Month of the Man: How Young Black Men Can Conquer Unemployment

Month of the Man: How Young Black Men Can Conquer Unemployment

(Image: Thinkstock)
(Image: Thinkstock)

This month, presents Month of the Man, where we bring you career features tailored for male leaders of color all over the world.

According to reports, the unemployment rate for African-Americans 18-29 was 22% earlier this year, and a major challenge young adults of color face—especially men—is a lack of the necessary job search skills that will help them land jobs. And this is often even true among Black male college graduates. An indispensable skill-set that young Black men must effectively develop is the ability to interview like a boss-moves professional.

Early careerists must strategically brand and position themselves in the labor market so they can pique a hiring managers’ curiosity enough for an interview. According recruiter and human resources professional Rich Jones (@IAmRichJones), young men should:

Get rid of the generic résumés and cover letters: “You must optimize your résumé and cover letters for each job you apply to by inserting keywords and skills from the job description,” he says. “You also want to highlight how your values align with the employer’s mission.”

Make sure your LinkedIn profile tells a consistent story: More and more employers are using LinkedIn to crosscheck candidates. “Therefore, it’s important that whatever story you’re telling in your application matches the story on your LinkedIn profile. If you’re calling yourself a ‘sales guru’ with a track record of success, but your LinkedIn profile only highlights customer service experience and outdated jobs, you will confuse employers and reduce opportunities,” Jones adds.

Acing the Interview

Particularly in this modern age of social media, far too many young adults don’t know how to ace the interview by presenting themselves as a highly valued professional in a face-to-face encounter. “If you don’t master interviews, you won’t get the chance to master a new job,” Jones says. “That’s essentially how it works in the professional world. The cost of a bad hire is too high for employers to not thoroughly interview candidates. Job seekers must be equipped to sell their experience, potential, and ability to fit in with company culture. Anyone who can’t won’t make the cut.” Below Jones gives four top reasons young adult males fail to ace interviews:

Inability to tell effective stories: “You should always anticipate ‘Tell me about a time when’ questions,” he says.  I’ve seen and heard a lot of men struggle at telling a story of how they identified and solved a problem, or how they took the initiative, failed, and what they learned. Interviewers (and people in general) remember good stories.”

Underselling: “Some men are hesitant to speak about their accomplishments for fear of coming off as braggarts,” Jones says. “You have to embrace your successes and speak proudly about them. Do you think employers downplay their successes to clients?”

Lack of effective research: “I’m surprised at how little research some candidates do in advance of a job interview,” he adds. “You should be able to clearly describe what the company does and know general details about each person you’ll interview with. ‘So how do you guys make money?’ and ‘So what do you do for the company?’ are not appropriate questions. They convey lack of research.”

Lack of in-depth questions: When the interviewer turns it over to the candidate for questions, that’s another opportunity to shine. “Go beyond asking about next steps or why previous person left. Ask about biggest challenges faced, business priorities, what traits made previous employees successful in the role, or a press release/news story about the company you found interesting,” Jones suggests.

Mastering the Follow-up

The last step that black young professionals must remember is that following-up with prospective employers can go a long way. To master the follow-up process, Jones suggests that you:

1)      “Reaffirm your interest — Communicate your strong desire for the job before you leave the interviewers’ office or end the call. It can be as simple as, “After the conversation today, I’d really like to move forward in the process. I think I have the right blend of skills and the passion for this work to become a valuable contributor on your team.” Exhibiting enthusiasm and confidence can go a long way.”

2)      “Send your thanks – A thoughtful “thank you” note or email after an interview is required. Rather than just saying “thanks for your time,” I encourage job seekers to find ways to add value. Reference something specific from the conversation that reaffirmed your excitement about the position. Clarify a point you feel you didn’t execute on during the interview. Share a link to an interesting article that relates to the discussion. And most importantly, don’t send the exact same “thank you” note to multiple interviewers at the same company!”

For final thoughts of inspiration, “Remember, to secure an interview means you’ve already made the first cut. You’re one of the top candidates. Take pride in knowing that you’re amongst the best, then prepare, be yourself, and be great,” Jones says.

Antoine Moss, Ph.D., (@2PositiveTweets) is a nationally recognized resource on internships, early career achievement, leadership and motivation. CEO and founder of CEO Style Consulting L.L.C., Moss empowers professionals and organizations to reach their full potential, and serves as speaker, workshop instructor and consultant. The author of Learn to Intern CEO Style, Moss has been a featured expert on outlets including Fox 8 TV News and George Fraser’s 2011 Power Networking Conference.