Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cold, Hard Truth for Jobseekers

This one is for jobseekers. Sharks, join in the discussion if you have more to add. But I get frustrated every time I hear so-called career coaches dole out bad advice on TV or in a blog. Here are a few insider tips. Warning: some of it is not upbeat and hopeful.

  1. Never pay anyone to distribute your resume. Those services are scams.
  2. This is not the time to switch careers. There are too many good, experienced folks on the market. Few companies are interested in hiring newbies, when seasoned professionals are available.
  3. Write a cover letter. A well-written cover letter customized for the job. It may make no difference at all. But it may make all the difference in the world.
  4. Don't send your resume via snail mail. It makes you look old-school, limits the exposure you will get and poses a compliance problem. When no one is looking, a recruiting coordinator will throw it away, because he/she doesn't know where to file it, or how to scan it.
  5. The "black hole" demystified: Most mid- to large- companies (and many small companies) keep resumes in a massive database. They also subscribe to the job board databases (and pay a hefty price to do so). Recruiters and sometimes hiring managers search these databases when there aren't any top internal or referral candidates. Timing, keyword relevance and the number of similar resumes determines whether or not your resume shows up in search results.
  6. Recruiters and managers do read resumes. They do so very quickly. The BS sensors are turned on "high". Tell me your company, your title, your responsibilities and what you accomplished in chronological order. Do not tell me about your personality traits. Everyone is a "team player" on a resume. Telling me so doesn't make you stand out. Makes you sound too eager to please. I want to know if you achieved your sales goals and in what context. I want to know if you shipped the widget on time. Don't tell me you were 100% perfect. I won't believe you.
  7. Get someone you know and respect to refer you. This is your best shot.
  8. If you don't have a real network of people you know, have lunch or drinks with, who know your work, you're up a creek without a paddle. This is why relationships are important. If you lose your job, and suddenly turn to LinkedIn or Facebook to build your network, you're in trouble. If you lose your job and you're already in my LinkedIn or Facebook, I will try to help you.
  9. Are you an A-player? Be honest. If you're not, it will take longer to find a job.
  10. Your demeanor, what you wear, not slurping over lunch, your attitude when answering interview questions, all of these superficial things are important. Get several tell-it-like-it-is people in your life to offer critiques. Listen to them.
  11. You may be forced to take a pay cut or title cut. Suck it up. It's a buyer's market.
  12. So you see a job and the job description matches you to a T. You never get called. WTF? Because job descriptions are often recycled and don't tell the real story. Fact of life.
  13. Keep at it. Persistence (but not stalking) pays off. Here are a few ways I have found and hired candidates:
  • Candidate was referred by a senior person
  • Candidate was referred by a junior person
  • Searched a candidate database, looked at the first 20 results, selected the best of the bunch for interviews, hired the person who seemed most likely to succeed
  • Searched the Internet for speakers, bloggers, committee members, people quoted in articles, etc.
  • Searched social networking sites, especially LinkedIn
  • Advertised on job boards, websites, association sites, etc.
  • Met the candidate at a conference or event, on a plane, in line at the Target at a cocktail party, found the business card at the bottom of my purse months later
  • Yelled over the cube for help from a colleague
  • Opened my email and the perfect candidate just happened to be there

As you can see, hiring can be a totally random process. That's because of the volume. There are many, many people and few jobs. Then you add criteria and assessments and team environment and salary and it becomes a crapshoot, with similar odds. If you play craps long enough, though, you will win. You will.


  1. GREAT advice and reality check, Carmen. Absolutely agree with all points.

    I would add:
    - Some jobs that are posted or advertised are destined to be filled internally; advertising was just for show and you never had a chance. It sucks but it's the truth. Don't take it personally.
    - While it doesn't hurt to apply for something you're overqualified for just to get your name in there, it DOES hurt to apply for everything as if you would really take anything. We know you're desperate, and we're not looking for desperate.
    - Big gaps in time on your resume are a red flag. It does help if you spent your unemployed months productively, even if it was working part time, or volunteering your professional skills
    - Don't call a recruiter every day. If s/he hasn't called you back, s/he has nothing to tell you. Send an email no more than once a week, and stay positive and professional. Never say, "I'll take anything. PLEASE."

    Great work, Carmen.

  2. Anonymous4:09 PM

    +1 for #2. I can't tell you how many candidates I see right now who want to get into "XYZ" career, because they think being laid off is a time to reinvent themselves.

  3. very helpful, carmen. i'm hunting myself, and it could not suck more. your advice confirmed some things i already suspected, and gave insight into the process.

    thanks again!

  4. You hit it right on the head. It is a crapshoot and I tell people that hiring is subjective and don't be offended because on the 1st interview and application, it's you; but the 2nd and 3rd interview it's the company.

    I would also say that if you're not in LinkedIn and Facebook, attend numerous networking events in the local area or go to some local bar and chat with other people. A connection must grow organically.

  5. Great post Carmen!

    If you don't have connections now, getting them after you are whacked is pointless...

    Part of everyone's job right now should be creating a social network entourage that can assist in times of trouble

    A shout out to Laurie R for linking you on her Sunday morning blog. I am glad she sent me this way.

  6. LD Grant11:27 AM

    Found my job on a new job site

    Add this to your list of job sites, and where you might want to park your resume, just in case.

    The resume database is private, unlike most other "free" job sites, which helps keep things confidential.

    You also get to choose to filter our companies from finding your resume, a nice feature if you don't want your current employer to see you're on the market.

    You can also mark your resume as inactive, or not searchable, which lets you keep it there until you need it to be found, or want employers to find your resume.

  7. Thanks for the candid advice.
    I work for a government agency that helps people dealing with unemployment. I try hard to explain that the competition is tough and the "old way of doing it" does not work anymore. I have encountered resistance from people who do not want to polish their resumes since it got them a job five years ago. It appears many people are still in denial. Your advice is timely and on target.

  8. Don't forget to work with local recruiting firms/ headhunters. Often times small companies and start-ups don't have an internal recruiter, so they work with recruiting firms. If you are open to contract work, these firms can be you're only the way in the door! Interesting recent article:

  9. Sometimes it completely ruins one's day to hear the truth. As a writer who was laid off 1/29 and who was writing technical and process documentation for a network services company, I'm having to face the fact that companies are not hiring specialized support personnel like me any more, because having someone write down what they do in a form that can be duplicated by another is, let's face it, a luxury in the tech world. In a money crunch, tech companies would rather the processes just stay locked in the minds of their techs, and they just cross their fingers that none of their techs seek greener pastures. I'm being *forced* to reinvent myself as a writer in a market that will inevitably treat me like a newbie, even though I've been writing for publication since I was in grade school (because anything you do up through college graduation doesn't count!!!). Yep, having quite a battle with hopelessness in the job hunt today.

  10. I have tried so many resume and job bank sites. They are helpful but their couseling field is not that good!
    Career Advice

  11. Anonymous5:50 AM

    Hi Jobseekers,
    There are no of plenty of jobs in Bangalore. Post your resume and take

    your dream job in Garden city.

  12. I was going to write a similar blog concerning this topic, you beat me to it. You did a nice job! Thanks and well add your rss to come categories on our blogs. Thanks much, Jon B.find a job

  13. It's never too late to build your network but agree it will be of limited utility immediately after losing your job or for the singular purpose of finding a new one. If you are late to the game on that score at least start somewhere and continue to build your network and develop relationships once you are employed anew. Build your own momentum! As always, great practical talk Carmen, terrific post.

  14. Anonymous9:54 AM

    now hiring part time jobs in