YOUR CREDIT RATING WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH
Rumer, 20, was all smiles after her interview with a top retail company. ‘The interview had gone well, and the interviewer even closed by saying all he was going to do was a background check,’ she says. Then, unexpectedly, she received a ‘No’ e-mail. ‘I was shocked. I really believed I had the job!’ Determined that she’d ticked all the boxes for a job on their sales floor, Rumer pushed for feedback. When she got it, she was horrified. ‘I was turned down because I had a bad credit rating,’ she explains. ‘Apparently, the company’s policy was not to take on anyone who had defaulted on R5 000 or more of debt.
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I was mortified – that debt was for my tuition fees, and I had defaulted because I couldn’t afford the repayments. That’s why I was looking for a job!’ Rumer’s credit record had blown her chances. ‘Your credit report is a record of your creditpayment behaviour,’ says Alison Magrath, executive manager of the Credit Bureau Association. ‘It includes everything from paying instalments on time to the amount of debt you have and your liabilities (for example, things you owe money on, such as a car or property).’ Your record will also show judgments you may have had against you, such as being placed under administration or debt review by a court. ‘Typically, if a role requires money handling or budget management, a hirer will request a credit check,’ says Tamara Wolpert, a recruitment consultant at Viv Gordon Placements. ‘It’s also common practice for companies to require a check on your education, ID and criminal record before making an offer of employment.’ What you can do While checking that you are who you say you are (and that you’ve got the qualifications you boast about) is a legit thing for a potential employer to do, running a credit check is a little greyer. ‘An employer can only view your report if you’re applying for a position that requires honesty in dealing with cash or finances, and they provide a description of the position that clearly outlines these functions,’ says Magrath. ‘You would have to give your consent for anyone to access your report. Check the small print on a job listing or application to see that they are not trying to circumvent the consent aspect. Sometimes we see statements on forms such as “Applicants must submit to a credit check”. This implies that, by applying, you’re consenting.’ According to Matthew Brian Schoonraad, a junior attorney at C&A Friedlander Attorneys, you have no legal obligation to submit to a credit check. That said, refusing to be checked may thwart your chance of getting a job, says Wolpert. It can look as though you’ve got something to hide. Against having your record checked? Schoonraad suggests asking for clarity on why a check is needed, and explaining you don’t feel comfortable with a third party having access to this (very) private intel ‘You have every right to voice any discomfort you feel, and to ask for clarifi cation on a credit check’s relevance to the job offer,’ he says. Initiate an open convo: it may put a potential employer’s mind at ease, and demonstrates your upfront attitude. ‘I’ve had cases where a candidate could explain specifi c situations, and they got the job,’ says Wolpert. Avoid hang-ups in the fi rst place by keeping your credit record healthy. ‘You can get a copy of your credit report from each registered credit bureau free of charge once a year,’ says Magrath. These steps will help you avoid raising a red fl ag: Q Pay instalments in full and on time – use debit orders to help. Q Consolidate debt to avoid duplicated initiation and admin fees. Q Shop around for the best interest rates, and consider whether loyalty schemes really offer value to you. Q Unable to pay an instalment? Contact your credit provider immediately, and arrange to make a smaller payment, with an agreement on how to repay the missed amount. Q Don’t apply for more debt than you can repay – and always save a little money for a rainy day.
YOUR NOTICE PERIOD WAS TOO LONG
Most companies look to hire immediately, meaning their expectation is generally that you’ll be available to start within one calendar month. ‘Any longer and companies may pass your offer over to someone else who can start sooner and alleviate their resource needs quicker,’ says Kim van der Linden, head of operations at Associated Media Publishing. It’s not likely to be a deal-breaker if you’re by far the better candidate – but if it’s neckand-neck between you and someone else, it could swing the vote. Your notice period usually comes up far down the track – sometimes only at fi nal interview stage. This means that you’re often invested in an application – and hopeful of an offer – before realising a contractual obligation to your current employer is a hitch in bagging your dream gig. Frustrating! What you can do Notice periods vary. ‘As long as the notice period isn’t shorter than the statutory minimum prescribed by law, you’re free to negotiate the length with your employer,’ says Schoonraad. That negotiation should happen before you sign your contract (remember that for your next offer!), and it’s entirely fair to stand fi rm on a one-month period – that’s the ‘norm’. But if it’s really stumping your job search, try negotiating with your current employer now. ‘A notice period can be waived by either party, or be renegotiated at any point,’ says Schoonraad. The risk? Your current employer isn’t obligated to agree to your request, and it may make them suspect you’re looking elsewhere. Really feeling like it’s killing your chance of offers? ‘You can waive your notice period unilaterally, but you will forfeit any notice-period pay,’ says Schoonraad. The shortfall may be worth it in the long run – just be sure to sign the new contract before telling your old company you’re waiving that pay! 3YOUR REFERENCE SLATED YOU Your new job offer is practically on the table – all that’s left is for your (nearly) new boss to call your references. But when she does, one of them badmouths you. You don’t get the offer, and when you request feedback, the hirer explains your refs didn’t check out. Gulp. ‘Potential employers are looking for feedback from a direct line manager – someone you worked with daily – to comment accurately on your work performance,’ says Wolpert. The question is, is the feedback fair? And what can you do about the bad reference for next time? What you can do ‘First, always ask permission before you add someone to your references list,’ says Wolpert. It preps them to expect a call, and gives them a chance to be honest with you and say if they don’t think they’re positioned to give a good report before they’re contacted by a hirer. ‘Also, don’t list your current manager,’ adds Wolpert. ‘You probably don’t want them to know you’re applying for jobs – and they’re not best-placed to offer glowing feedback if you’re about to leave them, or if they’re a direct competitor of the company you’re planning to move to.’ Other tips: only provide references once you’ve gone through the interview process and the hiring manager requests these – i.e. don’t put them on your CV. By listing names on your CV, you’re implying ‘permission’ for someone to contact them – and you don’t want this happening without warning. And (duh) pick references with whom you had good working relationships, and who you trust to give glowing feedback. It’s another reason why you should never burn bridges when you leave a company – you may need them to land your next gig.
YOUR IRL AND DIGITAL PRESENCE DIDN’T MATCH UP
What the interviewer saw in front of her: a pulledtogether woman who looked every inch the professional. What the interviewer saw when she googled you later: a tweet where you slammed your current boss, and an Insta pic where you fat-shamed someone in the gym changing room. Like it or not, every hirer is scanning your digital presence before they make you an offer – often because it’s more revealing than the interview, when you are on your best behaviour. ‘Posts and messages on digital platforms can have numerous ramifications, and have led to dismissals and legal prosecution,’ says senior trend analyst Nicola Cooper of Nicola Cooper & Associates. ‘A potential employer could also see your online presence as a risk to reputation, defamation, liability and the divulgence of confidential information.’ That post about the project you’re working on RN? It could breach your company’s confidentiality policy. Blowing off steam about a client, colleague or boss (even if you don’t name them)? Signs you’re possibly hot-headed, could damage the company’s reputation or jeopardise their business. What you can do It’s very difficult to erase your digital footprint entirely. ‘If you wouldn’t say or do something in person, don’t do it online,’ says Cooper. And be aware of company policy: ‘Many companies enforce social media clauses in the contract. Read these, and be aware of them.’ Make it harder for the next recruiter to spy on you digitally. ‘Change any accounts to private mode,’ says Cooper. ‘Go through galleries and untag yourself from compromising photos. Change settings so that your friends have to request your permission before tagging you in any future pics.’ Then, google yourself. Check what comes up, and don’t forget to scan Google images and videos too.
‘You can remove images from a search – google the process for a step-bystep how-to,’ says Cooper. If your social media accounts feel too far gone to clean up, delete them entirely and start fresh. Think of it as rebranding. ‘You can export your data fi rst, so you have copies of your photos,’ says Cooper. With this new start, only post things you wouldn’t mind a recruiter seeing – it’s a good rule of thumb. And keep future posts professional. ‘Never assume that posting anonymously will keep your true identity secret,’ says Cooper. ‘It should go without saying, but keep anything discriminatory, insulting, obscene or overly intimate off your profi le. Show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for sensitivities that may exist, particularly around politics and religion.’ It’s all the same rules you apply when you go for an interview IRL. Some more practical posting tips from Cooper: Q Don’t post confi dential or proprietary information. If there’s any question in your mind, keep silent. Q Be mindful that whatever you publish will be public for a long time – possibly for your entire career. Q Make certain that your online profi les and related content are consistent with how you wish to present yourself to colleagues and clients. Q Do not violate copyright, fair use or fi nancial disclosure laws. When you quote somebody or repost a pic, link back to the source. Q Take responsibility for the content you publish on any forum.
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