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 Jun 23, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Men assume that because proper interview attire isn’t the minefield for them it is for women, they don’t have to worry too much about what they wear to a job interview.
You may think your resume or cover letter gives a prospective employer their first real impression of you. Nope — that just gets you in the door, and by the time of the actual interview, an employer may have forgotten everything in your resume, or not even have read it yet.
It’s the first moment that an interviewer sees you that gives them their most important impression of you. Is this prejudice? Only if they’re judging you based on race or ethnicity. You choose your hairstyle, choose your hygiene, control your own gait and posture, and you select your own clothes. These are all messages you select and control. If you’re not aware of them, controlling them, then who know what you are telling the world about yourself?
As the great David Byrne once sang, “I am just an advertisement for a version of myself.”
Let’s talk clothes.
Have at least two suits — a formal suit and a casual one. I guess what I mean by “casual suit” isn’t really a suit — it’s a coordinated shirt, slacks and sports coat combo, usually a medium-to-dark earth tone. This is what you wear when, and only when, the employer instructs you not to wear a suit to the interview. The rest of the time, wear a nice two-piece suit, purchased within the last five years, excellent condition (no wear or stains), dark blue or charcoal. Black is acceptable, but makes you look like you’re going to a funeral — wear a colored tie to cheer it up.
Wear a nice shirt. White is best, properly fitted, with stays in the collars. If you know how to coordinate a colored shirt, go ahead — but white is safer. No French cuffs unless you’re French. Cuff links are nice — silver, not gold — but not necessary. No stains — eat before you change for the interview.
Also, make sure your suit and shirt are all newly dry-cleaned and pressed. Or at least iron them yourself.
Wear a tie. The tie should be silk, either a solid color or a subtle pattern. Absolutely do not wear any kind of novelty tie to a job interview. You can wear a college tie — if you know in advance that your interviewer went to that college. Otherwise, keep it simple and conservative. Clip-on ties are for blue collar workers circa 1953. Are you a blue collar worker, circa 1953?
If you don’t know how to tie a tie, look here.
Wear nice shoes. Yes, people look at your shoes. Wear leather business shoes, lace-up or slip-on, preferably black or brown. Spend some money, if for no other reason than pricier shoes will be more comfortable than cheap ones, and you never know how far you will have to walk from the car, or how long you might need to stand. Don’t think you can get away with black sneakers — this screams “I’m a recent college grad and I live in my Mom’s basement.”
Match your socks. Buy nice socks, and make sure they color coordinate with your suit and shoes. This is one of the little trivial things employers notice. If you’re wearing white sports socks with your black suit and loafers, you will not make a good impression.
Wear a belt. Like shoes, belts quickly wear out and become damaged. Have a recently purchased belt that fits properly — no extra long belt poking out of your suit. A slender belt is better than a thicker one. And absolutely no novelty buckles. Unless you live in Texas.
Groom your facial hair. If you are clean shaven, then make sure you really are clean shaven — take extra time to shave before an interview. Get under the chin. Even up those sideburns. Trim your nose hair.
If you have facial hair, you’re already at a disadvantage — some employers still think it’s 1947, and frown on beards and mustaches. Some firms even have policies against facial hair — you do not want to work there, unless you enjoy mandatory calisthenics, “WWJD” mugs and daily venerations of Walt Disney.
So if you have facial hair, trim it closely and evenly. Long beards are for pirates and hermits. Shave the edges to keep the beard neat.
Also, it’s 2009 — mustaches with no beard are appropriate only for cops and gay men. Tom Selleck can get away with it — you can’t.
Wear a watch. You will need to know the time. Actually, you can get away with almost anything for a watch — unusual watches make good conversation pieces. If a firm is unusually conservative, stick to a conservative watch.
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 18, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
The rules for proper business attire for men are quite simple. Sure, men get them wrong all the time, but they are simple.
For women, things are more complicated. This is because male hominids are genetically programmed to sexually objectify female hominids, especially the hot ones. It’s in the female hominid’s best interests to dress asexually, so as to be taken seriously as a workmate rather than a sexual conquest. Yet she must dress provocatively enough so as not to invite scorn. It’s a balance between a burka and Dr. Lisa Cuddy.
Here are some quick tips for female job interview attire. One general rule: while it’s generally undesirable to dress as generally undesirable — that is, too much “like a man” — it is better to dress less feminine than to wear an outfit that is too sexy. Yes, dressing provocatively may very well help you get hired — if the boss is a guy. But he’s not the kind of guy for whom you’ll want to work. To put it in terms familiar to D&D players: you want to be charismatic, not comely.
Wear a suit. Make it navy, black or dark gray. Some misguided people will tell you that a red outfit is a “power” outfit. Unfortunately, there are still people in the 21st Century who think a red outfit on a woman means she is a prostitute. Also, avoid lavender, aqua and other ’80s colors. These colors say “I collect unicorns and watch QVC while I cry into my Ben & Jerry’s.”
Wear a skirt or pants. Well, obviously — don’t show up in a thong. If you wear a skirt, keep it below the knee with no provocative slit along the side. If an employer requires its female employees to wear skirts, do not work there. You do not want to associate with those people. Unless you enjoy “Power Prayer Breakfasts,” “No on Prop. 8″ rallies, glass ceilings, and anti-Semitism.
Coordinate your blouse. You are safer with a perfectly opaque blouse, but a VERY SLIGHTLY transparent one should be fine. If I can read the label on your bra, it’s no good. Make sure the color coordinates with your suit. Oh, and those blouses with frilly junk along the front? Don’t do that. You’re not a pirate.
Minimal jewelry. Small earrings (non-dangling), a thin necklace and a ring. That’s it. Wear all silver or platinum — gold jewelry is for Jersey mob wives. (Whatever your wedding ring is, even if it’s awful, you can wear it. No one expects you to take off your wedding ring. Although your next husband should have better taste.) Avoid cheap jewelry — better to wear none.
Also, wearing multiple rings implies you lost your virginity in the wheat germ hut at Burning Man. Save that stuff for your off-hours.
Wear pantyhose. For the interview, anyway. Yes, in 20 years this ridiculous clothing item won’t exist anymore. But for right now, wear the damn things. Wear neutral pantyhose — colored hose are for porn stars and Harajuku girls.
Wear sensible shoes. First, keep them dark and coordinate them with your suit. Avoid buckles, frills and bells. “Light-up” clear plastic heels are right out.
Second, wear comfortable shoes. DO NOT WEAR HIGH HEELS. It’s not necessary, and you walk like a hobbled calf. Why spend your interview in severe pain? Men may notice if you wear high heels, but they won’t notice if you don’t. It’s time to end the tyranny of the cruel shoe.
Got any advice about female interview attire? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on May 28, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Interviewers love to throw difficult questions at applicants. Some people just like to see you squirm.
But it’s mostly a way to see how prepared you are; it’s also an attempt to get an unrehearsed answer.
The solution? Rehearse your answer.
What kinds of people do you have difficulty working with?
First, don’t point out that the interviewer ended a sentence with a preposition — that won’t go over well. But absolutely do not get drawn into the trap of complaining about people with whom you have worked. The interviewer will sympathize, laugh at your stories, and then not hire you.
Instead, tell the interviewer that you have had issues working with people who don’t communicate well, such as a manager who doesn’t take the time to keep in touch with people outside his or her group. Explain that by going out of your way to initiate contact with this person, and showing genuine interest in his or her issues, you brought this manager around and established a great relationship.
Now you sound like a problem solver with great people skills.
Why do you want this job?
This is a difficult question because the usual, true answers — I’m unemployed and need to pay the rent; I hate my current job; this job pays more; I need to move closer to my boy/girlfriend — are not what the interviewer wants to hear.
What they do want to hear is, why do you want this particular job? And any good answer will specifically address both the position and the company. This position represents the best next step for me in my career. I have researched a number of companies, and this company will offer me the best opportunities. I believe in what you’re working to accomplish, and I want to be part of that.
Sounds like you’re sucking up? News flash — that’s what a job interview is.
What kind of salary are you looking for?
It’s a perfectly reasonable question, and it’s grueling. Say something too low, and you either lose the job or get paid less than you’re worth. Mention too high a figure, and you’re out of the running.
Here’s the trick — turn it back around. I’m afraid I’ll need more information about the precise title and responsibilities. What is the budgeted salary range? Ahah! Got ‘em!
I’m looking at your resume, and don’t you think you’re overqualified?
Worst. Question. Ever. Fortunately, there is an answer, if you haven’t already been asked why you want the job, because the answer is the same. Focus on the position itself, and that you would find it enjoyable and meaningful. Talk about the company, and how much you want to be part of it. Tell the interviewer that unlike less-experienced hires, you will hit the ground running and bring added value to the firm.
Posted by Erik Even on Apr 15, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
From my favorite US Bureau, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics — some basic advice for the many, many, many people looking for work.
They’re your tax dollars — take advantage!
Job Interview Tips
An interview gives you the opportunity to showcase your qualifications to an employer, so it pays to be well prepared. The following information provides some helpful hints.
- Learn about the organization.
- Have a specific job or jobs in mind.
- Review your qualifications for the job.
- Be ready to briefly describe your experience, showing how it relates it the job.
- Be ready to answer broad questions, such as “Why should I hire you?” “Why do you want this job?” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
- Practice an interview with a friend or relative.
- Be well groomed.
- Dress appropriately.
- Do not chew gum or smoke.
- Be early.
- Learn the name of your interviewer and greet him or her with a firm handshake.
- Use good manners with everyone you meet.
- Relax and answer each question concisely.
- Use proper English—avoid slang.
- Be cooperative and enthusiastic.
- Use body language to show interest—use eye contact and don’t slouch.
- Ask questions about the position and the organization, but avoid questions whose answers can easily be found on the company Web site.
- Also avoid asking questions about salary and benefits unless a job offer is made.
- Thank the interviewer when you leave and shake hands.
- Send a short thank you note.
Information to bring to an interview:
- Social Security card.
- Government-issued identification (driver’s license).
- Resume or application. Although not all employers require a resume, you should be able to furnish the interviewer information about your education, training, and previous employment.
- References. Employers typically require three references. Get permission before using anyone as a reference. Make sure that they will give you a good reference. Try to avoid using relatives as references.
- Transcripts. Employers may require an official copy of transcripts to verify grades, coursework, dates of attendance, and highest grade completed or degree awarded.