|Back to Back Issues Page|
Career-Life Times, Issue #3 -- Inappropriate Questions, Lies & More!
April 10, 2004
If you're curious about inappropriate ways people ask AND answer questions, I think you'll like this issue! As usual, it's kind of long (if you think it's TOO long, please let me know). I hope you find the content useful and worth the time it takes to read it!
Oh, one more thing... if your name isn't capitalized or spelled correctly above, it's because that's how you entered it when you subscribed to this newsletter. I'd fix it if I could, but the program I'm using doesn't allow it (silly program)!
Welcome to the third issue of CAREER-LIFE TIMES! I hope you find it to be informative, useful and entertaining!
If you don't like it, there's an unsubscribe link at the end. But instead of doing that, please tell me how I can make it better! My email address is at the end. I greatly value your ideas and suggestions. After all, this newsletter is FOR YOU.
First off, I'd like to thank everyone who responded to my offer in the last issue by giving me some fantastic suggestions for the Interview Guide I'm developing. I'm sure it will be an incredibly helpful resource for job seekers, thanks to your contributions. I'll be sending a free copy of the Guide to everyone who provided input, as soon as it's ready.
By the way, have you heard the job news? Is it good or bad? It could certainly be better, but at least the job numbers are up rather than down.
According to G.W.: "The economy is growing and people are finding work. Today, the statistics show that we added 308,000 new jobs for the month of March. We've added 759,000 jobs since August. This economy is strong, it is getting stronger. You can understand why I'm optimistic when I cite these statistics because I remember what we have been through. We're getting better, and that's important." (President George W. Bush)
* 17 Surefire Ways to Annoy Potential Employers
Despite the President's words, the job market still sucks. There are many more job seekers than job openings, so do NOT make things harder on yourself by doing any of the things on this list! Never, ever do these!
1. Apply for jobs you are not qualified for.
2. Send a generic cover letter that doesn't identify the position you're interested in, or match your qualifications to the job.
3. Put a useless, seen-it-a-million-times Objective on your resume that says you want a "challenging opportunity with a forward-looking company where I can utilize my knowledge, experience and skills to our mutual advantage."
4. Make your resume a list of past duties instead of accomplishments.
5. Lie, brag or exaggerate about ANYTHING.
6. Keep making repetitive "notice-me" calls to ask if your resume was received.
7. Fail to respond quickly to messages left on your answering machine or voicemail.
8. Expect them to schedule your phone-screening interview after normal business hours.
9. Refuse to give your salary requirements when requested prior to the interview.
10. Fail to research the company prior to the interview.
11. Arrive at the interview late.
12. Be rude to the receptionist.
13. Put "See attached resume" instead of filling out the application completely.
14. Be unprepared at the interview.
15. Ask "What's in it for ME?" type questions at the interview.
16. Fail to send a thank-you letter after the interview.
17. Call to ask about the status of the position days before when you were told they'd make a decision.
(How to Respond to Illegal/Inappropriate Questions)
I received the following request from a visitor to my website recently: "How should I respond to inappropriate questions such as: (1) Do you have a stable home life? (2) Tell me about your personal situation. Are these inappropriate questions? It has been so long since I interviewed for a job, your suggestions about the most helpful responses would be appreciated!"
Those are, indeed, inappropriate questions that should not be asked at an interview.
Various federal, state, and local laws regulate the questions a prospective employer can ask you. An employer's questions — on the job application, in the interview, or during the testing process — must be related to the job for which you are applying.
That does not mean, however, that you will never be asked inappropriate or illegal questions. Some companies have poor HR support, some interviewers are untrained and unaware of inappropriate or illegal questions, and some even ask them knowing they should not.
You won't have much chance of getting the job if you respond to such questions by saying, "Hey, that's an inappropriate question. You can't ask me that!"
So you have a few options. First, you can answer the question. Even if it's illegal to ask, it is NOT illegal to answer. If you choose to do so, realize that you are giving information that is not job-related. You could harm your chances by giving the "wrong" answer.
Or you could respond with something like, "How would my answer to that question directly relate to my ability to perform in this position?" If you keep your tone non-confrontational, courteous and upbeat, they may realize they've goofed by asking such a question without getting upset at you for pointing out their mistake. Depending on how they respond, you may feel more comfortable answering.
The best strategy, I believe, is to figure out and address their TRUE CONCERN. When they ask something like, "Do you have a stable personal life?" they may be trying to protect themselves from a bad situation that they've had to deal with in the past (former employee whose personal problems interfered with his/her ability to do the job). So what they really want to know is, will YOU be a reliable employee who can be counted upon to show up and do your job effectively, regardless of any personal problems you may have.
So without directly answering their question, try to address their underlying concern. In this instance you might say, "My career is very important to me. I'm fully committed to performing at my highest level at all times, and don't allow any kind of distractions to interfere with that. I'll deliver the results you're looking for."
If you're not sure what their true concern is, ask something like "Could you please rephrase or elaborate on your question? I want to make sure I address your concern."
Please realize that many interviewers are untrained and therefore unaware that a question they might ask to break the ice -- such as "Do you have any kids?" -- is inappropriate. Yes, this question may be an attempt to determine if you have child-care issues that could interfere with your job... but it's MORE likely that the interviewer is innocently trying to find something he/she has in common with you.
In the end, it's basically a judgment call on your part. If you feel the interviewer has no legitimate reason to ask an inappropriate question, and you do not want to answer it, say "I'm sorry, but I don't see how that has any relevance to my ability to do this job." You might run the risk of losing the job, but if your gut instinct is telling you there's something amiss, you wouldn't want to work for that person anyway.
Here's a list of some questions -- the wrong way, and the right way, to obtain legitimate information:
Illegal: Are you a U.S. citizen? Legal: Are you authorized to work in the United States?
Illegal: How old are you? Legal: Are you over the age of 18?
Illegal: What's your marital status? Do you have children? Legal: Would you be able and willing to work overtime as necessary?
Illegal: How much do you weigh? Do you have any disabilities? Legal: Are you able to perform the physical duties required in this job, with or without reasonable accommodations?
Illegal: Have you ever been arrested? Legal: Have you ever been convicted of _____? (The crime should be reasonably related to the performance of the job in question.)
If only there were no questions involved in getting a job!
If you've been following NBC's "The Apprentice," you know who Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth is. She's had the honor of being fired by Donald Trump (and others, according to "People" magazine). A while back, Omarosa claimed that one of the other contestants made a racial slur against her. According to website opinion polls, only 10% of viewers believe Omarosa's claim; 90% think she's lying. These poll results were showing BEFORE viewers of the April 15th episode saw Omarosa lie to members of her team, including her "boss." It wasn't a little white lie, it was a biggy. And it had nothing to do with trying to win the game, because she'd already been fired from the competition. I won't go into the details... talking about Omarosa could keep me busy for about 50 pages.
I believe that, despite Omarosa's obvious intelligence, talent and skills, her decision to tell lies rather than take responsibility for her actions (or inactions) is going to ruin her career. It's a real shame, because she has so much going for her. But her lying will be her undoing. And when she fails, she's going to blame others. She reminds me of... uh-oh, I'm starting to get off on a tangent. Back to my point... don't lie to employers... or potential employers!
Telling a little white lie when you "call in sick," is one thing. Lying about your qualifications on your resume or during a job interview is quite another... do not do this, no matter how tempted you are! It will come back to haunt you!
When you've been struggling to find a new job, have you ever thought about:
- Putting a friend's name as your previous boss on the application?
Maybe the company in question is trusting, understaffed, or lazy and won't do a background check. But are you willing to bet your career on that?
In this fiercely competitive job market, the temptation to lie in order to boost your chances of getting a job can be pretty strong. But BECAUSE the job market is so tough, employers are getting tough, as well. Very few are now taking resumes and applications at face value. Trust is nice, but when it comes to their hard-won personnel budget, ever-increasing demands for better customer service, and their sometimes-fragile reputations, companies are taking no chances with the people they hire.
No matter how desperate you are for work, lying is a bad idea.
Most employers will check your references (carefully), do a thorough background check, and find out about your "inaccuracies."
Let's say you "exaggerate" your qualifications on your resume. The employer is impressed and calls you in for an interview. She asks about your qualifications, and you must lie to back up your resume claims. She falls for it, fails to verify your references or background, and hires you. Can you breathe a big sigh of relief? Nope. Now you have to back up your claims with your job performance. If you start to struggle, chances are good that you'll start to lie again. Eventually people will get suspicious, and the background check will finally be done. You are busted!
But the sad story doesn't end there. You lose your job and vow to never lie again. You correct your resume... but wait... what about that job you were just fired from? It only lasted a few months... would leaving it off be lying? If you leave it off and are asked during an interview about that employment gap, what would you say? So you decide to include it on your resume. Then you're asked in the interview why you left your previous job. Oh no! You tell them you left because it wasn't the right fit. This company does check you out, and get the truth from your previous employer. Now they know you were fired. But worse, they know you lied about it. There go your chances for THAT job.
See the nasty snowball effect that lying can cause? Don't do it!
Despite what some job seekers think, it is not illegal for former employers to tell references checkers that you were fired. They can say anything they want as long as it's true. But many companies do have policies that limit what they will reveal about past employees. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
I was watching an episode of CBS's "60 Minutes" recently (hmmm, maybe I watch too much TV; no wait, this is "research," so it's OK). They had a shocking story about a male hospital worker who is suspected of killing more than 40 patients in several different hospitals during the past decade. He pleaded guilty to two of the murders.
That is very disturbing by itself... but what makes this story so incredibly worse is that his employers unwittingly helped him do it! This guy had been fired many times for a variety of reasons -- hoarding potentially harmful drugs, illegally administering unprescribed treatments, being negligent with patients -- and other alarming actions. He'd even been convicted of something (I can't recall the charge).
Yet he never had a problem getting another job at another hospital. Why? Because his former employers all had policies that prevented them from providing any information about past employees other than job titles and dates of employment.
Apparently the hospital's lawyers were trying to protect them from lawsuits that could possibly result if something negative (and not proven as fact) was said about a past employee which prevented that employee from obtaining another job.
So even though references were checked, they revealed nothing about this criminal's activities. And he was passed along from one hospital to the next, allegedly killing patients in each one until he was finally caught.
This is a very extreme example of how such personnel policies are, in my opinion, doing more harm than good. This sword cuts both ways, after all. If you've done a truly exceptional job for your past employer, wouldn't you want that employer to be free to confirm your glowing accomplishments during a reference check?
Things are changing, thank goodness. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, employers are conducting more criminal checks than ever before. The need to provide a safe workplace is helping to drive this increase. Plus companies that were once worried about being sued by a former employee over a bad reference are now more concerned about being sued by an employer who wasn't warned about a bad employee.
Regardless of the threat of lawsuits (don't get me started on that), the bottom line for job seekers is that you should not assume your former employer will only provide your dates of employment and job title. If you were fired, it may be revealed. If you were an outstanding employee, it may be revealed.
If you're unsure of what your past employer's policy is, call them and find out. It's a good thing to know!
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, March had the largest gain in hiring in nearly four years. But there are still about 8 million Americans without jobs, and almost 23% of those have been unemployed for six months or more.
Many of those who are unemployed were laid off, terminated, downsized or let go ("fired") through no fault of their own. In this era corporate mergers, dot-com disasters, and a struggling economy, we've all come to realize that job security is quite rare these days.
While losing your job still sucks, it is no longer considered a career-ending experience. So when you're interviewing and that question about a gap in your employment comes up, there's really no need to lie. Keep your answer brief, state what you've learned from the experience (if anything positive), and express your desire to move on. It shouldn't be the focal point of your interview.
Employers want to know about your talent, skills and capabilities, so emphasize those, assure them that you can help solve their problems, and convince them that you will be a hard-working, loyal and dedicated employee.
You don't want to stay in your current position forever... you want to move up! Here are 10 ways to boost your chances of getting that nice promotion:
1. Do MORE than is expected of you. Never say "That's not part of my job." Volunteer for special assignments.
2. Take INITIATIVE and do what needs to be done, before being asked.
3. LEARN the skills you'll need to advance. Take advantage of on-the-job training, but don't rely exclusively on that. Consider taking (and paying for) skill-enhancing courses on your own.
4. Be LOYAL to your boss, your team, and your company. (Yes, you can be loyal without being a "brown-noser.")
5. Be PATIENT and don't expect to be promoted without demonstrating your abilities over time.
6. View the BIG PICTURE and understand your company's mission. Find ways to help them accomplish it.
7. SAVE MONEY for your company by identifying ways to boost revenues, reduce expenses, or streamline processes.
8. Offer SOLUTIONS to problems you must take to your boss.
9. Show RESPECT to everyone -- superiors, peers, subordinates, and especially customers.
10. JOIN ASSOCIATIONS and professional organizations related to your career. In addition to helping you learn more about your industry, this can provide invaluable networking opportunities. (Which might come in handy if your employer isn't promoting!)
If you've got some free time between jobs or after work and you like getting coupons, discounts, gift cards (and maybe even some cash here and there), consider a program like SurveyScout. It provides a large database of companies that will give you goodies in exchange for filling out online surveys. It also gives you a nifty little software application that makes filling in forms fast and easy.
I've tried this program myself and decided it's not for me. But I don't like shopping (I'm a weird female, I guess) so the discounts and free offers didn't interest me. And I simply didn't have time to respond to all the survey requests. Many of them have deadlines, so you must check your email often and have lots of free time to participate in the surveys. I don't. But if you do, you might find this kind of fun and you will receive some pretty great offers on stuff you probably already buy.
They have a money-back guarantee, which was easy for me to take advantage of. Refunded 100% of the purchase price without hassle or question. (My kind of guarantee!).
Anyway, here's the link if you want to check it out:
You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions."
To my mind there are just four essential ingredients:
Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team."
(Benjamin F. Fairless)
Enlightening Job Descriptions
CEO: Leaps tall buildings in a single bound. Is more powerful than a locomotive. Is faster than a speeding bullet. Walks on water. Gives policy to God.
Project Manager: Leaps short buildings in a single bound. Is more powerful than a switch engine. Is just as fast as a speeding bullet. Walks on water if sea is calm. Talks to God.
Senior Analyst: Leaps short buildings with a running start and favorable winds. Is almost as powerful as a switch engine. Walks on water in an indoor swimming pool. Talks with God if special permission is approved.
Systems Analyst: Barely clears a Quonset hut. Loses tug of war with a switch engine. Can fire a speeding bullet. Swims well. Is occasionally addressed by God.
Programmer Analyst: Makes high marks on walls when trying to leap tall buildings. Is run over by locomotives. Can sometimes handle a gun without inflicting self-injury. Calls swimming "Staying Alive In The Water." Talks to animals.
Programmer: Runs into buildings. Recognizes locomotives two out of three times. Is not issued ammunition. Can stay afloat with a life jacket. Talks to walls. Barks at the moon.
Project Clerk: Falls over doorstep when trying to enter building. Says look at the choo-choo. Wets himself with a water pistol. Plays in mud puddles. Mumbles to himself.
Executive Secretary: Lifts buildings and walks under them. Kicks locomotives off the tracks. Catches speeding bullets in her teeth and eats them. Freezes water with a single glance. She is God!
Sorry, I'm kinda brain-dead after all that writing above. So no rants or ramblings in this issue. I certainly welcome YOUR rants, ramblings, questions, comments, suggestions, or credit card numbers (just kidding)! Send them to me any time!
P.S. I apologize for the glitches you may see if you receive this as straight text. If you can receive your email in the HTML format, choose that and it'll look a lot better. Don't worry, I won't have any slowing graphics.
|Back to Back Issues Page|