10 tips job seekers must heed for a successful job search

And a short story about how my son didn’t listen.

The other day, my son and I were shooting hoops. He was loving it. I was hating it, for the mere fact that my fingers were numb from the cold. To add to my frustration, I was telling him to layup the ball with his opposite hand, but he wasn’t listening. “Why do I need to do layups with my left hand?” he asked me.


“Because you need to be multi-talented,” I told him. “You need to be able to layup the ball with your opposite hand when you’re forced to the left side.” I’ve never played organized basketball, so I’m not sure my advice was sound; but it sounded good.

While I was “coaching” my 14-year-old kid, I got to thinking about the advice I give job seekers, most of whom listen and others (like my son) who don’t. The ones who listen are those who send me e-mails or even stop by the career center to tell me about their upcoming interviews or, best of all, their new jobs. It’s all about the effort they put into their job search that makes the difference. They do the hard work, while I simply provide the theory. Such as:

1. Begin with a proper attitude. All too often I hear negativity from my job seekers. “I’ll never get hired because I’m overqualified.” Or, “There are no jobs out there.” Talk like this will get you nowhere, as I tell my customers.

People are more likely to help people who appear positive, as opposed to negative. I’m not saying you must feel positive; I’m just saying appear positive. As the saying goes, “Fake it till you make it.”

2. Your first impressions matter more than you think. First of all, are you dressed for the job search? What do you mean, you wonder. I mean you’re on stage every time you leave the house, so don’t walk around in clothes you’d wear while cutting the lawn. Always look people in the eyes while delivering a firm handshake that doesn’t crush their hand.

3. Network, network, network. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work. Be clear as to what you want to do and where you want to do it. Clearly explain your occupation (human resources vs. human services is a big difference), your greatest attributes, and your extensive experience.

Whenever you talk with someone in your community and the opportunity arises, mention you’re between jobs. Attend job seeker networking events to gain leads and provide leads; remember, networking is a two-way street.

4. Penetrate the Hidden Job Market. Which coincidentally has a great deal to do with networking. Look for jobs where most people aren’t. “Why?” as my son would ask me. Simple, employers gain a lot more from not advertising their positions than they do if they advertise. They prefer to promote from within or get referrals from trusted sources.

Advertising comes with a slew of problems–tons of résumés to read and interviewing strangers. What really frustrates me is when I ask my customers how they’re looking for work, and they list a slew of job boards…and that’s it.

5. Approach growing companies. This will require gathering your Labor Market Information, which can be done in a number of ways. I suggest developing a list of companies for which you’d like to work and visit their websites to see if there’s growth.

Growth equals possibly hiring in the future. Sources like business journals, the stock market, networking in the community and at organized events, are all viable options. Once you know which companies are growing, send them an approach letter or call them to get a networking meeting.

6. When applying for jobs: research, research, research. Always know the requirements for the jobs for which you apply. Which major skills are most important, and do you have relevant accomplishments to tout.

Know about the companies in terms of their products, services, mission statement, etc. This will come in handy when you write your résumé and other written marketing material, as well as when you interview.

7. Market yourself with professional targeted résumés. DO NOT send a one-fits-all résumé that fails to show the love; rather tailor your résumés for each job. Your résumés should include relevant quantified accomplishments and a strong Performance Profile that makes the employer want to read on.

Don’t limit accomplishments to the Work History; include some accomplishment statements in the Performance Profile…the better to get employers’ attention.

8. Send a cover letter with each résumé, unless instructed not to. True, some recruiters do not read cover letters, but many do. And if your job will involve writing, you must send a well-written targeted cover letter.

A cover letter does a great job of demonstrating your enthusiasm for the job and company to which you’re applying. It also points the reader to the relevant accomplishments on your résumé.

9. Start a LinkedIn, FaceBook, or Twitter networking campaign. Online networking should not replace face-to-face networking; rather it should supplement your networking efforts.

I lean more toward LinkedIn as an online networking and branding site. It is for professionals looking for jobs and advancing their business. Your LinkedIn profile should be outstanding like your résumé. If not, don’t advertise it.

10. Dribble with your left hand. Yesterday I had our networking group do an exercise that was intended to have them think of other ways to look for work, as most of them were probably using the same methods without success.

If looking for jobs six hours a day on the Internet isn’t working, try networking, or contacting a recruiter, or reaching out to your alumni, or retraining, etc.

My son didn’t listen to me when I told him to layup with his opposite hand, despite my constant harping. But he’ll soon learn his lesson when it comes game time and defenders will force him to his left. And my customers will hopefully follow these ten tips in order to make their job search shorter.

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7 thoughts on “10 tips job seekers must heed for a successful job search

  1. Above The Rim

    Great post Bob! Your advice to your son, like your advice to your clients is 100% right. If your son is forced to his left, and uses his right hand, the defender is closer to the ball and more likely to steal the ball or block the shot. If he goes with his left hand, his body is between the ball and the defender, protecting it. If he practices with his left hand, when the game is on the line, he will have a winning move.

    The same is for your clients. Practicing the tips you recommend, will give them much better position to make a winning move. Because in the job search, the game is always on the line.


  2. Codie Brenner

    I really appreciate your basketball connection as a mom of three ballers. This is helpful advice. I especially like the first point about attitude. I always have greater “success” in my daily job search efforts when I go in armed with a good attitude, believing in the possibilities.



  3. Nayyar Faruqui

    Yes! Absolutely right. DO NOT send a one-fits-all resume as it reflects an indifferent attitude of the applicant towards the job applied, especially if there is no correlation made with the expertise required vi-a-vis experience held. Such resumes fails miserably. Moreover, a positive attitude is essential which must reflect in the



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