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.

 

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!!

 

The Interview is not Over until You Follow Up

Oftentimes I am asked by job seekers what they should do immediately after an interview.  They are not sure why the follow up is so important, when and how to follow up,  and the age old question….”Should I send an e-mail, mail a thank you card or leave it with the receptionist on the way out the door?” 

Let’s tackle the first area….why the follow up is so important.  Say for instance, you are having an intimate gathering at your house and you post a notice on Facebook and 100 people respond saying they want to attend.  You know you can only accommodate a few people so you choose very carefully.  You finally narrow it down to the 3 guests you will extend a personal invitation to.  Those 3 people accept and come to the intimate gathering at different times.  You speak with each of them in great detail for an hour, give them a tour of your home and feel like you have gotten to know each of them a little better.   Over the next day or 2 you begin to wonder if your guests enjoyed themselves and had a good time in your home.  You check your mailbox and to your surprise you have received a nice thank you card from 1 of the guests saying they had a great time and were really appreciative of your invite.  You didn’t hear anything from the other 2 so you are now really wondering if they had a good time or if you should have even invited them in the first place.

It is the same way with the job interview.  The employer posts a job and 100+ people submit their resume.  The employer narrows it down to the top 3 candidates to bring to his office (his “home”).  During the interview he spends time going into detail about the company and job opening and perhaps gives candidates a tour of the facilities.  Afterwards, he is trying to decide who would be the best fit for his already established team.  He comes in the next morning and finds an e-mail from you thanking him for taking the time to interview you. You also attach other information to help him understand your background and experience a little better.  He heard nothing from the other 2 candidates.  Who do you think will stand out in his mind when he goes to make the hiring decision? Exactly! That’s why it is so important…..plus it’s just  nice to be nice.  Employers say that they appreciate thank you letters and it can make the difference as to whether they hire a candidate or not.  If there are 2 candidates that are neck and neck and the hiring manager needs to make a decision between the 2, he is more likely to lean towards the one that sent a thank you.

The second area…..when and how to follow up.  You should definitely follow up with an employer right away.  You want to do it while they still remember you and you have an opportunity to make a final impression on them.   Now, whether you e-mail or use snail mail or give a thank card to the receptionist on your way out the door, I don’t think it really matters.   All of these are acceptable methods and serve the same purpose.  The ultimate objective is to thank them BEFORE they make their hiring decision.  Obviously, giving a thank you card to the receptionist or sending an e-mail later that evening when you get home guarantees an immediate effect.  But having them receive a card in the mail from you is also a nice touch because we all like to receive something in the mail.  If you do decide to go with a thank you card, make sure it is professional and standard (nothing pink with flowers and polka dots).  It should be bare on the inside or have minimal words.  (Tip:  If you don’t have good penmanship, get someone else to write inside the card for you!)

Here is an example of a thank you sent as an e-mail:

Dear Mr./Ms. (last name):

It was a pleasure meeting you today.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to visit (company name) and interview for the _________________ position.  I was especially interested to learn that your company (mention something specific discussed in the interview).

I have included my LinkedIn profile/portfolio/website/blog* so you can get a more in-depth look at my skills and background.  I am excited about the possibility of becoming a member of your team.  If you need any further information, you may contact me at (214) 555-5555.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.  Thanks again!

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

* Pick just one to include in the thank you letter.

 

How Should I Prepare for a Phone / Skype Interview?

Employers receive 100+ resumes for every 1 job they post. The whole process of posting a job, reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, extending a job offer, and training a new hire is very long and tiring.  So, employers use phone/Skype interviews to assist them with the process.  By using these tools, employers are able to narrow down the potential candidates to the top 3 they want to bring on site.  That being said, there are certain things to consider with each one so that you make the most of the interviews.

1)      TREAT THEM AS REGULAR INTERVIEWS

They are still interviews and should be taken just as seriously as a regular interview.  Remember, you have to pass this stage to get to the next stage which is the on site interview.

2)      NO NOISE  OR DISTRACTIONS IN THE BACKGROUND

For phone interviews, you should not have any noise in the background i.e. music, dog barking, roommate talking, phone ringing, etc.  For Skype interviews, there shouldn’t be any distractions in the view of the camera i.e. messy desk, tv on in the background, etc.

3)      PRACTICE IN ADVANCE

Have a friend call you on the phone and ask you some questions so you get used to answering questions over the phone without seeing the person you are speaking to. For Skype, practice speaking so you will know how to adjust the volume.   See what colors show up best on the computer to help you decide what to wear.

 4)      EXPECT MORE THAN 1 PERSON TO CONDUCT THE INTERVIEW

Because they don’t have the luxury of interviewing you face to face they will more than likely have someone else sit in on the interview to help them get a feel for you.  So, don’t be surprised if you are interviewed by more than 1 person.

5)      SMILE AND BE ENTHUSIASTIC

 Use your personality and enthusiasm to make up for the fact you are not there in person.  Your excitement should be “felt” through the phone and the computer screen.

How Do I Turn Down a Job?

The key is to be professional and put yourself in the employer’s shoes.  Remember, he has gone through a long, rigorous process and in the meantime that workload for the open position has gone undone in his office.  He has a void to fill and probably needs to fill it pretty quickly.  He most likely received 100+ resumes for the position, conducted 5 – 6 phone interviews and selected you and 2 others to come on site for an interview.  Out of all those potential candidates, he picked YOU.

So, it is very important that you do this professionally and don’t burn any bridges.  You never know, you may want to work for this employer or do business with them in the future.  Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1)       DO IT ASAP

You want to do it as soon as possible so the employer can extend the job offer to the #2 candidate.  Again, put yourself in the employer’s shoes.  You would appreciate a speedy response if it were you, so reply to them quickly.  Pick up the phone and call the employer as soon as you know you will not be accepting the job offer.

2)      THANK THEM FOR THE OFFER

You want to make sure you thank them for thinking enough of you to extend the offer even though you have decided not to take the job.  It’s just nice to be nice.

3)      BE HONEST

You don’t have to go into a lot of detail about why you are turning down the job, but you can let them know that you have accepted another job or just don’t feel that the job is the right one for you at this time.

4)      PUT IT IN WRITING

They extended the job offer to you in writing so when you turn the job down, put it in writing as well.  Putting it in writing after you have made the initial phone call is just being professional.  Also, they will have it on file if they need to give it to Human Resources.

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE:

Dear Mr. Jones:

Thank you for extending to me the opportunity to join your team as a Marketing Analyst.  While I am appreciative of your offer and admire the work that your company does, I do not feel that it is the best fit for me at this time.  I have accepted another job offer which I feel more closely meets my career goals.  Thanks again for the job offer and opportunity to meet your team and learn more about your company.

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

5)      STAY CONNECTED

It is a good idea to connect with them on LinkedIn just to keep them in your network.  They may want to offer you a job in the future or you may want to apply for another job in the future.

Don’t Let the Job Description Scare You – It’s Just a Suggestion

How many times have you seen a job description and thought “there’s no way I’ll get that job?”  Did you think “I don’t have the skills or education?”  You were probably saying to yourself “I won’t get an interview or get hired.”  I know the feeling. I have been there many times myself.

When employers post jobs and the qualifications of their ideal candidate, it is just a suggestion.  They are telling you what they would like to have in an “ideal” candidate.  For every job that I have ever gotten, I probably only had about 50% of the requirements.  A lot of times you are your own worst enemy and talk yourself out of a perfectly obtainable job.  The worst thing that could happen is you apply for it and don’t get it. Well that’s the way it is right now….you don’t have the job.  So you have absolutely NOTHING to lose.  You only have something to gain.

Now of course, if the job is requiring 5 – 7 years experience and you only have 1 -2 then maybe you shouldn’t apply but if you have at least 4 years, I would definitely apply.  You are in close proximity to what they are looking for and if you can convince them that you have a good foundation, can be trained and they like you then you have a good chance of getting the job.

Don’t let the job description intimidate you.  Go ahead and apply….it’s just a suggestion.

Several years ago I applied for a job in which I only had about 45 – 50% of what they were looking for.  Of course, I was nervous about the interview and what they might ask me but I made a special point to ask lots of questions and take lots of notes.  Many of the questions they asked me in the interview were about my experience.  I honestly told them that my knowledge was limited but I assured them I could learn it very quickly. I didn’t feel like the interview went very well but I did the best I could and got through it.  Eventually I got the job and needless to say, I was very shocked!!  During my first week I asked my supervisor what made them hire me. She said,  “Well, you really didn’t have all of the qualifications that we were looking for, but you asked good questions in your interview.  So we thought that if we hired you, you would continue to ask good questions  and learn to do your job very well.”  Wow!  So they were willing to overlook my lack of qualifications because I showed interest in the job.

At another job, I was a manager for a number of years and used to look for certain qualities and experience in my “ideal” candidates.  When I didn’t find 100% what I was looking for, I went to the next best thing and that was the person who was the MOST qualified.  I offered the job to the person who had a good foundation to come in a learn what I needed them to know.  No one I interviewed during those 4 years ever had  EVERYTHING I was looking for.

So again, don’t be intimidated by the job description and your ‘lack’ of qualifications.  Go ahead and apply for the job….the requirements are just a suggestion.

 

Why Do I Need to Do an Informational Interview?

Well, the simple answer to that question is to get information.  But let’s dig a little deeper…

One of the best sources for gathering information about what is happening in an industry is to talk to people currently working in that field.  An informational interview is an interview that you initiate.  You ask the questions with the purpose being to obtain information – not to get a job.  If you want to find out how to get to where you want to go, talk to someone who’s already there.

An informational interview is one sure way to find out if your skills and qualifications match your targeted job.  You can find out about the requirements and daily tasks of the position you are interested in, plus many tips for success and insight into the future of your desired field.  It can also eliminate “surprises” in the actual job interview.  Moreover, informational interviews can help you develop employment leads and gain experience with interviewing.  It is not unusual for an informational interview to lead to a job offer.

Now, how you go about getting an informational interview and what questions you ask are completely up to you.  There is no set way to do it but here are some tips to make your informational interviews effective:

1) Identify what you want to achieve

You must first decide what you want and where you want to go.  It is impossible for someone else to figure that out for you.  It is something you have to do on your own.  Do you want to figure out if your current career is where you really should be?  Do you want someone to look at your resume and tell you what you’re “lacking?”  Do you want to know how to get a promotion?  Do you want to know how to break into a new industry?

2) Pick 10 people in your desired industry who can help you

Once you’ve identified your goal, pick 10 people in your desired industry who can help you achieve it.  This may be someone in the exact position you want to be in or someone in management.  This will take some research.  You will have to look at different companies to see who they have in certain positions.  LinkedIn is an excellent place to start.  You can look at people in a certain industry in your geographical area.

3) Decide the best method to reach out to them

If it’s someone you’re already acquainted with, you can simply call them and request some of their time.  If you want to reach out to someone perhaps you’ve only met once at a networking event or you were introduced briefly through a friend,  you may want to e-mail them.

If it is a complete stranger, you may want to start with a non-traditional method like snail mail.  Everyone loves to receive something in the mail and since not that many people actually put a stamp on things and mail them anymore, your letter will stand out.  Then you can follow up within 1 week with a phone call. (I’ve actually tried this method before and got 6 out of 10 people to do an informational interview with me.)

You can also use LinkedIn to connect with them initially.   Be sure to personalize your invitation to say something like “Hello, I am really impressed with your profile and I would like to have you in my network.”  Wait a week or so after they have accepted your invitation to follow up and ask for the informational interview.

4) Explain who you are and what you want from them

This is where the 60 second commercial comes in.  Be prepared to sell yourself and let them know who you are.  Also let them know what your goal is and how you believe insight from them could help you in your career.  What you want is 15 – 20 minutes of their time FACE-TO-FACE.  15 – 20 minutes is all it really takes if you are fully prepared.  If you’re calling them on the phone, I would suggest you use a phone script because you may be nervous and this will help you stay on task.  You can jot down the key points you want to be sure to convey.   Make sure you know your schedule over the next few days so you can easily schedule an appointment with them.

5)  Arrive/Leave on time and be prepared with your 10 questions

Treat it like a regular interview and arrive 15 minutes early and dress professionally. Also, leave on time unless the person being interviewed wants to extend it.  You will have to pay attention to their body language to see if they are ready to end the meeting.  They will most likely let you lead the conversation so have your 10 questions written down.  Of course, it is up to you what you want to ask but here are some suggestions:

a.  What’s a typical day like in this position?  What are your duties?

b.  What personal qualities or abilities are important to be successful in this job/industry?

c.  What part of the job do you find most satisfying?  Most challenging?

d.  What training or education is required for this type of work?

e.  How do you see jobs in this field changing in the future?

f.  What special advice would you give a person entering this field?

g.  Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about this industry?

6) Show you’ve done your research and FLATTER THEM!! 

Be sure to let them know what research you have done on them and the company.  Go to the company website and find some key facts about the company.  You can also google the company name and see what comes up.  LinkedIn is a great place to get information on the person you’re interviewing.

Flatter!!  Flatter!  Flatter!! Trust me….flattery still works!!  Most people are humbled when someone actually takes a genuine interest in them and what they do.  This makes them more willing to share information.

7) Have them give you feedback on your resume

Perhaps, the most important thing you should do while you’re in the interview is ask them to look at your resume.  Ask what they think of your experience so far and if there are some areas where you need to enhance your qualifications.   Having them look at your resume serves dual purposes:  a) it lets you know what you need to do to improve it and b) it gets your resume in front of an industry professional and perhaps they will realize you might be a good fit for an opening at their company.   Be prepared in case it turns into an actual job interview! (This happened to me for one of my informational interviews.  The employer looked at my resume and saw all of my qualifications and had me go to HR on the spot and fill out a job application for one of their current openings.  I was called for an interview weeks later.)

8) Get referrals

Before you leave, you MUST get referrals.  Everyone knows someone else at their company or in their industry that has just as much knowledge as they do.  When you ask for referrals you can say, “Is there anyone else that you know who you think I should talk to to get some insight?  When I contact him/her, may I use your name?”

As you leave, give them your business card and get theirs as well.   (Don’t have business cards?  Check out my blog – “You Don’t Have to Have a Business to Have Business Cards”)

9) Follow up within 24 hours

It is imperative that you send a thank you letter showing appreciation for their time and insight.  Mention something specific from the conversation to show what you learned.  If they had some suggestions for your resume, make the changes and send the updated version with your thank you letter.  Also, end it by saying something like, “Because our meeting was so brief, I was not able to completely share my background with you.  I have included my LinkedIn profile/ blog / online portfolio to give you additional information about me.”

10) Do it all over again with the next contact

FAQ – Lunch Interviews

1.  Why do employers have interviews over lunch?

There are a number of reasons:  a.) it may be the most convenient time for them to meet, b.) they want to see your table manners – definitely if the position you are interviewing for will require you to take others out to lunch or c.) they just like to go out to eat.

2.  What should I do if I am not familiar with the restaurant the employer chooses?

Nowadays most restaurants have their menu online and you can look it up prior to your interview to familiarize yourself with what they offer.  You can also arrive a little earlier and ask for a menu or ask the host what they recommend.  If the employer shows up and sees you already looking at the menu, it’s no big deal.

3.  How early should I arrive?

You should treat lunch interviews as regular interviews and arrive 15 minutes early.

4.  Where should I put my purse, bag and/or coat?

If you have a bag or briefcase put it on the floor next to your chair or in one of the other empty chairs at the table.  A more upscale restaurant will have a coat check, but if not you can also put your coat in one of the empty chairs or hang it on the back of your chair.  Now, make sure your bag and coat are not in the aisle in the way of the servers that will be passing by.

Ladies, when you are going for an interview take a smaller purse (or wallet) that can fit in your lap under your napkin.

5.  If the interviewer is a woman should I open the door for her or pull out her chair?

Absolutely not!  In business things of this natural are gender-neutral.  If you try to pull out the interviewer’s chair or open her door, she may see it as being overbearing.  And under no circumstances do you walk her to her car.  Keep in mind, this is a business meal….you are not on a date!

6.  How do I know what to order?

You can do the things mentioned above in #2 or you can very casually ask the employer what he/she will be having or recommends.  Take notice of the price of the suggested items and stay within that range.  You don’t want to order a steak that costs $21.99 and the employer has a chicken salad for $11.99.  Do not order messy foods.  You will already be nervous and shouldn’t add to that by trying to figure out how to wrap the spaghetti around your fork.  Also, never order alcohol…even if the interviewer is having alcohol.  It could be a test to see if you will drink in the middle of the day.  Then if you get the job, you may do the same thing and come back to work after you have been drinking.

7.  Is it okay to pray over my food?

Of course.  There’s no need to make a big deal about it.  Just pray as you would normally.

8.  How do I pace myself during the meal?

You want to watch the interviewer and keep the same pace.  You don’t want them to be done with their salad and having to wait 10 minutes for you to finish yours.  Also, don’t get done too early.    The lunch interview is NOT about the meal.  So, make sure you eat a snack beforehand so you do not arrive starving.

9.  What if there is something wrong with my food or I don’t like it?

This is where you have to make a decision as to whether it is absolutely unbearable or you can still get through it.  If it is clearly something you cannot eat (you’re allergic to it or you feel it will make you sick), very politely explain that to the server and order something else.  You should order something that can be prepared quickly like a salad so you don’t “hold up” the interview.

Now, if you order something and then realize you don’t quite have a taste for it, just eat a reasonable portion of it anyway.   Remember, the interviewer is observing your table manners and you don’t want to do anything that will raise a red flag like being too picky or indecisive.

10.  How do I take notes and eat during the interview?

Very carefully.  You can have a small notepad for jotting down those important things you want to be sure you don’t forget.  You will have to use your listening skills more so in this situation and then jot down most of your notes as soon as you get to your car.

11.  What if I need to excuse myself from the table?

The only reasons you should excuse yourself is to use the restroom or excessive coughing or sneezing.  In this case just say, “Excuse me, I will be right back.”  That’s it…you don’t have to announce that you are going to the restroom.  I mean…where else would you be going????  You should not leave the table to take a phone call because your phone should be turned off or left in the car.   The only phone call exception is if there is a family emergency and someone is in the hospital.  In this instance, you would let the employer know that as soon as you sit down at the table.  You can say, “I just want to let you know that a family member is in the hospital and I may be getting an update while we’re here.  I apologize in advance if I need to step away for a moment.”

12.  What if I see someone I know while at the restaurant?

Speak briefly, explain that you’re on an interview and try to keep moving.  Example:  “Hi Michelle, how are you?”  (Michelle:  I’m doing great.)  “Good to see you! I’m on an interview with XYZ Company.  I will catch up with you later.”  Hopefully, they will get the hint that they should end the conversation.  You may have to give them a “look” that says “I can’t talk right now.”  Once you leave the interview, you can call them on the phone and fully explain the reason for your abruptness.

13.  Can I take home a “to go” box?

NO!  You should try to eat the majority of your food and not really leave too much on your plate.

14.  Should I offer to pay or leave the tip?

No, it is not necessary.  The employer will pay for the meal and leave the tip.

15.  Can I smoke after the interview?

You may smoke once you are out of the view of the employer.

 

Test Your Resume IQ

See how much you know about resumes by answering TRUE or FALSE to these statements.

  1. Your references should be included at the bottom of your resume.
  2. You should list a home and cell phone number.
  3. You should only put experience on your resume that you were paid for.
  4. An employer will look at your resume for 10 seconds or less initially to determine if he wants to call you for an interview.
  5. You have to put every job you have had on your resume.
  6. When listing your jobs you should put the entire address (street, city, state and zip) of the company that you worked for.
  7. When putting the dates you worked at a job it is acceptable to just list the year.
  8. It is very important to have extra-curricular activities on your resume such as professional memberships, volunteer work, etc.
  9. It is okay to use a font less than size 10 on your resume.
  10. When mailing your resume to an employer, it is okay to fold it to put it in a standard envelope.
  11. To make your resume easier to read, it is okay to capitalize, bold or underline things.
  12. Having just one mistake on your resume could disqualify you from getting an interview.
  13. When describing your job duties, you should use complete sentences.
  14. A resume is more likely to be considered if it has keywords and uses industry terminology.
  15. Your education should always be listed before your professional experience.
  16. It is acceptable to decrease the margins to fit more information on the page.
  17. You must have an objective to let employers know what job/industry you are interested in.
  18. You should list your supervisor’s name and phone number for each job.
  19. A lot of employers use resume scanning software to “weed out” resumes.
  20. You should use ‘Duties include’ or ‘Responsible for’ to describe your job duties.

Below are the answers to the statements above.  If you did not get all the answers correct, you should consider having a professional Resume Writer restructure your resume for you.  

1.  F                 2.  F                 3.  F                 4.  T                 5.    F

6.  F                7.  T                 8.  T                 9.  F                 10.  F

11.  T               12.  T                13.  F               14.   T             15.  F

16.  T               17.  F                18.  F               19.  T             20.  F