Don’t Short-circuit Your Job Search Campaign with Poor Strategy Choice

A successful job search campaign requires careful planning and a focus on doing things that have the greatest positive impact. There are a range of job search strategies that you can use to find a great job. It is not practical to do them all, so developing an overall approach that includes strategies that are most practical for you and that are compatible with your personality and interests is critical.

There is no blueprint etched in stone for a successful job search campaign. However, here are some things to keep in mind to avoid compromising your job search campaign.

A Shot-gun Approach to Job Search is not Optimal. It is not the quantity of things that you do to attract potential employers; it is the quality of the few things you chose to prioritize. It is certainly possible to build networks, apply to job boards or newspaper classified ads, join relevant associations and organizations, create or obtain top-notch materials, contact recruiters, and do a host of other things. All of these efforts are reasonable. However, just doing things for the sake of doing them is not in your best interests. An effective job search campaign requires a focus on the “big picture” or how the steps you chose to take fit together into an overall strategy.

Conversely, Choosing Just One Job Search Strategy and Ignoring All Other Options Will Not be Very Productive.  A successful job search campaign requires a combination of strategies that are well thought out and compatible with each other. A common mistake that job seekers commit is to place all of their efforts into embracing one job search strategy.  For example, applying for work on various job boards without having first generated a top-notch resume, cover letter, and other materials, or possibly creating a LinkedIn or other social media profile may prove fruitless.

Track the Various Tasks You Have Completed in Your Job Search Campaign Along with the Results. Proper planning and meticulous outcome tracking are critical to not becoming repetitive with the things you are doing and enabling you to remember and act on opportunities that arise from efforts you made in the past. For example, if you met someone while networking and you do not document the name of the person, when you met, and what you talked about, you may not be able to respond quickly if that person contacts you with an opportunity. There are a variety of specialized spreadsheet-like tools you can use to document and track job search progress (or even failures). You can also use a Microsoft Excel or similar program to do it.

In a nutshell, it is important to avoid using a broad range of job search tools and techniques without ensuring that you have a plan in place and that your overall strategy is reasonable based on your personality, time constraints, and priorities. It is also important not to commit all of your resources to one job search technique that prevents you from taking advantage of all potential opportunities. Finally, it is essential to document what you have planned or have done, along with outcomes and any follow-up requirements.

3 Things to Keep in Mind before Joining LinkedIn

Most web-based career pundits tout LinkedIn membership as being a critical component to finding a great job. The site has well over 120 million members and is regularly adding new services and resources for job seekers to use in creating a personal brand and identifying employment opportunities.

Using LinkedIn as an essential strategy in a job search campaign is very reasonable and even expected by many employers. However, before jumping on the LinkedIn bandwagon, consider these 3 issues because they could make an important difference between finding employment through LinkedIn or coming up empty.

LinkedIn is only as helpful as the effort a job seeker is willing to put into it. Making the decision to use LinkedIn as a job search strategy is only the beginning of the journey. Many job seekers have the mistaken notion that just “being” on the site is enough to get noticed by employers. Instead, considerable care needs to be taken to create a compelling, concise, and easily readable profile narrative that promotes your personal brand.There is nothing more discouraging to employers or anyone for that matter than to see a LinkedIn profile that is clearly done in a hurry and without much thought. It will totally defeat the purpose of being on LinkedIn. Therefore, plan out the profile narrative to cover all major points related to job experience, community involvement, education, accomplishments, and skills.

Membership in LinkedIn can not be Passive, but must involve a commitment of time and energy. Creating a compelling profile is a great start, but it is essential to seek out colleagues and potential employers by reaching out into the community. This can involve searching and identifying people with similar interests or who work in positions of responsibility for companies you are targeting.

One very good way to achieve this is to join up to 3 groups that focus on specific career or job areas of interest to you. Read the groups posts regularly and respond with well-thought-out comments and posts of your own. This is a great way to get noticed by people who may be able and willing to help you at some future point.

Another approach is to search through the LinkedIn membership database to specifically target people you want to connect and build a relationship with. Request to become connected and start a dialogue regarding common interests.

LinkedIn’s job board has become more useful over time and now rivals many of the more established job boards, such as Indeed, Monster, and Simply Hired for access to posted job opportunities. It is possible to establish e-mail alerts on newly posted jobs using keyword phrases that you choose based on your career goals and specific job requirements. Remember that prospective employers you find on LinkedIn will most likely review your profile before reaching out more formally for a resume and related materials, so this is another reason to make the profile strong and persuasive.

LinkedIn can be an essential tool for finding a great job. However, think through the decision a bit before leaping onto the site. Time, energy, and perseverance are required in order to make LinkedIn worth the effort.

Set Yourself Apart from the Competition with an Accomplishment-driven Résumé

Ready, Set, Go! The 2017 job search season is upon us. January through April is viewed by many to be the most active time of year for employers to hire. However, it is also the most active time for job seekers to be searching for new employment opportunities. What this boils down to is there are a lot of jobs out there, but the competition is going to be stiff.

There are numerous elements that comprise a successful job search campaign, but one of the most important continues to be the résumé. Granted, the advent of social media alternatives, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and personal websites have put a dent in the popularity of traditional résumés. However, in general, the majority of prospective employers have not yet fully caught up with the new social media trend, so résumés for the foreseeable future will continue to be a major tool for getting interviews.

So what do I mean by an accomplishment-driven résumé? Here are three things that are essential in an effectively crafted accomplishment-driven résumé.

  • Start the résumé off with a highly focused, but compelling opening summary section. Reviewers will usually take about 10-15 seconds to scan a résumé to determine the potential suitability of an applicant for a position. If you do not capture the attention of the reviewers in that time span, you probably will never do so. Therefore, an opening summary section is essential that includes a branding statement, keyword phrase section, and up to three bullets of targeted information that make your case for earning an interview.
  • Employers are less interested in knowing the basics of what an applicant did in each employment position. Therefore, focusing solely on the basics in a résumé will make a job seeker look average which is not a good way to get noticed. Instead, efforts must be made to document your accomplishments or actions that made an important difference to an employer’s success. The idea of “just doing your job” will not work in a properly created résumé. It is more about how you did your job better than expectations and with compelling results.
  • Make every effort to create a résumé that is well balanced, exhibiting a range of hard skills critical to the job being advertised but also highlighting soft skills, such as critical thinking, customer-driven, high integrity, flexibility, and loyalty. Employers want to hire well-rounded employees and soft skills should not be ignored when crafting a résumé. However, just mentioning soft skills is not enough. Whenever possible, provide examples of how the soft skills helped you to be a valued employee.

A résumé continues to be an essential part of a job seeker’s tool box in finding a great job. However, a document that focuses on what you did as opposed to what you accomplished will have limited usefulness. Help prospective employers recognize your value by making your case in a professionally crafted accomplishment-driven résumé.

Three Things to Do and Three to Avoid in Creating a Dynamic Cover letter

Job seekers often minimize their focus on or even ignore the creation of cover letters to accompany résumés and other materials when applying for jobs. It can seem like a waste of time to provide cover letters, but it is often time well spent if they are crafted carefully and creatively.

Here are three things you NEED TO PRIORITIZE when creating a job search cover letter.

  • Highlight those greatest strengths, skills, attributes, and accomplishments that specifically address requirements found in each job announcement. It is important to be strategic regarding the information you choose to include in each cover letter. Spend the time needed to evaluate a job announcement to determine what the employer most values in an applicant, using this information to shape the cover letter narrative.
  • Identify keyword phrases within each job announcement that seem to be used most often. Make sure these keywords appear in your new cover letter. Remember not to overuse keyword phrases because that can be a major turn-off to reviewers. Usually three or maybe four times are optimal for the use of major keyword phrases.
  • Take the opportunity to provide information not necessarily suitable for the résumé. This can include more personal information and special circumstances, such as career changes or interruptions, location or travel preferences, or non-career-related details that add value to your overall presentation.

 Here are three things you NEED TO AVOID when creating a job search cover letter.

  • Keep the cover letter relatively short—no more than three or four paragraphs or bulleted information items. Just like with résumés, reviewers are not going to spend very much time reading a cover letter. Paragraphs should not be any more than three sentences long and bulleted points should not exceed three lines each. Reviewers need to be able to browse the letter within 10 seconds or so and read the entire document within two or three minutes.
  • Do not cut and paste material from the résumé into the cover letter. This was a common practice at one time, but it is a practice to avoid now. No one wants to have to read the same narrative twice and it leaves the impression that the applicant is not prioritizing the information in the letter or the reviewer’s time needed to read it.
  • Narrative tone is very important—coming across as confident is fine, but demonstrating arrogance or cockiness will compromise your efforts. It can often be a fine line between self-assuredness and over-reaching in regard to your suitability for a job. If you do make strong statements regarding your uniqueness or match for a positon, provide one or more examples that support your belief.   

If crafted carefully, a cover letter can be very valuable to a job search process because it provides an opportunity to highlight information most relevant to a particular job announcement. Therefore, the next time you are tempted to skip the cover letter when applying for a job, reconsider that decision.

A final note: Try to identify and include the name and title of a prospective employer’s contact person in the cover letter. This is a nice touch that will help personalizing the material and demonstrate a true interest in the process.

Five Tips to Consider When Using Job Boards to Find Employment

The use of job boards such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Indeed.com, and Simply Hired.com has become the job search strategy of choice for many people. While these sites can be helpful in finding work, there are a variety of things to keep in mind when deciding to use one or more of them.

  • Job boards are probably one of the least efficient ways to find a great job. If you set up automatic e-mail alerts when jobs become available that fit your interest, there are often an overwhelming number of announcements to review, most of which do not really interest you. This process works best when you set up a highly specific keyword search when registering for the e-mail alerts. However this approach often does not meet the needs of job seekers who have broader search interests.
  • Avoid uploading your résumé if at all possible. Most job boards will take the information and create a template résumé to standardize the presentation of information for easier use by employers. However, the templates often butcher the résumé narrative and the end result is a disjointed and difficult to read document. Another reason not to upload your résumé is because there are unscrupulous people who will use your information for not so honorable purposes. Your privacy is important, so take steps to protect it by not uploading your resume to job board sites. Directly apply for positions that interest you, so that you can send your résumé as it is and have better control over your information overall.
  • Consider using niche job boards in your search for work. These sites are focused toward specific industries and career paths, so your search will be more manageable and prospective employers will be able to find you a bit easier. Some examples of niche sites are USAJOBS.gov for federal government employment, Dice.com for technology work, and Naturejobs.com for science jobs.
  • Do not focus all of your efforts on finding employment through job boards. Most effective job search campaigns will incorporate multiple strategies to find job leads from a range of sources. For example, ABC reported in 2012 that 80% of jobs secured by people were gotten through networking. If anything, this figure has gone up since that time. Therefore, networking needs to be a primary element of any job search campaign.
  • Do not just set up your job board e-mail alerts and then be a passive player. Evaluate the results regularly to determine the effectiveness of announcements coming into your e-mail. If your e-mail alerts are not getting you the job postings you expected, change your keywords or even try a different site to see if the results improve. Being an active participate in your own job search campaign is critical.

It is important to keep in mind that job boards are just one of many tools to use in landing a great job. Finding a nice balance in using job boards, networking, and other approaches is the best overall job search strategy.

Kick Start a Winning Résumé with a Dynamic Opening Summary Section

Résumés continued to be a critical tool for any job search campaign. It is true that many career professionals have declared résumés as dead due to other self-marketing approaches, such as personal webpages and social media profiles using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube. However, employers continued to expect and use résumés in determining applicants’ suitable for interviews and employment.

This isn’t to say that résumés have not evolved in regard to content and appearance. In fact, submitting a résumé using a format and narrative approach from even 5 years ago would not be very well received by today’s employers.

So what do today’s résumé documents look like? That is a rather broad question, so the focus here will be on the opening summary section and how it can be a critical component to grabbing the attention of prospective employers.

Maximizing the Impact of a  Résumé’s Opening Summary Section

Professional résumé writers will choose to create opening summary sections in different ways, but there are general features that add considerable value to the overall presentation.

  • Start with a target position title that can be changed to reflect a specific position announcement. This lets employers know that you are interested in what position they are offering and also provides a strong keyword phrase. Many résumé reviewers will not even read the document if it is not clear from the very beginning what an applicant is looking for in a position.
  • A branding statement is a great way to highlight one or two critical aspects that define what you have to offer. This statement should not be more than two lines. Think of it like a newspaper headline or even a tweet. Including a branding statement forces you to think about and condense your offerings into a very concise, but dynamic statement.
  • Keyword sections have become an important part of résumé opening summary sections. Generally no more than 10 keyword phrases are appropriate and they need to pinpoint critical knowledge, skills, and talents that are essential within your career focus. These keyword phrases can be revised to reflect those found in specific position announcements.
  • Providing a “Summary of Qualifications” or similar heading containing three or four bullets of information is a great way to complete the opening summary section. Brainstorm and then narrow down the most relevant things about your experience or background that prospective employers will most want to know about you. This information will serve as the foundation for this section. The bullets should not be more than two lines of text each, although three lines may, at times, be required.

The quality of a résumé’s opening summary section can mean the difference between being read and placed in the “to be interviewed” pile or being half-read and put in the circular file. Most job search and career professionals agree that résumé reviewers will spend about 10-12 seconds reading a document before forming opinions on an applicant’s value related to the position. That is about the time it takes to read a well-crafted opening summary section. It is clear that you skip or minimize a résumé’s opening summary at your own peril because it is essential in setting the stage for the rest of the résumé.

5 Basic Steps in Preparing for a Job Interview

Performing well during job interviews is actually a critical element of any effective job search campaign. It is certainly unfortunate to do all of the hard work needed to get the interview just to reduce your chances at securing the position by performing poorly.

Proper job interviewing has been the subject of a vast number of books and other information materials, so it is not possible to cover everything in one blog post. However, here are 5 things to keep in mind when preparing for a job interview.

Maximize Your Chances with Proper Interview Preparation

  • Learn as much as you can about the company/organization and position. Most companies, non-profits, etc. have websites you can review. In addition, you can Google the name of the potential employer and learn quite a bit about its mission, accomplishments, and challenges. Interviewers generally appreciate applicants who have shown enough focus and interest to learn about the company/organization prior to the interview.
  • Dress appropriately for the interview. This will depend to some extent on the position you are applying for, but casual business attire (at the least) is using a good option. If you are interviewing through Skype or similar application, still plan to dress appropriately (avoid dress shirt and tie, but with no pants for example) and make sure there are no distractions in the background, such as clutter, crooked pictures, and pets.
  • Identify aspects of your job history that may produce red flags during the interview process. Trying to ignore issues, such as employment gaps, short-term employment, and poor references and just hoping they do not come up is not a strategy for success. Instead, think through the potential interview red flags and develop reasonable responses that will pass the laugh test. At times, it is even appropriate to acknowledge an issue or even failure as long as you follow-up with a comment on how you have learned from it or can avoid it in your new employment opportunity.
  • Be prepared to ask good questions about the company/organization and position. Just like interviewers appreciate good preparation from applicants, they also appreciate people who can process the information from the interview and ask thoughtful follow-up questions that focus on qualitative aspects of the position. Avoid any mention of salary, benefits, and similar issues until the end of the interview. There is no worse turnoff for interviewers than for applicants to bring up these issues too early in the process.
  • Anticipate questions that may be more challenging or present potential pitfalls. A few of these questions could include: what negative qualities do you have and how could they impact your performance? or how do you handle disagreement or conflict in the workplace? You probably will not anticipate all of these types of questions, but an effort to consider the possibilities is time well spent.

Properly preparing for a job interview will help alleviate the stress that builds up as the time approaches and will most certainly increase your chances of success. Fortunately, many professionals have examined the issue of job interviewing and there are numerous resources online and at your local bookstore that can strengthen the preparation process. Click here to go to the Job Search Resource Links page and consider three high quality books available on the subject.

To Use or Not to Use Recruiters to Find a Great Job: That is a Very Good Question

The use of recruiters or “head hunters” to secure employment is a time honored practice. However, for every 10 people who swear by recruiters as a valuable job search campaign tool, there are probably 10 more who swear at the results they have gotten from the practice.

So should job seekers use recruiters or not? The answer is “maybe.” There is no definitive answer to this question because the usefulness of recruiters can vary from job seeker to job seeker. Here are some pros and cons that may help you decide.

Pro #1: Using Recruiters can Save a Lot of Time.
Creating and implementing a job search campaign can be time consuming, sometimes taking weeks’ worth of planning, executing, and evaluating if you are doing the process right. One or more head hunters can use their networks and established processes to attract interviews for you and can give you preparation tips that can be very useful as well.

Pro #2: Recruiters Have Contacts Cultivated Over Years of Doing Business.
Many recruiters have helped place hundreds and even thousands of people over time and have built up impressive networks of contacts with major companies within entire sectors. In many cases, this process may take years for you do accomplish—and who has years to spend finding a great job.

Pro #3: Recruiters Often Get You More Money.
Good recruiters can leverage their experience to help determine appropriate salary and benefit levels that will be reasonable and negotiable. These professionals usually make more money when they can get you more money which can be an incentive for them not to lowball their recommendations.

Con #1: Recruiters are Paid by Employers So Are Often Beholden to their Interests.
While it is good that job seekers do not usually have to pay head hunters a dime to find a great job, there is a definite negative to this arrangement. Recruiters make their living on helping employers find talent and there may be the tendency to mold job seekers into something that targeted employers need. This may work out but, then again, job seekers may find themselves interviewing for job that are not a good match.

Con #2: The Act of Searching for a New Job Can Pay Dividends in its Own Right.
A properly developed and managed job search campaign can help people build business and even personal contacts that can last a lifetime. If a recruiter is doing all of this work, job seekers are missing out on productive networking opportunities. This might seem fine to many job seekers who do not want to hassle with promoting themselves, but many others may come to realize that this was a mistake.

Con #3:  There is a Tendency to Become Complacent When Using Recruiters.
Job seekers who use one or more head hunters can become more passive in their overall job search campaign and just wait to hear back from the recruiters regarding job opportunities. The use of recruiters can become a problem if it is the only job search strategy being used. Like with most things, putting all the eggs in one basket can produce failure.

The use of recruiters is a decision each job seeker needs to make based on her own priorities. However, it is not a decision to take lightly because it can have a major impact on the overall effectiveness of any job search strategy.

3 Ways to Bolster Your Job Search Campaign during the Holidays

We are moving into the Christmas / Hanukkah / New Year’s holidays. Many job seekers take the opportunity to put their job searches on hold until January and just try to enjoy the downtime. That is actually a mistake because the end of the year is a great time to reflect on career goals, review current job search campaign efforts, and get a jump on the January employment rush.

Here are three ways to take advantage of the holiday season to strength your chances at finding a great job.

  • Continue to review job postings or attempt to make contacts on online social media sites and job boards. Employers and recruiters are often under the gun to fill vacancies before December 31 or are at least actively looking. While your competitors may be getting ready for the holidays and putting aside their job search campaigns, your diligence in continuing the process can pay off. You will have a better chance of being noticed in a vastly diminished pool of applicants and you might attract a prospective employer who does not want to wait until January to hire.
  • The end of the year is usually a good time to become introspective in regard to career and personal goals. New Year resolutions are commonplace, but people’s success in fulfilling them is spotty at best. Instead of making resolutions and then realizing 3 or 4 months later that you have not made any progress toward fulfilling them, create a job search campaign plan that is practical, achievable, and measurable. Put your plan in writing and use it to propel your efforts to find a great job into the New Year.
  • Take advantage of the various events, parties, dinners, etc. that you will be involving with during the holidays and make every effort to renew contacts with family, friends, and colleagues, while also seeking out new contacts who may be able to help with your job search campaign. These types of contacts can be leveraged after January to identify job leads or obtain suggestions on how to market yourself with prospective employers. Networking is considered to be the leading approach for finding a great job because it can open up the “hidden” job market or positions that are not advertised. In addition, you will develop relationships that will serve you well into the future.

Holidays are a time for good cheer, but they can also be a good time to build a firm foundation for launching or expanding a successful job search campaign or even getting a head start on finding a great new job.

 

4 Ways Older Workers Can Strengthen Their Job Search Campaigns

There has been a fair amount of attention paid to the difficulties older workers face in finding employment. Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2014 and 2015 indicate that older workers took up to 10 weeks longer to find employment than younger people.

This trend can be very disturbing to older workers who wish to find a great job, but who may be reluctant to enter the job market for fear of failing. These people can increase their chances of success by avoiding these issues.

Older Workers Can Maximize Their Employment Chances by Considering These Issues  

  • Avoid the assumption or fear that there are no jobs available for people over 50 years of age. There are many employers who actually prefer hiring older workers and many other employers who are very open to the idea. It may take longer and require more effort, but older people can achieve their job search goals through focus and tenacity.
  • Having a realistic view of what they have to offer can often be the key to success for older workers in finding a great job. Past accomplishments do not guarantee employment, so it is best not to place too much weight on earlier work achievements. Instead, the question should be “what skills and attributes do I have that this employer will value for this particular job. Assuming that accomplishments speak for themselves is a mistake. It is the things that you can do to help the employer succeed NOW that could win you the job.
  • Resistance to learning new skills and technologies will not work in today’s job market. Studies have shown that older people lag way behind younger people in the use to computer software applications and social media tools. While it is not necessary to become an expert with technology, having a basic understanding can easily make the difference between employment and unemployment. In this regard, seeking out formal training related to computer technology and use of social media can pay major benefits.
  • Assumptions are often made that older workers will not accept wage levels that may be more acceptable to younger people. Many people over 50 years of age have been accustomed to making good salaries with solid benefit packages. However, these older workers can actually increase the likelihood of finding great jobs by demonstrating flexibility during pay negotiations, even forgoing some benefits such as health care and retirement that are covered from other sources.

It is true that older workers face more significant challenges in finding gainful employment. However, those who do not assume the worst but, instead, are willing to achieve the best through hard work and perseverance will find great jobs.