Whether you’re fresh out of college or you’re looking to change careers, knowing how to search for a job is not a skill that comes naturally to most people.
In fact, it’s less of a skill and more of an art. Finding the right job is about more than just scouring online jobs on Monster or job classifieds in the paper – it’s about having the right expertise to find employment in your given area of work and about knowing exactly where to look.
If you’re looking for work and trying to make the most of your job search, you may want to consider these job hunting tips. After all, there are career opportunities everywhere – it’s all about knowing where (and how!) to look.
Make a List
Your first step in job hunting? Make a list – and don’t worry, you don’t have to check it twice.
However, you should revisit it often to make sure it requests everything you care about as you are knee-deep in your career search. At the very least, you should have a list of companies you would like to work at or potential job titles you’d like to have.
This will help keep your job search focused and targeted as you attempt to find employment. It will also give you a place to start in your career search. You can use this list of “wants” to start your research.
We are incredibly fortunate to lie in a time where everything – and all kinds of information – you might need is readily available on the web. Take advantage of that! Research companies and look up detailed information about potential employers online.
As soon as you have a list of dream employers figured out, you can engage in some specialized outreach that will really help you get your application noticed.
Prepare Ahead of Time
While it might be tempting to start immediately slinging that CV or resume at any job ads that come your way, you’ll have better results if you take the time to polish your materials first.
Before we start scouring job websites, take some time to evaluate whether your resume, cover letter, and portfolio (if you have one) are up to snuff.
Don’t just use a generic resume and cover letter for every job application, either. Instead, research the specific requirements of the job (and ideally, do more extensive research into the company to which you intend to apply to make sure you have what it takes to be successful there).
Fine-tune your materials and tailor your resume and cover letter to each position you apply for.
After all, nothing says “reject pile” quite like a form cover letter with a generic “Dear Sir or Madam” scrawled on the top.
Before you start trying to find employment, it’s a good idea to reconnect with your references, too. Make sure they are still willing to vouch for your character and expertise and proofread to ensure that you have their updated contact information on file.
Proofreading is smart across the board, as a matter of fact. Go through your resume and cover letter to make sure you have all dates, descriptions, and positions down correctly.
Don’t Forget About Applicant Tracking Systems
One of the major challenges of applying to jobs in this day and age is something that your grandparents never had to deal with – applicant tracking systems.
An applicant tracking system is a computer program that scans your resume and other application materials for relevance before your application is ever even seen by human eyes. Unfortunately, highly qualified candidates are often rejected before they even make it to a real person because certain keywords were absent from their materials.
You can optimize your success in this initial stage by scouring the job posting and including any relevant keywords that are used in the job description. Tailor your resume so that it includes words and phrases that will catch the eye of a lower level recruiter, too, if that’s who might be reading your application.
You Don’t Have to Be Boring
Yes, you need to be professional when it comes to your resume, cover letter, and even your interview. Unfortunately, though, many people assume that “professional” must equate with “boring.” That’s definitely not the case. You need to stand out, and boring your audience to tears is not the way to do that.
Avoid using common cliches in your resume and make sure you have some charming, even humorous answers lined up for potential interview questions. You’ll still want to showcase your skills and credentials, of course – and always keep things polished and professional – but you don’t have to make yourself look like a total snooze-fest, either.
Practice for an Interview
It might seem like you’re jumping the gun to practice interviewing before you’ve even filled out a job application, but it’s not. Practicing for interviews is a great way to help you keep calm and collected if and when you do get that surprise phone call from a prospective employer.
Practice and rehearse your answers to some of the most common interview questions ahead of time and you’ll be cool as a cucumber when your phone rings.
Not sure what kinds of questions you should brush up on? The list is extensive and can vary, but in general, you may want to prepare answers to the following questions:
- Tell me about yourself (sure, not a question, exactly – but still the most common talking point posed by any interviewer)
- Why do you want to work here/why do you want this job?
- What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
- What is your greatest professional achievement?
What is a challenge you faced at work, and how did you deal with it?
- What was one time you demonstrated leadership skills?
- Tell me about a time that you failed.
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- What is your preferred management style?
What are you passionate about?
The list goes on, and the questions you should prepare for will vary depending on the industry in which you work. However, these questions offer a great place to start if you aren’t sure what a prospective interviewer might ask.
Sure, you can spend hours each day looking for work by poring over newspaper job classifieds or job hunting at career fairs.
However, there’s quite a lot of truth to the common cliche – “it’s all about who you know.”
When you’re looking for a job, there’s no better way to find one than by leveraging your personal connections. Going to a career fair is a great start when you’re looking for a job, but you’ll have better results if you can attend industry events or if you can partner with a recruiter or industry insider who will give you the inside scoop on how to search for a job in your niche.
You can also join an organization or club about which you’re passionate. This will not only help you connect with people who might be valuable in your job search later on, but it can also help you pad your resume if you’re lacking in work experience or other meaningful tidbits.
You don’t need to go to formal networking events to find what you’re looking for, either. Often, reaching out to friends and family is a great way to find a job. Get in touch with people you know to find out what kinds of opportunities might be available where they work – and don’t forget the alumni association at your college, either.
You should tailor your resume and cover letter to every job to which you apply – you know that. But keeping everything straight can be a challenge, particularly when you start having to juggle interview dates, names of interviewers, and other information.
Staying organized is key to success in your job search. At the very least, consider creating a basic Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet.
You can track all the jobs you’ve applied to (or want to apply to), including information like the company name, contact information for a recruiting or hiring manager, the date you applied or interviewed, deadlines, follow-up information, and the status of your application.
After all, there’s nothing more embarrassing – or time-wasting – than applying to a job to which you were already rejected. Whoops!
Use Job Sites
There are all kinds of tools available to us, as 21st-century job seekers, that simply did not exist as little as a decade ago. Make sure you leverage all of them to maximize your job search success.
There are all kinds of websites you can use to find a job, many of which update the list of job opportunities on a daily, hourly, or even a minute-by-minute basis. Some of the best include FlexJobs, Glassdoor, Indeed, and Monster. Each offers its own unique attributes, benefits, and drawbacks (FlexJobs, for example, only hosts positions for remote work or flexible options, which can be limiting if you’re looking for a full-time gig).
One often underutilized job site service is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is free, and it offers a variety of services to job seekers. For starters, this website makes it easy for you to upload and post your resume and to search job listings that are tailored to the experience and qualifications listed in that resume.
With LinkedIn, you also have the unique ability to network with colleagues and prospective employees. It’s a great way to find positions that are relevant to your preference – and positions that might be easier for you to get based on the “who you know” principle we talked about earlier, too.
There’s an App for That
Spending hours scouring job websites for relevant postings might not be your cup of tea – or if you’re like most busy job seekers, it might not even be something you have time for.
To that end, you may want to consider using an app instead. There are all kinds of services mentioned above that also have app components. You can receive updates and notifications to help you organize your job search and stay on top of relevant postings in your field.
Some of the most common job-seeking apps include Glassdoor, Indeed, and Linkedin.
However, there are additional apps you may want to tap into that won’t necessarily help you find job postings, but instead to maximize your job search. Workflow, for example, is an app that will help make it easier for you to organize your job content and to create shortcuts so you can save time in your search.
Similarly, Orai is a speaking coach app that will help train you to become a better speaker. What does that have to do with looking for a job? The interview, of course. When you’re a better speaker, you’re more likely to nail the job of your dreams – that’s just basic logic!
Don’t forget about social media, either. After all, Facebook and Instagram aren’t just about sharing your favorite recipes or those pictures from your trip to Bali. You should be leveraging social media to help you build your personal brand.
Even if you don’t use social media to reach out to various prospective employers or job search connections, take the time to clean up your profiles – you never know who’s going to take a peek, and you definitely don’t want those beer pong pictures taking center stage as you’re applying for that well-paying job at the law firm.
Have Some Confidence
When it comes to bragging about ourselves, most of us are really ill-prepared. Part of this has to do with good manners – after all, didn’t our mothers teach us not to be braggarts?
However, when it comes to the job search, it’s important that you really take the time to sell yourself. You shouldn’t inflate your abilities or experiences, of course, but you definitely need to play up your strengths and background. There’s no better time to allow yourself to shine than when you’re applying for a job!
Avoid Common Job Search Faux Pas
One of the most important tips when it comes to a career search has nothing to do with what you should do, and instead with what you should not.
For example, you should avoid mailing your resume to employers. While this used to be a somewhat effective method of finding a job, today, it works less than ten percent of the time.
Job searches move quickly now, with some positions filled in a matter of mere days. There’s simply not enough time for you to monkey around with the US postal service.
If you really don’t want to do things the modern way, feel free to drop off an application or your resume at the company’s physical location. This is an effective way to get yourself noticed, and it’s a million times more effective than sending your materials along in the mail.
Another mistake that people make when looking for a job? Doing so while they’re already working. Of course, it’s totally fine to look for another job while you’re still employed – and many professionals would strongly advise you not to even quit your current job until you have another lined up.
But what you should avoid doing is scheduling interviews, working on your resume, or using company resources to network or connect with potential employers while you are on the clock with your current employer.
Not only is it incredibly unprofessional, but it’s not going to look good when you get caught – it could very well lose you the job you already have.
Instead, save the job hunting for after hours. You’ll be more focused on your job application, anyway, meaning you’ll likely have far better results.
When All Else Fails…Mark the Calendar
Believe it or not, not all days are equal when it comes to looking for a job. Some days of the week (or even months of the year) are better than others. For whatever reason, Tuesday tends to be the best day of the week to send in a job application. Why? It could be because Tuesday, right in the middle of the week, is late enough for your resume to not be ignored on a hectic Monday morning but not so late in the week for it to be forgotten altogether.
Additionally, there’s some research indicating that you might be more successful in your job search in the months of June, May, March, and February (likely for reasons similar to the one listed above).
This can vary depending on what industry you are applying to, though – for example, applying to a job as an accountant might not be the best idea if you send in your resume in April. Wait until the rush dies down first!
Consider marking the calendar to optimize the times at which you work on your job applications. However, don’t be so obsessed with your job search that it consumes all of your time. We get it – finding a job is likely the first thing on your mind, particularly if you aren’t currently working or are feeling some financial pressure.
But it’s important that you give yourself a break every now and then to avoid getting burned out. When you spend your every waking moment thinking about your job search, you’re sure to start making mistakes on your applications or to start cutting corners where really, you should be taking a more polished approach.
Always Express Gratitude
Even though many common courtesies in today’s world seem to have gone by the wayside, that doesn’t mean that should carry through to your job search. Instead, be sure to express gratitude to anybody you come into contact with at a company.
Even if you’re rejected, a thoughtful thank-you can really go a long way. While there’s nothing quite like a handwritten thank-you note to show you appreciated the time given to you in the interview, even a simple email is enough to set you apart.
If you can, try to send a thank you message within a couple of hours (or at least the same day or early the next) of meeting with a company, recruiter, or individual.
Make sure these messages are personalized and non-robotic – if you can, reference something specific from the encounter to help you stand apart from the competition. The speed, quality, and integrity of these thank yous really go a long way!
Get Ready to Accept That Job Offer
If you’ve followed all the tips listed in this article, chances are, the job offers are rolling in (at least, one can only hope!).
So now what?
Now it’s time to either accept or decline that offer. Once you receive an offer, it might be tempting to accept it immediately. However, you should always take the time to carefully evaluate the offer to make sure you are accepting a job that is a good fit for your wants and needs.
You aren’t obligated to accept a job just because it was offered to you. In most cases, it makes the most sense to take at least 24 hours to evaluate the offer, compare it with other offers you may have received, and to talk it over with your family or partner (if you have one).
Don’t dilly dally too long, though. Not only will the offer likely not be around forever, but being seriously delayed in responding to an offer might irk an employer enough to withdraw the offer – and not offer you any other kind of position in the future.
That’s why it’s important to respond to an offer promptly, even if you aren’t planning on accepting it. Don’t leave anybody hanging as you don’t want to burn any bridges that you might desperately need in the future.
And remember, your response to a job offer doesn’t necessarily have to be a clearcut “yes” or “no” answer, either. You’re absolutely entitled to negotiate terms by making a counteroffer or by negotiating for additional perks or benefits – just don’t get too carried away!
Ultimately, finding a job is a simple process that’s made easier with a bit of planning, organization, and good old-fashioned people skills. Consider these tips on how to search for a job, and you’ll be living it up at your brand new office space in no time!