Choosing to put your career on hold to raise your children is a tough choice. Mothers often sacrifice their careers for the sake of having a family, only to find the career world changed in the time they spent ensuring their children had what they needed for a strong start in life.

While being a mom actually may make you a better employee because parenthood strengthens pretty much every skill you can think of,you still need to prepare before you reenter the workforce. Here are a few actions you can take before its time to get back into work:

1. Brush Up Your Tech Skills

If you’ve been out of the workforce for any length of time, your tech skills are outdated. Technology changes every day, and business needs change with it. Luckily, you can learn almost any technology online for free or cheap.

You don’t know what you don’t know, so start by looking through job advertisements in your industry to see which software programs are advertised as job requirements. Don’t assume that just because you could use industry-specific software five years ago that it is exactly the same. It’s not. Google to find tutorials on the latest versions.

Next, connect with people in your industry on LinkedIN and ask questions about how their companies are using technology and what you should know before you reenter the workforce. Don’t be shy—you aren’t the first mom to go back to work, and if you look just a little, you’re sure to find a fellow mom in your industry that has done the same thing. Besides, you need to get back into the habit of networking anyway, and what better way than to start a conversation with someone in your industry about technology?

If your home computer is more than three years old, replace it. You’ll need to know how to use the latest operating systems no matter what your industry.

2. Start a Side Hustle to Fill Work Gaps on Your Resume

Right now, while you’re just starting to prepare to go back to work, is the perfect time to start a side hustle. A side hustle will give you something recent to put on your resume, and something to highlight in interviews. Besides, who couldn’t use a few extra dollars?

Being a mom makes you a shrewd negotiator and helps you achieve better customer service skills since you spend so much time thinking about the needs of others and mitigating toddler tantrums. You can start a side hustle easily by selling children’s toys and clothes on eBay, making crafts to sell on Etsy, or babysitting children for other moms. If you have a degree or a background in education, you should check out our 10 Summer Side Hustles for Teachers list.

3. Tidy Your Resume (and your LinkedIN)

Your resume is probably a bit dusty after not being used for several years. Modern resumes have more custom formatting than they did just a few years ago, so it’s a good idea to either find a career coach to help you highlight your best skills and target them to your dream job, or at least buy a few modern resume templates online.

Your LinkedIN profile is a powerful tool to help you find a job an prepare to return to work. Update your profile, make sure you’ve connected with as many people as you can, and when you’re ready to find a job, turn on the setting to let recruiters know you’re looking.

4. Gather References

You will need references when you go to apply for a new job. Since you’ve been out of the workplace awhile, you will need to remind your former supervisors and colleagues about how great an asset you were. You can do this by connecting with them on LinkedIN. Don’t be afraid to buy your former boss lunch—it may lead to a job offer or at least a reference.

Also think about connections you’ve made as a mom. If you followed our advice and started a side hustle, you have clients you can use as references, too. If you’ve been doing charity work or volunteering at your kid’s school, you may be able to use your supervisors and connections as references.

5. Practice Your Career Story

Your resume and cover letter will tell the abridged story of your career (if you write them properly), but what will you say in an interview when you’re asked, “Walk me through your resume?” or “Tell me about yourself?” You need a solid career story.

You should not be ashamed of taking time off work to raise a family. Instead, tell the recruiter that you had a “once in a lifetime opportunity to be a mother” and you seized that opportunity and now it’s made you a better employee. It’s your story; tell it in the most positive light possible.

Do any moms out there have any other advice to offer?

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5 Ways Moms can Prepare to Return to Work after Raising the Kids - #momsatwork #career #careeradvice

In the excitement of getting a new job, it’s easy to skip over reading your new employment contract. However, you should read the contract from top to bottom if you want to make sure your expectations align with your new employers.

Employment contracts are full of small print, and without careful review, you could sign something with a clause that limits your career options for years. Remember that everything is negotiable, and the time to negotiate is before you sign. Once your signature is on the paper, it’s hard to convince an employer to make changes.

So, to make sure you know exactly what kind of job you are getting yourself into, it is very important to rake through the contract with a fine tooth comb. Not sure what to check? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Salary And Bonuses

Even though you should have already discussed your salary with your new employer, it’s still a good idea to double check the final figure in your contract. Since the person making the job offer and the person who talked to you about salary are probably different people, you should check to ensure the contract outlines everything you were promised—including bonuses.

Look for typos, vague language, and just plain wrong numbers. If anything looks out of place, do not sign the contract. Ask for explanation, and if the contract says anything different than what you were promised, do not sign. Request a fresh copy of the contract that clearly states the salary and bonuses you expect for the job.

2. The Job Description

While you should expect a clause like “other duties as assigned” in your job description, the rest of the description should match how the hiring manager described the job to you. The duties should match what was posted in the advertisement, and if you are confused or concerned about anything listed in the duties list, don’t sign. Ask for explanation and corrections.

If your employer ever tries to get you to do anything out of scope or tries to force you to work significantly longer than your contracted hours, you might want to find out more at about your rights. In this case, your employer might be in breach of the contract, and you could be within your right to take them to court.

Of course, the best way to avoid misplaced expectations on both your part and your employers is to make sure the job duties listed in your employment contract are correct.

3. The Termination Clause

Inevitably, either you or your employer will wish to part ways in the future. Now is the time to clarify termination expectations.

Thoroughly read the termination the termination clause so that you understand the reasons your employer may fire you. Also pay attention to how much notice the employer expects you to give when you resign. Be careful if you spot the phrase “sole discretion” used in this clause, as it means that your employer will be able to end your contract without giving you any warning.

4. Restrictive Clauses

Some employment contracts come with clauses that could restrict you in certain ways. For instance, employees who work in some government bodies will not be able to show political allegiance to any party in any way. You might also notice clauses that say you are not permitted to poach the company’s clients if you move on to a different business. You can find out more about such restrictive clauses by reading

Most dubious to us are clauses that restrict “moonlighting.” Companies that restrict your ability to earn money in other ways besides working for them do not have your best interests in mind and will not make good employers. This kind of clause shows you that more tyrannical policies are in your future, and who needs that kind of stress?

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4 Things to Check Before Signing a New Employment Contract #career #careeradvice #employmentcontract

A reader asks us for advice in a hard choice: Should she take a part-time job offer, or wait to see if she gets a full-time offer from somewhere else. 

Dear HR,

I have been looking for a job for months! I just applied for a fulltime job at a local elementary school that has amazing benefits, and I’m hoping to hear from them soon. I’ve been networking with the other office workers, and while it’s not a sure thing, it’s definitely more promising than anything else I’ve tried.

Today I was offered a part-time job answering phones in a customer service center for a local company. Do you think I should take it? I really want the Full-time job at the school, and I worry that if I take this part-time job and I get the school job, it will look bad to my new employer to quit so soon. Do you think I should just wait to hear back from the full-time job? I need advice!!

Thank you,

Freaking Out

Dear Freaking Out,

I see your frustration. After a long job search, you may start to lose hope of finding the job you really want. It’s important to keep hope, but realistically, you have bills to pay.

Don’t Count Your Chickens Before they Hatch

When you tell me about the full-time job, you describe how great the job is, how great the benefits are, and that you’ve done a bit of networking with other people who work there. None of this guarantees you the job. None of this even guarantees you an interview.

The truth is, state jobs get more applicants than they can reasonably consider properly. Your application is in a stack with 50 or more other applications. If you’ve been looking for a job for awhile, your application materials and approach to job searching probably need a little work. No judgment, but it’s just a fact of life that most job seekers hit a point where they’re just plain tired of filling out applications, so they stop customizing their resumes and cover letters for each job. So, employers don’t contact them because it’s not obvious that they’re the right person for the job. It’s a slippery slope that feeds the “I suck” monster in your head.

[bctt tweet=”If employers don’t contact you, it’s because your application materials don’t make it obvious that you’re the right person for the job. It’s a slippery slope that feeds the “I suck” monster in your head. #resume #rejection #careeradvice” username=”perfectlyemploy”]

Pay Your Bills with the Part-Time Job

Unless you’re independently wealthy, your bills are probably piling up during your job search. You need cash. You also need opportunities to network and regain your money-making confidence. A part-time job can help with all of those things.

If the part-time job is absolutely awful, then quit. Employers know that not every job is for every person. It’s not as big of a deal as you think.

Part-Time Jobs Can be Fantastic

Taking a part-time job has many advantages. Sure, you might not receive full-time benefits like healthcare plans and 401Ks, but part-time jobs rarely expect you to have full-time loyalty to them, so you can start a side hustleto make up the monetary difference. Plus, some part-time jobs pay a little more than entry-level full-time jobs simply because they don’t offer benefit packages. lists other benefits of taking a part-time job, like reduced transportation costs and reduced stress. They also mention networking opportunities—an essential part of building any career.

If You Get the Full-Time Job Offer, Act Classy

You should still pursue finding a Full-time job that makes you happy, even if you take the part-time job. If the school job calls you for an interview, put on your pearls and your heels and rock it. If they offer you the job, do your happy dance.

When you put in your resignation for the part-time job, ask your boss for a private meeting and start the conversation with, “I hope you will be happy for me, but I’ve been offered a full-time job that suits my skill set completely.” Explain to your boss that you appreciate the opportunity he or she has given you. You never know—he might offer you an even better Full-time position.

Regardless, leave with class. Be grateful. Be graceful. Follow your coworkers on LinkedIN. Every contact is a good contact when you’re job hunting.

Related Posts that Might Help You:

Best of Luck,


We will makeover your resume for just $49!

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Part-time jobs can be beneficial in the right circumstances. Find out how!

Why I won't hire you - confessions of a hiring manager

Have you ever wondered why you didn’t get a job that you thought was perfect for you? It’s easy to blame the employer for not giving you a fair chance, but the truth is, it might be your application materials or some other easy-to-fix thing that’s keeping you from your dream job.

Jarell and I are currently looking for a marketing intern for our parent company, Escape the Classroom. We love to hire interns because it makes us feel like we’re “giving back” for all of the help we’ve had along the way in our own careers. We know it is nearly impossible to break into most industries right out of college unless you have some sort of experience. So, we are happy to provide experience to students majoring in fields like education, marketing, graphic arts, and technology.

The problem is, a lot of intern applicants make giant mistakes that keep us from hiring them, and I don’t think they even know it—which is why I’m writing this probably-too-honest post. This list isn’t just for interns. If you’re having trouble getting a job, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you are guilty of any of these very correctible job application sins:

1. Your Application is Incomplete

The number one reason we don’t hire a job applicant is simply because their application is too incomplete for us to decipher who they are, what their experience is, or what they want to do. We know job applications are annoying, so we try to keep ours rather short, but we still have applicants who don’t answer the questions we pose.

We have no choice but to reject applicants who don’t bother to fill out the entire application. We look at every application with a compassionate spirit, but not all employers do. Most are going to take your unwillingness to complete the application as a sign that you don’t really want the job…and they won’t bother to call you for an interview.

No matter what, always complete the job application in its entirety. It’s the first impression for a lot of employers and you don’t want their first impression of you to be that you’re either uninterested in the job or you’re lazy.

2. Your Resume (or application) is Unprofessional

When we see short resumes for intern candidates, we understand that they don’t have a lot of experience and that’s why they’re coming to us for an internship. What we don’t understand is why they list “JV Cheerleader” as work experience on their resumes.

Here’s a quick list of unprofessional things we’ve seen on recent resumes and applications that you should change immediately:

  • Parents or other family members listed as references
  • High School clubs and awards listed as work-related accomplishments
  • Traits like “punctual” and “hard worker” listed as skills
  • Email addresses like “PookieBear92” or “SandysSister34”
  • Missing contact information, like your phone number or mailing address
  • Missing “professional profile” that starts the story of your resume
  • Glaring typos and spelling errors (the obvious kind that elementary students would notice)

3. Your Resume Does Not Fit the Job Description

Employers don’t have a crystal ball. They can’t see how your skills and talents align for the job they advertised unless you show them.

You need to craft a customized resume for every job advertisement you answer. This means rewriting your professional profile at the top of your resume to include keywords from the job description, rewriting your job descriptions for previous jobs to show that you’ve done tasks that will transfer to the job for which you are applying, and rewriting your skills list to reflect the skills the job advertisement lists.

[bctt tweet=”If you’re applying for a web designer job, don’t turn in the same resume you used for a chicken fryer job at KFC. You may be qualified for both jobs, but you have to reframe your resume’s story to show an employer you’re the right person for the job.” via=”no”]

4. You Didn’t Include a Resume at All

One of the most disheartening things we see in job applications is when a job applicant doesn’t send us a resume at all. Instructional designers like our Escape the Classroom mottos of rebelliously smashing boring educational experiences, so they often fill out the contact form and tell us how much they’d love to work for us…but that’s it. They don’t include a resume or cover letter.

We always answer our emails. We answer these well-meaning educators and ask them for their resume, cover letter, and online portfolio. They never respond.

You need a resume. It’s your argument that you’re the right person for the job. You can’t apply for a job (outside of retail or food service) without one and expect to land an interview.

We will makeover your resume for just $49!

5. You Didn’t Include a Cover Letter

Probably 50% of the job applications we receive do not have cover letters included. It only takes a few minutes to craft a cover letter, so why would you avoid it?

The cover letter is your introduction. It tells an employer who you are and starts your argument as to why you are the perfect person for the job. Not writing one for each individual job tells the employer you aren’t serious about the job and don’t really care if you get it or not.

6. Your Cover Letter is Rude

Believe it or not, the only thing worse than not submitting a cover letter at all is submitting a rude one. When you try to bully an employer into hiring you or making a quick hiring decision, you are not going to get the job. No way. No how.

I say this because we have applicants send us cover letters that end with a statement like, “I have many other job offers, so I need to know right away if you plan to hire me.” No, I don’t plan to hire you.

This kind of statement tells the employer that you are high maintenance, conceited, and trouble. You might think it shows confidence, but it doesn’t. Employers want confident employees, but they also want kind employees that they can trust to make good decisions and impress clients with their diplomacy and helpful attitude.

As a female business owner, the last thing I want to do is hire someone that tries to bully me into it. It’s just not going to happen.

7. You Don’t have Work Samples

We don’t expect our interns to have full portfolios yet, and we give a lot of thought into assigning interns to projects they will be able to use to build solid portfolios so they have something to show future employers. However, if you are applying for a full-time or part-time job in any sort of art, design, writing, or technology-related industry, you must have work samples.

If you don’t have anything you can show, make something. In instructional design, I always want to see finished projects from potential designers so I can have a conversation with the designer about how they planned and built the project. It tells me a lot about whether or not the designer is a good fit for the kind of work we do, because not all instructional design is the same. We focus on high-end projects with a lot of media. Some designers were only trained to plan instruction in text-based format. Both are important types of instructional design, but the skill sets are very different.

The same is true with graphic design. Every artist has her own style, so employers want to see if the artist style matches their needs. Samples are key to this sort of job.

If you work in an industry that requires work samples, make sure you have them!

8. Your Reference Leaves You a Bad Review…or Doesn’t Know You at All

When you list someone as a reference, make sure you have their permission. Believe it or not, we have potential employees list references without telling the reference they plan to list them. So, we call the reference, and they tell us unflattering things about the job applicant. Even worse, some don’t remember the job candidate at all!

Your references are your allies in finding a job. When you list a reference, you’re telling the employer that this person has nice things to say about you. It’s absolutely tragic when your reference trashes you. There’s no coming back from that one—we simply aren’t going to hire you.

9. You Don’t Answer Your Email Regularly

If incomplete job applications are our number one reason we don’t hire someone, number two is when a job applicant doesn’t respond to our emails. Once we’ve chosen our interns, we always email them and confirm that they still want the job and then ask them to attend an information session with us. After the information session, we send them a contract to sign, which includes a start date. Amazingly, at least 1/3 of the potential interns we select never bother to reply to our emails.

If you want the job, monitor your communication channels. You should check your email no less than twice per day.

Related Posts

Who am I Going to Hire?

This post may come across as negative, and it’s not meant to be that way at all. Everything I’ve listed in this post as a reason I don’t hire someone is completely fixable on the part of the job applicant. I will interview the job applicant that completes the application in its entirety, attaches a resume that shows he or she is the perfect person for the job, writes a lovely, friendly cover letter that explains why he or she wants the job is qualified for it, and answers my emails in less than 24 hours. Most employers feel the same way.

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Why I Won't Hire You - Confessions of a Hiring Manager

Don't embarrass yourself at a job fair by not knowing the companies there.

Job fairs are loud, crowded hiring blitzes where after awhile, most every applicant starts to look the same to employers. If you want to walk out of a job fair with a job—or at least an interview—you have to stand out from the crowd and show potential employers that you’re the perfect person for the job.

Here are 10 ways you can make the right impression and maximize your job offers:

1. Research the Companies You Know Will be at the Job Fair

Start preparing for a job fair by looking at the list of companies that will be at the fair. Google each company and look at what they do. Look at their LinkedIN pages and see who works there, and what their job titles are. Decide which companies best suit your career goals, and learn as much as you can about those companies.

If you’re looking at big, national or international corporations, spend some time learning about the company’s history and who their customers are. Larger companies usually have an online employee manual or benefits website so you can research what a potential offer package might look like. The more information you have, the better.

You want to know enough about a company to be able to speak intelligently with their representatives at the job fair. The last thing you want to do is show up to the job fair without any knowledge of the companies represented there, and then ask, “oh, what do you do?”


2. Make Sure Your Resume Isn’t Boring

If you’re still using the standard MS Word template to make your resumes, it’s time to make a change—right now. Job fairs are full of candidates that show up with a stack of black-and-white, text-only, boring resumes and hand them to every company they see. Be ready to stand out in that crowd.

You can buy resume templates inexpensively on Etsy. Look for a colorful template that has spaces to highlight your skills and professional profile.

[bctt tweet=”Avoid the “objective” line on your resume because everyone at a job fair has the same objective: to get a job.”]

If you are applying for jobs in two or more different industries, make sure you have separate resumes for each industry. Each industry has specific keywords, so make sure your resume addresses them.

3. Prepare Your Elevator Speech

You need a 30-second pitch, or “elevator speech” ready for the job fair. In such a crowded space, you have to make an impression quickly. You won’t have a lot of time to convince the company representatives that you’re the right person for the job, so your best bet is to have a speech prepared.

The best elevator speeches highlight your qualifications as well as your knowledge of the company. You are trying to show that you’re extremely talented, confident, and a perfect fit for the company’s needs.

Here’s a template to get you started. Fill in the blanks and make it your own. Note that you should really prepare a few of these so you can customize them based on the company and industry you are trying to impress:

Good morning! I’m ________ and I am excited to meet you. I’ve followed your work on _______ for years, and I find it inspiring/exciting/amazing. I’m a __________________ with _____ years of experience creating __________. Like you, my work _______________. I have achieved _______________. I would love to talk to you more about your work and how we might collaborate in the future when you have time. Here’s my resume/business card. Let’s connect on LinkedIN, too.

Make it your own, but the goal is to show that you rock, you’re knowledgeable about the company, and you see yourself as an asset. You’ve got this!

4. Dress to Impress, and Remember Your Pop of Color

One of the first things employers will notice about you is how you dress. This isn’t the time to choose comfort over fashion. Wear your favorite power suit or dress.

No matter what you choose to wear, make sure you have a pop of color. If you wear a grey or black suit, wear a colorful scarf or camisole. Draw attention to your face with color.

You want to be memorable. You’re more likely to be remembered if a person can associate you with something you wore. Colorful accessories help you stand out in the right way.

When we go to job fairs and conferences, I typically wear a royal blue or purple dress with nude pumps. These are colors that work for me, but you likely have your own color palette that works for you. The worst thing you can do is dress in all black or another neutral color. You’ll blend in too much with everyone around you.

5. Be Conscious of What You Carry

Don’t be the person who drops a bunch of papers everywhere when she goes to shake hands with a potential employer. Don’t be the person fidgeting with her car keys while talking with a recruiter. Think ahead about what you are going to take with you into the job fair.

You will need a place to put brochures and business cards as you receive them from your new contacts. You also need something to write on, and a place to keep your resumes flat.

I use a leather portfolio when we attend business meetings. Something like this will work:

It has a pocket on the right for keeping resumes straight, a notepad for taking notes, and a smaller pocket for stashing business cards and brochures.

On top of this, I usually carry a small purse for my wallet and car key. Look for a purse with a shoulder strap. You always want to have one hand free for shaking hands. It makes you seem approachable.

A simple, black folder from the dollar store works better than nothing, so if you’re short on cash, use that as your back up. Make sure it doesn’t say anything on it. Nothing is more unprofessional than folders that say “Trapper Keeper” or have psychedelic Lisa Frank unicorns on them.

6. Use Your Time Wisely: Target 5 Companies

Depending on the type of job fair, there could be as many as 200 companies ready to meet potential applicants. You should have five companies in mind when you walk in the door. Talk to those companies first before you turn your attention to other potential employers.

It’s better to make five excellent impressions than 100 half-hearted ones. Focus on your favorites, and then walk the fair with an open mind. You never know when you’ll see a potential employer you overlooked that might be a perfect fit.

7. Smile and Offer Your Hand for the Handshake First

When you approach a company’s table at the job fair, smile at the representatives and extend your hand for the handshake first. This shows that you’re confident and someone they definitely want to get to know.

After the handshake, you can lead the conversation with your elevator speech and see where it goes. Even if you’re nervous, smile and be engaged with the company’s representatives.

8. Ask the Right Questions

A job fair is a good time to “feel out” a company to see if they’re a good fit for you, so make sure you have a good list of questions to ask. The right questions are ones that are focused on how your goals and the company’s goals might align. This isn’t a time to ask about vacation time and medical benefits, but instead ask about what the company’s goals are for this year, and how they’re measuring success. Try questions like:

  1. I read about your XYZ project on your website. It sounds fascinating! How are working towards that goal?
  2. There seems to be a lot of potential to _______ in this field. How is your company approaching it?
  3. I would love to learn more about how your company is achieving __________ this year. What steps are you taking?

If you have time, you might also ask the representatives what their favorite thing about working for the company is. The answers to this question will tell you a lot about the company.

9. Always be Closing

Keep your eye on the prize. You are at the job fair to make connections, land interviews, and receive job offers. Keep that in mind with every conversation.

If the representative isn’t scheduling an interview or saying they’ll be in touch soon for one, you should approach the topic yourself. Ask, “Is there a good time we can connect in the next week or so to discuss the position?”

Try to nail down a time to chat, or at the very least, try to get the name of the hiring manager, if he’s not present at the job fair. You want to walk away with something firm, not just, “we’ll be in touch if we’re interested.”

10. Send Follow-up Emails the Following Day

When you leave the job fair, you will have a good idea which companies you want to work for and which you don’t. Even so, you should send follow up emails to the people who took the time to talk to you. Thank them for their time and tell them how great it was to meet them. Ask to connect with them on LinkedIN and to keep you in mind if they see a position that suits your skill set.

Make sure to ask for business cards or contact information if it’s not offered to you. Job fairs are excellent places to network, so even if you don’t walk out with a job, you should at least walk away with a dozen or more new contacts for your network.

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How to Rock and Job Fair and Walk Out with a Job  10 Ways to Rock a Job Fair


Employers are rejecting as many as 98% of all online job applications and resumes. It’s a shocking statistic, but it should also make you think a little harder about how you’re searching for jobs. You can’t just fill out a bunch of online job applications and think you’re going to find a job quickly.

Just filling out online job applications is like only betting on a single number in a game of roulette. Once in awhile, you will get lucky and land an interview, but most of the time, your application will be rejected in a blink of an eye. You must have a job search strategy.

Don't play roulette with your career

Online job applications are still vital, though, because it’s the only way most companies accept applications. Your online application has to shine, but you have to take a few strategic steps to ensure your application is seen by the person with the power to hire you.

Make Sure You Meet the Minimum Qualifications—and Your Application Shows It

In most cases, your application will be automatically rejected if you do not meet the minimum qualifications. Many application software systems are set to auto-reject applicants who do not meet minimum qualifications before human eyes ever see the application. The bottom line: If you don’t meet at least the minimum requirements, you’re wasting your time in applying for a job online.

Even more, your application materials need to show, very clearly, that you do meet the minimum qualifications. Here’s how:

  • Make a list of the minimum and recommended qualifications listed in the advertisement.
  • Draft a cover letter that explains how you meet the qualifications.
  • Go through your resume and make sure your professional profile or summary lists the qualifications listed in the ad. Echo the wording the employer uses in the ad.
  • When you’re filling out the application, make sure the descriptions of your previous jobs use the keywords the employer used in their qualifications list.

Remember that your goal is to show the employer that you’re the perfect person for the job. Take the time to make sure all of your application materials show you’re qualified and the right people will see your application.

Get an Internal Recommendation: Network Your Way to an Interview

One of the best ways to ensure the right people see your application is to get an internal recommendation from someone who already works in the company. Internal recommendations hold a lot of weight with employers because if a current employee does excellent work, the employer assumes that the people he or she respects enough to recommend with do excellent work, too.

Bigger corporations have special employee recruitment systems built specifically for internal recommendations. Some companies even guarantee an interview for applicants with internal recommendations!

Many companies offer referral bonuses when an employee makes a recommendation and the recommended applicant is hired. I made $500 when I recommended a fellow instructional designer for a contract job at a big corporation. It’s a win-win for everyone involved: The employer gets help weeding through applicants, the person making the recommendation gets a bonus and the satisfaction of helping a colleague, and the applicant gets a job.

There are a few ways to go about getting an internal recommendation. Start by asking people in your network if they know of any open positions at the places they work that would be suitable for you. Many positions are advertised internally before they are advertised publicly. Don’t be afraid to ask—that’s the purpose of building a network!

Next, as you’re looking through job advertisements, use LinkedIN to see who you know, or who in your network knows someone that works at the companies advertising jobs you want. Make connections and ask for internal recommendations.

Follow up with the Hiring Manager

If you are applying for a local company or retail store, you should find out who the hiring manager is and follow up with him or her within a couple days of filling out an online application. If it’s a retail job, you should go to the store in person, introduce yourself, hand your resume to the hiring manager, and tell them you’d love to work there and how you’re highly qualified for the job.

With a local business, you might start by finding the hiring manager’s email address and writing a kind email introducing yourself. Explain that you’ve already applied for the job, but you wanted to personally reach out and let the hiring manager know how excited you are by the opportunity to potential work with the local company. Give a short summary of your qualifications, attach your resume, and say thank you.

The point is, if you have the opportunity to make a personal connection, you should do it. 

[bctt tweet=”Do whatever you can to stand out from the giant pile of other applicants. Meet people, make an impression, and let them know you’re kind and qualified.”]

Keyword Optimization

Modern application software allows HR representatives and hiring managers to comb through applications for specific keywords. They may search your application for your previous job titles to see if you’ve worked similar jobs in the past. They may search for specific skills they need from applicants, like industry-specific software. Be aware that employers have the ability to search through applications this way and prepare for it.

If you’ve tooled your cover letter, resume, and application to show that you meet the minimum qualifications for the job, you already have a good jump on keyword optimization. The process is very similar:

  • Read through the job advertisement and make a list of specific skills, software, job duties, and other qualifications that stand out in the ad. These can all be keywords.
  • Go through your resume and retool the language in your previous job descriptions to match the keywords from the job duties listed in the advertisement.
  • Retool the language in your cover letter and resume’s personal profile or summary to make sure you’re hitting keywords for specific skills and qualifications.
  • When you list previous jobs and skills on the job application, be sure to use keywords from the ad.

The goal is to use as many keywords from the ad as possible. Sometimes keywords aren’t in the ad, and you will have to know your industry and the company to add them to your materials. If you don’t have a good list of keywords from the advertisement, you can always use LinkedIN to look at profiles of people who work at the company and use keywords from their qualifications.Visit our etsy shop for a resume makeover

Avoid Scoring System Pitfalls

Modern application software sometimes use a “scoring system” to rank applicants based on keywords, qualifications, and experience. If you’ve done everything we’ve talked about so far, you should be scoring quite well in these systems. However, employers can set other factors besides skills, qualifications, and experience as part of the scoring system.

For example, we’ve seen some government jobs where applicants are automatically rejected if they answer “yes” to the “do you use tobacco products” question. Some are rejecting applicants who have been arrested (without reading explanations). Still others are auto-rejecting applicants who have been fired from previous jobs.

Auto-rejection isn’t fair. If you are rejected for a job quickly, in so short a time frame that you’re pretty sure no one looked at your application, you can try emailing an explanation to the HR department and see if it makes a difference. The worst thing they can do is tell you that your application is still rejected, so you have nothing to lose.

Keep Trying and Don’t Take it Personally

Just because a company rejects your application once doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try applying there again. As you practice making lists of keywords specific to the job advertisement and retooling your materials to fit them, you will get a lot more interview calls. Keep practicing and honing your application skills!

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How to land a gig with an online job application 98 percent of job applications are rejected - don't let yours be one of them Stop getting rejected from online job applications


You get the call—you’ve got the job! Before you accept the job offer, kindly thank the person on the other end of the line and tell them you will give them an answer within 24-hours. Don’t be over-eager—you can happy dance after you’re sure you shouldn’t reject the offer.

In the euphoria of getting the job offer call, it’s easy to forget that now is the time for careful consideration. To accept, reject, or negotiate—that is the question!

1. Don’t Accept a Job Offer if the Salary is Ridiculously Low

You want to work for an employer who values you and your work. A super-low salary offer is a sure sign that the employer either doesn’t value what you do, or doesn’t understand the salary range for someone in your field with your experience level. A low salary offer may also signal that a company is in trouble financially. Regardless, it’s not a good sign, and you shouldn’t accept the offer.

Instead, try to negotiate a fair salary for your industry. If you aren’t sure what a fair salary is, you can research on websites like, or you can read job advertisements for similar work in your area. You should also network with people in your industry. If you don’t want to flat out ask someone how much they make, you can instead tell them about the job offer and ask them what they believe is a more fair salary range.

Once you are clear on a fair salary range, go back to them employer and tell them you are excited by their offer, but you are concerned about the salary range. Point out your qualifications and your research, and propose a new range. The worst they can say is “no.”

It’s always wise to know the fair salary range for the position for which you’re applying before you go to an interview. Always do your research ahead of time, when you can.

2. Reject a Job Offer if the Benefits Suck

Most big companies have either an online employee handbook or benefits website. When you’re researching a company before an interview, look for this information so you can ask questions before you get to the job offer stage. If you can’t find the information, ask to whom you should direct questions about benefits when you go for your interview.

If you’re interviewing for a full time job, the benefits should include decent medical coverage with low premiums and deductibles. One of our clients was recently offered a factory job where the medical deductibles were over $12,000! Remember that benefits are part of the overall salary-balancing act with any job. Do the math and make sure a high salary isn’t just covering up for bad benefits.

Look at other benefits too, like dental coverage, employee assistance plans, 401K or other retirement accounts, and employer matches on retirement account deposits and stock options. If you aren’t sure of what something means, call the HR department and ask.

3. Reject a Job offer if a Company that Doesn’t Have Personal Days

When you’re evaluating a job’s benefits, be sure to look at time off. In most cases, you want several federal holidays, at least a week’s worth of sick time, at least two week’s worth of vacation, and several personal days. Personal days are important because they show that your employer cares about the “real life” stuff you have to handle, like doctor’s appointments, vet appointments, and dealing with family issues.

A good employer will realize that vacation time is time to rest and rejuvenate. Spending vacation days on personal business results in overstressed employees, and overstressed employees don’t do their best work. It’s another way employers show that they value their employees.

If a job offer doesn’t include personal days, take a good long look at the company’s policies on sick time. Can it be used for doctor’s appointments? If an employer offers more vacation time than others, they may expect some of that time to be spent on personal matters, too. Look at the full picture before making a decision.

4. Reject a Job Offer if the Employer Forbids Moonlighting or Have Other Crappy Policies

Before accepting any job offer, it’s a good idea to read through the employee handbook. Some employers have policies that are demeaning or career inhibitive. One of the worst we see is a “no moonlighting” policy that forbids employees from having a second part-time job or side hustle.

It shouldn’t be any of your employer’s business if you want to do some freelance writing on the side, or if you’re working of your student loans through a part-time retail gig. As long as you are doing your work properly and on time, all should be well with your boss. Your employer should not own any more of your time than what they are paying you.

Look for other policies that might be deal breakers for your situation. Some forbid cell phones and personal calls at work. Some have infraction-based systems where if you’re “written up” so many times you’re automatically fired. Read the fine print carefully!

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5. Never Accept an Offer if You Have a Bad Feeling after the Interview

Most of all, you have to trust your gut feelings about job offers and whether or not to accept them. Remember that when you go for an interview, it’s a two-way conversation. It’s your opportunity to learn as much about the employer as possible.

If you walk into an interview and people aren’t happy to greet you, that’s a warning sign of a hostile work environment. If the questions the interviewer asks make you uncomfortable, that’s another warning sign.

If the interview turns into a horror story session about the last person that held your job, run. Finish the interview, and then if you’re offered the job, say “thanks, but no thanks.” First, it’s unprofessional to trash another person to a complete stranger, and second, it shows you how little the employer values employees.

When you’re evaluating a job offer, don’t give an answer right away. Take at least a couple hours to think about the offer and do a bit of research to make sure it’s the right place for you. Make sure you’re comfortable with salary, benefits, and employer policies before you sign the offer letter. Clear expectations make for the best partnerships between employers and employees!

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Dear HR,

I applied for a job two months ago at a local department store. They never called me or anything, so I don’t know if they hired someone else or if they’re still looking. Should I apply again?

Dear Reader,

In short, yes, you should apply again, but we need to talk about the art of “following up.” You see, putting in a job application is the bare minimum you can do to get a job. A job application tells an employer, “here’s a warm body that may fill the position.” Is that the message you want to send?

The Application Process from a Manager’s POV

Think about it: The department store probably gets at least 3-5 applications per day, if they’re a mid-size, local store. If they’re still using paper applications (some local stores still do), that means your application goes into a nice pile, and when the hiring manager thinks about it, she peruses through the pile to find a couple people with retail experience that she will call for an interview. If the first two people in the pile have the experience, she has no reason to look further into the pile, so your chances of getting the interview have more to do with luck that your application is near the top of the pile than your fantastic, qualified skill set.

If the department store uses an online application process, the application software could be keyword mining—looking through applications for specific keywords that the employer has designated to find the perfect applicant. If the software is simply listing applicants in a nice list or spreadsheet, you’re back to hoping for luck that your application is near the top of the list.

Who is the Person with the Power to Hire You?

As you can probably see, just turning in an application isn’t enough. You have to follow up with your potential employer.

In the case of your department store, the art of the follow-up means figuring out who the person with the power to hire you is, and making a personal connection with that person or a person that has influence with that person.

How to Follow Up for a Retail Job

We have a client named Dora who works in a similar industry as the one for which you are applying. We helped Dora makeover her resume recently, and she landed a job within a couple weeks of that resume makeover. Like the job application, the resume is only part of Dora’s overall job search strategy.

Dora starts by researching places she wants to work in her area. Her list includes department stores, clothing stores, and craft stores. She knows that most places have online applications, so she goes to the company websites and applies for open positions.

It’s what Dora does next that lands her interviews—she follows up with hiring managers within a few days of her application. She takes her fancy resume, printed on nice, glossy paper, and she visits the store in person. She chooses a time she knows business is slow, like mid-morning on a weekday. She asks to speak with the manager, shakes his or her hand, explains that she recently applied online for a position, and that she’d love to talk more about it.

She hands the manager her resume, and tells him how much she loves the store, and that she has 30 years of experience working in retail. That’s all. She keeps it short and sweet, buys a soda or other impulse buy at the counter, and leaves. She smiles, she’s friendly, and of course, she’s dressed appropriately.

Dora lands an interview almost every time. She shows managers that she’s more than just a warm body. She makes a personal connection and makes extra effort to make sure the manager knows she wants the job and is highly qualified.

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Your Next Steps: Apply Again, and Follow Up

So, yes, you should apply again for the department store job, but this time, make sure you follow up with the hiring manager within a few days of filling out your application. Have your resume ready to hand the manager, shake his or her hand, and tell him you want the job and you’re highly qualified. You’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll land the job!

Here’s a quick checklist of what to do:

  • Apply for the Job
  • Visit the store in 1-3 days. Go during a slow time, like mid-morning on a weekday. Dress as if you are going to an interview.
  • Ask to speak with the manager.
  • Smile, shake the manager’s hand, and introduce yourself.
  • Tell the manager you applied for the job online, and wanted to follow up with him.
  • Hand the manager your resume, and point out why you are highly qualified.
  • Thank the manager for her time.
  • Buy a soda, candy bar, or other cheap impulse purchase on your way out. Smile and be friendly with your potential coworkers while you do.

Best of Luck (not that you’ll need it),

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