We surveyed employers, jobseekers and recruiters for their best tips – and then we tested them out.
- Ask people for advice.
One of the best ways to build a relationship with people you’d like to work for is to start by sharing your admiration for their work and asking for their advice.
- Don’t always follow your passion.
“If you study people who end up loving their work, most of them did not follow a pre-existing passion. Instead, their passion for the work developed over time as they got better at what they did and took more control over their career” says Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.
- Create your position
Study the industry or field that you’re looking to move into, and determine a company or two that you’d like to work for, Then figure out their challenges through relationships or public information. With this, you can craft a solution for them that you can share directly or publically through a blog, for instance. The concept here is to get noticed through offering a solution to help them.
- Practice makes perfect
“Do your homework on the companies you plan to interview with, and anticipate the kinds of questions they might ask. Come up with answers that will be both honest and impressive.” – Margaret Miller, writer and editor at The Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation
- Learn how to listen.
Job seekers are so caught up in conveying a certain message and image to the employer that they often fail to listen.
When you practicing for interviews, don’t just rehearse your answers to questions like, “can you tell me about yourself?” “Why do you want this job?” and “what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” Practice listening carefully and closely without interrupting.
- Start at the top and move down.
Why approach human resources in hopes that your resume makes it to the hiring authority? Just get it there yourself. Be careful to use tact, respect and clarity during the process, but nevertheless, go straight to the decision maker.
- Build a relationship with the administrative assistant.
While you want to start at the top, you’ll eventually want to build strategic relationships with personnel at all levels. These people will filter comments and influence decision makers.
- Don’t apply for a job as soon as you find it.
Instead, research that company and the professionals who work there, and reach out to someone at the company before you apply for the job, letting them know you admire what they do and would love their advice. Ask questions via e-mail or phone about what they like and find challenging at their job, and ask if they have any tips for you. Most likely they will personally tell you about the job opening and then you can ask them about getting your application and resume into the right hands.
- Focus on body language.
Show that you interested, sit up straight be alert, be positive – even if you are stressed.
- Don’t focus on finding a job you love now.
Most entry-level positions are not glamorous. The right question to ask when assessing an opportunity is what the job would look like in five years, assuming that you spent those years focusing like a laser on developing valuable skills. That’s the job you’re interviewing for.
- Become their greatest fan.
Organizations ideally want employees to love their company and be enthusiastic about their job. Loyal fans are passionate as consumers, and often make great employees because of this.
- Don’t let bad news get you down
“Don’t listen to the doom and gloom that you hear in the news. People are getting jobs every day, and companies are growing, even in a down economy. I say this as a business owner, whose biggest challenge over the past year has been finding quality help. I have also seen it with other local business owners who are looking to hire. I believe that people get an idea that there are no jobs because of all the negativity they hear about the job numbers in the media, so they buy into that and give up, while others go for it and find great jobs, regardless of the economic indicators.” — Anthony Kirlew, founder and CEO of AKA Internet Marketing.
- Show how you add value
“Figure out what value you can provide. Your credentials and your past are nice but secondary. I am glad you think you are great, but it’s of little consequence to me. Convince me that my future is better with you than without you.”– Ann Latham, president of consulting and business-services company Uncommon Clarity
- Network, network, network
“Network with all kinds of people for useful market information, not just information about specific job openings or companies that are known to be hiring. Learn about the larger world and environment.” –Tammy Gooler Loeb, career and executive coach at Tammy Gooler Loeb Coaching & Consulting
- Stay positive
“Positivity and persistence are key. Stay optimistic throughout the process and keep going until you achieve your goal.” — Lynda Zugec, managing director of The Workforce Consultants
- Stand out from the crowd
“Every candidate is punctual, responsible and gets on well with people. To avoid blending in with the crowd, highlight unique elements of your personal brand. For example, a candidate listed an around-the-world trip she took in college as an educational experience. When we read that, we had to hear the story, so she got an interview and eventually a job. Don’t skip or gloss over the cover letter. This is your opportunity to make a personal impression and connection
- Translate features into benefits.
“When you are trying to sell yourself, you should do the same. A feature is a fact about you — experience, skills, education, etc. A benefit is why we should care. This requires some thought and customization of your résumé to each position you seek, but it is worth the effort. Customize and plan your approach. Connect to people who already work where you want to work through social media like LinkedIn, attend networking events for the industry and leverage your personal connections. Even a small connection can often get you past the first paper cut or get your résumé the second glance it deserves.” — Matt Meuleners, executive partner at professional training and coaching company FOCUS Training
- Highlight leadership.
Recruiters and employers love job seekers who have leadership skills. Even if you’ve never had a job, you’ve probably got leadership experiences tucked away such as running fundraisers or managing sports team
- Have relevant examples.
If you have examples of what you’ve done in the past you’ll turn heads. Practice talking about those examples out loud so that you can trot them out at the appropriate time. Keep statistics at your fingertips, says Walker. If you can recount how you increased sales by 10%, by XYZ or improved customer feedback by 5%, you’re bound to impress.
- Summarise your experience.
Make sure your summary of experience is at the top of your CV and includes specific applicable experience, says Walker. Consider using words from the job description or posting so that applicant tracking systems (ATS) can recognise them and make a match.
- Ask insightful questions.
If you need some suggestions, try these: ‘what prospects are there for personal and professional development?’ or ‘what skills and attributes do successful people at your company usually have?’ A useful tactic at the end of the interview is to ask ‘how do you think I match up with this position?’
- Top 10 things that employers look for in a job interview
- Be confident, happy and have positive attitude
- Have great communication and presentation skills and get the dress and handshake right
- Use of real life examples to demonstrate answers
- Illustrate how you stand out as a candidate
- Have a clear career plan and aspirations
- Be enthusiastic and passionate about the role
- Communicate the benefits you can bring the business
- Prepare questions in advance to ask the interviewer
- Display a good understanding of the role
- Be an active listener
- Your resume isn’t as important as you perceive
Hiring managers get a much more accurate picture of who you are by evaluating your online persona–including your social handles, work portfolio, published articles, etc.–which are typically more up-to-date and honest than resumes. Ensure all these digital handles are strong and reflect on you well.
- Hiring managers don’t want to interview you
They want to have a conversation with you to mutually decide if you should work together. Talk about each other’s goals, toss around ideas for growing the company, share your work philosophies, and see if you click.
- Future growth is far more important than past accomplishments
Work history can provide helpful background, but the past is in the past. What’s at stake is the company’s future. What can you do today and tomorrow to advance organizational goals? Spend more time talking about the potential future work relationship rather than past positions.
- Put all your needs for success on the table
Finding common ground with a hiring manager requires you to be upfront about your needs for success and happiness. By the same token, ask about the hiring manager’s needs. Do you jive?
- Your questions influence how hiring managers evaluate you
Ask questions of every hiring manager you meet, even if it seems repetitive. Your questions provide insight that every hiring manager wants–your interests, concerns, and passions. By the same token, you’ll get nuanced responses from different people, which give you deeper perspective into whether the position is the right fit.
- You should come verified
Hiring managers tend to favour candidates with whom they share mutual connections. That’s because these candidates have already been vouched for by their trusted network. Maintain a robust professional network to create one degree of separation from as many hiring managers as possible.
- Hiring managers want to enjoy the process
Recruiting has a reputation for being a painful process. But it doesn’t have to be. Hiring managers appreciate the energy and enthusiasm you can bring to your conversations. You’re getting to know each other before embarking on a potentially new and exciting relationship, and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be fun.
- Don’t wait for a job offer to jump-start your career.
Start a blog, get involved in industry organisations, volunteer your writing services — create your own opportunities. Get motivated by researching the backgrounds of people you admire in your field. They had to start somewhere, too.
- Develop networking skills.
In other words, talk to as many people in your field as possible, keep your professional online profiles up-to-date, and keep in contact with any former colleague or manager who could later serve as a reference. Whatever you do, don’t burn bridges with any personal or professional contacts — you’ll be exposed to more opportunities and potential success.
- Do treat your job search as a full-time job itself.
If someone were to ask you, ‘What did you do to find a job this week?’ you should have a long answer that includes time sending résumés/cover letters, networking events, cold calls, informational interviews, research, and time crafting your portfolio/interview materials.” It’s not always easy, but your hard work will eventually pay off, and you’ll definitely thank yourself later for putting in all those hours that led to your success.
- Don’t make your cover letter and résumé all about you.
While the main purpose of your résumé is to highlight your personal experience, when employers view it, they’re really thinking about themselves and the company. “It’s important to remember the cover letter and résumé are about what you can do for the employer, not the other way around,” says Josh Tolan. “Showcase the skills you have that are most relevant to your prospective employer, and keep the focus on the company’s mission and goals.” This means that, yes, you should tweak your cover letter every time you send it out to a different company. It’s more time consuming, but you’re much more likely to hear back if you tailor your materials to the specific company rather than repeatedly sending out a generic summary of your past work experience. In each cover letter, mention something you admire about the company and how a specific skill you have could benefit that aspect.
- Do have core values.
A prospective employer will be able to see through you if you truly aren’t interested in the company. While you shouldn’t be too choosy and limit yourself, you should have a set idea of the types of companies you’re striving to work for. “If you’re dropping random lines everywhere hoping for anything, you won’t show the focus or passion companies want to see. Figure out what you want as a person and how this should manifest itself in your work.
- Don’t assume blind submissions won’t be read.
You might feel stressed when looking through the seemingly endless posts on job sites but many companies do use those as reliable forms of application, and they will read your submissions. The key to online job hunting is to apply early, and make sure your application has evidence you’ve thoroughly researched the company. Don’t write off a job posting just because you don’t have a direct contact.
- Do play up any relevant skills that relate to the job.
While you don’t want to keep the focus all about you, you also don’t want to forget to highlight skills that the company clearly values. In fact, “you don’t have to have been paid for something for it to be included in your résumé’s summary section as a skill. Look at the job ad you’re responding to, and figure out what experience you have that speaks to it — even if it’s a soft skill like teamwork, you can cite a specific example of your success in that area,” says Charles Purdy. Talk yourself up a little — a dose of confidence goes a long way.
- Don’t forget to treat the job search as a learning experience.
Did you bomb a phone interview? Don’t sweat it — now you know what not to do next time. As Kellie Melloy puts it, “don’t get complacent. Always get momentum going, and don’t forget you should always be gaining knowledge.” Everything you experience during your job search will only benefit you in the long run of your career.
- Make Yourself a “Smack-in-the-Forehead” Obvious Fit
When you apply for a job via an online application process, it’s very likely that your resume will first be screened by an applicant tracking system and then (assuming you make this first cut) move onto human eyeballs. The first human eyeballs that review your resume are often those of a lower level HR person or recruiter, who may or may not understand all of the nuances of that job for which you’re applying.
- Accept That You Will Never Bore Anyone Into Hiring You
Don’t get me wrong—you absolutely must come across as polished, articulate, and professional throughout your job search. However, many people translate this into: Must. Be. Boring.Wrong, wrong, wrong. Realize that few people get hired because they had perfect white space on their cover letters, memorized all of the “correct” interview questions or used incredibly safe, common phraseology (i.e., clichés) throughout their resumes. All of this correctness is going to make you look staged and non-genuine. Instead, give yourself permission to be both polished and endearing. Memorable, likable candidates are almost always the ones who go the distance.
- If You’re Not on LinkedIn, You Very Nearly Don’t Exist
Considering that more than 90% of recruiters use LinkedIn as their primary search tool, this is not an understatement. If you’re a professional, you need to not only be on LinkedIn, you need to be using it to your full advantage. Don’t believe me? Think about it this way: If tomorrow morning, a recruiter logs onto LinkedIn looking for someone in your geography, with expertise in what you do, and you’re not there? Guess who they’re going to find and contact? Yes, that person’s name is “not you.”
- Thank You Matters
Consider sending a thoughtful, non-robotic thank you note to each person with whom you’d interviewed, within about two hours of leaving their offices. If the race is close, you extra manners and demonstration of interest will be the difference.
- It’s a numbers game
In today’s jobs market, employers have plenty of candidates to choose from and they often receive hundreds of applications per vacancy. So the odds of applying for just one job and securing it are slim to none. Applying for several jobs at once, and getting your CV in front of as many hiring managers as possible, will maximise your chances. You still need to be selective about the roles you apply for, but scout out as many suitable opportunities as you can. Set a daily or weekly application target, track the vacancies, and make timely follow-ups.
- Always tailor your CV
Sending a tailored covering letter is a well-known job hunting tip, but are you doing this with your CV? Relevance is crucial when applying for any job. Your CV is most likely targeted towards one profession or industry, but no two jobs will be exactly the same.Whenever you apply for a role, take a few minutes to check your CV against the job advert and look for any potential improvements you can make. For example, if you are hiding a crucial qualification at the bottom of your CV, move it to the top and make it prominent. Tailoring your CV for every application may take a little more effort, but it’s better use of time than making 10 generic applications that may not attract the attention you need.
- Don’t rely solely on job websites
Job websites are obviously a great source of vacancies and should definitely feature in your job search. But the adverts on major job sites receive extremely high volumes of applications, meaning your CV can often get lost among them.Online networks are a great alternative to job sites. Millions of recruiters actively search for candidates on LinkedIn, so you can’t afford not to have a presence on there. As well as connecting with prospective employers on the professional networking site, you can obtain recommendations from previous managers, giving recruiters the confidence to trust you.Tracking down potential employers and sending speculative applications is a great way to sidestep the crowded job boards. This method requires perseverance because not every company you approach will be hiring. But it only takes one successful approach to land an interview.
It is also worth getting on the radar of reputable recruiters in your industry, as you never know when they might have a suitable opportunity.
- Pick up the phone
In the digital age, it can sometimes seem a little old fashioned to approach a recruiter by telephone, but it’s still an effective method. If you’ve made an application online and haven’t had a reply in a few days, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. A friendly follow-up call with the recruiter will allow you to draw attention to your CV – which may be sitting unopened in an overflowing inbox – get your personality across, and begin to build a relationship with them. It’s not always easy to find direct line telephone numbers, but a search on LinkedIn or the company website is a good place to start.
- Where to look for jobs
Jobs are listed in many different media. Sometimes, just spreading the word that you’re looking for work can get you an interview or two. Other suggestions include:
Trade magazines and newspapers
Internet job-search websites
Job Network services
Network with colleagues in the industry
Join professional organisations
Attend public conferences and workshops in your field
Volunteer work in your chosen field may get your foot in the door, or at least broaden your network.
- Resume suggestions
Estimates suggest that prospective employers will spend between 10 seconds and two minutes looking at your resume before deciding whether or not they want to interview you. Make sure your resume grabs their attention and demands a second look. Suggestions include:
- If possible, tailor your resume to fit the particular job.
- Remember that a resume is only a summary, not a full-blown account of your every career move. Keep it brief – three pages is more than enough detail.
- Include basic information (such as full name, address, telephone number and other contact details) on the top of the first page.
- Next, list your educational qualifications, starting from the most recent and working backwards.
- Then, list your employment history, once again starting from the most recent. Include position, company and length of employment.
- For each previous job, only list pertinent and interesting details. Don’t just retype your job description – write about your accomplishments.
- Include specific information if you can. Use numbers and figures. For example, instead of saying ‘raised funds for projects’, put ‘raised over $100,000 per annum’; rather than ‘supervisory position’, write ‘supervision of 25 people’.
- Explain any gaps in employment history, if you have them. For example, you may have taken time off to travel or further your education.
- Consider including a summary paragraph of your work skills.
- Include any other skills that may be relevant such as first aid training, a forklift licence or typing ability.
- Include industry awards.
- Include references or contact details for referees.
- Avoid using gags or novelty tactics to flag attention to your resume. Always type your resume on white A4 paper, and don’t include little gifts or send your resume in unusual packaging. These tactics are just annoying.
- Attach a short, to-the-point and professional cover letter. Include a summary paragraph to sell your experience and qualifications.
- Job interview suggestions
- Your resume impressed a potential employer, and now you have an interview. Suggestions include:
- Research the company or organisation. Be familiar with its products and goals.
- Think about what you want to say in the interview. Imagine the kind of questions you might be asked, and rehearse a few answers.
- Prepare questions of your own. For example, you could ask them to tell you about the working environment.
- Dress conservatively and in a business-like fashion.
- Make sure your personal grooming (such as fingernails and hair) is up to scratch.
- Arrive on time.
- Try to be polite, positive and friendly to everyone you meet during the job interview.
- Don’t use slang or swear words.
- Display positive body language – such as good posture, firm handshake, relaxed smile and make eye contact – these can make a great first impression.
- Don’t say anything negative about previous employers.
- Let the interviewer take the lead. Don’t try to control the conversation.
- Avoid talking about salary and employee benefits too early.
- Keeping up your morale
It is important to approach every interview with confidence because a defeated attitude won’t impress a prospective employer. However, job hunting can be difficult and sometimes demoralising. Suggestions on how to keep up your spirits include:
- Look after yourself. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest.
- Consider limiting your job hunting to certain days of the week, leaving the other days free for hobbies, personal interests and other rewarding pursuits.
- Remind yourself of the positive efforts you are making.
- Seek support from family and friends.
- Concentrate on Growth Industries
Brent Berger, a Las Vegas-based scenario planning and strategy consultant, suggests focusing on growth industries and areas. “Look at energy,” he says. “With oil costs where they are, the need for cheap fuel and cheap heat is ever-mounting. And any job that alleviates pain is recession-proof. Similarly, the National Guard, Border Patrol, homeland security and the defence industry in general will continue to thrive as the next stage in the war on terror continues.”
- Consider Freelancing
Russ Carr, a designer and writer in St. Louis, has twice had a line on a job only to see it slip away when the employer lost a key account or decided to distribute the duties among current employees. To keep some money coming in, Carr started freelancing. “I haven’t stopped trying to shop myself for a full-time gig again, but freelancing certainly has kept food on the table,” he says. “If you’re in a field that supports it, don’t think twice — just do it.”
- Consider a temp job in the interim
Temp jobs can be a great way to learn new skills and gain experience while you are looking for a permanent role. Consider a temp job with a company that may be of interest to you – this can also be a good way to get your foot in the door, and put you first in line when a permanent role becomes available.
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