Applicants Beware!

I hope in sharing my story, some of you will avoid the same situation.

Like lots of recent graduates, by July 2005, I was freaking out and applying for any position that I was even remotely interested in. Unfortunately, using, and a few others meant, I was also unwittingly applying for job scams.

Below is a word for word email I received from “Grey Marketing Team” (to my knowledge, they are no longer in existence).

Dear Aurora,
I have recently viewed your resume online and feel you may be qualified for our Advertising Department Assistant position. We are Grey Marketing Team, a national management and marketing firm. We assist companies in maximizing their marketing dollars by developing advertising, sales, and marketing campaigns.
We are currently seeking an Assistant to our Advertising Department to help our Creative Team develop print, internet, radio and television ads for our clients. An Advertising Department Assistant’s responsibilities would include the following:
Working with in house creative team
Assisting on sets and shoots
Acting as a liaison with production companies, photographers, etc
This position offers direct hands-on experience working with clients. We offer the following:

Starting Salary of $41,600
Quarterly and annual bonuses
Top benefits package including medical, dental, 401k, tuition re-imbursement, paid vacation and holidays, and paid holidays
Rapid advancement opportunities

The person we are seeking must fit the following description of the five “B’s”
Be a self starter
Be motivated to succeed
Be willing to travel occasionally
Be a team player
Be willing to learn and educate himself or herself

If you feel this position is for you please apply online at:

Go to the “employment” section

Select the “Advertising Department Assistant” position

Fill out the application.

Once you have filled out the application completely I will contact you for an interview.

Vonda Dixon
Human Resources
Grey Marketing Team

Surprise, surprise, I applied and was granted an interview. When the HR Director I spoke with sounded really young and told me the dress was business professional, I got an uneasy feeling. But I brushed it aside. I arrived for my interview at a nondescript building in St. Louis. As I found the suite, I noticed a lot of people wearing backpacks and business suits, which I thought was odd. The suite looked like any other office suite, only everyone in the office was young, really young. I interviewed with three people who couldn’t have been older than 25.

They asked the standard interview questions and others that were really off the wall. Like about what I would like as a superpower and “my wishes.” The entire process lasted about an hour and a half. At no point did we discuss what I would actually be doing for the “company.” The interviewers talked about a second interview, which would be going out with one of their employees “in the field” for a day and that I would be hearing from them soon.

When I got home, I researched the company and realized it was more door-to-door sales and less actual advertising or marketing work. I decided I would not be going into “the field” with one of their employees for any amount of money. Apparently, soon meant less than 24 hours later. I got a call from the woman I interviewed with. I politely turned down the second interview and was barraged with “you’ll regret not taking this opportunity.”

The more I’ve talked to recent graduates in the last seven years, the more I’ve heard about these kinds of job scams. Positions like these are preying on the eagerness of young graduates and unfortunately, seem to be becoming more and more popular.

You can avoid job scams by thoroughly researching the company you are applying to, which you should be doing for your cover letter anyway! This includes a standard Google search, verifying phone numbers, addresses and general details. You should also check out the scam websites and search the keywords used in the ad. Also, misspelled words and bad grammar are dead giveaways that something isn’t right.

Similar scams include: Steel Town Promotions

Have you encountered a job scam of your own?

Minimum Salary Requirements

Dual image of a woman in a suit adding pennies to a pink piggy bank and a women using a calculator and computer to determine her minimum salary requirements
Image from:

With more and more applications online, the previous standard of putting “negotiable” in this field becomes less of an option as the form typically looks for a specific number or range.

The best advice you can get will depend on the application. If it’s paper application and you can write “negotiable” or something similar and feel comfortable doing so, go for it.

If the application give you the option for a range, determining that range will take some research, which you should do prior to the interview anyway. Find out the average income in the city you’re applying in. You can find that on this City Data site and other similar sites.  Once you know the average income, find the cost of living for the area you are applying. The cost of living calculator is good. As is this one from CNN Money. Run a few and get a good ball park range.  Add in your fixed expenses and you’ll have a good number to start with. Then research what the typical salary range is for the position. You can find this information through a professional organization, simple Google search, and other sources. Use more than one.

The above process will also help you with the forms that require a more exact number. If you are lucky the form will say minimum required salary, which means they won’t consider you if your number is above what they are looking for and you won’t consider them if they intend to offer less. This is a way of weeding out the applicants.

In the end, you will have to find what works for you and your life and lifestyle (hopefully it isn’t extravagant!). Try a few techniques, using your best judgement, you’ll eventually find one that works for you.

This Career Capitalist post gives a good conversation tree for how to approach this question in an interview.

This post from Quarter Life Finances has several pieces of good advice when dealing with online applications.

How to close a Job Interview

Tip to close an interview by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle professional woman sitting in a yellow chair

It’s best to close an interview with questions about the next steps and where the interviewer is in the process. This article suggest closing with, “When can I start?” This Career Confidential video state it another way, “based on what we’ve talked about I think this is a fantastic fit, do you agree?”

You might be thinking that’s too strong, or presumptuous. You have to find the right phrasing for you. One that fits your personality and the position.  It isn’t too strong, forthright or assuming to ask, “what’s the next step.” Or, “where are you in the interview process?” If you’re lucky you are either the last interview or the interviewer will tell you we are looking at another (number) of candidates.

The next question you should ask is, “when do you hope to make a decision?”

You should be able to tell by how the interviewer answers the question if they are willing to give you more information. If the answers are short, quip and generally seemed more focused in getting you out the door than providing you with information, be wary of asking the final question, “is there any reason you wouldn’t move forward with me?” or any of the above suggestions.

You can phrase it however you wish, but this is where you’ll get the most information. Either the interviewer will say a one-word answer (Yes or No) or give you something constructive. If the answer is simply, no, you can ask, “why not?” Which should start a conversation and give you an opportunity to discuss those points further. Or you might just be ushered out the door. You can be assertive and respectful and enthusiastic without being aggressive.

Bottom line: find a way to ask about the process, next steps and whether or not you’re still in consideration in your own words. This information is as crucial as the details in the actual interview because you’ll know where you stand and what to expect.

Job Search Tips

People sitting with technology in various examples of business casual dress Job search tips by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

This post is for all college seniors and anyone else who is searching for a job.

It’s recently been brought to my attention that teaching students how to find a job is an overlooked skill at many universities. I can’t promise success, but I can provide some tips that have worked for me.

Make sure everyone knows you are looking for a job. You never know when a friend’s father might know of an opening or someone from your softball team just put in their notice if you neglect to mention that you are looking for a position. It might feel awkward at first, but memorize your elevator speech and you might be surprised who comes out of the woodwork.

Continue to socialize and talk about things other than searching for a job. It’s easy to let your job search dominate your life. You can spend countless hours combing through want ads and making phone calls. The burn out rate and general frustration can be overwhelming. Make sure you are still taking time to do the things you love and see your friends and family.

Set up Job Search Agents. Let the opening start flooding your inbox! Some of the tops choices are, CareerBuilder, Indeed and Simply Hired. Also, don’t be afraid to check the U.S. Government.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Or get professional help. If it’s been six months or longer and you aren’t getting any calls or interviews, consider having a professional review your resume and cover letters. Many are former recruiters and hiring managers and have a unique insight into the process. If you can, try to find someone in the field where you are applying.

Consider creating a webpage. Use WordPress or other free sites to create a site with more than just your resume. Write about your goals, show work examples, be creative!

Be selective. Know of a company you would love to work at? Go to the website, find the hiring manager’s email address and let them know. Fill out profiles on the company’s website indicating your professional history.

Check regional and national associations. These sites often advertise jobs that are not posted elsewhere.

Learn and use LinkedIn. If you don’t already have a profile, create one. The search and connect. If you still aren’t sure how to get started, Google LinkedIn tutorial.

Google yourself. And Bing. And Yahoo. And… You get the point.

What other job search tips and tricks would you want to share with college seniors and those searching?