Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Ask the Professor

My friend Natasha is always coming up with get-rich-quick schemes, and last week she came up with a really good one for me. She said that since I now have so much job-hunting and interviewing experience, I should try to share that knowledge with others. To that end, I’ve decided to start what I hope will become a recurring feature in this blog: my new job advice column called Ask the Professor.

I have created a new alter-ego named Professor Plum, who has a PhD in Jobology. Professor Plum is a welcome addition to my other alter-ego, Colonel Catmeister, who has his Masters in Felinguistics.

Professor Plum will be using her vast expertise to help provide sound advice to individuals who, like me, are on the never-ending hunt for new and better employment opportunities. Professor Plum also has extensive managerial experience, so she may occasionally provide advice on how to coach and motivate employees.

I have provided Professor Plum with several job-related questions that people have asked me over the years, so she’ll begin by responding to a few of these. However, if you have a question that you’d like the Professor’s feedback on, you can submit it to, and I’ll be sure to forward it on. I can make no guarantees that the Professor will actually respond to your questions, or that they will even make it past my spam filter, but please don’t let that stop you from trying.

So please join me in welcoming Professor Plum to the blogosphere:

Dear Professor Plum:
With the business casual dress attire becoming so commonplace nowadays, it almost seems silly to wear a suit to an interview. Is it necessary for me to wear my black interview suit, or should I dress a little more casually in nice slacks and a sweater set?

- Aggie M., Brooklyn, NY

Dear Aggie:
I’m very glad you raised this issue, because I hear it quite often these days. Whenever I struggle for an answer to this type of dilemma, I think back to the sage advice my father gave me when I was just a young pup, fresh out of college. My father told me that when going into an interview, you should always dress for the job you aspire to have.

So on my first interview, I walked in wearing a sequined unitard, ruby colored rhinestone tap shoes, and an elaborate feathered headdress. I didn’t get the marketing research internship, and quickly realized why my father was self-employed.

But to answer your question, yes, you should still wear a suit to an interview, even if the company has a casual dress code. That way, when your interviewers walk in wearing khakis and polo shirts, they will subconsciously feel inferior to you, making for a less intimidating interview.

Dear Professor Plum:
If I interview with a large group of people all at once, is it acceptable to email a group thank you?

- Penny J., Haydare, WI

Dear Penny:
Only if you are interviewing with the Hare Krishnas.

Look, no one likes to be lumped together into a big impersonal cluster, and potential employers are no different. Write individual letters (if it’s an old-school company) or emails (if it’s a more modern, hi-tech company) to each person thanking him/her for all the valuable insight that was shared. But also be aware that they will all gather together upon receipt of your thank you’s and ridicule you for writing the exact same thing seven times.

Well, it looks like that’s all the time we’ll have for Ask the Professor this week. But keep those questions coming in, and hopefully the Professor will find the time with her hectic schedule to impart some of her wisdom to all of us.