Texting on the Job

Dear Anita,

Lately I’ve noticed that one of my employees is texting all throughout the workday. I’m not unreasonable. I don’t mind a text here and there, but I feel like half of her time is spent on personal chit-chat. How can I address the situation?

Texting_on_the_Job_00001161700Dear, Vexed about Texts,

Americans send 208,333 text messages every second, totaling 18 billion texts daily, according to the CITA-The Wireless Association and Nielsen. We use texts more often than phone calls these days to keep in touch with family, friends, and coworkers. While the vast majority of those responding to our Select Family poll think that it is not okay to send personal texts at work, the Millennial generation may disagree. The numbers indicate that 18-24 year olds are especially addicted to texting.

Texting on the JobAs I mentioned in my blog post The Multi-Tasking Myth, productivity suffers when you are interrupted, whether by another work task or the buzz, chirp, or ding of an incoming text.  In a recent study in the Higher Education Journal, half of a class was requested to text the professor three times during a lecture and the other half was not allowed to text.  Who do you think retained less information and scored lower on the pop quiz afterwards? The texters, of course.  A University of Waterloo study in the workplace similarly found that cell phones created too many distractions for employees to complete their office tasks.

Customer service may suffer because of text distractions. It’s incredibly rude for a worker to engage in texting (personal or otherwise) while handling a customer face-to-face. Even when on a call on the business line, an incoming personal text can cause less than 100% attention to the conversation at hand.

Staffers who drive for their jobs should be especially careful not to text while at the wheel. And employees who have a company-provided cell phone should be aware that any texts or images sent and received are company property (think twice about “sexting” on your work cell).

Vexed, is this just one bad apple ruining texting privileges for the whole team? Depending on your company size and culture, you may wish to add a texting policy. Think carefully, though, because a strict policy could backfire by decreasing employee morale and thus productivity.

If you feel your company does needs a written policy, check out Quickbooks’ article Tips for Establishing an Employee Texting Policy. Here is one example of a texting/cell phone policy:

XYZ Company is committed to providing a work environment that is safe, customer focused, and free of unnecessary distractions related to personal cell phone usage. Cell phones must be set to vibrate or silent mode instead of sounding ring tones. The company encourages a reasonable standard of limiting personal calls and text messaging to breaks and meal periods. Employees are asked to make all personal calls and texts on non-work time and to ensure that friends and family members are aware of this policy. Flexibility will be provided in circumstances demanding immediate attention.

As a manager, you may want to make exceptions for special situations, such as when an employee’s family member is ill. In another for instance, parents of latch-key kids will be more distracted until they get that text message that their child made it home safe and sound.

But if you feel a formalized policy is overkill (or you’re afraid your workforce of younger employees will mutiny or jump ship), have a chat with your serial texter about the inappropriate amount of messaging during work hours.

BOL (Best of Luck).

Readers: Do you send personal text messages while on the job? What is your company’s policy on texting?

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

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The Multitasking Myth
TextSpeak Tip-Off
Run Better Meetings
Top 10 Interview Fails

6 Survival Strategies for a Job You Hate

Hi, Anita,

I work for a small private company where I am under-appreciated and basically black-balled by the owner and my co-workers to the point I am ostracized and alienated. Obviously there is no chance for promotion; in fact, I have had to train new hires who have been promoted over me which is a very humiliating experience. I realize that the only option I have is to resign.

Dear, Anita,

My supervisor is such a control freak, micromanaging my every move. He is very patronising and doesn’t give me any room to think for myself. I feel like I am suffocating all the time. He also tends to leave important things that require my presence til near the end of the day. When I am staying til 7:00 pm after being there since 9:30 am nearly every day of the week… I am exhausted! It’s taking a toll on my health, productivity and sanity!

 Ready to commit career suicideDear, Job Haters,

Before you take the drastic measures depicted in the movie Horrible Bosses, promise me you’ll try these first:

  1. Have a Heart-to-Heart with Your Boss.
    If you really feel that you are being treated unfairly, schedule a face-to-face meeting to outline your position. Keep the language neutral and non-accusatory, and rein in your emotions (“I feel under-appreciated” instead of “You don’t appreciate anything I do for this company!”). Offer solutions (“It would be helpful if you could let me know my important tasks before lunch so I can finish them by day’s end.”). Give the situation enough time to improve, and if nothing changes, involve the Human Resources department, if you have one. If there is still no satisfactory resolution, proceed to #2.
  2. Keep Calm and Carry On… with Your Job Search.
    I rarely recommend quitting your current job until securing a new position. Devise an exit strategy with a timeframe goal and the steps you’ll need to reach your target date of starting a job at another company (e.g., set up alerts on all of the job boards, send out 3 résumés a week, attend the monthly industry association meeting, and network with at least 5 people).
  3. Consider Self-Employment.
    Not for the faint of heart (or light in savings account), take stock of your life skills and see if you could turn one into a profitable business venture. Research, research, research before taking this giant leap.
  4. Learn New Skills.
    Explore the proficiencies you need for your dream job. It’s easier than ever to find training at local colleges or online courses, for fee or free. Take advantage of any training that your current company offers to increase your marketability. You may even be eligible to move up or laterally within your organization (and possibly away from the sources of antagonism).
  5. Set Personal Goals.
    Focus on your life outside of work. Sign up for a marathon (or just make it to 10 sit-ups tonight). Learn a new language and plan a trip to a country where you can practice your accent. Digitize your family photo albums – all 47 of them.
  6. Create Your Own Fun.
    You have the power to make your job better with humor. Play Business Buzzword Bingo while enduring an endless meeting (though yelling “Bingo” when you hear all of the overused phrases is not recommended). Treat yourself to a double macchiato with triple whip after finishing your report. Invite co-workers to lunch (make the office a taboo subject), and play the “whoever looks at their cell phone first pays the bill game.”
  7. Be a Duck.
    Ducks have waterproof feathers to let the storms of life roll off their backs. Don’t let the minor annoyances of your workday upset you. You don’t even need to read the classic book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff to adopt the title philosophy.
  8. Remind Yourself Why You Do What You Do.
    Print out your company’s mission statement and post it on your bulletin board. Gaze at the framed photo of the family you’re working to support with your paycheck and health insurance benefits. Clinton_Survival_Tips_0515

Readers: How do you cope when a bad day at work turns into a week, a month, or longer?

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

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Keeping Employees Happy
Energy Vampires at Work
Stay or Quit
Being Thankful

Hiding the “Gray” on Your Résumé (and Beyond)

Dear, Anita,

I’m 61 and graying. I get job interviews because I have a great résumé, I do everything right, I am usually the most qualified with years of experience and training. However, I do not get hired. I believe it is my age. I try to emphasize my energy and work ethic. I make it a point to tell them I go to the gym regularly and I’m a triathlete. I still don’t get the job. What can I do? I’ve even tried coloring my hair!

Hiding_the_Gray_000012255136Dear, Motivated Methuselah,

Over the past three decades, long-term unemployment has been more common among older men and women, spiking after the Great Recession, according to AARP. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that people 55 and older were far more likely to be unemployed long-term (44.6% compared to 22.1% of those under age 25). But the news isn’t all bad. A CareerBuilder survey indicates that 57% of private sector employers plan to hire mature workers (age 50+) in 2015, up from 48% two years ago.

Let this old dog see if she can teach you a few new tricks to get you on the road to employment.

You’re a prime candidate to take advantage of the “old boys’ club.” Networking is almost twice as effective as applying to internet job boards, so reach out to old contacts, via social media or tried and true phone calls and face-to-face business mixer events. While I applaud your foray into hair coloring, please be sure your LinkedIn profile picture resembles the current in-person you. (As an aside, I really don’t get the #grannyhair trend where young women intentionally go gray. I fought it for years – and lost!)

Explore jobs outside your given areas of expertise (you may need to have several customized résumés on hand). This may mean a pay cut. If your retirement account can afford it, lower your salary requirements to compete with younger workers. After all, it may be better to have some wages flowing in than none at all. In fact, you may need to postpone your retirement, as this TradePost article direly predicts.

You say you have a great CV, but other mature professionals may not have the best mid-life résumé. The functional résumé may be the best way to age-proof this first impression. In the accompanying cover letter, walk that fine line between touting your vast experience and coming across as a fossil. Be sure to pick up on any software requirements in the ad postings, and stress your up-to-date tech skills to combat this common misperception about older workers.

Interview_Men_PinterestInterview-Women_PinterestTo prepare for interviews, dress in stylish clothing – without trying to look like a hipster. Ladies, lose the banker suit (unless you are applying at a bank) and have a youngish depart­ment store sales­person help you select a modern yet professional outfit for the big day. Check out my Pinterest boards for visual ideas for interview wear for men and women. Follow Anita Clew while you’re there!

During the interview, don’t come across as a know-it-all, especially if you are interviewing with a youthful boss. You want to accurately portray your experience, but still seem like a team player who will work in harmony with people of all ages.

The silver lining is that graybeards are consistently more engaged, have admirable work ethics, and as a demographic waste less time than their younger counterparts. Before long, you’ll find an employer who doesn’t think you’re “overqualified” (frequently a euphemism for too old).

Boomers: How have you age-proofed your presentation when seeking a job?
Hiring Managers: What impresses you about “mature” job applicants?

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

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Functional Format for Résumés
Getting Hired (or not) Based on Age
From Self-Employed to Employed
Still Working at 100? Not Going to Happen
Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Find a Reverse Mentor

Dear, Anita,

I’ve owned my business for 34 years now, and try as I might  to keep up with all the new technology and trends, I don’t know if Facebook is still cool, if Instagram is out, or if something else is the next big thing. I understand my business has to evolve and change with times to reach new and existing customers and even to create a company where people want to be employed. Do you have any resources for keeping in step with what’s trendy?

Reverse_Mentor_000011786220Dear, Wanna Be Relevant,

You have probably  mentored your share of employees in your tenure. To mentor means to advise, guide, or train someone, especially a younger colleague. But have you heard of a reverse mentor? One of those 20-somethings in a nearby cubicle could be more “digitally mature” than you! While you may struggle with new technology and social media, these skills are second nature to Generation Y who grew up interacting with devices since they were toddlers.

Don’t be offended by the thought of being “trained” by a young whippersnapper. Large companies such as IBM, Procter & Gamble, and Time Warner have formal reverse mentoring programs that help them broaden their brands’ reach and increase revenue.

Think of it more as an exchange of ideas, with both sides receiving benefits. Maybe “reciprocal mentoring” would be a better term. Tutoring sessions should be a two-way street. While your reverse mentor may help you create an account on LinkedIn or Twitter, you may explain why his idea to tweet some inside information would have a negative impact on the company long-term. You want to be pushed outside of your comfort zone, but temper the hip, creative ideas being offered with your experience, insight, and strategic thinking.

To keep up with trends, issues, and news headlines that affect today’s businesses, subscribe to The Select Family of Staffing Company’s blog TradePost. Both mentor and mentee will find food for thought for their next session.

Readers: Have you ever been in a reciprocal mentorship? What was the most eye-opening advice you ever received from your mentor?

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

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Meet Your Mentor
Cracking the Millennial Consumer Code
Lessons on LinkedIn
Online Reputation Monitoring


Inviting Coworkers to Personal Events

Dear, Anita,

I’m having a BBQ and inviting some co-workers. Do I have to invite my boss? I’m worried that it’ll make some feel awkward. And how do I keep it a secret from the other people at work I’m not inviting, so they won’t feel slighted.

Dear, Miss Mannered,

Group Of Friends Having Outdoor Barbeque At HomeWith the summer wedding, cookout, and party season upon us, the guest list dilemma often crops up. A simplistic answer could be extrapolated from elementary school birthday party etiquette – either invite the whole class or no one from school. But depending on your company size (and the acreage of your yard!), it could be impossible to invite every coworker.

If you work with a small team, you may want to invite your entire department, boss included. Then it’s up to each of them to decide if they are comfortable attending or not. Many supervisors understand that employees may prefer to socialize without the boss, and will gracefully decline.

Managers hosting parties should include their entire team if they invite anyone from the office at all to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Be careful, however, not to give the impression that attendance is obligatory.

If you want to keep your barbecue guest list to a few close chums from the office, invite them personally (not via your work email) and mention, “We’re trying to keep it small.”

For weddings, most people understand the per-person dollars and cents connected to each guest (and their plus one) invited to a reception, so you don’t have to avoid all mention of your wedding plans in the break room. Still, you may wish to say something to those who just barely didn’t make the cut. “I’d love to invite the whole office, but our budget simply wouldn’t allow it.” Diane Forden, Bridal Guide editor-in-chief, thinks it’s wise to invite your supervisor to your nuptials.

Each workplace has a different culture based on the combination of personalities involved, so use your intuition and common sense when composing and implementing your party list.

Readers: Do you or don’t you invite your boss to personal events with other coworkers?

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Celebrate the Smart Way
Holiday Parties, Payouts, and Perks

How Long to Find a Job?

With college commencement ceremonies approaching, I’m answering a question I received last summer to prepare this year’s graduates – and job seekers from any era! – for the realities of the employment market and to provide hope and encourage tenacity.

Dear Anita,

I am a recent college graduate and I am having the hardest time finding a job. Granted I have been out of college for just a little over a month and I was recently told that on average it takes about 6 months if not longer for a college grad to find employment. Is that true?

How Long to Get a Job InfographicDear, Month of Sundays,

I am often asked by discouraged job seekers of all ages some variation of the question, “How long does it take to get a new job?” Check out our infographic for some eye-opening statistics. Then, let’s see what we can do to skew your interval between jobs to the short end of the spectrum.

Recent college grads as well as the recently unemployed may start out their job search in a flurry of activity. Then, day after day of entering and reentering information into online applications, coupled with disappointing rejections or no response at all, takes its toll. Keep on keeping on, as they said in the ’70s.

Stay busy. Volunteer work will prevent self-pity… and can pad a skimpy resume. But be sure that job-seeking tasks don’t fall by the wayside because of your do-gooder endeavors. Calendar time for scouring job sites like CareerBuilder.com or Indeed.com and applying to feasible postings. Find networking opportunities to cut weeks off your job search time. Practice mock interviews with friends. Create your personal brand.

If your résumé isn’t getting you offers for interviews, it may be time for a revamp. Download a copy of my e-book, Anita Clew’s Guide to Better Résumés.

Expand your opportunities by expanding the borders of your search. Are you willing to move?  This may be easier for a carefree college grad than for the family man with kids in school and deep roots in the community.  Look in less likely places for jobs. See my posts, “How to Find Jobs Not Advertised on the Top Job Boards,” Part 1 and Part 2.

Lower your standards. If bill collectors are calling and the welcome on your friend’s couch is wearing as thin as the fabric, I advise you to take something, even if it is not your dream job. You can continue the hunt for greener pastures while gainfully employed.  Consider temporary work with The Select Family of Staffing Companies to get those weekly paychecks rolling in. Those who have lost a job may have the added incentive of the looming expiration of their unemployment insurance benefits. Most states’ benefits last 26 weeks, but a few states have shorter or longer periods.

Finally, keep a positive outlook. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Readers: How long did it take you to land your last job?

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Job Search is a Marathon, not a Sprint
Reasons for No Résumé Responses
Including Volunteer Work in Your Résumé
ATS 101: Demystifying Applicant Tracking Systems

9 Alternatives to Posting Open Positions on Job Boards

Dear, Anita,

I’ve been trying to hire a new Accountant for my department. Like in the past, I have advertised my opening on the large job boards, but it’s not getting the type of response that my ads did a couple of years ago. I notice that there are many options available to job seekers today when looking for a new job. Is there something else I could be trying? What do you recommend?

Newspaper_Ads_000008959134Dear, Board to Death,

CareerXroads’ Source of Hire Report notes that LinkedIn and job board aggregators (like Indeed.com) are playing a bigger role in recruiting, while traditional job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder are seeing declining traffic. (I remember when “help wanted” ads in the newspaper were the go-to for hiring managers!) While there’s no magic bullet, choose a few from this list to try. If they are successful, add them to your hiring toolbox for future use.

If the list below seems like an overwhelming amount of work over and above your regular day job duties, consider enlisting the aid of a professional staffing firm, such as The Select Family of Staffing Companies. Not just for temporary workers, Select’s divisions can find qualified candidates for direct hire positions. Its temp-to-hire solution is like an extended working interview that ensures the right fit.

  1. Niche Boards
    Since you’ve noticed decreasing results from generalist job boards, you may want to try an industry-specific website, such as Accounting Jobs Today in your case.
  2. Industry Associations
    Do you belong to any professional organizations in your field? Openings posted on associations’ job or career boards are more likely to hit closer to your target candidate. (Try The PASA: The Professional Accounting Society of America, or similar groups.)
  3. Craigslist
    Plenty of communities have vibrant Craigslist job boards. In many non-metro areas, posting an ad is – amazingly – still free.
  4. Social Networking
    Social Media Strategies Summit found that 78% of recruiters have hired through a social network (95% through LinkedIn, 24% through Facebook, and 14% through Twitter). So if you’re not a full-time recruiter, I’d invest my time in LinkedIn.Job_Fair_000027571881
  1. Job Fairs
    Larger businesses may host their own job fairs, and smaller businesses may participate in career fair events hosted by local chambers of commerce or area universities and colleges.
  2. Career Centers
    Local governments and educational institutions often have career centers. Be sure to alert these counselors to your open positions. In fact, if you often need young, enthusiastic employees, cozy up to the department chair in your discipline at the local college. He or she can be a valuable source of referrals.
  3. Referrals
    Undercover Recruiter claims that employee referrals have the highest applicant-to-hire conversion rate – only 7% apply but account for 40% of all hires. An added bonus is that applicants hired from a referral begin their position quicker than those found on job boards (29 days vs. 39 days).
  4. Fill from Within
    Companies fill 41% of their open positions with current employees, CareerXroads finds, from promotions or lateral moves. Not only is there the added benefit of the employee already knowing your company (culture, terminology, policies, workflow, etc.), which allows for quicker onboarding, but it also promotes loyalty among other employees who will view your company as a good place for professional development and movement along a career path.
  5. Your Company Website
    Companies who wish to maintain a strong pipeline of candidates make use of their own website. If you don’t have one already, add a Careers page. Check out ERE.net’s list of 10 Companies with Fantastic Career Sites for inspiration.

Hiring Managers: What has been your best source for new hires in the past 6 months?

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

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How to Find Jobs Not Advertised on the Top Job Boards, Part 1
How to Find Jobs Not Advertised on the Top Job Boards, Part 2
Onboarding New Employees

Overcoming Negative References

Hello, Anita,

Since 2010, I have not had the best fortune in regards to employment. In the myriad of positions held I did what I could not to burn bridges and always gave 2 weeks notice. If an employer were to verify my work history, is it true the only thing they can legally verify is if I worked there and eligibility for rehire? Can my previous employer disclose wage history or anything beyond the aforementioned items? I believe one of my previous employers (a former supervisor) may be providing negative information when contacted about my tenure. Thank you for any clarification you can provide in this matter.

Dear, Ruffled About References,

As I mention in my post Responding to Reference Check Requests, there are no Federal laws regarding what may or may not be divulged by a previous employer for a job reference (although compliance with the EEOC and Fair Credit Reporting Act is required). State laws regarding background checks vary; there’s a great Nolo website that outlines what information may be disclosed and who may receive that information, state by state.playing cards at computer

While it may be legal to answer many of the questions asked by reference checkers, HR departments these days, wishing to avoid discrimination and defamation lawsuits, are playing their cards close to the vest and not revealing much besides dates of employment. (Just try getting an opinion rather than a hard fact from a seasoned HR professional!) Of course, not everyone got this policy memo. Supervisors at smaller companies without strict HR guidelines may become Chatty Cathy when called for a reference.

Combat negative references by offering glowing testimonial reference letters instead. Attach them to your cover email before they are even asked for. When asked for a list of references, omit this former supervisor you think may be giving you a thumbs down, unless this was your most recent job. If your job list is as long as you imply, many employers (particularly smaller businesses) will call a few references  and, unless they’re getting any red flags, will call it a day before reaching out to each and every past employer on your lengthy résumé.

Thumbs_Down_000019178955If you are unable to omit this reference, you may want to address the issue head-on during the reference discussion. Tell your potential employer that you and your supervisor did not see eye to eye on certain issues and offer contact information for another colleague at that same company who may balance out the perspective.

Another tactic is to contact this former supervisor directly to clear the air. Ask whether, despite the bad  blood, you can come to a mutually agreeable response for him/her to give when called for reference checks. If you strongly feel that this supervisor is still dispensing inaccurate negative information (based not only on intuition, but feedback from interviewers), check to see if this manager is following his or her company’s HR policy for responding to reference requests.  If worse comes to worst, contact an employment attorney about the possibility of sending a cease and desist letter to your former boss.

Readers: Have you ever been surprised to hear you received a bad reference from a former employer?


Responding to Reference Check Requests
Finding Job References
Reference Check Response

Asking for Vacation Time

Hi, Anita,

 I am a manager over 11 employees. I believe I am well-respected by them and my authority is clear. Lately, I noticed that my employees are no longer asking me to take vacation but TELLING me when they will be out. In the past, it seems they were more courteous and asked for the time off. After all, it’s called a vacation request, right? Not vacation demand. I never say no but would appreciate the courtesy of being asked. Am I being too old school?

Two business peopleDear, Dinah Sore,

We relics of the polite era need to stick together. I get it; vacation is earned by employees, and I don’t begrudge that. In fact, I think it’s healthy to get a clean break from work without, dare I say it, having to check email and answer text messages. But what your staffers need to understand is that you as a manager may have other factors to consider: upcoming deadlines, new projects on the horizon, or other colleagues out of the office at the same time for business trips, vacations, or medical reasons.

Does your employee manual have a vacation request procedure? If not, you may wish to add some verbiage to your handbook for clarity. Can a vacation request be made in person or must be it be made in writing, either via email or by filling out a company form? Establish that all vacation requests must be approved X weeks in advance by the employee’s immediate supervisor. Many companies also include the caveat that vacation scheduling should be mindful of a company’s operational requirements. (I doubt many UPS drivers get vacation requests approved for Christmastime!) It may be a good time to clear up other vacation policy conundrums. (Can employees who have accrued multiple weeks of vacation time take them consecutively?  When two employees request the same time period off, does the staffer with seniority take precedence?) The sample policy at HRSimple.com may address some, but not all, of your needs.

And now, for the other side of the coin. Depending on how formal or informal your company culture (and your relationship with your supervisor), here are several ways for employees to ask for vacation time.

  1. Ask instead of tell. “Ms. Supervisor, I have four vacation days left, and I’d love to use them the third week of June. Is that possible?”
  2. Plan around your workload. You’ll earn your manager’s appreciation when you show you’re aware of the side effects of your vacation time. “Mr. Boss, I’d really like to schedule a vacation. I know we are wrapping up that big project at the end of next month. Do you have any objections to me scheduling my trip after that from July 6-10?”
  1. Give plenty of notice. As soon as you get that invitation to your cousin’s graduation or find that great package deal on VacationsToDieFor.com, put in your vacation request. “I just got some exciting news. My brother’s wedding is December 17. I wanted to ask to use my accrued vacation time from Dec. 14-19.” Time off around the holidays is popular, so ask well in advance.People going to work and vacation concept
  2. Put it in writing. It’s not a bad idea to have a paper trail. If your company doesn’t have a standard form, use one of these more conventional sample vacation request letters from LoveToKnow.com.
  3. Email your request. If your company is a little less formal, an email request may suffice. “I would like to request the following days off: March 14-18. Please let me know if you have any concerns or anticipate any issues regarding my request.”
  4. If you haven’t earned it/used it. “While I [haven’t accrued / have used all my] vacation time, I would like to request time off for my parents’ 25th anniversary. May I take off September 18 -21 – unpaid?
  5. Mention flexibility. “I haven’t finalized my vacation plans, as I’m still checking out airfares and resort availability, but I would like to take my vacation sometime in mid-August. Are there certain days that would work better for me to be gone?”
  6. Note limitations. “Because I will be on a cruise in the Mediterranean, please note that I will have limited access to the Internet during these days.”

Employees: How do you ask for vacation time off?
Managers: Have you ever had to deny someone’s vacation request? For what reason?

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

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The Importance of Vacations
Unlimited Vacation: Benefit or Burden?
Rules for Requesting R and R
Proper Use of Sick Days

How to Get Past the Phone Interview

Dear, Anita,

It seems like more HR departments are starting with a phone interviews these days, which is tricky because I am currently employed. I’ve had a few phone interviews recently that haven’t led to an invitation for an in-person interview. How can I make a better impression on the telephone?

Woman_Cell_Phone_iStock_000000292386_SmallDear, Can You Hear Me Now?,

Phone screening of candidates is definitely becoming more common. With so many applications submitted for each position, hiring managers don’t have the time to meet every applicant in person.

First things first. While you are job hunting, be sure to answer your cell phone professionally at all times. Check out Careerealism’s blog What To Say When An Interviewer Calls You At A Bad Time. It is a delicate undertaking to convene a phone interview while you are on the clock at your current employer. Try to schedule the pre-interview during your usual lunch time. If the hiring manager is unavailable in the middle of the day, you may need to ask your boss for time off for a vague “appointment” (you’ll want to save other personal days for on-site interviews).

Right before the scheduled time, close your office door, if you have one. If you’re part of a cubicle farm, find a private place with five-bar cell phone reception. You may have to take the call in your vehicle. Don’t just go outside and interview on the sidewalk; background street noise can be very distracting. Side note to unemployed job seekers: do not conduct a phone interview in your pajamas while lying on the sofa. Get up, get dressed, and sit up straight! (How’s that for tough love?) It’s amazing how attitude can be subtly transmitted through a telephone call.

Some people may shine during phone interviews, feeling less nervous than they would in person. (After all, the hiring manager can’t see that you are sweating through your jacket!) However, not everyone has great phone charisma. Just like actors in live theater have to over-emote to reach the audience in the balcony, you may have to pump up the enthusiasm in your voice when the interviewer can’t see your forward-leaning body language and the energetic gleam in your eye.

The interviewer may ask some basic pre-screening questions, or he or she may jump into the deep end with the “big” questions. Ready yourself for a phone interview just as you would for a face-to-face meeting – be prepared for anything.

Businessman on the beachIf you are asked to interview via Skype or video conference, additional groundwork is required. You’ll want to dress exactly as if you were going to a “real” interview, so make sure your outfit is pressed and ready. Find the best vantage point to set up your web cam, tablet, or phone to have the least distracting background possible. You don’t want the interviewer to see your messy desk or a stack of unwashed dishes in your kitchen sink. Get opinions from friends or trusted colleagues on your backdrop, and ask them for feedback on your posture, facial expression, and speech patterns.

At the end of the phone interview, or an in-person interview for that matter, be sure you understand what to expect next and the timeframe you may hear back from the company.  Just like you send a thank you for a face-to-face interview, you should follow up with this same courtesy for a virtual interview.

Readers: How often are you asked for phone pre-interviews? Have you ever had an embarrassing interruption while on a phone interview?

Do you have a job-related question? 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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