Posts Tagged ‘employer’

Here’s an excerpt from “What Color is Your Straitjacket? – A Pocket Guide to Getting and Keeping a Job Without Going Wacko” available as an ebook,


In general, your employer will want to keep you around and you’ll be much less layoffable not just because you smell good, but because:

  • you have a positive attitude – no one wants to work with Whiny Guy
  • you’re flexible – not flexible like you can wrap both legs around your neck, but rather like you’re willing to go with the flow and do things outside your job description, like clean the john when the company can no longer afford a maintenance person
  • you’re dependable – you’re there, you’re ready to go, you’re the go-to guy; the one everyone automatically turns to with really dumb questions that have nothing whatsoever to do with your job
  • you give a crap about the company and your co-workers
  • you’re easy to get along with – you aren’t more than mildly irritating, you treat everyone with respect, and you don’t bitch-slap your boss when he annoys you
  • you’re honest – you don’t steal your co-worker’s lunch from the fridge when you think no one is looking
  • you’re presentable – you don’t embarrass your boss in a meeting with clients by telling jokes about whores
  • you refrain from getting involved in office gossip – don’t spread those rumors about the director hitting on an employee in a trannie bar
  • you have unique skills the company needs – you’re the only one in the company who can figure out how the old toaster oven works
  • you take initiative – don’t wait to be asked; think up stuff that’ll not only keep the company from flushing itself down the sewer but even help them make lottsa money
  • you keep your skills and attitude current – if you’re still referring to your PC as “that confounded machine” you may be gone a helluva lot faster than it will
  • you’re eager to learn new skills – eager in a professional way, of course – not eager like a cocker spaniel puppy panting to go take a whiz in the yard

The thank-you letter is an important part of the job interviewing process, and should always be sent as soon as possible after the interview. Remember those thank you notes you had to write as a kid for the flowered footie PJs you wouldn’t be caught dead in that your ditzy aunt sent for your birthday? Well, it’s a little like that. Except you don’t want to use notepaper with baby seals on it.

Here are a few  other thank you letter don’ts (sample letters in a later post):

  • Don’t handwrite the letter. You’re not, in fact, writing a thank you note to the aforementioned ditzy aunt. You may hear conflicting views on this point, but all the employers I’ve talked with say they would view a handwritten thank you letter as unprofessional, in addition to being hard to read. And if you think you have the neatest handwriting in the world, you’re probably in denial. The exception to this is if you interview with an extremely touchy-feely, older mom-and-pop company, in which case they might actually appreciate your sending a more traditional and personal type of thank you note. Otherwise, don’t.
  • If you interview on Friday and the employer plans to make a decision by Monday or Tuesday, don’t snail mail the letter. Snail mail is okay, though usually email is preferable (especially if the interviewers are under 30 or so). If a decision is going to be made quickly, though, you want to make sure they get it before they make their choice. if you write a strong letter expressing your enthusiasm about the job and highlighting a point or two discussed during the interview that clearly illustrates how you can slay the company’s dragons, the employer may more likely hire You the Dragon Slayer than Marty the Nose Picker who was interviewed the day before.
  • Don’t just send the letter to one person if 5 people interviewed you. Make sure you get the name and contact info for everyone who participated in the interview and send them each a letter, emphasizing each interviewer’s priority and focusing on what you talked about with that person. In other words, if you interviewed with the CEO and the IT Manager for an IT position, your letter to the CEO would be more focused on the “big picture” stuff, and the one to the IT Manager more specific to the tech problems the department wants you to help them fix. If you have a group interview with the director and their staff, you can email the director and “cc” the staff (by individual name), and start the letter with, “Thank you and your staff for talking with me about the blah blah position yesterday.”
  • Don’t send the letter to the wrong person, or misspell the name. Get the right name and spelling before sending anything. Besides making a really bad impression, the person who gets your letter who never met you might think they’re having blackouts or something.
  • Don’t say bad stuff. Be positive. You want to focus on your strengths that will allow you to help the company solve their problems and are a good match with what they’re looking for. You want to talk about one or two bits of info you learned in the interview that you liked about the company. You don’t want to say, “Although I don’t have experience in blah blah blah and essentially have no clue what I’m doing, I hope you give me a chance anyway.”
  • Don’t wait too long to send the letter. If you don’t send a thank you letter for a month, even if the employer hasn’t yet hired anyone for the position, if they still remember you it won’t be fondly.
  • Don’t make it too long. You’re not Tolstoy, and the employer doesn’t want to read War & Peace. One or two non-rambling paragraphs are enough.


Check out Explode, a comedy thriller/mystery novel. Spontaneous human combustion, or murder?

Social media isn’t just a means to announce to the world that you just had some bad brussel sprouts at lunch. There are lots of ways you can use Twitter, LinkedIn and even Facebook to do an effective job search. Here are a few:

  • Make sure you use keywords and phrases most relevant to your field in your LinkedIn profile (I’ll assume you already have one – if not, get it up there yesterday!). More and more employers are trolling LinkedIn to find candidates, before even posting a job on job boards like Monster. They do a search for specific skills listed in profiles, and have been known to contact applicants whose profiles come up as a result. So if you’re looking for a job as a contortionist, be sure to include “twisting,”  “bending,” “extreme stretching,” and perhaps “overextension” in your profile.
  • Use your connections on LinkedIn to help you network your way into companies you’re interested in. It’s a professional networking site; that’s what it’s for. Hunt around in your connections to see who they’re connected to (1st or 2nd-level connections) to find companies to target in your job search. Ask the people you’re already connected to to introduce you, which consists of sending a message on LinkedIn saying, “My former colleague Joe Shmo would like to connect to you on LinkedIn,” or some such wording, and they check off the option that matches how your connection knows you (you’re Joe Shmo in this scenario).
  • When you want to apply to a particular company, do a company search on LinkedIn and see what current or former employees are in your network of connections. If several people come up who are not current connections, they’re probably connected to you by 2nd, 3rd, or 209th degrees (kind of like the Kevin Bacon game). You can connect with them in the aforementioned manner, and politely inquire as to relevant info about the company you’re interested in. Unless you’re connected to them by the 209th degree, in which case you’ll be staring at the LinkedIn screen until your eyeballs fall out.
  • Follow companies you’re interested in on LinkedIn, and “like” a post here and there. It’s a good way to get your name floating around in their online subconscious, network your way in and keep updated on what they’re up to. If they have a page, but haven’t posted anything in 3 years, that’ll tell you something (like they need you desperately if you’re a social media manager, so hurray for you!).
  • Join groups on LinkedIn that relate to your field. Make intelligent comments; share interesting and helpful info/links. This’ll help you build a positive reputation and possibly get you noticed by prospective employers or helpful contacts. So be sure to keep the embarrassing and insipid stuff to yourself.
  • Open a Twitter account, with a job title and tagline that best represents you professionally. It will also help you build your rep, and employers do searches on Twitter too. (twitter too – I felt like Judy Garland for a minute there. Sans pills, though.)
  • Use Twitter to follow employers you’re interested in and find info relevant to your field. Twitter’s about links – to job boards, to positions listed on company websites, to articles about what’s happening at a particular company or in a certain field, and anything and everything else you can possibly think of (and some things you’d rather not).
  • Use Twitter’s job search function – Use keywords (yeah, that again). A ton of stuff will come up on you – some of it like the garlic pasta you had last night, but some useful links too, like job listings and company info.
  • Better yet, use hashtags with keywords. If you’re not familiar with hashtags, it’s the Twitter term for putting a “#” before a keyword (as in #copywriting jobs), and is often used for events/tweets relevant to a specific topic. More relevant stuff will tend to come up than if you just use the keywords without the hashtags. Why, you ask? Beats the sh*t out of me.
  • Tweet info relevant to your field, or links to other jobs for fellow job seekers. Be a helpful little twit. Sorry, just had to say that.
  • Let your Facebook friends know you’re looking, and what you’re looking for, and what your particular areas of expertise are. Unless you’re currently employed and don’t want your employer to know you’re looking, in which case ix-nay on the obsearch-jay.

straitjacket guyA comedic look at job search and success – “What Color is Your Parachute” meets “This Is Spinal Tap,” if you will. This combination of comedy and advice gives helpful tips to anyone who is searching for a job, or hoping to hold on to the one they have. Topics include contemplating your navel to find your life’s work, idiot-proofing your job search, online disasters, strategic schmoozing, resume do’s and don’ts, interviewing horrors and how to handle them, how to hold on to your job, reflections on bizarre jobs, and weird work stories.

Here is an excerpt from What Color is Your Straitjacket? A Pocket Guide to Getting and Keeping a Job Without Going Wacko, soon to be available as an e-book. The artist is my talented friend Glenn Davis.

You’ve done your research about the company. You know how long they’ve been in business, their history, what their current goals are (beyond not going belly-up), and how you can help them achieve their corporate fantasies. You’re prepared to tell them how  you’re their fairy godmother.

You’ve also prepared your answers to questions typically asked in interviews, and thought of (short) stories that show your accomplishments. You have your questions  for them all ready. So how do you field those questions thrown at you by those exhaustingly perky H.R. pod people? How do you respond to queries  such as,

  • If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?

Hint: the specific answer to this question is largely irrelevant, as long as you don’t come back with “three-toed sloth, because I’d love to just lie around all day,” “anteater, because I could do amazing things with that tongue,” or “elephant, because they must have huge schlongs.”

  • If you were soda, would you be Coke or Pepsi, and why?

Hint: if you say, “Neither, I prefer whiskey,” you could either be perceived as “thinking outside the box” or “lush.” It’s a toss-up.

  • Who’s your favorite Marx Brother?

Hint: “Harpo, because he didn’t have to talk to anyone,” probably wouldn’t be a good answer.

  • What’s your favorite shape?

Hint: I’d refrain from giving an obvious answer such as, “Brad Pitt in his prime.”

  • Are you pregnant?

Hint: Even if you waddled into the interviewing room looking like you’re about to pop like a 175-pound balloon, the employer can’t legally even hint that your advanced gestational state even entered his consciousness. And of course, even if it weren’t illegal it’s a pretty rude question, especially if you’re not actually preggers but just really bloated that day.

To some extent, you want to be yourself in an interview (unless you’re totally bonkers. If you are, good luck). And even though it’s not particularly effective to just give answers you think the interviewer wants, and there isn’t usually one right answer to a question you’re asked, there are some answers that are just plain wrong. Here are some:

  • If asked, “What do you know about us?” don’t answer “I read on my buddy Mike’s Facebook page that your CEO’s a total perv.” Best to relay positive info about the company.
  • When asked, “How does this position fit with your future goals?” don’t respond with “I have no idea. I just go where the wind takes me.” Now, it’s not always a bad idea to follow your instincts, unless your instincts tell you to hop up on the interviewer’s desk, piss on his keyboard and shout “I’m freeeeeeeee!” However, an employer wants to get a general idea of whether or not the position for which you’re interviewing makes sense in terms of where you want to go professionally. Also, being goal-oriented is generally seen as more desirable than subscribing to the Wind Approach to Career Planning.
  • When asked, “What’s your understanding of the position?” don’t say, “Not much – the job description on your site was pretty confusing.” First of all, this answer wouldn’t make you sound very bright. Second, you don’t want to criticize the employer’s job description-writing ability or anything else in an interview. Third, if you haven’t been able to figure out what the job is, and you have no idea whether or not it’s a good fit with your talents and desires, why are you even there?
  • When asked, “Why did you leave your last job?” don’t say, “They canned me for ogling my boss’s boobs.” Even if you were fired for embezzlement, you don’t need to give specific details about what it was like to be led out of the office in handcuffs. “It wasn’t a good fit” is a better answer – think of a reason why it wasn’t a good fit that sounds positive in terms of your strengths and preferred environment. Only give  contact info for references you know will say good stuff about you.
  • If asked, “What would you say are your primary strengths?” don’t respond with “TV wrestling trivia.” Think about what you’re strong in that will make you a success in the position.
  • When asked, “What salary are you looking for?” don’t say “Whatever you think – I’m easy.” Even in a tight job market, you have value; don’t undersell yourself. It’s best to ask what the range is, then say it’s in your range. Don’t give a specific number before you have an offer, ‘cuz that would be like pulling out a condom when you first meet your blind date.
  • If asked, “Can you give me an example of a time when you handled a conflict with a colleague?” don’t answer “There were so many of those, I’ll need a couple of minutes to pick one.” Even if it’s true and it wasn’t you (yeah, we know – it was them, all them), that’s not going to sound too good. The employer’ll either think that you’re an irritating asshole who can’t get along with anyone, or that you’re an irritating asshole who makes snide remarks about his former co-workers. Think of an example that focuses on a problem that needed to be solved, rather than a personal kind of conflict. And of course, how you resolved it successfully.

So you have a job — woo-hoo! You want to do your best to keep it. Here are some things not to do if you don’t want to skate too close to the edge of the unemployment line:

  • Wear clothing in the office that suggests you’re going straight from work to an audition for Sex and the City 3. While you don’t have to dress like a refugee from a convent, if you want to be taken seriously at work, keep the girls tucked in and save the nip action for a hot date. Not to mention the Sharon Stone-in-Basic-Instinct thigh cleavage.
  • Spread nasty gossip about your co-workers. It’ll come back to you, and not in a good way.
  • Be a clock-watcher. “Is it five o’clock yet?” Even if you stand all day on an assembly line with a hairnet on your head putting the caps on beer bottles, it’s not a good idea to imply that you think of your job as a prison that you can’t wait to be released from. If you do, I’m sure your boss will be happy to release you. Besides, if you feel that way, why the hell are you still there?
  • Scoff at the recordkeeping stuff. Hey, so you’re the creative type. We know you don’t care about all that boring data entry. Regrettably for you, though, that stuff almost always determines whether the organization makes or loses money, or keeps its funding if it’s a nonprofit. So if you screw that up, you not only screw yourself, you could screw the entire organization, which isn’t as much fun as it sounds.
  • Make racist, sexist or ageist comments. I’m going to assume you don’t work in an environment where ignorance is actively encouraged. Assuming it isn’t, any of the above could get you tossed out so fast your head would spin around like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”
  • Spend a lot of time texting your friends or shmoozing on Facebook. At this point in human evolution, employers don’t reasonably expect their employees not to touch their iPhones or look at non-work-related sites during work hours at all, but if you’re spending more time during the workday getting your friends’ opinions on your photo than actually working, don’t expect to be promoted any time soon.
  • Blatantly flirting with your boss, your staff, your co-workers, or your customers. Most of us flirt a little bit, without even realizing it. And co-workers do often date, even though a lot of companies frown on it, and it can certainly complicate your work life, especially if you break up and at least one of you doesn’t act like a grown-up (of course, if one of you turns out to be a psycho-stalker, that makes it even more difficult, but let’s leave potential restraining orders out of it for now). The thing is, if you sidle up to a colleague and whisper in her ear or grab your boss’s crotch under the table at a meeting, you can get yourself in pretty big trouble. Not only that, but you’d be perceived as ridiculously ignorant, since all you need to do these days to hear about sexual harassment is turn on Lifetime TV.

Is it me, or do these people look really pissed off? Way to wow the employer...NOT.

Job fairs can be helpful to you in your job search. While you can’t expect to go to a job fair and meet the Magic Job Search Genie who will grant you all your employment wishes, job fairs can be useful for networking (with other job seekers as well as employers), shmoozing with employers to get info on opportunities, and yes, even getting actual job leads.

However, as in any other professional and/or social situation in this life, there are some inappropriate job fair moves that will likely give you a bad rep. Here are some of them:

  • Dressing for a day at the beach. Even though you’re not actually at a job interview, if you don’t dress as though you are, no one will be impressed. I don’t care if it’s 95 degrees out and hailing stones the size of Rotweilers. You need to dress professionally for a job fair. Bring your job fair clothes in a (professional-looking) tote and change into them before you walk in, if you must.
  • Butting in line. It was rude in grade school, and it’s rude now. There are going to be lines before the employer tables, especially for the more popular companies. Deal with it.
  • Rambling on until the employer’s eyes glaze over. This is bad for several reasons (in addition to the eye-glazing). One, it’s much more effective to be focused on what you have to offer, and opportunities the company may have that fit what you have to offer. So practice your elevator pitch before you chat with employers. Two, it’s rude to take up too much time when there’s a line of other job seekers. Three, you don’t want the employer to think you’re a boring bag o’ wind. Being a boring bag o’ wind won’t help you get a job.
  • Accosting employers in the bathroom. Especially if they’re in a stall. Although come to think of it, standing next to you at a urinal is just as bad. I mean, come on. Let the poor guy piss in peace. You may think only a mentally challenged person would do this, but I’ve actually seen it, and the person who did it was clearly not mentally challenged. Horrifyingly clueless, surely, but not mentally challenged.
  • Ignoring your fellow job seekers. You’re not competing for the Stanley Cup. Every last one of you is unique in what you have to offer, and even if some of you are looking for similar positions, you’ll be much better off helping each other. That’s often how job seekers get good leads. You know, networking.
  • Being unprepared. Just as you would for an interview (yeah, I know you would), research each employer whose table you’re visiting. The company list and available positions are almost always available via whomever’s hosting the job fair, at least a few days prior to the event. Peer at the companies’ websites, look at the positions they’re trying to fill, and mention something specific about the company when you talk with the employer (you can prepare a cheat sheet beforehand). And of course, have your elevator pitch ready to go.
  • Ask dumb questions. This follows from the previous point – if you’ve done some research on the companies you’re interested in and you’re prepared, you’re not going to be asking questions like, “What does your company do?” or “Do you have any jobs that don’t require a criminal check?”

While every organization’s different and there isn’t any one right way to behave in a job interview, there are some wrong ways no matter who you’re talking to. Here are some ways to horrify your job counselor:

  • Wearing an outfit better suited to a hot date than a job interview. Even if you’re interviewing in a club, it’s better to dress a bit more formally than you would once you were in the job. And of course, nix the bouncing boobs. Even if the interviewer’s really really cute.
  • Rambling on and on. Your little 30-second elevator pitch (more about that in a later post) shouldn’t last twenty minutes. The person interviewing you doesn’t want to hear about your entire work history from the time you babysat for your neighbor when you were in high school, or the details of your first diaper-changing experience. Keep it to the point, the point being your experience and skills that are relevant to their needs.
  • Sharing personal info. Even if you’ve discovered the interviewer is a fellow Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanatic, don’t assume they’re your friend. They still could care less about your imaginary childhood friend or how your divorce has made you an atheist. Keep it professional.
  • Forgetting to check your appearance before you go into the interview. You don’t want to visit the men’s room afterward and discover that you had a big fat gob of mustard on your chin the whole time.
  • Talking smack about your former employer. Even if your former supervisor could win the Suck-Ass Psycho Boss of the Year Award, it still makes you look bad. The interviewer will wonder what you’d say about HIM after you’d worked there awhile.
  • Acting all humble and insecure. We all have our insecurities, and job interviews can be stressful, but you want to show confidence. You have skills; you have a lot to offer. If your attitude is, “why in hell would you want to hire ME?” those little negative thought molecules will wriggle out of your head and worm their way across the conference table and into the interviewer’s brain, which won’t be good news for you.
  • Not preparing answers to questions you’ll likely be asked. Yes, ideally a job interview should be more like a conversation in which you’re sharing information than like a firing squad, but you’ll still be asked questions that are typical of interviews, and it would be stupid not to put some prior thought into how best to answer them. And I know you’re not stupid.
  • Not preparing questions to ask. Again, think mutual, give-and-take, information-sharing situation to see if it’s a match. Besides, you don’t want it to seem as if you don’t give a crap.
  • Not researching the company beforehand. If you know little about them, how do you know it would be a good fit? And how can you address this in the interview? Besides, you will likely be asked the actual question, “What do you know about us?” and you don’t want your answer to be, “Nothing.”
  • Being late to the interview. Unless you’re in a hostage situation and are seen on Fox News successfully negotiating with the kidnapper, you may as well hang it up right there. If something unforeseen does happen, at least call before you’re supposed to be there, apologize for keeping the employer waiting, and keep your explanation brief – don’t give an elaborate explanation of how your pet lizard died, you tried to flush him and the toilet flooded.


There’re things you just don’t want to do online when you’re doing a job search, if you don’t want to be left mangled on the side of the road. Here are a few:

  • Post photos of yourself drinking, smoking, taking a bong hit, making out with someone, doing lines off your pet iguana’s head, exposing body parts you wouldn’t normally expose in a job interview, engaging in bodily functions you wouldn’t normally engage in in public, or doing anything else you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see. Yeah, I know Facebook is supposed to be for fun stuff and not for professional networking, but the hard reality is that a year ago, nearly 50% of employers recently surveyed confessed they peek on candidates’ social networking sites (more detail in this article —  And that was a year ago, so I’m betting that percent’s a helluva lot higher now. So get used to it.
  • Make snarky comments about your current or former boss, co-workers, etc. Just as this won’t win you any points in an interview, it’ll turn off prospective employers online, too, or get you fired from your current job. Not smart.
  • Talk about your job search online when your current boss doesn’t know you’re looking. Guess what? Your boss knows how to use the internet too.
  • Make racist/sexist/ageist/other “ist” comments anywhere online. Even if it’s not on your own site, comments on other people’s blogs can rear their ugly little heads in a search. So just don’t.
  • Post content with spelling and grammatical errors. Unless you’re made out of straw, you were not the “office manger.” Generally, employers want to hire people who are literate and pay attention to detail.
  • Lie. It’s just as icky even if it’s not on your resume. Don’t say on your LinkedIn profile that you graduated from Harvard if you didn’t, or worked for a company who never heard of you, or held a management position when you were an administrative assistant. It’s too easy to check that stuff, and most employers don’t like dishonesty.
  • Broadcast confidential information about your current or former employer. Talk about untrustworthy. Not cool.