short answer Sunday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Photos on your LinkedIn profile

I know that photos in general should not be sent with resumes, etc., but from what I hear you are encouraged to post a picture of yourself on your Linked In page. I don’t think it’s a good idea, for all the same reasons you do not send it out with your resume or include it with online materials. Do you have an opinion or thoughts about this?

It’s fine to post a photo on LinkedIn (assuming it’s professional, doesn’t include your children, etc.). LinkedIn is different; it’s for networking and building relationships, and many people use photos to help people put a face with a name. That’s different from your resume, where the point is to explain your qualifications for a job, since what you look like isn’t part of your qualifications.

[And I know you could argue that employers might want to put a face with the name too, but (a) rightly or wrongly, photos with resumes are considered cheesy in the U.S., and (b) employers really don't want to be accused of putting a race with the name, so are uncomfortable when applicants send photos.]

2. Can you have too many LinkedIn recommendations written at once?

Due to a corporate merger/company reconstruction, my position, along with over 150 others, were eliminated. In order to help me in my job hunt, I reached out to several people in my network via LinkedIn, requesting LinkedIn recommendations. While I was expecting a handful to respond, I’ve received an overwhelming response. I am extremely grateful that this many people are willing to vouch for my work, but am worried that it will it look suspicious to have so many (7 and counting) recommendations all written within days of each other.

In LinkedIn recommendations, does quality trump date and quantity? Should I approve all of these to be displayed on my profile?

Yeah, some people will notice that they were all written at the same time and will assume that they were the result of a push by you. How much this matters, I can’t really say. The fact is that LinkedIn recommendations don’t count for all that much — they were written for you to see, so employers know that they don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

3. Should I reapply?

Last week, I had an interview and didn’t get the job. However, I passed the personality and computer literacy test. I can reapply in 6 months. Is it worth reapplying or will I be denied another interview?

There’s no way to know, but what do you have to lose by reapplying?

4. Explaining a layoff in a cover letter or resume

I am a job seeker, having been retrenched. Your advice on how to graciously address the fact that I am not working, and why, would be much appreciated.

I prefer to get it out the way and mention it in my cover letter, or resume where there is not an opportunity to provide a cover letter, e.g. an online application. The real question is, how do I word it so that it does not reflect poorly on me? I have been advised, off the record, by HR at my former employer to say that my job was lost due to off-shoring of posts, and then to talk around it in the interview. While it is true that my former employer has a strategy of off-shoring, my job was lost because of poor business and the need to cut costs. I think that the advice was actually aimed at protecting my former employer’s reputation in the marketplace rather than to assist me! So, how do you advise I address this issue with prospective employers?

Whether your job was lost due to offshoring or due to the need to cut costs isn’t going to be all that relevant to prospective employers; your answer to them only needs to be that your job was eliminated in layoffs. Employers want to know whether you left voluntarily (and if so, why), or whether you were fired (and if so, why), or whether you were laid off. You were laid off, and you don’t need to get into details.

You really don’t need to get into this in your cover letter though, and definitely not on your resume. This is something for the interview, if you’re asked — not for your application materials, which are intended to demonstrate why you’re right for this particular job.

5. Will I qualify for unemployment if I’m fired for saying I plan to resign?

I’ve been with my company for about 10 years, and while I originally very much enjoyed working there, I’m now at the point where I’m unhappy there and need to move on. Because I put in so much time with the company and don’t like the idea of sneaking around interviewing, I want to let them know that it is time for me to begin the job search, or at least just tell them that I’m unhappy about my current responsibilities and if there is no change, I will be looking elsewhere. While I don’t believe they will ask me to leave upon hearing this, I do want to make sure I’m prepared just in case.

If they do terminate me because I expressed my intent of leaving, even if I haven’t officially resigned or advised them if a time frame, would I qualify for unemployment at all? I’m in NY, if this makes any difference.

I can’t speak to New York specifically, but in general, in most states, you would qualify for unemployment. In fact, even if you give a specific date of resignation — say, December 1 — and they told you to leave now, in most states you’d be eligible for unemployment between now and December 1.

However, I strongly encourage you to base your decision on whether or not to give them a heads-up on how you’ve seen them handle other people who have given generous notice periods. Have people been pushed out earlier than they would have otherwise planned to leave? If so, they’ve given up any entitlement to a long notice period from other people. But if they have a track record of accommodating long notice periods, has been grateful to employees who provide long notice, and has generally shown that employees can feel safe being candid about their plans to leave, then you should feel safe in proceeding with your plan.

6. Name-dropping in cover letters

I have a cover letter question. Is it appropriate to drop a family member’s name in your cover letter, ever? Or would it just come off as unprofessional or insincere? My case is my grandfather worked for a certain small sector of the government for over thirty years, and I am applying for a position there now. I would like to mention him because his career is inspiring to me and one of the reasons I am very interested in this field of work. I am not assuming they will recognize his name as he passed away many years ago, but who knows. I thought since this is a unique connection it might be worth noting. Would it sound better to leave his name out but still mention my grandfather worked as a [title], or leave out the connection out all together? My main concern is I will come across as presuming I will get the job because I have a connection.

And on a similar note, how do you feel about mentioning living family or friends who are currently working in the field you are applying to (assuming they are influential and well-known in this field)? Cheesy or helpful?

I’m not a big fan of name-dropping unless it’s something like “Jane Smith suggested I apply,” and Jane Smith is someone who the person reading your cover letter knows. Otherwise it sounds like name-dropping for name-dropping’s sake. The better way to utilize contacts who are working in the field you’re applying in is to have those people reach out to their contacts on your behalf to recommend you.

With your grandfather, I could potentially see saying something like, “My grandfather, Bill Smith, worked for XYZ Agency more than 30 years, and my talks with him about A and B are what originally interested me in the field.” But even then, you risk your reader wondering if you’re mentioning him because you think it’ll get you preferential treatment, so I could argue this either way.

7. Correcting a cover letter mistake

I am a recent graduate and I have been diligently working on job applications. Last month, I applied to a position at the global research department at HSBC’s investment bank. It was a long shot, but I later completed a first round phone interview and was told my application will be more thoroughly screened before deciding whether to invite me to a final round interview at their head offices.

Great, I thought. I checked my application again and then realized an embarrassing mistake this weekend. On one question on the application form, it was asked what interests me in applying for my chosen business area. So I spent a long time explaining what fascinates me about research. But at the last sentence I wrote “what attracts me to the fast-paced world of trading.” I had not applied to any roles of trading anywhere.

I know that since I’ve already gone this far, this small thing could undo my entire application. What do you recommend to salvage my mistake without drawing attention to it? I know this role is detail oriented, so I want to spin my message into pointing out how picky I was to point out a small mistake which is greater than a typo. Should I call the HR? Should I email the manager of the department? Or should I do nothing and accept whatever happens?

Do not call HR. The last thing they want is to be bothered with a phone call about this type of mistake. If you do anything, send a short follow-up email correcting it. It may or may not help, since generally they’re looking for candidates who will find the mistake before the material gets sent out, not after, but there’s no harm in trying. Be aware that they’re going to assume you were copying and pasting from another cover letter that really was about trading.

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