10 Tips & Tricks for Your Job Search

Did your college offer a class on how to find a job? Probably not. In fact, most people have never been taught how to seek out meaningful employment. However, research shows that the average worker is going to spend less than 5 years in each job — which means you'll have as many as 15 jobs over the course of your career.

Here are 10 things every jobseeker can do to be successful in their job search.
Follow these tips to learn how to find your new job faster. Remember, you only need one company to hire you. Instead of focusing your efforts on making dozens or hundreds of contacts with prospective employers, be selective!

  1. Start with the end in mind. Take the time to think about what kind of job you’re targeting. What job title, functional roles, and industry are you interested in? Any specific companies you’d like to work for? If your ideal job was available, how would you describe it?
  2. Take time to organize your job search. Outline a strategy and then use your plan to create a weekly list of activities.
  3. Create a schedule each day for your job search activities. Make a list each day of the activities you want to complete. However, if an interview or networking opportunity comes up, of course you will rearrange your schedule to fit it in!
  4. Set aside a workspace for your job search. Designate a specific area to use when conducting your job search. This should be an area free of distractions.
  5. Devote sufficient time to your job search. The more time and energy you devote to your job search, and the more aggressively you network, the faster your job search will proceed. If you are not currently working, commit yourself to a minimum of 40 hours per week devoted to your search campaign. If you are currently working, devote 15-20 hours per week at a minimum.
  6. Recognize that your motivation is going to increase and decrease, depending on the success (or lack of success) you are having in reaching your job search goal. Reward yourself for effort, not for results.
  7. Get the support of a team to help you. You don’t have to go it alone in your job search. Ask your family and friends to support you. Join a job club. Use the services offered by your city, county, or state employment office. Contact your university alumni association. Hire a résumé writer and/or career coach.
  8. Enlist an accountability partner. Recruit one person to support, encourage, and motivate you in your job search. This can be a friend, another job seeker, or a coach/counselor. (Choose someone who can be objective with you — and critical of your efforts — when they need to be. That role might be too difficult for a spouse/partner.)
  9. It can be easier to get a job if you have a job (even if the job isn’t related to the job you want). Employers sometimes see hiring someone who is unemployed as “riskier” than hiring someone who is already working.
  10. If you are having difficulty finding a job in your area, consider relocation. If you live in an area with high unemployment — especially in your industry — consider whether moving to another city, state, or region would improve your chances of getting hired.

The above is excerpted from my book- The Quick and Easy Checklist: 100 Tips & Tricks for Your Job Search. You can get a free copy by subscribing to my monthly newsletter here.

Five Quick and Easy Tips for Post-Interview Thank You Letters

If you have made it all the way through the resume gauntlet and come out on the other side of an interview make sure to say thank you. The best way to do this is with a tradition post-interview thank you letter. Doing this is not only a case of good manners, it also allows you to subtly keep your name in front of the hiring committee and highlight anything that went particularly well in the interview. 

Before you send that letter off be sure to follow these five general guidelines to be sure you get the most out of your short missive. 

Keep it short. A post-interview letter is not the same as a cover letter. You do not need to go over all of your accomplishments and credentials again. Keep it brief and to the point. Tell them you appreciate the opportunity to meet with them, and that you are available to answer any follow up questions. I suggest something along the lines of 2-3 paragraphs at most.

Be professional. While you might be tempted to write something very casual to come across as personable, remember this is a professional thank you letter. Use a formal letter template with the traditional header and salutation. Traditional fonts like Times New Roman or Arial, size 10 or 12 are best for this type of writing.

Send it soon. This type of correspondence needs to be timely if it is going to have the desired impact. You want them to receive the letter while your interview is still fairly fresh in mind. I recommend writing your letter the day after the interview and them mailing that day it. This way they will be reading it in about 3 days. This is enough time for them to still remember the interview, but not so soon that it feels like overkill.

If possible, personalize. While you don't want to sound unprofessional, after you have met and spoke with the interviewer you can assume a level of connection that wasn't there in the cover letter. So if there is a quick way to personalize the message go ahead, but do not force anything. Perhaps someone mentioned there was a company softball team. This would be the time to mention you were the starting short stop on your high school baseball team. 

Proofread. Then proofread again. This is the oldest advice in the book, but that is only because it is that important. Don't blow it with a typo in your thank you note. 

A note on email: If you know the hiring decision is going to be made in the next couple days, then it is appropriate to send a post-interview thank you letter in email. However, all of the above still applies. Be professional.

Why Your File Name Could Be Killing Your Resume

It is the little things that can doom the prospective jobseeker.

-A resume with a glaring typo. 
-A cover letter addressed to the wrong HR person. 
-A listed reference that with outdated contact information. 

These are all things you should double check before sending in your resume to potential employers. However, there is another small item that is often overlooked: the file name.

The majority of resumes clients send to me for review are called resume.doc This makes complete sense sitting on your home computer, but you have to keep in mind that many HR departments receive hundreds of resumes a day. The standard "resume.doc" doesn't really help you stand out in a crowd.

When I create a resume for someone I always name the file John Doe Resume. This way the document will at least be identifiable in a list of hundreds of resume files. Recently, I came across an even more powerful way to name your document. Professional Branding is something I talk about a lot here at Quality Resumes, so why no brand your file name as well. Instead of John Doe Resume, why not something more dramatic? John Doe Marketing Guru has a nice ring to it.

Another no-no when it comes to file names is using all lowercase letters. Think of everything you write in connection with your job search as a professional piece of writing. LinkedIn status updates, casual networking emails, tweets, and yes, the file names of your resumes and cover letters. It may seem like a little thing, but small holes can sink big ships.

While we are on the topic of file names, this would be a good time to review what types of file extensions to use as well. Sometimes a job listing will explicitly state what type of file they are looking for. The two most common are Word documents or PDF's. If the request is written in the job listing, be sure to follow the directions. This is more than a simple whim of the HR department. Many ATS systems will be set to only read a certain type of file. If you send in the wrong one, your resume could show up as a blank document. If a specific type of extension is not mentioned I always recommend that clients use Word as this tends to be the standard across the industry.

So remember, proofread, check your references and give some thought to your resume's file name. You never know what will help you get through the door.

4 Tips for Using Job Descriptions to Your Advantage.

When it is time to look for a new job or career most people will gravitate towards the classifieds. whether they are the traditional "work" section from the local paper or the pages of Monster.com, paging through the help wanted section is part of the ritual. But how many jobseekers really analyze what they see there? Not enough.

Job descriptions offer a wealth of information to the savvy job hunter. On the surface each one gives the obvious: a general job description along with the required skills and education. However, if you read a little closer you can often find more, such as the following:

  • The methods used to complete the tasks 
  • The relationship of the job to other jobs 
  • Summary of the general nature and level of the job
  •  Description of the broad function and scope of the position 
  • List of duties or tasks performed critical to success 
  • Description of the relationships and roles within the company, including supervisory positions, subordinating roles and other working relationships
So how does a jobseeker take all of this information and use it to his advantage? Here are 4 tips to get you started on the road to an interview.

Write and speak about your related performance success. In your resume, cover letter or email be sure to highlight your past performance in the specific areas mentioned in the job description.

Read in-between the the lines of the job description. There is always more there than can be picked up on in the first casual reading. Study it. What problems do they have that you can solve? Think of how your own background dovetails with those problems.

Don't stop at the job description. Applying to any new job requires research. This is true whether it is a job in your industry or not. Look up the company online and study what they do and how they do it. Between official sites, social media and blogs you can learn just about everything about a company's culture and methods in an hours worth of research. This will be an hour well spent.

Develop all kinds of proof that you have performed your job well. Today's jobseeker needs to be prepared to show, not just tell about past experiences.  Prepare an online portfolio, a robust LinkedIn profile, and a handful of strong recommendations, in addition to a targeted resume.

As a resume writer I always appreciate when a client can provide a link to the job they are trying to get because then I can tailor the resume and related documents exactly to that position. Take this professional's advice and do the same with the documents in your own jobhunter's toolbox. 

Five Tips for Dealing With Resume Gaps

Gaps happen. Resume gaps that is, and they can be a problem if they are not dealt with properly. Whether you have been out of work and looking, or have taken time off purposefully, you need to convince employers of your worth. Potential employers may look at those blank months or years as a negative.

Let your resume bridge those gaps in your work history.
However, if you are creative with your writing you can minimize their impact. Follow these five tips when updating your resume.

1. Gain experience. If you have to be out of work do your best to add to your experience. Volunteer in a related field, take a continuing education class or try doing some consulting work. Experience can come in many forms and doesn't have to revolve around a paid position.

2. Stay current. If you are going to be job hunting for a while be sure to stay on top of the most recent developments in your field. This can be accomplished via online classes, membership in professional organizations or through good old fashioned networking.

3. Format can be your friend. When it comes time to put it all into your resume use a couple simple tricks to de-emphasize resume gaps. Put your qualifications "above the fold". If the top half of your resume does a good job selling your worth, the focus will not be on gaps in your history. For small gaps, use years instead of months. It is a simple thing, but it will erase any small absences from the workforce.

4. Use a powerful cover letter. Often times there is a good reason for gaps in your work history or the appearance of job hopping. The cover letter is the place to explain this. A cover letter is an excellent tool to make a strong first impression before the potential employer gets to your resume. Don't waste it.

5. Cultivate references. If someone feels leery of hiring you, a couple well-placed references can often alleviate those fears. Keep your contacts current and make sure to ask for letters or reference regularly.

Jobseeker’s Guide to Networking Your Way to Your Next Job: Part 3

Informational Interviewing
Get to know people who can help you find your next job — not necessarily the people doing the hiring, but the people who know those people. Make connections with local business leaders, government officials, bankers, commercial real estate professionals, and others who can network you into the top opportunities within the area. Ask for the opportunity to meet with them to learn more about a specific company, opportunity, or the industry. Make it clear you are not asking them for a job — only for information which may be useful to your job search.

Consider contacting members of the professional associations to which you belong. Your colleagues can be a tremendous asset in helping you find unadvertised opportunities. Write a letter or email them asking for their help and assistance. You want contact names and numbers, ideas, and company information. Be sure to ask if you can mention their name to “get in the door” with their contacts to arrange an informational interview.

Use your time wisely. Prepare a list of questions to ask in the informational interview. Ask questions related to the type of work required in the position, what kind of preparation is required for success in the job, which skills are used most often in the job, what qualities are appreciated in successful employees, and what the individual thinks are the prospects of finding a position in this field.

Be sure to ask questions which allow the person you’re interviewing to talk about themselves. How did they get started in the field? What is their educational background? What do they wish they knew when they got started that they know now? What is the toughest part of their job? What challenges/problems do they have that need solving?

Get business cards from these contacts and write a personalized thank you note. Follow-up with your résumé and cover letter only when appropriate, or if you’re asked to provide them.

Networking in a Confidential Job Search
Ever been surprised when a friend announces a new job and you didn’t even know they were looking? You can use networking even when you’re quietly searching for a new position. However, be aware that the more people who know you’re looking for a new job, the more likely your current employer is to find out about it.

One way to avoid this is to build your network even when you’re not searching for a new job. Again, listen to Harvey Mackey’s admonition to “dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Having a robust network can also help you be more effective in your current position, by giving you access to people who can help you solve the problems you face in your daily work.

Contact members of your network individually about your job search instead of mass messages or social media updates. Let your contact know that you are conducting your job search quietly, and ask for their help in keeping your search confidential.

If your primary purpose of networking is for your job search, don’t network on company time or using company resources. And never use your company email to send emails to your networking contacts.

When you are updating your LinkedIn profile as part of your job search, turn on LinkedIn’s privacy setting about sharing notifications before you change your profile or add a bunch of new contacts.

In your LinkedIn account, in the upper right-hand corner of the page, access the drop-down menu under your name and choose the “Settings” option.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts” under the Privacy Controls section.

On the “Activity broadcasts” pop-up, make sure that the box is UNCHECKED for “Let people know when you change your profile, make recommendations, or follow companies.”

When conducting a confidential job search, this will ensure that your network of connections isn’t alerted when you make changes to your LinkedIn profile.

Keys to Success
Do you wonder why some people are more effective using networking to find their next job? Here are some keys to success in using networking in a job search:

  • Don’t wait until you need a job to build your network. You should constantly be building — and strengthening — your connections with your network. One of the easiest ways to do this is using LinkedIn. One of the most effective ways to improve your network, however, is through personal contact. Do something to build your network each and every day, whether that’s sending an email to someone you haven’t talked to in a while, or identifying someone new you want to meet.
  • Ask for help. Most people will be happy to help you — but you need to ask!
  • Be specific in what you’re asking for. A specific request for assistance (“Does anyone know someone who works in the accounting department at Company X?”) is more likely to be fulfilled than a general request (“I need a new job! Help!”)
  • Prepare for networking. Have business cards made that are strictly for networking. You can have cards made very inexpensively on VistaPrint (http://www.vistaprint.com/) or use a more attention-getting format like Moo Cards (http://us.moo.com/products/business-cards.html).
  • Follow-up. If a networking contact gives you advice, a lead, or information, follow up on that information — and then also get back to that person to let them know how it went.
  • Give to Get.” By helping people who ask you for assistance, your network will be stronger when you need it.

Series: Jobseeker’s Guide to Networking Your Way to Your Next Job
In Part 1 we cover the basics of networking and why it is important.
In Part 2 we cover how to use your network once you have identified it. 
In Part 3 we look at the overall keys to success in networking.