Job Seekers’ Ten Commandments

If you set your mind to it, I’m sure you could search online and find more than a hundred helpful tips for getting a new job. But who has time to find, much less read, a hundred tips?

So I’ve made a list of just ten tips. But they are the most important tips… the Ten Commandments for job seekers, so to speak.

Some of these may seem like common sense to you, but they are unknown, overlooked, or screwed up by thousands of job seekers every day.

Each of these Ten Commandments is critical. If you violate even one of them, you’ll have a hard time getting that new job.

1. Thou shalt not submit a résumé with errors. Misspelled words or typos are the kiss of death. If you don’t show attention to detail on your résumé (and cover letter/e-mail), you won’t get a chance to show attention to detail as someone’s employee. The easiest way for HR to eliminate you from consideration (and believe me, their first goal is to eliminate candidates, not to qualify them) is to throw out every résumé and application with a mistake on it.

2. Thou shall communicate in a professional manner.

  • Consider the impression your e-mail address will make. If it doesn’t look professional, get one that does. Who would you rather interview, “DumpsterMuffin at” or “ChrisJones at”?
  • Make sure the greeting on your voice mail is professional. Is it a message you would want a hiring manager to hear when calling about your interview? If not, change it.
  • Like, be careful to, like, talk like, you know, a professional, and um, actually not, you know, like a kid who, um, doesn’t know, you know, how to, like, talk, you know? Seriously.

3. Thou shall be on time for thy job interview. Plan to arrive about 15 minutes early. Unforeseen delays can happen, but you better have a very good excuse (“I got lost” is not one) and call as soon as possible to let the interviewer know if you’ll be late.

4. Thou shall be professional in appearance. Show up at the job interview dressed appropriately for the position, or a step above (never a step below). If you are unsure what that is, call or visit the company ahead of time to find out. Limit the jewelry. Leave your body piercing hardware at home. Cover up your tattoos. Look clean and professional. A job interview is not the time or place to demonstrate your unique style (unless you’re applying as a fashion designer).

5. Thou shall do thy homework. Never “wing it.” If you show up for the interview without knowing anything about the company or the job, or without anticipating likely questions and preparing (and practicing) your answers, you may as well turn around and go home.

6. Thou shall turn off thy cell phone before the interview begins. It doesn’t matter if you’re expecting a very important call. It doesn’t matter if you have the coolest ring tone on the planet. The interviewer does not want to hear your cell phone ring. Supervisors already think employees spend too much time on their cell phones. Allowing yours to ring during the interview is guaranteed to put you in a negative light.

7. Thou shall be a good listener. Most people think only about the talking they’ll do during a job interview, and forget the importance of listening. Never interrupt the interviewer. Listen carefully to each question, and make sure your answer answers it. If it’s a confusing or complex question, it’s okay to ask for clarification. Just don’t say, “Huh?”

8. Thou shalt not complain. Never speak negatively about people or companies you’ve worked for. The boss you call a jerk may be the hiring manager’s best friend! More likely, you will be perceived as a complainer… and nobody will hire a complainer, regardless of how valid your complaints are.

9. Thou shall be likable. The candidate with the best qualifications does not always get the job. Candidates perceived as arrogant, obnoxious, indifferent, unfriendly, or otherwise not likable during interviews won’t get hired no matter how fantastic their qualifications are. Hiring managers may hire someone who is minimally qualified, but they will NOT hire anyone they don’t like. So be likable: positive, enthusiastic, upbeat, and friendly. Smile!

10. Thou shall give thanks. Always send a thank-you note to everyone who interviews you. Do this as soon as the interview is over. Proof it as carefully as you did your résumé. Make it personal and complimentary by referencing something the interviewer said. Reiterate your desire to work for the company. And, of course, express your sincere appreciation for the opportunity to compete for the job.

And here’s a bonus tip: Thou shalt not get dejected if rejected. Even if you follow the above Ten Commandments, the job may go to someone else. You may never know why you weren’t hired. But don’t dwell on that. Be thankful that you got the chance to practice your interviewing skills. Tell yourself it’s their loss, not yours. And move positively and optimistically forward with your job search. The next opportunity may be far better than the last!

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