Lack of Training

Dear Anita,

I’m in HR and just have to vent. I get so many résumés for open positions from people who don’t qualify even remotely. Can you please tell job seekers without the required experience not to waste my time?

Infographic-1-Lack-of-Experience-LGDear, Not Impressed,

A recent American Staffing Association (ASA) survey found that unemployed adults looking for work say that lack of experience is the main obstacle that prevents them from finding a job. (Really, we needed a survey to figure that out?) But the workforce survey goes further: 82% of unemployed job seekers think training would increase their chances of receiving job offers. And nearly nine out of 10 aspirants would be willing to try a new field if training were offered.

So, employers, do you have a training program for those hard-to-fill positions? Or perhaps you have high turnover in a particular role. This may be an indication that the instruction provided for that job title is not up to snuff. It’s not enough for the HR department to fill chairs with warm bodies; you want those bodies to flourish in the role, both for their own personal growth and for the company’s betterment.

If your business has perpetually open positions with no qualified applicants, consider cultivating “home-grown” employees. Convince your local community college to provide classes that your company would find helpful for future applicants.

Now, let me scold job seekers a bit. If you come across as a lackluster candidate to hiring managers, it’s in your power to improve your image. Don’t wait for future employers to train you. Proactively seek out professional development opportunities, whether it’s online or at your local chamber of commerce, free or paid out of your own pocket. You’ll be able to beef up your résumé’s “Advanced Training” or “Continuing Education” section, and show that you have a drive to succeed.

Readers: Let’s dream a little. If you could change careers with full training provided, what field would you enter?

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

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Back to Class

Great Questions to Ask During Interviews

Dear Anita,

I’m 72 and the first job I interviewed for was 2 years ago and I was hired on the spot! For those searching for a job, I recommend showing how excited you are at the interview, and that you first learn a few things about the prospective employer. It shows that you aren’t just randomly going from door-to-door!

Be energetic and positive. Ask questions like… “How long have you [the interviewer] worked here?” or “What is the best thing you like about your company?” That way you will learn something and it gives you a chance to compose yourself.

Interview_Question_000019402901Dear Spot On,

Congrats on acing your interview! Thanks for sharing your winning strategy. Many people forget to prepare for that final interviewer’s inquiry, “Do you have any questions for me?” Here is a list of great questions to impress your potential employer.

  • Do you have any reservations about my qualifications? (If yes, this give you a second chance to toot your own horn and change their mind.)
  • Can you tell me about the team I’d be working with? (Gain insight into the coworkers you would deal with on a daily basis.)
  • Who has formerly held the position? (Did they retire? Were they fired? If so, why?)
  • What is a typical [day, week, month, or year] like for a person in this job?
  • What is the biggest problem currently facing your staff? (Try to show how you could help solve this problem.)
  • What constitutes success in this position? (Will you have a fighting chance to flourish?)
  • What are the prospects for growth in this job? (Show you’re in it for the long term.)

And finally, don’t forget to ask the all-important:

  • What is the next step in the hiring process?

For even more queries, check out job-hunt.com’s 45 Questions to Ask in Your Job Interview.

Readers: What is your favorite question to ask during a job interview?

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

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Sharing the Pain

Dear Anita,

My job is the biggest royal pain. Can you help me get a better one?

Woman in painDear, Complaint Queen,

According to research conducted by SERMO, yours truly actually has one of the top 10 most painful jobs. Yes, that’s right. Writers and journalists rank up there with construction workers, truck drivers, and those on the production line. (Mechanics, gardeners/landscapers, athletes, firefighters, lawyers, and IT professionals round out the top 10.)

But instead of focusing on our pain on the job, try targeting a hiring manager’s daily discomforts – and how you, above all others, can help relieve his or her troubles. A few years ago, Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, trademarked the idea of a Pain Letter. This is the opposite of the generic cover letter (no more “Dear HR, I saw your ad and am applying for the open position. Blah, blah, blah.”).

The first step in writing a Pain Letter is to research the company. Use LinkedIn to find the hiring manager’s name.

Secondly, congratulate the manager and/or the company for a recent accomplishment (which may also be gleaned from LinkedIn or Google research). Ryan calls this the “Hook.”

Next, determine what keeps this manager up at night, and outline the “Pain Hypothesis.” Ryan gave this example for an imaginary Payroll Specialist in Forbes:

I can imagine that hiring as many people as you are, keeping tabs on payroll issues might be a constant challenge. With regulations constantly changing, it’s not easy to keep everyone paid correctly and well-informed in a growing company.

Then, include your “Dragon-Slaying Story,” describing specifically how you handled similar pain in your current or previous position.

When I ran the payroll system at Angry Chocolates, I kept the payroll accurate and in compliance and answered dozens of employee questions every day while we grew from 15 to 650 staff members.

Keep the letter brief, closing simply:

If payroll accuracy and advice to your team is on your radar screen, I’d love to chat when it’s convenient. All the best, Nancy Drew

Readers: How do you focus on alleviating the hiring manager’s business pains in your cover letter?

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

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Best of 2015

Dear Readers,

We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience. ― George Washington

Let’s take a look back to see what lessons we have been able to put to use in the past year. Here are the most popular articles of 2015, in order of views:Two business people

#1: Asking for Vacation Time Do you ASK your supervisor or TELL her when you are taking vacation? What’s the best strategy?

#2: Crimes & Misdemeanors It’s no surprise that this post about finding a job with a criminal record made the top of the list, since nearly one-third of Americans have been arrested by age 23.

#Hiding_the_Gray_0000122551363: Hiding the Gray on Your Résumé (and Beyond) Tips for graying triathletes (and the rest of us mere mortals) on how to compete with younger job seekers.

#4: Functional Format for Résumés Not just for the greybeards the functional résumé can work for people with gaps in employment, caregivers returning to the workforce, or recent grads with little experience.

#5: How Long to Find a Job? I am often asked by discouraged job seekers of all ages some variation of the question, “How long does it really take to get a new job?” After reviewing the statistics, see what you can do shorten your search.

On_the_Fence_iStock_000009524325_Small#6: Stay or Quit? Follow this advice if you are asking yourself on the job, “Should I stay or should I go?”

#7: Bypassing Human Resources When to try an end-run around HR, and how to cooperate with the human resources department as a job seeker.

#8: Texting on the Job In this day and age, is texting on the job OK? Check out the data on cell phone distractions in the workplace and see if the facts change your mind.

Woman_Cell_Phone_iStock_000000292386_Small#9: How to Get Past the Phone Interview Learn how to put your best virtual foot forward during the initial telephone screening.

#10: Overcoming Negative References Steps to take when you think a former boss is giving you a bad reference.

Readers: What Anita Clew article was most helpful to you this past year and why?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita. Your question might make next year’s Top 10 list!

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Happy Holidays

Happy_Holidays

Why All the Cut & Paste?

Ms. Anita,

I would like to know why all the applications when you have a résumé?

Dear, Cutting Corners,

Untitled-1Bothersome, isn’t it? Cutting and pasting information from your already attached résumé makes applying for position postings online seem like a full-time job in and of itself. And for the unemployed, it is your primary goal. So, although it may seem a hassle, do what your future employer asks of you, and fill out the online application to their specifications.

Some job application systems are formatted to use the data you enter to match you with open positions, as it is much faster than a human resources professional personally reviewing each and every application for key words and phrases. These HR pros want the information in the format they require rather than having to search for it wherever you happened to include it (if at all) in your résumé. So skip the extra application step at your peril. You may not even be considered for the job, or you’ll look like someone who cannot follow directions or is simply lazy. (Now, now. I don’t want to hear you calling these hiring managers lazy; they often get hundreds of résumés for online job postings. The onus is on you to make selecting your application easier.)

While we’re on the subject of filling in online job applications, please pay attention to capitalization. I hate to see apps with names or other proper nouns typed in all lower case. That’s just as bad – no, worse – than SHOUTING in all caps. After all, you are smarter than a 5th Grader, aren’t you?

Readers: Go ahead; have a little rant below about all the extra work of filling out online job applications. Then… do it anyway.

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

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Thanksgiving Joys

Readers,

Whether you choose to spend the day with family and not darken the door of a single store (see the list of chains closed on Thanksgiving Day) or rush through the traditional turkey dinner to line up outside of the stores opening on T-day for early Black Friday specials, I encourage you to pause to count your many blessings.

Happy ThanksgivingWith a grateful heart for your continued readership,
Anita Clew

Readers: Will you, or won’t you, shop on Thanksgiving Day?

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

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Mr., Mrs., Ms.? How about Mx.?

Dear Miss/Mrs./Ms. Anita,

I never know which salutation to use on my cover letter. “To whom it may concern” seems so old school. Sometimes when an email is provided for résumé submission, the first name is not given, only an initial. So I don’t know whether to use Dear Mr. X or Dear Ms. X. What’s the best solution?

Dear, How Do You Do… the Greeting?

When responding to a job posting, do a little research. If the email is in a firstinitial.lastname@companyname.com format, search Avatars of silhouettes with different hairstyles.LinkedIn or Google for the surname + company name to sleuth out the first name and hopefully gender of the hiring manager. If no photo is available and the name is a gender-ambiguous – Terry or Riley or some such – “Dear Terry Smith” or “Dear Riley Jones” will keep you from offending your potential employer. If the email is a vague HR@businessname.com and your research doesn’t let you narrow down the one person to whom you are submitting your application, or if you are uploading your cover letter to an impersonal online application, use “Dear Hiring Manager,” to avoid gender mistakes.

Dictionary.com just added some new words to its lexicon, among them the gender-neutral prefix Mx.

Mx.: a title of respect prefixed to a person’s surname; unlike Mr., Mrs., or Ms., it does not indicate gender and may be used by a person with any or no specific gender identity.

I haven’t seen this used often yet, so Mx. could be construed as a typo by the reader. You may want to include a hyperlink to the definition to help educate and encourage usage of the new label.

If the Mx. salutation gets you to the interview stage, be sure you are looking fleek (another new slang term meaning “flawlessly styled and groomed”).

Readers: Have you seen or personally used the new Mx. title used in a salutation?

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

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The Dreaded Salary Requirement Conundrum

Anita,

Why don’t employers put the pay rate or salary in their job postings? It would sure save everyone on both sides a lot of time. I never know what to put when the ad says to include your salary requirements. I don’t want to ask for way too much and blow my chance to even get an interview. But if they pay more than I am used to, I don’t want to cheat myself either. What do you suggest?

Dear, Waging War,

Many employers choose not to list salary ranges. Candidates will almost always negotiate for the high end of the range and if they don’t get the max, they may end up with lingering resentment. Another consideration for large employers hiring nationwide is the wide discrepancy in costs of living. A yearly salary of $50K in San Francisco won’t provide much buying power, but the same salary in a Detroit suburb may provide a middle class lifestyle.

If salary requirements are requested in a job posting, be sure to comply or risk looking like an applicant who can’t follow instructions or does not pay attention to detail. But, just like you shouldn’t bring up salary at the beginning of the interview process, wait until after you sell yourself in the cover letter. Then, include a salary range instead of just one number. Remember, this is a negotiation, not a demand. If you really won’t accept less than say $40,000, state your salary range is between $41,000-$46,000. (I prefer non-rounded numbers; it sounds like you really figured out what you’re worth and what you need to cover your expenses. And you did research comparable positions on Salary.com, Payscale.com, or Glassdoor, right?)

You may be able to avoid giving a number with a phrase such as, “My salary requirements are negotiable based on the position and the total compensation offered, including benefits.” Remember when negotiating that perks such as holidays/vacation time/PTO, flex-time, company-paid professional development opportunities or even bringing your dog to work can make a job offer more attractive than salary alone.

The salary discussion is always fraught with tension, but look at it this way: If you really need a certain wage, why waste time interviewing for a position that won’t even pay the bills?

Readers: Do you have a strategy for the salary requirement question on a job application or during an interview?

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

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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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