It’s short answer Sunday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…
1. When to start job searching
I am planning on moving in about three months to a town about 3hrs from where I live now. Is it a good idea to apply for jobs now or should I wait until it gets closer to my move date?
Start now. Job searches can take a long time.
2. I don’t want to use my last name professionally
I loathe my legal last name. I go by my first name and middle name. Only people who know me very well know my formal last name. It’s always misspelled, always mispronounced, and I generally do not identity with it because the only thing connecting me and my father’s family is our last name. They are apples and I am a steamboat. Totally different. However, I am a single 20-something (and want to stay that way for a while) with no prospects of taking a husband’s name (also a women’s studies minor and probably wouldn’t unless it’s an awesome last name). Furthermore, legally changing my name would mean I no longer have a middle name, and due to our patriarchal society, monumentally hurt my wonderful dad’s feelings.
What should I do with job applications? Name on a resume? Cover letter? My online identity is my first and middle name so if they google me, the only stuff found is from like the 7th grade (not kidding). Then if I’m hired, my email address and company business cards would be firstname.lastname, a name I don’t even use. My personal business cards, email, etc. for freelance and personal use are firstname.middlename and people get confused SO much. Should I just woman-up, own my identity, and legally change my name, not have a middle name, and risk being somewhat disowned (then maybe changing it again when I get married. Ugh)? Or just leave my legal last name off job applications and resumes?
Honestly, I’d just change it legally if you’re sure this is how want to be known. Or accept that you’re going to need to use your last name professionally. Otherwise, you’re going to cause all kinds of confusion and probably come across as a little flaky to employers who will see not using your last name as a bit too Madonna-esque.
3. Attaching a letter of recommendation with a job application
I recently saw a job posting that requested that applicants submit a resume, cover letter, and two letters of recommendation. The listing provided a link to apply through an online application form. The form, however, only includes the option to upload and submit one resume and one cover letter. What’s the best way to proceed? Should I submit the application minus the letters of recommendation? Should I email the HR department, let them know I noticed the materials request, and attach the recommendations? I had a previous supervisor write a customized (and very enthusiastic) letter, so I’d been excited by the prospect of including it with my application.
Submit the application through their online system, and then follow up with the email to HR with the recommendations. For what it’s worth, though, employers shouldn’t be asking for letters of recommendation up-front — most candidates would need to go have them specially written, which is a really inconsiderate use of their and their recommenders’ time, since the vast majority of those candidates won’t get contacted for an interview. (Plus, I’m no fan of letters of recommendation at any stage, but that’s a different issue.)
4. Should I learn French or German?
Currently, I am living in India and working as a Linux System Administrator, providing support to North American and Europe/Middle East/Africa region clients. I have decided to learn one foreign language, either French or German, to increase my chances of being selected in top-notch overseas companies and helping me to grow professionally. Which one should I go with, or is there any better option that you can suggest?
This is outside my expertise, but maybe readers will have suggestions for you.
5. My phone interviewer called at the wrong time
I am so upset. I had an appointment for a phone interview with a companythat I have been trying to land a job at for a long time. They sent me an email with the appointment time, which was 1:00pm MST. They specifically stated that it will be MST. I got ready, took a shower to make myself feel like I was going to the company to interview, I had my resume in front of me, and I had my interview questions ready for them. But they called at 12:00 pm MST….1 hour before my interview time. I didn’t answer the call because it was an out of state area code and didn’t want to bother with a wrong number or sales call. After I waited for an hour for their call, I checked my voice mail and that out of state phone number had been my interview! I tried to call them, but got voicemail. I left a message and I emailed them to let them know I was available. No call back. It was not my fault, and I can’t reach anyone there. They called me at the wrong time.
Will I ever hear from them again? Now I have to wait painfully all weekend to see if my dream job just went out the door because they made a mistake. What should I do?
All you can do is follow up with them, explain what happened, and ask to reschedule. They certainly should reschedule since the mistake was on their side — although that doesn’t mean that they will, of course. This kind of thing, along with companies setting up phone interviews and then not calling at all, is unfortunately not unusual. (If it helps, they are not your dream job if they are rude enough to refuse to reschedule.)
6. Quitting a job after only one month
I have just started at a new job and the position turned out to not be close to what I had expected. I don’t think that the company intentionally misrepresented the position, but was more aspirational in terms of what they wanted in the future versus what the actual on-the-ground needs are. I have a strong marketing project management background and this position turns out to be much more of a technical role. They do not have a clear onboarding plan and I’ve been fairly neglected for my first few weeks (despite multiple attempts to find projects from my manager as well as other peers.) After my first week, I approached my manager and told him that I was concerned about the fit, which he brushed off by telling me that he still thought that it was a great hire.
How can I gracefully leave after only being at a company for one month? What can I do to minimize the amount of bridges that will inevitably be burnt with both this new company and my recruiter? Everyone has been great to me and this is most definitely not any type of personality issues. I met up with a former colleague who has recently moved into a leadership position at another company. She presented me with the potential for a role at her company that seems much more aligned with my skill set and interests.
All you can do is be straightforward. You’ve already alerted your manager that there’s an issue, and he brushed it off. If that hadn’t been the case, I’d be warning you to brace yourself for a pretty unhappy reaction, but you did exactly the right thing — you spoke up, and he decided to ignore you. It shouldn’t be a surprise that you’re now moving on to something more aligned.
As for burning bridges, some of that is up to them and how reasonable or unreasonable they choose to be, but on your side you can be very clear that this is solely about the work not being the right fit and that you like the people and the company, and offer to do anything you can to aid in the transition (which might not be much since you haven’t been there long).
7. Does resume format even matter for online application systems?
All the resume advice I’ve gotten seems to have one thing in common — it’s all geared towards the concept of a printed resume, or at least one that depends on things like fonts, spacing, formatting and layout to either highlight or mask the applicant’s experience and abilities. Here’s the problem I have with that, and one I encountered more and more in my job search over the past couple of years – online application forms make all that irrelevant. Very little correspondence happens in the “physical” world anymore — everything is an email, posting or database entry of some kind. When you apply for a job online through a company’s web site or through job sites like Monster or CareerBuilder, you fill out some kind of form with text fields, menus, radio buttons and check boxes. All your information gets filtered, sorted, processed, categorized, disseminated and dissected into angles and directions that only exist in quantum physics. This, in turn, allows employers to do searches for key terms and values (numerical values such as years of experience) without ever seeing an applicant’s formal resume. So how do you “format” your resume for the online world of the 21st century where formatting has become effectively useless?
I recommend keeping two versions of your resume: one formatted in Word or a PDF that you can use when employers ask for applications to be emailed to them (which is still very common), and one version that’s unformatted and in plain text, so that you can easily copy and paste different sections of the document into different parts of the employer’s web form.
But the content itself still matters — don’t get lulled into thinking that it’s just about keywords; it’s not. (Here’s a good post by Kerry Scott at ClueWagon that explains this.)
And that’s why the most useful resume advice isn’t about formatting; it’s about the content of your resume and how to present your achievements, and that’s going to be relevant whether your resume is in a PDF or in fields of an online application system.