short answer Sunday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. Moving from retail into office jobs

My husband has been in retail since he graduated from college seven years ago with a BBA in Management. His positions have included manager, team leads, customer service leader, inventory, sales, and currently a bike repair technician for a large sporting goods retailer. He’s had long tenure at each company, moving around in different positions, as he would always become the store’s “go to” person.

As most people will tell you, retail is hard and he’s ready to get out. At this point, he would take anything that’s more of an office job with regular hours and he’s willing to start at the bottom and work his way up. But he’s struggling getting attention for anything that’s not a commissioned sales job (the kind that they try to get any business major right out of college for) or another retail position. I know he could nail the interview and intelligently explain wanting to change to a long-term career with stable hours and he has proven his work ethic in his positions. But it’s getting them to not dismiss him as another retail employee. Do you have any specific tips on getting someone to pay attention to a retail employee trying to get out?

Well, it’s not easy to change fields in this job market. No matter how great he might be, and no matter how transferrable his skills, the reality is that employers usually have plenty of candidates who meet all the job’s qualifications and have already worked in their field. So even though he might excel at the job if just given the chance, employers don’t have much of an incentive to take a chance on him. That means that he’s probably going to need to put a lot more emphasis on networking and working his way into a position that way, because if he’s just answering ads where they don’t already know him, he’s likely to be at a disadvantage.

2. Interviewers say I’m too soft-spoken, but I’m not

I’m really at a loss, and I’m wondering if you can give me some advice. I have been on several interviews for executive admin assistant positions lately. In a few of the interviews, I got feedback from my recruiter that the interviewers were concerned that I was too shy, timid or meek. I’m not any of those things. I am rather soft-spoken, but am not timid or shy in least. In all of these interviews, I had no problem answering questions, talking about myself and my goals, etc. I have never been nervous in interviews, I actually kind of enjoy it (a fallback from my days in speech and debate club). In the most recent one, a CEO stopped in and ended up chatting with me for several minutes about foreign travel (he was impressed that I spent a summer backpacking in a foreign country by myself, NOT something a shy person would do). I have never had an interviewer ask me any questions related to my being “timid” or question whether or not I would be able to “push back” on occasions where it was needed.

My current position as an EA is a very public role. The person I support currently is a public figure, and I act as his gateway. I interact with people from all walks of life, from CEO’s and high-level government officials (I met a foreign prime minister on one occasion) to local community members and I even handle national press on occasion. I have talked about all these things during my interviews. I am really and truly at loss as to how anyone could perceive me as shy. The only thing I can think of is that I am soft-spoken. It is something that people have commented on: “Oh, you sound so sweet, you have such a nice, soft voice”. But, that’s not really something I can change. My voice doesn’t make me less capable, and it is not a harbinger of my personality. But, it just seems to be the sticking point. Even with a list of my accomplishments before them that portray me as an outgoing person that likes challenging situations, all they seem to hear is my voice. What can I do to change this perception?

Hmmm. If just one interviewer gave you this feedback, I’d ignore it — but if multiple people are saying it, then there’s something about the way you’re coming across that you’re unaware of. It might be useful to roleplay an interview with someone you trust to give you honest and objective feedback, so that you can pinpoint exactly what you’re doing that’s causing the impression.

On the other hand, has all this feedback come through the same recruiter? There’s a chance that this is being filtered incorrectly by him, if so. It would be interesting to see what feedback you get from other recruiters, or from interviewers directly.

3. Employer told me to leave after I gave notice and won’t pay me for my notice period

I gave two weeks notice at my old job, and they told me to leave immediately. Now they are not paying me for the last two weeks. Is this legal? Am I missing something? I gave two weeks as is required.

They aren’t required to pay you for weeks you didn’t work, even if the reason you didn’t work those weeks is because they told you to leave immediately. You can probably get unemployment for those two weeks, however.

4. Explaining that you were fired for stealing

I was terminated for stealing. If asked during an interview why I was terminated, how do I approach this? Do I tell them just that? I know what I did was wrong and I am paying back what I stole. I just need to know how to answer this.

I don’t think there’s any way to say “I stole from my last job” and still get hired. So I think the only thing you can do is to leave that job off your resume entirely, no matter how long you were there. Having to explain that you were fired from your last job is going to be far more of an obstacle than just appearing to have been out of work for however long that period of time is.

5. Submitting an updated cover letter

I’m a recent college graduate and I’m very new to the search for a job. Unfortunately, I’ve been learning as I go, and it wasn’t until several weeks into my job search that I discovered Ask a Manager. One of the best improvements I’ve made has been in my cover letters. But it sucks to think that I’ve ruined the possibility of landing really awesome positions that I know I’m super qualified for, with subpar cover letters.

Can I resubmit a new cover letter for a job I’ve already applied to? I just know now that the cover letters I’ve been submitting have been really bad. Now that I’m writing much better ones, I want to know if I can submit those even with my old letters possibly still on file. Will mangers consider me anew with a better cover letter?

Well … it might not help, but you have nothing to lose so you might as well try it. On a related note…

6. Applying with a new resume

Last year, I applied for a position, but I didn’t get it. It’s not just the job I didn’t get, but how also to write an effective resume, prepare for interviews, etc. Naively, I sent resumes to several organizations I would like to work for, but received only rejection letters. Since then, I’ve improved my resume and learned how to answer interview questions (for example, “tell me abut yourself” shouldn’t include kids or surviving cancer). I feel like I understand job-hunting etiquette better.

Now that these places I want to work have already seen my less-than-stellar resume, how long should I wait before applying for their future openings? Is there any hope that they’ll forget my old resume?

Sure, there’s definitely hope. I’d wait at least a few months, and then try again.

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