Get a Job
Q: A recruiter friend of mine told me a story that really scared me. She said that her client was preparing to extend a job offer to one of her candidates after a round of successful interviews. As news of the offer was being communicated to my friend to forward to the candidate, the client received an email from the candidate thanking her for the opportunity to interview. Proper etiquette, right? However, in the candidate’s message, she came across as arrogant, rude, and careless, as her message included misspellings and grammatical errors. The hiring manager changed his mind and rescinded the offer. This made me think that it’d be good to learn more about job search etiquette. Can you please share your advice on this topic?
A: I’m glad you asked, as this is a favorite topic of mine. There are four key areas of interaction to consider when conducting a job search.
Networking: Offer to help; focus on the give side of a two-way give and take exchange. When you make new contacts at networking events or reach out to your existing contacts, think first about how you can help them in their endeavors, whether they be career-related or not. Keep in mind that supporting someone in an effort automatically makes that person want to return the favor. I call this “Networking Karma.”
Be respectful of your contact’s time, and make it comfortable for that person to say “yes.” Don’t ask for a job; ask for advice. Everyone has advice, and is happy to give it. Furthermore, you’re paying her a compliment by implying that she’s an expert.
Everywhere I look, career experts are advising job seekers to ask for informational interviews. I agree with the concept, but disagree with the wording of the request. An informational interview conjures up a 30- to 60-minute meeting which resembles an interview but for which there’s no open position that can be offered you. This can make your contacts feel somewhat uncomfortable, first about committing so much time and then for feeling that you expect more than they can give.
I’m not saying this is actually what you expect, but it’s the thought process that often occurs. I say ask for a chat, which is defined as an ‘informal conversation or talk conducted in an easy familiar manner,’ and implies a much shorter amount of time, for which it will be easier to get someone to commit.
Face to Face: Everyone knows that you should be on time for a meeting; don’t keep people waiting. If you’re meeting that person in her office, you should also beware of arriving too early. Since you’re a guest in her space, she may feel responsible for meeting with you earlier than planned and uncomfortable if she can’t. If you’re sitting in the reception area for a long time, you also make other people in the office uncomfortable, and you’ll end up feeling awkward as well. Arrive only about five minutes before your designated meeting time.
Be prepared, know what you want to discuss and be clear about what you’d like for this person to do for you. Don’t make them figure it out. Don’t shove your resume in front of her and expect her to figure out what type of job you should seek.
Listen and be patient. Pay attention to what the person is telling you and show your appreciation for her insight without countering every suggestion with an excuse. I really don’t have to say that your cell phone should be off and out of sight, do I?
On the Phone: Pretend this is a face-to-face meeting and follow all of my recommendations above. If you’re leaving a voice message, make it short and to the point. Follow up with an email if you have a lot to say. I have a colleague who not only shows up early for all our meetings but calls a couple of minutes in advance of our scheduled phone appointments. This drives me crazy. I recommend that you call one or two minutes after your scheduled time to give the other person a chance to be ready for you.
In Writing: There’ll be numerous occasions to send thank you messages. Always do so immediately after meeting with someone, whether it’s an interview or networking. When you’ve landed your new position and your job search is over, don’t forget to go back again and thank all those people who have helped you in any way. Whatever type of message you’re sending — thank you notes, cover letters, or other correspondence — be polite and make sure that you thoroughly check for spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t use texting-like abbreviations, such as BTW or FYI. And don’t use texting or twitter to convey any of these messages. Texting is okay when the other person has used texting to contact you, but still beware of using texting abbreviations.
This month’s lagniappe: When using a formal salutation that includes Ms. or Mr., follow it only with the person’s last name. I am continually surprised by the number of people who will begin a letter with Dear Ms. Mauri Schwartz when the correct way is Dear Ms. Schwartz.
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