Holiday Networking Secret Revealed: How to Never Forget a Name

December 11th, 2012 No comments

‘Tis the season to make new connections — from parties and social gatherings to outdoor events and community events. It’s a wonderful time of the year to have good conversations and make some new friends.

That said, it’s also the season of graceful introductions — and conversations without business cards. It’s an easier time to make a new friend and then forget them all together, particularly if the eggnog or wassail contains alcohol.  Fortunately, there’s a way to fix this. Here’s an easy way to help people remember you:

Borrow a strategy from James Bond and Forrest Gump, and repeat your introduction.

This is how James Bond does it:

He starts with his last name — then uses the first and repeats the last.

Forrest Gump does the opposite.

as he says, “My name is Forrest. Forrest Gump.”

Either way, both of them are memorable. Here’s how to make the repetition approach work for you…When you meet someone new, try the Forrest, Forrest Gump approach. Say your first name first, then pause and say your first and last name.

When another person introduces them self, repeat their name as you shake their hand or look them in the eye, “It’s nice to meet you Jenny.” Then if someone else joins the conversation, introduce the person you just met — this will help you remember them!

Once in conversation, listen closely to the conversation. Share a smile, a laugh, or discover you have the same perspective or observations — and you have an experience worthy of potential follow-up later. Listen for interests and what’s important to people. Then when you follow-up, mention the common interest or experience, and remind new friends of where you met them–before you inquire about getting together, ask for a networking referral or inquire about a potential job lead. Example:

“It was great meeting you over a bowl of Ed’s famous chili last week.”

If you choose to follow-up via LinkedIn or Facebook, never send the generic invite to connect — instead customize! Do you have other tricks you use to remember people and engage them? If yes, share!

How to Follow Up After the Job Interview

October 15th, 2012 No comments

This is the second post in our series of how, when, and why to follow-up in the job search process. In our first post, we touched on why it’s important to follow up after you apply for a job. Here’s an overview on how to write a great thank you note to follow-up on a job interviewing process.

Woody Allen’s quote “70% of success is showing up” does not apply well to thank you notes.  Sending a thank you note after a job interview can help you stand out — and demonstrate your ability to be polite. That said, it can also sink your candidacy if you:

  1. Make a spelling or grammatical error
  2. Address someone by the wrong name
  3. Ask the wrong questions: What is the salary for the job? What’s your vacation policy? When will you make up your mind?

Thank you notes should be written and sent within two business days of your interview. Unless you know for a fact that the hiring decision won’t be made for several weeks, plan on sending your thank you note via e-mail.

If you’ve met with multiple people during an interview,  send a different thank you note to each person that you spoke with if you can. (If you don’t have all of the details and contact information, use your online research skills. Google * and you will discover how the company assigns e-mail addresses, then just plug in your potential contact’s information, write your message and hit send. If you get it wrong, you should end up back in your mail box as an “address unknown.”)

Here is a template for writing a great thank you note. (Do not use this exact language but do note the structure and sentiment expressed. Instructions in italics.)

Dear [Name],

Start with a brief refresher. Many employers hire for multiple positions at once, so always acknowledge what you are applying for.

Thanks for meeting with me to discuss [position]. I appreciate your time and consideration. My interest in the position increased as a result of our meeting.

Show you paid attention.

I was especially impressed by [add detail, practice, or comment on organizational set-up]. Example: I was particularly impressed by the physical layout of your office. It’s easy to see why your employees have a strong record for collaboration and finishing projects on-time and under budget, as the work environment seems to inspire cooperation. I would enjoy working in this environment.

Follow up on any questions you missed. If possible, provide information on how you work.

As an employee, I find that I can come up with a quick solution, but often produce a better one when I’ve had time to process the situation and explore potential options. In thinking about your question on [topic] more fully, I offer you an additional perspective: [insert solution].

Say thank you.

Thank you again for the opportunity to interview and I look forward to hearing from you soon regarding next steps. In the interim, if you require any additional information regarding my candidacy, please feel free to contact me.

That’s it. Keep it short, simple, and stay on message that you want the job! Let us know how it works for you.


Categories: Interviewing Tags:

How to Make a Big Impression on a Potential Employer in Under 20 Minutes

October 10th, 2012 Comments off

One of the easiest ways to stand out in a job search is to follow-up and showcase the depth of your interest and area of expertise. Many people overlook this step after receiving an automated “thank you for applying, don’t call us we will call you” e-mail less than five minutes after they’ve applied for a job. Today, we’re going to show you why this is a mistake and how to fix it after you’ve initially applied for a job. (In a later post, we will tell you how to follow up after an interview.)

Why Not Following Up is a Mistake

While it may not always appear this way, most organizations are as focused and interested in hiring the right candidate as you are in finding the right company to work for. In an era when most resume reviews are done in 15 seconds or less, your follow-up can make you memorable — and move your resume straight to the top of the application pile to review. Especially if you’ve applied over a week after the job was posted. (Remember our advice on this? The early bird gets the job.)

Bottom Line: Following up after you’ve applied demonstrates interest, commitment, and initiative — all criteria employers like to see when they hire.

How and When to Follow Up

There’s nothing worse than cold calling a potential employer — only to find that the job you applied for has been filled. Therefore, the first step in the follow-up process is to make sure the job is still available. Fortunately, there are two easy ways to do this:

  1. If you have a free StartWire account,  you can track your job in StartWire– and get an automatic update on your application status via text or email. (This information is available for positions listed at over 7,000 organizations.)
  2. Check the job listing you initially saw on the organization’s website. If the position is gone, it’s quite possible it has been filled.

After you’ve verified that the job is still available, isolate and identify your goal for the follow-up. What do you want your potential recruiter or hiring manager to know about you? Ideally, you want to convey your expertise and fit for the job — as well as demonstrate your continued interest in the job.

To follow-up, choose the medium that suits you best.

Are you a natural on the phone? Call the potential organization after hours and use the organization’s automated directory to land in the right voice mailbox. Record a message that doesn’t just say the job you applied for, but that also gives a ten word overview of your past experience that fits the job. “Hi, this is Ivanna Job. I’m calling to follow-up on my October 5 application for the Green Belt Six Sigma Project Manager. I can offer you a Black Belt in Six Sigma and I live not five miles from your facility. I remain interested in the job and can be reached at ____________.”

Are you great with research and words? Write a follow-up and email the recruiting contact or likely hiring manager. Once you’ve identified the right person to contact, you can google * to find out how the organization assigns names to people. For example, if you are applying for a job with John Springfield at Acme Food and you know that Acme Food assigns emails with a first initial and last name — you can guess that Mr. Springfield’s address is

Just as in the above example, your follow-up should include a very brief mention of how you are qualified for the job. Extra credit for congratulating the organization on a recent news mention. (Example: Congratulations on your first-place finish for The Candidate Experience Awards.)

Regardless of how you follow-up, we recommend doing it within two weeks of your application date — and making sure it’s perfect. If in doubt on the phone message, hit the # message and re-record until you are satisfied. If you are writing, use formal language (no text shorthand) — and have a friend proofread it after you hit spell check! Spell one thing wrong in an e-mail and you may knock yourself out of the applicant pool if you’ve applied to work under a Spelling Bee champion.

Remember that oft-quoted Woody Allen quip, “70% of success in life is showing up?” That doesn’t work in the job search process. You need to stand out as a professional. Follow these simple steps and you will!

How to Follow Up on a Job Gracefully

September 11th, 2012 No comments

Over the past six weeks, we’ve pulled back the curtain on the hiring process inside corporations — from how jobs get approved and how employers find potential candidates, to frequent setbacks in the process that lead to re-posting of jobs and hiring delays. In our most recent post, we shared strategies that you can use to increase your chances of getting the job when you apply or if you encounter road blocks along the way — from not getting a follow-up after an interview to seeing the job re-posted.

We conclude our series with strategies on how to walk through the awkward stage of a hiring process– especially the silent periods. You know, the part after you apply for a job — or interview for one — and then hear nothing. So often, we hear from job seekers: “I had a job interview. I thought it went great. I haven’t heard back. Now what?”

Here’s how to handle this uncomfortable period of frequent silence when you wait for the phone to ring, and then it doesn’t ring when you want it to…

As in daily life, there are aspects of the hiring process that you can control, and aspects that you can’t. Let’s  start by addressing what you can control:

  1. The thank you note. If you get an interview, always make sure you follow-up. Get your thank you notes (or e-mails) out within 48 hours of your interview. Here’s how to make your letter(s) shine:- Always address them to a real person (ask for business cards during your interview)- Write separate notes for each person you talk to- Resist the temptation to “go vanilla” — always say something specific about your interview, what you learned about the company, and why you remain “even more” interested in the job after meeting your potential co-workers.- Never assume — or write — that you are “the best” candidate. Let the employer decide that.  Instead, quietly spend a sentence or two demonstrating how your skills and experience fits the job.
  2. Your level of engagement with the company and the job. It doesn’t always feel like it, but companies care just as much about hiring good employees as you do about finding the right job. The easiest way to show them you care is to talk about things they care about. Read company press releases, research websites, scour Google News for press mentions or community involvement. Let them know you’ve seen public accolades, ask questions about new facilities, and demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest in their work.
  3. Your attitude. Yes, the process of applying for jobs is not fun. But even if you don’t get the first job you apply for with a company, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get the job when you apply for it later. Want proof? Check out our exclusive interview with the head of Global Talent Acquisition for Adidas. Note how he didn’t get the first job he applied for with the company — he came in third! But they hired and promoted him later.
  4. Be gracious even if you don’t get the job! Send a “thank you for interviewing me note” and ask that the employer keep your file active and under consideration for other positions.Follow up with anyone you felt that you hit it off with — and send them helpful news articles or congratulatory notes when they receive recognition. (On a personal note, I once got hired for a job that I applied for a year after I applied! They hired someone else the first time; they contacted me again almost a year later.)

In most cases, you can’t control how or when an organization extends an offer, whether you’ll be notified if you are out of the running, or influence an employer to hire you simply by following up. You can, however, gain some degree of control over the process and reduce your frustration with these two simple actions:

  1. Continue to search for other jobs as you wait to hear back. It may take more effort to apply for more than one position, but it’s always better to have multiple offers to choose from than it is to simply sit back and wait. (If the job doesn’t go your way, you have more options.)
  2. Follow up. (When you interview, it’s always good to ask “do you have an idea of when you’ll make a decision on this job?”) If you did not receive a confirmation e-mail of your application after you applied for a job, follow up by phone within one week to ensure that it was received.

    If you haven’t heard back within four business days of the day they said they’d have a decision, follow up with a phone call or e-mail. (Why wait? Even after employers decide who to hire, organizations frequently have an internal sign-off process that can take days.) If you don’t know the hiring timeline, wait two weeks after your interview to follow up. After all, most companies interview more than one candidate for a position — give them time to finish all of the interviews. Whenever you decide to follow up… make sure you reiterate your interest in the company, and offer to provide additional information and contact addresses of references if needed.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve shared many frequent challenges that occur inside companies. As we’ve shared — the hiring process sometimes gets as murky to employers as it does to job seekers. But there’s a lot you can do to make sure that employers see a clear picture of a great potential employee (you!) as they peer out and take a look at potential candidates for hire.

We hope you’ve found this series to be helpful, and don’t forget to login to StartWire to watch “Inside the Machine,” a free 20-minute webinar on this topic presented by StartWire CEO Chris Forman. (If you haven’t created a StartWire account, we encourage you to do that — it’s free!)

How to Cut Through Red Tape and Get the Job

August 27th, 2012 No comments

Ever applied for a job, interviewed, and never heard back — only to see the same job re-posted with a different job title or modified description weeks later on the company’s website? If yes, you are not alone.

This is the third post in a five-part series designed to take you behind the scenes for an in-depth glimpse of what really happens behind closed doors as employers go through the hiring process. We’ve shared information about how jobs are created and how employers find employees. Today, we turn our attention to a persistent problem that takes place inside companies when recruiters, hiring managers, and senior executives aren’t on the same page.

Miscommunication in the workplace with regard to hiring decisions costs companies time and money in lost productivity each year, and leaves many great candidates on the sidelines scratching their heads. Here are three common scenarios that happen as companies hire — as well as tips on how to spot and address them.

  1. The unadvertised opening – a job “you’ll be perfect for.”Over 1/4 of all hires come from referrals or recommendations of employees or trusted colleagues. In a perfect world, you mention an interest in a hypothetical job to a friend. Your friend knows of a job and recommends you. You give a friend a paper copy of your resume. You land an interview. And you get hired — without ever applying. Unfortunately, this rarely happens without a few bumps. The biggest reason why: A majority of U.S. employers must comply with EEOC and federal hiring guidelines which state that jobs have to be advertised, and that candidates can only be hired if they are official applicants. (Other obstacles to the “hire on recommendation” approach include other colleagues who don’t know you.)The fix:Submit your application materials to the company when you hear of an opening — even if you have a friend who already works there and has offered to put your resume on the CEO’s desk. Apply through official channels, even if it is only a matter of submitting your resume and a letter of interest to HR. Don’t be afraid to drop names in your cover letter or e-mails: Make it clear who alerted you to the potential opening, and — ideally — state how you know them.
  2.  The position that disappears — only to be re-listed after you’ve applied and/or interviewed.This is a tricky one, since employers re-post positions for multiple reasons: Perhaps the hiring manager decided the job required a different skill set, perhaps the job did not get posted on the right websites to comply with company policies, perhaps the CEO of the company wanted to see additional candidates…The list goes on.You’ll never know what happened unless you ask.The fix: Be direct with the company. Call HR or the Hiring Manager. Ask about the status of the position. State your continued interest in the job and provide information about any communication you’ve had with them. Ask if you can — and should reapply. (Tip: Don’t leave a message or send an e-mail. Easier to get a direct response when you call and ask — in person!)
  3. The perpetual job opening.Ever seen the same job listed in the paper — every day for a year? It could be a sign of a scam, or a job search that is on hold — or it could be the sign of a position where employers can’t keep new employees.The fix: See if you can find an inside connection to the hiring organization — and ask about the job before you apply. If you can’t find out any information, make sure it is not a scam.  (You can also seek out listings on sites that focus on providing new and current job listings. At StartWire, we only post positions that have been posted within two weeks!)

    When you do apply, don’t rely on that job application alone — apply to multiple positions and organizations at a time.

Have you ever experienced these challenges or any other “what happened” moments as a job search candidate? If yes, weigh in — we want to hear from you!

Job Search After 50: 5 Ways to Not Let Age Get In Your Way

July 24th, 2012 No comments

Are you over 50? Do you worry that your age will keep you from getting your next job offer? Feeling like you’re stuck in an endless cycle of job applications?Photo by jaliyaj on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Take heart: A recent research study released by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas shows that older workers have actually held the advantage in landing new jobs created out of the recession. How much of an edge? Of the 4.3 million jobs created in the past three years, nearly 3 million have gone to people over the age of 55! At present, there’s a lower unemployment rate for older workers.

The unemployment rate among those 44 and older is approximately 6.5% according to recent Department of Labor reports. Comparatively, the unemployment rate among 20 to 24 year olds is 12.9% and those between the ages of 24 and 34 suffer a 8.2% unemployment rate.

But don’t be fooled by the numbers: Finding a job if you’re over 50 can be tough, especially if you have extensive experience that commands a comparatively high salary — or are applying for jobs where you’d be significantly younger than your supervisor. Here are five strategies that may work for you:

1. Anticipate employer objections — and counteract them! There are stereotypes associated with employees at all age levels: some say recent college grads are too concerned about work-life balance to focus on extended projects requiring extra hours, 40-somethings are cynical and drink too much coffee, and Baby Boomers don’t keep up with technology, have outdated skills, and aren’t physically able to do the job. But you are not a stereotype — and you can counteract these myths.

How to show that you are tech savvy:
Put a QR code that links to your resume or LinkedIn profile on your personal business card. Complete your LinkedIn profile in the first person — and share your interests, not just what you’ve done in the past. This will invite other people to connect with you.

How to show that you are physically fit:
Participate in sporting events such as local 5K events — even if they are short walks. Your time results will likely be posted online and show up in a Google search. That you didn’t win doesn’t matter, nor does your time. Showing up demonstrates you are active and take care of your health — and that’s important to employers, as healthcare and sick time out of the office is expensive for any business.

2. Know your rights — and what employers can and can’t ask. The Age Discrimination Act of 1967 and Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 protect the rights of workers over 40 and apply to any employer or government agency that has over 20 employees.Here’s a handy list of facts about age discrimination that provides an overview of guidelines employers must follow.

3. Put your photo online — even if employers can’t ask you for it. While employers can’t ask for photos on resumes — and some companies have policies on whether or not employers can Google applicants — a proactive way to handle the issue of age is to put a picture of you online that looks professional and youthful. It’s okay to hire a professional photographer or edit your photo to make yourself look as healthy and vigorous as possible.

4. Avoid interview traps that make you look defensive. I recently spoke with a job seeker who interviewed with a manager that complained “many of her co-workers were gray hairs over 50 who were resistant to change.”

The job seeker replied that he would actually be their junior. He didn’t get the job offer and learned later that the manager said she “didn’t like his attitude.”

An alternative strategy for similar situations: Counteract the stereotype. If told about others who are resistant to change — give examples of times you have worked well with co-workers of all ages, then share stories about how you’ve lead change or mastered new technology.

There’s no reason to share your age in an interview conversation ever. (Here’s a quick overview of illegal interview questions employers can’t ask. Check the DOL fact sheet for information about how and when employers can ask questions about birth dates.)

5. Take advantage of special resources and programs available to help and use your talents. There’s a movement that recognizes the significant value older employees bring to organizations. Encore Careers provides advice on how to create a “second act” that combines  passion, purpose, and a paycheck: the site shares information about training opportunities and gives a limited number of $100,000 fellowships every year to recognize extraordinary efforts.You can also check out special career resources and programs available from the AARP.

We hope you’ll find these five strategies to be helpful. Do you have any other strategies that have worked well for you — or questions you’d like the answers to? Share.

Three Ways to Successfully Apply for Jobs in Summer (And Still Get Noticed)

July 3rd, 2012 No comments

It’s Fourth of July week. And people are, frankly, more likely to be focused on outdoor fireworks than your resume. Even if you are a dream candidate applying for a job that seems to have been tailor made for you.Photo courtesy of Piotr Matlak, Poland via Stock.xchg

There’s no doubt about it: Summer’s a tough time from both sides of the hiring desk.

If you’re a job seeker, it’s hard to turn down invitations to grill out so you can apply for new opportunities.

If you’re a hiring manager or a recruiter with a deadline to make an offer, it can take longer than usual because many decision makers are away. People take vacations. Meetings get postponed. References go away on vacation.

Does this mean you should hang up your job search? No. Especially since plenty of potential job applicants are also grilling out, water skiing, eating ice cream — and finding ways to take time off from the job search. And many non-profit organizations and universities run on a fiscal year that ends June 30. Some of these organizations that began a new fiscal year on July 1 are officially starting a brand new hiring season right now.

What it does mean: You shouldn’t give up on your job search — especially when it’s summer!

Here are three strategies you can use to win when applying for jobs this summer. All of these strategies start with a common tactic: Play the game so you can be an easy hire. To increase your batting average of jobs applied for versus interviews received, make it simple for employers to consider you.

Here are three strategies you can use to make this work — any day of the week:

1. Apply for the job as soon as you see it.

Last summer StartWire conducted an analysis of 6,400 hires made across 10 industries. Half of the successful hires had something in common: They all applied for a job within the first seven days it was posted!

Applying early helps ensure that you get an employer’s proper attention. So take the time to apply for jobs as you see them –before you head to the store for cookout supplies.

2. When you apply, make a human connection.

As most employers use software that rank and track applications even before they are read, it’s essential to include the right keywords in your resume, cover letter, and online application. (Here’s how to do this.)

But it’s equally important to have an employer associate your name with an application. To do this, call or email the employer as soon as you’ve applied — and let them know of your application to the job. (Quick ways to make contact with an employer include finding their main number via online Super Pages, company websites, and Twitter’s Advanced Search function.)

When you follow-up with employers, give them a 1-2 sentence overview of your skills. Example: Let’s say you are applying for a job in event management and are applying for a job with a local Chamber of Commerce. If you have past experience, state that at the outset. Here’s a sample voice mail:

Hi, this is Hillary Thomas. I see you are looking for a new Event Manager, and wanted to let you know that I applied for the job online. I have three years of experience and have served as the lead assistant to event operations directors for events with an attendance of up to 1,000. If you’d like to talk directly, I can be reached at <<phone number.>>

Tip: One of the best ways to leave this type of message is to do it at night — so you can use company phone systems to erase and start again if your first message isn’t perfect!

3. Prepare your references.

One of the best ways to get a good reference is to let people know you are listing them as a reference before you share their information with employers.

If you’ve been invited to interview and are in the final stages of a search, it’s important to stay in touch with your references — and know when they are going out of town. You want to make sure you are covered when someone wants to “check and hire” quickly. Proactive move: If your reference plans to be away, have your potential reference contact your potential employer before they are going out of town. Often, this can speed up the process.

Another alternative if you have an interview: Make copies of past performance reviews (assuming they are positive) and offer to share them with your interviewer at the time of your meeting!

Finding a job in the summer may be challenging from vacations to fun events, but you can still rise to the top of the employment line with these strategies. Try them out and let us know how they work for you.



How to Land an Interview if You’re Underqualified

June 12th, 2012 No comments
Do you want a job that’s bigger than your experience? Is your dream job open, but a stretch given your lack of relevant experience?

Last week, we shared strategies on how to apply for a job at which you are overqualified. Today, we’re focusing on the reverse side of the hiring equation: How to apply for jobs if you are underqualified.

The traditional rule of thumb in reviewing job descriptions is to apply if you have 75% – 80% of the skills and qualifications asked for. While it is futile to apply for the job of a Cardiothoracic Surgeon without a medical degree, many individuals who have experience that’s “close enough” get hired and trained all the time for jobs outside of operating rooms!

Here are five strategies you can employ to reach for that dream job.

  • Before you apply, do your homework.

One of the best ways to prepare yourself for an ambitious career transition is to study the career paths of people who’ve made similar moves before — and ask them for advice. Just as you may ask for a trail map and seek out “someone who has made the trip before” prior to setting off on an ambitious hiking adventure, it pays to learn from the mistakes of others and get advice on how to apply. How to do this:Conduct an “Advanced Search” and use the Company Pages on LinkedIn to study the career paths of people you admire. If they are approachable, reach out and ask for an interview. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice on what “to do and what not to do.”You’ll find that many people are open to sharing expertise and suggestions — especially if they have a job they love or which others are rarely interested in.(Note: If you connect your StartWire account to your LinkedIn account, you will get some of these recommendations automatically.)

  • Plan your approach.

While it may not seem apparent, hiring managers are often just as challenged to find the right candidate as you are to find the right job. While recruiters and hiring managers are often put off by applications from candidates who are clearly not qualified for the job, if you meet at least 75% of the job qualifications — there’s no reason why you should not apply. Go for it, but isolate the skills and experience you want to market — fast!

  • Anticipate employer questions.

Missing experience in a key software application?  A certification or training that is essential for the job but which you haven’t finished? Be prepared to say what you have, what you need, and how you could acquire the skills and experience to get started — fast! If you have an obvious deficit, don’t cover it up — address it!Example: “I understand you are looking for X, Y, and Z. I have X and Y. To gain certification in Z, I would need ________ which would require ___ time and an investment of $___. If hired, I would be happy to pursue this further.”

  • Share your “bonus gifts.

If you have skills not mentioned in the job description — but ones that are important and could be useful in your field or to the employer — bring them out.Let’s say you are applying for a job as a Publicist. You know the job description involves Sales and Client Relations, but these skills aren’t mentioned. In your cover letter, you could say, “While your job requirement does not specify previous experience in Sales or Client Relations, I have deep experience in both. If hired, I would be happy to assist with sales and client development initiatives as you see fit.”

  • Let other people know you’ve applied.

One common mistake job applicants often make is not asking for help from others. As we’ve noted before, if you can get referred for a job, you increase your chances of getting hired from 1 in 30 to 1 in 4. (We like those odds.) Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral and get help in the application process.


Use these strategies to apply for the next job you feel a little underqualified for and — tell us how they work!


Categories: Interviewing Tags:

Overqualified for a job?: How to Go from Overqualified to Employed

June 5th, 2012 No comments

Have you ever been told you have too much experience to get the job you’d like to have? Told you’re ineligible and overqualified for a job because you have 10 years of experience when you only need three? Or simply applied for a job in which you met all of the position requirements – but never heardOverqualified back?

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for employers to reject applicants on the basis of being overqualified for a job – often employers will do this without even inviting you in for an interview.

I call this the “Goldilocks Syndrome”: In the classic children’s fairy tale, Goldilocks prefers her porridge “not too hot” and “not too cold” – but “just right.” In hiring new employees, many employers do the equivalent: They prefer to hire candidates for a job who are “not inexperienced” and who don’t have “too much experience.” They want the candidate they hire to have roughly the same amount of experience they imagined on paper when they wrote out the job description.

Fortunately, there are strategies you can use in the job search process to ensure that your application gets viewed, so that you can be seen as a potential hire – and not just as another resume in the pile. Here are four tactics you can use to apply for jobs where you exceed the general job requirements.

1. Determine what’s important to the employer.

Read the job description carefully, seeking out key words and level of experience requested for the role.

One quick way to do this is to try visualizing the key skills required for the job. Here’s our five minute secret for finding the “hot words” that can help you land your next interview.

Make sure you use these keywords in your resume summary and cover letter – and don’t aggressively market your many years of experience if the job only requires a small amount of experience.

2. Figure out how the job fits your skills and experience – and be concise in your cover letter to show a fit.

When employers write job descriptions and position summaries, they typically lead with the most important responsibilities of the job.

While many job applicants write cover letters that summarize their entire career in several paragraphs that start with “I,” an easier way to get noticed is to provide a comparison of your skills and the requirements for a job in your cover letter.

Example, “your available position as a Marketing Assistant” aligns closely with my skills and past experience.” Here is a match up:

You seek                                                           I offer

Experience with ad campaigns                  2+ years ad campaign experience, including social media campaigns

3.  Anticipate the employer’s question, “Why would you want this job?” and answer it.

If you are applying for the job because you’d like to switch industries or job functions, be clear on why you are motivated to apply for the job – and show the employer that you really want the position.

Why should you do this? Employers don’t know why you are applying for a job until you tell them. If you are obviously overqualified for the job, they may think that you would not be serious about the job – or that you are applying simply because you cannot get hired elsewhere.

If you are genuinely interested in the job, give the employer a reason why you’d like to work in the position.

Let’s say, for example, you are interested in a position as a Barista at Starbucks after years of experience as an accountant.

You might say, “for the past five years, my favorite part of the day has been my morning stops to Starbucks for a latte with a shot of espresso.” After working six 16-hour shifts in a row before April 15, I realized that I was going to Starbucks as much for the staff as for the caffeine. While I have all of your Barista equipment at home, the atmosphere you create for your customers is a unique one. I’d like to be a part of that.”

4. If you don’t get an interview – or don’t get the job offer after being interviewed. Follow up – and address the Goldilocks issue head-on.

You may even be able to get the employer to re-evaluate their decision.

A woman I know turned a rejection letter into a second interview and job offer with a thank you letter similar to this one:

Thanks for letting me know that I was not chosen for the _______________ job. I may look overqualified for the role because of my ____ years of experience in a job that only requires ______, but I was excited about the role because of the opportunity to do ___________________. I was also looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about _______________. Should you have openings in the future, I’d appreciate it if you could keep my resume on file, as I’d very much like to join your team.

(The employer called her up and asked her to come in within 48 hours.)

Note: If the job you’re applying to pays much less or is more junior, a way to tackle this is to say – that you’d be willing to start at the salary designated for the role – if there was a clear path to advancement within the company after sufficient time spent in the role!

Have you ever successfully used any of these four strategies to land a job despite being over-qualified? Or, alternatively, do you have another suggested tactic that works? Share.

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3 Ways to Achieve Interview Success

April 27th, 2012 No comments

You finally got that coveted interview, and you’re excited about the position and company, but now what?

Despite given the green flag to interview for the position, remember that there is a reason they call it an “interview”.  You still need to prove that the job should be yours.  The confidence you need to approach the interview is realizing that there is a reason they want you for an interview.  Your resume and skills seem promising to them, and there is a high chance that they find you the best match for the position.  Now you need to take this assumption on their part, and turn it into a concrete belief.

So how do you make this happen?

1. Be Human


The term “Interview” stands for a discussion, a meeting, a DIALOGUE.  The most important step is to have a dialogue with the employer.  People mistakenly see the interview as a one-way conversation where the employer asks the questions, and the interviewee needs to respond with the “right” answers.

Instead, it’s advantageous to realize that the employer is another person—another human who enjoys a good conversation like any other person.  When they interview a prospective candidate, they want to see that the candidate is personable and relatable.  They want to be able to envision you working in their company, interacting with their current employers, and fitting well with your co-workers.  The interview will be a bigger success if the interviewer finds that the conversation was less about answering questions and more about forming a connection between two people.  What it comes down to in the end is: If they find you likeable, they’ll want to hire you.

2. Research and Prepare


Interviews are like exams.  If you walk into an exam unprepared, the chances of failing the exam increase.  Similarly, you need to study for an interview as well.

First, do any basic research on the company.  What industry are they in?  Are there any recent press releases or news related to the company?  This may be a great talking point with the interviewer.

Next, your job is to figure out what type of interview will be conducted.  By knowing what to expect, you can refine skills suited for that interview type.

Different types of interviews:

  • Behavioral Interview– This interview type gauges how you react to or “behave” in situations and will ask you for “real life” examples.
  • Case Interview– This interview tests your problem-solving skills and employers want to see how you’ll rationalize and think through a problem.
  • Group Interview– The group interview is designed to see how you interact with others, and your ability to make your input heard in a group setting.
  • Lunch and Dinner Interview– These interviews show the employer how a candidate behaves in a social setting, and whether they can maintain their professionalism over lunch/dinner.   Mainly, these interviews gauge whether you are qualified to hold lunch or dinners with future clients.
  • Public Interview– This interview is more casual, but shows the employer how you react in a public setting.
  • Panel/Committee Interview– This interview type involves being interviewed by more than one interviewer.  There may or may not be other candidates simultaneously being interviewed in the same room.  This interview is designed to test your group management and group presentation skills.
  • Stress Interview-The stress interview shows the employer how you react under stressful situations.   The employer will deliberately react in ways to test how you respond or recover.

After prepping for the appropriate interview type, don’t forget to find out an important piece of information—directions to the interview room!

3. Be Confident, Smile


You can’t convince the employer to be confident in your abilities if you aren’t confident in yourself.  Know that every person is different, and your own unique experiences offer something promising to their plate of candidates.  Take your strong points, and let them shine.

Hold your head up, smile, and be yourself.  Walk into that interview room confident because you have exactly what it takes to make that job yours. 

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