Evaluating a Job Offer

February 15, 2011

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

Congratulations to the new graduates! Your parents may be so very proud of you. After so many years of struggling with homework and graded recitations, you have finally made it.

For sure, your next mission is to hunt for a job. After the delight of the graduation march, we welcome you to the struggles of looking for your first job. Being the proactive person that you are, you may be holding this very newspaper because you are actively seeking employment.

You may be dying to get a job, but I advise you to seriously evaluate a job offer before accepting it. I am not saying that you should be picky, but you do want to be assured that the job you are getting is in consonance with your skills and capabilities.

Here are guide questions that would help you evaluate a job offer:

What are the job’s duties and responsibilities?

Before accepting the job, you should have a clear understanding of what you are going to do. You must have knowledge of what you will be doing, so you can see if you will be able to utilize the talents you have acquired in college.

What is the pay structure?

Know the salary you will be getting before signing any contract. Note that it should be at least at par with what the industry is paying for the same position elsewhere. Of course, it helps also if there are extras such as incentives or bonuses. Some companies also provide perks such as unlimited coffee, birthday treats, flexitime, health plans, etc. This may not really cost much, but it shows how much the company values its employees.

Do you feel a sense of pride in belonging with the company?

You may have found out that the company is engaging in illegal activities, or is dishonest in its dealings. Ask yourself if you can stomach this, or if you would rather seek employment elsewhere.

Is the company stable?

Consider if the firm will still be around for at least as long as you plan on working there.

How credible is your job title?

Some positions have over inflated titles to attract applicants. Jobs with titles like “management trainee” should be probed so that you can see if your career path at that company will actually lead to a management position.

What are the working hours?

Find out if the company requires frequent overtime, or if the job necessitates that you work on weekends and holidays. There are also some jobs that require working at night. There is nothing wrong with this, but knowing this will prepare you for skipping family gatherings and weekend getaways in order to work.

Would the job require you to travel a lot?

This may be either good or bad, depending on your personality. If you love to travel, go ahead and grab the opportunity. However, if you dislike travelling, you may consider other job options.

Will there be a written contract?

Note that if you are given merely a verbal agreement, there is a high chance that some promises made to entice you to work at that company may be “forgotten”.

What are the company’s restrictions?

Know the company policies on tardiness and absences. Evaluate the contract. Some contracts prohibit employees who leave a company from working for a competitor for a specified period of time. This is legal and enforceable. However, find out how long this takes effect. It should be for a limited period of time… not forever.

Does the company prepare people for promotion?

You must know if it will be a dead end position. Try to find out if the company offers training, as this will groom you for the next level.

Can you abide with odd company policies?

There are some bosses who will require you to wear costumes during Halloween and Christmas. Before accepting the job, ask yourself if this is fine with you.

Also, there are some companies that are so strict, that they will monitor all your actions through a closed circuit television (CCTV), while some will want you to undergo yearly drug tests.

Does the company follow labor laws and regulations?

Try to find out if the company remits SSS, Philhealth, HDMF, and tax dues. The company must also give overtime pay, night differential, and service incentive leaves as mandated.

It is difficult to find a job, and you may be very tempted to accept the first company that is willing to hire you. It might be better to have a not-so-ideal job rather than being unemployed. Nevertheless, be prepared to analyze the offers in case you have options.

(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.)


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.)

Mind Your (Interview) Manners: Part 2

February 1, 2011

How not to botch that critical point of the application process

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

Your job interview will determine your success in your job application. You must be able to sell yourself to the interviewer to convince him / her that your are the right person for the job. Everything that can help must be considered and displaying the right manners may give you the winning edge.

As a job interviewer, I learned to master the art of reading body languages and body signs. Not only do I listen to what the applicant say, but I also assess how the interviewee conduct himself / herself during the process.

I have always stressed the importance of being prepared for a job interview. You need to bring all the necessary documents, but most important of all, never fail to bring a lot of “common sense”.

How to Handle Your Job Interview:

Do not interrupt when the interviewer is talking. I remember there was one applicant who does all the talking that I never got the chance to open my mouth. Then there was another one who always interrupted and finished all my sentences for me. If you think this is one strategy to buy time, it won’t work. The interviewer may just think that you are acting fresh or being too aggressive.

Do not get drawn into an argument. If you don’t agree with what the interviewer is saying, you may state your position then move to the next topic. Don’t be too pushy or act manipulative. The worst I’ve encountered was when I interviewed a candidate who argued with everything I said—even before I had a chance to finish what I was saying!

Smile and be as relaxed and composed as possible. Refrain from looking out the window or glancing at your watch during the interview. When I interview applicants who do not look at me, I presume that they are not listening, or are probably just trying to hurry me up.

Show warmth and genuine interest. If you are a fan of Lady Gaga, I’m sorry but appearing “Poker Face” won’t work. It leaves the interviewer guessing whether you understood what was discussed. Give verbal feedback so the interviewer will know that you are paying close attention to the conversation (say “Yes,” “That’s right,” “I agree,” or “I understand”).

Respect the interviewer’s personal space. Do not stand or sit too close. Moreover, refrain from toying with the interviewer’s personal things. Refrain from touching wall paintings, trophies, plants or anything you find fanciful in the office. I will not forget an applicant who touched and broke my glass paperweight. It is not actually pricey, but it was a gift from my wife!

Ask questions. This will confirm your interest in the position. If something is vague, you may ask for clarification. However, do not ask too many questions. You may pose at least two or three intelligent questions throughout the interview.

Do not stare at the interviewer. You may maintain eye contact, but staring is unethical. The interviewer may get distracted or feel annoyed. I remember I interviewed an applicant who kept staring at me from top to the bottom. She looked as if she was appraising me! I was wondering if I have dirt on my face, a tear in my polo, an open zipper, mud on my shoes, etc.

Let the interviewer tell his / her story. If the interviewer seems excited talking about himself / herself, let him / her be. Listen well, and try to read between the lines. Watch your body language. Show you are listening by leaning a little forward towards the interviewer. Keep your arms uncrossed, and maintain good eye contact. Smile, nod, or laugh with the interviewer.

When there are many qualified applicants, the interviewer may base his / her decision on your manners. This is justified since your interview behaviour is indicative of your personality. If you do not take care to conduct yourself professionally while being scrutinized then it is only to be expected that you will do worse in the future. Small things may mean a lot.

(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.)


Mind Your (Interview) Manners

January 28, 2011

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

Almost all people who work (except for two groups of people) will undergo or have undergone a job interview.

The first group exempted from these are those who start their own businesses (and even then some of them come from jobs), and the second are the “trust fund babies” born to wealthy parents with trust funds that ensure that all their financial needs will be taken care of in their lifetime. They are so secure financially, that some are studying just to pass the time.

So unless you are a trust fund baby, I suggest you read on to learn the tactics on how to survive your job interview.

Presenting yourself for a job interview can really be scary. It is a make-or-break situation; if you commit a blunder, there is, often, no more second chance. You have to stand out to get the job you really want.

I have been impressed by so many application forms sent by jobseekers. However, some of them are total disasters when they present themselves for the job interview.

I remember one time when I was interviewing a job applicant, I asked her the question “What are your hobbies?” I was surprised when she stood up and sang in front of me. Of course, I got that her hobby was singing, but I was scared out of my wits!

Another funny incident was when I was discussing remuneration to an applicant. I declared how much we are offering him for a salary, but he insisted on getting a lower figure. It was quite hilarious! I was convinced that I should hire him, but when he demoted himself in front of me, I thought otherwise.

Then there’s another one who came with one sock missing. He said he was in such a hurry that he forgot to put on the other sock. Another one kept chewing and blowing his bubble gum throughout the entire interview. It was quite disgusting.

One applicant culminated our interview with a firm handshake. Yes, there is nothing wrong with that, except that his hands were really sweaty, so it grossed me out. I guess, the people I mentioned were advised to “be different” to get the job. But obviously this kind of “being different” didn’t work.

Here are some practical job interview tips to help improve your chances of getting hired:

Make sure you have eaten so you won’t faint during the interview. You never know how long it will be before you will be called so better play it safe.

Empty your bladder before proceeding with the interview. This helps a lot in releasing your tension and it will not make a good impression if you have to go to the wash room in the middle of the interview.

Come at least 15 minutes before your interview appointment. If you came late because of whatever reason, apologize immediately. Do not curse yourself in front of the interviewer. Putting yourself down is likely to brand you as a loser as you are confirming it yourself.

If lunch or dinner is part of the interview, mind your manners. Avoid chewing loudly or grabbing at food.

During the interview, if something said is funny, do not laugh loudly; it will reflect poorly on your conduct and disturb any other employees present or nearby who can influence the hiring.

Do not make a fool of yourself in front of the interviewer. Never sing or dance, unless you are applying as a singer or dancer.

Talk audibly. Avoid mumbling or whispering.

Never dominate the interview. Avoid giving lengthy answers to questions. Make your point in 60 seconds if you can.

Relax. Repeat after me. Relax. You may be tense, but go and get it over with. Sit up straight, and do all in your power to resist your desire to run. If you are too nervous, make sure you do not show it. Do not tremble in front of your interviewer. If you believe you are shaking, do not hold a ball pen or paper, so the interviewer doesn’t get distracted by your shaking hands. You may place your hands in between your knees, as this would keep both your hands and knees from shaking.

Be a good listener. If you failed to hear or understand a question, do not say “What?” or “Ha?” You may politely say, “Pardon me, but could you repeat the question?” Pause a few seconds before answering so you could gather your thoughts before answering the question.

Be candid. Always include specific facts, details, and examples, when providing information. There is a good chance that they will be validated and so be truthful.

Liven up the interview. Be humorous if this seems acceptable to the interviewer. However, avoid “green” or dirty jokes. Use your own funny experiences.

Avoid jargon and other words that are difficult to understand. Especially avoid idiomatic expressions.

Always maintain eye contact. However, refrain from staring. Also, keep your mouth closed when you are not talking. This is to keep you from drooling in front of the interviewer.

• A final tip, for now, is to make sure you bring along at least two IDs and various sizes of pictures, and make sure that the picture looks like you.

Your preparation for an interview must be as thorough as possible. It is not enough to be just yourself and rely on your credentials, nor is it sufficient to just do well on the interview. It is about the survival of the fittest for the slots are limited and many are just as qualified.

Take the above advice to heart and find other useful ways to boost your chances. It may turn out that doing your homework will provide you with the winning edge.

(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.)

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.)

How do you do a job search while still employed with another company—without being unethical?

January 8, 2011

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

Conducting your job search while still employed has its advantages and drawbacks. If you are currently employed, you are not as pressured to find a new job at once because you still have a steady, continuous income.

In addition, companies like to get employees who are presently employed because it will be easier for them to conduct background checks. Recruiters are also convinced that the person they will be hiring knows the current trends in the industry. Especially when you are employed in a well-known company, recruiters tend to believe that you have the right skills and experiences suited for their available position.

However, if you are currently employed, the downside is that you do not have the luxury of time to do an intensive job hunt. It is certainly difficult to find a new job while still devoting your time to your current job. You are still being paid by your present employer, so it is deemed proper to still work to the best of your ability.

If you are currently employed and wish to look for a new job, make sure you do not do things that may just lead to your termination. Try as much as possible to maintain a good relationship with your boss and co-workers. Here are some tips for conducting your job search without being unethical:

Never use company computer to type your application form. Also, do not use company printer and paper to print your résumé. It is also unethical to use your computer to do online job searches. Many companies monitor their employees’ internet and e-mail use; you will surely be found out. Some companies have rules on this matter, and you might be terminated if caught.

Refrain from using company phone to follow up on your job application. This is so your co-workers and boss will not find out that you are applying for a job. As much as possible, be discreet.

Avoid applying for a company competitor. This is very risky. If found out, you might not only be terminated, but you might also be civilly or criminally charged. Almost all companies now have ‘non-compete’ stipulations in their employment contracts. Usually too, your competitor company is not a good prospect, unless you really have a good trusting relationship with them. Some would just interview you to get classified information that may harm your present company. Others may fear that you are a “Trojan horse” sent by your firm.

Never criticize your previous boss and co-workers. This will give the recruitment officer the impression that you will do the same thing to them, when you leave their company. Even if you are resentful, say positive things about your current company or, at least, keep quiet if you have nothing nice to say.

Do not break company rules and regulations while applying for a new job. As much as possible, show that you are working hard. Avoid coming late, or frequent absences. You will need this to get a good reference from your boss.

Never wear your company uniform during application (whether to submit your resume or requirements or to a job interview). This shows your lack of respect for your present employer. If you think this is of no import, you are sadly mistaken. People will conclude that you are too lazy to dress appropriately. Take the time to change your clothes to give a professional impression.

Do not take too many days off. Try to schedule your interview early in the morning, or late in the afternoon so that you can still work productively for the day.

Do not disregard termination policy. Your present company may have rules on resignation. Besides the company rules, the labor code mandates at least 30 days’ notice before the effectivity of your resignation. If you fail to serve your full notice, you might forfeit some or all your benefits.

Looking for greener pastures is a normal human urge. However, in our quest to improve our status we may forget the long-term consequences of our actions. Take your time to ponder not only if this is the right decision but also on the proper way to go about your hunt.

It is important to maintain your cordial relationship with your current boss and co-workers. You must never burn your bridges; you never know when you need your present contacts. Besides, if things did not work out too well, there is always the chance that you may want your old job back!

(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.)