10 Common Sense Interview Tips Too Many People Flub

Kaitlin Madden,

When we refer to something as being "common sense," we usually mean that it is something we think everyone should know. Often, though, it turns out that what may seem like common sense to one person isn't always so to someone else. For example: Veterinarians spend their days around animals, so they might consider it common knowledge that cats sleep about 18 hours per day; hence the reason your vet seems so amused when you bring Muffin in for a checkup, concerned about her inability to stay awake.

Similarly, because human-resources professionals constantly screen and interview candidates, what may seem like a common-sense interview tip to them might not have crossed a job seeker's mind. Following are "common-sense" interview tips straight from the experts' mouths.

1. Be presentable
Wear a suit that fits, and don't cut corners when it comes to ironing or dry-cleaning, says Monique Honaman, CEO of leadership development company ISHR Group. "I knew one guy who was in such a rush the day of his interview that he only ironed the front of his shirt. Later, during the course of his interview day, it was hot and he was encouraged to remove his jacket and get more comfortable and it was clear that he had cut corners and only ironed the front! He was very embarrassed," Honaman says.

Also, while you should always wear deodorant, try to avoid perfumes and colognes. You never know who will be allergic or just downright averse to your scent. "A hiring manager once told me a story of how he didn't select an incredibly well-qualified candidate for a role because she wore the same perfume as his ex-wife," says Danielle Beauparlant Moser, a career coach with Blended Learning Team. "He said she walked in the room and his only thought was how to get her out of his office as quickly as possible."

2. Don't be too early
While you should always arrive at your interview a few minutes early, try not get there more than 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time, advises Ben Yeargin, a manager at Spherion Staffing. "[Arriving early] will lead to anxiety on the candidate's part because they have to sit and wait for an extended period of time, and it will lead to frustration on the hiring manager's part because they will feel rushed with the project that they are trying to accomplish prior to the interview," he says.

If you find yourself getting to the building earlier than you thought, wait in your car or take a walk around the block until it's closer to your interview time.

3. Know whom you're meeting with
"Know the name of the interviewer so that you can ask for that person at the receptionist's desk," advises Cheryl Palmer, president of Call to Career, an executive coaching firm. "It's embarrassing when the receptionist asks, 'Who are you here to see?' and you can't remember. Have this information either in your head or write yourself a note that you refer to prior to arriving in the waiting area," Palmer says.

4. Remember: You are being interviewed as soon as you walk in the door
"Most people would never think of the receptionist as being an interviewer, but it's true," Palmer says. "It's fairly common that the receptionist will report back to the hiring manager how candidates behaved in the waiting area. Don't be remembered as the one who ate all the candy out of the candy dish or spoke disrespectfully to the receptionist."

5. Make proper eye contact
"One of the most obvious mistakes interviewees make is with eye contact, and it costs a lot of people a lot of jobs," says Barry Maher, who owns a California-based career coaching firm. "Eye contact is simple," he says. "Any given eye contact should last about five seconds at a time. And if there's one interviewer, make eye contact with him or her about 40 to 60 percent of the time. More than 60 percent is intimidating. Less than 40 percent comes off as shifty and perhaps insincere, even dishonest."

6. Eat before the interview, not during it
Duh? Not according to Yeargin, who has experienced interview-snacking firsthand. "I was in an interview, no more than 10 minutes into it, and I got called out for two minutes to answer a question," he says. "When I returned, the applicant was eating some sort of granola or other snack bar. Needless to say that individual did not get a job with my company." No matter what the candy bar ads have to say, your hunger can wait.

7. Make sure that what you do eat beforehand does not involve onion or garlic
You want to be remembered for your professionalism and outstanding skills, not for what you ate for lunch. Advises Palmer, "Don't eat anything that has a strong odor before the interview."

8. Don't look at your watch
Block at least two hours of time for the interview, says Cindy Loftus, co-owner of Loftus O'Meara Staffing. Loftus also advises keeping your schedule relatively clear on the day of the interview, to avoid feeling the need to rush. "Don't create distractions to your interview," she says.

9. Tell the interviewer you are interested
Don't forget to tell the recruiter you want the job. "If you truly feel the position is a fit, let them know and tell them you would like to get to the next round of interviews, and be prepared to tell them why," Loftus says.

10. Get business cards from your interviewers -- and use them
"Ask for the business cards of all of the interviewers that you have met and make sure you take a second or two to read their card," Loftus says. This will not only be helpful in remembering each person you met with, but will make it easier to send proper thank-you notes and follow up e-mails, which should always be done within 24 hours of leaving the interview.

Turn job rejection into progress in your search

Business Woman Over-Worked
By Shannon Dauphin Lee, OnlineDegrees.com
An internship is often considered a rite of passage for those who are approaching the end of college and want work experience to bolster their résumé. Internships come in both paid and unpaid varieties and can often be used to earn college credit. But new court rulings on internships could make the unpaid labor of students a thing of the past.
Unpaid internships: Beneficial or illegal?
During filming of the 2010 movie “Black Swan,” Fox Searchlight Pictures employed interns to take lunch orders, answer phones, file papers and make photocopies, among other similar activities. In June 2013, a federal court ruled that Fox Searchlight violated both minimum wage and overtime labor laws by not paying the interns for the work they did while on the set, according to ProPublica.
It is a legal precedent that has already seen intense debate and more legal filings. Two days after the federal ruling on “Black Swan,” former interns for The New Yorker and W magazine sued parent company Condé Nast Publications over being paid less than minimum wage for their work, according to The Huffington Post. Shortly after that, another lawsuit was filed, this one against Atlantic Records and Warner Music Group for taking advantage of an intern’s work without offering pay or educational experience in exchange for his duties, according to International Business Times.
Unpaid internships aren’t inherently unlawful. According to the Department of Labor, they can be legal as long as they meet these guidelines:
  • Though the internship might benefit the employer, the training given to the intern is similar to the training given in an educational environment.
  • The internship clearly benefits the intern.
  • Regular employees are not displaced from their jobs, and the intern works under staff supervision.
  • The employer receives no immediate advantage from hiring the intern, and in fact, company activities might be impeded by the presence of the intern.
  • The internship is not a guarantee or suggestion of employment after the internship is over.
  • Both the employer and the intern understand and agree that no wages will be awarded to the intern for the internship.
Many unpaid internships do comply with these criteria, but the legalities surrounding them could stay in the spotlight for quite some time, as the number of paid internships appears to be dropping. Five years ago, 75 percent of employer respondents to a Collegiate Employment Research Institute survey (.pdf) said they offered paid positions for interns. In the 2012 survey, that number had dropped to 66 percent. Today, anywhere between 20 and 25 percent of all internships offered are unpaid.
Why unpaid internships still matter
With these lawsuits suddenly changing the landscape of internships, should students still accept unpaid positions? Though there is an obvious advantage of a paycheck, unpaid positions have their own perks, according to The Savvy Intern. They can offer valuable work experience, provide you with college credit and open up networking opportunities in your community.
Some may even allow for limited benefits, as well as perks such as free parking, a stipend for lunches and other concessions that help you balance out a tight budget. Unpaid internships can also offer more flexible hours, a lighter workload and a better opportunity to learn about the business.
But perhaps most importantly, unpaid internships tend to be more readily available than paid ones. That means that if you are looking for valuable experience in your field, an unpaid internship might offer you a chance to work now for a bigger payoff later.
In some fields, an unpaid internship might be all that’s available. This is especially true in areas such as fashion, broadcasting and journalism, where paying your dues is part of the industry culture, according to The Savvy Intern. In these cases, unpaid internships can be the norm, and employers may expect to see them on a résumé.
How to protect yourself from overreaching internships
If you do accept an unpaid internship, how can you make sure that your new job isn’t crossing any legal lines? Start by knowing the law when you sit down to negotiate the terms of your internship. Don’t accept an internship that creates a valuable situation for the company but leaves your education lacking — remember, the internship is supposed to benefit you.
Keep a log of the hours you work and the work you complete while you are on the clock. Get your internship agreement in writing, and adhere to it as closely as possible. Remember that your internship is a job, even if you aren’t getting paid, and you should treat it as such.
Finally, don’t forget your schoolwork. No internship can make up for mediocre grades, so if you sense your marks are starting to slip, it’s time to give a second thought to whether an internship — paid or not — is right for you at this point in your college career.

7 Ways To Protect Yourself If Your Boss Is a Bully

Steps you can take to stop being a victim of workplace bullying

Businesswoman shouting with megaphone into co-worker's ear
Blend Images/Getty Images
Last week, I answered a question from a "used and abused" reader who was facing a workplace bully. I talked about five ways that your workplace bully might be breaking the law. Today, I'll tell you some things you can do, starting today, to protect yourself if your boss is a bully.

Here are seven things you can do, starting today, to protect yourself if your boss is a bully:
  1. CYA: If your boss tells you to do things, then denies it later, document everything. If she tells you, for instance, to do something you know violates company policy, send her an email along these lines: "This will confirm your instruction that you want me to do XYZ even though this would normally be contrary to Policy No. 123. Unless you advise me that this is incorrect by (insert a time), I will follow your instruction forthwith."
  2. Don't be insubordinate: If the bully tries to bait you, don't react. Be calm. He's trying to get you to do something stupid so he can say you were insubordinate. As much as you want to grab him by the collar, don't do it. If he orders you to do something, even if it's demeaning, do it (unless it's unsafe or illegal). Then document it. Use it as evidence if you figure out that he's engaging in discrimination or something else illegal.
  3. Keep track of the bullying targets: While bullying at work isn't illegal in any state, workplace bullies are just like the old playground bullies. Who do bullies target? The weak and the different. If your coworkers and you (or just you) are being targeted because of race, age, sex, religion, national origin, pregnancy, disability, taking Family and Medical Leave, making a worker's compensation claim or some other protected category, then the bully is breaking the law.
  4. Safety in numbers: Let's say the bully isn't doing anything illegal, like discrimination. If he's picking on coworkers too (and you aren't a supervisor yourself) then you are allowed to discuss working conditions with coworkers. The National Labor Relations Act protects most non-government employees against retaliation for these discussions with coworkers. You're also protected against retaliation if a group of coworkers gets together to complain about working conditions. If you complain on your own behalf as well as at least one other coworker, you are probably protected against retaliation even if you aren't protected when you complain for yourself alone. So get together and write a complaint to HR signed by the bully's targets. It will possibly go in his personnel file and might even get the company to take some action.
  5. Complain so you're protected: If you're alone, and you still want to complain, make sure you complain about something the bully is doing that's illegal. For example, if you've figured out that she's targeting older employees, then call it a "Formal Complaint of Age Discrimination." Put it in writing and lay out all the evidence you have of ways younger employees are favored over older employees, ways older employees are targeted for discipline that younger employees don't get, age-related comments, promotions going to younger employees, anything you have that makes your point. Don't focus on "unfair treatment" or bullying. Focus on what's illegal. That way you'll be legally protected against retaliation.
  6. Don't quit without having a job: If the bully is intolerable, then leave, but do it when you have something lined up. Don't let a bully force you out of a job you need to support your family and you. Because discrimination against the unemployed is still legal in most states, it's easier to get a job if you have a job.
  7. Start looking: It may seem obvious, but I can't tell you how many people come to me after they were fired, and they'd been tortured for years. I ask why they didn't get the heck out of there and they look at me funny. Sometimes, if a boss is abusive, the bully can convince you nobody would hire you, and that you're worthless. They're wrong. Don't wait until you're fired. Leave on your own terms, not the bully's.
With a little preparation, you can survive a bully and even come out on top of a workplace bullying situation.

7 ways to pull yourself out of a work rut

work rut“Have I used up all of my sick days?” “Can I ask my boss to work from home today?” “Should I say I’m not feeling well so I can come in late?”
If your workday usually begins with one of those questions, you may be stuck in a rut at work … and it may be following you home.
The good news: Everyone’s felt unmotivated or unhappy at some point during his career, and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to find a new gig.
While searching for a new job is always an option, it’s not always the right answer. You may take your problems with you, and you may end up in a rut again. Taking on the same duties or a similar role at another company “will equate to jumping from the frying pan to the fire,” says career coach and strategist Lisa K. McDonald.

Consider the following seven tips to help you get out of your professional funk.
1. Figure out what you want.
“Do you want to feel as though you are contributing more? Do you want to work on more interesting or important projects? Do you want an opportunity to do something different? Identify what you need,” McDonald says.
2. Take (more) responsibility.
If you aren’t being challenged enough, know that the ball is in your court. Don’t wait for your boss to hand you new goals. Establish them for yourself and welcome every new opportunity you can. “Employees need to assess their goals, set new ones [and] bigger ones, and then engage with the most senior person and be upfront with their rut,” says motivational speaker and author Grant Cardone. “The best way out of a rut is to take on more responsibility and lead — don’t retreat.”
3. Be proactive and vocal.
Break up the monotony by throwing a new task onto your plate. Let your co-workers and your boss know that you’re ready to lend a hand wherever you can. “If you want to work on different projects, talk to your boss or project manager,” McDonald says. “Identify how you can contribute to these projects and let them know you would like the opportunity to participate. If you feel you have outgrown your skill set, look for new skills to learn.”
4. Take advantage of education benefits.
Office perks can help you dig yourself out of a ditch by allowing you to broaden your skills. Consider earning a professional certification or finding other ways to further your education.
“If your company offers tuition reimbursement, take classes that will enhance your résumé,” Palmer says. “If you do not yet have an advanced degree, you might consider using the tuition reimbursement program to obtain that degree to increase your marketability.”
5. Get involved.
Getting more involved at your company doesn’t necessarily equate to a bigger workload. Consider the other opportunities you have access to, including committees, employer-sponsored community service programs or mentorship programs.
“If you have a number of years of experience in your field, you can increase your job satisfaction by passing along your experience to employees who are newer to the organization,” says career coach Cheryl A. Palmer. “There is fulfillment in helping others, and mentoring other employees can make your time at your current job more enjoyable.”
6. Count your blessings.
Don’t get bogged down by the negatives you encounter day-to-day. Instead, focus on what your position or your employer gives you, and take time to be grateful. “When you start looking at the positive things that your job provides, it will help you make that attitude change and move out of your rut,” says life coach Sean Nisil.
7. Consider whether to make a move.
If you’ve been in a rut for longer than you can remember, ask yourself some tough questions. Does your current job support your values? Does it allow you to be yourself? Have you taken action and you just can’t seem to change things? Depending on your answers, it may be time to make your move — even if it’s a lateral shift. “When your job isn’t offering anything to get you closer to a bigger goal, then it is time to move on,” Cardone says. “You can’t let the job rut lead to a life rut, which is what ultimately happens.”

Cover Letter No-No's (What Kills the Chances of Yours Getting Read)

Cover letter techniques to help you get noticed by hiring managers

Image by Shutterstock

An estimated 50 percent of recruiters never read cover letters. It's no wonder why. After speaking to several recruiters I know who place hundreds of people in jobs each year, here's what they shared:

When they open a cover letter, if they skim it and see it's just a repetition of what is already in the resume, they skip reading it.

In fact, studies show you have less than six seconds to get their attention. According to my recruiting colleagues, most job seekers fail miserably in that short window of time!

A Cover Letter Isn't a Resume

The resume is a fact-based summary of your skills and accomplishments. A cover letter is your chance to share with the employer how you feel aligned with their company, mission, product, service, etc. According to my recruiter friends, here are just a few examples of things job seekers commonly put in cover letters that they don't like:

1) As you'll see, I'm a motivated, high achiever with 15 years of experience in...
You are telling the recruiter flat out you are repeating what they'll see in the resume, ultimately, wasting their time.

2) I know I would be a huge asset to your team.
You are making a big assumption about your value, which recruiters don't appreciate. They'll be the ones to decide if you could be a "huge asset."

3) At XYZ Corp, I was instrumental in a cost-saving measure that...
Again, telling them something they can find on the resume, and therefore, wasting their time.

4) I am applying to your ____ position as seen in the _____.
They already know you are applying if you are submitting the application online. Don't use up the body of the cover letter explaining the obvious. If they asked you to make note of the job you are applying to in the application, simply put a "RE: Applying for ___ Position" below their address and before your "Dear Hiring Manager," in your cover letter as a way to let them know.

I could give you a lot more examples, but you get the drift. If you want your cover letter to get read, give the recruiter something worth reading!

Good Test For Your Cover Letter - Would You Say It In Person?

A great way to tell if your cover letter is sending the right message is to ask yourself, "If the hiring manager was standing in front of me, could I read this cover letter to them and sound normal?" The answer is usually "no," because we tend to mistakenly write cover letters in a formal, self-promotional tone.

4 Tips for Creating a "Disruptive" Cover Letter

If you want to improve the chances of your cover letter getting read, then you need to give it a F.A.C.E. Lift. You should focus the content of the letter to include the right:

Format - Clean-lined font, 11 point in size, left-text justified with one-inch margins. Stay clear of fancy, scripted fonts and tiny type - both make it impossible to read. And, keep margins in place so there is plenty of whitespace on the page for easier reading.

Attitude - Use conversational speech (no fancy words) and don't be afraid to show enthusiasm. This is your chance to let your personality show.

Connection - Discuss how you feel connected to the company's product, service, mission, business model, etc. You have to share how you feel part of their corporate tribe.

Experience - Tell a story about a personal or professional experience that taught you how important the work is they are doing. Find a way to back-up the connection you share with them by validating it with an experience that taught you what they do is valuable.

PS - Always Start With An Exciting Statement

The best cover letters get hiring managers at "hello." Don't be afraid to open the cover letter with a bolded, powerful statement like,
  • I remember the first time I used your product.
  • My life was changed the day I learned how to ____.
  • I've been tied to your company for 10+ years now. Here's how...

These are wonderful openers that engage the reader to pay attention to the story you are sharing with them. And, if you do a great job, they'll be inspired to go over and check out your resume, too - they might even give it the proper attention it deserves. (Here's a free video tutorial where I explain step-by-step how to create a disruptive cover letter with a bold opening statement.)

Better still, when done right, the disruptive cover letter makes for a great conversation piece when the recruiter contacts you. Many of my clients have told me the first thing a recruiter has said to them during a phone interview is, "Wow, your cover letter really was outstanding. It was so refreshing to read one like that." And that's exactly what you want, right?

15 of the weirdest excuses used when calling in sick

It’s that time of year when the weather gets colder and people start missing work because of illness.
Or because of bats in the hair. Or deer bites. Or from back injuries sustained while chasing a beaver. Yep, these were just some of the excuses people used when calling in to their boss to say that they’d be out for the day.
In our annual survey, one-third of employers reported that workers call in sick more often during the winter holidays than any other time of the year. While cold and flu season has much to do with the abundance of absences, some people are using up those sick days to spend more time with their families, get in some last-minute shopping or just relax in bed when the weather outside looks too bleak to even deal with.
Twenty-nine percent of workers admitted to playing hooky this year, citing errands and plans with family or friends among their top reasons for calling in sick. But check out these fifteen weird excuses that people used to miss work. I’m not sure how anyone even pulled these off without busting out in laughter…
  1. Employee’s 12-year-old daughter stole his car and he had no other way to work. Employee didn’t want to report it to the police.
  2. Employee said bats got in her hair.
  3. Employee said a refrigerator fell on him.
  4. Employee was in line at a coffee shop when a truck carrying flour backed up and dumped the flour into her convertible.
  5. Employee said a deer bit him during hunting season.
  6. Employee ate too much at a party.
  7. Employee fell out of bed and broke his nose.
  8. Employee got a cold from a puppy.
  9. Employee’s child stuck a mint up his nose and had to go to the ER to remove it.
  10. Employee hurt his back chasing a beaver.
  11. Employee got his toe caught in a vent cover.
  12. Employee had a headache after going to too many garage sales.
  13. Employee’s brother-in-law was kidnapped by a drug cartel while in Mexico.
  14. Employee drank anti-freeze by mistake and had to go to the hospital.
  15. Employee was at a bowling alley and a bucket filled with water (due to a leak) crashed through the ceiling and hit her on the head.

Check out our nifty infographic here!
 Or click on the image to see the full graphic!
More interesting stats on absenteeism in the workplace:
  • More workers call in sick in the first quarter of the year, with 34 percent of employers saying workers call in January through March.
  • Phone calls are still the dominant way in which people tell their bosses they aren’t coming in to work (84 percent); emails are second (24 percent) and text messages are third (11 percent).
“While outrageous events are known to happen, frequent absences and over-the-top excuses can start to bring your credibility into question,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.
“Many employers are more flexible in their definition of a sick day and will allow employees to use them to recharge and take care of personal needs. This is especially evident post-recession when employees have taken on added responsibilities and are working longer days. Your best bet is to be up front with your manager.”

The excuses you should never use when calling in sick

Calling in sickIf your alarm clock’s going off but you still want more sleep, your friend’s in town for the weekend, there’s a home project you’d like more time to work on or your DVR is about to reach its limit of saved shows, you’ve probably considered calling in sick from work.

On the flip side, there are days when your throat is scratchy, nose is runny and a killer headache is just around the corner, but you’ve still gone in to work. In fact, 30 percent of employees say they’ve gone to work despite actually being sick in order to save their sick days for when they’re feeling well, according to a national CareerBuilder survey of more than 3,400 workers and 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.

What’s going on with employees and their sick days? These cherished get-out-of-work-free days can cure all kinds of ailments, it seems. However, not all employers agree with the remedy. Before you call in sick, check out what the survey found about how employees are using their sick days, what employers aren’t okay with and the most outrageous excuses workers have tried.

Prescribing your own schedule
There are times when a sick day can make the difference in your workload or personal schedule. Twenty percent of workers say in the past year they called in sick but still ended up doing work from home throughout the day.
For the slightly less motivated, a sick day can be the perfect time for some R&R. In the past year, nearly one third (32 percent) of workers have called in sick when not actually ill, up slightly from last year (30 percent). What motivates these workers who may occasionally be allergic to the office? Apart from actual illness, the most common reason employees take sick days is because they just don’t feel like going to work (33 percent), or because they needed to relax (28 percent). Others spend their sick days going to the doctor (24 percent), catching up on sleep (19 percent), or running personal errands (14 percent).
There are more common times for workers to use sick days as well, whether due to the flu or personal commitments. Three-in-ten (30 percent) employers say they notice an increased number of sick days among their employees around the holidays. Nineteen percent of employers say that December is the time of year that employees call in sick the most, followed by January (16 percent) and February (15 percent).

Sick tricks
Employers aren’t unaware of the fact that you’ll likely use sick days for reasons other than chicken noodle soup and bed rest. However, not all employers are okay with this: 30 percent say that they have checked in on employees who have called in sick to make sure the excuse was legitimate. Of those who verified employees’ excuses over the past year,
  • 64 percent required a doctor’s note
  • 48 percent called the employee
  • 19 percent checked the employee’s social media posts
  • 17 percent had another employee call the sick employee
  • 15 percent drove past the employee’s house.
For those who have been caught lying, some may wish they really were sick: 16 percent of employers say they’ve fired employees for calling in sick with a fake excuse.
If all that sounds extreme to you, just know that employers may have some reason to be skeptical. When asked to share the most memorable excuses for workplace absences that they’ve heard, employers reported the following real-life examples:
  • Employee’s false teeth flew out the window while driving down the highway
  • Employee’s favorite football team lost on Sunday so needed Monday to recover
  • Employee was quitting smoking and was grouchy
  • Employee said that someone glued her doors and windows shut so she couldn’t leave the house to come to work
  • Employee bit her tongue and couldn’t talk
  • Employee claimed a swarm of bees surrounded his vehicle and he couldn’t make it in
  • Employee said the chemical in turkey made him fall asleep and he missed his shift
  • Employee felt like he was so angry he was going to hurt someone if he came in
  • Employee received a threatening phone call from the electric company and needed to report it to the FBI
  • Employee needed to finish Christmas shopping
  • Employee’s fake eye was falling out of its socket
  • Employee got lost and ended up in another state
  • Employee couldn’t decide what to wear

Factors to Consider Before Accepting a Job Offer

Searching for a job is hard work. Scanning help-wanted listings, researching companies, sending out customized cover letters and résumés and attending interviews can be tiring and time-consuming. If you're like most job seekers, you're excited -- or at least relieved -- when your efforts result in an employment offer.

In some cases, a pressing need for a paycheck may outweigh any potential drawbacks to a new role, especially given the uncertain economy and rising prices for gas and food. But if you are in a position to be selective, you must consider every angle before rushing to accept a prospective employer's offer. After all, a new full-time job usually isn't a short-term affair. Following are some guidelines to help you determine whether to accept a job offer or wait for a better opportunity:

Scrutinize the job description

Carefully reviewing the job requirements, key tasks and responsibilities, as well as whom you will report to, may be the single most important step in assessing an offer from a potential employer. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Will you enjoy the day-to-day duties of the position?

  • Will you be challenged?

  • Is the level of responsibility appropriate considering your experience?

  • Are you willing to make any required lifestyle changes (e.g., travel, longer commute, rigid work hours) that may affect your quality of life?
    If the answer to any of these questions is no, accepting the position might not be in your best interest. While some negative factors can be overlooked -- a slightly lower starting salary than you prefer, for instance -- fundamental problems with the job itself are a definite deal-breaker.

    Evaluate the company
    The work environment affects how you feel on a daily basis, so make sure it's one you feel comfortable in. If, for example, you strongly prefer a conservative corporate culture with set hours and established processes, you probably won't be happy in an informal atmosphere with a "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" business approach.
    Also consider the work styles of your future boss and co-workers. If you sense that you and your potential colleagues have conflicting styles or personalities, tread carefully. While differences in character and opinion can result in better group dynamics, frequent disagreements often lead to unproductive and unhappy work teams.
    Review the compensation package
    How does the salary compare to what you made in your last position or what others in your specialty and with the same skills earn? Take a look at the benefits package, too. How generous are the perks? Keep in mind that attractive benefits can sometimes outweigh sub-par compensation.
    Or perhaps you're offered a job that requires you to work long hours but offers the option to telecommute. Being able to work from home several days a week may give you the time you need to attend to personal obligations and compensate for the rigid work schedule. Additionally, if an offer meets most of your requirements but doesn't include a benefit that's important to you -- such as tuition reimbursement for a professional certification you seek -- it doesn't hurt to ask if that perk can be included in your employment agreement.
    Ask about opportunities for growth
    There's nothing worse for your career than getting stuck in a dead-end job. While a so-so role may be fine in the short term, holding a position that does not allow for advancement for an extended period of time can take a toll on your health and happiness.
    Try to get a realistic idea of the growth opportunities available within the company. For example, have people who held the job before you moved up with the firm? Where did your prospective manager start out? If the answers to such questions don't seem to support a policy of promoting from within, you may want to continue your job search.
    Careful consideration of the issues discussed above will help you decide whether to accept, reject or negotiate a better offer. If, after evaluating each of these points, you are still unsure which way to swing, go with your gut. If your intuition tells you that something is a little off, conduct some additional research or ask more questions of the hiring manager before making your decision. Moving into a new role is a big step, and you want to enter the arrangement knowing all the facts. With a thoughtful analysis of the pros and cons, you'll be able to make the best decision for your career.
  • 5 Ways Your Workplace Bully May Be Breaking The Law

    'Used and abused' asks what a small staff can do

    This reader faces a problem many employees encounter at work – the workplace bully. In this instance things are complicated by the small staff's distance from any HR assistance.
    Hi Donna,
    What action would you suggest staff take when the Executive Director of a tax funded nonprofit organization, which is overseen by a board, is abusive to staff? Staff does not have access to HR; they report to the ED who reports to the board. Some incidents have been "investigated" by one or two board members and the HR of the employer of a board member. Nothing has improved. Incidents have been the ED slapping the hand, kicking, and yelling at an employee to "go do your f****** job," commenting on how an employee is dressed, yelling at staff, "forgetting" they did or said something, not following policies and procedures consistently and speaking harshly as to show their superiority. We are at a loss as to what to do. We are not permitted to speak to any member of the board without the ED's consent. We are a small staff, under 15 employees. Suggestions would be most welcome.
    Thank you.
    Used and abused

    Hi "Used and abused," It sounds like you're dealing with a bully, which is all too common these days. A career counselor or health care professional might view things differently, but I'll give my perspective as an employee-side employment lawyer.

    I've written before about how workplace bullying is not illegal in any state. Although 23 states have tried to pass anti-bullying laws, none have succeeded. Eleven states currently have anti-bullying laws pending, but I'm not optimistic. Still, there's hope for the bullied. Bullies frequently cross the line into illegal behavior at work.

    Here are five ways your workplace bully might be doing something illegal:
    1. Targeting the weak: Just like playground bullies, workplace bullies target the weakest employees, or those the bully perceives as weak. While that's not necessarily illegal, who does a bully consider weak? Disabled, pregnant and older employees are easy bullying targets because the bully knows you can't lose your job. If you're a caregiver for a disabled child, parent or spouse, you may be a target. Targeting these protected categories crosses the line into illegal discrimination.
    2. Targeting the different: Bullies hate people who are different from them. Who might be different to a bully at work? If you notice that you're being targeted along with others of the same race, sex, religion, national origin, or color, then the bully is engaging in illegal discrimination.
    3. Sudden change: If you weren't the bully's target and suddenly are, maybe something changed for you. Did you recently turn 50? Take Family and Medical Leave? Return from military service? Make a worker's compensation claim? Find out about a genetic condition? If so, the bully might be breaking discrimination, retaliation or other laws.
    4. Stalking: Your state may have anti-stalking laws that prohibit the bully's behavior. For instance, Florida's anti-stalking statute provides, "A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking, a misdemeanor of the first degree." There are also specific cyberstalking laws in some states.
    5. Assault/battery: If your bully makes you fear you're about to be hit, that's assault. If they actually engage in offensive or harmful touching or hitting, they've engaged in battery. Both assault and battery are against the law in every state.
    So, now that you've figured out that your workplace bully is breaking the law, what can you do? I'll be writing next Tuesday about some things you can do to protect yourself against your workplace bully.

    6 Social Media Updates That Turn Off Recruiters

    Drinking, drugging and sex are all no-nos

    Young women social networking with tongue out
    Getty Images
    By Hannah Morgan

    Employers will scope you out online at some point during the screening and hiring process. What you consider hidden behind a curtain of privacy may not be. Your personal status updates may be impacting your ability to land your next job. Keep your discussions free from these damaging mentions.

    1. Just say no to drugs. Referencing illegal drugs is the most damaging thing you can do to your job search. According to Jobvite's 2013 Social Recruiting Survey, more than 80 percent of recruiters said seeing mentions of illegal drugs in a candidate's social updates left a negative impression. Stay away from any mention of drugs, even if you're joking, or run the risk of ruining your reputation.

    2. Sex sells, but not in a job search. Next in line for topics to avoid are tweets or posts of a sexual nature. While it may be funny to your friends, that joking status update or tweet is most likely offensive to others and damaging. You wouldn't dare send that joke, photo or link in an email to your boss, so keep it out of your social networking stream.

    3. Don't drink and share. We all know that drinking and driving don't mix. The same holds true for sharing photos or status updates about that great party or overindulging Saturday night bash and your job search. These types of updates may not be as harmful as the others mentioned, however, you still want to keep your stream alcohol-free.

    4. Swear at your own peril. Employers have little tolerance for the use of profanity online. According to Jobvite, 65 percent of recruiters viewed status updates containing profanity negatively, putting it in the top three things not to do. Profanity is unprofessional, offensive and wouldn't be tolerated in most workplaces. As old fashioned as this may sound, keep your language clean.

    5. Spelling counts. You may think your status update doesn't need to be typo-free, but spelling and grammar do matter. A quick scan of error-ridden updates either shows a lack of attention to detail or poor writing skills. In fact, the recent study notes: "More recruiters react negatively to profanity (65%) and grammar and punctuation errors in posts/tweets (61%) than references to alcohol use (47%)."

    6. Guns aren't good either. People's attitudes about gun ownership and usage vary widely. Where someone lives and whether he or she is rural or urban may also impact how they perceive guns. You should know that most hiring entities negatively view references to guns, so conceal those weapons.

    Invasive or pervasive?
    Some may say that employers shouldn't be allowed to scrutinize private or personal updates on social networks. And some feel that it isn't fair to evaluate personal lives to determine professional qualifications. We are crossing into new territory where your lifestyle and perceived professionalism are both fair game if you put it out there on social networking sites. In the survey, almost half of the recruiters and hiring entities said they have reconsidered a candidate based on content viewed in a social profile, leading to both positive and negative re-assessments.
    Instead of viewing this as pervasive, embrace the opportunity to publicly promote the best you have to offer. Include references to nonprofit organizations you support and activities you're involved in to highlight your assets.
    Just remember, we don't all live in Vegas where what's said there stays there. Be smart and aware about what you are sharing online and know that someone is checking you out. Don't give them reason to turn away.

    Crazy Things People Say To Their Bosses Without Getting Fired

    Amazing stories of people who got away with it

    C6XRE1 Portrait of an angry businessman at his laptop, on gray background
    Even the best of us have fantasized about saying ridiculously inappropriate things to our bosses. Most of the time, the threat of unemployment stops us, but this isn't the case for everyone.

    A recent Quora thread asked the question:

    What is the craziest thing you have ever said to your boss, with or without getting fired?

    Below are some of the (unverified) testimonies:
    Sending an inappropriate instant message.

    An anonymous user on Quora accidentally sent "F--- you" to a superior instead of a friend.

    Didn't realize this initially but when my friend didn't reply back, I looked at the open chat window and gazed in horror. Seconds later, she looked at me, I had this look of terror, explained it to her that it was not intended for her and pinged it to her by mistake. She didn't say anything, and when nothing happened over the next few hours, I relaxed and things went back to normal and I still had my job.

    Quoting a Pink Floyd song.

    Before personal computers became a must-have accessory, Jay Bazzinotti was 26 years old and working as the manager of the business unit at a high-tech company. After their modems failed to work properly for an oil company, he was flown from Boston to the west coast as the "sacrificial lamb [his company] would send to the slaughter." He would meet with the senior vice president who "had the power to overthrow third world countries or have people killed."

    Here is how he described the experience:

    Finally the door opened and the SVP came in. A hush fell over the room. Here was a man that everyone in that room feared and respected. You could feel the power and electricity coming from him as he strode in.

    The SVP opened the meeting as if it were a legal proceeding, reading a summary of the problem and all the actions taken to date, emphasizing our failure to solve it. As he got into it he became angrier and angrier. He started pounding the table and he got red as he spoke of how much time and money had been wasted and spoke of "fraud" and "malfeasance" and "misrepresentation". All of this vitriol was directed at me. He was further insulted that our company had the nerve to send me, of all people, not even a VP. Finally he pointed at me and said in a harsh voice, "If you can't fix this problem today, right now, around town your name isn't going to be worth squat!"

    And then, without even thinking, I said, "Around town it was well known that when they got home at night their fat and psychopathic wives would thrash them within inches of their lives"

    Then he stopped.

    "Wait a minute," he said, "I know that line..."

    "Yes," I whispered, "It's from Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' album."

    He said, "I knew that. You like Pink Floyd?"

    "Yes," I said, "It's my favorite group."

    "Mine too," he said, suddenly smiling and getting up, "I saw the 'Wall' concert in LA in 1980. It was fantastic! I even caught one of Gilmour's guitar picks. I have it framed in my office with the ticket stubs. Come on, I'll show you!"

    The SVP ended up giving the high-tech company a few more weeks to solve the problem, which they successfully did.

    Calling him crazy, narcissistic, juvenile, crude, sexist...

    In the late '90s when entrepreneur Scott Dunlap was working as a product/marketing executive, he had the following exchange with his boss:

    Boss: Make it happen.

    Me: What you're asking us to do is physically impossible given the constrains of today's technology.

    Boss: Maybe you didn't hear me...I told you to make it happen.

    Me: I get that you are holding the bar high for us, but this is crazy. In fact, you are crazy. You are narcissistic, juvenile, crude, conniving, sexist, and lacking any ethical boundaries whatsoever. You are crazy! Yet somehow you consider that combination of attributes to be your leadership style. You are seriously fucked up, like, in a need-a-strait-jacket sort of way.

    Boss: [pause] You forgot "rich".

    He went on to the next meeting with a smile.

    Promising a do-or-die solution.

    When Prameet Kamat, a manager for DuPont, was a 22-year-old chemical salesman, one of his bigger accounts complained that the fabric he sold them changed its pH balance and smelled like a "combination of rotten eggs and dying fish":

    [The plant head] came out to meet me holding yards of printed fabric "Your product has ruined an important shipment for me! this fabric stinks!" and by god, it did. It stank of a combination of rotten eggs and dying fish. "I have got a 100,000 units of this - " "Is this the guy from that damn company?" Louise stormed in - cigarette dangling and as tall as a skyscraper "I am going to SUE you guys - I am losing 900,000 Euros on this shipment alone! Get out and fix this or you are not going to leave this plant."

    I walked around the shop floor for the four loneliest hours of my life. Changing temperatures, chemical dosages and whatever else I could try. I must have looked a sight muttering to myself, looking under equipment runs, taking pH at different points. And the fabric line just kept humming. And stinking. It was late afternoon and it started to finally to get better, and the smell had come down to a mildly unpleasant odor instead of knocking you out. I still didn't know what I got right, but at least something was working.

    It was then that I said it - the six words that were either going to be genius or put me in prison. "Put them out in the sun." He blinked at me. "Wot!" I don't know what made me say it - the green sunny lawns that I could see from the windows probably. But I knew it was the dumbest thing I could have said.

    Luckily his plan worked and the plant head didn't think the garment smelled after being laid out in the sun for two hours. Whether the ridiculous operation worked or not is a different story:

    I might have looked calm or whatever but honestly I just couldn't say anything. I just wanted to collapse. I took the fabric to smell it for myself but honestly I can't say if I smelled anything or not. I had smelled a ton of that fabric day and my nasal sense was dead as a doornail.

    Banging on the desk and flipping out.

    Lucia Lu had a direct boss who liked to play with things he found on his employees' desks. One morning, he picked up a notebook and started reading it aloud. When this user realized it was her notebook, she asked her boss to give it back. He said "no." Here's what happened next:

    Before I even realized it I banged the desk and flipped out: "GIVE IT BACK!"

    He stared at me and silently handed it back to me. Strangely, I wasn't even mad at him. I think I was just over annoyed at that point. I do get over-protective of my possessions, especially one that I constantly write who-remember-what in.

    Humiliating the boss during a sales meeting.

    In 1987, when user Chuck Block was a young stockbroker, he worked for a "sleazy and obnoxious" sales manager.

    During a sales meeting he asked if anyone knew where the largest oil reserves in the world were located. I suggested that they were located in his wardrobe. He didn't fire me but when I left the firm he enforced my employment agreement which cost my new firm some money. Back then employment agreements were very rarely enforced when a rookie left for another firm. I think that was his way of retaliating.

    Flextime Isn't Just For Mommies (20-Something Guys Need It, Too!)

    Flextime gives talent what they need most: Time to pursue dream

    Photo by Lindsay RobinsonNick at his day job where flextime lets him pursue his dream of becoming a sports broadcaster.
    I am a typical flextime user. As a mom, I need to be able to adjust my work schedule to accommodate things like picking my kids up from after-school activities, etc. As a result, I made flextime part of the benefit package at my company (it's good to be the boss!). My employees work a 40-hour week in the office, but are given the ability to adjust their schedule for activities like doctor appointments, events they want to attend, and other things important to work-life balance.

    Surprisingly, of all the staff members, it happens to be one young guy in our office that uses the flextime the most...

    Meet Nick, Office Professional & Sports Broadcaster!
    Photo by Brianna HealyNick announcing a minor league hockey game and fulfilling his dream!

    I've known Nick ever since he did an internship with me years ago. Recently, when I shared we were hiring, Nick mentioned he'd love to join us, but he was looking for a job that would let him continue to pursue his passion: sports broadcasting. It's what he went to school for. He currently has a part-time gig as an announcer for a minor league hockey team. Thus, in order for him to do his job for us and keep the broadcasting job, he needed flextime. Imagine how thrilled he was to hear that it wouldn't be an issue.

    Offering Flextime Is Smart Business, Here's Why...

    I can sit and tell you all the great benefits of offering flextime to workers. But, I think it's much better if you hear it first-hand from Nick himself.

    Here's what he had to say:

    Nick, why is flextime vital to being a young sports broadcaster?

    Sports broadcasting by nature has a volatile schedule. In addition to the uneven dispersal of hours required, it isn't a well-paying job until you reach the highest levels. If you don't have the opportunity to work for a team full-time, you need additional income to stay afloat. Not to mention, you need the right skills to hack it in the real world in case broadcasting doesn't pan out. However, it's not always easy to get a job outside of the sports world that will allow the flexibility necessary to pursue the dream.

    Unlike many of the other dedicated sports broadcasters out there (especially, younger ones), I'm lucky to have another job that is both flexible and brings home a decent paycheck. I can actually develop as a professional outside of the booth, instead of being stuck in a dead-end job. I know that whenever I've called my last game (whether that's in two years or 20), I can be prepared for a sustainable career. It certainly won't hurt that I'll already know what type of workplace environment to look for either.

    How does flextime work for you?

    Since I leave early on Fridays, I have to make the time up somewhere. I come in early on other days and stay late too, but I don't feel any less productive or happy during the long days. The "short" days are a nice break hours-wise, and they allow me to focus even more on providing value at work before my week is over. It's like training for a marathon by having some workouts with long runs, and others with sprints. Nobody runs 26 miles every day leading up to the race.

    Why is it important that the culture (and fellow co-workers!) support your use of flextime?

    Working at a company that allows flex time gives me the assurance that I can have a side job that keeps me happy and have a stable paycheck to go with it. I don't think it's a coincidence that I enjoy my full-time job even more than I originally expected, because flex time is one of the many arrows in my boss' quiver that creates a great work environment.

    Knowing that my boss and co-workers are okay with (and even encourage) me using flextime makes it easier to feel comfortable in the office and get more work done. I don't waste any time when I'm in, because I know that the biggest worry in my career (my pay) is taken care of. That takes the pressure off when I'm in the booth, which makes it easier to be the best broadcaster I can be.

    Nick has been a great addition to our team.

    As a manager, do I worry that he might eventually leave us?

    No, because I expect it. Every job is temporary. I can't worry about the future. At least right now, I get a hard-working, passionate employee who is grateful for his job. As an employer, that's the best you can hope for.

    What's your experience with flextime? Does your company offer it as a benefit? If so, how are you using it to be a happier, more productive contributor to your company?

    National Boss Day: 9 Ways To Impress Your Manager

    Scientifically-proven strategies to boost your standing

    Businessman with megaphone making coworkers do pushups
    Getty Images
    The ability to impress your boss is a major determining factor in your success, as well as your happiness and productivity at work.Whether you get along with your boss or not, you need to show them you're capable of greatness.

    We looked through the latest research to find science-based strategies to help you seem like a better and more cooperative employee and, in turn, make your boss happier.

    In celebration of National Boss Day, here's a list of proven ways to wow your boss.

    9. Wear red to show you're 'focused, committed, and trustworthy.'

    According to a study published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research in 2012, waitresses wearing red earned more money.

    If you want to persuade or impress someone in the office, you could try wearing a powerful shade of red. The color makes others view you as someone who's "focused, committed, and trustworthy," said Kenny Frimpong, brand marketing and development manager at high-end Italian clothing store Eredi Pisano.

    "We've been in business for about 15 years, and we encourage most of our clients to wear red."

    8. Wake up earlier.

    If you want to impress your boss, get to the office early.

    Although studies show that night owls tend to be smarter and more creative than morning types, those who wake up early have better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages.

    People who wake up early are typically also happier, healthier, and have higher satisfaction compared to their friends who prefer the night life, according to a study conducted by the University of Toronto.

    Being happier also means that you'll be more productive at your job and easier to work with.

    7. Wear makeup

    Professional women who wear makeup are viewed as more competent and likeable than those who go au naturel, according to one study funded by makeup manufacturer Procter & Gamble.

    6. Exude 'executive presence.'

    If you want to impress your superiors, you need to show that you have leadership potential.

    What does this mean? One study by non-profit research organization Center for Talent Innovation said that having "executive presence" comes down to exuding confidence, calmness under pressure, and decisiveness. Executive presence also counts for 26% of what it takes to get that promotion.

    5. Don't negotiate face-to-face.

    If you want to impress your boss with your negotiating skills, do it through a virtual medium, according to one British study. Face-to-face interactions won't benefit you, since you're not the more powerful person in the situation.

    Basically, the more powerful you are, the more you'll get out of in-person meetings. This could also possibly be the reason why some employees won't speak up in meetings with their bosses or why brainstorming sessions result in a list full of ideas from only the leader.

    4. Make them think your idea was theirs all along.

    Want to wow your boss with your ideas? Get them to believe it was theirs all along, said author Douglas Van Praet in his book "Unconscious Branding." This way, your boss will have you work on ideas that you believe in because the ideas were yours to begin with.

    Van Praet wrote:

    "The brain doesn't always clearly differentiate between something real and something imagined. Our imagination and our perception of the real world are closely linked since both functions engage similar neural circuitry. Numerous scientific studies confirm that visualization and mental imagery enhances actual physical performance, demonstrating the very real benefits of mental rehearsal. If you can get someone to imagine something vividly enough, you are well on your way to making the suggestion real.

    "When you imagine something it transforms the message from a universal one to a uniquely personal concept, and not an attempt at external manipulation."

    If you can convince someone that an idea is related to them on a personal level, they will have an even greater commitment to that idea.

    3. Think twice before helping someone else at work.

    When you help someone else, you may feel good about yourself, but a study conducted by German and Swiss researchers found that it doesn't actually help your work performance. In fact, the study said that "participants who requested help with a task performed better, while those who supplied assistance did worse."

    Why? Most likely because you're interrupted while doing your own work. If this happens frequently enough, you'll end up suffering from "cognitive load."

    Yes, you might be building connections with your coworkers as you show them the ropes, but it's important to make sure you're on top of your own duties.

    2. Smile a lot.

    "If you smile enough, your body eventually thinks that work isn't so bad," writes Meredith Lepore at Levo League, and you'll become a more pleasant person to be around.

    So the next time you and your boss are dealing with a difficult situation, you should smile, said Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman, the author of 12 books, including "The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help-or Hurt-How You Lead."

    Kinsey Goman said that this is the fundamental idea of faking it until you make it, since you are tricking your body into thinking that the task isn't difficult.

    1. Have sex at least four times a week.

    Impress your boss by being a happy, calm person - no matter what. How do you do this? One strategy is to have sex at least four times per week.

    According to a paper titled "The Effect of Sexual Activity on Wages," published by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany, having sex regularly each week may result in higher self-esteem, confidence, and overall happiness, which in turn makes employees more amiable, productive, and creative.

    Sex is the "barometer for health, quality of life, well-being, and happiness," the study said.

    The study found that sex can be an important factor in how satisfied someone is in their personal life, and satisfaction in that area can affect work as well.

    11 common interview questions that are actually illegal

    By Vivian Giang, Business Insider
    During job interviews, employers will try to gather as much information about you as possible, mostly through perfectly legal questioning, but sometimes through simple yet illegal questions. It's up to the interviewee to recognize these questions for what they are.
    Any questions that reveal your age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status and sexual orientation are off-limits.
    "State and federal laws make discrimination based on certain protected categories, such as national origin, citizenship, age, marital status, disabilities, arrest and conviction record, military discharge status, race, gender or pregnancy status, illegal," Lori Adelson, a labor and employment attorney and partner with law firm Arnstein & Lehr, tells Business Insider. "Any question that asks a candidate to reveal information about such topics without the question having a job-related basis will violate the various state and federal discrimination laws.
    "However, if the employer states questions so that they directly relate to specific occupational qualifications, then the questions may be legitimate. Clearly, the intent behind the question needs to be examined."
    If you are asked any inappropriate questions, Adelson advises not to lie, but, instead, politely decline to answer. "Could they not give you a job because of that? Sure. But if they do, they would be doing exactly what they're not supposed to do."
    We compiled the following illegal interview questions that are often mistaken as appropriate from Adelson and Joan K. Ustin & Associates, a consultant firm specializing in human resources and organization development.
    1. Have you ever been arrested?
    An employer can't legally ask you about your arrest record, but they can ask if you've ever been convicted of a crime. Depending on the state, a conviction record shouldn't automatically disqualify you for employment unless it substantially relates to your job. For example, if you've been convicted of statutory rape and you're applying for a teaching position, you will probably not get the job.
    2. Are you married?
    Although the interviewer may ask you this question to see how much time you'd be able to commit to your job, it's illegal because it reveals your marital status and can also reveal your sexual orientation.
    3. What religious holidays do you practice?
    Employers may want to ask you this to see if your lifestyle interferes with work schedules, but this question reveals your religion and that's illegal. They can ask you if you're available to work on Sundays.
    4. Do you have children?
    It is unlawful to deny someone employment if they have children or if they are planning on having children in the future. If the employer wants to find out how committed you will be to your job, they should ask questions about your work. For example, "What hours can you work?" or "Do you have responsibilities other than work that will interfere with specific job requirements such as traveling?"
    5. What country are you from?
    If you have an accent, this may seem like an innocent question, but it's illegal because it involves your national origin. Employers can't legally inquire about your nationality, but they can ask if you're authorized to work in a certain country.
    6. Is English your first language?
    It's not the employers' lawful right to know whether a language is your first language. In order to find out language proficiency, employers can ask you what other languages you read, speak or write fluently.
    7. Do you have any outstanding debt?
    Employers must have permission before asking about your credit history. Similar to a criminal background history, they can't disqualify you from employment unless it directly affects your ability to perform the position you're interviewing for. Furthermore, they can't ask you how well you balance your personal finances or inquire about you owning property.
    8. Do you socially drink?
    Employers cannot ask about your drinking habits, because it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. For example, if you're a recovering alcoholic, treatment of alcoholism is protected under this act, and you don't have to disclose any disability information before landing an official job offer.
    9. When was the last time you used illegal drugs?
    It's illegal for employers to ask you about past drug addiction, but they can ask you if you're currently using illegal drugs. A person who is currently using drugs is not protected under ADA. For example, an employer may ask you: "Do you currently use illegal drugs? What illegal drugs have you used in the past six months?"
    10. How long have you been working?
    This question allows employers to guess your age, which is unlawful. Similarly, they can't ask you what year you graduated from high school or college or even your birthday. However, they can ask you how long you've been working in a certain industry.
    11. What type of discharge did you receive in the military?
    This is not appropriate for the interviewer to ask you, but they can ask what type of education, training or work experience you've received while in the military.

    5 secrets to climbing the ladder faster

    CEOs and other top execs share tips for getting where you want to be
    Beth Braccio Hering, Special to CareerBuilder

    Sometimes getting from where you are to where you'd like to be career-wise can seem like a daunting task. While time and experience certainly help, there are other actions that can speed the process along. 

    Here, executives in a variety of fields share their tips on how to move up the ladder a bit faster.

    Accumulate knowledge
    "Knowledge is power," states Linda Matzigkeit, senior vice president of strategic planning and human resources for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "You need to read about your industry, know what people are doing and keep your edge on innovation."Anthony Leone, founder of Energy Kitchen, a restaurant franchise based in New York City, agrees. "Learn as much as you possibly can in your chosen field. Become such an asset to your company that the owners tell themselves, 'We cannot live without this person.'" He further suggests asking your boss what skills would most benefit the company, then going out and learning them "to the point that they just roll off your tongue, like your phone number." 

    Know how to ask questions
    Armed with a solid understanding of their field, workers who gain attention are ones who know how to ask appropriate questions.
    "Asking good questions is an art," states Elizabeth Sobol, managing director of IMG Artists, North America. "I will be much more impressed if you ask me good ones than if you talk over me, trying to show me how much you know."
    Similarly, employees should not worry that asking questions is a sign of ineptitude. "Do not be afraid to admit that you do not understand something," says Robert Stack, president and CEO of Community Options Inc., a national nonprofit organization that develops homes and employment for people with disabilities. "There is nothing wrong with not knowing; it is not asking or pretending to understand that always seems to have negative ramifications."

    Think outside yourself
    People who move up quickly are often ones who are good at examining the needs and goals of the company as a whole, not just in their own particular niche. Matzigkeit says that because her field (health care) is very specialized, it is easy to get deep in your own area. "In order to advance and truly identify ways you can have continued impact in an organization, you need to get connected to the big picture. Only then can you develop your skills, broaden your exposure and find ways to apply your transferable skills."
    For managers looking to advance, Randy Murphy -- president and CEO of the restaurant franchise Mama Fu's Asian House -- suggests wandering around. "Have a presence in your store, and always know what is going on with your guests, employees and overall operations." He also notes that ambitious employees should always be looking for their own replacement. "Develop and train those under you so the team overall does better and so that you have a quality replacement to free you up for promotion to the next level."

    Give it your all
    Of course one of the best ways to gain notice is to be a solid performer. "If you execute flawlessly, you will have a solid reputation, which will allow you to network into the right circles," states Brian Curin, president of the footwear chain Flip Flop Shops.
    "Go beyond the job description," Stack adds. "If you are a person who is supposed to help persons with disparities find jobs, then work extra hours and get creative. If you are supposed to help with fundraising, go out of your way to ask someone you do not know for support. Always be a little early, and always ask you manager what you can do that means a little extra."

    Let your passion shine through
    Doing all of these things, from learning as much as possible about a field to regularly giving 100 percent, can involve a great deal of time and effort. Some employees will look at these challenges as obstacles to overcome in order to get ahead. Others will view them with enthusiasm because they truly have a passion for their field. Guess who usually moves up faster?
    Sobol says that she is impressed by people "who are fascinated by our business and are clearly always trying to learn and understand more about it," adding that "it is not hard to glean who is doing it out of genuine interest and who is not, so don't try to fake it!"
    For those who lack that passion, maybe it's time to consider looking for a new ladder to climb. The rungs might not seem so hard to navigate when the journey upward is already enjoyable.

    How to get noticed by recruiters

    By Robert Half International
    Whether you're about to start a new job search, or you're a passive job seeker who likes to keep tabs on potential opportunities, a recruiter can be a valuable ally.

    Recruiters can enhance your job search by helping you broaden your network, providing job leads you wouldn't otherwise hear about and offering background on prospective employers. In addition, recruiters are an excellent source of career guidance and information. They can offer interview tips, salary data, résumé advice and other suggestions to help you improve your marketability. And once an employer makes an offer, the recruiter becomes a valuable go-between in helping you and the prospective employer reach a mutually satisfying agreement.

    But getting noticed by a recruiter for the right reasons is key. Regardless of the type of relationship you're looking to forge with a recruiter, here are some guidelines that will earn you a place on a recruiter's go-to list:

    Work with a specialist. A specialized recruitment company boasts more industry-specific opportunities and contacts than a generalist company. As a result, a specialist company is more likely to excel at helping you accurately assess your marketability and identify openings that are a good match for your skills and preferences.

    Trust the recruiter. The time to thoroughly vet your recruiter is before you engage with him. Take your time screening potential recruiters, checking out their reputation and talking through any questions or concerns you might have about how you'll work together.
    Once you agree to let someone act as your advocate, step back and trust the person to do so without undue second-guessing. Remember that recruiters have a vested interest in ensuring an all-around good fit, so have faith in their ability and desire to help you find the right situation and reach a satisfying agreement.

    Honesty is always the best policy. Recruiters are busy and appreciate candor. If you're unlikely to consider a job change, say so. Don't string the recruiter along just to hear what's going on in the job market.
    On the other hand, if you're actively working with a recruiter, make sure the person has all the necessary information to represent you properly. This includes being honest about what you're looking for in a new job and your salary expectations.
    Also, if you're trying to set up a job interview on your own through your contacts, mention this. It would be embarrassing for the recruiter to recommend you for a job that you're already pursuing.

    Be helpful. If a recruiter unexpectedly contacts you about an opportunity that you're not interested in, consider whether you know someone else who might be. Recruiters love to be referred to good prospects, and the fact that they can say, "Joe Smith said I should get in touch with you" helps break down barriers to new candidates. Furthermore, you never know when something could change with your employment situation. By being polite and helpful, you'll be in a position to enlist the recruiter's help, should you need it in the future.

    Spare them the extras. Recruiters appreciate job seekers who are respectful of their time and needs. They know exactly what they're looking for in candidates and how to assess a possible fit with a role, so let them ask questions and answer them concisely. They don't need to hear your life history.
    In addition, don't tell them to check out your professional networking profiles, instead of offering a formal résumé. And don't try to friend them on more social-oriented sites such as Facebook. They need to learn about your skills and accomplishments, not your favorite bands or movies.

    Stay engaged. Keep in mind that finding the right position doesn't always happen right away. That's why it's essential you remain an active participant in your job search.
    Back up the recruiter's efforts by reviewing notifications of new openings from the recruitment firm. You might see a position that interests you that your recruiter has not yet considered. By staying informed about the job market and checking in regularly with your recruiter, you'll demonstrate that you're committed to working together to reach a good outcome.
    Although staying in touch is important -- especially returning emails and phone calls promptly -- don't call or email the individual every day. There's a difference between being proactive and being a pest.
    Recruiters love an easy sell, and who can blame them? Candidates who do all the right things make the recruiter's job much easier. By observing some of these fundamental rules of interaction, you're more likely to land at the top of a recruiter's dream list.

    Do hiring managers consider social-media recommendations?

    social media recommendations
    Social media have become an integral part of the job search, both for job seekers and hiring managers. It’s now common practice for job seekers to use social-networking websites such as LinkedIn to market themselves and for hiring managers to use these sites to research potential candidates before making contact.
    But how influential are these networking sites in the hiring process, particularly the recommendations, endorsements and other social-media tools? Hiring managers, recruiters and employers were asked if they consider social-media recommendations in the hiring process, and their answers may surprise you.

    Yes, these sites and tools can offer important insight
    Not only are professional-networking sites a great way for hiring managers to get to know more about candidates, but they’re also helpful for learning about their working relationships with others. “Do I care about social-media recommendations? Absolutely,” says Jenson Crawford, senior manager of software engineering at PriceGrabber.com. “I use LinkedIn to see what recommendations a candidate has and who they are from. [The] positives are when their recommendations are from both supervisors and co-workers.”
    Crawford says that if the job seeker is applying for a management position, he also looks for recommendations from the people who reported to the candidate. “The negatives are if the recommendations are one-sided — lots of recommendations from co-workers, but none from supervisors. Social-media recommendations are not the only data that I use, but they are an important tool in helping me make an informed decision about a candidate quickly.”
    These sites can also be an important screening tool for hiring managers. “As a human-resources leader, I often would have hiring managers check applicants online before committing to interview them,” says Lisa Chenofsky Singer, an executive career management and leadership coach with Chenofsky Singer & Associates. “When they searched candidates and a LinkedIn profile appeared, many have called their mutual connection to see what they thought of the candidate. This is a common practice.”

    Somewhat; these sites can give mixed messages about a job seeker
    Most hiring managers, recruiters, employers and professionals believe that these sites can be a good supplemental tool in researching candidates but shouldn’t solely be relied upon to make a decision. However, these professional profiles can tell a hiring manager a lot about a candidate in other ways. “I don’t think it is necessary that someone have dozens of recommendations, but if someone doesn’t have any, it could be a red flag,” says Megan Fox, career coach and résumé writer.Employers may jump to conclusions that the candidate doesn’t build good relationships within the workplace, or perhaps leave jobs on bad terms.”
    Recommendations aren’t the only part of your profile employers are looking at either. “My business partner and I hire contractors on a rolling basis, and while we may take a glance at who’s a ‘recommended’ candidate via LinkedIn, it’s not a big deciding factor for us,” says Joan Barrett, owner of The Content Factory, a company that specializes in online marketing, social media and web content. “However, we do look at profiles when hiring, especially when it is for our social-media department.”

    Barrett looks for the following things when viewing profiles:
    1. Clever, clean and error-free updates.
    2. A presence on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Quora.
    3. Consistent interaction.
    4. Updated profiles.
    “I suspect that we will start looking more at LinkedIn recommendations as time goes on,” Barrett continues “It’s a great alternative to calling a list of references and hoping that the person you’re speaking to is actually the candidate’s former boss and not just a former roommate from 2005. What’s also useful is checking out if we have any mutual friends and connections, because we can contact those individuals and ask their opinion of them, if appropriate. That’s beneficial no matter what position we’re hiring for.”

    No, these sites can misrepresent a candidate
    Some hiring managers and HR professionals don’t necessarily believe that a robust networking page is a good indicator of a job seeker’s capabilities. “I never use recommendations or endorsements from LinkedIn or other social-media sites,” says Cindy Smith, HR manager at Kyriba, a company that offers cloud-based, treasury management solutions. “The reason is because they are typically a reciprocal agreement: ‘I’ll write something nice about you if you write something nice about me.’ For HR professionals, these endorsements carry about as much weight when it comes to endorsing a person as a ‘Like’ on Facebook or a Twitter follower and are often little more than an online popularity contest. I view a personal recommendation from a close colleague or co-worker — who would also be willing to speak in depth about their strengths and weaknesses — as infinitely more credible than a brief social-media recommendation.”
    The bottom line? While a personal-networking profile and supplemental tools such as recommendations and endorsements can show the time and effort you’ve put into your career, they won’t replace cover letters, résumés and interviews anytime soon.

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