Job Search Stumbling Blocks

Looking for work can often be a frustrating and frightening experience. It makes it even worse if you have a few stumbling blocks along the way. Here are some suggestions on how to approach and hopefully conquer those pesky problems.

Criminal Record?

Most employment applications require people to disclose any criminal convictions that they have had in the recent past. If you have been arrested, but not convicted, you may not have to disclose the information.

It is important to read the application carefully and honestly disclose the information that they require. You could also write that you are willing to discuss it at the interview. Some employers are willing to give ex-offenders a chance, especially if the conviction will not affect employment.

When answering the criminal conviction questions, it is important to be honest about your record. Give a brief description about the charges.

It is also good to state what you have learned and how you have changed since the conviction rather than trying to justify your actions.

Education?

There seems to be a real trend these days where people are exaggerating about their educational accomplishments. People who take one or two courses are claiming to have college degrees or technical certificates that they have not completed. Employers are onto this and they’re checking educational claims. Don’t exaggerate.

Employment Gaps?

If you have gaps of unemployment between jobs, you should offer some explanation. Since it may take some laid-off people nearly a year to find a new job, "job hunting" is a legitimate reason, as are retraining, continuing education, starting a small business, and even travel.

Briefly explain in a positive way in your cover letter any major gaps in employment. It is always best to address it rather than letting the employer guess.

Fired?

If you were fired from your last job, don't despair. Many people get fired at least once in a lifetime.

Don't be too hasty though in omitting that job from your application. Leaving jobs off the application (even short term jobs) when specifically asked to list every job could be seen as deceitful and grounds for dismissal if found out later.

In the space where it asks why you left the job you were fired from you could write, "Job ended." During the interview, you can explain the reason for your dismissal in a positive manner.

Friends and Relatives?

Some employers will ask on the application if you have any friends or relatives who work for the company.

Be cautious about who you write down. If your friend is a hard worker, mention his or her name. The manager will assume that, like your friend, you are a hard worker. But, if your friend is a lazy worker, don’t mention his or her name. The manager will assume that, like your friend, you’re lazy and a future problem.

Job Hopping?

Job-hopping is when you switch jobs too often.

If you are a student or recent graduate don’t worry. Employers expect you to have had several part-time and summer jobs.

However, employers are not fond of adult job hoppers. If you had more than three jobs during the past five years, you need to have a good excuse for leaving each job. This should be addressed in the cover letter.

Laid-off?

If you were laid-off due to a plant closing, downsizing, merger or any other reason beyond your control, don’t be embarrassed. There are tens of thousands of people in your shoes.

Fill in the information requested and give the reason for the company’s downsizing.

Money?

When an employer asks on the application what wage or salary you expect, write "negotiable."

If you specify a dollar amount, you may price yourself out of the job if it's too high or too low. It may give them the impression that you are overqualified or under qualified.

If asked to supply wage information from your previous jobs, do so honestly. Don't leave it blank or you may never make it to the interview.

Negotiate the new wage after they know that they want to hire you. If the subject of money comes up early in the interview, you should politely suggest you wait to discuss salary until the end of the interview. You want to use the interview to show why you deserve he salary you negotiate, especially if you have currently updated skills. If that doesn't work, put it back on the interviewer and say, "You probably have a salary range in mind for the position, could you give me an idea of what that range might be?"

No Work History?

If you have no formal work history, don’t panic. There are over a million people looking for their very first job too.

In the Work History section of the application, list any volunteer, charitable, casual labor or self-employment jobs you might have had - anything to show that you know what's expected in a work place.

References?

Employers will usually contact your references after the interview.

Don't let the employer catch your reference off guard because they are not prepared. You may end up getting only a mediocre recommendation because your reference had to stop and try to remember who you were and what you did.

No matter whom you use for reference, ask, for permission to list them as a reference. It is best if you give your references a copy of the job announcement.

If you know for certain that your current supervisor, or past supervisor, won't give you a good recommendation, what should you do? On the job application or resume reference page, don't give the supervisor's name. Instead, give the name of someone else in the chain-of-command who would give you an impartial recommendation. This might be your supervisor's boss, another manager, or a supervisor who's familiar with your work.

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