5 Keys to Create an Unmistakable Personal Brand

Dear, Anita,

I have heard of people creating personal websites and writing blogs to further their career. This sounds like a lot of extra work. Is it worth it? How would I start?

Dear, Brand New to Branding,

These smart cookies are creating a “personal brand.” We all know about product branding – Coca-Cola, Apple, Toyota, GE. When someone mentions McDonalds, don’t you immediately think of the red and yellow colors, French fries, and the golden arches? But what is meant by developing a personal brand?

Personal Branding on Multicolor Puzzle.The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” When we apply the concepts of the marketing world to you and your career, this translates to what makes you special, unique, and different from other employees and professionals. Wikipedia explains personal branding as the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. I love Cornelia Shipley’s definition on Careerealism.com: “Your Personal Brand is simply the facts in discussion about you. The facts get introduced one of three ways:

  • What you say.
  • What you do.
  • What others say about what you said or did.”

Here are 5 keys to create a noteworthy personal brand.

  1. Determine your Brand Attributes. How would you define yourself? What’s your function? What words would you and others use to describe you? What image do you want to portray? What are your core values? Entrepreneurs and sales people often come up with an “elevator speech” – a brief commercial that communicates who you are in about 30 seconds (the time it takes people to ride to the top of a building in an elevator).  Succinct brand statements can be powerful; Reebok’s brand statement is “Fit for life. Having fun and staying in shape.”
  2. Social Media. In our electronic age, your online footprints can influence your career. Check out my blog about Online Reputation Monitoring. While LinkedIn may be the most important site for your work life, look at all of your social media accounts. Does every page, photo, post, and tweet reflect your brand attributes you generated in #1?


    Source: yourpersonalbrandname.com

  3. Personal Website. To increase search engine visibility beyond social media, personal websites are becoming more popular. I’m not going to lie; building and maintaining a website will take time and effort. While your résumé may be in a standard format to meet with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), a personal website can show more of your personality, from the design templates you choose to the bio paragraph you craft. Check out some great sample websites at Tutorial Chip for inspiration. You can go hog-wild and introduce videos, a blog (see #4), and loads of links to professional organizations, articles relevant to your industry, and testimonials. Be sure to keep your site updated, especially if you are in job search mode, so that it won’t detract from your image.
  4. Personal Blog. If you enjoy writing, and can commit to posting regularly, consider starting a blog. Writing about your industry will not only develop a deeper knowledge to help you in your career, but it can position you as an expert in your field. Make sure you proofread your post before publishing!
  5. Networking in Person. Building relationships in your current company, with others in your industry, and with your personal contacts can lead to promotions, career opportunities, and an outstanding professional reputation. Don’t neglect off-line relationships!

Unknown_iStock_000033005546_LargeSo is personal branding worth the toil? You’re already selling ideas every day, from convincing your spouse which restaurant to choose for dinner to proposing better ways of doing a task at work. Taking the extra steps with your career can set you apart. With so many people applying for jobs electronically, how much more will you stand out if you have invested the time and can provide links to a personal website and blog? (It’s working for me; after all, you’re reading my blog!)

Readers: Share your personal brand websites in the comments below.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Online Reputation Monitoring
How to Brag – Nicely

Late from Lunch

Dear, Anita,

I have several professionals working under me who are acting less and less professional! They often all go to lunch together but lately, they’ve been returning later and later. I think team camaraderie is a great thing, but a 1-1/2 to 2-hour lunch is getting ridiculous. Since they are salaried employees, I can’t dock their pay, now can I? How can I handle the situation?

Dear, Miffed at Midday,

Angry_Boss_Checking_Watch_iStock_000007359190_LargeI’m sure your first question was rhetorical, but let me make it clear for others who may be “out to lunch” on HR subjects. While an employer may take deductions to a salaried (exempt) employee’s pay when they are absent a full day, they cannot be docked hourly. The U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division notes that salary “cannot be reduced because of variations in the quality or quantity of the employee’s work.”

But, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employers can require exempt employees to work a set schedule and/or record their work hours. So while you can’t dock their pay, you can certainly employ disciplinary measures for failing to work the required hours.

Work_Lunch_iStock_000042192800_LargeIf your department does not already have a set schedule of work hours in place, you may wish to institute one. But before you do, take notice. Are your employees working late? Coming in early? Working from home after hours? You don’t want to seem unappreciative and nit-picky if all of the team’s tasks are getting finished – on time and with excellence. Consider the effect on morale if you impose strict hours. If your professionals are properly classified as exempt, they should be decision-makers and self-managers – and treated like the grown-ups they are.  A simple e-mail memo (“Hey, team, let’s avoid those extra-long lunches”) may be just as effective without fomenting a mutinous reaction to a new hours policy.

ChilisTo diffuse the tension, add a little levity. Give everyone on your team a watch and suggest that the restaurant of choice be Chili’s. The southwestern food chain recently introduced “Pay & Go” tableside tablet kiosks so you’re not waiting on your waiter to bring the check. Maybe lunch breaks will get a whole lot faster.  Even if you send one person out to order for the group at a fast food restaurant, there’s no guarantee that it will save time, as this MADtv skit illustrates:

Readers: How would you address this long lunch situation?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Time Theft: Is it really a crime?
Policies… What Policies?!?

Applying to Internal Position

Dear, Anita,

I heard through the grapevine that a coworker in another department is leaving. I’d like to apply for his position that will open up soon because it would be a step up for me in my company. The interview would be in the same building, but on a different floor. Should I tell my current manager or not?

Water_Cooler_iStock_000007097095_LargeDear, Covert App,

Many companies like to promote from within. But the process of applying internally can come with its own set of quandaries.

Before applying, think through what will happen if you don’t get the position. You may create an awkward situation by telling your manager, or even co-workers, about your plans to desert them. Then if it doesn’t come to pass, you may be the subject of others’ emotions, ranging from hurt or anger to pity. Unless your current supervisor is well aware of your long-term career goals, it may be best to keep any job search – internal or external – under wraps.

Another advantage – or detriment – can be the built-in reference. In the best case scenario, you’re doing a bang-up job and your current boss may have even chatted about your stellar performance with your would-be supervisor in meetings or day-to-day interactions. Unsolicited praise can often be more informational than the standard reference checks. But if your current manager-employee relationship is rocky… well, your boss is easy for the hiring colleague to find for questioning.

First things first, though. Are you certain that your colleague has tendered his resignation? You don’t want to accidentally give his notice for him by sending your résumé to his manager with a “So, I heard Joe was leaving” cover letter.

Climbing_Ladder_iStock_000009112146_LargeOnce you are certain that the job opening does in fact exist, don’t take shortcuts. Go through the channels requested in the ad or job board listing. Yes, even if that means filling out an online application. However, an email to the coworker’s manager would not be out of place, letting him know that as a current employee of the company, you are excited to apply for this move up the ladder. If you have opted not to share your plans with your current boss, give a big hint that his discretion would be appreciated.
Because you already have a (hopefully) thorough knowledge of the company and understand its culture, you may not have to do as much research. Nevertheless, carry out as much due diligence on the position itself. You may even want to take the departing coworker to coffee on the QT to get his perspective.

You’ll probably want to schedule your interview during your (and your boss’s) lunch hour. While this would be hard to do when applying to an external company considering travel time, traffic, and interview time, the good news is that it’s probably doable at your current company. Remember: Dress for the position you want, not the position you have. You may want to throw on a blazer before heading to “lunch.”

Follow up after the interview, just as you would with an unfamiliar business. Send the thank you note. Without being a pest (please don’t accost the hiring manager in the hallways), send a follow-up email later to reiterate your strengths and indicate your continued interest. See my post Thank You for the Interview for a template.

If you do get the new job, your learning curve may be reduced – along with the stress of starting someplace brand new. It’s definitely worth a shot!

Readers: Have you applied for a job at the same company? What was the outcome?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Changing Jobs
Becoming the Boss: Advice for New Managers
Discussing a Job Offer

Explaining Away “You’re Fired”

Dear, Anita,

I was recently terminated from a probationary position (probation was for a period of 6 months and I was only employed for 4 months). Should I even add this employment in my résumé? What if I plan to apply for the same company just in a different department? When terminated, I asked for an explanation and the only reason I was given was that I was not a good fit for the position. I honestly feel the reason was more personal rather than my performance. I know I did my job very well but I always felt tension coming from my supervisor and another co-worker that made me feel very uncomfortable. How do I get past this horrible experience without it affecting my future employment? How can I explain the reason for termination in a job interview?

Fired For No Reason

Dear, “Fired Up,”

Let go? Let it go, as Elsa recommends via song in Frozen. At least the anger. Here are some tips on how to Be Fired Gracefully.

Fired Rubber StampDonald Trump may have thought he owned the phrase “You’re fired” when he attempted — and failed — to trademark it. But  according to Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Information, those words may actually date back to the 19th century. He said, “It is a pun on ‘discharged’: you fired a gun, you discharged a gun. ‘I got discharged, I got fired.’ ” Whatever the origin, try to avoid the term “fired” whenever possible. Use one of the many politically correct euphemisms currently in vogue – outplaced, released, assignment expired, involuntary separation (that’s reminiscent of Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling!”), pursuing other opportunities, or simply that you came to the end of the trial period.  That is, after all, what job probation (as legalistic as that sounds) is for. I love how the purpose is put oh so succinctly by the University of North Texas in their manual: “To provide a period of time for job adjustment and an opportunity for both the new staff member and the supervisor to determine whether to continue the employment relationship.”

Should you include an employer from whom you were fired (ahem, “relieved of your duties”) on applications and résumés? There’s no black and white answer. If a new hire is given the old heave-ho during the first 30 to 60 days, it may not leave a noticeable gap in employment history. However, being shown the door after four to six months will be harder to conceal. In your situation, since you wish to reapply to the same company, you definitely need to include the job on your application. While lying on a résumé or job application can be legal grounds for dismissal if discovered, Steve Burdan, a certified résumé writer who works with The Ladders, advises that if a job lasted less than six months, you can safely omit it.

Woman with "Hired" SignLook on the bright side. Being terminated during the first few months of employment is preferable to being fired years into a job – and easier to explain during an interview. Answer questions about your situation briefly. Don’t get defensive. And avoid badmouthing or playing the blame game. Turn the conversation to a positive dialogue about your qualifications for the open position. Your employer’s explanation that you were not a good fit is less troublesome to cite than gross ineptitude! Say something like, “My competencies were not the right match for my previous employer’s needs, but it looks like they’d be a good fit in your organization. In addition to marketing and advertising, would skills in promotion be valued here?” For more ideas, check out career author Joyce Lain Kennedy’s 12 best job interview answers to the question “Why were you fired?”

Being fired can be a wake-up call. Perhaps you’re in the wrong line of work, or simply at the wrong company – as long as you aren’t guilty of George Carlin’s observation: “Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”

Readers: Have you ever been fired, and omitted the job from your employment history? Leave a reply below.

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Gaps in Employment
Employers think I’m a job hopper
Interview Advice

The Multitasking Myth

Dear, Anita,

I’m so stressed out!  I’m being pulled in a hundred different directions at work. My office is full of interruptions – from putting out proverbial fires to phone calls from customers to coworkers stopping by to discuss projects. All the while budget reports are due, shipments must go out on time, and meetings must be attended. I’m trying to keep on top of it all but I never feel like my “to do” list gets done. Help!

Dear, Juggling Jim,

Multitasking is bragged about, and often expected in our modern American business culture. But what people who multitask are really doing is shifting from one duty to another, seemingly lightning fast – in effect, juggling.

Three researchers – Joshua Rubinstein, Jeffrey Evans, and David Meyer – conducted experiments where participants switched between different tasks. You may not be surprised that the test subjects lost time when flip-flopping from one task to another. As tasks grew more complex, even more time was sacrificed.  It is estimated that shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of your productive time (American Psychological Association). Take this eye-opening test from the author of The Myth of Multitasking to see just how much toggling between activities can cost time-wise:

The three consequences of multitasking, according to author Dave Crenshaw:

  1. Things take longer.
  2. Mistakes increase.
  3. Stress levels increase.

A University of California, Irvine study of information employees found workers are interrupted every three minutes – that’s about 20 times an hour!  The same study discovered it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task after being interrupted. (The good news: 82% of interrupted work is resumed on the same day but a Microsoft study showed that 40% of the time, the disrupted task was not resumed immediately following the interruption.)

And what about accuracy? When UC Irvine’s subjects were given a cognitive test, the interrupted group answered correctly 20% less often than the control group that was not deliberately sidetracked. Trains of thought can be derailed by sudden stops and starts.

MultitaskingI don’t think we need a scientific study to come to the conclusion that multitasking increases stress levels. But science does show that the pre-frontal cortex of our brains (the area most involved in multitasking – assessing, prioritizing, and allotting mental resources) is affected by prolonged stress. The hippocampus (the region of the brain that forms new memories and recalls existing ones) can also be damaged by stress, making it difficult to learn new skills and facts.  Stress hormones can also reduce short-term memory – definitely not good when you’re trying to remember what you were doing before you were interrupted!

What’s the solution? I find it very interesting that the only antonym for multitask on Thesaurus.com is “focus.”  While you may be able to drink your cup of coffee while reading email, for more complex tasks – that quarterly report or client presentation – try to schedule some uninterrupted time to complete intricate projects. You may have to close the office door, and even hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign. But you may be your own worst enemy – a self-interrupter. You don’t have to answer every email the moment you hear it ping in your inbox, or hop on the web to research airfares for your next conference the second it pops in your head. Here are five ways to tame multitasking:

1)      Schedule uninterrupted time for big projects.
2)      Turn off your email alert and check email at scheduled intervals.
3)      Keep your personal cell phone off, and check messages/texts only at lunch or breaks. Try using the Do Not Disturb button on your phone, and return calls at scheduled intervals.
4)      Train your coworkers not to interrupt.  You may need to remove comfy chairs from your office so people don’t linger to chitchat.
5)      Replace your open-door policy to open-door hours instead.

With a few changes in your work habits, juggling can be left to professional performers in the circus.


Applying for a Job When Not 100% Qualified

I’ll answer two related questions together:

Dear Anita, I found an ad for a position at my dream company. My skills and responsibilities during my years of experience match up almost exactly to what they are looking for. However, I don’t have a college degree, and they list a Bachelor’s Degree as a requirement. Should I still apply? – Almost  Qualified 

Anita, After months of being out of work, I’m desperate to get a job, so I’m applying to just about every job posting I can find in my town. Obviously, this takes a lot of time. But after being picky and only applying to those few that I qualify for 100% with little to show for it, I have to do something different! My wife thinks I’m spinning my wheels. Can you settle our disagreement?
– Trying the Shotgun Approach 

Dear, Almost Qualified and Shotgun Approach,

TargetWhen a manager needs someone to fill a position, they make out a wish list of their pie-in-the-sky candidate’s qualifications, and post this ad. Are they going to get everything on that list? Did you get everything you asked Santa for? Probably not.

My personal feeling is that if you meet 80% of the criteria (Pareto’s 80/20 rule comes in handy for a lot of situations), then Almost Qualified, go ahead and apply away. Even if there is an applicant meeting 10 out of 10 requirements, and you rank a close second with 9 out of 10 qualifications, chances are good that you’ll still get an interview. The other job seeker isn’t necessarily a shoo-in for the job, either. They may interview poorly or have a less sparkling personality than you. There are all kinds of intangible, je ne sais quois qualities that come into play when a hiring manager is making that final decision.

Shotgun, if you’re just throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks, I feel like you’re wasting 80% of your time, as well as that of hiring managers in your community. And you wonder why employers use Application Tracking Systems (ATS) and don’t respond. See my recent post ATS 101 for a better understanding of the computer program that will toss your unqualified app in the trash. Just to be fair, here’s a blog from Youtern that is PRO-quantity. My advice, however, is to go back to your more targeted approach and have multiple résumés that focus on and spotlight different aspects of your experience and skill set. For example, you may have done a little bit of purchasing in a previous manager position and now want to apply for a procurement coordinator position. Adapt your résumé to focus on the particular abilities and facets of your past experience that make you a viable candidate for the new position.

Shotgun, you may wish to consider a temporary agency like my friends at The Select Family of Staffing Companies. You’ll be able to work on various assignments based on your skills. Who knows, you may even fall into a temp-to-hire situation.

Readers: Readers, have you ever applied – and landed – a job for which you did not have each and every qualification the company requested in the ad?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Office Decorating

Dear, Anita,

Our company is moving our offices from our cramped location to a spacious new building. I guess because I am one of the few women in the office, somehow I am now in charge of decorating the new space. I have to pick carpet, paint colors, furniture – and I’m no decorator! The only direction I’ve received from my boss is to choose a color scheme that is relaxing since we are in a high-stress business. Do you have any advice?

Dear, De Facto Designer,

Take a deep breath… but not near the paint fumes! We spend approximately 40 hours a week – sometimes more – in our work environment. Office surroundings can influence our business’s image and our employees’ productivity.

blue modern office spaceColor
As a general rule, cool tones – blues and greens – are more calming. Blue and gray have the benefit of improving productivity… but I don’t advocate a drab prison palette. (Interesting side note: In the 1970s, it was discovered that pink reduced aggression, so a few correctional facilities experimented with rosy walls!) While financial services companies and law offices tend to keep their palettes more conservative and neutral – beige,  tan, taupe, cream – creative industries can get away with adding bigger splashes of brighter hues.  Hot colors – red, orange, bright yellow – are more stimulating, but beware of overdoing any strong color. Your company’s logo and branding should also play into the office color scheme. To explore more about the psychology of color, check out the Demesne site.  To read about NASA’s color research on color in office environments, check out this interesting link: http://www.informedesign.org/_news/jan_v05r-p.pdf. And keep in mind, the way a color looks on a chip in the hardware store could change dramatically in your office light.

Proper lighting to perform tasks is essential to any office.  Fluorescent lights can be harsh; have you ever noticed that unbecoming green cast to your skin in a phosphorescent fitting room? You may not have much choice, as overhead fluorescent lighting is still widespread in office buildings, so adjust your make-up accordingly. Augment overhead lights with task lighting – adjustable desk lamps positioned behind or pointed away from computers to avoid screen glare.  Natural light is highly valued by employees, but be sure to position your computer to avoid reflections from windows. Stuck in the cubicle farm? Consider a full spectrum sunlight desk lamp so you won’t get SAD.

BlindsWindow Treatments
Desks positioned by east, south, or west facing windows may heat up for a portion of the day. Shutters are an elegant but pricey option to control light, hide unsightly views of the neighbor’s dumpster, or maintain privacy. Horizontal blinds, cellular shades, or solar roller shade options are available in every budget range. Vertical blinds are best suited for taller windows and sliding doors.

Form follows function when it comes to office furniture. The type of computers, number of monitors, and amount of file storage may dictate your desk selection. Clutter may lead to stress, so be sure that employees have enough storage space for their needs. Keep ergonomic issues in mind when arranging offices and cubicles.

Light deskGenerally, the darker the wood, the more visual “weight” the furniture has. Massive mahogany desks quietly announce importance and professionalism, while light maple with stainless steel may indicate a more modern, youthful vibe.

While hardwood floors are sought after in our homes, carpet is king in offices, primarily because of the sound absorption benefit. I like to keep the carpet a multi-toned neutral – it helps hide dirt! You can always bring in color on accent walls and with artwork.  Be sure to select a commercial grade stain-resistant option. Carpet tiles may cost more up front, but you can replace one or two damaged or stained tiles rather than an entire office, saving money in the long run.

Think beyond motivational posters when choosing art for the walls. Perhaps someone in your company is a great artist, or knows one. A plant or greenery can be a nice addition… as long as someone remembers to water it. If you go the route of a faux plant, be sure to keep it dusted. My dream office would have a calming aquarium, but who would feed the fish on the weekends?

Readers: What would you change about your office decor?


Creating a Résumé from Scratch

Dear, Anita,

Recent graduate here. I have filled out job applications in the past but I’ve never had to create a résumé before, and I don’t know where to start. It seems intimidating. Can you point me in the right direction?

Dear, Résumé Newbie,

Person Holding ResumeAccording to Dictionary.com, a résumé is a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience… prepared by an applicant for a job. With your recent school report-writing experience, this should be a snap. Think you don’t have enough to fill a page? C’mon, I’m sure you learned to stretch your thoughts to get to the word requirement for all those English essays.

I think Dictionary.com has the order backwards, though. If you have had any work experience at all, lead with that, followed by your education, with personal details at the bottom.

For your employment history, list the company name, date range of employment, and your job duties and responsibilities. Include summer jobs, babysitting gigs, stints as camp counselor, unpaid internships and yes, working in a family business even if paid only with your room and board.

What to do if you have absolutely zero employment history and are looking for your very first job? Beef up the education areas and mention classes that relate to your desired field (include grades, if they are stellar), outline any projects or reports that may be relevant, as well as any useful skills that you picked up along the way.  In fact, if you are particularly tech-savvy, break out “Computer Skills” as a subhead and list the programs in which you are well-versed.

Woman holding resume for a job interviewYou can bulk up a beginner’s résumé with personal information, such as skills, clubs, interests, awards, and community service. See my “Including Volunteer Work in Your Resume” post for more tips along these lines.

Another section to consider adding is References. “References upon request” is often seen on the bottom of jam-packed résumés, but for those without a “grip” of employment history, including the name and contact information for past teachers, bosses, church elders, or family friends who will give a glowing testimonial about your character is worth the space.

As for the format, keep it simple. Tempting as it may be to pimp out your résumé with a graphics program, many companies and job search sites such as Monster.com may require you to submit your résumé as a Word document. Word has dozens of résumé templates that you may download to give you a clean, professional look.

If you find you are not having success landing interviews, consider a professional résumé writing service such as CareerPerfect that can polish your rhinestone in the rough.

Readers: Readers, remember your first résumé? Did you learn anything about résumé-writing that can help our recent graduate?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Make Team-Building a Picnic

Dear, Anita,

After years of coming up with team-building activities for our company’s annual summer picnic, I’m brain-dead. Do you have any new, creative ideas?

Dear, Rah-Rah-Rachel,

Tired of trust falls, huh? This video from Outrageous Games includes the traditional sack race and water balloon toss, but has a few unique twists on company picnic favorites.  I particularly like the different interpretation of a “soapbox derby” and the race with participants wearing swim fins.

Here’s a twist on the three-legged race – a team-building caterpillar game (although this video is uploaded from the Netherlands, it doesn’t really need a translated explanation):

Spend a little time browsing for ideas on YouTube, but be forewarned – you’ll likely run across some LOL moments, so you may want to close your office door.

Perhaps a theme could jump-start your creativity. I could “arrr-gue” for a pirate motif (even though International Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t officially until September).  Think of all the activities you could do with a rope at a western-themed picnic.  With a carnival concept, adapt traditional fair games into team trials. Or bring your three-ring circus out of your office; you’ll need to find a venue or event company to facilitate employees getting out of their comfort zone by walking a tightrope or swinging on a trapeze.  Businesspeople playing tug of war outdoors.Wacky staff Olympic Games can promote teamwork with events like pool-noodle javelins, Nerf archery, tricycle races on the grass, or creating a landlubbing synchronized “swimming” routine (remember to bring a video camera!). If you host the summer games on a beach, there is an added level of difficulty slogging through the sand.

I’m a fan of the TV show The Amazing Race. You could create a team scavenger hunt in your city with silly “pit stop” and “road block” challenges along the way. BONUS: You can get your company name out in the community when you cooperate with local businesses to hide items or host challenges at their locations. Survivor is another show that can be adapted if you flip the objective to keeping teams together rather than voting someone off the island. Maybe winners of the “immunity challenges” could receive a break from an onerous task back at the office next week.

Send me an invitation, will you?

Readers: Tell us about the most convivial activity at one of your company picnics.

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Top 10 Interview Fails

Dear, Anita,

I just sent a follow-up letter to a highly desired position I applied for by email using a draft for another industry. Unfortunately, I didn’t make all necessary changes that apply and cannot stop beating myself for this silly mistake on such a grand opportunity. Any words of comfort?

Dear, Oopsy Daisy,

There, there; everything will be all right. Seriously, don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve all made mistakes before we hit the “send” button. It won’t be your only grand opportunity and maybe not even the best one for you.

Oops keyYou may be wondering if you should send a follow-up email apologizing for the error. I would not. Who knows? The recipient of the email may not have even noticed your mistake, and calling attention to it would not be wise in that case. If they did notice it, it will either be significant (and they won’t call you back because of a perceived lack of attention to detail) or it won’t (in which case your bringing it back up will mean nothing – or it will make them change their mind about its significance).

So, take the lesson (proofread everything twice before sending), and move on.

To make you feel better about your smallish error, here – in no particular order – are 10 interview fails I have seen in my ample years.

  1. Bringing your boyfriend to an interview. Or your mother. Or your kids. If you need a ride, get dropped off. The few dollars you spend on a babysitter is money well spent toward your career.
  2. Arriving for an interview with a cup of coffee in hand. While Starbucks would be proud to have infiltrated the interview space, this is not a casual chat with your best bud.
  3. Wearing flip-flops. No matter how relaxed the work environment, dress appropriately and professionally. Interview outfits should be a notch above what you’d wear once you land the job. (Side note: I once interviewed a college student who committed both #2 and #3.)
  4. Answering phone or texting during an interview. Cell phones should be silenced and out of view, and for goodness sake, take off your Bluetooth earpiece.
  5. Trash-talking your former boss or co-workers. While you may not be able to take grandma’s advice, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” frame your responses about your less-than-perfect previous jobs in neutral language.
  6. Showing up late. Take traffic into account when planning for your appointment. If you arrive too early, drive around the block so you’re not staring through the office window at your interviewer.
  7. Showing up deathly ill. An interview is an important meeting not to miss, but nobody wants to share the air with a walking Petri dish. Call and let the interviewer choose to reschedule or not.
  8. “Ummm, I’m, like, such a people person, ya know?” Practice answering interview questions with a friend to minimize your speech idiosyncrasies.
  9. Interrupting. Curb your enthusiasm and wait for the interviewer to finish his or her thought or question. Just like on the Jeopardy, if you buzz in too early, you’ll likely lose points.
  10. Acting desperate. Telling the hiring manager that you really need the job, or sharing your financial hardships will backfire. Just as in dating, desperation is a turn-off for employers. Self-confidence will bring respect, while sad sack stories will just bring pity.

Readers: Don’t be shy! Share your interview faux pas.

Need some job advice? Anita Clew is happy to help. Click here to Ask Anita.

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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