Whether you’re a first-time job seeker or a seasoned pro, you’re bound to encounter a few bumps in the road to job search success.
Many make mistakes such as flaking out on opportunities to network or forgetting the name of an interviewer.
“The key to maintaining your momentum in the job hunt is to know how to handle problems and recover from your mistakes,” says Molly Fletcher, a sports agent, author of Your Dream Job Game Plan (JIST (c) 2009), and president of client representation at Career Sports & Entertainment.
In her book, Fletcher identifies several problematic job search dilemmas and offers advice for overcoming them.
Problem #1: You Say Something Stupid
If this happens, immediately address the slip. After acknowledging the mistake, offer an apology or explanation or try to spin the error with a clever comment.
It’s best to address the situation as soon as you realize your mistake. This limits the time an interviewer has to develop a tainted impression of you. If you do not get the opportunity to try and redeem your error, follow up as quickly as possible with a phone call or e-mail to the interviewer.
Problem #2: The Interviewer Says You’re Not Qualified for the Job
Rather than shut down completely, respond to this obstacle by offering reasons why it’s a benefit to hire someone like you. For example, you may be able to present a case that you can be molded into the type of employee the hiring manager is looking for and that you don’t possess bad habits that a more experienced candidate might.
Problem #3: You Realize You Don’t Like the Company
Realizing that an employer is not the right fit for you does not mean that you’ve hit a dead end or wasted your time. You still want to prove your value to the interviewer, who may be so impressed with you that he or she connects you to more appropriate opportunities. Even though you are not interested in moving forward with the employer, send a handwritten note to the interviewer to thank him or her for their time and interest in you.
Problem #4: Your Contact Intimidates You
Networking — a challenging situation for many — can be even more uncomfortable when the person you are supposed to reach out to is intimidating. To overcome your fears, do extensive research about the referral and his or her company. This way, you will be armed with plenty of information to keep the conversation flowing. Another tactic is to act as though the contact is already an old, familiar friend.
Problem #5: A Prior Problem Comes Back to Haunt You
Perhaps in pursuing a job with a particular employer, you learn that there is someone who already works there with whom you have unresolved issues.
To determine your next steps, you’ll need to assess how often you’ll interact with this individual. If he or she is someone you’ll work with or see often on the job, it’s best to approach that person directly and work toward developing a positive resolution.
Should you need to address the problem with the decision maker, be honest and sincere without placing blame or tarnishing the reputation of the person with whom you have conflict. However, keep in mind that if an interviewer or hiring manager is aware of a problem between you and a current employee, they are much less likely to bring you into the organization.
If the individual you’ve had past problems with is someone you will rarely see or interact with on the job, it’s probably not necessary to take any steps to address the issue.
As important as it is for job seekers to know how to recover from mistakes, it’s even more important that job seekers learn from them.
The people who achieve success in the job search are the ones who don’t commit the same error more than once.