From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

September 2006
« Aug   Oct »
Interview Question about convictions
Filed under: Interviewing
Posted by: site admin @ 7:53 pm

As those who read this blog know, Perri Capell is a columnist I read for background information.
A recent column “Should I tell employers about long ago arrests”
had an interesting discussion.

Now I don’t wish a conviction on anyone.  However, it can happen.  I am no judge, but I can offer some advice.
First, before the conviction.  If one is arrested, get absolutely the best attorney.  What if you don’t know an attorney?

A friend of mine got into a situation and called for my help.  I recommended that I needed to do homework.
I called a corporate attorney for whom I have a lot of respect.  (Now this is one ‘factoid’ you can store away for
the future– network with your corporate lawyers, if you can.  They can be great resources in times of need.)

Kim did not work in the court where my friend was appearing.  She recommended contacting one possible
attorney who advertized in a law journal.  In addition, she would seek out other recommendations while she suggested
I look at Martindale-Hubbell at

Within an hour, I provided a recommendation of an attorney.  She provided exceptional service and advice.  My
friend was a first time offender in a DUI and received a “continuance without a finding” dismissal.  She had to pay
penalties and expensive fees.  Insurance went up.  Points on the record.  But no permanent record.  (This means that
she will be convicted if picked up on a DUI again.)

Now, what should happen if a person received two misdemeanor convictions for driving under the influence 14 and 17 years ago and am wondering whether to exclude them on job applications. Does a person include this information, knowing that it could eliminate the person before a company has a chance to look further?

“Candidates with this question sometimes decide to tempt fate and not mention their convictions in hopes that an employer
a) won’t conduct a detailed background check or
b) if it does conduct a background check, the crime won’t show up because so many years have elapsed.

Assume you don’t disclose the DUI convictions and land the job. You probably completed an employment application asking if you have been convicted of any crimes and if so, to say what they were. You then signed it knowing that any falsehoods are grounds for dismissal. If the misdemeanors surface later on, your employer could fire you immediately for not telling the truth. Would you want to go to work every day with this type of ax hanging over your head?

Or assume you don’t disclose the misdemeanors and the company learns about them before hiring you. Now interviewers will question whether you have been completely forthcoming about other things. In both cases, employers often consider dishonesty worse than a past conviction. 

Perri Capell reports further that under FCRA, screening companies and employers can go back indefinitely when seeking information on reported criminal convictions. (exceptions: some states have passed laws limiting the number of years for certain convictions and arrests.) There’s a good likelihood, then, that your misdemeanor convictions will be reported.

 Wait for the right time to mention a conviction.  Still, when disclosing them, be ready with a good explanation for why these incidents no longer present a problem Ms Capell reported. The FCRA entitles you to receive a copy of a report a background screening company has done on you once annually. And before an employer can investigate you, you need to sign a release giving it permission to do so. At this point, ask which company will conduct your screening and be sure to get a copy of the report to learn what information is being provided and whether it’s correct, she suggests. “Public records aren’t always accurate

While I hope this does not have to be used by anyone.  Here it is.


comments (0)
Small Talk for Introductions, Networking and Interviewing
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, First Year on Job
Posted by: site admin @ 8:31 am

Just returned from the San Francisco ACS meeting where I had the
pleasure of meeting more than a hundred people.  It comes to mind
that many of us have a “dickens of a time” trying to start off a conversation. 
And guess what?  This becomes an important skill in many facets
of business.  Becoming better at this is one of life’s pleasures as one
never knows what nice things can take place.  Not knowing the first
thing about small talk can seem like a high barrier to overcome in
introductions, networking and interviewing.

As we were flying on our last leg on our return flight from Chicago,
a conversation was struck up with the MBA from Norhwestern who
was seated next to me.  It was a couple hour flight and there are only
so many times you can look through the airline magazines, your meeting
notes and the book I finished on the flight west.  So, at a moment of
common break, as all of us I asked about her reading of the NYTimes
Science section and science fiction book, and drew out of each of us
some common ground for story telling, interest sharing and funny experiences.

The conversation will not go further than the two seats on Southwest
Airlines.  But the memory of our strategies for doing small talk will.  She
related that she likes to talk about family, travel experiences, books or
articles read and avocations.  My strategies often relate to where we
came from or where we were planning on going, developing some common
ground in interests or background or telling of a recent learning from news
or other source. 

Books are written on the subject.  Larry King has written a nice one on
being able to talk with anyone (L. King, “How to talk with Anyone,
Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication,” Three rivers
press.).  I wish to narrow the fous of small talk to its role in networking. 
One of my favorite career columnists, Perri Capell, wrote a recent
column “Networking Small Talk that can pay off Big Time.”  []

She relates the need to establish a foundation.  It leads to informal relationship
building.  This conversation is more about “the connection” you have made
than about what you actually say.  The article suggests there are two broad
categories of small talk– based on chance encounters and those with a specfic
purpose or object in mind.  In job searching based networking (one with a
specific purpose in mind), one may not find the initial contact leads to the
desired outcome.  As with many good relationships, it is important to share
the common ground, focus on mutual benefit and be genuine.

Despite the category, it is interesting to note that people’s strategies for small
talk can sometimes still remain the same.  Small talk can be learned by
observing or interacting with people who are quite good at this art. 

It seems that in a sense looking to create a positive outcome is the ultimate
quality of people who are accomplished at small talk.


comments (0)
Career Discussion before Resume & Mock Interview
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Public Relations docs
Posted by: site admin @ 1:33 pm

From the ACS national meeting in San Francisco, again.
On Tuesday I had the opportunity to meet with a pleasant fellow close to
his Ph. D. from Northwestern. He had very good credentials and wanted
to engage in a mock interview. Usually the first thing we discuss in the
mock interview, after our greeting, is where the individual wishes to work
and what do they think they would like to do. Z. had not formulated his
ideas where he wished to work at that point.

It sure did sound like he should have a career discussion.

So, in the half hour we had for our session, Z. and I engaged in a friendly
and positive discussion clarifying what kind of a place he might wish to

Then, as time was running out he asked if he could have a mock interview.
There was not enough time for this, however, we did agree that he would
be a good candidate for and would gain immense value from a mock
interview conducted during a workshop.

He was uncertain at first, not ever having a mock interview. ‘Z.,’ I told him,
‘it will be just like the conversation we just conducted.’  The better part of it
is that he would have 50 people observing and pointing out what he did
well and what he could improve on. Z. agreed.

So the first comment reveals some of the high points of the ‘mock interview’
discussion…all very much worth learning about.

You can place yourself in the audience of the mock interview… Dan

Position Searching. Networking. Career Discussion
Filed under: Position Searching, Mentoring
Posted by: site admin @ 5:00 pm

On Tuesday afternoon at the ACS meeting, F. signed up to engage in a mock interview with me. F. is a director of computational chemistry at a pharma company. He seeks to have his career move in another direction we learned in a preliminary discussion. This is not an easy discussion to have and many times one finds it hard to figure out with whom it can safely and productively be done. What F. revealed in our discussion was that he desired a business development position and one in which he would negotiate and be the technology development liaison between partners. What can he do to successfully put his name in for such positions? What preliminary work should he do, what people should he meet to make progress in this direction? We agreed these were things to ask.

1 comment
Job Search Strategies: Family Situation
Filed under: Position Searching, Mentoring
Posted by: site admin @ 4:51 pm

This entry is from San Francisco, where I am meeting with ACS
members as a presenter in workshops and as a consultant in mock interviews.  B.
and I had completed recording and reviewing her interview and I was
doing disk finalizing.  I rejoined her at the interview table.  She leaned
over the table and asked, ‘Can we talk about a personal situation?’ 

“If you feel comfortable in bringing this up, I will do  my best to help you.” 
I responded hesitantly.

B. then went on to describe her situation of which I will only paraphrase. 
B. will be defending her Ph.D. thesis in three to six months and she and her
husband have learned that she is three months pregnant.  She asked should
she apply for positions now?   Should she tell interviewers she is meeting
at the conference that she is pregnant?



Re-Start Job Search: Mid Career
Filed under: Position Searching
Posted by: site admin @ 8:50 am

Several colleagues have been in situations where they have been unhappy
with their current role and prospects.  They have asked what they might do. 
Each situation is different.  From close up, it may be hard to find a direction
‘out of that forest.’  If one steps back and views the situation from a distance,
there are some activities that might not jeopardize the current position and
might open  possibilities. 

That is the object of this contribution.

Some of the suggestions come from a nice article found on-line:
“Five Ways to put out feelers before doing an all-out search,” by Karin Halperin.

In the current job market in our industry we have come to affirm the maxim that
          job security is the ability to obtain that next job.  
There are always questions about how to begin.  There is no question that each
one of us has the personal responsibility
(a) to continuously learn, keep our skills up to date, and develop new capabilities. 
(b) There is another important element about honing “soft skills” whether it be
small talk, writing memos, delivering presentations, mentoring others.  If English
is not your primary language, improve it so that it seems like it is. 
(c)  Another one is get out there and information interview in your industry, at least,
and in your targeted industry.  We need to know what the trends are– constant
problems, emerging issues, and perhaps who is doing what.

Karin Halparin’s article brings out five that could be done at the same time.  They
(1) Have your name become visable in professional networks that allow you to
contact people/firms and them to contact you.  Social networks, like and are quite popular for this.  Some industries and
regions have their own.
(2) Go to professional meetings, national, regional and local, where you
would normally be expected to go.  Make it a point to interact, contribute
and show some of your interpersonal skills.  Find ways of meeting and
exchanging business information outside of your normal circle. 
(3) The article cited focusing effort into a smaller range of companies to
make contacts with in various ways.  A targeted SIC code or Dunn and
Bradstreet search might help in coming up with names.
(4) Develop your network connections again, keeping in mind that it will
help to have a range of ages, experience levels and sources.  Cultivate
new Network connections. 
(5) Assess your employment and personal values.

With the continuing growth in electonic means of connection new tools 
seem to be always emerging.  But there is a professional and ethical limit
here.  Be aware of not violating the codes and responsibilities of your
current position.

Recognize that once your name is “out there,” you can be called at any
time.  Be prepared for informal, screening  interviews.  Postpone them
until your setting is right and you are prepared.  Be prepared to respond
to the usual questions in a professional manner.  The preparation is key. 
You need to be in the mode where you are ready for the next step before
it happens.  


post note:
Since I will be away for the next two weeks (ACS meeting in SF),
regular contributions to this blog might not appear. 

comments (0)
Alternate Careers in Chemistry 2. Books
Filed under: Position Searching
Posted by: site admin @ 11:41 am

To another repected ACS Career Consultant:


Can you recommend any detailed reading on alternate careers?  Besides your recent book which is “the best ever written on the subject!”


1 comment
Alternate Careers in Chemistry
Filed under: Position Searching
Posted by: site admin @ 11:35 am

To another repected ACS Career Consultant:

Do you have a resource list for people considering alternate careers in chemistry?


1 comment
Post Doctoral Conversation 1.
Filed under: Position Searching, Post-docs
Posted by: site admin @ 6:24 am

 Dr. Eustace,

As always, your email is very helpful and supportive. I am collecting the
information on Henkel and preparing for the trip to San Francisco.

Today I received an email from Dr. G. D. at FDA. He said that my training
and experience make me a potential candidate for the ORISE postdoc
positions at FDA so he wants to meet me at San Francisco to discuss the
positions and my qualifications in more depth.

My primary target is still industrial positions but I want to make the best out of this opportunity.
Would you please give me some suggestions regarding the interview with Dr. D.?

Have a great evening!


1 comment