By Mike DuBose
Finding the right job is hard work, even in normal times. In January 2020, I made a presentation on job-hunting (upon which this blog is based) to college and graduate students at the University of South Carolina. At that time, the unemployment rate was nearing 3%, and students were voicing concerns about the lack of jobs. Then, COVID-19 (often called the coronavirus) broke out, and as of May 2020, the unemployment rate is now approaching 20%!
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has slowed hiring to a halt in many fields and has caused layoffs in others, some of which may have impacted you. The good news is that, as Baby Boomers retire (some projections say that 10,000 will leave the workforce each day) their jobs will become vacant. Remote and home-based work openings are growing, allowing job-seekers to apply for positions that were formerly too far away when a commute was required.
If you’re searching for work in these difficult times, you may be feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Still, it’s worthwhile to take a few days to reflect on your past, present, and future before you join the job hunt. Ask yourself, “Why am I here? How can I make the greatest impact with my education and experience?” and most importantly, “What am I passionate about?” Use your answers to guide you as you search and apply for jobs, and you’ll be much happier with the results (although you may sometimes have to accept a job to “pay the bills” while looking for your ideal employment).
In my 40 years as a business owner and entrepreneur, I read more than 2,000 résumés, and my team screened and hired many people. Today, I’d like to share some tips for strategically securing a job that are based in those experiences and current research. My advice is centered in four areas: building a résumé; developing your written résumé; finding jobs; and interviewing (and following up).
An important part of finding a great job—and creating a satisfying career—is to cultivate an impressive résumé. This will take time, but it needs to be a strategic process, especially when it comes to incorporating causes and activities you are passionate about and experiences and education that are attractive to employers. Volunteer and leadership roles are very helpful in this regard!
If you have limited job experience, don’t get discouraged—you can obtain experience rather quickly if you volunteer. Look for opportunities that align with your passions (such as animal rescue or children’s literacy) for the best results. Nonprofit agencies are desperate for volunteers, including those who will serve on leadership committees. Bingo: within a week, that volunteerism can be placed onto your résumé. Of course, you want to be ethical and continue volunteering after you land a job, but that will be simple if it’s something you’re already passionate about.
Once you are hired, stay with each job for at least two years. Some individuals jump from one job to the next, chasing money and prestige. A “job hopper” résumé sticks out like a sore thumb to employers, and many are immediately discarded, even those with impressive education, experience, and history. If you want to move on once you have been at a job for a few years, start keeping your eyes out for other opportunities, but be aware if that if your employer finds out, it could jeopardize your current employment.
Continually refine your résumé, even if you don’t intend to look for new jobs at the moment. Your résumé should reflect your life, history, experience, education, and talents. Strategically, you want it to have a “WOW” factor to attract attention. You’ll only have about 30 seconds to capture the attention of the reader, who may be going through hundreds of applicants. The following are some tips on how to do that!
Formatting: These days, you will most likely have to upload your résumé through a website. You want to use at least an 11-point font to make sure that the person who is reviewing the résumés can read yours easily. Use a standard font like Times New Roman (I prefer a serif over a sans serif font). Save your résumé as a PDF to avoid potential problems with the text and formatting when it is viewed on different computers.
Your résumé should ideally be 1 page long but can go up to 2 pages—no more than that (of course, follow the length and formatting requirements of the place you’re applying to, if you are given any). If your prospective employer asks for a hard copy, print it on good white paper in black font. I like to use Hammermill 92 brightness and 24 lb. weight paper so it stands out a little from the others.
Wording: Writing on a tenth-grade reading level so it is very understandable, develop a solid “base” résumé that can be customized for each potential job. Avoid using acronyms or industry terms that a reviewer or screening software may not understand. Be precise, using the fewest words possible. Your text should convey experience and competence, but be sure to word it in a humble manner. You don’t want to appear arrogant or imply that you are stretching your experience and talents (which is a major problem today).
Contact Information: At the top of your résumé, list the name you go by (if it is different from your given name) and your mailing address, telephone number, and e-mail. It’s important to use a professional-sounding e-mail address. A simple Gmail address like [email protected] is best; avoid personal e-mails like [email protected]. Check your spam folder daily once your résumé is out there just to make sure no important e-mails are ending up in it.
Most agencies will initially screen applicants with a telephone interview, so after you have submitted your résumé for consideration, don’t answer the telephone unless you are prepared and are in a setting where you can calmly take a call. Keep a pen and pad handy for writing down questions.
Make sure that your voicemail message is clear, positive, and professional. Record it in a quiet setting without cats meowing, dogs barking, snakes hissing, the doorbell ringing, or other callers beeping in. Avoid messages like “Hey, this is Party Mike, lay it on me!” You might consider a separate phone line for employment-related calls—some iPhones can have two lines with different voicemail messages. You might also consider adding a landline phone to your Internet package for $20 per month and canceling it after your job search is over.
Employment Objective: I recommend outlining your objective in your cover letter rather than your résumé. That way, you still convey the information, but save valuable résumé space for the facts.
Education: I suggest listing your education first. When I reviewed résumés, I always looked for high-grade point averages (GPAs), especially a “B” or 3.0 average or greater, and any type of “cum laude” honors. My thought process was, “If they worked hard in college and graduate school, they’ll likely work hard in my company.” If you didn’t have a 3.0 or higher, don’t stress over it, but if you did have a high GPA in your major, you graduated early, or you earned a high GPA in graduate school, mention it. Applicants with minors or double majors always got extra points from me. If you took 20+ hours of courses (which would typically amount to a minor), work that into your résumé, even if you didn’t officially receive the minor. Another note: you don’t need to list the city of your university; just include the institution’s name, your degree, and the year it was or is to be achieved.
Employment History: Focus on full-time jobs and internships at agencies relevant to your desired field. You don’t have to list the months you were at each position, just the year or year range. Treat internships like full-time jobs on your résumé, listing the responsibilities of the position (omit minor items like filing) and explaining critical skills and experience you gained through performing them.
Unless they are truly relevant to the job you’re applying for, you don’t need to go into detail about part-time jobs. It’s good to let employers know you have a strong work ethic, but you don’t have to list all your duties for, say, retail work or waiting tables (unless you are applying for jobs in those areas). Instead, emphasize the skills you learned that will be helpful for all future jobs, such as going above and beyond to provide good customer service; problem-solving to address customer complaints; how to successfully work as part of a team, etc.
One thing to make sure to cover in your employment section, according to LinkedIn news editor Andrew Seaman, is to “show that you can overcome challenges.” To demonstrate this ability, note a challenge or obstacle you faced in each position, how you overcame it, and the result.
Honors and Certifications: Avoid putting excessive or irrelevant certifications or honorifics behind your name, as it can appear arrogant. You should list honors and certifications that reflect your intelligence and/or are relevant to the type of work you’re applying to do.
Clubs and Volunteerism: Briefly list any activities you have participated in that might impress a reviewer. For example, serving as leader of a professional or volunteer organization demonstrates initiative and leadership ability.
Skills and Abilities: Focus on strengths you have that translate well into the workplace. I like to see phrases like “team player,” “consensus builder,” “strives for excellence,” “solutions-oriented,” and “hard worker.”
References: You don’t need to include references on your résumé (or even the phrase “references available upon request”). When an employer is getting serious about you, they will ask for them. Contact potential references with whom you have built strong relationships and ask them in advance if they will serve as references. Obtain at least three solid commitments, preferably from respected supervisors and mentors who are familiar with your abilities, personality, and strengths and will speak positively about you.
Cover Letters: If you want to score points with employers, attach a cover letter (even if it is not required) to your résumé in a single file. The goal of a cover letter is to attract attention and get your foot into the door for an interview. Put yourself in the shoes of a human resource professional or job supervisor who may be scanning dozens of cover letters and résumés. You want to sell yourself (in an honest way) so that you stand out from the competition.
First, you will need to develop a very good letter detailing who you are, the types of positions you are seeking, and your experience. This cover letter can be used to help employers find you (by posting it on a job-search site, for example), so it needs to be generic enough to have broad appeal, while also telling potential employers why they should hire you. If you have any skills, education, experience, or certifications that are considered valuable within your field, mention it in your generic cover letter.
Once you have looked for jobs and know of specific ones you’d like to apply for, conduct research and tailor the generic letter specifically to each job and agency. Visit the companies’ websites to get an idea of their cultures, services and products, and what they value so that you can demonstrate how you would contribute to them in your letter. If possible, I recommend touring the facility as well. This advance research will also help you prepare for interviews. I have always been impressed by job applicants who conducted extensive research prior to interviewing with me (for example, visiting my personal non-profit website www.mikedubose.com in addition to my companies’ websites).
Try to find out who will be receiving the résumés and address them by name in your cover letter. If this information is not available, address your letter to “Search Committee Members” or “Hiring Manager.” I recommend including a line with “RE: [job position]” before your salutation for added clarity.
In the body of your cover letter, begin by thanking the reader for considering you for the position. Tell them what attracted you to this organization and the job, including specifics to show that you have done your research. Explain why you are a good fit for the position and connect your history to strengths that would help you perform the job well. Incorporate key words used in the job description and ad into your letter (this will make you stand out both to humans reading your letter and to screening software, which some companies utilize to narrow down applicants).
Limit your letter to one page. Typos and grammatical errors will hurt you, so ask a friend or paid consultant with strong English skills or a college degree in English or journalism to review it before you send it to anyone. The grammar should be flawless, and the letter should flow well— showcasing that, in addition to your other talents, you also have strong communication skills.
Form Applications: Some jobs will require you to complete an online or hard copy form as your application. Follow the directions exactly, as this may be part of the screening process, but try to transfer over as much information from your résumé as possible. Look for ways to include your cover letter as well (i.e. some sites will let you upload your résumé, so you can include your cover letter in that file, too). When completing forms, try to use the computer if possible, but if you must handwrite them, take your time and write neatly and legibly (or you might consider talking to grandparents about using their outdated typewriter!).
Preparations: Before embarking on a job search, lock down your social media presence. Either increase your privacy settings and clean up anything that could be seen as objectionable (including political views), or temporarily deactivate your accounts. Employers will likely look for you on social media platforms, or your accounts might pop up in a background check conducted by a third party. One exception is LinkedIn—since it’s a professional networking site, you’ll want to keep your profile active; just ensure that all your information is up-to-date and that you’re projecting a positive, professional image.
Be aware that you may have to undergo a drug screen and credit bureau checks when you apply for some jobs. Stop taking any supplements a week before the screen and alert the screener if you take any prescriptions because they might cause false readings.
Advertising Yourself: Once you have a great cover letter and résumé ready to go, transmit your information through every means possible. Do so earlier rather than later: ideally, you should begin a job search before you need a job to allow you time to learn about the market and be selective.
There are many online job-search sites where you can both post your information for employers to contact you and search listings for positions that interest you. Some of these include: Glassdoor, Google for Jobs, Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster.com, and CareerBuilder. Certain fields (IT, journalism, etc.) have job websites that can be helpful if you’re looking to work in that area specifically. Governmentjobs.com/careers/sc also has a lot of South Carolina government jobs posted, and federal government job postings may be viewed at www.usajobs.gov. If you know of an agency you’d like to work for, examine its website regularly. Many jobs and internships are listed directly on organizations’ websites under headings like “Careers” or “Employment,” and may land there before being posted to a larger site.
Although online searches are convenient, never discount the importance of interpersonal relationships when finding employment. Most jobs that I obtained in my life came through relationships that I had built over time. Reaching out to acquaintances and former colleagues may turn up leads for jobs that haven’t been posted yet at their employers, and it’s always helpful to have the recommendation of a current employee when you’re applying somewhere. That’s why—in good times and bad—it’s always helpful to nurture relationships and grow your professional network!
When you’re looking, tell friends and relatives about your search, send them your résumé, and ask them to let you know of any job openings that might be a good fit for you. Contact people you have met through your volunteer work and ask for them to keep you in mind as well. It can also be helpful to conduct regular Google searches for job fairs in your area.
Keeping Track of Applications: Develop a spreadsheet of the jobs you have applied for, including the position, the agency, a contact person (if applicable) and phone number, and the date you applied. Use this system to refresh your memory when you receive calls in response to your application. You could blow your chances if you pick up the phone and are confused about which position the caller is referring to! You can also use this chart to make sure that you give organizations a reasonable amount of time (many experts recommend 2-3 weeks) to contact you before you follow up to confirm they received your application. Immediate and/or excessive calls and emails to follow up are annoying to prospective employers and could actually lose you the job!
Many people find job interviews intimidating, but they are usually a vital part of the hiring journey. You want to make as good of an impression as possible, so be courteous, prompt, and professional through every part of the process. Reply to any communications from the company within 1-2 days.
Scheduling: Treat the scheduler with respect, speaking clearly over the phone and replying promptly and with good grammar and punctuation if arrangements are made via e-mail. If you are given a choice of dates and times for your interview, select one toward the end of the interviewing period and the workday (but before 4 PM, when people will start getting anxious to wrap up). Those who are interviewed last tend to stand out more because interviewers remember the most about them! Try to avoid Mondays, when individuals are typically not in a good frame of mind.
The Process: Most organizations will screen promising applicants with a telephone interview before setting up a formal face-to-face interview; however, some may incorporate fewer (going straight to the formal interview) or more (adding, say, a group interview in between a phone screening but before the formal interview) steps. As an employer, my strategy was to interview applicants three different times on three different days by three different people. So, if the agency is really doing their due diligence, get ready to undergo multiple interviews!
Preparations: A good way to prepare for any type of interview is to study sample questions that you may be asked (see my article 80 Smart Interview Questions from 50 Great Leaders, which is based on extensive research into New York Times profiles of outstanding leaders, for popular interview questions; I have also included some links that may be helpful at the end of this blog). You cannot be completely prepared for everything they may ask, but the more you study potential questions and think about your answers, the better. Practice with someone (or preferably, several people) who will ask you “off the cuff” questions so you have a good idea of how to respond to even tricky queries.
Note: watch out for the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” because they may be probing for how long you will stay with the organization. To answer wisely but honestly, focus on what you think you will be doing, saying, for example, “Right now, I’m not sure, but I know that I want to expand my knowledge and skills by reading self-improvement books and learning from others.”
You should prepare some questions for the interviewer as well. When I interviewed people, it turned me off if a person did not have any questions; it implies a lack of interest. Strive to build a connection with your interviewer, asking open-ended questions incorporating tidbits you learned from your research to demonstrate that you care about the company.
Telephone Interviews: Although you will likely go through at least one more round if you are the successful candidate, treat every telephone interview as if it’s the final competition for the job. Telephone interviews are usually less intensive, and the caller is often a screener who is feeling you out to relay the information to others; however, sometimes it’s the decision-maker. Regardless, take them very seriously!
Telephone interviews tend to happen in the early stages of the process. Therefore, don’t ask about salary and fringe benefits yet, which can come off as presumptuous. You can likely find information about these on the website or in the job announcement. Some ideas for good questions to ask include: “Can you tell me a little more about the corporate culture?”, “What is it like working for your department and in your position?”, and “From your perspective, what is the best thing about working there?”
Make some practice calls on your cellphone in different areas of your house to make sure you have a strong, consistent signal where you plan to take telephone interviews. You may need to stand near a window or even interview from your car in a strong coverage area. Be sure to turn on “do not disturb” mode while being interviewed to prevent other calls, texts, and e-mails from interrupting!
Preparing for Online Interviews: To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, most employers have shifted their teams to working at home during the pandemic. Therefore, employers are also conducting more employment interviews online. Joseph Liu of Forbes wrote a great article about setting up for virtual meetings (see this article here) that can help you prepare to interview remotely from your home.
So that you can participate in online interviews (and also perform your work once you are hired), you need fast Internet (100 Mbps or higher). You’ll also need either a laptop equipped with a camera and microphone (so interviewers can hear and see you), or a webcam and microphone for your desktop. If you don’t have this type of technology and cannot afford to purchase it, contact your local library and ask if they have it available to borrow—many do!
When choosing a location for your video interview, consider what interviewers will hear (like children and animals) and see in the background (the way you are dressed and everything behind you). Once, while conducting a phone interview, I heard a toilet flushing!
Before your interview, the interviewer will send you a link that will allow you to join the meeting at the agreed-upon time. If it’s your first time using the videoconferencing program on your computer, however, you may need to download some software before you can access it. Make sure you are set up in advance (it’s a good idea to do a practice “meeting” with a friend) so you don’t keep your interviewer waiting on the day of your video chat!
On the day of the interview, click on the link to enter the virtual meeting a few minutes before it is scheduled to start to make sure everything is running smoothly, and then treat it like an in-person interview, calmly and confidently answering the interviewer’s (or panel’s) questions to the best of your ability. Look at your computer’s camera (rather than the screen) so the interviewer feels like you are looking directly “at” them. One helpful tip about online interviewing is that, as long as you keep them out of the camera’s view, you can refer to notes so you don’t forget to mention key points during the interview!
In-Person Interviews: Although telephone and online interviews are becoming the new norm in most areas, face-to-face interviews may still occur in some places that are not experiencing large numbers of coronavirus cases. The following information is mostly relevant to these in-person meetings, although many of the principles can be applied to video meetings as well (for example, you’ll still want to dress professionally, be on time, and practice good body language).
What to Wear to an Interview
People often “judge a book by its cover.” Therefore, you should carefully consider what you wear to an in-person or online interview. Your clothes should be comfortable, fit well, and project an image of put-together professionalism. Don’t let a wrinkled shirt hint to the interviewer that you’ll also forget important details when it comes to work. As a side note, I always look at a person’s shoes to see if they are clean and polished. You would be surprised how many individuals I interviewed who were very impressive but had not shined their rugged shoes in months! Little things like that can trigger concerns.
If you are unsure of the dress code at the company, always err on the side of caution, dressing a little more formally than you think is necessary. Being underdressed can imply that you don’t take the interview seriously. For most interviews, men will do fine by wearing a business suit and women by wearing a skirt- or pantsuit or a dress and cardigan. One thing not to wear to an in-person interview is any type of strong fragrance—this includes perfume, cologne, scented body and hand lotions or hair products, etc. Your interviewers may have allergies or may simply dislike strong smells.
Research has shown that colors can influence people’s behavior and perceptions. Red can subconsciously indicate aggression or anger, and black can be seen as depressing or boring. Try to wear “middle of the road” colors like navy blue or charcoal gray, and adding some personality with accessories like a colorful necklace or necktie. Keep track of what you wear at each interview in your notes so you can wear something different if you are called back for another one.
Arriving at the Interview
The night before the interview, get plenty of rest. Eat a healthy breakfast the morning of the interview and don’t overdo it on the coffee—caffeine can amplify nervousness, which is not appealing to interviewers. Drink water before the interview to stay hydrated, but make sure to use the restroom beforehand so it doesn’t interrupt or distract you.
Being late for an interview is a huge red mark against you. Therefore, if you’re traveling to the interview location, be absolutely, 100% sure you know where you are going and how long it will take you to get there before the day of the interview. I recommend driving to the location the day before (at the same time as your interview, if possible) and timing how long it takes you. Then, add an extra 15-30 minutes to that time as a “cushion” when deciding when to leave for the interview the next day. You want to arrive early so you can sit in your car for a bit before going into the building, thinking calming thoughts, listening to soothing music, and breathing deeply so you feel relaxed and confident. Leave your cellphone, smartwatch, and anything else that can make noise or give you notifications in the car.
Bring a professional-looking notebook with paper and a pen to the interview to take notes. Purchase one large enough that you can slip a magazine inside to read while you wait—or, if you want a conversation-starter, bring a nonfiction book related to your field that may spark a discussion with the interviewer. It’s also a good idea to bring 5 extra copies of your cover letter and résumé with you to the interview, just in case.
I recommend having some business cards developed (you can buy well-made but inexpensive ones online through vendors like Vistaprint) with your information and a professional picture of you on a white background, printed on glossy card stock. Remember: you want to be different from other candidates, but be subtle about it. Give your card to the receptionist when you arrive and offer a card to the interviewers at the end of the interview, not in the beginning, if you feel like the interview went well. Again, use your informal first and last name, i.e., “Mike DuBose” rather than “R. Michael DuBose.”
You don’t want to arrive to the interview too early, since it gives the impression you are hungry. Unless you are informed of specific protocols due to coronavirus (i.e., wait in your car until you receive a call to come in), go in about 10 minutes before the appointed time, present your card to the receptionist, and tell him or her why you are there. It’s critical to smile, make eye contact, and be polite when speaking with the receptionist, as he or she is your “first point of contact” with the organization. In fact, if the hiring committee is wise, they will consult the receptionist for his or her impressions of all the candidates! Watch the receptionist’s mannerisms and body language to determine if he or she wants to talk, and if the opportunity presents itself, strike up a conversation. A good way to get started is to introduce yourself and ask where they are from and how long they have worked for the agency.
Do not panic if your interview does not start on time…as long as you are not the reason. If the interviewer is running late, stay positive and don’t act annoyed. Their tardiness plays into your favor, because they will likely apologize for making you wait!
How to Conduct Yourself During and After the Interview
Try to envision the interview as “two-way street” where you will share your story and needs with the interviewer and vice versa. It’s normal to be nervous, but do your best to broadcast through your words and body language that you are confident and capable, but humble. Most interviewers have a lot of experience and will analyze every part of your appearance, facial expressions, and verbal responses. Watch out for fidgeting hands or other body language that will make you seem nervous. Even excessive blinking will indicate that you are stressed!
As you enter the room, look each person in the room in the eyes (if there are multiple people), smile, tell them your first name, and ask for their names. (Normally, you’d want to give everyone a firm handshake, but during the time of coronavirus, this should be avoided). Look for a seat where you can see everyone versus constantly turning your head to the left and right, but avoid the head of the table (the “power seat”) unless there are no other options. Once you are seated, write down each person’s name and the chair they are sitting in in your notebook. Ask if you can call them by their first names, and then, when you are asked a question, occasionally drop their names into your response.
While you answer the interview questions, look everyone in the room in the eyes to ensure that they all feel respected by and engaged with you. The real decision-maker could be the person who says the least, so don’t focus solely on the person speaking! If you are asked a difficult question that you need more time to answer, say, “That is a good question! Can we come back to that issue before the end of the interview?” Then, formulate your response while you are answering other questions and circle back to it.
As with the telephone interview, be prepared with several questions you can ask the interviewers (avoiding those about salary, job title, and fringe benefits, which will be discussed once a formal job offer is made). If you are having trouble crafting these questions on your own, do some research online and tailor them to the company. Asking questions is a great way to engage with the interviewers and show your interest in the organization! During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s also a good idea to ask for an estimate of the company’s timeline for filling the position, since the disruption may have it running longer than usual.
End the interview on a positive note, looking each person in the eyes and thanking them for speaking with you. Immediately after the interview, neatly hand-write thank-you notes to each person on the committee and send them through US postal mail. Few people will do this, and it will help you stand out in a crowded field!
Return to your Excel spreadsheet and add some notes (who interviewed you, anything that stood out in your discussion, etc.) in case an e-mail or call comes for another round of interviews; then, wait. Depending on each organization’s hiring process, it may take days or even weeks for you to hear whether your formal interview resulted in a job offer. Be patient! If the interviewer has given you a date by which to expect a response, it’s acceptable to send an e-mail to politely touch base (maybe asking if there is any additional information they need from you) two days after that date has elapsed. That will likely elicit a reply; if not, limit further communications to one more e-mail a week later.
If you’ve sent two follow-up e-mails during a reasonable amount of time and haven’t received anything back, it’s best to assume the worst and keep looking for other positions. This advice applies at all times, not just during a pandemic. As Alison Green, human resources professional and author of the popular Ask a Manager blog, advises, “If an employer wants to move forward with you at some point, they will contact you and let you know that. Otherwise, assume it’s a dead end and move on—always, not just right now.”
When you receive a job offer, ask for a few days to respond so you can think carefully about the major decision you are about to make. You don’t want to accept a high-paying, prestigious job with a negative workplace culture that makes you dread going work each day! Try to get to know the organization before making a final decision. I would even ask the person who made the offer if you can come in and shadow a few employees for a couple of days (if employees are still working on-site), which should score you some points and provide you with additional information about the workplace and its culture. If this isn’t possible, try to at least speak with some current staff members about their experiences working there and if they are happy. Career websites like Indeed and Glassdoor share reviews from current and former employees at many companies, which can also help inform your decision. (However, as with any type of review site, keep in mind that people with extremely good and very bad experiences are the most likely to write reviews; look for patterns within the comments to determine if something is likely true.)
Once you have conducted your research, ask yourself if the job meshes with your career plans and has a culture and purpose matching your personality and goals. If the answer is yes, it’s time to negotiate salary and benefits! Usually, agencies are willing to negotiate for a higher salary than they initially offer you…but you must play your cards carefully. (Also, if the organization balks at or is unable to pay you a higher salary, you may be able to negotiate for perks like more vacation time instead.) Decide before starting the negotiations what you are truly willing to accept and what is a “deal breaker,” and stick to it.
Take care not to overstate your position or come across as arrogant during the negotiations, which can cause the employer to lose interest in you. Try saying something like, “I would really like to come to work for you, but I am entertaining other offers. If you could increase the salary by $4,000, I can commit to your offer.” It’s best to conduct negotiations in person or face-to-face in a video chat with a revised follow-up offer in writing later to make sure everyone is on the same page.
It’s almost inevitable when job-seeking that you will experience disappointment, whether it’s failing to get a call back after an interview or hearing “It was a close choice, but we went with the other candidate!” All interviews are an opportunity to gain experience that will one day help you find the ideal job you are seeking, so don’t beat yourself up if one doesn’t go well or you don’t get the job. You will apply what you learned to the future, getting better and better at the “game” of finding, interviewing, and securing a job every time, until you find the right fit for you and the employer.
When you are notified that you did not get a job, politely ask the person delivering the message if they will share some suggestions with you on what you could have done better. This approach will not only help you to learn and improve, but it will also help you end on a positive (and impressive) note with your contacts at the agency. In the future, if another job surfaces, they may remember your name! If the person is willing to speak with you about your opportunities for improvement, do not argue with them or question their reasoning. Accept what is said and thank them for taking the time to speak with you, verbally and with another handwritten thank-you note.
The Bottom Line: Take a deep breath because of these troubling times and know that finding a job will be difficult. You may have to accept a position that’s not ideal to pay the bills while you wait for the economy to open up later this year. However, remember what Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, never give up!”
The following are links to published articles that I consulted during my research for this blog. I have included them because you may find them helpful as part of your job search. Best of luck!
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Mike DuBose has been an instructor for USC’s graduate school since 1985 when he began his family of companies. He is a contributing guest author for Midland's Biz and is the author of The Art of Building a Great Business. Please visit our blog for additional published business, travel, and personal articles, as well as health articles written with Surb Guram, MD.
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