You Say it Best, When You Say Nothing at All

February 11, 2011

What You Should “Not” Say During the Job Interview

Business Coach Column by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) from the Manila Bulletin

You may be keen to demonstrate your communication prowess during the job interview. You may want to prove how witty and bubbly you are by talking as if there will be no tomorrow. You want to show that you know so many things by talking at a rate of 1,000 words per minute.

If this is your case, then this will not work to your advantage. Remember, a job interview is a two-way communication process. Talking too much may just annoy your interviewer.

During the job interview, answer questions candidly. Be as straightforward as you can, but do all in your might not to say the following:

• I really need to earn money to pay off my credit cards.

This is a warning sign that many recruitment officers are wary about. Having too much debt may mean so many things, but for the interviewer it would spell “CRISIS”. It shows potential mismanagement of assets, or misappropriation of resources.

• What is your business exactly about?

It is the job seeker’s responsibility to do research on the company before going to the job interview. You should visit the company’s website or ask around so you would know their products and services are. It would also help if you know their vision and mission because it would show the interviewer that you really are interested to join their organization.

• To contact me, you may Google my name, then find me at Facebook or Twitter me in my account.

If you say this, you are lucky if the interviewer does not send you out of the room in 30 seconds. When applying, make it easy for the company to contact you. Give an easy and sure way to get in touch. If you give your cell phone number, make sure it is always turned on and beside you. If it is a landline you gave, make sure there is someone to take the call and inform you in case you are out your house.

• I am not bragging, but yesterday, I was offered an executive position by a multinational company.

“Oh sure, you are bragging! If you were offered a high position in a well-known company, there is no reason why you should still be applying here. Go ahead, grab it!” This is what the interviewer is likely to say. You applied at a company and when you were offered the position, you went seeking for another job elsewhere? There is no logic there! When applying for a job, be as humble as you can. Avoid being the arrogant brat. Also, do not fool the interviewer by making up stories to speed up the hiring decision. Yes, they will decide fast; they will decide not to hire you.

• I can work under pressure, as long as I take my medicines.

Medicines for what? Are you hypertensive, probably asthmatic, or else psychotic? It is not a weakness if you have a certain illness, for as long as it is controlled. Yet, if you focused on the issue during the job interview, the hiring officer might think you are not well enough to handle the pressure.

• To be honest, it is really my dream to work abroad.

I am just applying while I am waiting for my visa. You have just made it easier for the hiring officer to decide that you are not the right person for the job. A company is spending its resources to train new recruits. It would be a waste to teach new employees who would resign very soon anyway.

• Can I bring my IPod to work? Music helps me deal with stress.

There is a lot of stress at work. You should know how to deal with it, with or without music. What you should emphasize is how you can easily adapt to stressful situations. Listening to music means shutting out, and not facing the battle.

• I really do not need a job. My father has a large construction company, and my mother owns the mall across your building.

As the hiring officer, I have four words to say: GET-OUT-OF-HERE! The company would think they don’t need you as well. If you are not serious about applying, never waste someone else’s time.

Having good conversational skills is necessary in all business organizations. However, it is also obvious that “talking too much” is a disadvantage. You should not converse to the point of boring or at times frightening the listeners. At the same time, do not “overshare” with the interviewer. You might be saying things that can harm you.

Final thought, always think before you talk. Answer questions in 30 seconds, and if you have to ask questions, ask sensible ones. Remember, sometimes you say it best, when you say nothing at all!

(All rights reserved. Copyright by Manila Bulletin and Ruben P. Anlacan, Jr. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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Overqualified and Underemployed

January 11, 2011

How to avoid age discrimination

Business Coach Column by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) from the Manila Bulletin

There was an overwhelming response to my earlier article on age discrimination on those 40 years old and above. Even now I am receiving questions regarding the topic and so it seems time for an update on the matter.

One text message forwarded to me by my editor says, (unedited text) “Mr Anlacan, gd am! Why do ads always says that the top limit for age for applicant is 35? Why this? TY godbless hope u answer. Ofelia Maranan”

A probable reason for the cut off at 35 years of age is that this age is seen as a starting point for a middle age mindset. They probably believe that middle-aged people will be harder to train.

Nowadays, it is hard to land a job, particularly for older jobseekers. There are fewer job vacancies, what with the advent of outsourcing, contractualization, and automation.

Your stay in the company will not guarantee job stability. Whenever a company has to downsize, the older employees tend to get axed first. When a business has to cut expenses, the mature workers are the ones identified as being redundant. No one can argue with this, as it is the company’s prerogative to choose its employees for its own interests.

However, the reality is that recruitment officers tend to avoid hiring employees who are close to retirement. This is quite a bad thing for older workers, because most of them cannot afford to retire yet. Some are still sending their children through college, or perhaps are still paying their house mortgages.

But what is the real status of mature jobseekers versus their younger counterparts? Let us face it: older job-seekers are usually the victims of discrimination during the hiring process. However, this should not be solely blamed on the hiring officers. There are some older applicants who prove them right! The images they project to the hiring officers earn them the label “pricey”, “difficult to manage”, “demanding”, etc. I know this is more of a stereotype rather than the truth, but stereotypes often stick for a reason.

Here are some reasons why hiring officers do not want to hire older employees. Let’s identify them here so that you can work them to your advantage:

Older employees are sickly, and will probably be absent often.

Prove this wrong. Be properly dressed during the interview. Walk tall, and never slouch when seated. Show your energy and enthusiasm. Be confident, without being arrogant. Be funny and show you can still be the life of the party.

Older workers are more expensive.

Take the offensive. Explain that your work experience and achievements will be an advantage to the company. Make them realize that you can give them an immediate return on investment (ROI) because you already have a proven track record. Sell them the idea that your work familiarity and skills will bring fruitful results if you are given the chance to be a part of their company.

Older employees are slow or sluggish at work.

Do not be late for the interview. Be there ahead of time, and make sure they know that you came early. Bring all the necessary documents, so you can have the advantage of looking and being more prepared than younger, less experienced (and often scatterbrained) young applicants. Never give them a reason to dismiss you early because of lack of preparation. Do not forget your common sense.

Older employees cannot learn new skills.

You may be old, but you are not dumb. My wife taught a 60-year-old friend how to use the internet. At first, they were both dubious as to whether this would be possible. But lo and behold, the sexagenarian is now blogging! So see, this is not impossible. Try to learn the basics of word processing and spreadsheets. Make sure you also know how to use the internet. You will be surprised how you can learn so many things from the web. Be net savvy, and show them that you are not history.

Older employees may be overqualified.

Some recruitment officers would not hire you, not because they do not believe in your caliber, but because they are afraid they cannot offer you a better position. Some are even intimidated, and sense that being a seasoned worker that you are, you will just resist their ideas. The best way to handle this is to tell them that you can adapt to changes and are willing to implement company policies as directed. Explain that you believe that there is more to learn, and you are flexible. Besides, what works with your previous company may not work in other situations.

There are many other stereotypes, but I suggest not focusing your energy on companies or industries that do not hire matured employees no matter what. There are some industries that hire mature workers, and that’s where you should apply. These are the call centers, banks, schools and other training institutions.

Keep your hopes high. As the saying goes, “you may be older, but you are also wiser.” And as for the hiring officers, I only have one thing to say: Older jobseekers are more knowledgeable, more reliable, more polite, and most of all, more enthusiastic at work. Let’s give them a chance.

(All rights reserved. Copyright by Manila Bulletin and Ruben P. Anlacan, Jr. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)


Rejected Once, Rejected Twice, and More

January 3, 2011

How come I am always rejected when it comes to job applications? What am I doing wrong?

Business Coach Column by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) from the Manila Bulletin

You have applied for a job for the nth time, but you are still not hired. This is a very frustrating experience. While others are enjoying their positions in their companies, you are left wondering why you are still jobless. You may be asking what is wrong with you. So here are some of the primary reasons why you are being rejected.

Before application

Failing to do research on the company. Since it is easy to get information off the internet, it is a gross blunder not to check out company websites. Find out the company’s product line or services, history, key personnel, mission statement, and other information. This will give you a rich source of material to guide your conversation during the interview.

Poorly written resume. Never make a generic resume (or worse, use a commercially printed biodata form!). Make sure that you prepare different resumes for different companies, especially if you are applying for different positions. Customize each resume, so that you can address the unique requirements of each company. Proofread to spot all typographical and grammar errors.

No cover letter. Always include a cover letter with your resume. Cover letters should be no more than one page. They should list your qualifications and experience. Know the name of the hiring manager, so you can address your letter directly to her/him.

Not specifying career objectives. Write clear and specific job goals. State why you can be an asset to the company. Don’t just copy objectives off the internet; personalize them to the company you’re applying to.

Relying on online applications. These days it is easier to send applications via email. However, personally submitting your resume increases your chances of finding a job. As it is easier to apply online, take note that many others are submitting their applications using this method.

Poor references. Make sure that the people you have written in your references still remember you. They should also give good recommendations! Otherwise, it would be worse than giving no references. It would be best to call your references beforehand so that there would be no unpleasant surprises.

Bad employment history. Fighting with your former boss or being involved in office anomalies will permanently affect your credentials. A lot of hiring officers will call your previous company to ask for your employment record. Try your best to leave your previous company in good terms.

Gaps in employment record. Hiring officers are easily turned off by unexplained periods of unemployment. Some would think you may be hiding something and so it would be best to avoid gaps; at least be prepared to explain what they were (i.e., time off for childbirth or injury, returning to your studies).

Not qualified. Do not apply for jobs you are not adequately competent. While it is true that the job descriptions in the advertisements are not to be taken too strictly, you should carefully assess if you really can perform well in that position.

Failure to write your contact number. Check and double-check your application letter. Forgetting to include your telephone numbers may be the reason why you cannot be contacted. Note too that including a land line will be advantageous as it will further establish your place of residence.

During interview

Poor communication skills. Use proper grammar and diction. Practice modulating your voice to make it sound more pleasant. Make sure that you speak loud and clear. Also, be ready for common questions; don’t just parrot the suggested responses you got from old Classifieds issues, adapt it to your situation and the question at hand.

Improper attire. Do not dress too casually. Avoid shorts, slippers, tight jeans, or indecent attire. Dress conservatively. Come in your clean and proper business attire. For women, avoid wearing excessive make-ups especially if you are young.

Badmouthing your previous employer. This is unprofessional! People will think that you might do the same thing to them after you have left the company. The hiring manager sees this as a negative attribute; an interview is not the proper venue to air your grievances.

Coming late for the interview. Arriving late for the interview is disrespectful; be assured that no excuse will suffice. The interviewer will simply conclude that you will be chronically tardy if hired.

Visible tattoos, ridiculous haircuts, body piercings. Funny, but this may be scaring your potential employers! People with tattoos are often suspected of having a criminal backgrounds, not many people can appreciate the artistic value of good tattoo. Many companies also view those with body piercings and fancy haircuts or hair dyed pink, green, or other unconventional colors as potential trouble makers.

Asking for a a high entry salary. Remember that companies have a standard salary for their employees. If you demand for a higher salary, you might get rejected simply because they cannot afford you.

Application form not completely filled-up. Some companies still give application forms even if you have submitted a resume. Read and follow instructions before filling-up the application forms given by the companies. If you leave some items blank, the hiring officer might think that you are withholding information or are unable to follow directions.

Being a show-off or a braggart. Do not boast about your credentials; make your points in a professional manner without appearing arrogant. Avoid mentioning achievements if they are not relevant.

Committing other improprieties. Do not chew gum while being interviewed. Always turn off your cell phone before presenting yourself for interview. Cell phones’ ringing is quite distracting, and many hiring officers find this annoying. Texting or taking a call while being interviewed is a NO-NO!

After the interview

Failing to thank the interviewer. Politeness must always be observed. You must not fail to show appreciation for the opportunity to be interviewed. In case of a close decision, small expressions of good manners may be what tips the balance in your favour.

Not following-up. Even if told to just wait for their call, it is better if you make a polite follow-up so that you will know immediately if you were hired or if you must move on. In addition, there are times when their ideal candidate accepts another offer or did not do well on the job. In this case, if you are next in line, they may be glad to save on the expense of looking for a replacement. Calling them shows that you are persistent, and interested in the job. However, do not do this repeatedly, as this is quite irritating.

There are countless reasons why you may not be the chosen one, but ultimately most of the factors are within your control. Employers want to hire employees who are qualified, capable, and who would not give them problems. Understand, however, that they cannot read your mind. They can only judge based on what you show and say to them. Avoiding the blunders listed here would boost your chances of finally landing your dream job.

(All rights reserved. Copyright by Manila Bulletin and Ruben P. Anlacan, Jr. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)