July 10, 2009
Standing out: Job seekers need to show what they can do for a company
Tribune Media Services
In tough economic conditions, finding a job can get downright frustrating. Gone are the days of submitting a resume and getting called for an interview. Instead, job seekers today have to get creative if they want to be noticed.
Jill Keto, author of “Don’t Get Caught With Your Skirt Down: A Practical Girl’s Recession Guide,” says job seekers should not limit their searches to positions based on profile or status.
“Focus your job search on businesses that have a good chance of surviving the recession, or even growing during it,” she says. “Choose boring, nuts-and-bolts manufacturing companies over the more glamorous businesses like financial services.”
Old-school techniques that still give you a leg up
Kate Wendleton, president of The Five O’Clock Club, a New York-based career counseling company, says landing the right job still may hinge on old-world techniques:
Embrace snail mail. You’re unlikely to stand out if you join the legions of job seekers sending “hire me” pitches via e-mail. E-mail also is easy for a hiring manager to delete. By using regular mail, you control the appearance of your carefully crafted cover letter and resume.
Resist the BlackBerry. Don’t follow up on an interview with an e-mail sent via handheld -- there’s too great a chance you’ll thumb-type a typo-ridden message. Use handhelds only to send brief e-mails confirming an appointment or advising that you’re running late for a meeting.
Stick with a land line. For any phone contact with a prospective employer, try to use a land line. With cell phones, there’s too great a risk that you’ll get a spotty connection, lose it altogether or end up with excessive background noise if you’re in a public place. If you don’t have access to a land line, call from someplace quiet.
The goal is to find a job that won’t crumble during difficult times. Look at the big picture, and try to think like a hiring manager throughout the process, Keto says.
“When interviewing, and also on your cover letter, highlight why you can either help them save money or increase revenues,” she says. “This is key, because businesses are most concerned with the bottom line in a recession. For example, are you very good at cutting costs, personal budgeting and keeping expenses down, or finding ways to get new customers? If so, tell them.”
Market yourself as a package, says Keto. Show employers that you not only have the skills, experience and personality for the job, you also bring innovative ideas to improve their bottom line.
If it has been a while since your last job interview, don’t be afraid to practice answering common interview questions in the mirror. Work on presenting yourself confidently, says Laura DeCarlo, executive director of A Competitive Edge Career Service in Orlando, Fla. Prepare for likely interview questions (“What is your greatest weakness?”) to avoid that deer-in-the-headlights look.
“Frankly, the only thing that should differ (in a tough economy) is the amount of competition,” DeCarlo says. “But employers are currently citing that over 75 percent of the candidates who are contacting them are underqualified for the job.
“In a good market, it is talented candidates who are making the positions far more competitive. Right now, the challenge is standing out as qualified in a sea of untalented candidates.”
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