How Do I Describe My Weaknesses in an Interview?

This is the question almost everyone asks when preparing for a job interview.  Normally people have a good handle on their strengths and can list those with no problem, but the weaknesses almost always create an obstacle for them.  Oftentimes, the dilemma is that they don’t want to mention a weakness that makes them sound…..well….weak.  Thankfully there is no right or wrong answer and the truth of the matter is EVERYONE has strengths and EVERYONE has weaknesses.  It’s just a matter of how you communicate them.  While you want to be honest, you don’t want to raise any unnecessary red flags.

Now, there are 3 important things you want to remember.  First, instead of describing it as a “weakness,” describe it as “an opportunity to improve.”  Just simply changing the wording, instantly makes it seem less horrific.  Secondly, when answering this question end on a positive note and have a way to fix it.  This says to an employer that you are already aware of the issue and you are being proactive about correcting it. Thirdly, only have 1 or 2 areas that you need to improve. This is NOT the time to get carried away and list all your insecurities. Remember, you are trying to get a job so don’t air your dirty laundry!

OK….I have a feeling that you’re probably still not convinced.  You’re not completely sold on the idea of being able to tell someone your less than flattering work habits in an eloquent manner.  You’re still skeptical aren’t you?  At this point you’ve probably recalled a job interview that you’ve had in the past where you were asked this question and instantly began panicking.  Luckily for you, today is the day the panicking stops.  You’re going to get the help you need to be able to successfully get through this portion of the interview without sending your potential employer running for the hills.  So, let’s just get right to it…let’s turn those “weaknesses” into “opportunities to improve.” Below are some examples of the most common “weaknesses” and ways you can present them more positively.

1)  Arriving late for work or not completing tasks on time

“An area that I can improve is my time management.  I realize that things must be done in a timely manner and not being on time affects the overall flow of business. In a team environment, everyone depends on each other so timeliness is important.   To help with this, I have begun to set reminders for myself throughout the day and set my watch 5 minutes early.”

2) Fear of public speaking

“An area that I can improve is my public speaking because sometimes I’m concerned that I might not be communicating effectively. I try to overcome this by practicing in advance and being very familiar with my topic.  This puts me at ease and allows me to connect with my audience and deliver a good presentation. I know the more I practice,the better I will become in this area.”

3) Trying to be a perfectionist or not feeling confident in your work

“An area that I can improve is not trying to be a perfectionist.  I have to constantly remember to not be so hard on myself and give myself room to grow. I believe that once I become more skilled at a job, I will be more confident and not feel the need to spend so much time double checking my work.”

4) Taking on too much work or not knowing how to say no to others

“An area that I can improve is not taking on too much work and learning how to say no to others.  I am very passionate about my work and I like to stay busy.  However, sometimes I can get a little overwhelmed. I am learning that it is okay to not be busy every second of the day and taking a break can sometimes be very helpful.  Also, I know my co-workers will understand once I explain that I’m not able to help them because my plate is already full.”

5) Bringing your work home with you instead of leaving it at the office

“An area that I can improve is not bringing my work home with me at night. Oftentimes, I continue to worry about things at work after I have left for the day.  I am learning that it is very important to have work-life balance so that I can have time to spend with those that I care about. If I find myself thinking about work after hours, I just make a note as a reminder to take care of it the next day.”

6) Needing to improve your leadership skills

“An area that I am working to improve is my leadership skills.  I like for things to be done efficiently so it can cause me to sometimes get a little frustrated.  I am learning to take a step back and be confident in the skills of others.  If I feel something needs to be done differently, I make sure I am clear with my expectations and give my team the tools they need to be successful.   Communication is definitely the key.”

So you see…it can be done.  Saying what your “areas of improvement” are doesn’t have to be a scary thing. You can present them in a way that shows your potential employer you are just like everybody else – NOT PERFECT!  Your particular weakness might not be listed above, but I’m sure you can tailor your answer based on the few examples I gave.  Remember, there is no right or wrong answer and ending on a positive note makes all the difference.

Happy Interviewing!

Is Your Email Etiquette Costing You the Job?

hey dena its michael, here is an updated  resume…thank you so much for taking time out of your day for helping me with my resume!

Would you respond to this email if it came from a complete stranger? No? An employer wouldn’t either.  This is an actual email I got about 3 years ago while working at a university from an alumnus who had graduated a year prior.  He called me because he was having a hard time finding a job in his field and wanted me to take a look at his resume to see if it needed improving.  A few days later that one line is what I received in my inbox with his resume attached.  My initial response was to delete the email because I was so put off by the lack of professionalism and not to mention he didn’t even capitalize my name!!  After a few hours of thinking about what I am called to do as a Career Consultant, I retrieved the email out of my trash folder and took a look at the resume he sent.  I responded to the email with my suggestions and explained to him the inappropriateness of his email. I told him that his lack of email etiquette is a reflection of his lack of professionalism and this could very well be contributing to his inability to get the job he desired. I explained to him that I initially deleted his email and that an employer would have surely deleted it without a second thought.  I reminded him to always be professional especially with those whom he does not have a close relationship with and is requesting help from.  This was the response to my email:

Good afternoon Ms. Bilbrew,

I am so glad for your help with my resume. Your time and effort is greatly appreciated!  Here is my updated resume with the following corrections that you advised. Hopefully I am getting somewhere with it. Thank you so much for your help with this.

Michael Jones

I am convinced that something happened in January 2014.  I think I missed the memo that said all email etiquette has gone out the window.  Did anybody else miss it? I mean there must have been a memo that went out because this is when I started receiving an abundance of emails with no subject, no greeting, and nothing written in the body.  I guess the memo said that the person whom you are sending the email to will just automatically know what you want them to do with the document you attached??!!  Also, I believe our daily messaging on social media and in text messages contributes to our lackluster email habits.  In case no has told you, communicating on social media is different from communicating with an employer.  Employers receive hundreds of emails each week from potential candidates and their time is very valuable.  They don’t have time to try to figure out what you meant to say and they most definitely do not have to give you a second chance like I did with the person I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

I get emails everyday from people requesting my help and keep in mind these emails are from people who want assistance with getting to the next step in their career.  If you are unprofessional with me, how unprofessional are you when communicating with potential employers?  Your email etiquette is a reflection of you and your professionalism.  Sometimes it may be the only thing a person has to go by if they do not know you personally and it should ALWAYS be professional.  Now of course, I’m not talking about the emails you send to your family and friends.  I’m talking about the emails you are sending to a potential employer to apply for a job, follow-up to an interview or networking event, or inquire as to your status in the hiring process.  Failure to effectively communicate in the emails you are sending could very well cost you the job!  Most of the time you will only get one shot and there are some important tips to keep in mind:

1) Be Professional

Be as professional in your emails as you would be if talking to them in person.

2) Include a Subject

Employers receive tons of email so you want to choose a subject that will get their attention and perhaps cause them to open your email first.  Examples of subject lines would be – “Assistant Manager Job Opening” or “Thank You – Assistant Manager Interview” or “Professional Networking Event Follow Up” or “Jane Doe Resume for Assistant Manager Position.”

3) Start with a  Greeting or Salutation

When you walk up to people in person, you normally speak first, right?  Well a greeting/salutation serves the same purpose in an email.  Something as simple as “Hello Mr. Smith,” or “Good morning Michelle,” will suffice. (Note:  Use their first name only if they have told you it’s okay or you know them well enough to do so.)

4) Get to the Point Quickly

Did I mention that employers are busy?  They don’t have all day to read an email with you beating around the bush.  You should be able to say what you want to say in a few sentences.

5) Give Them a Reason to Respond to You

This may take a little thought as you will need to be strategic.  If following up to an interview or networking event, you can always ask them a question about something discussed when you met.  If you are reaching out for the first time, mention what you are wanting from them without being too overbearing.

6) Type the Email Address Last

When sending an email to an employer, you will probably be nervous while you are making sure you are communicating effectively.  Be sure to type up your email and attach any documents FIRST and THEN type in the employer’s email address last.  This will avoid you inadvertently hitting the send button out of nervousness and your email wasn’t ready.  Oops!

Keep in mind that employers are using email more and more these days to communicate with candidates. They are more likely to respond to you via email to set up an interview or follow-up with you than call you on the phone.  So email etiquette is more important now than ever before.

Happy Emailing!!

 

 

 

 

All Promotions Are Not Vertical

When you think of someone getting a promotion, it normally goes like this – Assistant Director > Director > Executive Director.  People normally move up the chain of command in a pretty orderly manner.  Once you have proven yourself and have performed satisfactorily in your current position you can be elevated to the next level.  Promotion by definition means “the act of moving someone to a higher or more important position or rank.”  But who really decides what a promotion is for YOU?  Only you can decide that.

Most people look at what they do everyday as just a job.  It is just something that they do to make money to support themselves and their family.  However, you should look at your job in a different way.  You should look at it as an assignment and it is what you have been assigned to do for a particular period of time.  Once you have finished your assignment, then it is time to move on.  At that point you are eligible for a promotion.  BUT not all promotions are vertical – some are lateral or horizontal and may come in many forms.

I was promoted to a manager position a while back, then later transferred to 2 other locations doing the exact same thing.  Even though my job title and duties didn’t change, it was a still a promotion because my assignment at each previous location was complete. I had done what was required of me – trained employees, increased sales, organized the store, built customer base, etc.  Also throughout my career I have been laid off twice, but I considered each time to be a promotion. Why? Because with each lay off, I was able to reprogram myself and switch industries and take my career to the next level.  So, for me personally, I was moving up in rank.

Do you want a promotion? Do you want to be elevated to the next level? Do you think it is time for you to move on?  You first have to perform your current job satisfactorily and complete your assignment…..THEN your promotion will come.  I know you think you are ready now, but perhaps you need just a little bit more training and/or experience. One thing I have learned throughout my career is that each assignment is just preparation for the next.  Just be patient, your promotion will come and it may come in a different form than you expected.

 

Don’t Suffer from Job Application Phobia – FAQ

I was on Twitter the other day and a young lady commented, “Having to fill out the job application makes you not want the d*mn job!” It was at that moment that I knew it was time to write this article as I totally agreed with her and felt her pain.  During your job search, you will probably fill out several LONNNNNNG online applications.  It can be a very frustrating and tedious process; however, you needn’t suffer from job application phobia.  While each application is different, there are some general guidelines that can be used across the board.  I hope my responses to these FAQs help get you through the process while keeping your sanity!

1) Why are job applications so long and detailed?

Sometimes I secretly think they make them so long to see if you actually really want the job and want to go through and answer all their questions!!  But seriously, filling out the job application is very important and should not be minimized as employers use this as a screening device. If they see a half-completed application, they may assume that the person is not really that serious about the job and you will most likely be skipped over for the interview. Employers have carefully designed their questions to get the information they need to determine if you are a good fit.  The saying is true: “Resumes tell the employers what YOU want them to know and job applications tell them what THEY want to know.”  So be prepared to spend 30 minutes to an hour per job application.  In case no one has told you, looking for a job IS a job!

2) Do I have to fill out the entire application?

No you don’t, but keep in mind that might cost you the chance to interview.  If you want to proceed to the next step, you definitely have to fill out at least the required fields.

3) Should I have my resume and cover letter prepared beforehand? 

YES!! This will save you a lot of time.  Having your cover letter and resume already prepared means all you have to do is upload it or copy and paste it.  Some applications require a cover letter and some don’t, but it is better to have it prepared beforehand then to have to stop in the middle of the process and develop one.

4) What information do I need regarding previous/current jobs?

Most applications want information on the last 3 – 4 jobs you’ve had.  So it would be a good idea right now while you’re thinking about it to make a list of pertinent information for those jobs.  You know they are going to ask for this information so having it already written down BEFOREHAND will save you so much agony!!!  You should have the following information:   A) company name and address, B) supervisor’s name, title, and phone number, C) hire date and end date, D) starting and ending salary, E) your job title and accomplishments and F) reason why you left that job.  Basically, your success in filling out applications will be determined largely by how prepared you are.

5) What if I worked for a company that no longer exists or my supervisor no longer works there?

Just give the most recent contact information that you had for the company and/or supervisor.  You can explain in an interview that the company shut down or your supervisor left.  If just your particular location doesn’t exist anymore, give the information for the main office or headquarters. Human Resources should be able to verify the information employers need.

6) Should I submit my references at the same time as my application?

If you are given the option to include references, I would go ahead and submit them.  Now remember, your references should be 3 people whom you’ve had a professional relationship with for about a year.  That could be a supervisor, co-worker, professor, or someone you’ve worked with in a volunteer capacity – not family or friends.  Your references should be up-to-date and not go back to someone you had a relationship with more than 3 years ago, but there may be some exceptions.  I normally update my references every 6 months whether I am looking for a job or not.  That way when the time comes I already have the people and information I need.  Oh yeah, be sure to give your references a copy of your resume and give them a ‘heads up’ if an employer will be calling them about you.

7) Why do they ask you your graduation date from high school and/or college?

My guess would be to try to figure out your age.  Most people graduate high school at 17 or 18 and college at 21 or 22.  So depending on the year of your graduation, they can add it up and figure how old you are.  They may use your age to discriminate against you if they feel that you are too old or too young. I only fill in the graduate date if it is mandatory.  (If you haven’t actually graduated yet, you can put the month and year that you plan to graduate.)

8) What should I put as my reason for leaving a job if I was fired?

You can write “would like to discuss in the interview.” That way you can explain the circumstances surrounding your termination.  Now you can’t do this for every job, but if there is one job that you feel needs to be explained in person, then it is acceptable.  I was a hiring manager for a number of years and when I saw that someone wanted to discuss in the interview their reason for leaving a job, that did not stop me from calling them.  (Tip:  Make sure when you discuss it in the interview, you discuss it positively.  See my blog:  “How Do I Talk About Being Fired In an Interview?”)

9) What should I put when asked about desired salary?

Always give a range if you can such as $50,000 – $55,000/year or $20.00 – $25.00/hour based on research you have done in your field or what was mentioned in the job description. Having a range gives you more flexibility when it’s time to negotiate.

10) Is it okay to put “see resume” anywhere on the application?

Absolutely not!!  More than likely you can just copy and paste the information directly from your resume.  Don’t be lazy!!  Remember, applications are part of your first impression.

11) What should I put if an answer is required but the question doesn’t pertain to me? 

You should write “NA”  or “Not Applicable.”

12) Is it okay to say that I don’t want my current boss to be contacted?

That is perfectly fine. I always say that I don’t want my current boss to be contacted because I don’t want them to know that I am looking for a job.  The only exception was when I was transferring to another team/location within my same company.

13) Do I have to answer questions regarding ethnicity, sex, veteran or disability status?

No, you don’t have to answer these questions.  Ideally, these questions are asked to ensure fair hiring practices of all genders and ethnic groups.  As a hiring manager I had to submit a form monthly to my corporate office detailing how many male, female, Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, etc. applicants I had.  This was to ensure I was giving everyone a fair chance and wasn’t just hiring people who looked like me (African-American women).

I have seen an increase in applications wanting to know if you are a veteran.  My personal belief is that due to reports in recent years that veterans are not able to find jobs once they return home, companies have been given incentives to hire them.  As far as the disability question, it should be done to assess what additional assistance would be necessary for disabled candidates to be able to perform the same job as everyone else.

Now of course, all of the above information could be used to discriminate against you.  That’s why I said you don’t have to disclose that information and you can simply select ‘I prefer not to answer.’

14) Do I have to give my social security and driver’s license numbers?

Only if it is mandatory.  Other than that, you can leave it blank or put “will provide later.”  This information really shouldn’t be needed until the background check is done and you can provide it at that time.

15) What does the fine print on applications really mean?

This is the part normally at the end of the application and you should definitely read it carefully.  Most of the time it is regarding the truthfulness of your responses and confirming you didn’t knowingly give false information.  Some applications may have statements authorizing them to do a background, employment, and credit check.  So again, make sure you read the entire application and are in agreement with what you are submitting.

16) Is it okay to email my resume and cover letter to someone at the company AND submit an application?

You always want to be mindful of the directions in the job description.  If it says “No emails or phone calls,” then make sure you follow instructions.  Of course, if you personally know someone who works at the company and want them to pass your resume/cover letter along to the hiring manager, that is okay.  Just make sure you always submit the application regardless because there are legal ramifications regarding companies not following the proper hiring procedures.

17) How long does it take to hear something after I have submitted my application?

That depends.  It could be 3 – 4 days up to 3 – 4 weeks or more.  How long it takes could be determined by how many applications they get, how soon they are looking to fill the position, how busy they are or when Human Resources gives them the green light to start setting up interviews.

BONUS TIP:

PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD!  Most applications give you the opportunity to proofread before submitting.  It is very important that you take the time to do this so that you don’t have any mistakes or misspelled words. Also don’t use abbreviations.

 

Today I Woke Up With No Job (6 Tips to Survive Unemployment)

This statement has been true for me 3 times in my career. Each time was a little bit different – 2 times I had advanced warning and 1 time I did not.  With each period of unemployment lots of different thoughts went through my mind.  What happened? Why me? Was there anything I could have done to avoid this?  Did my manager know more than he was telling me?  What am I going to do?  I was also thinking to myself – I am intelligent. I have an advanced degree. I’m professional.  I’m not lazy and I know I am qualified to do several types of jobs.  So why am I unemployed?

I have fully come to understand how not having a job (and a job title) is directly correlated to your sense of self-worth and self-esteem.  Do you have any idea how humiliating and humbling it is for someone to ask you where you work and you have to say, “I don’t have job” or “I got laid off” or “I was fired from my job.”  Trust me….it’s not a good feeling at all.  Then on top of that people keep asking you about it every time they see you or talk to you, which just adds to the “shame.”

Nonetheless, each unemployment period was a great time of reflection for me. I was able to ask myself some very pertinent questions. Who am I? What do I like to do? What am I good at?  What am I passionate about?  Where do I want to be in 5 years?  Why didn’t I save more money?  Were the job and my co-workers really that bad? And ultimately, what have I learned from this experience?  So if this is you right now and you woke up this morning with no job, I am hoping to give you a few tips that may help you cope with this time of unemployment and uncertainty.

1) Get Some Rest

Let me repeat….BE SURE TO GET PLENTY OF REST!!  When is the last time you slept past 9:00?  (I’ll wait.)  Well, now you can!!! It won’t be long before you are back in the “rat race” and having to set your alarm clock to get up at 5 or 6 AM, so enjoy your leisure lifestyle while you can.  I know some of you have a spouse and/or children who depend on you and you still have to get up each morning at a certain time, but you can make up for it by taking a mid-day nap.  Ya know, it occurred to me one day how busy I get and how little time I have to actually spend in the house that I am paying for.  I realized one day that I never really spend anytime in my guest bedrooms.  So while I was unemployed, I made up for it by taking naps in those rooms during the middle of the day. If you really want to be a rebel, don’t even get dressed and just lounge on the couch most of the day.  Hey, you are paying to live there so be sure to get your money’s worth!! Get some rest.

2) Reassess Needs And Wants

Unemployment is a perfect time to reflect on what you really need and want in your career.  Do you want to switch industries? Do you need a job with flextime so you can drop your kids off at daycare?  Do you want a job where you don’t have to go into the office everyday?  Do you want a job with a 15 – 20 minute commute?  Assess what you want and absolutely have to have in a job. In addition, you can Google ‘free career assessment test’ and take one of the many tests online to see what career might be best for you.  Even if you are an experienced professional, it may not be a bad idea to take the test just to affirm your strengths, weaknesses, personality type, etc.  The more honest you are with yourself and where you are in your career, the easier it will be for you to find a job that works best for you.

3) Develop A Plan

While I do suggest that you get some rest, I also highly suggest that you develop a plan of action after you’re done resting and reassessing. Your plan at minimal should consist of the following:

a) Updating your resume/cover letter – I suggest that you let a professional do this because you have an emotional attachment to the information and may not be able to market yourself appropriately.

b) Uploading your resume and setting up job search agents on websites – You may want to do a few general ones (indeed.com or simplyhired.com) and a few that are specific to your industry and city.  Five or six websites should suffice.

c) Saturating your network – Once you’ve updated your resume, send it to those in your network and let them know what you are interested in.  LinkedIn is great for increasing your network and communicating with people who may be able to help you.  You must also attend networking events and job fairs.  Remember, sometimes you have to be bold to reach your goals.

d) Applying for jobs – I know it seems silly to mention this, but I need to make it clear that you should be applying for jobs until you actually get one.  Don’t get the ‘big head’ and think just because you got through 2 or 3 interviews, you are guaranteed the job.  Even if you are 99% certain you will get the job offer, KEEP APPLYING TO OTHER JOBS!!!

4) Set Daily/Weekly Goals

If you are going to file for unemployment, they will have a goal for you which may be 4 or 5 job search activities each week.   But aside from that, you should set your own personal goals.  Determine what you want to accomplish each day and week.  Now, I will be honest and say that looking for jobs everyday can be a very monotonous and draining process.  So it is necessary for you to switch up your routine.  Some days you may get up first thing and look for a job and network with others.  Other times you may relax during the day and do your job searching at night.  During one of my unemployment periods, I would take my laptop to Barnes & Noble once a week and have lunch.  I would stay there 3 – 4 hours looking and applying for jobs; however, the time went by so fast because I was in a different environment.  For each time of unemployment, once I met my goal I stopped looking for the remainder of that week.  So if I met my goal by Wednesday, I didn’t look for a job Thursday – Saturday.   This actually motivated me to stay focused and find my jobs to apply for early in the week.

5) Get a New Hobby / Stay Involved

Think about all the times you said, “I wish I had more time to _____________________.”  Now you do!  Take advantage of the extra time you have to do the things you couldn’t before.  You can repaint your kitchen.  You can go on a field trip with your son or daughter.  You can get a membership to a gym or enroll in a salsa class.  If you are already involved in the community through your sorority/fraternity or a non-profit organization, be sure to stay involved.  This will keep you motivated and give your brain a chance to think of something other than your unemployment.

6) Reward Yourself For Your Accomplishments

Of course I don’t know where you are financially, so only you can decide what is an appropriate reward for yourself.  For some it may be something as relaxing as a manicure/pedicure or as simple as going out for ice cream or a movie.  For others it may be a weekend trip out-of-town or front row tickets to a concert.  Either way you should have rewards for yourself when you have accomplished those goals listed above.  It will keep you energized and motivated.  Even though you are unemployed, you still have to take care of yourself and your mental health.  Go ahead and spend a little on yourself…..you are worth it!

As you get older and mature, you realize you are much more than what your job title says you are.   You are much more than the name tag they gave you to wear at work. Use this time of unemployment to really get to know and fall in love with yourself. Who are you really? Being unemployed for some time can be a bit of a good thing.  I know it doesn’t feel good right now, but it will work out for your good.  I’ve learned to describe my time of unemployment as a time of transition.  I have learned to be still and listen to that small voice that says – YES YOU CAN and YES YOU WILL!  I know this isn’t what you had planned for your life, but guess what – dreams change.  Your dream job is right around the corner and it will be the perfect job for you.  Now let me boldly proclaim to you what I have had to whisper several times to myself….hold on, the best is yet to come!  This too shall pass!

Human Resources Q & A – I Asked the Questions You Wanted to Know

I recently spoke with 3 Human Resources professionals and asked the questions YOU wanted to know.  They gave answers to the questions that they felt most knowledgeable about.  HR Professional 1 has 17 years of experience, HR Professional 2 has 15 years of experience, and HR Professional 3 has 20 years of experience.

1.  Does someone from Human Resources or the Hiring Manager actually look at ALL the resumes that are submitted for a job?

HR Professional 1:  It depends; if an overwhelming number of good resumes are received, the H.R. Department will not review all the resumes. The H.R Department will stop screening resumes when they have a sufficient number for interviews.

HR Professional 2:  Yes, in most cases the hiring manager will review the resume. If it’s a large company the recruiter will filter through resumes and then pass them on to the hiring manager.

2. How many resumes on average are submitted for each job that is posted?

HR Professional 1: The number varies from the time of year the position is posted. More resumes are received from May – December due to new grads entering the workforce.

HR Professional 3:  200.  It truly rangers from 100 – 700.

3. Does Human Resources or the Hiring Manager actually read cover letters?

HR Professional 1:  Sometimes but not always. The H.R. Department is more concerned with what is on the resume.

HR Professional 2:  Yes, the cover letter gives the recruiter a summary of the candidate applying instead of having to review the resume in details.

HR Professional 3:  No. I do if I have time and something isn’t making sense when I read their resume.

4. How closely does a candidate’s experience need to match the job description to be considered a good fit?

HR Professional 1:  For most positions the candidate’s background does not have to match, but the resume must show that the candidate has the potential to be trained for the job. This conclusion can be drawn based on the candidate’s degree or volunteer work in the community.

HR Professional 3:  Very closely.  If not, I would hire an internal person and train that person.

5. How often are companies utilizing phone interviews to determine the top candidates? How many phone interviews are done on average?

HR Professional 1:  My company will conduct a phone interview for a referral out of state. Otherwise we will not conduct a phone interview.

HR Professional 2:  Some companies are using videos to interview candidates as well as phone interviews. 10 to 15 depending on the position needing to be filled.

HR Professional 3:   As the recruiting person, I am interviewing everyone on the phone. Then I decide if they should come in to meet the manager. We conduct online interviews for remote candidates instead of flying them in.

 6. Do employers view candidates on social media as a way to eliminate them? If so, which social media is utilized the most and what are employers look for?

HR Professional 1:  My company does not have a social media policy in place, so we were advised by legal counsel not to utilize this tool.

HR Professional 3:  LinkedIn.  I like to connect with the person, see how much time they spent on their profile and if it lines up with their resume.

 7. What are you typically looking for in a background check? How far back do you go?

HR Professional 1: We go back 10 years. We are looking for felony convictions. A conviction does not necessarily mean the candidate will be denied employment.

HR Professional 2:  This is industry specific.  For an accounting position we are looking at the person’s background to make sure there’s no fraud or theft in their past. For drivers or anyone dealing with customers no illegal activity or warrants, etc. In some cases 7 or more years if they have violations.

 8. If a former employer is listed as a reference, what information can they legally provide?

HR Professional 1: Most companies will only provide dates of employment, position and whether or not the candidate is eligible for rehire. If the candidate signed a release salary information may be disclosed.

HR Professional 2:  Dates of employment, job title and if they are still employed there.

9. Do companies sometimes check your credit report? Is that legal?

HR Professional 1:  It is legal if the position is a management position and the candidate is required to qualify for a company credit card or the position involves working with money.

HR Professional 2:  Yes, they can check your credit report if you are applying for certain positions and it is deemed legal in certain areas.

 10. What are some illegal interview questions?

HR Professional 1: Where were you born? Are you married? Do you have children? How old are you?

HR Professional 2:  Birthdate, marital status, religious, etc. – anything personal.

11. Why does it take so long to make a job offer?

HR Professional 1: Waiting on reference, degree and background checks. Also, new hire paperwork must be sent up the chain of command for signatures.

HR Professional 2: There are several factors: budget for the position(s), background and reference checks etc.

 

 

 

20 Resumes Myths Dispelled

1.  The purpose of a resume is to get a job.

NO! The purpose of a resume is to highlight your qualifications for a SPECIFIC job so you will get an interview.   Thus, the resume leads to the interview.  After the interview is the follow-up, job offer and THEN the job.

2.  You should have 1 resume and use it apply for all jobs.

FALSE!!!  This is the worst thing you could and really is a waste of your time.  You should have a general resume to use as your foundation and then tweak your resume for EACH job that you apply for.

3.  It is best to use a resume template and just fill in your information.

The best thing to do is to start with a blank document.  This will allow you to format and space the document how you want as templates could limit your space and not be easily manipulated.

4.  It is always best to use a chronological format.

This is simply not true!  The best format to use is the one that highlights your qualifications the best whether that is a chronological, functional or mixed format.   The chronological format normally shows progression in your career and education.   The functional format focuses on your actual skills and not when or where you got them.   The mixed format is a mixture of the two.

5.  Your resume should go back as far as your first job and include all the jobs you’ve had.

Generally speaking, your resume should go back only 10 years and include previous/current jobs that are relevant to the job you are seeking. However, there are some exceptions.  If you are seeking a senior level/executive management position, the employer will probably want to see ALL of your experience which will qualify you for the job.

NOTE: If you are using a curriculum vitae (CV), it can be as long as you want it to be.  CVs are typically used in the following industries: education, research, medical, dental, and those seeking a Ph.D.

6.  Your resume should only be 1 page.

If you have enough experience/education to require a 2nd page, then by all means don’t short change yourself trying to get it to fit on 1 page.  (Tip:  Decrease your margins on your resume to 1/2 an inch and that will help with the formatting and give you more room to work with.  Be sure your name is on each page in case they get separated. Also, never print on the back of the page.)

7.  It is okay to use any font and font size.

You should always be mindful of the industry you are pursuing and what is acceptable for that particular industry.  It would be safe to stick with fonts that are legible.  However, DO NOT use Times New Roman because that is the default font in Microsoft Word and everyone uses it. To make your resume instantly stand out, pick another font.  Your font size should never be less than 10.  Your name and headings can be up to font size 16 or 18.  You want these 2 things to stand out the most for obvious reasons.

8.  Resumes should have no color or designs on them.

It is okay to use color in some instances, just be conservative.  I have seen resumes with the name and headings in a different color than the body of the resume.  Again, be mindful of the industry you are going into.  Color may be more acceptable in Marketing or Advertising versus Accounting or Information Technology.  If you have a personal design or QR code (www.qrstuff.com) that you have created, it is acceptable to use that as well.

9.  The objective should list the specific job or industry you are targeting.

There should be NO OBJECTIVE on your resume…..I repeat…….NO OBJECTIVE!! That is old school…say 1995…..and we don’t do that anymore.  Most objectives are very generic and you sound just like everybody else.  Objective:  Seeking a challenging position in a successful company where I may utilize my skills and have an opportunity for advancement.  Sound familiar?  DELETE IT NOW!!!!

10. You should list all of your education/certifications/training.

Generally, I would say list what you have earned in the last 10 years.  Definitely remove high school once you have obtained an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree.  Once you have been out of school for 10 years, remove the graduation date because it will age you.  Of course, there are exceptions such as education and the medical and dental fields where it is necessary to show your comprehensive education.

11. You should only include experience on your resume that you were paid for.

This is 100% false.  Your resume should include ALL experience that qualifies you for a particular job – whether paid or unpaid.  So it is quite acceptable to include volunteer work, community involvement and professional organizations on your resume.

12. If you have worked multiple positions/locations for a company you should list them separately on your resume.

You can list them separately; however, it would probably be best to combine them to show a longer work history with the company.  Below is an example of someone who has worked 2 positions in 2 different locations for one bank:

Chase Bank                Dallas/Plano, TX           2005 – Present

Branch Manager (2010 – Present)

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3

Bank Teller (2005 – 2010)

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3

13. You  should include information about your employer on your resume such as company website, address, phone number, etc.

Absolutely not!  The resume is about YOU not the employer. Don’t waste space on your resume with company information.  All of these things go on an application.  If you want to highlight a specific contribution that may be listed on the company’s website, you can include a hyperlink that will take the employer directly to your accomplishment.

14. You should put the exact month and year that you started and ended each job.

It is unnecessary unless the employer specifically asks for you to include this information on your resume.  Not including the months gives the illusion that you worked somewhere longer.  This may be helpful for those who have job hopped and/or only worked short periods of time at a company.

15. You should put ‘References Available Upon Request’ at the bottom of your resume.

This is old school as well…..say 1985.  You should list 3 professional references on a separate sheet of paper with your name at the top and have it already prepared to provide should the employer ask you for it.  You want to include the following information: Name, Title, Company, Email Address and Phone Number.  Be sure to call your references ahead of time, send them a copy of your resume, and let them know that a potential employer may be calling them about you.

16. It is best to upload and send your resume as a Microsoft Word document.

The best way to save and send your resume is as a PDF document to ensure that the formatting does not shift.  Also, this keeps your information from being altered.

17. You don’t need to bring your resume with you to an interview because the employer already has it.

False!  This is a huge misconception.  You should ALWAYS bring at least 3 copies of your resume with you when you go for an interview.  You may be surprised and be interviewed by multiple people and they each need their own copy.  Also, your resume should always be printed on resume paper for a more polished look.

18. You should staple your cover letter, references and business card to your resume.

NEVER put a staple in your resume!  If it is more than 1 page or you want to submit it along with additional items, always paperclip them.

19. You should only update your resume when you are actively looking for a job.

Actually, you should constantly update your resume – probably once every 6 months.  You may not remember every skill you acquire or training class or accomplishment.  So it is best to update it consistently so that when you are ready to submit it for a job, you do not have to think about everything you have done for the past 2  – 3 years.

20. An employer will take 2 – 3 minutes to look over your resume to determine if you have the skills they are looking for.

FALSE!!  Employers receive nearly 100 resumes for every 1 job that they post.  So they will initially take 10 seconds to browse over your resume to see if they like you or not.  Ten seconds will determine if your resume goes in the ‘call pile’ or the ‘do not call pile.’  Use your 10 seconds wisely!!

 

Is There a Cure for Boredom in the WorkPlace?

It is 3:00 PM. You are staring at the clock on the wall thinking to yourself – “Man, I have 2 more hours.” This is the same time each day that you have to push yourself to concentrate just a little while longer so you can get through the rest of the day. You go through your daily “3:00 routine” – go to the bathroom, go to the vending machine downstairs to get a Coke, stop by your co-worker’s office to chat for a minute, and then reluctantly head back to your cave….uh… I mean your office. You sit there for a while thinking to yourself –  it has happened again…I’m bored.  This boredom is not because you don’t have work to do and it’s not necessarily because you don’t like the work that you do, but you are just simply bored. You contemplate leaving early for the day but you know you can’t because you want to call in “sick” later in the week.  And you have a report you need to get to your boss by EOD.  So, you are stuck at work. To pass some of the time away you check your personal email, get on social media to see if anyone commented on the last thing you posted, and you may even spend a little time perusing some websites looking for a job. BUT after all of this only 25 minutes has passed and you are still bored.

Why does this happen? Why do we get bored in the workplace? Initially when we started working at our job, we were excited to be there and couldn’t wait to tackle the issues for the day. Now some time has gone by and we’ve mastered our job duties.  We’ve built a good rapport with our team members and clients and our boss treats us good (most of the time).  We even have some great perks.  But what happened? Where did the enthusiasm go? At what point did we start hitting the snooze button on the alarm multiple times to prolong the fact that we must get up and go to work?

I’m sure we could go on and on with reasons why we get bored in the workplace, but I think there is something more important to focus on – is there a cure? I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I want to propose a few suggestions.

1) Tell Your Supervisor

I know you are thinking to yourself….No way, I’m not telling my supervisor anything because there may be repercussions.  Well, I don’t exactly mean walk into your boss’ office tomorrow and say, “I’m bored.”  You will have to be a little bit more creative in your approach.  Perhaps you could mention that you aren’t feeling challenged anymore and would like to gain some additional skills.  You may be surprised at how simple it can be.  I did this once and I must admit I was nervous, but I was very candid with my supervisor.  I said something like “When you hired me, you hired me to do my best work and I can no longer do that in my current position.  I feel that my skills would be better used in another area.  I am very passionate and like to do quality work. I want to be able to give 100% everyday and if I’m not able to do that I don’t feel like I’m doing my part.”

Remember what I said about a creative approach?  Pour it on thick.

2) Switch Roles/Teams

After you tell your supervisor you want to gain additional skills or use your current skills somewhere else, figure out if there is another role you could play on your current team. Another option would be to move to another team altogether within your company. This could be a win-win situation and hopefully an easy transition. The only change will be that your office will be on the 4th floor instead of the 3rd.  (It will also help with those who are concerned about how job hopping will look on their resume.)

Now the conclusion to my story…..After I told my supervisor I could be better used in another area, he asked me what I would like to do.  I said, “I would like to be the Career Planning Instructor.”  He asked me why and I gave him my reasons and literally within 1 week I moved to another department and was teaching my first class.

3) Change Your Schedule

Perhaps you have been working 8:00 – 5:00 Monday – Friday for the last 4 years.  Try coming in 9:00 – 6:00 or 10:00 – 7:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Sometimes just making a slight change in your schedule makes all the difference.  A few other suggestions are working from home 1 – 2 days a week or working 9 hour days Monday – Thursday and a 4 hour day on Friday.

I recently implemented a change in my work schedule myself.  I was working 8:15 – 5:15 most days and I felt rushed trying to get to work by that time and normally was dragging in.  Now I work 9:00 – 6:00 and was amazed at how much of a difference 45 minutes made.  I don’t feel like I have to rush in the mornings plus I miss some of the rush hour traffic; thus, I am much more relaxed when I arrive at work.

4) Attend Networking Events / Professional Development

Do a little bit of research to see what professional organizations are in your city pertaining to your industry.  I don’t think your supervisor will have a problem giving you some time to attend an industry networking event or a conference.  You can also enroll in some classes and get another degree or some certifications.  Be sure to mention that the more you learn about the industry, the more knowledge you have to bring back to the company.  (wink wink)  Hopefully your department has a professional development budget that will pay for your costs associated with these things.

5) Spice Up Your Personal Life

Now you can interpret this any way you want to but what I am suggesting is maybe taking salsa lessons or joining the choir at church or remodeling your home or taking more vacations.  If you have more exciting things going on in your personal life, it takes your mind off the frustration that can be caused by your job.  You actually have something to look forward to once you leave work and it can make the day go by faster.  (And don’t get me wrong……if you meet someone “special” that would be great too!)

6) Find Another Job

Unfortunately (or fortunately) this may be the only option. After you have exercised all of the above suggestions, this may be the only cure.  But BEFORE you start looking for another job, do some soul-searching and figure out what you truly want in a job.  If not, you will be right back in this same spot in a few years.  Hey, having to find another job is not always a bad thing and can be quite rewarding if you do your research beforehand.  When you are interviewing for your next job, be sure to ask how they value work/life balance and how they feel about professional development.  You can ask about the management style and culture of the office and if there is an opportunity for a flexible schedule.

Like I said, these are just some of the things that I suggest and have actually done.  I am eager to hear from you and what you do when you are bored in the workplace.  Leave your “cure” in the comment section.

12 Things You Do to Annoy your Co-Workers (That They Will Probably Never Tell You)

I have worked several different jobs during my career.  I have worked in 3 different industries in 5 different states.  I have been a manager and I have been an employee.  I have worked on small teams and big teams. Sometimes I was the youngest on the my team and sometimes I was the oldest.  I have been the only female on my team and I have also been the only African-American on my team.  With all of these different experiences, one thing always remained true….sometimes my co-workers annoyed me.

I know this is a touchy subject but somebody had to address the “elephant in the room.”  We go to work each day and interact with hundreds of people and let’s face it…people are different.  And because people are different, their work ethic is different.  Their idea of what is appropriate and not appropriate varies.  They have individual ideas of what is acceptable personal space.  I mean, has anybody stopped and really thought about this?  What happened to respect and etiquette in the workplace?  Are there any “rules” anymore on professionalism?  Or do we just do whatever we feel is right without regard to other people and how it may make them feel?

Regardless of how you may feel personally, hopefully you can agree that there should be a difference between how you act in the office and how you act in your own home.  Things that may be acceptable to do around your family and friends may not be acceptable to do around co-workers.  So since I’m not your co-worker, I felt it was safe for me to just bring a few things to your attention on their behalf.   Take a deep breath….here are some things that you do in the workplace that your co-workers find annoying (but will probably never tell you):

1.  They would like you to stop opening their office door and walking in without knocking.

Generally when people have their door closed it is because they are trying to concentrate on their work or may be on the phone or may be having a private discussion with a co-worker.  It’s kind of a way of saying “only disturb if really necessary” and when you just open the door and walk in, it is a lack of respect for their personal space.  Think about it this way…would you walk into someone’s home without knocking?  Of course an office is not the same as a house, but it is sort of their “home away from home” and your walking in without knocking it is borderline intrusive.

2.  They really would like you to not leave your dirty dishes/trash all over the break room.

I know some of you have seen the sign that says, “Please clean up after yourself. Your mother does not work here.”  Please, please take that to heart and clean up after yourself when you are eating your lunch or a snack in the break room. Remember, other people have to use that space as well.  I mean really??!!  Who is going to throw your trash away for you?  It only takes a few seconds to throw something away or wash your bowl after you are done using it.

3.  Your team members do not like when you assign a task to them when they are absent.

I have had this happen to me before and I was very displeased.  And then to make matters worse, my team lead told everyone I volunteered to do the task!  What?!!  Put yourself in the absent person’s shoes.  You wouldn’t like it if you missed a meeting and then were informed that you have been assigned to do a task that no one else wanted to do.  Give your co-workers the professional courtesy of knowing about the task and having the opportunity to decline if they are not interested.

4.  Not everyone wants to see pictures of your pets.

Your pets may be cute and like a part of the family to YOU but not necessarily to everyone else. So please keep this in mind the next time you are eating lunch with your co-workers and decide to pull up pictures of your pets on your cell phone and pass it around the table….multiple times!

5.  They would like you to wait more than 5 minutes after sending them an email before asking if they received it.

There is nothing more annoying than when you send an email to someone and then go knock on their door or stop them in the hallway 2 minutes after sending it to ask them about it.  Of course, I know there are some emergency situations that require an immediate response, but most emails can wait.  Also, if you are continuously overbearing in this area it may give the perception that you feel your work is more important than theirs.  This could be insulting to them.  Try being more patient when waiting for responses from your co-workers.  Remember, they are just as busy as you are.

6. If you are going to bring your children to work, they want you to make sure they are well-behaved.

I won’t say anymore so you don’t get upset and stop reading this blog.

7.  Supervisors, all of your employees do not want to have lunch or go to happy hour with you.

Your employees spend at least 8 hours a day at work and oftentimes their lunch break is the only “free” time they get.  It is the time they use to decompress and take their mind off of work for a minute or perhaps run an errand.  They don’t necessarily want to spend that free time with you as their supervisor because they feel like they are still at work and can’t relax completely.  Honestly, there are certain comments they can make in front of their other team members that they can’t make in front of you. So if they have to be on edge or watch what they say then it’s really not free time, but more of an extended team meeting.  And when it comes to happy hours, they definitely want to be able have a good time and unwind and that’s not always possible if the boss is around.

8.  If you drink coffee and eat birthday cake regularly, they want you to contribute to the coffee/birthday fund.

This is self-explanatory.

9.  Managers, your team members want the meetings to be shorter and less frequent.

Your team members do not want to sit through weekly meetings and listen to you do all the talking for an hour or more.  If there is no way around the frequency or length of the meetings, at least try to make them more interesting.  Team meetings are actually a great time to do in-house professional development; in that, during each meeting a different team member could do a mini-presentation on a topic. I am sure there is plethora of knowledge on your team and this way everyone showcases their area of expertise.  Sometimes, incorporating a team building exercise makes the meetings more enjoyable.  You could even include snacks during the meetings every now and then to ease the mood. Trust me…food ALWAYS works!

10.  They really wish you wouldn’t play your music or talk on the phone so loudly that it/you can be heard down the hall.

You have to share the same work space with your co-workers for 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. So a little bit of consideration on your part would go a long way.  Not everyone has the same taste in music and I am 100% positive everyone does not want to overhear your conversation with your mother about Sunday dinner.

(True story:  I had a co-worker who sat in the cubicle next to mine and made/answered EVERY single phone call on speakerphone.  The most annoying part was every Monday he was on a conference call for over an hour….and yes he had it on speakerphone LOUDLY.  This went on for weeks.  I went to him twice and asked him to please turn the volume down and/or get a headset to listen to the conference call, but of course he ignored my request and continued to do it.  One day during the Monday conference call, I could not take it any longer and went over to his cubicle and turn the volume down on his phone myself.  He looked at me in utter disbelief but it solved the problem. He never listen to the conference call on speakerphone again and shortly thereafter got a headset.)

11.  Your team members wish you would stop being so nosey.

Ouch! I know this may sting a little bit so I will be very gentle.  Not everyone is an open book like you are.  Some people are just very private and conservative.  My dad used to always say, “People will tell you what they want you to know.”  All of your co-workers don’t want to talk about what they did over the weekend or show you pictures from their vacation.  You cannot make other people act or think or be like you! And for heaven sakes, stop being so paranoid and asking a lot of questions whenever you see them talking to someone who you don’t know in the hallway or in their office!!  It doesn’t mean they’re up to something or conspiring behind your back.  (Let this marinate…….)

12. Managers, your team members do not like you when immediately start talking about business first thing in the morning.

Most people quit jobs because of their manager – not the actual work itself.  Your team members are human beings and not robots.  They have personal lives. They have issues and they have feelings.  It CAN’T always be about work all the time.  You have to take a moment and show some compassion and speak to the human side by asking about how their sick son or daughter is doing.  I am sure by the end of the day the project will be completed and all the emails will get answered, but first thing in the morning is not always the best time to ask about it.  If you show genuine concern for your employees, they will be more enthusiastic and the work you are concerned about just might get finished by noon!

Now, these are just a few that I’ve noticed and I know you want to add some of your own.  You probably also want a few of your co-workers to read this blog as well, but the hard part is getting them to see it, right?  Well, maybe you could post it anonymously in the break room….right above those dirty dishes.