What if most hiring managers, (or anybody in charge of hiring at a given Mom and Pop, no matter what their title) were to act in the same ways they expect potential employers to act? What if they were just as willing to be open about everything, professional and personal, as candidates are expected to be?
In other words, what if there were the slightest bit of equality, honesty, and fairness in the job hunting world.
Let's consider just a few things that the conventional wisdom proclaims a job hunter must do, without even the slightest expectation that those seeking to hire reciprocate.
1) Always spend a few weeks, or even months researching the firm to which you are applying. Make calls. Get people's names and deal with them personally. Get copies of their annual report. Become as much of an expert on the company as an outsider can be. If you are not willing to do this, why should any manager expect that you are going to put forth your best effort if given the job?
How many of you have sat down for an interview across from someone who had both your resume and your cover letter in hand, and yet proceeded to ask you a string of questions, all of which are very clearly answered on both of those documents? Did they not put in the time to read them? Were they not motivated enough by the possibility of filling the position with the perfect candidate to even read your resume word for word several times, as well as your cover letter? Could they not have done the extra research before sitting down with you to find out all of these things? In fact, why tell them anything at all? If they want you, they'll check up on you, and research your talents. At least for a few months before they give you the interview. They should know you like your best friend before you sit down across from them. And if they can't be bothered, do you really want to work for them?
Doesn't happen. Never will.
2) Be prepared with salary history and current salary requirements. The manager's job is to get the maximum amount of work value out of someone while spending the least amount of the company's profits as possible. Manager's need to be able to see what you have made at your previous three jobs to see that it isn't too high. But they also need to see that it isn't too low, so you don't appear to be desperate. But each job should also have paid you more than the last to show your motivation. This may be illegal, but that's life. Managers are going to want to know these things, and it's your job to provide them.
"Thank you for taking the time to interview me for this position. Before we get started, I'd like to know what I can expect you to be pulling down this year. Since you will be my immediate supervisor, and the lion's share of my work load is going to come directly from you, it is only fitting that I be given this information. I want to make sure that what you make is commiserate with how well you are providing me with proper supervision. I'd also like to know how much you made at your previous post within this company, and the company before this, so I can determine how fair it is for me to work under someone who made less than I do now. You see it is my job to obtain from you the highest amount of money possible, while supplying the least amount of work. I don't inherently trust you and never will, so the best we can do is low ball each other, and I have had a lot of interviews today. Surely you understand why I need something to cut you out of consideration easily."
This has never been said, I would dare say. And if it were, the person would never be hired.
3) Be ready for curve ball questions during an interview. Manager's need to weed out candidates who don't respond well to the unpredictable. These questions have nothing to do with the actual position, and will use up time and energy, but the more prepared you are for possible off-the-wall questions, the better you will look to a manager who asks, "If you had to move Mount Fuji five miles to the west, how would you do it?"
"Thanks for taking the time to interview me today, Mr. Smith. I wanted to let you know I may or may not have a Colt-45 in my suit pocket right now. I am four feet from you. If I do have one and I were to pull it out now and attempt to put a cap in your ass, how would you avoid death or serious injury?" Then reach into your pocket. After all, management requires split second, vital decision making all of the time. Do you want to work for someone who has no solution to this potential problem?
Oh, that would be a silly time wasting stunt that doesn't teach anybody anything about the your candidacy? Really? You don't say?
4) A handwritten thank you note shows professionalism, class, and proves that you valued the manager's time enough to thank them for it. Email is still such a new-fangled device, and so impersonal! And saying so in person at the start and end of the interview was nice, but if you want that extra edge, show them what you are really made of and buy some solid, high end cards, and write out your gratitude freehand.
Spend time writing a thank you card to a guy who took 20 minutes to ask me about the resume he is holding, followed by questions about Mt. Fuji, and from whom I will never hear again, even if it is to let me know someone else was selected? I should show class by engaging in something that basically went out of fashion 40 years ago, for the benefit of someone who will not even so much as return my phone calls (I'm showing initiative!) a week or two after the interview? Put forth effort into doing something totally out of character and out of step with modern communication, all for the sake of a manager who basically did nothing more than do his job that day?
Every time I have an interview I check my snail mail for three weeks in hopes of a "Thank you for choosing to take your time to express interest in our company. I really enjoyed meeting you!" card. I have never received one of these. Ever. But then again, as I am often reminded, managers are busy people who look through hundreds of resumes and talk to dozens of people a day, and don't have time to sit down and write out a thank you letter to every candidate. Silly me. I tend to forget that my time is not valuable, and that I, as a candidate that is expected to write a thank you letter, could not possibly ever be busy myself.
5) Don't make it about you. It is absolutely, positively never about you. Do not seek what a potential employer can give you. You are not there to get a job. You are there to tell the company that you admire their mission, and that your unique skill set can help them do it, faster, easier, and cheaper. Make them see that you are eager to enhance anything and everything that Acme Inc. is all about. (And you will know what that is, because you researched them for 6 months before applying for the position.) It is unprofessional to discuss or even hint at what they can do for you. Remember priorities.
Nothing is in it for me? Perhaps I should forgo a salary then. If I am not supposed to be concerned with what a company can give me, perhaps I shouldn't be concerned for me at all. Perhaps I should just be a cog for them, and put that on my unread resume that the manager is now holding.
No, no. That would be absurd, of course. I will simply ask him during the interview what's in it for me. I will ask him to convince me why I will be getting more by working for him than working for any other company to which I have applied. Naturally the manager will bend over backwards to explain to me that Acme Inc. is here to serve me, and will be more than honored to prove that it can improve my life simply by hiring me. No need for that silly mutually beneficial arrangement. Just have him prove what he will do for ME.
6) Provide them with some sort of insurances that you don't intend to be a job hopper. Managers want to know that you are in with the company for the long haul. Any indication that you could move to another state within the next ten years, or that you have a college degree that might make you restless in the position should be avoided in the conversation. Manager's hate turnover and having to do all of this again in a few years.
I'll tell you what. I'll make a solemn pledge, in writing, that if hired, I will not even think about moving out of the area for at least 15 years, if you sign a legally binding pledge to not fire me, down size me, lay me off, or in anyway decrease my salary over the same period. Deal? No? No guarantee of stability is possible in this changing economy? Wow. I could have sworn you wanted me to assure you of that very thing from my end. Could you rephrase the question?
7) Always address inquiries and job related communications directly to the person responsible. Know their name, their title, and when the best time to reach them is. Nothing shows a lack of respect more than getting someone's name wrong.
My name has two letters, and half of the time people get it wrong. My last name is pronounced just as it is spelled. Except to just about everybody that has ever given me an interview.
8) Be lenient with the illegal questions. Yes, they are not supposed to ask you about children, health, and age, but the fact is they do, and let's face it, it may just be more advantageous to go along than get along with such things. A manager needs to take every step they can to assure that a candidate is going to be ready to go from day one, and you really leave a bad impression when you start quoting employment law to them during the interview. You will come off as a smart ass.
If they are willing to break the law by asking you the "Forbidden Questions", so long as you don't call them on it, just what else exactly are they willing to do that is illegal? You do not want to work for someone who asks "those" questions, and gets huffy or ends the interview when you will not answer them.
9) Be open with your social networking presence. Just what reason do you have to keep anything private online anyway? Nothing says, "potential drunken slut" to a hiring manager more than a Facebook profile that is locked away on "private". What are you hiding anyway? If your online life is that much different than your offline life, a manager is going to start wondering what is wrong with you. Like it or not, social network investigation is here to stay from employers, and you had best be on the right side of it.
"That very attractive blond you have on your arm in that picture on your desk...is that your daughter, or your wife? I'd like to know, for more than one reason. Not the least of which is I don't think I can work for a man of your age that likes to get it on with someone who appears to be, at best, 19. Do you see her socially? You appear to be on the beach. Does she like to wear those g-strings when you go to the beach? That would be rather slutty if she did in my opinion. How's that reflect on the company here? It's none of my business? Get out of your office? Well the picture was in plain site to anyone who walks into this office. It's public now. I think I am entitled to know who that piece of ass is and why you are touching her. If I don't have the right to know, perhaps you shouldn't display it like that."
Point made on this one, I think.
So there you have it. Just nine of the first things that enter my mind when I think of this offensive, impractical, yet deeply ingrained and endorsed employment dichotomy in this country. There are many other examples of unfair expectations for job candidates I am sure. But my point is clear; we need to stop acting like Oliver Twist, begging for more in the employment world. We need to start insisting, en masse, that managers behave and act as we the job seekers and foot soldiers are expected to act. Nobody is better or worse than anybody else, and this isn't a game. These are people's lives. Allowing managers to get away with murder when they seek to fill a position is a direct result of the working man deciding they are willing to put up with anything just to get hired. Take a stand. Don't settle for being treated worse than you are required to treat others.
Would you add anything to this list?