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Get Real: Four Realities of the Job Search

Robert Half International

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A strong hiring environment may cause you to think that your job search will be a piece of cake. But the truth is that finding the right job can be hit or miss. It’s important to have realistic expectations to keep your spirits high and limit frustration.

So that you enter the process with your eyes open, here are some job-search perceptions you may have and the reality behind them:

Expectation: My job search will take no time at all.
Reality: There’s no guarantee how long it will take to find a new position.

Finding the right opportunity is not always easy. The open positions you come across may not seem challenging enough, or certain details about a job, such as the salary or commute, may not be appealing. Along with searching classified ads and online job boards, you’ll increase your chances of finding a job quickly by tapping your network of friends, former co-workers and industry contacts for leads.

In addition, hiring managers may take several weeks to respond to your application. After all, they have full-time jobs with demands of their own, and hundreds, if not thousands, of résumés to review. That said, don’t be afraid to follow up with a prospective employer to help move the process along. Eighty-two percent of executives polled by Robert Half International said it’s a good idea to do so within two weeks of submitting a résumé.

Expectation: I need to send out only a few résumés.
Reality: Finding a job is a numbers game.

As mentioned above, a hiring manager may receive countless résumés for an open position. That’s why it pays to spread a wide net. And while you want to keep in mind your goals, it may be unwise to hold out for the “perfect” job, which you might not find — or which might not even exist.

Also keep in mind that some of the résumés you distribute may not reach their destinations. If you e-mail your résumé, it could end up in the hiring manager’s spam folder, depending on the words it contains. For instance, if you “won an award” for being a team player, your message could be seen by an e-mail filter as a sweepstakes or moneymaking promotion. “Received formal recognition” would work better.

Networking with members of your professional network is one way to save yourself some time and effort. Hiring managers give preference to personal recommendations and may move your résumé to the top of the pile if someone you know puts in a good word for you.

Expectation: My résumé and cover letter are terrific!
Reality: You could probably improve your application materials.

Take a close look at your résumé and cover letter. Do they sell your skills and qualifications? Make sure that, instead of simply listing your previous duties, you detail your accomplishments and contributions in previous roles. So rather than saying, “Wrote one high-tech column for company intranet each week,” try, “Wrote weekly high-tech column for company intranet that increased readership by more than 200 percent and helped employees better utilize company systems.” This will show a prospective employer exactly how your work improved the bottom line and why they should hire you.

Also make sure your materials are targeted. Research the company before responding to an ad to determine how your qualifications can meet their business needs. In addition, read through the job description and include specific terms from it in your résumé and cover letter. Doing so will demonstrate to a hiring manager that your skills are a good fit for the position as well as increase the likelihood that your documents will be flagged as promising by résumé-scanning software.

Expectation: My skills are top notch — any company would want to hire me.
Reality: You may not be as marketable as you think.


A common mistake job seekers make is overestimating their marketability. Although you may think your skill set is solid, take an honest look at your qualifications to determine how in demand you really are. Keep in mind that your marketability depends on many things, including factors that may be out of your hands. For instance, you may live in a part of the country where many other individuals with similar experience are also looking for employment.

Of course, there are some factors you can control. For example, many firms seek employees with well-developed soft skills, such as communication and leadership abilities. Enrolling in a class or seminar can help you build these competencies. Industry publications, members of your professional network and recruiters can help you determine your weaknesses and identify ways of strengthening those areas to improve your marketability.

Finding a new position is difficult, and it’s easy to fall prey to your frustrations. But by maintaining a realistic outlook, you’ll be better able to overcome any hurdles and land a job quickly.


Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.


Last Updated: 17/12/2007 - 5:10 PM


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