Posted by: Sara S. | April 23, 2009

All the advice that’s fit to print

Today, friends, is my last day at Chicago Public Radio. I was recently offered, and accepted, a job at a literary agency in New York. That means I’ve reached the end of this blogging road.

As you read my posts about applying to jobs and getting jobs and enduring the grueling job-search process, perhaps you were thinking to yourself: This girl has a job, what does she know? Well, I had an internship but at the same time I was also sending out resumes, drafting cover letters, going to interviews. It was not fun. Still, it did teach me some things. Below I list what I learned about finding a job in the recession. Hope it helps and good luck!

1. Too clever by half

For a while–a while that lasted 3 applications–I was the poster child for what not to do in a cover letter. I told employers they had to hire me, they would be so lucky to have me. Did I get any responses? No. Don’t be a crazy cheerleader. Sound informed, passionate, knowledgeable; do not sound like you just chugged a liter of Coke and then sat down to write. The best advice I’ve ever heard is to open a letter with the biggest recent news about the company, or something that you recently read about them. That’s a good way to show you care without seeming desperate or sassy.

2. It’s true what they say about connections

Email every single solitary person you have ever met; include a resume. Do not send mass emails, mind you, but surely you can devise a general email that can be sent repeatedly. It was not until I made a list of every former employer and colleague I’d ever known, then proceeded to email them, that I finally got a job. If you have been a hard worker, solid performer, impressive employee–people remember that. Accordingly, there is no reason they would not reach out to you when they hear of openings. And don’t waste their time by emailing and asking if you can send them a resume–just send it. Also, I am going to give it to you straight here: I did not get one response from an HR rep at a company where I did not know someone. That’s the sad truth.

3. An interview is a test–so, study.

For a while, I thought I could root around on a company’s website for 30 minutes and go into an interview with a pretty smile and some cute ideas. WRONG. I spent several hours researching, taking notes, devising pitches for the last 2 interviews I had. It was well worth it. Not only was I less nervous because of my preparedness, but my interviewer was impressed by my ability to toss out bits of info on the company and be conversant about their products.

4. You have to do better than “I sent faxes”

You can bet that your interviewer is going to run down your resume while you sit there and answer questions about what you did. Make sure you have bullet points ready for each item on your CV. How did your former positions prepare you for this new opportunity? These answers should vary based on the job you’re applying for. Obviously we’ve all had jobs we didn’t love, and if you’re not prepared to put a nice spin on those jobs, you will sound crabby. Have positive things to say about what you did and how it will make you the greatest new employee at ABC Co.

5. Get someone else on the Me Bandwagon

It occurred to me that including a letter of reference in applications might be a good tactic. So I asked a former employer to send a letter to me in PDF form and then I proceeded to attach it to all application emails; I also brought copies to my interviews. Even before they call to check your references, it’s a good idea to let employers know that you have been a model employee in the past. It sounds a lot more impressive coming from someone else than from you.



  1. We’ll miss you!!!

  2. Congratulations! And thanks for these tips. It’s nice to hear about tactics that actually worked!

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