About Karim Ardalan

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So far Karim Ardalan has created 28 blog entries.

Sincerely Yours: Cover Letter Closers

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013|

You’ve introduced yourself and told the hiring manager why you are a great fit for her job opening. You have used keywords from the job description so that computer screeners will flag you for further review. You have been personable and professional–and brief. Now to tie it all up with a bow.

Some people will say that cover letters are dead and unnecessary, since “no one reads them anyway.” Certainly there are hiring managers who are not reading cover letters, but there are also some tossing out any resume that does not have one. We recommend always including a cover letter with a resume or job application when it is permitted. A hiring manager then has the choice of learning more about you than your resume can show.

We have written about salutations but the last thing in your cover letter might be what the hiring manager remembers. Here is our advice on finishing it off:

  • Mission–If you have done your research, you should have come across the company’s mission statement or vision. We hope that mission is something that piques your interest. Tell him why that mission is something you are excited about.
  • Readiness–She will know your qualifications from your resume. Finish your cover letter with a clear statement of how prepared you are to get started right away being a productive member of her team.
  • Contribution–You want to work at this company because you can help it grow and thrive, not just to further your own career. The rest of your letter was about you, let the closing be about them.
  • Follow-up–Be clear about how and when you will get in touch with the hiring manager to check on the process. Put it on your calendar and make sure you follow through.
  • Appreciation–If the hiring manager has indeed read your letter, she has already invested time in you. Be appreciative of that for its own sake. Say thank you.

Your cover letter may not be read and it may not get you an interview, but don’t miss this opportunity to have your voice heard by the person who decides which candidate is worth bringing in. Make sure you are presenting yourself as well as possible. And proofread!

Wendy Stackhouse for Artisan Creative

5 Tips for Choosing Freelance Clients

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013|

As a freelancer, it is tempting to say “Yes!” to every opportunity that comes along, whether it’s a graphic design job or a long-term marketing contract. After all, there are dry spells in every career. You don’t want to take the chance of having created one yourself. There are, however, times, when you should resist temptation and wait for the next project to come along. How can you tell what time it is?

  1. Too rushed–If your client doesn’t have time to give you detailed instructions, is too busy to get together to sign a contract, or has a deadline that seems unreasonable, this might be a skip.
  2. Not enough money–Don’t sell your skills short. If a client is not willing to pay your usual rate, you will spend the whole project wishing you had said yes to the next one, the one you don’t have time for.
  3. Unpleasant manner–You don’t have to be friends with your clients, but if your impression is that you are not going to get along at all, trust your gut. Having difficult or even rude people around all the time affects your company culture. In a business world where we are all entrepreneurs, you are the company.
  4. Unappealing project–Being too picky could find you eating beans out of a can, but if you can’t think of one interesting or creative quality you can bring to a project, it might be better to wait for the next one.
  5. Big learning curve–Although we are in favor of learning new skills and keeping your current skills up-to-date, getting your education on the job–especially on a deadline–is a sure route to pulling your hair out.

Taking on a project that really isn’t right for you is definitely worse than having some free time between contracts and probably worse than getting a bit tight on funds. Pay attention to your instincts and you will know when to say “Yes, of course!” and when to say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Wendy Stackhouse for Artisan Creative

Hiring? Job searching? Questions for Assessing Cultural Fit on Both Sides of the Table

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013|

You’ve found the perfect candidate, at least on paper, and you are scheduling an in-person interview. You hope they are indeed perfect and your search is over. Or you have been offered an interview at your target company. Your goal is within reach. Or is it the wrong fit? Whether you are hiring a new employee or searching for a new role, how do you tell if there is a true culture fit?

Hiring Managers

A resume only provides limited information. Past experience and education are significant factors in finding a good fit, but company culture may be even more significant, especially if your organization is willing to train new hires who have the right temperament. A candidate who is filled with regret will never be very productive. Here are some good questions to ask in the interview to help you know if the candidate will fit into your company’s culture:

    1. What qualities are most important to you in a good boss?
    2. Do you think it is a good idea to become friends with your co-workers?
    3. What are the best things about your current or previous job?
    4. Do you prefer working independently or on a team? Why?
    5. How would you like to improve your management skills?
    6. What motivates you to go above and beyond expectations at work?
    7. Tell me about a time you felt most fulfilled at work.


Whenever you are looking to change jobs, you want to know that all of that trouble is worth the effort. Here are a few questions to help candidates evaluate a company’s culture at an interview:

    1. What do you like about working here?
    2. How many hours a week do you work in a typical week?
    3. Does the team hang out together outside of work?
    4. How much time is spent collaborating and how much is spent working alone?
    5. Are employees rewarded for high performance?
    6. How do employees usually get promoted?

Remember that the interview is not the time to ask about salary or benefits, even if those are your most important factors.

For a happy onboarding and a long relationship, the people on both sides of the interview desk need to be comfortable that the company’s culture and the candidate’s temperament will go well together.

Wendy Stackhouse, for Artisan Creative

Reflections: Desperation

Thursday, June 20th, 2013|

Someone asked me recently, “Why did you apply for this particular job?” I was glad that my answer wasn’t “Because I really need one!”

But what do you do if that is indeed the answer deep down? And how do you keep that desperation from affecting your job search process? Here are some tips for keeping that desperation at bay:

  • Talk to positive people—All of us have in our networks some people who are encouraging and others who are ready to commiserate with us. Both have value, but when you are trying to get into a healthy mental space, spend more time with those who help you feel more confident rather than those who are ready to join you in the Slough of Despond.
  • Change your language—Talking to people about your job search is great, but think about how you can solve problems for a company rather than how much you need a job. Using more positive language will feed more positive feelings to your network and to yourself.
  • Choose wisely—Applying for a million jobs sounds like it ought to land you just one, but would it be the right one, anyway? Focus your search on jobs that look like they will make you happy and fulfilled, that suit your life and your passions. You will go into any interview excited about the prospect of a better future.
  • Work with a recruiter—Not only can a recruiter steer you to roles which are truly suitable, they can coach you for interviews, help you tweak your resume to work better for you, and give you inside information that can make the difference when trying to land that perfect job.

Of course, there is a difference between being desperate and just looking like you are. Be sure to avoid these behaviors that could make you appear desperate even when you are not:

  • Too Many—Don’t apply for ten jobs at your target company, even though you really want to work there. Apply for the right job, get an interview and let the hiring manager realize that you are as good are better for another opening if you’re not right for that one.
  • Too MuchFollow through and follow up are both important, but if you contact the hiring manager too many times or via too many channels—or worse, at inappropriate times—you don’t look eager, you look over-eager. And maybe annoying before you even get a chance to show that you’re not.
  • Too Cute—Preparing for your interview by practicing answers to likely questions is key, but planning out clever ways of saying “I’m perfect for this job!” can make you seem less genuine and more panicky. Instead, plan to tell stories that show your interviewer that you are perfect by example and let her draw her own conclusions.

During any job search, there are periods of frustration and anxiety. Don’t beat yourself up about those feelings. Be proactive in your behavior and those times will pass quickly and your search will benefit from your positivity.

Wendy Stackhouse, for Artisan Creative

Taking the Summer Off?

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013|

It’s easy to get lackadaisical about your job search in the summer. Hiring managers are on vacation, everyone’s taking casual Fridays and business just seems to move slower. Many feel like September is a better time to start a new project or job – much like we used to start a new grade with new clothes and new teachers.

But to start a new job in September, you have to be out there doing your searching and interviewing in—you guessed it—the summer.

Believe it or not, summer can be the best time to:

  • Network—Find some summer activities that relate to your field and join in. Maybe your target company is sponsoring and you can meet someone new.
  • Freelance—When people go on vacation, it doesn’t mean their work doesn’t need to still be completed. Companies may be looking for temporary or short-term contract talent with your skills. Get your foot in the door for future projects.
  • Volunteer—Many organizations have special events or large-scale projects that they tackle in the summer months. Find a non-profit whose mission you are passionate about and put your skills to work for them.
  • Replenish your energy—Get outside, get more exercise, improve your health and your outlook and you will have more enthusiasm for your job search efforts in the second half of the year.

I have two friends starting new jobs next week, one of them with Artisan! They will spend this summer getting their feet under them in their new adventures.

What do you have planned?

Wendy Stackhouse, for Artisan Creative

Job Posting Red Flags

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013|

If you’re like most job seekers, you spend hours searching for, identifying, and applying to jobs that seem like a great fit for your skills and experience. Most of the time your resume and cover letter disappear into the “resume black hole” with no response or feedback. Sometimes when you do hear back and go through a round of interviews, the job or company really is too good to be true! In both cases – you’ve wasted valuable job-seeking time.

If only there were a way to know which job postings had the best potential for success?

While our recruiters know of no guaranteed solution, they can suggest a few red flags to be aware of when reviewing job postings:

    • Details about the position, requirements, or salary are lacking. This usually indicates that there is not an actual position. Rather, the company is using the posting as a way of collecting resumes for future positions. It’s not always a bad thing to respond to these kinds of posts – especially if you are a freelancer. However, if you’re searching on a deadline – you’re better off applying for something more targeted.


    • The job description doesn’t match the title or the job pairs two skillsets not normally found together. When companies are asking for unrealistic or hard to find skills, it usually means they either don’t value those specific skills in the business (and therefore don’t understand what’s required for certain positions) or their budgets are too tight to allow for more than one position (and this person will be called upon to wear many hats within the business). Candidates should consider the effects of work environment and ability for growth in organizations like these.


    • The job is older than 30 days or is constantly reposted. This can indicate the job is not a high priority for the company (and they are in no rush to fill it), there is a high turnover at the company (requiring them to refill the job often) or the job has already been filled (and not removed from the company website). None of these reasons is good news for a prospective candidate.


  • The job description asks for sensitive information. Before you provide your Social Security Number or Bank Information, be sure you are considering a legitimate company and providing the information through a secure talent management solution. You have enough to worry about when searching for a new job. Don’t add identity theft to the list!

While one or two of these red flags don’t necessarily mean something is wrong with the job, the more you see in one job, the less likely you are to find a successful match.

Jess Bedford, for Artisan Creative

Job Search: Follow Through and Hit Your Target

Thursday, March 28th, 2013|

Getting that resume to the right person for the right role is a great start to getting a job, but it is only the beginning. Our hope is that you’ve perfected your resume—using keywords, providing tangible results of your achievements, telling your story—and have been offered an interview. Although it seems like the brass ring is almost in your grasp, don’t lose your focus now:

Before your interview:

Check your network – use LinkedIn to find out if you are connected with anyone at your target company, even if they are a second-level connection. Get in touch with relevant friends and let them know that you will be interviewing. Find out anything you can about your interviewer and the company culture.

Read their blog – You can glean a lot of information from a company blog. It can certainly give you ideas for things to ask about at your interview. The company’s “voice” is clear in this medium; give it a listen.

Check their social media – Like and Follow your target company on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You never know what you might learn that will help in your interview or when making a decision about an offer.

Preparing for an interview is a process in itself and we have written about interview questions, research, and even how to dress on our blog.

How about afterwards?

Thank you notes – A handwritten thank you goes a long way in telling your interviewer that you appreciated her spending valuable time with you. Do not neglect this classic method of follow up.

Stay in touch – Although you have to be sure not to pester your interviewer, if you have not heard anything for a week or ten days after your interview, you can call or email for an update. Offer to provide any information they might need and wish them well in their search for the perfect fit.

Don’t forget assists – If you found people in your network who gave you information or even just sent you encouragement, thank them, too. And offer to return the favor if you are ever able.

Keep a calendar – Especially if you are applying and interviewing for a lot of roles, keep a calendar of when resumes went out, when you interviewed and reminders for following up. It’s easy for details to fall through the cracks if your search is a busy one—and we hope it is!

It would be nice if job search were a simple process, but doing it right is worth it in the end.

Wendy Stackhouse for Artisan Creative

7 Interview Questions Every Employer Should Ask

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013|

Whether you’re a veteran interviewer or hiring your first employee, you’ll probably agree that the interview is the most important part of the recruitment process. Therefore it’s critical to ask the right questions. While our version of the Proust Questionnaire offers a few out of the box questions (designed in some cases to stump potential employees or just see how creative they can be), here are a few of the more typical questions every interviewer should be asking:

    1. Tell me about yourself. – This type of open-ended question is a great way to start your interview and put your candidate at ease. It should be easy to talk about yourself! It also gives you an opportunity to witness both confidence and communication skills first hand.


    1. Describe a time when something went wrong at work and how you dealt with it. – This question is ideal for learning about how your potential hire will handle the pressures of life and conflict in your office. Answers here also demonstrate problem-solving skills and culture fit.


    1. How would your boss describe you? – This is a great way to ask the “strengths” and “weaknesses” question without actually asking it. It also provides some insight into how your working relationship with the potential talent might be. Does the answer describe a person that would fit well within your organization?


    1. What role do you usually play in a team? – The answer to this question should complement the answer previously – is the way your coworkers see you the way you actually perform in your company? This question also provides insight on personality and autonomy.


    1. Where do you see yourself in five years? – The perfect question for uncovering candidate motivations, answers help determine whether your company and the opportunity presented are a good fit for the interviewee. Will they still be with your team in five years or will they quickly outgrow your department or company?


    1. Tell me about a favorite project you worked on and why it’s your favorite.Resumes offer a list of responsibilities and accomplishments. Answers to this question should reveal the story behind the bullet points, the passion for the project, and the genuine interest for the work. If any of these are missing, perhaps the interviewee is in the wrong business.


  1. Do you have any questions for me? – This is the perfect way to “end” an interview as you turn the tables, engaging the talent to then interview you. Not only does it demonstrate your company’s appreciation for open dialogue, but also lets you know whether the potential job seeker is definitely interested. If they answer “no” – then they are probably not the best fit.

Is there a question you like to ask during interviews? Why do you ask it? Share with us in the comments below.

Jessica Bedford, for Artisan Creative

Think Before Accepting A Counteroffer

Thursday, February 28th, 2013|

Even if you’re actively looking to leave your job and are suddenly faced with an attractive counteroffer, you better thing twice before saying “yes”. If accepted, a counteroffer – usually presented by a client in sheer panic mode – could change more than just your salary.

Here are a few things to consider first:

Your intention may now be in question. Your work relationships are forever changed. No longer considered “part of the team” – it’s more than likely you’ll lose your standing within the organization. Once a top performer, you may now be constantly overlooked for promotions, new clients, projects or awards.

You could find yourself out of job. If you’ve tried to leave once, the company might assume you will try to leave again. Not wanting to be left in a lurch, your employers could start recruiting your replacement or make you the first to go when layoffs or cutbacks arise.

You might have trouble advancing your career further. If it took you this much trouble just to get a raise and/or promotion, chances are you probably won’t have the opportunity for another. At least not any time soon.

You may not be employable at the competing company in future. If you entertained a competitor’s offer, only to turn them down for your current company, most businesses will not consider your candidacy in future – when you actually do want to leave. The same could also be said for the recruiter you worked with if you partnered with a third party agency.

You may start to question your fulfillment in your current job. If you took that recruiter’s call to begin with – there must have been a reason. If you weren’t happy with your salary, maybe there are other things you don’t like about your job. Furthermore, if things in your office have changed since accepting the counteroffer, perhaps now you really are unhappy in your role. Now you actually have to find, interview for and land an actual job you do want. More time and effort you may not have.


Preparing for Your Telephone Interview

Thursday, January 31st, 2013|

With fewer human resources professionals taking care of more hiring and hundreds, if not thousands of online applications, the telephone interview or “phone screen” has become ever more common as part of the job search process. But telephone interviews offer some challenges that are distinctly different from an in-person interview. Here are some tips for preparing:

  • Be ready—Don’t take a telephone interview any less seriously than you would an in-person encounter. Make sure you have practiced your pitch, run through your best stories and done your research.
  • Choose the environment—You need a quiet area where you will not be interrupted and preferably a landline phone. Bad cell service or a dead battery can be the death of an otherwise good interview.
  • Ask for clarification—Since you can’t gain information from non-verbal cues during a telephone interview, if you are clear about what the interviewer is asking, request that he or she repeat or rephrase the question. Better to answer well the second time than badly the first.
  • Speak clearly—Remember your interviewer is also at a disadvantage being on the phone. Slow down and speak expressively. Your whole personality is being conveyed by only one mode of communication—your voice.
  • Have your resume available—In an in-person interview, you can’t reference your resume for reminders, but on the phone you can have it laid out in front of you to remind you of your accomplishments.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative