What has experience taught you about job-hunting in general?

So as to not hijack Guin’s thread, I have started one here on the general topic of job searches. Although the points I want to lead off with are inspired by Guin’s post above, I mean them to be general “food for thought” for anyone going through a job search.

Online job hunt - I’ve done quite a bit of this in the database-administration field over the last three years. Although I found my current job online, my overall experience with online job hunts (prompted by a few layoff scares at current job) has been underwhelming.

From what I can tell, if the job your looking for is in high demand AND you’re exceptionally willing to move for a job, online job searches can be fruitful. But in situations where staying local is a priority, and there is a lot of labor competition in your chosen field, then online job hunting is all but useless.

"Old school" job hunt - When I used to work in graphic arts/printing, every time I needed to find a new job, I found my new position by meeting with potential employers face-to-face. It always paid off … and in short order. I never had to go more than two weeks or so without work.

Back in the day, I worked 12-9 pm M-F as a graphic artist/typesetter at a fancy stationery shop. I had really maxed out my opportunities and salary at the stationery shop, so on a lark one morning, I stopped in to a poster shop a few blocks from where my wife worked. I’d seen this place plenty of times on my way to dropping my wife off at her job. They had floor-to-ceiling windows, and I could see samples of the work the poster shop did. I also could see their huge, cool-as-hell oversize poster printers in action. I was interested in working with that kind of equipment, but this place was not advertising for help.

No matter–dressed neatly but casually, I walked in to the poster shop that morning (without even my rinky-dink portfolio) and asked if the manager had a few moments to speak with me. I wasn’t going in hoping for an interview – I was on a fact-finding/breeze-shooting mission. I asked the manager all about the shop: about their large-format printers, about their paper stocks, about the graphics programs they ran. I let him know that
I was a graphic artist, and I interested in working for a place like that. It just so happened that one of their designers was leaving in a few weeks, and the poster-shop manager just hadn’t gotten around to advertising for the position. I got the interview a few days later (with portfolio in hand) – and it ended up that I was the first and last person they interviewed.

Another time, when I was unemployed, there was an intriguing position at a educational-materials company in town. They needed a pre-press professional with a graphic arts background, and had placed an ad in the local paper. They set up a phone-menu system to serve as their job line – they didn’t even advertize an address to which resumes could be sent. Well, the job line was difficult to use. After navigating the menus, you had to read a summary of your experience to a voice mail recorder, but there was no indication of how much time you were alloted. It couldn’t have been very long, because I got cut off in the middle.

I was frustrated after spending so much time on the job line, and being unable to leave my summary. The job line gave the name of the company, so I looked it up in the Yellow Pages. My attitude was: “Screw the job line – who wants to get buried in an avalanche of voice mails anyway?” I called their office to ask for directions, and then asked the receptionist if the printing manager wouldn’t mind if I came in for a chat as his convenience. She told me to come down right away if I was available.

Of course I was available. I dressed up in my (only) dress suit, collected my portfolio and resume, and went to visit the printing manager in person. The job-line-based hiring process was an initiative from from on high, but he said he prefered to talk to an applicant face-to-face to “get a feel for the person.” He interviewed me on the spot, showed me the shop’s pre-press equipment, spent a further hour with me trading shop talk, and hired me at the end of my visit.

Only one kind of job seems available - Retail is a great example of a field that may sound limited, but is really quite diverse and may offer thousands of different kinds of opportunities.

Cashiering or sales in a store or shop of some kind is a common initial impression of retail. But doesn’t the kind of business make a difference? Is grocery cashiering the same as selling antiques? Is working the floor of a department store the same as working at a camera store?

If retail work can be boiled down to working with the public in a selling environment, there are some gray-area jobs that someone looking for retail work may consider. For instance: is working as a counterperson at a print shop retail? An auto-body shop? A business-suites rental office? A professional-sports ticket office?

I think a similar exercise can be performed on many fields. If someone says to me that they can’t find IT work, I ask them questions to make sure they aren’t focusing too narrowly. Do you mean IT positions, or PHP programming positions for medical supplies companies? Do your qualifications suit other types of work in IT? Other types of businesses? Can you adapt what skills you have and perhaps learn new ones on the job?

Sometimes, even staying within a narrow specialty can be made more satisfying by things like a change in locale. A friend of mine has worked for years as a grocery store manager for a major chain. He was getting burned out on the work at his huge suburban superstore. He saw that his company had an opening for a manager in their French Quarter store (yes, there is one grocery store in the French Quarter).

Well, my friend went to work in the Quarter, and the change for his was like night and day. The pace of the smaller store was much more easy-going. He also felt like the regulars at the FQ store were a more interesting bunch of people than he dealt with in the 'burbs. So even though he stayed in the exact same field for the exact same company, he was able to ditch draining drudgery and take on a personally-fulfilling job.

I invite other folk’s comments on these and other topics related to job-hunting.
[Subject line edited at the request of the OP)

Ads: I’ve found ads to be very close to useless. Online ads especially. You’re lucky just to get a response. Half the time, it seems like they’re just gathering resumes. I know of a couple companies where the same ad has been up for YEARS, with no visible hiring or anything. Or they respond, asking for more info, and are never heard from again.

Applications: Usually the “standard” way to go, but you have to know your stuff. Shotgunning applications may work. If you don’t have experience, you’re probably SOL. If you mistype, mis-spell, or don’t follow the format to the letter, you’re definitely SOL. The hiring managers I know (and knew) always insisted that their way be followed and, if you couldn’t do just that, out the door your application went. Plus, most advertised positions were bombarded with applications.

Free space: Do whatever possible to make it look like you were ALWAYS doing something the company would find valuable. If you get laid off, do something part time, take some classes, volunteer even. Cause any kind of gap in the resume looks bad to hiring managers. You want them to think you’re a hard charging workaholic. Free time? Perish the thought.

Previous jobs: If you’ve gotten fired, do NOT put “Boss didn’t like me” or “coworkers didn’t like me” or anything like that. If you quit, don’t put “Didn’t like the hours,” “Boss too tough,” or anything like that. Put in something vague like “Decided to seek other opportunities.” The company wants to think everyone will like you and you’ll cause no trouble whatsoever, especially when it comes to listening to managers, who are Always Right, at least in Applicationland.

Oh, yea, and most importantly. It’s lame, but it has to be said:

Networking: Most of the people I know have gotten their jobs because they know someone, or because it’s a “friend of a friend” situation.

How you sell yourself in the interview is EVERYTHING.

I’d say having an “in” is common, but it’s a mistake to assume it’s necessary. Job seekers can get too hung up on “not knowing someone”, and use that as a self-defeating excuse to short-circuit their own job hunt.

Sometimes you have to make your own “networking connections” from thin air – and that’s very much possible. My two “old school” job-hunting examples from the OP are clear examples. I was able to strike up a personal rapport with the managers at each of those jobs. So even though neither guy knew me personally, I was able to talk the talk and put them at ease.

I got my first professional graphic arts job because of an interview that didn’t land me a job. The interviewer liked my presentation, but was concerned about my school hours (I was still taking some graphic arts courses at the time). She didn’t hire me, but passed my name on to someone who did. That would count as networking in action, wouldn’t it? It doesn’t have to be family and friends – it can be even brief contacts that you make professionally.

Lastly, sometimes employers looking to fill positions can’t find anyone suitable from the pool of folks they personally know. If an applicant presents temselves at the right time – preferably first in line for a vacancy, or even preceding a need – then that applicant has a good shot at being hired.

What has it taught me? To not expect too much, even when you turn in a perfectly filled out application and/or resume, especially if you’re like me and that resume is hand-put-together and not exactly stellar.

I’ve lost track of how many applications I’ve filled out and turned in in the last six to eight months because NOBODY calls me back, even to say 'Hey…thanks for applying." or anything like that. The few interviews I’ve gone on haven’t led to anything at all and I’m beginning to think I’m gonna be stuck in my stupid fast food hell job forever.:frowning:

The last place I attempted to get hired at did an interview and I was told I had to do a second interview with X, the asst mgr or something. But when I heard NOTHING from them within a week or so, I called back. X was on vacation until x time. I called back after x time, when X was supposed to be back from vacation. Not there…left a msg and asked them to call me back. No word from them for a week so I called back, talked to X who promised to call me for a time to set up an interview. I heard NOTHING from her in ten days’ time so I called back. X is not here, call back tomorrow after 1 pm. I called…X is busy. Call back later. X is not here now…call back tomorrow or the next day. Finally, after chasing X for a month, I gave up on them and have gone back to slogging away at my stupid job.

I’m beginning to lose hope of ever getting out of fast food hell.:frowning:


Oh, I’m not even going to get into interviews. Well, yea I am.

One of my winners was a local tech firm. The guy actually said this…“Well, we’re just hoping the FDA doesn’t close our regulatory loophole. Ha ha ha.”

One guy talked to me, was real enthusiastic about setting up a second interview, said they’d probably hire me. Four months later, he finally got back to me. Oh yea! They didn’t have that position anymore, sorry about that!

One place I interviewed said I’d hear from em in 2 weeks. 2 months later, nothing. I emailed em. A month later, I get a response saying “Thanks for applying!” Nothing. The position is still up on their website.

I should just start my own business, I swear. If I could just figure out what to do.

Long and rambling (I’m off tomorrow) - if you want to cut to the quick, skip down to So, how does any of this help a seeker of income?

Want ads have yielded two jobs in my life, and those were the only two times I ever tried to find a job through ads.

The first caught my eye with the line, “Long hair? We don’t care!” That was 32 years ago, when long hair automatically disqualified men from most employment. It was a door-to-door sales job with an outfit that turned out to be run by some pretty sleazy folks. The second was a summer job, while I was in school, as a graveyard desk clerk at a hotel. Apparently there wasn’t much competition.

All in all, though, ads have not seemed the best way to go.

Networking has brought employment several times, as has cold calling at a shop. Just walk into a place you think you could work in and ask for the owner or manager. That got me a few jobs.

The music work that I actually didn’t hate was mostly personal referal, but I did some stuff via bulletin board that was, ehh…, OK.

When I graduated from minimum-wage-or-near-it jobs was when I was shooting the breeze with my then GF’s stepdad, who was V.P. at a chemical plant. He suggested that I come out to the plant and setup a date. While his stepdaughter broke it off a week before my date at the plant, I still got hired and became a reactor operator.

My primary employment in college was as a cabdriver. I’m not sure what you’d have to do to get turned down for that work, as long as you’re insurable. A few months of that convinced me to buy my own taxi, and soon the joys of self-employment came back into my life.

Another college job was as a lab assistant for the Chemistry department. Knowing that the student positions often needed new hires at semester changes, I made a point to make friends with the supervisor (a full-time state employee) the semester before. He suggested that I might want to come to work in his labs. Easy in. When I left that job, I made sure that I passed it on to a friend.

When I finished school at UT, a friend knew that his father’s company needed to hire a tech/geophysical trainee to replace a guy who was being promoted. I called his dad at home on a weekend and went over to his house for a Sunday afternoon interview. He wanted the guy who was being replaced to interview me that week. I was hired.

Many years later, I became aware that there wasn’t a lot of time left on the clock for that company. So I began looking over all of the vendors I used (I had made a point over the years to have vendor interactions funneled through me - who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? :slight_smile: ). It didn’t take all that long to decide that I’d propose to a woman who had a small seismic data brokerage company that we form a proprietary geophysical data company, and I’d simultaneously do consulting work out of her office.

Suffice to say that it eventually worked out OK, and I wound up owning half of the data brokerage company while our 1º company evolved into a pretty busy oil & gas exploration consulting firm, with an emphasis on 3D workstations.

Early in our eleventh year, a year that saw the industry barely climbing out of the bloodbath of 1999, what had become over five years our biggest client (40%+ of billings in '99) offered me a position. It came out of the blue, and I must admit I struggled with letting go of my baby. Since it almost surely meant the ultimate end of the 1º business, it cinched it for me when my partner opined that I’d be crazy not to take it.

I’m 50, and I’ve been employed continuously, except when I didn’t want to be (~14 months cumulatively) since high school. I’ve given out maybe 5 or 6 resumes in my life, and three of those were after I’d already been hired.

So, how does any of this help a seeker of income?

• As bordelon said right up front, personal contact is important. Whether it be the manager you meet when you walk in and ask to speak to him or her or the friend’s father, getting in front of them is most of the battle.

• Ads and online stuff are not your best way to go. Not that it’s an impossible pathway, but there are better ones.

• When my long-time-ago GF’s stepdad introduced me to the chem plant, I realized I didn’t have to crap around with near minimum wage work - there’s all kinds of stuff out there that pays better. Move into the office environment - receptionists do better than minimum wage, don’t get dirty and are often moved into something with a little brighter future (our accounting department used to eat’em up after about 4 months).

• Networking is the popular word, but it really boils down to knowing or getting to know people whom you can help with their endeavors.

• Inventing your own employment can work as well. Besides what I mentioned above, I’ve also sold newspapers (makes being hired as a cabdriver seem highly selective), played music (not widely applicable) and started a yard service. The yard service worked with a couple of friends and we made decent money - all you’ve gotta do is shanghai some implements and knock on a few doors - the work is there.

• It won’t help at first, but ultimately reputation can become a factor. That doesn’t apply to all lines of work, but where it does, keep your nose clean.

Well, I don’t know who’s reading this, but good luck!

Oh, of course I’ve got to add something.

Related to my point above about how long-time-ago sweetie’s stepdad jarred me out of the world of minimum wage work. I think people do tend to type themselves early on.

When I was just out of high school, with high hopes for a career as the Premier Rock’n’Roll Drummer of The World, my first regular job was driving a florist’s delivery truck. Guess what my 2nd and 3rd jobs were.

Hey now, I knew where all the hospitals and funeral homes were, right? Just playing to my strengths.

Yea, right. Stepdad, unknowingly I think, told me to punch the envelope. Just because you’ve done retail counter doesn’t mean that’s what you are limited to.

I’ll shut up now.

I_Dig_Bad_Boys’ post reminded me of all the places that just collect applications from people and stored them in a box under the counter. These places aren’t serious about hiring someone if all they do is accumulate paper, and if they stonewall applicants and actively prevent them from speaking to the person doing the hiring.

Consider jobs at small-to-medium businesses that are considered a direct step up from minimum-wage work. Nine times out of ten, places where you can’t walk in and speak to a manager are places that you don’t want to work. It’s better to be personally selected for a job than to be chosen from a sheet, as the personal attention employers may give applicants often foreshadows a well-run shop and a positive employee experience.

Yep. It’s good to continually attempt to exceed one’s grasp. Aim for that next step up, not lateral moves.

Jobs are like bank loans. In order to get one, you must first prove that you do not need one.

I’ll disagree (slightly). If you put that you’re already employed an an application or something, and aren’t leaving for something that’s a huge step up, the HR people I know are liable to go “Well, what’s gonna stop em from leaving after they get THIS job?”

I want to touch on the interview …

A nice little thing I do at the part of the interview where they ask if you have any questions is ask a simple direct question.

After you have asked all the questions you have to ask, then ask:

Is there any reason that you can see that I would fail to get this job?

After they have responded you then have an opportunity to answer any other indirect questions they may have about you that came up in their response.

At the very least it shows that you are trying to get the job and willing to improve yourself for it.

Good ideas dogmatic. One other interview “technique” I use is when they ask if I have any questions, I always ask the interviewer what they do for the company. This gives the interviewer a chance to crow a little about their responsibilities. I know it’s a cheap trick, but hey, people like their egos stroked :slight_smile:

I’ve gotten all my jobs by answering ads. The myth that companies are “gathering resumes” is preposterous on the face of it – why spend the money on ads to get something you’re not planning to do something with? I’d guess 95% of all ads are for real jobs; if you think otherwise, you’re probably applying to places where you really have no business applying to.

Cover letter. The most important thing when applying is a good cover letter. Really. The resume is important, but if the cover letter doesn’t make them want to read that resume, you’re at a disadvantage. My basic rules:

  1. Start with a strong opening. Not, “I am interested in the job,” but “With my three years of experience as an XXXXXX, I have developed the skills of X, Y, and Z, which will fit the position of [job title in ad].”

  2. Leave out weasel words. Don’t say, “I think I can;” say, “I can,” and give an example.

  3. Be confident, but not arrogant.

  4. Stick to facts. Not “I’d be a great worker for you,” but, “I have a consistent record of finishing projects on time and under budget.”

Resume. Employers mistrust functional resumes; they think you’re hiding something. Sneak one by them by doing a hybrid – list your skills and then later list your more recent jobs. Special tip: if you had times of unemployment, list the jobs by years, and don’t specify the months. If, for instance, you were out of work from February of 2001 until November of 2001, list job 1 as ending in 2001 and job 2 as beginning in 2001.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t use your current employer’s fax machine or e-mail to send resumes for other jobs. It’s abusing your employer’s resources, for one thing, and it makes the new company think about a few things.

  1. This person is job hunting on her employer’s time, not working
  2. What’s to keep this person from leaving their job if we hire them? (It’s the good old employer loyalty thing. If you’re not loyal to the company you’re leaving, chances are, you won’t be loyal to the company you’re joining.)

Either one is not good. Spend a few bucks and fax resumes from Kinko’s or learn to use your computer’s fax program.

IDBB, go talk to a temp service. Most of them offer resume help to people who register with them. If nothing else, invest in a good resume program for your computer.


This sounds weird, but if you are wanting a job some place, try checking it out for a few weeks before trying to get a job there. Say you already have a job and are wanting to quit and are looking around for options before your two weeks are up. The reason is to see their turn-over rate. If you see a new employee behind the counter everytime you go in, most likely it’s not a good job. I worked in a thrift store for two weeks and they had a new employee almost every day. They had employees leave without warning leaving others, like me, to be the only cashier available for eight hours.

Robyn–I did contact Kelly Services, who seems to be the only temp game in town. They did not call me back, despite repeated emails and stuff.

I have a suspicion (which I cannot prove, unfortunately) that my current employer is telling any prospective employers that might be calling for a reference that I suck as an employee or something to that effect.

A couple of months ago, I filled an app for a retail place and the girl I talked to said they were DESPERATE to hire a full time person. HELLO! Full time person right here! Waiting to go! Never called me.

One place, a sporting goods store, I did an interview with in January pulled the most nasty of tricks. I did an interview and got asked to help out with their bi-annual storewide inventory. I’m thinking at this point a second interview and job offer are not far behind. I"m sort of right. I get a second interview with the store mgr and the person who originally interviewed me promised to call me. Every time I called her (since she had not called me) she promised to get back to me but never had an answer. After six weeks of this phone tag, CG advised me to give up.

I just can’t win.


IDBB, I would go looking for a Manpower office. They’re everywhere.

Also, you might try the Texas Workforce Commission office nearest you. They have job listings and will help you find something and give you good resume and career advice. They also have access to a lot of job training programs that can help you escape the fast-food gulag.


This may only be of use to those of you who are in a profession, but recent experience has taught me that a good recruitment firm is the way to go.

About 5 weeks ago, after much soul searching, I decided to look for another job that would provide me with a broader experience than the place I was at (I am a solicitor). While I could have stayed working at the firm I was at, I didn’t feel happy about looking for a job without telling them that I wasn’t happy. I had a fair amount of annual leave accrued, and with jobs fairly thick on the ground for 1 year PAE solicitors, my employer and I parted on good terms.

After talking to a few people, including my previous employer, I decided to approach a recruitment firm before I applied to any jobs. I had an interview with the lady at the firm and left impressed with her knowledge and confident that I would find a job that would provide me with the experience that I was after.

I gave her a copy of my c.v. and she offered me some constructive criticism. Once we had the c.v. finalised, she provided me with a list of firms that I might be interested in. I gave her a shortlist, and she approached them. Last Thursday, I had an interview at one of them, and was offered a position that afternoon, which I accepted after considering it over the weekend. It really was a case of being in the right place at the right time. Odds are that I would still be looking for a few more weeks. However, if it is an option, seek out a professional recruitment firm in your area if possible. I start work on Monday, and in my profession, had I approached firms off the street, I would have no chance.

  • Bubba.