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Job search do’s and don’ts

Updated: Aug 11, 2014 09:55 AM
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By Andrew Housser

Opportunities in the job market are looking up. Unemployment rates have not been this low -- 6.2 percent in July -- in nearly six years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the past year, unemployment in the U.S. has decreased by 1.7 million people. This trend is excellent news for the many people who have been unemployed or underemployed since the recent recession. For many people, a new job means increased income to build a savings cushion or work toward getting out of debt.

Whether you are looking for a job due to unemployment, seeking a career change, or are trying to move up, now is a good time to send out that resume. Before you do, though, brush up on these seven essentials for finding that new job, acing the interview process, and getting hired.

1.      Get the word out. Let your network of former colleagues and supervisors, as well as friends and family, know what type of job you are seeking. Find companies that are hiring via job sites such as Monster and CareerBuilder. Contact headhunters or recruiting agencies. If you are employed but want to move on to something different, be discreet and ethical when conducting your job search. Do not use your work computer or other tools (like copiers) for your personal job search.

2.      Rework your resume. A well-written resume and cover letter are key to landing interviews. Think of these two documents as an advertisement. The products you are selling are your skills and expertise. Search online for examples of resumes and cover letters, including electronic ones. Then tailor yours appropriately. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to look over these documents before you send them out. Many companies now ask you to submit this information online. Database systems search for keywords that the employer has deemed critical for the job position. Review the job listing to determine what these keywords might be, and use these words in your resume and cover letter (and later, during the interview).

3.      Rethink your social media. Employers use LinkedIn not only to post job opportunities, but also to screen potential hiring candidates. It is important that your profile is up to date and highlights accomplishments that make you stand out. Employers also may look at your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Remove any photos or posts that put you in a bad light. In addition, check your privacy settings to ensure your personal information, including pictures or comments that others post, are not available for public viewing.

4.      Take a look in the mirror. Your appearance is the first thing employers notice. Dress professionally and appropriately for every interview. Make sure your hair is neatly styled, and nails are clipped and clean. If you need a new outfit but your budget is tight, try shopping at consignment stores, outlet stores and even thrift shops. A friend or family member may be able to loan you a nice briefcase, portfolio or accessories.

5.      Do your research. Learn as much as you can about a company before an interview. Learn about products and services, read any recent mentions in the news, and study the website. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Prepare a few stories using workplace examples that highlight achievements or situations where you have learned something from a challenging work experience. Remember that employers prefer someone who can be a good team player. Keep the focus on how your skills and experience can help the company meet a certain need or achieve a goal. Weave keywords into your conversation when you can.

6.      Come prepared. Your briefcase or portfolio should contain extra copies of your resume, a list of references, examples of your work that are relevant to the position, a notepad and pen, breath mints (finish the mint before the interview!), and a list of prepared questions that you want to ask your potential employer. This is also a good place to stash your cell phone, which should be silenced.

7.      Show your appreciation. The handshake at the end of the interview is not your last task. As soon as you get home, write an individual thank-you note (not an email) to each person with whom you met. Mail it that day.

Unless told otherwise during the interview process, it is generally permissible to follow up with a potential employer via email or phone a week after your interview. Keep in mind that the average hiring process can take about three weeks – and often longer. Keep sending out resumes during this time. It may be hard to disappoint a prospective employer with news that you have accepted another position, but that is a good problem to have. 

Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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