Happy New Year!

Hello Friends!

Here’s to a happy, prosperous, and successful year ahead!

Look forward to catching up in 2011!

Be Safe!

XOXO
Anita

Merry Christmas!

Hi Everybody!

I will be taking a vacation to ring-in the holidays and won’t be publishing any new comments or posts until after the New Year.
I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and look forward to hearing from you in the coming weeks!

XOXO
Anita

Documenting Performance

A reader writes…

Anita, can you please provide some tips on how to properly document performance issues?

Dear “Documentation Diva,”

(That’s what I like to call myself, anyway!)

As a manager, documenting employee performance – particularly the problems – is crucial. Though taking note of every single incident may sound like a pain in the rump, it actually doesn’t take long at all. Believe me; in the long run… you’ll be glad you did.  In extreme cases, proper documentation can save you and your company from potential lawsuits!

My first suggestion would be to speak with someone from your HR department to see if your company has a set protocol for documenting incidences.  Specifics such as date, time, and location must be included and other details may also be required.  The HR folks are experts at this sort of stuff.  They know exactly what needs to be filed and how.

In the meantime, here’s an example email that can be sent to someone after an incident  has occurred. It just takes a few sentences:

From: You (The Supervisor)

Date: January 18, 2011

To: Problem Employee

Subject: Following up on our conversation

Dear Tom Trouble,

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today about [x problem]. I’m glad we were able to identify a way to resolve this situation and move forward.  As a reminder, I expect that you will [insert expectation of conduct or performance here].

Please let me know if you have any questions or how I can be of further assistance to you.

Sincerely,

You

As you can see, this email puts a date/time stamp on a document that identifies the problem and sets forth the expectation of the employee’s solution to implement. It has the added benefit of demonstrating the sender’s willingness to work with the employee to achieve improvement.

No sweat! It take less than 5 minutes to draft a follow-up memo which is a lot less time then dealing with legal battles and producing volumes of reports  to prove you did not do anything wrong –  should a disgruntled ex-employee decide to sue your company!

For further information, I suggest you take a peek at this website for some more keen (and legal) advice!

Loud Co-Worker

A reader writes…

I sit in a cubicle and my co-worker is SO loud.
How can I address this annoying issue with her?

Dear ”Distracted,”

So, you sit next to a “Larry Loudmouth” or a “Chatty Cathy,” huh? I know how that is.  I once worked next to a guy who would “talk” to his computer… literally. To make matters worse, he’d hum under his breath, so all I’d hear was an irritating and steady mumble from across the way. For cryin’ out loud… can it get any worse?

Let me tell you what I did. It may just be the answer for you…

  • First, I approached him directly.  I thought, “Who knows, maybe this guy has no idea that he is totally annoying!” Putting on my best poker face, I diplomatically and professionally explained that I work in close proximity and his volume is affecting my productivity.  In all due respect to the poor fellow, I believe it is only fair to address the situation directly, before taking further action.

Well go figure… my attempt bit the dust and the noise continued.

  • It was time for an intervention.  If the noise was bugging me and my thick skin, I could only imagine what it must be doing to other co-workers nearby.  So, I enlisted the help of my supervisor (or, you can always go straight to HR).  I sent an email explaining that I spoke with my colleague and attempted to address the issue, but he still had not responded to my request. 

After I rallied the troops, the problem seemed to be resolved.  Okay, for about 2 weeks. 

  • The noise and distractions started to really get to me.  I had enough and asked to be relocated to a different cubicle.  Seemed a little unfair that I had to move, but in the end I was in a much happier (and peaceful) place.

If you try all of these steps and things don’t get any better, my advice to you?
Ask Santa for some really good headphones.

Good Luck!

The #1 Interview Question

A reader writes…

How do you answer the dreaded, ‘Tell me about yourself’ question in an interview? – What do companies want to hear?

Dear “Self,”

Ha! This is how all my “notes to self” begin. But seriously, you bring up a great question and one that deserves a lot of thought.

First of all, let me clue you in on a little secret… the “tell me about yourself” question is almost a guarantee in EVERY interview. It’s how employers like to start conversations. But that’s the key here – It’s a potential EMPLOYER asking the question, not some stud or hottie standing next to you at a bar. With that said, your answer must remain professional and relevant to your work style. The interviewer wants to hear a quick, 1-2 minute summary of your professional experience and an explanation of why you are the best candidate.

Start off with a summary of your professional experience in a sentence or two. Then, highlight your biggest accomplishments, especially during your most recent work experience. Wrap up by describing how your unique combination of experience and accomplishments applies to the position, and how you would benefit that company.

While potential employers want to know about you, as a person, what they’re really after is what you can do for them. Telling them about how you discipline your kids or your interests in the “Home Shopping Network” may make you stand out, but not in a good way.

A well-prepared self-introduction will set the tone and direction of the rest of the interview. Take this opportunity to impress your interviewer right from the start because, remember, you can never make another first impression.


Finding a Job Without Recent Work References

A reader writes….

I have been on disability for the last 6 years and have not had a job since. I am going to school for motorcycle mechanics, but I need to start working in order to make ends meet since I don’t make enough anymore to pay all my bills. It seems no one wants to hire me based on the fact I have no real work history that is more recent. So what do I do?

 

Dear “Gary Gap,”

There are a lot of businesses out there, particularly restaurants or retailers that do not necessarily require professional references.  You figure, everybody has to start somewhere, Consider the kids fresh out of high school – they’re finding jobs without any work experience.

You not only HAVE work experience (just not recent), but you’re going to school to boot!  This says a lot about you and explains the gap in employment, which is something most employers are interested in learning about.

Businesses ask for references so they can get a feel for your work ethic, reliability, experience, attendance, etc.  Oftentimes, a professor or instructor from your school can serve as a reliable reference.  In fact, if you network with them enough, they may be able to offer some possible leads.  I see that you’re going to school for motorcycle mechanics.  An entry-level position in this trade may accept a school referral in place of a professional reference. 

Have you done any internships or volunteer work while attending school?  Even if they were unpaid, they are still a good resource of information for a potential hiring manager.

Remember, at this stage, you’re just trying to make ends meet and you may not find your ideal role just yet.  For now, go for something basic and give it your all.  If anything, it will serve as the professional reference you’ll need when the time comes to go after your real career in the field you’re interested in.

Anyone else in this predicament? 
If so, what have YOU done?  Please share… we’d love to hear your experiences (and expertise!)

Thank You Subscribers!

I have SENSATIONAL news!

My blog, “Job Talk With Anita Clew,” has only been active for a couple of weeks and we already have 1,000 subscribers! I am absolutely tickled.

From the bottom of my heart… thank you for your support!

I hope you find my advice helpful and that you encourage your friends and family to take a peek at my blog.  Please keep your questions coming!  I always love hearing from you!

Warm Holiday Wishes,
Anita

Finding Jobs For Ex-Felons

A reader writes….

How can a person, recently released from prison, find employment?  If I admit to being convicted of a felony (on the application), I don’t get called back.  How do I get my foot in the door by being honest?

Dear “Honest Engine,”

Before I deliver my advice, I want to start by commending you for trying to get back on track in the working world.  Finding a job can be difficult for ANYONE . . . . Add the dreaded question, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” to the mix – and you’re in a real pinch.     

To lie?  Or not to lie?

Well, judging by your question, I can see that you’re not only on the right track… but on an HONEST one.  To you and ALL my readers out there… honesty is the best policy… ALWAYS!

While it’s true that there are several employers (including many temporary staffing agencies) that will not hire anyone with a criminal background, there are other options and opportunities.  You just have to look in the right place, be persistent, and remain truthful.   Consider these words of wisdom:

  1. Be open about the fact that you have “paid your dues,” and let the employer know that you are ready to get your life back on track.  Stress your willingness to work hard and your dedication to the job.  More than ever, companies are conducting background checks on new hires. Falsifying information on the application will not only jeopardize your chances of getting hired, but it’s leading you back down the wrong path.
  2. Do not apply for jobs that are close in nature to your conviction.  For example, if your crime was theft, you should probably avoid positions that involve cash handling (such as cashiers, etc.)
     
  3. Aim for entry-level positions.  I know you may be overqualified, but it could be the gateway to bigger and better things.  Many employers are willing to take a chance with “at risk” employees and are often pleased by their performance.  Though I don’t know the type of work you were doing, here are a few positions to ponder:
    1. Food Prep
    2. Fast Food
    3. Dishwasher
    4. Retail Stores (hardware and appliance, nurseries, automotive)
    5. Telemarketing / Call Centers.
    6. Carpentry / Masonry / Construction
    7. Gardening / Landscaping
    8. Warehouse  / General Labor
    9. Machine Operator
  4. You may also want to look into city or government jobs.  Naturally, these groups want to encourage crime-free communities and are supportive of putting people back into the workforce.  I did a little research and found this list of possibilities:
    1.  
      1. Water and Sanitation services
      2. Recycling services
      3. Joining the military
      4. Joining the Peace Corps (paid volunteer services)
  5. What about local nonprofit organizations, social services, or ministries? Goodwill Industries or the Salvation Army may have employment placement programs for you to explore.
  6. Look for local job fairs in your area.  Find out, upfront, whether jobs are available to ex-felons – that way it is addressed early on in the process.
  7. Do a little research on the Federal Bonding Program, a FREE Fidelity Bond that insures “high-risk” job applicants.  Contact the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Association for more information.

To any potential employers reading this article….

There are a lot of solid candidates, like this fellow, who are ready to work. Keep in mind that as a business, you can earn tax credits by hiring ex-offenders and keeping them on the job for a certain number of working hours.  Is your company currently implementing the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program?

Good luck!  Please keep me posted on your progress!

-Anita

Job Search Out of State

A reader writes…

I plan to relocate and am searching for positions online, but because I’m out of state, it seems I can’t get an interview. Any advice or recommendations?

Dear “Long-Distance Looker,”

Whether you’re in a company’s “backyard” or 1,000 miles away, getting an interview isn’t easy these days.  Of course, I don’t know anything about your qualifications, but let’s face it – getting an interview is never a cake walk, local or not.

Nevertheless, things can get a little stickier when you’re not in the general vicinity of an employer.  Entry-level positions tend to get filled locally for the simple reason that there’s no shortage of good candidates. High-level positions, on the other hand, are more prone to consider non-locals.

In any case, I’ve seen a lot of scenarios working in the employment industry and can share some words of wisdom that I have gathered over the years:

  • Don’t just say, “I am willing to relocate.” Make it clear in your cover letter that you are planning to move to the area very soon.  You can even explain when and why (if you desire).  Also, clearly state that you do not need relocation assistance.
  • Make sure the contact information on your résumé lists your name – with something like, “Relocating in January to Houston” directly below – followed by your phone number and email address.
  • Some people have found that listing a friend’s local address at the top of the résumé can help, (when applying for jobs out-of-state). It may draw more attention from employers.  If you choose to do this, however, you better:
    • Be ready to fly out on short notice for interviews.
    • Make sure any and all social networking profiles (such as LinkedIn) are equally updated with the local address.  Since employers commonly check these sites before making a hiring decision, you better appear to be consistent!
    • Be ready to stay in the area temporarily in case there are follow-up interviews scheduled (basically “act” like you live there).  Now I’ve always been an honest engine and am not sure I’d be able to pull this off – but hey, it works for some!
  • Keep in mind, when recruiters run résumé searches in their online database, they typically search parameters “within 50 miles of zip code 12345.”  That being said, your out-of-state address won’t show up in the results.  Hey, that alone is a good reason to use your friend’s local address!!
  • Consider moving to the new area before applying for a job.  You can earn income and build your résumé through temp jobs…. and have I got the source for you!  Visit www.selectfamily.com for a complete list of divisions and locations.  You can apply online and even see a partial list of job openings on their locations map.

In general, remember that finding a job market is always tough.  I hope these suggestions help.  If anybody has additional ideas or comments…  post away!

Record? Or Reschedule?

A reader writes…

I have an interview coming up with a strong potential candidate who would be reporting to me directly, but would have a dotted-line to a manager from another department. I was just informed, however, that this other manager will not be able to make it to the interview as scheduled. I have rearranged my calendar and the person coming in is all set to go. Rather than setting a new date, would it be considered “bad practice” to tape record the interview so that my counterpart can listen to the candidate’s responses after the fact?

Dear, “Cassette Casanova,”

Never once during my 30+ years in the biz have I seen or heard of an interview being recorded. Not to say that it doesn’t happen– but I would lean against the idea.

I really only have 3 points to make here:

  1. For most people, interviews are an intense and even scary process! Throw a recorder in the mix, and your poor candidate is sure to feel really nervous and thrown off.
  2. Do YOU really want to be recorded? Again, you’re making a potentially uncomfortable situation even worse, in my opinion. Plus, when and why would you really want to listen to it again?
  3. Last, but certainly not least, if another manager will be impacted by the hire, then you ABSOLUTELY need to reschedule the interview so that he or she can participate. Otherwise, invite the candidate back for a second or third meeting (based on the availability of those involved). Placing a recording device on the table and saying, “Oh this… Bill was unable – uninterested – in joining us today, so I thought I’d record our conversation so he can listen to it when, or if, he’s able.” How impersonal and unprofessional can you get? I repeat… poor candidate!

I’d love to know if any of our readers have recorded interviews. How did it go?
Any job seekers poking around on this page been recorded? Do tell….!

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Disclaimer

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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