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If You Really Want This Job - Don`t Call Me Bro'

Updated on November 25, 2013

The years that I’ve spent working in call center management in utilities, e-commerce and, most recently, health insurance, have given me the opportunity, and on occasion, the misfortune, to interview hundreds of job applicants. What follows, without the burden of having to endure the many hours that I spent capturing this data, is advice that might make life easier for my interviewing partners still in the trenches and maybe, just maybe, help the attentive reader capture their next job by making their interview more memorable than regrettable. As I’ve explained to many candidates over the years, you’re not interviewing for a job, you’re competing for one against everyone else who will sit or has sat in the interview chair in which you’re squirming. If you want to make that competition easier for a stranger by self-eliminating, that’s your choice but I`m hard-pressed to understand the logic behind your decision.

Don’t Call Me Bro`. The Sin of Familiarity

I’m black. Recently, I interviewed a young man who shared that trait with me. There’s nothing unusual about that, America is full of black men. When I went to the lobby to meet my job candidate I held out my hand and said “Mr. Smith, thanks for coming in. I’m Lamar Jones, the call center manager.” He stood up, shook my hand and said “How you doing bro`?” Prior to that meeting, I’d never had a situation where a person eliminated themselves from consideration with just four words so, this was a first. Despite that, I still conducted the interview which gave Mr. Smith the opportunity to lean back casually in his chair and ask “So, how`s your day going bro`?” As a finale, in case I hadn’t his two previous missteps, he concluded our interview with “Take it easy bro`. I’ll be seeing you.” Oh really? This candidate was wrong on so many levels that I’ll only address the most prominent ones:

Lack of Professionalism – call center work, phone work, requires reps to be able to establish a relationship with callers using their voice, their tone, and their words. And that has to be done quickly. When taking calls, you never address a caller by his or her first name unless it’s by their request. I’d called him Mr. Smith and identified myself as Lamar Jones. Why would he think it okay to call me bro`? If I was sitting in a diner and he leaned over and said “Hey bro`, can you pass the ketchup?” I would’ve done so without a second thought. Here, not so much.

Disrespectful – I suspect that, had I been white, my greeting would have been different. I likely would have been Mr. Jones. To me that meant that he assumed being black gave him an advantage over a candidate who wasn’t. That’s beyond foolishness and all the way into ignorant. Anyone in management knows that their job security rests on hiring the best and most qualified candidates, period. With four words Mr. Smith created significant doubt about how he would interact with customers. Who goes out of their way to hire a risk? I can assure you, I don’t. The next day, I related the incident to an Italian-American friend of mine, also in management. I asked him what his reaction would have been to an Italian-American job candidate who called him paisan upon meeting him. His feelings mirrored my own. I interviewed a number of other black candidates for those open positions. None of the others called me bro`. Some were offered jobs, others weren`t.

Don’t Be Late – The Sin of Carelessness

On more occasions than should have been necessary, I’ve turned away candidates who arrived late for their interview. To me, it doesn’t matter if you`re a minute late or an hour late. I spent twenty years in the military so, as you can guess, I’m a bit of a stickler on some things. But even more than that, if you can’t make it to the interview on time, you`re telling me that you can’t or won`t come to work on time. If you’re unfamiliar with the location where your interview will be held, do a dry run. On the day of your interview, factor in traffic, weather conditions and all of the things you can’t control. Arrive early and wait patiently. Your interviewer will be pleased by that, even if he or she is running late because other interviews are running over. You can begin by having the interviewer apologizing to you, giving you the opportunity to nobly demur.

Don’t Be Underdressed – The Sin of Exposure

Ladies, I’m a man. I see your cleavage, or the upper reaches of your thighs. I’m also a manager. If you don’t know how to dress appropriately for the interview, you don’t know how to dress professionally for work. Thanks for the show. Good luck with your job search. In my experience, the most common transgression in this category is women dressing like they’re leaving for a hot date immediately afterward. Unfortunately, it’s not the only one. If you’re interviewing for a job in an office or a call center, jeans and a tank top isn’t the way to go, that means you too guys. Dress for success is a cliché because it`s true.

Don’t Be Indecisive – The Sin of the Blank Stare

There are few if any interview questions to which the appropriate reaction is a blank stare. It certainly should never be your reaction to the question, ”So, why should we hire you for this job?” If you can’t think of a single reason why you should be hired, imagine how hard it is for the interviewer. And, in a related vein…

Don’t Be Too Casual – The Sin of Flippancy

When I ask why I should hire you, don’t say “Because I’m fantastic” and wink. You won’t be able to tell because I maintain a stoic poker face but, you’ve really just annoyed me. Your family and friends may find hat charming, I don't. This harkens back to the bro` gaffe. You don’t know me, I don’t know you. Let’s keep it professional, shall we. Now, if you want to list some valid reasons why you’re the best candidate for the job and then conclude with “Because I’m fantastic” and then offer a self-deprecating smile, minus the wink, I might be okay with that. I might even smile back.

Don’t Be An Exaggerating, Embellishing Blowhard – Some Sins of The Bad Resume

You have five years of work history and a three page resume. Really? Every detail of every job is not worthy of inclusion. Trim it down to the essential details. When I have a stack of two hundred resumes to review, in addition to the normal responsibilities of my job, I’m looking for opportunities to trim the fat and get to the meat. Excessive length is one thing that helps me trim.

A second sin is listing 'attention to detail' as one of your strengths in a resume replete with spelling and grammatical errors.

A third sin is embellishment. If you were a shift-leader at a fast food restaurant, don’t puff it up by pretending that you were responsible for hiring and firing, advertising and the accounting department. You weren’t, and we both know that.

A fourth sin is inflation, in a production sense. I interviewed a young lady who told me that she took 100 calls an hour in her previous call center job. When I asked the duration of the average call, she said about three minutes. You do the math.

The final sin for today is not personalizing your resume to match the position for which your applying, not highlighting how your skills and experience dovetail with the responsibilities of the position, and not removing the career objective blurb that says you’re looking for a fulfilling career in financial services when you’re applying for a job in health insurance.

There’s much more that I could add but, brevity rules. I hope that this advice will be considered helpful. It’s true that good help is hard to find and good help is exactly what every hiring company needs. If you want to at least be a strong candidate for the job for which you’re applying, use common sense to guide your approach, and don’t worry about what Will Rogers said about common sense, that was just his opinion.

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