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Ask an HR expert: How to spot the job you really want

 

It’s your first day.

You go through orientation, sign all the papers and sit down to get working. One problem: after a few days you realize this isn’t the job you thought it was. Your title doesn’t fit what you’re actually doing, the commute is terrible, and you can’t even dress comfortably.

It’s a conundrum, but one that could have been avoided if you had the tools and expertise to investigate, ask the right questions, and figure out whether it was the right job in the first place.

Susan Rogers, President and Founder at thresholdHR, has seen the process from the hiring side more times than she cares to count, and lucky for us, she knows the questions to ask and things to look for when searching for the right fit.

It’s not just about finding the highest pay or the most vacation days. You’re going to be spending a large portion of your daily life doing this work. You want to ensure the energy and time you put into finding a new job pays off.

Here are some of the key ways Susan says you can find that perfect match:

Build and utilize your network

LinkedIn, job boards and social media are all new ways of posting and applying to jobs that didn’t exist even 10 years ago. But, Susan says, that hasn’t changed the core principles of finding the right job.

“What hasn’t changed is that the best way to find a new job is through networking,” she says. “A lot of jobs are never even posted.”

Especially when you’ve moved to a new town, don’t be afraid to seek out people in the industries and companies where you’d like to get a job. Don’t ask for an interview, just ask if they have a few minutes to talk about the industry or area. That takes off the pressure, Susan says, and people are much more likely to talk to you if they don’t feel like you’re asking for a job.

And don’t limit who you reach out to.

“I believe in talking to all kinds of people, because you never know who will have what information,” Rogers says. “People love to talk about what they do.”

At the end of the conversation, ask if there’s anyone else they’d recommend you talk to. If you do that with each conversation, it won’t be long before you’ve built up a great local network.

And if you’ve spotted a job that looks promising, use that network to vet it before applying.

“Using something like Glassdoor is fine, but generally only disgruntled people take the time to post reviews there, so you’re not getting an accurate picture of the company,” Susan explains.

“A better thing to do is go through your network. Find a friend who works there or see if there’s an extended connection you can talk to. You always want to go through the appropriate application process, but if you have a friend or connection in the company, they can put in a good word for you and get your resumé elevated.”

What to look for in the job description

Sometimes you’ll find a job posting that sounds perfect. The title seems right, and the company looks like a great fit. But, there are clues within the posting that will tell you whether it’s worth investing your time and energy in pursuing the role.

You want to be able to tell what the job really is by reading the posting,” Susan says.

If the description is vague or full of grammatical errors, those might be red flags. And, Susan says, the title in a job posting can often be misleading.

“Don’t worry so much about the title, look at what the actual duties and qualifications of the job are.”

You might find a title that has “director” in it, but when you read the qualifications they’re only looking for entry-level experience. The responsibilities of the role are also key, as that will tell you what you’ll actually be doing every day. The more specific the duties, responsibilities and qualifications are in the description, the better.

What to look for during the interview process

“The only point of submitting your resumé is to get an interview,” Susan says.

Once you’ve got that initial interview, don’t lean on your resumé. They’ve got it in front of them, so referencing it becomes redundant. This is your chance to sell yourself — take it.

“The first interview is all about weeding out.”

Susan says many jobs will receive hundreds of applications, and the first interview, normally over the phone, is about screening out the people that won’t be a good fit, for whatever reason. It might be that the culture’s not right or the experience isn’t the right match. But for that first call, it’s about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.

“You want to be all about the company. They have an opening because they have a need, and this is your chance to sell your skills and abilities.”

When they ask if you have any questions, save topics like pay rate, promotions, and other perks for when things are starting to get more serious with the company. Instead, focus on questions that will allow you to show off how you can help the company.

“Ask something like, ‘What’s the biggest challenge that your department faces this year?’ Then you can address specifically how you would help them address those challenges,” she recommends.

If you make it to an in-person interview, ensure you are treating everyone with respect and courtesy, but also take note of how they treat you.

“You will never be treated better than during the interview process,” Susan says. If your potential new boss is late or seems frazzled, that’s probably a good indication of what you can expect. This is the time to really get a feel for how the organization runs.

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want

You might realize during the interview process that it won’t be the right fit. That’s OK, Susan says.

“The more you interview the more you start to figure out what’s really important to you.”

And that’s a critical component when finding the perfect job. Until you figure out what you’re really looking for, you won’t be able to spot it. For better or worse, you might not figure that out until you’re deep in the interview process or have years of experience under your belt.

“Some people like a small environment, other people can’t function at all in that. Everyone has their own preferences. That’s what makes the world go round,” Susan says.

And it’s not just the duties or level that you need to be aware of. Think about things like commute, dress code and overall culture. Ask yourself where you can be flexible and what your deal breakers are. That will inform the entire process and make finding that dream job more tangible.

As Susan says, “Everyone has to find their happy place for themselves.”

Susan Rogers is President and Founder of thresholdHR.

 

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