Book Review: Job Search Bloopers
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books and other resources from publishers, the staff of Quintessential Careers will review them to help you make better decisions about the best books to use in your career and job search.
Job Search Bloopers: Every Mistake You Can Make on the Road to Career Suicide… and How to Avoid Them, by Laura DeCarlo and Susan Guarneri, $15.99. Paperback. 256 pages, 2008, Career Press; ISBN: 1601630166
Reviewed by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
With Job Search Bloopers, Susan Guarneri and Laura DeCarlo have created the perfect resource for the frustrated job-seeker who wonders “Why can’t I get a job?”, “What am I doing wrong?”, or “Why am I so miserable in my career?” The book’s structure, which offers job-seeker stories, pinpoints exactly how the job-seeker has stumbled, and clearly outlines a better strategy, could not be more user-friendly. Guarneri and DeCarlo then motivate the reader by spelling out steps for a more effective job search.
Here are the top 10 things I learned from this book:
1. One of the top reasons middle managers and higher are excluded from consideration by employers is their assumption that a resume is sufficient, and they are not required to complete a job application. DeCarlo and Guarneri point out that an application gives the employer the legal ability to verify the information the job-seeker provides. Thus, many employers require them, and often ask candidates to complete them when they arrive for an interview.
2. Leaving problematic jobs off a resume has been a perfectly respectable strategy for some time, but in an age of increasing background checks and greater employer expectations that job-seekers account for their entire job histories, leaving jobs off a resume has become riskier. DeCarlo and Guarneri offer some new strategies for dealing with troublesome jobs, such as listing them in a bare-bones fashion so they attract less attention and encapsulating a group of older jobs.
3. Cover letters provide a great opportunity to substantiate accomplishments. Employers often suspect that resume claims are exaggerated, so, as DeCarlo and Guarneri point out, a cover letter provides the opportunity to describe “proof” that substantiates what’s on the resume.
4. A little creativity in following up after applying for a job can go a long way. For example, DeCarlo and Guarneri describe a Web designer who created a mock-up of the targeted employer’s new service Web page and included the URL for the site in his follow-up letter.
5. Job-search scams are lurking out there. The authors describe one such scam in which the job-seeker responded to an ad and was invited to travel to an interview but then was asked to wire-transfer $450 to the company — with the promise of quick reimbursement — to expedite the travel arrangements. When the job-seeker called to confirm the travel plans, she found the “employer’s” phone disconnected. I had not heard of such a scam. It bears repeating the authors’ warning never to comply with a so-called employer’s request to send money.
6. Respect people’s time when conducting informational interviews. DeCarlo and Guarneri tell the tale of a job-seeker who asked for 15 minutes of a contact’s time but stayed well past that time even when it was obvious his interviewee was very busy. When my students have done informational interviews, they are often invited to stay longer than the requested 20-30 minutes, but the lesson is that a job-seeker should never overstay at an informational interview without that invitation.
7. “Headers” and “Taglines” on a resume provide a good way for a job-seeker to stand out. Trends come and go in resume writing, and one trend that is currently way out of fashion is the objective statement. Instead, the “Header” and “tagline,” which I call the “Headline” and “Branding Statement,” is the currently popular technique for sharpening a resume’s focus and “branding” the candidate. You can see more about this technique and many samples here.
8. I could relate to this blooper because I used to be guilty of it myself: Failure to ask questions in an interview. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with questions, especially when the interviewer does more talking than listening and ends up answering all your questions before you get a chance to ask them. Sufficient research on the employer should help the candidate develop questions. And there are always old standbys, such as “What are the things that you enjoy about working here?” Asking questions is key because it shows your interest in the organization. (I was a tad disappointed that the section in the interviewing chapter entitled, “Don’t Ever Let Them See You Sweat” was not literally about sweating because I’ve never seen a good solution for interviewees who sweat profusely in interviews.)
9. I could also relate to the bloopers in the salary-negotiation chapter because I’ve never been good at playing that game. DeCarlo and Guarneri make a great point about considering all the compensation variables, such as overtime opportunities, the benefits package, and cost of living in a different geographic area. Research is key.
10. Choose references who really know your work. Citing a bloopering job-seeker who listed her minister, Realtor, and banker as references, DeCarlo and Guarneri offer a nice hierarchy of the kind of people that job-seekers should ask to serve as their references:
- Tier 1: People 1 or More Levels Above You (in a current or past job or volunteering experience).
- Tier 2: People at the Same Level As You.
- Tier 3: People 1 Level Below You.
It’s one thing to read the same old advice from career experts; it’s quite another to learn from the impact of this book’s 72 blooper stories.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.