarding process is alienating new employees:

  1. Your idea of onboarding includes a stack of HR forms. HR forms are necessary for all new employees, but a successful onboarding program, they do not make! Businesses are hopping and everyone is busy, but if your onboarding program doesn’t have clearly defined steps and goals for successfully adding a new member to your team, you are alienating new employees and setting them up for failure.
  2. You are constantly interrupted or distracted. Have you ever been in a meeting (on a date, out with friends) only to have the other person stare at his or her phone the entire time? Take calls, send texts, respond to “just one” email? This behavior is not only rude, it tells the other person explicitly that they’re not important. Talk about alienation! It goes unsaid that this is not the message to send to your new employees. Make onboarding a priority – make your new employee’s success a priority – and your employees will find greater productivity and success.
  3. You don’t have equipment ready. Could you do your job without a desk, chair, computer or phone? Neither can your new employees. The first day at a new job is nerve-wracking and potentially awkward enough – imagine if you came in and had nowhere to sit, go, or call your own. For the employer, onboarding should begin before the employee shows up for his or her first day – have a phone ready, have the computer set up and ready to use (setting up email is even better), and have a chair (preferably not the broken chair that has been passed around your office for five years). A solid start means solid equipment.

Have you ever had an onboarding disaster? What has your organization done to prevent one from occurring? Here at Helpmates, we help organizations across Southern California find the talent they need to reach their goals. We’ll find your next superstars!

Looking for more HR tips? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for the latest industry news, tips and insights.

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3 Key Areas to Review in Cover Letters

July 23rd, 2014

A few months ago, we talked about key areas recruiters should review in candidate resumes for more efficient screening. But what about cover letters? Has the range of expert advice shared about cover letters over the years rendered them useless during the hiring process?

Cover letters can still be a valuable hiring tool.ID-100123324

Looking at cover letters as an art instead of a science (as many experts have proclaimed over the years) can help you appreciate this tool in a new way. Candidates who put extra effort into a memorable cover letter could very well be the creative problem-solvers your organization is looking for! Plus, spending a few extra seconds on the cover letter can help you determine whether reading the resume is even worth your time.

Be on the lookout for these three keys:

  1. Spelling and grammar. Don’t get ahead of us here, this might not be what you are expecting. Spelling is an area where there is no debate – a misspelled word on resumes is just a bad sign. But when it comes to grammar, you may want to relax a bit. Today’s business language isn’t nearly as formal as it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Take this blog, for example – professionals are speaking more, well, human! So rather than grade candidates on whether they can write a formal letter that sticks to all the formatting suggested by those experts, take a look at how the cover letter is written. Are they speaking to you or at you? Can you feel the candidate’s enthusiasm through the use of language?
  2. The “meat.” One reason many recruiters scan or skip cover letters is that candidates often simply use the cover letter as a summary of their resume. It makes sense to skip it, then – why read a summary of the resume when the resume is right in front you?! Exceptional candidates who can make an impact on your business will use the “meat” of their cover letter to add insight that illuminates the resume or ties together their work history to paint the big picture and offer true perspective on this candidate, his or her career and ultimately, his or her potential within your organization.
  3. The close. The cover letter close seems innocuous enough – “Here’s my contact information and I’d appreciate it if you would schedule an interview.” But it’s also pretty yawn inducing much of the time. Creative candidates with real potential will use the close as an opportunity to further demonstrate their enthusiasm and make you enthusiastic about talking to them! Don’t just scan the close, read it carefully – are you excited about the candidate? Or are you ready to toss the resume altogether?

Knowing what to look for in candidate cover letters can help you be more efficient while screening candidates, and could ultimately help you land your next office superstar. If you’re struggling to find and identify the top talent your organization needs, call Helpmates. We specialize in finding precisely the talent businesses need to reach and exceed their goals.

Are you on social media? So is Helpmates! Connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for more helpful recruiting and HR tips, tools and news.

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Social Media Job Search Tips for Recent Graduates

July 9th, 2014

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. From connecting with family to even applying for jobs, chances are you read or post to at least one social media site every day. But particularly for recent college graduates, your social media presence can have a profound impact on your ability to land a job. The following list of dos and don’ts can help you identify habits to avoid, and those to embrace as part of your job search:ID-10070641


Keep your pictures professional. Recruiters will be searching for you on the Internet, including social media. Actually, a simple Google search will likely bring up your social media profiles first. That’s because search engines “crawl” social media posts like they do individual webpages. The more you post to social media, the higher your social profiles will rank for your name. So when your social media profiles come up, be sure that your image is professional. You don’t necessarily need a professional headshot (although that’s a great idea too!), but you should look professional in each picture. Better yet, use the same picture across the board – LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (or others) to ensure that you are portraying the right image across all your social channels.

Stay consistent. If you include past positions or coursework on your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, ensure that the list remains consistent across all channels. If your social media profiles convey different messages, it could signal a red flag for recruiters and result in someone else getting the job. If you have an excessive amount of personal information on certain social media profiles, take a look at your privacy settings to ensure what’s intended to be private remains private, then ensure all public information about your education and professional history are consistent.


Use profanity. This may seem like a no-brainer, but internal filters can often be forgotten when sharing information with our friends and family on social media. The problem is that, as mentioned in the first bullet, search engines crawl social media posts, so if you use profanity in a Facebook post, for example, that post could be one of the top Google results for your name! You certainly don’t want recruiters to associate vulgarity with your name, so the best way to avoid this type of result is to avoid saying offensive things on the Internet.

Connect without a connection. It can be tempting to “friend” or send a LinkedIn request to leaders at businesses you’re interested in, but that strategy can backfire. Facebook is a tool for friends and family – mixing friends and family with networking and your job search could be a recipe for disaster. When it comes to LinkedIn, be sure to establish real connections before sending requests to connect on the social site. Once you’ve met with a recruiter or decision-maker, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a LinkedIn request, but doing so before meeting or making an in-person connection could discredit you and result in you losing out on potential opportunities.

Your social presence can be a boost to your grades and experience when applying for jobs, but you’ll need to follow these tips to ensure you’re putting your best “social” foot forward.  Need help landing a job after graduation? Helpmates works with top employers across Southern California to match them with talented professionals like you. Visit our job board to view our current openings or contact your nearest Helpmates office to take the first step in your career.

While you’re at it, be sure to connect with Helpmates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more job search and career tips, hot jobs and more!

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Are Video Job Interviews Right For Your Business?

July 2nd, 2014

With significant advances in technology and portability of communication, video interviewing is gaining traction in recruiting circles. While the technology is intriguing, there are specific factors to consider when debating whether video interviewing is the right fit for your business.VideoInterviewing

We’ve compiled a list of potential benefits and pitfalls of this emerging technology trend:

Positives of Video Job Interviews

  • Flexibility. Sometimes it can be difficult to synchronize schedules for interviews, but video interviewing means travel time is eliminated, allowing for more flexibility that helps both employers and candidates.
  • Potential Cost savings. If you’re considering out-of-town candidates, video interviewing can help you conduct initial screening without the travel costs associated with bringing those candidates in-house.
  • Additional Candidate Insights. Video interviews allow you to see a side of candidates you may not see during in-person job interviews. Quiet, organized surroundings can help identify candidates who are detail oriented. A technically smooth interview may signal a candidate who is tech savvy and can maximize computers or mobile devices – a great boost to any office.

Pitfalls of Video Job Interviews

  • Technological hiccups. Simply put, many offices lack updated computers or video technology to adequately allow for smooth video interviewing. Add in potential problems associated with slow or problematic internet connections, and any convenience associated with video interviews is lost – and then some. That’s only accounting for the potential technical issues in your office – there’s simpy no way of knowing whether candidates have met the technical requirements. Often times, the only way you can find out is when technical issues force you to delay or even cancel an interview.
  •  Poor locations. Conducting video interviews in your office or cubicle can mean major distractions from coworkers talking or playing music, or even just regular office noise – computer microphones pick up everything, and any distractions can be bothersome to you and especially the candidate, leading to a lower quality interview. Poor lighting can also impact video job interviews, making it hard for candidates to see you (or vice versa) and impacting your ability to connect during the interview.
  • Lost insights. Video job interviews can make it difficult to pick up on subtleties like body language that interviewers can gain during in-person job interviews. Body language, eye contact, even a confident voice can be lost due to the impersonal feeling of screens and potential connectivity lags prevent answers from coming through quickly and with the intended tone, volume or emotion.

The quality of job interviews depends on many factors, but conducting quality interviews and finding top talent is essential for any business. The Helpmates team has extensive experience sourcing and interviewing candidates in a range of industries across Southern California. We’ll help you find the talent you need to reach your goals.

Are you “social?” Like us on Facebook or LinkedIn, or follow us on Twitter for more hiring and HR news, tools and insights.

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Should You Be Hiring For Skills or Personality? 

June 6th, 2014

Google “hire for skills or personality” and you’ll find more than 12 million resulting pieces of content – many of them recent. It’s a hot topic in hiring today, and it’s one that has the potential to make a big impact on your business. Poor hiring decisions can cost your business mightily – many estimate the cost of a hire at around 150% of that employee’s salary. Can you afford to make a bad hire?

Your business can make better hires.

Here are three things to consider around skills and personality when it comes to your hiring decisions:SkillsPersonality

Every industry (and role) is different. This may seem like a no-brainer, but what works for Richard Branson and Virgin might not work for your industry. In highly technical industries, a specific skillset is likely necessary to comprehend even the basic requirements. Of course, outside of industry, specific roles are also highly variable.

Skills are about more than technical ability. When considering skills during the hiring process it can be easy to laser in on technical skills. But, soft skills are just as important when making a hiring decision. Applying technical skills in human contexts is a critical component of successful employees. Flexibility and communication are some of the most important soft skills that impact performance in a range of roles, but there are others that may be important to your organization. Talk through this with your team first to identify the core soft skills that are critical to success within your organization.

It’s all about balance. A candidate could have the best personality in the world and still not be a culture fit for your organization. Or they could have a ton of skills and have zero personality. Like with all things, good hires are all about balance. Rank the importance of specific skills or experience in order of importance, then take those into consideration during the hiring process. A candidate with great personality and a strong foundation of skills epitomizes what this trendworthy topic is all about, really.

Ultimately, a smart team of recruiters who understands your business and its goals will source, vet and hire the best talent for your organization. Here at Helpmates, that’s what we do best! Contact us today to learn more about our temporary and permanent staffing solutions.

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Keep Workplace Productivity Humming this Summer

May 30th, 2014

Summer vacations offer a great respite for your team (and for you!), but they can also disrupt your company workflow and be a drain on productivity. Summer can mean lengthy vacations and reduced productivity…but it doesn’t have to.

Your team can continue achieving its goals during the summer.HM_SummerProductivity

Here’s how you can keep your team motivated and focused during the summer months:

  • Keep business dress codes. Summer months bring nice weather, and it can be tempting to relax the dress code to accommodate that nice weather. But, looking the “part” during the summer months can help keep your team focused. If employees are wearing outfits they might bring to the beach, then they might not be thinking about work…they’ll be thinking about the beach!
  • Expand the workplace. Your office has wifi, and chances are most of your employees have tablets or laptop computers. When everyone is itching to get outside and enjoy the weather, you can keep them focused on work and let them enjoy the weather by allowing team members to work outside. Today’s office is mobile, so why not expand the workplace for a few months to take advantage?
  • Encourage lunch walks. Research shows that a midday walk can help improve focus and productivity, and the summer months offer a perfect opportunity to get outside and get some fresh air. If you spot employees eating lunch at their desks, encourage them to get outside and take a break. It’ll pay off in the long run.
  • Consider creating “summer” hours. Sixty-six percent of companies with summer schedules say they boost productivity. If it works within your industry, consider changing your work week to four, 10-hour days so that you have more focused, productive employees who can enjoy longer summer weekends. Earlier start times can also boost productivity – if you can let your employees start and leave earlier, they’ll be able to enjoy more gorgeous summer evenings. You’ll also score some goodwill points with your team! Research also shows that employees with summer hours take fewer vacation days, adding to productivity. Plus, employees who know they’re leaving in a few hours are more likely to be especially productive to get things done. It’s a win/win for your employees and your organization.
  • Reset expectations. Perhaps the best way to keep everyone focused is to be realistic about expectations for the summer months. While efficiency and results are obviously imperative to drive business, understanding that your clients and customers are also taking summer vacations means that your priorities and expectations should be re-examined for the summer months.

Implementing even some of these suggestions can make a big impact on your workplace productivity this summer, but sometimes you simply need extra manpower to help your business achieve its goals. Helpmates has the talented temporary workers you need to augment your permanent staff and help you reach your business goals this summer. Contact us to learn more.

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4 Keys For Changing Careers and Breaking Into a New Industry

April 24th, 2014

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track career changes as part of its extensive data, but that doesn’t stop career experts from talking about their prevalence. One common number that you might see is that the average person goes through seven careers in a lifetime.


You may not change careers seven times in your life, but the reality is that many of us will change careers at least once. Taking the leap and jumping into a new field can be both intimidating and stressful – and landing a job in your new field can be particularly challenging in today’s job market. One of the biggest challenges associated with changing careers is convincing recruiters that you are serious about your move, and aren’t simply “dabbling” in a change. Reduce the challenge and set yourself up for success in your new career with these four keys for changing careers and breaking into a new industry: 

  1. Constantly look for education opportunities. Many colleges offer certificate programs in new fields of study, and they often take significantly less time to complete than a full bachelor’s or master’s degree. You’ll be taking high-level courses with industry experts, and you’ll simultaneously be expanding your network within your new field. Experts often also speak at civic events and local libraries, sharing industry knowledge and insights – be sure to read local business publications and blogs to see what relevant speakers will be speaking in your area. Then, be sure to attend, take notes and ask questions!
  2. Get out and volunteer. Depending on your specific town, there are dozens to hundreds (or more) of nonprofit organizations in dire need of volunteers. Volunteer positions offer an incredible opportunity to gain real world, on-the-job experience, plus, board members and other volunteers are typically experienced professionals in their fields. The results you generate during your volunteer opportunity are also prime opportunities to impress potential employers! You typically won’t be paid for volunteer work, but you’ll be gaining experience and generating real results – items that boost your resume and increase your hireability when meeting with potential employers.
  3. Start writing. Once you’ve started learning more about your new field and gaining experience through volunteer work, write about what you’re doing and learning. Recruiters will do an internet search for information about you once they’ve received your resume. What will recruiters find about you? You’re working hard to gain knowledge and experience in your new field – writing about it ensures recruiters will find information that demonstrates knowledge in your new field and positions you as someone with experience and savvy. Sites like Tumblr and WordPress offer free and easy-to-use tools for posting blogs – sign up and start writing about your new career.
  4. Get involved with networking groups (local and online). In just about any career blog you’ll see tips about networking. It really is critical in any job search, but it’s particularly important when you’re changing careers. Most local papers list business networking meeting times and locations, and you can also search for a list of networking groups in your area.  Get out there, talk to people, meet people in your and other fields, and ask them questions. Ask about how they got into their role, what it takes to succeed in their fields, and what advice they might give someone making a career transition. Fortify those relationships by connecting on LinkedIn, then join relevant LinkedIn groups (and groups relevant to your new area of specialty) to see what advice and topics people in similar situations are discussing. You’ll not only gain critical insight into how to make a career change, you’ll keep building that network of contacts. The value in an expanded professional network is incredible!

The last way to help land a job in your new industry? Partner with a staffing firm! Here at Helpmates, we work with some of the top employers in Southern California. We help professionals like you reach their career goals every day. Search our currently available jobs in Southern California or contact us directly to take the next step in your career.

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