Land the job you really want!
This new CAREERS.org eBook will help you fix 5 common but overlooked mistakes that may trip up your job search.
By Bill Rettig, Careers.org resource expert | January 18, 2016
Job seeker mistake #1: Looking for a job without really knowing what you want in that job.
Looking for a job is also an opportunity to do some reflection on what we really want out of our career. If we overlook this step we may have the same issues that make us dissatisfied now.
You may have landed in your most recent position because of a long series of small decisions, but the end result hasn’t worked out. Of course, your job pays your bills and helps provide a comfortable life. But it should also be satisfying and rewarding. Yes, this may require a compromise, but that compromise is something that you should be in control of.
Start with an honest evaluation of the current situation in your career. Being honest about what is working and what is not working in your job now will help shape the search for your next and, hopefully, great job.
Begin by making a short career inventory. Take out some paper or go to your computer and do these self-reflection exercises.
- Write down your strengths at work. Now list your weaknesses. This is the moment to be honest with yourself.
- What skills do you have that are most desirable for an employer.
- Which of those skills do you enjoy using. Which ones are you good at that you do not enjoy.
- Now describe what qualities you would like in your job and try to match that with what you qualities you have now.
Creating this assessment of yourself will force you to reflect on what you really want from a job. Your current or last job may have been one that you found yourself in without really evaluating how it satisfied you. Now may be the time to take a gut check before you begin to search for your next job.
Now consider the job environments (big or small company, government, non-profit, home business) that feel best for you. Of course, there are trade-offs. Jobs that use your proven skills will pay more than those where you will learning new ones. Reflect on the skills you enjoy using now versus those that you want to build on. You should use those thoughts in crafting the path that you want to take to find your next job.
Job personality tests may also help guide you. There are many available, often for free. Even if these assessments don’t convince you, they may succeed in making you reflect more deeply on what an emotional level that can only help you make a better decision.
You can take charge of your job search by taking that proverbial deep breath and finding a deeper understanding of what you really want from a job. We live in a great and large country that does have many and varied opportunities. Great jobs for you are out there but you must find them through effort and strategy and it begins with knowing what you really want in a job.
Job seeker mistake #2: Not being prepared for the interview in the office … or at a backyard BBQ.
The interview may not always be where you expect it to be. Sure, the official job interview will be, but in many surprising ways you can have an impromptu interview at any time. At a party, going out with friends or playing golf you may run into someone who needs to fill a position. Here is your chance to promote yourself. So being prepared may mean always having at the ready some short answers to basic questions or the so-called elevator conversation.
Imagine you’re going up in an elevator and you bump into your boss. He may ask you what work you are doing or how the job is going. You only have about 20 seconds so make it good. Fumbling for words or speaking without clarity will not reflect well on you. So always be prepared.
This same situation can happen at a backyard BBQ or your local park. You may start a chat with your neighbor, who owns a small company, and he needs someone with your type of skills. Can you crisply describe what your job is about or what your most recent big accomplishment is? Get those answers down. You never know when you’ll need it. Refreshing these key answers will give you confidence and act as a reminder to think about your need to push hard if you want to land a great job.
Of course the usual job interview will take place at your prospective worksite. You’ll have more time to prepare, but more is also expected of you. You won’t know the questions or personality of the interviewer, but there are key things you can control:
- If you’re not sure about how to dress, always err on the side of caution and dress sharply. For office or sales jobs that means a business suit or dress.
- Research the company that is interviewing you. Know all the basic facts, such as the revenue, profit, main products, key names and work culture.
- Prepare a list of serious questions you may want to ask your interviewer. But be sure that these aren’t too personal or questions that cannot be answered by simply Googling them. Show the interviewer that you did your homework and you are seen as hard-working and prepared. “What is the top priority for this position in the next three months?” is better than asking “When can I expect my first raise?” or “Is your company listed on the NY stock exchange?”.
- Get the basics down: firm handshake, and eye contact. You’d be amazed at how many job seekers miss these obvious points. A lot of the job interview is about looking the part. Can the hiring manager see you fitting in and getting along with your coworkers?
- Never bad-mouth your past or current employer. Nobody likes to hear negativity. The question may be asked about why you want to leave your job. So be prepared with a clever, concise answer that spins things to your advantage. “You need a bigger challenge” is better than “My old company didn’t treat me well”. The key here is recognize that the interviewer doesn’t necessarily want to hear the content of your answer, but the way you handle it. Be smooth and prepared.
You may not know when your key moment will arrive. Always have ready answers to key job questions to ensure you’ll make a strong impression since you never know when you’ll need it!
Job seeker mistake #3: Not tapping all of your available job resources.
A common job seeking trap is to fall into a job search rabbit hole and lose sight of the bigger picture. You may focus on one industry or one search channel and miss strong opportunities. The successful job searcher will tap multiple resources and keep a broad mind. Three million jobs are filled every year in the US. Be confident that you can find the right job and that means looking in the right places.
There are three primary channels that should be included in any job search:
- Online searching
About 60% of all jobs are posted online on big job boards or industry specific job advertisers. Here at Careers.org we list two million jobs for 10,000 job titles in every city and most every town in all 50 states. So your job is out there somewhere! Other big job boards include CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com. There are also many specialized job websites. For example, if you work in insurance, there is http://www.greatinsurancejobs.com/ or for IT the biggest job advertiser is Dice that lists about 100,000 jobs in the technology fields.
Another alternative it to visit a company’s website directly. Nearly all private companies have a career section as part of their online presence. In fact, many of the job boards use those sites to populate their job boards. So if you know you want to work at a certain company, go ahead and visit that site. You can get lots of details about the job and the company itself in the same place. All job searching will request that you submit your resume. Many will ask that you fill out an online “resume form” in addition to electronic submission of your resume.
Surprisingly, more than half of all jobs are found from networking. Learning about how to network is a worthy goal. There are many techniques, but the most important is actually available within arm’s reach. It’s your friends, neighbors, folks at your gym or your child’s PTA events. Using social networking is an effective way to let your contacts know that you are looking for a job and broadcasting your skills and knowledge. Networking works because it makes more sense for someone to hire someone they know than a stranger. When a hiring manager has a reference from a trusted employee it allows you to hit the ground running when you go into the interview. The biggest hurdle for a job seeker is convincing an employer that you can be trusted. This challenge is mostly cleared when you leverage your network.
- Job Recruiting Agencies
“It’s not what you know it’s who you know.” Employment or Staffing agencies have many contacts in key industries and companies. They are specialists in the job search and are often the missing step to landing that great job. They know what they are doing since that is all they do.
Recruiters work for you so while you may be doing your search online or working you network, these folks are going through their private listings. Headhunters have solid contacts in key companies otherwise they wouldn’t be in business. Another advantage to this channel of job search is that the fee is nearly always paid by the employer. But be sure about this before you hire a recruitment firm. Check online to see about the reputation. Finding a staffing agency can be as easy as searching online the words “Find a staffing agency”. If the agency agrees to search for you that is a big step, because it means that they believe that you are a serious prospect for landing a job. You’ll need to submit your resume and perhaps go in for an interview.
Some staffing firms specialize. There are accounting agencies and ones that focus on temporary work. Temporary work may be a way to gain experience while showcasing your talents and often leads to permanent work. This is a less risky way for employers to find quality workers without the uncertainty of discovering a bad fit after they made a permanent offer.
The key for a successful job search is to keep an open mind and use all three channels to find your next great job. If you don’t then you may be overlooking some valuable opportunities.
Job seeker mistake #4: Not being able to think like a hiring manager.
A powerful way to look at a job search is to think like the person who is doing the hiring. Get into the shoes of the hiring manager. This is an exercise that will help inform the diligent job seeker about the strategies and steps that will put your best foot forward.
Part of the reason this is useful is the difference between being a proactive and reactive job seeker. A proactive job seeker will think ahead and show confidence by understanding the big picture in the job hiring process. A reactive person just reacts and doesn’t plan ahead. The best jobs go to those folks that show initiative on the job and a hiring manager looks for this in a job candidate.
So just what do most hiring managers look for?
- A hiring manager wants a candidate who will fit into the employer’s work environment and blend in with coworkers. And it’s more than just job skills. It’s largely about social interaction and just being pleasant. So during an interview make eye contact, be engaging and when discussing your job be serious. Show you can be productive and enjoyable to be around. Humor, when appropriate, also goes a long way.
- You may be tempted to speak negatively about your former boss, company or job. Avoid doing so. The most successful hires are the ones that turn negatives into positives. Demonstrate this to your hiring manager.
- Good judgment is hard to teach, but a hiring manager will know it when they see it. And they will be looking for it. Start by dressing for your interview in an appropriate way. If you are unsure then a good rule is to dress up. No one lost a job opportunity because they wore a suit or dress to the interview.
- Be upbeat but honest when discussing past job performances. No hiring manager expects perfection and if that is what the job seeker expresses then you are not being credible. A hiring manager wants an employee who they can trust and judging your trustworthiness is always happening during the interview in person or over the phone or on the resume.
- Learn about the company and people you are interviewing with. Hiring managers want to know that you want to work there and that you did your homework. Most jobs will require that you are prepared and are willing to go that extra step. Demonstrating that by researching the job before the interview will help prove that you are that person.
Knowing what the person making the hiring decision wants in a candidate will help the successful job seeker land the job. Though, you must still be yourself, there are ways to emphasize your best traits and tailor them to your desired job.
Job seeker mistake #5: Failure to create a resume that markets yourself.
No one really wants to be reduced to a single page of paper. But a big part of the successful job seekers toolkit is the strong one page resume. 80% of the time employers will only see the resume of a job seekers. The decision to proceed beyond that will have been made based on that page. So you have to make it good. Knowing how to present yourself in that page will help you get to past that 80% cutoff. Here are the key tips you will need to effectively market yourself.
- Identify the right job title.
We live in a society that is name and title driven. For better or worse, the job title you choose to search on will have more of an impact on your next job than anything else. More importantly, it is how most jobs are found. For many job seekers, the title may be obvious or simply the same as your current title. Those looking for a promotion or a minor or major career change should spend time thinking about this. Research job descriptions and job titles. Look up salaries and the job outlook for future career growth in this field. What skills are needed to advance?
- Include content that is most effective.
Most resumes are not read by people. Rather, they are scanned by specialized software that is programmed to identify skills that the employer needs for a certain job. You can have the greatest accomplishments and be a great fit at a company, but if you don’t include the right keywords in your resume you won’t get the past that first scan search stage. Which keywords to use are based on what job and industry you are searching in. To find the keywords go to a online job board and search on your job title and location and start reading the job descriptions of the advertised job postings. You should begin to see a pattern where key skill words and terms are used often. Emphasize keywords that are in found in required skills rather than preferred skills.
Once your resume passes the first screening it will be read, but the average time spent reading a resume is only for about 30 seconds. Be concise in your past job descriptions and use action verbs: “enhanced,” “formulated,” “organized,” and “developed,” will draw the eyes of the hiring manager to look deeper.
If you send your resume to someone because you know them or spoke to them then you must include a cover letter. This will provide an introduction and salutation includes the name of the hiring manager. This short one page letter should emphasize the reason that you think you should be hired and draw connections to specific items in your resume to entice them to review it.
- Use multiple versions of your resume
Have multiple versions of your resume for different industries or job titles. Say you are a medical device representative. If you are looking at a job where your target is large private hospitals your resume would be different from a job whose clients are mostly smaller physician practices or outpatient clinics. Also, the keyword may be different. In a competitive job market, an employer may tap a database with hundreds if not thousands of resumes. If you have a specialized resume that is tweaked to one job opening or one employer than you have an advantage. But keep your resume to one page.
Finally, please avoid typos and spelling errors. A hiring manager who sees that will think that this candidate is not careful or diligent. Your resume is your marketing tool of first resort. Make sure you put your best foot forward.