Looking for a job in this era of high unemployment can be a daunting task. Herewith resides almost everything I know about hunting for a job. You would be surprised how many very smart successful people make basic mistakes while looking for a new job, adding months to the process, missing opportunities forever gone due to simple (preventable) missteps. Some of it’s common sense, some experience, some arcane, and every bit of it is important.
NEWS PUBLICATIONS & INTERNET SITES
Read industry publications and check Web sites focused on the industry you are in, or are want to be in. Dow Jones has a career site, in conjunction with FutureStep (a joint venture between Korn Ferry International and The Wall Street Journal), which has helpful and focused articles. Monster.com, Yahoo, AOL and other major web sites have career areas where much information is available. If you are in business, stay current by reading on a regular basis magazines or daily’s like Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, Barrons, The Wall Street Journal, etc. Stay current so you can have an intelligent conversation at any moment. You never know when you’ll find yourself talking to someone that leads to an opportunity.
Watch the help ads in the Sunday newspaper in your area, or the region(s) in which you wish to live. While it is true that many jobs are unadvertised, it is also true that companies spend millions of dollars annually on ads in local, regional and national publications. This money is spent on advertising because it is effective. PEOPLE GET JOBS BY RESPONDING TO ADS.
A resume is a marketing tool. If it gets you an interview, it is effective. If it impedes you in any way from getting an interview, it is not effective. End of discussion. A good resume is a well constructed, chronological summary of your work history, highlighting your accomplishments and responsibilities, in that order. Those of us who frequently read resumes prefer high quality light colored paper, with a typeface that is easy to read. The old adage that a resume can only be one page in length is bunk. A two-page resume is fine. Remember your objective: get an interview. The reader does not want your life history, just a sneak preview.
Functional resumes are a tool of last resort. Most human resource professionals, recruiters, and hiring officials do not like them. They force the reader to search through the resume for important information. If you must use a functional resume, do not oversell yourself. If your work history has been spotty, or you have moved frequently, it will come out in the interview.
If you are thinking about including a photograph, think again: save the surprise for the interview. Twenty years ago it was frequently included; it is very rare now, and does not add value to your efforts. Recently, I received via email a resume with a very cute animated fellow doing flips on a trampoline. The job seeker told me he’d do flips for the right opportunity. I forwarded it to colleagues (both headhunters and HR Managers) for their opinion. The consensus was it’s OK if you’re in marketing/sales/advertising, otherwise, loose the cartoon.
Include a cover letter that is focused on a specific accomplishment, experience you have had, or skill you possess that will be relevant to the reader; that will make him/her want to read on. Direct it towards the specific business they are in. If you know the company you are sending it to (not a blind ad), do some research (see point 5) about the company. Refer to it in your cover letter.
Following is a sample resume we think is quite effective.
Notice how the resume is constructed. It is easy to read, and draws your attention to the companies’ names, job titles, responsibilities and accomplishments. Microsoft Word has a resume wizard. There are many books available that describe how to construct a resume. It is best to have the finished document in a Microsoft Word format so that it can be emailed easily, and in a format that most people can easily download, view and forward to others.
Understand that the vast majority of jobs are unadvertised. That means networking! Make a list of everyone you have ever known, or plan to know. Take time to make the list, and keep adding to it. Separate the list into three levels of potential benefit: high, medium, and low probability.
Call everyone on the list, in the order of probability. Let them know what you are doing, and ask them for any ideas of advice they might have to offer. Ask them for a few minutes of their time, at their convenience. Do not overstay your welcome. Thank them in advance for their help. Keep in mind that people are very busy, and are being networked to death. If you feel they are rushed, or not really interested, politely thank them and leave. My network motto: use it, don’t abuse it!
Follow up the phone call and/or meeting with a brief thank-you note, and a copy of your resume if they don’t have one already.
. KNOW THY SELF
Gain an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses: Tom Jackson’s Game Plan for a New Job can help here. Seek out friends or family members whom you trust, and have confidence in their judgment to discuss their strengths and weaknesses, in a constructive manner. Look for positions where your strengths will make you more successful, and conversely, avoid jobs where your weaknesses may contribute to failure.
Look back over your career and make a list of projects or activities that you really enjoyed and did well. What was it about those activities that you liked? What aspects of your personality enabled you to excel in those activities? Conversely, what have you not done so well, or even failed at? Did that job or project require things of you that felt like it “just didn’t fit”? If you are doing something you like, you will be successful. Don’t try to teach a pig to sing, it can’t carry a tune, and it will only annoy the pig! Expect rejection and don’t take it personally. Remember that this is a game of numbers. Your objective is to get as many interviews as possible. With each interview your new objective is to get an offer. The more interviews, the more offers. Plain and simple.
Before going to an interview, find out as much about the company or organization as you can. Go to the library and read articles about them. If they are a publicly traded company, call their corporate relations office and request an annual report, and any other information they will send you. GO ONLINE. Use a search engine to find information or articles on any subject, group or organization you are interested in. Informal chat rooms hosted by company employees can be a great source of informal information. You might find an employee of the organization who will send you, through a forum, interesting or otherwise hard to find information. The quantity and quality of information available on the web is mind boggling, easily accessible, and extremely useful. The more you use it, the more adept you will become. Consider it a life long learning tool.
Know as much about the company as you can: their markets, successes, problems. Focus on how your background can help them. While you are researching, think about yourself in the company or organization. Could you get behind the products or services they provide? Does it sound like something you would want to be involved in? Are they doing things that excited you? Remember that the job selection process is a two-way street. Good research can help you decide if that company or group is a good match for you.
Write a script, sit in front of a mirror, and watch your self in action. Use a video recorder to tape a mock interview. Role play with a friend who knows something about interviewing. Have him/her critique you. Think of how you look to the person on the other side of the table. Look for style changes that will enhance your interviewing skills. Small changes can make a big difference.
The most important decision I make about a candidate takes place in the first three minutes of the interview. First impressions count. Think about how you react to someone when you meet them for the first time. How long does it take you to form a first impression of that person? How long does it stay with you? As you can see you don’t have that much time to make a good or bad impression. Interview preparation can make the difference. Be truthful – always! Every time I have been told something false by a candidate, they have been removed and deleted from the process; even if an offer has been extended. Listen carefully to the questions, and don’t answer while the question is being asked. Answer questions concisely and with confidence. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, and tell them you will get back to them. Then do it promptly. Ask questions designed to help you determine the corporate culture, employee morale, company values, and how the company does its business. Are the company’s values compatible with yours? Would you be happy there? You may not want the job if it is offered. Remember: the interview and selection process flows in both directions. Accepting a job that does not work out can be very costly for both you, and the company.
THE SEVEN DO’S OF A GOOD INTERVIEW
Have a firm handshake
Make eye contact
Listen to the questions
Think before you answer
THE SEVEN DON’TS OF A GOOD INTERVIEW
Don’t be late
Don’t criticize your last employer
Don’t be negative
Don’t interrupt the interviewer
Don’t boast or lie
Don’t discuss money in the first interview
EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES & EXECUTIVE SEARCH FIRMS
There is a difference between employment agencies and executive search firms. It is important for you to understand this difference before you contact them.
There are two kinds of employment agencies. The biggest difference is who pays the fee. There are Applicant Paid Fee Agencies, where you, the applicant, pay the fee; and Employer Paid Fee Agencies, where the employer pays the fee. Employment agencies are paid when, and only when, they place people in jobs, and not before the starting date of the employee.
Agencies that work for employers typically work on a contingent fee arrangement. They are paid if someone they send to a company is hired. Employment agencies that work for applicants (they pay the fee) are still paid only when they place you in a job. In both cases, their objective is to have someone hired by the company. They are brokers; they try to match up people to jobs. Depending on where you are in your career, and where you live, these people can be quite helpful. Their job is not, I repeat is not, to find you a job. Their job is to make good matches, whoever pays the fee, so that they will have repeat business.
EXECUTIVE SEARCH FIRMS
Executive search firms are retained by companies through a legal contract to perform searches for specific positions, typically upper middle and senior level ones. Their primary objective is to find the right person for the client and make the client happy. I would guess that out of every 100 resumes received by executive search firms, 20 have backgrounds relevant to ongoing searches, and only two will ever get placed through the firm. Executive search firms select candidates for their clients based upon a proven history of accomplishment in the specific area of need, as defined by the client. Do not expect these firms to respond quickly, if at all, to your unsolicited resume or phone call. Don’t call them to find out if they received your resume. If they want you, they will find you.
CAREER COUNSELING & OUTPLACEMENT FIRMS
There are numerous firms and individuals who sell services as career consultants and career counselors. If you are considering these services, please do the following:
- Call The Better Business Bureau and your local Chamber of Commerce to determine if there have been any complaints filed against the company or individual.
- Ask for a summary of all services provided by the company and a list of all charges. Obtain a written explanation of what services you will receive, over what period of time, and by whom in the company.
- Obtain references of past clients. Call them and find out what they thought of the program. Did it help them to find a job?
- Find out what their policy is on refunds. If you are unhappy with the service, how much will your refund be? How long will it take to be refunded? Get it in writing, signed by an officer of the company.
Don’t sign anything until you have had a chance to review the program, and are confident that it will help your JOB HUNT. Do not sign anything at your first meeting! Have a clear definition of what you want to achieve by hiring this firm and establish check points along the way to monitor your, and their progress. Then do it. Don’t be bashful. You are paying them your hard earned money to help you. Remember, they are working for you!
Outplacement firms come in three sizes: local, regional and national. While the national firms are attempting to standardize procedures and services, the quality of their services will be largely dependent on the competence, style and temperament of the individual people at each office. If you are to be outplaced by your company, find out if you can select the outplacement firm. Interview them carefully. Ask to speak with people currently in the program, or recent graduates. Assess the atmosphere of the office; is it positive or negative? If it is negative, avoid having that firm do your outplacement.
Keep in mind that these firms do not believe that they are in the business of finding a job for you. They are in the business of preparing you to find a job. While this may seem odd, it is true. Find out if they have any special services to assist you in THE JOB HUNT.
The Key to a Successful Job Hunt
A JOB HUNT is successful when you have achieved your objective: a JOB. If you use and apply the principles outlined in this guide, it will help you to find the right job. Make no mistake about it. This is hard work, but work that you can do successfully. There is only one person that can manage THE JOB HUNT for you: YOU. Take control over your career…NOW!!!