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Reality check while job hunting

Stamp, Rejected, Document, Reject, Rejection, Decline“I applied for hundreds of jobs and no one even looks at my resume!”

“How many of those jobs were you already qualified for?”

“I could have done any of them with some training!”

“But you weren’t already really qualified?”

“Well… no…”

“If they have a resume for someone who could already just walk in and do that job, why would they want you?”


I’ve had that conversation way too many times. The conversation continues, they’ll argue they’re a fast learner and hard worker. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t always get you a job intended for someone with 10 years. At best, it makes you a shoddy candidate for the job.

Businesses and interviewers don’t pay attention to the bulk resumes. They want the best person for the job, or occasionally the cheapest person who can do the job. However cheap you may be, if you’re saying you can “learn quickly” then they have to pay someone who is more than qualified for the job to teach you from scratch.

Do a reality check: would you really hire yourself for this job?

Yes, you should apply for jobs you are only barely qualified for. No, don’t get upset when your resume isn’t noticed. Applying for those jobs are how you take steps forward and get raises. Don’t wait on a response for those jobs.

Being exceptional at their current job is how most people get raises and promotions.

Being the best is how you get considered for the next level up. It proves that you are capable of more. If you are average or less, no one is going to be in a hurry to hire you.

Something To Do Today

Keep a list of each job you apply for. List how well you are (or are not) qualified for the job. Step back and try to take a look from someone else’s view. The most potential comes from jobs you’re barely qualified for.

What to do if you don’t want to put something on your resume

Brass Knuckles, Iron, Wrought, WeaponsMy dad was in court defending a man accused of using a dangerous weapon. The weapon was brass knuckles. Dad pointed out that the law very specifically defines the weapons to which it applies. The law mentions a brass device that fits in the palm of the hand for support and goes around the fingers or knuckles to protect the holder and do harm to an opponent.

It was ALMOST the weapon used in this case. Unfortunately, the defendant’s brass knuckles were made of aluminum. The judge had no choice but to dismiss the charges.

Don’t be precise and misleading when you are applying for a job. Even if you get the job, you’ll be in trouble later. There are expected degrees of precision and disclosure in resumes, interviews and job applications.

On resumes

These are personal advertisements. You do not need to disclose anything you don’t want to. That said, lying on a resume is a firing offense. Moving dates or claiming titles, responsibilities and accomplishments you don’t have are lies. Leaving out irrelevant jobs is fine (If you’re applying to be a senior programmer, no one cares about the 6 months you spent as a Walmart greeter), but don’t move the employment dates around those jobs.

Putting a brief and accurate summary of your job responsibilities in place of a title is acceptable because hiring authorities will use the title you put down as a summary anyway.

In interviews

A lie is any communication given with intent to deceive. You don’t have to confess something unless you are asked about it or know it will normally disqualify you completely. Don’t lie. Shrugging your shoulders can be a lie.

The difficult thing is picking the relevance of your revelations. Figure out what they need to know. Give them the short and simple truth. When your background or claims are checked out, no one will remember precisely how you worded an answer. You’ll get fired for skirting the truth in an interview. Be clearly understood.

During applications

Be precise. Answer the exact question asked. Don’t embellish. Don’t add explanations. Tell your problems in as few words as possible. Don’t leave out any jobs on the application. You can leave them out on the resume, not the application. On the application they want all your recent jobs. Put your exact and official job title where it asks for it. Applications demand very exact and precise answers. Don’t lie by being incredibly precise and misleading. Be precise and understood. In many cases your application is never read carefully anyway (If it’s read at all. Computers take care of a lot nowadays).

A resume, interview and job application are supposed to help them get a feel for who you are. Those are not the places to try and get away with highly technical definitions. They are hiring the person you are presenting. If that person isn’t you, you’re going to get fired.

In Dad’s court case the judge was bound by a strict set of laws. When you get a job, your boss and coworkers are going to quickly start calling you a liar if you rely on word tricks. You may technically have been accurate but you will still get busted.

Something To Do Today

If you have a blemish on your record, decide when and where it needs to be talked about or shown.

Showing your potential

Attic, Empty, Wood, Abandoned, Old, Dark, Dirty, Dusty

Don’t hide your skills in the attic

We had a little trumpet up in my mother’s garage. I have no clue where it came from. We took it to the band teacher who said “That’s a nice old German trumpet. It should be cleaned up and fixed.” We still don’t know where it came from.

That trumpet could play amazing music. We didn’t know. To us, it took up space and makes noise when you blow into the small end. When the right musician comes along, they can make amazing music.

What to take from this

  1. You have potential. Most people are content where they’re at. You’re not. You want to grow. All too often, you’re too blind to see it.
  2. Additionally, other people can have untapped potential that you can see. If there is an issue, look around you to see who can help, or even wants to help. There are a lot of people who only need a little training and an opportunity.

Let people see what you’re interested in and where you’re interested in growing. Ask around about new projects and jobs or roles that need filled. Ask your boss what you can help them with beyond what you normally do.

Don’t hide in the attic.

Something to Do Today

Take a fresh look at your skills. What do you learn the fastest? What makes sense to you that confuses everyone else?

Similarly, look at the people around you. What can they help with?

I’m worried I might get fired

What is the connection of these 3 job disasters?

  1. A director of accounting went to the SEC with evidence of fraud. Several executives were put in jail. He was told by the new managers, “Trust us. We’ll take care of you.” Exactly a year later he was on the streets looking for a job.
  2. An industry downturn was coming. A merger happened. The worker trusted that his 20 years of service would save him. He was laid off. It was too late to get a new job. The people who were laid off first got them all.
  3. Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans. FEMA came in to help a few days later. It was too late.

    You can see disaster coming. Get ready

You are in charge of your life. You are in charge of your career. If you think you won’t or can’t be replaced, think if you died. If you died tomorrow, you’d get replaced. It might be hard, but they could do it. If you think your reputation and history will save you, are the people who care about your reputation and history still around?

If you’re scared you might be fired, be proactive about scouting out other opportunities. If your performance is fantastic, you can find another job. If you’ve been getting certifications and networking, it helps a ton. No matter what, you have to go looking.

It’s your career, your life. Watch for warning signs and respond appropriately, even just to let a recruiter know you’re keeping your eyes open.

If you don’t accept responsibility for your own actions, then you are forever chained to a position of defense. (Holly Lisle)

Something To Do Today

Write in your job journal who would get to replace you if you die tonight.

Now write who YOU would get to replace if they died tonight.

Which of the two of you has more job security?

Jobs and how sneaky no good cops set a trap for me

Squad Car, Police, Lights, City, Urban, Police CarA cop turned on his flashing red lights. He pulled me over and told me they just put up new “No Left Turn” signs. I got a ticket for $105. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. yet and he ticketed me for turning left during a prohibited time. I got upset. It wasn’t fair. I complained to my daughter. She mentioned she had seen the signs. My wife said she had noticed them too. So I went back and checked. There were actually three signs including the one 100 feet before the intersection. And I found out the signs had been up for 3 months. I guess maybe it wasn’t “sneaky no good cops” setting a trap. It was me. I didn’t see the warning signs.

I am amazed at how many people don’t see the warning signs at work. Hiring authorities and Human Resources (HR) departments often tell outside recruiters months before they fire someone so we can keep our eyes open for replacements. We always ask them, “What are you doing to let the person know they are in trouble?” The most common warning signs are:

  1. A raise below the inflation rate
  2. Lower annual review scores
  3. Closer supervision and more reviews by their boss
  4. Being told EXACTLY how to do something they commonly do
  5. Passed over for promotions
  6. Passed over for requested lateral transfers
  7. Taking away people or geography they oversee
  8. Giving major parts of their project to someone else
  9. Sometimes written probation

Formal written probation is last on the list on purpose. People are often fired without formal written probation. One reason is that it is easier for them to find a new job if they are not on probation. Another is that they are expected to be sensitive enough to pick up on other signs and fix the problem.

“I never saw it coming”, is a moan we often hear. When we go over the last 6 months of their job, the signs are always there. Lots of them. When we check references their coworkers usually saw the signs.

Don’t let those sneaky no goods set a trap for you. Watch for warning signs.

Something To Do Today

A little paranoia can be healthy. What signs do you see that your performance is below expectations?

Only allow reality on your desk.

Become an expert: get a great job

Mount Rushmore, Sculpture, Monument, Landmark, National

You don’t need to have amazing credentials to have your face carved on the side of a mountain

In Winning Through Intimidation, Robert Ringer describes his Realtor’s business card. It is a hardcover book with a picture of the earth on it. He sends a copy of his book to the biggest real estate investors in the United States before he calls them. It intimidates them into accepting him as an expert.

A candidate here in Harrisburg, PA started an internet radio station. Financially, it could barely pay for the rent and electricity. Mentally it took over the city. Computer geeks and their managers were intimidated by his technical strength and business abilities.

You can buy your own ½ hour radio show every week on our area’s biggest talk radio station. For $300 you become a Saturday morning guru. Lesser stations will let you talk for a fraction of that amount or even for free because they need to fill the air time.

I write a blog about finding a job (hey look, you’re reading it now!). Potential customers now accept my credentials much more readily. They know it is impossible for me to hide my morals and methods after hundreds of posts.

Danny Sarch is the master of working newspaper reporters on Wall Street. He spends one day every week trying to figure out what news tips, quotes from his own lips, and stories he can help reporters with. He helps reporters and they gladly put his name down as a source. Every big shot and aspiring talent on Wall Street takes Danny’s calls.

Sound like you are THE expert, and everyone will assume you are

Volunteering to be the “big business hit man,” calling them for a major local charity, will get you in front of CEO’s. They want to help their community. If you do a good job for your charity, you’ll also be networking yourself into a high level job.

Stop and think about the experts in your field of work. Figure out what makes you think they are experts. If you go and do the same things they do, you may become famous much more quickly than you think. It will absolutely help you get a great job.

Something To Do Today                                         

In your job journal write down all the things that experts you respect have done to get famous. Think about it. Can you do the same things?

Easy networking call. Call CEO’s, VP’s, and managers and ask them who the leaders in their field are. Then investigate those famous people. You may find a way you can become famous too. Just asking the question may find you a job.

7 critical tips on using recruiters to find you a job

Magnifying Glass, Increase, Search, MagnificationRecruiters are slightly neurotic, money driven, and a little paranoid. To get a recruiter to do the most possible for you, work with them within their limitations.

  1. A recruiter should be willing to tell you all the places your credentials are presented, especially if he asks you to stop looking for a job yourself.

Never pledge your undying love unless they are willing to give you weekly progress reports.


  1. Quality recruiters make you feel valued.

If they’re talking down to you or insulting you, get out. If you feel uneasy, or that they’re hiding something, get out. Most recruiters are honest. Find one that has ethics as well.


  1. Don’t tell recruiters about places that you’re already applying at.

Unless you really trust them, don’t do it. Some recruiters will decide to try and flood that position with other candidates, making it harder for you to get a job.


  1. Recruiters have niches. Find one in yours.

Use a recruiter who has a history of placing people in your field. Ask how many they’ve placed in the last year. If they say “None, but I’m trying hard” you can let them try. If they try to not answer the question, it’s a red flag.


  1. Call the recruiters you trust every week or two.

Many recruiters talk to 200+ people every week. Sometimes you will end up forgotten. Keep calling back to keep you in their mind. When the perfect job pops up, you want to be the first person they think of.


  1. Use in-company contacts before recruiters.

Most in-company contacts will be more helpful than recruiters when it comes to getting a job. A rider: use the recruiter if you found out about the job from the recruiter.


  1. Reread number one.

If they won’t tell you, you can’t trust them. Find recruiters you trust.


Recruiters are trying to make money, like everyone is, but they’re also trying to help people. A lot of people. Stay in contact with them, over email and phone, to make sure you stay on top of their mind.

And a quick number 8: don’t lie. If you lie, you still won’t get the job, and the recruiter will refuse to deal with you.

Something To Do Today

Make a list of the recruiters you know that work well in your field. Send them an email (even if you’ve talked recently) about what you’re looking for.

Calling COO’s for a job

How high up the food chain do you call for a job?

High. But, make sure you get the people under them as well. A proper Troll’s diet is balanced.

We had a guy we placed in a very difficult job a few years ago.  There were a bunch of reasons it was tough. One contributing factor was that his boss’s boss, Mr. Big, wanted to hire the guy over the objections of the direct boss, Mr. Manager.  That could put some strain on the relationship with Mr. Manager from the start.

Can I make it more complicated?  Mr. Manager also hated the Human Resources (HR) person assigned to find his new lackey.  If the person came from HR, they were dead meat.  They would only survive if they come from that Mr. Manager’s direct contacts or from Mr. Big. And if they were recommended by Mr. Big, Mr. Manager had to really like them.

This kind of dynamic goes on a lot in companies.  It sounds horrible, and it is.  But there are very good jobs filled this way.  So, you need to be in contact with people outside of the HR department.

Here are some guidelines about who to call in a company to get a job:

  1. If you are NOT able or qualified, don’t try to get yourself forced into a job. You will fail.  You know better.
  2. Get a mentor, someone who could help guide you up the corporate chain. Mr. Big is great for this, if you can get his recommendation.
  3. Sometimes, your boss hates his boss or even the HR department. You have to prove you are good enough for the job. Just being good enough for an interview won’t cut it.

Here are some thoughts on whom you won’t offend:

  1. You will never offend the Human Resources (HR) department by calling about a job. Their job is to stay in contact with you.
  2. If you know someone personally, talk to them. The higher the better.  The higher they are, the more likely they like to help people.
  3. If a friend or acquaintance gives someone your resume, call the person they give it to. Consider it a personal introduction.
  4. If you are in the same club, church, kid’s soccer team or booster club with someone at the company, call them. Mention at a soccer practice that you are going to call, then call them at work.
  5. If someone says, “Tell Mr. Big I said to call”, then call Mr. Big and use that name no matter how high up or low they are. The person who told you to call may get a bonus if you call and use their name.
  6. If Mr. Big is looking for help, you won’t offend him by calling. He may tell you to talk to someone else.  No problem.  Tell that person Mr. Big said to call.
  7. If Mr. Big is NOT looking for help, he’ll probably tell you to call HR and forget you. There is little chance you will offend him.  Call again in 3 months.
  8. Big’s secretary won’t mind being called as long as you tell her the truth. Often she knows more about what is going on than Mr. Big.  Get her to help you.

That is a big list of people you will not offend when you call into a company.  Do it. Call in.  Call Mr. Big. It can get you one of those jobs that is not yet advertised.

Something To Do Today

Take the list of companies you want into, and see who you can contact in those companies.  Use the list above as a starter.  Who do you know?

How to call a company for a job

Mind, Woman, Phone, Mobile Phone, Hairstyle, Call

Get on the phone. Recognize you’re not bothering anyone, you’re trying to help solve their problems.

Calling people is terrifying. It’s 10 times worse when you feel like you don’t have a serious reason to call them. Get over it.

If you really want to work for that company, you need to call. You also need to be qualified (sorry, even the most driven person fresh out of high school is never going to get a job as an IT Director). Now, be positive, and be honest: Would you hire yourself for the job you want? Really? Okay, then. They might want to hire you.

First write down the jobs you really want in that company. Who would be your boss’s boss?  Not your direct supervisor, who is THEIR boss. Write it down. The title is fine. He’s the key to success.

Who do you know who knows that person, that Mr. Big? Do you know anyone in the company? Start by asking for their help to contact Mr. Big.  If someone you know can recommend you or get your resume directly to Mr. Big, you’ve got it made. Give them your resume. Then call after Mr. Big should have it, and introduce yourself. There is a script for that call below.

If you don’t know anyone in the company, call the receptionist and get Mr. Big’s name and extension, or at least the department secretary.  Call Mr. Big AFTER you have written down some notes about how:

  1. You have saved businesses a lot of money.
  2. You speeded up processes to save time.
  3. You saved customers or brought in new ones.

These are not notes about your responsibilities, but notes about what you actually accomplished. This is like a portfolio of your accomplishments. Instead of a real portfolio, you’re talking about what that portfolio got you. What amazing deals have you gotten? What got done because of your unique push? What did YOU excel at?

Here is the easiest set of scripts.

When you give Mr. Big a call, you have a 1 in 10 chance of talking to him.  If you get voice mail, the first time leave a message asking him to call you. Don’t say what it is about. Just say, “Please call me.”

Two days later leave a voice mail telling him briefly about 1, 2 and 3 above, ask for his help in getting a job, and leave your phone number.

Do the same thing 3 days after that. For your last call, I suggest a very simple line: “As a professional courtesy, would you please call me back?” with nothing else. If you still have no response, then call the person who would be your direct boss, Mr. Manager, in the same 3 try attempt.

Finally, after this 2 week attempt, call HR (Human Resources).

If you are asked to call someone else, do so. Tell them Mr. Big told you to call.  But, before they hang up ask them, “What are your plans for the next few months for hiring a (my job)?”

Send a resume to Mr. Big and the person he told you to call. Mail or email works. Ask the company receptionist for his address.

Now, put a reminder on your calendar to call Mr. Big, the other person, and HR again in 3 months. Leave one message reminding them you talked before. Tell them you talked to the other person like they suggested and are just calling to follow up and see if their strategic plans have changed and they will need your help in the next few months.

Then send a note thanking them for their time. The follow up note is as important as the call. It gives them something to file away to contact you later. Make this single call to each of the 3 people you contacted at the company every 3 months. You are establishing yourself as a candidate who needs to be called.

Scary?  For many people it is. If you really want to work for a company at a particular job, it is the best way to be considered for that job that I know of.

Something To Do Today

If you really are qualified for a job at those companies, write down your accomplishments so that you have crib notes.  Now introduce yourself to the big boss who can give you a job.

Why to call companies to find jobs

The company has no job ad you could find online. You haven’t heard that they’re looking for anyone, but you want a job there. So you look up their website and send your resume to them. Right? Uh. Yes, you can do that, but that’s not going to get their attention.

Phone, Dial, Old, Arrangement, Nostalgic, NostalgiaThat’s what everyone does. Don’t do what everyone else does if you want to stand out. Be different. Calling the company can get you an interview and a job both more frequently and faster.

“But I don’t want to bother anyone…” so let me tell you what happens when you email your resume without a call.

HR receives your resume in an email. It automatically is put into their database. No job is available. Two months later, a job opens up and they search their database. You might be able to do the job, but your resume is two months old. You might not be open for a job by then.

The people in HR then send the newer candidate resumes (not yours) to the hiring manager without having to make any calls. It’s a lot faster and easier, so why bother calling?

You notice the opening on their website! You immediately resend your resume. A data entry clerk notices it and sees that you’re already in the database. There aren’t any major changes to your resume. Since you weren’t considered initially, you’re ignored and not considered for the job.

From the manager’s perspective – the slow process

The normal way for an opening to come up is someone is getting fired or promoted. Sometimes a new project is coming up, or their expanding the department. The department head knows this in advance, frequently before anyone at HR.

So, he tells HR he needs people. HR asks for a job description which he writes for two hours. HR helpfully sends him 187 resumes. His secretary wades through them and guesses which are the best, then requests HR to call those people.

Eventually, HR says only 5 are available for interviews. Then he gets to interview all of them, and 2 of them are nutcases. Another isn’t qualified for the job. It soaks up a lot of time to search like this.

An alternative: the manager already knows potential candidates.

Instead of contacting human resources, he makes a half dozen calls to a few people he knows who would fit the job that he’s talked to before. Half of them aren’t interested, but one of them is you!

You got put on a fast track for the job when you called in and talked to him. When he was looking for a new worker, you’re who he called. You never had to deal with competing with other resumes, or even trying to be seen.

The time to contact the hiring manager, the CFO, controller, COO, or another involved person is BEFORE you’re needed.

Last thing: if you do talk to the manager, make sure you ask for their email so you can send both your resume and your contact information for them to find later.

Something To Do Today

Write down the names of 3 companies you would really really like to work for. Read this blog next week for what to do next.