WorkZone: Nonprofit aids unemployed in job searches

Its website offers advice on wide range

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Overqualified is the new qualified in today's job market, so anyone looking for work can undoubtedly use some assistance.

Workplace Fairness, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, has set up a website,, to help find work for the unemployed, whose numbers still exceed 10 million nationwide.

"You have [employment] numbers showing some promise, but it does seem pretty grim still. And the numbers really don't mean anything if you don't have a job," said Paula Brantner, executive director of Workplace Fairness.

The site offers advice on a range of services, from tips on using social media tools such as LinkedIn to professional resume critiques and help composing a successful cover letter and resume. Other offerings are less obvious.

"One of the things that is very important is to know what your references say about you," Ms. Brantner said.

To find that out, the nonprofit uses an outside vendor whose human resource department calls the reference and gets a candid assessment of the applicant. Checking references, she added, is often an employer's last step before making an offer.

"They may be ready to hire you but a bad reference could be something that is torpedoing you."

Workplace Fairness does charge for the critiques ($29 and up) and reference checks ($79 and up) because they use outside vendors, but the website also features "The Mapp career test," a free career assessment tool (there is a fee for an upgraded assessment) for providing job seekers with information "to help you make wise career choices." It takes about 15 minutes to complete at

Also free is, which has job and salary search tools, plus expected pay rates and other compensation information.

While Workplace Fairness does not offer counseling specific to navigating the job interview, "Ask A Manager" blogger Alison Green recently provided some tips in U.S. News and World Report for handling one delicate aspect of the job interview -- what to do when you don't hear back.

Her advice: Ask the employer during the interview what the timeline for hiring is, then follow up if that date passes without any word. But in the follow-up, be sure to ask about an updated timeline and not whether you're getting the job, she said. Her other counsel is to keep follow-up notes short, conversational and undemanding, regardless of how anxious you are to find out if you got the job.

Anxiety and stress go with job searches, Ms. Brantner said, so it's important to pay attention to your mental and physical health while waiting for that offer.

Losing a job "is an event that throws a lot of people into a tailspin. 'How am I going to pay my mortgage, or provide for my family?' People are kind of occupied on their basic needs," she said.

"But you need to be very attentive to your mental and emotional health, too. Do the best you can not to fall into that hole of despair because it's going to affect how you come across in an interview."

Steve Twedt: or 412-263-1963.

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