Monday, March 9, 2009

Tips and resources for job-hunting

Walker and other staffing and employment experts offer job-hunting tips to help you get back in the game or change your career path. We’ve also assembled a list of resources aimed to help.

Check in with your emotions, and your creditors

When some Tarrant County companies are about to lay off workers, Walker is one of the people they call. He arranges for outplacement counseling and other assistance for workers who are or will soon be displaced. His first piece of advice: "Be patient, and never give up."

Other tips:

Ask yourself how the layoff or job loss is affecting you. Be sure to deal with those emotions.

Notify financial institutions of your situation, and let them know if you may have to miss payments or work out a new payment schedule. "A lot of people fail to do this," Walker says. "But you want to notify them before they notify you."

Develop a plan for what you are going to do every day.

Sign on with staffing services or temp agencies.

Visit one of Tarrant County’s eight Workforce Centers. They offer free professional help and, in some cases, new training.


Don’t assume you already know everything about résumés. There’s a lot for job seekers to consider. "They have to put themselves in the shoes of a hiring manager," says Todd Kirkby, chief information officer for Odyssey, a Plano-based staffing company in the IT industry. "Hiring managers are going to get inundated with résumés right now." The bottom line: Make yourself stand out.

Tailor it. Don’t just send a boilerplate résumé. Each time you submit a résumé, you should tailor it to the job posting — within the bounds of your actual work history. (And of course, never lie on a résumé.)

"I think people have this vision that somebody’s sitting there and opening every résumé," says Bill Mueller, the Bedford-based president and CEO of and American Career Fairs. But in many cases, agencies and hiring managers are running résumés through computerized searches that look for certain key words and buzzwords. So even though a person may have the skills a company is looking for, they might not have tailored their résumé to flag certain buzzwords that sync with the job description, and their résumé won’t be pulled up.

Length. "Some people tell you to keep it short," Mueller says. "But if you can’t tell your story in one page, it’s better to go to two pages than leave something off."

Kirkby says it depends on the job. For technicians, a good target is three or four pages. Sometimes managers want to see, in detail, what you’ve done ("I created these programs in Java, using this methodology . . ."). It’s whatever emphasizes the point, Kirkby says.

Cover letter. Because so much has gone digital, the popularity of the cover letter has faded a bit, Kirkby says. "If a manager is super-duper busy, they may look at a cover letter, but they might not," he says. He suggests instead sending a summary of qualifications along with a résumé. The summary should be in bullet format and directly address what the company is looking for.

Stay positive. "It’s amazing to me what’s on some people’s résumés," Mueller says. "I’ve seen very negative things like 'I quit because I didn’t get along with my boss.’ People look at their résumé as a chronology, but they should look at it as a marketing piece. You need to keep the whole thing positive."

Make it achievement-oriented. If you were a manager at McDonald’s, don’t just list your duties, Mueller says. "What I want to know is, did you make the company money? Did you reduce the food cost?"

Proofread. "Résumés are horrible, and I see it all the time," Walker says. "Maybe a person hasn’t had the need to have a résumé if they’ve been working 10 to 15 years." So, whether it’s a friend with an eye for detail, a staffing company or a résumé expert at Workforce Solutions, have someone proofread your résumé, and make sure it’s formatted properly.

The interview and beyond

Practice the interview. "The interviewing process is where so many people get knocked off," Mueller says. "Practice off of your own résumé. Put the résumé in a friend’s hand, and ask them, 'OK, what would you question me on?’ "

Devil in the details. Before you start filling out a job application, read it all the way through. People want to know you’re paying attention to detail. "Sometimes," Walker says, "at the very bottom of a page, it might say 'blue or black ink only.’ Be very cautious of what you’re doing every step of the way."

Network. Often, people don’t reach out to friends, relatives, churches and other social networks. "Don’t try to do it alone," Walker says. "Don’t let pride be a factor and think, 'I can do it myself.’ You gotta get help. Let as many people know that you’re looking for a job." And don’t underestimate the power of social and professional networking groups such as LinkedIn (, Facebook and Twitter (

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