About 10 years ago I went through a horrible and extended period of unemployment. I'm sure there are worse things that can happen and I've been through worse since then but unemployment had to be the more demoralizing, demotivating, and discouraging thing I've ever gone through.
When it finally ended I sorted through a lot of advice I had received while I was out of work. What actually helped me land a job and what was worthless? I changed my approach to my career and actually began to advance. I stood up to the CEO of a company I worked at, was fired, and had a new job two weeks later. I had an unsolicited job offer from someone who used to work with that same CEO a year later because they were so impressed with my work ethic and initiative.
As a hiring manager I have now sat in on hundreds of interviews and probably reviewed over a thousand resumes. I've been on "both sides of the table". Maybe this is welcome and maybe it isn't but I wanted to share some fairly basic, high level, and I think universal observations about the whole job hunting, interviewing, and hiring process.
We don't teach people how to write resumes. At it's most basic core, a resume should be the "sales brochure of you". Yeah, yeah, I always hear the comments about how important proper spelling and error checking is, but even getting that right does nothing about the huge swathes I receive that tell me nothing about the individual. The question I am ultimately going to ask is "Why should I hire you?" What on your resume makes YOU stand out? I also review resumes, for free, for all kinds of people. Recently a buddy of mine sent his to me. This guy is a lawyer and his resume was horrible. Being the wordsmith he is we got it fixed in about one try but what he was sending out just said "I can do lawyer stuff". Great, tons of people looking right now can do lawyer stuff. What do YOU bring to the table?
Keep it relevant. I don't care if it is a resume, cover letter, job application, or an interview. Stay on topic unless they direct you otherwise. If a job application asks for the last 10 years then you list every position regardless if it is relevant or not. However, on a resume you should keep the details to a minimum and highlight what experience you might have had from those jobs that might apply to the one you are trying to get. Don't go talking at length about your hobbies in an interview. They might ask, you can answer but steer the conversation back to what you offer.
For that matter, accept the fact that job hunting is a sales job and you are the product.
If you get the interview, I recommend a 60/40 rule. That is, you should do 60 percent of the talking. Give them room to ask questions and answer your questions. Let them do some talking of their own. The problem I see all too often are people who talk to much and end up saying something they regret or people who talk to little and make me wonder why I bothered.
For that matter, ask questions. Job hunting is a two way street. I don't care if you are desperate and will take a job as a stableboy if it pays cashy money. Asking questions shows interest. Asking questions may help you discover if maybe the job in question is a bad fit for you.
Also, with all the advice out there and information on companies and interview processes, is there really an excuse to show up to an interview unprepared for the most basic questions. "Where do you see yourself in five years?" "What is your greatest strength?" "What is one of your weaknesses?" etc. etc.
Last but not least. Do not give into despair. When I hit my extended period of unemployment about a week later an acquaintance of mine in a similar field also found himself unemployed. As each of us went longer and longer without finding a job he started to slip into despair. After I found a job and he didn't I think he got really desperate. The problem was every conversation I had with him was basically how horrible his life was, how unfair everything was, how bad it was, how he just needed a break, etc. Believe me, that does come across in an interview. You can be all smiles and handshakes, but don't reek of desperation no matter how desperate you are. It may be unfair, but it scares of interviewers. Confidence seals deals.