MHB WEEKLY: By the students, for the world

Help Unwanted: Secrets from the HR World | March 29, 2011

Job seekers be warned: the following is a look at the inside secrets of human resources departments and hiring managers, of which most — if not all — are discouraging, disheartening and downright dirty. It’s certainly nice to think of employment managers as optimistic and generous individuals, but the reality — if the findings below are indeed indicative of the entire HR industry — might not be so pretty. And especially for the entry-level candidates who find solace in the belief that they’re at least filling out applications in an appropriate manner, the information below is as terrifying as it is surprising.

In a Yahoo.com survey, which interviewed HR professionals across country about the validity of widely-accepted job search strategies, one director admitted to not reading a cover letter in 11 years. Another explained that overweight people are less likely to be hired, and that candidates with small children might be avoided if they’re overly talkative about their kids. And in superbly direct language, a North Carolinian HR manager said this of pay negotiation: “You think you’re all wonderful and deserve a higher salary, but here in HR, we know the truth. And the truth is, a lot of you aren’t very good at your jobs, and you’re definitely not as good as you think you are.”

The full list contains 22 such confessions — none of which are particularly encouraging for the up-and-coming job applicant, some of which are purely demoralizing for the aging unemployed. “If you’re in your ’50s or ’60s,” explained one HR pro, “don’t put the year you graduated on your résumé.” But if traditionally-trusted employment tactics like these are ineffective and even inappropriate, what else of the application process should be called into question? According to the Human Resources section of About.com, today’s job descriptions — many of which enumerate countless qualifications and required tasks — are often overblown and even inaccurate. Perhaps companies list an inordinate number of expected responsibilities so that hired employees have no room to complain that a given assignment is outside their jurisdiction; perhaps they’re trying to intimidate inferior candidates from ever applying. In either case, an overwritten job profile can create a relationship based on strategic truth-stretching between a new hire and a hiring manager, which seems an unideal place to start if fruitful performance is expected in the future.

Two months ago, meanwhile, hiring managers in Chicago listed the worst habits of job seekers in interviews. A few fall under the branch of common sense: interviewees should not feast on the goodies in an office candy jar; they shouldn’t badmouth their spouses or significant others; and, in a crucial bit of advice, they shouldn’t wear hats that read “Take This Job and Shove It.” But other pointers are useful and less obvious. Job candidates should ask questions during and at the end of an interview, for instance. They should research what a company does, how it operates and some of its recent work to prove their investment and belief to potential employers. Lastly, a positive and upbeat attitude can be strategically refreshing — especially in the context of an economy that has more people downtrodden about job prospects than enthusiastic about them. And just keep trying, because the clearest mark of being unemployable is consistent unemployment: “Once you’re out of work more than six months,” reported one HR insider, “we assume that other people have already passed you over, so we don’t want anything to do with you.” Wise words indeed.

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