When a Prospective Employer Invites You to Dinner, Don’t Do This!

When some people have a lot on their mind, and need to clear their heads to make proper decisions, they exercise, go to the movies, read, shop, whatever. My choice is to go to a nice restaurant, with good food, good service, at a fair price. And so I did.

I was looking forward to a quiet dinner. I arrived. Was escorted to a table. And a minute or two later a husband, his wife, their (I think) 11-12 year old daughter, and a man probably in his mid-thirties arrived. I did not mean to eavesdrop but my antenna went up when I heard Dad say,

“Joe, relax. This is not part of the interview.”

Dad lied. Everything is part of the interview.

A pleasant conversation no doubt followed which I ignored because I was reading a very good book on Winston Churchill by Boris Johnson, the UK’s new foreign minister. But then the waitress – sorry, server – arrived, and asked about drinks.

Mom ordered first, followed by daughter, and then Joe. Joe ordered a beer.

They then surveyed the menus and when the young lady returned they ordered their meals.

Joe asked Dad something about his company. He received a vague response. Dad asked Mom about something or other. They had a conversation. Then Daughter asked Joe a question about where he was from. Joe responded with the name of the city. Period. End of conversation.

Then Joe returned his attention to Dad asking questions about the job he was clearly certain he was going to get.

By now, as I usually do in these cases, I had taken a notepad out of my pocket because I knew I had an LinkedIn article in the making and did not want to forget anything.

Joe excused himself to go to the Men’s Room. Daughter asked Dad if Joe was going to get the job. Dad said no. She asked him why. He gave four reasons:

1) He ordered a beer.

2) He talked business in a public place.

3) He ignored Mommy.

4) He ignored you.

At this stage Dad realized something was up because I had a big grin on my face. So I introduced myself and said, “You missed two other reasons not to hire him.”

“What?” Dad inquired.

First, he believed you when you told him to relax and that the dinner was not part of the interview. And second, he said neither please nor thank you when ordering or receiving his drink or food.

At that point, Joe returned and I went back to reading about Churchill.

I don’t know if I am going to get a new executive recruiting client as a result of my dinner at that restaurant, but I know Joe is still looking for a new job!

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and his upcoming speaking engagements.

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The Importance of the One Question in a Job Interview

Before going any further, click here to watch the video.

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The commercial you just watched is generally considered the best commercial ever made.

In an interview the job applicant will have a chance to ask questions. All job applicants will have the chance to ask questions. The best way to differentiate yourself is by asking the best question. Have you ever wondered how the snow plow driver gets to the snow plow?

What’s your snow plow driver question? Mine is, “Who succeeds here?” because it shows that you understand the importance of corporate culture and you are looking for a long-term commitment.

So, again, what’s your snow plow question? Share!

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

How Changing Shoes Almost Cost a Woman a Job Offer

It seems impossible but lately Manhattan appears to be even more crowded than usual. (Why the death penalty is not imposed on people who walk the sidewalks, not to mention cross the street, bumping into intelligent pedestrians, while reading, writing and responding to messages on their phones, I will never understand!) Add to this the emotional release of a successful job interview and, if everything goes wrong, it could be a prescription for disaster.

So what happened?

Anyone walking the streets of mid-town Manhattan, and other areas of the city, has seen this balancing act. A woman approaches an office building, leans against the front of the building, removes a pair of shoes from a bag, takes the shows she is wearing off, and puts the other pair on. She is replacing comfortable walking shoes for “professional” looking shoes. Happens all the time.

On this particular afternoon, a woman exits an office building and does the reverse balancing act. She replaces her “professional” shoes with the comfortable ones. As she is doing so, a friend approaches her and, balancing on one foot, albeit just for a few seconds, they have a chat. At this point one of the aforementioned phone reading/writing sidewalk walkers bumps into her friend who then bumps into her, catching her before she falls.

Just then, exiting the office building is the man who had interviewed her for a mid-management position. He smiles, says nothing, and walks off in the opposite direction.

That is the story that was related to me a couple of weeks ago by a very concerned woman who was smart enough to realize that she had a problem.

The last impression an interviewer has of you is, usually, the most powerful. It is what they remember. Forget about the bumping which he probably did not see, this man’s last impression of this woman was of her changing shoes. Again, she knew she had a problem and that is why she called me.

After conducting a mock interview with her for a good hour, I was convinced that she was correct when she had told me that she had had an excellent interview. Her thank-you email letter was perfect. (In fact, the reason she contacted me was that she had read my post on writing thank-you emails.)

She had been promised, at the end of the previous interview, that she would be called back for a follow-up interview. She received the call and was told she would be meeting with the owner of the company. Thus her call to me.

I asked her what she thought the man’s impression of her was and she hit the nail on the head, so to speak. She’s an applicant for a position of authority with us, she is going to have to solve complicated problems, and she can’t find a comfortable professional looking pair of shoes. How is she going to be able to do this job?

I could not have said it better myself.

But there was another problem. What if she was wrong and the man, seeing her changing her shoes, didn’t think anything of it? What if she was creating an issue in her own mind that was not in his? As I wrote at the start of this post, this is a scene that repeats itself constantly in Manhattan. Frankly, it’s so common that I don’t even notice it any more and I’m sure it’s the same for most people.

Of course, the question that had to be addressed was, What if she was right and he now had a negative impression of her?

Well, if it was really negative she would not have gotten the interview with the owner. So maybe it’s not all that negative, maybe it’s just an “issue” and not a “problem.”

The answer could easily be determined if the person about whom she was concerned was in the room. Just read his body language. If he was not in the room, that could be a problem. Do you raise the issue or not?

Well, she did not have to wait long to know if it was a topic that had to be addressed. In addition to the company’s owner, and one of his female executives (you never interview a job applicant without someone of the same gender as the applicant present) in the room, was the man who had previously interviewed her and she immediately sensed that his attitude towards her had changed.

So she knew three things: First, he was not the sole decision maker because if he was now against her, she would not be there. Second, the majority of the people who had interviewed her liked her, which was why she was there. Third, she had to address the “can’t find a comfortable professional pair of shoes” issue.

After the usual pleasantries, the owner of the company looked at her and said, “Tell me about yourself.”

That’s what we had practiced. And she knew exactly what to say.

(Just as an aside, she researched the owner and found that he likes to quote or mention Einstein in his speeches.)

Einstein had his thought experiments. I’m no Einstein but I like to do self-evaluation experiments. Whenever I have meetings in the city and have to do a lot of walking (For those of you who do not know, it is sometimes quicker to walk a mile or more in the Manhattan, than taking a cab or public transportation.) I wear comfortable shoes and then put on professional looking shoes when I enter the building. I asked myself, What does that mean about me? Would I accept this type of nonsense on the job? Would I purchase two different products to get one job done? Of course not. So after the last interview I had, I went out and purchased a comfortable pair of professional looking shoes. It may sound silly, but I wanted to tell you about it because it is indicative of my thought process. You know many women do the two shoes thing. I did it because it is what is done. But it is dumb and is not professional. So I don’t do it any more. So if you hire me, you are getting someone who self-evaluates and, if there is need for improvement, improves. That is what I expect from myself and that is what I will expect from my team.

Throughout the answer she was reading the owner’s body language. When she began her response she glanced at the other man in the room and his body language showed her concerns were justified and that he was pleased she recognized it. His last impression of her was negative. She could now turn that around. But as she spoke to the owner, looking only at him, he was sending positive signals (to her and, from his glances, to the others in the room). He liked what he heard. The reference to Einstein showed that she prepared well for interviews. Self-criticism and self-improvement are arguably the best qualities a person can have. No need to mention his reaction to the inference of cost savings and process/procedural improvements. She did very well.

When she finished her response, the owner rose, smiled, extended his arm, and offered her the job. No more questions needed to be asked.

Remember, last impressions are the most important.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

Job Search Strategies for the “Old” and “Long-term” Unemployed

I always like to begin with definitions. So the first question should be what constitutes an “older” worker? And the second should be, what do we mean by “long-term” unemployed? As far as I am concerned, if you think you are “old,” you are “old.” And if you think you have been unemployed “long-term,” you are one of the “long-term” unemployed. Why? Because it is a matter of attitude.

If you have not had to look for a job, prepare a resume, interview, etc. since Bush Senior was in the White House, or if you have been looking for a job since the day after President Obama was reelected, you are probably scared and frustrated and intelligent enough to know that being scared and frustrated are not qualities that lead to success. So in either case you have to defeat your own worst enemy which is you!

Attitude

You need confidence. Understand that older (I think it’s time to remove the quotation marks!) workers think that they can’t compete with younger workers or, to be more correct, job applicants. I have news for you: Younger job applicants think that they cannot compete with older applicants because they lack the experience, the practical knowledge and the contacts. It goes both ways!

So how do you get confidence? There’s only one way that I know that works and that is by having some successes. Start off small. Since the vast majority of jobs are not advertised, you have to network. Learn how to do it. It’s not difficult. It’s an art, not a science. Just remember, it’s also a marathon and not a sprint because networking is building relationships not exchanging business cards.

So set a goal which is reasonable. You are going to go to an event with professionals in your industry, or in the industry or profession in which you want to work, and you are going to get one person to agree to meet with you over a cup of coffee to discuss their work. Then you will do it again. Before you know it, you’ll have a quality network of new trusted associates, who will be able to help you. (These are called “informational meetings.” The goal is to lead to practical introductions.)

But that is not enough. You also need help. This does not mean going to a smooth talker who calls him or herself a “coach,” and paying them $100 a session to teach you things you can learn in an hour. It means finding someone you trust. It can be a professional but it can also be a true friend. Why the emphasis on “true?” It will have to be someone who will look you straight in the eyes and tells you that you are wrong, you are acting like an idiot, who, in other words, will be brutally honest with you.

In addition to networking in the real world, you also have to network in the virtual world and LinkedIn is the best place to be. It is the professional social media site. Quick comparison: The latest statistic I have found, and it dates back to 2014, is that the average LinkedIn member has 930 first-degree connections. The current average number of followers someone has on Twitter is only 208.

You want employers to come to you. You don’t want to have to run after them. So you need to create a brand. I have a video on this topic. It’s free and there is no sales pitch. Watch it! But for present purposes the key is to do what I am doing right now, writing a post on LinkedIn. Once I click “publish” I will go do something and come back 10 minutes later and discover that it has already been read. That’s a good feeling. I have not done the math recently, but while some of my posts have been read tens of thousands of times, usually it’s only a few hundred. It really does not matter. It’s not how many people read your posts, it’s who reads them.

And don’t forget to comment on other people’s posts, as well as their updates and photos. That will also help to establish your brand.

But my point is this: Seeing that people are reading your posts will tell you that your opinion matters, that your intelligence and experience are valued. And this is especially the case if they “like” the post and comment on it. Even a negative comment means the person thinks your opinion matters. What better way to gain, or regain, your confidence and improve your attitude?

Worries About Older Workers

Let’s focus now on older workers. What are some of the concerns employers may have – or you think they may have – about hiring you?

You won’t last. Makes sense. You have been working for the past 30-40 years. Why would they think you would take the job they are looking to fill seriously and why would you want to stay more than a couple of years, if that? In other words, they are going to be concerned that they will not get a proper return on their investment of time and money training you for the job.

There are a number of ways to deal with this concern. The one I have found most effective, if it is true, is to have my career counseling clients say in an interview, “I noticed on the LinkedIn profiles of some of your staff that they have been with you for a long time and that you promote from within. That’s what I am looking for.” You say that in response to the question, “Why do you want to work here?” Younger applicants will use the opportunity to praise and compliment. Not you! You will use it to emphasize the practical aspects of working for the company. Point you!

If I hire you, you will replace me. If you are an older worker, it is safe to assume that the person interviewing you will be younger and less experienced. It is only natural that they will think that the boss could fire them, hire you for less, and have you do their job.

This one is also easy to address. (And, for the record, no interviewer is going to raise any of these concerns. You have to address them in the way you answer seemingly unrelated questions.) Focus on the individuals you have helped grow in their careers, whether as a formal mentor or just as a colleague. Talk about the satisfaction in seeing them succeed and grow and what that has meant for you. And, so that they know you are not just saying what you think they want to here, end with, “And I can even provide one or two as references.”

Overqualified. Overqualified means that they think you are going to be bored. They are not big enough for you. You’ll leave. And this is a tough one if you are applying for a job you saw advertised. It is not as big an issue if you are interviewing for a job you heard about, and were recommended for, through networking. In that case, the boss knows your qualifications and wants to be convinced.

The first thing you should do is to carefully read the job description. If it says “2-3 years’ experience” and you literally have ten times that amount, you are wasting your time. It is not going to happen. If it says “over 10 years’ experience,” you have a shot.

This does not mean that you should not contact the “2-3 years” employer. As a recruiter I have had clients (employers) ignore the “years requirement” because of the quality, or lack thereof, of the candidates that were, on paper, “qualified.” But there is a way to apply for these jobs that does not make you look foolish.

If you apply for a job for which you have ten times the experience the employer wants, as stated, you don’t have a chance and you will look foolish. So write to the HR department, pretending that you do not know about the position. Simply say that you want to introduce yourself, focus on one highlight of your career, attach your resume, and let them know that you will appreciate it if they contact you if anything should become available at their company. Let them decide, don’t do it for them.

Can’t be trained. The impression is that you have been doing it, whatever “it” is, the same way for the past 20 years and that you will not be able to learn the new company’s way. The solution: When answering questions, talk about your adaptability to change. One career counseling client who knew this would be an issue, had quoted Darwin in our session, in a different context. He said, “It’s survival of the fittest.” Well he was wrong. Darwin never said that. Darwin wrote about the survival of the most adaptable. I told him to properly quote or paraphrase Darwin. He did. Why was this important? Prior to coming to me for interviewing held, he had done his homework and knew that the person who was going to be interviewing him in a couple of days, had studied biology in college. So when he properly quoted Darwin, the interviewer was impressed. It may not have been the key reason he got the job, but it certainly helped – as did his examples of being adaptable.

In addition to showing adaptability, play the experience card. Talk about how you have spent your career coping with the unforeseen and unexpected, solving problems and saving money. That’s what employers want to hear.

Not current. (This is true for both older workers and the long-term unemployed.) If you are not current in your profession then, frankly, you don’t deserve the job. There is no excuse for not being up-to-date on what is happening in your industry. None. If you need to learn something, learn it. There are some very good and legitimate on-line classes that are offered, some of which are free. Check out www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses; www.coursera.org; and www.edx.org.

An interesting thing about the not being current concern is that it can help to fill the dreaded resume gap. I recommend, under “Work Experience,” to begin with “Related Employment Activities” dated from your last job to “present.” List the classes you have taken. (I will deal with the resume gap in more detail, below.)

When it comes to technology and being comfortable with technology, your LinkedIn profile can say a great deal about you. Include multimedia items but, most importantly, make your “professional line” a statement of your “unique selling proposition.” For example, in my case, you will note that I focus on the fact that, while I work with everyone, my mission is to promote the hiring of veterans.

Health. Here I am referring to two distinct things: First, health insurance. If you are getting your health insurance from your spouse or for any other reason you do not need the employer to provide you with health insurance, that is a great negotiating position to have. You can say, “I don’t need you to provide me with health insurance. I would like a little more salary than what you are offering. Why not split the difference in the insurance?” It’s a reasonable request.

Second, your medical condition. You want them to know that you are well. All they can do is to ask if there is any reason you cannot fulfill the requirements of the job. They can’t ask if you are healthy. So while in most circumstances I do not like an “Interests” section in a resume, in this case I would include one, as long as it is true, where you mention, for example, your exercise regime or other things that “healthy” people do, like travel.

Grandpa/Grandma. No one is going to hire their grandparent and if that is what you look like, you will have a problem. Clothes sometimes do make the man, or woman. But what if, for example, you use a cane? That’s going to be a negative, unless you turn it into a positive. When asked, and yes, I know, it’s not a question, “Tell me about yourself,” say, “You see this damn cane? I hate it. But I have to use it and have used it for the past five years. Look at what I have accomplished over the past five years. I don’t let anything get in the way of my goals!”

Worries About the Long-Term Unemployed

Here are the unspoken concerns about the long-term unemployed.

There must be something wrong with him/her. Logical. If no one has hired you that means no one wants you, so why should I? Logic is not, however, always correct. (Sorry, Mr. Spock!)

First, in today’s economy being unemployed for a long time, sometimes a year or more, is nothing new. And, if following the upcoming elections, people are confident that the job market will turn around, it is safe to assume that the unemployment rate will go through the roof because all of the people who have given up looking for jobs and removed themselves from the unemployment statistics, will reenter the job market. So being unemployed for a long-time is not surprising.

Second, the way to get the interview if you are answering an ad, is by writing a great cover letter. As always, it has to be short, sweet and to the point. And the point is to focus on your most relevant accomplishment for the job which will make them want to look at your resume. And then, as we are about to discuss, you eliminate the resume gap.

Resume gap. We have already discussed filling the gap with courses you have taken. This sends the message that you are not the type of person who can remain idle and, more to the point, that you have remained current in your field. But you should also include volunteer activities. Make it clear that these were not paid positions so there are no misunderstandings. But, as with everything else, focus on your accomplishments. This is real experience and it is current. Don’t ignore it just because you did not get paid for it.

Which brings me to short-term gigs. List them. Even if they are not in your profession, list them. Stacking the shelves at the local supermarket shows that you leave your ego at the door and are willing to do what is necessary to pay the bills. Don’t try to fudge it. I had a candidate for an executive recruiting client who was an auditor by profession. He wrote on his resume that he was a customer service auditor at a major retailer. When I started to ask him questions about it he admitted that his job was to check customer receipts before they left the store. It was rather pathetic. The rest you can guess.

Interviewing. (This is also true for older workers.) By all means talk about your accomplishments. But if you begin each story mentioning how long ago it happened, it will focus the interviewer’s mind on the fact that you may not have done much lately. So if you are going to date something, make certain it is recent. My rule is this: Remember the past but focus on the future.

Caregiver. Having worked at nursing homes for a good four years, this one is important for me. If the reason for your unemployment is that you have been taking care of a loved-one, put it on the resume as you would any other job. Let’s say you were caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s. List the responsibilities and the skills you had to master: Patience; scheduling; vetting of social service agencies; learning the government bureaucracy; understanding legal documents… What employer in their right mind would not want someone on their staff with that skill set? Can you think of anyone better for a customer service position?

There are no quick answers for the problems of older workers and the long-term unemployed. This is not, “What’s wrong with my resume?” That’s easy. It is not easy to come up with a generic answer to how to network, apply for a job, and interview for a job, when dealing with age and unemployment. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

This Will Guarantee You a Successful Elevator Pitch

A reader wrote asking me to write about elevator pitches. He said he had difficulty knowing how to reply in an interview when the interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself.”

The first thing I told him was that an elevator pitch is for networking and has nothing to do with interviewing or with “Tell me about yourself,” which I have dealt with in a previous article. Then I promised to write this article.

So let’s look at the elevator pitch.

This is how the concept was first explained to me. Feel free to change the genders around; it makes no difference:

A woman gets into an elevator. A man rushes in just as the doors are closing. He presses the tenth floor button, and notices that the second floor button has already been pressed. He then realizes that there is only one other person in the elevator, an attractive woman. She’s exiting in, at best,10 seconds. That’s is how much time he has to win her over. That’s the elevator pitch.

You have 10 seconds to impress. What makes it difficult is that you don’t know your audience. Does the person care about business or something from their personal life? What should you say? What shouldn’t you say? Will a compliment be appreciated or rejected?

First, think of where you are. Since LinkedIn is (still) a business site, let’s assume we are at a business event. All business events are networking events so asking someone what they do for a living is appropriate. Here’s the scenario:

Good morning. I’m Bruce.

Hi! I’m Sally.

So what brings you here at this ungodly hour?

This is not the elevator pitch. This is the setup to the elevator pitch.

Business.

What business are you in?

Now this is her elevator pitch.

I own a security company.

Perfect. Now I know what to say.

We almost have something in common. I’m an executive recruiter. The mission of my company is to promote the hiring of veterans.

And then I hand her my card and shut up. She knows what I am telling her. I don’t have to explain it.

But let’s reverse the scenario. What if Sally approaches me? I don’t know anything about her so how can I know what to tell her?

It’s called the truth. Just be general about it. I would respond, “I’m an executive recruiter and career counselor,” and hand her my card. If she looks at it she will see my mission statement, so I don’t have to mention veterans. The important thing is for me to immediately ask her, “And what about you? What do you do?” Then the conversation will begin about veterans and how we can help each other.

All an elevator pitch is, is an opening to a conversation. You can either do what Sally did and just make a general statement about your business or profession. Or you can do what I did, and add something unique – promoting the hiring of veterans.

Now a conversation will hopefully begin. Usually, because mission statements are generally meaningless, I am asked, “So how do you promote the hiring of veterans?” And there is sometimes a bit of sarcasm with emphasis on “how” or “you” or “promote.” I just smile and say, “By lowering my fee by a third to 10 percent when the candidate is a vet.” That ends the sarcasm and the conversation continues.

And that is how it is done. An elevator pitch is nothing more than how you define yourself. In a professional setting, it’s a professional definition. In an elevator, I don’t know! And if you can’t do that in ten seconds, you have got bigger problems than networking!

Please do not misunderstand me. Believe me. I have worked with enough career counseling clients, teaching them how to network, to know that this can be very difficult for people because they have done so much in their lives that they do not know on what to focus. It can seem daunting, but it really isn’t. One amusing story will hopefully put things in perspective.

A woman came over to me at a networking event. She asked me what I did for a living and after I told her I asked, “And what about you?” She looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m a social worker.” At this stage we exchanged business cards. I looked at hers and said, “I think you gave me the wrong card,” and handed it back to her. She said, “No. That’s my card, I sell real estate.” I told her that it must really have been a long day because I could have sworn she had said she was a social worker. She confirmed that I had heard her correctly. “I’m confused,” I admitted. “I’m an MSW,” she said. “So you just graduated and are looking to start a new career. Good for you,” I replied. “No,” she said. “I graduated 30 years ago.” “How long have you been a real estate agent?” “I’m celebrating my 20th anniversary with the company!”

And that, dear readers, is a woman who does not have a clue about elevator pitches or, for that matter, networking.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

What You Can Learn when Negotiating Salary from My First and Only Golf Game when I Hit Two Holes-in-One

OK. It was not actually a game. But I did get two holes-in-one.

Years ago, as a director of Marketing, I was working a charity golf event. Prior to the start of play, I was standing by the putting green (I think that’s what it’s called) next to the club house. One of the players asked me if I played and I said no. He then handed me his putter and told me to give it a try.

I placed the ball on the ground at an acceptable distance from the hole. I surveyed the grass pretending that I knew what I was doing. Rose. Took a fake swing next to the ball. Took a deep breath. Did the “Hello ball!” routine from The Honeymooners. (If you are too young to know to what I am referring, LOOK IT UP! It’s one of the funniest scenes in television history, almost as good as Sammy Davis, Jr. kissing Archie Bunker – and if you don’t know what that is then you are an uneducated, uncultured, uncivilized heathen who should not be permitted access to the general public, children or puppies!) Hit the ball and, of course, it went it.

Everyone laughed. I admitted “beginner’s luck” and went to the other end of the green, placed the ball, aimed, hit and, of course, it too went in.

I then handed the putter back to it’s owner and said, “Thanks. This game is not for me. I like something with a challenge.”

I don’t have to tell you the reaction as I walked away in smug triumph.

I was reminded of this a few minutes ago when a career counseling client called to ask my advice. He had just been offered a job. As I had taught him, he negotiated a higher salary because he did not need some of the benefits the company offered.

After they had agreed to his request, he said that he just wanted to discuss it with his wife and promised to get back to them within the hour. (They wanted it settled today; there was a second finalist.) He could not reach her so he called me. As he was going home, he realized that there was something else he wanted. It was a “want,” not a “need.” He asked if I thought he should reopen the negotiations.

I told him my golf story and ended with, “Quit while you’re ahead!”

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

Questions You Should Never Answer in a Job Interview

I find it distressing, and frankly unbelievable, that some adults, for whatever reason, do not understand the basics of the interview process. I don’t want to embarrass her, but one young woman (who appears to have lived in the US long enough to know better) actually asked the question on-line if it is normal for recruiters to ask for a candidate’s Social Security Number, date of birth, and full name.

There are legal questions. There are illegal questions. And there are crooks. Let’s deal with these in reverse order.

Crooks

The only time an employer needs to know a candidate’s Social Security Number is if they are going to do a background check on the candidate. The only reason to do a background check is as a condition of employment. The process is simple. The employer makes you a conditional offer of employment, dependent upon the results of a background check. (This should be after they have checked references.) At that point, if you want the job, you give them your Social Security Number on an authorization form. That’s for an employer.

As for recruiters, there is NEVER a reason to give a recruiter your Social Security Number unless the recruiter, representing the employer, is making the conditional offer of employment. Then you want the conditional offer of employment in writing, and a form authorizing the background check, clearly stating its purpose and that you will be informed of the results prior to any final determination being made so, and this has happened, any incorrect information can be addressed.

When filling out the form authorizing the background check, you will need to provide your full name and date of birth. Until then, neither the recruiter, nor the employer, needs to know when you were born. Which brings me to our next subject, illegal questions:

Illegal Questions

Any question dealing with a protected status is illegal. So, going back to your date of birth, you cannot be asked your age. You can be asked, for example on a job application form, when you graduated from college. Well, isn’t that revealing your age? You probably graduated when you were 22 so, do the math.

But that’s not necessarily so. Some people finish a four-year degree in three and some finish in five. And some (literally) graduate with one of their grandchildren. So the date of graduation does not mean much.

Where were you born? is an illegal question. The only legal question an employer or recruiter can ask in this regard is, Are you authorized to work in the United States? That’s it. But if you have a Spanish sounding name, received your undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Madrid, and note on your resume that you are fluent in Spanish, the assumption is going to be that your were born in Spain.

Who cares? The employer might. And it could be a good thing. Odds are, if the person is a bigot and does not like the Spanish, you would not have gotten anywhere in the process. So being of Spanish birth may mean that you have a Spanish, or rather EU, passport, which may appeal to the employer if she does business in the EU. So if a job responsibility is to travel to the EU, asking if that it a problem is perfectly legal. And if you reply that you have an EU passport, so much the better. That could be the difference between you getting the job and another candidate.

Do you have a disability? Illegal. The only question you can be asked is, Is there any reason why you cannot fulfill the requirements of the position? If there is, you have to tell the employer and if you need “a reasonable accommodation,” the employer must provide it.

What is your religion? Illegal except if it is relevant to the job. For example, a non-profit created to support persons of a particular faith can restrict the CEO position to a person of that faith.

The list is endless, so let’s look at the even longer list of legal questions.

Legal Questions

A legal question is anything that pertains directly to the job qualifications and responsibilities, and anything the pertains to your resume and possibly – check with an attorney – your LinkedIn profile. Discrepancies between the two may result in some questions. And, when it comes time to provide references, the employer may want to speak with those individuals who provided recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. (I did once which proved that the candidate less than honest…)

And that’s it for legal questions. But what about the big question?

What do you do when asked an illegal question in an interview?

How long have you been married? If it is on your resume, I can ask you about it. By the same token, if you provide me with information, I should be able to ask you about it. So, you come to me wearing a wedding ring, I should be able to ask you about your marriage. But, no, I can’t because marital status is a protected class. It’s not relevant for the job. So why would I ask you how long you have been married?

First, I’m ignorant. I don’t know the law.

Second, we are having a friendly conversation. I hire people I like. I want to like you. The only way I can like you is to get to know you, so I ask you about your family. In other words, I’m stupid.

Why would you want to work for someone who is ignorant or stupid or, to be fair, just really naive? How long is she going to stay in business? Eventually she’ll be sued and she’ll lose.

But, still, you need the job so what are your options.

First, answer the question. This may be a really stupid way to check your knowledge of HR law or just a really stupid question based on complete, total and honest ignorance of the process.

Second, if you are comfortable so doing, answer the question but immediately tell the interviewer that it is illegal and she could get into trouble. Then, tell her how to legally find out what she wants to know, if it’s possible. This may be appreciated and a bit feared. (This is what I have done in the past.)

Third, tell the interviewer that the question is illegal and you are uncomfortable answering it. This may be respected and a bit feared.

Remember, the interview process is a two-way street. You will learn a great deal about the corporate culture and decision making process from how the interview in conducted. Is an employer who lacks basic HR knowledge really the person for whom you want to work?

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.