10 Reasons Why This Job Isn’t For You

You have been looking online for that perfect job and now you think you finally found it. You have the education and skills required. It looks like there is enough meat to the job to make it interesting, and there’s room to learn new skills. What’s not to like? You may just find that out if you are invited into the company for an interview. Here are 10 signs telling you when to pass on a job:

1. When the interviewer is late for the interview. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. However, the demeanor of the interviewer can tell you a lot. Does he apologize profusely or act like lateness is par for the course? If you as the candidate are not allowed to be late, then neither is the interviewer.

2. Your potential supervisor is not at the interview or you are only allowed a short time with her. Another red flag is an interview on your itinerary with only the supervisor and then showing up to the interview to find the supervisor’s supervisor is there as well. Are they afraid she will say something wrong?

3. Try for an interview in the supervisor’s office. One time I interviewed with a supervisor whose desk was piled an impressive foot high with papers and books (it was – I measured it while waiting for him). The mess might have been impressive, but the hairy chest the guy sported because he had left his shirt buttons undone from his collar to his belt was not. There’s creative messy and then there’s I’m-blaming-you-when-I-can’t-find-your-report messy. And the hairy chest thing was just icky.

4. Group interviews where members interrupt each other and cannot agree on priorities are always a fun bet. If they cannot agree on goals and objectives in an interview, you can bet they cannot agree in department meetings either. You are not going to be able to do this so-called perfect job if all members cannot arrive at group consensus.

5. The interviewer complains about companies or experiences on your resume. I have had these interesting interview experiences: higher education interviewers complain about industry recruiting experience because recruiters are too “mercenary” and don’t have the students’ best interest at heart. Recruiters complain about higher education experience because it is “too ivory tower,” not real world enough, and the work pace in higher ed is too slow. If this happens, you can elaborate how these experiences will help you do the new job. However, it is bad form for the interviewer to complain instead of inquiring how these experiences relate to the job at hand.

6. Keep a close eye on your interviewer’s behavior. Does he go from calm to red-faced rage in .2 seconds? Do employees avoid eye contact with him and quake in his presence? If the interviewer is comfortable showing this behavior in front of you in an interview, you may be his next emotional punching bag. Definitely take a pass on this one.

7. Group interviews where the group acts very bored, tired or disinterested are a sign that these people do not work well as a team. Granted, group interviews can be time consuming and boring, but they should not only be interviewing you, but conveying that this is a great place in which to work.

8. The interviewer purposely asks an illegal question and carefully watches you as you respond. As novice interviewer, I occasionally asked the wrong question. However, questions about protected status such as religion, veteran status or parent status are illegal, and an interviewer should not be asking these questions. If you get asked an illegal question, you do have the right to refuse to answer it.

9. Group interviews can be difficult to schedule, as everyone is busy and time to do them is in short supply. However, if the organizer repeatedly asks you, the candidate, to hold open dates because he cannot get the group together, take a pass. I’ve seen groups refuse to agree on meeting dates when they either do not support the organizer or do not have buy-in on the candidates. This type of passive-aggressive protest behavior is not something you want to get involved in.

10. Most interviewers will ask you if you have questions, and yes, you should have some as this shows your interest in the job and knowledge of the field. However, there are some interviewers who will evade answering your more pointed questions or have already decided you are not the right candidate and will barely answer your questions at all. If you ask questions about the company or local area, and the response is a brochure thrown across the desk, the interviewer isn’t doing either her company or you a service. You can find better.

The Confidentiality Fudge Factor

The confidentiality policy fudge factor? Guess what – there is none. Lazlo Bock, CEO of Google states that breaking confidentiality policies is one of the biggest mistakes he sees on resumes. If your supervisor is worth the big dollars he/she gets paid, you will be “educated” on your company’s confidentiality policy, and you will have no excuse for listing clients and other confidential information on your resume.

And once you get to the interview? Nope. You still cannot discuss clients or other confidential information even if the interviewer asks you. And they WILL ask you. Your potential employer wants to know how serious you are about protecting your company’s client lists, trade secrets, etc. You may lose the opportunity for a new job by trying to impress your next potential employer. However, you may ACTUALLY impress the employer by apologizing when they ask for confidential information and referring to your current company’s confidentiality policy.

Once you land that great new job, can you blab confidential information then? Nope. Make sure you read and understand any confidentiality policies for ANY company for which you work. You can be sued for disclosing protected information at any of the above stages: on the resume, at the interview and while working at the new job. It will also ruin your professional reputation. That said, there are still some unscrupulous companies out there who will press you for the information.

How will your employer find out? Please. This is the era of the online career profile and resume. You may think you are safe posting information on-line, but you will trip yourself up. One little mistake on a career profile or resume can get you fired and sued. For example, trying to hide Kodak as “an internationally known imaging company based in Western New York” on your resume and thinking you are safe is irresponsible. Any potential employer is going to know you are referring to Kodak, so don’t do it.

Want to know about other common resume mistakes? See Lazlo Bock’s article here.

Creativity and Problem Solving: If You Could be Any Toy…

I was always amazed in my over two decades of higher education experience at how difficult it was for college students to make the transition from accumulating knowledge for building a knowledge base to learning knowledge in order to problem solve. Some examples:

One day, a work-study student came into my office for his work shift, and he was completely enraged. He had just handed in an economics problem-set in which he was sure the answers were all correct. The professor then proceeded to divide the class up into groups and had them work on a case study related to the problem-set. The student was enraged because “there was no one right answer.”

Another student left a business case interview disgusted because one of the questions before the actual case was “If you could be any toy, what would you be?” She felt that it was a silly question to ask in a “serious” interview. The career staff pointed out that this was an excellent opportunity to flex her creativity. One answer could have been Mr. Potato Head because she could be flexible and change as needed. She considered the answer and said, “Ok, but flexibility is limited by the number of extra parts in the box.” So then the discussion became, “How do you expand the options? What are the consequences of expansion?” That really is what employers are looking for: Viable problem-solving options.

I know next to nothing about the Common Core curriculum, but I wonder how it is going to prepare students to take on the role of problem solver  in school and in work life. Workplace needs are dynamic, and what was the right answer last week may not work as a solution for this week’s problem. And your concept of the “right answer” may differ from those of your team mates. What to do? I asked a recruiter from Mitsubishi, “What happens when an automotive designer’s ideas clash with what the engineers come up with? Who is ‘right?’ Who wins?” His answer: “They both have to come up with a solution that works.”

In other words, in the real world of work, it is no longer enough to memorize the textbook, the white papers or the manuals to get the “right answer.” You still need that knowledge; however, creative application of that knowledge, often in conjunction with other people, is what is needed to solve problems.

This leads to a question I often get from parents of college students and college personnel: Which is better for getting a job: a liberal arts degree or a specialized degree? Both types of degrees are useful if students acquire a solid knowledge base while understanding how to use it to solve problems.  And letting go of the idea that there is one right answer frees up the process to let creativity in, to try on what-if scenarios and examine their consequences before implementing them. People do not always like that answer because it becomes clear that getting a job is not about who has the most knowledge and skills, but who can use those knowledge and skills to adapt to a dynamic workplace and be able to provide solutions.

Why You Should Write Your Own Resume

I have worked with many creative types, musicians, artists, designers and others who have a lot of confidence in their professional skills. However, they do not always have as much confidence in their writing abilities. I still tell them to at least attempt to write their own resumes anyways. It is always valuable to prospective employers to read about applicants’ skills in their own words. There is a plethora of resume guides on the Internet and in print to get you started. The Dummies and Knock “Em Dead series are both good places to start. A resume in your own words helps you in a number of ways:

*You are the person who knows your skills best. You also know the “Buzz words” or significant terms for your field. A resume writer may use significantly different terms than what you would use. There are also regional differences in terminology in many career fields that a resume writer may not know.

*You are more likely to speak intelligently about the skills and experience on your resume if you have written it yourself. Many people who have others write their resumes for them often do not even read it thoroughly before submitting it for a position. It can be very embarrassing in an interview when a hiring manager asks you about a career summary point or skills and experiences you did not even notice that were on your resume.

*Your experience is unique to you. You are more likely to spot information that is missing from your resume than someone who wrote it for you. That missing information can be the one factor that causes your resume to be ruled out by hiring managers.

*Each resume you send out should be tailored for a specific position. A resume writer could charge upwards of $400 to write your resume. It can get expensive to hire someone else to write your resume, especially when you have many positions for which you are applying and need a number of different resumes.

You should have someone else proofread your resume before you send it out. Even spellcheckers and grammar assists in word processing programs are not infallible. Resume writers can critique the resumes you write and help you best present your information especially when you have had gaps in your work history or need a creative way to present recitals, shows, exhibits, etc.

Still not convinced you should write your own resume? OK, if you do decide to hire a resume writer, make sure this person understands your career field and experience. The resume writer should also have some type of education credential having to do with career development or certification in resume writing. One such place to look for these types of professional folks is at the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.  Lastly, your resume writer should take the time to go over your new resume with you to ensure that it is correct and that you have a good understanding of its contents.

What Recruiters Want on Your Resume

The recruiters in my network with whom I have recently spoken have told me, yes, they are still getting a flood of resumes for very few jobs. When I asked them how they chose resumes for the candidates they wanted to interview, they told me there are crucial resume sections that must stand out in order for those resumes to be chosen. Here are some of those crucial resume sections and what you can do to get your resume noticed. Remember, your resume does not just land you the interview, but it is also the tool that recruiters use as a guide to interviewing you. It must provide a concise, clear snapshot of your career history.

*Contact information. Your name, address, number and email must appear at the top of your resume. Creative types like to list this information on the sides, bottom or even the back of the resume. However, the applicant tracking systems (ats) that recruiters use are set up to pick out this information from the first 20 resume lines. Most recruiters are careful in uploading your resume to an ats because your resume is valuable to them. Some, however, will not check that your resume parsed into the correct fields, so while your resume is in the system, it may not be retrievable by your name and is, therefore, now useless to both you and the recruiter.

*Relevant work experience. A recruiter should be able to tell by your current job title if you are working in the industry in which the job is. You will not be automatically rejected if you are not. Precise employment dates may still keep you in the running if you have worked in the industry. Make sure your dates are accurate. You can even highlight your industry experience by leading off your resume with a relevant work experience section. So, for example, if the job is in higher education, and your previous jobs were in higher education, you may title this section, Higher Education Experience. List your current job under “Other Work Experience.”

*Skill sets. Your skills either qualify you for a job or they don’t. A skills summary helps the recruiter determine at a glance if you are a good fit for a position. A skills summary should list those skills required in the job description. Most job descriptions list required skills in the order of importance, and your skills summary should do the same. Even if your resume ends up in the system without your name attached to it, this is your second chance to get noticed, as the ats system will also index your skills. Recruiters are able to search for your resume in the ats by skills as well as by name.

*Accomplishments. Back up your skills summary by listing accomplishments, rather than just duties for each job you held. If you can quantify an accomplishment, do so, but be aware that when recruiters contact your references, they may well ask these people if you really did achieve these accomplishments. So if you increased business as your previous employer by 50%, put it on your resume, and make sure your reference knows that you did.

*Education. Create a section for your degrees, and make sure it is easily findable. Education is one of the key criteria recruiters use to weed out resumes. If you do not have the required degree listed, even if you do hold it, you may lose out on an interview.

It is tempting to embellish your resume and use the same one over and over again when you have been job searching for a long time. However, listing skills and accomplishments you do not have is lying and can get you fired from a job even after you have landed it. Using the same resume for every job also does not cut it because all of these critical resume sections must address the specific needs of each job.

The Dreaded Behavioral Interview

If you are preparing for an interview, you may want to think about preparing some answers to what human resource professionals call behavioral interview questions. These types of questions are designed to find out how you would respond in certain situations and how you react under stress.

Some behavioral interview questions include: Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your supervisor; tell me about when you had to fire an employee; describe a project where you had to work as part of a team; how do you handle complaints your employees have about other co-workers; describe a situation where your work goals were set too high.

While you cannot prepare answers for every single behavioral question out there, it is important to think about what skills the question is addressing and to tailor your answer to show you have that skill whether it is adaptability, team work, listening and problem-solving skills or communication skills. The interviewer is looking for answers that show you have valuable skills that the company can use.

A behavioral interview can be a good tool for ferreting out a candidate’s skills and work behavior. However, it does not always help a candidate determine if the company is a good fit for him or her. The interviewer can purposely come across as unfriendly and hard-to-read, making the interview a stressful experience for the candidate. If the interviewer is also going to be the supervisor, this can give a candidate second thoughts about accepting the job. A behavioral interview also does not give a candidate a good idea as to what type of supervisor the interviewer is going to be. Therefore, it is up to you as a candidate to make sure you ask your own questions to ensure that the position is a good fit.

Some of those questions may look like: If I am hired for this position, what is the most important thing I can accomplish for you in the first 60 days? As a supervisor, would you rather I interrupt you as I have questions or would you rather set aside dedicated time each day for questions? How do you handle front desk coverage during breaks and lunch?  Do you want informational updates via email or in person? Will I be collaborating with you on projects or just reporting back to you with status updates?

Think carefully about the job description and what interviewers are likely to ask. Also think about how you will go about carrying out the duties listed in the job description and your ideal interactions with the supervisor and co-workers. Then formulate your own answers and your own questions for the interviewer accordingly.

We Are All New Yorkers

Three weeks ago, standing in Greenwich Village and looking around while waiting to do some interviews in NYC, I could not even imagine the devastation that was to come. Fast forward to now: there has been a hurricane, downgraded to a superstorm, flash flooding, fires, a blizzard and tornado threats, all courtesy of Hurricane Sandy. As I coped with a broken boiler today, here at home in upstate NY, I blessed my mom’s foresight in getting a “Gold” coverage contract from the local heating contractor. Boiler was fixed in less than an hour. I cannot even imagine what people are going through in NYC, NJ and other severely affected states. While this brings home the fact that we are all New Yorkers, whether upstate or down, somehow, I do not think there is a “Gold” contract large enough to fix this devastation. I hope Obama is right, and that there will be no red tape or bureaucracy for those who are seeking help in the weeks to come. I am not worried now whether I will get the job in NYC or whether I can find affordable housing if I do get the job. I am worried about a prolonged recovery. However, maybe this awful storm is the catalyst we need to get the political machine working as a bipartisanship again.

See also my posts,

Emergency Response 

“The City” and the Job Hunt

Internet is Down: Weird Ways to Make Money

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