PITFALLS TO BE AVOIDED BY EXPERIENCED JOB SEEKERS

By James E. Challenger, President, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Modified: May 4, 2011 at 11:37 am •  Published: May 4, 2011
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One might conclude that experienced people seeking employment are not likely to make mistakes in the job interview because they have been there before.

Unfortunately, it is not true. Experienced people can be just as prone to mistakes as their younger counterparts. Whatever lessons the individual may have learned in previous job hunts may be overlooked in the latest quest for employment. In some cases, experience may even pose a roadblock to new employment, if the job seeker does not present his or her credentials in the right way to a prospective employer. The right way is to focus on the needs of the employer, not the needs of the job seeker.

Following are situations that contain errors in conducting a successful job search:

The Expert With Years Of Experience. This individual may have a lot of ability but may have an ego to match. It may be so big that he or she feels compelled to tell the potential employer how to run his or her business, or at least one specific area of the business. It is probably the single worst mistake that any job seeker can make, one which instantly takes the individual out of the running. The employer knows what he or she needs and wants for the company, and does not want to be told to have something else by someone walking in the door the first time.

Ego aside, in telling the employer how to run or change a business, the expert may not realize how the comments are being received. It may seem like the natural thing to comment on the basis of the considerable experience the person has and try to apply it to the employer's firm. It may even be, or probably is, correct. Unfortunately, it also eliminates one from consideration.

The experienced manager is likely to know something about the company -- it may be a present or former competitor -- so that he or she feels no hesitancy about discussing ways of doing things. The approach may be, "When I was with X, here is the way we handled that situation and it is a good way to do it," or "I think you ought to consider the X approach - it will really produce positive results for you," or "I have had a lot of experience in that area and this is the way I would handle it."

In presenting opinions in this manner, the experienced manager may feel he or she is making an excellent impression on the employer by the demonstration of knowledge and familiarity with the business. After all, what the job seeker has most to sell is experience, and is not this the best way to demonstrate that experience?

The answer is no, it is probably the worst way because the individual is putting himself or herself in the position of claiming to know more about the business than the prospective employer, or at least knowing better ways to conduct the business.

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