6 Questions to Answer During Your Job Search to Call Attention to Your Skills
Navigating the job search process can be quite a challenge. Sifting through postings on countless job boards, sitting through interviews, and rewriting cover letters come with their specific difficulties. It can also be frustrating since rejection is normal when you’re competing against hundreds of other skilled candidates.
While there are never any guarantees in the job search, if you approach the process in the right way, you’ll be better placed to demonstrate your skills and competencies. Use the six questions below as a guide when you begin looking for employment. If you want to supercharge your job hunt, use our resume writing service to spotlight your talents.
What do I want?
This may be the most important of all the questions to ask, especially if you’re currently employed. Many job seekers throw themselves into the search without thinking through what they want to get out of work. After all, identifying what you want also means identifying what you don’t want. For job seekers anxious to land their next gig, eliminating opportunities can feel counterproductive, but wasting your time on jobs that aren’t right for you is the real risk.
Are you looking to build a particular skill set? Do you want to gain experience working in a specific environment? Are you after a job that will provide some intangible benefit, such as helping others? What are your long-term career goals, and how can your next job bring you closer to achieving them? Being clear about what you want and need from your next role can provide the map to identifying the skills you’ll need to highlight. You’ll also want to think about what you’re willing to accept in terms of salary, benefits, location, company culture, and other aspects of the job.
Remember that the answers to these questions are not set in stone. You are allowed to change your mind as you collect more information. Though you’ll need to adapt the language of your resume and cover letter to reflect the needs of each employer, figuring out what you want can help guide you as you embark on the job hunt.
Are my application materials up to date, and do they include relevant keywords?
At a minimum, you’ll need a resume, a cover letter, and a LinkedIn profile when you begin your search for employment. While many jobs these days don’t require a cover letter, it’s always good practice to include one unless the vacancy posting specifically instructs you not to. In the hyper-competitive job market of today, you want to give yourself whatever edge you can.
You should have a general-use resume and cover letter that you can modify slightly to meet the needs of each employer you’re interested in. Don’t skip the customization step—it’s crucial since it will be difficult to land a job with a generic resume.
Before you submit your first application, spend some time making sure that your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile all feature important industry keywords. If you’re not sure what keywords to include, make a list of words that appear repeatedly in a job listing. Ideally, your qualifications will align with this list of keywords, and it’s just a matter of modifying the phrasing and order to best match the job requirements. If they don’t, this could be a sign that you need to invest in skill development or tweak your job search to tailor it to your qualifications.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to read up on the most in-demand soft skills in your industry. Even though some of these may not immediately feel worth mentioning—interpersonal skills, for example—employers care about them. There are also certain transferable skills that are useful in any career, such as computer skills or language skills.
What makes me special?
Though the labor market has recently favored job seekers, it’s starting to tighten. Competition is intensifying, so it’s more important than ever to make your application stand out to a recruiter who may be reviewing dozens of resumes for a single position.
Ask yourself what unique experience or skills you have that differentiate you from everyone else, and make sure those are featured in your resume and cover letter. Sometimes, it’s more about how you present the information than about the information itself, so see to it that your resume presents you as a top-notch candidate.
In terms of your cover letter, it’s important not to use this document to simply restate everything from your resume. Your cover letter should take the form of a narrative, offering specific examples to demonstrate your skills. When possible, use numbers to support your claims—percentages are best since absolute numbers can reveal another company’s sensitive information. Consider the difference between the two statements below:
Statement I. I provide excellent customer service.
Statement II. During my two years at company X, I received twice a company-wide award for providing outstanding customer service. I helped develop a training program for customer service agents, which resulted in a 19% increase in customer retention in the first six months after deployment.
The second example does a much better job of foregrounding the skills this applicant brings to the table.
What experience can I draw on to find a new employer?
Make a list of competitors, vendors, and clients of your current or previous employers. These organizations will likely have needs that overlap with your skills. Additionally, you might already have an established relationship that can help you get your foot in the door.
If this is your first job or you’re relocating, consider working with a recruiter or a headhunter who can match your talents to the needs of specific companies. You can also search LinkedIn or job boards for specific skills to identify potential employers. Another option is to look for professional groups in your area, even if that’s just a Facebook group. Connecting with other professionals in your industry can open up untold new opportunities.
Who do I know?
Hopefully, you’ve made the effort to develop a professional network. If you have, now is the time to leverage those connections. Reach out to contacts who work in your target industry to see if they know of any openings with requirements that match your skills. Be sure to include a copy of your resume and a link to your LinkedIn profile when you ask for help. People will be a lot less willing to help you if they have to request additional information. Make sure you’re friendly and courteous, offering your contact any help you can in return.
If you haven’t developed a professional network, you must start now! Attending events hosted by trade organizations, connecting with other professionals at job fairs, and getting more involved in your community are great ways to build a portfolio of contacts. Participating in these activities will also help by allowing you to familiarize yourself with the industry lingo. Also, don’t forget the miracle of the internet—LinkedIn is today’s top networking platform, enabling you to easily connect with professionals in your field from all over the world.
Am I ready for an interview?
Have you done any preparation for an interview? Job seekers often overlook this step, so it’s a good way to make yourself stand out to a potential employer. Make sure you’re comfortable using industry keywords in conversation and practice framing yourself in a way that highlights the value you offer to the organization.
It can also be a good idea to mirror the language your interviewers use, which demonstrates your familiarity with the skills they’re referencing. Of course, this strategy only works when you know how to use the language correctly. If there’s any term you’re unsure about, don’t use it.
Asking yourself these six questions can help you tailor your application materials to land the job of your dreams. If you’re stuck or just want a little extra help, reach out to our expert resume writers!