In this issue, we are focusing on advice from human resource professionals about applying for jobs and interviewing. Hopefully these answers will help you have an better idea about your next steps!
Thanks to the HR professionals who took time to answer questions for us!
Is it true that you are more likely to review a resume with a more common name, like James or Laura, than you would with a unique name, like Muhammad or Pachia?
Lori: No, I do not believe that is true for HR professionals. My interest is in the experience and education sections to compare with our requirements for the position.
Maria: Discrimination is illegal. PERIOD. If you feel you’re being discriminated against due to any protected legal status, you should contact the jurisdiction responsible for human rights in your area (in Minnesota, that’s the Minnesota Department of Human Rights). That being said, I’ve participated in groups with HR leaders who feel awkward about contacting people whose names they can’t pronounce, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it impacts who they call. That is unacceptable, but the reality is that it happens. My advice about this is that if you have a name that’s difficult to pronounce, consider including the phonetic spelling on your resume (for example: “pronounced mah-REE-uh”). If you have a nickname that you go by that is easier to pronounce, consider including that on your resume, but only if you’re okay going by that name professionally (for example: “Maria ‘Mia’ Cote”). Finally, when you’re applying for jobs and might be getting calls from employers, or have a scheduled phone interview, make sure you answer your phone by saying your name clearly (for example: “Hello, this is Maria”). That gives the employer the chance to hear you pronounce your name, and then they can repeat it back to you. Make sure your voicemail message also includes you saying your name clearly.
What are you generally looking for in a cover letter?
Maria: More than anything, I want to see that a candidate has a good understanding of the company and role they’re applying for. The number one way to ensure that your resume doesn’t make it past the screening phase is to fail to do a cover letter when it’s asked for, or to send a form letter that is clearly applicable to any role or company. Job seeking can be very stressful, but the best thing you can do is take your time. Research the companies and roles that you’re really interested in and then tailor your cover letter and resume to that company and the specific job you’re after. What are the company’s mission and values? Why does that make you want to work there? Highlight the skills and experiences that are directly related to the job posting. Look at the top three essential functions of the role and make sure you touch on what experience or skills you have that will help you execute them.
Linda: Highlight your experience, why you are a good match for the position and why the position is of interest to you.
During an interview, when they ask, “Why are you looking for a new job?” can you answer honestly with the fact that you do not like your boss?
Lori: You can answer with that fact, yet if you have a positive to expand with, I would suggest adding it to the answer. Such as, “I don’t like my boss and I would like an opportunity where I can learn a new skill, expand my knowledge, gain more experience, have a shorter commute, work more hours, be part of a collaborative work environment, change industries, etc.”
Is it a red flag if I answer “no” when the application asks if they can contact my past/current employer? Will it prohibit my application from moving forward?
Lori: No. A lot of people don’t want their current employer to know they are looking for a new opportunity, so this scenario isn’t alarming. However, the past employer scenario may cause me to wonder. Yet, I am only looking for basic information from previous or current employers, such as the job title/responsibilities and dates of employment, so it wouldn’t stop me from moving forward.
When submitting an online application, can I copy and paste from my resume?
Lori: I think you can copy and paste if the formatting matches and the resume is substantial. If any of those are questionable, then I would manually enter in the fields.
What is the best way to let your supervisor know that you are bored at your job or that you have run out of things to do?
Maria: Be honest. “I have found myself with some extra time on my hands, and was wondering if there is a project you need help with,” or “I’m really interested in learning more about X. Is there a way I can get involved?” or (and this is probably best) “I have an idea for how to improve X. Would it be okay for me to put something together to run past you?” I would 100% prefer that someone be honest about their capacity than quietly sit around waiting for something to do.
Linda: Have a conversation with your supervisor and let them know that you have learned all you can to be successful in your position. Let them know that you would love to expand your training and responsibilities.
Are you more likely to review an application/resume if it was submitted earlier in the hiring process than closer to the deadline?
Maria: I review applications as they come in and in the order of when they come in. So, in my case, it really depends on the quality of applicants I’ve been seeing. If it’s a pretty competitive pool, chances are that applications that come in later will have less of a shot because I’ve already found good candidates to push forward in the selection process. Other companies have an application deadline, and once that deadline passes they review all the applications that have come in. As an applicant, you probably don’t know which it is, so my general advice is that you should check job boards frequently. Sign up to receive updates from companies or job boards you’re really interested in, and don’t wait too long to apply.
What is the best way to negotiate PTO or salary?
Maria: First, do your research. Glassdoor and Salary.com can be helpful in giving you data about general salary ranges, but make sure you’re being realistic. The hiring company will make you an offer based directly on your years of professional experience in the role you’re applying for. Don’t ask for $75,000 for a job that should pay closer to $45,000. Second, don’t be afraid to ask, but be ready to hear no. When you’ve received your offer, say thank you and that you’re excited about the possibility of working at the company. Then simply ask if there is room for negotiation. Some companies might have the flexibility to grant additional PTO or a bigger health savings account (HSA) contribution in lieu of a higher salary, but others may not. If you are requesting a higher salary, be ready to say why you believe you deserve one. For example: “Based on my research, the average starting salary for a position in this industry is $X. Would you be willing to consider revising the offer to match that amount?” or “In my current role, I’m making $X. In order to make a move, I’d like to see a salary closer to $X. Is that something you can accommodate?” I’ll offer another piece of advice which is, if you’ve got an offer you’re happy with for a job that you’re really excited about, there’s nothing wrong with accepting it. Particularly in this market, companies need you, so if you’re at an offer stage, chances are that they’re doing the best they can to ensure that you say yes. But if you’re not sure, or if you really do need more, ask for it.