Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to Land a Good Job in a Bad Market

Here's my next column for the Mensa periodical, The Intelligencer. I thought you might like a look:

Landing a Good Job in a Bad Market

Of course, most want ads get hordes of applicants but most of those don't stand a chance: They're jargon-filled, generic, utterly undistinguished. I'm certainly not advocating silly ploys like including a jar of jalapeno preserves saying, "I can get you out of the hottest jam."

I'm asking you to create an above-average application. Start by playing detective on the employer's site: That's a way to learn its priorities and how it likes to portray itself. Dirt on the employer is more likely found by Googling it--Don't forget Google's blog and news searches. Use LinkedIn, your alumni directory, etc., to find people at the organization with whom you're connected. Try to set up an in-person or phone chat on what the employer is like and what to emphasize in an application.

In applying, if your resume is unlikely to be top-of-the-heap, for example, you're a career changer or have a gap in employment, consider substituting a bio. That allows you to highlight only what you want. A resume is a tool to help employers--it lays all of you bare. As with clothing, most of us look better with some parts hidden.

Your cover letter and resume should be devoid of clich├ęd job-seeker language such as "I'm a self-starter seeking an opportunity with a dynamic company." That leaches all chemistry and credibility from your application: The employer will feel s/he's reading from a job-hunting book not from the candidate. Do tell PAR stories: a problem you faced, how you approached it, and its positive resolution. Choose stories that would impress your target employer. That's a key rule: Everything you do in the job search should be subjected to this test: "Would this make this employer more likely to hire me?"

Do put your Mensa membership on your resume. The right employers will like it; the wrong ones won't.

If possible, with your application, include one or more pieces of collateral material . One of my clients applied for a sales job with a government contractor. He included a list of 50 federal decisionmakers he'd call if he got the job. Another client, a career changer, to show the employer that he knew a lot about hospital management, wrote a three-page White Paper called, Keys to Effective Hospital Management in 2012 and Beyond. He did the research for that paper just as he might have a term paper in school: by synthesizing articles he found on Google.

Of course, at least half of jobs are obtained through a connection. List the people in your network. Twenty-five is good, 50 is better. Next to each name, decide if it's best to just email them, invite them for coffee, dinner, to a party, visit them at their office, etc. When you contact them, ask if your resume makes them want to hire you. Then ask if they know of anyone you should talk with. If not, ask if they'd keep their ears open and if you're still looking in a month, would they mind if you followed up. That recruits them as a scout--they're more likely to hear of something during the month than just when you contacted them.

If your network is paltry or used up, you'll need to expand it. Could you volunteer somewhere you'd have face-time with potential employers, for example, on a non-profit board? Get active in a church? Join a service club such as Rotary? A hobby group such as an investment club or dog-owner's meetup? A political organization? Of course, go to more Mensa events--Hey, even the Intelligencer Peel-and-Stick party might help!

Importantly, even in a lousy job market, it's important to vet potential employers. During the interview, ask questions such as, "Why is this position vacant?," "What kind of problems would you most hope I'd solve?," "What would you hope I'd accomplish in the first 90 days that would help my boss get a gold star?" After being offered the job, ask to visit the workplace. There, assess the vibe: Do most employees seem content? Hang out in the break room. Ask questions like, "What should I know about working here that might not appear in the employee handbook?

Especially in this job market, there sure are no guarantees, but those are my best bets for landing a good job in a bad market.

1 comment:

Kade said...

Getting the good job is possible even in the bad market if job seekers follow these tips.

Thanks.






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