If you have questions about how to find a job, the Hiring Manager is here to help!
The questions below are in divided by category and are posted in order by the date they were received.
If you are looking to find a job and would like to ask the Hiring Manager a question, please use the form below and allow five days for the answer to be posted. We will answer as many questions as possible, so long as they are relevant to finding a job and are of interest to many. Sorry, but we’re unable to send individual responses back to you.
GENERAL JOB SEARCH QUESTIONS
Question: “I really need to find a job! How much time each day should I spend on searching for a job?”
Answer: “The easy answer is: as much as you can! To find a job quickly, you must have large numbers of applications. The more you search and apply for job openings, the faster you will find your next job. If you are currently unemployed, treat your job search as if it was a job. Start in the morning, much like you were starting your job, and spend at least six hours per day during the week on your job search. This may sound like a lot of time, but if you are exploring every source for job openings possible, you can easily spend full time on your job search. Applying properly for job openings is time consuming. You must research the company, write a cover letter tailored specifically for that job, tailor your resume specifically for that job, etc. Doing it right takes a lot of time, but it will increase your changes of landing that elusive interview. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!
Question: How often should I check a particular company’s web site for job openings?
Answer: Most companies post new openings at least once per week and many post them twice per week. The company where I currently work posts new jobs on their web site every Monday and Wednesday. This means you should check the web sites for all the companies you’ve identified at least once per week. If you want to accelerate your efforts to find a job, check the sites twice weekly.
Question: If I can find out the name and phone number of the hiring manager, is it okay to call that person to say I applied for the job and sell myself? Won’t that show initiative?
Answer: Yes, it shows initiative…but it also irritates me. Most hiring managers have busy schedules, hectic days and get many phone calls. Getting an unexpected phone call from a candidate trying to sell themselves is pretty disruptive and will get you off to a bad start with many managers. Here’s a better way: send me an email. This way, I can choose when to read it, it doesn’t disrupt my day unexpectedly, and I don’t have to field a phone call for which I wasn’t prepared. It shows just as much initiative (more, in fact, because my email address is probably harder to find) and has the great advantage of showing that not only do you have initiative, but you are considerate and respect my time. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!
Question: For clerical and administrative assistant type positions, what are the things you look for most?
Answer: First and foremost, I look for experience that fits my job. The job posting will usually tell you what experience and qualifications are important. Because these types of positions frequently have many people applying who will meet the qualifications, there are a three other traits that I – many other hiring managers I know – like to see and can make you stand out: punctuality, good attendance, and good attitude. Clerical support positions frequently work with many other employees, so a good attitude and the ability to get along well with others makes my job as a manager much easer. Punctuality and good attendance are important because when you’re late or absent, someone else will usually have to cover for you and that causes problems for me as a manager. Among applicants with equal qualifications, I’ll choose the one that I think displays these traits the most. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!
Question: If I get a job offer, what are the things that I can negotiate?
Answer: Unless the job offer is for a senior management position (Vice-President or higher), in most instances there are really only a couple of things you can negotiate: salary and perhaps some flexibility in working hours. For the vast majority of positions, especially in large companies, benefits are fixed and standard for everyone. You may be able to negotiate some on salary if you have particularly strong qualifications, and working hours may have some flexibility within a narrow range. Beyond that, the benefit package will usually be the same for everyone. Of course, at the senior management level, nearly everything is negotiable and spelled out in employment contracts that may be highly customized for a certain individual. Unfortunately, until you reach that level there are very few things beyond salary and working hours that can be negotiated. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!
Question: Would you give me some explanation as to who is a hiring manager? Is this the person who is the future boss? And what is the best way to find out who he/she is?
Answer: The Hiring Manager is the manager who has the job opening. And yes, this is the person who will be the boss of whoever is hired for the job. When a manager who manages a group of people needs to hire a person to work in that group, that manager becomes a “Hiring Manager”. This means that virtually any manager in the company can be a Hiring Manager when they have a job opening. As to the best way to find out who the Hiring Manager is, that depends on the organization. If it’s a big company, and the job posting says what specific department the job is in, you may be able to go the company web site and see if they have an organization chart that contains manager names by department. If not, try calling the main number for that company and asking who is the manager is for that department. If they don’t know, ask to be connected to the department and ask whoever answers for the name of the manager. If it’s a small company, it may be harder to find out who is the Hiring Manager. Try calling and simply asking the receptionist who answers if you can have the name of the person who is hiring for that position. You may or may not get it, but you can always try. In other words, you have to be a bit creative to find out the name of the manager. But be aware that many companies will be reluctant to give it to you. Managers typically do not want to hear directly from job applicants unless they are already in contact with them, so be very careful what you do with the Hiring Manager’s name once you have it. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!
RESUME AND COVER LETTER QUESTIONS
Question: Should I include my references with my resume or application?
Answer: There are different opinions about this. As a hiring manager, I recommend you do not include references in your resume. It takes up valuable space and may result in more calls to your references than necessary. I don’t need your references unless I’ve already interviewed you and intend to make you a job offer. Checking references is the last thing done before the job offer is extended and there is no reason to give them unless asked.
Question: What is the best single piece of advice you can give me about writing my resume?
Answer: List accomplishments. Make sure that you not only explain in your resume what your job duties were for each job, but also what the results were that you achieved. This is something missing from probably 90% of the resumes I receive. You should list four or five very specific achievements for your prior two or three jobs. For example, if you were a computer programmer, don’t just say “wrote code for an accounting system.” Instead, say something like: “cleaned up and streamlined code for legacy accounting system that resulted in 20% fewer errors.” If you write a resume that not only says what you did but what you achieved, you will have a much more powerful resume. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!
Question: How can I make my cover letter stand out from all the other ones?
Answer: Just recently, I received what I consider to be the best cover letter I’ve ever seen from a job applicant. What made this particular one stand out was that he took the time to list each of the five mandatory experience requirements from my job posting and write a paragraph about each one that recapped exactly how his skills and experience more than matched each of my specific requirements. I didn’t have to guess whether or not he was a good match, he clearly demonstrated that. I read his resume right away after that powerful cover letter. He was the first person I called for an interview and I hired him shortly thereafter. It’s takes longer to write a cover letter like this and requires more thinking, but you will have a much higher success rate at getting your resume read (which is the purpose of the cover letter. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!
Question: Should I follow up with a phone call to the Hiring Manager after I’ve had an interview?
Answer: On the surface, this would appear to be a reasonable approach and might demonstrate that you have initiative. It’s certainly the recommendation of many recruiters and books on job search advice. My comment here is these recruiters and authors must have never been a hiring manager. As a hiring manager, I’m going to now share a secret with you: I do not like getting follow-up phone calls from applicants I’ve interviewed. Why? Because if I intend to hire you, I will call you (or have HR call you). If I do not plan to hire you, it’s very awkward to have to talk to you on the phone and make up an excuse on the spot. Either way, a call from you is unnecessary. Forget about the stories you’ve read where a job applicant landed the job because of a follow-up phone call to a hiring manager who “forgot all about the interview and was glad the applicant called and prompted their memory”. In 30 years of business experience, I’ve never heard of a manager who intended to hire someone they interviewed but then simply forgot to call them. Don’t worry – you’ll hear from me if I intend to hire you. If you insist on a call, make it to HR. They will know the status of the hiring process. Having said all this, I’ll also say that it’s okay to send me an email inquiring about your status. I can then choose whether and when to answer it and it’s much less intrusive than a phone call. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!
Question: Okay, I got an interview and I’ve read a lot of interview advice. What’s the best tip you can give me?
Answer: Actually, I’ll give you two tips. First, do your homework and find out as much as you can about the company. This shows you have initiative and are taking the interview seriously. Second, frame your answers to questions in a way that shows how your skills and experience match the job for which you’re interviewing. You should make a list of the specific skills from the job posting and then make sure you can explain how your skills and experience fit those requirements. This way, the Hiring Manager won’t have to guess – you’ll tell them. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!
Question: How early should I arrive for an interview?
Answer: You should plan on arriving at the location at least 30 to 45 minutes ahead of time. This sounds like a lot, but it allows for any unexpected delays, such as traffic. Wait in your car, collecting your thoughts or going over last minute notes. Then walk into HR five minutes ahead of your scheduled interview. Any earlier and you will have to wait and it’s much less stressful waiting in your car. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!
Question: How do I handle the “why did you leave your last job” question if I was fired?
Answer: It depends on why you were fired. If the company was downsizing and laying off employees, simply say so. In today’s world, there is no stigma attached to being downsized out of a job. If you were fired because you didn’t get along with your boss, be honest and simply say that you had a personality conflict with your boss. As a hiring manager, I’ll understand and overlook this if you do well otherwise in the interview and are well qualified. If you were fired for poor job performance, it becomes a bit more tricky. About the best you can do is to say that the job was not a good fit for you and your performance suffered as a result. And then convince me that my job is a good fit for you! Good luck in your efforts to find a job.
Question: I’ve sent out resumes and applied for dozens of openings but can’t seem to get an interview. Any suggestions?
Answer: Without actually looking at your resume and the types of positions you’ve applied for, I do have some general suggestions for you. First, are you applying for the right jobs? By that, I mean are you applying for jobs that your experience and qualifications match? If so, then check your cover letter to make certain it’s customized for each job and specifically highlights how your experience matches the exact requirements advertised for that job. Third, make sure your resume highlights accomplishments, not just responsibilities. You want to show that you not only have the necessary experience, but that you were also successful in performing the duties that gave you that experience. If you follow these three general suggestions, I’m confident it will just be a matter of time until you start getting called to interviews. Good luck in your efforts to find a job!