This is a direct response to an article I found a week or so ago. It listed a series of tips and insight for the job seeker from the recruiter/hiring manager’s point of view, and I find that much of what she says is exactly what bugs me about recruiters and hiring managers. Okay, let’s make no mistake that I know I’m on the losing end of any debate this implies, and I ultimately have and will conform to these kinds of suggestions. And actually *cough* . . . she’s (mostly) right. So right that if someone takes my approach in this post and doesn’t heed what this lady says, they’re not getting the job. But this is my blog, and I have a hankerin’ to let my job seeking frustrations out in an easily-skimmed format!
She said: We actually want you to be honest because it’s more important that the right person be found than it is for you to get a job offer.
I say: To you, maybe. What’s most important to me is that I get the job. I’m not going to advocate lying or even truth-stretching, but when (and if) you provide feedback to me saying that part of the reason I WASN’T offered the job was because of something I decided to be honest about, I’m kicking myself pretty hard and wishing I would have been a little less forth-coming.
She said: We want you to ask questions because if you don’t it can imply that you don’t care about the job or haven’t thought much about it.
I say: I’ll ask questions about the job when I get the job. Sure, I can flatter you with questions like, “What was the most important lesson YOU have learned since starting here?” but do you actually buy that? Those kinds of questions come straight out of Job-Seeking for Dummies. If that book existed, that is. (It doesn’t, does it?) You want honesty, and the honest questions are ones of function and approach, and I have to be elbows-deep before I can start asking those things. This is especially true when the job is something I’ve not specifically done before.
She said: We need to know your real weaknesses because, as with the first point, it’s important that we be absolutely sure you’re a good fit for the job.
I say: Let’s make a deal. I be brutally honest and tell you exactly what my weaknesses and areas that need improvement are, and you don’t hold what I say against me and count it only as evidence that I have good self-evaluation and desire improvement. An example? I constantly struggle with a short attention span to something that’s not got me completely entranced, and work rarely entrances me. That is a weakness, and I never stop fighting it. I often win, but I sometimes lose. Now, have you marked down that I know myself well and am a self-improver, or did you mark down that I’m unfocused?
She said: Your resume objective usually hurts you because not only does it take up valuable space on the resume and address things that can and should be in the cover letter, but we’ll toss it out if it’s not directly specific to the job for which you’re applying.
I say: I’m not sure if I trust you. That’s what YOU might do, but how many recruiters and hiring managers toss out resumes that DON’T include an objective? Putting that there is Writing a Resume 101, and now you’re telling me to toss it out. And now I’m really confused and scared to do either.
She said: We may check references beyond your list since people tend to put references that are guaranteed to give a good recommendation, therefore we seek out other people to get a more rounded perspective.
I say: That’s assuming you call my references in the first place. Having done hiring myself, I’ve actually been shocked over the last 10 months how rarely recruiters and hiring managers check my references. Plus, you might be patting yourself on the back for getting a broader perspective on me, but what if that person you reach on your own is someone I purposely left out of my references because I don’t trust them to be honest with you? Assuming that my list of references is only a list of people who will say flowery things about me is as faulty as assuming I’m unemployed because I’m a bad employee.
She said: You can gain an edge with your cover letter by individualizing it and not reusing the same form letter over and over. It can even get you more attention despite not having a great resume.
I say: Hearing someone telling me to “personalize my cover letter” is like hearing some gaming snob telling me “Super Mario 2 isn’t the real Super Mario 2”–I know. I’ve known for a while, and I’m getting tired of hearing it. But you know what? This information and advice is useless when I don’t know what an individualized cover letter looks like. I’ve written a good forty or fifty original cover letters in the last 10 months and they’ve not done me too much good.
She said: Be honest in interviews, but don’t spill about a bad boss because there’s very little chance of not giving a bad impression by doing so.
I say: The bad impression is mutual. This tells me that the hiring manager is insecure about their own motivations and management skills (or those of the actual manager or supervisor). I would hope a good recruiter could discern between, “my last boss gave me talks about moral flexibility, thus making it clear that I couldn’t do my job correctly if I didn’t go along,” and “my last boss was so stupid! She lectured ME when it was clearly Lisa that was causing the problem!” But you know what? Fine. I’ll keep my mouth shut–after all, I do want to move on and forget. But if you don’t want me to be honest, then I suggest not asking.