I seem to have careers on the brain lately. I’ve applied for a lot of jobs and I’ve also hired a lot of people in my life, so I know all the bullshit that happens. The job search is a game, but unfortunately, we all need to play.
The thing about job search advice is that there isn’t one right answer, or ultimate truth. Any website, book, or career counselor’s advice could be all bullshit. Including the advice I am about to give. Or, maybe it will work for you. In my day job I see a lot of resumes and conduct a lot of interviews for entry-level to mid-level staff and I know who gets the job and who doesn’t. I see a lot of folks who obviously read the same advice and have failed miserably. So, please take from this what you will- ultimately, what works for you is what gets you the job.
If you haven’t heard of it already, I recommend indeed.com to search for jobs. It’s a search aggregator that searched hundreds of job sites as well as individual company sites.
1. Under-qualified? Admit it, don’t pretend you’re not.
When a job listing states its qualifications, those are a wishlist for the company. They are also competing for candidates who have the most qualifications, so they put it out there hoping to catch them, and a lot of times won’t expect to get everything on their list. That’s where you come in!
If you are applying for a job and you don’t have something on their “qualifications” list, why not give it a shot instead of giving up? In fact, if you are concerned that you are under-qualified, why not be the one to bring it up first? “Although you state you are looking for someone with three management years of experience, I think you’ll find my experience with x,y, and z to be relevant etc. etc.” It’s worth a shot, and a better idea than not applying.
Don’t discount work in the service industry, retail, or restaurant experience or think that it doesn’t matter when applying to a “professional” job. We all know that these types of jobs take more organization, communication and management skills than most cushy office jobs, but it’s up to you to present them that way. Instead of just saying “waited tables”, explain specifics- how many people you collaborated with, number of customers served at one time, difficult challenges you mastered, etc.
2. Cover Letter- KEEP IT SHORT. No matter what.
I am sure there are employers who have the time to study all resumes and cover letters carefully. But, for the most part, if a company needs to hire someone, they want to do it fast. They will be skimming resumes and cover letters, if at all. If I see a cover letter that is more than a page, or is a page but is in 9 point font single spaced (thought you tricked me there, eh?) I won’t read it at all. Especially if it is a rehash of what you put on your resume, which you gave me anyway.
Say a maximum of three points, and say it briefly. Make it the top three things you’d want the employer to know about you. I like seeing a lot of white on the page. You are saving me a lot of time and aggravation by summing things up, and besides, I have your resume to look at.
3. Don’t give an employer a website/twitter/facebook address unless you are perfectly ok with someone scrutinizing it.
Obviously, you should be setting your accounts to private so you can hide all the pictures of you doing kegstands or the pictures from your recent vacation. If you are an artist, a writer, or a designer, that’s one thing- examples of your work are expected.
I received a resume from an eager new professional who listed a website under the heading of his resume. Thinking I could save some time by reading his resume online, I clicked it to find a blog. This guy had spent weeks writing entries about his job search, his excitement for the career field, and worst of all, some new theories he had thought up that he would one day want to publish. Yikes. It was so earnest and desperate that I physically cringed. I know that sounds somewhat hasty or cruel, but it showed me he was not very realistic- and this blog seemed very contrived and created for the sole purpose of making him look dedicated, not because of his general interest.
4. Stand out- but not in a ridiculous way.
Unless you are in a creative field, there’s a lot of advice that says your resume should look professional, neat, and standardized. I disagree. I am not saying put Disney stickers all over your resume, but as long as you are communicating your qualifications to me (the ultimate goal of a resume) I like some creativity. My favorite type of resume is like the one that can be created with the site Visualize Me which turns your resume into a pictogram.
If you have the ability to do a professional interactive website, go for it. Programs like Prezi can be utilized to show a timeline. These tools are free and are a great way to “professionalize” yourself without spending a lot.
Bolder moves (and perhaps more expensive) like video resumes, can be done only if you have the ability to edit it professionally and the tone fits the company. Otherwise, you could end up with something like this. This blog is a great resource for video resumes.
5. Be prepared to deal with rejection.
Don’t linger on it, just move on to the next opportunity. Remember: even if you thought it was your dream job, it likely wasn’t, or several other dream jobs are still waiting for you. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s essential to survive the game.
Next time, I’ll talk about some interview advice. In the meantime, I wish the best to all job seekers. I know how much it can consume your time, life, mind, and spirit.