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How to Get a Job In a Slow Economy

Yuwanda Black -- As a small business owner, I am often approached for interview tips. This is a broad topic, so I'll address what stands out to me as an employer.

I won't address the obvious of being on time, dressing appropriately, smelling appropriately, and bringing along a clean copy of your resume and references on nice, matching paper. I will address the "human" aspect of interviewing.

Before you pick up the phone, turn on your computer, or slide your resume into a fax machine, prepare mentally for your job search. How you feel begets what you think which governs how you act. A karmic string links all of our thoughts and actions. If they are not properly aligned, our message will not be carried through as fully, forthrightly and forcefully as it could be.

Keeping this in mind, here are six things you can do to increase your chances of finding a job.

1. Decide with your whole heart that you want the job BEFORE you apply. This is akin to putting a smile on your face before you answer the phone. Although the person on the other end can't see the smile, they can tell that it's there.

What I've noticed, especially in this economy, is that applicants apply for jobs half-heartedly because they need to pay the rent, but in other circumstances would have no interest in the position. Then, when they are called for an interview, their heart is not in it, and this shows. How? The answers to questions are too general, the body language is "slumpy", the "what can you do for me" instead of "what I can do for your company" attitude is very much on display. It's an immediate turn-off. Many times after I interview an applicant, I feel that they feel they're doing ME a favor.

Remember, no one owes you a job. A job is simply a service that someone is fortunate enough to be able to buy -- someone worked hard enough and sacrificed long enough to build an enterprise. Because they've been successful, they are able to hire others to do what they no longer want, need, or have the time/desire to do.

To paraphrase JFK, "ask not what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company." This attitude will shine through in an interview.

2. During the interview, smile and don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't ask about health benefits, days off, etc. (these are questions for later interviews). But, do ask about office environment -- do you all work in teams, are there special projects that I can volunteer for after I've proven myself, is there chance for advancement, was the company focus always this, etc. In other words, make the interview easy for the person who is interviewing you.

Believe it or not, interviewers are just as nervous as you are sometimes and need your help to ease the tension. Have you ever been privy to a bad interview? One where the interviewee gives one word answers, not expanding on obvious, open-ended questions. Don't do this. On the other hand, there's nothing worse than a person who drones on and on. Make sure that you're addressing pertinent points in your narrative, not simply talking to be talking.

3. As the interview is coming to a close, question the interviewer. "Is there anything else that you'd like to ask me or that you feel I didn't fully address? If not now, feel free to contact me with any questions/concerns. I want to do everything I can to make it easy for you to make a decision."

This demonstrates that you realize there may be points overlooked, not explained fully, et cetera that the interviewer may be hesitant to readdress. By being open, you make it easy for them to ask you, therefore providing you the opportunity to re-emphasize important points.

4. Don't appear desperate. Remember this commercial slogan -- "Never let 'em see you sweat!" Human instinct is to withdraw from a person who seems desperate, because you feel responsible for them. Hiring managers want to hire the best person for the job, not the most desperate.

I've literally had people cry in my office, on the phone, and write letters explaining why they must have a job -- now! It doesn't have to be this obvious, but trust me, desperation kills the natural mood of an interview. Just as we are drawn to, and like to be around, those who display a sense of confidence, we are turned off by those who lack confidence and appear desperate.

5. Remember, hiring managers want you to be the best fit for the job. If you've gotten as far as an interview, we want you to be THE one because it means less work for us. So, go in knowing that we're on the same side.

Pretend that the interview is just to tie up loose ends. For example, instead of prefacing a phrase with, "If I get the job, my duties would be..." A better phrase would be, "As [substitute job title], my duties would be....." It's subliminal, but it works.

6. Follow up with a thank you note. I advise both email and handwritten. Email for immediacy; handwritten for a touch of class. Note: Unless you are specifically advised NOT to e-mail. I've never heard of anyone asking you not to send a handwritten thank you note.

Without addressing all the obvious do's and don'ts, these are the areas more applicants should pay attention to.

Good luck!

Yuwanda Black is a serial entrepreneur, small business columnist and author. She provides writing and editing services to small and medium-sized businesses. Her most recent e-book, How to Really Make a Living as an Editorial Freelancer, is available for immediate download at http://www.InkwellEditorial.com/bizguides.html. Visit her on the web at http://www.EntrepreDoer.biz.

© 2003 Yuwanda Black

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