Tattoos and Piercings at the Interview

By Erica Tew, CPRW

Recently, the question of tattoos and piercings at the interview arose and we debated what was appropriate.  We stuck with the conservative approach as general guidance: always cover up best you can in a professional outfit, and possibly remove any facial piercings. The goal is to be remembered for what you said, not your appearance. 

However, there is another layer to this subject I would like to address.  Before I delve into it, I want to share a few ground rules. I do not think under any circumstances should you show a tattoo that is religious, political, or offensive (lewd imagery, foul language, or gory/violent) in any way. I also think facial piercings should be on the smaller side, to not take too much attention away from your words.

Personally, I am a fan of tattoos and piercings. I think the creativity and skill involved in a well-done tattoo can be really beautiful.  I have a few of my own and have even weighed the interview appearance question on whether or not an industrial piercing or a nose ring should be removed. In my conservative workplace, a small nose ring is becoming very common, but I still tend to cover the industrial with my hair down.

Depending on your company’s culture and attire, tattoos or piercings may be acceptable, or even welcomed.  For example, there is a common belief that you should never trust a tattoo artist that doesn’t have any tattoos of their own.  It happens, but it is really difficult for an artist to make it without some of their own. Places that typically do not mind tattoos could be laborious jobs such as warehouses or shipyards. In retail, many shops welcome their staff to be creativity and display their own artwork; not minding tattoos or piercings.

What you may not realize though, is many of our corporate sectors are tolerant of tattoos and piercings as well. Some universities where you may be working independently can be accepting. Small businesses, startups, and other employers can be a mix- but my advice is, when possible, to simply walk into the building before applying.  See how the employees and managers dress. Note any tattoos or piercings and reflect manager norms in your own interview attire. Even if the employees have visible tattoos or piercings, but the managers are more conservative, you are safest with dressing on the conservative side for your interview. Some companies may not mind tattoos or piercings on employees, but when promoting an employee, they may prefer someone who more closely reflects executive style choices. Dress for the job you want, at the company you want.

Overall, researching the company culture will be most important when determining your interview appearance. Although tattoos and piercings are increasingly accepted, many companies still want employees to reflect their corporate brand at all times, and a tattoo may clash with that brand. If you really love a company and aren’t sure of their policy, it’s best to err on the side of caution, and cover up. If you have further questions, please leave a comment below!

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5 Tips: What to Do at the #Interview

When you make it to the interview, you want to be on point. Prepare answers ahead of time that show situations, actions you took, and results to respond to many behavioral questions. Research the company: the company culture, mission, news, and services, can help you relate your skills in a way that shows benefit to the hiring manager. The interview will go even smoother if you follow this advice:

1. Silence your cell phone

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Most people will say to shut off your cell phone or leave it in the car. However, if you use it to schedule appointments, you may want it handy if asked for a follow up appointment or date for a second interview. If your phone does go off, it’s not an immediate “fail.” It all depends on how you recover. Don’t look at who is calling; just shut it down and apologize immediately to continue.

2. Smile

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Sure, interviews make everyone nervous. It may be a combination of nerves and adrenaline, but researching and practice will help build your confidence before the interview. If you’re too worried about how you sound or are constantly wondering if you relayed everything you wanted to say, your face may not read that you’re someone who is excited about the opportunity. Take a moment, breathe, and smile right when you shake hands. If this is a phone interview, smile as you talk as well. Your voice transforms when you’re smiling and makes you sound more enthusiastic and engaged. Plus, everyone likes being around a friendly person. Would you want to work everyday alongside someone who constantly keeps a serious face on?

3. Don’t talk money or benefits

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Unless specifically asked by the interviewer, do not be the first to bring up pay or benefits. Save these questions for the job offer. The interview is a business meeting where you and the employer are trying to see if you will be a quality match for the position. Show that you can do the job and you want to work for the company. It can be a major turn off if a candidate doesn’t use this time well, but rather just asks how much they would make. If the interviewer does bring this information up first, research average salaries from Department of Labor’s Labor Market Information website. Always provide a range for salary to avoid being too expensive or underselling yourself. For more information on Salary Negotiations, see George’s post.

4. Speak clearly and avoid the “Yeahs, Ummms, and Likes”

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If you need to briefly pause and think about your answer before responding, take the time to do it. The interviewer may need you to be a representative of the company, and depending on how you present yourself, speech included, your casual way of speaking may be off-putting. “Umms” and “Like” are fillers that can be reduced by practicing your answers beforehand. I am guilty of the “Yeah” abuse, but in an interview, the answer is always “Yes”.

5. Dress Appropriately

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You can never go wrong with a button-down/blouse and dress pants/conservative skirt. This rule can be modified from company to company. Some company cultures prefer very professional attire. If that’s the case, then suit jackets and ties should be worn. Everyone can benefit from having at least one great suit in their closet. If the office is more casual, perhaps replace the dress pants for some khakis. Research the company and try to match what the manager would be wearing. Ask ahead of time if you think you may be touring any facilities that may require boots, a hardhat, or similar special circumstances. In general, I don’t know of a time where shorts, flipflops, sweatpants, anything low-cut, or anything revealing could be considered acceptable interview attire. Try on your outfit ahead of time to ensure proper fit, and remember: you want to be noticed for what you said, not what you wore. For more on this topic, check out Uriela’s blog post about appropriate interview attire.

If you have questions or concerns about these suggestions or anything related to your upcoming interview, please drop us a line in the comments below!

[All gifs thanks to giphy!]

Expect the Unexpected: Seven things to know when you get called by the #Employer

By George Bernocco, CPRW

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Besides residing in a digital age, the house phone is slowly becoming obsolete. Most resumes nowadays contain one number and it is a cell phone. As most of us know, there are pros and cons to having a mobile device that you carry with you. First and foremost, you can be reached at any time and it is only at your discretion if you choose to answer the phone or not. Employers are also joining in on the digital age, and more often they contact candidates over e-mail. Phone conversations are not obsolete yet, so be prepared for that employer to give you a ring.

After completing an application and after an interview, it is important to be on high alert when it comes to expecting the call. Your phone should already be set up to be as professional as possible:

  • No “ringback tones”.

  • Voicemail recording with your full name.

When you do get the call, there are seven things that you should be aware of:

  1. Number Recognition

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A call to your cell phone from an unknown number can mean numerous things. After you’ve applied to several jobs recently, it is easy to assume that it can be an employer. If you’ve done your company research (or even called the employer before), you may recognize the number immediately. If you try to find the number before they attempt to call you, it will be less stressful on your behalf and also less of a mystery.

  1. Availability to Talk

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Recognizing that you may not be able to talk at the time of the call is important. If you are in the middle of a crowded supermarket or entertaining guests at your house, you have a decision to make. Should you try to get some place quieter to talk, or should you let it go to voicemail? Be aware that I have heard stories from jobseekers who attempt to call the employer back after a voice message and have been notified that they are no longer scheduling interviews. Most employers understand and are human, and know that you may not be able to pick up the phone that instant. Just call them back at your earliest convenience.

  1. Preparation

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When you answer the phone and decide you want to conduct the conversation then and there, you should at least grab a writing utensil and paper, or open up a blank document on your computer to take notes. You want to grab what you’ll need for the conversation (resume, cover letter, reference numbers, etc). Usually the employer will ask for what they need and it is ok to let them know that it will take you a moment to pull that information up. It does not look good on your behalf if they hear you constantly fumbling around for information. If you cannot pull up what they require, ask them if you can submit it to them at a later date.

  1. Accidental Answer

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You may get caught off guard by an employer call and suddenly be trapped. You answered the phone without looking at the caller ID assuming it was someone else, or you “unlocked” your phone just as they were calling. It is important to know to keep calm. Depending on why they are calling you, they may ask you if this is a good time to talk. A decision has to be made on your part if it truly is a good time to hold a conversation. If you are out and about, no where nearly quiet to talk, or about to parachute from an airplane, you should let the employer know that you cannot talk this very instant and you would like to reschedule. If you do reschedule a talk, make sure you mark it down and are available. Rescheduling again is not an option.

  1. Phone Interview

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A phone interview is a time consuming process. Employers can schedule this in advance (usually in place of an in-person interview). However, every once in a while an employer may call and interview you on the spot. This is highly stressful, and can be viewed by the employer as a “stress test” to see how you respond. Usually they may ask you questions such as “why did you apply for our company” or “tell me about yourself”. It’s important to be aware and prepared for questions like this once you apply for the job. Make sure you get the person’s name, title and contact information for a follow up thank you letter or e-mail. Ask them for their information at the beginning and/or end of the interview.

  1. Job Offer

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When you get the call and it’s a job offer, you will need to instantly be prepared for dialogue with the employer representative. This includes questions about accepting the position, salary negotiations and a start date. Make sure you are in a place to write this information down so you do not forget.

  1. Thank You

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As the conversation ends, ensure you are grateful for the time that was given on your behalf. Always try to get the person’s name whom you spoke with and have it placed somewhere for you to save for the future, especially if it was a phone interview. If you somehow forgot to say thank you, send an e-mail as soon as you get off the phone ensuring that you appreciated the time they took to speak with you.

Dealing with Questions during your Holiday #JobSearch

Searching for your next job is tough.  It can be even harder during the holiday season when you are back and forth to various family get-togethers.  Family and events aside, depending on your industry- this is a great time to not slow down the momentum of applications.  Many companies are still scheduling interviews and hiring at the end of November through late December, so don’t think everyone at your dream organizations are gone on vacation.  Keep at it; make sure your application materials are targeted for the open position and that you still keep in contact with your network (even if it is just to drop them a line wishing them a safe and happy holiday season!)  You may be surprised at the response rate you could receive.

As far as dealing with aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc… Assume that everyone means well, and people may just be asking for small talk’s sake and don’t mean any ill will by it.

Topic Switch

If family asks, “How’s the job search going?” and it is the last thing you want to talk about due to stress, you could just state something polite and noncommittal such as, “I’m still waiting to hear back from a few places, but I also had the best time with (insert hobby, trip, reuniting with an old friend, event here) the other day.”  If a family member is just asking to make small talk, the topic change is up to you.  That way, no one feels uncomfortable and if you’re talking about something you love, it will be an easy transition.

Unemployment statistics and the economy are also quite often topics on the news, so these transitions are especially helpful when you want to de-escalate some of your family members; specifically, the ones that wait for these social functions all year long so they finally have a platform for their offensive political and religious beliefs that are piecemeal of the evening news and sensationalist magazines headlines at the checkout lanes of the local grocery store.  Aunt Ellen getting loud again, polarizing the family with her views?  “Cousin Sarah, this stuffing is delicious!  Tell me the recipe?”

Networking

Some family members believe they know everything about the job market, even though they have never had to conduct a serious job search in the 21st century.  As a job seeker, you know a LOT has changed in the last ten years.  You can’t walk in and shake hands with a complete stranger anymore, and many places tell you that they don’t take phone calls- and reroute you to apply online.  Once online, you have to provide personal details for an hour just to register with the site before you even begin the timed application, from which you may or may not hear back.  Yeah, a lot has changed, to say the least.

Some aspects of job search, however, have not changed.  Networking has been the oldest way to job search and to this day, it is still the most successful.  Networking opportunities amongst family may be a beneficial avenue you have yet to pursue.  Just to clarify, I am not advocating you put your cousin Joe as your professional reference, but perhaps Joe has a friend who has a company that could use someone with your skill set.  Joe could set up the phone interview, and you could take it from there.  The key here is that everyone must know you are looking for a job, and understand what you can offer, because you never know who may know who that can help you find your next position.

Time with Family

Whether you choose to discuss your job search or not, it is entirely up to you and what is comfortable for you.  Family tends to give you the hardest time because if you’re a member of a loving group of people, everyone wants the best for one another.  Take this time to see the people you haven’t seen in far too long, and enjoy the time you get to spend with them.  Remember that whether you choose to discuss your job search or not, you always need to keep a portion of time each week just for yourself and your own rejuvenation.  Staying motivated and on top of your search is admirable, but don’t feel guilty for taking one day off to spend with loved ones.  For that, I hope everyone has a safe, happy, and fun holiday season!

#Interview Success: Align Your #Goal

By George Bernocco, CPRW

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If you want to pass the interview and get the job, it revolves around a simple idea. You were selected to see if you match what the company is looking for. Even though it is considered an “employer market”, it is important for your goals to align with the company’s goals.

Alignment

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Companies want to know if you can do the job, simple enough. The company has goals of their own which usually involve staying in business and getting more business. An employer also wants to know if you mesh with their idea of a perfect candidate. A necessary question you must ask the employer during an interview is:

“What is your idea of a qualified candidate?”

Their response will give you the information required to correctly align yourself as that qualified person. However, it is important for you to know what your plans are if you get hired.

1. Is this job a place you plan on staying for a while?

2. Are you going to be seeking a promotion?

3. What is your ultimate goal when you get within the company walls?

These are questions employers are wondering, even if they do not come out and ask during the interview. The questions they do ask will give them an idea of what your goals are. Assumptions will be made, and it is important for you to either verify or adjust any assumption the employer makes. For example, if you are considered “overqualified” for the position, the assumption might be made that you will not be at the company for long because you may be offered something that better suits your qualifications.

When you identify any incorrect assumptions about your goals, and correct them during the interview, you have aligned your goals with that of the employer. Addressing the issues at hand can be a direct question asked to the employer:

“Is there anything I have mentioned during this interview that concerns you?”

The direct approach can work in your favor, but it is up to you to determine if it is appropriate to ask and to have the courage to ask it. Once you’ve demonstrated that your goals are similar to the employers, you’ve successfully passed the interview. Qualified candidates have the ability to ask questions to the employer during the interview to gauge what they are looking for. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they think about you as it can help you stand out in a positive manner.

Weird Interview Questions

(and what makes them not weird)

By George Bernocco, CPRW

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I was excited, but extremely nervous. I had just graduated, finished working for the school system and I had an interview for a full time position. I remember that my car had to be dropped off in the shop the day before, so I had to get a ride to the interview. I also remember walking in to the building the day of the interview and talking to the secretary. One of the persons interviewing me walked out, greeted me pleasantly and walked me back outside. We went to an adjacent building where his supervisor and he would interview me. I sat down, feeling like I should have a blindfold on and a cigarette in my mouth. I felt as though I was going to be read my last rights. I was gripping my legs to try to work my way through the nervousness.

The interview started, and the questions at the beginning were traditional interview questions; who am I, what can I bring to the organization. The lead supervisor, we’ll say her name is Jessica, was very bubbly. Every answer I gave was followed by her enthusiasm about how good my answer was. The nerves went down as the interview progressed. As I let my guard down, I was suddenly struck with a question from Jessica. The question almost knocked the wind out of me, not because of its content but because of the context. The interview was smooth sailing, and now this? The first thing I said after she asked was “Are you serious?” Jessica very firmly said she was and she was awaiting my answer. I laughed nervously, rummaged through my memory to find the answer and finally came up with something and it was as follows:

A man walks up to a pirate who has a peg for a leg, a hook for a hand and an eye patch. The man asks the pirate: “How did you lose your leg?” The pirate responds: “It was a bad storm out at sea and I fell overboard. A shark attacked me and I was able to fight it off but it took my leg with him.” The man is intrigued and asks: “So how did you lose your hand?” The pirate responds: “We were stranded at sea and my crew started a mutiny. I was able to fight them off but they took my hand with them.” The man is even more amazed and finally asks: “How did you lose your eye?” The pirate responds: “Bird poop.” The man replies: “Bird poop?!?” The pirate answers: “Yes, it was my first day with hook.”

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As I was telling the joke, Jessica and her subordinate laughed. Jessica reported that most people she had asked to tell a joke in the interview usually responded: “I don’t know one.” For me though, the interview continued as normal. I don’t remember too much after the fact, but I did get the call a few weeks later. I started work on my birthday, and worked at the job for over two years before I moved on.

It has always struck me as to why I was asked to tell a joke in the dead center of an interview that otherwise seemed normal. Was Jessica being funny, or malicious? Was it a test in which I passed?  What was the point? As I progressed more into my career of employment services, I soon figured it out. The question was a stress question, probably one of the worst ones I’ve come across just merely by its unexpected nature. Stress questions are designed to throw you off your game, get you out of your element and see how you react.

Interviewers who throw stress questions have read the “Interview Playbook” and know people they interview are going to be expecting the same old questions. They don’t want to see a staged act, they want to see improvisation. They want to know what it’s like when you have to think on your feet, and believe me they are watching you struggle for an answer. The question itself may have very little to do with the job and it’s very hard to prepare for them at the interview. As long as you understand why they are asking the question, you can proceed to the answer and demonstrate (rather than tell) the employer you are able to think on your feet. They are called stress questions for a reason, and they are designed to get your heart racing and lose your momentum.

Some interviewers may want to give you false scenarios in which they assume something on your behalf just to see how you will react and respond. Other interviewers may make false assumptions based on your experience or education, and see how you correct them. Just remember that the idea behind the question is to get you off your interview game. Remember the interview is designed to sell yourself, and it’s almost guaranteed they asked the same or similar questions to everyone they interviewed. As long as you remember why you are perfect for the job, you can move forward with the interview and not be hung up on a question.

Here are some other stress interview questions:

  • If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

  • See this pen I am holding? Sell it to me.

  • What interests you least about this job?

  • Tell me about the last time you made an embarrassing mistake.

  • If you had to fill this room wall to wall with basketballs, how would you do it?

  • How would you react if I said I thought you were giving a poor interview today?

  • Why are manhole covers round?

  • Why did you switch majors from Graphic Design to Computer Engineering? Is it because you found it boring?

  • If your neighbor’s dog was barking at 3am and woke you up, what would you do?

  • How nervous are you during this interview?

Does anyone else have any weird interview questions they’ve experienced? Please share in the comment section.