Here are some of the key pieces of information I’ve learned over the years that are most often overlooked (or wilfully ignored) by career advisors:
1. Expect not to have your phone calls returned. Construct a polite but confident voice mail message that will entice recruiters, HR professionals and hiring managers to return your calls. Once you leave a message with your phone number you really shouldn’t call back. Try not leaving a message if you want to call multiple times so you can reach the contact in person.
2. Setting up advice calls, cold calling and trying to reach decision makers is a numbers game. They say it takes 39 no’s to make a yes. Always anticipate a yes but know that as a rule it is volume that reaps rewards.
3. Friends may stop inviting you out to the theatre or to restaurants if they think you are financially strapped. Let people know your social capabilities and invite others out so they know you are still active.
4. Recruiters do not always read cover letters, so don’t spend much time crafting them. Keep the message short and include whether you are willing to relocate and your salary range.
5. The job of the Human Resource person in a company is usually to screen you out. Don’t discount the power of the screener as they have a huge influence over the decision maker. Be prepared and professional at all times.
6. Help the reader of your resume out by citing an Objective and a Profile or Highlights of Qualifications. If the resume reader likes what they read in the Profile they will read the rest of the resume.
7. Look great when you arrive for an interview, shine your shoes, have an up-to-date haircut, put a spring in your step, a smile on your face and get rid of hair in unattractive places.
8. The more senior position you hold the less facial hair you should sport. If you look at pictures of Boards of Directors very few executives have moustaches or beards.
9. The receptionist at a company is your first person of contact. They are often asked their impression of you when you interacted with them upon your arrival. Treat them like your new best friend.
10. If you are called to do a telephone interview on the spot, ask if you can call them back in 10 minutes so you can free up your time and be in a quiet place.
11. After the initial greeting in an interview, ask for a detailed written or verbal job description so you have the same concept of the position you are interviewing for as the interviewer.
12. Every question you are asked in an interview has a purpose and is asked so as to uncover a skill or strength that will solve a problem within the position. Try to understand why they would want to know that before you set out answering the question.
13. Potential employers like to know how you would fix their problems. After explaining your accomplishment on a certain skill, relate it back to an obvious problem or challenge that position possesses.
14. Potential employers like to know you can think outside the box, you have a creative mind and have put some thought into their individual company’s position in the marketplace. For a second interview draft a 30/60/90 day outline of what you would anticipate doing in the job for those time lines.
15. Always ask “Where do we go from here?” as the end of every interview. For your peace of mind it’s nice to know what the interviewer’s plans are moving forward.
16. If at the end of an interview they tell you they will get back to you in x days, ask them if you don’t hear from them can you please call them. Ascertain whether they prefer email or a phone call for their favoured correspondence.
17. Send a postcard , thank you card or a nice typed letter of thanks after each advice call or interview. Cards sit out on desks, letters get filed.
The list goes on and on. I’d love to hear from you if you have an incident to share that you were unprepared for because someone failed to enlighten you about some aspect of your job search. Ultimately it is each person’s responsibility to read books, attend networking meetings and talk to other work searchers to pick up tips that make your search easier and your interviews shine.
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How To Build Relationships That Count, and How To Get a Job and Keep It