Recently I called on some of my pals to help me navigate a question… What makes a thank you note from a candidate stand out after an interview. Check out what some of the best business professionals had to say below and let us know if you would add anything else!
I mentioned some challenges we were having during the interview and the candidate called out one specifically and stated they were excited to help me solve that problem and how they planned to do it. Definitely stood out against the rest of the “form” replies.
Don’t send a generic “thank you”, mention something that was part of the convo. E.g. “The example you shared about the software implementation project successes and failures answered my question on the value the company places on collaboration.”
I had a candidate who was unfamiliar with a certain contract vehicle in the interview. In the thank you, she spoke about that specific vehicle and had obviously done some research and was excited to learn more. It definitely stood out.
Career lesson 18 is about to be the hardest for some of y’all.
I understand why you may think you know it all, you just graduated with your degree. You passed all your classes and got A’s on all your projects. You studied all the HR legal cases and you memorized the “steps to recruiting” and maybe even competed in a SHRM Case Study competition.
You probably don’t know everything about where you just started working though. You may know case-law and how to plot compensation, but you don’t know why the organization does things the way they do.
You don’t know what it’s like yet to be the benefits manager and sit with employees going through medical trauma who need your help understanding the benefits plan.
You don’t know what hiring managers needs are yet because you don’t know what they do yet.
You don’t know how to run an HR department yet, because you haven’t learned the business yet.
Happy New Year folks! As another year is behind us and we are all on our way to being another year older and another year wiser, I felt it appropriate to drop some wisdom on you that will help you build a useful relationship with your friendly HR department. If nothing else it will help you steer clear of some comments that kind of make you sound like a douche.
“You probably don’t know the answer…” let me throw some variations out there… “I guess this is an HR question…” “I don’t have any questions you can answer…”. Really any variation of a phrase that implies your HR person doesn’t know whatever it is you need the answer to. A lot of times we know, and if we don’t know we know exactly where to find the answer.
“I’ll save the salary talk for the important people…”. Well, that’s nice. Just take a guess where the compensation strategy comes from? This one really doesn’t matter if you are talking to HR or anyone else. It’s kind of rude to imply whoever you are talking to isn’t important. It’s okay; I know what you meant… You’ll save the salary talk for the decision makers, but please know that I work closely with the decision makers and they are going to call and ask me compensation questions before they make their final decision.
“I didn’t know that” For example: I didn’t know that the 30th was the last day for open enrollment. In the history of open enrollment, I mean all the way back to the beginning of open enrollment there has always been a deadline for enrolling. This isn’t an arbitrary date to complicate your life, there are several players in this benefits game and the deadline is non-negotiable. We don’t want you to miss the date, I promise, but we can’t enroll for you! Good thing we keep track of how many emails we sent you, voicemail’s we left you, meetings we held for you, and smoke signals we sent you.
“I complained about so-and-so, but they are still here.” Well, we aren’t the police. We aren’t going to arrest every person that ticks you off at work, we will handle situations we need to handle, but it doesn’t always happen in one clean action and we can’t just take your word for it. Document. Document. Document.
The other side of that one is “Don’t repeat this.” I can’t promise anything is 100% confidential, but I can promise to treat it appropriately. If you tell me something I have to act on, I’m going to act on it.
“I could do your job.” Yep. Just as well as I can do yours. Don’t be a douche.
See? Nothing complicated. Just 6 easy things to remember when talking with your neighborhood HR folk. Don’t be rude, we have access to your personnel file 😉 Just kidding! Do come have a conversation with us about what you need, we would love to help you!
Probably my least favorite part of being a recruiter is pay negotiations. I cringe every time they come up for many reasons. Reasons like when an applicant puts pay negotiable, gives me a number in the interview and we meet or exceed that number in our offer, but suddenly we need to consider paying more than that. I also cringe because I don’t have a lot of say in the negotiations and most candidates don’t handle pay negotiations gracefully. Because someone told you to negotiate I thought I’d list some things for you to consider when you are about to negotiate pay (from a little ol’ corporate recruiters perspective).
Don’t wait two weeks to tell me what your counter offer is. You can tell me what you want it to be sooner rather than later. Having that conversation with me when you know what you want helps keep everyone on the same page and keeps the company from waiting around on you and losing another candidate. This may seem ideal for you as the candidate, but I can tell you, hiring managers don’t forget when you put them in a corner like that, whether you know about it or not.
Know why you are asking for what you are asking for. Another week of vacation? Why? Because you have been earning that many weeks at your current job? Cool. Another 25k? Why? Just because you googled the going rate and that’s what you came up with? Not cool. A lot of companies have someone on staff dedicated to researching going rates for your education and experience level. They will typically take that information and compare it to their contract award or budget and where that compares with other employees already with the company with similar skills and background. There is a lot of work that goes into creating in offer, in most cases, so know why you think you are worth those additional dollars.
Do not under any circumstances tell me you are just asking because someone told you never accept the first offer. I’m not trying to sell you a car, we are talking about a potential career. I have business to conduct. My hiring managers have business to conduct. Don’t say “it never hurts to ask.” It does hurt to ask if you are doing it for no reason. You could be viewed as cocky or ignorant depending on what kind of number you try to counter with.
Also don’t tell me you know Bradley Justin that works for our company and you know he makes 88,000/yr so you would like the same amount just because. I will not talk about other employees pay rates with you, I just won’t.
And don’t tell me you will save pay discussions for the “important people.” I’ll hope you meant hiring manager or higher and try not to take offense, but I won’t forget what you said and I will always have that in the back of my mind when you need something from me or my department in the future. I will always kill you with kindness and answer your questions because I’m really HR and that’s what I’m here for, but I won’t forget how rude you were from the beginning.
Just a few helpful tips from my desk to yours! I know you’re going to negotiate so by all means, negotiate the right way!
This year was a fun year. Christmas on Wednesday, eh? It has thrown everyone’s work calendar off and people aren’t sure what to schedule or what days to be at work at what days to not be at work; it really lightens up the work load for those of us in the office, right? I’ve found myself scrolling through LinkedIn to see what’s up with the people I don’t keep in touch with enough. I’m a recruiter so I should be on LinkedIn all the time, right? Well I’m not and I was a little surprised by what I found… the HR selfie… Wooo, isn’t LinkedIn our professional place to network? Yowza.
You look stupid… here are some examples to prove that you look stupid:
We all know this is what 1st take selfies look like and it took you 27 tries to get a great one.
Truth be told I love a good selfie. Selfie’s are good for the soul aren’t they? They really allow us to admire ourselves, prove we once had a good hair day and show off our “no make-up face”.
“NOMAKEUP”… umm no, no one EVER believes that by the way.
They belong on instagram, they do not belong as your profile pic on LinkedIn. No matter how good you think you are into tricking us that someone else took that picture, we all know otherwise. We’ve all taken a selfie and attempted to master the “you-can’t-see-my-arm-in-this-one-so-someone-else-must’ve-taken-it” pose. Give the camera to someone else next time you’re having a good hair day and tell them that you need a new profile picture for your LinkedIn account!!!!
I know this has not just taken the HR profession by it’s claws, it’s also seeped into other professions, but I’m specifically interested in my HR brethren. I see your selfie and I think you must have a reputation that rivals Delores Bromstead (HR on NCIS). Employees say they’ve never seen her smile and avoid her at all cost. Is that why no one else will take your picture?
Yes you look pretty in your selfie, but you need a profile pic okay. I can’t take you seriously if your profile picture is you making a stank face or sitting in a car with your seatbelt on clearly practicing unsafe driving. Yeah, I can tell you’re in the driver’s seat.
A year ago today I was evaluating what I was going to do next as far as my career. Officially separated from my employer I looked over my non-compete until my eyes were fully crossed. I had signed this document 6 and a half years prior and didn’t think twice about what it could mean. I was 20, it was my first real job, I accepted the simple run down and understood that it was expected that I would sign in order to continue employment. I didn’t feel bullied or tricked into signing it, I just knew I was supposed to sign it. 6 and a half years later I was not doing the work I did the day I signed it. I had climbed a considerable amount and positioned myself to bring home a pretty nice paycheck. Besides the fact that I obviously couldn’t do similar work I also wouldn’t find a position that allowed me to earn the income that I was earning in a different industry.
I had always heard “you can fight your non-compete” from everyone and their mother; even while I was still working and not even considering the need to fight it. In fact, there was a well-known story of a woman who did win the fight against our company and the non-compete we signed. I decided to start looking for work and just see what happened, if a job came up that would require me to look at the non-compete a little closer than I would do it at that time. I really wanted to honor my non-compete, but I wasn’t sure I was going to find decent employment outside of it. I was really good at what I was doing and I made a good amount of money doing it. Of course the first couple of calls that came through after putting my resume out there were from direct competitors who I easily turned down. Those offers were clearly very similar to the job I had just been doing, no gray area.
The area became a little gray for me when I had an offer to work as an on-site coordinator for a competitor. I pulled out the non-compete so they could send it to their legal department, who decided they didn’t have a problem with it and we could move forward in this position without breaking my standing NC. I still didn’t take the offer, I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do. I was working somewhere already and happened to know that my former employer was tracking where I was to see if I did violate my NC. Rest assured the owner of the company declared my current position did not violate the non-compete agreement and the sleuths laid off a bit. After 6 and half years with one company I did have a lot of information and a pretty strong client base. Had I any intention of using what I knew against them it could mean trouble for them so I was not shocked that they were making sure I was abiding by our agreement… annoyed, but not shocked.
A little of what I found out:
…The employer has the burden of showing that any restriction is reasonable and necessary to protect against unfair competition. California, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Oregon and Michigan have the most restrictions against non-compete agreements…
…However, in order to be enforceable courts have ruled that: (1) the employer has to have a protectable interest; (2) the restriction has to be reasonably related to that interest; (3) the restriction is reasonable as to time and place; and (4) the restriction imposes no undue hardship on the employee…
…But when an employer asks an employee to sign a non-compete agreement after starting employment and there is no extra payment or benefit to the employee for signing it, then almost all courts will invalidate the agreement for lack of consideration…
…If your job was to go through the phone book and cold call people and ask them to buy your product that probably would not constitute a protectable interest because a phone book is something that is available to the public…
I’m in Alabama and have always heard they are tough for the employer to win here. A protectable interest became unclear when considering my job did indeed require me to pull out a phone book and cold call people. I was also told by an attorney (side note, I did not seek out an attorney this attorney volunteered this to me) that my non-compete was excessive and could easily be won because a) the 200 mile radius had previously been deemed unreasonable by a court in Alabama b) 18 months waiting period was previously deemed unreasonable by a court in Alabama. I signed my non-compete 7 days after I started my job, 8 days after accepting and was not given any extra payment or benefit for signing it. Even with all of this information and much, much more I decided to honor my non-compete. It wouldn’t be like me to fight against something that I had signed and I couldn’t bring myself to do it even with multiple companies and legal departments and people telling me I could do it and cheering me on.
I share this with you to remind you to think into the future when you sign things. It’s nice to think that we are going into a forever relationship with a company, but you honestly never know what will play out in the long-term.
My 1st job (that you read about here) didn’t suck that bad, but it kind of sucked. I had to work with my arch nemesis for starters… on a team…ick. Your first job should teach you teamwork. Teamwork with people you don’t want to be on a team with. Your 1st job should suck because you should work for people who piss you off, but it’s your 1st job so you can’t afford to quit. Your 1st job should teach you patience. Your 1st job should suck because you should have to work harder than you thought you would ever have to. Your 1st job should teach you appreciation. Your 1st job should suck because your parents will get a call at 12:01 when you’re not there yet, ya know because you were scheduled to be there at 12:00. Your 1st job should teach you to be punctual. Your 1st job should suck because you don’t understand the decisions the boss man makes, but you’re not in a place to speak up. Your 1st job should teach you trust.
I believe your first job should suck. You have to work some sucky jobs to appreciate a good job. And you can learn a lot from crappy jobs to apply to good jobs! I know this for a fact! If you haven’t had a crappy job, you’re really missing out on some good lessons and probably not appreciating your good job as much as you could. So go out there and get you a crappy job and learn as much as you can … and then… move on.
We have all had someone in our lives tell us that it is a good idea to keep your resume updated and as HR professionals we have probably given this advice to others, however too often we do not take that advice. I firmly believe in the 30 day update (now). It is much harder to remember all of your AWESOME achievements (say over the last 7 years) than if you were to have just updated your resume every 30 (or at least SIXTY) days. It is also fairly easy to forget how much you’ve grown in your position (again, maybe over the last 7 years?) if you’re not constantly updating.
Sometimes we tell ourselves this silly little line “I’m not really planning on going anywhere so I don’t need to update my resume…” [pffffffft!] While this may be true, what about if an internal job opens up? Won’t you need to submit your resume when you want to be considered for an internal transfer? In most organizations the answer to that is YES.
BUT- I KNOWfor a fact that I am not leaving my company. Well, do you have a LinkedIn? Keep it updated. I believe that an up to date resume or LinkedIn profile is good advertising for your company if you truly believe you aren’t going anywhere. Having a document ready that showcases your skills can be an asset to your employer. It could be just the thing they need on hand to win a contract or to set their business apart from a competitor?
But I don’t want to OVER UPDATE my resume. Listen-it’s easier to cut out the unnecessary when it comes time to pull your resume off your jump drive than to add all of the relevant tasks you’ve done over a career. I still think it is important to keep your resume at a reasonable length, so if you are finding that your resume is growing into a novel you should pick the top achievements and cut the other ones into another document for reference down the road if necessary.
I can’t tell you how many times in my recruiting career I’ve talked to someone who said something along the lines of “I haven’t had to do a resume in over 10 years… I don’t even know where to start.” That has to go. Scarily enough, some of those comments have come from HR professionals. We take for granted that we spend a lot of time looking at resumes and critiquing them that we will have no problem doing our own. That is not always the case. Resume writing can just as easily be overwhelming to HR professionals as anyone else. You never know what is going to happen, your company could close its doors in 60 days, you could get laid off without notice, you could get angry and quit (hey, everyone has a breaking point). The job hunt can be a lot less stressful if you have your resume almost ready to go! Again, I know 30 days sounds kind of often, but you’ve done a lot in the last 30 days. Maybe you just wrapped up an audit. Maybe you just learned a new line of business. Learned to operate a machine you haven’t operated before. Joined a committee. Created an award-winning presentation. Earned a certificate. Do you get the point yet? Now get off my blog and go update your resume!
As a recruiter I have very specific standards for what I am looking for in a hire. I have been studying and perfecting the art of recruiting for the last 6 years of my life and have accepted and embraced the idea that it’s an area that will continue to teach me new lessons. I have this belief that the goal isn’t to keep doing it until you get it correct, but to keep on until you just absolutely cannot get it wrong. Truth be told I have mastered that for some of my clients, but not all of them. The hardest client I hire for is-well-myself.
I happen to be the youngest office manager for the company that I work for (did I mention that before?) and probably the most inexperienced. The reality is this: I am a product of this company. What I know and what I don’t know is a direct result of working for them. I have not been an office manager for another company and I started at an entry-level position here and continue to work my way up. I happen to have some very strong characteristics that result in me having to learn some things the hard way, often the VERY HARD way. The more hiring mistakes I make for myself, the more I learn. But isn’t the hiring process a two-way street? I interview you-you interview me[about me/about the company?]. What about those hiring mistakes that totally misrepresented themselves in the interview process or didn’t ask me the right questions.
When you are on the job hunt are you looking for a job or the job? If you are looking for the job then make sure you are asking the right questions for you as well. I constantly advise job seekers to do their research when seeking employment. Get online and find their mission and vision statement… seek out their client base… seek out their reputation… google them… google the owner… the hiring manager… the more you know the better! I don’t encourage job seekers to know more so they can fake it in an interview; I encourage them to research because to me it is very important that they make the right decision for them. I understand you need to support your family, but lets take the time to do this the right way. What about this position sparked your interest and made you want to apply? (If the answer is “I JUST NEED TO WORK” we aren’t heading in the right direction). Why do you think you’re a fit for this position? Is this a company you can see yourself working for in 5 years? If so why? If not, let’s move on! Why do you think you’d be good at this type of work? “Oh, this type of work really interests me and I think I could be a really good addition to your team!!”… hmm okay, but you didn’t really answer the question and what do you know about my team that makes you think you would be a good fit for my team?
My point is stop applying for positions that aren’t for you. First stop– skill set.. do you truly have the skill set they are asking for in the posting? At a job coaching meeting once I had someone ask “If I did that skill 10 years ago should I include it on my resume?” Well, lets figure this out together; Was 10 years ago the last time you performed that skill? Have you stayed current with the technological advancements involved in that skill? If I hired you for that skill and gave you a task to complete-could I walk away and leave you to do that skill without having to answer any questions for you? Second stop– (only if you pass the first one) do you have the same values this company has? If not, someone is going to end up unhappy. Third stop– did you ask them the questions that truly matter to you? Maybe its something like “Are you guys family oriented?” … “How often do you have staff meetings and do you encourage all levels in the organization to come up with ideas?”… “Do you cross train? Do you hire for growth potential?”… “Do you value quality?”… “What is a typical day for other people in the position I am being considered for?”… These questions are going to vary based on what is important to you-but don’t be afraid to ask those questions. If you misrepresent your skill set or your values in an interview it will come out later and the organization will NOT be happy, I can assure you.
Can you patch things up if you did the complete opposite of what we just discussed? A good start to doing so would be to talk to your hiring manager and admit the mistake. It might be a good idea to start talking about parting ways. Maybe if you initiate the conversation it won’t leave the organization with such a bad taste in their mouth. Even if the job isn’t for you [for whatever reason] you still want to leave on the best possible terms, after all your future employer will probably do some type of employment verification and you wouldn’t want bad feedback given to them. Don’t get too scared though, [hiring manager] still has some skin in the game. If [hiring manager] would’ve done the right thing then the wrong person wouldn’t be in the job. So how does [hiring manager] keep this from happening again? The first answer is make sure you are learning from your mistakes. Write them down, track them, don’t make the same one twice. Make sure you ask all the right questions and do all the right reference checking and employment verification and don’t compromise your standards. Most importantly, wait for them to ask the right questions! Are they really interested in contributing to your team? How do they know that they are really interested in contributing to your team if they didn’t ask you anything about your team?
Kristina Hutto Minyard
HR and Talent Acquisition Manager by day, HR writer and Speaker by all the other hours. Currently the co-host of #DisruptHRHSV and State Conference Co-Chair for Alabama’s largest annual HR conference. You can find a little bit of everything here at hrpockets: HR Lessons, how HR impacts Management, free Recruiting tools for those Recruiters on a budget, Parenting woes (and wins), stories of friendship, maybe some shopping, and whatever else I decide… I mean, I bring my whole self to work so it’s time to bring my whole self to the blog.
I’m a follower of Christ, Wife, Mom, Blogger, problem solver, Recruiter, certified in HR, touch-me-not, former runner, cat person, Netflix and Hulu binger.