Points in a Job Search - and How To Get Unstuck
It would be
wonderful... if we had the perfect resume... that led to a great
job interview... that resulted in a terrific job offer... that sailed through a
productive salary negotiation... that landed the perfect job. All in one
that's exactly how it happens, and it feels like nothing can go wrong.
we hit a few sticking points along the way.
Recognizing your particular sticking point - identifying where in the process you're
getting "stuck" - will help you correct the problem, and will allow
you to focus only on that area which needs work. Knowing your particular sticking point
will help you get
searches follow a predictable path. They begin with the creation of a
resume, which is then submitted to a position that (hopefully) closely matches our abilities and
ambitions. If the resume is successful in capturing our reader's interest and it
establishes us as a qualified candidate, we're invited to interview. If we're successful in
the interview process
and are able to convince our interviewer that we're the best candidate for the job, we're
presented with a job offer. If we can then productively negotiate compensation and are able to
come to an agreement regarding salary and benefits, we're welcomed aboard - and
we have a new job!
But what if our resume fails to
secure an interview? What if the interview fails to lead to a job offer? What if
we're offered the job, but it all falls apart at the salary negotiation
stage? These are the sticking points.
If you don't have a resume, and
have no idea where to begin, read What is a
Resume?, Resume Basics,
Resume Formats, and
How Have Resumes Changed?. Then check out the
free resume examples on this site
(including all the file versions you'll need for an effective online job search). If
you're a new graduate, read New Grad Help, first.
If your sticking point is an inability to find
jobs ("Why can't I find a job?!") then try 10 Avenues To Finding Your Next Job,
Already have your resume? Good.
Look at the graph below. Where's your sticking point?
If you have a
resume, but it's not resulting in interviews, then click on
"Resumes," because that's your
true sticking point.
securing interviews, but not job offers, click on "Interviews,"
because that's your true sticking point.
receiving job offers but it all falls apart before you actually
get the job, click on "Salary
Negotiation," because that's your true sticking point.
- Sticking Point #1
If you're targeting positions
for which you feel you're truly qualified, and your resume is failing to secure
job interviews for you, then your resume isn't doing its job. This indicates
that your sticking point is with your resume.
Check For Errors
Check your resume carefully for misspelled
words and other typos, and then have someone else check it for you, too. Don't rely on your computer's spell check
system. As nice as
these are, they won't catch correctly spelled words that are grammatically
incorrect. For example, read the following sentence (my spellchecker had no
problem with it): Today is to hot. It's like a dessert out there.
So I'm going
to the ice cream parlor wear its nice and cool, with my best fiend, Jimmy.
There are five typos in the above sentences.
Did you catch them all? Check, too, for errors in punctuation, spacing, and
overall document consistency.
Write For Your Reader's Benefit
Make sure that your resume is written
with the targeted reader in mind - the hiring manager or decision maker.
The job ad is your first clue as to what the
potential employer is hoping to secure in potential candidates. Most job ads are
loaded with specific criteria, such as the responsibilities of the position (and
their related skill sets), educational requirements, and personality
characteristics important to the job. For example, I've taken the following
directly from a corporate Web site's career page: "We want individuals with leadership
potential, who have the self-confidence and
creativity to invent and implement original ideas."
It would make good sense, then, to include reference to these characteristics
somewhere in your resume.
Look at your resume. Does it answer your
reader's questions? Does it establish your fit and qualification for the
specific position and company being targeted? Does it highlight skills,
abilities and achievements directly relevant and valuable (or clearly
transferable) to the position being targeted? Does it address personality
characteristics valuable to the position, such as: analytical skills,
communication skills, multi-tasking abilities, the ability to lead or to
contribute as a productive member of a team?
If the job ad emphasizes project leadership
experience as a key criteria of the position, then make sure your resume
highlights project management
experience - as early in the document as possible. If the job ad states that good communication skills are vital to the
position, then show your ability to communicate effectively, early in your resume.
Avoid Equal Employment Pitfalls
Does your resume include information that
could be considered discriminatory? Under equal employment laws, the potential
employer is restricted from asking or requesting certain information from
potential candidates that could be considered discriminatory; such as: age,
religion, or marital status. Therefore, make sure your resume doesn't include
certain personal information that will make a fair employer uncomfortable, or
your resume may be round filed (trashcanned) before it's ever fully considered.
If you're uncertain what's okay, and what's not, check out the
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Web site for some great answers and guidance.
Many e-mail addresses contain numbers, and
often people will select numbers that are easy for them to remember, such as
their age, birth date or birth year: JoeDoe1956@email.com. If your e-mail
address contains reference to your age, then don't use this e-mail address for
your job search or on job search documents.
Provide a Clean Layout and a Professional Presentation
Does the layout and format of your resume
provide a clear and logical order of information?
Are key pieces of information easy to
reference and retain on a short reading? (Most resumes only receive an initial
"reading" time of 15 seconds, or less.)
Does it have clearly defined sections of
Does it look
clean, attractive and professional? Does it have plenty of white space in the
margins, above and below the headings, and between the various entries?
Did you use the same font type throughout the
entire document (consistency is key)?
Does the font size used throughout
your document promote good readability (the rule of thumb is to use no smaller
than an 11 point font in Arial or Times New Roman to retain readability)?
Is your contact information easy to
reference at a glance? You'd be surprised how many resumes I
critique that have contact information in a tiny 8 point font - forcing me to
squint. When all is said and done,
how to contact you may be the most important information in your resume.
And finally, did you submit your resume
exactly as directed by the ad or potential employer? For example, if the ad
requested that you submit your resume as an attached Microsoft Word or PDF file
via e-mail, did you attach a WordPerfect file? If the ad stated "no phone
calls," did you call? If the ad stated "No file attachments" (meaning that they
wanted the resume contained within the e-mail message), did you attach a file?
For more information on resumes, see:
What is a
Resume?, Resume Basics,
Resume Formats, and
How Have Resumes Changed?. Then check out the
free resume examples on this site
(including all the file versions you'll need for an effective online job
Your resume was successful, and you've been
invited to interview (congratulations!). The interview goes well, maybe exceptionally well in your
opinion, but you're not offered the job. If this is happening repeatedly, then
it may be time to look at what's happening at the interview stage.
It's important to remember that when you're
invited to an interview, the hiring manager or potential employer has already
deemed you a qualified candidate for the role. It's extremely unlikely that a hiring manager will
waste his or her valuable time interviewing candidates who they feel are unqualified. So
something is happening at the interview stage to turn a "potential yes" into a
It may be overreaching to hope that
every interview will lead to a job offer. With the hundreds of candidates
vying for each available position, there are a hundred reasons why someone else
may be chosen. "More qualified" can mean many things: it can mean that the other
candidate's experience is more closely in line with the specific
responsibilities of the position, it can mean that he or she has additional
skill sets that are valuable to the position or company, but were not part of
the original job description, or it can mean that the interviewer simply "liked"
one person more than another. It would be wonderful if candidate choices were
always filled by objective means, but the process can be quite subjective.
However, if you've continuously submitted your
resume to positions for which you're truly qualified, and you've secured a
reasonable number of interviews as a result... yet you're never offered the job,
then it's a good idea to look at what's happening during the interview.
Finding Out What Went Wrong
The best way to begin is to talk to the
people who have interviewed you in the past. This isn't meant to create a
confrontation ("Why didn't you hire me?!!!"), but rather an opportunity to gain
some insight that will improve your outcome in the future.
Questions to ask previous interviewers can
include, "In what areas did I
fail to meet your expectations?" "Can you provide suggestions on how
I may be more effective in interviews in the future?"
Put on your armor of steel. You want honesty,
and sometimes honesty doesn't feel so hot. Sometimes it's not even accurate (if
one person indicates that your personality is a poor fit for their company's
environment, keep in mind that another employer may consider your personality
ideal - so, again, some of this information may be
subjective). But, if an interviewer is willing to give you honest feedback, then you
need to be ready and willing to consider it. And if several interviewers give
you the same feedback, you need to be willing to make some changes in your
Another approach is to go on mock interviews
with someone whose opinion you trust and value. Set up a mock interview (the
more closely you follow a traditional interview situation, the better) and have
your "interviewer" critique all aspects of your approach: the attire you've chosen to
wear, how prepared you appear to be, the handshake you offer, the eye
contact you maintain, and the types of answers you provide to the tough interview
A good mock interviewer will be able to provide you with a
constructive assessment of where you excelled, as well as areas that could use some improvement. If the majority of your initial
interviews are being held by phone (phone interview), then have the mock
interviewer critique your phone responses and communication skills in this area,
For example, I suggested a mock interview
situation to a client whose initial interviews had been conducted via phone
calls, but who was failing to secure second interviews in-person. He set up a
mock interview with one of his primary mentors, who called him on the phone and
began the process of "interviewing" him. Within a couple of minutes the mentor
paused, and asked, "Are you smoking?" The job candidate was stunned. "Yes," he
responded, "I am." His mentor said, "I know, I can hear it." With every
question, the candidate was deeply inhaling and exhaling, the obvious sounds of
someone smoking a cigarette, and while smoking itself may not be the issue, it
indicated nervousness on the part of the candidate and was distracting to the
interviewer. Chewing gum is another thing to avoid during phone interviews.
Smoke And Other Odors
One person's pleasant aroma can be another
person's offensive stench J. So when you
interview, it's a good idea to avoid wearing cologne, and avoid other odors that
may be offensive to your interviewer, such as smoke, cooking odors, etc. For
fill up your vehicle's gas tank prior to an interview (plan ahead). Wash
your hands, brush your teeth. Chew gum if you need to, but spit it out before
you enter the building.
In discussion with a job hunter who was
frustrated by a recent interview situation that seemed to be cut painfully
short, I suggested that she contact the interviewer and ask the questions
outlined above in the "Finding Out What Went Wrong." It turned out that the job
candidate's perfume was offensive to the interviewer, who suffered extreme
allergies. Of all things the job candidate thought might be an issue, it had
never occurred to her that it could be her perfume.
Dressing For Success
While your resume may create your reader's
first impression of you, your physical presence will create a lasting
impression. The interview situation is not a time to dress casually. It's not a
good idea, for example, to arrive in khaki pants because khaki pants are what
employees wear at this particular company. The interview situation is a formal
business meeting and needs to be approached as such.
Your attire should be conservative, extending
to the jewelry you wear, which should be minimal.
Check out the article "Dress
to Impress: A Guide." It includes photo comparisons, dress examples (for
both men and
women) and feedback from potential employers. Extremely well done.
When you arrive to an interview - which
hopefully means you arrive before the scheduled time, and not after - you should
be prepared to: answer questions, ask questions, provide documentation
(additional copies of your resume, a list of your references, etc.), meet with
additional individuals, take a company tour, provide an on-the-spot handwriting
sample, complete an application, take a test, and negotiate salary. If you come
unprepared, or if you're required to "get something together for your
interviewer" after the interview has concluded, then you weren't prepared
You just completed a great interview. You're
driving home, feeling confident. Hopefully, you took notes. If not, you'll do
this as soon as you possibly can, because you'll use those notes to create "Thank
you" cards for each person who participated in your interview situation.
It's amazing the number of job candidates who
fail to follow-up on interview situations, particularly with a "Thank you" note.
Many think it's just a waste of time. However, when a hiring manager is trying
to decide between two otherwise equally qualified candidates, it's the little
things that can make the difference.
For more on interviews, read
Interview Prep: Before, During, and After the
All is going well; you've received indication
of a firm job offer and the company is excited about bringing you on board... until
you reach the salary negotiation stage and it all falls apart. Suddenly the job
offer is off the table and you're left wondering what happened.
While a great many job candidates focus
on creating the perfect resume and mastering the tough interview questions, far
fewer come to the interview prepared to negotiate salary. Money is a tough
issue, and gauging one's worth and compensation can seem a little daunting.
Hopefully, you didn't reduce your chances to
negotiate effectively by providing salary requirements prior to the interview.
While there may be times when this is unavoidable (see
Salary History and Salary Requirements), the best time to negotiate salary
is after all the information is on the table and you have a complete
picture of what the job will entail - including the goals and expectations of
It's never safe to assume that a job title
alone will indicate a position's full accountability. As employers hire or
retain fewer employees to manage more and more functions, the lines can become
blurred regarding what a particular position may encompass or the number of hats
will wear. Without the opportunity to discuss the full responsibilities of the
position, it can be extremely difficult to know what the compensation should be.
It's also important to recognize that most
positions have a "budgeted salary range." This doesn't mean that the budget is inflexible,
or that a candidate with additional skill sets won't be able to exceed the budgeted range,
but that the interviewer or potential employer already has a salary range in
If you can find out what's been budgeted for the
position - during the interview - it may help you in participating in a product
salary negotiation. "Can you tell me the salary range that has been budgeted for
this position?" They may not tell you, but it's a good idea to ask. It may also mean discovering that
a position won't pay enough for you to consider it. Keep in mind that benefits, such as insurance, 401k plans, etc. are part of
salary, and need to be included in the calculation of its value.
It's equally important to do salary research,
to know what positions are paying: in your location, in your field or area of
expertise, in your industry, and in the current economic climate. See
Salary Negotiation Skills for more
information, including access to pay scale calculators.
Should I Hire a Professional Resume
Writer? / 1st-Writer.com Services
See more articles on
Good luck in your job search!
1st-Writer.com - over 18 years
experience helping clients achieve their career and business goals. Feel free to
with any questions you may have. I'll be glad to help!