It Puts the Lotion On….

This morning, while going through my email inbox, I came across a message from LinkedIn advising me of a number of new articles recently posted on various HR related topics.

Most of the time, I casually skim through the headlines and hit delete….largely because they are boring, lacking in humor and almost always about the same things.

For women:  The various ways in which we can and should be “Leaning In”….Avoiding the “Mommy Track”….Embracing the “Mommy Track”….Women with Ambition, UNITE!

For the unemployed:  Resumes that WOW….How to Answer the Really Tough Questions….Interview Preparation, etc.

Today, I saw an article entitled “7 Qualities That Will Get You Hired.”  Given the topic I’ve been writing about in my blog, I opened it up to see what the author had to say.  Among the seven qualities listed were, “The Ability to Make Quick Decisions” and “The Drive to Win.”

Well….no kidding….since when have employers been desperate to recruit indecisive, procrastinators comfortable with mediocrity?  It wasn’t exactly earth shattering insight….though I’m sure the author meant well and it did get me to thinking about the advice I might give.  In my case though, my article would be entitled:  “7 Qualities That Will NOT Get You Hired.”

So, here goes….

“7 Qualities That Will NOT Get You Hired.”

1.  Stalking Tendencies:   You can’t win them all. Sometimes, you just don’t get the job.  It may not be that you lack any particular skill or qualification necessary to be successful in the role.  It may not be because you bombed on that one interview question….and it may not be because you farted during the interview, creating a horribly awkward moment when neither you, nor the interviewer, knew exactly how to address the stinky elephant wafting about the room.  It could just be that for this particular opportunity, someone else was a slightly better fit.

While I do think it’s perfectly acceptable to follow up and politely express your disappointment at not being chosen and/or request some feedback regarding your interview….it’s best to just accept what they say and get over it.  Because, the moment you resort to behavior that makes a restraining order a feasible option for making you go away, is the moment you have lost all opportunity for employment at that company….ever.  This includes any of the following tactics:

  1. Mistakenly assuming that the hiring manager has stopped answering your calls, (after 25 conversations about the outcome of your interview), because her phone suddenly stopped working….thus causing you to conclude your best course of action is to place her on speed dial and spend an entire day/week hitting re-dial….over and over and over….
  1. When the above fails to garner a response and you begin to wonder if maybe, just maybe, she’s avoiding you and instead of taking the hint, deciding to try a new approach….calling her from another phone line and/or blocking your phone number from caller ID and commencing your cellular assault.
  1. When this fails….concluding that she doesn’t really loath you at this point….she’s just busy, but would love to hear from you by email….repeatedly.
  1. When this also fails….deciding that popping in at her office…in your white, curtained conversion van and insisting you have time to wait, all day if necessary, after being advised she is not available….would show her just how driven you really are.
  1. And when this also fails….spotting her as she tries to make an escape through a backdoor and then chasing her out into the parking lot and concluding it’s not at all horrifying for you to corner her at her car with your resume and a new list of references appealing for her to reconsider…..then as her eyes dart around for witnesses and you see her breathe a clear sigh of relief when she finally manages to get into her car and drive away….deciding the best way to leave a final impression would be to pull up beside her at a light, roll down the window and shout, “I’m not following you….this is how I go home too!”

2.  Delusional:  If you are asked, during an interview, to explain your reasons for leaving prior employers listed on your resume and your responses include anything like:

Employer 1:  “There was a misunderstanding involving funds.”

Employer 2:  “Oh, there was a slight scheduling debacle.”

Employer 3:  “There was some confusion regarding the company’s sexual harassment policy.”

There is a high probability that the only confused party is you.  Stop stealing, show up for work when scheduled and quit molesting co-workers.  No means no….it’s not that hard.

3.  A Crybaby:  If asked about your proudest professional accomplishment and you are moved to tears….it likely won’t matter that your answer includes a rock-solid plan for solving the world’s peace problems.  Tears are pretty much the kiss of death….it makes you look unstable, incapable of controlling your emotions in high pressure situations and a little bit crazy.  Anyone who suggests it’s not so bad to shed a tear or two because it shows you are a compassionate, carrying person is lying.  It’s fodder for break room comedy.

4.  High Maintenance:  If you haven’t even had a first interview yet and you’re already requesting that concessions be made to accommodate you, whatever foot you had in the door is becoming dangerously close to being squashed.  I get it, interviewing while employed elsewhere is a slippery slope, but it’s not my problem.

“Nope…I am not available to interview you at 8:00pm in an otherwise closed, dark and empty office complex….I don’t know you and while you might be perfectly delightful, I’ve seen enough true crime documentaries to know that perfectly delightful sometimes results in being deposited in a dumpster without a pulse.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHA!  Can I meet you on a Saturday/Sunday?  Let me repeat…HAHAHAHAHAHA!  No.  I have a life and it doesn’t revolve around you.”

5.  A Potty Mouth:  To put it simply….the words “Asshole” and “Fuckin'” have no place in a job interview.  Use your words!

6.  Loose:  If your resume is filled with more employers than years you’ve been alive…you’ve been branded a flight risk….if you have any hope at redemption, your explanation better involve something other than, “The manager and I had creative differences” or, “I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery….testing the waters….trying to find a permanent place to land.” 

7.  Desperate:  Even if you are, don’t tell.  Attempting to appeal to a hiring manager by disclosing all of your financial hardships and your willingness to do anything….ANYTHING AT ALL….for a paycheck, never works.

Cancer’ish….

Throughout the part-time employment years of my adolescence I will admit to occasionally killing off, wounding and/or infecting a loved one with a serious illness in order to score a day off.

Not literally, of course, just figuratively and only….in my mind….for the duration of time required to make the phone call necessary to report my absence.

In what I consider to be fairly typical teenage behavior, I could be selfish, self-centered and inconsiderate.  I didn’t necessarily intend to be, but I didn’t yet have the life experiences necessary to fully understand that a last minute call-out meant a co-worker or supervisor would be required to pick up my slack, or that the business might suffer from my absence.

Furthermore, it never occurred to me to consider the potential Karmic consequences of fictitiously reporting that a grandparent had broken a hip, or that a great-aunt had passed away, or that a close family friend had been injured in an automobile accident.  I never stopped to consider that maybe, just maybe, the universe would pay me back some day.

As an adult, it’s something I would never do.  Not just because of my professional obligations, but because although I am not a particularly spiritual person, I do believe we tend to reap what we sow….and it therefore seems a foolish risk to take.

All of this came to mind earlier this week, when an employee came to me with a vacation problem.  When our conversation was over and I watched him go….I silently wished him a half-hearted good-luck as he headed out to face the universe….Here’s why:

Employee:  I have a problem.

Me:  Come on in, let’s talk about it.

Employee:  I need some time off.  All I’m asking for is some unpaid time off and my supervisor won’t approve it because no one is available to cover my shifts.

Me:  Ok, can you share some additional information with me about your situation so we can consider your options?

Employee:  My wife is sick.  Very sick and I need to be with my family.

Me:  I’m sorry to hear that.  Is she in the hospital or requiring care at home?  If that’s the case, you may be eligible to take some FMLA time to care for her.

Employee:  She’s not in the hospital, but she’s been bad the last few weeks.  It’s, like, cancer.  I really need to be with her….this could be it.

Me:  I’m so sorry to hear that!  Is your supervisor aware of all this?  You are eligible for FMLA given the circumstances and I have to say I’m surprised your supervisor didn’t discuss this with you.  It seems largely out of character.  Here, let me provide you with the instructions for getting the process started.

Me to myself:  I’m going to smack his supervisor….verbally…in an HR friendly way….

Employee:  Well, my wife hasn’t had the tests yet.

Me:  I think maybe I’m misunderstanding you….didn’t you say your wife has cancer and is essentially dying?

Employee:  Well, her doctor hasn’t confirmed it.

Me:  Um….hasn’t confirmed that she has cancer or that she’s dying?  Is your wife ill and requiring care?

Employee:  Yeah, she’s sick, but we don’t really know what’s going on.  It might be cancer….but see, we have this trip planned for next week.  It’s already been paid for and because we’ve been going through a really rough time….with her being sick and all….I need to be able to go.

Me to myself:  WTF….

Me:  I see….so, the time off you’re requesting is for a pre-planned vacation?

Employee:  Kind of, but also because my wife is sick….

Me:  Let me make sure I’m clear here…..you want time off for a pre-planned vacation, the timing of which has unfortunately coincided with an illness your wife is battling….one you fear she won’t recover from in the next week….but a medical professional hasn’t confirmed any of this?  How do you know it’s safe for her to travel?

Employee:  Well, we’re waiting on information….and also my neighbor died.

Me:  Huh?

Employee:  I was the one who found him.  I’ve been really messed up over it for weeks.

Me:  Wow, sounds like you’ve had a lot going on….

Employee:  Yeah, so I really need some time off.  I’ve been seeing a therapist about my neighbor.  His death was really unexpected and I feel like I’ve been in shock ever since.  I did everything for him.  It was just such a shock that he died and I’ve been having a hard time sleeping and eating…. my therapist thinks I need some time away.

Me:  Oh, was your neighbor disabled or something?

Employee:  No, he was in his late eighties.  I took care of his lawn and did his shopping….he had a home health aide…but my wife cooked most of his meals and took him to a lot of his appointments.

Me to Myself:  Oh yes, it’s incredibly shocking when an eighty-something-year-old with limited mobility passes away.

Me:  Ok….so are you also telling me you have a health care provider who has indicated you should not be working at this time?  If that’s the case, you could be eligible to utilize your short term disability.  I can provide you with the instructions for pursuing that option.  It would of course require something from your therapist or a physician indicating you are unable to work at this time.

Employee:  Well, he really just thinks this vacation would be good for me….I won’t need more time than that….so I would rather not have to deal with the stress of filing all that paperwork….on top of everything else….ya know?

Me to Myself:  Your mental health care provider thinks a weeks vacation….during which you’ve predicted your spouse may succumb to a mystery illness….is all you need to bounce back?

Me:  There are certain benefits you are entitled to when you need them, but we have to go about the process the right way….Just curious, how long ago did you plan this vacation?

Employee:  Oh, months ago, like, in the fall.

Me:  Then why didn’t you make the vacation request during the vacation selection process just a few weeks ago?

Employee:  (crickets)

Me:  I’m just trying to understand why you wouldn’t have elected this particular vacation week when you had the option….it would have saved an awful lot of trouble and….(under my breath)….creative juices….

Employee:  (crickets)

Me:  So…..

Employee:  I’ll be honest with you…

Me:  That would be nice…

Employee:  I was planning to quit.  I didn’t like my job assignment so I decided to look for something else.  When we planned the vacation, I didn’t think I’d still be here by the time it came around.

Me:  What’s changed?

Employee:  I got a new job assignment so I’m happier now and I want to stay…..But, all that other stuff…it’s true too.

Me:  I’m sure it is Pinocchio….

I’m Just Here For The Swag…..

Job fairs….sigh….

It has been my experience, that job fairs are not exactly vast, well stocked pools from which to fish for potential new associates. I’m sure there are many HR professionals out there who will disagree with me, who enjoy attending these events and consider them a viable resource for recruiting qualified candidates, but I don’t know any of those folks.

I suspect they are among the lucky elite who are not limited to attending only those events that do not require an entry fee to participate. Their gatherings are probably also called “conferences” or “career networking events” and not “fairs…” Trust me, it’s an important distinction.

These conferences are typically sponsored by a group affiliated with a specific industry or college and held in the grand ballroom of a convention center….where I imagine there are ample electrical outlets, restrooms and ice cold drinking water for all in attendance.

So that employers get the most recruiting bang for their buck, conference hosts have often promoted the event to a targeted group of job seekers with the desirable qualifications, skills and motivation to fit the needs of the attending hiring managers…..AND they’ve done a lot of the preliminary work to prepare candidates to meet with prospective employers; reviewing resumes, conducting mock interviews….suggesting that flip-flops are not an appropriate shoe choice….

But in my case, due to certain requirements mandated by certain governing bodies in exchange for having certain privileges, (all on the up and up, even though it probably doesn’t sound like it), I must attend a “reasonable” number of job/career fairs sponsored by unemployment and related non-profit agencies….typically held in the meeting space of an Elk’s lodge or the basement of a public library….

In all my years as an HR professional, I’ve never hired anyone I met at any of these events.

I don’t blame the hosts though.  I have never met a career coach from any of the non-profit groups whose events I’ve attended who wasn’t well meaning, compassionate and committed to their cause.  Not easy to do with minimal resources, a shoe-string budget and an enormous caseload of job seekers with varying degrees of motivation.  I always just assume they sent all the really good hires to the classier event across town….that’s what I would do….

What’s left then, are all those “job seekers” who seem to have come primarily to collect as many trinkets and random knickknacks from recruiting tables as can be crammed into the complimentary, reusable shopping bags picked up on their way through the door.

It’s like the swag bags at the Oscars….if the Oscars had all the glitz and glamour of a yard sale….where everything is free….pens that double as a stylus or pointer….bouncy balls that light up in a rainbow of colors when they hit the floor….shoe horns, drink cozies, magnets, bumper stickers, highlighters, tiny notepads and much, much more are all up for grabs.

Occasionally, an employer tries to buck the system and show’s up with nothing but a table cloth and a few printed job descriptions and it’s as if they are recruiting Ebola victims….eventually, people will stop by to feign interest, but their darting glances about the room and their body language…poised to bolt at the first sign the recruiter across the room might run out of stress balls in the shape of a tiny car…. are the signs they have stopped only because they are hoping the recruiter is simply hiding the treasure….and if it’s hidden…oh, what must it be….

At some events, job fair coordinators reward job seekers for visiting a set number of tables by giving them a raffle ticket to a main prize, like a Blue-Ray player or a flat screen TV.  I always think a gift card for a business casual interview outfit or transportation fare for a day of interviewing would be a better choice given the overall theme of the day….but it was likely the possibility of scoring a fifty-dollar Blue Ray player that lured the majority in to begin with.

I assume these tactics are the event coordinators way of forcing people to utilize the job fair for it’s intended purpose.  The  employer’s role in the scheme is to add a stamp to a job seekers “passport card” or provide them with a signed piece of colored paper with our company logo in exchange for a raffle ticket toward the end of the day.

Employers are always asked not to just stamp away as people file through, but to “encourage those who approach to spend time discussing opportunities and the interested persons skills and qualifications”….and in the beginning, I played along.

If someone came to my table and said, “Can I get a stamp?

I would say, “Sure, after we’ve spoken about the career opportunities available to you at my company.”

Overtime though, I grew weary of the charade….I mean, let’s face it, I wasn’t about to legitimately offer career opportunities to someone who approached my table with a cigarette tucked behind one ear and wearing a grayish, white tank top anyway….and so now, I reluctantly sigh, offer my best, disapproving stare, stamp and go back to surveying the crowd for hopeful potentials….

Well, I think….there’s that lady over there with what appears to be a tattoo of the sign of Pisces on her neck….or it’s a foot, maybe….I don’t know, too far away to tell….I don’t really care either way, I don’t have an issue with tattoo’s, times have changed, but those snowflake fleece pajama pants are tough to get past….

Ok, wait a minute… that guy looks like a maybe from behind….nice hair cut, pressed “skinny” pants with a tucked in, (BONUS!), dress shirt AND a belt…now if I could just make eye contact….WHOA!  Never mind, that is way too much hardware on one face…is his forehead pierced?

Grey sweatsuit guy….maybe….with the right coaching about interview etiquette, there’s a chance I could turn him around….if he wasn’t wearing a weeks worth of meals on the front of the shirt and what could either be a skid mark or a chocolate stain on the back of his pants….either way, if he didn’t think it was worthwhile to at least show up in a clean sweatsuit, how much hope is there, really….

There’s the girl over there wearing leggings and a tiny shirt….since I’m not looking for someone to smuggle camel toe into the country today, I’ll pass….

Here we go!  I think as a woman approaches my booth…clean pants, collared shirt, brushed hair….a folder with what might be resumes tucked inside….

I offer her my most inviting smile and a warm “Hello!  How are you today!?”

“Can I get a stamp?”  She asks….”And one of those…”

Job fairs…sigh….

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