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Stephen R. Clark

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Oreland, Pennsylvania
Joined June 1996


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The following is from a speech given to the Indianapolis Business & Professional Exchange (BPE), April 1998.

Bounce! The Truth About The Job Search

The job search is hell

Charles Dickens wrote, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…." So it is with the job search. It’s hell while it lasts, and near heaven when it ends.

In a job search you will be abused, ignored, lied to, and insulted. Your time will not be valued. Calls will not be returned. Commitments made will not be kept. Sometimes you’ll just be forgotten.

And you’ll have to take in on the chin and keep smiling.

You will decide there are no "rules" in a job-search and will feel that getting the perfect job is basically a crap-shoot. And you will be right. To a point. That’s the bad news and the truth.

So what do you do? Everything you can. Where do you start? You already have because you’re reading this. And that’s the good news!

Survey says

I surveyed a few HR friends (Yes, some of my best friends are HR people!) I asked them what they liked to see job applicants do—the positives. As well as what they never want to see a job applicant do—the negatives. What’s amazing is that most of their responses dealt with violations of the most obvious, common sense job-search guidelines. Things I’m sure all of you never do!

Some of the negatives, however, were over the edge:

These HR pros cited instances where applicants brought their children to interviews, fell asleep while waiting to be interviewed, chewed tobacco and spat during an interview, and cried during an interview.

One cited an applicant who called and canceled the interview at the last minute because, they claimed, the baby-sitter they had hired was too fat to get up the steps to their house. And another told of an applicant who wanted to emphasize he was family oriented and without any prompting, pulled out pictures of his two-year-old twins and launched into a detailed explanation of how he and his wife had used various fertility practices to conceive.

Don't be a faux pas!

Here’s something I doubt that anyone has ever pointed out to you: As a job-seeker in Indianapolis, you don’t just represent yourself in your job-search and in interviews. You represent every other professional person out there who is hustling for a career position.

When any single job-seeker does something mindlessly stupid—like ordering a pizza for lunch and having it delivered to the interview, which did happen by the way—it reflects poorly on every job seeker. Now and forever. We all need to help each other be careful out there.

These faux pas are the fodder of newspaper and magazine articles with headlines such as, "Hey, Have You Heard the One About the Inept Job Seeker?" which appeared in the December 13, 1997 Indianapolis Star, and told of the pizza incident I just mentioned. And then there’s the applicant who was asked, "Why did you go to college?" and responded, "To party." Or the one who stated on their resume, "I attended two years of college, but dropped out because it was a waste of money." These are not good answers.

The good, the bad, the ugly

These are the extremes that stand out. Now, raise your right hand. You are hereby duly authorized and deputized as professional job-seekers to correct any other job-seekers you encounter behaving in an irresponsible and unbecoming manner! Smack ‘em with a rolled up newspaper and say "No! No!" You can put your hands down.

Besides these extreme examples, the more commonplace pratfalls in the areas of appearance, professionalism, and attitude, can be just as damning. So let’s take a look at how to put our best foot, face, and facts forward, and to turn these negatives into golden positives. 

I’ve arbitrarily grouped these responses into five general categories, and there is some overlap among them. Remember, these are peeves mentioned by Indy HR professionals based on their actual experiences with job applicants. Click here to see the table.

What's shown in the table are the basics. You should already know these things, but it never hurts to review them, and to have them validated by those who are doing the hiring as valuable positives. But now let’s get into some more nitty-gritty stuff.

Getting to the interview

Okay, so we all pretty much understand how to behave in an interview. The challenge is often actually getting an interview. Here are four tips that will help get you there:

Networking: Stay visible!

Get out of the house and network, schmooze, and party with other professionals in your areas of expertise. Networking has been called the fun part of unemployment.

It is fun, but if you’re a bit shy as I am, it can also be intimidating. An excellent way to network that I find easier than one-on-one informational interviews is to join professional trade associations with active local chapters, or at least attend their meetings and luncheons.

The wider you build your network, the higher the likelihood of netting a job interview. Networking is where you learn about all the unadvertised job openings.

Education: Stay smart!

Stay current, keep up with the news, don’t get stale in your specialty, never stop learning new things. "Those who are always learning," says Charles Handy, "are those who can ride the waves of change and who see a changing world as full of opportunities rather than of damages."

The easy way to do this is read business magazines and books. Read Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, trade magazines, and association newsletters and visit their websites. Read books by Tom Peters, Charles Handy, and other business bestsellers. Go to lunch with people in your line of work and keep up on trends and the changing lingo of your profession. Feed your brain!

Persistence: Keep the faith!

Persistence pays off. In 1995 I accepted a voluntary buyout from AT&T in New Jersey and decided to return to Indiana. I started looking for a job in Indy in November 1995, four months before I moved. I followed up every lead and prepared to establish a freelance writing business until a "real" job came along. After moving, I pursued clients for my business and kept up my job search. It was frustrating on both sides, but there were always little successes here and there. It was nearly two-an-a-half years from the time I decided to leave NJ until I landed the kind of job I really wanted.

Keep submitting on openings. If you think the job is a fit and it keeps coming open, keep submitting. Keep in touch with whomever you need to be in touch with. And be nice. You never know what will happen. They may know someone who knows someone somewhere else who could use a person just like you. Or, a different opening could come up. Keep on keeping on.

Technology: Get wired!

Embrace technology or die. In a manner of speaking.

Learn how to use common PC office applications well. Learn how to edit and format your own resume, cover letters, and print envelopes from the PC. Learn how to and post your resume online with job / career sites. Keep track of where it's posted, keep track of all the logins and passwords, and update each frequently. Have and use an e-mail account. Get a free web page and post your resume there.

If you are afraid of or ignorant of technology, you will not survive in today's marketplace. Get over your fear and get smart. Take a course. Read a book. Hang out with your tech savvy friends. But learn all that you can, and then use what your learn to help you gain an advantage in your job searching efforts.

Like Tigger, learn to bounce

Yet, I know very well that there may be times during a job-search that doing anything seems impossible. We can get so caught up in the frustration and the immediate needs pressing in on us that we become desperate and panicky. This is normal. With every call that doesn’t come, another chunk of our confidence falls away. With every interview that fails, our ego is a bit more battered and bruised. Instead of pushing forward, we want to retreat more and more frequently to our warm and fuzzy comfort zones -- and zone out. The irrationality of emotion takes over and the negative self-talk kicks in full force.

We begin to feel very unwanted. Unimportant. Insignificant. Incompetent. Foolish. Embarrassed. And most horrible of all--helpless. Instead of being a "professional in career transition" we just feel unemployed. Hope seems a dim memory flickering near extinction in the face of this black hole called joblessness.

If this is how you’re beginning to feel, let me say this: WARNING! DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!

Don’t go there! Wake up. Shake yourself. Run for your life in the other direction. The darkness of hopelessness is not a good place to visit, let alone live. I know. I’ve been there. But I don’t plan to go back.

Why? Because hopelessness is a lie. There is always hope. The feelings of unimportance, insignificance, and incompetence are also all complete lies. You are infinitely important--just ask your friends and family. You are very significant--God doesn’t make insignificant people and He made you. You are not incompetent--just read your own resume!

In her book, Simply Speaking, Peggy Noonan recounts this story: In 1969, Malcolm Muggeridge journeyed to Calcutta to interview Mother Teresa for the BBC. The interview had been difficult to arrange and would take place in Calcutta’s Home for the Dying, a dimly lit cavern in which filming would be, according to the experienced cameraman, quite impossible. But it was their only chance to capture the reluctant nun in her habitat, and so they gave it a go and hoped. Later in London the film was developed to reveal--amazingly--that the room was lit, beautifully and fully, by a radiant light. Where did it come from? No one knew. The cameraman insisted it could not happen as it happened. Muggeridge, a renowned intellectual and yet also an intelligent man, immediately thought: God did this."

Don’t lose hope. Keep the faith. Your time to shine will come. When it does, you will shine.

Now, one last thing: time for some fun!

Tom Peters states in Liberation Management, "These are nutty times. Nutty organizations, nutty people, capable of dealing with the fast, fleeting, fickle are requisite for survival." So, what’s say we get a little nutty?

Take a balloon and put a superball inside it. Blow up and tie off the balloon. Hold the balloon over a hard surface and pop it with a pin. Let the ball inside bounce once before you catch it. Then read on.

Remember: Every situation that goes bust yields an opportunity to bounce back! Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Just keep bouncin’!

And that’s the truth.







This includes poor hygiene meaning body odor, bad breath, and such. As well as poor grooming, which would include things like dirty fingernails. And finally, sloppy or rumpled clothes, not being dressed appropriately for an interview.

Dress professionally in business attire when going to an interview. Take a shower, trim and clean your nails, put on deodorant, and use scents sparingly if at all. Stop in the bathroom just before going into the interview and check yourself--front and back, up and down--in the mirror. Be clean. Smell clean. Look clean.



Non-no’s here include being late for the interview, chewing gum during the interview, poor eye contact, wimpy handshake, and the like. A lack of manners and professionalism was also cited which includes behaviors such as adamantly insisting on immediate call backs, becoming irritated over phone tag, generally being impatient. Be about 15 minutes early for the interview. Treat the receptionist, lobby security people, and everyone else you encounter with respect. As you leave the interview, thank the interviewer for his or her time. Immediately after the interview, write a thank you note and mail it the same day.



This area includes not being prepared to answer interview questions or being evasive, not even knowing what job one is being interviewed for. Also, applying for positions for which they are unqualified, or, after an offer has been made ,asking for a position or terms entirely different than what has been discussed.

Be knowledgeable about the company, research it a bit before you arrive. Look over an annual report or any other literature you find in the lobby while you’re waiting. Ask the receptionist a few questions. Be interested in the company and show that interest!

Ask the interviewer some questions about the position and the company. Be prepared to talk about yourself and your qualifications. Answer questions succinctly, but completely and honestly. Take a moment to think before you respond or ask for clarification if you need it. Maintain respectable eye contact and smile.



Frequently applicants have a cocky attitude, are arrogant and defensive. Or, on the other extreme are too low key, mumble, providing very brief answers or even refusing to answer questions. Be pleasant, courteous, and very polite. Shake hands firmly and confidently. Be enthusiastic and upbeat. Be confident, but not cocky. Listen carefully, follow instructions when asked to do something, ask when a decision might be made, but don't be pushy.




Providing poor copies of resumes with spelling and grammar errors (not just typos). Said one, "It's amazing the people applying for creative positions that have dull, boring resumes."

2 to 4 pages max. Use a nice white, light tan, or light gray paper. Tell the truth intelligently with a lot of good measurable results listed. List positions chronologically showing promotions and advancement. When you mail your resume, include a cover letter and an addressed, stamped postcard they can use to acknowledge receiving your resume. Bring copies of your resume to interviews.

Generally, when writing about yourself on a resume, or telling about yourself in an interview, you don’t have to tell or want to tell everything about your past jobs. But, you always want to tell the truth. Put a positive spin on those unflattering truths, but don’t lie.

Brag humbly. Don’t be ashamed of your accomplishments, but don’t shout about them. 








Words For Fall  : A small collection of writings for the season

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