What Really Matters During Your Job Search
From the job search to the interview, everything matters when you’re looking for employment. If you really want to get hired, make sure whatever you do is actively leading you to a job offer. When you’re competing against hundreds of other high-quality applicants, even seemingly trivial things can make all the difference.
Based on the type of job you’re applying for and its unique aspects, you will have to modify your approach. This can be daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to a career coach for help with adapting your strategy so you can attain your career goals.
Here are the most important things to remember when it comes to your job search.
Fully think through your job search
If you want to land your dream job, you have to know what you want. Don’t scoff at this statement—you may only have a flimsy idea of what you want, and if you contemplate your goals further, you may find yourself looking in a different direction. This is an absolutely crucial but often overlooked detail because it feels too obvious.
If you want to run a successful job search, carefully consider these key factors:
- The type of job: Don’t just look for any openings. Narrow down your search to the specific type of job you want. Applying for any position you’re somewhat qualified for is a bad strategy—you’ll most likely be rejected because you’re not the best candidate, so you’ll only be wasting your time and eroding your confidence.
- The level: If you’re a seasoned professional, are you willing to start again at the bottom, or are you looking for a higher-level position? Consider what you’re prepared to accept before launching your job search. If you’re struggling to land a higher-level position, you may have to compromise for the time being. Just be wary of going too low as hiring managers may get suspicious.
- The benefits: Are the benefits (pay, insurance, location, etc.) worth it? If they are, by all means, apply. Sometimes a job with a lower salary but better benefits can be the better deal, so look around carefully.
- The qualifications: When you find a job you’re interested in but aren’t sure if you have all the qualifications, apply nonetheless. They may see your strong work ethic and decide to take a chance on you, so don’t be afraid to stick your neck out a little. You’ll just have to use your resume to prove why you’re worthy of the job.
If you don’t fully think through your job search, you’ll likely end up empty-handed and discouraged. Avoid that risk by considering carefully key elements of the process before you start.
A cover letter is always helpful
It used to be that every resume had to be accompanied by a cover letter, but nowadays, that’s no longer the case. However, it’s almost always beneficial to attach a cover letter to set yourself apart from the crowd.
If an employer requires a cover letter, get busy crafting the most impressive cover letter you can. First, explain why you’re the best candidate for the job. Even if you feel unsure about your abilities, don’t let the employer get a whiff of that! The purpose of a cover letter is to let you show off a little. Next, include the key requirements for the job and how you meet them. Be sure to use keywords from the job description. Finally, show how your previous experience and accomplishments would enable you to do a stellar job. Hiring managers look for these elements in your cover letter, and the impression they get from it will inform their interpretation of your resume.
If the job posting doesn’t mention a cover letter, it’s still a good idea to send one. Even if the hiring manager never reads it, simply knowing you went the extra mile can impact positively their perception of you. Your cover letter could also end up being the tie-breaker between you and another top candidate. The only time you shouldn’t include a cover letter is if the job posting specifically instructs you not to.
Your resume makes or breaks the deal
Your resume gives the employer their first impression of you (unless you sent a cover letter), and making a good first impression is essential if you want to get hired. Don’t just settle for a one-size-fits-all resume—you should always customize the document for the job you’re applying for. Yes, this takes time, but it can be the difference between getting rejected and landing an interview. Considering how unlikely you are to land a job with a generic resume, you’re wasting more time by not customizing your resume.
Check out the elements to concentrate on in each section of your resume.
- Contact information: Include your full name, email address, and phone number. Unless you’re applying at a really old-fashioned company, you don’t need to include your home address anymore because most correspondence is done by phone and email.
- Professional summary: Resumes no longer contain an objective statement. Instead of stating your own goals, explain why you’re qualified for the job. This professional summary is usually the first thing a hiring manager looks at, so write it with the utmost care, highlighting your top skills and qualifications.
- Skills: The contents of this section will be determined by each job description and will change when you tailor your resume for different jobs. Include keywords and requirements from the posting not only to show the employer you’re qualified but also to get past the applicant tracking system (ATS) that scans resumes for keywords and tosses the ones that don’t use enough.
- Work experience: This is another focal point for many hiring managers. They want to see quantifiable results from your previous work. In your job descriptions, include accomplishments with numbers and other specifics that clearly demonstrate your value. Just make sure not to divulge the confidential information of another company.
- Education: Depending on the job, your education could be a determining factor. Outside of your formal education, be sure to include any courses or certifications pertinent to your career. Taking extracurricular classes indicates that you’re learning even if you’re no longer in school.
Each element in your resume plays an important role in showcasing your qualifications and demonstrating your value. So, as you’re customizing it for a specific job, you want to keep some things in mind:
- Your resume isn’t about you: Your resume displays your qualifications, but that doesn’t mean you’re just showing off. If you simply list a bunch of qualifications without proving how they’re beneficial to the employer, you won’t get far.
- Your resume shouldn’t be lengthy: The standard rule for resume length is 1-2 pages. Some jobs (such as government jobs) may require a longer resume, but stick to the standard length otherwise. Hiring managers have hundreds of resumes to filter through, so the longer yours is, the less likely they will be to read it all.
- Your resume should be basic: Yes, you want to stand out, but not by adding images or flashy design elements. Unconventional resumes can confuse ATSs and prompt them to discard your application before the hiring manager ever even sees it. If it does get to the hiring manager, they’ll likely be annoyed by not being able to find easily the information they want. So, focus on standing out through your text.
- Your resume must be consistent: Employers love consistent, reliable employees, so your resume should be consistent, too. This means that your formatting, wording, and any design elements have to be precise. Remember: This is a first impression! If you mess it up, you won’t have a chance at a second one.
Your resume is the pillar of your job search since it determines whether an employer deems you the right fit for their company. You only get this one chance, so make it count. Tailor your resume for each application to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward. If you don’t have the time to put in all this work, hire a resume expert to do it for you.
The interview is your time to shine
Up until this point, the hiring manager has only seen you on paper. They have no idea who you really are. The interview is your opportunity to highlight your skills and experience while revealing your personality.
Here are the guidelines to follow during your interview:
- Explain why you want the job: Any recruiter would want to know why you’ve applied for the job. Be ready to explain why it interests you and be specific. If you can’t come up with a passionate enough answer, the interviewer will probably assume you’re there just for the paycheck.
- Talk about the company: Hiring managers want employees who are truly invested in the company, so demonstrate your enthusiasm. Before the interview, research the company and be ready to reference its mission, history, and other important aspects.
- Ask questions: When you ask questions, you show the hiring manager you’re invested in the company and engaged in the interview. Have some questions prepared—meaningful ones about the company and working there, not things like whether the salary is negotiable.
- Be polite and professional: This is usually the first face-to-face interaction between you and the hiring manager. Be professional and act with confidence (even if you don’t feel it). Also, dress and talk as befits a professional—no one wants to hire an amateur.
Once the interview is over, the anxious wait for a call begins. You should never assume that you’ve landed the job until you hear back, but the days following an interview can be nerve-racking.
Here are some things you can do to relieve the stress:
- Ask when you might hear back: Before you leave the interview, ask the interviewer when you can expect to hear back from them. This can help you deal with the stress.
- Wait at least five business days: While you may be anxious to find out if you got the job, wait at least five business days before you send a follow-up email. In your message, be sure to thank the interviewer for their time.
- Don’t come across as desperate: You may be desperate to get this job, but don’t let it show. In your correspondence with the hiring manager, remain calm and focus on the positives. If you sound needy and desperate, you could hurt your chances.
Everything works together to get you hired, so consider carefully your career goals, cover letter, resume, and interview. Don’t be discouraged when you experience rejection. Rejection is normal, especially in the fiercely competitive job market. Use those failed attempts to motivate yourself to move forward. Wondering if you’re on the right path to landing a job? Team up with a career coach and a resume expert to ensure your success!