Job hunting is definitely an art. It is much easier to give someone advice on how to conduct an effective job search than it is to actually execute one. As a seasoned Human Resources professional who has changed jobs a number of times, I hope to impart some tactics and philosophies that will help you in your pursuit of a great job.
Attitude is Everything: Landing a great job requires hard work. Shooting off a bunch of resumes and then sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring with companies wanting to interview you just doesn’t happen. The most effective job searches require that you get out of the house each day and think creatively about your search. Having a positive attitude is critical. No company is interested in speaking to a candidate who is disgruntled and only has bad things to say about their former employer or the terms under which they came to be unemployed. A positive attitude is a common thread amongst the most effective job hunters.
Always be Networking: I used to work for an executive who constantly reminded the team to always be recruiting. That same advice applies to the job hunter. You should always be networking. You should have new business cards made with your Name, Job Title (Job Hunter), Email, Phone Number, LinkedIn or other website info as well as a few bullets about your capabilities. This card should serve as a mini resume. Carry the cards with you at all times. Get out of the house for at least four hours a day. Panera Bread is a very popular spot for job seekers and entrepreneurs, they offer free Wifi and free refills on their drinks. You never know when you might meet someone who can be of assistance to your search. Live healthy while looking for a job. If you aren’t already a member consider joining and gym and getting in better physical shape, this will help you mentally as well. Carry your business cards with you to the Gym as well. If your Gym has multiple locations around town, try working out at a different location a couple times a week, you might meet some interesting people who work by the gym. Don’t work out during office hours, work out before working hours or in the evening, this will increase the likelihood that you will meet the type of people you would want to network with. Join local chapters of professional groups. There are local groups for Finance, Accounting, Marketing, Sales, Operations, HR, IT, Web Development, PR, etc. Find the group for your profession and attend their next local event. Keep those business cards handy and don’t be shy about asking others for their cards as well.Leverage social networking sites. LinkedIn, Myspace, Plaxo, Zing and Facebook are all good places to network online. Start by reconnecting with old friends and classmates. Pay particular attention to where they are living and working. You never know when an old acquaintance might be able to help you.
Use the Detective Approach: An effective job search is all about research. The internet is an incredibly powerful resource for researching companies and individuals. Rather than a shotgun approach of sending off hundreds of resumes to different companies, you should employ a laser focused approach. This means you should identify specific companies that you have an interest in working for. Rather than applying online for advertised jobs or sending your resume to HR, you should do your homework to develop an organizational chart and find direct contact information for key decision makers. Start with Google search as an effective tool. If you are looking for an accounting job at xyz corporation, try doing a google search on the company name and the keyword Accounting. You may find that a member of the accounting team was quoted in an article or spoke at a conference. As soon as you find a name of an individual, you should zoom in on the person by Googling them and checking them out on LinkedIn. Another effective approach once you have a name is to try to identify the company’s email protocol. This can be done by looking on the contact us page of their website or doing a google search for “@xyzcorporation.com” In most instances the search will yield at least one complete email address. From that email address you can deduce the protocol whether it is email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or some other protocol. Take a chance and send an email to the contact you identified the worst that can happen if you got the email wrong is that you get a bounce back message. In that case try another protocol until you get it right. Getting your resume in the hands of a key decision maker and not HR is an important first step.
Why Cover Letters Matter: If you resume is your marketing statement, then the cover letter is your elevator speech. I am a firm believer that cover letters are important. Especially when utilized in a well researched job search. Remember you are not sending your resume and cover letter to HR, instead you are targeting your search to the hiring manager or someone in the department you want to work. These people will take the time to read you cover letter and your resume. Therefore, write a compelling cover letter that accomplishes three things: 1) Explains why you are interested in working for the company. (This is a crucial step. You must show your passion for the work as well as impress the company with your knowledge of their products, services or industry. The reader must be convinced that you really want to work for their company and that you are not sending a similar letter to lots of companies). 2) Clearly shows that you have the qualifications to excel in the job 3) Provides the decision maker with some information that sets you apart from all other candidates. (Showcase your special skills, relate your previous experience to their company, explain how you are an avid fan of their products or services.) Keep your cover letter to one page in length, nobody wants to read a book. Bullet points can work well in a cover letter. Feel free to be creative, use images or charts if appropriate. If you are a creative or a web developer include links that showcase your work.