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How to Get the Job You Want

After 15 years in the hospice industry, Philip Kittle lost his job.

The first thing he and his wife, Lynette, did was to make a list of hospices in their area and send a resume and cover letter to each one — regardless of whether the company was hiring.

Sound ridiculous to send resumes to companies not hiring?

Not for Philip Kittle. After six months, one of the first places he had sent a resume to called him in for an interview and offered him a job.

Anne Rippy | Stone | Getty Images

The only reason it took that long, Lynette recalls, is because the company was going through a leadership transition. She said the new CEO saw his resume and said, “"Why haven't we interviewed this person?"

What’s more — two months after they hired him, they promoted him! “So it really does pay to submit resumes and cover letters — even if there are no jobs listed,” Lynette said.

Lynette said two things were crucial in their search: They never lowered their standards and applied for lesser jobs — they always believed he was going to get a better job. And, they approached it as a team.

“We believe in staying positive. And I say ‘we’ because as a spouse, it’s important how I view his abilities and the situation. My attitude and words can make or break him — especially during the challenges of unemployment,” she said.

It’s important to focus on what you want — especially when you are unemployed.

“The biggest mistake people make when looking for a job is the trial and error method,” said Bill Dueease, president of the Coach Connection, a network of career coaches.

“People apply for jobs that appear in front of them,” Dueease explained. “Eventually they get lucky enough to have a choice,” he said.

That leads to a false sense of power: I have choices! People want to hire me!

Friends and family will even congratulate you on getting a job offer — no matter what the job is.

Then, once you choose one of those jobs, you soon find out it isn’t exactly what you want, so you adjust, slowly sliding down that slope until one day you declare, “I’m miserable! I hate my job.”

And the cycle starts all over again.

I believe it was Susan Jane Gilman, author of "Kiss My Tiara," who said, if you're waiting around for someone to pick you, and garbage picks you, then you're with garbage.

This applies to your job search as well as your social life.

“Find out what gets you fired up — then go after it,” Dueease said.

That’s not only going to help you find a job you love, but it’s going to help you get hired.

Dueease recalls having all of his ducks in a row when he got out of college with two engineering degrees and then bombing his first 10 interviews spectacularly.

A mentor told him it was because he was projecting “I don’t really want this job” without actually saying it. Once he figured out what he was passionate about, he nailed the interview.

Conveying your passion is more important today, when there are multiple job seekers for every open job, than ever before.

“People today are even more careful about who they hire,” Dueease said. “They’re only going to pick someone who really wants the job!”

And with 14.5 million people still unemployed, you can’t just respond to help-wanted ads and wait for someone to call you.

Job Monkey says just 10 percent of jobs you see in print or online classified ads are actually filled through people responding to those ads. Dueease said it’s more like 1.2 percent.

When it comes to sending out your resume, it’s a numbers game.

“People send out one or two resumes and expect their phone to ring off the hook,” said Barry Cohen, the employment coordinator for the City University of New York and the author of “Power Interviewing: How to Get the Job You Really Want.”

“You have to chop wood!” Cohen exclaimed. He suggests sending out 40 to 50 resumes per week — and considering yourself successful if you get one to two responses. “If you job hunt like everyone else, you’ll wind up like everyone else.”

One way to set yourself apart is to be diligent about networking with people at the companies you want to work for — even if they rejected you the first time.

When Carmen Velasquez was in graduate school, she discovered the Honest Kitchen, a small, natural pet food company that impressed her so much, she knew she wanted to work there. To get a foot in the door, she offered to work on a marketing case study for them while she was in grad school and spent four months getting to know their brand, values and mission.

She thought she had it all lined up but when she graduated, she was disappointed to learn that they were too small of a company to hire a full-time marketing person. So, she took a job with a large, more established company.

But here’s where she set herself apart: While she was working at that large company, she stayed in touch with her contacts at the Honest Kitchen by email. And whenever she was in San Diego, she would pop in to say hello — to make sure they remembered her. It took two years but it paid off: They were finally big enough to hire a full-time marketing specialist, and her name was at the top of the list. They offered her the job.

“It’s important to small companies, that act more like families, to know that a new hire is a good culture fit,” Velasquez said. “That takes time. It’s more than a resume, more than an interview — it’s making sure that you have a relationship with the company that you want to work for.”

After those 10 disastrous interviews and devastating blow to his ego, Dueease finally connected with a company he wanted to work for, but they had already filled all the positions in their training program. He recalls a recruiter at the company, who said, “If you’re ever in the area, give me a call.”

Dueease seized on the opportunity and called the guy up and said, “I’ll be there next Thursday, can you see me?” The recruiter lined up five interviews for him and agreed to show him around town the night before. The result? They made room for one more in the training program.

It’s also important to stick to your guns about what you want.

Dueease recalls one client, a 25-year-old recent college graduate who was working as a receptionist. Her dream was to work behind the scenes in live television. She narrowed it down a few companies that did live TV at that time, including HBO and Court TV, and learned that the entry-level point was working as a “grip,” the people who help set up camera and light equipment.

Her focus helped her land an interview at HBO, and they liked her so much, they offered her a job. The problem is, that job was in the sales department.

Some people might be tempted to take that offer just to get a foot in the door, but the woman stuck to her guns and politely declined the offer.

At her interview with Court TV, she said, “I want you to know I’ve already talked to HBO. They wanted to put me in sales. If you’re thinking of moving me to another job, forget it! This what I want to do and I’ll work my butt off because I love it.”

She got the job and guess what? Three days before she was starting at Court TV, HBO called her back.

“Every job is available,” Dueease said. “Just because someone else is in that job right now doesn’t mean it’s not available!”

It’s important to know what you want and stick to it but that doesn’t mean you should turn down job interviews.

“You should go on every interview that is offered to you,” Cohen said. And make sure you prepare for every single one. Too many people think they can wing it Cohen added, and when they get to the interview — they’re all tongue-tied. You've got to know ahead of time what you’re going to say.

And remember: It’s not about you. It’s important to say what you want, but it’s even more important to say what you’re going to do for the company. How are you going to improve the business? How are going to boost sales?:

Your biggest enemy in all of this, Cohen says, could be yourself. “Get over your fear of success,” he said.

That means, don’t psyche yourself out thinking you can’t do this job. Just learn to transfer whatever skills you have to this current company and make sure you convey that in the interview. Neither you, nor the recruiter, should have any doubts that you can do this job.

And whatever you do, Cohen says, be nice to the receptionist!

“Statistically, 92 percent of a manager's impression of candidates comes from their receptionist,” said Cohen. “She or he can either walk into the boss's office and say, ‘Mr. Jones is here — Oh, you’re going to like him’ or ‘Oh boy! This one’s a doozie,’” Cohen said. “They can plant the seed in the manager’s mind.”