Some of you are thinking, “Great! Unemployment is down! Who cares what that graph says, since I still can’t find a job?”
Which brings us to the bad news. Even with unemployment at its lowest since 2009, we still have the highest rate in the nation, and many of you are still feeling the pain of tightened belts and worn out shoes as you hit the streets day after day looking for a new gig.
We’re here to help. In a job market this competitive, it’s more important than ever to make sure employers have a reason to hire you. Recently we sat down with Teri, our Human Resources Manager to get some insider information on the do’s and don’ts of making your first impression. Here’s part 1 of what we discovered:
How you can sabotage your job interview process
Burn bridges. You may have a great résumé and a great interview, but the minute you begin to trash-talk your former employer, you’re in dangerous territory. If your prospective new boss sees that you have no respect for your old boss, that tells him a lot about your character.
Teri told us a story about candidate responses to the question “when can you start?”
“I had one woman tell me, ‘oh I can start tomorrow’. I said, ‘it looks like you’re working now and she said ‘psh. I’m not gonna give that jerk any notice! He’s an idiot.’ That just killed it right there."
You got your money on your mind. Don’t get me wrong. It’s totally appropriate to find out what kind of salary your new position will have. Why bother with a job that doesn’t pay what you’re worth? But if your interviewer asks why you’re interested in the job and you make it apparent that you’re only in it for the money, you are letting the employer know you won’t be committed to excellence in your work. “We all know people need to get paid,” Teri said. “But we want to feel that there’s some passion there. In our business, we need to know you have a commitment and passion to serve people.”
TMI. Some employers use social media to find out what kind of people they are about to hire (so make your keg-stand photos private, folks!) and others don’t. Either way, in the world of Social Media we’ve gotten used to giving the world entirely too much information. If your new employer asks about your availability and your answer involves information about your bodily functions, love life, sleep schedule, boyfriend’s preferences or your favorite TV shows… pump the brakes. It’s okay to let them know you have a personality and a personal life, but keep it classy and professional. A simple, “I have a standing commitment on Tuesday nights” will usually suffice.
I’m too drunk to take this call, so leave a message, bro! Remember, your interview process starts before you get an in-person interview. If your cell phone voicemail is a joke to your friends, you may want to replace it while you’re searching for a new job. Likewise, if your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, it’s free to get a new one. We’re not your mom, and we’re not telling you what to do in your off time. But Teri says if you can’t be bothered to look and sound professional to your prospective employers, it demonstrates a lack of judgment.
Sorry I’m late! I don’t have to explain this one, right? Even getting lost is no excuse. Be prepared enough to know where you’re going, or leave early enough to leave room for error.
Hold on, I just need to take this call. Turn off your cell phone during the interview. Of course we all make mistakes and have memory lapses. So, say you’re in an interview and it’s going great, and all of a sudden… your purse starts playing We are young at full volume. Okay, it’s not too late to salvage the situation - it may even be a chance to show how well you respond to pressure - but whatever you do, don’t answer it! You heard me right. Teri said she’s had candidates answer their cell phones during interviews. This tells the employer that even sitting down with them for an hour is not more important to you than your personal life (or other job offers).
You lied about your time in the slammer. Let’s be honest. There aren’t many people these days with a wholly unblemished past. “We understand that people make mistakes,” Teri said, “and we’ve hired people who made mistakes”. She said a less-than-spotless background check (depending on context and severity of any incidents, how long ago they took place and other factors) isn’t necessarily a disqualifier. But if you misled or lied to the employer during the interview, you pretty much ruined your chances of being considered. Being honest and forthright goes a long way.
Oh come on, you knew what I meant. Take the time to double check the name of the company and job you’re applying for on your résumé. Also, all word-processing software comes with spellcheck. Use it. Have a good friend or colleague look at your résumé. Many résumés contain an inexcusable number of spelling and grammar errors. Let your prospects know you are conscientious and care about the job.
I don’t have to work ALL the time, right? It’s totally okay to ask about the benefits of a job. Just make sure you keep it in proper perspective. When you’re given an opportunity to ask questions, ask some that show you’re interested in the job itself and the company culture. If all your questions revolve around vacation and sick time, you’re not painting yourself in a flattering light.
You think a good first impression is enough. The interview isn’t over when you get the job. During your first week on the job, you’re typically trying to make a great impression on your new boss. But Teri said she’s seen new employees texting, Facebooking and wearing earphones during training their first week. That’s a sure-fire way to let your boss know you can’t be trusted to treat your position with respect. You’ll soon find that job offers are easy to revoke.
Now that you know what not to do… fear not! We’ve got another great list of tips to help you stand out from the crowd to prospective employers. Stay tuned for our next blog, “10 ways to make a great impression at your next job interview”.