On Asking a Manager

One blog that I enjoy reading on a regular basis is the Ask a Manager blog by Alison Green. While it has little to do with my profession, it has everything to do with (almost) everyone's role as an employee or manager. Everyone should subscribe to this. A frequent theme is advice for interviewees.

In a recent post let's ring the death knell for postal mail in the hiring process, she calls for an end to dead-tree correspondence during the hiring process. Within the comments I shared a lively debate on gimmicks and (non-malicious) manipulations that I use during the course of the interview process. Among them, I print on high-quality paper at the highest ink-density settings, I bring copies of said nice resume paper in a portfolio for the interviewers (as they often do not see my original, and several times have misplaced my resume). Finally, when sending the thank you letter, I print it on the same high-quality paper, and once it's throughly proofed (at least once on the dead tree - your eyes will deceive you on the screen...) I email that letter as well as send the hard copy via first-class or priority mail.

As a followup post, (in response to the first of my comments), Alison posited that gimmicks have no place in the hiring process, stating quite well that the day that she falls for a gimmick is the day she should be removed from the role of hiring manager. It was a good discussion.

I'll remake a couple of points that I intended to but failed to make clear early on in my comments:

First, and most importantly, all of my extra steps will not change a "do not hire" to an offer. The best that they will do is demonstrate the much-vaunted "attention to detail", and fit in along with polishing my shoes, straightening my tie, and ensuring that there is no spinach in my teeth. All things being equal between myself and another candidate, these are attempts to differentiate myself.

Second, most of my responses are written with the thank you letter in mind. Anything that has to do with postage is certainly the case. Because of most of this lack of clarity, most of Alison's comments had a mailed-in resume in mind...

Third, while these are manipulations in the truest sense of the word, there is no malicious intent. The point of the interview is to get the interviewer to like me more than the other candidates. What I propose are far less insidious options than those often offered as interview advice.

Fourth, with regards to bringing copies of my resume (usually in a portfolio), I want to ensure that the interviewer sees my resume as I intend it. Every time I've done this I've received positive feedback, and often comments indicating that a head-hunter or application system has mangled my resume. Occasionally an interviewer did not have my interview on hand (whether a sign of being disorganized, unprepared, or just overloaded, it's hard to say at that point), and thus were appreciative. One responder said that thanking someone in response to receiving something is only polite. I agree, and the quality and inflection of the thanking (or the lack thereof) tells me much about the interviewer.

In the end I think we agreed to disagree on the appropriateness of sending anything hard-copy, and to me each opinion seems to be a valid preference either way. I prefer to offer something tangible, where she keeps everything electronically, so a mailed thank you letter would have to be scanned and filed appropriately. (Besides, how often do you receive a letter at work addressed to you by name, versus how many emails you receive in a day?) All in all, it was a lively discussion.

(I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm happy how well my suit analogy was received...)

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  1. I really liked reading this follow-up!

    Your case for paper versions was easily the most persuasive, compelling argument on that topic I've heard, and if nothing else, I'll be looking at hard copy submissions a bit differently in the future. So thank you for arguing your point so well.

    And the suit analogy was perfect. It will stick with me...