FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DESK - AN EMPLOYER REVEALS THE SE
I have processed about five thousand job applicants in
the last two years (that's about 7 per day) and I gotta
tell you this - most of them stink !
Not literally of course - but when it comes to methods of
stupidly & unnecessarily blowing a "no-brainer"
interview process to get selected for a "no-brainer" job,
then my cleaning agency has just about seen them all !
DO YOU QUALIFY ?
I really didn't think we were asking too much. Applicants
needed to be able to do housework. They needed a car & a
license to drive it. They needed to read, write & speak
English. Okay, they also needed a resume, but it didn't
have to be full of spectacular cleaning-related careers -
any kind of checkable work history was fine.
Likewise, the application procedure was also (we
believed) not too demanding. The applicant telephones us.
We have a chat to them about the job requirements and ask
them if they fit the above qualifications. We ask them to
make copies of their resume & references and then we
schedule them for an interview in about 3 - 6 days. We
interview them for about 40 minutes (though about 30
minutes of that is us doing the talking - a fierce
interrogation it ain't). Within a day or two we start
giving them cleaning jobs. Fairly simple, we thought.
Unfortunately for my agency's collective sanity, most of
the job applicant population saw it differently.
To start with the most basic of errors we encountered,
quite a number of people making the initial phone call
didn't have a driver's licence, despite our job
advertisements clearly stating this requirement. Or if
they did have a licence, they didn't have a car. Or if
they did have a car, it wasn't actually theirs and they
have to share it with several other people. Or if they
did actually own the car, it was broken down & was
undergoing lengthy and extensive repairs.
Still, this major obstacle was attacked with
determination by almost all car-less applicants. It
usually went something along the lines of "But my husband
can drive me" or "I can take public transport" or "I can
ride my bicycle".
What a revelation ! Now why didn't WE think of that ?
These applicants are sitting there thinking "This
employer has only paid out good money to insert 'CAR &
LICENSE ESSENTIAL' in huge letters in the job
advertisement because I was not around at the time to
point out other possibilities"
Hint for jobseekers (1) - If a job advertisement
specifies a requirement, and you do not have that
requirement, DON'T bother applying for that job, EVEN IF
you think you have an alternative that the employer
hasn't thought of yet. It's a bit like a prospective
surgeon saying that he's hopeless with a scalpel, but is
VERY handy with a butter-knife.
Still at the initial phone-call stage, another
fundamental error is not allowing the employer to do his
spiel. You are not the only person ringing up about the
position. You are more likely to be the 75th person, so
please assume that the employer has his routine all
worked out. He does NOT need prompting to fill you in on
all the details - he knows what you need to know and he
will tell you in his own good time.
The correct time to ask questions is when he finishes
explaining what the job is about & what the application
procedure is and when he finishes asking YOU questions.
Hint for jobseekers (2) - Let the employer talk. Do not
interrupt. Taking over a conversation and putting your
potential boss on the back foot is not going make a good
DON'T GET LOST
Okay, so about 25% of people make it through the
gruelling 2 minute phone interview and are then scheduled
for a "real" interview.
To deal with the simplest situation first, approximately
50% to 80% of these applicants do not show up at the
appointed time and are never heard from again. While it's
annoying, and as employer I never really get used to the
fact that people go to a lot of trouble to apply for jobs
they don't actually want, at least that person is out of
the way and we can concentrate instead on the serious
But it's not that simple. There are a number of
variations on the "not showing up" trick that conspire to
further annoy & waste the valuable time of the
For example, those people who have had 5 days notice of
the interview, but neglect to look up the actual location
of the interview until they are hopelessly lost in a
neighboring suburb with only 2 minutes to go. They ring
up from a phone box asking for directions. They
invariably arrive at the interview flustered & late.
Hint for jobseekers (3) - Make sure you know exactly
where the interview is being held. If you don't know, do
a practise run the day before.
DON'T BE LATE
Even worse than the people who get lost (who at least
deserve a tiny amount of sympathy) are those who turn up
20 - 40 minutes late for no apparent good reason.
"Oh hi, I'm here for the interview"
"Which interview, the 3 o'clock or the 4 o'clock ?"
"The 3 o'clock. I'm a bit late"
This type of applicant doesn't see a problem with being
late, probably because it's not a problem for THEM.
However an applicant needs to understand that businesses
are constantly running to deadlines, and punctuality is
vital. If we sit around waiting for a late applicant and
start an interview later than planned, it means the NEXT
interview is going to be delayed and, more importantly,
whatever I had planned for AFTER the interviews is going
to be delayed, and possibly even postponed until the next
Hint for jobseekers (4). Time is money. Don't be late for
an interview. No matter how dazzling you may be in the
interview, the main thing the employer will remember the
next day is that you were late, and therefore probably
ONLY APPLY ONCE
Then there are what we term the "serial-applicants".
These people are constantly applying for jobs over an
extended period of time, to the extent that they actually
apply to us more than once, perhaps several months apart.
Here at the agency, we sometimes collectively shake our
heads at the nerve of these people who fail to show up
for a scheduled interview, and then a couple of months
later apply again, expecting us to welcome them with open
Hint for jobseekers (5) - If you apply for a job and
don't get it, don't apply for exactly the same job later
on. They don't want you.
DON'T BRING THE FAMILY
So let's suppose an applicant makes it through the
complicated business of turning up on time.
Question - What else could go wrong or annoy the employer
before the interview actually begins ?
Answer - A couple of things that happen more often than
you might expect. Applicants turning up with one or more
relatives expecting to also participate in the interview
are a classic.
Hint for jobseekers (6) - If you are not brave enough to
face an interview by yourself, employers will not respect
you. The WORST thing to do is bring your mother. This
basically proves that you should be back in school.
IF YOU ARE A SPECIAL CASE, SAY SOMETHING
One other thing on a rather more touchy subject are the
problems associated with scheduling Islamic ladies for
interviews. Arriving fully-masked except for their eyes,
their religion does not permit them to be alone in a room
with a man. But of course they only tell me this AFTER
THEY ARRIVE. So if my (female) business partner is not
available at short-notice to take over the interview,
then we have no choice but to send the lady home. Her
time is wasted and so is ours.
And it's not quite as simple as just asking someone on
the phone what religion they are. There are different
degrees of Islam, and many such ladies do not have a
problem with showing their face or being alone in a room
with someone who happens to be a man.
Of course, there's also the legal aspect. Businesses
these days must be VERY careful about exposing themselves
to the threat of court action from an irate applicant. If
we asked someone what their religion was, and then later
on did not give that person a job for whatever reason,
there is nothing to stop that person getting up in court
& proclaiming that we rejected them solely due to
religious discrimination. So we don't ask.
And for similar legal reasons, when any regular applicant
asks us why they haven't been given any work, we do not
give them any ammunition that could later be used against
us in court. Instead of saying the truth like, "We think
your phone manner is awful and university students are
usually completely hopeless at housework anyway", we
would say something safe like, "We had 87 people applying
for only 2 positions, so unfortunately someone had to
miss out. I'm so sorry. I can give you the number of
another agency who may be able to help ..."
Hint for jobseekers (7) - If you have religious or moral
objections to any aspect of a normal job interview
process, tell the employer on the phone beforehand. Don't
just spring it on them when you arrive.
DON'T INVENT QUALIFICATIONS
So the applicant is finally through the door and getting
comfortable in our big lounge-type interview chairs.
Some people don't even get through the first minute and
here's why - they don't possess the documentation or
qualifications that they said they had on the phone.
For example "To start, could I just have your driver's
license please ?"
"I don't have my license"
"But I asked you on the phone if you had a car & license
and you said 'yes' "
"I'm having lessons. I'll have it soon."
"When ? When are you going for your test ?"
"Have you set a date"
"No date. Soon."
"Give us a call when you actually get your license.
Good-bye. I'll show you out."
Or this, "Could I just have your resume and references
"I don't have a resume"
"But I asked you on the phone if you had a resume and you
said 'yes' ".
"I haven't worked before ....".
You get the picture by now I'm sure.
Hint for jobseekers (8)- Don't pretend to have
qualifications that you don't actually have.
SAY YOU'LL NEVER LEAVE
In the 21st Century, applying for a job without a resume
is a waste of time. You will not be accepted. Whether you
think it is fair or not to have your life story reduced
to a few lines on a page is completely irrelevant. With
large numbers of applicants competing for small numbers
of vacancies, an employer has no choice but to filter out
many applicants in the most efficient way possible.
When an applicant hands over their resume to me, I go to
an adjoining room to read it over while they fill out the
The first thing I look for is the authenticity of the
references. Sometimes references are handwritten, and it
has happened on occasion that I begin to suspect they
are all written by the same person. Similar handwriting,
similar paper, similar format, similar spelling mistakes,
sentence construction & grammar.
Most resume templates have a space for "Career Objectives". I
received a resume today from a gentleman whose objective was "To
make use of extensive experience in stores, logistics and
warehouse operations ....". Well that's all very admirable, but
not much use for housework. Not until people start buying
forklifts to tidy up the house. Jobseekers should try making
just a little bit of effort to customise their career objectives
to fit the job they are applying for. Employers only care about
your ambitions if they contribute to their own.
While I initially assume that all jobs listed in the
resume are genuine, I am not impressed by people who have
four, five or six pages full of jobs they have done in
the past few years. I think our record here is a 12 page
resume. It was spectacular & impressive, but the person
didn't get the job because it was quite obvious they were
a job-hopper. They kept moving their place of residence
and frequently went on big holidays. So why would I hire
someone who clearly isn't interested in staying in a job
for any length of time ?
Hint for jobseekers (9) - Don't proudly announce in your
resume that you can't hold a job. Don't fake references.
YOU MUST ACTUALLY WORK
Of the few people who manage to make it all the way
through an interview at our cleaning agency, some still
find further ways to stumble.
Within a day or two, successful applicants are given
their first cleaning assignment. A small percentage will
accept the job, ring the client to confirm they will be
coming and then on the day, simply not show up. They then
refuse to answer their phones for several days.
To this day I wonder why some applicants go through the
whole process - and I acknowledge that applying for a job
is not the easiest thing in the world - only to give up &
disappear just as the money is about to start rolling in.
Final hint for jobseekers - When someone offers you a
job - take it.
About the Author
Darren Robinson - firstname.lastname@example.org
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