Job Seeker No-No

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,

I like to think I am a determined, ambitious, and outgoing person. I’ll practically do anything to get a job at this point (okay not “anything,” but you know what I mean). I have applied to online job listings and have even called to follow up (thinking I’ll stand out) – despite instructions not to do so.
Nothing seems to work. What am I doing wrong?

Dear, “Ambitious,”

I know you are eager to get the job and stand out, but if an online ad specifically says not to call directly… then don’t! By doing so, you are merely showing the potential employer that you do not know how to follow directions – probably not a good first impression!

Hiring managers and recruiters are likely being contacted by hundreds, maybe even thousands, of candidates, and they do not have the time or desire to speak with every single interested person.

The best thing to do when is applying (to help you stand out) is to:

  • Have a concise, professional cover letter that addresses your interest and explains how you can contribute to the position.
  • Tailor both the cover letter and your résumé to the actual position you’re applying for. Doing so shows that you’re paying attention to the unique requirements of THIS job and not just sending the same-old generic résumé you send to every job. Believe me, hiring managers notice!
  • Carefully check for typos.
  • Make sure your contact information is accurate.
  • Do your best to tailor your résumé for the specific position.

Good luck to you!


Listing Pay Rates on Job Applications

A reader writes…

Why do so few job listings show a dollar amount for the pay and show instead DOE? On the apps they ask for a pay expectation in dollar amounts, I can’t respond with DOE. I don’t want to apply for jobs where the income is below my expectations; it wastes my time and the employer’s. I also don’t want to tip my hand and show a lower expected salary on the app to get the job. What do you suggest?
Dear “Kenny Rogers,”

I can’t help it, but when I read your question, all I can hear in my head is the classic 1970s song, “The Gambler” – “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…”

The fact is, companies hesitate to state actual pay rates in job descriptions just like you, as an applicant, want to refrain from listing your expected pay rate in the application.  It’s a complete NUMBERS GAME – a “gamble.” 

Neither party (meaning, you or the company) wants to be the first to reveal dollar amounts.  For job seekers (as you’ve noted in your question), you don’t want to sell yourself short by listing a low rate.  On the other hand, if you state a high salary expectation, you may scare the employer away and miss a perfectly good opportunity.

Believe it or not, companies posting jobs with “DOE” are going through the same thought process.  They don’t want to state a set pay rate (or even pay scale) because they truly may be open to paying a higher amount for qualified candidates that meet or exceed their expectations.  In contrast, they may not be willing to pay the same amount for someone more entry level… but who could still do a good job.

I hate to say it, but these days, it’s definitely an employer’s market.  With so many people looking for work, businesses have the upper hand.  They don’t necessarily have to reveal anything about the pay because they know they’ll still be able to attract plenty of interested candidates.

That means you, as the job seeker, need to be the first to step up to the plate and reveal your “cards” (I’m going back to the Kenny Rogers reference here!)

Here’s a suggestion on how you can do this:


Utilize your cover letter to address the “pay” issue:


Within your cover letter, you can mention that your “expected salary” is what you believe is your market value.  But here’s the key so that you don’t seem inflexible… you should acknowledge the fact that you may not have a complete understanding of all of the functions of the job (which may be valued at a different pay scale). 

To go further, I suggest that you state in your cover letter that you recognize there are various forms of compensation (benefits, exciting company culture, etc.) that may make up for a lower pay level.  Express that you are open to considering these items.  Remember folks, “total comp” can include bonuses, benefits, 401(k) packages, etc. — and is not limited to a base pay rate.

So, before you “know when to walk away… or know when to run,” go along with the game and list your rate.  As the economy improves, things will change, and it will go back to being an employee’s market where YOU will have the upper hand.  Until then, I hope this advice helps!

Hey readers, as fellow job seekers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  What have you done in this situation? 

Managers / Supervisors – I’d love to hear from you too!  Do you agree with me on this one?

Look forward to your comments!

Getting Hired (or not) Based on Age

A reader writes…

I have been out of work for over a year and feel I am not getting any call backs due to my age. I am an Executive Assistant with over 36 years’ experience and feel that most employers don’t want to hire someone who is in their mid-50s instead of appreciating the experience and knowledge I could bring to the job. What would you recommend I do to make prospective employers know I am anxious to work as well as learn new things?

And another reader adds….

I kind of have the same question. I’m 53…and trying to find any NON-physical labor position in what already seems to be a job market for 20-30 year olds has been impossible. I’ve been unemployed for 2 years and 9 months…with only a seven week job a year after being laid off…that I was then laid off from AGAIN.

Dear “Frustrated Fifties,”

You, like many job seekers, are up against “Gen Xers”  (and, well, “Gen Yers”) who have grown up with today’s communications, media, and digital technologies and, quite frankly, are hot-to-trot on dominating the job market.

 Frustrasting?  Yes.
 Impossible to overcome?  No way.

(Now, for my young and eager readers, please don’t take offense.  You too have a lot to offer – but when it comes to experience…. you just can’t compete on this one!)

While I don’t know your exact situation, your interviewing techniques, or the details included in your résumé… there’s not doubt in my mind that you have a drive and willingness to work hard and dedicate yourself to a company.   It’s all about how you present yourself – in writing and in person.  Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Stress your loyalty and desire to grow with a company. I read somewhere that younger job seekers (mentioned above) have a tendency to switch jobs every 24 to 36 months.  This can be extremely costly to corporations… not to mention annoying!
  2. Highlight your availability and willingness to work extra if needed. Many “younger” candidates may not be as flexible or available as you when it comes to working overtime or going the extra mile.  Let’s face it…  your days of picking kids up from school or racing home to get toddlers in the tub are probably a thing of the past!
  3. Emphasize the fact that you’re not necessarily concerned about “getting ahead” or jumping to the next position.  You simply want a steady career where you can utilize your skills and experience, while learning new things.
  4. “Age-proof” your résumé and cover letter. Exclude college graduation dates. Limit previous jobs to the past 15 years. Also, don’t list the length of experience you have in your summary (or objective – if you use one); for example, it’s not a good idea to say you have over 36 years of experience. It will flag you as older.  Also avoid promoting your age with terms like, “seasoned professional” – this is sure to let the cat out of the bag!
  5. Tailor your résumé for a specific job. Hone in on your specific skills and experience relevant to the position.  The more you relate to the precise job at hand, the better.
  6. Take a look in the mirror with a critical eye. Now, unless you’re big on Botox, you can’t necessarily hide your age in person (like you strategically can on paper). Here are 3 areas to work on (for the ladies out there!):
    1. Hair – How are the roots? Are you in need of a new (updated) cut?
    2. Purse – Keep it classic (not trendy), but do some window shopping on contemporary styles.
    3. Shoes – Keep them comfortable but professional!
  7. Try networking!  Social Networking sites, especially LinkedIn, are a great way to connect with potential employers and other professionals.  Someone you know may know somebody, who knows somebody… and so on and so on!
  8. Keep your skills current.  Regardless of age, EVERYONE applying for employment these days needs to be able to send email, work on a computer, and have a basic understanding of software programs (like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).
  9. Consider going through a staffing agency.  Select Staffing is part of The Select Family of Staffing Companies, a top 10 staffing firm in the US.  With locations throughout the country and thousands of open positions (many of which are in the Administrative and/or Light Industrial fields), they can help match you to the job/company that’s a perfect match for you!

Hey readers, anyone else experiencing the same thing?  Any additional words of wisdom?  Please post your comments here!

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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