Career Tips

Job Hunting For Dummies®,2nd Edition

Top 10 Questions Frequently Asked by Job Hunters

When conducting your job search, you'll most likely encounter some topics of concern. The following information will help you determine whether your search is on track, how to get your foot in the door and ways to win the interview game.

  1. How can you tell whether your job targets are realistic?
  2. What's the best way to approach a company that you would like to work for but that hasn't advertised any job openings?
  3. Is there anything you can do to make your resume stand out from the rest?
  4. What's the most common mistake that job hunters make when writing their resumes?
  5. What's the best way to build your network of contacts?
  6. What are the pros and cons of taking on temporary jobs while looking for full-time work?
  7. What is the single most important piece of advice you can offer someone who is about to go into a job interview?
  8. How truthful should you be when answering interview questions?
  9. What's the best way to respond if you feel that an interviewer is treating you unfairly or disrespectfully?
  10. How do you overcome the "We think you're overqualified" objection?

Contents
at a glance
How can you tell whether your job targets are realistic?

The only way you can tell for certain is to go through the basic steps of your job search and see how far you get. If you find yourself running into a brick wall early on - that is, you have absolutely no luck uncovering job leads through the Internet, networking, the classifieds, or recruiters - it's a safe bet that your personal goals are out of sync with the realities of the marketplace, in which case you may have to scale down or rethink your targets.

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What's the best way to approach a company that you would like to work for but that hasn't advertised any job openings?

The best way is almost always to try to network your way into the company - that is, to find someone you know who knows someone else in the company and can arrange an introduction. The person you're introduced to, incidentally, doesn't necessarily have to be in the department you ultimately want to work in. All you're looking for is a name that you can use to make the connection to the right person.

After you get a name, the best thing to do is to write a concise note that spells out what you think you can offer and to follow up that note with a phone call. To increase your chances of gaining a meeting with the person you're trying to reach, don't ask about a job. Instead, ask if you can come in and get some information about the best way to get launched in the field.

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Is there anything you can do to make your resume stand out from the rest?

Apart from making sure that your resume looks neat and professional, there isn't much you can do cosmetically to differentiate it from everyone else's. Using unusual typefaces or a color other than white makes your resume look different, but employers are concerned with the content of your resume. Other techniques - including a scanned-in photograph of yourself - may get someone to pay attention who wouldn't otherwise do so, but they may also turn people off.

Sometimes the method of delivery can draw more attention, such as via overnight mail or fax. These approaches are worth considering only if you know that you have the credentials, but the competition is stiff.

The most important thing is to spell out as early as possible in your resume the specific accomplishments or skills that qualify you for the position you're pursuing.

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What's the most common mistake that job hunters make when writing their resumes?

The most common mistake, by far, is filling up the resume with a laundry list of functions and responsibilities that you've held in your past jobs as opposed to the specific accomplishments that made a difference in the companies you worked for. You can never assume, simply because you had a particular responsibility or performed a particular task, that the person reading your resume will automatically think that you can make a contribution to his or her company.

A second common mistake is not being specific enough when it comes to the skills you possess. Mentioning your "computer skills" is no longer enough, for example. Companies - and the resume-scanning software now being used - are interested in the specific programs with which you're familiar.

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What's the best way to build your network of contacts?

There is no "best" way. What's important is to get the most out of every source: family, friends, business associates, former classmates, association affiliations and so on. You have to be visible and put yourself in situations - volunteer work or temporary assignments, for example - in which you have an opportunity to meet new people.

Most important, when you get that opportunity, you have to make the most of it. Introduce yourself, let the person know what you're looking for, and ask if you may call him or her at a later date for help. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to get help from people when you're sincere and considerate of their time.

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What are the pros and cons of taking on temporary jobs while looking for full-time work?

Mostly pros - especially these days, when more and more companies are hiring temporary professionals for middle- and senior-level assignments. Temporary assignments not only give you a way to ease the financial pressure of being out of a job, but they also give you a chance to network, develop new skills and convert the temporary assignment into a full-time position. The only downside is that you have to be prepared to handle most of your job search activities after working hours.

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What is the single most important piece of advice you can offer someone who is about to go into a job interview?

Always put yourself in the shoes of the person conducting the interview. Keep in mind that person's agenda: to determine whether you have the skills, personal attributes and motivation to be successful in the job. What you are ultimately "selling" during a job interview are those elements of your background, skills and personality that can make a significant contribution to the company interviewing you.

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How truthful should you be when answering interview questions?

As truthful as possible - without going out of your way to volunteer information that could work against you. A lot depends, too, on what type of question you're being asked. It's one thing to make an overstatement when offering an opinion on your ability to handle a particular kind of assignment, as in, "I think I could handle that problem very well." But misrepresenting specific facts about your background that can be verified is another thing altogether. Even small misrepresentations can cost you dearly, casting doubt on everything else you've said during the interview and on your resume.

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What's the best way to respond if you feel that an interviewer is treating you unfairly or disrespectfully?

First, try to determine whether the interviewer's behavior is deliberately designed to put you under pressure - a test of sorts to see how you'll respond to pressure if you're hired. This doesn't happen too often, but it could well happen when the ability to keep your cool under pressure is a key qualification for the job. But if you're dealing with a person who is being genuinely nasty, it doesn't pay to make a scene - unless the remarks become blatant, which rarely happens. Keep your cool. Stay poised and professional. And thank your lucky stars that you won't have to deal with that person ever again after the interview is over.

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How do you overcome the "We think you're overqualified" objection?

When someone says to you, "We think you're overqualified," he or she most likely is concerned about whether you're truly interested in this job, whether you will be motivated to do your best, and whether you'll be satisfied with a salary that is probably lower than that to which you're accustomed. Rather than argue whether or not you are overqualified, address the concerns. Give the person a reason to believe that you are enthusiastic about the job, that you are motivated, and that the salary drop is not going to be an issue. Stress the fact that the firm is getting added value by hiring you.

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From Job Hunting For Dummies®, 2nd Edition, by Max Messmer. Copyright © 1999 Robert Half International Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduced here by permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ---- For Dummies is a registered trademark of John Wiley & Sons, Inc."