Q: I lost my last job in mid-December. I did as much networking
and job hunting as I could, given the season. Right after New Year's
I searched and applied to job openings advertised on a number of online,
job boards. When should I expect to hear back from employers? How
and when should I follow-up with them? What kind of follow-up is required
if an ad doesn't provide any specific contact information?
A: You get a gold star for working on your job search through
the holidays. Job seekers who networked and sent resumes during the
holidays will be the first to reap results this new year.
Here are some tips to maximize your search and minimize
frustration and burn-out:
Even though you might have a jump on the competition
in December, other job seekers will now also be flooding the job market
with resumes now that "party time" is over. Keep this in mind, so
that you don't get frustrated if you don't get immediate results.
Employers right now may be flooded with applicants. They can become
overwhelmed with sheer volume.
Also consider that some prospective employers who really want to get
on with the process of hiring may still have to get through the backlog
of mail and delayed project first. Assume that any resumes sent out
prior to the holidays may still take a few weeks to a month before
candidates are called for interviews. The inquiries you send out now
may take a while longer.
select the right audience
It's tempting to apply for lots of jobs simply because they are available,
and you need a job, but I'd go for quality, not quantity. Don't waste
your time applying for jobs you might not really want, or that call
for a huge "stretch" of education, experience and skills you don't
Applying for anything and everything wastes your time, saps your energy,
and frankly, annoys employers who don't appreciate being deluged with
resumes from (clearly) non-qualified (anonymous) applicants.
By all means stretch a bit if you wish, but for positions
for which you are reasonably suited. Online, where you post has a
significant impact on the responses you'll get. If you post to an
industry-specific board, for example, you're likely to have fewer
jobs to consider, but more possible matches for your interests and
Large job boards have many more jobs, but they're also likely to attract
larger numbers of job seekers and feature more positions you're not
qualified for or interested in. Employers on these sites may be reviewing
hundreds of responses before they get to yours.
Job boards aren't just for posting your resume. Many have good resources
you may want to take advantage of, including networking and support
services. There are also lots of other career-oriented sites (like
ASK ALISON, for example) that can enhance your job search experience
with information, ideas, and support.
give them what they want
Give the employer what s/he requests and don't be tempted to re-write
the application requirements to suit what you think the ought to be!
Address it as requested, by the method described in the ad or posting.
If you're applying online by email, note whether the employer wants
a resume as an attachment or in the body of the email letter, or both.
Don't assume that if an employer requires a one-page resume in 10
point Courier, that they won't mind if you send your three page resume
in 12 point Ariel instead - they will!
Make sure any letters (and attachments) you send are typo-free and
glitch-free, and properly downloadable in a variety of popular word
Tip: test your documents ahead of time by sending them to someone
else's computer. If they don't open or format properly, it could be
your text editor, or perhaps, the way you've formatted the document.
I wouldn't suggest using anything smaller than 10 point type with
a fixed font (e.g. "Courier"), and anything larger than 12 point type
may be hard to read unless you have a really tiny resume with lots
of white space! Some text characters don't translate well from one
popular word processing program to another (e.g. you may have ot use
stars instead of bullets). Be sure to keep the line length short so
that whatever the recipient's default, your document will format properly,
and allow enough white space and decent margins.
Tip: don't name your resume file "resume." Use your name (e.g. "abdunhamresume)
so when an employer goes to open it, s/he knows it's your resume,
not just ust one of dozens called "myresume" sent by less-savvy job
seekers. Be sure to include a personalized cover letter (not a "dear
employer" form letter) with every job application, unless there is
only an online posting format with no room for additional comments
and mention the job code and job title, and the place you saw the
posting or ad. Don't use weird fonts or word processing programs.
respect the odds
Responding to classified ads and online are good ways to increase
your job hunting options, but you can't expect to get the same kind
of interest that networking through personal contacts would bring
you. Most employers would rather review half a dozen resumes from
applicants recommended by someone they know, than a hundred resumes
from people who are virtual strangers, even if their qualifications
Be wary of postings or blind box ads that seem to be hiding too many
facts. Some employers keep things vague because they really aren't
offering a specific job, but are hoping to see what kind of response
the marketplace would bring . While it's true that some employers
with real jobs also purposely leave off information (to avoid being
overwhelmed by job seekers hoping to follow-up), if there is absolutely
no information about who the employer might be, what the job really
is, or how to get in touch with them, how can you know if you even
want to work there?
If you apply for purposely vague listing, assume that your application
is going to be used for market research and you're not going to get
a request for an interview by responding.
follow up appropriately
Be optimistic and don't take silence personally. There are so many
reasons why you might not hear back from an employer, and a lot of
them have nothing to do with your skills. These are uncertain economic
times where at any time a position may be put on hold, revised, or
completely abandoned even though interviews have been conducted.
I would take the in-person approach to follow, if possible. If you
can, call to ask if the employer got your resume and the status of
the interview process. If you can't call, follow up in a week to ten
days with a brief note. Email is ok if a name and contact email was
included in the posting or ad. If you use an online form where there
isn't any contact information, hopefully you at least know the company
at which you applied, and perhaps, the department or job title.
A little sleuthing (by phone) should help you identify the person
who is handling the search. If you don't get a response, follow-up
in a week to ten days with a print version of your resume and cover
letter, sent by regular mail. Wait about a week and then call (or
send a brief note) asking if your resume has been received.
Don't forget to mention what job you've applied for, and when, along
with a few lines about your skills. If you still don't get a response,
send another letter or email and be sure to include a copy of your
resume with this one, too. Restate what you've applied for, and when.
Make it clear that after several attempts to contact the company,
you're trying one last time (because you're really interested in the
job but must no consider other offers).
If you don't get any response after all of this, it's safe to assume
you're not going to get an interview, but at least you can be assured
you did everything in your power to "make it happen." Next time, it
have other options
By all means send your resume online to as many places
as you like, but make sure that it's not your only method of job hunting,
and don't expect any contact unless they want you.
try not to take lack
of response, or silence, personally, and be tenacious and patient
how to sell yourself
ENHANCE YOUR APPEAL
First impressions are lasting and powerful. Learn how
to define and enhance your unique assets for positive, personal appeal.
Present yourself to others so that they're immediately drawn to you
and select you as "the one."
STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
Discover how to distinguish yourself and become the
top candidate, even over others with superior skills or experience.
Stop being the "runner up" and start being the WINNER!
Get simple tools to turn every situation around to your
advantage, no matter how difficult, embarrassing, or stressful. Look
assured, positive, and calm (even when you're not).
SURVIVE THE SELECTION PROCESS
Acquire an ease with interviews. Learn how to be calm
and compelling in any situation, business or social, so you handle
them all with pleasure and and confidence. Negotiate your next job
offer so that you end up with more in your pocket, still leaving everyone
feeling good about the deal.
ENHANCE YOUR CAREER AND MAKE LIFE EASIER, MORE
SUCCESSFUL, AND MORE FUN
See how your own personal marketing plan can help you
to be more confident, dynamic, and successful in every aspect of your
When you are job-hunting, you will see lots of variations of the company
"uniform." Even when an organization doesn't have a specific dress
code, you will find that the majority of workers of the various ranks
in a company seem to wear similar clothes in similar styles so that
they fit in.
Part of your job as a job seeker and personal marketing of your unique
"product" is to learn about these patterns, so you can define a company's
uniform. Believe it or not, in some places you will be labeled as
'too different to be one of us' if you are even wearing the wrong
color or style of suit, tie or shirt.
using a uniform to appeal to an employer
It may surprise you to think of your business suit as a uniform -
just like the one worn by a waitress, nurse, soldier, pilot or athlete
- but it is! A football player's uniform, for example, is designed
to help him do his job safely and comfortably. Clad in specially designed
pads, jersey, helmet and cleats, he is easily identified as a football
player. When he wears a uniform that is identical in color and style
to his teammates, it further identifies him not just as ANY football
player, but as a member of a specific team with a select group of
athletes all working for the same organization.
Your interview clothes identify you in the same, general way!
If you wear the same colors, styles and accessories as others in a
company, you signify that you are part of a select group of employees,
and that you belong to the same team. If you know what the 'team uniform'
is at a company, you can adjust your interview image (slightly) to
mirror it. Without even saying a word, you let "customers" (prospective
employers) know that you are 'on their team' and this will increase
your customer's approval of you.
Fine-tuning your image in this way helps you send the message to interviewers
that you are a better fit with the company than any of the competitors!
Know Your Customers: Tuning in to Corporate Culture Knowing a company's
corporate culture is one of the major keys to your personal marketing
strategy, and helps you appeal directly to a specific employer. However,
the term itself often confuses people. Corporate culture has nothing
to do with the size of a company. Even the smallest "mom & pop" stores
and informally run organizations have a corporate culture.
Simply put: the corporate culture is the sum of a company's history,
mission, philosophy, identity, image and goals. Visit any business
on any given day and you will immediately get clues as to what its
corporate culture is. You will probably see similarities in dress,
attitude, style and maybe even personality (e.g. everyone is flamboyant,
talks loudly, wears a jacket with the company logo, carries a navy
blue backpack or sports running shoes).
researching corporate culture
You can get clues about a company's corporate culture from annual
reports, from the company's informational or promotional materials,
and even from their website. All of this information helps you slightly
adjust your image, attitude and demeanor to fit in most closely with
that of the company at which you're interviewing. Work environments
can be loud with laughter, or quiet and laid back.
A company that encourages uniformity, for example, might encourage
this with furniture and artwork that is the same, everywhere you look.
Tip: personal observation is very helpful in figuring out what the
corporate culture is. A discreet look at the company's offices prior
to the interview will give you a clearer picture and help you figure
out if you'll 'fit in.' This advance intelligence work is not optional
if you really want to get a leg up on your competition!
Pay a visit to the premises at a busy time like lunch hour. Stand
discreetly outside the building and make mental notes: What are most
of the employees wearing? What colors and styles are most prevalent?
What are they carrying with them? What subjects do you hear being
discussed as they walk by? Do they generally look happy, or stressed-out?
Do the majority of employees seem very mature, or very young, or are
they a well-mixed group?
If it's difficult (or impossible) for you to make an advance trip
to the company's offices, you can still get a lot of information to
help you "fine tune" your interview "sales pitch." Ask your networking
connections whether they know anyone that works at the company you're
interested in. Read the company's annual report and promotional materials.
Check news sources and search engines for articles about the company
and it's employees.
Don't forget that first impressions are usually correct, and lasting.
You can even get a valuable impression of what the company is really
like to help you prepare for an interview, even from the first contact
you had with them. For example: Were you contacted by letter or by
phone? Did the interviewer contact you personally, or did someone
else make the call? Did they conduct themselves professionally? Were
you addressed as Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, or by your first name? Was the
tone of the contact informally friendly, or professionally efficient?
How you sound and behave as a "phone voice" to an employer can boost
your competitive edge before you ever meet, and will reinforce or
alleviate any initial positive or negative feelings or concerns that
they have about your product.
Making a positive
first impression on the phone is critical to your entire personal
marketing strategy and your future career success!
Most of us use the phone so much that we take it for granted. However,
as a job seeker using personal marketing to get a competitive edge,
remember that the phone can help or hurt you sell yourself. Employers
want to know if you're trustworthy, intelligent and likeable. They're
going to start making that decision right over the phone based on
your voice and behavior.
The following will help you become aware of what goes into PPP - Perfect
- DO answer your own phone by stating your
name and waiting for the caller to respond before continuing. answer
your own phone by stating your name and waiting for the caller to
respond before continuing;
- DO keep a pad and pencil near the phone
for jotting down messages, and for important names, phone numbers,
addresses or other information critical to the job. It's also a good
idea to keep a copy of your resume and generic cover letter(s) handy
in case you need to refer to them quickly;
- DON'T put someone on hold for "just a
moment", which turns into longer than 60 seconds. If someone does
this to you, you are within your rights to hang up and call again
when they are ready to talk to you;
- DON'T answer the phone with anything
besides "hello" or another polite, basic phone salutation. You will
not impress an employer if the first thing they hear is: "Whassup?"
or any other familiar slang;
- DON'T talk to a prospective employer
if you're not ready. If someone calls from a company you can't even
remember applying to, your cat is throwing up on your new couch, or
there is anything else that is diverting your attention, the best
thing to do is apologize for not being able to talk on the phone right
then, ask to re-schedule the conversation, and get off the phone as
quickly as possible;
- DON'T leave long, complicated voicemail
messages spoken so fast that it sends someone scrambling for pen and
pad to frantically write it all down. If you don't reach the caller
you'll have to talk later anyway, so bag the long story and just leave
your name, date, time and a brief explanation of why you called.
+ phone interviews
Most initial phone contacts with an employers are brief,
usually just to set up an in-person interview/ There are times when
your first phone contact with an employer may be an actual interview.
How you perform on the phone will decide whether or not you get to
the next stage ... an in-person interview.
Remember, the interviewer has never met you and only has ears intuition
with which to judge you. Make sure you are cordial, understanding
and friendly to whomever you are speaking, no matter how tired you
are or how frustrated they make you. You may soon be working for (or