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    Survey Says Small Businesses Planning to Hire

    Staffing Industry Analysts  September 22 2014 12:34:13 PM
    Small businesses expect to have a profitable second half of the year, according to the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard survey for September. The survey found 81 percent of small business owners expect to be profitable in the second half of the year, up from 77 percent in June. Optimism among small business owners rose to 73 percent, its second highest point in 2014; it reached 75 percent in May.

    Fifty percent said they would make investments in their business in the fourth quarter, up from 44 percent at this time last year. Of those planning to make new investment, 52 percent said they would do so by adding new staff.

    However, hiring edged down 0.1 percent from August and 0.7 percent year over year.

    “The businesses that we work with are your mom and pop shops, your really tight-knit operations with just two or three employees, and a really high number of them have worked their way into profitability,” said SurePayroll General Manager Andy Roe on the hiring increase. “It’s tremendous and the excitement is really back in the air for small businesses heading into the year-end stretch. We'll look to see more investment from business owners in staff, marketing and technology, as well as new equipment and even office space for some.”

    SurePayroll’s Scorecard compiles data from more than 40,000 small businesses and exclusively reflects the trends affecting businesses with one to 10 employees. The average business reflected has six employees. SurePayroll Inc. provides online payroll services to small businesses. It is a subsidiary of Paychex Inc. (NASD: PAYX).

    Read the original story at HERE

      Top 5 Things Not To Do In A Job Interview  August 6 2014 04:05:44 PM
      You'd be forgiven for believing there is a simple list of obvious things we'd all agree should not be done in a job interview.  But, as with common sense not actually being so common in practice, interviewees can and have done the darndest things to unwittingly undermine their chances of getting a position.

      Below is an original article from Tamara Elliott at Global News which provides guidance on common interview slip-ups.  The original article can be found HERE.

      Hunting for a new gig? It turns out you could derail your chance of getting hired before the interview even starts.

      Staffing company Express Employment Professionals has released a list of the top five interview mistakes that people make. They include lying about experience, checking a cell phone, arriving late, answering a phone call and acting arrogant.

      “It takes a great deal of effort to secure an interview for most jobs, so it baffles me that anyone would throw away that opportunity by lying or arriving late,” says Bob Funk, the CEO of Express Employment Professionals. “But believe it or not, these things happen.

      He adds that there are simple steps that every interviewee should take.

      “My advice is don’t even think about answering your phone, texting on your phone, or even looking at your phone,” Funk says. “In fact, turn your phone off before entering the building. If an employer sees you can’t take an interview seriously, I promise he or she won’t trust that you can take the job seriously.”

      The following list outlines the worst things an applicant can do during a job interview:
      • Lie about experience- 79%
      • Check phone-  63%
      • Arrive late- 58%
      • Act arrogant- 53%
      • Answer a phone call- 53%
      • Drink (alcohol)- 47%
      • Badmouth boss or co-worker- 47%
      • Not do homework/research- 16%
      • Smoke- 16%
      • Bad eye contact- 16%
      • Bring a friend or relative- 16%
      • Text message- 5%
      • Dress inappropriately- 5%
      • Use improper language or slang- 5%
      • Chew gum- 5%
      • Act nervous- 5%
      • Not know weaknesses- 5%

        The most valuable keywords to have on a tech resume

        QUARTZ  July 8 2014 03:33:30 PM
        QUARTZ published a fascinating look at what STEM skills pay off the most when listed on a resume (and we'll also assume that the resume owners are actually capable of performing said skills...).  The article pulls it's conclusions from an equally fascinating -- and  detailed -- study put out by the Brooking Institution that looks at advertisement duration vs skill requirements for job listings.

        Computer skills, unsurprisingly, come out high on the list, with Process Management, Automation Tools, Machine Learning, Load Runner
        and Big Data forming the top five skills in highest demand.  "Big Data" and "Machine Learning" are obviously broad categories under which particular technical skills will also be in high demand.

        Combining skills with industries yields an equally interesting list, led by: Credit Risk, Credit Analysis, Financial Solutions, New Biz Development,
        and Commercial Lending.  Clearly,  computer/IT skills combined with banking/finance is a high-demand combination.

        Lastly, the study looked at how long it took to fill a position with particular skills.  On average, QUARTZ researchers found that non-STEM job listings took an average of 33 days to fill, while
        STEM listings stayed open an average of 50 days.  The hardest skills to fill: Verilog, NoSQL, Machine Learning, Apache Hadoop, and CISA.

        Silicon Valley CEOs (and many from farther afield) are constantly complaining that good technical talent is expensive and in short supply. There’s something to their concerns. At every education level, jobs requiring STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) skills in the US take far more time and money to fill than just about anything else, according to a new study from the Brookings Institution.

        Researcher Jonathan Rothwell, together with Burning Glass, a labor-market data analysis company, collected data on thousands of American job ads, the dates they opened and were taken down, and the skills that they require.

        Google, for example, took an average of 97 days to fill computer-related jobs (primarily software engineers), 56 for sales, and 79 for management in the San Jose area (which encompasses Mountain View, where the firm’s headquarters are). About half of the jobs in Rothwell’s dataset that were posted for 70 days required high levels of STEM knowledge.

        The dataset also tracks required skills, and identifies which ones pay off most handsomely. Computer skills make up a large portion. The average salary value of a skill is calculated from the averaged advertised salary of jobs that mention any particular ability.

        Rothwell passed the detailed data on to Quartz, and we made the graphs below to show the average salary value for each skill. (We confined ourselves to skills with more than 2,000 job ads in the dataset.)

        Some caveats: This isn’t a perfect dataset. It scrapes from a large set of job advertisements, not all of which include salary data. Some of the skills broken out are catch-alls, broad tags like “big data,” “machine learning,” and and “data modeling,” rather than skills with particular techniques or programming languages. Others, like “IT management,” “process management,” and  “concept development” seem like proxies for managerial positions, which likely accounts for why jobs with these “skills” have higher high salary figures.

        What’s more, these descriptions don’t identify the primary skill a job is hiring for, just those skills that were mentioned prominently in the listing. So some less consequential skills likely come out on top. And it will always be a combination of skills rather than any one that employers look for. But the data do provide a useful window into some of the specific skills and areas of knowledge that are in greatest demand. First, the data for computer-centric skills:
        Image:The most valuable keywords to have on a tech resume
        >>> Click HERE to continue reading the article at

          Want women technology leaders? Start by fixing summer camp...

  July 1 2014 08:15:00 AM
          (The original article appeared HERE at

          Shereen Shermak, chief executive of Boston’s Launch Angels, shares her thoughts on how to get more girls interested in — and sticking with — technology, starting with a youth staple: Summer Camp.

          On a recent morning, like many parents, I called to check in on the new camp I’d recently signed my daughter up for. It is a well-respected programming camp that offered a module based on the popular game Minecraft, a video game many parents have to limit for their kids because it is so engaging.

          It turns out that Minecraft also makes for an excellent learning tool. My daughter was ridiculously excited about the week at camp.

          While I was speaking with the camp’s representative, I happened to ask if there were any other girls in her class. There were none.

          I thought about it and called back and asked if there would be any female counselors at the camp. That week, the camp rep said that there would be one for the teenage camp, but none for the little kids.

          “Are there any other little girls in any of the other classes for her to interact with at lunch?” I asked.

          Not in the entire camp that week.

          I hated doing it, but I switched my daughter to a different programming class at another location that had a few girl students and female counselors.

          After I hung up, I was reminded of a similar experience of my own 30 years ago when I went to camp to learn BASIC and robotics. I was 16 at the time and much better able to handle being a girl among boys. I had been passing by them in math and science for a decade by then.

          The problem is not the little kids; many little girls are playing Minecraft and in theory would want to spend a week on it. Adult women are a much larger demographic of gamers than boys under the age of 17, so we can’t say gaming is inherently male.

          Carnegie Mellon University turned their engineering school around in only 5 years, going from 7 percent girls to nearly half. Maybe we need to take a closer look at what CMU did.

          The other players in this equation are parents. There are many reasons not to go to such a camp — expense, location, travel plans. But all of these reasons apply to both boys and girls.

          These parents are not alone — the US as a whole substantially trails the global average of about one-third of women engineering graduate, although individual schools like MIT recently started to exceed that number.

          In parsing out the issues, the most bothersome is that this camp will, in theory, be shaping who will potentially be going to engineering school ten years from now, and who are young programmers will be 20 years from now.

          Can we just get some girls to camp for a week to build up their confidence in programming and see if they are interested in doing more?

          Note that the camp had tried to attract girls in all of its messaging, pictures, etc., but often with girls, you have to specifically invite them. So camp administrators need to specifically target local schools and make sure that a diverse group of students (and parents) are aware of the opportunities.

          It would be terrific if the corporate community could step up and sponsor additional seats for girls as well.

          Everyone seems to be frustrated that women aren’t making it down to the other end of the funnel, moving from engineering and design to C-level positions like chief executive or chief technology officer. For this to happen it’s important that more girls get (a fun and exciting!) early start such as one that a camp focused on Minecraft might offer.

          Shereen Shermak is the chief executive at crowd funding firm Launch Angels. Previously, she helped found Boston startups Buyside FX and Fashionplaytes. With degrees from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Shermak has also worked at StateStreet and New York City’s Division of Economic and Financial Opportunity.

            Tips for Turning Your Temp Job into Full-Time

            Fox Business  June 30 2014 04:48:43 PM
            Temporary workers are no longer just that. Increasingly companies are using temp and contractors to find full time employees, relying on short term projects to weed out the good and the bad.

            That’s great news for job seekers looking to land a full time job. But it doesn’t mean every temp worker is going to transition into an employee.

            “Test driving employees is a great way to get to know a candidate, before making the full investment of bringing them onboard permanently,” says Joel Garfinkle, author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. “Obviously, what each employer is specifically looking for during this ‘test drive’ is different. However, there are some general factors that usually help determine whether or not a temp successfully transitions to full-time.”

            From treating the assignment as an on the job interview to going above and beyond, here’s a look at ways career experts say you can parlay a temp job into a full time one.

            When it comes to working as a contractor or temp with an eye toward making it a permanent job, career experts say you have to carefully choose where you are temping. After all, you may be an expert in marketing, but if you take a temp position as a receptionist is it really something you would want to do full-time? “You want to pick (a temp) job that most closely resembles what it is you want to do permanently,” says Tom Wharton, Managing Partner with OI Global Partners, the career consulting firm. “If something is too far out in left field you won’t do it well and you won’t last long in the assignment.”

            Even if you are hired to simply answer phones and make copies, you have to treat the assignment as the equivalent of an interview and act accordingly. “Don’t under estimate the watchful eye and the impact you are making while doing your job,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director with Robert Half. “The impression you are making while on the job speaks volumes to those around you.”

            For technical roles, it’s likely you were given the assignment because of you skills. While it’s important to showcase those needed skills during your temporary work, experts say you also want to demonstrate you possess the soft skills like being a great communicator, flexibility and a penchant for being a team player. If you are able to show your boss and co-workers that you listen and play nice with others it can compensate for any weaknesses in your technical skills. “The other most important factor an employer is test driving is the qualitative aspects of the candidate,” says Garfinkle. “How are their personal skills? Do they fit well with the other team members? Are they able to communicate effectively? These are things you hope to get a feel for during an interview, but really can’t know for sure how it’ll go until the candidate is actually in place and interacting with everyone.”

            Going above and beyond cannot be understated if you want the temp job to become full-time.  Not only do you want to do your job to the best of your ability but you also want to volunteer for extra work and help co-workers in a pinch. Wharton has had clients who did so well during their contract assignment that they ended up replacing a current full-time employee who wasn’t at the same level. “Being a team player is very important,” says Wharton, noting it behooves people to try to work with other departments as well as their own so that they come into contact with all the different department heads. “You want to be recognized as a key contributor and somebody who believes in the company and its mission,” he says.

            Most people aren’t mind readers, and that’s particularly true of hiring managers, which is why McDonald says it’s important to communicate your interest in working for the company on a permanent basis. Not only do you want to let your boss or bosses know that but you should also alert the staffing firm, which may have a contract with the company.  McDonald says to ask if there is an opportunity for the role to transition to full time, then be flexible about taking on jobs in other departments that you may be qualified for. “If you want to parlay it into a full time position then demonstrate your flexibility,” says McDonald. “Let them know you are interested because not every temp is interested in full time employment.”

              Careers With a Bright Outlook That Pay Over $70K a Year

      June 17 2014 05:08:27 PM
              These jobs boast a promising future - and paycheck.

              People rarely - if ever - knowingly choose a poorly-paying, dead-end career. Although it is important to choose a career that you like, it is equally important that the job pays a livable wage and will also be in demand for years to come.

              So how do you know which jobs are projected to be in high demand in the foreseeable future? We turned to O*Net Online, a partner of the American Job Center network, which has identified certain careers as "bright outlook" occupations.

              These jobs fall into at least one of the following categories:
              • Rapid growth: employment increases of 22 percent or more from 2012-2022
              • Numerous job openings: at least 100,000 new job openings between 2012-2022
              • New and emerging jobs: recently created positions in fast-growing industries

              From there, we took a look at 2013 wage estimates from the U.S. Department of Labor to narrow down the list even further to jobs that have a median annual salary of at least $70K.

              Keep reading to discover six jobs that made the cut.

              Career #1: Information Security Analyst
                     Median Annual Salary

                      Growth Rate From 2012-2022
                              37 percent


              Career #2: Management Analysts
                      Median Annual Salary

                      Growth Rate From 2012-2022
                              19 percent


              Career #3: Computer Systems Analyst
                      Median Annual Salary

                      Growth Rate From 2012-2022
                              25 percent


              Career #4: Civil Engineer
              Median Annual Salary

                      Growth Rate From 2012-2022
                              20 percent


              Career #5: Dental Hygienist
              Median Annual Salary

                      Growth Rate From 2012-2022
                              33 percent


              Career #6: Logistician
                     Median Annual Salary

                      Growth Rate From 2012-2022
                             22 percent

              (excerpted from an original article on Yahoo, which can be found HERE)

                5 Perfect Answers to Tough Interview Questions

        May 30 2014 09:53:54 AM
                Monster Contributing Writer Catherine Conlan puts together a nice piece on answering those tough -- some say "trip up" -- questions found in many interviews.  As she notes, it isn't always a direct answer to the question that interviewers are seeking.  They might be interested in seeing how you respond to uncomfortable situations, or they may be trying to peek behind the temporary "mask" some applicants feel they need to don trying to impress.

                Going into any job interview, you know you’re going to get some tough questions. Knowing how to answer them in ways that are both honest and powerful can help you impress the interviewer and land the job.
                To help you out, here are some perfect answers to some of the toughest interview questions.

                What is your greatest weakness?
                This question is a common one, but Eric Melniczek, a career advisor at HighPoint University Career & Internship Services, points out that interviewers rarely ask whether it is a current flaw. He suggests an answer along these lines:
                “In the past, I was unable to meet set deadlines. However, several years ago, I developed a technique where I write down what I plan to accomplish every hour of every day during the workweek and how I spend my time. Over the years, I have noticed that my productivity has improved dramatically utilizing this method. In fact, my work supervisor recently complimented me in a staff meeting with a dozen of my peers for consistently exceeding team and individual expectations as well as managing my time well."
                You’ve probably identified a weakness in anticipation of this question. An answer that shows you’ve solved it can illustrate your problem-solving capabilities.

                Tell me about your worst boss.
                It can be tempting to trash your former manager, but you need to find a way to put a positive spin on this answer. Leanne King, president and owner of SeeKing HR, suggests talking about what you learned from your worst boss:
                “My worst boss ever taught me things like graciousness, the absolute need for technical competency and professional respect -- these are core characteristics to creating high performing teams and areas she may have chosen to improve upon. I learned through a series of very difficult situations that everything about business is personal -- personal to me and certainly personal to her. Speaking to others with kindness and compassion certainly can take you further in your career aspirations. I was inspired to support the people who work for me, raise them up to reach their potential and encourage them to seek greatness.”

                What sort of salary are you looking for?

                This is a hard one because you don’t want to undercut yourself, but you don’t want to price yourself out of range, says Elliot Lasson, executive director of Joblink of Maryland. Ideally, you’ve done some research into the position and know what’s reasonable, but Lasson says you can also ask for more information:
                “That's a fair question. To answer it properly, I'd need to know more about the position responsibilities and benefits package. I am quite confident that knowing the reputation of the company, when the time comes, any offer you make will be competitive.”

                Why should we choose you?
                Dave Popple, president of Corporate Insights Global, suggests taking the approach quarterback Johnny Manziel took with the Cleveland Browns:
                “I applied for this job because this is the company I really want to work for, not because I needed a job. When someone comes to a company they really want to work for, they invest more of their energy and time into their career. You should choose me because I made this company my first choice.”

                Where do you see yourself in five years?

                This is a hard one, because it’s difficult to predict the future. Heather Beaven, CEO of the Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida's Graduates, suggests a forthright approach:
                “I am both purposeful and flexible so I never carve a path in stone. Instead, I try to be fully prepared to maximize any opportunity that comes my way.”

                View the original article HERE on

                  STEM Education Gets Boost From White House

          May 29 2014 03:30:22 PM
                  President Barack Obama has announced new, expanded programs to get more students enrolled in science, tech, engineering and math courses.President Barack Obama has announced new, expanded programs to get more students enrolled in science, tech, engineering and math courses.

                  The White House today unveiled several new steps to bolster education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with a particular focus on encouraging girls and women to pursue the STEM fields.

                  President Obama made the announcement in an address marking the annual White House Science fair, which drew more than 100 students from more than 30 states.

                  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education

                  "Our job is to make sure that you've got everything you need to continue on this path of discovery, experimentation and innovation," Obama said in an address in the White House East Room.

                  Cisco, Other Vendors Advocating STEM Education

                  The science fair has become an occasion for the administration to tout its efforts to boost STEM education and training, a key policy agenda for many companies in the tech sector — some of which, such as Cisco Systems and SanDisk, have partnered with the US2020 program to encourage STEM mentorship.

                  As part of today's announcement, San Francisco, Chicago and five other cities launched campaigns under the auspices of US2020 to connect students with mentors from local companies who work in the STEM fields. The seven cities will receive financial support for their tech mentoring campaigns, proposals for which they submitted along with dozens of other cities in a competition sponsored by Cisco that was announced at last year's White House Science Fair.

                  While the White House initiative aims to broaden participation in the STEM fields among all demographics, Obama highlighted the disproportionately low involvement of women in those disciplines. Of all computer science and engineering degrees awarded, fewer than one in five goes to a woman, he said. Similarly, women account for fewer than 30 percent of science and engineering jobs.

                  "We've got to change those numbers," Obama said. "These are the fields of the future. This is where the good jobs are going to be. And I want America to be home for those jobs."

                  Department of Education, AmeriCorps Also Targeting STEM

                  In an effort to help even out that imbalance, the White House is expanding its Educate to Innovate campaign to include a $35 million grant competition the Department of Education is adding to its Teacher Quality Partnership, which funds programs that support the professional development of educators. The new tranche of the TQP program will favor STEM-focused programs, and is being billed as the next phase of Obama's overarching goal of training an additional 100,000 high-quality STEM teachers by 2020.

                  Additionally, this summer the STEM AmeriCorps is set to ratchet up its efforts to reach low-income communities, planning to expand its programs to provide educational opportunities to another 18,000 economically disadvantaged students.

                  Obama recalled last week, when the White House hosted the Seattle Seahawks, last year's Super Bowl winners. It has become custom for the winners of major championships in professional and college sports to drop by the White House for a visit, but Obama told the assembled students in the East Room that their pursuit of STEM studies is in service of a higher calling.

                  "I believe that what's being done by these amazing young people who I had a chance to meet is even more important. And I'm a big sports fan — everybody knows that," Obama said. "But what's happening here is more important. They don't always get the attention that they deserve, but they're the ones who are going to transform our society."
                  Read the original article at by clicking HERE

                    Do Not Let Social Media Be A Road To Career Trouble

            May 23 2014 12:16:39 PM
                    (The original article can be found HERE and appeared online 05/23/2014 at

                    Social media has provided a platform for just about anyone looking for one to project a certain image of themselves. It has made us, in many ways, more accessible to one another, and more accountable, too. But social media can be a road to career trouble. While Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like can be an excellent way for those searching for work to market themselves—many companies use social media for recruiting purposes, seeking out potential employers who share their philosophy or have good ideas—social media can also be a way for employers to screen out employees. That is, while you’re busy crafting your personal image, potential employers are busy using it to predict how you might be as an employee.

                    There’s proof: A  survey by found that nearly half of all employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, rejecting those whose social media profiles include provocative photos, evidence of drug use or drinking, negative posts about previous employers or co-workers, or comments that might be interpreted as racist, sexist, or ageist. Employers call on social media to monitor and respond to their current employees, too. Who could forget the Justine Sacco scandal, in which the PR exec pressed send on a last minute tweet before boarding a 12-hour flight: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” By the time she landed, she had been publicly canned.

                    What’s more, evidence of how much time you spend on social media could give employers reason to worry that the habit could get in the way of actual work. Though posts can often be very beautiful, conjuring the image of a woman with a full, creative, humor-filled life, they also can make people—bosses included—wonder: How does this woman get any work done?

                    The actual act of posting isn’t the only distracting aspect of social media, however. An obsession with everyone’s online goings-on can fuel feelings of isolation and self-doubt as you wonder if other people are better at their jobs than you, better-liked, or otherwise advancing more rapidly. A 2012 study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that the longer people spent on Facebook each week, the more they agreed that everyone else was happier, cooler, and generally better off.

                    The answer, though, isn’t to delete all evidence of your social media presence or to stay offline entirely. Instead, it’s to clean it up, and tailor what you can to the image you’d like to craft for yourself as a professional. It’s okay to be a person who likes to have fun, or is sarcastic, maybe even a little subversive at times; people are complex. But it’s important to balance such posts with observations, comments, or photos of a more serious nature, and to keep in mind, always, that how you present yourself through social media is no different than how you present yourself in a job interview, or at the office. A few tips:

                    Keep it (more or less) positive. Your Facebook Status box is not your best friend. Don’t use it to vent complaints about your friends, your boyfriend, your current employer or co-workers, or even the clumsy Starbucks barista. Keep it classy—and keep your problems to yourself. Whether you’re looking for a job or just looking to keep the one you have, it’s important to remember that what you write matters. Something that may seem funny to you could be interpreted in a very different way by someone who doesn’t know you or your personality.

                    Think before you selfie. While your friends or followers may be interested in seeing you lying in bed, lips pursed, in a real world headshot—emphasis on may be—your potential employers do not. They want to know that in hiring you they’re not going to be inviting an egomaniac into the workplace, or someone who thinks of themselves first. A recent study out of the U.K. found that the selfie phenomenon may be damaging to real world relationships, concluding that both excessive photo sharing and sharing photos of a certain type—including self-portraits—makes people less likeable. What’s more, putting so much emphasis on your own looks can make others feel self-conscious about theirs in your presence, and the last thing you want to do is make coworkers or potential employers feel judged.

                    Privatize. Not quite the point of social media, but if you’re going to insist on being free to write or post whatever you’d like, and want impunity, the only option is to make your accounts private. Similarly, if you find that what your friends post to your wall is a worrisome reflection of you or your beliefs, talk to them about it, turn off the function that allows them to do so, or, if you must, de-friend them.

                    Use social media for good, not evil. Let’s face it: Your Instagram photos of your Mexican vacation were a branding tool anyway. So why not take it a step more professional and use your online presence as an opportunity to present the very best, most marketable, sides of yourself? Post about Mexico, but also post about ideas that interest you, projects you’re working on, people who inspire you. You’re not a one trick pony. Your social media shouldn’t be either.

                      How to Prepare for Tough Interview Questions

              May 9 2014 10:11:36 AM
                      We spoke with industry experts to get the advice that will help you craft better answers to what are some of the most common, and difficult, interview questions.

                      When companies are looking to hire someone, especially in a leadership or CIO position, they are looking for several things. Often times hiring managers have little precious time with actual candidates to decide if they have the technical ability to get things the done, the business acumen and vision to get IT to align the company's business objectives and it's technical capabilities, and finally but certainly not the least important, how someone would potentially fit into the company culture and work with upper management.

                      For most of us getting interviewed is never an easy process. You've got to be spot-on perfect for what seems like forever, many times through a multi-step interview process. You've got to know your technology, be ready to articulate effective answers and questions, all the while putting on your most pleasant and positive face. There is no shortcut to acing the interview. It takes, time, dedication, research and practice. In spite of all the preparation even the most seasoned interviewee gets thrown a curve ball every once in a while.

                      The only hard question to answer is the one you didn't prepare for. So in order to help you get the job of your dreams we spoke with IT recruiters, staffing firms, CIOs and other senior IT personnel to find out what questions are typical stumbling blocks for those being interviewed, and how to best to prepare for and answer these questions in what could be the longest and most important hour of your career.

                      Question #1 - Why is there gap in your work history?

                         Lay-offs, workforce reductions and downsizing

                      In the recent economic downturn many companies experienced lay-offs or simply went out of business. Senior IT people understand this economic reality and normally won't hold this against you. That said, hiring managers typically prefer hiring someone who is already employed. According to Matthew Ripaldi, Senior Vice President with Modis, you should not try to dance around it but instead be straight-forward and honest about exactly what happened. "Chances are they already know. In addition you want to make sure you make it clear that it was not performance related and be able to talk about specific accomplishments you had while in the role and references of your work that are readily available. Make sure to rehearse how you're going to answer that question so that it flows smoothly, and finally, never say negative things about your past employer!"

                         What if I was fired?

                      If you were a part of a downsizing or workforce reduction then the answer can be simple and self-explanatory. If the reasons are something you'd prefer not to get into then you had better prepare ahead of time. Scott Saccal, Senior Director and IT leader with Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Solutions Companies says it's best to take the high road. "For this question, it's probably best to take the position that the position was not the best fit for both you and your previous employer. Should there be additional probing, it's important that you be honest but brief in your responses as dwelling on the subject prohibits a discussion on your strengths and potential value in the new job," says Saccal.

                      Ripaldi offers this advice, "You'll want to be honest but keep it short and transition the response into a positive and then the next question. For example 'It was a blessing in disguise, now I have the opportunity to explore a better matching position such as this opportunity with your company, would you like to hear more?' Many times it was probably the wrong match from the beginning and you can state that. If it was for personal problems then you can reference that you've solved them and now you're ready for the next phase of your career."

                      Harvey Batra, Director of Information Technology at The Truland Group, Inc. reminds readers to always demonstrate your ability to stay current. Let the interviewer know what you did to better yourself during your time between jobs. "Out of work does not mean outdated, be ready to explain how you utilized the downtime time to catch up on either a new technology or fine tune an existing one. Think creative, volunteering is often a great way to make use of this downtime," says Batra. Employers like to see that potential employees have managed, in a difficult time, to keep it together and improve their skills....Continue reading at