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Career-Life Times, Issue #22 -- Important Tips for Internal Candidates
Issue No. 22, Nov. 11, 2005

"Get Hired - Get Noticed - Get Ahead"

Dear Readers,

Greetings, and welcome to the latest issue of CAREER-LIFE TIMES! Thank you for subscribing! I hope you find this little publication to be informative, useful and entertaining.

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In This Issue:

  • Important Tips for Internal Candidates
  • The Salary Survey: A Blessing or a Curse?
  • Holiday Season: More Opportunities for Savvy Job Seekers!
  • Resources
  • Worth Quoting
  • Just for Laughs
  • Random Rants & Ramblings

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    Important Tips for Internal Candidates

    We recently had an opening in our department for an administrative assistant. Though not part of the formal hiring or decision-making process (that was up to my boss), my three co-workers and I participated in informal "get to know the team" interviews with the six finalists (from more than 150 applicants). Four of those were internal candidates already working for our agency in other departments.

    We asked each candidate the same four questions, which were:

  • Why do you want to join our team?

  • How would you help our team to maintain or exceed our current level of quality service?

  • How do you respond to criticism -- constructive and otherwise?

  • Do you have any questions for us?

    Don't Get Too Comfortable

    One thing I noticed right away was that some of the internal candidates were a bit too honest. Maybe it was because they felt so comfortable with us. Instead of carefully considering their answers, as the external candidates did, three of the four internal candidates often just said the first things that popped into their head.

    Here are some of the poor answers that helped rule three of the four internal candidates out as serious contenders for this position:

  • "I'm really bored in my job and am looking for a change." This is NOT a good reason for wanting to join a new team! Besides offering nothing positive about yourself or the team you wish to join, this type of answer may make the interviewers wonder if: (1) you'll become bored with the new position and want to leave soon; (2) you are unable or unwilling to find useful things to do on your own if the workload slows down; (3) you care more about your personal gratification than helping your team or organization.

  • "No one likes to be criticized. When I'm criticized, I consider the source, and most of the time I just ignore it." This may make the interviewers wonder if: (1) you are not open to advice and suggestions for improvement; (2) you take constructive criticism personally, and are a bit defensive and/or egotistical; (3) you're not much of a team player.

  • "I'm always looking for things to do and organize..." (this was good; she should've stopped there) "... I'm a mother hen." This may make the interviewers wonder if: (1) you'll be 'mothering' them (they don't need a mother, they need a teammate and co-worker); (2) you'll be condescending; (3) you'll make them clean up their rooms! :-)

  • "No, I don't have any questions." This may make the interviewers wonder if: (1) you aren't very interested in the position; (2) you have little imagination or curiosity; (3) you didn't do your homework.

    After these interviews and conferring with our boss, the competition was narrowed down to two finalists -- one internal candidate and one external.

    The internal candidate had clearly superior qualifications, including very specific experience of the type needed for the position. And, of course, she was familiar with the organization and knew the employees she'd be working with, if selected.

    So why wasn't she immediately chosen for the job? In a word, personality.

    Let Your Personality Show

    The top external candidate demonstrated an outgoing, friendly and enthusiastic attitude -- as well as a wonderful sense of humor. She smiled genuinely and constantly, she used our names when talking to us, she shared a couple of funny (but relevant) stories that made us all laugh.

    When interviewing (whether for an internal or external position), you need to be prepared, score well on the tests, and get the interviewers to think "This person really knows her stuff and will do a great job."

    But just as importantly, you also want them to think "I'd really enjoy working with this person!" You certainly do not want to be cracking jokes at an interview, but you do want to show that you'll be a pleasant -- not just competent -- addition to the team.

    The internal candidate does have a nice personality and sense of humor, too. But she didn't let this show very much during the interview. If we hadn't already known her, we'd have had no clue about the type of co-worker she'd be.

    Realize that Little Things Count

    In the end, the internal candidate was chosen. Here are some of the little things that helped her win the job:

  • She had volunteered to help our team in the past -- well before there was any indication of this position opening up.

  • She sent a personal thank-you note to each person who participated in the interviews. No other candidate did this.

  • She didn't use her internal candidate advantage of seeing us virtually every day to "hound us" about the status of the opening.

  • She'd made sure her references were ready, willing and able to give her rave reviews.

    Earn it

    In summary, while many organizations prefer to "promote from within," very few will hire anyone other than the top candidate -- whether internal or not. So while it's still true that in many cases an internal candidate may have a slight advantage, it's certainly no guarantee of selection. You must earn it.

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    The Salary Survey: A Blessing or a Curse?

    The salary survey. Employees usually get excited when they find out their organization will be conducting one. Visions of pay raises start dancing in their heads. But what seems like a wonderful thing can quickly turn into a nightmare... for the employees and the organization.

    If you've never experienced a salary survey before, here's a simplified explanation of how it typically works: A number of positions are chosen by your organization to be compared to similar positions at other organizations, usually in the same geographic area. If most of the comparable positions have higher salaries, your organization may increase the salaries of its positions. If comparable positions have lower salaries, no adjustments will be made (so there's no chance of a decrease in salary).

    Sounds nice and simple, right? What could go wrong? Let's see...

    No comparables equals no adjustment. Suppose you were hired as a graphic designer 3 years ago. During those 3 years, you expanded your duties, voluntarily taking on more responsibilities -- such as becoming the webmaster for your organization's new website and editor of the employee newsletter. Suppose that, before the salary survey, you are given the opportunity to request that your position description be modified to more accurately reflect what you are now doing. Seems good, right? It could be the worst thing you can do! Why? Because unique, "customized" job descriptions cannot be compared. If the agencies chosen for comparisons don't have a position that combines graphic design, webmaster and editor duties, your position has nothing to be compared to, and is thus eliminated from the survey and a shot at a raise.

    High expectations equal disappointment and anger. Let's face it, most of us feel we are underpaid. So when a salary survey is announced, many employees (especially those who have done no salary research on their own) feel the resulting information will validate that they are owed, and will receive, a long-overdue raise. If the salary survey data shows that their current salary is equal to or above those of the comparable positions, no such raise will be forthcoming. Instead of feeling satisfied that their company is paying them a fair wage, many employees become disappointed and angry at this result and suspect the survey was somehow "rigged."

    Disappointment equals lower morale; lower morale equals lower productivity. Employees whose positions are not included in the survey, eliminated from the survey due to lack of comparables, or found to be not deserving of a raise will be highly disappointed. They may feel that management didn't "try hard enough" to find justification to raise salaries. Some may even become resentful of employees who do receive a raise because of the survey. A negative "us versus them" environment with employees blaming management for the disappointing survey results may ensue. Morale may plummet, and along with it, job performance and overall productivity. The resulting situation can leave the employees, management, and the entire organization in a much worse position than if the salary survey had never been conducted!

    What's the answer? Education, preparation and realistic expectations.

    Salary surveys can be beneficial, if the above circumstances are considered and prevented. Done properly, salary surveys can ensure equitable consideration of employee pay... so the salaries do not depend on the department manager's desire and ability (or lack thereof) to advocate on their employees' behalf.

    Advance planning, clear communication, and consideration of all variables, results, and consequences are needed for a salary survey to be successful .

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    Holiday Season: More Opportunities for Savvy Job Seekers

    Are you thinking of slowing down or stopping your job search activities during the holiday season? Many job seekers do. Which means better opportunities for those who do not.

    Here's why:

  • Less competition! Jobs don't disappear during the holidays, but many job seekers do. Whether it's due to family vacations or just an attitude of "I'll relax a bit now, then double my efforts after the New Year begins," fewer people will be competing for your dream job this time of year.

  • New openings! Many companies interview during November and December for new positions starting at the first of the year. The hiring managers are eager to find people who will help them get off to a great start in 2006.

  • More networking opportunities! Tis the season for parties, socializing, card-sending... networking! Attend as many events as you can, and let people (even your relatives) know you're interested in finding new opportunities. Send holiday cards to people you've recently interviewed with -- even those who chose another candidate. You never know when some other opportunity might pop up and your name will pop into their head!

  • Seasonal work! Temporary, seasonal work opportunities increase during the holidays, when year-end workloads increase and regular employees disappear on vacation. If you're between jobs, taking temporary work can help you make ends meet. Make a great impression as a temporary worker, and you'll have an advantage if a full-time position becomes available down the road!

    So do the opposite of what most job seekers do during the holiday season -- work doubly hard, and reap the rewards!

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    Tons of Free, Informative Articles. If you haven't visited my website's article directory in a while, you should. I've been adding articles like crazy, and have organized them into categories so it's much easier to find articles on topics that interest you. Take a look by clicking on: Articles.

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    Worth Quoting

    "When I was a young man, I observed that
    nine out of ten things I did were failures.
    I didn't want to be a failure,
    so I did ten times more work."
    (George Bernard Shaw)

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    Just for Laughs

    For some Thanksgiving fun, click on this link (turn up your speakers): Thanksgiving Fun

    "Dilbertesque" Quotes

    These are supposedly genuine examples of corporate communication.

    If you have similarly ridiculous and funny examples from where you work, let me know and I'll share them with our readers!

    1. "As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks."

    2. "What I need is an exact list of specific unknown problems we might encounter."

    3. "E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business."

    4. "This project is so important, we can't let things that are more important interfere with it.

    5. "Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule."

    6. "No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We've been working on it for months. Now, go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you know when it's time to tell them."

    7. "Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say."

    9. "We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees."

    10. "If I wanted it tomorrow, I would have waited until tomorrow to ask for it!"

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    Random Rants & Ramblings

    Happy Veterans Day. My warmest wishes and heartfelt thanks go out to my dad, my ex-husband, and all other Veterans who honorably served their country!

    Holiday Season Silliness. I was doing some grocery shopping yesterday. Guess what I found in the bakery? Christmas cookies! Freshly baked, decorated in holiday colors, very pretty -- but who buys Christmas cookies 45 days before Christmas?!? The local hardware store has been displaying Christmas trees and other decorations since mid-October! And, of course, TV commercials hyping the latest and greatest holiday gifts have been airing since Labor Day. It's bad enough that I can't use the word "Christmas" in the employee newsletter at work (so as not to offend non-Christians). But do I have to be made sick of the holiday long before it arrives by all the overly eager retailers? It used to be the most wonderful time of the year. Now it's just the longest.

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    So, what did you think of this issue? Any suggestions? Topic ideas? Questions? I really appreciate your feedback. Please send me a note at

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    Vacaville, CA 95687

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