If you’ve been out of work for several months and aren’t getting any interviews, or you’re going on interviews but not getting any offers, maybe it’s time to adjust your approach to job hunting.
If you’re not getting any interviews, it’s time to reconsider your résumé. First, examine it to make sure it contains no spelling or grammar errors. Then have a friend or colleague check it. “You cannot succeed in this competitive market if your résumé isn’t 100% accurate,” says Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, an expert at the career Web site Vault.com and former chief operating officer for Merrill Lynch Campus Recruiting.
Thanasoulis-Cerrachio recommends including a personal interest section at the bottom. Most hiring managers aren’t comfortable interviewing prospective job candidates, and they’re not good at it. Adding a section on your personal interests gives them a conversation starter.
“Most interviewers are just as uncomfortable as the job candidate, so they gravitate toward something they’re comfortable with, like personal interests,” Thanasoulis-Cerrachio says.
Include a section up top detailing your skills. It should include hard skills like knowing certain computer programs and soft skills like being a strong communicator or team player. Try to match the language used in the job ad.
Most important, though, emphasize the results you achieved in each position you held, instead of just listing job responsibilities. You become a much more compelling candidate if instead of saying you managed a team of three you say, “Managed a team of three employees who interacted with clients and had a 100% client retention rate over two years.” Prospective employers also want to hear about money you saved, or new clients you brought in.
As for your cover letters, they should never be a regurgitation of your résumé. Instead, make a compelling case for why you should be hired. The introductory paragraph should state the position you’re applying for. The middle few paragraphs should highlight the critical three elements of the job description, explaining why you will fit the job well. Use the hirer’s language. If the job ad says the candidate needs 10 years of experience using communication skills, describe how your communication skills saved the day at a previous job.
Don’t blast your résumé around like spam. Instead, conduct a focused job search, applying only for positions that you’re truly qualified for. Make a list of all the companies you’d most like to work for, and use your personal network and sites like LinkedIn to find connections you have at each one. If you’ve got a Twitter account that you use professionally, great. If not, start one. Many human-resources professionals are on Twitter. If you can find one at a company you’re interested in, start following him or her.
Retweet (Twitter lingo for forwarding) what that person has written, and comment on any interesting posts. “After a few weeks of following them, direct-message them, saying, ‘I’d love to talk about your company. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to work, and I’d love to hear about your experience there,’” says Dan Schawbel, author Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success.
If you’ve been going on a lot of interviews but not receiving job offers, it’s time to re-examine your interviewing technique. Among the most basic elements to consider: Are you dressing appropriately for the interviews? Men should always wear a suit, and woman should wear either slacks or a skirt with a nice top. Also, leave yourself plenty of time to get to the interview.
Try not to let too much empty time pass after the last item on your résumé. Volunteer, take a class to learn a new skill or find freelance work somehow, through your network or on Craigslist. “The worst thing to do is go into an interview, and when they ask what you’ve been doing, you stare at them with a blank face,” Schawbel says.
Practice before going on each interview. Research the company, and go in with a solid knowledge of its most significant concerns, clients and competitors. Some questions always come up in any interview, so be ready for them. Most people ask candidates what their strengths and weaknesses are. The key to answering the weakness part–and you should always have an answer–is to spin it in a positive manner. For instance, you might say, “I’m not the strongest analytically, but I’ve been working on that, and when I put together a report, I always have someone check it.”
“The interviewer wants to know that you’re self-aware and mature enough to talk about your weaknesses,” says Thanasoulis-Cerrachio. “You have to know how to describe the weakness the right way.”
Also, interviewers always ask whether you have any questions. Always come prepared with several. They show that you’re interested and you’ve done research.
Throughout the interview remain confident. Preparing in advance will help with that. Always look your interviewer in the eye, and offer a firm handshake. It sounds small, but the appearance of confidence goes a long way–especially for roles in which the job requires you to interact with outsiders. Don’t boast, but boldly state your accomplishments. Also, never be negative in the interview, particularly about any former boss, co-workers or company.
Always send a thank-you note, by e-mail or postal mail. Not only is it good etiquette, it’s an opportunity to smooth over any fumbles made during the interview or follow up with additional information about yourself.
Finally, when you don’t land a position, don’t be afraid to contact the interviewer and ask what you could have done better or why you didn’t get the job. You might get back some much-needed insight.