By Jean Kelley
Whether you’ve been out of the employment market for a long time due to child rearing or have been recently laid off, you already know how tough it is to find a job in today’s economy. For every job posting there are hundreds of resumes submitted and as many as 30-40 qualified candidates vying for the same position as you. Needless to say, you have to stand out if you want to get your foot in the door.
But standing out will only take you so far these days. You also have to sell yourself—something few people are good at. Sure, they may be able to sell a product or service, but when it comes to selling themselves, many people clam up.
Perhaps it stems from childhood when our parents told us, ―It’s not nice to brag. Today, you may even hear yourself echoing those same words to your own kids. No wonder so many
competent men and women alike sell themselves short on job interviews.
Regardless of your desired industry or position, you simply must promote yourself if you want to get a job. Promoting does not mean exaggerating the facts. It simply means talking about your strengths, competencies and attituds as well as what you can do for the company. Remember, the person interviewing you has something you want…and there is a lot of competition. The more prepared you are for any interview and the more you sell yourself, the better your chances of
getting the job.
As you continue to embark on your job search quest, keep the following guidelines in mind so you can promote yourself in the best way possible.
Know what you want.
If you don’t know what you want, how can you find it? The floundering that job seekers do in terms of not knowing what they really want to do in life takes them off on some time-consuming tangents. If you don’t know what you’re good at or what you want to do ―when you grow up, then get tested. Many state unemployment offices and colleges offer career testing so you can know what fields might be a good match for you.
If you’re one of those people who apply to any job you can find, you’re never really going to find what you want. Rather, you have to go with a clear-cut goal of what you’re looking for. Think of it like digging for oil. If you know the oil is there and you dig five wells that are
shallow, you’re probably not going to get to your goal no matter how many holes you dig. But if you take that same energy and dig one really deep well, then you’re going to hit black gold.
Fluttering around dilutes your energy. And energy management is so important when looking for a job because job hunting is depleting of your psychic and your physical energy, particularly if you have a family and you’re depending on that income.
Build a resume that stands out.
No matter what kind of position you’re applying for–from entry level to executive level–the resume is important. These days a resume can be either hard copy or electronic. Which you send depends on what the company has asked for in their employment ad. Whether they say to email or mail a resume or to apply online, do exactly as they say. And when you do apply online, be sure you fill out every box and complete every field. Do every single thing the prospective employer asks for. If you don’t, you’ll get automatically disqualified because the potential
employer will think you can’t follow directions. In fact, that’s the number one first test of many employers–―Do they follow instructions?
If you’re mailing in a resume, pick a white or off-white paper. Unless you’re in the arts, don’t do anything wild with your resume. Make sure your font choice is readable both on and off screen. Font that is too tiny or too elaborate will not get read. Finally, there is never any excuse for an error on your resume. So if you’re not good at proofing, find someone who is…and then find someone else who’ll proof it again. You just can’t be too cautious.
Know what to say and what not say during an interview.
Being gracious, warm and cordial to the interviewer is great, but being chatty is not acceptable. So when someone asks you a question, answer the question with a brief example of what you’re describing, but don’t give the person a novella. They don’t want to hear your entire history–just the highlights of your work history. Remember that it’s a job interview, not an afternoon tea party.
Whatever you do, never say anything negative about a past employer. It’s a kiss of death for an interview. Even if you were fired from a past job and the incident comes up, don’t say, ―My boss was a jerk and fired me because he didn’t know what he was doing. He couldn’t lead his way out of a paper bag. Instead, stay as positive and likeable as possible. You could say, ―Yes, I got fired. Here’s why and here’s what I’ve learned from it.
Realize that in some cases, being likable is more important than qualification. Companies want
people who are likable, who get along well with others, who are creative and who can learn fast.
Show them that you’re that person in everything you say and do.
Don’t take salary advice from family members and well-meaning friends.
Never say to a potential employer, ―My husband said I’m worth this much money, or ―My mother said I should be making this level of salary.‖ Truth be told, the people who are telling
you what you should be paid don’t know the market. The bottom line is that you’re going to get paid what you’re worth in the current marketplace. Unless someone purposefully takes
advantage of you (which is not common), then you’re going to get paid fairly.
The key is that you need to do some real research on what you’re worth. As you do so, take into account your education level, years of experience, industry, size of the company you’re
interviewing with and even your geographic location. After all, a job for a small company in Yulee, Florida will pay a lot less than that same job for large company in Manhattan. You can find realistic salary information from local temporary services, job posting boards and even websites like salary.com. Use the information you find out as a starting guide and adjust the
figure up or down based on your specific circumstances.
Use the four magic words during the interview.
The four magic words are: ―I want the job.
If you’ve done all your research on the company and you like the person interviewing you and you know you want to work there, then you have to speak up and say so. Don’t end the interview by saying, ―I think this would be a great place to work. Thanks for the wonderful interview.
That’s too weak. You have come right out and say, ―Thank you for the interview. I want the job.
What are the next steps?
As you do so, leave the door open so you can follow up with them rather than them having to follow up with you. You could say, ―I’ll follow up with you in a week. Chances are that
because they’re interviewing many people and are overwhelmed, they’ll tell you not to follow up–that they’ll take care of it. But follow up anyway. You’ll never know what’s happening on a
job’s status unless you follow up with the person.
No one ever said getting job in today’s marketplace was easy. But it is doable if you have the right attitude, the right resume and the right goal in mind. So get clear on what you want and take control of your job search. With some patience and a proactive approach, you can find the job of your dreams.