How to Dress Business Casual

The majority of offices in Washington adhere to a business casual dress code, but many professionals have trouble discerning exactly what that means. We have provided some basic standards below to help you learn how to dress business casual without breaking the company dress code:

What is appropriate?

  • Dress pants
  • Blouses
  • Skirts or dresses that reach the knee, paired with stockings in the winter
  • Polo shirts
  • Button down shirts
  • Closed toe shoes
  • Khakis or slacks
  • Sweaters

What is not appropriate?

  • Jeans
  • Sneakers
  • Hats of any kind
  • Open toe shoes or sandals/flip flops
  • T-shirts
  • Shorts
  • Cargo pants
  • Athletic wear
  • Sweatpants and sweatshirts
  • Tank tops or sleeveless shirts
  • Revealing clothing
  • Tights/leggings

Many offices do have exceptions to these rules. For example, your company might adhere to a business casual dress code, but allow their employees to wear jeans on Fridays or sandals in the summer. You should definitely confirm these exceptions with HR before dressing inappropriately without knowing. Don’t assume that you’re allowed to wear jeans since you see someone else wearing them. Before starting a new position, you should ask your HR department what the appropriate dress code is, and if you work for a staffing agency, you should ask a recruiter about their dress code policies to make sure you are aware of any exceptions and rules. As a temporary employee, you should treat every assignment as an interview, since it could potentially turn into a permanent job. Dress for success and you will be sure to not only impress your employer, but also boost your own self confidence in the workplace!

Who’s Getting Hired?

Have you ever gone on a job interview where you feel like things went well, but then you don’t receive an offer? Instead, the hiring manager tells you, “You are a strong candidate, but unfortunately we chose someone who was a little more qualified for the position.” In this situation, you are probably dying to know who that other candidate was and what they had to offer that you didn’t. Below, we have created the “perfect candidate” – the person who walks into a job interview and wins over the hiring manager every time. Here is what the perfect candidate has to offer:

The perfect candidate:

  • … is always dressed appropriately for an interview. They look polished and professional, and they wear a confident smile.
  • … brings their resume with them to every interview. On their resume, they have few to zero gaps in their employment history and a clear progression of growth throughout their career.
  • … is always on time and prepared for their interview.
  • … seems eager, excited, and interested in the open position.
  • … answers the interviewer’s questions with thoughtful, clear, and articulate responses. They do not say “um” or “uh” to fill in gaps in their thought process.
  • … can clearly explain why they are interested in the open position and why they are qualified.
  • … has received great references from their former supervisors supporting their claimed experience and qualifications.
  • … is easily reachable for potential employers. They answer their phone, respond quickly to emails, and/or return missed calls promptly.

 

No matter what position you interview for, you should always aspire to be the fabled “perfect candidate.”  You will definitely have competition for every job you seek, so make sure you are presenting yourself as the best candidate out there!

Job Search Myths You Shouldn’t Believe

Unfortunately, there are plenty of myths and antiquated ideas about job searching that job seekers acknowledge as hard fast rules. We have chosen to highlight a few of these myths that we find particularly irksome below:

  1. Your resume should only be one page.
    • The one-page resume rule seems to have been around forever, but reducing your work history to one page can be a critical mistake for job seekers.
    • Hiring managers would much rather see your entire work history laid out on three pages worth of resume than have you exclude relevant work experience in order to fit everything on one page.
  2. Your college major will determine your entire career.
    • While there are certain career paths that require particular majors, such as engineering or mathematics, your college major does not have to dictate your entire career.
    • When choosing the perfect applicant for a job, hiring managers consider a whole lot more than what your major was in college. Relevant experience, applicable skills, and personality are all additional factors in a hiring manager’s decision.
  3. You should apply for every single job posting that you are interested in.
    •  If you are not fully qualified for a job posting you see, don’t waste your time applying for it. Job postings typically list qualities or experiences that applicants must have, but a lot of job seekers seem to ignore them. Being interested in a job and believing you can do it does not make you a qualified applicant.
    • Wasting your time applying for jobs you will never get is a big mistake for job seekers. Focus your attention and effort on jobs that you feel you are honestly qualified for and believe you can get. This will eventually lead to a much more successful job search in the end.
  4. You need to have an objective or mission statement on your resume.
    • Listing a specific objective statement on your resume can lead hiring managers to believe you are only looking for one particular kind of job and won’t consider you for other opportunities.
    • On the other hand, having a broad, generic objective statement on your resume is basically useless. Objective statements serve no real purpose and are therefore unnecessary to include on your resume.
    • Instead of an objective statement, use your cover letter to let hiring managers know what you are looking for and why you feel qualified.
  5. Companies and hiring managers will never be able to see my social media profiles.
    • Many professionals believe that their social media pages are hidden from the eyes of hiring managers. They change their names on Facebook or change their privacy settings assuming that no potential employer will ever be able to see their pictures and posts.
    • The truth is, it’s not that hard for a potential employer to see some, if not all, of your pictures and posts on social media.
    • Changing your name on Facebook to a combination of your first and middle name or even replacing it with a completely made-up name will not deter an employer who wants to find your profile. If the email address that you use to sign onto Facebook is the same email that you put on your resume, all employers have to do is search that email address on Facebook instead of your name. The profile linked with your email address will come up no matter what you’ve changed the name on your profile to.
    • Also, with constantly changing privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it’s easy for old photos or posts to suddenly become visible again if you haven’t taken the time to update all of your privacy settings.

 

What do Employers Expect from Recent Graduates?

When an employer is looking to hire a recent graduate to fill an open position, certain qualities can outweigh others. Typically, the most important thing a recent graduate can offer an employer is relevant experience, but there are other qualities that come into consideration.

First off, relevant experience typically outweighs relevant knowledge. For example, having three marketing internships under your belt and an English degree can be more beneficial than having a marketing degree and no relevant work experience.

Next, having a relevant degree can outweigh your place of education. For example, having a marketing degree from a state school would make you more qualified for a marketing position than a Political Science degree from an Ivy League school.

Another factor that a potential employer will consider is whether or not a recent graduate would be a cultural fit with their organization. Some companies seek job seekers who have a lot of independence and are able to work autonomously, while others want team players who are able to work collaboratively and share the credit of a job well done.

Lastly, an employer will want to see that a recent graduate has demonstrated growth and the ability to learn throughout their academic and professional careers. For example, they want to see that you were promoted in your job at the library from Front Desk Clerk to Catalogue Manager. Or that your internship in freshman year asked you back to work for consecutive summers.

Keep these factors in mind as you start to apply for jobs post-graduation, and make sure potential employers are aware of all your best qualities and experiences.

How to Stay Fit at the Office

Sitting at a desk behind a computer for eight or more hours a day can be hard on your body. Learn how to stay active and keep fit while maintaining your office job by following our tips below:

  1. Take a walk
    • Use your lunch break or coffee break to go for a stroll around the block. The fresh air and exercise will do your body good.
  2. Use the stairs
    • So what if your office is on the 10th floor? Taking the stairs instead of using the elevator can help you burn extra calories every day.
  3. Sit on an exercise ball
    • Sitting on an exercise ball will engage your core muscles and also help to straighten your posture.
  4. Stretch regularly
    • Set an alarm as a reminder to stretch at regular intervals throughout the day. Stretching is a great way to loosen your muscles and help with blood flow.
  5. Sit up straight
    • Maintaining good posture is an easy way to relieve back pain and keep your core muscles engaged throughout the day.

It’s Not Always Easy

Finding a job is not always easy, but it’s especially difficult today considering how tough the job market is. Prepare yourself for the challenges ahead by accepting the basic truths we have listed below:

  • You’re not guaranteed to get a position because you think the job description is a “perfect fit” with your background.
  • The cover letter you spent hours slaving over might never be read by a hiring manager.
  • Every hiring manager or recruiter you deal with during your job search might not be as nice, understanding, or polite as you are.
  • Even if you are the perfect fit for a job opportunity, there is always the possibility that someone else out there is an even better fit.
  • You may never hear back from the hiring manager who told you he would let you know whether or not you got the job by the end of the week.
  • You might to have to send out dozens or even hundreds of resumes/applications before landing a job offer.
  • The job postings you apply to (and get excited about) might already be filled.
  • There are hundreds, even thousands of people out there competing to get the same jobs that you are applying for.

Finding a job is definitely hard work, and you are probably going to face a lot of rejection before successfully landing an offer, but you shouldn’t let these realities dampen your spirit. The ultimate keys to a successful job search are a positive attitude, confidence, and determination. As long as you accept the challenges that lie ahead of you and face them head on, you will surely be successful in the end. Check out some of our previous Employment Tips for more advice on how to improve your chances of successfully landing a job in a difficult market.

Transitioning Your Work Wardrobe for Spring

As the weather gets warmer, professionals are ditching their winter wardrobes in favor of cooler clothing. While it’s important to dress appropriately for the season, you also need to adhere to your workplace’s dress code. If your office adheres to a business casual dress code, we have made lists of what is and is not appropriate to wear to help you prepare your spring wardrobe:

 

What is appropriate?

  • Dress pants
  • Blouses
  • Skirts or dresses that reach the knee
  • Polo shirts
  • Button down shirts
  • Closed toe shoes
  • Khakis or slacks
  • Sweaters

What is not appropriate?

  • Jeans
  • Sneakers
  • Hats of any kind
  • Open toe shoes or sandals/flip flops
  • T-shirts
  • Shorts
  • Cargo pants
  • Athletic wear
  • Sweatpants and sweatshirts
  • Tank tops or sleeveless shirts
  • Revealing clothing
  • Tights/leggings

 

How to Succeed as a Temporary Employee

As we have mentioned time and time again, working as a temp while you pursue a permanent job can benefit you in numerous ways, including helping you find that ideal position! Although, keep in mind that the work doesn’t end once you register with one or more staffing agencies. The work you do as a temp could greatly benefit or hurt you in the long run. Find out what you need to do to succeed as a temp in our advice below:

  1. Show Interest:
    • First of all, it’s important that you show the agencies you’re registered with that you’re interested in working. Agencies are more likely to call temps who are ready and eager to start working.
    • Instead of waiting around for the agency to call you with an assignment, check in with them regularly to let them know you are still available and eager to work.
    • It’s also important that you show interest in your temp work while on assignment. A temporary job could be the gateway to a permanent position, so make sure your onsite supervisor sees that you care about doing a good job and making a good impression.
  2. Be Dependable:
    • If you are frequently late for assignments, make a lot of excuses, and/or fail to show up at assignments all together, your agency will be a lot less likely to keep calling you with work. They need to trust that you will be at an assignment on time because it’s not only your professional reputation at stake, theirs is too!
    • You should treat temporary work the same as you would any other position. The professionals who do well in temporary assignments are the ones who end up being offered permanent positions with the companies they temp for.
    • You should aim to consistently show up early or on time for assignments, turn in all of your projects on time, and avoid taking time off.
  3. Be Available:
    • If you turn down every assignment you are offered by your agency, they will eventually stop calling you. If you always seem to be busy and you’re never available to pick up work, your agency will assume that calling you for assignments is a waste of their time.
    • Most staffing agencies get a lot of one or two day assignments with little notice. Frequently, they will get calls from clients requesting someone to come in that very same day. If you are always available to work with little to no notice, your agency will appreciate your availability and dependability, and they will call you more frequently.
    • When an agency gets a new temp assignment in, they will immediately start making calls and sending out emails until they fill the opening. You should always keep your phone on, and be aware that a missed call from your agency can very well mean the loss of a great opportunity.

Follow these tips and you will be guaranteed to succeed as a temporary employee and make your transition into a permanent employee that much easier.

Finding a Job is Work

It’s true that looking for a job can be a full-time job in itself, and most will agree that it is the worst job ever. Job seekers can easily adopt a defeatist attitude towards their job search after receiving little to no feedback from hiring managers, but it’s important to keep your attitude positive. For unemployed job seekers, thinking about your job search as a full-time job can help you to keep on track and eventually lead to your success. Think about it this way: if you are working in an office environment and you stop taking your job seriously (putting little effort into your work, showing up late, etc), you will probably be fired. Similarly, if you don’t take your job search seriously or put real effort into it, you will probably end up being unemployed for a lot longer than you’d like.

Granted, a large percentage of job seekers currently have full-time jobs. Their situation is a little trickier, since they don’t have the same amount of time to devote to their job search as unemployed job seekers do. You can find our advice for employed job seekers in our previous employment tip, Job Searching While You’re Already Employed.

For the unemployed, treating your job search as you would any other full-time job can greatly improve your chances of getting back into the workforce. Below we have included some tips and ideas for how you can do exactly that:

  1. Keep a regular sleep schedule:
    • Just because you don’t necessarily have to be at work by a certain time is no excuse to sleep in every day of the week.
    • Keep your body on a regular schedule by going to bed at the same time you typically would for work and wake up as if you have somewhere to be. (Your body will thank you for this once you do return to full-time work.)
    •  You might not have a boss who will notice whether or not you started work late, but you need to still be accountable to yourself.
    • Get your job search started early in the day and you will have more time to devote towards it. The more time and effort you put into your job search, the more you increase your chances of success.
  2. Plan out your day:
    • As you would with a regular 9-to-5 job, have a set plan for each day and set goals to accomplish. For example, aim to apply for 10 jobs each day or to spend one hour catching up with your networking contacts.
    • Take normal breaks as you would in the office, including lunch breaks, etc. These breaks will ultimately help you stay focused for longer stretches of time.
    • Presumably, the companies you will be applying to have normal business hours, so you should be sending your resume and making inquiry calls during the business day.
    • If you wait until after dinner to start working on your job hunt, you probably won’t be able to reach prospective employers to make inquiries or follow-up.
  3. Enjoy the little things:
    • While you should treat your job search like a full-time position, you can still take a minute to breathe.
    • Most professionals spend the majority of their lives working, so there is no shame in using your time between jobs to relax a little. Overstressing about your job search can have negative affects on your morale, and ultimately on your success.
    • Take a break in your days to meet up with a friend or go to the gym, and enjoy your extra time with your family while you can.
    • Again, taking breaks can help you to stay focused and keep your morale high.
  4. Start working:
    • While you want to devote as much time as possible to your job search, there are other ways to find work than sitting at home scanning the job boards on a daily basis.
    • Ultimately, in a tough job market, your best chance of landing permanent work is through temping.
    • With tons of job seekers applying to every job posting online, you will greatly improve your chances of landing work by getting your foot in the door with a company through temp work.
    • Temp work can help you gain critical networking contacts, and fill the gap on your resume between your last permanent job and your next. See the other benefits of temporary work in this previous employment tip.
    • Working as a temp can result in a much more flexible schedule than that of a permanent job. You will have time in between temp assignments to interview and apply for positions.
    • It’s important to realize that if you are working a full-time temp job, you should not work on your job search while you’re on the clock. Use your lunch break to make calls or send out resumes if necessary.
    • It’s important that you are professional and respectful while at your temp assignment, because in the end, temp work can very well be the key to finding a new job!

How Recruiters Read Your Resume

Many employers enlist the help of staffing agencies to help them fill open positions, both permanent and temporary, which means your resume needs to get through a recruiter before it is ever seen by the hiring manager. So in order to optimize your resume for review by a recruiter, you need to know what goes through a recruiter’s head as they read it.

First, before a recruiter even opens your resume, you have to give them a reason to do so.  Recruiters are inundated with dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes per day. This means your cover letter needs to draw a recruiter in and make them want to take the next step, which is reviewing your resume. Your cover letter should be brief and to the point, quickly listing why you are a qualified candidate. The brevity is important because recruiters receive so many applications per day – they are not going to spend too much time reading a full-page essay about your entire work history.

So you’ve gotten a recruiter to open your resume, now what? Again, recruiters are extremely busy professionals who are often working to fill multiple job openings at once. They quickly scan through a resume looking for certain key words and experience before moving on to the next one. This is why it’s important for you to closely review the job description and/or posting before applying, and then update your resume appropriately. If the job posting says they are looking for candidates with sales, PowerPoint, and nonprofit experience then make sure all three of those words are easily found within your resume – ideally more than once!

It’s also important to note that recruiters spend the majority of their days looking at resumes, so they’ve learned to spot inconsistencies. This is why it’s important for you to always be 100% truthful with the information on your resume. By sending your resume to a client, a recruiter is putting their relationship with that client, as well as their own professional reputation on the line. They will not send a resume if they believe a candidate might have fibbed about their dates of employment, title, or work experience. You should also know that if a recruiter thinks there might be an inconsistency on your resume, they will not hesitate to investigate it, so always be upfront and truthful both on your resume and in your correspondence with a recruiter.

A recruiter will also hesitate to send any resume that is poorly written or contains multiple spelling and grammar mistakes. Again, their reputation is at stake when sending a bad resume. They do not want to tarnish their relationship with their client by sending a resume filled with grammatical errors, especially when there are tons of other resumes in their inbox that might be well-written. For this reason, you need to double- and triple-check your resume for any inconsistencies, or grammatical or formatting errors. At the end of the day, both your potential job and their job/reputation as a recruiter are on the line.

By understanding a recruiter’s mindset when reviewing your resume, you can get a leg-up on your competition and ensure your resume will catch the eye of the next recruiter who sees it.