Monday, April 21, 2008

How not to get a job

In my job as customer service manager, I get to help with hiring our department's new employees. Although my boss, the director, makes the final decision, I play a part and he's also been very generous about discussing with me the whys and why nots that he likes or dislikes the different applicants. When I was the job seeker, I was racked with nerves. I wanted the potential employer to give me a chance, to see my future potential even if I didn't have the required basic skills. I was so eager to land the job, to start earning income, to receive benefits, to pay my bills, that I was much more focused on my needs than the employer's. Of course I thought somewhat about the employer's needs, but honestly, I was more focused on my needs. I won't be too hard on myself or on job applicants, because we all need income. However, now I'm on the other side so maybe I can help a person or two who are seeking a job now. First, my purpose is not to make anyone nervous. The interviewer doesn't expect anyone to be perfect. The interviewer is probably nervous, or at least anxious herself. In our case, we really want to find a new employee. We're so swamped with work that everyone in the department is stressing out. Although we want to find people who can do the job, we're not going to hold out for super employee, either. So, as much as we're anxious to hire another somebody (we already hired one person, but we have so much work we're hiring two people total) it has to be somebody who we think can learn the job, and that can learn the basics of the job without too long of a learning curve. In our case, specifically, we need people that are understandable in English when they speak (Spanish is a plus but not necessary). They need to know the basics of Word, Excel, email, and internet. We're not looking for an IS whiz or an accountant - we're putting out a lot of letters, answering a lot of phone calls and emails, and fixing problems on the Internet. We also take donations. We have to be able to multi-task as we're a very busy office, especially October - February. Sooooo, how NOT to get the job. 1) Don't know anything or very little about the necessary skills needed for the job. If you need to know how to use Word or Excel or any other computer program, learn how to use it - at least the basics. Get a proficient friend to tutor you. (I've tutored friends before an interview and they landed the job). Use handy dandy tutorials on the Internet or on the computer program itself. Take a class (if you have enough time). It doesn't have to be an expensive college class. A cheap high school night class or online class will usually do the trick. 2) Give a bad answer about why you left a former job. Acceptable answers include (according to my boss, anyway): I did not get along with my boss (or coworker). I wanted to advance/do something more challenging (provided the current job really is more of a challenge or that's a BAD answer). I took time off to (have a baby, care for an ill relative). Unacceptable answers include: I only took the job temporarily while I was waiting to get a job in my field (True case: our applicant showed a string of 3-month only jobs on her resume. All but one were in banking. It was troubling enough that she had had so many jobs and even more so that they only lasted 3 months (probation period). What troubled my boss most, however, is that our job was not in banking so she had given the impression that she was only planning to take our job until a better job in her chosen profession showed up.) *We, the employer needs someone who will stay long term and who at least plans to give the job an honest try. 3) Act as if you don't want the job. Another real life scenario: The applicant told me, the interviewer/tester that she'd rather be home making crafts all day. Perhaps she only saw me as the tester, not the actual interviewer. Either way, it was not a smart thing to say. We need someone who is willing to work and who wants the job. 4) Tell the employer that you're taking courses/college for a totally different type of job. * This may or may not be a negative. It's positive that the applicant is bettering herself with education, that she has a goal. My boss did not see this as a negative. However, I had my doubts when the young lady regaled me with her plans to make a career of the OTHER job, the one she was studying for, which had nothing to do with the job we are offering. 5) My employer is different than most in that we're a Christian ministry as well as a charity. Thus, sometimes the applicants we like, don't wish to work in our environment. Thus it is doubly difficult to find a match. Although my department is primarily a business based one, we occasionally get a donor on the phone that wants to pray, that waxes very religious. Although we have a team of "prayer warriors" we can't always reach them on the phone (either they're not at work yet as they work a later shift a couple days of the week or they're already praying with someone), so then it's up to us to pray with the person. If a person tells us in words that they are okay with that, but their expression or body language says the opposite, they most likely will not land the job even if they meet the other requirements. 6) Dress unprofessionally. Although my employer does not demand the employees wear business suits, even to interview, don't come dressed down in jeans or ratty clothes or flip flops. Too many people seem to think that because my employer is a charity/Christian ministry, that they will hire anybody who applies. Actually, my employer is quite demanding in many ways and is very businesslike even though it has its very religious side. 7) Be insincere or too excited. Again, because we are a Christian ministry, some applicants gush religion during the interview. They forget that we also have to function as a business. Many come off as insincere to me. My best advice is just to be friendly and be yourself. In our case, we're a group of ten ladies, (most of us nice little grandmas), and one very gentle man, who shouldn't be scary to anybody. However, we know that any new job is scary or at least uncomfortable until you learn the lay of the land. Also, beyond educating yourself, practice the new skills. In addition, if you're new in this line of work, volunteer to build your resume. Good luck!


Unknown said...

When I had to interview peopel for my assistants position I was amused at the people who turned up in what I what conisder casual clothes. They also made it clear they wanted my job...funny people

DJ Kirkby said...

This was interesting and informative. I used to interview applicants in my previous job and I agree with the advice you've put on this post. I like your new blog decor.

Utter Basketcase said...

hahahaha cool!

I had a job interview once for a very flash job (well in my eyes) half way through the interview I was so intimidated by all the pressure of work duties and the high salary, that I decided I didn't want to go for it.

So I deliberately tried to sabtage it and acted like a real idiot to turn them off hiring me...

But they STILL wanted me!

They rang me and told me I got the job and I was like "Oh sorry actually theres been a change of plans, I'm going on a holiday to NZ and wont be back for a month"

But they STILL wanted me and said that they are happy to wait a month for me! LOL

I just couldn't get rid of them.... in the end I told them that I just wasn't interested and even though the guy was like 'How can I change your mind?' It did the trick! :-) xx

Molly Daniels said...

Hahaha...maybe point #3 was my case when I last interviewed...I thought I was a shoo-in for the job, even though I told them one of my goals was to get the next two books out of my head and be published again by the end of the year:)

I was semi-stunned when they didn't hire me; hubby was upset:

"You didn't even want the job!"

"Uh..actually, I did..."

Oh well. God obviously has something else in mind for me:)

Utter Basketcase said...

Oh sorry!!! I should have mentioned that its me (vbf) *GiGGLeS*

I've changed my name!!!

BTW... The adventures of RAT GiRL has arrived!!! Come and check it out!! :-) xx

Sandra Cox said...

Great blog. And very helpful for those on the job market right now.

Nicole McCaffrey said...

Wow, great suggestions! Makes me glad that I'm gainfully employed in a growing company, LOL.

But I do have to do interviews like this on occasion and these just cracked me up.

Oh, BTW Ashely--I've tagged you, you're it!

Vi said...

One company I worked for, employed this guy who said he knew all window packages, blew steam up his own bum. When it came to the job, he knew NOTHING! I had to even sho him how to copy and paste! Needless to say, he didn't last long.

Phoenix said...

Or dress in torn jeans and stained tees. I have seen this so many times.

Unknown said...

I love the ladies in my department, but most can't copy, cut, and paste. Seriously. So I had to start testing for rudimentary computer skills as our HR department doesn't and they take people at their word. I felt like apologizing to the lady I interviewed yesterday because she was good and I was testing on really simple things.

Unknown said...

We've had at least a few applicants tell us how good they are and after we've hired them, they know nothing or almost nothing about what they claimed to know.

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