This book is dedicated to all job seekers who have been, are, and will be in the unserviced
workforce. It would not be possible without my wife, Allison, my daughter, Caroline, and
my son, Alexander, for allowing me to serve my vocational ministry:
“It is God who arms me with strength and makes
my way perfect.” 2 Samuel 22:33 (NIV)
The Perfect Job Seeker
A step-by-step guide from selecting your major to accepting your offer
Articulate a clear job search mission to share with others
Create a diversified approach to managing a career
} niquely implement an individual job search strategy to achieve a personal mission
Close the job search process by handling the final stages with professionalism
} the plan into action
Do you want to get well? This question is often posed to job seekers. My findings indicate some job seekers sincerely do want to be coached and mentored in the job search and
career management process. While others, do not. They are lazy, offer excuses, and want
someone else to deliver a job without any individual effort.
This job search guide will provide a step-by-step, detailed job search plan starting with
selecting a major and ending with accepting a job offer. The guide has four parts, which
are as follows:
3 ission Phase — Selecting and Articulating your Major LIC (Major, Location,
Industry, and Companies) and Developing Your Branding Materials
3 trategy Phase — Designing a Perfect Job Seeker Strategy
3 mplementation Phase — Creative Company Interaction
3 Closing Phase — Ask for the Job
This resource is based on industry data, research, personal experiences, job seeker testimonies, interviews, and over a decade of experience in connecting job seekers and employers
in the higher education, government, and private sectors. The hope is this resource gives
you a roadmap to start your search and that you keep returning to this guide whenever you
are faced with a change in your job or career status.
However, unlike the title suggests, you will not fully become a “Perfect Job Seeker.” No
one is perfect. You will make mistakes. This book is intended to limit those mistakes and
help you strive for being the best that you can during this
process. But you have to want to get well.
By reading this guide, we cannot guarantee or “get” you a job; however, you can create
opportunities if you follow this guide. We share tips and techniques to enhance your ability to convert these opportunities into jobs. It’s hard to help someone who does not want
help. You must come at least half way in this partnership. Do you want to get well?
Step 1: Determine your Major
(Major, Location, Industry, and Companies)
Before you select a major:
3 Identify which companies are hiring for that major;
3 Know what the placement rate is for that major;
3 Know the average salary for that major;
3 Know what titles or functions those majors have; and
3 Understand the demand for the major by geographical location.
LinkedIn allows users to sort alumni of their alma mater in three distinct ways — location,
industry, company. Specifically, if a job seeker can clearly articulate these preferences,
then it will be easier to search for a job and for other people to assist the job seeker in
finding their job.
Where do you want to live?
What regions have the highest concentration of people in your background or major? For
instance, if you want to live in Omaha, Nebraska, and you want to be an ocean engineer
that may not be a good fit. Resources like Chmura Economics (www.chmuraecon.com) and
the Creative Class Group (www.creativeclass.com) provide insights into the region-wise
opportunities that are avail ble. There are 366 Metropoltan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in
the United States. Many people refer to these regions, and employment data is based off of
these regional designations.
What industry interests you?
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes (www.naics.com) are
used by many economists to determine jobs, companies, and functions. Although the average person will not be able to recite the names, it will be useful to know yours when doing
What specific companies do you want to work for?
Name brands are important to people, especially college students. The business-to-consumer
model of marketing has contributed to this fact. Unfortunately, the majority of the companies with brand names do not come to campus to recruit, and there are also fewer jobs at
these firms. Everybody wants to work for the name brand. As a result, competition is greater. Therefore, you must employ tactics to differentiate yourself. Upwards of 75 percent of
all new job creation is being done by small businesses (under 100 employees). These firms
do not have brand names, but they do have growth potential. Identifying these small companies can be difficult, but the website CareerShift.com helps you identify some of these
emerging firms. It is important to use CareerShift because the small firms will not come to
campus to recruit. They do not have the time or resources to dedicate a day to recruit on
campus to hire one or two students who may not be available for another six months.
If you cannot determine your Major LIC, then you cannot create a career roadmap. You
must have a destination or goal and being able to answer these three questions is a must
and is your first step.
Step 2: Develop Your Branding Materials
Now that you have discovered your Major LIC, the next step is to create your branding
materials. First, you should create a “30-second commercial.” Communicate who you are
and what you want to do. Be sure to use your Major LIC in this commercial. The 30-second commercial should be used for information interviews, writing cover letters, and
talking to people at job fairs. A sample 30-second commercial would be the following:
“My name is John Doe and I am a senior, Dean’s List accounting student at Virginia Tech
graduating in May of 2014. My employment preference is to work in public accounting
for a Big 4 firm in the Washington, D.C., Metro region.”
Second, creating an effective resume is essential. There are many different types and
no one particular type is the best format. Keeping it to one page is helpful for recruiters
because it forces you to condense your information and highlight the most important
parts. For college students, recruiters will look for three main categories: relevant work
experience, leadership activities, and GPA. For each bullet of your resume show achievement and quantify your points. Focus on results, not activities. There are many examples,
just find one you are comfortable with and model it.
Third, writing cover letters to complement your resume is a standard marketing tool. The
best advice is making your cover letter stand out. Take a risk and show the reader you
are not like any other candidate. Do not write the same boring infor ation everyone else
writes. Quote a famous person, highlight people you know, write a poem. Whatever it is,
Fourth, create a personal business card. This is a necessity in the business world. It will
demonstrate your knowledge of the unwritten and unspoken aspects of business. By distributing your card you may receive one from the recruiter, but you may have to ask for
it. Vista Print is a firm where you can print business cards for free. Also, if you are using
Gmail, you can add a dynamic email signature using Wisestamp.
Finally, create a portfolio (both online at LinkedIn and offline in a binder) high ighting
all of your important accomplishments. Items to include are not limited to: academic
transcripts, recommendations, resume, listing of relevant personal contacts, projects/
white papers, and presentations. LinkedIn allows you to add presentations and attachments through its SlideShare app. LinkedIn also highlights your recommendations,
endorsements of skills, connections to other professionals and groups, and serves as
your digital resume.
Step 3: Become A Perfect Job Seeker
Once you have declared a major, clearly articuated your location, industry and company
pre erence and created your branding materials, the next step is to design a diversified
career strategy called the Perfect Job Seeker.
A Perfect Job Seeker invests time in four areas to maximize opportunities and to spread
career risk. Specifically, the steps include Relationships, Humility, Study, and Faith.
Relationships are king. Establishing and nurturing relationships are essential to the job
search process as upwards of 80 percent of all jobs are never advertised and are uncovered through networking.
Humility is a disciplined and learned trait. If you do not humble yourself some ne will
do it for you. This may mean taking a job that is “beneath” you or taking on multiple jobs
simultaneously for a period of time. Eliminate actions of entitlement and practice humility. Employers want humble job seekers.
Study is essential to keeping your skills current. You have to invest in formal
or informal continuing education in this ever-changing and dynamic world. New job titles
and tasks that we do not have a vocabulary for are being invented daily. We must stay
relevant and ongoing study is the answer.
Faith is crucial. You need a personal Board of Directors to help you on this journey. There
will be times when you must take a leap a faith in making a decision or starting a business. Surround yourself with people you can learn from.
Ultimately, this approach helps you to diversify your workable hours — the time you
can devote to a career. Most people invest all of their workable hours into one revenue
stream for life (parents at jobs for 30+ years) and then some unforeseen, uncontrollable
event occurs and the sole income stream ceases. This type of job seeker has not been
actively networking, the job loss humbles them, and there is no thought given to continuing education or alternative revenue streams through business creation. Diversify
your workable hours NOW to minimize the risk of an employer laying you off without
any backup plan like so many people have experienced (perhaps someone you know).
Plan ahead. Be proactive. Create a long-term approach to your career by becoming a
Perfect Job Seeker.
Step 4: Develop Your Personal Network
Once you have your Major LIC identified and branding materials created, you will want
to engage your network through proven techniques. Nearly 80 percent of all jobs are
never advertised, and they are uncovered through personal relationships. You cannot ignore this tactic in your job search. Often, people do not know how to reach out or do not
feel comfortable asking for help.
Identify your network
Harvey McKay says everyone has at least 200 personal contacts. In fact, you probably
have many more thanks to social media. The problem with identifying our network is
capturing the names and contact information in one central place. Let’s look at all the
places you have people’s contact information: Gmail, mobile phone, LinkedIn, Facebook,
Twitter, business cards, written on pieces of paper, directories, or you just Google them.
It takes time, but it’s worth the effort to capture all of these contacts and put them in one
system. It does not matter what the system is, just select one that works for you and is
easy to update and backup.
You get started by conducting information interviews. The purpose of an information interview is to expand your network by identifying people you want in it. The information
interview is designed to obtain information about a person, his/her company and industry.
Follow this 10-step process:
3 rite a handwritten note to the person. Why? When was the last time you got
one? It breaks through the communication clutter we receive on a daily basis
and it stands out.
3 Tell the recipient who you are and why you are writing.
3 equest a 10-miunte timeframe to ask about their company, industry, and interests.
3 Ask for a convenient day and time for the interview.
3 Say when you will follow up and do it.
3 repare for the information interview by researching the person, firm, and industry.
3 Be prepared to conduct the interview at any time.
3 Keep notes during the interview and do not go over 10 minutes.
3 Ask for referrals at the end of the conversation.
3 Write a handwritten thank-you note.
Once you conduct your information inter iew, you will need to add their contact informav
tion to your electronic database. Take the necessary time for easy future retrieval.
As you meet more people, it will be critical to create a systematic approach to keeping in
touch. Keeping in touch may mean electronically on social networking sites, formal faceto-face visits, or anything in between. The important thing is that you do it and oftentimes
this step in the net orking process is the most difficult to complete. Selecting a dedicated
time and schedule will make it easier.
Expand your network
In addition to information interviews, attend offline events, join offline groups, and volunteer for public speaking opportunities, as well as find a publisher of your written thoughts
and ideas about a topic of interest. Online activities such as blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter,
and Facebook are also useful but these popular social networking techniques Ware just
one avenue to building your network.
Networking is the first step to becoming a Perfect Job Seeker. The next will require you to
remain humble in your interaction with your network.
Step 5: Practice Humility
At the end of 2012, the unemployment rate of Americans under the age of 25 was 16.2
percent — the highest since the end of World War II. The unemployment rate of recent
college graduates under the age of 25 is 7.7 percent and the underemployment rate of that
same group is 15.7 percent.
We lose sight of this known, hard-to-swallow fact — the only reason a company hires
people is to make money off their time and talents. You are not entitled to a job because
you have a degree. Companies are not in the business of creating jobs, but profits. Many
jobs were lost in the Great Recession, and they will never come back. Automation,
cheaper overseas labor, cloud computing, and the fact that someone with more experience
is always willing to do your job for less than you are all reasons why certain positions
will not return. Creativity, uniqueness, attitude, and relationships are keys to becoming
an indis ensable employee. The Great Recession taught us that even the most secure
jobs — government, teachers, and so on — are not recession-proof. Practicing humility is
not based on your education attainment, geographic location, industry trends, or market
conditions. You control it. Separate yourself from others by simply being humble. If you
do not humble yourself, someone else will do it for you. With humility comes wisdom.
You may have to hold down more than one job for a short-term period, or you may have
to take a “platform” job. A platform job is defined as a job that pays the bills yet offers
time and flexibility to go back to school, continue a job search, or start a business. Food
service and retail have been the common platform jobs of choice for recent college graduates for years. The goal is to keep that platform job temporary and not long-term. This
requires a lot of discipline and commitment by the individual to not make the platform
Follow the proactive steps of these humble job seekers:
3 fter being laid off a second time in 12 months, a lady decided to start a business
helping other job seekers and started taking courses in health care administration
while also seeking other employment.
3 banker in Charlotte lost her job and used the severance to put herself through
3 fter relocating for a statewide marketing position for a major soft drink comA
pany, nearly one year later, a man was driven home in his company car with his
items boxed up, with no job. The man vowed to never work for someone else
again and started three successful businesses in the area in which he was planning
Events like these will more than likely humble you during your career, whether it is a demotion or layoff. You will realize that you will have to engage your network for help and
also determine how you will update your skill sets for your next job through an ongoing
commitment to lifelong learning and continuing education.
Step 6: Study (Continuing
Education For Lifetime Learning)
The third step of becoming a Perfect Job Seeker, after networking and humility, is study
or continuing education. A person attending any form of college, seminar, companysponsored training program, or simply reading a book, magazine, newspaper, blog, or
website is committed to continuing education. It does not matter if it is formal education
(degree) or informal education (on your own), the important point is that you are committed to it over your lifetime. Many think their college degree is all the education they
will need in their careers. Sadly, that is not the case. Most graduates will now switch jobs/
careers every three years or roughly between 15-20 times in their lifetimes. (That’s why
you must master Becoming a Perfect Job Seeker!)
Typically, the most in-demand jobs are ones we do not have a vocabulary for 10 years
prior to the demand. Think back to the early 1990s — if someone said they needed a
webmaster, more than likely a person would not have thought about the Internet but rather
some type of pest elimination specialist. Also, think back to 2000 and if someone said
they were a social media manager, you may have thought they hosted parties for newspaper journalists instead of managing a company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.
When thinking about graduate schools, ask yourself if a particular degree is in demand in
the region I want to live. By having this degree, will I have more employment options?
Will my compensation be significantly more than if I did not have this degree? Also,
if the graduate degree is pursued full-time you must account for the lost salary during
the time period of obtaining the degree. Oftentimes we see far too many people seeking
refuge in graduate schools rather than facing the reality of the job market and their ability
to become employable. Not all degrees are created equal.
No one is going to argue that more education is better, but what you are being educated
in and at what time you receive this education, along with how much you pay for it are
certainly factors to consider. The following chart indicates how remaining constant in
your education attainment correlates to income and unemployment rate. Not all degrees
are created equal.
Earnings 2012 ($)
Less than a high-school
Note: Data are for persons age 25 and over. Earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.
The last thing you want to do is to borrow money to acquire a degree that does not give
you the return on your investment and ends up putting you in a bigger hole. When getting the formal degree, make certain that the degree is in demand in the region you are
living in, and that you can easily recoup the personal investment you are making. Not all
degrees are created equal. Apply your mind to study.
Step 7: Take a Leap of Faith
The last step of diversifying your job search process en route to becoming a Perfect
Job Seeker requires relinquishing control of your situation, taking risks, and trusting
and relying on others for guidance.
No one will ask you whether you want to work for someone else or for yourself — and
then show you how to work for yourself. But that is exactly what colleges and universities must do — promote student entrepreneurship. The U.S. economy needs you to think
about how you can create a business and become a member of the Free Agent Nation
(read “Free Agent Nation” by Dan Pink.) Approximately 70 percent of all new job creation is started by small businesses. A little over 1.2 percent of all working U.S. adults
are entrepreneurs. Are you one of them?
No one says your small business has to be your primary income stream. Start small and
online as serial entrepreneur Cameron Johnson advises in his book “You Call the Shots.”
Online businesses in particular are easier to start than ever before. Inc. magazine’s annual
list of the 5,000 fastestgrowing private companies in the United States indicated that 87
percent of the companies were self-funded with a median investment of $25,000. Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and CrowdTilt are aiding individuals with the seed
capital they need to take idea to action.
So what are you waiting for? Perhaps validation of your idea from a mentor or trusted advisor. It’s a good idea to get that feedback. As relationship guru Keith Ferrazzi states in his
book “Who’s Got Your Back,” creating a personal Board of Directors will help you take a
leap of faith in launching a business and help you make important life and career decisions.
Find these people in your network (Step 4: Conducting Information Interviews).
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Victory is won through
Of course, owning your own business is not as easy or glamorous as you may think. And,
it is not for 99 percent of the population. It takes sacrifice, long hours, uncertain revenue
streams, high levels of risk tolerance, persistence, passion, commitment, vision, determination, luck, and the execution of an idea. Many new businesses die in the first year and
most do not make it after year three. But the ride and the reward could be the best of your
life. It’s worth taking the risk now, as a young adult, before other life commitments (i.e.,
spouse, mortgage, children, poor health, etc.) make that leap of faith much more difficult.
However, self-employment is a viable and real option that cannot be overlooked or
dismissed. It is another avenue on your career path and deserves careful consideration.
Step 8: Research and Prepare
for Company Interaction
You can now articulate your Major LIC, you have developed your unique branding
materials, and you understand the Perfect Job Seeker strategy. You are now ready to
contact companies. But before you send that email, pick up the phone, or apply online,
you need to know relevant information about the firm you are contacting and use that
knowledge in your correspondence.
The easiest and most common way to research companies is to visit their websites.
However, this information is company-selected. It’s filtered. It’s positive information
they want you to know about their firm. Another common approach is Google search.
But there is too much information with this format, and it is extremely difficult to filter
and find exactly what you need. Most people will do these two activities and be done
with it. But if you want to get noticed and be coveted, you will do more.
3 sk your network of contacts. Remember Step 4? When conducting information
interviews ask people for information you cannot find online, from people who
currently work at your desired firm.
3 areerShift is a database that offers a plethora of pertinent information about
companies. You must register to use. Other services such as Hoovers, Vault, and
Going Global provide similar information. Contact your local or university
library to determine which databases they subscribe to and obtain access to these
3 ocial media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter provide current information
about people in the organization, products, services, and other detailed data
points. You can follow companies at LinkedIn and on those pages it will show
you who is new to the company or if someone has obtained a new title or position. By searching a company’s Twitter handle you can begin to see what people
are saying about the firm — good and not so good.
Now that you have used a myriad of data sources to assimilate a good and thorough
understanding of your target company, you are now ready to apply that knowledge in
your initial interaction with companies.
Step 9: Be Unique in Applying for Jobs
Now that you have researched your companies, you need to respond by contacting
recruiters. The common practice is to apply online, and many recruiters will tell you
that’s the only way, but it is not. The reason you are given this information is that the
online application provides an easy way for them to monitor, search, and report on their
recruiting activity. Find another way to apply, such as:
3 student walks into a job fair wanting to impress his top employer, Philip Morris.
He has nothing to lose. When he walks into the room, he is not dressed in a suit
like everyone else, but he is wearing a cowboy outfit identical to the Marlboro
Man — white t-shirt, jeans, boots, belt buckle, and hat — and is smoking a cigarette.
He clearly articulates his desire to work for Philip Morris, submits a resume and
walks out. It stopped the fair. It was the best unique first impression ever.
3 s a lifelong UNC basketball fan, I wanted to use a similar technique to apply for
the current Director of Basketball Operations job that became available with my
favorite sports team. I sent a Carolina blue and white basketball overnight FedEx
with pieces of my resume pasted on each leather strip and a cover letter outlining
everyone in my personal network who would be a reference and had ties to the
university and the key decision maker.
3 s a longtime academic probation student, Chris eyed IBM as his employer of
choice. Far below the required 3.0 GPA and preferred 3.2 GPA, he figured he had
nothing to lose and decided to go for it. Through careful preparation and a resume and cover letter geared towards IBM and the job duties that entailed, Chris
marketed himself as best as possible. Walking directly to the recruiter, he handed
his resume and explained for several minutes about how he and IBM were a
perfect match. After going to a company-sponsored dinner after the college job
fair, Chris got exact contact info for the recruiter to keep in touch. Only a couple
of weeks later, Chris was contacted with a verbal and eventual written offer from
IBM with a salary paying well above the average for his major.
These stories illustrate how you should make your first impression with your number one
employer. You cannot and should not do it for every application, but reserve for jobs you
really, really want. Here are some more suggestions:
3 onduct Informational Interviews — See Step 4 on Networking. It is better
than applying online.
3 ontact Staffing Agencies and Headhunters — These people work with dozens
Volunteer — Many influential people serve on nonprofit boards. Show them your
skills as a volunteer.
offee Shop Job Searching — Set up your office there, schedule appointments,
and meet others.
e a Voracious Reader — Through local/industry publications you can be
educated on current trends.
vernight FedEx — Anyone can apply online. People open these immediately
and must sign for it.
3 rite Your Own Job Description — If the job is not advertised, then tell them
what you can do for them.
ffer to Work Part-Time, Short-Term — Solution to company budget
constraints and it’s a differentiator.
top and Drop — Drop your application in person, and perhaps you meet the
3 uction You — Design a public relations stunt with a local media outlet to
benefit a charity.
Social media basics
log About an Expertise You Have — Show your skills and talents about a topic
online for others to view.
ocial Media Bounty Fee — Motivate your social media friends with a cash
bounty for help in landing a job.
Monitor Mentions on Twitter — Use Hoot Suite to connect with and follow recruiters.
oogle Job Experiment — Watch this at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FR
Not all of these tactics will result in an immediate response. You must follow up, again
Step 10: Following up
You have just created the most unique initial interaction with a company recruiter ever.
You are feeling pretty confident. Time passes and you have not received an immediate
response. Do not be discouraged, this is normal.
Recruiters are not online every minute of the day like you are. Recruiters are in meetings,
interviews, handling employee complaints, on the phone, traveling, dealing with personal
business, on vacation, and are hiring for more positions than the one you are applying for.
Bottom line: they are busy and interact with many people on a daily basis. It is easy for
a recruiter not to follow up in a timely, personal fashion. It’s okay, it does not mean they
have rejected you. Sometimes it takes persistence on your part.
My unique application for the UNC basketball job never received a response, but I realized that I never followed up. I thought the idea was good enough to get a call back, but it
did not. Therefore, what should I have done?
Ideally, you want to give enough time for a person to respond, and without knowing their
schedule, a week to 10 days would be ideal. When you do follow up, make certain that
you use a different communication vehicle than the one used initially. So, if you wrote
a letter, then you may want to call this time. If you did a stop and drop, then maybe an
email will suffice.
What if I do not receive a response after the follow-up?
You must decide how badly you want the position you have applied for. This is where
determination and persistence can differentiate you from everyone else. If you really
want the position, then wait another seven to 10 days and respond differently. If not, let
it go and move on to the next opportunity. You cannot fixate on one job. You must have
multiple options available at all times (See Extra Credit — Your Job Search Drive Chart).
Do not stop prospecting. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket.
Tip to get a response or to schedule a meeting
Earlier you were given a step-by-step process of conducting an information interview.
Step five of that process is “Say when you will follow up and do it.” This step is where
you can almost guarantee a follow-up from the receiver. When you write your information interview handwritten note, cover letter, email, phone call, and so on, state that “if
I do not hear from you by ‘x’ date (i.e., January 3), then I will call you on ‘y’ date (i.e.,
January 5 at 11 a.m. EST).” If they respond before January 3, then it is a moot point. If
they do not respond by January 3, then perhaps they may be testing you to see whether
you will call. Maybe they have put the “meeting” on their calendar and are expecting
you to call them. When you do call asking for the person, reference the letter. If they
are not prepared or their assistant did not put the “meeting” on their calendar, then they
will feel like they made a mistake and more than likely will want to try to make up for
the mistake by taking your call. It works. Try it and find out.
Ultimately, you are trying to get a response. You want that response to be positive based
on your follow-up techniques. You are hoping that a positive impression of your style
and technique has been formed by the recruiter and it will be just enough for them to
ask you for a formal interview.
Step 11: Interviewing
After successfully contacting and following up with companies to secure an interview,
you must repeat Step 8 by researching the company before your interview. During your
research, list some questions you may have about the position, the company, and its
culture — anything showing that you are prepared to seriously consider this firm as your
Interview Stream is a wonderful interactive tool to help you prepare for your interview in
front of your own computer.
Also, watch this video to see a sample interview (http://www.blueridgepbs.org/videos
/localproductions/jobquest/jobquest-video-archives/223-job-interview-pointers). You may
even get a friend to ask these or other questions in preparation for the real thing.
Dress in professional attire or one level above what you would wear every day to work. If
you do not know the dress culture of the company, then play it safe and wear a business suit.
Arrive early for the interview. If you are able and willing, go to the site before the interview to know exactly where you need to be.
If possible, ask before arriving what your itinerary will be on the day of the interview.
This information will show whether you will have a one-to-one individual and/or a group/
If names of the interviewers are listed, then Google your interviewers. Try and find a nugget of information that you can casually bring up and that will build instant rapport with
You will more than likely receive some questions that start out “tell me about a time
when . . .” These are behavioral interview questions. Recruiters know that past performance is the best indicator of future behavior. That is why these questions are asked. If
you respond to one of these questions with a story exposing a weakness, then be certain
to share what you learned from the experience and, if possible, tell a short second story
about how you applied the lesson learned in a similar situation.
Further, answering behavioral interview questions can be done prior to the interview
by having a repertoire of life stories ready to share. These stories can answer multiple
questions. For instance, let’s say you have a story of working with a classmate in a group
project and that classmate did not carry his or her weight on the project. This story could
be used to answer any of the following questions: “tell me about a time when someone
disappointed you . . . .” “tell me about a time when you had to confront a person who
was acting inappropriately . . . ,” “tell me about a time when you overcame an obstacle to
achieve a goal....” All of these questions could be answered with your sample story. Of
course, in the interview, you are not going to use the same story to answer multiple questions; therefore you need multiple stories ready to share.
If you are asked a question you do not have an answer for, use one of the following three
3 sk them to repeat the question — perhaps you now better understand it.
3 rink some water — it will give you a couple extra seconds to think of a response.
Ask them if they want a personal, academic, or work example — this is risky, but
can give you some more time and it shows them that you have many experiences
and you can think on your feet.
Never bring up compensation until the company mentions it first.
Ask for the job. If at the end of the interview you know that you really want the job, then
ask for it.
At the end of the interview, be certain to send handwritten thank-you notes or emails to
those who interviewed you. This simple follow-up technique is done by fewer than 10
percent of job seekers. After your interview, your patience will be tested. So be prepared.
Step 12: Accepting, Rejecting, and Negotiating
Your point of contact with the company you interviewed with may not be the final decision maker. Typically, it is the hiring manager. Uncontrollable market circumstances can
derail hiring plans in an instant. There is nothing you can do about it. Things change
within the economic market of your potential future employer. So you must be patient.
Realize that you are not the only one being interviewed for the position. It takes a lot
of time and coordination to get calendars, travel plans, and changing schedules to come
together perfectly. Most recruiters are not working on filling only one role but many roles
simultaneously, so the process can be very tedious. Again, hiring managers and recruiters have many different tasks that may be more important than filling an open position
or filling a newly created position. Using the techniques in Step 10 on following up is
essential. There will most likely be unexpected and awkward twists and turns from this
point forward. Just know that this is part of the process. Not every recruiting department
is as organized as you may think. So you must be patient.
If you are contacted and the mes age conveyed is that you did not get the job, then
politely ask why and gather that feedback for future interviews. Additionally, a classy
move would be to send another thank-you note to the company recruiter showing your
appreciation in making it that far through the process. Also, three to six months from the
time of the rejection, follow up with that same contact and ask them how the new person
is doing. You may be surprised that their first choice was a mistake and by simply following up you may get another chance at the position. So you must be patient.
You get the call or email, and there is the formal offer. Do not accept the position on the
spot. The offer is usually valid for about a week. Use this time wisely by carefully reading the employment contract (perhaps seek a legal review), consult with your personal
Board of Directors (see Step 7), and use the offer as leverage with other com-panies that
have interviewed you but who have not extended an offer (tell them you have
an offer with another company that ends by “x” date). You must be patient.
Typically, the first financial offer extended to you is their base, low amount. They probably have a high amount and another amount in between. Most people take the first offer
and do not ask for more by building a logical case. During the week provided to you for
considering your offer, it would be very wise to construct data for why you should receive
more money, vacation, or other benefit. Cost of living websites, your network of
contacts, and existing employees can provide bits of data to provide a range of pay for
your services. It would be wise for you to create similar low, high, and in-between
amounts. Some larger organizations who hire many, many college graduates will not
budge. It is what it is. You do not want to push them too much or they will push you
away. This tactic works better with smaller firms, so you must be patient.
Once you accept the offer, the proper ethical job search etiquette is to cease all other
interviewing by notifying any other companies you are actively pursuing. Those students
not compliant with this etiquette damage their own reputation, their school’s reputation,
and can adversely affect future students’ chances of working for that company.
Step 13: Gain Experience through Internships,
Externships and Volunteering
What is the next step? If you are currently in the job market, it is time for you to act! Put
this information into action. If you are a college student, read this final step. The methods
and techniques to get full-time jobs are the same for internships. Experience is the number one factor employers look for when seeking out college students — not just GPA.
Paid internships are the desired outcomes, but only 50 percent of all internships are paid.
You must ask yourself, what skills can I possess that a company can make money off of
me by paying me an hourly rate. This is why only one in two internships is paid.
Therefore, volunteering or unpaid internships will be done by the other half. It is important to have some experience
on your resume before your senior year in college. If possible, try and get academic
credit, but do not pay summer tuition for it. Academic departments may have an internship program during the semester to help with credit and obtaining an unpaid internship.
If volunteering is the only way, then do it. No one is asking or expecting you to work
full-time for free during the summer.
As a result, I often recommend hybrid internships. These are work situations where you
volunteer half-time for the company in your field of study and the other time you are
making money working in retail, food services, or on the golf course. A future employer
will not care if that summer experience is 20 or 40 hours a week. The main goal is that
you had that experience.
An emerging trend for underclassmen, especially for accounting majors who want to
work for the Big 4, are externships. These are one-day to one-week sessions with employers for you to learn about their profession and company and for them to learn more about
you. It is a great resume builder.
Cooperatives are internships that last for a summer and a fall or spring semester. They are
almost always paid, but it does usually delay your graduation date. Schedule wisely.
One of the biggest deciding factors in determining your summer internship plans revolves
around housing for the summer. Typically, a student will want to work at home where
they can live with parents or in their college town where they have a lease. Those students
who are willing to go elsewhere during the summer, and are willing to secure their own
short-term housing, may have more opportunities and also differentiate themselves from
other students. Some companies also provide housing assistance and it would be appropriate to ask that question to an employer.
At the end of the internship, a company may ask your plans for next summer or postgraduation. If the firm is interested in you, then they will extend a full-time offer after the
internship. Upwards of 50 percent of interns will receive such an offer. Many students
accept full-time jobs with companies before they start their senior year.
Finally, remember that there is no such thing as a bad internship. Each experience is
short-term and helps you determine a career path you do not want or validate a desire that
you do have. Again, the main goal is getting experience in preparation for graduation and
the full-time job search process.
In closing, “act according to whatever they teach you, do not turn aside from that they tell
you.” It’s time for you to act!
Which step of the Perfect Job Seeker is the most challenging? How are you going to
overcome this challenge? Do you believe this step is preventing you from obtaining
2. hich step of the Perfect Job Seeker is the most critical to master? Why?
3. s Location, Industry, or the Company most important in setting your mission? Why
or why not?
4. o you want to work to for someone else or for yourself? Why?
5. ho do you know in your network of contacts that could help you achieve your job
mission by presenting your 30-second commercial?
6. How are you going to invest in lifelong learning in the short-term and the long-term?
7. What is your first action step to becoming a Perfect Job Seeker?
Extra Credit — The Unserviced Workforce
“There just aren’t any jobs. Where are
the jobs? We need to create jobs. Jobs,
jobs, jobs. This is all we hear today in
mainstream media — the lack of jobs.
Let’s dispel this myth now. There are
jobs and plenty of them. What we must
be asking job seekers are: What are
you doing to acquire skills that are in
demand by employers? Are you willing to humble yourself to take jobs
that are “beneath” you?
There are three distinct job seekers in
today’s labor market — white collar
professional workers, blue collar
skilled workers, and the Unserviced
White collar professional workers are being serviced by private third-party groups
(headhunters). Typically their skill sets are in high demand and companies are paying
a premium for their services. Professions such as health care, engineering, information
technology, and accounting are all in high demand regardless of region. These workers
are coveted because they will most likely drive the regional economy forward.
The blue collar skilled workers are being serviced by public third-party agencies
(community colleges, workforce investment boards, employment commissions, staffing
agencies, etc.). Typically their skill sets are in high demand and companies try to
create a pool of candidates to become trained to perform these jobs. Professions such
as manufacturing, trades, and technicians are all in high demand. These workers are
coveted because they can stall the regional economy from moving forward.
The Unserviced Workforce is caught in the middle. Neither the public nor private sector
is serving this group. This segment of the workforce can be characterized as: younger
with potential or upside; has some form of higher education; has good skill sets, but
not billable skill sets, which are in demand; and are looking for a “professional” job
paying a salary between $25-$50k depending on the region. This is the critical mass of
knowledge workers who are underemployed, overeducated, or who are leaving smaller
regions for larger metropolitan areas for better employment opportunities.
Here are seven probable outcomes of these job seekers in the Unserviced Workforce.
Outcome #1: Acquire new skills to move up
This will require continuing education and a commitment to the acquisition of these
Outcome #2: Humble oneself and move down
This will require performing multiple jobs moving forward, accepting a lower standard of
living, and realizing there is a surplus of people with my same skills sets in the market.
Outcome #3: Start a business
This will require taking more risk by starting small while still looking for a job, going
to school, or working a platform job, and identifying many government programs to
Outcome #4: Move laterally
between jobs in the unserviced workforce
These people will most likely not make an investment in continuing education or start a
business. They may think they are better than blue collar jobs. Typically younger, these
workers will bounce from job to job and not “get ahead.”
Outcome #5: Remain unemployed
These people are still not humbled or motivated to get out of the unserviced workforce
because they are waiting for the economy to turn around and/or are family/spouse supported.
Outcome #6: Move or leave the region
These people believe “it’s not me” but the place I live that’s the problem. They are typically unattached or younger and are more capable of leaving or are forced to leave due to
the severity of the regional economy.
Outcome #7: Retire early, if able
These people are focused on years of work experience rather than result-based metrics.
They are frustrated by perceived age discrimination in the recruiting process. They will
re-enter the workforce at a later time, perhaps working only part-time. Their decision
depends on their nest egg and lifestyle.
I challenge you to get out of the Unserviced Workforce by seeking Outcomes #1, #2 or
#3. Inaction will leave you in Outcomes #4 and #5, and poor attitude results in Outcomes
#6 and #7.
There are jobs available and plenty of them. No public or private-sector program is going
to create a job market equilibrium. It’s solely up to the job seeker to stay out of the Unserviced Workforce.
Extra Credit — Three Types of Jobs
Much attention has been placed on the job outlook for recent college graduates by media
outlets. Most reports paint a bleak future. However for college students, there are plenty
of jobs available, if students are willing to acquire the skill sets in demand or are willing
to take a position that is perceived to be “beneath” them. If they are not willing to do
those two things, then, yes, they may struggle. Here are the three types of jobs facing current college students.
Jobs with billable skills
Job seekers and students forget that the primary reason someone hires them is to make
money off their time and talents. Employers are looking for a return on investment in paying a recent graduate a salary. So, how does the student provide a good ROI? Accounting, Business Information Technology, and some Finance students are in high demand
because their billable skills are demanded by companies and consulting firms, not only
for themselves, but also for their clients. Firms can “acquire” recent college talent for
$60,000 a year and bill out their time for several times greater than that to their clients.
This current war for this talent is only intensifying around certain skill sets.
Jobs in sales and business development
If a student does not have a billable skill in demand, then the next alternative is generating revenues for a company through selling. Companies will pay a base sales salary of
$40,000 a year and offer commission at 5% of sales. Therefore, if a recent graduate sells
$200,000 of products, then the student will earn $50,000 for the year, but the company
will make $150,000. That’s a nice ROI for the company and therefore the student is in
demand because of sales performance.
Jobs with everything else
Sure there is some supply, but the demand has fallen off since the recession. There is a
surplus of students entering the workforce without billable skills and do not want to be in
sales; therefore, these students are commodities and may not have an easily recognizable
differentiating quality. As a result, students must be highly skilled in the nuances of the
job search process (and be a Perfect Job Seeker) in order to distinguish themselves from
College students recognizing and understanding the larger labor market and the supply
and demand that exists can take advantage of this knowledge and incorporate it into their
job search strategy and techniques. The sooner this reality is learned, the quicker job offers will be received.
Extra Credit — Being Successful at a Job Fair
The job fair is your single best job search activity. Companies spend money and send
multiple people to stand at a booth to talk to you all day. It would take them months
to re-create the face-to-face interactions with all attendees. Therefore, your job search
success is directly related to your success at a job fair. Being successful at a job fair is
less dependent on your performance the day of the fair. It’s more important how you
prepare prior to the fair and how you follow up after the fair. Follow these 10 steps to
nail a job fair.
Before the job fair . . .
Step #1: Identify and Research Companies Attending
Find the attendee list and see what firms are coming. Research each firm to determine if
you want to work for them or if they would be interested in your skill sets.
Step #2: Prioritize Companies: ABC Method
Usually, you will not have enough time to visit every company at the fair. Therefore, you
must prioritze. In Step #1 you will know which companies to visit. Rank those companies. A firms are ones that are at the top of your list. B firms are ones you can see yourself
working at, but you just do not have the same level of passion as the A firms. C firms may
be ones who want your expertise, but you are really indifferent. You should have fewer A
firms than B firms, and fewer B firms than C firms.
Step #3: Update and Personalize your Resume
Make sure it is updated, crisp, and clear. Bring ample copies with you. If you decide to
personalize your resume to a specific company or create different versions based on different experiences, then please make certain you are organized and do not give a recruiter
the wrong copy of your resume. Review Step 2 of the Perfect Job Seeker.
Step #4: Create a Unique 30-Second Pitch
Get to the point. Tell them exactly who you are and what you desire. Refer back to Step 2
of the Perfect Job Seeker.
Step #5: Dress Professionally
Now is not the time to show off your stylish fashion sense. Be conservative and wear
business attire. Make certain shoes are polished and tags on new clothing are removed.
Do not wear any revealing clothing.
At the job fair . . .
Step #6: Get a map and walk the room
If you are nervous, this will help you settle down. Just walk the room and aisles up
and down, making eye contact, smiling, and taking mental notes on who is at each
table and where they are located. A basketball player does not come out of the locker
room at tipoff; instead they warm up before the game stretching and shooting baskets.
Neither should you walk into the facility and go directly to an employer and make your
Step #7: Try your 30-second pitch on a C firm first
If you are nervous and need to practice your pitch, go to a C firm to deliver it first. If it
does not go well, then at least you practiced on a C company.
Step #8: Deliver your 30-second pitch to A, then B firms
Once you are comfortable with your pitch, go to A firms first and then B firms. You
want to make certain you have enough time to visit with the A firms before moving to
B firms. Your options could be limited based on a series of factors such as, your time,
number of job seekers attending the fair, the duration of the fair, and the number of
firms on your list. Make wise use of your time at the fair. Do not waste it talking to
friends and colleagues. You can visit with them any time.
Step #9: Ask specific questions about the firm/job
From Step #1 there will be some nugget of information during the research phase you
may interject showing firms you did your homework and are really interested in their
company. It does not have to be in-depth analysis of the firm, just a tidbit showing the
recruiter you are legitimate.
After the job fair . . .
Step #10: Follow Up
During your interaction with employers at the fair, it’s wise to obtain their names and
contact information to follow up after the fair. A phone number, email, or mailing address is all the information needed. It would be appropriate to ask for a business card,
and in exchange, give them your business card too (Review Step 2 of the Perfect Job
Seeker).Also, re-read Step 10 of the Perfect Job Seeker.
Following these steps before, during, and after the job fair will give you confidence to
succeed at the most important job activity in your search process.
Extra Credit — Your Job Search Drive Chart
Always prospect. Continuously identify firms. Failure to persist in researching firms
results in a prolonged job search process. Many job seekers will start strong. They will
apply to a lot of companies hoping for a response. Both positive and negative responses
come over time. However, what happens if your future employer is not in the initial
batch of companies? It results in a prolonged job search. Time is money. For instance,
let’s say the average starting salary is $60,000 annually. For every month a job seeker
takes to secure the job, $5,000 in revenue is lost. Always prospect because the future
employer may not be in that initial batch of employers. Continuously identify firms
daily and have a pipeline of possibilities. Failure to do so will result in a lengthy job
search costing future income.
There are roughly 10 steps to accepting a job offer. Using a football analogy, making
first downs keeps the drive going. The object is to “move the chains.” The more drives
or possessions in a football game, the more opportunities to score, or in this case score
a job offer. Some drives end prematurely due to unexpected events or “turnovers.” Others never materialize due to poor execution. The chart below is a scorecard of how the
job seeker is performing by firm.
The important takeaway is to continuously prospect new companies until an offer is
accepted by the job seeker. Once a verbal or written offer is accepted all other recruiting
activities must cease.
Jibber Jobber Manages Your Job Search Process
Another Web-based service to help you manage your job search is Jibber Jobber. It
is a job search organizer and relationship manager. It’s designed to help job seekers
manage the complexities of tracking how they are networkiing into target companies,
all the networking they are doing, where they were at each job they applied to or were
interested in, and ensuring they follow up their contacts. It’s an automated system
reminding you of what to do next.
About Stuart Mease
Stuart Mease’s primary focus is “connecting people” to create mutually beneficial relationships. This mission is currently being filled as the Director of Undergraduate Career
Services in the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech. Prior to his current role,
Mease served as the Recruiting Leader for the publicly traded Blacksburg division of
Rackspace Email and Apps.
Mease previously worked for the City of Roanoke, Virginia, to create programs and
events aimed at attracting and retaining the creative class workforce for the RNR (Roanoke and New River Valleys) region. These activities and programs have been uniquely
recognized by many local, state and national media outlets and organizational groups, including the International Economic Development Council annual conference in 2008. His
strategy was to implement new Web technologies in the traditional industry of economic
development to highlight people and place generating thousands of contacts, friends,
connections, followers, and subscribers. This style and strategy was recognized by the
Creative Class Group as it selected Roanoke as one of only three cities globally to partner
in their Creative Community Leadership Project in 2008.
Mease’s work in “connecting people” has been recognized over 100 times in various
news outlets. Nationally, he has appeared in Tech Crunch, Staffing Management Maga
zine, Florida Times Union, Providence Journal, St. Petersburg Times, Strengthening
Brand America, Innovators Traction, and www.CreativeClass.org. Blue Ridge PBS also
recognized Mease’s work and invited him to be a content contributor to the Emmy Awardwinning “JobQuest,” a live monthly television show assisting job seekers in the RNR.
Mease is married, has two children and enjoys spending time with his family, studying Christianity, playing golf, watch ng sports, following politics, and engaging in the
Speaking and consulting
Stuart Mease’s expertise with connecting people is evidenced by the number of organizations that have asked him to serve as a speaker. He has presented keynote speeches
on areas related to his core expertise (e.g., career development, personal networking,
generational differences, and workforce development) to over 150 diverse audiences in
the private, educational, and government sectors. To request Stuart Mease to be a guest
speaker for your organization, email email@example.com.
Praise for the Perfect Job Seeker
My youngest son followed the suggestions of “The Perfect Job Seeker” and not only
did it help him develop a plan for his job search, he was also able to get numerous interviews, landed multiple job offers, and is starting his career with a highly sought after
company. This is a must read not only for students, but also for parents hoping to give
their children the best tools to succeed in their search for a good job in this competitive
— Bruce Knight, Parent
“The Perfect Job Seeker” is exactly what I and many other parents have been trying to tell
their collegeaged children about the job search process. Except, my son listened to Stuart
and got a great job after graduation — your kid can too!
— Steve Raikin, Parent
Being a successful job seeker is like playing sports: you need a great offense! The plays
called in this book will prepare you to win the job search game for life.
— Autumn Drane, National University Relations, TEK Systems
“The Perfect Job Seeker” is the perfect, succinct guide for any young professional
embarking on their job search. It’s like the reader’s digest for job seekers—compact,
insightful, and easy to reference. I wish something like this had existed when I was a
student. I will surely recommend it to the many college students I counsel on the job
— Yolanda Owens, Lead College Recruiter, AOL, and author of
“How to Score a Date with Your Potential Employer”
“The Perfect Job Seeker” gives readers a useful road map in order to successfully navigate the job search. This book not only delineates practical benchmarks of when to get
things done, but it also provided me the how-to insights in order to obtain my dream job.
— Kristina Westernik, Student
I did not really know how to look for a job while in college, but as I read “The Perfect Job
Seeker” I found it prepared me for every step of the process. I became a believer in this
model and plan to use it in every job transition.
— Zack Helmintoller, Student