Updated on 07.06.08

Review: What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here?

Trent Hamm

Each Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal productivity, personal development, or business/entrepreneurship book of interest.

What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here?I was very lucky after college to fall straight into a job that I enjoyed quite a lot. My wife, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky – she sent out mountains of applications and resumes, interviewed all over the place at all sorts of organizations, and eventually ended up working at a place that she would have never believed when she started the job search.

This loudly titled book by Cynthia Shapiro, subtitled 44 Insider Secrets That Will Get You Hired, offers up a big handful of very brash tips for getting hired. The brashness and tone often makes it seem like a pre-hiring complement to Penelope Trunk’s excellent Brazen Careerist. In other words, this is a really interesting book to read if you’re hunting for work (or you may be soon).

But is the advice solid? Let’s take a deep look and find out.

A Walk Through What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here?

Cynthia Shapiro is very direct and blunt about what’s on her mind. I like blunt. Don’t pull any punches with me, and I’ll like it. No need to mince words. So, one quick way to tell if this book is for you is to ask yourself if you like that kind of attitude and frankness. Some do, some don’t.

1 : You Are Being Eliminated
Guess what? Your well-crafted perfectly matched resume has a strong likelihood of never being read. Either the person hiring already has a candidate in mind, they’re looking for some specific resume element that’s not listed in the description, or they’re simply overwhelmed with resumes (and people calling about their resumes) that they didn’t give yours even a moment of attention.

Another possibility, especially if you’re sending out a lot of resumes but not getting much attention at all, is that you’re making one of several general mistakes (outlined in the next part). These mistakes, once seen, can quickly take your resume straight to the “out” pile, and people often carry them from application to application, repeating the same mistake over and over and getting that same negative result over and over.

I look at it this way: don’t assume you have a God-given right to have the company you’re applying for study your resume in detail. They’re trying to fill a position for them, not please you. You want something from them – and to get that something, you have to play the game a bit.

2 : Stop Playing Resume Roulette
Your resume is an advertisement. You’re the product, and you’re trying to sell that product to the company that’s hiring. That means you need to think like an advertiser when crafting your resume. Highlight the most positive stuff, and make it stick out there very clearly. Eliminate the stuff that is negative or inconsequential. Get the key words in there, especially if you’re submitting electronically or to a tech-heavy company.

You should also be aware of what’s online about you. What do you get if you Google your name? Make sure it’s something that actually reflects well on you. In other words, get the drunken pictures off of your Myspace page.

A tip I really liked is crafting your references. Contact them ahead of time to let them know you’re listing them and what kinds of jobs you’re applying for. Also, don’t be afraid to seek out personal references – references from people that are impressive, but weren’t necessarily your supervisor. Contact them first and let them know what you’re doing. That will make your reference section pop.

3 : Your Interview Is Over
Most of this section is pretty standard interview advice – carry an aura of self-confidence, come equipped with good stories about your success, and so on.

Several of these tips are focused on etiquette – “should I call or shouldn’t I?” Most of these boil down to a general rule of thumb: don’t make a nuisance of yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re calling – and be honest. If your behavior would annoy you, it would likely also annoy the person you’re calling, and thus hurt your job chances. A call can be useful – a lot of calls, especially at inappropriate times, are not as useful.

Several of the tips in here seem to suggest going a long way to present a false aspect of who you are. Any interviewer worth his salt will bust right through that pretty quickly. While it’s useful to accentuate the positives, you’re almost always better off being honest when interviewing, because if you’re caught in a falsehood or a misrepresentation in an interview, you’re automatically done.

4 : Danger! Traps Ahead!
This is a mish-mash of excellent suggestions related to the process of hunting for a new job. I felt that tactic #38 really summed up everything in this chapter – and in this book. Getting a job boils down to clarity, courage, craft, and consistency. Be clear about who you are and what you want. Have the courage to chase after it. Put in the extra effort to craft your resume and your experience to lead you there. Be consistent in what you want, what you’re saying, and what you do. Do all four and you’ll be fine.

The piece that stood out to me here was always negotiate. I think that’s true for almost any job beyond an entry-level position. If you just accept the initial offer, you don’t give a good impression – you give the impression of a pushover who won’t fight hard. Always negotiate. Come back with a better offer and see what can be worked out.

5 : You’re Hired. Now What?
This is almost like a miniaturized version of Brazen Careerist, in that it’s a brief coda containing just a handful of very basic tactics to use after you’re hired.

The big theme is to make allies first and realize that you don’t have to prove yourself. You’re much better off learning what’s actually going on in the organization and building relationships at first. You’ve already proven yourself by being hired – you have nothing to prove in your first week. Ask lots of questions and do what you can to start helping others and building a network of people that will help you, starting with your boss.

Some Thoughts on What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here?

Large organizations are ridiculously cutthroat. I used to work in a very large organization and even in the most laid back organizations with extremely tight and well-defined career paths, there are still interpersonal politics all over the place. When you get into areas where “successful” people can be quickly promoted up the food chain, you’re basically asking for politics. I often wanted to say “This advice is garbage” while reading this book, but it’s not – office and hiring politics can make or break you.

The grass is rarely greener on the other side. Aside from that complaint, few jobs are as bad as the people in them like to make them out to be. Jobs can be sressful, sure, but when you’re in a particular career path, most jobs are going to have similar levels of stress. Don’t place all your hopes and dreams on getting a similar job at Initrode when you’re woefully unhappy at Initech.

Not getting a job is not the end of the world. Not getting the job isn’t a reason to be devastated and then polish off a bottle of Cointreau and a whole Sara Lee poundcake. Not getting a job merely means that one path out of several hundred available to you is now closed, and now you have the opportunity to search for other paths. I have never, in my entire life, looked back at a job not taken and wished I had it. Why? Looking back is time spent not looking ahead.

Is What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here? Worth Reading?

If you’re in the middle of active job searching, What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here? is well worth checking out from the library for an afternoon’s read. Most of the advice is spot-on, and Cynthia Shapiro gets right to the point, making it a very good read for a busy person who’s in the middle of a job transition.

If you’re in the midst of a deeper consideration of your career, my suggestion is to use this side-by-side with What Color Is Your Parachute? if you’re at a career crossroads. Figure out what you want to do with What Color Is Your Parachute?, then read this one once you’re actually to the point of applying and trying to get your foot in the door.

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  1. Macinac says:

    Back when I used to read resumes occasionally, I found my self put off by too much bragging and too much slickness and the use of cliches. Perhaps that’s just my personality asserting itself. I was a worker bee who the boss would sometimes ask to participate in the hiring process.

  2. I have an MBA and have been in corporate finance or a professional setting for over 15 years now. I have had a few jobs, but the same career. I am getting burned out.

    I’m NOT alone. I can’t find someone my age that doesn’t feel the same way. We all know we have to work and we have to put food on the table, but our generation (Gex-X) is getting tired…VERY tired. It is not being weak or being spoiled, we are just realizing that there is more to life to getting ahead in the cubicle world.

    The best advice I can give to anyone (including myself) is find out what you want to do first. If you don’t know, put on the blue jeans and T-shirt and get a job that has NOTHING to do with what you are doing right now. Use TheSimpleDollar to figure out ways to limit the expenses while you take the hit on salary. The money will come, but nothing can replace your desire to be interested in what you are doing for a living.

  3. As a current job-hunter, thanks for this review! While a lot of the advice isn’t particularly groundbreaking, there’s still good insight along with the stand-bys that bear repeating.

  4. Izabelle says:

    I am currently in the middle of hiring somebody, sifting through the second round of resumes. Why do people mostly get rejected? My main reasons are:

    – Spelling mistakes and/or sloppy layout (if you cannot apply yourself to your resume, how can I trust you to be thorough with your job?)

    – Pompous statements with little or no meaning

    – Vastly over-qualified (that people who have a lot of experience in their field apply for an entry-level job baffles me. Why waste their time and mine?)

    – Whiny cover letter (if changing fields, do not diss the past one, keep it upbeat)

    – Stating outrageous salary expectations (negotiating is nice, but asking for twice the starting average in an entry-level job may make the recruiter giggle)

  5. Jessica says:

    I don’t think there’s ever a good reason to drink an entire bottle of orange flavored liqueur and consume a pre-made, frozen, pound cake. I’d hate to see what someone who mourns this way does to celebrate…

    Good review, I will have to check out the book.

  6. Red says:

    Having worked at a print shop, it always bothers me when resumes are submitted on shoddy paper.

    Fortunately, it’s more and more likely I’ll get scans as opposed to actual resumes, so it’s less likely they’ll be subjected to my bias.

  7. tiffanie says:

    this is useful for me…being unemployed in the state with highest unemployment (Michigan) is a tough gig to get rid of. ugh. thanks for the tips :)

  8. Lynoure says:

    Izabelle: Why are over-qualified people wasting their time and yours? Sometimes people have burned out or for other reasons want a job they are 100% sure they can excel in. Sometimes they are so in love with your company that they want any job there, even an entry level one. Of course if they are also asking twice as much as the job should reasonably pay, then they are wasting their time.

  9. Michelle says:

    Hahaha… Office Space. Classic.

  10. gr8whyte says:

    The most amazing resume I’ve ever seen had a long list of widgets with no description of what the applicant did with them. Turned out he had operated them but no flavor of “operate” appeared in his resume. His resume simply had no verbs.

  11. This just reminds me (again) that I need to finally read Parachute, it’s been a while since I said I was going to read it and never did.

  12. BonzoGal says:

    Be careful with the negotiating part- my company just rejected a candidate because he was pushing WAY too hard for what he felt he deserved. He was coming from a large corporation and we’re a very small one, but he kept emphasizing what he was giving up to come work for us. After we told him “final offer”, he pushed again- and we told him thanks but no thanks after all. Now he’s calling and asking us to give him our original offer, but everyone here is convinced that he’s only interested in his finances, not our projects.

    That being said, not accepting the very first offer is a good idea- because companies often low-ball people right off the bat.

  13. Jules says:

    I want to turn your part about crafting a resume into a baseball bat and beat my counterpart over the head with it–he’s convinced that it doesn’t matter what it looks like; I KNOW it does.

  14. Anissa Stein says:

    Sometimes, I wonder why so many people are trying to get onto or stay on the hamster wheel of corporate America, but I think that comes from not always knowing what you want to do. We start off thinking one thing, doing it and then realize it’s just not fulfilling.

    Some suggestions that have worked with me are: 1) giving yourself some space to consider this question: what kind of job could bring me pride and pleasure? The answer is not going to come to you in a flash, just let it simmer. But keep asking yourself this question at least once a day. Eventually, your brain will answer you. 2) it also helps to ask those who do enjoy their jobs what are the aspects that makes them most happy? This will stimulate your own thought processes about working. Lastly 3) when you are bored, stuck, restless, etc. – look for those moments at work when you do have a moment of happiness or pleasure. Start compiling those moments in your head and you will begin to see patterns.

    It is how I realized after being in operations and project management that I learned that what I like most about both jobs is guiding others in their careers and seeing them gain success. The aspect of coaching others is where I derived my professional fulfillment, not the actual job of managing, or running a project, etc. It took a while, but I used some of these steps and it helped a great deal. Good luck!

  15. Izabelle says:

    Lynoure: I see what you mean, but this is where a well-written cover letter would be crucial. Still, one thing I really look for in a new recruit is a certain thirst for challenge.

  16. Zingy says:

    It’s so true about resumes. Every manager in my former workplace wouldn’t bother reading them, one manager had the gall to say that they only skimmed it.

  17. Julie says:

    I’m a grad student in Speech Pathology right now. When I finish up my masters in about a year, I will be looking for a job. Something my supervisor told me about resume-writing for our field is to never include your GPA on your resume. She said that this would look stuck up and people would not want to hire you. This came as a complete surprise to me. I figured that when you’re a new grad, your GPA and references are the only way of knowing your strength as a candidate. I wonder if this is something specific to Speech Pathology, or maybe education in general?

  18. Jennifer says:

    Why is it that people will not look at those they deem overqualified? I am currently looking for a job and am pretty flexible on the pay due to my husband’s salary covering most of our bills. I keep getting those emails that say “Your resume is impressive but we don’t think you would be a good fit.” How do they know? I have several years experience doing what they need. I am not looking for a high salary, but the median area just enough to cover our bills. Hubby gets extra bonus money during the summer/fall so we can use that to plan vacations.

    It is just frustrating because you would think that they would be happy to find someone that is highly skilled and are obviously interested in that position.

  19. Nice post.
    I agree about checking out your on-line persona
    I was asked in a recent interview which online social networks I use, as I listed them the guy furiously wrote down every one.
    They do check, after all its easy to do.

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