9 common FAQs for job seekers

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The one reason your job search might be failing is due to a lack of information. Too often, job seekers don't ask questions during the process. It could be a fear of rejection or perhaps of looking stupid, which prevents otherwise intelligent people from getting answers to questions.

Assuming you know what is expected is another dangerous job-seeker behavior. No two companies or recruiters have the same requirements, therefore, the only way to know what you need to do is to ask. Remember, knowledge is power. The more you know, the more successful you will be during your job search.

[See: Tips for Surviving a Career Transition.]

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions by job seekers.

Should I connect with human resources or an interviewer on LinkedIn? The answer depends on the preferences of the person you want to connect with. The only way to find out is to ask the person. During an interview, ask your interviewer if it's OK to connect on LinkedIn. Otherwise, send an email and ask if you can connect.

When do I follow up after an interview? The best way to get this question answered is to ask the interviewer during your interview. Always ask when you should follow up and the best way to reach out to your interviewer. Once armed with this information, follow the recommended steps to the letter.

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What if I don't know anyone inside the company? Should I just apply online? Have you searched LinkedIn and Facebook for people who work inside a company you want to apply to? Have you asked everyone you know if they know anyone? Until you have tried both of these things, you won't know for sure. As a last-ditch effort, reach out to either the hiring manager or someone who holds a similar job in the company you are interested in. Explain you are interested in acquiring more insight on the company and would like a few minutes of their time. Give them a couple of days to respond before you follow up one more time. The insight and potential for help from an insider is invaluable and worth the effort and risk.

[See: 15 Awesome Jobs That Pay More Than $90K.]

Should I use a separate resume for every job? Absolutely. No two job descriptions are the same. You must customize your resume for each and every job you apply to. Take time to review the job description carefully and research the company. Make sure your resume includes the required skills and technology requested in the job description. Also be sure you reference the work processes and specific keywords mentioned in the posting.

Why haven't I heard back from the company after I applied? Did you follow up? If you don't follow up with an email or phone call, how do you know the company received your application? Ask where they are in the review process and then ask if they received your application. While it would be nice to receive an update from the company, it doesn't always happen. Take control by following up and get the answer to your question.

I think my past boss is giving a bad reference.What do I do? If you suspect a previous manager is negatively impacting your job search, call him or her. It isn't an easy conversation to have, but you need the answer. Try starting the conversation by informing your boss about your job search and ask if he or she would be willing to serve as a reference. If they say yes, probe further by asking, "Can you think of any reason why you wouldn't positively recommend my performance?" This should open the dialogue between you and your manager. If you have concrete facts about negative things your manager has said, you could directly ask why they would say those things. If you suspect your boss is unable to say anything positive, find someone else in the company to serve as your reference.

[See: 10 Ways to Perfect Your Personal Brand.]

Can I take notes during an interview? Taking notes during an interview may not have crossed your mind, but it should. The interviewer is taking notes, shouldn't you? During important meetings, you probably take notes to help you remember important details. The same should be true during an interview. Before you begin, show you value confidentiality by asking the interviewer if it's OK to take notes. You can also bring a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer.

How do I respond to a request for salary expectations? You will come across this question while completing the online application, during the phone interview and when you meet for an in-person interview, too. The recommended strategy is to say that your salary is negotiable. However, a better way to respond, when speaking with a recruiter, is to ask what the company has budgeted for the position. Once you have that number, you can respond with an appropriate range.

Should I (fill in the blank)? If you wonder whether you should write a cover letter, send a thank-you note, network with people or another question about going the extra mile, then the answer is yes. When you opt for a more time-consuming or more difficult step, it will help you outshine the competition. There are many people who take a lazy approach to searching for their next job. These job seekers apply to tons of jobs and then wonder why they aren't getting any nibbles. The better approach is to always take the harder route. Invest more time in doing the little things that make a big difference in showing you are truly interested in the job and the employer.

Job-search protocol varies by company. Invest the time and energy to acquire the specific and appropriate answers to run a successful job search.

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