Dear Kate & Dale: My husband lost his job late last year. We had no idea that the job market was so tough. I'm wondering if his last job title, "vault teller," is holding him back. His job was really shipping and receiving, but it was shipping and receiving money. Would this prevent companies from taking a chance on him? - Schelly
Dale: Oh, yes. In fact, the goal of hiring managers is to not take chances. Let me back up and explain an important principle: Many employers suffer from industry xenophobia. It's just like regular xenophobia - the fear of foreigners - but the corporate version is fear of employees from distant industries. It's as though all your husband's experience were working in Paraguay. The typical boss will think, "I'll be stuck holding his hand while he makes the adjustment."
Kate: Your husband is speaking a specialized language when he lists a title like "vault teller." If he wants to work in shipping and receiving, he has to say so. Then, in the body of his resume, the reader is going to see that he was responsible for large inventories of cash, receiving large cash deposits, and so on. What are they going to think? They'll think, "We don't store cash or move cash." So he has to remove the word "cash" from his resume. In fact, the more difficult problem is that he needs to stop thinking of it as cash, or he'll start talking about cash in the interview.
Dale: And that's where you can be useful, Schelly. Get a book on interviews and do mock interviews. During his real interviews he'll have to address the nature of his work, and with your help he'll have practiced minimizing any sense of "taking a chance" on him. Explain to him that most companies hire the safest candidate.
Kate: And that's why he'll need to develop an ear for objections. When he senses resistance to the nature of his experience, he'll need to understand what hiring managers are afraid of. For example, are they afraid that the pace was much slower in his old job? If so, then he could say, "Bring me in for a week, and you'll see that I have all the energy you could ever want in an employee." Applicants who can't figure out and overcome objections don't get job offers.
¢ Dear Kate & Dale: Five years ago, after 15 years on Wall Street, I started my own company. After exhausting all my capital and taking occasional low-level jobs to make ends meet, I went on to destroy my credit. I've cleaned up most of that mess, but still have low credit scores. I recently interviewed for a high-level job and was promised another meeting to review my background check and employment details. How do I handle the credit issue and the temporary jobs? - Ralph
Kate: It's common for business owners to sink everything into an idea. I've done it myself. I think it shows your devotion, and shows that you will do anything to get the job done.
Dale: Except, of course, he didn't "get the job done." And that's what will be hanging in the air during the interview. What I'd suggest, Ralph, is that you see if you can find people in your industry who went entrepreneurial, then came back to corporate life. You can contact those returnees, and one of them might give you a break. If not, referencing their stories will help make the return seem more logical to hiring managers.
Kate: You must also explain that you've gotten the entrepreneurial thing out of your system. Otherwise, they'll worry that you will set off again on your own path. As for the temporary jobs, they are irrelevant, and there's no reason to include them on your resume. As for the credit, you can be open about it, emphasizing that your credit problems are behind you, back there with your fascination with owning a business.
- Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O'Clock Club, a national career-counseling network. Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators' Lab.