School’s Out: 5 Tips for Millennials at Work*

graduationMuch has been said about the different generational cohorts in today’s workforce. Perhaps the most talked-about group is the Millennials. Millennials, are sometimes referred to as “GenY” who were born between 1980 and 1995. They are the first “digitally native” generation. Currently, it is estimated that approximately 36% of the workforce is Millennial, and by 2020, that percentage will be about 46%, almost half of the workforce. It has been said that Millennials seek recognition, crave feedback, and are job mobile. Millennials have also been exposed to life opportunities that include travel, and social justice missions here and abroad. These were not typical for their GenX or Baby Boomer parents. While Millennials have been informed by these experiences, they are still expected to work together with older generational groups.

In my advising of early-career professionals, I have been able to collect feedback from employers and provide guidance. It is not about one generational group being “right”, but about individuals being able to work together effectively in their organizations. Many Millennials today are making the transition from college into the workplace, but many are already part of Corporate America. Regardless, the following are five tips for Millennials as a means to enhance workplace success.

  1. Dress and Defying Stereotypes: One of the first things we notice about others is appearance. Many books have been written about dressing for success. One of the knocks on Millennials is that their dress is overly casual. So, it is important for Millennials to dress in a way that is normative with other co-workers and the organization. This is not only the case for a job interview, but on the job as well. Many companies have become business casual with guidelines of how that differs from just casual. You can still dress stylish and even trendy, as long as it’s not sloppy, over-the-top, or otherwise distracting.
  2. Avoiding Digital Distractions: Most people today will bring one or more digital devices to work. It could be a smartphone, tablet, watch, or laptop. These devices can be used for both work and personal. It is never good form for supervisors and co-workers to develop a stigma of someone “always on his” phone texting or checking into Facebook. It is therefore wise to develop habits of disconnecting during core work hours and using lunch or other scheduled breaks to check in. Developing such a routine will serve to send a message to others of your unavailability patterns.
  3. History Lesson: Another criticism of Millennials, unfounded or not, relates to their attitude towards management. Regardless of generation, is important to think of yourself as part of the chain of history. Realize that older employees and managers have experienced life and have successfully managed situations. One day, you too may be the older generation and have wisdom to give over. In addition, older generations at work had to get by with less (technology) and had to develop work styles without what is now available. So, the wisdom (including those who impart it) together with perhaps their “old school” approach to work should be respected.
  4. Initiative: In every job, there will be downtime. This might especially be the case for Millennials during internships. Keep in mind that there are ways of filling those gaps with reaching out and asking what else needs to be done. This could also be done by intuiting needs without having to ask how to be helpful. There might also be opportunities to do some independent business research or taking job relevant online tutorials.
  5. Stay in Touch: It is commonplace for Millennials to cycle in and out of jobs more frequently than their predecessors. It goes without saying that it is never wise to burn bridges when leaving a job. But, it is also recommended that when moving on that once gives appropriate notice, leaves the work area clean, and assists with transitioning a replacement. After leaving, make sure to keep up with the organization and co-workers in a positive manner. One never knows when they will once again be relevant to you.

*Note: An earlier version of this article appeared in the January 2017 issue of JMore Magazine,

Posted in Generational Cohorts, Internships, Millennials, Work Styles | Tagged | Leave a comment

5 Things You Should Know About the Job Search in 2012

Applying for a job has never been so easy.  But, is that the endgame?  Searching for a job in 2012 is different than it was 20 years ago.  It is even different than the way it was 5 years ago.  In counseling job seekers, I have tried to convey various messages relevant to reaching desired employment objectives.

With digital technology and connectivity, it is easier than ever to “technically” apply for a job.  In fact, it is even possible to upload a resume and set up an account to automatically apply to certain jobs that are posted.  Active and passive job seekers may learn about jobs by searching themselves or by receiving information shared by members of their professional and social networks.  An email from a friend might include a link to an employer site or job board.  It might also include an email address.  So, attaching a resume and maybe even a cover letter is not that complicated.  But, as we all know, just clicking a ‘Send’ or ‘Apply’ button might be necessary.  But, it is insufficient.

In that vein, here are 5 points to keep in mind:

(1) See the resume or application  or resume through the eyes of busy Recruiters and Hiring Managers

Let’s turn the tables and look at things from the perspective of the Recruiter or Hiring Manager.  Recruiters, whether they are internal or third-party, are often juggling various search projects at once.  Today, it might be for a Legal Secretary, tomorrow an IT Support Tech, and the next day a Maintenance Supervisor.  For each, they have been charged by the Hiring Manager to screen and provide only those resumes that fit the criteria which have been set and converted to a checklist of sorts.  It is quite possible that hundreds of resumes or applications will come in for a given role.  In a competitive job market, having “potential” or (self-defined and determined) “intelligence” will not get past the initial gatekeeper without meeting pretty much ALL of the criteria on the checklist.

(2) Read and reread the job posting, they really mean it

Job postings come in many different flavors.  But, for the most part each will have its educational requirements, experience requirements, and duties performed.  That information has been thought out and communicated by the Hiring Managers.  In Recruiter jargon, these might include “must-haves” or “deal-breakers” and might even be so labeled.   Requirements should be taken seriously and quite literally, even though it is possible that someone could do the job without meeting all of the stated qualifications.  For example, a B.S. degree in Accounting means having earned a B.S. degree in Accounting from an accredited and recognized institution.  Having an Associate’s degree in Accounting or a Bachelor’s on another discipline with some Accounting coursework will not cut it—even if the individual is smart and a nice guy!  Or, if a job calls for 5-7 years of Project Management experience testing software, it means just that.  So, if someone has used MS Office for that amount or time or someone who took a few computer courses back in 1998, it’s just not going to happen!  In most cases, out of the pile of resumes, the Hiring Manager will indeed have resumes with the criteria that he/she has identified.  As such, these requirements are logical screening factors to advance in the selection process.  Job seekers need to be selective in what they apply for.**

(3) Don’t be sloppy or unfocused

Generic and certainly sloppy materials are not viewed favorably by Recruiters.  By generic, this might mean a resume which does not speak to the specific position in question.  What might also happen is if the person sends a standard boilerplate cover letter (either “To whom it may concern” or even the one specifically addressed and it’s still the same letter).  This also applies to electronic communication.  How many people simply recycle an email to one company and send it to another without realizing that the name on the cover letter, job title, or previous email thread is still embedded in the email or attachments?  Definitely not good form!

(4) Read beyond the first 140 characters, on a mobile device or elsewhere

When searching for job opportunities or evaluating them, it is critical to look at the ENTIRE posting.  Many people limit their view to job title, location, and salary, and are drawn to apply for the job by on those bases.  However, they only do a cursory review of the requirements and duties to be performed.  If they do read further down, many people conclude that they can “learn” or be trained to do that.  They ignore the fact that there are other applicants who may have already done that job for another company with tangible accomplishments.  Specialized credentials such as certifications, citizenship, and Security Clearance might also be stipulated.  The lesson here is for job applicants to read carefully in making the determination of whether they are objectively qualified.

(5) Don’t become the “serial job applicant” around the office

Lastly, people should beware of becoming a “serial job applicant”.  A serial job applicant is someone who applies directly to an organization or through a third-party recruiter for many jobs.  These might range from HR Assistant to Electrical Engineer to Staff Accountant.  After a while, this person will be known around the office as “the guy who applies for everything”.  Then, when it comes to the job for which he/she is really qualified, the person will not be taken seriously.

So, while it is simple to apply to many jobs, the better approach is a qualitative one of focusing on fewer jobs and limiting to those for which one is qualified.  It has been said that looking for a job is, in a sense, a full-time job.  This is because of the required extra effort and diligence required when carefully vetting prospects and applying.  But the return on investment will invariably be higher.


**Caveat: It is possible that in some recruitment environments, an individual who falls short for a given position might still have a skill set of interest to the organization.  In the future, he/she might be remembered and considered for other vacancies which arise.)

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The Internet, Social Media, and Digital Image

Last week, I attended two different forums, which got me thinking about “digital  imaging”.  By this, I am not referring to scanning and digitizing content, but the image and reputation which we convey electronically.

Forum #1 was a presentation on social media and how nonprofits can utilize this channel in order to enhance their organizations.  The session was facilitated by a true expert and was informative to me in a variety of ways.  The use of tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs, among others are definitely the way that organizations connect with one another and with individuals.  It is the way to get the message out.

Forum #2 was about the current state of technology, specifically the Internet.  The target audience here was parents of school age children* and beyond.  Going into that presentation, I would have estimated that I was probably more digitally connected than most in the room.  But, when I left, there was definitely food-for-thought as a parent and as a professional.  Two take-home messages that were not novel, merely reinforced were that: data are not as secure as we would hope; and that the Internet does not forget.

In an effort to reconcile the lessons learned from those forums, I have come up with the following post.  My perspective is influenced by a variety of conjoined hats:  a Human Resource professional/recruiter/career counselor; a morally upstanding adult member of society (at least I try to be); a Psychologist; and a parent.  The first lesson is that we have to somehow be digitally and socially connected.  That is the way of the world and will continue to be the manner through which people and organizations relevant to us communicate their messages.  There are tremendous opportunities out there to utilize technology in a productive way.  But, at the same time, we must be very cautious in terms of how we go about this, as the space is largely unregulated.

Social Media and One’s Image: The Personal-Professional Overlap

There have been many articles written recently about how one’s social media persona applies to the workforce.  One such example is on written by Lisa Quast entitled “How Your Social Media Profile Can Make or Break Your Next Job Opportunity”.  Pertaining to Facebook, she writes: “Always follow the old saying about not posting anything that would make you embarrassed if it were published on the front page of a newspaper.  Don’t use Facebook as a forum to vent on everything you hate about life, your job, someone else, or a company – talk to a friend in person if you feel the need to vent. Some people recommend creating separate personal profiles – one for business and one for family and close friends only – but this is not recommended because it can be next to impossible to manage.”

What is included in this electronic personality? It could be activities performed all of the time including “status updates” on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Gmail/Gchat.  Photos uploaded to Facebook are in this category as well.  (It should be noted that Facebook uses sophisticated facial recognition protocols in their “tagging” protocols to link people and events.  That being said, pictures can be digitally “passed around” quite easily and without anyone’s explicit approval).   It also could be a thread of text messages or emails which has been archived.

We might see some of the content that we post as silly, frivolous, funny, or innocuous.  But, a comment or image might be construed in either a negative or less than professional light to supervisors, co-workers, or (potential) recruiters.  Since the divide between things personal and work-related have blurred, the impact of something online will play a role in how others who will be rendering employment decisions about will be making assumptions about you.  With all of the legal safeguards in place that might potentially regulate illegal employment decisions, in a time of ubiquitous unregulated information access, all bets are off.  The old adage is that “you are what you eat.”.  I would suggest amending this for 2012 to “you are what you Tweet….or text….or post….or blog”.

Comprehensive background investigations are commonplace for jobs which require a Security Clearance.  Those types of investigations are conducted in an effort to assess the person’s character and to identify potential points of vulnerability to blackmail and espionage.  Agencies are looking for specific activities such as drug and alcohol abuse and associations with certain individuals which might pose a threat to the mission of the organization or national security.  Therefore, a spontaneous comment or photograph at a party from 15 years ago that was archived could raise a red flag or two in this regard.

The Genie Leaves the Bottle Forever

Once the information is “out there”, the proverbial genie is out of the bottle.  Forever.  Consequently, it can be accessed by virtually anyone from that point onward.  It might happen tomorrow, next week, or in 15 years. Whenever that is, you will not have the opportunity to clarify, apologize, or regret.  There will likely not be a chance to plead the “I was joking”, “I was immature”, or “I got drunk” defenses.  Unlike yesteryear when a photograph or publication of which one is not exactly proud could be reliably hidden or destroyed, the data we keyboard in today will be around forever.  Stand-alone PC’s of the past could be erased or purged.  But today, entries to Facebook, Twitter, or blogs become property of those companies.  The companies let you set up accounts for free, in exchange for basically owning your data.  Once that happens, these data might eventually be transferred to another party without your knowledge.  This is a stipulation in the rarely reviewed boiler plate language that comes up on the screen when you open an account, before you click “I accept”.  IT experts have confirmed that deleted content or even a shut-down/deleted Facebook account might still be quite publically available in cyberspace afterwards.  I just did a cursory Google search on myself.  I was amazed to see that an entry of mine on a now-defunct scholarly Listserv from about 15 years ago was still alive and well!

The Social Scientist in me points to a rapid information cycle as one root cause.  This is often manifested by shorter communications with fewer characters on devices which are designed for speed.  A “text” is a primary example.  Speed is paramount, and precision is clearly not the focus.  Furthermore, there is a lowered sense of responsibility.  Normal interpersonal and social inhibitions that would exist in face-to-face or other real-time communications fall away.  As such, people are not as much on their guard and take chances, without paying attention to potential consequences.  There is no comprehensive retrospective review in some database of what has been communicated.  In Social Psychological terms, dynamics of “diffusion of responsibility” and “deindividuation” are operational. More recently, Dr. John Suler of Rider University discusses the “online disinhibition effect**”.  This refers to the loosening or abandonment of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face real time interactions.  These principles can easily be applied to social media, email, texting, and blogs.  (There have been applications of this construct used to explain cyberbullying as well.)

Additional Words of Digital Caution and Responsibility

Identify theft is rampant today.  Accounts are hacked regularly.  Laptops with sensitive data carried by employees can be lost or stolen.  Just this week, millions of LinkedIn passwords (including mine) were compromised and users were urged to change their passwords immediately.  This was not the first time and certainly won’t be the last.

Another salient word of caution applies to when PC’s and accounts are left open or otherwise unsecured.  It is entirely possible that someone else can use your PC and use your account both at home and at home.  While it is often more convenient to leave an account open to get in and out of it more easily, there is the potential to hijack your account where someone unwittingly (or intentionally) is you.  I am aware of one such case in which a sibling did not take kindly to a job rejection email.  He expressed his displeasure in graphic terms to the employer, on behalf of his brother who did not lock down his personal email.  This advice is relevant to email, social media, and sensitive financial information.  (Under most circumstances, it is immoral to read anyone else’s email and personal correspondence without consent in a scenario of unsecured access. It goes without saying that using someone else’s email and posing as that party in sending out correspondence to others also falls into this same category of objectionable behavior.)

In a more general sense, one must be careful about all of the online activities in which he/she engages at work.  Employers have expectations that all of their employees will perform their job responsibilities during the compensated work day.  Technically and legally, the PC that one uses at work is the property of the employer as is the time during the work day.  While most employers are reasonable and might allow some reasonable personal activity while “off the clock” (e.g., during the lunch hour), they would not look positively at managing personal email, paying bills, shopping or other activities throughout the day.  This applies not only to one’s work email, but personal accounts accessed over the Internet as well.  Like work activities, these too are stored on the company server.

All of these same issues really apply to mobile devices like smart phones and tablets as well.  Here too there is an illusion that one’s actions done quickly and remotely are fleeting.  But, these devices are simply a different access point of inputting content into the same universe of information as discussed above.  Caution is encouraged here as well.


The challenge of living and working in the modern world is to use the Internet and social media in a productive and positive way, while at the same time being smart and cautious.  Our online persona and digital image is now inextricably connected to our “real” reputation– with all of its privileges, responsibilities, and accountabilities.  This applies to us as individuals and also carries over to the organizations which we represent.


*The scope of this essay does not include a discussion about young children using the Internet, Social Media or video games.  Parents should be fully aware of the existence of inappropriate content and predators out there in society who seek to connect with them.  Filters and monitors are helpful resources in this regard.  But, appropriate and informed parenting skills and common sense are equally desirable.

**Suler, J. (2004). The online disinhibition effect.  CyberPsycholology and Behavior, 7(3), 321-326.

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Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Job

While finding and securing a job is challenging enough.  Once you find a job, here are 10 tips to keep in mind to help keep your job.

Tip #1 – Know what is expected of you.
Almost every job changes or regularly evolves.  The job that you started with a few years ago has probably changed. It’s very easy to fall back into the idea that the job you started with, is the job that you currently have.  As a step to improve your position and your job, it is highly suggested that you periodically talk to your boss or other superiors to find out what they really expect of you now and what they really want to see you accomplish in the future.

Tip #2 – Don’t gossip on the job.
It’s always been a good idea not to gossip in person or digitally. First of all, if others hear you speaking that way, you give him the impression that you have very little in the way of values.  If he/she sees you sitting around gossiping about other people, it will convey a certain attitude about you not to mention that you seem to have time on your hands.  It is also possible that the one you are criticizing or complaining about could wind up being your next new boss.  It goes without saying that in today’s age, one never wants to put any such discussion into email.  This creates a paper trail which is stored on the company’s server and can be forwarded to others with your identify ascribed to it.  So, think carefully before putting anything into email.  While you should avoid gossip, you should not be totally oblivious to office politics.  You need to be aware of office politics and you should not spend your work life living under a rock.  Be privy to changes in management, policy, and developments in that particular business sector.

Tip #3 – Have a positive attitude.
You don’t want to give people with whom or for whom you work, the impression that the only reason that you are there at the job is to collect your paycheck.  You don’t want to be viewed as an unmotivated person with a negative work ethic.  It is quite possible that when staff reductions are to be made, management may first look at those with a negative attitude, especially if the sentiment is polluting the work atmosphere.  Don’t send the message to the effect that since you don’t like to be there anyway, you will accept a layoff.

Tip #4 – Update your skill set.
You can always make time to research recent developments in your field, read relevant journals and online material, or take a training class, in order to improve your skill set.  Some companies offer access to training classes for those who ask as well as tuition reimbursement for courses (and degrees) which are relevant to the job. Keep current with technology in general and specifically that which relates to your field.  Don’t create an image that you are “old school”.  The more value you are to your employer, the more likely you are to keep your job.  Keeping current demonstrates a level of enthusiasm and desire to do well in your job.  Obviously, if you do well, so does your organization.

Tip #5 – If possible, take on more work or responsibility.
It also reflects well on you if you take on additional responsibility or at least offer to do so.  This might mean taking work home, staying after hours.  Doing this can help convey the impression that you are indispensable.  If you send a message things can’t get done without you, you’re less likely to be subject to a staff reduction.  The opposite of this is of course is to “punch the clock”, arriving no earlier than required and not staying a minute after that.

Tip #6 – Network.
There is the saying, it’s not what you know, but who you know.  This is relevant as your next boss may end up being a coworker, a friend of yours, or even a competitor.  Whenever possible, it is key that you build as many positive relationships with others.  In the world of employment, some job openings will not be advertised publically.  So, knowing many different types of people lots of people will improve your chances of finding that next job.  Joining a relevant professional organization in your field and attending their scheduled events is a great way to stay current with new developments, as well as people and job opportunities.

Tip #7 – Avoid all things personal at work.
Limit personal phone calls, online surfing/shopping, social media, and e-mails at work during work hours.  Your use of these channels can and will be tracked.  Using company tools and time for personal benefit will not sit well with your supervisor and organization.  Your supervisor or coworkers should not be hearing you are making personal calls/texts, sending personal emails, surfing the Internet, or doing online shopping. This will not reflect very well on you as an employee.  It goes without saying that you should not be running any side businesses or ventures on work time or on your office PC.

Tip #8 – Remain active.
Take notes when you are in a meeting or on the phone.  Keep a record of what you do.  Occasionally share your notes with your boss. Face time is very important.  Obviously, if your boss only sees you around the water cooler, that is not a very good sign; your boss should also see you working.  The boss should see you coming in early and/or staying late. It is very helpful to document what you have accomplished.  It is helpful to be able to relate to your boss (either during performance reviews or at other time) what you did and accomplished on a given date.

Tip #9 – Relationships are critical.
Many people who work in the professional world prefer to maintain a distance on a personal level.  Consequently, you may not think that is important to recognize those with whom we work.  You should be respectful and pleasant to others in the workplace.  While it may sound trivial, you should be aware of special events like birthdays, engagements, or “Secretaries Day” which others celebrate and recognize them appropriately and consistently.  It is important for you to find a balance between focusing on your job and developing professionally appropriate closeness as it pertains to your specific situation.  These relationships may ultimately be the difference between keeping a job and losing it.

Tip #10 – Follow the rules and be a team player so that you don’t give your boss an excuse to let you go.
At minimum, you should follow the basic rules and protocols of the organization.  Coming in late and/or leaving early does not look good.  Missing deadlines or complaining does not cast you in a desirable light.  Planning in advance for predictable and offering the organization something in return comes across more positively than perpetual last-minute requests.

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Summer is Coming: Top 5 Job Search and Networking Mistakes of Young (and not-so-young) People

Summer is Coming: Top 5 Job Search and Networking Mistakes of Young (and not-so-young) People

It is around this time of the year that many people are looking towards the summer for employment opportunities.  As such, people reach out to me for assistance and advice.  Some are graduating college (or high school).  Some are merely finishing up a semester or school year.  Others may have recently relocated or otherwise are seeking an opportunity.

Based on some observations and personal experience, I would like to point out my Top 5 blunders that relate to this.  The context is either seeking a specific posted role, getting the foot into the door of an organization for any role, or merely networking for ideas.

  1. The “Approach”- For some, it is an email; for others, it is a phone call.  Sending an email without a subject line or without an appropriate greeting is not appropriate.  An initial contact is not akin to texting a friend whom you have known for 10 years.  Don’t start the email with ‘Hi’ and then go on.  While it need not be a formal letter, it should begin with an appropriate greeting like “Mr. Smith:….Good morning.  My name is John Doe and I am currently a student…..”  If by phone, either after the person answers or in leaving a voice-mail, always introduce yourself by name.  Speak slowly and clearly.  If you reach the person directly, ask if it is a good time to talk for a few minutes before going on.  In any of these channels, try to be succinct, as no one wants to hear your life story or that you were in the school choir.  That is TMI.  Think about preparing 1-2 sentences about why you would be a strong candidate for this job.  Employers are interested in addressing their needs not the biographies of candidates.  Also, always be polite and gracious, regardless of whether the person can assist directly at that time.  Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
  2. Resume– Always have a resume that is good-to-go to include in your email or promptly forward after a phone call.  A turn-off is a resume with spelling errors and spacing issues.  It is always a good idea to have some sort of objective at the top as to what you are looking for.  The resume should not be over-the-top for where you are at in life, whether educationally or professionally.  Make sure to list your technical skills with software, systems, and professionally relevant social media.  Just saying non-descript like “proficient in Microsoft Office” might be construed as “I have a 5th grade literacy level.”
  3. Timing– For summer jobs and internships, don’t wait until the last minute.  The “summer” can begin as early as sometime in May.  Furthermore, in many fields, decisions and commitments are often made in January or February.  Regardless of whether that is the case or not, (college) students are already working their summer jobs by the end of May and they are the “competition”.  Once again, this applies equally to paying jobs, as well as paid or unpaid internships.
  4. Keep Mom and Dad out of it– Always be your own advocate.  Although parents want what is best for their children, “helicoptering” is often not in a child’s best interest.  If the child is old enough to work, he/she is old enough to make the first contact accordingly.  Where parents will be helpful is with #2 above, in proofreading the resume for errors and format.  If parents are somehow involved in any initial networking and referral (and that’s a good thing) they should step back after that and let the child interact directly.
  5. Specificity– In cases where you are not applying to a specific job, it is always best to be fairly specific with what type of opportunity you are looking for.  Flexibility is fine and a desirable trait.  But, don’t just say, “I’ll do anything”.  That gives the employer little to go on in determining where you might fit in.  Obviously, what you offer to do needs to be relevant to the organization’s needs and within your capability.
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Survey of Work Styles

Based on some observations, I have been wondering about a variety of employment-related behaviors, personality characteristics, and styles.  I came up with some questions which I might eventually develop into a survey that I would distribute.  Below are some of the questions which I am considering for inclusion.  Please feel free to respond to this survey and send me the responses by email to  Thank you.

Survey of Work Styles

Please feel free to copy this into a Word document and indicate your responses and re-save before returning.  Of course, any comments about this survey could be made within the environment of this blog.  Thank you.  EDL

General Career/Employer Relationships

How would you define the concept of “professionalism”?

Please describe what you think of as a “career” and as a “job”, and what how you see that interface over the course of your lifetime. 

What is the longest period of time which you can envision yourself being in any single job?

Do you feel that employers in employees and would be committed to them as long as you are performing well and are interested in staying with the organization?

What would be your ideal balance between work and “life”?

Customer Service

How important do you feel that punctuality in-office (arriving on-time and leaving on-time) is for the work day?

Is punctuality and attendance as critical today, given that work and correspondence can often be addressed remotely?

If you are working in a retail environment (walk-in customers) and customers are waiting for service, what would be the maximum amount of time that any customer should have to wait to be served?

If you are working in a professional service environment (non-retail) where communication is primarily by phone or email, what would be the maximum amount of time that any client should have to wait to be addressed?

Communication and Correspondence

What do you think to be a reasonable amount of time to respond to work-related:

  • Emails
  • Texts
  • Land-line Voice Mails or written messages taken by other staff
  • Cell Phone Voice Maills

Please indicate whether you would you check or respond to the above work-related communications outside of work hours (i.e., on evenings, weekends, or on a day off).

Do you feel that it is reasonable or appropriate for an employer to expect that you are accessible by email or cell phone, outside of conventional business hours/while on leave?

Would you address work-related communication on your personal smartphone during times outside of your official work hours?

In your professional-related emails, what are the format/guidelines that you would use for an email you initiate? (e.g., “Subject” line, greeting, level of formality, salutation/closing)

In your professional-related emails, what are the format/guidelines that you would use for an email to which you are replying? (e.g., “Subject” line, greeting, level of formality, salutation/closing)

Please indicate how you approach style, spelling, typos, grammar, and proofreading in your communication that is: (1) [to be] printed; and that is (2) digitally transmitted (emails, texts) .

Is it acceptable for individuals to check or otherwise use a smart phone during a staff meeting or business presentation?

Have you ever checked or otherwise use your smart phone during a staff meeting or business presentation?

Dress and Appearance

Please note that this section is somewhat complex and detailed.

Please describe what you consider to be an appropriate “dress code” in a professional setting (a traditional office environment).  It would be greatly helpful if you could specifically include in your responses:

  • Using the chart below and filling it in using the elements above, please indicate three levels of what you would consider to be “ideal”, “minimally acceptable”, and “unacceptable” in the workplace.  Please come up with separate norms for male and female employees, as appropriate.

In your descriptions, please address:

    • (Visible) Body art and jewelry
    • Hair- Styles, colors. lengths
    • Cosmetics, nail polish, grooming
    • (Women’s) tops/necklines, hemlines
    • Footwear/Hosiery
    • Suit/Sportjacket, pants
    • Tie, button-down shirt/blouse



Minimally acceptable    

How would the above dress code compare with acceptable student attire worn to classes on a college campus?

Information About Yourself

Please provide us with some basic information about yourself.  Once again, all responses will remain anonymous.

Age: ____                           Years of Work Experience: _____            Please describe:

Gender: __ Male              __ Female

Level of Education: 

__ H.S. Diploma

__ Some College

__ College Graduate

__ Some Graduate School

__ Graduate Degree

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The Importance of a Cover Letter

Cover letters are an important part of introducing oneself to an organization.  Most often, they are submitted together with a resume in expressing interest in a particular job.  While resumes should be somewhat customized to demonstrate one’s qualifications for a given position, it is the cover letter where quite a bit of customization to the job can occur.  The following are some guidelines that I have shared with job seeking clients as they related to writing an effective cover letter.  This article presumes that the cover letter and resume are being presented to a potential employer for a specific job that has been posted or otherwise distributed as opposed to a generic cover letter expressing an interest in some position with the organization.

First, please keep in mind that the first person who reviews a cover letter and resume might not be the hiring manager.  It might be a Recruiter, someone else in HR, a clerical person, or a headhunter outside of the organization.  Therefore, he/she might be dealing with many pieces of solicited and unsolicited correspondence from job seekers, only one of which would be relevant to the job being sought.  Therefore, it is important that you specify the exact job context in which you are interested so that you can be considered for what you are intending.

Second, it is possible that the cover letter might somehow be separated from the resume after being moved along the organizational chain.  This reinforces the importance of a good resume that can stand alone, and even the best written cover letter might be irrelevant.

In general, cover letters should not exceed one page.  While it is preferable to have the cover letter as a separate attachment, it is acceptable to include the text in the body of the email itself.

The tone of the cover letter should be businesslike.  It should not be flowery or over-the-top.  Even if you exceed the basic job requirements (see below), the tone should balance taking credit for past accomplishments with a dose of humility.  Don’t make comments that you are “perfect” for the job or even “overqualified”, as no one wants to hear such subjective self-promotion.

In terms of structure, a cover letter should have a “letterhead” with a name, home address, and contact information such as phone number and email.  (Those contact points should be monitored on a regular basis.).  Then, there should be the date, followed by the name and address of the recipient.

Paragraph 1: Should identify the job title, any applicable codes, where you learned about it, and any names of individuals known to the organization who may have referred you to it.

Paragraphs 2-3: Read the job description carefully.  First determine if you qualify, paying attention to the “must-haves”.  (If you do not qualify, you might not want to apply.)  Try to extract the 3-5 most important educational requirements, experience requirements, or significant job duties.  Then, address the fact that you possess each element and point out where on your resume that would be evident.  Don’t stop at just indicating that you possess it.  Describe how you meet or exceed that qualification, perhaps using numbers and metrics that support this.  Please mention any tools or systems that you may have utilized in that regard.

A variation of this theme is to create a table.  The first column would have the key elements from the job description.  The second column would address how you meet (or exceed) the job requirements.  This would make it clear to the reader how your background connects with each component.

Paragraph 4 (if appropriate): The next paragraph might be a chance to expand on your fit for the position and organization.  That is, organizations are not just seeking people who can do the technical functions, but also those who will fit into the culture and mission of the organization.  The organization might have a culture that you admire or make contributions to the community which are noteworthy.  This is optional and should be genuine, and not over-the-top.

Closing: Thank the person for considering your candidacy and offer to be available to answer any questions.  This is followed by “Sincerely” and your name.

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