Would you believe....?

Would you believe….?

The question is, “Why on earth don’t you settle down and get a job like a normal person?” Or, is it, “Why the **** (choose your own bad word) do you go from-job-to-job so much? Then there is the ever-refreshing, “Why can’t you keep a job?”

I just brought all this up (UGH) as the possible thinking behind the one question that scares applicants the most:”Why did you leave your last job?” Of course it must be answered. The potential employer does has a right to know, so, “Non of your beez-wax!”, although flipping like an Olympic diver on the tip of the tongue, is never the right answer. Oh, yes, there are “right answers” and none of them are:

  • My last boss was a jerk
  • It was a conspiracy against me
  • I lied on my resume
  • I stole millions from the company

Some people–some we even elected to positions of power–can really say that they bad-mouthed the boss, were the object of bullying, lied about having an MBA or stole #Big-Bucks from consumers, friends, family, and shareholders. Regardless whether or not they made the news for what they did, there is a way of handling it on the resume. If the immortals of imfamy can, so can all of us lesser lights. Of course, if there was an “incarceration event” (prison) it is better for the applicant to be candid about it then NOT GET TOO DETAILED. We humans become the stories we tell ourselves. Negative stories make for negative outcomes in interviews. Someone who has spent a substantial amount of time out of the workforce caring for a relative can actually tell that story provided it is short, to the point and told in a positive way. A military wife is not required to hide a lifetime of making multitudes of “homes on the base” in support of a spouse’s career in the armed forces.

The norm is that workers, especially younger ones, seldom stay at one job for more than 2-3 years. There is an unspoken rule, though. Frequent job change might be expected these days, but  the “hopping” has to suggest a thoughtfully planned array.


Interview: The Morning After

no cell phone calls

Still no call… A week and no call…

After the interview is over, it is history.

There is nothing more to do but to accept that it happened and to move on. It will either lead to the next interview (the hiring process is often a multistage deal) or provide another opportunity to try again. Elementary school classrooms do not prepare people for the realities of competition for jobs. In that world, such subjects are left to be sorted out at recess on the playground. The playground is closer to the real. Life has many contests and competitions.

As in contests of any kind, interviews produce  winners and losers. In elementary school  games are “fixed”–designed so that nobody loses. Losing does not make any kid feel good about herself or her abilities and so the “being the loser” experience is to be avoided in elementary school.

Back in grown-up land, the last words in an interview should produce a clue as to the direction of the next step. This must be the reason so many recruiters giving advice on the subject of closing interviewers  tell people, “ask for the job”. Ask for the business just as a good sales rep would. Ask if your ticket won. Act like you are properly invested in winning the contest. After all, you do want to win, don’t you? No? Then why be in the competition at all? It frustrates companies no end to pick a winner only to find out that the winner was “only practicing’. Plus, it is neither ethical or fair to take victory away from someone who really does want the job. To the person being shaken out of the competition in this cowardly manner it feels like being rejected as a date for the prom or being  the last picked for a position on the team. In elementary school, being the last one picked for a team means hearing the captain say, “well, I guess I’m stuck with taking …”.

Waking up the day after a date with full knowledge that a call for a second date will never come does not make a safe place in the stomach for ice-cream.

Preparing For The Interview: At The Sign Of The Broken Arches

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm stiletto heels. Category:Shoes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“…Put on yo’ high-heeled sneakers…”

I almost fell off my chair when I heard an executive coach in her presentation tell the audience, “the interview begins in the parking lot”.


Yeah. Some companies actually post lookouts at the window overlooking the parking lot to observe  applicants’ moments before emerging from their cars! What do they see?

  • Applicant doing touch ups on  makeup and hair in the rear view mirror
  • Applicant searching for resumes and portfolios materials
  • Applicant changing clothes in the car
  • Applicant changing shoes in the car

I take a few cleansing breaths and pray briefly too, but my big thing is about changing shoes in the car.

With little else other than the manilla resume folder in my briefcase, it just seems convenient to put my “interview shoes” in there too. I drive to the interview in my comfortable “driving shoes”, pack them in an up-scale store shopping bag on the floor of the passenger side and slip on my pristine “interview shoes” before I get out of the car. Then, I hope I will not have to do a 100 meter hallway trot or the master stairs.

comfortable shoes with professional flair

An interview in a Temple of Commerce style building with a bank of steps at the front entrance and no elevator to the higher floors means I end up doing a one-woman presentation of “A Christmas Carol” or “Cinderella” after the ball. By the time I get to the office at the top of the stairs I’ll be hobbling like Tiny Tim and puffing like Molly-the-steam engine. My makeup has half floated away and sweating has already turned my creole hair  to its natural state on the back of my head. My only hope is a ladies’ room not requiring to ask for the key at the front desk. It is not polite to begin a personal urban renewal project once past the threshold of the business office.

You see, my feet came into the world with low arches, and working retail jobs over the years rewarded me for that by granting me flat feet. Shoe fitters can spot me immediately by my gait screaming so loudly about the pain in my hips and knees that makes me look (and move) much older than I really am. I’m not ready for The Scooter Store. I just have a problem finding good-looking, comfortable interview shoes. The  thin soles and high heels on women’s dress shoes are torture to stand or walk in. Plus, fashion is pushing pointed toes at us again. Shoes, accessories and make up are some of the cheapest ways to update a look, so “iron-maidens” for the feet being the current style again is not good news. Ugly orthopedic shoes are never good to wear to an interview.

The going literature about interview footwear for women is conservative-colored, closed-toe-and-heel pumps. That means, my “Sunday” shoes–the cute ones I put on to be worn for a couple of hours and the first thing kicked off at the door upon returning home from worship services. Arch supports in them feel horrible. My heels are almost non-existent, so heel grips have to go in them too. Usually, I opt for a low heeled sling-back (not the A-one choice according to interview stylists) and hope that I will basically be sitting down for most of the interview.

some crazy shoes:

Preparing For The Interview: Indy-Goth-Grunge-Punk Style

rock and roll musician, George Michael

Ready to rock, but at the interview, not.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. True enough. When it comes to hair, makeup and physical adornments at interviews, there seems to be a theme running through much of the literature on the shelves and online: WATCH IT. There is a definite prejudice towards contemporary styled, neat hair, and  clean, hairless faces. For many of us that translates into these kinds of admonitions:

Keep the haircut conservative.

Keep the pink coiffed, bed head, and emo-black hair for the weekend–and don’t have any pictures of it on Facebook. Some ethnic hairstyles in the eyes of some executives still denote a rebellious attitude, so it pays to understand the corporate culture before showing up in dreads or twists. The grunge-y stubble that looks so great on George Michael might not be a good idea at the interview. Beards, van-dykes and other facial hair styles should be neatly trimmed. Women should not wear beards. Generally, arts industry professionals have much more leeway to express personal style in comparison with, say, bankers or Wall Street stock traders.

Keep jewelry near the face conservative.

Many interview advice comments I have heard from recruiters are along the line of small, non-pendulous earrings for women and no earrings for men. A woman with more than one piercing in her ears should decide which two to wear a small stud in. Generally, ear jewelry should not make noise or be a distraction. Believe it or not, large hoop earrings still have a negative connotation.

Hands should look neat and cared for; conservatively adorned.

Clean and clear. A man’s hands should be clean with neatly trimmed nails–all of them. Having a longer nail on the pinky finger used to mean a certain social status, but it does not translate well at the interview today. Likewise, a woman’s hands should be clean with neatly trimmed nails. Trade the robin’s egg blues and safety orange for closer to natural tones for the interview. For men and women, dial down the finger bling. That means Diamond Jim should wear one or two rings on each hand instead of the usual fistful. The same goes for Sophisticated Lady. One or two rings will do. Neither should be sporting noisy wrist wear.

I put on the single strand of pearls (good fakes that do not show wear) and ear studs with my suit. My artsy stone pendants  and talismans stay at home when interviewing for the corporate office. Never a sell-out in any sense, it is merely one more classic move in “the game” of getting the job.

Preparing For the Interview: The Sweet Smell of Excess?

Shalimar fragrance and Prince Machabelli bottles

My mother’s perfume

I love perfume. So did my mom. It must be genetic.

As a child, my merchant seaman father would come home with gifts of fragrance from around the world and I used to love rummaging through mom’s dressing table testing for treasures of scent. There in that alchemist’s collection of  mysterious bottles  lived the captured souls of romance  with names like “My Sin”, “Tabu” and my favorite, “Shalimar“. To this day whenever I can find it, I enjoy daubing on a little of the classic Avon fragrances. Perfume is the most affordable of luxuries and the essence of womanliness.

Most times, job loss  means shedding things to save money, so there is a sad, gradual loss or downgrade of items like hairdresser appointments, salon shampoo, new clothes, new shoes,  makeup, and finally perfume. If I am rendering the research correctly, the human sense of smell is the most powerfully evocative of  all the senses. One whiff of warm granny apples with cinnamon and suddenly there is a desire to run up the front steps of the “old house” two at a time. Caught downwind from “Old Spice“, tears well up as it conjures warm memories because that was “his” scent.

On an emotional level, I get it. One never knows what dreams or nightmares will be called forth in an interviewer by an applicant’s wearing a certain scent. Know, however, that scent is part of  image strategy. Beware. The choice of scent must be contemporary, tasteful, complementary to business wear/hairstyles and light. Wearing some scents that were popular a generation ago actually say, “frumpy and old-timer-ish”;carries peppermints in the bottom of her hand bag. Scent could give your age away in that case.

a 21st century perfume

Dangerous drink, intoxicating perfume?

Then again, interviews  held in tiny, ventless inner  rooms dictate that neither recruiter nor applicant wear highly scented cosmetic products to avoid triggering allergies or the gag reflex. I have stopped thinking that the often given advice against wearing my incense woods-heavy signature  fragrance in interviews as another shameful loss of freedom in the USA and started thinking of it as a courtesy; like graciously not sharing  information too intimate for that venue. It might just be best to keep this emotionally loaded potion bottled up on the dresser until the ink on the new-hire papers is dry.

Gleanings on wearing scent in an interview or at work

Preparing For The Interview

A bride greets the queen

Ready to meet the queen

In thinking about the reasoning behind preparing well for the interview, I have to pass by part of the tale of Cinderella…

If you remember, Cinderella lived in a household headed by her widowed stepmother and shared the place with two step sisters. The king and queen of the realm where this little family lived had a prince who stubbornly remained unmarried which exasperated his royal parents. Invitations went out to all the eligible ladies in the kingdom to a ball where the prince would find and select a suitable bride (the royal couple hoped!). When the invitations arrived at Cinderella’s house, all the ladies began preparing for the ball.

In another narrative from the Bible, a certain king exiled his queen when she embarrassed him by refusing to appear at a party one day. To cure his equally embarrassing lack of a queen, this king decided to have eligible ladies brought to the palace for a contest to choose from them a new queen. The contestants were prepared to meet the king with beauty treatments given over an entire year.

Again, a prospective bride will starve herself into a smaller size, take up residence in the spa and spend thousands to make sure she looks her best on her wedding day.

Queen Esther

One year to prepare for one night

How important is it and how serious a matter is it to consciously prepare for an interview? I am not saying it compares to the extreme conditions of contests to be a king’s bride or a fairy tale princess or even a wedding day, but preparing for the interview is no less a matter of deliberate preparation. Many people miss this point and show up at one of the most important events in life in almost laughable conditions. So, the first rule of the “corporate mating ritual”, or, the interview is, PREPARE.

The Ritual of The Interview:Before The Dance

Male peacock's mating display

In the last post, our discussion about interviewing parsed naturally into general segments  centered either around  “applicant states of being”, “gathered from the resume” or “don’t tell, don’t reveal”.  I have said in earlier posts that the job search is a game and games have rules. If the search is a game, the interview is its object and the best at the interview wins the game.  If the search for work is a hunt, the interview is its quarry and getting the job is the ultimate victory. The victorious hunter gets to “hang it on the wall”.

Everything a job seeker does points to the interview and once the interview is gained, another dynamic comes into play. This is the next phase. This is level two of the game. The quarry runs out into open field. In theory, interviews resemble theatrical auditions or panning for gold. The company is the panner and the applicant is the gold. The company is the art director and the applicant is the chorus girl. Applicants are the gold river and the company uses progressively finer sieves–many interviews– until the best two nuggets remain.

Again, for the applicant, the interview is the field for an intricate  mating dance ritual where several rival suitor-applicants vie with brilliant displays to attract the attention of the mate-company. The contender the company chooses becomes the new hire, the accepted  mate.

tuxedo rose wedding cake

The ultimate object of the courtship is a marriage

Interview Red Flags

The Interview

The Interview (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

red flag

Danger, Will Robinson! This could be a bad employee!

It’s time to hop back into the discussion about the interview. It is a given that the seeker is at the place where candidates are in process of being chosen to compete in the great arena–the interview(s) and the seeker is one of the chosen.  After all, this is what all the hub-bub is about, bub: being one of those too big to pass through the “coarse sieves” of the “first cattle call selections” . Now the finer sieves come out.

Company and independent  recruiters give the thumbs down on the following  “red flag” parade of behaviors–things that make a candidate look like a potential bad hire–in interviews. This list is a compilation of all the red flag behaviors I have learned to avoid. This wisdom is  collected from seminars, recruiters, online articles and many job searches. Of course, lack of contact information on the resume or an email address like, “” reduces the chances of being called into the arena to zero!

Applicant States of Being

Did I really say THAT

  • currently unemployed
  • Mature worker
  • Worker of different gender, race, color or weight than expected
  • arriving for interview late
  • disorganized
  •  inappropriate attire
  • out-of date appearance
  • smoke/alcohol on breath
  • perfume/cologne
  • Lack of preparation
  • nervousness
  • over confidence/over familiarity
  • desperation
  •  negative attitude
  • low energy

From a Quick Look At the Resume

  • Out of date resume
  • Mature candidate
  • Pure functional resume
  • long gaps between jobs termination(s)
  • unstable job history –  “job hopping”
  • social media reputation
  • overqualified (setting your bar too low)
Emotional baggage

hauling emotional baggage into the interview

Don’t Ask, Don’t Reveal?

  • Prison terms
  • mental illness hospitalization
  • “Monk”-isms
  • conditions and health issues
  • Child/Adult care issues
Yes, it might take a few posts to get through all of these, but I feel it well worth the time.

Do You Really Want To Know What My Real Weaknesses Are?

cropped from "The Scream" - Edward Munch


In a word, no…

especially if the weakness is one that will  in any way negatively impact the company or the potential employee’s ability to do the job being interviewed for. Again, there are some things an applicant should never admit in an interview. Re-read that last sentence. I did not say, lie in an interview. I said, never present any weakness in an interview that will speak of the lack of an ability essential to performing the job. Why set up for failure? Interviewers ask applicants about their weaknesses to tease out several things, according to the headhunters and human capital experts I have met in my travels. When they ask this abominable question interviewers really want to know:

  • Are you humble or do you take yourself more seriously than  you ought?
  • How well do you understand yourself? Are you self-aware?
  • Are you honest? Can you admit making mistakes and able to own up to it?
  • Can you really do this job or is your resume a crock?
  • Are your intentions honorable or is this just  a “one night stand’?

The next few posts will be a casual but serious discussion of the interview including dealing with the mystery of what to tell potential employers about things like Swiss cheese resumes, a stretch in the slammer, family care issues, and other “red flags” that give applicants and recruiters alike nightmares.

In one article I read entitled, “How To Answer the Question, What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”, featured below,I found one intriguing statement: “The questions you hear in an interview will reveal a lot about the mindset of the organization…”  It immediately sets up questions in my mind:

  • Exactly what kind of weaknesses pose the biggest threat to that company?
  • How is my kind of weakness going to bless or curse the company?
  • Is there already a full complement of my kind of nut in the tree?
  • is one of those nuts going to end up being my supervisor?
baby boy in exasperated tears

They hired my brother!

This suggests to me that if job seekers empower themselves they can take the body of questions corporations ask in interviews together and read them like tea leaves to find things out about the company what should be known before saying yes to a potentially toxic or abusive work relationship. 

The Terror On Both Sides Of The Table

Carnival of Souls

Image via Wikipedia

hands surrounding a crystal ball

It's not rocket science, it's magic

October is “the scary month”, so, let’s talk about scary things in the job search. Fear. So much about why people fail in the search for work is laid squarely at the door of fear. Question: is this justified?

Guess what I found out? Potential employers are scared. Scared crapless that they’ll make a bad decision and hire the wrong person.

Let the Job Gypsy lady tell you a tale: I took a data entry job once and in that class of newbie processors was a Superstar Processor. She was my main competition.  We both had lightning fingers on a keyboard, but she did the work even quicker and more accurately than I. Finally, after a series of elimination rounds, there was a choice between us. They hired The Star. I got the gate and continued my search elsewhere. A week or two later, I met the Star in the streets and asked her how the new job was going. She said, “Oh, I quit that job last week. It was boring”. The moral of this story? Employers always take a chance when they hire a star. This is why “overqualified applicants” scare them. However, to live means to take risks and taking risks means facing the reality of the odd loss or two.

The interviewee

What lies behind the mask?

Go here to see an article from the potential employer side of the hiring process —

How to Guarantee You Won’t Make A Bad Hire

In a certain way, this knowledge makes both sides of the table equal. On both sides of the table, there is a fear the match will be wrong. The hiring process could sure use the services of a matchmaker or a connector –someone gifted in brokering relationships, huh? In some places this is the core of what recruiters do. I’m saying companies should have a person strongly possessed of the strength of connection–a relationship broker– on their hiring team in Human Resources departments. It might just take the “scary” out of the hiring process.