Ok, so I am actually an HR Lady.
I’m certified and everything.
There are a lot of things that people can do to help themselves get interviews and land jobs.
Now, it would be nice if all nerds could land a nerdy job, but there are far too many of us and nowhere near enough comic book companies, video game companies, and rpg companies to employ all of us. So, we have to make due with “normal person” jobs.
Many of these tips are super simple, but it’s kind of ridiculous how many people don’t do them.
1. Update your resume. Include your current job, your current contact info (VERY IMPORTANT) and at the end of your resume, any volunteer work that you do. The end of my resume mentions that I have spent several years helping to organize SF/F conventions, and have taught adult sex-ed classes.
2. Clean up your resume. Simplify. For most places 2 pages is max, one page is better. When it comes to skills things like “MS Office Suite” will do instead of listing out every program. If they want more info they will ask. Office Suite includes Outlook. And who the hell doesn’t know how to use email these days, apart from my Luddite mother? Unless you have a very specialized job you really don’t need more than a few lines per job.
3. Use not only spell check, but make sure that you are not using incorrect words regardless of how correctly they are spelled. You can find lists of words that spellcheck will miss, because they are spelled correctly, and do not fit their incorrect grammar algorithms.
4. Consistent formatting. If most of the duties in your job descriptions are in complete sentences, then they’d better all be complete sentences. If they are just short phrases separated by commas or periods, continue with that. Especially if you list “attention to detail” on your resume.
And dear god, make sure that all three words in that phrase or “detail-oriented” are spelled right.
No lie. I once got a resume for someone who was “detail-orientated.”
That resume is why HR people drink.
Ok, so you got to the phone screen.
1. Schedule the call for a time when you can be inside and alone. Do not do the phone screen in the car, outside, or in a parking garage with shit reception. I have encountered all of these. If shit happens, ask to reschedule. Do not try to do the phone screen from the ER.
2. Take a second to think before you answer. Just pause for a moment to collect your thoughts. If you need a little more time, say so. That’s fine.
And on to the interview.
1. Dress a little fancier than you think the job requires. At least in the Seattle area it’s fairly unusual to have work environments outside of the banking industry or medical residencies, that require suits. For software companies, I frequently see people in button ups, no tie, and nice jeans or slacks. Where I work, it’s dressy casual. So for interviews I’ll actually wear make up and heels.
If you’re going to wear geek signifiers, make them subtle. Small earrings, cufflinks, a tie tack or a discreet necklace.
2. Be polite and attentive. Show up on time. If you are going to be late, phone, email or text as soon as you know. Shake hands. Respond to small talk. Thank them for taking the time to speak with you.
3. Again, take a second to collect your thoughts when answering questions to consider what you are saying, and how you are saying it. If you’re nervous, let them know. I know what people say about “fake it until you make it,” but there’s the risk of looking cocky or arrogant. If you’re shit at reading the room, then maybe just go with humbly competent. And be HONEST. I have on more than one occasion said things like, “I can already do 3/4 of the job you have listed, and I am really motivated and interested to learn that last quarter.” Also, don’t undersell yourself.
That last thing can be really difficult for women, because we’re constantly being encouraged to downplay our achievements and skills. Now is not the time.
4. Ask questions of your own. What is the work environment like? What would someone tell you is the worst thing about working here? Is there a dress code? Anything the job description didn’t cover that you might need to know. I frequently ask, “If I get this job will I need to cover my tattoos or at least appear to have normal sized earrings?” (I’ve been gauging the lower holes in my ears up, more on this later.) Ask when you can expect to hear from them.
5. Related to the last sentence, TELL THEM THE BEST WAY TO CONTACT YOU. Also mention if you are frequently unable to answer your phone during the day, so could they please leave a voicemail, or to email or text. Most places will accommodate you if they want to hire you. Less often with texting, but most will agree to leave messages or email if you prefer.
6. (Optional). Send a thank you email to your interviewers. It can be one email cc-ing everyone, or individual emails. Mention that it was nice meeting them and discussing the job, and that you hope to have the opportunity to speak with them again soon.
For the love of all that is holy, know what your references are going to say about you. Do not pick people who are lukewarm or even antithetical to you. Pick the folks who think you walk on water and cure cancer.
Also, make sure they’ll be available to talk to prospective employers.
Once you have the job.
1. Dress appropriately. This includes basic hygiene, and grooming. If you have to interact physically with other people, please take this into consideration. Especially in the medical professions, where you will be working intimately with people. You asked about the dress code above. Follow it.
2. Show up on time, maybe a little early your first day if at all possible. Usually on the first day someone will be appointed to onboard you. Again, if you’re going to be late, call, email or text.
3. Be pleasant. Do what you have to, to put on the game face. Get to know your co-workers and figure out who you can be a little more ‘you’ with. Do that gradually. I usually put up a few comic book things like pins or postcards. I usually have a picture or two of my cats, and if I can get away with it an Antifa sticker or two.
4. Be VERY sure that who ever you talk to about politics is up for that discussion and unlikely to report you for having it.
5. Don’t swear unless it is culturally accepted.
6. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc… are always no-go zones. And if someone starts in with any of the above, talk to HR. They may know about said person, and work in an environment that requires documentation of issues.
Ok, tiny soapbox moment: If you don’t tell people that your co-workers are harassy, racist jerk faces, then they can’t do anything about it. If you do tell them, and they choose not to do anything, that’s on them. You did your part. That’s all you can do.
And that provides you with information you didn’t have before. Do you really want to work somewhere that refuses to address these issues? Do you really want to work somewhere that allows people to be abused and harassed?
I have strong feelings about this.
Maybe I’ll rant about that later.
But these are the basics.
I know that maybe one or two of these seem contradictory, but they really aren’t.
And yes, I can and do look over people’s resumes for them, but I’m charging now. I get paid for that shit during the day, and it’s not a thing I dig. But I will do it.
If you like what you read here, or want to help fund my being able to quit being an HR Lady, or at least be less stressed about it, please consider donating using the link at the top right of the page: Keep Us Geeking, or checking out my Patreon. Thank you!
Also, if you’d like to see what sort of fiction I write when left to my own devices, please feel free to check out my fiction Patreon, Nothing Nice Comes Out of My Head.