Job hiring tales from the trenches

Posted by on November 19, 2009 in Jobs

I have had to hire a lot recently. This is not because I have a ton of jobs that need to be filled. Instead, I am replacing employees who do not make it past probation (a future post altogether once I have some time to digest what each side did wrong) or departing employees. It is pretty much a given that finding a job is difficult and will continue to be difficult for some time.

What I have found interesting though is how many people do not find jobs because of some self-defeating job searching strategies. If you are looking for a job, I hope you can learn from the experiences of others:

  1. Follow the instructions. I advertised a job on a job board asking for salary expectations. Of the first 11 resumes I got, only one actually answered the question. The potential employer thinks: “If you cannot follow instructions before you get the job, how will you follow instruction as an employee?” I understand you can low-ball yourself speaking about salary before you get the job but a simple “I would like to discuss salary expectations with you after I understand the position better and understand what value I can bring to your organization” would have been a perfectly satisfactory response and showed you can follow instructions.  Follow the process or you are merely giving an excuse to a potential employer not to even look at your resume.
  2. A resume is not a list of job duties. It is a marketing document about your accomplishments. It is not particularly impressive if you were the assistant manager at the Gap and you greeted customers and supervised staff. What is more impressive to a potential employer is if you helped contribute to that Gap store being the top selling store in the region and you lead a sales staff that stayed together a long time attesting to your leadership qualities. Job searching is personalized marketing. Use action words in your resume to show your value.
  3. Put something interesting about your work history or yourself in your resume. It is a conversation piece in interviews. You read enough resumes and they all seem the same. You attend enough interviews and the answers seemed canned too (so are some of the questions, he writes guiltily). Everything and everyone just blurs into one. But you end up with something slightly unorthodox- emphasis on slight- and it stands out. I ended up interviewing someone simply because they had such an interesting work history. On a separate occasion, I had a long conversation with a person on their hobby of long-distance swimming (think large bodies of water).
  4. The more you can make your interview into a conversation the better. A first interview is a like a first date. It can either be punctuated by a series of awkward silences  or it can be a free flowing conversation. Everyone gets canned interview questions from the top 50 most common interview questions. Be prepared for them. The number of younger job seekers who flub even the simplest of questions was astounding; I asked someone what they liked doing outside of work and they could not answer the question other than “I like to go out.” The more you can move the question from a strict Q & A format, the better off you will be especially if you can begin to guide the conversation to highlight your strengths rather than reactive to questions given to you.
  5. Be careful on the use of email on follow up. Emails lack tone, subtly and nuance. Someone who was hiring at the same time as I was asked me if a job applicant’s follow up email seemed pushy (…and, yes, please do follow up. Another deadly sin of unsuccessful job searches). As it read, it could have been interpreted that way; the applicant was trying to convey how good of a fit they were for the position but it read at times as if they were trying to brow beat the employer into hiring them. You want to stand out from other applicants for the right reason. A hand written note or a well scripted voice mail may help you better than a plain old email (which could go into spam anyways).

This is a particularly tough job market for younger workers. Nurseb911 has some great tips on how younger workers should look for a job. I would whole heatedly agree with his first tip: market yourself. Network to expand who you come in contact with and you never know what opportunities may arise. For those who have bad connotations of the concept of networking, I do not mean glad handing everyone, kissing babies and saying “let’s do lunch” to everyone you meet. I mean just expand your circle.

Finally, one last thought. If you have given up looking for a job for a while,  please volunteer at a local charity. Having volunteer for one myself, charities need money but they also need talented and energetic people who can lend a variety of skill sets.  From an employer’s viewpoint, it also shows you have a heart, have energy and you are embracing new opportunities rather than have them come to you (not to mention the networking opportunities). Best of luck.

12 Comments on Job hiring tales from the trenches

By Ken on November 19, 2009 at 7:08 am

Good tips! I’ll pass these on to my brother. He’s currently out of work.

By Nurseb911 on November 19, 2009 at 10:21 am

Thanks for the link TMW!

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By larry macdonald on November 20, 2009 at 3:25 am

Hey, pretty good advice!

By Jerry on November 20, 2009 at 7:07 pm

This is great advice… I find that so many people ignore the details of what employers STATE that they want, and then wonder what could possibly lead them to be overlooked?! One of the best forms of insurance for getting an interview – let alone a job – is to present oneself well on paper beforehand.

By bs on November 21, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Giving salary expectations is no interview in most cases ….time to look in the mirror

By admin on November 21, 2009 at 3:31 pm

BS- If your salary expectations are too high, I don’t want to waste either party’s time. I would rather be upfront and not interview someone because their expectations are so out of line with budget than raise the expectations of an interview. As I indicated, a perfectly acceptable answer would have been one needs to know more details to properly given an answer.

By Financial Samurai on November 24, 2009 at 12:33 am

Interesting how you guys have a probation period. I think we should do that at my company too, b/c once a bad apple enters, it’s so hard to kick them out!

Good tips mate.


By admin on November 25, 2009 at 12:19 am

Sam- Probation tends not be as common in the U.S. because many states work under an employee at will system which makes letting go of people relatively cheaper. However, employee at will has been eroded through a variety of exemptions without a corresponding spread of probation.

By This and That: Lessons from the Crash and more… | Canadian Capitalist on November 27, 2009 at 12:13 am

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