Ellen Gordon Reeves: Making book on job interviews
Job-hunting guru Ellen Gordon Reeves is almost apologetic about the media buzz that's been generated this summer by her new book, "Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?: A Crash Course in Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job" (Workman, 2009, 227 pages, $13.95).
A couple of years in the making, her witty job-hunter's handbook hit the market this May at a moment of historic pain in the American labor market, and this accident of timing, plus the catchy title, has landed Ms. Reeves interview spots from CNN to NPR's "Morning Edition," from ABC's "News Now" to "The Early Show" on CBS. "I'm going to be accused of masterminding the economic downturn," she quips, "to create the perfect market for my book."
In fact, Ms. Reeves says, "I didn't set out to write a book, which I honestly think is one reason this book is hitting the mark. It came from real work, real questions, and I was a book editor and a teacher for years. I'm used to helping people edit their words, their appearance - everything they do."
Ms. Reeves will be offering her expertise at a free program at the Edgartown Public Library at 7 pm on Wednesday, August 26. Everyone attending is invited to submit a current résumé which she will critique as part of the program, and, those who show up dressed for an interview will receive her critique on what kind of first impression they make.
Ms. Reeves, who summers on the Vineyard, holds graduate degrees from Harvard and Northeastern. She's been the resident résumé and job-hunting expert at the Columbia University Publishing Course in New York City.
"I started editing résumés and people's professional bios," Ms. Reeves says. "Then it was, well, now you have a good résumé - don't blow the cover letter. Now that you have a cover letter, you might get a job interview - what do you do? The interview went well, so now you have to negotiate. You've got the job, what do you do on the job? And finally, what do you do when you want to move on?"
Every year, Ms. Reeves compiled the questions her students asked, and her answers, and eventually she realized this material was a book in the making. "Even the title ['Can I Wear a Nose Ring']," she says, "is a real question that young people have asked me." (Her answer: "Yes. If you wear a nose ring every day and you're not going to give it up, then you need to show your true colors.")
Being launched into the arena of punditry was scary, Ms. Reeves admits: "I'm sometimes surprised that I never seem to lack for an answer." She pauses and adds, "But you know, this is based on years of experience. I'm not just making this up."
Ms. Reeves is known for leading workshops on the dos and don'ts of dressing for job interviews: "Am I the world's fashion maven?" she says. "No. But I can tell you how I would read you, as an employer, if you come in wearing that to the interview."
Upbeat by nature, Ms. Reeves urges job applicants not to feel like job supplicants, needy and desperate. "A successful job hunt is the intersection of two searches: yours, for the right job that uses the skills you have, and the employer's, for the right person," she says. "If you are the right person, and you pitch yourself that way, you're actually doing your employer a big favor. You're solving their problem."
Ellen Gordon Reeves, Edgartown Public Library, Wednesday, August 26, at 7 pm. Submit a résumé for a critique by Tuesday, Aug. 25 at the library or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interview outfits will also be critiqued.
Nis Kildegaard's column "Soundings" appears monthly in The Times.