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How to get a job in these tricky times

When someone asks me, what's the best way to get a job? I tell them, there is no best way. The best way is whatever got you the job.

In the current market, just sticking to the basics - a sharp resume, interviewing skills, good contacts and recruitment agencies - may not be enough to land you the job you want. You need something extra - something to give you an edge over the competition.


Start building your network of contacts before you need it - don't wait until you're out of a job. Your network of contacts includes your parents' co-workers ( at all levels), members of professional and civic associations, people who work with you on community projects... and everyone else you know.

To build strong connections:

Keep in touch. Send birthday and holiday cards. Clip articles of special interest to colleagues and send along with a short note.

Do favours. Be on the lookout for ways to help. Favours don't have to be extravagant to be appreciated.

Attend conferences/seminars. Even if you don't learn much from the speakers, you'll make new contacts and being in an environment where ideas are exchanged will spark new, valuable ideas of your own.


Have more than one resume. Each one should be factual, but emphasize a different part of your background and expertise. It's a little more expensive, but you'll be seen as a closer fit for the requirements of a particular job.

Even better: If you have a computer and good-quality printer, keep your resume on disk and tailor it to each position you apply for.

Appearance counts. Use good-quality paper stock. Stick to white or ivory - fancy colours may make you look frivolous. Send your resume unfolded, in a 9" x 12" envelope, if you're prepared to spend a few extra dollars.

Describe your achievements, not just your duties. Be specific: I designed a billing system that reduced late payments by half, saving the company $50,000 in the first year.

Resume attention-getter. If you know you're right for the job, send your resume by Federal Express or another air courier - even within the same city. I can't guarantee you'll get hired, but your resume will get read.


You see an ad in the classifieds for a job you're well qualified for. It's a "blind" ad - no company name, just a box number. Based on the description in the ad and your knowledge of the industry, you figure it was one of five companies.

Get out a directory and call to find out the name of the person at each of those five companies who would be the most likely supervisor of such a position. Send a cover letter and resume to each of them - without mentioning the ad. You'll bypass the first hurdle - personnel.

Helpful. Even if you guessed wrong and none of the companies placed the want-ad, you may spark the interest of someone in a position to hire you.

Caution. For employed persons never answer a blind ad that could possibly come from your own company. If your supervisors know you're looking, you may endanger the job you have.


Review your resume before the interview. The person interviewing you will do the same thing. Don't put yourself in the embarrassing position of stumbling over an answer that is right there in black and white.

Support your qualifications with anecdotes. Have stories in mind to illustrate your achievements. Example: We had a fire in the office. By working effectively with the phone company and our systems consultants, I was able to get the computer back up and running before nine a.m. the following day.

Keep a file folder at home labeled Achievements. Whenever you accomplish something, jot down the achievement and drop the note into the file. Use it to refresh your memory before interviews. Even if you're not job-hunting, your achievement file will help you bolster your case for a raise or promotion at review time.

Practise the answers at all questions you don't want to come up. Prepare a short reply that quickly shifts the discussion to something more positive.

Example: Why didn't you graduate from college? Answer: My father passed away, and I needed to work to help the family meet expenses. On the job, I studied everything I could about the industry,and as a result I know it inside out.

Bring up your strong points - even if the interviewer doesn't ask you about them. It's appropriate to say, Before we finish, I think it's important that you know...

Be enthusiastic. Who would you rather hire - someone who's excited about your industry, or someone who knows little about it and could care less?

Know enough about the company to say something specific, and sincerely complimentary, about its product or service.

Ask for the job. Most people overlook this seemingly obvious step. If you were choosing between two people, you would probably be more interested in hiring the person who wants the job enough to ask for it. That doesn't mean you should sound desperate. You don't say, Please give me this job! You can say, Ms Smith, I think this is a great company, I'd like very much to work for you, and if you choose to have me on board, I won't let you down.


If you're strongly in the running for a particular job, but it goes to someone else, don't give up. Call three weeks later and say, I hope things worked out with the person you hired, and I wonder if you could recommend me to one of your colleagues in another company.

It's possible the person who was hired didn't work out - and the boss was too embarrassed to call you. It's also possible that the firm may have another opening - or that you'll get a lead to another company.

Very few job seekers follow-up this way. It takes guts and it's a long shot, but if you play all the shots right - one will come in.

Robert Half
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