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Understanding Human Resources role and responsibility is vital to your interview success. They are the gatekeepers. They are the first line of company defense. Defense against the unqualified candidates, misleading resumes, fraud and outright lies. Human Resources does not have hiring authority, but their power lies in the authority to screen-out and eliminate candidates. If you do not succeed with Human Resources staffing, you will not have the opportunity to interview with the decision-makers. The following are tips and suggestions for success with the Human Resources part of your interviews.

    You must approach the Human Resources interview with the importance it deserves. If you assume this will be a cursory interview, it can be detected by HR. There are no automatic HR rubber stamp interviews. If the HR person suspects a lack of respect or a condescending attitude, they can eliminate a qualified candidate based on that attitude.
    When Human Resources feels positive about your interest level and energy, they can approve you even if your work experience is less than other candidates. You must express desire and high energy. This can be difficult when looking into the eyes of a trained interviewer. One of our office slogans is "Never play poker with a Human Resources staffing person." Their poker face hides if you are doing well or going down the tubes. Do not let that intimidate you from displaying your desire, energy and emotions. Portraying a strong "I want the job" attitude will reward you with a second interview with the hiring manager.
    A prompt e-mail thank you note to Human Resources will help seal the deal for the next interview. HR wants to feel comfortable with their referral for the next interview. If ultimately, you fall short on qualifications and do not get an offer, at least you were a bonafide candidate and wanted the job. The worst feedback an HR person can get from the hiring managers is, "I don’t know why you sent them on, they weren’t even interested!"


Letters of recommendation are a powerful closing tool. They can eliminate your competition, close the sale and get you the job. Timing the presentation of these letters is most important. They should be given to the interviewer at the end of the interview. Do not attach them to your resume because you do not want the interviewer to be sidetracked by reading any paperwork during the interview. The only document to be read during the interview is your resume and this is only a guide for conversation. Interviews are for dialogue, not reviewing documents. Always have clean, crisp copies (not the originals) to leave behind. Your letters should be a mix of former bosses and clients. The best method is to collect the letters over years as you build your career. It can be difficult to go back to a former relationship if there has been a long time gap. A former boss may be unwilling to help after you have left the company. A ten-year-old letter is convincing evidence of your long-term success. The best letters are written on company stationary. Avoid letters on personal stationary.

The most vital letters to collect are when you have been terminated. If the termination was a result of a company restructure you need letters to prove that fact. Hiring companies need to know your termination was not for poor performance or another reason. It can be difficult to verify reasons for your termination when it happened many years ago. If your company was sold and many employees were laid off, like yourself, the letter will verify your statements. Your old company may no longer exist. Many buyouts are for the products and the brand names. After a long period, it can be very difficult to find old bosses or peers. If the sale was publicized, save a newspaper clipping. Letters of recommendation, like your resume, are evolving documents of your career life and need to be updated and current.

Dear Headhunter,
I was laid off one year ago. During my job search, I’ve noticed that very few companies will send you a letter thanking you for applying for the position, but those that do state that my application or resume will be kept on file and may be considered for future openings. Honestly, I’ve never received any follow-up from a company in this fashion. Are they required by law to do this? I also notice that some companies keep applications from one month to a year. Again, are they under any legal obligation?

Sincerely, Chris J.

Dear Chris J.,
Companies are not legally required to reply in any manner. A thank you letter stating possible future consideration is mostly done for public relations. Companies receive hundreds of resumes for one job opening and they want the rejected candidates to still feel positive about the company and their products or services. They want you to remain a customer. There is some possible good news because a saved resume can be scanned by a computer in the future, looking for key words that might fit a new opening. Therefore, your resume should be in digital format and contain any key words that apply to your experience or industry. It could happen if your resume is composed properly.

Good luck on your search. -George

Dear Headhunter,
I have a misdemeanor conviction for indecent exposure from 1993. What is the best way to handle this in an interview and on my resume?

Thanks, L.W.

Dear L.W.,
The only time you will be asked about your criminal record is on the job application. The question is usually about felony convictions and rarely about misdemeanors. If the application asks about misdemeanors you must list the conviction. Your resume should never list any negative. If you are offered a job contingent upon a successful background check and this misdemeanor shows up, be ready to explain your situation with documents and explain that is was 12 years ago and this is not who you are today.

Good luck on your search. -George

PLEASE NOTE: emails received become the property of "Dear Headhunter" and may be published unless otherwise requested. Questions may be edited for content and length. All questions will be reviewed, some without a reply.

George Gurney has been a leader in the employment industry since 1976. He founded an executive search firm that conducts domestic and international assignments.  He has won numerous awards for recruiting excellence.  He has been a guest speaker at national conventions and seminars.