Help Wanted: Unemployed Lessons #1

I am unemployed for the second time in a year right now – this time by choice, due to some skeevy stuff that made me uncomfortable at my most recent job – and the experience of applying for, interviewing for, and turning down a number of job offers now has made me want to hold a class so people who are interviewing and hiring for jobs could learn a thing or two from my experience.

But today I want to focus on one in particular. Lesson Number 1: You are not the only job I have applied for.

This is an important lesson I think a lot of potential employers would benefit from learning. Here’s why.

First, if an employer understands that you are likely filling out a lot of job applications, sending out a lot of resumes, and – since you’re a stellar candidate, naturally – attending a lot of initial interviews, they shouldn’t be asking you to put out extra expenses to participate in this interview. Yes, I’ve seen some pretty irrational requests online for obvious job scams like paying to be considered by a placement service, but this type of request manifests even with legitimate positions in smaller ways. How many people ask you to email in your resume, only to request that you print the resume and bring it with you so they have a print copy on hand for your interview? To me, this is unprofessional: they are a company, probably with printing resources; if not, what’s wrong with keeping the resume electronic? The environmental waste – and eventual adding up on your own budget for printing costs – is inconsiderate and unnecessary. Other potential additional expenses include asking you to bring special supplies to an interview, asking you to wear something very specific to an interview (beyond the “business casual/professional attire” mandate), or asking you to travel to more than one location for interviewing.

Second, the employer should consider that you may be looking at a number of positions in your search – in fact, they should hope that you’re wise enough to cast your net wide – and thus shouldn’t make you play any guessing games as to which position they are contacting you about. I have even had employers contact me from organizations that are so large – like universities, or large corporations – that I have been qualified for, and have applied for, more than one position. I think it’s my responsibility to keep a basic record of the positions for which I’ve applied. But many companies do not even advertise the name of their business in their job ads, and have you email your resume to a blind email address (like on Craigslist). So when they call you up out of the blue without emailing you first to schedule a telephone interview, and say, “Hi, I’m calling about the admin position you applied for,” for instance, it leaves you scrambling to figure out who they are, how long ago you applied for their position, and which of your qualities specifically they were looking for in this position. It doesn’t help them get the best out of you, so they can’t develop a clear picture of how you operate when you’re at ease.

Finally, the employer should keep in mind that any job search is a full time job. The candidates have to spend a lot of time reading job ads, making phone calls, following up, writing great cover letters, tailoring their resumes for specific positions, and performing in interviews both over the telephone and in person. So, the employer should try to keep the number of interview rounds to a reasonable number (I’d say three is the very maximum), and to a reasonable length (they should never go over an hour. Ever). The employer who feels that this is an inadequate amount of time to assess the candidate probably needs to brush up on their interviewing skills; if you’re not learning enough about the candidate from brain teasers, abstract queries like, “What animal are you most like?” and reiterations of the candidate’s resume, maybe you should learn to focus your questions to pointed topics that will actually help you determine if the candidate possesses qualities and skills that will indicate a good fit.

Keep in mind that your candidate, out of diligence and intelligence, is applying for numerous positions. This is not an indication of disrespect or disinterest in your position, but rather out of the practical demands of a job hunt. Respecting their time and resources and giving them a fair chance to present themselves well is the best way to ensure that you will see your candidates at their best, and that you will be able to choose the best for your position.

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

6 replies on “Help Wanted: Unemployed Lessons #1”

Yes, yes, yes. I once went to three interviews for a Starbucks positions. What the hell? Starbucks? How many skills does it take to make coffee? The final one was a personality profile interview and when I showed up, the interviewer was busy talking to friends she saw on the sidewalk and made me wait an hour an a half (which made me late for my other job). When I finally got up the courage to make my presence known, she was embarrassed but offered me a very pathetic apology. Even though I did a great job on all of their questions and waited patiently and respectfully for them to knock off the chit-chat, they still didn’t hire me. I was pissed. Employers can be such jerks sometimes.

Lesson #2: If you direct all applicants to an online application, hire people who apply online.
Since the stats on people who actually get jobs online are disheartening, I’ve tried to be more proactive. I go into retail shops and restaurants (those that have posted ads, and those who haven’t) and try to speak to the manager so they can put a face to the application. However, in the last year, every single place I’ve been to has directed me to their online application. Many say right on their career pages that they no longer take paper applications. To make matters even more confusing, those companies that instruct applicants to print out an application and bring it in, still send you back to their online career pages for questionnaires. I haven’t gotten a single interview this way.
How do people get service jobs now? Is it really only “who you know”?
Desperate for a Paycheck.

I’d LOVE for you to send this out to a few of the places I have interviewed at recently. I went to an interview not too long ago where on my second follow up the interview lasted 3 1/2 hours. after making me wait for 30 minutes. They asked me questions like “If you were a celebrity, who would you be” and ” describe yourself” and ” how would you protect the organization if something bad happened”. What ? And then they gave me “homework” to prove my skill level. I met with about seven staff members, all who seemed to expect that I would give them my resume (not something I was made aware of and why would I have seven copies of my resume on me) I followed up with everyone and nary a one of them emailed me back. Ok, fine, thats cool. But then two weeks go by, nothing. I email them, ask how the process is going and nothing.
A month later I got an email and I quote ” you didnt get the position. please do not contact us after this”.
Most candidates are grown adults and we will not crumble under the weight of being not hired, but a little respect goes a long way, especially if you want me as an employee.

During my “Great Job Search of 2009” I would also tell Interviewers that I was applying to many jobs in my field. But, there were a few jobs that I LOVED and I wanted them to know that so after telling them that I was looking at everything available I would add, “But, if I had seen this posting while at my old job, I would have still filled out an application. This position is exactly what I want to do.” Those particular Interviewers called me back for second rounds. (One of them did eventually make an offer because they knew I loved the position – and I still do. I’m there right now.) :)

Just, if you use that particular line, make sure there’s some heart to it. Unless you’re desperate. Then put on your acting shoes.

And good luck!

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