Evil Career Lady posted the latest Carnival of HR and cleverly tied a lot of great information together with the hilarious theme of good reasons why she should be fired. Enjoy!
I recently filled a position for a company. It came down to two finalists - let's call them Dierdre and Fred. Both had strong backgrounds and references, but Dierdre consistently outshone Fred through out the interview process that included meetings with the Hiring Manager, a panel of peers, and the Owner of the company. She was more prepared for the interviews, more articulate, more assertive about her ideas for how she could contribute, and generally more fun to interview.
As I conversed with the hiring manager about which candidate to make an offer to, we agreed that we would make the offer to Dierdre. We also agreed that Fred was a strong player but just not right for this role. We discussed another position that we expected to come open within the next couple of months that might be a good match for him. I sent Fred a personalized letter thanking him for the time and interest he had invested in the company, acknowledging his considerable skills, and suggesting that we would save his resume and perhaps talk again in the future. To my dismay I received this e-mail in response:
"Thank you for your response. Obviously, I had wished that it had been a more positive message. Personally, I thought my skill set and those required for the position were a reasonably good match."
Fred's passive-aggressive e-mail demonstrates both poor judgment and poor communication skills and confirms our choice of Deidre for the position. It also ensures that we won't be contacting him if and when the other position opens up.
The moral of the story is: whether you win the job or not, be gracious. You never know what other opportunities may be available for you, and being petty will never get you anywhere worthwhile.
Recent research out of Germany suggests that employees who are forced to smile and take insults from customers at work are more likely to suffer from stress and poor health. That seems like common sense to me. People who are "forced" to do anything typically experience stress, and certainly it's stressful to be insulted by anyone - customer or otherwise.
What surprised me was the proposed solution:
"[The Researcher] found that those able to answer back had a brief increase in heart rate. Those who could not had stress symptoms that lasted much longer....[and] suggested that people who must keep smiling on the job should get regular breaks to let it out."
I'd like to know what the researchers mean by "answering back." According to dictionary.com (see #23) it means:
"answer back, to reply impertinently or rudely."
Maybe I am a dinosaur, but I am from the school of "the customer is always right." When I first entered the workforce some 20 years ago I was taught that while there are plenty of times that the customer is not necessarily "right" in a literal sense, any customer who was prepared to spend money on a product or service offered by my employer deserved to be treated with respect which included listening to him, and working to create a mutually satisfying solution. I would never have dreamed of "answering back." Besides the potential for harming my career, I wouldn't have been proud of myself for sinking to the level of an insulting customer.
Fortunately for me, I had bosses and co-workers who taught me to take pride in being creative in finding ways for both the customer and my company to "win." It became something of a game and was actually rather fun to have a challenging situation come up where I could transform an unhappy customer into a happy one. Often it forged stronger customer relationships in the process. Along the way, I developed communication and business skills that have served me well over the course of my career.
Obviously, the research situation was not real. No matter how bad some workplaces can be, I suspect there are very few where workers are routinely subjected to insults and "forced" to smile. So if you are in a situation where you sometimes are faced with difficult customers, go ahead and smile. Treat it as a chance to use your creativity and innovation to solve a business problem and take pride in producing great results. I guarantee you the high you get from that type of success will far exceed any temporally relief you feel from "answering back."
It's a drum I beat often - when it comes to the job search, most people stand or fall on the basics. One such basic job search technique that I often counsel job seekers to use is to think of every possible question you may be asked in an interview, and then write out your answers (preferably in long hand) in advance. You don't need to take these answers with you - in fact I don't recommend it. But the simple act of writing out your answers in advance will force you to clarify your own thinking on a variety of important issues related to the job at hand, and will help you be more articulate and succinct in the interview.
Julia Penny at The best-job-interview.com has some great resources to help you do this - she provides a list of typical interview questions and another list of tough questions. She also gives you helpful background on why recruiters and hiring managers ask certain questions and what they are listening for in your answers.
If I had a chance to place a bet on it, I would say that fewer than 25% of candidates will go through the time and effort to research potential interview questions and think through their answers. By going through this exercise you will do two important things:
Ultimately, you will stand out from the pool of candidates and have a better chance of winning the job!
When it comes to the job search, I've often said that most people stand or fall on the basics. MSN Careers has a great article on 25 of the basics. Some of my personal faves are:
7. Typos. Sending a cover letter or résumé filled with grammatical mistakes and typographical errors shows hiring managers you don't care about the quality of your work and probably not about the job, either.
9. Focusing on yourself and not on the company in the cover letter. "When 'I' is the predominant subject – and there are times when it is the onlysubject of all the sentences in the cover letter – it indicates to me that they don't understand my organization and its needs, and, in fact, says they don't care to know," says Dion McInnis, associate vice president for university advancement at University of Houston-Clear Lake. "And therefore, I don't care to know them."
16. Not researching the position. Your chief objective in an interview is convincing the hiring manager you're the best candidate for the job. How can you prove your qualifications if you don't have an idea of what skills you're expected to have and what your responsibilities will be?
19. Forgetting you're being interviewed from the moment you walk in. Just because you're not sitting down at a desk across from the hiring manager, don't think you're not being evaluated. For example, employers will often ask their receptionists if you were nice to them.
You can read the rest of the article here.
Our friend Jason found out that he will have a second interview this week. He e-mailed me the following question:
Question: What can/should I wear to my interview tomorrow? I wore a navy suit last week. The hiring manager had a golf polo, khaki pants, and brown loafers. The President stopped by for 10-15 minutes. He wore dress pants and a dress shirt with no tie. Do I need to wear a suit again? Would it be acceptable to wear a shirt and tie without a jacket? Or do I need to skip the tie and dress like the President was dressed?
First, I love it that Jason is not afraid to ask any question, no matter how small, in order to prep for this interview. I don't care whether he takes my advice or not - ultimately he has to decide what will work for him. But I love that he's willing to check and see what other perspectives have to offer. I also like that he is not taking for granted that he first heard of the opportunity through a family friend.
I was back-to-back with client stuff today so I fired off a quick reply:
Slacks, sport coat, and open necked shirt (polo or collarless would be fine). I'd keep the jacket because you don't know if they had one hanging in their office. Ditch the tie so you don't look like a) you are trying to one-up them, and b) you can't read an environment. (Note - I also included info about Nordstrom half-yearly men's sale this week and their fabulous Smartcare shirts for men!)
What do you think? What would you have told him?
Ask a Manager has a great posting about how to answer the all important question about your salary requirements. I like her advice, and I think I offer additional good advice in the comment I left on the posting:
"I think many folks get scared of the salary question because it feels so very personal (most of us have hangups/issues with money, right?). That's why the key here is to treat it like a business question rather than a personal question. I am in favor of Ask A Manager's point that the candidate should do some research. With the salary calculator on hotjobs.com you can get a pretty reasonable range for most jobs. Then when the salary question comes up you're not answering personally about your own finances, but you are able to say something like, "Based on my market research, positions at this level in this industry, with this scope of responsibility typically pay between $XX and $XX and that range is acceptable to me." Then follow up with a business question: "Is that within the range you have priced the job at?" If you've done your research and your price range is accurate, they will be impressed! If they get cagey with you about their range and aren't forthcoming, you are going to learn a LOT about whether you really want to work there or not!"
Read here for the details!