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Job Talk HERC's Jobseeker Blog

Job Talk HERC's Jobseeker Blog

HERC's blog for jobseekers, Job Talk, offers tips from experts in the field that will help you with your search and provide the best ways to promote yourself to prospective employers.

A recent trend I am observing is around hiring manager expectations on Thank You follow ups after an interview.  Here are some general tips to start:

Why are thank you letters important?

1. To reaffirm your interest in the employer

2. To mention something that you may have omitted during the interview

3. To illustrate that you are courteous and professional

When are thank you letters appropriate?

1. After every job interview (in-person interviews and phone interviews)

2. After every informational interview or networking meeting

3. After someone has helped you with your job search process (i.e., referred your resume to someone else, offered you contact information, etc).

What is the purpose of the letter, and what should it include?

1. Be short, concise, and to the point, no more than three paragraphs; only thank the person once

2. Express gratitude for the opportunity to interview or for job search assistance

3. Mention aspects of the interview that were of particular interest to you

4. Grant you the opportunity to add something that you may have not mentioned during the interview that is relevant to your job search or to your application

TIP #1: If you have writer’s block, do not worry! This is not a time to be extremely creative; a nice, appreciative thank you communication is fine. How should a thank you letter be sent?

Thank you letters should:

1. Be sent immediately, especially if you are expecting the job decision quickly

2. Be sent formally and professionally, regardless of whether it is by email or handwritten

3. Be sent to everyone that you interviewed with; each letter should be modified and unique

So the trend in question is about timeliness.  While there was period when I was recommending handwritten notes, I no longer do so because of the time factor involved with mailing.  Hiring managers now have an expectation that a truly interested job hunter will have sent a thank follow up within one business day and no longer.  That is hard on a job hunter who is currently employed and had to take time away from his/her work to take the interview, but I strongly urge you to send an email even the same evening of the day you interviewed.  Doing so says a great deal about your level of interest.

Contributed by Paula Goodman, Director of Recruitment / HR Client Services-CUHR at Columbia University

man on phoneMuch as I prefer interviewing in person and encourage hiring units to do the same, often the sheer volume of applicants and compressed timeframes necessitate doing phone interviews as a first step to “weed out” those who are not as strong as their resumes might indicate.  I am currently working on 4 very senior searches for various professional graduate schools and have had to do phone screens to expedite processes.

I always try to give candidates notice and never expect them to be in an on-the-spot interview mode.  Hopefully when you  a request for a phone interview you too will have sufficient notice.  The normal time allocated for a first round phone interview by an HR person is 15-20 minutes.  If conducted by a faculty member then the interviews could be as long as an hour since they are apt to dig very deeply.  I use phone interviews to determine the following:  (1) Are the person’s salary expectations in line with the salary allocated for the job in question (2)what is their motivation for applying for this particular job, i.e. are they actively conducting a search or is there a special appeal of this position (3) comfort level with a large decentralized organization in a large urban city.  (4) of course correlation between what they have done in past roles up against the needs of the open job (5) what is their phone “presence”.  Do they listen to the question and pause a minute before responding or jump in too quickly and talk-over before the full question is asked.  It is a fine line between wanting to show enthusiasm and wanting appear thoughtful.  In this regard, phone screens are more difficult since you cannot see your interviewer and pick up on cues.  Overall, however, the preparation should be the same as if you had been invited in for an in person interview---you just have less time to show how good you are.  But do your advance research on the institution and on your interviewer and you will feel more confident. Because the time is so short, you may not have the opportunity to ask questions, but it is perfectly fine at the final conclusion of the interview to ask what the next steps are in the process and when you might expect to hear.

Contributed by Paula Goodman, Director of Recruitment / HR Client Services-CUHR at Columbia University

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This is a question I am often asked by job seekers intent on working at our institution.  My response is “yes” but there needs to be some commonality.   When you apply to a position, within the Business School for example, the only individuals who can see your application are those designated screeners inside the Business School, often the hiring manager him or herself.  With any applicant tracking system, however, central HR folks are able to view how many jobs any applicant has applied to anywhere within the organization over an extended period of time.  You have to imagine, it does look “bad” to have applied to 250 jobs none of which have any resemblance to each other.  I have seen exactly that!   You need to be strategic in your approach and not appear to be a serial-job applicant.  As long as the positions are similar in function there is no  reason you cannot apply to multiple jobs simultaneously inside the same institutions but in different schools and departments.  It is tricky but certainly acceptable.  It is not ill-advised to target a particular college or university in a specific geographic area and make that employer be a major job search focus for you.  However, you need to be thoughtful as to the type of positions to which you are applying ---both the functional area and the level of the position.

Contributed by Paula Goodman, Director of Recruitment / HR Client Services-CUHR at Columbia University

There have been a few online articles of late on interviewees’ legitimate criticism of interviewers.  While I do not condone inappropriate interveiwer behavior and do want you to keep your pride and self-esteem intact, I’d like to shed some insight into what might cause interviewers to behave the way they do.  One reason is pure lack of training.  Savvy employers, higher education included, do provide interviewers with tools to guide them and capture assessments.  Human Resources professionals are more apt to have a structured process with targeted questions.  Non HR interviewers despite being most in need of interview tools often lose them in the shuffle of daily life.  Faculty are also most easily distracted by all else they are working on.  So it becomes an issue of perception on your part.  You could perceive distraction and lack of structured questions as a reflection of interest in you and/or the importance of the position OR you could turn the situation around.  One of the primary goals of an interview for you is to endear yourself to the interviewer.  I certainly do not mean that you should grovel but rather empathize with them and their clearly overworked situation---suggesting how you can help them do all they need to do if hired.  One recent article referred to the “rude” question of how low a salary would someone consider.  I personally get annoyed when a candidate will not give some basic information about salary expectations.  And in career counseling I advise people not to take an unduly large salary cut because it is so hard to recoup later in your career.  When confronted with a salary question, however, it is better for you to offer an honest answer.

In other words, do your self-assessment and your financial assessment at the same time and know in your mind what you really would be willing to accept for your dream job.

Contributed by By Paula Goodman, Director of Recruitment / HR Client Services-CUHR at Columbia University

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