You’re getting worried. You’ve sent out resumes and interviewed, but you’re still unemployed. What can you do if you didn't get that job -- or one of the hundreds of others you've applied for?
Where to Start
“Search your own name and see if there’s anything out there holding you back,” advises Chuck Campbell, founder and principal of search firm Argyle Consultants. If companies find negative information about you online, you need to counteract it by bringing it up first in the meeting, Campbell says.
Also, check your credit rating. You can use a site like Annual Credit Report.com, which allows you to fix any erroneous information immediately through the reporting service.
Mary Willoughby, director of human resources for the Center for Disability Rights, suggests examining the interview process. “Ask HR people you know to do mock interviews,” she says. “Make sure you don’t talk too much about the past. Don’t dwell on bad bosses or how hard the job search is. Emphasize the new skills you’ve gained by reading and researching trends in your field.”
Watch Your Attitude
“You can read it in an interviewer’s face,” says Campbell. “If he gets restless or looks at his watch, he’s not responding to you.” Practice your interview enthusiasm in front of a mirror, with a relatively objective friend or, preferably, a casual acquaintance. Avoid using a spouse or partner, as friction may result, advises Campbell.
According to Roberta Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions and a former Monster contributor, “Nine times out of 10, if you don’t get a job, it’s not your age -- it’s your attitude. So check your attitude. Ask yourself, ‘Am I doing a complete job search, or am I halfhearted? Have I really contacted everyone I know? Do I have recent job experience through a temp agency?’ If your attitude isn’t good for these questions, it probably shows up in your interview, too.”
The end of an interview is an excellent chance to make a good impression. Asking, “Where do we go from here?” signals enthusiasm. Also, ask for the interviewer’s business card. If you haven’t heard back within a week, Campbell advises making one follow-up call. Ask if the interviewer has any further interest and offer to meet again.
If no response, Pat Kenney, PhD, president and CEO of HR development training firm J&K Associates, says, “It’s OK to go back and ask, ‘What did the person you hired have that I didn’t have?’ But you have to do it with as much finesse as possible. Most companies are wary of age-discrimination lawsuits.”
Matuson suggest using this line: “I want to improve the way I’m packaging myself so I can take advantage of the next opportunity.”
Adds Tom Darrow, president of the Society for Human Resource Management’s Atlanta chapter, “Don’t give them any reason to think you’re disgruntled at not getting a job. You can say, ‘I appreciate your situation. I understand you chose someone else. I was really impressed with your company, and I’ll refer my friends to you. If you’ve got a minute, can you tell me how I can improve for my interview next week?’ Let them know you’re already chasing another opportunity.”
Consider Your Resume
Your resume might also be deterring job offers. “Track it online,” advises Willoughby. “See if you’re getting hits. If people are receiving it but don’t call back, it may be a bad resume. Invest a few hundred dollars with a professional to see if you’ve included too much information, wrong information or even poor formatting.” You can track and view resume performance as well as your apply history through your My Monster account. Monster also offers a Resume Writing Service if you need expert help.
“Check your resume closely,” advises Campbell. “Eliminate what you did 10 years ago -- it’s irrelevant. Then give it to people to critique, and ask for harsh feedback.”
Campbell believes a resume is far more effective as a hard copy, sent through a company’s employee referral service, than emailed. Email is easily disregarded; a hard copy is often looked at (and paper is looked at more closely than a computer screen, which may involve scrolling down). If you must email your resume, send it both as an attachment and cut-and-pasted into the body of the message. That way, it’s visible as soon as the email is opened.
General Job Search Tips
Whether it’s your attitude, interviewing technique or resume, Matuson says there’s one thing to remember: “You have to be open to what you hear; be ready to make changes.”
Here are some other key points to keep in mind:
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- Use a professional career coach to assess your resume, dress, grooming and interviewing technique. The money you spend can help you get a better job faster.
- Limit your resume to two pages. Anything longer makes you look verbose -- and desperate.
- Tell your references who you’re interviewing with, why you’d be a good fit and what key points you’re emphasizing.
- Two no-nos during your interview: asking about retirement plans and talking about grandchildren.
- If you’re interviewing by phone, stand up. Your voice sounds clearer, and your thinking is sharper.
- Consider self-insuring to help sell yourself to an employer as someone who does not need benefits. This may be worth the financial risk, especially if you’re already covered by a spouse’s health plan.