“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

What’s worse than having to go through the heartache of interviewing?  Going through the heartache of not hearing back after an interview. 

Not letting a person know they are not a fit is one of the worst things an interviewer can do.  It is inconsiderate of applicant’s time, possible travel expenses, and feelings.  People put a lot of thought and heart into getting ready for an interview.  It is also very unprofessional.  The world is smaller than we think, and a bad reputation can make its way through the ranks, which can deplete a hiring manager’s applicant pool. 

I know human resources is a busy beehive of activity.  However, with today’s technology and word processing options, sending out emails or setting up a mail merge for rejection letters is fairly quick and efficient.  There really is no reason at all not to let someone know they will not be moving on in the application process. 

What to do if you are ever in a position of waiting on pins and needles to hear back from a company?  I thought you would never ask.

Vanna, if you please . . .

1.  Ask up front what their timeline is.  When it comes time during the interview for you to get to know the company and what they expect, simply ask, “What is your timeframe for making a hiring decision?”  It’s simple and to the point.  They may not have a definite date, e.g. “We should know by next Wednesday.”  But, they should at least be able to give an approximation, such as, “We have more interviews later this week, so we hope to move to the second round of interviews by the first part of next week.”

2.  Give them time to follow-up.  Is it possible they may have come to a decision earlier than expected?  Sure.  It is it your responsibility to call every day to see if they have?  No.  My general rule of thumb is to give them until they say they were going to follow-up and wait another week.  I know that sounds like torture.  Sometimes unforeseen things come up.  Sometimes there are lengthy hiring processes that preclude them from calling a hiring decision back right away.  Before you go in guns a-blazing, make sure you give them the benefit of the doubt. 

3.  Follow up.  There are different schools of thought on this.  More “hiring pundits” are shifting towards encouraging applicants to e-mail a follow-up.  Part of me agrees with this because it avoids putting the hiring manager or human resources, who may have no control on the process at that point, in an awkward position.  It also gives you a paper trail with a time and date stamp so you can keep track of correspondence.  The one downfall is this can be an easy way for a hiring manager to ignore your e-mail.   

If you’re going to call, don’t call repeatedly until you get a live person to talk to.  It is very rare to find a company who doesn’t have caller i.d..  If whomever you are calling doesn’t answer, leave a brief and professional voicemail, and leave it at that.  One thing that I always like to do is write out what I say because I tend to have cotton-mouth when I am calling for a status update.  Again, be brief and professional.  “Hi, _______.  My name is ______ and I interviewed for the ________ position last week.  I just wanted to touch base with you to see if any decision has been made regarding the position.”  Short.  Simple.  Succinct.

4.  Stay busy.  Just because you interviewed, and it seemingly went well, that doesn’t mean you should stop your search.  A new job isn’t yours until a signed job offer is in your hand.  Don’t let another great opportunity slip through your fingers because you assume you have a job in the bag. 

5.  Never let your emotions get the best of you.  Don’t burn bridges by firing off a nasty email about how you no longer want to work at such a callous company or yell at a hiring manager about how he or she shouldn’t leave such a great candidate waiting.  I know it is frustrating, but you never know what your career may bring.  You may want to apply with them again.  Also, networking connections can be built in every situation.  It may not have worked for this position, but you might have been considered for a possibility down the line.  Keep the relationship positive even though you’re feeling pretty negative.

6.  Be prepared for the worst case scenario.  You may get ahold of someone directly, and they may tell you no.  As harsh as it may sound, be careful what you wish for. 

Hiring is not a perfect process.  Hiring managers are not perfect people.  Just remember that you deserve a company who is going to be considerate of your time and effort.  Waiting is hard.  Rejection is harder.  You’ll get through it, though!

Positive Thought of the Day:

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” – Donald Laird

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“Every success is built on the ability to do better than good enough.” – Author Unknown

Interviews are demanding enough to begin with, which makes trying to remember a list of things NOT to do extra stressful. I’ve tried to make this list as foolproof and simple to remember as possible.

 So, Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Don’t pull out any gimmicks or stunts. I recently read where one interviewee intentionally showed up late, with advance notice to the company, to see how they would react to his/her “sincere apology.” The whole point was to see if the apology was acknowledged in the interview and how understanding the hiring manager was. Not okay. Which leads into . . .

2. Don’t be late. I know this is as broken record statement. By the by, how much longer is it going to be before young people aren’t going to understand what “sounding like a broken record” means? Anyway, don’t disrespect the interviewers time by being late OR too early. Remember: 5-7 minutes early.

3. Don’t be rude to the receptionist. This type of behavior always gets back to the hiring manager. Even if you end up getting hired, people have loooooong memories when it comes to being treated poorly.

4. Don’t play/talk/text on your cell phone if you end up waiting. It shows a lack of focus and patience. It may also cause an awkward situation if the hiring manager has to wait while you wrap up your phone call. Take this time to review your interview notes and clear your mind.

5. Don’t answer your phone during the interview. In fact, your phone should be off or, at the very least, on silent.

6. Don’t be afraid to take a moment to collect your thoughts before answering any tricky questions. We often feel, especially when we’re nervous, that silence is as bad thing in an interview. A few seconds of silence is better than an ill-suited, rambling answer.

7. Don’t make any off-color jokes or comments. Everyone has a Jiminy Cricket inside. If you feel like you have to preface your statement with, “I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but . . .”, then don’t.

Same goes for any examples that aren’t related to your work history. It’s great if you made 54 pies for your church bake sale, but unless you’re interviewing at a bakery, there are probably better examples of your multitasking abilities.

8. Don’t bring up salary expectations during initial interviews. There are different schools of thought of how you should respond if the hiring manager broaches the subject, but let him or her be the one to initiate that conversation.

My advice if you are asked about salary expectations, give the interviewer a salary range you would be comfortable with. Make sure you do your market research before giving a range. Also, keep in mind the level of position you are interviewing for. A human resources administrative assistant is probably going to be making less than a human resources generalist or manager.

9. Don’t bring up any other benefits, either. Don’t ask how soon insurance kicks in or how quickly you can utilize the employee discount. This is an instant red flag you’re only in it for reaping the benefits as quickly as possible and not interested in landing a great job. A sense of entitlement in an applicant is not appealing.

10. Don’t forget to ask questions. Remember interviews are a two-way street. You’re trying to figure out if a position and company are right for you. Just make sure your questions are thoughtful and will help you gain some insight. Never ask such things as, “So, what does this company do?”

If this all seems a little overwhelming, I have an insider’s tip for ya: Human resources and hiring managers are a lot more forgiving than you think when it comes to nervousness. We appreciate sincerity and understand how awful interviews can be. When we’re all-too-eager to shuffle an interviewee out the door, it’s usually because of a lack of effort, enthusiasm, or there is a high level of cockiness. It’s okay to be a little bit nervous. A lack of nervousness usually indicates a lack of caring.

You can do this!

Positive Thought of the Day:

“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” – John Maxwell

“When you go in for a job interview, I think a good thing to ask is if they ever press charges.” – Jack Handy

Happy Valetine’s Day, Friends! Here’s to jobs we love . . . whether it’s a job we’re in or hope to have in the near future!

What’s one thing that will ALWAYS make my heart go a-flutter?? A job interview. It’s not roses, jewelry, or romantic dinners that make my knees go weak. It’s prepping for, sitting through, and rehashing every detail of a job interview. Here is a quick list of do’s to hopefully guide you through the heartache. We’ll cover the don’ts in the not-too-distant future.

Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Do be on time. Being on time encompasses many things. Obviously, it means don’t be late. If something unforeseen happens and tardiness is unavoidable, make sure to have the company’s phone number handy so you can give call of warning. When you arrive, express a sincere apology for the delay.

Being on time also includes not being TOO EARLY! I have had people show up as early as 45 minutes because they misgauged how quickly they could get to the office. If you arrive too early, take a walk, sit in your car, find a coffee shop or someplace to go until it’s time for your interview. Showing up excessively early shows a lack of respect for the interviewer’s time and could cause a very awkward scheduling situation. Interviewers should always be respectful of the job seeker’s time, as well, but they are not obligated to rearrange their day because of your eagerness/timing.

Plan to be at your interview 5-7 minutes early.

2. Do double-check your information. I had this happen to me recently, and, luckily, I avoided a potentially embarrassing situation. I had a quick phone interview with the manager of a position I had applied to and was moved on to the next round. Right before I went in to meet the manager face-to-face my gut told me to recheck my voicemail to make sure I had her name right. At first I thought, “Naw! You’re just being paranoid!” But, self-doubt won and, sure as shootin’, I was wrong.

Make sure you have the manager’s name and the title of the position in your brain. When you’re applying for multiple positions, it’s easy to blur together the names of various jobs you’ve applied to. Also, having the correct names of who you interviewed with is of the utmost importance when sending out thank yous.

3. Do your research. In this day-and-age of technology, information is literally at your fingertips. Comb through the company’s website to see how its mission and values align with what you could bring to the position.

Then go outside the company to find out about its reputation. You might even school a company on how they’re doing! I recently had a hiring manager state she wasn’t aware that her company had received an A+ rating through the Better Business Bureau.

Also remember that interviews are a two-way street. If you’re interviewing for a company that has a less than stellar reputation for customer service, company culture, etc., this is your opportunity to have them address that. Just make sure you’re tactful in approaching the subject. “In doing research of Company X, I found concerns regarding (insert issue). How is the company moving towards addressing such concerns?” How they handle that question is a great indicator of their overall culture and ability to problem solve.

Show your interest and initiative by doing your homework before stepping into an interview.

4. Do make eye contact. I spent an entire semester in college focusing on nonverbal communication. It was one of the most fascinating classes I have ever taken. When we get nervous we tend to look anywhere but into people’s eyes. This sends the subliminal messages that you lack confidence or participate in shifty behavior.

Good eye contact should last between three to five seconds. If you just can’t bring yourself to look into someone’s eyes then look at their eyebrows. They won’t know the difference. Don’t stare too long, though. You want to portray confidence; not steal their soul.

5. Do remember to smile. A hiring manager can get a decent picture of your skills by reading your resume. An interview is meant to see how you, the overall package, would fit into the company’s culture. Even if a business isn’t having weekly Twister games on Friday, no one wants to hire a grump.

6. Do bring extra copies of your resumes. Nine times out of ten they will have a copy, but there is always that tenth time. Offering an extra copy also shows you are thoughtful and prepared.

7. Do have an arsenal of answers ready. I’d be very surprised if a hiring manager didn’t ask such things as:

*Tell me about yourself.

*What are your strengths/weaknesses.

*Can you give an example of an accomplishment/challenging situation?

Have a basic understanding of how you want to answer the most frequently asked interview questions. While you want to tailor your answers to each position you’re interviewing for, the backbone of each answer will remain the same. Know what you want to say. It’ll keep you from rambling.

8. Do a practice run. Either enlist a friend to do a mock interview or give answers to common interview questions in the mirror. I have to admit that it took me a long time to get on the bandwagon for the latter. I fooled myself into thinking that looking at myself while running through my information while looking in a mirror would make me more nervous. I was right. It did make me nervous, but it also forced me to work through those nerves. I was able to work through my nervousness and polish my answers to potential questions.

Will practicing in front of a mirror completely eliminate the interview jangles?? No. Hopefully it will lessen them enough for you to really shine through.

9. Do send thank you notes after the interview. If you interviewed with multiple people, send a thank you to each individual. Send them 24 to 48 hours after the interview. Now is not the time for funny cards. A simple blank thank you card will do.

10. Do have a short-term memory. Whether you nailed it or crashed and burned, the time to move on to the next possibility starts as soon as you walk out the door. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is so terrible you can’t move on from it. Keep the wheels moving!

Valentine’s Day isn’t about relationships. It’s about love! Tell someone in your life you love them. Gratitude and happiness are two great weapons to keep in your back pocket while searching for that great match!

Positive Thought of the Day:

“So many people out there have no idea what they want to do for a living, but they think that by going on job interviews they’ll magically figure it out. If you’re not sure, that message comes out loud and clear in the interview.” – Todd Bermont

"Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Resumes: The Art of Packaging of What Ya Got. Whether you’re fresh out of school or have a work history as long as my leg, writing a great resume is vital. Writing a great resume can also be daunting. How does one package their career, part of their life’s history, into something compelling enough to make a manager feel you might be the right fit for his or her team? While ultimately your voice needs to come through your resume, we’ll go over some basic resume formats.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

Basic Information:

Regardless of format every resume needs your contact information. Make sure the address listed is where you can most easily pick up your mail in case any paperwork needs to be mailed to you. Your phone number and professional e-mail should also be listed. Even if you don’t have Internet at home you should still have an e-mail set up. More and more companies are contacting applicants online, and application confirmations are also being sent electronically. Another thing to remember is to make sure your outgoing ring and voicemail message are professional sounding. No hiring manager is going to want to hear Justin Bieber’s newest smash hit or you yelling, “LEAVE ME A MESSAGE, YO!!”

Whether you center your contact message or left justify it, each bit of information should get its own line and your name should be bolded and one to two font sizes bigger than the rest of your resume. Getting your name stuck in their heads’ is important.

Lindsay Haugen

XXX Awesome Street

Anywhere, MN 56549

Types of Resumes:

Chronological. Pretty self-explanatory but this format lists all of your work and leadership experience in the order of most recent until your very first position. This is the most common and most preferred. It’s the easiest way to scan through someone’s work history to see how long they’ve been at each position or if there are any employment gaps.

Functional. This focuses more on skills and experience rather than listing a chronological work history. This is usually used by job seekers who are doing a career change or have significant employment gaps due to such things as going back to school or staying at home to raise a family.

Targeted. This is where you list key skills and experience geared towards a specific job posting before listing a chronological work history. This can be time-consuming because you have to really have to take a close eye to what a job posting is asking for to pull out key components of your past that will fit the bill.

Format Side Note:

Regardless of what format you use any collegiate experience should be listed. If you’re just out of high school and need a resume for either college or a job you’re applying to, you should list that. Otherwise, even if that is your highest degree earned, your high school graduation is probably not needed. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I feel that most hiring managers are going to assume a person has a high school diploma or GED.  Either way that information can be explained on an application.

Long story longer: Education can be listed at the beginning or end of a resume. If you’re fairly new out of school, I would list it at the beginning of your resume. Once a person hits right around the five year mark of being out school, education can move towards the end of your resume. Your graduation date can come off as well. In all candor, graduation dates are simple math gateways to how old a person is.

If you are still in college and starting to apply to jobs to get a jump on starting your career or if you’re near the end of obtaining an advanced degree, simply put “Expected graduation date May 2012”. Never list a degree until you have it in your hand.

True story: At a former job there was a situation where a person listed a degree thinking they had everything needed to graduate done only to find out a credit wasn’t completed, which actually caused their diploma to be pending until the issue was resolved. Talk about an awkward conversation AFTER the resume was submitted with a degree listed.

Whew! That was a mouthful! Hang in there. Once you get your information laid out, polishing it up will be a piece of cake. German chocolate . . . with that weird coconut frosting.

Next time we’ll cover some basic do’s and don’ts of resume writing.

Positive Thought of the Day:
“It takes more than just a good looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.” – Epictetus