Advice for job seekers

Joe Nathan

Contributing Writer

How should youngsters in Braham, Cambridge or Isanti go about finding a job? After reviewing more than 110 job applications, interviewing 10 and hiring two folks in the last 30 days, I learned a few things. Here are five suggestions.

1. Start with what the person or organization doing the hiring is looking for. I was amazed by the number of applicants who seemed to ignore the skills, knowledge and experience that our job postings listed. For example, we made it clear  in one of the jobs that we were seeking a person who had experience with some form of Dual Enrollment – Advanced Placement, College in the Schools, International Baccalaureate or Post Secondary Enrollment Options.  Most of the 70+ people submitting applications for ignored this.

2. Don’t begin by telling a prospector the kind of job you are seeking. Far better to start off quoting the job posting and say:  “Here are the things you are looking for. Here’s why I am qualified to do what you want an employee to do.” Some articles and books I’ve read suggest that an applicant start off describing the kind of position you are seeking. I disagree.

Most employers are concerned first with what they need in a new employee. Employers want employees to be happy. But people are hired to do a particular job. If you can show that you are well qualified for that job, you are more likely to be considered.

3. Don’t rely on computer programs to make sure your application reflects well on you. “Spell check” is nice. But many applications left out words, used the wrong word, featured bad grammar, or had some other mistake that “Spell check,” for example, won’t catch. Have a friend who writes well check what you plan to send in.

4. If you apply, employers assume that you want the job.  One person applied but did not respond to either a phone call or email asking for additional information. Her name was on the answering machine and we used her email. But she never responded. Another person who we were very interested in said she could not start until late June. (It’s mid March now, so that’s three months.) For many jobs, including those we were hiring for, the expectation is that a person would “give notice” and be able to start in 2-3 weeks. There are some jobs when waiting three months is acceptable, like offering a person a teaching job that starts in the fall. Check on when the employer wants you to start.  If you can’t do something close to that, it probably is not a good idea to apply.

5. Ask references if you can give their cell phone to the prospective employer. One finalist did this. It helped. Another applicant gave us phone numbers of people who it took several days and numerous calls to reach. This was not the only factor, but being able to reach references helped. Most employers assume references will say good things about you. But if the references are not available, they don’t help you.

The two winning applicants in our office followed these rules. I hope they can help you.

Joe Nathan, a former public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College.  He welcomes reactions, [email protected]