July 22, 2010

I decided after talking to several people about this that I wanted to share some information on putting a resume together and doing interviews for potential employers. I am surprised how many people are not aware of interview/resume etiquette. At first I thought it was a generational gap but it turns out that many of my peers are in the dark on this. I'm going to do this in 3 separate posts. First: Interviewing etiquette. Two: The do's and don'ts on a resume. Three: The "OH NO YOU DIDN'T" Interviews I've had.

This information is NOT based on personal "opinion". I'll be sharing things that have been passed on to me from employers, from teachers in high school, from a course I took in college and from the experience I've received being part of the hiring process in companies I've worked for (as Director of Communications and Administrative Assistant positions), plus my 3+ years of experience as a manager of healthcare workers.

In this list I will tell you why you should or shouldn't do something.

1. When you are called for an interview, sound enthusiastic (even if you aren't). Whether we like it or not, employers are already forming an opinion about you when they hear the attitude in your voice. Don't sound frumpy like Eeyore from Winnie the Poo. Nothing says "I really don't want this job but I have to get it" for whatever reason, like a frumpy voice.

2. Dress conservative when going to an interview even if the job you're seeking is construction work. How you dress isn't so much about the position you are seeking as it is about showing respect to your potential employer.

3. ALWAYS shake the employers hand and greet them professionally. Included in this is firm handshake (not squeeze them to the ground handshake or limpy wimpy handshake) and eye contact. In America, firm handshake and eye contact shows confidence. Other countries, this can be the opposite, but here in the U.S it is a must. 
The first impression is 90% of the interview and that first impression happens in the FIRST 5 minutes. It is difficult for employers to shake off certain physical characteristics of an interviewee which leads me to #4.

4. Cover the tattoo and piercings! Like it or not, tattoos say two things about a person. One: they are followers (before you get huffy on this, look around you. 99% of the population didn't get a tattoo until it was popular to do so) and two: they are rebels. Of course, this doesn't speak for everyone as a whole, my husband got a tattoo for spiritual reasons and had it done in a spiritual manner, but stereotypes come about for a reason and although they are wrong, people have a hard time separating the stereotype from the person. Employers are no exception. Generally, an employer doesn't want an employee that can't think independently and they don't want an employee that can't follow instruction. If your potential employer doesn't have the time to take the risk on you, THEY WON'T. Cover the tattoos and piercings until you get the position and the employer has the time to get to know you. Yes, feel free to ask if your tattoo or piercing (THAT IS COVERED DURING THE INTERVIEW) should remain covered during work hours because some companies demand it and you'd want to know that ahead of time to prevent problems later. Most employers don't care if you have a tattoo or piercing, they just don't want to see them at an interview. It is all about respect, respect, respect.

5. DO NOT ACCEPT CELL PHONE CALLS OR TEXTS DURING AN INTERVIEW. This should need no explanation but seriously I guess it does because this actually happened to me. Besides being obviously RUDE, it says several things about an interviewee. One: you aren't that interested in the job, Two: you can't get through 30 minutes much less 8 hours without talking or texting on the cell, Three: your phone is your life-line and you can't manage without it, even manage to do your work. It is one thing if you forgot to turn your phone off, in which case you'd apologize to the potential employer and then turn off the phone or if you have an emergency call (and it better be a REAL emergency) coming through, explain that BEFORE the interview starts so that no one is caught unprepared.

6. Don't ask about salary during an interview. There has been some serious misconception about this. Every employer knows that you as the potential employee needs or wants money or you wouldn't be interviewing for the job, you don't have to shout it out by asking what the pay is. It means you care more about the money than you do the job and you want to give several impressions in a job interview. One: you want the employer to believe you are sincerely interested in the work you'll be doing, two: you want the employer to believe that work is first and money is second. That isn't true for most people and employers know it, this is where "unwritten" etiquette comes in. Employers know you need/want money but they want to feel/believe that your heart is into this job (whether it is or isn't) and that you really don't care about the pay (even though you do). Few words speak volumes and in this case it yells greed. Most employers won't admit this but I guarantee it is what they are thinking. No one wants someone who obviously is driven by the almighty dollar because it leads to other thoughts about that potential employee, thoughts like will this person stick with us if the company struggles financially, will they always be harping on the employer over raises and benefits, will this employee be remain productive even if the salary demands can't be met, etc... Some companies can't give you a hefty raise every year so if your eyes read $$$$, you won't get hired. Save the questions about salary for when you are offered a job. You might feel like you've wasted your time if you need $20/hr and you learn later you can only make $10/hr but time is not wasted in any interview. All interviews should be considered valuable experience. The more you interview the better you'll get at it. Asking about money isn't worth risking a potential job. When the employer offers you a position and if they haven't already told you, then and only then do you ask about pay. If it isn't what you expect you tell them "I'm sorry, the pay isn't what I expected so I will have to decline the offer." If they want you bad enough they may meet your demands and if they don't they will be ok with it and move on.

7. Try to avoid telling personal stories that lead to "revealing" what should be private information. I know this is difficult because sometimes, especially in casual interviews, you can fall easily into this trap. It might not be a "trap" in the sense that it is intentionally set by the potential employer but again, the employer is making mental notes. Avoid telling them you have children. Legally, you don't have to and legally, they can't ask. Don't talk about your family troubles like the drug addicted sister, the needy mother, the absent father, the slacker husband, etc... Anytime you share some part of your life the employer immediately digests that information and then ponders whether or not these things are significant and in some way can impair your ability to work (whether that means taking you away from your job or consuming your mind so much that your productivity will be lacking.) KEEP ALL PERSONAL DETAILS TO YOURSELF. It would serve you well to know what an employer can and cannot ask and I would stick within that guideline as well when it comes to sharing information. Here is a list of 30 questions that can't be asked in an interview: CLICK HERE

8. Don't interrupt. If the employer is talking and blabbing on for what feels like an eternity just keep on nodding and smiling. People who interrupt are NOT good listeners. You want to give the impression you are a good listener, even if you aren't. This is fact. I've had to train myself to be a better listener over the years so I can attest to this. There are even some courses on how to be a better listener. I don't like to call it a personality flaw because we are who we are but we do need to learn when listening is important and an interview is that time.

9. Know something about the job you applied for and the company/person offering the job. Would you go into Microsoft seeking employment without knowing Bill Gates is the founder and that they manufacturer a number of computer products? Maybe you would but you shouldn't! This goes back to the money issue. Not knowing anything about Microsoft would tell them interviewer that you need a paycheck (and who doesn't) but the job itself is secondary = NOT GOOD EMPLOYEE!

10. Always arrive on time, better yet be early! Although most people already know this, being late to an interview means your likely to be late a lot to work.

11. Don't fidget in your seat. This gives the impression that you are nervous, which is ok, but it also gives the impression that you are insecure and that isn't ok. Insecure people need lots of guidance and employers want to feel they can trust you with the job, whether it is done independently or not.

12. Don't talk negativity about past employers. All it shows is that you have no respect and your likely to do the same to the potential employer. No one wants to be raked through the coals behind their back and all stories have two sides, so if your slagging off a past or current employer it is just a sign of your inability to hold your tongue and quite possibly you've represented yourself as the new "gossip" monger of the company which we all know leads to office politics and no one wants that.

13. Don't tell the employer that you have applied to numerous other companies. What this tells the interviewer is that, one: you could actually leave your current position with their company if one of these "other" companies you applied to comes a calling, two: you are desperate.

14. Don't blame anyone for leaving past jobs, even if there are legitimate reasons. I left a job at a church because the Pastor I was hired under left after 4 years and a new one came in. She and I didn't see eye to eye so I left that position. Actually the entire staff of 5 left because of the new pastor and of course in a new job interview I could explain the ins and outs of that story, afterall I had 4 other staff members that would concur with what I had to say but it is all irrelevant. Don't get stuck on triviality. No one cares if you and your former boss had a beef or if you and a former co-worker couldn't breath the same air. You can still be honest without revealing details. In my case, I would say that I left that position because I had been there 4 years and at the time I wanted to explore something new. Unless your resume shows you jumping job to job every six months, wanting to explore something new after 4 years isn't a big deal and "exploring something new" might translate as the new boss and I didn't see eye to eye but the interviewer will appreciate that you didn't slag off the old boss even if you could prove she was a wench.

15. Refrain from bringing people to interviews with you. This is all about being able to stand on your own as an adult. Confidence and security is what you want to emit and bringing mom or hubby to interview emits the opposite. Bringing kids to an interview is sooo baaaaaaaaaad. Although it wouldn't be a deal breaker for me as an employer because I have kids an understand that need but some employers will see that as an inability to balance home life with work life. If you can't leave the kids at home or with a sitter than reschedule the interview.

16. Last, for heavens sake don't lie on an application ESPECIALLY if a background check is involved. No one wants a liar working for their company for a thousand reasons. If you broke the law, tell the potential employer. Most times, depending on the crime, employers see past that. You're just hurting yourself by lying. Same goes for falsifying experience or education. Eventually it all comes to light and the embarrassment and possible prosecution is NOT WORTH IT!
Anonymous said...

Terrific article, M!! Interestingly, I knew all of this even when I was but a young college kid (well, maybe not the cellphone thing because we didn't have cell phones back in those dinosaur days...LOL! but it was something I would have deduced). Why don't more people know these rules??

Michelle said...

Same here T! I guess I always assumed if it wasn't covered in high school most people received the information in college but... so far I'm seeing the opposite.

In some way I think schools do a disservice to students if they don't teach resume/interviewing etiquette because, how else are they going to know?