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Employment advice for job seekers.

August 1, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Smart search: 7 unwritten rules of job hunting


By Hila Mehr /



You’re ambitious, hardworking and smart. Your résumé is polished, your cover letter is relevant and you’re networking. Yet you’re still not landing the job you want.

Sound familiar? If so, you may be ignoring one of these unwritten rules of job searching.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask — and make it easy to say yes.
When you reach out to someone, make it easy for him or her to help you. Be specific and strategic about the advice you seek or the people and/or organizations to which you wish to be introduced.

Write introductory emails or talking points that people can easily forward, and make sure you aren’t asking for too many things at once. And if some are unable to help, don’t hold it against them. People have to preserve their network and reputation. They can’t introduce their powerful contacts to everyone.

2. Don’t apply for jobs you don’t want.
We all do it. It’s easy to get excited for any seemingly good, somewhat relevant, open position you can find. But do you really want the job? Will it be a good fit for you?

Here’s a test: If you’re not willing to put in the effort for a customized résumé and cover letter, you probably don’t want the position enough. (And yes, every application needs to be customized. Even inexperienced hiring managers can immediately recognize an application that hasn’t been customized.)

We sometimes think that if we apply to as many jobs as possible, we’ll get a job faster. In fact, that’s just a waste of your time and the organizations’ time. Instead, apply smart.

3. Start somewhere.
If a good opportunity comes your way, and you’re early in your career or moving to a new field, you need to start somewhere.

The position may not be ideal, but do you care about the organization’s mission? Is there opportunity for growth? Then treat it as if it were your dream job, prove you are an asset to the team, gain new skills and be honest about your career goals at the company.

4. Be honest.
Be genuine in interviews about your strengths, your weaknesses and what type of position and work environment you want. Interviewers can tell when you’re being authentic, and they’ll appreciate your honesty. Even if you’re a great actor, your interviewer can detect when you don’t actually want the job, so you’re just sabotaging yourself.

And don’t forget: Interviews are rarely about your skills; they are almost always about your fit for the company and the position.

5. Be observant.
Interviews are two-way. Not only are employers seeing whether you’re a good fit for them, you’re also determining whether the company and team are good fits for you.

How does your interviewer treat you? Was the interview process organized? Slow or fast? How does the interviewer talk about teamwork, your position and her own work? These are all things to consider.

6. Always help others.
Just because the job market is competitive doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate. If you find a job that is a better fit for someone else, share it with him.

Whether you are in the midst of a search or settled in a job, it’s important to give back, because what goes around comes around.

7. Learn from the experience.
The job-search process can be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity for personal reflection and discovering more about your industry. After all, learning is a quality that will help you no matter where you land.

More in Resumes & Job Hunt | Topics: entry level, job hunt, networking


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