My conclusions about job search strategies come from years of experience with hiring managers, HR professionals, recruiters and from my own career changes: journalist to project manager to researcher to author to communications professional. They are conclusions drawn from years of helping applicants—at every level and in many different industries—make their way successfully through the hiring gauntlet.
My focus when it comes to job search strategy is two-fold:
1) What should I do now?
2) What should I do next?
With those basic goals in mind, here are some thoughts from the trenches, that all speak to one goal: what it takes to get hired, nothing more and nothing less.
- Don’t be deceived into waiting for the big moment of inspiration. This is no mystical quest. The job search is a series of steps. I like small steps, where each one is completely manageable and gets you a little closer to your goal.
- Resist the temptation to use research and inquiry as tools to postpone taking the next step. There is always something else you can investigate, one more bit of data that you believe would really make the picture complete. Don’t let paralysis set in.
- Choosing a career is not necessarily a matter of waiting for lightning to strike, nor is it always a question of “living your dream.” Lightning and dreams may not follow your schedule, and it can be dangerous to treat career choice as something that depends on a sort of mystical enlightenment.
- Cover letters are not old hat. In many situations—you’re overqualified, you’re under-qualified, you’re changing fields, your job history is a problem—a cover letter is your best friend.
Your perfect resume is not some platonic ideal. It has a very definite job to do, and it has to be custom made for its particular circumstance. For one thing, each resume is aimed at a specific employer and a specific job.
- You need a resume that tells your story as forcefully and convincingly as possible. It should, in effect, sell your candidacy to a prospective employer.
- Bullets and lists: Use them. They organize things for the reader. As a result, you look organized. They call attention to specific items that you want to emphasize.
- Fonts and styles: You can use different fonts within the same documents, but limit yourself to two relatively standard fonts. Don’t overdo it.
- Be specific about the way you say things. Go easy on the adjectives but provide compelling achievements to prove your claim.
- Nonverbal communication can give you an edge in the job interview. Posture is particularly significant. Don’t slouch.
- Stay calm. If you’ve prepared you will usually do well. If you don’t answer a question perfectly, don’t think about it or show frustration; focus on the next question.
- Know the lingo of your field. Every industry has its own unique vocabulary, and hiring managers take it for granted that potential employees will understand it.
- Research the company as thoroughly as you can. Be the most prepared interviewee.
- One of the most important interview moments occurs when the interviewer asks if you have any questions of your own. Be prepared.