Some tough love for job applicants

We don’t dispense a lot of career advice at MinnEcon. One look at my early career path and you wouldn’t take it from me anyway.

But we do have sources in our Public Insight Network who hire and fire and have seen a lot in this recession. One, graphic designer Susan Kirkland, sent some smart, unvarnished thoughts on landing a job — and how people mess it up.

“Hiring & firing may be a mystery to young professionals just starting out,” Kirkland wrote us. “Though this is written for creatives, it might offer a bit of understanding to anyone looking for a job who doesn’t get it.”

Her basics, edited for length:

Be neat. If you appear disheveled when applying for the job, is it because you are poorly organized, not really enthused about the job, or not worried about making a good impression? Your potential employer won’t ask; they’ll just write you off.

Be on time. If you are late to the interview, is it an indication of not planning ahead and allowing enough time, a bad case of too busy to pay attention to the time, or applying personal relationship rules by being fashionably late? Again, it’s up to the interviewer’s impression and prejudices, but they will choose one.

Be respectful. Even if your interviewer has a wart the size of Mt. Everest on the end of his nose, he deserves your rapt attention. If you are completely laid back and slow to react during your interview, does it mean you are not impressed with the opportunity at hand, uncertain of how to answer questions, or still enjoying the buzz from last night’s party? Pay attention and don’t be overly pushy; this is not American Idol.

Be honest. If you get the job and fail, is it because you don’t know how to do the work, you lied about your qualifications or this isn’t really your dream job and you aren’t inspired? Every employer with a job avail wishes you wouldn’t waste their time or yours by applying if you are not qualified. Don’t use time and opportunity to satisfy third party demands like your Dad who paid your way through college.

Be prepared. If your presentation is poorly executed, is it because you abhor public speaking and freeze up, you’re just bad at presentations, or you haven’t had time to organize and update your portfolio? Your portfolio and how you present it is a good indicator of how you will perform as an employee.

She also has some thoughts on how you look.

If you show up with lots of bizarre body piercings, five inch finger nails or offensive body odor, you won’t get the job. You won’t get the job either if you wear too much fragrance. The precedent you set at the interview is the one employers expect you to deliver on a daily basis. These personal details distract both you and your coworkers from the work at hand.

Her final bit of advice is targeted to recent grads. It comes sugar-free:

Those of us who might hire you will be working harder than you and won’t have time to babysit if you get the job…the work world is not the kind embrace of your family or school. We expect you to carry your share of the work load and do it without whining or coddling…we expect you to be reliable or expect you to be fired.

Read Kirkland’s entire essay here.

Let’s hear from folks on either side of the hiring desk on this stuff. If you’re an employer trying to hire, what do you want from applicants? What are you seeing in this recession that makes you shake your head when you interview people?

If you’re job searching — especially if you’re a recent college grad — how are you trying to market yourself? What are employers asking for that seems unreasonable or goofy to you?

Post below or contact me directly.

Comments are closed.