Job Search Lessons from the School of Hard Knocks
by Kevin Donlin
Have you been hit hard by the slow economy?
If you're 30 or younger, you've probably never experienced a recession as a member of the work force. And when compared to the go-go economy of the late 1990s, the current rash of job cuts and hiring freezes must seem especially frightening.
So I tracked down and interviewed James Adams, a 70-year-old former Minneapolis resident who's seen it all.
He's has held -- count 'em -- 107 jobs in his life. In fact, Adams became so skilled at getting jobs that the U.S. government hired him to teach his job search secrets to others!
Without further ado, here are three job hunting tactics for hard times, from the school of hard knocks.
1) Don't take every help-want ad at face value
Some employment ads are written to prevent all but the most gung-ho job seekers from applying.
Reason? To prevent a flood of resumes that would take days to read, some employers purposely place ads that ask for unrealistic qualifications.
"I recall a help-wanted ad for a shipping clerk that read like a laundry list. They wanted someone with a college degree (master's preferred), able to lift 300 lbs., type 50+ words a minute -- it went on and on," says Adams.
So, how did Adams overcome this obstacle?
"I took the direct approach. I went down to the company and said, 'Here I am!' I told them that God himself couldn't meet all their qualifications, but if they wanted a top-notch shipping clerk, I was their man."
He got the job.
2) You may be more qualified than you think
Adams once advised an applicant to talk about her hobby as a private pilot when interviewing for a position at a utility.
The job required a manager to oversee a plant delivering electricity to consumers across California. Making the wrong decision -- or no decision -- would put thousands of people in the dark.
As a private pilot, this woman had safely landed a crippled aircraft not once, but twice. Had she not made the right decisions fast, while focusing on a solution, she wouldn't have survived.
By proving her decision-making ability, which transferred easily from piloting to power plant management, she aced out dozens of other applicants -- and got the job.
3) Rejection letters can be a good thing
Your response to a letter of rejection may, incredibly, get you the job.
Because, when a hiring panel interviews several applicants but still can't decide on one candidate, they may send out rejection letters to test the mettle of those job seekers.
"I was consulted by a woman who interviewed very well for a position, but still got a letter of rejection. Most people would have torn up the letter and gone on to other things," says Adams.
Instead, Adams told her to write a gracious reply, thanking the company for their time and reaffirming her strong desire to work for them.
Did it work?
"The top contender for the position had to relocate on short notice. The hiring panel remembered the letter they got from the really eager and pleasant woman who replied to their rejection letter. She got the job," says Adams.
So, take it from a job search pro who's been there and done that. You can do great things in your career if you exercise persistence, politeness and a little street smarts.
Kevin Donlin owns and operates Guaranteed Resumes. Since 1995, he has provided resumes, cover letters and online job-search assistance to clients. He is the author of The Last Guide to Cover Letter & Resume Writing You'll Ever Need, a do-it-yourself manual with sample cover letters and resumes.