By Derrick Johnson
Looking for a job involves balancing your desire for a job without seeming needy. Basically, you’re playing “hard to get” with employers. You don’t want to tell the employer how badly you need the job, even if you’ve lived on ramen noodles for the past six months. You want to make the employer want to hire you.
Employers have a problem: they need someone to fill a position. They need this person to be the right person for the job, so they aren’t looking for someone new in a few months. Work that isn’t being done because the position isn’t filled may be piling up or being done by someone who is overworked or about to leave. The search for an employee takes time and energy. Employers are just as relieved as you are when they finally hire you, as they have someone to do the work they need done. It’s your job to convince employers that you are the solution to their problem. The best ways to convey this include:
DO respond fully to the job listing. A form cover letter and a resume that lists general achievements tells the employer you want a job. It does not tell them that you are the solution to their problem. Read the listing carefully. What do they require? What kind of company are they? In your cover letter, you should describe the experience you bring that will help the employer solve their problem. If they need someone who has worked with disabled teens and knows web design, you need to discuss your experience with that up front.
Edit your resume so that relevant experience shows prominently. Also, speak to their unspoken needs if you can. Have you worked with similar companies? Have they had trouble acquiring a certain skill? Mention the talents that will benefit them, not simply explain how you are looking for a job. They have your cover letter and resume. They know you are looking for a job. What they don’t know is why they need to hire you.
DON’T go into automatic mode. You are having a conversation with a potential employer. Let them know that their needs are needs you want to meet. Let them know their company culture is one you are interested in.
Do your research on the company, and ask questions that demonstrates your interest in them and your knowledge about them. Know what their mission is, if it’s publicly listed, and you might be able to refer to it casually during an interview. This will make you seem as if you are already part of the company, so it would be foolish for them to let “their” employee go somewhere else. Be engaged and let your body language demonstrate genuine interest.
You are not looking for “a job”. You are looking to be employed by them, as you are the best match for their needs, and vice versa. Don’t seem like a choice, or even a good choice. Make yourself look like the only option that makes sense.
DO look the part. If you are going in for an entry level position, a dark pinstriped three-piece suit seems presumptuous at best. It makes it seem like you might be trying to make up for a lack of qualifications with dress, or you don’t know how to dress for your position. If you are going into a similar position to the one you had before, wear a high-quality version of what you normally wore for the previous position. For manual labor positions, clean, pressed work clothes are best. It shows you are ready for the job.
DON’T try to overpower potential employers with sight, sound, or smell. The hard-sell is not a good idea here. Flashy attire should be left at home, unless you are in a profession where bold fashion moves are considered normal, like entertainment or fashion. Even then, your portfolio should speak louder than your outfit. Listen as much as you speak, and don’t try to impress with buzz words you don’t mean or jargon you aren’t familiar with. Be sparing in your application of scent.
DO be grateful. Thank your interviewers after the interview, and consider a thank-you note, especially if you aren’t sure you remembered to thank them. That attitude of gratitude should infuse your interview. You should be grateful that they wanted to speak to you about their company, and glad to have a chance to share your experience and aspirations. Even if it doesn’t pan out, you got practice and you got to learn more about your field.
DON’T pester the company with requests for a response. There’s a reason why they say, “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. If they looked upon you favorably, seeming pushy can sour that golden image. If they were on the fence about you, then the call can tip your resume into the trash. Spend your time looking for other opportunities, looking for additional training to expand your skill set, or just take a walk. Patience and persistence are hard to balance, but balancing them is key to building a career.