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Job search views with Richard Bolles’

We often hear our users say ‘can you help me find a career that suits me ….?’  And the answer is, yes we can!

But for a change we’ve tapped into the great mind of world renowned careers author Richard Bolles – whose highly coveted book ‘What Colour is Your Parachute?‘ sold 10 million copies.  He recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer questions exclusively for’s members.

What you’re about to read is not a transcript, no!  Richard kindly wrote the answers to a variety of questions posed by our members and in his answers provides bite-sized advice on how to figure out if you’ve blown an interview, why more than 50% of job seekers abandon their job search, and exactly which kinds of companies ‘yield the most opportunities.’

What inspired you to write what colour is your parachute and did you envisage that it would be so successful?

Richard Bolles: Back in 1969 I had a bunch of friends who were losing their jobs, right and left.  They asked me for counsel and advice.  I had none to give.  Tired of being an ignoramus, I decided to research the whole field of job-hunting.  I self-published the result of my travels and research, in December of 1970.  A commercial publisher, Ten Speed Press, asked permission to publish it in 1972, and I said ‘Yes’, provided I could revise, update, or even rewrite it, each year. We agreed.  And the rest if history.  10 million copies sold to date, and designated by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best and most influential non-fiction works of the past 90 years. Did I see that coming?  No, of course not.

What are the fundamental cultural differences to job hunting in the UK as against the USA?

Richard Bolles: Over the years, dozens of career counselors from the U.K. came over to the U.S. to be trained by me, and they didn’t seem to think there were many differences.

What are the 3 biggest mistakes job seekers make on a resume/cv?

Richard Bolles: First of all, using one before approaching an employer, rather than saving it for after the interview, so you can tailor it more pointedly to the needs of that employer.

Second, thinking its purpose is to sell yourself, rather than simply to gain an invitation to come in for an interview.

Third, keeping the resume focussed on your needs and your wants – as job-hunter – rather than focussing it on the needs of the employer.   It is said there are two different kinds of people who come into a room.  The first says, “Here I am!!!!”  The second says, “Ah, there you are.”  Guess which one gets hired.

What steps must a job seeker take in order to find a job that’s suitable because there seem to be few jobs nowadays?

Richard Bolles: Well, I don’t know how it is in the U.K. but here in the U.S. our government publishes a survey each month called “Job Openings and Labor Turnover.”  That report reveals, typically, that around 4.3 million people found jobs the month of the survey, and 3.7 million vacancies remained, unfilled.  So, the key word in your question here is “seem”.   What steps, therefore, should a job-hunter take?

a. Review your choice of job-hunting methods.  There are seventeen of them; most job-hunters use only one or two.

b. Do research on yourself before you do research on the job market.  Inventory all the gifts, knowledge, and experiences that you have to offer to an employer. There is a form for doing that in chapter five of the current (2013) American edition of my book, What Color Is Your Parachute?  available on amazon and similar, even int he U.K.

c. Then approach companies or organizations that interest you, whether or not they have a known vacancy.   Smaller companies, with 50 or less employees, and newer companies, five years or younger,  yield the most opportunities.

Have job search tactics changed in the last few years?

Richard Bolles: Yes and no.  When I first entered this field (1970) there were no iPhones,  iPads, blogs on job-hunting  or even the Internet.   Now these things are omnipresent in our lives, and that is bound to make a difference in our job-hunting.   It has made a difference especially in two particulars.

The first is expectations.   Everyone knew, back then, that the job-hunt was a long grind, and might take a long time.  Now people expect it will go more quickly.   The average time that job-less college grads who have to temporarily move back home are spending on their job-hunt is one hour per week, according ao a survey not long ago.  Then there are a multitude of websites that encourage you to post your resume with the expectation they will match it quickly, while you sleep, with some vacancy.  People who don’t quickly find a job conclude there are no jobs out there.   That’s why in a study of 100 job-hunters who used but one method for their job-hunt 51 of them abandoned their search by the second month.  There is less and less understanding today that the job-hunt may be a long process, and that job-vacancies may be out there that you just can’t find with your present approach.

The second one is form.  The job-hunt never alters in its essence, but it does alter in its form.   Its essence is two people looking at each other trying to make up their mind whether to go steady—to borrow a phrase from dating.   It’s all about human nature, with all its vagaries and eccentricities, and human nature never changes.   But the form of this encounter and search does change, and has changed—dramatically over the past few years   Job-vacancies used to be found by scouring ads in the Sunday papers; now we look predominantly to the Internet for these.   Resumes or CVs used to be hand mailed; now we tend to send them to prospective employers by email.   Resumes or CVs used to be mailed to employers one by one; now we can use the Internet to do the equivalent of nailing our resume or c.v.  to a post in the town square, for everyone to see. Resumes or CVs  used to be individual documents we composed; now employers often make Google our resume,  searching for your name and seeing what they can find when you first apply.   In former days, if you wanted to get in to see some employer, and wanted an introduction, you usually had to scour your networking list, or list of contacts;  now you can search on LinkedIn to find someone you know to make that introduction.   Lots of changes in the form of the job-hunt;  little change in the essence.

What strategies can be used to help an older applicant (such as myself, who enjoys a challenge, using diverse skills and developing new ones) compete in job market?

Richard Bolles: Thorough, thorough, thorough inventory of yourself.  Use the exercises in chapter 5 of the current 2013 American edition of my book for aid and comfort.  Then, go look for appropriate work.

How do senior workers remain viable in the workforce without losing the level of responsibility they enjoy?

Richard Bolles: A lot depends on how much you see work as a chance to use your God-given favorite skills, or how much you see work rather as a reward and certificate of your worthiness.

I’m one of those senior workers you’re talking about.  I see nothing wrong with losing the level of responsibility we once had, if the work is still meaningful and useful to society.   But my view is shaped by my faith, which prizes St. Paul’s example, cited in his letter to the Philippians: I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

What are the signs to look for if the interviewer is being honest when replying to the interviewee, for example when the interviewee asks the question: Just how did this position become available?

Richard Bolles: I would not ask that question, but if you’re braver than I am, you had better be able to feel if the employer is being frank or not.   Inasmuch as many departures have a bad story behind them, using this kind of question as a test of the employer’s frankness may end up in being a test of the employer’s tolerance for enduring embarrassment.  That doesn’t usually get you the job.

Can you ever tell how well you performed in an interview?

Richard Bolles: If you are observant, you can.  Watch to see what time the questions are pointing to.  If the employer asks questions like, “Tell me about your work at x corporation, which I see here on your resume,” the time is The Past.  If the employer is asking you things like, “What skills do you like to use?: or “How do you get along with other workers?” the time is The Present.   If the employer asks questions like, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?”  the time pointed to is The Future.   If the employer’s questions are moving from the past, to the present, and then to the future, the interview is probably going very well.  If it gets stuck back in the past, you’re probably “toast” there.  But in that case, always ask the employer at the end, “Could you let me know if you see any other employer looking for someone with my knowledge and my experience.”   And write a thank you note that night, reiterating that plea for a referral.

 Dick Bolles—more formally known as Richard Nelson Bolles—is the author of What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Guide For Job-Hunters and Career Changers, the most popular job-hunting book in the world. TIME Magazine chose it as one of the 100 best and most influential nonfiction books published in the last 90 years. The Library of Congress chose it as one of 25 books down through history that have shaped people’s lives. The book has sold 10 million copies, to date, and is actually rewritten, not simply revised, every year. This year Dick spent four months rewriting two thirds of the previous year’s edition.  The current edition is the 2013, available online or in bookstores.  The book has been translated into 20 languages and is used in 26 countries. Dick is credited with founding the modern career counseling field (by such pioneers as the late Bernard Haldane), and is often described as its #1 celebrity.  He has a website at, and, a blog at, and he is on LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook,  Google+ and Twitter (@ParachuteGuy)   He lives in Danville, California with his beloved wife Marci.



  1. What do you think?

    I would like to thank Alex for sending me this information about Richard Bolles blog as it has been useful.

    It was nice to see a question that I put to Alex to ask Richard included as well.

    Comment by David Welham — @

  2. What do you think?

    Interesting; any advice helps in today’s dog eat dog job marketplace! However, I think it is worth remembering, despite widespread deliberations on increasing educational attainment/associated opportunities, perceived social mobility etc:

    “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.

    — Reinhild Niebuhr

    Comment by Gavin Boughton — @

  3. What do you think?

    Correction: Reinhold Niebuhr


    Comment by Gavin Boughton — @

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