Revealing your credit in the job search

credit_cards-300x2251A client recently told me that her credit score is poor, and she knows that she will be asked in the job search process to give a company the right to check her credit. She asked if she should raise the matter with Human Resources proactively.

Honesty is important, and at the same time it’s not her duty to volunteer damaging information without being asked. Revealing more than has been asked may draw too much attention to the issue, especially considering that the position she wants won’t have her handling money. But I said I would run the question by my online network.

E.E., a self-described HR geek, said, “I think your advice is sound. It’s never a good idea go out of your way to point out your own flaws in an interview.”

K.T., a health care professional, said, “If questions related to your creditworthiness come up and are related to the position and are legal questions, then bite the bullet and answer truthfully.”

Maybe the best answer came from a recruiter at Deloitte Consulting, who said: “No need to address credit issues in an interview; there isn’t a problem until the offer stage. Let them love her first and then she can explain herself. In over 15 years of recruiting primarily for Big 4, I can not think of one instance when we didn’t go to offer solely because of poor credit – it’s only 1 piece of the overall picture.”

What’s your biggest weakness?

weak-link-in-chainLewis Lin, the Seattle-based interview coach (who, by the way, has a widely-read Twitter account that I recently discovered), advises job seekers terrified of THAT question. He writes:

If you have a readily apparent weakness, discuss how you’ve addressed it and why it won’t be an issue in the job. For example, if you’re a non-native English speaker, you might want to mention your accent as a weakness. Hopefully you’ve already demonstrated that an accent hasn’t prevented you from communicating effectively and getting your point across during the interview. And let’s say you participate in your local Toastmasters Club, a worldwide, nonprofit organization committed to helping over 200,000 people to improve their public speaking, then mention it! The interviewer will be impressed by your commitment to improving your weakness.

I love the way he makes the point that the question is an opportunity to talk about your desire to improve in a specific area, not an invitation to confess your failings and sins.

In the 1990s, a successful executive was asked how she responds to that question. She said, “I always say, ‘My biggest weakness is a tish of arrogance.'”

I don’t recommend copying her answer. In fact, if you do, the interviewers will likely smell the phoniness. Remember to be honest, and if possible select a flaw that the interviewers might identify with themselves so that you come across as more likeable.

P.S.: My gratitude goes out to Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli, who added a link to this blog at her indispensible website… and penned the first comment on this blog. Thanks, Janet!

Are you overqualified? You’re not alone.

overqualifiedLowering your pay scale may be a winning strategy for getting back to work, if you need to. But you may need to hold back some of your cards from employers, so they are willing to take a risk by hiring a seemingly overqualified employee.

In “Overqualified applicants flood the job market, fighting for posts they once managed”, Eve Hightower of the McClatchey newspapers writes:

As Mike Wilczewski pulls a heavy file of job applications from his briefcase, a piece of paper slips out. He looks at it, smiles and slips it back into his briefcase.

It’s a cartoon of a frog in a bird’s mouth. The bird is trying to eat, while the frog is fighting not to be eaten. “Don’t ever give up,” it says.

Since losing a job that earned him around $70,000 a year and included health benefits and a company car, the Oakdale, Calif., resident has felt like both the bird and the frog. Over the past two years, Wilczewski has been told he is overqualified and underqualified. He doesn’t know if he’s reaching too high or too low in the job market. Ultimately, he’s just trying to survive.

He’s not alone. Like a growing number of job seekers, he has decades of experience, a diverse background and a college degree. He has been on the job market so long, he started looking far below his previous pay scale. Eventually, he started hearing back from interviewers that he was overqualified.

“When I heard that, I started to think maybe I shouldn’t show all my cards,” said Wilczewski, 52. “I just need to get my foot in the door so I can prove myself, I can take off, I can do it.”

Darlene Smith, of Stanislaus County, Calif.’s Alliance Worknet, draws a deep breath when she hears stories like Wilczewski’s.

For years, the alliance — which helps people find jobs and deal with layoffs — has urged job candidates to develop basic skills and further their educations. Job seekers with solid skills and a good work ethic once were hard to find.

Things have changed, Smith said. Businesses have closed and downsized, laying off once highly sought-after employees.

“They’re afraid age is going to get them, or having too many qualifications. They’re afraid they’ll never get the wage they had before,” Smith said of the displaced professionals and skilled workers she helps.

“We’re seeing professionals who, at this time in their lives, never thought they’d be looking for a job or changing careers,” said Patti Roberts, spokeswoman for the California Employment Development Department.

Read the full article.

Don’t try to skip the HR department, says job search adviser

humanresourcesMarvin Wahlberg, a job search coach, says it’s better to make a company’s HR department your friend rather than your foe. When asked by a student if it’s best to try to run around a company’s HR department to angle for a summer job, he writes:

Follow the instructions of the Human Resource Department, for no matter how effective your network contacts are, sooner or later you will have to meet with HR. Better to be a friend than a foe. Do what the Web site says, making sure to include your volunteer work with them in your resumé and in your cover letter. Make sure they know you have already demonstrated your work ethic and loyalty to their organization.

Then, make contact with all of your contacts, telling them of your interest to work, for pay, this coming summer. Also make sure your contacts know that you have made contact with HR, and ask them to stop by HR and give you a glowing reference. Make sure your resumé is updated to include your current education, major and GPA, and mention that the summer employment would be to help with tuition costs for college.

Starbucks CIO on his hiring strategy, open positions, and even resume advice

Starbucks-OliveWayIn a wide ranging interview with John Mann on Network World, Starbucks Coffee’s new Chief Information Officer (CIO) Stephen Gillett explains that the recession hasn’t stopped hiring, but it has forced the firm to prioritize hires:

Mann: How has the economic situation affected your talent acquisition strategy?

Gillett: The pressure of the economic situation has done two things: One, it has reordered sequence. Before I had two or three key positions open in parallel. Now I have them sequenced in order of most to least business impact.

Second, it has allowed me to tune the job descriptions, talent pool and experience we are looking for. It is much better now to look for someone who has been through an economic downturn. For example, someone who worked at IBM in 1992 when Lou Gerstner came back is a good person to have right now. I do not want to see someone who has never had faced economic adversity in their career. I want someone who is going to be a pillar of strength at a time of uncertainty.

Mann: What types of positions are you currently looking to fill?

Gillett: Right now we are recruiting for various disciplines. The one that is first and foremost on my calendar is in the business intelligence category–to help Starbucks better utilize customer analytics. In times of economic distress, understanding our customers is a way to unlock future value.

The topics include Gilette’s hiring mistakes, the worst interviews he’s been in, and how job candidates can make a good impression through their resume, cover letter, and thank you letter. One piece of his advice: try to distinguish yourself. Having an unusual, fun, and impressive hobby doesn’t hurt.

The Network World interview is a must-read for job seekers in IT fields wanting to work at Starbucks, but as a glimpse into the coffee giant’s hiring culture it should also appeal to anyone interested in working there. Read the whole interview.