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I’ve never heard worse…

October 10th, 2006

My blood was boiling, my legs and arms were crossed, and I was beginning to feel nauseous. And the worst part was I was *only* listening to a speaker on how to get a job.

This was an older gentleman that had been president of his own company for over 20 years and had served very actively as a politician. He was brought in, I’m sure, because of his clout, but there was obviously no due diligence on the guy as some kind of authority in hiring. They figured that since he ran his own company he would share all kinds of great things with middle-to-senior executives about getting a job, hanging in there, and stuff like this.

I’ve been listening to these speakers since March and this was absolutely the worst one I’ve ever seen. Here are some of his snippets of wisdom (you have to realize that he was being sincere and genuine about each of these, nothing was sarcastic. Also, these are only the pearls that I picked out for this blog – there was more :( I didn’t make any of this up, and swear I heard it with my own ears!!):

  1. Use a computer to do your resume. That way when you need to customize your “resume paragraph” (he was talking about a custom coverletter) it is easy to do.
  2. Always use large font to bring things out, and NEVER use small font. Hiring people are over 45 and they don’t see very well.
  3. Ask yourself “am I applying for a government job or a private job?” It is always good to know what kind of employer it is – the gov’t looks for status quo type people.
  4. Use bullet points on a resume. This is better than a 300 word essay (on your resume).
  5. If you give a gift, don’t make it vulgar. You should bring gifts to the office for people to enjoy.
  6. When asked what you do better than other people NEVER say “I get along with other people.” That is assumed, and it is much better to show that you excel at something – so saying that you excel at poker, shooting hoops or golf is much better than telling them that you get along with other people.
  7. On your resume, if you have a new job every 2 years, PUT WHY you have that turnover. Don’t let them guess it (I’ve never heard this advice before).
  8. Always list your personal achievements, such as “I raised 5 kids” or “I raised a kid who is a musical genius”. Employers want to get to know you personally.
  9. Think out of the box! Consider a job at the post office. This is a great job with great benefits. Ask yourself: Could I drive a street sweeping truck?
  10. Another out of the box opportunity: School teacher (remember, he is talking to a roomful of execs that made at least 90k for many years) – they make 30k a year but get 3 months off! Isn’t that great? Also, according to him, a “Wal-Mart warehouseman makes $15.00” which is another great opportunity for out-of-the-box thinkers.
  11. When looking for a job, get a job to hold you over. You’ll think more clearly when you are working than when you aren’t. (I thought the same thing a few years ago, but how do you find and network into professional jobs when you have to go flip burgers for min. wage??)
  12. Understand what will make you happy. He talked about the ability to be happy as long as you have enough to eath, a roof over your head, your health and someone that loves you. “What you do won’t dictate your happiness. This applies more to men than women.
  13. Know that health insurance is THE biggest factor when hiring anyone over 45 years of age. So make sure you can squash that concern right up – like saying “I don’t need insurance, I get it through my spouse” or “just hire me as an independent contractor.” (um, my wife doesn’t get it, so that doesnt work, and as far as the contractor thing, the employer has to meet a 21 point checklist which they usually don’t, and is designed to flag employers that don’t want to pay for things like this!!)
  14. A key question in an interview is “have you ever filed an unemployment claim?” If you answer yes that brings a dark cloud into the room like nothing else could. And the cloud is darker if you’ve ever filed it on your back)! I (Jason) guessed this is an illegal question πŸ˜‰

The only positive thing I can say about the guy is that he genuinely meant every bit of wisdom that he shared with us. And, sadly, this ignorance still abounds so I guess it does make sense to even listen to some of it, just to realize how lame the guy on the other side of the desk may be. (understand that if you want to work for some idiot with the same philosophies you must abide by this crap to the letter (I hope that none of my readers want to work in this environment))

Have you heard worse? What is the worst job search (or resume, or interview, etc.) advice that you’ve ever heard? Was it by someone that is “in the know” – even a veteran job seeker? I’d like to think things have changed from, um, the ’70s!

31 Comments »

31 responses to “I’ve never heard worse…”

  1. Malea Stoker says:

    Yes, this was an interesting speech! He made a couple good points but the bad definitley outweighed the good. The one thing that bewilders me is that he studied law…how can you study law and make statements like that!?

    His best point was when he stated that men should make women happy by buying them gifts at random times!

    By the way, it was nice to meet you!

  2. Wow!! …wow!!!

    Can you please invite me next time you go to a speaker like this? It is amazing the mysterious things people believe about jobhunting- both from employers, jobseekers, etc. No wonder it takes such a huge effort to navigate through job transitions!

  3. Jason Alba says:

    Hey Malea, nice to see you :) Yep, I didn’t mention the law thing (graduated but didn’t practice) and a few other things, I didn’t want to give anything away that could narrow it down to WHO it is or WHERE it was :p

    And… his words on the gift was “random gifts at random times” would enhance a relationship like nothing else.. I debated putting this in because if my wife reads that she would be like HELLO! Give me a Random gift at a random time!

  4. Jason Alba says:

    Hey Carolynn πŸ˜‰ I don’t think I’d invite anyone to this type of thing :p But you are right, it is something that should be simple but the fact is, putting the human element into it can really make it complex.

  5. LOL… Jason, it sounds like your speaker had owned the Slate Rock and Gravel Company. Things have changed a lot since stoneage times.

    Reminds me of the worst job interview I ever went on. Hired on the spot, to hawk cheap Chinese knock-off merchandice door to door… yikes, still make me mad that I didn’t tell them to shove it.

    CEC Search – Website | Restaurant Jobs Listing | Restaurant Recruiters Blog

  6. I agree with #7 if you have moved a lot you should put things like (company folded) or (company relocated to another country) on your resume.

  7. Jason says:

    Anthony – I can see your point, and I agree if you can put something like that. I was thinking that if I had 5 changes in the last 10 years (I’ve seen one with about 30 changes in 30 years) it would be bad to put something like “I got bored”, “the boss was an idiot”, “I got terminated illegally” or other lame stuff πŸ˜‰ Maybe that’s too drastic an example…

  8. dawn says:

    If I were the one paying that speaker, I’d demand a refund. Appalling. Thanks for sharing — it reminds me that for all the effort we as jobseekers go through to try to impress hiring managers, it doesn’t exactly make them qualified to decide anything more than what color tie (or skirt) to wear in the morning.

  9. Jason says:

    Dawn – AMEN! I felt that after 2 months of seriously studying techniques and all that I was a lot more qualified at the job search thing than the interviewers – they seemed very unsophisticated. I loved my question at a huge healthcare company: “what are the metrics that will determine my success in this role” and I was met with blank stares and then “well, we really haven’t thought of that”. So much for being a *sophisticated* health care company :(

    What can ya do but shake your head and chuckle.

    (as a note, this was an all-volunteer environment – but the people that asked the dude to speak should have screened him, or at least coached him on who the audience was)

  10. Most of your presenter’s points were written up in a script three years ago for panel members at a paralegal job fair. I was one of the panel members.

    I thought it was a joke. It was written by one of the coordinators of the paralegal program to which I’d just been appointed a member of the Advisory Board. There was discussion about emailing one’s resume and faxing it. There was no discussion of submitting via website and when I tried to explain that recruiters use ATS software, eyes glazed over.

    As to the script, when the panel discussion actually started, I realized the person who created the script was absolutely serious. And the script was geared toward having the moderator as the star speaker, not to feature the knowledge that the panelists could share.

    As time wore on, both coordinators of the program continued to make statements that were either racist, blatantly geared against the older student, sent people on wild goose chases, and more.

    I’ve stayed with the Board in order to attempt to offer counsel on good practices. It’s an act of futility. When I attempted to attend the following career fairs in order to compare and see if there was any improvement, the coordinators refused to tell me the date, time, place, or allow me access. I guess they have a lot to hide.

  11. Jason says:

    Yvonne, this makes me want to cry. It amazes me that this is happening (1) in the 21st century, and (2) with those that have studied law!

    I’m wondering if I’ll be let back into this particular setting after this post… but it really was a wake-up call to hear this kind of discouraging NOISE. It would be funny if it weren’t true.

  12. Now I know what I’ve been missing in all my job interviews. I can honestly say that until this I had no idea why I couldn’t get anyone to be serious about hiring me. One question. How big should I make the font on my resume, 24px, 32px, 72px???Can anyone advise? I’m guessing bigger is better right? 72px then? That’s gonna use lots of paper, but it’s all good, who needs trees.

  13. Greg, according to the coordinator at the paralegal program, 12 pt. is a good size to accommodate for those old recruiter eyes.

  14. Steve Dawson says:

    Several years ago I was working on my resume. I had about 20 professionals look at it and critique it. I was shocked that almost every one made very different comments about the style, wording, and format. I must have changed it a dozen times before I realized that not everyone has the same idea about what makes up a good resume. This point is that you have to discern for yourself how you want to present yourself and how you want to conduct your job search. Listen to everyone, but be ready to filter out that which you know to be pure garbage. I’ve learned that not agreeing with someone can be a positive thing, because it helps you think about things and make up your own mind.

  15. Jason, did you or anyone else have the nerve to get up and set this guy straight so that none of the needy in the audience were misled by him in any way?

  16. Jason says:

    Steve, you are one of my fav job seekers – an EXPERT in Marketing and Communications (if you want to talk to Steve let me know, I’ll hook you up).

    I agree with you, filter the crap – but be prepared to get some gems out. I did, in all fairness copy some gems from this speaker that I didn’t post on (hey, I’m not trying to be fair here, just making a point ;))

  17. Jason says:

    Hey Mike (aka Animal), I was too busy taking notes so would have great content to blog on :p I talked to a recruiter that was in the room that was just beside herself to talk and will likely pursue an opportunity to present later to this group. I think most folks in the room saw it for what it was worth (as per discussion afterwards)… and the hostess was very kind and said that she learned a lot from this guy :)

  18. One of the main reasons I started to blog about job-seeking is that there is an incredible imbalance of power between the seeker and the seeking when it comes to interviews and hiring.

    The hiring manager always has the upper hand–they’re the one making the decision. They setup the room so that you feel like the loser on “The Apprentice” and they make sure (knowingly or unknowingly) that they control all the power in the interview.

    Some of it is appropriate. Some of it is just ignorance on both the part of the seeker and the seeking.

  19. Jason Alba says:

    Hey Rob, thanks for the insight. You are absolutely right that there is ignorance on both sides (I’ve read plenty of snippets about lame responses in interviews). The interesting thing is this is the “way it is” and all we can do is try and not be lame (or, be more sophisticated), and try and work within “the system” as broken or unfair as it might be. Life ain’t fair, right? But the winners are those that understand the system and work within it to get what they need/want.

  20. […] He is a blogger as well, and spends a great deal of his time helping jobseekers understand that looking for a job is something that they will do many times in their lives. And because of that fact, the tools that he has built (and continues to improve) are designed for a lifetime. They are made to help enhance the user’s ability to leverage his or her network and job searching activity during the times when he or she transitions from one job to another. […]

  21. This sounds like a great presentation on “How To Appear Desperate In Your Job Search.” I’m sure this gentleman was very sincere, but this is why it is si imperative to take advice from the actual career experts. Was he aware of utilizing social media and branding yourself?

  22. Hi Jason,

    I can actually get behind 2, 3, 4, & 6.

    #2 — I hate it when I see a resume written in size 8 or 9 font. Really? If you have to use tiny fonts, it’s because you don’t know how to edit your pages down and you are trying to squeeze a bunch of crap in that doesn’t belong.

    #3 — Knowing your intended audience is important.

    #4 — I agree that no one wants to read a resume that is in a narrative format.

    #6 — Saying you get along with people is assumed. I don’t think you should talk about hobbies or sports though. You should use specific examples like, “I see projects through to successful completion” and then back it up with a story (e.g. “three other temps were brought in before I was hired and all three were let go…I was the first to get it done right” or something like that).

  23. Jason Alba says:

    @Heather – the problem with this guy (wow, 4 yrs ago!) is that he had a room full of job seekers listening to him, as the expert. I think most of us saw how outdated he was, but there might have been some who thought “yeah, he’s right, I can do that!” Re: social media, branding yourself, I don’t remember much buzz about that back then… I don’t think many people were talking about it, much less him.

  24. Jason Alba says:

    @Jennifer – here’s some clarification, specifically to those points. I agree that each point could have some merit, but if you were there you’d understand that this guy was about the least qualified guy on the planet to give job search advice.

    #2 – always use large font – the way he said it leads into Greg’s response, above. How large is large? 24? 32? 72? The funnier thing, though, was he said that most (insinuating “all”) hiring managers are (a) OLD (over 45) and (b) half-blind. The presentation was full of this type of generalization and discrimination.

    #3 – I had a hard time believing people in the room hadn’t asked themselves if they were looking for a gov’t job or a private industry job. He clearly differentiated the two, and his comment about how the gov’t likes to hire status quo really struck me. He was saying if you want to make something of your life, work for private industry. If you don’t, and you are a slouch, the gov’t will take you – it already has employed a number of other good-for-nothing schmucks.

    #4 – I have never, ever seen a narrative-form resume. I’ve never seen a resume without bullet points. Talk about knowing your audience… this piece of advice was so out of place. It was like “make sure that, after you wake up in the morning, you open your eyes and get out of bed.” I’ve never since heard this piece of advice… isn’t it assumed? Like: print your resume on paper, not an envelope. That’s assumed….

    #6 – his whole point here was to talk about your hobbies. He wanted to know if you like to pet dogs, breed birds, walk in the park, etc. It sounded like he wanted this to be a significant part of the resume and interview… yuck!

  25. […] Oct 10, 2006: I’ve Never Heard Worse! (aka, Worst Job Search Advice) […]

  26. Manish Chacko says:

    Jason,
    Wow, almost all crappy advice!
    I agree with Point#11- if you’re out ‘n about, you get a chance to network with a potential recruiter/hiring manager. But flipping burgers is not the way to go-look for a job at a Starbucks or book store or even a car dealership(new, not used cars :)). This will give you a chance to meet a few people that have a disposable income and may potentially be hiring or know that their company is. Best Buy is another good place-lots of soccer moms and dads that are not tech savvy will be interacting with you-feel free to mention that you used to do xyz and that you are looking-for a job that is :). The flip side(no burger pun intended) is that you will have less time and energy to spend on a job search-to me the trade-off is well worth it. Sending out thousands of resumes on monster and careerbuilder will almost never get you anywhere (been there done that).

  27. Jason Alba says:

    Manish, I agree with you – getting out has a lot of benefits.

    The reason I didn’t like what this horrible speaker said was that the way he said it, along with other things in the hour he spoke to us, indicated he thought we should spend out time at a low paying job just to get out… I’ve seen job seekers do that and they are too exhausted at the end of a 50 hour work week to do anything in a real job search. The more executive you are, the harder it is to miss opportunities that you’ll miss for your $6/hour job.

    But hey, really, everyone needs to make that choice for themselves :)

  28. Angela Loeb says:

    Jason, this is a great post! It had me laughing out loud… especially because, as a career consultant who used to be a recruiter, I’ve heard just about everything (though I admit that occasionally I am still taken aback by what folks do and say). Sadly, none of this guy’s advice surprises me. And, yes, I HAVE heard someone give advice about putting your reasons for leaving past jobs on the resume. Too bad Jay, Michael and I aren’t doing the Job Search Boot Camp Show anymore… we’d have you back on to do a spoof on this!

  29. Manish Chacko says:

    Jason,

    True-Point#11 applies to some and not everybody. It’s valid if you are an individual contributor or manager level. A Director or higher shouldn’t really be flipping burgers or working 50+ hours at it :)
    I think volunteering would have been a better idea-at your local church or community center-maybe a few hours a week just to get out of the house (to avoid cabin fever) and network.

    You’re right that looking for a job while working full-time is not a good idea.

  30. Jason Alba says:

    Angela, if I did a spoof on it I think I’d get so mad just thinking about that idiot who really believed all the stuff :) Oh well. I guarantee if anyone in that room had his company on their target company list, they crossed it off by the end of the meeting!

  31. Jason Alba says:

    @Manish – right on :)