Christa Foley is the senior human resources manager in charge of hiring at Zappos.com.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Most job search advice is offered by so-called 'experts' who aren't actually responsible for hiring anyone. But hiring managers at major employers are on the front lines of the job market crisis. They screen thousands of applicants a week and are in a unique position to reveal what job seekers are doing wrong, and what candidates can do to get hired now, even in an ultra-competitive job market.
The following are edited excerpts from an interview with Christa Foley, senior human resources manager at Zappos.com. The e-commerce site hires over 30 new employees every month from February to October.
CNNMoney: You see tens of thousands of applicants. What is the biggest mistake made by candidates?
Christa Foley: That's easy ... they apply to too many jobs on our site, and when the jobs are unrelated, as they often are, it makes the candidate look too desperate, and not serious. Choose the open position that you are really best qualified for, and draft a strong résumé for that position. I think that maximizes a candidate's chances of success. Simply applying to every open job on our career page does not.
What's the best question a candidate has asked you in an interview?
"Which employee do you think best represents the Zappos culture and why?"
What's your favorite question for a candidate?
Stole this from Tony Hsieh, our CEO, but I love it: "What's the biggest misperception people typically have about you?" It can give me clues about how sincere and honest they are. I like the question because HR managers need to get candidates talking about themselves in unscripted ways, so that we can see if the culture fit is there. I'll give you an example of a poor answer to this: "People don't have misperceptions of me. What you see is what you get." That raises flags about arrogance, and a lack of self-awareness, it's just not a great response.
What is more important, a relevant college degree or great work experience?
Great work experience. College is fabulous and I encourage everyone to get their degree but outside of a few positions where we require a degree, largely we are looking for work experience and as always, culture fit.
Dispel the myth that older workers aren't wanted by newer tech companies.
I can't speak for all tech companies, but for Zappos I say hogwash! We have employees who range from fresh out of high school to retirees coming back to work at Zappos. For example, we hired a retired school teacher who has been with us five years. She is working out great and is a manager for us now.
Yes, employees need to be computer savvy, but of course many older people are. And when we look for 'culture fit' it's not a code for 'younger,' it's a code for 'skilled, motivated, friendly people who are in line with the Zappos Core Values.' I urge older candidates not to disqualify themselves from the so-called 'new economy' jobs."
So many candidates are worried about the "stalker" label. Is there a way to follow up that is helpful without scaring an employer away?
This probably varies from company to company but candidate follow up is totally fine on our end. I think problems arise when the candidate isn't listening to the feedback we are sharing which is a big red flag from a communication skills standpoint.
For example, if I tell you the hiring manager is reviewing your résumé and I will have an answer for you by the end of the week, don't follow up with me before the end of the week. Also, please don't email the Director of HR, the CEO, and the VP of Marketing about your résumé. Instead, apply through our career page. If you actually know the VP of Marketing then have at it and feel free to have him put in a good word for you. Basically, showing your passion and enthusiasm for the job is great but be sure not to cross the line.
What is most creative thing you have seen a job seeker do to get hired?
Oh boy, we see lots of stuff. I will say that in general, I'd really rather candidates not send things to our office and certainly not things that are expensive. But, a few creative candidates that stand out in my mind include a person who sent us a box of donuts. He'd pasted a URL link inside the box which took us to a Youtube video from him and why he wants to work at Zappos. Oh and one person created a Twitter account called @hiremezappos. We hired him.
Steven Greenberg is the founder of Jobs4.0, which helps major employers recruit job seekers over 40.
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