Job Interview Articles

The following articles could give you useful ideas about how to manage interview preparation and job search activities.

10 Mistakes to Avoid in a Confidential Job Search

In an ideal world, every job seeker could be open about the job search with colleagues, friends, family, and even employers. However, in reality you often won’t want your employer to be aware of your job search—at least until you’ve secured your next position (offer letter signed off and accepted). This is generally known and respected in the business community and should not be held against you by the companies you apply to. You definitely need to consider possible hazards when you find yourself in such a situation. Below are 10 mistakes people make when conducting a confidential job search, for you to keep in mind:

Mistake #1: Assume that, if the cubicles next to yours are vacant, it’s safe to use a normal conversational tone on the phone for your job search discussions. Sound travels in strange ways, depending on the structure of the building, time of day, etc. Someone sitting two rows over from you might still be able to hear your conversation.

Mistake #2: Confide in co-workers at your company about your plans, even if you have reason to believe those people are also “looking”: People you think you know can become unreliable. Maybe you have known them for years and trust them implicitly. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can depend on their discretion. Whether or not they mean to reveal your secret to the company, it can still happen through a slip of the tongue. Ask yourself whether having them know is worth the risk of exposure.

Mistake #3: Ask for copies of your past performance evaluations without a solidly plausible excuse: If you have been receiving performance reviews, you should have kept a copy of them at the time they were given and stored them where you had easy access to them (at home, not at work). If you didn’t do that, asking for them now can raise a red flag unless you can give a good reason, such as preparing for an upcoming review and wanting to go over past reports to refresh your memory.

Mistake #4: Post your resume/CV on Internet job boards that are accessible to all companies, including your own: In most cases, job boards will not guarantee confidentiality, and there are few limitations on access except a company’s willingness to pay a search fee, if there is one. You can try removing readily identifiable information from your resume before posting it and also use an innocuous email address, but that doesn’t ensure ironclad protection.

Mistake #5: Fail to emphasize to recipients of your resume/CV the fact that your search is highly confidential and your information must be protected: You might want to assume that intelligence and common sense rule the actions of recruiters, company HR staff, and others, but it’s a dangerous assumption to make in a confidential job search. You need to tell those people in plain English—and in writing—that it is a confidential search and your current employer is not to be made aware of it.

Mistake #6: Contact your company’s customers and competitors without careful forethought and discretion: It may well be that your employer’s customers and competitors are some of your prime targets for the job search, because your current experience and knowledge could be very useful to them. However, it’s important that you exercise caution in selecting and approaching both the companies and the individuals you want to contact, especially if you work in an industry or market-area that’s a close-knit community.

Mistake #7: Fail to keep family members “in the loop” about what’s going on and about the importance of maintaining secrecy in front of outsiders: Close family members have a right to know about something that’s likely to affect their future as well as your own; but if they don’t realize the sensitivity of the search, they may inadvertently reveal your activities to someone whom you definitely prefer to keep in ignorance—such as your employer!

Mistake #8: Give your company phone number—landline or cell—as a contact point, even if it’s a direct line used just by you: Company communications media (including voice mail) are risky tools in a confidential search, partly because they are not totally private and secure. Companies can and do access them if they feel they have a reason to. Your personal cell phone, if you have one, and/or your home phone number are much safer tools. Using company resources for your job search potentially also raises some ethical issues (this applies to points 9 and 10 as well).

Mistake #9: Use company email to send and receive job-search communications and/or do Internet searches at work: The same argument applies about company access to these items as for the phone system. You can’t protect them against scrutiny by the company, and even if you delete email messages, they can be retrieved in a variety of ways. As many people know by now, sites you visit via your company computer can also be tracked, and job-search sites would be a complete giveaway of your activities.

Mistake #10: Store copies of your job-search materials on your office computer or anywhere at work in physical (hard-copy) form: It’s a big mistake to have your confidential information even potentially discoverable at work, no matter how careful you think you’re being about it. Overcautiousness on all fronts is a decided virtue in a confidential job search!

Keeping these 10 potential pitfalls in mind can help you ensure that your job search remains a positive, forward-moving experience for you and allows you to continue to give your best performance to your current company during your search.

Discrimination: How to Handle It

It’s Illegal—and It Happens

Laws have been passed to make employment discrimination based on numerous factors—such as race, religion and age—illegal. Those laws have been around for a while now, and no company can claim ignorance as an excuse. But discrimination happens—sometimes because of poor training, but too often because companies have gotten sophisticated about how they do it.

One of the most common concerns relates to the possibility of age discrimination. Applicants may have gray hair or some other physical attribute that makes it clear they’re not thirty-something, or maybe even forty-something. Less obviously, something in their background could give away age information.

The recurring question is: How do I handle this?

It starts with your resume. Examine all elements carefully to see if you’ve included something that “dates” you. For example, you might find old technology, outdated business concepts or employment that goes too far back in years. Remove or rephrase any such items you find. At the same time, make sure current “hot buttons” are included if they’re a valid aspect of your experience, to show you’re up on the latest developments.

You can delay the question of age by taking the above steps with regard to your resume, but at some point—usually when you arrive for an interview—you may still have to deal with the issue of age discrimination, and it can be very tough to prove. How you prepare for the interview and how you handle yourself during it can make a huge difference; but if a company is determined to discriminate and can do it without being obvious, ask yourself a key question: “Do I really want to work in a place like this?” You might want to run, not walk, to the nearest exit!

Playing the Age Game

What do you do when you are shunted aside for younger, often less skilled employees? What about when you’re a mature worker and find yourself reporting to a younger manager?

You can look for ways to leave the company—find another job, retire, maybe start your own business. If a new job seems like your best answer, do what you can to evaluate the climate at the potential employer and determine whether the company acknowledges and rewards the value of older workers.

It’s not only a question of whether a company will hire older workers but whether they will provide them with a supportive work environment. For instance, do they promote from within, which can give more experienced employees an edge, or do they tend to bring in young people with less experience to manage those employees?

If you’re currently employed by a company that is bringing in younger people and you end up with a young manager, can you stay there? Sometimes younger people are as uncomfortable (or insecure) managing older employees as the older employees are with taking orders from someone much younger. You may eventually be able to alter this relationship and achieve a positive work environment. If not, it could mean leaving.

When your company systematically sheds older workers without getting caught at it—and you feel you might be next—you may not have a future there any more. The environment is likely to become so inhospitable that you are forced to go elsewhere, if you aren’t actually let go. Try not to let things deteriorate to that point! Instead, make a positive move to improve your situation before then, by identifying opportunities you can target in other organizations and then actively pursuing those opportunities.

The Secret of Interview Magic: Hone Your Interactive Skills

You don’t have to be a Houdini or a David Copperfield to create interview magic. Sharp listening, observation, and communication skills will work a lot of magic for you. If you don’t have them now, don’t despair—you can cultivate them!

Did you know that you can listen much faster than most people talk? That’s a bad-news/good-news situation when you’re in an interview. The bad news is that your attention might begin to wander if you’re not fully engaged in what the speaker is saying, or you might start planning what you’re going to say as soon as the other person stops talking. If that happens, you could miss an important piece of information or, which could be worse, show the speaker clearly that you’re not focused on him or her.

The good news is that if you develop the habit of listening, consciously and actively, to what’s being said, you can file-away the key points in your memory and respond appropriately to them when it’s your turn to speak— without losing concentration and becoming unfocused. That’s a key skill to acquire with regard to interviews. What the interviewer says—and how it’s said—should provide hints that enable you to select and customize the information you choose to share about your skills, accomplishments and potential value to the organization.

Along with active listening goes observation. How much attention are you paying to non-verbal clues about the organization and the job you’re applying for? This question relates not only to the duration of the interview itself but also to every aspect of the process—before and after the interview.

Hints on What to “Watch” For:

  • During the telephone pre-screening, do you sense any pressure or abruptness from the caller? Any non-responsiveness to your questions?
  • How early or late do the company’s current employees arrive or stay? (You’ll have some idea about this if you pay a visit to the facility at the beginning or end of the normal workday.)
  • Is the company atmosphere open and friendly? If not, how does it strike you?
  • Are you kept waiting well past your appointment time? With or without an explanation or apology?
  • Do you pick up on any indications that the company might be experiencing difficulties?
  • When you ask probing questions, do you receive frank answers? (For example, “Why is this position open? What happened to the person who held this job before? What challenges is the company facing in the near future?” etc.)
  • If you follow up appropriately after the interview, do you receive a prompt, courteous response?
  • Have you checked out the company with impartial outside parties who might know something about it? What feedback did you get?
  • Does what you’ve been seeing/hearing about the company and/or the job give you the feeling that you and it would make a good fit? If not, why not?

So now that you’ve honed your listening and observation skills, does the interview magic happen automatically? Not quite. You still need to know your “product” (yourself) and find ways to articulate to the interviewer that you are genuinely enthusiastic about the company/job and underscore why you believe strongly that you can contribute value to the organization. Be prepared to offer specific, relevant examples from your experience (selected based on what you’ve learned by listening and observing), because “showing” carries more impact than “telling.”

Finally, send or drop off a thank-you/follow-up letter ( not an email, unless an actual handwritten or typed note is impossible for some very good reason). Send one to each person you interviewed with. Don’t make the letter sound like just a pre-recorded speech. By all means thank the interviewer— sincerely —for his or her time, but you need to do much more than that. Mention at least one thing you particularly appreciated or found interesting about your interview with that individual. If possible, add a point or two to emphasize the value you are confident you can bring to the organization and your main reasons for wanting to become a contributing member of their team.

Not enough people send these letters, so if—no, when —you do, you will leave a strong impression with the interviewer, and that plays a key role in making your interview magic happen.

More articles: Resumes and more | Senior Manager/Executive Job Search | Career Management

The articles included here were written by me unless otherwise identified.

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“By Georgia Adamson, A Successful Career, 508-263-9454, www.ablueribbonresume.com.”