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Some FAQs of the job search
By Terry Pile
What to wear?
Question: What should I wear to an interview? If normal work attire is casual, should I still wear a suit?
Answer: ``As a job applicant, the last thing you want to be remembered for is what you wore,'' said Linda Jack, HR manager at Biotrace International. She suggests you ask the recruiter at the time of the interview for the company dress code. ``When I'm asked, I say we dress `business casual.' Most men and women applicants wear slacks and a jacket. Men wear button shirts with a collar; women wear sweaters or blouses. The impression the applicant should make is that he/she is be taken seriously and is ready to go to work.''
If typical work attire is jeans, it is prudent to wear slacks. Of course, traditional professions like law and finance cling to the standard suits and ties.
Note: Avoid using fragrances or wearing lots of jewelry. Nothing should distract from the information you have to offer.
Question: When is it appropriate to provide references on the resume, during the interview or not until asked?
Answer: Never put your references on your resume; wait until asked.
``We don't ask for personal references on our applications, but we do ask for employment history,'' said Amy McCullough, HR Manager at Farmers Life Insurance. ``If applicants are currently employed, we ask on the application if it is okay to contact their supervisor for a reference. If they say `no' we respect their wishes, but will ask for follow-up references further in the selection process.''
Select your references strategically. You don't want to wear out their good intentions. References should be individuals who can vouch for your ability to do the job well. Former bosses don't necessarily make the best references. Consider instructors, co-workers, clients and vendors.
Time spent job hunting
Question: I am currently unemployed. How many hours a week should I be spending on my job search?
Answer: According to research conducted by the Five O'Clock Club, a National Career Counseling Network, job seekers should spend 35 hours a week on a full-time search; 15 hours a week on a part-time search. During the time spent on a job search you should be involved in a number of activities including researching companies you want to work for, networking, conducting letter writing campaigns, meeting with recruiters or employment agencies, attending job fairs and responding to open positions on-line or in the newspaper. Unfortunately, most job seekers focus on the last activity exclusively. An effective job hunting campaign requires that you use several strategies. Looking for a job should be a full-time pursuit and the more activities you are engaged in, the quicker you will get results.
Question: I just moved with my spouse to the United States (or out of the U.S.) and don't have a work permit yet. How can I keep my skills current?
Answer: Career consultants at Ricklin-Echikson Associates (REA), a company providing spousal career assistance, encourage international clients to volunteer. You want to work for an organization with a cause you care about. But you also want to be in a position where you are keeping important career skills current, or learning new skills which would enhance your marketability in the future. One of my technology clients found two great volunteer projects on www.volunteermatch.com. On the first project she developed a Web site for a non-profit group that supported homeless youth. For the second project she was taught how to do animation, a skill she would eventually teach to others as a volunteer instructor. Both projects greatly enhanced her skills portfolio.
On being overqualified
Question: I have lost several job offers because the employer considered me to be ``overqualified.'' How can I convince them I really want the job even though I do have a lot of experience?
Answer: The ``overqualified'' excuse is really a code for some other issue. Usually the hiring manager is concerned the candidate will be too expensive to hire, dissatisfied if underemployed or eager to seek another position once he/she is on board.
Janet Scarborough, Ph.D., career coach for Bridgeway Career Development, offers, ``A job seeker should anticipate the objections by addressing them head on and suggest potential solutions. For example, the candidate could say, `You may be concerned that since I worked in a higher position in this career field, I wouldn't be willing to stay in this job for very long. I can assure you that if you hire me to achieve specific goals over the next two years, I will happily accomplish those objectives. We can then reevaluate the best fit for my skills in your organization. I welcome the opportunity to use my experience to succeed in this position.''
By acknowledging your experience and demonstrating the benefit it can bring to the company, you may by able to set aside unwarranted assumptions and move the interview to the next level.
Terry Pile is president of Career Advisors providing career counseling, career development and outplacement services to individuals and small businesses. She specializes in helping people find satisfying employment. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.