by Teri Fritsma

If you’re job hunting right now, let’s face it: you’ve got lots of company.  Jobseekers need to find ways stand out. There’s a lot of talk about ‘personal branding’ and similar techniques that emphasize selling yourself.  While there’s a lot to be said for representing your skills and qualifications well, it seems to me that some of these marketing-based techniques miss a crucial ingredient of a successful job search:  good listening.


You may not have a chance to literally listen to an employer until you sit down for an interview, but there are plenty of ways to “listen” (broadly defined) before that.  “Listen” by reading up on the employer,  researching the position, learning all you can about the organization’s market, mission, and culture, and how the position you’re applying for fits in with all these things.  If you’re able to do this, you’ll be better able to (1) decide if you’re truly a good match for the position; and (2) make your case to the employer when the time comes.


  • Treat each job you apply for like a mini research project (or a first date).  Plan to spend a few hours reading up on the employer.  Visit their web site.  Read their “About Us” page or find their mission statement.  If you can, talk to people who have had dealings with the employer (either customers or current or past employees)  to see if their experiences are consistent with what the employer says about themselves.


  • Read the job ad carefully.  If the ad uses certain phrases or terms to describe the skills the position requires, that that’s the way the employer thinks about those skills and you need to describe yourself using those same terms.  Also, there may be hints in the job ad about the type of position and organization.  Is the ad no-nonsense?  Humorous?  If you’re paying attention, the job ad can give you clues about how to present yourself.


  • Carefully read the employer’s required qualifications.  Many ads include both “required” and “preferred” qualifications.  Hint: if you don’t even come close to meeting the required qualifications, move on.  Applying for the job won’t get you anywhere because it’ll show the employer that you didn’t even pay attention to what they’re looking for.


  • Use the interview as a way to listen and learn further.  As much as you sell yourself to the employer, you should be asking the employer to “sell” the organization and position to you.  Since you’ve researched the organization, you should have plenty of good, informed questions to ask.  Don’t waste the employer’s time with “Google questions” (questions you can find the answer to by conducting a Google search).  Instead, ask questions that show you’ve done your research and are interested in learning more.  This demonstrates that you’re prepared and enthusiastic, and a good listener—something every employer wants.


 Looking for more job hunting tips?  Check out Minnesota’s Creative Job Search guide, which covers everything from identifying your skills to thank-you letters and everything in between.  Or check out these job search tips on

6 thoughts on “Job Hunters: Listen Up!

  1. Diane,

    Did Adecco give you good feedback?

    A functional resume can help if:

    1. You’ve had gaps in employment;

    2. You are looking to get into a new line of work so your previous work experience is less relevant;

    3. You want to emphasize your transferable skills.

    Also, some older workers (e.g., 55+) like to use functional resumes if they want to de-emphasize how many years of experience they’ve had. (It’s not necessarily fair, but “too much” experience can count against you just like “too little” experience can.)

    My biggest advice is: make sure you TAILOR your resume and cover letter to each job you apply for. It used to be that a one-size-fits-all resume and cover letter would get you in the door — but that’s really not the case these days. You really have to make the case that you’re a good match for each job you apply for. I might even go so far as to make a list of the things the employer is looking for and then address them point-by-point in your cover letter. (You don’t want your cover letter to sound too mechanical, but on the other hand, you want to make it clear that you’ve got the stuff that the employer is looking for.)

    Hope this helps.


  2. No I am not getting interviews, my resume was just looked over by Adecco. I am even starting to volunteer because I am BORED!! (Filing).

    My last full time job was about a year ago, though. I put down that I am doing temp and volunteering in my cover letters. Thanks!

    I know about, my resumes are on it.



  3. Diane,

    You’re definitely NOT alone! There are a lot of people job hunting these days, and since jobs are scarce, that means more people are struggling to find something.

    Here are a couple of resources to help you, if you haven’t already seen them.

    First, check out this section of ISEEK that for people who were recently laid off: There you’ll find links to your local WorkForce Center (their services are for anyone). It also provides links on how to maintain medical coverage and how to avoid foreclosure (if applicable). And here’s some advice on job hunting after a job loss:

    Finally, check out this web site, It has TONS of resources for unemployed Minnesotans (including some great tips on bargain-hunting and where to get special services).

    Finally, you didn’t mention whether you’re getting interviews. If you’re getting in the door but just not getting the offer, you may want to ask for feedback on how your interview went. Maybe you’re unconsciously doing something to sabotage yourself in interviews.

    On the other hand, if you’re not even getting in the door to get an interview, you should definitely have someone look over your resume. Does it have typos? Is it tailored to the position you’re applying for? Does it make the case that you’re a good match for the position?

    I hope some of this helps. Good luck to you.



  4. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one looking for a job. (DUH) After two tries at jobs that weren’t a good match, I am looking again. One full time job I LOVED went through corporate changes, letting go of secretaries.

    So I am applying for new jobs weekly, part time, full time, temp, even going so far as applying for holiday seasonal retail, (I have no experience there)

    Is there anywhere to go if you have no income, yet do not qualify for unemployment or welfare? Just wondering.

    Again, it seems I am applying for jobs with no luck


  5. The piece of advice is really helpful because listening skills are really valuable and during the interview they are of paramount importance. Very often interviewees just do not hear their interviewers.


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