What Seems Obvious Is Often Forgotten

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, February 15, 2008 8:46 PM

Finding the right job is often a mind-numbing process. You might think you're doing all the right things, but you still aren't getting any results.

So what now? That's what this worker is trying to figure out:

I've always felt very comfortable during the actual interview and have been very good with following up with a thank-you note afterward. However, recently I seem to have trouble getting in the door. I've applied to jobs that I felt I was very qualified for but never heard back from them for an interview. I customize my resume and cover letter according to what the employer is looking for and my qualifications. Besides this, what else can I do to make my resume and application stand out?

Karen Usher, chairman of TPO Inc., a Tysons Corner human resources firm, says she thinks this worker is "doing 99 percent of the things right."

Nonetheless, Usher has a couple suggestions.

"It sometimes helps if you call and express your interest in the job," she says. "You can say, in a polite, non-pushy way, " 'I'm very interested in this job and I just wanted to make sure you received my application.' " It's a rarity, but applications do get lost. It's a way to guarantee your papers are there.

"That, of course, won't guarantee you'll get an interview," Usher says, "but I know that when I get such a call, out of curiosity I'd go and pull the resume and see what it looked like."

Aside from making the phone call, Usher says applicants should make a special effort to look at a company's Web site or other information about the firm or organization they are applying to and then tailor their applications accordingly.

That may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but resumes and cover letters are not one-size-fits-all and many applicants ignore that to their detriment.

"The more parallels you can make to a firm and a job, the better," she advises. "If you're a junior accountant at a non-profit applying to be a senior accountant at a non-profit, you can cite that connection" that you are ready for a greater challenge at a similar-type organization.

"See how your experience relates to that company," she says, and make that a relevant portion of a cover letter.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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