Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Gena Bigler: Avoid these job-seeker mistakes to maximize chances in competitive times
Before you can save money you have to have some. Most of us earn our money at a job. Searching for a job is not fun. It is especially not fun during times of high unemployment when the competition for jobs is fierce. Over the years, I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes, served on hiring committees and been independently responsible for hiring and training new employees. I have seen some crazy things from job seekers. I would like to pass along what I’ve learned.
Before you submit a resume anywhere, check your technology. If your e-mail includes the words sexy, hot or playa, get a new e-mail. Make it something you wouldn’t mind your grandmother using. If you are expecting a call about an interview, make sure your message doesn’t tell me “I’m too busy to talk to you, leave a message, maybe I’ll call back.” I wish I had made that up, but that was what I heard when I called a young man to schedule an interview. I did not leave a message. He did not get an interview. Another voice mail was blaring party music and it was also met with no message, no interview.
FaceBook is not only seen by your friends. Expect that potential employers will at least glance at your page. Joking about being drunk, hung over or high at work will not help you. Publicly complaining about your boss or your job will not help you. It’s a good idea to keep your public profile rated PG. You might also Google yourself and see what pops up. That way, you will be prepared if something odd pops up later.
When you prepare your resume, include what you are proud of but also consider what the employer wants to know. If you choose to use color, use it sparingly. Printing your resume in bright red will not make you more attractive. Please, please do not recite your resume in the cover letter. The cover letter should tell me about you. It should tell me why you are applying for the job. This is not the place to share a sob story. Whining about how much you need work is not going to help you get a job. I want to know why you are interested in this particular job. What makes you uniquely suited to it? Why is it interesting to you? If you are over or under qualified, this is your chance to explain why you are worth a chance. Cover letters should show a glimpse of your personality and make me want to meet you.
This brings us to the interview. When you get an interview, please dress appropriately. This means clean, mostly wrinkle-free clothing. It also means cover your body and make sure clothes mostly fit. If you wear it clubbing, do not wear it to an interview. This is probably not the best time to wear Lucite platform heels. Wear a tie. Dress more formally than you think you need to. However, if you don’t have a suit, work with what you have. A sweater and khakis are a little casual, but if you interview well and have a good resume it shouldn’t matter. Dressing well is respectful and it shows that you know how to be presentable. This is not about fashion, it’s about showing that you can fit into a grown-up world or if you already consider yourself a grown-up, that you can fit into the corporate culture.
Show up no more than 10 minutes early. If you are earlier than that, walk around the block, wait in your car but do not show up 30 minutes early. It does not show you are excited, it’s just inconsiderate and you are likely to get nervous if you are waiting for an extended time. In the interview, be honest and if you need to, take a moment to think about your answer. This is still not a time to whine about your need for a job. The interviewer isn’t there to save you from your circumstance; she is looking for a good employee. Do not complain about your last job or boss. It just makes you look bad and untrustworthy. I don’t want an employee who complains to others about me or my company. I also don’t want gossip crowding the work day with bitterness. Also, there is no need to remind the interviewer repeatedly that you have a degree. Absolutely do not refer to anyone as “girl” ever, but especially do not refer to your interviewer as “girl.”
Do research. It’s so simple but five minutes spent on Google can really set you apart. Ask any question about the business. Show that you care about where you work. Think about what you can offer, why are you suited to the position? How do your past successes apply to what you will face as an employee? Would you hire you?
After the interview send a message to thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet you. If it’s appropriate, mention something you discussed in the interview to help them remember you. I once got hundreds of resumes for a part-time administrative position and conducted multiple interviews. The lady that sent the card stood out. So did the one who followed up with an e-mail. It probably took less than 20 minutes for each of them to follow up, but it made an impact. Following up once is nice, more than that is pushy. If an applicant is really good but not right for the position, I have asked for the consent to pass along their resume to other employers.
Applying for jobs is hard work. It takes time and patience and good bit of thought to find the right fit. Ultimately, when seeking work a change in perspective can make a huge difference. Try to see yourself from the employer’s viewpoint and follow the golden rule; treat others the way you want to be treated. You never know who your interviewer knows or what they can do to help you.
Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of a Kentucky business and serves on the board of the Kentucky RiverKeeper. Gena would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.