Despite a slight dip in the unemployment rate recently, the hiring picture in the United States remains shaky at best -- with millions still out of work and many of them all but giving up their searches. But with a new year comes renewed optimism, and even the most cynical job seekers find that incentive, psychological or otherwise, to dust off their resumes and begin pounding the proverbial pavement once again. What can they do differently this time to stand out?
While every company is different and every employer has a unique set of criteria for job candidates, there are also certain qualities that can win them over. In some ways, being a job candidate is not much different than being a political candidate (minus, perhaps, the attack ads) and with that comes a certain degree of packaging -- appearance, presentation, talking points and the like. Believe it or not, despite high unemployment, many employers today complain that they still can't find the right people for their open positions. That spells opportunity.
So what advice do they have for all the eager job seekers out there? We asked our Board of Directors to pull back the curtain and share what qualities they look for when building their teams.
Startup Advisory and Venture Lawyer, Gunderson Dettmer LLP
"It used to be that the best jobs were not posted, they were found. Now, the best jobs are the ones that the employee creates with the company. Really successful job seekers look for ways to add value from day one and build a role around it. They create attractive opportunities for the company (and themselves) and develop a rapport with the hiring talent well in advance. I've seen LOTS of people get hired this way. More than ever, successful job seekers identify and fill a void that only they can fill -- one that drives revenue, expands a market or enables the existing team to yield better results.
"We really pay attention to passion, capabilities, aptitude and genuine interest in the space. Finding people is easy; finding great people is challenging. As a candidate, I fully expect you to persuade me that you want to be here, are excited by the opportunity and -- regardless of experience level -- will make the company better."
Elizabeth Busch, Anne Frey-Mott and Beckie Jankiewicz
Co-Founders, The Event Studio
"The Clipboard Queens"
"Right now, we're screening dozens of resumes, and it's shocking to me how many bad resumes are still out there. If someone can't cover the basics of making their resume concise and relevant to the job they're applying for, we automatically put them in the reject pile. You have to be pretty impressive to compel us to read a three-page resume, and if your formatting skills are so bad that your resume shows it, there's no way you have the skills required to work for our company. So basic, but it's amazing the level of things we're seeing come across our desks."
Clint GreenleafFounder and CEO, Greenleaf Book Group "The Cowboy"
"If a candidate can explain how he or she will help me make money quickly when they start working here, I'm inclined to bring that person on board. It's critical for applicants to remember that they need to come and add value in order to get the job."
Bob ParsonsFounder and Executive Chairman, The Go Daddy Group "The Renegade"
"Have passion for the job you want and never give up."
Tom SzakyFounder, TerraCycle "The Eco-Capitalist"
"Research the business you are applying to. Walk in making the company feel like that is the only job you want -- and you can only do that if you know something about the company."
Founder And CEO, Nfinity
"The one thing I have learned through this whole process is that not enough people have hard skills. Don't tell me how fast of a learner you are -- you should have learned on someone else's dime. You want to separate yourself from the others applying for your job and be proficient in any software or hardware you might need in this prospective job. Another thing I have learned? EVERYONE needs someone with Photoshop skills! Oh, and don't ever lie about your skills. You will be found out."
Columnist and Author of The Small Business Bible
"We are hiring for a new project right now and there are a few key things I am looking for:
1) People who can add additional skills that we don’t have already as part of the team.
2) More than experience, I look for someone with the right attitude – someone with whom we would like to work with every day, who is positive, fun and who can take initiative.
"I think that in this economy, the key is to have mad skills and the willingness to be more of a jack-of-all-trades, rather than a specialist, so that you can offer extra value to an employer."
Investor and Author of Rule #1 and Payback Time
"I'd much rather hire your business than hire you, so I say, 'Screw getting a job.' There is something un-American about working for someone else your whole life. Sure, you start that way, but shouldn't it be temporary? We're a nation of explorers and adventurers who believe in self-reliance, personal responsibility and being beholden to nobody. Its un-American to have to say, 'How high?' when somebody says, 'Jump'. Are two weeks off a year an American life?
"Of course, I've always been completely unemployable, so I was forced to be on my own from square one. But after 40 years of not starving, I don't see the risk of starting your own business that others see. I say just go start a business that is the best in its niche and be your own boss. How? If you don't already know the business, go get a low-level job (the skill set is 'showing up on time' and even you can do that if you try) in a competive business and learn the business inside and out while still being able to eat. After you've been there six months, start creating your own thing. A year later, you're on your own. This is America. Don't wait for some middle-management moron to give you a job. Go be an American. You go build your own damn job."