How little things can make a big difference in a job hunt

May 10, 2010 at 12:58 am 1 comment

It’s the little things that are important, we’re often told, yet we tend to focus on the big things. Job hunters worry about their interview style, their resume, how to negotiate a salary-and-benefits package, and how to create an effective network. Yet when you think about it, each of these big concerns is made up of lots of little elements.

And while it’s definitely the case that you can find yourself out of the running for a position by making a mistake or two (see April 12 post, “Little flubs can turn into a big miss in job hunting”), it’s also true that you can move yourself ahead of the competition by making a smart little play. Details count, big time, in a job hunt. And not only should you pay attention to details in trying to score a job now but by minding small details going forward, you’ll be making the most of your skills and abilities to land future jobs.

With the help of members of the dcworks community  (thanks everyone!), here are some tips on how to make the little things work in your favor in a job hunt:

*Be sure every bit of identifying and contact information about you — on your resume, cover letter and on social networking sites, for example — is clear and professional. Kinda obvious, huh? Yet you’d be surprised how often this information isn’t clear (and sometimes isn’t up-to-date) and how often job hunters may leave silly (or worse yet, boozy) photos of themselves online. And an email correspondent who has been leading a D.C. news bureau’s hunt for summer interns offers this advice about outgoing phone messages: “Don’t have a dumb-ass Voicemail message, composed by a friend of yours. The words ‘you know what to do’ shouldn’t be featured anywhere.” I’ve said it before, but my correspondent underscores this well — what the recruiter in this situation likely will “know what to do” is decide not to leave a message, and toss the resume. And this advice is important not only for job hunters just starting out, but those with families who may have cutesy, kid-generated “We’re not home” giggle, giggle type answering-machine messages. If you’re using your home number on your resume, have a professional greeting on your Voicemail. There’s plenty of technology out there for being in touch with organizations, so use it well. Those who do will get many more requests for interviews than those who are sloppy about it.

*Respond right away. My intern-recruiting correspondent also offers this advice: “If called by a hiring manager to set up an interview this week, not returning said call will probably not work to your advantage.” Though it may seem unfair after they’ve made you wait so long, hiring managers and recruiters — once they are focused on filling a job — often want to fill it as soon as possible. If they can’t reach you or you can’t come in for an interview right away (usually within the week), they may turn to the next applicant. So be available and ready to jump. It also shows you’re really interested in the job, which usually impresses hiring managers.

*Stay in touch with an organization even if you’re initially rejected. Maureen Conners, a member of the CQ “Gang of 45” who recently landed a job as a senior data analyst and producer with Federal Information & News Dispatch (FIND) in Lanham, Md., (congratulations, Maureen!) says that “following up with a letter of thanks even after you’ve interviewed and don’t get the job” worked in her favor. “They’ll be more likely to remember you when there’s another opening,” she advises. I can attest to this. One of the parts of the job that’s no fun for recruiters is to let those you aren’t hiring know you’ve filled the position. Most of the time, they want to get off the phone as soon as possible and you don’t hear from those prospective employees again — even if you tell them, quite sincerely, that they were a strong candidate and you want them to stay in touch. Those who quickly get over the initial sting of rejection (see March 26 post, “What to do when you’ve been rejected”) and maintain contact with an organization that truly seems interested (and sending links to your blog or Web site, or attaching recent articles to your email, is a great way to stay connected) stand a good chance of landing a job there. And even if the contact doesn’t lead to anything further with that organization, Maureen points out that writing to the organization (and an email thank you is perfectly acceptable) leaves things with the recruiter on a positive note — and they are likely to speak well of you to others in the future.

*Be enthusiastic about the position and the organization. Several email correspondents who recently landed jobs said this made all the difference for them in their job hunt. Hiring managers want to feel like you understand and accept what their organization does, and that you would feel fortunate to be part of it. While being careful not to gush or appear insincere, explaining clearly and specifically why you’d be excited to join this company can help you stand out from other applicants — especially when you are similarly qualified. A friendly smile, a firm handshake and questions that show you are truly interested in this organization can go a long way toward establishing a rapport with the hiring manager that can make a big difference in the outcome of your search.

*And here’s a detailed how-to on social networking during a search from job-hunting journalist Alexis Grant, whose blog is “The Traveling Writer”… (link below)….She offers some terrific tips on using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (which I found esp. useful, as there isn’t a lot of common-sense advice out there about using Twitter in a job hunt) and blogs not only to network, but to find jobs and to get your resume in the right hands. These tips are golden:

*Check out some fresh leads in this new work week:

*For talented Web designers/managers (pass this along to those you might know!) Forum One Communications in Alexandria is looking for a managing director of user experience and design:

Managing Director of User Experience and Design
Forum One Communications – Alexandria, VA
of User Experience and Design Forum One Communications Full-time Alexandria, VA Forum One Communications is currently seeking a Managing Director to take…
From Authentic Jobs

*The non-profit Clean Skies News in D.C. has an opening for an executive editor:

Executive Editor
Clean Skies News – Washington, DC
Executive Editor soughtby Clean Skies News, an… editorialconfidence of 20 person team.  Executive Editor will help launch the program and oversee content…

*The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has an opening in D.C. for a vice president of media and communications:
Vice President, Media & Communications
National Federation of Independent Business – Washington, DC
and external communications designed to inform… Media & Communications will possess the following: Bachelor's Degree in communications or related…
From ASAE & The Center

*The Graduate School in D.C. is looking for a director of marketing and communication:

Director, Marketing and Communication
Graduate School – Washington, DC
of Marketing and Communication is a leadership… and communications functions; and managing the School’s internal and external communications including the…
From Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)

*For public policy types or those hoping to transition into this type of work, the Open Society Institute in D.C. has an opening for a deputy director to focus on domestic policy:

Deputy Director
Open Society Institute – Washington, DC
working with Congress on issues involving domestic policy. Excellent communication skills, i.e., familiarity with and demonstrated ability to communicate…
From Open Society Institute

*And for those with international policy experience, AECOM in Arlington is seeking a sr. democracy and governance adviser:

Democracy and Governance Advisor/Senior Manager
AECOM – Arlington, VA
building programs, communication strategies, and… teams • Excellent English language verbal and communication skills are required; ability to work in other…

*The Washington Business Journal is looking for a technology reporter to work out of its Arlington office:

The Washington Business Journal

Technology Reporter

Location: Rosslyn, VA

The Washington Business Journal, the only newspaper in Washington dedicated to local business coverage, is looking for an experienced reporter to cover technology, a premier beat. You must know the local tech and venture capital communities, be able to identify up-and-coming startups and write about technology while avoiding jargon and acronyms. You will write breaking news for the web as well as news and feature stories for the weekly print edition. You will cover the area’s tech giants and the one-person basement operations. We are a close-knit newsroom in Rosslyn, and we offer a great salary and benefits package. Send a cover letter, resume and three clips to Managing Editor Elizabeth Drachman,

*And to wrap up today’s leads, Crain’s InvestmentNews has an opening in D.C. for a reporter to cover the financial services industry:



Washington, DC

InvestmentNews is seeking a deadline-oriented reporter to provide coverage of the financial services industry, with a strong emphasis on developments affecting the financial advice business. This person will report on subjects such as legislative and regulatory issues affecting financial advisers, developments in tax law that may affect advisers and their clients and Securities and Exchange Commission policies. This person will also be expected to cover live events in Washington, including Congressional hearings, SEC meetings and will also be expected to travel outside of the capitol to attend industry conferences or meet with the InvestmentNews’ management team in New York.  This person will provide coverage for our flagship InvestmentNews weekly newspaper, our daily e-newsletter and our special reports. In addition, this reporter would also be expected to take part, and in some cases oversee webcasts, round-table discussions and conference panels. The position is based in DC and involves being a part of a team of U.S.-based reporters.

If you are a news hound with six to ten years of experience, particularly in covering financial services or financial advice, we encourage you to apply.


  • Six to ten years of professional news reporting experience in a deadline-driven environment, especially in working to daily and weekly deadlines.
  • Demonstrated ability to break hard-hitting news.
  • Bachelor’s degree in journalism or related field.
  • Ability to develop a wide variety of sources, including those on Capitol Hill and within such regulatory bodies as the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
  • Ability to turn complex subject matter into clear, well-organized news stories and to translate jargon into meaningful news to an informed audience.
  • Ability to work collaboratively, take direction and be flexible.

Crain Communications Inc
is one of the largest privately-owned business publishers in the U.S. with over 28 leading business, trade and consumer titles in North America and Europe. As an authoritative source of vital news and information to industry leaders and consumers worldwide, each of the company’s newspapers, magazines and electronic news sites have become required reading in their respective sector of business and consumer market. Providing unmatched value and award-winning editorial excellence, the company is respected for its dependable journalism which readers have relied upon for over 90 years.

Crain Communications offers a competitive salary, a generous benefits package, and a friendly work environment. This is a great time to join our organization — a well established publishing leader.  To apply for this position please visit our website at and search under the employment section.

Happy hunting!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Signs that an organization may not be a good fit How to interview with confidence

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Margie Trousil  |  May 12, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Hi! I have interviewed many potential new hires and am totally turned off by: poorly edited cover letters and CV’s. Not arriving on time for the interview, Not paying attention during the interview. And finally falsifying information on the CV or application.


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