Self-made millionaire Ramit Sethi: Avoid this common mistake when job hunting during the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the global jobs market. From enjoying one of the tightest labor markets in years, the U.S. is now facing chronic unemployment rates, with similar stories playing out across the world.

That paradigm shift has moved power away from employees and over to employers, as countless candidates vie over the same positions. But there are still ample opportunities to stand out from the pack — particularly if you avoid one common interview mistake, according to personal finance coach Ramit Sethi. 

Specifically, that means shifting your mindset from that of job seeker to "top performer," the New York Times bestselling author told CNBC Make It.

"The common thing that candidates do is they approach the interview with the mental model that they're trying to land the job," said the self-made millionaire. "Top performers know that they are evaluating the company as much as the company is evaluating them."

Avoid the resume 'black hole'

That can be easier said than done in the current market. For those currently looking for work, the temptation can be to send out hundreds of resumes to increase the chances of landing an interview.

However, that can be like "sending them into a black hole," according to Sethi, who said that hiring managers are trained to sniff out generalized applications and lack of specificity. Instead, you should focus your attention on one to 10 most relevant openings, and tailor your applications specifically to each one. 

The strategy can be surmised as research, identify and connect. 

  • First, get crystal clear on your dream job or company. Don't just say you want to "work in tech," he said, be specific about your preferences, such as company size and culture. Then, do your research to find the most suitable openings.
  • Identify people currently working at that company, or conducting a similar role, and reach out to them online. That doesn't mean asking them for a job, but instead using it as an "informational interview" to learn more about the job. "People love to tell you about themselves," said Sethi.
  • Tailor your resume and cover letter to the particular roles, focusing on results rather than processes. You can expand on how you reached those achievements during the interview.
  • Finally, try searching for the name of the CEO plus the word "interview" to see what you can glean about potential interview questions. 

"With the proper research, 80% of your work should be done before you ever sit down for an interview," said Sethi.

Prepare to negotiate 

When you do secure an interview, your main focus should be on displaying the right "competence triggers," he said. Examples of low, or negative, competence triggers include rambling and blurting out your salary demands, said Sethi.

Meanwhile high, or positive, triggers involve having a good understanding of the role and giving concise answers. 

Finally, use the '"briefcase technique," which involves outlining your vision for what you plan to achieve in the first 90 days of the role. "It never fails to impress," said Sethi.

The current jobs landscape has made salary negotiation more difficult, and may have lowered the market value of your role. But in most cases, there is still be room to reach a deal you're happy with, according to Sethi, who outlined three steps to follow:

  1. Decide to negotiate — Go into the conversation with the intention to negotiate, having done prior research on your market value to support your request.
  2. Consider other benefits — Know that you can incorporate non-financial benefits into your negotiations, for example flexible working hours or work from home provisions.
  3. Think long-term — Be prepared to create a "top performer" strategy, in which you agree to reassess your salary after a given time frame, once certain targets have been met. 

Don't miss: Ramit Sethi: Here's what to do if you're short on cash right now

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