9 Lives for Women Blog

“2nd New Year” Job Search Basics | September 9th, 2012

Whenever Labor Day passes, I always feel we’re in the second “new year”. We never really lose that fresh start, “back to school” feeling in September—and most job seekers look to the fall months with renewed vigor.

Right now you have at least three solid months for a strategic job search—before the business world slows down again for the December holidays. Make those three months count and advance your search by sticking to job search basics—even if you’re looking for a very senior-level job.

One great resource for job seekers is Ivy Exec, a New York City based membership organization that provides many services for top-tier job seekers around the globe (www.ivyexec.com). Originally published on the Ivy Exec web site by Career Coach Sarah Stamboulie, these “back to basics” tips help you answer tricky interview questions and become more confident in your interviewing skills. Sarah has interviewed hundreds of candidates throughout her career as the head of HR at Morgan Stanley, Cantor Fitzgerald and Nortel Networks, as well as Alumni Career Services at Columbia Business School.

So according to Sarah, if you’re asked…

  1. “How long have you been looking?” Downplay a long search that may raise employer concerns by emphasizing what you’ve been doing other than looking for a job. You’ve been looking for about X months while you’ve also been very busy doing XYZ. It’s important to stay involved, active and visible during unemployment—through volunteering, pro bono consulting, industry organizations, mentoring, helping a friend start a business—anything that keeps your skills and experience fresh. Be positive about your job search, how you’ve enjoyed expanding your network, meeting with a variety of employers and learning about trends, challenges and opportunities in your business.
  2. “Why did you leave Company X?” For involuntary departures, always begin by complimenting your former company, boss, and team. Then explain and “agree” with the company’s business reason to eliminate your position.Always keep it positive – you could mention that you still see your old boss and colleagues regularly. And again, reinforce that you’re in a fortunate position regarding your job search.
  3. “Tell me about yourself.” Try to postpone any lengthy answers until you’ve heard the interviewer talk about the company’s priorities. Once you hear those, match your prior performance and successes to the three key needs the company has for the open position.
  4. “Take me through your resume.” If you’re speaking with hiring managers, they don’t want to hear every single bullet or line from your resume. You should give a very abbreviated summary that is entirely relevant to the position. If you’re talking to a recruiter, you can be a little more expansive in your response. Unless they ask you for more detail, skip over irrelevant jobs. Keep in mind that they are looking for red flags, so make all your transitions sound logical and very positive.


Networking is another job search basic—and one that even senior executives often give minimal effort. Longtime HR professional Ellen Ornaf of Redding, Connecticut is in the midst of her own job search after a downsizing earlier this year. Her resume includes diverse industry experience, including director-level posts at CBS and MasterCard.

When I asked Ellen about what job seekers most overlook, she said: “Networking.” She offers these tips to job seekers:

  1. Network through your university or corporation alumni groups. If you do not know how to find them, contact the career office or use LinkedIn.
  2. Attend local networking events such as SHRM, “Whine and Dine” outplacement firm meetings, search firm events, etc. Often these meetings are designed by level, title or compensation. Don’t feel you have to attend every meeting that you hear of–some will be beneficial to your search and others will not. Go into these meetings with an open mind–even people in a different business sector can introduce you to influential individuals, search firms or companies. Remember your business cards!
  3. Recognize that everyone embraces what you are going through and will offer support. Try to engage a fellow job search “buddy”.  This person can offer great support in exchanging job opportunities, introducing you to different people, offering advice and a different perspective, and getting you through the job search “ups and downs”. I have an HR buddy and we often get together for coffee or exchange our updates through emails and phone.
  4. SHARE with others…both opportunities and contacts. It all comes back full circle.  —KAS

Need to recharge your job search and stay on track with job search basics?  Contact me at ksollmann@9livesforwomen.com for a one-hour coaching session…that’s all you’ll need to get new direction and traction.  

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