‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
J.T.: Time for our annual highlights column, where we pull together the recent advice we believe will be most useful in the new year.
ON NOT HEARING BACK FROM RECRUITERS:
Most recruiters are overwhelmed with applicants right now. So, just calling or e-mailing once isn’t good enough. Contact them and ask what is the best way to be considered for the positions they have available. In particular, inquire as to whether there’s a process they like new applicants to follow. This is another case where questions are the answer. In sales, it’s called permission marketing: You ask people how they want to be contacted and what you can do to help make their decision easier. If you can’t reach the recruiter on the phone (likely) and you end up asking those questions via e-mail or voice mail, maybe you still don’t get a call back, but you’ll have done a classy follow-up and increased your odds of getting noticed in the right way.
ON HAVING A BOSS WHO DOESN’T COMMUNICATE:
Do not fall into a “let sleeping bosses lie” strategy, waiting for a job review to discuss your new position. Your job isn’t just your job, it’s also figuring out the company politics and finding ways to make yourself valuable. Even before you start a new job, seek out the people management most admires and figure out how you can be one of them.
ON LEAVING BLANK THE “OPTIONAL” FIELDS ON ONLINE APPLICATIONS:
An executive from an employment-software company told us: “Sometimes there are 15 fields that you can fill out, but only five are ‘required.’ Do NOT leave them blank, even when they aren’t required.” That’s because the software is going to convert your answers into a score, from 1 to 100. If you leave something blank, you’re literally missing the chance to score points. As in basketball, if you don’t shoot, you can’t score.
ON GETTING INTERVIEWS BUT NOT GETTING OFFERS:
The job-search process comes down to just three steps: spotting openings, getting interviews and getting offers. The problem is that each step requires a different skill set. To oversimplify, let’s say the first stage is research/networking, the second is sales and the third is presentation skills. If you’re getting past the first two tests, you improve on the third. That’s where mock interviews will be invaluable. No one would, say, sing the national anthem at a ballgame without rehearsing, but job searchers forget to rehearse their answers. You don’t need to practice reciting your qualifications — those are in your resume, and they’re what got you the interview; rather, when you get in front of the hiring manager, you demonstrate helpfulness, how you can be of immediate use. Practice that in mock interviews, and the real interviews will turn around for you.
ON ENCOUNTERING DEHUMANIZING HR ATTITUDES:
In an economy where executives are looking to cut jobs and budgets, they start with the departments that don’t produce revenue, like HR. Meanwhile, the number of applicants beseeching HR has soared. So it isn’t surprising that the responses you’re getting from HR are imperfect, and it’s not too surprising that HR folks get a bit prickly about the criticism they receive. We all know that job-hunting can be dehumanizing; however, it’s especially true when you, as an applicant, choose to avoid human contact. By conducting your search by sitting back and sending out resumes, you’ve put yourself in with the mass of applicants. Instead, devote 1/10 of your job-search time to sending resumes and 9/10 to making connections — the job search will turn human when your search does.
ON CHANGING JOBS TO AVOID A GROUCHY CO-WORKER:
That marvelous Zen saying “Your enemy is your Buddha” applies here. There’s much to learn from the people you find most troublesome. You may well look for a new job, but it probably will take a while, and if it does, look for ways to improve your current situation, either by influencing management or by befriending the grouch and helping him to understand his effect on others. You have an opportunity to make a difference, not just a change.
ON BEING CALLED “OVER-” AND “UNDERQUALIFIED”:
Those are job-search code words. “Over-” is a test. Hiring managers want you to give them a compelling reason why you don’t plan to jump ship for a better job as soon as one comes along. You have to explain that you want a job you know extremely well, where you can be a top performer.
“Under-” is telling you that you aren’t seen as having a specialty. (And in this market, companies hire only beginners and specialists.) This happens when you’ve made your resume as broad as possible, hoping to qualify for lots of positions — the “wide net fallacy.” You’re not overqualified, but underspecialized. Try taking one or two areas from your experience and focusing your resume and networking on those. You’ll soon see that narrowing your search increases your opportunities.
ON ASKING EMPLOYEES TO CHOOSE BETWEEN LAYOFFS AND PAY CUTS:
It’s a shame when companies consider only that dreary pair. The better way is to ask employees for their help/involvement in increasing revenues and cutting costs. There are wonderful stories of the recession unleashing a new spirit of cooperation, where employees are, for instance, taking over training from outside vendors or adding new business specialties. Instead of just asking employees to share the pain, some wise executives are asking employees to share ideas. Now, THOSE are the companies that are going to thrive after the recession.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success” (John Wiley & Sons).
Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
© 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.