For Joe Kran, president of OI Partners-Gateway International, a Parsippany-based career counseling firm that just opened an office at 166 Village Road (, the math is simple: Where there is a 9.4 percent national unemployment rate, it is more important than ever to make a good first impression in any job hunt.

“Employers are being inundated with resumes and applicants, and competition for jobs is fierce,” says Kran. “You need to be certain you are doing everything perfectly, from the beginning of your job search to the interview and through to following up.”

Kran, who earned his MBA from Monmouth University, a master’s from Temple, and a bachelor’s from California State University at Sonoma, has been in the business of organizational analysis, executive recruitment, and leadership development for almost 30 years. He founded Gateway International in 1991, after a stint as a senior human resources executive for Lockheed, Hoffman-LaRoche and Concurrent Computer Corporation.

He now has six offices in the New York region.

If his career has taught him nothing else, it has taught Kran to recognize the mistakes people make when looking for a job.

Why should I hire you? Too many people do not answer this question in enough detail, Kran says. “In cover letters, and during personal and telephone interviews, you need to make the strongest case possible why you should be hired. Thoroughly research each prospective employer and specifically address what value you can add, particularly within the first three to six months on the job.”

The extra mile. During an interview, offer detailed recommendations on how to improve sales, marketing, productivity, quality, and management, whatever your field of expertise. He says. And then document them. Send a plan afterward that will showcase what you can do if hired.

The passion factor. Not showing enough excitement for a job and employer is a big mistake. “Companies are looking for people who are enthusiastic about working with them, and can motivate and inspire their co-workers and direct reports,” Kran says. “You need to demonstrate you are this type of person from your earliest communication as well as during interviews and following up.”

Look here. A good rule of thumb is to make eye contact about two-thirds of the time during an interview,” Kran says. Frequent eye contact signals that you are comfortable with, and sure of, yourself. Proper eye contact expresses confidence, sincerity, and interest. Looking away, on the other hand, can be interpreted as discomfort, disinterest, and insincerity.

Be nice to the receptionist. Receptionists, secretaries, interns, and prospective co-workers weigh in on the decision-making process. The cost of a bad hire can run as high as three times the salary of someone who doesn’t work out, and companies want to be sure that new hires fit into their organizations. They are increasingly asking everyone who comes into contact with applicants for their impressions.

Bad references. You have a few references down on your resume. But are you sure you know what they will say about you? Or are they even relevant? “Only use references who can address your most recent and relevant skills and accomplishments, and determine in advance exactly what they will say about you,” Kran says. “Update them on the outcome of the position for which they provided a reference, whether you’re successful or not, so they will be want to help you in the future.”

You have 90 seconds. Job-seekers need to get to the point quickly during interviews, networking meetings, and when meeting new people. What you need is the 90-second “verbal resume,” also known as the “elevator pitch.” Any candidate, Kran says, should be able to outline what he’s looking for, his background and experience, two or three major accomplishments, and what he can bring to a job. And they need to do it succinctly. And that means memorization. “Practice your verbal resume until it fits the recommended 90-second time frame,” he says.

Open your mouth. Not asking enough questions looks bad on you. “The questions you ask during an interview may be given as much weight as your answers,” Kran says. Focus your questions on business-related matters and not compensation and benefits.

If the position has become vacant, ask what happened to person who held it previously. Failure to ask any questions, or asking irrelevant questions, can be costly.

Human contact. Do not over-rely on E-mail and the Internet. Finding a job is as much about making good contacts as it is about the resume.

“Many people spend more time building their resumes than they do developing a contact network,” Kran says. “Join groups of others who are jobless, attend professional association meetings, and work the phones. It’s important that people be able to attach a face, or at least a voice, with a name.”

Following up. You need to follow up on every interview and networking meeting with thank-you letters and E-mails. Use your follow-up to reinforce why you are the right person for a job. Cutting and running can leave an employer with the wrong impression, or worse — no impression of you at all.

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