Help wanted ads are not always explicit, or even correct
|Help Wanted by Chris Henderson
Judging by all the ads on the radio these days, about one-third of us are searching for work on any given day. BigasaHouse.com here, Inthewaterjobs.com there, Youwon'tfindhelphere.com, they're all over the place, and the ads all make it sound like one little click is all it takes to find the job of your dreams. Your dreams, maybe, not mine, I've never found anyone willing to pay anybody to lie on a tropical beach and read. Then again, maybe not yours, either, unless you learn to interpret those interview questions, which actually start with the job application on the computer.
For instance: "Gigundo Corp. is looking for an individual to take ownership of this position" means, "Nobody here has a clue what you're supposed to do, so you're on your own, but if anything at all goes wrong in any department here, you're history! That's what happened to the last poor schmoe".
Then we have: "Can you use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Quick this, Hurry up that, Why Isn't It Ready Now, and look professional while answering the phone? Apply here, we need you now!" It means: "Can you use every program ever written, in all its versions, because we haven't updated in 5 years. Will you dress in your good clothes so people will think you know what you're doing because you look so sharp? Can you calmly answer the phones in a madhouse, while doing 87 other things because we're too cheap to hire all the people we really need? Are you so clueless you'll let us pay you peanuts to join us in our insanity?"
Should you manage to give the answers the Gigundo Corp. is looking for, ahead of the other 300 people applying for the job, you then have an interview in person. On the computer, you can pause to make sure you give the best possible answer, not so in person. You must be prepared for the following questions:
"What would you say is your worst quality?" which really means, "Can you think quickly enough of a quality which is really an asset, but which you can pretend to believe is a liability?" Some sample answers, wrong, "I hate it when people get back from lunch late when I want to sneak out of the office early"; "It really bugs me when people say I talk too quietly on the phone to my girlfriend." Correct answers would be, for an accountant, "I hate when things don't add up. I know it's overkill on my part, but I just go crazy when I've lost track of somebody else's money." For a paramedic, "I know I get too intense on the job, I'm just so determined to save every life. I should be able to just stand back and let one die now and then."
Next comes, "What kind of boss do you prefer?" but they never give you a list of the possibilities. What they should do is give you a list, say, "Pick three, in order of preference: Genius, Nutcase, Calm no matter what, Knows if there's a hyphen in anal-retentive, etc." The correct answer is, "One who will let me contribute my all to the team", not, "I'd prefer one who will do his own work, and let me do my mine", or, "Not one like the last one, she said I drove her postal, but I never, ever criticized her to her face. I never once asked her directly if it was PMS".
There is also the ever-popular, "What kind of salary are you looking for?" This actually means, "Do you expect to be paid what you're worth, knowing how many other people would kill for this job? Do you think 20 hours of unpaid overtime every week is excessive? Would you be so foolish as to expect time spent in the emergency room, because the fax machine ate your finger, to be classed as sick time rather than vacation?" I bet you think there is no correct answer for this one. Well, there is. It's, "To tell you the truth, if I could afford it, I'd pay you to let me work here. From what I've heard of your wonderful company, salaries are always generous, and the benefits, well, they're just amazing. I'll be happy with entry-level pay, just to get started here at Gigundo Corp. I'd be so proud to tell everyone I work here".
Before you go through all this, you should check out the company as carefully as they'll be checking you. I do know someone who said, "I wouldn't work for a company that would hire me" and meant it; but most of us are a bit more normal. (I said, "a bit"!)
Some hints that the company has a little problem keeping good people: you see the same ad marked "filled" every Friday, re-posted every Wednesday. When you see this, and every other Wednesday there's a new supervisors' name, too, think about just how hungry you really are. Dishrag soup might start sounding yummier.
If the ad says, "Must enjoy meeting new people", and the job is one which doesn't deal with the public, no, no, no. How about, "frequent reviews of job performance"? No, this does not mean you get raises all the time, have you ever heard of "white glove treatment" and "micromanagement"? What about "dream job for the right person"? Sounds great, doesn't it? What it means is, "This place will give you nightmares if you're not careful"!
Does all this mean it's hopeless, you might as well call the bank and tell them to foreclose, already? Not at all. Just be prepared for the worst, hope for the best, and expect to get something in the middle.