According to the United States Department of Labor, the U.S. has lost 5.1 million jobs since the recession began, and unemployment rates for African-American men swelled to 13.3 percent in Feb. and March. Men seeking employment today need to treat the interview process like they do a close shave: There is little room for error, and if they go against the grain when they shouldn’t, they can get burned.
In a rough job market, it takes more than a foot in the door. More than a distinguished degree. More than a new suit. In fact, it might take all of these and more to land a new job. From the resume and manner of speech, to attire and grooming, men need to prepare for scrutiny from potential employers, job recruiters, and networking contacts alike.
Although there is no magic formula, the following tips and resources could help give a man a leg up on the competition when it comes to a job search:
1 Refine the resume. A resume should be more than a list of job positions and degrees. It should convey successes and contributions made to companies or organizations. Monster.com and TheLadders.com offer guidelines for resume writing.
2 Look the part. When you get your foot in the door, make sure it dons a freshly polished and well-soled shoe. Have shirts ironed with starch to make them crisp at the collar and cuffs.
3 Put the best face forward. Make sure the beard shows no signs of razor burn or razor bumps.
4 Comb over everything. Comb over the company’s marketing materials to prepare for the pitch, and then comb the hair for the meeting. Sounds obvious, but use a comb, not your fingers. It is not time to be casual.
5 Breathe easy. Breathe a sigh of relief when there is an appointment, and don’t forget to freshen your breath for the first face-to-face. Pop a Tic Tac or two. No gum.
6 Aspire to be Jerry Maguire. Make potential employers think, “You had me hello.” When you first meet, keep your head up, speak clearly, extend a well-groomed hand (clean nails, not shiny), and keep eye contact with your interviewer, the receptionist, and employees walking down the hall. The goal is to make a connection worth remembering and one worth calling back for a second interview.