Friday, November 15, 2013

How not to get a job at my store

Jobs and joblessness have been a pretty big topic over the past five years. Lots of people losing jobs, lots of people giving up even looking for a job and leaving the workforce for good. It's a genuine economic crisis, I know first hand because I work in one of the poorest cities in America and have the survey results to prove it. It's a manufacturing town, but the plants don't make products to sell directly to the public so much as they sell these products to another industry which is in a severe downturn at the moment. Naturally this means the plants are slowing down, cutting hours, cutting employees, and in some cases just shutting down.

As I've mentioned before, my regular job is as a retail manager in a big box national chain. We are desperately trying to hire for the holiday shopping season but we are having a great deal of difficulty. We are only hiring seasonal workers right now but my store converted almost half of our seasonal workers last year to regular part-timers (that would be the half that showed up on time and when scheduled and did a good job while they were there) and some people would seemingly rather be unemployed than take a "temporary" job even if there is a good chance that performance will be rewarded with conversion to non-temporary status. We have between two and four hundred applicants for every job posting, so you'd think it would be pretty easy to get people in the door but it isn't, usually because the people fall afoul of one or more of the suggestions I'm about to go over.

Pay attention to the instructions on the application
Our application, like most others, asks you to list your job history in reverse chronological order. In other words, start with your most recent job and work your way backwards in time until you have filled out the required amount of history (usually five or ten years). When I look at an application and the job history is either jumbled up in time or is listed in chronological order I don't even look at anything else, I close it out and move to the next one. The reason for this is if you cannot follow written instructions when you are not bound by time then you are most likely unable to follow verbal ones when you are, or you simply were not paying attention. Either way, you have already lost a chance at an interview.

Fill in the details of your job history completely
If you have worked for a company for more than six or eight weeks you really should know your immediate supervisor's last name. I am of course assuming that there are not actually a staggering number of people whose surname is "Don't Know". If I am wrong I beg the forgiveness of the Don't Know clan and would like to congratulate them on the diversity of careers within their family. You should also know the phone numbers of your former employers. It is shocking the number of businesses that seemingly have the phone numbers (123) 456-7890 and (888) 555-1212.

Be reasonable in your salary expectations
If you are applying for an entry-level job with my company, you will not be making fourteen dollars an hour no matter what your prior experience is. If you put a number in the "salary expected" box that is outside the range of what we can provide we will not call you for an interview as we are under the impression you are not interested in working for less than that.

Do not use off-color or derogatory language in your job history
We are generally going to skip over anyone who states the reason they left a former employer is "because my manager was a [insert expletive here]." This would of course be the same manager whose last name they can't remember.  

Proof-read your application prior to submitting it
If you have filled your own name in incorrectly (placing the first name in the last name field and vice-verse) or you have misspelled the name of the street you live on or the city (or even state) you live in your application is probably getting skipped.

Now, for the applicants that actually make it through the preliminary screening and actually get selected for an interview, the following pitfalls await.

Show up when scheduled, or even a few minutes early
If you cannot show up on time for your interview, the only time you get to make a first impression and the time most people are at their very best, you'll be lucky if we even conduct the interview at all. If we do decide to give you the opportunity to interview even after you are late then you really need to wow us.

Be prepared to be interviewed
Yes, this seems like a no-brainer, but I have been asked by more than one applicant what the questions I am asking have to do with them getting the job, to which I invariably answer, "they determine whether or not you get the job." A sizable minority of applicants have been under the impression that simply being called in for an interview means they have the job and they don't have to be prepared to answer any questions. Others seem to have no life experience to draw from to answer questions no matter how many jobs are listed on their application. I always tell people they can use experiences from church, scouting, Boy's/Girl's Club, school, or prior jobs to answer questions and still a surprising number of them seem to have sprung into being at the interview table with no prior life experience at all.

Dress appropriately
The days of showing up in a jacket and tie for any job interview at all are sadly behind us. I am to the point now that I am wildly surprised if applicants even bother to wear a tie to the interview. That being said you should dress to the best of your ability. If you cannot muster at least business casual, then what you do wear must be clean and in good repair. Personal hygiene is a high priority as well. Even if your are interviewing to be a ditch digger, you should not show up for the interview looking (or smelling) like you've actually been digging ditches for the past twelve hours.

Be sure any job you reference is actually on your application
It seems like a little thing, but if you keep referencing experiences at a prior job you failed to list on your application we do wonder when you were lying: was it on the application or was it in the interview. If for some reason you choose to leave a job off your application then leave it out of the interview as well. If there was a good reason for leaving it off the application (say it asked for the past five years and this job was older than that) then you'll want to mention that in your responses. Something to the effect of, "that happened to me at [unlisted job]. It's not on my application because it was so long ago but here's how I handled it" would be just fine.

Assuming you have cleared all of these hurdles there are still two more remaining. Almost every job now requires potential new hires to pass both a background check and a drug screen. Please know that the lab we use is very thorough and they know all the tricks. Masking agents do not work. Drinking a gallon of water before you go to the collection site does not work. Yes it counts if it was only one time at a party last weekend (that actually happened and I was sorry to see that result come back). As for the background check, please don't leave anything off the history form. The company we use for background checks is also very thorough. Just because there is something on your record it does not mean you are not going to be hired. However, if you claim to have a clean record and you don't then no matter how minor the infraction is you have falsified an employment document and we will not hire you.

If this saves even one job hunter from wasting their time and that of their prospective employer then I have achieved what I set out to do, though I fear I am wasting my own time trying.

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