February 13th, 2011 § § permalink
Is there a point at which employers perceive a person as less valuable or less employable because they’ve been unemployed for a long length of time?
Unfortunately, a negative perception of the unemployed, however slight and never voiced, will always exist. Even today when many are without a job through no fault of their own, we are inclined to look differently upon those who have been laid off. As a terminated job seeker, it can be very easy to accept defeat before even beginning as a result of your situation. It is important to turn that frustration into positive energy and a stronger will to succeed. When channeled properly, this will help you not only help you to stay focused during your search, but will give the appearance of you as a confident, determined candidate during the interview. » Read the rest of this entry «
February 8th, 2011 § § permalink
This morning I was attempting to reschedule and interview with a candidate that was unable to make the first scheduled appointment. The client looked to schedule the first missed appointment with very short notice so it was understandable to me that the candidate was unable to accommodate the interview time. When getting availabilities to reschedule, the candidate told me that literally any other day or time the rest of that week would work.
I received a rescheduled interview time last evening with about 36 hours’ notice for someone who is currently unemployed. I tried to reach the candidate several times on two phones with no response, so I sent an email. Without getting a call back, I receive this email reply:
I am sorry but that time will not work for me. I am currently engaged in my own business venture and will be unable to make any early morning interviews and will need to start only after 10:30am.
When reading an email like this, red flags go up immediately. Why did the candidate originally say that any time of day would work for the, only to pull back a day later? Why is a private, personal business venture more important than a corporate interview with an investment bank that offers real career opportunities? Why wasn’t the candidate able to return the message over the phone as opposed to email? All of these are significant causes for concern.
I spoke with the candidate this morning and could tell immediately that their motivation did not mirror their words. When asking this individual point-blank, “how serious are you about your job search?” the response was “very serious, however I am unable to give you any flexibility for interview times.” If someone is truly motivated to earn themselves a new career opportunity, they’ll be as flexible as possible. This wasn’t an extremely senior candidate, simply a four-year experienced college graduate who was the victim of an economic layoff. Given the unbelievable competition within New York City’s financial services market with the unemployed contingent growing daily, a truly motivated candidate should not just jump on but seize every opportunity that could potentially lead to employment. Missed chances could result in weeks, months, potentially years of additional time without full-time work.
When I put it plainly to the candidate – make the interview or be pulled from the process – the individual had no qualms about pursuing their own entrepreneurial ventures at the expense of an opportunity that they likely could have obtained an offer on.
Perhaps that since this individual was laid off just a few short weeks ago clouded their judgment. “It hasn’t been that long,” they’re thinking, “I know something else will come up.” While this may or may not be true, what is certain is that turning down an immediate opportunity will further delay this individual’s job search and extend the time between their last job and the one they hope to land. The longer an individual is out of work, the more they will be scrutinized during the interview process. As four weeks of unemployment turns to three months, an employer will certainly question an individual’s ability to keep their skills sharp and updated without working. This perception snowballs as time goes on and can have the ultimate outcome of severely reducing an individual’s worth and compensation or pushing the candidate into a never-ending cycle of temporary work.
It’s important to realize who has the position of power during the interview process. Clients and candidates have a one-to-many relationship – one job that many people are looking to land. The need to reschedule, the failure to quickly respond to a potential employer’s requests – these are all factors that are immediately considered when a candidate is in process. With the level of competition being so high for even the most mediocre jobs, any negative indication perceived by the job seeker’s actions can and will cause the passive job-seeker to lose out on an opportunity.
February 3rd, 2011 § § permalink
I just (as in three hours ago) got fired. I’d worked there about a year and my ex-boss said he’d give me a great reference. How should I handle this in interviews and on my resume?
First off, I’m really sorry to hear you’re out of a job. I am glad that you’re asking this question right away because you need to have gone over how to handle these situations in advance of landing interviews. You don’t want to write your first good opportunity off to a learning experience because you botched talking about why you’re unemployed.
Let’s assume that you’re now unemployed as a result of an economic layoff, not an individual performance issue. Since it seems as though you have a good relationship with your former boss, you want to gain as much value as you can from that without creating an inconvenience by taking up too much of their time.
It’s a good idea to ask him or her to write for you a letter that you can use as a “leave-behind” when you’re out on in-person interviews. The letter should include both a recommendation of your work as well as the reasons why you were terminated. This letter should also encourage potential employers to contact them if further clarification is needed. It’s especially important that you make sure HR has a copy of this letter early on in the process so that when your files are reviewed at the end of it while making a decision that this information is clear and present.
As to your resume, make sure you place an accurate end date for your former employer. Too many times a resume will include “date – present” when the candidate really isn’t currently employed. It can be perceived as dishonest and will bring your character into question. I’m sure there will also be an instance when you’ll be asked a direct question during an interview that requires you to stammer through some version of “well, actually… um… I’m not really still working there,” which will be an awkward moment for the both of you. These days I also don’t think it’s a bad idea to include a minor reference to an economic layoff in your cover letter so that the person reading it doesn’t make any assumptions as to your unemployment.
February 3rd, 2011 § § permalink
I did something pretty stupid in my last job and it got me fired. I’ve got someone I can use as a reference but I’m really concerned as to what the company’s official position is going to be if my new employer verifies employment, etc.
Today, companies provide very little information to anyone regarding past employees. In many instances this can play to your advantage but the risk of a poor reference from a manager or peer at your last company will always be there.
For legal reasons, most HR departments will only confirm title and dates of employment. Very rarely – if ever – will a former employer or authorized representative of the company say something negative about you or your time there. It opens them up to potential legal liabilities and a host of other issues. Most times they’ll also use a third-party service or their payroll provider to facilitate wage verification.
Now, let’s be clear here – this is how it’s supposed to work but in practice, the letter of the law is not always the case. Good recruiters have an excellent question that usually gets answered when asked that tells them everything they need to know.
“Is the candidate eligible for re-hire by your organization?”
If the answer is yes, you were part of an economic layoff. If the answer is no, you were fired because you did something stupid. Again, this is a question that is typically answered when asked because it’s very cut and dry – there are cases where it won’t be and cases where a “no” answer might mean something different.
There is also the very real possibility of an off-the-books negative reference being provided, typically by a hiring manager. You’ll likely be asked for at least two professional references and these would include HR and your boss from your prior firm. You’ll never know what is said on those calls and it might not always be positive if you left a bad taste in someone’s mouth.
At the end of the day, you could lie and get away with it but there are more than a few ways this could backfire. Honesty might hurt your chances but it also won’t cost you the job completely like a surprise negative reference would.