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Job search secrets
Postings are a long shot, your interests are of no interest, and you probably talk too much.
January 19, 2005: 5:27 PM EST
By Sarah Max, CNN/Money senior writer

SALEM, Ore. (CNN/Money) In the market for a new job?

Your experience, education and accomplishments are certainly important. But that's not the only thing you need to get your foot in the door.

A successful job search also depends on whether you can get your resume to the right people, what those people learn about you in the 15 seconds they spend reading your resume and, let's be honest, whether they like you when they meet you.

Give those in charge of hiring a shot of truth serum and here's what they might say.

Job postings are a long shot

Yes, there are some professions, like nursing, where demand is so great that you need only send a resume to human resources and sit back and wait for an interview.

For most of us, though, it's just not that easy.

"Human resources is absolutely the last place you want to send your resume," said Todd Bermont, author of "10 Insider Secrets to a Winning Job Search" (Career Press), a book based on his own experience interviewing and hiring at companies like IBM and American Power Corporation.

"By the time the human resources department finds out about a job opening, the person doing the hiring has already found the person he wants to hire," Bermont said.

The same is true for most job postings.

"For a higher level position, job postings are usually a waste of time." This, Bermont said, is because larger companies post jobs primarily so that they can comply with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity regulations. It's often a last-minute technicality or a fall-back plan.

A better route is to identify the person who would likely be your boss and try to contact them directly.

"You may even be able to convince them to create a position for you," said Bermont.

The resume: I don't care about your likes or interests

Before you drop your envelope in the mail or hit the send button with your resume, take a few minutes and imagine that you're the person who will be reading that resume, along with a gazillion others.

"Your eyes tend to glaze over when you're looking at resumes," said Evan Burks, senior vice president for staffing and consulting firm Comforce Corporation. "If I have 100 resumes, I'm a little more particular by the time I get to number 50."

Make sure your resume is targeted for the job. "One of the biggest mistakes is sending out a generic resume," said Burks.

Does it tell employers everything they need to know in 15 seconds or less?

"People riddle their resumes with useless pieces of information," said Bermont, whose advice is to think of your resume as a Hollywood movie trailer. "They don't tell you how the movie was made or show all the boring scenes, they give you the highlights."

And if you haven't already, delete the section on your resume that says you like to read, run and weave baskets in your free time.

"I look at 'other interests' as filler material, a waste of my time," said Burks.

The interview is not the time for self-reflection

The truth is, you probably don't know really know what you want to be when you grow up.

Still, a job interview is not the time to figure this out.

"So many people out there have no idea what they want to do for a living, but they think that by going on job interviews they'll magically figure it out," said Bermont. "If you're not sure, that message comes out loud and clear in the interview."

Maybe you will have that epiphany, but you probably won't get the job. After all, you're competing with people who know exactly what they want or know how to fake it.

Your salary requirements? Don't answer that.

Spilling the beans about your salary expectations before you get a job could get you into trouble, said Burks.

"If you know anything about negotiation, you know you want to get the interest of the employer before you talk money," he said. You don't want to knock yourself out of the running by setting it too high, and you don't want to sell yourself short by setting it too low.

When it comes up on an application or in the interview, remember one word -- negotiable.

This interview isn't just about you

Going into an interview, you'll want to know about the company, be prepared to answer the usual questions and expect off-the-wall questions like "Why are manhole covers round?"

But keep in mind that the real goal of an interview is for the interviewer to decide whether he or she likes you. Everything else is just details.

There's still truth to the advice "Just be yourself." But that's not to say you shouldn't take cues from interviewers and adjust your behavior accordingly. "If they sit back with their feet on their desk, try to loosen up," said Bermont. "If they talk fast, try not to talk painfully slow."

Hold up your end of the conversation, but don't go on and on.

"People talk way too much," Bermont added. "The best interviews are the ones where the interviewer is doing a lot of the talking."  Top of page


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