What You Don't Get About the Job Search: The View From Employers

The Atlantic asked our readers to share with us the one thing most people don't understand or appreciate about looking for work. We got a surprising number of responses from employers with advice for the unemployed. Here are some of the most enlightening and entertaining of the bunch. Also be sure to read the latest inspiring, heart-breaking and illuminating testimonials from the jobless.

If you have something to add, you can leave your response in the comment section below or send a note to our private email account aboutmyjob1@gmail.com.

"I'm on the lookout for anything at all that shows you don't take this seriously."

Look, it's a lot easier to not hire someone than to fire them. Someone who doesn't take their job seriously can really be a pain in the workplace, draining energy away from other tasks. But firing that person can also be a pain -- it can take weeks of HR meetings, establishing a paper trail, etc.

So if I'm trying to hire someone, I'm on the lookout for anything at all that shows you don't take this seriously. That includes how you dress and how you carry yourself. Yes, it's unfair, and in an ideal world you wouldn't have to worry about it. But it's the way it is.

"It turns out most resumes aren't very good. People aren't very good at answering interview questions."

Earlier in 2011 I put out an offer to help people who were looking for work. I offered to review resumes. I gave guidance about answering tough interview questions. I coached people on how to market themselves and I pointed out some ways people could expand their searches.

The response was overwhelming. It turns out, when it comes to looking for a job, most people understand very little. Their resumes aren't very good. They aren't very good at answering interview questions. They don't know how to find opportunities, their networks are terrible etc. It goes on and on and on.

I'm a hiring manager and have spent a few years seeing good and bad resumes, listening to great interview responses and terrible ones (I'll always remember the candidate applying for a sales job who told me that he wasn't social and didn't have any friends...What?!). The things people don't understand, in no particular order:

-- You HAVE to be positive, enthusiastic and high-energy in ANY interaction with a potential employer
-- Always list achievement over responsibility. "I did X and it led to awesome result Y."
-- Looking for a job IS a full time job
-- Apply for any job for which you meet at least 70% of the qualifications
-- You need to tailor your resume to EACH job posting

The things employers don't understand, in no particular order:

-- Be clear about your process with the candidate
-- Anyone with whom you've had a conversation deserves a call to let them know if you aren't going to hire them
-- Be excited to talk to people. You may just be talking to your next employee. Be excited to speak with them
-- Adding to your team is the MOST important thing you do

"Sanitize your online presence.'"

Folks need to realize they have to sanitize their net presence. Those drunken spring break pictures have got to go, and they have got to go a few years before you plan on getting that job so that they've made their way out of caches and/or can be explained credibly as "well that was then...."

"Dress conservatively and act conservatively."

When going for an interview, always dress up. This means changing not just your physical appearance but also your personal appearance. Dress conservatively and act conservatively. I'm an out gay man, but one thing I worry about is my bearing, how I appear to others. It's challenging meeting your employer's expectations especially when these expectations stem from their religious or political persuasion. I wouldn't want to work in an environment in which I'd be discriminated. However, as the job market gets more competitive, and as my options become slimmer, do I have to forsake my emotional security in order to earn a buck? I shouldn't have to feel any concern over this. But I can't dismiss this as a private insecurity. I believe that many minorities including people of color and ethic minorities might feel the same way. Many companies comply with anti-discrimination policies (and must comply with anti-discrimination laws), but these don't protect people from being judged by their employers or coworkers simply for who they are. Prejudice is internal, unconscious, a part of our psyche. How do you interpret "No?" Is it a response to your qualifications, amount of relevant experience, the pitch of your voice, the color of your skin? These questions are even more relevant now that issues of discrimination in the work place are being taken more seriously. I'll go further: These questions are even more relevant now that the economy is in the tank, and some people are being screened for who they are. Are we returning to the Dark Ages now that our economic situation is becoming more and more desperate?

"'There's a wreck on 495' is a perfectly acceptable reason to be late."

Show up on time.  If you can't, call ahead to let them know you're late, and why.  Here in the DC area "There's a wreck on 495" is a perfectly acceptable reason to be late, or reschedule.

A place I hang out at online had an actual debate going  over that until it was noted that the
"show up on time" camp was gainfully employed and the "why does that matter?" camp was not.