Friday, September 26, 2008

Interviewing: "Everybody" has family responsibility problems; don't bring them up!

Recently, career counselors have been writing or broadcasting columns about job interviewing techniques. This morning, the Career Management column in the Tech Republics blogs has an entry by Toni Bower, “Questions your interviewer doesn’t want to hear,” link here. And this morning (Sept. 26), on ABC’s “Good Morning America”, Tory Johnson gave similar tips (not available online yet).

The most important tip is to save questions that relate personal concerns until later in the interviewing process. Don’t ask about overtime or shift hours, or accommodations, or benefits, until you’re sure that you’ve sold yourself for the job.

Concerns about child care and family don’t get much of an ear, because “everybody has those” and has to deal with them. That tip even goes for concerns over eldercare, which is disturbing inasmuch as it is not always a “chosen” situation like having children is thought to be.

But the question about family responsibility could come up anyway if a person has been out of the workplace for some time because of it. The most common way this happens is, of course, the birth of a baby but eldercare is likely to surface as an issue that can cause long lapses in work history.

Better employers should be willing to discuss benefits, telecommuting, and family-friendly accommodations without the candidates having to bring them up. If the employer says nothing at all about them in an environment where they would seem to be expected, that could be a sign that it is not a good place to work.

The interviewing advice is complicated by the fact that many jobs in information technology are short-term contracts involving temporary relocation away from home where family issues could occur. This tendency has become much more pronounced in 2000, where the job market has become so variable with economic contractions and where employers demand such specific “job ready” skills. Obviously, given the current economic climate with the financial crisis, that may become even more true.

Another tip is to ask, “what’s a reasonable amount of time for me to expect to hear from you. Should I call you?”

AOL has an interesting pre-interview multiple choice quiz in an article by R. Roy about business etiquette, and the article says that businesses are giving quizzes like this. Know the purpose of BCC copies, and know when to shake hands. Business may require more sociability than many people, especially programmers, think. Here is the link. The questions came from the TemPositions Group.

One person got a job by ending an interview with, “When do I start”?

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