Skip to Main Content
by by Eileen Levitt, SPHR | March 10, 2009


My husband was recently laid off from his corporate job. His search has been interesting, and has also provided me with a unique look at the other side of the recruiting equation.

Of course, every job search isn't identical. My husband is a CPA, with CFO and controller experience. He has actually done a great job in making headway, but as of this writing, has yet to find a job. Thus, I am providing job searchers with a few tips and words of advice based on both my knowledge as an HR person and my husband's enlightening experience into the world of the unemployed.

So here are my tips in a nutshell:

  1. Tell everyone you know - don't be shy!
  2. Ask for referrals.
  3. Be organized.
  4. Meet with everyone.
  5. Follow up.
  6. Return the favor.
  7. Be wary.
  8. Be nice.
  9. Repeat.

Tell everyone you know - don't be shy!

When my husband was first laid off, he called everyone he knew, told them he lost his job and was seeking a new opportunity. A couple of pointers here:

A. Make sure you have a script that quickly communicates the highlights of your career.

B. Choose your words wisely. I see way too many job seekers try to brush their unemployment off with "nicer" and quite frankly way too passive sounding phrases like "between assignments." You need to make sure that you are clear in your words. While between assignments may seem obvious, it really isn't. When in networking circles and you are asked what you do simply state, "I am unemployed and looking for an opportunity in . . . do you know anyone hiring in that area?"

C. See if that person is willing to meet with you. A phone call is often forgotten, while an in-person meeting is more likely to be remembered.

D. Don't take up too much of that person's time. Be sensitive. Don't push for a meeting, when it is rejected and don't call the person every week.

In taking my own advice, I'll put my plug in here. If anyone reading this knows of a senior financial management type position in the Maryland area, drop me an e-mail at

Ask for referrals

Many people that you will come into contact with may not know of open positions. However, they may know people who know people. Ask if they know anyone who gets around in business circles and then call those people.

Be organized

Keep track of those to whom you were referred and what they told you. Also, keep track of where you applied, and why. Many times I will call applicants who have applied for positions, and will ask them, "What prompted you to apply for this position?" Too many times I hear: "I don't know," "I don't remember applying," "I apply to everything," or, "Why not?" Companies want people who are focused, but more importantly actually want to work there. Even if you do apply for every job you see, a company likes to feel that they are special.

Meet with everyone

This is the busy part. You are more likely to be remembered when you actually meet with a person. Therefore, my advice is to schedule as many coffees, breakfasts, lunches, etc., with as many people as possible. When you meet with those people, tell them what you have done and what type of job you are looking for. Ask them if they know anyone who might know anyone. Take down those names and numbers and then follow up with those new contacts. In addition, be sure to find out about what that person does and what type of business they are looking for, what they are struggling with, etc. People like people who are interested in them. Also, knowing this information will help you with step five (returning the favor).

Follow up

My husband followed up each meeting with a personal thank you note. It is a nice touch and, again, a way for you to be remembered.

Return the favor

Remember those people who gave you time out of their schedule to help you. Aside from it being the nice thing to do, you will be remembered more by those you help. Therefore, as you meet new people, you may meet someone who would be beneficial for someone you have already met. I highly recommend that you return the favor they gave you of their time by introducing them to someone else who may be of benefit to them.

For example, in the process of talking with a VC (venture capital person), my husband discovered that the firm was looking to invest in a particular type of company. My husband also knew of a company in the appropriate industry that was looking for funding. Viola! He connected the VC to that company, and the rest is history. Many times while searching he discovered jobs that werent fits for him, but they were for other jobseekers that he had met in his networking process and thus connected them as well.

Be wary

Headhunters can be great. However, some aren't. If a headhunter tells you to do something that you don't agree with, don't do it. If a headhunter tells you to say something that you don't agree with, don't say it. Remember that a headhunter works for the person who pays them, which should not be you.

For example, my husband was connected with a headhunter that had a great opportunity. She scheduled an interview with my husband before the actual client interview. At this meeting, the headhunter told my husband what questions would be asked and how he should answer them. When my husband asked my opinion, I told him what I tell everyone - be yourself, answer how you would normally answer. You want to be hired for the person you are, or you'll be miserable in the job (if you get it). The list of things she told him to do goes on an on. Long story short, yes, you want to be hired, but you want to be hired by a company that knows you, because once you get the job, you won't have a coach to help you answer the day-to-day questions.

Be nice

It can be so easy to get frustrated. You see that perfect job, you apply, and you never hear from that company again. You call; they don't call you back. So you call again, and again, and again, until you finally leave them that message, the one that will guarantee that you are never again called by that company, the one that is left in a somewhat nasty tone and says, "I have called you three times, I am perfect for that job, why haven't you called me?" Should they have called you? Maybe, but the reality is that companies are overwhelmed with jobseekers all of thinking they're perfect, and really most of the time, only one is. And if that person is you, and they just haven't had a chance to call you back yet, that message is surely going to kill your chances of being hired.

Repeat and persevere

Don't give up until you find something. My husband won't give up until he's found something - which I hope is soon.

Eileen Levitt, SPHR, is our Vault Recruiting Expert and president of The HR Team, Inc., in Columbia, MD. She can be reached at (410) 995-5257 or Keep up with human resources trends and issues. Subscribe to "The Team Player," The HR Team's free monthly newsletter. Just click the link to send a subscription email:


Filed Under: Job Search