Monday, November 28, 2011

Advice for Job Seekers

I'm hiring again.  Right now I'm looking for a part time assistant to do office work (mainly bookkeeping) and eventually expand to help out with property management tasks (like taking calls and showing available apartments).  The position starts at only 8 hours per week, but we expect that it will grow pretty rapidly.  (Our other positions have basically tripled in hours over the past few months.)

I posted the ad on Saturday, and (less than two days later!) I already have over 30 applications from people who are interested.  This response is typical.

This will be the fourth person I've hired over the past six months, so I'm certainly no hiring expert, but it's becoming really clear to me that there are a few simple things that people can do to increase their chances of getting an interview.

1. Use a professional e-mail address.  Your e-mail address should not have words like "babe," "hot," "stud," "angel," "chick," etc.  If your e-mail address has one of those things, set up a free e-mail address with Gmail that just has your name, and maybe a few numbers.  (If you're a grown up, maybe it's time to say goodbye to your embarrassing e-mail address anyway?)  When I receive resumes from stupid or flirty e-mail addresses, I assume that the applicant is unprofessional, does not pay attention to details, etc, and unless the person immediately appears extremely qualified, these applications go straight to the rejection pile.

2. Pay attention to job requirements.  For this particular job, I am requiring a few things: a background check is a condition of employment; applicants must be totally comfortable using Microsoft Word, the Internet, and Google Maps, etc; they need to have an insured car and valid driver license... and, we're looking for someone who has Quickbooks experience.  They don't need to have used Quickbooks for 10 years, but frankly, my understanding is that it takes some time to learn to use Quickbooks, and that's part of the reason we're hiring to begin with.  If your resume includes experience as a "Sandwich Artist" and a few months as a receptionist, you're going straight into the rejection pile.  (And, why did you waste my time?)  If you don't have the qualifications for the type of job you want, why not get them?  You don't need to have an entire college degree in a related field, but you could at least take a few classes so that your skills will be a better match with what you want to be doing.  Or buy a book to study and practice at home.  People who think that being a "quick learner" means they don't need related experience are kidding themselves.  Being a quick learner may be enough for a job at a sandwich shop, and it will certainly help you as I'm teaching you to use our industry-specific software (which I don't expect anyone to already have experience with), but I still expect you to bring something to the table.

3. Don't bury your qualifications.  I have received so many extremely wordy resumes.  I understand that applicants want credit for as many things they've done as possible so that I'll know they're extra qualified for something, and they can apply for as many different types of jobs as possible.  What actually happens, though, is that it buries your qualifications.  When I "read" your resume, I'm skimming, and I'm looking for specific words that match what I put in the job description: Quickbooks, financial, bookkeeping, real estate, etc.  Don't use complete sentences.  Bullet points that list your skills at the top are even better.  If you actually do qualify, don't risk being accidentally overlooked because your qualification was not obvious.

4. Act like you read the job ad.  You don't have to rewrite your resume for me, and you don't have to spend hours creating the ideal cover letter, either.  (Although both of those things would help you significantly.)  However, if the ad says you're sending your resume to Emily, why address your e-mail to the Hiring Manager?  Are the two seconds it would take to insert my name really too much?  If you don't want to waste your time on a cover letter, send me a very short e-mail that makes it sound like you read the job ad.  Something like:

Dear Emily,
I have experience with Quickbooks, I speak Spanish, and I would love to grow with your company!  My resume is attached.  Please let me know if you have any questions.
Job Hunter

I've had thoughts of expanding my job application instructions to something like this:
"Read this carefully:  If you wish to apply for this job, send your resume to Emily at  To prove that you actually mean to apply for this job specifically, answer the following questions in the text of the e-mail: 1. Have you ever used Quickbooks before?  2. Do you have a reliable vehicle?  3. How many hours is this position? If you do not include the answer these questions in the body of the e-mail, your resume will not be considered.  Thank you."

5. Don't bother including an objective on your resume.  Objectives were really popular in the 80's, I think, but they haven't been popular for a while now.  I don't actually care what you're looking for--I just care if you can meet my needs.  That's what I'll be paying you for.  If you include an objective anyway, try to have it sort of match my job.  If your objective is all about something totally unrelated to the job that I'm offering, not only does it draw attention to the fact that your qualifications are probably for some other field, it also gives me the idea that you would rather be doing something else, so you probably won't do a very good job at my position that you're applying for, since you don't care about it.

Anyhow, these are just some of the thoughts I keep having as I peek at the e-mails and resumes I'm receiving.  These things seem like common sense to me, but the same issues come up over and over again, so I guess it's common lack-of-sense.  About 80% of the applications I receive have one (or more) of these problems.  The good news is, if my suggestions sound new to you, changing a few simple things can probably move you into the top 20%, which will dramatically increase your chances of getting an interview (and a job).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pregnancy Jokes

Jeff and I have two favorite pregnancy-related jokes.

Our First Joke

The first joke started back when we were trying to conceive.  When you're trying to conceive, you're supposed to act like you're pregnant, because maybe you already are!  Obviously there's some sense to not doing risky things when you could be pregnant, but acting like maybe I'm pregnant felt pretty ridiculous.  (And, then, it was just kind of disappointing when I wasn't pregnant the first month.)

Anyhow, Jeff really wanted me to be careful, though, because mistakes in very early pregnancy can have serious consequences.  Fair enough.

So one time I had a sore throat.  I searched online for "sore throat pregnancy" (or something like that) so that I could find a safe method for treating a sore throat.  To my surprise, the top results were pages answering the question of whether a sore throat is a very early pregnancy symptom.  (It could be!  The charts show that women who turned out to be pregnant had a slightly higher incidence of sore throats...)

It all reminded me of when one of my friends in high school thought everything a particular boy did was related to her: "Oh, he looks sad, maybe he's thinking about how I didn't call this Saturday?"  Uh, no.  Maybe he's realizing he has a test next period.  (He wasn't interested in her at all, so it was kind of silly for her to act like everything he did had to do with her.)

So, Jeff and I had a good laugh about people seriously wondering if they're pregnant once they notice a sore throat.

After that, any time either of us had a symptom, we diagnosed it as an early pregnancy symptom.

"Oh, your nose is stuffy?  You must be pregnant!"  Anything!  Symptoms that seemed especially unrelated to pregnancy became our best indicators.  That was our favorite joke while we were trying to conceive.

Our Second Joke

So, I've had morning sickness for...oh, about 6 weeks now?   I don't remember how this one started, but at some point I started telling Jeff,  "You make me sick!"  I say it in a really irritated voice, as if I find him absolutely disgusting.  But actually, he got me pregnant, so he did make me sick.  So we both laugh about that, because I'm being literal about a statement that is typically used figuratively.  Funny!


So, recently I went shopping and I came back with a lot of random stuff.

Me:  I bought a lot of random stuff.  Like, I got a pineapple.  This is what happens when I have weird tastes and I go to the grocery store:  I'm so used to everything sounding bad that I buy everything that has appeal to me and I get a lot of weird stuff.

Jeff: Like oranges?

Me: Uh huh.  Well, not oranges, but mandarin oranges.  But not in a can this time.

Jeff:  They have a peel.

Me: Hahaha!  Good one.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


We're expecting!

Baby is due June 16th.
This is our ultrasound from Thursday.  Baby is about the size of a grape, and kind of the shape of a gummy bear. The right part of the blob is its head, and the left part of the blob is its body.  My midwife was able to point out all of the arms and legs, the spinal cord, and the jaw.  It has a strong heartbeat, and it was moving its little limbs around as we watched it.

I have been sick, sick, sick for about a month now.  I get nauseous soon after I wake up, and usually I just stay nauseous all day long.  Nothing really makes it better, except for chocolate, which really doesn't sound good to me in the morning.  Now, Jeff makes me hot chocolate every morning, and that makes my days about 80% better.  I still have a lot of days where I just spend most of the day sleeping and feeling awful, though.  We've had my assistant come over much more often to help me keep up with property management stuff and household stuff.  That helps somewhat.  And right now I'm on the "Things That Sound Like They Will Not Make Me More Sick" diet.  Hopefully I'll start feeling better soon.

We picked an excellent midwife.  She's very experienced, and she's always booked about 8 months out, with a waiting list.  We called her as soon as we knew I was pregnant, and we're excited to be working with her.  Jeff and I both want to have an out-of-hospital birth, for a variety of reasons.  We have excellent insurance, so a hospital birth would pretty much be free, but it's an easy decision for us: we want the very best for our child, and we won't get the best at a hospital.  For Jeff, it's all about statistics: out-of-hospital births statistically have better outcomes (for example, much lower rate of c-sections, lower rates of postpartum depression, etc).  For me, it's about the experience that I want to have (I attended four of my mom's home births).  At this point we're leaning toward having a planned home birth, but my midwife also has a very nice birth center, so we're still considering that option.

We've only [tentatively] picked a girl name: Renesme.  We could also combine my mom's name (Karen) and Jeff's mom's name (June) to make something really special, like Juren, or Karune.  We could use the same naming convention if it's a boy--my dad's name is Robert and Jeff's dad's name is Thomas, so we could call him Tombob or Botom, but I'm just not as sure about those.   Just kidding.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Learning to be a Good Employer

I hired a lady several months ago to do some cleaning, organizing, and personal assistant type work for me.  It's been working out all right.  She was promised just 4 hours of work per week, but she's more than happy to work more hours, so it's fluctuated.  For the past week and a half, we've had her coming every week day for 3-4 hours.  Now, primarily she does cleaning, but she also runs some errands for me.

Today something happened that kind of put a bad taste in my mouth.

We're renting the front of our home again, and last week this lady offered to put an ad online for me, from her house.  So she did, sometime at the end of last week.  Honestly, I think the ad is terrible. It doesn't highlight features of the home, and it abbreviates too many words (which means it won't come up in searches), and she only posted it on Craigslist, which would be perfect, except that here in Utah people all use KSL, not Craigslist.  Of course, I have gotten absolutely no response from the ad.  Jeff says her ad is okay.  It's better than nothing, and I've been too busy to spend time on that, he says.  Well, that's fine.

Today, she asked me something to the extent of how did I want to handle payment for her placing ads.  "Oh," I said.  "Right.  How much time did you spend on it?"  "About fifteen minutes.  Because it was the first time, and I had to download pictures."  "Oh.  Hm.  Okay."

Now, here's the thing.  I absolutely do not expect this lady to spend a second of her time working for free.  I have every expectation that she will be paid for every bit of time that she spends working for us.  That's only fair.

Really, though, I kind of thought that I had already paid her for her time that she spent on the ad.  See, she comes late almost every time she works, and then she frequently leaves a little early, too.  So I thought maybe she left early and completed her shift at home the day that she placed the ad.  I didn't clarify that with her, though, so maybe I should have.

Here's the thing: I pay this lady cash every day that she comes to work for us.  It's a pain, and it seems nit-picky to reduce her pay when she works 10-15 minutes less than her scheduled work time.  What is 10-15 minutes if she's been working for 3-5 hours?  Plus, we don't have a time clock in our house, so I don't want to accidentally round her time down just because I wasn't paying close attention to the time when she arrived or left.  So I just round up.  To be nice.

There have been a few times lately where I've invited her to eat lunch with me.  On the clock.  Just to be nice.

And, she's kind of a slow worker.  We think we're over-paying her, by at least a couple dollars an hour.  It seemed worthwhile when she was helping organize, but now she's not doing organization, and sometimes we wonder what's taking her so long to get things done.

We also reimburse her mileage when she runs errands, at .50/mile.  It is obvious to me that she rounds these figures up.  For instance, today she drove out to one of the properties I manage to drop some papers off, and she told me it was 35 miles.   Google Maps says her drive was 23 miles, round trip.  That's an extra $6 right there. I wasn't really sure what to do.  The amount of payment in question is only $3.  When she left today, she she was short on her time even today by 10 minutes.  So I paid her the rounded-up amount for her hours today, and decided I would just think about what to do.

Here are my thoughts:
1. I should pay her the $3, I guess, since obviously she doesn't feel like she has been compensated for that time.
2. I should keep track of the time that she works, to the minute, and if it means she's getting loose change instead of dollars, well, that's what she earned.
3. Google Maps will be our authority for determining mileage.
4. If I feel like inviting her to eat lunch with me, I will, but I probably won't really feel like it.

Do I really need to be so militant about all this?  It seems a little ridiculous.  But still, really, she knows she comes late.  (She apologizes when she does.)  So, why would she make a big deal about a few minutes of work that she did from home, at her own suggestion?

I don't know.

What do you think, readers?  What is the right thing to do?  What would a good, fair employer do?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Ducklings and a Buck


Jessica told me she knew someone who was looking for a home for their ducks, and wondered if we were interested.  We were.  Jeff has actually been asking me to get ducks for about a year now, and one time this spring I actually looked for them, but I didn't find any.

So, this Friday the family brought their three ducklings to our house.  We like them.

They're really cute.  And they were raised by a bunch of kids, so they're pretty friendly, too.

The ducklings are going through their voice change right now, which is absolutely adorable.  They say "peep peep QUACK peep QUACK."

This morning I put them out in the yard with the goats.  It took them about 5 minutes to find the drinking pond and start swimming in it.   Ducks are fun.

New Goat 

We have our buck for the year.  We got him a couple weeks ago.  Supposedly he's hot stuff, because he has a bunch of champion goats in his lines.  It was kind of an ordeal getting him.  Here's what happened:

We had been watching KSL for a decently priced buck.  I found one, and the guy was willing to deliver for the cost of fuel, so I called and told him I wanted it.  He was going to deliver the buck last Thursday, I think, and then it became last Friday night at 7pm.  We were not excited about that time, but we figured it would be ok.  Except the guy didn't come at 7.  He called around 7 saying he was coming at 8.  We kept waiting at our house for him (on date night) and he kept not showing up.  At 9:40 (past our bedtime) the guy was on his way, with the goat loaded up, about 40 minutes away.  Sigh.  Well, okay.  So we kept waiting, and finally the guy got here, after 10pm!  We unloaded the buck and put him in with the does, and went into the garage to pay the man and have him sign a receipt for us, and to get the registration papers for him.  So I was like, okay, so, $150 plus $20 for delivery.  And the guy was like, "Wait, what?  No, I had him listed at $300."  And I said, "Uh, no, it was definitely $150, and I didn't even see any other bucks posted by you."  [Awkward pause.]  "Well, I just listed him a few days ago."  So it was a big miscommunication, but actually Jeff and I were no way going to pay $300 for a buck, because we would never be able to resell a buck for that much.  I brought out the printout of the ad that I saw on KSL ($150), and the guy realized what I was talking about.  We talked about paying to rent the buck (yes, people do that); the guy wasn't that interested.  Finally, he suggested we pay $200, and we weren't crazy about paying that much for just a buck, but we were both tired and wanted to be done with things, so we just did.  And then, I was looking at the papers, and it said the buck's parents were the same as the other goat we thought we were buying.  Oh well.

So.  Now we have him.  The guy said he is about 6 months old...and so far he is totally uninterested in the does.  And I know some of the does have been interested in him.  So, I don't know what his problem is, but he better not actually have a problem.

Also, he has no name yet.  I need to come up with something so that I can send his papers in.

Other Things

We went to St. George.  It was fun.