Posted by Erik Even on Aug 18, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Job applicants often give thought on how to maximize the positive impact when they first meet a recruiter or interviewer.
But by the time you meet the person who decides whether or not to hire you, you have probably already interacted with at least one other firm employee, and been seen by several others. You need to start making a good impression from the moment you arrive.
Walk into the office exactly 15 minutes early. By which I mean, leave an hour early. Employers don’t care about traffic, cars breaking down, and buses off-schedule. Leave extra early to ensure you get to the appointment early.
But don’t go into the office too soon before the appointment. Fifteen minutes early says “I’m taking this job interview seriously,” without saying “I have nothing better to do than loiter in your reception area for 45 minutes.”
Arrive at the office an hour early? That’s why they have Starbucks.
Be fully prepared before you enter the office. Make sure your clothes are taken care of before you arrive. Check your hair and makeup. Use a restroom — but not the one at the company! If you have to, plan ahead. Does the office building have public restrooms? Is there a fast food place nearby where you can spruce up?
Also, be sure to TYCPTFO. That means “Turn Your Cell Phone The F–k Off!”
The receptionist may not be a receptionist. Never assume the first person you see sitting at a desk by the front door is a receptionist. Treat this person with the same respect you intend to show the interviewer. Apologize for bothering them and ask for the person you’re there to see. Don’t ask this person for a drink, or the location of the bathroom, or if they can validate your parking — even if they ARE the receptionist. You can ask about the parking validation on your way out.
Don’t pace in the reception area. If there is a reception area, just sit quietly. You should be able to sit still for 15 minutes. Don’t mess up the magazines. Don’t bother the “receptionist” — he or she has work to do. Don’t chat with anyone unless they initiate the conversation. Smile politely at anyone who walks past.
Don’t bother anyone if your interviewer is late. If it’s 20 minutes past the time of your appointment, you’ll feel like asking what the heck’s going on. Be patient (but make a mental note that this company may not be the place for you, if its employees miss meetings and/or don’t value people’s time).
If you haven’t heard anything in a half-hour, then you may wish to bug someone. A receptionist is the perfect person to bother. If they do not have one, maybe you can turn your cell back on and call whoever you have dealt with up to this point (a recruiter, HR manager, etc.).
And if no one helps you at the 45 minute mark, you should probably walk.
Got any other advice? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Aug 3, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
It’s illegal in most places for a job interviewer to ask if you have children, or if you plan to have children. And although this question would be as pertinent with a male employee as a female one, it’s women who have to worry that a recruiter will have a bias against employees with children. Although today’s fathers are often as involved (in a non-obstetric sense) with their children as mothers, employers still think that male employees will be more reliable and will work more hours than women.
Managers with large firms and corporations may tend to be more modern in their outlook on hiring women who have, or intend to have, children, simply because they have programs in place to deal with the issue. But a particular manager may still have a bias, and small employers may go so far as to violate the law and quiz you on your personal family plans.
So what should you do if a recruiter asks about children? That’s a tough call. You can’t lie — never lie. You can explain to the recruiter that the question is illegal — this could lead to a contrite apology from the recruiter, or they may become annoyed. Neither is good for your hiring prospects.
Or you could walk out. While this may be the most satisfying response (and who wants to work for a firm whose recruiters or managers don’t know standard practices?), in this economy it may not be very practical.
My advice is to be honest and answer the question. Don’t talk about future plans — that’s your business, and could change anyway. Mention that you have children, and if it’s true then say they are in a reliable daycare, or are looked after during the day.
Just be aware that a firm that asks these questions in an interview is likely to cause problems for employees who are parents, both women and men.
On a side note — a tip for managers, and for employed parents. The personal lives of parents are not necessarily more or less important than those of non-parents. Try not to make concessions for parents that you would not make for non-parents. It breeds dissatisfaction over perceived favoritism. And a 22-year-old’s emergency involving an elderly relative, for example, is no more or less important than a 42-year-old’s emergency involving a child.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Jul 29, 2009 in Job Search
There are two reasons a recruiter will ask you a dumb, inappropriate or illegal interview question. One: he or she is “testing” you, by playing silly games. Two: he or she is incompetent.
You don’t want to work for or with this person.
But in this economy, you may not have the luxury to be choosy. Here’s how I would answer some of these dumb questions:
“Have you ever brought a lawsuit against an employer?” “Yes. I sued the recruiter at my previous job, who asked me questions about things you’re not allowed to consider when hiring.”
“Do you ever abuse alcohol or drugs?” “Why? Are you holding?” or “I wouldn’t call it ‘abuse.’”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” “Running this department, and firing you.”
“Have you ever stolen from an employer?” “No way! My last employer may be in prison, but he has ‘associates’ all over New Jersey!”
“How would other people describe you?” “A tall white male between 30 and 40 years of age, fleeing the scene to the southeast in a leather jacket and bluejeans.”
“Are you religious?” “Yeah, did I mention I sued my last employer for asking me illegal questions?” or “Yes! Soon the Great Old Ones will descend, and mighty Cthulhu will rise from lost R’lyeh to destroy the world! Yog-Sothoth knows the gate! Yog-Sothoth is the gate!”
Have any more bad interview questions? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 1, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
About a year ago, I was contacted by an entertainment lawyer who was looking to hire a writer. This guy was a genuine bigwig — hundreds of celebrity photos all over his office, and a video player on infinite loop in the front office with his many interviews on cable news shows, talking about the latest legal problems of Lindsay Lohan and other celebs.
I put on my suit, printed out the writing samples he had requested, and schlepped across town to his Beverly Hills office. There was already another applicant waiting when I arrived. I filled out the usual paperwork and handed over a copy of my resume.
At about the precise time of my interview, the lawyer arrived at his office. After a few minutes, he called in the other applicant.
Fifty-six seconds later, the other applicant came back out, looking confused. He left, and I was called in.
The lawyer told me sit down, and asked me some basic questions about my background. I started to give the usual interview answers, designed to emphasize my skills — but he cut me off. He just wanted the basic facts. So that’s what I gave him.
After a few more basic questions (did I have a car? was I insured?), he told me my resume was going on the pile, and if he decided to call me back, would the next Wednesday afternoon be a good time for another interview? “Yes,” I lied. He shook my hand and I left.
Fifty-six seconds had passed.
No, I would not have gone to the second interview if I had been invited (I wasn’t). This individual did not respect me, or my time. What kind of a nightmare would it have been to work for him?
What was he even trying to accomplish? He wanted to briefly meet each applicant before arranging an interview — why? Was he trying to avoid a certain ethnic group? Perhaps if he had warned me the first interview would be very brief, I would not have been offended.
In another, less heinous example, a Internet firm down by the airport called me in to interview with the HR person and the manager who would be my superior. I had an excellent conversation, for about half an hour, with the HR rep. Then she went off to find the manager.
Fifteen minutes later, deeply embarrassed, she returned to tell me that the manager was on a call that went long, and he couldn’t see me. Maybe I could come back the next week. “That would be fine,” I lied, with a smile plastered to my face.
A few days later, they gave the job to someone who interviewed before I did. That’s okay — I wouldn’t have gone back.
I have worked for people who, I assure you, would never treat a job applicant this way. In fact, I like to think that these arrogant and unprofessional employers are in the minority. But I have worked for people who had no respect for their own employees — and you do not want to work for these people.
As a manager, you do not want to be one of these people, either. No matter what your yearly income, title, or level of responsibility, you are not above the rules of common decency. A job applicant’s time is as valuable as your own. And even if you don’t accept that, then look at it this way — you are mistreating people who might be highly skilled workers who can make you a lot of money.
There are only two circumstances under which is permissible to treat people poorly and take advantage of their need for employment: never, and never ever. Act accordingly — it’s the ethical and professional thing to do.