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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

When to Be Modern (and When to Go Old School) in Your Job Hunt

You’ve got the latest apps on your phone. You bypassed cable for Netflix. You know every music, SMS, and internet messaging interface out there. In other words: You’re a modern woman or man.

Which is great—some of the time. But, sometimes—like when you’re job-hunting—you may need to get a little retro to get the job done (and get the job).

But, knowing when to flash your modern chops and when to show you haven’t forgotten the essence of how business was back in the day can be tricky. While you don’t want to appear out of the loop on the latest technology, you also need to be mindful of not relying on it as a substitute for good manners and skill.

Not to worry, though. I’ve seen just about every kind of employer, from real life Mad Men (and women) to the Silicon Valley elite, and there are a few universal rules that will help you ace the application and interview process, regardless of whether your employer favors eight tracks or streaming.

Old School: Read the Fine Print

When you’ve found a job you’d like to apply for, it’s easy to get excited about the opportunity. And, sometimes, in the throes of that excitement, it can also be easy to skim over the details of the application instructions—especially if you think you already know the company.

For example, let’s say you’re applying for a job at Google. Between reading about it in the news, to using Gmail and Googling every random question that crosses your mind, you probably think you know all about the company, right?

Not so fast. Google is notorious for its rigorous hiring process, so taking the time to read everything you can about the position—at least twice—before submitting your application is crucial. Sure, it’s a titan in the tech world, but the company didn’t get to the top by skimping on the details. Make sure you never make assumptions when applying for a gig, and you’ll increase your chances of showing off your technological prowess—on the job—in no time.

New School: Stalk Your Future Employer

Obviously, I mean this in the most non-creepy way. Technology can be a really powerful tool, and if you use it right, it can put you at the head of the pack when it comes to impressing an employer.

So use it to your advantage, channel your inner detective, and do some serious sleuthing to figure out what makes a company tick. Try to find unique tidbits that the lazy researcher might have missed—like the CEO talking about what he looks for in new employees in an online interview, or a fun video of the team’s last retreat on the corporate YouTube channel—and make sure to drop in what you’ve learned in your cover letter or interview. Showing you can utilize every resource available to you will highlight not only the fact that you’re truly interested in the company and its culture, but that you’re also not afraid of getting creative with your sources for intel.

Old School: Your Notebook is Your Friend

Especially if you’re interviewing at the latest and greatest tech startup, it’s tempting to don the hottest gadgets when you finally make it to the office for a face-to-face. And, if you’re bringing it to show a presentation or your work samples—that’s a good idea.

But for jotting down a few notes? Don’t overlook the utility and effectiveness of a simple notebook. While it may seem like you’ll look like you’re on the scene if you take all your notes with your tablet, I’m willing to bet—unless you invented the thing—trying to use technology when you’re also trying to be attentive and ready for some challenging questions is a recipe for an awkward interview.

Save yourself the struggle, and whip out a small notebook and a nice pen when you interview. You’ll show you’re engaged, not to mention you won’t miss the important details.

New School: Take Risks

The job search is tough, the market is competitive, and it’s only natural to be cautious and by-the-book in your approach. But, as the saying goes, fortune favors the bold—and sometimes, taking risks in your career can pay off big time.

For example, if you see a job listing that makes your heart race with excitement, but you don’t quite qualify, apply anyway. If you’re applying to a highly competitive position at your dream company, consider a video application or dynamic online resume to stand out. Or, think outside the application process altogether—and see if you can set up informational interviews or meetings with people who work at awesome companies in your industry. These approaches might seem risky, but I’ve seen them reap big rewards more than once.

All the trappings of our modern lives can be easy to depend on—and sometimes you really can use them. But, make sure you weave in a few old school tricks as well, and you’ll surely impress potential employers with your renaissance approach.

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