How to Snag an Entry-Level Job; Interview Tactics to Fight Age Discrimination

Answers to your Questions
Answers to your Questions

Thank you everyone who sent your great questions about the intricacies of the hiring process! Below I address some of your submissions. The names of the senders have been omitted, and questions have been edited as lightly as possible for purposes of space and clarity (thank you for understanding).

----------------

Question: I have two questions - how do you successfully network for a new job, and also, how do you get an entry level position, especially you are not a shiny new grad? All entry level HR jobs require at least a year of experience, and experience with software I wouldn't even know how to get trained on outside of getting a job. It seems to be a giant Catch-22.

Answer: Have you read Joseph Heller's Catch-22, by the way? It's a fantastically funny book about inherent contradictions. The movie's good, too, but I digress.

Let me start with your second question first - How do you get an entry-level position in human resources without necessarily being a new grad and not having the right training? Try to think about any job you want in terms of skills and competencies; meaning, the day-today things you need to do and the way you need to behave to perform a job. HR's role in an organization is to keep the people side of the function flowing. There are several different types of HR jobs, too. Consider these (grossly oversimplified) positions within HR:

  • Recruiter - Finds talent to fill positions within the organization, sourcing off job boards and through referrals.
  • Employee Relations - Handles any people-related issues that emerge on the job, including dispute resolution and investigations.
  • Talent Management - Oversees the succession planning and promotion aspects of an organization.
  • Compensation - Determines and oversees the pay structures within an organization, evaluates job values against the market for talent.

There's several other types of positions, too. As you can guess, each one has its own characteristics and type of person who would do well in it. I would recommend the following route to getting a job:

  1. Research the different job functions within human resources. I would recommend taking a look at the website for the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, and explore the different categories of positions. But honestly, I would probably start by searching for HR jobs on a job board like Careerbuilder HR Jobs. Take a look through the job descriptions for the different types of junior roles. Ask yourself, What are they looking for? What kind of skills? What type of position interests you?
  2. Consider getting certified by SHRM. There are different certification exams you can take to get recognized as knowledgeable in HR. At the very least, join SHRM to show you're serious about a career in HR.
  3. Try to find people on LinkedIn who perform the type of job you find interesting. Then reach out to them to ask for an informational interview. In case you haven't heard this term, an informational interview is where you ask somebody to meet with you to learn more about what they do, and what their company does. Make clear that you aren't asking for a job, just advice. Learn more about informational interviews from this great article. Ask what the job is like - the good days, the bad days, the really ugly days. Understand what a typical entry-level salary looks like in the field - and adjust your expectations accordingly.
  4. From your informational interviews you should have gleaned the critical skills required for your dream job. Try to rework your résumé to highlight your applicable skills. Make your résumé objective screamingly clear - "An entry level opportunity as...".
  5. Apply, apply, apply. Keep asking for informational interviews for companies who may be of interest. Find recruiters on LinkedIn and send them your résumé. Check with your college career center, perhaps they have some connections for your search.

Good luck!

----------------

Question: I have aquestion about the hiring process and how to understand what it means when a potential employer, despite a fine interview with several people comes back with the determination that "we don't think he can keep up with the fast pace."  This has happened twice, and I don't understand the determination or how they could have possibly come to that conclusion during the interview process. As for my age, I just turned 60. How do I counter that notion or more importantly, what makes a potential employer say/think that when my work history is solid and active and my references would completely disagree. What can I do or say or weave into my résumé to dispel this nonsense of "not being able to keep up"?

Answer:  I obviously can't speak to what specifically has happened in your interviews. And I can't say that age discrimination doesn't exist - it does, it's illegal, and it's regrettable. You are competing withyounger candidates for the same job, and employers can miss out on a lot of very qualified candidates if they consider age. The good news is, there are tactics within your control that you can use to compete effectively.

Remember, the interview is an opportunity for an employer to meet you and to get a sense of not just your technical abilities, but whether you would fit the competencies (i.e., "soft skills") required to do the position. The feedback that "we don't think he can keep up with the fast pace" indicates that the employers had concern about your effectiveness in dealing with a fast-paced, deadline-oriented environment. You can do things to manage this.

I've seen candidates of all ages turned down for positions for the same reason. This includes young recent college graduates. They just didn't convey the sense of urgency or excitement that the interviewerswanted to see. Your job in the interview is to sell yourself. To do this, you need to prepare - and be aware of - how you portray yourself. I recommend recording on video a practice interview; watch how you come across, and have someone critique your practice interview with total honesty. Do you convey a tangible energy that people want to catch? Do you smile enough? Do you take the opportunity to ask questions during the interview? Does your body language show that you are engaged in the interview?

Interviewers want examples from your past that show how you will do in the future. Prepare for your interviews with several concrete examples of how you dealt with tight deadlines, fast environments, and successfully brought things to conclusion. For example:

  • How you met that impossible order deadline (demonstrates quick reaction time).
  • How you were able to rally a team around meeting a time-sensitive task (demonstrates team-building and leadership abilities).
  • Talk about your typical work volume, and how you were able to manage against this (demonstrates ongoing planning skills).
  • How you trained and developed your team to be successful (demonstrates leadership and strategic succession planning).

Foryour resume, I would try to include as many recent professional successes as will fit. Again, what were your accomplishments, and how did you make them happen? Try to focus your resume on the past 15-20 years. Don't go any further back than you need to. Don't give too many "tells" of your age on the resume (such as the year you started your first job). Also, are you up on the latest technology in your field? If so, include it in your résumé, so it not only makes you look current, but so that it also comes up in database keyword searches.

Consider your wardrobe. Does your outfit reflect the current trends, or does it need updating? A fashionable suit can do wonders toward making a great first impression.

----------------

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).

Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.