You’ve heard the expression, “Getting a job is a job.” No one knows more than you how many hours a week it takes searching, researching, applying, interviewing, reflecting, and so on, to get a job. It’s not easy; but it was never intended to be. The harder the job, the harder it is to get the job. Essentially this means that if you are an entry level employee, it should be a fairly reasonable process. But if you are at mid-career and have held significant authority and responsibility, it’s going to be a more lengthy and sophisticated course.
As someone who has been in the staffing industry for more than 18 years, I wanted to share an “insider’s perspective” on what every job seeker should know about the process. I’m continually amazed that potentially great candidates for my jobs simply don’t represent themselves as well as they could by not playing by the job-search rules. Yes, I agree there should be room for creativity in the process, and what works for one might not for the other, but there are some general rules that apply 99% of the time. Here are 50 recommendations to apply to your search:
The First Step – a Killer Resume
1. Don’t worry about it being one page. Since most resumes are emailed and rarely printed, it’s not a big deal to have a two-page document. Be sure to have your contact information at the top of the second page as well. You could possibly need a third page, but try to avoid that.
2. Put the best information at the top. Since resumes are viewed electronically (most often using MS Word), the top half of the first page is what is in view when the recruiter reviews your resume. If the most relevant and most compelling information isn’t in that partial view, it is often not even opened or printed.
3. Replace your “Objective” with “Summary of Qualifications”. That way you don’t have to customize your resume with each position you send it for. This information is more meaningful to the reader as well. List your top professional skills at the top of the resume so it’s the index to the rest of the document.
4. List your most recent job first. Resumes should list work history in reverse chronological order with the most recent at the top. Typically you would go back through the last ten years, but that’s up to you based on how related and impressive your older jobs are. The point is that you don’t have to go back to the jobs you had in high school.
5. Balance tasks with accomplishments. Recruiters want to know what you did, but not on a micro level. It’s not necessary to list each and every task you do in a day. A general summary of your key responsibilities is important to have on your resume. Additionally, a bullet or two about your results as related to your tasks proves your success in your role.
6. Accomplishments should include quantifiable information. Include specific values in your statement (i.e. dollars saved, percent of increase or decrease, numbers of employees supervised, etc.). This information adds validation and credibility to your employment history and can really set you apart from others.
7. Save some information for the interview. Think of your resume as the Cliff Notes of a great book. You are just presenting the important highlights. The details and stories associated with the content are meant to be discussed in the interview.
8. Format your resume so it’s easy to read. A plain font like Arial or Century Gothic is easy on the eyes. A “curly font” like Times New Roman can be distracting and busy looking. A font size of 10 to 12 works best. White space is important, so keep your margins to an inch on all sides.
9. Include Searchable Keywords. Most recruiters use keywords to search for resumes on the job boards and in their own databases. If your resume does not include the keywords they are using in their search, it won’t pop up. Read job descriptions for your skill set and add recurring words from the description to your resume. Keywords usually are specific to education, equipment, and job titles. So, if the position required a bachelor’s degree and experience with Vertical Milling Machines as an Industrial Engineer, the words bachelor’s, Milling, and Engineer would be used to search for resumes.
10. It’s okay to double dip. Most resumes are emailed these days, but why not use an old-fashioned technique of mailing a nicely printed hard copy as well? The extra step will serve as a reintroduction of your credentials and also show you are willing to go above and beyond to get the interview.
Don’t Skip the Cover Letter
11. Have one. Whether you choose a full letter or a detailed email message, it is important to customize your resume by adding a specific message when you send it. This is an easy way to stand out as so many people simply attach their resume and do not bother to outline their experience.
12. Correlate what they want with what you have. Read the job description and requirements thoroughly and write three key bullet points that match their information with yours in your cover letter. This makes it easy for the reader to determine your qualifications quickly.
13. Use sir names. It is appropriate to refer to the recruiter or human resources representative by Mr. or Ms. in your written communication. Until you meet personally and are given permission to call them otherwise, it is best to be more formal.
Attention to Detail Goes a Long Way
14. Make finding your resume easy. When submitting your resume by email, include the title of the position you are applying for in the subject line. You can also include a short tag line that catches the eye. For example, Customer Service Manager-10 years experience in multi-channel center. And use your full name as the file name for your resume document so it can quickly be referenced.
15. You shouldn’t be [email protected]. Be sure your email address is appropriate for a job search and not personal. You can get additional email addresses at most domains like AOL, Yahoo, and Gmail.
16. Use a header for your contact information. Include your name, phone number, and email address at the top of each page of your resume. Especially at job fairs, resumes with multiple pages can easily be separated.
Where to Search
17. Surf the Net. A company with 100 or more employees is highly likely to post their position on one of the major job boards like Monster, CareerBuilder, HotJobs, and/or Craig’s list. Be sure to get your resume posted to all those sites, so it can be searched by as many recruiters as possible. But, when searching through job postings, just use a site like Indeed.com which pulls positions from all the boards. That way you only have to visit one site to get the benefit of all of them.
18. Read the Sunday paper. Yes, printed Help Wanted ads are used less now that the Internet is so integrated for job searching, but smaller employers still use this resource since licenses for posting on the major job boards are expensive.
19. Stop in the CareerCenter offices. These state funded and operated centers offer one-stop information on getting a job, opportunities for training, hosting on-site interviews and job fairs, and networking opportunities. Plus, their services are free. Make it a point to visit a CareerCenter at least once a week during your search.
20. Brave your way through a job fair. What a great way to hit up a slew of employers all in the same day. Yes, you have to repeat your story and schmooze the whole day, but the efficiency is worth it. Don’t pass by any booth without stopping to ask, “What kinds of positions are you hiring for today?” Employers are paying to be there and are interested in seeing many candidates. It’s win-win to at least make an introduction with every employer there.
21. Spread the word. Connect with former coworkers and managers, friends and family, and just about anyone who knows people. Let them know you are in the market for a great job and give them permission to share your resume. Follow up with an emailed copy so they can easily forward it to their contacts.
22. Tap into social networking. Using sites like LinkedIn.com is helpful for researching positions, companies, and the people who work at them. Get your profile posted for free and join groups associated with your industry and interests.
Be Prepared for Being Screened on the Phone
23. Even though it’s on the phone, it’s still an interview. Recruiters often call candidates whose resume initially matches their requirements to get further information and make a decision about inviting them to an interview. Play the part and represent yourself in the same way you would if sitting in front of your interviewer.
24. Be sure the timing is right. If a recruiter calls you unexpectedly and it’s not a good time, politely offer to call them back later in that same day. That way you can focus without distractions; they understand you have a life. Plus, you’ll have time to review the details of the position and the company and collect your thoughts before returning the call. Better yet, when you are in job search mode, let your calls go into voicemail so you can take control of the return phone call.
25. Be a compelling communicator. Since there is not an opportunity to see facial expressions and body gestures on the phone, your voice qualities have to be top notch. Sounding confident, interested, cooperative, and pleasant is a skill that is worth practicing before going live.
26. At the balance of power. You are not in the driver’s seat with the interview process. Let your interviewer guide the call and ask the questions. At the end, if they invite you to ask any questions, always find out what the next step of their process is. Close the call by thanking them for their interest and expressing your own.
Ace the Interview
27. Knowing a little means a lot. Visit the company’s website and be familiar with their products or services. Determine what makes them different from others in their industry. That way when the question, “What do you know about our company?” comes up, you’ll have a great response.
28. Dress the part. Keep the “one-up” rule in mind. Always dress at least one step up from what you would be wearing on the job. It’s far better an option to be overdressed than it is to be underdressed, so respect the process and your interviewer by suiting up.
29. Go with your “Sunday Best”. You never know what the taste of your interviewer will be, so it’s always best to be conservative in your style and color choice. You can’t go wrong with a solid color suit or separates and a button up shirt or blouse. Avoid open toe shoes and over accessorizing.
30. Arrive 10 minutes early. Not a half hour early. Not 10 minutes late. Ten minutes is enough time to settle down a bit before you actually meet. If for some reason you will be late, realize you have possibly blown the interview, but make a phone call to explain your situation.
31. Make a powerful introduction. Set the tone for a great meeting with a warm handshake, look in the eye, “happy to be here” smile, and “Hello, Mr. Insertnamehere, it’s nice to meet you.” Regardless of gender, it is proper in a business meeting to greet your host with a handshake. It should be appropriately firm and use the full hand.
32. Bring additional copies of your resume. This shows your interviewer that you are prepared and resourceful. Plus, now you get to show off that baby in its intended form; resume paper still exists.
33. Be polite. Wait to be shown where to have a seat. Don’t put your personal belongings (ex. Padfolio, keys, and resume copies) on his/her desk without asking first. Accept the glass of water if offered. You may need it since you will be doing most of the talking, and being nervous can make you choked up and dry.
34. Honesty is always the best policy. A good part of the interview is centered on your work history. Be honest about your skills, contributions, and reasons for leaving. There is a way to present even not-so-pleasant situations in a reasonable and understandable way. Covering up, omitting information such as work history, or lying is sure to come to light eventually.
35. Show interest. When the interviewer is talking, you want to show signs of engagement by looking at him/her directly, nodding in acceptance, smiling, and showing interest. You can be enthusiastic without looking excitable. You want the vibe to be positive and open, so approach the meeting as such. Your body language will follow your mindset.
36. Don’t wear out your welcome. You’ll know when things are wrapping up. Have a few questions saved for the end, but don’t go on too long. Most interviews are less than an hour, and often the interviewer’s schedule includes more appointments after yours.
37. Ask the “must know” question. It is important that you know what the next step is in their hiring process. Often, more than one interview is required to get the job. Ask about the hiring process and when you can expect to hear from them next, and confirm that you have provided enough information to be considered for the next step.
38. Leave a lasting impression. There is no better way to do this than to shake their hand, thank them for their time, and express your interest in all that you heard. Saying something like “I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to hearing from you by Thursday.” reinforces your interest and confirms the timeline for next steps.
Following up is a Forgotten Art
39. Send a thank you note or email. This is as obsolete as rejection letters have become. But, it’s one more opportunity to make a positive impression, so why not do it? As many times as you can get your name in front of the person responsible for hiring you, do it.
40. Follow up after a reasonable amount of time. Hiring the perfect fit takes time. But, if it’s been more than a week, or later than you were told you’d be contacted, you should send an email to express your interest in the position and ask for information on where they are in their process. It’s a good idea to attach another copy of your resume to this message.
41. Say thank you to “No, Thank You”. If you get word that you have not been selected to move to the next step, reach out once more to thank the interviewer for his/her time and valuable information. You might have missed this opportunity, but additional contact could keep the door open for future positions.
Some Harsh Realities
42. It’s a competitive job market. You read the job description and consider yourself perfect for the position. The problem is that others will feel the same about themselves. The way to stand out is by not only having all of the skills required of the position, but some additional or unique qualifications as well. Maybe your education is from an impressive university; perhaps your longevity is legendary; it could be that your accomplishments are more striking than most. The only way to know is to send your resume and cover message and point out those distinguishing features. It’s okay to feel confident about your specialized skills and showcase them in this process.
43. Fast is not always fast. The advent of Internet recruiting has a down side – quantity verses quality. Recruiters get flooded with response immediately after posting their position. Their job is to filter the random to get to the right one, and that can be an exhausting and time consuming process. Keep track of the resumes you’ve sent and follow up after a week if you have not received a response.
44. A resume black hole does exist. Some companies have sophisticated applicant tracking systems, and others are quite unorganized and amateurish with their hiring process. It is not unusual for resumes to get overlooked or misfiled. If you feel truly qualified for the job and a week has gone by without a response, resubmit your resume and cover letter.
45. You are likely to not get any response to most of your resume submittals. Rejection letters faded away several years ago because the task of sending them became overwhelming due to the volume of candidates generated from Internet recruiting methods. Again, if you feel the position perfectly suits your background, follow up with another copy of your resume after a week has gone by. For added follow up, mail a printed copy as well.
46. Recruiters and Human Resources representatives often do not fully understand the job description. They may hire for every position in the company, so it’s understandable they can’t be an expert on the requirements for each job. Here is where LinkedIn.com can be helpful. If you have not had any response to your resume, and you feel you are truly qualified, search the company name on LinkedIn.com and consider sending it to someone in the company who may better understand your qualifications. It’s a risky move, and could ban you for life with that recruiter, but it can also be a bold and resourceful move that gets you to the next step with the right person.
Preparing for the Emotions Involved with the Process
47. First there is the Fun Phase. When you first start your job search, it can be very exciting. There are a lot of positions out there, and so many seem to be a perfect fit for you. You spend time thinking about what’s next, and how great it’s going to be, which is very enjoyable. Bask in the fun phase; it usually doesn’t last very long.
48. Then you move into the Frustrating Phase. After sending out countless resumes and getting no response, it’s easy to get frustrated and annoyed. You attend every job fair and have circled through your network more than once with no job offers. No news is not good news in the job search process. Allow yourself permission to be in this phase, but pull yourself out quickly because it can be very defeating.
49. The worst is Futile Phase. When things aren’t going your way, you start to give up because of your lack of controlling the process. You feel depressed and useless. The best way out of this downward spiral – be useful. Volunteer some of your time, tackle that list of things you’ve wanted to do around the house, take a break from the job search process for a few days and enjoy time with your family. Again, accept this phase as part of the normal cycle, but be aware of when you are in it and what it takes to get you out of it.
50. And then it’s back to fun. The timelines associated with each phase vary with every person. It’s okay to move through them at your own pace. It’s helpful to have a good support system in place and to talk to others who are in the same situation. As much time as you can spend having fun with the process, the more productive you will be. Getting a job is a job-but it can be an interesting, informative, and inspiring one if that’s the way you choose to work it.
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