Career Interview

Interview with Tiffany: HR Director, Part Two

About six months ago, I shared an interview with my very talented friend Tiffany–  an HR Director at a well known company whose advice on jobs, money, life has always been spot on. That interview ended up being one of my most popular, and I realized through emails and comments that like there were many who like me, struggled with the same questions around carving out a successful career and life. A little while ago I had the opportunity to ask Tiffany some more questions that have been on my mind, and I hope you find this as helpful as I did!

What do you do if you’re a woman and you strongly feel like a company is underpaying you vs. your male counterparts? How do you best approach that situation?

Simply put, ask for a raise. If you don’t, you can’t be all that upset. Don’t approach it from the angle that you think other people/men are making more than you. Do market research for your position, industry and region. Highlight what you’ve accomplished in your position that warrants a raise. Make a case for yourself, but make certain you’re able to support it. I don’t mean to discount the amount of real discrimination based on gender that can occur in compensation, but I’ve found that a good number of women are underpaid because they don’t either don’t know their worth to the company or don’t ask for more money when they’re hired. Now, if it’s a situation where there’s clearly a discrepancy and there’s not equal pay being given for equal work-I’d encourage women to be educate themselves of their rights under the EEOC.

What are the top “red flags” that stick out to you when you look at a resume?

First, I automatically dismiss any candidate that submits a resume that just looks poorly done or has spelling and/or grammatical errors. It shows a lack of attention to detail and there’s enough candidates out there with flawless resumes not to be lenient on this. Also, gaps in employment, no real detail or description of relevant work performed in positions and lack of education are red flags for the types of hiring I facilitate. This varies on position and experience level of candidates.


What if your resume already features potential negatives, like having lots of various jobs, bouncing around, short work lengths, etc? How can you try and minimize negative perceptions?

If you’re able to rationally explain why you’ve moved around a lot- it can be a non-issue. With the way the economy has been the last 5 years or so, it’s not that uncommon to see candidates that have been laid off every year or so or have been unemployed for periods of time. That’s something that can be explained on the resume, cover letter or interview. Whatever the reason, you need to be able to discuss it and not become defensive about it, as it will be one of the first questions asked. HR departments and hiring manager appreciate honesty. I recommend not making a habit of jumping from job to job for a few reasons. It makes you look like a “flight risk” for future employers and being in a job for less than a year makes it difficult for you to truly master any skills associated with the role. Don’t stay somewhere if you’re miserable, underpaid or under utilized. But if you feel that way every four months, you’re probably choosing the wrong types of positions.

Do you think women with children get a tougher time in the workplace? What about men with children and who have childcare responsibilities?

I’d say it really depends on how the parent chooses to balance work and family. Also, what the company’s culture is toward working parents. I’ve seen situations where parents are made to feel guilty for having a hard stop time of 5 P.M. due to childcare responsibilities and situations where childless employees are forced to pick up the slack for employees with kids but aren’t given the same courtesy because they don’t have kids. It sucks either way when your workplace doesn’t give you the flexibility to lead a balanced life. Whether your life includes children or simply wanting to get off of work in time to make it to yoga- you should be able to do it, it’s not too much to ask!

And to directly answer the question, here comes an unpopular opinion- when choosing a career path, people need to be mindful of what type of life they want to have outside of work. Sometimes you can’t have it all and keep your sanity. Meaning that not all jobs/companies/career paths are going to mesh well with maintaining an active parenting role. Pick one that does or be prepared for the guilt trips on both sides. I’m not saying it’s right, but we haven’t evolved as a culture enough to value family the way we should. There are companies that are much better at this than others. Just know that you can’t take a job that’s widely known to be high stress, and demanding of both time and energy and then act like you’re surprised when people talk crap about you if it seems like you’re putting your kids first and they’re putting the job first. This goes for both mothers and fathers. Unfortunately, due to perceived gender roles and other factors, women get more flack for this. We can only hope that the tide will change soon.


Is there anything that you should do as woman who is expecting to get pregnant/announce their pregnancy to protect yourself in the workplace?

I wouldn’t recommend telling everyone that you’re trying to conceive. That’s jumping the gun. Even if you’re close with your co-workers, this is too much information. And let’s be honest, people have big mouths and vivid imaginations. You eat one big lunch and there will be bets on how many months along you are. Who needs that?! FMLA provides job protection and requires you to give notice of leave 30 days prior. But when you announce your pregnancy is really a personal decision. Even if you’re showing, you’re not obligated to say anything to anyone. Review your company’s maternity leave policy, make sure you’re eligible to be covered under it and/or FMLA and go from there.

How do you feel about the economy right now – just your own perception, based on what you’ve seen in hiring and your company? Long term and short term predictions?

It’s really hard to say. Some days I think things are on a definite upswing. And other days I see how companies are so accustomed to getting by with less resources, that they don’t see the need to hire at the level they were before the economic downturn. There’s a lot of companies that are in the middle of their growth phases, and that’s where there will be more opportunities for the next few years at least.


I’ve heard so many times that to be truly happy, your job should be something that you love. But, I see many people out there in jobs they obviously don’t love. Do you think we shouldn’t be satisfied until we have a job we absolutely love?

Ideally, yes. That should be everyone’s goal. But it won’t be everyone’s reality for a few reasons. Based on conversations I’ve had with employees and others over the years, I’ve concluded a few things:

1. People are their own worst enemies and limit themselves and their abilities according to their own insecurities or notions of what others think of them and their career.

2. The job that some people would absolutely love doesn’t pay nearly as much as the one they have and hate and they value money and the lifestyle it affords above their career happiness.

That’s about it, in a nutshell. Make a realistic plan of how you’d like to get a job you will love. Sometimes that involves making some uncomfortable decisions. Make the plan and work the plan everyday. Other people have found their dream jobs and passions, you can too.

 

What are some “red flags” to look out for when looking at potential employers? What are signs that they may not value their employees, etc?

High turnover- do people work there a short time and then leave? Poor benefits and lack of a true employee evaluation process is another. Anything that stifles communication between employees and decision makers is a red flag as well.

Just on a light note, how were your holidays? And any parting advice?

My holiday plans involved some great travel destinations and spending time with my awesome family and amazing friends. All of my favorite things! I rang in the new year with my boyfriend at a friend’s NYE theme party. I wish you and all of your readers a happy 2012!

As for advice, remember that work doesn’t define you and that while we all want professional success, jobs will come and go. Focus on what really makes you happy in life.

 

Tiffany is such a smarty pants and so eloquent as well – when I was re-reading this interview I found myself agreeing so much with everything she said. Thank you again Tiffany for taking the time to share your wealth of experience and wisdom with all of us, and I hope you all enjoyed the interview.

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  • Glitterista
    February 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    What great advice, again! Thanks for this great interview. 🙂

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    February 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Kat, you always ask the best questions and are able to cover a lot of grounds. These are questions that are on a lot of people's mind right down to the childcare issue but few are able to put it so succinctly. Such wise words from Tiffany. I love her pragmatic approach.

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    February 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Kat, you always ask the best questions and are able to cover a lot of grounds. These are questions that are on a lot of people's mind right down to the childcare issue but few are able to put it so succinctly. Such wise words from Tiffany. I love her pragmatic approach.

  • Couture Coco
    February 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    A fantastic set of relevant questions again and some very honest and experienced answers! It really helps to have someone like Tiffany spell out some of the most important issues.
    The family balance spoke out loudest to me. When I was single, my co workers who were mothers with young kids were BY FAR the most stressed and most stretched out of all of us. I mean most of the time I had no social life simply because I had to put the time in needed to meet my deadlines and produce the results I wanted but they had all of that AND their kids too!
    My hubby-to-be and I discussed exactly how we were going to go forward with our careers once we became parents and I like to think that discussion has saved us a lot of worry and disappointment later. It's not just the woman's choice for herself and her employers, obviously her partner really needs to have their say and be fully supportive of any decisions made together.

  • Jen @ redsolesandredwine
    February 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Fantastic questions, advice and so informative! I love that you shared this and all of us who work need tips/advice to get through our career.

    Red Soles and Red Wine

  • pjlatte
    February 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    What a great interview! I did remember reading the first part of her interview and that was very useful and informative. I like how you framed your questions this time around issues relating to women in the workplace. Thanks for sharing!

  • amy b.s.
    February 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    she has some great advice to share. thanks!

  • janettaylor
    February 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Nice interview, Honey!

  • xJOLE
    February 29, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Tiffany is such a great interviewee! Any chance she'd be up for answering more questions? I'd love to be able to forward her a question about my current job position.

    http://xjole.blogspot.com

  • Lilli
    February 29, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Very interesting:) I loved the photo with the baby!:) xoxo

  • katattack2000
    February 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    I loved this interview. It was great to see a HR perspective on resumes and what they look for in candidates 🙂

    katattack2000.wordpress.com

  • Anonymous
    February 29, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Gaps in resumes? With this economy of lay-offs, I see it all the time. What's interesting is Tiffany did not mention gaps due to women deciding to take time-off to raise their kids full-time for the first couple of years. I've seen resumes with 4 to 6 year of unemployment. These women come back to work with the same level job as they did prior to being unemployed. I would have thought these women have lost their careers being unemployed for that long, to be honest. It all depends on the situation/employer I suppose.

  • Latkes and Dim Sum
    February 29, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Dear Kat, I loved this follow-up interview – great advice!

  • dietingfashions
    March 1, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Tiffany hit a lot of points right on the head. I am a business owner and I handle all of the company's hirings. With the saturation of social media, it's so easy to go online and actually do background checks. So much potential in the work force, yet many people make mistakes on their resume.

    I have an employee who is planning to get pregnant this year. As soon as she told me, deep down I already know I have to find someone and train him or her as quickly as possible to take over my pregnant employee. Added stress to an employer.

    Thanks Kat for the interview.

    Helen

  • Alice /// VESTIGIAL WINGS
    March 1, 2012 at 3:07 am

    I'm not really in this position right now but that was super interesting to read! I haven't really seen job advice approached from a woman (vs man) point of view.

  • mai
    March 1, 2012 at 3:37 am

    great advice! i had to go back and read her first interview. 🙂

  • Anonymous
    March 1, 2012 at 4:16 am

    Reading this makes me glad that I have taken the entrepreneur route! When one works for a company, the employer controls much of their life. Wake up people – only work a job if you must. Gaps in employment? I agree with the above poster that raising kids is important, yet that would most likely be looked down upon as a reason to have a gap in employment. I have many friends in HR, and most of the are executives; a couple are managers. Always be wary of Hrt advice – at the end of the day, they are there to protect the EMPLOYER and not you. Don't ever forget that.

  • Anonymous
    March 1, 2012 at 4:18 am

    ^^ Excuse the above typos!

  • Katherine
    March 1, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Thank you Helen for adding your perspective! Interesting to hear from your perspective 🙂

  • Katherine
    March 1, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Thank you, very interesting to hear! I envy the life of an entrepreneur 🙂

  • Cinz
    March 1, 2012 at 6:45 am

    WOW,this is a really insightful and useful post:) Your questions are really constructive as well. Despite it not being fashion related i still adore this post!!! Great job and that's some good advice from Tiffany!!! Oh and i love the photos you've included in here and how it kinda has a sense of humor in it.

    Cinz
    http://cinzee.wordpress.com

  • PN
    March 1, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Came across your blog and wanted to say "thank you" for the insight. I myself left the finance field to pursue other interests and along the way, got pregnant. Life happens. It would be interesting to see what kind of advice she has for women who want to reenter the workforce after a hiatus of raising a family. Also, love that you cover topics other than fashion on your blog. Thank you.

  • Anonymous
    March 1, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Helen – has this employee said she'd going to resign? Would you rather her have waited until she was pregnant or near birth to tell you? If she is planning to come back, would it be as stressful? This is not meant to be snarky, I am truly curious of when it is a good time to tell the employer you are pregnant. Especially if you don't see them often & therefore don't run the risk of the 'obvious' giveaway.

  • Anonymous
    March 1, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    VERY TRUE!!

  • Katherine
    March 2, 2012 at 4:25 am

    Thank you! I will definitely ask Tiffany that question the next time we chat and let you all know an update hopefully 🙂

  • homestilo
    March 3, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Such a great interview. I am bookmarking this. The advice on finding the job you love particularly resonates with me.

  • SS
    March 3, 2012 at 5:42 am

    It is really good interview! I really appriciate you for sharing with us. Now atually I'm looking for job, so I definately keep this post in mind.

  • Inggrid Monalita
    March 3, 2012 at 9:00 am

    hi, dear. I love ur blog btw. Wanna follow each other? I'm so glad followed by stylish person like you. I'll be sure follow you back, dear.
    KISSES.

    http://miss-monaa.blogspot.com

  • FleurLapin
    March 5, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Hi! It's been awhile since I commented on your blog posts but I still follow your blog. I just wanted to let you know that I love these interviews! I always feel empowered and motivated when I read these posts. Keep up the awesome interviews 🙂

  • Katherine
    March 5, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Fleur so nice to hear from you! Thanks for the kind comment and hope you are well!

  • Catherine Cason
    March 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    This is great! Women need this, and it's great advice.

  • Catherine Cason
    March 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    This is great! Women need this, and it's great advice.

  • Anonymous
    March 7, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Such great advice. Can Tiffany maybe tell those of us who have been stuck in a bit of a rut and stayed in the same job for a decade (thank god I look young enough that people don't believe me when I tell them that!) how to spin that on a resume so it sounds positive? And what about those of us who are loyal, hardworking employees but have few opportunities for promotion (i.e. I'm a graphic designer for a corporation and that's all I'll ever be) or are not on a managerial track?

  • Katherine
    March 8, 2012 at 1:40 am

    I'll definitely pass your question along, I know that T is quite busy though! For the second part of what you wrote (about having few opportunities for promotion/managerial track), what is your question? Are you interested in moving to a managerial position, getting promoted, getting a pay raise? Thanks 🙂

  • Anne
    March 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Thank you so much for visiting my site. And, thanks for this post. I'm in HR too. I'm always curious to hear opinions of other HR personnel.

    Right now I'm a stay at home mom (I was at my last job for almost 7 years, but recently resigned end of January). I'm planning to go back into the workforce hopefully after year end and when my baby is bigger.

    Does your friend give professional advice on resumes? If so, I'd love to get her input on mine.

    xo Annie
    http://inspiredbythesethoughts.blogspot.com