Interviewees: Whatever You Do, Ask Questions! by Mark Goldman, CPA

I will always remember an interview I had at the end of my college years when I was trying to get a job as an entry-level tax accountant. Several firms had come to campus for interviews. I was fortunate enough to get past the campus interview with Ernst & Young and was invited to their offices for a chain of interviews that would last about 3 hours.

Things went well with the first four or five people I met. Then came the final step – to meet one of the partners. I waited outside his office for what seemed like forever (probably 5 minutes), and then was escorted in. I sat down and was prepared to answer any question he could throw at me… my goals, ambitions, strengths, weaknesses… whatever came up. He looked at me, sat back in his chair, and simply said, “So, what questions do you have for me?”

I was speechless. I was supposed to answer questions, not ask them! I didn’t know what to say. After a few moments, the only words I uttered were, “I don’t have any.” It wasquestion marks at that moment I realized I had blown it. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I wasn’t getting that job. At the end of every other interview I had asked a few questions, but at this point I was out of things to ask. It was over.

The moral of the story… always have questions prepared for your interviewer. Asking questions shows many positive things about you, not the least of which is that you are taking the possibility of joining the organization very seriously. It doesn’t mean to interrogate the interviewer, but rather ask just a few meaningful questions to make sure you understand the position and expectations, and to show that you are thinking it through.

Not asking questions after being prompted by the interviewer makes the conversation come to an abrupt stop. The interviewer has no alternative other than to just awkwardly end the interview. It causes them to think you either are not that interested in the job, or are not really engaged in the process. Disinterested and unengaged people don’t get hired.

If nothing else, at least clarify what was discussed. Restating what was discussed shows the interviewer that you have been paying attention. It may not be as strong as a few in-depth questions, but at least it removes the abrupt ending that would otherwise be caused by a “No, I don’t have any questions” response.

In summary, the next time you are preparing for an interview, take the time to prepare a few questions. It may be the one thing that makes all the difference.

I wish you the best in your search.

Mark Goldman, CPA

Mark sketch blue background (3)

Mark Goldman is the founder of MGR Accounting Recruiters, a San Antonio based recruiting company whose primary business is the placement of accounting professionals in both permanent and contract positions.

 

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Employers: Four Mistakes Made On References by Mark Goldman, CPA

Getting references on a potential hire is an important part of the selection process, but there are several traps that it is easy to fall into during this phase.  I outline a few below in hopes of making your next hiring process that much better.

  1. Believing that someone has no available work references. Everyone has available work references if you ask enough questions. Granted, it may not be the specific reference you want, i.e. the last supervisor, but there is always a reference somewhere.  Whether it is a former supervisor prior to the current one, someone that left the company, another manager or internal customer, a peer level manager, or someone with an external relationship (such as an auditor), there is always someone that can be contacted for reference.
  2. Believing 100% of what a reference says – good or bad References are important sources of feedback on the potential hire, but you have to remember that they are never non-biased. The reference can be colored by many factors, such as how hard it was to find a replacement or even just how the individual is feeling that day.  The information you receive is important, but it should always be taken in context.
  3. Discarding a candidate due to 1 bad reference. Most of us have one person somewhere that would not give us a glowing reference if you look hard enough. In my own career, I’ve had six jobs.  Five would give you a glowing positive reference, and one would say I was fired.  Does that make for a bad hire?  Likely not, but obviously I’m biased J. In all seriousness though, one bad or neutral reference when coupled with several good references shouldn’t be the final deciding factor.  As with #2 above, take it in context.
  4. Not asking for more than ‘name, rank, and serial number.’ We occasionally encounter people that are under the impression that it is somehow illegal to ask for performance information. It may be against company policy for a former employer to give you that information, but it is not illegal for you to ask.  In general, if the reference liked the person and they did a decent job overall then the reference will tell you that.  References use the ‘against our policy’ line more frequently when the performance was less than stellar.  A good rule of thumb is that if the applicant did a good job, someone somewhere will be willing to tell you.

The next time you go to check references on a potential new hire, keep these items in mind and you will have information that is much more useful to you overall.

I wish you luck in your search.

Mark Goldman, CPA

Mark sketch blue background (3)

Mark Goldman is the founder of MGR Accounting Recruiters, a San Antonio based recruiting company whose primary business is the placement of accounting professionals in both permanent and contract positions.


A Wild Thought on Personality Assessments Inspired by Gladwell by Mark Goldman, CPA

Last week I was listening to a podcast where Malcolm Gladwell, the accomplished author and journalist, was being interviewed. It was a general interview and covered several aspects of his life, but one particularly insightful comment left me with a topic I desperately felt the need to write about…

Personality assessments are widely used for pre-employment screening in today’s market. Some are meant to be used as pre-employment screening tools and some are not.  However, whether or not they are meant for that purpose it is up to the user to decide what decisions they will make based on the particular assessment.

Gladwell’s comment was that it is not so much a person’s “inclinations” that matter, but more so how they compensate for those inclinations.  This comment really struck me.  Personality assessments are frequently built to help discover a person’s natural inclinations, and then recommendations are made regarding the individual for the giver of the assessment to consider.  However, I’m not sure that most assessments are built in such a way to measure the extent to which someone works at compensating for those inclinations and thereby better their performance in a given situation.  In other words, assessments don’t always measure the individual’s determination to be successful, which can make all the difference in the world.

So what is the point of this post…?

Personality assessments are highly useful – in fact, I use them for my own company when doing internal hiring.  However, it is important to use them as they are intended – to give you additional insight into characteristics of an individual and not as the ultimate deciding factor on whether or not someone is capable of performing in a specific position.  Their determination to be successful also needs to be considered.

Sometimes hiring a very determined individual that has areas they can continue to develop in but that is constantly looking to better themselves can be better than hiring an individual with innate ability but without the same level determination to constantly improve.

I would very much welcome your comments.

Until next time, I wish you the best in all your searches.

Mark Goldman CPA

Mark sketch blue background (3)

Mark Goldman is the founder of MGR Accounting Recruiters, a San Antonio based recruiting company whose primary business is the placement of accounting professionals in both permanent and contract positions.

 


The Most Misspelled Word on Professional Resumes by Mark Goldman, CPA

Working in a recruiting firm, my team and I review resumes every day. Some are perfect, and some are being perfected. But what do you think is the most obvious misspelling we see on a regular basis?

Perhaps you would guess “their” versus “there”? If you were referring to writing in general that may be the case.  People regularly confuse the two in general writing.  In fact it’s a mistake I frequently catch myself making, although I usually just say it’s a typo.

If not there/their, it must be “it’s” and “‘its” right? No, but definitely another good guess.  “It’s”, which is the contracted form of “it is” or “it has”, is frequently confused with “its” as well, but there is one flaw in that logic.  “It’s” and “its” are not words you see frequently on resumes; so although they are commonly misused, they just are not used much in this context.  (By the way, for those that are curious, “its” is just the possessive form of “it”.)

The most commonly misspelled word on professional resumes is <drum roll>… the word “manager”, unless of course you really are in charge of something that involves “mangers”.  People frequently commit the typo that leaves out the middle “a” in “manager”, leaving a word that word processing programs still recognize – the word “manger”.  So even if you use the spell-check function, the mistake doesn’t get corrected.  You are proudly announcing to the world that you are an “Accounting Manger”, “Manger of Finance”, “Payroll Manger” or the like.

So now that you know this, what do you do?  Re-read your resume of course, and go to the extra step of having a friend read it as well.  Often it is difficult for us to see errors such as this when we are the author.  However, I guarantee you that the employer reviewing your resume will notice.  And they may not find it as entertaining as I.

I wish you the best in your job search!

Mark Goldman CPA

Mark sketch blue background (3)

Mark Goldman is the founder of MGR Accounting Recruiters, a San Antonio based recruiting company whose primary business is the placement of accounting professionals in both permanent and contract positions.

Mark graduated from St. Mary’s University in 1992 with a Bachelors Degree in Accounting. After working for a few years in public accounting, he entered the recruiting industry. In late 2006 he started MGR Accounting Recruiters, which was recognized by the San Antonio Business Journal as one of the fastest growing companies in 2010 and 2011. He currently serves on the board for the San Antonio Chapter of TSCPA as President-Elect. Mark received awards for outstanding work as a volunteer with SACPA for the 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 chapter years. In addition to his work with the SACPA Chapter, Mark is also involved with Financial Executives International and volunteers with the career transition ministry at his church.

On a personal note, Mark is married to his high school sweetheart, Sayuki Goldman, who owns and manages the business with him. They have a beautiful 9-year-old daughter that is growing up too fast.


Four Necessities When Using LinkedIn To Find A Job by Mark Goldman, CPA

LinkedIn is an amazing tool for many reasons… certainly not just for job hunting. However, a profile built for job search purposes needs additional content that may not be as vital for profiles built for other purposes.  The way in which that content is presented is key to making a good first impression if in fact the first time an employer notices you is through a LinkedIn search.

These four items are necessities if you are using your LinkedIn profile to get noticed by employers:

  • Keywords. Just as keywords are important in your resume, they are equally important on LinkedIn.  While a non-job-search profile can be less complete, it’s important to make sure your profile as a job seeker covers all your pertinent skills.  The search feature on LinkedIn works similarly to search features in resume databases and applicant tracking systems.  Therefore the more you can work important keywords such as skills, software, and common titles into your profile, the more ‘findable’ you will be.
  • Subtitle usage. The title that shows up under your name can be an incredibly powerful tool for job seekers.  While many people use it simply as another title line (ie.. “Accountant”), it is actually much more beneficial to use it to state your intent to locate a new job.  Listing something such as, “Looking for my next Accounting opportunity”, or “Searching for a position in Tax,” is much more likely to attract faster attention than a simple title.  When searches are performed, this is the line that will show-up directly under your name, thereby making it obvious to any potential employer that you are interested in being contacted. (Caution: If you are currently working and your search is confidential, you obviously would not want to do this.  It is best used when you can be open about your search.)
  • Recommendations. From the standpoint of a job seeker, these are LinkedIn’s version of online references.  Recommendations can be helpful, but make sure they portray the impression you want them to portray to a potential employer before approving them to be listed on your profile.  Also, while a few recommendations certainly doesn’t hurt, going overboard with them can.  If you have to scroll more than once to get through that section, you probably have more than you need.
  • Picture. This is in total contrast to your resume where you definitely would not want to add your picture (at least in the US).  However, your LinkedIn profile is truly incomplete without the inclusion of a good photo.  The most common issue we see with job seeker’s LinkedIn photos are that they frequently are a selfie where the person was concentrating so much on taking the picture that they forgot to smile.  LinkedIn profiles without a picture seem cold and distant, but LinkedIn profiles with a frowning picture may make you seem unapproachable.  It isn’t necessary to have a professional photo done, but make sure it is a smiling photo that portrays the type of professional image that you wish potential new employers to see.

I hope this short list benefits you. When utilized appropriately, a well written LinkedIn profile can do wonders to simplify your job search by causing the right opportunities to actually come to you instead of you having to find them.

Until next time, I wish you the best in your career.

Mark Goldman CPA

Mark sketch blue background (3)

Mark Goldman is the founder of MGR Accounting Recruiters, a San Antonio based recruiting company whose primary business is the placement of accounting professionals in both permanent and contract positions.

Mark graduated from St. Mary’s University in 1992 with a Bachelors Degree in Accounting. After working for a few years in public accounting, he entered the recruiting industry. In late 2006 he started MGR Accounting Recruiters, which was recognized by the San Antonio Business Journal as one of the fastest growing companies in 2010 and 2011. He currently serves on the board for the San Antonio Chapter of TSCPA as President-Elect. Mark received awards for outstanding work as a volunteer with SACPA for the 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 chapter years. In addition to his work with the SACPA Chapter, Mark is also involved with Financial Executives International and volunteers with the career transition ministry at his church.

On a personal note, Mark is married to his high school sweetheart, Sayuki Goldman, who owns and manages the business with him. They have a beautiful 9-year-old daughter that is growing up too fast.


Does My Boss Like Me? by Mark Goldman, CPA

Frequently we receive calls from professionals considering a change of employment, and the conversation turns into a discussion of the quality of their relationship with their direct supervisor. Since by far the root of most job changes comes from the deterioration of this relationship, it occurred to me that a blog post on this topic may be appropriate.

A healthy working relationship with your supervisor is vital to your further growth and continued employment. Some signs that you have a healthy relationship with your boss are as follows:

  • They rely on you.  If your boss relies on you to accomplish tasks that are important, then they trust your performance and judgment.  This is one of the best signs of a strong relationship.
  • You have open communication.  If you are generally “in the know” about occurrences at your company, then that is a sign that they feel you are important enough to include on key information.  It doesn’t mean that you have to be included on everything, but if your supervisor is cognizant to make sure you are aware of general, non-confidential news at the company, this is a good sign.
  • You are included on new projects.  If new projects come up that are within your abilities, and you are consistently included in the discussion and work on these new projects, this is a good sign as well that your supervisor values your input and has long-term plans for you.
  • Your offers for assistance are accepted.  When you offer to help on projects, particularly outside your normal duties, and that offer is met with quick acceptance, it is a sure sign that you are valued by management.  If they see your involvement on new projects as positive input, this is a good sign that you are highly-valued.
  • Your mistakes are corrected.  You may find this point odd, but as long as your supervisor feels that you are worth correcting when you make a mistake, this is a good thing.  When an employer is considering letting someone go, they often stop caring about small mistakes as they feel the situation will correct itself after the employee is gone.  As long as your employer cares enough to help you do your job better, this is a good sign.
  • They are interested in you personally.  We live in a politically-correct society where many try to draw a distinct line between their work lives and personal lives.  However, the truth is that it is natural for coworkers to be interested in your family life, hobbies, etc.  Unless you have a supervisor that is naturally very withdrawn, it is a good thing for them to occasionally ask about your family or discuss your hobbies with you.  In fact, if you find that this suddenly stops over a long period of time, this is worrisome.  A supervisor that shows interest in you as a person, not just as an employee, is one of the best signs of a healthy employment relationship.

Work relationships are difficult to judge as we are so close to the situation at all times. However, being aware of the state of your relationship with your supervisor is important if you plan to stay with your employer long-term.  As the saying goes, “People don’t leave companies, they leave supervisors.”  If you notice your relationship has weakened, do your best to repair it by proactively creating personal conversation and giving a little extra effort.  It is very possible that the additional effort will repair the relationship, but if not, then at least you will know that you have tried to improve the situation and can decide what actions are appropriate for your own continued prosperity.

Until next time, I wish you the best in your career.

Mark Goldman CPA
mgoldman@mgrar.com

Mark sketch blue background (3)

Mark Goldman is the founder of MGR Accounting Recruiters, a San Antonio based recruiting company whose primary business is the placement of accounting professionals in both permanent and contract positions.

Mark graduated from St. Mary’s University in 1992 with a Bachelors Degree in Accounting. After working for a few years in public accounting, he entered the recruiting industry. In late 2006 he started MGR Accounting Recruiters, which was recognized by the San Antonio Business Journal as one of the fastest growing companies in 2010 and 2011. He currently serves on the board for the San Antonio Chapter of TSCPA as President-Elect. Mark received awards for outstanding work as a volunteer with SACPA for the 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 chapter years. In addition to his work with the SACPA Chapter, Mark is also involved with Financial Executives International and volunteers with the career transition ministry at his church.

On a personal note, Mark is married to his high school sweetheart, Sayuki Goldman, who owns and manages the business with him. They have a beautiful 9-year-old daughter that is growing up too fast.

 


Researching Your “Worth” In The Marketplace by Mark Goldman, CPA

We interview applicants every day and find that there are many factors that go into how professionals determine their “worth” so-to-speak when deciding on what salary level to target. In our experience, most people decide the salary level they would like based on 1) getting an increase over their current pay, 2) what they have heard that other people are making, and/or 3) their needs.  All of these approaches have merit, but how do you objectively determine the value of your particular skill-set applied to a specific level of responsibility?

There are several ways to ascertain what an appropriate pay level would be. Since the appropriate salary is mostly dependent on the state of the market, some of the best ways to research your worth are as follows:

  • Internet resources. While this is the least specific method of researching salary levels, there are many salary studies and calculators available on the web.  If you choose to utilize this approach, make sure you look at several sources (4-5 or more) as well as look at a few titles in each.  An “Accountant II” or “Accounting Manager” may mean different things in different surveys.  Also, some calculators give you very wide salary ranges.  Using several can help you narrow down the range to something meaningful.
  • Ask a local recruiter. Frequently this is the most accurate method of getting information for your specific market.  If the recruiter is local, and if they work primarily on jobs in your field, they are able to give you a range specific to your geographical area as opposed to salary calculators or surveys that may simply be applying a cost-of-living adjustment to a national range.  There is always some subjectivity to a professional opinion, but a recruiter is more likely to be able to weigh the nuances of your specific situation.
  • Interview!  The most accurate measure of your worth in the marketplace at any given time can be found by testing it out.  Interviewing for jobs that you may be interested in gives you the best estimate of what the market is willing to pay.  Whether or not you decide to make a change, you will quickly be able to tell whether you are currently underpaid, paid at the market rate, or possibly even paid higher than market.  Since it is rare an organization will go all the way to making an offer without having some idea of what your current salary level is, you may be able to determine this information very early on.  While there certainly is a time investment to this method of research, it truly is the most definitive way of determining the market for your particular skill-set.

Whether you decide to do internet research or take the more direct approach to finding your value, determining that early in your search is important. Shooting too low can cause you to end up in a job where you feel undervalued, and shooting too high can cause you to miss out on opportunities that you may have enjoyed.

Until next time, I wish you the best in your search.

Mark Goldman CPA

Mark sketch blue background (3)

Mark Goldman is the founder of MGR Accounting Recruiters, a San Antonio based recruiting company whose primary business is the placement of accounting professionals in both permanent and contract positions.

Mark graduated from St. Mary’s University in 1992 with a Bachelors Degree in Accounting. After working for a few years in public accounting, he entered the recruiting industry. In late 2006 he started MGR Accounting Recruiters, which was recognized by the San Antonio Business Journal as one of the fastest growing companies in 2010 and 2011. He currently serves on the board for the San Antonio Chapter of TSCPA as President-Elect. Mark received awards for outstanding work as a volunteer with SACPA for the 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 chapter years. In addition to his work with the SACPA Chapter, Mark is also involved with Financial Executives International and volunteers with the career transition ministry at his church.

On a personal note, Mark is married to his high school sweetheart, Sayuki Goldman, who owns and manages the business with him. They have a beautiful 9-year-old daughter that is growing up too fast.