Archive for May, 2010

Summer’s coming: Better step up your job hunt now

An email correspondent from way outside the Beltway writes in, asking if he should put his hopes of finding a D.C. area job on hold for a while, until the summer vacation season ends and hiring managers are again focused on filling jobs.

While it’s true that many D.C. folks try to get out of town for at least a week (and for plenty of long weekends) over the summer, my advice — based on my own experience and checking in with some D.C. area recruiters and managers — is that June through mid-July is still a pretty good time to job hunt here, as managers try to fill openings before the late-July/August slowdown. Here are some tips for summer hunting in the D.C. area: (more…)

May 28, 2010 at 1:54 am Leave a comment

What to determine before you take a job

When it comes time to decide whether to accept an offer, job hunters tend to focus on four main concerns: salary, benefits, location and job title/position. And while that makes perfect sense, other elements of a job can have major implications for your work life and your career going forward. Those who leave a job often do so for reasons other than these main four — including frustration with a boss or co-workers, inability to move forward in the organization and grueling hours or other issues that lead to a toxic work environment.

So how does a smart job hunter determine well before it’s offer time whether this job and organization make sense for you? It’s tricky because the hiring process often doesn’t provide natural opportunities for checking out the nitty-gritty details of a position. In initial interviews, you’re trying to showcase your skills and pitch your fitness for a position — it can be awkward (and off-putting to a hiring manager) to ask too many specific questions about a job at that point. And before you know it, you’re at the end of the process and an offer is coming your way — but the strings attached may not be ones that make sense for you.

Hiring experts say that beyond negotiating salary and benefits, here are some things to figure out well before you take a job: (more…)

May 27, 2010 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

Five reasons candidates don’t get a callback

One of the frustrations of job hunting is you often don’t know what you may be doing wrong. In many other parts of life, we’re clearly told — a coach analyzes a baseball player’s swing, an editor critiques a writer’s story (sometimes in great detail!) and one’s teenage offspring remind you just how lacking you are in many areas. (guess who has teenagers?) Sometimes, we could do without so much feedback in our lives, right?

But not in job hunting. Instead, it’s often tough to know if we’re getting the brushoff because of something we’ve done, or not. Sometimes you just don’t hear back — and it really has nothing to do with you. The organization may have decided on an inside candidate or not to fill the position at this time, even though you might have dazzled them. (See March 26 post, “What to do when you’ve been rejected.”)

Yet if you are finding on a regular basis that you get only so far in a job hunt — and especially if you seem to be dropped like a hot potato at the same point with different organizations — it’s time to take stock and determine if it IS indeed something you’re doing, or failing to do. There are real reasons that organizations cool to a job candidate, and the following five are common ones: (more…)

May 26, 2010 at 2:15 am Leave a comment

Secrets to finding real job openings

One of the trickiest parts of landing a good job in a period of high unemployment — especially in certain industry segments, like media — is simply finding the real openings. So often, positions listed on job boards may already have been filled or will soon be filled by an internal candidate — the real opening may come several positions after that. And many employers, worried about being flooded by resumes, don’t publicize their openings or list them in more selective outlets — preferring to use their own networks to develop a small, targeted pool of candidates.

So, what’s a job hunter to do to find these positions and avoid wasting time on openings that likely will lead nowhere? Hiring experts say that you shouldn’t ignore listings on job boards and list-servs altogether, but should pursue them selectively as part of a more targeted strategy for finding real job openings. Here are some tips: (more…)

May 25, 2010 at 2:31 am Leave a comment

How to handle an interview q for which you’re unprepared

It happens sometimes: You research a company and a job and feel like you’re well-prepared for the interview, and then a question comes your way that you simply can’t answer. It could be something of a technical nature or could be a more general query that you just didn’t see coming. Should you figure that your candidacy for this job has effectively ended? Or might there be a way to salvage things?

Hiring experts say that you should always be ready for the unexpected in job interviews. That’s why it’s good to research as much as you can about a potential employer, and to become practiced at the skill of interviewing. That can help save you in situations like this. Though in some cases a tricky question can end your candidacy, here are some tips on trying to recover when asked a question for which you’re unprepared in an interview: (more…)

May 23, 2010 at 10:40 pm Leave a comment

What in a cover letter makes managers cheer or cringe

Cover letters are kinda the Rodney Dangerfield of the job-hunting toolkit — they just don’t get enough respect. Job seekers obsess over their resumes (with good reason), carefully prepare for interviews and spend a great deal of energy putting together their writing samples or portfolio. And then, often, they dash off a cover letter or hurriedly “repurpose” one they sent out to other employers last week.

Guess what? Hiring managers are on to this. Job seekers who take cover letters lightly do so at their own peril. Usually, this is the very first contact a hiring manager has with a job candidate. So if the cover letter is sloppy, too formal, not formal enough, or a carbon-copy of the one you’re sending out for a bunch of openings, the hiring manager is likely to chuck it and not even get to your carefully prepared resume or clips package. When asked for their top gripes about job candidates today, recruiters cite dashed-off cover letters (see April 12 post, “Little flubs can turn into a big miss in job hunting”) that miss the entire purpose of this letter: which is to indicate to a prospective employer why your skills and experience would make you a good fit for THIS particular position. They are supposed to be custom documents — tailored to the job you’re seeking.

Based on chats with hiring managers and my own recruiting experience, here are some tips on crafting cover letters that are more likely to cause a recruiter to grin rather than to groan when they read yours: (more…)

May 21, 2010 at 10:49 am Leave a comment

Following up: A key to success in a job hunt

An email correspondent recently wrote me a thank-you note for some advice on networking (also heeding my advice on thank-you notes!), but added that she¬†often has¬†trouble with follow-up after an initial networking contact or an informational interview. It seems so false, she said, just to send a “thanks, let’s get together again” note, and other notes weeks or months later, and wonders if that’s a terribly effective way to stay in touch.

Many job hunters, who otherwise handle the tasks of job hunting well, falter when it comes to the all-important follow-up. Especially if you are networking with busy people (see April 26 post, “How to network with the well-networked”) they typically aren’t going to get back in touch with you unless you give them a good, specific reason to do so. Job hunters need to develop strategies for following up after key meetings in their search, or those contacts will do them little good in the long run.

Here are some tips for effective follow-up: (more…)

May 20, 2010 at 11:41 am 1 comment

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