We’ve all heard variations of Thumper’s Rule, courtesy of Disney’s Bambi, from family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers: “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nothing at all.”
Meant to caution against unsolicited incivility, the ‘moral’ principle has been accepted as a societal norm for not just personal relationships but professional ones, as well. We’ve even given the act a catchy name: ghosting. Rather than being direct, one party opts to just not say anything at all via any form of communication to the other person.
The transition from ambiguity to radio silence is meant to serve as a formal rejection. Therefore, the burden of discontinuing the personal or professional relationship falls not on the person who is providing the rejection, but rather on the person receiving it.
Why We Ghost
In 2013, CareerBuilder released the results of a nationwide survey concluding that 75 percent of job applicants did not receive responses regarding their candidacies from employers. Ironically, Randstad US released a 2019 report stating that 66 percent of managers have had workers either accept an offer and fail to show up or disappear without notice before their start date. Simply put, ghosting occurs because someone in the process feels that the other party is not a good technical and/or culture fit.
If an employer wants you as their final candidate, you have a lot more leniency: you do not need to send a thank you note, follow up regularly, or worry about being lost in a pile of resumes. It does, however, serve well to ask the Human Resources or Hiring Manager for a timeline. If they tell you to hang tight and wait two weeks, set a reminder to follow-up in three weeks with a courteous email. Even though it may not be common, a poor application (including small typos on your resume), passive or overzealous behavior, disengagement with follow-ups, and red flag responses to interviewquestions can streamline you into the “ghosted” category.
That’s not to say that ghosting is predetermined by application weakness, though this is a strong contributor. Candidates and hiring managers alike can exacerbate relationships and situations, turning a potential ‘yes’ into a certain ‘no.’
Employers’ reasons for ghosting hover around the following fears: telling someone that they are underqualified, getting sued for providing honest feedback, or losing a possible back-up candidate while moving their top candidate through the hiring process. Sometimes, employers accidentally ghost when their hiring process is littered with process or information gaps (for example, when they do not have an organized applicant tracking system, ATS).
On the other hand, candidates ghost mainly due to a poor pre-onboarding process (no communication between date of hire and start date) or fear of missing out when more enticing opportunities arise. Candidates not only have the power to choose due to the record low unemployment rate, but they can also take advantage of their plentiful opportunities, given the job market’s crucial emphasis on previous relevant experience.
What We Can Do About It
With that being said, it seems inevitable that ghosting is the new norm. But just because applicants and employers both engage in this practice does not mean that it’s acceptable. Ghosting deteriorates reputations.
Candidates develop opinions on a company from the minute they view a job posting, and they can share those perspectives with other potential hires.
Employers hold a network of other managers who value their take on a potential hire – sometimes more so than what the interview process reveals about that person.
In an age where branding strongly impacts candidate flow, social media strength, candidate or company competitiveness, and perception of culture or personality, it is ever so more pertinent to not derail a well-built personal or corporate persona.
As Bambi’s Owl wisely pointed out, “It could happen to anybody. So you’d better be careful. It can happen to you.” Today’s applicant can be tomorrow’s manager and today’s manager may be tomorrow’s applicant. If you would rather hear direct, honest feedback – as most polls indicate people would, personally and professionally – then, also consider being that change you want to see. At the end of the day, ghosting may be the easiest choice, but it’s not the one we want for ourselves.
Unlike job descriptions, interview questions are much less straightforward in terms of revealing an employer’s expectations. Interviewers are trying to assess if you have the experience, skills, and talent to succeed in the role and if your personality and desired career trajectory complement their company. The most common pitfall is walking into an interview with the mindset that the employer is trying to get to know you. They are most certainly not. Every question interviewers ask is a mostly subtle, sometimes obvious method of getting to know you only in relation to the position at hand. So, make sure you adapt your answers based on the role and company. Below are 7 Tips for Answering Interview Questions, focusing on common interview questions, translated for clarity, and tips on answering them accordingly to help you ace your next interview.
Tips for Answering Interview Questions
1. Tell me about yourself. This may seem like a friendly conversation starter, but its purpose is far more profound. Remember that an interviewer only cares about you when in relation to the open position that they want to fill. By asking this questions, they are really asking you why you are the person they should hire for this role. Demonstrate your dual fit: describe your relevant experience and accomplishments along with your personality in relation to professional ability and personal career ambitions. This is your opportunity to provide a soundbite to employers of why they should choose you for the job. Don’t try to cover too many points or you risk losing the interviewer’s attention. Keep the message simple and clear.
2. Why are you interested in this role? Many people approach this question as a way to compliment the position’s potential, the employer(s), and the company. But, this is already information the interviewer knows. They understand what they are offering, and they know you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t also value the role and company. What they really want to know is how much you understand the role and its responsibilities and the company and its mission. Show them your genuine passion and well-researched knowledge. You know what it is you are getting into, and exactly why you want to pursue this role at this company.
3. Where do you see yourself in five years? Employers want to know if your career trajectory aligns with what they have to offer as a company. If you want to branch off in a different direction, then you are not likely to stay in this position. This makes you, by default, a bad potential hire. If the position you are interviewing for continues you down the path you hope to go, then explain your goal and how this company is a great fit for you. Be sure to also demonstrate your knowledge of the company through your answer. If this position isn’t as obviously situated with your career trajectory, or you are unsure of your career goals, then explain to the employer what skills and knowledge you hope to gain through this role that ultimately lays foundational groundwork for your future. Incorporate the idea that this company is a contributor to your future, not a stepping stone for your success.
4. What is/are your weakness(es)? Interviewers already know what skills or experiences you are lacking or missing. What they are doing is giving you the chance to appease their concern of potential obstacles you may face in this position. They are expecting you to be self-aware and value self-improvement. Prior to the interview, go through the job description and your resume. Then, after identifying potential weaknesses, prepare responses that either explain how you will compensate or demonstrate how you have already overcome similar problems in the past. A common mistake that I hear through this question is, “I’m a quick learner.” Show them you are a quick learner with an example – one that has a successful result or accomplishment – rather than tell them. Unsupported claims do not travel far in terms of reliability.
5. Tell me about a situation or accomplishment you are most proud of. This is often misconstrued as a personality-only question. Remember: the employer only cares about you in relation to this job. So, pick an example that is most relevant to the current position and demonstrate why you can serve and, better yet, further the company’s needs. In order to deliver this answer in a clear manner, use the STAR method: explain the situation, walk the interviewer through your thought process, narrate your action steps, and describe the results.
6. How would co-workers and/or supervisors describe you? When answering this question, keep in mind that employers will have access to previous co-workers and/or supervisors through your references. They are assessing if your self-description, which displays your self-awareness, matches the descriptions provided by those who have already worked with you. Yes, they are definitely looking for the classic hallmarks of a good hire: team-oriented, ability to take initiative and problem-solve effectively, and motivated to learn/grow through a position. The trick is to make sure your answer will align with potential answers provided by your references.
7. Do you have any questions? Not only are interviewers assessing what is important to you through your inquiries, but they are also trying to see if you have been engaged with them throughout the interview process. Prepared questions are definitely recommended, especially questions aimed at the interviewer’s personal experiences at the company. They are also very common. Stand out by asking the interviewers about crucial topics they perhaps did not cover during the interview: company culture, potential challenges, potential for growth and so on. With these types of questions, you are essentially filling in the blanks information-wise and demonstrating to the interviewers that you have been paying attention and you want to fully understand the candidate profile they are seeking.
Before every interview, place yourself in the position of the recruiter, human resources professional, or hiring manager and prepare answers that highlight your specific fit for their role and for their company. Get feedback from family, friends, colleagues, and even from prior interviewers. Similar to your resume, interviews are not only about who you are and what you have done or can do but also about how you present your personality, skills, and experiences.
Setting goals, whether short or long term, is an ongoing and effortful process. Many people tend to set personal and professional goals with a to-do list mindset and superficial consideration. Goal-setting is adeptly illustrated by Aesop’s “The Tortoise and The Hare” fable. When we rush to set goals and consistently compare our progress against others, we become the hare who eventually loses the race. So, let’s take a look at the tortoise’s strategy. And find out how you can begin to set smart goals.
The hare ran the race to ridicule and beat the tortoise. The tortoise ran the race to prove he could run. They both ran for the specific reason why, a reason that reiterated or added to their self-image. Similarly, start with why you want to set goals in the first place. By understanding the origins of your ambitions, you can discern in which ways your goals will set you up to succeed. When goals tie back into your long-term vision, even if they are short-term in nature, you are much more likely to adhere to them. By framing the why behind the what, you can better define what your goals are and develop strategies to maintain your commitment to them.
The extract above from the fable dually serves as a reminder of how to effectively define our goals. For the hare to be successful, it mattered solely on the tortoise’s progress – not his own. He is not the main character in his definition of success. But, the tortoise established a firm, self-relying reason why he proposed the race. After creating a list of goals, evaluate if how you define success relies on you or others. When you define success in relation to your ability only, you are more readily accepting of difficulties as challenges you can overcome rather than setbacks you cannot surmount.
The tortoise set an extremely effective goal following the SMART framework: run one marked distance (specific), timed by a judge (measurable), a task he knows he can accomplish (achievable), to prove he can run (relevant), starting as soon as possible (timely). When you adhere to the SMART framework of goal-setting, you provide an effective way to measure your progress towards a goal you know is both doable and supportive of your vision. The more ambiguous you are when defining your goals, the less likely you are in maintaining your drive to achieve them.
As extensive as the process is in setting your goals, the journey to fulfilling them is equally as intensive. Unlike the hare, do not get complacent and procrastinate! The tortoise was able to achieve his goal because he remained steadfast in his pacing and his focus. Be sure to keep your goals in a visible area. In this way, you will be frequently reminded of your potential destination. Schedule reminders to check on the progress of your goals weekly or biweekly so you can evaluate if your current strategy is effective enough. Goals should not be viewed as something to achieve in the future. They should be seen as daily tasks. If the process of achieving your goal is embedded within your daily routine, then you will be that much more likely to stick to it.
With the holiday season around the corner, we all have the opportunity to get an early start on our goal-setting for the upcoming year!
As we enter the holiday season, it is all too easy to lose momentum as we juggle personal obligations and professional responsibilities. The holiday schedule divides our work week into too-short-to-be-actually-productive fractions, and yet our to-do lists keep swelling in size. Between stress, enjoyment, and productivity, we sacrifice the latter. Instead of attempting to bulldoze through our multiplying commitments, it would be wiser to modify our approach altogether and adopt the holiday mindset to our advantage. Learn how to stay motivated during the holidays this year and get ready for the new year!
5 tips to stay motivated during the holidays
The holiday season often initiates and encourages self-reflection. Consider your accomplishments and setbacks for the year, both professionally and personally. Be sure to celebrate those wins and recall how you were able to achieve them. What was your mindset? What steps did you take? How did you handle obstacles, if any? Take those answers and apply them to your setbacks. By reflecting on how you navigated wins, losses, and ties, you can gain more insight and individualize your improvement.
In conjunction, you can set achievable, reasonable, and effective goals allowing small wins in the short-term. This will tee you up for a successful next year. Do not overcommit and do not undersell yourself. For help constructing this balance, we have an article on goal setting for you!
It’s not a secret that administrative tasks take up a disproportionate amount of time in many workloads. Taking the time to schedule out appointments, vacations, errands, and reservations ahead of time gives you the chance to visualize your upcoming week(s). You automatically make room to focus on your to-do list and even leave time for any necessary recuperation.
Set yourself up for success in the coming year by using the holiday schedule for personal and professional outreach. People love to reconnect during the holidays and typically feel more generous in spirit! Take this chance to reach out to friends, networks, colleagues, and companies and seek out opportunities for growth. Even if these conversations are held unofficially, they can still be goldmines for feedback and ideas. Check out our article about the best time to look for a job to fully arm yourself for the new year!
Change up your routine! The holiday season requires more from us: more tasks, more energy, more planning, more small-talk, more money, more reflection, more everything. Maximize time each day by waking up earlier to answer emails, using each night to plan or review the next day’s schedule, and shifting your obligations into an order governed by efficiency rather than convenience!
The main takeaway from this article is to remember the unparalleled benefit of the holidays. It is one of the best opportunities to truly leave work at work, mentally and physically. For some, it is spending our time laughing with family, and for others, it is spending alone time relaxing. No matter how you choose to celebrate the season, be sure to utilize it to your advantage at home and work. This is when you can clearly stay motivated during the holidays and be your most productive.
The definition of an entry-level position has morphed into an entirely different meaning. No longer does entry-level mean you have translatable skills, you are certainly teachable, and you seem willing to stay at this job long enough for the time we invest in you to pay off in the long term. It simply means a lower tier position that requires not as many years of experience; it comes with the promise of upward mobility and weekend work hours. Floods of college seniors apply to industrial biotechnology and pharmaceutical positions only to be rejected because they have only worked in academic labs or merely taken relevant courses. You don’t just need the experience to get experience; you need the exact right experience.
Almost all of the resumes that I come across for junior roles either consist of lab experiences at the same university the students attend or summer internships at a prestigious academic research institute. Then, there are those rare resumes that include internships or cooperative education (“co-op”) programs adding up to more than one year of industry experience. So why do the latter resumes stand out more? Why is a student performing PCRs at a university viewed as less competitive for the same role as a student who performed PCRs at a biopharmaceutical startup? Isn’t a PCR a PCR?
The Difference Between Industry and Academia
The difference has its roots in the larger perspective: industry versus academia. To put it simply, academic focuses on the research side of Research and Development and industry emphasizes the development aspect more. There are distinctly different rules, regulations, hierarchies, and most significantly, objectives. Any scientist will tell you whether in industry or in academia that lab work is never just about the hard skills you accumulate. Co-op programs have a significant upper-hand as they are usually formally set-up agreements between universities and companies. But, the true benefit of co-ops comes from their structure. Students can complete academic research while attending class that semester and then hold a several month spanning job in an industry. Moreover, those industry positions come with the opportunity to perform the exact skills in the exact environment that entry-level positions are looking for in applicants.
The other issue is the overwhelming amount of entry-level applicants who only have academic experience. Why wait until after college to gain industry experience? Well, there is a minority of industry internships as compared to the abundant academic research volunteer and paid positions. It is just easier to find an academic position when you’re in an academic institution. It’s also just as easy to receive no guidance or mentorship regarding a career in industry when the potential mentors surrounding you have already established academic careers. There is a burgeoning difference in how young professionals approach their careers and the job market than their predecessors. So, apply the principles of good science to your own life. Formulate questions that you gather research on to answer. What is a career in academia or industry look like? Which would I prefer? What is the difference? What are the positives and negatives of each? Reach out to a wide range of people who occupy jobs that you could see yourself enjoying. If they cannot provide you with what you need, ask them for a reference to another professional who can. You deserve to make an informed decision.
Seeking the Best Job for You
The job market is both specialized and diverse for junior roles. You can always forge your own path and there is sure to be a position out there that suits you. How do you find it? Apply to a plethora of positions – but be job-specific for each one. Sending the same resume for five different jobs is an inefficient, and quick way to eliminate your application from four out of five of those roles. For each application, compare and contrast the job description with your own skills and experience. Put all the matching components at the beginning of the resume or make sure it stands out – whether highlighted or underlined – throughout the resume.
Gathering information and networking is preliminary to the action step. Structure your college years in a way where you can provide yourself with the most options later. If you’re working during the semester at a professor’s lab, then consider spending the summer completing an industry experience. But, most importantly, ensure that you are getting the absolute most you can out of both experiences: learn, observe, and expand your skill set to match the job you want later on in your career.