It’s a new year and if you’re looking for a job, it’s a good time to re-evaluate your job search.
The biggest problem candidates have today is gaining enough interviews. I’ve listed 10 changes you can make that will double your interviews and also make you a finalist more often.
Most candidates use practically the same job search strategies. Even candidates who think they are being innovative, make changes that are so minor they do little to differentiate from others. Candidates didn’t have to be innovative in good job markets or before 2000 – During 2000 and after, job competition increased 10x due to the ease of job application and infinite job information thanks to the internet. In tough job markets, it’s much more competitive than even those scary numbers.
We were never taught how to innovate in job search. We learned how to conduct a traditional job search when we graduated college that was exactly the same as our competition’s traditional job search. We were all taught to follow the same set of traditional rules, reinforced by a job market with candidate shortages, by recruiters, alumni associations, and free career resources who gave save and traditional advice.
Is it any wonder that candidates are afraid (or don’t know how) to innovate in their job search, to differentiate themselves from other candidates?
10 things you can change to gain the greatest impact in your job search:
- Plan: Almost no candidates plan their job search effectively. When we had a market with much low hanging fruit and little competition, who needed to plan? … job search was easy. Today, when the average job search (from entry level to CEO) is over 35 weeks, luck and your existing network probably aren’t enough to beat a lousy job market. Planning can beat a poor job market, however.
At a minimum, I recommend candidates set up a:
- Project plan timeline
- Deadline calendar
- Weekly job search metrics
- List of target companies/contacts
- Tracking system
This is the bare minimum in planning I recommend for a candidate who wants to beat the odds, or has issues impeding their search (ageism, career change, breaks in service, skills that aren’t current or in demand, industry downturn, higher salary expectations than market, senior/executive management expectations, poor references, etc.). Without these basic tools, candidates place themselves in a boat race without a map, radio, or rudder …yet still believing they can beat the odds. Without effective planning, you don’t have the feedback to even understand if you are on track or falling behind.
In years of helping candidates, I’ve only seen a single candidate plan their job search. While I help lots of people who plan as part of their careers in finance, IT, marketing and sales, some candidates may use just one of these steps, if any – almost never two or more. If these same candidates showed the same lack of planning in their careers, it would lead to their getting fired … yet, no one does this in their own job search. It’s not easy, it’s kind of boring, but it’s one of the most effective and least used ways to accelerate a job search. You can learn more about job search planning methods and tools in “Are You Planning To Fail In Your Job Search, Or Failing To Plan?” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/02/23/are-you-planning-to-fail-in-your-job-search-or-failing-to-plan/.
- Increase Your Research Before You Send A Resume: Most candidates spend little time researching a company until they prepare for an interview. Candidates get a far higher return when they research earlier. Information gained through public and company insider research (your contacts) can be used to identify challenges the target company (and manager) faces – Once you understand the problems, you can frame your accomplishments to show you’ve already solved similar problems. To learn more about how you can gain more interviews by doing more upfront research (and recommended sources), see “4 Killer Ways To Use Research In Job Search” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/07/16/4-killer-ways-to-use-research-in-job-search-best-of-recareered/.
- Throw Out Your Cover Letter: According to a number of surveys, including my own research, 97% of hiring managers/HR reps/recruiters make their interview decisions based on the resume, not the cover letter. Find out “3 Reasons To Ditch Your Cover Letter” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/11/16/3-reasons-to-ditch-your-cover-letter/.
- Customize Your Resume: Use response resumes when applying for a job when you know who the company is. A response resume is highly tailored to the specific opportunity, focusing on how you’ve already solved problems similar to high priorities of the hiring manager, search engine optimized and using the target company’s own language. Learn more about response resumes at “Differentiate Your Resume With a Winning Strategy: Fishing and Response Resumes” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2009/09/30/differentiate-your-resume-with-a-winning-strategy-fishing-and-response-resumes/.
- Communicate Accomplishments Rather Than Responsibilities: Your next employer doesn’t care about your past job descriptions, they care about how you impacted your past employers, solved their problems, if the problems you solved are similar to what the hiring manager faces today, and how much money (or value) you made for your past employer. Rather than focus on what you were supposed to do on a day-to-day basis, why not describe what you did that was great? While you’re at it, why waste space describing your company or department – your next employer isn’t hiring the company, they’re hiring an employee, so focus their attention on your awesomeness. Learn how in “Experience vs Accomplishments” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/04/22/experience-vs-accomplishments/.
- Change How You Network: Go beyond your current contacts by finding ways to connect to people in your top target companies. Use traditional and social networking to meet people within the departments and companies where you’d like to work. Expand your network to include industry and regional influencers. Don’t ask your contacts to pass along your resume – they are far more valuable than that … as an information source about the current issues of target companies and how these issues effect your target’s department. Don’t waste informational interviews by ambushing your contact and asking for a job – instead, gain their trust by paying it forward and learn about the company. Learn “Why Candidates Should Avoid The Ambush Informational Interview” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/01/21/why-candidates-should-avoid-the-ambush-informational-interview/.
- Make It Easier For Employers And Recruiters To Find You On Linkedin: Best recruitment and HR practices today call for using Linkedin to search for candidates. Create a search optimized Linkedin profile that includes industry keywords that recruiters and HR departments search for. Learn more about using Linkedin to help employers and recruiters find you in “Job Seekers – 20 Ways To Brand Yourself On Linkedin” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/02/25/job-seekers-20-ways-to-brand-yourself-on-linkedin/.
- Make It Easier For Employers And Recruiters To Find You On Google: Recruiters don’t use job boards to find candidates as much as in the past – their top two places to find candidates today are Linkedin and Google. Just because you post your resume on Monster, doesn’t mean it can be found on Google (most job boards block search engines from indexing resumes – they want recruiters to pay over $17,000 annually per job board per recruiter to search resumes. Google is free, but you’ll have to take some extra steps to be findable on Google. Learn the basics in “How Does Google Affect Your Job Search?” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/04/07/how-does-google-affect-your-job-search/.
- Pay It Forward: “Paying It Forward” gets lots of lip service, but little action. Few candidates focus on helping others first to develop relationships, because we’ve been taught to job search in a transactional method, not a relationship based method (ie: mass emails, cold calls, asking if there are any openings before establishing trust, etc.). Many candidates simply don’t know what they have to offer to a contact to pay it forward, especially those not in sales roles, in entry-level, or those who have been out of the job market for a while.
This requires a change in thought process – concentrate on searching for people you can help, rather than looking for a job. The more people you help, the more people want to help you – but it’s critical you give help and deliver before you ask for help in return.
Learning what help to offer comes through researching your contacts and recognizing that while job searching, your job is to network, meet new people, and make many others want to help you. Since every contact may not be in a position to help you, many can be more valuable to one of your other contacts, who may be in a better position to help you.
As a job seeker, your job is also to build your expertise in an industry and group of target companies – information that can be very valuable to others. To those not in consulting, this sounds a little unethical but it’s what every consultant, accountant, lawyer and doctor does – take what they learn from one client and apply that knowledge to others. As a job seeker, your compensation is help in your search, rather than the fees a consultant would charge. Find out more about making pay it forward a major factor in your job search in “Make Your Network Links Strong Like Bull” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/07/23/make-your-network-links-strong-like-bull/.
- Make Recruiters Make You Their Priority: I chose this section’s wording carefully, because you can make recruiters take notice of you and make you a priority. This is another example of something that’s a very simple way for the candidate to stand out, yet surprisingly few actually use this strategy effectively.
First, you’ve got to start by understanding the ugly truth … recruiters don’t work for you (they work for the employer) and they view candidates as inventory. Recruiters don’t care if you get a job, only that one of the many candidates they recommend for a position gets the job.
However, you have the power to change a recruiter’s mindset – to you make yourself a priority. As a candidate you have currency that recruiters desperately need, but that few candidates know how to use. That currency is information, my friends. Yes, information is power, giving you power over recruiters when you know what information they need, how to give it to them and what to expect in return.
Recruiters need information on job openings – and as a candidate, you are their very best source of information. Recruiters may also need contact information and introductions to people at your existing (or prior) employer if that employer also the recruiter’s client or prospect. You are a subject matter expert on both topics, so use this information wisely.
Give a taste – a small amount of information – to recruiters to see which ones are willing to pay you back. Make sure to be clear about the types of jobs you see, the markets you’re interviewing in and gauge if your information is valuable to a specific recruiter (most recruiters aren’t interested in calling on CEO’s). Focus on the ones who greatly value your information and believe in reciprocity.
Don’t limit yourself to helping one or two, but devote a percentage of your job search time each week to helping as many recruiters that you’ve found helpful – focus on the most helpful and stop when you run out of the time you’ve reserved. Once you’ve given information about contacts or job openings to one recruiter, they don’t own it – you can recycle that information to any recruiter you feel will find it valuable.
Flood those recruiters with information, making sure you understand the type of information they need (most recruiters specialize). When you give more information to a recruiter than they give you, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you get callbacks – you’re Pavlov, ringing the dinner bell, because you’ve trained the recruiters you’ve chosen to work with that when they call you back, they get leads.
That’s what turns recruiters from cold hearted used car salesmen into marshmallows who consider you their favorite candidate. Be a reliable, consistent source of leads and you’ll always get callbacks. When you help recruiters put food on their table they will naturally want to do the same for you – not just out of loyalty, but because you’ve trained them that helping you is in their own best interest, rewarded by more information and leads.
To learn more about how to get recruiters to work for you, see “The Inside Track on Recruiters – Top 10 Tips” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/03/13/the-inside-track-on-recruiters-%E2%80%93-top-10-tips-best-of-recareered/.
Readers – Please share the new job search strategies have you found that will change the game for you this year.
PS … If you implement any of these changes, please comment and share how they’ve worked for you.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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