Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

In real estate it’s “location, location, location.”  With a job search it’s “preparation, preparation, preparation.”  The analogy is a good one.

Let’s say you are the owner of a house right next to a highway exit.  How do you market the property?  “Look how great this location is, you’re right by the exit!  You’ll be home in no time!”  But if you are the seller, all of a sudden it becomes, “Look how bad this is.  The house is right by the exit.  All that traffic and you want how much for the pollution and noise?”

Same property, different perspective.  And that’s something to keep in mind when you are working – and that’s the correct word because it is work – on your job search.  Your perspective may be diametrically opposed to that of the employer.  Keep that in mind.

An excellent book on the subject is J.G. Woodward’s Cut the Fluff for Job Seekers – Just Tell Me What I Don’t Already Know. Hopefully, as a reader of this blog you already know a lot, but let’s review some of the basics:

Obviously, you are going to be researching any employer who invites you in for an interview.  So will all the other candidates, so you have to go one more step.  Find out who the actual people will be with whom you will be meeting and research them.  But here’s the point some people forget, they’ll also be researching you.  They’ll look on LinkedIn, so make certain there are no discrepancies between your LinkedIn profile and your resume.  As for Facebook and Twitter, remove anything foolish.  Take down the photos of you acting like an idiot with your college friends.  Get rid of the Tweets announcing to the local burglars that you are out of the house at your favorite restaurant across town so now would be a good time to drop by and steal the plasma screen.  Sending a Tweet about such personal activities means that you think that people actually care which, in turn, makes it look like you are pompous.  But most importantly, get ready for the background check.  If you have a criminal record, or driving record, have explanations ready.  No excuses.  Just the truth and what you learned from the experience.  You can’t change your past, but you can change your future.  This is especially true when it comes to your credit score.  Go to myfico.com, pay the $19.95 and fix what’s wrong.  Worse case scenario, tell the employer – WHEN IT COMES UP – that you are aware of the situation, how it happened, and what you are doing to correct it.  In fact, this is the key:  When the employer tells you that there will be a background check, tell them what they are going to find.  Employers like honesty!  And, as Woodward mentions, “People believe what we tell them about ourselves.”

Some people feel that resumes are a place for modesty.  WRONG!  Make certain to list, in addition to your formal education, any continuing education classes/courses you have taken, and all licenses, certifications and credentials that you have obtained.  I have actually had candidates tell me that they chose not to list everything because they did not want their resume to be more than two pages long!

It is amazing how many people come to my office to interview for a job and act like they are going shopping.  No enthusiasm!  It’s just another thing they have to do.  Bad idea.  Psych yourself for the interview.  Be enthusiastic.  As Woodward says, “Act like you want the job.”  You are marketing yourself.  You’re your product.  What’s not to love?  You are offering an employer the best investment he or she will ever make.  YOU!

During the interview, follow God’s lead.  He gave you two ears and one mouth.  Listen twice as much as you speak.  And when you speak, be concise.  Tell the truth but don’t give history lessons.  If you are asked, and you will be, why you want to leave your job, don’t say, “ABC was founded in 1968.  We produce 450 products and have revenue of $25 million.  I love our 200 employees but…”  Who cares?  That wasn’t the question.  Just get to the “but” without the “but”.  “There’s no room for growth.  I’ve been there 5 years.  It’s time for a change.”  Sweet and simple also wins.  And don’t worry that one of your references may “out you” for some crime against humanity that you think you committed.  For the most part, references – people who have already agreed to speak on your behalf – are going to be kind.  And if an HR director is contacted, they usually don’t say anything negative because they don’t want to be sued.  Usually, they just confirm titles, dates of employment and salary range.

Additionally, always be positive.  Even when the question is a negative – What are your weaknesses?  Why did you leave XYZ after only a few months? – end the answer on a positive.  The safest positive is what you learned from the experience and how it makes you a better employee.

One easy question is, “Do you have any questions?”  The answer is always, “Yes.”  That is why you do the research.  Be certain not to simply ask about things you read on the company’s website.  Everyone does that.  Dig deeper and ask questions about things you discovered on your own.  Show the employer that you know what due diligence means!

My favorite interview question is, “Why should I hire you?”  This is your time to shine.  Don’t be modest.  Have five or six accomplishments that you can brag about.  It’s also a great way to frame a discussion around what the employer may be concerned about but can’t ask you about.  He wants to know if you have small children.  So you can now say, “I am a great organizer.  I have never missed a day’s work because of a personal issue.  I separate my personal life from my professional.”  Just what an employer loves to hear!

Finally, I do not recommend providing references until an initial face-to-face meeting with an employer.  If there is no mutual interest, there is no reason to give a stranger the names and contact information of your contacts – or to have them contacted.  After a while, you will not look so good.  A reference will start to think, Why is he getting so many interviews but no offers?  Moreover, it is imperative that you speak with a reference before they are contacted.  Prepare them.  Tell them a bit about the employer and the position for which you are being considered.  When asked, simply hand a list of three professional references (preferably former supervisors) and ask the employer not to call them until the following day so that you will have time to speak with them.  It’s a reasonable request.

Good luck with you job search!

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