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          Career Q&A's


“I was caught off guard during a recent interview when the interviewer indicated that a credit check was being performed as part of the candidacy process.  She asked me if I thought anything substantial was going to show up.  I felt cornered and went on to explain my financial challenges due to a recent divorce.  How could I have handled that differently?” — Mike A., Albany, NY

Background and credit checks are being integrated into the hiring process to verify criminal history and the financial stability of candidates.  Prospective employers are finding it necessary to verify information pertaining to new recruits in light of studies that reflect a high number of jobseekers lie on their résumés to land jobs.  In short, employers are finding it more challenging to take job candidates at face value.

What does a person’s credit history and criminal record have to do with work performance?  Employers are dumping large amounts of money into new employees relevant to the initial hiring phase and on-going training needed to keep up with certain technologies.  Verifying the stability or overall value of its “investment,” a number of companies will perform these checks, just like an investor would examine buying stock in a particular company.  Such practices are covered under the Fair Credit Reporting Act relevant to background investigations.

Did you sign a waiver giving the employer permission to proceed?  Employers, by law, cannot conduct background checks without permission.  A signed authorization, reflecting the candidate’s approval for the release of certain information, must be on file at the time the hiring company conducts the search.  Based on your question, it appears this employer was fishing for information and therefore bypassed the authorization portion of the process.  If faced with this situation again, you have two options: answer the inquiry much like you did or provide a vague answer and let the employer learn about your situation through official channels.

“I’ve been on several interviews, and I haven’t landed a job yet.  Can you tell me what’s wrong with my résumé?”  — Markie Z., Portland, OR

Since you’ve gone on several interviews your résumé isn’t the problem, it’s your interviewing skills.  Interviews are nothing more than meet and greet sessions to ask questions and discuss a possible merger between the two parties.

Your résumé served as the “introducer” that got your foot in the door to the interview.  Since you’ve been invited through many office doors, the focus now shifts to what is happening while you’re in the room.

A number of variables can cause an interview to go sour: appearance, attitude, and scope of answers.  If you want to know exactly what the problem is, ask a friend or family member who can be candid with you.  People who aren’t afraid to speak what’s on the top of their minds are the best ones to contact when you need honest answers.

The interviewer wouldn’t have brought you into an interview unless you were qualified for the position.  It’s likely that something happened or possibly something crucial wasn’t said during the meeting to sway the interviewer in your direction.

“I’m trying to add pizzazz to the answers I give during an interview.  Do you have suggestions?” — Zee B., Cleveland, OH

If your résumé is crafted correctly, it can serve as a great reference sheet during the interview process.  Selectively pulling key points from the content that reflect your ability to solve issues, cut costs, and increase revenue can certainly transform mundane answers.  Be careful not to recite words verbatim from the résumé because your answers should be unique and accentuate the paperwork the interviewer has already reviewed, not be a verbal commentary of it.

Preparing your answers several days before the scheduled interview will help you formulate answers to varying questions.  Create canned answers, but make them unique — and avoid sounding rehearsed.

“I’m a couple of days away from facing multiple interviewers for an engineering management position.  This is going to be a first for me, since I’ve partaken in one-on-one interview sessions only.  What should I expect?” — Nellie H., St. Louis, MO

Interviews can have two or more company reps in attendance, ranging from department supervisors and managers to executive personnel and owners.  These group-style interviews can be beneficial for both sides because it eliminates the need for individual interviews with each person who is part of the hiring team.  Think of the process as “speed interviewing.”  The forum also enables members of the interviewing team to later discuss candidates and make a hiring decision based on a collaborative analysis.

Like one-on-one interviews, group sessions can get off track and make it challenging on whom to focus your answers on: the individual asking the question or everyone in the room.  Focus your answers towards the person asking them, and connect eyes with all persons while speaking so each person in the room feels a part of the conversation.

Practice for a group interviewing session much like you’d prepare for any type of interview.  Forecast topics of interest to the interviewers, and prepare thorough answers.  Good luck!

“What’s the proper way of handling that pesky weakness question?” — Ronnie N., Chicago, IL

Interviewers are clued to the fact that candidates dodge this question by providing strengths instead of weaknesses, so the best way to answer this question is by providing a fixable weakness; one easily transformed after action on your part.

Example: Resolve the inability to use particular software by volunteering to take a software class at a local community college or technical center in the evening.

"In a recent interview, I nearly fell asleep.  The interviewer went on and on about the company, the position, and the overall goals of the department.  I think he spoke one long sentence that took 20 minutes to finish … and I don’t believe he took one breath during that time.  When I left his office, I thought I was a shoe-in because if the company would hire him, they would surely hire me.  It’s been three weeks, and I haven’t heard a thing.” — Madison B., Amarillo, TX

Interviewers are sometimes inexperienced and nervous so they perform many of the same blunders that interviewees do.  Was the interview for a lead position? It would have been a great time for you to display your ability to take an ineffective situation and turn it around.  Conversations can become lopsided.  Even though the interviewer should have recognized that, next time step in with a number of questions or comments.  It should be a two-sided conversation; not have the elements of a seminar.

Since the interviewer continuously spoke during your meeting, it’s an indication that he was trying the “sell” the company to you rather than the other way around.  Generally, candidates are the ones selling themselves to the company in order to land the job.

Instances when the company is small and there may not be substantial employee turnover, an interviewer can poorly handle interviews.  He is likely looking for another “family member” to bring aboard instead of hiring the most qualified person for the job.

suggest cutting him some slack.  I’ll agree, it wasn’t the most optimal situation but it was an experience for you.  Since it’s only been three weeks, consider sending a small note or possibly calling him to discuss the interview.  If the interviewer is on the fencepost about making a decision, something as small as a phone message or email could change that for you.

“I recently interviewed for a non-profit position and was thrown aback when asked if I considered myself a thrifty person … I’ve never been asked that before.” — Sherrie G., St. Marys, PA

It takes a unique type of person with a certain mindset to work for a non-profit group because money is always tight.  If several non-profit directors were pooled and let loose on our government, they’d show us how it could be run using a fraction of the money currently allocated.  Stretching dollars (to go beyond what everyday people believe is not humanly possible) is what non-profit professionals do on a daily basis.

Asking how thrifty you are with personal funds was probably a way to gauge how thrifty you’d be while on the job.  Frugal shoppers, bargain hunters, and coupon clippers are people who can produce the same results with less money; a characteristic that was probably important to the person who interviewed you.

Send a note to the person who interviewed you, indicating that you’ve had time to reconsider his question.  Provide him with examples of how you saved considerable amounts of money in your personal life and see if that has any effect.  It’s worth a shot, don’t you agree?


Answers provided by Teena Rose of Resume to ReferralThe above advice is provided as a courtesy and does not constitute as absolute advice for everyone.  Seek the assist of a career professional who can review, evaluate, and advise you based upon your situation.











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