Lately, I’ve seen something new. Or, maybe it’s just resurfacing. Hiring managers are asking job seekers about their hobbies. But, they’re not asking in the normal friendly way. They’re not simply trying to get to know the job seeker better.
No. Now, they’re asking about hobbies because they want to let the job seeker know what they can and cannot do in their personal time while they’re working for the company. Have you heard of this? It’s quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine.
We all have a certain amount of free time. Most of us have a few hours here and there at night or on the weekend. We may choose to have a big family that we spend time with. We may do volunteer work. We may garden. We may run an eBay store. Or, we may have some other side hobby that generates a few dollars here and there. You get the idea.
The problem is, the hiring manager is trying to put limits around what the employee can do with their personal time.
It would be inappropriate for an employer to ask an employee not to have children because children are a distraction. Don’t you agree? In the same way, it is inappropriate for an employer to ask an employee not to pursue certain hobbies.
Instead, ask the employee how they will excel at their job. Ask them what they plan to do to be the best in their field. Find out what the employee will be doing during work hours to help contribute to the success of the company. Find out about their past track record.
The one time where it makes sense to worry about an employee’s hobbies is this. The hobby should not be pursued during work hours. It should not be done on a work computer, or at a work location. It should not compete with the company’s business. It should not require the use of confidential company information. And, the hobby should follow local laws. These all make sense. Your hobby shouldn’t directly hurt the business or use the business’ resources.
Aside from these things, hobbies are just that – hobbies. Whether yours is to have a big family or to run an eBay store, what’s done off the clock is nobody’s business but yours.
If an employee is underperforming, the deficit should be addressed, not the hobby. It’s the employee’s responsibility to manage their personal time in the way that they choose. The employee should not be forced to choose their job over the rest of their life. Both work time and personal time are important pieces of our individual lives. Having hobbies outside of work most likely makes us happier and even more productive during work hours.
If you’re hiring, only ask questions about hobbies if you truly want to learn about the job seeker. But, beware –personal information can create bias in your process.
I run into many questions surrounding parents. And, I’m not talking about the parents of young children. I’m talking about the parents of full grown adults. Both the parents and the children don’t seem to know where the boundaries are in the job search world. A similar issue was magnified for us in the media with the college entrance scandal. It’s shocking to learn the great lengths parents are going to in order to setup Olivia Jade with a perfect life, isn’t it?
I’ll share my two cents on this issue. Parents should have a very small part in their adult child’s job search. To the outside world, the parents should be invisible. If I’m a hiring manager, I should have no awareness of the parents. Parents will very likely not even come up in conversation during a job interview. It’s like parents aren’t even part of the equation.
Why is this? Well, if I’m the hiring manager, I’m looking to hire an adult. I want to hire a fully formed adult human who can come to my business and make good choices – on their own. I want to be able to trust this adult child with my business. If I am even remotely aware that there may be a parent involved in the process, I will not consider the child. If a parent is involved, I am unclear if that child is competent or not. I’m unclear how independent the child is. I’m not sure how much hand-holding I’m going to have to do with the child.
With this said, parents mean well. And, they’re often helpful in a job search. But, the question is, when are they helpful in the job search? A parent is helpful when they answer questions the child may come to them with. The parent is helpful if they help proofread a resume, when the child asks. A parent is helpful when they give the child tips, when they ask.
There are two common themes here. First, the child should ask for help. Second, the parent is advising the child directly. They’re on the sidelines. They’re not seen by anyone but the child.
The parent should not be contacting any employer directly. They should not attend a job interview with the child (even if they’re just waiting in the lobby). A parent should not look up the future employer on LinkedIn.
The minute an employer gets a whiff of the child, they’re out. The employer will never tell you this to your face because they’re too polite. But, they’re thinking it. And, they’re talking about it with other people.
If you are the child of a parent who is trying to help you in this way, it’s time to step up. I know this is a tough conversation to have. If you care about your career, it’s time to have a serious conversation. Nobody can do it but you.
If you’re in the middle of a job search, you know: it’s not the searching that’s hard. If you have a loved one who’s looking for a job, you may wonder what has gone wrong in their life. They’re moody and they doubt their abilities. You wonder what’s taking them so long.
This is what you have to keep in mind about actively searching for a job. Normally, we don’t find jobs by actively looking. We find a job because our uncle heard of something. Or, our old boss recruited us. Or, we ran into someone at a conference who was hiring. This is quick. It’s quick because we weren’t looking. A job landed in our lap.
When we actively search for a job, the process is different. We often start with loved ones and try to enlist their help. Then, we apply online. We find ourselves spending hours searching for jobs and filling out online applications. The process feels similar to going to a doctor for the first time: invasive. Sometimes, we’re asked questions about our past salaries. We may be asked whether or not our social media posts are in line with the company’s values. We may be asked to take personality tests and IQ tests – before we even speak to a real person at the company.
Once we start talking to real people, the process can get worse. Often, hiring managers aren’t great interviewers. They’re late to the interview. They reschedule with no notice. They may ask illegal questions and they may talk down to us.
When we’re not selected, the process is equally challenging. Often, we hear nothing back. Other times, we get an automated email rejection with no details. In some lucky scenarios, we get a chance to speak with a real human. Sometimes, those conversations are helpful. But other times, the person on the other end of the phone seems to forget they’re talking to another human. It’s as if they think they’re giving feedback on a car they’ve test driven. They’re quick to judge and will tell us that we aren’t qualified. We come from the wrong industry, or we don’t have enough experience.
The thing that’s the hardest though is that this feedback is very often not 100 percent accurate. We may not have done a perfect job at communicating our strengths. Or, the company just needs to come up with an excuse to hire someone else. But, as a job seeker, it’s hard to know what the “truth” is. We may begin to doubt our abilities.
The most difficult part of searching is the waiting. It’s not unusual for a company to take three, four, or even six months to complete their search. In the meantime, we’re sitting on the sidelines, biting our nails.
So, if you have a friend who is job seeking, cut them a little slack. It’s not the searching that’s so hard.
Episode 185 is live! This week, we talk with Martha Gimbel in Washington, DC.
Martha is the Research Director for the Indeed Hiring Lab. Previously, she was the Research Director and Senior Economist at the Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill, a senior policy advisor to the Secretary of Labor, and an economist at the Council of Economic Advisers focusing on labor market issues.
On today’s episode, Martha shares:
- What is Equal Pay Day?
- How large is the gender pay gap is today?
- Myth Discussions: We uncover some of the biggest myths around the gender pay gap. Is one gender more ambitious? Do men negotiate more or less than women?
To learn more about Martha‘s work, visit www.hiringlab.org.
There’s been a lot in the news about ghosting lately. Job seekers aren’t showing up to interviews. And, they’re not coming to work on their first day – all with no notice. At first look, it can be explained simply: companies have been treating job seekers badly for years, and now, it’s their turn. But, I think there may be more to it than this.
The job search has turned into such a one way street. Ask anyone you know if they’ve ever turned down a job offer. You’ll be surprised to know many have not. If they’re offered a job, they take it. Job offers were hard to come by.
Because of this, the search process has been catered to the hiring manager. After all, they’re the one who’ll sign your paycheck.
Job seekers are expected to take IQ tests. They’re expected to take personality assessments. They’re asked to disclose their full salary history. Employers make candidates open their phone book of references. The job seeker is expected to cancel meetings and to sneak out of work at the last minute to accommodate the hiring manager’s schedule.
Now, think of it from the other side. The employer often doesn’t talk about who they are in the job description. They share what they want in a candidate. The hiring manager goes as fast or slow as they please. Often, candidates are never given a tour of the office where they’ll be working. They often don’t have the chance to meet the team members they’ll work with.
The candidate is expected to make a decision with far less information than the company has to make their decision.
In addition, the job seeker is expected to accept a job offer in just a few days – and sometimes with incomplete information. I have seen a company pressure a candidate to accept a job offer before the person was told what the salary would be.
I believe that part of the reason job seekers ghost companies is this. The job seeker is forced to make a decision more quickly than they feel comfortable. Getting an interview at all is a huge effort. The job seeker doesn’t want to walk away from a perfectly good offer, so they accept. Then, they have a little time to learn more about the company. They visit the new city where they might move. They learn more about the people they might be working with. And, suddenly, they realize that they shouldn’t have accepted the job offer at all.
The difference between now and a few years ago is this. There are other jobs available. In the past, the job seeker may have found themselves in the same position, but they would have stuck with their decision because it was the only option.
Today, there are many options. So, the candidate ghosts the company that didn’t take the time to create a two way street.
I can’t say this enough times. The job market is excellent! It’s the strongest job market we’ve seen in fifty years. Fifty years! Lately, there have been more open jobs than people looking for a job. The national unemployment rate has dropped below 3.8 percent. That’s pretty incredible.
With this said, I keep running into a phenomenon that’s boggling my mind. I just can’t get over it. I’m hearing from people every day who hate their jobs, but aren’t ready to find a new job. I’ll be honest. This very sounds counterintuitive to me. If something isn’t right, I can’t help but look for a solution.
But, these unhappy employees are busy. They have other commitments now. There are other priorities they need to attend to right now. They’re not satisfied at work, but they’ll look later. They’ll search when they have a little more time.
While I understand the logic behind this argument, I want to share another perspective. This is the thing. When we’re thinking of looking for a job, we think of ourselves. Our thought process is focused inward. We think, “I have the right education. I have the right experience. I’m qualified.” This makes sense. We believe we are either ready or are not ready for a particular job.
Rarely do we ever think about whether a job is ready for us. What I mean is this. So much of hiring is influenced by the job market and the current state of the economy. Even if you’re at the top of your game, if the economy isn’t great, you’re just out of luck. Companies don’t have the resources to hire you. They’ll force their existing workers to work a little harder. Ask anyone who has graduated from college during a tough economic time. They remember how hard it was to find a job, despite their new education.
Alternatively, if the job market is hot, companies may be more flexible on their requirements. This is especially true if there’s a shortage of people with your skills in your industry – right now. In other words, a company may be willing to hire you now, even if you don’t meet every requirement.
The most important words to note are “right now.” There is no guarantee the job market will continue to be strong. A recession is predicted in the next year or so. And, some people are already saying that the job market is slowing down.
What does this mean for you? If you’re someone who hates your job, now is the time to act. If you’re busy, it may be time to reprioritize. Or, to decide if you can live with your job for a few more years if the economy really does slow down.
Job searching is a lot like the children’s game musical chairs. If you want to find a new spot, you’ve got to get it before the music stops.
If you’re like most people, there was a time when you were underqualified for a job. This is typically the case when you apply for your first job or when you make a big career change midstream.
At some point, you didn’t meet all of the requirements of a job description you were really interested in. Did that stop you from applying? Many job seekers avoid applying when they don’t meet all the requirements. It seems pointless and a path straight to rejection.
This reminds me of a job I took right after college. I didn’t realize it, but a MBA was required. It wasn’t even optional – it was a must-have. Of course, I didn’t have a MBA back then.
I competed against two much older MBAs. We were all there together, so the process was both intimidating and grueling. In the end, I was surprised to know I was the one who got an offer. It turns out I had performed better in the interviews, and I suspect I was cheaper.
Remember – when your future boss writes a job description, they often provide a laundry list of things they’d like to have. In fact, they may even use a template to write the description that has extra requirements tucked in. It’s like a wish list. Your future boss doesn’t expect to find someone who matches every single requirement. If they did, the person would most likely be overqualified.
So, where does this leave you? Clearly you don’t want to waste time applying for jobs you can’t actually do. But, there’s a difference between not meeting all of the requirements of the job description and being able to do the job.
Read the job description carefully. Ask yourself honestly, “Do I think I can do this job successfully?” If your answer is yes, apply right away. If the answer is maybe, evaluate how much of the job you can do. If you believe you can successfully complete 80 percent or more of the requests in the job posting, you should also consider applying.
The online application process may not be of much help however. Applicant tracking systems filter out applicants who don’t appear to be a fit on paper. To overcome this, look for opportunities to connect offline. Search out your future boss on LinkedIn, or find your future colleagues at networking events.
If it appears that your lack of experience is too much for your future boss, explore opportunities to grow your skills. Search for classes you can take. Look for smaller businesses that might give you a shot. Or, look for another hiring manager that’s more flexible in their requirements.
At the end of the day, you don’t know you won’t be selected for a job unless you take the risk and apply. It’s much better for a future employer to tell you no than for you to automatically eliminate yourself from consideration.
The title of my column today may sound a bit confusing. It comes from one of my own career mentors. Years ago, when I was finishing graduate school, I spent a significant amount of time searching for the right job.
Occasionally, one would pop up that would seem almost right. It would have a great job description. The company seemed stable. The team seemed interesting. But, there was something about the hiring manager that was off – or perhaps the company wasn’t offering a competitive salary.
I would meet with my mentor to tell him about the jobs I was considering, and discuss the pros and cons of each. If a job seemed like the wrong fit, he would encourage me to walk away. The thought of turning down an offer without another in hand was nerve-wracking. It was like torture. This is especially true when you’re unemployed, or very unhappy with your current job.
My mentor would then remind me, “Jobs are like buses. Just wait; another one is always coming.”
He felt it was more important to find the right fit, than to take the first job that came along. Looking back, these were wise words. Who else in your life do you spend as much time with as your boss and co-workers? For most, the answer is your spouse. You typically don’t choose to marry your first date. Why would you expect that at work?
Often, we want to take every job when we’re feeling desperate. We’re miserable in our current position and we think that anything would be better – even if it were just for a short time. We assume this job may be the best thing we’ll get right now. We may be stuck forever if we wait longer.
The problem with this strategy is complex. First, your next job may have just as many problems are your current job, if not more. As the saying goes, sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.
More importantly though, planning to take a job for a short time forces you to explain why you’re looking for a new job just after accepting one. This means that you’ll be explaining all the dirt on your old company, including the ways that you didn’t get along with your boss or co-workers.
When you choose to wait and select the right job, you’ll find yourself there for more than just a short time. While you’re interviewing, you’ll be able to focus on the positives of what you want in the future rather than the negatives from the past. Whether it comes to interviewing or negotiating your offer, focusing on the positive puts you in a much stronger position.
When you’re having a tough day, just try to remember that jobs are like buses. Just wait. Another one is coming, and you want to be sure you get on the right one.
I read articles about candidates who are ghosting employers. They’re not showing up to interviews. They’re not showing up on their first day. They’re disappearing. And, employers are frustrated. On top of the ghosting phenomenon, employers can’t seem to find enough qualified candidates. It’s like there just aren’t any good people left.
If you’re a hiring manager and you’re having trouble hiring, here are a few tips.
First, think back to the last time you looked for a job. I’m not talking about the time a friend called and offered you something you didn’t know was open. I’m talking about the last time you felt down and out. I’m talking about a time when you were applying to everything you could find and were pinning your entire future on each interview. Remember how crazy that time felt? How vulnerable it felt? Keep that in mind and do your best to treat everyone you interview with the same level of respect you would want to receive.
Make it easy to apply. Don’t you hate those long online applications? So do job seekers. Make the process easy to apply and you’ll have more candidates to pick from.
If you’re going to ask candidates to take tests as part of the interview process, think hard about it. Personality tests and IQ tests are not a perfect indicator of future performance. But they’re a sure fire way to turn off candidates. If you decide that tests are for you, at least save them until late in the interview process. Don’t force candidates to devote time to your screening process if you’re not committed to investing time first.
Be flexible with candidates. I’m not talking about interviewing candidates on the weekend. But, when you offer times for interviews, give more than one day and more than one time. Schedule interviews a few days ahead of time, so the candidate will have time to reorganize their schedule. Don’t force the job seeker to pick between their existing commitments and you. They don’t even know you yet.
Follow through on your commitments. If you tell the job seeker that you’ll let them know something next week, then let them know something next week. If next week comes and you don’t have the update yet, let them know that. They’ll understand.
Be reasonable with your requirements. Do you really need someone who can write code, market, and project manage? Decide what’s the most important to you and focus in on those things. If you are expecting to find a unicorn, you’re going to come up empty-handed.
Pay attention to your online reviews. I know that they aren’t always fair. I get it that sometimes disgruntled employees post things about your company that aren’t right. But, these reviews are how job seekers decide whether or not your company is worth the trouble.
Bottom line: treat other people the way you want to be treated.
Job searching is one of the most personal impersonal experiences there is. As a job seeker, you pour your heart into your cover letter. You customize your resume. You sit in agony at each step of the process, which can drag out for many months. Along the way, you may encounter many tests of your abilities.
In addition to a phone screen, multiple phone calls, in person one-on-one interviews, and panel interviews, you’re asked to do even more. You may be asked to take a personality test to be sure you’re a cultural fit. You may need to take an IQ test to be sure you’re smart enough for the job. You might be asked to create and deliver a presentation. Or, you may be asked to create a 90-day plan. You may be asked to do a sample assignment. You will probably be asked to do a background check, submit references, and possibly go through a drug test.
And, you’ll be doing all of these things just under the radar of your current boss. You know all along that if the boss notices you’re searching, you could be putting your entire career on the line. But, you do it anyway because it’s important and it’s the only way to truly grow your career.
After all of this work, very often the company drops you. But, you may not even realize you’ve been dropped because sometimes they don’t call. Other times, you find out you’ve been dropped when you receive an automated email rejecting you in favor of a “more qualified” candidate.
But, it’s not personal, right? It shouldn’t be, but it definitely burns. If you keep the right attitude, you’ll dust yourself off and keep going. You may even keep an eye out to see if the company you interviewed with has any additional job postings. You can’t let it get to you.
Similarly, job searching becomes a numbers game. If you really want to score something new, you’ve got to apply in bulk. You’ve got to interview at more than one company at a time.
This is where things get a bit ironic. Imagine that you’re having a positive experience interviewing. You’re finding success, but not at just one company – at two or three. Suddenly, you get more than one job offer and you have to pick one. And, the tables have reversed.
Interestingly, companies can take the rejection just as personally as job seekers do. They seem to feel that they’ve invested all of their time into a candidate who walked away. The friend you’ve made in human resources may not even respond to your email or phone call declining the offer. You’ve let them down.
Just remember, it’s not personal. Both sides are investing their time in the process. Both sides can walk away at any point. And, the job seeker isn’t the only one who shouldn’t take rejection so personally.