The Job Hunting Process

This is a continuation of the How to Find a Job page. This page discusses the process that you go through in responding to a position.

The First Contact - You've made the first contact either through a job posting online, newspaper add or word of mouth. You may not of communicated with anyone or you may of actually did talk with someone. The purpose of the first contact is to allow you to send a cover letter.

What you need to do is to analyze what the position requires. Underline or highlight all the key points in the advertisement that they are looking for. Compare them to your qualifications - here's the important point: if you do not have those exact qualifications, do you have some similar experience that you can relate to it?

Cover Letter - The purpose of the cover letter is to get them to read your resume. Your cover letter should be one page and one page only. It should have about 4 paragraphs:

  1. Introduce yourself and explain that you are replying to an advertisement or cold call. End by stating that what your goals are in general terms. You don't want to disqualify yourself by setting extremely selective goals.

  2. State your education background and highlights of your work at school. Mention any awards or projects that you are particularly proud of. Use key words that you underlined or highlighted from the job advertisement.

  3. Discuss your previous work experience. They don't care if you worked at MacDonalds, they are interested in: your responsibilities, are you reliable?, can you be trusted?, can you work on your own?, do you need supervision?, etc.. Relate your previous experience to those type of points.

  4. Lastly, thank them for considering you and how you feel you will be the best candidate for the job and how can they contact you.

No Time for Modesty! - This is another IMPORTANT point: your mother, girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, husband, daughter, father, etc.. will not be in this job process to tell them what a great person you are. You MUST tell them why you are the best (and tell them politely). This is a competition and if you are reserved or humble then you've lost the race. You must speak up throughout this process!

Resume - The purpose of the resume is to get an interview. The resume should be two pages long - no longer or shorter. There are several ways of creating a resume:

  • Chronological: good if you have a strong job history in the field you are applying to without any gaps between jobs.
  • Skills based: excellent if you don't have previous experience in the field and have been in school for a while. That's the one I suggest.

If you are applying online, you may not have a choice for selecting the format. The most important part is that you include in your resume as much underlined or highlighted information from the original job advertisement. Points are awarded to both the cover letter and resume based on how well it matches the job advertisement key words. The applicants with the most points gets an interview. So use those key words everywhere and relate your experience or schooling to those keywords. Such as "I have similar experience to the XYZ data blaster when I used the Galaxie 500 at Aardvark Technologies".

The Skills based resume should be in this format if possible:

  • Every page should have your name (in large letters) and contact info on it at the top of each page

  • Goals: My goal is to work in the IT field in the area of Network and server administration <= keep it general

  • Education: List your education in order from most recent going back. Make notes of what was studied only if it applies specificially to the job. If you studied political science, don't spend a paragraph talking about political science. Just list the dates and the qualifications that were attained. It is okay to show that you went to university and dropped out. Universities create more "dropouts" than graduates.

  • Accomplishments: list any accomplishments that you are proud of. They could be scholarships, awards, personal accomplishments like you hiked the West Coast trail, that you won first place in a cow milking contest. These things generate interest. They know that you can do the job from your education, they want to know what type of person you are.

  • Work Experience: List your work experience with the most recent first. What employers are looking for is not so much what you were doing but how trustworthy you are, how reliable you are, what level of responsibility you had, did you work on your own, did you supervise someone, did you work in a team, how well did you work with others, etc.. They couldn't care less if you flipped burgers but were you there on time, were you there for a long time, were you trusted with opening and closing the business, did you communicate with customers, did you handle a crisis...

  • Hobbies: They want to know what type of person you are. Are you a recluse that is a ticking time bomb and going to explode if something goes wrong because your life consists of nothing but work? Or are you a well rounded individual that has a number of interests outside work?

    One company had two almost identical candidates for the one position. They were having a tough time in deciding between the two. The successful candidate had put down foosball as a hobby. The employer had a foosball table setup at work to help the employees relax and burn off steam - the successful candidate won because he had the same corporate culture!

  • References: Always add "References upon Request" at the end of the resume - never give references with your resume. Some employers will contact your references before an interview and eliminate you from the competition without you even knowing. References are given after the interview and after you have a chance to sell yourself.

Interview - You have one chance to impress the employer and that is at the job interview. If you want a job that pays $40 to $60 thousand a year than you better act and look like you are worth $40 to $60 thousand a year. This means dress and act the part. If you come in jeans and a dirty T shirt, you will be treated like you deserve a job of that caliber.

Be respectful, listen and respond to the questions asked. Be prepared to sell yourself. This means that you have to know what your strong points are and be able to talk about them. Only you will be present and now is the time to shine and not be humble. It is part of some cultures to be humble, unfortunately in North America, the job interview is NOT the place to be humble. You have to talk about your worth without bragging and being arrogant. You have to sell yourself.

You will find that 90% of the job interview is not about the technical stuff but about who you are. They will ask you questions that may not make any sense like "If you were a color, what color would you be and why?". These are Behavioral questions to see how well you respond to stressful situations. Expect these type of questions. Here's a good example of the questions you can expect to be asked.

You will also be asked "shoot yourself in the foot" questions. These are questions that will try to get you to tell them about a time that you screwed up at the job or get you to talk badly about your previous employer or employees. These are all NO-NOs - don't ever talk badly about your previous history. If you talk poorly about your previous history or employees, then you've just eliminated yourself from the competition. Go back to the example questions and practice your answers before the interview.

Portfolio - Bring a portfolio of your work. What is a portfolio? It is examples of the work you've done. This could be documentation about any accomplishments or projects that you've worked on. The purpose is for you to control the interview process and talk about something that you are extremely familiar with. This will bring out many more questions and answers about your skills and your capabilities. Have a webpage setup that you can quickly go to using their computer or your laptop or whatever is appropriate. They will not have time to analyze your work and see any errors. But they will have time to talk in general about what was done and why.

Don't ever leave your portfolio at the interview if they request it. They could lose it, damage it or even steal your work and ideas. I know of one lady who went to an interview for a marketing consultant, she was prepared with some ideas that the company could do. She was asked to leave her portfolio with the interviewer who stole her ideas. They decided that they didn't need to hire her because they already had her marketing plan. Don't give too much away in the interview and especially don't give away your portfolio. Use the excuse that you have another interview to go to and if they like you can return to discuss your portfolio another day.

Negotiating Wages - You will only get one chance to negotiate your salary and that's at the job interview. If they ask you early in the interview what your salary expectations are, answer "Are you offering me the position?" and if they persist, reply in general terms like "between mid $40s to low $50" or what is appropriate. Wage negotiation is the last part of the job hunting process and it occurs AFTER the job has been offered to you. At this point the gloves come off because you are talking money.

Whatever they offer you, no matter of good it is, always respond "It is a little bit less than what I expected." and then say nothing. This forces them to counter with a higher offer. This is called "$1000 a minute", in that awkward pause when you are silent, they are upping your wages. Just sit still and count to yourself - they must talk first. If they can't up the wages, ask that if you work out then can you have a raise after the 3 month probationary period. Ask for better benefits or 1 week more vacation or dental coverage to start earlier, ask for a shorter probationary period.

Get it in Writing! - Make sure that you get the job offer in writing before you start. In my own personal experience, right after graduating, I was offered a position out of the province where the company was to move me as part of the employment agreement. 2 days before the movers were to come, the company reneged on their offer and I was stuck with $100 in the bank, no job and since I had given notice to my apartment, no place to live. Because all I had was a verbal agreement, I was screwed. Get it in writing!

Another person I know of, had a job offer that required her to move to another city. She packed up and settled in the new city and the job offer vanished when she went to work the first day! So make sure that you have in writing anything that was discussed and promised during the interview.

How Long Will It Take? - This process doesn't happen overnight, it takes weeks and even months! Typically the larger the company that you are applying to, the longer that process will take. Expect that it will take 1 to 3 months from the time that you first find out about the position until you are hired. It is a long process as many departments and people are involved in making the decision, approving the new hire, budgeting for it and creating the paperwork trail to hire you.

The worst time to apply for a job is during June, July and August as most people take their vacation during that time. The paperwork typically ends up sitting on someone's desk while they are on holiday! The most active months for hiring are at the end of August and the beginning of September - people are back from vacation, summer jobs are now vacant, some staff go back to school and positions open up.

Good luck with your job hunting and I hope that this helps you in your future prospects.


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Copyright Jan 2013 Eugene Blanchard