I cannot claim the following as the “worst ever” because there are too many examples of poorly prepared interviewers and bad questions. But the following true story certainly deserves a nomination for the list of possibilities. Related: 5 Ways To Recover From A Bad Job Interview It happened on a Saturday morning – and perhaps more unfortunate, it happened to a 16-17-year-old teen. Not a good way to start off this young man’s experience with being interviewed. It was a local “quick oil change” shop. I was there to have my car serviced when this young man walked in, neatly dressed, and asked for the manager. The attendant excused himself and walked into the service area. About 10-15 minutes later, the manager walked in, greeted the young man and said: “Sorry for the delay, I had something important to take care of.” Oops! – glad he just told the young man that he wasn’t important – and likely sent a clear message about how important his employees are (or will be). I point out that at this point my service was completed, and I paid my bill – but I didn’t leave. I knew I had to sit down, pretend to read a magazine and see where this interview was going. The manager continued the interview with: “So, tell me about yourself.” The classic, most frequently asked first question – in some ways the worst question but the truth is that it’s a bad question because the overwhelming majority of candidates are not prepared to answer it effectively. But a 16-17-year-old? The young man clearly stumbled. I could see the thinking going on in his head: “I’m 16, I go to school….” And that’s basically how he answered the question. I was sitting less than five feet from this “interview, ” and it was easy to read the non-verbals from this young man. He’s thinking “how am I supposed to answer this?” The next question was “What do you know about this company?” It’s common practice to expect candidates to know something about the company but a 16-year-old? I think the interviewer was expecting the young man to know the company’s ranking in the Fortune 500 or their current stock price. The teen replied with the painfully obvious: “You change the oil in cars.” I think the young man nailed it! It gets better – or worse depending on your point of view. The next question was: “What can you do for me?” Honestly, I was torn between jumping into the interview because of the empathy I was feeling for this young man or falling out of my chair laughing. I couldn’t have scripted a poor interview any better. Again the young man, very uncomfortably, said: “Well, I guess I can change the oil.” Good answer – pretty directly appears to respond to the number one expectation for the job. It’s not going to get any better – the next question was “What are your strengths?” Now I am a firm believer in people understanding their strengths. But the bottom line is that most high school students have not been exposed to this – and often don’t see themselves as having any real strengths. This was again verified by the young man’s clear and growing discomfort. He basically struggled to answer that he wasn’t sure, that he’d been getting good grades in school, gets along with his parents… Most interviewers probably know the final question – “What about your weaknesses?” It was again painful to watch as the young man, attempting to maintain his composure, clearly didn’t know what to say, hesitating before responding, that “I think my parents feel I’m messy at times.” I know that this young man applied for this job – perhaps because he wanted to work with cars, perhaps because he needed to get a job to earn money for gas, for school, for dates… But I really wanted to step in and tell this young man that the last thing he wanted to do was to accept a job working for a manager who just demonstrated such incompetence. And I was pretty certain, that if he did accept a position for this company, he’d likely not stay very long – adding another example to the problems of youth and part-time jobs. There are two major conclusions here. The first is clear – for job seekers. You’ll be asked bad questions – learn how to give good answers even to the worst of questions included here. The second is the charge to managers. Hiring is one of the most important things that you do – getting the right people is clearly tied to your organization’s productivity and quality service. This is clearly a script for the absolute wrong way to conduct an interview – don’t follow it! (Note: this story is 100% accurate. I’ve actually got a picture of the business where it occurred.)
If there’s one thing clear in the field of career advice, it’s the plethora of recommendations and “tips” on how to craft an effective resume. And the complexity of what I’ll label “resume wisdom” has escalated in recent years from the impact of technology and the emergence of some new, and very different, resume formats. Related: Hiring Problem: The Lack Of Specificity In The Hiring Process On the technology side, job seekers confront the need to make their resumes “search friendly” or directly entering a “resume” to a job site. Different formats, from “visual resumes” to “career letters,” offer what certainly appear to be dramatically different presentations. Fortunately, there is fairly strong agreement on some aspects of resume content. A quick scan of “resume tips” shows strong support for “accomplishments” versus “duties.” Yet, there are still 100’s if not 1000’s of resumes that are produced by job seekers daily that contain boring lists of duties, often taken from equally boring organizational job descriptions. Perhaps the results of an experiment involving variations on resume content can help job seekers see more clearly on at least one of the key elements.
“Short-Termism” has been identified by leaders around the world as one of the biggest problems of the 21st century. So, it’s very common and very likely that you’ll find a lack of forward thinking in your department, throughout your organization, in the thinking of your colleagues – and even in your own thinking. Related: 5 Secrets To Boosting Workplace Creativity, Invention, And Innovation Improving the ability to think about the future starts with understanding what’s preventing it from happening. There are at least three possible sources of the problem:
There has been and most likely will always be discussions over the “best” format for resumes. While there’s no debate over the need to ensure your resume is free from spelling and grammatical errors, the debate over several key areas remains. But parts of the debate actually focus on what’s commonly seen in resumes, not what the majority of career coaches recommended. Here are four areas where I believe this is important. Related: Would HR Managers Review YOUR Resume?
In the last month, just days apart, I received two e-mails from well-known management advisors I regularly follow. One e-mail was headlined: “Never ASSUME While Selling,” the other: “Careful, Making Assumptions Is Costly.” One of the articles immediately went to the cliché "Never Assume (ASS-U-ME) because when you do you make an ASS of U and ME.” The other chided: “Assumptions. Not very productive, are they? They can lead to negative emotions, relational pain, and strife that never need to happen.” Related: How 4 Words Control Your Career Decisions Authors who caution that one should not (or “never”) make assumptions always use good examples of incorrect assumptions. What’s missed here is that in a very real world where the future is unknown, the need to make assumptions is both important and unavoidable. Several years ago, I drafted a list of the “Ten Dumbest Things Managers Say.” It was part of a management training program, maybe an idea for a book. The “assume” cliché was always a candidate for the top three on the list, along with illogical statements like “If he (she) didn’t understand what to do, he (she) should have asked.” I’ve always found it easy to refute the “never assume” argument.
In a two-part series on “Resume Nightmares,” I laid out scenarios from reality shows like “The Profit.” “Kitchen Nightmares,” and “Bar Rescue,” where strong statements from the shows’ stars harshly attack product (food and/or service) and owners. I suggested that the processes suggested from these shows provide some interesting ways for improving resumes. In reviewing these shows, I was also struck with some key points about interviews. Related: Job Seekers: Prepare For Bad Interview Questions Overall, there was one strong conclusion: the stars of these shows are tough, excellent interviewers. This offers the opportunity for some good interview preparation for job seekers.
Some organizations, attempting to deal with shortages of candidates and much needed skills, are implementing “fast track” hiring. From my perspective, it’s come about 15 years too late. It has been needed for a long time. But because it’s now an emerging trend, it’s important to examine the implications for candidates.
Group projects are and have always been, a part of work for most organizations. For some, they may be an irregular feature. For others, they are a day-to-day part of the job. And in today’s workplace, the complex dynamics of successfully integrating the skills needed demands even more group projects. Therefore, for career success, understanding how to be a successful part of a group project is critical. It’s also important for job seekers to understand how to effectively present their group or team accomplishments during an interview or on a resume.