Job-hunting etiquette

Job-hunting etiquette

Many Ask Kate readers write in with questions surrounding the do’s and don’ts of job-hunting. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Is it okay to call the day after the “closing date” for applications to see if you have made the short list for interview?

An organisation should welcome your enthusiasm for the role on offer. However, if the hiring manager is disorganised or still canvassing opinions on who should be interviewed, you could be seen as “hassling” him or her. Some companies gather all the written applications first and then wait until the cut off date to start the process of seriously considering who should make the interview list. I would wait a few days and then call.

If a job ad calls for a “written application” does that mean “hand written”?

Even in this technological age, I still get this question quite a bit. A written application means a typed application – it is “written” as opposed to people applying by phone or in person. It would be a very unusual request for an organisation to require hand-written applications. Indeed I cannot imagine what benefit there would be in receiving a hand-written application unless you wanted to analyse each candidate’s handwriting.

When emailing your job application, should you send your cover letter and resume as separate documents?

It is perfectly acceptable to email your cover letter and resume as one document. Chances are, your application will be printed out into hard copy form before being examined in any depth. Make sure your contact details are on every page of all documents even if that is just your name and telephone number in case pages get separated after they are printed out. Also, remember that the email body itself is part of your overall application so don’t use incomplete sentences or poor English. You could use the subject line to include a reference number from the job ad – if there is one – or detail the job ad in some other way – Customer Service Role advertised CareerOne. Then you could write something like:

Dear Ms Brown,

Please find a copy of my cover letter and resume attached.

Thank you for considering my application,

Yours sincerely,

Should you send a written thank you after attending a job interview?

I think a follow up thank you is a nice touch and it also helps you to stand out. A written email is fine or a short hand written note. A card is a bit over-the-top and a phone call could be akward, as the person might feel pressured. A follow up thank you could be used to reconfirm your interest in the role. You could write something like:

Dear Bob,

It was great to meet with you yesterday and learn more about the customer service role you are trying to fill as well as your organisation.

Both the role and organisation sound like a great fit for me and I thank you for the opportunity to discuss my suitability for the job.

Yours sincerely,

If you have been to a job interview and the consultant or hiring manager promises to get in touch by a certain day but doesn’t, is it okay for the candidate to phone and find out what is happening?

Absolutely. You need to remain polite but it’s fine to follow up. Like my answer above, an organisation should appreciate your interest in the job on offer. If they find it inconvenient then that is a poor reflection on that organisation, not on you. You want to know where you stand and there is nothing wrong with that.

What should you say when you have been fired from your last job?

This is a hard one as there is no perfect answer. You could tell the truth and hope for a sympathetic hearing. However, it is considered interview poison to criticise your last boss or employer and so telling “your side” doesn’t mean the hiring manager won’t identify more with your last boss than with you. Being honest might work best where the the situation that lead to your termination would be unlikely to arise again anywhere else.

Or you could rely on some pat answers such as:

“It just wasn’t a good fit and so we both agreed that I should move on.”

“The business moved in a new direction that was not a career option for me.”

“The needs of the business changed and someone with a different skill set was required for my role.”

However, be prepared to explain your answer.

Should you send a photo with a job application?

I have been receiving an increasing number of inquiries about whether or not you should include a photo with a resume or job application. My personal view is “don’t send a photo”. You want to be hired on the strength of you skills and ability not because you are attractive. You also don’t want to be excluded because of looks.

I’ve noticed that including a photo on a resume is common in some European countries, particularly Eastern Europe and in some Asian countries including China.

However, it is not the norm here. In fact, in Australia, an employer asking for a photo with a job application is still seen as a “no, no”. Some employers play sneaky and ask for a copy of diver’s licence, which of course has your photo on it. I have heard from women going for reception roles being asked for a photo copy of their licence even though there is no driving involved in the job.

Of course, if a company is trying an underhand trick like that just to get a look at you before deciding whether or not to invite you in for an interview, then you really have to ask yourself what other poor people policies it practices.

For more useful tips read the other stories in the Job Hunting Strategy section.

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