Now that I once again have a job, a friend asked me to put together some tips based on my 9 months (11 months, if you want to go back to last May) of recent job searching. Here’s the list of tips for job hunting. Come back on Friday for a list of interviewing tips.
Tailor your resume to the job. Use phrasing or industry words from the job posting in your bullet points. Almost every company uses an applicant tracking system that reviews all resumes before a person ever sees them. The algorithms in that software search for matching points between the job posting and the resume and then spits out those that have a certain threshold match. It doesn’t matter how perfect you are for the job, if the computer can’t see the connection, no human is ever going to have a chance to.
PROOFREAD YOUR RESUME. Then proofread it again. Send it to multiple friends and ask them for suggestions. Be open to making changes on format, changing wording, or making statements stronger, but most importantly, look for spelling mistakes and consistency. And also know that you are going to miss something. (I had typos that no one caught on my resume for months- verb tense agreement, inconsistency in capitalization of an industry term, etc.) So continually proofread your resume. And when you find a mistake, make sure to fix it on all the versions of your resume that you have.
Your cover letter should be short, just a couple of paragraphs, really, nothing longer than half a page, and can be quite generic. There are people who are advocating for getting rid of the cover letter altogether, and some applicant tracking systems that don’t even ask for them. So don’t panic if you forget to add, or don’t have a place to put a cover letter. (caveat: If the job posting asks for a one page letter detailing how you meet the job requirements, actually write that.)
However, this does not just mean you should have one and only one cover letter. If you are open to a variety of types of job, you should have different cover letters that address each type of job specifically. In some cases, you may want a cover letter that addresses a specific company (say if you were previously employed there), or at least ones that address specific industries, especially if you have had experience in multiple industries.
Do your research on the company BEFORE you apply. This way, you know you are interested in the job and the company. Also, if you get a phone call when you’re out and about (like at the dog park) and the HR person asks if you have a few moments, you are prepared to answer standard phone screening questions like “why are you interested in this job/this company?”
Don’t waste your time applying for a position you wouldn’t want or at a company you wouldn’t want to work for. My big one was that I wouldn’t apply at Catholic healthcare organizations, but I also avoided banking, cell phone companies, and janitorial firms (I HATE cleaning).
Be open to possibilities. Your skill set can probably be applied in lots of different kinds of jobs, so if the job title sounds interesting, look at the posting. If you think you can do the job, even if the title is way off from your previous titles, apply anyway. Just make sure to tailor your resume to highlight your experience that is similar to what this job is asking for. The job titles of the last 5 jobs I interviewed for were: Business Systems Analyst, Business Process Analyst, Executive Assistant, Director of Operations, and Administrator.
Keep a log of jobs you have applied to. You have to do this when you are on unemployment, but even if you aren’t, it’s still a good idea. For one, it prevents you from applying to the same job twice with an identical resume (if you have updated your resume, go ahead and apply a second time). It also gives you a good idea of how long it takes between a company posting a job and them moving forward. If it’s a job with a closing date, make a note of that on your log, so you have an idea of when you might be contacted. If you also use the log to track call backs and interviews, you’ll get a good feedback loop for if your current resume is working, or if you need to revamp it.
TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Most people still get jobs based on who they know, not what they know. I am not saying unqualified people get hired, but a resume that doesn’t get pushed through by the applicant tracking system can still be forced through the system if the hiring manager knows to ask for it. A resume can get moved to the top of a pile because of the recommendation of someone who already works there.
To go along with this, though, do NOT ask your friends to speak to things they can’t speak to. If you have never worked with them, don’t ask them to be a professional reference, don’t ask them to speak about your work skills. I would ask them to say- hey, she’s good people, or we’ve played games together and she’s a great team player, has some really out of the box problem solving skills, etc. I also always tell them that if they aren’t comfortable doing any of that, it’s okay. Some people have been really burned by recommending someone in the past and just don’t want to do it again, or they may know enough about the job to actually think it wouldn’t be a good fit for you. So always give them an out.
Network. This is more than telling your friends. Find professional groups on LinkedIn. Go to professional society meetings. Talk to people. Be generous in sharing your knowledge with those you meet; help them if you can. Show yourself to be knowledgeable and helpful to people in your industry or to other professionals you meet. People remember those things, and will therefore think of you when they hear about jobs through their networks.
Ask for informational interviews. If there is an organization whose work you are really interested in, a place you would love to work, etc., reach out to them. Contact HR and ask for an informational interview. Tell them you’ve looked at their jobs, and it doesn’t seem like there’s something that is a good fit for you right now, but you love what they do and would like to talk to them. This creates a relationship. It makes you come to the top of a recruiter’s mind when a new job comes available. It associates your name and resume with someone who is interested enough in their company to be proactive. And trust me, recruiters and hiring managers like proactive.
Find a support group. I very much did NOT want to share all of my frustrations about the job hunt on FaceBook because my family is there. My parents did not need to see everything that was going on, nor did I want to hear platitudes from family and friends most of the time. I am very lucky to be involved on a personal finance message board where I was able to vent my frustrations and seek advice. I had great support, but also people who were willing to ask me questions about items that might have been harming me, or give me advice on my communication style. C and my family are great, and I had plenty of support from them, but being able to share the downs of the situation without worrying about whether my worries would make them worry was invaluable.