September 2, 2014

The Job Hunt: Interview can make or break your chances at a job

What you should – and shouldn’t – say.

Ray Frederick tells with a laugh the anecdote about the guy who called him at Frederick Plumbing & Heating one day.

“Hey, dude,” the man said. “You hiring out there?”

“We are,” Frederick told him. “And I can tell you right now, it’s not going to be you.”

It’s grim out there, job recruiters say. Unemployment may be low (6.5 percent in Sedgwick County). But there’s a lot of “underemployment” – low-paying jobs and those with no benefits.

And yet people say silly things that get them eliminated in interviews, recruiters say.

So, hey, dude. Don’t ever bad-mouth your current or previous employers.

“Not cool,” said Chris Wallace, career management consultant. “Especially not in Wichita. It’s a small town.”

One key move, she said: Be concise and on target with what you do say.

Think of it as your “elevator speech,” Wallace said – if you got on an elevator with your future boss, what do you say in the moments of that elevator ride?

“Compelling,” she said. “Brief but definitive.”

Another key move, Frederick said, is to make your conversation about your possible employer and his or her needs: “I’ve researched your company. I think I understand what you’re doing and what image you expect. And I am that person. I have skills that I know can help you. I’m interested in helping you.”

Nobody’s perfect, Frederick said.

But if you have a past, address it.

“Tell me now, or it will be found out,” Frederick said. “I’d rather know now if there’s an issue.”

Never lie.

Don’t exaggerate your skills.

“Being dishonest is like wearing a padded bra,” job consultant Alicia Holloway said. “Someday, someone will find out how much you actually have.”

Most professional job recruiters work primarily for companies seeking employees.

“So from our side of the table, we want you to talk,” Holloway said. “It’s not just about what you can do but whether you’ll fit in with that company’s culture.”

But here is where telling the truth can get tricky. Maybe it’s how much you tell, Holloway said.

“I have had people say, ‘I really don’t want anything stressful,’ ” Holloway said. “Really? That guy was dead in the water.

“Sometimes an applicant makes the mistake of telling what they don’t want,” Holloway said. “ ‘I don’t want overtime.’ Or ‘I know you start early, but I need to take my child to school, so I can’t.’ Or ‘I want an hour for lunch.’ ”

When an employer asks what you want from the position, be honest. But think about how transparent you want to be, Holloway said.

“If I’m totally transparent, then I want to work only 20 hours a week for a million dollars,” she said. “And I want Chippendale dancers wearing loincloths. Serving me strawberries. Dipped in chocolate.

“Say all that, if you want,” Holloway said.

“But it can come back on you.”

Once you’ve interviewed, call back if you haven’t heard from a potential employer, but be respectful.

“Don’t become a pest,” Wallace said. “Every situation is different, but no employer wants you calling and e-mailing every week – do that, and you become overbearing. Ideally, you ask in the interview when they will make their decision. If it’s two weeks, then it’s probably appropriate to call then and ask and say you are still very interested.”

Contributing: Dan Voorhis of The Eagle

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or rwenzl@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @roywenzl.

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When to quit your current job.

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