You don’t have to be perfect in you job search

PerfectPerfect is the enemy of good

I have heard this periodically throughout my life but unfortunately it is not usually taught by parents or schools but rather by life.  Some things in life you want to do perfectly but most times good is good enough. Take your resume for instance.  I recently had a client that wanted their resume to be perfect.  I am all for not sending one out with mistakes but they agonized over it.  They sent it to friends, colleagues and people in their network for advice.  Then they would rework it and start again.  All the while, never applying for a position.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

I may not guarantee one way to find your next job, but I can guarantee how not to get a job… don’t apply.  I am not saying you should send out your resume when it looks like crap but you do have to get to a point where good is good enough.  Yes there are some basics you want to pay attention to; no typos, consistent and correct punctuation, etc…  But I bet every time you or someone else reviews your resume you will want to change something.

The same thing happens in interviews.  People keep talking hoping that the more they say the better their chances of saying what is “right.”  WRONG!  In fact, one of the concerns we have in interviewing sales people is that some people talk too much.  Here is a hint… sales is more about listening.  I’m just saying.  More is not always better people.

Keep in mind this does not go for everything, parachute packing comes to mind, but for your job search process going after perfect can be wrong.  Or how about when you won’t reach out to people through LinkedIn because they don’t “know them?”  Or when don’t attend a great networking opportunity because you’re not ready.  You know what?  Get ready!  Of course I say this as I type this blog post all the while waiting for the infographics on to make themselves 🙂

It is OK to change as you go through the job search and your career.  If you don’t change you are not doing it right.  Don’t wait till you don’t want to change.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
Winston Churchill

Why you should apply online

I just read a article by J.T. O’Donnell from February titled The (Depressing) Truth About Applying To Jobs Online.”  J.T.’s post give a lot of great tips but there seems to be quite a bit of absolutism in advice these days.

Do this, Don’t do that

The truth is that most job search has merit but to shut-off any one area of your job search is to turn your back on those openings.  Let me stop and admit that I have skin in the game.  Not only do I hire people from the job postings but that is also how I came to work at Mspark.  It may be true that1% or less of online applicants end up getting the job but to that 1%, that is a big deal.

Let’s look at the dating analogy… How many times do online dating sites fail vs. succeed?  They fail a lot!  So should you stop using them?  Or how about first dates all together?  Most first dates fail if your goal is to find a life-long mate.  So, maybe you should stop going on first dates?  Sound ludicrous?  So does telling someone not to fill out an online application.

For some, online applications are a must

Did you know that if an employer is a government contractor you MUST be considered an “applicant” before that employer can consider you for a position?  That means to be considered for a position at most government contractors you must fill out an online application.  Don’t think this rule is a big deal?  Just ask someone in HR who has gone through an OFCCP audit… it’s a big deal with HUGE costs to the company if they don’t follow the rules.  Don’t think you want to work at a government contractor?  Think again, the government contractor list is HUGE and yes, Google is a government contractor.

One strategy is not enough

If you only use one channel in your job search you are severely limiting your options.  Let’s say you follow the advise of looking at companies you that sell products or services you respect and admire.  Granted, J.T.’s article does not say “only” look at those companies but I worry that many people would read it that way and could be ignoring a great number of employers.

Put together a marketing plan

By now you are asking, “What channels should I be using in my job search?”  Great question!  Here are some suggestions but the % you spend on each one is up to you and your job search criteria:

  • Online Job Boards – The numbers that show your odds of getting a job just by applying online are similar to the lottery are skewed by TONS of non-qualified applicants who clog up ATSs daily.  Keep in mind that some jobs are only posted for 24 – 72 hours.
  • Company websites – Some companies only post on their website.
  • LinkedIn – Job postings and networking all in one.
  • Twitter – Great networking tool and good for company research.
  • Social Media – FaceBook, Instagram, etc…  Recruiters are moving to social media.
  • Networking – It is often times true… who you know is more important than what you know.
  • Direct contact with employers – Reach out to the employer directly.  Many times if you call the main-line for a company and ask for HR you can talk to someone.
  • Employee referrals – If you know someone that works at the company where you want to work, be sure to let them know.  Ask if you can put them down as the referral source when you apply for a position.  Many companies pay $500 – $1000 to their employees for referring someone who is hired
  • Career Fairs – Similar to job boards the percentages may tell you the odds are slim but you rarely get the chance to talk one on one with someone from the company.
  • Agencies – While agencies do have competing loyalties, they still provide a useful service to employers and candidates.
  • Associations – Look for industry or profession specific associations.  They may have job boards.  They are also a great way to network and get information.
  • Alumni groups – Is there a local alumni chapter from your University?  Be sure to reach back out to your school.  They may have resources you can use.  Even some major employers have alumni groups.
  • Externships – Try job shadowing.  This is usually easier for students or recent grads.
  • Volunteer – If you are not currently working then volunteering is a great way to network.
  • Market yourself – Go on the offensive.  Some people have posted ads for themselves on FB and other online places.  Start tweeting or blogging about your industry or profession.  There have even been stories about people handing out resumes at subway stops.  Get creative and get out there!

In short, don’t restrict your job search.  Think of it this way… you are the product.  You need to identify your top customers and marketing channels.  Then spend your resources (time) effectively.

Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.
Coco Chanel

There is more than one way to stand out in your job search

Many times around the office talk turns to what one candidate or another has done to stand out of the crowd.  Sometimes good, sometimes not.  Both are memorable but only one gets a call back.

It depends

The way you SHOULD stand out really depends on a lot of factors:

  • Industry
  • Company culture
  • Profession
  • Position
  • Experience level

The list goes on.  People often ask “how can I stand out in the job search as a top candidate?”  I wish it was simple.  It is like asking “how can I stand out on a first date so they want to go out again?”  Not that easy, is it?  Everyone and every company looks for something a little different but I think there are some similarities.

Sales Jobs

If you are going for a sales position you can probably stand to be a bit more persistent than in other professions.  I have had people show up to the office and ask if I was available.  I love that!  Or at the very least just call and ask for me.  That IS what sales people do isn’t it?

Patiently Persistent

I think most companies want to be wanted.  You need to learn how to walk the line between being very interested and seeming like a desperate stalker.  That line can be crossed by one too many emails or calls.  Be sure to ask what the process is and follow up when you say you will.

Don’t get angry

Here is the deal, crap happens.  I have had people no-show their first day on the job or back out the day before they were going to start.  That is after months of me recruiting to fill that opening, us spending thousands of dollars in the process before hiring someone only to have them do an about face.  Do I get angry?  Sure I do.  But do I call them up, email them, or blast them online?  No way!  I get it.

In the same vane I expect people to deal with disappointment, frustration or even anger professionally.  I have had it happen a few times that we like a candidate at first but then decide they are not a fit.  But I have also had it happen where we don’t pursue a candidate only to have them follow up, show their continued interest in the position and get another chance at the job.  In the end, do your really want to work for a company that does not want you?  I don’t.  But I get it, we all have bills to pay.

Be Creative

I personally like people to be a little creative in their pursuit of a position.  Follow your target company on LinkedIn and Twitter.  Like some of the good posts and follow people at the company.  Mention them in your posts.  Follow up after you apply for a position.  I would rather feel like I did too much in my pursuit of a job I did not get than worry that I did not do enough.

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.
Joseph Chilton Pearce

The one on one interview

interviewOne on one interviews are the mainstay of corporate America.  Here are a few things you can use to your advantage in a one on one interview.

Stereotypes: All us have stereotypes.  They are not always true but there are stereotypes for a reason. Use them to your advantage.  If someone went to the University of Alabama, they probably follow Alabama football.  It really helps to be observant and do your research ahead of time.  If you know who you interviewing with ahead of time be sure to look them up.  Where did they go to school, what is their work history, etc…  This will also help with the small talk part of any interview.  Just keep in mind that you are walking the line between confident and cocky / interested in them and stalking them.  Saying something like “I bet things were exciting at Countrywide Financial Corporation back in 2007” sounds a lot better than “How do you feel about being part of the real estate bubble popping in 07-08?”

Horns or Halo:  There is something called the horns or halo effect.  You want to make the best impression as soon as possible in the interview.  If they like you right off the bat the interview will likely be better for you.  A seasoned interviewer may know how to mitigate this effect but the fact is that an interviewer is much more likely to hire someone they like.

Follow up:  You only have to write one follow-up/thank you email so you can spend more time crafting it.  ALWAYS follow-up!  As I write this there are candidates whose interview outcome hinges on whether or not they follow-up with their interviewers.  A well crafted email definitely helps.

Connect with them: Find some common ground; school they attended, sports teams, fashion, technology, etc… This is where it really helps to be observant especially if you are interviewing in their office.  Be inquisitive: “I see you have a variable height desk, do you use it standing very often?”  not “Wow, those are expensive shoes, you must do pretty well around here.”

Body language: Mirror (but not exactly) their body language.  If they are sitting up straight and more formal you want to do the same.  If they are more casual, then you might want to cross your legs. It is also a good suggestion to match the cadence of their speech.  Don’t talk fast to a slow talker.

Ask for feedback: An interviewer is much more likely to give you some direct feedback when it is just you two in the room.  Many interviewers are worried about being judged by others just like you are as a candidate.  But if it is just you two, then they may be more forthcoming with information.

If you are prepared, interviews can actually be fun.  Where else in life are you encouraged to talk about yourself?


All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.
Mark Twain

Interview type: Over a meal

Couples toasting wine at restaurant

One of the most dreaded interviews are the ones that happen over a meal.  I like these interviews because I want to see how people REALLY act and meals give lots of opportunities for problems.  As I say “Any idiot can handle it when things go right, you see what people are made of when things go wrong.”  Things always go wrong, sooner or later.

Where to go:  If they give you the choice, give them two options to choose from.  No matter where you go I would go by before the interview to scope the place out.  Just like in other face to face interviews you want to know how to get there, where to park and how long it will take to get there with traffic.  If you have any dietary issues, definitely plan ahead.  Let’s say you have Celiac Disease, Crohn’s or some other intestinal related medical problem.  Look at the menu ahead of time and if you need to ask detailed questions, do it before your interview.

What to eat:  There are two schools of thought on this.  One, eat something easy.  It is a smart and safe move.  Two, go bold and stand out… spaghetti with meatballs.  Whichever route you take, don’t plan on eating a lot, you are there to talk so don’t go when you are very hungry.

Etiquette:  If you are not familiar with etiquette be sure to brush up.  Let’s say you go to lunch and you are at a tight round table with six people.  Which water glass is yours?  Do you eat European style or American?  Figure this stuff out before you need it.

Tricky Situations:  During an etiquette dinner I was hosting, a student asked “what do I do with my sugar packets from my coffee?”  My answer, “drink it black and you don’t have to worry about it.”  Remember, this is not about you getting what you want to eat and drink, it is about the interview.

Drinks:  It is best to stay away from alcohol but if it is dinner and the host orders a bottle of wine they might take offense if you do not have some.  If you do, just have ONE glass and make it last.  I like to order an Arnold Palmer.  I like the taste of it and it is a little unique, which can make a lasting impression.

Small bites:  The rule of thumb is to only take a bite that you can get down in three chews.  That way when they ask you a question right after you take a bite you don’t have to stare at them while you look like a cow chewing on your cud.

Remember, this is more about the interview than the meal.  Lastly, the general rule is no to-go boxes, sorry.


A smiling face is half the meal.

Interview type: Skype, online or video

Skype interview

One of the up and coming types of interviews is the Skype, online or video interview.  These interviews are great and terrible, all at the same time.

The Good

These interviews offer a chance to “meet” each other face to face and avoid the necessity of travel or taking time off to interview.  They also allow for panel interviews with people from various locations.

The Bad

Many of the same issues in face to face interviews come into play, but they are made more difficult.  That shirt you love to wear with that unique pattern gives people a headache over video.

The Ugly

Think of the worst YouTube video or podcast imaginable and then imagine it determining your fate as a candidate.

Here are some things to keep in mind and pay attention to.

Bandwidth: Speed test your upload and download speeds.  Generally speaking you want at least 6mb down and 1mb up.  Be sure to test your connection with a friend before a real interview.  You may need to use your mobile device or tablet if you have a strong LTE signal or go to a friend’s if they have faster internet speeds.  Whatever option you go with, test it!  Be sure to close other programs on your computer as they can also slow things down.

Backup Plan:  What is your backup plan if things go wrong?  Let’s say you tested everything yesterday but today, when you logon five minutes before your interview, the computer’s virus software decides to run a full system scan.  What is your plan when the power goes out?

Stay Calm:  No matter what happens do not start to lose your cool.  One of the reasons that I like doing online interviews is that it requires candidates to follow directions, plan ahead and stay calm when things go wrong.  Something almost always goes wrong.

Location, location, location:  DO NOT interview in a public place and do your best not to do it in your car.  Maybe this is a personal issue but I am tired of seeing head shots of people in their car.  What is in the background?  It it distracting?  Is it appropriate? What other sounds can you hear?  Will you be interrupted?

How do you look?  Most of us look like we are the walking dead when lit up by a monitor, so check it ahead of time.  You may want to change the lighting in the room.  You also want to be sure you are not back-lit and all they get is your silhouette.

Wardrobe:  Dress as if this was a face to face interview.  Check your look on camera.  Some outfits do not work well for video interviews.

Notes:  Just like in a face to face interview, have your resume and questions with you.  The upside is that you can write notes to yourself that they cannot see, like ones reminding you to smile, look at the camera and to ask what the next step is.

Body Language:  Eye contact is with the camera, not their image on the screen.  Do not look at other things in the room or leave the viewing area.  Also, watch how you use your hands, they can be distracting.   Lastly, don’t forget to smile.

Video:  Pay attention to how you are framed in the shot.  You might want to place the camera a little farther away so your image is not distorted. No sudden moves.   If the bandwith is low the movement will look choppy.

Audio:  Practice ahead of time and see if a friend with switch places with you.  That way you can hear the audio quality for yourself.

Again, one of the biggest things to keep in mind is DON’T PANIC if things don’t go as planned.


Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.
Alfred A. Montapert

Interview FAIL

Interview-FailThere are a lot of resources on the web about why interviews go bad.  Here are a few things to keep in mind before, during and after the interview.

Before the interview: A lot of people fail before the interview ever starts.

Follow instructions: If they tell you to bring 3 copies of your resume, bring three.  If they tell you to dress professionally, do it.  I have some friends that were Army Rangers.  When you are sent to Ranger school they tell you EXACTLY what to and what NOT to bring.  Guess what?  If you bring Gortex socks.. you’re out!  No really, they send you packing.

Plan who, what, when, where:  Who are you meeting with?  Look them up on LinkedIn.  What do you need to bring and wear?  Don’t wait till the day of or before you print off your resume, shine your shoes (yes, it does matter), press your clothes, etc…  When do you need to be there?  Reconfirm the date and time with the company.  If it is a phone interview watch out for time zones.  Where are you going?  Plan for traffic, parking, and other issues.  Remember your P’s: prior planning prevents poor performance.

Research: We already mentioned researching the people.  It is VERY impressive if you introduce yourself before they do.  How can you do that?  Look them up on LinkedIn, most people have a head shot.  Also research the industry, competitors, company, and position.  Glassdoor is a great resource for this.  I have said this a lot but it continues to be true, just ready a company’s website seems to be rare these days.

Write down your questions:  It does not matter whether you write them in your phone, tablet or put pen to paper but write down your questions and bring them with you. That way you don’t have to worry about remembering them.  It also gives you the ability to take some notes.

During the interview: The interview starts the moment you walk out your door.

Driving: Take your time since you left early.  Don’t get stressed out and be gracious to other drivers.  That person you just told were number one?  That might be the hiring manager.  It has happened!  I usually arrive 20 – 30 minutes early and scout out the place.  Then wait somewhere close by and come back 15 minutes before your interview time.  No rush.

Arriving: Assume that someone (everyone) is watching you as you get out of your car.  The visitor spots are often times in top-management’s view.  Get your smile on.  Remember, we usually ask everyone what they thought about you, including the receptionist.

Body language:  This is sometimes a cultural issue but you want to make good eye contact but don’t stare.  Have a good firm but not painful handshake.  Sit on not in the chair and lean forward a little.  Don’t cross your arms or play with your hair.  Watch out for nervous habits that can be distracting.  Good posture.

Dress for Success:  This use to always mean wearing a suit but these days it can have different meanings.  The basics are to be sure your clothes are clean and fit well.  You do not want to be uncomfortable in the interview.  You want to match the culture of the company and dress just a little better than the management.

Q & A: There are too many issues and options to discuss here.  I will blog about interview questions soon.

Questions to ask:  Here is a blog post I did on questions to ask in an interview.  They are very important for you and the company.

After the interview:  Do your best to get everyone’s contact information during the interview.

Thank you:  Be sure to write each person a thank you email.  Thank them for their time, tell them again why you want the position, why you are a good match for them, and you look forward to the next step in the process.  You did ask that, right?

Follow up:  If you have not heard from them in the time frame they gave you I would follow up.  When you have not heard from them always assume the best.  Maybe their email went in your spam filter.  Maybe your roommate forgot to give you the message.  Maybe they dialed the wrong number.

Aside from being a bad match for the position or the position a bad match for you most people mess up in the one of the areas above.   Remember, just because you did not get a job it does not mean that “messed” up.  Sometimes there was a better match in the process or maybe they saw something that leads them to believe you would not be happy or successful in the position.