Interview Experts: What Would You Advise?


I’m really hoping that at the end of this particular blog, you decide to post a response. Quite frankly I’d like your opinion, and if there’s enough of a sample, it will be interesting for all of us to see how our views stack up with – not against – each other.

So here’s the situation. Yesterday I took a stroll through the resource centre where I work as a change of scenery and a short diversion from the day of planning I was involved with. It would be about 3:30 p.m. and I never made it back to my desk other than to shut everything down and go home. Why? I stopped to stand beside a young lady who was searching on the internet for a job and all I said as an introduction was, “What kind of job are you looking for?”

Now it turns out this woman is now a mother of three young children, who in her last year of high school got involved with a man 13 years older than herself. He manipulated an attractive and innocent young girl, and after child number three was born, he left her with just under $10,000.00 in debt and the newborn child is disabled to boot. And where did he go? Back to his wife and two kids. This young woman has her grade 12 completed, and is now doing some academic upgrading by taking a chemistry class she didn’t take in high school, in order to meet the criteria for attending College in a nursing program.

The only other piece of information I want to give you is that she has had to develop her advocacy skills as she navigates the healthcare system on behalf of her child with multiple disabilities. She is organized, able to communicate and prioritize effectively, has computer skills, and is looking for any entry-level job in order to just make some cash to put towards that debt which she reports is just over $8,000.00 now. (If any of you are feeling philanthropic, let me know and I’ll pass it on). She last worked in 2009 in a fast-food setting. And to round out the information I have to go on, she’s attractive and well-groomed so she’d make a good physical first impression on an employer and doesn’t need help in that area.

okay so you have the Reader’s Digest version of the situation. Now to the point where I’m going to seek your advice. She asked me if in my opinion, it was advisable for her use her experience navigating the health care system where she’s been advocating with professionals to get the services her daughter needs. You know, researching providers and doctors, traveling from one city to another two days a week to see a Specialist, getting the right school set up, etc.

What she’s realized you see is that because she last worked in 2009, her work experience is now 5 years old. Academic education however is something she’s doing now however in 2014, and she expects to complete it within 2 months. Left with the $8,000 debt, she has enough foresight to understand that this debt may interfere with her ability to get Government assistance with respect to a loan to attend College, so she’s been paying it off ever so slowly using the small bit of money she gets in addition to her social assistance monthly income with income tax refunds etc. Sounds pretty responsible now.

I did give her my take on her question by the way, but I’m reluctant to share that with you here as I normally would. I don’t want in this situation to taint any view you might have of your own and influence in any way your view. And if you aren’t the first person to comment with respect to this blog, you might be better to read this first before others comments, but it may already be too late for that!

By the way, have you noticed there really isn’t a commentary on the man who 13 years her senior manipulated her into this mess? Imagine a 31-year-old with an 18-year-old; and by imagine I mean sexually in a relationship. You may think that’s okay under some circumstances or you may be repulsed by that image no matter how, ‘nice’ the guy is. But with a wife and kids elsewhere, hard to put up a defence for him and I’m not even going there.

This is about the woman with the three kids struggling to find solid ammunition to use in an interview that won’t lead the interviewer to dismiss her outright. And if you as an Interview Expert know an employer or two, I’d be equally or more than pleased if you’d pass on this blog to them and ask them to weigh in from their view as an employer.

So as an employer, how much or how little would you suggest she reveal. I’m not suggesting she wants to reveal everything by the way. No she wonders about just highlighting her advocacy, communication, organization skills and her ability to prioritize achieved through getting services for her daughter. Would you draw out more information if she steered clear of everything else? Would you probe as best you could issues of childcare, reliability, absenteeism that you are worried about? And honestly, would you stereotype her and reject her because she’s a single parent of three and likely to be a constant scheduling problem? Or would you give her a fair chance?

Please weigh in.

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4 thoughts on “Interview Experts: What Would You Advise?

  1. Sadly the situation this young lady is in is not so uncommon, even if the circumstances that helped get there are les so. Also, I don’t have any comments on the man or this woman’s choices. Unless we have a flux capacitor and a Delorean, there’s really no point. Better to move forward with what “is”.

    You pose a number of interest questions. To me the crux of what she is having to manage isn’t her expressing competence of her hard won skills, but rather what you coined the”stereotype” she is facing. My advice to her would be to play to her strengths and steer far away from the fact that she has children at all. In an interview, this shouldn’t be discussed. The question the employer wants answered is about reliability. Can this person show up on time and with as few absences as possible. Has she answered this for herself? If she can, that is what matters. Will employers treat her differently if they know she has three kids? Sadly many employers will. They will see absences for child sickness, doctor appointments and a worn out mom. Having said all of that, she seems a remarkable young person. She is responsible and keeps moving forward despite the obstacles. These are valuable workplace skills.

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  2. Thank you Wayne for your insights and your willingness to participate in this exercise. You are the first to respond on any of the platforms I distributed it on. Hopefully others will add their opinions too.

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  3. I’m located in Australia, so my take may be a little different. Perhaps it is not how to approach the interview, but consideration of what work she could do that will make the difference.

    Given that this young woman has developed advocacy skills on her own, and daughter’s, behalf, perhaps she would benefit by seeking an advocacy role within a not-for-profit organisation. In this way, she could argue that her skills are current and relevant, also that she would be in a position to demonstrate empathy and help clients develop effective solutions.

    In my experience here, these organisations are often “family friendly” and may offer part time roles. They often lack funding and may be keen to bring in people with demonstrable skills, however these were developed – where they may not be able to afford staff with formal qualifications. In the first instance, she might approach such an organisation in a voluntary capacity (just a couple of hours per week) to develop confidence and demonstrate her skill. This would have the benefit of providing her with more recent work history (which could then be added to her resume), develop her networks, and potentially put her in a position to hear of paying roles.

    I agree with Wayne, that the information of her full circumstances should not be offered immediately, although it may need to be partly disclosed during interview negotiations, to support her assertions on how she has developed her skills…..always best done by telling a story.

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  4. I’m going start with the last question. I would NOT reject or stereotype her but, in the interests of my business and the interests of the other members of my team, I would ask probing questions.

    It seems to me that she has a number of qualities that an employer would value. She is definitely a problem solver, she is determined and persuasive. Using the example of the way she manages to obtain help for her daughter, she has to understand the position of the officials with whom she’s negotiating. Most mums would focus only n their own predicament. This is a great strength.

    Her first challenge will be to get in front of an employer. How much she reveals in her covering letter/resume is a tricky one. Because her situation is unusual, one of two things is going to happen.
    1/ She won’t even be offered an interview
    2/ The employer will like her A LOT

    There’s not going to be an in between situation. I suggest that she should word her resume in such a way that she gives enough to provoke questions in the employer’s mind, “I’m dying to ask her this.” For example, she might say something like, “My biggest challenge has been obtaining support for my seriously disabled daughter. My success has been achieved only by appreciating the viewpoint of the Health Care Officials as well as my own objective.” This should prompt a question in the employer’s mind, “I wonder how she did this. I’d like to ask her.” It might also prompt a thought along the following lines, “If she understands that, she can be expected to understand the concerns in my own mind about absenteeism and rescheduling.” She’s more likely to be invited for interview if her resume pre-empts the employer’s biggest fear.

    If she’s offered an interview, she might be right up front with this: “In your position, my biggest worry about hiring a person like me would be that I’d always be asking for time off work. Am I right about that?” In my experience, nothing causes a person to warm to you more than raising his biggest concern on his behalf!. Some people will argue that this is putting a thought into his mind that might not be there. No it’s not. Of course it’s there. It’s bound to be. She can’t lose by demonstrating that she understands where he’s coming from.

    I hope that helps, Kelly and I wish her every success. It sounds as if she deserves it.

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