How to Find a Job in the 21st Century Part 2
Part 1 of this series discussed the new mindset that is required to successfully find a job in today’s economy.
Whether you’re a young professional fresh out of school, a laid off factory worker or an ambitious high school kid looking to earn some cash over the summer, finding a job can be a stressful, unpleasant undertaking. Rejection is discouraging and can lead to fear and inaction if encountered repeatedly. But, there are a number of ways that you can reduce the anxiety of the process, from the initial contact to the interview to the second interview and so on.
One of the things that a lot of people don’t realize is that the hiring process can be a pain in the ass. This is true whether the position in question is for CFO of a 300 employee firm or a burger flipper at McDonald’s. The trick to winning favor with the hiring person(s) for the job you’re seeking is to look at the process from their perspective, and make it easy for them to want to hire you.
This is not as difficult as it sounds.
Think of it from their point of view: More often than not, the need to replace an individual is a predicament that comes along with relatively short notice, and the need is urgent because the absence of the position increases the workload on everyone else. They need to find someone with the proper skill-set (or trainability) to step into the role and begin to make a contribution as quickly as possible.
Combine this with the fact that the pool of reasonably qualified job seekers is considerably larger than it has traditionally been and you can see the difficulty that HR people are faced with.
The fact is, the mainstream use of job websites such as Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com has simultaneously made the lives of employers easier and harder by expediting the initial stages of the process. It is very easy and convenient to post job openings on the various sites, but it is equally as easy for job-seekers to submit resumes and apply for the jobs with just a few clicks of the mouse. This leads to more potential interviewees to sift through.
All of this leads to one thing above all else: You have to stand out from the rest.
But how do you do that?
“The most valuable mindset a job seeker can have is to see yourself as a problem-solver. Figure out the issues/opportunities an organization has and then connect your skills/experience with specific ways to solve the issues and seize the opportunities. And make it obvious to the employer.”
“Job seekers need to take everything they used to know about grabbing the attention of a potential employer, and throw it out the window. The focus needs to be placed on proving your expertise and value to your prospective employer. The bottom line is: Tell them what’s in it for them … not what’s in it for you.”
The first thing to do before even looking at the classified ads is to take a personal inventory of all the skills you possess. Consider past employment and the things you’ve learned, consider classes you excelled in or liked; hell, even take into account your hobbies and general interests. What you want to do is examine your pool of knowledge across a wide variety of areas to find out what marketable skills you possess. I guarantee that you have abilities that someone out there somewhere can use. If you need to, combine those skills if it’s necessary. Almost all jobs require some degree of critical thinking as part of its job function. Effective critical thinking requires you to draw upon past experiences. Unless you’re looking to sit and push buttons all day, there is something in your past that can help you.
When considering a job listing, before simply clicking ‘Apply For Job‘ and hoping for the best, do a little homework. If it’s a local job, find out who the hiring manager is. Look into the history of the company, identify exactly what it is they do, who their customers are, what problems do they solve, etc. Then find out the responsibilities of the position.
After that, you’ll have a better idea of how you can serve the needs of the company. Next join Linkedin and create a profile (much has already been written on the topic – for a good list of ways to use Linkedin to find employment, see this post by Dave Taylor at Intuitive.com).
Next, apply for the job by the means specified by the ad.
Now it’s time to stand out from the crowd.
Simply submitting your resume and cover letter is not enough, because everyone has a resume and cover letter. Employers use this information to figure out who they don’t want to interview, not who they do.
After that, wait a day or two and then make contact with the hiring person. Generally, the best way to do this is to visit the store or office where the job is located. Don’t wear a tie (unless it’s normal for you to do so), and don’t carry anything in. Gain access to the person you need to speak with. If there is a gatekeeper such as a secretary, I recommend the following:
Wait patiently for him/her to acknowledge you, then smile and make good eye contact. If their name is visible by way of a pin or or nameplate on their desk, use it. Or better yet, learn it before you even walk in the door.
‘Hi can I help you?”
“Good morning, Jackie, how are you today?”
“I’m good. How are you?”
“I am great, thanks for asking! Hey I am here to see Bob, is he around by any chance?”
“I’m not sure let me check. Do you have an appointment?”
“OK sir hang on a second and I’ll see if he’s available.”
She’ll pick up the phone and call Bob’s office. At this time you should walk away from her desk. She’ll be more receptive to helping you out if you’re not hovering over her like a hawk.
Her conversation with Bob will go something like this:
“Hi Bob I have a gentleman out here in the lobby to see you.”
“OK who is he?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What’s his name?”
“Um I don’t know hang on.”
“Excuse me sir, what is your name?”
“Oh sorry. My name is Mike.”
“He says his name is Mike.”
“OK I’ll be right out.”
This works for two reasons. In the beginning, you treated Jackie like a human being and not some low-level person to get what you want from. A simple, genuine smile and a quick how are you was enough to get her to let her guard down.
Next, you asked to see Bob casually, using his first name. You didn’t ask if he was ‘available’; you asked if he was ‘around’.
When asked if you had an appointment, you simply said ‘no’. Not ‘Oh no I didn’t know I needed one’; or ‘No, I submitted an online resume and blah blah blah…’ The gatekeeper might have explicit instructions to blow off people who are just following up on an application, or salespeople, etc. The less information you provide voluntarily, the better your chances are. Same goes for when you were asked your name. It’s not deceptive to just give a first name, it’s just incomplete information.
(Now I am not advocating that you lie in these or any circumstances – lying generally doesn’t make for the best of first impressions. If the gatekeeper presses for more info, tell her the truth.)
The way this has transpired, you’ve successfully piqued Bob’s interest to the point that he would come out to find out who you are and what you want. If he were genuinely too busy or apathetic to deal with you, he’d have told the gatekeeper to act accordingly. Let’s not disappoint him.
Go and sit down or simply distance yourself from her desk so the gatekeeper can to get back to doing her job. If she offers you something to drink, accept it. Resist the temptation to ask Jackie how long she’s been working there and all the other stuff you’d like to know about the company. Right now she thinks you’re important enough to get Bob’s attention – don’t screw it up.
“Mike July. Nice to meet you”
Extend a hand out to shake.
“Bob Blanchard. Nice to meet you as well.”
“First I just want to thank you for taking time out of your morning to spend a couple minutes with me. I really appreciate you taking the time.”
“Sure. What can I do for you?”
“Well, a couple of days ago I was on the Career Builder site and I ran across the ad for the Internet Marketing position. I did a little research on your company and I decided to go ahead and submit a resume. But, the more that I looked into it the more excited I became about the opportunity. It seems like you have a really good reputation in the industry for being a well-run agency and everything I found out was really positive and the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize how well I’d be able to use my experience and skill set in the position. I happen to be in the area on other business anyhow and I just wanted to stop in and maybe introduce myself and maybe check the place out for a second.”
At this point, Bob will ask you about your job history and experience and such, to which you’ll give direct, concise answers that illustrate how you see your job skills benefiting the position. You can make pointed referenced to things you learned in your research. He will likely be impressed with your diligence and will be more likely to remember you when he decided which resumes to print and which ones get deleted.
Be confident, but also be sure to remain humble even if it’s evident that he is impressed. By all means, if he invites you back to his office to chat some more, go for it. But more than likely he’ll be too busy for that so after a few minutes you should close by again thanking him for being so generous with his time, and find out the timeline for the hiring process and when you can expect to hear from him and if it’s OK to contact him if you haven’t heard anything by a certain date.
At this point, you’ve done more than 95% of the other applicants in the job force today. Come interview time, you’ve already developed a rapport with the hiring manager, which puts you a leg up on everyone else who only looks good on paper. Some of his interviews will go alright, some will go poorly, but the one he has scheduled with you is the one he’ll be looking forward to.