Last week we looked at 10 reasons you might not have been hired that were completely outside of your control as a job seeker. This week, we are going to look at 10 aspects that are within the control of the job seeker.
Within Your Control
As employers are imperfect, so are job seekers. However, since the job seeker is in “selling” mode, it is up to the job seeker to pay close attention to what the employer (the “buyer”) wants. These factors in a job search are controlled by the job seeker:
1. Paying attention to your online reputation -
I call this the invisible problem because most job seekers won’t know it happened to them. With 80% or more of employers doing an online search about an applicant before contacting the individual for an interview, job seekers who don’t know what Google or Bing will show employers are taking a big chance, particularly if they don’t have a LinkedIn Profile to back up what is on their resume. While no one can completely control this aspect of a job search, you must be aware of it to manage it.
Recovery: The best defense is a good offense – know what is associated with your name and address any of the issues up front, if possible. A good LinkedIn Profile is a great offensive move in this particular game. See: Defensive Googling: How to Find (and Fix) What Could Be Sabotaging Your Job Search and Unlocking a Successful Job Search: Online Reputation Management for more details.
2. The jobs you apply for -
Applying for a job that is perceived as clearly inappropriate (wrong level, wrong field, wrong location, etc.) is the number one thing that job seekers do to disqualify themselves.
Recovery: Pay close attention to the job requirements to ensure that the job is appropriate, and then apply with a customized resume targeted to that specific type of job.
3. Focus on the opportunity and the employer -
A job search today is more like a marketing campaign than ever because of the level of competition. And few can be as well-prepared as they need to be without narrowing their focus to some specific employers and just one or two job titles.
Recovery: It is so much more effective to focus on a group of target employers and a few specific jobs that are good matches for your skills, experience, and interests. Then, the LinkedIn Profile and resume as well as networking efforts function “in sync” to help make real impact. Without focus, everything (resume, etc.) is too generic to look like a good match for anything.
4. The interest demonstrated -
With so many job seekers “blasting” out generic resumes, applying for every job they see, employers are skeptical of any job seeker’s real interest in their job.
Recovery: Demonstrate your interest by sending a customized email or letter to the correct address, spelling individual and company names correctly, indicating which job you are applying for (title and any other identifier they might use), and where the job is located (if they have multiple locations). Then, list a couple of their key requirements plus how you meet those requirements.
5. The preparation -
Job seekers who apply for jobs without knowing anything about the employer or who show up for an interview without having done enough research to have solid questions ready to ask, are going to lose out to better-prepared competitors.
Recovery: Take the time to thoroughly prepare for an interview. Follow the advice in “What Research Should I Do Before an Interview?“
6. The presentation -
If a job seeker is not well-prepared for an interview, it is difficult to be as confident and relaxed as necessary to put the proverbial “best foot forward.”
Recovery: Plan ahead and prepare in advance. This includes everything from resumes and cover letters customized for the opportunity to questions the job seeker asks during the interview.
7. The attitude demonstrated -
This can be everything from typos and misspellings in the resume to dressing sloppily or answering a cell phone call during an interview.
Recovery: Be thorough, careful, and professional.
8. Expectation of success or failure -
In a long job search, bad luck can turn into a poor attitude that sabotages opportunities. Some job seekers know for a fact that no one will hire them – because of their age or their sex or their race or some other unchangeable personal characteristic. In some cases, that may be true, unfortunately, but not in all cases.
Recovery: Expecting failure can contribute to failing. So, try to expect success. Greet every interviewer and networking opportunity with a big smile and a firm handshake. Expect the best will happen this time!
I had a great boss once, very successful – it seemed – in everything he did. He told me “Fake it till you make it, and, pretty soon, you won’t be faking it.” Not as easy for me as for him, but he had a lot more practice (and a lot more success).
9. The time spent networking -
Someone referred by an employee is hired twice as often as someone who was not, according to recent research.
Recovery: Spend as much time networking as you spend online applying for jobs. And, networking isn’t listening to boring talks given in large rooms filled with strangers. Networking can be volunteering in your child’s school (particularly if you want a job there), helping your favorite candidate get elected, sitting at the sign-in desk for the Chamber of Commerce events, or talking with the people around you in the line at the grocery store or cheering at your daughter’s soccer game.
10. The follow up –
If the job posting says “don’t call,” I probably wouldn’t call, particularly after only a resume submission. However, after an interview, follow-up is appropriate, and lack of follow up may be interpreted by the employer as lack of interest. You don’t want to be a pest, but you do want them to know that you are interested.
Recovery: Be sure to send thank you notes (or emails) after an interview. I would reach out after an appropriate interim (at least a week, in most cases), to ask what the status of the job is. Many recruiters will assume that you either are not interested or have found another job if you don’t follow-up. This particularly applies after you have had at least one interview.