Posts Tagged ‘employer’

While lying on a job interview is a bad idea, that doesn’t mean the Job Interview Police will come after you with handcuffs and an electric prod if you don’t reveal every little snippet of info related to your work history. Contrary to popular belief, a job interview is not an interrogation. It’s more like a first date. If you were on a first date, you wouldn’t chatter about the time you spent in the psych hospital because of your breakdown after your stalker ex-boyfriend came after you with a serving fork, would you? Hope not.

By the same token, don’t talk about the stuff the employer doesn’t need (or necessarily want) to hear in an interview, either. Here are a few tidbits to keep to yourself:

  • Your termination from your last job as the result of your calling your boss a moron on your Facebook page. Yes, people still actually do that. Don’t be one of them. And if you were terminated for something stupid you did, or something stupid they did, your prospective employer doesn’t need to hear the details. Be as brief and positive as you can in your explanation as to why you left the job (not a good idea to say you were “fired,”  “terminated,” or “tossed out on my ass”), and don’t talk against your former employer, even if he was an evil toad who forced you out because your lunch was smelly.
  • Your plans to get pregnant. If you start a new job and actually get pregnant, you probably want to share that bit of news with your employer at some point before your water breaks all over her Manolos during a sales presentation. But you are not legally or morally obligated to share your personal goals with an employer you don’t even work for yet.
  • Your plans to take a 2-week trip to Alaska next month to try to catch a glimpse of Sarah Palin skinning a moose. The knowledge that you might have to take 2 weeks off right after starting a job might sit sour in the interviewer’s mouth, and you don’t want that to influence their decision whether or not to hire you. Besides, you don’t know what their timeline may turn out to be. When you have an offer and are discussing a start date is the time to bring that up.
  • Your recent divorce and subsequent career epiphany. The career epiphany part is fine, if it’s relevant to why you’re applying for that particular job, or how you’ve arrived at this point in your career. But leave the personal stuff for your shrink.
  • Your difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.  Not all of us are morning people, and some workplaces are more flexible than others about work hours, but you don’t want to share your tardiness issues on a job interview. ‘Nuff said.
  • How you became born-again last week. How nice for you, but the whole God thing – not an appropriate topic for an interview, unless you’re applying for a job in a monastery.
  • Your salary in your last job. Yes, the interviewer may ask, but you don’t have to give out that information, even though you think you gotta answer ‘cuz they asked. Don’t forget the “it’s not an interrogation” thing. And by the way, your previous employer isn’t supposed to share that info either. You can answer the question by saying that your desired salary range is blah blah blah, based on your level of experience and the position. Your desired salary range is what’s relevant – not what you made before. After all, you may have been absurdly underpaid, or you might be more interested in a lower-paying position at this point in your career for various reasons. So there.
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In case you have no idea what the hell Dunder-Mifflin is, it’s the fictional paper company in which an array of bizarre and often socially obtuse characters spend their workday in the sitcom “The Office.”

“The Office” characters frequently demonstrate behavior that, while funny on a sitcom, in real life would likely get you booted out the door so fast you’d be sitting out in the parking lot with your coffee mug in your lap and a dumb look on your face before you had time to say, “Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.”

Here are some big fat don’ts if you want to keep your job in the real world:

  • Tell a racist joke while attempting a Chris Rock impersonation.
  • Volunteer the info that you’ve been trading sexual favors for a discount on office supplies.
  • Kiss a gay co-worker on the mouth in front of the entire staff to demonstrate your lack of homophobia.
  • Have sex in the stockroom with a co-worker during office hours.
  • Tell your employee she gives you a boner.
  • Fake thousands of dollars of website sales.
  • Pelt a client’s office building with eggs because they didn’t buy your products.
  • Toss messages from your boss in the trash without reading them.
  • Share an employee’s confidential info with everyone else in the office.
  • Perform a fake suicide to elicit your employees’ sympathy.


In an interview
A sense of humor is good
Sex jokes, not so much

Be yourself,  sort of
But not your fetishist side
No staring at feet

If you swear a lot
Don’t “f*ck” in an interview
Three blocks down’s okay

If you’re cynical
Try to curb the sarcasm
The job’s not Snark Queen

Are you religious?
Don’t bless the interviewer
Unless she sneezes

Weirdness can be cool
Just stay out of Crazy Town
Until you get home

Yes, you’re marketing yourself in your job search. You’re the product you’re selling. But that doesn’t mean you should be a snake-oil salesperson who resorts to sneaky tactics. Cuz guess what – it’ll probably blow up in your face. And you won’t be too marketable if you’re headless.

Here are a few dirty tricks not to do in your job search:

  • Lie about your background. Just as it’s sleazy to misrepresent a product, if you’re not honest about your experience and education, it’ll probably come back to bite you in the ass. Remember the Dean at MIT who was fired for saying she had a doctorate when she didn’t? I think she’s currently working as a cashier in the food court.
  • Harass employers. Once, twice, three times are okay for an initial contact or to follow up. More than that, not so much. Irritating the hell out of people isn’t an effective job search strategy. And if you crouch in the bushes and wait to pounce on an employer in the parking lot, you will officially be known evermore as Psycho Stalker Job Seeker Guy. There are laws.
  • Fudge contacts. You don’t want to contact a possible lead and say, “Joe Schmeckle suggested I contact you” if, in fact, you just got Joe Schmeckle’s name off of LinkedIn and he’s never heard of you. Bad form.
  • Conduct an in-your-face job search. Don’t you just love those ads with huge glow-in-the-dark headlines that shriek at you with multiple exclamation points? Bet you don’t.  Neither do employers. Unless they’re over-the-top-squirt-water-out- of-a-big-fake-red-nose themselves, in which case maybe it’s an ideal match. Usually, though, even though it’s important to be enthusiastic, don’t overdo it. Not in your cover letter or resume, or in person. Employers will want to smack you.
  • Try to bully an employer into interviewing or hiring you. I’m sure you wouldn’t do that, but I’ve heard stories….Just as it’s not kosher for a salesperson to ever try to intimidate a customer into buying their product, you don’t ever want to imply in any way that if you don’t get an interview, your Uncle Vito will come pay them a visit with your resume and a baseball bat. Of course, if Uncle Vito works for the company and can put in a good word for you with the hiring manager sans baseball bat, that’s another story.

Here are a few tips on doing a killer job search. And no, I don’t mean visiting your former employer and running amok with a machete.

  • From your research (yeah, I know you know how to do that), find some interesting tidbit about each employer you’re targeting in your job search, and mention it in your cover letter.
  • Better yet, connect the tidbit to how you can benefit them. And I don’t mean, “I read in the Boston Business Journal that you’re being sued for sexual harassment. Since I’ve been sued for that several times myself (I like to sneak around corners and bump into my co-workers to cop a feel), I could help you make it go away.” That’s the idea, though. Just substitute a more positive factoid, or one that may be a problem that you can help them solve, but not one that the National Enquirer would pant over.
  • Send your contacts some helpful info. A job lead, a link to an article about something they want info on or a topic they’re interested in, a link to their favorite porn site (not really). But don’t immediately ask for them to reciprocate. “Here’s that info on when Charlie Sheen’s mother ship is coming to take him home. Have any job leads for me?” is SO not cool.
  • Ask more questions than you answer in your networking interactions. And not, “What’s my area of expertise? What do you want it to be, baby?” Just focus more on them than you, and you’ll be surprised at how much more likely they’ll remember you, want to help you, pledge their eternal devotion to you, and grovel at your feet. Really.
  • Dress the part. Even if it’s not an actual job interview. When you go anywhere that has anything remotely to do with job search/networking/strategic shmoozing, dress like a – dare I say it – winner. I’ve seen job seekers show up at networking events in flip flops and muscle shirts. I mean, come on.
  • Keep busy. If you know what time “Are You Smarter Than a 5th-Grader?” comes on, you’re in trouble. And if you’re not, in fact, smarter than a 5th-grader, you might be tempted to stick your wet finger in an electric socket. So set up informational interviews, volunteer, work part-time, take a class, teach a class at a community center. Do constructive stuff you can put on your resume, that’ll help you continue to develop your skills and regularly interact with other humans.
  • Keep a positive attitude. If you’re negative, you’ll be much less likely to find a job, for a slew of reasons. Mostly because the majority of people you come in contact with will think you’re a pain in the ass, and they won’t want to have anything to do with you. Unless they’re negative themselves, in which case you can whine together in your dark cloud of blehhhh.


1.   If you have big yellow sweat stains on your shirt, your first will be your last.

2.   You don’t want to just blurt out anything that comes into your head.

3.   An hour late – not good.

4.   Sizing each other up is what it’s about.

5.   Uncontrolled body noises are frowned on.

6.   Preparation helps.

7.   You don’t want to just blather on about yourself without giving a flying toenail about the other person.

8.   Grabbing a boob in greeting will probably get you thrown out.

9.   If you whine about your ex, you’ll blow it.

10.  If you call them by the wrong name, forget it.


If you’re not familiar with haiku, it’s a form of poetry that consists of 3 lines, with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third. Here’re some about job interviews:

The manager asks
Did you used to be a blonde?
Illegal question

The phone interview –
I called the CEO Jane
“Uh, it’s Jim.” Oh crap.

Tough group interview
They fire questions at me
Don’t quit now, pit stick

Meeting with the boss
Focus on accomplishments
Ignore his foul breath

Maintain eye contact
Talk mutual benefits
Oops – looked at his crotch

Congratulations – you have a job offer! All those months (years?) of job hunting; sending targeted resumes and cover letters to hiring managers showing them how you can impale their nasty little dragons on the head of a spear; enduring the smirks of passersby on the street after a networking event because you forgot to take off your name tag. You’ve been offered the job you wanted and a salary that will allow you to pay your Verizon bill from 3 months ago and stop rationing the toilet paper.

Now what? Do you just take the salary that’s offered, ‘cuz you’re just so happy to have the job? Do you stammer, “Do you think maybe you could go just a wee bit higher?” I think you know the answer to that. Keep in mind that every job/salary affects your financial situation for years to come, probably for the rest of your life (how’s that for pressure?).

Here are some don’ts when it comes to negotiating salary.

  • Don’t be too humble. I am, of course, assuming that you wouldn’t literally bend down to the floor and chant, “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy!” But sometimes people are so grateful to have a job offer, especially after a long and difficult search, that they aren’t assertive enough about what they’re worth. You wouldn’t be getting hired if the employer didn’t think you have a lot to offer, so you want to approach the negotiation process with an “I’m awesome, you’re awesome” mindset. Remember the whole “mutual benefit” thing.
  • Don’t take the first offer without negotiating at all. Your new employer expects you to negotiate. If you don’t, it makes you look  a. desperate,  b. insecure,  c. gutless,  and  d. kinda goofy. Not a good way to start off in a new job. Even if the company has a tight budget, if they’re doing well enough to hire a new employee, they have some leeway in the salary range. Even if it’s a nonprofit, don’t assume they can’t be flexible. The range may be smaller for a 5-person nonprofit than for a Fortune 500 company, but there still is one (range, that is). I did once get hired years ago for a position with the City of Boston that boasted a non-negotiable salary of $14.63 an hour (how the hell did they come up with THAT figure??), but that’s pretty rare. So negotiate if you want your new employer’s respect!
  • Don’t be out in left field with your counteroffer. Do your research so you know what your market value is, based on the position, your level of experience, and the city you’re in. The typical salary range for a software developer is a bit different in New York City than Butte, Montana. Look on sites like salary.com, glassdoor.com and payscale.com for info.
  • Don’t give too specific a salary when asked for your requirement. “I figured out I need $53,400 to be able to pay my bills” is not a good answer. Give a wide range; $50 – 60K is the range I’m focusing on” is much better.
  • Don’t give your current or recent salary in your cover letter or in an interview (don’t give a fake one, either). It’s really not the employer’s business what you made before; it’s their business what they should pay you based on your experience. If asked this question, give your target range instead (be upfront about it; don’t pretend your target range is your recent salary).
  • If you have absolutely no clue what salary range they’re offering by the second interview, ask (something like, “Could you give me an idea what the salary range is, so we know we’re in the same ballpark?”). If it’s outlandishly below your range, say so (not in those exact words). No point in wasting your or their time if they’re paying $30,000 below what you need to buy cat food. That goes double if the interview is in another state.
  • If you find out when you get an offer that the salary is just a tad lower than your range, express enthusiasm about the job and see if you can negotiate up. If not, try to negotiate other benefits – early salary review, bonus, extra vacation time, tuition reimbursement, discount card for Whole Foods, time-share in the Cayman Islands, date with the sexy admin assistant guy, etc. Just kidding about the last three. But you knew that.
  • Don’t assume the offer is carved in stone if it’s just verbal. Once you have a salary that’s mutually agreeable, get it in writing.

In your job search quest, you’ve probably seen the word “branding” floating around in the job-osphere (here’s a personal branding blog with a lot of helpful tips) and heard your job search strategy compared to a marketing campaign, with you as the product.

While “self-branding” can sound vaguely scary (especially if you’ve ever worked on a horse farm), it’s not as masochistic as it sounds. Marketing yourself is, in fact, an effective way to conduct your job search, and branding is an essential component of that.

Here are some strategies to help you in your job search self-branding efforts:

  • Come up with what you want to be known for – your professional identity (known in marketingspeak as “positioning”). What are your unique talents that make you different from Joe Schmeckel Jobseeker? Are you TechGirl? GrammarGuy? Do you know where all the commas go before they die? Of course, branding yourself as GrammarGuy probably won’t help you much if you’re a forklift driver. It has to be relevant to the field you’re interested in.
  • Figure out what specific benefits your skills/experience can bring to an employer (otherwise known as your “value proposition.”) Fill in the blank: “When my co-workers (or future co-workers) need help with _____________, they come to me.” Hopefully you’ll be able to come up with something other than, “finishing all the leftovers from Adam’s birthday party,” or “remembering the name of Mr. Spock’s mother.”
  • Emphasize your talents on your resume and in your cover letters. Employers, like men in a relationship, hate having to try to read your mind. And when it comes to an employer, since there’s nothing in it for them, they probably won’t bother. If you want them to focus on particular skills that will benefit them, make it obvious which skills those are.
  • Focus your LinkedIn profile and Twitter tagline (excuse the alliteration) on those talents, in much the same way as you focus your resume on them. And don’t tell me you don’t have LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. You’re job-hunting. It’s 2011. Shame on you.
  • Build a positive online rep. relevant to the type of job you’re interested in. Start a blog in your area of expertise, or at least comment on other people’s blogs, showing your knowledge and offering helpful info. Join LinkedIn groups relevant to your talents, and get involved in the discussions. But I wouldn’t get involved in anything too potentially controversial when you’re job-hunting. That’s just me.
  • Establish your style. Yes, if your style is Lindsey-Lohan-meets-Charlie-Sheen, you probably need to rein it in a bit. And resumes and cover letters need to be more on the formal side in terms of tone. But you do want your online persona to pretty much reflect who you are and how you want to be perceived at work. After all, you’re unique. You want to be noticed (for the right reasons). Besides, if your persona is too scattered in different directions, a prospective employer might think you have multiple personality disorder.
  • Figure out what your target market is, and go for it. Who are the employers you want to work for, who are likely to need and value your talents? If you want to use your aerial basket-weaving skills in a free-flowing environment, don’t be looking at companies that specialize in a 3-piece suit dress code and actuarial statistical analysis.

Spider-Man has a job interview. He knows the interviewer won’t just ask him about his work history, but will also probably do a behavioral interview, i.e. ask him to give examples of times when he saved the world from multi-limbed freaks or greedy uber-ambitious guys who climbed out of  the TV sitcom hellpit. Here are some of the behavioral interview stories he’s prepared:

  • a time when he solved a problem –  “I had to figure out how to save a trainload of people without splitting myself in half, so I focused on the problem and used my finger to create a rope….”
  • a story about handling conflict – “When my best friend wanted to kill me ’cause I killed his father and stole his girlfriend, I successfully negotiated a win-win before I knocked him unconscious.”
  • a time when he defused a potentially volatile situation – “I de-limbed Alfred Molina as he was about to destroy a lot of buildings….”
  • his strategies for handling stress – “To keep my general stress level low, I do some deep breathing, climb walls, and bungee-jump without the bungee.”
  • an example demonstrating how well he worked on a team – “I divided up world-saving responsibilities with my alter-ego based on our different strengths.”
  • a time when he initiated a project or strategy – “I started the Spidey’s-Not-the-Bad-Guy Fan Club.”
  • an example of when he juggled multiple priorities – “Well, I had to save three people who were about to fall to their death, so I perched two of them on the roof….”