Turn Down A Job Interview? Are You Crazy?

If someone told you that you should turn down the opportunity for a job interview–especially if you’ve been out of work for a while–would you think they were crazy?

After all, the whole point is to get interviews so you can land a new job sooner rather than later, right?

Bad Job Interview Prospects

There are times, though, when a potential job interview stands to do more harm than good for your overall job search success. These are just a few of the “bad job interview” situations:

  • Makes you take time off from your current job (if you’re employed) or postpone other job search activities (if you’re not working), without resulting in a meaningful dialogue with the employer because they didn’t give you enough relevant information up front (in other words, holding their cards too close to their vest).
  • Forces you to prematurely reveal information (about salary, etc.)–that is, before the employer offers any solid information to help you evaluate the job opportunity in terms of probable mutual fit.
  • Puts you through the full interview process (possibly with multiple interviewers) for a position that sometimes ends up going to an insider (a candidate the hiring manager has had in mind from the start).

When to Turn Down a Job Interview

Having a bad feeling about a company would be a good starting point for rejecting an interview, although you probably wouldn’t have applied in the first place if you got such a feeling initially.

If a prospective employer demands a lot of information from you before scheduling an interview and it’s information you don’t want to reveal that soon–such as providing your references or (heaven forbid!) Social Security number before an interview–you will probably want to pull back from that one.

In fact, whenever the preliminary exchange of information is heavily lopsided in favor of the employer, you could find that an interview would be not only a big waste of time but also a source of aggravation and frustration. Do you really need that?

Similarly, you might be asked (maybe even required) to jump through multiple hoops before scheduling an interview, including agreeing to travel to a distant location on your own dollar. In such situations, you should be evaluating whether the interview and the job (if it gets that far) are worth the risk and the effort you are expected to make.

Job Interview Turn-Down Advice

Ask The Headhunter’s Nick Corcodillos never minces words, and here’s what he had to say in response to an inquiry from a reader:

“If you don’t get the information you need, I wouldn’t go to the interview. Every job seeker needs to draw a line somewhere. Just bear in mind that the company may put a big X on your file and never consider you again. On the other hand, you may not want to reconsider them any time soon yourself.” [Note: The reader opted to turn down the interview request.]

Ultimately, you’re the one who has to make the decision about whether or not to pursue the interview: weigh the pros and cons as objectively as you can and make the wisest choice for your situation.

Are You a Creative Employee?

If you think you aren’t a creative employee, you might want to think again. And if you aren’t being creative in some way, can you change that?

The tendency is to think of creative employees in terms of fields such as graphic arts, marketing communications, and such–in other words, either visual or written creativity that’s an essential aspect of the individual’s job. Those of you who don’t work in such fields might be convinced that you’re not a creative employee. Not so fast, though. Maybe there’s more to it than that.

What Marks You as a Creative Employee?

Coming up with ideas for how to do something better and faster than it’s been done before could be considered evidence of creativity–that is, you might engage in creative thinking that gets out of the every-day rut and looks at a situation differently than other employees do. More than once over the years since I started creating resumes, I’ve had a client tell me he or she had been able to solve difficult problems that others had attempted and failed to do. Those clients went on to give me concrete examples of situations where that had happened.

Look at your job performance and see if you can point to instances where you tackled something that had been tried before without success and got it to work well. It doesn’t need to be of earthshaking importance to qualify you as a creative employee. By the same token, if something hasn’t been tried before but should have been, you might be the one who sees possibilities and opportunities that have previously been overlooked.

Can You Change a “Lack” of Creativity?

If you really feel you’re not a creative employee, the odds are still pretty good that you can change that. Start by changing your concept of creativity. As I indicated above, opening up your thinking to new possibilities can lead to outcomes that benefit your company in a variety of ways. As far as the company is concerned, that makes you a creative employee–and a potentially very valuable one.

A recent article by Ashlie Turley, titled “Building a Work Environment That Inspires Creativity,” states that “Creativity impacts three aspects of business in particular. These aspects – efficiency, effectiveness, and profitability – also happen to be the areas of business that leaders are usually most concerned about.” I believe you can stretch yourself as an employee, if you’re not already contributing creatively to those critical business areas. Encourage yourself to question the status quo in your own mind first and then see if you can identify ways to suggest improvements that your employer will find worth considering.

More than likely, the only thing stopping you from functioning as a creative employee is your own self-doubt or hesitation. Once you start challenging that self-imposed limitation, you might be surprised at how much of a creative employee you can be.

By the way, you can demonstrate creativity before you even start a new job. Look at your job search with a fresh approach and see if you can come up with better ways of managing it. Also, be prepared to demonstrate creative thinking when you prepare for and engage in job interviews. You might give your interviewer a pleasant surprise.

Lying or Fudging on Resumes–Rotten Idea

The subject of lying or exaggerating on resumes just keeps coming up! It amazes me how many people–at least some of whom seem otherwise intelligent–make the lousy decision to falsify information in their resumes (falsify is a euphemism for lying, but sounding weaker doesn’t make it better).

With all the publicity there is from time to time about perpetrators getting caught, I would think people would hesitate to take the risk, even if ethical considerations didn’t weigh with them. The consequences of lying on your resume (or in some cases just fudging the truth a bit) can range from getting fired and escorted out to the door to something as serious as prison sentences.

Resume Lying: Why Not?

Setting aside the ethical issues (I’m a firm believer in not claiming things that aren’t true), why is lying on your resume a really rotten idea? After all, some people seem to get away with it.

To start with, you have to remember what lies you told to whom, about what, when, ad nauseum. It’s too easy to get tripped up somewhere down the road, and that puts a constant strain on you. There’s always the risk that someone will catch on to the fact that some of your info doesn’t add up, seems too good to be true or otherwise raises a red flag.

You are never safe from exposure. Never. Sometimes people get away with lying on their resume for years, well into their career, before it comes back to bite them. Among other things, that means they have more to lose than they might have earlier in their career. Also they face the daunting prospect of starting over from scratch at a later stage in their lives–seldom an easy task.

Perhaps most important: Once you are exposed as a liar, your word becomes basically meaningless. You have destroyed the trust that others have placed in you, and betrayal of trust is extremely difficult (sometimes impossible) to regain.

So Why Lie or Fudge on Your Resume?

Sometimes people do it because they become desperate. They’ve been searching for a new job for a long time without success, and they feel as if they need to do something to improve their odds. As we know today, protracted job searches are no longer a rarity, and well-qualified job seekers are being ignored or rejected by the employers they submit their resumes to.

Sometimes you might think that a little fudging isn’t a big deal. Maybe you write a great paragraph in your resume about a project you worked on and make it sound as if it was a long, demanding activity–when it actually lasted only a week or two. Sure, you did the work, and maybe you made a useful contribution in that short time, but is that really what the employer is looking for if the posting specifies someone with five years of experience in that kind of activity?

“Lots of people are doing it” (some people say, “Everyone is doing it”): My stock response to that statement is, “If lots of people rob banks, does that make it right?” Quantity alone doesn’t justify engaging in an action.

Think about this: If you had to take a lie detector test on the contents of your resume, how comfortable would that be?

Here are a couple of recent articles about lying on resumes. They make for some interesting reading:

Network Your Way to Job Interviews and Offers

To some job seekers, “networking” is almost a dirty word–something they want to avoid like the plague. This isn’t a new thought; we’ve been around this track a few times before. However, in the unpredictable times we live in now, seemingly old methods can become new again, at least in terms of their importance to a successful job search.

Networking: Not Just a Numbers Game

I’ve seen various statistics and pieces of advice that suggest, for instance, that one of the steps you need to take to have successful participation in a networking event is to determine how many people you need or want to meet. If you hustle, you could conceivably meet quite a few people at such an event; but quantity alone won’t win you any prizes in the job search challenge.

To put it another way, you probably don’t want to paper your walls with the business cards you collect at a networking event. The people you meet and the business cards they share with you must have a stronger potential value than the quantity you rack up. By the same token, if your expanded LinkedIn network now numbers in the millions (or even hundreds of thousands), those that are of the greatest probable value to your job search and career success would only represent a miniscule portion of that total.

Networking Skills and Jobs

An article titled “No Networking Skills, No Job,” by Brian O’Connell makes some points well worth considering. To start with, he says that “connecting the dots between trusted contacts and future job opportunities is a big deal for job hunters. Failing that could be a real deal-breaker for career professionals looking for a landing spot….”

O’Connell goes on to quote a 2011 study by Right Management that gives the following statistics: “41% of all job applicants found new positions through networking, and only 2% through a job advertisement, either online or offline.” In addition, he references a 2012 report from ABC News that states “80% of all jobs are found through networking and networking events.”

Networking is Not a Quick Fix

Important as it is to your job search, networking will rarely, if ever, bring you an amazingly wonderful and rapid payoff. As with other job search tools (such as working with recruiters), networking usually only pays off over a longer term and often with incremental results that might not seem wildly impressive at first glance but can produce substantial benefits in the end.

Among other things, that means the sooner you begin a well-thought-out networking plan and the more consistently you work on that plan, the more likely you are to gain the outcome you’re seeking–a new/better job, a more fulfilling career, and so on.

LinkedIn: The “Dark Side”–What You Need to Know

Don’t get me wrong. LinkedIn is a potentially great job search and career management tool for career-minded individuals who want to make smart moves in their careers. It isn’t really LinkedIn’s fault that there’s a potentially dark side to the power it can bring to you. So what’s this dark side?

The big issue: If you’re trying to avoid being found by someone you have to protect yourself or your family from, your visibility on LinkedIn could give that person an edge you don’t want him/her to have. (This might sound like an extreme and probably rare situation, but I recently dealt with a client who was facing just such a situation.) I’ll write more on this problem in a bit.

Employers Tracking You on LinkedIn

Sometimes people tell me they’re concerned about employers finding out they’re looking for a new job because of something they’ve put in their LinkedIn profile. The obvious first suggestion is to make sure you turn off your activity broadcast notification before you make changes to your profile. That way at least you’re not publicizing your update to the world. [Note: Activity feed and activity broadcasts are NOT one and the same. Your feed is more or less posts about "what I've been doing lately," not about changes to your profile.]

In fact, whenever you make minor changes to your profile, you should consider turning the broadcast notification off, so your network doesn’t get inundated with notifications about your tweaks.

I did have a client tell me once that his employer regularly checked employees’ LinkedIn profiles to see what they were posting there and, presumably, get clues as to who might be thinking about jumping ship. The employer didn’t make any secret about doing this–a not-too-subtle form of intimidation, I suspect. In other words, “be careful what you do, or we’ll find a way to boot you out the door.”

I have two thoughts on this concern: (1) Do whatever you can to find yourself another job ASAP, even if you can’t pursue that goal via your profile. (2) In your next and subsequent jobs, make sure your LinkedIn profile is strong and up to date at all times, so employers have no reason to suspect you of planning to leave.

Protect Your Privacy on LinkedIn

You can make your profile private so only you can see it–but what’s the point? You might as well not have a profile. Despite the common belief that you’re almost a non-person without an active LinkedIn profile, I’ve heard from reliable sources that savvy job seekers have found new positions without a robust LinkedIn presence. They just need to work harder and smarter at their job search.

When it’s a matter of personal safety rather than job security, the answer might not be simple. Recently I queried my e-list colleagues about the situation of the client mentioned above. Below is a brief summary of the tips I received and found on my own:

  • Go onto LinkedIn, find the person’s profile, and block him or her. When you go onto the profile, in the top rectangle’s blue bar where it says “Send a message,” the rightmost part has a downward-pointing triangle. Click on it. Second to the bottom is “Block or Report.”
  • Consider asking yourself questions about why you want to be on LinkedIn, such as: What do you expect to gain from being on it? What are the potential risks? What is the balance of potential risk and reward by having a detailed profile?
  • Go into your account’s Settings feature and look at the items to see what the options are and decide whether you want to change any of your current settings:
    Privacy Controls
    * Turn on/off your activity broadcasts
    * Select who can see your activity feed
    * Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile
    * Turn on/off How You Rank
    * Select who can see your connections
    * Change your profile photo & visibility
    * Show/hide “Viewers of this profile also viewed” box
    * Manage who you’re blocking

Job Search and Life Challenges

As the Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley” or, in other words, “sometimes our plans go really wrong.” One situation where that can have repercussions is when your job search collides with a major life event that you couldn’t foresee and might have little or no direct control over.

I’m a big fan of making good plans, whether it’s for a job search or career change or for something more on a personal level. However, as many of you might also have experienced, I’ve found more than once that my plans can get derailed–temporarily, longer term or permanently. Here are just a couple of examples from my own experience that might resonate with you in some way:

  • In 1999 my mother passed on unexpectedly. My son and I shared a home with her, and that was where I ran my full-time business. She had also been my chief supporter and cheerleader since I started the business in 1991. Clearly her loss was a major life event that I had no immediate control over. I had to deal with all the related personal issues and responsibilities while doing my best to resume normal business activity as soon as possible–clients were counting on me, of course, but even more important was that my son’s well-being and mine depended on keeping things running. That was 15 years ago, and I’m still here, but of course I had to regroup and change some of my plans to fit the different situation that had come into my life.
  • Several months ago my son and I began planning a two-week trip to England to visit some friends of mine and do a lot of sightseeing. That trip occurred in late May and early June of this year. In large part it went as planned. However, since our return, events have not followed the expected pattern, which is why this is my first blog post in about two months! Unforeseen challenges have included ongoing family health issues (not mine), two beloved dogs suffering annual allergy problems, and more. I had to cut myself some slack as a result, prioritizing my business and personal activities to take care of the ones that seemed most critical and putting others on a back burner.

Obviously, this is not one of my “standard” blog posts, but it’s one that comes from the heart. You might find yourself in a situation where you have planned your job search or career change as thoughtfully as you can and put a lot of good energy into it, only to face something that challenges you to rethink or regroup in order to move forward productively. What I’m basically saying is that you can do yourself a favor by allowing for the possibility that things like this can happen, even to those “best-laid plans,” and you don’t have to let them throw you for an absolute loss.

I belong to a small group that has a twice-monthly phone call where we share our experiences and learn great things about how to handle a variety of situations. Usually these are business-related, but there’s often a personal aspect as well. A recent topic was “resilience.” I think it’s a good concept in connection with today’s blog post! When job search and life challenges collide, resilience might be a key factor in your ability to move forward.

LinkedIn Endorsements and Your Job Search

Controversial topics can enliven your job search–for instance, they give you opinions on multiple sides of an issue that potentially affects your ongoing career success. LinkedIn’s endorsements feature is one of those topics. I’ve written about it before, but based on what I’m reading and hearing these days, it merits another look.

What People are saying about LinkedIn Endorsements

I have just been reading a thread on LinkedIn by people commenting on the Endorsements feature. Out of dozens–maybe hundreds–of comments, not one comment was favorable! The thread apparently started around mid-2013 and has continued as of April 2014. As near as I can tell, all the commenters on the thread are job seekers or potential job seekers. If any were hiring managers, recruiters, etc., I missed those.

The views ranged from “a waste of time” to “potentially damaging to your career image.” Frequent themes centered around the feeling that LinkedIn has essentially forced endorsements down the throats of its members and is 100% non-responsive to their unhappiness. Basically, these people feel as if they’re seeing a corporate mentality from LinkedIn that says to members, “If you don’t like our rules, take your marbles and go home.”

Can You Opt-Out of LinkedIn Endorsements?

Some people indicated that they have participated, reluctantly, but have made an effort to limit the level of inappropriate activity–such as people endorsing them for skills they either don’t have or don’t want to emphasize in their LinkedIn profile. Others mentioned their efforts to opt-out of the endorsement feature in one way or another.

If you go to the LinkedIn Help Center and search for “Opting Out of Endorsements,” you will find tips on how to prevent endorsement suggestions from displaying on profiles you view or on your own profile when other people view it. However, in order to completely opt-out of endorsements, you have to select an option that hides all of your endorsements already received. That could leave an obvious hole in your profile, and you might not want to do it, but it’s something to consider.

By the way, the Help Center instructions suggest unclicking the two items about endorsement suggestions on profiles viewed (which will supposedly prevent those suggestions from appearing). However, I already had those unclicked on my LinkedIn profile and I still get those suggestions, so I think their “system” for that procedure is flawed.

Who Cares about LinkedIn Endorsements?

Besides LinkedIn, that is. Employers/recruiters might. One thing I’ve read is that LinkedIn designed the feature primarily so recruiters could search for candidates with specific skills because they want to increase revenue from recruiters (or their companies). I don’t know if this is a fact or not, but I suppose it’s a possibility.

I haven’t seen much, if anything, from employers on this subject so far, and it might be that they appreciate the endorsements feature more than job seekers do. I wonder, though, how happy they would be if they had reliable data on just how inaccurate the lists on members’ profiles can be.

For example, my list used to include “career counseling”–I didn’t put it there. Other people endorsed me for it, despite the fact that although I do provide career coaching, I don’t do career counseling (which requires a counseling degree). If someone were looking to hire me for career counseling, they’d be disappointed. (I removed that item from my list, with the associated endorsements.)


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