Monday, June 2, 2014

How Does This Apply to Me?

The internet is full of websites offering advice on how to conduct a job search. LinkedIn is packed with job search coaches, recruiters, mentors, advisors, interest groups, and resume writers. They don't always agree, but I've noticed they all have one thing in common.

They all target their advice toward "executive" types. They envision the hiring process as a series of interviews with increasingly senior management, ending with a meeting where a hiring manager says, "We'd love to have you on our team as Director of Frabulation; here's our offer," as she slides a folded paper across the table.

I admit, that's the kind of job I'm looking for. This advice is helpful to me, because I have a skill set that could lend itself to jobs ranging from front-line worker to upper-middle management or more. Clearly, though, not everyone has that luxury. It's a simple fact -- there are more low level workers than upper level, just as there are more low level positions than upper level. If you're looking for work, and all you've ever done is, say, sell dish washers and TVs at Store X, you're probably not going to get that job as Regional Marketing Director at Store Y without something extra special in your resume, something extraordinary. You're probably going to be looking for a job in Washer/Dryer and Air Conditioner Sales (but you'll take Appliance Department Shift Supervisor if it's available).

That said, some of the advice I see offered around the web seems a bit ... superfluous. Yes, have a perfect resume. Yes, ask questions at the interview. But honestly, do I need to have watched Bloomberg News so that I can ask my interviewer, "So, I see that Store Y has landed a new contract to sell lingerie in Alaska. How do you see that affecting long term washing machine sales in general, and specifically in this store?" And if I do, does that hiring manager (a) really care that I've asked the question, and (b) have an opinion anyway?

Is it because lower level jobs really are a matter of "read the want-ads, go in and fill out an application, wait for a call with crossed fingers?" That can't be true. I'm sure you're more likely to get the Washer/Dryer sales job if you know the Toy Department manager, so the advice to use contacts is helpful across the board.

Are we to assume that every job that asks for a resume should be approached the same way? I get it; if I'm applying for a fast food job, the application is going to be enough. But these days, everyone wants a resume for anything more than a minimum wage job. I recently saw a job posting for a part-time hotel night clerk that wanted a resume and cover letter, with a "required qualification" of 3 years' experience and a "desired qualification" of a bachelor's degree. What advice do you offer the potential candidate for that job?

A few weeks ago, I asked if there were ever a case where an employer might be willing to overlook a typo in a resume, and whether a candidate is justified in judging a company based on the typos in the job posting. The comments were almost unanimous. First, any resume that is in any way less than perfect deserves to be round-filed, and second, it's not a candidate's place to judge a company, it's the company's place to judge them.

Fair enough, I suppose. Always do your best. Always go above and beyond. If you're going to be a janitor, be the best damn janitor in the world. I get that. But when I'm applying for the janitor job, should I expect to wear a suit to the interview and answer questions like, "Tell me about a time when you janitored especially well," or "What's your biggest weakness?"

Does anyone out there have any specific advice for those of us in the middle?

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