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Work-search Expert: Grads Must Learn Firm 'More Important' Than Job

May 14, 2013

Tis the season of advice, at least for college graduates.

President Barack Obama just advised the Class of 2013 at Ohio State University
to enjoy while they can the days of being able to sleep in and have breakfast at
11:30 a.m. -- on a Tuesday.

But if they don't get jobs -- and the news on that front has been dire -- that
lifestyle might last longer than they actually want it to.

To avoid that fate, new graduates might need to unlearn some of the things
they've been taught about interviewing for positions. Things like emphasizing
their leadership skills, boasting about themselves and going after the perfect

"The company is more important than the job," according to Chris Forman, CEO of
StartWire, a job search organizer based in Lebanon, N.H. But Mr. Forman's
involvement in the recruiting industry pre-dates the company's launch in 2011.

His advice may sound a little retro to college students and new grads who are
regularly asked what kind of job they want. Yet even at a time in history when
few people expect to work for the same business their entire careers, Mr. Forman
believes there's value in getting into a good company and working your way up.
"Good companies recognize talent and create opportunities for talent," he said.

Businesses that are growing, in particular, are likely to have opportunities for
career movement. The managers at those businesses may be inclined to promote
people who have already proven they're smart, hard-working and good

So the goal, in Mr. Forman's view, is getting a position in one of those
companies. It may not be the dream job or the perfect schedule or the most
fulfilling work. That's OK.

This might be the moment for another retro concept -- tapping into the network
that your parents or your friends' parents have. If someone will put in a good
word for you, that might be welcome by the hiring manager buried in resumes.

At this point, any applicant who gets a phone call or even an interview should
be thrilled -- someone probably already sorted through stacks of letters and
tossed out lots of great candidates to get to that point -- but the job offer
isn't secure yet.

The key thing to remember, Mr. Forman said, is: "It's not about you."

Sure the interviewer will ask about your experiences and your qualifications and
your hopes, but don't get sidetracked. "Everyone has scores of war stories about
interviewing really smart young people who come into the interview and think
it's about them," he said.

It is, he argues, about solving a business problem. Those doing the hiring are
trying to fill a need while not making a mistake.

The smart candidate will ask what issues the manager is dealing with and what he
is trying to accomplish with this position. "They have a problem that is not
being met," Mr. Forman said.

The smart candidate does not ask about the hours, the vacation policy and the
benefits until a job offer is made. "Once the offer is extended, then it's OK to
be a little bit about you," he said, cautioning that a candidate fresh to the
working world and to a particular field can't be too demanding -- with the
possible exception of certain specialities such as computer science.

Oh, and tone down the self-promotion. Those leadership positions in college?
They are on your resume already. Talk about the group of great people that you
were lucky enough to work with. That helps show you're a team player and
reassure the hiring manager.

A little modesty is a good thing. As Mr. Forman noted, "There are a whole lot of
summa cum laude graduates right now that are unemployed."

Source: (c)2013 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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