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Job Search Secrets

Secrets of a Sophisticated Job Seeker

31 January 2011
By Angela Hockabout for LiveCareer

Getting an interview is a big hurdle for many job seekers, and flooding hiring managers with cookie-cutter resumes is not an effective tactic. In this competitive job market, you are required to become a "sophisticated job seeker" who knows how to take advantage of timing, deliver a compelling resume, and target jobs in growing markets.

Tips that will make your more savvy about career trends for 2011 and make you a "sophisticated job seeker:"

1.  Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. Hiring managers are receiving more resumes than they can possibly read, many of them from unqualified individuals. They are looking for specific keywords, so make it easier for them- and increase your chances of reaching the "yes" pile- by customizing every resume you submit and make sure it closely matches the job description for the specific job you are applying for.

2.  Have a portfolio of resumes. Write a series of resumes for positions that interest you and keep them on hand. It will make customizing your resume for a position easier, and will allow you to be among the first to submit a resume when a job is posted.

3.  Follow the golden rules. Don't give the hiring manager any reason to skip your resume. Be sure to follow the golden rules: avoid typos and spelling errors, be concise, use clear formatting, be specific about your accomplishments and be sure to follow any specific instructions the hiring manager has listed in the job posting.

4.  Write a compelling cover letter. A great cover letter is an elegant juggling act. You have to briefly highlight your skills, connect them to the requirements of the position and follow the instructions listed in the job posting- all while encouraging the hiring manager to read your resume. And you have to do this in a well-written way without seeming desperate.

5.  Consider temporary and contract work. Many employers are easing their way back into hiring through temp agencies and contract gigs. Department of Labor statistics from November 2010 show that temporary jobs made up 40,000 net private sector jobs for the month, comprising most of the job growth in that month. While it may not be ideal compared to a permanent, full-time job, temporary work will pay the bills, polish off your skills, and prepare you for your next career move.

6.  Consider telecommuting. For some employers, it's difficult to find qualified employees locally, especially in tech positions. Often it's easier for these companies to hire employees that can telecommute over the Internet. 12% of American employees have the option of working from home.

7.  Use your social networks. 27% of jobs are found through networking, so take advantage of your personal network. Don't just use your business connections on LinkedIn; optimize your job search with other tools such as Facebook. Use the SU Mentor Network.  Keep your friends informed with what type of job you are looking for and they may know of a position that's perfect for you.

8.  Make the most of your time off. While there are some positive signs that the job market is recovering, it's still going to be a challenge to land an interview in 2011. Be confident in your abilities and skills and try to fill the time with meaningful activities that enhance your resume. Volunteerism, community participation and classes can provide additional experience that would normally be provided by a full time job. Combine that experience with a great resume and "sophisticated job seeker" techniques and you may just land a new job in 2011.


Additional Tips:

1. Know what it takes. Different fields have different application requirements, and you need to know what those are for the field you are interested in. Do you need a résumé, a cover letter, a writing sample, a portfolio, etc.? You also need to know what these materials look like in your field and which skills and experiences you need to emphasize. A legal résumé is different, both in form and content, from a management résumé, which is different from a marketing résumé. Don't have a clue? Try to arrange an informational interview with a professional in the field to which you aspire to learn what it takes.

2. Perfect your application materials. Always have your application materials reviewed by someone who is a better editor than you are. After polishing and massaging your résumé 100 times, you are probably too close to see the nits that need to be picked. Have your materials reviewed again whenever you make revisions or add updates. Don't know any good editors? If you are in school, try your career services office.

3. Activate your network. Tell everyone you know what type of job you are looking for. There is no sin in looking for employment, so you need to get everyone in your network working for you. While your hair stylist is not a lawyer or a management consultant, he or she may know one. Follow up every lead you are given; you never know who knows the person who can get you the job you want.

Star Tip. If you have a professor who has worked in industry or does extra work in the field you're considering, make sure to invite him or her to use their contacts on your behalf. Often, even an informal recommendation from a professor can open doors.

Extra-Pointer. If a parent, family friend, older brother or sister, or employer of yours works in the field you want to go into, enlist their help, too. You never know who has the contacts that count.

4. Join a professional organization. Most occupations, from restaurant professionals to engineers, have professional associations. Join one. (Many have student rates.) Attend meetings, go to seminars, and read the materials. Like an anthropologist, learn the language and customs of your field, the issues of the day, and identify the key players, so that when you land an interview, you will "speak the language" like a native.

5. Be patient and persistent. Set aside time every week to check for job postings, to do research on employers in your field, and to send out a manageable number of applications. It is probably not realistic to try to send out 20, letter-perfect, individually tailored applications in a weekend, so pace yourself. It is better to send five high-quality applications than 20 generic ones. Treat the job search as a marathon rather than a sprint. When you work on the job search regularly, rather than in fits and starts, it is easier to stay focused and to control the stress that inevitably accompanies the job search.

Star Tip.,, and are three of the many websites that will help you in your job search. They provide job search tips, career research information, company profiles, and many other features.

6. Don't treat an interview as an interrogation. If you are fortunate enough to land an interview, treat it as an opportunity to establish a professional relationship with the interviewer. Know the employer, and be prepared to ask intelligent questions. Engage with the interviewer, and do not be shy in letting the interviewer know how much you know about the employer and how much you want to work there. Be enthusiastic, not desperate.

Extra-Pointer. It's always a good idea to do a little Web research before the interview on the company—and, when possible, on the individuals—that will be interviewing you. You'll make a much better impression when you know what the company is doing and how you might fit in.

7. Practice out loud. Try to anticipate the types of questions you will be asked, and practice your responses. If you lack experience or feel uncomfortable in interviews, find someone to do a mock interview with. Like any other skills, communication skills get better with practice. And though you may think you have a perfect answer in your head, you won't know it until you actually articulate it. In an interview, there is the answer you plan to give, the one you do give, and the one you wished you'd given. With practice, those three answers come together.

8. Be "on" from the start. In this age of security cameras, you may be recorded from the moment you hit the employer's parking lot. Act as if the employer is watching you from the outset. Dress the part. Be friendly and respectful to everyone you meet. Stay focused. Even if you are left cooling your heels in the reception area, do not be tempted to check your phone. If you cannot resist the temptation, leave your phone in the car.

9. Make that first impression count. With everyone you meet at the employer, but especially with the interviewer, you want to make your first impression count. Stand up straight. Look the interviewer in the eye. Smile, and extend your hand for a firm, but not knuckle-crushing, handshake. (Again, these introductory behaviors can be practiced with your friends and family to polish your behavior and enhance your confidence.)

10. Be positive. Stay upbeat throughout the interview. Smile—it will register in your voice. Do not let the interviewer's facial expressions or tone of voice throw you off your game. Do not assume that a particular answer is "wrong" or that you have "blown it." Stay confident. If asked about a perceived negative, do not make excuses or provide elaborate explanations. Give it one sentence, and move on. Remember that there is no "perfect" candidate; just be the best you can be.

Job Search Resources:

  1. Job Alerts
  2. eRecruiting
  3. SU Mentor Network
  4. Career Fairs
  5. On-Campus Interviews
  6. Information Interviews
  7. Information Tables
  8. Sponsors
  9. SU Career Services Website
  10. LinkedIn
  11. Facebook
  12. USAJobs

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