Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Not-So-Good Interviewer

Sometimes you do not know who your interviewer will be. It could be someone you would work with directly if you were employed. Or, it could be a human resources staff member. It may turn out to be just another employee within the company. What happens when it becomes evident that your interviewer has not read your resume (or does not remember reading it)? It is a bad situation to be in, particularly if you only realize this half-way through an interview. Therefore, it is wise to prepare for an interview as if the interviewer does not know anything about you. Come up with key phrases describing what you have done in the past and how those skills will benefit the organization. Figure out how to hit the high points of your resume quickly so that the interviewer knows who they are interviewing and that you are no Joe Schmoe.

Application Snippet

Are you going to send a cover letter and resume through email? If you live in the area where the job is being offered, call and ask if you may bring your cover letter and resume to the office in-person. Dress professionally and be prepared in the event of an interview.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interview Snippet

Snippets are here! Most of my posts aren't short enough for twittering yet. However, every now and then I may post a single quick tip ("Snippets"). You know, one that you can read in 5 seconds and move on with life.

+Create 3 intelligent questions to ask before an interview so that you are prepared when the interviewer asks, "Do you have any questions about what we do?" Ask for details about the organization which demonstrate your initiative and interest. After a first interview do not ask about your salary.

Online job applications, a.k.a. the dreadful fill-in-the-box

Fill-in-the-box online job applications are my least favorite kind. They are tedious and time consuming. And, they are all a little bit different---enough to make you aggravated each and every time you fill one out. Do not forget that once you submit one of these application types it may fall into what I call a 'black hole'. If you do not have a referral and/or do not include specific search terms/key words that are used by computers to narrow down the applicant pool your application may be at risk of falling into a black hole. So, use the key phrases listed in the job announcement in your job application. Here is an article called, "7 Steps to Finding a Job Online" from CNNMoney, that demonstrates what I mean and what you can do about it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Craigslist and Scams

I think craigslist is an excellent place to look for jobs but I recommend using caution. There are many, many people looking for jobs and many people trying to scam those who are looking for jobs. I was nearly scammed about 3 weeks ago. If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. If the ad asks for money in order to complete the application, then steer clear. The only jobs I have applied for through craigslist are ones which indicate the company or organization name on the ad and also have a website where you can find details about the positions. Trust your instincts. Does the website look legit? Is there a phone number and other contact information? Call and inquire about the job to make sure (Say something like, "I was calling to see if you were still accepting applications for ______.")


Many people are considering alternatives (some are listed below). However, they are not for everyone. Simply because you cannot get a job does not mean you will automatically be selected for one of these alternatives. The competition is stiff and the selection process can be very long. My be advice is to speak with someone involved in the organization now or previously to find out if it may be a viable option for you.

(I know at least 2 people who have been AmeriCorps members. Email if you want advice or recommendations. I'll see what I can get for you.)

JETT Programme (The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme)

Peace Corps

Student Conservation Association

Teach for America

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)
(I know someone who has done this and loved it! Email if you want advice.)

Graduate/Professional School
(I've got plenty of insight on this one and plenty of friends who have been there.)

Know of an alternative that is not listed? Post your comment and let us know! Also, more information on 'the graduate school experience' is coming soon!

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I've been rejected many, many times. I know people of all ages who have lost their job(s). You are not alone but you have to keep swimming. This is about keeping your head above the water and beating the odds. Stay busy enough so that you do not wallow in self-pity.

Job rejection comes in many forms: the no-response, formal snail-mail letters, emails, by phone, etc.. I have had potential employers explain exactly why certain candidates were ruled out and I've seen many form letters stating something like, "There was an overwhelming response and many well-qualified candidates..." But, I will tell you this: If you are rejected after an interview you should ask something like, "For future interviews, is there anything I could improve upon?" You never know if the person they decided to hire will work out with the organization. You may get a call back even after a rejection. You just never know.

Interview Tips

I am amazed at what can come out of a person's mouth during an interview. Here is an article from CNN/career builder about "43 Weird Things said in Job Interviews". I found it humorous but believe there are folks out there who need to know that those type of answers are not acceptable! Saying something inappropriate during an interview is just an easy way to rule you out of the potential candidates pool. There are too many people looking for jobs right now! Don't forget it!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cover letter professionalism

+Tailor your cover letter to the job announcement. Yes, you will have to create many cover letters.

+At a minimum, triple-check every cover letter for errors before submission. Do not rely on spell-check. (During one of my interviews my interviewer kindly informed me that I had misspelled the scientific name of a plant. Yikes. He was correct. I apologized and told him I would fix it immediately.) So...Do you have the correct date? Is the potential employer's name spelled correctly? Did you spell your name and address correctly? (It is hard to believe someone would do such a thing but it has been done...).

+Email cover letters in a PDF unless specified otherwise. This file format looks more professional. Don't know how? Here is a video from Microsoft that demonstrates how to do this.

Keep track of everything!

Organizing is one of my favorite things to do. Strong organizational skills often go hand-in-hand with other character traits desired by employers. People who are organized are often goal-oriented, have a strong work ethic, and keep track of deadlines. Here are more recommendations:

+Keep organizational folders (on your computer or in an old-school filing box) which include everything you've submitted to each potential employer. Do not forget which employer has what documents, when you submitted those documents, and if/when the potential employer contacted you.

+Create folders in your email account(s) for job-related correspondence. It is embarrassing to have a phone conversation with a potential employer and realize you do not remember applying for the job or anything about the organization.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cover letter tips

There are a million things I could say about cover letters. Here are some starter tips:

+Writing a cover letter is like putting attractive packaging on a consumer good. You want to look good on the outside (enough to entice the potential employer to know more) and you want to be a quality product upon purchase (a good investment for the company/organization).

+I have found that it is not necessary to indicate in the cover letter where you found the job announcement unless the announcement says to do so or unless you have a referral.

+When creating your cover letter ask yourself, "WHY would someone want to hire me instead of someone else?"

+Cut to the chase. In your cover letter explain EXACTLY why the employer should hire you. Don't beat around the bush or add superfluous sentences.

+If you cannot read your cover letter out-loud without laughing or stumbling through it, re-write it!

+Again, get people to look at your cover letter for free to gain perspectives and catch any misspellings. Triple-check your cover letters for mistakes!

Resumes: Good, Bad, and Ugly

Sometimes creating a resume can seem like re-inventing the wheel. It does not have to be that way. There are many, many examples and templates on the internet that you can use to transform your resume. One website, razume, has LOTS of resume examples (good, bad, and ugly) if you're looking for a make-over or for fresh ideas on formatting. Here are some more tips:

+Get as many people as possible to read your resume for free. Gathering different perspectives will allow you to tweak your resume which may make it more appealing to more potential employers.

+When you think you're finished, pretend to be the employer. You have 30 seconds to look over the resume. What pops out? What gets you bogged down? Is the font big enough? Is there enough white space on the page (enough breathing room)?

+Aim for continuity and flow. Triple-check (at the very minimum) spelling, spacing, font size(s), bullets, capitalization, etc.

+Remember, you're trying to sell yourself through your resume. Is it packaged in a neat, user-friendly way? If you have applied for hundreds of jobs and have not received a single response back then something might be wrong. Check your resume. Change your resume. After all, what do you have to lose if no one was calling you to begin with?

Thursday, September 24, 2009


If you are serious about getting a job, following-up on job leads should be your #1 priority. It is time consuming but it is necessary. So...

+If someone provides you with a lead on a job, make sure to follow-up and thank that person. Failure to follow-up is rude and indicates that you are not serious about getting a job. Right now there are just too many people looking for jobs. You can be easily replaced by someone more eager.

+After an in-person interview it is often recommended than you send your interviewer(s) thank-you notes as soon as possible. I usually send mine by snail-mail. Email may be appropriate as well depending on the situation.

Common Interview Questions

Here are the most common questions I've had during interviews. The questions you will likely hear from the potential employer are indicated in bold but you should remember to "drive-it-home" by answering the associated unspoken questions in italics.

1) Tell me about yourself. (Why are you a good fit for the organization based on your background?)

2) What do you know about our organization? (How does your previous work relate to the goals and daily activities of the organization?)

3) What are your strengths? (How can the organization use your strengths to prosper/grow?)

4) What are your weaknesses? (Admit to one and turn it into a strength.)

5) What is your greatest accomplishment to date? (How will this accomplishment benefit the organization and what does it indicate about your character?)

6) What is your definition of teamwork? (Provide your definition and personal example.)

7) Why should we hire you? (Why are you the organization's best option and a good investment?)

Please comment (anonymous posting is an option) so that we can gather more!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Job Applications and Closing Dates

+I recommend applying for jobs the day you discover them on the internet because there are LOTS of people looking for jobs right now. Applications may actually close before the official close date due to an overwhelming number of applicants. Trust me, I have been notified of this on several occasions.

+From my experience, job applications only available for a week before closing are most likely for internal hires.

Temporary Employment

Do you need an interim job? Here is what I did and it works:

1. Seek out businesses in town that are thriving. They may need extra help.

2. Dress for success when seeking employment even if you are just walking in for 5 seconds to pick up a paper application. First appearances are crucial.

3. If you are looking for a retail position I recommend shopping around before asking about employment. Engage an employee in a conversation about their products. This will allow you to get a feel for whether you may want to work there or not. Before leaving the store you can say something like, "Would you happen to be looking for extra help or hiring?"

4. I advise dressing professionally to submit your application in-person as well. You never know when someone may want to do an impromptu interview.

5. After submitting your application in-person kindly ask, "Who may I contact about open positions?" Make sure you have a pen and paper to write down their name and number. You may have to wait a few days and then contact that person about open positions.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Job Fairs

I need your help! I've only attended one job fair but would like to gather tips for readers on how to find out about job fairs, how to prepare for job fairs, and what to do during job fairs. Do you have something you'd like to share about job fairs? Please send me your story at


There are some humorous blogs about the lives of unemployed folks that you may want to check out in your spare time. One particular blog, Unemploymentality, has some good ones:

+ A helpful post on "How to Make Unemployment a Positive Experience"
+ A humorous (yet startling) post called "Why Unemployment is better than Graduate School" including a PhD comic.

Follow a blog about unemployment, job searching advice, and/or underemployment that is helpful or humorous? Let me know!

Job Application Organization

Completing job applications can be a dreadful process, especially if you have to search for all of your job-related information multiple times in order to complete every single application. My suggestion is to create "Master Lists" ONCE so that you can help yourself out later. Here are the 3 Master Lists I recommend:

Job Master List
1) Start and end dates of employment
2) Beginning and ending salary
3) Supervisor (and phone number)
4) Address of organization and phone number
5) Duties performed for each job
6) Accomplishments

Reference Master List*
1) Name of reference and title
2) Address of organization he/she belongs
3) Phone number
4) Email address

*Do not forget to consult your reference before listing them on the application. Respect your reference's privacy. Do not give out personal contact information (cell phone #'s, private email addresses, etc.) unless you have permission.

Education Master List
1) School/university name
2) Address of school/university
3) Grade point average(s)
4) Graduation date(s) (month, day, year)
5) SAT and or ACT scores
6) Credit hours earned per degree
7) Relevant coursework completed including when the course was taken

Alternatively, if you have correctly completed a federal job resume previously, then print it from their website. It has nearly all the information you will ever need to fill out most job applications. (This is what I did and it works well!)

Monday, September 21, 2009


Many of us may be underemployed. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th Edition, 2000) defined underemployed as:

1. Employed only part-time when one needs and desires full-time employment.
2. Inadequately employed, especially employed at a low-paying job that requires less skill or training than one possesses.
3. Not fully or adequately used or employed.

Here is what CNN suggested for underemployed people: CNN blog post

Are you underemployed? Jobless Genevieve would like your story! Post a comment or send me an email at

Selecting Professional References

+Select teachers, professors, colleagues, managers and other "persons of authority" who know your strengths and your work ethic. Generally, if you second guess whether or not to ask someone to be a reference, then you should probably find another reference.

+Remember: you do not want a run-of-the-mill recommendation. One phrase you may want to use when asking for a recommendation letter is: "Would you be willing to write a strong recommendation letter for me?" If they cannot provide a strong recommendation then you should find another reference.

+You may want to have different references for different job applications. For example, if you worked in sales previously and are applying for a business/sales related job then it may be best to have your previous sales manager provide a strong recommendation.

+Finally and most importantly, consult your reference before listing the reference on a job application unless there is a previous agreement.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Locating Job Opportunities

1. Sign up for LOTS of email alerts with job search engines. Some of my favorite job search hotspots are listed on the right sidebar.

2. Make more friends. You never know who may know someone, who knows someone, who could get you your job.

3. Remember, it is often who you know, not what you know, that gets you a job.

Have spare time?

During an interview many potential employers are likely to ask, "What have you been doing since you graduated?" or "What have you been doing during your unemployment?". If you are unemployed, do something productive with your spare time. Potential employers do not want to hear your sob story or give you a pity party. Here are my suggestions:

+Volunteer at your favorite community organization---even if you can only volunteer once a week. This may provide the opportunity to make connections and gain experience.

+Attend community festivals in addition to job fairs. Visit tables or booths of sponsoring organizations to learn how you may become involved.

+Want to work for a company or organization that is not hiring? See if they need volunteers or if they would be willing to negotiable an internship.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What are you doing right now?

One of the most aggravating things about being unemployed is answering the question, "So what are you doing now that you have finished school?" Instead of saying, "I am unemployed", here are some statements with a positive spin:

+ "I am currently searching for a job in my field __________, and volunteering at __________."

+ "My training is in __________ and while I'm searching for a job I have become involved in __________."

+ "I have decided that in order to gain more experience in my field __________, I am taking a course in __________."

The bottom line is: DO NOT make yourself look like a bum unless you are a bum, in which case, get off your butt and do something.

To the Forgotten, Jobless Graduates:

There is not much in the news about jobless, recent graduates. In our current recession, many of us have been and will continue to be crushed by those who have years of work experience for entry level jobs. This presents a bit of a financial problem for most of us...

My name is Genevieve. I am a scientist and I recently secured a full time position completely unrelated to my academic background. When I began applying for jobs in November 2008 I had no idea how to write a cover letter, apply for a federal government job, create an effective resume instead of a curriculum vitae, or what to prepare for a phone interview. Trial and error can be quite time consuming. The process I use to apply for jobs now is completely different from when I started. If only I knew then what I know now.

This blog was born out of my desire to provide helpful tips for recent graduates entering the job market for the first time, for those re-entering the job market after a long period of unemployment, or for those just looking to improve their job searching and application techniques. I truly believe that the best tips come from those who are currently searching for jobs, have held many different jobs, or are hiring personnel. I have experience in the first two categories. Many of the tips come from my personal experiences and from kind friends, family, and colleagues of mine representing many occupations and fields of study. This blog is an open forum. We can agree to disagree. As I post my tips, please add your likes and dislikes as well as comments about what you have found that works and does not work. Comments should be written in a way that will be helpful for all readers---this is not a blog for personal tirades. Happy job hunting!