How to Improve Your Job Search
I write this because I have just been approached by yet another friend who finds themselves unemployed in these difficult times and asking for help in their search to become “reemployed”.
My heart goes out to anyone that finds themselves in the situation of having to find other employment. I have been in your shoes: In March of 2001 I was let go from a good corporate job with a major boat manufacturer as the market entered a downturn. If I had not been tipped off by my boss, I would have walked into work that day and been told with no previous warning that I no longer had a job. This dropped me into a terrible post-presidential election job market (not as bad as today’s job market but still bad). It got even worse when September 11th, 2001 arrived and I watched 9 out of 10 available jobs disappear.
I can remember being escorted out of the building that day by my boss (who was and still is a very good friend), both of us sick that this was happening. I also remember sitting there in my car in the company parking lot, in shock over what I should be doing next. What is difficult for anyone in this situation is that it starts out bad and gets worse over time as you remain unemployed. I can remember feeling shame, guilt, depression, frustration, regret, etc., and the bad news is that you have to wade through all of these emotions to hit the ground running to look for employment.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, this is offered to provide you with some tips to possibly increase your chances for gaining new employment whether you are currently unemployed or just find yourself in an unfortunate job situation. Some of these are going to be obvious but maybe one or two will provide you with an alternative that you might not have thought about.
First of all, here is how to increase your chances before you even start looking. The addition of any of these is based on how quickly you need to find employment (i.e., you have temporary income of some sort or not, etc.) and with each tip you incorporate into your job search, your odds of finding more jobs to choose from go up:
- Be willing to relocate – The tighter you make the geographical area for your job search the more jobs you rule out. What I did was start pretty tight (I did not want to relocate) and every successive month of unemployment I would expand the search a little more – maybe into a new state. I realize you have to factor in (as applicable) your spouse’s career, the lives of your children, etc., but talk it over as a family and see what everyone is willing to commit to.
- Be willing to do something different – If your background is in quality and you have been in supplier quality your entire career, consider jobs in other branches of quality. The same goes for accounting, finance, etc. The point is that you already know the principles of a particular discipline – you should be able to transfer these principles within the discipline. The extreme to this is going to a new type of job altogether like changing from a career in quality to one in sales. Again, the more flexible you can be (and the more your skill set will transfer), the more jobs can be considered.
- Be willing to change industries – If you have been doing accounting in the healthcare industry your entire career, look at doing accounting in manufacturing or transportation, etc. Again, the general principles are going to be similar no matter what industry you are in.
- Have a flexible resume – There are services out there that will charge you to write a resume for you and there is some merit to that. But my suggestion is that your resume needs to be individually tailored to every job you apply for so it will be constantly changing. There are also multiple places on the internet to find free templates for constructing a resume. A compromise might be to have the service write your initial resume for you and you tailor it as needed.
- Take time to include a cover letter – I used the cover letter to take the key job requirements and tell them how I am qualified for that requirement. If you put it into a simple, two column table, it makes it easy to read – Requirement in one column, how you meet that requirement in the other.
- Fire up your network – Talk to your friends, family, friends of your friends, etc., and don’t be bashful in asking for help. You might be surprised at who will help you beat the bushes! Also make use of social online networks such as linkedin.com.
- Tighten up your finances immediately! – I know this sounds obvious but it can take some of the pressure off you if you can improve in this area. If there was a time in your life to learn how to be frugal this is it! Reduce your cable TV services, stop eating out, try to pay off credit cards, etc. Of course, part of this is dependent upon having some type of income – either living off savings and/or finding temporary work. Our family actually came out of my period of unemployment with less debt than we had going in because we focused on reducing expenses and paying off credit cards to get rid of them.
- Know the least amount of salary you can live with and be willing to adjust that – You need to know your “bottom line” for salary before you start searching of course, but let me put you in an interesting scenario: What if you find a great sounding job in a killer location that pays a few thousand less than your minimum salary requirement. If it is a job you are willing to consider, think about other ways that you might be compensated for less salary: Would there possibly be a shorter commute? Are the benefits better – For example, will the job’s healthcare benefits reduce your healthcare costs? Is the cost of living cheaper in the area? Doing this can help increase the number of available jobs slightly.
- Be willing to "dumb down" your resume - Yikes! All these wonderful things you have worked so hard for (certifications, advanced degrees, etc.) over the length or your career and I am telling you to leave them out? What I meant by that is if you are willing to take a lesser job because the finances are getting tight, don't send your normal high powered resume. Alter your resume to fit what you are applying for. Your resume's job is to get you a phone or face-to-face interview and if you are overly qualified for a position, your resume won't make it past the initial screener.
The general rule of thumb I have heard from some recruiters is that for most mid-level jobs, it takes about one month for every $10,000 in salary you need and that is in an average job market. I.e., if you are looking for $50,000 in salary, it’s going to take you five months to find a job with that level of salary. Incorporating any of the above tips can possibly help reduce that time.
Here are some search techniques:
Watch the news –especially local to you – The stimulus package / recovery act is a perfect example of an opportunity that’s been in the news. Keep up with any employers or industries that are receiving stimulus money. The government wants to see jobs CREATED with that money and that should give you a lead to who might be hiring. The Energy Industry in just about all forms is a prime example. Watch for companies that just won a huge contract or had a banner year. They are more likely to be creating new jobs.
Send unsolicited resumes – This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip. We are living in a time where almost all correspondence related to job searches has gone electronic making it easy and cheap to send out multiple copies of your information. If you see companies that even MIGHT be hiring, go ahead and submit a resume. Even though they may not have any jobs posted, chances are they have jobs they are considering or developing. If your qualifications fit their imagined needs, you just might get an offer before the job is formalized and posted. If your qualifications are really good, they might CREATE a position for you. Kind of like a pro football team taking the best athlete in the college draft: They don’t know what position he’s going to play but he will definitely be playing somewhere. A good cover letter is essential here because you need to clearly and concisely tell your story and describe what you are looking for. If you can find out manager’s names, send the letters to them instead of the human resources department which sees a zillion resumes every day.
Look at newspapers’ websites. All of them run their employment ads online now (although some have started going through commercial websites such as Yahoo hotjobs for this). Going through the online ads is a lot easier than scanning the paper in hardcopy because you can use keywords, sort by categories, etc., and this also opens up hundreds of newspapers’ ads to you.
Commercial Job Sites (also referred to as “job search engines” – you should search for these using these key words) – The positive is that you are going to see hundreds of jobs on these sites – more than any other place. The negative is that so will everyone else. I talked with a human resources person one time that said some choice jobs posted on these sites can receive up to 400 applicants a day since it is open to the world. That tells you that you should place several KEY words in your resume that relate to the job in question because the recruiting company is going to have to run a key word search to sort through that many resumes. You should do that anyway for every job you send a resume to on any site. This goes back to individually tailoring your resume to each job you apply for. The cool thing about these sites is that you can set up search agents that will search their job listings everyday based on your criteria and send you an email with jobs that match. Also, there are job sites devoted to particular industries, areas, income levels, etc. You will need to sift through all of these to find the ones that work best for you. When you search for job search engines add your industry or position as a key word to the search. You will also see the same job on multiple job search sites a lot. After a few months, I found about three commercial sites and one or two local sites that seemed to offer the best selection for what I was looking for.
Become very active (if not already) in the local chapter of your professional organization. This relates to firing up your network. A lot of the professionals that attend these meetings will have knowledge about un-posted jobs. Don’t be bashful about communicating your employment status! The local chapter of my professional organization actually had an online job board that featured local and regional jobs. Most of these organizations will waive your membership fees if they know you are unemployed.
Go to the homepages of companies you are interested in – Most every site has two things: open jobs (if any) and contact information. This will help you find the names of people to send unsolicited resumes to. I went to these sites and sometimes found jobs that were not posted anywhere else.
Recruiters (headhunters) – These guys are still out there and still effective. They usually have great networks and if you are only interested in local employers, some companies find it easier to use a recruiter to screen applicants. I have seen situations where some companies only take applicants through a particular recruiter. If you are trying not to relocate, do a web search for recruiters that are local to your area. Just keep in mind that recruiters make money by finding as many people jobs as quickly as possible so they might not always have your best interests in mind. Like anything else, there are good ones and bad ones.
- Get a free email account through Google, Yahoo or MSN (or whoever you like) that you only use for your job search and make sure it has a professional sounding username. “Iliketoparty105” (@whoever.com) or something similarly unprofessional will not look good to perspective employers. Having an email account separate from your personal email account will also make it easier to track your applications. I would also suggest adding each email address that send an application to into your address book so replies to applications do not end up in your spam folder. Your address book will also then serve as an indicator of who you have emailed as well. Use this account to apply to apply to the commercial job search sites, etc.
- Put together a way to track your job applications. This will help you remember who you have applied to and avoid duplicate applications. Believe me, if you are on the market for a few months, things will start to run together! I used a spreadsheet and kept up with date I sent the application, what version of my resume I used, the company, etc. It is also important to track status of each application (open, awaiting a response, closed, etc.).
- Start a new folder on your hard drive that will contain all your resumes and cover letters and make sure you use unique and identifiable filenames for each version.
- Watch your metadata! Nowadays most companies will take your resume and cover letter in any well known word processor format. Each of these has metadata /document properties that are sent along with the document. Make sure you don’t have incorrect information in your metadata. Just look at the document properties. I made the mistake one time of putting the company’s name for a particular resume and then copied that resume to make changes. Guess what – The metadata still held the old company’s name. Probably not a deal killer but it won’t help the impression you are trying to make.
- Be careful with doing a website about yourself or posting your resume online (outside of the major job search sites or what you submit on company websites) where the world can see it. I have seen this done and don’t know how effective it is plus almost all resumes contain “personally identifiable information” (home address, phone number, former employers, etc.). I would recommend the ONLY personally identifiable information you should ever put on an “open” site would be an email address and your name! Don’t even use real company names in your job experience section. Instead of “XYZ Boats, Inc.”, I would put something like, “Major Boat Manufacturer” and don’t put a location. If you are contacted by someone that you deem to be a legitimate job opportunity, then you can share additional information.
- Also be careful about what you post on Facebook, Myspace, etc. The word is getting around that employers are checking these "social" sites for information about perspective employees. Imagine that you are among the top five candidates for a plum job and the employer goes to your Facebook site and finds that picture of you passed out drunk on the beach. Either make it all private to so that only friends can see it or take it off - at least until you find employment.
Finally, here are some websites that will give you an idea of the resources available – There are only to get you STARTED and this is not an exhaustive list by any means. They are also not necessarily the best. You should add to your own list over time. If you search you will find many more in each category. Good luck and good hunting!
Relocation / Cost of Living
- Cost of Living Comparison
In three simple steps we'll provide a cost of living comparison. Just tell us your current city and where you'd like to move. We'll show your two cities side-by-side in all the categories you need, such as taxes, housing, food, and other costs.
- Cost of living: Compare prices in two cities - CNNMoney.com
Thinking of moving? CNNMoney shows you how far your salary will go in another city.
- Salary.com\'s Cost of Living Wizard Tool
Considering moving to a new city? Salary.com's cost-of-living calculator will compare living-cost indexes and salary differentials to help you make an informed comparison. Check out over 300+ US cities
Resumes / Cover Letter Templates
- Free resume templates
Offers resume and cover letter templates to download, writing tips and an interview guide.
Resume Writing Services
- Resume Writing Advice Free!
resume writing and cover letter advice for FREE.
- Resume | Resume Templates & Cover Letter Builder - Pongo Resume
Free resume templates, advice, tips and more. Use the resume builder and career tools at Pongo Resume to write a great resume online
- Resume Writing | Sample Resume
ResumeEdge.com provides industry leading resume writing services that get results. Our resume writing and cover letters go beyond sample resumes to deliver personalized resume writing that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Commercial Job Search Websites
- Dice.com - Job Search for Technology Professionals
Dice is the #1 technology job board. If you are a technology expert in areas such as Information Technology (IT), software, high tech, security, biotech, aerospace or engineering, Dice will assist you with finding your next great career opportunity.
- Search best sources for Classifieds (Electronics, Jobs, Used cars, Pets, Tickets), Deal, Videos and
A search engine that looks through multiple job search engines.
- JobSpider - job search engine, free job posting, free resume posting
Job search engine offers a unique job classified system and free resume posting. Career search by category or keyword for thousands of full time jobs, part time jobs, and summer jobs. Help wanted web site allows internet free job postings and search
- Find Local Jobs & Employment Listings - FlipDog Job Search
Find new jobs, careers, and employment opportunities at FlipDog. Visit www.FlipDog.com for job listings posted today!
- America\'s Job Bank Transition - Job Bank Information
This website can take you to websites that focus on tighter geographical areas.
- Job Search Engine | Juju
JuJu Job Search Engine
- Job Search | one search. all jobs. Indeed
Job Search by Indeed. one search. all jobs. Search millions of jobs from thousands of job boards, newspapers, classifieds and company websites on indeed.com
- Yahoo! HotJobs - Thousands of jobs. Find the right one.
Find your dream job! Search for jobs, post your resume, compare salaries and find career advice and research. Thousands of new jobs listed daily.
- CareerBuilder.com Jobs - The Largest Job Search, Employment & Careers Site
Search 1.6 million Jobs on CareerBuilder.com. Find new employment or work. Fresh job listings posted daily. Have jobs emailed to you. Explore career opportunities. Search and apply online today.
- Find Jobs. Build a Better Career. Find Your Calling. | Monster.com
Find the job that's right for you. Use Monster's resources to create a killer resume, search for jobs, prepare for interviews, and launch your career.
- Job Search Made Simple | SimplyHired
Search millions of job listings from across the web. Find local jobs, salary comparisons, and employment trends at Simply Hired. New jobs added daily.
- LinkedIn: Relationships Matter
LinkedIn strengthens and extends your existing network of trusted contacts. LinkedIn is a networking tool that helps you discover inside connections to recommended job candidates, industry experts and business partners.
Recruiters / Headhunters
- Recruiters Online Network: resumes job bank recruiting resources
Recruiters Online Network features resumes job bank job postings splits and recruiting tools for headhunters employment agencies and staffing firms.