As part of a former position, I ran a small retained search agency. Back then, I put together a small list of things that all job searchers should probably read, a sort-of public-service announcement for job seekers. It’s been a while since then, so I’ve revisited this piece. Admittedly, it’s a tad sarcastic in spots, but I still find it fairly relevant to the life of an HR worker (and reasonably good advice for candidates). Hope it comes in handy for some people.
- Show Up for the Interview. You’d think this would be obvious, but I assure you it’s not. I had one week when two candidates eliminated themselves from the proceedings by simply not showing up. My question was: Why bother sending me your resume if you’re not going to show up?
- Don’t Be a Dork. One guy wanted to reschedule his interview, for the third time, so that Best Buy could deliver his new stove. I restrained myself from pointing out that the stove, of course, merely cooks the food; the job provides the money with which you buy the food. So, ask yourself which one is more important. (Not that I believe that this guy had actually ordered such an appliance.)
- Shut Up / Zip It. When I get up from the table and shake your hand, it means the interview’s over and I appreciated your time (and that, if you were good, I might call you back). It doesn’t signal the opportunity to open up a whole new line of thought that you had ample time to bring up 15 minutes ago. I also don’t need you to sum up the interview for me after we’ve just conducted it. This is an insult and signals that you believe I either didn’t pay attention or didn’t understand the magnitude of your greatness.
- Get a Hair Cut. Yes, Corporate America is evil and we live in a free country where you’re encouraged to make a statement with wild hairdos. But, don’t be shocked if no one calls you back. (And a Tic-Tac wouldn’t kill you, either!) Seriously, this issue will cost you the job everywhere except the west coast. (Note: My hair is long, and I live in Portland now!)
- Don’t Wow Me with Written Reference Letters. I do appreciate being given a list of references. But, I want to call them, not read a two-page inventory of how great you were when you worked where ever it was that you did (yet are somehow not there any longer, even though your leaving was a major blow to the company).
- Don’t Apply for a Job For Which You’re Clearly Unqualified. I can’t fault your enthusiasm, but I can at least help you by stating that you’re wasting your precious time by writing a cover letter about how, although you lack all of the qualities I enumerated in that pricey listing, you’d nonetheless own this role. Again, “A for effort,” but your letter hits the circular file pronto.
- Calm Down. Either people get way too nervous, or there’s a seriously widespread outbreak of “the chills” going around. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s only a job interview, not testimony before Congress. Take a chill pill and just relax. Seriously, maybe a Valium.
- Just Answer the Questions. Yes, I’m asking you things that I could have read on your resume. Play along, though. There are reasons HR people do this. And, if I ask you a question that sounds straightforward, like “How would people you know describe your personality?”, it actually IS straightforward. Don’t be paranoid; it’s not some elaborate psychological profile. (Oh, and, ahem, don’t pay attention to that two-way mirror in wall behind you.) Seriously, though, most of the time, HR people aren’t looking for super-duper spectacular answers to questions. They just want you to reflect some semblance of normalcy. They want to hear, “Oh, I’m a regular guy … friendly, professional, responsible, easy to work with, etc.” Each question an HR person asks gives you three options: (1) say something amazing, (2) say something normal, and (3) say something that’s going to completely eliminate you. You can get the job by staying at #2 the whole time. If you have a few #1 answers, you’ll almost certainly get it. But utter one #3, and you’re done.
- Be At Least a Little Difficult. Has no one out there taken a negotiation class, or at least read a negotiation book? Well, I certainly won’t hold it against you if, when I ask you your salary, you simply respond honestly. But (and, again, I guess this is just my personal take), why not at least be a little difficult here? It’s really one of the few areas you’re allowed to get a little screwy and not have it count against you. I’m not suggesting you lie, of course. But, why not at least start by skirting the issue a little bit — by, for example, telling me that your salary is “within range of the figure mentioned in my ad for this position”? Come on, guys, it’s all a big game. Won’t anyone play it with me?
- Send Me the Professional Thank-You. Those a quick, brief emails show me that you’re professional and courteous. This one isn’t a deal-breaker, but it can affirm my intuition that you were the one I was leaning toward for the role.
✍🏻 Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” and a web design blog, “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine.” He also contributes to various Medium.com publications. Find him at JPDbooks.com, his Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, or via email at Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. His latest novel, CHROO, is available on Amazon.com. If you enjoy humorous literary tales, please grab a copy!