Addressing the Dress Code

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,
Do most companies have a dress code? Are pantyhose and full suits the norm?

 

Dear, “Dress Code,”

This is a tough question for me to ad-dress (this is me being punchy!)

Dress codes vary by business, industry, and location. In general, however, I would say that YES, most companies have some sort of dress code established, and as an employee, it is part of your job to adhere to the guidelines. Some places require a specific uniform; others enforce a strict professional-dress policy, while others may be a lot more casual.

In the world of business, where you are working in an office, I’ve noticed that “corporate” attire has turned to “business casual” more than ever before. That’s not to say that flip-flops and shorts are acceptable, though for some industries it’s perfectly fine, and some companies offer it as a perk when salaries are a bit lower than the rest of the market! Blouses and slacks (for women) and button-down shirts or even Polos with slacks (for men) are becoming more and more widespread.

Here’s the challenge that I see when it comes to the “business casual” code as a female employee… coordinating tops and bottoms appropriately can be tricky. Combining the styles of “business” and “casual” takes a certain eye – some people just don’t have enough fashion sense to pull it off appropriately. In fact, I read an article where the Certified Image Consultant and Chair of the Association of Image Consultants International (Kelly Machbitz) said, “I’ve noticed that Casual Fridays have morphed into ‘Happy Hour’ Fridays — you can tell who’s got a date that night by what they wear to the office that day.” SO true!

Being asked to wear a full suit may seem a little stuffy (and can be costly when it comes to dry cleaning bills), but at least people don’t have to pick out what they’re going to wear by mixing and matching things. It’s basically “these pants go with this coordinating jacket.” (Your personal flair comes in with the shirt (and tie) you choose!

Here’s the big question for the ladies… Whether you’re business casual, professional attire, or required to wear a uniform, do you have to wear pantyhose?

Men, you have no idea how lucky you are not to have to deal with these form-fitting, leg squeezing pull-ups that will get a snag or run if you even LOOK at them wrong!

To me, pantyhose should be banned. Now, I understand that they can serve a purpose in keeping things together, hiding varicose veins, and giving some women a more finished look… but please don’t force them in the dress code! Optional is fine.

I’d love to hear from each and every one of you…
1. What are some of the worst outfits you’ve seen at work? (Keep it clean people!)
AND…
2. (Specifically for the gals) What is your opinion on hose?

Can’t wait to read your comments!
Anita

Why So Many Interviews?

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita,
Is it typical for companies to interview a candidate multiple times? They often end up asking the same questions! What’s the deal?

Dear, “Interview Insanity,”

Thanks for posting your question. I know that being asked to come in for an interview can be the most exciting news EVER, yet at the same time, it can create anxieties beyond belief.

To top it off, after finishing that first round, you may be asked to come back again, and again, and AGAIN! What a way to get your hopes up, right?

The deal is this… the larger the company, the more likely you WILL be asked to come back for multiple interviews. Many businesses have a policy that says, “It takes 3 to hire… and 3 to fire.” In the case of the hiring process, it is common for candidates to meet with their potential direct supervisor, then possibly with someone at the executive level, maybe a different department head, and even HR. Depending on the position and organizational structure, the list could go on and on.

The real bummer is that often you’ll find you are being asked the same questions by these different folks over and over again. To me, that’s just a big waste of everybody’s time!

Managers (this is for you): Please be sure to communicate with one another throughout the interview process. Find out what questions have already been asked and how they were answered. Share notes and feedback so that you are gathering new content each time and not sounding like a broken record to the poor candidate trying to impress you!

Now, where were we?

In some cases, this group of people may be joined together at the same interview – which reduces the number of return visits, but can be a little intimidating, to say the least. (As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, come prepared with multiple hardcopies of your résumé in case you need to pass them out to multiple attendees.)

So you may be asking yourself, “If I am asked to return several times, does it mean I have a good chance of being hired?” Well gosh darn it, you’d think so! The reality is, however, companies typically narrow down their selection throughout this process. For instance, in the initial interview, you may be up against 7 other candidates. By round two, it may be you against 3 others, then down to the top 2 for yet another round. It all depends. After meeting with so many people from the company, it is natural to get your hopes up. Just remember that if it turns out you are not selected, you need to maintain your composure, avoid burning bridges, and move on.

So tell me readers, how many times have you been asked to return for subsequent interviews? Did you get the job in the end?

Post away!
Anita

New Year… New Management Style

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,

As you know, this is the time of year people tend to take a close look at themselves and make a long laundry list of “resolutions” they intend to tackle. I realize people don’t change overnight, but one of the things I’d like to work on as a manager is the way I lead my staff. What are some best practices for being a “good” manager?

Dear, “Mindful Manager,”

I love the fact that you are making a conscious effort to improve or enhance your management style… it’s a new year and a perfect time for a new start! I bet most readers wish THEIR manager would pick up on this positive idea – hats off to you, my dear!

I’ve tried to think back to my personal experience with managers (and even did a little research to throw in some other ideas) and came up with the following list (in no particular order, of course!):

  1. Be open and honest…Even admit your faults – I think a manager who, as difficult as it may be, can openly admit his or her faults to employees will immediately gain a whole new level of respect. Like a good parent, a manager can guide employees by teaching from their mistakes. When things have gone wrong in business or poor decisions were made, the consequences taught good lessons that others can (and should) learn from.
  2. Be yourself – Sure, you need to be professional, be accountable for your team, and maintain your leadership role… but during team-building events or outside of the office, be yourself. Hang out with your team, talk about your personal interests, share funny things you’ve seen or heard. You don’t always have to be perceived as the straight-laced dominant figure that everyone sees at work. Loosen up… your staff will appreciate it.
  3. Call people on the carpet – I know this sounds harsh, but the fact is, sometimes employees get into heated discussions or let their emotions get the best of them… and they could use a good kick in the pants. As their manager, pull these people aside and point out their behavior and how it can be detrimental to their success if it continues. Sort of the “tough love” approach… but necessary.
  4. Be complimentary – Everybody likes to receive a compliment every now and then. Share your appreciation for a job well done, salute the skills of your staff, and celebrate achievements. A good manager surrounds himself with a team of talent. A great manager hires people who are better at certain things than they are. Don’t be threatened by this… give yourself a pat on the back for putting together such a great team!
  5. Help strengthen the weaknesses – The last thing you want to do as a manager is set up your employees for failure. If they have areas of weakness, help them improve. It may not be a “fun” process, but by providing the right guidance and tools, you can help your team overcome challenges so they are better equipped, well rounded, and more productive for you!
  6. Stand behind your people – If you see one of your staff members up against a wall, faced with opposition, or being blamed for something (for example)… back them up or help remove them from the situation so that it can be addressed privately (if necessary) between the two of you.
  7. Be a listener… not just a leader – Employees like to know that they are being heard. In addition to delegating tasks and leading a team, you need to make sure you are carving out plenty of time to listen to your staff, hear their ideas and suggestions, and maintain open lines of communication. There should always be a two-way street between supervisors and employees. Managers that flaunt their power or distance themselves are less respected. 
  8. Keep your cool – When the pressure’s on, this one can be tricky… but as a manager, it is critical. If the chips are down or the tension is up, your team needs a leader that will stay calm, stay focused, and even lighten the mood a little. Laughter is probably the best stress reliever out there. When times are tough… toss in a little fun factor!
  9. Roll up your sleeves – It is rare… and I mean RARE to find a manager that is not only willing to help get the job done, but that can step into any position and fill in as needed. I have only known a handful of people that can do this, and let me tell you… it is a quality beyond words.
  10. Follow your instincts – This one, to me, doesn’t need much explanation. It’s a rule of thumb that I try to live by in all facets of my life. I think to myself, would my co-workers (or on a personal level – kids, spouse, friend, or parent) be proud of my actions right now? If the answer is no… then it’s probably not the right thing to do. It’s just that simple. Follow this idea, and you’re sure to be better off… every time.

Happy New Year Everyone!
Anita

Effective Leadership

Attention Managers!

With the New Year upon us, there’s no better time than now to refine your leadership skills and DO your best to BE your best!  Take a look at the following article that was published on TradePost, The Select Family of Staffing Companies’ business blog.

I encourage everyone to subscribe…  they’re kicking off 2012 with a “Start of the Year Planner” that offers great business advice!

http://tradepost.selectfamily.com/index.cfm/2012/1/12/leadership

Cheers!
Anita

Other Ways to Find Jobs

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

Could you please address ways for finding employment opportunities outside of job boards and “want ads,” such as networking and how to do that effectively?

Dear, “Opportunities,”

Believe it or not, employment opportunities are all around us – everyday… everywhere we go.  It’s just a matter of discovering them, getting the word out, and playing off the old saying, “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know!”

Here are a few places to search (outside of job boards and want ads):

  1. Social Networking sites:  The whole purpose of sites like Facebook is to make connections, stay in touch with friends, family, co-workers, etc., and share what’s going on in your life.  Just as cute or funny pictures tend to spread like wildfire online… the fact that you’re looking for a job is no different.  Get the word out to the people in your social network.  Who knows, they may have a relative, buddy, or colleague that is hiring or would be open to meeting with you!

    LinkedIn is another, highly respected social networking site that specifically caters to professionals.  Like Facebook, this is a free site but in the case of LinkedIn, the objective is to complete a professional profile about yourself – like a résumé.  You will have the opportunity to state your work history, areas of expertise, and interests.  Before you know it, you can get “linked” with other people who either share your interests, profession, or that even worked with you (or went to school with you) in the past.You can easily run searches for people and companies in your area (or anywhere for that matter).  From there, you’ll see how you may be connected (through somebody else) to potentially key contacts.  Again… it’s all about the people OTHER people may know that can get you hooked up with great opportunities.  Likewise, businesses often list job openings on LinkedIn (that may not appear on standard job boards).One more comment about LinkedIn – Another cool and effective feature is the fact that you can request “Introductions” and/or have people “Endorse” (recommend) you for your great work.  It’s like an instant referral system that potential employers can look at and see how wonderful you are!

    This leads me to my next reminder:

  2. Referrals from Family and Friends:  I know I basically covered this in point #1, but it’s worth stating on its own… particularly if you have not yet explored the social networking scene online.  Spread the word to friends and family that you are looking for work.  The people who care about you the most will put on their thinking caps and pass along any recommendations or suggestions.  I firmly believe “it’s a small world after all…!” (Sing it if you know it!)
  3. Volunteer Groups: Participating in volunteer groups or charity events is another great way to network with people.  I’ve said this in previous posts, and I’ll say it again…  People generally prefer working with people they like.  If you already share a common goal or interest, you’ve already broken the ice and accomplished a major step.  Befriend as many people as you can and get involved.  Who knows, the person running the race, planting a tree, or picking up trash by your side… may have a job opening that you can fill!
  4. Church Groups / Alumni Groups: These are just a couple of other resources that come to mind when it comes to networking opportunities and finding possible jobs.
  5. Toastmasters: This is a nonprofit, international leadership group that has been around since 1924 and helps people develop their public speaking and leadership skills.  Groups meet regularly to network and interact in a comfortable setting. Part of the problem many job seekers have is a lack of confidence in front of strangers.  Before convincing someone else that you should be hired… you need to convince yourself! It’s groups like these that help you build that much needed self-esteem.One quick tip… when attending a networking session, don’t feel like you need to own the room or be the center of attention.  Try to make meaningful connections and spend quality time with individuals… that’s what ignites long term relationships (not the quick handshakes in passing).
     
  6. Internships:  Sometimes you can get your foot in the door by doing paid (or unpaid) internships for businesses or organizations.  If anything, this is a great way to gain first-hand experience in a particular industry and again, it exposes you to a whole new set of people (and potential hiring managers).  I frequently encourage college students to do internships while in school (to help build an effective résumé).  Whether you’re interested in working in the medical field, a law office, a publishing company, or government agency (as examples)… this may be a good route to explore.  Pick up the phone and ask around, or stop by in person (professionally dressed!).  You never know… unless you ask! 
  7. Temporary Agencies:  Last, but certainly not least, I highly recommend going through a temporary agency.  Let a professional recruiter do the searching for you at no cost (it doesn’t get any better than that, right?)  Many companies do 100% of their hiring through services… in some cases; it’s the only way to get in. I highly recommend my old friends at Select Staffing (www.selectstaffing.com).

Hey Readers… Please share some additional methods for finding job opportunities and/or networking (aside from standard job boards or help wanted ads).  Blogs like this are an excellent forum for networking and helping one another.  We’d all love to hear your thoughts, comments, and suggestions!

Anita

Employers Think I’m a Job Hopper!

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I know one of the things that stands out in a résumé (besides skills) is how long you have been with a company –  (working somewhere for 5 or 10 years, for example,  shows stability).  I also know it is professional to put all your jobs on the résumé, but when I do, I am often asked during interviews, “How come you have so many different jobs within a two year period?” I haven’t been able to find a stable job but have been getting calls from contract and temp jobs that last 4 months, 2 months, 6 months and I accept them (because when you need work, you accept it to pay the bills).

There are great employees out there that have skills that make them the perfect candidate but because of their job history, employers don’t trust them to stay with the company.  

So my question is this, how can you make your résumé look presentable even with a minimal stable job history?

Dear, “Stability,”

You have brought up an issue that probably impacts a good majority of my readers… and certainly warrants a full post!

How the heck do you “sell yourself” in a résumé as a dedicated employee, when your work history is full of short term temp assignments and/or contract work?  Jumping from job to job doesn’t exactly say, “I am a stable person who will stick with your company for years and years to come!”

It does say, however, that you have been working consistently and are versatile; yet reveals the fact that you just haven’t found that position or opportunity where you can commit long term.  For some people, temporary work is ideal for particular lifestyles.  Perhaps you’re a new parent wanting to earn extra income while tending to a child.  Maybe you’re a full-time student, just looking to make some extra cash.  Then there are those that have been laid off from a previous job and are simply exploring new industries and opportunities before deciding on their next career path.

All in all, I think hiring managers understand the reality and importance of temporary work, more than ever.  Rather than viewing it as “instability,” they know that people are simply trying to make ends meet during difficult times.  In fact, many employers have been faced with hiring freezes themselves. Their companies are either cutting full-time staff, or are battling budget cuts left and right!  Keep in mind; this also explains why job hunting is so competitive.  When companies are finally given the trigger to hire someone… they’re going to be ultra choosey and basically search for the pick of the litter. (This is why, as a job seeker, you need to be on top of your game, have a flawless résumé, and be ready to shine in that interview.)

Now back to your question, “How can you make your résumé look presentable even with a minimal stable job history?”

You don’t want a two page résumé that includes the days, weeks, or months, of each individual temp assignment you’ve ever had.  At a glance that will surely be a turn off to any hiring manager.

Here’s what I suggest:

Below your name and contact information that appears at the top, begin with a section called, “Summary of Qualifications.” There you will highlight 5 or 6 bullet points of key skills or experiences that directly pertain to the job you are seeking.  Maybe one sums up “’X’ number of years working in the ‘Y’ industry overseeing…. Or developing… Or assisting with….” <insert whatever applies>. Another bullet point may include specific computer skills, or industry/ trade specific knowledge.  Here is where you may list whether you’re bilingual (for example)… you get the idea?

Next comes the chronological list of “Employment” or “Work Experience.”  If you have been doing various temp jobs for the past two years, simply group all of that together as a single listing with the header, “Contract Work” (or something like that) – Then just list the years (NOT months or specific dates).  The key is, you’re still being completely honest… but you’re redirecting the focus from short intervals to a long period that included a variety of positions.

Now, within the section you’ve called “Contract Work,” use bullet points to outline each position in a single sentence (use present tense as what you’re really dong here is drawing attention to your various skills, responsibilities, and attributes).  For example:

Contract Work – (2010 – 2012)

  •  Accountant / Bookkeeper (insert company name) – Data entry, accounts receivable, and records management of a $X budget.  (NOTE: it’s always good to include quantitative figures wherever you can…  gives more substance to your résumé)
  • Customer Service Representative (insert company name) – Inbound / Outbound calls, up-sell to customers, demonstrate product features and benefits of over ‘X’ products and services.

Directly below the “Contract Work” section (that now gives the allusion it was a long term commitment… by bundling your short-term projects), you will list whatever you did before that.  If you were laid off from somewhere after working for 3 years (for example) you will list the date range in years. Then do the same for next job, etc. – No need to go back 40 years… keep it relevant.

End your résumé with your education, certifications, any awards, and/or accomplishments.

While your résumé must be honest and should include as much pertinent detail as possible to attract the attention of a hiring manager, it is in your cover letter or during the interview that you will have the opportunity to explain things further.  Try to keep the focus on your skills that will contribute to the job at hand more than concentrating on dates and time periods. Trust me…  listing a duration of temporary assignments in your résumé (whether it’s a period of 2 months or 2 years) looks much better than having  gaps in your work history.

Don’t hesitate to be honest about your situation.  The way you openly explained it to me in your question made perfect sense and shows your determination and work ethic.

I hope these tips help and wish you much success in landing that long-term position in 2012!
Anita

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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