Monday, July 25, 2011

Oh the Agony...

Job hunting is brutal - I probably don't need to tell most of you that.  It's almost a flashback to those painful days in elementary school PE when the games required picking teams.  You wait anxiously to see if you will be 'picked.'

In today's job market it's especially painful because virtually everything is done electronically so you really have no idea if the "application" you filled out is actually being viewed by a human or merely checked by some computer program for the appropriate key words.  One of the job sites even has this wonderful/horrible tool that allows you to see how many candidates have applied for that job through their site and gives you some pretty amazing demographics regarding education, years of experience, required salary, etc.  It's positively frightening.

Last week I ended up having 3 phone interviews for 2 possible jobs.  One of them we are in the midst of trying to schedule a 4th phone interview.  The other I got a very polite email today indicating they are looking at other candidates but, thanks for my interest and oh, here's a special discount code to use the next time you shop our website.

The on line applications can be brutal too.  Most companies give you the option of down loading your resume but then they also ask you to fill out a work history section.  Ugh!  I hate repetitive work.  One of the jobs I am in the running for does a couple of different on line tests.  One is the Predictive Index test.  This is where you are given a list of 75 words and then asked to identify those that you think others would use to describe you.  Then you are give a second list of the same 75 words and asked to indicate the ones you believe best describe you!  The second test was 125 mixed questions encompassing reading comprehension, math, and logic/ethics.  Each question is timed but there is no time limit.  What does that mean?  Do they look at how long it took me to complete the number sequence questions vs. the word definitions and decide if I can do math or not?  The logic/ethics questions were all doubled up too; first, what is the "best" answer, second, what is the "worst" answer.

If you manage to snare an interview, be prepared for lots of different interview styles.  Myself, I tend to be a conversational interviewer.  I have a good idea of what I want to know about you and I try to have a conversation that gives me that information.  In my opinion, those are the most natural and comfortable interviews for everyone involved but they do require some skill.  Then there are the predictive interviewers; "Give me an example of a time when....."  Please, I BEG of the human resources professionals out there, DO NOT let your hiring managers use this style.  Phone interviews are hard enough as it is but an hour of "Give me an example of a time when" questions will put even the most patient and desperate job seeker over the edge.

When it seems like you might be close to the coveted 'face to face' interview, you start sweating the wardrobe question.  The vast majority of companies today have embraced a business casual wardrobe.  My last 3 employers followed that rule and, consequently, I have very few dressy business clothes.  So now you find yourself spending money to buy clothes for an interview.  Clothes that are dressy enough for an interview but not so dressy you 1) look totally out of place when you arrive at the office and 2) might have a chance of wearing again.  Oh, and what if you are flying in for the interview and someone wants to take you to dinner the night before or breakfast the morning after?  Then you need 2 outfits to wear.  The old saw about dressing for the position above the one you are interviewing for apparently still holds true too.  I am now the proud owner of a black suit (skirt & jacket), a blouse to go underneath the suit, a pair of tan trousers and a multi-colored more casual style jacket.  Fortunately, all of them can easily be worn someplace other than a job interview.  I think I would have had a coronary if that weren't the case.

As much as I am enjoying my 'summer vacation' this year, I am also looking forward to going back to work.  I'm not sure how much longer I can stand the stress of job hunting.


  1. I haven't looked for a job in 11 years! Listening to a friend who just found a job after looking for a year, I know the process is ENTIRELY different from what I knew. I hope I never need to learn that new process!

    You have my sympathies about having to go through this and wish you success in finding just the right job!

    PS I still have the suit I bought for the interview with my current company. I wore it just that one time! A good thing since it meant I got the job, a bad thing 'cause it was expensive!

  2. Argh to job hunting. But good that you've had lots of inquiries and interviews!

    Regarding the "tell me about a time when.." interviews -- this is the interview methodology that the company I work for uses. As interviewers, we've been trained in conducting and evaluating using this method. As an employee, I've had to work on this method when I'm looking for an internal job change.

    You may already know this (in which case ignore the following), but the key to these interviews is stories. The interviewer is looking for: Situation, Action, Result. Basically what was going on (the situation), what you did (the actions you took), and what came of it (the wonderful result). If you miss one of these pieces, your answer to that question will be "incomplete," and it makes it hard for the interviewer to evaluate.

    What I do to prepare for these types of interviews is that I prep a list to "success stories" - things I'm particularly proud to have accomplished at work -- using the Situation-Action-Result format. I then write down what the story demonstrates (e.g., leadership, taking initiative, organizing a process). I practice the stories, too. Then, when a question comes up like "tell me about a time when you were called upon to lead a team," I have the right story at ready to answer, in the format the interviewer can evaluate.

    Good luck!!!

  3. Lani:

    UHM, who is a HR professional, said you nailed the explanation of the SAR style of interviewing. I understood why the questions were being asked but had never had it explained in quite that way, thanks! I don't have an issue with that kind of interviewing, only with having EVERY SINGLE QUESTION start w/the same phrase :) There's got to be a way to pose the same questions but in a more conversational format! I have a 4th phone interview with the company next week. Maybe 4 is the magic number that gets me a plane ticket to the office for a face to face!