Sunday morning, bright and early. You pour yourself a steaming cup of coffee, sit down at the dining room table and spread the newspaper out in front of you.
It's time to look for a job.
Whether you're currently employed and taking your time about making a change or without a job and desperately in need of one, you'll probably do pretty much the same thing--scour the classified ads to see what's available.
And reading those ads can be an art. "There's something intangible you're looking for, something that draws you to an ad," said Naja Van Orden, director of registered nurse recruitment for Kaiser Foundation Hospitals.
That something may be the difference in whether or not you apply for a job; the way you respond to an ad may also determine if you finally get the job.
Certainly not all jobs are listed in the classifieds, and many jobs are filled in other ways, but there are things helpful to know as you plow through page after page of job listings. So how do you really read a classified ad? What are the sure signs that an advertised position is or isn't for you?
The salary range mentioned--or, sometimes, not mentioned--is critical. "It's a tip-off if the salary advertised is far above what you're making now," said Richard E. Lewis, chairman and chief executive of Accountants Overload/Accountants Unlimited in Los Angeles, which operates an extensive job search division.
"If you're earning $50,000 and the ad says $60,000, you're OK," Lewis said. But the job may be out of your league if the percentage difference is more than that, Lewis said.
But don't rule out an interesting-looking job just because of salary.
"You've got to be careful not to get screened out before you get screened in," said Warren E. Preston, vice president of Fuchs, Cuthrell & Co.'s Western regional headquarters, a firm that specializes in finding new jobs for employees displaced through layoffs and cutbacks. "When an ad says 'Salary history required,' don't ignore that request but don't respond directly, either."
Preston suggests mentioning in a letter covering your resume that "salary is open for negotiation."
"If your qualifications are right for the job, they'll call," he said. "But if you've put down a specific salary, and they have something else in mind, you could be out before you get started."
Another clue to whether or not a job will be right for you is the amount of technical jargon the ad for it contains, especially in fields such as engineering. Chances are, if you don't understand a term used in an ad, you're not qualified for that job.
"We're not too shy about using extremely technical terms in our ads. It's one of the ways we pre-qualify (applicants)," said Philip Gentile, account executive with the Encino office of Bernard Hodes Advertising, a nationwide firm specializing in recruitment advertising that handles help-wanted ads for Rockwell International, among other companies. "If we have to define 'FEM analysis,' the applicant is probably not for us."
(FEM, for the uninitiated, means "field engineering maintenance.")
Yet another indication of what kind of job you're applying for is the absence or presence of certain key words and phrases. An ad that stresses "room for growth" and long-term benefits is more likely to be for a job for a security-minded person, someone who wants to settle into one company and stay a while, Gentile said.
An ad that emphasizes short-term bonuses or finite but glamorous projects may be looking for someone who is more of a risk-taker, someone who is willing to sacrifice security for the chance to work on something really exciting.
Watch for cross-referrals between categories, job-hunting experts say. Many companies will run ads under the "Internal Auditing" category that say, "See our ad under 'Accounting,' " for instance.
For this reason, it's a good idea to read through the entire classified section, familiarize yourself with all categories, and then check all areas that are even remotely appropriate for you. Some examples: secretarial jobs are listed under both "Administrative Assistant" and "Secretary"; positions for aspiring writers may be found under "Writer," "Editor" or even "Public Relations." Look under both "Advertising" and "Marketing" for similar positions.
Once you get beyond salary, standard benefits and security, other aspects of an advertised position may be important to you--including the mention of a geographic area or special benefits such as child care or certain hours.
Many of the ads you see may be "blind"--no company name is included, and you reply to a box number either at the newspaper or at an unidentified business.
"The employer may not want the public to know who it is," said Glen M. Smyth, executive vice president of Fuchs Cuthrell. "It's not a reason to rule out an ad."