You May Never Get Hired

As my line of work brings me in daily contact with job seekers, I get to be a first-hand witness of how they behave. In addition to pure observation I also get into conversations; the deep meaningful ones and surface conversations, both of which where I do much more listening than talking. Over the course of many years, this has allowed me to have an informed opinion on what works and doesn’t work when job searching.

A word of caution about the list of behaviours and actions before we begin; you might find some of the things on this list fantastic, incredibly foolish, and laughable. Then, just as you can’t believe people would act so silly, you read something that you yourself are doing. If so, don’t be offended and defensive; even though becoming defensive is a normal reaction. If you do find your behaviours or actions in the list, it might be time to pause and reflect; possibly even consider making a change.

One of the most foolish things I see people do and do often is to apply for employment positions and then make it impossible for employers to get in contact. If you have a cell phone, make sure you’re able to receive calls. Initialize your phone, make sure you’ve got minutes available, even if it means diverting some money from the small pleasures in life at the moment to your phone. Check and clear your messages so you have room for more messages.

As far as the phone goes, if you’re using some form of an answering service, identify yourself. When that automated voice tells the caller, “Hello, you’ve reached, _______” don’t leave that space dead. Fill it in with your name and while you’re at it, sound upbeat and positive. Put a little life into your voicemail and in addition to identifying who you are, tell callers you’ll get back to them as soon as possible, and then follow through.

If you’re an Employment Counsellor or hold any number of other titles where you work with the unemployed, call those you’re helping and purposely ask them to let the phone ring without picking up. It could be you pick up a big clue yourself about why your job searcher is having problems getting interviews.

Body art is becoming more mainstream, acceptable and in some cases even desirable. There are some very highly skilled artisans out there doing highly detailed and tasteful work. However, there are even more people out there learning the trade of tattooing, and some really questionable tattoos being engraved. Think carefully about what you’re getting and where you’re getting it. I recall clearly and always will, the one guy who had the 4 letter curse word that begins with, “F” tattooed right on his forehead. I suppose 4 letters costs much less than getting, “Unemployed for life”.

Watch the words you use both when speaking and writing. Asking, “What is it youse guys do? You hiring?” sounds like you’re hanging out on a street corner with your best buds, not at a place of employment. “Youse” isn’t a word for starters and “guys” is way too informal. Instead try, “What is it your organization does?” Talk in the barest number of words like, “You hiring?” and you might come across as crude, abrupt, curt. Ask, “Are you accepting applications for employment at the present?” says the same thing but with a little more professionalism and shows your manners.

Most importantly, put some effort into your outfit. If you’re not sure what to wear to an interview or even to drop in to check a place out as a potential place to work, ask. Wearing your jeans low enough that 8″ of your underwear is showing, or your top is designed in such a way that the back of your bra is completely on display aren’t good ideas. Even thought you might not care what others think, employers do. Get over this idea that you’re  good to wear whatever you want and if others don’t like it that’s their problem. You want a job? That first impression people keep talking about is important. If you don’t get it now, you will; eventually.

While the list could go on and on, let’s end with the attitude thing. Employers don’t owe you anything – especially a living. If you’re mad at the world, life is hard and you’ve got a history of being let down and disappointed, you might have a case to feel the way you do. So be it. However, to think that this gives you the right to be rude or entitled to a job when you do nothing to prepare for an interview? Well, this just shows you’re not the right person for the job.

While job searching often means being rejected several, or even many times, it doesn’t make sense to tick off a potential employer who doesn’t even know you because of your poor attitude. Still, I see a lot of people with chips on their shoulders, who feel hard done by and who could otherwise be very employable. That their attitudes are negative and the behave poorly is a shame because they’re missing really good opportunities.

Look, if you want to work, take control of the things you can control. Behave and act like the person you’d like to hire. If you’re not having success, get some feedback and think about the advice you’re getting.

A True Story About A Bullying Boss

I had a phone call yesterday from a former client of mine. It was exactly one year ago less a single day that she accepted an offer of employment through a job seeking workshop I ran. She’s out of work as of yesterday, and while she’s in shock, I’m just livid.

Now you have to understand this particular woman was one of those who truly impressed me. I mean she listened, put into practice the new skills she was exposed to, and while she questioned things she didn’t immediately grasp, she always did so respectfully and worked hard to earn her success. So it was that when she called me right out the blue yesterday, I could immediately recall her to mind.

It turns out that for the last year she’s not only found work, made enough to exit from the social services system that once provided her with food and rent funds, but she had rekindled her self-confidence in the process. Employment does that; so much more than just working for a living.

So the problem? Her boss. Her boss as it turned out was the son of the owner of the business, and the father is the one who had hired her. The son is a tragic example of all that is bad in people who have a taste of power and authority. She provided me with examples of how he would yell, curse, verbally abuse, belittle and demean not only her but others. Apparently there have been 5 people call in and report this person’s behaviour to the local Labour Relations Board in the past year alone.

When I spoke on the phone yesterday, she had just hours before taken all she could and things came to a climax. As she reports it, he ran out to her car and met her in the parking lot where he proceeded to tear a strip off her verbally. He yelled at her, telling her what she needed to do the second she got inside. Sure there was no one else in the parking lot, but what a start to your day. I mean who does that?

Once inside, she started to do the things he told her to do and then he kept on at her only this time in front of others. Up until yesterday she had taken all this verbal abuse because she needed the job and the income it provided her with. Yesterday however, she’d had enough and asked him not to speak to her that way. Well, not used to someone having a bit of a backbone, he told her loudly so that all could hear that he could talk to her anyway he pleased and added a few choice words to emphasize the point.

This intimidating, bullying behaviour continued and she then asked him to leave her alone to do the work, and that’s when he told her she was done and to get out; she was gone. Now in shock, publicly abused yet still clinging to some semblance of clarity, she went to the payroll person and asked for her ROE to be prepared for pick up or mailing and her last cheque. He came after her and told her she’d get it when he wanted her to get it and not before and if she didn’t leave he was calling the police. So she left.

And it was at that point she went home and not having any idea of what to really do, called me. Now it’s been a year as I say since I last spoke with her. I give her credit for having saved my contact information. By the time I’d called her back a few hours had passed. She told me she’d already got out all the handouts she’d been given by me a year ago and had started to re-read them to re-familiarize herself with good job search principles and actions. I was impressed anew.

She was still shaking, still in shock, crying a little, and it will be in the coming days that the full impact of things hits home. I shared with her what to do immediately, like call the Labour Board herself and make a report, file for Employment Insurance. I also told her that there’s two general things she could do for the next week; get right back into a job search or take a week off to mentally recover, compose herself and then set a target of next Monday to start looking for work. Depending on the person, either choice is the right one.

I made sure that she knew she had done the right thing, and that in no way should that kind of behaviour be tolerated in any workplace. Do you know the father who originally hired her actually called her to plead with her to come back to work? She had enough self-worth to decline this despite her financial worries. And she’d already called back to speak privately with the person in payroll to make sure if a reference called she could be assured that her employment dates would be verified.

She’s strong, resilient, deserves better and will succeed again. She’s going to stay in touch now, even though she’s no longer a client. And she needs a good answer to the future question, “Why did you leave your last job?” But I am dismayed this kind of person is still in a position of authority. No job is worth that kind of abuse.


How To Annoy Your Employer And Kill Advancement

You’d think that all employees would want to act in ways that both demonstrate appreciation to their employer and at the same time advance their own careers. However, the truth is that many employees engage in behaviours that actually annoy their employer and eliminate any chance of advancement and promotion. What’s the long-term effect of this self-limiting pattern? Eventually resentment sets in on both sides and a strained relationship develops.

1. Sign up for training and then don’t attend.

Training costs a company money and ensures employees have the most up-to-date skills and knowledge. It also means that all the staff are working with the same skill set, come from the same shared beliefs the company wants to work from. So it’s strange but true when employees sign up to take some mandatory training and then as their co-workers predict, they are absent.

2. Show up late for meetings.

So you’re part of a team and time after time you all know that one of your co-workers will consistently wait for a personal invitation from the Boss to come to the monthly meeting. All this does is delay the start, and if you’re unlucky it might mean all the rest of your day is pushed back causing undue pressure to somehow get back on schedule.

3. Work at half speed.

Oh sure you can walk fast and talk fast, but when it comes to actual work, you’ll find there are some people – thankfully few – who actually get very little done. These people will do just the bare minimum to keep their present job, so they can defend their productivity.

4. Gossip on the job.

Talking about others in a seemingly harmless way, some employees are masters at getting their co-workers to share in gossip which can be very harmful. However, the real masterful behaviour these people have cultivated is the ability to innocently start the gossip and then withdraw, leaving others to take the blame for gossiping and they themselves are nowhere to be found let alone reprimanded.

5. Pass on teamwork.

Every organization tends to have this kind of person. This is the woman or man who is a team member by name only, but when you stop and really examine things you realize that they do next to nothing but show up. There is no collaboration, very little input, and when counted on, they don’t produce; but when others look at the membership list, their name is prominently displayed with all the others as an active member.

7. See yourself as the center of the universe.

Know somebody who always seems to put their own needs before anyone else’s? This person only pitches in if they perceive there is some self-promoting to be done, a chance to look good, or they feel like it. You’ll notice though that when other staff are in a pinch, they won’t give you 10 minutes of their lunch break, or multi-task. If there is nothing to be gained, why put forth the effort?

8. Sign up for conferences then do your own thing.

Maybe a few times a year or so you’ll find people who sign up for a conference, the employer pays for the travel, hotel, food and registration, and then the employee misses some of the sessions they signed up for, leaves right after breakfast on the last day, and asks co-workers for copies of any handouts so it appears they attended all the sessions. They were a social superstar at the conference and a Good-Time Charlie, but actually did next to nothing productive.

9. Misrepresent yourself.

In your workplace you might know of those who lack the skills and abilities to perform their jobs causing others to wonder aloud, “How on earth did you get hired in the first place?” These are people who said they had certain skills and abilities, and planned right from the start on just expecting to pick things up as they go along, copying the work of others, and faking it until they gain the skills. Once discovered, they hope to argue their worth, such as in saying they have a diploma when they don’t and later counting on the employer not really caring as long as they can do the job.

10. Take all your breaks and lunch/dinner right to the minute.

These people don’t give anything to the employer that isn’t called for in their contract. If they get two fifteen minute breaks and an hour for lunch or dinner, they’ll take every last second because after all, they aren’t getting paid are they? Then at the last second they return to work.

11. Walk in when you should be starting.

Perhaps most common of all is the employee who starts getting paid at 9:00a.m. and at 9:00a.m. you can hear them coming down the hall, but they aren’t actually at their desk. Once they hang up their coat, turn on their computer and settle in, they immediately decide a nice coffee is in order, and they finally actually get down to work at 9:18a.m. daily.

There are all kinds of behaviour’s that are non-productive, self-destructive and self-limiting. Ironically, these may very likeable people who are popular and friendly but march to their own beat. In the end, they grow resentful of a company that won’t advance them in their career when they want to be promoted, and may develop disdain for the very company they work for. Best not to emulate any of the behaviour described above. It’s just good job advice!