Archive for July, 2007

Disability and Job Discrimination: What’s Legal and What’s Not

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

If you are a job seeker with a disability, it’s important for you to understand your rights. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has established guidelines related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which establish what an employer may and may not ask a job applicant prior to employment.

Questions that an employer may ask at the pre-offer stage:

“The job requires you to perform these functions. Can you do this with or without reasonable accommodation?”

“Please describe or demonstrate how you would perform these functions.”

“Can you meet the attendance requirements of this job?”

“How may days were you absent from your job last year?”

“Do you use illegal drugs? Have you used illegal drugs in the last two years?”

“How much do you weigh? How tall are you?”

“Do you have the required licenses/certifications to perform the job?”

Following are some questions that an employer may not ask at the pre-offer stage:

Employers may not ask about the existance, nature, or severity of a disability, and they are prohibited from conducting medical examinations until after a conditional job offer has been made. Other questions that are prohibited include the following:

“Will you need a reasonable accommodation to perform this job?” (The employer is required to provide a “reasonable accommodation” for people with disabilities.)

“Have you been diagnosed with AIDS or HIV? Do you have AIDS-related complications?”

“Do you have a disability which would interfere with your ability to perform the job?”

“How many separate episodes of illness did you have last year?”

“Have you ever filed for workers’ compensation?”

“Have you ever been injured on the job?”

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2007, Anne Follis. All Rights Reserved.

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The 2-Minute “Elevator” Speech

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

It’s a good idea to prepare a one- to two-minute introductory speech that you can use when networking, contacting job leads, or during an interview. (This is sometimes called an “elevator speech”: it’s something that can be tweaked for a short elevator ride.) Then memorize it, and practice so it doesn’t sound memorized, and so you can easily adapt it to different situations.

I cannot overstate the importance of this. The biggest complaint from people receiving networking and job-search calls is that they are rambling and unfocused. No one wants to help you figure out what you can do for them, so your initial contact must be prepared, polished, and direct. This will also be a life saver the first time an interviewer says, “So, tell me about yourself.”

Following is a sample introductory speech:

Ms. Smith? This is Fred Fine. Jack Jones from Ace Manufacturing suggested that I give you a call. Do you have a moment, or would it be better if I call you at another time? . . . For the past 14-years I’ve been in marketing and management with Strong Products, where I’ve progressed from an outside sales position to director of their marketing division. My responsibilities include researching and expanding into new markets. I’ve been successful in more than doubling our client base in the past four years. You may have heard about the reorganization at Strong, and as a result I’m one of 12 management employees who’ll be leaving there in the next month. Do you anticipate any openings for anyone with my qualifications? . . . Do you know of any openings elsewhere in your company? . . . Can you recommend anyone else I might speak to you in your company? . . . Can you recommend anyone outside of your company who might be looking for someone with my qualifications . . . May I use your name when I call him?

You probably won’t get a chance to ask all of the questions that you’d like, and you don’t want to push it, but ask the ones that fit into the conversation. Then follow-up with a note of thanks, accompanied by your resume.

The introductory speech can be adapted for an interview. For example, in response to the question, “So, Miss Reardon, tell me about yourself . . .”

I have more than ten years’ experience in office management and administrative support. In my most recent position with Briggs Electronics, I was Executive Assistant to the CEO. Along with managing the day-to-day office operations, I supervised two assistants, prepared payroll for 120 employees, and acted as liaison to upper management. While I was there I had the opportunity to implement cross training in the department, I set-up procedures and developed job descriptions, and I worked with a programmer in upgrading our system. I’m proficient in a variety of computer software, I’m well organized and able to balance multiple responsibilities, and I believe my history indicates that I have particularly strong communication skills, both written and oral.

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2007, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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Research, Networking, Cold-Calling, and the Job Search

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Sending out resumes in response to newspaper ads and applying online are relatively easy, passive approaches to finding a job. The passive approach used to work; not so much today. It’s estimated that only about 10 to 20% of all job openings are ever advertised. Add that to the fact that Internet job banks hold literally millions of resumes, giving new meaning to the phrase “needle in a haystack.”

Networking and cold calling involve a much greater investment of your time, but combined they are by far the most successful strategy.

First, you must compile a list of companies. You may want to begin with a Web search or a visit to your local library. The following resources may be helpful:

Standard & Poor’s Register of Corporations, Directors, and Executives

The Job Hunter’s Sourcebook: Where to Find Employment Leads and Other Job Search Resources

Check out the following Websites to research company information:

Compile a list, not only of names and addresses, but of relevant information about the various companies that interest you, including names of division heads. Once you have a list of companies you would like to pursue, search their Websites for yet more information about them. Also, be sure to verify all information before you make direct contact, as things can change by the time a book is published, and even Website information can quickly become outdated. A simple phone call to the company can verify details.

Next, call these companies, and make an effort to contact managers within the departments that interest you. Your goal is to get past the human resources department (unless you’re applying for a position in human resources, the HR Department doesn’t hire, they only screen) to the person or people who might have the power to hire you. Also, call your friends, acquaintances, and co-workers, get names and recommendations from them, and follow-up on all leads.

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2007, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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Thank You Letters, the Interview Follow-Up

Friday, July 6th, 2007

After every interview, it’s very important that you send a thank you letter immediately. Send a letter — via e-mail or snail mail, hand-written or typed — while the momentum is still on your side. If you wait even a few days, much less a week or more, they may not even remember who you are! Send a letter to everyone, yes everyone who interviewed you. If you are interviewed by a group of people, it’s acceptable to request a business card from each person before you leave. And if you are interviewed by one person several different times, send that person a thank you letter after each meeting. Following are some suggestions of things to include:

Introduction/Thank You: Thank the interviewer for his or her time, and mention how helpful the information they provided about the company/position was.

Mention Something That Was Said During the Interview: This might be upcoming growth within the company, the teamwork in the office, or a challenging client base, but refer to something that the interviewer noted, and that you can speak positively about.

Mention One More Time How Wonderful You Are! This may be your last chance! Use what you have to say about the company as a lead to point out how your skills and/or background are a good match. Also, if there was a problem in the interview, take the time here to explain how you can overcome it. For example, “I realize that I haven’t had much experience in Adobe software, but I’ve taught myself how to create spreadsheets and graphics on four different software programs. I’m sure if you give me the opportunity, I’ll be up to speed on your system in no time!”

Conclusion: Keep it short and sweet, as in, “Thanks again. I hope to hear from you soon!”

And a final word: even if you are not interested in the job, send the thank you notes. A little professional courtesy can go a long way, and you never know when another, and perhaps better, position will open up for which you will be qualified.

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2007, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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Questions to Ask the Interviewer During an Interview

Friday, July 6th, 2007

Toward the end of an interview, it’s customary for an interviewer to ask an applicant, “Do you have any questions?” While you may be tempted to ask about benefits, salary, or vacation days, save those questions until you are made a solid offer. At this point, a thoughtful and intelligent response is sure to work in your favor. It’s also important to remember that every interview goes two ways. While the interviewer is judging whether or not you, the applicant, are a good fit for the position, you are also judging whether or not the company and the position are right for you, so take advantage of the opportunity. Following are some sample questions for you to ask the interviewer:

What major strengths should a person possess to perform well in this position?

What are your highest expectations for the person who fills this job?

Why is this position open? And how long has it been open?

To whom would I report? And with whom would I be working?

If I am offered and accept this position, what do you see me accomplishing after two years with the company? Five years?

What kind of turnover does your company (or this department) have? May I speak with some people in the department and/or the person who held the position for which I’m interviewing? (These questions are designed to give you an idea of what the company’s employees think about the organization. If the interviewer objects to this, it may be an indication that things are not as they seem.)

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2007, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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