I frequently talk to potential clients who tell me they have been conducting a job search for X months without any success, or that they have sent out X number of resumes with virtually no response. When I press for more details, almost invariably, I hear stories about resumes posted in online resume databases and resumes sent in response to ads found on online job boards.
What is wrong with these job search techniques? Well…nothing is fundamentally wrong with them. In fact, they play an important part – a small part – in most well-constructed job search plans. However, these are extremely low-payoff job search activities, and if these are the only techniques you are using, the chances are far greater than not that your job search will generate disappointing and slow results.
If you are unhappy with the results of your job search, it is time that you took an objective look at your job search techniques. Are you spending too much of your precious time and energy on low-payoff job search activities while you ignore those that will produce the positive results that you want and deserve?
While the more effective job search activities – such as networking –usually require people to step out of their comfort zones, the returns generated by your investment of your time and energy will almost always be worth it.
So, if you find yourself stuck in a stalled, ineffective search for your next job, here are some high-impact tips that are almost certain to have a high-payoff on your effort through a faster, more successful job search.
1) Take a hard look at your resume. Like it or not, your resume is your first introduction to most employers, and your only chance to make a good first impression. Effective resumes are highly focused marketing pieces that are strategically written and designed to sell YOU as THE best solution to a potential employer’s needs and problems. Your resume should be written to convey and illustrate your unique value proposition, with succinct “stories” that differentiate you from your competitors in the job market. Does your resume accomplish these goals? Is it focused effectively? Does it accurately present you in the way that you wish to be presented? If not, it is time to rewrite. If you need help, resume writing is our specialty at Distinctive Career Services.
2) Now, take a hard look at your methods. Do the methods you are using in your job search convey professionalism at every step? Is your approach courteous and does it illustrate an understanding of common business protocol? For example, do you always send at least a brief letter of introduction when you send a new contact your resume? I can’t tell you how many times a prospective client tells me he isn’t getting calls on his resume, and when I quiz him he will tell me that he has been sending his resume as an attachment to emails, and then admits that he has not been including an introductory note. In this day and age, when everyone is concerned about viruses and spam, do you honestly believe that a recipient will open an attachment that arrives with a blank email? Of course not! Or…Does the message on your answering machine make you sound like a polished professional or a party animal? Is your email user name a professional-sounding one or a cutesy one? You have tough competition in the job market. Details matter! Courtesy and business protocol matters! Everything you do in your job search should convey an impeccably professional image. My best advice: Apply some basic common sense and remember your manners. Do these two things and you will be fine.
3) Ramp up your networking efforts. Of all of the possible job search methods, networking is the most effective by far, and yet it is the method that the fewest people use. I know that you don’t want to hear this, but no matter how uncomfortable it might be for you, networking is absolutely crucial and is the fastest way to your next position. Remember that when you are networking you are not asking people if they know of an opening or to give you a job, you are just asking for referrals or advice. Would you be upset if someone you knew contacted you to inform you of their job search and asked if you might be able to offer any advice or point her in the right direction? Of course you wouldn’t. In fact, you might even be flattered. This is the same reaction that your personal and professional networking contacts will have. If you don’t have frequent face-to-face contact with your network, the quickest way to jumpstart your search using networking is to send your resume and a brief letter to every single one of your contacts, and then follow up with a phone call a few days later. In most cases, people will be more than happy to help you out. But whether they are able to help you immediately or not, follow up with a brief handwritten thank you card. This is a gesture that will make a lasting positive impression.
4) Do your research; don’t just blindly and indiscriminately send out your resume. Research the geographic and industry areas that interest you and identify the companies and opportunities that seem most promising and intriguing to you. Now research some more. With the vast quantities of information available on the Internet, you really have no excuse not to research thoroughly. Identify the hiring decision-makers and learn all you can about them and their company, their competitors, their challenges, and their future potential. This is a great time to call on your professional network. Who do you know who knows someone who knows some else at the company you are interested in? Once you have an “in” through a referral, it is time to make sure you are absolutely clear on your value proposition. In what way do you feel you could add value to the company? How would hiring you be beneficial? What is the return on investment that the company could expect if they hired you? Once you have the answers to these questions clear in your mind, it is time to approach the targets. 5) Consider a targeted e-mailing of your resume to headhunter/recruiter firms. But don’t just use one of the cheap broadcast services that send your resume out to some unspecified list of 1000s of supposed recruiters. If you are going to do this, use a high-quality service that uses an up-to-date database of recruiting firms that they can break down and segment based on the firms’ specialties. This is one of the services that we offer to our resume writing clients at Distinctive Career Services. Approaching the distribution of your resume to headhunter firms in this way ensures that the recipients of your resume are individuals who have a sincere interest in learning about you and your credentials. They will try to match you to their current searches, and if you are a fit, you will get a phone call right then. Otherwise, they tend to database your resume to search in relation to future recruitment assignments. Of all the suggestions, this is the most passive and the easiest for you to implement with the least amount of work. But, passive or not, if you are in a profession that is among those often handled by recruiting firms, you should definitely make this a part of your overall job search strategy.
Finally, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to follow up. Be assertive and approach your job search as if it is a job in itself. Schedule your activities, keep track of the contacts you have made and the resumes you have sent, and follow up regularly and consistently.
Yes, there is no doubt that job searching can be a highly stressful time. But you do have choices about how you will spend your limited time and those choices can have a profound impact on the success of your search. Choose to focus on the high payoff activities and you will find yourself back to work, in the job you want, much faster than you thought was possible.