Dumb Reasons Candidates Are Turned Down

Years ago, there was a great article in BusinessWeek (US) about "stupid reasons hiring managers don't hire certain people". Someone had done an anonymous survey, asking for "the truth" from hiring managers on the real reasons candidates were rejected. Some were:

  • Candidate looked just like my ex
  • Candidate reminded me of my daughter-in-law
  • Candidate went to an Ivy League college and I went to State U, too smart for me
  • Candidate went to State U and I went to an Ivy League school, she's not smart enough
  • Candidate has full head of hair and I'm bald
  • Candidate had too many good ideas and would make me look bad
  • Candidate was too slim and I'm fat
  • Candidate was too fat and I'm slim

-- and so on.


Dumb. And very unfortunate, for all concerned.


Conclusions may be reached even before talking with the candidate, based on their name and/or address. Sadly, there have been studies showing that people of ethnic groups with unusual names, like Tanika instead of Lisa, do better when they “Anglify” their names.[1]


Here’s one way I helped a client handle this issue. She was of Finnish ancestry, whose family had been in the US for generations. She was not getting much response to her resume. Looking at her name, both her first and last names were what most of us would at least initially call "unpronounceable" -- multiple vowels in a row, and an unusual placement of consonants. You could have interpreted her name as African or Japanese. The lack of response got us thinking that employers might have been making that same mistake -- an assumption that she was not a US citizen and thus could not work legally in the US.


We made several changes to strengthen her resume, but we also added to the end of her Summary, at the top of page 1, “US Citizen”. This was ridiculous but being a realist, I thought, “Let's give it a try”. Employers don't have a lot of time to pore over resumes so saying “I'm legal” right up front, might help her.


She saw an immediate uptick in responses and interviews and landed a contract position, which led to a staff job. Perhaps we were right; we will never know.


Bias occurs, sad to say. We humans persist in believing things before we have the facts, and in stereotyping. But you the candidate CAN control your search more than you’d think. How? By making sure you show in your search that you are savvy about your field, that you will solve their problems, you make or save revenue, and you are very willing to work hard for results, AND would be great to work with.


And, frankly, to know that unfortunately, there will be bad decisions made about you so be sure to network and have a high volume of job search activity -- to overcome the occasional bad, biased decision.


[1] New Study Confirms Depressing Truth About Names And Racial Bias, Jacqueline Howard, Huffington Post, 10.8.15, http://bit.ly/BiasAgainstEthnicNames


Ready to start your search? Contact Joanne to help you map out your strategy.

Your Summer Job Search: Don't Let Up Now!

If you’re in a job search, especially if it’s a long one, you’ll be tempted to think that summer is sort of a waste, as far as job search goes. Isn’t everyone out on vacation?


Sure, some people are not at their desks because of vacations, and that can extend the already lengthy decision-making process at various companies. But there’s less business travel happening, and gatekeepers are away -- all the more reason for you to keep up your search activities such as networking.


Some key reasons to keep at it right now:


  • There are many more functions and parties and reunions at this time of year, not to mention cookouts and other events – great chances to not only have fun but to network. All networking is, is talking and listening and forging a connection by helping one another.
  • Summer makes people a bit more laid back and approachable, which makes it easier for you to call new network contacts or to network
  • Job seekers report that recruiters’ schedules are a bit less booked despite the fact that they usually place many people in the summer – in other words, they will more readily see you
  • Other, uninformed job seekers are slacking off, so there’s less competition
  • If you do little or nothing, it will not feel as good – you’ll feel as if you’re on the sidelines
  • If you do nothing, you won’t have anything in the “pipeline” for September if you haven’t landed by then. Why not “hit the ground running” in September?


Remember: 1) Always have business cards on hand when you go to any event, and 2) keep your LinkedIn profile cued up on your smartphone. And 3) dress in such a way that if you’re asked on the spot to answer some interview questions, you’re comfortable doing so.


At social functions, don’t overdo the alcohol or you may be remembered for some rather negative reasons….


Avoid getting sidetracked by “honey-do” lists (which can affect everyone!). While these are things that could be important, are they more important than your career? Doesn’t your career fund your life? So isn’t it to your benefit –- and your family’s benefit -- to land sooner? This will be easier to achieve by keeping up your activity. Your lawn will do just fine if it’s not perfect.


If you’re at the cabin for long weekends, be sure to schedule adequate job search time between weekends or your search will go into stall.



In short, keep up your activity, even when it’s 90 degrees and you don’t feel like it. Your competition may be at the beach but YOU will be doing something to land that great job!

Always Be Ready For The Surprise Layoff

Always be preparedAlways be prepared

Nothing is permanent, especially your job. Waves of layoffs occur even in the best economy.


There are sometimes clues when a layoff is coming: You're no longer being invited to the meetings you always were part of. Executive office doors are closed and blinds are shut while long meetings take place. Company finances aren't great, and everyone looks worried. There have been cutbacks in spending. People aren't talking over their cube walls like before, and instead are using conference rooms. Others are having "lunch" in their cars or down the block at the coffee shop so they can talk to possible other employers or network contacts or recruiters. New projects are on hold, including a few that you were slated to lead.


All of these are red flags that there will likely be cuts, and you may be one of them.


Are you prepared? Most people are not, hoping they are misreading the cues OR they’re just not seeing them at all.


Here are things to do if you suspect you may be let go soon. I'm putting them down here with the scenario in mind that with the red flags above, and that you may be called to HR at any moment:


  • Be sure you have your contacts in your own database on your personal computer or phone, and not only on the company's computer or phone. And speaking of phones, make sure you have your own smart phone and not just “the company’s”, or if you’re laid off you will suddenly be without any —and no place for the data you already have. Don’t lose it, move it.


  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile belongs to YOU and not your company. You don't want to go into it for your contacts and learn that your password has been changed. If your company is paying for your LinkedIn membership, check your company's policy on this NOW.


  • This also goes for any use of any social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., if you've been using it for company business. Have a separate, personal presence there with your own identity. And it goes without saying that any posts to social media under your name should be SFW (safe for work).


  • Take photos of yourself on the job. This may sound odd but later the photos will be useful in, for example, showing you leading a project planning meeting or presenting to company executives. Posting photos in social media during a job search shows you in context with the rest of your team or department, even if you’re no longer there. With the emphasis on images, the saying “A picture is worth 1,000 words”, has never been truer.


  • Have any samples of work on your personal computer, not just on your work computer. Be sure to have copies of complex marketing plans, presentations or similar work at home. It's not that you will give these away to some other company, it's just that these are very hard to reconstruct when one day you'll want to do one for someone else.


  • Be sure to have any great performance reviews stored on your personal laptop. If they are in hard copy only, be sure to have copies at home.


  • Always keep your resume and LinkedIn up to date. Treat these as a log of achievements; don’t let them sit untouched year after year or it will be misery for you to update them when you need to start a search.


  • In the same way, don’t stop networking when you’re IN a job or you’ll have to rebuild your network when you are possibly at your most vulnerable: when you’re laid off. So keep that up, and catch up if you need to,


Obviously, do not do anything to harm your company or its systems. Don't take anything that doesn't belong to you, and don't take proprietary information.


Don't be one of the folks who thinks a layoff won't happen to them so that they’re painfully unprepared. Don't be called into HR, only to be escorted back to your desk where they wait for you to get only your purse or wallet, and photos from the cube walls, unable to touch your computer again or go into any files. It's bad enough to be let go without having to worry about all of these things as well -- so be ready. Now.

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