Rochester NY Stake Employment Center

February 17, 2012

Job Seekers: Get HR on Your Side

Filed under: Interviewing — Larry @ 2:43 pm


January 25, 2012

10 Common Sense Interview Tips Too Many People Flub

Filed under: Interviewing — Larry @ 1:19 pm

When we refer to something as being "common sense," we usually mean that it is something we think everyone should know. Often, though, it turns out that what may seem like common sense to one person isn’t always so to someone else. For example: Veterinarians spend their days around animals, so they might consider it common knowledge that cats sleep about 18 hours per day; hence the reason your vet seems so amused when you bring Muffin in for a checkup, concerned about her inability to stay awake.

Similarly, because human-resources professionals constantly screen and interview candidates, what may seem like a common-sense interview tip to them might not have crossed a job seeker’s mind. Following are "common-sense" interview tips straight from the experts’ mouths.

1. Be presentable
Wear a suit that fits, and don’t cut corners when it comes to ironing or dry-cleaning. I knew one guy who was in such a rush the day of his interview that he only ironed the front of his shirt. Later, during the course of his interview day, it was hot and he was encouraged to remove his jacket and get more comfortable and it was clear that he had cut corners and only ironed the front! He was very embarrassed. Also,
while you should always wear deodorant, try to avoid perfumes and colognes. You never know who will be allergic or just downright averse to your scent. A hiring manager once told me a story of how he didn’t select an incredibly well-qualified candidate for a role because she wore the same perfume as his ex-wife. He said she walked in the room and his only thought was how to get her out of his office as
quickly as possible.

2. Don’t be too early
While you should always arrive at your interview a few minutes early, try not to get there more than 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time. Arriving early will lead to anxiety on the candidate’s part because they have to sit and wait for an extended period of time, and it will lead to frustration on the hiring manager’s part because they will feel rushed with the project that they are trying to accomplish
prior to the interview. If you find yourself getting to the building earlier than you thought, wait in your car or take a walk around the block until it’s closer to your interview time.

3. Know whom you’re meeting with
Know the name of the interviewer so that you can ask for that person at the receptionist’s desk. It’s embarrassing when the receptionist asks, ‘Who are you here to see?’ and you can’t remember. Have this information either in your head or write yourself a note that you refer to prior to arriving in the waiting area.

4. Remember: You are being interviewed as soon as you walk in the door
Most people would never think of the receptionist as being an interviewer, but it’s true. It’s fairly common that the receptionist will report back to the hiring manager how candidates behaved in the waiting area. Don’t be remembered as the one who ate all the candy out of the candy dish or spoke disrespectfully to the receptionist.

5. Make proper eye contact
One of the most obvious mistakes interviewees make is with eye contact, and it costs a lot of people a lot of jobs. Eye contact is simple. Any given eye contact should last about five seconds at a time. And if there’s one interviewer, make eye contact with him or her about 40 to 60 percent of the time. More than 60 percent is intimidating. Less than 40 percent comes off as shifty and perhaps insincere, even dishonest.

6. Eat before the interview, not during it
Duh? Some have experienced interview-snacking firsthand. I was in an interview, no more than 10 minutes into it, and I got called out for two minutes to answer a question. When I returned, the applicant was eating some sort of granola or other snack bar. Needless to say that individual did not get a job with my company. No matter what the candy bar ads have to say, your hunger can wait.

7. Make sure that what you do eat beforehand does not involve onion or garlic
You want to be remembered for your professionalism and outstanding skills, not for what you ate for lunch. Don’t eat anything that has a strong odor before the interview.

8. Don’t look at your watch
Block at least two hours of time for the interview. It is also advised to keep your schedule relatively clear on the day of the interview, to avoid feeling the need to rush. Don’t create distractions to your interview.

9. Tell the interviewer you are interested
Don’t forget to tell the recruiter you want the job. If you truly feel the position is a fit, let them know and tell them you would like to get to the next round of interviews, and be prepared to tell them why.

10. Get business cards from your interviewers — and use them
Ask for the business cards of all of the interviewers that you have met and make sure you take a second or two to read their card. This will not only be helpful in remembering each person you met with, but will make it easier to send proper thank-you notes and follow up e-mails, which should always be done within 24 hours of leaving the interview.

• MONROE COUNTY DHS Weekly Employment Bulletin December 19, 2011

Top 25 Unique Interview Questions

Filed under: Interviewing — Larry @ 1:02 pm

By Alison Doyle, Guide December 27, 2011

( has gone through the thousands of interview questions shared by interviewees this year to come up with a list of the Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions. Some are definitely strange, most of them are unique, and some of them are a challenge to answer because there is no right or wrong response to questions like "What do you think of garden gnomes?" or "Entertain me for five minutes". Check out this article for other questions and the companies which asked the questions.

10 Questions Interviewers May Ask Older Job Hunters

Filed under: Interviewing — Larry @ 12:56 pm

Summary (see full article at ):

One of the biggest challenges for older job hunters is how to get past entrenched age bias issues that often surface during a face-to-face interview. Many interviewers will ask questions, some pointed, others subtle, that are meant to probe your "fitness" for the position. Give the "wrong" answer, and you may be screened out from further consideration.

Here are 10 questions you’ll likely be asked by interviewers. Learn what they’re really asking and how to answer each question to your advantage.

1. Tell me about yourself.
– provide a succinct description of who you are, your major strength and the biggest benefit that you bring to them. Research both the organization and the particular position so you can bring the conversation back to their needs in this job and how your unique strengths can be of immediate benefit to them.

2. What are your salary requirements?
– check out comparable salaries that organizations are paying for this type of position in your geographical area. You can find information about corporate salaries on sites like and, while offers salary surveys for the nonprofit sector.
– respond with a range based on your research, saying something like, "I’ve found from my research that the typical salary range is from $X to $Y. Is that what you were thinking of?"

3. With all your experience, you may be overqualified for this opportunity. Won’t this position bore you?
– stress why you may no longer want a higher level of responsibility with a response like, "At this point in my career, I’d much rather leave the responsibility and management to someone else. This position offers exactly what I’ve become best at, which is solving the immediate problems at hand that your organization may be experiencing now.” Then talk about how you can help solve a major challenge that they face.
• emphasize your passion for the mission of the organization.
• stress that you are able to hit the ground running and provide solutions without the ramp-up of additional training or hand-holding that they might have to provide a younger candidate.

4. I see you went to X University. My friend, Sara Adams, graduated from there also. Did you know her? (Or, when were you there?)
It’s illegal to come out and ask “How old are you?”, but interviewers have other ways to get you to reveal your age. Asking about school graduation is one of them. One approach is to answer with a vague response like, "Oh it has been a few years since I’ve been there, but my ability to solve problems for my employers has grown substantially since then."

5. How do you work with others?
– give specific examples of past projects or problems (especially in team situations or working with other departments) you’ve had to take on and your positive influence on the outcome.
– stay focused on examples that relate to the job you’re applying for and don’t bring up past duties or responsibilities from previous jobs if they’re not directly related to your target position.

6. There aren’t any employees here your age. Would that make you uncomfortable?
– give an example or two of a situation in your past where you’ve worked on teams with much younger employees. If possible, give a specific example of how you have grown or learned something from a much younger team member.

7. What are your long-term career plans?
– emphasize your enthusiasm for the job and that you plan to work for many years to come. For instance, you might say, “While you can see that I have accomplished some things during my career, I still have much to contribute. I want to keep growing and learning and help your organization be successful.”

8. We run a very fast-paced team (or department/division/company) here. Will you be able to keep up?
– Reassure them by mentioning any recent courses or certifications you’ve completed.
– give specific examples about a time when you made an extra effort and went all out to achieve a larger goal.

9. You’ll be working for a (much) younger supervisor here. Do you anticipate any problems with that?
• Emphasize your past experience working with superiors younger than you.
• Reassure interviewers that you’re a team player who is able to work with diverse teams to achieve a goal.

10. What have you been doing most recently?
Don’t think of yourself as someone who’s looking for a job. You’re a problem solver. You’re a caregiver. You’re a team leader, a group organizer, a student, a consultant or any number of other roles.
– give an example of something you’ve accomplished or are making progress on, such as schooling, professional certification courses or achievements, personal projects, outside contracts or projects (paid or pro bono), overcoming a crisis or leading a group to achieve some goal.
– demonstrate that you’re still relevant in your profession or industry. Show how you’ve gained experience and have become more valuable as a potential employee as a result of recent activities or accomplishments.

“If you’re an older, experienced worker, you don’t have to settle for a lower position that doesn’t use your skills. Sure, there’s age discrimination out there with some employers, but you can still stack the deck in your favor. During an interview, focus on the employer’s needs and draw from successes in your past to provide solid return-on-investment answers to questions. It’s important to be honest, but be sure to emphasize your strengths rather than magnify your vulnerabilities.” – Joe Turner

January 10, 2012

Pre-Interview Questionnaires

Filed under: Interviewing — Larry @ 10:27 am

Pre-interview questionnaires are used by employers to get further information about a job applicant prior to a job interview.

You may need to provide some of the same information that is on your resume and the job application you submitted. You may also be asked questions related to your background, your skills, your experience, and your availability for work.

Find out more about these questionnaires and how to prepare for them at

December 3, 2011

Interview Tips for Job Seekers With A Criminal Record

Filed under: Interviewing — Larry @ 5:55 pm

Expect the question and prepare your answer before the interview: There are lots of things the employer doesn’t have the right to ask about you, but they can ask about criminal history. Before the interview, prepare a good, honest answer that eliminates or dramatically reduces the employer’s concerns AND gives you a chance to prove your qualifications.

Welcome the Question: Let’s face it! When these issues arise, the employer’s concern is at the front of their mind and you’ve got some explaining to do. This can be an awkward spot in the interview for both of you. In that moment, lots of job seekers act defensive, resentful, or just try to avoid the issue. Their body language, eye contact, facial expressions and energy make the whole situation worse. Don’t let this be you. just be prepared. Start by welcoming the question.

Take Responsibility : Taking responsibility for your part in the mistake or problem shows employers you have some power to keep it from happening again, which reduces their risk in hiring you. Determine what you could have done differently to have stopped the problem from occurring. Briefly, explain what happened and why in 5 to 15 seconds without blaming others, denying your role, or dwelling on what you did wrong. If it’s reasonable, attribute the situation to something you have already changed such as a wrong crowd, being young and stupid, or a bad decision you would not make today. Avoid sharing gory or distasteful details, bragging, or making light of it, and watch your language

Watch Your Language! There are words and phrases that employers simply don’t expect to hear in an interview. If they are spoken, the employer can be so startled that they stop listening to the rest of your explanation. They’re stuck at the scary word, and never hear how you have changed, where you’re at today, and why you are great for the job. Think about the truth of your situation and find alternate ways to explain it. For example, ‘burglary’ could be stated ‘went into a building I had no business being in and took some things that weren’t mine’, ‘assault & battery’ becomes ‘harmed someone’ or ‘had a physical altercation’, perhaps you ‘took a car that wasn’t mine’, ‘reacted and someone lost their life’, ‘started drinking too much; it got out of hand and even lead to some substance use’. You can refer to prison time as ‘contact with the criminal justice system’ or ‘paying your debt to society’, yourself as a ‘resident’ rather than an ‘inmate’, and a parole officer, re-entry counselor or recovery sponsor as a ‘mentor’. These alternate terms are designed not to deceive the employer, merely to tell the truth in a less startling way so they hear your entire good answer before determining if the gains outweigh the risks.

Use Father Time: Carefully choose how you refer to the past. Which sounds longer ago. "in 2004" or "almost 7 years ago"? For most adults "almost 7 years ago" sounds further back. To make the conviction seem further in the past, state the number of years ago it occurred. If you want to make something sound as recent as possible (a course you took, or article you wrote), use the year.

Share Your Moment of Clarity: Simply saying you’ve changed or learned your lesson won’t convince them. You must share your moment of clarity — the specific instance when you realized you made a mistake, regretted your action, and determined to change. It must give the employer a clear reason to believe you wouldn’t do it again. Bob, who was fired for embezzlement, said, "It was the horror and sadness in my son’s eyes when he found out that broke my heart. I knew none of it had been worth it." Think, does your explanation sound like you are only sorry you got caught and that you are finding it hard to get a job, or does it show that you regret the problems it has caused others, as well as yourself. Keep it brief, 5 to 10 seconds.

Paint a New Picture: So, You have admitted to what happened. Now, it’s time to bring the employer from the past to the present. Paint a picture of your life today. Share what you are doing or have done to ensure it will not recur. Perhaps you have changed your thinking, become a parent, finally grown up, have a new group of friends, a new faith, learned a new skill, or have a new vision for your life. Take 15 to 20 seconds to help them see that where you are today is very different than your past. Every change you mention must be demonstrated in your actions and attitudes throughout the job search, and once you are hired.

Tell Them What They Gain: You have taken a negative situation and neutralized it. Don’t end your answer without investing 10 to 30 seconds to refocus the employer on what they will gain if they give you a second chance. Remind them why they should hire you. What unique qualities, skills or attitudes make you worth the risk? Be sure the employer feels like they can follow up with clarifying questions. Consider the follow-up questions might an employer ask you, and prepare your responses.

Practice & Stay Positive: Practice your answers until it is a natural response to various questions that could be asked on the subject and always stay positive!!

– Monroe County Dept. of Human Services Job Search Companion January 2011

Interview Mistakes to Avoid

Filed under: Interviewing — Larry @ 9:54 am

Interviews are the most nerve-wracking part of the hiring process for most people, because no longer can you let your resume and cover letter do the talking, but you actually have to meet with the potential employer face-to-face. But you can learn from the mistakes of others to impress your interviewer and get that offer.

The authors of list some mistakes to avoid during an interview.

November 30, 2011

Recovering from a big interview mistake

Filed under: Interviewing — Larry @ 4:47 pm

Oh, to be able to turn back the clock or eat one’s words. Interview mistakes are not only embarrassing, they are potentially costly. Recovering can be tough — but not impossible. Consider these ways to limit the damage:


"People are more willing to forgive than we might think," says Marc Dorio, author of "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Job Interview." He notes that owning up and uttering a genuine "please forgive me" can be quite disarming. "It demonstrates character, and an interviewer may be impressed by that. After all, it will show that as an employee you will be honest and admit when you make a mistake as opposed to hiding it or making excuses."

Dorio also recommends stating what you learned from your goof. For instance, if you are late to an interview, after your apology you can add, "I now know I need to allow more time when driving into the city on a weekday."

Don’t dwell on the mistake

If an expletive accidentally pops out of your mouth or you make some other faux pas, save self-chastising for later and get back on track. "The candidate should apologize quickly and move on with answering the question," says Linda Matias, owner of and author of "201 Knockout Answers to Tough Interview Questions." "He should not apologize and then stop talking, because the mistake just lingers in the air. Dwelling on this fumble, or any other fumble, will bring extra unneeded attention to the situation."

Slip-ups in presenting information can be handled in a similar fashion. "If a candidate says something and instantly regrets it, he should make an attempt to make his position clear," Matias says. "He should not wait until after the interview to address the issue. That said, he should not harp on a mistake. Making a quick statement such as, ‘Let’s backtrack for a moment’ and then going on to provide a clearer statement works well."

Think on your feet

While panicking may be your gut reaction, remaining calm in the face of a mistake may allow you to salvage the situation. Running late? Show you value the interviewer’s time with a call to inform her, apologize and ask if the meeting can be rescheduled. Confuse the company or one of its products with a competitor? Quickly utter an "I’m sorry — of course I know that you produce X" and then get on with how you will market X using your experience in the field.
Suppose you accidentally appear at an interview without your portfolio or list of references. What can you say that excuses such a lapse? John Scanlan, assistant director of the career services center at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, says you might try something like, "I don’t have my portfolio (or list of references) today because I wanted to talk to you first about the specific skills and accomplishments that are most important to you. This way I can customize it to illustrate more effectively the sort of skills you are seeking."

Don’t assume it’s too late to act

Noticing an error in the moment can be horrific, but recognizing a mistake after you’ve already left the interview can make you feel hopeless. Yet Scanlan notes that the situation sometimes can be rectified. "If you feel you made a bad impression, committed some grave error in judgment and/or somehow offended an interviewer, one strategy is to address the problem in a thank-you note. But be sure to state the issue positively as opposed to simply reminding the interviewer of your gaffe."

Adds Matias, "If the candidate regrets something later, and the mistake is a biggie, then he can mention the situation in a follow-up letter. He can write, ‘I would like to readdress the question you asked regarding …’ Then, simply re-answer the question. This is a strategy I use with my clients, and it has been very successful."


The easiest way to deal with a mistake, of course, is not to err in the first place. Researching the company beforehand can eliminate the embarrassment of not knowing what it produces or who its biggest competitors are. Practicing aloud the answers to likely questions can build confidence and help you remember pertinent information and names. And don’t hesitate to confirm an appointment, ask for the spelling of someone’s name or request clarification of procedures. Better to look detail-oriented and responsible than to make a preventable blunder.

– MONROE COUNTY DHS Weekly Employment Bulletin October 31, 2011

October 24, 2011

Phone Interview Tips

Filed under: Interviewing — Larry @ 1:41 pm

Here are some sites that give helpful advice on how to prepare for, and succeed in, phone interviews:

Isn’t That Illegal? How To Answer Uncomfortable Interview Questions

Filed under: Interviewing — Larry @ 9:59 am

Keeping one’s cool when an interview chair turns into a hot seat can be difficult. Here are some examples of zingers thrown at candidates, and how some of them responded:

"My friends and I have been asked several times what we would do if we got pregnant. Our answer: ‘I can’t have children. I’m infertile.’ It always sets the interviewer on his (never asked this by a woman) heels. We decided that in the event that we did get the job and did get pregnant, we would cast it as a ‘miracle’ — and just be joyous with everyone about the heavenly news!" — Rebecca Raibley, Massachusetts.

"I am a proud American but have a slight accent. When they ask me where I was born and I tell them, they say, ‘Oops, we just remembered we have no openings currently.’ So I’ve concluded that answering their illegal question will never get me a job, but if I refuse to answer it or tell them it’s illegal, that will not get me the job either. Quite a conundrum." — Mo Abraham, St. Louis

"I was asked, ‘Isn’t [my past boss] a jerk?’ Obviously, I wanted to take the high road, and I wasn’t sure why the interviewer asked that question. So I responded, ‘He certainly makes an impression,’ and changed the subject. Since no further questions were asked along those lines, I think it was a test — maybe of quick thinking under pressure, maybe to see if I would dish dirt. Either way, never say anything negative about a past employer." — Marilyn Santiesteban, Boston

"An interviewer once asked me to which charities I donated. I was uncomfortable with this question, as it seems quite personal. Donations are often based on personal criteria: health experience, politics, religion and other individual ideologies. I don’t believe people should be ‘qualified’ by the groups of their choice." — Lisa Hanock-Jasie, New York City.

"I was asked in an interview once, ‘How do you get along with your mother?’ I responded, ‘If you’re trying to find out whether I can work well for a female boss, you can just ask me that. If you were my friend, I wouldn’t mind answering. But since this is an interview, I find that question inappropriate.’" — Dez Stephens, Nashville, Tenn.


Coming up with a response isn’t always easy when the voice inside you is screaming, "Why the heck is he asking me that?" While panic, anger and confusion are typical responses to uncomfortable questions, checking emotions is crucial to getting the interview back on track. The interviewer may be trying to judge your confidence level and how you handle pressure.

Steven Roy Goodman, an educational consultant and career strategist in Washington, D.C., advises his clients to answer inappropriate interview questions by politely saying, "That question makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Would you mind if we talked about how specifically I might be able to work with department X of company Y?"

Candidates who have experienced uncomfortable interview questions on a certain topic may wish to practice suitable responses ahead of time. For instance, if a gap in employment seems to be an issue, be ready to talk about the skills you acquired or the contributions you made as a volunteer during that time.

Unfortunately, some interviewers persist in areas they shouldn’t.

"Obvious off-limit topics are family situation, age, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual preference, race or any questions that lead to more knowledge about the candidate through related questions such as, ‘Will you need to make any special arrangements for family members should you be hired?’ or, ‘Have you ever missed work for illness or injury?’" says Terry Henley, director of compensation services at Employers Resource Association, a nonprofit serving small and medium-sized businesses in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

In this situation, Henley recommends that candidates say that they aren’t comfortable discussing the topic and then think about whether they wish to continue the interview. "If the applicant is certain that the question is illegal, he can tell the interviewer, understanding that it will probably mean that the interview will end soon and not end up in employment." Filing charges with a state or federal agency is an option if a well-qualified candidate feels certain that the only reason he was denied the position was because of being a member of a protected class, but Henley cautions that "the likelihood for success in filing such a claim in these circumstances is low."

While candidates have little to no control over what questions an interviewer chooses to ask, they do have power over something important: their own response. So set the tone that you’ve come to discuss why you’re the best person for the job — and nothing else.

MONROE COUNTY DHS Weekly Employment Bulletin – 29Aug2011

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