When is the last time...

mjmercerFebruary 24, 2011

...you applied for a job?

It's not a cake walk! How many of you are going through it? Any tales from the front? Any tips for the rest of us who are thinking of venturing out there?


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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

About 30 years ago... and hope to never again :)

But during the interim, I sure saw a LOT of applicants pass through the office doors.

Spend some time reading the experts on job application. Spend a bit more time learning about the workplace to which you are applying. According to many interviewers, knowing something about the company may not be a major plus, but knowing nothing is big minus.

As a non-participant in the process, several of my bosses felt free to comment on the applicants -they were sure [and rightly so] that I would never betray their confidentiality. Some of the comments that I remember:

"Anybody can get caught in traffic. That's no excuse for not letting us know they may be late for the appointment." (And I noticed that tardy arrivals were rarely hired.)

"That just isn't appropriate attire." Referring to a number of things: jeans; near-transparent blouses; 4-inch heels; dirty ties; polo shirts, scuffed shoes, a sundress with huge orange and purple flowers [seriously].

"If they haven't learned to spell, I doubt they'll learn our company regs."

"Peeyuuuw." After being bombarded with an excess of perfume or aftershave lotion. If you are in the habit of wearing a scented product, don't! You may not notice how strong it is or that others find it obnoxious, but I assure you the interviewer notices.

Remember that people-judgment is basically formed within 15 seconds of the first meeting. A good interviewer will discount nervousness or a hesitancy in speaking; s/he will also form a decision that is greatly influenced by the *attitude* displayed in those first few seconds.

While I was a receptionist, and for several years in my next job, a couple of bosses would ask me for my 'first impression' of the applicant; and I'd rate possible suitability on a 1 to 10 scale. Later I learned that one of the psychologists was keeping track and that over a 2 year period, my rating agreed with the interviewer more than 95% of the time. That's both scary and reassuring: practice your interview with friends and family until they feel that if they were hiring, they'd hire you!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 4:00PM
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A lot of good advice there!

I've done some interviewing for new hires. One woman stands out. She had been an office manager for years for a doctor that was retiring. Sounded just like what we were looking for.

One BIG problem. She couldn't, or wouldn't look me in the eye. Or even in the face. Her eyes looked up, down, over there, over the other side, but never at ME. Not that I was that important, but I was the one asking the questions. I don't think she was shy. It drove me crazy in just a few minutes. It was as if I were not there. The questions were coming out of thin air, not from the person sitting in front of her.

Sooooo, practice your glad-to-meet-you, people skills.

I have always been fortunate in that I never had a problem getting a job. I think that first "hello" when you walk into the office is the most important. It worked for me.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 4:49PM
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Read the job description and see how many points you can meet in that description.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 7:13PM
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I think the job sector is very analogous to the real estate sector in that sometimes it is a buyer's market and sometimes a seller's. It is definitely a buyer's market for employers in this economy, with hopeful job applicants trying to sell their skills.

Assuming you have interpreted the description of the job vacancy correctly and satisfied yourself you would be an asset to a prospective employer, the next step is to convince them. That's going to happen in the interview process, which means your C.V. or resume needs to interest them enough to buy you that piece of their time.

I cleaned my office out this winter at age sixty four. In my file cabinet, there has always resided a skeletal curriculum vitae. I read it, smiled, and finally put it through the shredder. Poke me with a fork, I am done. That baby is your ticket to an interview. It is always a work in progress, and every time you send it out, it should be modified in such a way as to reflect how your experience can be translated into a way to fill THEIR need. Unfortunately, the higher powered the job, the more hands it shall go through before an interview process, and the person who reads your C.V. first is often a person who is not directly linked to the job position. That means, you have to translate for them and spell it out......succinctly and modestly, but at the same time reeking with self-confidence. rofl I have been in the hiring position several times and am just as turned off by overkill, as I am by vagueness.

If you do get the interview, get yourself in the mind-set to be comfortable and enjoy the process. Remind yourself that you won't turn into a pillar of salt, should it not pan out. I have never had an interview where I didn't ask for a detailed description of the job duties, and sometimes have had to interrupt the interviewer to ask for them. I let them know right up front that I am just as interested in a good job fit as they are. Hey......it isn't all about me.....it's about you too! You'd be surprised at how many job applicants don't and that comes across as needy. In professional jobs, there often isn't any implied salary range. Many interviews I have had included the question about salary expectations. In that respect, it's like going to an auction. Decide beforehand your bottom line, so you won't look like a teen-aged babysitter on their first job who says, whatever you want to pay me. And.........always have answers for breaks in employment history and job changes. Never, ever bad mouth past employers, either. There are tactful ways of saying your last job was slightly better than pig-gutting, but not by much.

Good Luck and look on it as exciting.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 7:24AM
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My what a group of multi-talented people here in GP. I would hire any one of you. Steve in Baltimore County.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 8:05AM
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I totally agree. Meldy is right. My boss didn't ask me at the beginning, but I was often right, so now he asks. There was one that slipped past us both and we often joke about him wondering how he fooled the two of us?

The last time I looked for a job was 7 years ago. Before that, 19 years. I think what got me hired so quickly was my cover letter. I wrote what I knew I about the places and why I loved it more than anything in the whole world. So my one piece of advice not already given: Figure out where you love, then see if they're hiring. Or make a job for yourself. Call the HR and tell them they need you. However you go about it, be sure to love it. My number one turn off when hiring someone, this job will give me a chance to learn more as though they don't have the skills and figure we'll show them how to do the work.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 9:28AM
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I felt just the opposite Rob. I expect a new hire to learn, and my biggest problems were new hires who felt they already knew everything. They shut their minds like steel traps and alls you heard were the mantras of "when I worked for "X" we did it THIS way. I don't mind listening, because I might learn a better way to do it than how we did, but I also expected the reciprocal from the new hire. It also told me that they'd not be likely to take on any opportunities to increase their knowledge base independently. IOW, the type of people who would not be likely to do anything unless it weren't specifically called out in their job description. Ditto the bosses who hoard their expertise like they're afraid their subordinates might steal their job. I have had bosses like that who passed on information on a 'need to know' basis. I always believed in mentoring anyone under me who expressed a desire to learn. It'll save your butt one day.

You are right on about cover letters. They give you a real opportunity to slip in more subjective information, and positive remarks on them about the company they're interviewing certainly give off good vibes.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 10:30AM
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Not like that. I mean someone who'd never done the things listed. I love when someone says, I've got this job down pat and I'd love to learn something new. I meant someone who just didn't have any experience, but expected to gain it when they obtained the job posted. That always dumbfounds me.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 12:07PM
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Oh O.K. I can buy that one, with the caveat that there are some positions I'd prefer to fill with a totally blank slate with a good attitude, than a filled slate with a poor one. Did you ever notice how half of workplace disruption is a personality issue between humans and totally unrelated to work? You certainly can't fill every job based on attitude, some definitely require specific expertise but what I want to know is how did that person make it past the resume stage (or in some jobs the application stage) to get an interview in the first place? Somebody wasn't screening.

And for God's sake, job applicants should dress appropriately for the job interview, even if you have to go to Goodwill for a new wardrobe. If you don't care enough to impress me, you won't care enough to impress my clients, either. This wasn't at all directed to the poster, lol. It's just a thing with me because one job I had was as a personnel manager who did ALL the hourly and seasonal hiring for a manufacturing plant. I also did some screening when working in an engineering concern, and believe it or not the applicants I interviewed for receptionist/secretarial positions at the engineering concern were dressed more casually than those applying for assembly line work at the factory. Whether they thought it fair or not, their appearance definitely was my business because they were the 'face' of our company.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 1:48PM
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You are so right. There are times it's much better to train "my" way, than the to get past training that is ingrained. Amen sista! And I have hired like that. I was only looking for someone who had sticktoitiveness. Is that a word? Not a job hopper. Someone who had enough gumption to try hard.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 2:50PM
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There are a couple of components that I haven't seen addressed so far.

What about a job applicant who is more than likely old enough to be the prospective boss's mother? That's right, I'm talking about people with a degree AND several years of experience who are competing with those youngsters who are shiny, fresh, newly-degreed and 100% convinced they can do anything a boss throws at them. Most positions for which I am qualified are pitting me directly against this type of applicant.

Also, what about the sheer quantity of applicants for the ever-dwindling number of jobs now available? Seems to me that standing out, convincing a prospective employer of your unique talents, was much easier when there weren't thousands of applicants pounding the employer with that same message.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 4:39PM
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Oh Geeze Robin, not to turn this into a private conversation, but that is one reason I kept my business the size it was and stopped expanding when it got to the point I was hiring in for anything but short seasonal bursts. Some of them never even showed up for work the first day and I was probably paying twice the wage of similar businesses at that time. Those were through agencies, thank God because I'd hate to think my gut feelings would have been that far off at hire-in.

The sad part is some very good people are poor interviewees and some very poor judges are the initial interviewers. So when push comes to shove it's a lot about gut reactions if you get your toe in the door enough to even get an interview. I have been told in retrospect I am good at interviews. But, that was at a time when I had specific job skills most women (and many men for that matter) didn't have, so I had the luxury of not being worried I didn't get that particular position and more than once turned down offers. To be honest I have also been in the position of desperately needing a job and having to humble myself to take anything with decent pay, even knowing I'd hate it and working at stuff I'd have never considered at another time and in another place. But I still refused to be nervous or intimidated, even if I had to imagine the person conducting the interview had a bugger hanging out of their nose.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 4:42PM
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There is a lot of good advice here. mjmercer , don't worry about the competition, they want the same thing that you want, so put your best foot forward and go for it.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 7:45PM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

I think mjmercer has a good point, but the relativity really depends on the type of job. IF you have the required or preferred skills, the mature applicant has some BIG advantages over the bright-eyed newbie: play up that maturity means you aren't/won't be flighty in dealing with co-workers, bosses or the public; that you are looking for job that fits both you and the company instead of just getting another company name onto your CV; that you have a proven record of reliability; and if you are female and of a certain age, being past the demands of child-bearing and -caring can be a great selling point (tie it into the reliability and dependibility issue). If the job requires academic/technical accomplishments, do indicate that you have kept up-to-date with seminars and assorted study credits -- even if those credits didn't directly apply to your area of expertise! Those study points indicate you are smart enough to continue studying and learning after graduation, which tells the potential boss that you are both willing and capable of learning new things. Maturity equals experience, which newbies just don't have!

A point no one has made yet: network among friends and acquaintences to find your job. A referral from someone already employed by the company is often like a free pass (if the company likes employee A, then they usually accept A's knowledge as an "in" on the type of person you are). Several (maybe all) of my past employers gave very preferential treatment to folks referred by an employee! It goes both ways: your friend may let you know that a company that has a great rep on paper and draws a lot of attention from job-seekers is also not quite what you are looking for in terms of morale or chances for upward mobility; or the reality of a particular job is not one would expect from description; or that there certain unspoken demands expected (it's a lot easier to accept working overtime if you already know the job often has a need for that overtime work).

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 3:33PM
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meldy_,excellent advise. You hit a lot of points in looking for a job.
You said: "the reality of a particular job is not one would expect from description; or that there certain unspoken demands expected (it's a lot easier to accept working overtime if you already know the job often has a need for that overtime work)."
There is also the clear language in a job description that one has to read. That's when all the requirements are listed, including making coffee. That requirement alone made my students cringe (and that was 30 years ago) I kept saying that if they accepted
the job, since it was part of the job descripton they have accepted the task.
Rob touched on the issue when she said someone was surprised that she fixed the coffee at the office.

Talking about competition. I know a young man who is on the fast track in the business world. He is smart, skipped a grade in HS, while in college he interned with national companies, he was also the QB at the high school. He applied for a job, and there were 1,000 applicants for the job and he landed it. He sure had competition.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 7:56PM
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I have to say, Meldy's viewpoint is exactly the place I hit this time around.

Ok here's how I did it. I took the job description in its literal form and put them into sentences, making sentences that explained how I could do the task because I'd done it already. This was paragraph 2 and 3 of my cover letter. Then my resume backed it up. So you have loads of experience, and if they're looking for someone to hit the ground running, you're in. Just show them you're ready for them, you'll have the job. I hope. I am so thinking about you Karen!

An example, as written in one of our job descriptions:
"Exercises appropriate level of authority as delegated, reflecting independent judgment and discretion in the performance of duties and special projects"

How I'd change it to personalize it:
Organized a National Institutes of Health meeting for our group, using email notices, a database, and program compliation as the XYZ coordinator.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 8:57AM
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