Interview Tips

A reader writes…

I have an important interview tomorrow for a job I really want to get…. Any final “clues,” Anita?

Dear “Need A Clue,”

Tomorrow’s the big interview, huh? Have you done your homework and researched the company? Are you planning to go to bed early tonight so you feel well rested?

Okay, I know. I’m supposed to be answering the questions, not asking them!

For a slam-dunk interview, let’s get back to basics on general rules of etiquette:

Rule #1: Never slouch in your seat. Sit up straight, and show poise and dignity.
Rule#2: Make eye contact. I know you’re nervous, but looking at the floor is impolite while speaking to someone… anyone. Employers want to know that you’re confident in yourself.
Rule #3: DO NOT chew gum. This is disgusting (and unpleasant to look at in most public situations).
Rule #4: Dress appropriately. Many people dress too casually for interviews. You should wear something professional that gives a good first impression.
Rule #5: LISTEN to the interviewer. We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason! You should do double the listening and keep your mouth shut when appropriate. Employers want good listeners.
Rule #6: Don’t talk too little… or too much.  Prepare answers in advance as best as possible. If you say too little, it will be difficult for the interviewer to get to know you. On the other hand, you don’t want to ramble.
Rule #7: Ask questions. Typically at the end of every interview, you will be asked, “Do you have any questions?” “No” is the WRONG answer. Asking questions shows that you’re interested in the company and have done your homework. That said, do not let the first question out of your mouth be, “How much money will you pay me?” The time for talking about compensation should come later.
Rule #8: No slang
Rule #9: No swearing. Really? Did I have to remind you of that one?

And for heaven’s sake…

Rule #10: No begging. I know you really want the job, but let your skills and qualifications shine through… not your desperation.




Bashful Boss

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,
I am not a very “outgoing” person. In fact, many people consider me to be an introvert. Do you think I can still be a good manager?

Dear, “Bashful Boss,”

This is tricky… and something I’ve never really thought about (being such an outspoken extrovert!) Interestingly enough, I think an introvert can perhaps be the BEST kind of manager. Follow me on this one – people who tend to be more to themselves, or even shy for that matter, are often:

  • Good listeners.
  • Great observers.
  • Extremely detail oriented.

All three traits are essential to managing people and situations.

Now here’s the rub. Are you comfortable (for example) addressing topics in meetings, making decisions, or handling personnel issues? Being a manager is a leadership role that often requires effective communication skills. Let’s face it, you can’t hide in your office with the door closed or rely strictly on email when you’re about to hire or fire someone! On that note (specifically the “firing” part), some aspects of being a manager are not easy for MOST people… shy or not. Letting someone go, resolving conflicts, responding to certain requests, and even interviewing people can feel awkward and uncomfortable. These are responsibilities that take practice and experience no matter who you are.

To be a good manager is to be supportive and a team player. You don’t need to be the corporate clown or the office party planner. In fact, steering clear of these roles may even make you more respected as a manager.

Hey readers, have any of you worked for a really quiet or even shy manager?
Are YOU an introvert in a management role? If so, we’d love to hear from you and your experience.

Listing Pay Rates on Job Applications

A reader writes…

Why do so few job listings show a dollar amount for the pay and show instead DOE? On the apps they ask for a pay expectation in dollar amounts, I can’t respond with DOE. I don’t want to apply for jobs where the income is below my expectations; it wastes my time and the employer’s. I also don’t want to tip my hand and show a lower expected salary on the app to get the job. What do you suggest?
Dear “Kenny Rogers,”

I can’t help it, but when I read your question, all I can hear in my head is the classic 1970s song, “The Gambler” – “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…”

The fact is, companies hesitate to state actual pay rates in job descriptions just like you, as an applicant, want to refrain from listing your expected pay rate in the application.  It’s a complete NUMBERS GAME – a “gamble.” 

Neither party (meaning, you or the company) wants to be the first to reveal dollar amounts.  For job seekers (as you’ve noted in your question), you don’t want to sell yourself short by listing a low rate.  On the other hand, if you state a high salary expectation, you may scare the employer away and miss a perfectly good opportunity.

Believe it or not, companies posting jobs with “DOE” are going through the same thought process.  They don’t want to state a set pay rate (or even pay scale) because they truly may be open to paying a higher amount for qualified candidates that meet or exceed their expectations.  In contrast, they may not be willing to pay the same amount for someone more entry level… but who could still do a good job.

I hate to say it, but these days, it’s definitely an employer’s market.  With so many people looking for work, businesses have the upper hand.  They don’t necessarily have to reveal anything about the pay because they know they’ll still be able to attract plenty of interested candidates.

That means you, as the job seeker, need to be the first to step up to the plate and reveal your “cards” (I’m going back to the Kenny Rogers reference here!)

Here’s a suggestion on how you can do this:


Utilize your cover letter to address the “pay” issue:


Within your cover letter, you can mention that your “expected salary” is what you believe is your market value.  But here’s the key so that you don’t seem inflexible… you should acknowledge the fact that you may not have a complete understanding of all of the functions of the job (which may be valued at a different pay scale). 

To go further, I suggest that you state in your cover letter that you recognize there are various forms of compensation (benefits, exciting company culture, etc.) that may make up for a lower pay level.  Express that you are open to considering these items.  Remember folks, “total comp” can include bonuses, benefits, 401(k) packages, etc. — and is not limited to a base pay rate.

So, before you “know when to walk away… or know when to run,” go along with the game and list your rate.  As the economy improves, things will change, and it will go back to being an employee’s market where YOU will have the upper hand.  Until then, I hope this advice helps!

Hey readers, as fellow job seekers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  What have you done in this situation? 

Managers / Supervisors – I’d love to hear from you too!  Do you agree with me on this one?

Look forward to your comments!

How to Get Hired if You Don’t Have Experience

A reader writes….   In my search for a job, I’ve found that most employers want some sort of work reference or are interested in hearing about my “experience” on the job.  How do you get your foot in the door with a company if you don’t have experience?

Dear “Inexperienced,”

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could be like “Samantha” from the classic TV show Bewitched and simply wriggle your nose and “POOF” all of your problems could be solved?  Unfortunately, in the real world, challenges don’t get resolved like in a 30-minute sitcom. In reality, companies want to see references from past employers, and resumes need to be packed with skills and/or related EXPERIENCE.  Sigh.

For those of you fresh out of college or in the midst of a career change, this becomes an issue.  But fear not my inexperienced friends… there ARE ways to get around this!

1.  What can you do for them.  When composing a cover letter,  writing a resume, or even answering interview questions, it’s important that you highlight your strengths, but rather than emphasizing, “I can do this,” or “I am good at that…” focus on the job itself and how you’re a good match for the COMPANY’S needs.  Remember, as much as we’d like to think businesses “care” about us….  What they really want to know is what you can do for them.  Specifically, if you say something like, “I want to learn” (seems pretty innocent, right?), businesses may shy away from you because they’d rather consider someone who will roll up their sleeves and actively contribute to their goals.  Now, that’s not to say you can’t share that you’re a “fast learner” – just be ready to offer concrete examples.

2. Do your homework. Maybe you haven’t worked in a particular industry (or anywhere for that matter), but you have a solid interest in a certain business niche.  Using today’s social media outlets, there are ample opportunities to get involved with industry experts online.  For example, you’ll find various discussion boards on sites like LinkedIn where you can post comments or articles on a subject.  Contributing constructive content on certain subjects – then sharing that information with a potential employer – shows your passion and interest in what they do. You’re clearly demonstrating that you’ve researched their business (or industry), are well versed on key topics, and can offer input or even solutions… even though you haven’t officially started working in the field yet.  This would be impressive to me if I were doing the hiring!

 3.  Internships. Though sometimes not glamorous and often unpaid… internships or volunteer work in a related field are a great way to build up your resume.  When I was in college, I knew that my minimum wage job at a local restaurant wasn’t going to land me a career right after graduation.  I needed to sign up for as many internships as possible – some even gave me college credit.  From volunteering my time in fast-paced government offices to dreading the long (boring) hours at a small non-profit organization…  I did it and it paid off.  Suddenly, my friends who chose to party every chance they had wished they had something to include in their so-called “resume.” I at least had 3 or 4 “experiences” with references that I could include.

4.  Consider trying out some temp jobs.  More than ever, companies are turning to temporary staffing firms to help them fill their open positions.  In many cases, jobs that start off as “temporary” evolve into full-time permanent placements – what a great way to get your foot in the door at a specific company or in a specific industry! Be warned (but not discouraged) that most temporary staffing agencies ALSO require at least two employment references.  This is where internships, food service jobs, or anything retail plays a key role.  While these positions may or may not be relevant to your ultimate career choice… they are essential indicators of your work ethic and performance on the job.  If you haven’t already,  apply online at Select Staffing – it’s FREE and could be your ticket to employment!

5.  Don’t get caught up in the detail.  Just because a job posting may include a huge laundry list of requirements or desired qulifications, it doesn’t mean the employer expects to find someone who resembles each and every point.  More often than not, a job posting is simply outlining what’s considered to be the “dream candidate” for the position.   Now, if it specifically says, “Must have ‘x’ number of years working in a specific trade or industry,” then the job may not be a good fit for you at this time.  Remember, if you’re starting “fresh” in a new industry or field… you need to be ready to accept an entry-level position.  On the other hand, it’s true that certain “requirements” or skills can be taught – but finding the right personality or behavioral traits is sometimes more important.  People want to work with others they can get along with.

My concluding thoughts:  be honest, stay positive, be resourceful, and DON’T give up!

If anyone has additional comments or suggestions, please post them here.  We’d LOVE to hear from you!



Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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