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How do you market yourself above the job-hunting competition?

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Question: "I was an executive admin for nearly 30 years. After I was laid off, I thought it would be easy to find another job—after all, 'I’m an admin and can do anything.' I have interviewed almost consistently. I know that I used to interview well; I look good (very professional image), have a solid background, good skills, fun personality, easy to get along with, great ethic and word mindset, no kids ... I can travel, work late, come in early, etc. But I never really learned to 'market and brand' myself. So why I am not getting the jobs?" - Sheryl, Executive Admin


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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackqueline October 12, 2014 at 9:37 pm

I am currently interviewing for a part time admin for mat leave, and the problem I am finding is the paperwork submitted is wonderful meeting the applicant in person is so different.

Just had 17 people apply, we interviewed a handful and the all I can say is answer the questions that are asked, not the answers you think we want to hear, I am so over the interviewing process.

We have had a few who have not answered the questions and rattled off what they had read on your web site.

I used to work for a Director who style of interviewing used to throw me however as I am now sitting in on the interviews I think she had it right.

My Director as the applicant walked in the door would confirm that this is the position you have come to be interviewed for and ask if their paperwork was truthful, they of course would say yes.

Then she would say okay we accept that so let’s talk about you. So for the next half an hour she would talk in general about the team they would be joining if they were the successful applicant, if they felt they would be a good mix for the team. She was strong on skill mix and as she had a team that was working well together she wanted the new team member to know that they had to fit into the current team.

So just be yourself, don’t seem to be trying too hard and good luck., a position that you will enjoy will come along soon.


Frida October 10, 2014 at 11:46 am

Having a key skill that no one else can provide is the only surefire way I know of to get a company’s attention and keep it. I sympathize with you, Sheryl–I bet subconscious age discrimination probably has more to do with difficulty in getting hired than anything you supposedly lack!


Lisa - !! October 10, 2014 at 11:35 am

@Sheryl – I think that your resume should be truthful about your full experience, not just the last 10 years. If there’s a gap in employment, just explain that you decided to take some time off for personal reasons (no further explanation is necessary). I suggest that you don’t get too personal in your interview. If the interviewer asks you to tell a him/her a little bit about yourself, they really want to know about your work history background, not yourself personally.

Also, I can’t tell which Sheryl Fowler you are on LinkedIn. If you have a picture, it should be one that looks like you sat down for a professional picture, not one that you’re standing with a group of friends and you cropped the photo.

Best of luck!


Sheryl Fowler October 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Lisa, hi there. I am the Sheryl Fowler that has the “Experienced Administrative and Executive Assistant” profile under my name – also, I’m from Dallas/Fort Worth. There is a duplicate of my profile that says Telecommunications – that’s me, but not sure how it got there…

Thanks for the excellent advice, I’m finally learning when someone says, tell me about yourself” they’re only interested in what I’ve done…good advice, and I thank you again…


L October 10, 2014 at 9:54 am

I forgot to add that I have a LinkedIn account, too, but purposely did not post a photo. I plan to do so AFTER I’m hired. :)


L October 10, 2014 at 9:51 am

I am 50+ and going through a very similar situation while looking for a different position, so I feel your pain.

Do you have a 30-second elevator speech? When asked “why should we hire you” or “what can you bring to the company that other candidates cannot” be prepared with an elevator speech. Not too rehearsed, though. Have ideas prepared, but present it as naturally as possible and try not to appear desperate.

My second suggestion is to make yourself memorable by perhaps selecting a key section of the job description that fits your skill set and built on it.

No one so far has suggested refraining from wearing perfume/cologne during the interview. Also if you are a smoker, try to avoid having a cigarette several hours before the interview since the smell of nicotine is many times stronger for non-smokers.

Lastly, don’t forget to follow up and/or send a thank-you note.


Sheryl Fowler October 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Ladies, I’m the admin who sent in the question. I so appreciate all of your responses and suggestions. Let me clarify a few things, though: (1) NO where on my resume (or social media/Linked In profiles) is my age apparent. My resume only goes back ten years. (2) Further, please take a look my at Linked In profile photo (public) – I think you’ll see I don’t look 62 (great genes from Mom!). My hair is a light brown with highlights, so I think I’ve covered that aspect. I think part of the problem is that I am far to open in interviews. I am, by nature, extremely friendly and open, and sometimes, many times actually, I’ve fallen “prey” to the person interviewing me who drops the strict professionalism and boundaries of the interview scenario. My bad. We have no children, and our jobs are our “babies” so both my husband and I see plan on working long into the future. We’re both in excellent health, so I am a little concerned about being seen as an insurance risk.


Kim October 9, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I’m not so sure I agree with other poster’s about the 30 years experience playing a role in not getting a job. If that were the case, I don’t believe you would be getting an interview in the first place as it’s clearly on your resume and if they had an issue with it, they wouldn’t bring you in for an interview. Therefore, I would suggest you think about what is happening during the interview. Do you feel that they are going well? Or do you leave the interview feeling that it could have gone better? If so, how? It seems to me that you are questioning how you present yourself when you say you never learned to “market and brand” yourself, and that you “used to interview well”. Is there anyone in your network you can do a mock interview with whose opinion you trust for some objective feedback? You can always follow-up with the companies you interviewed with and ask them for feedback on why they didn’t hire you to see if they give you any constructive feedback. Best of luck to you!


Lisa - !! October 9, 2014 at 4:57 pm

A follow up… Sometimes companies don’t want to hire an older person 55 – 60+ because they know that the person won’t be a long-term employee. Also remember that museums, banks, non-for-profits, department stores, transportation companies, etc. all hire admin. You might be able to find a job there.


Pauline October 9, 2014 at 4:49 pm

This begs the question, how old is too old? Are we talking about over forty or over fifty? I read an article that suggested if you have grey hair, dye it while seeking employment.


Anita October 9, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Is there a local hiring or temp agency or a workgroup that you can join? The agencies can help you find organizations that are looking for someone with your skills. If you are able to work part time or volunteer, this will help keep your resume current and make you a more attractive candidate. The Workgroups focus on resume writing, interview skills, appearance and other points that would help you get the job you would like. Our economy is still feeling the effects of the recession, so jobs are not as readily available as they were before 2008.


Jackie October 9, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Can I just say, that I really love the answers that have already been provided. So many people could be mean and answer negatively without knowing all the facts and you all (as of 10/09/14) have brilliant answers and have given me some food for thought as well. Thank you ladies!


Sharon October 9, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Over qualified and age. I was told that age directly affects health insurance costs, the older you are the more expensive health care is for you and your employer. Employers are looking for younger people that they can pay less to and their health insurance costs won’t be as high. Scale down any age references in your resume, try a different resume style (not giving away your age) and unfortunately scale back your experience…you will see a difference in at least first interviews almost immedately!


Lisa - !! October 9, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Your self-description in your question is the exact same description for everyone else that is interviewing. Since you are getting interviews, your resume can’t be the problem.To get the job, you need to make a good impression during the interview.
Some things come to mind:
1. Take a moment to browse the website of the company you will interview with. It will give you some insight and help you prepare for the interview.
2. Be prepared with a list of questions that deal with the position, not with the benefits of the company (i.e. duties, who will you work for, etc.). 3. It would look professional if you had the questions typed up beforehand and spiral bound on the side with the name of the company as the cover sheet. It would look like you took time to prepare for the interview and seem like your truly interested in their company.
4. “Professional” clothes should always be a pants suit, preferably dark in color. Hair tied back with minimal jewelry. If you have to change your shoes, do it before you step through the front doors.
5. You could also take some refresher courses on MS Office at your local library, join an organization like NALS and/or become a notary public. This would be good things to bring up in the interview. That would show them that you are up-to-date on your skills.
6. Never mention that you don’t have family and can stay late, come in early. To them, that means you might make it a habit and it would cost them money in overtime.
7. One last thing… during the interview, NEVER EVER make a pass at the interviewer, ****, pick your nose or hock a loogy. I can guarantee you won’t get the job. Also never wear a clown suit.


Virginia October 16, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Lisa – !! you made me smile with your number 7 tip! Thank you!


Melody October 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm

When I was job-hunting several years ago, I found it difficult to even score interviews. I wondered if it might be my age, so I removed all possible references to it from my resume. I took off the years I had worked in various places, didn’t include my entire work history going back to Before The Flood, but just for 15-20 years–basically, removed any “tells” of my age. I started getting interviews and was hired not too long afterwards, and I do believe my age ambiguity had a lot to do with it.


Jo October 9, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Not only could your age be working against you, but also commanding a large salary. In our organization the younger, higher educated, less experienced do not command or expect the higher salaries expected by years of experience commands. I also believe reinventing your skill set to specialize in something would help. Look into project management as an example. Good luck.


Gloria October 9, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Two things come to mind:
You have worked for 30 years. Could it be your age they are looking at? Try a different hair color and a humble attitude.
At the company I work for, referrals is the way. Can you find referrals at the places you are wanting to be employed?


Anne October 9, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Admin/executive assistant positions have changed greatly over time. Technology has enabled managers to do much of what admins used to do for themselves. In light of this, admins need to almost “re-invent” the job. More and more admins are moving away from clerical responsibilities and developing their own “niche” in their organizations. This can be hard to do, particularly if you work for a smaller organization. I would definitely stick to interviewing with bigger organizations, where the demand for the traditional admins for executives is still there. Smaller organizations I would shy away from, as they may be downsizing or eliminating these positions altogether. It will be interesting to see what happens to this profession in the next ten to fifteen years.


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