Dealing with Health Issues in a Job Interview and the Power of Networking

A few years ago I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on interviewing which was focused on veterans and the disabled. (And, no, I was not crazy about the juxtaposition but I understood the intent of the organizers and let it go.) One of the attendees, I believe he was a veteran, asked the question, When should I tell an employer about my disability?

The panel moderator asked one of the other panelists to respond. She said, “As long as it has nothing to do with your ability to do the job, say nothing.”

This is not an uncommon response. A few months ago I spoke to a group of students. One asked the same question. Before I had a chance to respond, their teacher said, “After they offer you the job.”

Terrible advice! Almost as bad as the response of my former fellow panelist.

What’s the problem?

You have a disability. It has nothing to do with your ability to do the job, so you don’t tell the employer. That may be fine. But what if the employer looks at it differently? What if the employer is thinking safety? They are located on the 20th floor of a 30-story building. What if there is a fire? You’ll still get the job only now the employer will know to report the issue to the building’s Safety/Security Director before there is a crisis. But there is now the little matter of the boss now thinking to herself, What else didn’t he tell me?

You have a disability and it is related to the job. You follow the teacher’s instructions and after you are offered the job you say, “Oh, by the way. I have this disability which means I will need this ‘reasonable accommodation’.” Well, the employer doesn’t agree with your definition of “reasonable” and, moreover, she does not like the fact that you waited until the last minute to tell her. (In fact, you literally wait until the first minute to tell her!) It looks like you are preparing for a lawsuit, not a new job! So she rescinds the offer because of the “accommodation” issue but, more importantly, because she does not trust you. What else are you hiding? Employers do not like to be surprised.

So my advice was always to do the following. We’ll use a veteran as an example.

The veteran is ushered into a conference room for the initial interview. After the pleasantries are over he says,

“Before we get started let’s address the 800-pound gorilla in the room. I know you can’t ask, but we all know you are thinking about it. So let me tell you upfront, I have no disability.”

The unspoken issue is no longer an issue and the employer likes the candidate because he was honest and showed that he understood her concerns.

Second scenario:

“Before we get started let’s address the 800-pound gorilla in the room. I know you can’t ask, but we all know you are thinking about it. So let me tell you upfront that I have X. That means Y. From the perspective of the job, it should have no impact but I will need the following ‘reasonable accommodation’.”

The employer is now happy. She has a candidate who understands her concerns and took the initiative to raise a delicate issue. And he is honest and forthright. He explained it. She understands it. It is not a last-minute surprise. She agrees with his definition of “reasonable.” The issue is no longer an issue. Now let’s start the interview!

How do I know that I am right and you deal with health issues up front?

Simple: It has worked for me!

I had a health issue at the end of May. I spent two days in the hospital and five in a dump of a nursing home (out of which I checked myself). One of the first letters that I opened when I got home informed me that my doctor had closed his practice and had transferred it to a new group of physicians. So in addition to having to deal with Social Services, I needed to find a new primary care physician, who referred me to two specialists and then I had to deal with tests, etc., all while trying to complete the paperwork for Social Services, a document which is a foot in height!

And, while doing all of this, I had to cope with the stress of an unknown health issue and financial worries. Meaning very little sleep and very little appetite. (If you want to know how to lose 25 pounds in a month, give me a call. On second thought, don’t!)

It took me a couple of weeks to get over what I had gone through and get control of what I was going through. My concentration was shot. I could not read and I could not write. I was obsessing over my situation. Never a good thing.

So how did I turn things around? I took my own advice!

First, networking. I reached out to everyone for whom I had an email address and with whom I had worked, primarily those individuals who knew me from my days with the local Chamber of Commerce. There were a lot of people I had helped with free advice or introductions. I had the network and I was going to use it.

So I wrote to everyone. Basically, they all got the same email. It began by my briefly explaining what had happened and that I was now medically fine and could return to work. I also told them that because of the bills that were pouring in (don’t ask!) I could no longer afford to work on a commission basis and would even consider a “job job.” I highlighted for them my skill set, attached a copy of my resume and told them that they could share it, and the email, at their discretion.

The following day Outlook started to hum and the phone started to ring. While a good percentage never responded, those that did first were concerned about my health and then they had specific employment-related questions. The end result:

One paid me a retainer, and has yet to give me the search! Another introduced me to his HR director who offered me a consulting gig to help her screen candidates. Others introduced me to their friends via email. I have had half a dozen phone interviews with friends of friends. In each case, I begin by reassuring them that I am fit to work. No restrictions. No “accommodations” of any type required. And in each case, without exception, they have all thanked me for being honest and upfront with them and broaching the subject myself.

Bottom line, by being honest and upfront, I have uncovered jobs that are not being advertised and have had one job created just for me. I turned being sick from a negative into a positive. If I can do it, why can’t you?

(Another advantage is that I now have a new appreciation for what some of my long-term unemployed career counseling clients were going through!)

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. (Don’t miss out on his discounted Summer Career Counseling Special!) He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States, and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

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. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.

Lastly, he can help you make the most out of LinkedIn by doing the mundane tasks so that you are free to do what only you can, grow a real-world network of potential employers, clients or customers, as the case may be, thus allowing you to achieve whatever it was that brought you to LinkedIn in the first place.

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The one thing older candidates should focus on in job interviews

I am an addict. When my copies of Inc. and Fast Company magazines arrive every month, I stop everything I am doing and read them, cover to cover. I’ve literally read every word in them this century. I always get valuable insights. This month’s issue of Inc. was no different. In his article, “You’re Never Too Old to Start a Business,” Gary Vaynerchuk made me rethink the advice I have given in the past to older workers.

Don’t get me wrong, I take nothing back that I have written or said. But Mr. Vaynerchuk came up with something that I readily admit I had not considered.

I always tell older candidates to focus on the one thing younger candidates don’t have: experience. But thanks to Vaynerchuk I would spin it differently:

Imagine the scenario: You have the interview. You are addressing the interviewer’s concerns about you. You have made it clear that you don’t want her job and that you are looking for something long-term. And you have been talking about all the great things you have done. You mention your network. You emphasize that you can “hit the ground running” as your only learning curve is to learn the “company way.” But now you add something new:

There’s one other thing that I want you to consider. When you hire me you hire someone who has had to deal with adversity. I know how to handle a crisis. I no longer panic. I passed that stage a long time ago. I can calmly analyze a bad situation and keep it from becoming a disaster. I keep things in their proper perspective. I know what to do and what not to do. I know what to say and not to say. I don’t make matters worse.

And then, shut up!

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

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. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.

Job Alert: Accountant – Northern New Jersey

Growing Northern New Jersey Certified Public Accounting firm is seeking qualified candidates for an excellent career as a Senior Accountant to be responsible for all aspects of client engagements including tax planning, compliance, financial statement compilations, reviews and audits.  Salary will be commensurate with experience.  Business casual environment, medical benefits subsidized by firm, 401K with up to 4% match.  Looking for a motivated self-starter who wants to advance quickly.

Responsibilities:

The individual will be working in all aspects of accounting, tax and audit.  Will be working closely with the Managers and Partners on all projects.

  • Tax Compliance, planning and research
  • Work closely with partners, supervisors and other staff on audits, reviews, compilations and write-ups.
  • Apply knowledge of tax forms, basic tax concepts, computer applications and other source material to prepare tax returns, projections and other data in order to prepare U.S. individual, corporate and partnership tax returns.
  • Keep abreast of current and emerging technical developments.  Develop specialized technical expertise.  Prepare and present assignment deliverables to clients and ensure client satisfaction
  • Some travel required to clients

Job Qualifications:

  • B.S. in Accounting
  • Minimum 4+ years of public accounting experience
  • CPA or working towards certification
  • Proficient in Excel, Word and Quickbooks
  • Comfortable with multi-tasking, being responsible for multiple assignments and meeting deadlines.
  • Experience with CCH Prosystem and Drake tax software a plus
  • Experience with complex tax returns, compliance and financial statements.
  • Bilingual Chinese a plus.

Use technology to continually learn, share knowledge with team members, and enhance service delivery.

Interested candidates should send their resume to Bruce at bh@hsstaffing.com.

On Bald Spots, Women’s Undergarments and Multiple Resumes

It seems that in every generation a gender is made to look foolish. (P.T. Barnum would be proud!) In the 1990s it was men. If you had a bald spot the solution was a can of spray paint or, as I like to call it, “hair in a can.” Con the woman of your dreams into falling head (pun intended) over heels for you and pray you never have to take a shower or that she starts running her fingers through your mane!

Now it’s the ladies’ turn. Not being able to sleep, I turned on the television in the wee hours of the morning and had a good laugh. I don’t remember the name of the product but the company was hocking a modern corset (there is really nothing new under the sun!) guaranteed to give the wearer an instant hourglass figure. Of course, if the new form attracts the man of the wearer’s dreams, no advice was provided for the consequences of the removal of said garment.

This reminded me of a recent exchange I had with a job seeker who insists on having a different resume for every job for which he applies. This was not just someone who tweaks his resumes, he rewrites them. Significantly, he would change job titles and not just responsibilities and accomplishments. That’s called lying and is not something that I ever condone.

My warning to him was that one day, when he does well in an interview, and an employer starts checking references, the lies in his resume will become apparent. Next time I will continue the thought with…much like the bald spot after the shower and the true figure after the removal of the modern corset.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

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. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.

Stupid Reasons for Not Hiring: Issue 3 – Too Smart

This is the third in what I hope will be an ongoing series about stupid reasons employers give for not hiring someone. The first dealt with being too attractive, and the second being unemployed. This installment is based on the Comment of a reader. If you have an example of a stupid reason for not hiring someone, please share it as a Comment and I may write about it. As I mentioned in the first article, I am interested in stupid reasons, not illegal ones.

Smart employers know to hire people who are smarter than they are. If you know more than your hire, you will be micromanaging them. Not good for a long-term relationship. Plus, what advances will they bring to your company? Doubtful there will be any.

Of course, the exception is an entry-level position where you are hiring based on potential, not experience. But then you want to mentor and train. It is the best investment a company can make in its future. But only if it is an entry-level position.

There are a lot of bosses who do not want to hire people who may challenge them. These bosses should not be bosses. Someone once said, You never want to be the smartest person in the room. That’s true. And if you are the owner of the company, you never want to be the smartest person in the company. By definition, you will be the most knowledgeable about a great many things, but you don’t want to be the smartest.

Of course, if a candidate is smarter than the interviewer, they have to be smart enough not to make the interviewer feel uncomfortable or threatened. And they most definitely have to be smart enough not to appear to be an obnoxious know-it-all who is not a team player, is not willing to learn, and thinks he or she is better than everyone else. In other words, the “too smart” candidate cannot be “too smart” for their own good.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

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. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.

Stupid Reasons for Not Hiring: Issue 2 – Unemployed

This is the second in what I hope will be an ongoing series about stupid reasons employers give for not hiring someone. The first dealt with being too attractive. Based on the Comment of a reader, the next will deal with being too smart. If you have an example of a stupid reason for not hiring someone, please share it as a Comment and I may write about it. As I mentioned in the first article, I am interested in stupid reasons, not illegal ones.

“It is easier to get a job when you have a job.” That statement has always been very popular. With the downturn in 2008, it lost some of its popularity. Sadly, it’s coming back.

I understand the logic behind the policy: If the person was any good they would be employed. It may be logical, but it is also wrong.

I’m not talking here about someone who stole from their previous employer, or lied, or did any other actionable act which rightly resulted in their being fired. That is understandable, although I must say, I have secured positions for two persons who had been fired for cause. They handled it the correct way and were able to overcome what was an unfortunate lapse in judgment.

For present purposes, I am talking about someone who was laid off. In other words, they did not lose their job because of something they did, but despite what they did. They were good at their job but their job was eliminated because of a restructuring. Or, the company lost a major client or, in the case of non-profits, a major funding source, and their employer had to cut costs.

In this scenario, an employer would be crazy not to consider an unemployed candidate, for a number of reasons:

First, they need the job and will have salary demands lower than someone who is employed. (I am assuming that they are as qualified, or more qualified, than other candidates.)

Second, they will be more appreciative of the job offer. They are scared and you have eliminated their fear. This could result in long-term loyalty.

Third, they can start work immediately. No need to wait two, three or four weeks.

Not hiring someone qualified, simply because they are unemployed through no fault of their own is, in my opinion, stupid. But it also might be illegal, depending on where you live.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

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. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.

Stupid Reasons for Not Hiring: Issue 1 – Too Attractive

Over the course of my career, I have encountered a number of really stupid reasons for not hiring qualified candidates. I am not talking here about illegal reasons; I am focused on stupid reasons.

For example, when a company says they will not hire someone who has only worked as a consultant, you may not like it, but it is neither illegal nor stupid. The employer is concerned that the candidate will not be able to cope with daily supervision, a 9-to-5 schedule, working closely with colleagues, and dealing with office politics. These are valid points.

What I am talking about are reasons that you would have to bend over backwards to try and justify.

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of topics on the subject. Please share your examples as comments. I’ll be happy to “steal” your ideas. For the record, #2 in the series will be on not hiring the unemployed. (And, yes, I know, some states are trying to me it an illegal practice.)

But for now, let’s focus on the attractive.

I am going to use a female candidate as the example. The reason is, I have seen attractive women not being hired because of their looks for the reasons that I am about to explain. It may very well also happen with male candidates. I’ve just never seen it.

A very attractive, totally qualified woman applies for the position of Executive Assistant for a married, male CEO. Hands down, no argument, no debate, nothing to discuss, she is the best candidate. So why does the CEO not hire her? “My wife would kill me!”

A very attractive, totally qualified woman applies for a job. The boss does not want her because he (or she – it goes both ways!) is afraid that the men in the office will find her a distraction.

This, too, was something I experienced first-hand, kind of. (I witnessed it, I was not the “victim.” For whatever reason, the women I have worked with have been able to control themselves and they never congregated around my desk…)

A young woman, fresh out of college, with a good resume (she had a couple of impressive internships) came to me because, while she was getting interviews, she was not getting any job offers. I got to know her and then we did a mock interview based on the job description for the previous position for which she had been interviewed.

To my mind, she did nothing wrong. But I had a feeling.

I told her that I was going to tell her something that might sound strange. The story went like this:

When you walk into an office for an interview, the women all look at you and start talking among themselves in a whisper, glancing in your direction. The men do the same. And when you had your internships, the guys in the office would find excuses to congregate around your desk.

At this point, she had a weird expression on her face. She stopped and said: That’s exactly what happens and what happened! How did you know?

I told her about what I had seen when I had office jobs. These things are not new. They happen all the time and with every generation. Sadly, as a species, we have not advanced much!

Then we did another mock interview. This time I told her what she had to say in her next interview.

First, I warned her not to say “Because I am so attractive…,” because that sounds pompous. You have to be modest. So, in response to the appropriate question or opportunity I told her to say the following:

For whatever reason, some guys find me attractive. When I had my first internship they would find excuses to come to my desk. I was always polite but I told them that I was there to work and learn, not to date. Most accepted that but in one or two cases, they would not stop. So I went to my supervisor and she stopped it. I tell you this because I want you to know how I deal with difficult situations and that I keep my private life out of the office.

Of course, I told her she could only say it if it were true. She smiled and told me that it was true for her second internship, but not the first. She was used to guys hanging around her and didn’t realize that it was inappropriate. (Ah, to be young again…) So her boss called her into his office and educated her. Then he called the guys into his office and read them the Riot Act.

I suggested that she include that in her answer. She made a mistake. Had a good boss who corrected her behavior and that of her male colleagues. She learned from the experience.

About a month later she called me to say that she had an interview. We did a mock interview. After the real interview, she called to say she had gotten the job. After she met with HR, the person who would be supervising her and some of her potential colleagues, the owner came into the room. He had one question, “What should I know about you?” She told about the office flirting and learning from her mistake. She also complimented her former boss and said that he was her role-model for dealing with difficult situations. He smiled, shook her hand, and said two words, “You’re hired!”

Don’t forget to share your examples of stupidity!

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

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. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.