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Sunday, December 5, 2010

short answer Sunday: six short answers to short questions

It's time for short answer Sunday -- six short answers to six short questions. Here we go:

I have recently completed interviews for a couple different companies where the group of interviewees are rotated between 5-7 different interviewers for 30-45-minute interview sessions. Many of the questions that are asked either exactly the same or similar. Is it better to have different answers to the same question or is it more effective to use the same scenario so that you are consistent. I am aware that the interviewers discuss the applicants right after we leave. How in depth does it actually get?

Well, you want to be consistent in the substance of your answers, but it's fine to use different examples to illustrate them. For instance, you obviously don't want to give each person a different explanation for your interest in the job, or tell each person a different "greatest strength," but it's completely fine to draw on different examples as you discuss your past experience.

Discussion of applicants afterwards rarely comes down to a question-by-question comparison; it tends to be more along the lines of "I really liked her experience with ____, and I got the sense that she has a pattern of getting things done that someone else in her role might not have" ... or "I don't think her critical thinking skills are strong enough for this role" ... and so forth.

I'm currently in graduate school and I'll be graduating in the spring and looking for a job in the non-profit world. I'm wondering about listing academic honors and awards on my resume--e.g. graduating with honors, departmental awards, etc. at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I don't want to seem tacky by listing things not appropriate for listing on resumes, but I also don't want to miss out on a chance to distinguish myself if other applicants are doing the same. Please help!

Yes, absolutely list them. They show a record of achievement.

I am almost two years out of college and about to complete a year at my first job, as an admin assistant. While it has been a good entree to the work world, I'm ready to move onto a role that will utilize my degree more. An organization I have long admired and to which I've applied several times for various openings (but never heard from) just advertised a position that sounds very much like my ideal job. Plus, it is in the city I want to move to. A family member who knows someone there forwarded my application to his contact, but hasn't heard anything back about whether they passed it on. Applications must be sent to HR at this organization, which I assume whittles down the field substantially. Since I'm not local, I'm thinking my application might not be passed on, though I note in my cover letter that I am planning to move to that city. Recently someone suggested that I mail a hard copy of my resume and cover letter to this position's supervisor, the name of whom is listed in the posting. This way, I could perhaps bypass HR if the supervisor were interested in me. Is this a good idea? Or is this rude, stalkerish, or just plain ineffective?

Sure, go ahead. The manager may just forward it straight to HR, but you have nothing to lose (it won't be considered rude or stalkerish) and potentially something to gain, if the manager looks at your resume and likes you.

I went to an interview and while I thought it went well, I'm not sure. My interviewer told me everything I could possibly have wanted to know about the job, the history of the building and how he runs things. In the two hours we spoke, I was able to say a few things about my abilities. He ended up making his next interview wait an hour. He also asked me a few things about pay and benefits. He also mentioned calling 2-3 people for a follow-up with the possibility of setting a second interview. I initially took this as a good sign but now I wonder if he was just thinking out loud. Should I keep hoping for a call back? Or assuming that I don't get it, should I send an e-mail to be certain that I was not selected?

He might have been really interested in you -- or he might just be a bad interviewer. It's impossible to know which it is at this point, but you should follow up with him. Send him an email right now, thank him for his time, and tell him you're extremely interested in the position. If you can, mention some specifics that you're excited about. Ask what his timeline is for the next steps. Good luck!

I'm attempting to change careers. I recently applied for a job with a company that is growing rapidly and hiring new people all the time. I meet all of their requirements, albeit barely, since I don't have much experience. I do have a long job history, and was able to point to a lot of the skills I possess from my former career as being relevant to the position that's being offered. In addition, I'm also doing some part-time work in my new field at a small non-profit, so have a current, relevant reference. I thought I had an in with one of the employees who is on the hiring committee, but after giving me all the application information, and her email, I've never heard back from her, nor have I heard from the company. Would it be okay for me to seek someone out at the organization and ask how I can beef up my submission? They aren't the only game in town, and I'd like to do better next time.

How long has it been? Unless months have gone by, I wouldn't assume that you're out of the running. You absolutely can ask for feedback, but wait until you know for sure that you've been rejected before you do it. For now, what you should be doing is following up with your contact there to reiterate your strong interest and ask about their timeline for contacting candidates.

I graduated from college in May, was out of the country until July, and then had to enroll in community college in August to keep my health insurance. Because of the community college thing, I didn't start looking for a job until late August. Now, I've been unemployed for over six months (I had an internship while at school). I was wondering if you thought this looks bad to potential employers or if it has become more accepted in today's job market. I studied photography in school and am looking to go into post production for photography, so it's there isn't really a booming market either. 

It's not at all uncommon for people to be out of work that long in this market, especially recent graduates.  However, you want to be able to show what you've been doing with that time, so hopefully you're volunteering, improving your skills, and/or otherwise spending your time in a productive way, and can talk about that when an interviewer says, "So, what have you been doing since graduating?"


Kimberlee Stiens said...

Good advice, as usual! But a word of advice to the person with the admin job wondering the best way to apply at the new position:

By all means, go for the good job and look for something to use your degree more. But also, please, keep in mind that an admin assistant job is SO much better than many recent grads have. Shoot for the stars, but keep in mind that compared to others in your cohort, you're still on the moon, and you're competing against people with masters degrees and years of experience in that field. Its tough!

Anonymous said...

I really like the short answer weekends. Makes for a great resource and quite a few people get their questions answered!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for getting to my question so quickly! I wrote asking if I could call for feedback from a company that never got back to me about my application. It really hasn't been all that long - only a few weeks - but I had been left with the impression they were looking to hire immediately. I will follow up with my contact.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply! My question was the first one. Off to tweak my resume...