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Headhunters' 25 Top Tips for Job-Hunters

  1. Executive Recruiters Give the 411
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    Executive Recruiters Give the 411

    Who better to advise you on job-hunting than the people whose living depends on clinching lucrative positions for others? A year ago, Mark Jaffe, owner of Wyatt & Jaffe, began offering Businessweek.com Headhunter Hints—weekly words of wisdom about résumés, interviews, and other aspects of finding work. This fall, Tara McKernan, an executive vice-president at DHR International, began contributing as well. You can find a new Headhunter Hint every Friday on the Managing Your Career page. Below are 25 parcels of good counsel culled from our Headhunter Hint archives.
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  2. 1. Don't Become Prey on the Job Hunt
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    1. Don't Become Prey on the Job Hunt

    "If someone offers to craft you a 'killer résumé,' put you in touch with the 'hidden job market,' or coach you to become a newer, more-marketable you, just say 'No.' Whether they're asking for $3,000 or $300, it's overpriced." —Mark Jaffe
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  3. 2. Just Relax...Seriously
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    2. Just Relax...Seriously

    "On the job hunt, remember that it's not you …it's the economy. Stay calm. Hyperventilating is never pretty, especially during an interview. Prospective employers want Jason Bourne,
    not Jason Alexander." —Mark Jaffe
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  4. 3. Rise in the Wee Hours
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    3. Rise in the Wee Hours

    "Every successful person since the advent of opposable thumbs has risen at the crack of dawn. Set your alarm and get moving." —Mark Jaffe
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  5.  4. Make Your Résumé Just the Facts, Ma'am
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    4. Make Your Résumé Just the Facts, Ma'am

    "Write your résumé the way Jack Webb spoke on Dragnet: simple, direct statements in government-style, gray-flannel prose. The number of pages doesn't matter; substance does. Tell your story and get out of there." —Mark Jaffe
  6. 5. Keep Cover Letters Short
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    5. Keep Cover Letters Short

    "Think haiku. Didn't you hear the whole world has ADD? Since attention spans max out at about three seconds, mention that your résumé is attached and say goodbye" —Mark Jaffe
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  7. 6. Automate Résumé-Posting
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    6. Automate Résumé-Posting

    "Use services such as resumerabbit.com and jobdrone.com that post your résumé to multiple job sites at once. They can save you hours of data entry." —Tara McKernan
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  8. 7. Get a Recruiter's Attention the Old-Fashioned Way
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    7. Get a Recruiter's Attention the Old-Fashioned Way

    "Do memorable work in your industry or profession and we will find you, despite your employer's best efforts to conceal your brilliance from the rest of the world." —Mark Jaffe
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  9. 8. Don't Editorialize
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    8. Don't Editorialize

    While preparing a résumé or interviewing, resist the urge to tell me you're a 'highly motivated, results-driven, visionary, world-class entrepreneur.' May I decide that for myself after I've had time to consider your many accomplishments?" —Mark Jaffe
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  10. 9. Think Before Posting Your Photo on LinkedIn
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    9. Think Before Posting Your Photo on LinkedIn

    "If it's a solid asset, great, then use it. Please make sure we can see your face clearly, the mug shot was professionally done, and it conveys a 'strictly business' demeanor. When in doubt, leave it out."
    —Mark Jaffe
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  11. 10. Be Yourself on Interviews
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    10. Be Yourself on Interviews

    "Forget the prepared material. Someone who has difficulty talking 'off-script' about non-business topics never seems completely natural or unrehearsed." —Mark Jaffe

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  12. 11. Come Clean Constructively
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    11. Come Clean Constructively

    "Don't be freaked out by the interview question: 'What wrong turns or unfortunate choices have you made in your career?' Ability to answer this confidently demonstrates your capacity for honest self-analysis and introspection." —Mark Jaffe
  13. 12. Let Major Job Sites Work for You
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    12. Let Major Job Sites Work for You

    "Use job-search agents such as theladders.com or execunet.com, where you sign up and receive job listings by e-mail. You'll access more jobs, more recruiters, and more opportunities." —Tara McKernan
  14. 13. Stay in the Loop
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    13. Stay in the Loop

    "Contact former professors with whom you had particularly good bonds. Odds are they can advise you on how to get current in a changing job market." —Tara McKernan
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  15. 14. Don't Overtax Contacts
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    14. Don't Overtax Contacts

    "Work your contacts, but don't work them over. Your network is a precious resource and should be treated as such. Now is the time to use it … but gently. Ask for a reference, not a job. When you don't put your friends on the spot, they're more inclined to help you." —Mark Jaffe
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  16. 15. Take Community Action
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    15. Take Community Action

    "Look for a community service project sponsored by the employer you're interested in and offer your skills to it. You will learn about the company culture and make some key contacts." —Tara McKernan
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  17. 16. Keep It Rosy During Job Interviews
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    16. Keep It Rosy During Job Interviews

    "Maintain a positive, upbeat attitude. Everyone wants to be around a winner. Never criticize your current or former manager or employer." —Tara McKernan
  18. 17. Make Them Feel Important
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    17. Make Them Feel Important

    "Please remember that headhunters, like lecherous old men, need a little love, too. (Occasionally it's an overlapping demographic.) When a recruiter calls, say the magic words: 'Hold on a second. I have to close my door.'" —Mark Jaffe
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  19. 18. Talk About the Team
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    18. Talk About the Team

    "Whether interviewing or happily employed, learn to communicate without using the words 'I' and 'me.' Talk about the players and the total effort, acknowledging and crediting others. It will become contagious and you'll get your share of the glory, too." —Mark Jaffe

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  20. 19. Don't Get Ahead of Yourself
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    19. Don't Get Ahead of Yourself

    "One small negative step can sink a job search. Never ask about telecommuting, job-sharing, whether or not relocation is necessary, what sort of car will be part of the package, or whether this is a cubicle or windowed-office position." —Tara McKernan

  21. 20. Never Be a Toady in the Presence of a Giant
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    20. Never Be a Toady in the Presence of a Giant

    "The key to dealing with larger-than-life people who rule your destiny is this: Never suck up, but remember the conversation is always about their issues, not yours." —Mark Jaffe
  22. 21. Avoid the 'Department of Redundancy Department'
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    21. Avoid the 'Department of Redundancy Department'

    "Keep track of your career networking efforts so you never send out duplicate e-mails or notes, as this will be perceived as disorganization—or worse, sloppiness." —Tara McKernan
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  23. 22. Remember It's Not Over Till It's Over
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    22. Remember It's Not Over Till It's Over

    "Write a follow-up note when you don't get the job. This is so unusual that you'll stand out. Perhaps the interviewer will know of other opportunities and recommend you. Don't be afraid to ask that question in the note." —Tara McKernan
  24. 23. Win Via Discretion
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    23. Win Via Discretion

    "Assume that people never keep anything you tell them in confidence. Gain mastery over this secret weapon and you will become powerful beyond your wildest dreams." —Mark Jaffe
  25. 24. Don't Accept Second Place
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    24. Don't Accept Second Place

    "If you were runner-up for a position that was exactly in your sweet spot, you have nothing to lose by calling the hiring manager 90 days later and asking how that new hotshot is working out. You may be surprised to learn that she wishes she had gone with you after all. Stranger things have happened."
    —Mark Jaffe
  26. 25. Know That You Will Get a Job
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    25. Know That You Will Get a Job

    "Understand that despite what you see on the cable networks, we are not living in the End of Days. Yes, it's miserable out there, but it will be a bad memory sooner than you or CNBC imagines." —Mark Jaffe