What can you do about ageism in hiring?

It is quite often that a mid- to late-career client asks me how far back in their work experience should they go in writing their resume.  The person will say they have heard to put only the most recent 10 years, some say 15.  My most common answer to clients’ questions regarding resumes, interviews, etc. is “It depends.”  ED001406

I don’t believe there is one right number.  I think those who advise a set number of years, such as 10 or 15, do so because it is simpler to recommend a one-size-fits-all than to advise on an individual basis.  There are many guidelines that are common to nearly all job seekers, but everyone has something that calls for special attention.  In addition to these particulars, other variables include how much experience is deemed appropriate for a specific industry, company, function, or job level.

Unfortunately, age discrimination does exist, primarily against older workers, but often it is against younger employees.  If it is age discrimination, which we all know is illegal, it is usually nearly impossible to prove.  For older workers, I have found that in most cases, the issue is not tied to an age number.  It may be the expectation that a more senior candidate will require a higher compensation than someone earlier in their career.  Or, there is a concern that an older candidate may be approaching retirement, and so will only stay employed for a few years.  However, the average job tenure among employees of all ages is less than five years (last recorded in 2012 by the US Department of Labor), and just over three years for those younger than forty.

I think the primary reason may be that the employer assumes that someone who is older has tired, stale ideas and ways of performing the job and has less energy and enthusiasm. These are factors that you can and should eliminate with your actual behavior, body language and voice during an interview, even when it is on the phone.

But, you must first get the interview which means that you do not want to give them any reason for discarding your resume on first glance.

For those who have been out of college at the undergraduate level for 12-20 years or more, I would omit graduation dates.  In general, 12-18 years of experience is the time span I recommend, depending on the variables mentioned above (industry, company, function, job level) as well as how pertinent the particular experience is to the position you seek.  My advice is to include only achievements that are relevant to your targeted role, even in your more recent experience.

 

Mauri SchwartzHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. I have been invited to speak at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”

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Unhappy with Your Job?

UnhappyAt some time in their careers, most people come to a point when they’re so unhappy with their jobs that they want to make drastic changes in their careers, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I need a change!”

It’s true that many aren’t cut out for their current careers or find they have a strong passion for another field, and should be making efforts to take on something new. However, most of the time, they can achieve change, and job satisfaction, without taking such drastic action.

It is essential for someone in this situation to dig deep to discover the real reason s/he is unhappy before proceeding down a path to change careers. Accordingly, a career coach or counselor should initiate such a conversation before proceeding to help her/his client pursue a new career path.

Keep in mind that organizations hire you because you’ve proven from your experience and achievements that you can be successful in their organization…not for what you think you can do. This is especially true today’s tight job market.Unhappy

How do you know?

Ask yourself, “What is the primary reason you are unhappy?” ( “Burned out” is not a reason.)

  • Are you not getting enough recognition/respect from your manager? Upper management? Your colleagues?
  • Are you not getting paid enough…or what you think you should be getting?
  • Are you working too many long days, nights, and weekends?
  • Are you required to travel much more than you’d like?
  • Are you commuting much more than you’d like?
  • Do you have the necessary skills and/or tools to be successful?
  • Are you spending too much of your time doing tasks that you hate?
  • Do you have ethical or moral conflicts with your manager or the company?

Then ask yourself:

  • If I could change anything about my job what would it be?
  • Is there a realistic chance of getting this change made?

There are several options to take before giving up entirely on your current career.

  • Have a conversation with your manager and ask if there is a way to get what you need.
  • Look for other opportunities in the same company.
  • Look for similar opportunities in a different company, industry, or location.

As Barbara Safani, owner of a NY career management firm, said in a New York Times article a while back, ’A lot of people who say that they hate what they do actually hate who they do it for.

If after doing this analysis, you still feel strongly about pursuing another career, perform your due diligence. Thoroughly research the field and talk to people in the field to learn what it’s really like.

  • What education or skills do I need to acquire?
  • What are the costs involved – financial, time, other?
  • Can I afford these costs?
  • Am I willing to start at the bottom again?

KRON InterviewHi I’m Mauri, President/CEO of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. My favorite client update is, “I did everything you told me to and I got the job!”

Career Insiders’ Talent Acquisition services are focused on executive and senior management level positions in sales/marketing, finance, corporate legal, and HR. Please contact me for more info.

Get Organized!!

Get organizedMy advice is always to customize your resume for each job opportunity, but how can you keep track of everything?  Create a document folder for each position that you submit a resume for. In this folder include the resume version you submitted for that job plus a copy of the job description, cover letter, and any other related documentation or correspondence. Be sure to save a copy of the full job description rather than just the url to the online posting as the posting may be removed from the company’s web site at any time.

Name your documents in such a way that they can be clearly identified – by the company’s recruiter and/or hiring manager as well as by you. For the recruiter/hiring manager, document tiles should include your name and the type of document; ie resume or cover letter. Don’t overlook the fact that this simple title is a mini writing sample, and so you should make sure that there are no spelling errors. Even if you’re careful to keep the right resume version in the proper folder, you may want to add something that identifies the company and/or position. Here are some examples:

  • Schwartz, Mauri – Resume (Google)
  • Schwartz, Mauri – Cover (Google-VP, Finance)

You may add a date if you’d like but it’s much less important.

  • Schwartz, Mauri – Resume (2013)
  • Schwartz, Mauri – Cover (2013-0718)

Finally, you should create an Excel spreadsheet to track your job search progress and include the following information.

  • Company Name
  • Job Title
  • Person Contacted/Person to Contact
  • Contact Info
  • Action Taken
  • Date Action Taken
  • Next Action to Take
  • Date of Next Action to Take
  • Notes/Comments

It’s important to keep your tracking spreadsheet up to date. I’ve found that clients who do this make more progress in their search if only because they have a written plan which specifies what they need to do next and when. In this way, they keep themselves accountable.

Here’s a lagniappe: If you use Word’s Tracking feature to show changes you’ve made or those made by someone else whom you’ve asked to proofread your resume, don’t forget to turn tracking off before sending it out! (A lagniappe is a word use chiefly in Louisiana which means “a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; a bonus.”)

Mauri in Orange BlouseHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. I recently was invited to participate on a panel discussion at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”

Job Search Etiquette

Interview Recently, a recruiter friend of mine told me that her client was preparing to extend a job offer to one of her candidates after a round of successful interviews.  As news of the offer was being communicated to my friend to forward to the candidate, the client received an email from the candidate thanking her for the opportunity to interview.

Proper etiquette, right?  However, in the candidate’s message, she came across as arrogant, rude, and careless as her message included misspellings and grammatical errors, and related in detail all the processes that she would change in her first few weeks on the job. Naturally, the hiring manager was offended, changed his mind and rescinded the offer. This story caused me to think that it would be good to talk more about job search etiquette.

Here are four key areas of interaction to consider when conducting a job search, or any time for that matter.

1)      Networking

  • Offer to help; focus on the ‘give’ side of a 2-way ‘give and take’ exchange.  When you make new contacts at networking events or when you reach out to your existing contacts, think first about how you can help them in their endeavors, whether they be career related or not. Keep in mind that supporting someone in an endeavor automatically makes that person want to return the favor. I call this Networking Karma.
  • Be respectful of your contact’s time and make it comfortable for that person to say yes. Don’t ask for a job; ask for advice. Everyone has advice and is happy to give it. Furthermore, you are paying her a compliment by implying that she is an expert.
  • Everywhere I look, career experts are advising job seekers to ask for informational interviews. I agree with the concept but disagree with the wording of the request. An informational interview conjures up a 30-60 minute meeting which resembles an interview but for which there is no open position that can be offered to you. This can make your contacts feel somewhat uncomfortable, first about committing so much time and then for feeling that you expect more than they can give.
  • I’m not saying this is actually what you expect, but it is the thought process that often occurs. So I say ask for a chat, which is defined as an ‘informal conversation or talk conducted in an easy familiar manner’ and implies a much shorter amount of time, for which it will be easier to get a contact to commit.

2)      Face to Face

  • Everyone knows that you should be on time for a meeting; do not keep your contact waiting. If you are meeting that person in her office, you should also beware of arriving too early. Since you are a guest in her space, she may feel responsible for meeting with you earlier than planned and uncomfortable if she can’t. If you’re sitting in the reception area for a long time, you also make other people in the office uncomfortable, and you will end up feeling awkward as well. Arrive only about 5 minutes before your designated meeting time.
  • Be prepared, know what you want to discuss and be clear about what you would like for this person to do for you. Don’t make them figure it out. Don’t shove your resume in front of her and expect her to figure out what type of job you should seek.
  • Listen and be patient, pay attention to what the person is telling you and show your appreciation for her insight without countering every suggestion with an excuse.  I really don’t have to say that your cell phone should be off and out of sight, do I?

3)      On the Phone – Pretend this is a face-to-face meeting and follow all my recommendations above. If you are leaving a voice message, make it short and to the point. Follow it up with an email if you have a lot to say. I have a colleague who not only shows up early for all our meetings but calls a couple of minutes in advance of our scheduled phone appointments. This drives me crazy, and I recommend that you call one or two minutes after your scheduled time to give the other person a chance to be ready for you.

4)      In Writing – There will be numerous occasions to send thank you messages. Always do so immediately after meeting with someone, whether it is for an interview or networking. When you’ve landed your new position and your job search is over, don’t forget to go back again and thank all those people who have helped you in any way. Whatever type of message you are sending – thank you notes, cover letters, or other correspondence, be polite and make sure that you thoroughly check for spelling and grammatical errors. Do not use text-like abbreviations such as BTW, FYI, etc. And don’t use texting or twitter to convey any of these messages. Texting is okay when the other person has used texting to contact you, but still beware of using texting abbreviations.

Here’s an extra tip:  When using a formal salutation that includes Ms or Mr, follow it only with the person’s last name. I am continually surprised by the number of people who will begin a letter with Dear Ms Mauri Schwartz when the correct way is Dear Ms Schwartz.

Mauri in Orange BlouseHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. I recently was invited to participate on a panel discussion at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”

Honesty is the best policy

???????Recently a client contacted me with the following question:

I recently interviewed with an agency recruiter who said that I should put that I have an MA degree on my resume because I have completed all the coursework but haven’t written my dissertation. He also recommended that I exaggerate the work I did at one of my jobs. What do you think?

I hold strong to the belief that George Washington was right when he said “I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree.”  Above all, your integrity is the most essential asset you bring to the table. Don’t sacrifice it for a slim chance of getting a job interview. If you misrepresent yourself on your resume, what ‘little white lie” while you tell in an interview, or on the job? We naturally get upset when we learn that some politician lied when their campaign materials state that he is a Viet Nam War veteran when actually he sat out the war because he had flat feet, potentially two lies in this one.

While I caution against lying and exaggerating achievements, I do encourage clients to represent themselves in the best light possible.  I will assume that your graduate work is directly related to the job you seek.  Otherwise, there is no need to include it at all.  If you are still pursuing your MA, working on your dissertation, then you should list your education as “MA in progress, anticipated December 2013” or just “MA anticipated December 2013.” If you gave up on it years ago, you may use “MA Coursework completed.” By including the qualifying phrases immediately beside the degree, you make it clear that you haven’t quite made it.

Regarding exaggerating your work, it is difficult for me to tell without specifics.  Here again, I encourage marketing yourself positively but fall clearly short of untruths or misrepresentations. There are certain keywords that you can use to play up your accomplishments, but be careful not to overstate them. For example, let’s say that you are not a manager but you have coordinated the work of several people in order to complete a project. It was your responsibility to define the project scope, to delegate tasks among your colleagues, and to track quality and progress in order to keep the project on schedule. You should not say, “Managed team of five analysts in completing such-and-such project on time.” However, you may put it this way, “Project managed team of five analysts to deliver such-and-such project on time, defining project scope, delegating tasks, and tracking quality and progress.”

Project management is a very common skill that employers are seeking these days as they are less interested in people management skills. Having this phrase in your resume will help you when applicant tracking systems are searching for specific keywords. Additionally, listing the specifics will tell the hiring manager which phases of project management you have performed. If, in fact, you were also responsible for keeping the project on budget and you did so, add that in as well.

So, you can see that there are ways to highlight your achievements without misstating them.

Mauri in Orange BlouseHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. I recently was invited to participate on a panel discussion at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”